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Thursday, August 19, 2010

1. Boise State - Yeah, That's Right

Rivals says: Alabama

I say.......

1. Boise State Broncos
Yes, Boise State is my unbiased number one selection. I am sure that many will say that this pick is just loaded with bias, my being a BSU student and all, but I assure you I thought long and hard over my top 5 and truly believe the Broncos to be the nation's top team on paper. I would argue that bias is the only reason BSU is not the number one in everyone's polls. If a bottom tier BIG-12 team, say Kansas, returned all but one starter from a team that went 14-0 a year ago, while beating a top 10 PAC-10 champion and a fourth ranked MWC champion in a BCS bowl where do you think they would be in the polls. Number one. There. Is. No. Doubt. About. It. The Broncos have lost one game in two years and return the nations most complete team, QB Kellen Moore is 26-1 as a starter, has never lost a regular season game, the team has gone unbeaten in three of the last four regular seasons, and enters the last year of their WAC tenure having never lost a single WAC game at home. The Broncos are consistent, who cares how easy the schedule is, something has to be said for being perfect every year and they beat the good teams when they play them. The only reason anyone has them third is because they are a WAC team, and keeping them out of the top 2 in the preseason means they can excuse leaving them out of the title game if they run the table. This is the number one team in college football going into the season, whether the coaches admit it or not.

The Broncos will be led by QB Kellen Moore, a Junior who has a very good chance at breaking Colt McCoy's career wins record. Moore comes off an outstanding season, throwing for over 3,900 yards, a near 70% completion percentage, and a ridiculous 39/3 TD/INT ratio. This year, those numbers could be even bigger. Moore sat through the majority of the fourth quarter in six games last year, and with the Broncos likely to be in the BCS discussion all year long, Coach Chris Peterson may be more inclined to let him stay in and run up the scores a bit. There is a tremendous group of talent at RB as well, D.J. Harper, Doug Martin, and Jeremy Avery are all good enough to start, but will split carries. Harper is the most talented, and will be looking to prove it after missing all but two games to an injury last year. Martin is a bruising runner and Avery is very balanced, between them they have the player they need in any situation. Titus Young and Austin Pettis are stars at WR and will ensure Moore has great targets all year long.

The defense is probably the most under-rated unit in football. The line smothered the run last year, finishing inside the top ten in the country, and say what you want about the overall quality in the WAC but these teams can score. The LB's are great as well, led by Ryan Winterswyk, who is probably the best defender in the WAC. Safety Jeron Johnson is also incredibly talented. The Broncos one missing starter from last years team is first round draft pick Kyle Wilson, who will be sorely missed, but the defense should get by fine without him. The biggest loss is not Wilson, however, but co-ordinator Justin Wilcox who left for Tennessee.

The schedule is realistically not much easier than many top ten teams in the nation. While the conference is a joke to them, they have great teams in Oregon State and Virginia Tech on the schedule out of conference. There are a lot of teams, such as Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Texas that only play two or three games this season that are in their league. Boise State essentially has a two game season, but Nevada and Idaho will be on the road this year. Nevada has been very close to beating Boise in each of the last three years and should not be overlooked and Idaho, while not all that good, will be pissed off and ready to play a big game this season due to the war of words between the schools officials this offseason.

Prediction: Winner WAC (big shock I know): National Championship Game.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

2. Ohio State

Rivals says: Ohio State

I say......

2. Ohio State Buckeyes
Since I'm down to the last two, I will write today instead of referring you to rivals link. The Buckeyes look, feel, and sound to me like the best team in the nation. Why then do I have them at number two? I'm sure some would say bias (if you have figured out my number 1), or some may say I'm just stupid, but the reason is a team can only be as strong as it's weakest link. Tyrelle Pryor was terrible for twelve games last year, then he looked great against Oregon, and now people are listing him as a frontrunner for the Heisman. I don't get it. Pryor had over a month to prepare for the 47th ranked pass defense in the nation, and we are just awed that he threw for nearly 300 yards. Pryor has a TON of potential but hasn't proved he is capable of playing to it, one game proves nothing, and I can't put a team at number one if they have such an important and glaring weak spot. That being said, I think this team is too good to let Pryor lose more than one no matter how bad he is, the Buckeyes will be a top five team and a national championship contender all year.

On offense, the Buckeyes are led by the aforementioned Pryor, they can be as good as he is. If he is last year's Pryor, they'll have to win on defense and the run. Pryor should no doubt be improved, he is too talented not to, but he won't be the projected all-american. He won't need to be, the running backs are outstanding, as many as four of them could be 1000 yard runners on other teams but at Ohio State they are only good enough to split carries. The line is also great but not dominating, it will need to improve to handle a nasty Iowa pass rush on the road in November. There is more than enough talent here to play for it all if Pryor is great.

The defense should be top five in the nation, at least. DE Cameron Heyward is a dominant force up front and should help the Buckeyes to be the best against the run in the entire country. There are no weak areas, some concerns are there about replacing a single corner, but no unit is weak. Ohio State quite simply has a defense good enough to win games by itself, just like last year.

The schedule is just perfect for paying for a national title, not too tough, certainly not a joke. After a few laughers early, the Hurricanes will visit Columbus before Big 10 play starts. An October 16 match-up at Madison against the Badgers will decide how far this team goes. After that game, they get Purdue and Minnesota, two teams they should beat handily. The season ends with a nasty stretch of Penn State, at Iowa, and Michigan. With a tough stretch down the end, I could see this team jump an undefeated Boise State to get in the title game even with a loss to Wisconsin.

Prediction: 2nd Big 10. Sugar Bowl

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

3. Wisconsin

Rivals says: Boise State

I say......

3. Wisconsin Badgers
Call this one my national championship game dark horse, I know most people have them ranked outside the top ten, but I think too many people are overlooking this team. The Badgers have the conferences best and most proven offense, and a top ten defense. Unlike Ohio State and Iowa, there is no weak spot that stands out at all, and this team finished well above expectations last year. The main gripe I've heard about Wisconsin is "they're Wisconsin, and they always let people down when hopes are high." I'm sorry but I don't think thats a fair reason to lower their starting position, just because other teams that have been good played below expectations. I not putting Notre Dame in my top 25 because of their history, why should I leave the Badgers out of my top 5 because of theirs? This may be the most well rounded team in the Big 10 or even the nation.

The offense is led by third year starter Scott Tolzien, a mediocre QB in every way, but considering the way poor QB play hurt every other contender in the Big 10 a year ago, Tolzien looks outstanding comparatively. He is consistent, smart, if a little average statistically. The big thing is that in a league so dominated by defense, he won't lose games for you. The load on Tolzien is much lighter thanks to RB John Clay. Clay is a bruising back in trend with other Badger legends such as Ron Dayne at his position. Clay quietly rushed for over 1400 yards last year, and if the Badgers are a top 5 mainstay this season, he will be getting Heisman chatter. The real leaders on this team are up front however, the offensive line is probably the best in the country. Guard John Moffitt is going to be an all-american and the players on the line average a whopping 321 pounds per person. On top of that, seven linemen have starting experience. The Badgers are as good an offense as you will find in the Big 10.

The defense is probably the second best in the conference behind Ohio State, most will argue Iowa's is better, but it's not, just the line is. The Badgers have the best linebackers in the Big 10 and plenty of experience there to go with the talent returns all but one starter, and the top three backups. The unit ranked fifth in the nation against the run last season and should still be able to stay around the top ten even with some losses on the line. The secondary is probably where the most concern is, although, there is enough talent there to handle the apathetic QB's that the conference offer this year.

The schedule is really, really nice. The Badgers, if they play to their talent, have a two game schedule. Oct. 16 at home against Ohio State and the following week at Iowa. The out of conference schedule is a joke, and Penn State is not on the schedule this year. Big 10 games are never a given, and Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue are good teams, but the Badgers are simply much better.

Prediction: Winner Big 10, Rose Bowl.

Monday, August 16, 2010

4. Nebraska

Rivals says: Oregon

I say.....

4. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Last year the Cornhuskers finished the season by humiliating Arizona 33-0 in the Holiday bowl but the bowl aside, the Huskers had to have finished the year with a sour taste in their mouths. In the Big 12 championship game, Nebraska made undefeated Texas look like a MAC team for 3 and 3/4 quarters, but the last third cost them the conference title and a BCS bowl. That was a season with little to no hype behind it, as a matter of fact, most critics spent a good portion of the season debating whether or not they were a legitimate top 25 team or the product of a weak division. The end of the season answered those questions and the hopes will be very high for Bo Pelini and Co. this season.

The 'Huskers offense will decide how far this team can go this season, last season it was awful, finishing in the bottom ten in the nation throwing the ball. If Zach Lee can simply be Landry Jones, the 'Huskers can compete for the national title. Roy Helu is a classic smashmouth-Nebraska football player coming off a 1500 yard season. That number is not impressive by itself, but considering every single defense they played stacked against the run all year and they had a relatively inexperienced line, the effort is better than it looks on paper. This year the line will not have the same worries, returning 3 starters, and both tackles. The QB situation is scary, senior Zach Lee could very well lose his job after throwing for under 300 yards nine times a season ago, and even if he keeps his job the expectations will be low.

The defense is outstanding, putting up absurd numbers last season while playing in a league that is all about offense. Ndomukong Suh is gone, and people will look at that as a worry, but the D-line is too deep for it to be a serious concern. Jared Crick, another DL, was also an all conference player as a sophmore last season and could very well be the next Suh. Overall the D-line is behind only Iowa and North Carolina for the best in the nation, the linebacking corps are better than both of the aforementioned teams, and will be adding the nations top defensive JC prospect to it. The secondary has to replace a lot of starters but there is so much talent waiting to step off, and such a great pass rush, that it shouldn't cause any worries.

The schedule is very easy. The starts with Western Kentucky, the worst team in D-1 football, and Idaho, who despite last seasons fairy tale end, is generally among the worst in the country. A trip to Washington will be a big challenge, especially with the turnover in the secondary, facing one of the best QB's in the nation in Jake Locker. The Big 12 does not look very good this year and the schedule looks even better because Oklahoma is not on it. A home game against Texas is probably the only real test on the conference slate. Missouri, the North divisions best team will also be at home, with the only good team on the road in conference play being against an inconsistent Texas A&M team.

Prediction: Big 12 champions: National Championship Game.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

8-5: Oregon, Texas, Alabama, and TCU

Sorry for the delay in countdowning, I spent an excellent weekend in my old hometown visiting friends and family. I know you all must be dying to see my invaluable opinions in pre-season ranking, so without further ado.....

Rivals says: Iowa

I say......

8. Oregon Ducks
It's not very often that someone in the PAC-10 other than USC can say they have the best team in the conference entering the season. The idea of any team other than USC saying they had the nations worst offseason is also pretty ridiculous. The Ducks can claim the first and are not far behind the second. As bad as this offseason has been to Eugene, they can still hope for the Rose Bowl, unlike the Trojans. Star QB Jeremiah Masoli is now at Ole Miss, star RB LaMichael James earned a suspension, and so did a few other players, leading into today's featured joke.

Dad - "Did you hear about the new Oregon uniforms?"
Me - "No, I hate that they change them all the time."
Dad - " They wear black and white stripes, they shouldn't need to change them all season."

Thats about what Oregon has faced since January, regardless, the Ducks will field the best team in the PAC-10 this fall.

The offense is superb, while some worry that it could be a step slower without Masoli, hopes are high for Darren Thomas and my hopes are even higher for Nate Costa, the one-time heir apparent to the throne of Dennis Dixon. Costa was supposed to be the starter instead of Masoli, but multiple knee surgeries have held him down. If you have ever seen Masoli throw a pass up close, you know that it isn't pretty, spirals are not a given. If Costa starts, I doubt the offense will skip a beat. RB LaMichael James is on everyones Heisman radar after running for over 1500 yards as a freshman in replacement of old criminal LeGarrett Blount. The line is also perhaps the best in the PAC-10.

The biggest hole on this team is in the defensive secondary, which graduated (yes graduated, not imprisoned) three starters last year. The unit excelled at the strategy of "bend don't break" last season, and they will need to be more flexible this year. The PAC-10 is loaded with offensive talent, including two potential Heisman's at QB on teams that will be looking to snag OU's Rose Bowl spot. They are perhaps the largest team up front in the conference aside from USC, but there is not much distinction from any of the other contenders talent-wise.

The schedule is a cakewalk compared to recent seasons, there is no Utah, Purdue, or Boise State on the out of conference slate, instead they will face off against New Mexico, Portland State, and start the season against Tennessee in the Felon Face-Off presented by Handcuff Warehouse. They must travel to Oregon State and USC, but get the rest of the best in the PAC-10 at Autzen.

Prediction: Holiday Bowl, 2nd PAC-10.

Rivals says: Texas

I say.........

7. Texas Longhorns
As is customary when we agree on the placement of a team, I will refer you to a better review here.

Rivals says: Florida Gators

I say......

6. Alabama Crimson Tide

Okay, I know I'll get some grief over this one, but I'm sticking to it. How anyone can put this team at number one, where they are on virtually everyone else's list, is beyond me. I don't believe in just starting someone number one based on accomplishments form the year before, and that is what everyone is doing, because this is hardly the same team that hoisted the crystal football at the end of last season. Two years ago, LSU started out at 7 a year after winning the title, and they returned a lot more starters than the Tide will. Hopes are high, the talent is great, but any team ranked number one should have a very good chance at going undefeated and the Tide don't have the experience to do that against this schedule.

The offense is why everyone has them one, it should be the best in the SEC. Heisman winner Mark Ingram will be back in the backfield, as will Jason Richardson, and the Tide will have a returning starter at quarterback who is actually good. No one else in the conference can claim any of those things. WR Julio Jones is also among the best at his position in the nation. The line is also likely to be among the best in the SEC.

The defense is where that whole number one ranking falls apart, I don't care how good you recruit, no one can replace nine defensive starters from a year ago, and not expect to struggle. Of those returning starters, Marcell Dareus may see NCAA sanctions this coming year as well. This is a team that returns no linebackers and loses an all-american nose tackle. That is a pretty tall order for a team that won four games with it's defense in the fourth quarter last year, including one that was won by multiple blocked field goals from that same nose tackle. There is a ton of talent on defense but it won't all come together in time.

The schedule is just scary. No one in the SEC ever gets it easy, but this is downright brutal. Arkansas, South Carolina, and LSU are on the road, Florida is back on the regular season slate, and five different conference opponents will play the Tide following a bye. On top of all that Penn. State is on the non-conference slate, and an SEC championship game must be survived before the Tide can even hope for a national title appearance.

Prediction: Winner, SEC West, Cotton Bowl.

Rivals says: Nebraska

I say:

5. TCU Horned Frogs
The Frogs have a lot to look forward to this year, especially since they are not on anyones radar. Last season TCU looked dominant, even though the were essentially the targeted king of the hill among the non-AQ ranks, this season everyone is looking to Boise State, and the Frogs could sneak up on a lot of people.

On offense, Gary Patterson's squad will return all the key players from the conferences best offense a year ago. All-conference QB Andy Dalton, a dominant line, and a tough group of runners. There is no Heisman candidate, no real superstars, and no weaknesses. This group should find no issues rolling over the rest of the Mountain West.

The defense is simply outstanding every year, the loss of star DE Jerry Hughes will hurt, but it won't cripple. Patterson's defenses have been among the best in football ever since he arrived on campus, and with seven starters back and plenty of talent, there is no reason why it can't happen again. The Frogs have had the best scoring defense in the country two years running, and there are legitimate chances they can make it three in a row.

The schedule is pretty easy. It starts with an neutral field game against Oregon State, after that they will face one AQ conference team, and that team is Baylor. BYU comes to Fortworth, so the only conference test should be on the road at Utah, no one else is really in their league.

Prediction: Winner Mountain West conference. 12-0 Fiesta Bowl.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

10-9: Florida & Oklahoma

Rivals say: TCU

I say.........

10. Florida Gators
Admit you probably think I have the Gators underated, the coaches put the SEC powerhouse program in their initial top five for the season, but they are wrong. The Gators are coming off a season that would be great for anyone else, but was actually considered a dissapointment in Gainesville. In what world is a 13-1 season and a Sugar Bowl trounching of an undefeated team considered a dissapointment? Maybe in a world where you are coming off a national championship, return almost all your key players, and had arguably the most sucessful QB in conference history playing his senior season. Well this season the Gators lost all those players. Hey are good, no doubt, Urban Meyer has outrecruited just about every program since coming to Florida. The holes will be filled, but a top 5 team has to have a shot at an undefeated season, and with so many new starters and a SEC schedule, this team is not that good.

On offense the Gators will be led by first year starter QB John Brantley. Brantley was the top recruited QB in the country back in 2007, and should have no problem being productive right away, but productive is not the same as Tebow. Tim Tebow will be impossible to replace and no first year starter in the country will be uder more scrutiny than Brantley. The offensive line returns only one true superstar, Maurice Pouncey, and he has to deal with the distraction that is the ongoing investigation to his brother who was drafted to the NFL this year. There is no shortage of talent everywhere on the field, but little experience, and the whole team will have to get used to playing a Tebowless offense, which means a complete conceptual change to a pro-style offense.

The defense got hit harder by the draft than the offense. 6 defenders were drafted by NFL teams, including stars Brandon Spikes and Joe Haden. The story is the same here as on offense, tons of talent, no experience. The Gators finished 4th in the nation in total defense last year, and they return enough talent to finish in at least the top 20 again.

The schedule is the same as usual for the Gators: no challenges out of conference and a brutal SEC schedule. The Gators will play Alabama in the regular season for the first time since both became powerhouses in what will likely be a matchup of top five teams and the regular season game of the year. That game as well as Florida State will be on the road, aside from that, the Gators won't be challenged outside of Gainesville. There is a rare appearance on the schedule by a team from an AQ conference outside the SEC, but South Florida is no match for the Gators. South Carolina and LSU both come to Gainesville as well and Arkansas and Auburn are off the schedule this year. The Georgia will be played on a neutral field as usual.

The pieces are in place for a BCS run again but I don't think there is enough to realistically be in the national title conversation. This team will likely drop one it shouldn't and lose the game at Alabama.

Prediction: SEC champion, Sugar Bowl.

Rivals says: Virginia Tech

I say.......

9. Oklahoma Sooners
Don't be fooled by last years underachievments, this team is good enough to challenge for a national title. Last year was a disaster as player after player went down with injuries and a team that started in the top 5 finished with five losses. That could potentially help them this year, most of the hurt guys are in the NFL now, and the backups now have a lot of experience.

QB Landry Jones played much, much more than any Sooner hoped last year, but that will help the Sonners immensely this season. Jones was baptized in fire last season, stepping in for an injured Heisman winnner, with the worst OU line in a decade in front of him, and it showed as he led the Big 12 South in interceptions. Jones is godd though, and with a a full year of starting experience as well as a training camp preparing him for it, he could be an all conference player. The line is still not up to OU standards, but will certainly be better than a season ago. The skill players are phenomonal, the RB's will be underused as usual. Wr Ryan Broyles is one of the three best at his position in the country, Landry will have no shortage of playmakers around him.

The defense is very balanced but not very deep. Starters have departed at every position but there some back everywhere as well, the toughest loss is all-american DT Gerald McCoy, the third overall pick in th NFL draft this year. The linebackers are great and the secondary, while not the countries best by any means, is better than most in the BIG 12 which usually sees pssing games dominate.

The schedule is right up there with the countries hardest, which is par for the course for the Sooners. Oklahoma starts light with Utah State, then get Air Force, Florida State, and Cincinnati before starting conference play. That stretch is immediately followed by the annual Texas game. If the Soooners survive that, the season could be special, Nebraska is not on the schedule and Missouri and Texas A&M are likely the only threats after that. A down year in the Big 12 makes the schedule a bit easier than usual.

Prediction: Winner Big 12 South.

Monday, August 9, 2010

13-11: Pittsburgh, Miami, Virginia Tech

Rivals Says: Oklahoma

I say..........

13. Pittsburgh Panthers

Pitt: The best team that no one, and I mean NO ONE, cares about. This is the annual pitfall of the favorite in the Big East, were the winner gets a BCS bowl, and laughs about the idea of their champion actually playing for a national title. It took undefeated Cincinnati half the season to pass Boise State in the rankings, and didn't pass TCU until the final week of the season. The Big East is a BCS laughing ground and with BSU and TCU in the national title picture this year, it's official, busters now get more respect than Big East teams. Pittsburgh is looking to change that perception this season, on paper they look very capable of double digit wins, and with some luck an undefeated season.

The offense is the tale of two players. RB Dion Lewis ran for almost 1800 yards last season in his first year and will be legitimate Heisman contender. There are deep concerns at QB however, first year starter Tito Sunseri has little to no hype, and even lower expectations. Sunseri should be asked to do very little, as Pitt runs the ball about 70% of the time, if Sunseri is good for 30% the Panthers could be looking at a trip to Glendale. The line is hard to predict, with an all-american at left tackle, but also new starters at both guard spots and center.

The defense is probably the most solid unit in the conference. There are two new starting cornerbacks, but there is a lot of returning talent everywhere else. The defenseive front is the best in the Big East and the linebackers are pretty good too. DE Greg Romeus has been a all-conference selection two years running and will be back for his senior year, when he could easily be playing sundays this year.

The schedule is difficult but managable. There are no games that the Panthers aren't good enough to win, the hardest game will be against Miami on September 23, but that will be at home, and the Panthers are almost as good as the Canes. Notre Dame and Utah won't be rollovers either, but if this team is legitimate as a top 15 squad, it should be able to win two out of three here. In conference play, Pitt gets West Virginia abd UConn at home, and closes out the season at Cincinnati.

Prediction: 2nd Big East. Sorry Pitt fans, but I watched Dave Wanstedt ruin better teams than this in Miami, I'll believe he can win the big one when I see it.

Rivals says: USC

I say......

12. Miami Hurricanes

The Hurricanes 2009 season was much better than expected. A team that started unranked, beat three ranks teams in their first four games, spent a week in the top ten, and had a 9 win season. So why are the Canes so down after this season, probably because the ended the season losing 3 out of seven games, including a Champs Sports Bowl beatdown at the hands of Wisconsin. There is reason to be excited this year though, there is no real strong conference favorite, and Randy Shannon's recruiting classes should start being dominant.

On offense, this team will go as far as Jacory Harris improves, and no further. Harris was brilliant at the start of last season and even weaseled his way into some Heisman chatter, but he ended the season poorly, and some bad turnovers on his part can be blamed almost solely for the cold finish. There is plenty of talent at the skill positions but the line is a big question mark. There are two players on the o-line that are among the best in the conference, the rest of them are pretty bad, if some new starters can step up big though, this could be a dominating unit.

The defense is as agressive as any team in the conference, and has talent everywhere, there is no one dominating unit like UNC's line or V Techs linebackers, but for depth they have no match in the conference. Ninie starters will return overall, and there should be at least one all-conference players at each level.

The schedule is an absolute nightmare, if the Canes run the table, there is no doubt that they'll be in Glendale for the national championship game. The schedule features 8 teams with at least eight wins from a year ago. After the opener against Florida A&M, the Canes will face Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Clemson, and Florida State in successive games. They get a few gimmees against the conference floormats in Maryland, Duke, and Virginia, but they also have North Carolina, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech as well. If they survive all that, they get South Florida out of conference to close the season.

Prediction: 2nd, ACC Coastal Division
Rivals says: Wisconsin


11. Virginia Tech Hokies

The Hokies will, as usual, start the season as the popular pick to win the ACC, but with the rest of the division catching up. North Carolina, Georgia Tech, and Miami all pose serious threats to the Hokies. There is a lot of talent, but just as many question marks.
The offense could very well be the best rushing unit in the nation. QB Tyrod Taylor can run like no other QB in the conference, Ryan Williams is coming off a 1500 yard season, but Darren Evans is back from injury, and he did the same thing two years ago. The line is good, the runners are better. This squad will dominate in the trenches virtually all season long, the only worry is whether Taylor will be any better throwing the ball when he occasionally has to do it this year.
The defense is questionable, which I know is blasphemous to say about a Frank Beamer team, but there is alot of turnover to deal with. The linebackers are the best in the conference, and are among the five best units in the nation, but there are a lot of people to replace everywhere else. The defenseive line simply doesn't have a lot of talent on it, at least not for Virginia Tech, and the Hokies will have a harder time than usual stopping the run. The secondary has a lot of talent, but no experience, replacing three starters from a year ago. This is major concern for a team hoping to play for a national chmpionship, because the three best teams on its schedule (Boise State, Miami) love to throw the ball a lot.
The schedule is great, just great. The Hokies get to skip Florida State and Clemson from the other side of the conference, and will be tested only once outside of the conference against Boise State. The big three conference games (Miami, Ga. Tech, and UNC) are played in succesive weeks in November, if they survive that and Boise State, the rest of the year should be a cakewalk.
Prediction: Winner ACC, Orange Bowl

Saturday, August 7, 2010

15-14: Florida State and Iowa

Rivals said: LSU & Pittsburgh

I say....

15. Florida State Seminoles
Seminoles will watch a Bobby Bowdenless sideline for the first in the history of relevant FSU football for the first time ever this fall, but there is one sight they are used to seeing that will still be present, a team with top notch talent ranked in the 20's most of the season. This entire decade has been a tremendous struggle for the once powerhouse program. The Seminoles despite being far and away the best team in their division in the ACC have gone six years now without the division title but there is a very good cahnce of that changing this fall.
The Seminoles are absolutely loaded on offense. QB Christian Ponder is one of the best QB's in the country and should gain the attention of plenty of NFL scouts by the end of next season, and is easily the best QB in the ACC. The offensive line returners all five starters and Rodney Hudson is thought to be the best Guard in the entire country. The WR's are shaky, but Ponder is good enough to get good performances out of them.
The defense is the reason the 'noles went a mere 7-6 last season, it's awful.... statistically. Now I was completely against the way Bowden was forced out of FSU last year, for everything he has done for the program it was completely unfair, but the guy was killing the defense. The defense is filled with five star recruits and a few among the top five at their respective position in the country. The problems, I believe, were more coaching and scheme than talent. The linebackers are very talented but there is no other proven production on this unit but new defensive co-ordinator has done well with a lot less talent at Arizona over the last few seasons. The D almost certainly will be better than last year.
The schedule is pretty nightmarish. The seminoles get to skip Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech in conference play this year, so to make up for it they scheduled Oklahoma and Byu in out-of-conference play, to go along with the annual grudge match against Florida. So much for taking advantage of a weak schedule. The good news is that FSU will play only two quality teams on the road all year, Oklahoma and Miami. The Oklahoma and BYU games are two of the first three games, and North Carolina, Clemson, and Florida make up three of the last four.
Prediction: Winner ACC Atlantic division.
14. Iowa Hawkeyes
Iowa is the best team that no one trusts in the country. Admit it, at the end of last season, you thought the Hawkeyes 11 win season was due mostly to their schedule. Iowa surged into the topthree last season, despite trailing in every game they played last year with the exception of the Orange Bowl against Georgia Tech. Despite a 9-0 start, Iowa managed to lose the conference to Ohio State as well. The 'Eyes are good though, make no mistake about it, and they should be just as good this year.
The offense is full of question marks. Most will tell you that Ricky Stanzi is a great QB. He isn't. His numbers tell a different story than watching him play tells. Stanzi is bad under pressure and is risk averse to the point where he just begged to be sacked if someone isn't wide open. This is particulary bad because Iowa will have to replace four starters on the line this year, replacing to 2nd team all-americans. The good news is that Iowa has plenty of talent at the skill positions and the new players on the line should be very good, just too fresh to be great.
The Hawkeyes could be really special on defense, if they make BCS noise this season, it will be on the back of the defensive line. The players up fornt are getting more hype this season than any other defensive unit in college football this season. Overall, the entire defense should be great, but in a league where teams love to run and play power football, Iowa's stands out as a difference maker.
The schedule is just what a team wants if it wants to make a national championship run. It is balanced, has good teams on it, a good number at home, but doesn't look brutal. The only test in the first four games is a trip to Arizona, surive that and a 4-0 start is a given. Then starts the hard part of the schedule, Wisconsin, Penn. State, Michigan, and Michigan State in consecutive games. The good news is only Michigan is on the road among those and that team is very, very unproven. The only challenge among the final four, if this team is as good as billed, will be the home date with Ohio State. Overall, with Penn. State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State coming to Iowa this season, there is no excuse not to win the conference.
Prediction: Third place, Capital One Bowl

Thursday, August 5, 2010

17-16: North Carolina & Oregon State

Rivals Said: North Carolina

I completely agrre with them, and when I do that, I refer to let you read superior writing about there.

Rivals says: Miami

I say......

16. Oregon State Beavers

Did you know that the lowest ranked team to ever play in a BCS bowl was Stanford. The Cardinal ranked 22nd in the nation while winning the PAC-10 and advancing to the Rose Bowl that season. I expect the Beavers could give that number a run. The Beavers are good, easily good enough to contend for the PAC-10 title, but the schedule is a nightmare, and there are plenty of teams in the conference that can make similar claims. Oregon State has lost out on their chance to play in the Rose Bowl in the Civil War in two straight years, this year could be more of the same or the year they finally break out and win it.

The offense is very similar to what one expects in Corvallis, one or two stars, a lot of medicore but overacheiving players, and an undersized offensive line. This year should feature more of the same. Jaquizz and James Rodgers, the standout siblings at WR and RB, should provide one of the best skill tandems in the nation. After that, things get a little murky. Star QB Sean Canfield will have to be replaced and that worries a lot of people, I am not one of them. I don't know who will get the job, but I don't suspect it matters much. Canfield was good but in all likelihood was at best the conferences 5th best QB, something that his replacement certainly will find an acheivable goal, and the Beavers run first anyway. James Rodgers is one of the countries best WR's, which will also help with the transition behind center. The line is better than most but it won't wow anyone, but the Beavers have always overacheived with little talent, and this years crop of players is better than they are used to seeing.

The defense finished 57th in the country in scoring defense last year, that would be cause for concern if it wasn't for the fact that Arizona, Oregon, Stanford, and Washington, perhaps the top competitors for the Rose Bowl this year, all finished at 52nd or below as well. USC and UCLA have the conferences best defenses, but the Trojans can't go to a bowl, and Bruin ofense is awful, meaning that impresive or not, the Beavers probably have the best defense among contending teams this year. The secondary is very, very physical and in a conference where everyone seems to love throwing the ball, the Beavers have a big advantage on defense. They aren't the most talented but there is a lot of depth there, the defensive line is very strong up the middle, which should make running the ball difficult as well. The pass rush will have to improve though, lasts squad finished near the bottom in sacks and tackles for loss.

The schedule is the reason why they can contend for that lowest ranking BCS record, not the talent. The Beavers have a reputation for starting slow and really improving once conference play starts. This season will be no different, the start the year by playing the two best non-BCS squads, maybe ever, in two of the first three games. Both are virtually raod games, one in Boise against the Broncos, and the other is a "neutral-field" game against TCU in Arlington, Texas. The game between them is against Louisville, a bad team, but still a Big East team. There are no lay-ups on the non-conferene schedule. The good news is that Oregon and USC, the two best teams in the PAC-10, both come to Corvallis. Most of the other key games, Washington, Stanford, Arizona, are on the road, but the Beavers should be better than all of those teams. The season ends harshly though, with USC, Stanford, and Oregon in consecutive weeks.

This team has all the talent to do big things, but with the schedule they play, and their history of slow starts, I can't see this team losing any less than three games. That being said, two of those will be out of conference, making a conference title a very realistic goal.

Prediction: Rose Bowl, PAC-10 champs.

Monday, August 2, 2010

20-18: Navy, Georgia Tech, and Penn. State

Rivals said: Conneticut, Penn. State, and Arkansas

I say................

20. Navy Midshipmen

Amid all the hype that non-BCS programs such as TCU and Boise State are recieving, it is easy to forget that one of the armed force academies is slowly turning into the most successful independent team in the nation. Navy has posted eight or more wins in eight consecutive seasons and has not lost to either of their rival schools, Air Force and Army, during that time. The Middies have also beat Notre Dame the last two times they have played them, so for now, they are the independent team to beat. Not the Irish.

The offense finished 119th in the country in throwing the ball a year ago. Why is that not a concern? Because they attempted fewer than 100 passes in the entire season. Navy employs the triple option offense, and QB Ricky Dobbs is a master at it, rushing for 27 touchdowns a year ago, a single season record for a QB. I know that Navy's schedule is a far cry from the SEC, but even Tebow never did that. The Middies finsished fourth in rushing and all the key players are back to do it again.

The defense is better than advertised as well, giving up only 19.4 points per game last season, good for the 18th best scoring defense in the country. Navy returners starters almost everywhere expect for a few new guys at linebacker, the secondary should be great, and the line is nothing to scoff at either. Navy should finish at least at 18 again this season.

The schedule has to have the Middies excited. Only four teams will line up against them that played in a bowl last year. Of those four, Central Michigan and East Carolina lost their head coaches this offseason, and both will be rebuilding on offense. Neither of those teams is likely to see bowl action again this year. From BCS conferences, the schedule includes ACC lightweights Maryland, Duke, and Wake Forest. On paper, Notre Dame and Air Force are the only games that should even be a challenge. There are also only four true road games. The Middies can very realistically go unbeaten, but even then, the BCS is likely to snub them. The schedule makes Boise State look like an SEC program.

Prediction: 11-1 and whatever bowl falls to them.

19. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Georgia Tech cannot realistically expect a repeat of last season, with the exception of maybe getting it's ass handed to it by a Big 10 team in their bowl game, but their is more than enough talent to have a good season in a very weak ACC. The Jackets return a lot of experience, but lost three of the teams four biggest playmakers in Derick Morgan, Jonathan Dwyer, and DeMaryius Thomas to the NFL.

The offense will be good again this year, even without Thomas and Dwyer. The fact is that no one else in the ACC runs anything resembling the triple option, giving the Jackets a huge advantage in every game, because defenses get only one week each season to prepare for them with no previous experience. QB Josh Nesbitt is back, but many question whether he can be effective throwing the ball without Thomas lining up at reciever. Thomas was the target of over half of Nesbitts passes in 2009, and he completed fewer than half anyways. Nesbitt will have to be more accurate if the Jackets want to do big things. All the best players on the line return, but without Dwyer and Thomas, there may not be enough playmakers to be as potent as last year.

The defense is very, very fast but they are not very tough, ranking only 56th in scoring defense last year. The pass defense is especially poor and losing their top pass rusher in Morgan will not help matters.

The schedule is pretty mild, skipping Florida State and Boston College in conference play is a huge plus. However, of the teams five really tough games (Georgia, North Carolina, Miami, Virginia Tech, and Clemson) only Miami is at home and all of those teams are just as good if not better than the Jackets anyways.

Prediction: 4th, ACC Atlantic.

18. Penn. State Nittany Lions

I can't lie, this team does, and always has bored me to no end. I just can't make myself write about them. I think they'll finish 4th in the Big Ten and you can read Rivals preview for them here.