SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS
(font size appropriate to media hype and recent BCS success)
1. Florida 10-2 (6-2): I know they're replacing a lot, but it's hard to see too many programs in the East knocking off Florida this season. For each of the remaining Eastern division teams I will explain my hesitation. Florida isn't going to rebuild, they're going to reload with as much talent as they had last year. Experience will cost this team a chance at more than SEC success, but they'll be a force for national title hopes in 2011.
LOSSES: 10/2 @ Alabama, 10/16 vs Mississippi St
Look! It's Tim Tebow! And Brady Quinn! They were so good in college...
2. South Carolina 9-3 (5-3): I know this is probably a biased pick, but I really think this team is capable of having a great season with all the turmoil in the division. It would take a big leap forward to contend with Florida, but the talent is there. The schedule isn't especially good or bad for a run, but it does set up for a possible 4-0 going into the Auburn/Alabama stretch if they can beat Georgia.
LOSSES: 9/25 @ Auburn, 10/9 vs Alabama, 11/13 @ Florida
3. Georgia 8-4 (5-3): Georgia is facing turnover at defensive coordinator and quarterback, which in these cases are good things. I saw Aaron Murray in high school and remain skeptical that he will match the hype he garnered (thought his receivers were able to make him look better than he was, which is not typical in high school). I don't see the kind of season that will relieve the pressure Mark Richt is starting to feel, but I think it will be a step in the right direction if their defense can regain competence.
LOSSES: 9/11 @ S Carolina, 9/18 vs Arkansas, 10/30 vs Florida, 11/27 vs Georgia Tech
4. Kentucky 7-5 (3-5): Rich Brooks finished out his tenure at Kentucky with 4-consecutive bowl seasons for the Wildcats. The transition to Joker Phillips was planned in such a manner that there shouldn't be a noticeable decline outside of pure leadership. I feel like it's going out on a limb, but my predictions for Kentucky aren't changed by Brooks retiring. Randall Cobb is still really good, so Kentucky still puts together a good season. Hey, they should be able to finally beat Tennessee, which might be reason enough for celebration.
LOSSES: 9/25 @ Florida, 10/9 vs Auburn, 10/16 vs S Carolina, 10/23 vs Georgia, 10/30 @ Miss St
5. Tennessee 5-7 (2-6): Long-term I think Derek Dooley will succeed at Tennessee with his no-nonsense approach, but it will be rough dealing with being the third coach in three years in Knoxville. I expect the offense to try to slow the game down and for the defense to be respectable, but in far too many games they are going to struggle. Really the season might not be much worse than it was last year under Kiffin, but some of those fluke games might not come around this year. I like Dooley, but I don't like Tennessee this season.
LOSSES: 9/11 vs Oregon, 9/18 vs Florida, 10/2 @ LSU, 10/9 @ Georgia, 10/23 vs Alabama, 10/20 @ S Carolina, 11/27 vs Kentucky
6. Vanderbilt 2-10 (1-7): Robbie Caldwell took SEC Media Days by storm, and instantly became my second-favorite coach in the SEC. He even started a Twitter account recently that is a must-follow. The problem is that the Commodores struggled last year and really have little reason to expect improvement. Vanderbilt does manage to schedule a tougher out of conference slate than most (Northwestern, at UConn, & Wake Forest), which doesn't help their cause. Enjoy Robbie Caldwell now, he won't last... unfortunately.
WINS: 9/18 @ Ole Miss, 10/9 vs Eastern Michigan
1. Auburn 10-2 (6-2): Auburn last year had a more successful season than most expected. Gene Chizik seemed to prove his struggles at Iowa St were not indicative of his abilities to coach football, which is good for Auburn after the PR disaster they suffered when they hired him. This season you would expect some improvement, but the schedule gives you reason for more optimism. Auburn is likely the be favored in at least 9 of their games. Their toughest games are at home, their road games are their easiest. I have them winning tie-breakers to go to Atlanta.
LOSSES: 11/13 vs Georgia, 11/27 @ Alabama
2. LSU 10-2 (6-2): There's just a feeling I have that Les Miles is going to have a good season. I don't think I'm the only one, but their late-season swoons in recent seasons have made them look worse than they were all year. I think LSU can thrive this season with the schedule they have, and this just seems like a team ready to rebound. They just better hope their season doesn't come down to a last-second clock management issue.
LOSSES: 10/9 @ Florida, 10/23 @ Auburn
3. Alabama 10-2 (6-2): I know what you're thinking, "A third 10-2 SEC West team?". You'd be right, I'm probably crazy, but I think the power struggle in the west results in three 10-win teams and no claim to a team in the national title game. Alabama will be good, and it would not shock me at all if they won the whole thing again. I just think it's too tough to repeat, especially in what will be a great division of the nation's best conference.
LOSSES: 9/25 @ Arkansas, 11/6 @ LSU
4. Mississippi State 7-5 (4-4): Dan Mullen did a lot in just his first season to inspire confidence amongst the cowbell-ringing faithful in Starkville. They finished just shy of a bowl-berth despite a complete coaching transition and offensive change. I expect their defense to be improved, and I expect the offense to only improve with experience in the system. I definitely like their game this year at Florida, remembering they put a scare into the Gators last year. That's my off-the-wall game pick of this preview.
LOSSES: 9/11 vs Auburn, 9/18 @ LSU, 9/25 vs Georgia, 10/9 @ Houston, 11/13 @ Alabama
5. Arkansas 8-4 (4-4): The Hogs are a trendy pick amongst many to make some noise in the SEC West this season. My problem with Arkansas is their inability to defend, which there is no reason to indicate will change this season. Ryan Mallet might be the best quarterback in college football this season, but their defense is too much of a question to mark to expect more than a 8 or 9 win season.
LOSSES: 10/16 @ Auburn, 11/6 @ S Carolina, 11/20 @ Miss St, 11/27 vs LSU
6. Ole Miss 3-9 (0-8): This is the team I expect will overturn my prediction, because that's what Houston Nutt does. Their QB situation became more muddled today as Jeremiah Masoli was declared ineligible, pending appeal the Rebels will lack anything at the quarterback position. Dexter McCluster is the biggest loss for Ole Miss, but I have learned by now not to predict a Houston Nutt team and expect them to fulfill my prediction.
WINS: 9/4 vs Jacksonville St, 9/11 @ Tulane, 11/6 vs Louisiana-Lafayette
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Auburn 27, Florida 16
ACC: Virginia Tech over Maryland
I picked this the only way possible, by flipping a coin. I think that's how they actually decide the ACC title game anyway. The of this conference is too extreme to use normal tactics.
Big XII: Nebraska over Oklahoma
I like both these teams, and this game is likely to have a large say in who plays for a national title. In this case I expect Nebraska to be the spoiler.
Big East: Pittsburgh
I know this is the trendy pick, but I really do like them this year. If they can navigate their tough schedule they could even play for the title, but the road schedule just seems too tough.
Big Ten: Iowa
Most have Ohio St, but I can see that the Hawkeyes get the Buckeyes in Iowa City. Examine the schedule, it's made for them to make a serious run.
Southern Cal will be the best team, but with NCAA sanctions the title and BCS bid will go to the Wildcats.
BCS BOWL GAMES
Orange: Virginia Tech vs Pittsburgh
The ACC winner vs the Big East winner, neither title-worthy.
Sugar: Auburn vs Oklahoma
Auburn wins SEC, but at 10-2 no title game. Oklahoma derailed in Big XII title game by Nebraska, but gets BCS at-large consolation prize.
Fiesta: Nebraska vs Alabama
Nebraska finishes their Big XII tenure by playing a tradition-inspired Fiesta Bowl vs at-large Tide.
Rose: Arizona vs Ohio St
Pac-10 champ Wildcats face at-large Buckeyes still smarting from loss to Iowa.
BCS Title Game: Iowa vs Boise State
The National Title Game The Ushers Us Closer To A Play-Off. Iowa goes 12-0 in Big Ten and faces undefeated Boise St with no other contender with less than 2 losses.
And now, your moment of zen...
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
As the 2010 college football season approaches there are many things we all look forward to: people, places, games, stadiums, and so much more. I thought a good start to my college football blogging for 2010 would be to list off the top 25 things I miss about college football during the off-season. Feel free to share your own.
As always I will do a fair mix of serious and joking (by that I mean many jokes). I hope you enjoy.
#25: CapitalOne Mascot Commercials
Those commercials seem to go on and on all season long, but when they're gone I miss them terribly. It's just something I associate with college football too strongly to not miss. Here's one such commercial:
#24: Ed Orgeron
Yes, Coach O is amongst the ranks of the hated Lane Kiffin now at Southern Cal, but I don't miss Orgeron because of any sense of virtue or ethics. I miss Coach O because he makes Ron Zook seem apathetic and calm by comparison. On a serious note it is worth reading Meat Market (a book by Bruce Feldman of ESPN which chronicles recruiting as seen primarily through the eyes of Orgeron and his staff while at Ole Miss). Orgeron can recruit and was a horrible failure during his short tenure in Oxford leading the Rebels, but he inspired the best YouTube video in the history of Ole Miss football:
#23: Penn State "White Out" Games
Penn State has developed what has every appearance of the best current student section for TV in college football. The massive stadium and general sports-centric nature of the area dictate that they are passionate, and the costumes remind you strongly of the 70's Steelers fan followings for a reason. It is worth noting that the prominence of white at a Penn State home game is really not a challenge. In fact, nobody in the below video needed body paint or even clothing to give off this appearance:
#22: Tom O'Brien's "Prevent Offense"
Tom O'Brien, current head coach at NC State and former head coach of Boston College, has the outward personality of your average tax collector. O'Brien also has a penchant for coaching teams with the offensive philosophy of your average high school coach, the one that runs the ball on 3rd & 15 to the dismay of the entire stadium. His playbook is so close to the vest that it is digging deeply into his spine. I always smile when I flip through and watch NC State run a draw on 3rd & 19 down 14-9 in the fourth quarter. It is a thing of absolute abject horror, but I get a laugh every time.
#21: Fight Songs
In few sports are their truly songs that epitomize and unite the fan bases, but college football has many. Notre Dame's Victory March, Michigan's Hail to the Victors, or Southern Cal's Fight On are just a sampling of songs you immediately identify with the university and its fans. I admit to being kind of a freak with these, as I know the song and sometimes lyrics of entirely too many of these fight songs. This doesn't even take into account songs like Rocky Top at Tennessee which are only spirit songs, and not actually fight songs. Of course these unifying songs sometimes get turned completely around, I'm particularly biased towards this parody:
#20: Weekday Garbage Games
During the rest of the year I know there are games littered throughout the week of less significance for every sport, but only for college football do I watch. It could be Hawaii at Louisiana Tech, Florida Atlantic at Western Kentucky, Bowling Green at Miami (OH), or any possible combination of teams from conference that don't matter and who combined will end the season with 4 wins. I will watch. Some beauties this year include: Troy at MTSU, UAB at UCF, UCF at Marshall, Buffalo at Ohio, Toledo at Northern Illinois, and Florida State at NC State.
#19: Lou Holtz & Mark May Rambling Past Midnight
I honestly don't usually stay up very late on weekends unless I'm out and about, which is rare. One time of the year I stay up late every Saturday is during college football season. The reason is for the late night college football recap show with Rece Davis, Mark May & Lou Holtz. They've been giving you picks and highlights since noon, but they're still at into early Sunday morning. You really don't know how Holtz manages to keep it up so late at his age, but then you see this:
#18: Virginia Tech's Entrance
For biased reasons this is my second favorite entrance in college football, but just watch it and enjoy it:
#17: Dan Hawkins
Dan Hawkins, current head coach at Colorado and former head coach at Boise State, is a bit different. He came in sounding a different tune from your average college football coach, and seemed to be headed for success in Boulder after a successful stint in Boise. Things aren't going well and Hawkins would likely be fired by now if not for salary and buy-out reasons. So expect more moments like this in his final season as head coach of the Buffs:
#16: Kegs & Eggs Kick-Offs
This is a tradition my boss at work told me about, he's an Ohio St fan from Ohio, regarding what to call a noon game. I would guess this is a phrase more common to Big Ten football than any other, since most other conferences avoid noon kick-offs unless television slots require it. In the Big Ten the only time games don't kick-off at noon is when television slots require a later kick-off. I admit that I enjoy these games, especially the traditional Big Ten game on ESPN2 with whatever top-flight crew they put on it this year. The Big Ten does its best to fill the void of noon kick-offs, and I assume their students and fans have gotten used to a solid Saturday morning breakfast of eggs, bacon and Natty Light.
#15: Lee Corso Getting Senile
The clown-like analyst, and formerly near total failure as a coach, Lee Corso has always relished the role as the crazy guy with gestures, catch phrases and mascot heads. He is reviled in some corners of college football fandom (Columbia, SC being one example) and is generally going to piss you off at some point during the season. Now comes the added entertainment that he is literally starting to lose it, and it's no longer just an act. I do offer some genuine sympathy as his health seems to have taken a turn last season, but overall I do not hold any ill-will either as I understand his schtick. This moment was his biggest slip last year, but expect more this season:
#14: Wisconsin's "Jump Around"
Wisconsin is amongst the Big Ten schools with a very energetic and involved student section. They actually have a Fifth Quarter when the band takes the field and plays after the game is over and the students along with fans have fun with it, but the most entertaining moment is what happens between the 3rd and 4th quarters. It is simply a great moment of college football spirit:
#13: Bill Stewart Talking
I really couldn't find a good video for this unfortunately, but be certain that Bill Stewart is an entertaining sumbitch to listen to when he is talking. He is West Virginia in every way. What makes it fun is the that means he with his drawl is funny, unassuming, modest, proud of his state, and trashed as anything on moonshine most of the time he gets a chance to talk. It is probable that he would be amongst the top ten coaches in terms of people you could get along with, but also that he truly is a state treasure for West Virginia.
#12: JoePa's Glasses
Joe Paterno garners a higher combination of respect and comedy than any other coach currently in college football. That's what happens when you're a college football coach in 2010 who can recall getting a congratulatory phone call about his football team from the White House... in the Nixon Administration:
#11: "The Right Reverend" Houston Nutt
Not only is Ole Miss coach, formerly Arkansas coach, Houston Nutt one of the craziest coaches ever, but he also happens to make his fans upset more than any other. He's the coach that everyone loves, until they realize that they will never get past a certain point with him at the helm. Arkansas found that out and eventually fan pressure resulted in Nutt bolting for Ole Miss, keeping in mind he is an alum of Arkansas. The Rebel faithful may eventually reach this point with "The Right Reverend", but until then it will be fun to watch them disintegrate to the point the Hog fans did a few year back:
#10: The "Dirty" FSN Pac-10 Game of the Week
This is another guilty pleasure of mine that shall not otherwise be mentioned. What better than announcers who I've never heard before calling games I honestly wouldn't care about if it weren't 11:50PM on Saturday night and College Football Final doesn't start for another forty minutes. Be it Washington St at UCLA, Arizona St at Oregon St, or UCLA at Washington, this game is good enough for me even if it isn't good enough for 3:30 ABC or earlier on FSN. Defense is usually optional, and rarely does anyone care about the outcome. It's 11:50PM and I want more football.
OK, so this otherwise would not be on the list, but it is this year. This one-time only item on the list is here because of the downright venom that should ooze from this game at every orifice. Nebraska is leaving the Big XII for the Big Ten because they know Texas and the other South Division schools will never allow Nebraska to achieve the equality they will get in the Big Ten. Texas is getting their conference at a lower prestige level due to this exit. Expect hatred to a level unseen in what should be the last game of this rivalry.
#8: The Wannstache
Dave Wannstedt had mediocre runs in the NFL as a head coach, but the Pittsburgh alum has come back to get a very nice run started for the Pitt Panthers. He knocked rival West Virginia out of a national title run. He also has the best 'stache in the business, the Wannstache:
#7: Les Miles on Clock Management
Les Miles might be the least competent coach to ever win a national title, and it worth noting he lost to overtime games that season. He also has an incredible ability to call plays that make absolutely no sense whatsoever, which worked mostly during his title run. It hasn't worked as much at other times, including this beauty which shall be considered his masterpiece:
For a couple consecutive items I will show my absolute bias. This is something that really just began, too early to call a tradition, at South Carolina. I love it, but it needs not be overdone. I was at this game vs Ole Miss (ranked #4 at the time) when I saw how powerful it could be:
The entrance of the team at South Carolina:
#4: Verne & Gary
In Part 1 of 2 on my love for The SEC on CBS I bring you Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson, who get genuinely whacky at times. Danielson actually brings sound analysis to other outlets when brought on, but the two together go the way of hero worship. Most notably they even joked about their own Tebow love on air to the amusement of many, including me. Here's one example of the kind of whacky chemistry these two have:
#3: The CBS College Football Intro
Hearing this is when I know college football has begun, because it signals the first weekend of SEC football every fall. After it is over the words "Hello, Uncle Verne" typically escape my lips. Let it wash over you:
In college football there are rivalries. Some rivalries reach across the country, Notre Dame vs Southern Cal, but most are brought on geographic proximity or Big Ten membership. The Egg Bowl. The Iron Bowl. The Civil War. The Big Game. The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. The Old Oaken Bucket. Rivalry never dies.
Step 1) Wake up in time for ESPN College Gameday (9:45AM)
Step 2) Turn on ESPN
Step 3) As noon approaches, grab complete day of games TV schedule
Step 4) At noon begin keeping the channel on the best available game of live action
Step 5) At midnight flip between end of dirty Pac-10 game and College Football Final
Step 6) Pass out when either a) tired from the day or b) too drunk to stay awake
12 step plans are for quitters, my plan for greatness gets it done in 6.
and now your moment of zen...