Well Week 1 is upon us and what a wait it has been, so without any furthur ado, several of the big dogs are eating cupcakes this weekend so lets start with the top,lets do this!
#4 USC -19.5 @ Virginia
I know the Cav's LB crew will show up, but so what, blowout here in Charlottesville.
USC INJ: No Major to report
Vir INJ: No Major to report
Pick: USC -19.5
USC wins 52-7, WIN
Hawaii @ #5 Florida -34.5
No More Colt, no reason to watch the Rainbows this year, Tebow and Co. roll!
HAW INJ: QB's Tyler Garunke and Inoke Funiki(named starter) will be out, so JUCO transfer Greg Alexander may get the start. Also out DE John Finoti and LB Blake Soares.
FLO INJ: Percy Harvin will see limited action especially if Florida gets up early, also out is TE Cornielius Ingram. Both starting DT's Torrey Davis and Jusin Trattou will be out along with defensive leader LB Brandon Spikes.
Pick: Florida -34.5
Florida Wins 56-10, WIN
#25 Alabama vs #6 Clemson -5 at Georgia Dome, Atlanta Ga.
Cullen Harper shines in this one and puts Clemson on the road to BCS.
Ala INJ: LB Jimmy Johns is suspended due to drugs and LB Prince Hall is Suspended and Eziekiel Knight is hurt. So Bama will be weak in the middle which isn't good when you are facing Spiller and Davis.
CLE INJ: Starter DT Rashad Jackson will be out with a torn quad and DeAndre McDaniel is battling legal issues both are expected not to play.
Pick: Clemson -5
Alabama wins 34-10, LOSS
Florida Atlantic @ #7 Texas -24
The burger called the Horns out and now its time to deliver or drive thru...whatever.
FAT INJ: Two Starting OL will be doubtful in C Nick Paris and G Kevin Miller, so this is not good for a very agressive Longhorn Defense. Also Top TE Jason Harmon is out with a Knee injury and was Rusty Smith's favorite target last year. Also LB Adam Clark is 50/50.
TEX INJ: SS Ishie Oduegwu will be out with a shoulder so rFR Christian Scott and Ben Wells will see action.
Pick: Texas -24
Texas wins 52-10, WIN
#18 Illinois vs #8 Missouri -9 @ St Louis Mo.
This will be the game of the day, and Juice will keep it close, but not enough.
ILL INJ: DT will be limited as D'Angelo McCray didn't make grades and Sirod Williams will be out. Also WR Jeff Cumberland will be out with a foot injury.
MIS INJ: WR Danario Alexander will be out with a knee injury, WR Jared Perry will step up in Alexander's absence.
Pick: Missouri -9
Missouri wins 52-42, WIN
UL Monroe @ #9 Auburn -26
Mr Lancaster this isn't Alabama, and it won't happen again. Kodi Burns era begins.
ULM INJ: NO MAJOR TO REPORT
AUB INJ: WR Montez Billings will be out with a hammy issue more touches for Fannin, and CB Aairon Savage will miss time also due knee injury. The JR Walter McFadden will step in nicely.
Pick: Auburn -26
Auburn wins 34-0, WIN
#12 Tennessee -7 @ UCLA Monday Game
The Neuheisel era starts with a Thud, Vols roll.
TEN INJ: Starting TE Jeff Cottam will be out with a knee injury. Grades take out several for the Vols this week including Projected starters LB Gerald Williams, CB Brent Vinson and DT Donald Langley in the DL rotation, also Chase Nelson will be out with a knee injury so the interior of the DL will be soft.
UCL INJ: QB Drew Olsen is rehabbing a foot injury suffered in spring ball, so Kevin Craft will get the start, no major drop off here. RB Kahil Bell willl be 50/50 with a knee injury, but FR Aundre Dean is expected to make Kahil heal faster. LT Micah Kia is nursing a hand injury will be a game time decision. SS Bret Lockett will be out due to a team policy violation but EJ Woods should step up.
Pick: Tennessee -7
Akron @ #13 Wisconsin -27
Bielema's Badgers will crush the undermanned Zips, where is Luke Getsey?
AKR INJ: 2 starting DT's are out and JuCo Transfer WR Deryn Bowser is out.
WIS INJ: FB Chris Pressley is out with a Thumb injury, LB Johnathan Casillas is nursing a knee injury and CB Aaron Henry is still rehabbing a sore ACL from last year. If this were a bigger game Casillas and Pressley would be in the lineup.
Pick: Wisconsin -27
Wisconsin wins 38-17, LOSS
Washington @ #17 Oregon -13.5
Oregon QB Costa is out for the year, with the shuffle at QB on, take Jake and 2 TD's.
WSH INJ: Top Tackler and Leader LB EJ Savannah will be ineligible due to grades and this will be a major loss. S Jason Wells will be out with a knee injury. Starting TE Michael Gottlieb will miss the game in Eugene due to Hammy. Look for Top Recruit Kavaio Middleton to step up. WR Curtis Shaw will miss the game due to family issues.
ORG INJ: QB Nathan Costa will be out due to ACL so Justin Roper will take over. Roper led the team to a bowl victory last year. Starting G Mark Lewis will be out with a groin injury and LB Kevin Garrett was released from the team for violating team policies.
Pick: Oregon -13.5
Oregon wins 44-10, WIN
FIU @ #19 Kansas -36
Former Doormat Kansas likes the new credibility and shows its for real by covering.
FIU INJ: None Major to Report
KAN INJ: Top Two K are out, so Jabba will have to go for two every time. Which is why they will cover.
Pick: Kansas -36
Kansas wins 40-10, LOSS
#21 Utah @ Michigan(-3)
This is the shiek upset pick of the week and it would be a upset if Michigan won. go with the Utes.
UTA INJ: NONE MAJOR TO REPORT
MIC INJ: RB Kevin Grady is suspended due to drunk driving, Michigan is deep at RB so it impact should be light.
Utah wins 25-23, WIN
W Michigan @ #22 Nebraska -14.5
Bo Pelini era starts and will be in for a closer game then most think.
WMU INJ: Starting OT Rob Johnson will be 50/50 with a concussion and 2nd wideout Jordan White is 25% with a leg injury.
NEB INJ: Depth will be lost with TE Hunter Teafatiller and DT Kevin Dixon missing the game to suspensions. Backup LB Latravis Washington will be 50/50 with a leg injury.
Pick: W Michigan +14.5
Nebraska wins 47-24, LOSS
#24 Boston College -10 @ Kent St
BC lost everyone on offense and Edelman and Jarvis of Kent will keep them close.
BC INJ: NO MAJOR INJURIES TO REPORT
KST INJ: NO MAJOR INJURIES TO REPORT
Pick: Kent St +10
BC wins 21-0, LOSS
Syracuse @ Northwestern -11.5
CJ Bacher and Tyrell Sutton will have a field day, how does Greg Robinson have a job?
SYR INJ: Big Time wideout Mike Williams(grades) and his backup Dan Sheeran(leg) will be out and starting DE Brandon Gilbeaux(grades).
NWT INJ: DT John Gill is out with a violation of Team Policy.
Pick: Northwestern -11.5
Northwestern wins 30-10, WIN
Memphis @ Ole Miss -8
I know Ole Miss will be improved but Memphis and my man Arkelon Hall will represent, but it won't be enough.
MEM INJ: OL line will be hurting with starters G Terrence Echols out with a torn MCL and OT Brent Todd nursing a foot injury. RB TJ Pitts will be out with a ankle injury so RB will be up for grabs.
MIS INJ: Big time injuries on the defensive front with DE Greg Hardy and DT Peria Jerry being out with injuries. They will be tough to replace but Chris Strong has been moved from LB to help cushion the blow.
Pick: Memphis +8
Ole Miss wins 41-24, LOSS
Ohio @ Wyoming -11.5
QB Dax Crum? Gotta go with Dax and Cowboys. Poor Frank Solich it will be rough year.
OHO INJ: Starting FB Mitch Morsillo is out.
WYO INJ: NO MAJOR INJURIES TO REPORT
Pick: Wyoming -11.5
Wyoming wins 21-20, LOSS
UAB @ Tulsa -13.5
QB Paul Smith is no longer there for the Hurricane, but it won't matter against the Blazers.
UAB INJ: NO MAJOR INJURIES TO REPORT
TUL INJ: NO MAJOR INJURIES TO REPORT
Pick: Tulsa -13.5
Tulsa wins 45-22, WIN
New Mexico @ TCU -6.5
The Under the Radar game of the week will be the Donovan Porterie show.
NM INJ: NO MAJOR INJURIES TO REPORT
TCU INJ: NO MAJOR INJURIES TO REPORT
Pick: New Mexico +6.5
TCU wins 26-3, LOSS
Mississippi St -8 @ Louisiana Tech
Former Yellow Jacket Taylor Bennett could lead LA Tech to the upset.
MSU INJ: One of the 2 stars of the Defense is ineligble due to grades FS Derek Pegues this will really hurt.
LAT INJ: NT Rolando Melancon will be ineligible for the dogs. He was a Tennessee transfer that was to make a impact.
Pick: Louisiana Tech +8
LA Tech wins 22-14, WIN
Oklahoma St -7 @ Washington St.
The Cowpokes will score often in Pullman.
OSU INJ: They lose some depth at wideout with Damian Davis and William Cole out, but impact will be slight.
WSU INJ: Two potenial producers at WR and two at OL will miss this game. WR Jeshua Anderson and WR Daniel Blackledge will be out against the Cowboys and last year starters OT Vaughn Lesuma and OG Dan Rowlands will be out. Not good for the Coug's when they will be in a basketball game with OSU.
Pick: Oklahoma St -7
Oklahoma St wins 39-13, WIN
N Illinois @ Minnesota -8
I think the Gophers will surprise a little this year.
NIU INJ: QB Dan Nicholson and OG Jason Onyebagu will be 50/50 against the Gophers.
MIN INJ: NO MAJOR INJURIES TO REPORT
Pick Minnesota -8
Minnesota wins 31-27, LOSS
Pittsburgh -13.5 @ Bowling Green
I always love the MAC team that is supposed to make some noise this year. Pitt will win, but Falcons keep it close.
PIT INJ: LB Shane Murray is day to day, so will be limited against the Falcons.
BGU INJ: Some depth at RB without Eric Ransom(knee) and Willie Geter(team violation)
Pick: Bowling Green +13.5
Bowling Green wins 27-17, WIN
Virginia Tech -9.5 @ E Carolina
Upset special, Tyrod Taylor redshirted? Patrick Pickney puts his name on the map.
VAT INJ: WR Zach Luckett is suspended and Brandon Dillard is out so depth at wideout will be missing. CB Victor "Macho" Harris will be nursing a foot injury so he will be limited on the offensive side of the ball.
ECU INJ: RB Chris Johnson's replacement was Dominique Lindsay but he is out for the year with a achilles issue, RB JR Rogers is also out with ankle problems. Depth at RB will be a problem.
Pick: E Carolina +9.5
E Carolina wins 27-22, WIN
Michigan St @ California -5
This will be a close one but California will pull it out, but just barely. Take MSU and the points. Javon Ringer alone will keep it interesting.
MSU INJ: Personal issues have taken out starting FS Roderick Jenrette and his backup Enrique Shaw for the year.
CAL INJ: OT Mike Tepper is 25% for this game and rFR WR Micheal Calvin will be held out with a toe injury.
Pick: Micigan St +5
California wins 38-31, LOSS
Idaho @ Arizona -27
Willie Tuitama will throw for over 400 in this one.
IDA INJ: OL Mike Iupati will miss 4 games with a Shoulder problem.
ARI INJ: DE johnathan Turner is suspended so D'Andre Reed will need to step up. TE Rob Gronkowski(ill) and LB Vuna Tuihalamaka(ankle) day to day.
Pick Arizona -27
Arizona Wins 70-0, WIN
Utah St @ UNLV -12.5
The Rebels may improve alot this year and it starts with Utah St.
UTS INJ: QB Jase McCormick has quit the team and the QB position has no experience. Also blocking FB Jacob Actkinson is out with a shoulder.
UNL INJ: Starting SR DT Jacob Hales will be out with a Elbow injury and CB Quinton Pointer is day to day with a Elbow problem.
Pick: UNLV -12.5
UNLV wins 27-17, LOSS
W Kentucky @ Indiana -20
Welome to NCAA Hilltoppers, you should have stayed in Division 2.
WKU INJ: Starting LB's Chris Bullard and Blake Boyd are 50/50
IND INJ: DE Greg Middleton will be out due to suspension, it won't hurt this game but they need him in Big 10 play.
Pick: Indiana -20
Indiana wins 31-13, LOSS
UL-Lafayette @ S Mississippi -10
New coach and new system for S Miss, UL will provide a little fight.
ULL INJ: NO MAJOR INJURIES TO REPORT
SMS INJ: DE David Boyce will be a game time decision.
Pick: UL-Lafayette +10
S Miss wins 51-21, LOSS
Arkansas St. @ Texas A&M -19.5
Injuries limited Arkansas St last year and A&M finally moved Javorski Lane to FB, like every year A&M will win, but it will be closer then it should.
ARS INJ: NO MAJOR INJURIES TO REPORT
TAM INJ: FB Javorskie Lane is still nursing some neck pain but is expected to go, they shouldn't need him much.
Pick: Arkansas St. +19.5
Arkansas St wins 18-14, WIN
UNT @ Kansas St. -26.5
Ron Prince got a contract extension and Todd Dodge is over his head in NCAA.
UNT INJ: Projected starter Alonzo Horton will miss the year with grade issues and C Kevin Drake is out with a ankle injury.
KSU INJ: 2 Starting OT are 50/50 with knee injuries they are Alesana Alesana and Ben Liu both Sr's. Also Starting Tailback Leon Patton is out with a Team violation so Juco Daniel Thomas will have to step up.
Pick: Kansas St. -26.5
KSU wins 45-6, WIN
16-13 on Saturday, Total for the year 19-18 51%, Ranked teams 7-6 53%
Kentucky @ Louisville -4
No Andre Woodson, Rafael Little or Keenan Burton for the Wildcats. Hunter Cantwell overrates his way to the win.
KEN INJ: QB Curtis Pulley and CB Paul Warford have been dissmissed from the team for violations and academics. Mike Hartline will take over for Pulley. 6 career pass attempts for Hartline.
LOU INJ: Some depth at wideout with Scott Long(Foot) and JaJuan Spillman(weapon charges) but minimal impact.
Pick: Louisville -4
Colorado St. vs Colorado -11 in Denver
Colorado is underrated and should blowout their pseudo rivals this year.
COL INJ: DE Drew Hudgins is out with a Knee and several of the Buffs recruits from 08are ineligible due to grades. But overall not much impact.
CSU INJ: CB DeAngelo Wilkinson is suspended so the undersized rFR Ivory Herd may take over. Also K Jason Smith is out with a Arm injury. A K out with a arm injury wow!
Pick: Colorado -11
Fresno St @ Rutgers -5
The darling pick this year Fresno St. forgets they still have to play in order to win a BCS spot. Go with Rutgers with Britt and Underwood.
FSU INJ: NO MAJOR INJURIES TO REPORT
RUT INJ: OT Anthony Davis will be a game time decision with a back injury.
Pick: Rutgers -5
in Atlanta, GA
(Saturday, 7pm, ABC)
One of the most intriguing matchups in this game will be Alabama left tackle Andre Smith against Clemson’s rush ends Ricky Sapp and DaQuan Bowers. Sapp and the freshman Bowers will probably be one of the best pass rush duos in the nation this year, but Smith is an All American and more than capable of holding his own.
Defensive tackle Dorrell Scott will be the Clemson lineman making the most noise in this game. Bama center Antoine Caldwell is a good one, but with all the attention on the ends, Scott will spend some time in the backfield.
John Parker Wilson was wildly inconsistent in 2007. He showed flashes of being a very good quarterback though, so I expect the senior to play well in stretches, even against the solid Clemson secondary. There’s no doubt he’ll take advantage of freshman man-child Julio Jones early and often. Jones has great size and speed and will step right in for D.J. Hall in the offense and provide a dangerous deep threat for Wilson.
The mismatch here might be running back Terry Grant. Bama likes to use Grant a lot in the passing game, and Clemson is breaking in all new linebackers. There’s no shortage of athleticism, but don’t be surprised to see Wilson hit Grant for a big play on busted coverage underneath.
When Clemson has the ball
One thing you can count on is that James Davis and C.J. Spiller will get the ball. They’ll get it early and they’ll get it often. Alabama runs a 3-4 defense, but there might not be enough linebackers in uniform to actually execute it. Three projected starters are out: Prince Hall and Jimmy Johns are both suspended, but even worse, Ezekial Knight has a heart condition and may have to give up football altogether.
The linebacking corps will eventually shape up and become a strong point for Nick Saban, but James Davis should carve out 100 yards rushing in this game.
Whereas the Bama O-Line vs the Clemson D-Line was strength on strength, the Clemson O-Line vs the Bama D-Line will be weakness on weakness. The Clemson offensive line was pretty bad in 2007 so the Tide might be able to put some pressure on quarterback Cullen Harper. If Brandon Deaderick can live up to his potential and come through with a pass rush, Rashad Johnson and Kareem Jackson will be able to lock down in the secondary pretty well. Top receiver Aaron Kelly is back, but the Clemson passing attack isn’t as potent as they sometimes appear to be in the stat columns.
In what should be a close, well played defensive battle, I like Clemson’s running game to grind out the clock and keep the chains moving against a thin Alabama front. I also think Clemson’s defense is too fast and too good to allow the Crimson Tide to score enough points to win.
J.Pike’s Pick: Clemson 23, Alabama 17
Thanks to the Helmet Project for the team helmet logos.
Saturday, 11 am, Big Ten Network
A tune-up for the loaded Buckeyes. Terrelle Pryor will see his first collegiate action.
J.Pike's Pick: Ohio State, 31-6
Terrelle Pryor show will be in Technocolor in the second half of this one, Tune in for the Trojan killer!
BP Pick: Ohio St
Georgia Southern at #2 Georgia
Saturday, 11:30 am, ESPN360.com
The Suspension Bowl! These two teams combined will have 13 players sitting out due to suspension.
J.Pike's Pick: Georgia, 41-13
This will be really ugly..........
BP Pick: Georgia
Chattanooga at #3 Oklahoma
Saturday, 6 pm, FSN PPV
This one will get ugly early thanks to OU's dominance in the trenches.
J.Pike's Pick: Oklahoma, 59-22
Pardon me Roy, Is that the Chattanooga.....no its Demarco Murray.
BP Pick: Oklahoma
#4 USC at Virginia
Saturday, 2:30 pm, ABC/ESPN2
USC takes a rare cross-country road trip for their season opener. How will their inexperienced offense respond? Luckily for the Trojans, Virginia's defense was gutted due to exhausted eligibility, and quarterback Jameel Sewell will sit out the season due to academics.
J.Pike's Pick: USC, 33-10
Jameel would have kept Virginia within 20 but now this is a official blowout.
BP Pick: USC
Hawaii at #5 Florida
Saturday, 11:30 am, Raycom/ESPN360.com
Hawaii will travel over 4,700 miles to play this game - at 5:30 am Island time! Even with some of Florida's key players (WR Harvin, LB Spikes) out nursing injuries, this should still be a cakewalk against the June Jones/Colt Brennan-less Warriors.
J.Pike's Pick: Florida, 55-27
Hawaii - Colt Brennan - June Jones = 5th in the WAC. Florida's speed is ridiculous.
BP Pick: Florida
#25 Alabama vs #6 Clemson (@ Atlanta, GA)
This is a difficult challenge for a Clemson team with national title aspirations. Nick Saban would like nothing more than to spoil those dreams right out of the gate. We'll get our first glimpse of freshman wide receiver Julio Jones, but the Tigers are loaded on both sides of the ball and will handle Bama.
This will be the gem of the weekend and I believe Clemson will not disappoint. This is possible the best team Tommy Bowden has had since he has been there if he doesn't win the ACC and go to a BCS bowl it will be a failure. I know it is week 1, but this one sets the tone. It will be close but I agree CJ and James will do work.
BP Pick: Clemson
Florida Atlantic at #7 Texas
Saturday, 6 pm, FSN PPV
Schnelly called out the Horns' toughness; Mack has been testy with the doubting local media; Vince Young's jersey will be retired before the game. There's plenty of motivation for the Longhorns in this game. I'm curious how Will Muschamp's defense will fare against the surprisingly potent Owl attack.
J.Pike's Pick: Texas, 30-13
Check out the spread picks coming up but straight up give me the Longhorns. This would be epic if FAtl could pull it off, but Mack is saying the right things and this Team is flying under the radar, no off the field incidents this year. I gotta say it, this team could be a player in the BCS.
BP Pick: Texas
#18 Illinois vs #8 Missouri (@ St. Louis, MO)
Saturday, 7:30 pm, ESPN
Game of the week. It should be another entertaining shootout like last season. Don't change the channel after Mizzou jumps out to a big early lead - Zook will make adjustments and this one will go right down to the wire.
J.Pike's Pick: Missouri, 31-27
I love Juice Williams but Vontae Davis is not enough to stop Missouri, who every time I look at them look better!
BP Pick: Missouri
Louisiana-Monroe at #9 Auburn
Saturday, 6 pm, ESPN360.com
An SEC team playing a Sun Belt team - that's a shock...
J.Pike's Pick: Auburn, 31-10
This isn't Alabama, welcome to a real SEC team Mr. Lancaster.
BP Pick: Auburn
Villanova at #9 West Virginia
Saturday, 2:30 pm, ESPN360.com
Not a bad Big East basketball matchup. Not a good football matchup.
J.Pike's Pick: West Virginia, 52-24
This would be a great college basketball game, but its not so watch Pat White and Noel play for a half.
Pick: W Virginia
Appalachian State at #11 LSU
Saturday, 4 pm, ESPN
How about this for a playoff game: LSU, the defending national champs, square off against defending D1-AA champs Appalachian State. Can the Mountaineers pull off another landmark upset? LSU has some question marks, but they are more stable than Michigan was last season. I don't think lightning will strike twice.
J.Pike's Pick: LSU, 38-24
I have heard some shock jocks saying they will beat LSU, sorry but the Jungle is a worse place to be the Big House. LSU will take Cinderella out and not call her back.]
BP Pick: LSU
#12 Tennessee at UCLA
Monday, 7 pm, ESPN
This is an intriguing game. The Vols travel all the way out to California to take on UCLA in Rick Neuheisel's debut. Kevin Craft will be QB'ing for the Bruins, while Tennessee will be breaking in Rick Clawson's new fangled offense. Tennessee looks like a much better team on paper, but you never know what Skippy might have up his sleeve.
J.Pike's Pick: Tennessee, 30-16
For Some reason I think Jonathan Crompton will have a big year this year and it starts with the overrated coaching of Rick Neuheisel. Tennessee will roll.
BP Pick: Tennessee
Akron at #13 Wisconsin
Saturday, 11 am, Big Ten Network
Allan Evridge makes his first start for Wisconsin against a MAC team with not a lot returning.
J.Pike's Pick: Wisconsin, 27-11
Akron may not score in this one, go back to the Rubber Bowl.
BP Pick: Wisconsin
Northern Arizona at #14 Arizona State
Saturday, 9 pm, FCS-Central
Dennis Erickson begins his second year in Tempe with a warm up against the 1-AA Lumberjacks.
J.Pike's Pick: Arizona State, 48-20
Yawn........Rudy, will be done at the half.
BP Picks: Arizona St.
Eastern Washington at #15 Texas Tech
Saturday, 6 pm
The only question in this one is whether the Red Raiders will reach triple digits. Mike Leach will give it his best shot.
J.Pike's Pick: Texas Tech, 84-21
This will be ugly and will reach Triple digits.
BP Pick: Texas Tech
Coastal Carolina at #16 Penn State
Saturday, 11 am, Big Ten Network
Darryl Clark gets the keys to the offense and Stephfon Green finally unleashes his "warp speed" on an opponent. Everybody who suits up for the Nittany Lions will play.
J.Pike's Pick: Penn State, 47-6
Coastal Carolina will be shut out. Joe Pa gotta a pretty good team this year, and no more Morelli.
BP Pick: Penn St.
Washington at #17 Oregon
Saturday, 9 pm, FSN
Justin Roper will start at quarterback for the injured Nate Costa. How will the Ducks offense respond? It might not matter if Jake Locker has to throw against the fantastic Oregon secondary. Locker doesn't exactly pose much of a threat in the passing game.
J.Pike's Pick: Oregon, 27-13
I hate, conference games to open the season, but as much as I would like to take Jake, he doesn't have enough around him to pull the upset.
BP Pick: Oregon
Florida International at #19 Kansas
Saturday, 6 pm
Blowout. The Kansas defense shines again.
J.Pike's Pick: Kansas, 44-10
Jabba will push the issue and it may reach 70.
BP Pick: Kansas
Tennessee-Martin at #20 South Florida
Saturday, 6:30 pm, ESPN360.com
Who is Martin? Is he any good?
J.Pike's Pick: South Florida, 38-17
BP Pick: USF
#21 Utah at Michigan
Saturday, 2:30 pm, ABC/ESPN2
This might be the most interesting game of the opening weekend. Utah has dreams of a BCS bowl and Rich Rodriguez introduces the spread offense to the folks in Ann Arbor.
J.Pike's Pick: Utah, 24-13
Well Utah is the en vogue pick this year and I really like this team. Michigan I believe will be this year's Notre Dame so it starts with game one. What up Brian Johnson you win this one you can put it on coast until the final game of the year against BYU.
BP Pick: Utah
Western Michigan at #22 Nebraska
Saturday, 6 pm, FSN PPV
I'll be making the roadie up for the first home game of the Bo Pelini. I expect to see some ups and downs, particularly with the Nebraska defense going up against an experienced quarterback in Tim Hiller. Nebraska's high octane offense (Shawn Watson is finally calling the plays!) will be too much for Western.
J.Pike's Pick: Nebraska, 37-17
This will be closer then most people think, Bo knows Defense so the Blackshirt will be at least in the building, but not in the lockerroom yet. W Michigan is a good team and is used to playing with the Big Boys. But the Husk will pull it out. Watch for my spread prediction.
BP Pick: Nebraska
Northern Iowa at #23 BYU
Saturday, 5 pm, MTN.
This will be tougher than it looks. Northern Iowa finished 12-1 last season and will give the Fighting Mormons all they can handle.
J.Pike's Pick: BYU, 26-17
Max Power throws for 400...
BP Pick: BYU
#24 Boston College vs Kent State (@ Cleveland, OH)
Saturday, 6:30 pm, ESPN U
There are many reasons to tune in to this game. BC breaks in a new quarterback and will get to show off their stout defense. But more importantly, make sure you check out Kent's mighty mite running back Eugene Jarvis. The 5-foot-5 dynamo is one of the best backs you've never heard of.
J.Pike's Pick: Boston College, 33-13
This game is in Cleveland Rocks and BC is starting everyone new in the offensive backfield, Kent returns pinball Jarvis who is impossible to see behind the line of scrimmage. As much as I want to take Kent, I can't pull the trigger based on coaching of Jeff Jagodzinski, so no upset alert but watch my spread picks.
BP Pick: BC
NOTE: All times listed are CST
UTEP vs Buffalo(-3)
I love Turner Gill and I think the Bulls will improve again this year but UTEP and Trevor Vittoe are too consistent and all the pressure of opening game on Thursday night, will cause Drew the Willy's. Buffalo may win, but will not cover.
Buffalo wins 42-17, LOSS
Vanderbuilt @ Miami(OH)(-3.5)
I really like QB Dickson for Vandy, but he is caught up in a QB controversy and Vandy lost a ton last year, QB rFR Clay Belton will get the start of Daniel Raudabaugh, but they will share time. This is a statement game for Miami and will answer a question, Can one of the Top MAC teams beat the lowest SEC team. I think so.
Vanderbuilt wins 34-13, LOSS
NC State @ S.Carolina -14
Like my co-blogger I agree the 14 points will be just to much. Tom O'Brien the HC of NC St will keep the score down with a solid ground game. S Carolina suffocate the offense of NC St making them one demensional but I look for the NC St D to slow down S Carolina just enough to cover.
Pick: NC St +14
S Carolina wins 34-0, LOSS
Wake Forest -11.5 @ Baylor
Another agree from me this will be closer then the spread. I really like Wake and I think this will be a ACC title contender but 1st game away jitters will keep the game closer then the 11. Also Art Briles will keep them motivated.
Pick: Baylor +11.5
Wake Forest wins 41-13, LOSS
Oregon St(-3) @ Stanford
I know Sammie Stroughter is back and I know Oregon St finished 9-4, and I know they have 7 offensive starters back, but Jim Harbaugh has something going on there other then a tree as a mascot. Give me Stan!
Stanford wins 36-28, WIN
Troy(-6.5) @ Middle Tenn St
Omar Haugebrok loss will be bigger then usual for Troy who usually bounce back, but I belive MTSU will hang around with Dwight Dasher and that spread offense.
Troy wins 31-17, LOSS
Temple -7 @ Army
20 starters return for Temple which means nothing but Al Golden should get them motivated enough to beat Army.
Pick: Temple -7
Temple wins 35-7, WIN
Smu @ Rice -3.5
June Jones has put the stamp on this team, so it will officially take two years to see what SMU has. Justin Willis has been demoted to 3rd String. Wow. So with the signal caller situation a personal issue. Give me the much improved Rice, whom I believe will shock some people this year. Chase Clement and Jarrett Dillard will really show up for this one.
Pick: Rice -3.5
Rice wins 56-27, WIN
3-5 vs Spread so far, rough opening but
Wake Forest @ Baylor
(Thursday, 7pm, FSN)
Why it could happen: Wake Forest is getting fat from all the preseason hype and is slightly overrated. Baylor head coach Art Briles will have his team fired up and ready to play the best game fans in Waco have seen in several years.
Why it won’t happen: Wake isn’t that overrated. Baylor will hang in there for a while on the high of the new coaching staff and their home crowd, but the Demon Deacon defense will come up with key stops down the stretch.
Virginia Tech vs East Carolina
(Saturday, 11am, ESPN)
Why it could happen: East Carolina returns quarterback Patrick Pinkney and a large portion of their defense. Virginia Tech on the other hand loses just about every key playmaker off last year’s team that was pushed to the limit by this same Pirate team.
Why it won’t happen: Virginia Tech still has too much overall talent to lose this game. It will be close throughout and the Hokies will need some offensive skill players to step up and make some plays, but in the end the Hokie defense has enough talent to shut down the ECU offense in a low scoring affair.
Utah @ Michigan
(Saturday, 2:30pm, ABC)
Why it will happen: Michigan simply isn’t ready. New head coach Rich Rodriguez has too many new offensive schemes to put in and not enough players to run them. Utah plays plenty of defense and quarterback Brian Johnson is more than ready to duplicate what Armanti Edwards did to the Wolverines in The Big House last season.
Michigan State @ California
(Saturday, 7pm, ABC)
Why it will happen: Mark Dantonio’s Spartans are simply too physical for Cal. Jahvid Best has excellent speed and Kevin Riley will be an upgrade over Nate Longshore at quarterback, but in the end Michigan State will win it with defense and Javon Ringer.
I promised myself I would never get in the habit of picking games against the spread. But each week I'll take a look at the lines and if anything jumps out at me I'll let you know. Don't get used to looking at that fancy graphic is all I'm saying...
N.C. State (+12) over South Carolina
(Thursday, 7pm, ESPN)
South Carolina has an excellent defense, there’s no question about that. But at this stage of the season I’m not convinced their offense can even score 12 points.
East Carolina (+10) over Virginia Tech
(Saturday, 11am, ESPN)
Poly only won by 10 at home last year. Tech loses just about their entire starting defense and many key skill players on offense and must travel to Charlotte, NC this year.
Illinois (+8½) over Missouri
(Saturday, 7:30pm, ESPN)
Missouri will probably jump out to a big lead, much the way they did last season in this game. But Ron Zook will make adjustments and Illinois will take this rivalry game down to the wire.
Northern Illinois (+8½) over Minnesota
Minnesota is garbage until they prove to me otherwise. After going 1-11 and losing to Bowling Green and North Dakota State a year ago, I’m not convinced Minnesota can beat a MAC team that returns 18 starters. Even if they do it won’t be by much with that awful defense.
(Saturday, 5pm, VS)
New Mexico’s hopes of reversing the recent trend ride squarely on the shoulders of quarterback Donovan Porterie and running back Rodney Ferguson. There is no doubt this is one of the best backfield duos in the conference.
Porterie is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the nation. However he played one of the worst games of his career against TCU in 2007. Porterie was hurried all game long by the aggressive Horned Frog defense and the UNM offense managed to pick up only six first downs.
In order to keep the pressure off Porterie, Ferguson will have to step up his game. Expect to see backup Paul Baker in this game if Ferguson’s bruising running style is once again shut down by the aggressive TCU defense. Baker’s speed could be a nice change of pace for the offense.
Solid defensive play has been a staple of the Gary Patterson era. Defensive tackle James Vess is back after sitting out last season due to a suspension. He joins Cody Moore and Kelly Griffin to form the best trio of tackles in the MWC. These three will once again be tasked with shutting down Ferguson.
The TCU offense is nothing to write home about though. Sophomore Andy Dalton has proven to be nothing more than a serviceable quarterback so far in his career. Against the veteran Lobo secondary, which features All-MWC corner DeAndre Wright, expect Dalton to struggle in the passing game.
New Mexico has the home field advantage in this game, as well as the superior offensive skill talent, but TCU has a fine defense that can take the crowd out of the game. Plus Gary Patterson has had Rocky Long’s number, winning the last three matchups by a combined score of 113-49. Porterie will play much better than he did in this game last season, but in the end the TCU defense is just too good.
J.Pikes Pick: TCU 18, New Mexico 13
Thanks to the Helmet Project for the team helmet logos
Week One features more cupcake games than anybody should be willing to count. There are enough directionals and 1-AA competition to make even the most loyal fan yawn. Luckily there are a few schools willing to go out and schedule difficult games off the bat. The top two games this week each feature J&BP Top 25 teams squaring off in neutral sites. I'm taking the favorite in both matchups.
One of the week's most compelling games is in Ann Arbor where Rich Rodriguez makes his coaching debut as Michigan hosts one of the best teams not in a BCS league. I like the upset here because Utah is ready to go and Michigan still has a long way to go in learning Rodriguez's new schemes.
The other four games on the list includes Michigan State and Tennessee traveling out west to play games in California, and Fresno State and USC traveling cross country to play games on the east coast. Will all the travel have an effect? Probably, although I managed to pick three of the four road teams to win. I'll probably regret that. Here's the picks.
1. USC 33, Virginia 10
2. Fresno State 25, Rutgers 24
3. Michigan State 23, Cal 20
4. Tennessee 30, UCLA 16
5. Utah 24, Michigan 13
6. Clemson 23, Alabama 17
7. Missouri 31, Illinois 27
* Joe Paterno has named Darryl Clark as the starting quarterback for Penn State. Clark beat out Pat Devlin for the job, and appears to have Paterno's full support. There might not be a quarterback controversy here after all.
* Florida receiver Percy Harvin and linebacker Brandon Spikes, two All America candidates, are not expected to play in the season opener against Hawaii. Both are nursing foot injuries and will need an extra week to get back to full speed.
* Arizona will be without tight end Rob Gronkowski for the first couple weeks of the season. He has strep throat and possibly mono.
* USC’s Matt Sanchez and Joe McKnight each suffered minor injuries in practice. Both are expected to be fine for the regular season, but this offense has been slipping recently, and these are two first time starters who could use the repetitions to gel with the rest of the offense.
An interesting side note to the Sanchez injury – redshirt freshman Aaron Corp is taking the snaps with the first team offense in his place instead of the highly touted Mitch Mustain. I’m guessing Pete Carroll is going to receive an angry call from Momma Mustain soon.
* Virginia Tech lost another wide receiver when Frank Beamer suspended Zach Luckett from the team indefinitely. The Hokies top four receivers from last season all graduated and the top three heading into ‘08 have all been lost due to injury or suspension. Now Poly must rely on true freshmen to get the job done. Tyrod Taylor better be ready to take over the QB job full time because he’s the only playmaker left on this depleted offense.
* Colorado named Demetrius Sumler the starting running back ahead of stud true freshman Darrell Scott. Sumler is a fine player, so all this means is the Buffs will have excellent depth in the running game.
* Tennessee tight end Brandon Warren has been cleared to play this season after transferring from Florida State. Two years ago Warren was one of the most impressive freshmen in the country, and he’ll make an immediate impact at Tennessee.
This news couldn’t come at a better time for the Vols either. After losing tight ends Chris Brown and Brad Cottam to the NFL draft, projected starter Jeff Cottam injured his knee in practice and will be miss the first half of the season.
* Purdue running back Jaycen Taylor tore up his knee and will miss the 2008 season. Kory Sheets will take over full time, but he doesn’t have quite the same ability Taylor does.
* SMU senior quarterback Justin Willis has been demoted to third string on new head coach June Jones’ depth chart behind somebody called Bo Levi Mitchell. Willis has started for the Mustangs the past three years so the move comes as a surprise.
* As expected, UCLA has named Kevin Craft the starting quarterback. Craft, a transfer from San Diego State, got the nod in large part because Ben Olson and Patrick Cowan are the two most injury-prone players to ever play major college football. But Craft can play a little bit too, so expect him to have a fine season playing for Rick Neuheisel and Norm Chow.
* Ralph Friedgen has changed his starting quarterback again. Chris Turner, who played well in spots last season, has been replaced in the lineup by injury-plagued Jordan Steffy. Josh Portis, a transfer from Florida, is expected to see action as well. Friedgen said Portis has as much athleticism as any player he’s ever coached, so expect him to contribute a highlight reel play at some point this year.
* In another quarterback competition that went as expected, Cal has named Kevin Riley the starter over Nate Longshore. Long”spare” has been playing mediocre football for far too long, and Riley proved in the Bears’ bowl win over Air Force that he has what it takes to succeed in Jeff Tedford’s offense.
* Oregon quarterback Nate Costa suffered an injury to the same knee that caused him to miss all of last season. As of now the severity of the injury is unknown, but I have a hunch that Justin Roper is warming up in the bullpen already. Get your panic buttons ready Duck fans.
* Miami has suspended projected starting quarterback Robert Marve for the season opener against Charleston Southern. That means true freshman Jacory Harris will have the first shot at filling the ballerina slippers of Kirby Freeman and Kyle Wright.
* Gene Chizik has chosen a winner in the heated quarterback competition at Iowa State. Austen Arnaud will get first crack at the job. Phillip Bates will see the field though - he played wide receiver last season and has too much athleticism to keep on the sidelines.
* N.C. State redshirt freshman Russell Wilson was tabbed by head coach Tom O’Brien as the starter for the Thursday night opener against South Carolina. Wilson beat out incumbent Daniel Evans, Nebraska transfer Harrison Beck, and Justin Burke, who is transfering to Louisville.
* Notre Dame tight end Mike Ragone tore up his knee and will sit out the season. The Domers were already thin at tight end, so it will be up to incoming freshmen to handle an important position in Charlie Weis’ offense.
Offense-Everyone knows about Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin but the key to this offense will be replacing Tony Temple and Derrick Washington will be the one to watch, he will be running behind a very solid interior line and Colin Brown on the Right Tackle. So keys here will be have a decent running game and the rest will be fantastic. Chase and Maclin by the way will be in the hunt for the heisman, I know its not a news flash, but just wanted to be on the record.
Defense-Probably the most underrated defense in the land. Stryker Sulak and Ziggy Hood lead the Line and Sean Weatherspoon and Brock Christopher round out the front seven, all with potential all american and all conference cred. William Moore leads the secondary and is already being touted as the best DB in the land is at the Top of most Draft boards going into 2008.
Schedule-They open with a tough match up with Illinois whom it took everything they had in the opener last year to beat them. Then the appetizers step in the next 3 games before Big 12 season starts. They have to go on the road to Nebraska(which will be a statement game for the husker program and a measuring stick for the Pelini era) and to Texas. The only other tough game for them is the season ender at Arrowhead with against the Jayhawks who will have revenge on thier minds.
I know they lost their Top 2 QB's and I know they lost their lunch pail guy Hester, and I know they lost Dorsey and Highsmith and 3/4 of their secondary, but LSU is LSU and they have speed for days on this team.
OFF-Jarrett Lee will battle Andrew Hatch to take over for Perrilloux, so expect to see a heavy dose of the run game with Keiland Williams and co. Brandon Lafell and Demetrius Byrd will help out the new QB's and OL has 3 ALL SEC players so other then experience at QB this unit will be solid.
DEF-My man Marlon Favorite now gets the spotlight now that Dorsey left and with Tyson Jackson and Pittman and Jean Francois Jr, this will be the class of the SEC and potentially the NCAA. Darryl Beckwith leads the young batch of LB's but even with the loss of Highsmith I look for this group to improve over last year's numbers. The secondary is very green so they will have to learn quickly, but luckily they don't have a pass heavy team until mid October so they will have time to jell. Watch out for Patrick Johnson-CB.
Schedule- Get your creampuff's here while their hot. The open with darlings of small college App St, who I have heard some people say they have a chance to upset LSU this year. LSU is no Michigan, LSU will pound App st and thier other two tune up teams(UNT and Troy). Conference road games include a trip to Auburn, Florida, S Carolina and close the season at Arkansas. Georgia and Alabama are the only tough games at home. So the road will be tough and the stretch in October At Florida, At S. Carolina and home with Georgia will be the barometer of where this team will go.
Well I am going to be short and sweet and remind everyone that this is a preseason ranking. They will not stay here long.
OFF-Pat White and Noel Devine lead the team and return a very solid 5 starters on the OL. So the offense will stay lethal. Although watch out for White and Devine durability (Jarrett Brown is a capable backup) and overall depth of this team.
DEF-This is a very average defense. As much as people are criticizing Rich Rodriguez move to the Big House, he saw this one coming. This will be the achilles heel of the team and will be inconsistent all year.
Schedule- The non conference look easy to naked eye but a trip to my suprise team E. Carolina and a trip to Boulder could be tough and that is a preqel to Auburn rolling into town. Conference road games include UConn, Louisville and Pittsburgh, all a 50/50 shot. They wrap the season up with USF whom they have lost to the last two seasons.
The reason I have them ranked at #9 is because its preseason and that offense on paper is fantastic. But I am tying a anchor to this team and predicting they will not be ranked after thier trip to Rutgers in the first week of October.
Rich where are you and your $2M settlement?
So long Brandon Cox or the govenor switch on the Auburn Program. Now we can finally see what this team is capable of.
Offense-Put any QB here. Kodi Burns will be great in this offense and the RB core of Ben Tate, Brad Lester and Mario Fannin will be toughest trio in the SEC. WR is solid with Montez Billings and Rodgerious Smith and OL returns 5 starters. So the offense is poised for a big season.
Defense-You gotta love Trey Blackmon, but he is his worst enemy. If he can get his off the field under control he could be a lottery pick. The defense overall is solid but not spectacular they lost alot from the previous year(Patrick Lee, Josh Thompson(leading tackler) Quentin Groves(very overrated though) and Johnathan Wilhite), so several players will have to step up, but the Tuberville pantry is stocked, watch for Craig Stevens-LB and Zac Etheridge-SS to fill the void.
Schedule: The only tough game is in Morgantown vs W Virginia, but they should stomp them. SEC road games include trips to............Alabama, and that is it. They get LSU, Tennessee and Georgia all at home. So now that Cox is out, it will be interesting to see how high this team can go, and it will improve on its 9 wins last year.
Well to conserve time will hit the highlights:
Offense: PJ Hill is a stud and Travis Beckum will make himself a first rounder by the end of the year. They return one of the best OL in the Big 10 and they will need with cast off Allan Everidge running the O. Watch out for Kyle Jefferson.
Defense: Could be the 2nd best in the Big 10. Matt Shaughnessy and Mike Newkirk anchor the line with AA potential and Jonathan Casillas and DeAndre Levy return as the Top two tacklers last year. The secondary is lead by Shane Carter who led the big 10 with 7 picks last year.
Schedule: Non conference is cake, (Fresno St is overrated) and the Big 10 road games are Michigan, Iowa, Michigan St and Indiana, so they get teh Buckeyes, Joe Pa and Juice all at home. The table is set for Bret Bielema so come and get it.
Mark Richt’s squad is loaded, and a preseason favorite to compete for a national title. The schedule is also loaded as the Bulldogs face eight coaches who have won national championships on one level or another – and that doesn’t even count Tommy Tuberville who went undefeated at Auburn in 2004. If the talented Bulldogs can stay hungry and manage that schedule, they’ll be in the SEC title game with a berth in the National Championship game on the line.
Defending national champ LSU has too many holes to fill to be considered a favorite in the West. Auburn is breaking in two new coordinators, but strangely I have more faith in Tuberville than I do in the gambling Les Miles. There’s no way LSU converts on 4th downs as often as they did last season again!
East: South Carolina
Steve Spurrier predicted his Gamecocks would compete for the SEC East title prior to last season. A rash of injuries put an end to those dreams despite a 6-1 start. If the loaded defense can stay healthy, new coordinator Ellis Johnson should be able to mold them into one of the finest defenses in the nation. A good defense can go a long way.
West: Mississippi State
Was Mississippi State a one-year wonder, or are they going to stick around in the SEC West race again this year? Don’t be surprised if Sly Croom and his rock-solid defense, led by playmaking DB Derek Pegues, make another appearance in the postseason. The Bulldogs beat Alabama and won at Auburn last season, so there’s no reason they can’t pull off a similar feat again. And because it looks like LSU will take a step back coming off their national championship season, anything can happen in the wild SEC West.
On the Rise: Ole Miss
It’s safe to say the Ed Orgeron experiment was a mistake and should just be forgotten. Enter Houston Nutt, whose track record in the SEC proves he’ll be able to bring consistency back to the program. The cupboard is far from bare too, especially on the defensive side of the ball. He’ll need to find a running back, but since when has that been a problem for Nutt? True freshman Enrique Davis will challenge for playing time, but don’t count Dexter McCluster out of the equation. He showed flashes of brilliance as a true freshman two years ago, but was later inexplicably moved to wide receiver.
What were they thinking? Running the successful Houston Nutt out of town is one thing, but to turn around and hire Bobby Petrino is a double-whammy on the program. Petrino is a sound offensive coach, but he will have a hard time commanding respect from his players any more, and he’ll just leave a mess behind when he eventually bolts again (see Louisville and the Atlanta Falcons current situations). Expect some down years for the Razorbacks.
PROJECTED STANDINGS & RECORDS
|1. Georgia||11-1 (7-1 conference)|
|2. Florida||10-2 (6-2)|
|3. Tennessee||9-3 (5-3)|
|4. South Carolina||7-5 (4-4)|
|5. Kentucky||6-6 (2-6)|
|6. Vanderbilt||2-10 (0-8)|
|1. Auburn||10-2 (6-2)|
|2. LSU||9-3 (5-3)|
|3. Alabama||7-5 (4-4)|
|4. Mississippi State||7-5 (4-4)|
|5. Ole Miss||6-6 (3-5)|
|6. Arkansas||4-8 (2-6)|
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
Offense: Knowshon Moreno (RB, Georgia)
Defense: Jasper Brinkley (LB, South Carolina)
Special Teams: Brandon James (KR, Florida)
NATIONAL AWARDS CANDIDATES
Darry Beckwith (LB-LSU) – Arrington, Fave
Eric Berry (DB-Ten) – Arrington, Deion
Tray Blackmon (LB-Aub) – Arrington
Jasper Brinkley (LB-SoCar) – Arrington, Fave
Wes Byrum (K-Aub) – Sproles/Sauerbrun
Dannell Ellerbe (LB-UGA) – Arrington, Fave
Greg Hardy (DE-Miss) - Arrington
Percy Harvin (WR-Fla) – Bo Jackson, Sayers
Brandon James (KR-Fla) – Sproles/Sauerbrun
Ricky Jean-Francois (DL-LSU) – Arrington
Rashad Johnson (DB-Bama) – Deion
Knowshon Moreno (RB-UGA) – Bo Jackson, Sayers, Fave
Captain Munnerlyn (DB-SoCar) – Deion, Fave
Chris Nickson (QB-Vandy) - Frazier
Derek Pegues (DB-MSU) – Arrington, Deion
Chris Rainey (RB-Fla) - Sayers
Andre Smith (OL-Bama) – Bo Jackson
Brannan Southerland (FB-UGA) – Fave
Brandon Spikes (LB-Fla) – Arrington
Matthew Stafford (QB-UGA) – Bo Jackson, Fave
Tim Tebow (QB-Fla) – Bo Jackson, Frazier
LSU defensive line
Tennessee offensive line
Florida offensive line
Georgia defensive line
Ole Miss offensive line
Florida defensive line
Alabama offensive line
Auburn defensive line
Auburn offensive line
LSU offensive line
Ole Miss defensive line
Gary Pinkel has the best collection of athletes he’s ever had at Missouri, so it’s time for the Tigers to take the next step. The defending North champs return an array of playmakers, including Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, and William Moore, that are among the elite in all of college football. If Missouri doesn’t win the division it would be a huge disappointment.
“Big Game” Bob has taken some lumps lately in bowl games. Somehow he gets a pass though because Coach October has done a great job in Big XII play over that same stretch, winning five out of nine conference titles. OU is once again the consensus favorite to win the South because of some key returnees on offense. But there are sizeable holes on defense (just ask Pat White) that make them more vulnerable than you might think.
New head coach Bo Pelini will turn this program around sooner than you think. There is talent on hand and nobody will be taking the Cornhuskers seriously after the debacle last season. Nebraska also has the benefit of hosting Missouri and Kansas so a run at the Big XII title game isn’t out of the question.
It’s hard to refer to Texas as a “sleeper”, but the Longhorns aren’t getting a lot of respect from the national media despite a strong finish to the 2007 season. Oklahoma is justifiably getting most of the preseason hype, but even Texas Tech has been a trendy pick to contend in the South ahead of Texas. The Red River Rivalry will once again determine the South champ though, and Texas has the athletes to pull it out.
On the Rise: Iowa State
Gene Chizik quietly did a good job laying the foundation in 2007. He injected some enthusiasm back into the program that had waned in recent years. This offseason he placed a big emphasis on getting stronger as a team, and that will also pay dividends on the field. Defense is Chizik’s specialty so you can expect improvement on that side of the ball. With four starters returning on the offensive line and a pair of gifted young quarterbacks, the offense might even be a little more potent in 2008 than it was last season.
Declining: Kansas State
Signing 19 junior college players and paying Fresno State to get lost in favor of a 1-AA cupcake on the schedule (too bad Texas wasn’t available) sends a pretty clear signal that Ron Prince thinks his days are numbered. Will these stopgap measures work, or will they just make a bigger mess for the next coach to clean up? Looks like a sinking ship to me.
PROJECTED STANDINGS & RECORDS
|1. Missouri||11-1 (7-1 conference)|
|2. Nebraska||8-4 (4-4)|
|3. Kansas||8-4 (4-4)|
|4. Colorado||6-6 (4-4)|
|5. Iowa State||6-6 (3-5)|
|6. Kansas State||5-7 (2-6)|
|1. Texas||11-1 (7-1)|
|2. Oklahoma||11-1 (7-1)|
|3. Texas Tech||8-4 (4-4)|
|4. Texas A&M||6-6 (3-5)|
|5. Oklahoma State||6-6 (3-5)|
|6. Baylor||2-10 (0-8)|
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
Offense: Chase Daniel (QB, Missouri)
Defense: William Moore (DB, Missouri)
Special Teams: Jeremy Maclin (KR, Missouri)
NATIONAL AWARDS CANDIDATES
Justin Brantly (P-A&M) – Sproles/Sauerbrun
Ian Campbell (DE-KSt) – Arrington
John Chiles (QB-Tex) – Frazier
Perrish Cox (KR-OSU) – Sproles/Sauerbrun
Michael Crabtree (WR-Tech) – Bo Jackson
Chase Daniel (QB-Miz) – Bo Jackson, J.Pike’s Fave
Auston English (DE-Okl) - Arrington
Mike Goodson (RB-A&M) – Bo Jackson, Sayers
Graham Harrell (QB-Tech) – Bo Jackson
Jeremy Maclin (WR-Miz) – Bo Jackson, Sproles/Sauerbrun
William Moore (DB-Miz) – Arrington, Deion
Joe Mortensen (LB-Kan) - Arrington
DeMarco Murray (RB-Okl) – Sayers, Sproles/Sauerbrun
Brian Orakpo (DE-Tex) – Arrington
Zac Robinson (QB-OSU) - Frazier
Oklahoma offensive line
Texas offensive line
Oklahoma defensive line
Texas Tech offensive line
Texas defensive line
Nebraska offensive line
Colorado defensive line
Whoa, what a backfield. Knowshon Moreno is arguably the best running back in the nation, and if Matthew Stafford continues his maturation he might be considered the best quarterback prospect for the NFL. There are no ifs ands or buts about Brannan Southerland though – he’s the best fullback in college football. A thunderous blocker and sneaky goal line threat, Southerland played a big role in the emergence of Moreno last year by paving big holes for him to run through. Unfortunately Southerland will miss the first five weeks of the season rehabbing a foot injury.
Moreno was a revelation in 2007. Not only did he produce like one of the best backs in the country (1,334 yards, 14 tds), but he displayed confidence and leadership far beyond his true freshman status. Moreno stepped right into a leadership role and he’ll continue to provide a spark with his full-throttle running, much the way Adrian Peterson did at Oklahoma. Filling in for the departed Thomas Brown, an underrated backup (779 yards, 10 tds), is redshirt freshman Caleb King. King is a speedy back with exciting potential, and since Richt likes to use two running backs he’ll see plenty of action.
Stafford continues to be one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the nation. He has a great arm that is capable of making all the throws in the book. He still has accuracy problems at times, but the improvement he made his sophomore season leads me to believe he’s on the right track to becoming a star. He’s already got a commanding presence in the huddle and the team responds to him well. Look for Stafford to really break out and become a star in 2008 as he leads his team in the hunt for a national championship.
The offensive line suffered a major blow a couple weeks ago when left tackle Trinton Sturdivant tore up his knee. Sturdivant was already establishing himself as an anchor on this line after starting all 13 games a year ago as a true freshman (the first to do so at Georgia since 1989), but he will be forced to miss the season rehabbing the knee. That leaves only two returning starters, both of whom are sophomores. This is now an area of concern, but Georgia still has enough talent on the roster to field a solid O-Line.
The receiving corps has been an area of mediocrity for a couple years now in Athens. Mohamed Massaquoi is a senior now and the most likely to become a go-to threat. The tight end spot at Georgia has been a position of strength under Richt, but Tripp Chandler is a step down from the others who have played here recently. It would be nice if one of the other veterans stepped up to provide Stafford more reliable targets so there isn’t as much pressure on highly touted incoming freshmen A.J. Green and Tavarres King to produce right away.
Georgia suffered an ever so slight step back in defensive production in 2007, but they still managed to be a top 15 group. With 9 returning starters the Bulldogs D should regain their spot among the elite in college football.
The strength of the defense is where the strength of all great teams lies – up the middle. Geno Atkins and Jeff Owens are one of the best defensive tackle duos in the nation. Atkins is extremely adept at getting into the backfield (7.5 sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss) thanks in large part to the multiple blockers required to keep the powerful Owens from doing the same.
Middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is simply one of the most under-appreciated players in college football. Despite leading Georgia in tackles (93) and making plays all over the field (12 tackles for loss), he still didn’t receive any All-Conference recognition. That will change this season because Ellerbe will continue making plays, and since the schedule is so difficult, most of these plays will be made on national television.
Rennie Curran is another true freshman who played his way into the starting lineup in ’07. Curran’s tremendous speed made an immediate impact, so imagine what he’ll be able to do over a the course of a full season as the starter. Curran and Ellerbe, along with Akeem Dent make up what should be one of the most athletic, productive groups of linebackers in the nation.
The loss of defensive end Marcus Howard, who terrorized Colt Brennan in the Sugar Bowl last year, leaves a void. The pass rush has never been an issue for Richt though, so I expect that production among Roderick Battle, Jarius Wynn, and Jeremy Lomax will meet the lofty standards. Coaches seem to think Wynn, a JUCO transfer a year ago, will provide the biggest boost.
With Asher Allen, Reshad Jones, C.J. Byrd, and Prince Miller returning in the secondary, the Bulldogs will field their most experienced secondary in years. Cornerback Thomas Flowers is the only loss from the unit, but he was beat out by Miller in the starting lineup by the end of last year anyway. Allen and Jones are great players who will keep the Georgia defense as strong against the pass as the front seven is against the run.
Overall this is one of the most athletic defenses in the land. There is more speed in this unit than any other school can claim, and they are a year more experienced this year. This is a championship defense.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Blockers on offense. With the injuries to Trinton Sturdivant and Brannan Southerland, and a demanding schedule, it will be up to their replacements to pace the offense through a rough early-season schedule that includes road games against Arizona State, South Carolina, and a home date against Alabama.
Dannell Ellerbe. For some reason, Ellerbe isn’t a star yet. He should be though, and he’ll prove it this season. He’s one of the best the SEC has to offer.
They say great teams start out with great offensive lines and this is the best line Brown has assembled since the national championship team. Thanks to a rash of injuries in 2007, six players return with starting experience. Left tackle Adam Ulatoski and right guard Cedric Dockery are the veterans of the unit, while Chris Hall provides excellent versatility after starting multiple games at center, tackle, and guard a year ago. Then there’s sophomore guard Michael Huey who might end up being the best of the bunch. This group will rival Oklahoma as the best offensive line in the conference.
Colt McCoy returns for his third year starting at quarterback. McCoy didn’t have a bad year in ’07, but it was a letdown after his record setting freshman season. Look for him to take another step forward in his development in ’08 as he takes on a bigger leadership role on the team.
Backup quarterback John Chiles will see significantly more action than he did as a true freshman a year ago. Chiles has athleticism to spare and the Texas coaches are looking for ways to get the ball in his hands more often, which means you’ll probably see Chiles and McCoy on the field at the same time several times throughout the season.
After riding running backs like Jamaal Charles and Cedric Benson in the past, it’s back to a committee approach for the 2008 season. That’s not to say there isn’t any talent available, there’s just three backs that complement each other well. Expect to see equal does of Vondrell McGee, Fozzy Whitaker, and Chris Ogbannaya.
Wide receiver appears at first glance to be an area of concern, but when you consider the sheer number of talented candidates, it’s a position that could become a strength by the end of the season. Quan Cosby is a solid target who will keep the chains moving with his precise route running and reliable hands. Ditto for Jordan Shipley. Then the excitement begins. Redshirt freshman Malcolm Williams headlines a long list of freshman receivers that all have a chance to contribute. With his excellent hands and limitless potential, look for Williams to contribute a handful of big plays in the passing game this year.
As a true freshman, tight end Blaine Irby flashed the athletic ability to pick up right where Jermichael Finley left off. Peter Ullman is the blocking tight end.
New defensive coordinator Will Muschamp brings an impressive résumé to Austin. Prior to coordinating Auburn’s top notch units the last few seasons he won a national title as Nick Saban’s DC at LSU. With the talent available to Muschamp, the defense should show marked improvement and become a feared group once again.
Brian Orakpo will be the cornerstone of the defense this season. Muschamp will turn Orakpo loose on opposing quarterbacks full time this year which will catapult him to double-digit sack territory. Sophomore Sam Acho has been unblockable in practice since arriving on campus, so he’ll lock down the other defensive end spot and make sure Orakpo doesn’t get all the attention. The active Lamarr Houston moves inside to defensive tackle this year where he’ll join Roy Miller.
The linebacking corps has been woefully underutilized the last two seasons, but there are five players at this position that anybody else in the conference would love to have. Rashad Bobino has been a fixture at middle linebacker for two years now. He’ll be joined in the starting lineup by Roddrick Muckelroy, who simply produces when he’s on the field, and redshirt freshman Keenan Robinson. That leaves Jared Norton and Sergio Kindle coming off the bench to provide depth that is without peer.
The biggest question mark facing the Longhorns is the secondary. The pass defense was downright bad in ’07, and this year’s unit is littered with freshmen and sophomores. Ryan Palmer and Deon Beasley will start at corner, but they’ll be pushed by up-and-comer Chykie Brown, who has much better size than either of the starters. The two safety positions will most likely be manned by freshmen. Earl Thomas has been a favorite of the coaching staff since arriving on campus, and Christian Scott appears to have played his way into the other spot with his knack for big hits.
Overall the defense will no doubt show improvement, especially in the front seven. The young secondary has loads of promise, but they must gel quickly in the pass-happy Big XII.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Will Muschamp’s defense. This is a unit with loads of talent, and Muschamp has the pedigree to shape them into a championship caliber group.
John Chiles and Malcolm Williams. These two offensive playmakers will make their presence felt this season. Both provide exciting athleticism that should add another dimension to the offense.