Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Disney Changes Things Around

Why does ABC/ESPN have to mess with the broadcast teams? I know Keith Jackson is retiring again, but why mess with the rest. Ok, Gary Danielson is gone but I can't believe Mike Tirico is leaving ESPN Thursday night games. Tirico is one of the best and I love his play-by-play, but I am looking forward to seeing Chris Fowler take his place.

The most interesting change is moving Dan Fouts over to play-by-play and teaming him up with former play-by-play man Tim Brant. ESPN's Saturday night crew will be Mike Patrick and Todd Blackledge. WTF? And Doug Flutie will be floating back and forth from ABC and ESPN.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Post Spring Top 25

I will be honest, I have not had the chance to research all 119 DIA teams but I will give the post spring top 25 a crack. Texas and USC are having some off the field problems but there is enough talent to keep these schools among the top 10. I don't see a clear cut No. 1 like Miami, Oklahoma and USC were the last few years.

I am still sticking with Auburn as my No. 1 team and Ohio State is a solid No. 2. Notre Dame has returned to greatness and I expect many preseason publications to have the Irish ranked in the top three. Lets not forget West Virginia, the Mountaineers have the best shot to run the table. Boston College is my surprise team. I expect very few to preseason pubs to rank the Eagles because they only return 13 starters. But the Eagles have a schedule set up beautifully to make a run at the ACC title. So you can see this poll is not based on talent alone. The top 4 teams are schools I think that the best talent and manageable schedule to run the table.

  1. Auburn- Snubbed by the BCS in 04, but won't be this year.
  2. Ohio State- Tressel Twist, the offense will be unstoppable.
  3. USC- Quarterback issues is something Carroll is not used.
  4. West Virginia- The talent is there but the Big East sucks.
  5. LSU- Trips to Auburn and Florida are among the first 6 games.
  6. Notre Dame- Quinn has the weight of the Irish on his shoulders.
  7. Texas- Can't afford to lose Taylor along with Young.
  8. Florida- Meyer's glory year is always year No. 2.
  9. Oklahoma- Peterson's Heisman year?
  10. Miami- New(old) OC Rich Olsen will spark the offense.
  11. Michigan- Carr needs a Big Ten title or else?
  12. Boston College- Can the Eagles win the ACC?
  13. Georgia- Richt's team will not fall too fall from the top of the SEC.
  14. Iowa- 5th straight New Year's Day bowl for the Hawks.
  15. Louisville- The best offense in the nation.
  16. Florida State- Is this Junior's year?
  17. Texas Tech- Pass right, pass left, pass middle and finally a defense.
  18. California- Who will quarterback the Bears?
  19. Clemson- Losing Whitehurst not that big of a deal.
  20. Virginia Tech- Last time the Hokies were underrated they won the ACC.
  21. Oregon- The Ducks must play at USC and Cal.
  22. Nebraska- The Huskers are back.
  23. Arizona State- Koetter's team has to put it together with all this talent.
  24. Penn State- Paterno has major holes to fill.
  25. Alabama- The defense will have to carry the Tide.

really early top 40(from January)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Finally ABC Does It!

It may be a little too late, but at least the effort has been made. ABC will finally showcase a prime time college football game on weekly basis at 8pm ET. And it will be in high definition.

Brent Musburger will call the play-by-play and Bob Davie will be the color analyst. Kirk Herbstreit will join the crew on certain weekends, but where in the hell is Lee Corso? Lisa Salters will be the sideline reporter. I am guessing Herbie will join the crew when ESPN Gameday is at the site of the ABC prime time game, like ND-GT and OSU-Tex to start the year. ABC was smart to ditch Corso and Davie is decent choice, but he is no Gary Danielson.

I bought a HDTV last year and was disappointed ABC only broadcasted one regular season game in HD, Miami-Florida State. There might have been few more I missed but it was not like CBS and NBC where all the games were broadcast in HD. ESPN will still have their weekly prime time game and it will allow the Disney networks to showcase two games every week in prime time in HD.

It is a smart move by ABC, no one really watches network TV on a Saturday night. It is not like the 80s when I was a kid and couldn't wait to watch Diff'rent Strokes at 8pm. Why not showcase a college football game in the fall lineup? Well, the negative is most hardcore college football fans are used to tuning into ESPN/2 for their prime time football fix. Disney will be competing with itself for viewers. West Coast fans are either coming from or going to a college game around 5pm PT. Most people have satellite/cable TV and there are plenty of college games on in prime time with any of respective sport packages.

If ABC would have done this 15 years ago when ESPN was is its infancy, I believe the impact would have been bigger. Saturday nights have been a dog for the networks for a long time, I don't know why it took so freakin long to finally pull the trigger. The TV landscape has changed so much, and I wouldn't be surprised to see ABC pull the plug after this year if the ratings suck.

Friday, May 12, 2006

New BS Logo, Sorry BCS

FOX Sports will be home to four of the five Bowl Championship Series Bowls starting this season. Only the Rose Bowl remains on ABC. The details of the BCS bowls on FOX are still uncertain but at least the logo is finished.

This season will mark the first "national title" game that will follow a week after the four BCS bowls. This not a playoff, for those who are not aware, it is merely another money game. The two teams will be picked from atop the BCS standings the same time the other bowl games will be announced. This year's BCS title game will be held at the site of the Fiesta Bowl, the Arizona Cardinals new stadium in Glendale, AZ.

The hype of the new format is it will allow the "little-guy" a better shot at earning a BCS bid. The non-BCS conference champion with the highest BCS ranking will earn a bid to one of the 5 bowl games. However, it still has to be ranked among the top 14 in the BCS standings or at least be ranked ahead of one of the 6 BCS conference champions. Prior to this year, a non-BCS school had to be ranked sixth or higher. Only Utah was able to break the BCS barrier in the first eight years of existence of the BCS. A combination of a preseason ranking, decent schedule and undefeated season propelled the Utes to a No. 6 ranking in 2004.

Three other non-BCS schools finished unbeaten but never had a shot at a BCS berth in those same eight years. Tulane, Marshall and Boise State all had unbeaten seasons in 1998, 1999, and 2004, respectively. This year there will be a legitimate chance for just about every unbeaten non-BCS team to earn a BCS berth.

There is no clear cut favorite among the ranks of the non-BCS, but most preseason magazines will probably rank TCU and Utah of the MWC among their top 25. Boise State and my choke-artist alma mater, Fresno State, are always considered favorites out of the WAC. UTEP and Tulsa are head and shoulders above anyone else in CUSA. The MAC will be a battle this year. There is no clear cut favorite in what should be a wide open race for the conference title. The Sun Belt, please but watch out for a decent Louisiana-Lafayette team. Navy has a somewhat easy slate but still has to play Notre Dame.

There are four non-BCS schools that have very manageable schedules: Boise State, TCU, Tulsa and Utah. BSU's toughest games are Oregon State, at Wyoming, at Utah, Fresno State and at Nevada, nothing daunting there. TCU's slate is not too bad either with Texas Tech, at Utah, and at Colorado State providing the most difficult challenges. Tulsa, by far, has the easiest schedule of the four. The Golden Hurricane's toughest games are at BYU and at Navy. Utah, in my opinion, will have the best shot at earning a BCS bowl. Beating UCLA on the road the start the year, should catch the nation's attention and solidify the Utes probable top 25 ranking. After UCLA, the Utes' schedule only has 4 games against 2005 bowl teams and all four will be played in Salt Lake City.

Monday, May 08, 2006

CFB Preseson Previews: 'Dogs Underrated?

Spring Practice is only a month old, but that is just enough time for the preseason college football magazines to make their predictions. Athlon Sports is always the first to hit the news stands, usually by mid to late May, but often the least accurate. The Sporting News is one of my favorites but doesn't hit newsstands until early June. Phil Steele gives the most stats and information but is poorly written.

When I was a kid I couldn't wait for these preseason magazines to hit the news stands, and I have bought every TSN CFB Yearbook, save 1991, since the 1989 issue with Ron Cox on the cover. Now that I am older, I realize these predictions are just a crapshoot; their basis of information is just spring practice, returning talent, and the team's performance from the prior season. As well, many of them rely on a host of regional newspaper beat writers to write their previews. This sometimes creates contradiction from one what the magazine might say in the national preview compared to what the beat writer may say in the conference preview.

The Fresno Bee's Andy Boogaard wrote the Fresno State previews back in 89 when I purchased my first TSN CFB Yearbook, and the Fresno Bee's Marek Warszawski wrote last year's. I am too lazy to go through all my issues, but I can all but guarantee these two have written the Bulldog preview in TSN for the last 17 years or so. I could be wrong, but I doubt anyone other than a Fresno Bee beat writer has written the preview in TSN. If not, it was a WAC(or Big West in 90-91) beat writer. My point is these guys are "homers", although Boogaard and Warszawski are good writers, and know their stuff; they are still "homers". However, a "homer" will be able to give the most accurate information about his respective team.

Phil Steele claims to have had the most accurate preseason preview for the last 6 years, prior to 2005, based on the Stassen ratings. Steele's preview didn't finish on top last year, but still finished a respectable third. He writes every team's preview, and each is an equal two pages. TSN only has two pages for its top 25 BCS teams. TSN just has one page for the rest of the BCS teams and top non-BCS teams and only a half page for the rest of the 119 Division IA teams. Steele knows his stuff, but it is not like he attends spring practice of every IA school.

I didn't see him at any of Bulldog spring practices, but I did see the Fresno Bee's David White. I don't know if White is going to write the TSN preview this year, but if he did he would have the more accurate view compared to Steele. But Steele is a far more knowledgeable CFB expert and a keen football stat freak. That is why he has picked Fresno State to win the WAC the last two years but TSN stuck with Boise State. On paper Fresno State is a "winner" but in reality it does not win WAC titles under Pat Hill.

As far as Fresno State for 2006, spring does not tell the entire story. By just watching or reading the recap of the Spring Game and scrimmage, the quarterbacks look to be abysmal. But anyone who saw Paul Pinegar in last year's practice and saw the new quarterbacks this year, know the new guys are far more talented just inexperienced. By reading the recaps one would think that the offensive line was going to be average because it got beat up by a defensive front that couldn't stop anyone the last four games and lost WAC Defensive Player of the Year Garrett McIntyre. But anyone who saw practice realized that the defensive line is much improved despite losing its best player. And knows Hill was shuffling the offensive line all spring because two starters were out the entire spring.

To make an accurate prediction for the 2006 Bulldogs one will have to watch preseason practice come August. The cornerback situation looks like it is in dire straights, but who’s to say incoming true freshmen Damion Owens or AJ Jefferson won't make a difference in the fall. What about walk ons? Hill is synonymous for developing good walk ons; this year will be no different. I spoke with incoming WR walk on Phil Ghilarducci and he is ready to contribute. Most don't know about the 6-4 217 target who runs a 4.5 forty and benches an impressive 340 lbs. even stated he ran a 4.4 in their 2004 Oregon State preview. There is another thing about most preseason previews; they often use school's spring rosters and prospectus. Ghilarducci left Oregon State in January of 2004 and was not going to be Beaver in the fall, but was very high on the freshman WR, calling him the best of the bunch. How often is updated? The spring prospectus is not even uploaded to the sight and it was released on March 8.

Preseason previews will make assumptions about incoming freshman/talent but only if they are 4 or 5 star recruits. For instance, last year Phil Steele raved about West Virginia’s incoming 5 star running back Jason Gwaltney's size and speed. He predicted Gwaltney would win the starting job and even named him preseason all-Big East second team. Gwaltney was a bust but unheralded 3 star running back Steve Slaton came out of nowhere to rush for over 1,000 yards. As well, redshirt freshman quarterback Pat White took over mid-season because of an injury to starter Adam Bednarik. Steele expected the fast, elusive White to start but most preseason magazines based their predictions on Bednarik. With Bednarik WV struggled to a 5-1 start, got whipped in Morgantown by Virginia Tech, and was in danger of getting blown out by Louisville at home, but he got injured in the 3rd quarter vs. the Cardinals. In comes White and WV comes back from 24-7 down, wins in overtime, doesn't lose a game the rest of the year, and finished ranked in the top 5.

West Virginia will be good in 2006, and even ESPN's Pat Forde gave the Mountaineers the nod as his early pick(subscription required) to win the national championship. But are you telling me that if WV would have lost by 3 instead of winning by 3, against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, would it have gotten the same hype from Forde? My guess is no. WV would still be considered a top 10-15 team but would not be mentioned in the same breath with say a USC or Texas. An argument can be made about Oregon too. The Ducks are ranked No. 19 by Athlon this year. But if they had beaten Oklahoma in the Holiday Bowl, I guarantee Athlon would have the Ducks rated at or near the top 10. Athlon ranks TCU No. 18; I bet that is based on the Frog's 11-1 season last year. Hell, even Utah is ranked No. 23. The Utes finished 7-5 but whipped No. 24 Georgia Tech in the Emerald Bowl. Strong finishes usually lead to higher preseason rankings.

The Bulldogs finished 2005 with a 4 game losing streak, but if they would have beaten Nevada, Louisiana Tech and Tulsa the outlook would be different in 2006. FS returns more senior starters than anyone else in the WAC and has 11 starters that have played in at least 30 games. The Bulldogs also have 2003-04 starting running back Dwayne Wright back at full-strength. However, I will expect most preseason predictions to call for a down year for the 'Dogs compared to their numerous preseason top 25 rankings last year. Only two of the top 12 preseason publications did not rank FS in its preason top 25. I expect none to rank the 'Dogs this year.

They will point to youth and the loss of Paul Pinegar, Wendell Mathis, Richard Marshall, Tyrone Culver and Garrett McIntyre as the reasons. Youth? At quarterback and maybe one cornerback spot if junior Damon Jenkins doesn't step up his game. Pinegar was an average quarterback that fit a system and had good players around him his last two years. Mathis is not even close to the bull Wright is. Marshall is irreplaceable, but the team still has Marcus McCauley, who in my opinion was a better cornerback than Marshall last year. Culver's spot will be filled by senior Vince Mays, who is a better athlete and had a great spring. McIntyre's motor is irreplaceable but there is far more talent at defensive line this year than in Hill's previous nine years.

The 2005 team was -4 in turnover margin in 2005, the first time that a Hill coached team finished below even. The 2005 Bulldogs also did not have Wright all year and RB/KR Clifton Smith was lost for the season in game 2. Besides those two, the team had 7 others starters miss at least one game with an injury including losing key starters at some point for the remainder of the season: K Clint Stitser, WLB Marcus Riley, and FB Roshon Vercher. 2004 starting fullback Nate Adams was lost for the year in preseason, as well.

I highly doubt the 2006 team will face the same bad luck and misfortune. The ball usually bounces the other way from one season to another. Couple that with the immense talent and experience this year's Bulldogs have, I say the team will win at least 9 games, with a solid chance at 11. Come August the new offensive coaches will start making their mark, and this team should finally be healthy. Only then can anyone make any sort of legitimate prediction on the fate of the 2006 season. Just about every preseason prediction jumped on the Bulldog bandwagon last year, but this year they will not be so kind. So in short, ignore the preseason publications and start counting down towards September 1.

Monday, May 01, 2006

31, Maybe 32 Bowls

The 2006-07 college football bowl season will have a record 31 games, maybe 32 if the Houston Bowl is recertified. The four new bowls that will join the party are the: International Bowl, Birmingham Bowl, New Mexico Bowl and, of course, the infamous 5th BCS bowl.

The International Bowl will pit MAC vs Big East from the Sky Dome in Toronto. The Birmingham Bowl will pit CUSA vs Big East from Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama. The New Mexico Bowl will pit WAC vs MWC from University Stadium in Albuquerque. The 5th BCS bowl will be played one week after the Fiesta Bowl at the new Arizona Cardinal Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

What do all these bowl games mean? Well, for me I love to predict college bowl game matchups, but I even think that 32 bowls is too many. 6-6 teams will now be eligible to participate in a bowl game. However, all teams within a respective conference, with a better record, must be invited ahead of any 6-6 team.

It was just two years ago when 6-5 Akron was the only bowl eligible team not invited to a bowl. Granted, South Carolina and Clemson, both bowl eligible at 6-5, suspended themselves from bowl participation, but it was evident that the bowls get watered down after the top 15-20 bowls select their teams.

But now that the bowl games are complete, I will assume the Houston Bowl will be recertified, I will give my pre-preseason bowl predictions of all the 32 bowls. I know it is early but the season is slow and I have not researched enough to write any previews. Besides predicting bowl games are a crapshoot, anyways, until at least after the first week of December.

This blog will have more action now that the NFL draft is complete and I can start focusing on college football predictions. But the Fresno State Football Blog still takes up a majority of my time.