Thursday, June 29, 2006

Non-BCS Top 15

I hate to join the masses and create separation between the haves and have nots, but honestly there are just a handful of non-BCS teams that have had success against the "Big Boys" since the BCS was created.

Fresno State is widely considered the "giant killer" of college football with their 10 wins over BCS schools since 2000. However, Utah might have something to say about that considering the Utes have beaten 11 BCS schools in that same time span; including eight BCS wins in the last three years.

TCU's win at Oklahoma last year is considered by many the most impressive win over a BCS school by a non-BCS school in recent years. However, OU finished a disappointing 7-4 in 2005. Fresno State's near upset of USC gets the 'Dogs a lot of respect but it still was a loss. Utah has whipped top 25 teams in its last two bowls games, Pitt and Georgia Tech, and was the first and only school to finish in the top six of the BCS standings.

Yet, everyone seems to forget N. Illinois' amazing run in 2003 when it beat No. 15 Maryland, Iowa State and No. 21 Alabama. What about Boise State? The Broncos have gone an impressive 45-7 the last four years, but who have they beaten? BSU has knocked off only two BCS schools in those four years, Iowa State and Oregon State. Both schools were unranked and both were beaten on the blue turf.

This year the road to the BCS gets a little easier for the “little” guys of major college football. The BCS has been like the Da Vinci Code for the five conferences without an automatic bid. Since its inception in 1998, only Utah has been able to crack code and share in the riches of a BCS bowl payout.

The BCS has decided to spread the love in 2006 by adding a fifth BCS bowl. The six BCS conference champions still get their automatic bid. After those six, any team ranked in the top 14 in the final BCS standings will be eligible for an at-large bid. The highest ranked non-BCS conference champion will receive an automatic bid if it’s ranked in the top 12 of the BCS or ranked higher than any of the six BCS conference champions. Let's not forget Notre Dame, who just has to be ranked in the top eight to get an automatic bid.

Who has the best chance to crack the BCS this year? The formula to be a BCS buster is simple. First a school must start the season ranked in the preseason top 25 or beat a highly ranked BCS team early in the season. After that is accomplished, that team must run the table. In theory, a non-BCS team could lose one or two games and still finished ranked in the top 12, but it’s highly unlikely. These are top 15 non-BCS teams with the best chance to get an automatic bid. Please keep in mind; these are not the top 15 teams in terms of talent. These are simply the top 15 teams with enough talent, luck and have the schedule conducive to finishing ranked in the top 12 of the BCS when it is all said and done the first week of December.

1. Utah- The Utes did it once before and my money is on them to have the best shot to do it again. The have a good shot to start the season ranked in the top 25. If not, knock off UCLA on September 2 and the media will already pencil the Utes in the Fiesta Bowl for the second time in three years.
2. Boise State- Do these guys ever play a real schedule? Oops, I forgot they tried last year and got their ass handed to them by Georgia. This year BSU is back to their old ways, Oregon State at home, at Wyoming and their toughest challenge is (drum roll please), at Utah. BSU's best chance to get the early season hype is to knock off a top 25 Ute team in Salt Lake or hope for Fresno State to beat LSU the week before the Bulldogs travel to Boise.
3. TCU- The 'Frogs had their chance last year, and if this year's formula would have been in place, their loss to SMU wouldn't have mattered. This time TCU will probably be ranked in the preseason top 25, thus all they have to do is run the table. Unfortunately, games at Baylor, vs. Texas Tech, at Utah and against BYU all come before mid-October. TCU has the talent to win all four, but after last year, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the 'Frogs stumble against BYU or Utah after upsetting the Red Raiders.
4. Tulsa- The Golden Hurricane came out of nowhere to win the conference title their first year in Conference USA. This year Tulsa replaces games against Minnesota and at Oklahoma with games at BYU and at Navy. It could equal an unbeaten season, but hardly enough to get voters to believe in you. Yeah, you beat an uninspired Fresno State team in the Liberty Bowl, but what have you done for me lately.
5. UTEP- The Miners could easily finish 7-5, but also could run the table if Jordan Palmer is able to distinguish jersey colors this year. The schedule comes down to two games, Texas Tech at home and at Tulsa. If the Miners can upset the Red Raiders, then it could be a magical season. But I am getting ahead of myself. If Palmer is still color blind, then the season will end August 31 at San Diego State.
6. Fresno State- My alma mater likes to take on the big boys. FS gets respect from the national media by doing so, but also gets boned in the ass by losing to some random WAC foe. It happens every year, and there is no reason to think it will not happen again. However, every dog has its day, and FS just might have enough moxie to finish in the top 12 in 2006. If the 'Dogs can beat Oregon, a close loss to LSU still may not be enough to keep them out of the BCS. However, this team has not been able to win in Boise, and Pat Hill has already flushed away one sure fire BCS berth in 2001 by losing to the Broncos. My guess it happens again this year.
7. Navy- If Notre Dame wasn't so freakin good; the Middies would be No. 1 on this list. Sure Navy has some semi-tough games at Stanford and at home against Tulsa and Rutgers. But Navy has enough talent to bury all three of those teams on a good day. The Irish are a different story. If Notre Dame was its typical overrated self, I would give Navy a good chance to finally smack around the Catholic boys. However, Notre Dame will beat Navy, thus no BCS.
8. Toledo- There is better teams in the MAC, but the Rockets have the "easiest" schedule. If Toledo can win at Iowa State and at home vs. Kansas in its first three games, the season could get interesting. Only games at Pitt and Northern Illinois will stand in the way of BCS glory.
9. Colorado State- The Rams have had better teams, but this year's team is still capable of winning the Mountain West. Coach Sonny Lubick has been on hard times in recent years and CSU is not expected to make a national splash anytime soon. Yet, the schedule says otherwise. Colorado is the big name on the plate, but at Fresno State will be tougher. Win those two and CSU could be ranked in the top 25 heading into the MWC schedule.
10. Northern Illinois- The Huskies have two daunting road games, at Ohio State and at Iowa. Honestly, this team has no chance to beat Ohio State, but I give NIU a puncher's chance against the Hawkeyes. 11-1 with a win over Iowa is BCS worthy.
11. Nevada- How good is the Wolfpack? We will all know by Sept 9. Nevada has to travel to Fresno State and Arizona State in back-to-back weeks to start the season. It has a slight chance to win both, and more than likely, those wins will give the Wolfpack that coveted top 25 ranking. 12. Hawaii- The Rainbows can score with anyone, but their defense can't stop anyone. They must win at Alabama September 2 to have any chance at the BCS.
13. San Diego State- New coach Chuck Long's Aztecs are a long shot to win the MWC, but he inherits enough talent to make the season interesting. At Wisconsin will be tough, but not impossible. The week after the Badgers, Utah comes to San Diego, but games at BYU and TCU will be just too much later in the season.
14. SMU- No this is not a joke. The Mustangs beat three bowl teams last year, and were just a win away from winning CUSA's West Division. Only one game this year can be classified as a "sure" loss and that is the opener at Texas Tech.
15. Houston- Only if the Cougars didn't have to travel to the Orange Bowl. Games against Oklahoma State and at Southern Miss will be difficult, but I would bet good money on Houston finishing 11-1.

Monday, June 26, 2006

CFB's Top Non-Conference/Non-Rivalry Games

USC and Notre Dame will be the most anticipated non-conference matchup in 2006, but the Trojans and Irish are rivals that play every year. Notre Dame’s games with Michigan and Michigan State are other great games but are rivalries. Texas and Ohio State had a memorable game last year, and this year's contest, between the two, will again be one of the biggest non-conference/non-rivalry games of the season.

The NCAA approved the 12 game regular season for 2006 but that has not led to any more prominent non-conference matchups than in prior years. The 12th game has led to a few interesting intersectional games like Washington State at Auburn and Fresno State at LSU; however, most 12th games will pit BCS powers against Division IAA schools or IA pasties.

Fans can blame the NCAA for the less than stellar matchups. The NCAA will allow 6-6 teams to be bowl eligible and count any wins over IAA teams towards the six wins. In the past, a school had to finish over .500 and IAA wins could be counted towards bowl eligibility only once every four years.

So what games will be worth tuning into? There still will be a good number of games to watch in 2006 between non-conference/non-rival schools. I list my top 15 with the Longhorns and Buckeyes atop.

1. Ohio State at Texas, Sept. 9- This home and home between the schools has been the best thing to happen to college football in the last two years. Last year's game ultimately decided who won the national championship. If Texas had not won in Columbus, Ohio State easily could have taken their spot in Pasadena. Most people forgot, late in the season, how big of a win it was for Vince Young and Texas. This year, however, Young will not be lining up behind center. Texas is still loaded and is the home team. But the Buckeyes have this year's "Vince Young" in Troy Smith. Smith is considered by some the best quarterback in the nation. The duel-threat signal caller will have an early shot to jump atop the Heisman race with a big win in Austin. I like Texas to hold home court.
2. California at Tennessee, Sept. 2- This game doesn't have quite the luster because the Vols are coming off of a 5-6 season and Cal had an unimpressive 8-4 season. But many are calling for Cal to knock of USC in the Pac 10 this year, and some are expecting Tennessee to contend for the SEC East. There might not be a more exciting game on opening weekend, or the entire season for than matter. The early season winner will have a leg up on a big season and position itself for a BCS bowl berth. I like the Bears chances in this early contest.
3. Oklahoma at Oregon, Sept. 16- The Sooners and Ducks met two years ago in Norman and it was no contest, 31-7 OU. Last year they met in the infamous Holiday Bowl. It was unlike the high-scoring shootouts synonymous with the game in San Diego, instead it was a 17-14 Sooner yawner of a win. This time OU-UO should be one of the most intriguing games of the year. The "Oregon" offense will be in year two and it will be firing on all cylinders against Oklahoma, arguably the nation's best defense. The Sooner offense is still trying to find its stride with quarterback Rhett Bomar, but is still considered a national title favorite. Adrian Peterson is 100% and looking to top 2,000 yards on the season, but who will block for him? It may not matter because the Duck defense lost mammoth DT Haloti Ngata to the NFL. Michigan was a national title contender in 2003 when it visited Autzen Stadium and lost. New teams don't adjust well to the "Zoo", I like the Ducks chances to pull the upset.
4. Miami at Louisville, Sept. 16- Two years ago Louisville was an eyelash away from upseting the third ranked undefeated Hurricanes at the Orange Bowl. This year the Cardinals have a better team and host a Miami team that is not as good as the one from 2004. In theory, it should be a Louisville victory. However, things don't always work out so easily. Miami has an influx of new offensive assistants that can change the whole mantra of Larry Coker's team. The 'Canes don't lack talent, but the team chemistry could be their doom in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
5. Penn State at Notre Dame, Sept. 9- Only if this game was scheduled last year. Penn State had the better team in 2005, but it would have been a classic matchup between top 10 teams. This year is a different story. Both schools will be ranked in the top 25 but Notre Dame will be a consensus top three team, while Penn State is rebuilding and will be ranked in the low teens at best. I would like the Nittany Lions chances better at Beaver Stadium, but not in the Irish's 2006 home opener.
6. Nebraska at USC, Sept. 16- 10 years ago this game would have been the game of the century. Nebraska was coming off of its second straight national title and USC was in the midst of a good run under Coach John Robinson. This year the game is not really getting the hype it deserves. Nebraska is not the I back power option attack of the Tom Osborne era and USC is far from the pedestrian student body right days of John Robinson. USC's offense may not be as strong as last year's but the defense will pose enough problems for Nebraska's West Coast offense to win.
7. Notre Dame at Georgia Tech, Sept. 2- Everyone's preseason pick to win the national title is Notre Dame. There is not a dominant team in 2006 like USC and Oklahoma were the last three years, so why not pick the Irish and their Golden Boy quarterback Brady Quinn. But how funny would that be if their dreams of a national title ended inside the confines of Bobby Dodd Stadium? It could very well happen. The 'Wreck is a good football team and the offense is led by a senior quarterback, Reggie Ball, and the best wide receiver in college football, Calvin Johnson. If the defense can hold their own against the Golden Boy, I like Tech's chances.
8. USC at Arkansas, Sept. 3- USC whipped the Razorbacks last year in L.A., therefore, this game is somewhat of an afterthought. Arkansas only went 4-7 last year but played a difficult schedule and was very close in many of its games. This year the 'Hogs are loaded and should be back in the bowl picture. USC will be breaking in a new quarterback and tailback for the first time since 2003. Ironically, USC opened the 2003 season on the road at an SEC West school, as well, at Auburn. A game USC won 22-0. Like the 2003 game against the Tigers, I expect the Trojan defense to dominate, while the offense progresses at its own pace.
9. Washington State at Auburn, Sept. 2- Washington finished 4-7 last year but was just as close to finishing 9-2. The Cougars caught all the bad breaks in 2005, losing four close games in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. This year the Cougars will be just as good, if not better. Auburn on the other hand will be a national title contender. The Tigers have sputtered out of the gate the two out of the last three years and Washington State is a team that can not be taken lightly. Despite Auburn's lack of success in home openers, this is the year it lays down the hammer.
10. Michigan State at Pittsburgh, Sept. 16- Prepare to replace the scoreboard. Two of the nation's best quarterbacks will square off, Pitt's Tyler Palko and MSU's Drew Stanton. Both of these quarterback's teams had losing seasons last year, but will be poised to turn it around. There might not be a better quarterback battle all year, and that includes Stanton vs. Quinn the following week.
11. Colorado at Georgia, Sept. 23- Dan Hawkins took his Boise State Broncos into Athens last year and got embarrassed. This year he has to return to the site of the massacre as the Buffs first year coach. This time he has more talent at his disposal and UGA is rebuilding per se, but the outcome shouldn't be any different.
12. UCLA at Notre Dame, Oct. 21- These are the type of intersectional games college football fans love. The Pac 10's golden boys versus the nation's golden boys. UCLA doesn't have a chance in South Bend, unless the Bruin defense just dominates, which is highly unlikely.
13. Fresno State at LSU, Oct. 21- The 'Dogs came close to upsetting No. 1 USC last year, but Death Valley is a different story. LSU will be more than ready for the so-called "giant killers".
14. Purdue at Hawaii, Nov. 25- Hawaii will lead the nation in passing yards. Purdue will try to get back its high-flying passing days after last year's embarrassment of just 10 touchdowns passes. The Island is always friendly to the Warriors late in the season when a bowl bid is on the line.
15. Texas Tech at TCU, Sept. 16- TCU upset Oklahoma last year only to lose at SMU the following week. The Red Raiders are the toughest team on the 'Frogs schedule this year. Tech has a defense to go along with their pass happy offense, and it should be enough to hold off TCU even in Fort Worth.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Heisman Hype: Not the Usual Suspects

The most prestigious award in all of sports is the Heisman Trophy. Every year college football media outlets start hyping their favorites in January and the hype doesn't end until early December. Reggie Bush walked away with the Heisman last season, mostly based on his record breaking performance against Fresno State. Vince Young finished second but after the Rose Bowl, it was evident who really deserved the award.

Last year Bush was the overwhelming preseason favorite to win the Heisman. However, a dark horse usually seems to always emerge. Who could have imagined Brady Quinn getting an invite to New York back in August of last year? Prior to last year, every year since 2000 a long shot has either won or finished second in the Heisman race.

In 2000 thirty-something Chris Weinke beat out Josh Heupel in a less than stellar year for Heisman contenders. Heupel came out of nowhere to lead Oklahoma to the national title, but it wasn't enough win the Heisman.

In 2001 Eric Crouch beat out the more deserving sophomore Rex Grossman. Grossman, like Heupel, was long shot to win the Heisman in the preseason and fell victim to the sophomore rule.

2002 produced the most exciting race this decade, in my opinion. Carson Palmer, Brad Banks, Larry Johnson, Willis McGahee and Ken Dorsey were all deserving. Palmer won, but preseason long shots Banks and Johnson finished second and third, respectively.

2003 produced the most surprising winner this decade. The often injured Jason White put up remarkable numbers to beat out Larry Fitzgerald.

In 2004 White returned for the chance to be the only second repeat winner. Despite posting better overall numbers than he did in 2003, he didn't win. Matt Leinart was considered one of the favorites to win the Heisman after finishing sixth in 2003 and did so. However, White's teammate, freshman sensation, Adrian Peterson came out of nowhere to finish second.

Last year I listed 10 dark horse candidates who I felt had a legitimate chance to win the Heisman. Michael Robinson was the only one is listed to finish in the top 10, he finished No. 5 in the voting. This year I have 10 more dark horses who could surprise. I will leave all the "real" Heisman analysis to HeismanPundit, but I feel I have a knack for picking long shots. In 2003 I pegged White as one of my favorites, if Oklahoma ran the table, but I didn't have a blog that year to record my opinions. So, I don't think I can take the credit for it. This list will not contain the usual suspects: Brady Quinn, Troy Smith, Ted Ginn, Adrian Peterson, and etc. Nor will it list any players from the non-BCS conferences. I don't think there will be winner from a non-BCS school anytime soon. The 10 dark horses in no particular order:

Michael Bush, Louisville- Bush had 23 rushing touchdowns last year despite missing 2 games. His only shot to win the Heisman is too put up ridiculous numbers.

Lorenzo Booker, Florida State- FSU is poised for a breakout year. The schedule is set up for a national title run and Booker could lead that charge. The former high school all-American has yet to live up to the hype, this could be his year.

Drew Tate, Iowa- Banks finished 2nd in 2002, so it is not a stretch to think a Hawkeye quarterback can win the Heisman. Iowa has a chance to finish the season unblemished, and the quarterback for a national title contender is always a top candidate.

Drew Stanton, Michigan State- The Spartans have little or no chance to win the Big Ten or contend for the national title. However, Stanton is one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the game. If he can out duel Brady Quinn in September and pass for over 4,000 yards on the year, the kid has a good shot to win.

Pat White, West Virginia- If the Mountaineers can survive the hype, there is a good chance they will be the only unbeaten team in the country. White has good chance to pass for over 2,000 yards and rush for close to 1,500 yards. With numbers like that, he will be hard to ignore. His biggest competition, however, will come from teammate Steve Slaton.

Mike Hart, Michigan- Hart was every bit as good as Adrian Peterson in 2004. He had an injury filled season last year, but will be ready to lead the Wolverines back into the national title picture in 2006.

Chauncey Washington, USC- The starting tailback at USC always has a chance to win the Heisman. It doesn't hurt that Washington was considered, by some, a better tailback than Reggie Bush and Lendale White when all three were freshman in 2003.

Kenny Irons, Auburn- Irons is the best running back in the nation in my opinion. He might not be able to put up the numbers to beat the "usual suspects" but he could make it interesting if the Tigers are the No. 1 team in the nation.

Thomas Brown, Danny Ware or Kregg Lumpkin, Georgia- One of the trio has to emerge, and as of spring ball it looks like Brown. I am a fan of Lumpkin, but any one of these three has a chance at the Heisman as long as they get 20-25 carries a game.

Tyler Palko, Pittsburgh- Palko and Pitt had a very forgettable year last season, and it can only get better this year. Pitt has a very favorable schedule and the Panthers have a good shot at double-digit wins, if Palko has an outstanding year.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

BlogPoll Roundtable No.???

I have missed the last couple of BlogPoll Roundtables, mostly just due to oversight and off-season blues. Bruce Ciskie hosts the roundtable this time around with some pretty good questions about the preseason previews and the upcoming season. Here is my take....

Which preseason college football magazine is your favorite?

Plenty to choose from. Lindy's, Sporting News, Athlon's, Phil.

I have bought every TSN CFB Yearbook since 1989, save 1991. In my opinion it has been the most consistent and has the best features. If TSN had the amount of info that Phil Steele's has, then hands down TSN would be impossible to beat. I read TSN, Lindy's, Athlon and the others and put them away for the season, but I keep Steele's out for easy reference all year. To me that makes it the best preseason magazine of the bunch.

What team is being supremely overrated in the preseason rankings?

Overrated teams are all too common in the preseason, but it is hard to determine who is overrated because every magazine ranks their preseason top 25 differently. I can buy Florida being a top 5 team based on talent and not have a problem with it. But the Gators can conceivably lose 4 games against their tough schedule but will that make overrated? However, if Florida was ranked No. 1, like Notre Dame and Oklahoma, by every preseason magazine then I would consider that being overrated.

Notre Dame shouldn't skip a beat and are led by arguably the best quarterback in country, but got beat pretty handily by Ohio State. The Irish defense should improve, but as tough as their schedule is, two losses should be expected.

Now, Oklahoma has jumped onto the scene after losing four games last year. The Sooners struggled all year and after starting 2-3, they won 6 of 7 only losing a controversial game at Texas Tech. But Oklahoma didn't dominate. In the Holiday Bowl, the Sooners offense didn't look too impressive against an average Oregon defense. The Ducks were playing without their starting quarterback, so I can not give the Sooner defense too much credit for holding Oregon to 14 points.

Steele calls the Sooner defense the best in the country, I can argue that but I won't. I am more concerned about who is going to block for Adrian Peterson. Can Rhett Bomar really beat teams with his arm without an effective running game? The schedule is very manageable and I will not be surprised to see OU win 10 games. I can buy the Sooners as top 10 team, but not as a preseason No. 1.

Turn the tables. Who is underrated?

Iowa, Iowa, Iowa....

The Hawkeyes are not the most talented team in the nation, and the last year's hype may have been just a bit too much. However, Iowa hosts Ohio State and only a trip to the Big House may stand in the way of a trip to Glendale.

As much as I like Iowa's chances, I can't ignore Pitt's chance to win double-digit games. The Panthers sucked last year, but Dave Wannstedt will turn this team around this season and Tyler Palko is as good as any quarterback in the country. Pitt should be favored in all their away games, the toughest being UCF and USF. Virginia and Michigan State will be tough early on but both are in Pittsburgh. And of course West Virginia and Louisville must play at Heinz Field.

Which conference will be the best in 2006?

Is the SEC really the best conference in football, or is more hype than substance? Didn't the BCS's little sister conference champion beat the SEC's best last year? Yes, but that was last year. The ACC could have as many as 10 teams gain bowl eligibility but unless Miami and Florida State fill some big holes, the ACC champ will not be playing in Arizona January 8.

The SEC has three teams that are arguably top 10 teams, Auburn, LSU and Florida. There is two more that could join them, Tennessee and Georgia. And four more that could win at least 8 games, Alabama, South Carolina, Arkansas and Ole Miss. However, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Mississippi State are bad as lower tier teams can be. Although, a majority of SEC teams rarely leave the South to prove their almighty image, it is still hard to argue with the strength of the top half of this conference.

Which "non-BCS" conference will be the best in 2006?

This is not even close, it's the Mountain West. The WAC has gotten better and I will even say the WAC's top four are stronger than the MWC's top four. However, the WAC's bottom half is awful, while the MWC's bottom teams are at least competitive. What makes things even more interesting is CUSA's top two teams are former WAC schools, Tulsa and UTEP. Another former WAC member, SMU, may finally earn a bowl berth this year. If the WAC had its same configuration of a couple years ago, it could easily be the best non-BCS conference.

Which non-BCS conference team will have the best season?

I don't think any non-BCS team will go unbeaten this year, but two have a good shot, Utah and Boise State. Both of these teams should win at least 10 games. If they both win their one respective token BCS game in early September, then the BSU-Utah game winner on Sept. 30 should have a clear shot at the BCS's 5th bowl.

Let's get your first read on this one...who will win the H*i*m*n? Oh, by the way, players whose last names begin with the letter "Q" are ineligible.

I can't pick Brady Quinn, ah F*ck! Ok so maybe the media is hyping the Golden Boy way too much. Unless Notre Dame loses more than two games, it might be hard for anyone else take the trophy away from Quinn. I know it sounds like I am conceding the coveted trophy to him, but hasn't he already accepted it and will just play the season as a formality. Ok, I will be serious. I like Kenny Irons but I don't think he can put up the numbers to sway voters away from Quinn. Someone has to put up some outlandish numbers to really make voters take notice. And that player will be Michael Bush. Bush has a real shot to rush for near or over 2,000 yards but what will win him the Heisman will be topping 30 rushing touchdowns and big games against Miami and West Virginia.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Road to Glendale Top 25....

I don't even think the purest college football enthusiasts could have pictured Glendale, Arizona as the host city for what will be the "biggest" game in college football history. Tempe was once an little known bowl city in Arizona until January 2, 1987. That night it hosted the biggest and most hyped national title game at the time, Penn State vs. Miami.

So why I am I calling this year's national title game, with unknown participants, the "biggest" game in college football history. Well, for the first time the national championship game will not be hosted by a traditional "bowl" game and it will be hosted in the most modern football stadium in the world. Of course this is still not a playoff, but it is a start in the right direction.

The road to Glendale will be easier for some teams than others, it is all about scheduling. Last year I pegged Texas as the 12th best team to make it to Pasadena. I ranked them 12th because the Longhorns had the toughest non-conference road game in the country last year, at Ohio State, had not beaten Oklahoma in Dallas the last five years, and I expected Texas A&M to have a great year and the Aggies hosted the Longhorns. I was wrong. Vince Young worked his magic to pull out the win in Columbus. Oklahoma was still trying to find its stride in early October, and Texas stomped the Sooners. A&M just sucked, as did my picks, for not having faith in the all-mighty Vince Young and Texas.

This year's road to a national title is wide open. Last season, USC was everybody's No. 1 team and rightfully so. The 2003 and 2004 national champions fulfilled its destiny by earning a bid to last year's Rose Bowl but fell just a short of its quest for a three-peat. Who has the easiest road to Glendale? This poll ranks the best teams, with the best shot (meaning talent vs. schedule), to make into the national title game.

  1. Auburn- I believe the Tigers are a top 3 team talent wise, couple that with a favorable schedule and Auburn has the easiest road, in my opinion, to reach Glendale. It helps that the Tigers were snubbed by the BCS two years ago. Added motivation and a little love from voters is always nice to have in your corner.
  2. Louisville- The Cards are borderline top 15 team in terms of talent, but their toughest games (Miami and West Virginia) are both in Papa John's Stadium. Louisville was unstoppable at home last year and this year's offense will compensate for the defensive short falls. The Cards had its troubles on the road last year and Kansas State and Pitt could be tricky road games. Auburn can afford one loss, but Louisville does not have that luxury, it must run the table to make it to Glendale.
  3. Southern Cal- The Trojans are reloading and although the schedule has some big games (at Arkansas, Nebraska, Cal and Notre Dame), USC should be favored in all its games. The first four games (at Arkansas, Nebraska, at Arizona and at Washington State) are tough but USC can afford an early season loss and still make it to Glendale.
  4. Texas- Despite losing Young, the Longhorns are still loaded. Ohio State has to come to Austin and the Oklahoma monkey is off their back. There is, however, two very tough road games back-to-back in October, at Nebraska and at Texas Tech.
  5. West Virginia- The Mountaineers are loaded, but can they run the table. No Big East team will make it to Glendale with one loss. Especially when you consider UWV's two toughest games are at the end of the year, at Louisville and at Pitt.
  6. Iowa- QB Drew Tate had an off year last year, but is still one of the top playmakers in the nation. The Hawkeyes host Ohio State and have only one really tough road game, at Michigan.
  7. Oklahoma- The Sooners have a manageable slate, but I am still not convinced the offense will able to move the ball with ease as the 2000-2004 teams. Games at Oregon and at Texas A&M will be tough for this squad and we will see October 7 if the Texas magic was just a one year wonder.
  8. Notre Dame- The defense is awful per se, but the offense will score points in bunches. The first five games (at Georgia Tech, Penn State, Michigan, at Michigan State and Purdue) is the toughest September schedule in the nation. And there is the season ending battle at USC. I can't see Notre Dame playing in Glendale if it loses its last game.
  9. Miami- If Miami can shake last year's Peach Bowl embarrassment and the new assistant coaches can make an impact, and then watch out for the 'Canes. The talent level is top five worthy and schedule is very favorable, but what about the mental makeup of this team? Florida State and Virginia Tech have to come to the Orange Bowl this year and although Louisville is tough road game, that game is winnable.
  10. Florida State- The offense has a chance to return to the glory days of Mark Richt's offensive schemes. The defense loses a bunch of talented starters but the schedule is "bookend". At Miami to start the year is tough, as is Florida at home to close the year, but everything in between is "easy".
  11. Ohio State- The Buckeyes are a top 5 team in terms of talent, but how I underestimated Texas last year, I might be underestimating Ohio State this year. There is no denying Troy Smith and the offense, but the defense loses nine starters. Texas and Iowa on the road is no easy task, even for one of the top teams in the country.
  12. LSU- The Tigers get no favors this year in their SEC schedule. If LSU had Auburn's schedule and vise versa, LSU would be my No. 1 team in this poll. The Tigers are loaded but road games at Auburn, Florida, Arkansas, and Tennessee will be too much for the Bayou Bengals to overcome. One loss maybe, but two losses means your road to Glendale is closed.
  13. Florida- Urban Meyer's second year has been magical at each of his previous coaching jobs. However, Bowling Green and Utah did not have to face the schedule the Gators will be facing this year: at Tennessee, at Auburn, vs. Georgia and at Florida State. Florida is a top 10 team, but could easily lose three to five games this year.
  14. California- The Bears road to Glendale has two major stops, one in Knoxville and the other in Los Angeles. They should be able to beat Tennessee early, but expecting a win at USC is a bit too much. The Pac 10 is very underrated, road games against Oregon State, Washington State and Arizona can not be taken lightly.
  15. Michigan- Last year I thought Michigan could be this year's favorite to win the national title, but two things have changed this thought. One, Michigan collapsed last year and lost five games, two, road games against Notre Dame and Ohio State fall into the un-winnable category this year.
  16. Georgia- The Dawgs have some key spots to fill, especially at quarterback, but still have the best running back unit in the nation. The schedule is also very manageable. Only two games can be considered difficult, vs. Florida and at Auburn. The World Largest Cocktail Party is a neutral site contest, and luckily for UGA the away team has always has success in the South's Oldest Rivalry, just ask Auburn about last year.
  17. Nebraska- The Cornhuskers are back. This team should win 10 games and if it can find away to beat Texas and win the Big 12 Championship game, Glendale is a possibility even with an early season loss at USC.
  18. Tennessee- The Volunteers are coming off their first losing season since 1988. David Cutcliff is back to run the offense and expectations are high on Rocky Top. Hosting Cal in the opener is not a good way for a 5-6 team to start the season. Win or lose, Tennessee should be able to take care of the rest of the home slate. The road games are not too bad, at Georgia is the biggie.
  19. Pittsburgh- The Panthers had an awful year last season. Tyler Palko is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation and I expect coach Dave Wannstedt to turn around the program this year. Pitt is a borderline top 25-30 team in terms of talent but it should be big favorites in all its road games. If Heinz Field becomes a legitimate home field advantage this year then Virginia, Michigan State, West Virginia and Louisville could all fall victims to a surprise Panther team.
  20. Virginia Tech- The Hokie defense will keep this team in every game until the offense rolls around. The only real difficult games are at Boston College and at Miami.
  21. Boston College- The Eagles will surprise many this year. This is a top 20 team but must travel to Miami and Florida State. I can not see Boston College doing any better than 10-2.
  22. Utah- The Utes ran the table in 2004 and were the first non-BCS school to crash the party. They have the talent to run the table this year and the schedule is a laugher. More importantly, Utah could start the season in the top 25, which is the most important element for a non-BCS school in search of a BCS bid. If no one else is unbeaten, Utah could be the first non-BCS school to play for the national title.
  23. Michigan State- If the Spartans can find a way to beat Notre Dame and Ohio State at home, then watch out.
  24. Boise State- The Broncos play a very weak schedule. There is no reason they should not go 12-0. But the once mighty Boise State offense is a step slower than it was with Ryan Dinwiddie running the show. Jared Zabransky has to stop turning the ball over if the Broncos expect to win at Utah and beat Fresno State and Oregon State on the blue turf. Even then, BSU has a snowball chance in hell to play in Glendale, unless it is the Fiesta Bowl.
  25. Kansas- The Jayhawks have the easiest schedule of any BCS conference school, including the Big East. The talent level is low compared to the rest of the Big 12's top teams but Kansas misses Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech from the Big 12 South and Nebraska will probably be the only game against a top 25 team. Mark Mangino has had success in Lawrence. The defense is a mess but by mid season this team should be good enough to win at least 8 games.

Navy is the sentimental pick. Games against Tulsa and at Stanford are challenging, but if the Middies can beat Notre Dame in Baltimore, how can you keep a 12-0 Navy team out of the national championship game in a time of war?

Monday, June 12, 2006

What is TSN Thinking.....

The Sporting News College Football Yearbook has always been my favorite of all the preseason college football magazines. However, the one thing I hate about it is the fact that regional beat writers write the conference previews. The WAC preview was written by Chadd Cripe of the Idaho Statesman, Boise paper, not Moscow. He does a fine job, but his analysis of FS's defensive philosophy needs an added note:

Coordinator Dan Brown's athletic units attack quarterbacks and plays strong pass defense. The weakness, if there is one, is the run defense. The Bulldogs allowed 21 rushing touchdowns last season.

There should be an * next to last sentence. 14 of those 21 touchdowns were scored after WLB Marcus Riley went down with a season ending injury against USC. How important do I think Riley is too the defense, well that is his grill on the banner atop the webpage and is by far the most underrated LB in the WAC.

Anyways, Cripe did a decent job for his first time tackling the entire WAC. The last few years the Fresno Bee's Marek Warszawski wrote about half of TSN's WAC previews, including Fresno State's. Now, I don't know if Cripe is the one that picked the all-WAC team or not but one omission just irks me. Last month I complained that Hawaii's Samson Satele was not named to the TSN preseason all-WAC team, considering he was an all-WAC guard last season and among the best in nation. But, I was not aware he made the switch to center and that is where I am confused by TSN's national player rankings and preseason all-conference teams.

In their national position rankings Fresno State's Kyle Young is ranked the 5th best center in the nation. Ahead of him at No. 1 and 2 are the usual suspects, West Virginia's Dan Mosez and USC's Ryan Kalil, respectively. No. 4 is NC State's Leroy Harris, but No. 3 is the most puzzling, it’s Satele. Satele is a guard making the move to center, a position he is not familiar with. He is, in my opinion, of the top three or four guards in the nation but I have never seen him play center. TSN believes he is the No. 3 center in the country ranked ahead of three-year starter, 2005 first team all-WAC center Young, but is not good enough to make the TSN preseason all-WAC team as either a center or guard.

Satele is monster on the line, so maybe TSN wants to recognize him as such, but as the No. 3 center in nation. It is a new position for him, and I guarantee he will not be as good as Young. The same can be said if Young made the switch to guard, Satele is by far the better guard. This kind preseason bullshit just irks me. I wonder where TSN would have ranked Young if he made the switch to tackle in the spring. I guarantee he would not have been rated among the 20 best in the nation. And I would have not had a problem with it. Young is freaking best in the middle but as tackle he would need time to adjust. Satele very well may be a better center, but I feel preseason pubs should rank on talent as of, not of what you expect it to be. If that was the case, then handful incoming high school all-Americans should be ranked among the best in the nation.

Here is another issue that irks me........ If you ask any diehard Bulldog fan what unit of the defense he/she is worried about, more than likely the answer would be, the secondary. However, TSN thinks FS's secondary is among the top 20 in the nation, huh? (TSN's also ranks Boise State's as the 9th best in the nation, exactly WTF are they smoking?) The Bulldogs lose two NFL draft picks and have only three scholarship cornerbacks heading into fall camp.

Maybe TSN thinks very highly of CB Marcus McCauley? After all, TSN rated Richard Marshall the 8th best CB in last year's CFB yearbook. And if anyone saw a majority of Bulldog games last season, would have seen McCauley more than held his own, and could have easily been considered better than Marshall. Yet, TSN doesn't even rank McCauley among its top 20 cornerbacks in the nation this year. WTF? How is that possible? McCauley is bigger and apparently faster than Marshall. He is a vicious hitter and blankets any receiver he is covering. This MoFo will be a top 10 pick in next year's draft if he stays healthy.

The only other returning starter in the Bulldog secondary is strong safety Josh Sherley. Sherley did well last season and had a great spring, but will be in a battle in the fall to keep redshirt freshman Moses Harris off the field. Free safety Vince Mays had a kick-ass spring too, but the senior has never started a game. The other cornerback spot will be manned by either an untested senior (Elgin Simmons), a former all-state stud turned college bust (Damon Jenkins) or by a true freshman (Damion Owens or AJ Jefferson). TSN either has a lot of faith in the new guys or are simply ranking the 'Dogs solely on reputation. Because the secondary will be a concern all the way until it plays in its first game against the pass-happy Nevada Wolfpack September 1.

After I read the entire preview, I am sure I will find more quandaries, but it still my favorite preseason magazine.

Friday, June 02, 2006

2006-07 Bowls

Dec. 19 Tue. Poinsettia Bowl (San Diego, CA) 8:00 pm ESPN
MWC No. 3 vs at-large

Dec. 21 Thu. Las Vegas Bowl 8:00 pm ESPN
Pac 10 No. 4 vs MWC No. 1

Dec. 22 Fri. New Orleans Bowl 8:00 p.m. ESPN
Sun Belt Champ vs CUSA No. 4 or 5

Dec. 23 Sat. Birmingham Bowl 1:00 pm ESPN2
CUSA No. 4 or 5 vs Big East No. 5 or 6

Dec. 23 Sat. New Mexico Bowl(Albuquerque, NM) 4:30 pm ESPN
MWC No. 4 vs WAC No. 3

Dec. 23 Sat. Fort Worth Bowl 8:00 pm ESPN
MWC No. 2 vs CUSA No. 3/(Pac 10)*

Dec. 24 Sun. Hawaii Bowl 8:00 pm ESPN
WAC vs Pac 10 No. 6/(CUSA) *

Dec. 26 Tue. Motor City Bowl (Detroit, MI) 7:30 pm ESPN
MAC No. 2 vs Big 10 No. 7

Dec. 27 Wed. Independence Bowl (Shrvprt, LA) 3:30 pm ESPN
Big 12 No. 7 vs SEC

Dec. 27 Wed. Emerald Bowl (San Francisco, CA) 8:00 pm ESPN
Pac 10 No. 5 vs ACC No. 7

Dec. 28 Thu. Holiday Bowl (San Diego, CA) 8:00 pm ESPN
Pac 10 No. 2 vs Big 12 No. 3

DEc. 29 Fri. Music City Bowl (Nashville, TN) 1:00 pm ESPN
ACC No. 5 vs SEC

Dec. 29 Fri. Sun Bowl (El Paso, TX) 2:00 p.m. CBS
Pac 10 No. 3 vs Big East No. 2/Notre Dame or Big 12 No. 4

Dec. 29 Fri. Liberty Bowl (Memphis, TN) 4:30 pm ESPN
CUSA No. 1 vs SEC

Dec. 29 Fri. Champs Sports (Orlando, FL) 8:00 pm ESPN
ACC No. 4 vs Big 10 No. 5

Dec. 29 Fri. Insight Bowl (Phoenix, AZ) TBD NFL Network
Big 12 No. 6 vs Big 10 No. 6

Dec. 30 Sat. Meineke Car Care (Charlotte, NC) 1:00 pm ESPN
ACC No. 6 vs Navy/Big East No. 3

Dec. 30 Sat. Alamo Bowl (San Antonio, TX) 4:30 pm ESPN
Big 12 No. 5 vs Big 10 No. 4

Dec. 30 Sat. Peach Bowl (Atlanta, GA) 8:00 pm ESPN
ACC No. 2 vs SEC No. 4

Dec. 31 Sun. MPC Computers Bowl (Boise, ID) 7:30 pm ESPN
WAC vs ACC No. 8

TBD TBD New Houston Bowl TBD TBD
Big East No. 4/Notre Dame/(CUSA)* vs Big 12 No. 8

Jan. 1 Mon. Cotton Bowl (Dallas, TX) 11:00 a.m. FOX
Big 12 No. 2 vs SEC West

Jan. 1 Mon. Outback Bowl (Tampa, FL) 11:00 a.m. ESPN
Big 10 No. 3 vs SEC No. 3

Jan. 1 Mon. Gator Bowl (Jacksonville, FL) 1:00 pm CBS
ACC No. 3 vs Big 12 No. 4 or Big East No. 2/Notre Dame

Jan. 1 Mon. Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA) 4:00 p.m. ABC
Pac 10 champ/BCS vs Big 10 Champ/BCS

Jan. 1 Mon. Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, AZ) 8:30 pm FOX
Big 12 Champ/BCS vs BCS at-large

Jan. 2 Tue. Capital One Bowl (Orlando, FL) 1:00 p.m. ABC
Big 10 No. 2 vs SEC No. 2

Jan. 2 Tue. Orange Bowl (Miami, FL) 8:00 p.m. FOX
ACC Champ/Big East Champ/BCS vs BCS at-large

Jan. 3 Wed. Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA) 8:00 p.m. FOX
SEC Champ/BCS vs BCS at-large

Jan. 6 Sat. International Bowl(Toronto) Noon ESPN2
MAC No. 3 vs Big East No. 4 or 5

Jan. 7 Sun. GMAC Bowl (Mobile, AL) 8:00 pm ESPN
CUSA No. 2 vs MAC No. 1

Jan. 8 Mon. BCS Title Game (Glendale, AZ) 8:00 p.m. FOX
BCS No. 1 vs BCS No. 2

*conference in ( ) will fill spot if needed