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2017 ACC PREVIEW AND PREDICTIONS

The ACC has made some headlines this off season in declaring they are the best conference in college football, taking over the title from the SEC. That seems odd given how dominant the SEC has been over the last 10-15 years, but do the ACC acolytes have a point? Consider last year’s records against the other Power-5 conferences along with Notre Dame and also their bowl record:

SEC: 10-4
BIG 10: 6-2
Notre Dame: 3-2
BIG XII: 1-1
PAC 12: 0-2
TOTAL: 20-11

BOWL GAMES: 9-3

The Big XII & Pac 12 didn’t have much by way of sample size. Miami-FL beat a then #14 ranked West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl 31-14 leaving no doubt that the Canes were by far superior to the Mountaineers. The other Big XII game came early in the 2016 season as Oklahoma St. beat Pittsburgh 45-38. Hardly inspiring considering it was a “close” loss for Pitt who finished 8-5 while Oklahoma St. finished 10-3 and had a chance to win the Big XII had they beating Oklahoma in Bedlam! last season.

The Pac 12 games were also decided in the ACC’s favor despite going 0-2 against them. North Carolina lost 25-23 to a Stanford team that finished in the top-12 with a 10-3 record. Beating UNC by 2 points is hardly dominant especially when Carolina wasn’t one of the 5 best teams in the ACC while Stanford was AT LEAST the 3rd best team in the Pac 12 by season’s end. The other Pac 12 game came early as Oregon beat Virginia 44-26 in Eugene. You can hardly extrapolate from that one as UVA was the ACC’s worst squad.

No conference had a better bowl record than the ACC who finished 9-3 and had a bowl record against the SEC of 4-1! Possibly even more important is that Clemson took down Alabama to win the National Championship. At least for 2016, the ACC’s best was better than the SEC’s best. And is it really THAT much of a jump to think Florida St. was better than Florida last season? No, because FSU actually beat the Gators 31-13! Is it hard to imagine Virginia Tech being better than LSU? Not in the least. Is it difficult to think Miami-FL was better than Auburn? Was Louisville better than Georgia? At the top at least you can certainly make an argument that the ACC truly did take over the moniker of “BEST CONFERENCE” in college football. The ACC has won 2 of the last 4 national championships and they can make an argument they should have won 3 of them.

Heading into this season, the ACC has 2 teams in the preseason top-25 rankings. The SEC has only Alabama. The SEC does get 6 teams in the preseason top-25 but the ACC gets 5 of their own. And what about talent? Here is how many players were drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft by rounds between the SEC and ACC:

1st Round
SEC: 12
ACC: 4

Rounds 1-2
SEC: 21
ACC: 7

Rounds 1-3
SEC: 30
ACC: 11

Rounds 1-4
SEC: 38
ACC: 17

8As you can see, from an NFL talent perspective, it’s not really that close, but doesn’t that make the case for the ACC having better “teams” that much more potent considering how well the ACC did against vastly superior talented SEC squads? What about moving forward with recruited talent? According to Phil Steele, The SEC has 4 teams have top-10 recruiting classes as compared to the ACC’s 2. The SEC had 9 programs rank in the top-25 while the ACC has 4. The SEC has 11 programs finish in the top-30 in 2017 recruiting classes. The ACC has just 5.

As far as NFL talent and recruiting talent is concerned, the ACC falls behind the SEC, but that is why we play the games. As much as it sounds odd to believe the ACC is now the class of college football, the on-field results support this conclusion. The question becomes whether or not the ACC has any staying power over the SEC and whether or not the Big 10 can start getting very consistent play from Michigan St., Nebraska, Wisconsin, Indiana & Iowa which could combine with Ohio State, Penn State & Michigan to potentially throw the Big 10 into the discussion in the near future? The question of whether or not the ACC is better than the SEC is very intriguing and one that is worth watching as the season unfolds.

# TEAM ATLANTIC
1 Computer Hope If Deshaun Watson were returning to Clemson for the 2017 season I think the Tigers would be the easy pick to repeat as national champions. The big question mark regarding Clemson is how new QB Kelly Bryant will handle the team. That’s a good question but to me what separates Clemson is their defense. DTs Dexter Lawrence & Christian Wilkins are 1st Rd. NFL picks. DE Clelin Ferrell is going to take over Carlos Watkins’ role from last season. Kendall Joseph is the best LB on the team & he returns. The secondary is FILTHY! Clemson gets Florida St. at home which decides the Atlantic. I think the defense gives Clemson the edge.
2 Computer Hope If there is an argument to be made for two teams out of the same conference getting to the playoffs, then the ACC can certainly make that case. FSU is the favorite in any other conference outside the SEC. I think what puts FSU a hair behind Clemson is that Dalvin Cook is a HUGE loss. Cook might be a top-5 NFL RB this season if that gives you any indication of how good he was last season. I also think losing DE DeMarcus Walker is tough although Brian Burns & Josh Sweat should be INCREDIBLE edge rushers. S Derwin James is arguably the best player in college football! The road game at Clemson is the big hurdle for the Noles.
3 Computer Hope Defense in the ACC Atlantic continues to be the key as NC State separates themselves with a NASTY D-Line led by All-American Bradley Chubb! At 6’4/280lbs, Chubb is a physical beast off the edge but DT BJ Hill, DT Justin Jones & DE Kentavius Street are also returning starters that are going to be exceptionally difficult to handle. Offensively QB Ryan Finley returns along with his top-4 receivers & 4 O-Linemen. Finley was a bit underrated last year having completed 60% of his passes for 3059yds with 18TD to just 8INT. The junior enters his 2nd year as QB1 & will get better. NC State can make noise getting Clemson & L’Ville at home.
4 Computer Hope How good is the ACC Atlantic? The defending Heisman Trophy winning QB is playing for a team I think will finish 4th in his own division! The Cardinals only return 4 starters on offense but have some very good weapons in RBs Jeremy Smith & Colin Wilson along with WR Jaylen Smith. QB Lamar Jackson is the show of course but he’s got plenty of weapons to help. Defensive Louisville returns 7 starters on a unit that allowed 23.8PPG. The unit loses some big time players though in Keith Kelsey, Devonte Fields, De’Angelo Brown & Josh Harvey-Clemons. Those are 4 big time players. NC State & FSU on the road pushes Louisville to 4th.
5 Computer Hope HC Dino Babers did a solid job in his first year at Syracuse. The Orange’s record didn’t regress from the previous year & Syracuse got wins over Virginia Tech & Boston College which were great for morale. The talent base here isn’t outstanding which is what you’d expect, but Syracuse returns 19 starters from last year’s squad and they all now have a year of playing under Babers systems which is going to help with experience. QB Eric Dungey can play as evidenced by his 65% completion rate last year & 2679yds. The defense returns 10 starters and if it can generate any kind of pass rush they’ll be a tough out. Getting BC & WF at home helps.
6 Computer Hope HC Steve Addazio is on the hot seat and he enters an interesting situation. I think BC is going to have a solid defense headlined by potential All-American DE Harold Landry, but Landry has quite a bit of help. DE Zach Allen is a load while LBs Connor Strachan & Ty Schwab can fill it up. BC also features a secondary made up of entirely upperclassmen with 3 returning starters. The defense has a shot to be good. Offensively BC hasn’t fared too well under Addazio. They are struggling but moving on from QB Patrick Towles might not be awful and BC returns 4 starters on the O-Line. With just 6 obvious losses, BC could get back to a bowl in ’17.
7 Computer Hope HC Dave Clawson did a FANTASTIC job last season in getting Wake Forest to their first bowl game since 2011 and getting their first bowl win since 2008! He also did this with a team that averaged just 20.4PPG & a QB that completed 56% of his passes with 9TD to 10INT! Clawson will need to do another fantastic coaching job should the Demon Deacons get back to a bowl. The offense returns 9 starters but the unit was dreadful last season. They’ll improve but by how much? Defense has been Wake’s calling card & DE Duke Ejiofor returns along with CB Amari Henderson, but Wake loses quite a bit too. The schedule didn’t do them favors!

 

# TEAM COASTAL
1 Computer Hope Miami-FL’s 9-4 record last season in HC Mark Richt’s first foray in Coral Cables was THIS CLOSE to being 12-1 as Miami-FL lost 3 games by a combined 11 points & never won a close game. Richt has done a fantastic job amassing talent in his short time at Miami and it’s already paying dividends. THE U has to break in a new QB with Brad Kaaya leaving for the NFL but the skill positions are STACKED & the O-line returns 4 starters. Defensively, Miami-FL is starting to look like the Miami of old. Shaq Quarterman is a beast. The entire Front-7 returns and the secondary has some salty big hitters. Miami-FL looks really really good!
2 Computer Hope I absolutely LOVE what Justin Fuente is doing in Blacksburg and the Hokies saw absolutely no dropoff after Frank Beamer’s retirement as Fuente took Beamer’s last squad that finished 7-6 and turned them into a 10-4 team that won the ACC Coastal! Replacing Jerod Evans at QB is a big fill although I think VT can handle it a bit due to Fuente’s offensive schemes. Still, a frosh QB in Josh Jackson will have a learning curve. The Hokies defense should be ELECTRIC as DC Bud Foster’s unit returns 8 of their top-10 tacklers including guys like Tremaine Edumunds, Mook Reynolds, & Andrew Motuapuaka. Nov. 4th is going to be nuts!
3 Computer Hope Losing Dedrick Mills earlier this year is a huge blow as GT’s leading rusher last season was dismissed from the team, but the Yellow Jackets are more scheme based than talent based so I don’t think it’ll matter too much. HC Paul Johnson gets the most out of his talent & Georgia Tech returns 16 starters from a team that went 9-4 a year ago. QB Matthew Jordan replaces QB Justin Thomas, but Jordan has been around awhile so I don’t think it’ll be a drop off. Georgia Tech’s defense should be just as good as it was last season. Getting Pittsburgh & North Carolina at home pushes the Ramblin’ Wreck up to 3rd and they should get 7-8 wins.
4 Computer Hope Duke is a tricky team because like Georgia Tech, the Blue Devils under HC David Cutcliffe are almost always going to exceed expectations and get the most out of their talent. Duke returns 7 starters on offense including QB Daniel Jones who as a freshman last season completed 63% of his passes for 2836yds & 16TD to 9INT. This for a Duke squad that finished 4-8. Under Cutcliffe’s guidance, Jones is going to get even better & the Blue Devils have enough help to push the offense forward. Defensively Duke returns 5 starters but the players returning such as LBs Joe Giles-Harris & Ben Humphreys are rock solid. Don’t sleep on Duke.
5 Computer Hope USC transfer QB Max Browne has been named the starter, but I think a lot of people don’t realize how good Nathan Peterman was last season. Peterman threw for almost 3,000 yards along with 27TD to 7INT. Browne is big at 6’5/230lbs and he has talent, but Peterman is going to be difficult to replace as will heart & soul RB James Conner. I really like Quadree Henderson & Qadree Ollison but how does this offense not regress? PITT returns 4 starters from a defense that yielded 35.2PPG! That’s a blessing & a curse. The D returns just 2 starters from their Front-7. Unless Rori Blair goes crazy there isn’t a pass rush. I’m not a believer here.
6 Computer Hope This seems WAY TOO LOW for Carolina under HC Larry Fedora, but wow did the Tar Heels lose a lot to the NFL. On offense they lost the #2 overall pick in QB Mitch Trubisky who passed for almost 4,000yds and 30TD! Brandon Harris is supposedly the new QB, but he couldn’t keep the LSU gig from a Purdue transfer! UNC also loses Elijah Hood, TJ Logan, Ryan Switzer, Bug Howard & Mack Hollins! Good grief! Also remember they lose C Lucas Crowley & RT Jon Heck, both 2-time All ACC performers! On D the Heels bring back 7 starters but lose Nazair Jones & Des Lawrence! Like Pitt, where is the pass rush? Looks like a transition year.
7 Computer Hope Virginia is trying to become respectable and this could be a coming out season for the Cavaliers. I’m very interested to see how the defense does after they gave up 33.8PPG a season ago. This unit should improve immensely given the talent on board. DE Andrew Brown is a monster on the edge if he can stay healthy & is a potential NFL 1st Rd. pick. LB Micah Kiser is an All-American & LB Jordan Mack was outstanding last year as a true frosh & he’ll get even better. S Quin Blanding is fantastic on the hunt & UVA’s corners are all 6’2 or better! The offense is just OK & I think RB Taquan Mizzell is a big loss but QB Kurt Benkert should improve.

ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

ATLANTIC ACC CHAMPIONSHIP COASTAL
Computer Hope This might seem like another win for Clemson on their road to repeating as National Champions, but I like this game because Miami-FL’s real strength resides in their O-Line. I think Clemson is going to win the Atlantic because I don’t think anyone really has an answer for their Front-7 on defense, but Miami-FL has an offensive line that should be good enough to give the Hurricanes some time to utilize their skill position players. I don’t think it’ll be enough this year as Clemson wins their 3rd straight ACC title. Computer Hope
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August 27, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida St., Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami-FL, NC State, NCAA, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Predictions, Preseason, Previews, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest | Leave a comment

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – #50 to #65

Let’s get back into action with some college football talk. This marks the beginning of my ranking the 65 Power college football coaches in the nation. I looked all the head coaches from the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, ACC and Notre Dame. I took the last 5 years and looked at their records, conference records, history, recruiting efforts, bowl records and the overall trends of their team over these past 5 seasons. I’ll go in reverse order starting at the bottom and working my way up by 10 spots. This beginning post will start with the bottom 15. Here we go!

#65 – Chris Ash – Rutgers

Ash didn’t exactly walk into the best situation given the Kyle Flood controversy but in his first year in New Brunswick, the former Ohio St. DC finished 2-10 with a conference record of 0-9. His 2016 recruiting class also ranked #78 according to Rivals meaning talent isn’t pouring into New Jersey either. Most of Rutgers games weren’t even that competitive. In their games against Ohio St., Michigan, Michigan St. and Penn St., the Scarlet Knights were outscored 224-0! The Big 10 East isn’t the easiest division to play in, but good grief Rutgers can’t get HAMMERED like that. Ash probably has a little more rope but another 2-10 (0-9) season might spell disaster.

#64 – David Beaty – Kansas

Beatty has gone 2-22 in his first two seasons in Lawrence with a Big 12 record of 1-17. There has been improvement. Beatty went 0-12 his first season at the helm and improved by 2 games last season to 2-10. He also improved his conference record from 0-9 to 1-8. The powers that be at KU thought enough of that improvement to give Beaty a contract extension through 2021! Beaty did lead Kansas to their first win over Texas since 1938 and they came pretty close to beating Iowa St. and TCU! Recruiting it up a bit and Beaty has a chance to improve this ranking quite a bit. Sure Kansas only won 2 games, but in 2015, their average margin of defeat was 30.8 PPG. In 2016 it was 17.0!

#63 – Barry Odom – Missouri

Almost impossible to replace a HC like Gary Pinkel who had tremendous success at Missouri, but if there is anyone that knows Pinkel it’s Odom. Another positive about Odom is that there can’t possibly be a more dyed in the wool Mizzou Tiger than Odom himself. There will never be a lack of passion for Missouri football coming from the head coach! Odom’s first year as HC wasn’t a great one as the Tigers went 4-8 (2-6). That was the worst record the Tigers have had since 2000 when Missouri went 3-8 the year before Gary Pinkel was hired. Pinkel’s worst record in 15 years was 4-7. Odom has his work cut out for him and he needs to recruit better, but Pinkel did more with less so maybe he can too.

#62 – Bronco Mendenhall – Virginia

Mendenhall is a tough one to evaluate. His first year in Charlottesville was a disaster as the Cavaliers went 2-10 with a 1-7 conference record. I don’t think much was expected of Virginia in Mendenhall’s first season, but Virginia should have been at least comparable to their 2015 version which went 4-8. Instead, they regressed. Sometimes seasons can go sideways and that seems to be the case with Virginia. They shouldn’t have lost to FCS Richmond to open the season. They let road games at UConn and Wake Forest get away from them as well. Those 3 games turning to wins would have at least allowed UVA to get to 5-7. There is a lot of room to move up this season for Mendenhall.

#61 – Lovie Smith – Illinois

Before last season, the last time Lovie Smith coached in the college ranks was 1995 when he was DB coach for Ohio State. He was the head coach for the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 11 years leading the Bears to a Super Bowl in 2006, so it was quite an odd move that Smith would leave the NFL for collegiate football and all the headaches involved with recruiting 16 and 17 year old boys. Smith got a rude awakening his first season. The Illini finished 3-9 (2-7) with one of their wins coming against Murray State. The games weren’t even that competitive and Smith didn’t exactly tear it up on the recruiting trail. With Jeff Brohm and PJ Fleck joining the Big 10 West, it’s not getting any easier.

#60 – Dino Babers – Syracuse

Babers was an assistant coach for almost 30 years before he finally got his shot at Eastern Illinois and made the most of it. He went 19-7 with EIU winning back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference championships. He parlayed that job into the head coaching gig at Bowling Green and did well there too. Babers posted an 18-9 record with the Falcons, winning the MAC East in both years and the MAC championship in 2015. He traded that job for a Power-5 conference job with Syracuse. Unfortunately for Babers, he didn’t do as well at Syracuse as he did with EIU and BG. A 4-8 (2-6) record wasn’t fantastic and Babers didn’t kill it on the recruiting trail either. He still has plenty of time left.

#59 – Justin Wilcox – California

Wilcox has never been a head coach but for the last 11 years he’s been the defensive coordinator for Boise St., Tennessee, Washington, USC & Wisconsin. In those seasons here is how his defenses ranked in scoring defense:

2006: #20 (Boise St.)
2007: #26 (Boise St.)
2008: #3 (Boise St.)
2009: #13 (Boise St.)
2010: #56 (Tennessee)
2011: #36 (Tennessee)
2012: #39 (Washington)
2013: #29 (Washington)
2014: #46 (USC)
2015: #50 (USC)
2016: #4 (Wisconsin)

Clearly Wilcox has a track record of success which is good for Cal because the Bears haven’t had anything resembling a decent defense these past 5 seasons. Losing QB Davis Webb will be tough, but Wilcox will do a good job if he can keep Cal from giving up 40PPG.

#58 – Tom Allen – Indiana

Allen did a stellar job as a defensive coach at Ole Miss and South Florida before coming onto Kevin Wilson’s staff last season as the defensive coordinator. Allen didn’t disappoint, improving the Hoosiers’ scoring defense by 10PPG! That’s good news for Indiana as their problem has always been on the defensive side of the football. Allen has never been a head coach and his ascension to the throne was somewhat odd in light of the dismissal of former HC Kevin Wilson, but I think Indiana is in a much better place with Allen leading the charge than with Wilson, even if Wilson guided the Hoosiers to back-to-back bowl appearances. It doesn’t get any worse than the Big 10 East, but Allen has started recruiting well which is a good beginning.

#57 – D.J. Durkin – Maryland

Durkin’s first year in Maryland doesn’t look horrible when you consider the Terps were 6-6 during the regular season and getting bowl eligible before losing the bowl game to finish 6-7. A deeper look is a little more rough as Maryland started the season 4-0 against garbage competition and then finished 2-6 in their final 8 with wins over Rutgers & Michigan State, two team who combined for a 1-17 conference record. That’s hardly awe inspiring. Maryland also lost to Ohio St., Michigan and Nebraska by a combined score of 149-13. That’s not Rutgers territory, but it’s not great either. Durkin is recruiting well in College Park and he’s in a fertile recruiting ground which makes it easier. Still a lot of room to make up on Ohio St., Michigan & Penn State.

#56 – Ed Orgeron – LSU

I get the pull of Orgeron being a Louisiana native and who in their right mind isn’t in love with the guy, but I wonder if LSU made the right call in bringing their native son back home to head up the Bayou Bengals? For Orgeron, this is a shot at redemption. There is no question that Orgeron can recruit with the best of them and he’s in a prime spot to bring in a top-5 class annually. There is also no question that Orgeron is a helluva defensive coach as well and the Tigers will most certainly have his fingerprints all over their defensive identity. The question will be whether or not Orgeron can pull it all together. He’ll need a strong staff around him, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Orgeron will get it done.

#55 – Matt Campbell – Iowa State

It wasn’t a banner year in Matt Campbell’s first year in Ames has head coach of the Cyclones, but the 3-9 record hid some exciting trends. The Cyclones let a close to Northern Iowa get away from them but they also played Oklahoma, Kansas St., Oklahoma St., and Baylor very close. ISU picked up conference wins over Kansas & Texas Tech, even beating the Red Raiders 66-10 which was Iowa St., most lopsided win since the Cyclones beat Colorado St. 69-0 back in 1980! Campbell is young and energetic. He had tremendous success at Toledo and he has recruiting trending the right direction. There is no reason to believe that Iowa St. can’t be a bowl eligible team on a yearly basis under his watch.

#54 – Matt Rhule – Baylor

Hard to argue with Rhule’s bonafides. His first year at Temple was 2-10. His 3rd year the Owls were 10-4 and AAC East champions. His 4th year they were 10-3 and AAC Champions! The only thing that was tough to argue about Rhule was his taking the Baylor job to begin with. Rhule is a Penn St. graduate and all of his experience is just not east, but east of Ohio! Now he’s smack in the middle of Texas against some HEAVY HITTERS in Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. That’s not easy, and I’m not even mentioning the inroads that places like Notre Dame, Alabama and LSU have made the Lone Star State. Rhule will definitely have the Bears playing outstanding defense early.

#53 – Will Muschamp – South Carolina

I’m probably being a little hard on Muschamp here seeing how in his first season he took the Gamecocks to bowl eligibility when nobody except the most dedicated Gamecocks fans though SC would do anything but finish in the basement of the SEC East. My only caveat is that South Carolina and Muschamp worked the schedule which allowed SC to finish 6-6 and get to a bowl. Their non-conference wins included those against East Carolina, UMass and Western Carolina. Missouri was in the tank last year and Vanderbilt wasn’t great so there is 5 wins there. An upset win, which they got over Tennessee, was all SC needed. Muschamp will recruit well enough. Let’s see how his 2nd stint through the SEC East goes.

#52 – Jeff Brohm – Purdue

Brohm wasted little time building off of what Willie Taggart and Bobby Petrino did before him at Western Kentucky. Brohm finished his time in Bowling Green with a 30-10 record with a 19-5 mark in Conference USA play. In his last two seasons at WKU, Brohm led the Hilltoppers to a 22-5 mark including 2 bowl wins and a CUSA record of 15-1 which led to back-to-back conference championships. Brohm had Western Kentucky’s offense flying and the Hilltoppers actually led all of FBS in scoring offense in 2016. Brohm inherits a mess at Purdue, but he’ll get the offense rolling and if the defense follows suit, the Boilermakers could definitely start making noise in the Big 10 West.

#51 – Steve Addazio – Boston College

Addazio’s a tough one to figure out. I think what you have to wonder is what kind of ceiling does a program like Boston College really have? Addazio has went 7-6 in 3 of his 4 years on Chestnut Hill and is 1-2 in bowl games. That’s isn’t terrible when you consider that BC plays in the same division as Clemson, Florida St., and Louisville. In reality, BC is probably looking at a ceiling like 8-4/9-3 and Addazio is pretty close to having the Eagles at this mark with some aspect of sustainability. I think he could recruit better to be sure. Boston College should be able to get better players than what they have. Matt Ryan & Doug Flutie showed how good BC can be when they get elite level talent on the roster.

#50 – Rich Rodriguez – Arizona

Rodriguez is better than this but his teams certainly aren’t playing like it. Rodriguez had somewhat of a breakthrough in 2014 when the Wildcats went 10-4 and won the Pac 12 North, but it was colored a bit by a 51-13 loss to Oregon in the Pac 12 Championship game followed up by a 38-30 loss to Boise St. in the Fiesta Bowl. In 2015 the Wildcats dropped to 7-6 and last year Arizona completely collapsed finishing 3-9 with a 1-8 mark in conference play! Arizona’s conference record over the past two seasons is 4-14 and Rodriguez’s recruiting classes have been trending downward. USC seems to be stabilizing under Clay Helton. Colorado is emerging. That doesn’t play well for RichRod in the Pac 12 South.

May 14, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Arizona, Baylor, Big 10, Big XII, Boston College, California, Coaching, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa St., Kansas, LSU, Maryland, Missouri, Pac 12, Purdue, Rankings, Rutgers, SEC, South Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia | 5 Comments

2015 NCAA WEEK 8 – BIG GAMES

ROAD QUICK THOUGHTS HOME
Computer Hope There aren’t any other games on the schedule that Utah can’t win, but this one looks odd. USC will have had some time to digest the loss of their HC & I still think Clay Helton has a legitimate case for being the permanent head coach. It’s not like the Trojans are getting blown out either. Two of their 3 losses have come by 10 points. The other was a 17-12 loss to Washington amidst the Sarkisian insanity. From a talent perspective USC is better & Cody Kessler is the type of QB that can win a game all by himself. Vegas has USC as 3.5pt favorites for a reason! Computer Hope
Computer Hope Third Saturday in October. What a great name to a rivalry! I was reading an article that was talking about how this rivalry wasn’t what it used to be, but when you look at this rivalry historically it’s nothing but runs. Alabama has won 8 straight but before that Tennessee had won 10 of 12. There is an argument to be made that recently Alabama’s run has been particularly heavy. In the last 8 meetings Alabama has won by an average score of 35-12. I think this one is closer. UT has a “best case” record of 6-0 & the East is still in play for them I think. Computer Hope
Computer Hope A lot of validation for both teams on the line here. The Sooners are so odd. They get beat by Texas in the Red River Rivalry 24-17 & then turn around & beat Kansas St. 55-0! That’s nuts. The Red Raiders are 5-2 with their only losses coming against Baylor & TCU, but haven’t really played anyone outside of Arkansas. A win over Oklahoma clearly makes Texas Tech the 3rd best team in the conference with a legit shot at an 11-2 record. A Sooners wins still allows OU to determine their own fate as they could still get to 11-1 with wins over TCU & Baylor. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Interesting game in that the stud Pac 12 QB of right now (Jared Goff) is going up against the stud Pac 12 QB of the future (Josh Rosen). California is still very much a part of the playoff race at 5-1. Their only loss is a 6pt affair on the road against Utah. The Bears schedule toughens up from this point forward, but I think it’s a great story of Sonny Dykes rebuilding this program and taking it to heights that Jeff Tedford couldn’t quite get to. UCLA seems like a snake bitten team getting ready for a HUGE run in 2016, but the talent is still incredible. Computer Hope
Computer Hope It’s going to be very interesting to see how Ole Miss plays the rest of the season out. The SEC could easily get squeezed out of the playoff picture should Ole Miss play well. They get Texas A&M & LSU at home & their road games are winnable. Even with the loss to Memphis, if Ole Miss finishes 10-2 & Alabama finishes 11-1, Ole Miss wins the SEC West. An Aggies win here puts those fears to bed & also keeps hope alive with Texas A&M in their quest to be considered the 2nd best team in the SEC West. Let’s see if Ole Miss can follow Bama’s blueprint. Computer Hope
Computer Hope You can’t help but think Texas beat Oklahoma 24-17 and then Oklahoma beat Kansas St. 55-0, so what is Texas going to do to Kansas State? The Wildcats are 3-3 & haven’t really beaten anyone but they came pretty close against TCU & Oklahoma St. before the blowout loss to Oklahoma. I think a lot more is on the line for Texas in this one. This should be a game they can win & it will reinforce the notion that UT is a lot better than people think & losses to California, Notre Dame, Oklahoma St. & TCU aren’t all that bad. A big win here gives UT a boost. Computer Hope
Computer Hope You look around & Florida St. is a top-10 team, but it feels off because despite being 6-0, FSU hasn’t beaten a good team convincingly that would give you the impression that they are a serious playoff threat. Clemson is getting that attention from the ACC at the moment. Then you look at how well Everett Golson is playing. RB Dalvin Cook should be a Heisman favorite. The defense is playing incredibly well. What is there not to like about this team!? GT has been disappointing but I still think they have a game or two in them that could surprise some people. Computer Hope
Computer Hope I think this is an interesting SEC inter-divisional game. I think Mississippi St. has done a good job beating teams they should beat which has led them to a 5-2 record & just one win shy of bowl eligibility. Kentucky is a better team than you think. They are 4-2 but their 2 losses have come by a total of 8 points & the Wildcats lost to Florida by a 14-9 final score! Starkville isn’t an easy place to play, but I think Kentucky can make this a close game especially if Patrick Towles is on. The Bulldogs keep grinding though. They could get to 9-10 wins this season. Computer Hope
Computer Hope I don’t think Clemson is going to get this far only to lose to Miami-FL who has a HC that is essentially walking on thin ice every time he comes onto the field. On the other hand, Miami-FL probably isn’t as bad as we think. They have wins over Nebraska & Virginia Tech. Granted, they are wins in 2015 and not 2005 or 1995, but they were solid home wins. They also played Florida St. pretty tough in Tallahassee in a 29-24 loss. Outside of the meltdown in Cincinnati, THE U has been fairly decent & they get Clemson at home. There is upset potential here. Computer Hope
Computer Hope At this rate there is no team falling further than Northwestern. Even Ole Miss can justify a loss to Memphis given how well the Tigers are playing. Northwestern has gone from 5-0 & potentially a top-5 team to 5-2 & everyone wondering how in the world this team managed to beat Stanford & Duke! Northwestern can get back on track with a solid road win over a Nebraska team that is feeling quite jilted this season. The Cornhuskers are 3-4 but their “best case” record is 7-0! If Lady Luck turns around Nebraska could easily give the Wildcats their 3rd loss in as many games. Computer Hope
Computer Hope The Owls got a lot of early season love with wins over Penn St. & Cincinnati to open up the season, but playing in the AAC isn’t difficult & Temple hasn’t played Memphis, Houston or Navy yet. East Carolina is no slouch either. The Pirates are 4-3 but their 3 losses have come to BYU, Navy & Florida with the Florida & BYU losses being close. All 3 losses were also on the road. Teams have done a good job running on ECU & Temple is run heavy. That’s a good thing but the Owls need to stay focused. With Notre Dame next week, they can’t overlook East Carolina. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Old school Big East match up & I love these kinds of games. Pittsburgh has quietly started the season 5-1 with their only loss being a 27-24 loss at Iowa. That’s getting it done. I wasn’t sure how well the Panthers would adjust after losing James Connor but Qadree Ollison has stepped up & QB Nate Peterman is having a fine season. The problem here is Pittsburgh proving themselves. They haven’t played all that difficult of a schedule & you could argue 4 wins have been close. The ACC Coastal is theirs for the taking but Syracuse is a tough team. They’ll show up. Computer Hope
Computer Hope A lot bigger game before the season began, these two teams are 2 of the more disappointing teams in the nation. Auburn comes into this game at 4-2 while Arkansas limps in at 2-4. I think this game could be an interesting jump off point for both teams. Arkansas can play with anyone. A win here could catapult them & a 7-5 season could definitely be in the works. For Auburn, it’s easy to forget their only losses are to LSU & Mississippi St.! This is a very talented team who gets Alabama at home. Would anyone be completely shocked if they finished the year 10-2? Computer Hope
Computer Hope Boston College ranks 4th in the NCAA in scoring defense. They rank #1 in rushing defense. They rank #5 in passing defense. They rank #1 in total defense. By all accounts you can easily make the case that Boston College has the best defense in the nation. Boston College is 3-4. Statistically speaking there isn’t a thing Boston College doesn’t do right. They’ve already played Clemson, Florida St. & Duke. All 3 were losses. If they can beat Louisville then there is 4 wins on the schedule to get them to 7-4 with a game against Notre Dame. It’s one of the more fascinating stories of 2015. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Sort of like Texas, Virginia might be a lot better than you think, but their schedule has been so difficult it’s hard to see it through the losses. UVa has lost to UCLA, Notre Dame, Boise St. & Pittsburgh. That’s 0-4 for a lot of teams. Last week they beat Syracuse 44-38. Nothing great, but Virginia isn’t a bad team. North Carolina under Larry Fedora could potentially be turning a corner this year. The Tar Heels are 5-1 with a fluke loss to South Carolina to open the season. They get Duke at home & don’t draw Clemson or FSU. I think 11-1 is on the table & maybe 12-1? Computer Hope
Computer Hope MAC game of the week! Toledo is beating down everyone in their path & UMass is 1-5 so I don’t expect this game to be much different, but it is a road affair for the Rockets & UMass has shown signs of being decent in the past. They have a couple of close losses so 1-5 could easily be 3-3. They put up 38 on Bowling Green & played with Notre Dame for a half before getting blown out. Toledo’s defense is probably going to be overwhelming. It’s a legit top defense statistically & I don’t think there is a MAC team with their kind of ability. Hopefully they can get to 13-0. Computer Hope

October 22, 2015 Posted by | Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Big Games, Boston College, California, Clemson, East Carolina, Florida St., Georgia Tech, Kansas St., Kentucky, Louisville, Massachusetts, Miami-FL, Mississippi, Mississippi St., Must See Games, NCAA, Nebraska, North Carolina, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Temple, Tennessee, Texas, Texas AM, Texas Tech, Toledo, UCLA, USC, Utah, Virginia, Week 8 | Leave a comment

2015 ACC PREVIEW and PREDICTIONS

RANK ATLANTIC COMMENTS
#1 OFFENSE: Clemson is close to taking a big leap & it should come this year when the offensive cupboard comes back full. The Tigers are 42-11 the last 4 seasons. It’s time to get to the next level. QB Deshaun Watson returns after being DOMINANT in his first 6 games before suffering an injury. A QB with the ability to run, Watson could emerge as the league’s best QB if he stays healthy. Clemson also returns their top rusher in Wayne Gallman & their top-3 receivers including Mike Williams who had over 1000yds last season with an 18.1ypc average! Gallman ran for 769yds as a true frosh. WR Artavis Scott was a great possession receiver. He, Williams, Watson & Gallman all could be 1st team All-ACC! The one weakness of the offense could be the O-line which loses 3 starters, but the talent coming in is ridiculous & LT Isaiah Battle could be all-conference. Clemson will get back to scoreing 40+PPG this year. DEFENSE: The losses are IMMENSE! Clemson runs mostly out of a nickle package & runs a 4-2-5. The front-6 is gone & 4 of those 6 players were NFL Draft picks, 1 was a 1st team All-American & 3 were 1st team All-ACC! Most notably gone is Vic Beasley, but Grady Jarrett, Stephone Anthony Garry Peters & Tony Steward were also big time losses. The secondary returns 3 of 5 starters & there is some extreme talent in CB Mackensie Alexander & S Jayron Kearse. As with the offense, there is a lot of talent spread out here with the only question being production. The D-line averages 6’4/293lbs!!! DEs Kevin Dodd (6’5/275lbs) & Shaq Lawson (6’3/275lbs) will be fun to watch. The defense won’t be nearly as good, but they don’t have to be. SCHEDULE: Notre Dame & South Carolina in the OOC is tough but both at home. They also get GT & FSU at home! They avoid Virginia Tech. I think Clemson takes the next step. BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 5-7
#2 OFFENSE: It’s Florida St. so it’s not like they’ll fall off the map, but there was a special group of players in Tallahassee that was able to win 29 straight games including the 2013 National Championship. Gone from the offense this season is QB Jameis Winston, WR Rashad Greene & 4 starting O-Linemen. Also gone is all-world TE Nick O’Leary who was a tremendous difference maker. The Seminoles have some nice pieces returning including former ND QB Everett Golson but even Winston couldn’t replicate the magic of 2013 last year when FSU dropped from 51.6PPG to 33.7! The skill position players should also be outstanding with RB Dalvin Cook & WRs Travis Rudolph, Ermon Lane, George Campbell & Jesus Wilson. Cook could be a sneaky All-American candidate. Everyone here is talented but it’ll be a matter of how well this unit gels. DEFENSE: FSU brings back 7 starters on defense & 5 of their top-6 tacklers but the losses are enormous. DE Mario Edwards, DT Eddie Goldman, CB PJ Williams & CB Ronald Darby! These weren’t just 4 NFL Draft picks. They were 4 NFL Draft picks in the first 3 rounds! It’s worth noting that even with thse 4 playing last season, FSU still allowed 25.6PPG which was up from 12.1PPG in their championship season. Obviously there is talente everywhere & FSU has a couple of potential All-Americans in CB Jalen Ramsey & LB Terrance Smith. What Florida St. didn’t do a great job of last year is putting pressure on the QB. OLBs Chris Casher & Trey Marshall are going to have to edge rush. The interior D-line is going to have to get pressure too. I like the LBs so FSU just needs to gel. SCHEDULE: FSU avoids VA Tech from the Coastal, but has road games against Georgia Tech & Clemson. Outside of those 2 games, this schedule is ridiculously easy which portends well for a playoff run. BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 6-6
#3 OFFENSE: Give a lot of credit to HC Dave Doeren who in his 2nd season improved NC State’s offense by almost 8pts & took the Wolfpack from 3-9 to 8-5 & a bowl win. The offense returns 8 starters from a unit that averaged 30.2PPG & I love how the offense is doing it. NC State is a run first football team that is relying on QB Jacoby Brissett not to make errors. RBs Shadrach Thornton & Matt Dayes combined to rush for 1480yds/17TD while Brissett chipped in 500+ of his own! Brissett also took care of the football throwing just 5 picks to 23TD! The QB compelted just 60% of his passes, but if his accuracty gets better, the Wolfpack just get more dangerous. NC State returns 3 of their top-4 receivers & 4 O-Linemen from a line that blocked for runners who averaged 5.2ypc! That’s amazing. I really like what this team could do. DEFENSE: While the improvement wasn’t as big, NC State improved its defense by 3pts & return 8 starters! I think all 3 levels will be better this year. Six of the back-7 return including the entire secondary! CB Jack Tocho has some skills & could be all-conference as could LB Jerod Fernandez. Overall I like the secondary. Both corners are 6’0 or better & the safeties are 6’2. The D-Line has me excited. Mike Rose is a player at DE & can cause some disruption. That should allow the opposite DE some room and I think Bradley Chubb & Darian Roseboro can take advantage. BJ Hill & Kentavius Street are the DTs. A big key to NC State’s season will be the continued improvement from the defense. I like the players here as NC State keeps getting better & better. SCHEDULE: They do get Clemson at home although it won’t be easy. They also draw a road game against Virginia Tech out of the Coastal but that’s about it. This is an easy schedule with a lot of home games. The Wolfpack could get to 10 wins. BEST CASE: 9-3; WORST CASE: 6-6
#4 OFFENSE: It’s pretty amazing that HC Bobby Petrino can come in and lose a QB who compelted 70% of his passes & was close to QBing an NFL team to the playoffs and yet still get the offense to come in just 4pts short on average of what the team did the year prior under a different HC! Petrino might make some questionable decisions in his personal life, but the man can coach a football team! The Cardinals bring back just 5 starters but included in those 5 are QB Will Gardner, RB Brandon Radcliff & WR James Quick. That might be enough! There are defenitly some losses as WR DeVante Parker is a big loss, but Quick & Ja’Quay Savage & Jamari staples & Keith Towbridge are going to make a tremendous receiving corps! Gardner already makes good decision. The O-Line took on losses but I’m not sure it matters. This offense will be potent. Petrino guarantees it! DEFENSE: The D suffers some losses as only 4 starters return but 3 of those 4 starters were 3 of the top-4 tacklers from a season ago. The front-7 will have to figure out a way to get pressure in their 3-4 scheme. Losing OLBs Lorenzo Mauldin & Deiontrez Mount has to be overcome by Ketih Brown & Devonte Fields. DE Sheldon Rankins is an all-conference DE that can get pressure on the QB so he should provide some help there. LBs Keith Kelsey & James Burgess should clean up the messes. L’Ville loses their entire secondary & it’s troubling. Gerod Hollimon is a HUGE loss. CB Charles Gaines is a HUGE loss. There is a lot talent back there including UGA transfers Josh Harvey-Clemons & Shaq Wiggins. I’m bullish on the defense as I think it’ll come together. SCHEDULE: They draw NC State on the road & Petrino hasn’t put enough talent together yet for Florida St./Clemson. Auburn/Kentucky OOC won’t be easy but this schedule isn’t too bad really. This feels low. BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 6-6
#5 OFFENSE: HC Steve Addazio loves running the football & Boston College has used this strategy to some degree of success in his first 2 seasons as BC has posted a couple of 7-5 records although they are 0-2 in bowls. This year the Eagles return 4 starters, losing their starting QB, starting RB, leading receivers & their entire O-Line! That might spell disaster but remember last year that BC returned just 2 starters & lost All-American RB Andre Williams. That didn’t seem to matter as BC actually rushed for more yards per game than they did with Williams! Despite these losses, I think Addazio is so good with the offense that it might not matter. A couple of things need to happen though. Last year QB Tyler Murphy made too many mistakes. New QB Darius Wade needs to cut those down. Also RB Jon Hilliman needs to run better. Those things happen & BC will be fine. DEFENSE: Under Addazio the Eagles have been A LOT better at getting pressure on the QB. This year BC brings back their entire D-line & I’d expect DEs Kevin Kavalec & Mike Strizak to get even more pressure than they did last season. DTs Truman Gutapfel & Connor Wujciak are 6’3/300lbs DTs who get pressure as well giving BC arguably the best D-Line in the ACC. MLB Steven Daniels returns as well. BC loses their entire secondary except for S Justin Simmons who led the team in tackles a year ago. Josh Johnson & Isaac Yiadom will have to hold the edges down but with such a good D-line they shouldn’t feel a ton of pressure. I like the makeup of this defense a lot. SCHEDULE: You can win a lot of games by having a good running attack paired with a great pass rush! BC avoids the big boys out of the Coastal although they do get VA Tech. An OOC against Notre Dame won’t be easy either. They’d be a lot higher if they weren’t so inexperienced. BEST CASE: 8-4; WORST CASE: 3-9
#6 OFFENSE: I think what is unfortunate sometimes about teams is that they get locked into tough QB situations and really don’t know how to get out of them. This isn’t as pronounced in college football as it can be in the NFL due to contracts and what not, but you sort of find Syracuse in this predicatment with Terrell Hunt. Hunt is a pretty nice talent at at 6’3/234lbs definitely looks the part of a QB, but he’s never really been that good and Syracuse has never really had anyone better behind him to come & take his place. Last year Hunt went down & clearly Syracuse’s offense was dreadful as AJ Long & Austin Wilson tried to pick up the pieces, but neither QB was inspiring. The Orange averaged 17.1PPG last year & Hunt returns with 4 starting O-Linemen but he loses a bunch of skill players. Overall this just doesn’t look good for HC Scott Shafer. DEFENSE: Syracuse had been decent defensively the last few years, but this year the Orange return just 3 starters from a unit that allowed 24PPG & lose their top-5 tacklers and 7 of their top-8 top tacklers! DE Ron Thompson has some talent off the edge, but like the offense this is another work in progress for Shafer & his staff. The problem I’m seeing mostly with Syracuse is that physically they don’t match up well. The DEs seem a bit small, even Thompson. One of the DTs is 6’0 & they have a LB at 5’11 & a safety at 5’8. That’s all well and good if your LB is Chris Borland and your S is Bob Sanders, but that isn’t the case with Syracuse. It looks like this might be a tough year. SCHEDULE: Syracuse is tough because I think having them good at football is a positive, but it’s a positive when they are coming out of the Big East. It’s not as necessary if them being good prevents an historically good ACC team from being competitive. Syracuse is finding the road a bit tough in their conference: BEST CASE: 4-8; WORST CASE: 1-11
#7 OFFENSE: Most of the time you are beholden to your QB if you want to have success in football. Just look at the QBs who were in last year’s first ever college football playoffs? There were 2 Heisman winners! Last year QB John Wolford was the first QB in about 40 years to start his first game at Wake Forest. The results were predictable as Wolford completed 58% of his passes for 2037yds with 12TD to 14INT. The Demon Deacons’ offense was split 50/50 between rush & pass so HC Dave Clawson wasn’t exactly throwing Wolford to the wolves, but the young QB did have to make some plays. Wake averaged just 14.8PPG en route to a 3-9 record headlined by an incredible 6-3 OT victory over Virginia Tech! Wolford has some weapons returning this year & a year of experience. They aren’t going back to the Riley Skinner days just yet, but should score more than 14 per game! DEFENSE: Wake Forest has been pretty decent defensively the last couple of seasons & that should continue this year. Wake returns 6 of it’s front-7 including their top-3 tacklers. S Ryan Janvion, LB Brandon Chubb & LB Marquel Lee all posted 100+ tackles a season ago. Chubb, Lee & LB Hunter Williams could be all-conference giving Wake a dynamite LB corps. The Deacons also return 3 starters on the line including NT Tyler Harris who could be All-ACC. DEs Duke Ejiofor & Wendell Dunn have great size and while Wake loses both corners from a season ago, the front-7 should be able to take some pressure off the new starters. This is a solid defense so the offense needs to catch up. SCHEDULE: Tough break getting both Syracuse & Boston College on the road or else I probably would have had Wake at #5. OOC against Army, Indiana & Notre Dame is tough. Atlantic is top heavy & they draw UNC from the Coastal. BEST CASE: 6-6; WORST CASE: 1-11

 

ACC ATLANTIC OVERALL OUTLOOK: This is probably the most top heavy division in college football. You have Clemson & Florida St. who dominate this division in recruiting & then there are the other 5 teams. This division essentially comes down to the Noles & Tigers, but something to watch for this year if you want to go a little deeper into the conference is how the other teams are trying to adapt without having the superstar talent that Clemson & Florida State do. With Lousville you obviously have a superior coach that loves to run that spread offense. With NC State & Boston College, you definitely have a couple of teams that like to ground & pound while controlling the clock. I think Syracuse & Wake Forest are still finding an identity, but it is intersting to see how the other 5 will combat the dominance of the other 2. I think Louisville will join them shortly. Petrino is too good and he’s already shown he can take a program to the top. Remember what he was doing at Arkansas before he was let go. That is him getting it done in the SEC West for crying out loud! I also think NC State & Boston College are good programs with some history behind them. It’ll be Clemson & Florida State once again this year, but the others are coming.

 

RANK COASAL COMMENTS
#1 I want to look at Georgia Tech holistically rather than breaking them down. Before last season there was some talk of HC Paul Johnson being the hot seat and that maybe the best solution was for him to take his triple option offense & move on. Then stemmed primarily from what happened to GT from 2010 to 2013. That was a 4-year period where GT had records of 6-7, 8-5, 7-7 & 7-6. Not great. But in that 4 year span Georgia Tech was 7-15 in close games. Obviously this cuts both ways, but if GT wins their close games in those 4 seasons, their records would have been 10-3, 10-3, 10-4, and 10-3. That isn’t national title worthy but if you add those records to GT’s 11-3 in 2014 then you’d have 51 wins in 5 years. The only other BCS teams to do that are: Alabama, LSU, Ohio St., Michigan St., Stanford, Oregon, Oklahoma & Florida State! That’s ELITE company! Don’t forget either that GT won the Coastal in 2012 & 2014 and lost both ACC Championship games to FLorida St. by a combined 8 points despite being a combined 18-point dog! Of course you can’t look at it that way, but I think GT gave us a glimpse of what happens when you have an ELITE QB like Justin Thomas running the triple option & the Yellow Jackets catch a couple of breaks. What’s scary this year is Thomas returns & the GT O-Line returns 4 starters! Even better is that the defense returns 8 starters including 8 of their top-10 tacklers & 15 of their top-18! LB Quayshawn Nealy is a big loss but I think GT can overcome that. The bad news for the ACC is that Thomas is just a junior. The schedule is brutal for GT in that they have Georgia & Notre Dame OOC and also draw Florida St. & Clemson from the Atlantic! They do host Virginia Tech but play at Miami-FL. I’m not sure it matters. This is the kind of team you simply DO NOT want to face in a playoff game! BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 6-6
#2 OFFENSE: Virginia Tech hasn’t had an offense this good since Tyrod Taylor’s final year in 2011 when the Hokies won the ACC & finished with an 11-3 record. Tech returns 8 starters from a unit that averaged 24.1PPG, but I’d expect those numbers to rise significantly in 2015. QB Michael Brewer comes into his 2nd season as a starter after throwing for almost 2700yds & 18TD. He’s got to get better with his accuracy (59%) & his decision making (18TD/15INT), but he’d got quite a bit of help. RBs Marshawn Williams & JC Coleman give the Hokies some “thunder & lightning” flavor. Isaiah Ford, Cam Phillips. Buckye Hodges & Ryan Malleck all return to form a solid & big recieving corps. The O-Line returns 3 starters with LT Jonthan McLaughlin having All-ACC potential. They need to get better in pass protection, but I think they will. This is a good offense with upside. DEFENSE: The D returns 8 starters from a unit that allowed 20.2PPG including the entire D-Line which has to be a scary thought given that DC Bud Foster is arguably the best DC in the nation! DEs Dadi Nicolas & Ken Ekanem are monsters. DTs Corey Marshall & Luther Maddy can collapse a pocket & get pressure from the inside. This is the best D-line in the ACC & arguably the best D-Line in the nation! The Hokies were #4 in the nation in sacks with 48! Expect more of the same. The secondary is SCARY. Kendall Fuller is an All-American at CB. Brandon Facyson was a 1st Team Frosh All-American last year & is a 6’2 CB! S Chuck Clark was beast! Arguably the best secondary in the nation & this might be the best defense in the nation. Look out! SCHEDULE: At GT makes me put VT in 2nd. They draw Ohio St. OOC which will be tough but avoid Florida St. & Clemson. Only other difficult road game is in Coral Gables. This team is excellent! BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 9-3 (they are that good!)
#3 Like Georgia Tech, I’m not going to break down the Panthers according to script. In fact I think publications would be ranking them a lot higher if not for new HC Pat Narduzzi getting his first taste of leading a program & even then it might not matter. I would not sleep on this team. RB James Conner is an All-American RB & rushed for 1765yds/29TD last season! WR Tyler Boyd racked up 1261yds/8TD as the go to receiver & QB Chad Voytik will not be a veteran starter instead of a 1st timer. The O-line returns 3 starters & averages 6’5/318lbs! Boyd & Conner could be 1st Team All-Americans! Defensively the Panthers return 7 starters. I think they’ll improve at every level outside of LB where they lose Anthony Gonzalez & Todd Thomas who were their 2 leading tacklers. There are no obvious standout players but I’d watch CB Avonte Maddox & S Patric Amara. DT Tyrique Jarrett & LB Mat Galambos could also make qutie a bit of noise. It’s easy to forget that Pittsburgh is a traditional power in college football. I think the move to the ACC was an interesting one & I think their situation is somewhat comparable to Syracuse in that I love it when Pittsburgh is good & I think PITT being good is good for college football but there are only so many spots at the big table & when you get these giant conferences, some schools get edged out. I think this is inherently what happened with the Big East. The Big East was an amazing conference and I hate that it isn’t around any longer. For the season I wouldn’t sleep on the Panthers. I don’t think they’ll be quite as good as either Virginia Tech or Georgia Tech, but they can make noise especially getting UNC & Miami-FL at home. The OOC is rough with Iowa & Notre Dame and they also draw Louisville from the Atlantic, but their toughest road games are VaTech & GaTech. This should be a good year. BEST CASE: 10-2; WORST CASE: 5-7
#4 OFFENSE: The Tar Heels have to be feeling FANTASTIC this season returning 10 starters on offense! Their only loss was TE Jack Tabb who wasn’t much of a factor. QB Marquise WIliams after having a solid season last year completing 63% of his passes for 3068yds & 21TD. He also led the team in rushing but the combo of Elijah Hood & TJ Logan  should really give the Heels multiple options to carry the ball. UNC returns their top-4 receivers including Ryan Switzer who led the team in passing but also Mack Hollins (6’4) & Quinshad Davis (6’4)! Switzer is the ultimate slot receiver between those two giants. The O-line returns intact & had 3 potential 1st Team All-ACC players with G Landon Turner being an All-American candidate. The O-Line should be amazing this season & one of the best in the ACC. UNC averaged 33.2PPG last year. That should get close to 40 in 2015. DEFENSE: The HUGE problem! Carolina returns 7 starters from a unit that allowed 39PPG last season! EEK! DT Ethan Farmer could be a decent sized loss but for the most part this was just a terrible defense. Carolina can recruit football so there is talent here. Jalen Dalton is a 6’6/260lbs DE who could make an immediate impact. I think Dajaun Drennon (6’4/250lbs) would be good at the other DE now that he isn’t a frosh. CB Brian Walker as skills & the entire secondar returns intact. DT Nazair Jones & LB Jeff Schoettmer could be all-ACC players. Carolina is interesting because everything seems to work. The D-Line is big in the right places. The LBs are big & talented. The secondary is experienced. There should be a marked improvement. SCHEDULE: They draw Wake & NC State from the Atlantic & get Miami-FL at home. They do have to travel to GT & VT which is a huge disadvantage, but if not this year then when? Ten wins is definitely possible. BEST CASE: 10-2; WORST CASE: 5-7
#5 OFFENSE: Miami returns 5 starters from an offense that averaged 29.2PPG. There are some significant injuries here with RB Duke Johnson, WR Phillip Dorsett, TE Clive Walford, C Shanke McDermott & LT Ereck Flowers. Four of the 5 players were All-ACC a year ago so their loss will be felt. On the other hand, Miami gets QB Brad Kaaya back  for his sophomore season. Kaaya did OK for a frosh throwing for 3200yds/26TD. Like a lot of young guys in college he can improve his decision making & accuracy but he’s light years of where he was last season. Joe Yearby takes over for Johnson & Yearby is solid. Stacy Coley, Herb Waters, Malcolm Lewis & Braxton Berrios return at WR. The O-Line has just 2 starters returning but they are all big & talented. The O-Line is a big question mark but “THE U” has plenty at the skill positions. I think they’ll be fine. DEFENSE: What makes the Hurricanes “THE U” is the defense. Sure the offense has produced some amazing football players, but when I think Hurricanes football I think big time defense. The Canes bring back 6 to a unit tht allowed 24.3PPG which isn’t horrible but not exactly Miami standards either. The losses of Anthony Chickillo, Denzel Perryman & Ledarius Gunter are going to be felt but there is some talent returning. The LBs are strong with Raphael Kirby, Jermaine Grace & Tyriq McCord. That should be the strongest level of the defense, but I wouldn’t count out the D-Line either. DEs Chad Thomas & Al-Quadin Muhammad could be exceptional. The secondary returns both safeties with Deon Bush being possible All-ACC. There is immense talent here to be sure & now we just need to see how it gels. SCHEDULE: They draw Clemson & FSU out of the Coastal! They also play at UNC & Pitt. GT & VaTech come to Coral Gables. OOC against Nebraska & Cincinnati. It’s tough! BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 3-9
#6 OFFENSE: Duke hasn’t scored less than 30PPG since 2011! The Blue Devils bring back 6 starters on offense & lose their QB & top-2 WRs but I’m not sure it’ll be that big of a deal. Duke returns RBs duo Shaquille Powell & Shaun Wilson who combed to rush for over 1200yds & 7TD last year. They run a little lightning & thunder act that is effective if not spectacular. Duke also returns 3 O-Linemen but 4 of the 5 starters are upper-classmen who I think will work out fine. They do lose QB Anthony Boone but I’m not so sure that isn’t a bad thing. Boone completed just 56% of his passes with 19TD to 8INT. Thomas Sirk steps in to take his place. Sirk is a kid who can run but has a big arm that get the ball down the field. The 3 returning starters on offense could be all-ACC type players so Sirk should be protected. David Cutcliffe’s resume speaks for itself. Duke will find a way to score. DEFENSE: Duke returned 5 starters in 2014 & allowed a spectacular 21.4PPG! This year they return 7 starters including 7 of their top-10 tacklers. LB David Helton is a HUGE loss at MLB but Kelby Brown was a 1st Team ALL ACC player in 2013 before missing all of last season with an injury & he’ll replace Helton so the loss might not be as bad. LB DeVon Edwards racked up 133 tackles himself so the LB unit is outstanding! Another important factor in Duke’s defense is that their entire secondary is back! Ohio St. transfer Jeremy Cash wa an all-ACC player lasst year leading this veteran unit. The D-Line might not be as good as the back-7 but are are some upside guys here although they aren’t overly. Duke is 19-8 over the last 2 seasons! WOW. SCHEDULE: OOC is a joke outside of Northwestern. They draw Wake & BC out of the Atlantic whic is a HUGE bonus & get Pitt & Miami-FL at home. It’s really a schedule that Duke can take advantage of & go bowling. BEST CASE: 8-4; WORST CASE: 3-9
#7 OFFENSE: The Cavaliers return 5 starters from an offense that scored 25.8PPG last season. It’s sort of a mixed bag really. The good news is that UVA didn’t lose anyone in particular that could be considered a big loss. The bad news is that Virginia didn’t have anyone that really performed all that great to being with. Matt Johns looks to be the starting QB but if last year is any indication, Johns needs to improve his decision making & accuracy. The skill players do have some talent. RB Taquan Mizzell looks decent and the Wahoos have some decent receivers in UNC transfer TJ Thorpe, Canaan Severin & Keeon Johnson. The O-Line had 5 returning starters & if they remain healthy should probably be the best unit on offense. I think we’ve been waiting awhile for things to click under HC Mike London but he’s so far been unsuccessful with his offense. DEFENSE: Virginia’s defense was solid last year giving up 24.1PPG but the problem is that they lose 5 of their top-6 tacklers & 7 of their top-11. DE Eli Harold is a big loss as is LBs Henry Coley, Daquan Romero & Max Valles who combined for 217 tackles! S Anthony Harris is also gone & he had 108 tackles! UVA also lost both corners. The good news is that the D-Line could be decent. DT Andrew Brown has some talent while Kwontie Moore & Mike Moore have great size at the DE. S Quin Blanding was a freshman All-American as a true frosh last year & led the team in tackles with 123! Blanding, Brown, DT David Dean & S Maruice Canady could all be all-ACC type players so there is some legit potential here. The corners & LBs will need to come through though and both are talented albeit youthful. SCHEDULE: It’s not or never for Mike London who might be coaching for his job. It’s the wrong time though as the top-5 in the Coastal are peaking & Notre Dame, UCLA & Boise St. are OOC! BEST CASE: 3-9; WORST CASE: 1-11

 

ACC COASTAL OVERALL OUTLOOK: From 1-6 this is a fantastic division. It’s not on par with the SEC West, Pac 12 North or Pac 12 South, but it’s not bad either with 6 of these teams probably going to be bowl eligible. I think the main focus in this division will be playing to the highest level. I think any of my first 5 teams could win the division so parity is through the roof. The coaches might be the most intriguing of this bunch. What separates the the SEC or Pac 12 division from this one is the coach. Narduzzi is new at Pittsburgh. You have to think Fedora (UNC), Goldon (Miami-FL) & London (Virginia) are on short leashes. Also Johnson (GT), Cutcliffe (Duke) & Beamer (VT) are all sort of getting up there in age and they are probably at their destination jobs although I could see Johnson coach if GT had decided to make a change. How well the old guard does is also interesting. The other thing to look for here is upside. We know GT & VT are going to be great, but it’ll be intersting to see if Pitt, UNC or Miami-FL can make a leap this year & join the top-2. One things is for certain, you can’t really go wrong with this division. I really like it, but I’m still saying Georgia Tech takes down the crown!

September 2, 2015 Posted by | ACC, Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida St., Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami-FL, NC State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Predictions, Previews, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest | Leave a comment

ACC OUTLOOK WITH 6 WEEKS LEFT

The ACC has come under intense scrutiny this year with most people believing that they have fallen to “worst” conference of the Big 5 conferences. I’m not entirely sure of this. The ACC has somewhat devoured their own for the most part & having Florida St. not play well certainly doesn’t help the cause, but this is actually one of the more intriguing conferences in all of college football. The Coastal Division isn’t the SEC West, but every team is compelling with quite a bit to play for. The Atlantic is very top heavy with Florida St., Clemson & Louisville but all three are very good teams & let’s not forget Florida State is the defending national champions!

In a big picture sense, the ACC has to hope Florida St. wins out and gets to 13-0 because they’ll get to defend their title in the playoffs. If Florida St. tumbles or loses in the ACC Championship game then I think all bets are off & they are long shots to advance given their schedule & how it doesn’t look very good at all. Even with just the one playoff hope, this conference should be interesting to watch especially with the multitude of scenarios presented by the Coastal Division. It should be a very entertaining 6 weeks in the ACC.

 

ATLANTIC

 

TEAM REC WHAT TO WATCH FOR OVER LAST 6 WEEKS OF 2014
7-0 As defending national champions, Florida St. probably has the easiest road to the playoffs as any other team because an undefeated Florida St. team definitely goes to the playoff to defend their title. That doesn’t mean there aren’t significant doubts. The win over Notre Dame looks solid but FSU should have lost that game. Close calls too against Clemson & NC State don’t help. The Oklahoma St. win looked good for a while until the Cowboys got blown out by TCU. A Thursday night game at Louisville will probably determine if Florida St. can hang on & go unbeaten. The real question is whether or not a 1-loss FSU team who wins the ACC Championship would be good enough to get in? The ACC is terrible. FSU has to hope Notre Dame goes 11-1.
5-2 One of the more interesting teams in the country, Clemson hasn’t been a part of the national conscious thus far because they started the season 1-2. Since that 2nd loss they’ve won 4 straight defeating their opponents by a combined score of 131-65. Clemson’s 2 losses have come on the road to Georgia & Florida St., so the Tigers can at least make an argument of being a top-15 if not top-10 team. They’ve already beaten UNC, Louisville & BC. Their toughest game remaining is a road date to Georgia Tech so 10-2 is on the table. It’s too bad they won’t get a 2nd shot at Florida St. in the ACC title game. They can’t make the playoffs or win the Atlantic, but with a bowl win, Clemson could finish the season 11-2!
6-2 Bobby Petrino is quietly putting together a monster season & the Cardinals are actually one of the more intriguing teams out there. It would be almost impossible for them to win the Atlantic because of the loss to Clemson. L’Ville would have to beat Florida St., hope Florida St. loses again, & hope Clemson loses two more conference games. I think the Cardinals could beat Florida St., and I think Clemson could lose on the road to Georgia Tech, but that’s as far as it goes & L’Ville still finishes in 3rd place in their own division. Louisville could play big spoiler though down the stretch. They have games against Florida St. & Notre Dame plus a season finale against Kentucky. The Cardinals will be a featured team down the stretch.
4-3 With 2 conference losses already, it’s difficult to see the Eagles being a player in the ACC Atlantic especially with road games against Florida St. & Virginia Tech remaining. The Eagles need to think about getting a couple of more wins to get bowl eligible and they have a couple of games they could win. This week they’ll travel to Winston-Salem to play Wake Forest in a winnable game. After that game & hopefully a win, they’ll have a 3-game stretch against Virginia Tech, Louisville & Florida State. They might come out of that with 3 losses putting them at 5-6 going into the season finale at home against Syracuse. It all starts with Wake Forest this week though. If they lose this week then bowl eligibility might be lost.
3-4 Syracuse has to be thoroughly disappointed in their season especially with home losses to Maryland (14pts) & Louisville (22pts). In, fact, Syracuse hasn’t beaten any team of note all season long. Their remaining schedule is daunting with road games against Clemson, Pittsburgh & Boston College. The Orange can forget about the Atlantic & it might be difficult to see them even winning 3 more games to get to bowl eligibility. If they can’t win a road game they won’t get bowl eligible but their home games come against NC State & Duke. They might go 1-1 there so it’s entirely possible to see Syracuse at 4-8/5-7. HC Scott Shafer was talking about a goal of winning 8 games before the season started. That isn’t happening.
2-5 Not a great season in Dave Clawson’s first as HC of the Demon Deacons. Wake showed a little bit of promise in their 1st ACC game playing Louisville fairly tough in a 20-10 loss, but in their last 2 games, Wake has been outscored 73-10 by Florida St. & Syracuse. With wins over Gardner-Webb & Army, Wake might be looking at a 2-10 season, ending the season on an 8-game losing streak. Their best bet for a conference win might be against NC State, but he game is in Raleigh, not Winston-Salem. At this point, Wake is just looking for moral victories & trying to gauge progress from the players who will return in 2015. If they can win another game or two then great, but I don’t think anyone is counting on it.
4-4 It’s amazing what you can look like with the right schedule. NC State faced GA. Southern, Old Dominion, USF & Presbyterian in their first 4 games. They won all 4 outscoring their opponents 161-74. In their next 4 games, the Wolfpack played Floridai St., Clemson, Boston College & Louisville. They lost all 4 games & were outscored 73-157. At 0-4 in the ACC, there is no way NC State plays any role in the outcome but they still have an outside shot at bowl eligibility given their 4 non-conference wins. The home game against Wake Forest is entirely winnable but to get that 6th win they’ll have to beat either Syracuse or North Carolina on the road or manage to beat Georgia Tech in Raleigh. They must go 2-2 in their last 4.

 

COASTAL

 

TEAM REC WHAT TO WATCH FOR OVER LAST 6 WEEKS OF 2014
6-1 We live in a crazy college football era when instead of talking about Duke being longshots to get bowl eligible, we are discussing them becoming potential conference champions! What’s amazing here is that the 6-1 Blue Devils have to be in the playoff discussion. If they win out they’ll finish 11-1 with a likely rematch against Florida St. in the ACC title game. If Florida St. is 12-0 & Duke beats them to finish the season at 12-1, would that be enough to put Duke into the 4-man playoff? I think it wouldn’t unless you had a copule of conferences that wind up with 2-loss champions. More likely Duke is simply hoping for a big bowl. If they defend homefield then at worst they’ll go 9-3 & win the Coastal. David Cutcliffe is a ridiculous good HC.
4-3 The Wahoos can’t get into the playoffs with 3 losses & losing at Duke last week was killer. Both Virginia & Duke are 2-1 in conference play, but Virginia has road ACC games against Florida St., Georgia Tech & Virginia Tech. Those are all probably losses which would give Virginia 6 meaning they’d have to beat North Carolina & Miami-FL at home just to get bowl eligible! Mike London has to be up at night playing the “What If?” game. If Virginia wins their close losses against UCLA & Duke they are 6-1 (3-0) right now instead of 4-3 (2-1). They’d effectively be up 3 games on Duke with a schedule that if they finished 11-1 (8-0) could be playoff worthy. Then again, this team isn’t far away from 2-5 if they lost to L’Ville & Pitt.
4-3 Pittsburgh has to be one of the more disappointing teams in college football. I thought they had a real chance at potentially disrupting the nation by playing TOUGH & potentially winning the Coastal. I thought Pitt might have losses on their schedule, but I thought they would beat Iowa & Akron in Pittsburgh. At worst the team should be 6-1 with the road loss to Virginia, but they lost to the Cavaliers by just 5 points. The Panthers aren’t completely out of it. If they win out they’ll finish 9-3 (7-1) and win the Coastal. If they beat Florida St., they would finish 10-3 as ACC Champions with a huge bowl on tap. I hope they play to potential because college football is better when Pittsburgh is relevant. They must win at home.
5-2 At 5-2, the Yellow Jackets should become bowl eligible at worst with a win over NC State in Raleigh on November 8th. If GT wants more than that, then they have their work cut out for them. Their remaining schedule is: at Pitt, Virginia, at NC State, Clemson, bye, at Georgia. Their home games won’t be easy & they can probably forget about beating Georgia. For a second I thought Georgia Tech was going to sneak up on us. They started the season 5-0 with wins over Virginia Tech & Miami-FL! In their last 2 games they’ve lost to Duke & North Carolina. To be fair, GT could still do some damage. At 5-2 (2-2), it’s worth watching this week at Pitt. If they win, then GT could be 8-2 (5-2) hosting Clemson. They can still win the Coastal.
4-3 With 3 losses the Hurricanes aren’t going to the playoffs anytime soon. What will be interesting for Miami-FL is their ability to get bowl eligible. At 4-3, they need to at least 2-3 in their final 5, but their schedule is: at Virginia Tech, North Carolina, bye, Florida St., at Virginia, Pittsburgh. Each one of those teams will have something to play for & getting a couple of wins won’t be easy. I think what could be most interesting down the stretch in Miami-FL is how hot Al Golden’s seat gets. The Canes could easily finish the season with 5 losses, putting their record at 4-8! If that happens then at best you can argue the program has stalled. Could you imagine having job openings at Florida, Michigan & Miami-FL by the end of the season?!
4-3 With 3 losses, the Hokies are not going to the playoffs, but they could have legitimate say in who does. At 4-3 (1-2) the Hokies look disappointing & to a degree they are, but Lady Luck simply hasn’t been kind. Virginia Tech is 0-3 in close games & their 3 losses have come by a combined 15pts. They have a win at Ohio St. & their toughest road game remaining comes against Duke. If Virginia Tech wins out to get to 9-3 (6-2), would they win the Coastal? Yes, but Pittsburgh would have to lose 2 more conference games! The Hokies loss at Pittsburgh this past Thursday has huge tiebreaker implications! It doesn’t look like it now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the VT/Pitt game was the deciding factor in who goes to the ACC title game.
3-4 I though the Tar Heels were a darkhorse contender before the season began to shock the college football world, get to 13-0 & make the playoffs. Instead, here they are sitting at 3-4 (1-2) needing to win 3 of their last 5 just to get bowl eligible! What’s amazing is that UNC still has time to shock a few people. Should they win out, the Tar Heels will finish 8-4 (6-2) but because winning out means they’ll beat Virginia, Miami-FL, PITT, & Duke, the Tar Heels would own all the tiebreakers. The only problem is Virginia Tech. The Hokies beat UNC so Virginia Tech would have to lose another game in order for Carolina to finish first. Every game for the Tar Heels is important not only for bowl eligibility, but also because they are still division contenders.

October 21, 2014 Posted by | ACC, Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida St., Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami-FL, NC State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Playoffs, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest | Leave a comment

2014 NCAA WEEK 5 – GAMES OF THE WEEK

A very interesting week on tap with the collegiate athletes. When I first went over the schedule, I had a hard time getting to 13 games that I thought mattered enough to write about, but the more I looked at the matchups & thought about what I wanted to see in each of them, the more I realized there were some very intriguing games on tap. Never a dull moment on any given Saturday.

 

ROAD WHY IT IS MUST SEE! HOME
The best game of the week hands down! If you are a fan of defense then this probably isn’t the game for you! Consider that A&M enters the game averaging 53PPG while Arkansas averages 49PPG! They rank 2nd & 3rd respectively in the nation! Arkansas ranks 8th in rush offense with 325yds/G! The Aggies rank 4th in passing offense with 405yds/G! After losing to Auburn to open up the season Arkansas has beaten their last 3 opponents by an average score of 58-16! It hasn’t come against great competition but Arkansas is showing quite a bit. We all know A&M & the Kenny Hill story. A neutral site game will be a real test and obviously it’ll be interesting to see if Arkansas’ offense can keep A&M’s offense off the field which will be key. This is a huge game for both teams in a rugged SEC West where every win counts as more than just one W or L.
This game would be a lot more exciting if Arizona St. standout QB Taylor Kelly were playing, but the Sun Devils have to play the hand they are dealt which means they are going to face a very strong UCLA team without a key player in a game that could very well determine the outcome of the Pac 12 South. With so much attrition from last year’s team, ASU has sort of played under the radar to this point starting out 3-0. They are coming off back-to-back road wins while UCLA’s struggles are well known. The Bruins have some solid wins on the resume with a road win over Virginia & a neutral site win over Texas, but UCLA hasn’t dominated like many (including me) thought they would. A win here would definitely put UCLA on the right track & give the Bruins 3 early wins against 3 decent teams. It’s ugly but you can’t ignore victories either.
I don’t think it was possible for the Vols to go into Norman and beat Oklahoma, but Tennessee has the kind of team that should be bowl eligible by year’s end with the capability of winning a game or two that they probably shouldn’t win. The defense is good enough to keep them in games if a superior team doesn’t come to play & I think the play of RBs Marlin Lane & Jalen Hurd is going to keep improving. Georgia is a huge test for Tennessee especially with the rushing attack. The talk is all about Todd Gurley but Sony Michel & Nick Chubb average 10ypc combined! QB Hutson Mason is playing extremely well as the senior is making the most of his only year as a starter. A lot has to go right for UT to win this game especially on the road, but as with Arkansas against A&M, the Vols have to find a way to keep UGA’s offense off the field.
Chris Petersen is doing one of the better jobs in college football without a lot of fanfare. It was interesting to see him finally leave Boise St. for Washington, but so far the Huskies are 4-0 & after a couple of rough first games, UW has settled in. I don’t think enough was made of the Huskies losing QB Keith Price & RB Bishop Sankey. Sankey is now a starting RB in the NFL but current QB Cyler Miles & RB Lavon Coleman are doing decent jobs as replacements. With Stanford we really don’t know what we have yet. The Cardinal was beaten at home by a USC team that subsequently lost to Boston College. Stanford’s only wins have come against UC-Davis & Army. This is their first true road game. If Washington wins they should be able to get 6-0 before traveling to Eugene on October 18th. Note that Oregon plays at UCLA the week prior!
I hate games like this because Oregon St. is one of my favorite teams in college football & I really like Mike Riley as a HC. The problem is that this sets up as a good game for Oregon State. USC probably isn’t that good yet under Sarkisian & the Beavers have a lot of returning starters including QB Sean Mannion. Oregon St. has started off 3-0 & if they were to win this game you can see a scenario in which OSU can get to 10-0/9-1 before their final 2 games at Washington & then at home against Oregon! But this is also the kind of game Oregon St. seems to lose which dashes their hopes pretty quick & they wind up 8-4. USC is sort of in the same boat. They’ve had a bye week to get over BC but a win over Oregon St. could set them up nice for a 10-2 season which would be remarkable in Sarkisian’s first year. A lot on the line in this one.
Missouri is coming off a brutal home loss to perennial Big 10 doormats Indiana by the score of 31-27. It’s a tough pill to swallow given how well the Tigers had played to that point so I think this game will be interesting to see how Gary Pinkel and the Tigers bounce back against a South Carolina team that is all of a sudden playing like South Carolina. Kenny Hill came into Columbia and lit the Gamecocks defense up in the season opener & SC hasn’t seen a QB like Hill until this weekend when Maty Mauk comes to town. Mauk already has 14TD passes so the Tigers offense can air it out. SC’s defense is giving up 36PPG so there will be opportunity to score. The game might come down to Mizzou’s defense & their ability to contain Dylan Thompson. A&M beat him up quite a bit so if Missouri can do the same, SC might lose their 2nd home game.
A friend asked me what I thought he should know about Syracuse & the first thing I told him was that they were a team I wouldn’t want the Irish to overlook. On one hand you have the fact that the Orange beat Villanova by 1 point & was beat up by Maryland. On the other you have a Syracuse squad who destroyed Central Michigan. A C.Michigan team that beat Purdue more easily than the Irish disposed of the Boilermakers. Syracuse is a power rushing team under HC Scott Shafer & they’ve run the ball well although against inferior opponents. ND will be a hard to team to run the ball against & if Maryland put up 34 on the Orange defense, then the Irish could potentially flirt with 40-50 points. It’s a game Notre Dame shouldn’t be concerned with, but those are the kinds of games of late that have come back to haunt Notre Dame.
After losing to Virginia Tech, Ohio st. came back the next week & destroyed Kent St. 66-0! Granted it was Kent St., but at least the Buckeyes got back on their horse. The Virginia Tech loss looks bad with the Hokies dropping a home game to East Carolina, but Ohio St. still has a shot to get to 10-2 assuming they lose to Michigan St. in East Lansing. That’s not a bad season by any means. I’m interesting to see what Cincinnati QB Gunner Kiel can do against the Buckeyes defense. Kiel has had an interesting career despite being just a sophomore. Originally committed to Indiana, he dropped the Hoosiers for LSU. He then dropped LSU for Notre Dame where he redshirted. With the emergence of Everett Golson, Kiel transferred to UC where this year he’s averaging 350 passing yds/G & 5TD! Just a sophomore, he’ll get a chance at a real defense.
Iowa St. is coming off an improbably win over in-state rival Iowa which could have very well dashed the Hawkeyes hopes of playing in the playoffs. Those were long shot odds for the Hawkeyes but they at least had a shot which evaporated with the home loss to the Cyclones. ISU is an interesting team. They barely lost to Kansas St. & dropped a heart breaker to North Dakota St. to open the season. They are an experienced team which gives them that vibe of having the ability to knock off a team they probably shouldn’t. The Bears are outscoring opponents 59-9 in their 3 wins but they haven’t played ANYBODY! Interestingly enough, the last 2 times Baylor has come to Ames, Iowa St. has defended home turf. Beating ranked teams also isn’t uncommon for Iowa State. They beat 4 ranked opponents from 2010-2012. This is tricky for Baylor.
After inexplicably dropping a road game to an inferior Bowling Green squad, Indiana went on the road to the defending SEC East champions and took care of business beating Missouri 31-27! Now Indiana returns to Bloomington to host Maryland in the Terps first ever B1G conference game. This game actually sets up well for the Hoosiers. Maryland likes to run the ball but IU has become a fairly decent run defense. If Indiana has a weakness it’s pass defense but Terps QB CJ Brown hasn’t played particularly well so far. In case you have heard, this is worth watching if only for Indiana RB Tevin Coleman. He’s not getting any Heisman publicity but Coleman is on pace to rush for 2466yds & 26TD averaging 8.6ypc! At 6’1/210lbs, Coleman is a load to carry and I’m not sure Maryland has the goods to stop Coleman or outscore the Hoosiers.
A very intriguing matchup that meant a lot more before the Tar Heels dropped a game to East Carolina. Now it’s almost a game in which you are curious to see if the train wreck is going to manifest itself. The Tigers have started out 1-2 although their two losses have come against Georgia & Florida State. Dabo Swinney & the entire Clemson team have to be kicking themselves for letting the FSU game go with Jameis Winston not playing for the Seminoles. The 23-17 OT loss to FSU could have put their season on a completely different trajectory if they had pulled off the upset. As for UNC, they need to fix the defense in the WORST way. The Heels are scoring 43PPG which is what we expected, but they are giving up 42PPG & gave up 70 to ECU! It doesn’t look great here & a loss could completely demolish a once promising season in Chapel Hill.
First it was a 31-0 humiliation at the hands of one of their biggest rivals. Last week it was a 26-10 home loss to Utah, a team that finished 5-7 a year ago which was good enough for 5th place in the Pac 12 South! Things in Michigan are going horribly awry and it’s not out of the question to compare the Michigan situation with the departure of Lloyd Carr with the Tennessee situation with the departure of Phillip Fulmer. Both teams are suffering through extreme QB droughts & there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. The Wolverines are running the football well behind Derrick Green & the defense is playing well. The QB play has been abysmal with Devin Gardner & Shane Morris. Can Minnesota beat Michigan? I don’t think so because I don’t think the Gophers have enough of a passing attack, but Brady Hoke is done as HC of Michigan.
Speaking of Utah, the Utes come off of that big road win to welcome in Washington State who is coming off a helluva game against Oregon that saw the Cougars almost pull off a stunner! I love the contrasts in this game with both teams. For Utah, the Utes are trying to regain relevance after not playing so well after their admittance into the Pac 12. Life in the Mountain West was much easier, but after last week, Utah could at least get to 4 wins before the schedule gets crazy. As for Washington St., they didn’t get off to a good start with oddball losses to Nevada & Rutgers to start the season. They beat Portland St. in Week 3 & then gave Oregon a scare last week. I thought Washington St. could really contend in the P12 North this season & there is definitely time to turn their season around with some sound conference wins. Must win for both teams.

September 27, 2014 Posted by | Arizona St., Arkansas, Baylor, Big Games, Cincinnati, Clemson, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa St., Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Must See Games, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio St, Oregon St., South Carolina, Stanford, Syracuse, Texas AM, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington St., Week 5 | Leave a comment

2014 ACC PREVIEW & PREDICTIONS

RANK B1G EAST COMMENTS
#1 PROJECTED RECORD: 12-0 (8-0); OFFENSE: Ridiculous. Florida St. averaged 51.4PPG last season en route to a national championship & bring back 7 starters from that unit including reigning Heisman Trophy winner QB Jameis Winston. There are a projected 8 senior starters 4 of which are returning offensive linemen! WR Rashad Greene  & TE Nick O’Leary return which will offset the loss of Kelvin Benjamin with the 6’4/200lbs Isaiah Jones ready to come in & be that big receiver. Florida St. doesn’t have 7 guys on offense that could be all-ACC. They have 7 guys on offense that could very well end up as All-Americans! They have the best QB in the country. They arguably have the best O-Line. RB Devonta Freeman leaves but Karlos WIlliams averaged 8.0ypc! It would be ridiculous for FSU to score more than 50PPG in back-2-back years, but who is going to stop them? DEFENSE: FSU returns 6 starters from a unit that allowed 12.1PPG! The losses on defense are a bit more dramatic than on offense as the Noles lose 5 of their top-6 tacklers. Losing Tim Jernigan, Lamarcus Joyner, & Tevin Smith will be tough as they were all All-Americans! LB Christian Jones was all-ACC as was S Terrance Brooks. The good news is that it’s FSU so the talent is HEAVY! CBs PJ Williams & Ronald Darby might be the best CB duo in the nation. DE Mario Edwards is a beast as is DT Eddie Goldman. Eight players could be all-ACC. This is still one of the best defenses in the nation. SCHEDULE: They avoid UNC & their toughest road game is Syracuse. They have a GREAT chance at back-2-back!
#2 PROJECTED RECORD: 7-5 (5-3); OFFENSE: Clemson had a fantastic year last year going 11-2 & winning a BCS Bowl. The offense was fantastic scoring 40.2PPG behind incredible offensive players in QB Tajh Boyd, WRs Sammy Watkins & Martavis Bryant along with RB Roderick McDowell. The problem is that every one of those players are gone including a couple of O-Linemen! Clemson returns just 5 starters & will have freshman starting at QB & RB. The good news is that frosh RBs Wayne Gallman & Tyshon Dye could be pretty decent & the Tigers get back WR Charone Peake who missed last year with an ACL injury. The bad news is that the O-Line is terrible & there is massive inexperience. It’s still Clemson so the athletes are there, but this offense takes a big step back in ’13. DEFENSE: The Tigers are much better off on the defensive side of the ball where they return 7 starters from a unit that allowed 22.2PPG including 5 of their top-7 tacklers. DE Vic Beasley was a 1st Team All-American last season who led the team with 13sacks & 23TFL! LB Stephone Anthony returns as well & he led the team in tackles with 131 including 13.5TFL! Both are All-American candidates. Joining Beasley is DE Corey Crawford, DT Grady Jarrett & DT DJ Reader. The D-Line is the obvious strength of the defense & is arguably the best in the nation! The secondary should also be very dangerous. This defense could get better. SCHEDULE: Road games against Georgia, Florida St. & Georgia Tech hurt. They also draw UNC & get South Carolina in the finale. If the offense comes around, they’ll get to 9-10 wins.
#3 PROJECTED RECORD: 8-4 (5-3); OFFENSE: The Orange are quietly going about becoming a consistently good football program again. They return 8 starters from an offense that scored 22.7PPG last year, but I think HC Scott Shafer is on to something here. QB Terrel Hunt is a dual threat QB who completed 61.2% of his passes. He did throw 8 picks to 10TD. The TD:INT ratio was worse than that as Hunt padded his stats against Wagner & Tulane but I like the 61.2%. The O-Line returns 4 starters, 6 of the top-7 receivers return and even though leading rusher Jerome Smith is gone, I think new starting RB Prince-Tyson Gulley could be an upgrade. Not a ton of talent here but these guys play hard & there is quite a bit of experience. They’ll be better. DEFENSE: Syracuse returns 7 starters from a defense that allowed 25.4PPG. They have a couple of HUGE losses in DT Jay Bromley & LB Marquis Spruill who were both NFL Draft picks, but the Orange return the other 5 starters of their front-7. Like the offense, the talent here isn’t great but I think a key could be the DEs Robert Welsh & Ron Thompson. They need to replenish the pass rush that Bromley & Spruill provided. I think the defense stays the same as far as production is concerned. SCHEDULE: The schedule sets up really well for Syracuse as they avoid UNC, Virginia Tech & Georgia Tech. They get L’Ville, Duke & NC State at home & the non-conference slate isn’t bad because Maryland comes to the Carrier Dome. BC & Wake Forest are terrible. They won’t beat Clemson or FSU but it’ll be a really nice season in 2014.
#4 PROJECTED RECORD: 9-3 (5-3); OFFENSE: This offense could get very interesting very quickly. The Cardinals only bring back 4 starters from a 12-1 squad that averaged 35.2PPG, but a deeper look gives you some signs that offensive genius Bobby Petrino could hit the ground running in his return to Louisville. True, QB Teddy Bridgewater is gone & that is a HUGE hole to fill, but L’Ville brings back 4 starters along the O-line & the one non-returning starter is a transfer from Florida who started! L’Ville returns 4 of their top-5 receivers & also their top rusher in Dominique Brown! Don’t forget about Auburn transfer Michael Dyer who was a 1st Team All-SEC RB in 2011! In his 1st 4 years at Louisville, Petrino averaged 40+PPG. Given Petrino’s pedigree & what L’Ville returns, if QB Will Gardner can be decent, Louisville is going to score! DEFENSE: Massive losses on this side of the ball as Louisville returns just 4 starters from a unit that allowed 12.2PPG and loses 6 of their top-8 tacklers. DE Marcus Smith, LB Preston Brown & S Calvin Pryor were all NFL Draft picks & will be difficult to replace. Charlie Strong didn’t leave the cupboards bare however. There is talent here on defense & guys like DE Lorenzo Mauldin, LB James Burgess & CB Charles Gaines should be impact players. I’m excited to see OLB James Hearns. He redshirted last season but at 6’3/270lbs has great size. SCHEDULE: Not bad at all. They get Clemson & Syracuse on the road which is tough but avoid UNC, VT, GT & Pitt from the Coastal! They can win every game on the schedule save FSU. Can Petrino go 11-1 in year 1?
#5 PROJECTED RECORD: 5-7 (2-6); OFFENSE: The Wolfpack return 7 starters from an offense that scored just 22.8PPG en route to a 3-9 record, the worst mark NC State has posted since 2006! The best player on offense might actually be RT Tyson Chandler who at 6’7/355lbs is the very definition of a mauler. The main problem with the Wolfpack is that they just need to get better. Projected starting QB Jacoby Brissett was highly touted out of HS and began his career at Florida. Freshmen WR Bo Hines & QB Jalan McClendon, OT Will Richardson & TE Cole Cook are nice pieces. I love how huge the O-line looks & RB Shadrach Thornton comes back. This could be an interesting running team who plays ball control offense. That can win games when other teams get sloppy. DEFENSE: The defense returns 7 starters from a unit that allowed 30.2PPG & they also lose their top-3 tacklers. It’s a mixed bag really. There wasn’t a ton of talent to begin with, but HC Dave Doeren should have the defense in much better shape. The D-Line returns 3 starters with DT Thomas Teal & DE Art Norman potentially being All-ACC players. What might be more interesting is in the influx of solid defensive talent in DE Kentavius Street, S Germaine Pratt, CB Troy Vincent, DT Justin Jones, & LB Ty Linton. The defense will be better this year. Not great but better. SCHEDULE: Tough to have a good record when you draw road games against L’Ville, UNC, Syracuse & Clemson & also draw FSU. That’s 5 losses right there. If they can beat either Georgia Tech at home or USF on the road, they could get to 6 wins.
#6 PROJECTED RECORD: 3-9 (1-7); OFFENSE: By season’s end, HC Dave Clawson may wish he would have stayed on at Bowling Green. The Demon Deacons haven’t had a winning season since 2008 & it doesn’t look good this year. They return 5 starters from an offense that scored just 18.3PPG. The worst part is that they lose their QB, top rushers, 2 top receivers and the left half of their offensive line! The best part of the offense is probably receivers where Jared Crump (6’3/190), Tyree Harris (6’3/180) & Zach Gordon (6’5/250) are all sophomore receivers with great size. They’ll need a QB to throw them the ball & that looks to fall on Tyler Cameron. Clawson needs to upgrade the talent level here. DEFENSE: Wake brings back only 5 starters from a defense that allowed 24.1PPG. In a year in which WF fans saw the Deacons go 4-8, the defense was the lone bright spot. Unfortunately Wake loses their entire defensive line & 5 of their top-9 tacklers. At least there are some decent pieces here. CB Kevin Johnson is one of the best in the league & LB Brandon Chubb & S Ryan Janvion combined for 183 tackles last season! The D-Line is alarmingly small but keep an eye on DE Desmond Floyd who at 6’5/260lbs could be an impact rusher. The defense might be worse but not by much. SCHEDULE: Nasty. They draw VaTech & Duke out of the Coastal. They also play NC State in Raleigh. They even have a game at Utah St.! They get BC at home so I think they can win that & I think they’ll beat Gardner-Webb. Nothing sets up well here. Wake could get to 3-9 but they could get to 1-11!
#7 PROJECTED RECORD: 3-9 (0-8); OFFENSE: Steve Addazio has shown himself to be a pretty good HC but he’s got his work cut out for him in 2014. Boston College returns just 3 starters from an offense that scored 27.7PPG en route to a 7-6 season. They lose some serious contributors in RB Andre Williams (2177yds/18TD/6.1ypc), QB Chase Retig (61.6%/1995yds/17TD/8INT), their top-4 receivers and both offensive tackles! WR Alex Amidon & RB Andre Williams actually left school as BC’s all time leading receiver & rusher respectively! The interior O-Line should be pretty good especially with C Andy Gallik & G Bobby Vardaro but this team is going to struggle to score 20PPG given the insane amount of attrition they’ve suffered! DEFENSE: The losses aren’t as bad on the defensive side of the ball as BC returns 6 starters from a defense that allowed 28.9PPG. The problem though is who they lost. LB Steele Divitto & LB Kevin Pierre-Louis were #1 & #2 in tackles with 112 & 108 respectively. They combined for 16.5TFL & 2INT! Also gone is DE Kasim Edebali who led the team in sacks with 9.5 and TFL with 15! DT Kaleb Ramsey is also gone & like Pierre-Louis was an NFL Draft pick! There are some interesting pieces here though. BC returns their entire secondary & LB Steven Daniels is a solid player. Thre guys are VERY interesting are 6’9/290lbs DE Brian Mihalik, 6’7/290lbs DT Mehdi Abdesmad & 6’7/270lbs Malachi Moore. That’s incredible size! SCHEDULE: Nasty. BC is rebuilding & unfortunately they get Wake on the road. I think 3-9 but could see 4-8 or 2-10. No bowl for BC!

 

ACC ATLANTIC OVERALL OUTLOOK: From a championship perspective there is really no team in the division that can possibly contend with Florida State. The Seminoles are ENTIRELY too good and the historically great teams in the conference such as Virginia Tech & Miami-FL are in the Coastal. Clemson is historically good too but they are going through a rebuilding year so to speak given what they lost on offense so Florida State doesn’t necessarily have to worry about them. The real story to me is what happens with Clemson, Louisville & Syracuse. Clemson could still be a fairly dangerous team if they can get their offense up to speed which could mean a win or two more than I think. Louisville is also interesting. Although they look like they lose quite a few players, there is still a lot of talent especially on offense. If Bobby Petrino can work his magic and QB Will Gardner emerges, the Cardinals could really contend for 10-11 wins. And then there is Syracuse who should be an extremely scrappy team with a schedule that could give them 8-9 wins. It’s an interesting division to a certain extent although the bottom 3 teams aren’t very competitive. Florida St. should roll in this one. There really aren’t any challengers.

 

RANK B1G WEST COMMENTS
#1 PROJECTED RECORD: 11-1 (8-0); OFFENSE: The Tar Heels bring back 8 starters from an offense that scored 32.7PPG including QB Marquise Williams. UNC was like a different team with Williams took over the starting duties from Bryn Renner. Williams didn’t disappoint going 5-1 in his starts, passing for 1698yds/15TD & rushing for 536yds/6TD! The Heels always have talent and Williams has a nice supporting cast around him. TJ Logan returns at RB & even though UNC loses TE Eric Ebron, WR Quinshad Davis (6’4/215lbs) steps in to be that legitimate #1 WR threat. The Heels return 3 on the O-Line. Williams, Logan & Davis should compete for all-ACC honors. Keep an eye on frosh RB Elijah Hood. The 6’0/220lbs speedster could have an impact. I really like this offense. DEFENSE: UNC returns 7 starters from a defense that allowed 24.5PPG. They return 9 of their top-12 tacklers. They have a couple of players in DE Kareem Martin, CB Jabari Price & S Tre Boston who were all NFL Draft picks that will be hard to replace but talent has never been an issue in Chapel Hill. DE Norkeithus Otis will try to replace Martin’s pass rushing ability & the entire LB corps returns. If there is a weakness it’s that UNC will start two frosh along the D-Line & have 2 new corners. There is upside to this defense & at worst they’ll put up similar numbers to 2013. SCHEDULE: UNC gets pretty lucky in that they avoid FSU & get VT, GT & Pittsburgh at home. Road games against Clemson, Notre Dame & Miami-FL could be problematic but I think UNC gets them at the right time. A huge year is in store for UNC!
#2 PROJECTED RECORD: 9-3 (5-3); OFFENSE: I think Paul Chryst is a great fit at Pittsburgh. The Panthers return 8 starters from an offense that averaged 26PPG. Chryst has averaged 26PPG in his first 2 seasons at Pitt but he was the OC at Wisconsin for 7 years when the Badgers were running up 30-40PPG! Losing QB Tom Savage is a blow, but RB James Conner (6’2/230lbs) & RB Isaac Bennett (5’11/205lbs) both return & averaged 5.5 & 4.7ypc respectively. I don’t know if Pittsburgh will employ the 2-man RB tandems Wisconsin destroyed people with but you can see the imprint. Pitt is running a 2-TE set & is stacked at WR with Tyler Boyd & Manasseh Garner. The O-line returns 4 starters & you get the feeling Pittsburgh’s offense is about ready to explode in year 3 even with a new QB a the helm. DEFENSE: Pitt returns 5 starters from a unit that allowed 27.2PPG. A lot is being made of losing DT Aaron Donald & there should be. Donald had 11sacks/28.5TFL & was a 1st Team All-American, but the Panther still allowed almost 30PPG! Like Carolina, the Panthers have some question marks on the DL & in the secondary. LB Anthony Gonzalez should be a lynchpin in the middle as will S Ray Vinopal, but I think it comes together somehow & Pitt allows fewer points in ’14. SCHEDULE: The schedule works well for Pitt as they get home games against Iowa, VT, GT, Duke & Syracuse. They avoid FSU & Clemson from the Atlantic. They get UNC in Chapel Hill but you can’t win them all & road games against UVa & Miami-FL seem winnable. Win at home & win 9-10 games.
#3 PROJECTED RECORD: 8-4 (5-3); OFFENSE: Virginia Tech brings back 9 starters from an offense that scored just 22.5PPG last season but do not return VaTech all time leading passer Logan Thomas! I’m not sure what to make of this. Thomas completed 57% of his passes for 2907yds & 16TD to 13INT. I’m almost of the opinion that Thomas held the Hokies back, but then I see what he’s doing in camp with the Arizona Cardinals & wonder if the talent around him was just terrible? The Hokies haven’t been dominant offensively since 2010 & I’m not sure the trend doesn’t continue. There is a lot of experience here outside of the QB position so maybe VT can get better but I’d expect them to struggle again offensively. DEFENSE: VT returns 9 starters from a unit that allowed 19.3PPG. It’s really an odd makeup. The Hokies return all 4 secondary players & have the best DB unit in the nation but they return just 1 of their front-7 & lose a TREMENDOUS amount of their pass rushing ability. There is obvious talent here but DTs Corey Marshall & Luther Maddy along with LBs Chase Williams & Deon Clarke will have to show an ability stop the run if the Hokies are going to stop opposing offenses from taking their secondary out of the game. CB Kendall Fuller could be an All-American! SCHEDULE: The Hokies avoid FSU & Clemson but get a non-conference road game at Ohio St. & conference road games against UNC, Pitt & Duke. Given the D-line I’m not sure a home game against GT is a win. It’s not horrible really but 3 tough road games mean at leas 3 losses. Bowl win gives them 8-9.
#4 PROJECTED RECORD: 8-4 (5-3); OFFENSE: The names might change but the results stay the same with HC Paul Johnson & the Yellow Jackets. You might think GT could be down as they bring back just 6 starters & lose their starting QB & their 3 leading rushers, but I don’t see it. The O-line has 3 starters back & 4 upperclassmen as projected starters. QB Justin Thomas is a soph but is in his 3rd year in the program. DeAndre Smelter (6’3/225) & Darren Waller (6’5/230lbs) gives GT a couple of huge outside threats to keep defenses honest & all in all it looks like GT will once again average 33-36PPG. It’s so hard to evaluate GT because it’s such a system based offense, but it works. DEFENSE: GT returns 4 starters from a defense that allowed 22.8PPG. That sound daunting but the other time Paul Johnson had just 4 starters returning was his first year in 2008 & it was the best scoring defense he’s had during his tenure at GT! DE Jeremiah Attaochu’s 12.5sacks will be hard to replace. Oddly enough GT loses a few NFL Draft picks in Attaochu, LB Brandon Watts & S Jemea Thomas. Like North Carolina, GT has questions at DL & in the secondary. There are some pretty nice pieces though. DT Adam Gotsis & DE Kenderius Whitehead should anchor the D-line & MLB Quayshawn Nealy could be all-ACC. It looks a little rough but you never know. SCHEDULE: It’s not terrible. They avoid FSU and get Miami-FL, Duke, Virginia & Clemson at home. Those are all winnable games. For the season to be a success, GT has to win their games in Bobby Dodd Stadium. I think they do.
#5 PROJECTED RECORD: 7-5 (3-5); OFFENSE: Duke returns 8 starters including QB Anthony Boone from an offense that scored 32.8PPG last year. There is certainly a lot to like here. Duke returns 3 starters on the O-line. Leading rusher Josh Snead averaged 6.1ypc & he returns. Boone completed 64% of his passes and while his TD:INT ratio was 13:13, you have to like his accuracy & expect his decision making to get better in his senior season. Duke has up to 5 players on offense that could be all-ACC with WR Jamison Crowder & G Laken Tomlinson potentially being 1st team selections. When was the last time you could say that about Duke football? There is no denying David Cutcliffe’s great job here but Duke isn’t sneaking up on anyone this year so the offense might be down a point or two. DEFENSE: Duke returns 6 starters from a unit that allowed 26.6PPG. The Blue Devils return their top-3 tacklers & 5 of their top-6. The only real loss is DE Kenny Anunike but do lose 3 starters along the D-line. They also bring in new corners who are sophomores so they’ll be inexperienced in the secondary. Still, S Jeremy Cash is a BEAST and LBs David Helton & Kelby Brown could combine with Cash to give Duke 3 1st-Team All-ACC defenders. That’s nuts! If the D-Line holds this unit could be a tick better. SCHEDULE: Like I said, Duke isn’t sneaking up on anyone this year & have road games against Miami-FL, GT, Pitt & Syracuse. They also play VT & UNC who will be ready to play. They’ll get bowl eligible but won’t win the Coastal & won’t finish with a 10-4 record.
#6 PROJECTED RECORD: 4-8 (2-6); OFFENSE: The Cavaliers bring back 7 starters from an offense that scored 19.8PPG in ’13. QB David Watford does return but he was so bad in ’13 that I’d expect Greyson Lambert to take over signal caller duties. This is a mixed bag. On the one hand why would you want a collection of moribund players? On the other, the guys were so bad they’d have to get better right? There are some great pieces here. Lambert looks the part at 6’5/230lbs. RB Kevin Parks ran for 1000+yds last season. WRs Kyle Dockins & Keeon Johnson are 6’3/215lbs & got a lot of run as frosh last season. TE Zachary Swanson at 6’6/260lbs is another huge weapon. The O-Line brings back 3 starters. If Lambert can be decent, this offense will really improve. DEFENSE: UVA brings back 9 starters from a defense that allowed 33.3PPG! It’s just like the offense really. Is anyone any good? There is actually quite a bit of talent on hand here. DE Eli Haorld led the team in sacks (8.5) and TFL (15). DE Mike Moore is 6’4/270lbs! S Anthony Harris has a chance to be an All-American & the Cavs bring back their entire back-7 which has TREMENDOUS SIZE! LB Max Valles is 6’5/240. CB Maurice Canady is 6’2/190lbs! I can’t help but think Mike London is a good coach & this defense could be extremely good. SCHEDULE: The schedule is BRUTAL with road games against VT, FSU, GT & Duke. They draw BYU & UCLA in the non-conference which is INSANE! They do get Miami-FL & Pitt at home. The more I look at UVA the more I like them, but the schedule keeps them from bowling.
#7 PROJECTED RECORD: 5-7 (2-6); OFFENSE: I can’t believe I have THE U here, and this is probably my biggest stretch as a prediction. The offense returns 7 starters from a team that averaged 33.8PPG but lose QB Stephen Morris who threw for 3028yds/21TD. Morris left Miami as their #3 all-time leading passer  so he’ll be tough to replace. That a rFR in Kevin Olsen is replacing him makes things doubly difficult although Olsen is in his 2nd year of the program. RB Duke Johnson & WR Stacy Coley can make a claim to being the best RB/WR duo in the ACC. The O-Line returns 3 starters & 6 of the returning 7 starters will compete for all-ACC honors. There is a lot to like here. Morris did complete just 58% of his passes & threw 12INT. If Olsen can match that, Miami’s offense could actually be better especially if Duke Johnson doesn’t miss half the year! DEFENSE: Miami returns 7 starters from an offense that allowed 27PPG. It’s Miami so the talent is there but for some reason the last 2 seasons Miami’s defense hasn’t been that good. LB Denzel Perryman is arguably the best ILB in the entire nation & should be a 1st team All-American. I like DE Anthony Chickillo but the rest of the team really needs to step up. SCHEDULE: So this is why I think Miami regresses this season. They draw Florida St. & Louisville from the Atlantic & both are read games. They get a non-conference road game at Nebraska. They also play GT, VT & UVA on the road & still have to play UNC & Pittsburgh. It’s an incredibly difficult road & Miami will be depending on a freshman QB. I just can’t see it.

 

ACC COASTAL OVERALL OUTLOOK: I think it’s interesting that Florida St. in the Atlantic is projected to go 8-0 in conference as is North Carolina. Like FSU, the 2nd place team in the Coastal (Pittsburgh) is expected to be 3 games behind the Tar Heels meaning the Coastal should end up quite a bit like the Atlantic with UNC having the division wrapped up. I also think the symmetry between the #2-#4 teams is interesting as both the Coastal & Atlantic have 3 teams expected to finish the season with 5-3 conference records. The middle of the Coastal with Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech & Georgia Tech should be just as interesting as the middle of the Atlantic with Pittsburgh, Syracuse & Clemson. All 3 teams are similarly flawed with a lot to replace on offense. I think at times like this you forget how much schedule plays a role in the outcomes of football seasons. Some publications feel this is the best team Al Golden has had at Miami-FL yet I have it projected to be Golden’s worst season since coming to Coral Gables. It’s easy to forget that Miami-FL is 7-2 in close games over the last 2 seasons with a TO margin of +12. Regression is going to come calling at some point & it certainly seems that is likely for the Hurricanes in 2014 given the QB situation and the schedule. While North Carolina should be one of the surprise teams in college football this season with just how many games they are going to win, the story of the ACC Coastal could be Miami-FL and how many games they are going to lose. Granted, going 5-7 isn’t going 2-10 or 1-11, but 5-7 seasons are simply unacceptable season for Miami-FL, and let’s not forget that Miami-FL hasn’t really been nationally relevant since 2003. That is a long time to have a team as historically great as Miami lay dormant.

August 30, 2014 Posted by | ACC, Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida St., Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami-FL, NC State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Predictions, Previews, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest | Leave a comment

2014 ACC: A Look At Predictive Analytics From 2013

It’s always fun to look at the big picture when evaluating college football teams to get an idea of where their season might be headed. There are some advanced metrics that can give us some insight into some of the “luck” that teams will have in the coming season based on these particular stats regression to the mean in most cases. For the discussion below, I use the following:

CLOSE GAMES: Games decided by 7 points or fewer
TURNOVER MARGIN (TO Margin)
PYTHAGOREAN: A theoretical winning percentage based on points scored & allowed; (PS*PS)/((PS*PS)+(PA*PA))
LUCK: The difference between Pythagorean & a team’s actual record

This doesn’t always mean that teams will trend opposite of what they did the previous year. You have to look at context and previous years to get a sense of where a team might be headed in the upcoming season. It also doesn’t mean that regression to the mean will be reflected in the overall record. A team could be 0-7 in close games with a TO margin of -25 and a Pythagorean suggesting they were 2.62 wins better than their win total from the previous season, but if the team is short on talent and has an extremely difficult schedule ahead without many opportunities for home wins, regressing might not mean that much in the win column.

Moving on to the ACC,  here are the overall trends for each team. Discussion follows:

TRENDING UP: Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia
TRENDING DOWN: Florida St., Louisville, Clemson, Miami-FL, Duke, Notre Dame, Boston College, Pittsburgh
TREADING WATER: Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Wake Forest, NC State

The ACC is the first conference we come to where the overwhelming favorites for the conference title are teams that are actually trending down given their predictive analytics from a season ago. Florida St. & Clemson are the two most talented teams in the conference and you can really never count out a Bobby Petrino led football program. Even teams like Miami-FL & Notre Dame are tricky because while they might be regressing from a predictive standpoint, the overall ability of the teams in question might actually have increased from a season ago. The team to really keep a look out for is North Carolina. Larry Fedora is in his 3rd year and the Tar Heels are the best they’ve been since he took over in Chapel Hill. The schedule is favorable and UNC avoids Florida St. during the regular season which could set us up for shades of 1997 when UNC & Florida St. hooked up in a HUGE battle for ACC supremacy at Kenan Stadium as the #2 Seminoles beat the #5 Tar Heels 20-3. It was also the last season Mack Brown coached at North Carolina before bolting for the Texas job. This could definitely make for an interesting year in the ACC. Don’t forget about Virginia Tech either. The Hokies are always good but the last 2 years have been a bit tortuous for the fans in Blacksburg. While their predictive measures suggest they are treading water, it’s not a bad spot to be in if Lady Luck comes calling.

Teams are listed in descending order of their Pythagorean winning percentage. Following the chart are the raw numbers in each category.

RANK TEAM COMMENTS
#1 It’s almost impossible to run the table at 14-0 & win a national championship without a little luck. Florida St. was no different as the Seminoles benefited from a +17 in TO margin, a 1-0 record in close games and a Pythagorean of .948 which suggests they were 0.73 wins worse than the 14 wins they eventually ended up with. All this points to regression but Florida St. is so good it might not matter. They get Clemson, Notre Dame & Florida at home. Granted they Miami-FL & Louisville on the road & they have a non-conference game against Oklahoma St. but really FSU didn’t have much luck when it came to close games or Pythagorean. While they lost a lot, they return a lot & the talent at FSU is arguably the best in the nation. Even with a regression to the mean with TO margin, Florida St. has a real chance to go undefeated in the regular season for a second year!
#2 Charlie Strong went out with a bang at Louisville & had a little help from Lady Luck as the Cardinals finished 3-1 in close games with a +17 TO margin! Louisville’s Pythagorean of .893 suggested they were .39 wins worse than their final 12-1 record would show. All of this points towards regression & L’Ville might be in for a rough year. They lose QB Teddy Bridgewater & the defense loses 7 starters & 7 of their top-9 tacklers from a unit that allowed 12.2PPG which ranked #2 nationally! The ACC isn’t the AAC and that’s reflected in the schedule. Louisville has road games against Clemson & Notre Dame. They have a non-conference game against Kentucky & also draw Miami-FL from the Coastal. There is still a lot of talent here & Bobby Petrino can coach some serious football, but taken together as a whole, it’s hard to see Louisville not taking a step back from 12-1 a year ago.
#3 After having back-to-back 11-2 seasons & a 32-8 record over the last 3, it’s about time for Clemson to step up & challenge for a national title. Unfortunately Lady Luck could be swinging the other way. Clemson benefited from a +6 TO margin & a 2-0 record in close games. Their Pythagorean of .767 showed they were 1.03 win worse than their 11-2 record, the 4th luckiest mark in the ACC! This points towards a step back in 2014 & the schedule suggests this too. It doesn’t help that Clemson plays Georgia & South Carolina as non-conference games! That’s ridiculous. They get Florida St. & Georgia Tech on the road. They drew North Carolina from the Coastal. They return only 12 starters & will likely have true frosh Deshaun Watson playing QB. This is still Clemson so talent is abundant, but if Luck goes the other way this could easily be a 6-8 win team by year’s end.
#4 It’s amazing to think Georgia Tech had the 4th best Pythagorean in the ACC & somehow managed to finish 7-6. Lady Luck hated the Yellow Jackets last year as GT suffered through a -4 in TO margin along with an 0-2 record in close games. Their .702 Pythagorean suggests GT was 2.13 wins BETTER than their actual record which was by far the unluckiest mark in the conference. All of this points towards serious regression towards winning for the Ramblin’ Wreck! Paul Johnson runs the triple option system which is extremely difficult to defend & doesn’t depend on so much continuity to succeed so GT returning 6 starters on offense isn’t crushing. It doesn’t help they return 4 on defense though. They avoid FSU & L’Ville out of the Atlantic but get VT, UNC, Pitt, & Georgia on the road. They also draw Clemson. Luck should be on GT’s side & they can win big if they win at home.
#5 The Tar Heels are another team trending upwards for 2014. The +2 in TO margin isn’t that significant, but UNC went 1-2 in close games & their Pythagorean of .641 suggests they were 1.33 wins better than their final record of 7-6. Larry Fedora runs a high octane offense & Carolina hasn’t disappointed here averaging 41PPG in 2012 & 33PPG in 2013. This season should be UNC’s best yet offensively as they return 8 starters on offense including QB Marquise Williams who won’t be a new starter. The defense should be better too with 7 starters returning along with 9 of their top-12 tacklers. UNC avoids FSU & L’Ville from the Atlantic & get VT, GT & Pitt at home. Road dates at Notre Dame, Clemson & Miami-FL are daunting but could be wins for the Tar Heels. With no Florida St. and Lady Luck looking to turn towards UNC, it’s not out of the question for UNC to run the table!
#6 I love what Al Golden is doing in Coral Gables but this could be a tough season for the Hurricanes. Miami was 3-0 in close games last year & had a +5 TO margin which actually bumps up to +12 if you look at the past 2 seasons. Their .615 Pythagorean suggests Miami was a 1.00 games worse than their 9-4 record shows. This all points towards Miami-FL regressing a bit in 2014, but what makes Miami-FL interesting is that Golden has improved his win total every season since his first & this is the best team he’s had, but the schedule isn’t kind. They draw L’Ville & Florida St. from the Atlantic & have to play Georgia Tech & Virginia Tech on the road. They even have a non-conference road game against Nebraska & another with Cincinnati. Looking at the schedule combined with how Lady Luck is likely to shy away from “THE U” this year, a down year is more than likely.
#7 Duke is another interesting team out of the ACC. They are coming off arguably the greatest season in school history, going 10-4 & winning the ACC Atlantic division! They couldn’t finish well losing to Florida St. in the ACC title game & then dropping a close one to Texas A&M in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but Duke going 10-4!? It’s unheard of. They did get lucky benefiting from a 4-2 close games record & being +1 in TO margin. The TO margin doesn’t mean much but Duke’s Pythagorean of .602 shows they were 1.57 wins worse than their final record which was the luckiest mark in the ACC! What’s interesting is that Duke actually returns quite a bit & the schedule isn’t brutal as they avoid FSU, L’Ville & Clemson from the Coastal! They get VT & UNC at home & Duke beat both of them on the road last season. They’ll regress with respect to luck, but Duke could still win some games.
#8 The Irish aren’t in the ACC but I’m placing them here because ND is an ACC team in every respect except football & they’ll start playing an ACC-centric schedule. The Irish don’t show any luck when it comes to their TO margin which was ZERO but Notre Dame did enjoy a 5-2 record in close games & their Pythagorean of .597 shows they were 1.24 wins worse than their 9-4 record indicates. All of this points towards regression & let’s not forget just how much talent the Irish lost to the 2014 NFL Draft. The schedule doesn’t do ND any favors as they have road games against Florida St. & USC not to mention home dates against Michigan, Stanford, North Carolina, Northwestern & Louisville! HC Brian Kelly has a massive amount of talent in South Bend & Everett Golson returns as QB so this is probably a better team than last year’s but regression & schedule kill Notre Dame.
#9 Virginia Tech is the first team we come to that is essentially treading water. The Hokies were +7 in TO margin last year but 2-3 in close games. Their Pythagorean of .577 shows they were 0.50 games worse than their final 8-5 record would show. Things haven’t been easy in Blacksburg of late as the Hokies are an uncharacteristic 13-11 over the last 2 seasons finishing outside the top-25 in both years. This year luck could run either way but the schedule is favorable for a good run. They avoid FSU, Clemson & L’Ville from the Atlantic & get GT & Miami-FL at home. They do play at UNC & have a road game against Ohio St., but if luck swings their way & VT takes care of business in Lane Stadium, there is no reason to think Virginia Tech couldn’t get back to double-digit wins. It sounds crazy, but I think Logan Thomas graduating actually helps their prospects quite a bit.
#10 Pittsburgh is another team somewhat treading water. They were -1 in TO margin although they were 4-2 in close games. Their Pythagorean of .484 suggests they were 0.78 wins worse than their 7-6 final record would indicate. You could argue the Panthers are in line for regression & that wouldn’t be too far off considering they are +20 in TO margin over the past 5 seasons! Pitt actually draws a pretty decent schedule managing to avoid FSU, Clemson & L’Ville out of the Atlantic & getting GT & VT at home. They return 8 starters on offense although they do lose QB Tom Savage. A bigger loss is DT Aaron Donald but the defense might actually be better considering Pitt gave up 27.2PPG last season! They have a very favorable schedule & if Pittsburgh can win home games & not get killed by regression, they could be one of the more surprising teams during the ’14 season.
#11 Boston College could be in for a rough season in Steve Addazio’s 2nd year at the helm. The Eagles benefited from a +3 TO margin along with a 2-1 record in close games. Their Pythagorean of .478 suggests they were 0.78 wins WORSE than their final 7-6 record. This is likely to mean regression for BC, but what compounds the issue is how inexperienced this team is going to be. They lose RB Andre Williams (2177yds!) & QB Chase Rettig along with both OTs and their top-4 receivers. They only have 3 starters returning on offense. Just 6 come back from a defense that allowed 29PPG! The Atlantic is no easy division at the top & BC has a road game against VT. USC is a brutal non-conference game but Colorado St. won’t be easy. Given the schedule, regression & the youth of this team, Boston College could suck, but Adazio will get the most out of this group.
#12 Syracuse is another ACC team treading water. They were +2 in TO margin in 2013 but were -2 in 2012 making it mostly a wash and they haven’t seen much variation in TO margin over the last few seasons. They were also 2-2 in close games. What is interesting about the Orange is that their Pythagorean of .444 suggests they were 1.23 wins WORSE than their final 7-6 record. That shows some potential for regression for Syracuse which isn’t good news as it was the 3rd luckiest mark in the conference! Given the TO margin & the record in close games I’d say Syracuse is treading water, but the schedule could conspire against the Cuse. They get Wake Forest, Pittsburgh & Boston College, all winnable games normally, on the road which will make them tougher. They do avoid UNC, VT & Miami out of the Coastal, but Syracuse will need Lady Luck to shine to get back to a bowl.
#13 Wake Forest is another team that is basically treading water. While the 0-4 record in close games would suggest a big turnaround, Wake Forest was -2 in TO margin in ’13 after being +17 in TO margin from 2011-2012! Their Pythagorean of .367 suggests they were 0.40 wins better than their final 4-8 record which doesn’t indicate much of anything. Like Duke, Indiana & Kansas, Wake Forest just has a hard time winning football games given their situation. New HC Dave Clawson takes over for Jim Grobe who was a helluva head coach. Clawson did great things at Bowling Green & he’ll have his work cut out for him. Wake brings back just 5 starters on offense & defense. For the most part Wake Forest didn’t do too bad on their schedule avoiding UNC & Miami-FL from the Coastal, but did draw Virginia Tech. Maybe if Lady Luck shines BRIGHT they can win a few games.
#14 NC State enters the 2014 season basically treading water when it comes to predictive measures. They were ZERO in TO margin last year & 1-0 in close games. Their Pythagorean of .367 suggests they were 1.37 wins better than their final record of 3-9 in HC Dave Doeren’s first season Raleigh. What you have to look at is the environment NC State will play in this season to see if they can capitalize on Lady Luck. The team as a whole should get better as 7 starters return on both offense & defense. The Atlantic is a tough division but the Wolfpack have 4 winnable non-conference games. They avoid VT & Miami-FL out of the Coastal & get teams like Boston College & Wake Forest at home. Those 6 games right there get NC State bowl eligible at 6-6. If Lady Luck swings their way with close wins & a positive TO margin then there is no reason NC State can’t get to a bowl in ’14.
#15 There is a lot to like about Virginia coming into 2014. Their predictive measures show UVA to be regression towards the winning side of the ledge as they were -5 in TO margin & 1-1 in close games while their Pythagorean of .261 suggests they are 1.13 games BETTER than their 2-10 final record would show. It’s also worth mentioning that Mike London’s Cavaliers squads are -33 in TO margin in the 4-years he’s been head coach in Charlottesville. At some point the ball has to bounce Virginia’s way. Virginia brings back 17 starters so things look good. The problem is the schedule! Virginia draw both Louisville & Florida St. out of the Atlantic & have non-conference games against UCLA & BYU! Potential wins against Duke & GT are on the road while UNC & Miami-FL comes to Scott Stadium. Even a huge boost from Lady Luck might not help London keep his job for 2015.

PYTHAGOREAN WINNING PERCENTAGE

Florida St.: .948
Louisville: .893
Clemson: .767
Georgia Tech: .702
North Carolina: .641
Miami-FL: .615
Duke: .602
Notre Dame: .597
Virginia Tech: .577
Pittsburgh: .484
Boston College: .478
Syracuse: .444
Wake Forest: .367
NC State: .364
Virginia: .261

LUCK

Duke: +1.57
Notre Dame: +1.24
Syracuse: +1.23
Clemson: +1.03
Miami-FL: +1.00
Boston College: +0.78
Florida St.: +0.73
Pittsburgh: +0.71
Virginia Tech: +0.50
Louisville: +0.39
Wake Forest: -0.40
Virginia: -1.13
North Carolina: -1.33
NC State: -1.37
Georgia Tech: -2.13

TURNOVER MARGIN

Florida St.: +17
Louisville: +17
Virginia Tech: +7
Clemson: +6
Miami-FL: +5
Boston College: +3
North Carolina: +2
Syracuse: +2
Duke: +1
NC State: 0
Notre Dame: 0
Pittsburgh: -1
Wake Forest: -2
Georgia Tech: -4
Virginia: -5

RECORD IN GAMES DECIDED BY 7 POINTS OR FEWER

Miami-FL: 3-0
Clemson: 2-0
Florida St.: 1-0
NC State: 1-0
Louisville: 3-1
Notre Dame: 5-2
Duke: 4-2
Pittsburgh: 4-2
Boston College: 2-1
Syracuse: 2-2
Virginia: 1-1
Virginia Tech: 2-3
North Carolina: 1-2
Georgia Tech: 0-2
Wake Forest: 0-4

July 13, 2014 Posted by | ACC, Analytics, Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida St., Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami-FL, NC State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Predictions, Previews, Rankings, Statistics, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest | Leave a comment

Offensive Strengths and Weakness for 2012 Big East

CINCINNATI BEARCATS

Strengths: Cincinnati is taking on significant losses offensively from a team that finished strong last season at 10-3. The best strength coming back is their receiving corps led by WR Anthony McClung (6’0/163lbs) who led the team with 49 catches for 683 yards & 6TD along with WR Kenbrell Thompkins who chipped 44 of his own catches for 536 yards & 2TD. Jordan Luallen brings quite a bit of size to the equation at 6’3/215lbs. He’s more of a work in progress as he played QB last year for the Bearcats and is transitioning to receiver. TE Travis Kelce has incredible size at 6’6/260lbs and should be a decent threat down the field. Cincinnati also has considerable size in the 2-deep as well. Sophomore Kyjuan Lewis is 6’3/200lbs. Senior Damon Julian is 6’2/215lbs while sophomore Alex Chisum is 6’3/186lbs. Cincinnati has had some tremendous receiving talent in the past few years with Mardy Gilyard & Dominick Goodman. McClung was a 2nd-Team All Big East receiver last year and will look to improve upon that. Thompkins also has a chance to be an all conference performer. With two top wideouts along with tremendous size & speed up and down the roster, Cincinnati is definitely strongest at receiver.

Weaknesses: The Bearcats have a lot to replace starting with star RB Isaiah Pead who rushed for 1,259 yards (5.3ypc) & 12TD while also contributing 319 receiving yards & 3TD. Pead also served as the team’s punt returner. What’s most remarkable about Pead is that he not only was a unanimous 1st-Team All Big East selection, but was also the Big East’s offensive player of the year and a 2nd-Round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams! The Rams envision Pead being the heir apparent to Steven Jackson which is giving Pead exceptionally high praise! At 5’11/210lbs, Pead has the ability to be an every down back in the NFL given his ability & pass catching skills. That isn’t easily replaced and the job is likely going to Jameel Poteat. Poteat was a true frosh last season and a highly recruited one, but didn’t get much run time because of Pead. JUCO transfer Aaron Harris should also carry the rock a bit, but replacing the best RB in the conference is a tall order and the running game has to be considered a weakness. Cincinnati loses another major contributor in QB Zach Collaros. Collaros wasn’t a fantastic QB by the metrics, but he was a 2-year starter who saw significant action for 3 straight years and leaves UC as the team’s 3rd leading passer in program history! I’m going to view losing Collaros as a weakness but remember that he completed 61% of his passes for only 1,940 yards with 15TD to 10INT. Collaros’s decision making wasn’t the best and the Bearcats certainly ran the ball much more than they passed it. Replacing Collaros is junior Munchie Legaux who saw limited action last year completing 47.4% of his passes for 749 yards & 5TD to 4INT. Legaux is a big QB at 6’5 but a little light at under 200lbs! He was originally recruited as a WR so who really knows what HC Butch Jones has here. True frosh QB Bennie Coney has good size at 6’3/215lbs and was in for the spring so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get some time under center this season. Either way, Collaros actually leaves Cincinnati as the program’s all time leader in completion percentage. I think there will be some fall off in overall QB production. The other weakness for Cincinnati is their O-line. The O-line was a solid unit last season allowing just 22 sacks and paving the way for UC to average 4.6ypc, but it loses 1st-Team All Big East LG Randy Martinez, 2nd-Team All Big East LT Alex Hoffman and C Evan Davis! Losing 2 conference players and the QB of the line isn’t an easy plug and fill problem. Returning starting guards Austen Bujnoch has a chance to be all-conference, but the rest of the line looks pretty thin. As a unit the projected starting O-line averages 6’6.5″/288lbs and has 28 starts between them. They are a little light on talent, weight, and experience which equals out to being a weakness.

Game Plan: This is a really interesting team because it’s not often you see teams heavy at receiver and light every where else. Obviously receivers need a QB to get them the ball so the plan would initially call for defenses to take away the pass and force the Bearcats to run the football as best as they can. However, I think you want to play to the weakness of UC’s offense and that means allowing the QB the option of throwing the football because it’s likely to be Legaux who completed 47% of his passes last season or a true freshman in Coney. Although I regard UC’s running attack as somewhat of a weakness because of the loss of Isaiah Pead, I think sophomore Jameel Poteat has some serious talent and JUCO Aaron Harris will step in and contribute as well. Cincinnati is somewhat deep at RB, but extremely inexperienced. I think defenses need to stack the box on UC and get a ton of pressure on the QB on the edge. This will give the QB the look of one-on-one coverage making him think it’s advantageous to throw the football, but this works well because right now Cincinnati doesn’t have anyone on the roster who can complete passes or make good enough decision to avoid the interception. With UC’s receiving talent it would seem obvious to take them out of the game, but with the rushing talent and the lack thereof taking snaps, forcing UC to throw the football is precisely what opposing defenses should do.

CONNECTICUT HUSKIES

Strengths: Connecticut has one of those offenses where you really have to talk about individual player strengths instead of unit strengths. RB Lyle McCombs had a great freshman season last year rushing for 1,151 yards (4.2ypc) & 7TD! McCombs was a 2nd-Team All Big East player and a 2nd-Team Freshman All-American! Very high praise for a RB out of a school that doesn’t get much football hype. McCombs also caught 19 passes. You might be wondering why the kid is playing in Storrs instead of Gainesville and the easy answer is that he’s listed at 5’8/166lbs. He simply doesn’t have the size to be an every down back. He did average about 23 carries per game last season, but unless he puts on 40lbs, the odds are stacked against him remaining healthy for very long. McCombs is a great weapon and a 1st-Team Big East player waiting to happen is he can stay healthy. Where Connecticut gets tricky is the rest of their players. The receivers don’t look so hot, but a closer look shows 3 projected starters with incredible upside. Senior Mike Smith (6’0/201lbs) was academically ineligible last season but started every game for UConn in 2010. Junior Bryce McNeal (6’1/180lbs) was one of the best high school WR in his class and was originally a Clemson recruit. He transferred in and will be able to play this season. Sophomore Shakim Phillips (6’1/200lbs) was another player as highly touted in his class as was McNeal. Phillips originally signed with Boston College but transferred to UConn. TE Ryan Griffin (6’6/250lbs) was a 2nd-Team All Big East player last year and is UConn’s leading returning receiver. He’s a 1st Team Player this year like McCombs and is the other strength UConn has besides McCombs. The receiving corps has the potential to be a legitimate BEAST for the Huskies, but the three projected starters didn’t have a single reception in 2011! The same can be said about the QB situation. Senior Johnny McEntee was the starter last season but completed just 51% of his passes for 2,110 yards & 12TD to 8INT. HC Paul Pasqualoni has brought in JC transfer Chandler Whitmer to take over along with true frosh Casey Cochran to back him up relegating McEntee to 3rd string status. From a talent perspective, UConn is moving in the right direction, but as with the receivers, the 1st and 2nd string QBs have yet to throw a pass at the FBS level!

Weaknesses: I’ve discussed the QB & WR situation above, but both have to be considered weaknesses at this point simply because UConn has absolutely nothing coming back from those positions outside of TE Griffin. The other significant weakness UConn has is their O-line. On paper the big uglies up front might not look so horrible but remember this is a unit that gave up 41 sacks last season and paved the way for their rushing attack to average 3.1ypc! That’s with a dynamic runner like McCombs averaging 4.2ypc! The O-Line does bring back 3 starters and 4 of the projected starters are upperclassmen, but until some production is actually seen out of this group, how can it be considered anything but a weakness? Senior guard Adam Masters has the potential to be an all-conference player, but he’s going to need some of his other guys to step up and don’t forget this unit is losing 1st Team Big East C Moe Petrus and 2nd Team Big East LT Mike Ryan! You maybe can argue that the unit could get better because how in the world could it possibly get any worse, but the line is a significant weakness and should be thought as such until proven otherwise.

Game Plan: The best option here is for the defense to put extreme pressure on the offensive line and stack the box in order to take away the run game. Connecticut is actually somewhat interesting in that their skill position players are a lot better than what I’m probably giving them credit for. The problem I see is that the skill position players don’t have tremendous experience so I’m calling them a liability, but the potential for them to play exceptionally well is there. The problem that is glaring is the QB position. While the receivers don’t have any experience, they are all highly touted. The QB position isn’t awful when it comes to talent but Chandler Whitmer & Casey Cochran don’t exactly have the same kind of talent as a Gunner Kiel. Banging away at the O-Line and forcing the QB into uncomfortable positions is certainly the way to go, but if the O-Line can hold it together and the QB can hit some of those receivers in their one-on-one coverages then that is going to open up the running game for McCombs. What’s somewhat interesting about UConn is that the offense actually has some pretty nice potential. The play and consistency of the QB will determine how much of this potential is fulfilled.

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS

Strengths: QB Teddy Bridgewater did some damage last season as a true freshman. The 6’3/207lbs QB completed a staggering 64.5% of his passes for 2,129 yards & 14TD to 12INT. The accuracy is a great number although Bridgewater’s decision making is a bit suspect because of the TD:INT ratio. That’s nit picking in my opinion. The guy was a true freshman that led the team to a 7-5 regular season finish! That says a lot about him. Bridgewater earned 1st-Team Freshman All-American honors and is probably the best QB in the Big East already. It’s too soon to start thinking about legacy, but if Bridgewater starts the 13 games Louisville is likely to play for the next 3 seasons then he’s looking at 49 career starts! If his completion percentage stays in the 65%-70% range then you are looking at a guy who might be the #1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Drat! Bridgewater is supposed to be some kind of duel threat QB as well, but he didn’t flash much of that last season. Either way, Louisville’s biggest strength is their QB and he’s a good one. A very good one! Louisville should also be strong at receiver. They bring back their top-2 receivers from last year in Michaelee Harris (6’2/192lbs) & Eli Rogers (5’10/185lbs). Those two combined to catch 78 balls for 909 yards & 3TD. Also coming back is DeVante Parker (6’3/204lbs) who chipped in 18 catches for 291 yards & 6TD with a remarkable 16.2 yards per catch! All three of those receivers were freshman last season so the report with Bridgewater has only gotten stronger and this could be a devastating passing attack in 2012. TE Nate Nord (6’5/250lbs) is the projected starter. Nord hasn’t done much in the passing game, but the size and talent is there. Aaron Epps is also an option. The rFR is 6’7/274lbs and could prove to be a matchup nightmare given how big he is. That’s Rob Gronkowski size! Senior Andrell Smith (6’3/220lbs) also comes back. Smith was fairly dynamic last season catching 11 balls for 207 yards & a TD but only played in 6 games. The talent & size at receiver is excellent and knowing that Bridgewater now has a year under his belt at the collegiate level makes this group even more dangerous. The O-Line didn’t have a great year last season giving up 41 sacks and paving the way for the Cardinals to rush for only 3.4ypc. However, the sack problem falls on Bridgewater a bit just because he was a true freshman and Louisville’s running game wasn’t exactly the best last season. I think the big guys up front will have a great year and they are one of Louisville’s biggest strengths. This year the O-Line has 4 returning starters back anchored by senior center Mario Benavides who should be a 1st-Team All Big East lineman this season! Guards Jake Smith & John Miller were freshman last season, but now are returning starters and should have a shot at all-conference. Same goes for senior Alex Kupper at LT. The only non-returning starters is projected RT Ryan Mack who is a rFR. That doesn’t sound great, but at least this is Mack’s second year in the program instead of being a true frosh. Combined the O-Line has 71 career starts and averages 6’3.5″/306lbs. The experience is great although the size is a little light. Still, the O-Line should be in for a much better season.

Weaknesses: If I had to nail down a weakness for Louisville it would be their running game. They lose last year’s leading rusher in Victor Anderson who rushed for 539 yards & 3TD. That doesn’t seem like a lot, and it isn’t, when you consider the projected starter Dominique Brown rushed for 533 yards & 4TD. Basically Louisville doesn’t lose a starting RB after all, but the the problem is that Anderson averaged 4.7ypc while Brown averaged 3.8ypc! It’s hard to get a feel for why Louisville’s run game wasn’t so hot. The O-Line was inexperienced to be sure especially at guard who play a huge part in the run game, but the unit averaged 3.4ypc after averaging 4.8ypc in 2010! That’s what happens when Bilal Powell is your RB! Brown is a big guy at 6’2/230lbs who originally came out of high school as a QB. Maybe it’s going to take him a bit of time to figure out the RB situation. Backing him up is Jeremy Wright (5’11/205lbs) who provides a bit of lightning to Brown’s thunder. Last season Wright rushed for 334 yards (4.6ypc) & 1TD. As it is constructed, you would think the rushing attack would be a little weak, but it’s possible the unit really comes together. The O-Line will be better, Bridgewater is in his 2nd year and maybe he’ll even start to run the ball more effectively. A weakness at this point with some upside.

Game Plan: Clearly you would like to force Louisville to run the football. Bridgewater is the key here and getting the ball out of his hands makes the most sense. I think defenses would be inclined to run a lot of nickle and dime packages against the Cardinals because the talent at receiver is great and so is the size. Bridgewater was extremely accurate as a passer his freshman season although his decision making could use improvement. If that does improve then it’s going to be incredibly difficult to stop Louisville through the air. Throwing a lot of coverage packages against them will somewhat force Louisville to run which would be playing into their weakness. The only problem here is that the O-Line looks to be much improved. If that’s the case then Louisville should be able to run which will open up the passing game. That basically eliminates weakness from Louisville’s offense which won’t be good news for the Big East. The running game will be key and if it opens up then Louisville is going to score a lot of points.

PITTSBURGH PANTHERS

Strengths: Pittsburgh should be one of the most dominant offensive teams in the Big East. Senior RB Ray Graham returns after rushing for 958 yards (5.8ypc!) & 9TD in only 8 games last season. Graham was also a threat in the passing game making 30 grabs for 200 yards! That’s 1,158 total yards through 8 games which is about 1,700 over a full 12-game season if Graham could have stayed healthy. The 5’9/195lbs back is a beast to contend with when he’s in the backfield. Despite playing two-thirds of the season, he was still named to the 1st-Team All Big East team and will surely be there this season if he manages to stay healthy. The problem however is that Graham went down with a torn ACL last year which caused him to miss Pittsburgh’s final 5 games. He’s back and looking good in practice so far, but until he starts playing in real games at real speed, we won’t be sure how to judge him effectively. He’s the best RB in the Big East if healthy. HC Paul Chyrst did bring in true frosh Rushel Shell who can make an argument of being the best RB in the Class of 2012! Graham should have help and RB is an easy place for true freshman to make a significant impact.  Another strength is QB Tino Sunseri. Sunseri sort of took a step back in 2011 compared to his stats in 2010, but he still managed to complete 64% of his passes for 2,616 yards & 10TD compared to 11INT. In 2010 Sunseri threw 16TD to 9INT so his TD:INT ratio got worse. Last season against Rutgers, Sunseri was 14 of 28 with 3 picks in a 34-10 blowout loss. His stats pretty much mirror his 2010 season if you do away with that game. Sunseri is a strength because he’s a kid with 2 years as the starting QB, he’s a senior and he’s got great accuracy. His decision making needs to improve, but he’s got loads of experience which he should capitalize on this year. He’s not as good as Bridgewater or USF’s BJ Daniels, but is good enough to win games. Pittsburgh’s biggest strength coming back is their receiving corps. The Panthers return their top-5 receivers from last year including 6’4/190lbs Devin Street (53 receptions, 754 yards & 2TD), 6’5/225lbs Mike Shanahan (39 catches, 493 yards & 4TD), and 5’7/170lbs Cameron Sadler (19 catches for 207 yards & 1TD in just 7 games b/c of injury). TE Hubie Graham (6’4/230lbs) also returns after notching 28 catches for 325 yards & 3TD! Shanahan, Sadler & Graham are all seniors while Street is a junior and was 2nd-Team All Big East last season! If you were going to draw up an ideal receiving unit you couldn’t do much better than Pittsburgh. Their edge receivers are 6’4 & 6’5. The lost receiver is 5’7. Graham is a weapon out of the backfield. Graham could stand to be 6’5 or 6’6 but 6’4 isn’t horrible. This unit has incredible potential with Street, Shanahan & Graham all competing for all-conference honors! I’m going to say the O-Line is a strength. They have 4 returning starters, 4 upperclassmen and 42 career starts. The line averages 6’5/310lbs with G Chris Jacobson, C Ryan Turnley & T Matt Rotheram all competing for all-conference honors. I’m going to list them as a strength for those reasons. However, I’m also going to list them as a weakness as you will see.

Weaknesses: The reason I believe the O-line to also be a weakness is their horrific stats last season. The unit allowed a MIND NUMBING 64 sacks last season after allowing just 15 in 2009 and 23 in 2010! If you are wondering why Sunseri has had problems with interceptions, it might be because he’s getting the crap kicked out of him at every turn! The line also took a turn for the worse in their run blocking. Last season Pitt rushed for 3.5ypc after rushing for 4.9ypc in 2009 and 4.6ypc in 2010! Obviously Pittsburgh had solid O-Line numbers in 2009 & 2010 and the pieces are in place to get them back to that point in 2012, but until we actually see some on field production, the O-Line is a weakness as well as a strength. That might be the only weakness however when it comes to the players. You have to be a bit concerned about Graham’s knee, but for now we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. It must be noted that Pittsburgh is having to learn the new schemes and philosophies of new HC Paul Chryst. Any offense is going to have some adjustment periods, but Chryst had previously been the OC at Wisconsin which is going to work out well at Pittsburgh. Chyrst has had some success with O-Lines, running backs and QBs during this time in Madison. If the Pittsburgh players buy in and adjust quickly, the Panthers could be in for a fantastic year offensively.

Game Plan: There really isn’t a weakness here to exploit. Pittsburgh’s problems over the past few seasons, in my opinion, have had to do with coaching. Wannstedt wasn’t a good coach and Walt Harris before him wasn’t exactly fantastic. It remains to be seen what Chryst can do with the Panthers but Pittsburgh is a pretty storied program in college football and is somewhat of a sleeping giant. Being in the Big East hasn’t helped them that much especially once Virginia Tech, Boston College & Miami-FL left, but the Panthers will be making their home in the ACC next year which certainly will help things along. This program will actually be one of the more interesting programs moving forward. As for this season, I think you have to stack the box to stop the run because Graham is too dynamic of a runner to leave alone. Sure he’s coming off of injury, but I’d rather make Sunseri and the receivers beat me instead of Graham at this point. The problem is that if Sunseri can stay upright, he’s shown the accuracy to really hurt a team with his arm. The receivers should also be very good which means defenses are going to have to respect the pass meaning Graham gets more room to run. At best, defenses are going to have to hope that Graham isn’t a 100% for the entire season so they can pay more attention to the pass while Pittsburgh keeps giving the ball to a player running at 75%. If Graham is 100%, I don’t see a weakness here & Paul Chryst will have a field day running an offense that is loaded with weapons.

RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS

Strengths: Rutgers has an interesting set of strengths. The Scarlet Knights rushing attack should be considered a strength although they didn’t produce great numbers averaging 2.8ypc last season. Rutgers returns their top-3 rushers from a season ago. Jawan Jamison (5’8/200lbs) & Savon Huggins (6’0/200lbs) are the two RBs for 2012 with Huggins being the projected starter. Huggins has a massive amount of talent and was just a true freshman last season, rushing for 146 yards & 5TD. Jamison rushed for 897 yards & 9TD so Rutgers should be covered with their ground game. Both runners will compete for all conference honors. The receiving corps takes a hit with the loss of Mohamed Sanu who caught 115 balls for 1,206 yards & 7TD earning 1st-Team All Big East honors. On the other hand, Rutgers returns Brandon Coleman (6’6/220lbs) who caught 17 balls for 552 yards (32.5ypc!!!!) including 6TD and also Mark Harrison (6’3/230lbs) who added 14 catches for 274 yards (19.6ypc!!!) and 2TD. Also projected as a starter is senior Timothy Wright who is 6’4/221lbs! TE DC Jefferson is 6’6/260lbs and caught 12 balls last season. As you can see, the Rutgers receivers are huge with Harrison & Coleman looking to be incredibly talented with their YPC averages last season. Coleman was just a freshman last season! Coleman, Harrison & Jefferson could be all conference receivers! Rutgers O-Line should also be a strength. They return LT Kaleb Johnson (3rd Team Freshman All American) and LG Andre Civil and got pretty lucky with RT RJ Dill transferring out of Maryland with 33 career starts under his belt! The two non-returning starters are C Dallas Hendrikson & RG Antwwan Lowery. Both are upperclassmen! Rutgers does lose 1st Team Al Big East RG Art Forst and 2nd Team All Big East LG Desmond Wynn, but I think this year’s unit will be better even with the two losses. Johnson, Civil, Dill & Hendrikson all have a chance to be all conference linemen meaning Rutgers should have one of the best O-Lines in the Big East.

Weaknesses: The one weakness Rutgers may have is at QB. Former HC Greg Schiano shuffled both Chas Dodd  and Gary Nova last season without much success for either. Dodd completed just 56.7% of his passes for 1,574 yards and 10TD to 7INT. Nova fared a bit worse completing only 51.1% of his passes for 1,553 yards & 11TD to 9INT. Nova at 6’2/210lbs is the more talented QB, but it’s a bit unclear who new HC Kyle Flood is going to go with under center. The old adage of having two quarterbacks is like having zero quarterbacks so Rutgers is in a little bit of a bind. Either way, neither QB showed much accuracy or good decision making last season and whoever takes snaps will have to get better at both qualities. I do think that whoever takes the snaps will get better, but it’s probably important for Flood to name a QB and stick with him rather than going QBBC again. The Scarlet Knights have a chance to improve on their 9-4 record from last season and improved QB play will be a part of that.

Game Plan: Defensively the biggest weakness for Rutgers is their QB play, primarily the accuracy and the interception problems. Nova & Dodd are the weak links here and if I’m a DC I’m going to try and make them throw the ball as much as I possibly can. This could be problematic because Rutgers seem to have some extremely talented receivers in Mark Harrison & Brandon Coleman. Getting the ball in their hands is bad news for defenses, but the trick will be hitting them with accuracy. This is a double edged sword though. Rutgers receivers are so big that putting them in 1-on-1 situations is brutally difficult! If Dodd/Nova can figure out a way to improve accuracy then teams are going to be hard pressed to stop the Scarlet Knights attack. I think the running game will be solid and if the passing attack opens up then there isn’t a huge weakness.

SOUTH FLORIDA BULLS

Strengths: QB BJ Daniels is probably the most electrifying player in the Big East. He’s not big at 6’0/215lbs but he can wing the football and he can run like the wind. I consider Daniels a strength because he’s a legitimate dual threat QB. Last season Daniels ran for 601 yards (4.6ypc) & 6TD while completed 59% of his passes for 2,585 yards & 13TD to only 7INT. He’s going to be battling Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater for 1st-Team All Big East honors all season and who knows who will wind up with the trophy. I love Daniels as a player and think if the Big East had an MVP award he would win it this season, but there is certainly room for improvement. His completion percentage needs to get a lot better. This is a senior QB with 33 starts under his belt. He needs to complete more than 60% of his passes. His TDs thrown also needs to get up in the 20s. He’s simply too good not to do this & I think we’ll see Daniels post his best year since starting in Tampa. He’s also got legacy considerations to think about as he has an outside shot at leaving USF as one of the program’s top-3 performers both as a passer and a rusher. Daniels is a huge strength, but USF”s receiving corps is stronger! The Bulls return their top-6 receivers! Those receivers combined for 176 catches, 2,095 yards & 9TD! This doesn’t include Lindsay Lamar who also returns and was tied for the team lead in TD receptions last season! It also doesn’t include Chris Dunkley (6’0/177lbs) who is an immensely talented WR that didn’t play last season because he sat out after transferring in from Florida.  That’s 8-deep at wideout! WR Sterling Griffen, WR Chris Dunkley, WR Deonte Welch & TE Evan Landi all have a shot at being All Big East this season! Daniels has had completion problems in the past but he shouldn’t this season with a WR unit as deep and as talented as any I can remember at South Florida. The Bulls should also be strong along the offensive line. They have 3 returning starters and 4 projected starters that are upperclassmen. The one underclassman starter is RT Quinterrus Eatmon who was a starter last season as s freshman and earned 3rd-Team Freshman All-American honors! LT Mark Popek was a 3rd Team All Big East performer last season so South Florida is looking great on the edges. The only returning starter on the interior is RG Danous Estenor but LG Damien Edwards is a senior and C Chandlor Mathews is a JUCO transfer that was in for spring ball. This unit was absolutely stellar last season allowing just 16 sacks and paving the way for USF to rush for 4.6ypc! Some of the sack totals are because of Daniels’s elusiveness as a dual threat QB, but overall the line was a legitimate positive. They do lose a 1st-Team Big East player in LG Jeremiah Warren and also C Chaz Hine who was a 3-year starter, but I think the line should be just as good if not better in 2012 than it was in 2011, which means it is most likely the best O-Line in the conference!

Weaknesses: If you had to identify a weakness for South Florida’s offense you’d go with the running game. They lose last year’s leading rusher in Darrell Scott who ran for 814 yards (5.3ypc) & 5TD. Scott declared early for the NFL draft although he wasn’t drafted. Left to replace him is senior Demetris Murray (6’0/224lbs) & JC transfer Michael Pierre (5’11/211lbs). Murray ran for 503 yards (4.2ypcs) & 8TD last season making 5 starts along the way. His yards per carry average wasn’t as good as Scott’s but Murray was effective running the football. Both backs are big who can carry the rock and avoid injuries. They are likely to be used in tandem in order for the unit to stay fresh, but there isn’t a ton of experience here so I’m going to list it as a weakness. Remember though that Daniels is a part of the running game and he’s great so the rushing attack is going to be a force. While I’m listing USF’s rushing attack as a weakness, it’s a relative term. The passing game, Daniels and a dominant O-Line should more than enough turn this team into a very solid running team even if it is the unit that appears to be the weakest among the four.

Game Plan: It might sound crazy, but if I’m a defensive coordinator I’m putting the ball in BJ Daniels hands and forcing him to beat with his arm. If there is a weakness to this offense, it’s Daniels’ inability to throw the ball accurately. The O-Line is too tough to beat off the edge or clog up the middle. Forget it because you don’t want Daniels getting outside of the pocket. The object would be to contain him and force him to go through his reads and make the right decision on who to throw the football to. If you can do that then you have a pretty good chance at forcing South Florida into an off day offensively. This is a team that averaged 29.3ppg last season and the offense looks quite a bit better. That number could easily climb into the 33-35 range especially if Daniels is having his way on offense. If the QB has managed to take a step and can hit receivers when he wants, then you are in trouble defensively because there there is no significant weakness on offense to exploit. The Bulls have been nibbling on the edges of being a top-25 program since 2006. This year might be the time they finally win the Big East and get to a BCS Bowl. An 11-1 season is definitely in the cards.

SYRACUSE ORANGE

Strengths: QB will be Syracuse’s biggest strength this season. QB Ryan Nassib is coming off a junior season in which he completed 62.4% of his passes for 2,685 yards & 22TD to only 9INT. Nassib has an outside shot at becoming Syracuse’s all time leading passer if he can pass for 3,000 yards. Considering he’s the best player on the offense, HC Doug Marrone might be wise to let the senior QB air it out during his last go around wearing the #12 jersey. The great thing about Nassib is that he’s steadily improved during this time at Syracuse both with his accuracy & his decision making. At 6’2/230lbs, Nassib could get a few looks from NFL scouts if he has a fantastic year as one of those guys who don’t’ quite measure out fantastic with tools, but who is a great leader in the huddle. Outside of Nassib, Syracuse has a couple of other players who should be pretty dominant. WR Alec Lemon (6’2/202lbs) led the team in receiving last season with 68 catches for 834 yards & 6TD. A 2nd-Team All Big East player last season, Lemon is likely to move up to 1st-Team numbers in 2012 especially because he’s the biggest weapon Syracuse has at the skill positions. Another dominant player should be LT Justin Pugh. The 6’6/300lbs junior was a 1st-Team All Big East player last season and is likely to be that again this year. Pugh even has an outside shot at becoming an All-American LT which typically means a boat load of money as a 1st Round NFL Draft pick. If Pugh sticks around for his senior season and bulks up to 6’6/315lbs or 6’6/320lbs, he could wind up being the first LT off the board in the 2014 NFL Draft! He could be a first rounder at the end of this season, but two more years at Syracuse could see him really catapult up draft boards. Overall the O-Line looks OK. There are 3 returning starters with 4 projected starters being upperclassmen. Pugh is a beast but C Macky MacPherson & LG Zack Chibane are both returning starters and have chances to be All-Big East performers. Junior tackle Andrew Phillip and rFR Kristofer Curtis are the other two projected stats and both should be pretty good. JC transfer Lou Alexander is huge at 6’4/331lbs and could take Curtis’s stop at RG before the season begins. Either way this is a line on the come and should be much better than last year’s version.

Weaknesses: As far as overall weaknesses are concerned, outside of Nassib at QB, every other unit is a weakness. The Orange lose their leading rusher from a year ago in Antwon Bailey who ran for 1,051 yards & 6TD. Replacing him is the bowling ball like Adonis Ameen-Moore who at 5’11/250lbs is a Jerome Bettis look alike without the Bettis running skills. Ameen-Moore only played in 4 games last season before being injured, but he averaged just 3.3ypc and injuries are going to potentially plague him given his size. Behind him is junior Prince-Tyson Gulley and junior Jerome Smith. Both combined for just 129 yards last season. Losing a 1,000 yard rusher and replacing him with injury plagued players without much experience can’t be considered a strength. Syracuse could potentially have quite a bit of trouble running the football! The receiving corps as a whole should be considered a weakness too. While Lemon does return and should be effective (especially with Nassib as QB!), Syracuse loses their #2 through #5 leading receivers! Marcus Sale (6’0/183lbs) wasn’t with the team last year while Jarrod West was just a freshman in 2011. Both of these guys are the other two projected starts along with Lemon. Syracuse has some interesting depth at receiver in Adrian Flemming (6’3/196lbs), Kyle Foster (6’3/207lbs) and Jeremiah Kobena (6’0/180lbs). The problem is that the unit is simply lean on experience. Nassib is pretty good so the receivers should be OK as far as the ball getting to them, but they are going to be the ones who have to catch & make plays after doing so. There are only 36 starts among all receivers on the team with Lemon owning 28 of them!

Game Plan: Syracuse is somewhat interesting in how weak they are at the skill positions! Nassib is the guy you want to stop as a defensive coordinator and since he’s not much of a runner, the best strategy is take away the passing game and focus on Syracuse running the football. As a defensive coordinator I might be a little worried about Ameen-Moore being used as a battering ram seeing how he tips the scales at 250+lbs, but he hasn’t shown much of an ability for staying healthy so I’d roll the dice on him taking himself out of the game and putting in more physically friendly RBs! I think opposing defenses are going to have to get pressure on Nassib which won’t be easy, but getting good edge rush with a lot of pass coverage should force Syracuse into running the football, and if that doesn’t open up then Syracuse is in a pickle. Oddly enough it might not be all bad having weak RB & WR units as long as you have a quality QB and a nice O-Line. This is precisely what the Orange have and it’ll be interesting to see how HC Doug Marrone utilizes the pieces. As a defense though I’m forcing the run until Syracuse shows they can beat me with it.

TEMPLE OWLS

Strengths: The running attack. Under Steve Addazio last season the Owls ran the ball 75% of the time! Now losing Bernard Pierce who was a 3-time 1st Team All MAC runner would seem to hurt! Pierce ran for 1,481 yards (5.4ypc) & 27 TD last season! That loss is going to sting, but Matt Brown returns and wasn’t bad himself rushing for 916 yards & 6TD (5.9ypc) while being a 2nd-Team All MAC player in 2010 and a 3rd-Team All MAC player in 2011! Returning QB Chris Coyer also ran for 562 yards (8.1ypc!!!) & 3TD. What gets Temple here just a bit is the health worries surrounding Brown as he is listed at 5’5/165lbs! He did play in all 13 games last season but had about half the carries that Peirce, who is 6’0/220lbs, had. The concern is whether or not Brown can stay healthy for an entire season. Sophomore Jalen Fitzpatrick (5’11/180lbs) and sophomore Kenneth Harper (6’0/225lbs) should see plenty of time spelling Brown to keep him healthy. True frosh Jamie Gilmore (5’8/185lbs) is the most highly touted recruit the Owls have in the class of 2012 so he should see some time as well. Losing an all conference player that was drafted in the 3rd round of the NFL Draft is never easy to replace, but the system is sound and Brown has the talent to keep the running game moving. Despite the loss of Pierce, I still call it a strength. I do want to mention Montel Harris. Harris missed last season with an injury while at Boston College. He was dismissed this spring and transferred to Temple. If he’s a big part of the team then Harris becomes the #1 RB with Brown being a complimentary back like he was with Pierce. At 5’10/210lbs, Harris has the make of an every down back which will fit nicely with the Owls. If that happens then the entire depth chart is adjusted Gilmore might as well redshirt & there wouldn’t much run time for Fitzpatrick or Harper if Addazio relies on the 3-headed monster of Harris/Brown/Coyer. It’s interesting. The other strength Temple has is their QB situation. Temple mixed in 3 QBs last year in Chester Stewart, Chris Coyer & Mike Gerardi. Stewart & Gerardi are gone, but Coyer earned the job anyway completing 60% of his passes for 463 yards & 6TD without throwing an interception! Coyer was also the most dynamic runner. At 6’3/230lbs, he’s a load to get down and should be given the keys to the offense. What makes things a bit interesting is the presence of former Penn St. QB Kevin Newsome who transferred in. Newsome is an extremely talented player and it’ll be hard for Addazio to keep him off the field. Seeing how he’s in the 2nd year of the system, I think Coyer is the guy and will put up improved numbers from experience alone.

Weaknesses: Temple’s weakness is obviously the passing game. It’s tricky to label it a weakness because the Owls simply don’t throw the football. It’s not the same system that Georgia Tech or even Navy runs, but having a strong passing attack isn’t a viable option here and it’s more of a show me tool to ensure the defense doesn’t go crazy and simply not recover the receivers. What is a bit like Georgia Tech is the size of the wideouts. Deon Miller is 6’5/10lbs. Malcolm Eugene is 6’4/205lbs. CJ Hammond is the smallest projected starting receiver at 6’2/193lbs! TE Cody Booth is a big boy at 6’5/250lbs. These guys main attribute is blocking. The other weakness this season could be offensive line. The Owls have only 1 returning starter back and the projected starting 5 have a combined 31 starts between them. Temple runs a zone blocking scheme so there is definitely a method to the madness, but outside of tackle Martin Wallace, there is a lot of work to be done here. I think an overall weakness should be mentioned that Temple is joining a BCS conference so the competition will be a bit tougher for Temple this season. The Big East isn’t the SEC but it’s not horrible and the Owls face non-conference games against Maryland and Penn State. There almost has to be an adjustment period.

Game Plan: The game plan defensive against Temple would be the same as it would be against a team like Navy or Georgia Tech. The schemes are somewhat different but at the end of the day you have to play smart disciplined football because Temple is going to try and run the ball down your throat. The defense will have to make sure to cover the wideouts enough so Temple doesn’t throw over top, but the key here is stopping the run game. The Owls aren’t going to become a prolific passing team overnight, but I think Coyer, Harris & Brown can be incredible weapons and I think defensively you’d better be able to seal off the edge or things are going to get out of hand fast. Rushing up the field isn’t going to work fir the 3-4OLBs or the 4-3DEs. That creates too much space. The opportunity exist in taking advantage of a very inexperienced offensive line. Pull that off and Temple will have a really hard time moving the football.

August 18, 2012 Posted by | Big East, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Florida, Syracuse, Temple | Leave a comment

2011 NCAA Football – Week 8 Best Games

Week 8!? I know I keep saying how fast this season is going, BUT WOW this season is going by FAST! It’s incredible. At this point in the season we are almost hoping for no gaffes by undefeated teams. LSU plays Auburn this week while Alabama plays Tennessee. Next week both SEC West leaders are on bye before meeting in Alabama in Week 9. Wouldn’t it be awful if one of them were to lose this week making that game almost meaningless for national championship purposes!? The same goes for a team like Oklahoma St. who walks into Missouri or Clemson who hosts North Carolina. Even other games are very very interesting as Wisconsin has a game they could lose in East Lansing against Michigan St.. Stanford hosts Washington, but the Huskies aren’t a pushover team & could put up a big fight. Even a game like Marshall/Houston is pretty good because Marshall has the ability to pull off a stunner.

At first I thought this might be a blase week, but it actually has quite a bit of juice to it. And oh by the way, there is this little rivalry game between USC & Notre Dame that is also taking place this weekend in South Bend. Can wait to get this started!

I just want to make a quick note and say that these are the most interesting games to me this week in descending order of importance. Obviously I think the most interesting and most important game of the week is the Badgers/Spartans matchup. This should give you an idea of why the games are in the order they are.

ROAD PREDICTION HOME
Michigan St. took one on the chin with losing DE William Gholston for this game against the Badgers, but I’m not sure the Spartan rush defense will be completely crushed by the loss. This might be the last game either team can potentially lose. Something to keep in mind is that Michigan St.’s game next week against Nebraska could be even more important than this one if the Big 10 championship is their goal. Either way, this comes down to how well MSU stops the Badger rush offense. Remember that Sparty does have the 3rd best rush defense in the nation. Keep in mind too that Wisconsin doesn’t need to win, but win BIG in this statement game. Current Line: Wisconsin (-7.5)
Wow. When was the last time the Irish were almost double digit favorites over USC? Notre Dame is closer to a top-10 team than you might thing. The two losses also had them being -10 in TO margin. Since then ND has eaten alive every opponent they’ve faced. USC will be a more difficult challenge, but not more difficult than Michigan St. was. This is another game where ND prevails & Kelly improves to 2-0 against the Trojans. Lane Kiffin is going to get it done in SoCal, but he needs a bit more time to finally get out from under the sanctions handed down from the previous regime. Current Line: Notre Dame (-9)
In case you haven’t noticed, Washington is 5-1 & on a 3-game winning streak. That’s certainly coming to an end against Stanford, but that line is too high. Sarkisian knows what he’s doing up in Seattle & UW is going to get better & better & better. If Kelly sticks at Oregon & Shaw does a good job replacing Harbaugh, the Pac-12 North is going to be straight BEASTLY soon enough! I can’t imagine Stanford losing, but it won’t be by 21 points. Washington is going to cover. This game will obviously have loads of attention on Andrew Luck, but keep UW QB Keith Price on the radar. Kid has 21TD & 4INT through 6 games meaning he’s on pace for 42TD:8INT! Washington could easily finish 9-3. This is the most underrated game of the week. Current Line: Stanford (-20.5)
Absolutely crazy that LSU will be without RB Spence Ware & CB Tyrann Mathieu! Ware is their leading rusher while Mathieu might be the most dynamic defensive player in the entire nation! Kirk Herbstreit has the kid winning the Heisman! That’s RIDICULOUS! RB Michael Ford has actually been better than Ware on a YPC basis while the LSU defense is a lot more than just one player. It’s inconvenient to lose a couple of starters, but LSU should still roll against War Eagle. Auburn’s defense is sieve like & they also have QB issues. That’s a tough nut to crack when in Death Valley! Current Line: LSU (-21)
At what point do you take a look at the schedule & come to the conclusion that Oklahoma St. is better than Oklahoma? A win here gives OSU road wins over Texas, Texas A&M, Tulsa & Missouri. Oklahoma’s true road wins? They have Kansas who sports the worst defense in the world & a Florida St. team that turned out to be massively overrated. If you argue that LSU is better than Alabama because of schedule, then you also MUST say Oklahoma St. is better than Oklahoma for the same reasons. I think the Cowboys roll again, but it would be nice to see them play a full game at 100%. With them scoring 40ppg it’s tough to notice when they are off, but it does happen. Current Line: Oklahoma St. (-7)
Very scary game for Clemson. I don’t think Clemson can have a first half against UNC the way they did last week against Maryland & expect to come back and win a high scoring affair. North Carolina’s defense is simply too tough for that kind of rally. UNC should be motivated to play as well because another loss virtually eliminates them from playing in the ACC Championship game by winning the Coastal Division. Keep in mind that the 5-2 Tar Heels could just as easily be 7-0. As for the Tigers, another win simply keeps the resume humming. A win here gives Clemson wins over Auburn, Florida St., Virginia Tech & UNC. It’s awfully good. Current Line: Clemson (-10.5)
It should be blow out city as the Volunteers travel to Alabama without their best QB & WR. This game really wouldn’t make it on the list as I’d expect the Tide to drop the hammer, but Alabama is currently 7-0 & any team undefeated at the halfway point or better is deserving of some recognition. I’ve said for awhile that I think AJ McCarron’s development is going to be critical for Alabama to win a national championship. In his last two games he’s 42 of 54 (77.8%) for 461 yards & 5TD without a pick. He’s right on schedule. Alabama rolls into their bye week before LSU comes callin’!Current Line: Alabama (-29.5)
Miami-FL made an EXCEPTIONAL hire when they picked up Al Golden. It reminds me a lot of when Miami-FL hired Butch Davis & what resulted from that hiring with the possibility of Golden turning into another Jimmy Johnson for the Hurricanes. Clearly the team is improving as the season progresses under Golden & I think he’s in a perfect situation to get the talent level back up to “THE U” standards. GT can’t afford to lose here and Miami-FL will be motivated to play well. In his last 3 games, QB Jacory Harris is 45 of 68 (66.2%) for 709 yards & 8TD without a pick so keep & eye on him especially because GT’s defense hasn’t been fantastic. My thinking is that GT rebounds, but another Canes win could show the tide is turning a bit. A win here should put THE U at 4-3 with a REAL shot at 9-3/8-4 & a chance at the ACC Championship game. Current Line: Miami-FL (-3)
LOVE LOVE LOVE West Virginia. The Mountaineers travel to Syracuse where I’m guessing they’ll give Doug Marrone & his boys a thorough whippin’, but Marrone seems to be a helluva coach & Syracuse wont’ lay down easily. These are the best kinds of games because they can give us insight into how dominant a team might be. I think WVU comes away with a victory here, BUT Syracuse isn’t going to lie down & they’ll play hard for 60 minutes. If WVU pounds them in their own backyards while the Orange bust nut for Marrone, then WVU is looking like a team that is going to give some poor unsuspecting BCS opponent a run for their life! Current Line: West Virginia (-14)
As you can see, this game probably isn’t going to amount to too much & makes the list for much the same reasons that Alabama/Tennessee make the list. It’s not this way nationally, but when you think about Oklahoma, they are fighting issues with perceptions. Think about it. If you had to go with undefeated teams that played more difficult schedules, wouldn’t you think LSU, Oklahoma St. & Clemson have the Sooners beat? Heck, if you believe LSU is the best team in the nation then it’s entirely possible to argue that Oregon is better than the Sooners. I don’t doubt how good Oklahoma is, but from a logical standpoint based on strength of schedule, Oklahoma should probably be trailing. They need blowout wins. Current Line: Oklahoma (-29)
USF is the favorite here & it probably has more to do with Cincinnati’s record from last season rather than their 5-1 mark. Sure the Bearcats haven’t beaten anyone & they did lost to Tennessee, but even with the loss, UC is on average beating teams by 25ppg! USF is one of the more frustrating teams in the nation. They get an early season road win over Notre Dame, but can’t manage to beat Pittsburgh (who the Irish beat in Pittsburgh) or Connecticut. It would be just like USF to beat Cincinnati this week, but turn around & lose to Rutgers the following week! I don’t get it. I hope UC wins as Butch Jones’ star is definitely on the rise & it’s exciting to see where he might land. Current Line: South Florida (-3)
An incredibly underrated game, both teams come into this one at 5-1 with SMU having the best record in CUSA at 3-0. How about a little love for SMU RB Zach Line! The Mustang RB is on pace to finish the season with 1,330 yards & 26TD! Southern Miss’ rush defense isn’t fantastic so it’ll be interesting to see how SMU HC June Jones uses Line. SMU’s defense is also better than Southern Miss’s. This could be a breakout game for Jones & the Ponies. People in Dallas have been waiting a LONG TIME for SMU to get back up to the top of college football. A win here could give enough momentum for wins over Tulsa & Houston! That happens? SMU is looking at 11-1 heading into the CUSA Championship game! Despite not being a BCS team, SMU being good helps college football so I’m rooting for them! Current Line: S.Mississippi (-3)
Game makes the grade because Kansas St. is 6-0. The Wildcats will certainly get to 7-0, but despite all this recent love gravitating towards KSU HC Bill Snyder, don’t forget that in KSU’s glory days the Wildcats never played for a national championship. Here they are 6-0, but have yet to play Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma or Oklahoma St! I have no doubt that KSU is going to walk into Lawrence & drop the thunder on the Jayhawks, but questions about the validity of an undefeated record are going to see some results after this week’s tuneup. Current Line: Kansas St. (-10.5)
How bad does it suck to be Indiana right now? Not only did you lose your 5-star QB commit in Gunner Kiel this week, but you also have to prepare to go on the road to Iowa where you are almost 4TD dogs! The rumors about HC Kevin Wilson are almost out of control in the Hoosier state. Maybe he’ll work out, but it certainly seems like the odds are stacked against him. The problems at Indiana certainly seem systemic in nature. I think this football team can win games, but they have to start looking at advanced football metrics to identify candidates some of the bigger boys might have overlooked. Current Line: Iowa (-23.5)
I thought Air Force would be better than this, but it turns out I was a bit optimistic for the Falcons this season. Obviously Boise St. makes this list because they are undefeated, but in reality this is a game on the blue turf which means the Broncos should roll yet again. It’s a broken record at this point, but Boise’s schedule sucks. From a different perspective, remember that Boise St. is never going to play for a national championship because they might actually win. If that happens, how can you not let them defend it if they go undefeated the following year? That means all AQ-conference schools are playing for 1 spot for a championship. It’ll never happen. Current Line: Boise St. (-29.5)
Not exactly a move the meter game. The Beavers are 1-5 while the Cougars a surprising 3-3. This is a neat game only because it could represent two programs going in vastly different direction. Oregon St. has been awful this season while Wazzou might finally be rising out of the mire it’s been in for quite some time. A win here gives WSU a 4-3 record needing just 2 wins out of their last 5 games to get bowl eligible. They could conceivably get there. As for the Beavers, I love the program, but is Mike Riley’s time finally up? I certainly hope not. Current Line: Washington St. (-3.5)
Houston is here because they are a 6-0 team so their games automatically become interesting from that standpoint. But there is certainly more to it than that! Marshall is actually a bit underrated in my opinion. Remember that the Herd have wins over Southern Miss & beat Louisville in Kentucky. Their 3-4 record includes losses to Virginia Tech, West Virginia, UCF & Ohio. Houston should roll, and roll big, but nobody thought Marshall was going to beat Southern Miss either. Oddly enough, doesn’t it seem like Houston QB Case Keenum is having an awfully quiet year? The Cougars are 6-0, Keenum is going to break every college passing record known to man, he’s on pace for 34TD to 4INT and yet you almost don’t hear anything about him. Very odd. Current Line: Houston (-23)
I’ve said this before about the MAC, but one of the things that makes college football so exciting it that even conferences that aren’t a part of the BCS really do have some games that are exciting. Tulsa is 3-3 (2-0) but remember that those 3 losses came against Oklahoma, Oklahoma St. & Boise St. Those 3 are a combined 18-0! Tulsa could be the one team that upsets Houston’s applecart when it’s all said & done and I wouldn’t be surprised if Tulsa ran the table from this point heading into the bowl season at 10-3 with a legitimate claim to top-15 if not top-10 status! So why the interesting game against the Owls? Well, Rice isn’t as awful as you think and with this being a home game could put up a decent fight. Who knows what will happen if Lady Luck gets involved? Current Line: Tulsa (-10.5)

October 22, 2011 Posted by | Air Force, Alabama, Auburn, Boise St., Cincinnati, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Houston, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kansas St., LSU, Marshall, Miami-FL, Michigan St., Missouri, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Oregon St., Rice, SMU, South Florida, Southern Miss, Stanford, Syracuse, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Tulsa, USC, Washington, Washington St., West Virginia, Wisconsin | Leave a comment