Thursday, July 14, 2005

College Football Preview

Motown Sports Revival Pre-Season Top 25

The teams are placed in in an order in which they should be able to beat the teams ranked beneath them. Also, as you’ll see, I place a high level of importance on coaching. Coaching is often the difference between winning and losing in big games.

1.USC The Pac-10 isn’t particularly tough so I'd put the odds of another undefeated season at 75%. USC is loaded everywhere. Matt Leinart will probably win his second Heisman (barring injury) and Reggie Bush is unbelievable. The WR's will be awesome with Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith. USC detroyed Oklahoma in the National Championship game last year to remove all doubt as to which is the best program running.

2.Ohio St. The Buckeyes showed their true colors at the end of last year when everything was working. The defense, special teams, and coaching units are as good as any in college football. With Ted Ginn Jr. comfortable at WR, the offense could actually be considered a strength as well. I think there are a lot of Michigan fans who would rather not give Ohio St. credit but there's wishful thinking and reality. This top 25 is in the world of reality. I like Ohio St's chances in any close game.

3. Tennessee Fat Fulmer has a good unit at every position. Gerald Riggs Jr. should join the likes of Jamal Lewis and Travis Henry as UT legends. The SEC is fairly deep but Tennessee probably has the best chance of any to win the conference and challenge for a spot in the Rose Bowl

4. Oklahoma A lot of folks think that this is the year Texas takes down the Sooners. It's going to happen one of these years and it could be that this is the year. Jason White was good but I have a feeling his success had more to do with a). the athletes on offense, and b). the Off. Coordinator, than it did his ability. As much publicity as Bob Stoops gets, he's still underrated. The program is as good as any. Did I mention that Adrian Peterson is the Sooners' running back?

5. Florida I think that next year is probably the year for Florida. With Urban Meyer coaching Ron Zook's stacked recruiting classes, the Gators could be pre-season #1 next season. However, don't sleep on Florida this year. Chris Leak is as talented as Alex Smith who Meyer coached at Utah and became the #1 pick in this year's NFL draft. I am among the people that think if Meyer would go undefeated in Utah (crushing Texas A&M and Pittsburgh)then what can he do at a traditional power like Florida. I feel bad for the SEC.

6. Texas Vince Young’s performance against Michigan is reason enough to put Texas at #6. However, a lot of publications have Texas in the top three. I don't see how they can expect the Longhorns to be so much better this year after losing their best defender (Derrick Johnson) and their best offensive player (Cedric Benson). Texas will be good as usual but Jason White graduating and a victory over Michigan doesn't automatically make you better than the year before.

7. LSU Nick Saban will be missed and it will show. Like Texas, LSU is getting a lot of pre-season pub as a national title contender. There's no doubt that LSU is talented but Les Miles has his work cut out for him in the SEC. Remember, LSU lost to Iowa in the Capital One Bowl. Granted it took a miracle finish but if LSU is really as good as people are saying, they would've beaten an offensively challenged Iowa team, and done so convincingly.

8. Miami The Hurricanes will have their typical crushing defense. They will have their usual talent loaded roster. And for the third year in a row, they will have problems with the offense. However, I think Kyle Wright has to be better than Brock Berlin. Berlin was not very good. Along with Ted Ginn Jr. (Ohio St.) and Reggie Bush (USC), Devin Hester is one of the top game-changers in college football. Hester will try his best Deion Sanders impersonation as he plays offense, defense and special teams. If Hester can jumpstart the Miami offense, the Hurricanes could easily finish better than #8.

9. Michigan The good news is that Michigan has developed one of the most sophisticated offenses in the NCAA. When Terry Malone (Off. Coordinator) is on his game, the Michigan offense can't be stopped. Chad Henne will be better at running an offense. Mike Hart crushed most U of M freshman rushing records. Steve Breaston is finally healthy which means the offense will be ready to go. However, the keys to Michigan's season are a). the defense and b). coaching. In 2004, the Michigan defense stifled one-dimensional offenses early in the season. However, when more versatile offenses with mobile QB's came calling, the UM defense was ugly and ugly often. The Michigan coaching staff must bid farewell to the "every game WILL be close in the 4th qtr" philosophy. Since 1998, Michigan's record against Ohio St., Notre Dame, and Michigan St is 11-9. The conservative approach by the coaching staff can be blamed for the poor record against the main rivals. Since 1988, Michigan is 36-30 in games decided by 6 points or less. The good teams consistently win the close ones. Michigan is barely above .500 in close games. That's why I can't rank them higher than 9th. If the defense and coaching come through, then this team could be in the top five come bowl season.

10. Va. Tech Frank Beamer and M. Vick led Va. Tech to the National Championship game in 1999. Unfortunately for Va. Tech fans, that was Micahel, not Markus. Luckily for Va. Tech fans, Markus Vick has the potential to be great. Beamer has the Hokies primed for a run at the ACC championship. The Va. Tech program is probably as good as it will ever be. The problem lies in the strength of the ACC. With Miami and Florida St. in the ACC, Va. Tech will never have the most talented roster in their own conference. They will have the superstars like Vick and CB Jimmy Williams. And they will certainly challenge for the ACC championship. If there's ever a season for the Hokies to make a run at a perfect season, it's this year. They miss Florida St. and Miami comes to Blacksburg.

11. Florida St. Florida St. hasn't been scary in a few years
12. Georgia The Bulldogs have talent but lost too much to be a factor
13. Arizona St. Sam Keller will put up huge numbers
14. Iowa The defense can’t win every game. Tate needs weapons
15. Louisville Odds are greater than 50% that they'll go undefeated
16. Boston College Doesn’t play Miami (Fl) but ACC is daunting
17. Pittsburgh Tyler Palko will light up the Big East
18. Texas A&M Showed potential in loss to Oklahoma last year
19. Purdue 11 starters back on D means something
20. Boise St. Explosive offense but no blue turf in Georgia.
21. Fresno St. USC and Boise St. in the way of undefeated season
22. Minnesota Maroney could be in line for a 2,000 yard season
23. California Tedford is good but Rodgers was very good
24. Alabama The defense is just too good to keep out of the top 25.
25. Virginia It’s time to stop hype and see some results on the field

Next two: Ga. Tech and Auburn

Purdue has possibly the easiest conference schedule in Big Ten history missing Michigan and Ohio St. They will be in the top 25 all year and could be ranked high at the end of the season. I don't think Purdue is nearly as good as their record will indicate.

Minnesota on the other hand has one of the hardest Big Ten schedules on record. They play Purdue, @ Penn St., @ Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio St., @ Indiana, Michigan St. and @ Iowa. If Minnesota had Purdue, Wisconsin, or Michigan St's Big Ten schedule, the Gophers would easily make it to 5-6 wins in conference. Despite the tough road, I think they are one of the 25 best teams after their impressive performance against Alabama last year in the their bowl game.

Ten teams that could crack the top 25 at some point this season: Bowling Green, Notre Dame, Clemson, Michigan St., Penn St., Missouri, Texas Tech, Nebraska, Maryland, Oregon, Kansas St., Oregon St., Utah, UTEP, and Memphis

Overrated: Purdue, Auburn, California, Georgia, Iowa, Texas
Underrated: Michigan St., Louisville, Fresno St, Nebraska

How will the Big Ten pan out?

1). Ohio St. 8-0 The Buckeyes don't play Purdue and Wisconsin and get Iowa at home. The Michigan game will once against decide the Big Ten.

tie (2.) Michigan. 6-2 Michigan loses out on the automatic win against Illinois but misses Purdue. The two losses will likely come somewhere in the following games: @ Wisconsin, @ Michigan St., @ Iowa, and Ohio St.

tie (2.) Iowa 6-2 With there only being three easy games in the Big Ten this year (Northwestern, Illinois, and Indiana) it's going to be a slugfest every week for teams like Iowa. I see five loseable games that will likely yield two losses.

tie (2.) Purdue 6-2 The Boilermakers don't play Michigan and Ohio St. Even if they're average, they should still manage a 6-2 record with the three guarantee wins against the conference's bottom feeders.

tie (5.) Wisconsin 4-4. Three automatic wins means they only need two against Michigan, Minnesota, Purdue, Penn St. and Iowa to get five wins in the conference. There could be two wins there but one is the safe bet.

tie (5.) Michigan St. 4-4. Sparty gets the three guaranteed wins against the bottom three which means they'd only need to win one (to be .500 in conference) against Ohio St., Michigan, Purdue, Minnesota and Penn St. It'll be tough but I think they can get one if not more.

tie (7.) Penn St. 3-5 Doesn't play Indiana but gets Minnesota, Ohio St., Purdue, and Wisconsin all at home.

tie (7.) Minnesota 3-5 The Gophers will be better than their record will indicate. Not playing Illinois and Northwestern takes two automatic wins off the schedule. The conference slate is brutal and it will take a miracle from Glen Mason to get the Gophers over .500 in conference

tie (9.) Illinois 2-6 The only one of bottom three that gets to play the other two.

tie (9.) Northwestern 2-6 Probably the best of of the bottom three but doesn't get guaranteed win vs. Indiana.

11). Indiana (0-8) Indiana is terrible.

Here is the average pre-season top 25 compiled by seven different publications. I don’t have much of a beef with the list. I think Texas, Iowa, Auburn, and Purdue are too high. I think Ohio St., Florida, and Arizona St. are too low. Minnesota should be ranked.

Combined rankings of preseason magazines: CBS, Lindy's, Blue Ribbon, Street & Smith, Athlon, Sporting News, Phil Steele.
1. USC
2. Texas
3. Tennessee
4. Oklahoma
5. Michigan
6. LSU
7. Ohio State
8. Virginia Tech
9. Iowa
10. Miami
11. Florida
12. Florida State
13. Louisville
14. Georgia
15. Purdue
16. Auburn
17. Texas A&M
18. Boston College
19. Pittsburgh
20. Boise State
21. Arizona State
22. Cal
23. (tie) Texas Tech
23. (tie) Fresno State
24. Virginia
25. Alabama

The nine regular season games that will decide who plays USC in the Rose Bowl for the National Championship:

9/5 Miami @ Florida St.
9/10 Texas @ Ohio St.
9/17 Tennessee @ Florida
9/24 Tennessee @ LSU
10/8 Texas-Oklahoma (in Dallas)
10/15 Florida @ LSU
11/5 Miami @ Va. Tech
11/19 Ohio St. @ Michigan
11/26 Florida @ Florida St.

Who will play in the Rose Bowl?

I know USC will be there. I have no idea who the other team will be. However, I can tell you I think the following things will happen:

Ohio St. could beat Texas and Michigan
Miami will not win @ Va. Tech, @ Florida St. and Virgina. so Miami is out
LSU will not beat Tennessee, Florida and Arizona St. so LSU is out
Florida will not beat both Florida St. and LSU on the road and Tennessee at home; Florida is out
Tennesee will not beat both LSU and Florida on the road and Georgia at home; Tennessee is out
Oklahoma could beat Texas
Florida St. will not beat Florida, Miami, and Virginia; Florida St. is out
Michigan has an easy schedule until Ohio St.

So, Miami, LSU, Florida, Tennessee, Florida St., won’t be in the Rose Bowl.

After breaking down the schedules, Ohio St., Oklahoma, Texas and Michigan are the four teams left. I happen to think that Ohio St. will beat Texas and Michigan. I think Oklahoma will probably beat Texas. This leaves Ohio St. and Oklahoma.

Ohio St. has three advantages over Oklahoma:

1). Ohio St. will have beaten Michigan, Texas and Iowa giving them a better resume
2).The Big Ten should be better than the Big 12 so Ohio St’s strength of schedule should give them the nod over Oklahoma among voters.
3). Ohio St. should start the season ranked higher than Oklahoma or at least after beating Texas.

Because of those three things, I think Ohio St. will be in the Rose Bowl.

Easiest path to the Rose Bowl based on schedule: Michigan
Next easiest: Oklahoma
Any other team in the top ten would have at least a 40% chance of going undefeated given Michigan’s schedule. Michigan’s only major hurdle is @ home against Ohio St. Michigan could very well be favored in every game they play this season. Ohio St. is an extremely tough game but of all the teams that are in the top 10, Michigan has the easiest schedule. Iowa is the only other team that is expected to have even a decent season that appears on the schedule. However, Michigan has a relatively easy schedule every season and can’t even stay below three losses, let alone go undefeated.

Other than the game in which they play each other, Louisville and Pittsburgh have easy paths and could go undefeated but even if they go undefeated, it is unlikely they will be ranked in the BCS top 2. If Boise St. pulls off the upset at Georgia, then Boise St. will go undefeated. Fresno St. is one monumental upset (no chance) over USC from possibly going undefeated.

One of these guys will win the Heisman:

Matt Leinart QB USC
Adrian Peterson RB Oklahoma
Chris Leak QB Florida
Vince Young QB Texas
Reggie Bush RB USC

Eight guys that will be household names after this year:

Ted Ginn Jr. WR Ohio St.
Brian Brohm QB Louisville
Drew Stanton QB Michigan St.
Steve Breaston WR Michigan
Sam Keller QB Arizona St.
Gerald Riggs Jr. RB Tennessee
Devin Hester WR/DB Miami
Mathias Kiwanuka DE Boston College

The most important player in the country:
(Most important meaning which players will have the biggest effect on how their team's season will turn out)

Ted Ginn Jr. There is no regular contributor that even comes close to changing the game as much as Ginn does. Ginn came in as a defensive back but switched to wide receiver and hasn’t looked back. Ohio St.’s late season turn around coincided with Ginn getting involved in the offense. Ginn is so good on punt returns, I would just kick it out of bounds every time. I have not been more afraid of a player in all the years I’ve followed college football.

Second most important:

D.J. Shockley. The SEC is loaded this year with Florida, LSU, Tennessee, Auburn, Alabama, and maybe even S. Carolina. For Georgia to have any chance of a successful season, Shockley will need to be spectacular. The Bulldogs lost David Greene, Fred Gibson, David Pollack, and Thomas Davis among others. If Shockley is average, Georgia could have more losses than they’re used to.

Third most important:

Drew Stanton. Michigan St. is a totally different team without Stanton in the lineup. With Stanton, Michigan St. dominated Michigan at the Big House. Without Stanton, Michigan made a miracle second half comeback to beat the Spartans. With Stanton, Michigan St. smoked previously undefeated Wisconsin. Without Stanton, Michigan St. lost to Rutgers.

Team on the rise: S. Carolina

S. Carolina could pull off an upset or two this season but Spurrier won’t need too long to turn the Gamecocks into a SEC power. Coaching is everything in college football. Any program can win with a good coach. Va. Tech is the perfect example. They were one of the worst programs in college football before Frank Beamer showed up in Blacksburg. Now Va. Tech is a national powerhouse even in the stacked ACC. If the recruiting violations lead to severe sanctions, then this is all moot.

Another team on the rise: Nebraska

Like S. Carolina, Nebraska is a year or two away from being a serious threat. However, Bill Callahan reeled in a top 5 recruiting class as Nebraska tries to switch to a passing based offense. It’ll take some time but I fully expect Nebraska to be a perennial top 10 team very soon. The Big XII teams need to beat up on them while they can because Nebraska will be handing out a lot of pain in the near future.

One more team: Arizona

Mike Stoops was the most important addition to any team in college football two years ago. Before the Stoops’ brothers arrived in Norman, Oklahoma was just a shadow of the program it used to be. It took all of two years for Bob and Mike to turn Oklahoma into one of the two or three premier programs in college football. Arizona doesn’t have the tradition as Oklahoma but coaching is everything in the college game. You can bet Stoops’ teams will play hard nosed defense and eventually become a threat to USC in the Pac-10.


Anonymous said...

UM fan living in Columbus. Here it all the time. I just can't buy your assessment. Smith and Zwick each had one good game last year. They have no threat at RB going into the season. True they have good WR's (Ginn is awesome). But they have holes to fill on OL & DL. DB's will be OK. They will miss Nugent big time. His leg changed field position both for OSU & their opponents. The Texas game at home is wedged in between Miami, OH & San Diego State, both of which are not gimmes, given OSU's past history in games of that type. Plus, they play at Michigan, who won't forget the embarassment they suffered last season.

With all that said, I agree with your assessment of Michigan. Road games at Wisconsin (a night game, ugh), MSU & Iowa just spell doom somewhere. 9-2, 10-1 if they are fortunate.

Anonymous said...

A bit belated, I know, but college football is my forte.

Ohio State's talent notwithstanding, they can easily start 1-3 next season. Miami, Texas and Iowa, even at home, are not easy games. Zwick/Smith = Germaine/Jackson. The DL needs to grow up fast, because while the LB's are considered to be the nations finest, if they have blockers all over them, they won't make plays.

Miami's problem has been the offensive coordinator, who makes Michigan look like John L. by comparison. Look at the 2003 Florida and 2004 Florida State games for proof that once the shackles got taken off Berlin (he was much more comfortable in the gun).

Other thoughts:

This year is the best example I can find of waiting until 4 weeks into the season (for example) of rating the teams. Outside of USC, I find huge flaws with half of the top-10.

Tenn. has to show it can beat Florida legit more than once during Fulmer's tenure.

Ditto Texas, re: Oklahoma.

Speaking of the Sooners, new QB's and new WR's will make life tough for Mr. Peterson.

Can Les Miles deal with the pressure at LSU. Will JaMarcus Russell live up to his potential and display more consistency than he did as a freshman.

Florida State could finish out of the Top 25 this year.

Purdue is a huge fraud that could be playing on New Year's Day. 11 starters back on D...from a 7-5 team.

You have Minny vastly overrated as long as Cupito is QB.

We agree on Louisville. The Big East is down this year and they are a talented team. More than 1 loss is a huge disappointment.

Where is Texas Tech? We all know of the offensive fireworks, but this is the best defense that Mike Leach will have during his tenure. My dark horse candidate in the Big XII.


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