Thursday, August 30, 2007

Most Spectacular Plays of the last 5 Seasons

Note: What defines spectacular? A play that gives you goosebumps and sends chills down your spine as you watch it on ESPN Classic three years later. A play that still makes fans of the opposing team sick to their stomach. A play so absurd and improbable – there is no way it could ever be repeated. These ten plays.

10. “Hook and Lateral” – Boise State v Oklahoma, 2007 Fiesta Bowl:
The list begins with one (of many) of the unbelievable plays from this unbelievable game. With just seconds left in the game, 4th and 18, down by 7, the Broncos had to dig deep in the playbook for this one. After this ridiculous 50 yard touchdown, the Broncos forced overtime against heavily favored Oklahoma.

9. “The Run (Seneca Wallace)” – Iowa State v Texas Tech, 2002:
As the best thing ever to happen to Iowa State, Seneca Wallace succeeded in always making something out of nothing. No other play exemplified this ability more than this one – an amazingly athletic 12 yard touchdown where he retreated back over 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage, zig-zagged across the field, and picked up one jaw-dropping pancake block to send him home.

8. “Jump Pass (Tim Tebow)” – Florida v LSU, 2006:
How do you even describe this play? Urban Meyer cooks up one of the strangest touchdown passes you will ever see. Tebow, the freshman sensation fullback/quarterback, comes into the game for a crucial goal-line situation. Everyone in the stadium was expecting an off-tackle run – which he appeared to do, except that he stopped at the line, jumped into the air, double clutched, and forced a disgustingly ugly jump shot into the wide open arms of Gator TE Tate Casey.

7. “Laterals” – Michigan v Nebraska, 2005 Alamo Bowl:
Don’t remember this play? Just watch it. Down by 4 with virtually no time on the clock, Chad Henne completes a modest pass, which is then lateralled 7 times before winding up in the arms of Tyler Ecker. Players and fans come onto the field before the tight end is forced out of bounds at the 15. If he turns around and gives the ball to Steve Breaston, the fastest player on the field, this play rivals Cal-Stanford. However, Ecker is an idiot, and Michigan finishes 7-5, a fitting end to a disastrous season.

6. “Devin Hester punt return” – Miami v Duke, 2005:
How many tackles can one man break? I’m not sure if this play is an example of Devin Hester’s ridiculous ability or Duke’s ridiculous futility, but it sure is amazing to watch. Just when you think he’s going to be tackled, he escapes (six times) – en route to a 81 yard touchdown.

5. “Vince Young can’t be stopped” – USC v Texas, 2006 Rose Bowl:
Perhaps the only reason this play isn’t higher on my list (considering the significance), is because we all knew it was going to happen. Deep down, we knew USC couldn’t stop VY. We knew nobody was going to tackle him when he got down inside the five. We knew nobody was going to catch him in a footrace to the pylon. We knew all these things, and yet we were still awe-struck.

4. “Hail Mary I” – Iowa v LSU, 2005 Capital One Bowl:
With only seconds left in this back and forth game, Iowa’s Drew Tate needed a miracle. That miracle came when an LSU blown coverage left little used receiver Warren Holloway wide open. Tate heaved the ball as time expired, completing a 56-yard pass to seal the Tigers’ fate in Nick Saban’s last game coaching the Bayou Bengals.

3. “Hail Mary II” – LSU v Kentucky, 2002:
Another LSU hail mary, except this time the tables were turned. From a pure improbability standpoint, this has got to be the most amazing such play in recorded history. Only the sheer meaninglessness of this game kept it from moving into the top two. A ridiculous 75 yard heave that miraculously caromed into the streaking Devery Henderson, who waltzed into the endzone for the touchdown. Perhaps the best part of this play is the Kentucky fans storming the field, only to realize that they had lost the game. That’s why you’re Kentucky. Stick to basketball.

2. “The Audible” – USC v Notre Dame, 2005:
While surely not the most unbelievable play, this Leinart to Jarrett pass ranks so high because of its significance. In the waning seconds of the game, the undefeated Trojans had to convert a 4th and 9 to keep their dream season alive. In the frenzied mania that was Notre Dame Stadium that day, Leinart audibles to a fade route to go big or go home. Leinart makes the throw, Jarrett makes the catch, and history is completed several plays later with the “Bush Push.”

1. “Statue of Liberty” – Boise State v Oklahoma, 2007 Fiesta Bowl:
While this list was difficult to compile and rank, Number 1 was a no-brainer. During one of the most spectacular games in recent memory, Boise State found themselves in overtime against Oklahoma. After a quick Adrian Peterson touchdown, coach Chris Petersen knew he had to put the game away quickly. When the Broncos scored, there was no question he was going for the win. When Zabransky faked the throw and handed it to Johnson, there was no question he was going to score. Nobody saw it coming. A perfect play with perfect execution. To top it off, Johnson ran off the field and proposed to his longtime cheerleader girlfriend….and she said yes. You can’t write this stuff. Just watch.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Best Teams of the Decade (Mathematically)

Note: In response to ESPN's semi-recent article - "Ladder 119"

I was taking a look at this interesting piece, which attempted to rank all 119 college football teams based on factors such as winning percentage, tradition, attendance, facilities, etc. I noticed that ESPN used a completely subjective ranking system, so I decided to attach some numbers to their criteria. I also chose to evaluate only the teams I thought would have a legitimate chance to finish in the Top 10 (this happened to be 21 teams).

Note: I did not tweak the numbers to come up with a specific result. I did these rankings the fairest way I could think of, and these are the results.


Results: Michigan is #1? Are you kidding me? The numbers don't lie. Since I'm sure you are all very curious as to how i came up with this, let's take a look at my methods.

Understanding the Rankings:
Winning Percentage: In my opinion, possibly the most important metric in determining the best team is how much they win. I took the winning percentage over the last decade times a factor of 10.
Conference and National Titles: Obviously important for separating good teams from great teams. I took number of conference titles times 1/4, national championships times 1. Conference titles garner a significantly lesser weight due to the fact that some conferences obviously have a tougher road to a title.
Attendance, Tradition, Facilities, National Exposure, Conference Toughness Ranks: With the exception of attendance, all of these are subjective. However, I also assigned a relatively lower weight to these numbers. I averaged these five categories; gave 4 points if the average was 1-5, 3 points if the average was 5-10, 2 points for 10-15, 1 point for 15-21. Note: Topping this list were schools like Notre Dame, USC, Michigan, Ohio State, Texas, Florida, so I must have been doing something right...
Non-Bowl Seasons and Dirty Program Rank: These were the two categories that I subtracted points for. First of all, if you are to be considered one of the great teams of the decade, I believe you must be consistently good during that decade. ESPN chose USC as the team of the decade despite the fact that they did not play in a bowl game for 3 seasons during that span. To me, that is unacceptable. I took off a point for each non-bowl season. The dirty program rank is probably my most controversial metric. I toyed with this a bunch, and ultimately decided to keep it, because I feel that negative publicity stemming from arrests, shady recruiting habits, and so on detracts from a school's "greatness." Of the top five programs, I subtracted 0.5 from their total.

So there you have mathematical formula for determining greatness in college football.

What does it mean?

Consistency is important - We tend to fall in love with teams like USC (now) or Miami/FSU (start of the decade), but we also tend to forget that those teams have had some really bad spells. Teams like Michigan and Texas have consistently fielded great teams year after year.

The powerhouses are here to stay - Take a look at the top 10. Would they look any different if you had done this exercise ten years ago? What about ten years in the future? The big name teams who fill the stadiums, rank high in tradition, and receive the most exposure are the ones winning the most games and titles.

Michigan easily had the best decade - Check out the margin of victory of Michigan (#1) over Texas (#2). You can try tweaking the rankings, but you're still going to get the same results. How do they fall under the radar on most of these lists? One possible answer: recent success. College football is a "what have you done for me lately" sport. Michigan's last National Title, although within the last decade, is ancient history to most fans. Although they have been in the mix as recently as last year, they have largely been out of National Title contention for most of the past few years. However, Michigan's ability to consistently field top 10-15 teams season after season makes them Best of College Football's "Team of the Decade."

Monday, July 9, 2007

Ten Best Teams of the Last 5 Years

Note: This ranking is based on the actual seasons that these teams enjoyed, not how they would fare against each other in a one game match-up. For this reason, you will not see teams such as the Carson Palmer led 2002 USC squad (finished strong, but started out with 2 losses). Stronger weight was given to National Champions and undefeated seasons.

10. Ohio State (2006) – I hesitated including this team on my list after the pasting they received in the National Championship game, but it seemed nobody else really deserved this spot. This team looked unbeatable during the regular season, led by a explosive offense and Heisman trophy winning quarterback Troy Smith. The defense was surprisingly dominant, leading the nation in scoring defense before the last two meltdowns. However, too much partying and confidence (and time between games) ultimately led to the Buckeye’s catastrophic demise…although I’m sure that if the game were played again, we might have seen drastically different results.

9. Florida (2006) – The Florida Gators earn the title of worst National Champion over the last five years – it would be hard to argue any differently. Although this team overcame a horrendous conference schedule, Urban Meyer’s squad never looked the part of a BCS champion. Close wins against South Carolina, Georgia, LSU, and Vanderbilt, and a loss at Auburn didn’t inspire much confidence in the hearts of poll voters. However, a combination of late season victories, schedule strength, and Urban’s whining got them into the title game, where they finally put it all together and dominated. While the team might not be that memorable, the fantastic coaching job and game planning by Meyer might be regarded by the history books as legendary.

8. LSU (2003) – The BCS title game champs of 2003 (and only “true” national champs, according to Bayou Bengal fans) got it done with defense. The Tigers had a championship team very similar to the Buckeyes of the previous year, in that they had a serviceable offense led by a senior QB (Matt Mauck) and star freshman RB (Justin Vincent…among others) and a nasty, nasty defense. The Tigers started out strong, slipped up against Florida in an ugly, double digit loss, then finished strong, demolishing Georgia in the SEC Championship game. They were then voted in to the BCS title game, despite being ranked #3 in the major polls. Although that Sugar Bowl game was technically close, all who watched that game saw a ferocious Tiger defensive line harass Oklahoma’s Heisman trophy winning quarterback Jason White all day en route to a hard fought victory.

7. Auburn (2004) – The undefeated Auburn Tigers, poster child for anti-SEC bias, represent the only team on this list to not play in the BCS title game or win a National Championship. Auburn’s team was led by two stud top-5 draft pick running backs in Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown, a big game senior quarterback in Jason Campbell, and a swarming defensive unit led by All-American CB Carlos Rodgers. The Tigers dominated their tough SEC schedule, with the only close game being a 10-9 home victory over LSU early in the year. However, luck was not on their side as preseason 1 & 2 USC and Oklahoma also rolled through their schedules undefeated. This Auburn team closed out the year with an uninspired victory over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl to go 13-0 and finish #2.

6. USC (2003) – The first of three Trojan teams on the list, this USC team accomplished the unthinkable – a split national title in the BCS era. USC featured a rising star at QB in Matt Leinart, who was helped by a supporting class which included Mike Williams and Keary Colbert at wide receiver. Don’t forget about this team’s defense, though with DE Kenechi Udeze causing terror off the end. The Trojan’s one blemish on the season was a triple overtime loss at Cal, but they rebounded to win the remainder of their games and earn a #1 ranking in the AP and Coaches’ polls. However, this was not enough, as an outdated BCS formula awarded title game entry to Oklahoma and LSU, and the Trojans faced #4 Michigan in the Rose Bowl. After a dominating performance, Southern Cal prevailed 28-14 and claimed the AP National Championship.

5. Miami (2002) – Had this team not been flagged for pass interference in the late stages of the Fiesta Bowl, they would have easily grabbed one of the top 3 spots on the list. However, as fate would have it, one of the most talent rich programs in recent memory did not finish off its season as national champions. The ridiculous offense included QB Ken Dorsey, RB Willis McGahee, WR Andre Johnson, and TE Kellen Winslow, Jr. The defense included too many NFL draft picks to count. The Canes rolled through their Big East schedule undefeated and entered the National Championship game as heavy favorites. However, a surprising performance by the Buckeyes handed Miami the defeat in double overtime.

4. Ohio State (2002) – The Buckeyes are this high on the list solely because they beat an outstanding Miami team in the title game. The rest of their season left little to be desired. The “Luck-eyes” had close wins over Cincinnati, Wisconsin, Penn State, Purdue, Illinois, and Michigan. Not nearly as flashy as their Fiesta Bowl counterparts, Ohio State featured a wily veteran at quarterback in Craig Krenzel and an outstanding freshman RB in Maurice Clarett. Running with the same theme, the strength of this team was the defense, led by hard hitting safety Mike Doss. That defense confused the high-octane Hurricane offense in the National Championship game, and the usually anemic offense put up 31 points and the first National Title since Woody was roaming the sidelines.

3. USC (2004) – This Trojan team will be remembered for the title game smackdown over Oklahoma. However, most fans don’t remember the up and down regular season, where the Trojans dominated at times, but barely survived close games against Virginia Tech, Stanford, Cal, Oregon State, and UCLA. Like the Ohio State team before them, they will only be remembered for the last game, the one that counts. In that game, in the Orange Bowl, they showcased their true talent. Leinart, Bush, Jarrett, and company rolled the Sooners 55-19, creating an uproar down on the plains of Auburn, who believed that they should had the opportunity to play against the Men of Troy.

2. USC (2005) – How can a team without a National Championship ring finish so high on my list? …When they lose a thriller to the #1 team on my list in one of the greatest college football games of all time. The 2005 version of the Trojans was billed as one of college footballs best teams from the opening kickoff of their first game. After Matt Leinart decided to stay in school following a Heisman trophy and 1.5 National Championships, this team was thought to be infallible. Although they went through the regular season undefeated, close games with Fresno State and Notre Dame proved the Trojans were mortal. However, at the end of the day, the only thing standing in the way of USC and the history books was one final game, the Rose Bowl Game. A battle of epic proportions. The game pitted Texas, the underdog, against these Trojans, the heavy favorites. True to legendary form, if an underdog is to win, it must have a hero step forth and deliver an incredible performance…

1. Texas (2005) – That hero was Vince Young. Although recognized as a special talent throughout his career, Young was not given the same recognition as a Leinart or Bush. His steady play helped the Longhorns navigate the regular season unbeaten, including memorable victories at Ohio State, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M. Young and the Longhorns won most of their games in blowout fashion, but did not receive the same attention as their title game opponents, in part because of some Trojans enjoying mainstream celebrity status in the world’s media capital of Los Angeles. The ‘Horns were underdogs in the Rose Bowl, but everyone knew #10 gave them a fighting chance. Fight On he did indeed. After throwing for 267 yards, rushing for an additional 200 and three touchdowns, and leading Texas on a memorable final drive for the winning touchdown, VY was named MVP and the Texas Longhorns finish as the #1 team of the last five years.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Top 10 Best College Football Stadium Songs

Note: These are the best and most exciting songs played during college football games. These are not fight songs. The songs on this list can either be played by the band or over the stadium loudspeaker.

1. Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi
I don’t know what it is about this song, but when the band plays Livin’ on a Prayer during a late fourth quarter rally, the atmosphere is unbeatable.
2. Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
A classic song for Tigers and non-Tigers alike.
3. Kernkraft 400 – Zombie Nation
Gets the whole stadium hopping after touchdowns.
4. Rock and Roll, Part 2 – Gary Glitter
One of the most recognized “Stadium Songs” of all time.
5. Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne
When played as a team comes onto the field, the intro of this song can make even the alumni section stand up and yell.
6. Hang on Sloopy – The McCoys
A golden oldie that oozes college football tradition.
7. Jump Around – House of Pain
The only song that literally rocks the stadium.
8. Hey Baby – Various Artists
A feel good song played by almost every band.
9. Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd
Played by bands across the South (some more than others); lyrics can change depending on the colors you sport.
10. Iron Man – Black Sabbath
Another classic chorus played by bands across the country before key third and fourth down plays.

Don't like my order? You decide.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Top 10 Most Annoying Things about College Football

10. Regional Coverage on ABC – It is a situation all of us have dealt with on any good college football Saturday. The Wake Forest – Boston College game is on ABC at 3:30, so I can’t watch Ohio State play Penn State or Texas play Nebraska. Meanwhile, the ESPN family of networks (of which ABC is obviously a part) is showing me Illinois vs. Northwestern on the Deuce. Why on earth can’t they play the non-regional quality games on ESPN and ESPN2 during the 3:30 time slot? ESPN usually shows women’s bowling or high school gymnastics during this slot anyways. I don’t understand this. Instead of watching a continuous stream of football on my couch from 10am (Gameday) till 1 am (Gameday Final), I must get my butt to a sports bar for 4 hours to watch the additional games. This needs to be changed, and I don’t see any reason why it is how it is. Comments appreciated.

9. NCAA Rules Committee – These clowns must be some of the dumbest, stodgiest people on earth. First, let’s talk about the new clock rules last year, which thankfully have been changed for this upcoming season. Hey, somebody has complained that the games are too long. Instead of shortening halftime (already too long), they decide to actually shorten the game. The result is a fundamental change in how the game is played, not to mention putting all existing records out of reach. Yes, these rules bothered me, but it doesn’t stop there. Not only are there ridiculous rules regarding what players can do or say or accept, but there are obvious contradictions to those rules. Colorado’s Jeremy Bloom is ruled ineligible because of sponsorship money to compete on the US SKI TEAM (read: NOT football team). Meanwhile, Notre Dame’s Tom Zbikowski is winning prize money competing in semi-professional boxing matches. How does that make sense? Let’s not forget about Mike Williams. After a precedent had already been set for a player to leave after 2 seasons provided they were 3 years removed from high school, Mike entered the draft and hired an agent. However, when the rules were changed at the last minute (i.e. not Williams’ fault), the NCAA stood firm against reinstating him with the team. I’m sure these guys are trying to do a good job; they just need to use a little common sense once in a while instead of hiding behind their rules.

8. Overplayed Fight Songs – Yes, I’m talking about you, the Tennessees and USCs of the world. There is nothing like going to a game where the Vols are getting creamed and having to hear Rocky Top fifty-seven times. Hey, we got a three yard gain, let’s play Rocky Top. Or with USC, hey, we sacked Chad Henne again, let’s play Fight On. C’mon guys, the fight song should be used for huge plays – touchdowns, game changing interceptions, long pass plays – not for each and every first down. It detracts from the game and is hugely annoying.

7. Non-Conference Scheduling – Non-Conference scheduling is horrible for two main reasons. First, in this ultra competitive era of college football, one loss potentially derails all hope of a national championship. We’ve all heard the classic argument, “Our conference schedule is so brutal; a difficult non-conference schedule would be suicide” (I’m looking your way, SEC fans). Gone are the classic showdowns between SEC and Big 10 powers, now all we have is a stunning lineup against sacrificial lambs in the Sun Belt and MAC (quick, name one player that plays for a Sun Belt team….didn’t think so). If the fear of losing isn’t enough, we still have our second reason – money. Any time you have two solid, BCS conference teams playing each other, the result is a two-game home-and-home series. This means one less home game, costing a school literally millions of dollars in revenue. For this reason, most schools will only play one, maybe two, such games in a four game non-conference schedule. The other two or three games will thus be filled with the San Jose States and Western Carolinas of the world; teams that won’t demand a return trip to their home stadium.

6. Obnoxious, Uneducated Fans – College football inspires a lot of passion, and partisan fans can get very worked up defending their team’s honor. Arguments are commonplace, and educated commentary about the game is one of man’s most enjoyable pastimes. However, anyone that has ever been to an away game to watch their team (especially Columbus, OH) knows how obnoxious fans can be on game day. Cussing loudly and citing completely bogus statistics are two sure signs of the uneducated, obnoxious fan. Some situations can even turn violent; beer cans are thrown, people are getting spit on, and every obscenity known to man is being screamed. At this point, the gameday atmosphere goes from exciting to aggravating. Crossing that line can ruin the whole experience.

5. Over-hyped Recruits – These guys are some of my favorites. High school seniors who think they own the world…making their college announcements on national TV…please. The only reason anyone cares about you right now is because it is the offseason and we are stuck watching the NBA. You guys haven’t proven anything yet. And don’t get me started on “Golden Boy” Jimmy Clausen. This hotshot rolls up to the freaking College Football Hall of Fame in a limo to announce his choice to play for the Irish. Way to go Jimmy, you now have a target on your chest bigger than your ego. It’s going to be hard to win four national championships and four Heismans, Mr. Clausen (aka Ron Powlus), when you’re in the hospital with a concussion because you ran your mouth.

4. Mark May – The single most irritating man associated with college football. Mark May makes me sick with his idiotic commentary and blatant biases. His love affair with USC is disgusting. Instead of analyzing what was to be the greatest and most significant football game of the last decade (at least), Mark May spent the month or so leading up to the 2006 Rose Bowl proclaiming USC the “Greatest Team Ever.” Then they went out and lost the game. The worst part about Mark May is that although he was an offensive lineman for Pitt, he is consistently enamored with flashy teams with flashy players. I don’t care how much “Florida (or SoCal) speed” a team has, please give me some real analysis.

3. The Mythical Anti-SEC Bias – This is one thing I just don’t understand. The message boards throughout the college football internet universe are constantly ablaze with a “lack of respect” given to the SEC. Look guys, just because Auburn got screwed a couple of years back doesn’t mean that some grand conspiracy exists against your conference. The SEC has arguably been the most consistently strong top-to-bottom conference over the last few years, and everyone knows it. You aren’t getting screwed. What happened in 2003, when LSU jumped USC to play in the title game? What happened last year, when Florida jumped Michigan to play in the title game? If anything, there is way too much respect given to the SEC, not the other way around (over-inflated rankings due to joke non-conference schedules). So go ahead SEC, field 6 pre-season Top 15 teams, have them play the little sisters of the poor, then complain about how tough the SEC is when all you do is play ranked teams week in and week out. Then, when you get to test your conference might in the bowl games, go ahead and post another losing record to the Big Ten. But don’t fret, you’ll place another 6 teams in the Top 15 to start the next season.

2. The Playoff Question – College football is not a gimmick. Rivalries, atmosphere, and yes, bowl games all make up part of the great tradition that is college football. However, what truly separates college football from ALL other sports is not just the tradition. What makes college football unique is that each and every game is life-and-death important. Lose one game, just one, and history tells us that you have a slim chance at winning a national championship. Lose two, and the season is over. This simple fact makes college football the most exciting sport on a week to week basis. You cannot simply say, “tough loss, we’ll play better next time” because there isn’t a next time. The season is over. This harsh reality comprises the very essence of what makes college football great. Add an 6, 8, 12, or 16 team playoff and the regular season loses its validity quicker than you can spell N-F-L. Now we have a gimmicky “December/January Madness” tournament that completely discounts the November rivalry games. How about a USC-Notre Dame classic where the stakes are either a 5 or a 6 seed in the playoff? Or a Michigan-Ohio State game where both teams rest their starters after the first quarter? Preposterous. The BCS may need to be changed, but let’s not blindly join the bandwagon and scream for a playoff without first thinking of the consequences.

1. Notre Dame – At last, the coveted #1 spot on my list. Notre Dame is the New York Yankees of college football. Loved by many, hated by everyone else. There are so many things that I find irritating about Notre Dame, I could make a separate Top 10 list just for them. (Might be a good idea for a future list, but for now I’ll try to summarize) Let’s start with the obnoxious, entitled fan base. Every preseason, no matter how bad they are about to suck (and the rest of the nation knows it), Notre Dame fans go predicting national championships. Evoking references to Rockne, the Four Horsemen, and Touchdown Jesus, the typical Irish fan will lecture you on their tradition, double digit national championship total, and 7 Heisman trophy recipients. Then comes the annual preseason overranking of Notre Dame. I don’t care if they start off #2 or #20, either way you can rest assured that they are overrated. Past glory alone is enough to start every scrub Irish team in the Top 25, and some average ones in the Top 10. Next comes the preferential BCS treatment. Notre Dame is independent, therefore, they play by their own rules when it comes to the BCS. This is the infuriating reason why every 9-3 Fighting Irish team gets to play with the big boys (Also a contributing factor to Notre Dame’s long bowl losing streak - dating back to 1994). Year after year we have to watch some mediocre at best ND team get waxed by a real conference power (OSU, LSU, etc.). I could go on and on….complaining about their “difficult” schedule (winning the Commander in Chief trophy again after beating up on the service academies), Charlie Weis (eating cheeseburgers while whining about ND’s BCS ranking), the movie Rudy (please don’t make me watch it again…) – However, a congratulations is in order. After two decades of “returning to glory,” Irish fans can take solace in the fact that they are finally #1 in something…congrats on your title as the most annoying thing in college football.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Preseason Top 10

I'm going to get this blog going with a little preseason predictions...

Point of clarification: This is how I believe these teams will end up after the end of the season, not how they will probably be ranked in the preseason...hence no Notre Dame

1. USC -- Yes, I know, I'm a pansy for this pick, but who else deserves this spot? After waxing a very good Michigan team in the Rose Bowl, the Trojans are everybody's preseason favorite. These aren't the glam Trojans of Leinart and Bush, either. The Trojan D returns 10 starters from a swarming unit that finished 11th in the nation in scoring defense (in the high-scoring Pac 10). Stars in the making Brian Cushing (LB) and Lawrence "Lo-Jack" Jackson (DE) will be a menace to opposing defenses. Don't worry about offense either...everybody knows that the Men of Troy are 4 deep at every skill position with 5-star recruits. John David Booty will be a Heisman favorite, Vidal Hazelton and Patrick Turner will explode this year. Remember the label of Running Back U? Surely one or two of the stud recruits will step up to the plate -- and don't forget true freshman Joe McKnight, labeled the next Reggie Bush (without being paid...or is he?) Any way you look at it, USC will be stacked. But let's not forget the last time USC was a unanimous preseason favorite... So who is this year's Vince Young?

2. Michigan -- This is where it gets difficult. The Wolverines are seriously depleted on defense, but I don't believe any SEC team is good enough to run the table, the Big 12 is still down, and please don't talk to me right now about the ACC or Big East at the #2 spot. However, Michigan returns what should be the most potent offense in the nation. Chad Henne has been criticized, but when given time to throw, he has been as good as any QB in the nation. Jake Long, preseason All-American left tackle, will give him time, as will the other members of a veteran offensive line. Mario Manningham and (possibly?) Adrian Arrington will be two of the finest receivers in the nation, and Mike Hart will run for his ho-hum 1,500+ yards without a fumble. Although the defense returns only a handful of starters, lets not forget what Ohio State did last year under the same circumstances (barring the title game choke job). What really separates Michigan from the rest of the pack is the schedule. Michigan plays all non-conference games in the Big House (Notre Dame, Oregon) and Penn State and Ohio State are also at home. In fact, the only notable road trip this year is a November game in Madison against the Baaadgers, which will probably make or break the season for the Big Blue.

3. LSU -- How can a team that just lost its starting QB for the last few years (a #1 draft pick no less) be ranked so high? Easy. Insert Matt Flynn, 5th year senior and leader of the Bayou Bengals to a 40-3 woodshed victory against the Miami Hurricanes in the 2005 Peach Bowl. Remember, it wasn't a given that Jamarcus Russell was going to be the starter last season. In fact, some people believe that last year's LSU team would have been even better with the more consistent and less turnover prone Flynn at the helm. LSU's offense will also lose Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis, however speed is never a factor in the Tigers' receiving corps -- enter Early Doucet. On defense, LSU will be stacked as always; Glenn Dorsey and Ali Highsmith should stand out in a group full of stars. The big question is which LSU team will show up to big games. The Tigers have a history of annihilating the bottom feeders and completely self destructing against quality opponents ( I'm not counting Notre Dame as a quality opponent..) At any rate, LSU should be the class of the SEC, and again the most all-around athletic team in college football.

4. West Virginia -- Oh no, you say. He has fallen for the preseason hype for the 'Eers. The ranking here is simple; WV should have the most talented team in the Big East. Since they basically play a 2 game season (Louisville and at Rutgers), I will go out on a limb and say the finish with no more than 1 loss, putting them easily in the Top 5 in a normal college football season. Back to the team know the drill - Pat White, Steve Slaton, blah blah blah, maybe some Darius Reynaud thrown in when White actually decides to pass. Although WV loses some key linemen (C Dan Mozes), White and Slaton are so fast, they don't really need that much help (especially against Syracuse, UConn, and other "powers" of the Big East). The Mountaineers will be a fun team to watch, regardless, and hopefully they will get to play somebody with half a pulse in their bowl game this year (no non-VaTech ACC teams need apply).

5. Virginia Tech -- The Hokies are ranked highly for many of the same reasons as our previous team, WVU. The ACC is terrible, awful, replacing the Big East as the worst BCS conference in football. I don't see any reason why this team will lose any conference games. There is no excuse... don't give me the Jimbo Fisher hype at FSU or Randy Shannon hype at Miami. Please. Those programs need a lot more than that to get their heads on straight (i.e. stop recruiting criminals, stop stomping on other players during a brawl, stop letting 175 year old coaches keep coaching) Virginia Tech, however, is the one good team in the conference. The defense will be absolutely nasty, and the offense will be serviceable. The departure of WR David Clowney will hurt, but Josh Morgan and Co. won't miss a beat. With veteran QB Sean Glennon and potential star RB Branden Ore, the offense could actually put some points on the board. On defense, everything revolves around stud linebackers Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi, but don't forget about DE Chris Ellis, the team's returning leader in sacks. VaTech has a ridiculously tough game in September in Baton Rouge, but it should be smooth sailing the rest of the way. On another note, it will be interesting to see how this team responds to the tragedy, but my guess is that the Hokies will use the support of the school and play inspired football this fall. One thing is for sure, everyone across the nation will be rooting for these guys this year.

6. Florida -- The defending champs. Can they do it again? What does Urban Meyer have up his sleeve this year? Expect more unusual, exciting football out of the Gators this year. Although they have lost a ridiculous amount of talent and role players (Chris Leak did win a national championship, people), the beneficiaries of top recruiting classes the last couple of years will be locked and loaded. Tim Tebow takes over full control of the offense; it will be interesting to see how he responds. Here's guessing he will do just fine. How could this guy run for 7 yards every time last year when opposing defenses KNEW he was running right up the middle?? He is special, and expect some special things this fall (well, maybe not as special as his hanging jump pass against LSU last year, but still pretty special). Percy Harvin is a freakish athlete- when you look up "Florida speed" in the dictionary, his picture is there. The defense loses pretty much everybody you know, but a new batch of 5-star recruits at every position will fill in quite nicely. Remember Florida's brutal schedule last year? Oh yeah, they won a national championship. This year, well, the schedule is still brutal. The Gators get Auburn at home (their lone loss last year was at Jordan-Hare) but have to play at LSU in what should be the game that determines the national title contender out of the SEC this year.

7. Wisconsin -- On Wisconsin, the sexy pick to win the Big Ten this year. They are returning everybody (except the only two people I could name from last year's team, OT Joe Thomas and seventh year QB John Stocco), and the schedule works out fairly nicely. The do return RB P.J. Hill (oops, forgot him), the reincarnation of Ron Dayne. What else is there to know about Wisconsin... oh yes, solid defense, power running game, consistent QB play. The defense finished in the Top 5 last year in total defense, the running back was a Freshman All-American, and John Stocco was, well, John Stocco. The new QB will be a battle between Tyler Donovan and Allan Evridge, but the QB position at Wisconsin is more of a formality anyways. It's really just earning the right to hand the ball off to PJ Hill. The defense returns 7 starters from that stellar unit, and should be back among the nation's elite. The Badgers get Michigan at home, but have to travel to Columbus and Happy Valley for tough road games. Too early to tell if this team is ready to become one of the nation's elite, or if they will just continue to be old, reliable Wisconsin, racking up a solid 9 or 10 win season and grinding out a boring bowl game against some unsuspecting SEC team.

8. Texas -- So the post Vince Young era did not get off to such a great start down in Austin. Although Colt McCoy showed some serious potential as a freshman, he isn't conjuring up images of #10 any time soon. However, in what appears to be another down year for the Big 12 (happening a lot recently, isn't it?), Texas should be the cream of the crop. With Colt fully healthy and top target Limas Sweed back, the Longhorns should have an explosive offense. However, the defense took some big hits with the loss of S Michael Griffin, CB Aaron Ross, and a host of others. But this is Texas, isn't it? As most elite teams, they will reload with top tier talent. The schedule is also more forgiving this year, with no non-conference land mines like Ohio State last year. All 4 non-conference games are at home against non-BCS teams (although TCU is no slouch). With the recent resurgence of Texas A&M and Nebraska, the Big 12 schedule should be tougher, but expect the 'Horns to win the title.

9. Georgia -- Question: How can a team that lost to Vanderbilt last year be ranked in the Top 10? Answer: When you end the year with victories over three straight ranked teams, including a beatdown in Auburn, Alabama. Georgia was an enigma last year, starting 5-0 and leading big at the half against Tennessee, before the roof caved in. Then came losses in 4 out of 5 games and Georgia's rollercoaster season seemed to be in a tailspin. A funny thing happened though. UGA's freshman quarterback came of age. Settling the QB controversy once and for all, Matthew Stafford led the Dawgs to victories against Auburn, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech to close out the year, and looks to use that momentum to propel Georgia to an exciting year in 2007. In addition to Stafford, the offense returns WRs Sean Bailey and Mohamed Massaquoi, RBs Kregg Lumpkin and Thomas Brown, and several key members of the O-Line. The defense needs to be rebuilt, however, as DEs Charles Johnson and Quintin Moses and CBs Tra Battle and Paul Oliver have left. Although the defense will have serious question marks, in the offensively challenged SEC, Georgia should be able to outscore opponents.

10. UCLA -- Our last team on the list just happens to be the last team to beat current heavyweight favorite USC. While UCLA played solid defense in that game, much of that goodwill was lost when they got manhandled by Florida State in their bowl game. Which UCLA team will show up next season? Quarterback will be an issue, with much heralded, 45-year old Ben Olson (second coming of Chris Weinke?) being named the starter over scrappy Pat Cowan, hero of the USC game and absorber of Brian Cushing's vicious sideline hit. Olson was the number one recruit in the nation back in the day, went to BYU, went on a Mormon mission, transferred to UCLA, got hurt... but he has yet to prove himself on the field. With the return of 10 starters from last year's tough nosed defense, the offense should be the unit to make or break the season for the Bruins. The schedule is pretty difficult, with the Bruins playing BYU, Utah, and Notre Dame (no automatic victories) non-conference, and closing out the season against the Trojans in the Coliseum. Can UCLA pull off the unthinkable 2 years in a row? Probably not, but the team should be good enough the rest of the year to think about an at-large BCS bowl.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Welcome College Football Fans!

This blog will attempt to settle debates covering all areas of the college football landscape.

With a series of Top 10 lists, "Best of College Football" will cover the topics near and dear to a fan's heart. From the standard (best conference, best stadium), to the unique (hottest cheerleaders, best gameday food), to the downright nasty (most obnoxious fans, highest percentage of criminals on team) - this blog will cover it all.

Hey, we need something to pass the time with during baseball season...