Friday, August 31, 2007

Week 1 Preview: Saturday through Monday

I'll do the games in order by my own rankings, because why not? It'll be a CRAZY ADVENTURE. Oh, and for the record, how my confidence ratings tend to go:

5: No doubt in my mind who's going to win.
4: Miniscule chance of an upset.
3: Fairly confident that my pick will wind up winning, say in the 70-80% range.
2: Solid confidence - close, but enough where I think my pick will probably win.
1: Pretty much a total toss-up.

12:00 PM

Appalachian State @ #5 Michigan
Appalachian State's going for its third straight I-AA title, so this is a team capable of knocking off some lower-tier BCS teams. Michigan, not so much.
My Pick: Michigan
Confidence: 5

#91 East Carolina @ #10 Virginia Tech
Wow, the Hokies actually open up against a I-A opponent. ECU's a decent team, but without their quarterback, so Virginia Tech will probably heal the nation by returning some interceptions for touchdowns or something.
My Pick: Virginia Tech
Confidence: 4

#118 Florida International @ #11 Penn State
Yeah, this won't be pretty. With the coaching change at FIU, there's probably less of a chance that a brawl will break out and Joe Paterno will have to get involved. Sadly.
My Pick: Penn State
Confidence: 5

Youngstown State @ #14 Ohio State
In lieu of talking about what may be a 70-0 blowout, I'll just say that the Youngstown State penguin mascot is ADORABLE.
My Pick: Ohio State
Confidence: 5

#93 Marshall @ #19 Miami
Marshall's a decent enough team where the Miami offense could continue their troubles. But even so, Marshall has no running game and Miami's defense is so stout that I'd be shocked if they did much of anything.
My Pick: Miami
Confidence: 4

Northeastern @ #55 Northwestern
I'm admittedly not very knowledgeable on my I-AA stuff, but Northeastern seems to typically be a pretty good team, enough so to put up a fight here. Northwestern lost to UNH last year, but they're much improved, so I still give them the win, even if it might be closer than they'd like.
My Pick: Northwestern
Confidence: 3

#66 Colorado State @ #65 Colorado
As my rankings dictate, this is a close one. Colorado'll probably wind up being the better team in the end, but the Buffaloes are breaking in lots of freshmen. CSU's a much more veteran team, so this early in the year, they have a fairly solid edge.
My Pick: Colorado State
Confidence: 2

#119 UAB @ #69 Michigan State
For once, Michigan State will not be the team on the field that just has no idea what the hell they're doing.
My Pick: Michigan State
Confidence: 5

12:30 PM

Western Kentucky @ #16 Florida
Last year against Western Carolina, Tim Tebow proved himself to be an excellent I-AA quarterback. Here, he should prove himself to be an excellent I-A reclassification quarterback.
My Pick: Florida
Confidence: 5

2:00 PM

#38 Virginia @ #80 Wyoming
Wyoming's a dangerous team with some talented players, but Virginia returns almost everyone for what should be a big year. I expect this one to be close early, but the Cavs slowly pull away.
My Pick: Virginia
Confidence: 3

#73 Connecticut @ #100 Duke
Uh oh. Upset alert upset alert upset alert. Connecticut's clearly the better team, but Duke is hungry enough and has enough (such as last year's entire starting offense) to make this scary. Still, the UConn defense is looking for a rebound year, and even if new Huskies QB Tyler Lorenzen struggles, RB Donald Brown should be able to have a good game against the Duke D. But I've had a bad feeling about this game ever since I realized it was at Duke...
My Pick: Connecticut
Confidence: 2

South Carolina State @ #103 Air Force
Whenever a team goes from the wishbone to a passing attack, the transition is usually rough enough where they could wind up being upset by a I-AA. Still, most of those teams haven't been as talented as this Falcons squad, so I'll give them a fairly sizeable edge.
My Pick: Air Force
Confidence: 4

3:30 PM

#63 Western Michigan @ #3 West Virginia
Western Michigan is probably the best team in the MAC. If they get badges saying as much, maybe they can deflect the sun and shine it into Pat White's eyes! Sorry, I'm just trying to think of any possible winning strategy for the Broncos here.
My Pick: West Virginia
Confidence: 5

#58 Washington State @ #15 Wisconsin
Wazzou's underrated, and Wisconsin's overrated, but this seems like a pretty easy win for the Badgers. UW should be able to run at will, and I'm not sure WSU's passing attack can do much against that set of corners.
My Pick: Wisconsin
Confidence: 3

#57 Houston @ #17 Oregon
Houston's a good mid-major team, but they're breaking in a new QB and visiting an underrated Oregon team that has both something to prove and the ability to prove it. Uh oh.
My Pick: Oregon
Confidence: 4

#21 Missouri @ #35 Illinois
Ooh, an interesting one. Missouri's returning talent is very weighted towards offense, and Illinois has enough talent on both sides of the ball to gum up the works for the Tigers. Still, even if Illinois gets a lead, with a Ron Zook-led team, I'll believe it when I see it in regards to them holding it. Thus...
My Pick: Missouri
Confidence: 2

#88 Nevada @ #23 Nebraska
Could be a fun little shootout. Well, not really, since Nebraska has the players on defense to prevent the Wolf Pack from doing much.
My Pick: Nebraska
Confidence: 5

#28 UCLA @ #77 Stanford
The talent gap is quite large here, but I just get a feeling from this game. UCLA coach Karl Dorrell's teams tend to disappoint, and Harbaugh could manage to coach these guys up. The Bruins have the talent to put Stanford away early and stomp on their corpse often, but I wouldn't be shocked if they became the first (general consensus) top 25 team to fall here.
My Pick: UCLA
Confidence: 2

#33 Georgia Tech @ #46 Notre Dame
This is interesting. UND's secondary is the most veteran part of their defense, but they were vulnerable enough last year I could see them getting torched by what's still a good GT passing attack. But then again, they had Calvin Johnson last year, and the Yellow Jackets coaching staff didn't think to throw to him. Still, on the other side of the equation, I don't see NDQBTBNL or the Irish offense in general being able to do much against the Georgia Tech defense, so the Yellow Jackets should win what could be an ugly game.
My Pick: Georgia Tech
Confidence: 2

#36 Iowa @ #96 Northern Illinois
NIU's pretty much always a good enough team to be a decent threat, but even though they may dig up another 1000-yard rusher, without Garrett Wolfe, I pretty much doubt much happening here.
My Pick: Iowa
Confidence: 4

#60 Wake Forest @ #49 Boston College
Wake could pull the upset here, since BC's in the midst of their coaching transition. Still, BC has way more talent, and the homefield advantage is a pretty solid deciding factor.
My Pick: Boston College
Confidence: 2

#74 Mississippi @ #86 Memphis
Mississippi has all that shiny talent, but I'm not all that convinced they know what to do with it. Memphis returns a lot, and this should be close like last year's game. I'll give the edge to experience and homefield.
My Pick: Memphis
Confidence: 1

4:00 PM

#109 Middle Tennessee State @ #107 Florida Atlantic
HOT SUN BELT ACTION! FAU is the much more veteran team, although MTSU has some talent of their own. With the Sun Belt parity, who knows, but since I think FAU's the better team and they have homefield, they get the edge.
My Pick: Florida Atlantic
Confidence: 2

5:30 PM

#48 Arizona @ #43 Brigham Young
SHOOTOUT! BYU's OC came over from Texas Tech, and so does new Arizona OC Sonny Dykes. And both teams actually have defenses, too. Arizona has more returning talent, and actually, probably more talent on offense in general, but since they're just breaking in the system, BYU should be able to put up more points.
My Pick: Brigham Young
Confidence: 2

6:00 PM

#94 Baylor @ #27 TCU
Last year, Baylor was a much more veteran team, and I thought they had a shot at upsetting TCU. I was somewhat right, since the Horned Frogs looked mediocre in a 17-7 win. The gap's widened considerably in 12 months, and Baylor best-case scenario is now, what, putting up 10 points?
My Pick: TCU
Confidence: 4

#83 Central Florida @ #40 NC State
While I'm usually wary of teams changing coaches being vulnerable, I think Tom O'Brien was a huge step up at NCSU. UCF's a decent team, and this could be one of those games where the mid-major hangs in there early, but I think NC State's talent, especially in the running game, should carry them here.
My Pick: NC State
Confidence: 3

#105 Eastern Michigan @ #53 Pittsburgh
The Wannstache got upset by a MAC team last year, but that one was actually good. Oh, I shouldn't be so harsh, EMU is passable, but, c'mon, still lower-tier.
My Pick: Pittsburgh
Confidence: 4

Eastern Kentucky @ #54 Kentucky
I'm not sure who has the worse defense.
My Pick: Kentucky
Confidence: 4

Villanova @ #61 Maryland
Well, the one thing Maryland proved last year is that they could beat I-AA teams, so...
My Pick: Maryland
Confidence: 5

James Madison @ #81 North Carolina
Once again I'll give a disclaimer about my lack of I-AA knowledge, but if I remember correctly, JMU's typically pretty bad. UNC may be vulnerable due to their complete lack of experience, but even if I'm wrong on JMU, the Heels should be able to win this one solidly.
My Pick: North Carolina
Confidence: 4

6:45 PM

#30 Oklahoma State @ #18 Georgia
Georgia has talent over experience on defense, and OSU has that explosive offense. But really, the difference is the matchup on the other side of things, since OK State has an experienced enough secondary that I'm not sure Matt Stafford will be able to do much. Georgia should live up to that top-20 ranking by the end of the season, especially as the defense comes together, but this is a pretty bad matchup for them this early.
My Pick: Oklahoma State
Confidence: 2

7:00 PM

#115 North Texas @ #4 Oklahoma
If Todd Dodge's first year as UNT coach results in more wins than expected, this will not be one of them.
My Pick: Oklahoma
Confidence: 5

#104 Arkansas State @ #6 Texas
If Steve Roberts's sixth year as ASU coach results in more wins than expected, this will not be one of them.
My Pick: Texas
Confidence: 5

#111 Louisiana-Lafayette @ #8 South Carolina
If Rickey Bustle's sixth year as ULL coach results in more wins than expected, this will not be one of them.
My Pick: South Carolina
Confidence: 5

Montana State @ #13 Texas A&M
If...whoops, sorry about that. Montana State is a bit of a Big 12-killer, scaring OK State in 2005 and beating Colorado last year, but this is a much higher-caliber opponent, and that streak should come to an end.
My Pick: Texas A&M
Confidence: 5

#72 Troy @ #32 Arkansas
If Arkansas had a mere mortal at running back, I could easily see this being an upset with Troy's strong defense and Arkansas's horrible QB play. Last year, McFadden was able to take the team on his back and beat some pretty good SEC teams; this year, he'll probably only be able to do that against teams like Troy and, say, Kentucky. But hey, he'll damn well try!
My Pick: Arkansas
Confidence: 3

#39 Purdue @ #84 Toledo
Toledo should have a rebound year, and would have a good chance at the upset if Purdue was returning nobody on defense, but, well, no dice. Still could happen, but probably not.
My Pick: Purdue
Confidence: 3

Tennessee-Martin @ #41 Southern Miss
Southern Miss is, in fact, a better team than Tennessee-Martin.
My Pick: Southern Miss
Confidence: 5

Richmond @ #50 Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt has a good team by their standards, so this shouldn't be a concern.
My Pick: Vanderbilt
Confidence: 4

#71 Central Michigan @ #52 Kansas
A close one. Both teams' weaknesses are along the lines, so it's not as if there's some inexperienced area where one team can exploit the other. CMU has more in flux with their coaching change, and I'm not sure how CMU QB Dan LeFevour will do against a very good KU secondary, so I'll give the Jayhawks a slight edge.
My Pick: Kansas
Confidence: 1

Gardner-Webb @ #95 Ohio
One or two MAC teams usually wind up being upset by a I-AA, but I think Ohio has enough talent on hand to not be the one. Or two.
My Pick: Ohio
Confidence: 4

#117 Army @ #99 Akron
Akron's no great shakes, as this year they're the level of team that COULD get upset by a I-AA, but, well, Army's really bad. I suppose I have to give them a shot, since I just said Akron could get upset by a I-AA, but really, it's six of one, half a dozen of the other.
My Pick: Akron
Confidence: 4

Central Arkansas @ #116 Louisiana Tech
If this was a good I-AA team, watch out, but (again with the disclaimer I could very well be wrong), I'm not sure if UCA is even a I-AA team yet. I think they might be reclassifying. LT better win this one though, or they'll be hard-pressed for another.
My Pick: Louisiana Tech
Confidence: 4

7:05 PM

Elon @ #20 South Florida
If USF manages to pull off the win here, I think they might finally get their deserved respect as a top-25 team.
My Pick: South Florida
Confidence: 5

7:07 PM

Western Carolina @ #12 Alabama
WCU continues their whirlwind tour of pain at the hands of the SEC. The start time's about the only intriguing thing here. And whether Nick Saban decides halfway through the game to coach somewhere else.
My Pick: Alabama
Confidence: 5

7:45 PM

#44 Kansas State @ #37 Auburn
Ehhh I won't pull the trigger on this one. I don't think KSU QB Josh Freeman is quite there YET, and while the Auburn OL is vulnerable, I'm not especially sold on the KSU linebackers early (although the defensive line is fine.) DE Ian Campbell may have a good day for KSU, but I think Auburn scrapes one out.
My Pick: Auburn
Confidence: 1

8:00 PM

#29 Tennessee @ #31 California
Last year, Tennessee torched the Cal secondary at home. While that secondary is where most of Cal's returning experience is on D, it WAS pretty bad last year, so who knows how good they'll really be. Unfortunately, Tennessee graduated pretty much their entire receiving corps, and have secondary issues of their own, so it's all one delicious conundrum. Cal probably has the best WR corps in the country, so I'll give them the edge, as they're the team that has a better chance to exploit the other's suspect secondary.
My Pick: California
Confidence: 1

Indiana State @ #70 Indiana
Then-interim coach Bill Lynch coached Indiana to a loss against I-AA Southern Illinois last year, so there's a precedent. Indiana should be much better this year, though.
My Pick: Indiana
Confidence: 3

#82 Bowling Green @ #79 Minnesota
That Bowling Green offense should be back, and Minnesota secondary got absolutely bitchslapped in the offseason with star CB Dominic Jones being kicked off the team. One of the big potential upsets of the week.
My Pick: Bowling Green
Confidence: 2

Nicholls State @ #106 Rice
I have no idea how good Nicholls State is, but eeh oh eeh oh the upset potential alarm is going off, as Rice is kind of a mess. The passing combo of Clement-to-Dillard may save them here, though.
My Picke: Rice
Confidence: 3

10:00 PM

#75 San Jose State @ #25 Arizona State
SJSU was probably the most surprising breakout season that wasn't due to pure luck, but Arizona State is somewhat of a sleeping giant after last year's disappointing campaign. This is a hell of a secondary for ASU QB Rudy Carpenter to begin his resurgence against, but ASU is traditionally a beast at home and the talent gap is just too great.
My Pick: Arizona State
Confidence: 3

#64 New Mexico @ #89 UTEP
All-MWC RB Rodney Ferguson should carve up an inexperienced UTEP front seven, and that's pretty much the difference here. UTEP's also throwing up the "rotating QBs" warning flag.
My Pick: New Mexico
Confidence: 3

Sacramento State @ #78 Fresno State
Wow, Fresno really WILL play anyone, anywhere, anytime.
My Pick: Fresno State
Confidence: 4

10:15 PM

#112 Idaho @ #2 USC
The only intrigue is how much this game will hurt USC's strength of schedule if they wind up being one of three undefeated teams.
My Pick: USC
Confidence: 5

12:05 AM

Northern Colorado @ #22 Hawaii
My Pick: Hawaii
Confidence: 5

4:00 PM

#45 Texas Tech @ #90 SMU
TTU is having a down year, and SMU has an excellent QB in Justin Willis, but the Red Raiders will probably still put up 40 or so points for the win. Still, stranger things have happened, and either way, Willis should have a big day.
My Pick: Texas Tech
Confidence: 3

8:00 PM

#9 Florida State @ #24 Clemson
Oh who the hell knows. FSU clearly has more talent, but the front seven is the comparative weakness of their D and Clemson does have that insane duo of running backs. I'm extremely close to pulling the trigger, since Clemson isn't too far off from last year, but, ARGH! I can't. FSU seems to be more of a coaching transition, while Clemson needs to bring along talent, mainly at QB and the O-Line, so the Noles have the edge.
My Pick: Florida State
Confidence: 1

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Just in time.

1. LSU
2. USC
3. West Virginia
4. Oklahoma
5. Michigan
6. Texas
7. Louisville
8. South Carolina
9. Florida State
10. Virginia Tech
11. Penn State
12. Alabama
13. Texas A&M
14. Ohio State
15. Wisconsin
16. Florida
17. Oregon
18. Georgia
19. Miami
20. South Florida
21. Missouri
22. Hawaii
23. Nebraska
24. Clemson
25. Arizona State
26. Boise State
27. TCU
28. UCLA
29. Tennessee
30. Oklahoma State
31. California
32. Arkansas
33. Georgia Tech
34. Rutgers
35. Illinois
36. Iowa
37. Auburn
38. Virginia
39. Purdue
40. NC State
41. Southern Miss
42. Oregon State
43. Brigham Young
44. Kansas State
45. Texas Tech
46. Notre Dame
47. Utah
48. Arizona
49. Boston College
50. Vanderbilt
51. Cincinnati
52. Kansas
53. Pittsburgh
54. Kentucky
55. Northwestern
56. Navy
57. Houston
58. Washington State
59. Mississippi State
60. Wake Forest
61. Maryland
62. New Mexico State
63. Western Michigan
64. New Mexico
65. Colorado
66. Colorado State
67. Tulsa
68. Washington
69. Michigan State
70. Indiana
71. Central Michigan
72. Troy
73. Connecticut
74. Mississippi
75. San Jose State
76. Kent State
77. Stanford
78. Fresno State
79. Minnesota
80. Wyoming
81. North Carolina
82. Bowling Green
83. Central Florida
84. Toledo
85. Iowa State
86. Memphis
87. UNLV
88. Nevada
89. UTEP
90. SMU
91. East Carolina
92. Miami of Ohio
93. Marshall
94. Baylor
95. Ohio
96. Northern Illinois
97. Louisiana-Monroe
98. San Diego State
99. Akron
100. Duke
101. Syracuse
102. Ball State
103. Air Force
104. Arkansas State
105. Eastern Michigan
106. Rice
107. Florida Atlantic
108. Buffalo
109. Middle Tennessee State
110. Tulane
111. Louisiana-Lafayette
112. Idaho
113. Utah State
114. Temple
115. North Texas
116. Louisiana Tech
117. Army
118. Florida International
119. UAB

Week 1 Rundown: Thursday and Friday

You mean I DON'T have to write whole paragraphs? Anyway, no rankings (yet), 119'll be up, don't you worry. HOORAY ALPHABETICAL ORDER!

7:00 PM

Miami of Ohio @ Ball State
MAC parity alert! Ball State has a definite chance of an upset, if this is one, but the Cardinals defense was horrible last year and Miami has potent weapons at QB and RB, so I'll give the RedHawks the edge.
My Pick: Miami of Ohio
Confidence (out of 5): 2

Buffalo @ Rutgers
When I said Rutgers was overrated, they're not THIS overrated. Buffalo has a sliver of a chance, though.
My Pick: Rutgers
Confidence: 4

Southeast Missouri State @ Cincinnati
I think I may have said something at some point about Cincinnati actually being less boring this year. Just thinking about this game makes me yawn, so I may have to take that back.
My Pick: Cincinnati
Confidence: 5

Tulsa @ Louisiana-Monroe
Could be an upset special. Tulsa easily has the talent edge, but is learning a new system on offense, while ULM has a high-powered attack. I'll still pick Tulsa, but since the Sun Belt usually has one or two inexplicable wins a year over a solid mid-major, this could help fill the quota.
My Pick: Tulsa
Confidence: 1

7:30 PM

Murray State @ Louisville
It's a close one, but...
My Pick: Louisville
Confidence: 5

8:00 PM

Kent State @ Iowa State
Kent State's an upper-echelon MAC team (or so I think -- God, the parity in the MAC is frustrating for prognosticating), and while ISU has some talented players, as a team? Ehhhh. Cyclones have a chance being at home and perhaps wanting to make a big debut for coach Gene Chizik, though.
My Pick: Kent State
Confidence: 1

LSU @ Mississippi State
Mississippi State is a much better team than people think. LSU will almost surely destroy them.
My Pick: LSU
Confidence: 4

Southeastern Louisiana @ New Mexico State
Hal Mumme left Southeastern Louisiana after the 2004 season to take the head coaching job at New Mexico State. QB Chase Holbrook followed him there and wound up being one of the best in the WAC last year. To try and get revenge, Southeastern Louisiana will try to hold them under 500 yards.
My Pick: New Mexico State
Confidence: 5

8:05 PM

UNLV @ Utah State
Both teams have resons for optimism, but UNLV's a league above USU. The Rebels are looking to make it to a bowl; the Aggies are looking to fend off Louisiana Tech and Idaho.
My Pick: UNLV
Confidence: 3

9:00 PM

Weber State @ Boise State
A Weber State upset here would be like Boise's upset of Oklahoma last year. Just without the chance of happening.
My Pick: Boise State
Confidence: 5

10:00 PM

Utah @ Oregon State
An interesting game! Utah's a darkhorse among the mid-major ranks, and while Oregon State has been getting some darkhorse love themselves, ehhhhh. OSU's star WR Sammie Stroughter won't be with them, and coach Mike Riley plans to use the first half to figure out which QB to go with for the season. Which...seems like an interesting time to do things. And a horrible idea. And for prediction's sake, I believe that Riley will go with the QB that will result in them losing.
My Pick: Utah
Confidence: 2

7:30 PM

Navy @ Temple
Temple has their first MAC game against Buffalo next week. They'll probably commemorate their departure from Independent status with a game that should be like much of their Independent tenure: a crushing defeat.
My Pick: Navy
Confidence: 4

8:00 PM

Washington @ Syracuse
CRIPPLE FIGHT! Washington probably won't have a good year, but they have some talent on both sides of the ball. New Huskies QB Jake Locker may struggle, but even if he does, he should be more productive than the anemic Syracuse offense.
My Pick: Washington
Confidence: 2

The 2007 NCAA Previewtacular: THE INDEPENDENTS


1. Notre Dame (#38 overall - AT: #38, LN: #36, SN: #39, ST: #34)
2. Navy (#56 overall - AT: #48, LN: #64, SN: #50, ST: #75)
3. Army (#111 overall - AT: #111, LN: #114, SN: #103, ST: #114)


1. Notre Dame

The Irish shouldn't be too far off last year's team despite returning only 9 starters; unfortunately, last year was about an 8-win team, and the Irish schedule does them no favors. Whoever the starting QB is, he'll be behind a question mark of an offensive line; two excellent starters return in center John Sullivan and tackle Sam Young, but past that the line is as inexperienced as it is talented. At the very least, the running game may remain at about the same level, despite the loss of star RB Darius Walker; sophomore James Aldridge was one of the nation's top recruits in 2006, and is capable of a huge year now that he's healthy. The defense may hold up surprisingly well, even though the defensive line was absolutely gutted past DE Trevor Laws. Going to a 3-4 defense is a positive move for this season, as linebacker is probably the best position on this D; Joe Brockington and Maurice Crum are an excellent returning duo, and the talent level of the depth is near-elite. The secondary returns two starters, including third team all-American SS Tom Zbikowski, and essentially has a third in 2005 starting CB Ambrose Wooden. Maybe this year they won't get torched. Ohhhh ya burnt. Which, in fact, they were often. Anyway, the last four games on UND's schedule are winnable; the problem is, they may start the season 0-8, especially since Michigan State traditionally plays them tough. There's enough talent to pull off an upset at UCLA, but the Irish will probably have to win two of the home games against Georgia Tech, Michigan State, and BC to make it to .500.


2. Navy

It's almost pointless to analyze the Navy defense; they have an excellent system in place, and will run, run, then run some more, and keep running, and run for a lot of yards. But it's worth mentioning that they have an excellent stable of backs, led by seniors FB Adam Ballard and SB Reggie Campbell, who scored an NCAA bowl record 5 TDs against Colorado State in 2005. The defense is the real concern/variable this season, as the Midshipmen return only three starters. At the very least, both starting corners return for the secondary, and the linebacking corps has some talented upperclassmen. Still, the defensive line could very likely get pushed around, resulting in whatever the rushing equivalent of a shootout is. This could be a down year for Navy, but they have pretty much the opposite of the Notre Dame schedule, with Rutgers and the Irish themselves being the two major tests. It'd take a disaster for Navy not to be bowl eligible.


3. Army

David Pevoto returns at QB after a pretty awful junior campaign, where he barely reached 1000 yards and threw for a 6/14 TD/INT ratio. Still, he should improve on those numbers. Hopefully. The Black Knights also return a talented duo of backs in RB Wesley McMahand and FB Mike Viti, but they'll be behind a suspect offensive line that only returns two starters. The defense should be the strength of the team. While the defensive line loses two starters, they get a very big boost in talented DT Ted Bentler, who transfers from Iowa. The secondary should also be better, with three returning starters, but while the linebacking corps returns lots of upperclassmen, experience is scarce. The defense should be solid, but the offense will probably prevent them from going anywhere. At the very least, Army has some winnable home games against URI, Temple, and Tulane, but that's about it.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The 2007 NCAA Previewtacular: THE SUN BELT


1. Troy (#79 overall - AT: #82, LN: #81, SN: #61, ST: #91)
2. Middle Tennessee State (#102 overall - AT: #105, LN: #100, SN: #89, ST: #102)
3. Arkansas State (#105 overall - AT: #104, LN: #109, SN: #83, ST: #109)
4. Louisiana-Monroe (#106 overall - AT: #110, LN: #96, SN: #111, ST: #98)
5. Florida Atlantic (#107 overall - AT: #109, LN: #108, SN: #101, ST: #99)
6. Louisiana-Lafayette (#108 overall - AT: #112, LN: #103, SN: #94, ST: #112)
7. North Texas (#112 overall - AT: #114, LN: #112, SN: #113, ST: #118)
8. Florida International (#119 overall - AT: #119, LN: #119, SN: #119, ST: #119)


1. Troy

This was a middle of the road team last year in terms of statistics, but there's just too much talent here to not have the Trojans at #1. Senior QB Omar Hougabook was a revelation after transferring in from junior college, throwing for 2401 and a 21/17 TD/INT ratio on 61.3% passing. He should improve, at the very least in that TD/INT ratio. The offensive line is the biggest question mark, returning only one starter, but heavy on JuCo talent; still, talented senior RB Kenny Cattouse may rush for 1000 either way. On defense, the Trojans return eight starters, and most of the open spots are filled by the usual highly talented transfers: DTs Chris Bradwell (Florida State) and Dion Gales (Ole Miss), as well as SS Trevor Ford (Florida State). The defense as a whole is both more experienced and more talented, and is the elite of the Sun Belt. The questions on offense, especially the line, means this team is far from invincible in the conference, but that defense alone should guarantee bowl-eligibility.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 6-8 overall wins, 5-7 conference wins

2. Louisiana-Monroe

The Warhawks had the best offense in the Sun Belt last year, and return all 11 starters there - uh-oh. QB Kinsmon Lancaster has eternally endeared himself to me by outgaining Kansas (yes, the entire team) all by his lonesome in last year's 19-21 loss. Over the season, his decision-making greatly improved, so he should be a much better quarterback, and have a much better TD/INT ratio than last year's 7/14. RB Calvin Dawson had 1210 yards and 11 TD last year, and is one of the conference's best backs; he'll be running behind a line that not only returns all five starters, but 2005 starting center Brent Gregston. Also back is backup tackle Joseph Joseph, whose middle name may or may not be Joseph. On defense, the front seven returns five starters and should be a strength, but the secondary is a question mark; starter Greg James returns and injuries last year leave some starting experience this year, but all in all, the talent level is fairly mediocre. Still, most of last year's top QBs in the conference have graduated, so the Warhawks get fairly lucky. ULM gets Troy on the road, but the Warhawks offense should make them a favorite in every other Sun Belt game, as well as one of the favorites to take home the conference title.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 5-8 overall wins, 4-7 conference wins

3. Arkansas State

The Indians projected out as the best team in the Sun Belt, but had some bad luck and only finished 4-3 in the conference. Sophomore QB Corey Leonard had a mediocre year, but completed less than 50% of his passes; he should improve that and see some better results, especially since ASU returns pretty much every receiving of note. All-Sun Belt RB Reggie Arnold will probably be the star of the offense either way, though, since he ran for 1076 yards and 4 TD as a freshman, despite a nagging ankle injury for half the year. On defense, the front seven is pretty much a question mark, despite the presence of star LB Koby McKinnon. Still, the defense should be improved thanks to what's probably the conference's best secondary, returning four starters and the excellent safety duo of FS Khayyam Burns and two-time all-Sun Belt SS Tyrell Johnson. The Indians should be an improved team, but since they don't have a I-AA gimme like most of the conference, the Sun Belt's parity means a repeat of last year's 6-6 finish should be a best-case scenario.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 4-7 overall wins, 4-6 conference wins

4. Florida Atlantic

FAU benefits from having a very veteran squad, returning 18 starters, the most in the Sun Belt. Sophomore QB Rusty Smith should improve over last year's 6/8 TD/INT ratio, and the running back corps, with returning starter Charles Pierre, 2005 star DiIvory Edgecomb, and top frosh Xavier Stinson, has both talent and depth. They'll be behind a veteran offensive line. The defensive line should be a strength, especially down the middle, as DT Josh Pinnick was all-Sun Belt last year, and fellow DT Jervonte Jackson earned second-team honors. Despite having the one lost starter, the secondary should also improve, since the team returns 2005 starting FS Greg Joseph at the open cornerback slot. FAU has a pretty unwinnable OOC schedule, but the Owls luckily get both Arkansas State and Louisiana-Monroe at home; FAU could be a surprise contender for the conference title, and gain bowl-eligibility purely on in-conference wins.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 3-6 overall wins, 3-6 conference wins

5. Middle Tennessee State

The offense scored about a touchdown per game more than they should've, so that, combined with only 6 starters returning on offense, suggests a serious regression. Still, the cupboard isn't completely bare; although new QB Joe Craddock was pretty awful in limited action, pretty much every top receiver returns from a veteran unit. The running game also shouldn't see much of a dropoff, as senior DeMarco McNair has a comparable talent level to departed starter Eugene Gross. The offensive line should be solid, but is more of a question mark than the other units - only two starters return, including stud left tackle Franklin Dunbar, but there's some starting experience elsewhere on the depth chart. The defense has a gaping hole at the linebacking corps, but should be fine everywhere else. All four starters return along the line, and while only two starters in the secondary return, they're two great ones: top CB Bradley Robinson and free safety Damon Nickson, who was all-Sun Belt last year as both a safety and a return man. Bowl eligibility isn't out of the question, but this should be a down year for the Blue Raiders.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 4-6 overall wins, 3-5 conference wins

6. Louisiana-Lafayette

Junior Michael Desormeaux takes over at QB; departed four-year starter Jerry Babb had a disappointing final season, so Desormeaux should at least match that stat-line. However, with a strong offensive line, All-Sun Belt RB Tyrell Fenroy should once again be the best player on the offense; Fenroy ran for 1197 yards and 10 TD as a sophomore last year. The defense should at least stay somewhat steady. While linebacker has the least returning starters, 2005 starter Mark Risher returns there, leaving the defensive line as the hardest hit unit. The secondary also suffers some losses, but all in all, there's enough starting experience throughout the defense that the dropoff shouldn't be all that major. Still, while the Ragin' Cajuns aren't hit as hard by graduation as their 10 departed starters would suggest, this is still a team generally down a bit from last year. As with any Sun Belt team, there's enough parity where ULL may have a solid season, but matching last year's 6-6 record should be considered a success.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 3-6 overall wins, 2-5 conference wins

7. North Texas

Longtime head coach Darrell Dickey is gone, and has been replaced by Todd Dodge, who used a high-powered pass offense to win a number of Texas State titles at Southlake Carroll high school. While the transition to the new offense will likely prevent any huge gains, there's enough talent for the offense to improve. QB Daniel Meager should improve upon last year's, pardon the horrible pun, meager returns at the position, especially in a more pass-based scheme. Meanwhile, senior RB Jamario Thomas, who led the nation in rushing oh so long ago as a freshman, should hopefully outproduce last year's running game, which was the Mean Green's worst in a decade. Still, his efforts may be thwarted by a shaky offensive line, that while it returns some upperclassmen, is fairly low on experience and is, again, learning a new system. The defense was actually pretty decent, if a little unlucky, last year, and should be pretty excellent by Sun Belt standards, as ten starters return. North Texas's strength has typically been its defense, and this year is no exception. While the D should keep UNT in games, with the change in schemes, it's doubtful the Mean Green will actually be able to win too many. There's always a chance a new offense could take immediately and benefit from some luck, like Rice last year, but that's a very risky bet.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 1-4 overall wins, 0-3 conference wins

8. Florida International

FIU actually had an excellent defense last year, leading the NCAA in tackles for loss, but they also may have led the NCAA in bad luck, as they gave up about 8 or 9 points more than their yardage would indicate. Unfortunately, that defense has been gutted of most of its best players, and new coach Mario Cristobal is installing new schemes. A starting QB has yet to be announced, but the winner of the derby should be able to outproduce the departed Josh Padrick, who had a decent completion percentage but an awful 5/14 TD/INT ratio. The running game should be a strength though, despite the change in offensive line schemes, as all five starters on the line return to pave the way for Deadspin Hall of Famer A'Mod Ned and Julian Reams. On defense, the secondary should at least be decent, as three starters return. But the front seven was absolutely decimated; OLB James Black is gone, all-Sun Belt OLB Alexander Bostic is gone, all-Sun Belt MLB Keyonvis Bouie is gone, and perhaps most of all, tackle-for-loss machine DE Antwan Barnes is gone. There's enough talent there to be competitive in most Sun Belt games, but while FIU may actually win a game this year, that may wind up being the best news.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 0-3 overall wins, 0-3 conference wins

The 2007 NCAA Previewtacular: THE MAC


MAC East:

1. Ohio (#85 overall - AT: #90, LN: #85, SN: #66, ST: #100)
2. Miami of Ohio (#86t overall - AT: #97, LN: #94, SN: #58, ST: #93)
3. Kent State (#88 overall - AT: #88, LN: #73, SN: #109, ST: #78)
4. Bowling Green (#93t overall - AT: #94, LN: #106, SN: #67, ST: #95)
5. Akron (#100 overall - AT: #101, LN: #86, SN: #96, ST: #103)
6. Temple (#112t overall - AT: #115, LN: #118, SN: #95, ST: #116)
7. Buffalo (#118 overall - AT: #118, LN: #116, SN: #118, ST: #115)

MAC West:

1. Western Michigan (#59 overall - AT: #68, LN: #62, SN: #62, ST: #54)
2. Central Michigan (#70 overall - AT: #59, LN: #54, SN: #90, ST: #80)
3. Toledo (#74t overall - AT: #81, LN: #88, SN: #68, ST: #60)
4. Ball State (#91 overall - AT: #93, LN: #101, SN: #64, ST: #96)
5. Northern Illinois (#92 overall - AT: #96, LN: #105, SN: #91, ST: #66)
6. Eastern Michigan (#115 overall - AT: #116, LN: #115, SN: #116, ST: #108)


MAC East:

1. Kent State

Kent State was a pretty good team last year that deserved to be a game or two over .500, but suffered from an unlucky offense and bad luck in general. Starting QB Julian Edelman and starting RB Eugene Jarvis both return, and both should be much improved from mediocre 2006 campaigns. A stronger offensive line, returning four starters from last year and one from '05, helps immensely. A pretty good defense should be one of the MAC's best, as eight starters return. The secondary may be a weakness though, as only two starters return and the depth is somewhat shaky. While Kent isn't a runaway favorite in the East, they're solidly the best team; between last year's bad luck and returning experience, the Golden Flashes should get into their first bowl since 1972.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 5-9 overall wins, 3-7 conference wins

2. Bowling Green

After a down year, the Bowling Green offense should be up and running again this year, returning 7 starters. Highly-talented junior QB Anthony Turner returns after a promising season, and he'll be protected by a strong offensive line, led by all-MAC center Kory Lichtensteiger. The running game should also be much improved after some injury struggles last year, as every RB of note returns, and the Falcons add JuCo transfer Eric Ransom. The defense was decent but unlucky last year, and the only real question is along the defensive line. There's some returning experience, but starting TE Sean O'Drobinak was actually moved to DT. Defensive MVP Erique Dozier returns at middle linebacker, and the secondary should be very much improved, returning all four starters from what was a young unit last season. While the Falcons won't reach the heights of some of their seasons in the early decade, they should have a much improved record and make it back to a bowl.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 5-9 overall wins, 4-7 conference wins

3. Miami of Ohio

The RedHawks offense should improve, especially in the running game, where senior Brandon Murphy should greatly improve over a lackluster, injury-filled 2006, and where the team adds very talented recruit Thomas Merriweather. The 2.8 yards per carry of last year should also improve thanks to a much better offensive line, where essentially every starter returns, and Maryland transfer Zachary Marshall is also brought in. Senior QB Mike Kokal had a fine if unnotable campaign last season in his debut as a starter, and his numbers should improve despite heavy losses in the receiving corps. Last year's average defense should be around the same level, if not slightly improved. There's losses in every unit, but also good experience, led by the return of top CB Jerrid Gaines. Miami should have noticeable improvement over last year's 2-10 record. Bowl eligibility is somewhat of a 50/50 proposition, especially since the RedHawks only play 7 conference games, but getting both BGSU and Akron at home, as well as only Ball State from the West, helps.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 4-8 overall wins, 3-6 conference wins

4. Ohio

The offense was pretty bad last year, but managed to score about a touchdown more than their yardage would suggest; while the good news is that the offense should be improved, even with only five returning starters, the bad news is that their scoring will probably still go down. At the very least, 4 of the 5 starters returning will benefit the running game, which is the Bobcats' bread and butter. Senior RB Kalvin McRae should repeat his excellent season last year behind an experienced offensive line. New QB and ex-Illinois starter Brad Bower should improve on last year's mediocre numbers at the position, although he has a fairly awful 1/7 TD/INT ratio in spot duty last season. A pretty good defense last year could move in either direction - while three of four starters return for both the defensive line and secondary, no linebackers return with any previous starts at the position. Still, this is overall a solid team, even if they shouldn't match last year's 9 wins. With a weaker OOC schedule than many of its peers, Ohio has a very good shot at repeating as a bowl eligible team.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 5-8 overall wins, 3-6 conference wins

5. Akron

Akron had a surprisingly poor offense last year with now-departed QB Luke Getsy, and things are a question mark for 2007. Very talented RB Dennis Kennedy returns, as does pretty much every WR from a very good group, but it remains to be seen if their talent will be facilitated. New QB Carlton Jackson has the entirety of the experience at the position, going 1 for 1 for 2 yards last season, and only left tackle Chris Kemme returns along the offensive line. Things are somewhat more optimistic and definitely more definite on the defense, where essentially 9 starters return. Their top two defensive linemen depart, so that unit is somewhat of a question mark, but last year's starters return everywhere but strong safety, where 2005 starter Chevin Pace comes back. Also, cornerback Reggie Corner has a very appropriate name. Akron's pretty easily the weak sister among the top 5 MAC East teams, but they have some winnable games against lower-tier BCS schools, and combined with the parity in the conference, this is another team that could easily make a bowl.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 3-7 overall wins, 2-5 conference wins

6. Buffalo

Buffalo was a very bad team on both sides of the ball last year, but with 9 starters returning on each side of the ball, things are looking up. QB Drew Willy returns after a decent year, and should benefit from most of the WR depth returning. The offensive line returns four starters and is very experienced, which could lead to sophomore RB James Starks, who was 2nd team all-MAC last season, having a breakout year. Starks's health is paramount, however, as most of the RB depth has graduated. The defense should improve, returning 9 starters, but the degree to which they do so will be decided by the linebacking corps; that's where the two starters are lost, and while there's tons of upperclassman depth, they actually have very little experience. The team should be much better, but won't gain enough ground to avoid a losing season; I do, however, give them a shot at topping their best win total this decade, that being 3 in 2001.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 0-4 overall wins, 0-4 conference wins

7. Temple

Temple may have been the worst team in the country last year, finishing third-to-last in defense and dead last on offense. The offense should be better, returning 8 starters, and returning QB Alex DiMichele should improve greatly over a year that saw decent peripherals, but a pretty bad 10/12 TD/INT ratio. He'll be helped by an improved WR corps, which includes junior Travis Shelton, who, while only playing 6 games, led the nation with 196.7 all-purpose yards per game; he could have a similar effect on the MAC as his cousin, Devin Hester, does in the NFL. The running game should also be much better, as the offensive line returns five players that were essentially starters last year, and the Owls gain talented JuCo transfer Marcellous Grigsby. Things also look better on defense. The team moves some linebackers to the defensive front, and the linebacking corps itself is helped by three transfers: Tommie Weatherspoon (JuCo), Lamar McPherson (Syracuse), and Wallace Bates (Oregon State). The secondary also returns some decent experience. While the Owls should be much better, again, they were so bad last year that they likely won't benefit much. On the plus side, they do get Buffalo at home, and do play Army out of conference, but it'll take some luck for them to win anything past that.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 0-3 overall wins, 0-2 conference wins

MAC West:

1. Western Michigan

An offense that was below-average but lucky should receive a shot in the arm with the return of QB Tim Hiller from injury; as a freshman in 2005, Hiller threw for 1334 yards and a 20/3 TD/INT ratio on 65% passing in part-time duty. He'll throw to what should be an improved WR corps, as pretty much everyone returns, and the unit adds high-caliber JuCo Schneider Julien. Mark Bonds looks to, and probably will, repeat his 1000 yard junior season, and he'll do so behind a very experienced and very deep offensive line. The Broncos had an elite level defense last year (#11), mostly on the strength of their #5 overall run defense. They may not repeat that finish; while the defensive line is strong, the linebackers are the biggest question mark on the team. OLB Ameer Ismail leaves after leading the nation with 17 sacks, but the unit does return junior Dustin Duclo, who was actually voted the defensive MVP. Even if the defense isn't as good against the run, Western Michigan should have one of the top secondaries in the nation, and the best of any non-BCS team. They return all four starters from a unit that led the NCAA in interceptions, led by all-MAC CB Londen Fryar (Irving's son.) The linebacking unit is a concern, but both the elite secondary and WMU's dominance against the run last year afford them some drop-off. This team looks like the class of the MAC, and while winning their OOC games at West Virginia, Missouri, or Iowa is a bit much, this should be a big year.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 6-10 overall wins, 4-8 conference wins

2. Central Michigan

QB Dan LeFevour was forced into action on the second play of 2006, and was an absolute revelation as a freshman, throwing for 3031 yards and a 26/10 ratio on 63.7% passing, and leading the Chippewas to a 10-3 year. While he may not match those numbers, he should have another very good year, especially with all-MAC WR Bryan Anderson to throw to. The offensive line may take a step back after losing two NFL draft picks, but the unit should still be solid enough to open up holes for a very talented RB unit, led by returning starter Ontario Sneed and Notre Dame transfer Justin Hoskins. The defense was mediocre last season, but things should improve, or at least stay steady. On the negative side, CMU loses both starting DEs, including NFL 2nd-round pick Dan Bazuin. However, the run defense should still be well off, as the Chippewas return likely the best LB duo in the conference, in all-MAC MLB Red Keith and 2nd team all-MAC OLB Ike Brown. The secondary returns three starters from a young unit, and should also improve. It looks like another good year for Central Michigan. Changing coaches, losing some star players, and getting both Kent State and WMU on the road means that last year's 10 wins is probably unreachable, but bowl eligibility should be easily attainable.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 5-9 overall wins, 3-6 conference wins

3. Toledo

Last year, Toledo was a disappointing veteran team, and sophomore QB Aaron Opelt looks to lead a revitalized offense. Opelt won a three-quarterback derby and was a part-time starter last year, and should improve upon what was an absolutely mediocre year from the position, especially for a Tom Astutz offense. The offensive line should greatly improve, led by two-time all-MAC tackle John Greco, and that could lead to an even bigger year from senior back Jalen Parmele, who ran for 1131 and 8 touchdowns last year. The defense should also improve; each unit loses only one starter, and last year's D allowed about a touchdown more than yardage would project. Toledo should be a contender in the West, and they have a similar outlook to Bowling Green: a return to bowl eligibility led by a rebound by the offense.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 5-9 overall wins, 3-7 conference wins

4. Northern Illinois

NIU met their 7-5 projection last year out of some weird cosmic coincidence - the offense scored much less points than it deserved to, but the defense didn't give up as many as it should've. The offense may not regress in scoring, but in may in performance, solely due to the loss of RB Garrett Wolfe, who was one of the most productive backs in NCAA history. The Huskies will likely have another 1000-yard rusher, purely due to system and talent, but they likely won't have another 1928-yard rusher like Wolfe was last year. Junior QB Dan Nicholson takes over after being a productive spot starter, and he has a very good receiving corps to throw to, led by Britt Davis and Marcus Perez. The offensive line should remain solid with three returning starters, and again, there's the talent at running back to have another productive year. The defense should take a few steps back, from more than just regression to the mean. Four of the front seven return, led by all-MAC DE Larry English, but the secondary is very much a question mark, with junior CB Bradley Pruitt the one returning starter. NIU's still an above-average team in the MAC, and having Southern Illinois and Idaho out of conference gives them a very good shot to have another winning year.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 4-8 overall wins, 2-6 conference wins

5. Ball State

Sophomore QB Nate Davis had an outstanding debut, throwing for 1975 and 18/8 on 61.2% passing. He should at least extrapolate those numbers out to a full season, and should be one of the conference's best QBs. He'll also return his top two targets, 2nd team all-MAC WR Dante Love, and honorable mention all-MAC TE Darius Hill. The running game is a bit more of a question mark, although things should improve. There's not much returning talent at the running back position, but the position only averaged 3 yards per carry last season, and will be behind a veteran offensive line. The defense was one of the worst in the nation last year, but should at least be somewhat improved. Seven starters return, and no level of the defense suffers huge amounts of losses, but there don't seem to be any individual players to get excited about. The team should be better, if not live up to last year's 5-7 record. Still, if the defense improves to about an average level of play, the Cardinals have enough to pull the upsets they need to get bowl eligibility.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 3-6 overall wins, 2-4 conference wins

6. Eastern Michigan

The Eagles didn't quite deserve to be 1-11, but they were in fact a very bad team last year. The offense was near the bottom of the barrel, and the glaring reason for that is the running game. When your top two rushers are the two quarterbacks that split playing time last year, it hasn't been a good season. Although I could find no news on who the starting QB is (not a good sign), I assume it's sophomore Andy Schmitt, who had a good completion percentage but a horrible 2/6 TD/INT ratio. The offensive line is fairly experienced, so I expect that to facilitate some better production, especially from the running backs. The defense should also be improved from a dismal year, as they return 9 starters. The entire secondary comes back, but the strongest unit may be linebacker, where tackling machine Daniel Holtzclaw returns. EMU should be a much improved team, as 16 returning starters would indicate, but they may not see much of a move up the rankings. They don't play Temple or Buffalo from the West and have only three MAC home games. Although anything's possible with the MAC's parity, this should be a long year.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 0-3 overall wins, 0-2 conference wins

The 2007 NCAA Previewtacular: THE C-USA


C-USA East:

1. Southern Miss (#41 overall - AT: #41, LN: #41, SN: #24, ST: #53)
2. Central Florida (#77 overall - AT: #62, LN: #91, SN: #69, ST: #84)
3. Marshall (#83 overall - AT: #73, LN: #92, SN: #77, ST: #92)
4. East Carolina (#89 overall - AT: #86, LN: #87, SN: #92, ST: #86)
5. Memphis (#95 overall - AT: #92, LN: #104, SN: #102, ST: #72)
6. UAB (#110 overall - AT: #107, LN: #107, SN: #110, ST: #117)

C-USA West:

1. Houston (#51 overall - AT: #56, LN: #39, SN: #42, ST: #69)
2. Tulsa (#60 overall - AT: #52, LN: #50, SN: #60, ST: #87)
3. SMU (#74t overall - AT: #69, LN: #65, SN: #75, ST: #88)
4. UTEP (#84 overall - AT: #95, LN: #67, SN: #93, ST: #83)
5. Rice (#99 overall - AT: #83, LN: #97, SN: #99, ST: #106)
6. Tulane (#109 overall - AT: #106, LN: #111, SN: #106, ST: #107)


C-USA East:

1. Southern Miss

RB Damion Fletcher was a revelation as a freshman last year, and he'll pair up with freshman Antwain Easterling to form an extremely formidable 1-2 punch. The offensive line may be somewhat shaky, returning only the starting tackles, but senior QB Jeremy Young should improve upon last year's decent season. He'll also have all-CUSA TE Shawn Nelson to throw to. The defense, as usual, is the real star of the show, returning eight starters. The only weakness is the cornerbacks, where there's talent, but not experience. Still, the talent everywhere else on D is at the level where USM'll be more than fine. The Golden Eagles are solid on both sides of the ball, though much moreso on defense, and while they may be a tad overrated nationally (or just by The Sporting News), they have a good shot at a 10-win season.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 8-11 overall wins, 6-8 conference wins

2. Central Florida

UCF was in a number of close games last year, and easily could've been bowl-eligible instead of 4-8. The offense was horribly unlucky in scoring vs. yardage, and should improve greatly with 8 starters returning. Senior QB Kyle Israel is not one of those returning starters, but he performed very well in spot duty last year, and should improve upon last year's numbers at the position. 2nd team all-CUSA RB Kevin Smith also returns behind a line that's the most experienced in the conference. Last year's poor defense should be very much improved, returning 9 starters, including 2005 all-CUSA CB Joe Burnett. While the Golden Knights have a tough out of conference schedule, regression to the mean should get them to bowl-eligibility; if they improve even more than expected, this could be the surprise team of the conference.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 5-8 overall wins, 4-7 conference wins

3. Memphis

Memphis returns 8 starters on each side of the ball, and thus should be way better than last year. The offense is also now in its second year in a new system, so returning seniors QB Martin Hankins and RB Joseph Doss should both improve from last year's average campaigns. And really, the same is true for an offensive line that was disappointing last season. The defense should see a similar improvement - two starters depart, and their spots should be filled by two talented transfers from the SEC - DT Freddie Barnett (Arkansas) and SS Tony Bell (Auburn). Memphis is a greatly improved team with more talent, a more stable coaching situation, and an easier schedule than last year. With an easy OOC slate and getting Marshall, ECU and SMU all at home, Memphis actually has a shot at inverting last year's 2-10 record and going 10-2. Either way, Memphis is probably the odds-on favorite to see the nation's biggest increase in wins.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 7-10 overall wins, 4-6 conference wins

4. East Carolina

The key to ECU's offense will be the play at quarterback; four-year starter James Pinkney is gone, and sophomore Rob Kass takes over with very little experience (30 attempts for 184 yards and an INT). A much-improved offensive line should help him develop, at least after he's back from a suspension in the season opener. Play from the running backs should also be much improved, as the unit has struggled with injuries, and they bring in some talented freshmen. The defense, as it was last year, should be the strength of the team. Everyone in the front seven returns, as does senior CB Travis Williams. There are holes in the rest of the secondary, one of which will be filled by converted OLB Van Eskridge, but the unit has some upside, bringing in some very talented redshirt freshmen. The defense should be strong enough to keep the Pirates in their conference games, but it looks like a rebuilding year. Bowl eligibility isn't out of the question, especially if the QB play is decent, but a tough out of conference schedule (Virginia Tech, West Virginia, NC State) and drawing Houston out of the West makes it very far from a guarantee:

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 3-7 overall wins, 2-6 conference wins

5. Marshall

Senior QB Bernard Morris was disappointing last year, partly due to injuries; he should greatly improve upon last year's 8/12 TD/INT ratio. He'll benefit from a strong receiving corps that returns most of its talent, and brings in excellently-named JuCo WR Darius Passmore. The offensive line should be very strong, led by all-CUSA center Doug Legursky, but the running game will probably take a few steps back after the departure of NFL-caliber RB Ahmad Bradshaw. Last year's below-average defense should be much improved; seven starters return, led by all-CUSA DE Albert McClellan, and the departures are spread throughout the levels of the D. The one key should be health; outside of the defensive line, depth behind the projected starters seems fairly shaky. Marshall compares well to ECU, and faces much the same situation; a tough out of conference schedule (Miami, WVU, Cincinnati) and drawing Houston and Tulsa out of the West may put a damper on the bowl eligibility hopes of an improved team.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 3-7 overall wins, 2-5 conference wins

6. UAB

The Blazers return only 8 starters from what was just a plain old bad team last year, which isn't a good sign. Last year's offense was poor, and it seems like a rebuilding year with pretty much every unit. Senior Sam Hunt has beaten out sophomore Joseph Webb at the QB position, at least for the time being; new coach Neil Callaway is apparently considering using both in many different places on the field, such as wide receiver. Speaking of, most of last year's top receivers are gone, but there is some starting experience here and there; the leading target should be converted QB Sylvester Mencer. The offensive line should have a transition year as well, as only two starters return to learn a new system. Every running back of note also leaves, though things may improve there with the addition of Alabama transfer Aaron Johns. On defense, things may stay somewhat stable; 3rd team all-CUSA LB Joe Henderson should be a bright spot, and two starters return, along with other starting experience, in the secondary. The defensive line was mostly gutted, however. This is a rebuilding year if there ever was one; at the very least, UAB should be able to get a win against Alcorn State, and may be able to beat Tulane at home.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 0-3 overall wins, 0-2 conference wins

C-USA West:

1. Houston

The Cougars had the #7 offense in the nation last year, and while it may not repeat that rank, it should still be in the upper handful of the country. NFL-caliber QB Kevin Kolb departs after four years as a starter, and while the new starter (either sophomore Blake Joseph or redshirt frosh Case Keenum) may not match Kolb's superlative 2006 stat line, the position should still be a strength. An offensive line that should once again be strong will lead the way for senior RB Anthony Alridge, who, while not the starter last year, averaged an insane 10.1 yards on his 95 carries. A decent defense last year should at least hold steady. Lots of experience returns in the front seven, and things should be helped by LB transfers Stephen James (Oklahoma State) and James Francis (Baylor). And while only two of last year's starters return in the secondary, the team gets back SS Rocky Schwartz, who was one of the defense's best players in 2005. Even with Kolb's graduation, the offense still puts Houston in the C-USA's elite. They should easily be able to get to bowl-eligibility in conference play, but wins at Oregon or Alabama are pretty much out of the question, having to break in a new QB.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 8-10 overall wins, 6-8 conference wins

2. Tulsa

Even with the addition of last year's Arkansas OC, Gus Malzahn, Tulsa may be a more defense-oriented team this season, returning 6 starters on that side of the ball versus the offense's 4. That's not to say the offense will completely fall apart after last year's top-20 finish; QB Paul Smith and RB Courtney Tennial are seniors among the best at their position in the conference. Still, the receiving corps are fairly bare, and the offensive line is an even bigger concern, with only one starter returning and having to learn Malzahn's system. Last year's defense, also a top-20 unit, also faces some regression, but probably less so than the offense. The probably have to do more with who they lose rather than who's there; talented players, often with experience, are taking over the open positions, but the players leaving were some of Tulsa's best, such as LB Nick Bunting and FS Bobby Blackshire. Still, the defense should remain above-average, and all-CUSA MLB Nelson Coleman returning is a plus. The transition to Malzahn's offense is the main concern here, but again, the offense has enough talent to keep things humming along fairly well. It's a transition year, but Tulsa should be able to make a bowl once again.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 6-9 overall wins, 4-7 conference wins


A very good team with two major question marks, in QB and the defensive line. 8 starters return from an above-average offense last year, including the entire starting offensive line, which should result in a much-improved year from senior RB Marcus Thomas. And while the receiving corps loses its top two starters, including NFL-caliber Johnnie Lee Higgins, the position may actually be improved, due to the addition of Fred Rouse, a very highly talented transfer from Florida State. That leaves the quarterback position, where redshirt freshman Trevor Vittatoe and part-time WR/Florida State transfer Lorne Sam will split snaps. While Vittatoe may be worthwhile, I'm pretty skeptical of this idea. Although, again, he also had duties at WR and RB, Sam only went 1/6 for a TD and an INT last year; while he should obviously improve on that, I'm not sure rotating QBs is a better idea than just letting Vittatoe take his lumps and develop. At the very least, the defense should be much improved. Again, the defensive line is the main concern, as almost nobody returns and the unit is heavy on JuCo transfers. Still, the linebacking corps returns two starters and brings in Arizona State transfer Adam Vincent, while the secondary should improve with the benefit of what's probably the CUSA top duo of safeties: all-CUSA FS Quintin Demps and all-CUSA frosh team SS Braxton Amy. The QB situation probably limits the Miners' upside for the season, but unless the position becomes a complete disaster, there's enough here to make it to bowl eligibility.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 3-7 overall wins, 2-5 conference wins

4. SMU

QB Justin Willis returns after an insanely great freshman campaign, and while he may not repeat those numbers, he should lead an offense. The offensive line returns four starters and their entire 2nd string, which should help what was a horribly disappointing rushing attack; is starting RB DeMyron Martin remains healthy, he should more than double last year's 369 yards. Still, SMU scored about a touchdown more than their yardage suggests, so while the level of play should definitely improve, their scoring may take a small step back. On defense, SMU has one of the best linebacking corps in the conference, returning three senior starters. Though the defensive line and secondary lose three and two starters, respectively, there's enough experience (moreso in the latter) that things should remain close to last year's levels. There's a lot of parity in Conference USA, and SMU draws winnable games with UTEP, Tulane, Rice, and Central Florida at home. If the Mustangs can sweep those, two winnable OOC games means this could be the season SMU finally returns to a bowl. However, there's little room for error.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 3-7 overall wins, 2-5 conference wins

5. Rice

Rice had a complete "what the fuck?" season last year, as one of the most hapless programs in recent history changed coaches, ditched the wishbone for a spread offense, which normally takes 3 or so years to work if it even does, and promptly went from 1-10 to 7-5. Still, this projected out to about a 3-9 team last year, and they're now on their third system in three years under new head coach David Bailiff. While QB Chase Clement isn't an elite QB, he's more than capable of allowing WR Jarett Dillard to put up huge numbers. Dillard broke out in a huge way last year, catching 21 TDs en route to earning 2nd team all-American honors. That may be the only reason for optimism on offense though, as while the offensive line is experienced, they change systems AGAIN, and the running stats should be hurt by the graduation of Quinton Smith. The defense was pretty horrible last year, and while they should be improved, that probably means just to "bad." All three starting linebackers return, as do both starting corners, but the defensive line is a huge question mark after DE George Chukwu. Clement-to-Dillard should continue to be fun to watch, but the Owls fall back to earth this year.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 1-4 overall wins, 0-3 conference wins

6. Tulane

Tulane was bad on defense and average but unlucky on offense last year, and with only 5 starters returning on the latter, they probably won't be able to benefit from regression to the mean. RB Matt Forte should be the star of the show, running behind a decent offensive line, as the passing game should take a hit with the graduation of QB Lester Ricard. Things look better on the defensive side of the ball; six of the starting front seven return, and both starting safeties come back alongside some corners with experience. With most of Tulane's winnable games on the road, the schedule pays them no favors; this is an obvious rebuilding year.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 1-4 overall wins, 0-2 conference wins

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The 2007 NCAA Previewtacular: THE MWC


1. TCU (#20 overall - AT: #25, LN: #15, SN: #20, SS: #23, ST: #25)
2. Brigham Young (#36 overall - AT: #36, LN: #44, SN: #25, SS: --, ST: #36)
3. Utah (#47 overall - AT: #47, LN: #45, SN: #59, SS: --, ST: #31)
4. New Mexico (#58 overall - AT: #63, LN: #72, SN: #49, SS: --, ST: #61)
5. Wyoming (#76 overall - AT: #76, LN: #69, SN: #72, SS: --, ST: #82)
6. Colorado State (#80 overall - AT: #79, LN: #83, SN: #82, SS: --, ST: #77)
7. Air Force (#96 overall - AT: #87, LN: #93, SN: #104, SS: --, ST: #89)
8. San Diego State (#98 overall - AT: #91, LN: #99, SN: #97, SS: --, ST: #94)
9. UNLV (#103 overall - AT: #102, LN: #102, SN: #114, SS: --, ST: #81)


1. TCU

TCU was a top-20 team on both sides of the ball, and while the offense may take a step back, the defense should carry them easily. In a minor surprise, redshirt freshman Andy Dalton beat out last year's backup Marcus Jackson for the starting QB slot. While he's talented, his performance will be the major question mark for the Horned Frogs, especially since the talent at WR takes a step down. Still, he'll have one of the best running backs in the conference to help him out in Aaron Brown, who had 5.2 yards per carry last season, and the offensive line should be solid. 9 starters return from last year's #4 defense, led by what's probably the best duo of DEs in the nation in seniors Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz. Both earned all-MWC honors in both 2005 and 2006. TCU's offense may be shaky, but they can afford to be with what should one again be one of the nation's top defenses. They're not an invincible team in the conference, but they're easily the favorites, and should easily reach double-digit wins.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 9-11 overall wins, 6-8 conference wins

2. Brigham Young

Arizona State transfer Max Hall will take over at QB for what should be another high-powered passing attack. The Cougars return two starters at WR from last year, and get back sophomore Austin Collie, who was MWC freshman of the year in 2004 before leaving on a Mormon mission. He'll also be protected by one of the top offensive lines in the nation. The running game may take a step back, though, as star RB Curtis Brown departs. The defense, while returning seven starters, should regress performance-wise, as they allowed about a touchdown less than their yardage dictated in 2006. Still, their level of play should improve, as both the secondary and defensive line return three starters, and the LB corps has some experienced depth. It should be another good year for BYU, mostly on the backs of that offense. Getting both TCU and Utah at home means that the Cougars should once again have double-digit wins.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 8-11 overall wins, 6-8 conference wins

3. Utah

A very good offense last year should be even better, with essentially ten starters returning. QB Brian Johnson, 2005's starter, is probably the best quarterback in the conference, even after redshirting last year due to injury. And if he's rusty, he should be helped out by a very experienced receiving corps. The running game should be much improved after a medicore year, as the Utes bring in high-talent JuCo transfer Matt Asiata to bolster an already talented stable of backs. Things should also be helped by one of the top o-lines in the conference. The defense should remain solid, but may have some problems in the secondary; while there's the experience to get by in the front seven, the loss of 2-time MWC defensive player of the year Eric Weddle, along with two other starting defensive backs, may leave the team vulnerable to the pass. Utah should be improved, but may wind up around last year's 7 or 8 wins again; they have tough OOC games against Oregon State, UCLA and Louisville, and have to play BYU and TCU on the road.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 7-11 overall wins, 6-8 conference wins

4. New Mexico

The Lobos return 18 starters, which means they should be much improved on both sides of the ball. Sophomore QB Donovan Porterie was decent in limited action last year, and he'll be helped by all-MWC RB Rodney Ferguson and all-MWC WR Travis Brown. The offensive line should remain steady, returning three starters. The defense should see some serious gains, as everyone's back except LB Quincy Black. And all the returning starters are upperclassmen, so this should be one of the more improved defenses in the country. There's a lot of parity in the conference, which leads to a pretty wide range of possibilities, but enough games are winnable where the improvements should lead UNM to an above-.500 season.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 5-10 overall wins, 4-7 conference wins

5. Colorado State

CSU's in much the same boat as New Mexico, returning 18 starters, and looking to be much improved on both sides of the ball. The offense gets a huge boost with the return from injury of senior RB Kyle Bell, who was one the conference's top backs in 2005. The passing game should also be much improved, as senior QB Caleb Hanie returns after a mediocre year in which he struggled with injuries. Injuries last year have also led to an offensive line that returns more experience than there's been in years. The linebacking corps should be the weakness of the defense, since the Rams return starters everywhere else, but the defense is packed with upperclassman depth. This, again, should be a much-improved team, but bowl-eligibility isn't a complete lock. Colorado, California, and Houston is a tough opening slate (although CSU may be able to exploit Colorado's inexperience), and the swing game against New Mexico is on the road.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 5-8 overall wins, 4-6 conference wins

6. Wyoming

Wyoming could've easily been 10-2, not 6-6 last year; the Cowboys has a stretch of four games (Virginia, Boise State, Air Force, Syracuse) where they lost by a touchdown or less. This was mostly due to a top-10 (yes, top-10) defense that was very unlucky with scoring. Unfortunately, only five starters return on that defense. The linebacking corps should be one of the conference's best, as all three starters return, and the secondary has enough returning talent to remain above-average, but the defensive line was absolutely gutted by graduation. The offensive line isn't much better off, returning only two starters, which are also the unit's only two upperclassmen. Things should still be more productive on offense, though, despite the line troubles; QB Karsten Sween should improve over a promising freshman year, and the Cowboys have a very talented 1-2 rushing attack in RBs Wynel Seldon and Devin Moore. Wyoming could still pull of bowl-eligibility, but it all depends on the play at the lines. If both lines come together fairly quickly, Wyoming could be the conference's surprise team; however, that's a big if.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 4-7 overall wins, 2-5 conference wins


UNLV played around their 2-10 record last year, but leaps should be made this season. QB Rocky Hinds disappointed in his first year after transferring from USC; however, he played the entire year with a torn ACL, so assuming he's at full health, he should be one of the most improved QBs in the nation. He'll be helped by sophomore WR Ryan Wolfe, who was a revelation last year, earning all-MWC and freshman All-American honors. The offensive line will be a test of system vs. talent, as only two starters return, but this is the third year of coach Mike Sanford's system. The defense should be much-improved. Only four of the front seven return, but the Rebels should be bolstered by talented transfers DT Thor Pili (Oregon via JuCo) and LB Jimmy Miller (Mississippi State). Only two starts return in the secondary, but stepping in at free safety will be senior Tony Cade, who was an elite recruit that originally signed with Oklahoma. With the improvements on defense, the path of UNLV's season essentially comes down to the improvement of both the line and Hinds. Either way, the Rebels should improve upon last year's 2-10 record, but if Hinds plays well, they could make a surprise run for bowl eligibility.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 3-6 overall wins, 2-4 conference wins

8. San Diego State

SDSU was about as good (or bad) as their 3-9 record last year; at least the offense should improve. The offensive line should be much better, returning four starters, and that should help senior QB Kevin O'Connell improve over a mediocre junior campaign. Every running back returns from a talented, but disappointing, corps, so they should also be much-improved. The defense? Ehhhhh. Four starters return there, all along the front seven. The secondary may not be that bad for returning no starters, as there's some experience including Hawaii transfer Ray Bass, but things are still shaky. SDSU may improve on the whole, and while this is a talented enough team to pull off a few upsets, this is a rebuilding year.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 2-5 overall wins, 1-3 conference wins

9. Air Force

A hard team to get a hold of, mostly since new coach Troy Calhoun will be phasing out the wishbone for a more pass-based attack. This has normally resulted in disaster for the first few years, with the one exception being Rice last year. It's a shame too, since the Falcons return seniors at 9 positions on offense, including four-year starting QB Shaun Carney. The defense should at least improve slightly with 6 starters returning, as well as 2005 starting CB Carson Bird; the losses are spread out among the units so no one level of the defense is clearly hurt. If the offense takes, Air Force has five winnable home games and could easily get a road win for bowl eligibility. If it doesn't...well, look at what happened to Army.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 2-6 overall wins, 0-4 conference wins

The 2007 NCAA Previewtacular: THE WAC

Turns out that I may have just cut this a bit too close, so the mid-major previews are going to be more perfunctory in the write-ups. I'll still give the gist, though. Hopefully I'll knock these out by the end of Tuesday and be able to preview Thursday and Friday's games either that night or Wednesday; then my top 25, if it's not a top 119, should be up Wednesday or Thursday. HERE WE GO.


1. Hawaii (#22 overall - AT: #19, LN: #19, SN: #32, SS: --, ST: #23)
2. Boise State (#34 overall - AT: #35, LN: #29, SN: #22, SS: #25, ST: #44)
3. San Jose State (#65t overall - AT: #72, LN: #63, SN: #73, SS: --, ST: #64)
4. Fresno State (#71 overall - AT: #89, LN: #61, SN: #65, SS: --, ST: #73)
5. Nevada (#78 overall - AT: #84, LN: #84, SN: #63, SS: --, ST: #76)
6. New Mexico State (#86t overall - AT: #103, LN: #95, SN: #76, SS: --, ST: #68)
7. Louisiana Tech (#112t overall - AT: #108, LN: #113, SN: #112, SS: --, ST: #111)
8. Idaho (#114 overall - AT: #113, LN: #110, SN: #115, SS: --, ST: #110)
9. Utah State (#117 overall - AT: #117, LN: #117, SN: #117, SS: --, ST: #113)


1. Hawaii

And it's close. The defense is the question mark by reasons other than default, as 8 starters return from a below average unit, and after great strides were made under DC Jerry Glanville, he's left to become head coach at Portland State. The offense should continue to put up insane numbers, as they outgained #2 Louisville by almost 75 yards per game last year. Colt Brennan may not top last year's numbers, but for posterity and general holy shitness, here are last year's numbers: 5549 yards, 72.6% completion, 58/12 TD/INT ratio. The obvious big test is Boise on 11/22, which is in Honolulu, and there's a trap game the Friday before at Nevada. And hopefully their 10/27 home game will be on TV, and it should be an insane shootout against New Mexico State.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 10-12 overall wins, 6-8 conference wins

2. Boise State

Boise was as well-rounded as any team in the nation last year, and even returning only 11 starters, I'm not counting the Broncos out. The BSU offense is always a well-oiled machine, and that should continue. Four starters return on the line, as does RB Ian Johnson and his NCAA-leading 25 rushing TDs. The defense's strength should be the secondary, returning three starters. That's as nice as place as there can be to return starters when you'll be facing Hawaii and NMSU. Boise'll take a step back, but it'll be taking a step back from the best team in school history. With Southern Miss at home the only real out of conference test, their season-ending game at Hawaii could be between two undefeated teams.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 9-12 overall wins, 6-8 conference wins

3. New Mexico State

Hawaii-lite. With the amount of yardage NMSU piled up (#3 in the nation), they easily could've scored 38 or so per game instead of 31. And watch out, they return everyone on offense but their starting left guard. QB Chase Holbrook, in one season, set an NCAA record for passing yards by a sophomore, and is also already more than halfway to the all-time NMSU career passing record. WR Chris Williams led the NCAA in receiving last year, and might do it again. The defense returns 7 starters and should continue to improve under DC Woody Widenhofer, who helped put together the "Steel Curtain" defense. Yes, the one way back when. NMSU probably won't win their OOC game at Auburn, and having both Hawaii and Boise on the road probably prevents them from a WAC title, but the Aggies should easily be bowl eligible. Unless Holbrook goes down, as everyone else at QB is a freshman, then they're screwed.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 8-10 overall wins, 5-7 conference wins

4. San Jose State

A close one between SJSU and Fresno, the Spartans have more experience, while Fresno has more talent. The offense was decent last year, and should remain at that level. Senior QB Adam Tafralis returns after a solid year, but the WR corps is very unproven after being gutted by graduation. Star RB Yonus Davis should also have a good year behind an improved offensive line. The defense should improve over last year due to 8 returning starters, including LB Matt Castelo, who led the NCAA in tackles, and CB Dwight Lowery, who led the nation in interceptions. While tough OOC games against Arizona State and Kansas State will probably prevent SJSU from matching last year's 9 wins, this should be another positive year with easy bowl eligibility.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 6-8 overall wins, 4-6 conference wins

5. Fresno State

Well, last year was a disaster; while I've always felt Fresno was overrated, especially after the 2005 USC game, I didn't see THAT coming. It seems like a situation where the level of play almost has to improve given the talent. Returning most of the offensive line will help, although QB Tom Brandstater's bad line from last year didn't exactly inspire confidence. The RB unit should be solid, again due to the talent, but departed starter Dwayne Wright was last year's bright spot and should be tough to match. The defense was horribly disappointing last year, especially against the pass, and while only four starters return, some regression to the mean in terms of talent should level things out. Fresno should be much improved, but may still have a disappointing year - they have their usual hellish OOC schedule (Oregon, Kansas State, Texas A&M), and teams like NMSU and SJSU are no longer the gimmes they were in '05 and '04.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 5-8 overall wins, 4-6 conference wins

6. Nevada

Nevada should be a decent team on both sides of the ball, but nothing too great. New QB Nick Graziano should be solid, but I doubt he'll match departed senior Jeff Rowe's numbers. Luckily for him, all of the returning starters on offense are receivers or on the line. The defense was a bit on the lucky side last year, but should continue to improve with 7 returning starters, led by all-WAC LB Ezra Butler. This is a rebuilding year for Wolf Pack, but they look like they'll manage bowl eligibility for a third straight year.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 5-8 overall wins, 3-5 conference wins

7. Idaho

Despite yet another coaching change, Idaho looks like the best of the bunch among three teams that were horrible last year. The bright spot on offense is a very deep RB corps, returning Brian Flowers, Jayson Bird and Rolly Lumbala, all of whom have starting talent and will be running behind a solid offensive line. QB is a question mark, as redshirt freshman Nathan Enderle will be backed up by senior Brian Nooy, who's been pretty bad in limited action. Still, things can't be much worse than the departed Steve Wichman's 2006 numbers. The defense should be improved - new coach Robb Akey is a defensive mind, and all-WAC CB Stanley Franks is one of seven returning starters. Still, being improved from a very bad season last year is damning with faint praise. Idaho gets both Utah State and Louisiana Tech at home, so they're in the driver's seat to the race for seventh place. That's pretty much the only reason for optimism this season, unless the Vandals manage to hold USC under 70.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 1-4 overall wins, 0-3 conference wins

8. Utah State

The Aggies return 8 starters on offense and everyone on defense, though who knows what that means when your team was one of the worst in the nation last year. You'd almost think the offense would have to get better, especially with the addition of ex-North Texas coach Darrell Dickey as coordinator, but I'm not so sure; QB Leon Jackson was dismal in split duty, and the leading returning rusher is senior Aaron Lesue, who in four starts managed an amazing 51 yards. Total. The defense has enough experience to not be embarrassing, but with that offense, it may not mean much. USU should win their home game against Louisiana Tech. Past that, things look much bleaker.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 0-3 overall wins, 0-2 conference wins

9. Louisiana Tech

Louisiana Tech confronts the same conundrum as Utah State: is returning 10 of 11 starters on defense a good thing when that defense was the worst in the nation by almost 30 yards per game? Probably not, although the Bulldogs D may jump ahead of USU's. The offense was unlucky last year, but with the coaching change, that may not result in any real improvement this season. Things should at least remain steady though; there's depth at RB and on the offensive line, and senior Zac Champion returns after a season that was...better than some horrible QBs were. Louisiana Tech could surprise if the defense plays well, but "surprise" pretty much just means beating both Utah State and Idaho on the road.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 1-3 overall wins, 0-2 conference wins

Monday, August 27, 2007

The 2007 NCAA Previewtacular: THE PAC 10


1. USC (#1 overall - AT: #1, LN: #1, SN: #1, SS: #1, ST: #1)
2. California (#12t overall - AT: #11, LN: #12, SN: #12, SS: #11, ST: #22)
3. UCLA (#15 overall - AT: #15, LN: #22, SN: #10, SS: #17, ST: #20)
4. Oregon State (#26 overall - AT: #22, LN: #32, SN: #29, SS: #24, ST: #28)
5. Arizona State (#37 overall - AT: #44, LN: #30, SN: #41, SS: --, ST: #27)
6. Oregon (#40 overall - AT: #40, LN: #47, SN: #52, SS: --, ST: #16)
7. Arizona (#46 overall - AT: #37, LN: #46, SN: #56, SS: --, ST: #42)
8. Washington State (#62 overall - AT: #58, LN: #71, SN: #79, SS: --, ST: #55)
9. Washington (#65t overall - AT: #64, LN: #66, SN: #85, SS: --, ST: #57)
10. Stanford (#97 overall - AT: #100, LN: #79, SN: #108, SS: --, ST: #90)

OVERRATED: California. UCLA has the favorable schedule to at least meet their high expectations - the Bears benefitted from a very lucky defense last year, one that returns only five starters.

UNDERRATED: Oregon. Their late-season slide was mostly bad luck, and they return a lot from a team that could've had double-digit wins last year.


1. USC

Well, duh. There's almost no point in analyzing returning starters with USC since the talent level is so high, but it's still a very scary thought that the Trojans return 10 starters from what was already a very good defense. USC didn't dominate statistically last year, but it was still, obviously, a very good year, and again, the Trojans look to only be better, especially on D. And, hey, senior QB John David Booty is the early Heisman favorite, and they go about 10 deep at running back. I'd point out individual star players, but pretty much everyone returning earned some sort of honor, so I'll just say that Booty, DT Sedrick Ellis, and LBs Keith Rivers and Rey Maualuga were all-Pac 10 last year, and that 2005 All-American DE Lawrence Jackson should recover from a disappointing junior campaign. USC is far from an unbeatable team; the one huge question mark is the young WR corps, and while there's much worse places to have experience, if nobody comes through there, that could be a problem. This is one of those years where USC gets a bunch of tricky opponents on the road, as they travel to Oregon, California, Arizona State, and out of conference to Nebraska and Notre Dame, plus they have the UCLA rivalry game at home. USC's the first- or second-most talented team in the country, but there's still a chance they lose a game somewhere along the way.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 10-12 overall wins, 7-9 conference wins

2. Oregon

Oregon's implosion down the stretch was more due to bad luck than any sudden lack in effectiveness, as pretty much every game down the stretch was winnable. The defensive statistics for the season alone reflect this, as the Ducks' opponents scored about a touchdown more than you'd expect based on the yardage. But either way, the stars of the show will be the offense, where New Hampshire's Chip Kelly takes over for the departed Gary Crowton. He'll oversee a talented backfield, led by stud junior RB Jonathan Stewart; while Stewart's been good, he has a huge amount of room for improvement, as he may be the most talented back in the conference. QB Dennis Dixon should have a much more productive senior campaign - while his 2143 yards and 61.2% completion percentage were good last year, his 12/14 TD/INT ratio, not so much. He'll be throwing to a talented WR corps, led by junior Jaison Williams. The offensive line should be around last year's level -- three starters return, and the Ducks bring in a top JuCo tackle in Fenuki Tupou. On defense, the secondary should be one of the best in the country; four of five starters return, including star safety Patrick Chung and last year's Pac 10 co-Freshman of the Year, CB Jairus Byrd. The front six pretty much consists of three starters and JuCo talent; while there may be a transition there, the defense should improve as a whole due to the secondary's strength and regression to the mean. While Oregon has road games at Michigan and UCLA, they have the luck of getting USC, Arizona State, and California at home. The Ducks have a good shot at winning three of those, and should come close to last year's projected 9 or 10 wins. There's some reason for concern, especially since new OC Chip Kelly is untested at a I-A level, but the Pac 10 is wide open enough where Oregon should have a great year.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 8-11 overall wins, 6-9 conference wins

3. Arizona State

The Sun Devils return a very good offense that should be much improved, and that starts with junior QB Rudy Carpenter. Carpenter led the country in passing efficiency as a freshman, but had a good, if disappointing second season (2523, 55.4%, 23/14). He later admitted to a fractured hand, so his statistics should be much improved. He'll also be throwing behind a much-improved O-line, which returns all five starters, three of which earned 2nd team or honorable mention all-Pac 10 honors. And the rest of the skill positions are also in good hands, as 2nd team all-Pac 10 RB Ryan Torain heads up a stacked depth chart, and senior do-everything WR Rudy Burgess is also back for another year. The defense is more of a mixed bag. Only three starters return in the front seven, though there are some sophomores with starting experience in the linebacker corps. The secondary also has to replace two starters, but some experienced upperclassmen should be plugged right in alongside senior CB Justin Tyron and FS Josh Barrett, both of which were honorable mention all-Pac 10. The Arizona State defense was very unlucky in terms of yardage vs. scoring allowed; even if the defense's level of play falters due to returning only 5 starters, the end results should still be improved. That, combined with a pretty high-powered offense that should improve with the health of Carpenter, makes ASU, much like Oregon, a very improved team. The Sun Devils also get a favorable schedule, as their four toughest games aren't until the last five; Arizona State has an excellent chance at starting 7-1 or 8-0. This should be a breakout year.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 8-11 overall wins, 6-9 conference wins


UCLA returns almost everyone on both sides of the ball, which is the obvious reason for such preseason optimism. Along the offensive line, everyone but center Robert Chai returns, including top guard Shannon Tevaga. The line should be much improved, and should thus lead to much better rushing numbers from senior Chris Markey, who ran for 1107 yards, but only 2 touchdowns. Junior QB Ben Olson should also have a much-improved year, if only due to health - he threw for 822 yards and a 5/5 ratio on 63.7% passing before going down with injury. He'll be throwing to a deep WR corps, led by returning senior starters Marcus Everett and Brandon Breazell, along with 2005's top receiver, Joe Cowan, who returns from injury. On defense, there's very little not to like. Six of the front seven return, and the Bruins have experienced depth. However, last year's vulnerable secondary may now be the strength, as UCLA returns four senior starters, led by 2nd team all-Pac 10 SS Chris Horton and honorable mention CB Trey Brown. UCLA, due to all the returning talent, should obviously be much improved, but remember, this was a .500-level team last year, USC win or not. The low starting point on offense from last year, despite the returnees, makes me put UCLA at #4. Still, the Bruins are the lucky team in the 2-5 glut that draws California, Arizona State, and Oregon all at home. While the talent level may not be up to the Ducks or the Sun Devils, UCLA may be the team that winds up in second place.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 7-11 overall wins, 4-8 conference wins

5. California

Might as well start with the good news, that being the offense. Nate Longshore was the latest in a line of very good Jeff Tedford QBs, gaining honorable mention all-Pac 10 honors on 3021 yards and a 24/13 ratio on 60.2% passing. He'll be throwing to what might be the best receiving corps in the country, led by all-Pac 10 junior DeSean Jackson and two honorable mention all-Pac 10 seniors, Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan. Running back Justin Forsett also returns for his senior season; he's played well in backup duty for NFL first-rounder Marshawn Lynch, rushing for 626 and 4 last season. And hey, the offensive line should be above-average as well; while two starters are gone, there's enough experience and talent to do well, and two of the returning guys are all-Pac 10 center Alex Mack and 2nd team all-Pac 10 tackle Mike Gibson. The defense, however, provides less reasons for optimism. On the plus side, a secondary that hemorrhaged yardage last season should be very much improved, as three starters return. Still, the open spot at CB may be picked upon early, as there's much more talent than experience. The front seven may also be a bit shaky - while the linebacking corps has enough experienced depth to make up for two lost starters, the defensive line returns senior DT Matthew Malele and not much else. With time, things should come together, but with the Bears leading off against Tennessee, it'll be a trial by fire. Either way, while the secondary may be improved, the defense as a whole should see some serious regression, as the Bears were extremely lucky last year; Cal allowed 20.1 points per game, while other teams close to them in yardage allowed gave up anywhere from 23 to 32. With a questionable defense that should regress and getting UCLA, Arizona State, and Oregon all on the road (along with the OOC game against Tennessee), Cal could see quite a regression from last year's record.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 7-10 overall wins, 5-7 conference wins

6. Oregon State

Oregon State was a thoroughly decent team on both sides of the ball and not much more last year, though the Beavers won pretty much all of their close games en route to a 10-4 record. On offense, things look to improve on the ground. All-Pac 10 running back Yvenson Bernard returns after a 1307 yard, 12 TD season, and he'll be running behind an experienced offensive line that returns four of five starters. As for the passing game, ehhhh. Star WR Sammie Stroughter, who earned 2nd team all-Pac 10 honors last year, is taking an indefinite leave of absence, and while that's a major loss, the Beavers have another capable senior (Anthony Wheat-Brown) who can lessen the blow. The real concern may be at the quarterback position, where expected starter, sophomore Sean Canfield will split time with JuCo transfer Lyle Moevao. This...seems like a bad idea. The team used this to an extent last year with Canfield and departed senior Matt Moore, but teams often succeed DESPITE this kind of arrangement, not because of it, and it seems like a risky idea given Oregon State is coming off a season with a lot of luck. The defense should do very well, as OSU returns 8 starters. The linebacking corps should be the strength, as the Beavers return all three starters, all seniors, including two time all-Pac 10 2nd teamer Derrick Doggett. Really, the defensive is solid wherever starters don't return as well, since there's an upperclassman with experience at pretty much every position. The Beavers are solidly at a talent level behind the #2-5 teams here, and above the #7-9 glut. And since with only two exceptions (at Wazzou and UCLA at home), they play the teams I rank above them on the road, and the ones below them at home, 6th place is about where they should finish. If the Beavers stick with a QB who gets hot, they may be able to engineer an upset or two, but this should be a .500 year at worst.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 5-9 overall wins, 3-6 conference wins

7. Arizona

The offense has been the problem for the Wildcats the last few years, and last year was no exception, as Arizona had less yards per game than all but four teams in the country. What this means for next year is anyone's guess, as the team brings in OC Sonny Dykes, who was co-coordinator for one of the best offenses in the nation at Texas Tech. He has talent to work with, as the Wildcats bring back 8 returning starters. QB Willie Tuitama had a disappointing and injury-plagued sophomore campaign, but still put up passable numbers (1335, 55.9%, 7/6); he should be much-improved if healthy, especially with the new offense. Helping his health should be a much-improved offensive line, which returns all 5 starters and is teeming with high-talent, if not always experienced, depth. Receivers is somewhat of a question mark, but should still be well off; upperclassmen Anthony Johnson and Michael Thomas are returning starters, but the rest of the depth chart is talented players who have almost no experience. The RB corps is also talented, and while senior Chris Jennings has some experience, the new offense utilizes running backs much more in a receiving role; how they'll fare is somewhat of a crapshoot. The defense's improvement is much easier to projected, as the Wildcats return 9 of 11 starters on that side of the ball. Senior DE Louis Holmes was 2nd team all-Pac 10 out of junior college last year, and should improve upon that providing he avoids suspension. Senior CB Antoine Cason was also all-Pac 10 last season, and is one of the best at his position in the nation. The Wildcats have a tough schedule, and while their defense should keep them in games, bowl eligibility should depend on how well the new offense takes. If things go well, they may be able to get an upset at Oregon State or Arizona State, or at home against UCLA. If not, there's very little room for error.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 4-8 overall wins, 2-5 conference wins

8. Washington State

Wazzou was a somewhat underrated team last year, featuring an upper-tier offense that, had it scored as many points as yardage would dictate, would've led the Cougars to 7 or 8 wins. While there are some losses, the offense should remain above-average. Senior QB Alex Brink returns after a 2nd team all-Pac 10 year, where he threw for 2899 uyards and a 19/10 ratio on 60.9% passing. He'll be throwing from behind a passing line that should remain constant if not improved, as three starters return, and the open spots will be plugged by high-talent juniors. Brink will also return two of his top three targets in senior Michael Bumpus and junior Brandon Gibson; return man Charles Dillon will be the new #3. Sophomore Dwight Tardy will lead a running back corps that returns everyone of note, and should be much improved. The defense doesn't return nearly as much. The defensive line is where most of the experience is, as while all-Pac 10 DE Mkristo Bruce departs, the other three starters return. The LB corps is probably the weakest unit; starting MLB Greg Trent returns and junior Cory Evans has some experience, but there isn't much past that. Although sophomore Andy Mattingly is Don's son, so opposing O-lineman may become distracted and try to talk to him about that or something. The secondary suffers similar losses due to graduation, but returns free safety Husain Abdullah and brings in tons of JuCo talent, led by elite recruit Terry Mixon. Wazzou's offense should keep them in a lot of games, but without much returning on defense, it'll be difficult to make it back to .500 against a tough schedule. Having to play at Wisconsin out of conference is a killer, as having Stanford at home seems like the only guaranteed win in the Pac 10.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 3-6 overall wins, 1-4 conference wins

9. Washington

Washington was below-average on both sides of the ball overall, but still played most of their games close, and with some Maryland-like luck, could've had 7 or 8 wins. 5-7 was about their projected record though, especially after then-QB Isaiah Stanback was knocked out for the year. Redshirt freshman Jake Locker will be the new QB, and comes in amidst huge expectations. While he has the talent to do well, at the very least, he should be an improvement over now-backup Carl Bonnell's 2006 numbers (916, 43.9%, 7/11). He'll be helped out by a rushing attack that should be much improved; leading rusher Louis Rankin returns, and top recruit JR Hasty will debut after missing 2006 due to academics. The offensive line should at least be decent enough to protect Locker; three starters return, and while there's little starting experience past that, there's lots of talented 2nd-stringers. The defensive situation actually looks a lot like in-state rival Wazzou's; most of the depth returns along the defensive line, which will consist of three returning starters and part-time starting DT Jordan Reffett. Past that, there's an inexperienced linebacking corps and a secondary that returns starters, but needs incoming JuCo talent to play well. Washington should be a wholly decent team, but that schedule is hell; the Huskies play Boise State, Hawaii, and Ohio State out of conference, and the two easiest teams on the schedule, Syracuse and Stanford, are both road games. This seems like a lost year, and any good news will probably be regarding the maturation of Locker.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 1-4 overall wins, 0-3 conference wins

10. Stanford

On the plus side, 16 starters return, but who knows what that means for a team that was pretty bad on defense and absolutely abhorrent on offense. Senior QB TC Ostrander has limited starting experience, and he should improve on last year's poor overall numbers at the position (1945, 52.8%, 10/11). He'll be helped by a WR corps that returns everyone of note, led by seniors Mark Bradford and 6'7" Evan Moore. The running back corps also returns pretty much everyone, and there's way too much talent to have another season as horrible as last year's was, at least you'd think. And hey, that's much the same story for the offensive line, who returns three starters and two seniors to fill the open slots. On defense, the front seven should be the most improved unit. Every starter returns except for NFL draft pick LB Michael Okwo, and there's a ton of young talent to draw from if things don't go well. The secondary is more of a mixed bag - both starting cornerbacks return, but past that, ehhhhhh. New free safety Austin Yancy had experience starting last year, although it was at receiver. Stanford has enough talent where they can pull off some upsets if Harbaugh coaches them up, but having TCU and Notre Dame as out of conference games doesn't help matters. There's a decent chance the Cardinal improve over last year's one win, at least.

THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES: 0-3 overall wins, 0-2 conference wins