Archive for February, 2008
In honor of the masses’ perceived wishes for a college football playoff (a sentiment not entirely shared by your humble narrator), I won’t be doing Top 25 lists. Here we present a super deluxe early post-signing day/NFL declaration Elite Eight, a projection of which teams would make an 8-team playoff. I’m taking the existing BCS structure of picking each of the BCS conferences winners plus 2 at-large teams. So even though a conference could have three teams in a Top Eight list, 3 teams likely wouldn’t make it to the playoff. I’m also ignoring the Rose Bowl’s outdated preference for a Big Ten/Pac-10 match-up. There will be no undeserving participants like last year’s Illinois in this list. Also, this super deluxe early list may need to change if/when Terrelle Pryor signs a Letter of Intent.
OU returns QB Sam Bradford and RB DeMarco Murray so the offense will likely stay explosive. Navigating the Big XII won’t be easy with KU, Texas Tech and the traditional Red River Shootout against Texas but the Sooners don’t have Missouri on the schedule this year.
They’d get smoked again if they made the National Championship game. However, the Big Ten is even weaker this year. Michigan will be transitioning to Rich Rodriguez’s offensive style and Penn State needs to replace LB Dan Connor, CB Justin King and QB Anthony Morelli. An away game in Pasadena is likely to be the Buckeyes’ toughest obstacle on the way to another undefeated season.
3. USC Trojans
Like OSU, Southern Cal will benefit from a weaker Pac-10 this year. Oregon loses Dennis Dixon, UCLA is breaking in a new coach and Arizona State is still at least a year away from truly contending. Don’t think that Cal will provide adequate competition as the Golden Bears have beaten the Trojans only once since 2001. Running backs Stafon Johnson and Joe McKnight will be counted upon while either Mark Sanchez or Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain transition into the starting QB role.
Tim Tebow returns as does the electric WR/RB/Do-Everything Percy Harvin. The defense is still suspect but unlike Georgia, the Gators have proven the past few years that they know how to pull out the big wins. I’m projecting at least 1-2 losses for any team that wins the SEC, which would result in a lower seed than might actually deserve.
It’s tempting to put Missouri in this at-large spot given Texas QB Colt McCoy’s struggles last year and the defection of RB Jamaal Charles to the NFL. But the Tigers won’t be sneaking up on anyone this year. Texas is not a program that rebuilds. It reloads.
They won’t make any early season Top 10 lists but WVU will still be playing with a chip on its shoulder after Rich Rodriguez departure from Morgantown. The Mountaineers return standout QB Pat White and though I loved RB Steve Slaton on my fantasy team, they may not miss him much. Noel Devine provided plenty of reason to think he can step in for Slaton. The defense has never been fantastic but after demolishing Big XII champs Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, don’t underestimate Bill Stewart’s squad.
This could finally be the year that Tommy Bowden breaks through and wins the ACC though whether that will satisfy the crazed fans of the Tigers is yet to be decided. With a stellar in-coming class and the return of RB James Davis and QB Cullen Harper, Clemson returns the best offense in the ACC.
I really don’t think UGA will be able to navigate the SEC like UF or LSU have in past years. However, it’s hard to ignore a program that returns so much talent with RB Knowshon Moreno and QB Matthew Stafford set for another season Between the Hedges.
Knocking on the door: LSU, Missouri, BYU, Texas Tech, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, South Florida
Don’t let all the Super Tuesday primary headlines fool you. February 6th – National Signing Day is one of the most anticipated days on the collegiate calendar. The masses quiver as they read the write-ups on some 17-18yr old who faxed a Letter of Intent to their favorite team. There are no Red or Blue states for us. There is only Maize & Blue, Scarlet & Grey, Burnt Orange or whatever ridiculous color scheme Oregon chooses this year.
While recruiting rankings are not but so much detritus, they’re still fun. So let’s dive in.
The big surprise this year has to be Clemson. The Tigers made huge waves in recruiting, ranking #2 overall according to ESPN and #12 according to SI/Rivals. Despite being wooed by the likes of Georgia, Florida State and Virginia Tech, Clemson managed to keep homegrown superstar DaQuan Bowers (DE; #1 ESPN150, #12 SI/Takkle) from leaving the Palmetto State.
Alabama came on strong with a class of 32 commits are ranked #3 by ESPN and #1 by SI/Rivals. Landing Julio Jones (WR; #2 ESPN150, #1 SI/Takkle) was huge. Miami (#1 ESPN, #4 SI/Rivals), also pulled in a stellar class for Randy Shannon. Nick Saban is a proven big-time recruiter and Randy Shannon will not let south Florida fall to the Gators without a fight. Expect fortunes in Tuscaloosa and Coral Gables to rise in the next couple years.
The usual suspects also appear near the top of the rankings as well. Florida, Georgia, Texas, USC, Oklahoma and Notre Dame all locked down top-10 classes. Wait, Notre Dame? The same Notre Dame team that lost to Navy and finished 3-9? It’s a simple truth that the University of College Football in America (self-named) will always be a major player. The Genius Charlie Weis pulled in the #9 class according to ESPN and #2 according to SI/Rivals, addressing much needed team speed.
Every year some player is viewed as the next coming of Vince Young or Dan Marino or Fred Biletnikoff. He generates loads of accolades, awards drama and HYPE. This year, the soap opera comes to us from tiny Jeannette, PA where all-everything recruit Terrelle Pryor (QB/ATH; #4 ESPN150, #16 SI/Takkle) is holding hostage such coaching lumninaries as Joe Paterno, Mike Bellotti, Jim Tressel and Rich Rodriguez. This kid (yes folks, they’re still KIDS) has been tearing up southwestern PA defenses for 4 years and has generated serious discussion whether he might be the best ever high school player to come out of the southwestern PA. That’s no small feat for a region that has produced the likes of LeVar Arrington, Joe Montana, Danny Marino, Major Harris and Tony Dorsett. I remember Arrington’s days as a RB/LB for North Hills high school. Pryor deserves to be part of the conversation.
All in all though recruiting isn’t an exact science. Antonio Bryant was rated a 1-star player coming out of high school. Leon Washington was once viewed as a can’t-miss prospect for Florida State. Not only do some players never develop but some coaches may ruin potential star careers through position switches. Jim Kelly grew up dreaming of playing QB for Penn State. Joe Paterno wanted to switch him to linebacker. Kelly went to Miami to play QB and the rest is history.
Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette
(Originally written for Deepslant.com)