Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It's College Football Eve!

Is anybody else out there anticipating having trouble sleeping tonight? ESPN just made the comparison between Christmas and the opening day of football season, and I have to say its a good one. When I was a kid I never could sleep well on Christmas Eve and I'll feel good if I manage five hours of shut-eye tonight.

On a semi-related note, the next four days promise to be just tremendous. Tomorrow will be superb for obvious reasons and Friday is First Yell featuring Wayne Brady (you are of course free to insert your own joke here). This morning I discovered that ESPN will be carrying the Michigan-Vanderbilt game so my Saturday will begin at 9:00 central with ESPN Gameday, followed by the Michigan game. This will give way to massive amounts of tailgating while watching some late afternoon games. The Aggies play at 6:00 central and I couldn't be more excited. Our seats are around the 20 yard line, somewhere in the second deck. I'll have plenty of pictures and thoughts to go with them posted for your perusal and enjoyment on Sunday. Speaking of Sunday, TCU plays Baylor, my fantasy football draft is at 4:00 and there are rumors of a quest to find Beerfest showing at a local theater. Clearly the only thing that could make the next four days better would be having the day off on Monday to recover.

Guess what? Monday is Labor Day, a federal holiday! Hooray! Whoop even! What's that you say? Texas A&M doesn't observe Labor Day? WHAT KIND OF A PINKO COMMIE OUTFIT ARE WE RUNNING HERE??? WE DON'T GET LABOR DAY OFF? Well, it was almost going to be a perfect weekend. Just out of curiosity, how many universities do take Labor Day off? I know that Michigan does, but it didn't occur to me until today, when an Aggie brought it up, but the state of Michigan is home to the UAW, so maybe we are unique in celebrating this particular holiday. If you would like to weigh in, please use the comment section liberally, I'm interested to know how the land lays out there.

I was going to post something along the lines of an Aggie season preview, but then I realized that I know next to nothing about this team, so that will have to wait until next year. Ryan at TAMABINPO did take the time to put together an excellent preview though, so please head over and check that out. I did join and I've been trying to have meaningful discussions with long-time Aggies about what sort of shape the program is in, heading into this season. Based on these discussions and watching some highlights from a year ago, I put together this list of thoughts about the upcoming season:

-The Aggies have a pretty good offensive line and its getting almost no buzz nationally. I think that this is one of the five most underrated offensive lines in the country.

-The Running Backs are both deep and talented enough to get the job done. Courtney Lewis, if healthy, should be good for ~1200 yards and 10-12 TDs. Jorvorskie Lane reminds me A LOT of TJ Duckett.

-The combination of the O-Line and RBs should equal a running game that is somewhere between above average and pretty darn good.

-As much as everybody seems to love Stephen McGee, I think that he is the weakest link on the offense. He is a sophomore and will make mistakes. If A&M can put him in a position to play within himself and limit these mistakes, the offense will be very, very good.

-The defensive line needs to get pressure on the QB for the defense to succeed.

-The LBs are in danger of wearing down as the season progresses. Only playing two at a time will help, but the lack of depth here is worrying. Both OU and tu are going to be running teams, so hopefully something is left in the tank here come December.

-The defensive backs will be improved, but are still the weakest position group on the team. Jordan Peterson and Danny Gorrer both seem to have the speed to play on the corner, but as at QB, youth equals mistakes. How many mistakes lead to long TDs will determine whether this group is bad again or aspires to be average.

-I haven't followed a team closely before that has run the 4-2-5, so I'm interested to see how the WHIP position plays out. A&M seems at least average at the safeties and the WHIP. It will also be interesting see how much these three players play in pass support and how much they come in run support.

-This is a good opportunity for me to say Whoop!

Gig 'Em.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Some Citadel Thoughts

While I seriously considered putting together a detailed, coherent post previewing the Citadel Bulldogs, that seemed like a significant amount of work and therefore not really my style. Instead you get a rambling post full of "thoughts" on this week's game. The Citadel's weekly notes were tremendously helpful here.

-The Citadel is not good, even by Southern Conference standards. They were picked by both the media and the coaches to finish 7th in the conference.

-On the other hand, I give the Bulldogs credit for having the noble goal of playing a team from all six BCS conferences in the next five years. In addition to A&M and Pittsburgh this season, in the coming years they are scheduled to play Wisconsin, Clemson, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Arizona.

-As far as good players go, three Bulldogs were named to the preseason All-Southern-Conference 2nd Team. They are WR Ta'Mar Jernigan, LB Andrew Rowell and DL James Wilson. Wilson's production will be limited however by a "mid-foot sprain."

-The Citadel's starting QB will be Duran Lawson who is returning from an ACL tear suffered on October 1st of last year.

-Mark Kaspar is the Bulldog's Punter. He graduated from Navasota High School and is looking forward to punting in front of friends and family. Kaspar should get plenty of opportunities to impress the home crowd.

-While paging through the media guide, I came across the following snippet about Head Coach Kevin Higgins, and realizing that I couldn't top it, I'll just quote it.
Prior to his appointment at the helm of Bulldog football, Higgins served as the quarterbacks coach for his first three years with the Lions and was responsible for the tutoring and developing of Detroit’s first-round draft pick, quarterback Joey Harrington. During his second season he assumed the position of wide receivers coach and was responsible for the development of one of the most exciting trios of wide outs in the NFL: Az-Zahir Hakim, Charles Rogers and Roy Williams. Higgins coached Williams to the Lions single season records for a rookie in receptions (54), receiving yards (817) and touchdowns (8).

-The Citadel runs a spread option attack with a single tailback, three wide receivers and a tight end. Last season's leading rusher Nuru Goodrum (800 yards, 7 TD) returns and is expected to start. At WR, Ta'Mar Jernigan (40-359, 5 TD) and Rontreal Tyler (29-172, 0 TD) are the most accomplished returnees. They will be joined in the starting lineup by TE Taylor Cornett (9-49) and WR Gary Domanski (4-47, 1 TD). Four of five starters return on the o-line.

-In all seriousness, the Bulldogs are not to be taken lightly. At one point in last season's game in Talahassee they led Florida State 10-3. In the end they couldn't hang on though, as FSU was able to pull out a squeaker, edging the Citadel 62-10. Hopefully the Aggies can get a better start than the Seminoles did and show how much improved they are this season. Make it Texas A&M 51, Citadel 7.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Aggie Depth Chart Up

Texas A&M posted its football depth chart today. You can scope it out here. Some thoughts:

-One guard position appears to still be up in the air with Grant Dickey battling Chris Yoder. Yoder earned Freshman All-American honors in 2004 when he was the starting center. I don't have any insight on who will win this job, but it seems like a nice problem to have.

-Courtney Lewis and Jorvorskie Lane are listed as co-starters at tailback. Given the durability concerns that Lewis brings to the table, both should see plenty of carries this season. Highly touted true freshman Mike Goodson is the co-backup with Brandon Leone. Leone is a converted DB and something of a special teams ace so I think that Goodson will see more playing time down the stretch this season.

-The starting wide receivers are Chad Schroeder, Earvin Taylor and L'Tydrick Riley. Riley and Taylor are big possession receivers, but Schroeder is a home run threat with good speed. I think that this is a really nice mix of targets, especially when you factor in Howard Morrow, Kerry Franks and Pierre Brown coming off the bench.

-Moving over to defense, the front 6 (A&M runs a 4-2-5) doesn't seem to have any big surprises. Red Bryant will anchor the defensive line, being joined by senior Bryce Reed in the middle. The ends, Chris Harrington and Jason Jack, are returning starters. Linebacker Justin Warren is probably the best player on the defense. The other LB spot will be filled by JUCO transfer Mark Dodge who I've heard was around this spring. Fellow JUCO Misi Tupe has sparked a lot of optimism amongst the Aggie faithful, but will start the season behind Dodge.

-The secondary also looks remarkably similar to it's post-spring version with Danny Gorrer and Jordan Peterson at the corners. Devin Gregg and Melvin Bullitt will be the safeties with Japhus Brown serving as the WHIP. Another highly regarded freshman, Jordan Pugh, is trying to unseat last season's INT leader, Marquis Carpenter for the backup position behind Gorrer. If Johnathon Batson is back at full strength, he will provide good depth at safety.

So, in summary no big surprises here. A&M has the advantage of having four games to get things sorted out and locked down before Texas Tech comes to town and provides the first big test of the season. I'll be at Kyle this weekend taking notes and trying to figure out what to make of the situations at quick guard, running back, the second linebacker position and the defensive secondary.

Gig 'em

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Creeping Closer

Its been a fairly long week here in Aggieland, eagerly awaiting the beginning of the football season and dreading the start of classes on Monday. Of course it is hot, but we are finally close enough to September 2nd for The Weather Channel to have a preliminary forecast up. Not too bad heat wise (high of 93F) but that 60% chance of precipitation has me just a bit worried.

I went to grad school orientation last Friday and was probably the only person on the campus tour that was happy Kyle Field was closed for the day. I have a secret you see. My first memory of Michigan Stadium was sitting in the front row of the student section as a senior in high school while we pounded living bejeepers out of some nameless MAC foe (it was actually BGSU). I was a senior in high school at the time, so when I toured the stadium later that year on a campus visit, getting to walk on its hallowed field, it meant something.

Empty stadiums have always struck me as kind of sad, and so I always want my first experience in one to be on a gameday with all the pageantry that entails. The quiet moments where you hear the echoes and a appreciate the history should come later. As a result of all this, I've been actively avoiding Kyle Field, worried that I'll always remember a first impression of an empty shell devoid of meaning. This is why I was happy that the ongoing scoreboard construction preventing our tour from getting a close up look at the field. I hope that a week from Saturday this self-imposed separation will seem worthwhile as I am one of about 85,000 Aggies cheering for our footballers to beat the hell outta The Citadel.

Gig 'Em.

The Weather Channel is now saying no chance of precipitation and 94 degrees. Its looking better and better every day.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Some Surprise Candidates

Every season there seems to be a team or two that comes out of nowhere to pull a big upset or win more games than expected to sneak into a quality bowl game. In looking for teams that could overachieve this season, I've identified three criteria.

1. Plenty of experience as indicated by the number of returning starters.

2. Offensive leadership at the quarterback position.

3. Teams that are becoming more comfortable with new coaching schemes.

Looking around the major conferences:

ACC: Maryland

The Terrapins return 6 starters on offense and 7 on defense, including 4 on each of the lines. Also back is quarterback Sam Hollenbach, a mechanical engineering major. Maryland have their best opportunities to pull upsets October 28th against Florida State and November 11th against Miami; both games are at home.
Also Considered: Wake Forest (19 returning starters)

Big East: Pittsburgh
Dave Wannstedt should see significant improvement in his second year at Pittsburgh. The six returning starters on offense are anchored by Tyler Palko and include four offensive lineman. On defense 6 starters also return, including linebacker HB Blades. The Panthers close the season hosting West Virginia and Louisville on the 16th and 25th of November, respectively. Both games should be tremendous chances to swing an upset and shake up the conference race.
Also Considered: Cincinnati (17 returning starters, 3rd year head coach)

Big Ten: Illinois
Another second year coach is Ron Zook at Illinois. While I'm not a big Zook fan, the Illini do return 9 starters on offense, including senior quarterback Tim Brasic, all five offensive lineman and senior running back Pierre Thomas. On defense 10 starters return. Illinois gets Iowa (Sep. 23rd) and Ohio State (Nov. 4th) at home. The Illini are kind of the like the question: If a rooster lays an egg directly on the peak of a house, which side will it roll down? Will they be bad and win 3-4 games, or will they be mediocre and win six? Of course a smartiepants will point out the third option called reality where roosters don't lay eggs, Ron Zook in his second year is still Ron Zook and having 10 starters back from a terrible defense isn't a good thing. Forget I mentioned Illinois.
Also Considered: Minnesota (12 returning starters, including QB Brian Cupito)

Big XII: Kansas State
The Big XII seems to lack a real surprise candidate, so I'm going with K-State here. Ron Prince is in his first year and the quarterback position is far from a pillar of strength with all the transfers, but the Wildcats do return 17 starters. They host Louisville (Sep. 23rd), Nebraska (Oct. 14th) and Texas (Nov. 11th).
Also Considered: Iowa State (10 returning offensive starters including QB Bret Meyer, but only 4 on defense.)

Pac-10: Stanford
In his second season at the helm, Walt Harris welcomes back 10 starters on offense, including senior quarterback Trent Edwards. The defense returns six starters, with experience in the secondary. The Cardinal will get their best upset opportunity on the 4th of November when USC visits Palo Alto. Stanford gets an extra week to prepare for the Trojans, with a bye week Oct. 28th.
Also Considered: Arizona (17 returning starters, Mike Stoops in third year)

SEC: Mississippi State
The Bulldogs return 16 starters, eight on each side of the ball. The defense wasn't terrible a year ago and should be a relative strength this season. Sylvester Croom is entering his third season as head coach, so the team should be comfortable with his coaching by now. Mississippi State hosts South Carolina on Aug. 31st, Auburn on Sep. 9th and West Virginia on Oct. 7th.
Also Considered: Arkansas (19 returning starters, Arkansas is probably a better candidate here, but everybody already knows about the Razorbacks).

Thursday, August 17, 2006

BlogPoll Roundtable #1

I wasn't going to post anymore until this weekend, but its a slow afternoon at work and the questions for the first BlogPoll Roundtable of the season are up. Thanks to the Notre Dame affiliated blog The House Rock Built for stepping up to host the first discussion.

1. What's the biggest ripoff in this preseason poll? Either pick a team that's offensively over or underrated, or you can rag on a particular voter's bad pick (hey, we're all adults here, we can handle it).

I don't have a definitive answer for this question. Ohio State at #1 seems too high for having 9 new starters on defense but that has been beat to death. Texas at #2 seems inflated with a freshman QB (another story line that is getting old already). As for underrated teams, I think that Cal deserved better than #10, they should be about 5 spots higher based on the talent of their defense and the Lynch/Fossett duo. As for a specific voter, Frank McGrath (Tulane) left Cal out of top 25 entirely, but was kind enough to explain it when I asked. Brian from mgoblog put Iowa at #2 which is either going to turn out brilliantly or terribly. I'm voting for 'terribly' right now.

2. What should a preseason poll measure? Specifically, should it be a predictor of end-of-season standing (meaning that a team's schedule should be taken into account when determining a ranking), or should it merely be a barometer of talent/hype/expectations?

Preseason polls that attempt to project the end of season standings are inherently flawed. In an effort to be correct, they reward teams with easy schedules. When these teams then win the easy games, they move up. Over the past several years a sort of conveyor belt effect has been established in the major polls. When teams lost they drop a number of spots and the teams that won generally move up in order to take their place.

This becomes dangerous when mixed with preseason polls that attempt to predict the final season outcomes as it tends to give teams with easier schedules an even easier route to #1. This self-fulfilling prophecy has largely killed the validity of any media-sponsored poll in my mind. (This is as a result of the media feeling pressure to make 'correct' predictions at the beginning of the season.)

Preseason polls should instead be an attempt to honestly assess the quality of the various programs going into the season. They represent the voter's best guess of who the best teams will be in week one. For this reason, I try to emphasis factors like number of returning starters, leadership at key positions and good coaching. As the season goes along, these factors become less important to the teams success and each week more on-the-field evidence is gained to take their place. By the time conference games are being played, I try to base my ballot entirely on what each team has demonstrated on the field.

3. What is your biggest stretch in your preseason ballot? That is to say, which team has the best chance of making you look like an idiot for overrating them?

Did I mention that I put Cal #1? While I'm still not wild about the Bears on top, I haven't yet found an overwhelming choice to replace them. As a result of this wide-openness, I'm as excited for this season as any in recent memory.

4. What do you see as the biggest flaw in the polling system (both wire service and blogpolling)? Is polling an integral part of the great game of college football, or is it an outdated system that needs to be replaced? If you say the latter, enlighten us with your new plan.

I think that the biggest flaw in the major polls is the conveyor belt effect that I've already discussed. Teams that win move up automatically no matter the quality of the win, teams that lose drop down. I legitimately like the total chaos that the national-champion-by-vote system used by the AP creates. I don't think that coaches should vote in a poll because a)they can use the poll to exact revenge (the Fullmer effect) and b)they just don't have time to be good voters.

I do think that there should be only one poll in use, as split national championships aren't any fun. The poll that is kept around should make votes public and should make an effort to eliminate any regional bias, just to keep things fair. I've always regarded the BCS as a failed experiment that has outlived its time. It's time to return to the pre-1998 system.

The biggest flaw that the blogpoll has is a lack of clarity about voter principles. Brian provides some guidance, but as this roundtable brings up, there are many different interpretations of what a preseason poll should represent. Establishing a clear consensus and sticking to it would strengthen the poll immensely in my view.

5. You're Scott Bakula, and you have the opportunity to "Quantum Leap" back in time and change any single moment in your team's history. It can be a play on the field, a hiring decision, or your school's founders deciding to build the campus in Northern Indiana, of all godforsaken places. What do you do?

I'm fairly new to A&M so this answer is going to be wildly uneducated, but I would go back and find a way for Bonfire to go forward after the 1999 tragedy. The school decided the continuation of this tradition was too risky and none have been held since. Several people I've talked to believe that many Aggie traditions began to fail the day the University decided to end Bonfires.

As a Michigan alum, I would sure like to go back in time and have Pat Massey finish the tackle on Vince Young in the Rose Bowl. I'm sure that I'm missing something more significant, but that is the play that jumps out at me.

Some BlogPoll Fallout

Well, yesterday Brian from mgoblog got the preseason BlogPoll tabulated and posted for all to see. When putting together my ballot last week, I honestly didn't expect to generate the reaction that picking Cal first seems to have. mgoblog says:
It's chaos. No doubt many are wondering who the Cal vote is from. Let's introduce everyone to A&M poll newbie Off Tackle. He justifies his selection like so:

Cal returns a plethora of talent on offense and the defense should be the best in the Pac-10. This pick is a wild guess, and I'm hesitant to pick a Pac-10 first overall, but the chief weakness on offense appears to be at QB, a position that Jeff Tedford seems to be able to coach pretty well. Ask me again who the best team is after about four games.

I dunno about that defense. They didn't exactly stop any of the good offenses they opposed, and by "didn't exactly stop any" I mean "were massacred by all."

Well, in my defense I didn't say that the defense was good but rather that they should be the best in the Pac-10. (Thanks, I'll be here all week.) Seriously though, I think that the Cal defense is better than they are being given credit for and I stand by my conviction that somebody else will find themselves in this #1 slot by the time the conference games are in full swing.

The Penn State blog Black Shoe Diaries also chimed in:
In a shocker, Cal got one first place vote from Texas A&M blogger Off Tackle. You can read his defense here. From what I gather, Cal is just the team he hates the least.

A lot of ballots had Cal in the top 10 and Stewart Mandel called them a contender, so I think calling my decision to go with Cal in a preseason poll a shocker is a little harsh. While I've already acknowledged having a soft spot for the Bears, calling them the team I hate the least is telling in another way. Every team in the country seems to have a glaring weakness somewhere, and I felt that Cal's worst case scenario was the best of all the worst case scenarios so I went with them. I'm confident that several teams will more than adequately fill their holes and give me a better option at #1. It could be Texas getting solid production out of a freshman quarterback or Michigan deciding to play defense in the fourth quarter or even Ohio State having a number of new starters step up on defense, but somebody will prove themselves worthy and that is the glory of the college football.

I've said before that the real strength of the BlogPoll is the flexibility of its voters, their willingness to move teams around rather than relying on the conveyor belt effect that rules the AP and Coaches Polls. With virtually no evidence to base these things on, preseason polls are supposed to be wildly inaccurate, that's what makes them fun. I just can't wait for the season to start so I can get to work sniffing out the real #1.

And finally some reaction from USC affiliated Conquest Chronicles:
Cal got a first place vote form a Texas A&M Blogger, here's his reasoning.

California - Cal returns a plethora of talent on offense and the defense should be the best in the Pac-10. This pick is a wild guess, and I'm hesitant to pick a Pac-10 first overall, but the chief weakness on offense appears to be at QB, a position that Jeff Tedford seems to be able to coach pretty well. Ask me again who the best team is after about four games.

OK, well we're all entitled to our opinions.

Hey, thanks guys! I always appreciate review from totally unbiased sources!

I'll be back to posting actual content about the actual Aggie Football team this weekend.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Rankings Bias

Glancing at my rankings for the umpteenth time last night and wondering why I'm so high on Cal when nobody else seems to be, I realized that I've always had something of a soft spot for the Bears. This epiphany of sorts led me to put together a list of all the D-IA programs and my general level of bias (good or bad) towards them. Since I'm a BlogPoll voter this year, I figure that this is healthy information to get out in the open.

As for my method, I started with an alphabetic list of all the programs and asked myself the question, "If Team A was playing Team B and the bearing had no outcome on any other team (ie a bowl game) who would I root for?" This is, of course, an inexact science so the list is not exactly where it would be if I spent another week working on it. I'm alright with this though, as it's sure to fluctuate week to week anyway. I've divided the list up into subgroups, and I'm pretty happy with the teams in each subgroup. The exact order within the middle groups is pretty fuzzy, but the order near the top and the bottom is pretty well set.

Preseason Bias Rankings 2006

Teams I Love
1. Michigan
2. Texas A&M

The Service Academies
3. Air Force
4. Army
5. Navy

Teams I Have a Soft Spot For
6. Buffalo
7. Georgia Tech
8. California

Big Ten Teams I Pull For
9. Iowa
10. Michigan State
11. Northwestern

Teams I Almost Like

12. Hawaii
13. Arizona State
14. Auburn

MAC Teams I Like
15. Central Michigan
16. Akron
17. Eastern Michigan
18. Northern Illinois
19. Western Michigan

Teams I Don't Dislike

20. Penn State
21. Fresno State
22. Maryland
23. Miami(OH)
24. Oregon State
25. Stanford
26. Illinois
27. Texas Tech
28. Wisconsin
29. LSU
30. Minnesota
31. Toledo
32. Pittsburgh
33. Tulsa
34. TCU
35. Oregon
36. Clemson
37. Purdue
38. Duke
39. Indiana
40. Boston College
41. Virginia Tech
42. Tulane
43. Memphis

Teams That are 'Meh'

44. Bowling Green
45. Ball State
46. NC State
47. Washington State
48. Wake Forest
49. Nevada
50. Wyoming
51. Troy
52. Marshall
53. Kansas State
54. Arkansas
55. Nebraska
56. Louisville
57. Iowa State
58. Mississippi State
59. Southern Miss
60. Washington
61. Virginia
62. Syracuse
63. Rutgers
64. Ohio
65. UTEP
66. New Mexico
67. South Carolina
68. Connecticut
69. Kent State
70. Baylor
71. Rice
72. Vanderbilt
73. SMU
74. Utah
75. Kansas
76. Houston
77. Oklahoma State
78. Kentucky
79. Alabama
80. UCLA

Teams I Have No Feeling Toward At All
81. USF
82. Louisiana Tech
83. New Mexico State
84. BYU
85. Idaho
86. Colorado State
87. North Carolina
88. Boise State
89. North Texas
90. Temple
91. Utah State
92. Louisiana-Lafayette
93. ECU
94. UCF
95. San Diego State
96. Florida Atlantic
97. Middle Tennessee State
98. FIU
99. UAB
100. Arkansas State
101. San Jose State
102. UNLV
103. Cincinnati
104. Louisiana-Monroe

Teams I Don't Particularly Care For
105. Georgia
106. West Virginia
107. Missouri
108. Ole Miss

Teams I Dislike
109. Oklahoma
110. Colorado
111. Arizona
112. Tennessee
113. Florida State
114. Florida

Meteor Game Participants
115. USC
116. Miami(FL)
117. Texas
118. Notre Dame
119. Ohio State

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Aggie Roundup

If you blinked last week, you may have missed these news updates on the A&M football team.

-Japhus Brown is healthy and looking forward to contributing this season any way he can. Good thing, the Aggie secondary needs all the help it can get. Brown was apparently good last season before he got hurt. He'll join the mix at safety along with Devin Gregg and Melvin Bullitt. The had this gem though.
The playful Brown also said that "he played football for the money," which A&M officials quickly reassured everyone that A&M student-athletes weren't being paid.
Good to know I'm now enrolled at tosu-south.

-Dennis Franchione is excited about the progress the offense is making. Also in this article is a tidbit about Johnathon Batson and his sore hamstring. Batson is a JUCO transfer defensive back who is being counted on for depth. If this season goes anything like last year, Batson should be coming up to speed just in time to replace an injured starter.

More next week.

Reaction to Shorter Games

I'm sure that all of you have heard by now about the NCAA's decision to shorten the length of football games next season by tweaking the way that the clock works. This morning Todd Schulz wrote a unique article in the Lansing State Journal arguing against the changes. Why is this unique? This is the first media member I've come across opposing the rule change. The other day they took up the issue on Around the Horn and PTI and were something like 6-0 in favor of making the games shorter.

Now, I have no problem with the NCAA's desire to shorten games, but why take away from the one hour out of three that the game is actually being played? Eliminating 5 or so commercial breaks a game would have the same effect and not compromise the product on the field. In the end, the NCAA appears to be attempting to move towards the NFL style of football, something that I am fearful of. I prefer college football for a reason (and its not just that the Lions have been at best mediocre since well before I was born). Here's hoping that the NCAA come to their senses soon.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Updated Top-25

Well, as promised this morning, I've revised my top-25 to reflect the reinstatement of Dwayne Jarrett. It now looks like this:

Power 16
1. Cal
2. Auburn
3. Ohio State
4. Texas
5. LSU
6. Miami FL
7. Notre Dame
8. USC
9. Florida State
10. Florida
11. Michigan
12. Nebraska
13. West Virginia
14. Clemson
15. Louisville
16. Oregon

Next 9
17. Oklahoma
18. Iowa
19. Georgia Tech
20. Virginia Tech
21. Georgia
22. TCU
23. South Carolina
24. Arkansas
25. Texas Tech

Rankings Update

As you can see from my original rankings (please keep the comments coming by the way!) I'm just a little bit down on USC. I should have noted in the commentary section that was only partly due to the loss of Leinart/Bush/White, but also as a result of the uncertainty surrounding Dwayne Jarrett. Yesterday Jarrett was reinstated by the NCAA, an action that will be reflected in an adjusted poll ballot in the next day or so. I'm still not as high on USC as many others are, but they will be sliding up just a bit.

My favorite part of the whole debacle is most definitely what Pete Carroll had to say after it was over.
"We've felt comfortable throughout this process that the outcome would be like this," Carroll said. "I'm happy that the NCAA recognized the uniqueness of this situation."

What exactly is the uniqueness of this situation? That Jarrett plays for USC? That he didn't actually know that he was violating NCAA rules so its all good? I'm really not sure what anybody thought was going to happen when USC became the primary attraction in America's most popular sport in America's most entertainment crazed city. Of course these guys are going to want to live like rockstars. At some point the NCAA either needs to step in and require all student-athletes live on campus or do away with the concept of a student-athlete entirely because the hypocrisy just isn't working anymore.

I'm not criticizing the NCAA's response here, after restitution reinstating Jarrett is the correct move, but why isn't the NCAA more proactive with regards to preventing this sort of thing? With scandals seeming to break once a week or so this summer, clearly the NCAA could use a little more enforcement (hello Oklahoma) and a little less political correctness (hooray Illinois).

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

5 Key Questions for the Aggies

With the days seeming to evaporate leading up to September 2nd and the glorious full scale return of college football, it seems like a good time to take a little deeper look at the 2006 Texas A&M squad. As a first step, I've formulated five questions whose answers should go a long way toward determining the season that this group of Aggies put together.

1. Just how good is Stephen McGee?
I've read a number of season previews, all that speak glowingly of McGee as tough or a natural born leader. Some even praise his athleticism, but I'm yet to find a single one that comments on his accuracy or arm strength. The Aggie receivers should be good with depth at WR and Martellus Bennett poised to have a breakout season at TE. If McGee can consistently deliver the ball down the field, this offense will be going places.

2. The Wide Receivers, Quantity Yes, but Quality?

Due to decimating injuries at this position a year ago, A&M returns at least 5 WRs with starting experience. Chad Schroeder and L'Tydrick Riley have both made contributions in the past, but Riley missed the entire '05 season with a torn ACL and Schroeder is looking to return from a broken leg. Howard Morrow, Earvin Taylor and Pierre Brown all started at various times last season as well. Kerry Franks is expected to start and looks like another candidate for a breakout season. If three of these six can put together good years, this unit will be an overall plus.

3. Mark Dodge: Feel Good Story or Legitimate Big XII Linebacker?
I'm sure that by now most Aggie fans have heard the story the Mark Dodge, how he was serving in the Pentagon on September 11th. Players like Dodge really embody the spirit of Aggieland, but how effective will he be, especially considering A&M's switch to a 4-2-5 this season? Justin Warren should be pretty good so if Dodge can hold things together on the other side, the LB corps will be in great shape.

4. How much is an additional year of experience in the secondary worth?
Last year the back end of the A&M defense was pretty awful. Japhus Brown, Melvin Bullitt and Devin Gregg are plenty experienced, combining to start 23 games a year ago. As a result, the safety position should be the strength of the secondary. At the corner, last season's leader in interceptions, Marquis Carpenter, returns. His starting spot appears to have been grabbed by sophomore speedster Danny Gorrer. On the other side, another superb athlete, redshirt freshman Jordan Peterson, is expected to start. If this unit is even moderately improved, the defense will be much better.

5. Does A&M have a kicker?

Sophomore Justin Brantly has the punter's spot more than adequately covered, but how good is Layne Neumann? Neumann is 1 for 3 lifetime with a 46 yard make and misses of 45 and 51 yards. He certainly seems to have the leg, but what about the accuracy?

With the start of the season only 24 days away, these questions should be answered in no time at all. The offense should be good, but how much will the defense have improved? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Preseason Rankings

Well, after much gnashing of teeth, I've managed to come up with the 25 teams that I think are the best in college football for 2006. It should be noted that I've attempted to rank teams on how good they are, not who I think most likely to win a national championship. I would be stunned if a team came out of the SEC undefeated. On the other hand, the winner of the West Virginia/Louisville game should have a great chance to finish without a blemish. With no further ado, a raw, easy to read list first, with my thoughts below:

Power 16

1. Cal
2. Auburn
3. Ohio State
4. Texas
5. LSU
6. Miami FL
7. Notre Dame
8. Florida State
9. Florida
10. Michigan
11. USC
12. Nebraska
13. West Virginia
14. Clemson
15. Louisville
16. Oregon

Next 9
17. Oklahoma
18. Iowa
19. Georgia Tech
20. Virginia Tech
21. Georgia
22. TCU
23. South Carolina
24. Arkansas
25. Texas Tech

Some Thoughts
1. California - Cal returns a plethora of talent on offense and the defense should be the best in the Pac-10. This pick is a wild guess, and I'm hesitant to pick a Pac-10 first overall, but the chief weakness on offense appears to be at QB, a position that Jeff Tedford seems to be able to coach pretty well. Ask me again who the best team is after about four games.

2. Auburn - There were about five teams I wanted to put fourth or fifth, but one of them had to go this high. I like Cox and Irons, almost enough to put Auburn first, but they just lost too many starters to go any higher.

3. Ohio State - As much as I hate to admit it, tosu was another team I seriously considered ranking higher. The offense is going to be very, very good but lacks a big wide receiver to stretch defenses. Nine new starters on defense prevent them from going any higher. If the defense develops, this team will rise as the season progresses.

4. Texas - Another flawed team, this one featuring a freshman QB (which frosh is still a question though). t.u.'s defense looks good and the running game should be a strength.

5. LSU - LSU should be one of the most talented teams in the nation, with experience at the offensive skill positions. They feature a significant number of new starters on the o-line and in the defensive front seven. I'm putting them this high on their talent alone. This is another case of ask-me-again-in-a-month.

6. Miami(FL) - Miami should be pretty good, once they get their suspended players back. The offensive line scares me, but the defense should be more than adequate. Sixth is probably high for this team, but that is why they play the games.

7. Notre Dame - Notre Dame's offense will be pretty darn good, but this defense could be a weakness. If the D proves itself early, I'll move them higher. Otherwise, I think that this is about right.

8. Florida State - FSU is another team I have no idea where to put. The Seminoles should be talented, but they also look relatively young. The Miami game will be telling.

9. Florida - With four new starters on the O-line and Chris Leak still unproven, I've decided not to put the Gators any higher. This is yet another one of those teams to watch closely as only time will tell.

10. Michigan - My alma mater has more than enough talent to get the job done. The key will be the development of the offensive line and whether or not the defense will play to win this season. As close as Michigan was to 4-7, they were even closer to 11-1 a year ago, blowing late leads to Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio State and Nebraska. Depending on how they look against Notre Dame, this team could also move up.

11. USC - The Trojans lost so much of their offensive production from a season ago that its hard to place them. If they live up to their recruiting rankings, they are a top-five team. Growing pains could make for a tough year this season though.

12. Nebraska - The Huskers will be the class of the Big XII North, but how much is that saying? The defense and passing game should be solid, but a rebuilt O-line and no proven running back could complicate things.

13. West Virginia - I don't buy the preseason hype surrounding this team. Slaton and White are both in line for a sophomore slump and this team overachieved a year ago.

14. Clemson - The Tigers offense returns more than enough talent (including all five lineman) and the defensive front seven looks solid. If a number of people hadn't already beaten me to the punch, I would be seriously considering Clemson as the biggest sleeper team in the country.

15. Louisville - Another Big East team that I think is overrated. This will be a fun team to watch, but I question their ability to stop the run. Louisville easily has the greatest chance to make me eat crow following the season.

16. Oregon - Oregon is a team I like for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. They don't return a ton of starters, but they seem to always put together a surprisingly good season. Here's betting they do it again.

17. Oklahoma - Prior to the Bomar debacle, I would have had this team in the top-5. The defense will be superb, but how will Adrian Peterson's body hold up when he is called on to carry the load again?

18. Iowa - In my opinion, Drew Tate is most underrated QB in all of college football. The Hawkeyes also get bonus points for having great fans (not really, but I did want to give one of the most polite fanbases in the country some credit). They have some big holes to fill, but if they do, this team will shoot up the rankings.

19. Georgia Tech - Funny story, Georgia Tech accepted me to their grad program three days after I had accepted Texas A&M's offer (which had an expiration date). This has nothing to do with Calvin Johnson being really, really good or with Reggie Ball being back for another year, I just wanted to mention that I almost went here. The Ball and Johnson show should be good enough to keep the Yellowjackets in the top-20 this season.

20. Virginia Tech - Putting the Hokies this low makes me nervous, but the offense doesn't look very good. If any school can win with defense and special teams though, its VaTech. I think that 20th is about right.

21. Georgia - Georgia probably shouldn't be this low, but the Bulldogs do return only nine starters. That makes me just nervous enough to keep them down here for now.

22. TCU - This is a reputation pick as much as anything. TCU appears to the best of the mid-majors and so they bear inclusion. The defense should be good enough to buy the offense some time to develop. I wouldn't want to play these guys in November.

23. South Carolina - I like Sidney Rice a lot, and the offense looks talented overall. They will need to be though, as the defense isn't much. If the Gamecocks can keep outscoring teams they will be alright, but if the offense sputters, look out.

24. Arkansas - The Razorbacks return more starters than just about anybody else in the country, and as a result I like their chances. A strong running game and all that experience put them solidly in the 20-25 region.

25. Texas Tech - I'm looking forward to seeing these guys come to College Station this fall. The offense will be great again and the defense shouldn't be bad. If the cards fall right, this team will make a bunch of early noise again.

Other Teams I Considered
Texas A&M, Iowa State, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Penn State, Tulsa, Northern Illinois, Utah, UCLA, Arizona State, Tennessee, Alabama, Boise State and Fresno State.