Friday, August 31, 2012

College Football Predictions for the weekend

Tennessee(-3.5) vs NC State: NC State is a consistently pesky bunch and the Fighting Dooley's are stumbling into their opener.  The Vols recently lost one of their stud receivers and I think even the Tennessee faithful know that this season is Dooley's death rattle.  They've got the wrong team favored.

NC State wins 24-17

Michigan State(-7.5) over Boise State: This feels like Vegas is giving old Sparty too much credit.  Boise State is totally reloading and rebuilding but this still smacks of a game where they are in it till the end, or its like that Georgia game from seven or eight years ago when it seemed like they lost by 600. I think MSU wins a close one.

Michigan State wins 31-27

Stanford (-24) vs San Jose State:  The last three times Stanford has made the Rose Bowl they've lost to San Jose State. I don't think Stanford's making the Rose Bowl this year.

Stanford wins 49-17

California(-11.5) vs Nevada: This seems like a game where Cal blows the doors off Nevada and everyone drools over them for a couple weeks. Or they piss the goodwill of being back in their own stadium away with a patented Cal performance where they are clueless how to stop the Pistol.

California wins 35-17

Clemson (-3) vs Auburn: I don't think much of either head coach in this one.  Clemson has a new defensive coordinator who will try to shore up a defense that got lit up by WV in the Orange.  Auburn is trying to run a pro style offense with spread option players. I think Auburn is going to struggle a bit this year and Clemson might run away with this thing.

Clemson wins 41-31

USC(-42) vs Hawaii:  USC is going to look damn near invincible, because thats what Hawaii does for big time teams.

USC wins 63-20

Alabama (-13.5) vs Michigan: The big game of opening weekend has a big spread.  A mobile qb always causes a young defense problems. Denard Robinson should have a big game, but you don't undo the damage Rich Rod did to the lines at Michigan in one year. Alabama is going to win the war in the trenches, and win the game. Should be a good one though.

Alabama wins 28-20

Washington (-14.5) vs San Diego State: SDSU is hell to prepare for, plays a crazy aggressive defensive scheme, and should be a tough opponent.  UW has struggled in openers under Sarkisian, he's 1-2 with his lone win last year against Eastern Washington in a tight one. SDSU will get their share of sacks, and maybe a couple picks, but UW will get a host of big plays.  I think the UW defense might actually do OK without Nick Holt prancing around the sidelines.  Very interested to see how this game turns out.  Don't like the fact that its a late night game, I'm a firm believer that all UW home games should be played during the day.

Washington wins 35-20

Arizona (-11) vs Toledo: The Rich Rod era kicks off at Arizona with middling Toledo.  This might be the one Pac12 game I will make no effort to watch.
Arizona wins 30-24

Oregon (-37) vs Arkansas State: This has massive blowout written all over it.  The fact that Oregon is starting a freshmen at qb will mean little.  I predict offense, defense and special teams score touchdowns for Oregon.

Oregon wins 63-7

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

College Football Predictions For Thursday August 30

College football season starts tomorrow.  Which, in my opinion, is the beginning of the best four months of the year.  Every week I will make college and pro predictions.  I will pick all the NFL games, all the Pac 12 games, and the national games I care about. 

Here are the Thursday picks:

South Carolina (-6.5) vs Vanderbilt: I like Vandy's coach, but I love Steve Spurrier.  South Carolina always seems to dominate these opening weekend games.  They have a dominating defense, a powerful running game, and just enough in the passing game.  I think Vandy has the ability to hang in this game, and they will, for a half, but South Carolina will wear them down

South Carolina  31-10

UCLA (-16.5) vs Rice:  Thursday kicks off the Jim Mora era.  If you read my UCLA preview, I'm not a big Jim Mora fan.  But, I'm a lesser fan of Rice.  I think UCLA wins this game on talent alone.

UCLA 34-17

BYU (-12) vs Washington State: Mike Leach takes over after the embarassing Paul Wulff era and in his first game faces his alma mater.  There are certain rules to football, one of them is that BYU is always tough in openers, especially at home.  This will be a reasonably competitive game, but Mike Leach's offense is all about repitition and timing, and I think there will still be some kinks in the Air Raid tomorrow night.  WSU's defense lacks depth and talent in the front seven, Travis Long aside.  I anticipate BYU pounding the ball all night, keeping WSU's offense off the field and wearing down WSU in the fourth quarter.

BYU 31-21

Weekend picks coming Friday.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Preseason Seahawks Thoughts

First, a qualifier, I didn't watch the entire game on Saturday night, in fact, I watched a quarter and a half on a replay. While people were watching it live, drawing insane assumptions, I was having a delightful time at a wedding.  As a fan, preseason is largely useless, which is contrary to the fact that we anoint ourselves experts, prognosticate on who should be cut, and who shouldn't be cut, over analyze every performance and basically lose sight of any logic at all. 

Preseason is entertaining because its football dammit, and the longest offseason in pro sports mercifully comes to an end.  It also gives fans an opportunity to see the new draft picks and free agents. Other than that, you can't weigh anything that happens too much.  With that disclaimer, a few observations from the preseason game and the practice I attended last week.

I like the look of the offensive line, and by that I mean the starters. Cohesion in a zone blocking scheme is not expected out of five backup linemen. But I liked the aggressiveness and the preciseness at the point of attack by the offensive line.  I love the way they practice as well, fast paced and intense.
Matt Flynn looked much better in the game than he did in practice.  Criticism of his game performance is rooted in the love for the sexy, less polished, more athletic backup.  I think Russell Wilson will turn out better than Seneca did, but at this point, Flynn is the better quarterback.  Will this always be the case? Who knows? But it is right now.

As I argued when the Seahawks signed him, the Seahawks don't need a dual threat quarterback to win this year. They need a steady, accurate quarterback that runs the offense with good tempo and gets them in the right plays.

Bruce Irvin looked real small.

Still not sold on the new uniforms, they certainly are unique though. 

Deon Butler was a trainwreck in the practice I was at, but, given a lot of reps on Saturday, really showed an ability he didn't show in practice, the ability to catch the football.

The defense looked good and continued to make big plays. The pass rush wasn't there, but there were virtually no stunts/blitzes ect, it is what it is. Both teams ran their base stuff, offensively and defensively.
Last year I wasn't a huge fan of Darrell Bevell's offense, it seemed imprecise, which, I absolutely loathe(See:Greg Knapp). Now I realize that was more of a function of Tavaris Jackson than anything.  He was slow in and out of the huddle, didn't have a great rhythm to anything he did, and never really threw timing routes with well...timing.  Flynn had a great tempo, can't understate how much I enjoyed that.  I am fanatical about that, get the play called, get up to the line, make the sight adjustments and go.

Thats all for now.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Top Pac=12 Teams Since 1990: 5-1

5. 2010 Oregon Ducks: When inevitably, defenses catch up with the spread option and it isn't the lethal damn near unstoppable with the right talent offense it is now, historians will point to 2010 as the year the spread option, an offense born due to a fumbled snap at a small college fifteen years ago, ruled college football.  Although Oregon lost to another spread option team in Auburn in the National Championship game, I believe that Oregon's offense in 2010 was the perfect version of this offense. 

In order for the spread offense to reach its true, lethal power, you need a quarterback that understands the system(Darren Thomas), a scatback who can make cuts on a dime(Lamichael James) a deep threat on the outside(D.J. Davis) and most importantly, a fast slot receiver with toughness and great hands(Jeff Maehl).  The perfect example of Maehl's worth to this squad was in the primetime tilt against USC.  Monte Kiffin had a good idea, make Darren Thomas read the linebacker or even bring up the safety on the zone read instead of the defensive end.  In theory, the defensive end crashes, the qb keeps the ball, and a linebacker peels around the line and clobbers the quarterback.  Chip Kelly recognized this, realized that with the linebacker or safety moving up, the seam was wide open, and he had a player that could get to the open space quickly, and hold onto the ball when. 8 catches, 135 yards and 3 touchdowns later, Oregon had defeated probably the best schematic counter to the spread option for teams who didn't have an SEC defensive line.
Oregon wore down their opponents in the second half, obliterated a great Stanford team and were only challenged by Cal in one of their "Hey, let's try tonight" games.  They lost to an Auburn team that firmly held the "team of destiny" label the entire season on a questionable call.  Their defense, coached by the unheralded genius Nick Aliotti, was solid and surprising physical for their stature.  Oregon may very well have a team better than this one in a few seasons, but as it stands, this was the greatest team to ever where the arbitrary almagamation of colors that comprises Oregon's uniforms.

No 4. 2008 USC: People forget about this squad because of their third consecutive midseason hiccup against a mediocre team, but I think this is the finest USC defense Pete Carroll ever assembled.  They gave up 10 or more points in just 5 of their 13 games, had three shutouts, and had every one of their linebackers drafted in the 2009 NFL Draft.  The offense, although lacking the firepower of the 04-05 squads, was still solid. But, despite their statistical dominance, the one time they needed their quarterback to lead them back, literally the only game they faced a late deficit all season, he folded like a cheap suit, I speak, of course, of Mark Sanchez.  This was Pete Carroll's last monster squad at USC, and although they are largely forgotten in the big picture, they were one bad half against Oregon State from going undefeated.

No.3 2005 USC: Without a doubt, the most talented, explosive, unstoppable offense I've seen in the offensively powerful Pac 10. They scored 50+ points three weeks in a row, over 60 three times and hit 70 once. They buoyed a mediocre defense(which ultimately was their downfall against Texas) and massacred literally every defense they played against. Their lowest point total was against Notre Dame, a pedestrian 34 points.  Matt Leinart played as if he had been running the offense for a decade.  The offensive line opened holes literally every time they needed it(except for one), and Lendale White and Reggie Bush may have been the most lethal running combination in recent college football history.  Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith were brilliant.  They played in three epic, classic football games. The "Bush Push" against Notre Dame, the 50-42 game against Fresno State where Reggie Bush essentially won the Heisman, and losing to Texas in what has held up as one of the greatest college football games ever played. If the defense was half as good as the offense, this would have been the greatest team ever.

No. 2: 2004 USC: Just a solid, tough, dominating football who capped off their season by obliterating an Oklahoma team that had been hardly tested the entire season. This was back when Bob Stoops was still considered one of the best big game coaches in college football.  USC beat five bowl teams and three teams with 9+ wins, including a very good Cal team led by Aaron Rodgers. Lofa Tatupu, Shawn Cody and Mike Patterson led the defense, and the 2005 offense version 1.0 were still lethal, but not quite deserving of such glowing hyperbole.  I think this team is considered one of the best ever, which is fair, but if they are in the conversation, so is the number one team.

No. 1. 1991 Washington Huskies:  Before anyone accuses me of a Husky/Seattle leaning bias, I'd like to note that I elected not to put the 10-2 1990 Rose Bowl Winning Husky team on this list and put the 1997 WSU Cougars instead.  This was the greatest defense in the history of the Pac-10, only giving up 116 points the entire season despite playing six bowl teams.  They dispatched Nebraska, in Lincoln, back when you just didn't win in Nebraska. They handled a tough Cal team, and murdered a very talented Michigan squad in the Rose Bowl.  Steve Emtman was unstoppable this year, literally unblockable.  Youtube is filled with his exploits. This was the quintessential Jim Lambright Husky defense and the absolute peak of Don James coaching ability.  They allowed seven points or less in four of their first five games and gave up a grand total of three points over the span of three games.  The offense was considered the weakness even though it included future NFL players Napoleon Kaufman, Mark Bruener, Mark Brunell, Aaron Pierce and top 10 pick Lincoln Kennedy.  Billy Joe Hobert, who never lost as a starter, was big, mobile and confident and led an offense that made a lot of big plays.  History remembers this team for the defense, and the fact that very few of those defensive players went on to successful NFL careers was an indication of the perfect blend of scheme, talent, determination and swagger.  The Pac 10 was a pretty solid conference in 1991, comprised of teams that would peak that year(Cal) and teams that were on the rise and a year or two away(WSU, Oregon, Arizona).  The Huskies eviscerated nearly every one of their opponents in a physically dominated, overwhelming fashion.  They swarmed the quarterback, destroyed running backs, pulverized offensive lines and scored a lot of points.  For my money, one of the five best teams, regardless of conference, in the last thirty years.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pac-12 Preview: California

No team has done less with more the last ten years than Jeff Tedford's California Golden Bears.  I would even argue that they lead the Pac-12 in the "Losing games to far inferior teams" category, ahead of even USC.  The teams have immense talent and athletic ability, the 2006-07 squads had the ability to win a national championship.  The 2006 team won 10 games, the 2007 team, the more talented of the two, went 7-6, losing six of their last seven games. 

The wins have decreased with the quarterback play.  After Aaron Rodgers left in 2004, Cal fans have suffered the indignity of watching hacks like Jeff Ayoob, lazy supertalented fratboys like Nate Longshore, short, gutty but lacking perennial backups that are forced to start for seasons on end because everyone else sucks like Kevin Reilly, and statues with no football IQ like Brock Mansion.  The current quarterback is Zack Maynard, he's a great athlete, has a decent arm, but was plagued last season by inconsistent play and an inaccurate arm.  Although he greatly improved as the season went on, I wonder how he will handle the pressure of close games against top opponents.

Iso Sofele is a solid back, but not a between the tackles runner.  They have some legit depth at running back, with some pounders that can hammer the ball up the gut. Keenan Allen is a stud at receiver, he had over 90 catches last year with erratic quarterback play.  Last year he had some other playmakers at wide receiver to draw coverage over, I don't know that the thin receiving corps will help him much this year.

The defense lost two stud linebackers but they always have talent at all positions.  It's just a matter of them playing hard consistently.  I have felt like their defense has improved the last couple years, they run an exotic, variable front, blitz happy system which can cause offenses headaches when its working but it gives up a lot of big plays when tackles aren't made.

I think this will be another 7-8 win squad this year.  Although Tedford is on the hot seat, and rightfully so given the results lately.  I believe that the program bottomed out in 2010 and are on their way back up.  But Cal has disappointed before, many times.

Sept. 1 Nevada: Win
8 Southern Utah: Win
15 @Ohio State: Loss
22 @USC: Loss
29 Arizona State: Win
Oct. 6 UCLA: Win
13 @Washington State: Win
20 Stanford:Win
27 @Utah: Loss
Nov. 2 Washington: Loss
10 Oregon: Loss
17 @Oregon State: Win

Record: 7-5