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Week One Top 25

September 4, 2011 Leave a comment

1. Alabama

2. Oklahoma

3. LSU

4. Stanford

5. Boise State

6. Oregon

7. Texas A&M

8. Virginia Tech

9. Oklahoma State

10. Wisconsin

11. Florida State

12. Arkansas

13. Ohio State

14. South Carolina

16. Florida

17. Penn State

18. Nebraska

19. Baylor

20. Mississippi State

21. Houston

22. Michigan State

23. Arizona State

24. Northwestern

25. Central Florida

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2011 NCAA Football Preview Pt. 1: Early Heisman race

It’s been a while. I’m going to try out the Bruce Feldman format this time.

The world hasn’t seen a Heisman winner like Cam Newton ever in my lifetime. Though this year’s winner likely won’t be another first year starter or transfer, there aren’t many standouts early.

The likely top candidate is Stanford QB Andrew Luck. The junior has been heralded as the top QB prospects coming out of college since Peyton Manning in the late 90’s. Structurally, you couldn’t ask for a better QB – 6’5″ and just shy of 240 lbs. He possesses all the tools a pro QB needs and has showcased it at Stanford for the last two years. He’s as tough as they come too, showcase in this Ed Reed-esque hit against USC. With a veteran O-Line and solid receiving corps including Chris Owusu, Luck will be the best player in College Football. He may not put up the video game stats needed to win the award, however.

My actual favorite to win the award (and sits in most peoples’ top three) is Bama junior running back Trent Richardson. Now that poster boy Mark Ingram is gone to the Saints, Richardson will be the Tide’s feature back – in every sense of the word. With a new QB at the helm (whom hasn’t even been chosen yet) Richardson will definitely get the number of carries needed to put up 1500+ yards on the ground. Physically, you won’t find a better looking back that Richardson. He’s a poor man’s Ricky Williams at 5’11”, 220 lbs. He runs in the low-to-middle 4.4’s, and even returns punts – the factor that likely tipped the Heisman scale for 1999 winner Charles Woodson.

The last serious contender at this point who no one seems to be giving any credit to is Oregon’s LaMichael James. James led that nation last year totaling over 1700 yards rushing. The Texas native is absolutely taylor-made for Chip Kelly faced-paced offense, and should realistically be able to equal his performance last season. The biggest issue for James is his size – can he stay as durable as he has at just 5’9″ 185 lbs? The Pac-12 hasn’t play much defense in the last two years, so who knows.

Two players too good to be labeled “darkhorses” are Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon and South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery.  Both will be among the top-10 most talented players next season, but the Heisman hasn’t given much love to receivers in recent years. Blackmon, who is  an amazing-catch machine, will be labeled as a “product of the system” playing in Oklahoma State’s spread offense. Jeffery, who is a nightmare of a matchup at 6’4″ 235 lbs, may be a better receiver than Blackmon, but won’t put up the stats that Blackmon will.

Quick hit candidates (In no particular order):

Kellen Moore – QB, BSU: Can he produce without the two best receiving threats he’s ever had in Austin Pettis and Titus young?

Dennard Robinson – QB, MU: Will he run wild or distribute the ball more in Al Borges’ new pro-style offense?

Matt Barkley – QB, USC: Likely won’t have the talent around him to showcase his own.

Brandon Weeden – QB, OKST: Like Blackmon, will receive the “system QB” label.

Taylor Martinez – QB, NU: Is he durable enough to be at full speed for a whole season?

Dan Persa – QB, NW: If he’s 100% coming back from an ACL tear, could be an elite QB.

Ryan Lindley – QB, SDSU: A great pro prosepct, can he get the hype and stats in the Mountain West?

Knile Davis – RB, ARK: With a new QB, Davis should get a big number of carries, topping 1300 yards again.

Ronnie Hillman – RB, SDSU: If he builds on a sensational freshman year, he’ll be in the top-5 fast.

Landry Jones – QB, OU: He’s got experience, talent, weapons around him, and possibly the best team in college football.

What we learned in College Football: Week 5

October 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Not having a Husker game to watch or attend gave me a solid twelve hour day to watch football.  It was glorious.  Also, do yourself a favor and go see “The Social Network”

1.  Oregon adjusts better than any team in the country

They showed it last night, not only scoring 28 second quarter points, but holding Stanford to zero second half points.  They didn’t just do it against on of the nation’s top quarterbacks, they held a respectable Arizona State team to just seven second half points after 24 in the first.  Their best adjustments came against Tennessee, when the Ducks pitched a second half shutout while scoring 35 on the Vols.  If anyone is going to beat Oregon, they’re going to have to convince the officials to call it at halftime.

2.  There’s no question who the best team out there is, again

Florida is not the team they once were with Tim Tebow, but they were still absolutely outclassed by the Alabama.  Despite actually having a lower yardage total, Alabama had control of this game from the beginning and never looked back.  They’ve got hands down the best running back tandem in the country, and a seasoned game-manager of a quarterback.  They even showed against Arkansas that they can play from behind-and win.  Something catastrophic would need to happen to keep the Tide out of the championship game again this year.

3.  Contrary to popular belief, Denard Robinson is not in fact human

What can you say about this guy?  What he’s done so far has been absolutely unreal.  He’s leading the nation in rushing yards with 905, nearly 200 more than the next competitor.  He’s third national with a passer rating of 180, and broke the 1000 yard passing mark this week.  He’s on pace to rush for over 2000 yards, and pass for nearly 2500, which would be an absolute earth-shattering record.  To put his numbers into perspective, consider Georgia Tech’s Joshua Nesbitt of last year.  Robinson is about 125 rushing yards from matching Nesbitt’s total rushing yards from last year, and through 5 games, is halfway to the point of matching Nesbitt’s passing numbers-which he compiled in 14 games.  Granted, Michigan has not really played any very goods teams yet, and nothing close to some of the defenses they will face, but you can’t argue with the numbers.

4.  It’s going to take all season to sort out the Big 12

The SEC has Alabama, it looks like the Pac 10 and Big 10 have Oregon and Ohio State respectively, and the Big East has West Virginia.  But the Big 12 is doing a good job of hiding its best team.  Despite the win, Oklahoma looked unimpressive against hapless rebuilding Texas, Nebraska looked less than stellar last week against an FCS opponent, and Oklahoma State looks like they could play a spoiler (or sleeper?) role this year.  The division favorites look like Oklahoma and Nebraska at this point, but they won’t play in the regular season.  After the last two weeks, it certainly doesn’t look like any member will be running the table.

5.  It’s early, but it looks like Boise State will be getting left in the dust again

The pollsters jumped at the chance to put Oregon ahead of Boise State in the AP poll after their impressive win over top 10 Stanford.  It doesn’t look like any of the three teams at the top (Alabama, Ohio State, and Oregon) will be going anywhere soon, which doesn’t bode well for Boise State and their woefully weak schedule, even if they do play Nevada.  As if that’s not enough to worry about, they will most certainly be passed up by an undefeated winner of the Utah-TCU match up.

Facts of the week

Through 5 weeks, Kealoha Pilares and Greg Salas of Hawaii have the 2 highest receiving yardages in all of college football, both with over 600 yards receiving.  I’d be willing to bet that that’s happened less than 5 times

-Michigan’s Denard Robinson became the first quarterback in NCAA history to rush for 200 yards and pass for 200 yards in twice in one season.  Five games in, mind you.

-Washington has beaten USC in back to back years for the first time since 1996 and 1997

-Oregon State has not turned the ball over yet this season

-Seven Big 10 quarterbacks are ranked in the top 20 of passer ratings.  The Pac 10 has 2

-Monte Kiffin’s USC defense ranks 99th nationally

-The Big East and ACC no longer have any undefeated teams

-Joe Paterno is 3 wins shy of 400 all time wins

-Virginia Tech lost to to FCS James Madison and beat 23rd ranked NC State in a span of less than four weeks

Nebraska Week 3 Wrap Up: Starting to Take Shape

September 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Now that Nebraska has faced a legitimate(?) opponent, some of the unknowns surrounding this team are starting to get cleared up.  Obviously questions remain, but I think we’re starting to get a pretty good idea of the kind of team Nebraska is.

It wasn’t always pretty, and it hasn’t exactly looked pretty over the course of the 3 game season, but one thing is for sure- Nebraska is starting to look the part.

Washington is definitely not a good measuring stick compared to 2009 Virginia Tech (Nebraska’s first road test that year), but Nebraska certainly left a good impression in the first interview for top-10 position.

They did exactly what they needed to do first and foremost- make an early statement and keep the foot on the throat.  The early statement came when Eric Hagg picked off Jake Locker’s first pass attempt and returned it for 11 yards.  Two plays, 48 yards, and 36 seconds later, Mike McNeil hauled in a Taylor Martinez touchdown pass.  The offense never let up or folded, despite coughing up the ball inside their own 10 yard line and allowing an easy Washington touchdown that brought the Dawgs within a score.  They responded by marching to ball down the field in 8 plays into the endzone to take a 28-14 halftime lead.  They equaled the 28 first half points in the second half, 21 of which came in an explosive third quarter highlighted by Alfonzo Dennard’s 31 yard interception return for a score.

The defense looked equally impressive, holding (once presumed) Heisman hopeful and potential top draft pick Jake Locker to an ugly 4 of 20 for 71 yards passing, with one touchdown to two interceptions.  The lone touchdown allowed (and majority of yards) through the air came on a rare miscue by the Nebraska  secondary.  Although Washington did amass 175 yards rushing, it was eclipsed by their utter inability to get the passing game going.

-The ground game was unstoppable for Nebraska.  For only the fifth time in school history, Nebraska had three players rush for over 100 yards; Roy Helu, Taylor Martinez, and Rex Burkhead.  Brandon Kinnie also gained over 100 yards receiving for the first time in his career, add in his impressive 39 yard kickoff return, and he had bar none his best game in a Husker uniform to date.  I’m starting to read/hear more and more that he’s overtaken Niles Paul as the top receiver for Nebraska

-The rush defense still worries me.  The linebackers are undersized to begin with, and missing assignments are making Eric Martin and Lavonte David’s inexperience more known.  The secondary is simply shutting receivers down, but that’s going to matter when Kansas State runs Daniel Thomas up the middle 40 times in Manhattan, same with Kendall Hunter in Stillwater against Oklahoma State.  They have made some pretty good improvements up to this point, but they still need to improve for Nebraska to consider themselves and elite defense

-Don’t be surprised if South Dakota State scores some points on Nebraska next Saturday.  The reason?  Well, at the going rate, I might be playing strong safety in the fourth quarter after the coaching staff pulls the 1st stringers, 3rd stringers, water boys, and chain gang in the fourth quarter.

A few more predictions:

1.  Taylor Martinez might begin to hear faint Heisman whispers if they leave him in long enough on Saturday to account for over 300 yards.

2.  Nebraska will be tied for (if not leading) most interceptions in the nation after Saturday.  They are currently tied for second (8 INTs) to Florida (10 INTs).

3.  There will be a special teams touchdown by Nebraska in one of the next 2 games

4.  The race for the starting MIKE linebacker spot is going to heat up leading up to the Kansas State game, in Manhattan Kansas.

5.  Taylor Martinez will be named homecoming king on a write-in basis, despite being neither a candidate or eligible.

Weekly Heisman Watch: Week 2

September 13, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s obviously still way too early to predict even the Heisman candidates, but it’s still fun.  Here’s my take:

1.  Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan

I’m not big into the phrase “carrying” when talking about a single football player.  But if there ever was an instance of one man carrying a football team on his back, it’s been Denard Robinson of Michigan.  He’s currently leading the country in rushing yards with 455 and three touchdowns, with 430 passing yards.  Last Saturday against Notre Dame he accounted for a staggering 94% of his team’s offense, a feat that has never before been accomplished.  For a frame of reference, consider Vince Young against USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl.  That was 84% of Texas’ offense.  The week before, Robinson accounted for 81% of Michigan’s offense in a 30-10 pounding of Connecticut.

Prospectus:  Robinson will still top this list after hammering UMass next week (although FCS teams are having quite the season, and no one knows that more than Michigan…)  However, before long Michigan is going to start playing some good defenses and teams will begin to break down Robinson.  I don’t believe one man can carry a team for an entire season at the rate he’s going.

2.  Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State

Hunter has come back onto the scene with a bang after a disappointing injury plagued 2009.  He’s nearly on pace to be the first player to break 2000 yards rushing since Connecticut’s Donald Brown did it in 2008.  He’s had over 150 yards rushing in each of Oklahoma State’s first two outings, including an impressive 259 yard showing with 4 touchdowns in the Cowboys’ home opener against Washington State.

Prospectus:  Hunter will start getting talked up or torn down very soon; the next four games on the schedule include Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Nebraska.  If Hunter can produce similar numbers against some very good Big 12 defenses, he’ll be in the race until the end if Oklahoma State can win a few that they’re not supposed to.

3.  Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas

At this point, Mallett looks to be this year’s inflated stats quarterback of the year.  He’s in the top 10 of rated quarterbacks, and is one of only four quarterbacks to have surpassed the 700 yard passing park so far.  He’s got 6 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions, and is currently the top passer in the SEC.  He’s definitely passed up FSU’s Christian Ponder at this point, but barely has the edge over OU’s Landry Jones merely based on yards.

Prospectus:  Mallett hasn’t played a real defense yet either.  However, last year he showed that he was the top quarterback in the SEC and we currently have no reason to believe he won’t be this year.  If he continues the trend of big number, lots of touchdowns, and few interceptions all while picking apart SEC defenses, he’ll be on this list for a while.

4.  Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

Like I said, Jones is barely behind Mallett on my list strictly because of total passing yards.  He too has six touchdowns to only two interceptions and has passed for for just under 600 yards.  Jones has the leg up on Mallett in that he’s played a legitimate team in Florida State, but their defense is far from proven.

Prospectus:  Jones is going to be tested this Saturday by Air Force’s nasty pass defense, which intercepted Houston’s Case Keenum five times last year in the Armed Forces Bowl.  Although I’ve got a feeling that Jones and the Sooners are going to be doing a lot of putting teams in their place this year.  If he has good showings across the board against the pass defenses of Air Force, Texas, and Nebraska, he’ll be one of (if not THE) top quarterbacks in the country at the end of the year.

Nebraska Week 2 Wrap Up: Crash Course Defense

September 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Last week was too early to judge, and I still believe that it’s too early to pass serious judgement on this team.  Nebraska looked a little more like Nebraska on Saturday, however.  The defensive line looked once again like an elite unit, and the secondary proved against a solid quarterback (Nathan Enderle) that they are among the best in the country.  The defense is learning on a crash course, and I’ve got a feeling that the Blackshirts are going to show up big time against Washington.

-The offense was less than impressive.  Yes, they did rack up 360 rushing yards, but they put the ball on the ground 4 times.  Taylor Martinez looked less than impressive as a passer, taking 2 sacks and throwing an interception to no touchdown passes.  (He has yet to throw a touchdown pass)  Martinez has accounted for over 250 yards of offense in the last 2 games, mostly on the ground.  It seems very impressive now, but I’m very interested (or nervous?) to see how faster and more talented defenses will try to contain him.

-It was good to see Roy Helu having a good game yet again.  Helu rushed for 107 yards on 9 carries averaging nearly 12 yards per carry, with help from a 58 yard touchdown dash.  Rex Burkhead had yet another good all-around effort, rushing for 77 yards and and receiving for 41 yards.  Taylor Martinez tacked on 157 yards on the ground, making him a top-10 rusher in the nation.

-Niles Paul desperately needs to step it up.  He’s got 2 fumbles already and multiple dropped passes.  As an elite senior wide receiver, he really has no excuse to be making fundamental mistakes like these.  It’s too early to call him inconsistent, but he’s not doing anything to kick the habit of following an impressive with a poor showing the next week.

-Nathan Enderle is a solid quarterback, and the Blackshirts picked him off 5 times.  I’m curious to see if they can follow up that performance next week against Jake Locker, THE elite quarterback.  Larry Asante and Matt O’Hanlon were both very good safeties, but the combination of Dejon Gomes, Ricky Thenarse, and P.J. Smith might be Nebraska’s best group of safeties this decade.  With Prince Amukamara and Alfonzo Dennard working the corners, this might end up being Nebraska’s best secondary in over a decade.  I might be getting ahead of myself here, but I think this secondary is going to be special.  Congratulations to Alfonzo Dennard for his first collegiate interception.

-I was impressed with the defensive line’s pass rush.  Granted, they were able to pin their ears back most of the day thanks to Idaho’s pass happy offense, but seven sacks is impressive either way.  Crick looked like the Crick of old, and Baker Steinkuhler is going to be getting called “The Next Crick” pretty soon.  Pierre Allen seemed to spend all day in the backfield, and Terrence Moore looked very impressive to me.  Once Jason Ankrah gets some good game fire experience under his belt, he will be a force.

-I was a little disappointed not to see anything terribly exciting from the special teams.  Although Idaho did do a good job of kicking away from Marlowe and Niles Paul.  I am looking forward to seeing what they can do against Washington’s sub-par punt and kickoff coverage units.

-A few predictions:

1.  Nebraska beats Washington in the fourth quarter

2.  The Blackshirts pick off Jake Locker 2 or more times

3.  Eric Martin will make his presence known in Seattle

4.  Next week we’ll know whether or not we need to start sweating Crick to the NFL thoughts

5.  Roy Helu and Taylor Martinez might combine for 2000 yards rushing if they’re not too careful.

Categories: Big 12, Husker Notes, Sports

Nebraska Week 1 Wrap Up: All I Know Is That I Know Nothing

September 6, 2010 Leave a comment

As stated above, I really don’t see any point in passing judgement in the Nebraska football team just yet.  And I’m hoping that’s for the better, because I was not overly impressed with the Huskers, and they certainly did not look like a top 10 team or an elite defense.

But before I get to critical, allow me to explain.  Remember last year when we thought Zac Lee was the bee’s knees when he went for a combined 42 of 57 for 553 yards, 6 touchdowns and 1 interception against Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State?  Taylor Martinez looked good yes, but I’m giving him the “guilty until proven innocent” policy, thanks to Zac Lee.

-But on we go to the game.  The first thing that stood out to me was shaky kickoff coverage.  Ordinarily I would chalk it up to first game jitters, but the Nebraska special teams units return nearly every player sans Matt O’Hanlon.  Adi Kunalic only had one touchback, but it was a little breezy, and Western Kentucky’s return man was pretty cavalier with his returns from his own endzone.  Perhaps we were spoiled by last year’s excellent unit, perhaps I was letdown by the lack of a bone crushing tackle or block.  Either way, the “problems” (for lack of a better word) should be ironed out early.

-It was good to see Ricky Thenarse starting at safety again.  Ricky’s always been one of my favorite players, and I’ve always thought he was one of the more athletically gifted players on the team.  He was solid all night, and I can’t wait to see him lay some licks on receivers again.  Dejon Gomes on the other hand, was slightly inconsistent.  Don’t get me wrong, I think he’ll be a ball-hawking force before long, but he got caught out of place a few times, one resulting in a 3rd and long conversion by WKU.  He did however show yet again that he is one of the most clutch players in college football, forcing WKU tailback Bobby Rainey to fumble the ball one yard outside of the endzone after running 45 yards through Nebraska’s  miscommunicated defense.  And I still hold tight to my prediction that he will lead the league in interceptions.

-It appears as though Rex Burkhead is going to be the featured back this year.  Roy Helu got the first touch, but Burkhead seemed to be the go to guy, and for good reason.  He averaged over 11 yards per carry and had an early 20 yards touchdown run that gave Nebraska and early 14-0 lead.  One thing I saw from Helu that really impressed me was his finish on the touchdown run he had.  He was stood up nearly a yard and a half outside of the endzone, but didn’t go down.  With a little help he stayed up and pushed his way into the endzone, which he’s had trouble doing in the past.

-Western Kentucky did a good job of exploiting Nebraska’s inexperience at linebacker.  The use of motion shouldn’t have dogged the blackshirts as much as it did, but I’m not terribly worried about.  Alonzo Whaley and Lavonte David had less than 2 weeks to prepare for this game as true starters, and they seemed to learn relatively quick.  But I am still a little concerned about the rush defense.  It appeared to me than the defensive line seemed to resort to simply pinning their ears back and pass rushing when they should have been run stopping.  I’m sure hoping this is the case, because Nebraska’s three nickel backers are undersized.

-Depending on how much Nebraska throws the ball, the tandem of Niles Paul and Brandon Kinnie may turn out to be a better combo than Nate Swift and Todd Peterson.  Paul had 5 catches for 92 yards and a touchdown, while Kinnie grabbed 5 for 59 yards.  Brandon Kinnie is a flat out force over the middle, he is physical specimen, and I think he’s going to turn out to be Taylor Martinez’s safety net on intermediate throws.  I was disappointed that Mike McNeil didn’t get any catches, but when you’ve got two receivers as impressive as Paul and Kinnie, catches are going to be hard to come by.

-Tim Marlowe appears to really have come into his own this off season.  Western Kentucky had a nasty pick your poison situation when both Niles Paul and Marlowe were deep to field kicks and punts.  He also showed that he can be a legit offensive weapon running a 13 yard jet sweep.  I’d like to see him get a shot to line up in the slot with the rest of the starters.

-The Huskers went a full half (and seven minutes into the second half) without any false starts or holding calls.  I think the discipline is getting there.  I was not however, overly impressed with push up front (or lack thereof) on WKU’s undersized defensive front.  If Nebraska’s going to be a run heavy team, obviously they’re going to need physical and dominant play from the offensive line.  On a similar note, we saw Jeremiah Sirles get the “start” over Yoshi Hardrick at left tackle, but Hardrick seemed to play more snaps.  That’s another battle that will probably continue for a a few weeks, if not longer.

-Of the defensive backs, I was most impressed with Alfonzo Dennard.  He was stuck on his man like glue all night, and he looked good in run support too.  The only question I have left for him is when will he get that elusive first interception.  Prince Amukamara was a stud as always.  Seeing him play makes me drool thinking about what he could do in the return game, but alas, the coaches think that’s too much work for him.  I have a sneaking suspicion that when he gets drafted he’s going to end up being a return ace, leaving us wondering what could have been.  Regardless, I think I would testify that Nebraska possess the best cornerback tandem in the Big 12.  Another interesting tidbit from the game was afterwards, when secondary coach Marvin Sanders announced that true frosh Ciante Evans established himself as the third corner behind Dennard and Prince.

-Now, a few predictions:

1.  Lavonte David will top 100 tackles this season.  The man flies.

2.  We’ll be more impressed with the defense against Idaho, their offense plays better into our defense.

3.  Nebraska will see at least 3 special teams touchdowns

4.  We’ll be pleasantly surprised when Bo and Carl pull the plastic on blitzing.

5.  The Blackshirts will hold Idaho to single digit points

Categories: Big 12, Husker Notes, Sports