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2011 NCAA Football Predictions

1 – OKLAHOMA – College football fans should hear Jones to Broyles quite a bit this season.  The Sooners should be one of the nation’s top offenses.  You will also hear Broyles a lot on special teams.  The Lewis boys, Ronnell and Travis will lay the smack down on the other side of the ball.  This unit forced 32 turnovers last season and should do the same this year.

2 – OREGON – The Ducks will also have a powerful offense behind QB Darron Thomas and RB LaMichael James.  They will continue to be aggressive and we’ll see if Thomas can guide this team to a title this year.  The only potential weak spot could be offensive line as they lack top caliber talent and size.  The defense is solid, quick and very deep.  CB Cliff Harris might be the best defensive back in the country.

3 – SOUTH CAROLINA – Extremely talented RB Marcus Lattimore will lead the Cock offense into battle.  WR Alshon Jeffery is also a big play stud.  However, QB Stephen Garcia will be the key to the USC success story.  If he plays and stays out of Spurrier’s doghouse, the sky is the limit for this team.  They could put up a lot of points and if they do that they will certainly be in a BCS game.

4 – BOISE STATE – The top QB just may be Kellen Moore.  He is 38-2 as a starter and now he’ll have to face a tough schedule and the loss of receiving stars Young and Pettis.  The O-Line should help as they bring back stars Porter and Byrd.  Eight starters return to one of the best squads in the country.  There schedule should also help.  After an opener against Georgia, the toughest it gets for the Broncos is TCU and Air Force, both on the blue turf of BSU.

5 – ALABAMA – The Tide would have been one of my top 2 teams if it weren’t for uncertainty at the QB position.  McCarron could be OK but behind him is a redshirt freshman.  RB Ingram is in the NFL as well but RB Richardson should be able to equal his production from a year ago.  The strength is the Tide defense which returns 9 players to last years 3rd ranked squad.

6 – STANFORD – Andrew Luck will be an NFL QB.  He may end up being a very good one as well.  Andy has a very good O-Line but he’ll need a lot of luck as he has an average WR core and a slightly above average running game behind Stepfan Taylor.  The Cardinal defense is good but did sustain losses on the D-Line.  Their linebacker core, led by Shayne Skov, is amongst the best in the country.

7 – OKLAHOMA STATE – If this team were in just about any other conference we might be talking BCS championship game.  OSU has a very tough schedule.  However QB Brandon Weeden and WR Justin Blackmon should be dynamic.  RBs Joseph Randle and Hershel Sims should also be a pleasant surprise for this team.  The defense will be inexperienced but they are faster and more aggressive than last year’s defense.

8 – LSU – QB Jordan Jefferson is a huge key to this talented group.  If he stays out of trouble and sticks to the game plan they’ll play in a BCS game.  If not they’ll be playing in December.  WR Ruben Randle and TE DeAngelo Petersen will be Jordan’s top targets.  RB Spencer Ware should be a pleasant surprise.  The defense did lose the likes of Nevis and P.Petersen to the NFL but this young group is fast and talented.

 

9 – WISCONSIN – The Badgers have a dynamic backfield in Ball and White.  They will score a lot of touchdowns and control the clock.  The defensive front 7 will be slightly inexperienced but their defensive backfield should be one of the best in the country.  LB Chris Borland, if healthy, should be one of the best backers in the conference.

10 – NOTRE DAME – It looks as if this offense belongs to QB Dayne Crist, for now.  Future star Tommy Rees is waiting in the wings.  No matter who throws the target will be future NFLer Michael Floyd.  TE Tyler Eifert should also have a huge year in this aggressive offense.  The running game is fair behind Wood and Gray.  LB Manti T’eo and S Harrison Smith lead the very talented Irish D that held teams to only 9.8 ppg in the last 4 games of last season.

11 – FLORIDA STATE – Losing QB Christian Ponder to the NFL was tough and the Seminoles ACC and BCS hopes rest on the arm of E.J. Manuel.  RB Chris Thompson will lead a talented 3-back group and WRs Reed, Haulstead and Smith are big play receivers all the way.  The FSU defense led by Mark Stoops and LBs Bradham and Smith could be one of the best in the country.

12 – NEBRASKA – The Huskers will have the best defense in their new conference.  The D has All-American hopefuls in Crick, David and Dennard.  The Huskers were 9th in the country last season have promised to air it out under new coordinator Tim Beck.  The only problem is QB Taylor Martinez might not be the guy to get it done.

13 – TCU – As usual the Frogs have a very talented team but might be just outside the Top 10 and BCS consideration.  They have 6 kids returning to a very talented defense, however they lost star QB Andy Dalton on the other side of the ball.  They will rely heavily on RBs Ed Wesley and Matt Tucker.

14 – MICHIGAN STATE – The Spartans should be right behind the Badgers and Huskers.  The offense should be very effective under the vastly underrated QB Kirk Cousins.  RB Edwin Baker and WR EJ Cunningham should be the primary playmakers of this group.

15 – FLORIDA – The Gators could go far with QB Brantley in the Weis offensive system.  However they have a difficult schedule, have to replace 7 players on defense and several players on the offensive line.  They will lose a few but we will certainly see what new head coach Will Muschamp is made of.

16 – VIRGINIA TECH – This is one of the tougher teams to figure out.  Coach Beamer just got a well-deserved extension but one of his better QBs in Tyrod Taylor is no longer there.  They will have to depend on RB David Wilson and WRs Boykin and Coale for production.  The defense is always good at VT and this should be a good group again led by LB Bruce Taylor.

17 – TEXAS A&M – The Aggies should be one of the better teams this season in the state of Texas.  The offense should be very efficient behind signal caller Ryan Tannehill.  RB Cyrus Gray could be one of the more underrated runners in the country.  The defense could ultimately be the reason this experienced team falters as they lost a couple of big play defenders, namely Von Miller.

18 – ARKANSAS – They have the talent to be a Top 10 team but lost an excellent college QB in Ryan Mallett.  QB Tyler Wilson is capable but nowhere near as talented.  In addition they had some significant losses on the offensive line.  RB Knile Davis bullying his way in-between tackles should be what keeps this Razorback offense moving.  The Arky defense is adequate and should keep them in ballgames.

19 – USC – The Trojans are in the BPD Top 20 by the hair of their chins.  QB Matt Barkley should have a very good season and connect with WR Robert Woods often.  The team has talent on the defensive side of the ball but they lack depth and did give up big points at the end of last season.  In addition they aren’t playing for anything for the second year in a row.

20 – ARIZONA – The Cats are going to be a very fun team to watch.  QB Nick Foles might put up Playstation type numbers this season against the weak Pac-12 defenses.  Benefitting from Foles skills will be WRs Criner and Buckner.  On the other side of the ball they’ve had some significant losses in the off-season.  They should do just well enough for this team to get to a decent bowl game.

21 – WEST VIRGINIA – QB Geno Smith is going to be very exciting to watch on this very fast and talented offensive unit.   Tavon Austin and Vernard Roberts are the two guys that will also make this offense go.  The defense is also very solid.  DE Bruce Irvin should be a thorn in the side of most of the Big East QBs.  The only problem with the D is they are a bit undersized.  Power backs should thrive against this unit.

22 – TEXAS – Talent is no the issue on this Longhorn team looking to regain some respect in the state of Texas.  New D-Coordinator Diaz should help make this unit more aggressive.  DE Sam Acho and LB Keenan Robinson could be the best at their position in the country.  The offense looks to be the biggest issue and the position of biggest concern is QB.

23 – IOWA – There are only nine players returning to this squad.  RB Marcus Coker looks to be the stud on this offense.  WR Marvin McNutt should also help stretch the defenses and make big plays.  QB James Vandenberg has very little game experience but has sat behind Stanzi and the hope is that some of Stanzi has rubbed off on him.  The defense is a solid unit whose strongest component is the defensive backfield.  DBs Prater and Hyde are outstanding.

24 – MISSISSIPPI STATE – The Bulldogs make the Top 25 yet again.  QB Chris Relf won’t burn up the record books but he doesn’t make many mistakes.  RB Vick Ballard will move this offense and score, a lot.  A talent defense returns 7 starters but must break in all new linebackers.  A very tough schedule of Auburn and LSU over a 5 days stretch, at Georgia and Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss to finish out the season mean this team has to have a lot of things go right to win more than 7 games.

25 – SOUTH FLORIDA – The Bulls should battle WVU for the Big East crown.  QB B.J. Daniels isn’t very consistent but he makes big plays.  RB Demetris Murray isn’t great but is a workhorse and will get the job done.  But the Bulls won’t win this conference on the offensive side of the ball.  A very quick and talented group will be what makes or breaks this team.  LB Sam Arrington, DeDe Lattimore and DE Ryan Giddins will make life difficult for Big East foes.  This group should force a lot of turnovers.

26-40 (Maryland, Georgia, Missouri, Illinois, NC State, BYU, Air Force, Clemson, Tennessee, UNC, Penn State, Arizona State, Auburn, Baylor, Washington)

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College Hotties – Bowl Game Edition

The College Football season is coming to a close which is always a happy/sad time for me.  I love the heart of the season when the best of the conferences square off in October and November.  The sad part is when it comes to an end.  We get more than 30 bowl games (not sure if that is a good thing) to conclude the season but it always leaves us somewhat disappointed.  Do the best teams always play for the title?  Why can’t we have a playoff?  Why can’t we have a playoff and keep our holiday bowl games?  None of these questions will be answered any time soon.  All we can do as college football fans is sit back, watch the games AND say a fond farewell to our college hotties.

INDEPENDENCE BOWL

Georgia Tech has some unbeatable hotties but I think the Air Force Hottie Squad is going to have a lot to cheer about in this game.

MUSIC CITY BOWL

How either of these teams made a bowl game is a miracle.  At least we get to see these southern hotties one more time.  UNC should beat Tennessee but who knows.  Blah Hum Bug!

SUN BOWL

Catholics v. Convicts re-visited!  The midwest “girls next door” v. the South Beach hottie squad.  I give an edge to Miami’s girls but not the guys on the gridiron.  ND should take care of business on the field.

MEINEKE BOWL

One of the dumbest names for a bowl game, right?  Clemson and USF have some of the hottest fans and cheerleaders in college ball.  I wish the action on the field was as hot as what’s in the stands.  Both teams were disappointments for sure.  Clemson wins.

CHICK-FIL-A BOWL

The old Peach Bowl now named after the frickin delicious chicken sandwich should be a good.  FSU Cowgirls v. the girls who like Cocks.  You really can’t go wrong here.  I call this matchup a draw and the action on the field should be close too.  FSU by a field goal.

ROSE BOWL

The hottest girls of the Big 10 face off against the hottest of the Mountain West.  Both are amazing but I have to give a slight edge to the girls down south.  The ‘Sconnies’ are bundled up most of the year and that’s just not nice.  The Wisconsin men should get revenge on the field with a pretty solid victory over TCU.

FIESTA BOWL

These UConn hotties are the best I’ve ever seen.  Oklahoma is FULL of hot hotties and gets my vote in this matchup.  Oh, and the football team should kick the snot out of the Huskies.

SUGAR BOWL

Once again we have a top 10 matchup of hotties.  I love the OSU girls and the fact they party like they major in it.  However I am a sucker for SEC girls and the RazorHotties get my vote.  The game should be one of the best of the major bowl games.  OSU by a point or two.

ORANGE BOWL

Stanford girls certainly win the IQ award and these cheerleaders are certainly cute, but VTs hotties are awesome.  The action on the field should be awesome.  This is going to be an excellent game.  Stanford is probably just a bit better than the Hokies.

BCS BOWL

Auburn v. Oregon.  Auburn’s fans are smoking hot and Oregon’s cheerleaders are the best.  The game should be good and high scoring but I think Auburn should be able to handle the Ducks.

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Football is King in NWI and Chicago

soxcubshglassLiving in NW Indiana (basically a suburb of Chicago) this is the time of year many of us begin moving on.  We may still catch an inning or two but our sports minds have begun looking ahead.  We have moved on to pigskin, helmets, pads and touchdowns.  The true “die-hard” baseball fans (most of those on the North side of the city) will hang in there longer than most of us.  However there are many who have mentally moved on to football. 

In NW Indiana there are 3 pro football teams.  The Chicago Bears (obviously), Indianapolis Colts (In state) and Pittsburgh Steelers (steel mills support the Steelers) all look to be good this season.  The Bears and new QB Jay Cutler look to be NFC North Division favorites and compete for the NFC crown.  The Colts still have Peyton Manning and a solid group of guys and the Steelers look to repeat as Super Bowl champs.  How can the Cubs and Sox beat that?  

NW Indiana is also in the heart of college football country.  Notre Dame is 90 minutes away and has a huge following.  They look to improve on last year’s bowl season with a majority of the starters coming back.  The Big10 (5 of the schools are within a 4 hour drive of NW Indiana) appears to be wide open this season.  Michigan State looks to be an early favorite but after MSU, Ohio State and Penn State the conference is wide open.  Indiana, Illinois and Northwestern all have a legitimate shot at 6 or 7 wins and a bowl game.  Purdue has a difficult schedule and is re-building but West Lafayette is always a fun place to see a game.   

Now I admit the Big 10 is in no way the SEC or Big 12 but the games are usually very competitive regardless of national record.  And, for all of you SEC, BIG 12 and PAC 10 fans/alums there is a place for you in the Chicago area too.  Most of the bars on the cities North side all have collegiate affiliations and are great places to spend a Saturday afternoon. 

Purdue game – Durkins, Michigan game – Duffy’s, Michigan State game – Gin Mill, Illinois and Florida games – Joe’s on Weed, Kansas games – Kincades, UCLA games – Lion’s Head Pub, Nebraska games – Kirkwood…and the list goes on and on.  http://www.chibarproject.com/Features/College/ChicagoCollegeBars.html

While there are certainly plenty of watering hole options for your college football viewing, nothing beats a little road trip.  When the weather turns cooler and leaves change colors, tailgating at a college football game should be on your to-do list.  The smell of encased meats on the grill, playing catch with friends and knocking back a few cold ones is as American as this PED infested sport they call baseball.  Even if you didn’t attend any of the major programs in the area there are plenty of in-state and conference rivalries to keep your interest.  I encourage road trips to Madison, WI, Ann Arbor, MI and South Bend, IN.

Road trips and kick offs a side, baseball games are still fun, just not that important after All-Star break.  Neither team will be “out of the race” which will keep some interest but let’s not forget the WHY…because their divisions suck.  The reality is the Cubs and Sox are going nowhere fast.  Baseball holds no interest for many of us until October when good teams like the Yankess play the Red Sox in the ALCS and the Dodgers play the Phillies in the NLCS.

Fact is the minute Jay Cutler and the Bears take the field it’s over for our local baseballers.  When you hear the roar of the crowd during kick off at the Notre Dame v. Michigan State game or Wisconsin v. Michigan game, it’s over.  When you enter Joe’s on Weed or the Tilted Kilt and have to go to a small TV in the corner to watch your Cubs or Sox, it’s over.

So, don’t fight it.  Enjoy what’s left of your seasons.  It might still be fun to play hooky from work on a Wednesday afternoon and go to Wrigley or The Cell.  Nothing wrong with that.  But Chicago fans know once football season starts weekend baseball in Chi-Town only exists in the box scores we read in the paper or highlights we catch on ESPN. 

Cubs and Sox, enjoy what is left of your spotlight in Chicago area sports.  Like sands in the hour glass so are the days of the Cubs and Sox lives.

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NCAA Football Picks Week 3

GAME 1

Kansas v. South Florida in Tampa, FL

Kansas QB Todd Reesing is leading one of the top offenses in college ball against a very tough and disciplined USF team.  USF is also a very tough team at home.  The difference in this game will ultimately be weather the Kansas defense can stop the USF running attack led by RB Moise Planchar and QB Matt Grothe.  Kansas 34 USF 28

GAME 2

Ohio State v. USC in Los Angeles, CA

On paper this match up should be a “clash of titans” so to speak.  However, with Beanie Wells banged up and a very poor showing against Miami of Ohio the Trojans should pound the Buckeyes into submission.  I know it is a bold statement but the overall statistical rankings basically tell the tale.  In Total Yards OSU is 61st and USC is 7th.  The USC Trojans are 9th in Passing while OSU is 86th.  And, finally the Trojans rank 7th in Total Points Scored with the Buckeyes rank 39th.  Look for the OSU offense to struggle.  The OSU defense is very good but they haven’t faced an offense like this.  USC 42 OSU 14

GAME 3

Georgia at South Carolina in Columbia, SC

Despite the little slip in the rankings Georgia is still the best team in the country.  They have won both of their games by a total of 63 points.  The Bulldogs offense is led by two Heisman candidates in QB Matt Stafford and RB Knowshon Moreno.  The offense can attack you by air and on the ground.  They are very aggressive and may be the best overall offense in the country.  South Carolina on the other hand has a very good defense and home field advantage.  In the SEC unlike other conferences, anything can happen.  However the “Original” USC’s offense is just “smelley” (pun intended) and they will fall short.  Georgia 28 South Carolina 7

GAME 4

Wisconsin v. Fresno State in Fresno, CA

These two teams are evenly matched and this game has early BCS implications.  Wisconsin has looked a bit inconsistent against two lesser foes (Marshall and Akron).  They started slow against both but a balanced attack by QB Evan Evridge, RB P.J. Hill and TE Garrett Graham wore down the opposing defenses.  Fresno State is known for their all-out air assault.  QB Todd Brandstater had a very vanilla performance in his first game but this senior can throw.  Unlike most seasons the Bulldogs have a very talented runner in Ryan Mathews.  How good is this sophomore?  How about 163 yards and 3 TDs against Rutgers.  This is a close game but I feel Wisconsin has the intangibles to pull out a victory.  Wisconsin 21 Fresno State 19

GAME 5

Michigan v. Notre Dame at Notre Dame, IN

This matchup is usually one that draws attention.  Usually both teams are in the Top 25 with NFL quality talent dotting the field.  The times they are a changin.  Both teams are outside the Top 25 and both teams will be lucky to be bowl eligible at the end of the season.  Michigan is completely re-tooling under coach Rich Rodriguez.  The have changed philosophy on both sides of the ball.  Notre Dame is coming off of one of their worst seasons in team history.  They were also one of the youngest teams in the NCAA last season.  I like what I see out of QB Jimmy Clausen.  He showed a lot of poise as the ND offense opened up the air attack in the 2nd half.  Look for ND to air it out again this week.  The ND wide reciever tandem of Tate and Grimes are very solid and should do well against Michigan’s corners.  The only chance Michigan has is for RB Sam McGruffie to have a break out game.  The Michigan QB situation is not at all pretty.  Notre Dame 20 Michigan 6

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NCAA Football Pre-Season Predictions 10-6

#10 Wisconsin

Wisconsin will have a very solid team in 2008.  They are led offensively by RB P.J. Hill and TE Travis Beckum.  They also have a tremendous offensive line and that is good for whatever young QB they decide to go with.  Wisconsin QBs are game managers so if Hill has a big year and the line stays healthy than the offense should be very efficient.  The defense is not as strong as the offense but they do have some big playmakers.  DE Matt Shaughnessy, LB Jonathan Casillas and S Shane Carter will be counted on to be the leaders on this team.  The Badgers also have one other thing working for them and that is Camp Randall.  It has become one of the more difficult places to play in all of college football and this season Wisconsin gets to play Ohio State, Illinois and Penn State at home.  9-3

#9 Missouri

 

Missouri is a very talented team and should make it to the BCS in 2008.  They are led by QB and Heismann hopeful Chase Daniel.  The team is loaded at WR led by Sophomore Jeremy Maclin.  The only possible weakness is at running back and it isn’t so much weakness as it is lack of experience.  Tailback Jimmy Jackson should do fine.  Not to be out done, the defense isn’t flashy but it is very talented.  Ziggy Hood and Sean Weatherspoon should abuse opposing running backs and QBs.  Missouri does have a unique opportunity to run the table and play for a national title because they don’t play Oklahoma this season.  However, they do have a few tough games like the Illini at the RCA to open the season, at Texas in the middle of the season and they wrap up against Kansas in Kansas City.  10-2

#8 Auburn

Auburn is another very talented team that should be playing in the BCS this season.  Offensively they have the youngest, most talented line in football.  RBs Ben Tate and Brad Lester should be a very effective two-headed monster behind that line.  Defensively they lost Quentin Groves and a slew of others to the NFL so the younger kids will have to step up.  Not too mention they will have to step it up under a new coordinator because Muschamp left for Texas in the off season.  Lucky for the Tigers they don’t have to play Florida this season but they do have to go to West Virginia in the middle of the season and play Georgia at the tale end.  10-2

#7 Clemson

The Clemson Tigers are back in the National Title picture.  First off RBs Davis and Spiller might be the best one-two punch in the country.  The Tigers have some inexperience on the offensive line but these two kids should have big years.  I look for QB Cullen Harper to step up and have a huge year, possibly garnering Heismann votes with a couple of big time victories.  The defense should be fantastic.  They have 8 returning starters for a defense that only gave up 18 points per game.  The mid-season road trip versus bowl bound teams Wake Forest, Florida State and Boston College will be a real test.  If they can run the table on that trip they may be in the title hunt.  10-2

#6 USC

You can’t talk BCS and not include the Trojans.  However, this season will not be a walk for the Trojans.  They should continue to have one of the better defenses in college football.  Linebackers Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga are back and Maualuga had a more productive season last year than Keith Rivers, who was a top ten draft pick.  They are a little inexperienced on the interior defensive line but they are very deep in defensive talent.  Offensively they have a lot of questions.  They have no idea what QB Mark Sanchez can do and Mitch Mustain, the Arkansas transfer behind Mark, could push him for playing time if he struggles early.  Look for USC to run more than ever this season and with RBs Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson, why wouldn’t you.  The schedule is as tough as it comes and they are bound to trip up a little along the way.  How about this for a stretch of games…Ohio State, at Oregon State, Oregon and Arizona State.  They could have two losses after their first 6 games.  10-2

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