Saturday, August 2, 2008

CFB Preseason Rankings - No. 23

With the College Football season now less than 30 days away from getting started, GDB's resident expert Young Swole will begin unleashing his preseason top 25. Today we look at the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Penn State is one of those schools that is more known for its coach than players or recent on-field results. The Joe Paterno retirement story seems to be the only news that has come out of Happy Valley in recent years, which not only shows how much he means to the school but also how average his football team has become. While every few years the Nittany Lions seem to break through and have a solid year, more times than not they hover in the middle of the Big 10. Will this be one of the better recent teams, and will it possibly be Paterno's last season in State College? Lets find out.

Offense: The best thing that happened all offseason for Penn State was that Anthony Morelli used up his eligibility. The only QB in the nation who might possibly match him in overall shittiness last year was Sean Glennon. With Morelli history, Penn State now has to choose between classic passer Pat Devlin or the more athletic Darryl Clark. Chances are they will use both, and that both players will be an upgrade at the position. The Lions have 2 explosive running backs in Evan Royster and Stephon Green, and solid recievers in Derrick Williams and Deon Butler. If the quarterback play improves, its quite possible that Penn State will have the most explosive offense in the Big 10.

Defense: A lot of the big names of recent years have moved on, and their best returning defender is out for the year with injury, but Penn State should continue to have a solid unit. They have a deep and talented group of D-Linemen and they always seem to have good linebackers. The secondary should be respectable, though there doesn't seem to be many game changers back there. One possible question mark is that many of the top defensive players are epic thugs, and have either been suspended for off-field incidents or recently came back from them. If these knuckleheads manage to stay off the police blotter and on the field, Penn State should have their usual solid defense.

Coaching: I'm not going to say a lot of bad things about Paterno, he's an icon in college football and his record speaks for itself. While many are saying he's too old to coach, I think the bigger problem is the apparent lack of control for the players on the football team when it comes to staying out of trouble. Its obvious that some players simply don't respect old JoePa, which is why the program is turning into Thug Central. Paterno doesn't do much technical coaching anymore anyway, but if he can manage to keep his goons on the field he will be doing all he needs to now that he's nearing 200 years of age.

Schedule and Predicted Outcomes:

Coastal Carolina - W
Oregon State - W
@ Syracuse - W
Temple - W
Illinois - W
@ Purdue - W
@ Wisconsin - L
Michigan - W
@Ohio State - L
@ Iowa - W
Indiana - W
Michigan State - W

The schedule sets up pretty easily for Penn State this year. They have 7 winnable home games and only 2 real challenges on the road. Even if they lose to Wisconsin and Ohio State, they will still have a really good chance for those to be their only losses on the season. I'd like to think another loss will emerge on the schedule, but outside of Michigan State or Illinois at home, I frankly don't see where its going to come from which is why Penn State has a really legit shot at going 10-2 this year

Friday, August 1, 2008

CFB Preseason Rankings - No. 24

With the College Football season now less than 30 days away from getting started, GDB's resident expert Young Swole will begin unleashing his preseason top 25. Today we look at the Illinois Fighting Illini

Last year, the Illini were the revelation of the Big 10. By taking a bunch of young kids with SEC-caliber speed and combining them with all-world running back Rashad Mendenhall, the Illini ran all the way past the rest of the plodding Big 10 into the Rose Bowl. With so much young talent being brought in thanks to Ron Zook (who recruits like Michael and coaches like Tito), there is hope that the Illinois will become one of the premier programs in the Big 10. How does this year's version stack up with last years, lets take a look and find out.

Offense: No player meant more to their team than Mendenhall was to the Illini last year. His exceptional talent made up for the fact that quarterback Juice Williams struggled to throw the ball accurately to anyone on the team. But now with Mendenhall in the Steel City, Juice is going to have to be reliable for the Illini, because no one knows who is going to be starting behind him at running back. Thankfully for Williams he will be throwing to quite possibly the best wide reciever in the conference in Arrelious Benn. This sophomore came out guns blazing last year and could be virtually uncoverable this year, if only Juice can get him the ball consistently.

Defense: The Illini also lost their leader on defense, when linebacker J Leman graduated this spring. However, there is a lot of talent left over to compensate. Cornerback Vontae Davis should be first-team Big 10 along with Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins, and people are saying that Martez Wilson has the chance to be the best Illini defender since Simeon Rice was roaming the sidelines at Player U. Furthermore, Zook has taken the SEC philosophy of stockpiling defensive linemen with him to Champaign and while many of his d-linemen are young, they have the talent to dominate. The D will have to step up this year, especially early because its likely the offense is going to be lagging behind while adjusting to life without Mendenhall.

Coaching: Other than Pete Carroll, there may be no better recruiter in college football than Ron Zook. He was the one who signed the players that led Florida to a national championship, and the fact that he can get top-notch prospects to a middle-of-the-road Big 10 team shows that wherever he goes, excellent players will follow. Unfortunately for Zook, recruiting coordinators don't win titles, head coaches do. Zook isn't exactly a mensa member when it comes to football strategy, and many of his teams have struggled from a lack of on-field discipline. This year will be a good test to see if he's learned anything since fleeing The Swamp, because his team is still very young and will need experienced guidance to lead them through a much tougher schedule then they faced last year.

Schedule and Predicted Outcomes:

Missouri - L
E. Illinois - W
La-Lafayette - W
@ Penn State - L
@ Michigan - L
Minnesota - W
Indiana - W
@ Wisconsin - L
Iowa - W
Western Michigan - W
Ohio State - W
@ Northwestern - W

I feel that Illinois is going to struggle out of the blocks but get much better as the young players gain experience over the course of the season. You may think Sweezy is drunk when you see that I picked them to beat Ohio State, but we all see how the Buckeyes struggle with fast and aggressive defenses, which is exactly what the Illini are going to have. The late season push and big win over OSU will launch Illinois towards a possible top-10 ranking in 2009, but they'll have to settle for no better than 8-4 in 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

College Football Preseason Rankings

With the College Football season now less than 30 days away from getting started, GDB's resident expert Young Swole will begin unleashing his preseason top 25. Today we look at the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

For pretty much the entire time Wake Forest has existed, it has been considered a basketball school. The school has provided the NBA with players like Tim Duncan and Chris Paul, and has imfamously provided CBS viewers with resident curmudgeon Billy Packer. An odd thing has happened in recent years though. Since Jim Grobe arrived at the school, the football team has been transformed from an ACC cupcake to one of the most successful teams in the league. This has been as unlikely as Duke becoming a consistent team, yet Grobe has built a program that now has to be considered one of the best in the ACC, even ahead of powerhouses like Florida State and Miami. This year should be no different, as Wake returns a solid team that could possibly push for a berth in the ACC title game if things fall right.

Offense: Wake is led on offense by senior quarterback Riley Skinner. Very quietly, he has been the best and most consistent quarterback in the ACC for two years running. His experience will help offset a young group of players around him who have talent but not a lot of game experience. The offensive line has lost some starters, but Skinner should be good enough to succeed even if they aren't up to last year's level. This offense won't remind anyone of the Gators in terms of speed and explosiveness, but they will also be really hard to stop for a whole game.

Defense: Wake has created a fast, ball-hawking defense by recruiting extensively in Florida. If you know Florida, you know that means speed. So what you get is a defense full of ballers with dreads flying around and trying to make huge plays. While other teams may still get the cream of the crop from the Sunshine State, Wake has done great at collecting their leftovers and turning those hungry players into solid college starters. Standouts include Alphonso Smith, Aaron Curry and Brandon Ghee. Overall, Wake's defense should allow them to stay in every game they play in, and will give all the young quarterback's in the ACC a really tough time.

Coaching: Its not easy to create a football winner at Wake Forest, but Jim Grobe has done just that. He almost jumped ship and left to Arkansas, but decided to stay at the program he has created out of thin air. Grobe is a great tactician of the game and watching Wake play it is very obvious that they are one of the most well coached teams in the conference, if not the country.

Schedule: Here's how Sweezy is predicting Wake's season to go.

@Baylor - W
Ole Miss - L
@Florida State - W
Navy - W
Clemson - W
@Maryland - L
@Miami - W
Duke - W
Virginia - W
@NC State - L
Boston College - W
Vanderbilt - W

Look for Wake to finish around 9-3. Their highlight of the season will be beating Clemson, and if things fall right they could match up with the Tigers again in the ACC Championship. The schedule has some tricky teams on it, but no one good enough to blow this team out.

MLB Power Poll

The sands in the MLB trade deadline hourglass are just about to dissapear and surprisingly, it has been a busy one. Normally, when the deadline is done, there's a lot more chatter than actual movement, but this time around, baseball has become exciting again (for non-fantasy players) during the dog days of summer. How much will these deals actually benefit the teams? We won't know until October when one team is pouring the champagne. Right now the winners look to be the Yankees and Angels, but in the future, it looks like the Pirates have stashed away a wealthy booty. Still, knowing Pittsburgh's luck, these guys will all turn out to be epic busts. Let's take a look at a poll that has never been called a bust.

1.) (1) LA Angels of Anaheim- The Angels were already at the top of the poll last week and they already owned baseball's best record. Many teams would be content with that, but LA is looking to put this whole World Series thing out of reach. They traded for Mark "Sexy Texy" Texeira (as the ladies call him) without giving up the farm (Casey Kotchman is but a large cornish game hen in the grand scheme of things). It's just what the Halos needed. Their pitching has been outstanding all year and while their lineup features big names, it hasn't produced like Mike Scioscia was expecting it to. Right now you have to consider these guys the favorite to take home the hardware.

2.) (2) Chicago Cubs- The Cubbies already made their deadline deal when they traded for Rich Harden a week and a half ago. The former Oakland A hurler has given up just 2 ER and struck out 30 (!!!!) in 3 starts with the North siders, but has an 0-1 record to show for it. C'mon Chicago, stop wasting this man's hard work. Harden pitches tonight with the Cubs looking for the sweep over the Brewers. This series has been a huge statement for the Cubbies so far as their offense has blown apart Milwaukee's 3 best pitchers (Sheets, Sabathia, and Parra). If this is a preview of things to come, then this division might not be as close as we once thought.

3.) (6) Tampa Bay Rays- It seems like every week, we go back and forth on who the best team in the AL East is. Right now, it looks like Tampa has taken the throne back by playing slightly above average baseball while the Red Sox flounder. While they have no sweeps since the All-star break, they have yet to lose a series either. They need to play better baseball if they want to keep their lead (it stands at 3 games right now) because the Yanks are coming on very strong and the Sawx are bound to get out of their slump eventually (right?!)

4.) (5) Chicago White Sox- Welcome to the Windy City Junior. The White Sox made, in my opinion, a rather unneccessary trade by acquiring Ken Griffey Jr. from the Reds. They've already got a stacked OF, but I guess it can't hurt. It seems like every new series that begins, I say to myself..."This is when the White Sox are going to come back to earth". Every time though, they prove me wrong by lighting up the scoreboard. On their recent 6 game road against the Tigers and Twins, they're split 3-3. I would think they've gotta be happy with that considering the way the other two teams have been playing over the past month. With a win tonight, Ozzie's Club will build a 2.5 game cushion on the Twins heading into lowly KC tommorow.

5.) (7) New York Yankees- It's hard to argue that the Yanks are one of the most dangerous teams in baseball right now. Not only are they playing at a high caliber, but they just made two huge trades that could pay dividends for them if they make the playoffs. They tackled 3 needs without giving up a lot. By trading with the Pirates for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte, the Pinstripes shore up their bullpen to make it even with Boston's and set their OF for the rest of the year. Thanks to some delusional minds in Detroit's front office, the Bombers were able to replace the injured Jorge Posada with arguably the greatest postseason catcher ever in Pudge Rodriguez. It was also addition by subtraction and they parted ways with perennial douchebag Kyle Farnsworth. Watch out for the Yankees!

6.) (3) Boston Red Sox- The Red Sox have to be in panic mode right now. After getting swept by the Juggernaut known as the Angels, they're 3 back of Tampa Bay, and only a game ahead of their arch nemesis in New York. The pitching seems to be fine, the bullpen is solid, the hitting is alright. So what gives? Mediocre adjectives shouldn't be describing this team. They are as talented as any other in the majors and need to start playing like they did in the playoffs last year. It's the same club, so if they want to pull ahead they need to play up to their potential.
UPDATE: The Red Sox moved Manny Ramirez, OF Brandon Moss, and RP Craig Hansen and got Jason Bay in return. On paper, it looks like they got ripped, but maybe without Manny's distractions they can start playing up to potential.

7.) (9) St. Louis Cardinals- The Red Birds are somehow still lurking close in the division race. With a 3 game win streak (coupled with the Brew Crew's 4 game slide) they're tied with Milwaukee once again. The return of former Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter makes this team one to watch down the stretch. I don't quite understand why they haven't made any moves to bolster their lineup, but I guess they don't want to mortgage the future just yet. All I'm saying is, don't count out the Cards. They're feisty, and right now they're tied for the wild card lead.

8.) (4) Milwaukee Brewers- Last week, this was the hottest team in baseball. They had a chance to take the lead in the NL Central, but it's tough when you're matching up with a team that's just smidge better. It doesn't help that this team is directly above you in the standings. Still there are no excuses for possibly getting swept by the Cubs. The Cheese heads may be content with just locking down the wild card, but that may not be good enough in the end if they don't start winning meaningful series'. They've got 7 more games with Chicago, including 3 at home to close out the regular season.

9.) (-) Minnesota Twins - The Twinkies return to the poll after capturing 4 of their last 5 games to close to within a game and a half of division leading Chicago. Minny is in a great position to take over that lead if they can take out the White Sox tonight. Their next 3 series come against bottom dwellers Cleveland, Seattle, and Kansas City. Management has been great in the Twin Cities all year, but the only question I have is: Where the hell is Francisco Liriano!?!

10.) (10) Philadelphia Phillies- Just when it looked like the Mets had a stranglehold on the division by taking 2 of 3 from the Phils, New York lays an egg against 3rd place Florida. This makes way for Philadelphia to regain the NL East lead once again via a 4 game win streak. During that stretch, they've scored 22 runs, albeit against the soft tossing Nats and Braves. Still, when it comes down to it, wins are wins, and with the ever-consistent Brad Lidge closing out games, a lead in the 9th is all they need. A very exciting series in St. Louis looms tommorow.

Honorable Mention: New York Mets, Florida Marlins, Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers