Thursday, August 7, 2008

CFB Preseason Rankings - #19

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 Virginia Tech Hokies.

Despite one of the worst tragedies ever to strike a college campus, the Virginia Tech football team still won the ACC Conference and made it to a BCS bowl. A lot of talented either graduated or was kicked off the team this past offseason making VA Tech one of the most unknown entities in the entire Top 25. We all know how this program reloads though, which means that the Hokies will still be a forced to be reckoned with in the ACC.

Offense: With the Hokies offense, it all boils down to which quarterback will be behind center. Sean Glennon is the incumbent, but anyone who knows anything about football can tell pretty quickly that he is a pretty awful player. His decision making is terrible and he is inaccurate which if you didn't know is a bad combination. Somehow he is still the probable starter this season despite the challenge of sophomore Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is much more athletic and despite making some mistakes, at least he isn't a senior making them. I know most Hokie fans want Taylor to start and I agree with them, he is their best chance for offensive success this year. VA Tech lost a ton of skill players too including Branden Ore and all three starting receivers plus their top returning wide reciever. The loss of Ore will not be big because the Hokies always have strong running backs and the offensive line should be much better this year. Wide receiver is more problematic though, and with Brandon Dillard out for the season with injury, its going to be up to some really young guys to get open and make players. Make no mistake, this is going to be a smash-mouth offense content to play a ball-control style and lean heavily on the defense.

Defense: Bud Foster has to be considered one of the top Defensive Coordinator's in all of CFB, which is why I have no doubt that the Hokies defense will be just as dominant as year's past despite losing some really good players. The two biggest holes to fill will be defensive end Chris Ellis, who was their most effective pass rusher, and linebacker Vince Hall, who was their most consistent defender last year. The secondary should be in fine shape with All-Conference players Macho Harris and Kam Chancellor returning, and I have no doubts that the new linebackers will step right in Hall and Xavier Adibi's shoes. If the Hokies can get solid line play and pressure opposing quarterbacks, then there should be little to no fall off in defensive play.

Coaching: Frank Beamer and Bud Foster are two of the most respected coaches in college football and its for coaching teams just like how this 2008 edition is going to be. On paper it looks like as if most of the talent and star-power has left, but Beamer and Foster always develop new players to fill the roles left by the departing talent. Combine that with Virginia Tech's superior special team play and the lack of an intimidating conference, and there doesn't seem to be a reason why the young Hokie talent cannot be coached up and contend for another ACC Title.

Predicted Schedule and Outcomes:

East Carolina - W
Furman - W
Georgia Tech - W
@ North Carolina - L
@ Nebraska - W
Western Kentucky - W
@ Boston College - L
@ Florida State - L
Maryland - W
@ Miami - W
Duke - W
Virginia - W

The Hokies are going to be in a lot of close games this year, which favors teams with good defense and special teams which they both have. In other words, the same formula for success that has made Virginia Tech an ACC Power should be effective this year too. It doesn't hurt that the Hokies avoid the 2 other best teams in the ACC (Clemson and Wake Forest), and go up against many teams that will be just as young as they are. There are going to be some slip-ups this year, especially if Glennon is the starter. But I think this team is going to get a lot better as the season goes on and should end the season with a 9-3 record and on a high note because the back end of the schedule is about as easy as it can get. From there, its a probable showdown in the ACC Championship with Wake or Clemson, which would have to be considered a successful season in Blacksburg.

CFB Preseason Rankings - #20

With the college football season now less than 30 days from starting, GDB's resident expert Young Swole will begin unleashing his preseason top 25. Today we look at the South Florida Bulls.

For a time in 2007, South Florida seemed to be the cinderella team that could possibly win it all. They were a unknown school with a bunch of no-name players who seemed to have a chance at making it all the way to the championship games as other teams lost all around them. The Bulls couldn't maintain the momentum however, and their season ended with a whimper when they recieved a colossal ass whooping at the hands of Oregon in the Sun Bowl. Don't look for South Florida to go back to irrelevance though, they return a lot of players and have a shot at being just as good this year, but will they be able to maintain success now that they won't sneak up on anyone?

Offense: The Bulls return virtually everyone of note from their offense last year. Matt Grothe returns at quarterback and is a versatile player, but also suffers from Brett Favre-itis in that he forces a lot of throws leading to mistakes and is generally thought to be much better than he is. The key to this offense is whether Mike Ford can carry the load at running back. He's supposed to be an all-world talent but he goes down too easily for his size and also has had fumbling problems. If he can step it up then look for this offense to really take off. Taurus Johnson is a solid wide receiver and should give Grothe a good option to spread the field. If the Bulls can cut down on their offensive mistakes and simply make the plays they need to instead to of trying to do too much, then they should be one of the top offenses in the Big East.

Defense: South Florida is led on defense by George Selvie, who was the most disruptive defense lineman in the nation last year, including Glenn Dorsey and Vernon Gholston. Selvie is simply too quick for interior linemen to stop, sort of like a new age John Randle. His presence alone makes the Bulls defense intimidating, and its likely as a junior that his numbers will be even more impressive this season. The other strength on the Bulls defense were their cornerbacks. But after Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams went to the NFL, the cornerback position now appears to be a question mark. If the newcomers can hold their own, then the front 7 should be able to handle the rest. Not only are players like Tyrone McKenzie and Nate Allen experienced veterans, but they are the type of speedy defenders that disrupt opposing offenses and have led the South Florida renaissance.

Coaching: Jim Leavitt has built this program from scratch, and has quite possibly made it the second most consistent program in the entire state of Florida behind the Gators. His intensity is second to none and it shows in his players. He signs the smaller guys that the big Florida schools don't want, and then turns them into Division 1 players full of intensity and trademark Florida speed. While bigger schools will probably offer him a ton of money in the next few years if he continues the program's ascent, Leavitt is perfect for South Florida and seems to be on the cusp of something even bigger than where he has already gotten this school to.

Predicted schedule and outcomes:

UT - Martin - W
@ Central Florida - W
Kansas - W
@ Florida International - W
@ NC State - W
Pittsburgh - W
Syracuse - W
@ Louisville - L
@ Cincinnati - L
Rutgers - W
Connecticut - W
@ West Virginia - L

Just like in 2007, it looks like South Florida is primed for a very fast start to their season. The early schedule sets up great for them. The game against Kansas is just the type that Leavitt's players love, and the humidity in Tampa in early September is no joke which could lead to a South Florida blowout. The most dangerous early season game in my eyes is at NC State which could be a look ahead game with a matchup with Pitt only 5 days later. If South Florida can make it through those two I think they will be 7-0. Unfortunately I'm still not sold on Matt Grothe playing consistent enough on the road to carry the glory along much longer. Louisville will be extra hype for a big Thursday game and Grothe will probably do some stupid things during that game to help the Cardinals. Cincinnati is just as fast as South Florida and could very easily upset them on the road. After recovering at home, the Bulls will then head to West Virginia. While their fast defense sets up perfectly to stop West Virginia's spread option, i find it impossible for Pat White to lose to them three straight years. Remember that South Florida barely beat WVU even after White was injured in the 2nd quarter, this year is payback in Morgantown. 9-3 is still an impressive season, and with Grothe and Selvie both eligible to come back next year, 2009 could be the true title contending season in Tampa.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

CFB Preseason Rankings - #21

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 Fresno State Bulldogs.

2008 seems to be shaping up as the year of the Bulldog. The University of Georgia has received the #1 ranking in the coaches poll and Fresno State has the talent to go on a Hawaii-like run and get to a BCS game. Fresno has had some talented teams in the past, but this one may have the most potential of any team Pat Hill has ever coached.

Offense: Fresno has pretty much everyone back from a dynamic offense. While offensive coordinator Jim McElwain moved on to to Alabama, don't look for this offense to miss a beat. Quarterback Tom Brandstater returns, as does 4 out of 5 starting offensive linemen and all the running backs who saw time last year. Pat Hill believes in running the ball to be effective, and this year's Fresno edition should be no different. This will help Fresno control the clock as well as open up play-action opportunities to tight end Bear Pascoe and a speedy group of receivers.

Defense: Fresno's defense isn't exactly The Steel Curtain, but it will be aided by the return of many starters. Almost all the secondary returns the youthful defensive line should improve with more experience. The key to Fresno's defensive effort will be getting more big plays out of the unit. One thing is for sure, Fresno is going to have to give up a lot less than 27 points per game as they did last year if they want to make a BCS game. The D should be improved, but it still looks like the offense has the upper hand.

Coaching: Pat Hill gets major props for being one of the ballsiest coaches in the nation. He schedules his teams to go up against some of the biggest programs in the nation. No one will forget how little Fresno almost knocked off USC a few years ago despite the greatest game Reggie Bush ever played, and it seems like every year the Bulldogs knock off a big conference school that they aren't supposed to. Hill has an explosive team this time around and the attitude he instills in his team should guarantee his team will never back down from a challenge, and will have a chance to win even in their games with the big boys.

Predicted Schedule and Outcomes:
@ Rutgers - L
Wisconsin - W
@ Toledo - W
@ UCLA - W
Hawaii - W
Idaho - W
@ Utah State - W
@ Louisiana Tech - L
Nevada - W
New Mexico State - W
@ San Jose State - W
@ Boise State - L

Whenever you have 7 games on the road, your going to have a tough schedule. But Fresno's is made even harder when you consider they have to go cross-country three separate times. The biggest game on the schedule is when Wisconsin rolls into town. This game is going to mean a ton to the team and its the type of game that Pat Hill thrives on. Look for a big upset in this game, though it wouldn't really be too shocking. Unfortunately, Fresno has a penchant for losing WAC games that they really aren't supposed to. I could definitely see them dropping a game to Louisiana Tech or San Jose State as the toll of the early schedule begins to hit home. And while the season will start with dreams of a BCS game, its hard to see Fresno going up to Boise and winning on the blue turf with the WAC title on the line. Still, when you beat Wisconsin at home and go 9-3 on the season, it has to be considered a solid campaign by one of the best teams out side of the big 6 power conferences.

Monday, August 4, 2008

CFB Preseason Rankings - #22

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 Pitt Panthers.
For the first time since the early 1980's, there is genuine hope in Pittsburgh that their team will once again be a genuine contender. This school fell off so hard that the glory days seem like they never even happened, but thanks to some of the best young players in college football, the pride of Pitt Panther football seems to be returning.

Offense: Pitt's offense is built around LeSean "Shady" McCoy. He was the best freshman running back in the nation not named Knowshon Moreno, and its quite possible he could be even better this year. What will really decide if Pitt's offense takes off is the passing game. Bill Stull is back behind center after missing almost all of last year with injury, and his presence should help the passing game improve. If defenses are forced to respect wide recievers like Derek Kinder, then McCoy will have even more room to run wild.

Defense: Penn State gets all the hype for being Linebacker U, but they didn't even have the best linebacker in the state on their team last year. That honor would go to Scott McKillop, who averaged a healthy 12 tackles per game. He's back this year and has some talented players surrounding him. While the Pitt defensive coordinator moved to Auburn, the presence of Dave Wannstedt always means this defense will be fundamentally sound and strong against the run, which will help keep points off the board.

Coaching: Dave Wannstedt gets clowned on a lot for being a shitty pro coach and for having an uproariously ridiculous moustache, but the fact is he has turned around a dead program and has them on the verge of contending in the Big East. All the recruiting he has done is finally kicking in and Pitt defenitely has the talent to challenge the big boys in the conference. All one has to do is look back at last year's win over West Virginia to see that Wannstedt can coach defense. Now if he can get his players to believe in their talent, Pitt may be ready to contend for a conference championship.

Predicted Schedule and Outcomes

Bowling Green - W
Buffalo - W
Iowa - W
@ Syracuse - W
@ South Florida - L
@ Navy - W
Rutgers - W
@ Notre Dame - W
Louisville - W
@ Cincinnati - L
West Virginia - L
@ Connecticut - L

It is truly a tale of two schedules for Pitt. Early on, there are more cupcakes than a hostess factory. Look for the Panthers to put in work early. Most of the tough games are backloaded and its not going to be easy to carry momentum as the games have more pressure involved. Cincinnati is always a tough place to play and I can't see Pat White losing to Pitt 2 years in a row. While an 8-4 season may seem dissapointing to some, true fans and football scholars will see it as a solid developing season for a team with a very bright future ahead of it.

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