Saturday, August 16, 2008

CFB Preseason Rankings - # 16

The Tennessee Volunteers have always been one of the most successful programs in the SEC. They've won national titles, conference titles, and produced some of the best players in the NFL. This year looks like the Vols will have another solid team, but unfortunately for them they will play in the toughest division and conference and the nation, which will make it difficult for them to make a repeat trip to the SEC Championship game. What's in store for the Vols, and can they actually make a run towards success in the brutal SEC East?

Offense: Erik Ainge developed into one of the best quarterbacks Tennesse has had since Peyton Manning left town, but him and quarterbacks coach David Cutcliffe have both moved on. Replacing Ainge will be Jonathan Crompton, who has talent but is unproven. If he can get the proper guidance from new coordinator Dave Clawson, then the Vols could be really good on offense because all around him are quality players. Arian Foster is one of the most underrated college players in all of college football, and now that he's running towards the end zone instead of running from cops he should be one of the best backs in the SEC. He'll run behind an experienced offensive line that returns 4 starters from a unit that only gave up 4 sacks last year. The man on the outside to watch is Gerald Jones, who looks poised to be the next great Tennessee reciever. Only a sophomore, Jones has Percy Harvin level talent and versatility and will give the Vols an explosive dimension that few other teams in the nation can possibly match.

Defense: Quite possibly, the key to the Tennessee season will be how the front 7 on defense can play. The Vols already lost leader Jerod Mayo to the NFL, and many of the guys around him still have not lived up to their potential. Defensive end Robert Ayers must provide a pass rush, and the young linebackers on the roster must be disciplined and technically sound for the defensive unit to stop the run. Thankfully for Vols fans, their secondary is one of the best in the nation. Strong safety Eric Berry is quite possibly the best secondary player in the SEC since Champ Bailey was killin' kids at UGA and he will now be rejoined by Demetrice Morley, who was All-SEC before being ruled academically ineligible last year. The corners also have a ton of talent and have the ability to shut down any opposing reciever they will face this year. Its all going to come down to the front 7 though, if Tennesee can't stop the rushing game then the entire defense is going to suffer greatly.

Coaching: Philip Fulmer is fat and disliked by many Tennessee fans. In recent years the Vols consistency has dropped off and many think its because Fulmer has lost his edge. He'll be under the microscope even more so now that Cutcliffe took the head coaching job at Duke. If you remember, Fulmer was almost out the door before he convinced Cutcliffe to return to Knoxville and resurrect his offense. It remains to be seen if this year's offense will be as good without Cutcliffe, or if Fulmer has the ability to lead his team to success without some of his top assistants around. Regardless, unless Tennessee beats either Georgia or Florida, Fulmer will remain on the hot seat in Knoxville well into 2009.

Predicted Schedule and Outcomes:

Florida - W
@ Auburn - L
Northern Illinois - W
@ Georgia - L
Mississippi State - W
Alabama - W
@ South Carolina - L
Wyoming - W
@ Vanderbilt - W
Kentucky - W

Not many teams can say that they will face 3 top-1o ranked teams among their first 6 games, and make a cross-country trip to face a Pac-10 teams. If Tennesee can win 2 of those 3 games against their top SEC foes than the rest of the season can set up pretty nicely. I'm giving Tennesee a win over Florida early in the season, but I just don't see how they can win on the road at UGA, who will be fired up after last season's ass-whooping, or on the Plains the week after an emotional matchup with Florida. Its also going to be tought to win in Columbia after playing for 6 straight weeks prior to that game. However, as tough as the SEC East is this year, a 9-3 record wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, though if the defense does not improve its possible that the Vols could be looking at 4 or 5 losses too.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

R.I.P. To A Football Pioneer

The following obituary appeared today in my local newspaper, the Quincy Herald-Whig. R.I.P. to the classiest guy ever to wear #4 for the Green Bay Packers.

August 14, 2005:
Herman Schneidman, a two-time member of the NFL champion Green Bay Packers in the 1930's and a longtime Quincy businessman and civic leader, died Tuesday in the Sunset Home. He was 95.

At 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, Schneidman made his mark in professional football as a blocking back, or the fore-runner to a fullback in today's game. He also played receiver, linebacker, and defensive back.

"There's a picture in the Pro Football Hall of Fame display for Clarke Hinkle showing him scoring a touchdown," said Aurie McGee of Quincy, Schneidman's nephew. "He later sent a thank-you note to Herm that said if it wasn't for his blocking he wouldn't be in the Hall of Fame."

After graduating from the University of Iowa, Mr. Schniedman joined the Packers in 1935 and in 1936 the team went 10-1 and defeated the Boston Redskins 21-6 in the NFL title game.

Two years later, the Packers lost to the New York Giants 23-17 in the championship game. IN 1939, Green Bay made history by recording the first shutout in a championship game by beating the Giants 27-0. Some NFL historians consider the 1939 team as one of the greatest in history.

After 1939, Mr. Schneidman briefly retired but returned to the Packers for the 1940 season. However, he was released before the season started and signed with the Chicago Cardinals so he could be closer to his home and business.

Mr. Schneidman retired for good after the 1940 season and joined the U.S. Navy, where he played on the Great Lakes Naval Station Team with the likes of baseball star Dom DiMaggio and future NFL Hall of Famer Otto Graham.

During his NFL career, Mr. Schneidman played in 46 games, rushing 13 times for 37 yards and catching 7 passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns. He also had an interception.

"He was pretty matter-of-fact about his pro football career," McGee said. "He really didn't talk about it his career unless you asked. One time he was showing us a team picture and pointed at one of the guys and said 'That's Curly Lambeau.' Curly Lambeau! Can you believe it?"

In September 2006, Mr. Schneidman received a warm welcome when, as the oldest living Pakcer, he returned to Lambeau Field to take part in alumni festivities.

During the weekend, he was introduced to players from Green Bay's 1996 Super Bowl team. "A lot of the guys were asking 'Who is that?'" McGee recalled. "Once they found out he was the oldest living Packer, they all came over and shook his hand."

Mr. Schneidman, who wore jersey no. 4, even left a surprise for the most recognizable Packer to ever wear no. 4. He signed a hat at Brett Favre's restaurant and left if for the quarterback. Several weeks later, he received a personal thank-you note from Favre. "Everything was perfect. It was a perfect day," Mr. Schneidman said at the time.

Mr. Schneidman was born in Rock Island on Nov. 3, 1912, and moved with his family to Quincy when he was 6. He was a three-sport letterman (football, basketball, track) at Quincy High School from 1929-31, where he captained the basketball and football teams. He received the Watson Honor Cup and the school's sports award during his junior and senior years. Mr. Schneidman is a member of the QHS Sports Hall of Fame.

Mr. Schneidman received an honorable discharge from the Navy and returned to Quincy in 1945 and entered the family business, Schneidman Distributors, with his brother Ed, who was then mayor of Quincy. Mr. Schneidman was also involved in many civic groups giving his time, expertise and money to benefit Quincy and the surrounding area.

Visitation will be from 4 to 6p.m. Friday at Duker Haugh Funeral Home. Services will be held at 9:30a.m. Saturday at Duker and Haugh Funeral home followed by a funeral Mass at 10a.m. in Blessed Sacrament Church at 7th and Adams St. Burial will be at Calvary Cemetery with military honors conducted by American Legion Post No. 37.

CFB Preseason Rankings - # 17

Ever since Vince Young led Texas to the BCS Championship, it seems as if the Longhorns have been looking for a leader. Sure Colt McCoy put up big stats as a freshmen, but he certainly regressed last year and doesn't impose his will on the team as much as VY did. Now for the first time in many years, Texas will probably not begin the season in the top 10. While they have a ton of talent on the squad, there are huge holes to fill at running back and a shaky defense that needs to be filled. Can the Horns bounce back and make a statement in the tough Big 12, or will it be another Holiday Bowl come bowl season?

Offense: It seems as is Colt McCoy has been around forever, but in fact he's only going to be a junior this season. As a freshman, he was a revelation who led Texas to a better year than expected and caused announcers to gush about his baby blue eyes (No homo Musberger). Last season he became mistake-prone though, and turned the ball more than Young Swole's main girl Alicia Sacramone fell during the gymnastics competition. For Texas to be really good on offense, McCoy is going to have to be more responsible with the ball. Last year he had Jamaal Charles to give the ball to, but now he will be turning around to a group of talent yet inexperienced running back options. It looks like either Vondrell McGee or the greatly named Foswhitt Whitaker will replace Charles, but it's going to hard to match his explosivness. Texas also lost playmaker Limas Sweed to the draft, but look for Quan Cosby to have a great season now that he is the number 1 option for McCoy. As always, Texas should have strong line play and be able to control the line of scrimmage against its opponents.

Defense: Texas struggled immensely last year on defense, both failing to generate much of a pass rush or stop opposing recievers from burning an inexperienced secondary. For Texas to have any chance to win the Big 12 South, both these problems will have to be fixed because there are too many good quarterbacks and offenses in this league to try and survive with a subpar defense. The Horns have a ton of talent on this side of the ball, it just hasn't performed to the expected level yet. This is why it was so important that Texas hired Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator. Any observer who has watched Auburn's defenses over the past few years will know that Muschamp demands effort and intensity, as well as expecting his players to be fundamentally solid. With the talent at his disposal, and Muschamp's own coaching ability, I expect Texas to have the best defense in the Big 12 in a very short time. It may be too much to ask this year though, especially with the schedule loaded with great passing offenses.

Coaching: Mack Brown is still the man in Austin, but if his team continues to play undisciplined and underachieve, his same old criticisms are going to start to be whispered again about how he can't coach talent or get his players to win big games. Many people already think he lucked into a title thanks to the extroardinary ability of Vince Young, and quite honestly he's done nothing to disprove that since VY moved onto Tennessee. His hiring of Muschamp was an excellent move, and no one argues that Mack gets that 'cruitin done every year. He may need to overachieve this year more than ones in years past if he wants to avoid criticism, because there ain't much grace time between accomplishments in Texas, and he's used up about all he's had already.

Predicted Schedule and Outcomes:

Florida Atlantic - W
@ UTEP - W
Arkansas - W
Rice - W
@ Colorado - L
Oklahoma - L
Missouri - L
Oklahoma State - W
@ Texas Tech - L
Baylor - W
@ Kansas - W
Texas A&M - W

With 7 home games, and only 3 true road games, the schedule sets up nicely for the Horns. The problem is that they face arguably the toughest 3 opponents from the Big 12 North besides the South mainstays. The early out of conference games will be tougher than expected, and any complancency could mean that either Florida Atlantic or UTEP could pull a big upset. The game at Colorado starts a rough 3 game stretch that Texas may be underdogs in each. Its also going to be tough for Texas to win in Lubbock, because that Red Raider offense will be licking its chops to get at Texas' weak secondary. 4 losses isn't going to make the natives happy in Austin, but this squad doesn't seem to have the vintage Texas explosivness and athleticism, and they are playing a very difficult schedule. This team is going to have to get mentally tough really quick if they are going to survive this year and make it any further than the Alamo Bowl. At least the cheerleaders are still hot as f*ck though, which is always appreciated.

CFB Preseason Rankings - # 18

Eugene, Oregon is known for a few things. It is home to the largest collection of hippies in the United States thanks to its close proximity to some of the piniest herb in the lower 48. Its also the home of Nike, which pumps millions of dollars into the hideous uniforms worn by the University of Oregon football team. Many retinas have been scorched in recent years from viewing Oregon games since the Ducks have become the Pac-10's second best team and have played in many huge games. Last year it seemed like they might have what it took to win it all, but after losing Dennis "Deeznuts" Dixon to injury, the dream was vanquished. Now its 2008, will the Ducks hold onto their status as perennial Pac-10 contender, or will they slide down into mediocrity?

Offense: No offense was more dynamic than Oregon's last year. Led by the multitalented Dixon, the Ducks were a constant threat both running and throwing. Jonathan Stewart was also an excellent contributor who helped rid the notion of Pac-10 offenses being a collection of fruitcakes with wavy hair who play finesse football. Stewart, and Oregon, smashed some bitches faces in, which helped make them so effective. Now with those 2 stalwarts gone, the Ducks are going to have to reload with fresh ballers. Fortunately, there is plenty of talented players on tap. Running backs LaGarette Blount and Jeremiah Johnson could form the best tandem in the entire conference. They will run behind a talented offensive line that knows exactly how to function in the spread option attack. Oregon always has frisky receivers, and Jaison Williams has first round talent on the outside. The Ducks offense will still hinge on Dixon's replacement at QB. If Justin Roper can build on his Sun Bowl performance, this unit will ball. He may not have Dixon's athleticism but this offense has all the talent to be possibly the most dangerous in the Pac-10 this year.

Defense: The Ducks defense is built on speed and agressiveness, which helped them force a ton of turnovers last year. While the unit is a little on the smallish side, they can usually get away with this since the Pac-10 is such a wide open conference with few teams showing much interest in pounding the ball. The strength of the defense is the secondary, where safety Patrick "I am Asian, bitch" Chung should garner All-America consideration this season. Other standouts include defensive end Nick Reed and Jairus Byrd. Oregon has recruited well and has good depth at all positions, which will compensate for any injury concerns and allow the starters to continue to play their aggressive style that has made them one of the Pac-10's only effective defenses the past few years.

Coaching: Mike Bellotti may be an asshole, with a drunk wife to boot, but the man can coach football. He has built one of the nation's strongest programs where once one of the nation's wackest programs once lived. Thanks to recent success, Oregon is now able to pull in recruits from all across the nation, which is increasing the profile of the school even further. Bellotti thrives at taking in kids that are overlooked by the big California schools and turning them into stars in their own right. And though he may have lost 2 of the best players he's ever had, his coaching and recruiting have allowed the program the stability to remain a top flight contender regardless of who they lose on a year to year basis.

Predicted Schedule and Outcomes:

Washington - W
Utah State - W
@ Purdue - W
Boise State - W
@ Washington State - L
@ USC - L
@ Arizona State - L
@ California - W
Stanford - W
Arizona - W
@ Oregon State - L

Oregon's schedule flipped around this year, and most of their best opponents are now road games. This has made the Ducks schedule one of the most brutal in the entire nation, and will thoroughly test this squad. Oregon always seems to get out of the gates fast and the first 4 games are all very winnable. Then comes a daunting stretch of 4 road games in 5 weeks. Washington State is a dangerous trap game, and going to USC is not going to be easy with a young quarterback behind center. Getting a split out of trips to Tempe and Berkeley would be a success, but at this stage of the season its going to be hard for Oregon not to have less than 3 losses. Its possible that they could win out from this stage of the season, but wacky things always happen in the Civil War and Oregon State always comes on late in the season. Even though I'm predicting 4 losses, Oregon should remain one of the Pac-10's toughest teams week in and week out. Its quite possible that the 2008 crucible will set the stage for a big time run in 2009 once the schedule flips around again.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Not for the Faint of Heart

Just watch his right arm...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Wake Up Call

With so many exciting sports stories playing out, from the resolution of the Favre/Packers saga, to the Olympic-sized beating the U.S. Men's 400m relay team put on the braggadocios French, to the build-up to September baseball, it's easy to lose focus on real world issues. However, one major story is unfolding right in front of our eyes that deserves the nation's attention: The invasion of Georgia by the Soviet Uni....I mean Russia.

While it's difficult to imagine the hellish conditions Georgians are being forced to endure right now, just like it is hard to imagine what people in Darfur, Tibet, or Iraq are living on a daily basis, there is one major issue that the Russia/Georgia conflict puts into perspective. It serves as a strong reinforcement for an increasingly obvious reality: John McCain is the only realistic choice to be our next President.

Considering the myriad of difficult international issues that will certainly face our next Commander-in-Chief, putting a political and diplomatic novice like Obama into the Oval Office would be tantamount to putting a toddler behind the wheel of a hummer. I mean, you might laugh at the commercial comparing Obama to Brittney Spears or Paris Hilton, but one of this guy's closest advisors is one of the biggest dumbshit Hollywood stars out there. To truly understand the night-and-day difference between the expirience and command that both men could potentially bring to the Nation's highest office, look no further than one of the major political figures of our country, Hillary Clinton. Senator Clinton had this nugget of wisdom to offer to the voting public: "Sen. John McCain has a lifetime of experience that he'd bring to the White House. And Sen. [Barack] Obama has a speech he gave in 2002."

There is proof to the truth of those words beyond just a Hillary Clinton soundbyte, too. No one doubts that the political mastermind behind Russia's all-out ground invasion of Georgia (a small western-aligned nation that controls vital routes for energy resources) is former President and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. President George W. Bush once said that "I looked into his [Putin's] eyes. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy...I was able to get a sense of his soul."

Well, President Bush turned out to be pretty wrong on that one. The man who has led governmental-retaking of major media outlets, clamped down on internal dissent, and mapped out "modern" Russia's plan to retake the Sovient Bloc is anything but trustworthy. And Senator McCain knows it. To illustrate Sen. Clinton's point, Senator McCain had more insight that President Bush almost two years ago when he countered Bush's statement by saing of Putin: "I look into Putin's eyes and I see three letters, a K, a G, and a B." Anyone who doesn't understand the significance of that statement, look here, then bash yourself in the head with a tackhammer. (You're probably supporting Obama anyway).

This issue involving Russia, Georgia, and President Bush's potential successors, crystalizes the issues down into very simple terms. Who is ready to lead? Who has the expirience? Expirience counts, not only because it helps the person who has it be ready the moment he steps into the White House, but because it helps the person who has it correctly assess situations as they arise, and draw on that experience to choose the correct path to take. I know Senator McCain will take the right path, the one that will keep freedom the dominant force in our world. Senator Obama? I don't know if I'd follow him to his own campaign rally, or a George Clooney movie premiere for that matter.