Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina Update: Texas vs. Louisiana-Lafayette still on.

Despite the fact that Utah State's home game with Nicholls State (LA) has been cancelled because the team cannot get out of the affected area, the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns are apparently preparing to go ahead with their game this weekend against Texas. Neither schools' official university website has anything to suggest that the game has been cancelled or postponed (although ULL's athletic website is down, though we're not sure if it's due to overload from nervous Longhorn fans or just hurricane-related internet backbone problems).

No word on where the Cajuns are practicing for the time being.

If the situation changes, we'll let you know.

Meanwhile, still no word on a makeup date on North Texas-LSU.

Continue to pray for the families affected by the hurricane.

Bear Market

While we were intensely focused on football, Cincinnati fired head coach Bob Huggins.

Huggins, who lifted Cincinnati to it's best run of basketball since the graduation of Oscar Robertson.

However, Huggins' low graduation rates were a cause of concern to many Cincinnati faculty, national pundits, and college hoops bloggers. In fact, one rival fan (don't remember who) once said, "They don't need a comedy club at Cincinnati because the basketball teams' graduation rates are enough of a joke."

I can't help thinking though that maybe Bob Huggins understood better than any of us the hypocrisy of the collegiate athletic system. He knew all he had to do was win and he did just that. Unfortunately, he ran into the rare administrator who bought into the "student-athlete" hogwash and was fired.

Strangely, no cause has yet been given for Huggins' termination. Which means that the last of this has not been heard. I would suspect sanctions and/or lawsuits are in the works.

This reciever could be yours, if the Price is right!
(Always have your pets spayed or neutered)

Speculation is that recently cut reciever Peerless Price could land with the Cowboys, where he would reunite with Drew Bledsoe (the QB who helped make Price a hot commodity in Buffalo).

I hope the Cowboys can land him. Price and Bledsoe were great last anyone saw them together and both have floundered since Price signed with the Falcons.

More Commentary: The Cowboy Roundup

Eighth Wonder Of The World gets a second Life.

The Astrodome, which at one time was billed as "The Stadium of the Future" and "The Eighth Wonder of the World" and hailed as a technological and architectural marvel, has seen better days.

It was once host to the "Game of the Century" between Elvin Hayes' Houston Cougars and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's UCLA Bruins. It hosted tennis's "Battle of the Sexes", the event that put Women's sports firmly in the conciousness of America. It hosted the 1988 NBA All-Star Game. It also hosted some games of the 1986 NLCS, a 7-game epic between the Houston Astros and New York Mets that was probably one of the best league championship series of the 1980s. (Whether it or the ALCS of the same year was the best is a subject still debated).

Nolan Ryan, Joe Morgan, J.R. Richardson, Jimmy Wynn, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, and a whole host of Astros once played baseball there. Granted, the outfield could fit a 747 and a home run in most other parks was a double or triple in the Dome, but they played baseball there anyway.

Earl Campbell and Warren Moon had stellar careers under it's lucite roof. Eddie George and Steve McNair both started their All-Pro careers there. Andre Ware won a Heisman Trophy playing in the Astrodome.

The Astrodome was also host to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, one of the world's largest. The nearby Astroarena was one of the first homes of the Houston Rockets when they moved from San Diego.

Now the Dome sits silent, waiting for the wrecking ball. It's tenants, the Astros, Oilers, Rockets, Cougars, even the Rodeo, have moved on to newer ballparks and arenas.

However, in it's final days, it is getting a chance to hold its best event ever: A home away from home for those fleeing the wreckage left by Hurricane Katrina.

It may be an old-run down relic to most of us sports fans, a reminder of the cookie-cutter, dual-purpose, antiseptic facilities that followed in its wake.

For these evacuees, however, it's means a roof over their heads, a hot meal, and some form of medical care.

Which to them, is more important than some football game, right now.

Anyway, like I said yesterday, I'm off to the rally. Pray no one gets hurt.

Tomorrow: Podcasts

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Katrina Update:LSU-North Texas postponed.

LSU-North Texas has officially been postponed, as has Southern Miss-Tulane

LSU and North Texas are trying to work out a new date and should have an announcement sometimes in the next 48 hours hours on the game.

Southern Miss-Tulane has been moved to the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

(Courtesy Matt at My Opinion on Sports)

Getting Personal for a moment

(Warning: This post contains political views. If you don't like politics, don't read today's post. In fact, go read one of the sports blogs at right today and check back here tomorrow. I'll put a non-political post up.)

Let me get one thing straight right now:

I support our troops.

I think the rhetoric of "Get our troops out now." just gives out enemies hope that they can beat us.

I do not agree with the views of Cindy Sheehan and those who have rallied around her. Frankly, I've been censored by too many liberals in my college career because of my faith to take their "dissent is patriotic" crap seriously. And I've seen enough vandalized Republican campaign signs and assaults on non-liberals by allegedly peaceful demonstrators to wonder if peace is their real goal. (Not that people who support the war have been entirely civil either, but there's something a little wrong with people who say they are for peace and punch people, regardless of who it is)

I don't care if there were WMDs at the time of invasion or not. Saddam should have been gone after the first Gulf War and W finally finished the job.

So why am I going downtown to City Hall tomorrow for Cindy Sheehan's rally, an event sure to bring out the worst in both anti-war and pro-war demonstrators?

Call it a premonition, or an irrational fear, pick one.

I don't know how, I don't know which side, but I'm afraid someone's going to start crap and turn what should be 2 peaceful side-by-side demonstrations into a riot.

As much as I don't like the anti-war movement, no one should have to get hurt at this.

And I'm going to do the only thing I can do to stop it: Go down there and pray. Pray for civility. Pray against violence. Pray for a whole number of other reasons I'm not sure you'd understand. And get as many friends at my church as I can to come down and pray with me as I possibly can.

I know you probably think I'm crazy to head into what might be trouble, but I don't know what else to do. Staying at home isn't an option. I hope I'm completely wrong and these protests go off without people getting hurt. But I can't ignore this bad feeling.

I'll bring water and a first aid kid just in case.

And I'll try not to get in between the two groups and let the police and first responders do their job.

But I will be down there praying for everyone, pro-war and anti-war.

That's it, just wanted to give everyone a heads up on what my Wednesday's going to be like.

Tomorrow: Huggy Bear

Monday, August 29, 2005

Katrina hits Gulf Coast

Katrina ripped holes in the roof of the Louisiana Superdome (Bill Haber/AP)

Please pray for the people of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida that were hit by Hurricane Katrina today.

Especially pray for the people who are taking shelter in the Louisiana Superdome after Katrina ripped a hole in the roof.

As for things on the sports front...

The Saints are playing in Oakland this week, and they were able to get out of town

For all the Mean Green fans that may be reading the blog, as of right now, the North Texas-LSU game is still on as the university is only scheduled to be closed until September 1.

Southern Miss-Tulane is also on for Saturday.

UPDATE 8/31: Both games are now cancelled, according to!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Cheap Seats Mega Football Preview 2005:Playoffs & Super Bowl Picks

Division Champs
New York Jets (13-3)
Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
San Diego Chargers (10-6)
Indianapolis Colts (10-6)
Wild Cards
New England Patriots (12-4)
Baltimore Ravens (11-5)

Wild Card Round
Baltimore over San Diego
New England over Indianapolis (again!)
Division Round
New York Jets over Baltimore
Pittsburgh over New England
Pittsburgh over New York Jets

Division Champs
Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
Atlanta Falcons (12-4)
Minnesota Vikings (11-5)
Seattle Seahawks (10-6)
Wild Card
Carolina Panthers (11-5)
Dallas Cowboys (10-6)

Wild Card Round
Dallas over Minnesota
Seattle over Carolina
Division Round
Philadelphia over Dallas (noooooooooooooooo!)
Atlanta over Seattle
NFC Championship
Philadelphia over Atlanta

Cheap Searts Super Bowl XL Pick:
Pittsburgh over Philadelphia

Back: Part 11: Dallas Cowboys and the NFC East

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Cheap Seats Mega Football Preview 2005: Dallas Cowboys and the NFC East

Today, we turn our attention to the Houston Texans, the AFC's Texas representative, and see if they can finally get over the playoff hump.

Dallas Cowboys

The Skinny: Which team will show up in 2005? The one that overachieved in 2003 and made the playoffs with a collection of stiffs? Or the same collection of stiffs that a year later went 5-11 like every other year. One thing is for sure. A lot of the stiffs are gone, the players left are good enough to play for Parcells. They also had an excellent draft and free agency period that will pay dividends for years to come.


Starter: I've had many things to say about the aquisition of Drew Bledsoe. None of them are good, and most have not been printed because you as an audience demand that I use polite language . That said, he's a veteran presence, he's been to the Pro Bowl, and the line should do a better job of keeping him upright Grade: Somewhere in between C+ and B-. Since we're not grading on a curve, C+
Depth: Drew Henson and Tony Romo. Yikes. OK, Henson had one touchdown and and went 10-18 for 78 yards with 1 TD and 1 pick on Thanksgiving Day last year, but he was pulled! He's probably still mentally shell shocked from that. Plus, he still had to compete for the backup job this year. And no one's sure what to make of Romo. Grade: D
Running Back
Starter: From Athlon Sports' 2005 NFL Preview:

Despite missing half the teams' games, [Julius] Jones rushed for 819 yards
and seven touchdowns on 197 carries. He was at his best down the stretch, and he
showed his durability by becoming the first Cowboy running back to have 30 or
more carries in 3 straight games.
Holy Schnikes! Let's hope he is as durable as Athlon says Grade: A
Depth: If, by chance, Julius has a repeat of 2004's injury, Anthony Thomas is a 1,000 yard back and Marion Barber III (Can we call him MB3, please?) has a decent Big 10 pedigree.Grade: A-

Wide reciever
Starters: Terry Glenn should improve now that he's recovered from injury and Bledsoe is throwing him passes again. Keyshawn Johnson may not be the star he once was, but he at least catches the d--- ball when you thow him the d--- ball. Oh, and he led the team with 981 yards. Grade: B+
Depth: Quincy Morgan, and... and... and... Then again, they really don't need to run 4 reciever sets with Witten at TE. Grade: D

Tight End
Starter: Jeremy Shockey may get the headlines in this division, but Jason Witten is turning out to be a better player. He had a team-high 87 catches for 980 yards and Grade: A.
Depth: Dan Campbell provides good blocking and good hands, and is an excellent complement to Witten. Grade: B

Offensive Line
Starters: Probably the best left side of an offensive line, run blocking and pass blocking in the NFL with Larry Allen and Flozell Adams. Al Johnson was a steady performer at Center, and Marco Rivera should improve the right side at guard. The only question mark is if Rob Pettiti will be a positive contributor. Grade: B
Reserves: Depth everywhere but right tackle Grade: C

Defensive Line
Starters: A year of transition, but so far, it looks like La'Roi Glover, Jason Ferguson, and Greg Ellis will play 3 man lines just fine. Grade: B
Depth: Rookie Chris Canty has surprised everyone so far and DE Marcus Spears will contribute on passing downs when healthy Grade: B

Starters: DeMarcus Ware, in a word, WOW! (He played in the Sun Belt? How did all the SEC and Conference USA miss this kid?) Dat Nguyen always brings heart, toughness, athleticism, and leadership. The question is, who starts at the other inside and outside linebacker spots. Grade: B+
Depth: Rookie Kevin Burnett will be a serious contender for playing time. Grade: B
(By the way, Cowboys fans, aren't you glad you didn't pick up Shawne Merriman in the draft right now?)

Starters: Terrence Newman finally has some help in the form of Aaron Glenn or Anthony Henry. Grade: A
Depth: Whichever one of Anthony Henry or Aaron Glenn that doesn't start will make a great nickel corner. Grade: B

Starters: Pro Bowler Roy Williams will finally take over at strong safety, which gives him a chance to be a run stuffer and play a more rover-type SS that he played at OU. The question is at the other safety Grade: B-, which is about what you get when you average an A+ and a D.
Depth: This grade could be better if Justin Beriault's knee recovers. As it stands... Grade: D

Kicker: They just cut Billy Cundiff. Jose Cortez or Seth Marler? Yikes. Take your pick. Grade: D+
Punter: Aussie Mat McBriar gave them a consistent punter last year. Grade: A
Returners: Trying out all kinds of combinations. We'll see how it works Grade: C, for now.

Head Coach: I know it looks bad on The Tuna that Belichick won 2 Super Bowls without him, but Bill Parcells is still one of the best at setting the tone for a team, designing systems that work, engendering loyalty, and game management. (Stay, Bill, it will get better!) Grade: A
Offensive Coordinator: Sean Payton has been billed as an offensive wunderkind, but now he's got the talent to work with that he didn't have on Jim Fassel's Giants. Grade: B+
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Zimmer has put together great defenses on bad Cowboy teams, but now he's going through the 3-4 learning curve with everyone else. Grade: B-

Best Record Guess: As much improved as this team is, they still aren't taking the division despite Philly's problems. We'll have to see how Drew Bledsoe works out, but overall, the conditions are ripe for a bounce-back year. 10-6 and a Wild Card

The Rest of the East

Philadelphia: My heart says I should downgrade this team with T.O. threatening to sabotage it, but my head says they still have the best defense and coaching in the NFC, and could win with or without Owens. Best Guess: 13-3, and home field advantage.

Washington: Let's face it, the 'Skins alleged personnel can't give Joe Gibbs enough to work with. Gibbs is still a good coach, he just doesn't have much to work with on offense besides Clinton Portis. The defense is OK, but it's not one that can bail out a bad offense. Best Guess: 5-11, 3rd Place

New York Giants: With Eli Manning nursing injuries, "That dude who's married to the chick from Survivor and The View" backing him up, a bad offensive line and an aging defense, there's no hope for the Giants. Giants fans better enjoy their third stringers beating the Jets' third stringers because that's going to be the highlight of their year. Best Guess: 2-14, and another high draft pick... for the Chargers.

Next: Part 12: NFL Playoffs and Super Bowl
Back: Part 10: NFC North, NFC South, NFC West

Friday, August 26, 2005

Cheap Seats Mega Football Preview 2005: NFC All Cardinal Directions Except East

Well, now we're done with the AFC, so guess where we're going next? That's right, the NFC. Where, as Azsher pointed out yesterday, 8-8 makes the playoffs.

OK, while that may have been true last year, this year it's a little tougher as the Panthers and Cowboys will be back, the Cardinals will improve, and all the teams in the South should be in the mix.

NFC North
TeamBest Record GuessThe Skinny
Minnesota11-5According to NFL Rules, someone has to win this division. Might as well pick the Vikings Despite the loss of Moss, the defense got better in the offseason, and Daunte Culpepper still leads the offense.

Better defense. Really bad offense no matter who the quarterback and running back are. (I love what Kyle Orton and Thomas Jones are doing, but they are facing vanilla defenses in preseason.)

Green Bay6-10I hate to say this because Brett Favre deserves to go out on a better note, but the facts are the facts: That defense sucks.
Detroit4-12This year, the truth about Joey Harrington will be revealed: He's not an NFL Quarterback. Look for Jeff Garcia to go 4-4 down the stretch and give them something to look forward to next season.

NFC South
TeamBest Record GuessThe Skinny
Atlanta12-4A phrase that should scare the rest of the league: "Michael Vick is picking up the offense." Pretty damn good defense too
Carolina11-5The defense is back, and the running backs are healthy, as is Steve Smith.
Tampa Bay8-8When your top two QBs are Brian Griese and Chrissy Sims, you are in trouble.
New Orleans7-9I don't care who they added, they will again be the most underachieving team in the NFL. Jim Haslett, i'd like it introduce you to Mr. Unemployment Check.

NFC West
TeamBest Record GuessThe Skinny
Seattle10-6Again, rules say someone has to win this division. Seattle's won it the past 2 years
Arizona9-7Denny Green has track record of revitalizing older QBs like Warren Moon and Randall Cunningham, so Kurt Warner should be fine. J.J. Arrington should eventually balance that offense. What will hold this team back is it's defense.
San Fransisco6-10Will struggle early until Alex Smith takes over the reigns for good midway through the season.
St. Louis5-11

Mike Martz is a genius like Wile E. Coyote is a "Super Genius." That is to say, his schemes usually blow up in his face. That said, he will probably turn up at a college job next year with so many schools looking for a coach that emphasizes a high-percentage passing game.
Side note: Isaac Bruce needs to be tested for embalming fluid or something. No way he's still an effective reciever at his age.

Tomorrow, we ask the eternal question of life, the universe, and everything:
"How 'bout them Cowboys?"

Next: Part 11: Dallas Cowboys and NFC East
Back: Part 9: Houston Texans and AFC South

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Cheap Seats Mega Football Preview 2005: Texans and AFC South

Today, we turn our attention to the Houston Texans, the AFC's Texas representative, and see if they can finally get over the playoff hump.

Houston Texans

The Skinny: Well, it's year 4. Time for the Texans to prove that they have what it takes to win. The wide recievers are finally in place, the quarterback is there, the running back is there, the defense is there, but unfortunately, the offensive line will continue to hold this team back. You can't win in the NFL when your quarterback is constantly on his back.


Starter: David Carr has the talent to be one of the NFL's best. The problem hasn't been Carr, so much as it's been the talent around him. Domanick Davis has emerged as a great compliment and Andre Johnson has emerged as a great reciever, so if the offensive line gives him time, he should finally show his stuff. (That's a big if, though) Grade: B+
Depth: B.J. Symons has a banged up throwing shoulder and Dave Ragone has taken few NFL snaps. Tony Banks isn't consistent enough to be a backup. With David Carr likely to get injured no thanks to their o-line, this should have been shored up. Grade: D

Running Back
Starter: Domanick Davis has rushed for 1,000 yards in each of his first two NFL seasons, and is considered one of the top backs in terms of fantasy players, but Football Outsiders ranked him 20th last year in DPAR (Defense-adjusted Points Above Replacement, similar to VORP for pitchers), which was behind a few backs that platoon. Grade: B-
Depth: Vernand Morency was a dependable back at Oklahoma State and performed well even against the likes of Oklahoma and Texas. Jonathan Wells led the team in rushing in 2002 before Davis' emergence, and Tony Hollings, when healthy, should be in the mix. Grade: B

Wide reciever
Starters: Andre Johnson was a Pro Bowler last year, and Corey Bradford has decent hands, and can find the first down marker. Grade: A
Depth: Watch out for Rookie Jerome Mathis in 3-reciever sets with his oh-my-goodness-did-you-see-that 4.28 40-yard speed. Grade: A

Tight End
Starter: Mark Bruener is a blocking first tight end, but if Chris Palmer is smart, he'll figure out that he's a decent safety valve as well. Grade: C+ until Palmer figures out how to utilitze the Tight End.
Depth: Bernie Joppru is finally healthy, but no one's sure if he can be the red zone threat the Texans need. Grade: F

Offensive Line
Starters: Maybe it's the curse of Tony Boselli (who never played a down with the Texans, yet counted against their salary cap enough to make the Texans bargain hunters), but this offensive line has never given their quarterbacks enough time. Ever. 140 sacks in a 3 year period. Even worse, the Texans knew this and didn't draft anyone or sign anyone in free agency to address the problem. Perhaps it's time for Texans fans to demand Charlie Casserly's head. Grade: F
Reserves: The backups are no better, having already allowed one QB to get injured this preseason. Grade: F

Defensive Line
Starters: NT Seth Payne and DE Gary Walker have been in and out of the lineup with injuries, but DE Robaire Smith is solid. Grade: C
Depth: Rookie Travis Johnson should help in a part-time role. Grade: B

Starters: While they lose Jamie Sharper and Jay Foreman, free agent acquisitions Morlon Greenwood and former OLB Kailee Wong should solidify the inside. If current OLBs Antwan Peek and Jason Babin can develop on schedule, this should be a great unit. As it stands Grade: C+
Depth: Any injuries will kill this unit: Grade: D-

Starters: Phillip Buchanon, who came over to the Texans in a draft day trade, will make this unit much, much better. Dunta Robinson played well enough last year to get Defensive Rookie of the Year consideration. Grade: A
Depth: Demarcus Faggins (no comments about the man's name if he gets burned) needs to prove himself as a nickel corner, but he has the physical tools. Grade: B

Starters: Texas Tech's Marcus Coleman, a physical corner, now must make the transition to safety. As good as Coleman has been, being a safety in coverage is different than being a cornerback in coverage. Plus, he has to tackle running backs in addition to recievers. Also an unknown quantity is Glenn Earl, who will be the starter for a full season. Grade: C
Depth: Very shaky behind these two Grade: F

Kicker: Since moving indoors, Kris Brown has proven to be an inconsistent kicker. Guess it wasn't just Heinz Field after all. Grade: D
Punter: Chad Stanley has been injured, but should be fine this year. Grade: C
Returners: Reggie Swinton and Phillip Buchanon will help an average return game. So could Jerome Mathis if he wins a kickoff return spot. Grade: B

Head Coach: Dom Capers' defensive philosophies and game management are the reason this team isn't competing for a #1 pick. Grade: B-
Offensive Coordinator: I've never understood why Chris Palmer is considered a top coordinator. He's the prime reason Tim Couch never lived up to his potential, and he's basically running a vanilla offense in Houston. Grade: D
Defensive Coordinator: Vic Fangio is one of the leading experts on the 3-4 today. Most teams are transitioning to the 3-4, Fangio's already thinking of new wrinkles. Grade: A-

Best Record Guess: With a defense this good, and a decent running game, there's no reason why they can't win 8 games. But with an offensive line that can't pass protect, 8 games is the most they can win. 8-8, good enough for 3rd.

The Rest of the South

Indianapolis: With one of the easiest schedules in the NFL, a record setting offense, Indy will be back in the playoffs, but their defense will cost them a few games. Best Guess: 10-6, winning the division on tie breaker.

Jacksonville: Matt Jones? Who? Matt Jones? Who? Byron Leftwitch's new target. Should be a much improved offense with Jones, Jimmy Smith, and Reggie Williams making up one of the best receiving corps in the league. Defense made some key upgrades along the line. Best Guess: 10-6

Tennessee: It takes at least one year to transition to a new offense, and Tennessee's defense isn't in a position to carry them during the transition Best Guess: 4-12

Next: Part 10: NFC North, NFC South, NFC West
Back: Part 8: AFC North, AFC East, AFC West

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Cheap Seats Mega Football Preview 2005: AFC All Cardinal Directions Except South

Today begins our pro football preview in earnest.

AFC East
TeamBest Record GuessThe Skinny
N.Y. Jets13-3Surprised? With Pennington coming off a great season and his favorite target Laveranues Coles back in green, (in Herm Edwards voice) the Jets will play to win a lot of games. Hello!
New England12-4There's no way a team with as many key personnel losses as they've had should be a favorite to go to the Super Bowl. The last team to win 3 Super Bowls in 4 years in the salary cap era had a huge dropoff the year after winning the third. Not saying they aren't a playoff team, but I'd like them better as a repeat champ if they had Tedy Bruschi and Ty Law
Miami6-10Ronnie Brown will eventually take over and provide a steady running game, but the growing pains will be felt early in Nick Saban's first season.
Buffalo4-12I'm still not convinced that J.P. Losman is a competent NFL quarterback or Tom Donohoe is a competent NFL personnel guy.
AFC North
TeamBest Record GuessThe Skinny
Pittsburgh12-4While this may be percieved as a sophomore slump by Rothlesberger after his stellar rookie year, Pittsburgh's defense is still good enough to keep them on top of the division.
Baltimore11-5And Kyle Boller will be personally responsible for all 5 losses.
Cincinnati8-8This team will once again be on the verge of the playoffs, but on the outside looking in.
Cleveland3-13Nice coach, no NFL-quality players. Crennel needs personnel
AFC West
TeamBest Record GuessThe Skinny
San Diego10-6With Antonio Gates back in the fold and an improved defense, San Diego should repeat.
Oakland9-7Never trust a Norv Turner-coached team, even if that team has Randy Moss on it.
Denver7-9This is the year the payment on Mike Shanahan's conract with the devil comes due.
Kansas City5-11Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't you need receivers in the NFL? And FredEx doesn't count as an NFL reciever. Dick Vermeil will thank Freddie Mitchell for getting him fired. Also, don't you have to play defense once in a while?

Tomorrow, we talk Texans.

Until then, here's a random fact about Chuck Norris!
(link courtesy The Holywriter)

Next: Part 9: Houston Texans and AFC South
Back: Part 7: Big XII in the NFL

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Cheap Seats Mega Football Preview 2005: Big XII in the NFL

R.I.P. Thomas Herrion, December 15, 1981-August 20, 2005

The Pro Section of Cheap Seats' Mega Football Preview is dedicated to his memory.

I can only hope my determination to put out a quality football preview is a fraction of his determination to fulfill his dream of playing on Sunday.

- R.D.

Sunday, I gave you my Top 25 College football teams plus my bowl picks

Monday, I had 2 job interviews, so there was no blog as planned

Today, I'm going to transition from college to pro by giving you an overview of how some of the alumni of the Big XII are doing.

Here's a brief rundown of the training camp highlights:

  • I'm sure the Ricky Williams(Texas Tech) story has been beaten to death, so I'm not going to repeat it. Suffice to say Longhorn fans will be happy to see him back.
  • Nathan Vasher(Texas) is playing his way into an expanded role with the Bears
  • Wes Welker(Texas Tech) is wowing Nick Saban and the Dolphins staff
  • A report from Miami of all places says that Kliff Kingsbury(Texas Tech) has apparently beaten out Adrian McPherson for the #3 QB spot with the Saints.
  • Norm Chow plans to use Colorado's Chris Brown more in the passing game. Brown's backup? Missouri's Damien Nash is the frontrunner for that job, which is a decent backup job to get given that Brown's not exactly durable.
  • Texas' Cedric Benson is still holding out and may not even get the starting job once he gets there .
  • Mitch Berger and Tom Rouen, both from Colorado, are still kicking
  • Seneca Wallace(Iowa State) has a stranglehold on the Seahawks' backup job.
  • Terence Newman(Kansas State) should have a better year statistically with veteran Aaron Glenn (Texas A&M) at the other corner.
  • The battle for the Lions' fullback job is an all-Big XII affair as Cory Schlesinger(Nebraska) is trying to hold off Will Matthews(Texas)
  • Dan Cody(Oklahoma) suffered an ACL sprain and will be out indefinitely
  • Past injuries have cost another former Sooner, as Jason White was cut by the Titans because White's knees wouldn't allow him to play
  • Dat Nguyen(Texas A&M) and Zach Thomas(Texas Tech) are both making the transition to the 3-4 defense on their respective teams.
  • UPDATE! Matt from My Opinion on Sports points out that former OU recievers Mark Clayton, Brandon Jones, and Mark Bradley are all looking at significant playing time for the Raiders, Titans, and Bears respectively. (Can't believe I forgot about Mark Clayton. Sorry about that.)

There's your rundown. If you want to know anything else, ask in the comment box

Next: Part 8: AFC North, AFC East, AFC West
Back: Part 6: Top 25 + Bowl projections

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Cheap Seats Mega Football Preview 2005: Blogpoll Top 25 Ballot and BCS projections.

Cheap Seats' Blogpoll Top 25 Ballot
1. Southern Cal
2. Virginia Tech
3. Michigan
4. Georgia
5. Louisiana State
6. Oklahoma
7. Texas
8. Louisville
9. Miami
10. Iowa
11. Tennessee
12. Texas A&M
13. Arizona State
14. Ohio State
15. Florida
16. Purdue
17. Florida State
18. UTEP
19. Texas Tech
20. Boston College
21. Colorado
22. TCU
23. Fresno State
24. Utah
25. Bowling Green

First 5 Out

Notre Dame
Boise State
North Texas

BCS Projections

Rose Bowl
#1 USC vs. #2 Virginia Tech

Orange Bowl
Michigan vs. Louisville

Sugar Bowl
Georgia vs. Texas

Fiesta Bowl
Oklahoma vs. LSU

Big XII Bowl Projections

Cotton Bowl
Texas Tech vs. Alabama

Holiday Bowl
Arizona State vs. Colorado

Alamo Bowl
Texas A&M vs. Purdue

Houston Bowl
Kansas vs. South Carolina

Ch---- Sp---- Bowl (the former Tangerine Bowl, which was the Micron Bowl before that, the Carquest Bowl before that, and started out life as the Blockbuster Bowl)
Nebraska vs. Virginia

(which means that the Independence Bowl and Fort Worth bowl will have at-large teams. By the way, has the Big XII ever placed a team in the Fort Worth Bowl since they've had the agreement?)

Next: Part 7: Big XII in the NFL
Back: Part 5: Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Cheap Seats Mega Football Preview 2005: Texas, A&M, Tech and our All-Big XII Team

Cheap Seats said yesterday that Oklahoma is still on top. So what to the Texas teams have to do to wrestle the crown from the Sooners? That's the subject of today's preview.

Texas Tech
The Skinny: Normally you don't like to see a program go into a year with a QB controversy, but Texas Tech has put in a new quarterback every year for the past 2 years and has still improved every year. The defense improved from 110th to 46th, and should be better this season, but they need to show it.

DateOpponentProjected W/L
9/10Florida InternationalW
9/17Sam Houston StateW
9/24Indiana StateW
10/8at NebraskaW
10/15Kansas StateW
10/22at TexasL
10/29at BaylorW
11/5Texas A&MW
11/12at Oklahoma StateW

Position Ratings
QB: 3 - It doesn't really matter who starts
RB: 5 - Taurean Henderson is the second-best all-purpose back in the nation behind Reggie Bush
WR: 5 - Double-cover Jarrett Hicks and Joel Filani will burn you
IR/TE: 4 - Even if Cody Fuller sticks to baseball, this unit will be great at keeping drives alive. Bristol Olomua will throw some blocks on running plays.
OL: 3 - They are younger than last year, but they will have 3 games to gel before their first big test

DL: 4 - Even with Kenyuta Dawson stepping in for the graduated Adell Duckett, the line should get some heat on the QB
LB: 3 - Will Fletcher Sessions be the answer next to Brock Stratton and John Saldi?
CB: 4 - Khalid Nadruzzin and Antonio Huffman are experienced corners with speed.
S: 4 - Vincent Meeks is a playmaker and Dwayne Slay could be a future one.

Kicking Game: 3 - Alex Reyes is also a Ray Guy candidate, but either Alex Trlicka or kickoff specialist Keith Toogood must be more consistent on field goals
Return Game: 4 - Danny Amendola could be the next Wes Welker

What the Red Raiders must do to win:
1. Show more improvement on defense - 46th in the nation is an improvement for Texas Tech under Mike Leach, but it has to take the next step and become a dominating unit.
2. Get the field goal situation straight - Missed kicks have cost Tech in the past
3. Protect the QB and open holes for Henderson - The offensive line has 3 easy games to get it's act together.

Projection:If they could get over the mental blocks of Oklahoma and playing Texas in Austin and hold court against A&M like they have before, they could be a force in the Big XII. As it stands, they are still a notch below Oklahoma and Texas. 9-2 overall, 6-2 conference, tied for 3rd with A&M, and a Cotton Bowl berth.

Texas A&M
The Skinny: Texas A&M, like Texas Tech, is improving every season. They are a team on the rise in the Big XII, and many think they could be a surprise team this year because Dennis Franchione's teams have always improved in their 3rd year. And everyone likes Reggie McNeal However, closer inspection reveals some questions that must be answered before the Aggies can enter the top tier of the South

DateOpponentProjected W/L
9/3at ClemsonL
9/24Texas StateW
10/8at ColoradoW
10/15Oklahoma StateW
10/22at Kansas StateW
10/29Iowa StateW
11/5at Texas TechL
11/12at OklahomaW

Position Ratings
QB: 5 - Reggie McNeal is what makes this offense go.
RB: 4 - Courtney Lewis will provide some balance
WR: 2 - Loss of Terrence Murphy hurts this unit as none of the returning receivers have more than 200 yards receiving
TE: 4 - Boone Stutz and Joey Thomas are decent safety valves.
OL: 3 - Must provide better pass protection.

DL: 3 - Huge run stuffing line, but need to get to the QB
LB: 4 - Solid but not spectacular
CB: 2 - Probably the only weakness on the defense is it's corner depth
S: 4 - Jaxon Appel is a run stopper, Japhus Brown should help in coverage.

Kicking Game: 4 - Todd Pegram is a consistent kicker and could win the Groza award and Reggie Bean should improve the punting position
Return Game: 1 - Not only are there no game breakers, but the kick return team averaged 15 yards per return, good for 118th out of 119 D-1 teams, and the punt return team was 97th in the nation!

What the Aggies must do to win:
1. Get more out of the pass rush and blitz - Those corners need help from the front seven.
2. Improve their pass coverage - If they want to finally get over the Lubbock hump, they need to be better against the pass
3. Better coverage teams and return teams - They must start winning the field position game in close matchups.

Projection: No one would who knows would look at you funny if you pick this team to win the South, but it just isn't going to happen. 8-3 overall, 6-2 in conference, tied with Texas Tech for 3rd and going to the Holiday Bowl

The Skinny: Everyone says that Vince Young is all-world. Everyone says that Texas is going back to the Rose Bowl this year.

Why is everyone saying this? Vince Young ran roughshod over Michigan in last season's Rose Bowl. What they forget is that Michigan did just as good a job against Texas's defense and the game was decided by a field goal.

What everyone forgets is that Vince Young had the now-graduated Cedric Benson in the backfield and no help at reciever. Now Benson's gone, replaced by a trio of backs that are not as good, and that the recieving corps is still shaky. Still, the offensive line and defense are good enough to make them a repeat BCS team. They just won't be a national title contender until they win the Red River Shootout.

DateOpponentProjected W/L
9/10at Ohio StateW
10/1at MissouriW
10/22Texas TechW
10/29at Oklahoma StateW
11/5at BaylorW
11/25at Texas A&MW

* - Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas

Position Ratings
QB: 4 - Vince Young is good, but there's only one backup if he gets hurt.
RB: 2 - Selvin Young is still recovering from injury, not a whole lot of experience behind him
WR: 1 - Too young and inconsistent to help VY out
TE: 5 - David Thomas is the team's most consistent possession reciever.
OL: 5 - One of the best in the league with 4 NFL prospects.

DL: 5 - Basically the same as last year and just as good with 2 tackles who are all Big XII
LB: 4 - Aaron Harris is solid, but who will replace Derrick Johnson
CB: 5 - Should be fine, provided they aren't playing Braylon Edwards
S: 4 - Michael Huff is a good all-around safety

Kicking Game: 3 - Richmond McGee returns, but Kicker David Pino must prove himself
Return Game: 4 - Depends on Selvin Young's overall health

What the Longhorns must do to win:
1. Get a passing game going - Selvin Young and Vince Young can't carry this offense. One of the recievers has to show they can make plays.
2. Get rid of the mental blocks - They can outhink themselves at times and get intimidated at others.
3. Outside linebackers must step up - They have to get good pass rush and coverage on TEs and backs out of the backfield

Projection: They will be back in the BCS, but they won't get over the OU hump. 10-1 overall, 7-1 in conference, a first place tie with OU (tie broken by the Red River Shootout), and an at-large BCS bid
Big XII South Summary
Oklahoma7-111-1The team to beat until someone knocks them off
Texas7-110-1Good, but can't win the Red River Shootout
Texas Tech6-29-2Bill Snyder is embarrased at that schedule
Texas A&M6-28-3Need help from WRs
Oklahoma State2-64-7Taking a huge step back
Baylor0-83-8Like every single year

Big XII Summary

Big XII Championship Game: Oklahoma over Colorado
Offensive Player of the Year: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
Defensive Player of the Year: Charles Gordon, Kansas
Special Teams Player of the Year: Todd Pegram, Texas A&M
Coach of the Year: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
All Big-XII First Team


Reggie McNealTexas A&M


Dusty DvoracekOklahoma


Adrian PetersonOklahoma


Larry DibblesTexas


Taurean HendersonTexas Tech


Rodrique WrightTexas


Joel KlopfensteinColorado


Jermial AshleyKansas


Jarrett HicksTexas Tech


Clint IngramOklahoma


D'Shaun WoodsOSU


Aaron HarrisTexas


Travis WilsonOklahoma


Kevin KaneKansas


Johnathan ScottTexas


Rufus AlexanderOklahoma


Will AllenTexas


Charles GordonKansas


Mark FentonColorado


Darrien WilliamsOklahoma


Justin BlalockTexas


Michael HuffTexas


E.J. WhitleyTexas Tech


Cedrick GriffinTexas


Todd PegramTexas A&M


Daniel SepulvedaBaylor


Charles GordonKansas


Danny AmendolaTexas Tech
All-Big XII Second Team


Vince YoungTexas


Kenyuta DawsonTexas Tech


Cory RossNebraska


Le Kevin SmithNebraska


Gerald GreenKansas


Tim CrowderTexas


David ThomasTexas


C.J. Ah YouOklahoma


Sean CoffeyMissouriOLBNick ReidKansas


Quentin ChaneyOklahomaMLBJordon DizonColorado


Joel FilaniTexas Tech


Brock StrattonTexas Tech


Davin JosephOklahoma


Brian IwuhColorado


Kasey StuddardTexas


Marcus WalkerOklahoma


Cody WallaceTexas A&M


Jason SimpsonMissouri


Manuel RamirezTexas Tech


Vincent MeeksTexas Tech


Brian DanielsColorado


Marcus KingMissouri


Mason CrosbyColorado


Alex ReyesTexas Tech


Willie AndrewsBaylor


Selvin YoungTexas

Next: Part 6: Cheap Seats BlogPoll Ballot, BCS Projections, and Bowl Games
Back: Part 4: Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State

Friday, August 19, 2005

Cheap Seats Mega Football Preview 2005: Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma

We're done with the North. Today we move to the Big XII South, the stronger of the two divisions, but that doesn't mean all the teams are perfect. Many have huge questions they need to answer also

Big XII South


There is great wealth in the Big XII South. Four teams could wind up in the Top 25 by season's end.There is also great poverty as Baylor will continue to struggle and Oklahoma State looks like it's going to fall.

A lot of people are predicting a change in the pecking order. Unfortunately, the other contenders for the Big XII title, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, still have to prove they can look across the sideline from Oklahoma and play their game without fear. That may be the biggest thing keeping anyone from seriously challenging OU for the South title.

The Skinny: Baylor traditionally has one role during football season: provide the rest of the Big XII with an easy game. The football team is talking positive, and the fact that Baylor's women's hoops team won the Final Four, the men's tennis team went to the NCAA championship match, and the baseball team went to the College World Series has given this team motivation to not be left behind. Unfortunately, the drive may be there, but the talent isn't.


DateOpponentProjected W/L
9/3at SMUW
9/17at ArmyW
10/1at Texas A&ML
10/8at Iowa StateL
10/22at OklahomaL
10/29Texas TechL
11/12at MissouriL
11/19Oklahoma StateL

Position Ratings
QB: 1 - Terrance Parks broke his hand on his helmet, Kevin Brown-style, in spring practice so Shawn Bell, the hero of the A&M game will be the starter to start the season.
RB: 3 - Paul Mosley could be better if he could get some holes to run through.
WR: 2 - An experienced group, unfortunately, that experience doesn't come with great numbers.
TE: 3 - Mike Miller could surprise some people if he wins the position
OL: 1 - Allowed 32 sacks last season and couldn't open holes for the running backs

(Note: Baylor runs a 4-2-5 defense)
DL: 1 - No real pass rushers or run stuffers here
LB: 1 - Collin Allred has the size, but not the athleticism, the rest have neither.
CB: 1 - Injuries, Inexperience and lack of athletic ability make these corners suspect.
ROV: 2 - OK playing the run, not so good playing the pass.
FS: 4 - Unfortunately, Maurice Lane is the team's only defensive star and leading tackler

Kicking Game: 3 - Punter Daniel Sepulveda won the Ray Guy Award last year, and is the favorite to win again. Kicking game and coverage teams suspect.
Return Game: 4 - Rover Willie Andrews averages 24.7 yards on kickoffs and 10.8 yards on punt returns.

What the Baylor must do to win:
1. Catch some teams napping - They managed to do this with A&M last year, another couple wins like that would help the program.
2. Thank their scheduler - SMU, Samford, and Army are not exactly world beaters.
3. Play loose - They have nothing to lose and everything to gain when they step on the field.

Projection: I'd like to believe this year is different, but unfortunately, it's going to be same old Bad News Bears. 3-8 overall, 0-8 conference, and dead last in the Big XII

Oklahoma State
The Skinny: Oklahoma State overacheived in the last 5 years under Les Miles. Unfortunately, Miles was always looking for his big break and finally got it, moving to LSU. Mike Gundy wants to turn a team who finished 12th in rushing and 111th in passing last year and install a spread offense. Good luck to ya, Mike. The defense is also undergoing a change from the 4-2-5 to the 4-3.


DateOpponentProjected W/L
9/3Montana StateW
9/10Florida AtlanticW
9/17Arkansas StateW
10/15at Texas A&ML
10/22at Iowa StateW
11/5at OklahomaL
11/12Texas TechL
11/19at BaylorW

Position Ratings
QB: 2 - Donovan Woods could be a poor man's Vince Young if he had a higher completion percentage.
RB: 2 - A collection of redshirt freshmen and sophomores and no one knows how they will adjust to the new offense
WR: 2 - D'Juan Woods can help his brother Donovan Woods out, but there's not enough depth behind him
IR/TE: 1 - Too many question marks at this position.
OL: 2 - A line build for running that doesn't have too many pass blockers

DL: 2 - They have to hope Xavier Lawson-Kennedy lives up to his potential
LB: 2 - Plenty of experience, but no real athleticism
CB: 2 - Unfortunately, Oklahoma State lost it's shutdown corner to a fatal car accident, but they do have some promising true freshmen.
S: 1 - Suspensions and graduations have depleted the secondary

Kicking Game: 3 - The kicker and punter positions are both up for grabs.
Return Game: 1 - Someone must emerge as a new return ace.

What the Cowboys must do to win:
1. Blitz often - OSU must get pressure on the opposing quarterbacks.
2. Move some faster running backs to inside reciever - True, it's only a temporary solution, but it could shore up a position that needs help badly
3. Play well on defense - With an offense sure to have growing pains, the defense must carry them. True, the Cowboys are also installing a new defensive system, but the learning curve isn't as steep for a new defense as it would be for a new offense.

Projection: Maybe next year they can claw back to the middle of the pack, but for right now, expect Oklahoma State to take a big step back. 5-6 0verall, 2-6 in conference, and 5th in the South.

The Skinny: Most teams that lose their starting QB, and return only 4 defensive starters would be devastated. Oklahoma isn't most teams. They recruit well, and they have depth most teams only dream about. (Being in the title game 3 times in the 6 years Bob Stoops has been in Norman doesn't hurt either)
With Adrian Peterson entering his sophomore year as a Heisman candidate, Dusty Dvoracek returning from suspension, a favorable non-conference schedule that gives them 3 games to work out the QB situation, a lot of talented youngsters, and 5 teams behind them psychologically shell shocked whenever they see the "OU" on the helmet, the road to a Big XII championship is easier than people think.


DateOpponentProjected W/L
9/17at UCLAW
10/1Kansas StateW
10/15at KansasW
10/29at NebraskaW
11/5Oklahoma StateW
11/12Texas A&ML
11/19Iowa StateW
12/3Big XII Championship**W

* - Cotton Bowl, Dallas Texas
** - Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas

Position Ratings
QB: 3.5 - That's 3 if Paul Thompson is the starter and 4 if Rhett Bomar starts. The preview mags say Bomar is the better all around player, but if he can't beat out Thompson, he may not be as good as first thought.
RB: 5 - Adrian Peterson could be the first sophomore to win the Heisman if the other candidates fall flat. Oh, by the way, Kejuan Jones is pretty good to.
WR: 5 - Travis Wilson led OU in TD catches last year, but keep an eye on 6-6, 205 speedster Quentin Chaney in 3 reciever sets. That's right, I said "6-6, 205 speedster"
TE: 5 - They could have the best 3 tight-end sets in the country.
OL: 5 - They are all big, and move very well for people their size.

DL: 4 - The return of Dusty Dvoracek bolsters a unit that is way underrated. DE C.J. Ah You is the leading candidate for Big XII Name of the Year.
LB: 4 - Look for outside linebackers Clint Ingram and Rufus Alexander to emerge as defensive stars
CB: 4 - Mosty young, but the talent is there. Sophomore Marcus Walker could emerge as a shutdown corner
S: 5 - FS Darrien Williams has the speed to back up the corners. SS Jason Carter has all the physical tools.

Kicking Game: 5 - Garrett Hartley is accurate and has a good leg, and the coverage teams only gave up 4.3 yars/punt return and 15.8 yards a kickoff return.
Return Game: 2 - Too many question marks at the return spot.

What the Sooners must do to win:
1. Play like they have something to prove - Other experts are saying it's Texas's year. They need to play with a chip on their shoulder rather than rest on their laurels.
2. Balance the offense - It's tempting to run Adrian Peterson until his legs fall off, but there are enough potential playmakers at wide reciever and tight end for OU to work with as well.
3. A return ace must emerge - Somewhere in all that talent has to be a player who can read his blocks, get good field position for the offense, and break a few returns

Projection: A reloading year for Oklahoma that should result in a big year 11-1 overall, 7-1 conference, a Big XII South title (based on head to head with Texas), the Big XII Championship, and a BCS Bowl.

Next: Part 5: Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech
Back: Part 3: Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Cheap Seats Mega Football Preview 2005: Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado

Yesterday, we profiled the weaker teams of the Big XII North

Today, we get to the real meat of the North, the 3 teams that will be fighting it out to represent the North in the Big XII Championship Game: Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado

The Skinny: If Bill Snyder wonders where some of his JUCO talent went, he need look no further north than Nebraska. Callahan got some talented transfers that fit his system, whatever it is. (I don't know if I'd necessarily call it "West Coast", his offenses in Oakland featured more of the ground game than traditional West Coast offenses do.) The problem is, the younger members of his highly rated recruiting class are also having to play key roles right away. Still, they will be better than last year. If Nebraska fans can be patient enough with Callahan, and quit blaming him for every crop failure or bit of bad weather, this team may return to the top in 2006.


DateOpponentProjected W/L
9/10Wake ForestW
10/1Iowa StateW
10/8Texas TechL
10/15at BaylorW
10/22at MissouriW
11/5at KansasL
11/12Kansas StateW
11/19at ColoradoL

Position Ratings
QB: 2 - New QB Zac Taylor needs a year to get into the system. Plus, there's no real depth behind him if someone gets hurt
RB: 4 - Cory Ross drives the offense like Charlie Garner did for Callahan's Oakland teams
WR: 3 - You may see true freshmen rotating in a lot at reciever, albeit very promising freshmen.
TE: 2 - This unit is hurt by injuries to Matt Herian. His backups are very green.
OL: 3 - Left side returns from a line that allowed 17 sacks, the right side is completely new and may not have the pass protection skills necessary.

DL: 5 - It's going to be hard to do better than this front 4 and their tackle and sack numbers.
LB: 2 - Very inexperienced crew that must live up to it's potential sooner rather than later
CB: 1 - Both starting corners are sophomores, one of the starters is making a transition from the running back position, and this unit only runs 3 deep. This unit will be better next year, but right now, high percentage passing teams will torch them.
S: 2 - Daniel Bullocks could be All-Big XII, but the other starting safety is a career special teamer and no one knows what to expect from the backups.

Kicking Game: 2 - It's hard to trust a kicking game where one kicker hit only 2/3 of his field goals last time he played and the other is a true freshman who's not used to BCS Conference-level game pressure.
Return Game: 2 - Last in the Big XII in average return yardage last year, but an infusion of youngsters should help that

What the Cornhuskers must do to win:
1. Pass rush is key - Huskers must get sacks with their down linemen otherwise they will get burned when facing the 3 and 4 reciever sets that Texas Tech, Kansas, and others like to throw out.
2. Ross must carry them - Cory Ross must shoulder the offensive load so the Huskers can open up the passing game.
3. More return yards - Special teams can help out this offense by creating better field position and making plays.

Projection: While they may breeze through their 4 of their first 5 games, their defensive weaknesses will catch up with them later. 7-4 overall, 4-4 conference, tied for second in the Big 12 North, and a trip to the Champs Sports Bowl.

The Skinny: Finished 4-7, but it could have easily been better when you consider that 5 losses were by less than a touchdown. Now, the Jayhawks have the best defense in the North, which could prevent a few of those touchdowns.


DateOpponentProjected W/L
9/3Florida AtlanticW
9/10Appalachian StateW
9/24Louisiana TechL
10/1at Texas TechL
10/8at Kansas StateL
10/22at ColoradoW
11/12at TexasL
11/19Iowa StateW

Position Ratings
QB: 3 - Adam Barmann will probably start, which helps the offensive consistency.
RB: 3 - Gary Green was All Big XII in 2003 and should return to form with John Randle out of the way.
WR: 3 - The talent may be there, and Mark Mangino may like what he saw in spring practice, but they have to produce.
TE: 2 - The "2 deep" at this position is young and unproven
OL: 4 - Despite all the shuffling, this unit returns 4 starters and should be improved.

DL: 4 - Look out for Jermail Ashley and Charlton Keith
LB: 5 - Hard to ignore a unit that returns all 3 starters , 2 of which are capable of 10+ tackle for loss seasons.
CB: 5 - Charles Gordon is an All-American, Theo Baines has recovered from the injuries that plagued him in 2004, and the nickel and dime backs are twin terrors.
S: 3 - Rodney Fowler is solid, but no one knows what to make of Agib Talib yet.

Kicking Game: 2 - Scott Webb needs to improve his field goal distance or else he will find his job lost to Johnny Beck.
Return Game: 5 - Gordon will make plays here as well.

What the Jayhawks must do to win:
1. Be consistent on offense and manage the game - The defense is Rock Chalk solid, the offense just needs to hang on to the ball and put up enough points to win.
2. Stay mentally focused in mid-season - Texas Tech, Kansas State, Oklahoma, and at Colorado will be a tough stretch for anyone, but if they can keep the other team off the scoreboard, they may be able to steal a few.
3. Run the ball well - If they can improve their yards per carry average, they can control the clock and the game

Projection: If they can survive the rough middle of their season, their defense makes them a dark horse candidate to win the Big XII North. Projection 7-4 overall, 4-4 in conference, tied for second in the Big 12 North, and a trip to the Houston Bowl.

The Skinny: Gary Barnett must be either a vampire or Rasputin because he's been hit with every possible allegation you can level at a football program, and not only is he still standing, he was Coach of the Year in 2004 and had a very good shot at taking his program back to the top of the Big XII North. They just need to do something about that offense.

DateOpponentProjected W/L
9/3Colorado StateW
9/10New Mexico StateW
9/24at MiamiL
10/1at Oklahoma StateW
10/8Texas A&ML
10/15at TexasL
10/29at Kansas StateW
11/12at Iowa StateW
12/3Big XII Championship**L

** - Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas

Position Ratings
QB: 3 - Joel Klatt needs help from other positions
RB: 3 - Hugh Charles and Lawrence Vickers will be a lot better than Bobby Purify
WR: 2 - Unknown, inexperienced, and unproven with some potential
TE: 5 - Joel Klopfenstein is one of the best in the nation
OL: 4 - Look for this unit to have a breakout season and give the offense enough rushing yards and time to throw.

DL: 3 - Could be one of the best pass rushing units in the Big 12, but need to stop the run.
LB: 4 - Buffs return all 3 starters from last year. Their tackle totals? 98, 93, and 82. Yo!*
CB: 3 - Athletic, but on the small side.
S: 4 - J.J. Billingsley is back from suspension, which bolsters the secondary.

Kicking Game: 5 - You've got potential Groza and Guy winners in Mason Crosby and John Torp
Return Game: 3 - Good, but needs to help the offense with field position more.

What the Buffaloes must do to win:
1. Stuff the run - Stopping the run was a problem last year, and while not a glaring weakness, they are facing some teams with good running backs.
2. Be more physical in pass coverage - A bump and run strategy will throw off the timing of short passing games.
3. Sustain offensive drives - Buffs need to convert 3rd-and-longs and cut down on the 3-and-outs.

Projection: Until someone drives a stake through Gary Barnett's vampire heart, Colorado has the inside track to winning the Big XII North. 7-5 overall, 5-3 in Conference, the Big XII North title, and a trip to the Alamo Bowl
Big XII North Summary
Colorado5-37-5If off field stuff can't kill this program, they're immortal
Kansas4-47-4Best defense in the North
Nebraska4-47-4A year away from returning to prominence
Missouri3-55-6Brad Smith and who else?
Kansas State2-64-7It's going to be tough to claw their way out of the cellar
Iowa State2-63-8Enjoy your bowl from last year, Cyclones

Next: Part 4: Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma
Back: Part 2: Iowa State, Kansas State, Missouri
* - Apologies for the Lee Corso moment. Comes from playing too much NCAA 2006

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Cheap Seats Mega Football Preview 2005: Iowa State, Missouri and Kansas State

Today, we move from into the Big XII, starting with the North. We're going to expand the preview section a little since we're doing 3 teams a day.

Big XII North

Last year the Big XII North was savaged, and rightly so, for its mediocrity. After all, the teams in the division went out and lost to the like of Fresno State, Southern Miss, Troy, and Northwestern, among others. (Yes, Blogpoller mdgcfb, I realize Fresno State is a good program, as is Southern Miss, but it's a pride thing.) Then, they got in to conference and the South teams savaged the North teams. Then they just beat up on each other.

However, things might be looking up for the North this year, partly because teams like Nebraska and Kansas have improved, partially because they can't do any worse as a division than last year. The thing is, each team still has to play 3 games against the South. Unless a team happens to be one of the lucky ones that drew Baylor, that's a tough proposition.

The only certainty, because conference rules dictate it: The Big XII North will have a representative in the championship game.

Iowa State
The Skinny: Iowa State finished 7-5 last year and came within a field goal of making the Big XII championship game. Iowa State's had 6 or 7 win seasons like this before, but they have almost always followed it up by sinking back down to the cellar. And there's too little depth and too many question marks by the people that are starting to suggest things will go any differently

DateOpponentProjected W/L
9/3Illinois StateW
9/24at ArmyL
10/1at NebraskaL
10/15at MissouriL
10/22Oklahoma StateL
10/29at Texas A&ML
11/5Kansas StateW
11/19at KansasL

Position Ratings
QB: 3 - Bret Meyer finally has a year under his belt, but it's a question of staying upright
RB: 2 - Steve Hicks is a consistent back, but he's not a homerun threat, and he's going to get hurt eventually, and there's not many options behind them
WR: 1 - Todd Blythe is a question mark, even if he returns and the other recievers don't scare people.
TE: 1 - only one real blocker and no consistent receivers
OL: 1 - They allowed 34 sacks and ISU's runners averaged less than 3 yards a carry. Ouch.

DL: 1 - Undersized, no depth, and only produced 24 sacks last year.
LB: 2 - Don't expect any pass rush out of this crew either.
CB: 1 - Don't trust any unit that has 2 corner/safety tweeners playing corner.
S: 3 - Only because Nik Moser and Steve Paris are their 2 leading returning tacklers. And if your safeties are your leading tacklers, that's a problem.

Kicking Game: 2 Tony Yelk returns from injury, but there's too much uncertainty with the punter and coverage teams.
Return Game: 1 They are auditioning new people to go behind a unit that only averaged 9.5 yards per return. Yikes!

What the Cyclones must do to win:
1. Protect the Quarterback - Meyer is good when he's got time.
2. Avoid Injury - There's almost no depth at any position.
3. Improve on Special Teams - A field goal cost them their chance at a dream season last year, and the outlook for this year's special teams isn't good either.

Projection: When a team doesn't have the depth to survive injury and the defense is that bad, it's hard to take them seriously. 3-8 overall, 2-6 conference, and tied for last in the North

Kansas State
The Skinny: Kansas State slumped to its worst season since 1989 last year, posting a 4-7 record. Part of that is that K-State doesn't have the depth it used to. Bill Snyder used to be able to strip mine the Junior College leagues across the Midwest and Texas for talent whenever he needed a quick fix at a position. Now, everyone else has discovered this talent mine and it's a little harder for Snyder to come up with JUCO gems. They could return to form if they resolve the issues which led to their defensive ranking dropping to 43rd.

DateOpponentProjected W/L
9/3Florida InternationalW
9/10at MarshallL
9/24North TexasW
10/1at OklahomaL
10/15at Texas TechL
10/22Texas A&ML
11/5at Iowa StateL
11/12at NebraskaL

Position Ratings
QB: 2 - Dylan Meier's a good drop back quarterback, but doesn't give K-State the Ell Roberson-Michael Bishop dual threat that they've had in the past.
RB: 3 - Running back by committee, but it's a decent committee with Carlos Alsup as the power back and FSU transfer Thomas Clayton as the speed back.
WR: 2 - OK, but not great
TE: 1 - A position battle where there are no winners.
OL: 2 - Hard to give an O-line with one returning starter and unknown new starters anything higher.

DL: 2 - They improved toward the end of last year, but no one knows how good they are against the pass yet. And they're not real deep
LB: 3 - They have a potential Butkus award winner in Ted Sims, but all the top 4 linebackers are injury risks
CB: 2 - Someone has to step up to help Maurice Porter.
S: 2 - None of the safeties appear to be good enough tacklers or pass defenders to get the job done.

Kicking Game: 3 - Should be improved in the kicking game.
Return Game: 1 - Needs improvement. 7.3 yards/punt return isn't going to help your team.

What the Wildcats must do to win:
1. Run the ball - Take the heat off of Meier
2. Get a good push up front - This front 7 needs to consistently stop the run and get a good pass rush.
3. Recievers need to make something happen in the passing game and return game - One of the receivers needs to step up and be a threat to take it to the house on any play.
Projection: The Wildcats are not as talented as they used to be, so it's going to be an uphill climb back to respectability with the other teams in the North being better. 4-7 overall, 2-6 in conference, and tied for last in the North.

The Skinny: If you looked at their stats and couldn't see the records, you'd think the Missouri Tigers would have won the Big XII North last year: 29th nationally in turnover margin, 1st in the Big 12 in pass defense, 2nd in the conference in overall defense. Unfortunately, the Missouri Tigers offense sputtered, and Missouri lost a lot of close games. What should have been a team riding on a high into 2005 looking for a repeat of a Big 12 North championship is now a team that is struggling to find itself. Nebraska is on the way back, so the pressure is on for Missouri to win now. Problem is, that defense only returns 3 starters.

DateOpponentProjected W/L
9/3Arkansas State*W
9/10New MexicoL
10/8at Oklahoma StateW
10/15Iowa StateW
10/29at KansasL
11/5at ColoradoL
11/19at Kansas StateL
* - at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City

Position Ratings
QB: 4 - Brad Smith elevates this entire team.
RB: 3 - Who's going to replace Damien Nash? It depends on who you ask.
WR: 2 - One real threat in Sean Coffey. After that it drops off
TE: 3 - They were OK last year, but I wouldn't call them a safety valve just yet
OL: 2 - They have to replace 3 starters. Position battles and injuries could weaken this unit.

DL: 2 - Replacing 3 of 4 DL spots, and the replacement's aren't as good.
LB: 2 - The new look linebacking corps is supposed to be talented, but we'll see if they can help the D-line stop the run.
CB: 4 - Marcus King could be All-Big XII and A.J. Kincaide is great so long as he doesn't get paired with a taller receiver
S: 3 - Jason Simpson is excellent in run stopping and pass coverage. The question will be the safety next to him.

Kicking Game: 1 - Adam Crosset is long, but not necessarily accurate, the punter situation is unsettled.
Return Game: 3 - Averaging 11 yards a punt return is good. 18 yards a kickoff return isn't.

What the Tigers must do to win:
1. Use Brad Smith's mobility - The experiment as a pocket passer has failed. Bootlegs and option plays would help him tremendously.
2. Get a running game going - They have to take the heat off Mr. Smith
3. Blow some teams out - They can't let people hang around like they did last year.

Projection: Good news is, the offense should be better. Bad news is, the pass rush and run stuffers aren't better, and the kicking game could cost them in close matchups. 5-6 overall, 3-5 conference, 4th place in the North.

Next: Part 3 - Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado
Back: Part 1 - TCU, UTEP, Houston, Rice, SMU, North Texas

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Cheap Seats Mega Football Preview 2005: Texas schools not in the Big XII

We start our preview by going outside the Big XII: Houston, North Texas, Rice, SMU, TCU and UTEP.

We're also going to give a brief mention to Sam Houston State and Texas State for a couple reasons. One, they appear on the scheduled of a number of Big XII Teams. Two, they are both ranked in 1-AA

We've stolen borrowed MGoBlog's position ratings for our college football previews. What that means to you is that we rate each unit 1-5 (1 being weakest, 5 being strongest) based on strength of unit relative to conference. (A 5 for a Conference USA team doesn't mean that they are going to be good against a Big XII team.)

Conference USA
The Skinny: UTEP will shift conferences this year, along with Rice, Tulsa, and SMU, to Conference USA. Mike Price's Miners went 8-4 last year, making an appearance in the Houston Bowl. This year's Miners return Jordan Palmer, one of the best QBs and a good defense no one is talking about. There's probably no true "BCS buster" this year, but UTEP comes awfully close.

Schedule: Aside from an October 22 home date against Marshall, there isn't a game on their schedule that should scare the Miners.

Positional Ratings
QB: 5 - Jordan Palmer is one of the best quarterbacks not on a BCS team.
RB: 2 - An inconsistent running back by committee. They can outrun you when good, they can cough it up a lot when bad.
WR: 3 - Palmer makes this crew look better than it is
TE: 4 - Jake Sears should be a reliable safety valve after working on his catches in the offseason
OL: 5 - Surprisingly deep for a team in this conference.

DL: 4 - Underrated, ferocious, and tough.
LB: 4 - This unit is led by 6-3 240 OLB Thomas Howard and contains some talented and agressive, but inexperienced, players.
CB: 2 - The unit has been hampered by the injury bug in fall practice.
S: 4 - Quintin Demps and Joe Flesoski have over 100 tackles between them.

Kicking Game: 4 - Junior Reagan Schneider is great from a distancen (8-11 from beyond 40)
Return Game: 4 - Johnnie Lee Higgins is always a breakaway threat

What the Miners need to do to win:
1. Don't believe their press - People are patting them on the back for one good season, but they can't let it go to their head. They need to work hard if they want to go to the next level.
2. Hang on to the football - Turnovers will kill this team if they are not careful.
3. Rush the QB - The d-linemen and linebackers will have to make up for a banged up set of corners.

Projection: 10-1, Conference USA Champion

The Skinny: Houston finished 3-8 in the old Conference USA, it's second season under former Texas Tech assistant Art Briles. True, some of that was their non-conference schedule (playing national runner-up OU and perennial power Miami didn't help), but they also underperformed relative to their talent level when they got into conference. With a slightly easier road this year, Houston may bounce back to where they were in 2003, but don't expect anything out of the Andre Ware glory days. This team looks like Texas Tech circa 2000.

Schedule: They will probably win 5 games alone on schedule (Tulane, Tulsa, Rice, SMU, and Sam Houston State) They have to get 2 more wins against Oregon, Mississippi State, UTEP, Southern Miss, Memphis or Central Florida.

Positional Ratings
QB: 4 - Kevin Kolb should bounce back from a bad 2004. His arm and mobility are too good to perform at that level again.
RB: 2 - There will probably be a huge committee of backs, none of them quality
WR: 4 - Vincent Marshall and Ricky Wilson will provide speed on the outside
IR/TE: 3- Expect decent years from the 4 or so recievers that occupy the slot positions
OL: 2 - 4 of 5 starters return, but last we saw this unit, they gave up 44 sacks!

DL: 2 - Needs to generate more rush, even with the switch to the 3-4
LB: 3 - What might have been a good unit suffers from a spring injury to Lance Everson
CB: 4 - Two corners who can be physical with opposing receivers, and a nickel corner who can keep up with slot recievers
S: 3 - Will depend on if senior FS Will Gulley is healthy or not.

Kicking Game: 4 - Justin Laird Will handle both chores
Return Game: 4 - Ricky Wilson runs a 4.38 40-yard dash and can break a return if he gets blocking.

What the Cougars need to do to win:
1. Get a pass rush - Houston went to the 3-4 in order to get more heat on the QB.
2. Protect Kolb - OL needs to give Kolb one of his many talented receivers.
3. Game plan around Marshall and Wilson - Get the ball in these guys hands any way you can, whether it be throws or reverses.

Projection: 7-4 and maybe a bowl game.

The Skinny: A 3-8 from a year ago in the WAC, Rice now moves over to Conference USA. Rice is talking about implementing more of a passing dimension to take advantage of the skills of his two QBs. But let's not kid ourselves, Ken Hatfield is an old school triple-option coach and the option game will be the bread and butter of the Owls attack. And Rice will always lack the talent of their opponents.

Schedule: Brutal road trips to UCLA, Texas, UTEP, UAB, and East Carolina.

Positional Ratings
QB: 1 - Owls going with quarterback by committee, neither of which is promising
RB: 3 - They're young, but they can run. They will be called upon to catch more than ever, though.
TE: 2 - Not a strong recieving unit
WR: 1 - Not exactly the experience or talent you look for when you're trying to throw the ball more
OL: 2 - Returns only 2 of 5 starters

DL: 2 - Aside from John Syptak, this unit is abysmal
LB: 3 - The best unit on an otherwise bad defense
CB: 1 - Too young, too green, and not talented enough
S: 1 - See above

Kicking Game: 2 - The kicker can score from close, but the kicker, punter, and coverage teams may not be able to help the Owls with the field position game.
Return Game: 2 - Uncertain what to expect from this unit until the season starts. One thing is for certain, don't expect the Owls to have good field position.

What the Owls need to do to win:
1. QBs need to make good decisions - Whether in the passing game or the option game, the QBs must make the right reads so they don't turn the ball over.
2. Grow up in a hurry - Rice is very inexperienced at key positions
3. Defense and field position - The only way this team can win: Keep it close and win the field position battle.

Projection: 1-10, the only win coming against...

The Skinny: There's experience, and then there's bad experience. The misleading stat here is that SMU returns 22 starters. The problem is, SMU has gone 6-29 under 4 years of Phil Bennett. Not exactly the type of experience you want.

Schedule: They finally remove Texas Tech from the schedule, but add Texas A&M. That Iron Skillet game against TCU isn't going to be pretty either. Of course, When you're only a threat to beat an academic school like Rice, something's wrong.

Positional Ratings
QB: 1 - 3 QBs vying for the position, none are D-I quality
RB: 1 - The team's best rusher Cedrick Dorsey, had only 431 yards and there's not much depth behind him.
WR: 1 - None of the 3 projected starters really have the stats to cause fear in opponents.
TE: 3 - Ryan Kennedy is the Mustangs' best offensive threat, but he can't do it by himself.
OL: 1 - Has experience, but lacks size and talent.

DL: 1 - Their best D-lineman is still hurt and the rest of the unit gave up 209 rush yards/game and 26 rushing touchdowns.
LB: 2 - Alvin Nnabuife is this team's only real playmaker.
CB: 1 - SMU secondary gave up 258 yards/game through the air
S: 3 - Just don't ask them to cover people

Kicking Game: 3 - Chris McMurtray may be this team's only offense. Punter Ryan Metzer averages 40 yards a punt, but kick and punt coverage units give up too much field position.
Return Game: 4 - Blake Warren can create field position for this team.

What the Mustangs need to do to win:
1. Do something, anything on offense - Craig James has used up his eligibility, right?
2. Do something, anything on defense - 450+ yards/game ain't gonna cut it at any level.
3. Fire Phil Bennett - How is this guy still a college football head coach? Does Bennett have dirty pictures of the AD's daughter or info about SMU's recruiting practices? I'm all for giving a coach a chance, but this guy has a grand total of 6 wins in 4 seasons.

Projection: 0-11

Mountain West
The Skinny: TCU went 5-6 last year in Conference USA, but will be moving to the Mountain West this season. This helps them out in 2 areas. One, Most teams in the Mountain West run a
"3-3-5 Stack" defense, and such schemes can be victimized by strong running teams like TCU's run-oriented, ball-control offense. Two, Most Mountain West teams have not seen much of TCU's unusual 4-2-5 defense. Expect them to contend for the conference title in their first MWC season .

Schedule: Aside from a nasty opener against Oklahoma, this schedule seems to favor TCU. Utah, last year's champion, travels to Fort Worth and the only tricky road game seems to be at the extreme high altitude of Wyoming.

Positional Ratings
QB: 4 - Tye Gunn is a game manager with a good arm.
RB: 5 - Lonta Hobbs should be back and healthy enough to challenge New Mexico's DonTrell Moore for the MWC rushing title.
WR: 2 - Beyond Cory Rodgers, this unit is inconsistent.
TE: 4 - Chad Andrus is a blocking and receiving threat, Brett Hecht could be a great blocker.
OL: 3 - Starting 5 solid, if a little undersized, reserves not so good.

DL: 4 - Deep, Talented, and Experienced
LB: 3 - Inexperienced, but promising group led by Andrew Ward.
ROV: 4 - Young, talented group that will be asked to handle a lot of responsibility
CB: 3 - Quincy Butler solidifies one corner. Other corner will depend on Drew Coleman's health.
FS: 3 - There's a position battle in between Jeremy Modkins and Elvis Gallegos, but whomever emerges will be decent.

Kicking Game: 4 - Cincinnati tranfer Chris Manfredi brings some consistency to the field goal game.
Return Game: 3 - Cory Rodgers puts up average numbers

What the Horned Frogs need to do to win:
1. Get a consistent pass rush - It's a good secondary, but they can't carry the defense. They need help from the front 6.
2. Run, Hobbs, Run - Establish a solid running game with Lonta Hobbs.
3. Pray for no injuries - if Gunn or one of the O-line goes down, it could ruin TCU's chances

Projection: 9-2, Mountain West Champion

Sun Belt
North Texas
The Skinny: The Mean Green will be the only team to have 2 consecutive NCAA Rushing Champions on the same team. Patrick Cobbs, 2003 rushing champ, returns from a knee injury that allowed Jamario Thomas to capture the 2004 rushing title. The defense went from being Mean Green to just green last year as they were plagued by rookie mistakes, but it should be better this year.

Schedule: They start with LSU, but have winnable non-conference games against Louisiana Tech. They could catch Kansas State napping, if Bill Snyder isn't careful. Key game in conference will be against Middle Tennessee State.

UPDATE 8/31: The LSU game has been postponed by Hurricane Katrina and is in limbo right now because the only date North Texas has open is the same day as the SEC Championship

Positional Ratings
(Reminder: These are relative to the rest of their conference, so any LSU fan reading this should not be sweating this team)
QB: 3 - Joey Byerly has the physical tools, but not the experience.
RB: 5 - What other rating would you give to a unit that features 2 rushing champs.
WR: 4 - Lots of speed, led by Johnny Quinn
TE: 3 - Solid blockers, not necessarily great recievers
OL: 4 - The only question mark is redshirt freshman center Chad Rose, other than that, it's a solid line.

DL: 4 - Experience on one side, youth on the other, but the combination will work.
LB: 5 - This unit excelled late in the year for North Texas.
CB: 2 - Could be a weakness if someone doesn't emerge opposite T.J. Covington
S: 3 - Good hitters, not necessarily good in coverage.

Kicking game: 5 - Nick Bazaldua handles both placekicking and punting duties for North Texas and is the returning 1st team All-Sun Belt Kicker.
Return game: 3 - Quinn and WR Zach Muzzy

What the Mean Green need to do to win:
1. Rush the passer - The front 7 needs to get some heat on the opposing QB to take the heat off the secondary.
2. Emphasize the running backs - If you have to, put both Thomas and Cobbs in the backfield or split one out as a reciever. (Wow, I've been playing way too much NCAA 2006)
3. Get good blocking from the offensive line - Open holes for the backs and keep Byerly upright long enough to throw.

Projection: 8-3, Sun Belt Champions.

I-AA Teams
Sam Houston State
The Skinny: Hard to get a read on this team. They are ranked #16 nationally in I-AA, but picked to finish no better than 4th in the Southland, a conference they were co-champions of last year. The team is led by Texas A&M transfer Dustin Long, who completed 62.7 of his passes for 4,588 yards and 39 touchdowns.

Texas State
The Skinny: The Bobcats are expected to have one of the best ground games in the Southland, are ranked nationally in I-AA for the first time in a while. They are projected to finish second in the Southland by the coaches.

Next: Part 2 - Iowa State, Kansas State, Missouri
Back: Overview