Rumors of Landry Jones’ demise

What to think of Landry Jones?  Entering his fourth season as the starting QB for the Oklahoma Sooners, some think he is a stud QB, while others question which way his arrow is pointing.  Let’s investigate.

In 2009 he was thrown to the wolves as a Freshman after defending Heisman trophy winner (and highest graded quarterback in the history of my database) Sam Bradford was injured in the season opener.  Jones handled himself relatively well and guided the team to an 8-5 record, with four of those losses coming by a touchdown or less.  Things had to get better in 2010 and they did.

In 2010, it was Landry’s show.  Bradford was off to the NFL and the reigns belonged to Mr. Jones (great song).  Oklahoma was back to normal; back in the BCS.

In 2011, the Sooners raced out to an 8-1 start.  They were ranked #5, coming off a bye week, and headed to Waco, Texas to face the buzzy Baylor Bears.  Despite the one loss, they appeared to be in control of their BCS destiny with two of their final three games against topped ranked opponents (Baylor and Oklahoma State).  Things were great in Norman, Oklahoma, except for one thing:  Ryan Broyles tore his ACL in their 9th game of the season.  Those final three regular season games–two against top teams– would be played without stud WR Ryan Broyles.  To understand how profound of a loss this was consider that in 22 games Broyles played with Jones as his QB from September 2010 to November 2011, Broyles caught 214 of Jones’ passes.  Yea!  WOW!  Also, consider that Ryan Broyles is the ALL-TIME-RECEPTIONS-LEADER-IN-NCAA-HISTORY.  Naturally, the Sooners’ offense and Jones tailed off a bit in their last four games without him.

To understand things more concretely, notice the progression of Jones and the Sooner offense from 2009 through 2011, noting the disparity in the 2011 numbers without

2009:  31.1 pts/game.  8 wins. 5 losses.  Landry’s grade in my system: 73.8

2010: 37.2 pts/game. 12 wins. 2 losses. Landry’s grade in my system: 97.9  (anything above a 95 signifies a a potentially elite prospect)

2011: 45.4 pts/game.  8 wins.  1 loss.  Landry’s grade in my system: 102.2  (9 games WITH Broyles)

2011  39.5 pts/game.  10 wins. 3 losses.  Landry’s grade in my system: 87.9  (all 13 games, including 4 without Broyles)

When analyzing Jones’ performance from 2009 to 2010 to–the first nine games of–2011, it’s clear that he was making progress.  As a team, the Sooners were scoring more points, winning more frequently, and Jones was playing increasingly better.  If you isolate Jones’ advanced passing metrics, he made a huge jump across the board from 2009 to 2010.  From 2010 to 2011, the numbers were holding steady except for two things: he was completing a higher % of his passes and completing them further down field, both marks of a maturing player.

Rumors of Landry Jones’ demise are pre-mature.  He has an outstanding track record, has been making notable progress, and has the potential to be an NFL quarterback.  My view of him is unchanged by the last four games of 2011.  Imagine Michael Jordan losing Scottie Pippen.  His play fell off.

NOW, what I’m really interested to see is how he rebounds in 2012.  Through two cupcake games, he has performed as expected.  This Saturday night the bright lights go on and the competition ramps up.  If Landry Jones is the QB I think he is, he will perform phenomenally and begin his march toward becoming a 1st round draft pick next April.

Week 3 recap

Logan Thomas and self doubt

As you have probably seen by now, the Virginia Tech Hokies lost @ Pitt on Saturday by a score of 17-35.  On one hand, this loss was miserable for the Hokies because of how terrible Pitt looked in the first two weeks, losing to both YOUNGSTOWN STATE and Cincinnati.  But, on the other hand, this loss was miserable because of how awful Logan Thomas played.  Many draft ‘experts’ consider Thomas to be one of the five best QB prospects in America.  Having just released my own QB rankings of draft eligible quarterbacks, I couldn’t help but feel a little self doubt with having Logan Thomas ranked so low.  Screw that.  I don’t care how big, athletic, or promising Thomas is, in this game he threw three first half interceptions, played like a total bonehead and was able to lead the Hokies on ONE drive of more than eight plays.  He has a LONG WAY to go as a passer.  Don’t buy the hype (at least not at this point)  Pathetic.

In related news, the Big East showed some life this week.  Pitt, UConn, and Louisville notched solid wins, with Louisville looking especially mean for three quarters.  I guess I’ll have to wait another week to bad mouth the crumbling Big East conference.

So this is a Harvard bar?  I thought there’d be equations and shit on the wall.

Let’s give it up for the smart kids: Stanford, Northwestern, and Cal.

Maybe the biggest story of the day was the Stanford win over USC, knocking off golden boy Matt Barkley and dashing USC’s national championship hopes.  In 2006, the last season pre-Harbaugh, Stanford went 1-11.  The Pac 10 was a high flying conference with an improving national profile on the shoulders of USC, CAL, and Oregon.  The league was perceived to be pass heavy, defense light, and soft.  So what did Jim Harbaugh do?  Look at the direction everyone else was going and do the exact opposite.

First things first, Stanford is an incredible school with elite admission standards.  So?  So my point is that right off the bat, Stanford is playing with a different deck of cards.  They’re going to be limited as to the type of players they can recruit.  Otherworldly athletes who may, or may not, have gotten pushed through life because of their out of classroom abilities aren’t going to cut it in Palo Alto.  So, what does Harbaugh do?  He says “screw the speed game.  Screw finesse and speed and flash.  We are going to be tough.”  He went out and got big, tough, smart players.  Yes, Andrew Luck didn’t hurt, but if you think this is about Andrew Luck then you’re missing the point.  Even WITH Luck they perpetually ran a variation of the goal line offense on EVERY PLAY.  They lined up with two running backs, two or three tight ends, and said “if you’re going to be stupid enough to leave your scrawny, punk cornerbacks on the field, then we’re going to run off-tackle right at them all game every game.  We’re going to outblock you, outtackle you, and out-execute you, and if you can stop it, hats off to you.”

Yea, we’re smarter than you AND we just beat you on the field (Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP)

Contrast this with USC.  The Trojans drops a game like this every year.  Honestly, I think the NFL-like-hype and big city lights go to the heads of these So Cal kids.  If ‘talent’ was all that mattered, few teams in college football would belong on the same field with USC.

There are currently ten teams in BCS conferences who are undefeated and have all three wins against FBS opponents.  Stanford is one of them.  Northwestern is another.  The Cardiac Cats have defeated a Big East team, and SEC team, and an ACC team.  Coach Fitzgerald’s team has now been to four straight bowl games and looks well on their way to a fifth.  At a time when the B1G Ten is taking its lumps and losses, it’s good to see the Northwestern Wildcats doing their part to carry the conference’s banner.

And, finally, the Cal Bears deserve a tip of the cap.  They were 17 point underdogs and went into Columbus for a 9am PST game, and played the Buckeyes right down to the wire.  If not for a missed field goal in the final minutes, the Bears could have pulled a colossal upset.

Speaking of Ohio State

Braxton Miller is not a good QUARTERBACK.  He is a nice football player.  Dare I say, a good halfterback?  Yes, a halfterback.  Part halfback.  Part quarterback.  I have been infinitely amused by Ohio State fans this season who insist on him being a good quarterback.  At first I got annoyed by this, then I took a sort of pity on these Ohio State fans.  The following list represents their idea of a ‘good quarterback’:

  • Terrelle Pryor
  • Troy Smith
  • Craig Krenzel

How are those guys doing in the NFL?  Oh?  Really?  Okay, glad we’re on the same page now.  Braxton Miller is a nice football player in an outstanding scheme.  (see:Denard Robinson)  He should thank his lucky stars that Urban Meyer is his coach and that he has the talent around him that he does.  The sad thing is that I’m not sure who in the B1G Ten has the personnel to slow them down.  The conference is looking more and more like a trainwreck every day.  Is Michigan State going to slow them down?  Maybe, but they’re offense is brutal.  Nebraska?  Meh.  Looks like we’re going to keep hearing the Braxton hype.  Ok, fine.  But, please, don’t call him a “good quarterback.”

Bret Bielema and Gene Chizik are frauds

While we’re on the topic of actual, real-life, outstanding players, let’s talk about two coaches who are getting exposed this season.

Imagine being Gene Chizik.  You lead Iowa State to a resounding 5-19 record in two seasons.  Somehow you career into being named a head coach in the SEC after having failed miserably in the Big12.  You inherit a team that went 5-7 in 2008 with a poor turnover ratio and a bottom feeding offense.  You hire Gus Malzahn, acquire Cam Newton as a JUCO transfer, win three bowls and a national championship and everyone loves you.  Your a genius!  Or are you?  It’s one thing to be a solid 8-5 SEC team.  It’s another thing to hitch your cart to arguably THE BEST offensive mind in college football (Malzahn) and have a once-in-a-generation lightning-in-a-bottle season from Cam Newton.  Now, what is going on?  Newton leaves after 2010 and you slip back to 8-5.  Malzahn leaves after 2011 and your offense putters out of the gate to the tune of 29 points in two games.  In game 3 you get taken to overtime by UL-Monroe.  Now you’re 1-2, have a new offensive scheme (mistake) and are embarking on this schedule: LSU, Arkansas, @ Ole Miss, @ Vandy.  Nobody would be surprised if you are 2-5 in mid-October.  The question is how are you going to pull another rabbit out of your hat?  Or better yet, how much longer can you ride on others’ coattails before people realize what you really are?

“I thought I told you not to share how big of a fraud I am!” (Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP)

Elsewhere, the Downtown Athletic Club has retroactively awarded Russell Wilson the 2011 Heisman trophy.  So far in 2012, sans Wilson, the Badgers have scored 26 points to defeat Northern Iowa by five, 7 points to lose to Oregon State by three, and 16 points to defeat Utah State by two. Yes, Bielema has won 10 games per year in Madison, but in big games–especially ones on the road– the Badgers continue to come up short.  This is a program that grows first round NFL lineman in their back yard.  Yet, this team continues to fatten up at home and run it down everyone’s throat (sorta).  Away from home, they are just 22-17.  If Wisconsin ever wants to truly take their seat at the big boy table, they need to cure their road woes or find a new coach who can.

The Muschamp Connection

Has anyone else noticed how eerily similar Will Muschamp’s current team, the Florida Gators, and Will Muschamp’s old team, the Texas Longhorns are?  Both teams have played for a National Championship in the past five seasons.  However, after sub-par seasons by both in 2010 and 2011 (Florida: 15-11, Texas: 13-12) these teams were waaaay under the radar this season.  In reality, both programs have struggled to find their identity after losing all-time greats Tebow and McCoy after the `09 season.  In 2012, these teams have found their way.  Both teams have elite defenses, anchored by their outstanding defensive lines.  Both teams have sophomore quarterbacks who have struggled to find their way, but look to be on track now.  Both teams have the capability to make a run for the national title. It will be interesting to watch them lean on their defenses and let their young offenses come along.  The true benchmarks will come in the next few weeks.  Florida hosts Kentucky before having a bye week and then hosting LSU.  Texas is off this week then plays @OK State, WVU, then vs Oklahoma at the Red River shootout.  Come October 13, we will have our answer.

In defense of defense.

While watching the Miami RedHawks play Boise State yesterday, it occurred to me how much defensive line play and tackling matter.  The RedHawks repeatedly missed tackles on the edge and got ZERO push with their defensive line.  With Boise, the first defender nearly always made the tackle and the defensive line dictated when on the field.

TAAAACKLEEE!!!

Fastforward to Alabama beating Arkansas 52-0.  For as much as college football has become a score-score-score fest with an ever-increasing love affair with offense, to play championship football still means to dictate with your defensive line and to tackle well.  When I think about Alabama, I continue to be amazed at how their defense keeps them in EVERY GAME.  I got to thinking “how often does their defense allow 10 pts or less?”  So, I went back and looked up the numbers.  Only looking at games played within the confines of the SEC conference since 2007 (Saban’s first year), what follows are the percentage of games in which the defense for these teams held their opponents to 10 or fewer points:

 

  • Alabama (47.7%)  `09 and `11 national champ
  • LSU (27.9%)   `07 national champ… LSU more than doubled their percentage with 2011’s defensive dominance
  • Florida (23.8%)  `08 national champ
  • South Carolina (19.5%)
  • Auburn (14.6%)  `10 national champ
  • Georgia (14.6%)
  • Tennessee (12.2%)
  • Arkansas (7.5%)
  • Mississippi St (7.5%)
  • Vanderbilt (7.5%)
  • Ole Miss (7.5%)
  • Kentucky (2.5%)

Yes, there is more to the picture, like being able to sustain drives, prevent turnovers, and play good special teams.  However, I can’t help but wonder what this means for other teams in the league.  When I think about Arkansas (moreso in the Petrino era) and the new Hugh Freeze era in Oxford, MS, I can’t help but wonder if the fans of these teams falsely put their hopes in high-flying offenses.  After all, it’s the defenses that are winning championships.

New Rule:

I ALMOST understand playing FCS teams in week 1.  However, to be playing FCS teams in week 3 is embarrassing.  Arizona, Clemson, West Virginia, and Oregon, I’m looking at you.  No more than one FCS school per year (ahem, florida state) and you have to play them in week 1 or not at all.

Quarterbacks I love:

Geno Smith (season):  66-75 (88%)  734 yards, 9 TDs, 0 int

Casey Pachall (season): 33-39 (84.6%) 536 yards, 5 TDs, 0 int

Can you hear me now? Good. So you don’t forget who I play for, I shaved it into my head.

What to Watch- 15 September 2012

Keenan Allen (#21) Junior WR, California

12:00PM at Ohio State. ABC/ESPN.

Keenan Allen is the most dominant WR that Jeff Tedford has coached at Cal.  His 2011 season was more dominant than any Desean Jackson recorded and certainly more dominant than other NFL receivers Lavelle Hawkins and Marvin Jones.  Allen’s productivity score of 77 is the best Cal WR season I have in my database.  And get this, he did it as a sophomore.  Now in his Junior season, Keenan Allen is widely considered to be the best WR prospect in the 2014 class.  At noon on Saturday you get to see why.

In 2011 he had 75+ receiving yards in 11 of Cal’s 13 games.  Over the course of the season, his average stat line was  7.5 catches 103 yards and .46 Touchdowns per game.  Pretty impressive.  But get this, when the competition was at its toughest, Allen put together his best games:

@ Washington: 10-197-1TD

@ Oregon: 9-170-1TD

USC: 13-160-0TD

@ Stanford: 6-97-1TD

His averages in those four games against the Pac-12’s best: 9.5 catches, 156 yards,  .75 touchdowns.  Any questions?  While I fully expect the Cal Bears to get annihilated at The ‘Shoe on Saturday, that will provide Keenan Allen with plenty of opportunities to catch passes as his team is playing catch up.

Casey Pachall (#4) Junior QB, TCU

12:00PM at Kansas.  FX.

In 2010 TCU went 13-0 and capped their season with a Rose Bowl win over B1G Ten power Wisconsin.  They were led by Senior QB Andy Dalton who had a phenomenal season and went on to be a RD2 pick of the Cincinnati Bengals and successful rookie starter.  In steps then-Sophomore QB Casey Pachall and what does he do?  Nearly match Dalton’s outstanding season.

Pachall’s 2011 graded as a 107.7 in my system (anything above 95 indicates a potentially elite NFL prospect).  For comparison, Dalton’s 2010 graded as a 115.5, one of the highest grades in my database.  Pachall is my #2 rated QB in America (behind #1 Geno Smith).  He has the size, the arm strength, and the upside to become a Sunday signal caller.  So why should you care about a stinkin’ game against Kansas?  The knock on TCU has been their weak conference.  Well, this week Pachall gets his first shot as a quarterback in the Big12 conference.  Feast your eyes on #4 and see what the buzz is about.  If TCU is to make an immediate splash in their new conference, Pachall will be the key.

(pardon the first 35 seconds, he goes nuts after that)

Bryn Renner (#2), Junior QB, North Carolina

330PM @ Louisville.  ABC/ESPN2.

In 2011 Renner got his opportunity as a Sophomore and excelled.  His 15 touchdown passes in ACC play ranked him third in the conference despite having thrown 70+ fewer passes than #1 Boyd and #2 Glennon.  Overall, his 2011 season graded at 97.3  (anything above 95 indicates a potentially elite prospect).  Not only was he good, but he was consistently good, throwing for at least 2 TDs in ~70% of his games.  As of now, I have Renner as my #6 QB prospect in College Football.

Last year this game was a slugfest, with the Tarheels winning 14-7 over the Cards.  Renner was sacked four times and completed 12-18 for 178 yards and 1TD/0INT.  Expect this year’s game to be a little higher scoring as both Renner and Louisville QB Bridgewater have more experience than they did  last year as first year starters.  Tune in and catch a glimpse at one of the best (and most under the radar) Quarterback prospects in America.

(Notice how well he moves and stays with the play.  Shows off some arm strength in the first 60 seconds too!  Focus on the player, not the competition)

Donte Moncrief (#12), Sophomore WR, Ole Miss

9:00PM vs Texas.  ESPN.

You would probably agree with me that the SEC is the best conference in college football.  Further, you would probably agree with me that teams in the SEC play the best defense in the country.  On the same page?  K, good.  Well if both of those are the case, then you should consider Ole Miss Sophomore WR Donte Moncrief as one of the emerging stud wide receivers in the country.  If we isolated conference games played during the 2011 season, here are the results for SEC wide receivers who hauled in the most touchdown receptions against SEC defenses:

  • Jarius Wright- 6 TD (2012 NFL Draft, Rd 4 pick, Minnesota Vikings)
  • Alshon Jeffery- 5 TD (2012 NFL Draft, Rd 2 pick, Chicago Bears)
  • Rueben Randle- 5 TD (2012 NFL Draft, Rd 2 pick, NY Giants
  • Donte Moncrief- 4TD
  • Jordan Matthews- 4 TD  (one of the best JR Wide Receivers in America)
  • Tavarres King- 4 TD  (one of the top SR Wide Receivers)

Pretty impressive list, right?  Let’s continue.  Within the context of Ole Miss’ anemic 2011 passing offense, Moncrief put up a productivity score of 69, which ranks second of any Rebel WR in the past decade and surpasses any productivity grade that Mike Wallace posted during his college days. With a new head coach, Hugh Freeze, the Rebels are speeding up and spreading out their offense.  Through his first two games, Moncrief has tallied stat lines of 8-104-1TD and 3-72-1TD.  With the Rebels expected to play from behind against Texas, expect Donte Moncrief to have plenty of opportunities to catch passes on Saturday night.

Check out this quick ESPN video of a nice Moncrief catch from 2011!

Week 2 recap

John L. Smith, perpetual train wreck

At the end of last season Arkansas was a hot team with an emerging star QB and the potential to contend for an SEC and National Title in 2012.  Then, John L. Smith happened.  In the wake of former coach Bobby Petrino’s motor cycle accident and discovery of an extramarital affair, Smith was promoted to head coach as the Razorbacks had few other options in April.  Long time college football fans will remember Smith as the Michigan State head coach from 2003-2006.  His teams were notorious for their late season collapses and after three straight losing seasons, Smith was dismissed in 2006.

So what was my first clue that he IS NOT made to coach in big games and pressure filled environments? Check out his teams’ records in games played after November 1:

2003: 1-4

2004: 1-3

2005: 0-3

2006: 0-3

Total:  2-13

On Saturday night the #8 ranked Arkansas Razorbacks lost AT HOME to Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks in overtime  34-31.  In the last two seasons, Arkansas won 21 games compared to only 5 losses, one of the best records in America.  By comparison, ULM has gone 9-15 in the past two seasons.  Before pulling this upset, ULM had the following results against BCS teams in Coach Berry’s two seasons:

2010:  24 pt loss to Arkansas

2010: 49 pt loss to Auburn

2010:  51 pt loss to LSU

2011: 34 pt loss to FSU

2011: 21 pt loss to TCU*

2011: 28 pt loss to Iowa

POOF!  Out of nowhere, after having not been within three touchdowns of a BCS conference team before, they pull the outright upset.  Is Bobby Petrino that amazing of a coach?  Maybe.  Probably.  But, on this night, the story was about a national champion hopeful losing a game, losing their edge, and further proving the incompetence of John L. Smith.

The Florida Gators would like your attention

Some years the national champion is a team that is highly regarded from week 1 and dominates throughout the season en route to their title.  Other years the eventual champion strings together wins, has timely clutch plays, and seems to have a magical way of getting the job done.  (See: 2010 Auburn.  2002 Ohio St.)  I get the sense that this 2012 Florida Gators team just might fall into that category of teams that find a way to win.

Last weekend in College Station the Gators crashed Texas A&M’s SEC-welcome-party.  After falling behind 17-7 in the first half, Florida grinded their way to a 20-17 win, playing excellent defense and making pointed half time adjustments.  They have settled on a quarterback and will be able to rely on their defense to keep them in games.  If they can get past an emerging Tennessee team on Rocky Top this weekend, the Gators have only one true road game between games 4-11.  This is an early story to keep an eye on.

Hear that?

That’s the sound of Texas and Iowa State off to solid (and eerily quiet) 2-0 starts.  For the Longhorns, the early success is expected and yawned about.  However, after going a combined 13-12 in the last two seasons, it’s encouraging to see them win like their supposed to against two respectable mountain west foes.  In eight quarters of football played, Texas has pitched a shutout in six of them.  They’ve turned the ball over only once and have run the ball well.  This week they play @ Ole Miss  (9:15pm ESPN) in what should be a solid opportunity for them to truly demonstrate their progress.

Iowa State on the other hand… (wait, seriously am I writing about Iowa State?)  The Cyclones are off to a 2-0 start with solid wins over Tulsa and Iowa.  Yes, those two programs might not be up to past performance, but they are two teams that I think Iowa State would have been thrilled to beat in recent years.  With those two wins under their belt, they get Western Illinois and Texas Tech at home (sandwiched around a bye week) to close out September, meaning that the Cyclones could enter October at 4-0.  The strong start coupled with two bowl games in the past three seasons and last year’s upset of OK State leads me to believe that Coach Rhoads has this program quietly going in the right direction.

The B1G Ten’s black eye

Penn State loses at Virginia… and boy did they ever LOSE that one

Iowa loses at home to Iowa State

Purdue loses at Notre Dame

Wisconsin loses at Oregon State

Nebraska loses at UCLA

Illinois loses at Arizona State

Ohio State lets Central Florida hang around

Michigan darn near loses to Air Force

Pretty brutal weekend for the B1G Ten, I’d say… But, hey, at least Northwestern beat Vanderbilt!  The conference isn’t doing itself any favors to shake the perception that the B1G Ten is behind the times.

PAC12 up and PAC12 down

HOORAY!  Arizona State, Arizona, UCLA, and Oregon State all pulled off big time wins against strong non-conference foes!  The PAC12 is king!  Call your friends!  Post to your facebook!  The PAC12 is back!!!!

Actually… hold on a second… what’s that?… everything isn’t peachy in the Pacific?

The  Colorado Buffaloes got beat at home by Sacramento State.  (The same Sac. State team that lost by 30 at NEW MEXICO STATE in week 1.  NEW MEXICO STATE!)  How?

The Utah Utes saw their 12 game win streak against Utah State come to an end over the weekend.

The Cal Bears held a measly 20-17 lead over FCS Southern Utah entering the fourth quarter of their game.  Hey, Bears, good luck with that noon EST kickoff next week against Ohio State.

Finally, the Washington Huskies got annihilated by 38 against LSU.  No shame in losing on the bayou.  Lots of shame in losing by more points than North Texas did in week 1.

That void in your college football weekend?

Geno Smith had a bye week.  Don’t worry.  When he plays, you will hear about it.

That’s what caught my eye in week 2!  What about you?

What to watch- 8 September 2012

Robert Woods (#2), Junior WR, USC

3:30pm vs Syracuse.  ABC/ESPN2

Woods showed potential as a freshman, recording 65 catches for 792 yards and 6 touchdowns.  Not bad for his debut season in the Pac-12.  In 2011, as a sophomore, Woods became a star as he hauled in 111 balls for 1292 yards and 15 touchdowns.  Despite his smaller 6’1” 190lb frame, Woods is a dominant force in the red zone.  His 15 TDs last season ranked behind Dwayne Jarrett and Mike Williams (16TDs each) as the most outstanding endzone threats in the past decade of USC football.  His productivity score of 75 puts him on par with the best USC receivers in history.  While Marquis Lee stole the spotlight with last week’s big game, Woods still hauled in 2 TDs.  In his Junior season, playing on one of the best teams in America and with one of the best QBs in the country, Woods should became a household name, especially on the east coast, and a top NFL draft prospect.  Watch him today as the Trojans play Syracuse at MetLife stadium in NJ.

Keith Price (#17), Junior QB, Washington

7:00pm @ LSU.  ESPN.

Lost in the Luck/Barkeley love affair of 2011, Keith Price quietly had one of the best seasons in the country.  In my system, Barkeley’s season graded a 106.7 compared to Price’s 106.1  (a grade above 95 signifies an elite QB prospect).  He is probably a little too short to be a high draft pick, but he’s still young, so who knows whether he still could grow.  On the field, Price is electric.  In the 13 games that Washington played last year, Price threw for 3+ TDs on 8 occasions.  In his last game of 2011, a bowl game against Baylor/RG3, Price threw for 4 TDs and ran for 3TDs.   Tonight, the Price-led Huskies head to LSU.  As a practical matter, LSU should dominate Washington.  UW lost their top 2WRs, top RB, and several key O-lineman from the 2011 team.  While I expect the score to be ugly, Price should entertain as he attempts to single handedly keep the Huskies in the game.  In the long run, for Price to emerge as a top QB in year-2 as a starter.

James Franklin (#1), Junior QB, Missouri

7:45pm vs Georgia. ESPN2.

In Missouri’s first conference game as a member of the SEC, the Tigers welcome the Georgia Bulldogs to town.  As an NFL prospect, I’m higher on Georgia QB Aaron Murray, but Mizzou’s QB isn’t far behind and has an opportunity to make a splash tonight.

In 2011, Franklin’s season graded as an 89.9 passer (a score of 95 indicates an elite QB prospect).  In seven of Missouri’s 2011 games, Franklin threw for 2+ TDs which bodes well for his development.  Perhaps more interestingly, is that Franklin also RAN for 50+ in 8/13 Missouri games.  Tonight, Franklin will throw to the highly productive TJ Moe and #1recruit, freshman WR, Dorial Green-Beckham.  If  the Tigers are to pull the upset, the Junior QB will attack with his arm and his legs.  Look for his star to rise in the primetime spotlight.

Bandwagons I’m driving in 2012

Part 1 of my 2012 preview focused on three of the most interesting story lines for the 2012 season.  In this article, I’ll dig into the bandwagons I’m driving for the 2012 season.

Georgia Tech will be sneaky good

In eight of the last nine seasons Paul Johnson teams have won 8+ games.  Last year the Ramblin Wreck jumped out to a 6-0 start before losing five games down the stretch, including two games by a field goal.  The good news about 2011 is that their offense was the best of the Paul Johnson era, averaging 34.3 points and 459 yards per game.  In 2012, things should only be better with 4/5 offensive lineman, their quarterback, and their top two running backs all returning.  The defense has been headed in the right direction the last two seasons under DC Al Groh and if year 3 can show another improvement, the Yellow Jackets could contend.  The keys to the season will be Sep-3 @ VT and Nov-10 @ UNC.  Win one of those games and they’ll likely be playing for the ACC crown.  LOVE THE TRIPLE OPTION!

The Florida Gators are underrated

From 2005 to 2009 the Florida Gators had this pretty nifty guy coach their team.  I think he won two national championships with quarterbacks like Chris Leak and…. what’s his name? That guy that prayed a lot… at the helm.  Gosh, whatever happened to that coach?  You know, the one with the two last names?  In any case, whoever he was, he was a good recruiter.  From 2007 to 2010, the Gators recruiting classes were ranked 2nd, 5th, 6th, and 3rd.  Translation: the Gators have talent!  But what else?  Second year coach Will Muschamp was at one time so highly regarded as to be named the heir to the Mack Brown/Texas throne.  Instead, he ended up with the head coaching gig at Florida.  Year 1 was a mess of turnovers and a revolving door of quarterbacks.  Meanwhile, the defense was fifth best in the conference and returns nearly their entire 2-deep.  If newly acquired offensive coordinator (Brent Pease who was at Boise State last year) can develop one of their two excellent QB prospects, the Gators have the upside to win the SEC East and contend for the national title.

The Ohio Bobcats could go 13-0

The Fighting Frank Solichs have won at least 8 games in each of the last three seasons.  Last season they broke through two meaningful ceilings; winning their first bowl game and winning 10 games.  Looking at this year’s squad, they’re led by JR QB Tyler Tettleton whose stature, athleticism, and passing ability will remind you of Russell Wilson.  He graded out very highly in my system.

(pardon the idiotic voiceover, but there are a few nice clips to show his style of play)

On defense they get 10 of their top 12 tacklers back.     Keep a close eye as this team travels to Happy Valley to take on Penn State on September 1st.  If they can pull the upset there, the next biggest road block would be their October 27th in Oxford, Ohio against the Miami Redhawks and….

Zac Dysert, Senior QB, Miami University, will become a hot NFL prospect

Dysert, who is just 2,300 yards from becoming Miami’s all-time passing leader, has great potential.  In 2011, he carried the Redhawks in their toughest games, averaging more than 40 pass attempts per game while maintaining a lofty 91.6 rating in my system (a 95 rating would indicate an elite NFL prospect).  Through a historical lens, the small group of players who threw ~40 passes per games in their toughest games and posted a rating in the 90+ range would include Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and, you guessed it, Zac Dysert.  Yea… I went there.  The last few years the Miami offensive line has been a disaster, allowing 47 sacks per season.  The offensive line returns 4/5 starters this year and we should see Dysert’s star continue to rise if they can give him more time to operate.  He will face Ohio State right out of the gate, so it will be interesting to see what he’s got.

Geno Smith will win the Heisman trophy.

My admiration for Geno Smith is well documented by now.  To use a baseball analogy, Geno has five ‘tools’ or factors working for him.  He has great pocket presence.  He completes a lot of passes.  He can throw it deep.  He can run.  And, finally, he has media upside.  Here’s what I mean.  With West Virginia moving the the Big 12, Geno will have a much bigger stage on which to display his talents.  To that same end, the quality of the Big 12 will lend itself to WVU playing in high scoring back-and-forth games.  Unlike the Big East where the Mountaineers can run and hide from teams, the Big 12 will bring out his best every week.  Another bright spot is the fact that Geno is in year two of Dana Holgorsen’s air raid offense, which means that last season was only a sneak preview.  If things can be better than they were in 2011, Geno will be the star of the 2012 season and walk away with the Heisman.

Year 3 of the Derek Dooley era

It’s strange to think that TENNESSEE has won 5, 7, 6, and 5 games in the past four seasons.  Don’t they realize that… they’re TENNESSEE.  So here we are in 2012, which is year three of the Derek Dooley era.  I’m expecting that this is the year that either cements Dooley as the long term head coach of the future for Tennessee, or makes people around Knoxville do some major soul searching.  Here’s why I’ll count on the Vols having success.  1)  Tyler Bray, when healthy, was great in his first two seasons.  As a junior, Bray should continue his ascent toward top NFL QB Prospect.  His chances of staying healthy and productive are dramatically improved considering that the O-Line has 105 career starts and returns intact.  The defense, which ranked 7th in the SEC last season, returns 13/15 top tacklers.  The two games to watch will be when Tennessee hosts Florida (Sep-15) and Alabama (Oct-20).  Look for the Vols to return to relevance, if not prominence, in 2012.

Casey Pachall is really good…. and straight out of a 90s football movie

In 2010 the TCU Horned Frogs won the Rose Bowl behind great play from Andy Dalton.  Dalton, one of the ten best QB prospects in the past 15 years according to my system, was going to be really hard to replace, right?  Not so fast my friend.  In stepped Casey Pachall, who led TCU to an 11-2 season with their two losses coming by a combined 9 points.  Pachall’s 2011 season graded at 107.7 (a score above 95 indicates an elite QB prospect) which places him a fraction above Matt Barkley in my system.  So the guy can pass, no doubt.   But here’s where things get interesting.

Pachall seems like a character straight out of the 1990’s college football movie “The Program.”  Over the offseason, Pachall failed a drug test and admitted to trying ecstasy and cocaine.  He has tattoos covering his body.  His hair hangs out the back of his helmet.  He seems like something straight off a Hollywood set.  Because of his transgressions, his image has been taken off everything associated with TCU’s athletic department advertising.  Here’s the thing, though, if Pachall can keep his demons under wraps, and use this embarrassment as motivation to succeed, he literally could be the best QB in the country and a new star of the Big 12 conference.  Either way, he will be an interesting story to follow.

(pardon the first 30 seconds.  He lights up Boise for 473 yards after the ugly start)

Oklahoma State is an elite program

Honestly, I don’t care that Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon graduated.  Yes, they were quite good, but it’s time for us to collectively realize that OK State deserves a seat at the big boy table.  After going 23-3 in the last two seasons, do you really think they’re just going to snooze through the season?  They return 17 of their top 20 tacklers and, strangely, should be carried by their defense in the early going.  The schedule sets up nicely for true freshman QB Wes Lunt to get acclimated before Big 12 play starts on Sep-29.  To make matters better, the run game should be strong behind 1200 yard- 24 TD man Joseph Randle.  Ultimately, as long as Mike Gundy is at the helm, I believe the OK State program will be a fixture in the national top 20.  Don’t be surprised if another 10 win season is in the offering.

Texas Tech is going to get somebody.  

Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Texas all play in Lubbock this year.  At least one of them will be upset.  You’ve been warned.

Shhhh.  Be quiet.  Everybody is sleeping (on Nebraska).

If I asked you about the most significant newsworthy events in the B1G 10 over the last year, you might say:  Russell Wilson stole the show in Madison.  Urban Meyer was hired by Ohio State.  Penn State went up in smoke.  Michigan is back under Brady Hoke.  Michigan State won the two of the most exciting games of the 2011 college football season.  And, honestly, you would have every right to bring up these things because they really DID matter.  So if those are all the reasons why nobody is talking about Nebraska, here are the reasons why they should be… For starters, they’re Nebraska, you know, one of the greatest programs of all time.  They won nine games in their first year in a tough conference and have won at least nine in all four seasons under Pelini.  Everyone of note returns on offense.  The defense is senior laden and should  fare better after seeing so many schemes for the first time last season.  Their special teams are annually among the best in the country.  Oh, and they should be ultra-motivated by the fact that two of their last three games were blowout losses.  The schedule is tough, but doable and if things break I could see them going 11-1 in the regular season.

Pac-12 cannibalism will prevent either frontrunner from playing in the National Championship.

USC, of the Pac-12 South, starts the season ranked #1.  Oregon, of the Pac-12 North, starts the season ranked #5.  Got it? K, good.

Oregon has lost SIX games in three years under Chip Kelly.  FOUR of those loses came when their opponent had significant time to prepare and/or the Ducks had significant time to acquire rust– Season Openers of 2009 and 2011 and Bowl Games in 2009 and 2010.  I interpret this to mean that it is damn near impossible to beat Oregon between games 2 and 13, a feat that USC would have to accomplish in 2012 if they want to play for the national championship.  Ain’t gonna happen, folks!  The Ducks have a veteran offensive line and several outstanding playmakers on offense highlights by the black mamba, DeAnthony Thomas.  The defense should be at least as good as last year and the special teams will be fantastic.  Seeing as they are not going to lose to Arkansas St in the season opener, the Ducks should be 8-0 when the play at the Coliseum zon Nov-3.

The Trojans return everyone on offense from a squad that scored 36 points per game last season.  Oh and they add 1200 yard rusher Silas Redd from Penn State.  The defense returns 14 of their top 18 tacklers.  This team went 10-2 last year, won @ Oregon and were one of the hottest teams in America come bowl season.  One problem, NCAA sanctions kept them out of a bowl game.  So in 2012 they are hungry to get back to the postseason, ready to dominate, and are capable of doing so.  So what’s the problem?  For starters, USC has a tradition of laying eggs in Pac 12 road games.  2011 they lost at Arizona State.  2010 they were crushed in Corvallis.  2009 they were upset in Seattle.  You get the idea.  This season they go on the road at Utah, at Washington, and UCLA.

(highlights from 2011 USC @ Oregon, one of the best games of the year)

So here’s how this is going to play out.  The Ducks and Trojans are going to split the regular season matchup and the Pac-12 championship game, where they will almost assuredly represent their divisions.  If I HAD to pick one team to win both potential matchups, I’d actually go with the Ducks.  I’ll guess they offset each other and both have at least one loss, which means they’ll get passed over for the BCS Championship game by…

The Oklahoma Sooners will go undefeated and play in the National Championship.

Imagine being Landy Jones.  You get thrown to the wolves in 2009 after Sam Bradford’s injury.  In 2010, your first full year as a starter, you come within 3 passing yards of breaking Bradford’s passing record.  In 2011, you play phenomenally for 9 games, lose your all-time-NCAA-leading WR Ryan Broyles to injury,  lose two out of three games to close the regular season, get doubted, and then passed for preseason 1st team honors.  If I’m Landy Jones, I have a colossal chip on my shoulder.  So, besides an ultra motivated Landy Jones, what else do the Sooners have?  All five of their offensive lineman returning.  The top three running backs from 2011 returning.  A defense that is perennially loaded with NFL talent.  And most importantly, a BCS grade pedigree, having played in four BCS games in the past six seasons.  Outside the annual Red River shootout, the schedule is fantastic.  The November games @ WVU and @ TCU could be landmines, but both those teams will probably be running on fumes by then.  Put me down for a 12-0 season for the Sooners and a trip to the BCS National Championship game.

The Georgia Bulldogs will win the National Championship.

The Bulldogs are an interesting team.  In 2011 they opened with back to back losses and fell off everyone’s radar.  After that, they won 10 straight games and by the time everyone realized “this Georgia team might be pretty good” they lost the SEC championship by a wide margin and then lost their bowl game.  Two straight losses to end a season?  Sounds like motivation to me.

The obvious story is Junior Quarterback Aaron Murray who is in his third year as a starter.  Last year, the offense sped things up and led the SEC in plays run, running more than 120 more plays than the next highest team.  In year two of this fast-paced system, things should be better for everyone.  Murray’s 2011 season grades similarly to Matt Stafford’s final season at Georgia, which is a scary thought considering that he should only be BETTER this year.

The defense is another good indicator.  Under DC Todd Grantham, the defense has made two strong improvements between 2009 & 2010 and then 2010 & 2011.  Can they make another jump in 2012?  They return 12/13 top tacklers from a defense that ranked in the top 10 in America last year.

(an AWESOME defensive highlight real, for a change, and a killer soundtrack)

Add it all together and you’ve got an outstanding QB leading a talented, fast-paced offense who will build leads, and a frighteningly good defense who will be more than capable of creating havoc for opposing offenses.  The cherry on top?  The won’t have to play LSU or Alabama until the SEC title game.

Book it:  the 2012-13 College Football National Champion will be the Georgia Bulldogs.

Check back throughout the season for more CFT articles.  Enjoy!

What to watch- 31 August 2012

Night 2 of the 2012 season.

North Carolina State vs Tennessee (in Atlanta) ESPNU 7:30 EST

Tonight’s game will be a first look at two solid QB prospects.  Based on my 2011 passing ratings, I have them ranked similarly in my QB prospect grades for the 2013 NFL draft.  Tyler Bray, JR, (Tennessee) is ranked 8th.  Mike Glennon, SR, (NC State) is ranked 9th.  Now let’s get into the analysis.

Tyler Bray-   Bray took over the starting QB job about halfway through his freshman season in 2010.  In his first ten games after assuming the starting gig from Matt Simms, (November 2010-October 2011) Bray averaged 312 yards per game, 3 TDs, .9 INts, while completing passes at a 61.1%.  At that point–October 2011– he was injured and played in only 2 of UT’s final 7 games.  Tyler’s performance over this time earned his a score of 91.4 in my evaluation system (a score above 95 indicates an elite NFL prospect).  His numbers compare favorably to Matt Ryan’s final season at Boston College and his 6′ 4” frame will further that comparison.

The following video highlights his play from his last game prior to the 2011 injury.

Mike Glennon-  Glennon came to NCSU as a top high school recruit, but  Russell Wilson’s rise to stardom kept Glennon on the bench for two seasons.  In 2011 he started for the first time as a Junior and led the Wolfpack to an 8-5 record including a bowl win.  In my passer ratings his 2011 season grades a tick above Christian Ponder’s senior season, grading out with a 90.4 (a score above 95 indicates an elite NFL prospect).  As we look ahead to his senior season, Glennon has the potential to become a hot NFL prospect.  He has a young WR corp to work with, but behind a veteran offensive line, a quarterback of his stature should bring out the best in his receivers.  Tonight it will be interesting to see how Glennon fairs in his first game against an SEC defense.

The following video highlight is from his game against Clemson in 2011, arguably the best team he faced.

Boise St @ Michigan St, ESPN 8pm EST

Over the years there have consistently been two things that impress me about Boise.  First, is how physical they are compared to the common misconception of them being a finesse team from a weak conference.  Exhibit A: Defeated Georgia in 2011.  Exhibit B: Defeated Virginia Tech in 2010.  Second, I am always impressed by how prepared and efficient they are.  This team executes every time they take the field.  Now, the question tonight will be whether or not they can be physical and prepared with 15 new starters on the field after being hit hard by graduation.

For Michigan State, this is a program on the rise with increasing expectations and little resemblance to the mentally weak teams of the John L. Smith era.  Here’s what I am looking for tonight; how will their new QB handle the reigns he has inherited?  Can the defense, which is supposed to be a strength, overcome any mistakes or tough situations created by the offense.  MSU is a team ready to win a B1G 10 championship.  The balance of trusting their QB and relying on their defense will be interesting to watch.