Who to Watch: Texas Tech v. Minnesota (Texas Bowl)

Stay tuned for must-see prospects from every game of the bowl season.

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas

Friday, December 28, 9:00pm EST

ESPN

The Curious Case of Darrin Moore.

Texas Tech

Darrin Moore, #14, Senior, WR

In 2008 a highly regarded quarterback transferred away from Gainesville and found a home in Texas at Blinn College.  That player would lead Blinn to the 2009 Junior College National Championship, before transferring to Auburn, leading the Tigers to a National Championship, being drafted #1, and winning Rookie of the Year.  His name?  Cam Newton.  But who would have thought that another player from that 2009 Blinn team would reappear on our radar?

Darrin Moore was a pass catcher for Cam Newton as a freshman at Blinn college, hauling in 37 passes for 559 yards and 3 TDs, all of which ranked second on the team.  He joined the Texas Tech Red Raiders for the 2010 season and has gradually increased his role before going bonkers in 2012.

His average stat line in 2012:  7.4 receptions, 86 yards, 1.2 TDs.

Even better, I love the fact that his production increased as the season went on…

  • September (4 games)  15 receptions,  142 yards,  4 TDs
  • October (4 games)  28 receptions,  298 yards,  4 TDs
  • November (4 games)  38 receptions,  508 yards, 5 TDs

All told, his 13 touchdowns in a single season is an achievement that less than 3% of all college wide receivers will ever accomplish!

Let’s revisit that 1.2 touchdowns per game number.  It trails only Stedman Bailey and DeAndre Hopkins for the best rate in all of College Football. For a historical perspective, that 1.2 number is in a class with what Sidney Rice, Roddy White, Braylon Edwards did in their college years.  Yes, really.

MINDBOGGLINGLY, NFL Draft Scout has him ranked as the 83rd best WR in the senior class… not the 83rd best in the country… the 83rd best SENIOR.  Seriously?  What is wrong with you people?  How is a 6′ 4”  215lb  Wide Receiver with these type of open field skills ranked so low?  In the first 60 seconds you’ll see why this is so preposterous…

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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!

Storylines of 2012

It’s been 234 days since the Alabama Crimson Tide smothered LSU in the National Championship game.  234 days of wondering, debating, and hope that THIS year will be the year and here we sit on day 1 of the 2012 season.  Before things kick off tonight, it’s time to look at the story lines that will define the season.

The new conference alignments

Changing conferences isn’t easy.  In 2004, three teams made the move from the Big East to the ACC:  Boston College, Miami, and Virginia Tech.  After going 11-2 in 2003, highlighted by an Orange Bowl victory, Miami had high expectations of playing Alpha Dog in the ACC.  Eight seasons in the history books and Miami has never won an ACC title.  Heck, they haven’t even played in an ACC Championship game.  Boston College has been a middle-of-the-pack program.  Meanwhile, Virginia Tech has acclimated beautifully, winning four ACC crowns in eight seasons.

Last year saw Nebraska move from the Big 12 North to the B1G 10.  In 2010, the Huskers won their division and seemed poise to become a B1G Ten bully.  However, year 1 of their new conference saw them finish with the fifth best record in conference play.

Similarly, the Utah Utes were coming of three straight 10+ win seasons in the Mountain West before last season’s move to the Pac-12.  They too were slow to acclimate, finishing in sixth place in the conference.

So, what does it all mean?  As the SEC welcomes Missouri and Texas A&M, I don’t think anyone has high expectations for either of those programs.  For Missouri, a team that is accustomed to win 8+ games every year, I’m interested to see if they can even be bowl eligible this year.  For a team that went 1-5 against Texas and Oklahoma over the past five seasons, what are they going to do when EVERY WEEK it feels like Texas or Oklahoma on the other side?  For Texas A&M, who I think is one of the mentally weakest programs in college football, how are they going to respond in year one with a new coach, new system, new conference, and a VERY real possibility of opening the season 2-5?

Of greater interest to me is the remade Big 12.  As I wrote about yesterday, the Big 12 Conference looks to be on the rise.

Based on my 2011 passer grades, Geno Smith (WVU) and Casey Pachall (TCU) are the two best returning quarterbacks in America (more to come on those grades).  For two programs unaccustomed to facing Big 12 offensive firepower every week, these defenses should be in trouble.  That’s good news for us, though, as Geno and Casey will be pushed every week to put points on the board.  This conference will be fun fun fun, but not as much fun as….

The Pac 12 is going to get REALLY fun this year.

Everyone knows about Oregon and USC.

For a generation intrigued by shiny objects, devoid of an attention span, and with an affinity for ‘swag,’  the Oregon Ducks have consistently put a product on the field that caters to all three needs.

Shiny objects? The Ducks have a multi-colored field, uniforms from outer-space, and playmakers named LaMichael, Jeremiah, or DeAnthony.

Short attention span?  Don’t worry, their high powered, point-a-minute offense snaps the ball every 18 seconds.  You don’t even have time to check the guide button without missing a play.

2009 game at Autzen Stadium, home of the Ducks.

In short, the Oregon Ducks are the kings of college football cool.

Oh yea, and this USC program has some things going for it.  Star quarterback? Check.  Controversial coach?  Check.  2nd biggest media market?  Check.  Ed Orgeron?  Check.  Tranfer star running back?  Check.  You’re smart people.  You’ve seen the buzz.  Now, let’s talk about the fun.

Remove:  Paul Wulff.  Insert:  Mike Leach.  (Washington St)

You’re probably wondering who Paul Wulff even is.  It’s okay.  He went 9-40 in four seasons as Wazzu’s head coach.  You may know the name Mike Leach.  He’s the former Texas Tech head coach, offensive mastermind, lover of pirates, bestselling author, shamer of Adam James by locking him in a closet, purveyor of Michael Crabtree’s fame, and all-around champion of life.  He takes his quirkiness to Pullman, WA. where things should get very interesting with stud WR Marquess Wilson. (By the way, remember when those guys with the Washington State Cougars flags were at EVERY episode of College Gameday for multiple seasons?)

Remove:  Mike Stoops.  Insert:  Rich Rodriguez.  (University of Arizona)

The Mike Stoops thing was okay for a while.  The program was consistently in the middle of the Pac-12 and pulled the occasional upset. But they were never anything special.  (Obligatory Nick-Foles-is-awesome comment)  In steps Rich Rodriguez, the man who ran Michigan’s program into the ground, but did an incredible job at West Virginia.  I honestly think the stage was too big for him at Michigan with too much scrutiny for the system he wanted to implement and the amount of screaming he did at his players.  But, at Arizona he gets back to an offense-happy league.  He’s out of the spotlight.  He inherits a lot of useful pieces.  Most importantly, he brings BCS upside to Tuscon and will certainly keep things interesting.

Besides these two big additions, they add Todd Graham, who had had great success at Rice and  Tulsa, before making a one year pit stop at Pitt.  His teams have always put points on the board.  They also get Jim More Jr. who was the former Falcons head coach before accepting the UCLA job this past offseason.  Overall, you should expect a lot of points, a lot of personality, and a lot of fun out of the Pac 12 over the next few years.

The emerging coaches

They say it takes two or three seasons to really turn a program around.  For the following coaches, there are question marks that need to be answered:

Brian Kelly, year 3, Notre Dame:  At CMU you won 10 games in year 3.  At Cincinnati you won 12 games in year 3.  Show me that you can win double digits in year 3 at Notre Dame and that you have cleansed that program of its Charlie Weis-era softness.

Will Muschamp, year 2, Florida:  Show me why people thought so highly as to make you coach in waiting at Texas.  Show me that you can take that LOADED cupboard that Urban Meyer left for you and do something great with it.

Brady Hoke, year 2, Michigan:  You were the perfect hire;  Michigan roots and a strong coaching record, but enough of a question mark to have a chip on your shoulder.  Show me that Michigan really is back and that your team can hang with the Alabamas of the world.  Show me that you’re going to have the staying power and that the Hoke-Meyer era is going to be my generation’s Bo-Woody rivalry.

Dana Holgorsen, year 2, West Virginia:  Show me how great a coach you are and how great Geno Smith can be.  I’ve already proclaimed Geno to be THE signature player of the 2012 season.  Prove me right.

Derek Dooley, year 3, Tennessee:  Prove to me that you’re going to have staying power and success at Tennessee.  Show me where I can buy some of those awesome orange pants.

Jimbo Fisher, year 3, Florida State:  Show me that you can contend for a national championship with a full, healthy season from EJ Manuel.  Show me that the top of the ACC really can produce a National Champion for the first time since 2001.  Prove to me that I was just a year early with my prediction of your return to dominance.

Lane Kiffin, year 3, USC:  Show me that you can be a great front runner like Pete Carroll.  Show me that this team is as good as everyone says it is.

Skip Holtz, year 3, South Florida:  Show me that South Florida can be mentally and physically tough and that the programs history of mental softness is behind it after last year’s 1-6 finish to the regular season.

David Shaw, year 2, Stanford:  Prove it to me that you are more than just a rider of Luck’s (and Harbaugh’s) coattails.  Prove to me that the offensive  scheme can work without Luck under center.

Don Treadwell, year 2, Miami University:  Show me how good Zac Dysert can be.  Show me that my alma mater can be an annual contender.

Al Golden, year 2, The U:  Moreso than swagger, prove to me that The U still has some game.  Your program has been 0-8 on ACC titles since the conference jump.  Show me something, man!

Tommy Tuberville, year 3, Texas Tech:  Show me that Texas Tech can stay relevant without the offensive gimmicks.  Show me that, with your team returning in tact, that you can be a contender in the Big 12.

Live from Lubbock, Texas!

Stay tuned for my ‘2012 Bandwagons’ article!