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August 2006

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SEC EAST Elite Teams


Offense: As long as Florida has head coach Urban Meyer and QB Chris Leak (2,639 yards and 20 TD's) the offense should be one best in the SEC if not the country. With both of them having a year under their belts together I expect them to improve on (28.6 pts per game ranked 49th nationally) With five returning starters and receiving corps that is so talented and deep led by WR Jemalle Cornelius (Rec 29, 383 yards and 1TD) there is no reason to think that this offense can't do some very special things. They will have to get more in their running game (DeShawn Wynn has been very inconsistent 621 yards and 7 TD's) this season in order for the Gators to make a run at the SEC championship game.

Defense When you think Gators you usually think offense, but not so fast last year’s defense ranked (18th in scoring 18.8 pts per game and 9th in total defense allowing 299.8 yards a game) and should again have one of the nation’s stingiest defenses. With six returning starters, anchored by some strong linebackers (Jr. LB Brandon Siler and Sr LB Earl Everett) the Gators look like a defense that is ready to dominate the SEC.

Who to keep your eye on – WR Conelius Ingram a converted QB has been one of the most impressive players coming out of spring practice. With a 6"4 235lb frame he is very opposing for DB's.



Offense: The biggest question for the Bulldog's offense is how they replace D.J Shockley at QB. They will attempt to do this with third generation Bulldog QB Joe Tereshinski (371 yards and 1 TD) if he struggles early on look for freshman phenom Mattew Stafford to step in. Whoever plays QB will need a playmaker at WR. So. WR Mohamed Massaquoi (38 rec, 505 yards and 2 TD's) will be one the premier possession receivers in the conference, but the Bulldogs will still need a deep threat. Running the ball last year for (143.9 yards per game ranked 52nd nationally) was a big part of the Bulldog offense they will look again to RB Thomas Brown (736 yards and 4 TD's) to be a big part of their offense. If the Bulldogs can find a replacement for D.J Shockley they could find themselves in another SEC championship game.

Defense: The Bulldog defense was top notch last season allowing (16.4 pts per game 8th in the nation) and only (313.5 yards per game 18th in the nation). The Bulldogs held eleven of their opponents to two touchdowns or less in 2005. The only concern for this year’s defense that returns five starters is how do they replace Greg Blue and two other named to the All-SEC team. They will try to this with DE Quntin Moses, a fierce pass rusher that has a NFL upside. If the Bulldog defense can stay healthy they should be one of the nation’s top defenses not only in the SEC but the country. The defense will have to carry the Bulldogs a lot more than it did in past years due to inexperience at the QB position. If this happens look for the Bulldogs to be right among the SEC elite come year’s end.

Who to keep your eye on – QB Mattew Stafford one the most highly regarded freshman QB's in the country. Matthew has cannon for an arm and was by far the best QB of their spring football game.



Offense: First things first the Volunteers re-hired David Cucltliff who mentored Payton and Eli Manning to serve as offensive coordinator. This should help the Volunteer offense gain productivity it once had. Last year’s offense ranked 101 in scoring offense averaging 18.6 pts per game and 9th in total offense. In order for the offense to improve they will have to get better play out of the QB position, gone is last year’s soap opera where Jr Erik Ainge (737 yards and 5 TD's) had to share duties with Rick Claussen. Erik Ainge should have some talented and experienced WR to work with including JR Robert Meachem (29 rec, 383 yards and 2 TD's) who leads the bunch. The one bright spot last year was the running game, RB Arian Foster (879 yards and 5 TD's) ran for over 100 yards in his first five starts. They will need this again to offset a passing game that has struggled in recent seasons.

Defense: The Volunteers lost six of their starting front seven from a year ago, but there is hardly any panic. The Volunteers still return five starters form a defense that was (16th in scoring defense and 18.6 pts per game and 6th in total defense 298.2 yards per game) The Volunteers will rely on a strong secondary (returning all four starters) this season and a strong recruiting class in order to fill the holes in the front seven. If Tennessee wants to compete with the BIG BOYS in the SEC the "D" will have to play at the same level it played at in 2005 to compete in the SEC East.

Who to keep your eye on – QB Erik Ainge came to Tennessee as one of the most highly regarded recruits, gone now is the QB shuffle he should have the reins to himself without someone looking over his shoulder. I look for him to have a big year and for the Volunteers to have bounce back season.



South Carolina – In his first year at South Carolina Steve Spurrier got his new team into a bowl game. Having said this, the offense was not very Spurrier like averaging (23.7 points per game ranked 75th in the nation in scoring and 100th in total offense 315.9 yards per game). Spurrier will look to QB Blake Mitchell who had a excellent spring to spark a lack luster offense and he should have some help with five returning starters on this side of the ball including one of the best WR in the SEC Sidney Rice (70 rec, 1,143 yards and 13 TD's). Replacing four offensive linemen could be tough but if they can take care of that, things look pretty promising for the Gamecocks. In order for the Gamecocks to return to top of the SEC they will have to replace the top seven tacklers from last year’s “D" including early entry Ko Simpson defense will struggle to be as good as last year but should be decent again.

Kentucky – If the fortunes are to change for the Wildcats this season it will start with All – Purpose RB Rafael Little (1,045 yards and 9 TDs and 46 rec and 449 yards). This guy is the Reggie Bush of the SEC. With eight returning starters and four of the five offensive linemen returning the future looks promising for an offense that struggled last year. Road is never easy in the SEC but the Wildcats could sneak up on some people with their very versatile offense. The Wildcats defense figures to be better this season (gave up 34.1 points per game and ranked 107th in scoring and 103rd in total offense) it couldn't get much worse finishing last in every major defensive category. If the Wildcats can stay healthy which was a huge problem last year they should be improved with seven returning starters. They will rely on Jr. LB Wesley Woodyard (82 tackles and 63 solo) to anchor defense that has struggled.

Vanderbilt – Gone is Jay Cutler arguably the greatest player in school history. In is So QB Chris Nickson and boy does he have some BIG shoes to fill, but he will not be alone as he has a group of talented WR's including So. WR (Earl Bennett 79 rec, 876 yards and 9 TD's) and excellent RB behind him (Cassen Jackson – Garrisson 539 yards and 8 TD's) this should help cushion the blow for the young QB. The key for the Commodores offense could be could be how fast the offensive line gels after losing two starters, if they can fill these holes the Commodores offense could be a problem for a few defenses. The Commodores defense struggled last season to put pressure on the passer last season. If there young players show the same amount of improvement as they did last year the Commodores defense could show great improvement. Much of it will depend on how much the offense can sustain drives in order to keep the defense off the field as no defense can spend the whole Saturday afternoon on the field.


SEC WEST Elite Teams


Offense: If the Tigers want to win or share of the SEC West title for the sixth time in seven years they will have to replace a talented group of WR's. (The most productive group in SEC history) Replacing the talented WR's will be big for QB Brandon Cox (2,324 yards and 8 TD's) and his comfort zone. Helping to take some that load off until some of those young wideout's can come along this season will be big play RB Kenny Irons (1,293 yards and 13 TD's). With five starters returning from a group that averaged over (32.2 points per game last season and over 407 in total yards per game). If they can overcome the loss of their top three WR's and couple of losses on the offensive line they should be the same old Tigers. Three yards and a cloud of dust and timely passing is what has helped the Tigers be the elite of the league the past few seasons I don't foresee anything changing there.
Defense: Will Muschamp, Nick Saben's top defensive assistant at LSU takes over the DC position (third DC in as many years for the Tigers) He promises to be more aggressive then the Tigers have been in the past and will certainly have new elements. Changing a defense that ranked (6th overall in scoring defense 15.5 points per game and 19th in total defense 315.3 yards per game) is something that will not need that much tweaking. With six starters returning and none more important then Will Herring (69 tackles, 34 solo) who moves from safety to linebacker this season to help in the run dept the Tigers should have all the key elements on this side of the ball to be one of the elite defenses in the SEC.

Who to keep your eye on – RB Kenny Irons will shoulder much of load this year for the Tigers. I look for him to have huge season and improve on his 13 TD's from a year ago. All- SEC honors could be just around the corner for this explosive RB.



Offense: There has plenty of QB talk around Baton Rouge, is JaMarcus Russell the man. Well the coaches think so and I agree. This guy has won 10 games last year and 14 since 2004. Having said all that QB JaMarcus Russell (2,443 yards and 15 TD's) will be the key to the Tigers offensive success. With both there leading rusher from 2004 (RB Alley Broussard) and 2005 (RB Justin Vincent 488 yards and 5 TD's) injured there are many questions that surround the Tigers running game. Both missed the entire spring with knee injuries and there status the upcoming season is uncertain. They will need there talented receiving core to step up this year after a dismal 2005, if this happens the Tigers could be playing in this year’s SEC Championship game.

Defense: Thanks to some outstanding recruiting over the last few years the Tigers defense has been one of the league’s best. This year defensive strength should be the defensive line even though three starters have moved on. The Tigers secondary is also considered one of the nation’s best, safeties LaRon Landry and Jessie Daniels have been playing regularly for the past four years. The Tigers have five returning players on defense including LB Ali Highsmith (75 tackles, 36 solo). This year’s defense will be hard pressed to match last year’s totals (3rd in scoring 14.2 points per game and 3rd in total defense 266.9 yards per game) If the Tigers can produce the same results as last year or somewhere close they will again be fighting for a league title.

Who to keep your eye on – QB JaMarcus Russell is do for a breakout season this year. He is playing with a chip on his shoulder and word has it around Baton Rouge is that he would like to put all the doubters to rest.



Offense: The Razorbacks have a new OC, Gus Malzahn. He will bring a much more versatile offense (No-Huddle spread offense) to the Razorback fans. Look for the Razorbacks to continue to run the ball which has been there bread and butter over the last few years but mix in the pass a little more than usual. This should really energize an offense that ranked 65th in scoring and 108th passing overall. With ten starters returning Malzahn should have the tools and experience on offensive it takes to handle his new system. This offense will lean on RB Darren McFadden (1,113 yards and 11 TD's) while adjusting to their offensive style. The outlook is good for a team that could really use a boost on the offensive side of the ball.

Defense: Nine starters return from a unit that became solid against the run last year. (35th overall against the run) All the key components are back this season including LB Sam Olajubutu (118 tackles, 69 solo). One of the things the Razorbacks will have to improve on this season is creating turnovers as they ranked 65th in turnover margin last year. The defense will also try to shore up its Achilles heel – giving up the big play. If these two things improve this season should be a banner year for the Razorbacks defense as they look to move themselves up the SEC ladder.

Who to keep your eye on – LB Sam Olajubutu is a monster and a legitimate All-America candidate at 5' 9 he may be undersized but he tracks down ball carriers like animal looking for food. I look for him to have a monster year.



Alabama – Returns nine players on offense and four players on defense from a team that went (10-2) last year. In order for the Crimson Tide to duplicate last year season the offense they will have to become less vanilla. Doing this may be harder than expected with first year starter QB John Parker Wilson. The Crimson Tide will rely on RB Kenneth Darby (1,294 yards and 3 TD's) to take some of the pressure off. The running game will be the strong suit for the Crimson Tide this season with four returning offensive lineman. I Look for the Crimson Tide offense to look to ball control and timely passing in order to as affective as 2005. With back to back No 2 national rankings in total defense the defense will have to rely on a larger collection of first time starters. The linebacking crew will be raw aside from third year starter Juwan Simpson (64 Tackles and 33 solo). In order for the Crimson Tide to have the season they have had the last two some first year starters will have to step up and make major contributions.

Mississippi – Coming off a (3 – 8) season the Rebels look to new offensive coordinator Dan Werner and juco standout QB Brent Schaeffer (Spent time as a Tennessee as a starter in 2004). The Rebel fans have high expectations for their prized signee. If the offense is to improve in 2006 (13.5 points per game 115th in the nation in scoring ) they will have to rely on the arm of Schaeffer and the legs of RB Robert Lane (612 yards and 3 TD's) and hope for the best. The other side of the ball was much better as they only allowed (22.3 points per game 31st nationally) having said all that the will have to replace all four defensive lineman most notable a pair of productive tackles. A pair of four year starters in the secondary (Trumaine McBride and Charles Clark) should help anchor an excellent secondary and give Rebels what they need again to be very good defense.

Mississippi St – For a team that only averaged (13.9 points per game and ranked 113th in the nation in scoring) scoring was a thing that was hard to come by. In order to solve this problem they will look to multi-dimensional QB Michael Henig who knows that the success of the Bulldogs offense begins with him. Henig will need some playmakers to help him out if they are to be successful in 2006. Two likely candidates are Sr. WR Will Prosser (28 rec., 286 yards) and So RB Brandon Thornton (225 yards and 1 TD). One of the biggest surprises last season was the improvement of the defense, which went from last in the SEC in yards to eighth in 2005. The biggest key to why the defense made such a quick turnaround was the play of the defensive line. In order for the Bull, dogs to make a jump in the SEC the defense will again have to step up and play well again.



SEC East

Georgia has a question mark at the QB position and lost three players on the defensive side of the ball to the NFL, however they have a knack for winning football games (close games and games on the road). The Bulldogs will have competition with the Gators and second year coach Urban Meyer. What hurts the Gators is the brutal schedule (road games @ Tenn, @ Auburn, @ Georgia and @ Florida St) and their lack-luster running game. I look for Tennessee to have bounce back year there is just too much talent there for them to be under 500 team and let’s not forget that this is the winningest team in the SEC east over the last decade. South Carolina offense will have to step it up this year in order for Gamecocks compete with the top level teams in the SEC. Kentucky and Vanderbilt wrap up the rest of the east, neither these teams have the talent it takes to push the top four teams in this division . SEC East will come down to a two team race between Georgia and Florida, if Florida can get through there brutal schedule they will have earned the right to play in the SEC Championship game. My pick to win this side of the SEC is the Georgia Bulldogs, a knack for winning games on the road and a top notch defense will keep them in just about every game.

SEC West

LSU looks to be the elite team in the western division, but if they are to win this division they will have to do it on the road. (@ Florida, @ Tennessee, @ Florida and @Arkansas) JaMarcus Russell will determine how far the Tigers go as he goes so do the Tigers. It will be hard to pick against the Tigers after their brutal beating of Miami in last year’s Peach Bowl. Auburn has won 17 of its last 18 conference games and has a favorable schedule this year. Having said that, their defense will not as stout as it was last year and they will have to rely more on their running game with loss the three outstanding receivers. Arkansas has more returning starter then any team in the SEC conference. For Arkansas to make the leap to the elite and compete with the likes of Auburn and LSU their offense must make a quantum leap from where it was a year ago. Installing a new dynamic offense this year can only help an offense that has relied on the run in years past. Alabama will have to retool it's outstanding defense from a year ago that only returns four starters. The good things is that have nine returning starters on offense and look to improve on a offense that was one of the worst in the SEC. Alabama figures to be right in the middle of the pack in the SEC come year’s end. Mississippi and Mississippi State figure to be at the bottom of the league neither of these two teams have the offensive fire power to compete with the big boys in the SEC.







1. LSU


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Football picksAugust 1, 2006

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Big 10
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Southern Cal

Offense: USC lost enough quality players to stock and NFL expansion team. Most teams would be rebuilding but So Cal isn't most teams, especially on offense. They still have a pair of outstanding wide outs Jr WR Dwayne Jarrett (1,274 and 16 TD's) and Sr. WR Steve Smith. The biggest question for the So Cal offense is how they will replace Matt Leinert and Reggie Bush. They will try doing so with a pair of juniors QB John David Booty and RB Chauncey Washington both of them capable of stepping up and making big contributions. The strongest position on offense might be the offensive line with two ALL-Americans (LT Sam Baker and C Ryan Kalil) both of them should make it a lot easier for USC to transition this season and keep the USC tradition of winning going. I look for USC offense to be very productive again this season this is just too much talent on this side of the ball.

Defense: The USC defense suffered an unusual slump last year, something the Pete Carroll is hoping to get turned around. He will attempt to this this with new DC Nick Holt. The cupboard will not be bare with six returning starters. The defensive line look to be one of the strengths for the Trojans led by All -American candidate Jr. DE Lawrence Jackson (10 sacks) and Jr. NT Sedrick Ellis. The linebackers also look very strong with three players that received considerable playing time last season. If the secondary can stay healthy this season they should be one of the best in the Pac 10. If the defense can step it up under new DC the Trojans will be in the hunt for another Pac 10 title.

Player to keep your eye on: This season success will depend allot on the play QB John David Booty. If the former No 1 prep quarterback in America can step up and play at a high level there shouldn't be much of a dip in the Trojans offense.


Offense: The Golden Bears offense ranked 9th in the nation last year in rushing and 26th overall in total offense. You would think HC Jeff Tedford would be happy with such a performance but that was not the case. In the offseason they hired Northwestern Wildcats OC to integrate the spread offense with the Golden Bears power rushing game. With eight starters returning on offense their biggest concern is finding a QB. So Nate Longshore, who won job last season only to break his leg in the season opener against Sacramento State, was listed # 1 coming out of spring ball. Whoever is the starting QB they will rely on RB Marshawn Lynch (1,246 yards and 10 TD's) to carry the load and help take some of the pressure off the passing game. The biggest beneficiaries of the new spread offense could be the talented group of WR's Sophmore DeSean Jackson (601 yards and 7 TD's) and Jr. Robert Jordan. The Golden Bears should again be strong this year on offense and with a little luck might end up winning the Pac 10.

Defense: The defense returns 13 of the top 16 tacklers from a team that led the conference in scoring defense (21.2 points per game 26th in the nation). With defensive line and line-backing corps virtually intact the Golden Bears look again to be loaded on defense. The key to their defense this season is forcing more turnovers and limiting big plays in a conference that in known to have some high powered offenses. If there secondary can step up and if they bring the bend – but – don't – break mentality the Golden Bears defense could carry them to a Pac 10 title.

Player to keep your eye on: RB Marshawn Lynch had a great Sophmore season and will look to put himself among the elite this season when it comes to running backs. A good season will put him in the driver’s seat for the Heisman Trophy for 2007.


Offense: Oregon's offense should be potent with seven starters returning, including all of the offensive line. With a strong group of WR's lead by James Finley (571 yards and 2 TD's) they should be able to spread the field and make a lot of big plays. No team ran more plays per game (83) than Oregon last year. The new rules shaving the times of games will adversely affect Mike Bellotti's up-tempo offense. With a good offensive line that has know how and experience this should allow the Ducks QB 's the time it takes to let its talented skill position players get down the field and make plays. With the Pac-10 going to, nine-game conference schedule, the Ducks will be hard-pressed to compete for the title, but could sneak up on tams if taken lightly.

Defense: The Ducks defense returns five defensive starters, this should allow the defense to return to form (44th in total defense). Their ability to stop the run and pass makes the Ducks defense very valuable in a conference that loaded with offensive talent. The strength of the defense is the LB's, Brent Haberly and Blair Phillips who anchor the defense. The big thing for the Ducks is how they can replace All- American DT Haloti Hgata, who sometime occupied three blockers and DB Aaron Gipson who led the nation in interceptions. There will be some holes to fill here, but with four of the five returning starters being seniors they have the experience they need to be among the league’s top defenses.

Player to keep your eye on: WR James Finley had a breakout year for the Ducks last season as a Jr. He should give the Ducks QB's a go to target that can get down the field. I look for James improve on last year season and be one of the better WR's receivers in the Pac 10.


Offense: There will be NO problems on this side of the ball, they are absolutely loaded. They have two excellent QB's (Rudy Carpenter 2,273 yards and 17TD's) and Sam Keller who started last year before going down with a thumb injury and may start again this year. They also have a ton of talent on the outside and maybe the nation’s top TE Zach Miller. The Sun Devils offense was one of the nation’s best last season (7th in scoring offense 36.8 points per game and 2nd in total offense) and I look for that trend again to stay the same this year. If there is one area they could look to improve in it would be the running game, they will look to talented So. RB Keegan Herring (870 yards and 6 TD's) to shoulder most of the responsibility. The Sun Devils will again be explosive this year 30-40 point games seem to be the norm with this team.

Defense: As good as the offense is they can't get into shoot outs every game; the defense will have to play much better than they did in 2005. Allowing 29.9 points per game (86th in the nation) will have to improve dramatically for the Sun Devils to contend in the Pac 10. They are hoping a trio of defensive line transfers will help make a difference. Making matters even worse is that they will have to replace its best defensive players from last season (LB Dale Robinson and LB Jamar Williams) and both its starting DB's. If there is a bright spot on this side of the ball it is that there are five returning starters with four of them being seniors. Their best defense this season may be their running game if they can get it going and allow their defense to rest the Sun Devils might have a shot of sneaking up some teams.

Player to keep your eye on: QB Sam Keller how does he come back from his thumb injury? Will he be looking over his shoulder this season with Rudy Carpenter waiting in the wings? Sam has the talent to lead the Sun Devils offense and his strong arm is something that will help the Sun Devils push the ball down the field.


Offense: The Cardinals return ten starters on offense, but the offensive line will be the determining factor in the Cardinals success. There's an old Pac-10 adage that says bet on the team with the best senior quarterback. Cardinals may have the Pac 10 QB in Trent Edwards (1,934 yards and 17 TD's). Edwards has some weapons on offense at his disposal with a pair of senior WR's and a senior TE. The offense should be able to step it up this season and improve on their 24.5 pts per game average (71st in the nation) and will also need to improve their running game (110th in the nation) if they are to compete in the Pac 10.

Defense: The Cardinals defense was like sieve in 2005 giving up 30.6 points per game. The defensive line will be the main rebuilding project for 2006, a highly touted recruit (Ekom Udofia) out Scottsdale maybe just what the doctor ordered. The one bright spot was at linebacker with Mike Silvia and Michael Okwo stepped up and made allot of big plays. If the Cardinals can mustard up some "D" this season to help out the offense they may give a few teams some troubles.

Player to keep your eye on: Senior QB Trent Edwards is one the nation’s top QB's and if the offensive line gives him the protections he need he can really carve up a secondary. The big thing with Edwards is keeping him healthy; he has had a history of getting banged up.


Washington State – The Cougars should have one of the highest – scoring units in the Pac 10, led by WR Jason Hill (1,097 yards and 13 TD's) a legitimate All – American candidate. QB Alex Brink (2,891 yards and 24 TD's) know how to get his talented group of WR's the ball , if Brink can cut down the interceptions this season this could good be a big year for the Cougar offense that averaged 33.5 points per game (21st in the nation) and over 489 yards in total offense (8th in the nation). As good as the offense was at scoring points the defense was just as good at giving them up, over 31 points per game (97th in the nation). The good news is the Cougars have seven returning starters including DE Mkristo Bruce (10 sacks) who has a way of getting in the offensive backfield and disrupting plays. A few plays here and a few plays there could help the Cougars propel themselves to the top of the league.

Oregon State – If the Beavers offense is going to be improved this season from last it will be because of the progress of QB Matt Moore (2,711 yards and 11 TD's) has made. With 19 interceptions last season he will have to work on becoming more consistent to give the Beavers a chance in the tough Pac 10. Leaning on the running game this season will also play a big part in the success of the Beavers; luckily they have some good legs to lean on with RB Yvenson Bernard (1,321 yards and 13 TD's). With eight returning starters making a run for a bowl this season is legit possibility. Defense or lack thereof is the side of the ball needs the most improvement. The front seven is undergoing a total makeover and will try increasing their 22 sacks from last season. The Beavers will also have to cut down on the big plays allowed, the Beavers had 56 plays of 25 or more yards and receivers averaged 16.3 yards per catch. If and this is a big " if " defense can step up the Beavers will have a good chance of going bowling at the end of the year.

UCLA – The Bruins were dynamite on offense last year but gone is seven of the eleven offensive starters from a team that averaged over 39 points per game. They will look to strong armed QB Ben Olson (top QB in the country coming out of High School) to show what he can do at quarterback and take the helm of the offense. Replacing RB Maurice Drew will not be easy task either; RB Chris Markey (561 yards and 3 TD's) will try to fill those shoes. We will have to wait and see with the Bruins offense, there is a lot of talent there but unproven. Like most teams in the Pac 10 defense is optional and that is was no different with the Bruins allowing 34.2 points per game (108th in the nation). In the offseason DC Larry Kerr was let go and replaced DeWayne Walker who spent the last nine years working in the NFL. The good news is Walker has six returning starters defense, so there is some experience there. The question is can he get this Bruin defense to gel in a new system. This could be a down year for the Bruins in a strong Pac 10.

Arizona – The Wildcats finished (3 – 8) for the second straight year, but the Wildcats were competitive in all but two games. If the Wildcats are to get over the hump and finish games they will have to be more productive on offense (22.9 points per game 80th in the nation). The good thing for the Wildcats is that they may have found their quarterback Willie Tuitama (1,105 yards and 9 TD's) after taking over the position in game seven of last year, Tuitama pulled off upsets over UCLA and Oregon State in successive weeks. This season Tiutama should have some decent weapons on the outside to throw to WR Mike Thomas (771 yards and 5 TD's) and Syndric Steptoe. The Wildcats could be the surprise team of the Pac 10 if they get their offense going. The Wildcats defense is deep, talented and has speed all over the field. If there offense can stay on the field a little longer this season and give the Wildcat "D" a break every once in a while this defense should be able to do some very special things this season. In a conference that is loaded with good offenses the Wildcats have one of the best defenses, and could allow them to stay in games.

Washington – This team had a rough go it last season under first year coach Ty Willingham. If the rebuilding process is to move forward it will largely depend on the success of QB Isaiah Stanback (2,136 yards and 9 TD's). On the outside looking in this team has talent at the skill positions but has never seemed to put all together. If they get big years out of WR Sonny Shackleford (592 yards and 2 TD's) and RB position which is still up for grabs this team could maybe get to five wins which in the minds of most Huskies fans would be a success. On defense a weak and undersized defensive line has given the Huskies problems in the past, this has allowed opposing QB's to take advantage of the time in the pocket to find wide open receivers down field for big gains. Getting to the QB is goal # 1 for this defense. This could help a secondary that was burned for 3,033 yards and 66% completion rate. It looks to me like another tough year for the Huskies, well there always 2007.

It looks like the conference will come down to USC, California and Arizona State and not exactly in that order. The Trojans are not just going to walk through the conference like they have in years past there is some formidable competition and some offenses with the same amount of fire power to get in track meet with the Trojans. Teams that could sneak up on the top three are Oregon, Washington State both these teams have high powered offense and if there " D " can get a stop here or a stop there they could find themselves upsetting the Trojans , Bears or Sun Devils. This conference should be one of the competitive and fun to watch conferences in the country. If you like high scoring football with little defense then this is the conference for you, games in the 40's are very common. The team that has their defense step up and make plays when they count will be in the driver’s seat to win the Pac 10. The bottom line is how do the Trojans replace all those star players? If they find a way to reload like they have in the past they should be able to win the Pac 10 and maybe the National Championship with some luck.


1. USC


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Football picksAugust 1, 2006

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Big 10
Big 12
Big East


Top Teams


Offense: For the last couple years when you have talked about Ohio State you have thought defense and ball control offense well this year things are about to change. The three headed attack of Smith (2,284 passing yards and 16 TD's)  and Ginn (51 rec 803 rec yards) and Pittman (1,331 rushing yards 7 TD's) should give the Buckeyes one of the most powerful and exciting offenses Big Ten if not the country. They also return three offensive lineman two senior's and a junior which should give them the experience it takes to consistently run the ball when it is cold towards the end of the year when the conference title could be on the line.

Defense: In years past Ohio State has been very strong on defense and very stingy when it comes to giving up points.(Last year only 15.3 points per game) This years unit only returns two starters and is looking to rebuild on the Ohio State tradition. The losses of three starters to the NFL A.J Hawk , Bobby Carpenter  and Anthony Schlegel are big shoes for any team to replace but with a strong pair of defensive tackles coming back (David Patterson and Quinn Pitcock) and a strong recruiting class should give the Buckeyes just enough to get there there powerful offense on the field and fight for the Big Ten title.

Who to keep your eye on – The two Heisman Trophy Candidates QB Troy Smith and WR/KR Ted Ginn Jr these two are explosive and can take over games by themselves.



Offense: Michigan didn't have trouble scoring points last year averaging 28.8 points per game and scoring 20 or more 11 of there 12 games. As long as QB Chad Henne  (2,526 yards and 23 TD's) and RB Mike Hart (662 rushing yards and 4TD's) stay healthy (they have had some trouble with this in the past),  Michigan's offense should be dynamic.  Michigan has always been a run first team and for Michigan to get back to elite level of the Big Ten they will need to improve on there running game (45th in the nation). With six returning offensive players and some big playmakers Michigan has all the offensive tools to bounce back into the Big Ten title.

Defense: Michigan's defense had troubles last year getting off the field at times which is very un-Michigan-like. They gave up 20.3 points per game and in there big games they gave up a bundle (IE – Nebraska 32 pts, Iowa 23 pts, Michigan St 31 pts and Ohio St 25 pts) for Michigan to improve this year on a disappointing season this will have to improve, the good thing is that they have six returning players lead by senior DE LaMarr Woodley who lead the squad with 16 tackles for loss. I look for  Michigan's defense to be greatly improved  there is just to much talent on this side of the ball for this to continue.

Who to keep you eye on – Although he had a disappointing JR season WR Steve Breaston has all the talent in the world to be Michigan next great WR. I look for him to have a breakout season and improve last years performance.



Offense: The Iowa Hawkeye's have the best coach in the Big Ten in Kirk Ferentz which means they always have a chance. There is always a couple things you know with Kirk Ferentz team they always play hard and they always be well coached. Having said that neither Kirk Ferentz or senior QB Drew Tate lead the Hawkeyes to a 2005 Big Ten title as many expected. This wasn't because of lack of offense the Hawkeye's averaged 30pts per game and 432 total offense per game. With seven returning starters on the offensive side of the ball and All – American QB Drew Tate (2,828 yards and 28 TD's) and RB Albert Young (rushing 1,334 yards and 8 TD 's) things look very promising Hawkeye's this year.

Defense: The Hawkeye's pride themselves on defense and this year will be NO different. Last years group was ranked 22nd overall in scoring defense and only gave up on average 20.0 pts per game. This group held Wisconsin to only 19 yards rushing in one game (One of the nations best rushing offenses). The loss of Abdul Hodge and Mike Greenway will leave a considerable void but the tank is hardly empty and with seven returning starters I expect for them to be one of the Big Ten's best units. This group will keep the Hawkeye's in nearly every game this year and could take them to another Big Ten title.

Who to keep you eye on – Big # 87 Senior TE  Scott Chandler he has been Drew Tate favorite target the past couple years. He had 47 rec 552 yards last year and he looks to have a even bigger year as the NFL scouts will be watching as one of the nations best TE's.



Offense: First things first… Bret Bielema has some big shoes to fill taking over Barry Alverez, three Rose Bowl's wins numerous bowl appearances those are not small shoes he will be stepping into. The good things is the tank is not empty with QB John Stocco (2,920 yards and 21 TD's) and BIG # 72 (that LT Joe Thomas) leading the way the offense . Wisconsin always has a good group of lineman and a group of running backs although this year they will be young I expect there should be some talent there as there always has been in the past. (Wisconsin recruits it's self in these two areas) The problem area for Wisconsin could be at the WR position as they have lost there top two WR's and TE from last year and this year group is young and unproven. I look for Wisconsin to open it up a little more this year but don't be mistaken they will still be  3 yards and a cloud of dust offense.

Defense: With everyone healthy, this unit could be the best in the Big Ten. Before you say hold up remember this unit in last year's bowl game limited Auburn to 236 total yards and 10 points which were both well below there season totals.With seven returning starters and very strong defensive line that like to put pressure on the quarterback the sky is the limit for this defense. This side of the ball will decide how far the Badgers go this season. With a more then friendly schedule which includes non-conference opponents like Bowling Green, Western Illinois, and San Diego State this sets up nice for the Badgers to make another run at the Big Ten title.

Who to keep you eye on –  The BIG BOY # 72  LT Joe Thomas this could be the first pick in next April's NFL draft. This guy is man among boys when it come to offensive lineman. Get you pancake counter ready this year because there is going to be a lot of them.



Offense: With All – American candidate QB Drew Stanton and quality skill position people around him the Spartan offense could be dangerous again. This offense goes as Drew Stanton goes, he played well last year at the beginning of the season winning there first four games (knocking off arch rival Notre Dame 44-41) and making himself a heisman trophy candidate only to drop the next three in which he looked terrible. The biggest question this year is which QB are we going to see. He has the set of veteran and proven WR (Matt Trannon and Jerramy Scott)  around him a veteran offensive line to work with. There should be NO excuses for this offense not to score points this season. They are skilled as anyone in the conference, confidence seems to be there biggest enemy.

Defense: The defensive line won't be the weakness it was last year, but it's not yet a strength. The linebackers (David Herron, Kaleb Thornhill and SirDarean Adams) will be the strong suit for the Spartans this year. The question is can the defensive line step up and make plays or will they pushed around like they were last year with only one returning starter on defensive line this could be a trouble spot.. With six returning starters on defense the Spartans hope to improve on last years defense that ranked 77th in scoring and 87th in total defense.

Who to keep you eye on – LB David Herron this guy is a monster in the middle he lead the Spartans defense last year with 65 tackles and 38 being solo. Look for him to anchor a good set of Spartan linebackers. He could be the difference the Spartans are looking for on the defensive side of the ball.



PURDUE – The Boilermakers return seven starters on offense and four starters on defense and look to improve on there 5-6 record from 2005. The big question Boilermakers have is weather QB Curtis Painter can step his play up and become the next Drew Brees, Kyle Horton type QB that fits into Joe Tiller system, if so the offense could be very dangerous with likes of WR Dorient Bryant (80 rec and 960 Yards and 4TD's). Calling  the Boilermakers defense last season a nightmare is not a stretch, as the veteran group went right in the tank allowing 28.1 pts per game and over 430 yards of total offense (Rank 100th in total defense). There "D" or lack there of needs to improve for the Boilermakers to compete with the elite teams in the Big Ten.

PENN STATE –  Coming off one of there best years quite some time (11-1 record and Orange Bowl victory over Florida State 26-23) The Nittany Lions try to retool a team that only returns 4 starters on both sides of the ball. Things will change on offense a little this year with a new starting QB,  (Anthony Morelli)  (gone is the versatile Michael Robinson) but he will have some weapons at his disposal (RB Tony Hunt 1,047 yards and 6 TD's)  and (WR  Deon Butler 37 rec and 691 yards and 9 TD's) the big question will be how fast can Anthony progress in his first year as starting QB. On defense they don't call this school Linebacker U for nothing,  they are loaded with a veteran group linebackers (Paul Posluszny, Tim Shaw and Dan Connor) that lead this talented defense.  The Nittany Lions ranked 12th in total defense and 10th in scoring defense last year, they will be hard pressed to match these totals this year but still look to be very strong in this area again this year.

NORTHWESTERN – The one thing that you know about the Wildcats is that they are going to score points and that there going to throw the ball around the field. They had nations 4th ranked offense last year averaging 500. 3 yards per game and averaged 32.3 points per game. They return six starters on offense led by (RB Tyrell Sutton 1,474 yards and 16 TD's and WR Shaun Herbert 79 rec 862 yards and 6 TD's). The only question on this side of the ball can So. QB C.J Bacher step in for the Big Ten Co-offensive player of the year  (Brett Basanez) and take over were he left off. I imagine there will be a fall off but I still expect this offense to be very productive as it has always been. As many points as the offense scored last year the Wildcat defense gave up more (33.9 pts per game ranked 106th in scoring "D" and 117th in total "D") They hope to turn this around five returning starters and a switch to 3-4 scheme to help to take the pressure off a young line. Lets face it though if the Wildcats are going to do anything this season they are going to have out score people.

INDIANA –  The Hoosiers were nearly outscored by ten points per games last year (ranking 81st in scoring offense and 75th in total offense) They hope to improve on this with the throw and catch tandem of (JR QB Blake Powers 2,305 and 22 TD's and So WR James Hardy 61 rec 893 yards and 10 TD's) The big question mark for the Hoosiers is whether a young , inexperienced offensive line will be able to give Powers enough time to find his receivers down the field, if so the Hoosiers could be a tough foe for Big Ten teams. The word defense didn't apply to the Hoosiers last year giving up 32.8 pts per game (104th overall) and 417.7 yards a game which was (93rd overall) The Hoosiers gave up 38 or more points seven out of the last eight games. This has been the biggest reason the Hoosiers haven't played in a bowl game since 1993. For this to improve they will have rely on a young defense that only returns four starters and a group that nearly gave up 220 yards rushing per game. The one bright spot on defense is the secondary that ranked 35th in passing yards and returns all four starters. It looks like more of the same for the Hoosiers this season, 4 or 5 wins would be a good year.

MINNESOTA – Simply put, the Gopher offense is filled with questions. This is what happens when you lose three All-American's and your top RB Gary Russell (1,130 yards and 18TD's) is surrounded by academic questions. Having said all that this side of the ball still returns six starters which averaged 35.8 pts per game (10th in the nation)  Bryan Cupito 2,530 yards and 19 TD's) which should give the Gopher offense the experience and firepower it needs to compete in the Big Ten. Bottom line the Gophers offense will largely hinge on how QB  Bryan Cupito a fifth-year senior performs. The Gropher defense wasn't good last year giving up 34pts per game to Big Ten opponents and ranked 90th nationally in total defense and it is hard to imagine that this defensive unit is going to be significantly improved. There defensive line is small and there linebackers are some weaker ones in the Big Ten with the exception of John Shevlin. The offense will have to outscore people this year in order for the Gophers to make a move to the top of the Big Ten.

ILLINOIS – When you are ranked 107th in scoring offense and 115th in total defense you can only imagine that you didn't have a very good season. The good news is that they return nine starters on both sides of the ball and non-conference schedule includes the likes of Ohio, Eastern Illinois and Rutgers which are all winnable games. For this team to improve on offense the offensive line has to improve after being shuffled around all of last year and never had a chance to grow together. In order for Sr. QB Tim Brasic (1,979 yards and 11TD's) to be the player he can be the young pair WR (Kyle Hudson and Derrick McPhearson) will have to step up and live up to there potential. The Fighting Illini will look to improve on the 17pts per game average and two win season. After the Fighting Illini  finished last in the nation in rushing defense (117th) and second to last in scoring defense (115th) giving up nearly forty points per game (39.6 pts per game) out went defensive coordinator Mike Mallory and in came former Colorado assistant Vince Okruch.  Okruch will have the luxury of having nine returning starters which should help improve on the nations worst defense. Also look for the off-season gains in the weight room to really help this side ball out.



Can Ohio State overcome the loss of nine defensive starters, six of whom were selected in the first four rounds of the NFL draft? This is a big question but with QB Troy Smith and a loaded offense this should be make it easier to overcome. I expect the Buckeyes to be right around the top of the Big Ten come November. A few other teams could give the Buckeyes some trouble this year and fight for the Big Ten title. Michigan lost five games for the first time in two decades, but in four of those losses the Wolverines forgot to close the back door. With a strong offense and a improved defense Michigan could be right there again fighting for a league championship. Iowa loses a couple of great linebackers but there is one you know about the Hawkeye's they will not be out-coached and they have a very favorable schedule. Michigan State QB Drew Stanton is one of the league's best players and has the offensive talent to propel his team to the top but they will need to address their penchant for late season swoons. Wisconsin always has a knack for hanging around the top of the conference with good defense and ball control offense. When it is all said and done I think Ohio State will be walking off with the Big Ten title but the conference should be one of the best in the country from top to bottom and should make for a very interesting year.



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BIG EAST Elite Teams


OFFENSE: Coming off a (9 – 3) season with six starters returning on both sides of the ball the expectations are high for the Cardinals this season, they aren't just thinking Big East Championship they are thinking National Championship. This all starts with the QB and Big East Offensive Player of the Year Brian Brohm (2,883 yards and 19 TD's) and dual purpose back Michael Bush (1,143 yards and 23 TD's and 21 rec, 253 yards). This offense was electric last year and I see nothing changing this year. Look for the Cardinals to put up some big numbers again this season.

DEFENSE: With six starters returning on defense the Cardinals look to improve on a defense that fell apart late in the year last year giving up (46pts to West Virginia, 35pts to Virginia Tech and 45pts to So Florida). In order for this to improve the Cardinals will rely on DL Amobi Okoye a emerging star and three year Letterman. If they can improve the big lapse in play they should be able to turn things around this season. The defense will play a big part for Cardinals if the are to win a Big East title and perhaps a National Championship.

Player to keep your eye on – RB Michael Bush, this guy can do it all, run, catch and block. At 6' 2 he is very intimidating for LB's and DB's. He figures play a big part if the Cardinals are to make a National Championship run. Also look for him to show up in the Heisman race this season and he could be the one to carry the trophy home.


OFFENSE: After a (11-1) season and (7- 0) in the Big East there are very lofty expectations in Morgantown. With eight starters returning on offense including the two headed monster (Steve Slaton and Pat White) who both combined for over 2,000 yards rushing. The Mountaineers rely on heavily on the running game with timely passing. In order for them to compete this season with the Cardinals they will need to get more out of their passing game which HC Rich Rodriguez has indicated he would also like to see.

DEFENSE: The defense suffered a major loss losing all -league DE Ernest Hunter and three key cogs from the five pronged secondary. Not is all lost though with five returning players and a defense that only allowed 20pts 3 times in 12 games. As long as Rich Rodriguez is the coach you know one thing is for certain this defense will play hard and they will play good. If the Mountaineers are to make a run at the Big East title how their defense plays will play a big part.

Player to keep your eye on – I can't think of one player so I will go with a group of players (the defense). If they can return to their 2005 form they will have a great chance of doing some great things in 2006. One thing to keep your eye on is how they go about replacing six starters. How fast these new starters step in will go a long way in determining how well the Mountaineers do this season.


OFFENSE: Pitt main gains as the season wore on, but by then it was too late for first year HC Dave Wannstedt. A (5 – 6) season was not what the first year coach expected or envisioned. In order for Panthers to improve this season Sr. QB Tyler Palko (2,392 and 17 TD's) will need some support and beyond WR Derek Kinder (37 rec and 374 yards), there are far more questions than answers on offense. They will look to top 100 recruit who could make a instant impact WR Dorin Dickerson and So. RB LaRod Stephens (434 yards) to help shoulder the load on a offense that was ranked (73rd in scoring and 85th in total offense). With six players returning on offense I look for Tyler Palko and the Panther offense to have a bounce back year.

DEFENSE: Wannstedt is looking for more balance from his defense that ranked No 2 nationally against the pass and 94th against the run. There is no reason to think this defense can't return to form with six returning starters. The defense is anchored by two defensive lineman (Charles Sallet and Chris McKillop) and sensational Sr. LB H.B Blades (121 tackles, 67 solo) and a secondary that returns two of its four starters.

Player to keep your eye on – If QB Tyler Palko returns to 2004 form, the Panthers could have a big year after disappointing 2005. He is to talented not to have a bounce back year.


OFFENSE: The question on offense for the Scarlet Knights is who do they go with at QB? Mike Teel or RS freshman Jubulani Lovelace, Lovelace has seen plenty of action this spring and it looks to be a two headed monster at QB this season unless either of them emerges. If this offense is to improve on 28.7 points per game and move into the elite of the Big East it will rely heavily on super soph. RB Ray Rice (1,120 yards and 5 TD's) to carry the load. There is no doubt this is a make or break year for the Scarlet Knights.

DEFENSE: Despite being roughed up by Arizona State for over 679 yards in the Insight Bowl, the defense did show improvement over the year before. With seven returning starters the only area of concern is the front four, gone is DE Ryan Neil and DE Val Barnaby. The back seven is in a lot better shape with all three LB's returning and standout So FS Courtney Greene (116 tackles, 68 solo). I look for The Scarlet Knight to improve on there (25.6 points per game, ranked 59th in the nation in scoring and 55th overall in total defense) this team could sneak up on a few teams this season in the Big East.

Player to keep your eye on – RB Ray Rice averages over five yards a carry as a freshman and will look carry load this season for the Scarlet Knights. If the Scarlet Knight have a good season it will because Ray Rice has had a good year. A good year could put Ray Rice in the Heisman Trophy race for 2007.



South Florida – The Bulls are coming off a season where they pulled off a few upsets (Louisville, Syracuse) and came away with a (6 – 6) record and a bowl appearance (Meineke Car Care Bowl). The Bulls will again rely on their stout defense that returns seven starters none more important than Jr. LB Ben Moffitt (96 tackles, 52 solo) to push them up the Big East ladder. If the Bulls can duplicate last year's defensive performance (14th in scoring 18.0 points per game and 17th in total defense 311.9 yards per game) they should be able to keep themselves among the top of the Big East. The weak link on the Bulls last year was there offense, but with seven returning starters coming back the place to go is up. If the offense is to come back stronger this season it will be because the Sr. QB Pat Julmiste (1,489 and 6 TD's) has improved the Bulls passing offense that ranked 107th in the nation last year. The success of the Bulls this season will rely a lot on how the Bulls play on offense.

Connecticut – The Huskies started off the season last year on fire winning four of their first five games only to go on a four game losing streak and finish the season (5 – 6). If the Huskies are to get on the plus side of the win total it will be because of their dominating defense that ranked 7th in total defense in 2005. There defense looks again to be there strong suit coming into this season with seven returning starters including Jr. LB Danny Lansanah (79 tackles, 25 solo) who anchors the defense. The passing game is where the Huskies struggled last season only passing for 149.5 yards per game (that ranked 106th in the nation) if this is to improve it will rest squarely on the shoulders of Matt Bonislawski who was starter last season for the first five games until he broke his collarbone and was out for the season. He has looked good this spring but he will need a strong running game behind him in order to allow him enough time to pass. If these things improve I could see the Huskies on the plus side of the win total this season.

Syracuse – Last year the Orange stunk. That's right I said it…they stunk. Going (0 – 7) in the Big East and (1-10) overall. To improve this the Orange hired OC Brian White from Wisconsin to help revive the offense that ranked (114th in scoring and 115th in total offense only 257.4 yards per game). The offense needs better play from the offensive line where last season they gave up 37 sacks and only ran the ball for 106.6 yards per game. With six starters returning they are hoping to build some continuity on offense that they lacked last year. HC Greg Robinson who acts as a defensive coordinator is fond of saying " he plays to his strengths and hides his weaknesses " this year the strength of the defense is LB with three senior starters including Kelvin Smith (84 tackles , 49 solo) on the other hand is the glaring weakness is the secondary. With the suspension of CB Tanard Jackson and CB Marcus Clayton leaving school they have had to rely on former WR's to step in and take reps at the DB position. This could be a huge problem when the Orange play pass-happy teams like the Cardinals and Huskies.

Cincinnati – Second year QB Dustin Grutza (1,799 yards and 11TD's) will try to improve the Bearcats offense that only averaged 17.5 points per game last season. In order to turn things around they will depend on two sure handed receivers Sr. TE Brent Celek (361 yards and 3 TD's) and WR Ernest Jackson. The Bearcats also have a three headed monster at RB (Bradley Glatthaar, Greg Moore and Butler Benton) to help take pressure off of Grutza, all of them capable RB's. On defense the Bearcats welcome back ten starters that gave up over 30 pts per game last season. The Bearcats gave up more than 30 points in seven of their eleven games in 2005. They will look to second team All Big East cornerback Mike Mickens to lead the Bearcats defense to a plus .500 record.



It looks to me to be two elite teams this year in the Big East that being West Virginia and Louisville both have Big East and National Championship aspirations. The race for third should be interesting with Rutgers, Pittsburgh and South Florida, with Connecticut, Cincinnati and Syracuse fighting out for the bottom half the Big East. West Virginia won several early games unimpressively last year, but then found their stride late in the season. The Mountaineers will run into a hornets' nest at the revenge-minded Louisville Cardinals (Last year's game 46 – 44 Mountaineer victory). With the best coach in the Big East (Rich Rodriguez) the Mountaineers have won 24 of its last 28 league games. Louisville will be one of the best offensive teams in the country again (averaging 43.4 pts per game last year) with their two headed monster Michael Bush and Big East offensive player of the year Brian Brohm. The only question for the Cardinals is can they stop anyone on defense, if the they can the game on Nov. 2nd against West Virginia should be a real barn burner. Rutgers enjoyed their first winning season since 1992 and it wasn't just a fluke. With seven starters returning on both sides of the ball and year of winning under their belt the Scarlet Knight will look to continue to build on last year season. Look for the Scarlet Knights to upset some people this season and fight for that third position in the Big East. I look for Pittsburgh to have a bounce back year this season, but a lot of that that will depend on if Tyler Palko can return to his 2004 form. The Panthers have a good defense and may rely on this early in the season to keep themselves in games until the offense can come around. If South Florida is to make back to back bowl appearances it will rest on the shoulders of untested QB Carlton Hill. The playbook has been restructured in order to exploit his talents. The Cincinnati Bearcats look greatly improved especially on the defensive side of the ball where they return ten starters. If the Bearcats are to have winning season they will have to learn quickly how to win on the road (@ Louisville, @Virginia Tech, @West Virginia and @Ohio State) it doesn't get much tougher than that. I look for the Bearcats to have another losing season. If the Connecticut Huskies aren't as injury plagued as they were in 2005 they look to be a team that may have a chance of going bowling at the end of the season. A lot of this will depend on whether the offense can step up and put points on the board. The Orangeman had one of their worst season that they have had in a long time. HC Greg Robinson tried to shake things up by hiring a new OC Brian White to simplify the offense and allow QB Perry Peterson stretch the field and make more use of his athletic ability. When it all said and done the Big East should a very strong from top to bottom.




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Offense: The Cornhuskers have what they want in QB Zac Taylor (2,653 yards and 19 TD's), Taylor was prolific at times last year but mostly he was consistent. Five of Taylor's top six receivers return led by standout WR Nate Swift (641 yards and 7 TD's) this group of WR's is a good mix of possession and deep threats, this will give Taylor and the Cornhuskers allot of options on offense. If there is any concerns in Husker land it is with offensive line and the running game. For a team that once set the standard for running the ball – ranked 107th in the nation in rushing last year. With six returning starters and a senior QB at the helm they should be right at the top of the North Division come the end of the year.

Defense: This is easily the most solid defense in the Callahan era. The Blackshirts recorded 50 sacks last season, tops in the country. Returning players accounted for 33 sacks, and to think they could even be better this year is scary. The linebackers are the best in the conference and if LB Steve Octavien can live up to his high expectations they could be the best in the nation. The secondary is rock solid and tough and physical and won't back down to the talented WR's in the Big 12. Look for the Blackshirts to regain the dominant form and help push the Cornhuskers to the top of the North Division.

Player to keep your eye on: QB Zac Taylor had a breakout season last year and looks sharp coming into this year. If Zac has the same type of season he had last year he could have the Cornhuskers playing in the Big Twelve Championship game.


Offense: The biggest question mark coming into this season is at QB where HC Mark Mangino has anointed Fr. Kerry Meier. Meier had an outstanding spring game but still is a freshman and lack depth at the WR position. With a lack of play makers and a true freshman at QB the Jayhawks offense could look very conservative early in the year. To help take the load off the offense the Jayhawks will look to Sr. RB Jon Cornish (780 yards and 9 TD's) to shoulder the responsibility. In order for the Jayhawks to improve on offense they will have increase their scoring average from a year ago (22.4 pts per game, 83rd in the nation).

Defense: Last year defense was outstanding (11th in the nation), it will be hard to duplicate last year’s performance with amount of key losses on this side of the ball. Kansas loses eight starters from a defense that led the Big 12 in rush defense. The toughest challenge for this defense will be replacing end Charlton Keith, arguably Kansas top player of the last decade. The secondary looks to be in good shape with two returning starters including NFL prospect CB Aqib Talib who is 6' 2 and has extremely good closing speed. If the defense can play to level it did a year ago the Jayhawks could find themselves bowling at the end of the year.

Player to keep your eye on: sophmore CB Aqib Talib is an outstanding cornerback with good height (6 ' 2) to defend taller WR's and cat like closing speed. This guy won't be around long…NFL here he comes.


Offense: The good thing the Cyclone offense returns nine starters with experience because they are going to need it to make up for their lack luster defense. The person that makes the Cyclone offense go is QB Bret Meyer (2,876 yards and 19 TD's), Bret completed 62 % of his passes last season and there is NO reason to think he won't surpass that this season. Bret also has a deep core of WR's to throw to including talented Austin Flynn (624 yards and 3 TD's) and a pair of excellent TE's that can do damage in the passing game. The key to the Cyclones offense is the running game and whether Stevie Hicks (545 yards and 4 TD's) can regain his form from his sophomore season. If he can then the Cyclones offense could be very dangerous and multi dimensional.

Defense: Do to suspensions of (Berryman and Robertson) the defense that was very good last season is left with nothing but question marks. The biggest question marks will be at nose guard and in the secondary, which lost three first teamers. Allot of this season will depend on how well the "rookies” so to speak come in and produce. There will be plenty of gaps to fill. The one bright spot on defense DT Brent Curvey (61 tackles 32 solo and 6.5 sacks) he has a knack for disrupting plays and getting the QB.

Player to keep your eye on: RB Stevie Hicks was outstanding as a sophomore he ran for over 1,000 yards. His junior season he was plagued with injuries most of the season and never regained his form. If Stevie can come back and have a good year it would help an offense that lacked a running game last season.


Missouri: The big question is who will fill the cleats of QB Brad Smith. They will likely look to Chase Daniel the former EA sports National High School Player of the Year. The good thing for Chase is he won't be alone out there are eight returning starters on offense including a good set of WR's and a deep core of RB’s. They will be hard pressed to average 30 pts per game this season but should still have a competent offense to compete week in and week out. The strength of the defense remains intact. Brian Smith will again be a terror on the defensive side of the ball and he will look to improve on his 9 sacks while anchoring the defense. Missouri will depend on their defense to get their offense good field position as you shouldn’t expect to see too many quality scoring drives out of the Tigers.

Colorado: The Buffalo's should do well in the Big 12 North, but with lack of offense they will struggle against the talented South. This is not going to be a team which wins pretty but with defense and a decent kicking game. Expect inconsistent QB play from Cox, White, or Jackson, whoever gets the job, it is QB marry-go-round in Boulder. I wouldn’t be surprised if early in the season, Coach Dan Hawkins splits up the time between two of these guys. Hawkins may be the offensive specialist from Boise State, but don't expect that right away from the Buffalo's it will be Colorado’s defense which will be the more consistent side of the ball. It will be the defense that keeps the Buffs in nearly every game.

Kansas State: The Wildcats returns 17 of 22 offensive and defensive starters so experience shouldn’t be an issue. But the question still remains if new coach Ron Prince can get this K-State squad back into the national spotlight. The Wildcats have just four conference wins since winning the Big 12 title in 2003. It doesn’t look good for this season either. However, I think they should make a little improvement although it may not show in the win column. They are still debating who to go with at the QB position and the offensive line is too soft. Minimizing their turnovers this season will help out both the offense and defense this season. Turning the ball over 28 times is way too many and the Wildcats were good at giving their opponent a short field to work with.



Offense: The Sooners offense was very unproductive last season (they ranked 94th in passing in the nation and 71st in total offense only averaging 355.1 yards per game). The offense centers on this year's Heisman Trophy candidate in Adrian Peterson (1,104 yards and 14 TD's). He was hurt last season yet still managed to gain over 1,000 yards on the ground. He was a Heisman runner-up two years ago and will be a legit Heisman candidate this season even without Rhett Bomar. They will lean on talented WR Malcolm Kelley (471 yards and 2 TD's) to give Bomar a go to target this season after a very good freshman season. The passing game is essential if the Sooners want compete with the likes of Texas and Texas Tech teams that can score at will.

Defense: Defense has never been a problem for Oklahoma under Bob Stoops and with seven starters returning from a group that only allowed (23.1 points per game 37th in the nation and 90 yards rushing a game 4th in the nation) they will make it very tough for opponents to score this year. The secondary has experience and one of the most talented corners in the Big 12 in Reggie Smith. The line is going to cause problems for the opposition with Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the year CJ Ah You set for a big senior season. Look for Rufus Alexander to make a run for the Butkus award at weak outside linebacker. The Sooners defense should keep them in just about every game this season and may even win a few for them.

Player to keep your eye on: RB Adrian Peterson is an absolute man among boys when it comes to RB's. If Adrian can stay healthy and regain his freshman form not only will he have a shot at the Heisman but the Sooners may be playing for a National Championship.


Offense: Offensively the Longhorns are going to have to win with a quarterback who hasn't seen the field. They will look to redshirt freshman Colt McCoy to step in and take command of the huddle and manage the game and allow their skill position players to make plays. The team's ground attack should be in capable hands with the return of sophomore Jamaal Charles, sophomore Henry Melton, and senior Selvin Young. All three of these guys are a threat to put up a hefty amount of yards and get the ball into the end zone. The Longhorns have two very good WR's that are both capable of stretching the field Jr. Limas Sweed (545 yards and 5 TD's) and Jr. Billy Pittman.

Defens: The defense may be even more talented this year than the team that ranked in the top 10 in both scoring and yards against last year. The front seven may be the best it's been since Brown took over. Brian Robinson (7 sacks) , Roy Miller, and pass rushing expert Frank Okam make up one of the strongest defensive lines in the country. The linebackers are led by returning starters Robert Killebrew and Rashad Bobino who are looking to help shore up the Longhorns run defense. The secondary has a lot of talent but not a lot of depth, led by Michael Griffin (124 tackles and 3 interceptions). The Longhorns defense may have to carry them more this season with an inexperienced QB.

Player to keep your eye on: QB Colt McCoy has some big shoes to fill, but did show promise this spring and will play a big part in whether or not the Longhorns repeat as National Champions. Keep your eye on this kid he has a lot of talent and a very strong arm.


Offense: It doesn’t seem to matter who the Red Raiders stick at QB as the endless supply of athletic receivers that they keep bringing in makes these QB’s into All-Americans. You will hear plenty about last season’s leading receiver, with 1007 yards, Sr. WR Joel Filani as well as Sr Wr Robert Johnson and Sr Wr Jarrett Hicks. The loss of running back Taureen Hicks is a concern, but then again everyone knows that Texas Tech is going to split out five guys and air it out and they continue to be successful with that. Let’s face it these guys are going to put up points and can anyone stop them? We will have to just wait and see but most teams try to avoid a shootout with Red Raiders.

Defense: The Red Raiders defenses last year was outstanding, they ranked 30th nationally in total defense and 18th in scoring defense only allowing 18.8 points per game. The strength of the defense will be the linebackers where they have a set of three (Brock Stratton, Fletcher Session and Keyunta Dawson) that are very good. If there is one area of concern it could be the secondary will they will have to replace both of their safeties, they will look to Jr. Joe Garcia and Sophomore Darcel Parker to step up and fill the void. With five returning starters and a defense they has gotten better each of the past three years the Red Raiders look again to be a very good defense.

Player to keep your eye on: WR Robert Johnson had an outstanding Jr. season (951 yards and 4 TD's) and sometimes was un-guardable as he shredded Big 12 secondaries. Look for him to do more of the same in the pass happy Red Raiders offense.


Texas A & M: The Aggies were a disappointment a season ago and they will remain one until the defense can start holding up their end of the bargain. As long as running back Courtney Lewis (723 yards and 7 TD's) can stay eligible the offense appears to be intact. But the defense gave up 443.8 yards per game (ranked 108th in the nation) including a nation’s worst 304.6 through the air. We’ll see if the two new secondary coaches can make a difference for this struggling "D" this season. An easy non-conference schedule (Citadel, UL Lafayette, Army and Louisiana Tech) could allow the Aggies to get to five maybe six wins this season.

Baylor: The Bears were a big surprise last season, but they slipped down the stretch and weren’t able to earn a bowl bid. I expect much the same scenario this season for the Bears as their offense, which returns eight starters including QB Shawn Bell (1,964 and 12 TD's) and running backs Mosley and Whitaker, will remain strong. The Bears defense which returns just 4 will be exposed….it may be hard to hear but true. When it is all said and done the Bears will have a hard time replacing seven key starters. The Bears will be hard pressed to get to five wins again this season.

Oklahoma State: The Cowboys can improve on last season’s (1 – 7 conference record) by simply holding on to the football. The Cowboys turned the ball over 35 times last season. They have good weapons in place at receiver in D’Juan Woods (879 yards and 8 TD's) and Adarius Bowman, but it won’t make any difference how good their skill players are in 06-07 if they can’t take care of the football. On defense the Cowboys return five starters from a team that gave more up then 31points per game from last season. That will have improved if the Cowboys are to compete in the South Division.


1. Nebraska
2. Kansas
3. Iowa State
4. Missouri
5. Colorado
6. Kansas State

1. Oklahoma
2. Texas
3. Texas Tech
4. Texas A& M
5. Baylor
6. Oklahoma State


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Football picksAugust 1, 2006

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Offense: The Eagles return a good nucleus of players on the offensive side of the ball for 2006, led by Junior QB Matt Ryan (5-0 as a starter). Two talented Running Backs are returning, Juniors L.V. Whitworth and Andre Callender. Mr. Inside, (Whitworth) and Mr. Outside, (Callender) should keep many a defensive teams guessing throughout the year. Along with these two is A. J. Brooks. He is possibly the most talented RB of the three. A. J. will need to learn some of the less glamorous aspects of the RB position, but when he does he will be hard to keep off the field. The offensive line returns 3 starters and has the potential of being a very good unit this year. The big question on offense this year for the Eagles is at the receiver position. They lost their two top receivers to graduation and if teams can stop their running game, the Eagles could be in trouble. How well their new receivers play may dictate their season.

Defense: Returning six starters from last year’s outstanding defense, (allowed only six rushing TD’s last year). The defense did lose five starters including their best defensive player, Al Washington. Although the defensive line has huge tackles who should be good run stoppers; I don’t believe this unit can put enough pressure on the QB to win more than 8 games. The linebacker corps has two excellent players in Brian Toal, (maybe their best defensive player and Jolonn Dunbar, but after that, it gets a little shaky, The Eagles have very good defensive backs but little depth so they need to stay healthy. Junior Safety Jamie Siloa and Senior, Ryan Glasper could be the best Safety combo in the ACC. This area is strength unless a starter goes down.
Player to keep your eye on: Matt Ryan. Matt has to have an excellent season if this team wants to win (8) games. I believe he has the ability, but I’m not sure the receiving unit will do their part.



Offense: The Clemson Tigers will be returning eight starters on the offense side of the ball from last year’s 8-4 team. They will be led by fifth-year Senior Will Proctor. This is his first year in that capacity. Last year Proctor started one game and completed 13 of 21 for 201 yards. At Running Back, the Tigers have a nice array of talent. Sophomore, James Daner, 2005 ACC Rookie of the Year, should start with Reggie Merriweather who also will get a good share of playing time. They also have an excellent Freshman Running Back in C.J. Spiller, who was the Number #1 rated running back in Florida H.S. last year. The Tigers are also returning their two Wide Receivers from last year’s team, sophomore, Aaron Kelly and Senior Chansi Stuckey, (1st Team All ACC in 2005). The offensive line should line up with all five starters from last year. This is a very strong and physical group that averages better than 315 pounds per man. Tight End maybe the only weak spot on the offensive side of the ball unless Sophomore Durell Barry becomes the starter sometime during the year…

Defense: Seven starters and 22 lettermen return in 2006. DE Gaines Adams and MLB, Anthony Waters will lead a defense that gave up an average of only 17.6 points per game in the 2005 season. Adams had team highs with 15 tackles for a loss, 9.5 sacks, and was credited with 29 QB hurries. The only question about the DL is they don’t have a lot of experience and are a little light as a group. Clemson is returning all three starting linebackers.



Offense: Florida State has 7 offensive starters returning from and 8-5 season last year. This could be a down year for a potential powerhouse. The team’s destiny to return to the upper echelon of College Football starts with Sophomore QB, Drew Weatherford. If the Seminoles can win their first game against Miami this could be an outstanding season. Florida State must improve their run game to again join the top teams in the country. Antone Smith, a former Mr. Florida Football player must make a statement. Lorenzo Booker must continue to provide the tough yards. The Receiving Corp seems to have plenty of talent with Greg Carr (All Conference) and Mr. Steady, Senior, Chris Davis. De’Cody Fagg should be the number three Receiver. Florida State is also blessed with (3) potentially outstanding freshmen. The Tight End position will have to hope that freshman, Brandon Warren, can step in from day one and contribute. The offensive line has some talent, but maybe only six-man deep/strong. Depth is shallow in this group.

Defense: With only 4 starters from last year team that gave up an average of 22 points per game much of their hopes rest on a talented but unproved group. This is the most points a Seminoles Team has given up since 2001. The DL starts four excellent starters with speed, but has no big run stopper. DE. Everette Brown has a lot of potential and if he can live up to the billing, the DL could be a real asset. However, the Linebacker position should be the strength of the Defense. This unit might be the best in the country, (Lawrence Timmons and Bust Davis) are All American candidates. At the Defensive Back position, the Seminoles are returning 2 players, (Tony Carter and J. R. Brant) from off-season shoulder surgery. At Safety, they will be starting Junior, Roger Williams and freshman sensation, Myron Rolle.

Players to keep your eye on: QB Weatherford, can he continue to improve from an outstanding first year? Myron Rolle, can he step right in and be a stopper as a roving safety and can someone in the DL step up and provide 8-10 sacks.


Virginia: The Cavaliers will not win more than 6 games this year. Inexperience at the QB position will not hold well for this team and although the QB may play better as the season goes on, the Virginia scheduled gets tougher in the later part. At running back the Cavaliers will start Senior Jason Snelling a very good back at all aspects of the game but is not a breakaway threat. The strength of this football team is the excellent talent at wide receiver. Deyon Williams should make the all-conference team this year barring injury. He is extremely talented with excellent speed and an ability to go up and snare the jump ball type pass. The other top three receivers are Fontel Mines, Emmanuel Byers and Thierren Davis all have the ability to break a game wide open. The defense has plenty of promise but will they live up to the potential? The DL has to put pressure on the opposing QB if this unit is going to improve from last year’s team that gave up better than 23 points a game.

Wake Forest: This could be the most improved team in the ACC in 2006. They are returning 9 offensive and 10 defensive starters from last year’s 4-7 team. Returning this many starters is almost on heard of. An excellent running team last year, this squad could show a more balance attack with Benjamin Mauk at QB. The only question mark on the offensive side of the ball will be at the wide receiver position, where no one jumps out at you as being a real threat. If someone develops at this position to be a real game breaker, look out for the Demon Deacons. The defense is a solid unit with a lot of depth, especially up front. The line backing corps will be lead by Jon Abbate, one of the best LBs in the ACC. If the QB has a good year and someone develops at the WR position look out for this team. I see the Demons winning at least 8 games this year.

North Carolina State: The 2005 North Carolina team finished with a 7-5 record last year with a very good defense and a fair offense. Trying to reach 7 wins this season will be a little more difficult. The defense lost two exceptionally talented players in Mario Williams (#1 draft choice in NFL) and LB Stephen Tulloch (who may have been the heart and soul of the team). The Wolfpack return two excellent running backs in Andre Brown and Toney Baker. Between them they gained more than 1200 yards last season and averaged better than 4.6 per carry. If QB Marcus Stone can improve his completion percentage and his touchdown to inception ratio the Wolfpack could finish with another 7-5 record.




Offense: Five starters coming back from last year’s 9-3 squad. This should be a very interesting year for H. C. Larry Coker and the Hurricanes. Nine wins is a pretty good season for most teams, but Miami is not most teams. The Hurricanes have the best winning percentage of any team in the nation since the 2000 season. This year’s squad will be lead by QB Kyle Wright who produced 18 TD’s and 10 INT’s last year. He has a good arm, but lacks mobility. He had a decent year in 2005, but when he played against upper tear teams he seemed to struggle at times. Give him time and he will find the open receiver, but if you force him to make a quick decision there is a good chance something negative will happen. Miami is returning two very good RB’s in, Tyrone Moss (ACL injury against Virginia Tech) and Charlie Jones. Tyrone, if he can come back 100% is the home-run threat; where Mr. Jones is the steady between the tackles workhorse. There are also two speed demons in Junior, Andrew Johnson and sophomore, Derron Thomas waiting in the wings. The Wide Receiving squad has potential, but is not the explosive squad we are used to seeing at Miami. At the Tight End position the Hurricanes have Junior, Greg Olsen who maybe one of the best TE’s in the College ranks. The Offensive Line will be the big question mark on this team with four new starters. Center, Anthony Wollschlager, if he remains healthy, could be the best center in the ACC.

Defense: Six returning starters on a squad that gave up an average of only 14.2 points per game. The Defensive Line returns three veteran starters, End, Bryan Pata and tackles, Atkins and Brown. The playmaker on the defensive line is Bryan Pata, but he will have to increase his sack total of last year, 2, for this squad to have a chance to match last year’s defensive record. The Linebacking corps is potentially as good as any in the country, but for this to occur, Sophomore Willie Williams must play up to his unlimited potential. In the defensive backfield the Hurricanes are set at safety in the hard-hitting Brandon Meriweather and Kenny Phillips at free safety. The cornerback positions are not yet set, but it looks like Randy Phillips and Bruce Johnson will get the first opportunity. Look for Miami to finish with 9 or 10 wins.

Player to watch: Junior QB Kyle Wright must continue to improve his decision making in big games. He will need help from the offensive line to limit sacks to (25) or less and if so, Miami could be a Top 10 Team.



Offense: Returning 5 starters from last year’s 11-2 squad. Questions regarding who will be the starting QB is never good. The leading candidate right now is Sean Glennon. He is the best passer on the team, but he will have stiff competition from Corey Holt and Ike Whitaker. Both Holt and Whitaker are more athletic and better runners. At Running back, Branden Ore is returning and should be the main go-to player at this position. The Hokies have a group of good running backs, but no super star. The strength of the offense will be in the receiving group, led by Senior, Daniel Clowney, and Junior Eddie Royal. This tandem could excel if they get the ball thrown in their direction a little more this year. The Hokies will be starting three new players in the offensive line and I’m not sure this will help the questionable QB position.

Defense: The strength of this squad should be the defense where 7 starters are returning from a group who gave up on 12.9 points per game last year. The Hokies did lose their best defensive player, (Darryl Tapp) from last year, but should be able to generate plenty of trouble for other teams with players like, Chris Ellis and Vince Hall. Senior, Aaron Rouse will lead the secondary from the rover position. This group has excellent speed and should be the strength of a very good defense.
Player to keep your eye on: QB position… With Marcus Vick banned from the team at the conclusion of last season, the Hokies are very vulnerable at this position. Someone has to step up big time at this position for the Hokies to win more than (9) games this season.



Offense: Returning 8 starters from last year’s 7-5 team. The fortunes of this team are squarely in the hands of senior QB Reggie Ball. Mr. Ball has talent but only completed 48% of his passes last year and only had 11 TD’s against 12 INT’s. He must improve both his completion percentage and his touchdown to inception ratio if the Yellow Jackets are to improve upon last year’s 7-5 team. The running game has Juniors Tashard Choice and Rashaun Grant both capable if not outstanding runners. The receiving corps is lead by Calvin Johnson (all-American status second team) and Sophomore James Johnson, a speedy number 2 receiver. There is enough talent behind these two with a group of talented freshman receivers. The TE position has not been used much by the Yellow Jackets in the past few years and that probably is because of the talent level at this position. George Cooper and Mike Matthews are better than average blockers but only fair receivers. The offensive line returns four starters from a very good unit. This is definitely strength of the team. THE OL is lead by offensive tackle Andrew Gardner, a first- team freshman all-American and Matt Rhodes, a junior standout at Guard.

Defense: The Yellow Jackets will put a very solid unit on the field in 2006. The DL will be lead by Junior DE Adamm Oliver and Senior DT Joe Anoai both returning starters from last year’s 13th ranked run stoppers. They also will have plenty of other talented players in the DL that will make major contributions all year long. Senior KaMichael Hall will lead a very sound and speedy linebacking corps. The only question regarding the linebackers is they are a little light. The defensive backfield positions will have only one returning starter, Senior Kenny Scott. Jamal Lewis should be the other starting DB and he has the speed and tackling ability to be an excellent starter. I believe there will be some drop off at the safety positions from last year when the Yellow Jackets had two all-ACC performers but both Djay Jones and Joe Gaston were excellent special team players who should be adequate everyday players.

Player to keep your eye on: OB Reggie Ball. He is not the best player or the most gifted player on this team but the Yellow Jackets will go as far as Reggie can take them.



Maryland: The Terrapins will have another long season and I can’t see them winning more than five games. Their biggest problem, as it was last year will be at the QB position. It looks like Senior Hollenbach will start the season as the starter and he is not a top flight QB. The running back position could be one of the few real strengths of this team. Junior Lance Ball may be a star in the making and he should have plenty of help in Josh Allen, Keon Lattimore, and Morgan Green. The defense should be improved this year if for no other reason than an improved DL which will feature more depth in the middle of the line. The LBs should be the strength of this team again with plenty of speed.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels are returning 5 starters on offense and 8 on defense from a team that finished 5-6 last year. This team will have a tough time reaching five wins this season and probably will win only four games. A new QB and many questions at running back and wide receiver positions do not hold well for this team. They also have a very tough schedule, way too much for this team to overcome and have a positive 2006 season. The defense is the strength of this team and if they have any chance for a winning season it will have to be on the backs of the defense (not going to happen). This will be a long season for Tar Heel fans!

Duke: It will be another losing season for the worst team in the ACC in 2006. There just is not enough talent on this football team. They need to get a coach and coaching staff that can plain out recruit and motivate. The level on talent on this team says they will not win one game this year. They are returning two very good defense players in LB Michael Tauiliili and CB john Talley. Bottom line, this team plays the toughest schedule in the ACC and has the least talent.



Atlantic Division
1. Clemson
2. Florida State
3. Boston College
4. Wake Forest
5. Maryland
6. North Carolina State

Coastal Division
1. Miami
2. Virginia Tech
3. Georgia Tech
4. North Carolina
5. Virginia
6. Duke

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