Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Football picks & Sports picksAugust 23, 2011

I conclude this year’s college football preseason previews with my Top 10 below.

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Jimbo Fisher has a lot of talent at Florida State to go with a lot of pressure to deliver a National Championship-caliber team. He certainly has all the pieces in place, so if everything breaks right he could be close. They are overall the most talented team in the ACC. It all may come down to their game in Tallahassee in mid-September vs. the Sooners. If the Noles shock the Sooners, and get to a conference championship game with what could be a Top 6 Virginia Tech, anything can happen.

When you have a QB that is getting Heisman Trophy ballots, the anticipation soars and perhaps exceeds the sum of all the parts. There are a pair of question marks here that are holding me back from vaulting this team into the top 5. The first is that they will be playing with a new coach with a new system, and how will they adapt? The second is that although Luck is extremely talented, how good is the protection going to be, as the Cardinal rebuilds their offensive line? If those two question marks are answered favorably, then Stanford will be in title contention.

The Cornhuskers begin play in the Big-10, and are the odds-on favorite to be in the first ever Big-10 title game and win it as well. The thing to watch here is QB Martinez who just couldn’t stay on the field a year ago, which basically held them below what they could of been. The depth at the position is better, but Martinez is the key ingredient on that side of the ball. They will have to go to Wisconsin, Penn State, and Michigan in their first Big-10 campaign, and it is hard to see them surviving all three, but a top 10 finish is likely with the potential there for bigger things.

Tyrod Taylor was a brilliant and talented QB for the Hokies, but watch out for Logan Thomas, a Cam Newton sized 6’6″ 250 lbs. He was a top 100 prospect, and his time is now. All reports say that he has a big and accurate arm. If that turns out to be the case, the Hokies like Auburn a year ago, get all their tough games at home. Add that to a coach like Beamor who usually gets more out of his team than the talent on the field, this team is potentially a title game candidate.

6. TEXAS A & M
Who would have believed the Aggies would have knocked off Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas all in the same season? That is exactly what A&M did last year. QB Tanneyhill changed the offense from a liability and turnover plagued, to efficient and strong. They have a ton of offensive weapons on the air and ground and are deeply experienced. The defense will be better as well. This team has the potential to make it all the way.

The Broncos are now a top 15 fixture, and nothing will change this season. While the Mountain West will provide more challenges for the Broncos, a pair of quality teams have moved on in Utah and BYU. The stiffest challenge now comes from TCU, and this year the Broncos get them at home, so all systems go for another top 10 finish. QB Kellan Moore is a big time college QB, and last year this team went coast-to-coast and shocked Virginia Tech. They will be challenged again as they head to Atlanta to face Georgia. A win there and this team could be off to running the table, once again seeing if it is good enough for a national title appearance.

4. LSU
The Bayou Cats are a bona fide national title contender. Their Achilles heel a year ago was spotty double-headed QB play. The schedule is laden with obstacles with road games at Miss State and West Virginia, and a neutral-site battle vs. Oregon all in the first four weeks. If they survive those three games, this team is certainly going to have a resume befitting of a national title look.

The Oregon offense was almost impossible to stop last year, and guess what? All the key weapons that led that unit are back. They have an outstanding secondary, and their special teams have become a second offense. They have a pair of obstacles that could stand in their way of returning to the title game, and neither of those are at home. They play LSU in Texas, and have to go to Stanford. A pair of wins in those battles would make the Ducks quacking their way to a repeat in the national title game.

The Sooners are back and back in force. A few stalled drives inside the 10-yard line sealed their fate a year ago in a pair of games, but things should be different this year. Unlike previous seasons, if the Sooners win the Big-12 they don’t have to square-off with a Big-12 power for the conference title as there isn’t one. All things considered, their season likely hinges on improved road play, and this year it will be at Oklahoma State and at Florida State. A pair of wins there and this team is in the Championship picture.

Many picked Alabama to be No. 1 a year ago, but with a stacked schedule against them and just two starters returning on defense, the deck was clearly stacked this talented team. The casualties on offense are reminiscent of what was lost prior to the 2009 Championship. The QB is gone. A 1,000+ yard running back is gone. All in all, seven starters are gone from the offense. This go-round they seven returning starters and an inexperienced starting QB – just as in 2009. The other similarity is the Tide will boast arguably the nation’s No. 1 defense. The schedule also helps them this year. They get Western king-pins LSU and Arkansas at home, and avoid the top teams in the East all together in Georgia and South Carolina. The old adage that applied in 2009, “defense wins championships,” should come to pass once again. Alabama will be your 2011-12 BCS NCAAF Champions!