Saturday, August 30, 2014
I sit at 4-2 on the young season with today offering a big opportunity to set a tone for the year. It is also a day that I can pick a game that kicks off in the morning (well, morning to me). UCF-2 over Penn State in Ireland. Sure Bortles is gone but he left behind just about everyone else. Navy +15 versus OSU. Navy is not just a gimmicky team but one with talent and depth. Northwestern -10 hosting Cal. While the rebuilding continues with Cal, Northwestern should bounce back and contend in the Big Ten. Georgia-Clemson under 54. Clemson had its offensive weaponry gutted and will need to rely on defense in the early going while Georgia will pound the rock. LSU -5 against Wisconsin. Tigers seem vulnerable but five points? Washington -17.5 at Hawaii. Washington cupboard was not left bare while Hawaii program took a jolt with discussion of its demise. FSU -18 versus Oklahoma State. Cowboys only have 8 returning starters and lost 8 of top 9 tacklers. Seminoles pick their score.
Friday, August 29, 2014
I went 3-1 last night and look to continue the roll. Tonight's card is weak but here goes. Arizona -24 hosting UNLV. Rich Rod lays it on. With Ka'Deem Carey gone I expect the Cats to pass more and with USC transfer Jesse Scroggins at QB and an excellent group of wideouts that should not be a problem tonight. My other pick is a two team tease with BYU knocked down to -9 at UConn and Bowling Green -1 versus Western Kentucky. Cougars travel with the best of them and should handle a rebuilding huskies team while in battle of new coaches, the Falcons have the better talent.
I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey as a fan of the traditional New York pro teams and college teams from the Northeast. I was very aware of the stunning lack of respect given these teams, at least until Big East basketball became dominant. Just look at Penn State football in the late 60s and early 70s to see just how hard it was to command respect. And so I enjoy nights like the last one when Rutgers triumphed over Washington State 41-38 and Temple routed Vanderbilt 37-7. Did they beat top 25 teams? No. But considering that both squads were being treated as the Little Sisters of the Poor and both went on the road to beat bowl teams from 2013 it was a nice start to the season for these programs and the always-ignored Northeast. Rutgers did what they could not do last year when they went to the West Coast and lost narrowly to Fresno State to open the season. This year they ran down the Cougars' throats, as Paul James rushed for 173 yards, to offset WSU QB Connor Halliday's 532 yards passing with five touchdowns. The Scarlet Knights showed mettle by winning the fourth quarter 17-7. Temple, meanwhile, had to wait out lightning storms to throttle Vandy. The Owls forced seven turnovers--after picking up only 13 all of last year--and scored 27 points off of them while not allowing the home team to score an offensive point. The team already has as many interceptions this season, 3, as they did in 2013. Sophomore QB P.J. Walker led the offense with 207 yards passing with two TDs.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
One major college football game played in 2014 and one top ten team knocked off. Texas A&M proved that they are bigger than any one player by putting on an offensive exhibition in Columbia, South Carolina. Quarterback Kenny Hill not only proved that he is a capable replacement for you-know-who but he surpassed him by throwing for a school-record 511 yards. In leading A&M to seven TDs on its first 11 possessions, Hill completed 44-60 and threw three scoring passes. Although Texas A&M still has a tough schedule to play they did show an SEC Network audience that they are not rebuilding in 2014. As for SC, well perhaps its missing star was irreplaceable. The Gamecocks defense was putrid tonight and it is hard to see that they can be a national title contender after this game, no matter how early it was played. Hell, they only have eight days to prepare for ECU and QB Shane Carden.
I like a few games tonight so here goes, being that it is already after 4pm my time. Louisiana Monroe -2 versus Wake Forest. Monroe is the better team and at home. Rebuilding effort begins for new Wake coach Dave Clawson. Boise State +10.5 versus Mississippi (Atlanta). Sure Pederson is gone but not much else as a loaded Boise team gets to do what it loves most--be a big dog against a bigger conference opponent. Rebels are loaded too but I am not a big fan of QB Bo Wallace. Temple +11.5 at Vandy. This spread is free falling and for good reason. The home team lost all of its skill position players from last year while the visitors have most back including exciting young QB P.J. Walker. Temple was 5-1 versus spread down the stretch with wins against Army and Memphis and 3-pt losses to UCF and Rutgers. They have an outside shot at a bowl game this year and will look to make some noise against the Dores. WSU-Rutgers over 61. Now Rutgers will run the ball tonight but still. with their secondary and the Cougars attack? That could be 50 right there. And the Scarlet Knights have a better offense than they showed last year, especially with Ralph Friedgen calling the plays. I expect to hit this over early in the 3rd. How does RU stop Connor Halliday?
Monday, August 25, 2014
Wisconsin is a program that needs respect. They play football the right way and despite zero advantage in recruiting can still compete for Big Ten titles and January bowl games on a seemingly annual basis. And yet who says boo about the Badgers? The program is still transitioning into new coach Gary Andersen's vision--you will not recognize the defense this year--and one of the key components of that is the quarterback position. Now starting for the Badgers is Tanner McEvoy, who is athletic enough to have started three games at safety last year and best represents the dual-threat look Wisconsin now wants at the position. His reward? LSU on August 30th. I would bet that last year's starter Joel Stave will play some, especially if they need to air it out, but for now McEvoy is the man. All of us fellow graduates of Bergen Catholic High School are proud. Of course the main feature of Wisconsin's offense is star back Melvin Gordon and it will be interesting to see how he fares against the Tigers. LSU was run on last year and while they have talent in the front seven it remains to be seen if they can improve on last season's mediocre efforts at run defense. Gordon will be quite the challenge. The other challenge for an LSU program that has lost an incredible amount of the talent the past two seasons will be getting the youngsters ready to go on August 30 against a quality opponent. They too will have a new quarterback and may well go with both soph Anthony Jennings, who showed flashes last year off the bench, and frosh Brandon Harris. The main focus for fans of college football recruiting will be superstar recruit Leonard Fournette, who combination of speed and size is resonant of some of the great big backs in college football history. This is one of those games that will be fun to watch for both the quality of the effort and the unleashing of talent, new and old. I believe that the game goes down the wire and it will have major ramifications for the Big Ten come December if the Badgers can pull off the slight upset in Houston.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
It appears that the injury suffered by Braxton Miller--actually a re-injury via dislocation to his right shoulder--will end the star Ohio State QB 's 2014 season before the first game. Miller has come to represent the OSU offense and so any absence will require the team, of course, to readjust immediately. He had already been injured and operated on (not for dislocation but related) so this news, while shocking to fans, is not some out-of-the-blue scenario, but for a team with national title aspirations it cannot be considered anything but awful. Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett had taken over the backup duties for the Buckeyes and will presumably become the starter, with Cardale Jones back to number two. Fortunately for the Buckeyes the schedule should allow them to prepare Barrett and Jones for the tougher, end of the season slate. Four of the team's first six games are at home with one, the opener, at a neutral field and the other against a young and talented Maryland team that is probably a year or two away from competing with a top ten team. Still, teams like Maryland, Navy, Cincinnati and Virginia Tech will not be that easy. The QBs need to be up to snuff by midseason as OSU plays at Penn State, Michigan State and Minnesota over a four game spread. That will decide whether or not they are a true contender for a Big Ten crown. Hopefully Miller is okay or, at the very least, can recover with enough time to resume playing QB. And hopefully the Buckeyes can recover from the loss of their team's leader and arguably best player. The other potential loser here is the Big Ten who has to have its champion reach the national four-team playoff. This injury makes that reality a great deal tougher.