Friday, August 31, 2012

5 College Football Memes I Am Not Buying This Season

1. UNC is going to win the ACC Coastal
Phil Steele picked the Tar Heels to win their division.  I get his logic in that UNC has the easiest schedule of the contenders, but North Carolina didn't really come close when they had a defense full of potential NFL players.  Those players are gone. Steele is very good in his predictions but he consistently over ranks the Heels (and Miami) while consitently overlooking Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.

2. James Franklin will turn Vanderbilt into a consistent winner
First, let me say I love what Franklin is doing in Nashville. He is selling Vandy exactly the way he should be and doing a good job at it as evidenced by his recruiting class last year and so far this year.  Still, he plays in the toughest conference in the country and has by far the smallest recruiting base, especially on the ultra important line of scrimmage.  The Commodores will go to another bowl game or two under Franklin, but the money and lure of a bigger job will come and I highly doubt this is Franklin's last stop as a coach.

3. Penn State will still be able to compete at a BCS level
Even at their best, the Nittany Lions were a marginal top 25 team last year.  They lost their best runner, best receiver, best kicker, had a coaching and philosophy change, and oh yeah that horrid scandal.  Every player on this roster knows they will never go to another bowl in their college career. They read the internet, the read the remarks about Penn State, they know many are rooting against them even though they did nothing wrong.   If Bill O'Brien wins six games his first season, he deserves B1G Coach of the Year.

4. Arkansas can still win the West even without Bobby Petrino
Bobby Petrino is kind of a jerk.  Most really good coaches are.  The fired coach had elevated the Hogs into a top 10 program because of his offense and QB development (see how Louisville fell after his departure?).  John L. Smith is an entertaining guy, but he does not have the Xs and Os accomplice of Petrino and that is where the Hogs chances lied in upsetting an Alabama or LSU. 

5. LSU won't miss the Tyrann Mathieu
Really?  A team won't miss the Chuck Bednarik winner?  Sure he was not very good in coverage, but he was the best defensive play maker in the country.  Mathieu's was also the Tigers leading tackler last year so the run defense will suffer too.  LSU is deep, but not that deep.

Tennessee vs NC State: Volunteers Have Massive Talent Advantage Over Wolfpack

Derek Dooley should fear for his job if he loses to NC State tonight.

Over the last five seasons, the Volunteers have out recruited the Wolfpack by a long shot.

Here are the last five class rankings for Tennessee and NC State according to Rivals:

Tennessee NC State
2008 35 31
2009 10 52
2010 9 34
2011 13 86
2012 17 53

The Vols average ranking over the last five classes is 16.8 while the Pack has ranked 51.2.  The gap grows when you look at just the last four classes to 12th and 56th.

But not every class is going to contribute the same amount to each team.  If a program has a lot of 5th year seniors playing they better be on the line of scrimmage or at QB or your program lacks talent. 

Conversely, if you have a lot of true freshman playing they better not be on the offensive/defensive line or QB.

So I weighted each class as follows to account for about how much each class contributes.  Obviously this is going to differ for each program but generally the more Seniors and Juniors you have the better you are going to be. 







Using a weighted average, Tennessee's talent advantage blows NC State away.  The 2008 class for the Wolfpack was their best in the last five ranked 31st; 2010 was close at 34th.  Meanwhile, UT has improved from 2008 when they ranked 35th, to have four straight classes in the top 20 and two in the top 10.

Tennessee is favored by 3.5 points.  Their talent would suggest a lot more than that. 

If Derek Dooley loses tonight to a significantly lesser talented team (after losing to another lesser team in Kentucky last season) he should go ahead and polish his resume. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Georgia Tech Football: 5 Most Important Positions For The Yellow Jackets

Vegas has Georgia Tech pegged for 7-8 wins. Strong performances by these five positions could push the Yellow Jackets to double-digit wins and a conference title.

But poor performances could spell doom and put the bowl streak that started in 1997 in jeopardy. Here are the five most important positions for Georgia Tech in 2012.

5. Inside Linebacker
An already mediocre Yellow Jacket defense lost its most productive player, Julian Burnett, during last year's bowl game. What the Macon native lacked in size he more than made up for  in effort, production, and leadership.

Al Groh's new ILBers have the prototypical size but lack the experience and proven ability to find the ball where Burnett was so deft.

Looking to fill Burnett's spot is Quayshawn Nealy, Jabari Hunt-Days, or Daniel Drummond. These players are key to slowing down opponents rushing attack which in the past has kept the Jackets high powered offense off the field. 

4. B-Back
Although the position rushed for over 1,000 yards last season, no single back broke the thousand yard mark for the first time in Paul Johnson's tenure. The starter David Sims was able to move the ball, but lacked the explosiveness of a Jonathan Dwyer or even Anthony Allen.

The dive is the bread and butter play in Johnson's spread option. When it is working it puts the defense on its heels to truly defend sideline to sideline.

Sims was injured in the off season and has given ground to Zach Laskey in Fall practice. Expect to see both early in the season while the position sorts itself out.

If GT can get more explosion plays out of this position it could open up a new corps of...

3. Wide Receiver
The Jackets do not have a player at the receiver position who caught a pass last season. While Tech does not throw the ball often, they want to make defenses pay when they do.

When Johnson's offense was at its best, a future NFL wide receiver was grabbing passes in Demaryius Thomas to make the defense guard more than just 10 yards from the line of scrimmage.

Leading the charge to be the next NFL Draft pick is sophomore Jeff Greene who has similar size to Stephen Hill. Also, Jeremy Moore is finally healthy and looking to shine as is 6'6" Darren Waller.

2. Quarterback
Despite a lack of passing, the QB is still the most important position in Johnson's offense. Tevin Washington has held off hard charging Redshirt Freshman Vad Lee in Fall practice and the Yellow Jackets are hoping his experience can create more big plays this season.

However, expect Lee to see action in passing situations and special packages to take advantage of his arm. If Lee can cut down on the turnovers he will push Washington for more playing time as the season progresses.

1. Nose Tackle
The options gets a lot of the pub, but the key to Georgia Tech's ultimate success this season lies right over the ball on defense. Switching to a 3-4 base after an 11 win 2009 season, Georgia Tech has struggled to stop teams without a consistent pass rush or run stopper in the middle. Virginia Tech DC Bud Foster said the best defense against the Jackets is a good offense.

Opponents have used Tech's own medicine against them grinding out drives on the ground to play keep away of their own.

Groh has the size at nose tackle in 340lb TJ Barnes, but the senior has yet to put together a string of games where he is a dominant force necessary to make the 3-4 thrive.

If Barnes and his backups can demand double teams it will free up the pass rush from the outside and allow inside backers to plug the run.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Virginia Tech - Georgia Tech: Hokie DC Bud Foster Gives His Keys To Stopping The Yellow Jackets

And it has very little to do with how his defense plays...

“They’re gonna move the ball against whoever they play,” Foster said recently. “The key to that game is to get your offense to be consistently good and to get them off the field. To score points or to get them behind, that gets them out of their element.”

Virginia Tech scored 37 points last year, but trailed 26-21 during the 3rd quarter against Georgia Tech. Foster's defense held the Yellow Jackets to just 1 net yard on their final three drives.

Virginia Tech’s offense is best defense for Georgia Tech’s unique attack

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Clemson Football: Tigers With Sammy Watkins vs Without

The Tigers (of Clemson) will be without their best player against Auburn after head coach Dabo Swinney suspended Sammy Watkins for an off season arrest.

The true freshman burst onto the national scene last year as Clemson was riding an 8-0 start to the season. This preseason Watkins was voted ACC Player of the Year by the media.

Now the Tigers have to face an SEC team in Auburn, who thrashed a solid Virginia team in the same building eight months ago, without their biggest play maker.

“I told Sammy this past May that there would be a high end [number of games] and a low end, and it would be up to him as to the length of his suspension,” coach Dabo Swinney said in a prepared statement. “He has done everything we have asked and then some, so the two-game suspension is the low end."

Here is what Watkins did on average in Clemson wins vs losses:

Wins: 117 yds total offense, 1 TD per game
Losses: 92 yds total offense, 0.67 TD per game

Watkins had 160 yards in a losing effort at Georgia Tech driving the average of the three losses he played in way up. The other two losses he had 48 and 68 total yards.

His best game of the year came against?

Auburn. 155 yards receiving, 44 yards rushing, and 2 touchdowns.

The sophomore's stats last season don't bear a huge difference in Clemson winning or losing, but defenses must know where he is at all times on the field and Auburn was likely to provide a second defender to his side of the field after getting torched a year ago.

Auburn DC Brian Van Gorder can now devote another player to stopping Andre Ellington on the ground where this game will truly be won or lost.

Clemson averaged 183 yards per game on the ground in 10 wins, including 238 vs Auburn to just 98 in four losses.

While Clemson has a solid receiving corps without Watkins, I think their chances of beating Auburn just took a big hit.