Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

SEC Releases 2012 Football Schedule

December 28, 2011 Leave a comment

The Southeastern Conference has at long last released the 2012 Conference Football Schedule after a month of hand-wringing and anticipation by the fans! At first glance, things just got a lot easier for a lot of teams. Let’s take a look at the Tennessee schedule.

Sept. 1 – NC State (Atlanta)
Sept. 8 – Georgia State
Sept. 15 – Florida
Sept. 22 – Akron
Sept. 29 – at Georgia
Oct. 6 – Open
Oct. 13 – at Mississippi State
Oct. 20 – Alabama
Oct. 27 – at South Carolina
Nov. 3 – Troy
Nov. 10 – Missouri
Nov. 17 – at Vanderbilt
Nov. 24 – Kentucky
(Home games in bold)

As I said, things just got a lot easier. Compared with the schedule of the last two years, the Vols have really hit a good time to make great strides. A team largely composed of juniors and sophomores with a lot of experience, with good freshmen coming in; Tennessee should finally be able to reap some rewards. This is not to say there will be a season of contending for titles; I don’t think that’s going to happen until 2013. I tweeted earlier today that in this schedule, there are only 3 sure wins, one sure loss and 8 “I dunno” games.

I fully expect to see wins over Georgia State, Akron, and Troy. Possibly by three touchdowns minimum. I also fully expect a loss to Alabama. It’s the other games that give me pause, as I honestly have no idea what to say. Yes, I’m including Kentucky in that category after this year’s debacle. Let’s try to break this down.

Sept. 1 – North Carolina State
Did anyone watch the Belk Bowl outside of Louisville? I didn’t like what I saw. NC State has an offense that could really light it up if it executes. I don’t think they have the defense to stop Tyler Bray and Co. If the Vols figure out how to run the ball in the offseason, it will be a long day for NC State and this will be an easy win. If we have the same rushing ineptitude of 2011, this could be a very tight game. This is a true toss-up game that will go a long way to telling us what the 2012 Vols will be like. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 31-28

Sept. 8 – Georgia State
I know nothing about Georgia State. I do know that they’re small enough not to pose any real threat unless we have another day like last November in Lexington. A I-AA team that went 3-8, the Panthers are going to get embarrassed in Knoxville. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 65-7

Sept. 15 – Florida
For once, I have no idea how this game is going to turn out. Last season was competitive even with the injury to Justin Hunter putting the Vols behind in a hurry. The defense should be better able to handle a Florida still trying to find its way on offense, and Florida will immediately have played Texas A&M the week before in what should be a tough game. Florida does not have the continuity of Georgia and will be looking to find its identity in this game. I see this game also going close, and I think this could possibly be the year we finally beat Florida again. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 24-21

Sept. 22 – Akron
Akron only won a single game last year. I’m not sure I really need to talk much about this one. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 55-0

Sept. 29 – at Georgia
I see Mark Richt’s team carrying their 2011 momentum over into 2012 with a very forgiving schedule. Georgia could quite possibly run the table, though I don’t see them winning the SEC Championship nor going to the BCS Championship if they do. If they can get through Vanderbilt, they will come into this game 4-0 with a full head of steam. I’m not sure, with their continuity (unlike Florida), that Tennessee is ready to get past Georgia. Chalk this one up as the first loss of the season. PREDICTION: Georgia, 28-17.

Oct. 13 – at Mississippi State
I really hate not knowing. The Bulldogs put beatdowns on everyone in Dan Mullen’s first season in Starkville, but with no one surprised by them in 2011, they slipped to 6-6. This is another team that also could be unbeaten if they can get past Auburn in September. I’ll be watching their game against Troy if it’s on TV, as the Vols play them later on. Since Tennessee is traveling to where there is more cowbell, I’m going to chalk this one up as a second loss. PREDICTION: Miss. State, 26-24

Oct. 20 – Alabama
You know what I absolutely love? The Third Saturday In October. It returns with a vengeance to Knoxville. On the actual Third Saturday in October! The Vols could well be playing the defending national champs (depending on the outcome of the upcoming game), and Alabama will be reloading. As much as it pains me, I don’t really need to explain that this will be a loss, unless the Vols play a perfect game. Look for Bama to pull away in the 4th quarter. PREDICTION: Alabama, 35-21

Oct. 27 – at South Carolina
Again, I don’t know. This is grating at me. We should know by this time whether or not the Gamecocks continue their offensive shenanigans or if it has settled into a Spurrier offense. If they continue their struggles, Tennessee should win big this time around. Since they will have played Vanderbilt, Missouri, Kentucky, Georgia, LSU, and Florida already, South Carolina could be hurting and looking for a big win. I think this time around the Vols will have Tyler Bray to finish the job. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 38-21

Nov. 3 – Troy
Another team that only won 3 games last season. Look for another blowout. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 48-7

Nov. 10 – Missouri
I’ve said this too many times already: I don’t know. The Tigers were only competitive in one of their losses, but they beat a ranked Texas and a ranked Texas A&M. I don’t know how they’ll respond to a higher level of competition in the SEC. They still have 3 non-conference games to schedule, but a glance at what they currently have shows they could have zero wins by the time they play Kentucky 2 weeks before this game. I don’t think they’ll beat anyone on the conference schedule before then. I’m gonna say Tennessee has a big conference win here. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 45-10

Nov. 17 – at Vanderbilt
This is the one game on the schedule that actually scares me. Vanderbilt got scary good in a hurry, and very easily could have been 10-2 instead of 6-6. They will be bowl-eligible before this game, I believe, unless the Miss. State effect shows up and no one is surprised by them this season. This will be a close, hard-fought game. I want to believe the Vols don’t want a repeat of the OT game and get this done in regulation. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 24-21.

Nov. 24 – Kentucky
I want to believe this Vols team will be out for blood after the embarrassing showing in Lexington, which I attended, and a game which I will never be going back to Lexington for after the way Kentucky fans treated us. I still want to see a game in Rupp Arena, but after that I’m done with Lexington. The Mildcats will likely have only won 3 games by the end of the season and coming up on a Tennessee team that will be out to answer for 2011. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 45-17.

Final Predicted Record: 9-3
This is an extremely optimistic prediction. 8-4 or 7-5 might be more realistic, but I do think there will be surprises for us vs. Florida and South Carolina. If there are major injuries again this season, 7-5 is the bottom line. Let’s all look forward to football time in Tennessee 2012!

Categories: Sports

Rocky Times On Rocky Top

January 14, 2010 1 comment

I am writing this post to officially bring closure to myself over the events of the past 14 months. I hope I am able to help some of my Tennessee brethren find closure as well. This post will (hopefully) signal the end of any commentary until fall, excepting comment on the soon-expected news on a new hire.

I hate to say I called this one.

I really do. The cliche about my blood is true, it really does run Tennessee orange. Few people are disturbed about this week’s events more than those of orange blood. For that matter, even fewer are as disturbed about the last 14 months than I am. My friend Ryan wrote a fabulous post here that accurately describes everything I’ve said publicly and privately. I said on this blog back in August:

This off season at The University of Tennessee has been the most tumultuous in recent memory. Only the equally disastrous 2005 season (where the Vols went 5-6 under eerily similar circumstances) can compare. This time around, it ended with the terrible ouster of beloved coach Philip Fulmer and the hiring of firebrand Lane Kiffin. Fulmer’s choice of Dave Clawson to replace the great David Cutcliffe as offensive coordinator was, unquestionably, the wrong move, and that is what cost him his job. The off season, as I’ve just said, was a study in patience.

I make no bones about it – I don’t like Lane Kiffin. I’ve Tweeted and Facebooked derisive monikers as “Lame Kiddin” or “Lame Kiffin” from Day 1. I greatly fear we have hired another Bill Callahan (for those who don’t know what I mean, look at how he utterly destroyed Nebraska football and you’ll know then what I mean).

I repeatedly resisted invitations to “get on the Lane Train.” I refused to drink the Kool-Aid. I urged everyone around me to do the same. We threw out a man with class and character for this? The prom king? The guy who has absolutely no self-confidence whatsoever that he has to go around slapping everyone else in the face? I was skeptical.

Then he came to campus and actually started coaching. Everyone knows the first half of the season was horrible. It was as if the lingering effects of Dave Clawson couldn’t be shaken off. Then came the Georgia game, which I attended with my dad. Shock and awe! Tennessee football! Hope sprung.

The rest of the season was a study in just how improved Kiffin had made this team. The Vol Nation everywhere was beginning to feel excited again. Recruits were knocking down our doors. I actually spent a few minutes trying to see if I could budget Florida tickets for next fall. Kiffin seemed to be growing up a bit, even as questions mounted about his practices. I had hope that, even if I could never drink the Kool-Aid, I could at least enjoy watching it get made.

And then Lame Kiffin yanked the rug out from under us. After one season, promising to rebuild our proud tradition, Kiffin reneged on every commitment he made and left for, of all places USC. An ancient Tennessee nemesis. Look it up in the record books if you don’t believe me.

Please don’t misunderstand me — I do understand his reasons for leaving. It’s his dream job, it’s the only place he would have left for, yeah yeah yeah. I get that. But let me answer a question posed by a long-time friend from back home: if it was MY dream job, and I’d only been in my current post for a year, I most certainly would NOT have left.

Unlike Kiffin, my word actually means something to me. My integrity is something that I actually value. If I were to promise a church that I would help them to rebuild after several years of stagnating, I know without a doubt that I’m promising to be at that church for several years. At least a decade. And to dishonor that commitment by leaving after 14 months, to sully my name in this way, is sin. Scripture says that “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold (Proverbs 22:1).”

And that Scripture is reflected in the fallout from Kiffin’s betrayal. Yes, there is no other word to accurately describe it. Lame Kiffin is now the most hated man in sports outside of the USC family. If it’s possible, he may even be more hated than the Yankees. And that’s saying a lot. Current and former players have nothing good to say about him. The seniors from the 2009-10 team have talked about how the coaches never embraced Tennessee traditions, but instead tried to change them for some, ahem, very strange shenanigans. There is an undercurrent of anger among players, alumni, and fans.

I had a bad feeling about this from the start. One of my first thoughts after he was hired was that Kiffin would use Tennessee to get another plum job. How long would it be until he got hired at, say, Notre Dame? Michigan? Florida State? Somewhere else? I held out hope he would stay long enough to get our program back on track. Sadly, 14 months was my answer.

What Can Tennessee Do Now?
The athletic director, Mike Hamilton, immediately began a coaching search with a goal of having someone in place today (Friday). The names bandied about by many, including ESPN, which now seeks to make the news instead of reporting it, were good ones: Will Muschamp, Gary Petersen, Dan Mullen, etc. etc. As of this writing all had said “No” and no coach had been hired.

But if Mike Hamilton wants to save his job, he needs to make one hire and one hire only: David Cutcliffe. He is a Tennessee man, knows the SEC, is probably one of the top quarterback coaches in the nation, and recruits would want to play in his offense. Do not go outside the Tennessee family for this hire, Mike Hamilton, unless you have an absolute slam dunk such as someone like Bobby Stoops would be.

Further, I would heavily encourage the university to start looking for a new athletic director. The only thing Hamilton can point to as a real accomplishment is the hiring of Bruce Pearl. That hire alone saved Tennessee basketball for years to come. But let’s not pretend. Football is the driving force in Tennessee. You mess with football, you get the business end of that musket that gets carried around at the games. Mike Hamilton messed with football. Unless the new coach actually does what Kiffin promised to do, his days are numbered.

Fans, we can pull up our pants and get busy supporting the program even more fervently than before. Tennessee needs us now more than ever. The new coach is going to need a groundswell of support from us to keep recruits coming. We’re going to need it even more to beat Florida and Alabama. We need to put the past 14 months behind us and become a Tennessee family again. We’ve got to wish, with all our hearts, that we were on old Rocky Top. Only then will Tennessee be able to repair the damage.

Update: As I closed this post, word came out that David Cutcliffe may be about to be announced as the next head coach. I can only hope and pray this is true!

Categories: Sports

NCAA Football 2009 Preview – Top 10

Now, with no further ado, let’s look at this year’s Silent Holocron Top Ten.

1. Florida. Do I really need to explain this one? They return virtually everyone but Percy Harvin and a player here or there. I think the only team that can beat Florida this year is, well, Florida. Everyone will be gunning for them, so I expect to see several close games. If they lose anywhere, it could be in the national title game, provided the team they face is equally as successful.

2. Texas (tie). I really think they got screwed out of the national title game last year. But we will see if this ranking is deserved.

2. Oklahoma (tie). The Sooners were the recipient of good fortune, getting the BCS nod in the Big 12 when they really shouldn’t have. But they were just as good as the Longhorns. They may be even better this year as they are the Florida of the Big 12, returning a good cast of characters. Can they beat the Longhorns? Can they show they really are the elite team they aspire to be?

4. Southern Cal. The Trojans find their way into the top 5 every year. I don’t expect this year to be any different. But we will see how many upsets they give up this campaign.

5. Alabama (tie). Have the Crimson Tide returned to tradition? Can they repeat? I think they can, but only if they beat LSU on Nov. 7.

5. Ohio State (tie). Front-runner for underachiever of the decade, the Buckeyes will need to annihilate the competition this year to get considered for another national title game letdown.

7. LSU. That’s right, I’m calling for Les Miles to use last year’s experience-gaining season to build what will at the very minimum be a 10-win season. I think they will beat Alabama and lose to Florida twice before annihilating the Texas – Oklahoma loser in a bowl game.

8. Mississippi. No one’s taken the Rebels this seriously since the Eli Manning days. Now that Ole Miss finally has a good coach after inexplicably running out David Cutcliffe, expect Houston Nutt to have a team that will compete for SEC championships yearly.

9. Virginia Tech. I’m penciling the Hokies in to win the ACC. They may even go as far as a single loss. But they aren’t BCS material compared to my top 5.

10. Penn State. I’m convinced Joe Paterno has for the past few years secretly been telling players he’s going to retire if they don’t start winning. If they beat Ohio State, they’re Big 10 champs this year, hands down. But again, not national title material.

Honorable Mentions: Georgia, California, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Boise State.

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NCAA Football 2009 Preview – Tennessee

August 5, 2009 4 comments

It is that time of year once again. As baseball enters the home stretch to September and the playoffs, basketball is still a distant memory, and soccer continues to be boring and irrelevant; pigs everywhere are running in fear of their lives as we prepare once again for Football Time in (insert your state of residence/allegiance here)!

This off season at The University of Tennessee has been the most tumultuous in recent memory. Only the equally disastrous 2005 season (where the Vols went 5-6 under eerily similar circumstances) can compare. This time around, it ended with the terrible ouster of beloved coach Philip Fulmer and the hiring of firebrand Lane Kiffin. Fulmer’s choice of Dave Clawson to replace the great David Cutcliffe as offensive coordinator was, unquestionably, the wrong move, and that is what cost him his job. The off season, as I’ve just said, was a study in patience.

I make no bones about it – I don’t like Lane Kiffin. I’ve Tweeted and Facebooked derisive monikers as “Lame Kiddin” or “Lame Kiffin” from Day 1. I greatly fear we have hired another Bill Callahan (for those who don’t know what I mean, look at how he utterly destroyed Nebraska football and you’ll know then what I mean). I fully admit that my insulation from nearly all things Tennessee football that comes from living in Louisville, KY may have semi-permanently removed my Orange and White blinders and made me far more jaded about the 2009 prospects for success. Especially as reports I get from “back home” (Chattanooga area and Knoxville) are almost unanimous in their utter fawning over the Boy Wonder. But if I could put up with 7 years of Clausens in Knoxville (Casey and Rick), I am certainly willing to put up with Kiffin for however long he was signed on to coach – 5 years, I believe.

I have also deliberately not kept up with news out of Knoxville except in cases where Kiffin ran his mouth, and then I had no choice but to pay attention to those – they were plastered all over the national news. The only real attention I’ve given to Tennessee this off season was to watch National Signing Day. That day I felt vindicated in my defense of coach Fulmer – he had a top 5 class ready to sign that very day! But it was a class that, at the end of the day, came only to #15 as defections to other schools was the norm. Yes, yes, I know: Kiffin has since brought that ranking up with sensational recruiting steals, but that isn’t my point.

This season will be full of question marks. What kind of team will Tennessee be? Can Monte Kiffin keep the great defensive tradition started by John Chavis (another coach I feel should have been retained)? Can the offense finally return to the punishing ground game that allows the quarterbacks to fire at will? You know, the kind of running game so strong and reliable that Peyton Manning had no problem whatsoever checking off to running plays at the line of scrimmage? The kind of running game that basically won the 1998 national championship? The kind that put Tennessee in multiple SEC Championship games? Are the big-name coaches Kiffin hired really that good? Will Kiffin and Co. turn out to be legitimate or full of fluff?

This makes for excitement and uncertainty all rolled into one. No one, not the opponents nor the fans, know what to expect. Kiffin has an advantage here: he can only go up. But keep losing, and he’ll be out of here faster than you can sing Rocky Top. And so will athletic director Mike Hamilton for hiring another Bill Callahan.

For a far more enlightening look at Tennessee personnel-wise, look at my friend Ryan’s take here. His summary assessment:

There are just so many unknowns with a new coaching regime with a completely new offensive and defensive system. Offense was largely a disaster last year, so anything would be an improvement. Defense was in good shape, so the Tampa 2 defense might work out well. Then again, it may be too complicated a system for college and flop. Who knows.

Realistically, I think they should be able to win the little games. I think the lynchpin will be what they can do against UCLA, as that’s probably one of the “star” games that Kiffin has delegated on the big schedule in the locker room. If they can redeem themselves against UCLA, they might do alright. If they loss that one, then it might be a long, long season for the old Volunteers.

7-5 with no wins against a major SEC opponent. If they can beat a major SEC team, it will likely be Auburn or South Carolina.

So with no further ado, let’s take a look at the 2009 schedule.

Sept. 5 vs. Western Kentucky Knoxville, Tenn.
Sept. 12 vs. UCLA Knoxville, Tenn.
Sept. 19 at Florida Gainesville, Fla.
Sept. 26 vs. Ohio Knoxville, Tenn.
Oct. 3 vs. Auburn Knoxville, Tenn.
Oct. 10 vs. Georgia Knoxville, Tenn.
Oct. 24 at Alabama Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Oct. 31 vs. South Carolina Knoxville, Tenn.
Nov. 7 vs. Memphis Knoxville, Tenn.
Nov. 14 at Mississippi Oxford, Miss.
Nov. 21 vs. Vanderbilt Knoxville, Tenn.
Nov. 28 at Kentucky Lexington, Ky.

That is a LONG stretch of football, and unless I’m missing something, they are only getting one week off right smack in the middle of the season, after the Georgia game.

The Wins: Western Kentucky, UCLA, Ohio, Auburn, Memphis, Kentucky. I think these are “gimmes” for Kiffin & Co. Obviously, Tennessee is expected to beat Western Kentucky, Ohio, and Memphis. I think the team will be out for revenge on UCLA, as that game largely set the tone for the 2008 season. Setting the tone will be important right out of the gate. Auburn is probably a game that could go either way, depending on how new coach Gene Chizik has the Tigers performing. But I think a safer bet is to say they will lose. Kentucky will have to endure yet another year of futility against the Vols.

The Losses: Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi. I think the first three are no-brainers. Florida basically got everyone back from last year’s national champion and I don’t think they can be beat, unless they beat themselves. Add to that Kiffin’s stupid antagonizing of the swamp reptiles, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Georgia is just a class above the Vols right now. Alabama is probably going to start another streak until Kiffin gets the team together or he is replaced by someone who knows what he’s doing. I think Houston Nutt will take care of the Vols, but it will be a close game.

Either Way: South Carolina, Vanderbilt. South Carolina has been decidedly bi-polar, schizophrenic, (insert psychological disorder of choice here) since hiring Steve Spurrier. One week they are fantastic, the next week you wonder if they belong in the SEC. A Vols win depends on which team shows up for this game. Vanderbilt is no longer a “gimme” game. They are tough as nails over the past few years. Coming off a bowl win, Tennessee will have to fight hard if they want to win, and it will depend on how much Kiffin has impressed his system on the talent he has assembled and how well they execute it.

Prediction: 7-5. I agree with Ryan in suggesting this result for 2009. I think Tennessee will win the games I’ve said they will, lose the ones I’ve said they will, and split the ones that could go either way. I don’t know if that will translate into a bowl game, but expect a December bowl of low prestige at minimum. 6-5 is not out of the realm of possibility and possibly is more realistic. But either way, we have an improvement over last year. If we have a losing record, I expect the howls in Knoxville to be heard all the way to Mars. But don’t say I didn’t warn you, cause I won’t be saying “I told you so.”

Tomorrow: NCAA 2009 Top 10.

Quotable Quotes

September 18, 2008 Leave a comment

We’ve got potential, but “potential” is just a French word for “not there yet.”

Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe after beating Kansas State 38-29 Wednesday night.


NCAA Football Week 2

September 3, 2008 6 comments

After a painful opening weekend, here’s my thoughts and this week’s ‘Cron rankings.

Kentucky vs. Louisville.
This was the most painful game to watch that I have ever witnessed. Both teams were AWFUL. We might be scoreless in the 30th overtime right now if Louisville hadn’t given up those turnovers. The biggest surprise was Louisville’s utter lack of anything resembling skill on offense. At least the defense finally showed up after taking a year off.

Kentucky fans: don’t get too worked up over the Cats’ defense – they were ineffective. The UL offense is solely responsible for those defensive numbers you racked up. Also, your offense, quite plainly, stinks. You guys are going to get blown out at least 4 times this year, especially once you start playing the conference. Expect at least 7 losses this year, including a 24th straight loss to Tennessee (and that will be a very badly played game by you).

Tennessee vs. UCLA.
It pains me to say this, but I called this one in the last post. There is no reason for the Vols to have lost this game. Fingers could be pointed generously, but the biggest lies with (as usual) Arian Foster. Mr. Fumble-Fingers destroyed any chance of putting the game away with his fumble on the UCLA 5-yard line. That’s what he’s known for – fumbling. Daniel Lincoln also missed 4 field goals. Yes, 4! One was mercifully called back due to a penalty, which forced the Vols to punt instead. He finished (including the one called back) 1-5 kicking on the day. Jeff Hall he ain’t. Lincoln hasn’t exactly inspired confidence in his tenure as kicker. I guess Crompton and Co. will have to work out the kinks in the offense so we don’t have to rely on the kicker.

Rich Rodriguez has ruined Michigan. ‘Nuff Ced.

Not bad for this year’s debut. They looked remarkably improved over the comedy show debacle that was the Bill Callahan era. Give Bo Pelini 4 years to get only players recruited by him on the team and I shudder to think what might happen.

And with that, I give you this week’s rankings.

  1. LSU
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Georgia
  4. Ohio State
  5. Southern Cal
  6. Auburn
  7. Florida
  8. West Virginia
  9. Texas
  10. Wisconsin
  11. Missouri
  12. Kansas
  13. South Florida
  14. Tennessee
  15. Alabama
  16. Clemson
  17. Arizona State
  18. Texas Tech
  19. Penn State
  20. Fresno State
Categories: Sports Tags: ,

NCAA Football 2008

August 27, 2008 2 comments

I was recently reminded by my friend Ryan’s recently released football predictions that it is now football time in Tennessee/Nebraska/Kentucky/etc. I had to scramble to read a whole summer’s worth of reports and peruse the rankings! And now, with no further ado, I release to you The Silent Holocron’s 2008 College Football Rankings! This year we will do a Top-20.

  1. LSU. These guys must lose to be removed from the top spot.
  2. Oklahoma. This pick is actually not popular if you’ve seen the current listings. But the Sooners return a good team that will only improve week by week.
  3. Georgia. If the Dawgs can avoid patting themselves on the back too much, an All-SEC national title game might be possible. (Yes, I do believe it will happen one day!)
  4. Ohio State. The Buckeyes will stay right in the hunt until the end, falling to an SEC team…again…
  5. Southern Cal. Trojans here only because they are in dynasty mode.
  6. Auburn. Only because I don’t want Florida this high up.
  7. Florida. And this high only grudgingly. I still think Tebow is overrated. A product of the system.
  8. West Virginia. Pat White keeps the Mountaineers looking good at least one more year.
  9. Clemson. If Tommy Bowden can get his boys to avoid slacking off, Clemson may win the ACC.
  10. Texas. The Big 12 will come down to the Longhorns and the Sooners. Beating Oklahoma would be a big step to returning to the title game.
  11. Wisconsin. Can the Bagders remain a consistent contender for the Big 10?
  12. Tennessee. A return to the SEC Championship will depend largely on the big games vs. Florida, Georgia, Auburn, and Alabama. I predict my Vols will be at least 10-2 this year and beat Florida and Auburn. Georgia is mad after last year and will be motivated. Alabama could go either way. A stumble against rebuilding UCLA on Monday is a potential 3rd loss.
  13. Virginia Tech. Last year’s hiccups will be repeated. Hokies will trail Boston College and Clemson all year.
  14. Missouri. One of last year’s sleeper teams, the Tigers will be hard-pressed to give a repeat performance. Don’t be surprised if they disappear from the rankings.
  15. Kansas. See Missouri.
  16. Arizona State. Might be the only team to challenge USC this year.
  17. South Florida. Playing outside of Florida too much this year.
  18. Texas Tech. Big 12 sleeper?
  19. Illinois. See Texas Tech. Illini must build on last year’s successes to give a repeat performance in ’08.
  20. Michigan. This is a sentimental ranking, I’ve always liked Michigan. We’ll see how Rich Rodriguez’ transformation of the Wolverines goes.

Biggest “Duh” Pics: An SEC team will face either Ohio State, USC, or an unbeaten Big 12 champ. The only way this won’t happen is if there is an upset in the SEC Championship. Come on now, you know the SEC is loaded.

Sleeper of the Year: Alabama and Louisville (tie). The Tide could surprise a few people along the way and end up in the SEC title game. Louisville is off the radar in a Big East that isn’t that big this year. Look for the Cards to upset South Florida and West Virginia at home, and for a shellacking of Pittsburgh. Their only other real conference test will be UConn. Rutgers will be so-so this year and should not challenge the Cards.

Most Improved: Mississippi State. The Sylvester Croom-led Bulldogs will be a tough team to beat.

What I’d Like to See: The return of defense to college football. 2007 was an atrocious year for defense, as it was virtually non-existent everywhere. Most glaring was Louisville’s fall from glory, largely due to a defense that couldn’t hit a tackling dummy. If Tennessee has shaken off the virus that infected college defenses in ’07, look out!

I’d also like to see a return to Nebraska as Nebraska. The Bill Callahan era was nothing more than a sick joke. My friend Ryan gives glad tidings of hope in this post. Bo Pelini will make Nebraska a respected, feared name once again.

Going to see: At least one Cards game this year. I’m gonna try to convince my dad to get tickets to at least one Vols game too. And of course, there’s the annual Catholic drinking festival Trinity-St. Xavier high school circus Super Bowl in October. Due to marrying right, I get to see that game as long as I live in Louisville. 😉

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