Friday, August 31, 2007



Miami quarterback Kirby Freeman: Earlier this week new headman Randy Shannon named Freeman the starting quarterback for week one, but in the next breath mentioned that senior Kyle Wright is still “a starter” – so the leash is not long. Freeman had his chances to take the reins last season, however he never really served as an upgrade over Wright. Freeman did win the MVP Award with his 272-yard and two-touchdown performance against Nevada in the MPC Computers Bowl.

Miami has two tough September tests versus Oklahoma and Texas A & M and Shannon is looking for a leader. If Freeman can’t do it against Marshall…why should anyone expect him to play any better against one of the top secondaries the following week when they visit the Sooners. Freeman is already starting with a handicap as Coach Shannon has suspended super sophomore Sam Shields, Miami’s most talented pass catcher, for the opening game.



It should be no surprise than someone named King David who checks in at 6’8” would be on everyone’s radar. Heading into his senior season, Auburn’s left tackle King (David) Dunlap is among the most highly rated offensive linemen according to the pro scouts. His job is to make sure that not too many people take note of the opposing team’s defensive end by keeping them away from the quarterback. This week, one of those players is Rob Jackson of Kansas St. While not well known – yet, this Wildcat did earn All-Big 12 Honorable Mention, recording 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss last season, his first playing Division I football and he is all jacked up about year number two.

“I’m really excited,” Jackson said of getting the season started against the Auburn Tigers this Saturday (7:45, ESPN). “The whole team is excited. During two-a-days and before you put your pads on, you can feel the energy on the field.”

Not only does the K-State senior understand what it means going up against a Southeastern Conference giant such as Auburn, but Mr. Jackson realizes the opportunity he has this weekend.

“Yeah – that’s my goal,” Jackson respectfully stated when asked if he was going to try to take the King’s crown this Saturday. “It’s good. It’s good people get a chance to see me go up against a good tackle. Obviously people are gonna be watching him (Dunlap) – if people are watching him then they’re gonna be watching me so it’ll definitely be a good match up.”

If Jackson is able to break through against Dunlap to sack the Auburn quarterback, the Connecticut native could begin to move up the draft charts for 2008.

Keep an eye out for more studs versus sleepers throughout the college football season.

• To hear the NFL Draft Bible Player Spotlight with Rob Jackson in its entirety click here:
• Click on the “Menu” tab in the DBTV Screen, then click “Audio”



In the first SEC match-up of the 2007 NCAA football season, the score belies what happened in the game. The Louisiana St. Tigers topped the Mississippi State Bulldogs 45-0. While the Tigers did finally take control midway through the third quarter, Mississippi State’s defense played exceptionally well for most of the game. If not for the poor job of protecting the football by the MSU offense, LSU might not have scored a touchdown the entire first half. It took four interceptions from Mississippi State quarterback Michael Henig for the Tigers to squeeze out two touchdowns before halftime.

The LSU offense looks nothing like the top scoring unit it was last season. Some of that can probably be attributed to the loss of offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher. Nevertheless, a SEC team ranked second in the country needs to be able to run the ball. Quarterback Matt Flynn was the leading rusher at the half with 29 yards on four carries. While he did not get many passing attempts, his passing efficiency was solid (seven of ten for 67 yards at the half).

Part of the LSU scoring problems came from inspired play by the Bulldogs defense. However, penalties put the Tigers offense in long yardage situations way too often. There were far too many false starts, including one from wide receiver Early Doucet. While crowd noise can claim a few of the penalties, wide receivers should be watching the snap rather than listening for the snap count and chronic false starts indicate a lack of mental focus. LSU’s offense cannot continue to make those kinds of mental errors – not if they are going to win the SEC this season.

Mississippi State’s defense played with tremendous heart. The unit took excellent pursuit angles and employed solid gap control to neutralize the Tigers’ team speed. Late in the second quarter, the Bulldogs switched from a 4-3 alignment to a 3-4 and 3-5 look and became very aggressive. At one point, the defense forced LSU into a 3rd and 28, pushing their heels to the goal line, nearly earning a safety.

However, Mississippi State’s offense looked sluggish against LSU’s lightning quick defense. LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey repeatedly shed double teams and disrupted the running and passing games. Henig was 5-of-10 for 37 yards with four interceptions by the half, adding two more picks by the end of the game. Mississippi State’s running backs combined for 30 yards by halftime – only one yard more than Flynn had.

The most obvious and glaring problem for Mississippi State was their offense’s utter failure to capitalize on the play of their defense. Henig made poor decisions with the football. He could easily have had six interceptions by halftime. On two other errant passes, there were defenders in the vicinity and not a Bulldog receiver in sight.

State’s running back Anthony Dixon is 6’1”, 240 pounds and is touted as the Bulldogs thumper. However, Dixon is not fast enough to turn the corner on the LSU defense. Dixon was hyped before the season for his speed and size. However, he runs with a poor pad level neutralizing the advantage his size should have given him on LSU’s smaller, faster defenders. Dixon runs upright, which allowed LSU’s defenders to bring the contact to him instead of vice versa. He outweighs every linebacker on the LSU roster, however his technique does nothing to levy his size advantage.

Mississippi State linebacker/defensive end Titus Brown was both an assent and a liability. Brown’s speed and explosiveness enabled him to blow by defenders into the backfield where he earned a sack and numerous quarterback hurries. However, Brown’s eagerness to get up field, resulted in some LSU opportunities.

Here is an example: Early in the game, Brown pushed up into the backfield where he was supposed to play containment. But trying to pursue and make a play, Brown pinched inside allowing a long run to break outside of his containment. Brown was excellent most of the game but has to stay in position when it is not his turn to attack.

By the end of the third quarter, LSU wore the Mississippi State defense down. The Bulldog’s stop unit played with tremendous fire all game long but their offensive woes kept the tiring defense on the field too much. LSU alternated a punishing running game between the tackles featuring big back Jacob Hester, with a speed game employing a running back by platoon approach to attack the edges.

After a quick strike at the start of the third quarter, LSU rolled up 21 more points to finish off the Dawgs. Flynn finished the game 12-of-19 for 128 yards and two touchdowns. Doucet hauled in nine passes for 78 yards and a touchdown, while safety Craig Steltz had a career day, hauling in three of the six interceptions.

The Bayou Bengals may look exceptional in the box score, but Mississippi State’s unranked defense gave the Tigers a much tougher game than the stats illustrate. To keep their lofty ranking, LSU must find their offensive stride. Their defense and special teams look fast and aggressive. However, without the slew of Mississippi State turnovers to help the LSU offense, the scoreboard might have told quite a different story.


University of Florida Reaches Agreement with AAFL

The University of Florida and the All-American Football League have finalized an agreement by which the University will host three of the League's Florida team's five home games at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

The League's Board is chaired by Dr. Cedric Dempsey, formerly President of the NCAA, and includes many other distinguished persons including Dr. Charles Young, formerly President of the University of Florida, and Gene Corrigan, formerly Commissioner of the ACC. Former Gator Lee McGriff has been named Board Chairman of the AAFL's Florida team.

The AAFL's Florida team will feature former players of the University of Florida who have at least earned their bachelor's degree.

A press conference coordinated by the AAFL has been scheduled for 3 p.m., Sept. 5, at the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center in Gainesville, at which time the head coach and president of the AAFL Florida team will be introduced along with former UF players. Home dates and opponents of the AAFL's Florida team will be also be announced.

Chairman of the AAFL Florida Team Board Lee McGriff, former Gator All-American and Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel and AAFL CEO and VP of Football Operations M. Katz and Keenan Davis will be there. Other former Florida Gators who will be present include Shane Matthews, Travis McGriff, Willie Jackson, Chris Doering, Judd Davis, Fred Weary, Eli Williams and Vernell Brown.



2006 RECORD: 11-2; BIG TEN: 7-1
Lost Rose Bowl vs. Southern California 32-18
LOCATION: Ann Arbor, Michigan
STADIUM: Michigan Stadium (107, 501)
HEAD COACH: Lloyd Carr
OVERALL: 113-36 (12 seasons)
AT MICHIGAN: 113-36 (12 seasons)

After their best start since the National Championship season of 1997 (11-0), the Wolverines nearly cancelled out all of their success with their third straight loss to Ohio St. (five of six) and fourth straight bowl loss as they allowed 74 points in their final two contests (42 versus OSU & 32 versus USC). In fact, the storied program has not beaten the rival Buckeyes and their bowl opponent in the same season since 2000. With the likes of seniors Chad Henne, Mike Hart and Jake Long returning on offense, Michigan could finish what they started in 2006.


OFFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Mike Debord (2nd Season)
KEY LOSSES: Kevin Grady (Medical RS)

Henne, the strong-armed signal caller and his personal protector left tackle Long, were potential first round picks, but decided to return to take care of some unfinished business. In Hart, they have one of the most reliable players in college football. Undersized and more quick than fast, the senior tailback simply gets the job done. Backup Brandon Minor saw limited playing time as a true freshman, but is likely their most talented back. What could make this offense potentially the most explosive in school history is their wide outs. When healthy, junior Mario Manningham has proven to be as dynamic a big play weapon as exists in college football, averaging 18.5 yards per reception, while scoring almost once every four touches last season. With Adrian Arrington’s status restored, the 6’3” target will compliment Manningham well, also look for sophomores Greg Mathews and LaTerryal Savoy, a pair of highly touted recruits, to be ready to step up. Either way it should be a talent laden receiving corps. Long leads another stellar offensive line stocked with top prospects, a position where the Wolverines simply continue to reload year after year.

PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Jake Long (SR), 2) Chad Henne (SR), 3) Mario Manningham (JR), 4) Adrian Arrington (JR), 5) Jason Hart (SR), 6) Brandon Minor (SO), 7) Greg Matthews (SO), 8) Carson Butler (SO), 9) Alex Mitchell (JR), 10) Steve Schilling (FR)


DEFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Ron English (2nd Season)
KEY LOSSES: Leon Hall, LaMarr Woodley, Alan Branch, David Harris, Prescott Burgess, Rondell Biggs

The Wolverines took a major hit on this side of the ball, losing a quartet of day one draft picks -- nonetheless the cupboard is far from bare. Junior tackle Terrance Taylor is an ideal run stuffer, with ends Tim Jamison and Brandon Graham ready to step in and rush the passer. Getting to the quarterback is also what senior linebacker Shawn Crable does best. With LaMarr Woodley, David Harris and Prescott Burgess all set to play on Sundays this season, Crable is clearly the man and while the other two spots are not set in stone, there is no lack of playmakers at the second level. Last season, the secondary was the biggest question mark on the team, which appears to be the case again as they must replace corner Leon Hall, head and shoulders their best defensive back in 2006. At safety, there is experience led by strong safety Jamar Adams, however they will need someone to emerge at the corner position, possibly true freshman Donovan Warren their top recruit, who hails from the City of Angels. At the very least the word out of Ann Arbor is he is pushing the veterans.

PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Shawn Crable (SR), 2) Brandon Graham (SO), 3) Terrance Taylor (JR), 4) Tim Jamison (JR), 5) Donovan Warren (FR), 6) Jamaar Adams (SR), 7) Brandent Englemon (SR), 8) Chris Graham (SR), 9) Morgan Trent (JR)


For the second straight season, the Wolverines should reach double digits in wins before anyone challenges them. They will then visit Madison to take on the Badgers, who could be undefeated themselves, almost a quarterfinal match with the Buckeyes waiting in the wings and that’s what the 2007 season is all about – beat Brutus! You get the feeling that many in Ann Arbor would prefer to lose to Wisconsin and beat Ohio St. even if that would mean losing out on the Big Ten Title and another trip to the Rose Bowl. Jim Tressel has so dominated Lloyd Carr, that it makes one wonder if his early success against the border rival was all about John Cooper, who lost his job because he could not win the “big one” with the Buckeyes, something many will be calling for, if Carr cannot win the “big one” against the Buckeyes.


Living up to high expectations: If you speak to anyone who lives in Ann Arbor, is currently attending Michigan or went to Michigan -- if they are honest with you, they will admit that part of them is uneasy with the high expectations. Typically, the Wolverines have not handled prosperity well or it could be the Maize and Blue faithful have yet to recover from late season losses to Ohio St. in their finale and then in the Rose Bowl against the Men of Troy. Their trepidations are warranted -- prior to 2006, in their previous five seasons the Wolverines were just 9-9 when ranked in the top ten, with all but one of the wins coming against a significantly lesser opponent (at least 13 points favorite in all but one of those nine wins).


The Maize and Blue are stacked with four and five star recruits on both sides of the ball…but what else is new? Coach Carr is squarely on the hot seat despite an excellent career winning percentage and a National Championship during his tenure. His struggles against Coach Tressel are a craw in the side of Wolverines fans all around the country. Coupled with his bowl woes, questions regarding his big game performances are legitimate and this may be the last chance for Carr to prove his critics wrong -- the talent is there.

Check back tomorrow to see who is #1 in CFI’s Top 25 Countdown

Thursday, August 30, 2007



2006 RECORD: 11-2; SEC: 6-2
Won Sugar Bowl vs. Notre Dame 41-14
LOCATION: Baton Rouge, La.
STADIUM: Tiger (92,400)
OVERALL: 50-25 (6 seasons)
AT LSU: 22-4 (2 seasons)

It was amazing that the Tigers not only failed to win the Southeastern Conference last season, they did not even make it to the championship game with the Arkansas Razorbacks representing the West Division. Nick Saban did not leave the cupboard bare and new headman Les Miles appears to be adding some talent of his own. Miles was 11-2 in each of his first two seasons, however if he fails to win the conference title this year the moaning and groaning will be loud in Cajun Country.


OFFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Gary Crowton (1st Season)
KEY LOSSES: JaMarcus Russell, Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis, Justin Vincent, Brian Johnson, Alley Broussard (Quit Team)

Remember when Peyton Manning left Tennessee and the Vols won it all, well the same thing can happen at LSU. Like Tee Martin, Matt Flynn is not nearly the pro prospect his predecessor was, nevertheless he is an excellent college player who is more than capable of winning games and leading the way. His go-to guy will be speedy senior Early Doucet, who can stretch the field and he excels after the catch, a nearly impossible one-on-one cover. With two receivers gone and playing in the NFL, they will need sophomore Brandon LaFell to step up opposite Doucet. Another key component that will make Flynn’s life easier is an improved running game, with a pair of highly touted sophomores in Keiland Williams and Charlie Scott ready to break out. They each bring size and speed to the table, which is why they were both productive in limited duty as freshmen. The line returns four starters and as a group -- they should be better for the experience they gained last season. Guard Herman Johnson and tackle Ciron Black form a mammoth left side (676 pounds).

PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Early Doucet (SR), 2) Herman Johnson (JR), 3) Ciron Black (SO), 4) Jacob Hester (SR), 5) Will Arnold (SR), 6) Brandon LaFell (SO), 7) Richard Dickson (SO), 8) Keiland Williams (SO), 9) Charles Scott (SO), 10) Matt Flynn (SR)


KEY LOSSES: LaRon Landry, Jessie Daniels, Daniel Francis, Chase Pittman

Very few teams can rival the type of talent the Tigers possess along their defensive line. All-American Glenn Dorsey would have been a first round pick had he declared, however much to the dismay of SEC offensive lineman, Dorsey is back for another season of domination, as he will command double teams all season long. That could spell trouble as Tyson Jackson is a stout end who can also get to the quarterback, while Marlon Favorite and Al Woods, among others, expect to play bigger roles this season. All four could eventually be first round picks in the NFL sometime over the next few seasons. Ali Highsmith and Darry Beckwith are their top two backers, the overlooked but solid portion of this defense. Corners Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon form one of the top pairs in the country, with safety the most unproven position on the team. Not a starter, senior Craig Steltz has some starting experience, but it will be impossible to replace all that LaRon Landry could do.

PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Glenn Dorsey (SR), 2) Marlon Favorite (JR), 3) Tyson Jackson (JR), 4) Ali Highsmith (SR), 5) Darry Beckwith (JR), 6) Chevis Jackson (SR), 7) Jonathan Zenon (SR), 8) Al Woods (SO), 9) Craig Steltz (SR), 10) Charles Alexander (JR)


At Alabama: almost as if fate was the schedule maker, the Tigers season could come down to their trip to Tuscaloosa to face ex-coach Nick Saban, who just a few seasons ago brought a National Championship to Cajun Country. With Virginia Tech, as well as South Carolina, Florida, Auburn and Arkansas all coming to Louisiana, the Crimson Tide are easily LSU’s toughest road foe. The only thing worse for Coach Miles than falling short of another SEC title is if Saban’s squad is the reason why, while everyone in the state dreads the thought of the Tide toppling their Tigers. Bama is a sleeper in the SEC and an upset of LSU could be the springboard they are looking for.


Less sizzle, more steak. The Tigers were among America’s flashiest teams last season, especially on offense. No one could match JaMarcus Russell’s freakish abilities, flicking the ball around the field with utter ease, with a relay team running routes and getting open for him. Flynn is not nearly as exciting as Russell was, as their passing game will not be nearly as high octane as it was in 2006, but it will be steady with even fewer mistakes. In addition, expect a much more physical offensive brand of football this season, with Flynn doing his job as a game manager, just as he did two years ago against Miami in the Peach Bowl.


How talented were the Tigers last season? Well…how many teams do you know that could lose their quarterback, who just happened to be the number one overall pick in the draft, as well as two first round picks at the receiver position and a safety who was selected in the top ten AND comeback as a consensus top five team in America? Miles has a great record here, but has something to prove under pressure. Each year they lost an early season game, seemingly taking them out of the national title picture before they took off. Furthermore, they lost their biggest game over the last two years, when an underdog Georgia team pulled off the upset, 34-14, in the SEC Championship game in 2005. It is BCS Championship game or bust for the Bayou Bengals.

Check back tomorrow to see who is #2 in CFI’s Top 25 Countdown



Join intrepid reporter Shannon O’Keefe as she ventures into the mind, heart and soul of the Notre Dame follower. Before she takes you inside the storied program, O’Keefe enters the realm of the faithful, let’s see what these fanatics might have to say.

College football season is finally upon us. The endless summer blogging about what to expect this season is about to transition into endless fall blogging about unexpected successes and dismal failures. I knew that then-ers will own the Internet. So where does that place me? Put me firmly into the camp of hopers and dreamers. This season, I’d rather believe in leprechauns than statistics.

Like any Irish faithful, I do believe in this team, or at least its leaders. Charlie Weis being chief among them. This season is going to be tough, and potentially ugly, but I believe Coach Weis can put us on the right path – if not to the Louisiana Superdome, then at least a path of progress. I hate the term transitional year because no true fan wants anything to do with transition. We want wins. We want to be in the race. We want some seriously hard hits and airy forward passes on the ESPN highlight reel. Still, let’s face it, best case scenario, we’re in the middle of a good transitional year. A couple of exciting wins, a few close calls and the promise of something great … to come.

I believe in Tom Zbikowski, a fifth-year safety, who can be so dangerous, so explosive, when he’s focused on the field – and this year he is – he’s leaner, quicker and a serious contender for All-America accolades.

I believe in John Carlson, a fifth-year tight end and the only 2006 Mackey Award finalist to return this season.

I believe in Geoff Price, a fifth-year punter with a strong leg.

Domers might be fixated on the quarterback race – Jimmy Clausen, with his newly disclosed off-season surgery; Demetrius Jones, the seeming forerunner; and Evan Sharpley, Quinn’s backup. Putting anyone under center at Notre Dame is anxiety inducing; following Brady Quinn begs trainers to add Xanax to the pre-game routine.

Instead, I’ll be watching Joe Brockington, who is moving to inside linebacker, two freshmen, Armando Allen and Golden Tate, who are the top kick returners and the wickedly talented Sam Young at right tackle.

The first real test will come this weekend against Georgia Tech.

Can we beat them? Yes. They don’t have the talent of Michigan or USC. Will we? Hard to say. They have a good running game and our defense is unproven, particularly in the new 3-4 scheme under defensive coordinator Corwin Brown. However, Georgia Tech has also lost some primetime talent. They may have namesakes to fill the void – James Johnson, but it’s going to take more than the same name on the back of the jersey to replace Calvin Johnson. Defensively, they blitz on 75 percent of snaps. I’d suspect the Irish eyes are on Demetrius Jones to tuck and run. Travis Thomas returning to running back, John Sullivan at center and Carlson at tight end, which will help to bring some continuity to our untested offensive leader.

Still, if our offense could only put 14 up with Quinn under center last season against the Rambling Wreck, well, here’s hoping.

Go Irish!

Look for weekly updates on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish from Shannon O’Keefe.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007



The Big East bragged about having the best out of conference record last year but there might be a reason for that -- an easy schedule. Many in the conference are complaining that they do not get any respect, but they have nobody to blame but themselves.

This season, the Big East has three teams ranked in the polls (Louisville, Rutgers and West Virginia) with a fourth, South Florida, knocking on the door and for the most part, the out of conference schedules for these top teams and the rest of the league is flat out despicable. Instead of trying to prove the doubters wrong and going out there and scheduling top teams, the Big East has packed their out of conference games with cream puffs.

Each school has five games with non-conference opponents, 40 games in total against non Big East foes. Out of those 40 games, there is only one, yes one versus a team that is ranked in the preseason Coach’s Poll (South Florida @ #14 Auburn). Moreover, Big East teams play six games against non Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as DII) schools and 25 games against teams from non-BCS conferences. Every school plays at least one non Football Bowl Subdivision team except Syracuse and West Virginia, with the Orange also the only school to play as many as three games versus BCS teams.

It gets worst!

Not only are the Big East’s main out of conference games not against top BCS schools, but often they are against the worst, such as Duke and Mississippi State. The combined ‘06 record of the Big East opponents is 171-248 and that is excluding the non Football Bowl Subdivision teams, with only nine of those teams making a bowl last year.

Furthermore, not only are the teams playing easy games, but they are playing them all at home. Not one school will play more than two out of conference road games this year and Rutgers will only play one. When you compare their schedules to other conferences, it’s pretty sad.

The SEC is known for playing some soft schools but at least they have the toughest conference games to deal with. West Virginia and Louisville are trying to contend for a National Title, competing against schools like USC, Michigan and Oklahoma, who are actually going out there and playing competitive teams.

Compare West Virginia and Rutgers schedule to some other schools:

Rutgers: Buffalo, Navy, Norfolk State, Maryland, @Army
Florida St.: UAB, @Colorado, Alabama (Neutral), @Florida
West Virginia: Western Michigan, @Marshall, @Maryland, East Carolina, Miss State
Michigan: Appalachian State, Oregon, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan

West Virginia, Louisville and Rutgers are all trying to make statements this season, but it is hard to make a national impression when they have a three-game season. The future looks a little better, next year West Virginia does play Auburn and Colorado but still the schedules should be tougher. Rutgers has only three games scheduled for next year: Army, Navy and North Carolina. Hopefully, they don’t fill the open slot with the little sisters of the poor.

The Big East needs to add tougher opponents if they want to be considered a major conference. Even though they have made major strides and the depth is better with South Florida and Cincinnati making contributions, with the hope that Syracuse will be better than last year -- college football fans must take the records of Louisville, West Virginia and even Rutgers lightly when they look at the rankings.

Here is a full list of all the Big East schools out of conference schedule for 2007:

Cincinnati: SE Missouri State, Oregon State, @Miami (OH), Marshall, @ San Diego State
Connecticut: @Duke, Maine, Temple, Akron, @Virginia
Louisville: Murray State, MTSU, @Kentucky, @NC State, Utah
Pittsburgh: Eastern Michigan, Grambling State, @Michigan State, @Virginia, Navy
Rutgers: Buffalo, Navy, Norfolk State, Maryland, @Army
South Florida: Elon, @Auburn, North Carolina, @FIA, Central Florida
Syracuse: Washington, @Iowa, Illinois, @Miami (OH), Buffalo
West Virginia: Western Michigan, @Marshall, @Maryland, East Carolina, Miss State



2006 RECORD: 11-3; BIG 12: 7-1
Lost Fiesta Bowl vs. Boise St. 43-42 (OT)
LOCATION: Norman, Oklahoma
STADIUM: Memorial (82,112)
HEAD COACH: Bob Stoops
OVERALL: 86-19 (8 seasons)
AT OKLAHOMA: 86-19 (8 seasons)

Last season the Sooners won their fourth Big 12 Title in the last seven seasons, as Bob Stoops found a way to win despite losing his quarterback Rhett Bomar just a few weeks before the season started, as well as all everything tailback Adrian Peterson for the stretch run. As much as any program, the Sooners are about a team effort, which is why year in and year out they are among the top contenders to make a BCS Bowl, if not make a run for the title (three BCS Championship appearances under Stoops).


OFFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Kevin Wilson (7th Season)
KEY LOSSES: Adrian Peterson, Paul Thompson, Chris Messner

Redshirt freshman Sam Bradford has taken the keys to the car from Coach Stoops and this is no jalopy, the Sooners offense is a sports car all the way. Wide receiver Malcolm Kelly is among the most underrated pass catchers in the nation, who could flourish with a top-flight pocket passer. Kelly brings size and speed -- two commodities the OU receivers have an abundance of. Juaquin Iglesias is the perfect compliment, great after the catch, with Manual Johnson a pure blazer and sophomore Adron Tennell (6’4”) coming on. As if that wasn’t enough, the Sooners are three deep in talented tight ends as well, with true sophomore Jermaine Gresham possessing boundless potential. They’re not done yet, as running back may be their deepest position, with senior Allen Patrick combining pure power and great straight line speed, joined by redshirt freshman DeMarco Murray, a playmaker in the mold of Reggie Bush. If running back is their deepest position, the offensive line is their most seasoned, as six players have starting experience during their OU careers, with possibly the most talented second string in America. Everything is there for Bradford to succeed or not screw it up depending on your perspective.

PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Malcolm Kelly (JR), 2) George Robinson (JR), 3) Jermaine Gresham (SO), 4) DeMarco Murray (FR), 5) Allen Patrick (SR), 6) Branndan Braxton (JR), 7) Joe Jon Finley (SR), 8) Brandon Walker (JR), 9) Juaquin Iglesias (JR), 10) Brody Eldridge (SO), 11) Phil Loadholt (JR), 12) Trent Williams (SO), 13) Garrett Hartley (SR)


DEFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Brent Venables (9th Season)
KEY LOSSES: Rufus Alexander, Zack Latimer, CJ Ah You, Larry Birdine

The last line of defense for the Sooners could be the best in all the land, could be the best we have seen at OU, which is a major statement as the defensive backfield is always a point of emphasis for Coach Stoops, often the landing spot for some of the team’s top athletes. Former highly touted offensive recruits such as Lendy Holmes and D.J. Wolfe are now key cogs in the secondary. Their top talent is skilled cover man Reggie Smith who is just as capable of starting at safety, while hybrid Nic Harris -- part safety/part linebacker could be their most productive defender. I have not even mentioned All Big 12 performer Marcus Walker (CB) or free safety Darien Williams, who despite being high on many pre-season 2008 draft lists, is not assured of a starting job this season. The front seven will have to pick it up, they lack the experience but not the potential and it all begins inside. Sophomore DeMarcus Granger and redshirt freshman Gerald McCoy were considered the best at their position coming out of high school and the expectations are that JUCO Mike Reed will be able to step in and contribute after enrolling in the spring.

PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Reggie Smith (JR), 2) Marcus Walker (SR), 3) Nic Harris (JR), 4) Lendy Holmes (SR), 5) Gerald McCoy (FR), 6) DeMarcus Granger (FR), 7) Curtis Lofton (JR), 8) Steve Coleman (SR), 9) D.J. Wolfe (SR), 10) Darien Williams (SR), 11) Mike Reed (JR)


With instate rival Oklahoma St., out of conference foe Miami, up and coming Big 12 South opponent Texas A & M, as well as the dangerous Missouri Tigers from the North all coming to Norman this season, the Sooners could set themselves up for a fourth trip to the BCS Championship game in the last eight seasons. Therefore, the game of the year, the Red River Shootout, will be the game of the year and may end up as a de facto national semi-final as the Sooners could very well be a touchdown favorite or better in every other contest this season. After Boomer Sooner laid the boom on the Horns five straight years, Texas has Hooked ‘Em in the last two. Last season they showed they could still win the conference with a loss to UT, however in all likelihood a potential run at the National Title would be out of question.


With the best defensive backfield in America and possibly the top offensive line, as well as the most dynamic special teams in all the land the only reason the Sooners are not ranked higher is the lack of a proven commodity at the quarterback position. Stoops has won his four conference titles with four different signal callers making him the Joe Gibbs of college football, nevertheless we cannot downplay the importance of the quarterback position. If Bradford does not make mistakes the Sooners will win ten games, if he can play like another freshman quarterback did in the Big 12 South last season, the Sooners might just win them all.


Outside of Southern California, it is hard to find a more talented roster than Bob Stoops has assembled in Norman and if they had a proven leader under center there is little doubt they would be the number-two team in the country. If speed kills then they do not lack ammunition. Of course, they must also avoid the odd year jinx, as all of Stoops’ Big 12 Titles have come in even years (2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006). The Sooners found a way to win with a first year starter at quarterback in 2006 and they will do so again in 2007.

Check back tomorrow to see who is #3 in CFI’s Top 25 Countdown

Tuesday, August 28, 2007



As soon as Miami and Virginia Tech headed over to the Atlantic Coast Conference, discussion began around the question: should the Big East remain a BCS conference?

It looked bleak for the conference in 2004, when Boston College was the only team to finish ranked and the Eagles were heading to the ACC the very next year. The winner of the conference, Pittsburgh, was embarrassed by Mountain West champ Utah.

To replace the losses the Big East dipped into Conference USA adding Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida and the conference has rebounded, with big years from West Virginia and Louisville. The Mountaineers victory over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl solidified their fantastic season in 2005 and last year the conference was ecstatic about the arrival of Rutgers into the national picture finishing the year ranked 12th while conference champ Louisville beating up on the ACC winner Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl for a bit of sweet revenge.

This season the Big East opens up with West Virginia, Louisville and Rutgers all ranked in the top 16 of both the AP Poll and the USA Today Poll, with the Mountaineers reaching as high as high as number three in the AP Poll.

* Check Back Tomorrow to See What Chris Thinks The Big East Needs to do to Take the Next Step



2006 RECORD: 10-3; BIG 12: 6-2
Won Alamo Bowl vs. Iowa 26-24
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
STADIUM: Memorial (85,123)
HEAD COACH: Mack Brown
OVERALL: 179-96-1 (23 seasons)
AT TEXAS: 93-22 (9 seasons)

The Horns missed becoming the first program to win consecutive Big 12 Championships, despite knocking off the Oklahoma Sooners in the Red River Shootout for the second straight year. Colt McCoy was a big reason why they did not miss a beat for most of the season and an injury (pinched nerve in neck) to their signal caller played a role in their late season losses to Kansas St. and Texas A & M, as the Longhorns put up a season low seven points against the Aggies. They lost several players to the National Football League, especially on defense, but with highly touted recruits waiting in the wings -- there is no reason to expect them to take a step back.


OFFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Greg Davis (10th Season)
KEY LOSSES: Selvin Young, Justin Blalock, Kasey Studdard, Lyle Sendlein

You would think matching the freshman record for touchdown passes in a season would answer all the critics and while Colt McCoy certainly proved any doubters about his ability to play big time college football wrong, this season he has a new question to answer. Can he stay healthy? McCoy is not the biggest quarterback around and put on 10 pounds this off-season. If he stays on the field, the Horns have a chance against any opponent they face. Helping his transition into the starting rotation was Limas Sweed, a big target with reliable hands, who is complimented well by Quan Cosby, Jordan Shipley and Billy Pittman. Sweed is an All-American candidate, which is what those in Austin hope tight end Jermichael Finley, their immensely talented tight end, will eventually develop into. How good the running game is will affect McCoy as well, as they need Jamaal Charles to display more of the promise he showed as a freshman after an uneven sophomore campaign. The line is young, meaning senior Tony Hills must step up as the leader.

PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Limas Sweed (SR), 2) Jermichael Finley (SO), 3) Tony Hills (SR), 4) Jamaal Charles (JR), 5) Cedric Dockery (JR), 6) Billy Pittman (SR), 7) Colt McCoy (SO), 8) Adam Ulatoski (SO)


DEFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Duane Akina (3rd Season)/Larry Mac Duff (1st Season)
KEY LOSSES: Aaron Ross, Tim Crowder, Michael Griffin, Brian Robison, Tarell Brown

Texas is well stocked with speed on defense and the new combo at defensive coordinator will look to do a better job of taking advantage of that fact, nevertheless it all starts upfront where few programs can match the tackle rotation of Frank Okam, Derrick Lokey and Roy Miller that Texas employs. Playing behind them is an even deeper linebacking corps, with at least six players competing for playing time, as unproven sophomores Roddrick Muckelroy and Sergio Kindle could give the upperclassman a run for their money. With their top two pass rushers off to the NFL, expect Brian Orakpo and Aaron Lewis, a pair of juniors, to bust loose this season. The secondary also had three players who heard their name called draft weekend from a pass defense that finished 99th in the country – good thing they had three future pros or who knows how bad they might have been. One intriguing prospect is the once highly touted Drew Kelson who will take a crack at playing safety, where his size/speed combo may be best used.

PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Frank Okam (SR), 2) Roy Miller (JR), 3) Drew Kelson (SR), 4) Brian Orakpo (JR), 5) Roddrick Muckelroy (SO), 6) Aaron Lewis (JR), 7) Robert Killebrew (SR), 8) Marcus Griffin (SR), 9) Derrick Lokey (SR), 10) Scott Derry (SR), 11) Sergio Kindle (SO)


Rivals old and new. They played the Texas Christian Horned Frogs 69 straight years from the late 1920’s to 1995 before joining the Big 12, encompassing the roaring 20’s, the Great Depression, World War I and II, Vietnam and the end of the Cold War. However, since then they have not crossed paths and wouldn’t you know that in all likelihood they will meet as ranked opponents, making TCU their toughest out of conference opponent. Within the Big 12, they have their first week of October matchup with the Oklahoma Sooners, a game that usually decides the Big 12 South, as well as their season finale against the A& M Aggies, who last season derailed their BCS hopes with an upset in Austin.


Bounce back seasons. The Horns managed to reach double-digit figures in wins once again despite some disappointing individual performances, as well as significant injuries. Now with so much talent off to the league where they play for pay, Mack Brown needs those players to rebound in 2007. McCoy’s injury down the stretch of the season had a lot to do with the Horns November losses, which cost them the Big 12 Title. Staying in the backfield, they need Charles to have the breakout season that was expected of him in ’06, with Cedric Dockery coming back to the line after missing half of the season to injury. On the defensive side of the ball, Kelson looks to finally fulfill his potential, in addition to the return of Lokey and Muckelroy, as the team defense suffered when they went down with injuries.


Talent is never an issue with a Mack Brown coached team or with one of the most legendary programs located in the heart of recruiting country, however having said that, they have only won one Big 12 Title under Brown, while the hated Sooners have won four in the last seven years. Brown got over the “can’t win the big one” hump when they won the National Championship over Pete Carroll and USC in 2005, however this is “a what have you done for me lately” industry, so nothing less than a title is expected. Are they good enough to reach that lofty standard? Sure, however it says here they will fall just short once again. If they do win the Big 12, we could see a rematch against the Men of Troy in January.

Check back tomorrow to see who is #4 in CFI’s Top 25 Countdown


WACO, TEX.-- The top five teams remained unchanged in the 2007 American Football Coaches Association Division II Coaches’ Poll after the opening weekend of action.

No. 1 Grand Valley State was idle in week one, but begins its title defense versus St. Joseph’s on Aug. 30. No. 2 Northwest Missouri State was leading Arkansas Tech, 21-0, with 2:30 remaining in the first quarter when the game was called due to lightning. A decision on the outcome of the game is still pending. North Dakota stays in the third position after its 59-0 blanking of Humboldt State. North Alabama remains at No. 4 and opens its season against Tusculum on Sept. 8. No. 5 Chadron State downed then-No. 25 Washburn, 34-24.

No. 6 Valdosta State gets its first taste of action in 2007 when they host No. 21 Albany State. No. 7 Pittsburg State opened its season with a 28-14 win over Texas A&M-Commerce on a national television audience. No. 8 South Dakota opens its season at No. 24 West Texas A&M. Shepherd downed Millersville, 36-7, and sits in the ninth position while No. 10 Delta State begins its season at Jackson State.

No. 11 Abilene Christian starts its season on Saturday at conference rival Central Oklahoma while No. 12 Bloomsburg hosts’ regional foe C.W. Post. Carson-Newman moved up two spots to No. 13 after its 52-21 victory over Virginia State. No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha begins its 2007 at in-state rival Nebraska-Kearney while No. 15 Northwood plays host to conference rival Mercyhurst.

No. 16 Newberry opens its season by hosting Chowan on Saturday. No. 17 West Chester will travel to fellow PSAC member Edinboro while No. 18 Southeastern Oklahoma State hosts NAIA member Northwestern Oklahoma State. Midwestern State moved up four spots to No. 19 after beating Adams State, 41-15. Bemidji State fell a spot to No. 20 as it prepares for a trip to Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday.

No. 21 Albany State fell one spot in the poll despite beating North Carolina Central, 16-10. No. 22 Elizabeth City State opens its 2007 schedule against Catawba. No. 23 California (Pa.) downed East Stroudsburg, 26-3, on a rare Monday night game. West Texas A&M stayed at No. 24 this week at the Buffs prepare for their game against No. 8 South Dakota. Saginaw Valley State jumps into the Top 25 this week and faces Ashland on Saturday.

Conference Breakdown: The Lone Star Conference (Abilene Christian, Southeastern Oklahoma State, Midwestern State, West Texas A&M) has the most representatives in the preseason AFCA Division II Coaches’ Poll with four. Other conferences represented include: Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic-3 (Grand Valley State, Northwood, Saginaw Valley State); Gulf South-3 (North Alabama, Valdosta State, Delta State); North Central-3 (North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska-Omaha); Pennsylvania State Athletic-3 (Bloomsburg, West Chester, California (Pa.)); MIAA-2 (Northwest Missouri State, Pittsburg State); South Atlantic-2 (Carson-Newman, Newberry); Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association-1 (Elizabeth City State); Northern Sun Intercollegiate-1 (Bemidji State); Rocky Mountain Athletic-1 (Chadron State); Southern Intercollegiate-1 (Albany State); West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic-1 (Shepherd).


Only two games featuring teams ranked in the AFCA Division II Coaches’ Poll highlight this weekend’s action. The first Top 25 match up sees No. 6 Valdosta State hosting No. 21 Albany State. The Blazers have won two straight against Albany State. The second Top 25 match up sees No. 8 South Dakota traveling to Canyon, Texas, to face No. 24 West Texas A&M. This is the season opener for both schools.

Poll Points

Midwestern State senior quarterback Daniel Polk became the school’s all-time leading rusher on his first carry of the season – a 54-yard touchdown run. He finished the game with 68 yards on seven carries and now has 2,589 yards, moving past current Oakland Raider runningback Dominic Rhodes, who rushed for 2,541 yards in 1999-2000 ... Pittsburg State junior quarterback Mark Smith made a successful return from a season-ending arm injury from 2006 by rushing for a career-high three scores and passing for another in the Gorillas’ 28-14 win against Texas A&M-Commerce ... Shepherd runningback Dervon Wallace moved into 10th place on the WVIAC all-time rushing list with his 195 yards in the Rams’ 36-7 win over Millersville. He has rushed for 3,362 yards in his career ... Danny Freud of North Dakota threw for five touchdown passes - all in the first half - in UND’s 59-0 season-opening win over Humboldt State. Freund’s five touchdowns were one short of the school record ... Chadron State runningback Danny Woodhead rushed for 290 yards and four touchdowns in the Eagles 34-24 win over Washburn.

American Football Coaches Association Division II Coaches’ Poll

Rank School (1st votes) Rec. Pts. Rank
Last Week; Next Game

1. Grand Valley St. (Mich.) (25) 0-0 695 1
Idle; Aug. 30 vs. St. Joseph's (Ind.)

2. Northwest Missouri St. (2) 0-0 671 2
Leading Arkansas Tech, 21-0 (decision pending); Sept. 8 at No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha

3. North Dakota (1) 1-0 636 3
D. Humboldt St. (Calif.), 59-0; Sept. 8 at Southern Utah

4. North Alabama 0-0 596 4
Idle; Sept. 8 vs. Tusculum (Tenn.)

5. Chadron St. (Neb.) 1-0 542 5
D. No. 25 Washburn (Kan.), 34-24; Sept. 1 vs. Wayne St. (Neb.)

6. Valdosta St. (Ga.) 0-0 526 6
Idle; Sept. 1 vs. No. 21 Albany St. (Ga.)

7. Pittsburg St. (Kan.) 1-0 476 7
D. Texas A&M-Commerce, 28-14; Sept. 1 vs. East Central (Okla.)

8. South Dakota 0-0 433 10
Idle; Aug. 30 at No. 24 West Texas A&M

9. Shepherd (W.Va.) 1-0 415 8
D. Millersville (Pa.), 36-7; Sept. 1 vs. Shippensburg (Pa.)

10. Delta St. (Miss.) 0-0 401 12
Idle; Sept. 1 at Jackson St. (Miss.)

11. Abilene Christian (Texas) 0-0 379 11
Idle; Sept. 1 at Central Oklahoma

12. Bloomsburg (Pa.) 0-0 375 9
Idle; Sept. 1 vs. C.W. Post (N.Y.)

13. Carson-Newman (Tenn.) 1-0 351 15
D. Virginia St., 52-21; Aug. 30 at Tennessee-Chattanooga

14. Nebraska-Omaha 0-0 348 13
Idle; Sept. 1 at Nebraska-Kearney

15. Northwood (Mich.) 0-0 323 14
Idle; Sept. 1 vs. Mercyhurst (Pa.)

16. Newberry (S.C.) 0-0 247 16
Idle; Sept. 1 vs. Chowan (N.C.)

17. West Chester (Pa.) 0-0 237 17
Idle; Sept. 1 at Edinboro (Pa.)

18. Southeastern Oklahoma St. 0-0 209 18
Idle; Aug. 30 vs. Northwestern Oklahoma St.

19. Midwestern St. (Texas) 1-0 191 23
D. Adams St. (Colo.), 41-15; Sept. 8 vs. Southwestern Oklahoma St.

20. Bemidji St. (Minn.) 0-0 175 19
Idle; Sept. 1 at Minnesota-Duluth

21. Albany St. (Ga.) 1-0 171 20
D. North Carolina Central, 16-10; Sept. 1 at No. 6 Valdosta St. (Ga.)

22. Elizabeth City St. (N.C.) 0-0 144 21T
Idle; Sept. 1 vs. Catawba (N.C.)

23. California (Pa.) 1-0 117 21T
D. East Stroudsburg (Pa.), 26-3; Sept. 1 at Glenville St. (W.Va.)

24. West Texas A&M 0-0 106 24
Idle; Aug. 30 vs. No. 8 South Dakota

25. Saginaw Valley St. (Mich.) 0-0 57 NR
Idle; Sept. 1 vs. Ashland (Ohio)

Dropped Out (last week’s rating): Washburn (Kan.) (25)

Others Receiving Votes: Catawba (N.C.), 30; Indiana (Pa.), 29; Tiffin (Ohio), 29; Southern Connecticut St., 23; Tarleton St. (Texas), 19; Tuskegee (Ala.), 19; Wingate (N.C.), 17; Missouri Western St., 16; Nebraska-Kearney, 14; Southwestern Oklahoma St., 14; Winona St. (Minn.), 13; Washburn (Kan.), 9; Central Washington, 8; C.W. Post (N.Y.), 8; Ferris St. (Mich.), 7; Henderson St. (Ark.), 7; St. Augustine’s (N.C.), 7; Texas A&M-Commerce, 5; Fort Hays St. (Kan.), 1; Lane (Tenn.), 1; Merrimack (Mass.), 1; Minnesota St.-Mankato, 1; North Greenville (S.C.), 1.

For more information on the AFCA and its programs, log on to the AFCA’s website at

Monday, August 27, 2007



2006 RECORD: 12-1; BIG EAST: 6-1
Won Orange Bowl vs. Wake Forest 24-13
LOCATION: Louisville, Kentucky
STADIUM: Papa John’s Cardinal (42,000)
HEAD COACH: Steve Kragthorpe
OVERALL: 29-22 (4 seasons)
AT LOUISVILLE: 0-0 (0 seasons)

How close were the Cardinals to facing the Ohio St. Buckeyes in the Bowl Championship Series title game last season? Just an offsides call away…that’s how close. With the score tied at 25 at Rutgers, a game the Cardinals led 25-7 in the second quarter, the Scarlet Knights kicker Lance Ito missed a potential game-winning field in the final seconds. However, an offsides penalty gave Ito a second chance and “the judge” drilled it, leading to a wave of Rutgers fans storming the field, as well as ending any National Title hopes Louisville had.


OFFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Charlie Stubbs/Jeff Brohm (1st Season)
KEY LOSSES: Michael Bush, Kolby Smith, Renardo Foster

The Cardinals have potentially the most explosive offense in the nation with a troika of stars headlining a nearly impossible to stop passing attack. It all starts with Brian Brohm, a strong candidate to be the number one overall pick in the upcoming National Football League Draft. He brings size, with a strong and accurate arm -- there is nothing he cannot do in the pocket. The only concern is his ability to stay healthy, which could put any championship aspirations in jeopardy. He has the weapons as well, beginning with potential All-American Mario Urrutia, who towers over opposing corners with his 6’6” height. Outperforming Urrutia last season was Harry Douglas, the speedster, who set a school record for receiving yards in a single season. Tight end Gary Barnidge is yet another target. The names are not as recognizable in the running game, but they are solid. True sophomore Anthony Allen, AKA Baby Bush, provides the power with George Stripling a threat every time he touches the rock. The line should be among the best, led by left tackle George Bussey and center Eric Wood.

PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Brian Brohm (SR), 2) Mario Urrutia (JR), 3) Harry Douglas (SR), 4) Art Carmody (SR), 5) Gary Barnidge (SR), 6) Eric Wood (JR), 7) Patrick Carter (SR), 8) Brian Roche (SO), 9) George Bussey (SR), 10) Anthony Allen (SO)


DEFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Mike Cassity (4th Season)
KEY LOSSES: Amobi Okoye, Nate Harris, Brandon Sharp, William Gay

The Cardinals must replace many of their top players on this side of the ball beginning with impact defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, likely the school’s best defender since Tom Jackson. Despite losing Okoye, as well as leading tackler Nate Harris (a transfer from Miami), the front seven could actually be stronger in 2007. Four linemen and three linebackers have starting experience with Malik Jackson the leader of the defense. True sophomore Peanut Whitehead has the ability to be an impact pass rusher, while Willie Williams another Miami transfer might just be the most talented player they have on defense. Whitehead, Williams and Jackson all know how to get to the quarterback. There is ability in the defensive backfield as well, with the return of Jon Russell from injury and the addition of Woodny Turenne, one of the top junior college corners.

PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Peanut Whitehead (SO), 2) Malik Jackson (SR), 3) Willie Williams (SR), 4) Rod Council (JR), 5) Latarrius Thomas (SO), 6) Adrian Grady (JR), 7) Earl Heyman (JR), 8) Jon Russell (SR)


Like most of the Big East contenders, Louisville’s season will likely come down to a handful of games, although they deserve some credit for at least playing three out of conference games they could lose: at Kentucky, at North Carolina St. and Utah at home -- not great but respectable. Nevertheless, the reality is they are expected to be 8-0 when they visit the Mountaineers for the showdown in Morgantown, potentially the game of the year in college football, which is sure to be a high scoring affair. Afterwards, they cannot afford to overlook a trip to South Florida to take on the Bulls the following week or their season finale at home against Rutgers, the only team that left their contest versus the Cardinals as the winner in 2006.


The new coaching staff and how they handle the jump to the Big East is vital. Headman Steve Kragthorpe has been simply brilliant making three bowls in four seasons at Tulsa, including a record setting single season improvement as he turned a 1-11 cellar dweller into a respectable 8-5 squad. How he meshes with Brohm will be key and I am not talking about the quarterback. Older brother Jeff Brohm remains with the program, but he will be working with the offensive minded Kragthorpe for the first time in his inaugural season as offensive coordinator to go along with his duties as quarterbacks coach. Charlie Stubbs comes over from Tulsa where he served as offensive coordinator the last four seasons, a job he must now share, in addition to coaching up the wide outs.


Many are picking the West Virginia Mountaineers to win the Big East based on the fact the clash of the Big East titans will take place on Mountaineer Field…but who is the better team? With Brohm at quarterback, a bevy of receivers and a capable running game it will be hard for anyone to match Louisville’s combination of explosiveness with balance. Moreover, on the defensive side of the ball they are ready to surprise some people with their speed, which will allow them to get after the quarterback, wreck havoc and create turnovers.

Check back tomorrow to see who is #5 in CFI’s Top 25 Countdown

Sunday, August 26, 2007



2006 RECORD: 12-1; BIG TEN: 7-1
Won Capitol One Bowl vs. Arkansas 17-14
LOCATION: Madison, Wisconsin
STADIUM: Camp Randall (80,321)
HEAD COACH: Bret Bielema
OVERALL: 12-1 (1 seasons)
AT WISCONSIN: 12-1 (1 seasons)

Bret Bielema had a dream rookie season as head coach in 2006 taking over for the legendary leader Barry Alvarez. Has he set the bar too high? With 16 starters returning from a 12-win season, expectations are as high as they have ever been in Madison. They avoided Ohio St. last season and played only one ranked opponent all year (lost 27-13 at Michigan), so a repeat is no lock in what should be an improved Big Ten conference.


OFFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Paul Chryst (3rd Season)
KEY LOSSES: Joe Thomas, John Stocco

The Badgers have to replace just two starters, however they were the two biggest pieces of the puzzle last year. Joe Thomas anchored one of the top offensive lines in the game and was so good that the Cleveland Browns made him the third overall pick in the NFL draft. While John Stocco went undrafted, the signal caller may be even more difficult to replace, inasmuch as the four other starters return along the line. Conversely, they will be handing over the reins to the offense to a mostly unproven leader, likely Tyler Donovan, who played well in their win over Iowa last season. In senior target Paul Hubbard, a phenomenal athlete, and converted linebacker Travis Beckum shining at tight end, they have two players who create mismatches with their rare speed/size combination. The strength of the offense is their between the tackles rushing attack, a staple in Cheese Country, with sophomore P.J. Hill a battering ram that delivers more blows than he receives.

PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Paul Hubbard (SR), 2) Travis Beckum (JR), 3) Jake Bscherer (SO), 4) Eric Vanden Heuvel (JR), 5) Luke Swan (SR), 6) Andy Crooks (SR), 7) P.J. Hill (SO), 8) Taylor Mehlhaff (SR), 9) Marcus Coleman (SR), 10) Andy Kemp (JR), 11) Tyler Donovan (SR), 12) Kraig Urbik (JR)


DEFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Mike Hankwitz (1st Season)
KEY LOSSES: Roderick Rogers, Joe Monty, Mark Zalewski, Joe Stellmacher

The heart and soul of the Wisky defense is the linebacking core, which brings speed and playmaking ability. Jonathan Casillas is their leading returning tackler and is he among the top two-way players, making 10.5 tackles in the backfield against the run, not to mention the fact he is among the top cover linebackers in America. Coming from the SAM position is DeAndre Levy, their top pass rusher, with talented sophomore Elijah Hodge ready to step into the MIKE spot. There is quality in the trenches as well, with the tackles space eaters and end Matt Shaughnessy their top lineman. Corner Jake Ikegwuonu is their most skilled player, possibly on either side of the ball, a physical lockdown corner, with Allen Langford not a bad cover man himself. They have question marks at safety with both projected starters coming off medical redshirt seasons, although sophomore Shane Carter, the kid brother of former All-Pro Chris Carter, is an intriguing prospect.

PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Jake Ikegwuonu (JR), 2) Elijah Hodge (SO), 3) Allen Langford (JR), 4) Nick Hayden (SR), 5) Jonathan Casillas (JR), 6) Matt Shaughnessy (JR), 7) Jason Chapman (JR), 8) DeAndre Levy (JR)


The common belief is that the Badgers season will come down to their two games against Big Ten stalwarts Michigan and Ohio St. a week a part in November, however that is assuming they make it past October unblemished. The first five games should not provide much of a test, although the Hawkeyes could be tough, making a 5-0 start likely. After that, they face back-to-back road tests when they go to Illinois and Penn St. The Nittany Lions, if everything breaks right, will be tough to beat in Happy Valley, while the Illini are the Big Ten program on the rise and gave Wisconsin all they could handle in Camp Randall (30-24) a year ago, scoring the most points against the Wisky defense other than the 27 points Michigan put up. The Badgers may be gunning for the Maize and Blue, as well as OSU, however they cannot overlook clubs like Penn St. and Illinois who will have their targets set on Wisconsin.


Expectations and how the Badgers handle them is a new challenge this crew has yet to face or overcome. Not many people knew what to expect from Brett Bielema as he took over the program and the same goes for many of his coaches who were newbies at their jobs in Madison. Several new starters on both sides of the ball from last season now have to match or exceed their performances of a year ago. There are also those who carry the weight of their last names, Casillas is the son of former pro Tony, I have already mentioned the Carter brothers, while Elijah Hodge is the younger brother of Abdul and headman Bielema has already stated he is the more talented of the two Hodge boys. Furthermore, they are a now an opponent everyone will circle on the schedule.


If quarterback Tyler Donovan can repeat what he did in his short stint as the leader of the Wisconsin huddle (against Iowa and Buffalo), we could have a real three-team race in the Big Ten and the Badgers believe they can play with the Wolverines and Buckeyes, which means they can play with anybody. This club is a unique one: they have the typical offensive line that approaches 1600 pounds and a physical fearless defense, along with NFL caliber prospects Ikegwuonu, Hubbard and Beckum, among others at the skill positions. There is more athleticism and speed than those in Madison are accustomed to, that combo makes them maybe the most dangerous Badgers team heading into week one that the Big Ten has ever seen.

Check back tomorrow to see who is #6 in CFI’s Top 25 Countdown


Player, School Pos. Cl. Hometown
Xavier Adibi, Virginia Tech LB Sr. Hampton, Va.
Josh Barrett, Arizona State S Sr. Reno, Nev.
Tommy Blake, TCU DE Sr. Aransas Pass, Texas
Alvin Bowen, Iowa State LB Sr. East Orange, N.J.
Jasper Brinkley, South Carolina LB Sr. Thomson, Ga.
Calais Campbell, Miami DE Jr. Denver, Colo.
Ian Campbell, Kansas State DE Jr. Cimarron, Kan.
Antoine Cason, Arizona CB Sr. Long Beach, Calif.
Matt Castelo, San Jose State LB Sr. San Jose, Calif.
Barry Church, Toledo FS So. Pittsburgh, Pa.
Joe Clermond, Pittsburgh DE Sr. Tampa, Fla.
Tyler Clutts, Fresno State DE Sr. Clovis, Calif.
Dan Connor, Penn State LB Sr. Wallingford, Pa.
Shawn Crable, Michigan LB Sr. Massillon, Ohio
Maurice Crum, Notre Dame LB Sr. Riverview, Fla.
Bruce Davis, UCLA DE Sr. Houston, Texas
Quintin Demps, UTEP FS Sr. San Antonio, Texas
Derrick Doggett, Oregon State LB Sr. San Diego, Calif.
Glenn Dorsey, LSU DT Sr. Gonzales, La.
Jolonn Dunbar, Boston College LB Sr. Syracuse, N.Y.
Keilen Dykes, West Virginia DT Sr. Youngstown, Ohio
Larry English, Northern Illinois DE Jr. Aurora, Ill.
Eric Foster, Rutgers DT Sr. Homestead, Fla.
Drew Fowler, Air Force LB Sr. Clayton, N.C.
Stanley Franks, Idaho CB Sr. Long Beach, Calif.
Jonathan Goff, Vanderbilt LB Sr. Lynn, Mass.
Adrian Grady, Louisville DT Jr. Nichollsville, Ga.
Courtney Greene, Rutgers S Jr. New Rochelle, N.Y.
Quentin Groves, Auburn DE Sr. Greenville, Miss.
Vince Hall, Virginia Tech LB Sr. Chesapeake, Va.
Erin Henderson, Maryland LB Jr. Aberdeen, Md.
Matt Hines, Nevada DT Sr. Modesto, Calif.
Tyrell Johnson, Arkansas State S Sr. Rison, Ark.
Jeremy Jones, UTEP LB Sr. San Jose, Calif.
James Laurinaitis, Ohio State LB Jr. Hamel, Minn.
Derek Lokey, Texas DT Sr. Denton, Texas
Chris Long, Virginia DE Sr. Ivy, Va.
Dwight Lowery, San Jose State CB Sr. Santa Cruz, Calif.
Jameel McClain, Syracuse DE Sr. Philadelphia, Pa.
Albert McClellan, Marshall DE Jr. Lakeland, Fla.
Gerald McRath, Southern Miss LB So. Powder Springs, Ga.
Rey Maualuga, USC LB Jr. Eureka, Calif.
Jerod Mayo, Tennessee LB Jr. Hampton, Va.
Ben Moffitt, South Florida LB Sr. Bushnell, Fla.
Jesse Nading, Colorado State DE Sr. Highlands Ranch, Colo.
Chase Ortiz, TCU DE Sr. League City, Texas
Brian Raines, Rice LB Jr. Missouri City, Texas
Keith Rivers, USC LB Sr. Lake Mary, Fla.
Reggie Smith, Oklahoma SS Jr. Edmond, Okla.
Aqib Talib, Kansas CB Jr. Richardson, Texas
Steve Tate, Utah FS Sr. Salt Lake City, Utah
Philip Wheeler, Georgia Tech LB Sr. Columbus, Ga.
Eric Wicks, West Virginia S Sr. Pittsburgh, Pa.
Wesley Woodyard, Kentucky LB Sr. LaGrange, Ga.
Tom Zbikowski, Notre Dame S Sr. Arlington Heights, Ill.

Players may be added or deleted from the list before or during the season


Jeff Akeroyd, Houston OT Sr. Lubbock, Texas
Sete Aulai, BYU C Sr. Carson, Calif.
Sam Baker, USC OT Sr. Tustin, Calif.
Kirk Barton, Ohio State OT Sr. Massillon, Ohio
Alex Boone, Ohio State OT Jr. Lakewood, Ohio
Ryan Clady, Boise State OT Jr. Rialto, Calif.
Robert Conley, Utah G Jr. LaMarque, Texas
Kyle Cunningham, Louisiana-Monroe OT Sr. Oklahoma City, Okla.
Dan Davis, Connecticut DT Sr. Planfield, N.J.
Glenn Dorsey, LSU DT Sr. Gonzales, La.
Franklin Dunbar, Middle Tennessee OT Jr. Waycross, Ga.
Ryan Durand, Syracuse G Jr. Leominster, Mass.
King Dunlap, Auburn OT Sr. Brentwood, Tenn.
Sedrick Ellis, USC DT Sr. Chino, Calif.
Andre Fluellen, Florida State DT Sr. Cartersville, Ga.
Eric Foster, Rutgers DT Sr. Homestead, Fla.
Adrian Grady, Louisville DT Jr. Nichollsville, Ga.
Dallas Griffin, Texas C Sr. Katy, Texas
Antron Harper, Navy C Sr. Eastman, Ga.
Robby Heos, Rice G Sr. Pearland, Texas
Tony Hills, Texas OT Sr. Houston, Texas
Matt Hines, Nevada DT Sr. Modesto, Calif.
Steve Justice, Wake Forest C Sr. Port Orange, Fla.
Adam Kraus, Michigan G Sr. New Orleans, La.
Robbie Krutilla, Western Michigan C Sr. Summit, Ill.
Doug Legursky, Marshall C Sr. Beckley, W.V.
Kory Lichtensteiger, Bowling Green C Sr. Van Wert, Ohio
Matty Lindner, TCU G Sr. Comfort, Texas
Derek Lokey, Texas DT Sr. Denton, Texas
Jake Long, Michigan OT Sr. Lapeer, Mich.
Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas C Jr. Little Rock, Ark.
Alex Mack, California C Jr. Santa Barbara, Calif.
Michael Oher, Ole Miss OT Jr. Memphis, Tenn.
Frank Okam, Texas DT Sr. Dallas, Texas
Jeremy Perry, Oregon State G Jr. Hau'ula, Hawaii
Mike Pollak, Arizona State C Sr. Tempe, Ariz.
Barry Richardson, Clemson OT Sr. Mount Pleasant, S.C.
Matt Slauson, Nebraska OT Jr. Colorado Springs, Colo.
Andre Smith, Alabama OT So. Birmingham, Ala.
Pedro Sosa, Rutgers OT Sr. Union City, N.J.
Ryan Stanchek, West Virginia OT Jr. Cincinnati, Ohio
John Sullivan, Notre Dame C Sr. Old Greenwich, Conn.
Cody Wallace, Texas A&M C Sr. Cuero, Texas
Ryan Wendell, Fresno State G Sr. Diamond Bar, Calif.
Chris Williams, Vanderbilt OT Sr. Glynn, La.
Eric Wood, Louisville C Jr. Cincinnati, Ohio
Jeremy Zuttah, Rutgers OT Sr. Edison, N.J.

Tackles, guards and centers are eligible for consideration. Candidates may be added or removed during the season

Saturday, August 25, 2007



The Big Ten continues to cultivate, and the National Football League salivates. Some of the top talent and impact players that college football has to offer comes from the Big Ten, which produced 32 players in the 2007 NFL Draft, including two of the top five in Wisconsin left tackles Joe Thomas (#3) and Penn State’s Levi Brown (#5). In all, six went in the first round, with Ted Ginn of Ohio State (#9), Michigan’s Leon Hall (#18), Anthony Spencer of Purdue (#26) and Ginn’s fellow OSU wide out Anthony Gonzalez (#32).

This year’s crop is just as bountiful as these ten players will provide teams at the next level cornerstones to build upon.

1. Jake Long, OT, Michigan – The draft status of both Thomas and Brown gives us an idea into the draft potential of Long. It was Long, not Thomas, who won the conference’s Lineman of the Year award, to go along was First-Team All-Big Ten and a consensus All-American selections. Considering where Thomas and Brown were selected, Long’s potential certainly places him in the top five.

2. Dan Connor, LB, Penn State – Although Buffalo Bill draftee Paul Posluszny got all the print, Connor had the better season from the opening kick. He also was a Bednarik finalist last season and his 113 tackles (including nine for a loss) has placed him 99 tackles behind Posluszny’s newly established school record. Some experts consider him a better linebacker prospect than Posluszny.

3. James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State – The Bronco Nagurski Award (nation’s top defensive player) winner had a solid 2006 season and led the Buckeyes with five interceptions from his linebacker spot as he chalked up 115 tackles and four sacks to boot. Said to be not as athletic as former first rounder A.J. Hawk, he will be equally productive in college and at the next level.

4. Justin King, CB, Penn State – How happy is the valley with this Thorpe Award candidate and possibly the first defensive back off the board when he decides to leave for the pros? King has the size (6-0, 186), the speed (4.38) and versatility (Dean’s List in ’05 and Academic All-Big Ten in ’06) to improve on a 2006 when he was selected to the Second Team All-Big Ten. Claiming to be the healthiest he has ever been, coaches are expecting a monumental year.

5. Jack Ikegwuono, CB, Wisconsin – Big (6-1, 199 lbs) and fast, Ikegwuono ran down Arkansas all-world running back Darren McFadden from behind on the opening drive of the Capital One Bowl when it appeared to be a sure touchdown. This play not only displayed the measurables, but showed the type of heart this Badger plays with as well. It fueled the Badgers to a 17-14 win in the bowl game and will carry over into this season. He only had two interceptions, as teams simply threw away from him.

6. Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State – Another big (6-1, 202 lbs) corner who simply takes half the field away from opposing offenses. With 4.3 speed and solid tackling ability, he has NFL written all over him. He had four interceptions last season, including a 61-yard for a touchdown on one of his picks. Jenkins was First Team All-Big Ten and after a huge sophomore year, the sky is the limit.

7. Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio State – A Second Team All-Big Ten selection last season, Gholston led the Buckeyes with 8.5 sacks while starting all 13 contests. The 6-4, 260 pound junior runs a sub-4.7 forty and looks to pick up the slack on a defensive line that lost three seniors. Having the benefit of a redshirt freshman year could vault Gholston into the first round in the 2008 NFL Draft.

8. Chad Henne, QB, Michigan – A starter since his freshman year, Henne had a solid 2006 with 2,508 yards, 22 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions. In his three seasons in Ann Arbor, he has thrown for 7,777 yards, 70 touchdown passes, and 28 interceptions. With an intact offense coming back and some shootouts bound to come his way this season, Henne could topple all of the Michigan passing records this season and take his place amongst other NFL Wolverine quarterbacks.

9. Alex Boone, OT, Ohio State – A mountain of a man in the midst of a Buckeye reload could be a top ten pick in the 2008 Draft if he comes on with a strong junior campaign. Considered the best offensive line prospect since Orlando Pace, who himself went number one overall. A poor showing in the National Championship loss to Florida has placed a chip on his shoulder and he is out to prove himself.

10. Mario Manningham, WR, Michigan – Derailed by injury last season, Manningham stepped his summer training regimen by working out with quarterback Chad Henne and the rest of the Wolverine receivers on routes, fundamentals, and overall conditioning. At 6-0 and 181 pounds, Manningham is electric on the outside and opens everything up for the Maize and Blue underneath. A big game performer in the clutch, he is looking to explode this season and take his place amongst the greats at the U of M at the receiver position.



2006 RECORD: 9-4; SEC: 4-4
Won Chick-fil-A Bowl vs. Virginia Tech 31-24
LOCATION: Athens, Georgia
STADIUM: Sanford (92,756)
HEAD COACH: Mark Richt
OVERALL: 61-17 (6 seasons)
AT GEORGIA: 61-17 (6 seasons)

Who has the most wins among Southeastern Conference teams over the last five years? Not Louisiana St….not defending Champion Florida…that’s right it is the Georgia Bulldogs. The boys that play “between the hedges” have been one of the premier programs over the last six years under Mark Richt, who has just one less win than Jim Tressel does during the same span. Last season they failed to reach double digits in wins for the first time since 2001, Richt’s first season. What did they do the following season? Oh…just win 13 games and there is reason for optimism this year as well -- the Dawgs finished the ’06 season with three straight wins over ranked clubs.


KEY LOSSES: Danny Ware, Martrez Milner, Daniel Inman, Nick Jones, Ken Shackleford

Matthew Stafford could one day find himself walking to the podium in Radio City after the Commissioner of the National Football League says the words, “And with the first pick in the draft.” He is that good and he began to show some signs down the stretch of his true freshman season, which is why everyone involved with the Georgia program expects him to take a major step this season towards stardom. His receivers were a major disappointment last season, not helping matter with inconsistent play and dropped passes, nevertheless with talented seniors Sean Bailey and AJ Bryant back and junior Mohamed Massaquoi poised for a bounce back season, they could be part of the solution in 2007. The running game should be fine, no one is the clear cut “feature back”, however there is no shortage of talent in the backfield. According to reports, the offensive line jelled in the spring with true freshman Trinton Sturdivant, redshirt frosh Chris Davis and junior college transfer Scott Haverkamp joining two senior returning starters.

PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Matthew Stafford (SO), 2) Trinton Sturdivant (FR), 3) Thomas Brown (SR), 4) Mohamed Massaquoi (JR), 5) Mikey Henderson (SR), 6) Kregg Lumpkin (SR), 7) Fernando Velasco (SR), 8) Brannan Sutherland (JR), 9) Brandon Coutu (SR), 10) Sean Bailey (SR), 11) AJ Bryant (SR)


DEFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Willie Martinez (3rd Season)
KEY LOSSES: Charles Johnson, Quentin Moses, Paul Oliver, Tony Taylor, Jarvis Jackson, Tra Battle

Only three starters return on this side of the ball, but the Athens faithful have no reason to fret, they remain well stocked with top shelf talent. Players such defensive tackle Kade Weston, end Roderick Battle, SAM Darius Dewberry, along with a trio of corners (Bryan Evans, Prince Miller and Asher Allen) are six sophomores who got a taste of action last season and are ready for bigger roles. They will also count on redshirt freshmen Reshod Jones, who could be a star in the secondary, and linebacker Akeem Dent, as well as JC transfer Jarius Wynn at defensive end. Up the middle, veterans Jeff Owens (DT), Brandon Miller (MIKE) and Kelin Johnson (SS) provide some stability for the entire defense. As usual, the Dawgs will rely on their speed, which will allow them to get to the quarterback and swarm to ball carriers.

PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Kade Weston (SO), 2) Reshod Jones (FR), 3) Jeff Owens (JR), 4) Roderick Battle (SO), 5) Jarius Wynn (JR), 6) Dannell Ellerbe (SO), 7) Kelin Johnson (SR), 8) Brandon Miller (SR), 9) Ramarcus Brown (JR)


The rivalry games are key, and sorry Tech fans, I am not talking about the Yellow Jackets whom the Dawgs always beat. This is all about fellow Eastern Division competitors Florida and Tennessee. Since Mark Richt took over, his biggest stumbling block has been the Gators, he is just 1-5 against the University of Florida. Richt has handled the Volunteers, taking care of Tennessee four times out of six, however he has never defeated both in the same season. Their 20-13 loss to Florida in 2002 was the only thing between Georgia and an undefeated season. Last year, for the first time under Richt both the Gators and the Vols knocked off UGA. If the Bulldogs can defeat off both this season, it would all but assure them of a spot in the SEC Championship game and who knows maybe a chance at the BCS Title.


Maturity. Whenever talking about college athletics, to some extent the maturity factor is par for the course, but a particular point of emphasis for Georgia. Stafford can become an All-American type signal caller, which Massaquoi could help by stepping up after drops plagued him throughout his sophomore season. Then there are the seniors -- Brown, Lumpkin, Bailey and Bryant, who have yet to cash in on the vast potential they brought with them to Athens. Defensively, several players need to prove they are ready to handle expanded roles. Talent is nice to have, but it does not always ensure production on the field -- they could be a year away.


Making the Bulldogs the highest ranked SEC East club is the first flip-flop of the season, as they pulled ahead of the Tennessee Volunteers in the preseason Top 25 Countdown. It is a bit of a risky pick considering they need both unproven players to move into starting roles, as well as underachievers to fulfill potential, however there is so much talent on both sides of the ball that enough players should emerge and come into their own in 2007. It all begins with Stafford, who could be the most gifted passer in college football.

Check back tomorrow to see who is #7 in CFI’s Top 25 Countdown

Friday, August 24, 2007



2006 RECORD: 12-1; BIG TEN: 8-0
Lost Bowl Championship Series Game vs. Florida 41-14
LOCATION: Columbus, Ohio
STADIUM: Ohio (101,568)
HEAD COACH: Jim Tressel
OVERALL: 197-71-2 (21 seasons)
AT OHIO ST.: 62-14 (6 seasons)

The Buckeyes rolled through the regular season before their shocking defeat to the Florida Gators, in which for the first time during his six-year tenure at Ohio St. it appeared Jim Tressel was out-coached and his team was not ready. How will the Buckeyes respond to such a beating? Will they have their heads down or does it provide extra motivation during the off-season? Not to mention the fact they have to replace Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith among other talented players who are getting ready for their rookie seasons in the NFL.


OFFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Jim Bollman (7th Season)
KEY LOSSES: Troy Smith, Ted Ginn Jr., Anthony Gonzalez, Antonio Pittman, Stan White Jr., Doug Datish, TJ Downing

Last season the Buckeyes spread you out and more often than not aired it out. This year expect them to get back to a more traditional Buckeyes offense and pound away at opponents, control the time of possession and try to play mistake free football by taking very few chances. They will have to rely on new starters at both quarterback and running back, however sophomore Beanie Wells displayed in limited duty that those who had touted him as the top incoming freshman in America were not exaggerating. With both tackles back (Alex Boone and Kirk Barton), as well as a talented group on the interior, the blocking will be there to play smash-mouth football. It appears junior Todd Boeckman will finally get his chance to lead the Buckeyes’ huddle. The coach’s son has a NFL frame (6’5”/235) and is reportedly faster than Troy Smith, but is unproven. There is ability at QB, but how long will it take for him (or another candidate) to settle in is anyone’s guess. They will take a step back at receiver, but you can do worse than Ray Small, Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline.

PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Chris Wells (SO), 2) Alex Boone (JR), 3) Ray Small (SO), 4) Kirk Barton (SR), 5) Steve Rehring (JR), 6) Jim Cordle (SO), 7) Ben Pearson (SO), 8) Maurice Wells (JR)


DEFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Kevin Steele (1st Season)
KEY LOSSES: Quinn Pitcock, David Patterson, Jay Richardson, Antonio Smith, Brandon Mitchell

The Buckeyes will try to go back to the formula that won them a championship back in 2002, leaning heavily on their defense, especially early on. They are most experienced at linebacker where James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman, a pair of juniors who can run and only figure to get better and better, lead the way. Joining them is senior Larry Grant who has more ability than he showed last season. Along the line, the only player with much experience is defensive end Vernon Gholston, who could be poised to have an All-American type season after leading the club in sacks as a sophomore. Despite losing three starters on the line, there is not much concern, as junior end Lawrence Wilson and sophomore tackles Doug Worthington and Todd Denlinger all appear to be ready for primetime. There might be more trepidation in the secondary despite the return of lockdown corner Malcolm Jenkins. There is talent, some experience, but questions as well.

PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Vernon Gholston (JR), 2) Malcolm Jenkins (JR), 3) James Laurinaitis (JR), 4) Marcus Freeman (JR), 5) Lawrence Wilson (JR), 6) Doug Worthington (SO), 7) Todd Denlinger (SO), 8) Larry Grant (SR), 9) Nick Patterson (JR), 10) Jamario O’Neal (JR), 11) Curtis Terry (SR)


Considering the Buckeyes must replace half of their starters from last season’s Big Ten Championship team, they are very fortunate with the way the schedule is set up. The newcomers will have time to get their feet wet and adjust to big time football, as the first eight games do not feature a ranked opponent, making an 8-0 start possible, if not likely, which would mean OSU has a good chance to crack the top five before making a trip to Happy Valley on October 27. November is a tough month as they play both Wisconsin and Michigan with the up and coming Illini in between. The Buckeyes play their toughest opponent’s when they should be at their best, which could make for a surprising run at another BCS Title game.


Back to basics: I am not going to second guess the way Ohio St. went about their season in 2006, not when they went through their regular season unblemished or factoring they were replacing nine starters on the defensive side of the ball. Almost all of the proven talent was on offense, specifically the passing game, so to his credit coach Jim Tressel adjusted. However, most believe Tressel would prefer a more conservative offense that holds on to the football allowing them to win games more by stopping the other guys from putting up points on the scoreboard than racking up numbers on offense. If Wells proves to be able to take the pounding and hold on to the football, he could be a Heisman sleeper.


This is a team in transition, but they do not rebuild in Columbus, where the expectations are always Big Ten title and at least contention for a National Championship. Jim Tressel is as good as any coach in America and you can bet he will have his boys ready this season, with the play at quarterback the one major question mark. Nevertheless, they are too good to take a major step back with the potential to be just as dominant as they were last season.

Check back tomorrow to see who is #8 in CFI’s Top 25 Countdown

Thursday, August 23, 2007



2006 RECORD: 6-7; SEC: 2-6
Lost Independence Bowl vs. Oklahoma St. 31-24
LOCATION: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
STADIUM: Bryant-Denny (92,138)
HEAD COACH: Nick Saban
OVERALL: 91-42-1 (11 seasons)
AT ALABAMA: 0-0 (0 seasons)

Roll Tide Roll…I may be the first to put the Crimson Tide in the top ten, but something tells me I will not be the last. Alabama returns 14 starters and brings in another talented class, which will make for a very successful inaugural campaign in Tuscaloosa for new headman Nick Saban, who has rejuvenated the base to use political terms. How often do schools sell out their spring games and have to turn people back for a scrimmage? Speaking of politics…I think I might be able to run for office in the State with this love I am showing the Tide, although I would run under the party represented by the donkey, not the elephant…I guess no one’s perfect…Roll Tide.


OFFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Major Applewhite (1st Season)
KEY LOSSES: Ken Darby, Le’Ron McClain, Tim Castille

Why is Alabama going to be better than people believe? Because they return nine starters on offense, including their entire offensive line. At left tackle, Andre Smith started all 13 games as a true freshman, with junior center Antoine Caldwell coming into his third year as a starter and both are ready to earn some All-SEC honors. If they provide the pass protection I expect, Bama’s aerial attack will surprise many this season. John Parker Wilson is ready to blossom this season, as underrated a signal caller as there is in the nation and he has weapons to boot. DJ Hall set the school’s single season record for receiving yards last season, with Keith Brown a deep threat who is tough to cover one-0n-one, each is a senior and both stand at 6’3”. Backing them up are the trio of Matt Caddell, Will Oakley and Nikita Stovall, all of whom displayed last season they can contribute. Junior tight end Travis McCall could emerge as a weapon as well. They are unproven at running back, however they are never short on talent at tailback, look for Jimmy Johns and Terry Grant to provide a one-two punch.

PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Andre Smith (SO), 2) DJ Hall (SR), 3) Keith Brown (SR), 4) Antoine Caldwell (JR), 5) John Parker Wilson (JR), 6) Justin Britt (SR), 7) BJ Stabler (JR), 8) Terry Grant (FR)


DEFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Kevin Steele (1st Season)
KEY LOSSES: Juwan Simpson, Jeffrey Dukes, Ramzee Robinson, Terrance Jones

This is where Nick Saban must work his magic implementing his 50-defense. The key is how newcomers step in and perform. Redshirt freshman Brian Motley has shifted over from center to take over the critical nose guard position, clearly having impressed Saban. Playing behind him is true frosh Rolando McCain, a speedy linebacker with the ability to be an impact player and the size (6’4”/245) to handle playing on the inside in the 3-4. This is not to say they do not have any returning talent, because they do. Inside linebacker Prince Hall is a stud in the making, their best defender in 2006 as a freshman, with senior Simeon Castille a potential first round pick with deft cover skills. Providing backup is speedy safety Marcus Carter, with two more seniors Bobby Greenwood and Wallace Gilberry manning the defensive end positions.

PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Prince Hall (SO), 2) Simeon Castille (SR), 3) Rolando McClain (FR), 4) Wallace Gilberry (SR), 5) Keith Saunders (SR), 6) Marcus Carter (SR), 7) Eric Gray (SR), 8) Bobby Greenwood (SR), 9) Brian Motley (FR)


Nick Saban has the schedule set up with some home cooking this season. Not that their schedule is an easy one, but they do not face a tough road test until they visit Auburn for the season finale. SEC West contenders LSU and Arkansas both come to Tuscaloosa, as do East rivals Tennessee and Georgia. With over 92,000 coming to see a spring scrimmage you bet they will have a rabid crowd for all of their rivalry games. Furthermore, if they ever get any momentum going, they will just continue to ramp it up more and more as the season goes along. They also play Florida St. out of conference at a neutral site.


Nick Saban is the easy answer, however I am going with their play in the trenches. Last season, they averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and allowed 28 sacks. With the same players returning why should they be better, you might ask. Smith was a true freshman playing the most important position on the line, left tackle, and he should be ready to step up and dominate. Britt was also in his first season as a starter after playing his first two years on the defensive side of the ball. Furthermore, in Caldwell and Stabler, you have a duo that the previous staff may have rushed into duty as freshman in 2005 out of necessity, but are now well-seasoned players coming into their third years as regulars. Finally, with Saban and O-Line coach Joe Pendry (19 years in the NFL) improvement is inevitable. Defensively, neither Wallace Gilberry, nor Bobby Greenwood (both ends), have fulfilled the promise they displayed when making the All-SEC freshman team in 2004. Saban knows how to get the most out of his players.


I could be way off, but I cannot help but wonder if part of the reason that David Shula was fired is that the powers that be were worried he would have a big season in 2007. Not to say that adding Saban was not a coup…because it was. Last year, they lost at eventual SEC West Champ Arkansas by one point in double OT, at Tennessee by three points and they out-gained Auburn by over 100 yards in their loss to the Tigers -- they will win those types of games this season.

Check back tomorrow to see who is #9 in CFI’s Top 25 Countdown