Month: August 2010

Triple Option Attack: #4 Florida

Next up on the Triple Option Attack is #4 Florida

Music to listen to: Suite Judy Blue Eyes by Crosby, Stills and Nash

Stephen Stills went to Florida and CSN is a great group. This was a simple choice.

The Story: A lot has happened to the Florida program since its last game, a Sugar Bowl victory over Cincinnati.

First was the graduation/leaving of major players such as quarterback Tim Tebow, middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, cornerback Joe Haden, tight end Aaron Hernandez and a variety of others.

Than former defensive coordinator Charlie Strong left to become head coach of Louisville.

Finally, there was the “retirement” and prompt return of head coach Urban Meyer which could have wrecked the entire state of the program.

However, through all of this, the Gators were still able to recruit arguably the top class of 2010 high school players in the nation and still returns a team that can be a top-five squad this season.

Last Season: The Gators finished the season with a 13-1 record with its lone loss coming to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. You know expectations are high for your program when that year is considered disappointing.

Offense: Tebow is gone but the key to the offense doing well will be on the offensive line. The good news for the Gators is that All-America candidates center Mike Pouncey and guard Carl Johnson do come back. The bad news is that the rest of the line has a bad spring and has been underwhelming in the fall according to Meyer.

The new starting quarterback is John Brantley, a highly touted prospect who has been with the Gators program for several years. He will work hard and may actually improve Florida’s passing game.

Brantley will have plenty of weapons to throw to including running back/receiver Chris Rainey. The Gators always have a variety of receivers and backs to use in its offense.

Defense: When the Gators have won the national title or been in contention for it, the defensive unit has been one of the best in the nation.

Florida does have to replace Haden, Spikes, defensive end Carlos Dunlap and several others from last years squad.

Florida does return a top-notch secondary with cornerback Janoris Jenkins, strong safety Ahmad Black and free safety Will Hill. All three are All-America candidates.

The Gators front seven must answer some major questions, especially on the line.

The Schedule

9-4-10 MIAMI OH
9-11-10 SOUTH FLORIDA
9-18-10 at Tennessee
9-25-10 KENTUCKY
10-2-10 at Alabama
10-9-10 LOUISIANA STATE
10-16-10 MISSISSIPPI STATE
10-30-10 Georgia @Jacksonville, FL
11-6-10 at Vanderbilt
11-13-10 SOUTH CAROLINA
11-20-10 APPALACHIAN STATE
11-27-10 at Florida State

Interesting schedule. At first glance it looks slightly tough but there are some tricky obstacles. The obvious one is the game at Alabama but I’m looking at the South Florida game being tougher than expected. Also, Georgia has high aspirations as well this season and the Bulldogs are more than capable of getting a win in Jacksonville. Finally, the season finale at Florida State should be a heated contest because the Seminoles are going to be hyped to finally get a win over the Gators at home with a new coach reinvigorating the program.

Most Famous Sports Alum: There are some alums who are famous in their own sports like Dara Torres and Ryan Lochte (swimming), Heather Mitts and Abby Wambach (women’s soccer), Emmitt Smith and Steve Spurrier (football) and a variety of others.

However, the answer to this one is Tebow. He has crossed over beyond the sports world.

Celebrity Alum “Crush:” A lot of options and I was going to be darned if I was going to pick either Jenn Brown or Erin Andrews, ESPN’s darlings. The Gators have also produced a lot of beauty pageant queens

Instead I’m picking Rachel Spenser. Home-improvement guru Bob Vila came in a close second, I’ve always dug the beard.

 

Prediction: 11-2 (two losses to Alabama)

I think that the Gators make it back to the SEC title game with its lone loss coming to its regular season match at Alabama. The talent is too good and the coaching staff too proven to believe that the Gators will suffer a major dropoff this season. However, I still think that Alabama is better this season and will prove it twice this year.

Sports Inquirer Top-25 Preseason College Football Poll:

#25 West Virginia

#24 South Carolina

#23 Auburn

#22 Oregon State

#21 Arkansas

#20 Florida State

#19 Georgia

#18 North Carolina

#17 Georgia Tech

#16 LSU

#15 Pittsburgh

#14 Penn State

#13 Miami

#12 Wisconsin

#11 Oregon

#10 Iowa

#9 Nebraska

#8 TCU

#7 Oklahoma

#6 Boise State

#5 Virginia Tech

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Triple Option Attack: #5 Virginia Tech

Next up on the Triple Option Attack is #5 Virginia Tech

Music to listen to: Horse with No Name by America

Gerry Beckley, a founding member of the band America, went to school at Virginia Tech.

The Story: When you think of Virginia Tech under Frank Beamer, only three things come to mind. Elite defense, excellent running attack and top-notch special teams.

The last two still exist for the Hokies but the first one came under question last season and still needs to be answered this year if Virginia Tech has any aspirations to play for the national title.

Last Season: The Hokies were 10-3 last season, including a victory over Tennessee in the Peach Bowl (I know it’s the Chick-fil-A Bowl but corporate sponsorships have gotten to be too much for me). The losses were to Alabama in Atlanta, on the road to Georgia Tech and at home to North Carolina.

Offense: The Hokies may have its best offense on campus since the Michael Vick era.

Virginia Tech brings back two running backs who can rush for 1,500 yards individually on their own. When star running back Darren Evans missed last year with a knee injury, than-freshman Ryan Williams filled in and rushed for 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns on his own. Evans is back and will join the crowded backfield.

Tyrod Taylor returns as starting quarterback and has a 23-5 record as a starter over his career. He is also a dual-threat who improved his throwing ability greatly last season.

The Hokies still have to replace several offensive linemen but they should still be able to run the ball as usual.

Defense: The secondary should be fine with top players like cornerback Rashad Carmichael and strong safety Davon Morgan returning.

The question is whether the unit can replace departed linemen and linebackers from last season.

The Schedule

Sept. 6 vs. Boise St. (Landover, Md.)

Sept. 11 James Madison

Sept. 18 East Carolina

Sept. 25 @ Boston College

Oct. 2 @ N.C. State

Oct. 9 Central Michigan

Oct. 16 Wake Forest

Oct. 23 Duke

Nov. 4 Georgia Tech

Nov. 13 @ North Carolina

Nov. 20 @ Miami

Nov. 27 Virginia

The first matchup is the big one that the entire nation will be watching. If the Hokies defense can stop Boise State than that will be a good predictor of how the rest of the season will go. Two of the three toughest games after that are on the road. Boston College and Miami will contend for their individual ACC divisions and Georgia Tech is at home.

Most Famous Sports Alum: For better or worse, its Mike Vick.

Celebrity Alum “Crush:” Actress Collette Wolfe

Prediction: 10-2

I think that the Hokies get the win over Boise State but slips up twice in the ACC. The road games are tough and as North Carolina proved, Tech isn’t as intimidating of a home team as it used to be. Virginia Tech will have a solid year and may even play for the national title but I don’t trust the defense enough to make that proclamation.

Sports Inquirer Top-25 Preseason College Football Poll:

#25 West Virginia

#24 South Carolina

#23 Auburn

#22 Oregon State

#21 Arkansas

#20 Florida State

#19 Georgia

#18 North Carolina

#17 Georgia Tech

#16 LSU

#15 Pittsburgh

#14 Penn State

#13 Miami

#12 Wisconsin

#11 Oregon

#10 Iowa

#9 Nebraska

#8 TCU

#7 Oklahoma

#6 Boise State

Gridiron Blitz: Green Bay Packers 2010 Season Preview

The next team up on our Gridiron Blitz is the Green Bay Packers

Music to listen to: People Everyday by Arrested Development

This was the jam back in junior high school.

Current State: When Brett Farve left Green Bay for Minnesota two seasons ago, the first thought was how would the Packers franchise survive the loss of the one man that had been the face of it for more than a decade.

The first year post-Farve was not a winning one, the Packers went 6-10, but new starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers proved that he had the skills to lead the team to better things.

Last season, Green Bay finished 11-5 and Rodgers continued to improve along with a solid defense that embraced its now 3-4 system. However, the Vikings, led by Farve, swept the Packers and won the NFC North. Furthermore, the Packers previously solid defense got exposed by Arizona in a playoffs and lost to the Cardinals 51-45.

Biggest Offseason Change: I went though some expected rosters and previews and really didn’t see any changes worthy of discussion. While this would seem like a good thing, you would have expected some changes on defense. However, the impression I’m getting is that the defense will hope that another year under the current system will help them.

Uniform Grade: Green Bay has had the same uniforms since the 1950’s. They won’t change for any reason and that’s fine. The green and gold colors work well for them. Grade: B

Best Player: Rodgers has slowly crept his way into the conversation as a top-five quarterback in the NFL. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees are locks. The other two positions are open for interpretation.

Rodgers can make all of the throws, shows poise in the pocket and has been a full-time starter for two full seasons. He will have a full compliment of offensive players to assist him.

The Packers hope a healthier offensive line will not only help improve the rushing attack with running back Ryan Grant but will also give Rodgers more protection because the quarterback took more sacks than necessary.

Rodgers has excellent chemistry with receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver as well.

Most Important Player: Rodgers can be in consideration but I’ll look at the defensive side of the ball.

The first choice can be cornerback Charles Woodson, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He had a great season last year and was used correctly by Dom Capers in the defensive scheme.

Clay Matthews is a Pro Bowler and is one of the top rushing linebackers in the league but I’m going to move closer to the ball for my most important player.

For any 3-4 defense to reach its maximum, the nose tackle must play a crucial role in not only occupying offensive linemen but also show pass rushing ability. B.J. Raji showed both of these abilities in a big way last season in his rookie year. If he can improve on these skills even more, the Packers defense will improve more and match the production of the offense. If this happens, the Packers can be the NFC favorite.

Best Case: The defense continues to evolve in scheme. The offensive line stays healthy and Grant has a productive year rushing. NFC champions.

Worst Case: The defense actually regresses and the offensive line doesn’t hold up. They still make the playoffs but lose their first game.

Coaching: The divorce of Farve and the Packers showed that head coach Mike McCarthy is the main man in charge in Green Bay. He stuck with Rodgers thorough all of the controversy and now the entire organization is stronger for it.

The best move that he has done in his tenure was bringing in Capers to revamp the defense.

First memory of team: It was Farve. Its really disappointing about all of the stuff that went down the past three years with him leaving Green Bay, going to the Jets and than to Minnesota because when he was fully with the Packers, he was an enjoyable player to watch.

His run of three consecutive MVP trophies from 1995-98 was one of the most spectacular runs of play you will ever see in the NFL. Even now, despite all of the drama, he’s still performing at an above-average level in the most difficult position in sports as a 40-year old. Even haters of the media attention like me have to respect that.

Schedule: The Packers will have to deal with Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota in the division.

The home games are against Buffalo, Miami, Dallas, San Francisco and the New York Giants. The away games are at Philadelphia, Washington, New York Jets, Atlanta and New England.

City Nicknames: I didn’t find any.

Fantasy Focus: Everyone is up for being picked on offense. The only caution I would have is with Ryan Grant at running back. I think he’ll be a productive running back for the Packers but won’t get you as many fantasy points as you would like if you took him.

Overall Outlook: I picked the Packers to go to the Super Bowl last year and got burned with that. I still willing to make that step. I will say that they are on the short list at least in the NFC with New Orleans and Minnesota. The offense produces points. The defense has had good moments as well but lacks consistency. If Green Bay doesn’t at least make the NFC title game, its fans should be disappointed.

Final Record: 11-5

Gridiron Blitz 2010 Season Previews:

AFC East:

Buffalo Bills

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Miami Dolphins

AFC North:

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Baltimore Ravens

Pittsbirgh Steelers

AFC South:

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Houston Texans

Tennessee Titans

AFC West

Denver Broncos

San Diego Chargers

Kansas City Chiefs

Oakland Raiders

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

New York Giants

NFC North

Chicago Bears