Day: August 14, 2010

Triple Option Attack: #21 Arkansas

Next up on the Triple Option Attack is #21 Arkansas

Music to listen to: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart by Al Green

Johnny Cash may the most famous Arkansas musician but I had Hank Williams, Jr. for a post earlier in the week and I want to mix up my musical genre choices so here’s some soul music from a legend.

The Story: With the top QB in the SEC and maybe the entire nation in Ryan Mallet, the Razorbacks are optimistic that this team will return to the SEC Championship game and eventually capture the school’s first-ever SEC crown. With Mallet under center for the second year under head coach Bobby Petrino, the offense can be even better this year. The question comes at defense.

Last Season: Finished with a record of 8-5, including a win in the Liberty Bowl over East Carolina.

Offense: The offense is led by potential Heisman Trophy winner Ryan Mallet and he has a bevy of offensive weapons to throw to including Jarius Wright, Greg Childs and Joe Adams. The Razorbacks will also return four offensive linemen. The only two concerns are running back and performances on the road. Their leading rusher last season was Broderick Green and he only rushed for 459 yards. The problem with this is that while the passing offense may get you the lead, the lack of ability to run the ball makes it easier for you to blow the lead as well.

Secondly, last season, the squad put up less points than its average in each of its road games at Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss and LSU. You may argue that those were the better defenses in the SEC and maybe in the nation with Alabama and Florida but the lack of production hurt them in each contest.

Defense: The defense was a borderline embarrassment last season. It gave up 52 points at home to Georgia, a team that struggled greatly throughout the season accept against the Razorbacks. Arkansas allowed LSU to put up 33 points. Alabama scored 35 points in its contest. The bright side is that the defense did have some good moments like giving up only 20 points at Florida and holding a solid Auburn offense to 23 points. Maybe those games will provide inspiration for this years team. Furthermore, the defense does return some talented guys such as cornerbacks Ramon Broadway and Rudell Crim. The squad was young last year and maybe a year of maturity will help the overall cause.

The Schedule

9-4-10 Tennessee Tech
9-11-10 Louisiana Monroe
9-18-10 @Georgia
9-25-10 Alabama
10-9-10 Texas A&M (Arlington, Texas)
10-16-10 @Auburn
10-23-10 Mississippi
10-30-10 Vanderbilt
11-6-10 @South Carolina
11-13-10 UTEP
11-20-10 @Mississippi State
11-27-10 LSU (Little Rock, Ark.)

After playing two warm up contests against Tennessee Tech and Louisiana Monroe, the first major test comes at Georgia against a squad that will match them in talent. After that will be one of the bigger games in Arkansas in the last few years when the defending national champions Alabama come into town. If they can find a way to be 3-1 after the first four games, that would be an accomplishment.

The Razorbacks should be fine for its home contests after that but the road games are of concern, especially at Auburn and believe it or not, at Mississippi State.

Most Famous Sports Alum: You would honestly have to say Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, especially if you want to keep it football related. It isn’t a coincidence that one of Arkansas “home” games will be against Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas

Celebrity Crush Alum: Joey Laruen Adams, star of such classics as Mallrats, Big Daddy and one of my favorite movies of the 1990’s, Chasing Amy. War Holden and Banky! I had a solid crush on her, especially after seeing that last movie. Let’s just say that her character, a lesbian who dug hockey and liked men as well was an exciting proposition for the 17-year old version of me.

  

Prediction: 8-4

The offense is there to make a run at the SEC title but you’re asking the defense to make too much of a leap to respectability to be more than a slightly above-average conference team. I already see them losing at Georgia and to Alabama, plus you know that they will slip up in another road game, I’m calling Auburn. I can’t pinpoint the fourth loss but it will happen. Mallet will put up some impressive numbers and as a neutral viewer, the team will be a pleasure to see but nothing more than a trip to the Cotton Bowl will take place this year.

Sports Inquirer Top-25 Preseason College Football Poll:

#25 West Virginia

#24 South Carolina

#23 Auburn

#22 Oregon State

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Triple Option Attack: #22 Oregon State

Next up on the Triple Option Attack is #22 Oregon State

Music to listen to: What Sarah Said by Death Cab for Cutie

It was surprisingly a struggle to find Oregon music but I like Death Cab so it works.

The Story: With USC on probation, making the Trojans ineligible for the Pac-10 title, the conference is wide open with a variety of teams making a run, including Oregon State. The Beavers have won 25 Pac-10 games since 2006, only one short of the leader , USC. Mike Riley has built an excellent national program in one of the least likely locations, Corvallis, Oregon. The only thing that the Beavers haven’t been able to achieve in the Riley era has been making a trip to the Rose Bowl, where they haven’t been in 46 years.

Last Season: Finished with a record of 8-5, including a 44-20 loss to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. However, the most devastating loss of the season came to Oregon in the Civil War game, preventing Oregon State that elusive trip to the Rose Bowl.

Offense: The offense will be led by the Rodgers brothers, each of whom has the chance to be the Pac-10 player of the year. Jacquizz finished last season with over 1,400 yards rushing along with 22 touchdowns, making him a potential Heisman Trophy candidate. His brother, James, caught 10 touchdown passes last season for over 1,000 yards himself.

The Beavers will have to replace the graduated All-Pac 10 quarterback Sean Canfield with sophomore Ryan Katz.

Defense: This squad had two difficult games to finish last season by giving up 40+ points to Oregon and BYU. The good news is that senior defensive tackle Stephen Paea is back and is an all-conference contender.

The Schedule:

9/4 at TCU (at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas)

9/18 Lousville

9/25 at Boise State

10/2 Arizona State

10/9 at Arizona

10/16 at Washington

10/20 California

11/6 at UCLA

11/13 Washington State

11/20 USC

11/27 at Stanford

12/4 Oregon

Due to the setup of their schedule, the Beavers can start the season 0-3 and still reach their goal of the Rose Bowl. Of course, that’s not the plan. The first game will set the tone for the rest of the year. While many won’t expect a win at TCU, a respectable showing can carry them to the Pac-10 season. I really want to give these guys a shot at Boise State but that will probably be a loss as well. OSU does get USC and Oregon at home but have to travel to Stanford and Washington.

Most Famous Sports Alum: Not a lot to pick from but I’ll go with Gary Payton, probably the best athlete ever in the program besides Terry Baker, who won the Heisman in 1962. There have been some good football alumni such as Chad Ochocinco, Derek Anderson, Steven Jackson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Celebrity Crush Alum: Jodi Ann Paterson, 2000 Playboy Playmate of the Year

Prediction: 8-4

Boise State and TCU are probably going to be losses but the rest of the season is wide open. Outside of Arizona State and Washington State, easy wins in my opinion, each conference game can be a coin flip. I think they beat either USC or Oregon but find a way to drop a contest to a team like Washington. Another bowl game but not a trip to Pasadena.

Sports Inquirer Top-25 Preseason College Football Poll:

#25 West Virginia

#24 South Carolina

#23 Auburn

Gridiron Blitz: Miami Dolphins Season Preview

The next team up on our Gridiron Blitz is the Miami Dolphins

Music to listen to: Conga by Gloria Estefan

I chose Gloria Estefan because she’s a part owner of the team. The other options were Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez and that wasn’t happening.

Current State: The Dolphins have an old-school approach to football that makes them unique in the modern game. While elite teams such as Minnesota, New Orleans and Indianapolis have embraced the passing game, Miami has used a solid offensive line and two potential 1,000 yard rushers to approach the game. Behind a solid defense and a ball control offense, Miami grinded its way to a 7-9 record last season.

Biggest Change: The Dolphins front office made the decision to bring in former disgruntled wide receiver from the Denver Broncos Brandon Marshall to bolster the offense. For a team that has made a habit of taking a low-key approach to its activities, taking on Marshall was a change of pace. He’s had run-ins both on and off the field, but the Dolphins are hoping a change of scenery and a new contract worth up to $45 million will calm him down.

An under-the-radar change was the signing of free agent inside linebacker Karlos Dansby, who will provide the defense with some stability as well.

Uniform Grade: I’ve always been a fan of the Dolphins colors but the orange jerseys have to go. Bright colors are not outside of the norm in South Beach but seeing those jerseys on a Sunday night are not acceptable. Grade: B-

Best Player: On paper its Marshall but my vote will go to left tackle Jake Long. Since the Dolphins rely so much on their two running backs, Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, they need a thumper to run behind and Long has been that guy for the team the past few years.

Most Important Player: If the Dolphins hope to compete in the AFC East and maybe go further, Chad Henne has to continue to improve at the quarterback position. He’s 25, been in the league a few years and now has no excuses. The turnovers and overthrows that have plagued his career at this point have to be limited for Miami to make the playoffs. Plus, its nice to get a nice and shiny toy in Marshall but if you don’t have anyone to get him the ball, so that makes Henne the most important guy.

Best Case: Marshall provides some much needed balance on offense which improves the offense even more. The young secondary matures to match the solid front seven on defense. Ronnie Brown stays healthy and Ricky Williams continues to show some youth. They surprise some teams, win the AFC East and host a playoff game.

Worst Case: Despite finally making his money, Marshall is still in a state of discontent and has a negative affect on the team. Henne doesn’t make the necessary steps to improve and actually regresses. They get swept by New England and the New York Jets. Finish with a 6-10 record and miss the playoffs again.

Coaching: The head coach is Tony Sparano but the czar of the team is executive Bill Parcells. Through his approach as well as general manager Jeff Ireland, the Dolphins fit the bill of every one of Parcells former teams with maybe the exception of his squads with the Cowboys.

Sparano neither impresses or disappoints me. This will be a major year for is growth as a coach.

First Memory of team: While my favorite non-Giants quarterback growing up was John Elway, I always had respect for Dan Marino.

Even as a young fan, I felt bad for Marino and the lack of support that he had from the rest of the squad. It always seemed like the Dolphins would do well, look like they had some momentum but then lose to Buffalo in the playoffs. I remember them losing a conference title game at home to the Bills and realizing that the Dolphins would probably never win a championship.

When Don Shula finally left, Jimmy Johnson came in and gave them some moments but the loss in the playoffs to Jacksonville, Marino’s final game as a pro, was even more disheartening.

Finally, as a New Yorker, you’re raised to dislike two cities because its all about the celebrity, nice weather and lack of toughness. They were Los Angeles and Miami. We were taught to believe that people from those parts of the country were soft and lived a lifestyle that should be disliked. However, looking back on it, we were jealous of those people.

The lesson as always, move away from the northeast.

Schedule: They have to deal with New England, the New York Jets and Buffalo in the division.

As far as home games, they get Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit. All five of those contests are winnable games. The road slate is Minnesota, Green Bay, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Oakland. Those games are tougher but manageable.

The Dolphins first four games are at Buffalo, at Minnesota, hosting the Jets and New England before its bye week. If they can find a way to be 3-1 on that stretch, then some good things can start happening. However, a 1-3 start is equally possible.

City Nicknames: Since LeBron has decided to take his talents there, we’ll go with South Beach.

Fantasy Focus: I would be leery of taking anybody on this team. Be very careful with Marshall because he will either put up Pro Bowl numbers or serve as a very expensive decoy for the running game.

Overall Outlook: I’m actually optimistic about these guys because between the addition of Marshall, the improvements on defense and the schedule, I’m ready to declare these guys division championship material.

Final Record: 10-6

Gridiron Blitz NFL Season Previews:

AFC East:

Buffalo Bills

New England Patriots

New York Jets