Music to listen to: Sound Check (Gravity) by Gorillaz
Over the next two weeks, I will reveal my preseason college football poll ranking the top-25 teams, along with conference predictions, Heisman Trophy winner, etc. While compiling my list of teams, there were some squads that missed the cut for a variety of reasons and they’re going to be listed below.
Don’t laugh…readers of the blog know that Vandy is my alma mater which would make you think that I have a biased view of the Commodores. I’m also not going with the change in “culture” angle that fellow media members like to point out with the continual impact of second-year head coach James Franklin, even though that doesn’t hurt Vandy’s cause.
Vanderbilt finally has positive consistency at the quarterback position since Jay Cutler left Nashville more than five years ago. Jordan Rodgers emerged as a legitimate offensive figure for the Commodores last season and will get to start the entire season. The Commodores also return one of the top offensive players in the entire Southeastern Conference in running back Zac Stacy. The receivers are continuing to improve, the offensive line looked much better in the second half of the 2011 campaign and freshman Brian Kimbrow has a chance to make a major impact on that side of the ball as well.
There are significant questions on the defensive side of the ball, especially in the back seven with the linebackers and secondary.
Furthermore, when making preseason rankings, you have to look at the schedule. The Commodores avoid Arkansas, Alabama AND LSU on the slate and get South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee at home. They also have winnable games at Nothwestern, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Wake Forest and Florida. Auburn will be a swing game that could determine more than bowl eligibility. If the defense matures, its not out of the question for Vandy to win eight games this season.
I’ve seen some people project the Fighting Irish to be in the top-20 by the end of the season. Quarterback Tommy Rees enters his third year as a contributor to the offense, the offensive line is solid and the Irish have good depth at running back led by Cirerre Woods and Theo Riddick. The defense will be led by lineback Manti Te’o decided to forgo the NFL to solidify the front seven.
The problem is that Rees has also shown major inconsistency, especially with 19 turnovers last season, including 14 interceptions. If that doesn’t improve, more wins will not be available for the Irish. Furthermore, after years of having below-average schedules compared to counterparts in power conference, Notre Dame has a rough slate this year. Three of its 2012 opponents (Michigan, Michigan State and Stanford) won 10 games last year and the schedule also includes trips to Oklahoma and Southern California. Furthermore, the Irish have two neutral site games against Navy in Dublin, Ireland and Miami in Chicago. Even contests against BYU, Wake Forest and Purdue should be wins but aren’t guarantees.
If the Yellow Jackets can find consistency throwing the football, they could be a dark horse to contend for the ACC title. Quarterback Tevin Washington returns for his senior year with more experience running the triple-option attack which should help the rushing attack become stronger. Replacing Stephen Hill at wide receiver will be a difficult task.
For the questions about the effectiveness of the option attack working in a power conference, the defense of the Yellow Jackets was underwhelming last year during numerous contests and cost them numerous victories last season. The defensive line needs to improve its pass rush in the base 3-4 package to take advantage of an athletic linebacker group. The special teams units must also improve from last season, especially in coverage.
Despite the negatives mentioned above, Georgia Tech has the potential to be a 8-9 win team this year. The Jackets do have to travel to Virginia Tech and Clemson in conference games this season along with a road contest at Georgia. However, besides those three games, the rest of the slate includes winnable games against the lower end of the ACC including home games against Duke and Boston College along with a visit to Maryland.
North Carolina State
The Wolfpack return quarterback Mike Glennon to one of the better offensive units in the ACC which also features one of the more underrated running backs in the southeast, James Washington. I also like the experience at secondary, especially All-America candidate, cornerback David Anderson and NC State’s defense continually creates turnovers. The worry is replacing major contributors on the defensive line and at the linebacker positions.
Those are my thoughts, what are yours?