Posted on: January 17, 2011 1:31 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
If the nationwide trend this offseason has been for premium-grade junior talent to surprisingly come back to school -- see Andrew Luck, Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, etc. -- no one told the SEC.
Just ask Georgia, who over the weekend lost outside linebacker-slash-pass rush specialist Justin Houston to the draft just ahead of the deadline . Houston joins the Bulldogs' A.J. Green in forgoing his senior season in Athens and is projected as a late first-round pick in the latest CBSSports.com mock draft .
For a player custom-made for the NFL's predominant 3-4 defense -- just ask NFL-trained Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, whose 3-4 schemes made Houston a 10-sack terror off the edge, not to mention a Nagurski Trophy finalist -- the decision to come out couldn't have been too difficult. (We won't be surprised if Houston winds up looking like a steal if he does go as late as currently projected.) But it won't make it any easier for Mark Richt or Bulldog fans to stomach; between Houston's departure and the graduation of seniors Akeem Dent and Darryl Gamble, Grantham's linebacking unit will have to be almost entirely rebuilt.
Unfortunately for Richt, after the 6-7 disaster of 2010, he may not be able to afford to wait for that rebuilding job to pay dividends. He paid Grantham good money to come to Athens from the Dallas Cowboys, and now Grantham will have to earn it. With major improvement required to keep Richt employed and now neither of the Bulldogs' best players from 2010 available in 2011, there won't be any time to waste.
Posted on: January 14, 2011 9:21 pm
Edited on: January 16, 2011 3:20 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Earlier today, our own Dennis Dodd posted his pre-preseason Top 25 for the 2011 college football season. We here at the College Football Blog wouldn't dare disagree with our esteemed colleague's opinions ... but every year there's teams that vastly exceed the expectations of even the wisest prognosticators (like, say, Auburn in 2010) and some that disappoint despite some seemingly major advantages (like, say, Iowa in 2010).
1. Baylor - The good news for Baylor: dynamic quarterback Robert Griffin III is back along with most of the offense, and while he loses starting tailback Jay Finley to graduation, Finley's backups Terrance Ganaway and Jarred Salubi provide an intriguing balance of power and speed -- they both return. In addition, RG3 gets his top five receivers back (all of whom caught at least 40 passes this year), and three-year starting lineman Philip Baker will be the anchor at center for a mostly intact offensive line. Yes, Baylor still looks wretched at times on defense (53 points to Oklahoma and 55 to Oklahoma State aren't exactly solid efforts), so there's no telling whether the Bears' losses on that side of the ball are addition by subtraction or not, but one thing's for sure: there'll be points put up in Waco in 2011.
2. Illinois - This spot would likely go to fellow "Leader" Penn State if it weren't for the fact that PSU's replacing Evan Royster, two leading receivers, its two best offensive linemen, and there's really no telling who's starting at QB in 2011. Oh, and most of the Penn State defense -- including two of three starting LBs -- is graduating too. Contrast that with Illinois , who found a star quarterback in freshman Nathan Scheelhaase this year and returns four of five starting offensive linemen. The Illini won't miss early declarant Mikel LeShoure much with Jason Ford (who's basically a human truck) waiting to take over at tailback. The defense will definitely miss Martez Wilson and Corey Liuget on the interior, on the other hand; those guys were anchors of a stout rushing defense and their backups are unremarkable. Still, Illinois' 2011 schedule looks primed for some upsets, and nine wins is hardly out of the question. If Wilson and Liuget were returning, Illinois would probably be in Dodd's Top 25, but it's not as if no borderline-Top 25 team has ever exceeded expectations after losing two juniors to the NFL.
3. Utah - Everything's going to come crashing down once Utah joins a "real" conference, right? Maybe not. If QB Jordan Wynn recovers from December shoulder surgery in time for the season (which he should, but six months of rehab can turn into nine without the patient doing anything wrong), he'll be a third-year starter with a reasonable set of returning players. Senior wideout/returner Shaky Smithson is sure to be missed, but this is college football; so it goes. And while Utah's schedule looks daunting, it really could be worse; the Utes miss both Oregon and Stanford in inter-divisional play, and neither BYU nor Pitt should be as tough of matchups as they'd have been over the past couple years. In addition, the schedule's pretty top-heavy, and it's easily possible that Utah wins at least five of six down the stretch. Head coach Kyle Whittingham keeps proving predictions wrong by not bolting for a paycheck elsewhere, and now he's got a chance to lead his Utes into battle in a real conference and destroy the "mid-major" label that's been dogging the program -- even through multiple BCS bowl wins! -- once and for all.
4. Oregon State - Meanwhile, in the Pac-12 North, the Oregon State Beavers have a chance to make noise. Yes, Oregon and Stanford are the class of the division and should remain so for the near future, but don't sleep on the passing skills of QB Ryan Katz , especially now that he'll have his first full season as a starter under his belt. With the game slowing down for him and with Markus Wheaton and James Rodgers both returning at WR (to say nothing of Joe Halahuni coming back at TE), Katz should be able to more effectively use his NFL-caliber arm to put some points up in Corvallis. The offense will miss Jacquizz Rodgers desperately, and while deserved, his jump to the NFL will likely cost the Beavers a win or two. So while the defense struggled in 2010 and stands to lose several seniors, it may not matter in a Pac-12 with several struggling offenses and an OSU attack that should set 30+ points per game as a goal. Scheduling a road date at Wisconsin might not have been the wisest idea, though. Still, look for a push from Oregon State to hit that eight-win mark, which against a schedule like this could mean a spot in the Top 25 when it's all said and done.
5. Tennessee - Dodd ranks eight SEC teams in his Top 25 (26, really, but whatever). We're not sure all will end up ranked at the end of the 2011 season, but one thing seems clear: of the four teams he left out -- Kentucky , Ole Miss , Tennessee , and Vanderbilt -- Tennessee's the closest thing to a contender of the four. No, the SEC East shouldn't spend its entire season on fire like last year, where South Carolina took the division trophy in a five-loss season, but Florida 's going to be experiencing major upheaval and Georgia will be missing A.J. Green (again). With Tyler Bray coming off a successful freshman campaign and returning starting RB Tauren Poole and deep threat wideout Justin Hunter , we could see the Vols make some noise. On defense, the only major loss is leading tackler Nick Reveiz ; Herman Lathers made strides along with the rest of the defense down the stretch, and the secondary returns intact. If there's ever a time to make a run in the East, it's -- well, okay, it was 2010. 2011's not a bad opportunity for the Vols either, though.
Tags: 2011 College Football, 2011 College Football Sleepers, 2011 Sleepers, 2011 Top 25, A.J. Green, Baylor, BYU, Corey Liuget, Florida, Georgia, Herman Lathers, Illinois, Jacquizz Rodgers, James Rodgers, Jarred Salubi, Jason Ford, Jay Finley, Joe Halahuni, Jordan Wynn, Justin Hunter, Kentucky, Kyle Whittingham, Markus Wheaton, Martez, Mikel LeShoure, Nathan Scheelhaase, Nick Reveiz, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Oregon State, Penn State, Philip Baker, Pitt, Pittsburgh, RG3, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Katz, Shaky Smithson, South Carolina, Stanford, Tauren Poole, Tennessee, Terrance Ganaway, Utah, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin
Posted on: January 14, 2011 12:29 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Earlier today, our own Dennis Dodd posted his pre-preseason top 25 for the 2011 college football season. We here at the College Football Blog wouldn't dare disagree with our esteemed colleague's opinions ... but every year there's teams that vastly exceed the expectations of even the wisest prognosticators (like, say, Auburn in 2010) and some that disappoint despite some seemingly major advantages (like, say, Iowa in 2010).
So later today we'll name five more teams we think can crack Dodd's top 25 next season, and right now we'll name five that are in his top 25 that might slip out ... or, at least, fail to live up to where they're currently placed. Without further ado (and in no particular order):
1. Auburn (15). Slipping from first to 15th already seems like quite a slide, but the Tigers' losses are so major they could easily fall even further. The offensive line loses four starters representing approximately 200 collective career starts; Nick Fairley's departure is only the capper for an entire defensive tackle rotation that must be replaced; Auburn's two best linebackers are graduated, along with the best corner and best safety; and, oh yeah, that Cam Newton guy will be replaced by either a redshirt junior who's never started a game (Barrett Trotter) or a true freshman (Kiehl Frazier). The schedule also turns nasty, with this year's home dates against South Carolina, LSU, Arkansas, and Georgia all on the road. Gus Malzahn's continued presence means Auburn will have a fighting chance of getting back to eight or nine wins, but a bad break here or there could leave Gene Chizik's bunch outside the top 25 entirely.
2. Michigan State (9). The Spartans lived on the margins somewhat in 2010, needing big late comebacks to beat teams like Northwestern and Purdue while stumbling badly against more talented teams like Iowa and Alabama. And now Mark Dantonio loses three senior offensive linemen, soul-of-the-defense All-American linebacker Greg Jones, and offensive coordinator Don Treadwell, who took the vacant Miami (Ohio) head coaching position. For a team that may have already been not-quite-as-good as their record, those are big blows.
3. South Carolina (17). Their appearance on this list isn't necessarily about the Gamecocks themselves, though the losses of end Cliff Matthews on defense and guard Garrett Chisolm on offense will be larger than people think. It's about their SEC divisional rivals at Florida and Georgia bouncing back from subpar seasons, and a schedule that hands them tough road trips to Athens, Knoxville, Starkville, and Fayetteville. It's the sort of slate that likely has four losses on it lurking somewhere.
4. Northwestern (24). We love the plucky Wildcats as much as anyone, but the way the 'Cats were memorably run over at Wrigley by Illinois, it's hard to see them being physical enough to make that much headway in the new-and-improved Big Ten. Five of their seven 2010 wins came by a total of just 15 points, and for a quarterback whose underrated running skills are as much a part of his success as his throwing accuracy, Dan Persa's Achilles injury is a killer.
5. Oklahoma State (7). OK, so with Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon back and the Big 12 South not yet back to its 2008 glory days, it's not likely for the Cowboys to slip all the way out of the top 25. But the Cowboys haven't always done well with the kind of expectations they'll be dealing with in 2011, the defense still needs major work, and without Kendall Hunter the Pokes will have to work to ensure the running game can keep opponents from simply blanketing the Weeden-to-Blackmon connection. But the biggest loss by far is Dana Holgorsen, without whom the 2009 Cowboy offense was shut out by Oklahoma even with weapons like Hunter and Zac Robinson around. If Mike Gundy doesn't find a quailty replacement, the Cowboys may wind up as 2011's most overrated team.
Tags: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Barrett Trotter, Big 12, Big Ten, Brandon Weeden, Cam Newton, Cliff Matthews, Dan Persa, Dana Holgorsen, Don Treadwell, Florida, Garrett Chisolm, Gene Chizik, Georgia, Greg Jones, Gus Malzahn, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa, Justin Blackmon, Kendall Hunter, Kiehl Frazier, LSU, Mark Dantonio, Miami (Ohio), Michigan State, Mike Gundy, Nick Fairley, Northwestern, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Purdue, South Carolina, Zac Robinson
Posted on: January 11, 2011 2:14 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2011 3:18 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
1. The SEC is still the best conference in college football. Yes, the conference may have only gone 5-5 in bowl games this season, and it may have included a couple losses against a Conference USA team and a Big East team, but here is the stat that actually mattered: for the fifth straight year, the national champion calls the SEC home. Oh, and let's not just ignore the fact that a twelve team league had ten teams playing in bowl games to begin with. Fans of other conferences around the country may have been hoping the conference would get knocked down a peg this postseason, but prepare yourselves for plenty more "ESSSS EEEEEEE SEEEEEE" chants in 2011.
2. The 2010 season belonged to Cam Newton and Auburn. Whether the headlines were good or bad this season, the college football world seemed to revolve around a tiny town in eastern Alabama and the quarterback that caught a nation's eye. It's somewhat fitting that on the final drive of the season, the one that gave Auburn its national championship, the one player who put the team on his back for most of the season had to play a secondary role thanks to being banged up. For once, Cam Newton 's defense and his offense decided to carry him to the finish line. We don't know for sure what Cam Newton's future will hold, but odds are that Newton is bound for the NFL. How will Auburn fare next season without its Superman?
3. Alabama is still really good . Honestly, if college football did have a playoff system in place of the bowls, would any of you have been shocked to see Alabama make it to another title game? The Tide suffered three losses this season. They came at the hands of South Carolina , LSU and Auburn . When the worst loss of your season is against the SEC East champion, you didn't have a bad season. Then the Tide went out and put an exclamation point on the year by pasting Michigan State -- a team with one loss and ranked in the top ten -- by 42 points.
4. The SEC East should be better next season. While the SEC may have gone 5-5 as a whole during the bowl season, the SEC East was responsible for four of those losses. The good news for the division is that things should improve a bit next year, as Georgia and Tennessee aren't likely to suffer two losing seasons in a row, South Carolina will still have Marcus Lattimore and won't have Stephen Garcia , and Florida might actually have an offensive system suited for its quarterback. Well, if John Brantley stays. Plus, with all the key players that Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas and LSU will be losing to the NFL this spring, the West shouldn't be nearly as dominant.
Posted on: January 9, 2011 1:01 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2011 5:54 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Back on Dec. 22, Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green took to Twitter to angrily deny a report that he had already elected to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft . You can't blame him, with his Bulldogs in the process of preparing for a bowl game that could -- and eventually would -- doom them to a losing season at the time.
But no one save a handful of glass-entirely-full Bulldog fans expected that to mean anything but a delay of the inevitable, and now the inevitable is official : Green will be turning pro a year early.
He leaves Athens on the shortlist of the greatest receivers in Georgia history, with 166 receptions for 2,619 yards and 23 touchdowns in only three injury- and suspension-shortened seasons. Green and fellow class-of-2008 blue-chipper Julio Jones -- Green the acrobatic, elegant yin to Jones' beastly, uber-athletic yang -- both entered college football with outsized expectations. Both more than lived up to them as "A.J. or Julio?" debates sprang up across the SEC during their three years. And now both will see their names called in the first round of the same draft.
But if Green is remembered as having personally delivered on his immense potential, he'll also be remembered for playing on teams that didn't deliver on theirs. As we wrote when the first reports of Green's declaration surfaced, his three years in red-and-black coincide with the three most disappointing seasons of the Mark Richt era in Athens: the 2008 fall from preseason No. 1, the 2009 7-5 underachievement, and now the 2010 crash-and-burn all the way below .500. No one who's watched Green would blame him for those failings, but it won't change the feeling that Richt and the Bulldogs could have accomplished more with arguably the most purely talented college receiver since Larry Fitzgerald at their disposal.
Posted on: January 8, 2011 1:14 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer.
Things got kicked off early at the Alamodome and we’re not talking about the fireworks that were used to welcome the players to the field. In the first major shocker of the day, longtime Alabama commit Russelville (AL) High linebacker Brent Calloway switched his verbal pledge to Auburn, as first reported by Rivals. Calloway was an early pledge to Alabama and many suspected that he may have switched when it was announced that he would be "committing" at the All-American Bowl despite never publically decommitting from Alabama.
Grady HS (GA) defensive back Damian Swann chose Georgia before the start of the game as well.
The following is the remaining commitment schedule at the All-American Bowl, which can be seen on NBC (Schools they are considering in parenthesis):
1st quarter: Harvey Langi (Utah, USC, Stanford), Tobias Singleton (Mississippi State, Ole Miss, UCLA).
2nd quarter: Colt Lyerla (Oregon, USC, Cal), Donovan Smith (N.C. State, Penn St., UCLA), Lateek Townsend (S. Carolina, Clemson, LSU).
Half: Gerrod Holliman (Miami, Ole Miss, WVU), James Sample (Arizona St., Oregon St., Washington).
3rd quarter: Wayne Lyons (Stanford, Michigan, UCLA), Vilami Moala (Cal, Oregon, Oregon St.).
4th quarter: Kris Frost (Auburn, Michigan, LSU), Odell Beckham (LSU, Miami).
Posted on: January 5, 2011 5:49 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
At 7 p.m. Eastern tonight, college football fans can get a look at some of the proverbial stars of the future in the Under Armour All-American Game, which will feature any number of top-flight recruits and the commitment decisions of maybe a dozen or more currently uncommitted prospects.
One of those players is expected to be Griffin (Ga.) defensive end Xzavier Dickson, who'll be choosing between Alabama and Georgia. Or, if he's telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the truth, he'll be letting random fate choose for him . The AJC's Chip Towers relayed the following conversation:
I asked [Dickson] if he already knew which way he was going at that moment. He admitted he had not.
Fellow Georgia blue-chip Quan Bray (a wideout/running back from LaGrange), Dickson's roommate at the game, told Towers that Dickson had told him the same thing. So at the very least, it's not some elaborate lie told solely for Towers' benefit.It could, of course, be an elaborate lie to add some extra drama to his announcement all the same; while he's right that both the Bulldogs and Tide would provide him with plenty of top-flight coaching and SEC excitement (not to mention a role as the outside pass rusher in the teams' respective 3-4 defenses that have made players like Justin Houston and Courtney Upshaw), surely Dickson wouldn't see them as such dead equals as to let a coin decide for him. And the coin flip won't happen live on camera, as Dickson said he'd do it the night before.
But if Dickson is dead-set on making a decision at the game (and, more to the point, on ESPN) and truly doesn't see any difference between the Tide and Bulldogs, well, plenty of far important choices have been made with even more unreliable decision-making processes before.
Posted on: January 4, 2011 10:46 am
Edited on: January 5, 2011 11:26 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
After watching their team flail their way to a 10-6 loss to UCF in the Liberty Bowl, an awful lot of Georgia fans wondered if their favorite SEC school had bothered to take their Conference USA opponent all that seriously ahead of time.
It's probably time to stop wondering, though, assuming this small tidbit from this Florida Today column is accurate (emphasis added):
Even the Bulldogs overlooked the Knights. Oh, they won't admit that. But at their recent team banquet, the Bulldogs presented its seniors with a plaque. Etched on it was the season record -- 7-6 .While we're not sure about having "more heart" than the Bulldogs, it's clear that the Golden Knights were the team with the more appropriate amount of confidence, that much we can say.
To be fair to Georgia, it's not entirely accurate to say that "they won't admit" they looked past the Knights; kicker Blair Walsh said as much after the game , claiming that his team had felt "entitled" to win a game against C-USA opposition.
But the honesty after the fact is only worth so much credit. The Dawgs would be better off next time simply giving their opponent the proper respect and focus to start with ... and maybe waiting until after the game to get the congratulations engraved.
HT: GTP .
UPDATE: OK, so maybe the engraving wasn't entirely borne out of overconfidence; a Georgia spokesperson said yesterday that the school annually adds a bowl win to the team's record on their senior plaques, with the expectation that they'll simply replace them (at the cost of $200) if the Bulldogs happen to lose the bowl game. UCF may have simply been the first team to catch wind of it.
But if you ask us: whether it's year-in-year-out policy or a one-time bout of cockiness, congratulating their players on a win they haven't won yet still certainly seems like the wrong message for Georgia to send.