Thursday, May 31, 2012

#15 Ohio State

The Ohio State Buckeyes will look to put behind a disappointing season tainted with the departure of former Head Coach Jim Tressel and quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Interim Head Coach Luke Fickell guided the Buckeyes to a 6-7 record and ended the season on a four game losing streak. New Head Coach Urban Meyer  looks to bring his spread attack and success from Florida to a team desperate for another BCS Title.  The Buckeyes won't be able to play for any postseason destinations but will still affect the Leaders Division and overall Big Ten race.

The Ohio State offense from 2011 has to be one of the biggest letdowns in the team's recent history. The Buckeyes finished 107th in Total Offense last year. Braxton Miller was a quarterback thrust into action with the sudden departure of Terrelle Pryor and he had a lot of growing pains. Miller only attempted 157 passes all year and finished with a completion percentage of 54.1. This caused the passing offense to be ranked 117th in the nation. Let me repeat that. The Ohio State Passing Offense finished 117th in the nation. His main form of damage to the opposing teams was through his legs. Miller led the Buckeyes with 715 yards rushing and 20 total touchdowns. He will have to improve his throwing game immensely to fit into the spread offense attack of Urban Meyer. The running back situation should be pretty set with returning starter Carlos Hyde and Senior Jordan Hall. These two backs should combined for 974 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns. The wide receiving corps has plenty of experience but few receptions. The team leader in receptions and yardage last year was Devin Smith. His leading statistics though were 14 receptions and 294 yards. The go to man for touchdowns through the air was tight end Jake Stoneburner with 7. Most of those came in the red zone.  The real question though for this offense is who is going to be the Percy Harvin for this offense. Without that, this offense will struggle something awful.

One of the few bright sides for the Ohio State Buckeyes last year was the defense. This vicious unit finished 19th in Total Defense and 14th in Passing Defense. The one real weakness was their inability to stop the rush. The Buckeyes finished 50th against the run which is something that will need to be fixed. Luke Fickell will be returning to Defensive Coordinator and will share the duties with Everett Withers. This unit will have 9 returning starters. The front four will be led by John Simon. Simon led the Buckeye Defense in Sacks with 7 and tackles for loss with 16. Simon will garner most of the attention from the offensive lines which should free up Jonathan Hankins to improve on his stats from last year. They will lose linebackers Tyler Moeller and Andrew Sweat but Sophomores Ryan Shazier and Curtis Grant had impressive spring performances. Etienne Sabino will be looked at to lead the young linebackers until they become the dominant players they're expected to be. The entire secondary returns and it was a force against the pass last year. Safety C.J. Barnett earned All-Big Ten honors and will be on many preseason All-American watch lists. This defensive unit has potential to be the best in the nation this season and look like an SEC-type defense.

The Buckeyes schedule this year isn't too bad. They'll only be allowed to play 12 games due to an NCAA postseason ban. The first four non-conference games are all at home with the toughest contest being Cal. They should be able to go through this section of the season undefeated before heading to East Lansing. The four road games for the Buckeyes in the Big Ten this year are at Michigan State, Indiana, Penn State, and Wisconsin. Indiana should be a win but it will be a tough row to hoe against the other three. The Buckeyes will be lucky to go 2-2 on the road in the Big Ten this year. Their Big Ten home games only feature two real tests in Nebraska and Michigan. Purdue and Illinois shouldn't be a problem for the Buckeyes this year. I think the Buckeyes end up with  a 9-3 record this year. I believe they'll lose to Michigan State, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

In Loving Memory of Socko Foley Sears

That picture is of a young Socko Foley Sears helping himself to the cat food after we had failed to refill his bowl in a timely manner for him. He was a great first pet for me and a great blessing to the marriage between me and Lila.

Lila and I were married back in April of 2007 and in May of 2007 a cat gave birth to a litter at Lila's work. When the kittens were able to walk and come out from underneath the building she noticed this little tuxedo cat with runny eyes who was 95% head and tail and 5% body. He was the runt of the litter and not taken care of by his mother. She also noticed how he seemed to have four socks. Two ankle ones in the front and two knee highs in the back. Lila knew how much I loved wrestling and especially how much respect and admiration I had for Mick Foley and his puppet Mr. Socko. She named our newfound kitten Socko Foley Sears and charged me with taking him to the vet to get a checkup and shots. After getting some eye cream for his conjuntivitis and bowls for food and water, I brought him home to play with before I headed off to work at the Ultimate Sports Show. Socko was very curious about our house because he had been an outdoor cat for his entire time on earth.

When he acclimated to the house, he began finding favorite spots to sleep and play. It amazed me how small he was and how he could fit his entire body into my hand. He was a joy to play with and he began to love sleeping among the stuffed animals when we were not at home.

His absolute favorite place to sleep however was right below my chin or Lila's chin. He would curl up with his disproportioned by and fall asleep with a little snore. It was such an amazing experience for me because I had never owned a pet before. I had helped take care of a girlfriend's cat named Shelby before that was also a tuxedo cat, but Leanne owned her. Socko was mine to take care of and look after. When he grew, his back legs seemed to grow at a faster rate than his front so he always looked like one of those drag racers with enormous back tires and the little tires up front. He would manage to waddle down the hall shaking his butt in a cute little fashion.

He became very possessive of us and wouldn't let anyone else hold him for the longest time without meowing loudly about it. That lasted for a very short time though because he became a very social cat with humans, especially Michaela Hayes-Shoals. Around December Lila and I decided that we were going to give Socko a voice to match his personality. I immediately for some reason went to Eric Cartman of South Park and it stuck. Whenever Socko "talked" it was in the voice of Eric Cartman. Soon he became as foulmouthed as Eric Cartman which generally meant me making Lila end up laughing and trying to get me to not act so profane around our kitten. I think he actually like it though because I never heard him complain.

We took him with us to Lila's parent's house for Thanksgiving where he found his favorite food of all time: White Meat Turkey done in a maple bacon and sage marinade. This slowly became a birthday tradition for him that he would eat until he made himself sick. He loved turkey probably more than anything else in the world but us. This photo is his 5th birthday feast with brother Charlie.

He had grown used to being the only cat at a year old when in August of 2008, we rocked his world by introducing Finlee. At first he was very mean to her and did not enjoy sharing the house with Finlee. He chased her out of the bed a few times to show her that it was his place to be with mommy and daddy. He later grew to accept her as his step-sister and the two became best pals. I loved watching the two of them play together and run through the house after each other. Socko and Finlee had great fun together except when it came to photos. Then Socko wanted all the glory for himself.

He was even accepting of the 4 new kittens we adopted in May of 2009 when a stray gave birth to the litter. Charlie, BeeGee, Big Boy (Now Jorgi), and Little Girl all played with Socko. He looked at us as if to say, "This is cool for now but you better not bring in any more cats ok?" He and Little Girl would go on hunting parties together for velociraptors during the summer. (Yes I totally made up stories about where my cats went during the day while I was at work. Don't judge me.) When Little Girl went missing for six weeks he was a great comfort to me and Lila. When the vet's office found Little Girl, he was the first cat to welcome her back and realize who she was after she'd been gone for so long. They started playing together again nearly right away. Socko was always there to be a good friend to humans and animals alike.

When I broke my hand recently, I spent many nights in a great amount of pain and unable to sleep on the couch. Socko got out of his spot on our bed and came to sit in my lap where we watched television together until the wee hours of the morning. This was one of the last photographs I took of my little buddy.
He was slightly annoyed of the shutter sound the iPhone made but he looked to me as if to say, "Ok. I'll let you shoot this last one but if you shoot anymore I will bite down on your hurt hand." It was the last real bonding time we had just him and me.

Yesterday, I awoke from a nap to find my wife sobbing uncontrollably with only the word, "Socko," coming out of her mouth. I knew that it wasn't going to be good. She told me to come outside and get his body out of the road. I was holding it together until I bent over and picked him up. I lost it. I couldn't stop crying. I was holding the body of my first pet and I had lost him forever. This couldn't be. He was my Buddy. He was supposed to be with me and Lila and our first baby. He was supposed to be with us for at least 15 more years. This wasn't right. I laid him gently in the grass and continued to bawl like a baby. Hell, I'm crying right now as I right this. With the help of Lila's Uncle Harold we buried him next to the woods so he could go and hunt the velociraptors in the afterlife and still be close to his brothers and sisters. I can honestly say I didn't realize how much I loved him until I couldn't tell him that any more.

He was my firsts pet and by God if he wasn't the best first pet anyone could ask for. So I offer this humble request to all of you reading this. If you have a dog or cat, give him or her a little extra love tonight. Hold them close and give them an extra treat. Tell them how much you love them and pet them. You never know when they will be taken away from you. Love every moment you have with them. This treatment should also go for any spouse, parent, sibling, cousin, etc. We are given such precious moments with those we love and we never realize how little time we have with them until they go.

So tonight I'm going to go to Lila and each of my cats and tell them how much I love them.  I highly suggest you do the same.

RIP Socko Foley Sears. May 1st, 2007 - May 29th, 2012
First Pet, Beloved Brother, Hunter of Velociraptors

Guest Blogger Lila Sears on Lolo Jones

Here is  a piece from my lovely wife Lila Sears on Lolo Jones.

As you’ve heard, Olympic track hopeful Lori “Lolo” Jones opened up about her sexuality (read: chastity) this weekend on HBO’s Real Sports.  While I didn’t think there was anything much to complain about, certain writers and commentators have taken it upon themselves to nitpick Lolo’s words ("She shouldn't say it's so hard.") or even to question her motives ("She's obviously a lesbian.").  In a country that seems to wish so hard to take a progressive stance on female sexual rights, what’s the problem with a woman who wants to hold the ultimate control over her own sexual expression?

Let’s forget for just a moment about her reasons.  It doesn’t matter, for the sake of my argument, whether she has chosen to remain celibate for religious doctrine, medical reasons, practical considerations, or whatever else.  What matters is the fact that she has made a choice about what to do with her own body.  As a feminist, I hereby give her my unwavering support, regardless of what that choice may be.  I affirm her rights as a human being to make her own decisions about how she is going to conduct her own interpersonal and sexual relationships, and there is nothing any of us can say that would confiscate these rights from her.  We should do well to remember that our fellow women in other countries might appreciate the notion that she has been able to maintain this decision to the ripe old age of 29, as too many of them have not been so fortunate.  In countries like Yemen, practices like polygamy and child-bride marriage are legal and accepted.  These practices prevent extended-age virginity for obvious reasons, but also for secondary ones, in that girls and women receive less education and less status as persons in general than do men.  In Chad, the average life expectancy of a woman born in 2012 is only 49, and less than 3% of the current population has reached age 65.  They also have the world’s third-highest rate of maternal mortality and rank in the top 20 for HIV/AIDS infection and exceedingly low in access to medical care.  In other words, if you live in Chad, you don’t have a lot of time to spend hanging onto your v-card because chances are, you’re going to be dead sooner than not.  If you want progeny, you have to hurry.

Even here at home, however, we overlook the fact that Lolo is not among the 10.6% of American women (and 2.1% of American men) who have been raped at some point in their lives.  (Certainly one can claim moral and religious virginity after having been the victim of a sexual assault; I would never argue otherwise, but Lolo seems to have been making the point that she is also what I suppose I’d call a medical virgin.)  But beyond this, can we not celebrate with her as she seeks to achieve physical superiority through athleticism as well as through avoidance of disease and pregnancy (which would be a pretty big impediment to the London games at this point)?  I understand you can practice safe sex, but maybe she’s taking the most fool-proof road to this goal.  That’s her option.  Or can we just not understand the pursuit of a woman’s athletic goal to the exclusion of distractions like romantic entanglements?  If a male Olympian were so intently focused on his dreams of gold that he shunned dating along with alcohol and junk food, would we be so put off by his determination, or would we applaud his single-mindedness?  Or, like someone did with Tim Tebow, would we put a bounty on his virginity?  (At least there seems to be some level of honor among bloggers for not putting that out there for Lolo.  That’s just nasty.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Virginity in Sports

This week track star Lolo Jones did an interview with HBO's Real Sports and talked about her life. The item that tends to draw the most attention from her story is that Jones is 29 but still a virgin. Jones says in the interview that staying a virgin is harder than training for the Olympics. At the 2009 SEC Media Days, sports talk show host and blogger Clay Travis famously asked Tim Tebow if he was still a virgin.  An obvoiusly-shocked Tebow handled the unprompted question with grace and poise.

Both of these athletes are devout Christians who are not afraid to practice their beliefs in a public way. To them, their virginity is a sign of purity and a gift that they will give to their spouses and only their spouses. Because this seems to go against the norm for America's athletes, both Tebow and Jones have been ridiculed for their choices.  Tebow was recently mocked by his Jets teammates over this very situation.  Lolo says she has faced many temptations and problems because she is a virgin. Why is the media so obsessed and shocked by two leading athletes proclaiming their virginity with pride?

Part of the criticism may come from an audience more accustomed to seeing athletes in embarassing situations due to their sexual behavior.  Audiences laugh when Antonio Cromartie lists off his children  and seems to forget a few names.  If you've had twelve kids by eight women, it not only plays into the idea of athletes being masculine and virile, but also incredibly irresponsible and dumb.  Situations like Brett Favre's sexting scandal or Tony Parker's extra-marital affair are typically chalked up to ideas like, "They're full of testosterone; it's inevitable," or "They think they can get away with anything."  And non-big-four athletes are seemingly just as notorious:  the Olympic Village often becomes a "sex-fest" during competitions. There are countless tales of athlete debauchery in biographies and exposes that show a lot of athletes scromp and screw as much as they can while they're in playing shape. Yet these two individuals who are at their physical peak choose to not participate in sexual promiscuity because of their religious conviction.

As someone who is a Christian I absolutely understand and respect the stand they are taking. I understand the pressure they face and am in awe of their discipline and resolve, especially since they were both very popular athletes on campus. Tebow could have had just about any Gator-Nation woman he wanted because of the two championships and Heisman trophy he brought to Florida.  (And if you've never spent any time on their campus, I have it on good authority that a lot of coeds just go straight from sunbathing to class and back to sunbathing with no real wardrobe change in between.)  Jones, while not as nationally famous as Tebow, is a very attractive woman who competes in a glorified bikini displaying over 90% of her body at track meets. Not only are Tebow and Jones disciplined athletically but personally as well. This type of dual discipline should be praised, not criticized.

To say it is "human nature" may be cliche, but in fact it's a biological imperitive that we be interested in sex, and by extension, the sexual behaviors of athletic, attractive (read:  apparently genetically ideal) people.  Maybe it bothers us on some deeper, more primitive level that these folks aren't adding their genes into the pool; I don't know.  We constantly see people or groups try to tear down people who proclaim to be proud virgins.   For example, one website has recently put a $1 million bounty on any woman who can prove she slept with Tebow. Tebow and Jones both have expanded their fan bases by proclaiming their faith and pride in their virginity. I know many church organizations and leaders love having high profile stars to point too for their youth groups.

Tim Tebow and Lolo Jones should be appreciated and praised for their feats of athleticism on the field and their dedication to their faith off the field. They are both guided by their convictions and try to include that in their personal lives as well. If more athletes who proclaimed to be Christians lived their faith as well as these two, the public wouldn't be so skeptical of athletes proclaiming their faith in Jesus.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

#16 TCU

The TCU Horned Frogs have made a big name for themselves by appearing in 2 BCS games and winning the Rose Bowl in 2011. Head Coach Gary Patterson who took over the Frogs in 2001, has helped guide them through 4 conference changes,(5 if you count them joining the Big East for a second then going to the Big XII) yet maintained a level of high expectations through each conference. They have won 5 conference titles under Patterson including 3 straight in the Mountain West. But this offseason has been one of the most tumultuous ones in the history of TCU. Four players were arrested including defensive leader Tanner Brock in a drug ring sting on campus. Three of the four players arrested were defensive starters and were going to be leaned on heavily this year as the Frogs join the Big XII. Weaker coaches would have made excuses already for a bad season but Patterson believes they can compete for the Big XII title this year.

The Horned Frog defense returns 7 starters to the 32nd ranked Total Defense in the Nation last year. They will need to replace Tanner Brock at linebacker, Devin Johnson at corner, and D.J. Yendrey at defensive tackle. Brock and Johnson were the 2nd and 8th leading tacklers on the defense while Yendrey was a defensive presence in the middle. Kenny Cain will have to step up as the leader of the defense with Deryck Gildon sliding into the other linebacker role. The secondary will need to vastly improve in the pass happy Big XII if the defense wants to keep their offense in the game. The Horned Frogs' passing defense was ranked 60th in the nation and gave up an average of 220 yards of passing a game. The secondary will be very young with a lot of Sophomores and Freshmen playing there. Hopefully the growing pains of last year for the Frogs will lead to a better year this year. Defensive End Stansly Maponga was a great surprise for the TCU defense last year. Maponga registered 55 tackles, led the team with 9 sacks and had 13.5 tackles-for-loss. If Maponga continues to dominate the way he did last year, the defensive line won't miss Yendrey as much as expected.

The Horned Frogs are a run first oriented team and will be a shock to the Big XII defenses used to defending a spread offense. Returning quarterback Casey Pachall through for nearly 3,000 yards with only 7 interceptions. He is very much the game manager that Andy Dalton was for TCU and doesn't make many mistakes. A three headed running attack of Ed Wesley, Waymon James, and Mattew Tucker,  rushed for over 2,200 yards and 24 touchdowns. Tucker had 12 of the 24 touchdowns. Leading receiver Josh Boyce returns to the Frogs' offense and should help Pachall in tight situations. This offense may not have been a flashy group but they got the job done. The Frogs ranked 28th in Total Offense last year with  a rushing offense that finished 19th. The TCU passing game will need to continue to be a threat so the Big XII defenses won't stack the box against the skilled runners.

TCU's schedule is a moderate one. The two big non-conference challenges will be at SMU and home for Virginia. SMU upset the Frogs in Fort Worth last year so there will be revenge on the mind of the Frogs. The final 5 games of the year for the Frogs will determine where they finish in the Big XII. They face in order, at Oklahoma State, at West Virginia, home for Kansas State, at Texas, and home for Oklahoma. If the Frogs can go 3-2 during this stretch, they will finish at least with an 8-4 record. They have potential to do much better if the defense gels as a unit and the offense can play ball control against their pass happy foes. I really like this team as a dark horse for the Big XII Title and a possible BCS contender if they catch the right breaks. Keep your eyes on the Horned Frogs of TCU.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

#17 South Carolina

The Old Ball Coach led the Gamecocks to an 11-2 record in 2011. It was the first ever South Carolina Squad to win 11 games and you bet your sweet bippy it was a big deal. The most amazing part of their eleven win season was the fact that long time starting quarterback and renowned troublemaker Stephen Garcia ended up being kicked off the team permanently midway through the season. If that weren't enough, All SEC running back Marcus Lattimore was lost for the season with a torn ACL in the Mississippi State game the week of Garcia's dismissal. Spurrier should have won the SEC Coach of the year after managing all of that difficulty.

The biggest question on offense will be how far has Marcus Lattimore come in his recovery. If he is the dominant player that the nation saw run wild, the Gamecocks will have a solid running game to fall back on when quarterback Connor Shaw is having an off game. The one upside of Lattimore's injury was the emergence of Brandon Wilds. The then Freshman ran for 502 yards and 3 touchdowns in relief duty. The South Carolina offense will need to improve on the 74th ranked total offense of last year if they want to compete for the East.. They have the weapons to do so but will need a receiver to step up and replace the NFL bound Alshon Jeffery. Keep your eyes on Sophomore Nick Jones to possibly step up and be go to receiver for the Gamecocks.

Defensive Coordinator Ellis Johnson has departed to be the head coach of Southern Miss. He was a defensive mastermind that helped put the Gamecocks to the third ranked team in the nation in total defense. His replacement, Lorenzo Ward, did a great job for the Gamecocks against Nebraska in the bowl game. They will lose Stephon Gilmore, Melvin Ingram, and a host of others from a very good defense. They Gamecocks only have six returning starters but now Sophomore Jadeveon Clowney can show why he was the number one player in the 2011 recruiting rankings. He had an impressive Freshman year registering 8 sacks, 12 tackles-for-loss and 36 total tackles. He will be focused on by many offensive lines so his bookend Devin Taylor will need to step up his game. Linebacker Shaq Wilson will be the leader of the defense and be responsible for getting everyone into position. The secondary not only lost Stephon Gilmore but the teams leading tackler Antonio Allen. They do have both safeties returning but will need new corners and a new Spur. (The Spur is a linebacker/corner hybrid position.) The materials are there for a great defense if new defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward can mold them back into a top three defense nationally.

The SEC Scheduler did South Carolina no favors by giving them LSU And Arkansas from the SEC West this year. If they can split those games and avoid a dangerous opener at Vanderbilt, they should be in contention to win the East. Their non-conference schedule is relatively easy with only Clemson as their real challenge. A 9 or 10 win season is a realistic possibility for the Gamecocks this year and potential for an even better season is there if the Gamecocks can catch a few breaks.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Terminators of College Football

"Listen and understand. The terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fer. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead." - Kyle Reese in Terminator

The latest wave of Conference Realignment talk was triggered yesterday on the Paul Finebaum show when ESPN SEC Blogger Chris Low said that Virginia Tech was on the radar screen of the SEC. Conference Realignment has been going on in some form or fashion since the SEC acquired Arkansas and South Carolina back in 1991. It has shown no remorse for traditional rivalries (Texas vs. Texas A&M, Kansas vs. Missouri, Arkansas vs, all of their old Southwestern Conference foes) and left many smaller conferences for dead (See the WAC, Mountain West, Big East, and Conference USA).  They continually pursue their target of more money for their conferences and pushing the smaller, weaker conferences out of major college football. 

Now many critics are saying that the Big Four (SEC, Big XII, Big Ten and Pac 12) are going to ruin the game of college football by pushing out these smaller conferences and going to damage each other. I strongly disagree about the latter while agreeing wholeheartedly with the former. The Big Four are making their play to dominate college football by eliminating all the non-automatic qualifying schools' claim on the BCS money. We've seen two of the Big Four start their own tv networks with the SEC Network supposedly launching in the next two years. The tv network is another revenue generator that allows the Big Four to keep all the money in house. The ultimate money move is being built up too with the Big Four and it will absolutely annihilate all of the teams not a part of the Big Four. 

Many people from Tim Brando to Rick Reilly have argued for a college football playoff. They want to see the Boise States and Houstons of the world get their shot at the big boys on a neutral site for the championship. It's not going to happen. The Big Four are going to become super conferences first and ride out the new BCS contract that will come to fruition in the next two years (If the don't sabotage it by making the superconferences before the current TV deal expires). After that, the Big Four will secede and furnish their own league and television deal raking in bookoo bucks and leaving everyone else out in the cold. 

The Big Four want one thing and one thing only: the absolute control of all the money in major college athletics. The relentless march by the Big Four to this conclusion will upset many of the proponents of the non-AQ schools. The Big Four will continue to march on and terminate all who stand in their way of total domination. They'll hire great writers and drop bugs in the ears of the analysts in their corner to spin, spin, spin the story in their favor. College Athletics, particularly College Football is all about the money and the Big Four will not stop, ever, until the current system is dead and replaced by the one they want. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

#18 Texas

The Texas Longhorns have been on a rough journey the past two seasons since appearing in the 2009 BCS Championship Game. The 2010 campaign was Mack Brown's worst at Texas. The Longhorns went 5-7 and many people were wondering if Mac needed to go. The Longhorns improved on their record last year to 8-5, but it is nowhere near the quality that Mack had brought to the Longhorn Nation. Many fans are wanting a return to glory but it doesn't look like it will be in the cards.

Texas' offense improved from their 2010 season and rose to 54th in total offense. While that is an improvement, there were still many problem areas. The major problem for the Longhorns last year was the quarterback position. David Ash and Case McCoy swapped back and forth in the starting role. Each had moments of brilliance followed by moments of  "What are you thinking?"  Mack continues to say the competition is open but most experts agree it looks like Ash has secured the starting role after an excellent spring. Running Back Fozzy Whittaker has departed and Sophomore Malcom Brown looks to assume the starting role. There are plenty of playmakers on the team but none have stepped up into the dominant threat that past Texas teams have had. Nine returning starters on offense will hopefully improve from last year to make Texas a threat offensively again. 

The defense will return seven starters in a system they should be more than familiar with now. Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz starts his second season in Austin and wants to continue their dominant performance. The Longhorns finished 11th in Total Defense and 6th in Rushing Defense but must improve their passing defense that finished 42nd. Emmanuel Acho leaves the Longhorns for the NFL after being the best all around defensive player for the Longhorns last year. Jackson Jeffcoat will return at the Buck position after leading the team in Tackles for Loss and Sacks. Another strong season from Jeffcoat will almost guarantee him a spot in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. The secondary will need to improve dramatically to compete in the pass happy Big XII. If they fail to do so, they will most likely be the root of a disappointing season for the Longhorns.

When you look at Texas' schedule, you see that their non-conference run is not that challenging. Home games against Wyoming and New Mexico start the season. After a trip to Ole Miss, the three hardest games of the season loom: at Oklahoma State, home for West Virginia, then Oklahoma in Dallas. If Texas can get through this stretch with at least one win, they will have a shot at a ten win season. After the Red River Rivalry, Texas' toughest remaining games don't come until the end of the year when they  host TCU and finish at Kansas State. 

I see the Longhorns going 8-4 this year with losses to West Virginia, Oklahoma, TCU, and Kansas State. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Showdown is Coming

Today the SEC and Big XII announced that they are going to have an annual showdown of conference champions in a bowl game for the next five years. The site of the game has yet to be determined but many believe it will end up at either Cowboys Stadium or the Sugar Bowl. This is huge because these two conferences have acquired 10 of the 14 BCS Championships and 7 in a row. Now while the SEC has won 8 of the 14, the Big XII is the only two have won more than one.

These two conferences are steeped in football tradition with some of the biggest names in the game and the most passionate fan bases in the nation. The fallout from this announcement will make the other conferences jealous. True the Big Ten and Pac 12 get to play in the granddaddy of them all the Rose Bowl, but that game is losing its prestige. The SEC football brand is the most successful in the BCS era and has won the last three years in television ratings.

In my opinion, this is going to help make these two conferences the premiere conferences for the next 5 years. The Pac 12 is putting all their chips on a USC and Oregon rivalry to carry their banner and the Big Ten has had two horrible January performances in back-to-back years. The ACC and Big East are both jokes. The ACC hasn't had a BCS Championship Game appearance since FSU in 2000 and the Big East hasn't been since Miami in 2002.

The fact that the biggest hotbeds of recruiting are in these two conferences will help guarantee their continued dominance in recruiting. A game that features young talent will give coaches more tools to recruit to these two conferences. I am putting good money on the match up occurring in the Jerry Dome because it has become the preeminent football stadium in America. The Rose Bowl is a great place historically, but so is Legion Field. Both were great in their prime but they have both seen better days. The Jerry Dome is shiny new and put on a great show for Super Bowl XLV. The Cowboys Stadium Classic was a great showcase of what they can do for a major college football game. I heard nothing but praise from LSU fans about how great a time they had in Dallas. I know a lot of SEC Traditionalists will be upset that the SEC would move away from their Sugar Bowl tie for the SEC Champion, but times change.

All in all, this deal will make whatever venue they play in the second hardest postseason ticket behind the BCS Championship Game.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

#19 Kansas State

The biggest surprise of the 2011 College Football Season was the Kansas State Wildcats. The Wildcats finished second in the Big XII and ended the season in the Cotton Bowl with a 10-3 record. Head Coach Bill Snyder and the Wildcats will be on a lot of teams' radars this year. The Wildcats got off to a 7-0 start before suffering back to back losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Oklahoma thoroughly dominated the Wildcats but the Oklahoma State game was an amazing high scoring contest that went down to the final play. Many of the Wildcat victories were nail biters making many experts wonder if they can build on last year's success. The offense will return 8 starters and a stingy defense will return 6 starters.

The Wildcats finished 101st in Total Offense last year in the NCAA. The offense was a problem at points last year if quarterback Collin Kline was having an off game. Kline took quite a beating and will need to develop as a passer this year if he wants to avoid some of the wear and tear on his body. Kline and running back John Hubert were both one thousand yard rushers for the 29th ranked Rushing Offense. Kline tied the NCAA record for quarterback rushing touchdowns last year with 27. The offensive line will have three starters returning and several backups with playing experience will try to round out an experienced unit. The wide receivers were very good when they caught the ball but Klein only threw it for 1,918 yards last year for a measly 147.5 yards a game. The biggest emphasis for the offense this year will be to develop a balanced attack.

The Kansas State defense made a huge improvement last year after an abysmal performance in 2010. When you talk about the Kansas State defense, most of the talk will be about Senior Nigel Malone. Nigel Malone was a shut down corner who was tied for 4th in the nation with 7 interceptions. He helped the defense finish 72nd in the Total Defense category. Without Malone, the passing defense would have finished much lower than 76th. The rushing defense was quite dominating finishing 37th last year. Miami transfer Arthur Brown became a force at Mike Linebacker. He led the team with 101 tackles and secured the middle of the field.. Defensive End Meshak Williams led the team in tackles for loss and sacks. Williams could become a first round draft pick if he puts up numbers like that again.

The law of averages says that all things balance out and after so many close victories last year, you have to wonder if they can do it again. The Wildcats non-conference schedule isn't very challenging with three home games against Missouri State, Miami (FL), and North Texas. We won't really know the merit of this team until they visit Oklahoma on September 22nd. An eight win season is right about the average for Bill Snyder during his tenure at K-State. I think this K-State team will go 8-4 this year with losses to Oklahoma, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, and TCU. But if the offense develops a passing game and the defense continues to improve, the Wildcats could have another shocking season on their hands.

Back from the DL!

Sadly I have had to take a break from blogging for a while to let my left hand heal up. I started physical therapy today and started typing in a fairly comfortable manner again. Check out the pics of my hand. Seven screws and a plate now hold my third metacarpal together. Sorry I have been gone for two weeks but I'm back and will try to catch up the Preseason Top 25 Countdown and my other thoughts on sports.