Saturday, August 11, 2007

Darren McFadden

Today Darren McFadden's mother made it clear to the world that her son will not return to Arkansas for his senior season. Forget the fact he hasn't played a down of his junior season yet...

I'm not big on a player declaring for the draft before his regular season even starts. Makes no sense to me. What happens if there is an injury and he's no longer capable of everything he was at one time? I'm not wishing this on him, just stating that I think he went about this the wrong way.

If I were one of McFadden's Arkansas teammates this would drive me nuts. Seems to me that McFadden cares more about the big bucks than he does his college career. Funny how he told his mother "He told me [Friday], 'Mom, I'll be through in December...". I guess that means Darren doesn't plan on his team making a New Years Day or better bowl game.

Of course I do not either but just oddly quoted. How will McFadden fare this year? In all honesty I have trouble believing he will come anywhere near replicating last years performance. Much of the Hogs O-Line is gone, good luck Darren because you are going to half to make most of your yards on your own this year, something you didn't have to worry about a season ago.

Heisman Winner? Doubtful. I would actually be shocked if he's a finalist for sports most coveted individual award come December.

Friday, August 10, 2007

What Makes Notre Dame Special

Recent events with Steve Spurrier have made me more proud than ever to be a fan of the University of Notre Dame. When a coach comes to Notre Dame they know that things aren't going to be made special for them and not just any player, no matter the level of talent will be able to be a Golden Domer.

When it comes down to it do you want your team to be full of thugs that rarely attend class, are far from model citizens and win or be a team with average talent at best but have a roster full of athletes that you would be proud to call your son?

As much as I did not like Bob Davie or Tyrone Willingham, they put what was most important to me first. That is the athletes life they were dealing with. It can be said that Charlie Weis "gets it".

You never saw Davie or Willingham going after players that make the school look bad. You saw a lot of good people go through the Notre Dame football doors when these two men were on campus. The same can be said for what Charlie has done now as well, as you hear stories of Weis getting on recruits cases because their grades in high school aren't good enough. These are kids he isn't even going to coach for sure.

Rumors had it that Urban Meyer would have taken the job at Notre Dame had he been able to lower academic standards for athletes to get in. Congrats Urban on winning a National Title at Florida. I am not arguing that he is not a great coach because he really is. However I just feel Notre Dame prides themselves on being different from everywhere else and it makes me proud to say I'm a fan of the institution.

Another case that sticks out to me is that of Friday Hand. Hand, the Irish defensive end who was arrested by an undercover police officer in a prostitution ring a short time ago was immediately suspended and isn't expected to see the practice or game field anytime soon. It seems to me that when players get in trouble at most other schools, cutting playing time is the last thing that any coaches wish to do.

Take Rashon Powers-Neal's case in 2005. After being arrested for a DUI he did not see the field again that season, a season off to a very promising start after he scored three times against Pitt.

So many players aren't suspended for their actions and I feel that this is where many NCAA Coaches drop the ball. Its not only the coaches duty to turn out a good football team in my personal opinion, its also their duty to try and distribute quality young men.

I feel Notre Dame does a great job of that compared to most other places. Every time I hear about a player from another school being charged with a crime and not being punished severely by his coach it just makes the Golden Dome shine that much brighter to me.

Big Ten

Is the Big Ten still an elite conference? Many say not like it used to be anyway and for the most part you can't argue it. When you look at what the conference did last year at the top in bowl games, its embarrassing. On New Years Day Michigan was still claiming they should be playing Ohio State in the National Title and in the process were run off the field by Southern Cal. A week later Ohio State who held the number one ranking all season couldn't even celebrate a touchdown the right way as Florida looked like world beaters in a 41-14 drubbing.

Good but not great is how I see the Big Ten this year. A few very talented teams but how they compete on the national level instead of just in conference will be a test once again this year. It seems that Wisconsin and Michigan both could be title game contenders, but can they play with the SECs and USCs of the world? Only time will tell.

Players to Watch:
Offensively everywhere you look people will tell you how great Mike Hart, Chad Henne, and Mario Manningham are as well as anything to ever wear the Maize and Blue. Don't get me wrong, all three are exceptional players but my preseason Big Ten Offensive MVP is P.J. Hill of Wisconsin...

As a freshman last year he went over 1500 yards while averaging 5 yards a carry and scoring 15 times on the ground. Oh, and 0 fumbles in over 320 touches.
This year Hill will come back with four of his five offensive linemen in front of him. Grant it the third overall pick in the NFL Draft, Joe Thomas is gone, but the core of a solid offensive line is still there. Couple that with a new quarterback and expect Hill's numbers to only go up. After Wisconsin defeats Michigan in Camp Randall, Hill will clinch a trip to New York City as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.

Other than the Michigan boys and Mr. Hill things are a blur at best offensively in the Big Ten this year. Remember the names Dorien Bryant (Purdue) and James Hardy (Indiana) as both will have huge years catching the football.

On the defensive side of the ball is where the Big Ten makes up some ground against the rest of the nation. Wisconsin brings a team that is loaded on defense into the conference this year with much back from a squad that surrendered just 12.1 points a game last fall. DeAndre Levy, and Jonathan Casillas will anchor the outside linebacker roles but a lot will be asked of Elijah Hodge as he will be the Mac-backer for the Badgers. The secondary will be a little younger but expect big things from them as the season wears on, also the defensive line for Wisconsin will be amongst the best in all of football.

Defensive MVP you ask? None other than James Laurinaitis of The Ohio State University. The man's an animal, we can leave it at that. 115 tackles last season as a sophomore, Laurinaitis gives Columbus reason for hope this coming year. He will be asked to do a lot for a team that losses most of its star power, but behind Laurinaitis you will see the Buckeye D mature quickly during the year and make a New Years Day bowl game.

How They'll Fall:
1. Wisconsin - Loaded D and a great run game make things much easier on a new quarterback.
2. Ohio State - Supposed to be a down year but the defense has time to mature in the first half before showdowns at Penn State, against Wisconsin, and in the Big House three of the last four weeks of the season.
3. Michigan - Lloyd Carr is still coach, therefore expect disappointment. Until he wins a meaningful game (Notre Dame last year can be argued, however he followed it up with losses to OSU and USC) I can't consider the Wolverines a true Big Ten title contender.
4. Penn State - A team I was very high on at the end of last year just keeps impressing me less and less. Some off the field issues this off season didn't do Joe Pa any favors and a tough schedule could leave the Nittany Lions with four regular season losses.
5. Iowa - All the highly touted recruits from Kirk Ferentz have to kick in eventually...don't they?
6. Purdue - Offense will put up points but can they stop anything?
7. Illinois - Very young but very talented. The team will improve much as the year goes on but a bowl berth may finish just out of reach.
8. Indiana - Sad story with coach Terry Hoeppner this offseason, not only a great coach but even a better guy from everything you hear. A program headed in the right direction has just too much to overcome this year.
9. Northwestern - Not much to work with gives the Cats another losing season.
10. Michigan State - Team headed in a downward spiral and not much veteran experience on top of it.
11. Minnesota - If football were a contest determined by off the field issues then Minnesota has a legit case at being your preseason number 1. Its not and the Gophers will not win a conference game.

There is how it will go. Other predictions I might include would be Michigan losing to Wisconsin and Ohio State as well as their bowl game and Lloyd Carr getting axed. I also don't expect the Big Ten BCS luck to change this year, a few good teams won't be enough to beat a SEC or Pac 10 Champ.

Previews Galore!!!

I know you have all been waiting very anxiously for this and here it is...20 days until the first Thursday of the year and 22 days until September 1st. Time for some previews.

During the next couple of days expect previews for the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big Twelve, Big East, and Pac-10. We'll start things off however with my first top 10 of the season. Anything after the top 10 is really pointless to me so we will keep it at 10 for now. Read later entries for reasons why teams are ranked where they are...

1. USC
2. LSU
3. Wisconsin
4. Texas
5. Florida
6. West Virginia
7. Va Tech
8. Oklahoma
9. Ohio State
10. Georgia

As I said, conference by conference previews to come. Also expect some Heisman Hopefuls and all that fun stuff...including bad youtube videos from various gameday campuses this coming fall..

Its good to be back and its really good to be just three weeks away now.