Archive for August, 2010

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2010 Big 12 Preview: The Abbreviated version…

August 31, 2010

The 2010 Big 12 Preview

Football Fiends, College Football Season starts in 48 hours and I have simply run out of time. (And frankly, I have to admit to a severe amount of ambivalence about the Big 12.) My apologies to Big 12 fans, but here’s the thing:

Texas will win the conference.

And that concludes your 2010 Big 12 preview here at Gridiron Goddess. I’ll tell you what, in 2011, we’ll do the Big 12 FIRST. Deal?

-Your Gridiron Goddess

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The Official Gridiron Goddess 2010 Pac-10 Football Preview: Part 1

August 30, 2010

PAC 10 Preview 2010

by Gridiron Goddess

The long, cold, dark days of the off-season are almost over. And what an off-season it’s been! NCAA Sanctions (ugh), coaching defections, quarterback scandals; a new commissioner and expansion have all been news stories this spring and summer.

USC won’t be playing in a bowl game for a couple of seasons, unless they successfully appeal the sanctions. Lane Kiffin may want to rethink his son’s name of Knox now that he is once again a son of Troy. Jeremiah Masoli is no longer quacking like a duck, having been dismissed from Oregon. New Pac-10 Commish Larry Scott has hit the ground running. For a few moments we were almost the Pac-16 with Colorado, Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State as a part of our conference of champions. In the end though, only Colorado lept at the chance to join the Left Coast’s Premiere Athletic Conference. Soon after Utah left the MWC, a conference they’d long since outgrown, to join the new Pac-12.

How the conference will be divided, where the championship game will take place, etc are all yet to be determined and the topic of interesting debates. Myself, I’m a fan of the North/South division with California, Stanford, USC, UCLA, AZ and ASU in one division and the Washingtons, Oregons, Utah and Colorado in the other division. This keeps traditional rivalries like the Civil War, Apple Cup, Cal-Stanford and USC-UCLA in place for yearly matchups. That seems the most logical to me, and yet, that is not the setup that has hit the rumor mill.

For the 2010 season we’re still the Pac-10, so let’s get on with it and pardon me if I can’t muster up my usual enthusiasm. I am sure you understand why. It’s been a rough spring and summer for USC fans. I am sick of all the speculation and talk about USC’s sanctions. I am ready to just PLAY already and see how it all shakes out.

USC TROJANS

This is a hard one to call folks. Of course USC has talent. And I do think the coaching staff will turn out to be insane. Forget what everyone says about Lane Kiffin. With Monte, Coach O and Kennedy Pola (who is Troy Polamalu’s uncle) – how can we go that wrong? Sure there are the sanctions. The loss of scholarships. The transfers and releases from letters of intents. The behavior issues (as of today Freshman safety Patrick Hall has been suspended indefinitely). USC is going to lack their trademark depth for a few years. And that is troubling, to say the least. Especially once injuries are factored in.  In fact, Coach Kiffin now has the Trojans practicing NFL style – as in tackling is a scrimmage only event. As he said, the team just can’t risk injury like it could in past years. They are basically playing with an NFL roster rather than the larger roster an NCAA team is permitted to have.

Matt Barkley showed remarkable poise and leadership as a freshman last year and he’s back and a year older. That can only be good. He’s got the exceptionally seasoned Mitch Mustain behind him on the depth chart. Fullback Stanley Havili is back, a senior and will be a key factor in Barkley’s passing game. Havili is a fifth year senior and the most experienced member of the Trojan offense.  Marc Tyler is getting the start at RB vs Hawaii.

In terms of the SC defense, the front seven are the experienced group, with the secondary being the less experienced players.  Senior cornerback Shareece Wright will be joined by freshman cornerback Nickell Robey and sophomore safeties T.J. McDonald and Jawanza Starling. This is, per the usual, a gifted group. They just lack USC’s usual depth and they will have some growing pains. Whereas USC’s offense has struggled at times in the last two seasons; we’ve been able to rely on our defense when it counted. This year, it may be the offense we rely on while the defense gets its engines all firing in the right direction.

Oh and by the way, USC still hasn’t lost a game outside of the Pac-10 since 2002 and it won’t be happening this year either.

The key to the Trojans’ success in 2010 begins and ends with Matt Barkley. And this Trojan Alum happens to think if the success of our program is in Barkley’s hands, then we’re in good shape.  A pal in Vegas told me the odds on USC are for a 10 win season. So come on Trojans, let’s give them an 11 or 12 or 13 win season just to show them what we’re made of. Pride. Heart.  Spirit. Let’s show them that the USC Football team embodies all the qualities of an ideal Trojan: Faithful, Scholarly, Skillful. Courageous and Ambitious.

USC opens its 2010 season on Thursday, September 2nd @ Hawaii.

STANFORD CARDINAL

Will Jim Harbaugh’s Stanford Cardinal (why the singular, Stanford?) take advantage of USC’s sanctions and Oregon’s QB issues and win the Pac-10? Not likely. But you can bet your ass Harbaugh’s big fat mouth is telling his players that they are the team to beat. And let’s face it, confidence and swagger do count. The loss of Toby Gerhardt makes their running game a bit of an unknown, but QB Andrew Luck looks to make a Heisman bid of his own this season. Luck is projected to be a potential #1 draft pick in 2011, and with Gerhardt gone we’ll get a chance to see him truly shine.

I personally believe that Stanford minus Gerhardt will have a tough time matching last season’s eight wins. But they won six Pac-10 games last season, you’re thinking. Yes they did. However, their defense is fairly atrocious. Stanford’s 2009 defense was ranked 110th against the pass last year – this year’s squad has LESS experience. And look around the Pac-10 – a lot of Stanford’s opponents have offenses that will only be more potent than last year in their experience under center. It’s hard to think that Stanford will be as successful this year as they were last year unless their defense has improved dramatically.

That said, if they haven’t improved – there should be a number of high scoring QB shootout style games vs Stanford in the Pac-10 this year and those are ALWAYS fun.

Stanford opens the season at UCLA on Saturday, September 4th.

OREGON DUCKS

The Ducks have not had the easiest of off-seasons. When the 2009 season ended (and who can forget the Halloween smack down of my beloved Trojans?!), they looked to be sitting on top of the Pac-10 pile for 2010 with phenom QB Jeremiah Masoli under center. Yeah, not so much. A few months later and things look mighty different up in Eugene. Masoli is now at Ole Miss.

All spring and summer speculation about who the Ducks staring QB would be swirled around the blogosphere. Would it be senior Nate Costa? That seemed to be the logical choice, since he was experienced. Would it be sophomore Darron Thomas – he would seem the best choice if Coach Kelly were trying to recapture the lightning in a bottle that Masoli (and before him Dennis Dixon) was.

The Ducks are a veteran team, returning 18 starters for 2010. Running back LaMichael James looks to be a major force for the Oregon offense and their experienced O-Line will keep the new QB well protected in the pocket.  On defense, well the Ducks are not especially known for their defense though it is certainly serviceable and solid. With the insanely fast and powerful offenses the crew from Eugene has fielded in recent years – that’s what they’ve become known for.

The Ducks will be a contender in the Pac-10 and even with a new QB and all kinds of off-season drama, they are still the favored to repeat as Pac-10 champs.

Oregon opens its season at home against New Mexico on Saturday, September 4th.

OREGON STATE BEAVERS

Jacquizz Rodgers. Damn. He still sparks fear in the hearts of Trojans. Wily little motherf*cker. Hell of a player. Oh wait, there’s more to Oregon State than Quizz Rodgers? Alright then.

Sophomore Ryan Katz takes over as QB for the Beavers and has a cannon of an arm. Then, of course, there are the Rodgers brothers. Jacquizz ran for 1,440 yards and 21 touchdowns last year. Oh and he also had 78 catches for 522 yards and a touchdown as well. James, on the other hand, had 91 catches for 1,024 yards and nine touchdowns. Oh, and James is a frightening return man. Frightening if you’re the team on defense, that is. The O-Line returns four starters and should provide good protection for their new QB.

Oregon State is another Pac-10 school known for its explosive offense who is just average on defense. Last season the Beavers defense ranked 84th against the pass. They ranked 105th in sacks. That’s not too scary.

Oregon State opens their season against TCU at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas on Saturday, September 4th.

ARIZONA WILDCATS

Arizona under Mike Stoops has been quietly and gradually improving over the years. So much so, that The Wildcats could very well be a sleeper contender for Pac-10 champion in 2010. I would not be at all surprised if come January 2011, Arizona has turned in a 9 win season.

QB Nick Foles heads a Wildcat offense that returns much of last year’s squad. Foles took over the QB job during the 2009 season and went on to throw for 2,486 yards and 19 touchdowns while going 6-4 as the starter. All three of Arizona’s threatening running backs return for 2010. Nic Grisby is possibly the most talented of the group but  missed much of last season due to injury. Combined with Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko, the ‘Cats are a threat with the run.  The Wildcats receiving corps is depleted this year; but Juron Criner looks to be the breakout star of the group of WRs left in Tucson.

Arizona has had a stifling defense for a few years now. This year they come back with five of their starting front seven from a year ago lost to graduation and/or the NFL. Senior DE’s Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed are back for 2010 and are quite simply the best defensive ends in the entire Pac-10. Not many offensive lines can match the size and power in these two Arizona players. Arizona also lost half of a very strong and consistent secondary, but look to reload with Trevin Wade and Robert Golden.

Arizona has not been to the Rose Bowl in 31 years. You can bet your ass the Wildcats have their eyes trained on that particular prize this season.

Arizona opens their season at Toledo on Friday, September 3rd.

Part 2 of The Official Gridiron Goddess Pac-10 Preview will be up Tuesday or Wednesday.

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Guest Post: Walker Sports 2010 AFC East Preview

August 30, 2010

2010 AFC EAST PREVIEW

By Dumont J. Walker III

The 2010 NFL season is getting closer everyday. We are in week 3 of the preseason and the opening day rosters are starting to take shape. Before we get ready to kick everything off on September 8, make sure to get your full NFL preview right here at Walker Sports. Today we are talking about the AFC East.

New York Jets The New York Jets are the center of the NFL universe right now. The Jets current stint on the HBO series ‘Hard Knocks’ is the most watched season ever for the hit show, and ratings will only increase as camp continues. Head coach Rex Ryan has pushed himself into the spotlight and is one of the most sought after coaches when the media is looking for a good sound bite. The Jets organization has let it be known, that anything less than a Super Bowl appearance would be a disappointment, and they love the pressure of those high expectations right now.

While the Jets defense is one of the best units in the NFL, with or without Darrelle Revis, in will be the maturation of their offense that are key if the Jets want to make the trip to Dallas for the Super Bowl. Mark Sanchez is entering his second year in the NFl, and he cannot afford to suffer from a sophomore slump. I will be the first to admit that Mark Sanchez outperformed my expectations last season. However, while the Jets were able to rack up wins in 2009, Sanchez’s stats remained very pedestrian. Sanchez was bailed out many times last season by a dominate running that that led the NFL is yards and carries. For any rookie quarterback, a reliable running attack is their best weapon. In 2010, the Jets will again turn to their ground game to churn out yards and be the engine to their offense. The key to the Jets offense will be the L.T. Shonn Greene is a reliable back and he game on strong at the end of last year and in the playoffs, but it was Thomas Jones who carried the team during the regular season. Greene, cannot be the only reliable back in the Jets lineup. L.T. finds his form, but if the past three seasons in San Diego are indication, this may not be an easy search. If the Jets fail to establish a reliable running game, they will be forced to rely on Mark Sanchez to make big plays, something he has never done in his college or NFL career. Not too many Super Bowl contenders want to place their offensive hopes on a quarterback with a QB Rating hovering around 70.

On defense, you know what you are going to get with the Jets. They brought in Kris Jenkins to play tackle, and if his knee is healthy that gives them a massive anchor in the middle of the line that should create plenty of holes for the linebackers to run through. If nothing else the Jets are very thin on defense, and they cannot afford to suffer any injuries. Right now the Jets defensive unit is still a premier unit in the NFL. With Rex Ryan calling the shots, the Jets will apply crazy amounts of pressure to opposing quarterbacks via elaborate blitz schemes. If there are breakdowns in the secondary, the Jets are good enough to skip on the blitzes and play a base defense and still shut down the majority of offenses in the league.

New England Patriots: I’m willing to announce it, as a matter of fact, I will shout it from the rooftops, the Bill Belichick, “I’m a genius” era is over in New England. Don’t believe me? Then think about this for a moment, the Patriots have not won a playoff game since 2007. Tom Brady was able to bounce back last season after suffering a season ending knee injury the previous year. Now it will be Wes Welker’s turn to return from knee surgery. While Randy Moss is still the big name receiver on the Patriots roster, it’s Wes Welker who is arguably the most important. With the way Welker has looked in training camp, it’s hard to believe he hurt his knee in January. The Patriots say he will be ready to go come September, but I have plenty of reservations of how effective Welker will actually be once the regular season kicks off. One interesting storyline on the offensive side of the ball for the Patriots is 2010 is a contract year from Tom Brady. Typically players put up big numbers in contract years, I’d venture out to say Brady will be out to prove a point in 2010, and show the NFL he is still an elite quarterback.

Defensively while Bill Belichick may not be the guru he once was a few years ago, he is still one of the best defensive minds in the game today. The Patriots will use multiple sets, and formations to bring pressure and attack opposing teams. The Belichick system of defense is based on confusion. He will rush linebackers and drop linemen, and vice versa. While teams are becoming more adept to this style of pressure it can still be very useful, especially when facing a team with a young quarterback or rookie offensive linemen.

The Patriots are not the team they once were, nothing has been the same since 2007, but they are still very dangerous. New England did win the AFC East last year, and they will not give up that crown without a fight. If nothing else, many of the players remember the glory days of this organization and they are willing to do anything to regain that swagger they had just a few years ago.

Miami Dolphins: I really like the Dolphins, and placing them third in the AFC East may be a bit disingenuous to them. This is an organization that has come a long way in a very short amount of time, and if things go their way they could be ready for a breakout year. Let’s start at quarterback. The Chad Pennington noodle arm era is over and Chad Henne is ready to step in and be the fulltime starter. This is good news for the Dolphins. Henne is a very competent quarterback who is capable of managing the game, and throwing the ball down the field to make plays should the situation call for it. You can expect Miami to explore the Wildcat offense some more in 2010 as well. The Dolphins have a slew of running backs, all of whom are becoming experts at running the Wildcat. Pat White should be back after suffering a nasty injury last season, welcome to the NFL. While it is doubtful the Dolphins will call on White to be a primary playmaker, he can step in and make plays as well as run various positions from the Wildcat formation. Finally the biggest upgrade to the Dolphins offense is the addition of Brandon Marshal. The disruptive receiver is one of the best in the NFL. Bill Parcells is still calling the shots in Miami and he knows how to handle diva wideouts. If Marshal remains focused and shows why he is one of the most feared receivers in the league he will add a big play element to the Miami offense that has not been there in years.

Make no doubt about it; this is a Bill Parcells team. The Dolphins are loaded with talent, they are all hungry and they have a chip on their shoulder. Like any Parcells team there are a few characters who may spend a bit too much time engaging in bad behavior off the field, but that can be forgiven if they perform on the field. 2010 is the third year under Parcells in Miami and he has used his executive power to build a powerful team that has gelled over time. Now is as good as any for the Dolphins to make a run for it.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills are becoming all too familiar with this spot at the bottom of the AFC East. While having a decent draft talent wise (C.J. Spiller). They didn’t address the obvious need on their team, which is quarterback. Right now the Bills have three quarterbacks on the roster, and all them of them should be playing 2nd or 3rd string to a real quarterback on another team. Also hurting the Bills offense is a complete lack of continuity on the offensive line. Last season every starter spent some meaningful time on the injury list. It will take time before this unit can gel into a cohesive unit that can play at an NFL level. That’s a situation to be in considering the AFC East is full of blitz happy teams like New England and the Jets. As far as receivers go, the situation is not much better. Lee Evans has shown glimpses of promise throughout his career, but he has yet to string together an entire season worth of quality performances. Outside of Evans the Bills don’t have a legit second receiver so it will be up to him to create any downfield threat.

It’s a transition year for the Bills and that will be shown on the field. They have a new GM, a new coach and a new 3-4 scheme on defense. This means there is plenty of room for error on this team. The good news is the Bills have loyal and devoted fans who will not abandon their team in a time of need. That’s a good thing, because there is a good chance the Bills finish with the worst record in the NFL this season.

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Guest Post: ‘Nole Chick’s ACC Atlantic Division 2010 Preview

August 23, 2010

ACC Atlantic Division

By ‘Nole Chick

Ever since the ACC expanded to form a “powerhouse” conference, I think most fans (including myself) are tired of waiting for it to happen! Now that Atlantic division new coaches have some experience notched and no more coaches in waiting, we might start to see a powerhouse glimpse this season. As we bid farewell to a legend, Bobby Bowden, this could be a very interesting year for the conference!

Clemson Tigers

Now that Dabo Swinney has some experience under his belt with the Clemson Tigers, the team seems to be heading in the right direction. The 2009 season started on shaky ground for the program, but ended well with the Tigers winning the their division and their bowl game. Clemson had to replace C.J Spiller and have 2 eager running backs ready for the job in Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper. The Tigers start the season with young quarterbacks that will need to find consistency and some maturity to make it to the championship this year. On defense, safeties DeAndre McDaniel and Rashard Hall combine as corners that are perhaps the best in the NCAA. The real run for Clemson will be beating the other top contenders to win the division, FSU and Boston College on the road. The Tigers also play Georgia Tech and Miami from the Coastal division that will be a test for the Tigers but at least the play them at home.

Boston College

The Eagles have always been one of those “fly under the radar” teams. They win consistently every year, but never get a lot of chatter about them. They have won at 7 games or more in the past 11 seasons.  The ended up in 2nd place in the ACC. Frank Spaziani will be going into his 2nd season at BC with a lot more confidence. Mark Herzlich has beaten the cancer that kept him off the field last year and you can bet on an emotional return to the field for him come September. He has been practicing but with no contact so what can he bring to the table this season on defense is still a big question mark. On the QB scene, there is the 25-year-old Dave Shinskie and the sophomore Mike Marscovetra returning as the starter and back-up respectively. Look for Marscovetra to turn it on this year as he tries to upend Shinskie from the starting position. Last year, BC was ranked 116th in 3rd down conversions. The O-line and QB’s need to take the maturity they are bringing to the field this year and focus on improving that stat. RB Montel Harris returns after a 1457 yard season last year. Schedule wise, BC has VT and Clemson at home along with Notre Dame. The other test will be on the road against FSU. BC starts the 2010 season with veterans and maturity and should be a division winning contender.

Florida State University

Now we come to FSU. My love! I will say that the preseason ranking is a bit of a stretch. They are coming off of another mediocre season and has a defense full of issues. There is a lot of hoopla surrounding the head coach Jimbo Fisher and what he can do with this team now that he is no longer the coach in waiting. The recruiting improved to levels seen years ago under Bowden in the FSU hay day. On offense, Christian Ponder returns at QB with lots of talent and maturity. He has a seasoned O-line returning, including all-star stud LG Rodney Hudson,  which will give him the edge and support this year to be an excellent QB.  In the running back department, on the surface it appears that FSU is pretty loaded. Last year’s leading rusher left the team due to competition in the position. On defense, this is where FSU used to have it’s swagger. Greg Reid will be the player to watch and hopefully ignite this lackluster team. LB Nigel Bradham returns as well and gives the Noles the boost they will need on tackles. Having Mark Stoops on the defensive coach has to help this team. Way too many points scored on them last year. The schedule will be tough for FSU. OOC is Oklahoma on the road, BYU and Florida at home.  FSU has Miami on the road as well. Top contenders for the division title is FSU, Clemson, and BC. FSU has both Clemson and BC match-ups at home. FSU went from dominating the ACC title to not even winning a division title in 5 years. Rebuilding should be over. It is time for this team to step it up a lot.

Wake Forest

The Demon Deacons had a losing season in 2009 for the first time in 4 years. They didn’t get anyone of note in their recruiting class this year and lost a ton of veterans. QB Riley Skinner graduated last year leaving Skylar Jones and Brendan Cross to vie for the starting position. On offense, they have 2 potential stars in backs Josh Adams and Brandon Pendergrass. The O-line for Wake appears to be weak again this year. WR Devon Brown returns after a 600 ++ yard season. Defensively, look for Kyle Wilber to return strong after missing most of last year with a broken leg. Schedule wise, Wake goes on the road to FSU, but OOC is Presbyterian, Stanford, Vanderbilt and Navy. If they were a little more seasoned, they might have a shot at post – season play and may still have a shot with what should be easy wins against Duke, Presbyterian, Maryland, etc,

North Carolina State

NC State has had 3 seven loss seasons in a row. They lacked a defense and a running game in all 3 of those years and this season should prove to be no different. At least they are consistent on something! The team is young and inexperienced. QB Russell Wilson returns with confidence and poise that relics that of Philip Rivers. However, rumor has it the MLB wants him for his talents in baseball. If that happens, this team is as good as done. On defense, LB Nate Irving returns after a season long injury. NC State’s biggest issue last season was turnovers. They gave up the ball 25 times. Schedule wise, not super tough. Notable game will be against BC in which NC State’s coach Tom O’Brien voluntarily left his coaching position at BC to go to NC State. OOC games include Western Carolina, UCF, Cincinnati, and East Carolina.

Maryland Terrapins

Maryland returns this year after a 2 – 10 season. Not pretty. Shockingly, Ralph Friedgen somehow kept his employment after that season. This was a coach who was very successful at Maryland at one time. It has been 7 years since this team has been talented. On offense, QB Jamarr Robinson returns this year as the starter.  WR Torrey Smith returns as well after a 824 yard season. RB Da”Rel Scott returns as a senior. He has been plagued with injuries so his value is yet to be determined. Defensively, Alex Wujciak leads the team in tackles last year at 131. Schedule wise, they have some cake teams suck as FIU and Morgan State at home. Additionally, they have Navy at home and West Virginia on the road in their OOC play. They also have Duke and NC State at home.

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Guest Post: Walker Sports 2010 NFC South Preview

August 19, 2010

Walker Sports NFC South 2010 Preview

by Dumont J Walker III

Brett Favre has returned to the NFL, and all is right with the world of football. Now, if September 12, would hurry up and get here, we can get this season underway. Till then you’ll just have to settle for this NFC South Preview.

New Orleans Saints: A great man once said, “To be the man you have to beat the man.” For the New Orleans Saints, that’s exactly the case. They are sitting atop the mountain, and until someone can knock them off they will remain there. The obvious thing to talk about when looking at the Saints is Drew Brees, and the high powered offense he leads. Brees has undergone an amazing transformation during his time in the NFL, from underrated, to one of the best in the game. You can expect with Sean Peyton calling the plays that Drew Brees will once again be lightning up NFL scoreboards, and torching opposing DB’s with his lethal passing. The key to success in 2010 will be the most overlooked part of the Saints offense, their running game. Last year New Orleans used a group of running backs to get this job done, and you can expect it to be more of the same in this year. Reggie Bush of course will gardener the headlines and make the electrifying plays, but the real treat this year will be when Bush mans up and starts taking carries between the tackles.

Gregg Williams was ran out of Washington by Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, and he has landed happily in the Big Easy, where he has built one of the most fierce defenses in the NFL. The Saints defense is all about applying pressure to the quarterback. The Saints attack and blitz, with wreck less abandon and inflict mental and psychological damage on opposing QB’s. The idea is to traumatize the opposing QB enough. And eventually he will make a mistake. Don’t think it works? Just look what the Saints defense did to two future Hall of Famers in Brett Favre and Kurt Warner in during last year’s post season. The Saints defense plays boarder line dirty in the way they attack a quarterback. They want to get their hands on a QB, and put him in the dirt as much as possible. This is a great tactic, and as long as opposing teams continue to grant the Saints access to their QB’s this defensive philosophy will work.

Atlanta Falcons: You can add the Atlanta Falcons to the list of sheik teams that NFL writers love to talk about. Matt Ryan had a bit of a sophomore slump last season, I use that term loosely, and in his third year he ready to emerge as an elite quarterback in the NFL. Helping Ryan out this season will be tailback Michael Turner who will return to the normal rotation after spending a good chunk of last season on the bench with injuries. There is no doubt, that a big reason behind Ryan’s drop in production was the result of not having his Pro-Bowl caliber running back behind him. While the Falcons will be happy to have Turner back in the mix of things, he is not the only weapon Matt Ryan has at his disposal. The Falcons have one of the great emerging receivers in the league in Roddy White, and they also have arguably the best tight end of all time in Tony Gonzalez. To sum things up, the Falcons have the offense to produce and you can put me on the record for stating the Atlanta Falcons will make the Wild Card this year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs were the youngest team in the NFL last season, and while I’m not positive about it, I’m pretty sure Tampa Bay is close to that mark once again. Nonetheless, the Bucs got a chance to “blood” a lot of their young players last season. None more so than rookie quarterback Josh Freeman who was forced to leave for the NFL a year early after a coaching change at Kansas State. While showing plenty of rookie inexperience last year, it was Freeman who got the Bucs their first win on the 2009 season in an amazing come from behind win against Green Bay. Freeman would go on to lead the Bucs to three wins during his rookie campaign. Not Big Ben taking the Steelers to the Super Bowl, but impressive considering how bad Tampa Bay was during the early part of the season. Freeman showed glimpses of promise last season. There is no doubt he has the physical tools to be a playmaker in the NFL, the question is can he adapt to the speed of the game, learn how to read the complex defenses that will be thrown at him?

Raheem Morris had a rocky first year as a head coach. However, starting the season 0-8 will do that to you. As the season progressed it appeared that Morris was able to get a grasp on what was going on, and how to manage games. Morris is a defensive guy, and he drafted a powerhouse in Gerald McCoy in the first round of the 2010 draft. While I’ll save the Warren Sapp compression till McCoy actually plays there is no doubt he will add a big impact to the Bucs defensive line and their pass rush. If Morris can get the Tampa Bay defense to playing like they did in the early part of the 2000’s it’s possible they can pick off a few extra wins, and with some help, maybe flirt with the .500 mark.

Carolina Panthers: It wasn’t too long ago that the Panthers were perennial playoff participants, and Super Bowl contenders, but that was before Jake Delhomme fell off the tracks. After a disastrous year, Delhomme is out, and the Panthers are looking to usher in a new era at quarterback. The problem is they aren’t exactly sure who will lead that era. Dallas Cowboy castaway Matt Moore stepped in late last season to replace Delhomme and picked up four wins for the club. However, that was not enough to give him the starting quarterback job outright. Thanks to a crashing draft stock, former Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen fell into Carolina’s lap and the Panthers have themselves a good old fashion quarterback controversy.

While it’s most likely that Matt Moore will start the season as the Panthers starting quarterback, one has to expect he will be on a short leash. Anytime there is a hotshot young quarterback standing on the sidelines, he instantly becomes the fan favorite as soon as the starter throws a pick. I never believe that a team that finds itself in this situation can be productive on the field. The starting QB is constantly looking over his shoulder wondering when he will get the ax. Once the young backup comes in, far too often they are not ready to step into the starting role and find themselves playing behind the 8-ball.

Adding to the Carolina Panthers problems for the 2010 season is a lame duck coach in John Fox. Ownership in Charlotte has let it be known they are not looking to renew the longtime coach’s contract. However, they were reluctant to let him go after last season. Now baring a Super Bowl appearance Fox will not be back for 2011.

In a nutshell the Carolina Panthers are a mess, which is a shame because there is still a lot of talent on that team. Deangelo Williams is entering a contract year and you can bet he will have another solid season. The same can be said for backfield running mate Jonathan Stewart. It’s a shame that two of the league’s best running backs have to languish on such a tepid team; it must be what Steven Jackson feels like out in St. Louis.

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Guest Post: ACC Coastal Preview with OhNoRomo

August 19, 2010

There’s nothing like the ACC. It’s one of a kind! But it’s sad how the conference is split via the Atlantic and the Coastal. Why must there be so much division in this country? Can’t we all play nice…Nah!

The U

I’d be dumb not to mention Jacory Harris. In fact, I’d be a bigger idiot if I didn’t make Harris the focal point of this part of the preview. No doubt, this is Harris’ chance to shine.

Miami’s quarterback tradition dates well back to Bernie Kosar. The Hurricanes have had the likes of Vinny Testaverde, Steve Walsh, Gino Torretta, and Ken Dorsey. I’d include Brock Berlin, but he was a Gator at a certain point in his life. Harris has the opportunity to carve his own place in Miami’s history of quarterbacks. He’s already proven himself in the ACC, leading the conference in passing yards.

The schedule won’t be an easy as they face Ohio State Sept. 11, and then take on Pittsburgh the week after. If they can survive both of those games, they have a shot to run through the ACC.

Georgia Tech

They fell flat against Iowa in the Orange Bowl, which will always be disappointing to me. The big question facing the Yellow Jackets though is, can they really replace Jonathan Dwyer?

Dwyer’s production was helpful for Georgia Tech. But now that he’s gone, it’s up to Anthony Allen to carry the load alongside quarterback Josh Nesbitt. Allen ran for 618 yards and 6 touchdowns, third best on the team.

But now, Allen is moving from the tuba section to the clarinet section. I hope he has the right reeds.

Virginia Tech

Okay, who isn’t giddy over the showdown between the Hokies and Boise State? Whoever isn’t deserves to be punched in the nuts. It’s the tough Tech defense against those Blue guys that are turning into popular BCS attractions.

The potential is there for this to be the game of the century. Granted, the last sentence was a hyperbole sandwich with a side of fries. But this could be freakin’ awesome. It could be a 13-7 game and it would still be awesome. It’s Boise State’s chance to prove themselves against a BCS contender, one with a tough defense.

The Hokies are of course carrying the flag for the non-mid majors. And don’t think for a second that Virginia Tech didn’t forget about the loss to East Carolina in the 2008 opener. They’ll be looking to crush the Broncos, thus crushing the hopes and dreams of mid-majors everywhere.

North Carolina

What can I say about UNC that hasn’t been said? They have their share of issues. So instead of analyzing how Butch Davis will keep this team from falling apart, here are my thoughts on Bigfoot.

Now I admit, I don’t know if Bigfoot is real or not. For all we know, he’s a figment of our imagination. However, that’s what they said about the Yeti. And now he’s as accepted in our culture as the Jersey Shore cast.

Now before you ask the question, I’ll answer it now and say there’s no connection. However, if Butch Davis loses players over these improper benefits, maybe he can try to recruit the all-mighty Sasquatch.

Virginia

The Cavaliers first game this season will be against Richmond. It will be Mike London’s first game coaching against his former team, the same team he guided to an FCS title just a couple of years ago. (Gridiron Goddess: And their second game is @ USC.)

London has the challenge ahead of turning around one of the worst offenses in the conference. It won’t be an easy process, but London’s credentials give him the opportunity to make the offense better.

Maybe Virginia can get on the right track. After all, it’s not like they’re Duke or anything.

Duke

Oh, we’re at this point. And well, they have Alabama and Navy on their schedule. But hey, their basketball team won a national title, so did their lacrosse team. So, it’s at least something to make Duke fans forget about football, right?

The one bright spot is they have a coach that wants to stay at Duke and who has produced wins for the program. David Cutcliffe was reportedly considered for the Tennessee coaching job, but chose to stay put in Durham.  Last season, the former Ole Miss head coach guided the Blue Devils to a 5-7 record. The last time they won more than five games in a season was 1994.

When you’ve spent most of the time at the bottom, you have nowhere to go but up. Hopefully, Cutcliffe can help the Blue Devils up the hill in the ACC, thus keeping them out of the basement.

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Guest Post: Walker Sports 2010 AFC South Preview

August 16, 2010

AFC SOUTH

by Dumont Walker III

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts are still the top of the AFC South and that’s not easy considering the AFC South has my vote for the toughest division in the NFL. Last year Peyton Manning nearly cemented his legacy with a second Super Bowl victory, instead he is still toiling away looking for another ring. If Peyton wants to change his fortunes in 2010 one has to think the Colts will improve their running game. It wasn’t long ago that Indianapolis showcased a well balanced offense, where the passing game was based off of play action, that was generated through a reliable ground game. Last season the Colts struggled to generate any consistent offense on the ground. As a result Peyton Manning lost a large chunk of his arsenal. That won’t get it done in 2010.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Colts aren’t a stand out unit, but they are talented enough to get the job done. Dwight Freeney is still a stand out pass rusher in this NFL, despite losing a step as he’s aged. Of course the same old story with Indianapolis is will Bob Sanders be healthy this year? Last year Sanders sat out the majority of the year thanks to an arm injury. He was limited to just two starts, during that time Sanders recorded 6 tackles and 2 interceptions. The bottom line is, when Sanders is in the game, the Colts defense is one of the best in the NFL.

Record: 13-3
Houston Texans: This is their year, and I mean it this time. I feel like every preseason I’m all amped up about the prospects of the Houston Texans, and in 2010 they will finally deliver and make the playoffs for the firs time in franchise history. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shannahan may be gone, but the Texans offense is still potent and dangerous. Andre Johnson is the best receiver in the league that no one talks about. This year he finally breaks through and reaches Chad Ocho Cinco and Randy Moss notoriety levels. If Johnson is going to become a household name in 2010 he is going to do so from catching plenty of passes from Matt Schaub. 2009 Schaub made a name for himself amongst fantasy owners when he lit up the league with his passing talents. This year Schaub will turn those gaudy passing numbers into victories on the field.

In the past people have been high on the Texans, but they simply were not ready to take the next step and become a playoff contender. Last season, Houston had the talent to become a playoff team, but they were not mentally prepared. Every time Houston found themselves in a tight game, they came up short because they were unable to execute under pressure. These miscues come as a result of a team that’s not used to being under the spotlight. In 2010 the Texans will lean on the experience of previous years to guide them through the tough times and into an AFC Wild Card game.

Record: 10-6

Tennessee Titans: It’s practically a crime that Jeff Fisher has not been able to bring a Super Bowl to Tennessee, he truly is one of the great coaches of our time. This year alone Fisher has had to deal with a slew of off the field issues that include Vince Young getting into fights at a strip club, USC coach Lane Kiffen stealing his coaches, and his star tailback Chris Johnson threatening a hold out. Despite all of those distraction, the Titians have everyone in camp and on time.

Last season Chris Johnson lit the league on fire when he rushed for 2,000 yards. As a result many people are expecting Johnson to come through with another monster year, Johnson himself is predicting that he can break the all time single season record. This blogger, does not believe that is possible. Chris Johnson is a great back, but rushing for 2,000 yards on consecutive seasons is near impossible, especially for a small back. Johnson will have a good season if he can top the 1,500 yard mark.

The Titans are still a dangerous team, who will hover around the .500 mark, and cause plenty of problems for the rest of the AFC South. However, a run into the post season will be near impossible. The division is just too tough.

Record: 9-7

Jacksonville Jaguars: There’s not a lot to say about the Jaguars. Yes Maurice Jones-Drew is a stud as a running back, but that’s not enough to elevate this team. The glaring issue with the Jacksonville Jaguars is their quarterback. David Garrard is a serviceable quarterback, but his time as a starter in the NFL are long gone. He simply does not posses the tools to make the plays on a regular basis. As a result, the Jaguars are always playing with a half a deck on offense.

The good news for Jaguar fans is MJD is one of the best in the game, and he will get his 1,300-1,400 yards on the season. With stats like that, it should be enough to keep Jacksonville competitive in all of there games and give them a chance to win a few. Unfortunately for Jaguar fans, MJD alone is not enough to get the Jags above .500 or into the playoffs.

Record: 7-9