Archive for the ‘2009 season preview’ Category

Preseason Prognostication: Wilde Picks

August 31, 2009

If, as Oscar Wilde said, experience is simply the name we give to our mistakes, we’d be wise to look back at Homerism’s 2008 preseason predictions before delving into 2009.

2008 Preseason Predictions

  • BCS Championship: Florida over USC (actual: Florida over Oklahoma)
  • ACC: Florida State over Virginia Tech (actual: Virginia Tech over Boston College)
  • Big East: West Virginia (actual: Cincinnati)
  • Big Ten: Wisconsin (actual: Penn State)
  • Big 12: Oklahoma over Missouri (actual: Oklahoma over Missouri)
  • Pac-10: USC (actual: USC)
  • SEC: Florida over Auburn (actual: Florida over Alabama)
So, what should I have learned?
1. These picks are as worthless as Web page they’re written on.
Wisconsin? Auburn? Florida State? Sheesh.
2. Beware the cult of the coordinator.
Auburn’s hire of Tony Franklin to take over its offense had Homerism all fired up this time last year. Six games into the season, it was if Franklin never even set foot on The Plains. Franklin received his walking papers, the Tigers were running some kind of scheme that looked nothing like Franklin’s version of the spread, and they were sucking at it.

3. Don’t disregard quarterback play.

Last season, the shaky play of Todd Boeckman scared me off of Ohio State in the Big Ten. Right on, but then why back Allan Evridge-led Wisconsin instead? I actually singled out the Badgers as a national championship dark horse!
4. Like the rest of the country, I know nothing about the Big East.
With all that in mind, I will now attempt to create another learning experience for next season.
BCS Championship Game
Florida over Ohio State
The Gators are a given. To be honest, I could see this team contending for a national title even if Tim Tebow ascended into heaven in the middle of the third quarter of the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. As for The Ohio State University… Look, I don’t like the idea of picking a team that I don’t consider one of the two or three best in country any more than the rest of you. Unfortunately, I think the Buckeyes will be the only undefeated team besides Florida left standing when the music stops. Right now, the USC game doesn’t look as daunting as it usually would. Plus, the only difficult road game for the Buckeyes appears to be Penn State on November 7, and OSU will have more talent and the best player on the field, Terrelle Pryor.

Conference Champs
ACC: Virginia Tech over Florida State
Quietly–or should I say “boringly”–this conference has turned into a (very) poor man’s version of the Big 12. I think the two divisions are called the “Coastal” and the “Atlantic;” all I know is that the one with Virginia Tech in it looks much stronger on paper than the other.
Big East: Pittsburgh
Why not?
Big Ten: Ohio State
The Badgers burned me last year, but Wisconsin could be a sleeper here. Bret Bielema’s squad misses the Nittany Lions this year, and 50-50 games against Michigan State, Iowa and the hardest working team in college football, Michigan, are in Madison.
Big 12: Oklahoma over Kansas
OU will win the South, but drop a game somewhere in what is a very trying schedule. Up north, despite the tough talk from coach Dan Hawkins about Colorado winning 10 games this year, this is a two-team race: Kansas and Nebraska. Yes, the Jayhawks have the harder schedule of the two. They also have the only proven commodity at under center. I’ll go with KU by virtue of a head-to-head win over the ‘Huskers.
Pac-10: California

Pete Carroll has proven that it’s never wise to bet against his teams. And no one ever said Homerism was wise. Truth is, I love this Cal team. Watching the Golden Bears last year, I couldn’t help but think they were better than their record. The defense, led by the best cornerback in the country, Syd’Quan Thompson, will be the best in conference. On the other side of the ball, QB Kevin Riley has to avoid mistakes and let Jahvid Best do the heavy lifting. If Best stays healthy all year, this is a national title dark horse.
SEC: Florida over Alabama
I went back and forth between Alabama and Ole Miss in the SEC West for the last month before settling on the Crimson Tide. The Rebels have a great schedule to go along with a great quarterback in Jevan Snead. ‘Bama, on the other hand, may be the most talented team in the country behind UF and USC. Here’s the kicker: these two teams are scheduled to meet in what will be the Tide’s sixth game of the season. By then, the ‘Bama newcomers will be battle-tested, and junior QB Greg McElroy should have his sea legs.

What is a ‘Playmaker?’

August 30, 2009

Homerism’s statement that OU “lacks an offensive playmaker” in my last post on the outlook for OU’s season stirred up some debate about OU’s personnel.

“Playmakers” are few and far between. Ninety-eight times out of 100, they’re undoubtedly the most dangerous guy on the field. Offensive coordinators fall all over themselves trying to get their playmakers the ball. Defensive coordinators stay up all night trying to figure out how to stop them. They can disarm you with their looks, or their hands, either way.
Think Reggie Bush, Rocket Ismail, Vince Young, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin.
OU has plenty of talent, but no one who is in that pantheon right now. At least not yet.

2009 Oklahoma Season Preview: Missing Sooner Magic

August 29, 2009

OK, so we’ve covered the 2009 edition of the Sooners from head to toe, and Homerism has given them a clean bill of health. Honestly, I can’t find a thing wrong with this team. So sign the papers, punch the ticket to Pasadena, right?

As much as Homerism wants to, for some reason I just can’t bring myself to certify the Sooners as a legitimate national championship contender. Why? I’m not entirely sure.

Maybe it has something to do with depth issues. Maybe it’s the lack of an offensive playmaker. Maybe it’s all the new faces on the o-line.

I suspect, though, that it’s Sooner Magic—or a lack thereof—that’s holding me back.

In the ‘90s, even OU fans like me who grew up watching Barry Switzer’s squads hang half-a-hundred on overmatched Big 8 opponents had forgotten what success felt like. After such a sustained run of excellence, watching the Sooners stumble their way through an entire decade of something somewhere in between futility and calamity was downright tragic.

When head coach Bob Stoops arrived on the scene in Norman in 1999, the fact he was able to get OU bowl eligible seemed miraculous; bringing home a national championship the next year actually was.

Stoops quickly earned a reputation as a brash riverboat gambler whose teams played loose and were just as willing as their coach to dare to be great. The Sooners took chances that always paid off.
Sooner Magic was back. OU football was fun again.
Of course, with all the excitement surrounding OU’s resurgence under Stoops, Oklahoma fans forgot the decidedly less fun part of success: expectations. Suddenly, after an era in which falling to teams like San Diego State and Northwestern had become all too commonplace, losses to some of the best teams in the country turned into disasters once again. Undefeated seasons and national championships were the new standards.
Gradually, that old Sooner Magic started to fade. OU kept on winning, but at some point it started to seem more like not losing. Were the Sooners playing tight? A 7-6 record in games decided by 10 points or less since 2006 is one way to answer that question.
As fans, we don’t really get to see all the behind-the-scenes moments—practices, sideline skull sessions, team meetings—that really tell us about the mood of a team. Occasionally players may pop off to the press, but for the most part, they’re as well-trained in coachspeak as coaches themselves. All we have to go on is what we see on game day. Watching the Sooners lately, it’s easy to wonder if they’re actually enjoying themselves.
And that starts at the top. From his demeanor on the sidelines to the exercise in antipathy known as a Bob Stoops press conference, OU’s head coach doesn’t look like he’s having any fun.

Stoops doesn’t get paid to make people laugh, and football teams need lofty goals if they want to succeed. But maintaining high standards while preventing expectations from weighing a team down is a key part of the job description for an elite college football coach. Pro athletes may be able to handle the psychology of the spotlight on their own, but 18-year-old kids take their cues from their coach.

Even though Florida beat OU in last season’s national championship game, those looked like two pretty evenly matched teams. The Gators pulled it out through sheer will and being that much more aggressive when it mattered. This season, Florida brings back plenty of firepower. Man for man, though, OU is equally strong. Yet, if the Sooners want to get back to the top of the college football mountain, they need to get the Magic back.
Here’s hoping Stoops brings back some of his old tricks.
Prediction: 13-1, Big 12 champs, Fiesta Bowl win

How to Beat OU

August 27, 2009

I have a new post on how to beat OU up on Phil Steele’s site.

Linking Up: August 22

August 23, 2009

Musings while wondering why boxing always goes down “after dark”…

-Mike Balogun’s lawyer says his client is approaching a compromise with the NCAA that would be a “win-win” for all parties involved. What exactly does the NCAA have to win in this case?

-The Skinny says License to Wed is one of the top 10 comedies of this decade. Homerism says I’d rather ride a bike without a seat for 90 minutes than subject myself to that.

-Remember how the Associated Press removed its poll from the BCS process because the writers all of a sudden got religion about “creating” the news instead of reporting it? Would love to know why they even continue to publish it if that’s truly the case. If the AP poll names a different champ at the end of the season–as was the case in 2003–wouldn’t that “make” news? Funny thing is, I think the writers poll actually has more credibility.
Joe Buck Live returns September 22! Guests include Andrew Dice Clay, Rex Ryan and Mike Tyson.
-Every time Vince Young drops back to throw, Tim Tebow drops a spot in the NFL draft. I don’t think there is one good thing to be said about VY’s performance in Friday night’s preseason game against Dallas. Seriously, after watching him play two preseason games so far this year, I can’t envision any circumstance in which I’d put him in an NFL game that didn’t involve a four-touchdown lead and less than five minutes to play.
Young is one of the five best college football players I’ve ever seen, but he is a testament to the vast differences between the college and pro games for a quarterback. He certainly has attitude issues, but his real problems start with his skills as a passer. You just can’t “turn” a guy into an NFL-caliber thrower. Doesn’t happen.
-Homerism’s ranking of USC at number two in my preseason power poll has generated some discussion among his six or seven loyal readers. Yes, I understand that the Trojans will have a freshman at quarterback this year. Yes, I know Pete Carroll has a whole new defense coming in this year.
Read the explanation of my preseason ranking process carefully, though. I happen to think USC drops two or three games this season. How I see the season playing out is irrelevant, though. The factors working against USC–mainly a number of tough road games–bear no weight on these rankings. If you lined up the Trojans any of the 120 D-I teams on a completely neutral field in Mongolia, I’d favor USC right now over everyone other than Florida.
-Season one of my OU dynasty in NCAA 2010 ended today with the Sooners drilling Florida, 28-14, in the BCS title game. Three turnovers marred Tim Tebow’s final college game. So OU has that going for it.
-I really like the Saints this year.
-Homerism will be participating in a college fantasy football league this season sponsored by my homies over at GatorsFirst. We’re drafting on Monday night. If anyone has any advice, feel free to shoot it my way. While I love talking fantasy sports, few things are more boring than listening to people talk about their own fantasy teams. I’ll probably run down the draft results on Tuesday or Wednesday, at which point I’ll make a call as to whether or not I should give it much play during the regular season. If it sounds like something you’re interested in reading about, make your opinion known. Thanks.

Who’s Number Two?

August 21, 2009

Homerism orients the preseason version of my power poll towards perceived team strength, as opposed to my in-season poll, where I try to focus on actual achievement. The basic premise: if Team X and Team Y met up at Hamill Field on a Saturday afternoon in October, who wins?

Rivalries, momentum and whatnot are irrelevant. The team that I think has the best chance of beating everyone else is one, the team with the second-best chance is two, and so on. Bear in mind that this is not a prediction of how the season will actually turn out. With that caveat in place, here goes:

Blatant Homerism Power Poll: Preseason

1. Florida
The Gators certainly aren’t unbeatable, but they’re as clear-cut of a preseason number one as we’ve seen in a while. Not much more to say.

2. USC
3. Oklahoma
4. Texas
To be fair, USC, Oklahoma and Texas could be arranged in just about any order and it would still look right to me. I have the Trojans ranked second in this case based on talent and track record. Despite breaking in a new defense and questions about who will take over at quarterback, Florida is the only team better athlete for athlete. Additionally, Pete Carroll has demonstrated an unmatched ability to pump his squads up for high-profile matchups. Texas took the Trojans down what seems like oh so many years ago, but that has proven to be the exception to an otherwise ironclad rule. All things being equal, I’ll put USC just ahead of the Sooners and Longhorns. The Sooners may have the slightest of edges from a star power standpoint, leading to their higher ranking ahead of Texas.

5. Alabama
There’s less distance between ‘Bama and the top four than you think. Nick Saban’s team oozes talent all over the field, particularly on defense. The biggest flaw with this bunch looks like quarterback. OK, so it may not be fair to call it a “flaw,” but without anything really to go on in the way of Greg McElroy, we’re left to wonder if he can not mess up enough to keep the Crimson Tide in the thick of the SEC race. I suspect McElroy’s inexperience will hurt ‘Bama coming out of the gate, but this team will come on strong late.

6. California
Watch out for Cal. That team was much better than its record indicated last season. The Golden Bears certainly deserve mention as a potential dark horse for the national title. Besides constantly losing to USC, Cal typically finds a way to ruin an otherwise impressive season with a befuddling loss like the one inflicted on them by Maryland last year. Stay on point for an entire season and this group becomes a tough out.

7. Ohio State
Homerism can’t wait to see Terrelle Pryor in the pistol, but there are so many questions about the defense.

8. LSU
9. Ole Miss
10. Penn State
None of these teams knock my socks off. Ole Miss looks like the SEC West favorite, but that’s simply because the Rebels have such an easy road. Same goes for JoePa’s bunch. Someday, LSU fans will look back with regret at the “great day” coach Les Miles turned down Michigan to remain in the Bayou.
(Outside looking in: Georgia, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Arkansas, Virginia Tech)

OU’s 2009 Breakout Stars

August 19, 2009

New post up on Phil Steele’s site on OU’s 2009 breakout stars.

2009 Oklahoma Season Preview: Special Teams

August 17, 2009

Faithful Homerism reader Reganita writes:

“Are you going to preview special teams? Because I need to know if I am going to have to cross my fingers and pray every time we kick this season. Nothing like feeling the entire season may be on the line when the kickoff team trot their happy asses out on the field.”

Yes, I am going to preview special teams, which is what I’m doing right now. And, yes, you should still cross your fingers whenever OU kicks this year.

A few weeks back I wrote in a blog post for Phil Steele that special teams play was the single biggest issue for OU heading into 2009. The Sooners’ special teams play will almost undoubtedly improve this season, but it’s tough to imagine things getting much worse.
In 2008, kickoff coverage was particularly horrendous. The Sooners gave up four kickoff returns for touchdowns, dead last in the country in ‘08. They allowed an average of 23.8 yards per return, ranking 103rd in the nation. And if you think special teams isn’t that big of a deal, you must be forgetting Jordan Shipley’s kickoff return touchdown in the Red River Shootout.

Chris Wilson, who coaches OU’s defensive ends and special teams, claims kickoff coverage has been a point of emphasis in the offseason. Look for some of OU’s vaunted freshman class–guys like linebackers Tom Wort and Jaydan Bird–to get plenty of run. Both have developed reputation in their short time in Norman as vicious hitters ideal for open-field tackling.
There’s also the little matter of who will be doing the actual kicking off this season. While a supposedly improved Jimmy Stevens has locked down field goal duties, the position of kickoff specialist remains up for grabs. Wilson has indicated newcomer Tress Way may have a slight lead for the job, but no official word has been given.
Hopefully the focus on improving kickoff coverage won’t detract from working on the punting game, as the Sooners will be breaking in a replacement for the departed Michael Knall. One of the more intriguing names being bandied about during fall camp is juco transfer Cameron Kenney. Kenney, who appears to have the inside track for a starting receiver spot, is a former soccer star whose punting skills have turned heads early on. The prospect of Kenney taking off and running out of the punt formation could give opposing teams just one more wrinkle to worry about when facing the Sooners. What about a rugby-style, run-punt option call? Before I get too carried away, though, note that Bob Stoops will almost undoubtedly go with the best punters of those auditioning, and that sounds like Way at this point.
As far as the return game, Homerism has but one piece of unsolicited advice for Stoops et al: keep DeMarco Murray off the field. Look for some combination of Ryan Broyles, Dominique Franks, Kenney and possibly Chris Brown to handle kickoff returns, with Broyles or Franks taking care of punt return duties.

2009 Oklahoma Season Preview: Secondary

August 12, 2009

By the numbers, OU’s pass defense was relatively pedestrian:

  • Rating: 118.10 (46th in the country)
  • Yards Per Game: 251.1 (100th)
  • Yards Per Attempt: 6.7 (58th)
  • Completion Percentage: 55.4 (33rd)
  • Interceptions: 19 (11th)
  • Touchdowns: 22 (86th)
In the pass-happy Big 12, however, those aren’t too shabby. More sophisticated measures likely would show the Sooners did a pretty good job stopping the pass. College football statistician extraordinaire Phil Steele, for example, ranked OU 11th in “pass efficiency” defense.
OU’s opponents in ’09 will share that same proclivity for the pass, so the performance of the Sooner secondary should go a long way towards determining if OU will win a fourth conference title in a row.
The strength of the group clearly lies at cornerback, where OU boasts one of the best tandems in the country. He Who Dared Call Out Tebow, junior Dominique Franks, will man the “field” corner spot. The former Union Redskin made second team All-Big 12 in ’08 after recording 10 pass deflections on the season. The opportunistic Franks also turned two turnovers into touchdowns.
“Boundary” corner Brian Jackson returns as well. The unheralded senior quietly put together a strong 2008 campaign, earning an honorable mention all-conference nod. Jackson finished fourth on the team with 66 tackles, and he broke up 10 passes. Jackson also snared three picks on the year, while forcing two fumbles.
The safety spots are where it starts to get murky, as all-conference performers and longtime starters Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes are gone. The coaching staff has raved about junior Quinton Carter, who will take over for Holmes at the free safety position. Carter worked his way into the mix last season, earning two starts when the Sooners went to a five defensive back lineup. Carter’s ferocious hitting has become his calling card–ask Jeremy Maclin. As he takes on a bigger role on OU’s defense, though, Carter’s coverage skills in centerfield will take on greater importance this year.
Sam Proctor, a sophomore who played special teams in ’08, appears to be the favorite to start at strong safety. The coaching staff’s assessment of Proctor seems to shift about as often the winds sweeping down the Oklahoma plains, so talented underclassmen such as Joseph Ibiloye and Javon Harris could make a push in the preseason. (With his size, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ibiloye move to linebacker at some point.)
Ibiloye and Harris also figure to get looks when the Sooners go to a traditional nickel package. Others vying for the nickel spot include Desmond Jackson and Lamar Harris. Keep in mind, however, that strongside linebacker Keenan Clayton is a converted safety. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables really values Clayton’s versatility in that spot, so he’ll continue to see plenty of action as a quasi-DB in passing situations.
The losses of Holmes and Nic Harris at safety certainly loom large heading into a year in which OU has depth and seasoned vets at every other position on defense. The upside: Harris and Holmes each played more than their fair share of poor pass coverage during their time in Norman. Each was known to bust an assignment or two as well. Overall, Harris and Holmes were good, but Homerism wouldn’t say great. They’re far from irreplaceable.
Hopefully, an outstanding front seven and strong cornerback play will give the new safeties cover, enabling them to get their feet wet early before key matchups with the wide-open offenses of teams like Texas and Oklahoma State.

Art Briles to the Rescue

August 11, 2009

Last piece in my Baylor preview is up on Tilting at Windmills.