Monday, March 2, 2009

Best time of the year ...March Madness

We are only a few weeks away from making our March Madness Picks on our brackets. This time of year is the best, you go to the bar with a couple of your buddies grab some lunch and dicuss your free basketball picks. It may be only a few weeks out of the year but it is the best few are close usually and the upsets are even greater especially if you picked them on your bracket.

So if you ask me to choose which is better NFL picks or March Madness picks I will take filling out my bracket everytime.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Stanford Football Preview

First year head coach Jim Harbaugh pulled Stanford out of the gutter while getting four wins last fall. Can he take the next step and get the Cardinal bowling? He'll have a senior QB that started seven games including the big shocker over USC in Tavita Pritchard. But the QB position is still full of uncertainty. Five other guys are still considered to be in the mix with Michigan transfer Jason Forcier and Alex Loukas throwing their names into the August competition. There are just as many questions at receiver, where Mark Bradford and Evan Moore (90 combined catches last year) have to be replaced. Don't expect the passing game to be the strength of this team. The RBs and OL are more of a stable unit. A quartet of RBs shared the carries last fall and managed to put up over 1,300 yards while the OL is comprised of four seniors and a junior led by All-Pac Ten performer Alex Fletcher at center. With nine starters back on defense, the biggest loss will be replacing defensive coordinator Scott Shafer, who left for Michigan. This young, attacking scheme gave up a ton of yards and points but did a decent job creating turnovers and was respectable in the red zone. Rarely does Stanford have as many solid players on the DL as it will in 2008. The secondary is also a veteran unit that has to show some improvement (107th nationally against the pass). The only problem, and not just on defense, is the typical lack of speed at Stanford. With seven road games and uncertainty at QB, getting that magical six wins for bowl eligibility doesn't appear to be in the Cards. But this team can no longer be considered a sure victory.

UCLA Football Preview

The homecoming of new head coach Rick Neuheisel has created a higher level of energy and excitement for the Bruin faithful. But significant questions at QB, offensive line and overall experience across the board could make for a disappointing debut. Dream coordinator Norm Chow will run the offense. His starting QB Pat Cowan tore his knee in the spring and back up Ben Olson then broke his foot on the same day. Olson will be ready for the fall but Cowan is done for the year. The OL only has one starter back after taking a big hit when OT Aleksey Lanis retired due to chronic knee pain. In total, eight of the Bruin's top ten offensive linemen did not take a snap last fall. The top two tailbacks in Kahlil Bell and Raymond Carter are coming off reconstructive knee surgery. The WRs have some talent led by fifth-year senior Marcus Everett but the list is not very deep or experienced. It's easy to see why the new staff will have their hands full. The defense has to overcome some heavy losses as well, which includes departing All-American DE Bruce Davis. The inside is strong up the gut as evident in their solid play last season while finishing 14th nationally against the run. Outside of this group, the rest of the defense is suspect. The secondary only returns one starter. Expectations in Los Angeles will have to be kept to a mid-level bowl at the highest end...a regular familiarity with the previous coaching staff. The Labor Day match up with Tennessee might not have been the right choice for Neuheisel's grand opening. The following September games also include upstart BYU, Arizona and Fresno State. If UCLA can win two or three of these outings, you have to figure this new coaching staff is more than capable of building a better future.

Washington Football Preview

Year four of the Tyrone Willingham coaching project will be under a microscope. The Huskies desperately need to climb out of the Pac Ten basement and the dicey part is that this team is probably still a year away from accomplishing such a feat. Sophomore QB Jake Locker will remain the focus of the program. No doubt this highly touted prep recruit has talent. He did not disappoint in his debut season while rushing for a conference record by a QB (986 yards). He is a very physical athlete that still has plenty of room to grow in terms of his passing skills. The problem is that he does not have the RBs and WRs at his disposal to take that gigantic leap forward yet. The Huskies must replace five senior receivers and TB Louis Rankin, who became the first Husky since 1997 to rush for more than 1,000 yards. The OL might be one of the few considered strengths but took a huge hit when All-Conference center Juan Garcia suffered a foot injury late in the spring and likely won't be available this fall. UW returns just one of its top six linemen on the other side of the ball. No one other than DE Daniel Te'o'Nesheim had more than two tackles last season. The back seven won't be as inexperienced. New D-coordinator Ed Donatell, a former NFL defensive back specialist, has been experimenting with many of the secondary schemes this spring. There is a chance the defense could wind up being much improved at least in terms of defending the pass. Overall, this defense has not shown a consistency at any one facet. Willingham is reaching the end of his rope. Anything short of six wins may not be good enough to keep him in Seattle. If that is the case, say good-bye. Especially considering an 0-3 start is more than possible; it is actually to be expected, as the openers are Oregon, BYU and Oklahoma.

Washington State Football Preview

Four years of missing bowl games after the best run in school history made it time for head coach Bill Doba to go. Alum Paul Wulff takes over and now must repair the depth ravaged by some poor recruiting efforts. The Cougars will operate with a new look no-huddle approach while trying to locate a QB capable of stepping in for record setting four-year starter Alex Brink. But Brink never won many games worth mentioning other than beating in-state rival Washington. So what is there to lose? Pulling the trigger will likely be Brink's understudy for most of those years in senior Gary Rogers. But don't count out Kansas State transfer Kevin Lopina. Easily the best playmaker on the entire team is WR Brandon Gibson, an all-conference pick. A three TE rotation will also continue to be a source of notable options. The running game has not been much help and continues to be a developing issue as both projected starters are dealing with injuries. The OL is actually a veteran group with four starters back. There is no reason WSU should be this bad running with the ball. Yes, eight starters return to the defense, but with a patchwork DL in place this group is struggling to find an identity. The secondary for years has been a source of incompetence...simply terrible. Don't expect miracles overnight by any stretch. All three LBs are senior returning starters so the shift to a 3-4 alignment has been made in an effort to locate something that can prove positive. This new offense could give some opponents a headache but make no mistake...this is a transition, learning and rebuilding year for the Cougars.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Air Force College Football Preview

The Falcons desperately need someone to emerge at QB, a position that has tough assignments and requires heady decision making in this scheme. No ideal candidate seems to be ready to fill the shoes of the departed four-year starter Shaun Carney. Also gone is a 1,478-yard rusher in RB Chad Hall and no one has emerged to remotely fill his shows either. Coach Troy Calhoun arrived with plans to bring passing to a run-based system. This has not been the case with guys like Hall racking up the yards, but the 2008 team may take on more of this dimension with so many holes at RB. TE Travis Dekker ranks as the team's best receiver. No player on the OL goes over 300 pounds which means another academy will be forced to stick with the zone blocking schemes. But this front wall has potential. Two of the best players on this side of the ball come from this unit in Keith Williams and Nick Charles. Defensively, the pass rush has not proven effective which will be tough for a defense that is extremely weak at CB. The overall team outlook appears bleak on paper with only nine starters back in the fold. Returning to a bowl game will prove extremely difficult with so many losses at the skill positions.

Utah State College Football Preview

The Aggies showed some guts to close out 2007 as they fought their way into back-to-back victories to avoid a winless campaign. With the return of 15 starters (nine on defense) the confidence has to be growing to some extent. It better defensively as this side of the ball is no stranger to giving up 50-plus points against better foes. This was the WAC's worst defense a year ago. The Aggies were equally leaky against both the run and pass. The offense is not so lucky in terms of experience. The annual search for a new QB continues to be the case. The candidates are Sean Setzer, who only threw one pass last year and Jase McCormick, who threw five interceptions in just 40 attempts. Their best player the last few years Kevin Robinson is no longer available from his receiver/return man spots. Outside of QB there is some depth at the skill positions however. The statistical numbers have been just terrible in every facet of the game, which now means fourth year head coach Brent Guy is on the chopping block. He is 5-19 in league play and his team has a very long way to go before they can even think of being competitive.