Category Archives: 2015 College Football Previews
And the fun begins.
— FrogDog (@bloneyhuh) July 25, 2016
Conference realignment is the holy grail of offseason college football absurdity. Since about 2011, the Big XII has been the center of that conversation– from Chip Brown reporting the Pac-16 master plan, to Chip Brown reporting FSU and Clemson to the XII, to the formulation of the Longhorn Network. The handwringing is excellent and makes the summer months bearable. After six months of back-and-forth, Bob Bowlsby FINALLY announced that they would expand, depriving us of a summer of speculation.
After the “One True Champion” debacle kept them out of the playoff in 2014, unrest among the natives not named Texas, unrest AT Texas, and
the whole Baylor thing that we’re not discussing in this preview, the Big XII is a beautiful dumpster fire.
There are clear tiers here, which is nice.
10) Kansas. They’re going 1-11, an improvement over 2015. This isn’t football.
9) Iowa State. I think Matt Campbell was a sneaky-good hire. I thought about going all HOT TAKE-y and putting them above the rest of the bottom tier on the strength of home games against the next three teams, but man, its still Iowa State. Back to expansion, I bet they’d love to exile KU and ISU and pick up the four teams in the tweet above for a nice, even…well, 12.
The second tier is a group that could have one team emerge and replace Oklahoma State, Baylor, TCU, or Oklahoma in the top tier with a breakout year. There’s precedent for all four.
8) Kansas State. They return only 12 starters from a 6-7 team and add a road game at Stanford in week 1. Unfortunately, I think this is the end of the road for BillSnyderDaGawd.
7) Texas Tech. Average score last year: 45.1-43.6. Average yardage: 579-548. That’s…amazing. Patrick Mahomes returns, so those numbers should hold. Given the leaguewide reputation of chuck and duck, there are a lot of surprisingly coherent running games that should be able to keep the offense off the field. Opponents AVERAGED 280 on the ground last year, with the Red Raiders only holding three teams under 227. Yikes.
6) West Virginia. The ultimate win the games you should, lose the ones you should team in the XII (other conference comps: N.C. State, Tennessee, like 8 B1G teams, Arizona).
5) Texas. So, they’re going spread after fielding a sad offense this whole decade. True freshman Shane Buechele won the job outright in the spring. I like Texas, I LOVE Charlie Strong (like if Texas fired him and hired Larry Fedora, I’d take a straight up trade love), and will cheer for them to turn the corner. The defense returns four true sophomores who were starters last year. They could make the leap…or fall flat and back up a Brinks truck to Nick Saban.
4) TCU. I still can’t buy TCU as a big winner, and I know that’s ridiculous. They just lose too much on offense for me to be a believer. IDK. I don’t have anything else to warrant this low pick. I’m just ready to watch Gary Patterson sweat again.*
*- You may recall their 31-point comeback win in the Alamo Bowl against Oregon, where Gary sweated through his purple shirt, changed into the black one you see above, and sweated right through it too. Indoors.
3) Baylor. Seth Russell returns, and the offense stays the same (read: awesome) with Kendall Briles still in the fold. Problem is, they lose basically their whole line on both sides of the ball. They’ll be 6-0 heading into a Halloween weekend showdown at Texas, and the nation is going to lose its collective shit trying to figure out how to develop a narrative around them.
2) Oklahoma State. In an ode to one of my favorite comedies, “17 starters returning, 42 lettermen. Lookin’ tough.” Mike Gundy and his mullet should be improved over last year’s 10-3 team, but the record may not indicate it. Or, ya know, they could win the league. They won’t because they play at all three of Baylor, TCU, and Oklahoma.
1) Oklahoma. I’m so nervous about this pick, because of the Oklahoma corollary: low expectations, high ceiling, high expectations, disappointment. They’ll probably finish 7-5. On the other hand, this is a team that ran for at least 232 yards in every game after the Texas debacle (until Clemson), made Baker Mayfield a legit Heisman candidate, outscored conference opponents 425-184 (27 point margin per game– making them the only team over 400 scored and the only one under 250 allowed), and did not lose Lincoln Riley to a random head coaching job.
Five Games Worth Watchin’
- TCU at Baylor, Nov. 5: The “we’re not rivals” rivalry, there’s really only one likely combined loss between these two teams if they hold to the form of the past two years. That’s what we call fun.
- Oklahoma vs. Texas, Oct. 8: In the hypothetical where Texas loses to Notre Dame and at either Cal or Ok. State, this is a must-win for Charlie Strong. They won the weirdest game ever last year, and have actually won 2 of 3 vs. OU despite, you know, sucking. Weird dynamic for our generation, who watched Bob Stoops skulldrag Mack Brown for the better part of the 2000’s.
- Oklahoma State at Baylor, Sept. 24: We learn so much about both of these teams early, after we learn nothing about them for three weeks (OSU/Pitt the week before notwithstanding).
- Houston vs. Oklahoma, Sept. 3: Future XII rivalry? I’m sneaky excited about this game, because Houston has everything lined up for a test case (or class action lawsuit) for a G5 team making the playoff. Beat Oklahoma, beat Louisville late, run the table…how do you leave them out?
- Oklahoma at TCU, Oct. 1: This is sandwiched between Ohio State and Texas for the Sooners. Between SMU and Kansas for TCU. One of those things is bad, the other seems manageable.
There are more awesome non-con games to watch: Notre Dame at Texas the Sunday of opening weekend, Ohio St. at Oklahoma and Pitt at Okie State on Sept 17, Arkansas at TCU week 2. El Assico, the annual Iowa/Iowa St. debacle takes place on Sept. 10, Kansas hosts Rhode Island and Ohio the first two weeks in genuinely winnable games, and…okay, I’m done.
Players to See
QB’s on random teams: Mason Rudolph, OSU, Patrick Mahomes, TT, Skylar Howard, WVU: I hate the term ‘video game numbers’, so let’s say these three will put up ‘numbers the average XII quarterback puts up against XII defenses.
Jordan Sterns, S, Oklahoma St: If you follow these previews closely, you know I’m a sucker for an in-the-box safety with some semblance of coverage skills. Sterns fits the bill– 108 tackles and 2 picks last year.
Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas: He was tasked with quarterbacking the defense from game 1, snap 1 last year. While he was a little inconsistent, he was the most electrifying freshman defender (non Derwin James edition) in football last year.
Seth Russell, QB, and K.D. Cannon, WR, Baylor: Cannon is better than Corey Coleman. Russell was en route to a 12-0 season and an easy Heisman** before last year’s neck injury. They’re going to be fun.
James McFarland, DE, TCU: Missed all of last season, but had 7 sacks as a reserve in 2014. If he is back at full speed, the TCU defense will be a problem and I’ll be wrong about picking them fourth.
Baker Mayfield and Samaje Perine, Oklahoma: Either could win the Heisman** and would not shock me.
**- Listen, I think the Heisman is a stupid award. Its a popularity contest of who has the best stats on the best team. I pay a lot more attention to the individual position awards, but hey. It’s the Heisman, and I’m generating web content. Its not hyperbole to mention the three players above in the early conversation. Especially when you consider the “great story” that Russell (recovery from injury,
overcoming program turmoil) or Mayfield (former walk-on) would be. Ugh.
Georgia returns to Jacksonville, the scene of many untold horrors, for the TaxSlayer Bowl against Penn State on Saturday. It is widely joked about as the most boring bowl game imaginable, and on the surface…that’s no real joke. Penn State has disgraced-former-mock-draft-legend QB Christian Hackenberg, and an offensive line made of balsa wood. Georgia has the incurable stench of Brian Schottenheimer still stuck in the air vents, as an offense that averaged 17.2 regulation points in its final five wins looks to show out on film for Kirby Smart and staff.
So that’s one theme. Not the only one, mind you, but all of them add up to bowl season’s second-lowest Vegas over-under of 43.5 points. Obviously, Georgia’s failure to find a quarterback and offensive anemia post-Nick Chubb cost Mark Richt and his staff their jobs. But for those of us (should be all of us) who don’t follow the B1G, James Franklin let his OC John Donovan go immediately following the season. Given the ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ nature of both offenses, this game is a difficult one to nail down. Which staff goes conservative? Which goes #CFI mode?
Get to know Penn State
There was nothing at all overwhelming about Penn State this season. Good defense, at times laughable offense. James Franklin is still the coach, and he likely still lives and breathes to brag about beating Georgia that one time.
State’s best win was…Jesus. San Diego State ended up winning the Mountain West and their bowl game. Indiana finished 6-7 but played Michigan and tOSU close. They haven’t beaten a team of Georgia’s ilk, and come in riding a 3-game losing streak.
I saw way too much of Penn State’s loss to Michigan on November 21. My breakdown of their offense would be: in good positions, they threw desperate heaves down the sideline hoping for a big play or pass interference. If they were behind the sticks or backed up deep, their playcalling was akin to a turtle facing a hammer. Here’s hoping that continues.
When Georgia has the ball
Penn State’s defense is legitimately pretty good, so the ‘throw <insert RB here> into brick wall 45x’ offense that Schotty made famous is doomed to fail. Given the lack of a coaching staff, I would love to see them throw Brice Ramsey in and just chuck and duck.
PSU is led up front by DE Carl Nassib, who had 19.5 TFL and 15,5 (!!!) sacks on the year. That, my friends, will be a problem. Overall, PSU gave up 21.7 points per game (17th in the nation) and ranked 19th in overall defensive S&P.
A good gameplan for Georgia (or anyone in an SEC vs. B1G matchup) is to get the ball to athletes in space. Isaiah McKenzie, Terry Godwin, Malcolm Mitchell, and Sony Michel fit the bill. As I said above, please don’t limit what they can do by sticking to 1985 NFL principles and reap the benefits.
When Penn State has the ball
This is the game where Christian Hackenberg’s application for health insurance officially gets denied for ALL of the preexisting post-traumatic medical conditions. Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins are playing for draft position, and the defense should be extremely motivated to get one more good impression on film for the new staff. Hackenberg’s sack rate (per dropback) of 9.9% is staggering. If I were him, I’d seriously explore graduating early and finding a place with a pro-style offense and a line.
Holy shit, Christian Hackenberg would be PERFECT for 2016 Georgia.
The guy who most strikes fear into me on the PSU side is freshman RB Sequon Barkley, who averaged over 6 YPC and looked like a star in the making in flashes against some of the Nittany’s best competition. Let’s go back to that 6 YPC for a second though– Penn State played an offense (by necessity and ineptitude) that kept the ball within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage. For Barkley to hit that number is quite good by any objective measure, let alone on this team.
If PSU is going to exploit Georgia’s depleted secondary, they must first stop the pass rush. But sophomores Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton are decent threats if they get their hands on the ball– and Hackenberg will target them at an alarming rate. Godwin was thrown to 106 times, Hamilton 81…the next highest player 30.
What to expect
With all of the intangibles that are impossible to account for, including motivation, coaching staff (or lack thereof), and disappointing seasons for both programs, this is the type of game that can range from low-scoring Georgia win to Penn State blowout.
I have seen lame duck coaching staffs’ efforts in bowl games before. I love Bryan McLendon and crew, and hope some of the guys stick around for 2016. But its hard to get a team up for an exhibition in this spot.
In a game that has absolutely ZERO impact on the future of the Georgia program, give me Penn State 20, Georgia 13 in a desperate slog that we can’t wait to forget about. .
You may notice there was no week one preview for bowls. I have ZERO context for Georgia State/San Jose State in something called the Cure Bowl, Arkansas State/La Tech in the probably-fun-New Orleans Bowl, or the others that have transpired.
BUT IN CASE YOU MISSED THEM:
- New Mexico Bowl: Arizona 45, New Mexico 37
- RAYCOM MEDIA (of the old ACC Network days) Camellia Bowl: App State 31, Ohio 29
- Las Vegas Bowl: Utah 35, BYU 28. Yes, a buncha Mormons played in Vegas. Yes, hilarity ensued as Utah went up 35-0 in the first quarter off FIVE BYU turnovers. And yes, BYU almost came back.
- CURE Bowl: San Jose St. 27, Georgia St. 16. Damnit, Panthers, who KILLED Georgia on aggregate versus Georgia Southern, the two schools’ common opponent.
- New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana Tech 47, Arkansas State 28. JEFF DRISKEL WON A BOWL GAME AND IS AGAIN CONSIDERED AN NFL PROSPECT.
- Miami Beach Bowl: Western Kentucky 45, South Florida 35. I watched most of this one, because I work from home and it was on at 2:30pm on a Monday. Georgia would be in the CFP with Brandon Doughty, the WKU QB. I think I’m serious.
So that’s the chaos that has ensued (and we’ve all largely missed) thus far. What about this week? I’ll take you to Christmas today and get back to you on the flip side:
- Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (on as I type): Akron vs. Utah State. Akron is up 7-0 in the first quarter, and Chuckie Keeton, who used to be the most fun random player to watch in college football, is kinda sad to watch at this point.
- Boca Raton Bowl (tonight at 7): Temple vs. Toledo. This bowl game is sponsored by Marmot, the jacket company whose website states that “to become a marmot you must climb a glaciated peak with another member of the marmot club.” And this game is played in Boca Raton, FL, where the closest you’re coming to a glaciated peak is a Scarface-style mountain of cocaine.
But seriously, this should be an okay game.
- Poinsettia Bowl (Wednesday, 4:30): Boise State vs. Northern Illinois. Two teams who, either due to injury or graduation, do not have a quarterback. The San Diego County Credit Union is now officially one of the longest-running bowl sponsors currently hosting, and they paid $400,000 for the privilege this year. I promise to write more consistently if y’all will help us sponsor a bowl game in 2016.
- GoDaddy Bowl (Wednesday, 8): Georgia Southern vs. Bowling Green. Two coachless teams. A first-time bowler versus the MAC Champ. The alma mater of many of our readers versus…a place in northern Kentucky. Bowl Season. The Drama. ESPN.
- Bahamas Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Western Michigan (Thursday, noon). I am embarrassed already about how much of this game I plan to watch. Why, you ask?
- This game is sponsored by Popeye’s and played in the Bahamas. Atlantis, no less.
- There could be 100 combined points.
- Its Christmas Eve (granted, noon on that day) but you’re already sick of family.
- Hawai’i Bowl: San Diego State vs. Cincinnati (Thursday 8pm). Let’s call Christmas Eve “Destination Bowl Day.” This is your post-church slightly-drunk background television.
So, how was your Sunday?
We’ll get to the news of the day later on, but first let’s talk about the
big medium win over Tech. Despite the protestations of some on this here site, I stand by Hall and I’s assertion over the years that this is not a rivalry. Part of me realized this when toe met leather, and I realized I had watched exactly zero plays of this Jackets team all season. No matter what the #THWG crowd will tell you, this is the story of big brother reminding little brother of their place, 13 of the last 15 seasons. The Tech game is an annual pantsing that occasionally goes wrong. This year it went right, as it so often does.
– Frisky passing game? FRISKY PASSING GAME. Sure, these aren’t the numbers that forced UGA fans to lie to themselves about the ability under center after week 3, but the passing attack acquitted itself nicely Saturday. A great day out of Terry Godwin should give all of us hope about returning talent on the outside. Special shout out to Malcolm Mitchell, who continues to be a joy to watch catching and blocking. He’ll be a great value pick for someone looking for a solid WR on Sundays.
– Aggressive running attack? Check. Sony Michel and Keith Marshall looked confident, smart, and solid all day. With Sony cracking the 1000 yard barrier, he and returning Nick Chubb next year will be continuing the tradition of tailback U in Athens.
– Dominant defense? Mah gawd, you wouldn’t think we only won by 6 the way Pruitt’s boys played all day Saturday. They kept the Tech ‘quarterback’ under duress and running for his life, and stifled the vaunted
high school offense rushing attack all day.
– This was the perfect picture of an 80-20 offense; great for 80 yards, downright putrid in the red zone. Opportunities to score are usually few and far between, but the players put themselves in position to be successful, and I think everyone – coaches, players, water boys – caught a slight case of the lemon booty when it came time to score points.
– Speaking of lemon booty, Marshall Morgan, what happened man? Ever since the boating…incident last year, Mr. Automatic has turned into Mr. Maybe. Make no mistake, I’m going to miss watching him line up to boot them through the uprights. But I will not miss the last two years of misses.
– There’s quitting on a coach and then there’s whatever is happening at Tech. I haven’t watched them all year, but all I’ve heard from my Tech fan friends and my Tech football alumni friends, getting rid of PJ is the number one concern for Tech faithful going forward. Not a good scene.
There’s much already written, and much to be written, about the recent vacancy at the head job at UGA. I’ll say this before adding much more than my 2 cents tomorrow:
I tell you what if UGA went 3-9 they’d fire the governor. #LOLTech
— DPalm (@dpalm66) November 28, 2015
twice (THRICE!) in a row makes it a tradition right? Well, allow me to indulge myself with my annual tip of the cap to the Columbia Football Class of 2007. We got the chance to end our careers at home with a win, and the next week, we all hung up the pads after beating Brown on a last second field goal. I know that no one else cares, but as long as Andrew (Chad now, I guess) lets me write for this site, I’m gonna care loudly at least once a year.
Go Dawgs, and Roar Lion Roar.
Love this? Hate it? Think I’m an idiot? Don’t just curse at me under your breath, head to the Dude You Podcast iTunes page, and leave a 5-star review to make sure I know it, and have your voice heard on the air. Follow me at @dpalm66.
I’ve reached a point in life over the past couple of years where the drive to North Carolina for Thanksgiving has severely inhibited my ability to do the best things done in unison: drink bourbon and watch football.
Leave on Friday? Immediately tick off the family, who feels more time together is warranted. Get stuck in Black Friday chaos traffic in both Charlotte and the Commerce outlets.
Leave on Saturday? Miss out on some great football. Especially with relevant Michigan/Ohio State, scary Georgia/Tech, and a full Rivalry Week slate. Current plan is a 6:30am departure on Saturday.
Leave on Thursday? Out of the question.
Leave on Sunday? Just too damn late. Familial judgment for nonstop guttural yells at the TV for 11 hours on Saturday.
For the rest of you single people who live more than three hours away from your favorite viewing spot, how do you pull it off? Inquiring minds need to know.
The NFL Games Are Over, And Usually Boring Anyway: THURSDAY RUCKUS
Texas Tech at Texas, 7:30, FS1: It’s not Texas/A&M, but the storylines are still fun. Can Texas score enough points to keep up with Tech? Hell naw. Is Charlie Strong going to bolt for Miami? He certainly should. Is this game timed perfectly if you, like me, do the Thanksgiving late lunch? Damn straight.
Friday: Like Saturday, but with Saturday Still to Come
Send the ladies to the mall. There’s more than enough entertainment available. I have to subset a Friday now.
#16 Navy at #19 Houston, ABC: Likely determines which New Years’ Six bowl you don’t watch because of the mid-major involved. Keenan Reynolds is a wizard at the triple option (like, Tech wins 4 more games with him wizard) and Tom Herman is (insert one of 13 vacant FBS jobs here’s) next coach. In two weeks if they lose.
Miami at Pitt, ESPN2: The weirdest ‘Rivalry Week’ rivalry of them all, Pitt is pretty good. All three of their losses are to teams currently ranked in the (AP) top 11. And Miami is probably a loss to Cincinnati away from itself being ranked. GOOD, WEIRD, ACC FOOTBALL! CURING YOUR HANGOVERS SINCE…idk. Today?
Mizzou at Arkansas, CBS, 2:30: Remember last year, when we had a significant rooting interest in an emerging Arkansas team, who was coming off of consecutive shutouts of Ole Miss and LSU? I miss those days. I’d rather have Mizzou play SEC East Patsy in Atlanta than damn Florida. *sigh*
#5 Iowa at Nebraska, ABC, 3:30: Go Huskers. I may watch B1G football on purpose. Dream scenario: Nebraska wins, Iowa beats Michigan State in the B1G championship, we are spared that conference in the Playoff.
#10 Baylor at #18 TCU, ESPN, 7:30: This is just a damn treat. Both teams may be without their starting (in Baylor’s case, second string as well) QB’s, but both will still hang at least 35 points. SEC fan or not, you don’t appreciate football if you don’t watch this.
P.S.: There are other games of note, but most involve eliminated Pac-12 teams. If you stick to the above, you’ll not be cast off by your family.
Saturday, Where I May Attempt to Leave NC at 6AM
Jon Gruden has nothing on my footballgasm for this day. LEGGO
Obviously, there’s Georgia at Georgia Tech, ESPN2. I want to cut that off after Georgia goes up 35-0 on 4 Tech fumbles in the first 8 minutes of action.
#3 (YES THESE ARE LAST WEEK’S CFP RANKINGS) Ohio State at #12 Michigan (ABC): I mean…Harbaugh vs. Meyer has a TON of appeal. OSU’s offense, which should be patently unstoppable, against Michigan’s defense, which has not dominated like it did early on…this is just going to be an incredible game. Get a two TV setup like the one I plan to walk into just after noon on Saturday.
#1 Clemson at South Carolina, ESPN: Clemson’s last chance to Clemson before they Clemson against UNC.
Virginia Tech at Virginia, ESPNU: Perfect world for UNC fan: UVA wins to preserve Mike London’s job, and in so doing keeps Tech out of a bowl for the first time since like, the 80’s.
Louisville at Kentucky, SECN: Getting the ACC/SEC challenge out of the way early, huh? Kentucky can still meet my ‘they’ll make a bowl’ prediction with a win. Or Bobby Petrino is in attendance, which is fun anyway.
3:30, Also Loaded:
Iron Bowl, CBS: Go Tigers. I said it.
#17 UNC at N.C. State, ABC/ESPN2: Shit, we’re going to crap the bed. (Remembers State’s 7 wins are against the following: Troy, Eastern Kentucky, Old Dominion, South Alabama, Wake Forest, Boston College, Syracuse.) Nope, still not comfortable.
Penn State at #9 Michigan State, ESPN: I don’t know if Christian Hackenburg is good. I tried to watch some of their game against Michigan, and I saw him get sacked twice, throw 4-yard outs on 3rd and 8, and the offense punt from the Michigan 34. James Franklin brought 2015 Vanderbilt offense to 2015 Penn State, and the fact that he coaches two mediocre teams is amazing.
UCLA at #24 USC, ABC/ESPN2: Literally cannot NOT be fun. Jim Mora is going for his fourth straight different USC head coach’s scalp, which is amazing on so many levels.
The Night Slate: On One Hand, Year’s Best Combination. On The Other, Hell on Your ‘Prev CH’ Button:
The three highlights are simple: Bedlam (ABC, 8) pits #7 Oklahoma and #6 Oklahoma State. ESPN gets #14 Florida State at #8 Florida (ESPN, 7:30). Oh, and #4 Notre Dame at #11 Stanford is on FOX at 8 just to sufficiently blow our collective minds with overrated football.
But the undercard may be more intriguing.
Les Miles 200% deserves to keep his job. His record over the last five years trumps Saban’s last five at LSU. He would be a saint even in Athens. Yet, he’s coaching for his job as Texas A&M visits #15 LSU (7:30, SECN). Unreal.
Additionally, there’s the small matter of the Egg Bowl, which I’ve counted on for hilarity for my whole adult life. 7:15, ESPN2, Mississippi State at (randomly) #22 Ole Miss. Thank me later.