Top 25 Review

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EXTRA, EXTRA:
THE FOOTBALL SEASON IS HERE!!!
COWBOYS COP 16-7 WIN OVER THE BENGALS IN
SUNDAY NIGHT'S HALL OF FAME GAME IN CANTON ...
OUR COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT
EXAMINES THE USA TODAY PRESEASON
COACHES POLL TOP 25 POLL AS WE BLURT OUT
OUR QUICK-HITTER COMMENTS
BEGINNING WITH #1 ALABAMA

Let the record state that the National Football League 2010 Preseason began with an elongated 14-play, 63-yard play capped by a David Buehler field goal that started the scoring in the Dallas Cowboys' not-so-exciting 16-7 win against the 3-point favorite Cincinnati Bengals but the big question is will the 'Boys wind up the upcoming campaign playing 'at home' in Super Bowl XLV this February?

Let us be the last folks to remind you that the 'Boys could become the first-ever 'hosts' in Super Bowl history as no other home team ever has won it all while serving as Super Bowl hosts and so far, so good for the NFC East club that held the Bengals scoreless save for a meaningless touchdown pass from third-stringer QB Jordan Palmer who aired a 1-yard touchdown fling with 51 seconds remaining in a tilt better remembered for the fact that it was the first game after allowing a seven-member cast into the Canton Hall of Fame that included (among others) WR Jerry Rice and RM Emmitt Smith.

Maybe the best thing we all learned on Sunday night is that Bengals QB Carson Palmer will do everything in his power to get the ball into the hands of WR Terrell Owens who finished with just two catches worth 18 yards but was thrown to a handful of times on Cincy's first possession -- and how did you like that, Mr. Chad Ochocinco (no catches in his shiny gold shoes)?

The Cowboys let QB Tony Romo throw it 10 times (five completions) for 59 yards but there remains major questions as to who exactly is gonna be the left tackle here for Wade Phillips' crew as both Doug Free and Alex Barron looked rusty and neither elicited all that much confidence among Dallas coaches but the team's so-called three-headed running back monster played well led by RB Tashard Choice (7 carries for 41 yards) who could be a bigger-than-you-think factor this season.

When all was said and done on Sunday night, the Bengals showed that there was much to work on with this average offense that may or may not get a super season from the aforementioned Owens this year and may need RB Cedric Benson (2 carries for 7 yards) to be the bell-weather fort a team that last year won all six of its AFC North games and likely cannot expect to repeat this fact one year later.

Folks, we'll continue on with the NFL News & Notes segment in the next Jim Sez column but now let's get you this very important reminder:
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Jim absolutely crushed the books with last summer and he's ready and rarin' to win plenty of greenbacks in the days ahead -- nobody out there can possibly match Jim Hurley in handicapping land in the NFL Preseason and he' show his stuff all month long.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT:
THE USA TODAY COACHES' PRESEASON TOP 25

In case you missed it the other day, here's the 2010 USA Today Coaches' Preseason Top 25 -- and note that #1 Alabama snagged 55 of a possible 59 first-place votes with #2 Ohio State bagging the remaining first-place votes.
Now, let's toss in our two cents' worth here with the following quick-hitter comments ... enjoy!

  1. ALABAMA -- Now that boss-man Nick Saban has verbally bashed any/all player agents out there his next task is to pull an encore performance as last year's 14-and-oh Crimson Tide team was masterful with RB Mark Ingram back for a repeat shot at the Heisman Trophy. Circle that Sept. 11th home game against Penn State as that could be tricky!
  2. OHIO STATE -- The Buckeyes are blessed with a favorable schedule (see eight home games including four non-league creampuffs comin' to Columbus) and all indications point 2010 as a special season for junior QB Terrelle Pryor who sliced-and-diced Oregon's defense in last season's 26-17 Rose Bowl win. The $64,000 question is does the country have the stomach to watch another potential BCS Championship Game involving this Big 10 team? Stay tuned.
  3. FLORIDA -- Maybe the post-Tim Tebow Era won't be a major letdown as these '10 Gators have plenty of stars and potential road wins at Tennessee (Sept. 18) and Alabama (Oct. 2) could catapult Urban Meyer's crew into elite status as all eyes are centered on new slinger John Brantley who is quite capable of throwing 40-plus TDs this season ... you'll see!
  4. TEXAS -- Last year's national title runners-up might have won it all had QB Colt McCoy stayed in one piece in 37-21 loss to 'Bama and now bright lights really are on QB Garrett Gilbert who shined in the spring-time and must show he can scramble behind rebuilt O-line (gone are three fifth-year seniors).
  5. BOISE STATE -- Now that the Broncos have become a real brand name in college football, the trick will be wining all 13 regular-season games this year to finally get a BCS Championship Game crack and lefty QB Kellen Moore will ingratiate himself into the Heisman Trophy conversation with big stat games against Virginia Tech (Sept. 6) and Oregon State (Sept. 25). Note that B-State bring s back nine defensive starters from a unit that ranked 14th nationally in scoring (see 17.1 ppg).
  6. VIRGINIA TECH -- All hail the Hokies who would love to make a major opening-week statement with a win against aforementioned Boise State but can last year's top-ranked ACC defense that must replace eight starters hold up all year long?
  7. TCU -- If the Horned Frogs are gonna be a major factor in '10 then QB Andy Dalton (23 TDs and 8 INTs last year) must spread the wealth and this defense must be close to last year's unit that ranked #1 in total 'D' while allowing 239.7 yards a game. Not bad
  8. OKLAHOMA -- Normally, the Sooners are somewhere in the #1 or #2 area of the polls to start a season but this '10 team must make up for a gazillion player losses to the NFL and everyone 'round Norman wants to know if soph QB Landry Jones (26 TDs last year while subbing for 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford) is the real deal.
  9. NEBRASKA -- No NT Ndamukong Suh this time around but the mighty 'Huskers have improved their offense and kicker Alex Henery (50-of-57 field-goal makes) might just be a diff-maker in a few Big Red games this fall ... at least fiery head coach Bo Pelini hopes so!
  10. IOWA -- Just about everything went right for the '09 Hawkeyes before savvy QB Ricky Stanzi was hurt after that 9-0 start and you do have to wonder if Kirk Ferentz's guys get so many breaks this time around. P.S., 'Eyes are electric 18-4 in games Stanzi starts the past two seasons.
  11. OREGON -- The Ducks had to wave bye-bye to troubled QB Jeremiah Masoli but 17 starters on offense/defense means this Pac-10 team will be tough to beat and any chance at winning it all figures to hinge on the Sept. 11 tilt at Tennessee but Dec. 4 game at Oregon State might be the biggest regular-season game on this 2010 schedule.
  12. WISCONSIN -- Don't write off rugged RB John Clay as a potential Heisman Trophy winner this year as Badgers back (1,517 yards rushing and 18 TDs last season) could be the modern-day version of Ron Dayne whether you know it or not (google 'em, if you have to!).
  13. MIAMI -- Maybe the Hurricanes like challenges but early-season sked is a killer with back-to-back-to-back road games at Ohio State, Pittsburgh and Clemson (but spaced out between Sept. 11 and Oct. 2) and we'll know early whether QB Jacory Harris is a legit Heisman Trophy guy or not.
  14. PENN STATE -- Must admit that we didn't like how venerable head coach Joe Paterno looked in recent ESPN interviews but his Nittanies are loaded and O-line may be best in recent memory. Hey, maybe RB Evan Royster (a two-time 1,000-yard rusher) will deserve your Heisman Trophy vote before all the dust settles.
  15. PITTSBURGH -- No doubt that Panthers' RB Dion Lewis (1,799 yards rushing last year/third-best in the NCAA) should be high on your Heisman Trophy preseason ballot (yes, we know he's only a soph!) but it's sack-masters Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard (13 combined sacks) who could hold the key as to whether Pitt's playing a BCS bowl this January.
  16. LSU -- Something tell us the Bayou Bengals will have a say in this year's national title chase as long as QB Jordan Jefferson keeps his mistakes to a bare minimum and so that means he better avoid the all-too-costly sack (see 34 sacks lat year).
  17. GEORGIA TECH -- Don't forget that the Yellow Jackets hired long-time Virginia head coach Al Groh to lead the defense as now Techsters have fingers crossed that they can improve on shoddy 24.8 ppg yield average of a year ago.
  18. NORTH CAROLINA -- There's rumblings about probations/sanctions filtering 'round Chapel Hill these days but look for Butch Davis' gang to play stingy defense (see nine starters back) in the days ahead. The question is can/will the Heels win the close ones as they're 3-10 SU (straightup) under Davis in games decided by three points or less.
  19. ARKANSAS -- If giant QB Ryan Mallett (3,624 yards passing in 2009) is as good as advertised this year than the Hogs might flirt with national title dreams but can they win at both Georgia and Auburn? Gut feeling right now says no but Arkansas could be major sleeper in talent-packed SEC.
  20. FLORIDA STATE -- Life after Bobby Bowden begins for the 'Noles but we just want to know who to blame should Jimbo Fisher's club get off to a slow start (see early-season games at Oklahoma and home to BYU ... hmmm).
  21. GEORGIA -- The Bulldogs better clean up their act in terms of penalties and/or turnovers but it's hard not to like wide receiver A.J. Green who is quite capable of catching mucho passes in traffic.
  22. OREGON STATE -- Maybe tiny RB Jacquizz Rogers will be the most exciting player in the land but these Beavers won't make national title strides until someone takes control at quarterback.
  23. AUBURN -- It's easy to forget that last year's Tigers actually lost more SEC games than they won (see 3-5 record) but New Year's Day OT win against Northwestern had everyone feelin' good in this part of town and now Gene Chidziik's club plays its toughest games away (see at Ole Miss and at Alabama late in the year).
  24. (tie). UTAH -- Now that the Utes are coming off yet another double-digit win season the real question is whether Kyle Whittingham's club can win big with a defense that brings back just three starters. Don't look now but Utah hosts Pittsburgh, TCU and BYU and that sure helps things.
  25. (tie) WEST VIRGINIA -- Everyone will be eyeballing thrill-a-minute RB Noel Devine (he averages 6.5 yards a rush in his college career) but Mountaineers must be able to throw the ball in close games and there is more than a little doubt with inexperienced gunslingers.

NOTE: Catch our Jim Sez Mid-Week Report next with NFL Preseason Week 1 Thursday/Friday Previews plus more MLB News & Notes too.

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