THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT:
THE FIVE BIGGEST STORYLINES OF THE 2010 SEASON
Feel free to disagree but this is how we rank 'em as the Top Five (5) Storylines for this 2010 College Football Season:
#1 -- WHAT ELSE, WILL ALABAMA REPEAT AS NATIONAL CHAMPS?
Count us among the folks that don't see this happening and not because the schedule is overbearing. The 'Bama Crimson Tide does play road games at Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU and any/all could be major headaches for Nick Saban's club but the Tuscaloosa team also could win all of these away tilts.
It's that SEC Championship Game -- of course, providing Alabama gets there for a third consecutive season -- that will be a problem as it would likely be a showdown with Florida and from the looks of it the Gators have more team speed from top to bottom and that will be key on the artificial turf inside the Georgia Dome.
#2 -- WILL BOISE STATE OR TCU MAKE IT TO THE BCS TITLE GAME?
Sorry to be so negative but the answer again is no!
Okay, so Boise State is #3 in the season-opening Associated Press Top 25 poll and TCU is #6 and so neither has a real long climb up the charts this season but there are some clubs in the WAC 'gaining'on the Broncos plus that opener against Virginia Tech will be a major test for Chris Petersen's squad.
TCU, meanwhile, did lose a couple of key defensive stars including DE Jerry Hughes and LB Daryl Washington and somewhere along the line those leaders will be missed -- plus the Horned Frogs still have a ways to go on offense as evidenced by last year's 17-10 loss to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.
#3 -- WHAT COACH WILL HAVE A MORE POSITIVE FIRST-YEAR EFFECT ON HIS TEAM: NOTRE DAME'S BRIAN KELLY OR USC'S LANE KIFFIN:
Okay, so that one's easy!
There are no reasons for the ND Fighting Irish to order up national championship rings this year but Kelly will get the South Bend guys pointed in the right direction and we're looking at a 9-win regular season and a New Year's Day bowl bid to boot.
USC, on the other hand, still has plenty of leftover talent from the Pete Carroll Era but Kiffin's bristling style will wear thin on both his players and his opponents -- remember that Kiffin is not averse to taking verbal shots at the teams his club is playing -- and so this Pac-10 crew will fall short of their goals in spite of a favorable schedule.
#4 -- WHAT SLEEPER TEAM WILL MAKE A RUN AT AN UNDEFEATED SEASON?
How about Fresno State?
Okay, so it's been a few years since the Bulldogs were a giant-killer but potential wins at Ole Miss and Boise State could catapult Pat Hill's club to some lofty heights even though most of the 'experts'believe they're no better than a Top 50 team
If Fresno State kayos Cincinnati right out of the starting gate, watch out!
#5 -- WHO WINS THE 2010 HEISMAN TROPHY?
Last year's winner -- Alabama RB Mark Ingram -- is the favorite to snag the hardware for a second consecutive season and thus join the legendary Archie Griffin of the 1970s Ohio State teams but our money's on Buckeyes' QB Terrelle Pryor who proved in last year's Rose Bowl win against Oregon that he's 'arrived'and so we see Pryor nudging out Ingram and Pittsburgh RB Dion Lewis for the coveted trophy.
NFL PRESEASON WEEK #3
NEWS & NOTES
First things first:
NFL Betting Favorites registered their first winning weekend this Preseason with a 9-7 ATS (against the spread) log and so -- while entering the final batch of Preseason games (all of which will be played on Thursday night) -- note that Preseason Betting Favs are 24-25-0 for .490 winning rate.
One betting favorite that didn't cash this past weekend was the Pittsburgh Steelers -- a 34-17 loser on Sunday Night against the 2 1/2-point underdog Denver Broncos -- and this turned out to be a real half-full versus half-empty game when it came to quarterback play.
The Steelers surely didn't find their solution to who would start this season while Ben Roethlisberger sits out his season-opening 4- or 6-game suspension as both Dennis Dixon (9-of-16 passing for 94 yards but two INTs) and Byron Leftwich (0-for-4) had 'thumbs-down'performances. Okay, so Dixon -- who also was sacked twice -- did show great athleticism with that snazzy 26-yard run in the early stages of the third quarter but his decision-making was awful and he didn't show enough touch on some passes.
Heck, it was ancient QB Charlie Batch (3-of-4 passing for 44 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT-for-a-TD) who looked better than both of 'em until he threw that game-sealing 'pick six'nabbed by Denver DB Syd'Quan Thompson with 3:59 remaining in the game.
Ask us and we believe Dixon took a big step back and now likely will back up Leftwich in Pittsburgh's first few regular-season games.
On the flip side, the media folks -- and here we mean Fox's tandem of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman -- and the whole ESPN studio crew continues to anoint Broncos' rookie QB Tim Tebow as the here-and-now savior -- okay, so Tebow stood in there against a couple of hard hits while completing 5-of-10 passes for 72 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT but he was hardly picture-perfect despite the jaundiced view by the men in the booth.
Tebow's dart-like three-yard scoring strike to fellow rookie Eric Decker gave the folks at Invesco Field a reason to party but the bigger news on the night is that backup Brady Quinn looked terrible (again!) with one completion for two yards and starter Kyle Orton (9-of-14 passing for 80 yards with one INT) was foolish enough to attempt a tackle after his pick and almost was driven into the turf by interceptor LB James Harrison.
If Orton shows similar recklessness at the start of the regular season, than Tebow will be an NFL starter -- and well before his time!
In other NFL Preseason Week #3 News & Notes ...
The numbers don't lie, folks, and they say that the first-string Cowboys offense has scored one touchdown in four Preseason games -- and that came on a possession in San Diego that started on the Chargers' 8-yard line!
The latest Dallas meltdown on offense happened in last Saturday's never-in-doubt 23-7 loss at Houston. Not only did 'Boys QB Tony Romo lose a fumble and throw an interception but he was sacked two more times -- and the NFC East team's O-line remains a major problem area less than two weeks before the start of the regular season. The looks of exasperation on the face of Dallas head coach Wade Phillips was priceless stuff and note it's not only the blocking wall that's crumbling as mix-ups between Romo and his running backs (see botched lateral to RB Felix Jones) and his wide receivers (even WR Miles Austin and Romo were not always on the 'same page') have marked some real shoddy play.
Note that the Cowboys have scored 16, 9, 16 and 7 points in their four Preseason games this month -- now that's no way to get to Super Bowl XLV in your own backyard! ...
There's also been considerable problems on offense for the aforementioned Jets and Giants -- with the Hard Knocks crew registering just one offensive touchdown in last Friday's dull 16-11 win by the Washington Redskins at the New Meadowlands Stadium. It was a 10-yard pass between QB Mark Sanchez-to-TE Dustin Keller midway through the final quarter that finally put a smile on head coach Rex Ryan's face but the O-line (remember that guard Alan Faneca is gone and playing these days in Arizona) remains out of synch and Sanchez still is telegraphing too many of his passes.
Yes, Exhibit A was that INT by 'Skins CB DeAngelo Hall that really had Ryan and his coaches steamed.
The NY Giants, meanwhile, were truly lifeless in last Saturday's 24-10 loss at 4-point favorite Baltimore. It didn't help matters that the Giants' offensive line was far from whole as C Shaun O'Hara missed the game with an ankle injury and underrated RT Kareem McKenzie was a game-day scratch because of headaches. In all, four of the Giants' five offensive linemen now have missed at least one game due to injuries/illness this Preseason and it sure didn't help matters that rusty QB Eli Manning (a pedestrian 9-of-18 passing for 63 yards with one pick) appeared tentative after missing recent practice time because of that 12-stich gash in his head suffered against the Jets back on August 16th ...
Finally, as stated earlier, both Kansas City and Chicago are without Preseason wins this summer and here's a major area of concern for both:
The Chiefs -- still -- are looking for a down-the-field game-breaker and it's becoming increasingly clear that one-time #1 round draftee WR Dwayne Bowe (7 catches for only 65 yards and one TD this summer) isn't the answer. Bowe did haul down a four-yard scoring strike from QB Matt Cassel in last Friday's 20-17 home loss against the Philadelphia Eagles -- but when it this dude gonna be a legit threat?
As far as the Bears go, QB Jay Cutler could be beaten to a pulp even before the season ever gets started -- Cutler was sacked four times in Chicago's 14-9 loss to Arizona last weekend after getting sacked five times the week before in a 32-17 setback against Oakland. No doubt there are issues along Chicago's offensive line -- really! -- as the Bears didn't run it too well either (see 64 yards on 18 carries for a 3.55 per-carry average) and so don't be at all surprised if the NFC North crew plays some starters in the final Preseason game this Thursday at Cleveland.
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