Friday, September 4, 2009

Free Kicks: First-of-the-season College Football Edition

Wow, Falco has been on one hell of a tear lately, posting Monday-Thursday and giving Windsor and I some huge relief. After all, this weekend is huge for Terps fans as the Maryland football team travels to #12 California in a game in which Cal will be far more focused than they were last season- not to mention a much improved team in general. Cal tends to be over-ranked at the beginning of the season over the past few years, but this team certainly has it in them to be a power in the PAC 10. In honor of the Terps’ uncertain kicking situation, let’s line up for the kick…

Is Boise State for real?
Their defense is, and that might be the most important thing. Oregon has one hell of an offensive scheme, and it didn’t look to miss a beat when Offensive Coordinator Chip Kelly was promoted to Head Coach in the offseason. But last night Boise State held the vaunted Ducks attack without a single first down in the first half. Boise State is not normally known for its defense; with the entire WAC and Mountain West getting a reputation for AFL-style shootouts, but if the Broncos can maintain a defensive presence it will not only win games- their offense will do that- but it will gain the attention of voters who tend to respect a hard-nosed defense more than a high-flying spread offense. As for Oregon, their sluggish performance may be indicative of the inexperience and possible lack of direction from Chip Kelly (thought it is too early to say for sure), or maybe just first-game jitters and the distraction of the blue turf. Regardless, they will have to massively improve if they are going to be competitive in a very talented PAC 10.

Is South Carolina-NC State representative of the SEC-ACC?
It just might be. Remember, NC State and South Carolina, much to Steve Spurrier’s chagrin, are comparable programs right now in their respective conferences, and while NC State lost by a very narrow 7-3 margin, Falco may have seen something more. He wrote to me, saying:

“During the (horrible) South Carolina vs. NC State game, the announcers said the SC players, notably representing the SEC, looked a lot more like football players. But even with that, it was not the reason NC State lost, it was because the Wolfpack had very little focus and could not complete basic plays, highlighted by the missed catch by Jay Smith in the end zone. If the ACC ever wants to compete with the SEC in football, they can, but it is their focus that is lacking.”

This is also an NC State team that was expected to make a leap with their talented young quarterback Russell Wilson, who looked every bit young but lacked the other quality last night. However, I am not sure I subscribe to Falco’s argument. South Carolina has come out of the gate extremely hot the last 2 or 3 seasons only to take a nosedive at the end of the season. NC State is still one of the worst teams in the ACC, and one good or bad offensive showing isn’t going to change that much. The SEC is leaps ahead of the ACC in football, as only the Big East (in my opinion) has a less imposing lineup. I will give the ACC a tie with the Big Ten as while the ACC is better top to bottom, the Big Ten has two major contenders in Ohio State and Penn State whereas the ACC has at best a large collection of 8-4 squads.

Best game this weekend?

Oklahoma State vs. Georgia will be a great game, but with Knowshon Moreno and Matthew Stafford gone you won’t really know how good Georgia is until the second half of the season. Nevada-Notre Dame will also be really interesting with the pistol offense going up against Tenuta’s revamped defense (though mostly because of the sick pleasure I would get seeing Nevada pull the upset). The same can be said of Navy taking on Ohio State in Columbus; I love seeing the triple option no matter who is running it. However, give me BYU-Oklahoma this weekend. If only because BYU could be the best non-BCS team in the country, and both of these teams will be gunning for a BCS berth regardless of the outcome of this game (though it gets much harder for BYU if they lose than it would for Oklahoma). With the Sooners down their best pass-catcher in tight end Jermaine Gresham due to injury, this game just got a lot more competitive. Who wins? Oklahoma, but my heart will be pulling for the mid-major as always.

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