Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Big Ten Coaches Meet in Chicago

College Football is just around the corner... The Big Ten Football Coaches are meeting in Chicago this week to kickoff the beginning of the 2007 Big Ten Football Season.

The coaches have announced that Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State are the front runners entering this season. RB Mike Hart of Michigan and LB James Laurinaitis of Ohio State are the Preseason Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively.

As a Big Ten fan, dating back to 1974, I think this season will be one of excitement and surprise, but overall, it will be tough for any one Big Ten team to rise to the top of the BCS race in '07.

USC clearly looks to be the best team entering '07 nationally. In the Big Ten, the front runners have been announced, but I wouldn't be surprised to see some upsets and disappointments on the horizon.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

NBA - Golden State and GM Chris Mullin provide a 2nd Chance

Former Iowa guard Pierre Pierce, despite 2 highly publicized legal run-ins, including time in prison in Iowa, is getting an opportunity to pursue his dream of an NBA career.

ESPN True Hoop's July 10 article on Pierre Pierce.

There is no question the former 6-4 guard for the University Iowa has some skills. But, will the character questions hold him back in his quest for the NBA?


Sunday, July 8, 2007

College Football '07 - The Division I-A Independents

3 remain today as Independents in all of College Football in Division I-A. Notre Dame is the #1 independent, along with Navy and Army.

I thought it would be interesting to see what the skyline was like 25 years ago. Pulling information from my 1982 issue of Street and Smith Official Yearbook for College.

Opening to page 114, coverage of the Atlantic Coast. There were seven ACC teams in 1982. Georgia Tech was not eligible for the championship in 1982 and would make 8 ACC teams.

The Independents in the Atlantic Coast region were 9 teams, not all Division I-A teams today:
  1. Virginia Tech
  2. South Carolina
  3. East Carolina
  4. William & Mary
  5. Richmond
  6. James Madison
  7. Wofford
  8. Guilford
  9. Towson State

In the West (page 26), I will not mention any of the 7 teams, since they are all Division I-AA type teams. By the way, there were 10 teams in the Pac Ten in 1982.

Turning next to the Midwest on page 67. There are three independents in the Midwest:

  1. Notre Dame
  2. Cincinnati
  3. Dayton

By the way, the talk in the Big Ten was the ending of the "Ohio State-Michigan monopoly" in the Big Ten. During the 1981 season, Iowa finished first with Ohio State and won the trip to Pasadena and the 1982 Rose Bowl. Illinois was projected as the next team to watch.

Now, on to the Deep South on page 92. The SEC had 10 teams back in 1982. The Independents in the Deep South in 1982 were:

  1. Miami-FL
  2. Florida State
  3. Tulane
  4. Southern Mississippi
  5. Louisville
  6. Memphis State
  7. Tennessee State

Turning to the Big Eight on page 133, there were no mention of any Independents in this region, but the Missouri Valley Conference still existed with 8 teams: Wichita State, Tulsa, Indiana State, Drake, Southern Illinois, West Texas State, New Mexico State and Illinois State. fwiw

Moving to the East Section on page 148. A haven for Independents in 1982:

  1. Pittsburgh
  2. Penn State
  3. West Virginia
  4. Syracuse
  5. Boston College
  6. Navy
  7. Rutgers
  8. Temple
  9. Army
  10. Colgate
  11. Holy Cross

Finally, the Rockies and again, no Independents. The Western Athletic Conference and Big Sky Conference were highlighted. BYU and Boise State, respectively, were picked as the top teams in each conference. Not much different than last year's MWC and WAC, respectively, for BYU and Boise State.

If you are keeping score:

1982 : 30 schools mentioned

Today: 3 schools, who were also Independents back in 1982

This season's top Independent schools:

  1. Notre Dame
  2. Navy
  3. Army


Who are the Top 25 teams in College Football: a look back at the final '06 Top 25

Some people say preseason polls are not right for College Football. We should wait for the season to unfold a bit, until we put up a Top 25 list (ie: BCS ratings, for example). Of course, polls are everything that is America it seems these days. We have a poll for everything, so why not a preseason College Football poll?

Why isn't Florida still #1, they haven't been beat by anyone yet? A look at last year's best entering the 2007 season. All the love is for USC, despite the fact no one has beat the Gators yet.

  1. Florida (13-1) - The defending national champs, in football and basketball, no less. Twice in basketball, but it's too early to talk about that sport. The Gators were tied with Auburn as the #6 team entering last season. Ironically, the only loss was at Auburn last year, 17-27. Urban Meyer must rebuild a defense that lost 9 starters, unvail a new PK and Punter, and reload an offense under new QB Tim Tebow and 4 other newcomers to the starting lineup. A Top 10 finish is certainly a possibility, if they can rebuild a defense quick enough.
  2. Ohio State (12-1) - The magazines liked Notre Dame entering '06, but the Polls liked the Buckeyes. Unlike the magazines pick of Notre Dame, the polls saw the Buckeyes at the top all the way to the BCS Championship Game. However, the Buckeyes have never beat a SEC opponent in a Bowl game of any kind. The BCS Championship Game vs. Florida was no different, with the Buckeyes getting dismantled by the Gators, 14-41. The last time OSU had to replace there #1 and #2 QB was in '04, when only 5 offensive and 4 defensive starters returned. This year the offense only returns 5 again, but the defense returns 6, and the PK and P also return. It will be a tough road in the Big Ten for the Buckeyes in '07, but not likely a road like '04, when the Buckeyes were .500 in the Big Ten and 8-4 overall.
  3. LSU (11-2) - Entered '06 projected as the 9th best team by the national magazines. Tough losses at Auburn and at #1 Florida were on the Tigers' resume in '06. A 41-14 win over Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl hopefully can spark the 6 offensive, 8 defensive and returning PK in '07. Coach Les Miles hopes QB Matt Flynn can replace JaMarcus Russell the way Tee Martin replaced Peyton Manning in 1998 for the Tennessee Vols. If so, the Tigers could be the next team to rise to the top and win the BCS Championship Trophy.
  4. USC (11-2) - Not so fast, LSU and SEC fans, the Pac Ten's elite team wants that Trophy back in Southern California, after a couple of years without it. The Trojans were picked by the magazines at #5 last year. Clearly Pete Carroll's Trojans are the front runners in '07 with 6 starters on offense, including QB John David Booty, 10 on defense and their punter returning. The Trojans need to overcome setbacks, like losses at Oregon State and at UCLA, last year. The 32-18 Rose Bowl win over Michigan may provide some solid momentium entering '07. Some project this to be Carroll's best defensive team?
  5. Boise State (13-0) - The Broncos were the only undefeated team in college football last fall, under first year Coach Chris Petersen, no less. Not bad for a program picked outside the Top 25 entering the season. The 43-42 OT win over Oklahoma was clearly a great example of why non-BCS conference team deserves a spot in the BCS Bowl, like last year's Fiesta Bowl. Petersen only returns 5 offensive and 6 defensive starters for the Broncos this season. Finishing #1 in the WAC in '07 may be a challange this go around.
  6. Louisville (12-1) - A loss at Rutgers cost the Cardinals dearly last year as the top team in the Big East went on to the Orange Bowl to defeat the top team in the ACC, Wake Forest, 24-13. The Cardinals were picked by the magazines as the #2 team and #11 overall, so despite the one disappointment, a solid season. QB Brian Brohm returns along with 7 other offensive starters, 6 defensive starters, their PK and Punter. The most interesting newcomer will be new head coach Steve Kragthorpe, from the University of Tulsa. The road includes back to back visits to West Virginia and South Florida in November and a final home game vs. Rutgers.
  7. Wisconsin (11-1) - First year Bret Bielema did everything he was asked. However, the home opener at Michigan was a 13-27 loss for a Badger team picked #7 in the Big Ten by the magazines entering '06. The Badgers closed '06 with a Capital One Bowl win over Arkansas, 17-14. High expectations may be in order, but the Badgers didn't face Ohio State or Michigan State in '06. They will be on the schedule this year, with Northwestern and Purdue, now absent. Nine starters on offense, 7 on defense and both kickers return, but will the losses of QB, top OL, both safeties and #1 tackler slow momentium for the Badgers as they look for their first BCS bowl this decade?
  8. Michigan (11-2) - Coach Lloyd Carr won a share of the MNC for the Wolverines in '97 (tied w/ Nebraska). So, ten years have now past and while the Wolverines win games... winning the biggest games have been difficult. After being picked #14 by the magazines last year, the Wolverines were 11-0 entering their showdown with Ohio State in Columbus. Now, the Wolverines enter '07 on a two game losing streak, with back to back losses at OSU and vs. USC in the Rose. Carr returns 6 on offense, including top QB, RB and WR, 4 on defense, and punter. But, can Carr avoid losing 4 in a row to OSU's Coach Jim Tressel in Ann Arbor this fall? Michigan has lost 4 straight bowl games, as well. '07 could be a special year, but it also could return some nay sayers.
  9. Auburn (11-2) - Coach Tommy Tuberville knows how to win some big games in the SEC, such as games with Florida and LSU at home. The Tigers beat Nebraska 17-14 in the Cotton Bowl, but losses at home, vs. Arkansas and Georgia seperated them from the very best. Now, Tuberville's 5 returning starters on offense, 7 on defense and all other newcomers will have to hit the road for those 4 tough SEC opponents. QB Brandon Cox leads the Tigers as they open with the Big 12's Kansas State Wildcats in '07.
  10. West Virginia (11-2) - Rich Rodriguez's Mountaineers were picked #4 by the magazines and considered the best team in the Big East entering '06. Losses at Louisville and vs. South Florida bumped them off the top perch in the Big East. Revenge from '06 and the Gator Bowl win over Georgia Tech 38-35 will hopefully fuel a team built around 7 returning starters, including QB Pat White and RB Steve Slaton, on offense, 8 on defense and the return of both kickers.
  11. Oklahoma (11-3) - The Sooners were picked as the Top Big 12 team by the magazines, despite only being picked #8 nationally entering last year. Last year was a rocky season with 2 offensive players dismissed at the beginning of fall camp, a loss controversal loss at Oregon, a loss to #1 rival Texas and the upset loss in the Fiesta Bowl to Boise State. Coach Bob Stoops returns 8 offensive, 7 defenseive and both kickers from a team that still has some holes to overcome, but a fresh start should aid the effort. Health helped OU win in 2000. A young QB, RB and DT are expected to help in '07.
  12. Rutgers (11-2) - Coach Greg Schiano's 6th season at Rutgers was extremely special for a program that had never won a bowl game before. Picked 4th by the magazines in the Big East, the Scarlet Knights won nine straight before their first loss, 11-30 at Cincinnati. An OT loss at West Virginia closed out their regular season, but a 37-10 win in the Texas Bowl over Kansas State capped the Scarlet Knights best season ever. Schiano returns QB Mike Teel and 6 other starters on offense, 6 starters on defense and their PK. Rutgers will help continue to raise the bar for the Big East, who were well respected last year.
  13. Texas (10-3) - Despite the loss of QB Vince Young entering '06, the magazines had Texas at #3 nationally, though not necessarily #1 in the Big 12. QB Colt McCoy is going to be an outstanding player, if he remains healthy. The 7-24 home loss to Ohio State wasn't a surprise, but back to back losses at K-State and vs. A&M are grounds for some concern. Of course, a healthy McCoy at QB remains a key and Texas is coming off a 26-24 win in the Alamo Bowl, where McCoy showed to be in good form. In '05, Ohio State took the momentium of an Alamo Bowl into the next season and a BCS Bowl Bid. Can Texas repeat it fueled by 7 returning starters on offense, 6 on defense and the return of their PK?
  14. California (10-3) - The magazines just missed on the Golden Bears after picking them #13 in '06. The Golden Bears finished strong in '06 with a very solid 45-10 win over Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl, after losses at Tennessee 18-35 (season opener), at Arizona 20-24 and at USC 9-23. QB Nate Longshore and 7 other starters return on offense, as do both kickers and 5 on defense. Cal hosts Tennessee to kick off '07 along with 9 Pac Ten match ups, with only 4 at home for Coach Jeff Tedford's Golden Bears.
  15. Arkansas (10-4) - The Razorbacks were unranked by most magazines entering '06. The blow out loss at home 14-50 to USC didn't warm many, but the Razorbacks climbed the ladder fueled by OT win over Alabama and upset win at Auburn. Three straight losses to LSU, Florida and to Wisconsin in Capital One Bowl may point to concern, since the Razorbacks entered '06 coming off a 5-6 and 4-7 season in '04 and '05, respectively. QB Casey Dick, RB Darren McFadden return with 4 others on offense, with 6 also returing on defense.
  16. BYU (11-2) -The Cougars entered '06 unranked and considered the #3 team in the MWC by most magazines. After a season opening loss at Arizona 13-16 and a 2OT loss at BC 23-30, the BYU Cougars ran the table at 8-0 in the MWC capping off the season with a 38-8 win in the Las Vegas Bowl over Oregon. Coach Bronco Mendenhall will have open '07 with a new QB surround by 6 returning starters on offense and 7 on defense. BYU hosts Arizona in opener on September 1st.
  17. Notre Dame (10-3) - Why many of the magazines had Notre Dame #1 in the preseason still amazes me, as I reflect on '06. Coach Charlie Weis is respected for his work in the NFL under New England's Bill Belichick, but it can be a tough road coaching at your alma mater. Coach Weis will have to replace #1 QB Brady Quinn along with a host of others. Four starters return on offense, 5 on defense, along with the #1 punter. The LSU loss in the Sugar 14-41 was the seventh bowl loss in row, dating back to January 1995 for the Fighting Irish. Michigan and USC were the Irish's other two losses. Best quality win was vs. Penn State 41-17. It should be interesting to see BC return to South Bend on October 13th, after being off the schedule the past 2 seasons.
  18. Wake Forest (11-3) - Most preseason magazines had Wake picked dead last in the Atlantic Division of the ACC entering '06. Coming off a three straight losing season and back to back 4-7 records, Wake Forest won the ACC title, despite losses to Clemson and Virginia Tech at home. While they lost the Orange Bowl game to Louisville, hats off to Coach Jim Grobe with a freshman QB under center. QB Riley Skinnner and 8 others return on offense, while 5 on defense and dual kicker return. The ACC could be stronger in '07.
  19. Virginia Tech (10-3) - The Hokies entered '06 at about #17 according to the magazines. Back to back losses to Coastal Division Champ Georgia Tech and at BC in the ACC cost the Hokies in the regular season. The Hokies were knocked off by Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl 24-31 to close the season. But, the campus shooting this spring was clearly the biggest setback for the Hokie Nation and this country. Coach Frank Beamer and his Hokies will work to rebound qith QB Sean Glennon and 7 other starters returning on offense, whil 8 return on defense. Hokies first road test comes in week 2 at LSU.
  20. Boston College (10-3) - Many magazines expected a bigger slip by BC in '06 having the Eagles unranked. BC benefited from 2 early OT wins over Clemson and BYU. The 3 losses came in the ACC at NC State, at Wake and at Miami. Coach Tom O'Brien closed out his final game for BC with a win in the Meineke Car Care Bowl 25-24 over Navy. New Coach Jeff Jagodzinski returns QB Matt Ryan and 6 others starters on offense, with 9 returning on defense along with #1 punter. Strangely, BC opens with 3 straight ACC games right off, including 2nd week vs. former coach Tom O'Brien and NC State.
  21. Oregon State (10-4) - Most magazines had the Beavers unranked entering '06, after a 5-6 record in '05. The Beavers lost 3 of their games in the first half of the regular season at Boise State, vs. California and Washington State. The Beavers went 7-1 the rest of the way, falling at UCLA 7-25, but including a 39-38 win over Missouir in the Sun Bowl. Coach Mike Riley must replace his #1 QB, but 8 starters do return on offense, along with 8 on defense and both kickers. 5 of 9 Pac Ten games are on the road.
  22. TCU (11-2) - The magazines had TCU at #24 and the top team in the MWC entering '06. However, losses to BYU and at Utah to open the MWC were the Horned Frogs only set backs. The Horned Frogs took out their frustrations on Northern Illinois 37-7 in the Poinsettia Bowl. While Coach Gary Patterson will have a new #1 QB, 5 starters do return on offense, along with 9 on defense and the #1 PK. Games with Baylor and at Texas should make for an interesting start for the Horned Frogs fans.
  23. Georgia (9-4) - The magazines had the Bulldogs around #16 entering '06, so finishing 4-4 isn't what they had in mine. A win in the Chick-fil-A Bowl over Virginia Tech 31-24 took away a little sting, but losses to Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Florida in back to back weeks, with 3 at home isn't what Coach Mark Richt and the Bulldog fans expect. QB Matthew Stafford after going 6-2 as a frosh starter last year. He will have 6 other offensive starters, 4 on defense and his PK returning for '07. Georgia kicks off '07 hosting the Big 12's Oklahoma State in Athens.
  24. Penn State (9-4) - Most of the magazines had Penn State, coming off a Big Ten title, at #18 nationally and #4 in the Big Ten. Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions closed out the campaign with a sound 20-10 win over Tennesseee in the Outback Bowl. Losses came at Notre Dame, at Ohio State, vs. Michigan and at Wisconsin. The schedule drops Northwestern and Minnesota in the Big Ten, by adding Indiana and Iowa back on. Joe Pa returns QB Anthony Morelli and 7 other offensive starters, 6 on defense and their PK.
  25. Tennessee (9-4) - Most magazines had the Volunteers ranked at #23 in '06 and coming off a 5-6 record in '05. The Volunteers were improved, but lost to Florida, LSU, at Arkansas and in the Outback Bowl vs. Penn State. Coach Phillip Fulmer returns starting QB Erik Ainge, 5 others on offense, 5 on defense and P Britton Colquitt. A trip to Cal to open the season will be a stern test.
  26. special mention - Hawaii (11-3) - The Warriors were ranked in the final coaches Top 25 (#24, instead of Georgia, who was only in the AP final 25). The preseason magazines had Hawaii #4 in the WAC entering '06 and unranked nationally. The Warriors opened with a loss at Alabama and in the 3rd game at Boise State. The only other loss was to Oregon State to close the regular season. The Warriors capped off the season with a Hawaii Bowl win over Arizona State 41-24. QB Colt Brennan returns for Coach June Jones in '07, along with 5 other offensive starters, 8 defensive starters and the #1 PK. The Warroirs close the WAC season hosting Boise State, which may settle the WAC title this year.
  27. C-USA mention - Houston (10-4) - Most magazines entering '06 didn't have the Cougars pegged to win the C-USA title game, let alone their division title. Houston beat Oklahoma State, then narrowly missed at Miami, FL. The other 3 losses came vs. Louisianna-Lafayette, at Southern Miss and in the Liberty Bowl vs. South Carolina. Houston won the title game 34-20 over Southern Miss. Coach Art Briles rebounds in '07 with 6 returning on offense, 7 on defense and with the #1 PK. Houston visits Oregon to kick off the season on September 1.
  28. MAC mention - Central Michigan (10-4) - The preseason magazines didn't have the Chippewas pegged for division title in '06. But, now departed coach Brian Kelly lead the Chippewas to the MAC title, before heading to University of Cincinnati to coach them in them in their bowl game. Losses came vs. BC, at Michigan, at Kentucky and at Northern Illinois. The Chippewas won the Motor City Bowl over the Sun Belt's Middle Tennessee 31-14 to capture their first bowl win ever in 3 tries. New Coach Butch Jones will have 7 starters on offense and defense, plus punter. Included is the #1 QB Dan LeFevour, who was last year's MAC frosh of the year.
  29. Sun Belt mention - Troy (8-5) - Most magazines had Troy pegged at #4 and not at the top of the Sun Belt in '07. Troy closed out the '06 season with a solid 41-17 win in the New Orleans Bowl, for their first bowl win ever in 2 tries. Losses came at Florida State, at Georgia State, at Nebraska, at UAB in four straight games, then a loss vs. Arkansas State for the only loss in conference for the season. Coach Larry Blakeney returns #1 QB Omar Haugabook and 4 other starters on offense, plus 8 on defense and #1 PK. Troy will host Oklahoma State on September 14th after road trips to Arkansas and Florida.
  30. Missing from Top 25 at season's end in '06 - These teams were ranked by the magazines in last season's preseason rankings, but failed to finish in the Top 25 at the end of the season (preseason ranking shown): #10 Florida State (7-6) - beat UCLA in Emerald Bowl 44-27, #12 Miami-FL (7-6) - beat Nevada in the MPC Computers Bowl 21-20, #15 Iowa (6-7) lost to Texas in the Alamo Bowl 24-26, #19 Nebraska (9-5) - lost to Auburn in the Cotton Bowl 14-17, #20 Texas Tech (8-5) - beat Minnesota in OT in the Insight Bowl 44-41, #21 Clemson (8-5) - lost to Kentucky in the Music City Bowl 20-28 , #22 Arizona State (7-6) - lost to Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl 24-41 and #25 Oregon. (7-6) - lost to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl 8-38.


Saturday, July 7, 2007

Top 10 Division I-AA match ups with D-I teams

Scanning the Top 25 Division I-AA teams according to 2007 Street & Smith's College Football Yearbook... could we see a couple upsets in '07?

  1. Appalachian State opens September 1 @ Ann Arbor vs. University of Michigan... after last year's game vs. Ball State... a closer than not game against the Wolverines could arise!
  2. Montana opened last year @ Iowa, but this season... no Division I-A opponents listed.
  3. New Hampshire travels to C-USA's Marshall this year, after knocking off the Big Ten's Northwestern 34-17 in '06!
  4. North Dakota State will join the Gateway in '08... get another crack with the Big Ten's Minnesota Gophers, after close 9-10 loss in '06 in Minneapolis.
  5. Northern Iowa will travel to Ames again, this time, to welcome the Gene Chizik era for the Big 12's Iowa State University... it's been awhile since UNI pulled an upset on the Cyclones in football.
  6. McNeese State visits the Sun Belt's Louisiana-Lafayette on September 15th.
  7. Delaware visits Navy on October 27th.
  8. Illinois State will visit the Big 12's Missouri in Columbia on September 22nd.
  9. Portland State will travel to the MWC's San Diego State on September 22nd too... the Aztecs fell victim last year to Cal Poly 14-16, so Portland State will get their chance.
  10. Youngstown State will open season on September 1st at Ohio State, which will be a kind of homecoming of sorts, since Buckeye coach Jim Tressel was a former YSU headman.

In 2005, Maine sprung a big upset on the SEC's Mississippi State. Last year, Northwestern and San Diego State were victims, as was Colorado, who fell victim to Montana State in a 10-19 loss to open the season.

With 12 games now in Division I-A football, there are more games arising between teams from the Bowl Championship Division with teams from the Playoff Championship Division. I-A vs. I-AA... bring it on!

Around the Big Ten, Wisconsin will host The Citadel, Purdue hosts Eastern Illinois, Illinois faces Western Illinois, Northwestern opens with Northeastern, while Indiana kicks the season off with in-state Indiana State. Around the Big 12 North, K-State hosts Missouri State, while Kansas will face SE Louisiana in '07.


Is Maine from the Colonial, Iowa's home opener in '08?

Comments on the Iowa rivals site today mentioned the Maine Black Bears as the August 30, 2008 opponent for the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Current Iowa Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz was a former head football coach at Maine prior to his years in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.

In 2005, Maine upset the SEC's Mississippi State Bulldogs 9-7 in Starkville in MSU's Sylvester Croom's first season as head coach. Ironically, Croom defeated #20 Florida 38-31 to seal Ron Zook, now Illinois head coach's, career in Gainsville.


It's Summertime, so Old News is often New News

USC clearly is #1 entering the Preseason

Beyond USC, I don't see a consensus for #2 through #5. Has there been a weaker group of 2, 3, 4, and 5 ever in College Football?

After watching Texas in 2006, it's hard to see LSU a clear candidate, with JaMarcus Russell gone and with the Oakland Raiders in the NFL? Will this really be LSU Coach Les Miles' year?

West Virginia has a very solid coach in Rich Rodriquez. They are clearly rejoicing that he turned down the Bama job. WVU is close to being a consensus pick for #1 in the Big East in 2007? With Phil Steele's 45th rated difficult schedule, maybe the Mountaineers are worthy, but I have a hard time putting them too high.

What about Michigan from the Big Ten? Can they beat Ohio State, despite the losses the Buckeyes will have to overcome in '07? Defense wins championships and the Wolverine defense have some players to replace, from a team that still seems to underachieve at times under Coach Lloyd Carr. Michigan last won a share of the MNC ten years ago in 1997. The fans in Ann Arbor are likely a little restless.

Texas has a nice young QB in Colt McCoy, but which Longhorn team will we see in 2007? The team that beat OU 28-10 or the team that lost at K-State 42-45 and at home vs. A&M 7-12? Nebraska narrowly missed upsetting the Longhorns too 22-20 in Lincoln and Iowa gave the Longhorns a scare in the Alamo Bowl 26-24 to close out 2006.

Where do the defending national champs figure in 2007? The Florida Gators were impressive in last year's BCS Championship vs. Ohio State 41-14. Coach Urban Meyer and the Gators will have to replace 5 starters on offense and 9 on defense and there #1 PK and Punter. Not an automatic resume for the Top 5 again.

Some like Wisconsin coming out of the Big Ten. The Badgers under second year coach Bret Bielema haven't visited a BCS bowl, since 1999, so are they ready for there first BCS coming out party this decade?

Louisville appears to be the highest rated team with a new head coach, with Steve Kragthorpe moving over from the University of Tulsa. They clearly are not a Top 5 candidate at this point, but return a talented QB in senior Brian Brohm.
Oklahoma and head coach Bob Stoops are always a popular choice for the Top 5. They will have to find a new QB again. They didn't finish '06 on top, with a surprise upset by mid-major Boise State in an exciting finish in the BCS Fiesta Bowl 42-43.
Tennessee and TCU are getting some props as a possible Top 10 team, but a Top 5 candidate clearly not.
It seems ever so clear, that beyond USC, there is no clear cut team. Parity appears par for the course in 2007 again.
It should be interesting 2007 NCAA Football campaign this season, after USC. Of course, when it comes to college football, clearly expect the unexpected. The conference races should be outstanding with many clearly a toss up this fall. We all remember that Ohio State vs. USC appeared to be on the horizon for the 2007 BCS Championship Game, then defeat was sprung on the Trojans and it turned out to be a different championship game.
More in 2007... we will see later on!

Preseason views of Iowa under Kirk Ferentz

Kirk Ferentz kicks off his 9th season as Head Coach of the University of Iowa in 2007. When Coach Ferentz was hired in December 1998, after 20 years under Coach J. Hayden Fry, the Hawkeyes were coming off a disappointing 3-8 season in 1998.

Entering 1999, Iowa was clearly not a Top 25 program in Ferentz's first season. Iowa was penciled in as the 9th best team in the Big Ten back in 1999. Of course, the Hawkeyes finished 11th going 0-8, despite a near loss at Evanston, on a poor call that would have given Ferentz his first Big Ten win. The cupboard was a little bare, as former MSU coach Nick Saban commented about in the Hawkeye loss at MSU 49-3 in the Big Ten opener.

After a 0-8 first season at Iowa, in his first season, some Hawkeye fans were a little restless, but a young unknown recruit out of Erie, PA would soon make a statement a Iowa began its climb out of the cellar in the Big Ten.

In 2001, the preseason predictions for Iowa were not outstanding. The Hawkeyes were not picked for the cellar, but 10th, isn't much consolation. However, the Hawkeyes responded better than the predictions in Coach Ferentz's third season at Iowa. The Hawkeyes finished 4-4 in the Big Ten (tied for fourth) and closed out the season with a bowl victory in the Alamo Bowl over Texas Tech, 19-16. After three straight losing seasons, the Hawkeyes were back in the bowl picture and back in the top half of the Big Ten standings.

Entering 2002, the Hawkeyes were not highly regarded by anyone with the preseason magazines. Despite a bowl win in 2001 and a top half finish in the Big Ten, the magazines saw Iowa a second half team in the Big Ten and outside the nation's Top 25. The magazines saw Iowa as the eighth best team in the Big Ten in 2002. No one apparently thought to ask senior defenders, Colin Cole and Fred Barr, who were ready to put a claim on the Big Ten title entering 2002, as witnessed in Coach Ferentz's preseason TV show entering 2002. The Hawkeyes finished 8-0 in the Big Ten for the first time ever. A #8 finish in the National Polls and a BCS birth in the Orange Bowl vs. USC, who were on the cusp of becoming the NCAA best!

Again, entering 2003, the Hawkeyes were moved back by the preseason magazines. No expectations in the Top 25 and a 6th place prediction for the Big Ten finish for the 2003 race.

After 5 seasons, Coach Ferentz had Iowa back on the map in both the Big Ten and among many in the preseason magazines. Entering 2004, Iowa was picked 4th in the Big Ten and though not all magazines saw Iowa as a Top 25 team, they were 19th on the combined list in the preseason.

In 2004, Iowa wasn't able to get the victory in Ann Arbor, but a 7-1 finish tied for first place was accomplished by the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten. Despite the worse rushing attack in the country, due to injuries, the Hawkeyes under Big Ten player of the year, sophomore QB Drew Tate, won in dramatic fashion on the final play of the Capital One Bowl, 26-25 over defending champion, LSU, to finish #8 in the National Polls for the third straight season.

Entering 2005 and three straight #8 finishes in the National Polls, the preseason magazines had Iowa third in the Big Ten and all but one magazine had Iowa a Top 25 team, at #12. The one bowl magazine was right, while Iowa finished tied for third in the Big Ten at 5-3, the Hawkeyes weren't able to pull off a victory in the Outback Bowl vs. Florida to close out a Top 25 finish, again. In three recent bowl games, Iowa has faced either the defending champ or next year's champ, facing USC in 2003, LSU in 2005 and Florida in 2006.
Last year, Iowa entered the 2006 season as the third best team in the Big Ten entering the preseason and for the first time in Coach Ferentz career at Iowa, a consensus preseason Top 25 team at #15. The season was clearly the most disappointing season in the Kirk Ferentz era and the most disappointing season, since Fry's last season in 1998. Iowa completed last season with a disappointing 2-6 record (tied for 8th) in the Big Ten, closing out the final game in the Alamo Bowl, with a 24-26 loss to #18 Texas.
Kirk Ferentz, now entering his ninth season at Iowa, brings in another Hawkeye team with lowered preseason expectations. Other than 2004, Iowa hasn't fared well with high preseason predictions. Nationally, it doesn't appear any magazine will coin Iowa a preseason Top 25 team. In the Big Ten, a top division finish will likely be predicted, fueled in part that Ohio State and Michigan are not on the Big Ten slate. Of course, when Purdue faced a similar situation in '05, neither OSU or Michigan finished #1 in the Big Ten.
For Iowa's benefit, players stepping up in leadership, as Fred Barr and Colin Cole did in 2002, despite the losses in leadership from Ferentz's first Iowa bowl team would be a good sign for Iowa. Iowa returns two all-Big Ten performers from the '05 season in RB Albert Young and DE Ken Iwebema. The QB position will break in a new starter for the first time, since the 2004 season. In 2001-2004, Iowa had a new QB penciled in entering the preseason, from the previous year, so for OC Ken O'Keefe, history was good for Iowa.
Championships are won with defense, while the 2002 defense was suspect against the pass at times, as shown in losses vs. ISU and USC, the run defense for Iowa in 2002-2004 was outstanding. Further, excellent special teams play fueled a lot of Iowa's success during a strong climb this decade. Getting back to the basics that fueled success in the early decade will be Iowa's task entering 2007. The schedule is favorable, but there a plenty of challenges ahead.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

It's Been 231 Years! Happy 4th of July to all!

"The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America," it's been 231 years, since the birth of our Declaration of Independence and birth of our Nation. I hope all of you enjoy the spirit of freedom this and every July 4th!

Happy Independence Day to you!