Friday, August 30, 2013

Chooch's 2014 College Football Mega Preview

The summer is coming to an end and I’m happy to return to the 2 Man Weave for my 3rd season of college football coverage. The football offseason lasts an excruciating 7 months, which makes the sport’s return in autumn a cherished American tradition. I’ll be writing for the weave each week to summarize the results of each weekend and previews of the upcoming big games, as well as a weekly Heisman watch. This week includes a brief overview of some of the storylines to pay attention to as the season gets under way.

Things to pay attention to in 2013

Tide Dominance: Can anyone derail the kraken program that Nick Saban has built in Tuscaloosa? After 3 national championships in 4 years, the Tide show no signs of slowing down. The program is as stocked with talent as ever, even after losing multiple first round draft picks in each of the past several years. Keep an eye out for Jeoffrey Pagan, CJ Mosley, Adrian Hubbard, and Hasean Clinton-Dix as the next generation of elite defenders at 'Bama. Until proven otherwise, it's hard to envision anyone dethroning the Tide.

SEC Dominance: Many are asking whether anyone can challenge the SEC’s dominance, but I think the better question is whether other teams within the SEC can challenge Alabama’s. Despite much of the hype around the conference, the SEC has been extremely top-heavy in recent seasons. In 2011, there wasn’t a single really entertaining Saturday afternoon CBS SEC game besides Bama-LSU. Florida, Georgia, LSU, Texas A& M, and South Carolina all show potential to dethrone the Tide, but none has truly delivered. It would be nice to see Tennessee make a comeback. That’s a great program and fanbase that has fallen on hard times.

Who can challenge the SEC?: What conference can provide the biggest challenge to the SEC? Many point to the Pac-12, with Oregon and Stanford as the frontrunners. Each provides different styles-Oregon the up-tempo spread offense, Stanford the smash-mouth power-running attack. The winner of the Pac-12 north might have its shot against the SEC champion. Also look to Ohio State in the Big Ten. Urban Meyer is building an SEC clone in Columbus (both on and off the field) and should be in a position to challenge them.

Can Notre Dame bounce back?: This seems like an odd questions to ask coming off a shocking 12-0 regular season run for the Irish, but the national title game left a bad taste heading into the offseason. This, compounded by a disastrous offseason that saw quarterback Everett Golson suspended for 2013 due to academic reasons, and several transfers, has many people down on ND this season. If the Irish can channel these setbacks as motivation, they can still have a nice season led by a top defense.

Big season for Mack Brown: During the 5 years from 2005-2009, Texas played for the national title twice, winning once in 2005 behind Vince Young. Since Colt McCoy’s departure after 2009, however, Texas has struggled mightily. Mack Brown has changed coaching staffs and tried new approaches, but nothing seems to be working. This could be a make or break year for Brown, as Texas, as always, has more than enough talent to win the Big 12.
Week 1 Preview:

Game of the Week:

Georgia at Clemson: How could this be any other game in week 1? Number 5 Georgia travels to number 5 Clemson in an old rivalry between two schools very close to each other geographically. Both teams harbor national title aspirations behind veteran senior quarterbacks (Aaron Murray at UGA and Tajh Boyd at Clemson) and loads of young, albeit inexperienced talent on defense. This is also a big game for the ACC, as it seeks to add some big non-conference wins against the SEC this season. This game should come down to how Clemson matches up in the trenches with Georgia. The SEC’s strength has always been its line of scrimmage play, not its speed. If Georgia’s lines can bully Clemson’s it will be a long day for the Tigers.

Other games to watch:

LSU vs TCU (Arlington): Two more geographically close rivals take part in a rare game in Jerryworld this weekend. LSU is annually one of the most talented teams in the country and could be too much for TCU, but Gary Patterson always has his squad up for big games. LSU is an enigma this season. If everything comes together, this team could challenge Alabama for a national title. Or, as we’ve seen in some seasons, LSU could collapse under Les Miles’ bizarre coaching style and finish with 3 or more losses.

Alabama vs Virginia Tech (Atlanta): The annual kickoff game in Atlanta between the SEC and ACC features the 2 time defending national champions, who should have no problem rolling over a young Hokie team. Virginia Tech had its worst season in years under Frank Beamer last season, and is annually losing out on the state’s top recruits. Keep an eye on freshman cornerback Kendall Fuller though; he’ll be playing on Sundays three years from now.

(Ed Note: I usually go for the sexy pics, but this chick's eyes were too crazy to not post)

Boise State at Washington: All college football fans must prepare for another season of Boise State bullshhit, as little stands between the Broncos and another undefeated season (and appearance in the poor Fiesta Bowl, which always seems to get stuck with these BCS-busters). The best chance for a loss could be week 1 at Washington, which is looking for a breakout season in former USC assistant Steve Sarkisian’s 5th year as head coach.

Northwestern at Cal: This game only intrigues me because of Northwestern under coach Pat Fitzgerald, who’s building a very solid foundation in Evanston. Northwestern could pose a challenge to Michigan, Michigan State, and Nebraska in the Big Ten Legends divisions this season, and this game will tell us a lot about whether that is truly feasible.

Preseason Heisman Watch:

1. Teddy Bridgewater-QB-Louisville: There’s not too much to say about Bridgewater. The guy is an elite quarterback and will be one of the top players drafted next April. Every highlight I see from him I am more impressed, not because of his freakish athleticism (which he has), but his pocket presence and comfort in the position. An easy schedule should allow Bridgewater to put up monster numbers.

2. Johnny Manziel-QB-Texas A & M: Last year’s winner should again have a big year stats-wise (hey, why not pad stats against 4 scrub opponents), but could struggle without some of the elite offensive linemen A & M lost after 2013.

3. AJ McCarron-QB-Alabama: McCarron hasn’t garnered tons of respect because Alabama is loaded all over the place, but the quarterback has been the glue of back-to-back national championships. He has a chance for a 3rd ring as a starter this season, and will remain in the conversation throughout.

4. Braxton Miller-QB-Ohio State: Miller should put up monster stats in Urban Meyer’s system, and against an easy schedule, should have the wins to secure an invite to New York.

5. Lache Seastrunk-RB-Baylor: The only non QB on my list stated in the offseason that his goal for 2013 is to win the Heisman. The former Oregon RB certainly has the talent and plays in an offense that will showcase his abilities. The glass ceiling has been broken as well after Robert Griffin III has already won
the award at Baylor.

See you guys next week!

-Chooch (@MrCianciulli)

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