Tag Archives: Preseason

Watching Only One SEC Football Game Each Week: Part One

The Amway Preseason Coaches poll was just released and it inspired me to look forward to some of the best games that lay ahead. In all honesty, I would gladly watch college football, even just SEC football, all day each Saturday starting next month. But unfortunately that isn’t always possible, because let’s face it, not all people are the as awesome as us die-hard college football fans.

And for that reason I decided to create a list of the SEC football games I would watch this season if for some terrible reason I could only watch one game per week. Let’s hope it doesn’t come down to this, but if it does at least I have you (and myself) covered.

Week 1: #12 Ole Miss vs. #4 Florida State

While I could’ve easily picked #1 Alabama vs. #17 USC or #6 LSU vs. Wisconsin, but the Ole Miss-Florida State matchup takes the cake here. I fully expect Alabama to be able to handle the Trojans and although Wisconsin wasn’t bad last year, LSU should be able to handle them between Leonard Fournette and a much-improved Brandon Harris. Ole Miss and Florida State is most intriguing of these matchups to me because I expect it to be the closest game. Ole Miss is returning a fantastic quarterback in Chad Kelly and while Florida State may not have quite the same kind of weapon at quarterback, they do have one of the best offensive lines in the country. Usually I watch games for the defense, but this time I’ll definitely be watching for the offense. And as much as I ride for SEC football, I have to admit I do expect the Seminoles to come out victorious.

Week 2: Arkansas @ #14 TCU

Arkansas may not be a team picked by too many to have a great season this year, but I do think they’re a team to watch early in the season. If the Razorbacks can get off to a good start with what Coach Bret Bielema might call a “borderline erotic” (no, I’m not letting that one go yet) victory over TCU, then the sky’s the limit. Arkansas may have an inexperienced quarterback, but they make up for that lack of experience elsewhere. They return numerous starts on the defensive side of the ball and they have plenty of options for offensive production when you look at potential running backs. The TCU Horned Frogs will undoubtedly be a formidable opponent, but I’d definitely put this game on “upset alert” right now. And who wouldn’t want to watch a good upset?

Week 3: #1 Alabama @ #12 Ole Miss

This game needs very little explanation. Both were great teams last year, both are expected to be about equally great again this year. Ole Miss has proven to be somewhat of a stumbling block for the Crimson Tide lately, so Alabama needs to find a way to overcome whatever the issue is and get off to a better start this season. While Chad Kelly is going to be a fantastic quarterback for the Rebels, I’d put my money on Alabama’s suffocating defense just about any day. Do I expect Ole Miss to get its third victory in a row in this series? No, but I do anticipate a very interesting football game.

Week 4: #25 Florida @ #10 Tennessee

For me, this is the hardest game to watch every single season. I was raised a Volunteer but became a Gator when it was time to go to college. Since I’ve been a Gator, Florida has yet to lose to Tennessee. They’ve actually won eleven in a row in this rivalry…but who’s counting? This year I truly do expect that winning streak to come to an end. The game may ultimately come down quarterbacks. Josh Dobbs is reliable as a threat on the ground, but will he become a real passing threat this season? The Gators are likely to start Luke Del Rio this season, but he may not be the answer to all their offensive woes. I will say that the Gators aren’t going to be a pushover in the SEC East this season but the Vols return too much talent, both offensively and defensively, for the Gators to be able to handle them once again. I could be wrong about that, but again this one is bound to be another really good game to watch.

Week 5: #10 Tennessee @ #16 Georgia

I’m just going to throw this out there but the last time Tennessee was ranked #10 in the preseason poll was in 1998. The last time Tennessee won a National Championship was also in 1998. So, there’s obviously something to be said for their preseason ranking. Georgia is still a bit more of an unknown heading into the season. Nick Chubb returns this season after he was injured on the first play of the Tennessee game last year and that could be big. Not to mention, Georgia did one of the smartest things you can do when hiring a new head coach. They sought out a former Alabama coach to lead their team, Kirby Smart. Florida will tell you what a great idea that type of hiring decision can be. Since the game is in Athens, this could be a tough one for the Vols to win. But if the Vols do get that win then it’s safe to say they are national contenders and Alabama better watch out for them in a couple weeks.

Week 6: #6 LSU @ #25 Florida

The hype heading into this game last season was incredible and I expect the same kind of energy this year. While LSU returns Leonard Fournette at running back and now has a more experienced Brandon Harris at quarterback, Florida has made some adjustments. Like previously mentioned, quarterback transfer Luke Del Rio is expected to start for the Gators. If they had him at the helm of their offense last year, they might have even been able to get a win in Death Valley. On top of that, the Gators can still claim the title of being the “Real DBU” with Jalen “Teez” Tabor picking up right where Hargreaves left off last season. And let’s not forget that Florida might actually have a kicker in Eddy Pineiro to help them out in those tight games this year. With the Tigers traveling to the Swamp, I give a slight edge to the Gators here. This is another one of those games that will be highly entertaining, regardless of the outcome.

Be on the lookout for part two of this article, coming next week!

 

All the rankings listed above are according to the Preseason Amway Coaches Poll, released on August 4th, 2016.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Tate Nations

If you feel the need to debate my picks for each week, feel free to interact with me on Twitter, @OGKristenB.

Welcome Back Football

Well, the preseason is finally here. If you had been watching on Sunday, you would have witnessed the Giants top the Bills in what was a fairly normal preseason game. Neither starting QB performed particularly well, although Giants fourth-round pick Andre Williams showed up in the backfield for the Giants, racking up 48 yards on 7 carries while putting in the first touchdown of the 2014 season. So that was pretty nice and all, but really this game only meant one thing for the majority of football fans: the NFL is finally back!!

Unfortunately for us Browns fans though, we still have a couple of days to wait. There are six games scheduled to be played later tonight, with the Jets taking on former Browns running back Trent Richardson and the Colts, the Harbaughs facing each other, a rematch of the battles of the early days of our great country (Pats v. Redskins), the two most similar teams in NFL history matching up as the Bengals meet the Chiefs, the Broncos and the Seahawks playing out last year’s Superbowl for a second time, and the Cowboys beginning its quest to make the tickets they printed worth something as they travel to San Diego.  And I’m sure that all of those games will be extremely entertaining, assuming you are a big fan of whoever is playing. Otherwise, you might as well be watching your neighbor’s high school JV game.

Personally, I am not the biggest fan of preseason football. I understand the importance of it for coaches, as it allows them to suss out who should be seeing the field once the season actually begins. But from an entertainment standpoint, it falls a tad short of my expectations. However, the Browns’ game will have some very interesting story-lines… Or really one really interesting story-line…

…Yep, you guessed it. Mr. Johnny Manziel once again is dominating headlines as the Browns get ready to play. Yesterday, it was officially announced that Hoyer will start the first preseason game, and Manziel will come on after Hoyer has had his time at the helm. Although it is rumored that Manziel might see some reps with the first team offense on Saturday, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mike Pettine let Hoyer play every first team snap. Manziel should get his shot to play with the first team offense when the Browns face the Redskins in preseason week 2. And then, at least theoretically, we will all know who is going to be starting for the Browns come the regular season by the third game of the preseason. Or at least that is Mike Pettine’s goal. Hopefully that pans out, because, as much as I love knowing every little aspect of what Manziel does on the field, I am a tad bit tired of the endless, somewhat shallow, fairly repetitive coverage of him. And I’m hoping that once it is announced that Hoyer will be the starter Week 1, Manziel coverage will dip. At least a teeny, tiny bit.

Anyway, here is what else to watch for on Saturday night at 7:30 pm Eastern Time:

– Receivers: This game will provide a first look at what basically amounts to a brand new group of receivers. Josh Gordon is expected to play, assuming news of his suspension appeal doesn’t come in before Saturday’s game, and we will see Travis Benjamin post-ACL-tear, but other than that, we will mainly be seeing how the new veterans brought in perform, as well as what our rookie free agents can do. Hopefully Austin and Burleson found their form from 2012 and 2011, respectively. And if not…well it might be an unusually disappointing season.

– And other than that, there aren’t really any specific things to watch for. As my colleague Ryan Jones outlined here, there doesn’t exist much in the way of positional battles on the defensive side of the ball, as most players seem to have more or less locked down their position and role.

So, just do your best to enjoy the game. I know I’m very excited to finally see Manziel take the field.

Pre-Season Top 25: 21-25

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If there’s one thing college football fans love (and love to hate), it’s countdowns and pre-season polls. But pre-season polls indicate that the college football season is right around the corner, a positive sign that is one thing all college football fans can agree on. My idea of a Top 25 poll is not who I think will finish the season where, or a list of teams descending from 0 losses to 1 loss to 2 losses, etc., but for the most part which team I think would win on a neutral field. I will be unveiling my personal top 25 in groups of five, starting with 25. The season starts in six weeks, with my top 5 teams in the country coming out the week the season starts. I had a lot of fun putting this list together, so hopefully you’ll enjoy reading it (and forget everything once the season starts and a pick inevitably goes horribly wrong).
 

25. TCU

While TCU had a forgettable season last year, that will allow them to surprise some people this year. The offense should be improved this season if for no other reason than it can’t be worse than it was last year. Transfer Matt Joeckel will hopefully bring consistency to the offense and allow Trevone Boykin to focus at WR. With a solid offensive line, TCU should have a productive running game with B.J. Catalon and Aaron Greene, who both showed promise in limited time last year. However, the defense is what is going to carry the Horned Frogs this fall. They return nine starters from the Big 12’s second ranked defense and add Devonte Fields, who had 10 sacks as a freshman in 2012 but missed most of last year due to injury, and junior college transfer S Kenny Iloka who had 126 tackles last year. The Horned Frogs lost to Oklahoma, Kansas State, and Baylor all by three points or less last year, and I expect them to turn some of those close calls into upsets this season.
 

24. Michigan

Michigan, like TCU, is a team coming off a disappointing year but will make a slight resurgence because of its defense. The D returns eight starters including all three linebackers. Desmond Morgan and Jake Ryan, both seniors, will help form one of the top LB units in the nation. Michigan could push for a top 20 finish in rush defense which will be crucial in the Big 10. The offense has a little more uncertainty. The offensive line was a disaster last year and the team loses Jeremy Gallon, one of the most productive wide outs in school history. On the plus side, Devin Gardner’s return will ensure the offense doesn’t fall too far, and it will be hard not to improve on the 3.5 ypc of departed starting running back Fitzgerald Toussaint. Incoming top recruit Jabrill Peppers should add much needed playmaking to the defense and return game, and possibly the offense as well. The Wolverines will have just enough offense to complement the defense. They trade Nebraska and Iowa on the schedule from the West division for Minnesota and Northwestern which will help them to only their second nine win season since the Lloyd Carr era.
 

23. Notre Dame

Notre Dame should have a solid team again this year, but not one I see challenging for a playoff spot just yet. The Fighting Irish will have a formidable defense as they have the last few seasons, helped by having NFL talent on all three levels. Linebacker Jaylon Smith will improve on the potential he showed last year as a true freshman and the defense will be aided by Florida transfer CB Cody Riggs. On the other side of the ball, the offensive line will need to come together as it is a little inexperienced. Regardless, the skill positions should thrive. The run game will be a strength with the return of leading rusher Cam McDaniel and highly touted RB Greg Bryant, who missed most of last year. The big story however is the return of QB Everett Golson, who led the team to the National Championship two years ago but was suspended all of last year. He should be a better QB than his freshman season and with the run game should keep the Irish offense humming.
 

22. Wisconsin

Expectations seem to be unrealistically high for this year’s Wisconsin team. As a Wisconsin resident that pains me to say, but much of it likely is the result of their soft schedule. However, I’m not sure how good the team will actually be. They lose eight starters from a defense that gave up only 16.3 points per game, and every member of the front seven will be a new starter. That doesn’t bode well in a conference known for running the ball (or for a season opener against LSU). Luckily the offense should continue to put up points in bunches. You can always count on the Badgers’ offensive line, and behind that will be one of the best RB tandems in college football with Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement. Joel Stave, if he even ends up the starter, will have to be much more consistent for Wisconsin to sniff double digit wins. The talk of being a playoff sleeper is a pipe dream based on the schedule, and Badger fans should be happy with a 9 win season and a spot in the Capital One bowl.
 

21. Nebraska

Rounding out our group of five for today is another team that will rely on its defense and a strong running game. The defense returns seven starters and should have a stout front seven with all three staring linebackers coming back and a defensive line led by potential Top-10 pick Randy Gregory. The offense returns five of its top six pass catchers but will once again be led by the rushing of Ameer Abdullah, one of the best running backs in the nation. Abdullah was overshadowed some by Melvin Gordon last year but actually finished with more rushing yards. Ultimately, the offense’s success will be determined by the improvement of QB Tommy Armstrong. Taylor Martinez’s injury allowed Armstrong to get a lot of starting experience last year, which will prove valuable this fall, as I believe he leads them to the Big 10 championship game.
 
Check back next Monday for teams 16-20 and to see which ACC, Pac-12, and SEC team will be the first to show up from its conference.

Tailgate Confidential: Football is Underway, Baltimore Ravens Better, Plaxico Worse.

Ten games into the 2011 preseason, with six to go, the NFL isn’t anywhere near what it’s going to look like once the season starts.   The Redskins are most likely going to bring up the bottom of the NFC East yet beat the Steelers, a perennial playoff contender, the Seahawks used scrub time to come back and defeat the Chargers and the Patriots blew out the Jaguars 47-12.  Actually, the Patriots would still get the W in midseason form, but it would be more to the tune of 62-7.

The Baltimore Ravens got better this week by trading a fourth round draft pick to the Buffalo Bills for veteran wide receiver Lee Evans.  Evans isn’t a flashy WR nor does he have the same resume that some of the other WRs who made, or will still make, moves this off-season, but the seven year vet will immediately step into the #2 WR role alongside Anquan Boldin.  In the melee that was the first week of player moves after the lockout was lifted, the Ravens released WR Derrick Mason and TE Todd Heap, which largely were savvy roster moves, but left the team with a hole that needed filling.  Evans will do a lot to fill that role, he’s an upgrade from Mason, and even has an outside shot to have a very good year statistically playing alongside a legitimate #1 guy like Boldin.  Baltimore competes in the rough and tumble AFC North, but with John Harbaugh at the helm and Joe Flacco taking snaps, I think Evans can get to 880 yards and 10 TDs in 2011, doing some damage against Cleveland’s young secondary and Pittsburgh’s suspect secondary along the way.

Continue reading Tailgate Confidential: Football is Underway, Baltimore Ravens Better, Plaxico Worse.