September 27, 2006

Nice Day, huh Roger?

That would be Roger Goodell, the new commissioner of the NFL. Today, one of the league's best players had to refute a report that he attempted suicide, a linebacker for the Bengals -who are quickly becoming the NFL version of the Jail Blazers- was lost for the season due to substance abuse issues, a safety for the Chargers was arrested at the team headquarters by the DEA for shipping large quantities of prescription cough medicine across state lines, a cornerback from the Bears pleaded no contest to assault charges stemming from an incident at a Denny’s last summer and a safety for the Broncos turned himself in after a warrant was issued for his arrest due to violating a restraining order. All on this one day in September.

Buck up Roger, none of this will be remembered on Sunday. The NFL is indestructible

Posted by Frinklin at 09:26 PM | Comments (1754) | TrackBack

September 25, 2006

America's Team


The New Orleans Saints, 3-0 and in early control of the NFC South.

Oh, and I apparently took a short break from the blog. I'm back now. I think

Posted by Frinklin at 08:34 PM | Comments (1182) | TrackBack

September 13, 2006

So Long to the (Willie) Don of Maryland Politics

I never thought this day would come.

In a development at once shocking and unsurprising, Maryland living legend William Donald Schaefer was defeated in his bid for re-election as comptroller. It was a close three-way race, with Delegate Peter Franchot and Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens challenging him. Most observers figured that, with his opponents splitting the anti-Schaefer vote, the wily veteran politician would slide through for another term (after which, presumably, he could either retire or die with something resembling dignity, as least for him). But it was not to be, as Franchot surged in late balloting to take the win.

(Incidentally, I met Del. Franchot some months back at a rally for the Nats broadcast rights, and I liked him. He made some gracious comments about Schaefer's stature and record in his victory speech, but his true feelings were revealed at the rally, when he told me, "I'm going to beat [Schaefer] like a rented mule.")

I've written a lot about Schaefer over the years, and with good reason. He has been one of the most colorful figures on the political scene throughout his career, from his tenure as Baltimore's "Mayor Annoyed" to his highly entertaining service as Maryland governor to his most recent gig as comptroller, which was largely a victory lap and an opportunity to keep his name in the papers, which is his favorite hobby. In recent years, though, his comments have progressed from humorously cutting to downright mean. There is quite possibly not a single group of people whom Schaefer has not offended in the last few years (well, save for the aging white men who believe his campaign slogan, "He Says What You Think"). Over the course of this campaign, he has gone into deeper decline, leaving observers wondering if he had finally lost whatever marbles he still possessed.

I saw Schaefer on NewsChannel 8 last night, and he was very much himself, although oddly subdued. He opened his coat to show reporters where his opponents "put their knives into me." He groused about how the campaign was rougher and meaner than any he had experienced in his entire career, and complained about his opponents calling him old, saying, "It's discrimination to call someone old just because he's 85... or 84, going on 85 in a couple months." The statement was so absurd on the face of it that I took it as a sign of Schaefer's frustration and exhaustion with the campaign.

Also, it's rather amusing to hear Schaefer cry foul about the meanness of the campaign, given that he claimed that Owens "looked like Mother Hubbard," and said she was getting fat. Like many bullies, it seems, Schaefer can dish it out but can't take it.

Honestly, though I've believed for several years now that Schaefer was over the hill and needed to get off the stage, I didn't think I'd see the day he was actually defeated. On the other hand... was there really another way for him to go? He was pretty clearly never going to retire willingly, so it was either defeat or death for him. And for a combative and colorful politicians who never minced words and never worried about who he was pissing off, it's only fitting that his career came to an end like this. Sooner or later, his friends were going to disappear (suffice to say that the younger set wasn't exactly lining up behind him), and his enemies would become strong and numerous enough to knock him off. And I think he's proud that he went down fighting.

Now that he's gone (I think), the Maryland political will settle down a little bit. There aren't any more Schaefers on the horizon (Helmet-Head Ehrlich may be the closest in Maryland), and today's political climate pretty much guarantees there won't be. Outspoken, brash, reckless, irrascible, unconstrained politicians don't last long these days; they run afoul of the media, or an important interest group, or a key contributor, and they get run out town by an angry populace in a self-righteous lather. While I didn't support Schaefer and think Franchot was a far better choice for comptroller, I'll miss him. So long, Willie Don.

P.S. to Peter Franchot: Be careful what you wish for. Before Schaefer, did anyone know or care who the Maryland state comptroller was? There was a reason for that. Comptroller is not really a high-profile job; Schaefer made it one by the sheer force of his outrageous remarks and outsized personality. I suspect that, by knocking off Schaefer, you see this position as a stepping stone to higher office. Perhaps it will be. But perhaps you'll find that the media will resume its previous level of attention (i.e. none) to the comptroller's office now that Schaefer's no longer in it. Good luck.

UPDATE (9/14): Today's Post had a great retrospective of Schaefer's antics throughout his career. My favorite anecdote:

Once, after a woman in her car gestured to him with her middle finger, he tracked down her address through Motor Vehicle Administration records and wrote her: "Your action only exceeds the ugliness of your face. Have a nice day!"
Posted by Mediocre Fred at 10:19 AM | Comments (55) | TrackBack

September 12, 2006

Welcome to the Madhouse

One of my best friends (and a former Mediocre Fred guest blogger), Papa Shaft, has decided to dive into the blogging game himself for a while. I invite you all to check out his musings at Brian's Adventures in Cowtown. If his early stuff is any indication, we're in for a long, strange trip. Two thumbs up!

Posted by Mediocre Fred at 12:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 08, 2006

Frinklin Football Forecaster: The National! Football! League!

Wild Card
New England over Cincinnati
Pittsburgh over Miami

Indianapolis over New England
Pittsburgh over Denver

AFC Championship
Indianapolis over Pittsburgh

AFC Rookie of the Year: Laurence Maroney
AFC Defensive Player of the Year: Troy Palumalu
AFC Offensive Player of the Year: Larry Johnson
AFC Most Valuable Player: Payton Manning

Wild Card
Dallas over Arizona
Philadelphia over Chicago

Seattle over Dallas
Carolina over Philadelphia

NFC Championship
Carolina over Seattle

NFC Rookie of the Year: Reggie Bush
NFC Defensive Player of the Year: Julius Peppers
NFC Offensive Player of the Year: Matt Hasselbeck
NFC Most Valuable Player: Steve Smith

Super Bowl XLI
Carolina 24, Indianapolis 14

AFC East, AFC South, AFC North, AFC West, NFC East, NFC South, NFC North, NFC West

I swear, non-Football stuff is coming soon.

Posted by Frinklin at 11:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Frinklin Football Forecaster: NFC West

1. Seattle Seahawks
Before the season last year I said they weren’t good enough. I was wrong. This year I can’t shake the feeling Seattle will fall back to the pack a bit, and they can’t possible get the breaks they did during the season last year. Remember New York, Dallas and San Francisco? This season, at least a couple of those go the other way.

Hope I’m wrong again.

2. Arizona Cardinals
The Buzzsaw was the NFC It Girl before last season, the designated “sleeper” team for anyone and everyone with a pulse and a misguided sense they know football. That might just have been a year early. The Cardinals are a team on the rise, neatly encapsulated by the opening of Cardinal Stadium and the drafting of Matt Leinart. Arizona is loaded at the skill positions, assuming that Kurt Warner can last the season behind a line that doesn’t even qualify as mediocre. The defense is okay, with a couple potential stars (Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby) amid a bunch of average defenders.

3. St. Louis Rams
The Rams finally pulled the plug on Mike Martz, vowing to replace him with a strong, tough-minded defensive-oriented coach. The Rams then choose Scott Linehan, a somewhat callow offensive-minded coach known for fancy play-calling. It might make more sense than at first glance. Linehan used a tough, conservative offense last year, his only as offensive coordinator for Miami. That would serve powerback Steven Jackson and brittle quarterback Marc Bulger far better than Martz’s Greatest Show on Turf. The problem? The Rams didn’t play any defense when they were good. They still don’t.

4. San Francisco 49ers
In 2005, Alex Smith might well have been the worst single-season quarterback in NFL history. The first pick in the draft threw 11 picks and fumbled 11 times before he threw his first touchdown pass. That came in the last game of the season. Smith has improved in the preseason but the Niners have to be wondering where his career will go, since he is starting from just about ground zero. Mike Nolan is well-respected around the league, but his team has a long way to go.

Champion: Seattle Seahawks
Wild Card: Arizona Cardinals

PREVIOUS: AFC East, AFC South, AFC North, AFC West, NFC East, NFC South, NFC North

Posted by Frinklin at 10:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 07, 2006

Frinklin Football Forecaster: NFC North

1. Chicago Bears
Somebody has to win this crap division, might as well be the only team that has at least one above-average unit. The Bears defense is a great unit, though as Carolina proved in the playoffs, not quite as good as once thought. The offense just terrible last season and it has to improve, be it with Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton or newcomer Brian Griese running the show. One sour note: the Bears seem to be set on lowballing defensive stars Lance Briggs and Nathan Vasher.

2. Detroit Lions
Good God, does Matt Millen still have a job? Apparently so after cashiering his hand-picked coach and friend Steve Mariucci. The new guy is Rod Marinelli, a tough former Bucs assistant that has -if nothing else- killed the country club atmosphere the Lions featured the past several years. Marinelli hired former Ram coach Mike Martz to run the offense, which is both a plus and minus. The Lions will be an attacking, down-the-field offense, but will also be prone to mistakes if Martz’s past is any indication.

3. Minnesota Vikings
No matter what happens in Minnesota this season, they won’t be half as entertaining as they were last year. No Mike Tice, no Daunte, presumably no Sex Boat…. Oh well, at least they are off to a roaring start, releasing Koren Robinson after yet another problem with substance abuse. They do have one heck of an offensive line after stealing Steve Hutchinson from the Seahawks.

And for that I hope they get hives.

4. Green Bay Packers
There just isn’t much difference between any of the four teams in this division. It wouldn’t take more than a break either way and any of the four could be 10-6 or 4-12. The Pack was 4-12 last season, and that got Mike Sherman fired. To replace him, Green Bay hired rookie Mike McCarthy, the 49ers’ offensive coordinator. The Niners finished -you guessed it- 4-12 last year, and McCarthy’s offense was dead last in the NFL in total offense.

You figure it out.

Champion: Chicago Bears
Wild Card: Are you kidding?

PREVIOUS: AFC East, AFC South, AFC North, AFC West, NFC East, NFC South

Posted by Frinklin at 10:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Frinklin Football Forecaster: NFC South

1. Carolina Panthers
A positively evil defense. Steve Smith gets Keyshawn as a running mate. DeShaun Foster is healthy for now and DeAngelo Williams backs him up. An experienced quarterback. One of the best coaches in the NFL. The Panthers are a very chic pick for the Super Bowl, and it doesn’t take a genius to see why.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After losing one of the ugliest playoff games in recent memory, the Bucs didn’t shake up the roster much, expecting young players to be a year better as well as a year older. Chris Simms is the undisputed starter at quarterback and he and Cadillac Williams are expected to lead this team for the next several years. The problem? The heralded defense is beginning to age. Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber, Simeon Rice… all are on the wrong side of 30.

3. Atlanta Falcons
So is this all Michael Vick going to be? At this point Jim Mora and coordinator Greg Knapp have to realize that the structured West Coast offense isn’t the best bet for Vick. QB coach Bill Musgrave was brought in to work with Vick’s mechanics and decision-making. The Falcons have improved Vick’s weapons as Michael Jenkins and Roddy White might finally give the Falcons downfield threats. The defense was stiffened with the pick-ups of John Abraham and stud corner Jimmy Williams. This is a make-or-break year for both Vick and Mora. A stumble, and Mora could be shown the door.

4. New Orleans Saints
I’d love to be able to say that the Saints, behind new coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees and first-round pick Reggie Bush will shock the world, take the stricken Gulf Coast on their back and end up a playoff team. But I can’t, because Brees doesn’t look healthy, the offensive line is mediocre at best, and the defense lacks playmakers.

Champion: Carolina Panthers
Wild Card: None

PREVIOUS: AFC East, AFC South, AFC North, AFC West, NFC East

Posted by Frinklin at 10:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 06, 2006

Frinklin Football Forecaster: NFC East

1. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboy’s defense could be scary-good, with young studs like Demarcus Ware and Terence Newman. The offense could be scary-good, if Drew Bledsoe stays healthy and gets time to throw to TO and Terry Glenn. The chemistry of this team could just be scary. Boom or bust territory for Bill Parcells here.

2. Philadelphia Eagles
Last year’s implosion earns the Eagles a last-place schedule. Donovan McNabb is healthy again and has a pretty impressive chip on his shoulder. This team is loaded on both lines and the defensive backfield. So why is it just assumed that this team isn’t a Super Bowl contender. Do the Eagles have much of a running game? No, but they never did before. A team too many people are overlooking.

3. Washington Redskins
One of the oldest clichés in football is that the preseason doesn’t matter. Man, the Redskins better hope that’s the case because the ‘Skins have been dreadful. Washington loaded up on free agents -again- pulling in Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd at receiver, Andre Carter on the d-line, plus yet another premier assistant coach in Al Saunders. The problem lies under center; Mark Brunell is a fringe NFL starter at this point, and Jason Campbell is nowhere near ready. Throw in an injury scare for Clinton Portis, and you have another disappointing season in DC.

4. New York Giants
Realistically the four NFC East teams could all finish anywhere from first to last, but this is my choice for last in the division. The Giants looked like world-beaters last season before blasted at home in the playoffs against Carolina. The team then went into various stages of revolt against coach Tom Coughlin. That will continue this year as Eli takes a big step backwards.

Champion: Dallas Cowboys
Wild Card: Philadelphia Eagles

PREVIOUS: AFC East, AFC South, AFC North, AFC West

Posted by Frinklin at 11:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 05, 2006

Things That Make You Go, "Huh?"

On my way to lunch today, I saw the following roadside sign:

"Fun Fitness Boot Camp for Women! Call (number)"

Needless to say, I was befuddled by this sign. I've never personally experienced boot camp, but I know several people who have, including my dad. And while they all had a number of words to describe the experience, "fun" was never one of them. "Fun" and "boot camp" are words that have never been associated in my mind. For that matter, Schwartzenegger-inspired propaganda of my youth notwithdstanding, I never associated "fun" with "fitness," either. (Yes, perhaps this explains why I look like I do. But I digress.)

So, what to make of this sign? Some part of this sign is obviously a lie. Either the experience is "fun," or it is "boot camp," but it cannot be both. If I had to guess, given the presence of the words "fitness boot camp," I would assume the "fun" part is a lie. But what is the prospective enrollee supposed to believe? "It's just like signing up for the Army, except without all the parts that suck!" More to the point, what level of self-delusion is required to sign up for this thing and actually expect a fun boot camp? (Probable answer: the same level of self-delusion that leads people to believe that they can lose a couple hundred pounds by eating Subway sandwiches all the time.)

If any of our female readers out there have ever signed up for something like this, your analysis of the ratio of "fun" to "boot camp" would be appreciated.

Posted by Mediocre Fred at 01:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 04, 2006

Frinklin Football Forecaster: AFC West

1. Denver Broncos
The Broncos rode Good Jake Plummer to a 13-3 regular season, a playoff win over the defending champion Patriots, and a home date for the AFC Championship. All this just in time to see Bad Jake come back and the Broncos fall apart against the Pittsburgh. Roughly the same team returns, with rookie free agent Mike Bell plugged into the tailback spot and Javon Walker, picked up from Green Bay replacing Ashley Leile as the second wideout. The defense will miss longtime Bronco Trevor Pryce.

2. San Diego Chargers
The best team in NFL history not to make the playoffs? The 2005 Bolts can make that claim, as they were smacked around by a brutal schedule, but everything -save for Drew Brees- returns. Philip Rivers isnow the man, two years after his fellow first-rounders Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning took over their clubs. Rivers is in a fine position, with the best tailback in the game, LaDanian Tomlinson, and tight end Antonio Gates already in place. The defense could be a monster, led by young stars Shawn Merriman and Luis Castillo. This is my pick for the best team not to make the playoffs again this season.

3. Kansas City Chiefs
Herm Edwards is the new coach, after oozing his way out of New York. For a guy with such a stand-up image, he sure left the Jets under a cloud. Anyway, after Cryin’ Dick Vermiel and his offensive show, KC now has a defensive-minded head coach. Of course, he still doesn’t have many defensive players, so the Chiefs will live or die with Larry Johnson and Trent Green. This is also rapidly aging team, with guys like Green, Eddie Kennison and Ty Law all on the wrong side of 30.

4. Oakland Raiders
Is this the Silver and Black or Back to Future part 4? Al Davis, after ridding himself of Norv Turner, hired Art Shell (hasn’t been a head man in 12 years), offensive coordinator Tom Walsh (running a Bed and Breakfast this time last year) and even signed -briefly- Jeff George. Memories are just about all this proud franchise has right now, as the overall talent level is low. After jettisoning Kerry Collins, the Raiders signed Aaron Brooks away from New Orleans, and the Saints are so upset about it, they’re still laughing. Last year’s big pickups, LaMont Jordan and Randy Moss, had middling seasons on a bad team. They should make it two-for-two.

Champion: Denver Broncos
Wild Card: None

PREVIOUS: AFC East, AFC South, AFC North

Posted by Frinklin at 09:05 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Frinklin Football Forecaster: AFC North

1. Pittsburgh Steelers
God, do I hate this team. In my head I understand they’re as good as anybody in football right now, and perfectly capable of catching fire at the right time and winning it all again. Much will depend on Big Ben and how much time he’s gone for an emergency appendectomy. If the Steelers have to play Charlie Batch for any stretch of time, either the Ravens or Bengals could sneak by and capture the division.

2.Cincinnati Bengals
Cincy’s 2006 season is contingent on two things: can Carson Palmer come back at close to 100% and survive a brutal opening month? And can enough Bengals stay out of prison long enough to take the field? Palmer looked brilliant in his only preseason appearances, but let’s see how he does at full speed. With the departure of Jon Kitna, the Bengals fall off a cliff quality-wise. Anthony Wright and Doug Johnson are the back-ups. Yeesh.

3. Baltimore Ravens
Is Steve McNair the answer? He’d better be, because Kyle Boller never even knew the question. The Raven’s season boils down to the same issue has the past couple years. Is the offense good enough to keep up with Baltimore’s heralded defense? The problem is, even if McNair plays well and stays healthy -he hasn’t done either the past two years- the offense still has issues. Backup tailback Chester Taylor left as a free agent, and Jamal Lewis seems to be grinding to a halt. Can Mark Clayton continue to improve and take pressure off Derrick Mason and Todd Heap? And hey, is McNair any good anymore?

4. Cleveland Browns
Things are going in the right direction for the Land of Cleve, but not all that quickly. Charlie Fry, Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow could form a dynamic passing game. Say around… 2008? At this point Frye is unproven, Edwards can’t stay healthy and Winslow is…. Well, he’s a soldier I guess. The Browns did pick up several ageing -old actually- vets like Willie McGinest to provide leadership and stopgaps at problem areas. Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel have this team pointed in the right direction, but for now progress will be slow.

Champion: Pittsburgh Steelers
Wild Card: Cincinnati Bengals


Posted by Frinklin at 06:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Frinklin Football Forecaster: AFC South

1. Indianapolis Colts
After starting out with 13 straight wins, the Colts season ended as bitterly as could possibly be imagined. After the sudden suicide of Tony Dungy’s son James, the team collapsed and lost in the first round to the eventual champion Steelers in the most inexplicable way possible. After the season they lost star tailback Edgerrin James to free agency, but did sign Adam Vinatieri, the most clutch kicker in NFL history. So where does this leave them? The most talented team in the AFC, but they still have holes -especially up the middle- on defense, and until they win, there will be questions about Peyton Manning.

2 Jacksonville Jaguars
Last season the Jags rode an easy schdule - despite playing and beating both Super Bowl teams- to a 12-4 season and a Wild Card berth. The reward? A tougher, but still middle-of-the-pack schedule. This is a young team on the rise, but with the more difficult schedule, one that seems set for a backslide. If the Jags do make it back into the playoff it will be on the back of their defense, led by the best line in football.

3. Houston Texans
The Texans bypassed Reggie Bush in the draft, confident that Domanick Davis would thrive in the Denver-style West Coast Offense installed by new coach Gary Kubiak. Now Davis is out for year with a career-threatening knee injury. It’s been that kind of off-season for Texans, who were roundly mocked in Houston for bypassing both Bush and Vince Young, instead taking defensive end Mario Williams with the first pick. Williams has been up-and-down during the pre-season, but is a quality athlete at a premium position. The Texans actually have a far more solid lineup than previous years, but they are very, very thin.

4. Tennessee Titans
The Titans cut Steve McNair confident in the ability of Billy Volek to handle the job until Vince Young is ready, much like Chris Chandler did for McNair. Then Volek struggled in the preseason and Tennessee signed retread Kerry Collins. The over/under for VY starting is about week eight against Houston. The Titans are simply not very talented nor experienced at this point.

Champion: Indianapolis Colts
Wild Card: None


Posted by Frinklin at 01:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Frinklin Football Forecaster: AFC East

1. New England Patriots
New England isn’t the dominant force it was two seasons ago. The always-strong defense finished an abysmal 29th against the run. The offense self-destructed in the playoffs against Denver. Their best receiver, Deion Branch, is a holdout and my never play for the Patriots again. So why do they win the division? Because Bill Belichick is the best coach in the game, and Tom Brady the best quarterback.

2. Miami Dolphins
Meet the AFC’s It Girl. The Dolphins finished strong last year, the first for former LSU boss Nick Saban, and the buzz is pretty loud around the NFL. They picked up Daunte Culpepper and Joey Harrington, completely revamping a position that featured the likes of AJ Feeley and Jay Fielder last year. They feature a fine young runner in Ronnie Brown and a bona fide deep threat in Craig Chambers. So why aren’t I drinking the Kool -Aid? Because the Fish are really thin just about everywhere, and Culpepper was overrated even before the collapse last year.

3. Buffalo Bills
The space between the top two and bottom two in this division is a chasm. The Bills, on their third lousy coach in four years, replaced the overmatched Mike Mullarkey with the retread Dick Jauron. Jauron still has the unenviable task of picking between JP Losman and Kelley Holcomb to play quarterback. However, if the Bills are smart, all the QB will do is hand-off to Willis McGahee, now four years removed from his knee injury and one of the very best backs in football.

4. New York Jets
After it took Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis seemingly forever to get head jobs, the Jets made Eric Mangini the youngest coach in the NFL after only one year as a coordinator. New York has bet that Mangini will be the next Bellichek, but one hopes they remember that Belicheck was a disaster his first time around. The Jets started will, drafting two stud offensive lineman (D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold) and a possible QB-of-the-future in Kellen Clemens. This year will be rough though; this might be the least-talented team in the NFL.

Champion: New England Patriots
Wild Card: Miami Dolphins

Posted by Frinklin at 12:58 AM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

September 01, 2006

Frinklin Football Forecaster: Pac-10

It used to be that a senior quarterback was essential for success in this conference. Guys like Jake Plummer and Joey Harrington, Jason Gesser and Marques Tuiasosopo all led their teams to Rose Bowls in their senior year. That seems to be in the past now, as the experienced quarterbacks play for lesser teams. Trent Edwards at Stanford, Isaiah Stanback at Washington and Oregon State’s Matt Moore are all accomplished seniors.

And they have little shot at the Rose Bowl. The power teams, led -of course- by USC, all are breaking in new -or at least newer- field generals. The Pac-10 is a mixed bag this year. USC lost a ton of talent, with Cal and Oregon closing in. Teams 4-10 could finish in just about any order.

1. USC Trojans
The last time the Trojans broke in a new quarterback, all they did was win two national championships, play for a third and win two Heisman trophies. The expectations are just as high for John David Booty, Matt Leinart’s backup the past two years. The Trojans lost a ton of talent beyond Leinart and Bush.

Yeah, but they’re still -at worst- one of the top five or six teams in the country. They are 49-2 over the past 4 seasons.

2. Cal Golden Bears
Another team with quarterback questions. Coach Jeff Tedford has settled on Nate Longshore, who actually won the job last season before being lost for the season due to an injury the first quarter of the first game. The Bears are stacked otherwise, with three quality tailbacks led by dark horse Heisman candidate Marshawn Lynch, good young wideouts and a stacked defense. The Bears were rebuilding last year, and still finished with eight wins. USC will not be this venerable much longer.

3. Oregon Ducks
Former BYU Coach Gary Crowton came to Eugene, installed a spread offense and the Duck offense exploded. Kellen Clemens is gone to the NFL, but Mike Bellotti has two good ones in juniors Brady (brother of Ryan) Leaf and Dennis Dixon. Stud Jonathon Stewart takes over at tailback and might finish the year as leading rusher in the Pac-10. The offensive line returns all five starters, but the defensive line loses both tackles.

4. Arizona State Sun Devils
Dirk Koetter stepped out on a limb. Initially naming Sam Keller the starter, he changed course and named Rudy Carpenter. Keller transferred, so this is Rudy’s team. The Devils, like just about every year this decade, have a ton of offensive talent, but defense -and Koetter’s somewhat shaky decisions- stand in the way of a championship run.

5. UCLA Bruins
The Bruins lost a fine quarterback and All-America caliber tailback and might actually improve. Ben Olson, former #1 recruit in the nation and BYU transfer, is tailor-made for Dorrell’s West Coast offense, and Chris Markey was the co-MVP of the Sun Bowl last season. Dorrell -who is still feeling the heat- has shuffled his staff again, with Jim Swoboda taking over as Dorrell’s third offensive coordinator. The early season schedule is soft aside from the season opener with Utah, and the Bruins will be tested during a difficult Arizona-at Oregon-at Notre Dame-WSU-at Cal death march could break this team.

6. Washington State Cougars
Despite the firepower of USC, Cal and Arizona State, the Cougs might feature the most explosive offense in the league. Alex Brink enters his third year as a starter and Jason Hill bypassed the NFL draft to return as his top receiver. Bobby Byrd could leave Pullman as the best tackle in program history. The defense is less secure though, with injuries claiming DE Matt Mullenix and Fai’a Ahmu out with injuries. The Cougs will have to outscore, and they might just do that enough to end up in a bowl game.

7. Arizona Wildcats
Expectations in Tucson are far higher than any team with six wins in two years deserves. Mike Stoops is a dynamic recruiter and sophomore QB Willie Tuitama showed flashes of brilliance last season. The Wildcats are fast and talented, but young everywhere.

8. Washington Huskies
After three wins in two years, the Huskies finally seem to be on the upswing. Stanback is a dynamic talent, and the skill positions are better then they have since Reggie Williams left. The tailbacks are good, but the loss of JR Hasty to academics steals whatever breakaway speed the backfield had. Providing the backfield can improve, the defense should be solid. The front seven are talented, but not especially deep.

A fast start is critical, the Huskies never seem to recover after the close loss to Air Force in the season opener last year.

9. Oregon State Beavers
After the career of Derek Anderson, it was stunning that Mike Riley was able to find -in Moore- a quarterback as good at throwing to wrong jersey. Moore led the Pac-10 in interceptions last year with 19, and will be hard-pressed to improve without All-American Mike Hass around to catch passes. Yvenson Bernard is a strong tailback and the offensive line returns intact. Riley would do well to pound the ball;

10. Stanford Cardinal
The Cardinal offense is set with 10 returning starters including Edwards and star wideout Evan Moore returning from injury. The defense is in flux though, running an unorthodox 3-4 that wasn’t particularly effective last year. Walt Harris, in his second year as the head man, changed several members of his staff.

Posted by Frinklin at 11:42 PM | Comments (451) | TrackBack