Saturday Bowl Picks  

Posted by Walter


Boston College -7 over Navy

Paul Johnson has done a wonderful job at Navy and his team should be very proud of what they accomplished these past four seasons (the Navy seniors this year became the first class EVER to sweep all 8 games against the other service academies)........but come on! Navy is a nice story, but BC is a legitimate division 1A football team. Matt Ryan, Josh Beekman, James Marten, Jolon Dunbar, Brian Toal......these are guys who will be playing on Sundays soon enough. BC just has too much talent for the Naval academy, although this game could be close until the fourth quarter. BC pulls away late, 30-20.

Texas -9 over Iowa

Iowa stinks, I think we can say that for sure. Kirk Ferentz is a great coach, but he is at his best when expectations are low and he can sneak up on people. Great things were expected of Iowa this year, with Drew Tate and Albert Young both returning to lead a powerful offense. Well the offense was inconsistent, and the Hawkeyes were consistently outclassed all season. Texas has been equally inconsistent, but when healthy (which they should be now), they have the offensive balance to dominate Iowa. Folks, this one looks like a laugher to me. Call it Texas 42-17.

Georgia +3 over Virgnia Tech

This is a pick where I am attempting to learn from my own mistakes. I don't particularly think either team is any good, so I am taking the team that played in the tougher conference. The ACC was weak (although their bowl performances have been strong) and the SEC was strong. Georgia was an offensive trainwreck all season, but they seemed to have figured some things out lately. Call this one a hunch, but I like the Dogs to win outright and cement themselves (and QB Matt Stafford) as a chic sleeper pick for 2007. Just remember, I said before the season started that Georgia looked like a better bet for 2007 than 2006.....I'm just saying. Call it Georgia 13-10.

Overall Bowl Record: 9-8


Boston College -7 over Navy

BC has a history of winning bowl games by big margins. I know they are playing without their coach, and that's got to be hard, but this is a team that really played well, and is looking for a good jump on next year. Navy is a nice story, but BC is known for having a big o-line that likes to lean on opponents, and this will pay dividends against the undersized Midshipmen. I just don't see them being able to hang with the Eagles, who will be charged to blow out what they see as an inferior opponent. Navy can keep it close for a half, but they don't have the horses. BC pulls away, 30-17.

Texas -9 over Iowa

Colt McCoy is feeling better, and Texas needs to make a statement. They really stumbled down the stretch, but they have tons of talent on both sides of the ball. These guys are either playing for draft position, or for a top ranking to begin next year. Iowa has really struggled this year, and they don't have the best recent bowl history. Texas, on the other hand, certainly does. I think Mack Brown took the time to work out the kinks, and his team should be ready to show the world the kind of season they could have, and probably should have, had. They are in a steamrolling kind of mood, 34-14.

Virginia Tech -3 over Georgia

Virginia Tech has shown a very capable defense this year, and Georgia has shown a complete lack of offense. I don't care if the Bulldogs figured themselves out to a degree at the end of the year, I just can't defend them winning this game. Virginia Tech doesn't have much of an offense themselves, but they Beamers teams excel at creating turnovers and not making mistakes. It was no accident that they beat a Wake Forest team that thrived by capitalizing on their opponents errors. The Hokies won't make many of them, and Georgia probably will. Virginia Tech takes this one, 20-14.

Overall Bowl Record: 8-

Friday Bowl Picks  

Posted by Walter


Clemson -11 over Kentucky

I admire the Wildcats this season. They hung tough in the ultra competitive SEC, and they may even have a bourgeoning superstar in quarterback Andre Woodson (see my "Next Big Thing" column). Yet, this is a nightmare matchup for them. Clemson has the best 1-2 running back combination in the country with James Davis and (my favorite) CJ Spiller, and Kentucky has not exactly been adept at shutting down top talent running games this season. Louisville's Mike Bush ran for nearly 130 yards on only 18 carries in the opener, LSU ran up over 250 rushing yards, and even Florida hung over 200 rushing yards on the Wildcat defense. The scary thing is that the Davis and Spiller combination is appreciably better than all three of the aforementioned running games. The only way Kentucky has a chance is to put the ball in the hands of Andre Woodson early and get out to a big lead. Keeping the ball out of Davis and Spillers' hands is the only way they can slow those two down. No disrespect to Andre Woodson (who is fantastic), but he can't do it alone. This one is a laugher as Clemson takes it 35-17.

Oregon State -4 over Missourri

This line looks a little off to me, don't it? Mizzou got off to a hot start, but they have lost three of their last four games (including a disaster at Iowa St.) and 4 of their last 6. Oregon State, on the other hand, has been peaking at the right time, winning 7 of their last 8 games, including impressive road wins at Washington, Arizona, and Hawaii, not to mention the stunning upset of USC. The most impressive thing, though, is that the Beavers did all this, for the most part, without their best offensive player, Yvenson Bernard. Well he came back for the Hawaii game and put up 100 yards, and with him fully healthy this Oregon State team should be poised for a big offensive day against an all of a sudden suspect Mizzou defense that has given up 20 points or more in 6 of the last 7 games. Look for the Oregon State three headed monster of Bernard, QB Matt Moore, and WR Sammie Stroughter to all have huge games. Missourri QB Chase Daniel is good enough to keep it close early, but Oregon State pulls away late. Call it 35-24.

South Carolina -7 over Houston

As far as meaningless bowl games go, this one could be one of the most fun. South Carolina and Houston are two teams that are extremely athletic on offense, and both have coaches who never call off the dogs. First Houston. Lost in Colt Brennan mania, was the magnificent season that Houston senior Kevin Kolb had. Considered one of the top pro prospects in this senior class, Kolb put up an other wordly 27:3 TD to INT ratio and over 3400 passing yards. Not to be outdone, Houston tailback Anthony Aldridge put up a video-game type stat of his own, averaging over 10 yards per carry on the season!!! He teams with Jackie Battle to form one of the more imposing and least known tailback tandems in the nation. But how about South Carolina. Well we are all aware of my unabashed love for Steve Spurrier, but this team is loaded on offense. Blake Mitchell has really turned his game around since being benched in favor of Syvelle Newton in the middle of the season, and with Sidney Rice around it's not hard to see why. But the big edge South Carolina has in this game is their defense. Although it's young, it has been steadily improving all season and has become a strength of the team in recent weeks. While there will be a ton of points scored in this game, South Carolina's defense, led by the Brinkley twins (Casper and Jasper), will have far more answers than the Houston squad. It will be a relatively close game, and should be a lot of fun to watch. Give me South Carolina 38-30.

Purdue +4 over Maryland

Tough game to call. Maryland was a huge suprise in the ACC this season, although they didn't really beat anyone (their best win was at Clemson, who finished the season unranked). Same goes for Purdue whose best win was, Michigan State? Still, when picking games you can't ignore how teams have been playing lately, and Maryland has been bad. They've lost two straight, albeit to top competition (BC and Wake Forest), but they gave up 38 points in each game and got blown out in each game. Purdue, on the other hand, had won three straight before dropping their finale to Hawaii on the island (no shame there). Look for Purdue QB Curtis Painter to have a strong, poised game against a suspect Terrapin defense, and for Maryland QB Sam Hollenbach to make one or two crucial mistakes against an opportunistic and ball hawking Boilermaker secondary. As far as uninspiring games go, this one may take the cake. Give me Purdue winning outright, 21-17.

Texas Tech -7 over Minnesota

Another game that could be a fun one. We all know that Texas Tech loves to throw the ball and put up points, but what many people don't know is that Gophers can score too. In their last 3 games Minnesota has put up 34, 31, and 63 points. Problem is, when they are good they are good, but when they are bad, they are bad. Just look at the 44-0 shellacking Ohio State laid on them. Looking at these teams its hard to go against the Red Raiders. Despite some early season struggles, Tech quarterback Graham Harrell ended up with All America caliber numbers, completing 67% of his passes en route to over 4000 yards and 36 touchdowns. Minnesota QB Brian Cupito is no slouch, but he isn't the pure passer Harrell is, and the Minnesota passing game won't be able to keep up. The Gophers will really miss Gary Russell in this one as Tech will take a big lead early and score enough late to keep this one comfortable. Let's call it 38-27 Tech.

Overall Bowl Record: 8-4

Frazier: Ugh, this bowl picking thing has been a disaster for me. Partially because these are random games, partially because bowl season always has surprises in terms of which teams show up, and which ones shit the bed. Also, we've been picking in a format different than the one I am used to, and I think it's been fucking with me. Still, no excuses, it's time to turn it on.

Clemson -11 over Kentucky

Clemson is far and away the better team here. Kentucky is a nice story, but they aren't actually any good. I know it was awhile ago, but they got pasted 49-0 against LSU. While they may have hung tough with an injured Tennessee team, they finished their season against an uber-soft schedule. I just don't like it. Clemson has to get it going, and although they haven't been killing people, I think Spiller sends a message. 28-14.

Oregon State -4 over Missouri

Picking against Mizzou has been very, very, very good to me, and may be exactly what I need to get off the shneid. Oregon St. has been playing well. Mizzou started hot but has been pretty poor of late. Also, they failed to do anything in a very weak Big 12 this year. I just don't like it. Oregon St. rolls this team, 38-20.

South Carolina -7 over Houston

It's all about Steve Spurrier. This is a man who is not exactly used to playing close games against the Houston's of the world. And he ain't about to start now. I love Houston, I really do, but the SEC is a whole other ballgame. The Gamecocks defense was actually good at times this year, and their offense is going to enjoy playing against a defense that isn't exactly SEC-caliber. They are scoring plenty of points, and will be winning handily. Let's call it 34-18.

Maryland -4 over Purdue

As much as I don't love this Terrapin team, I really don't love the Boilermakers. If Maryland avoids the costly turnovers that submarined their final two games, I think they should be fine. The Fridge is a good offensive coach, and he'll find a way to make things happen on that side of the ball. The Maryland defense has been pretty stingy, except when their offense has put them in terrible situations. That doesn't happen this time, and Maryland gets it done, in a completely boring and meaningless game, 24-17.

Minnesota +7 over Texas Tech

The Golden Gophers have rounded into form recently. They have the ability to score points, and Texas Tech ain't exactly stopping anyone, at any time, anywhere, under any circumstances. Now, the Red Raiders will get their points, but so will Minnesota. This game is going to be fun to watch, and I think it will be close. Any time the teams involved will be scoring over 70 combined points, I like to take the numbers. Too many things could happen to give the Gophers a big lead, or keep them in it with garbage touchdowns. I think Tech wins, but not by enough, 38-34.

Overall Bowl Record: 5-7

Thursday Bowl Picks  

Posted by Walter


Alabama +3.5 over Oklahoma State

Let's be clear, I am a Crimson Tide fan and that, and that alone, is why I am picking them in this game. 'Bama has no chance. They have been a mediocre team all season, and now they are dealing with the uncertainty of an interim coach after losing Mike Shula (who I get the feeling was fairly popular among the players). The Alabama program has spent far more time over the past two weeks worrying about who their next coach will be then preparing for an explosive and underrated Cowboys team. This is a dead man walking game.

Texas A & M +4 over California

An interesting game between two teams and two coaches that just cannot win big games. That said, I like the way that A & M has been playing over the past few weeks. They have to be buoyed by the huge win over Texas (when they really dominated the Horns), their biggest win to date under Franchione. California, on the other hand, has lost two of their last three, and did not play well against a terrible Stanford team. Marshawn Lynch may be the best player in the game but he has been off recently, and has topped 100 yards only once in the last 4 games. The A & M defense is strong, and their offense will control the line of scrimmage and the clock with Lane and Goodson. Plus I will never go against my main man Stephen McGee. A & M takes it outright, 21-20.

Kansas State +7 over Rutgers

This game should be a preview of two of the chic teams for 2007. Rutgers arrived on the scene this year, as did K State with their win over Texas. Rutgers is the more experienced team, but the Wildcats, and QB Josh Freeman, may have more talent. Plus, it's not like Rutgers has been blowing anyone out this season. Kansas State reminds me a lot of the South Florida team that Rutgers struggled with. Expect a big game from Brian Leonard in his last appearance for the Scarlet Knights, but without any semblance of a passing game this one stays close until the final horn. Call it Rutger 23-20.

Overall Bowl Record: 7-2


Oklahoma St. -3.5 over Alabama

Um, let's see, one of these teams is in completel and utter turmoil after a disappointing season and playing without a coach. The other team is Oklahoma St. The Tide were thoroughly unimpressive all season, and I think it's asking a lot for them to get their shit together for this one. I hate picking the Big 12 over the SEC, but Alabama is not exactly the cream of that conference, and things have been more than a little hectic over there in Tuscaloosa. I see it as a roll over and die sort of game for them. The Cowboys roll, 34-17.

Texas A & M +4 over California

Well, I'm officially on the Aggies bandwagon. It's a team with guts led by McGee on the offense (with the indescribible Javorskie Lane toting the rock) and Mark Dodge as the defensive leader. Can't love what California brings to the table, and I've had terrible luck picking against A&M. I think they get physical, and make it a battle, but the Bears use superior athleticism to win by the slimmest of margins. Call it Bears, 24-21.

Kansas State +7 over Rutgers

Love this line. Rutgers hasn't exactly steamrolled teams this year, and they've been playing Big East foes all season. Kansas St. has a couple of good wins under their belts, and they have a lot of talent. This was a huge disappointment for Rutgers, but it's a great opportunity for the Wildcats to get more exposure than they normally would in a nominal bowl like this one. I like them to take advantage of that opportunity. Fuck Rutgers, I'm calling the full upset. When the Scarlet Knights needed a win against WVU to make the BCS, the Mountaineers put up huge numbers with their back-up quarterback, and Pat White was the key to that offense. I don't like teams that choke, I don't like teams that get destroyed and totally out-played by Cincinatti, and I don't like teams from New Jersey. It's K-State, 27-23.

Overall Bowl Record: 5-4

Emerald Bowl Picks  

Posted by Walter


Florida State +4 over UCLA

Never has a bowl game with two such high profile name teams been such a "blah" game. I mean seriously, is anyone excited about this matchup? Still, we here at the323 are dedicated to brining you the best analysis we can, and that means chiming in on games as meaningless as this one. Another strange thing about this game is that these two teams, from opposite ends of the country, are somewhat mirror images of each other. Both have defenses far superior to their offenses, and both have unsettled quarterback situations. Don't expect a lot of points in this one, and it's really a hard game to pick because you get the feeling their could be a defensive score or two. UCLA has two stud defensive lineman in Bruce Davis and Justin Hickman, and they have the ability to take over a game themselves (just ask USC). Equal to the task though, is Florida State, who has playmakers like Buster Davis and Myron Rolle to counter. The bottom line is that both defenses should rule this game, and the game will be won by whichever team is able to muster one or two big plays on offense. Looking at the slate of skill position players in this one does not exactly read like a whose who of first round picks. That said, guys like Drew Weatherford and Lorenzo Booker have made plays for the Noles in the past (true it may have been three seasons ago), but the same cannot be said for the likes of Patrick Cowan and Chris Markey for UCLA. Call is Florida State 13-10.

Overall bowl record: 6-2


UCLA -4 over Florida St.

Another totally uninspiring bowl. Another game between two teams with good defenses and pathetic offenses. I just don't know if the 'Noles have it to go cross-country and do something right for a change. I love how they came to play in last year's Orange Bowl, they showed some pride that night. But I don't think they have enough on the line. Things are bad in Tallahassee right now, and UCLA is coming off a huge win. I think they keep it going. The 'Noles offense commits some turnovers, and UCLA capitalize. Let's call it 17-10.

Overall Bowl Record: 5-3

Tuesday Bowl Picks  

Posted by Frazier


Central Michigan -11 over Middle Tennessee State

Um, lots of points to lay but am I seriously going to take a Middle Tennessee team I know absolutely nothing about? Central Michigan will be playing their first game with a new head coach, but they were a top MAC team all season and gave Boston College (a legit top 25 team) fits in the opener. 11 is a lot, but Central Michigan is the better team by far.

Overall Bowl Record
: 5-2

Central Michigan -11 over Middle Tennessee State

Frazier: What do you say about the game that has nothing? Am I about to take MTSU when I know that Central Michigan is actually a good team? I don't love the fact that they lost their coach, but they lost him because he was good. As was his team. It's a ton of points, but that logic totally screwed me yesterday, so fuck it. It's Central Michigan time, 38-20.

Overall Bowl Record: 4-3

Hawaii Bowl Picks  

Posted by Walter


Arizona State +10 over Hawaii

Well Arizona State may not be as good as Oregon State, but the Beavers showed us that Hawaii may not be as invincible on the island as we once thought. That said, the Sun Devils are not as good as the Beavers, and I don't think they win the game. But I expect a ton of points from both sides in a "whoever has the ball last will win" type of game. Arizona State isn't great, but Rudy Carpenter and Rudy Burgess are enough to keep this one close until Colt Brennan pulls it out in the end. Call it Hawaii 38-36.

Overall Bowl Record: 5-1


Arizona St. +10 over Hawaii

Too many points. The Sun Devils have been a disappointment, but they're from the Pac-10, and they ain't getting blown out. Hawaii wins, 41-35.

Overall Bowl Record: 4-2

Quick Picks - Saturday Bowls  

Posted by Walter


South Florida -3.5 over East Carolina

I love what Skip Holtz (Lou's son) has done for the Pirates of East Carolina, but South Florida has been one of the more underrated teams all season. Matt Grothe, a true Freshman, is a tough and exciting player, and the defense is led by one of the best linebacking tandems in the nation (Stephen Nicholas and Ben Moffit). South Florida is the better team and they take it 24-16.

San Jose State +6.5 over New Mexico

Dick Tomey has worked nothing short of a miracle turning around a San Jose St. program that was one of the worst in college football history. New Mexico loves to throw the ball, and the strength of the Spartan defense is their secondary. Look for San Jose St. to win outright. Let's call it 24-23.

Utah -3.5 over Tulsa

I love Steve Kragthorpe (everyone should know this by now), but I don't love the way Tulsa ended their season. Utah got off to a very poor start but they really picked it up in the second half of the season. They may not be the better team or have the better coach, but they are playing better right now. Call it Utah 27-20.

Overall Bowl Record: 2-1


South Florida -3.5 over East Carolina

Fucking Blogger messed up my original analysis, so it's the thumbnail versions. South Florida beat West Virginia, East Carolina kept it close. East Carolina is having a nice year, South Florida is actually good. South Florida win 24-17.

New Mexico -6.5 over San Jose St.

I am going to take the team with the big fireworks. I just have a feeling that they get clicking, and the Spartans fall behind and can't recover. Let's call it Lobos, 34-20.

Utah -3.5 over Tulsa

I think the Kragthorpe rumors have been a distraction, and Tulsa has not been playing its' best ball recently. I like what the Utes bring to the table in this one. I feel like they feel a little disrespected since no one talks about them anymore. They are out to prove Meyer isn't the only notable thing about this program. They get it going, 28-21.

Overall Bowl Record: 2-1

New Orleans Bowl Picks  

Posted by Walter


Rice -7.5 over Troy

This is tough game to pick since both teams are 7-5, and the number is half a point over a touchdown. That said, I feel much more comfortable laying the points and taking the team with the better talent (both football and coaching). Plus, it doesn't hurt that Rice is on a huge roll winning six straight games. Rice has the better head coach (Todd Graham), the better coordinator (Major Applewhite), the better quarterback (Chase Clement) and the best player in the game (Jarrett Dillard). With all that going against Troy, I can't say that I know enough about the teams to go against them. Call it Rice 31-Troy 17.

Overall Bowl Record: 2-0


Rice -7.5 over Troy

Like I'm not going to pick the Major and his troops! It's really that simple. Dillard blows up. It's a huge day for Rice (woah!). The Owls take it, 35-21.

Overall Bowl Record: 2-0


Posted by Frazier

Once again, I totally underrated my own pick on that BYU game. Why I had Oregon scoring 30 points is beyond me. I guess I just didn't trust the Cougars defense. I even said I thought Oregon would completely tank because they have a history of not showing up in their bowls? Yeah, they didn't even board the plane this time. I guess the Mormons were less distracted by the bright lights and debauchery of Las Vegas, but that's no excuse for the Ducks pathetic effort last night. That was one of the stink bombs of the year.

Las Vegas Bowl Picks  

Posted by Walter


BYU -6 over Oregon

Like I'm going to pick Oregon at this point in the year. My favorite superfrauds from Eugene had us all fooled for a while, climbing as high as #8 in the polls. However, since then it has been an absolute disaster for the ducks. Oregon has lost three straight, including at home to Arizona, and they are a paltry 3-5 since beating UCLA on Oct. 14. BYU, on the other hand, has been on fire. They've won 9 straight since starting the season 1-2 (losing only at Arizona and at Boston College). The number is big, but BYU has been putting up huge offensive numbers all season. QB John Beck is the best passer you haven't heard of, and during their 9 game win streak the Cougars have scored 31 points in all but one game (a 24-3 drubbing of Colorado State). They've gone over the 40 point mark 4 times in that span, and over the 50 point mark twice. Conversely, Oregon has given up 30 points in each of their last 3 games. Oregon is still trying to replace all those seniors they lost in the secondary, and their best defensive back, Patrick Chung, is far more adept at run support than coverage. For this game to be close, Johnathan Stewart will have to rush for about 150 yards and 3 scores. I say BYU gets up early and Oregon is forced to rely on Brady Leaf (yup, that's Ryan's little bro) to put points up. That's not a good thing folks. Call it BYU 40-28.

Overall Bowl Record: 1-0


BYU -6 Over Oregon

Can't love the Ducks right now. Can love the Cougars. BYU has been excellent, and scoring points in bunches. Just feels like the kind of year where the wheels fall off for Oregon, and they totally tank this one. They haven't been the best at pulling through in bowl games recently, so let's just say it's a lost cause. I'm taking BYU in this one, and a lot of points to boot, 38-30.

Overall Bowl Record: 1-0

The End of an Era  

Posted by Frazier

Well, Reggie Ball ended his career at Georgia Tech in ignamonius fashion. There's not a lot left to say about him or his tumultous (and that's being nice) run at quarterback. After flashing tremendous promise as a freshman with his athleticism and ability to make throws, he never got any better. He was always a better athlete than quarterback, and it's now clear that he wasn't much of a leader off the field, or on it, for that matter.

Ball had the chance to be more like Troy Smith, a gifted athlete who didn't always make the right decisions in life, but hunkered down and committed himself to improving his play at quarterback. While Smith learned to be an accurate passer and focused on staying in the pocket, Ball never understand that he needed to learn to operate from the pocket. His constant desire to improvise, or "just make plays" led to his downfall. He wanted to be like Michael Vick instead of like Smith or Vince Young, two players with incredible physical gifts who only excelled when they learned that being a quarterback was a lot more than being a great athlete. Ball never seemed to use his head on the field, and obviously he wasn't using it in the classroom either. He wasted an opportunity by not utilizing Calvin Johnson enough, let's hope that he doesn't waste another opportunity by failing to graduate from a fine school like Georgia Tech.

The Pick Offs! Poinsettia Style.  

Posted by Frazier

Welcome to the Pick Offs. It's the final tournament between the big man and myself to see who's better at picking these games. It's just a little competition between the two of us. We'll each pick every bowl game, and we'll see how the records turn out. Of course we'll be picking the same team in many of these games, because it's not fair to force someone to pick against what they actually believe. It also helps us stay focused on many of these lesser bowls, because sometimes it's hard to give a shit, even if you love college football as much as we do. Anyways, the first bowl game is tonight, and so let the picking begin.


TCU -13 Over Northern Illinois

Don't love laying so many points. Frankly, it's a tough one to swallow. But I also like the Horned Frogs defense, especially against the run, against the Garrett Wolfe and company. Their balanced attack should take advantage of a Huskies defense that has struggled to stop anyone, especially through the air. I just think that Northern Illinois will struggle to score enough, and will give up some long plays through the air. I'm taking the Frogs, 30-13.


TCU -13 over Northern Illinois

This one hurts because I was driving the N Illinoi bandwagon earlier this year. However, the numbers don't lie. TCU has won 8 straight games, and they have been absolutely blowing teams out. Further, the TCU rush defense has been other-wordly in the past four games as they have held their opponents to 2.2 (Air Force), 1.9 (Colorado State), 1.3 (San Diego State), and 2.6 (New Mexico) yards per rush respectively. Northern Illinios, on the other hand, has lost 2 of their last 4, and 3 of their last 6, and have proven time and again that they are unable to handle physical teams. 13 points is a lot to lay, but TCU definitely has the horses to make this one a laugher fairly early on.

The 323 All America Team  

Posted by Walter

Quarterback - Troy Smith, Ohio State

Walter: Frankly this selection wasn't even close. Troy Smith has been the best player on the best team all year. What is most remarkable about Smith, though, is his development. Since 2004, Smith's TD passes have just about doubled each season (8, 16, 30) while his INT have remained relatively constant (3, 4, 5). Most impressive is that his completion percentage has improved each year (55.7%, 62.9%, 67%). The bottom line is that in 2004 Smith was considered a running quarterback who couldn't throw. Today he is the best passer in college football......oh yeah and he can still kill you with his legs. It would not be a stretch to say that Troy Smith has developed more in his four years at college than any player in the history of the game.

Runner Up - Pat White, West Virginia

Running Back - Darren McFadden, Arkansas

Frazier - Wow, that's all I can really say about the dominating McFadden. He is like a swiss army running back. Whether lining up under center, in the backfield or at wideout, or even returning punts or kicks, he was explosive all over the field. There wasn't anything he couldn't do. But this honor reflects his ability to tote the ball, and damn, he could do it. He is a physical freak, punishing tacklers by running over them, or throwing a piston-like stiff arm into their grill, or simply blazing past them in the open field. He's fast, he's strong, he's a bad mother-fucker. He's an all-american.

Runner Up
- Mike Hart, Michigan

Fullback - Brian Leonard, Rutgers

Walter: This selection isn't about numbers at all. Brian Leonard came into his senior season as arguably the best player in the history of his school. He still holds numerous rushing, recieving and scoring records, and is generally revered as an all time great Scarlet Knight. So what did he get for all his troubles? Well roughly 100 less carries, 400 less rushing yards, and 10 less trips to the endzone. Yet, Leonard could not be happier. Leonard is the complete embodiment of a team leader. When Ray Rice emerged, he put his ego aside and took a backseat because it was better for the team. He worked hard to improve as a blocker, because that is how he felt he could best help the team. Not once did he complain about losing touches, even though he is a more than capable rusher. Where most players would pout and bemoan the success of his team without him, Brian Leonard thrived. He led Rutgers to its best season ever doing the things that his team needed him to do. Brian Leonard deserves to be on this all america team because of his leadership and selflessness. Like I said, this selection has nothing to do with statistics.

Runner Up - Jacob Hester

Wide Recievers - Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech & Robert Meachem, Tennessee

Frazier: Well, this one is easy. Calvin Johnson is a top five selection in the draft. He's very tall, very fast, very physical, and he has great hands. Whether he was leaping over defenders, winning jump balls, or making one-handed catches, he was a force. While Meachum might have been a numerical selection, Johnson's nod is based on dominance. Sure, he had the numbers to back them up, but he was just special every time out. With the erratic (and that's being nice) Reggie Ball at quarterback, Johnson was the focal point of every defense he faced. He was expected to be the best receiver in the country this year, well, he was.

Walter: Robert Meachem's selection is all about numbers. All you need to know is that playing in the SEC he finished third in the nation in recieving yards behind two guys who play at New Mexico St. and UTEP. Meachem was a statistical horse all season, and he played his best in most of Tennessee's biggest games. One of the enduring performances of the entire season remains his 5 catch, 182 yard, 2 TD masterpiece against California, when he repeatedly took short passes and turned them into long gains. Meachem posted six 100 yard games in total, three of which came in conference play. He scored touchdowns in all but 4 of his team's games, and registered multiple scores on three occasions. While there may be more talented wideouts than Meachem, the did not come to play every week like he did.

Runner Up - Jeff Samardzjia, Notre Dame

Tight End - Johnny Harline, BYU

Frazier: Not exactly a close one. As the top receiver for John Beck, who had an impressive season, Harline was an easy choice. He had almost 800 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns. His clutch grab to beat Utah was just one example of the way he changed games. Defenses had to keep Harline in their sites at all times, and he was able to exploit the middle of the field to create opportunities. In a year when few tight ends made noise, Harline was easily the best of the bunch.

Runner Up - Travis Beckum, Wisconsin

Offensive Line

Steve Vallos, Wake Forest

Walter: Vallos was arguably the most dominant offensive lineman in america all season. Wake Forest lost their starting QB and two starting RB's early in the season but kept humming along, thanks in large part to the steady play of their offensive line led by Vallos. Much of freshman QB Riley Skinner's success must be attributed to Vallos protecting his blind side all season.

Joe Thomas, Wisconsin

Walter: Thomas is the best offensive line prospect in the college game today and proved in this season. Coming back from a horrible knee injury he suffered in last year's bowl game, Thomas proved to be a dominant run blocker and elite pass blocker for the Badgers this year. At 6'8'' and well over 300 pounds, Thomas was just too much for most college ends. His performance against Michigan's Lamar Woodley was a virtual clinic on how to play left tackle.

Jake Long, Michigan

Walter: No surprise here, a Michigan lineman on an all america team. Long was a relative unknown at the beginning of the season, but the Junior proved that he belonged in the same sentence as great Michigan tackles like Jon Jansen, Jeff Backus, and Jon Runyan. Michigan relied heavily on the running game, especially when Mario Manningham was hurt, and Mike Hart was able to churn out first down after first down, in large part because of Long's dominance on the left side.

Dan Mozes, West Virginia

Walter: Wouldn't be a complete list without the best offensive lineman from the nation's best rushing team. The quick, undersized Mozes was a perfect fit as the pivot for Rich Rodriguez's spread attack, as he was able to pull and get up onto the second level for most of the year. Perhaps the best lineman in space that I have ever seen, Mozes was primarily responsible for all of those long runs Pat White and Steve Slaton enjoyed all season.

Arron Sears, Tennessee

Walter: Sears was a calming influence on a Volunteers line that was in flux for most of the season. Sears has been a four year starter for the Vols and he will be nearly impossible to replace. Winning this year's Jacobs Award as the best lineman in the SEC only further cements his candidacy for this team.

Runner Up - Tony Ugoh, Arkansas & Doug Datish, Ohio State

Defensive Ends - Gaines Adams, Clemson & LaMar Woodley, Michigan

Walter: Going into the season Gaines Adams was a chic pick for all america honors, and he did nothing to disappoint (unlike the other chic pick, Quentin Moses). Adams was a disruptive force all season registering 10.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for a loss. Most impressive is that Adams was able to do all of this despite losing several teammates along the defensive front to season long injuries. Even with offenses dedicating two and sometimes three blockers to stopping him, Adams was constantly in the backfield wreaking havoc. Further, his blocked kick and TD return against Wake Forest was one of the most athletic and impressive (not to mention important) plays of the entire college football season.

Frazier: Lamar Woodley is another easy choice. He had 11 sacks for one of the defenses, and absolutely wreaked havoc from his end spot. Even in a tough Ohio St. game he was all over the ball, bursting into the backfield and making Troy Smith earn his accolades. Woodley is the kind of size/speed combination that few teams can afford to blocnations bestk with only one man. He has the size to make a difference against the run, and the athleticism to burst into the quarterbacks face. Simply a dangerous player.

Runner Up - Calais Campbell, Miami

Defensive Tackles - Quinn Pitcock, Ohio State & Alan Branch, Michigan

Frazier: Pitcock was the old man river of the young Buckeyes defense, and he held his young unit together in the early going. By consistently hogging a pair of blockers he created opportunities for Laurinaitis and the talented linebackers to simply read and react, in order to fill the gaps. His senior leadership was vital to a group that was decimated by graduation and players leaving for the draft last year. He also recorded eight sacks, proving that he was a dual threat on the line. Nobody had a better season than this Quinn.

Walter: Branch was the immovable object for the Wolverines all season long. The big man (and I do mean big!) anchored one of the best run defenses in the history of college football. Though his numbers won't blow you away, Branch constantly required two blockers, thus freeing up teammates like David Harris and LaMar Woodley to make big plays. The emergence of David Harris, who rose from a complete unkown to an all america caliber inside linebacker, can be directly traced to Branch's influence in the middle of the defense.

Runner Up - Glen Dorsey, LSU


Pat Willis, Mississippi

Frazier: The Butkus award winner is a deserving all american. He was constantly overshadowed by playing on a middling SEC team, and probably didn't receive the credit he deserved until awards season rolled around. His speed and incredible tackling ability made a difference, and he had the Herculean task of making the Ole Miss defense respectable. His team stayed in many games they probably didn't belong in thanks to his type of tenacity.

Jon Abbate, Wake Forest

Walter: Abbate was the toughest and best player on Wake Forest's best unit all season. Much has been made about Abbate's perseverence through family tragedy, and all of the attention is well deserved. Abbate served as the vocal and physical leader for the Deacons all season, and, despite his size, was one of the leading tacklers in the entire ACC. Not enough can really be said about Abbate's influence on a Wake Forest team that faced adversity all year, but still managed to win the ACC. Consider Abbate the Brian Leonard of this all america defense in that his numbers don't even begin to tell the full story.

James Laurinaitis, Ohio State

Frazier: He's a real Road Warrior like his old man. But in this case the road he was patrolling was the middle of the number one team's defense. Completely unheralded heading into this season, Laurinaitis didn't make it here on hype or a marketing campaign. He created those things thanks to his play on the field. His greatest asset was probably his ability to create turnovers, including three forced fumbles and five interceptions. Committing turnovers against a team as talented as the Buckeyes is like handing them points, and he made sure Ohio St. kept on rolling along all season. He added a hundred tackles and four sacks to his haul, but he was at his best when ball-hawking and turning close games into routs for his team.

Runner Up - Buster Davis, Florida State

Defensive Backs:

Eric Weddle, Utah

Walter: There is nothing more to be said about Weddle than his numbers don't already say: 58 tackes, 6 INT (including three returns for scores), 2 sacks and 2 tackles for a loss. Wait, what's that you say? Dual threat. Yup, by season's end Weddle was also one of the most explosive players on the Utah offense registering 147 rushing yards and 4 TD, while even kicking in a passing touchdown. Weddle is a rare athlete whose football smarts match his ability on the field. Weddle played every position in the secondary for the Utes at an all america caliber level during the season. And as for anyone who says he doesn't have the ability to lock down recievers at the next level, I urge you to watch Weddle's performance in the Emerald Bowl last seaon when he absolutely locked down Calvin Johnson.

Daymeoin Hughes, California

Frazier: Hughes is another player who excelled at turning other's mistakes into huge opportunities. He had eight interceptions, and scored a pair of return touchdowns. His big play ability meant that many teams simply chose to avoid him altogether, instead of running the risk of ending up on his personal highlight reel. That ball-hawking is further evidence of his unique speed and closing ability. In a conference with as many athletes as the Pac 10, Hughes showed he was among the best.

Reggie Nelson, Florida

Walter: Nelson was consistently the best player on Florida's defense all year. But his numbers alone cannot do him justice. Florida is in the national title game, but they needed ever single on of his big plays to get there. On the season Nelson registered 50 tackles and 6 INT, none of which were bigger than the two he picked off in Florida's one point win over Tennessee. Nelson even made huge plays on special teams, chipping in two blocked kicks on the year. Most importantly, though, is the fact that Nelson was a steadying presence in a secondary that was shaky at times. It seemed that whenever a team started to drive on Florida, Nelson was there with a big play to promptly end it.

Antoine Cason, Arizona

Frazier: Poor Cason didn't get to really show everyone how good he was. Mostly because no one wanted a piece of his side of the field. He consistently locked down the opponents best receiver, and made plays everywhere he could. His statistics aren't terribly impressive, but sometimes that's the mark of a truly great defender. Dre Bly got so many interceptions because everybody thought they could pass all over him. No one thought that about Cason. His three best games were against USC, Cal, LSU, the best teams he faced all year. Let's look at his USC line just to give you an idea of his skills. He had 11 tackles, an interception, two passes defensed, and forced a fumble. That's an incredible stat line. Cason will finally get the recognition he deserves at the next level.

Runners Up - Leon Hall, Michigan & LaRon Landry, LSU

The Coaching Carousel  

Posted by Walter

The Boston Herald is reporting that Boston College will hire Packers offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski as their new head coach. As you all may well know I was pulling hard for former UMass head man Mark Whipple, but this could be an equally outstanding hire for the Eagles. Jagodzinski brings with him a creative offensive mind, as well as the NFL pedigree that will help him recruit top talent to Chestnut Hill. Early reports indicate that Jagodzinski could retain some of Tom O'Brien's staff, including longtime defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani. Spaz is one of the most respected defensive minds in the business, and hia years of experience would go a long way towards easing Jagodzinski's transition, as JJ has no previous head coaching experience.

California media outlets are also reporting that Stanford will hire former NFL quarterback and current University of San Diego head coach Jim Harbaugh to fill their vacancy. This hiring is somewhat puzzling to me. While Stanford has been a Pac-10 doormat as of late, it is still one of the top institutions in the nation and has a rich football history. It suprises me that the Stanford AD could not lure a more high profile (a.k.a. better) football coach to Palo Alto than Harbaugh. What is even more suprising is that Auburn offensive coordinator, and former bay area resident, never got a serious look from Stanford. Harbaugh was a decent NFL quarterback, but he is a midwest guy, having played his college ball at Michigan and most of his pro career in Chicago and Indianapolis. I wish him the best of luck at Stanford, but this does not seem like a match that will end well for either party.

Quick prediction......with Stanford hiring Harbaugh, Al Borges name will soon come to the forefront for the Alabama vacancy. Borges has long been a hotshot up-and-comer, and hiring him away from Bama's arch rival could be just about the only thing they can do to save face in this whole coaching debacle.

Power Rankings (end of regular season)  

Posted by Walter

#1 Ohio State

Walter: As if it were even a question. I'm obligated to comment on the Buckeyes, though I feel as though there is nothing left to say that hasn't already been said. So I'm going to do what I always do, talk about something completely random. This time it's freshman running back Chris Wells. Perhaps I was remiss in not mentioning him in my "next big thing" column, but Wells certainly has the talent. Don't get me wrong, Antonio Pittman was enormous for Ohio State all year, but similar to the situation in Clemson he isn't as talented as his young understudy Wells. In a season when he got more than 100 less carries than Pittman, Wells scored only 4 fewer touchdowns and averaged over a half yard more per carry. Wells is a special back, and with Troy Smith leaving for the NFL (and top recievers Anthony Gonzalez and Tedd Ginn possibly joining him) there may be enough carries to go around for both back next season.

Frazier - Jim Tressel is threatening to become a Tier One coach (more on this in an off-season column). But the point is, those guys become legends. They are spoken of in revered terms by people who weren't alive when they were building their legacy. Basically, Tressel is very, very, very good, and more teams are stupid not to recognize that a guy who can dominate at the 1-AA level probably has an excellent chance to bring that kind of success with him.

#2 Florida

Walter: Nobody has been more critical of the Gators this season than me, but even I recognize that it's time to give Urban Meyer's squad their due. The Gators offense has been, uh.....let's term it uninspiring at times, but this team has done enough on special teams and defense to win games. One has to wonder, though, just how well this strategy will work against an Ohio State team that simply does not make mistakes. The Gators haven't won because they have stopped their opponents, they've won because their secondary has intecepted lots and lots of passes. I mean, between Ryan Smith and Reggie Nelson that's 14 INT's alone. When all this is considered two things become apparent: (1) Florida wouldn't seem to have much of a shot against Ohio State, and (2) perhaps the SEC was a bit overrated. We'll learn the answer to both during bowl month.

Frazier - Ugh, mea culpa time. This is a pretty hard one to swallow, but the Gators deserve this spot. Basically, they kept winning. Even when they didn't look great (or even terribly good) they found a way to win. They forced lots of errors, played stout defense, and have a creative coach who sparked scoring opportunities. As the only program to really effectively utilize two quarterbacks without any huge controversy, Florida deserves some respect for their versatility. Whether this show will be enough against a Ohio St. team that has looked invulnerable, and unwilling to beat themselves, well, that remains to be seen. But, the point is we get to see it, and find out for ourselves. But Florida needs to be perfect, because they need to create scoring, and force errors, but turnovers and mistakes of their own will spell disaster.

#3 Michigan

Walter: Michigan does have a legitimate beef with being left on the outside looking in, but not that legitimate. Take a look at Michigan's schedule. They have two marquee wins, Notre Dame and Wisconsin. Well Notre Dame is terrible (we know this), and Wisconsin hasn't played anyone else anywhere near the top 25 this season. This is contrasted by Florida who has posted wins over Tennessee, LSU, Arkansas, and Auburn. And unlike Michigan's two opponents, all four of those teams have validated their lofty ranking with wins over top teams. Furthermore, the argument that Michigan should have gotten in over Florida because Florida has been struggling all season doesn't carry water either. True Florida has been less than impressive in many of its wins, but it's not like Michigan has been rolling over anyone. Perhaps I'm wrong, but isn't this the same Michigan team that struggled to beat Northwestern and Ball State in consecutive weeks?

Frazier - My esteemed co-blogger has spelled out the reasons why Michigan is stuck on the outside. So I'm going to focus on my particular interest in the Wolverines right now. Namely, I'm going to see them in person at the Rose Bowl. Now, I couldn't be more excited. It will be an excellent test for a team that hasn't faced a ton of those this season. Their defense will be tasked with keeping up with an offense much faster than they are used to seeing (although the Buckeyes have some serious speed as well). However, people tend to forget that the Pac-10 has a seemingly different kind of athlete, and if Michigan is slow to adjust, they could be in for a tough day. Michigan is going to have a great showcase where they can display their talent, and I for one, can't wait to check them out.

#4 LSU

Walter: You know it's kind of sad. LSU was a few meltdowns against Florida away from playing Ohio State in the national title game. Specifically I am referring to Jamarcus Russell fumble on the Florida one, and the blocked punt. If not for those two meltdowns LSU wins that game easily and coasts into the title game. I consider this sad because LSU is the 2nd best team in the country, and really the only team with the athletes and defensive nastiness to hang with the Buckeyes. Instead of watching LSU tangle with Ohio State, we have to watch LSU hang about 50 points on Notre Dame. It's just a damn shame.

Frazier - Part of college football is being perfect. Ever seen "Remember the Titans"? Well, Denzel tells his team to be perfect in every phase of the game. Against Florida, LSU was not perfect. Now, I wouldn't want to have to play the Bayou Bengals right now. Last year they decimated Miami 40-3 in their bowl game, and I've got a feeling the Notre Dame is in for a long, long, long night. Brady Quinn will be a pancake by the end of that thing. Russell and company are a pretty scary bunch, but it was the lack of a running game that really sealed their fate. More balance would have gone a long, long way.

#5 Boise State

Walter: Boise State is the best reason why we need some sort of playoff. They are a legitimate Division 1A team, yet even when all the circumstances align in their favor they have no shot to play for a national title. Consider the following, they won all of their games AND had a marquee, blowout win over an Oregon State team that beat USC and won at Hawaii. Yet even with only one other undefeated team they were left on the outside looking in. The message from Boise's saga is unmistakebly clear: If you don't play in a BCS conference, you aren't really in division 1A. And that's a damn shame.

Frazier - Now, my Broncos aren't the best team in the country. They are a very good team, and they have a ton of talent, and they are exciting as hell to watch. But they aren't the nations best. But, they don't even get to dream that big. They will never have a chance to prove that, and it's a shame. However, they need to get over it and focus on Oklahoma, and I think they will. It's their chance to stand up and declare themselves to a skeptical nation. Their goal may have been making the BCS, but their real goal is to gain respect for Boise St. and every other small school that wants to some day dream of a national title. Watch out Sooners, this game means a hell of a lot more to your opponents than it does to you.

#6 Wisconsin

Walter: Another team that we have said just about everything there is to be said about. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year in Madison, yet here they are in a major Bowl Game. The season is already a success for Wisconsin regardless of what happens in their bowl game. That said, their bowl result will go a long way towards justifying the BCS' selection of Florida in the title game over Michigan. Wisconsin gets a very young, but tough Arkansas team (almost the SEC mirror image of the Badgers). If they get blown out, they will finally silence all the Michigan whiners.

Frazier - Well, who knows? The Badgers played one team with a pulse all season, and they lost. So that's something. Now, they had a respectable win over Penn St. but the Nittany Lions didn't really beat anyone of note themselves, so who can really say anything? The Big Ten killed itself by not scheduling respectable non-conference opponents. Only Ohio St. did with their trip to Texas, and they are the ones playing for a national title. So that's something to think about. While the Big Ten is a good conference, so is the Pac-10, and yet every year USC plays someone out east, like Auburn, or Arkansas or Virginia Tech going back a couple of years. Those are some pretty legit programs, and they even invited Nebraska for a dance this time around. So now the Badgers have their chance to show everyone how good they really are, too bad it's against an Arkansas team that can really make some noise. This isn't just a step up from Wisconsin's average competition, it's a huge leap.

#7 Louisville

Walter: Last week there was rampant speculation that star QB Brian Brohm would return for his senior season. If that is the case, with star wideouts Harry Douglas and Mario Urutia also returning Louisville could have something special brewing. And on further analysis it's not that crazy to think it could happen. With Brady Quinn already slated to go first overall, Brohm would be at best the #2 QB, perhaps even falling to #3 behind Jamarcus Russell. If he returns for his senior season and manages to stay healthy all year, Brohm would have a legitimate shot at the #1 overall pick. I don't put a lot of credence in what players say before bowl games and/or draft workouts, but if Brohm is serious about coming back it wouldn't be a shocking choice.

Frazier - Louisville had an excellent year, and they've got a chance to be even better next year. Of course, they still have a bowl to focus on, and its' against the kind of opponent that if you sleep on them, you pay. I really liked a lot of the things they did this year, and it's become pretty clear that the game against Rutgers was just one of those outings where you simply can't dig yourselves out. They started so fast, and then the wheels totally fell off, and yet they lost at the last second (and only after a second chance thanks to a brainless penalty). This team was so close to playing in the title game that they must have nightmares about it virtually every time they close their eyes. That game has been almost totally overlooked with everything that followed, but they blew their chance right then and there. On the other hand, they would have been completely decimated by the Buckeyes, so maybe it worked out alright after all.

#8 Oklahoma

Walter: Paul Thompson deserves a ton of credit. He started the season as a wideout, but ended it as a legimitate starting quarterback. His season ending statistics won't blow anyone away, but Thompson does boast a respectable 60% completion percentage and a completely reasonable 20/8 TD ratio. But more than anything, when the Sooners were in their darkest hours (the Bomar dismissal, and the Peterson injury) Thompson was at his best. Thompson is not an NFL caliber quarterback, which means that the senior really compromised his draft chances by moving from WR back to QB when his team needed him to. That speaks incredibly about the man's character and I truly hope that some NFL team gives this guy a shot. He deserves more credit in Soonerland that he will ever get.

Frazier - At the beginning of the year I had Oklahoma slotted as the #8 team. Now, they won't finish here after the bowls, they'll either move up or down, but I'm still pretty proud of that selection. Of course my reasoning was based on the assumption that Stoops wouldn't let the loss of one player ruin his team's season. I guess I was wrong. Stoops wouldn't let the loss of TWO players ruin the season. He deserves a ton of credit. If Schiano and Grobe hadn't done such marvelous jobs at former laughing-stalk programs, than he would probably have been the coach of the year. And he's still a good selection for that honor. The big man's comments about Paul Thompson are absolutely echoed from this corner. He saved their season.

#9 USC

Walter: The Trojans are talented, but unfocused. They are explosive, but inconsistent. They are good, but also very bad. They are an enigma, and the only reason they are in the final power 10 is because they beat Arkansas in the opening game and as much as I'd like to forget that game it did still happen. But seriously, how much did the Trojans suck against UCLA?

Frazier - Pete Carroll needs to learn about consistent effort. He won a pair of titles based on the fact that he had absolutely the best talent, and managed to keep it harnassed for enough of the season. Of course, he lost another title because his team disappeared against Texas when the going got tough, and frankly, earlier. Watch that game again sometime. It was pretty damned close to being a USC blowout. If not for the Bush brainfart, a rare Leinart miscue, a totally relaxed defensive attitude for much of the game (and an inability to tackle) some dubious coaching decisions, and a couple of calls that went against them, they win that game. It honestly took a lot for them to lose it, and if they'd played Texas with the same intensity they took to Oklahoma the year before, the result may not have been too different from that annihilation. (Not to take anything from Vince Young, who was Herculean that night). Again USC had enviable talent, and they just completely failed to deliver against UCLA. Is Carroll a great coach, or a great recruiter and a mediocre coach? He has huge balls, and I love the way he lets it all hang out, but his teams have ADD, and he needs to do a better job of keeping them in line.

#10 Arkansas

Walter: How good would this team be if they had even a mediocre quarterback? It doesn't matter. The bottom line is that this team arrived on the scene at least a full year before anyone thought they would, and they are going to be scary good for at least 2007 and possible 2008. That said, they have a lot to work on during the offseason. First they need to decide on a quarterback. Mustain or Dick? They need to choose. Second they need to decide on an offensive direction. Gus Mahlzan was brilliant in integrating the Wildcat offense this year, but the Razorbacks are going to need to decide on a more concrete offensive direction if they want to make a run at a national title. And finally, they need to come out with their guns blazing. 2007 could and should be a special year for the team from Fayetteville, but they absolutely cannot afford an opening game performance like they have had in past seasons.

Frazier - Possibly my favorite team to watch this year. McFadden is incredible, Monk is great, Felix Jones is a comet, and the offense is a revelation. Defensively they gamble, play man, and look for big plays. They are athletic and exciting. Their coach is a complete loon. Now, they seem to be a collection of talent without a firm direction, and there were some rumblings that the offense isn't what Mustain and company signed up for. Well, they have the best running back in the country who can do virtually everything on offense (or special teams, and probably on defense) so maybe they should utilize those skills. This team could be really special, but there's a real chance they crash back to earth next season, and Houston Nutt blows what could be a legitimate shot at a national title. Still, the Badgers are in for a show. Unless the Hogs "quarterback" completely shits the bed. Which isn't impossible.

#323 Texas A&M

Walter: Big ups to the Aggies for their performance against Texas in the season finale. With the Big 12 down this year A&M didn't really take advantage as they should have. That said, the conference looks to be down again next year and A&M will have the returning talent to compete for a spot in the conference title game. Stephen McGee is one of the best and most underrated passers in the nation. Jorvorskie Lane is a monster who........well there really isn't anything else that can be said about Jorvorskie Lane. 2007 should be a make or break year for Franchione. If he is going to make his mark in college station it has to happen now. Their 2007 season starts with their bowl game against Cal, and they desperately need a win against the Bears to set them up for a Big 12 title run next season.

Frazier - As much as I think Franchione is a total choke artist (and I do) I can't deny that I really like this Aggies team. Mark Dodge is the definition of a leader on the defense side of the ball. He commands respect from teammates and opponents alike. McGee is a gutsy and fun quarterback, and his performance against Texas was admirable. And what do you say about a team that has a man like Javorskie Lane lugging the ball. He looks like he ate Jerome Bettis. Needless to say, I love him. So it's another team I love coached by a guy I don't trust (Franchione and Nutt should practice giving eachother the Heimlich). Awesome.

Heard it Here First  

Posted by Frazier

Here's a quick quote about JaMarcus Russell from Len Pasquarelli of ESPN in his "Heard in the Press Box" feature:

• Some league scouts hope that LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell makes himself available in the draft as an underclass prospect. Russell has great size, arm strength and athleticism, and the people intrigued by him feel he could be the second-best quarterback prospect, behind only Brady Quinn of Notre Dame.

So it seems like other people are beginning to realize what the 323 has been telling you for weeks. Russell is a pretty intriguing prospect, and the time might be right for him to leave LSU, since this year's quarterback crop isn't terribly deep.

The Next Big Thing............  

Posted by Walter

So the 2006 regular season is in the books. Good season, not great. And before a whole new generation of stars and chic teams for 2007 emerge during bowl month I thought I'd post on some of the players I saw this year who look to be the next big thing for college football. Basically, I'm getting my analysis on record before these guys start exploding into the national spotlight.

Calais Campbell, Sophomore DE University of Miami

If you haven't heard of this guy already, you will very soon. Only a sophomore, Campbell has played like a man among infants since being inserted into the starting lineup. Campbell is an absolute monster at 6'8'' and 260 lbs., and with plenty of room to add weight we may be looking at a future number one overall draft pick. Campbell is that good.....just ask the Boston College offense that was shut down almost singlehandedly by Campbell. The scary thing is that Campbell has just begun to scratch the surface of his potential, yet he is already putting up other wordly numbers nothing 49 tackles, a whopping 20 tackles for a loss (no that isn't a typo!), and 10 sacks.

Sammie Stroughter, Junior WR Oregon State

It's not hard to get overlooked when you are a skill position player playing in the Pac-10 and you don't play for USC or California. Still, it's time for Sammie Stroughter to introduce himself to the national college football world. As explosive as any player I saw all season, Stroughter was the most consistent, and best player on an underrated Oregon State team in 2006. Stroughter's numbers are outstanding (1206 yards, 18.3 yards/catch, 4 TD), but the thing I like best about Stroughter is that he plays his best when the lights shine the brightest. Against USC, Stroughter caught 8 balls for 127 yards and returned a punt 70 yards for a score. Against Oregon, he caught 8 balls for 114 yards. And against Hawaii (at Hawaii) Stroughter delivered big play after big play, catching only 3 passes but for over 100 yards and a score. When we think of Pac-10 offensive stars from 2006, Stroughter is an afterthought to the likes of Dwayne Jarrett, Marshawn Lynch, and Steve Smith. That won't be the case in 2007.

Bruce Davis, Junior DE UCLA

Though he doesn't have the raw potential of Calais Campbell, Davis is similar in the sense that he is already producing at an all america level. Davis is a more polished end, but at only 6'3'' and 250 lbs. he is a bit of a tweener as far as the NFL is considered. UCLA, and the rest of the Pac-10, don't care one bit. Davis was an absolute terror in 2006 recording 17 tackles for a loss and 12.5 sacks, but he was helped a ton by the presence of senior Justin Hickman (18 TFL, 12.5 sacks) on the opposite end. Davis will be the focal point for every offense next season, so his 2007 numbers may not be quite as good. Still, if Davis continues to improve he could find himself rising from a relative unknown right now to a potential top 10 NFL pick.

Andre Woodson, Junior QB Kentucky

Sometimes the guys that get overlooked make no sense. Woodson falls into that category. Here is a guy who has put up all america caliber numbers in the SEC, and I will guarantee you most college football fans would rattle off names like Chris Leak, Erik Ainge, Brandon Cox, and Jamarcus Russell before they finally got to Woodson. Thing is, with the exception of Russell, Woodson has outperformed all of those household names, and done so without the benefit of the skill position talent they work with. Consider Woodson's numbers in 2006: 3216 yards, 62.4 completion %, and a 28/7 TD ratio. Now consider that he is 6'5'' and 240 lbs. with picture perfect mechanics, and he has put up these numbers in the toughest defensive conference in the nation. So why doesn't anyone know about this guy? Yeah I can't think of a reason either. If Jamarcus Russell declares for the NFL draft, and a relatively weak crop of quarterbacks next season, I wouldn't be surprised if we were talking about Andre Woodson as a potential 2007 all american and first round NFL pick.

Marcus Monk, Junior WR Arkansas

Unlike Woodson, it's easy to see why Monk gets overlooked.....he plays on the same team as some guy named McFadden. Still Monk deserves his due. Monk is HUGE. He stands a legit 6'6'' and 220 lbs., and he plays every bit as big as he is. Though he hasn't had a quality quarterback throwing him the ball this season, Monk still managed to produce nearly 1000 yards and 11 TD for the Razorbacks. The most impressive thing for me, however, is that Monk was a big play reciever despite a relative lack of blazing speed. Monk averaged nearly 20 yards per catch in 2006, and one has to wonder how high his numbers could go in 2007 with both McFadden and Felix Jones returning. If quarterbacks Casey Dick and/or Mitch Mustain show marked improvement, you can just about etch Monk's name on the 2007 All American team.

CJ Spiller, Freshman RB Clemson

Spiller is a bit of an oddity on this list, because lots of people know about him. Still, Spiller is thought of as somewhat of a secondary back to Clemson starter Anthony Davis. Fact is, Spiller is the much better of the two backs, and it isn't really that close. The situation in Clemson reminds me a lot of Virginia Tech a few years ago when they had Lee Suggs entrenched as the starter before Kevin Jones came in as a Freshman. Not wanting to alienate the elder Suggs, the Hokies split carries between them despite the fact that Jones was the far superior athlete. Not giving Jones the ball hurt Tech, and by mimicing that strategy Tommy Bowden cost his team games this year. In Clemson's 4 losses this season, Spiller had a combined 34 carries. In their 2 biggest wins (@ Wake Forest, Georgia Tech) Spiller toted the rock a combined 25 times for 220 yards. Anthony Davis is a solid back, but Spiller is special. He is a big play back (7.4 yards/carry in 2006) who will challenge Darren McFadden and Steve Slaton for highlight reel time in 2007.......assuming Tommy Bowden doesn't go all Frank Beamer on us.

South Carolina Gamecocks

OK, so we all know that I have unabashed love for Steve Spurrier. That said, let the record reflect that on Dec. 16, 2006 I give you the super sleeper team for the 2007 season. Consider the following:

(i) Talent - Outside of Arkansas, the Gamecocks should have the most returning talent of any team in the SEC. South Carolina should return 7 offensive starters (inluding their entire slate of skill position players) who will all have had another year of tutelage by Spurrier. The Gamecocks should also return 9 starters from a defense that has improved steadily all season and will be the strength of the 2007 squad. So that is 16 potential returning starters, but it's not just the quantity of these players. If Sidney Rice returns he will probably be the preseason favorite for all america and Belitnikoff award honors, but among the other 15 returning starters are potential all SEC players Jasper Brinkley, Casper Brinkley, Eric Norwood, Ryan Succop and Kenny McKinley.

(ii) Schedule - South Carolina has three tough road games in 2007: LSU, Arkansas, and Tennesse. Given that they play in the SEC this isn't too bad. LSU and Arkansas will both be loaded, but Tennessee will be a very winnable game for the Gamecocks, especially with Spurrier on their sideline. The bigges thing about their schedule though, is the murderous four game stretch they end with: @ TN, @ AK, Florida, Clemson. Now this will really test the Gamecocks' meddle, but two things immediately come to mind. First, the fact that the schedule is so backloaded means that South Carolina should be able to win a lot of games early and build some confidence. Only LSU will stand in their way of rolling into TN as an 8-0 team and ranked in the top 10. Second, those four games will really give South Carolina a chance to make up ground in the BCS should they need to late in the season. While they probably aren't going to go into TN and AK and win, if they can win one of those games and then take care of Florida and Clemson at home, that will really help their BCS standing.

(iii) Trends - Take a look at who South Carolina lost to this year: Georgia (ranked #12 when the teams played), Auburn (#2), Tennesee (#12), Arkansas (#12), @ Florida (#6). Not a bad loss in there. Now consider that aside from an 18-0 loss to Georgia, South Carolina was within one score in each of the remaining losses. The point is that the Gamecocks were right there in 2006. A few plays go their way here or there and we're talking about a potential 9 win team instead of a team that lost 5 games and didn't really beat anyone all year.

(iv) Spurrier - The guy is the best their is, it's as simple as that. He hears the whispers that he is overrated, and believe me, he doesn't like it. Steve Spurrier knows the kind of talent he has coming back in 2007, and he also knows that the SEC is going to lose a ton of talent to the NFL. The stars are aligning, somewhat, for South Carolina to really break out and have a huge year in 2007. Winning the SEC title at South Carolina would be the crowning achievment in Spurrier's career. I'm not saying that it will happen in 2007, but I am saying that Steve will be driven by that possibility......a scary thought for opposing coaches.


Posted by Frazier

Ok, so ESPN just named their all-american team. I'd normally include the link, but you can just check out their website. I'm sure all our faithful readers can find it.

Not a bad list. There aren't a ton you can really complain about. Not necessarily the choices we would have made (our own all-323 team will be announced soon). But there's one position where ESPN totally spit the bit. That position is, obviously, at wide receiver.

Their starters were Jarrett Dillard of Rice and Robert Meachem of Tennessee. What?! Excuse me, but that's insane.

Now, Dillard has plenty of nice numbers, but as a receiver playing against second-tier competition, I'm just not sold. His 20 touchdowns are startling, but once again, he didn't exactly play against top corners every week. And while he had great numbers against Texas and Florida St. it's easy enough to do that when your team is getting blown out. They lost those games by a combined 107-14. I don't think the 'Horns or 'Noles were particularly worried about Dillard or his touches.

Meachem is even more confusing. He had 67 catches for 1265 yards and 11 touchdowns. A pretty good season by any measure. Of course, Calvin Johnson had 67 catches for 1018 yards and 13 touchdowns. So those are pretty comparable. But the real difference is... Calvin Johnson is a top five pick in the draft, and possibly the best player in the nation! Every coach in the country would trade Meachem for Johnson a thousand times over. There is no argument that Meachem is, in fact, a better player. It's just that Meachem got a couple of more yards? It isn't a statistical prize, you morons! Absolutely startling.

So, Johnson should be a lock for the team. He might be the best player in the country, he showed that skill, has excellent numbers, and did it all with Reggie Ball at the helm. Now, he had a couple of games where maybe he wasn't great, but you can blame his quarterback for that. Basically, teams game-planned around his incredible skills. Putting Meachem above Johnson is an absolute travesty.

As for the other slot, well, there are plenty of options. The obvious answer is, of course, Dwayne Jarrett. Now, Jarrett didn't even lead his team in receiving, so there is a legitimate argument to leaving him off. Now, for my money he is every bit as good as Johnson, and every coach in the country would trade their top receiver for Jarrett, except for Chan Gailey. Still, if you insist upon leaving Jarrett off, there are plenty of other deserving options.

What about DJ Hall at Alabama? He's having a great season, and was definitely their top threat. Malcolm Kelly was huge in saving Oklahoma's season. DeSean Jackson was a home run threat every time out for Cal. Jeff Samardzija was everyone's favorite this time last year, and the Shark was relentless fighting for balls. He had an excellent season. Sidney Rice kept South Carolina in games in the brutal SEC. Marcus Monk caught passes from about a hundred different players and was the deep threat in a fascinating Hogs offense. If you just like numbers, check out Chris Williams from New Mexico State who led the country in receptions and receiving yards, scored 12 touchdowns and routinely torched mediocre secondaries.

I like Jarrett Dillard, and he's a very good player. I just have trouble naming someone the top receiver when no one is really arguiing that there aren't better ones out there. In fact, Dillard is a 323-type player. One who has played very hard, and very well, and should be recognized for that. But it doesn't mean he's actually the best. Garrett Wolfe is a 323 favorite, but it's not like we'd take him over Adrian Peterson. With that thinking, you'd assume they'd have picked Ian Johnson over McFadden. I mean, Johnson has better numbers, and if you credit Dillard for getting lowly Rice into a bowl, shouldn't you credit Johnson for getting Boise St. into the BCS?

Or naming Posluszny as one of their linebackers when they admit it took him half the season to get back into game shape. If that's the case, couldn't you make the same argument for Jarrett? Trust me, I watched lots of Poz, and when he was bad, he was pretty bad. But it now seems like he was just recovering. You think Jarrett wouldn't have gotten your precious numbers if he'd been healthy all season?

I think it's great that Dillard is getting some much deserved recognition. He's really earned it, and that Rice story is a great one. (You know who's the Offensive Coordinator over there? Major Applewhite, another 323 favorite. Further guaranteeing that he will have a more significant football career than golden boy Chris Simms ever will.) I just don't think that recognition should be as the best wide receiver in the country, because no one actually believes that.

As much as I think Dillard is unworthy,
I am thrilled at the excuse to run this
picture of Major Applewhite, who's looking
pimp these days.

Coaching Whispers  

Posted by Walter

Well, after reports that Boston College had offered their head coaching position to former UMass head man Mark Whipple turned out to be erroneous, it does seem that BC has at least begun to narrow their search for Tom O'Brien's replacement.......and with mixed results in my opinion. It is believed that BC has narrowed their choices to five men: Whipple, Steve Kragthorpe, Packers offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski, Richmond Head Coach Dave Clawson and Nebraska offensive coordinator Jay Norvell. Well it is not exactly news that I love the candidacy of both Whipple and Kragthorpe, but my affinity for them notwithstanding, the rest of that list doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. First let's start with Jagodzinski, the best of the final three candidates in my opinion. JJ is a former BC offensive coordinator who has spent the last 8 seasons or so coaching tight ends in the NFL. JJ would be an outstanding fit for BC as his specialty is coaching up offensive lineman and tight ends (the two positions that Boston College has traditionally been a veritable NFL factory for). His candidacy makes some sense. Next let's look at Dave Clawson, a nice coach but someone I can't really believe is a serious candidate for the BC opening. Clawson has done a nice job at Richmond, turning in a 9-4 season in 2006 (his 2nd year on the job). He is a two-time Patriot league coach of the year, and has some MA ties since he graduated from Williams College. That said, he does not have nearly the cache of someone like Whipple or Kragthorpe. BC is a big enough program nationally, that if they want to poach an up and coming coach from a smaller school, they can have their pick. And while Clawson has done a nice job, he isn't ready. And finally we have the most puzzling candidate in Jay Norvell. Norvell is another former Tight Ends coach, but he is a straight West Coast Offense coach who was will Bill Callahan in Oakland. Unlike the other three candidates he has no ties to the Boston area, but more importantly his offensive philosophy doesn't mesh with the current Eagles personnel. It's strange. The Eagles have produced several NFL caliber QB's, the best of which thrived in West Coast systems (Flutie and Hasselbeck), but the West Coast Offense has never been installed in Chestnut Hill. I can't see that changing now. This looks like a two horse race to me (Whipple and Kragthorpe) with JJ as a longshot.

Another hot rumor on Tuesday was that Stanford was looking to bring Jim Fassel back to the program, this time as a head coach. Cardinal fans will remember Fassel as the young QB coach who recruited John Elway to Palo Alto. Fassel is a dynamic offensive mind who has had a ton of experience as a head coach. Plus, he would bring a very strong NFL pedigree to Stanford. He is an NFL quarterback guru and this would go a long way towards recruiting highly touted players to the floundering program. I think this would be an oustanding hire for Stanford and a great fit for Fassel. Other confirmed candidates for the Stanford opening are Montana head coach Bobby Hauck, former Stanford and NFL great James Lofton, and former NFL QB and current San Diego head coach Jim Harbaugh. Lofton and Harbaugh are big names, but I doubt they have enough coaching experience to be offered the Stanford job. Hauck has done an outstanding job in Montana and would be a solid hire for the program.

The Team

How's the look?