The White Flag  

Posted by Walter

So, my best efforts notwithstanding, the NFL network has thwarted my plans for Senior Bowl week. Though they claim to be televising the practices for the North and South squads, in reality the network is merely using the practice field as its own “on site” set. Instead of actually showing the players practicing, viewers are treated to an hour and a half of network talking heads, in season game clips, and glimpses of the ongoing practice in the background. Now don’t get me wrong, I love listening to Mike Mayock (who is the new Mel Kiper!), and the fact that he is a Boston College grad has nothing to do with that (well maybe a little). But the fact remains unless you are physically in Mobile, you simply cannot see enough to grade out the players. I guess we’ll have to wait until the combine in Indianapolis!

But fear not, new features are coming ASAP…..just don’t expect me to apologize to the NFL Network.

Senior Bowl Recap - weigh in  

Posted by Walter

Well the season is over, and forgettable as it was it did, at least, give us something to talk about every day. Now without actual games going on we are forced to turn our attention to other things, such as recruiting wars, season wrap ups, and, perhaps most importantly, the success, or lack there of, of our favorite collegiate players in the NFL. Yes the NFL draft and all the accompanying hype is upon us, and as any good draftnick knows the first and sometimes most critical step for NFL prospects is the Senior Bowl being held this weekend in Mobile Alabama. Thanks to the NFL network I will be watching Senior Bowl practice all week and giving my thoughts on the prospects as I see fit. However, I’d be remiss not to comment on the official weigh in that happened over the weekend. There were few surprises, but a couple of things worth noting:

1) Hawaii QB Colt Brennan measured a shade over 6’2’’ and a rail thin 185 lbs. In other words he looks more like a high school backup than an NFL QB. More importantly, this is just another dent in his armor. Combine his lack of size with his below average arm strength, poor performances against top competition, and stigma of being a “system QB” and you may get yourself a player who can be had on day 2 of the draft!

2) UTP offensive lineman Oniel Cousins, a raw but intriguing prospect, helped himself by measuring a legit 6’4’’ and 301 lbs. The consensus was that Cousins had the raw skill to play left tackle in the NFL, but may not have had the size. While he won’t be confused with John Odgen anytime soon, Cousins has the frame to play tackle, meaning a higher draft grade and more money for him.

3) The two most impressive players at the weigh in: Clemson offensive tackle Barry Richardson (6’6’’ 331) and Michigan linebacker Shawn Crable ( 6’5’’ 241). There is no doubt both players look the part, but getting them to play up to their physical tools was something neither’s college coach was able to do. Still, it remains true that the one thing you can’t coach is size.

4) Several 323 favorites helped themselves immensely at the weigh in. LSU linebacker, and speed freak, Ali Highsmith came in at just under 6 feet even and an impressive 229 lbs., more than adequate size for weak side NFL linebacker. UCLA rush end Bruce Davis weighed in at 241 lbs., a bit light for a defensive end, but measured well over 6’2’’ meaning he has room to add weight should his team want him to play with his hand down. Finally, little mentioned Tennessee tight end Brad Cottam looked more like an offensive tackle than a TE at nearly 6’8’’ and 271 lbs. With more and more NFL teams preferring to use tight ends in lieu of fullbacks (thank you spread offense) Cottam could move himself into the middle rounds with a big week of blocking.

5) But it wasn’t all pretty: USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis is a phenomenal player, but he is short…..very short, measuring under 6’1’’. Dorien Bryant, the super productive Purdue wideout, was one of the smallest non-kickers at about 5’9’’ and a half and a skinny 169 lbs. And standout Boston College ballhawking defensive back DeJuan Tribble came in at an impressively solid 190 lbs. but a very short 5’8’’ and a half.

The All-323 Team: Defense  

Posted by Frazier

Ok, we're running a 4-3 defense this season, to take advantage of our considerable talent on the line. Once again, these are the rules: (1) you gotta play hard and get the job down, and (2) you can't be on anyone's all America team.

Defensive Line - Trevor Laws, Notre Dame

Walter - As easy as it is to pile on the Notre Dame team this year, it's that hard to criticize Laws. Undersized at only 6'1'' and 295 pounds, Laws proved to be virtually unblockable all year. Laws registered a ridiculous 112 tackles for a DT, and even chipped in 4 sacks. In a year when its easy to forget the Irish, it would be wrong to overlook this one.

Jeffrey Fitzgerald, Virginia

Frazier - Well, he played in a Long shadow this season (pardon the pun) but has proven himself to be an excellent player in his own right. Fitzgerald racked up six sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss this season. At 6'3 and 280 lbs, this sophomore is no pushover against the run either. He is a star in the making, so this may be his last appearance on our All-323 team, he'll be too high profile next year.

Nick Reed, Oregon

Walter - Hard to imagine how Mr. Reed slipped through the cracks. Playing for one of the top teams in America, Reed absolutely dominated Pac-10 offensive lineman to the tune of 12 sacks and 22.5 tackles for a loss. A bit undersized at only 255 pounds, Reed is deceptively strong and stout against the run. A major NFL sleeper who you’ll hear more from in 2008.

Bruce Davis, UCLA

Frazier - We're going out of our way to give love to individuals who had great seasons, despite the rest of their team falling apart. Bruce Davis was pretty hyped going into this season, then the Bruins fell off a cliff. However, Davis notched a dozen sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. Those are gaudy numbers, so while the Bruins were simply collapsing, Davis continued to collapse the pocket.

Linebackers - J Leman, Illinois

Frazier - Frankly, J may have gotten too much press for this squad. I, for one, thought he was getting press due to his name, and his hair, heading into the USC game. Then I really watched him play. Wow. He was simply all over the field against an incredibly fast Trojan attack. It may not have been his finest hour, but he proved himself to be a gamer. 132 tackles? 10.5 tackles for loss? Yeah, J was everywhere, on seemingly every play.

Mark Herzlich, Boston College

Walter - Herzlich is a major sleeper and, admittedly, a 323 hometown pick. As a season ticket holder I couldn't help but fall in love with the quiet play of this linebacker. At 6'4'' and 240 lbs. Herzlich won't wow you with athleticism, but he will wow you with his smarts and physical play. Strong side linebacker is not a glory filled position. It entails taking on blocks and occupying blockers, and few do it better than Herzlich. Only a sophomore, Herzlich should be an all 323 staple for years to come.

Sean Lee, Penn State

Frazier - Speaking of overshadowed players... First it was Puz, then Connor, but Lee has been holding his own with those two for years now. 124 tackles, 9.5 for loss, 3.5 sacks, 7 passes broken up, and was twice the Big Ten defensive player of the week (only matched by Laurinaitis and Connor). Yeah, Linebacker U is alive and well, and Lee may prove to be better than both his more ballyhooed counterparts with a monster '08.

Defensive Backs - William Moore, Mizzou

Walter - Heard of Chase Daniel but not Moore? You aren't alone.....and that's a shame. Moore's numbers tell it all: 115 tackles, 13 passes defended, and 8 interceptions. Those numbers are not only well rounded, but they are downright awesome. One of the best run/pass defenders in America, Moore keyed the Tigers' late season defensive turnaround. If he can keep it going in 2008, Mizzou may be gearing up for a title run....national title.

Jonathan Zenon, LSU

Frazier - First, he scores the winning touchdown against Tennessee in the SEC title game, on a ball he broke on perfectly. Then he played perfect defense in the National Title game. He may be the only overlooked player on the LSU defense, but his play was impeccable and like every great player Zenon was at his best when his team needed him most.

Jaime Silva, Boston College

Walter - Another hometown favorite, but another incredibly deserving player. Silva quietly put up a monster season in Chestnut Hill. His 8 picks are impressive, but then again so are his 125 tackles. Bottom line, Silva was the best Eagle defender all year, and BC was one of the best defenses in America. That counts for something.

Dwight Lowery, San Jose State

Frazier - Dwight may be the epitome of the 323 squad. Seriously, who IS this kid? Well, he had 4 picks, 7 passes defensed, and made huge plays for the Spartans all season. The highlight of his year had to be returning a punt 84 yards for a touchdown against Hawaii, then following it up with a 24 yard interception return for another score. He almost single-handedly brought Hawaii's dream season to a halt.

Defensive Coordinator - Will Muschamp, Auburn

Walter -
I love Will Muschamp. Anyone who reads the 323 knows of my unabashed affinity for the Tigers fiery leader. But don't tell me it isn't deserved. Auburn has had great defenses under Muschamp every year, and 2007 was no exception. Witness the Tigers holding Florida to 17 points in an upset win, and holding Arkansas to only 7 points and 67 rush yards. All year Muschamp came up with diversive gameplans to stop any type of offense the SEC the threw at him.

Head Coach - Sylvester Croom, Mississippi State

Frazier - This was a tough one. We love what Mark Mangino did, but he got tons of love. We love what coach Jagz did, but we've given BC enough love so far. So we decided to go with a guy that did a lot, with a little. In the toughest conference in the country, Croom got his decidedly un-sexy team to play tough, and even win a bowl game. This team overcame a 45-0 loss to open the season with LSU, then turned around and beat Auburn, in a hostile environment, just two weeks later. They took the show on the road again to stun #14 Kentucky on the Blue Grass. Against arch-rival Ole Miss, they overcame a 14-0 deficit with only eight minutes on the clock to make a bowl game for the first time in years. In his fourth season, Croom finally got his team to come together, ending the season by slowing down Kevin Smith, and earning a 10-3 bowl win. Croom is the SEC's first African-American coach, and it's certainly been a long, difficult road. Sylvester deserves a ton of credit for a great job this season, and for overcoming so many obstacles, and disappointments, to get to this place.

Quick Hitch...  

Posted by Frazier

We'll get to the defense later today. Right now I just wanted to share this link with everyone. It's a great "profile" of Pete Carroll. He's one of our favorite coaches, who has turned his unique vision into one of the great teams in the country.

He's made his share of mistakes, but he really has put together a tremendous program.

It turns out that he's also a hell of a guy.

The All-323 Team: Offense  

Posted by Frazier

It's one of our favorite columns of the year. Yes, it's time for the All-323 squad! We'll be doing a more traditional All-American later. The All-323 squad is reserved for some of our favorite players who haven't gotten as much national love. It's not the best players, or just a list of our favorites. There are just two rules: (1) you gotta play hard and get the job down, and (2) you can't be on anyone's all America team.

We're starting with the offense, and in honor of football's hottest trend, we're running a "spread" attack with a single back, three wideouts, and a tight end:

Quarterback - Todd Reesing, Kansas

Frazier - Probably the easiest pick of the year. Reesing had an ENORMOUS year, taking over the starting job, and leading Kansas to an unprecedented #7 ranking. He played huge all year, tossing 33 td's with only 7 picks, making huge plays with his feet, and getting his team to battle back in tight games. He is generously listed as 5'10, but one things for sure, it's ALL heart.

Running Back - Jacob Hester, LSU

Walter - Wanna know the real irony of LSU this year? On arguably the most talented offense in America, the least talented player, Hester, made easily the 5 biggest plays during their championship run. Whether its blasting through a defensive end for 4 yards on third and 3, or picking up a blitzing linebacker on 1st and 10, Hester simply does everything, and anything, to help his team win. Oh yeah, and he rushed for over 1000 yards too!

Wide Receiver - James Hardy, Indiana

Frazier - Beast. At 6'7 and 220 lbs, with excellent speed and hands, James Hardy is more or less uncoverable. His 79 catches for 1,125 yards and 16 touchdowns are impressive, but watching him dominate Justin King, a top cover corner, for 14 grabs, 142 yards and a pair of scores was something to behold. He was a huge part of college football's best story.

Wide Receiver - Earl Bennett, Vanderbilt

Walter - Quick who's the SEC's all time leading pass catcher? Before you start rattling off former Florida Gators I'll save you the time and just tell you it's Bennett. After three monster seasons at Vandy, Bennett looks to take his show to the NFL, and he'll do it without nary an all America team to his name. I guess he didn't deserve it though. Over 230 catches for over 2700 yards against the top DB's from the nation's toughest conference? Earl is a keeper!

Wide Receiver - Dorien Bryant, Purdue

Frazier -
One of the nation's most underrated for years. Bryant had his third straight season with more than 80 grabs for over 900 yards. For his career he nabbed almost 300 balls for over 3,500 yards, and you've never heard of him, but he's been making huge plays, without incredible physical tools, for years.

Tight End - Gary Barnidge, Louisville

Walter -
We all know it was a lost season for Louisville, but it wasn't a lost season for the big TE. Barnidge, whose played in the shadow of Mario Urrutia and Harry Douglas for two years now, emerged as Brian Brohm's favorite crunch time target grabbing 53 balls for 655 yards and a team leading 7 TD. And who can blame Brohm for targeting Barnidge. He stands 6 feet 6 inches and rarely drops a ball.

Offensive Line - Rutgers

Frazier - For the offensive line, we're rewarding a unit instead of focusing on individual players. Line play is all about teamwork, and we think it's important to give this Rutgers unit the credit it deserves. This unit plowed the road for over 2,500 yards on the ground (more than regarded units such as Ohio St. or USC, hell, they had more passing yards too). Oh yeah, and they surrendered 7 sacks all season. You know who Ray Rice is, but did you know who Pedro Sosa (one sack in two years), Jeremy Zuttah (no sacks since 2005), Anthony Davis, Mike Fladell, Mike Gilmartin, Ryan Blasczyk are? Yeah, their the road-graders who make it all possible.

Offensive Coordinator - Chip Kelly, Oregon

Walter - I love to say it, but we here at the323 knew all about Chip Kelly before he arrived Eugene. Yup, here in the Northeast we had the pleasure of watching Chip run the UNH (that's New Hampshire) offense that set several Division 1AA single season records. And while Ricky Santos (QB) and David Ball (WR) were nice players it was clear Chip was ready for bigger and better things. Well, all Kelly did was replace a semi legend at Oregon (Gary Crowton) and turn a middling QB prospect into a Heisman frontrunner (Dennis Dixon).


Posted by Frazier

According to this article from the good folks at ESPN, Steve Slaton has decided to turn pro. Now, this decision may seem odd from a guy who gained 700 fewer yards and saw his per carry average plummet from 7.0 to 5.0. He definitely seemed a step slow all season, and was totally overshadowed by Pat White this year.

So why turn pro? Three reasons:

1) New coach. Who knows how the new staff will treat him. Who knows if the schemes will allow him to continue to be so proficient. Frankly, it's always a risk when a top prospect faces a coaching change going into his senior season. That's just a huge variable, and a lot of kids, understandably, don't want to risk it.

2) This year's running back crop. McFadden is a top 5 guy. Otherwise, the field is pretty fluid. Jonathan Stewart and Rashard Mendenhall are definitely the next two right now, but that's still pretty speculative. It's not an elite crop, and Slaton is certainly more decorated than those other two. He also possess good size, has proven to be a capable receiver, and is a good 40-time away from rocketing up draft boards. Does he have that kind of run in him? I don't know, but if Slaton feels he can burn a 40, and he's right, he'll make himself a very rich man.

3) Noel Devine. It's really that simple. Slaton has to be worried that Devine will steal carries from him next year, and he'll drop from a borderline first-round guy to a second day guy pretty quickly. If his stats continue to drop, more questions will come up. Noel Devine is an absolutely electric player, and Slaton is seriously in danger of being overshadowed by two guys in his own backfield. It's reminiscent of Antonio Pittman getting out of Columbus before Beanie Wells stole his thunder.

Is this the right decision for Slaton? We'll only know after he does some running. However, it certainly is understandable. His draft stock took a serious hit this year, and you never want to come out early after such a down season. Still, Slaton may be concerned that a bad showing next year would cripple his ability to get picked on the first day, or at all. If Devine steals carries, if the new coaches don't get the most out of that offense, or if Slaton didn't have a "down" year, but was in fact, exposed as a mediocre player, then leaving now is definitely the right move.

Quick Look to 2008  

Posted by Walter

Sorry folks I just can't wait. I could dive into a lengthy examination of Ohio State's stinker last night, but it would basically be a cut and paste job from last year's title game. Instead, I can't resist looking ahead to 2008.

Early Top 10 for 2008

1) Georgia – Everyone back, and a full season of Knowshon make the Dawgs the team to beat….I told you so!
2) Oklahoma – If Auston English and Curtis Lofton come back the Sooners will be loaded, if Malcolm Kelly comes back they’ll be unstoppable.
3) USC – The talent is there to be #1 overall, but it’d be wrong to assume Mustain or Sanchez will just step into Booty’s shoes and be as good.
4) Florida – The most talented offense in the country will get even better with the addition of USC transfer and former star recruit Emmanuel Moody… about that defense.
5) Missouri – Chase Daniel might be the Heisman favorite, especially with pal Jeremy Maclin back, but this team will be really good if their defense plays as well as it did against Arkansas.
6) LSU – Offense should be national title caliber, even with losing Flynn and Hester, but defense will need to reload with new talent and a new coordinator.
7) Auburn – Gone is steady Brandon Cox, but enter future superstar Kody Burns and perhaps the best returning defense in the nation.
8) Ohio State – After two straight blowouts in the national title game, it’ll be interesting to see how many future NFLers stick around Columbus. Laurinaitis, Jenkins and Gholston are as good as gone, if guys like Boone, Robiskie and Freeman follow drop the Buckeyes out of the top 10.
9) West Virginia – Move them up a notch if Steve Slaton moves on to the NFL since it’ll mean more carries for their MVP Pat White, and more touches for superstar in waiting Noel Devine.
10) Texas Tech – Not the best choice, but with Harrell, Crabtree and the rest of the offense returning, if the Raiders don’t break through in 2008 they may never.

Keep an eye on……

Michigan – if Rodriguez can get Pryor and keep McGuffie, we may be looking at Slaton/White redux
South Carolina – when Spurrier’s team was healthy they were one of the best in the nation, they’ll have all offseason to heal

Deep sleepers……..

Michigan State – if Devin Thomas comes back, I dare you to find a better trio than he, Ringer, and Hoyer
Central Michigan – if you haven’t seen the Dan Lefavour led Chippewas, you are missing out on the newest mid major darling
Boston College – Ryan and Callender will be hard to replace, but the defense will be nasty and Jags works wonders with QB’s

Don’t buy the hype………
Illinois – it’s Ron Zook for goodness sake, a 7-5 backslide is inevitable
Wisconsin – same old team, same old story
Clemson – see Wisconsin

Just another year or two away……..
Colorado – Dan Hawkins will make them a power again in the mediocre Big 12 North
Pittsburgh – talent is there, they just need to dump Wanny
UCLA – Rick Neuheisel is the perfect man for the job; think Pete Carroll at USC perfect

National Title Game Preview  

Posted by Walter

Look, I’ll be honest. I am trying to get excited about the national title game, I really am. But, frankly, I just don’t think it’s going to happen for me. Nothing against OSU or LSU, but….well actually, everything against them. Both teams are entirely uninspiring, and while there are plenty of NFL worthy players on each roster, these are simply not the two best teams in college football. After what we saw from USC (who demolished the same Illinois team that went into Columbus and whooped the Buckeyes) and Georgia in their bowl games, how can there be any doubt one, if not both, of those teams is playing better than LSU and OSU right now. Not only that, but after a sterling performance against Arkansas and Virginia Tech respectively, one could almost, ALMOST, argue that Missouri and Kansas are playing at a higher level as well.

Nonetheless, after weeks of thinking about this game I believe I am ready to make my pick. Now, before I do, I just want to tell all those Buckeye fans out there that I tried as hard as I could to convince myself to take OSU. As early as 2 hours ago I was planning on taking OSU and the money line to win tonight……but that was before common sense kicked in. First, the factors that almost led me to make a foolish bet:

(1) LSU’s defense is overrated. – I think we can say we know this for sure after Darren McFadden and Arkansas were absolutely shut down by a mediocre at best Missouri Tiger defense. Yes that same Razorback squad that shredded LSU, could barely muster a touchdown against Mizzou. The same could be said for Kentucky, who ran up and down the field against LSU, but were held in check by Florida State. LSU may have some big names, but this is NOT the suffocating unit we all thought we were getting when the season opened.

(2) Coaching – In my view there is a clear, CLEAR, edge to Ohio State……at first glance. Jim Tressel has proved himself to be a master recruiter. Whether he is as brilliant a game manager remains to be seen. In Ohio State’s last two losses (Illinois and Florida), Tressel had absolutely no answer to his opposition’s spread offense attack. Both Ron Zook and Urban Meyer found weaknesses in the vaunted OSU defense and were able to exploit them while Jim Dandy sat around doing nothing. No adjustments, no alterations to the gameplan, only blowouts. It’s one thing to put together a great gameplan before the game, it’s quite another to do it at halftime. Now I am not saying that Les Miles is the second coming of Bear Bryant, he’s not, but I don’t trust Tressel just yet.

(3) Revenge – Yup, can you believe it? I almost talked myself into the Buckeyes based on last year’s debacle against Florida. All week we’ve heard how OSU has approached this year differently, and how they are all chomping at the bit to prove that last year was a fluke. That may well be true, but will it really matter? Are we to really believe that the reason OSU got BLOWN OUT last year was because they weren’t focused during the week? Are we really to believe that an extra week of focused practice would have made that team any faster or more physical? Heck no. It’s all about the players. Last year Florida had the better players, this year LSU does. It’s the national title game for goodness sake. Both teams will come out motivated, the better players will win.

All that said I am still going with LSU for the simple reason that they have the better players. It’s as simple as that. What, you don’t believe me? Well then, let’s have a look, position by position:

LSU: Matt Flynn and Ryan Perriloux
OSU: Todd Boeckman
Edge: LSU
Skinny: If this were just Flynn vs. Boeckman it’d be a draw. Both are seasoned veterans with limited skills, but great football minds. The presence of the dangerous Perriloux, however, tilts the scale in LSU’s favor. Neither Flynn nor Boeckman has the ability to take over a drive, much less a game, by themselves. While Perriloux may not be ready to win a game himself, he does have the explosion and big play ability to carry his team for short stretches.

Running Backs
LSU: Keiland Williams, Trindon Holliday, Jacob Hester
OSU: Beanie Wells and Maurice Wells
Edge: LSU
Skinny: Quick, which team had more rushing yards in 2007? Must be OSU with Beanie Wells right? Nope, actually LSU outrushed OSU by over 400 yards. While Beanie is clearly the best running back in the game, LSU actually has the overall edge at the position thanks to tremendous depth and versatility. Hester, LSU’s leading rusher, is a workhorse who will pound away on a defense just enough to open up some creases for the slippery Williams, and the explosive Holliday. The Wells boys are good, but three is better than two.

Wide Recievers/Tight Ends

LSU: Brandon Lafell, Demetrius Byrd, Early Doucet, Richard Dickson
OSU: Brian Robiskie, Brian Harline, Ray Small, Jake Ballard
Edge: Push
Skinny: The OSU numbers look a lot better, I concede that. However, consider the following. OSU’s top three wideouts (Robiskie, Hartline, Small) put up a combined 1757 yards and 17 TD in a combined 34 games. The top three LSU wideouts (Lafell, Byrd, Doucet) put up a combined 1708 yards and 14 TD in only 29 combined games. Getting Doucet back really makes this a dangerous group for the Tigers. A healthy Doucet would be the best pass catcher on most fields and he will be tonight. The LSU corpse is more dynamic and capable of far more than the relatively slow OSU quartet.

Offensive Line
LSU: Bret Helms, Will Arnold, Herman Johnson, Ciron Black, Carnall Stewart
OSU: Alex Boone, Steve Rehring, Jim Cordle, Ben Person, Kirk Barton
Edge: OSU
Skinny: There may not be a better offensive line the country than OSU’s. Barton and Boone are stalwarts at tackle, and they lead the way in both the running and passing game. That said, the LSU unit is nothing to scoff at. When healthy, Will Arnold is one of the top drive blocking guards in the nation, and both Herman Johnson and Bret Helms are all America caliber. Both units are strengths for their teams, OSU’s is just a bit stronger.

Defensive Line

LSU: Glen Dorsey, Tyson Jackson, Tremaine Johnson, Charles Alexander
OSU: Vernon Gholston, Dough Worthington, Todd Denlinger, Rob Rose
Edge: LSU
Skinny: Closer than you think. We all know how good Dorsey is, but in my opinion Gholston is actually the best lineman in this game. No matter who you choose, both players are superb athletes who have the ability to completely dominate a game. Given the relative excellence of these two players, it is actually the rest of the LSU line that gives them the edge. Tyson Jackson is a bit underrated playing in Dorsey’s shadow, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better pair of defensive ends than he and Charles Alexander. The OSU offensive line versus the LSU defensive line should be appointment viewing.

LSU: Ali Highsmith, Daryl Beckwith, Danny McCray
OSU: Marcus Freeman, James Laurinaitis, Larry Grant
Edge: Push
Skinny: There is no doubt that these are two of the top linebacking units in the land. Laurinaitis is a sure first round NFL pick, and some day so too will Freeman. For LSU, their trio is amongst the fastest ever assembled, particularly Highsmith and McCray. Both units are excellent, and what is most compelling is that they are completely different. I expect Highsmith and Laurinatis to match each other tackle for tackle, and the difference will be the LSU’s linebackers’ ability to match up in the passing game, something OSU’s may not be able to do.

LSU: Chevis Jackson, Jonathan Zenon, Craig Steltz, Curtis Taylor
OSU: Donald Washington, Malcolm Jenkins, Anderson Russell, Kurt Coleman
Edge: Push
Skinny: Two more outstanding units, with OSU probably having the better talent, but LSU having the better experience. Jackson and Jenkins are both top cover corners who should play big no matter what. For LSU, the real revelation in 2007 has been Steltz, a tackling and intercepting machine from game 1. LSU’s secondary might actually be a bit overrated talent wise because they are made to look better than they are thanks to their superb pass rush and linebacker speed. If OSU can give Boeckman time, the Buckeyes may be able to exploit this matchup.

So there you have it. On a straight player by player analysis LSU has the talent. Will they put it together tonight? Will the coaching hold up? Will someone I haven’t mentioned come up huge and make a monster play? Well, that’s why they play the game. For now, give me the team with the better talent. LSU wins it relatively easily, 27-17.

Final Pick  

Posted by Frazier

Ohio St. +3.5 vs. LSU

The short reason: it's the year of the upset.

The slightly longer reason: LSU is nothing if not overrated. The Tigers have a pair of losses to 8-5 teams, one of whom got DEMOLISHED against Mizzou. The other struggled to put away a FSU team that was playing with it's 8th string. Their defense gave up a ton of yardage late in the year. They haven't exactly been winning big. Here's how it's gone since October:

1: Last second win vs. Florida
2: Loss to Kentucky
3: Last second win vs. Auburn
4: Last minute win vs. Alabama
5: Blow out of La. Tech
6: Close game to the 4th quarter vs. Ole Miss
7: Loss to Arkansas
8: 4th quarter come from behind win vs. Tennessee

One blowout, two losses, two games close to the 4th and three wins that came down to the final seconds. That record, against good, bad, and terrible competition, would seem to indicate a close game tonight.

The real reason: Because LSU doesn't have the balls to play the type of game that would result in them blowing out the Buckeyes.

Defensively, LSU is good but incredibly overrated. Luckily for them, Ohio St. is uninspiring offensively. Beanie Wells is a good player, but he'll have to be a great one to get much done against a team keying on him. Only McFadden was able to run into the teeth of this defense and make them pay. No one else is McFadden. Boeckman's job will be to avoid mistakes, and take the plays given to him. He'll have his chances, and the utterly overrated Steltz will gamble, giving the Buckeyes a shot to beat him for big plays. Turnovers will doom the Buckeyes, but I bet they play a plodding, gross game that results in a couple of successful drives, and not much else.

Offensively, LSU pounds the ball with Hester, and let's Matt Flynn toss it around semi-accurately. Frankly, it's a Big Ten offense with incredible speed on the outside. However, I'll be that Miles will play his typical game, and that Ohio St. will be able to keep things close. They are a fast Big Ten team, and have a ton of defensive pride. Flynn is not a great passer. Frankly, I envision a 7-3 LSU lead when Ryan Perrilloux is given a drive. I'll bet that he leads LSU down for a score, and the 14-3 lead proves insurmountable.

However, if LSU really wants to win, they need to play like an SEC team. The Buckeyes suck against the SEC. They got mauled by Florida, and never beat the conference, as in, ever. Why? Because speed kills. Because those SEC athletes kill. LSU is an SEC team that in many ways plays like a Big Ten team. Miles should have gone to Michigan, he would have fit right in!

LSU will win big if Keiland Williams, Trindon Holliday and Perrilloux play a major role in the offense. Reverses, spread formations, and speed on the perimeter will kill Ohio St. However, running a slow fullback or quarterback into the pile will not get the job done. Laurinaitis will eat Matt Flynn for lunch. But he won't be able to catch Holliday.

The bet is LSU will throw deep and use Doucet and company, but Malcolm Jenkins can run, and Flynn just isn't a great passer. If they hit those plays, they could win big, but I'm betting they won't. I'm betting they play close to the vest, have a conservative offense, and try to grind. I'm also betting that when they switch things up offensively, they'll build a lead that they won't relinquish. The prediction, a 24-21 grinder for LSU.

But if they play the way they SHOULD, it'll be more likely 42-24.

So a snoozer, or a blowout, those seem to be our options. I can't wait for this season to end.

Orange Notes  

Posted by Frazier

- I love Todd Reesing. He's one of the gutsiest guys you'll ever see. I mean, a 5' 9 quarterback lowering his shoulder and taking on an all-american linebacker? Wow. He's all heart.
-Mark Mangino understands football. He schemed brilliantly, and put his players in position to with the game. He got first downs out of formations, and rolled the dice just enough to keep his band of underdogs fighting tough, without seeming desperate.
-Frank Beamer has come this far by doing three things. Playing conservative, smash-mouth football, playing great defense, and making special teams plays. Well, the special teams played about even, and the defense was very sturdy, but he insisted on throwing the ball all over the field. Ore had over 100 yards on the ground, and their only scoring drive aside from a late hurry-up effort came from running Ore up the gut and punishing the Kansas defense. Beamer out-smarted himself in this one.
-Mark Mangino understands how to turn mediocre talent into a GREAT team. Here's the recipe: Win the turnover battle (something they did all season), don't make mistakes (least penalized team in the country) play good special teams (definitely on display tonight) and put your players in a position to win (good schemes both offensively and defensively, good adjustments). Finally, find a quarterback your team will respond to, who isn't afraid to make plays, and will take care of the ball.
-Mangino showed why he was the coach of the year, and Kansas proved that they belonged in the BCS after all. Their only loss this year was to the #6 team in the nation who just proved how good they are, and they finished the year by beating the #3 team. Wow.

Bowl PIckoff - 1/3  

Posted by Walter

Orange Bowl

Frazier: VTech -3 over Kansas

Last night certainly weakened my resolve on this pick. It's not like I expect Tech's offense to explode or anything, it a very pedestrian unit. However, it's impossible to deny the fact that Kansas lost to the only team they played with a pulse. That being said, Mizzou certainly proved that they are a pretty legit team, so it's impossible to say Kansas is a bunch of bums based on that result. Still, one of these teams has played a tough schedule, and has some good wins on the resume. That team ain't the Jayhawks. I love Reesing, but the Hokie pressure gets to him in a 27-17 Tech victory.

Walter: VTech -3 over Kansas

I like Kansas, I really do. I'd like to pick them, but I won't. Frankly I haven't seen enough out of the Jayhawks to believe they can go toe to toe with a big, physical, bullying Hokie team. I don't know what Todd Reesing will do when faced with the kind of pass rush VTech will bring. I don't know how the no-name Kansas defense will react if Tech comes out and tries to run the ball right down their throat. I don't know whether Coach Mangino will make the necessary adjustments and take the necessary risks to stay in this game. One thing I do know is that one way or another you can count on this game being a blowout. I don't think Kansas has it in them. Tech big, 31-10.

Bowl Pickoff Records


Frazier's Bonus Picks:

Edwards +7 over Clinton

It's hard to get first time voters out under any circumstances, and the Democratic caucuses are tricky beasts. Howard Dean learned that the hard way, so I gotta go with the proven strategy in an upset.

Mike Huckabee even over Mitt Romney

Huckabee has some things going against him, namely first time caucusers. However, unlike the Democrats side, there is no vote-poaching in a second vote, so there won't be a chance for moderates to go Romney if their candidate (Giuliani or McCain) isn't viable. Also, Huckabee is relying on conservative Christians who have proven an acumen for political organizing. I see them getting it done, especially with Romney's negatives going up due to his attack ads.

More on the Sooners  

Posted by Frazier

I was most surprised by two things last night:

1: Bob Stoops panicky coaching decisions. Really? A two-point conversion that early in the third quarter? You scored nine points in less than nine minutes, and you think you need to go for two? Like you may only have a shot for a field goal to tie? This move perplexed me at the time. Then WVU scored again, and kicked the PAT to go up 12, meaning that the Sooners needed a pair of touchdowns, instead of being down a touchdown, conversion and field goal. Also, a momentum-loser.

That was followed by an even worse decision, the onside kick. You scored nine points in nine minutes. You're forcing three and outs. The crowd is surging, and everything is going right. So you roll the dice and allow your opponent to work with a short field? Did you really think WVU was going to march 80 yards? I have NEVER seen a 7-point favorite kick onsides out of anything other than desperation in the waning moments. That was a surreal call. Would Georgia have done that? Or USC? Or Ohio St? It hit all the wrong notes, seemed desperate, handed momentum back, gave a reeling opponent a short field, and resulted in a touchdown against you. Terrible call. Just terrible.

2: The Oklahoma offensive line. These guys are one of the highest rated units in the country. However, WVU was able to get pressure consistently. Bradford was constantly rolling away from a rush, effectively cutting the field in half. WVU was able to stuff some short yardage plays while giving away an average of 45 lbs on the line. They got sacks, they got pressure, they stifled the run game when it mattered and made the Sooners one-dimensional.

And Oklahoma was holding on about a third of the plays. I saw three or four EGREGIOUS holds that weren't called. Officials rarely blow holding calls, but they let this vaunted unit get away with murder and it still didn't matter. You could probably add another three sacks to the West Virginia total. Apparently this bunch can only block against fat, slow midwest boys, because the Mountaineers ran circles around them. It was a disgraceful performance. Loadholt and company are officially on notice, they may be the most overrated group in the country.

Bob Stoops  

Posted by Frazier

Wow. That was an incredible Fiesta Bowl. However, watching it seemed a little deja-vu-ish.

I'm pretty sure I've seen Oklahoma blow a BCS game before. Let's recap.

2003: Get blown out by K-State to end the regular season. Miraculously make the title game, get beat handily by LSU. Also, deprived us of seeing LSU-USC, the real title game (which the Trojans would have won going away).

2004: Get smoked in the title game by the biggest margin in any BCS game, 55-19 to USC.

2005: Finish 8-4, nice win against Oregon, but not an elite bowl.

2006: Lose to Boise St, a WAC team, and surrender 43 points. One of the biggest upsets of all-time.

2007: Get waxed, 48-28 against a WVU team that hadn't beaten a really good team this year, and had lost to Pitt to end the year, and lost their coach. Now, WVU played inspired, but that's still an ugly loss.

Stoops' teams just don't finish the season well. It's time to call him out on it. His teams need to show up for bowl games, AND finish strong.

You can say that it's tough to get up for a bowl game when you don't have a lot to play for, but tell that to, say, USC. Carroll's teams ALWAYS show up for the bowl game, and play hard as hell.
2002: Paste #3 Iowa 38-17.

2003: Dominated #4 Michigan, 28-14 for a share of the national title.

2004: The aforementioned 55-19 drubbing of Oklahoma.

2005: 41-38 loss in one the best all-time games to Texas. Some dumb mistakes, but that game was an absolute war against an incredibly talented opponent.

2006: Blitzed #8 Michigan 32-18.

2007: Crushed #13 Illinois, 49-17.

The most important games to note are the 2002, 2006, 2007 games. Those one were strictly for pride, and USC could have overlooked them, or not cared, or been "insulted" by the matchup, but they showed up and kicked ass in all of them.

Think the USC standard is too high? How about Georgia?

2002: Beat Florida St. 26-13 in the Sugar Bowl

2003: Beat Purdue 34-27 in the Capitol One Bowl

2004: Beat Wisconsin 24-21 in the Outback Bowl

2005: Lose 38-35 to WVU in the Sugar Bowl. Not a good loss, as Georgia was the better team, but at least they showed up and fought hard.

2006: Beat Virginia Tech 31-24, not a marquee game, but a nice win.

2007: Paste Hawaii, 41-10.

Now, this isn't to compare the Georgia-Oklahoma seasons, but how they performed down the stretch. Richt's teams have all played hard, and even in the game they shouldn't has lost, they battled to the end. Maybe their opponents weren't always as good as the ones OU faced, but they never rolled over, or made excuses, or failed to show up. That's the difference I'm getting at.

Bob Stoops has earned his reputation as one of the nation's best coaches, but his teams have a propensity for either getting blown out, or not showing up an awful lot. That's a sign of poor coaching, and that needs to be said.

Bowl PIckoff - 1/2  

Posted by Walter

Fiesta Bowl

Frazier: Oklahoma -7 over WVU

Is that really the line? That's an enticing number even WITH Coach Rod. Without him, and with the added turmoil in Morgantown, I just have to lay the points. With as good as Mizzou looked against Arkansas, one has to believe that Oklahoma is a lot better than I had thought. I had them pegged as entirely overrated all season, but the Big 12 has generally looked good in their bowl games, and Oklahoma is clearly the cream of that crop. Unless Pat White plays superman, it won't be close. Call it Sooners, 41-28.

Walter: Oklahoma -7 over WVU

Maybe, just maybe one of these days we'll get a BCS bowl matchup that doesn't suck.....then again maybe we won't. Two blowouts down, three to come. Tonight, it should be all Oklahoma all the time. Simply put, WVU is too small, too weak, too distracted, and too timid to stand up to an Oklahoma team that can bully opponents when they want to. The only thing that can save the Mountaineers is a lack of motivation on the part of the Sooners. Don't count on it as the Sooners can stake a claim to the top 5 in 2008 with a dominant performance. Call it 38-20.

Bowl Pickoff Records


Bowl Pickoff 1/1  

Posted by Frazier

Late picks, but trust me that I'm picking em as I would have.

Cotton Bowl

Arkansas +3 over Mizzou

I should know better, but I love McFadden too much, and don't trust the Big 12 one bit. Hogs, 34-28.

Outback Bowl

Tennessee -1.5 over Wisconsin

Vols have overachieved, and the Badgers suck. I like the SEC in this one, 28-24.

Capital One Bowl

Michigan +10.5 over Florida

I just have a feeling that the "real" Michigan finally shows up. Also, for all everybody sweats Florida, they have struggled against quality opponents. The line is too much, but Florida hangs on, 31-27.

Gator Bowl

Virginia +6 over Texas Tech

Gotta take my Hoos. Doesn't really matter that I hate the match-up. TT is tough in bowl games, but Virginia gets it done, 31-28.

Sugar Bowl

Hawaii +7.5 over Georgia

Fuck it, I'm picking the upset. It's indoors, and the Hawaii receivers run wild, 44-42.

Rose Bowl

USC -13.5 over Illinois

USC shows up in bowl games, and they always play like the best team in the country down the stretch. Illinois is a lousy team from a lousy conference, that made it here thanks to an upset over another lousy team. It's all Trojans, 38-17.

Bowl PIckoff - 1/1  

Posted by Walter

Cotton Bowl

Missouri -3 over Arkansas

McFadden and Jones are great, but I don't see any way that the Razorbacks can slow down Chase Daniel and Co. much less stop them. Lots of points in this one, but Mizzou takes it in the end 31-24.

Outback Bowl

Tennessee -1.5 over Wisconsin

Ugh, I hate one of these teams (TN) and dislike the other (Wisco). When an overrated team from the Big 10 faces and overrated team from the SEC there are no winners. But on the scoreboard expect Tennessee to win big. Don't forget, the Big 10 sucks. TN 34-21.

Capital One Bowl

Florida -10.5 over Michigan

Let's see, Michigan couldn't stop Appalachian State's spread offense but they are somehow going to stop Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and Company. Please, after this one the Michigan faithful won't be able to wait to get rid of Lloyd Carr and his slow, plodding teams. Florida big, 44-27.

Gator Bowl

Virginia +6 over Texas Tech

Texas Tech has a great offense, Virginia has a great defense. Nice matchup. Virginia has a weak offense, Texas Tech has a weak defense. Not a nice matchup. Either way you look at it, Chris Long has to be worth a couple points himself. The Hoos keep it close. Texas Tech 28-24.

Sugar Bowl

Hawaii +7.5 over Georgia

Do I think Hawaii will keep it close? No. Do I think there is any way Knowshon Moreno doesn't run for at least 150 yards and 2 scores? No. Do I think the Hawaii O-Line has any chance of handling the Georgia front 7? No. Do I feel a sense of obligation to pick Hawaii after all we went through advocating them for the national title game? YES. Georgia 44, Hawaii 40.

Rose Bowl

USC -13.5 over Illinois

This spread could be 20 and I'd take USC. The fact that the Big 10 got two teams in the BCS is absurd, and while Illinois did some nice things this year, they simply are not on the same level as the national elite. USC will blow Illinois out on talent alone. This one could be something like 35-7 at halftime, and should end somewhere along the lines of 55-20 USC.

Bowl Pickoff Record: 14-7

The Team

How's the look?