August 29, 2011

The 2011 College Football Preview Extravaganza

By - Kris Fletcher

There's no one happier to have football season finally here than me. While nothing quite tops the NFL in my book, NCAA football comes pretty darn close. With all its pageantry, rivalries and BCS drama, what's not to like?

Here's an in-depth look at some of the teams and players that should help make this college football year one to remember:

Once again, the SEC is loaded. Alabama, LSU and South Carolina all start the season ranked in the top fifteen.

The big question marks for the Crimson Tide are on the offensive side of the ball. Sophomore A.J. McCarron and freshman Phillip Sims are competing to replace the departed Greg McElroy at quarterback. Whoever wins the job obviously won't have Julio Jones to throw to, nor will they have Heisman-winning running back Mark Ingram in the backfield. However, wideouts Darius Hanks and Marquis Maze have 2,039 career receiving yards between them, and running back Trent Richardson has rushed for 1,451 yards during his first two seasons. The offensive line also has four of five starters from 2010 returning.

Photo by: Bob Rosato
The problem for the Tigers is that starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson is probably done for the year after being suspended indefinitely for his role in a fight outside of a Baton Rouge bar earlier this month. Senior Jarrett Lee will now be asked to step in and lead the offense. He'll have talented wide receiver Russell Shepard to throw to, who's a home run threat every time he touches the ball. The defense is anchored by Morris Claiborne, who led the team with five interceptions last season.

The biggest weapon for the Gamecocks will be running back Marcus Lattimore. He was the consensus national freshman of the year last season, rushing for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns. He ran for five more touchdowns than the entire team did in 2009. At the quarterback position, Fifth-year senior Stephen Garcia has started twenty-eight straight games. He threw for 3,059 yards last season, which was the most among returning SEC QBs. He also led the conference with 14 interceptions. No doubt coach Steve Spurrier would like to see that number lowered significantly.

Photo by: Richard Shiro
The Big-12 has three legit national title contenders as well, with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M all ranked in the preseason top ten.

For the Sooners, quarterback Landry Jones flourished as the starter last year, throwing for 4,718 yards and 38 touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Ryan Broyles is one of the best playmakers in college football. He had 131 receptions last season, for 1,622 yards and 14 touchdowns.

The Cowboys are led by all-conference quarterback Brandon Weeden, who threw for 4,277 yards last year. His favorite target, junior wideout Justin Blackmon, snagged 20 TDs on the season. Oklahoma State averaged over 44 points per contest last year, so it's pretty obvious that offense is this teams strong suit.

Photo by: Getty Images
Last October, with the Aggies record at 3-3, coach Mike Sherman replaced struggling quarterback Jerrod Johnson with Ryan Tannehill. Texas A&M proceeded to reel off six straight victories, including wins over Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas. Tannehill completed a school-record 65% of his passes, for 1,638 yards and 13 touchdowns. Should be very interesting to see how his first season as the full-time starter plays out.

Other school's that may have a chance to play for the crystal football in New Orleans this year include: Oregon, Florida State, Nebraska, Stanford and Boise State.

The Ducks came up just short against Auburn in last seasons championship game, but they're poised to make another run at the title this year. They're explosive on offense, led by junior running back LaMichael James. He rushed for 1,731 yards in 2010 and finished third in the Heisman voting. Cornerback Cliff Harris led the nation with 23 passes defended, and he even returned four punts back for touchdowns. Also, lets not forget this squad has like seventy-six different uniform combinations they can bust out in on any given Saturday, clearly making them the most fashionable team in the country if nothing else.

Photo by: Steve Dykes
The last time an ACC school played for the national championship was in 2000. The Seminoles are looking to change all that, as they're loaded and ready for a return to glory. Running backs Chris Thompson, Ty Jones and Jermaine Thomas combined to rush for 1,862 yards last fall. Wideouts Bert Reed, Rodney Smith and Willie Haulstead together caught 127 balls for 1,649 yards and 11 touchdowns. On defense, senior linebacker Nigel Bradham has led the team in tackles each of the last two seasons.

The Cornhuskers enter their first year in the Big Ten with championship aspirations. Quarterback Taylor Martinez is finally healthy after struggling through much of last season with toe and ankle injuries. Running back Rex Burkhead rushed for 951 yards and 7 touchdowns while splitting time last year. Linebacker Lavonte David set a school mark for tackles with 152 after transferring from junior college. Defensive tackle Jared Crick was a second-team All-American in 2010, and ranks seventh in school history with 19 career sacks.

Quarterback Andrew Luck could have gone pro after last season. Instead, he decided to return to the Cardinals and make a run at the national championship. Andrew will probably need some "luck" to overcome the loss of his two top receivers from 2010, three starters on the offensive line and the departure of coach Jim Harbaugh to the San Francisco 49ers. Having said all that, the guys got skills, so he should keep Stanford in the title hunt.

Photo by: Getty Images
And of course, what college football preview would be complete without talking about everyone's favorite Cinderella team, the Broncos of Boise State. They have one of the best quarterbacks in the country in senior Kellen Moore, a standout running back in senior Doug Martin and an offensive line full of veterans. Losing receivers Titus Young and Austin Pettis to the NFL will hurt, but Kirby Moore (Kellen's younger brother), Mitch Burroughs and Chris Potter hope to rise to the challenge. While the Broncos will need a lot to go wrong (for everyone else) to get a shot at the national title, this is college football, the place where things go wrong for someone every week, so I'm not about to count them out.

As far as the Heisman Trophy goes, I like Trent Richardson, Landry Jones, LaMichael James, Andrew Luck and Kellen Moore as the five finalist, with LaMichael James taking home the hardware. The November 12th game between Oregon and Stanford may very well help determine who wins it.

So who will be playing for the national championship? I'm going with the Oklahoma Sooners and Oregon Ducks. Two high-powered offenses going head-to-head for the whole ball of wax. Of the two, the Ducks have the easier road to get there, but I really like all the talent this Sooners squad brings to the table. Coach Bob Stoops and company should bring home Oklahoma's first national championship since 2000.

Photo by: Doug Benc


  1. A college football preview with NO MENTION of Notre Dame? What a travesty! Especially considering the fact they have a real good chance of making a BCS bowl game this season. No way Oregon gets back to the title game. I can see Oklahoma possibly making it. I think Alabama will win it all. Trent Richardson wins the Heisman.

  2. Well written. I agree with the biggest part of it as well. Although, I see Oregon getting back and winning the title this year. Their offense is nearly unstoppable.

  3. Vols can't get any love from you guys? Lol I like Alabama to win it all (as much as I hate to say it). I think Luck will win the Heisman.

  4. Would LOVE to see Boise State get a chance at playing in the title game, but it won't happen. Seems like this season should be wide-open, cause theres no real clear-cut favorite. I'm going with Alabama as a safe bet to win it all, simply because an SEC team wins it every year pretty much.

  5. Andrew Luck was crazy to not go pro. Stanford doesn't have enough talent to win the title. I think Florida State is a team that not alot of people are talking about that could end up in the national championship game. I like Landry Jones to win the Heisman.

  6. I would LOVE to see Kellen Moore win the Heisman and see Boise bust it all. And I, as much as anyone, would give anything for Notre Dame to return to glory, I've just been burned by the hype in the past, oh, TWENTY TWO years.

    I'm so sick of hearing about what a draft gem Andrew Luck is going to be as well. I don't think I've EVER heard of a player given what seems like a free ride before he's even left college.

  7. I agree with a lot of what Brian Harrington said. Pulling for Moore and Boise State, as well as hoping the Irish finally get back on track. I on the other hand think Luck is extremely talented. Stanford could make some major noise this year.

  8. Yeah, I didn't mention Notre Dame because I didn't wanna give out a false sense of hope. Lol I love the Irish, but I'm not buying into the hype until they prove they deserve it.

    I also would love to see Moore and Boise State throw a giant monkey wrench into the whole deal, but I just don't think enough of what needs to happen WILL HAPPEN in order for them to get a shot at doing it.

    I think Luck has upside, but he's not nearly as good as he's being made out to be.

    Thanks for taking the time to read it and give some feedback guys.

  9. Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Florida State are the top tier teams for this season. I like Michigan State and Arkansas as dark horse picks. Luck wins the Heisman.

  10. I'm SO SICK of hearing about Boise State and Kellen Moore. You guys need to get off of it. They play in the MOUNTAIN WEST. They're lucky to even be in the top 25. They damn sure don't belong in the top 10. ONE WIN a year against a solid opponent, which is what Boise State always does, is not enough to be mentioned with the big boys of college football. Join a REAL CONFERENCE, then we'll talk.

  11. Why you wanna hate on Boise State? If Boise State played in the SEC or any other "big" conference, they'd be just as good. Chris Petersen is a helluva coach. I'm sick of hearing people like YOU complain ABOUT Boise State. You're probably just an Oklahoma fan. That was years ago man, let it go already. Oh, and I think Alabama will win the championship and Luck takes the Heisman.

  12. I can't believe you picked Oklahoma of all teams to win it all. Come on!! Its gonna be an SEC team once again. And for the record, I'm sick of Boise State too. They just need to disappear already, and they will once Moore is gone.

  13. Oklahoma chokes way too often in big games. Alabama is a much safer bet to win it all.