Friday, August 6, 2010

Sprewell vs. Carlesimo II: Sir Wesley vs. The USA Today Pre-Season Poll.

May wanna watch your neck, bro.

Upon waking up this morning and realizing that the USA Today Poll was out, as well as the first practice report over at Menace, it dawned on me that this is the closest I’ve been to college football bliss since Signing Day and that it’s all downhill from here. However, this poll release felt a bit different. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always SUPER excited for the season to kick off, no matter the expectations, but this off-season has just been damned unbearable for me. This is especially strange considering that the baseball team kept my mind off of it for so long and that the Rangers are actually a fun team to watch. And, checking the first poll and seeing your team ranked in the Top 10 should be an amazing thing for any school, but for some reason being ranked 7th just feels hollow. Obviously I’m a homer, and realistically 7th is nothing to turn your nose up at, but I just think we’re better than that. I’m not sure if we should be ranked in the Top 3, but I would say at least Top 5… ah, screw it, I need to embrace my inner blindly biased fan – here’s a look at the Six teams ahead of us, why they are where they are, and why TCU should be ahead of them.

#1. Alabama.

Why they’re ranked where they are: It’s pretty simple – They’re the defending champs, they return the vital cogs of their offense, and they’re coached by Lord of Darkness/noted Pimp Slapper Nick Saban. Honestly, this is probably fair. The preseason polls are inherently flawed because all they have to rely on are depth charts and the previous season’s results, but it’s the best method we have available to us. So, unless the returning Champion loses their entire team, they're probably going to be on top to begin the next year. It's the way of things.

Why TCU should be ranked higher: Have you seen their defense? I think the only return something like four starters . Gone are key contributors like Terrence Cody and his gelatin physique and Rolando McClain, he being the latest first round reach-flop of the Oakland Raiders. The SEC, as much or more than any other league, is the most defense oriented there is. I’m not trying to discount Saban’s coaching abilities – the dude could relocate to Waco today and probably lead the Bears to a Top 25 finish – and I realize that he has a stable full of blue chip recruits waiting to fill in the gaps, but, looking at the schedule, I’m a little concerned if I’m a Bama fan. Nevertheless, I’m not trying to predict results here, just taking a look at the current outlook, so my argument against Bama being #1 is weak at this point.

#2. Ohio State.

Why they’re ranked where they are: Because the media LOVES the Big Ten – an inordinate number of the major media writers attended a Big Ten school, albeit Northwestern – and because the media LOVES Terrelle Pryor. Also, the whole, “what have you done for me lately?” fallacy of preseason polling. Ohio State is maybe the most boring team in the most boring conference in the NCAA and, more than likely, they’ll win the thing AGAIN this year. Truthfully, I’m pulling for them – if a Big Ten or Pac Ten team advances to the national championship, the Rose Bowl has to take a non-BCS qualifier. Read: January in Pasadena for the Frogs. Obviously TCU in Glendale the second week of January is preferable, but this is the next best option.

Why TCU should be ranked higher: Because of the Buckeyes doubled edged sword, Terrelle Pryor. I understand Pryor will always be judged under the “Top overall prospect in the nation” microscope, and the diva way in which he held off his decision during the process, but ignoring that, is he THAT good? Last year he had 56% completions, 18 TDs and ran for 7 more, but he also threw 11 INTs and the Buckeyes dropped two games, including one to Purd-On’t lose to Purdue if you’re a National Championship contender. He’s obviously a tremendous athlete but he clearly made the wrong choice in playing for Jim Tressel and, other than a dominant performance in the Rose Bowl last year, what has he done to be one of the undisputed Heisman front runners and make Ohio State an almost unquestioned participant in the BCS National Championship?

#3. Florida Gators.

Why they’re ranked where they are: Because they’re Florida. Are we sensing a trend yet? This is clearly a case of the media having Stockholm Syndrome with the Gators because of the Tebow era. But, you can’t ignore Urban Meyer’s track record in Gainesville, nor all of those #1 recruiting classes he’s piled up over the past few years.

Why TCU should be ranked higher: Well, first off, Urban Meyer could possibly die or retire and move to Costa Rica before the season starts, so that should immediately raise some red flags. Also, John Brantley may be a stud and he may have Florida fans creaming their jean shorts, but how is he going to handle replacing Tim Tebow? He’s got all the physical credentials and the hype, but Florida fans have such a ridiculous amount of boner juice built up over Tebow, the first time he has a down game – of which Tebow, if you don’t recall because the media never mentions it, had several – the pitchforks will be out in force. To be fair, Brantley looked phenomenal in the few games he did play in – 75% completetion and 7 TDs to no INTs, albeit mostly in garbage time – but if he rolls off an undefeated season, give him the Heisman without asking any questions.

#4. Texas Longhorns.

Why they’re ranked where they are: Because despite what Andy Richter will tell you, Mack Brown and DeLoss Dodds control the universe. That’s really the only explanation I can come up with.

Why TCU should be ranked higher: Because, tell me why Texas should be ranked higher and I’ll give you a nickel. Shall I count the ways? Garrett Gilbert, despite settling down late in the National Championship game and almost ruining college football for me for the rest of my days, is still a true sophomore who has never played a full game. Because the Horns, despite switching to a more run-based offense to protect Gilbert, still have no proven running backs who can carry the torch. Because with Jordan Shipley gone, who is a proven wide receiver? Because they lost their two defensive stars, Sergio Kindle and Earl Thomas. Because EVERYONE is going to be gunning for them this year after their off-season shenanigans. Because, I believe in God, and if he truly exists he will let Texas have a down year for the first time in recent memory. Look, if the laws of college football dominance are tied to the athletes on the field, then UT should win another title before Gilbert and the ridiculous offensive talent he has coming up around him leave Austin. But it just can’t happen in his first year. It just can’t.

#5. Boise State Broncos.

Why they’re ranked where they are: As I’ve lamented before, they bring back 21 of 22 starters from their best team ever. The only loss is CB Kyle Wilson – arguably the best player on that team last year, yes, but still just one of 22. So that’s your main reason. The other is obviously predicted results – they should run the WAC once again, and they have a great chance of sweeping their non-conference. Plus, they just came off of their second undefeated regular season in a row, including the Bowl game that shall not be named. Every year the media has to back a non-BCS team to break into the top of the rankings, and since they beat us last year, it’s them. Had the results been different, we’d switch places.

Why TCU should be ranked higher: This is the only one I can’t argue with. Yet. The above mentioned reasons are strong enough, and since they’re the only team in the Top Ten that we have a direct head to head result with from last year, obviously they were going to be ranked higher. If the Broncos come out and dominate Virginia Tech in the opener and then do the same to Oregon State a few weeks later, they are going to be very, very difficult to catch up even if we both sport undefeated records. However, I’m going out on a short limb here and saying there’s no way they put together a third undefeated regular season. I’m fine with them being ahead of us now, but I doubt it will last. Stay tuned.

#6. Virginia Tech.

Why they’re ranked where they are: Because with Tyrod Taylor and their two stud running backs returning, plus the good majority of their defensive talent which ranked in the top ten in most categories last year, they were sure to be a trendy Top Ten pick. Frank Beamer is one of the best coaches in the country not to have won a national championship and the Hokies are always a tough win in the ACC. Besides, they originated the whole “Enter Sandman” before games thing, so that will always get you a few spots.

Why TCU should be ranked higher: Because they play in the ACC, the poster child for mediocrity. It’s the same thing every year – one of their teams starts off hot and the pundits ride the bandwagon hard, then once that happens the wheels fall off and they finish 9-3. It happens every single year and there’s no reason to think it won’t happen again this year. Besides, I think they drop the opener to Boise State.

#7. TCU Horned Frogs.

Why we’re ranked where we are: Because we lost to Boise. Because we lost seven defensive starters. Because Andy Dalton is a ginger. Because we play in the Mountain West. Because we’ve never opened a season in recent memory with higher expectations so there's no track record to go off of. Because we’re TCU, and no matter what we do, we’ll always be second best. Seriously, I know I should be happy with 7th, but I’m not. I’m angry. I think on a given day we can beat any other team in the country and being ranked 7th in the polls is kind of like being ranked as the second best one armed drummer in a rock band.

Why we should be ranked higher: Best coach, one of the best quarterbacks, potentially the best offense, 8/12 games are “home games,” Jeremy Kerley, Tank Carder, Wayne Daniels, Jake Kirkpatrick, Marcus Cannon… I mean, if you read this site, this should be pretty self explanatory.

#8. Oklahoma Sooners.

Why they’re ranked where they are: They have a lot more experience this year than they did last year, and Bob Stoops is never going to have two major down years in a row. He may never win another BCS game, but he’s not going to play in many more Sun Bowls while he’s in Norman, either. Landry Jones should be much better this year after coming on strong at the end of last season and playing behind a line that isn’t manned by a bunch of turnstiles. They have studs at every offensive skill position and they’re playing a tough enough out of conference schedule to gain some initial respect. I think they should have their rankings reversed with Texas'.

Why TCU is ranked higher: More experience, more depth, and better 2009 performance. When was the last time we opened a season ranked ahead of Oklahoma? Despite being ranked 7th, I feel like this is a pretty decent indicator of growing respect for the Frogs.

#9. Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Why they’re ranked where they are: I’ll be honest, I’m surprised they weren’t ranked higher. Every year there’s a team that creates buzz in the off-season and rides it to an inflated pre-season ranking before pissing it away on the field. Last year it was Ole Miss, two years ago it was Georgia. This year it was a pretty tight race between Arkansas, Miami, Nebraska and North Carolina, but the Cornhuskers take the prize. I kind of hate it for them – these cats hate UT more than anyone else on the planet, and the enemy of my enemy is my friend – but I just can’t see them running the tables, and they probably will be far too jacked up to beat Texas in Lincoln. There are several criteria for being the above-mentioned overhyped team that will flame out, and Nebraska meets most of them – gut wrenching late season loss to build on (huge check), off season buzz created by an outspoken coach (check), dominant bowl performance (double check). This team is no better than 9-3, but if they back up their talk when UT rolls into town, that’s pretty much all they want to accomplish before heading into the Big Ten.

Why TCU is ranked ahead of them: Because, despite what they will tell you, losing N’Damukong Suh is a major loss, and they apparently still haven’t named a starting QB from the reports I’ve seen. This is not good. Plus, despite all of their swagger, I don’t think anyone is entirely sold quite yet. They should hold where they are in the rankings for a while, but it will take some wins before they start to climb. Also, after getting their wish and joining the Big Ten, where will their focus be?

#10. Iowa Hawkeyes.

Why they’re ranked where they are: Very, very similar situation to Conference rival Ohio State in that they had a dominant season for the most part with one HUGE red flag loss – Northwestern – yet they rebounded to smash their BCS opponent, Georgia Tech, in the Orange Bowl. I’ve probably said it before about Kirk Ferentz, but I just do not get it. Sure, he’s won a lot of games at Iowa, but in 11 seasons, he’s never won the conference outright, only has 2 BCS appearances, has had multiple players get into legal trouble, yet is still a hot commodity to be picked up by an NFL team and is one of the highest paid coaches in the country. Color me skeptical, but why am I supposed to back the guy again?

Why TCU is ranked ahead of them: Pretty much for every reason I listed above.

Just for clarification, the rest of the Top 25 is as follows: Oregon, Wisconsin, Miami, Penn State, Pittsburg, LSU, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Arkansas, Florida State, Georgia, Oregon State, Auburn, Utah and West Virginia.

So there you have it – my mocking of the extremely superficial pre-season USA Today Poll with superficial predictions of my own. The AP Poll – the one that counts – will not come out until later in the month, but based on how the two polls have broken down in the past, I wouldn’t expect many changes. Regardless, with football season being closer than 30 days, and me having met my yearly sales quota at work thus mentally freeing me of any work related obligations for the time being, I’m sure I’ll be back when that comes out with some even more homerific observations. Until then, Go Frogs.

Taking Inventory: Special Teams

We come to the end of our inventory today, a day after the Frogs held their first practice. It's now time to take a look at the special teams- an area where the team is solid in a few spots and not so much at others.

Ross Evans returns as the Frogs' kicker once again this year. The junior made 15 of 18 field goals a year ago along with 61 of 63 extra points. Unfortunately for Evans, though, when you miss a big field goal in a pressure situation (or two in his case, in the Utah game in '08), going forward you're going to have fans take notice of your failures a lot more than your successes. That's just the life of a kicker-people demand perfection from them. Senior Kevin Sharples, who handled kick-off duties a year ago, returns in the role and will likely be Evans' back-up.

Joining Evans as a multi-year returning starter is junior punter Anson Kelton. Kelton went through a bit of a sophomore slump last year, averaging just over 37 yards an attempt. But he was fairly proficient at pinning opponents inside their own 20 and should return to the promising form he showed as a freshman. Hopefully, though, he won't have to punt very often. Sophomore Cale Patterson is the only other punter on the roster currently, so he's your default #2 punter.

As usual, the Frogs look to be one of the better kick- and punt-returning teams in the country. They return two players this year who scored touchdowns on returns last year- senior receiver Jeremy Kerley (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!) and junior corner Greg McCoy. They ought to handle most of kicks and punts, but also look for a pair of speedy receivers, Skye Dawson and Josh Boyce, to also get a chance to show off their skills in the return game.

Just as big as is the loss of Jerry Hughes at defensive end, so is the loss of Clint Gresham at deep snapper. He was one of the best around, and will likely be earning a paycheck to snap in the NFL for a long time. The two leading candidates to take his place will be junior Joseph Bates and sophomore Daniel Shelley. Senior receiver Bart Johnson returns as the holder, and Kerley (who handled those duties in '08) could also step in should Johnson not be available.

Morning Dump


Football:
Summer heat greets Horned Frogs on first day of practice Star-Telegram

Several TCU players battling for open starting spots
Star-Telegram

Opener an honor for former cellar dwellers
Wichita Falls Times-Record

Opening camp: TCU
ESPN
-Certainly not a strong start for Andrea


Soccer:

Cody collects all-league honors on Thursday
GoFrogs.com

Horned Frogs continue preseason preparations
GoFrogs.com

No. 6 Calhoun's hat trick unstopable in 2009
GoFrogs.com

Alumni:

Curry enjoying atmosphere, excitement around State College
MiLB.com

Questions abound for Cardinals at inside linebacker
National Football Post

New Panthers president Morrison a tireless worker
Sports Illustrated
-Not technically an alumni but still a great Frog

Frogs ranked 7th in Pre-season USA Today Poll





I don't like it either, GP

The story can be seen HERE. Snarky Top 10 analysis forth coming...