Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Arkansas Game Review

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The first SEC West divisional matchup is in the books. If you will recall, this is the first of its kind in many, many years. And, because of that, many people felt like this would be a dangerous matchup. I wrote my predictions way back on August 18th. Since that time, the Tigers suffered some injuries and the status of many key players was unknown, specifically defensive star Therezie and the insanely dangerous Marshall

So, how did I do? Take a second to review my prediction, which you can find here

So, how did it all come together, and how did I do? Let me start out by restating what I said a few weeks back. It's the first week and predicting is awfully hard....but someone has to do it!

1st Quarter
I expected both teams to come out pounding the ball. I was kinda correct. Arkansas did come out with the multiple headed run game of Marshall, Williams and Collins. But, it did take them a series to get rolling, as they quickly went 3-and-out. After that, the Hogs were able to stuff the ball ball down the Tiger's throats the entire 1st half. The runs came in chunks so big that I could have busted out 20 yard gainers. On the other side, many of us were surprised to see Johnson come out slinging the rock. Though the run game did manage success in the 1st quarter, averaging 7 yards a carry, it was the pass game that looked unstoppable. In fact, Johnson was 6-6 with unbelievable throws to a wide variety of receivers including a huge TD to Ray and a terrific catch for Uzomah. I expected the quarter to end at 7-0 Auburn due to the expected run game. Instead, Auburn led 14-7. There were plenty of great plays, but the highlight of the quarter was EASILY the ball boy running what appeared to be a 4.5 40 yard dash. Get that kid a scholarship. That's the 2nd time we have seen him stridin'. 

2nd Quarter
Well, I was way off. What can I say? Arkansas was extremely balanced on offense. Auburn couldn't slow them down until late in the 2nd quarter. Arkansas sews up that 21-7 deficit to make it 21-21 behind an offensive line that steamrolled the Auburn front 7.  On the other side, Auburn opened up with a TD to start the 2nd quarter, but struggled afterwards.  CAP did receive a lot of touches, but I expected them to be heavy body blows. In fact, Grant and CAP were held to 16 total yards rushing in the 2nd quarter. Johnson was still on the money, for the most part.  Carlson bangs his 1st collegiate FG attempt off the woodwork to end the 2nd quarter. 

All I could think is, ARE WE SERIOUSLY TIED AT HALFTIME!?!?! Instead of the 14-3, low scoring affair that I expected, it is 21-21. Wow. 

3rd Quarter
Well, another prediction where I was off. I expected the Hogs to make some adjustments and find the endzone for their 1st of 2 TDs in the game. Instead, it was Coach Johnson who made the adjustments, stonewalling the Hogs offense to a total of 60 yards in the second half, total. Marshall entered the game and the Auburn offense went to work on the Hogs, plowing them all down the field before Marshall took it in from 19 yards out. CAP had a fumble on the first play of the next drive, which was the only turnover Auburn had, though Duke Williams did put one on the turf earlier in the game. Grant became a factor in the second half, spelling CAP with some good runs. Easily the play of the game came from the combination of Therezie and Whitehead. Therezie was limited in snaps, due to his off-the-field issues. He still managed to be a major contributer by forcing a fumble and destroying Allen on a blitz, causing the errant throw which turned into the Pick-6. 

4th Quarter
CAP destroys the Hog's defense in the 4th quarter. One can't help but thing that the lightening delay let him stew, as well as recover. Marshall attempted only 1 pass in the 4th quarter, which was incomplete. Grant adds some very good runs, including a TD. So, though I thought he would get loose in the 3rd, he did find paydirt. Things might have appeared very different, except for a critical drop by Sammie Coates, which was a TD.  Guess some of those things we talked about in What Do We Expect From the Offense went as expected. 45-21 gives the impression that the game was sporting. Indeed, the first half was. But, a 52-21 score gives a much different appearance. 


Take Aways
Again, go back and read what I thought about both the Offense and Defense after A-Day:

Duke
I was so very hesitant to heap all the praise and hope on Duke Williams. He did look spectacular against our own defense, but I wanted to reserve judgement. After all, recruits all look fantastic on highlight reels. That doesn't mean I didn't have hope. After all, I sought him out after A-Day, specifically. 
But, he is amazing. I thought he would be simply a vertical threat, due to his size. Nope. With the ball in his hand, he is as dangerous a player as there is. 9 catches for 154 yards and a TD. He moved the chains. He stretched the field. 

Johnson
12/16 for 243 and 2 TDs. No INTs. He may be the best backup QB in America. It was scary how good his throws were. It was like he wanted to take the starting job form Marshall. 

CAP
It took several games for Mason to break that 150 yard mark. CAP hits it on Game 1. 26 carries for 177, averaging 6.8 yards a carry. WHEW. Now, let's cut down on the fumbles, plz.

The O
They had their issues in finding rhythm. But, for the most part, they were extremely balanced. It was the first time since really 2004 that I thought Auburn could score on any play that night. 

The D
Suspect in the first half. Almost frightening. Had me thinking "here we go again...." for about the 5th year in a row. But, Johnson makes some changes. Therezie gets in the game. Boom. 60 total yards in the 2nd half. But, not so fast my friends. It took heavy blitzing to finally get into the Hogs backfield. Auburn's secondary isn't good enough to send blitz after blitz. They better find a pass rush, and quick. 

Special Teams
Clanged field goal aside, the special teams looked fantastic. They didn't get the touchdown I thought they would, but Bray averaged 15 per return. Grant took his only kick for 32 yards. Most importantly, only one of Carlson's kickoffs were returned, and it was stonewalled at the 15. He averaged 53 yards per punt. Wow. 


My Grade
C-
It's tough to predict this game, so I give myself a bit of a pass. We didn't get the special teams TD. There were a lot more points scored than I thought. Like I expected, the defense did struggle but the didn't give up big plays. The 2 TDs to the TEs weren't exactly BIG. I felt they were predictable. Arkansas diagnosed the LB blitzes and threw to the TEs. The LBs played better in this game than I felt about all year last year.  I expected big things from the kicker, and he didn't disappoint. I expected big things from the slot receiver. Duke responded in kind for 154 yards.  As Cousin Eddy would say, Bingo!

Anyway, I'll try to get better next go-round! 





Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Best SEC Games in Week 1

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Thursday Night

No. 21 Texas A&M vs No. 9 South Carolina

I'll be real honest with you about something. I don't know why TAMU is ranked in the Top 25. Maybe I should be a little more forgiving and understanding. See, I expect them to finish in the bottom of the SEC-West in 2014. The only divisional game I see them winning is MAYBE Arkansas, I and expect the Hogs to be a surprise team. TAMU has had atrocious defenses in the past few years. It's a side effect of being in the Big 12 for so long. All the premium recruits are on the other side of the ball. TAMU has lost a once in a lifetime QB and WR in Manziel and Evans. Additionally, they have lost 2 offensive linemen to the NFL in 2 consecutive seasons. The Aggies have been lucky to win without a run game, but the luck has run out in 2014. I still expect a wide-open passing attack. I expect Seales-Jones and Noil to be standout young receivers. But with the losses of both Manziel and Joekel, I don't see the production. 

South Carolina has been one of the most impressive teams in the SEC for the last 4-5 years. If Bama hadn't been so unbelievably dominate, we would be hoisting the Gamecocks as the pride of the conference. I expect the offense to be decent with Thompson calling the shots, though it won't be as gritty as it was with Shaw, who may be the most under-appreciated QB of our time. Thompson has been a part time starter and has plenty of snaps. He won't be a threat to run like Shaw, but he is a very capable passer. Behind heim, he has a decent backfield. Though Mike Davis had an unbelievable year in 2013, it is worth mentioning that USC had one of the easiest schedules in the conference. The East was a trainwreck in 2013 and they played Arkansas and Mississippi State from the West. In the last 4 games, he had under 250 yards combined. I do think he is a good back. I don't think he is a Heisman contender.  Ellington is gone to the 49s and that is a huge loss. Replacing him as the primary target for Thompson is Byrd, who has continued to up his production each year. Expect him to have 750 yards of receiving in 2014. Defensively, it's hard to gauge what USC will be like without Clowney. Despite losing the overall #1 pick, it's hard to believe that USC will see a huge dropoff on defense, where they have been very good for half a decade. 

USC has been a trendy pick for the SEC East and for good reason. They are the only team in the SEC East without major question marks. They are good enough to rank in the top 1/3rd of the SEC West. On the other hand, TAMU has question marks everywhere except receiver and MAYBE offensive line. I expect TAMU to put up useless yards, but be held in check where it counts. USC puts up a very balanced attack on offense and cruises to a nice win on National TV at home. 

42-17 South Carolina




Ole Miss vs Boise State

It's a shame that these out of conference games get scheduled so far in advance.  Boise State isn't the team it was with Peterson and Kellen Moore. Not even close. And their 5 loss season last year reflects it.  They have a new starter at QB and simply don't' have very good personnel to matchup to the monsters that Freeze has recruited. The Rebels are everyone's darkhorse, and while I don't reflect that sentiment, I do recognize that they could be a very....very....good team.  Bo Wallace has started out each of the previous two seasons hot as a firecracker, due to his ability to scramble and run.Yet, but the season's end, he has been injured and limited. While he lost Moncreif to the NFL, he will have Treadwell, which I believe is an upgrade. Moncreif did not have the overall ability Treadwell possess. And, Treadwell will actually hustle for balls across the middle. As I stated in my Fantasy Football Draft Picks, the Treadwell/Wallace connection may be the overall best in all of the SEC. Though I don't believe Wallace has a chance at being a Heisman winner, it won't stop the Old Ball Coach from trying to push him as a front runner. With the strength of schedule on the backend, he better get those stats while he can. And, he will. 

Ole Miss has lost several key starters on defense, but the overall depth of talent has improved greatly. Expect Nkemdiche to have an outstanding year, but certainly in this game. The Boise State offensive line won't face a player this year with the ability of Nkemdiche. 

Across the board, Ole Miss is a far superior team. This one will be tough to watch.

45-3 Ole Miss


Saturday 

Arkansas vs No.6 Auburn

I own't go into the detail on this game, as I have already covered it in-depth. Go read about it. 

Auburn wins 35-17


Alabama vs West Virginia
Truly an intriguing matchup. If you would take your Crimson blinders off for a minute, you may find this game to be more compelling than you might think. There are few coaches out there I would want to give 9 months to prepare for a single game. Dana Holgerson is one of those guys. With the right players, his offense can be unbelievable, especially in the first half of the season. He doesn't (and won't have) a 5-Star offensive line, nor recievers that are all 6'3" or taller. But, if he has a mobile QB and a few shifty receivers, he can score with anyone. However, last year he didn't have these players. After losing an amazing skill position crop to the NFL in Smith, Austin, and Buie, he struggled with Trickett in 2013. It was downright painful to watch at times. Additionally, he lost his 1,000 back to the Bucs. 

We all know what Alabama has to offer, save for the QB position, which I light-heartedly wrote about in yesterdays offering. We don't know WHAT West Virginia will have. Truth be told, the years he has been the best have been those which started in anonymity. Pat White and Geno Smith were both QBs that came out of nowhere to be stars. And, it seems they average every 3 years...making this a potential year for a breakout offensive star from Morgantown. The skill position players surrounding these two were very similar: undersized guys with great speed and a chip on their shoulder. Are these guys on the roster now? Time will tell. What I do know is that the Mountaineers have the best shot of any team in recent history to truly catch the Tide by surprise.

Alabama wins 38-14




No. 16 Clemson at No. 12 Georgia

Man, will this be a tough one to predict. It's almost impossible to gauge how Clemson will look on offense after losing Boyd and Watkins. Additionally, they lost their leading rusher in McDowell. But, old Dabo has recruited incredibly well, especially on defense. Though Clemson hasn't produced a top D-line prospect lately, they have been a powerhouse at that position.

On the other side, Georgia will have a new-ish starter in Mason. But, he looked fantastic in limited duty in 2013. Additionally, UGA has the best backfield in America.  Even if Clemson does put a fantastic offense on the field, UGA has the ability to pound it away to keep it close. The issue is at reciever, where the Dawgs cannot seem to avoid injury in the last few years. But, for each injury, someone has come off the bench to catch the ball. I just don't know how long the luck can last. Defensively, the Dawgs will be good, though it's worth mentioning they have lost several players for various reasons. It hasn't been the individual effort on defense as much as good coaching. I expect Pruitt to have a good scheme. 

Clemson knocked the Dawgs off in the opener last year in a very close game. 

The problem is, they will be playing Between the Hedges this go-round.

UGA wins 24-17




No. 14 Wisconsin vs No 13 LSU

You think there will be some rushing numbers put up in this contest? Two of the top rushing attacks will go at it late Saturday night. 

What can be said about LSU? They recruit well. They play well. They can't seem to turn the corner in the last decade under Miles, despite being the best overall  program in the SEC. Obviously Mettenburger is gone, but despite being an NFL pick and setting records, he didn't win a single big game for LSU...at least that ended up mattering in the long run. In fact, that has been the case for LSU in the last 15 years. The QB play has been adequate at best, but unable to win games down the stretch. LSU continues to pound out running backs....being the only team I have ever seen who can throw any of 4 different guys behind the QB without a drop off. This year looks to be another such year with Magee and Fouronette getting the reps. LSU lost two terrific WRs in Beckham and Landry. It's impossible to think that LSU can continue to replace receiver after receiver.... 

It's another LSU defense, which means it will be great. In the last 2 years, they haven't had standout players, so they are well overdue for an elite pass rusher or secondary player. 

Wisconsin might have the best back in America in Gordon. But, are the days of 2 backs done? We had Ball and White. Then White and Gordon. Will there be a fresh back to keep up the pressure? 

Perhaps the biggest loss will be Abbrederis, who had 1,000 receiving yards.  He took the top off the defenses when they came down into the box. Interestingly, Stave is out and McEvoy is in at QB. Didn't see that one coming.  If he offers an other dimension that Stave didn't....say, the ability to boot out or run....the Badgers may become the team to beat in 2014. It's hard to imagine that McEvoy couldn't be special if he is replacing a guy who threw for 2,400 yards and 20 TDs behind one of the top 3 rushing attacks in 2013. But, time will tell.

IF Wisconsin can get past LSU, they are almost a lock for the playoff. IF. And don't think they haven't thought about it. 

Wisconsin Wins 17-14



Sunday

Tennessee vs Utah State

Despite losing a terrific coach to Wisconsin, the pedigree is still in place for the Aggies. 2013 wasn't as kind to the Aggies as the previous two years, but a lot of that had to do with Chuckie Keeton, easily the best player in the Mountain West, was out with an injury. The entire identity of the team changed after this. Well, the dynamic QB is back, but his weapons aren't. Keeton has been so successful because of the weapons around him, whether it was NFL talent Turbine (now at Seattle) or just a solid receiver corp like Reynolds and Van Leeuwen. 

Yet, despite missing all those offensive weapons, they have one of the best scoring defenses in the Nation, who ranked 7th in 2013 while allowing only 17 points a game. 

Tennessee struggled in 2013, putting up only one game of note against South Carolina. Their QB situation is one of the worst in the SEC, which is a shame since North may be one of the best receivers. Gone is the venerable and versatile Rajion Neal, who has the only bright spot on the offense in 2013. In his place is Lane, who may be as good...we will just have to see. 

Worley and company will struggle with a very good Utah State defense. I fully expect several turnovers in this game, which will ultimately spell DOOM for the Vols.

On the other side of the ball, if Keeton proves to have weapons around him...and there isn't a reason to think that he won't....expect to see a lot of scoring. Keeton may not be an NFL talent, but he is as dangerous a QB as there is in NCAA football, as I wrote about in my Top Fantasy QBs for 2014. Tennessee's defense isn't up to snuff yet. Though I respect Coach Jones, the players aren't there yet. 

Utah State wins 28-21


Monday, August 25, 2014

Best5Zach's College Football Fantasy Team

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Well, after one long Friday night of friendship and camaraderie, the College Football Fantasy Draft 2014 is in the books. 

I can't say that I am terribly happy with my draft. I was drafting for myself and about 4 other guys while running the clock and writing down draft picks. That made it a little hard for me to keep my head on straight. You would think I would learn. Same thing happened last year. OK, so I can't complain too much about last year. I lost to the eventual champion. Who happened to be my boss. So, if you are going to lose to anyone, make it your boss. Or your wife. 

Ironically, my wife and my boss are both playing this year. My wife may have drafted the best team in teh league, BTW....

Anyway, so I lost in the first round of the playoff last year. But, it was minutes after the Prayer in Jordan-Hare. As I exited the stadium, I saw that my kicker had been injured in warmups and didn't play. I ended up losing by 1 point or some such. At least that's how I remember it. It's hard to be mad when you win a game like that. 

Anyway, so I wrote a decent piece about the Top QBs in Fantasy Football. Guess what. I didn't draft any of them. Why? Because I knew my opponents would be reading it. Suckers. Just kidding. I was a mid-round pick and all those guys were drafted.  Instead, I put into effect the "Double Point Strategy."  Sorta....

So, here is who I drafted and why.

Quarterbacks
Shane Cardin, ECU-As a junior, Carden threw 33 TDs and only 10 INTs on his way to 4,000 yards . I will take that ratio. He is a returning senior who has the rare benefit of have a returning senior target in Justin Hardy. He is projected at 370 fantasy points, which is good for 8th overall. However, unlike the rest of the top 20, he doesn't play near the amount of competition. My only real drawback is, he is no threat to run the ball. In this league, rushing points are worth double. But, considering that he has been a stud for several years, he was as safe a bet to carry my team as my QB1 as I could find. On the very next round, I was planning to draft Hardy, so that I could get double points. That is, for every TD, Hardy is awarded 6 points, as is Cardin. Even better is that Hardy is far and away his #1 target. What I don't want is to draft a QB and a WR from the same team if the WR isn't a clear cut favorite. Alas, it wasn't meant to be and Hardy was drafted right before me. Cardin was my overall first pick.

Bo Wallace, Ole Miss-As stated above, rushing yards are worth double. Despite being one of the hottest commodities in fantasy, Wallace has a history of being boom or bust. It's worth mentioning that no one should pin their hopes on an SEC player simply because of the level of competition. That being said, against the mid-pack in the SEC or non-conference matchups, Wallace is a solid play, especially since he is already carded as a Heisman watch. Freeze won't pull Wallace when they are up big, as he wants to pile up the stats. Wallace has proven to be a gritty competitor who can take hits. Just don't play him against top compeitiion. I took him as my 2nd pick, as I identified that Treadwell was likely to be open. With Moncreif gone to the NFL, Treadwell is the clear #1 target. Though Treadwell didn't have monster stats, he started as a true freshman in the slot and had over 70 catches. Surely he will move to the outside as the deep threat.

Terrance Broadway, UL-Laf- Broadway is a player that I have had my eyes on for about 2 years. He has matured as a run first, very raw QB to a decent dual threat player. Each year he has made strides in his completion percentage. But, he throws a TON of INTs. But, he rushed for 12 TDs last year, making him a decent player despite the INTs.  He is a senior, giving me faith that his maturity will keep him out of trouble. Additionally, he has to be thinking about making an NFL roster, so while he can run and he will run, he won't be taking the shots. UL-Laf does play some good competition from time to time, yet, he is more of a threat against top competition, logging 3 games with over 35 points against good defenses.He is a solid play against Sunbelt competition this year, though he has had letdown games in the past. 

Running Backs
Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska-back to back 1,000 rush yard years, with over 1,600 yards in 2013. Abdullah averaged a jaw dropping 130 yards per game. The problem? 9 total rushing TDs in 2013. That's an amazingly paltry number for a guy who ran for as many yards. He has 20 TDs in his career, where a player with 1,600 yards should have 20 TDs a year. Surely that streak can't keep up. He also has 4 career receiving TDs to complement him. The bottom line? He isn't a big fantasy numbers guy because of the lack of TDs. But, he is good for a lot of yards. If you can start a flex RB who is a short yardage guy, you are in business. Personally, the TDs HAVE to go up. And he will have a monster year. Pelini hasn't put together a passing attack at Nebraska, though Kenny Bell (I didn't draft) will remain one of the top deep threat players in the game. Abdullah will be the work horse. Even if he picks up a few more TDs, he will be a game breaker.

Storm Woods, Oregon St-Though I didn't draft Woods last year, he may have been one of the biggest busts of the year. It didn't help that he was out for two straight weeks midseason. During the 5 game skid in 2013, he scored a total of 24 points in Pac-12 play. On the other side of the equation, Mannion put up big numbers while playing from behind. Oregon State was an overall bust, and they will be a much better team in 2014. As long as they don't play from behind, Woods will be a threat both toting and catching the rock. Keep in mind that he had receiving yards in every single game.
Kelvin Taylor, Florida-Easily the ONLY bright spot in 2013, Fred Taylor's son managed 500 yards on a terrible offensive team. And I mean terrible. While he will have competition in the backfield, I have a lot of confidence that Taylor is a solid flex RB. I admit that he is a big gamble, but I believe the zone-read with Driskel will explode this year....in a good way.

Jordan Chunn, Troy-I am not so sure about this pick. But, Fantrax had him on the board and I liked what I saw. Specifically that he is 6 feet tall and 226 pounds. He isn't a big flashy guy, but at a school with a spread offense, sometimes you need a short yardage back to pound it in from the 5. In 2013, he only had 2 games without a TD, though he never broke 100 yards. Another SOLID flex player. 

Wide Receivers
Speedy Noil, TAMU- Few players have received the hype that Noil has had heaped upon him. He enrolled in the spring and has been the most impressive player at College Station. A massive flip from LSU, he is expected to contribute immediately as a true freshman. Receiver is probably the only position in the SEC that you can play that early. TAMU lost most all of their receiver corp, though Seales-Jones is back. TAMU isn't a threat to run the ball much out of the backfield. Early indications show that Sumlin wants the ball in his hands as much as possible. This guy is a jet-sweep home run hitter. Just the potential of him running the ball made him worth the draft pick.

Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss-Few players were more impressive to me than Treadwell in 2013. In fact, he amazed me with his ability in the opening game of 2013, on a Thursday night. I penned him immediately as a break out star in 2014. Add in that I had drafted his QB for the "Double Point Strategy" and he was a lock for me. Though he only had a few TDs in 2013, he played in the slot while Moncerif was the deep man who got the long ball. Expect the touches to remain around 70, but the TDs to double.

Gabe Marks, Washington State-Marks caught 74 balls in 2013 for 7 TDs in Leaches 2nd year running the Cougars. Few teams will toss the rock as much as Washington State will. Additionally, when playing a team who starts Halliday, playing Marks and fellow receiver Mayle is a solid strategy. Marks isn't very consistent, but he is able to have monster games. Just not against premier competition.

Vince Mayle, Washington State- 42 catches and 540 yards to go with his 7 TDs, Mayle is a solid player to have in a pinch. Like Marks, he is a solid play against a team starting Halliday.

Mekale McKay-An Arkansas transfer, he had 16 receptions for 500 yards and 7 TDs. He is a deep threat, averaging 21 yards per reception. This is a gamble, but if he catches on, he could be as deadly a deep threat as there is in college football. At 6'6", he is a mismatch against anyone. If Cincinnati can become stable at QB, watch out. 

Tight End
Evan Engram, Ole Miss-In his first 7 games in 2013, he had 3 TDs. In his first 3 games, he was targeted 30 times before heading into the games with Alabama and Auburn. Then, he was hurt in week 7, missing the remainder of the season. Freeze said of Engram's absence. "We changed last year when he went out. We were not the same." This guy is one of the highest rated TEs in the game. Though he is a solid play in and of himself, having him start with Wallace could be a game breaker.

 CJ Uzomah, Auburn-Yes, this is a bit of a homer pick, but Uzomah has proven to be an elite redzone target on a team who run the ball nearly 100% of the time inside the redzone in 2013. Hhe has elite size and hands. Auburn won't be the running team it was in 2013, but that isn't a bad thing. With the variety this this Auburn team will flash, it will lend itself to showcasing Uzomah. Malzahn hasn't made it a secret that he wants to get CJ the ball. This kid is special. 

Kicker
Roberto Aguayo, Florida State-Best kicker in the game on the best returning offense in football. I didn't want to draft a kicker at all, but I did. In the 9th round, he was still there. 

DST
Auburn-Yes, another homer pick. Auburn's defense hasn't been up to snuff in recent years. But, it's special teams have. I drafted Auburn for one reason alone: the return game. Auburn has the best return man in the country in Corey Taillights Grant. He will have 3 TDs on returns in 2014. Book it. 

Crimson Tide Name Starter at QB

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The wait is over. Around the nation, college football fans everywhere all wanted the answer to one question.

This morning, they finally received an answer.

For the last 3 years, the Crimson Tide had an entrenched starter in A.J. McCarron, who led them to 2 National Championships and countless wins. With his departure, the team would once again look for a new starter. Most fans didn't seem to concerned at the lack of an heir apparent to the coveted position at the Tide's helm.  2 of the 3 National Championships that had been won in the last 5 years had been conquered with a new starter under center. Furthermore, Coach Saban had been stockpiling 5 Star talent at ever position, including the most important position on the field.

While the dual threat quarterback is not new in college football, only in the last few years have the Tide fans begun to take notice, most certainly during the 2010 season. Until that point, the dual threat QB was criticized by Tide fans as hokey, covering up for personnel shortcomings elsewhere on the field. The play calling was pure trickeration, plays meant to deceive instead of lining up and smashing the ball like it was 1897. Instead of 11 on 11, best man win....offenses built on finding mismatches in space. After the 2013 Iron Bowl, the fanbase was rabid for a player who could electrify a crowd with just one play. The fact is, however, that Coach Saban had been recruiting such  players since he arrived in Tuscaloosa. The problem was, these players simply didn't work out, see Star Jackson.

This could be the reason that Saban performed one of the oddest hires in the history of college football. He hired Lane Kiffin. Though Kiffin's struggles as a head coach are well documented, the fact is that he has coached some of the best offenses in the history of college football. Saban needed a spark to this offense, although it is ironic that a change was needed in the first place. Though the Tide offense is often criticized for being boring by fans, it has actually had years of explosiveness, such as the 2012 squad. Even the statistics say that the Tide has been one of the most efficient offenses in the league. But, hey, what the fans want. The fans get.

Yet, the Tide exited spring camp without naming a starter. Simms, a player who had been in The System and part of The Process for several years, seemed to be the easy choice to replace McCarron, yet the game play  at A-Day from Simms (and the rest of the Tide QBs) was shaky at best. Additionally, grumblings from the fan base began to emerge, reaching a level that echoed across the College Football nation. Crimson Tide fans wanted to see a dynamic player under center. They had grown weary of the almost boring gameplay that centered around a game manager at QB, handing the ball off to a 5 Star and future NFL running back, or pulling it down and throwing it deep to another 5 Star NLF talent receiver after play-action. They wanted to see a team keep up with modern college football. And, it shouldn't be Bama following the footsteps of fledgling programs like the Oregon Ducks, who modernized the fast-paced offense. It should be Bama on the cutting edge.

In a shocking turn of events, FSU backup Jacob Coker, who took Heisman Winner Jameis Winston to the wire for the starting job in Tallahassee, announced that he would transfer to the University of Alabama. With the recent success of transfers, such as Russell Wilson and the despised Scam Newton, the Tide fan base began construction of the newest statue outside of Bryant-Denny Stadium. After all, if Auburn could turn Tebows backup into a Heisman winner, then certainly the Process could do the same.

The transfer sent shockwaves through the College football world, and despite losing the last two games, losing several NFL draft picks on defense and having one of the worst rated offensive lines in the SEC, the media pinned Alabama as the Number 2 team in the Nation. Both the AP and the USA poll have the Tide penciled in as the #2 team in the nation. Coker was named the consensus starter by fans and media before he had packed his bags in Tallahassee.

And yet, at the end of Fall camp, Coker nor Simms were named as starter.

Instead, a dark horse emerged.

Adam Griffith was named the starting QB for the Crimson Tide.


Most every fan knows Griffith. If you do not, click here to see his profile

Here are the stats:

Class:
Sophomore
Hometown:
Calhoun, Ga.
High School:
Calhoun
Height / Weight:
5-10 / 188
Position:
PK
Experience:
1L


Fans across Alabama are left scratching their heads .

That's right, Number 99 will be the starter. It fits, since that is the number of National Championships that the Tide claim.

Fear not, Coach Saban says. This is all part of the Process.

When questioned about this decision, Coach Saban pointed to the past. With the Crimson Tide ranked so highly the Tide needed a starter with experience. Not just game experience against cupcake teams, but a player with SEC experience. They didn't have to look far to find a player who had played in the pressure cooker of the SEC West.  Neither Coker nor Simms had taken a snap against SEC competition. Simms, specifically, had never seen SEC competition despite being on the sidelines in some very one-sided competitions. Instead, McCarron had remained in the game against the bottom dwellers of the SEC West while Simms held the clipboard. Though many fans had not-so-quietly grumbled about this, Saban and Kiffin had a plan all along.

All Saban has to do is point to the Iron Bowl. Saban has been holding the ultimate card in his back pocket, though he flashed it just briefly on November 30th 2013. Despite having a veteran senior kicker who had scored countless points for the Tide, Saban called upon Griffith to come off the bench and win the game in a single play. Why play Coker or Simms when he has a player who had won perhaps the greatest college football game in history?

And so he did, in amazing fashion.

Saban wants a tough, physical, and versatile QB under center starting in 2014. Griffith can take a hit, something that Tide QBs have struggled with in past seasons. Just see the Iron Bowl where Griffith walked off a devastating hit from Gabe Wright. Versatile? Griffith is the only player on the roster who can score for both teams on any play.

Sure, it sounds like questionable calls for college footballs best coach. But, he's never had a bad call yet. And though most of college football raised their eyebrows at the Kiffin hire, a coach who either melt your program to the ground or succeed....shortly before melting down your program, Saban defers the decision to Kiffin's expertise and sublime decision making abilities.

When asked about his decision, Kiffin simply stated that there isn't a QB on the roster that can score from anywhere on the field like Griffith. There isn't a place on the field out of reach for Griffith. Sure, he can hit extra points and chip shot field goals. But only Griffith can score 6 when others score 3. According to expert analyst Chad Wright, while Oregon may be known for being the fastest scoring team in America, they are surpassed only by Griffith in scoring speed. The average scoring drive is only....youdon'tcaretheyaren'tSEC.... seconds. Griffith dwarfs the Ducks as the only player who can cover 109 yards and score game winning TDs in a single second.

And that's why Griffith is your 2014 Alabama Crimson Tide Starter.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Auburn Realist: The Arkansas Preview

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It can't believe it's almost time! If you haven't done so, please go read up on my WWAAAYYY Too Early Predictions. Here is the last of those 4. Check it out

It isn't game week. I know this. But the trigger finger is itchy. Thanks to Ole Bielema, I am ready for this game. Did you read what he said? Well, check out Brandon Marcello's artice on al.com.  What did he say? 

"If you see someone videotaping tell them that ain't right," Bielema said, according to ArkansasNews.com. "Especially if they're wearing an Auburn shirt, knock the (expletive) out of them." 

That man has no love for Auburn, that's no secret. Actually, come to think of it, he has spent more time running his mouth than he has running his team,  it seems. For all the noise he made last year, he backed it up with 0-9 in the SEC. 

I guess it's a tough world for Brett. I think more people expected a decent turn around in his first year. Malzahn didn't do him any favors last year by wrapping up the biggest turn around in college football. I think a lot of people thought that, despite a depleted roster, Bielema could make a quick turnaround. I sure did, considering the work he did at Wisconsin. But, after more thought, it was really Alvarez who had built Wisconsin. Anyway, on to this game. 

Understanding the Hogs offensive woes in 2013 is beyond me. They allowed 8 sacks all year, which was good for 3rd in the nation.  They had a QB that had a lot of experience and had played well. They continue to have great running backs. They were 100 yards from having 2 1,000 yard rushers in Collins and Williams. But they had a -9 turnover ratio. That was mostly thanks to the 10 INTs to 13 TDs tossed by Allen. And, though they had all these yards in their two backs, they had a total of 8 TDs among them. So, they could move the ball between the 20s, but simply could not cash in. 

On the other side of the ball, they allowed a whopping 30 points per game. While Flowers was a huge surprise on the d-line (mostly since he had managed to escape Alabama and Auburn), the rest of the defense struggled.  I guess it really isn't a surprise. With the offense struggling to score, the defense was forced to play a lot of plays. Fact is, the most points they scored all season was a 34-14 win against La-Lafeyette to start the season. They went on to score 16 total TDs against SEC competition on their 0-9 SEC slide. Though I can't help but feel bad, as they had 9 straight SEC games. 

So, were do they sit now? Perhaps their best weapon has graduated, that being WR Herndon, which scored more TDs than they two backs. It leaves them with question marks at receiver for the first time in many year. They bring back 3 of their offensive line, which had done a great job in 2013.  They return both backs and quarterback, which is only offense in the SEC to do so. But, they lose their center, full back, and two of their outside weapons including the aforementioned Herndon. On defense, they lost Flowers, the lone force. Their biggest loss? Believe it or not, Hocker, their kicker. 

I think we know the story on who Auburn is returning. Across the board, they return one of the best offenses in the country. On defense, they lost half their defensive backfield and a NFL pick in Dee Ford. 

While we all have been excited for months about the possibilities this team has, I have begun to worry the last few days. Initially, I didn't think Arkansas had a chance in this game, but the injuries and suspensions have begun to pile up. It started weeks ago with Marshall's "citation." So, he won't start. And, to be honest, I don't agree with letting him play at all. I was very critical of Sumlin's decision to play Johnny Football after the first half. I think Marshall should sit out the whole game. And, besides, Johnson needs some SEC experience.  Add on Mincy to the list for his possession charge after speaking at a DARE event. 

Then Kozan, an All-SEC guy goes out for the season with back surgery. Even though Auburn has recruited well, you don't replace guys like that. Just like you don't "just replace" Robinson. But, ok. No big deal. Then Therezie, who is perhaps my favorite player, has his eligibility up in the air. Having Therezie back there with two new corners is imperative. And, of course, Lawson is out with knee surgery. 

This is the SEC West. It isn't the kill shots that you have to be worried about. It's the nicks and cuts from a whole season. And here we are with multiple IMPACT players out. It has to make you worry. Even if Arkansas is going to be the cellar dweller of the West. 

Now, predicting these early games is always hard. But someone has to try and predict it. I don't expect it to be close, but here goes!

1st Quarter
Expect a lot of run plays from both teams. Arkansas runs because they have two great backs capable of toting the rock 20+ a game. Bielema wants to run first and throw as little as possible. While Allen is capable of throwing the ball just fine, a very hostile Jordan-Hare stadium during the first quarter isn't the time to break in a QB, even if he is experienced. On the flip side, Auburn will be breaking in it's thousandth new QB (it seems) on opening day. Chances are, Johnson will play only the first drive. Expect a heavy dose of body blows from CAP. The clock runs fast with the runs, though each team has to punt at least once. But, don't be surprised by either team setting up a nice play action pass deep ball. The problem is, Arkansas doesn't have the receivers and Auburn does. 
Auburn 7-0 at the end of the first

2nd Quarter
The body blows from CAP continue, but with a slight twist. Corey Grant gets loose, as he frequently does, for a long run. Arkansas still struggles to score, though they move the ball, putting up a field goal early in the 2nd or right before the half. 
Auburn 14-3 at the end of the half

3rd Quarter
Bielema makes adjustments and the Arkansas offense makes it into the endzone. 
It will be tough sledding for the Arkansas defense. Even without knowing who the QB is, expect the Auburn offense to be fairly efficient, though I don't expect it to be quite explosive. History has shown us that Malzahn likes to spread the rock around his running backs early. Expect CAP to tote the rock 20 times, 10 carries for Grant, Peryton Barber for another 10, and the redshirt pulled off of Roc Thomas with 10 carries of his own, though they will be late. I think the biggest thing we will see in the 3rd quarter will be a special teams touchdown. Auburn has some real playmakers returning kicks. I wouldn't be surprised at all for someone to run back the kick following the Arkansas TD. Sadly, I do see Auburn giving away a turnover, and having a drive stall which leads to a field goal.
Auburn leads 24-10

4th Quarter
It's a kickoff game between two divisional foes. As such, I expect the 4th quarter to be a barrage of scoring, though one side will certainly benefit more. Arkansas struggles early in the 4th as Auburn runs up another quick TD, making it 32-10, going for a 2 point conversion to pay Bielema back for his sleight of hand swinging gate play last year. After a Hogs drive stalls out, Auburn picks up another field goal making it 35-10. On the last drive of the game, Arkansas puts a meaningless TD on the board.
Auburn wins 35-17

Player of the game? None other than Reese Dismukes, who, despite having several new starters on the line, steamrolls the Arkansas defense. The Auburn running game puts up a lot of yards spread over 4 different backs. Corey Grant records 100+ yards on under 10 carries with 1 TD. 

Jeremy Johnson plays the entire game, throwing 1 TD and 1 INT for 200 yards. He also puts up 50 yards of rushing. 

The Auburn defense looks a little shaky in this one, but only because of the injuries and suspensions. The LB play will be much improved from the last few years. The secondary makes little mistakes that keep the chains moving, but manage to prevent the big pass plays. 

The D-line will struggle to find it's identity, but I still expect big things.

The big position to watch? Kicker. That's right, we will have a kid pulling all 3 duties for the first time since Duval! WOW! That's been 15 years. 

I do give honorable mention to the slot receiver. Will Auburn find a playmaker in the slot? I said earlier in the year during my A-Day Observations that the slot position will make or break the offense. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Best5Zach's Preseason Top 10 Teams for 2014

The Auburn Realist

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It's almost time, folks. There is a thick buzz in the air because college football is ALMOST HERE. As Dickens wrote: "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times." Everyone's team is undefeated. Every team is loaded with stars just waiting to shine. And yet, not a single snap has been played. Don't worry. After Week 1, half of all the teams will have their dreams dashed.

All you can do is read all the practice reports, listen to your favorite sports show, or watch ESPN Classic games. Speaking of reading, there is no shortage of preseason polls and lists out there. I figured I would get in on that action, though my audience is slightly smaller than most. I have to admit, I look at polls like the USA Today Coach's Poll and find myself wondering who is crazy. I just don't get some of the rankings.

I already started with my College Football Fantasy QB breakdowns. Check that out.

But, I figured I would also list my Top 10 Teams for 2014.

How am I factoring this? I am looking simply at where I think teams will be at the final week of the regular season.


  1. Ohio State (12-0)
  2. Florida State (12-0)
  3. Oklahoma (12-0)
  4. Stanford (12-0)
  5. Auburn (11-1) Loss to Georgia
  6. Baylor (11-1)-Loss to Oklahoma 
  7. Oregon (11-1)-Loss to Stanford
  8. Alabama (10-2) Losses to LSU and Auburn
  9. Michigan State (10-2)-Losses to Ohio State and Oregon
  10. Wisconsin (11-1) Loss to LSU 
That takes us to the first college play off. Who makes it? Well, here we go. 

Ohio State- Ohio State is going to roll. Big. Though I was certainly thankful for Michigan State to win at the Horseshoe last year, it was the perfect storm. The Michigan State defense was and will continue to be one of the best in the country. Their offense, however, profited mightily from an Ohio State secondary that may have been the worst in the country. After all, Cook and Co were one of the worst passing units in major college football for all of 2013. Let's recall that the MSU defense and special teams were outscoring the offense for several games. Michigan State is the single roadblock to Ohio State going undefeated while outscoring opponents by 3 TDs a game, at least. I do expect Penn State to put up a fight, but they just don't have the firepower to challenge this year. Give Franklin another year, and it will be a different story. Urban Meyer and his Buckeye team will be ready to play at East Lansing this year. Braxton Miller is nearly a 3:1 odd to win the Heisman, in my opinion. The defense, literally, cannot be any worse than last year.  

Florida State-First thing's first. I don't expect this team to be as good as last year's squad. I do believe we will see a dropoff in the performance of Winston. He lost essentially all of his skill positions. Though many experts believe that Clemson is going to be better this year, I don't buy it. Clemson and Florida are the only two games that FSU play, all year. And FSU gets them both at home. Florida may surprise us and take this game to the wire, but I doubt it. Clemson will get woodshedded....again. Though I firmly believe that last years Clemson team could have won, they just didn't show up. This Clemson team doesn't have the firepower. FSU lost some key starters on defense, notably, Jernigan, Brooks, and Joyner. But, State has recruited almost as well as Alabama has. I expect the fresh crop of starters to mature in the easy schedule and be ready by season end. FSU cruises into the ACC Championship and wins handily. 

Oklahoma-Another team that will roll over the competition. Outside of a huge upset against Kansas State, Baylor is the lone team to challenge Oklahoma. Unlike last year, Stoops will have the Sooners ready to go. The Baylor defense has been deplorable and the offense has had to win games. Oklahoma will have a good offense and at least show up to play defense. Though I think a lot of hype has surrounded the program for the win against Bama, I think it was less about Stoops having a great team than Saban and Co simply mailing one in. What I mean is, I don't rank Oklahoma at #3 because I think they have a great team. I think they have a good team with an incredibly favorable schedule. Let's not forget that the QB is very young....and he played out of his mind in his one game. A lot could happen, but even mediocre QB play can win with this schedule. The key factor is the easy front end of the schedule, which will allow the new QB to get broken in. 

Stanford-I believe this will be Stanfords year. Though they can't seem to put a great QB with a great RB, they have been one of the winning-est programs in the last 5 years. Across the board, they have been better than average with few weak spots. Though the QB play started out shakey last year, it finally solidified down the stretch and Hogan really began to shine. Shaw continues to recruit at a record pace for a such a prestigious university with such high standards. There are several tricky games on the schedule, and they have been unable to navigate it in the last few years. Notable games are USC, Oregon, and UCLA. Though the talent is thick at USC, I think having to play Stanford so early in the year will be too much for coach Sarkisian. If this game were, say, November 28th, I might even think USC could win it. But it's not. Though the Cardinal plays at Oregon, they have had the Ducks number. Though I do think Oregon does well this year, I sense that the drop off from the Kelley years is about to take place. Only Mariotta will keep them at the top. Stanford travels to Eugene and wins. Though I respect Brett Hundley, UCLA is far from a complete team. They beat UCLA in the last game of the season, then in a rematch on the Championship. 

I know many of you are wondering how and why I have Auburn and Alabama missing the playoffs, though most experts feel that one or both of these two teams will make it. 

Auburn-Though I did my prognostication on Auburn and initially listed them as going 12-0, I believe I have to recount that. It isn't that I think they can't beat each and every team on the schedule, because I think they can. And, if each week were a season in and of itself, I would be steadfast on 12-0. But it isn't. Though I think South Carolina is probably the best team that Auburn will play next season, I don't think they will come into Jordan-Hare and win. It's late November that really has me worried. Auburn travels to Athens and Tuscaloosa for the first time ever. I think Auburn will lose to the Bulldogs, because they cannot help but look forward to a rematch with Alabama, especially in front of the House of Cards that is Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Bulldogs will have a really good defense and the running game will be solid, perhaps the best in the Nation. 

Alabama-You have your head in the sand if you think Alabama is a top 4 team. Though Saban has recruited like no one else, there will be a substantial drop off this year, more so than any other year in terms of talent and production. Though all the weapons are in place, the offensive line is not. I find it funny to read Lindy's and Steeles articles who say in one sentence that the Bama offensive line will be one of the worst in the SEC, and think they will have a great offense. Additionally, Saban is replacing another secondary, which didn't live up to expectations even last year. If they played any other team in the SEC East, I would be penciling in 9-3. In fact, I am not so sure that Mississippi State can't get them, even at home. Though Ole Miss may be the better of the Magnolia State teams, Bo Wallace cannot perform down the stretch against GOOD or GREAT defenses, which Bama will at least be GOOD. LSU is a wildcard. Though they play in Death Valley, LSU's offense has been inconsistent at best, even with NFL talent. That being said, the defense could very well knock a struggling Alabama offense off. I am going with the home team in this one, and LSU wins in the Bayou. Auburn comes to BDS and wins. 

Biggest Surprise? Wisconsin Badgers. They open up against an LSU team, and though I have that as a loss, opening day games are a real tossup, just like I think West Virginia is going to really surprise the Tide. The Badgers have the best think happen. They lose to an SEC in a close game on National TV on opening weekend. Then, they steam roll the Big10. By seasons end, they will find themselves in the Top 10, though they aren't necessarily ready to compete with the teams at the top. 

Most Over-rated Team? UCLA. Hundley is a good player. But he isn't a whole offense and he doesn't line up on defense. Before Hundley showed up, UCLA was absolutely BRUTAL to watch play. They were terrible. They lost every game against quality competition, though they did win at USC. Even though I do believe their offense will score a lot of points, their defense has been porous. Things could go south in a hurry if Charlie Strong gets Texas turned around, even a little. Oregon will get UCLA, as will USC and Stanford. So, a team that is a preseason Top 10 will end up being 9-3 at best, possibly even 8-4, as Texas, Arizona or Arizona State could knock them off.