Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Heisman Trophy Hopefuls, Preseason 2010

The collge football season can’t get underway without looking at who might win the Heisman Trophy. Last year was supposed to be the year of the quarterbacks: Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, and Tim Tebow. It turned out to be the year of the running backs with Alabama’s Mark Ingram edging out Stanford’s Toby Gerhart by the slimmest margin in history. While Ingram is back, the race is wide open this year.

Jake Locker and Terrell Pryor are getting the most publicity right now, but they will have plenty of company. Several players made a name for themselves last year, and with big performances this year they could be sitting in New York come December. Others showed that they have the tools to be successful and put themselves on the Heisman radar. If they play to their potential this year, they could be handed a ticket to New York as well.

Here is the College Football Haven preseason Heisman Hopefuls (of course, this list is ALWAYS subject to change and players will be added and dropped as the season progresses).

Mark Ingram, Alabama
2009: 271 rushes, 1,658 yards, 17 TD

John Clay, Wisconsin
2009: 287 rushes, 1,517 yards, 18 TD

Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech
2009: 293 rushes, 1,655 yards, 21 TD

Jaquizz Rodgers, Oregon State
2009: 273 rushes, 1,440 yards, 21 TD

Dion Lewis, Pitt
2009: 325 rushes, 1,799 yards, 17 TD

Terrell Pryor, Ohio State
2009: 167-295 (56.6%), 2094 yards, 18 TD, 11 Int / 162 rushes, 779 yards, 7 TD

Jake Locker, Washington
2009: 230-395 (58.2%), 2,800 yards, 21 TD, 11 Int / 112 rushes, 388 yards, 7 TD

Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
2009: 225-403 (55.8%), 3,627 yards, 30 TD, 7 Int

Christian Ponder, Florida State
2009: 227-330 (68.8%), 2,717 yards, 14 TD, 7 INT

Jacory Harris, Miami
2009: 242-406 (59.6%), 3,352 yards, 24 TD, 17 INT

Landry Jones, Oklahoma
2009: 261-449 (58.1%), 3,198 yards, 26 TD, 14 INT

Matt Barkley, USC
2009: 211-352 (59.9%), 2,735 yards, 15 TD, 14 INT

Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M
2009: 296-497 (59.6%), 3,579 yards, 30 TD, 8 Int / 145 rush, 508 yards, 8 TD

Kellen Moore, Boise State
2009: 277-431 (64.3%), 3,536 yards, 39 TD, 3 INT

Case Keenum, Houston
2009: 492-700 (70.3%), 5,671 yards, 44 TD, 15 INT

Did you miss the College Football Haven Preseason Top 25? Check it out here

Monday, August 30, 2010

Poll Results: The Best Part of College Football Is

The polls have closed and the best part of college football is upsets. After falling behind early, upsets made a came from behind victory and edged out rivalries by one vote for a 44% to 42% victory. Bowl season and Rankings split the remaining 14% with seven percent each.

Thank you to all who voted. Don't forget to vote in the new poll: Should an undefeated Boise State play in the BCS championship game?

College Football Haven Top 25: Preseason, 2010

Today marks the beginning of the 2010 college football season here on College Football Haven. Before revealing the College Football Haven Preseason Top 25, let me quickly review what you can expect each week.

MONDAY: New opinion poll. Each week there will be a new poll to vote on regarding a pertinent issue in the game.
TUESDAY: Heisman Hopefuls. Track the top Heisman Trophy candidates with updates on their season stats and who is leading the race.
WEDNESDAY: College Football Trivia. Test your knowledge of college football with the weekly trivia question. Each question will be answered the following Wednesday when a new question is posed.
THURSDAY: Game predictions. I will give my predictions on some of the week's top games.
FRIDAY: Game of the Week. College Football Haven will preview the marquee match up of the week.
SATURDAY: Game Day Talk. Visit throughout the day and talk about the games. Share what you like and dislike, what surprises and disappointments you have as the action unfolds.
SUNDAY: Updated Top 25. As soon as the games end on Saturday, a new Top 25 will be released. It may be up earlier than Sunday. It will all depend on who plays when.

In addition to this regular schedule, commentary on the biggest issues and hottest events will be posted as frequently as possible. In any event, there will be a reason to visit each day.

If you missed any of the "5 Step Drops" for any of the FBS conferences last week, links to them are provided below.

TOP 25
Just a quick note before listing the teams. These rankings are intended to reflect how each team will fare this year. Of course, there will be some movement each week, but this is how I think it will be in the end. That being the case, it was impossible for me to rank Alabama number one. The Crimson Tide will be good, and they are my pick to win the SEC, but they are marked men, and I don't see them having another perfect season. I expect all of my top 4 will be undefeated. As for the number one team, I have learned not to doubt them and until someone can beat them to prove otherwise, they have earned the top spot.

1. Boise State (3 AP/5 USA Today)-The Bronco's return 21 of 22 starters from last year's 14-0 team that shocked everyone in week one and in the Fiesta Bowl. Like them or not, it is time the college football world gets to see what they are really made of.

2. Oklahoma (7/8)-Barring the rash of injuries that happened last year, Bob Stoops will have his players ready for an undefeated run.

3. Iowa (9/10)-The Ricky Stanzi injury was the only thing that kept Iowa from a 12-0 record and a spot in the Rose Bowl last year. Favorable schedule has Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin all at home.

4. TCU (6/7)-Lots of players return. Very high chances for a second consecutive undefeated regular season and BCS bowl appearance.

5. Alabama (1/1)-Lost a lot on defense combined with a brutal schedule, and the SEC championship is a far as this team goes.

6. Ohio State (2/2)-Terrell Pryor will have a good year, but he is one year away from taking the Buckeye's to the national championship game.

7. USC (14/--)-Lane Kiffen will have there guys playing with a chip on their shoulders after the disappointing 2009 season and the recently levied NCAA sanctions.

8. Miami (13/13)-The Hurricanes are hungry to return the program to the top. That hunger will get them the ACC Championship.

9. Texas (5/4)-Garrett Gilbert still has some growing pains to go through.

10. Arkansas (17/19)-The Razorbacks will be the team this year that exceeds everyone's expectations. Ryan Mallett will have Bobby Petrino's offense humming like a well oiled machine.

11. Wisconsin (12/12)-John Clay will carry the Badgers this year.

12. Nebraska (8/9)-Fueled by the Big XII title game loss, the Cornhuskers are going to play all year like they have something to prove.

13. Virginia Tech (10/6)-Until Tyrod Taylor lives up to his potential, I am going to temper my expectations for the Hokies.

14. Pitt (15/15)-The Panthers and Dion Lewis won't take anyone by surprise this year.

15. Oregon State (24/22)-After another slow start, the Beavers will finish extra strong and play their way into the Rose Bowl.

16. Florida (4/3)-How do you not expect a drop off after losing guys like Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes? Not to mention, Urban Meyer has to make some changes to the way he handles his job if he is going to be around for 2011.

17. Florida State (20/20)-A new coach will bring new life into this storied program.

18. LSU (21/16)-No longer getting the benefit of the doubt, Les Miles needs to deliver more Ws to Baton Rouge this year.

19. Penn State (19/14)-New quarterback, and a tough top 3 in the Big Ten this year will keep Penn State from finishing higher in the rankings.

20. Georgia Tech (16/17)-The Yellow Jackets will feel the sting of losing Jonathan Dwyer. The good news is that Josh Nesbitt is still around.

21. Oregon (11/11)-All the distractions this offseason will take their toll on the Ducks.

22. North Carolina (18/18)-We'll see if/how the Tar Heels will be affected by the recent news about Butch Davis and an academic scandal.

23. BYU (--/--)-Led by strong coaching and talented players to fill the holes left by veteran starters, the Cougars will have another good year.

24. Washington (--/--)-The darkhorse in the Pac-10. Steve Sarkisian will continue to turn around this once proud program.

25. Houston (--/--)-Another team with a senior quarterback and an up and coming coach.

OTHERS TO WATCH: Auburn, Air Force, Georgia, UConn, Stanford, Temple, Rutgers, Northwestern, West Virginia, SMU.

5 Step Drop
Big 10
Big East
Conference USA
Sun Belt

Saturday, August 28, 2010

5 Step Drop: College Football Indepentents 2010

The three independents might have some company in 2011. However, for 2010, it is just the three regulars: Notre Dame, Army, and Navy.

1. Who will be the best team? Navy Midshipmen. The Middies have been consistent winners for seven years now. The loss of Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate at Notre Dame will keep the Naval Academy ahead of the Fighting Irish for at least one more year.

2. Who is the top returning player? Michael Floyd, Notre Dame. Despite missing five and a half games due to injury in 2009, Floyd totaled 795 yards receiving and nine touchdowns. In the seven games he did play, he had over 100 yards receiving five times.

3. Which team will be the most improved? Notre Dame Fighting Irish. After three years of sub par play, Brian Kelly will shake things up enough to get Notre Dame back to a bowl with momentum for greater things in 2011.

4. What will be the biggest surprise? Navy will not win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. Like all good things, Navy's seven year run winning this award will come to an end. Air Force will win the award this year.

5. Which coach is on the hottest seat? Rich Ellerson, Army. Ellerson is the de facto answer here. With Brian Kelly new at Notre Dame, and Ken Niumatalolo thriving at Navy, there is no other choice. Ellerson finished 5-7 in 2009, his first year on the job, which was a step up from 3-9 the year before.

5 Step Drop: Pac-10 Conference Football 2010

The Pac-10 made a lot of noise during the offseason from player suspensions at Oregon and conference expansion adding Utah and Colorado to NCAA sanctions for USC. Now, the Pac-10 is ready to make some noise on the field. Here are five questions for the upcoming season.

1. Who will win the conference? USC Trojans/Oregon State Beavers. On paper, USC will have the best record and be atop the standings. However, the NCAA will not allow USC to play in a bowl game this year. The honor of representing the Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl will fall to Oregon State. Depending on how you define conference champion, it will be one of these two teams.

2. Who is the top returning player? Jaquizz Rodgers, Oregon State. The diminutive Rodgers logged 1,440 yards on the ground in 2009 and found the end zone 22 times. Rodgers is capable of turning a routine run into a big gain at anytime. He is on everyone's Heisman Trophy watch.

3. Which team will be the most improved? Washington Huskies. For the second straight year, Washington will show marked improvement from the year before. Jake Locker's decision to stay for his senior year and Steve Sarkisian now in his second year as head coach are big reasons why. Make no mistake, though, these are not the only reasons why Washington will be in the hunt for the Pac-10 title late in the year. This Washington team has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball.

4. What will be the biggest surprise? With the consensus being that Oregon's off the field issues will have little effect on the Ducks success this year (Oregon is ranked number 11 in both the AP and USA Today polls), the biggest surprise will be that those off the field issues will greatly effect Oregon. This is going to be a four loss year for Chip Kelly and his crew.

5. Which coach is on the hottest seat? Dennis Erickson, Arizona State. After an impressive 10-3 season in 2007, the Sun Devils have only won 9 games, combined, the last two years. If things don't turn around so Arizona State is in the top tier of the Pac-10 this year, Erickson will find himself back in retirement.

5 Step Drop: Sun Belt Conference Football 2010

The Sun Belt Conference usually gets relegated to the bottom of the college football totem pole. While that might have been true several years ago, play in the Sun Belt Conference is picking up as it completes its first decade of competition this year. Here are five questions to quickly look at the conference as we head into the 2010 season.

1. Who will win the conference? Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders. MTSU will end Troy's four year run at the top. Troy lost quarterback Levi Brown to graduation, while Dwight Dasher returns for MTSU. All of this is assuming that Dasher returns quickly from his suspension.

2. Who is the top returning player? Dwight Dasher, Middle Tennessee State. The electrifying, dual-threat quarterback exploded in 2009 and passed for 2,783 yards and ran for 1,154 yards. He also accounted for 36 touchdowns (23 passing, 13 rushing). Dasher's production led MTSU to its most successful season ever at the FBS level.

3. Which team will be the most improved? Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. The Hilltoppers faced a lot of challenges last year. This year they should reap some of the benefits. WKU should improve greatly against the run with linebackers Thomas Majors and Mike Gothard returning. Free safety Mark Santoro will help WKU improve against the pass. Offensively, quarterback Kawaun Jakes was a freshman last year. With his year of experience and maturity, in addition to the return of leading rusher Bobby Rainey, the offense will be much improved.

4. What will be the biggest surprise? I think that just happened last night with the news of Dwight Dasher's suspension. Hard to imagine anything more surprising happening. I was planning to say that a Sun Belt team would crack the national rankings, but Dasher's suspension throws that into question as well. Rather than take the easy way out, I will proffer that the biggest surprise, once the season starts, is that the Sun Belt will have 5 bowl eligible teams. The Sun Belt has never had more than four bowl eligible teams.

5. Which coach is on the hottest seat? Todd Dodge, North Texas. Dodge is 5-31 in his three years on the job, and North Texas has never won more than two games in his tenure. North Texas was 7-5 and won the conference in 2004. Unless Dodge gets North Texas closer to those results, he will not be around in 2011.

Friday, August 27, 2010

5 Step Drop: 2010 Big East Conference Football

For a time this offseason, it looked like the Big East conference would cease to play college football after this year. The Big East has survived and now has the chance to show, on the field, that it belongs as one of the sport’s premier conferences.

1. Who will win the conference? Pittsburgh Panthers. Using a signature Dave Wannstedt defense with an offense centered around Dion Lewis, Pitt will win the conference for the first time since 2004.

2. Who is the best player returning? Dion Lewis, Pittsburgh. The fab-freshman broke onto the scene last year with 1,799 yards (5.5 yards per carry) and 17 touchdowns. He rushed for over 100 yards in 10 of 13 games in 2009.

3. Which team will be the most improved? Louisville. New head coach Charlie Strong will take the first steps this year to right the ship. His defensive background will have a lot to do with this. Louisville surrendered 30 or more points in seven games (all losses) last year.

4. What will be the biggest surprise? Despite being the best player returning, Dion Lewis will not lead the Big East in rushing. This conference is full of strong runners. In fact, the leading rusher from all 8 Big East schools is back in 2010. No longer a secret, Lewis will have to fight for every yard this year. He will still have a good year. This is more about the overall strength of running backs in the Big East than it is about Lewis not producing.

5. Which coach is on the hottest seat? Doug Marrone, Syracuse. Okay, so he isn’t really on the hot seat, but he is the default choice. All Big East coaches are new to their school or they are having enough success that their jobs aren’t in jeopardy. In his first season (2009), Marrone led the Orangemen to four wins, which was their most in one season since 2006. He needs to show some progress this year, which might be difficult with a new starting quarterback. Unless Syracuse completely bombs the season, Marrone’s job is secure for 2011.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

5 Step Drop: 2010 Mid-American Conference Football

The Mid-American Conference had some national attention last year with Dan LeFevour capping off his stellar career. Can someone else do the same in 2010?

1. Who will win the conference? Temple Owls. Yes, I am on the Temple bandwagon. I got on it last year and haven’t gotten off yet. The Owls might have won the conference championship last year if not for an injury to Bernard Pierce the week before the Ohio game. Al Golden is a great coach who showed commitment to the program this offseason by not taking other job offers. His players noticed and made the same investment by working extra hard this offseason.

2. Who is the top returning player? Bernard Pierce, Temple. He came in and made an immediate impact as a freshman last year. He rushed for over 100 yards six times en route to 1,361 yards and 16 touchdowns. Pierce was a freshman all-American, and this year Temple is promoting him for the Heisman Trophy.

3. Which team will be the most improved? Ball State. The Cardinals did a complete 180 going from two losses in 2008 to two wins in 2009. This year will be much different. Ball State had to start over after losing head coach Brady Hoke to San Diego State and quarterback Nate Davis to the NFL. Running back MiQuale Lewis is still on the roster, so expect marked improvement out of Muncie, Indiana.

4. What will be the biggest surprise? Northern Illinois will beat Iowa State. The Cyclones won seven games in 2009 including a win in the Insight Bowl, but Chad Spann and company will make a statement on the opening day of the 2010 season.

5. Which coach is on the hottest seat? Doug Martin, Kent State. Kent State followed a 6-6 year in 2006 with 3-9, 4-8, and 5-7 records. Martin has a talented team this year, especially since the NCAA granted Eugene Jarvis a sixth year of eligibility. If he can’t get the Golden Flashes to a bowl game, he could be shown the way out.

5 Step Drop: 2010 Big XII Conference Football

The Big XII conference was the center of a lot of attention this offseason. They hope the attention continues once the games start. Here are five questions giving a quick overview of the Big XII.

1. Who will win the conference? Oklahoma Sooners. Barring any unforeseen injuries like last year. Injuries were the only thing that kept Oklahoma from another Big XII championship in 2009. Landry Jones has a year of playing experience and has had all offseason to prepare knowing that he is the man.

2. Who is the top returning player? Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M. Last year, the Aggies’ quarterback made several big plays with both his arm and his legs. He threw for over 3,500 yards with 30 touchdowns, and he ran for over 500 yards and another eight touchdowns.

3. Which team will be the most improved? Baylor. The Bears will have Robert Griffin back to provide a boost. He is still recovering some of his mobility, but he will be effective enough all year to give Baylor a big improvement over 2009.

4. What will be the biggest surprise? No Big XII player will be a Heisman Trophy finalist. From 2003 to 2009, the Big XII had at least one player go to New York every year except one (2006). Landry Jones, Kendall Hunter, and Jerrod Johnson will get hype throughout the year, but none one of them will make the cut.

5. Which coach is on the hottest seat? Dan Hawkins, Colorado. He was supposed to be a prodigy from Boise State that would make CU a force again. Hawkins was 53-11 in five years at Boise State. In four years in Boulder, Hawkins is just 16-33.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Conference USA Football Season Preview 2010

Conference USA has made some noise the last few years with multiple wins against top teams from BCS automatic qualifying conferences. The conference will build on the recent success this year.

1. Who will win the conference? Houston Cougars. Houston will hold off a steep challenge in the west division by SMU, but Case Keenum’s senior leadership will carry the Cougars to the conference championship game. Memories of the loss in 2009 will lead to a big win by Houston.

2. Who is the top returning player? Case Keenum, Houston. Keenum has passed for over 5,000 yards two years in a row. He tossed 44 touchdown passes in 2009, while adding four scores on the ground.

3. Which team will be the most improved? Tulsa. The Golden Hurricanes will rebound from the 5-7 season a year ago. With a year under his belt, G.J. Kinne will have the offense clicking again, and this Tulsa team will more resemble the 2007 and 2008 teams that won 10 and 11 games.

4. What will be the biggest surprise? Case Keenum will go to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist. With monster numbers to go along with the conference championship, Keenum will earn enough respect from the voters that he will be invited to New York for the announcement.

5. Which coach is on the hottest seat? Bob Toledo, Tulane. A 4-8 season followed by 2-10 and 3-9 is enough to get any coach on the hot seat. Tulane needs to push for bowl eligibility for Toledo to keep his job.

Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Football Season Preview 2010

The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) has been a little down the last few years, but 2010 just might be the year that the conference champion makes it to the BCS title game.

1. Who will win the conference? Miami Hurricanes. The team is very disappointed with the way 2009 ended. They are going to play like men on a mission this year. Nothing will satisfy their hunger except an ACC championship. Last year their youthfulness caught up with them. That won’t be the case this year.

2. Who is the top returning player? Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech. Williams quietly ran for 1,655 yards last year. I say quietly because that was the fifth most in the nation and only three yards less than Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. Williams also scored 22 touchdowns and eclipsed the 100 yard mark 10 times.

3. Which team will be the most improved? Florida State Seminoles. After floundering in mediocrity for four years, Florida State made a coaching change at the end of last year. That change will pay immediate dividends. The ‘Noles will win the Atlantic division.

4. What will be the biggest surprise? The return of Mark Herzlich to the field for Boston College. Herzlich used his redshirt year to fight bone cancer. Now he is back. While playing time will be limited to start, by season’s end he will be playing a lot and making a difference.

5. Which coach is on the hottest seat? Tom O’Brien, North Carolina State. Since the Wolfpack hired him away from Boston College after the 2006 season, O’Brien has not delivered. North Carolina State has a record of 16-21 over the last three years.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mountain West Conference Football Season Preview for 2010

The Mountain West Conference (MWC) has been on a roll the last few years with TCU and the Utah Utes going to BCS bowls. How do things look for 2010?

1. Who will win the conference? TCU Horned Frogs. Not only will TCU win the MWC, but they have a pretty clear path to another undefeated regular season and a second consecutive BCS bowl game. BYU and Utah will provide more of a challenge this year than last, but TCU should come out on top in the end.

2. Who is the top returning player? Carmen Messina, New Mexico. The Lobos linebacker led the nation in tackles (162) as a sophomore. He is going to give Brian Urlacher a run for his money as the best linebacker in New Mexico Lobos history if he posts similar numbers this year.

3. Which team will be the most improved? San Diego State Aztecs. Head Coach Brady Hoke brought competitiveness to San Diego last year, and this year they will take the next step and go bowling. They may even push Air Force for that number four spot in the conference.

4. What will be the biggest surprise? One of the "Big 3" (TCU, BYU, Utah) will lose to one of the other six members of the conference. No one has done it for a few years, but this year will be different. It could happen as early as September 11 when BYU and Air Force meet and Utah plays UNLV. Air Force usually plays Utah close, and the Cadets could trip up Utah on October 30 if the Utes are looking ahead to TCU the next week. Utah faces San Diego State after playing TCU and Notre Dame, back-to-back, and the week before rival BYU.

5. Which coach is on the hottest seat? Mike Locksley, New Mexico. After the disaster on the field (1-11) and the distractions off the field, Locksley is on a short leash. Even if everything off the field is in check, another one win season and he can expect to be canned.

Souteastern Conference (SEC) Football Season Preview 2010

The Southeastern Conference (SEC) has dominated college football the last four years. Here are five questions to get a quick glimpse of what SEC football will look like in 2010.

1. Who will win the conference? Alabama Crimson Tide. Even though Alabama lost several key defenders to the NFL, so did Florida. Florida also lost a lot on the offensive side. Alabama did not. Nick Saban faces the challenge of keeping his team hungry and focused after reaching the pinnacle last year.

2. Who is the top returning player? Mark Ingram, Alabama. How can the answer to this question be anyone but the reigning Heisman Trophy winner? In case you forgot, Ingram ran for 1,658 yards (6.1 yards per carry) and scored 20 touchdowns (17 rushing, 3 receiving) in 2009. In nine games the Heisman Trophy winner ran for more than 100 yards.

3. Which team will be the most improved? Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Bulldogs were 5-7 in Dan Mullen's first year. Mississippi State ended the year on a positive note by beating Ole Miss, 41-27. That momentum will carry over into this year and people will be talking about the Bulldogs at the end of the year.

4. What will be the biggest surprise? The SEC champion will not play in the BCS title game. After an unprecedented four year run, the SEC champion will be back in the Sugar Bowl. Alabama will not be undefeated at season's end, and that will keep them out. At least two other teams will be undefeated and claim the top two spots in the final BCS standings.

5. Which coach is on the hottest seat? Les Miles, LSU. Everyone in the Bayou is getting restless after the 2007 National Championship has been followed up with back-to-back single digit win seasons. Miles didn't even receive much credit for the national championship three years ago, since he won that year with Nick Saban's recruits. Now is the time for Miles to deliver with the players that he has recruited, otherwise, he will be shown the door out.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Western Athletic Conference Football Season Preview 2010

Five questions to preview the 2010 football season for the Western Athletic Conference.

1. Who will win the conference? Boise State Broncos. No surprise here. The Broncos return 21 starters off of last year’s perfect team. If Boise State does not win the conference, someone will have a lot of explaining to do.

2. Who is the top returning player? Kellen Moore, Boise State. Moore had the second highest pass efficiency rating in the nation last year, and he passed for 3,536 yards with a 39:3 touchdown to interception ratio. Moore also boasts a 26-1 record as a starter.

3. Who will be the most improved team? The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. Three of Louisiana Tech’s conference losses (Utah State, Idaho, and Fresno State) were by a combined total of five points. They also played Boise State close last year (10 point loss). It also helps that there are no SEC teams on the schedule (Auburn and LSU last year).

4. What will be the biggest surprise? Boise State will play in the BCS National Championship game. With a number 5 preseason ranking in the USA Today Top 25, Boise State is in prime position to move into the top 2 as the teams ahead of them drop games. A win over Virginia Tech, a squad that has high expectations as well, to start the year followed by a perfect run through the rest of the schedule (which includes Oregon State) and the computers won’t be able to hold Boise State back.

5. Which coach is on the hottest seat? No coach in the WAC is on a very hot seat. Either the coaches are new to their posts or they are having success. The one with the hottest seat is probably Chris Ault at Nevada. Hard to imagine that his seat is the hottest. He has won over 200 games in 25 years with the Wolfpack. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and he played quarterback for Nevada back in the 1960s. However, he has failed to get Nevada over the hump (beat Boise State). Nevada can’t let complacency settle in on the program. Ault turns 64 in November. If he can’t get it done this year, and with Nevada moving on to the tougher Mountain West Conference soon, Nevada may create an administrative position in the athletics department for Coach Ault so they can try and find a guy who can get Nevada to the next level.

Big Ten Conference Preview For 2010

Previewing the Big Ten conference is next to continue priming us for the 2010 NCAA college football season. All the conferences and the independents will be previewed this week (Monday through Saturday, two per day).

1. Who will win the conference? Iowa. If Ricky Stanzi didn’t get injured, the Hawkeye’s probably would have been undefeated and in the Rose Bowl last year. Stanzi is back as well as a strong defense. The schedule is favorable as well. Iowa plays Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Penn State at home with at least two weeks separating each of these games.

2. Who is the top returning player? John Clay, Wisconsin. The bruising tailback rushed for 1,517 yards last year and scored 18 touchdowns. He finished 2009 with six consecutive 100 yard rushing games, and had a total of nine 100 yard rushing games.

3. Who will be the most improved team? Michigan. The Wolverines were 1-7 in conference play last year. In his third year in Ann Arbor, Rich Rodriguez will start to deliver what everyone has been expecting. Although the schedule is difficult, I expect Michigan to reach 8 wins.

4. What will be the biggest surprise? Between the end of the regular season and the bowl game, Joe Paterno will announce that he is retiring. After reaching 400 wins and no Bobby Bowden to push him for college football immortality, JoePa will step aside.

5. Which coach is on the hottest seat? Rich Rodriguez, Michigan. With an 8-16 record after two seasons, and this is a make or break year for Rodriguez. He will be gone if there is not a very positive feeling about the direction of the program after this year.

Poll Results: How will Jeremiah Masoli fare at Ole Miss?

This poll has closed and 54% said Jeremiah Masoli would take over the starting spot sometime during the year. The next leading vote getter was start from game one (26%), followed by make Ole Miss a contender in the SEC with 20%. No one voted that Masoli would play so well that he would be a Heisman Trophy finalist.

Thank you to everyone who voted. Don't foreget to vote in this week's poll: "The best part of college football is".

Thursday, August 19, 2010

2010 College Football Preview: 10 Questions

The 2010 college football season will kick off in just two weeks! College Football Haven has the top 10 questions for 2010, plus one bonus question for making it to the end.

1. Is this Joe Paterno’s last ride? Last year we saw the departure of the legendary Bobby Bowden. Now that Bowden is gone, Joe Pa is assured that when he retires he will have more wins than any FBS coach. With 394 wins to his name, he should eclipse the 400 win plateau this year. These two factors just might be enough to get him to finally hang it up after 45 years.

2. Will an SEC team win the National Championship? It has happened for the last four years. Whether the SEC champion has been undefeated or has had two losses, they have made it to the BCS national championship game and come out the victor every time. The SEC championship could be a rematch of Florida and Alabama. If this is the case, I don’t expect either team to be undefeated, so whether the winner makes it to Glendale will depend on how the other automatic qualifying (AQ) champions fare. Two undefeated teams (Ohio State and Oklahoma, perhaps) and the SEC champion will be on the outside looking in. If only one AQ champion is undefeated and so is Boise State or TCU, then the SEC champ probably gets in.

3. Will Boise State or TCU play in the National Championship game? They are both in a very favorable position starting at numbers 5 and 7, respectively, in the USA Today preseason top 25. After the way they played last year, if one of them finishes undefeated, and no other team in the nation is undefeated, then I like their chances to be in the BCS top two. If one AQ champion is undefeated, then Boise State and TCU will have to fight for that second spot. Both teams have earned a shot to prove themselves if they are undefeated, but in the end, they probably won’t make it over a one loss SEC champion.

4. Is this Rich Rodriguez’s break through year at Michigan? With his track record at Tulane and West Virginia, many expected the Wolverines to be a force in the Big Ten last year. Instead, Michigan dropped 7 of 8 league games and finished 5-7. It was a good strategic move by Michigan to hire Rodriguez, but if he doesn’t get things done this year, he is probably gone. That being said, I think Michigan will be back in a bowl and Rich Rod will be on the sidelines in 2011.

5. Will SMU continue its resurgence? While Rodriguez continued to struggle in his second year, June Jones was flourishing in his second year at SMU. The Mustanges went from one win to 8, and slaughtered Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl. Kyle Padron returns at quarterback so I fully expect the Mustangs to gallop in the lead pack of Conference USA and could win the conference in a photo finish.

6. Are select teams auditioning for invitations to join better conferences? The Big Ten doesn’t appear to be satisfied with 12 teams. Pitt, Rutgers, Maryland, and maybe even Virginia are prime candidates. The Big XII may be happy with 10 teams for now, but it won’t be long before they are back to 12. The Memphis faithful are hungry to make the jump to big time football. BYU has made it clear that they are looking for something better than the Mountain West Conference. These teams may find that the way they play on Saturdays was the difference maker in whether they got an invite or not.

7. Can Jeremiah Masoli redeem himself? With a second chance at Ole Miss, the former Oregon Duck may get the last quack. I find it hard to imagine that he won’t be the Rebels starting quarterback. How quickly he can grasp the offense and gel with his teammates will determine his success. He will have a respectable year, but what will determine the winner in this situation will be how well Oregon does without him.

8. Will Jake Locker live up to the hype? For three years we have heard about the phenomenal athleticism and potential of Jake Locker. This summer he went back east on a whirlwind media tour to promote his Heisman Trophy candidacy. Many consider him to be the future number one draft pick in the 2011 NFL draft. With all this fanfare you would think that his college career resembled that of Tim Tebow. On the contrary, Locker has not played in a bowl, nor has he passed for more than 3,000 yards in a season. I predict that Locker will break both these trends this year. Locker and Washington are poised for a breakout year in Steve Sarkisian’s second year as head coach.

9. Who will represent the Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl? No conference race is more wide open than the Pac-10. USC has a bowl ban, so even if they win the conference, they won’t play in the Rose Bowl. Oregon had a good chance to make a repeat showing until they lost Masoli and had a rash of other off the field issues that affected the team. Stanford is making strides, but replacing Tody Gerhart will keep the Rose Bowl out of reach. Same goes for Cal without Jahvid Best. Washington and UCLA are dark horses that I wouldn’t count out. In the end, this is Oregon State’s year. The Beavers will get off to a typically slow start, but when the conference games roll around Jaquizz Rodgers and company will be ready.

10. Will Case Keenum break the NCAA record for career passing yards? With back-to-back 5,000 yard passing seasons and 12,950 yards to his credit, Keenum is only 4,123 yards away from breaking Timmy Chang’s record (17,072). Barring injury, Keenum will break this record with ease. The better question might be how high will he push this mark?

Bonus: How will they react? With the way 2009 ended and the events during the offseason, I am curious to know how several teams will react to what happened. Their reactions will go a long way in shaping how the 2010 season plays out.

• USC: Pete Carroll left for the NFL, and the NCAA finally ruled in the Reggie Bush case. With no bowl game to play for and some players transferring, how will the men of Troy react? USC has a lot of pride, and, like him or not, Lane Kiffen overachieved last year at Tennessee. I see USC bouncing back from last year’s 9-4 campaign and playing with a chip on their shoulder. Even with Carroll gone, the end result will be typical of the Pete Carroll years.

• Nebraska: The Cornhuskers nearly pulled off the biggest win of the season last year in the Big XII championship game. We saw them vent some frustration in the 33-0 beat down of Arizona in the Holiday Bowl, but something tells me that Bo Pelini and his boys are not satisfied. Look for them to be breathing fire this year and play with great emotion as they try to take care of some unfinished business and leave the Big XII as champions.

• Texas: It looked like it would never come, but Texas now faces life without Colt McCoy. We all got a taste of the future when McCoy went down in the BCS Championship game. While Garrett Gilbert will have a nice career in Austin, Texas will drop two games this year.

• Oregon: No one is happier that the season is starting than Chip Kelly. After an offseason to forget, with an alarming number of players violating team rules and having run ins with the law, Kelly is relieved to finally move on. If the players handle this well, then Oregon will still be better than most teams in the Pac-10. However, if the locker room is divided and they are dwelling on the off-the-field issues, the Ducks might struggle to finish with a winning record and leave the fan base wondering what might have been.

• Florida: The Gators face a situation similar to Texas. In Gainesville, the Tim Tebow era is over. It is impossible to replace a guy like him. Florida will have to move on the best they can with John Brantley. Besides losing Tebow, Florida nearly lost their coach. After announcing his resignation, Urban Meyer quickly changed it to a leave of absence. While everything seems to be smooth sailing again, how many of the players are worrying whether Coach Meyer will survive the rigors of the year? Although the Gators are the preseason number 3 team, this year is going to be bumpier than the last two. If Meyer and the players hit the panic button when things aren’t as peachy as they were with Tebow around, then this could end as a disappointing year.

• Temple: The Temple Owls were the biggest surprise last year. They won 9 games for the first time since 1979. They were a win against Ohio away from playing for the MAC Championship. Temple has Heisman Trophy aspirations for running back Bernard Pierce. Is Temple hungry for more or did they take their foot off the gas after the surprising success in 2009?

• Florida State: Bobby Bowden is not at Florida State for the first time since 1975. While new head coach Jimbo Fisher has been in the program for the last few years, he is making sure that everyone knows there is a new sheriff in town. The reaction, so far, has not been good. Players are dropping from the roster like flies. Florida State has lost several players in the last few weeks for a lot more reasons than injury. The Seminoles sputtered during Bowden’s final few years. Will the coaching change bring a resurgence, or will it further cripple the program as players struggle to adjust to the new expectations?

• Alabama: They are the defending national champions and now they are number one to start the year, despite having seven players drafted. The preseason number one is a curse, and so is Alabama’s schedule with six conference teams having byes the week before playing the Crimson Tide. Will Alabama have enough drive to repeat to end the season where they are starting? In 2009, they were coming off of back-to-back losses in the SEC Championship game and the Sugar Bowl. Where is the motivation going to come from after a perfect 14-0 national championship season?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Yardbarker Network Privacy Policy

College Football Haven has joined the Yardbarker Network. As a YBN member, the following privacy policy will apply. There is nothing to worry about. As I understand it, information is being collected only to for advertising purposes. I can assure you I would not do anything to put you in a position to be exploited.

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New Year, Same Old Story: The SEC is Overrated

The USA Today (Coaches) Top 25 is out. I am not going to discuss the poll in depth. When the College Football Haven Top 25 comes out August 30, you will be able to see where I agree and disagree with the coaches. However, there is one thing from the coaches poll that does stick out. The SEC is still overrated. In the poll, the SEC is represented as follows:

1. Alabama
3. Florida
16. LSU
19. Arkansas
21. Georgia
23. Auburn

Six teams is one half of the SEC. Do you really expect anyone to believe that six of the top 25 teams in the country are from one conference? This poll is saying that the top half of the SEC is better than 81% of the teams in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.

Auburn might have surprised many people with 8 wins last year after the fallout over the Gene Chizik hiring, but I think Auburn still needs to show it is ready to take the next step before being ranked.

Georgia had a down year (8-5) in 2009. However, with a redshirt freshman starting at quarterback, I am skeptical that this year will be better than the last. Guys like Sam Bradford don't grow on trees.

Arkansas is one I agree with. In fact, I think the Hogs will be a surprise team in 2010, and should be ranked higher. Ryan Mallett and Bobby Petrino will have the team racing up and down the field. If they catch a few breaks, they may find themselves in the SEC Championship game.

LSU has been disappointing, to say the least, the last two years (8-5 and 9-4). Les Miles has already lost my faith, and if he doesn’t put up 10 wins or more this year he might lose his job. Sixteen is a little bit of a stretch, I would have them closer to 20.

Florida lost Tim Tebow, the three time Heisman Trophy finalist, Aaron Hernandez, the 2009 Mackey Award winner, at tight end, and Brandon Spikes, a two-time All-American, at linebacker. Yet, Florida is starting 2010 at number 3. Talk about deja-vu. After the 2006 National Championship year, Florida had to replace the starting quarterback and some key personnel on defense. In 2007, the team finished 9-4. Why should we expect much different this year? There was a noticeable drop off from 2008 to 2009 just by Percy Harvin leaving for the NFL. Throw in Urban Meyer’s health, and the number 3 ranking for Florida is the most egregious ranking of all the SEC teams.

Last is Alabama. The 2009 National Champions are starting right where they left off. Except they will have to do so without Rolando McClain, Terrance Cody, and five other NFL draft picks. Throw in the controversial schedule that has six conference opponents given two weeks to prepare for the Crimson Tide, and I don’t think this team even makes the national championship game. Don’t get me wrong. I am starting to become a believer in Nick Saban the coach, and I think ‘Bama will be a top 10 team this year. I just don’t think this number one ranking is merited.

Well, maybe overrating the SEC will stop next year. Until then, there's a lot of great football to play! (Come back Thursday, August 19, 2010, as I make an overview of the 2010 season before getting into previewing each conference.)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Violate the Rules Now, Don't Pay Later

Last year Michigan was hit by the NCAA for violating rules. Earlier this year, the NCAA finally came down on USC for events that happened back when Reggie Bush was on campus. Just last week, the NCAA accused West Virginia of major violations. These major violations started when Rich Rodriguez coached there.

There are many complaints about how the NCAA handles rules violations, but the biggest is probably that in many cases the violators escape any real punishment. For example, Reggie Bush and Pete Carroll. Bush doesn't have to sit out any games, lose any eligibility, or have a "no draft" tag placed on him by the NCAA in cooperation with the NFL. Pete Carroll has changed employers and he will never feel the effects of the lost bowl appearances and lost scholarships. The West Virginia case presents the same problem. Whatever punishment the NCAA metes out to the Mountaineers for Rich Rod's transgressions will not be borne by Rodriguez.

How can this problem be corrected for both players and coaches? For coaches, I think there is a pretty easy solution. If the coach is no longer at the university, then he has to take a 15-20% pay cut. A second violation would bring a larger pay cut (30%). A third violation and the coach is banned from being a head coach in the NCAA. For a coach like Pete Carroll who is no longer coaching college football, the NCAA can sue him. (I don't know how coaches contracts are structured now, but the NCAA could make it mandatory that all coaches contracts include a provision that states the coach agrees to pay a fine if he retires or takes a NFL coaching job and is later found to have broken NCAA rules.)

For players, the solution is not as simple. In fact, I don't have a solution that I feel strongly about. The player's stats and records could be stricken from the books. What might be better is to have the player pay back the monetary value of the scholarship that he received.

The fact of the matter is that unless the NCAA changes something, coaches and players will continue to violate rules at the same rate or higher.

Ready for the 2010 Season

Thank you to everyone who has been regularly visiting the blog this offseason. I know the coverage was pretty sporadic, except the opinion polls, but I had some family issues to resolve. I am pleased to report that those issues are closed and just in time for the upcoming season.

From now until kickoff in only three weeks, you can expect the follow:

1. A broad outlook for the 2010 season.
2. Previews for each conference.
3. The College Football Haven Pre-Season Top 25.
4. The College Football Haven Pre-Season Heisman Hopefuls.

That will be the bare minimum. I also have some thoughts on the pre-season coaches top 25 and on the recently reported West Virginia violations.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Poll Results: What should be done about the 2005 Heisman Trophy?

Two-thirds of voters thought that Vince Young should be awarded the Heisman Trophy for 2005. The other third thought that no one should get it, which means no one thought that Reggie Bush should keep it. Thank you to all who voted.

Don't forget to vote in the new poll: How will Jeremiah Masoli fare at Ole Miss?