It's the most wonderful time of the year!
Army – You will all probably not recall the venom that I spewed on this very blog at the onset of last season all aimed at Stan Brock (here and here), then coach of the Army football team. While not as damaging as Todd Berry/Rich Greenspan were to the program as a whole, Brock simply continued to attempt to pound a round peg into a square hole by NOT following through with his promise to install an option style offense at West Point. After losing the first two games to cupcakes (badly) by attempting to throw the ball down the field, he lost Army’s top recruit, the number 1 QB in the state of Indiana, and option wiz to resignation. Who could blame the kid? Military commitment and NOT run an option offense for four years while sitting on the sidelines as the Black Knights posted 3-8 seasons?
So in the off season following yet another trouncing by Navy, the Supe mercifully ditched Brock and hired Rich Ellerson an option offense disciple from Cal Poly, a Div 1AA school where he pretty much tore it up. From his press, he seems like a guy who knows what this job entails. He’s spent some time with Paul Johnson, another former Div 1AA option guru who turned around another storied military academy’s football program whose name I cannot mention and turned it into a real contender. Most fans and alum like the pick. Most of us will not be looking for .500 season out of the Cadets, but rather like the economy, just ANY sign that the tide is turning in the right direction. Army has three opponents on the schedule that in any other year could be categorized as “could wins” (Duke, Ball St., and Vandy), but after the seasons these teams had last year, all three will beat the crap out of Army simply because they can. I’ll be extremely satisfied if we can win three games and beat either Air Force or Navy.
Georgia Tech – Just got word that Jaybo Shaw, the Yellow Jackets back up QB is out for 8 weeks, a possible medical redshirt for this season. That’s too bad for the capable sophomore, but 2nd year Coach Paul Johnson has plenty of depth in that position. Of all the teams I follow and hold near and dear (like, hate, indifferent), Tech is the team that has the greatest potential to make some moves and some serious noise for that matter. Paul Johnson, who I predicted would be a HUGE success at GT, no longer has the “prove it” chain hanging around his neck with regard to running the triple option offense at a big time ACC school. Georgia Tech and its fans now BELIEVE. Although the shellacking they received at the hands of LSU during last years Chick-Fil-A Bowl was a big let down after a STUNNING victory over hated UGA (IN ATHENS I might remind you), last season was a enormous success by all measures (remember the win over FSU? I don’t, but there are pictures and video of me on the field jumping into a pile of GT players at the 50 yard line minutes after the game). A well balanced schedule and decent home stands could make the Jackets a shoe in for the ACC Championship and beyond. It’s going to be a great season to watch with UGA coming to Atlanta this time around.
University of Maryland Terps – Much mystery surrounds Ralph Friedgen’s Terps this year. Gone is super receiving stud Darius Heyward-Bey to the Oakland Raiders, but Chris Turner returns for his Sr. Year with a couple of solid Juniors to throw to, assuming he’s the Fridge’s pick to start (all indications are that it’s his job to lose). I trolled the net for anything interesting regarding the Terps and found little other than Sr. nose tackle Armstrong’s dysfunctional departure. I’d say Ralph is looking at a Chan Gaily season this year. Meaning the university, while glad to brag about W/L records and four bowl games (albeit non-New Year’s eve/day games), they know that the program is capable of more. And it is. The Fridge has shed 100+ pounds from his belly and wants to stay for a few more years until he retires. Winning some big games this season like FSU and Cal, AND winning the ones their supposed to (UVA and Wake) should keep the rotund coach there until he’s ready to leave on his own.
Penn State – The Ninny Lions are preseason ranked respectful of their success and stature in the previous two seasons. The only question that stands out in my mind is again a weakness in schedule. I think it hurt them last year during bowl selection and might again this year (not that the Rose Bowl is a slouch game by any means). Not much you can do about weakness in your own conference, but as good as they are, replacing a game with the Zips or Temple with a solid non-conference opponent would go a long way when the BCS oceans start to churn in late November. PSU will be huge again this year.
Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan. That’s almost enough to say on the topic of this years Falcons season, but there is much more to the Falcons than our starting super star QB. For one, our coach Mike Smith also in his second year. I think that players MUST believe in their coach in order for a team to excel into the playoffs. You can get there without this faith amongst the ranks, but to compete for a real shot at the big game, you’ve got to get there with the head coach at the tip of the spear and Mike Smith is that kind of guy. In one year he has turned a rag tag bunch of misfits into a formidable power of belief with fans and players alike. Some solid additions to the roaster via draft and trades keeps the Birds overall team development moving forward. Easy contender for the division.
New York Jets – Well, I can’t really say I know a lot about what the Jets are doing to better themselves this season after folding pretty badly in the latter half of last season. I’ll have to rely on my main man Jackson to fill me in and get me excited about their chances this year. Obviously the QB slot is what I worry the most about, and the loss of Coles of course. If I were the Jets, I’d be looking at DJ Shockley who I believe is the most capable, yet underrated up and coming QB in the league and he’s just struggling to get a third string slot here in Atlanta right now. A total waste. Will someone PLEASE give this guy a shot!
Oakland Raiders – Boy, it was nice to see the Raiders beat NFL Axis of Evil member the always hated Dallas Cowboys last week even if it was just pre-season. Oakland actually looked like a team who wanted to play with, vs against each other. Of course, what the final roster will look like in three weeks is anybody’s guess and the organization could all fall right back into the circus that is Raider football in a Bay Area minute, but maybe there are signs of life for us who have worn the Raider paper bag on our heads for the last five years. The pick up of my man Darius Hayward-Bey from Maryland may have been controversial, but will prove to be a good decision as was the acquisition of Jeff Garcia for any other reason than to get Russell off his over paid ass. If they beat my brother’s crappy Cardinals in Oakland I’ll be happy enough with their progress.
Teams I hate, but am forced to follow:
Arizona Cardinals – Now that the underdog thing is over with I can stop feeling sorry for my brother and willfully root against them again. Prediction: They will go back to sucking.
New England Patriots – Will suck worse than last year, Tom Brady will get kicked in the junk opening day and call signals in a higher register for the rest of the season bringing laughter and ridicule from opposing defenses.
Washington Redskins – Suck.
Dallas Cowboys – Fail and suck are too good of words for this NFL team. May everything go wrong with every aspect of this organization. May all the toilets in their new stadium overflow.
That’s about it folks. It’s hard to argue with any of my assessments here, but by all means try if you may. That’s what the internet is for after all. Other things to look forward to this season: A trip the Raleigh NC to see a Wolf Pack game with my Uncle, and a trip to West Point for the Vandy game. Can’t wait. See you all there!