August 31, 2009

College Football Fix: The season is here

Find your tickets, refocus your binoculars, load up the cooler and sweat bands, the college football season is here.

The College Football Fix has replaced The Weekend Warrior, and I'm going to recap some thoughts about the Longhorns, the Big 12 and the nation going into this weekend's game against the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks.

Tape this colum on your refrigerator to throw in my face in November or December. Or just use it to line your rabbit cage ...

1. The Longhorns' defense will not disappoint. I have the Longhorns with 42.5 sacks this season and could lead the nation once again (even without Brian Orakpo and Roy Miller), led by Sergio Kindle with 14 sacks.

2. Colt McCoy will become the all-time winningest quarterback in NCAA history, lead his team to a Big 12 title, win the Heisman Trophy and play Florida for the national title in Pasadena.

3. Earl Thomas will challenge Kindle for defensive player of the year for the Longhorns and finish with six interceptions.

4. Aaron Williams and Chykie Brown will finish as first-team All-Big 12 cornerbacks, giving UT three of the four in the secondary. The improved d-backs will help Texas be +17 in turnovers this season after being +2 last season.

5. Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley, childhood friends because their fathers played together at Abilene Christian, will finish as All-Americans.

6. The toughest game on the Texas schedule will be on Halloween in Stillwater, a nailbiter that Texas closes out with a clutch field goal. It will be the BIG 12 GAME OF THE YEAR.

7. Surprise player on defense for Texas: Alex Okafor. Surprise player on offense: John Chiles

8. The BIG 12 UPSET OF THE YEAR will be Baylor over Nebraska in Waco.

9. In the Big 12 North, Kansas will edge out Nebraska, and Missouri will not have a winning record.

10. Nationally, USC will have at least two regular-season losses and finish outside the Top 10.


TEXAS

THREE THINGS …

… THAT GOT BETTER IN FALL CAMP

Defense -
Sergio Kindle settled into his role as a DE/OLB, Sam Acho, Kheeston Randall, Earl Thomas, Christian Scott and five linebackers emerged in a defense settling into its second year under Will Muschamp.

Dan Buckner and John Chiles - The 6-4, 215-pound receiver emerged as a possible solution at the TE/Flex receiver position and could provide some key depth along with the fast-emerging Chiles.

Special teams - Mack Brown feels John Gold is one of the best punters he's ever had. UT is three-deep at FG kicker, and there appear to be plenty of options in the return game, including Jordan Shipley who had two returns for TDs last season.

… THAT STAYED THE SAME

Malcolm Williams -
We'll see if Williams is ready to become the breakout star his highlights from 2008 portend. He had his ups and downs in camp, and right now is listed as a co-starter with Chiles.

Offensive line depth - Mack Brown said last week there's not much dropoff from the first to the second-team defense, but there is a substantial dropoff from the first to the second-team offense.

Running back position - Cody Johnson reported to training camp out of condition, and Foswhitt Whittaker missed some practice time with a knee strain. Will moving Colt McCoy under center help Vondrell McGee, an I-formation back at Longview?

… THAT GOT WORSE

Tight end, tight end, tight end -
Blaine Irby was ruled out for the 2009 season, then Josh Marshall left football, and D.J. Grant suffered a season-ending knee injury. Then, Ian Harris was also ruled out for the 2009 season because of recurring neck/shoulder stingers. Enough said.


BIG 12 RANKINGS

1. Texas
2. Oklahoma
3. Oklahoma State
4. Kansas
5. Baylor
6. Nebraska
7. Texas Tech
8. Colorado
9. Missouri
10. Texas A&M
11. Kansas State
12. Iowa State

THE NATION'S TOP 10

1. Florida -
Tebow, 22 back on defense. No breaking news here.

2. Texas - The M&M Factor - McCoy and Muschamp

3. Oklahoma - The defense will be a force and Sam Bradford is pretty good, too.

4. Mississippi - The schedule gives them a chance to take the second-most difficult division in college football.

5. Virginia Tech - Tyrod Taylor and 16 returning starters rock the ACC and the nation this year

6. Cal - The Bears are the best in the Pac-10 this season

7. Ohio State - Buckeyes beat USC on Sept. 12 and get it rolling

8. Alabama - QB Greg McElroy of Southlake Carroll may be an upgrade from John Parker Wilson

9. Oklahoma State - Great offense will mean trouble for most opponents, starting with Georgia on Saturday.

10. Penn State - Toughest games are at home, and senior QB Daryll Clark is back.


THE WEEK AHEAD

Nevada at Notre Dame (-14)

Notre Dame 27, Nevada 24

Georgia at Oklahoma State (-5.5)
Oklahoma State 31, Georgia 17

BYU at Oklahoma (-22) in Arlington
OU 31, BYU 21

Missouri vs. Illinois (-7) in St. Louis
Illinois 48, Missouri 31

Baylor at Wake Forest (-2.5)
Wake Forest 28, Baylor 27

New Mexico at Texas A&M (-14)
A&M 20, New Mexico 10

Virginia Tech vs. Alabama (-7)
Va. Tech 27, Alabama 24

Florida Atlantic at Nebraska (-22)
Nebraska 28, Florida Atlantic 17

Colorado State at Colorado (-10.5)
Colorado 28, Colorado St. 24

Cincinnati at Rutgers (-5.5)
Rutgers 31, Cincinnati 23

Miami at Florida State (-5.5)
Florida State 24, Miami 14

ONE FINAL THOUGHT ...

For Texas to win the national title, the offense has to get more speed on the field. Right now, the defense is as fast or faster than the D it put on the field in 2005, but the offense isn't as fast (there's no Jamaal Charles or Ramonce Taylor at this point).

So maybe two of the surprises on offense will prove to be Marquise Goodwin, D.J. Monroe or some other burner. Getting Malcolm Williams on the field for full-time duty would also help upgrade the speed.

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