Though in fairness? If it’s a well-regarded post, it’s not a gimmick. For those of you who just got here. The rules of this post are simple. There are 120 teams. And there are reasons to love each and every one of them.
These can be empirical, these can be whimsical. Sometimes? They can even seem irrational. But it’s all good. Something for everybody and whatnot.
ACTION FORCE GO!
Boston College: There always seems to be a legit talent in the recent history of the Eagles. From Matty Ice to B.J. Raji to this years tag team at linebacker? There’s always a reason why the Eagles will kick a little ass in the ACC. This year you get the Freshman sensation Luke Kuechly’s sequel in conjunction with Mark Herzlich. If he doesn’t inspire you by playing football after breaking bad? I have no time for you.
Clemson: The X-Factor for Clemson will most likely be their Corico Vision. For you see? Their secondary is badass. Their defensive line is badass. The linebackers? Brandon Maye is badass. But Corico Hawkins needs to step up if their defense is going to rival…
Duke: At a brocentric school like Duke, there is a semblance of hope that with the considerably lowered entry for a bowl game, and the experienced offense, there could be a Bro trip to a locale like Albuquerque, Boise, or St. Petersburg. Now while I won’t tell such brochachos to reserve their tickets, I will say that Desmond Scott will run the ball for many yards. And bros, that’s a good thing.
Florida State: You want to know the reason why I shed no tears for Bobby Bowden? He had an electrifying athlete who was looking like a shutdown cornerback? And he didn’t start him. Greg Reid was never more than a return man and a nickel back. You cannot be blinded by a cool name like Ochuko Jenije. Best 11 on the field, son.
Georgia Tech: You would think that an inside running beast like Jonathan Dwyer would not be easily replaced. In this instance, you would be mistaken. Anthony Allen has a chip on his shoulder. And he will make every defender feel his pain about being ditched with Steve Kragthorpe.
Maryland: Sometimes, the premise of Linebacker U is something of a misnomer. After all, teams have 3 or 4 of them. And usually only one is interesting. But in the decade of the Fridgening? Maryland has been able to generate quality defenders at linebacker. And while Maryland is a lot worse nowadays? Alex Wujciak is a linebacker that belongs in the beginning of the decade.
Miami (FL) : Doppler 3000 has issued a weather alert for all ACC Backfields. There’s a Storm coming. And with a backfield in some disarray, he has an opportunity to do damage quickly. He may either have been named after an X-Men or random bad weather, but Storm Johnson has a potential to be severe. Yeah. Sorry about that.
N.C. State: If you’re looking for an interesting sleeper candidate for a professional wideout? Jarvis Williams is your man. He’s big and rangy and every fourth catch of his last year? It went for a touchdown. That’s Cris Carterish amateurism.
North Carolina: You want to see a team do an impression of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens? The Tar Heels are your team. On offense, they are stuck with the irrelevant joke of an offensive coordinatior in John Shoop. But on defense? Oh mama. Deep, talented, and experienced. There will be at least six prospects that will dot NFL teams draft boards that will be gone by the third round. (Robert Quinn-DE, Marvin Austin-DT, Bruce Carter-OLB, Quan Sturdivant-OLB, Kendric Burney-CB, Charles Brown-CB, and Deunta Williams-FS). Add in Tydreke Powell-DT and Quentin Coples-DE as juniors with tremendous upside potential and you won’t see many teams getting to 20 against the Heels.
A long way to say, yay defense I know, but they probably could defend on a professional level this year. And only Clemson could come close in-conference.
Virginia: Sometimes with a team of little regard, there’s one bright shiny superstar. For the Cavaliers, whose strength is in an experienced offensive line and Ras-I Dowling, it fits this archetype perfectly. Because Ras-I is big and rangy.
Virginia Tech: Now while the Hokies have a running back tag team that some would consider to be as deadly as Christian Okoye and Barry Word from back in the day and an emerging dual threat in Tyrod Taylor. I’m not here for that. They’ve recruited another awesome name. From the people who brought you Ju-Ju Clayton, it’s E.L. Smiling! It’s a name that makes you think of keebler and white teeth! And he’s rangy too!
Wake Forest: You wouldn’t normally look upon a Demon Deacon as something akin to hip-hop. After all? The most famous alumnus that I can think of is Tim Duncan. And as bros go, he is most definitely chill. But the nose guard Ramon Booi? This kid is definitively hip-hop. He will turn many P.A. announcers into annoying hypemen.
Baylor: The significant thing is that you get Robert Griffin back and healthy. He’s the sort of threat that makes the Baylor running game a nightmare to slow down. And when you throw in a potential Terrence Cody impersonator in Phil Taylor locking down the other side of the field? A Vanderbilt-esque bowl run is not out of the question. (The schedule’s a wee bit back loaded.)
Colorado: A highly touted linebacker with a ready-made nickname is ready to step back into the breach. Jon Major is in year two coming off of an ACL injury which forced the hand of the Buffaloes. They used seven linebackers for three spots last year. The prime minister should solve that whole to do,
Iowa State: Some people thought I was mad for saying that Iowa State had a window of opportunity for success. I take the general apathy toward my blog as an apology. For an encore? A healthier receiving corp with Lonzie Range and Darius Reynolds portend a stronger offense. Replacing Army with Utah? Portends a December without a bowl.
Kansas: This is what you get for firing Mark Mangino. Yeah, his methods may have been old school. But guess what? You’re gonna be in Conference USA next year. Nobody wants a great college basketball program. They want a possibly insane football coach. Lew Perkins, you have made this bed, and now Rock Chalk has to lie in it.
Kansas State: Now sometimes I have this long spiel and sometimes I attempt humor. One team gets nothing. But sometimes? It’s as simple as the fact that the leading rusher returns. For K-State Daniel Thomas returns. And I give him an entry as boring as his name. Not his game.
Missouri: There’s history and tradition in the previous decade of quality play at quarterback at Missouri. From Brad Smith and Chase Daniel, Blaine Gabbert has been handed the reins of an offense on the grow. And when you consider his pedigree, there is no reason not to suspect he can’t have a greater level of success. That’s why Derrick Washington is the reason to love these Tigers.
Nebraska: The team that looks to be destroying their conference will be destroying random offensive lines with the blood lines of Baker Steinkuhler and the best name for an 1890’s society woman to say “Well, I never” to in a Mister Jared Crick. Add in the royalty of Prince Amukamara, and you have the perfect heel team for fans of the Big 12. They’re threatening to take the strap with them on to bigger and better things.
Oklahoma: If you want the team that will likely lose the National Championship game? Go to Norman. They have excellent triplets in Jones-Murray-Broyles, with good depth behind them. Add in some nice pieces on defense in Jeremy Beal and Travis Lewis? You can see this team roll through the regular season. And since it’s a Bob Stoops team? BCS death.
Oklahoma State: Kendall Hunter is what you would consider an unselfish bro. Keith Toston was desperate to develop some sort of professional resume. And Mr. Hunter was all like relax, leave it to me. One ankle injury later and Toston was poston defenders.
…yeah. I’m sorry too. But the fact of the matter is that because Kendall Hunter’s ankle decided to move aside, he gets all the carries that he can handle. Your mileage may vary on if it’s a good thing.
Texas: It takes a special talent to see the field as a freshman at a program such as Texas. But Jackson Jeffcoat has the blood lines of a professional as well as the opportunity to roll up on some suckers right quick. All he has to do is beat out Chike’s cousin Alex Okeafor. It can be done.
Texas A&M: There is nothing as appealing and straight up badass as a dude who racks up sacks. And the Aggies? They’ve got themselves a winner in Von Miller. He racked up 17 sacks with a defensive line where he was in fact the only thing you had to watch out for. I’m not invoking Freeney here, but that’s a job skill that can make you millions.
Texas Tech: Mike Leach probably recruited him for the ironic value of having a Red Baron, but Baron Batch is suddenly the most important man in Lubbock. Tuberville has a bit of the riverboat gambler in him, so he won’t totally get away from what Leach has done, but the Red Baron is going to be eluding defenders as if they were a Sopwith Camel.
Cincinnati: They may not have the cachet of Pike to Gilyard, but when you consider the fact that Robo-QB always needed to return to the shop for repairs. And in stepped Zach Collaros. And it was good. He gets to have two potential greats to throw to in Armon Binns and hotshot transfer Vidal Hazelton. He also has Isaiah Pead running the ball. I see no possible joke by that name.
Connecticut: It’s Tod-Man. Trucking bros up and down the East Coast with his running back skills. Once a member of a tag team with Andre Dixon, Jordan Todman has the entirety of the run of the carries. And if you consider that this is the school of Donald Brown? If I had to make a wager on somebody getting 2000 yards, the smart money would be on Tod-Man.
Louisville: One might think that after the transfer of Matt Simms, a quarterback of majestic blood lines would not reside in Louisville. They would be wrong. For you see, Adam Froman returns. And he returns with the promise of cased meats from Chicago and competent game management. And he will deliver on one of them.
Pittsburgh: The Midnight Express return to rush the passer. Jonathan Baldwin returns to catch a goodly sum for passes. But for my money? Dion Lewis may have had a lot of carries, but he’s not hunting any sort of college football curse of 370. He’s not going to tear his ACL for an encore. He makes the Panthers fun.
Rutgers: The relationship between DC Jefferson and his key supporting character in Revenge of the Nerds Father has become strained during the recruiting process and preseason practices. A year later? DC is hopeful. And he is ready to contribute to the Tom Savage Passing Attack. And he’ll do some things.
South Florida: Lost in the tragic injuries of Matt Groethe’s injury was the emergence of B.J. Daniels as a strong dual-threat candidate. If the ball is in his hands, the defense has got a problem. Especially when you consider that the offensive line has everybody coming back. There’s a definite chance of 2000 yards passing and 1000 yards rushing for Daniels.
Syracuse: I’m going to keep this simple. They have a strong defensive presence in terms of Doug Hogue. He’s the returning leader in sacks, tackles for loss, and pass break ups. And if Delone Carter has can manage to keep cool? They’ll get a running presence back in the fall. (Though like Mike Williams, I wouldn’t hold my breath.)
West Virginia: Noel Devine is the obvious speed burner of the couch burner’s eye. But for me? Jock Sanders is running a close second. Decent skills of a running back. Soft hands like a receiver. Speed of a gazelle. The name of an athlete. His exploits are bound to make Morgantown feel joyous.
Illinois: One word. Twenty-seven syllables. Scheelhaase. The expectations of quarterback play in Champaign have been lowered somewhat considerably with Juice Williams play post Cinderella run. And with Nathan Scheelhasse growing up with a practitioner of the Petrino supersytem? They may not get all the way back, but they may not be in the crater of 2009 again.
Indiana: Darius Willis is a talented running back with a nice combination of speed and power. With a competent offense returning, even after the graduation of Rodger Saffold, his health is the key to bringing Indiana a chance to roll into a bowl game. The non-conference schedule (Towson, at Western Kentucky, Akron, Arkansas State) is the other one.
Iowa: I’m not going to roll up on you with Adrian Clayborn. You don’t need me to tell you that he’s awesome. Ricky Stanzi? You may not think he’s awesome from a cursory look at the stats. But look at the man’s gunslinger Q-rating. It’s astronomical. He plays for America. He plays for the streets. He speaks to the hope Obama once espoused.
Michigan: Not since the days of Tim Biakabutka have the Wolverines had such a slasher cum home run hitter with a fabulous name. Meet Fitzgerald Toussaint. Out for 2009 with a broken collarbone, there is an opening for a runner with real home run power in Rich Rod’s offense. And Youngstown’s finest just might roll out on a sprint through green grass and opportunity.
Michigan State: Greg Jones. He’s a linebacker with boldness and power to his game. With another stank of controversy wafting through the East Lansing football program? He is a steadying force. And we will see him on Sunday next year.
Minnesota: It’s not often where you can lose an Eric Decker and still have a competent receiving corps. But with the athleticism of Troy Stoudermire? There is some promise that if they actually get a quarterback to complete 60% of their passes to Goldy, they will be able to put some points on the board.
Northwestern: I probably shouldn’t be typing this as I am skipping having some semblance of a lunch, but I can’t kelp but think Arby’s when it comes to love and Northwestern. Arby Fields has a certain Tyrell Sutton to his game. Roast beef between the tackles, curly fries on the outside, and hands as soft and cool as a Jamocha shake. I’ll stop now.
Ohio State: Tresselball looks to be as much of a comforting force as a sweatervest on a cool September evening. Terrelle Pryor cannot be keyed on this season. Team Boom-Saine is back and ready to roll. And with the awesome Dane Sanzenbacher ready to catch more passes? You can see this team ready to lose (or win?) another BCS game.
Penn State: We all know that Evan Royster is awesome, and we all know that with a stronger offensive line and an inexperienced quarterback, we’re not going to see this team roll out in a high defenition wild style. Now that being said, I like Silas Redd better than Evan Royster. It’s for obvious reasons.
Purdue: I know it seems as if I’m going to mock someone for not being able to handle Jacory Harris and The U, but Robert Marve has found a tremendous opportunity. Even a down year at Purdue allows a quarterback chances of success in terms of statistics. And spending a winter in West Lafayette after spending a winter in Miami? If Robert Marve does not have a chip on his shoulder he is lazier than I am.
Wisconsin: As a homer? I have to admit the hype of this years team kind of scares me. Not to say that there isn’t a lot to like here. The Badgers look to have a very strong offense with John Clay having a monster season and with Scott Tolzien looking like the best returning passer. But J.J. Watt needs someone else to emerge as sort of awesome as well. It’s the wrong conference to have an inexperienced D-line.
East Carolina: Dwayne Harris has a chance to develop a special relationship with whoever emerges as the quarterback. He returned three kicks for scores last year and caught 83 passes from Patick Pickney. This year he gets some semblance of the air raid offense with Lincoln Riley calling the plays. Considering the situation the team’s in? He could threaten 130 catches.
Houston: Underrated in the Case Keenum throw the ball all over the field train? The Cougars have two tremendous runners. After Bryce Beall got hurt during the season? Charles Sims came out and won Conference USA’s Freshman of the year award with a decent season running the ball and remarkably soft hands. (70 catches). Sims has a touch of Reggie Bush in him. And they’re gonna be really dangerous because of it.
Marshall: The defense has a real thumper in Mario Harvey. 100-plus tackles and 7 sacks to his credit in 2009 and with Kellen Harris and Vinny Curry along the front seven? This front seven has a chance to be best in breed. The offense on the other hand. They got this interesting recruit to throw the ball around? If only I could remember his name? (Willy Korn).
Memphis: If you want a quarterback with a good omen in his name? Cannon Smith has to be the antithesis of Kale Pick. This Miami Transfer is the best case to improve the Tigers 2-10 record last year. But if he doesn’t… you know who his dad is, right? He’s the CEO of Federal Express and the T. Boone Pickens of this shit. So it’s win win, kid. Win. Win.
Rice: For a team that went into November threatening to join Western Kentucky and Eastern Michigan as a reverse unbeaten, the Owls are downright spry. Last years team was unlucky and young. This years team returns 20 starters and adds Sam McGuffie to a strong backfield. All right, I’ll say it. The Owls will make a bowl game.
SMU: I know that pass efficiency is not the most accurate of stats. But if you consider the fact that 200 pass attempts is the qualifying number for efficiency rating? Case Keenum was not the best quarterback in Conference USA. It was the Mustangs Kyle Padron. He may have lost Emmanuel Sanders and Shawnbrey McNeal, but he’s got three years of eligibility left. He’s gonna be on draftboards come 2011.
Southern Miss: One of the few teams I have gone to the repeat well upon on multiple occasions was your Golden Eagles. DeAndre Brown is big, rangy, and has the De prefix on the name that just adds a certain piquant flavor to the on-field skills. But they’ve found a defensive counterpart to it as well! Cordarro Law. He’s big. Pass-rushy. And he has a name of a lost Babylonian Code of Conduct. So yay.
Tulane: The portmanteau that makes twelve year old me chuckle the most resides here. Casey Robottom is the leading returning pass catcher for the Green Wave. Previous generations of families were employed as robot butts to the Steam Punk builders in the last generation. It was hard dangerous work. They’re proud of Casey for getting into such a good school.
Tulsa: An unlucky team with an unorthodox full Malzahn styled offense has a chance to be something very interesting. Left Tackle Tyler Holmes should be healthy. And if he’s healthy? G.J. Kinne has a chance to do a real nice Mitch Mustain impression. And Charles Clay? Charles Clay is a real nice thumper.
UAB: The most surprising fact about the Blazers is that quality safety Hiram Atwater is in no way related to badass Denver Bronco Steve Atwater. Hiram hits hard. He covers the field with a quality amount of athleticism. And he makes a lot of plays. Hiram Atwater Senior may have never played the game. But the Sales Rep has brought a strong player into Birmingham.
UCF: I may not be an active trendhunter, but in doing my research, I’ve found something. We are becoming a college football world where the running backs have names of ladies. Christine Michael was the first. But we’ve found two more. One resides in Central Florida. The name? Brynn Harvey. He’s coming off of a thousand yard season.
UTEP: The cultural irrelevancy of conference USA can be locked down to a late night game in El Paso last September. Donald Buckram went off for 262 yards versus the Houston Cougars and helped UTEP get 58 on the then #12 Cougars. Blame him for the lack of interest in Houston going to the Big 12. Blame him for no run for the BCS for the conference. And blame him for keeping Mike Price from being fired.
Army: They went into the last game of 2009 needing a win to qualify for a bowl game. And all credit goes to Trent Steelman. His talent does not matter. The name implies that he is the sort of gunslinger who is just having fun out there. And he deserves to be treated as such.
Navy: If you could have someone considered to be a service academy NFL Draft prospect? You need to get hyped for Jabaree Tuani. To be a 3-4 defensive end that’s about 4 inches and 30 pounds below your standard issue prospect and find yourself being a real disruptive force is impressive. To do it as a Sophomore is amazing.
Notre Dame: Have you ever been to Braxston Cave? If not you should go. It houses a lot of bats. Blitzing stalactites and stalagmites. But if you go? Be careful. You may roll up and find yourself getting iced.
Akron: They always say that great writers steal, and from Matt Sussman I will bestow my entry for the Zips. Their quarterback is named Pat Nicely, which is the standard for the Minnesota State Patrol. (An aside: I do enjoy players whose name could be considered a sentence. So yeah. Whoo.)
Ball State: Ball State returns every starter on offense from last years team that went the top of the mountain to 2-10. Stan Parrish believes in Kelly Page as much as you could believe in any quarterback with a girls name. And with a veteran offensive line and the return of MiQuale Lewis? They will at the very least put multiple points upon the scoreboard.
Bowling Green: The pic-a-nic baskets around Bowling Green, Ohio will be in danger as we come through this summer. The reason? “Booboo” Gates. He’s a freshman with the wheels that have allowed him to terrorize Jellystone Park for the better part of six decades now. Just so long as his mentor “Worldwide” Yogi Bear doesn’t prove to be a negative influence.
Buffalo: The Bulls have a shark hunting the deep third of the field. He led the team in tackles last year. He may not have the De prefix to his name, but you know what? I think Davonte Shannon is just fine enough to do good work without needing a vowel switch. He’s great at the killshot.
Central Michigan: Killer B’s rule the Chip nation after the graduation of Dan LeFevour and Antonio Brown. The linebacker tag team of Nick Bellore and Matt Berning is a dual threat of 100 tackles and can help to withstand the graduations along the defensive line. Add to that a shout-out to famed over-actor Armand Assante in the misspelled Armond Staten? And you have some quality linebacking.
Eastern Michigan: I know when you have two quarterbacks it seems as if you’re stuck with zero. But when that’s the total amount of wins you had last season, the potential future of the quarterback position is where hope begins. And as I pat myself on the back for that segue? I will tell you that Alex Gillett played well in an untenable situation and Devontae Payne has the build and athleticism that could lead to an interesting impression of Terrelle Pryor somehwere down the line.
Kent State: Cobra-la-la-la-la-la is the battle cry for the Golden Flashes. It’s in response to the excellent linebacking of Middle Linebacker and RichRod runoff Cobrani Mixon. He’s got good physical gifts that he brings to the table, and as this team stands to be pretty good, Cobrani may have power in his future.
Miami (OH): In 2008, it was Buffalo. In 2009, it was Temple. In 2010, the Redhawks are the breakout candidate. They had severe bad luck with injuries and turnovers last year. This year? They have potential professional Zac Dysert being protected by an offensive line that returns every starter. Nine defensive starters return. They won all of a game last year. This year? They could be playing for the conference championship.
Northern Illinois: Following a thread from Central Florida, we’ve got a hotshot JUCO who’s threatening thousand yard rusher Craig Spann. And I will tell you this. Doing a Garrett Wolfe impression makes Jasmin Hopkins feel like a princess. A pretty, pretty princess.
Ohio: It’s going to be another mixed pop culture metaphor, but the Ohio receiving corps, even with the loss of Taylor Price, is going to make fans of the Bobcats fart with an aww yeah. Okay, let’s see if I can’t dig myself out. Price may have been a good home run threat, but Terrance McGee was just as good. Steven Goulet has that essential Goulet. And LaVon Brazill? His return skills make you go aww yeah. Aww yeah.
Temple: If you’re a MAC watcher? You have to be wondering what last years breakout team is going to do for an encore. I’m not going to take liberty of making a projection, but I will say this. Bernard Pierce stays healthy? Chester Stewart will be allowed to molest a defense. And the odds of them getting to ten wins are pretty, pretty good.
Toledo: The Rockets have a shot to get all literary with the return of a Freshman sensation named Eric Page. He led all Freshman in terms of catches and receiving yards. He also does some return work with a decent amount of skills. Austin Dantin has a good target to get the ball to.
Western Michigan: Aaron Winchester is the sort of guy who looks like he could have been better served by being an East Coast Heir going west to find his fortune in Red Dead Redemption. But as such? He’s got the speed and small frame power of a bullet. And he steps into the light as a potential heir to the Bronco’s offense.
Air Force: The reason why Troy Calhoun stayed in Colorado Springs? He’s got a quality running back stable. For somebody who runs out of the flexbone? You’ve got a lot of talent. Asher Clark and Jared Tew are both quality runners. Tew is the thumper. Clark is the converted ex-quarterback. Tew is by the book. Clark is the loose cannon who plays by his own rules. As much as the service academy would allow.
BYU: Like so many second banana’s, it takes adversity for their opportunity to shine. After Harvey Unga left school, there’s an opportunity for carries. The best choice? JJ De Luigi. And if you need me to explain why he is the perfect second banana running back name, I will tell you to kindly go fuck yourself. Kindly.
Colorado State: I was going to talk about Mychal Sisson’s quality defense in terms of launching himself into ballcarriers. But I paged through The Sporting News College Football Preview. It named Pete Kontodiakos the biggest underachiever in the Mountain West. He’s the Rams Punter. Can you see why this is hilarious to me?
New Mexico: Now, I’ve made plenty of mention on how the “Boy named Sue” has made inroads at running back. But did you know that the Lobos have it at linebacker? It’s true! Carmen Messina led college football with 162 tackles as the team was kind of bad. He returns. And the defensive line may allow him more free reign.
San Diego State: The Aztecs get a hope spot. As last year, Ryan Lindley was getting hit and hit hard by defenses last year. And he managed a 55% completion rate and a positive TD-INT ratio. This year? 4 starters on the offensive line and a solid junior college recruit should protect Lindley better. As such, the Atzecs should get better for it.
TCU: Just like you want a quarterback named Cannon, you would want a linebacker named Tank. And in Tank Carder, the Horned Frogs have themselves someone downright beastly in the middle of the field. He’s the returning leader in tackles, tackles for loss, and in an ironic twist of fate? Pass breakups.
UNLV: I’m always convinced that someone who ends their names with two consecutive consonants, unless it’s something acceptable like Bill or Glenn, will go through life with a chip on their shoulder. Starr Fuimaono is the sort of man built to play middle linebacker. And if he stays healthy? His tackles number could get doubled very easily.
Utah: Eddie Wide is the starting running back with an ironic name. Why? Because the an is simply and positively svelte in terms of running back size. Get it? He’s fast and the back-up is wide! The fact you think this joke is unfunny is the reason why the Utes are joining the Pac-10. That and the money. More the money.
Wyoming: The spread offense is something where the quality of the quarterback dictates the quality of play. And for the Cowboys? Austyn Carta-Samuels led Wyoming to a bowl victory last year with little more than pluck and a dude named Alvester playing wingman. This year, Austyn has the opportunity to consolidate his skill set and grow his brand.
Arizona: Considering the tomfoolery coming home to roost of the top two programs? There’s an opening for the Wildcats getting in on the Rose Bowl. They have a spectacular pass rusher in Ricky Elmore, a shut down cornerback in Trevin Wade, and a talented arm in Nick Foles. If Nic Grigsby stays healthy? They’ve got a chance at something special.
Arizona State: Vontaze Burfict is a bad man. If you’re looking for a man who will be voted most likely to knock a sucker the fuck out? Burfict is perfect. There doesn’t seem to be much else here? But Burfict will get Arizona State on SportsCenter at least one Saturday Night.
California: The chain of crazy numbers put up by the Golden Bears running game since Jeff Tedford’s arrival has been underrated. From J.J. Arrington to Marshawn Lynch to Justin Forsett to Jahvid Best? The Bears have always had quality on the ground game. Shane Vereen? He’s going to maintain the lineage.
Oregon: One could politely call the off-season of the Ducks adventurous. Mention Jeremiah Masoli to one Dan Rubenstein and chuckle at his involuntary flinch. But the fact remains (at least as of this writing) they still have LaMichael James. But you have Lache Seastrunk if James can’t cool out. I may just root for Seastrunk on the principle of awesome names alone.
Oregon State: There’s really nothing else beyond the sequel to the Rodgers brothers. These are tiny men who allow the Beavers to matriculate the ball down the field. And they are awesome. They just need a quarterback to manage the game and provide aid and comfort to the Rodgers. Ryan Katz may not be a doctor, but he just might be the proper therapist.
Stanford: You may not realize it when you consider that Stanford spent most of the Aught’s in the wilderness and their one professional draftee turned out to be Trent Edwards, but Stanford’s been a place where good quarterbacks have emerged. Andrew Luck has a chance to rebuild the lineage. With 4 returning starters on the offensive line and a deep and solid receiving corps, Toby Gerhart’s graduation may not hurt the offense nearly as much as one would think.
UCLA: Kevin Prince has an opportunity to sneak into the radar screens of drafters, draftniks, and general fans of college football, Nick Foles style. He has four returning linemen and two pretty good receivers in Nelson Rosario and Taylor Embree. I know it’s not going to inspire much love from this entree, but that’s something I know Rick Neuheisel has to bet on.
USC: Suddenly, Lane Kiffin gets to do an impression of Terry Bowden at Auburn. Because this is still a tremendously talented team with a strong amount of youth energy. Dillon Baxter is someone you need to believe the hype in. But if they don’t go anywhere, will they give a damn in a conference where suddenly anyone believes they can make a dream run? Lane Kiffin may be good at things, but motivation is not be one of them.
Washington: Jake Locker has probably cost himself something around 20 million dollars with his decision to return and attempt to be the minor circuit champion of the Pac-10. Though it would surprise me if he doesn’t improve his numbers. Chris Polk emerged as a quality running back, and the receivers and line are deep and experienced as well. It’s a difficult schedule, but they’ll get a well-deserved bowl game out of it.
Washington State: Here’s the thing? Washington State may not be completely terrible. They have 9 returning starters from an offense that broke badly last year. It should improve. But their defensive line has a real chance to be strong like bull. 4 returning starters and experienced depth behind them. And Paul Wulff loves the linebacking corps. It may not get them to a bowl game, but it may not be an easy W, here.
Alabama: Marcell Dareus may not have been necessary to win the national championship, but he sure did help. If he didn’t seperate the shoulder of a goofy looking motherfucker like Colt McCoy, they wouldn’t have had to force a true freshman to climb out of such an insurmountable hole. Football is a violent game, and Dareus will break some fools again next year.
Arkansas: Arkansas returns ten starters on offense. Not just the chill bro cannon arm of Ryan Mallett. Not just two big power backs in Broderick Green and Ronnie Wingo. Not just all linemen besides the right guard. Not just a deep, talented, and tough receiving corps. (Joe Adams didn’t let a STROKE end his season). Everybody.
Auburn: Cameron Newton once bumped hips with Tim Tebow in celebration of a beat down of some random non-conference strange. He has since found his way through the shadows and into the light of the plains. There’s a real scenario where the Tigers are going to get to the Iron Bowl unbeaten. And it will come from the physical gifts of Cam Effin’ Newton.
Florida: The strength this year? Speed. Pure badass American speed. Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps will start and be home run threats. And Andre Debose may be a better player and athlete. Add Mike Gillislee’s athleticism and Steve Addazio may add a fly sweep to his QB Dive and Y Stick.
Georgia: It’s not an automatic guarantee that a talented 4-3 defensive end is going to rock as a 3-4 OLB. But Georgia has a very interesting talent who’s making the transition. Justin Houston is the SEC’s returning leader in sacks. He comes correct in 2010 and a lot of defensive worries get solved.
Kentucky: I was lucky, I had never made mention of Randall Cobb’s versatile weapon based awesomeness. And he’s a force of nature and he will win at least two games by himself this year. It’s a necessary thing, at least until Mister Cobble and Qua Hizzle are ready for battle.
LSU: The obvious rap song reference to LSU is Aesop Rock’s “None Shall Pass.” The secondary from LSU is deadly. Morris Claiborne’s cat-like agility is strong enough to move Jai Eugene to safety. Brandon Taylor has been great at Strong Safety. And lest we forget Pat Peterson. Nobody’s gonna throw on them.
Mississippi: Mississippi always has a strong defensive line. That’s why the Admiral Akbar as mascot meme has failed. Jerrell Powe and Kentrell Lockett are jocks. Star Wars fans are their natural enemies. One drunken night in Oxford? They walked right in a trap and walked out unscathed.
Mississippi State: Not since A Christmas Story had family dogs upsetting Darren McGavin’s shit have we seen a Bumphis finding a way to wreak havoc. Chad Bumphis has the skills to get open and the athleticism to take balls to the house. A quarterback gets the ball to him, and it’s not a question of maybe. He will be awesome.
South Carolina: He may be the #2 receiver in terms of looks and perception, but you know what? Tori Gurley’s name is infinitely better at being mocked than an Alshon Jeffrey. You know I wouldn’t have the guts to do it to his face, but he’s a big wideout with a lady name. It’s all upside in Gamecock nation.
Tennessee: They may not be in a position to start fast, but this is a team that has some real interesting skill position talent. Gerald Jones is the leader of a veteran receiving corp that helped rehabilitate Jonathan Crompton from catfish to a draftable quarterback. He has another challenge to lead this year. Add in Tauren Poole stepping into the Volunteer running back factory? And this team could finish fast.
Vanderbilt: If you’ve come this far, you know that I am a fan of bloodlines. You also know that I am a shameless (if not pensive) homer. So when I heard that Vanderbilt, whose quarterbackery last year was…sketchy, shall we say, went the JC route to get a prospect named Jordan Rodgers. AND HE’S RELATED TO AARON RODGERS. Vanderbilt has somebody to love. Done.
Arkansas State: With the recruiting of Dwayne Frampton, the Red Wolves look to come alive offensively. You have a veteran offensive line and an interesting battle at quarterback between Ryan Aplin and Phillip Butterfield. Whoever wins has a team on the verge of being very interesting.
An aside? How dare Phillip Butterfield accept a number other than 8?
Florida Atlantic: If you’re looking for a strong safety, you don’t normally look toward a man listed at 5’9″ and 161 pounds. But then again? Marcus Bartels is not most men. With a gashed defensive line? Bartels was the last line of defense. And he navigated with style and aplomb.
FIU: He may not be listed as the #1 on the depth chart at present, but you have to respect Toronto Smith. One, it allows Bill Simmons to make a reference to Teen Wolf, and you know that’s never happened before. Two, he’s the returning leader in sacks and tackles for loss. And three? His parents named him after a Canadian city. That’s awesome.
LA Lafayette: It may sound crazy, but in the world where the move tight end that spreads the field is in vogue in the NFL? The Ragin’ Cajuns may have a legitimate NFL Prospect. He’s LaDarius Green, and it may just be from one play, but the dude caught a 91 yard TD pass. If he has a good year, do not be surprised to see him drafted in Round 3.
LA Monroe: An inexperienced line may tamper expectations, but the Warhawks have one of the best in the Sun Belt with Frank Goodin. He runs hard and he runs angry. He just needs a little Junior College magic to get back to previous levels.
Middle Tennessee: I try to avoid sequels. So I will only mention Dwight Dasher in passing. He operated at peak efficiency because he had lighting named DD Kyles at tailback. He gets the thunder of Phillip Tanner coming back as well. Favorites of the Sun Belt? Absolutely.
North Texas: Names with lyricism are awesome. Names that you could break out a bad NBA Public Address announcer? Just beautiful. The Mean Green’s best pass rusher fits both of these qualifications. David Akpunku. Try it. Ak-Puuuuuuuuuuuuunk-u! Awesome.
Troy: Now, the urge to make a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang joke in celebration of hotshot recruit B.J. Chitty is strong. But I will fight it. And I will fight making a Sidney Moncrief reference in relation to Brett Moncrief. Why? The double Double J’s. Josh Jarboe is the man good enough to get a scholarship to Oklahoma. Jerrel Jernigan is the reliable target with angry skills in terms of kick returns.
Western Kentucky: It may not be an easy road for the Red Drank to crawl out of last seasons wreckage. But the cupboard is not completely bare. If you consider how consistently the defensive line was gashed last year? Thomas Majors managed 101 tackles. He now has a tag team’s worth of beef protecting him. It’s a long road back, but they’ll take the next step.
Boise State: Point of fact? The lovely and talented writer of whose that you see in front of you hates memes. They’re hacky and no good joke usually comes out of them. This means I kind of have to root against Boise State early on. Talk of Boise as BCS Champion sounds as painful to me as the spiciest piece of Flying Pie pizza. (But if they get there? I won’t be rooting for an upset.)
Fresno State: Robbie Rouse may not be a trendsetter because his is the name of a dude. But he is adorably Quinton Griffin sized. And with the graduation of Ryan Matthews and Lonyae Miller? He has the entire field to himself for run game purposes. And the line that got Matthews to the 1st Round in the NFL draft? Returns everybody.
Hawaii: The Rainbow Warriors have three quality pieces at wideout. And none of them are adorably gritty like Davone Bess either. Darius Bright is the hotshot recruit with very intriguing triangle numbers. (6’5″ 225 4.47) Mark Salas is the 6’2″ guy who came up from being a walk-on to grabbing 106 balls last year. And Kealoha Pilares is a pass catcher who can turn into a running back when he gets the ball in space. Never mind week one. This team can be good.
Idaho: The one bit of good news that came out of last season was that a nation of college football fans discovered that Idaho head coach Robb Akey was actually pretty awesome. Sweet shades, a cool mustache, and the voice of a jazzman. This team may be underestimated again, but the fact that they recruited Pat Forde’s superhero alter-ego Maxx Forde proves that they are not to be forgotten. (A beefy O-line in a mid-major also helps too.)
Louisiana Tech: Ross Jenkins is what someone would consider to be the luckiest boy in America. He was an efficient and generally solid thrower under the Derek Dooley regime. He gets to be the wheelman for the air raid offense. Or it could be Auburn transfer and spring practice ace Steven Emsinger. Either way? They have a potentially special receiver in Phillip Livas.
Nevada: In the insane offensive numbers that the Wolfpack can pull up on the ground? They had a three headed monster of thousand yard rushers. With the graduation of Luke Lippincott? Vai Taua suddenly has a chance to take a chokehold on the time share. 1,500 yards rushing may only be his floor. Also? Vai is a girls name. So you have to love that.
New Mexico State: Not for nothing, but there is something to build on here. Seth Smith is a nondescript name for a thousand yard rusher. And when you consider how successful the passing game was (6 TD/17 INT), Smith had a tremendous season. And the Aggies can roll out a quality pass rush as well with Pierre Fils and Donte Savage. They’re kind of like Hawaii. They won’t be dominant, but they should be quite improved.
San Jose State: In history, Pompey was named an emperor in the Roman triumvirate because he was an easy mark. Now while I am clearly mixing my metaphors by invoking Rome with Spartan matters, Pompey Festejo is not a man to be trifled with. He is a bad, bad man.
Utah State: Robert Turbin was a sophomore who one could deem unjinxed. At least until the kid tore his ACL in February. So, the Aggies turn their lonely eyes once again to Diandre Borel. He had a nice year last year. If the line makes something out of the fact that they’re experienced? He will be great again.
So there you go. 120 teams. All up in here. College football is coming. And it’s gonna be fun.