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2010 Team Previews
August 30 - Ohio State – We saw the Buckeyes shut down Illinois at home last season, 30-0, and then dominate Penn State at Beaver Stadium, 24-7, before finally winning a BCS game against Oregon. Jim Tressel’s squad returns a lot of key players with experience, but there’s always that one lapse that keeps them from a national championship since their 2002 Rose Bowl win over Miami. Whether it’s that upset to Purdue like last year or a dress down in the BCS by Florida or LSU, something always gets in their way. When it happens, it’s a total disaster for Buckeye nation. And despite the return of so many gifted players, their success this year, meaning a victory in Glendale, Arizona, still rests on the arm and legs of Junior QB Terrelle Pryor. Pryor led the Buckeyes in rushing with 779 yards and threw for 2,094 last year. Many claim he turned the corner as a QB last season in the 26-17 Rose Bowl win over Oregon. But one game in our eyes does not a career make, nor a turnaround. Ohio State returns TBs Brandon Saine (739 yards) and Dan Herron (600 yards and 7 TDs) who should both get more carries this season to allow Pryor to focus more on improving his passing game. Last season he finished with a paltry 56% completion percentage surrounded by talented receivers. De Vier Posey returns with his 60 receptions and Dan Schanzenbacher with his 36 to give him a dynamic pass-catching duo at the wide-out positions. TE Jake Stoneburner provides a great target to get things done when needed. Will Terrelle get the ball to him when he's open? The offensive line returns four of five starters. What’s not to like about this offense? On the defensive side, DE Cameron Heyward is a force to be reckoned with. DT Dexter Larimore is active on the inside. Senior LBs Ross Homan and Brian Rolle led the Bucks in stops last year with 108 and 95 respectively. Homan came up with 5 INTs. CBs Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence return to provide great pass coverage on the outside. Jermaine Hines is expected to play safety after starting several games there and at LB last year. Tressel’s program attempts to reload to run the Big Ten table this season to get to and to win the National Championship. However, they haven’t lived up to those expectations since 2002 despite the wealth of talent passing through Columbus. We will see the Buckeyes in their traditional Big Ten finale which could become the finale of finales of that great rivalry if the conference decides to place the two schools in different divisions when Nebraska joins next year. We don’t expect the Wolverines to be the major stumbling block to get to Glendale, but like last year, we just expect the Bucks to surprisingly falter in one of their games during the season. And how it comes down will happen on a day when Terrelle Pryor cannot live up to expectations. We don’t think it will be similar to a 5-7 finisher like Purdue, but Wisconsin or Iowa could lead to their downfall on the road. The Miami Hurricanes will have chips on its shoulders when the play in Columbus this year. We just don’t expect to see the Bucks get to where they are supposed to be according to many pre-season pollsters this year. They are solid no doubt, but there’ always that little lapse somewhere along the line that could cost them their season. We just can’t tell exactly when that time will come. At Minnesota? Tough to fathom. Possibly against a late-finishing Penn State? Depends on PSU’s QB and LB development. We feel that there’s an accident waiting to happen that will have the Bucks playing for seconds back at the Rose Bowl. We will look forward to seeing them at the Rich-Rod farewell game at Ohio Stadium on November 27. We just don’t expect them to have an unblemished record though when they play the hated Maize and Blue.
August 29 - Michigan – The Maize and Blue have no doubt fallen on bad times in Ann Arbor. We got to see them lose to Penn State during our first trip to Michigan Stadium, 35-10, on their way to a 5-7 season in 2010. Two years under Rich Rodriguez and no bowl games. The NCAA is investigating illegal practice habits used by his teams both here and at West Virginia previously. Will he be back in 2011? He probably has to win big this year and that does not look like it’s going to happen. When we get to finally attend the Ohio State-Michigan game in person this year, we could be there for the final stop of the Rich Rodriguez Farewell Tour. Tate Forcier returns as the experienced QB, but back-up Denard Robinson is challenging his status. We weren’t impressed when he came in last year versus PSU. Supposedly Freshman Devin Gardner is just what Rich-Rod’s offense ordered. We’ll see who is left standing when we get to Ohio Stadium. Reviews are mixed in pre-season pubs about all the U of M units. Either they lack experience at other key positions, or some reviews nicely say they played as underachievers. Michael Shaw is their best returning RB who will be challenged by others with less game experience, and some good blocking backs exist. WRs Roy Roundtree and Martavious Odoms return as primary receivers to build with. G Stephen Schilling and C David Molk are stalwarts on the offensive front. Talent and inexperience are question marks for other positions alongside them. Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson took a lot of criticism last year for not playing defense aggressively. He’s changed to 3-3-5 alignment. He has lost his top three players from last season. Soph Craig Roh is supposedly the best returning at LB, and fifth year starters Jonas Mouton and Obi Ezeh struggled last year according to reports. We certainly saw the defense offer little resistance against Penn State when we were there. CB Troy Woolfolk returns with the most experience in the secondary, but the rest of the backs have little experience. Things don’t look good for Michigan this year. A few die-hard Wolverine fans I’ve spoken to this year are very pessimistic (except for one). So pessimistic that they are already giving up on attending the annual clash with Ohio State on November 27. That’s how we’re getting seats this year. Hopefully the Wolverines will play with some sense of pride that day no matter what the circumstances. A loss at home in their opener to a good UConn team will be an indicator that this program won’t win more than they did last year.
August 26 - Ohio U. – We added OU as our 100th team on our way to THE GOAL in 2006 when we saw the Bobcats amble into the University of Buffalo Stadium with Frank Solich one year removed as HC at Nebraska. He’s won two MAC East titles since his move to Athens, his second last year. The pundits look for a possible repeat, but we look at the holes to fill and it’s got to be because of Solich’s ability to recruit better at Ohio since taking over, or the consistent, overall weakness of the Mid-American Conference programs. Whatever the case, if Ohio will challenge for the East Division championship of the MAC, we’ll see them face their toughest challenge to win it – Temple. Ohio beat the Owls last year, 35-17, but it was a different cast of characters that won that game at home in Athens. Solich’s squad needs to replace its starting QB, RB, and leading receiver entering this season. Optimism reins at QB since Boo Jackson returns as a redshirt senior after suffering a torn labrum and missing last season. He couldn’t practice last spring, so he still has to get into game shape. WR Lavon Brazill had seven TD catches last year among 53 receptions and 702 yards. Terrence McRae had nine TD catches. Will Jackson be able to get the ball to them? The running game finished 102nd in the nation last year averaging 112 yards per game. Five of seven starters up front return, but improvements are going to be needed to get this unit an effective running game. All MAC PK Matt Weller returns, and Brazill added excitement and points returning three punt returns for touchdowns last season. The defense returns eight from a unit that led the nation to tie Texas with 37 turnovers. MLB Noah Keller led the team with 155 tackles. FS Gerald Moor returns and Omar Leftwich is a junior college CB who impressed his coaches during the spring. A game at Ohio State on Sept 18 is their only obstacle to a possible undefeated season. Eastern rivals Kent, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Miami, and Akron should not pose much of a threat to knock them out of a potential title run until they show up in Philly. Boo Jackson, an offensive line that can run block, and one unknown RB need to step-up to get more points on the board to get Solich his third championship in Athens. We’ll be there on Tuesday, November 16 to see if they’ve come around when they visit Temple at Lincoln Financial Field. (Check for Michigan and Ohio State reviews On August 29th and 30th).
August 25 - Florida – Damn! We missed the Tim Tebow era. We would have enjoyed seeing him play one game as a Gator, but it just never worked out. Besides Tebow, Florida lost other key starters and leadership from last season’s 13-1 team. Despite that and almost losing HC Urban Meyer for medical reasons, the Gators are picked No. 4 in the AP pre-season poll. Only losing to Alabama in the SEC title game last year, this season’s predicted “drop-off” is not as significant compared to what happens to other programs. We have not seen a Gator team perform since the 1997 Sugar Bowl win over FSU for the national championship under Spurrier with Danny Wuerffel calling signals from the shotgun. Now we get to see how the Gators will fare in the post-Tebow era with John Brantley, a typical drop-back passer at QB. It will be an adjustment for the Gators as Tebow rushed 217 times for over 900 yards. Brantley demonstrated his passing capabilities last season achieving 410 passing yards and seven TD passes as a back-up, but things can be different as a starter. Of course, Urban Meyer finds ways to win despite starting over with new players. Deonte Thompson will be a primary receiver with 24 catches for four TDs and 343 yards a year ago. Carl Moore impressed in the spring game after returning from injury and RB Chris Rainey is moving to slotback to give the team more speed. RB Jeff Demps returns with over 1300 rushing yards behind a veteran offensive line. PK Caleb Sturgis was shaky at times on FGs converting 23 of 30. Of note on defense, U of F lost defensive coordinator Charlie Strong who became the new HC at Louisville. Some primary starters graduated from the D as well. DE Justin Trattou returns to the Florida trenches along with DTs Teron Sanders and Lawrence Marsh. Most of the line-backing corps will be replaced. Brandon Hicks returns as one of the LBs whose versatility allows him to play outside or in the middle. The speed in the defensive backfield will be awesome with CB Janoris Jenkins, SS Ahmad Black, and Will “Thrill” Hill at FS. Rainey, Demps, and Jenkins all perform as returners to make the Gators’ special teams a constant scoring threat. Before we get to see the Gators play in The Swamp for the first time, they’re going to be tested at Tennessee, at Alabama, and at home by LSU, so we’ll have a good idea if they will be worthy of the lofty predictions for a team in a re-load mode. We look forward to seeing a game in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, but a win over their Old Ball coach at South Carolina will make it sweeter for them and for us.
August 24 - South Carolina – We opened our FBS season last year when we watched South Carolina down NC State in Raleigh, 7-3. We always note that the first time we saw Steve Spurrier coach in his inaugural season back in 1987, we saw his Duke team shut out by Rutgers, 7-0. If not for seeing his Gators rout Florida Sate in the 1997 Sugar bowl for the National Championship, 52-20, we saw the Old Ball Coach’s non-Gator teams total seven points in two games. Maybe we can help give the Gators a shot at shutting down their old coach when we see them play South Carolina this November. The Gamecocks gave the Gators somewhat of a scare a year ago as U of F posted a 24-14 win. The OBC has not found the success at USC that he enjoyed at U of F. In five seasons in Columbia, the best he could so far was to reach the 8-win plateau in 2006. To improve upon that win total this year, his team will have to cut down on the 34 sacks of QB Stephen Garcia and improve a last-place SEC rushing game that averaged 125 yards per game in 2009. Garcia finished last season with 2,733 passing yards, but his completion percentage lagged at 55%. We saw him complete 13 passes last season for 87 yards versus NC State. The sack total is somewhat attributed to his lack of reading defenses quickly. Spurrier worked on that during spring camp and hopes to get results or find another QB. Once the running game stalls, and it did much last season, Spurrier turns on the all-pass mode. Alshon Jeffrey returns with 46 grabs after starting in the team’s sixth game a year ago, and Tori Gurley moves to the slot position. Jason Barnes lines up as the other wide-out. TE Wesley Saunders is another big receiver as all four mentioned go 6-4” and taller. Kenny Miles returns as the leading TB, but many anticipate the arrival of Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina’s Mr. Football in 2009, to possibly step in to give USC a more potent running attack. The OL will be big up front, but the question is how effective are they at run-blocking? LB Rodney Paulk returns from an injury to help the defense up front. DE Cliff Mathews leads the Cocks pass rush. CB Stephon Gilmore, a sophomore, gives up nothing one-on-one. With 56 tackles and an INT a season ago, many are already touting him to play at the next level. He also returns punts. Spencer Lanning returns as both PK and punter hitting on 17 of 20 FGs last year and averaging 42 yards per punt. We look forward to seeing the Old Ball Coach returning to the haunts of his primary college success. Like the Gator fans there, we’ll be there to see him get beat. If his running game doesn’t get going and the Gators focus on applying the pressure to Garcia once the running game shuts down, we’re hoping we can say we were some of the few who saw the OBC get shut out twice among the three times he got white-washed during in his career. I doubt anyone else at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium sat among about three thousand on rainy Saturday night at Giants Stadium in 1987. Can you tell we’re not a fan of Steve Spurrier’s? Go Gators!
August 23 - Pittsburgh – Last season, Pitt showed up at Rutgers to return home with a 24-17 win. Freshman RB Dion Lewis outrushed the entire RU offense 180-38 including a 58-yard run for one of his two scores. He should wreak even more havoc on the Big East in his second season. Some offensive line help is needed, but Dave Wannstedt’s team is not as bad off as some would make you think. Last year’s team finished 10-3, 5-2 losing its two Big East games by a combined four points. Lewis rushed for 1,799 yard s and 17 TDs last season while 6-5” WR Jonathan Baldwin hauled in 57 passes for 1,111 yards and eight TDs. They lost starting QB Bill Stull, but the two new options should be pretty good. The first is heralded RS Freshman Tino Sunseri. We know he comes from great bloodlines as we saw his father Sal play LB for the Panthers back in 1980-81. He still coaches today as he is Assistant Head Coach/LB Coach at pre-season No. 1 Alabama. Pitt’s second option is Pat Bostick who also red-shirted a season ago. He actually started nine games his Frosh year for Pitt including the 2007 game we saw them lose to Navy in two OTs, 48-45, so at least the Panthers have experience returning. You can’t say the same for the front line with only two starters at returning at the tackles, Jason Pinkton and Lucas Nix. Others, however, return with special team and bowl experience. Pitt led the nation with 47 sacks on defense. Their two DEs return as co-Big East Defensive Players of the Year - Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard had 11.5 TFLs and 8 sacks and 10.5 TFLS and 5 sacks respectively. Linebacking will be a strength once again. Pitt MLBs have been named to the All Big East team for five consecutive seasons. Sophomore Dan Mason contends to be the next. Outside LBs Greg Williams and Max Gruder, who led the squad with 91 tackles a year ago, return. Big Safety Dom DeCicco made 88 hits from his position. Jarred Holley or Andre Taglianeti will complement him at FS while several compete to replace people at the corners. If either QB plays lives up to expectations, and the line opens some holes for Lewis, Pitt should contend for the Big East BCS bid. We’ll see them face a tough UConn squad in November, and we’ll possibly go to see them in Heinz Stadium for the Backyard Brawl if we can work out our logistics that weekend. Several pre-season polls have them picked in their pre-season Top 20. The AP selects them as No. 15, highest among Big East teams. The Sporting News predicts we’ll see them face Texas in the Fiesta Bowl, but we think if they win the Big East, they’ll send them to sunny Miami in the Orange Bowl.
August 22 - Northwestern – When Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1994 and we divvied up the tickets each year, I always offset the best games I went to see (Ohio State, for instance) with tickets for the games nobody wanted to see. In most of those early Big Ten years, I took the Northwestern game for that reason. Now you look at the Penn State home schedule, and the Wildcats are probably the best home game on the PSU schedule. Part of it is because Joe brings in some non-conference rinky-dinks too often and because the quality of the Big Ten teams changes in cycles. In the case of Northwestern though, they’ve truly gotten better under HC Pat Fitzgerald. They are on the topside of their cycle. The Wildcat alum helped turn things around at LB for the program when we saw him play against Penn State back in the mid-90s on their way to a Rose Bowl for the first time in 40 years. Last time we saw this squad from Evanston, IL play PSU in 2006, that same Pat Fitzgerald arrived as their new HC, youngest in college football facing the oldest in Joe Paterno. Fitzgerald was chosen to lead this program after the untimely death of its upstart coach, Randy Walker. Things are improving under this guy at what was the perennial conference doormat for decades. Heading into his fifth season, his teams have a record of 27-23 with two bowl appearances including last season’s 38-35 OT loss to Auburn in the Outback. The Wildcats look to win their first bowl game in 49 years. This could be the year. At QB, Fitzgerald replaces graduated Mike Kafka with Dan Persa who has very similar traits but much less experience. He was thrown into the fire last season in a win over Iowa and a loss to Penn State (34-13) when the starter went out with injuries. He completed 20 passes and ran for 167 yards. WR Sidney Stewart returns as a top receiver with 42 catches while TE Drake Dunsmore totaled 47 with three for TDS. Persa has five retuning O-line starters to work behind including third-year starter Al Netter. RB is talented, deep, and inexperienced – the biggest question mark for this year’s Cats. Someone has to break loose to get beyond the 117.5 rushing yards per game achieved a year ago. Scott Concannon is the most experienced. Arby Fields is quick but small ((5-9, 200lbs), Alex Daniel should be better returning from an ankle injury, but Adonis Smith could turn out to be an impact player his freshman year. Stefan Demos returns to adequately handle kicking chores, but they need someone to step in to help with the punting. On defense, line-backing will be the strength. OLB Quentin Davie returns as the team’s leading tackler. MLB Nate Williams and Ben Johnson round out a solid starting corps. They allowed Fitzgerald to move David Arnold from LB to Safety to shore up the secondary. CB Jordan Mabin and S Brian Peters return there but NU needs to see some improvement back there from last year. They look for Corbin Bryant to stuff the run at DT and for DE Vince Brown to improve his sack total of five. The Cats are reloading despite losing some key starters. They have enough good experienced players returning to fill some gaps to take a shot at staying in the middle of the Big Ten. A few wins there and four easy games (this is Northwestern however) against Vanderbilt, Illinois State, Rice and Central Michigan should have them bowling somewhere. We expect PSU to win when we see NU visit State College, but we look for more of a challenge from them than anyone else on the Lions’ Beaver stadium schedule. That’s not saying much for the Lions’ schedule, but this also isn’t your father’s (or grandfather’s) Northwestern.
August 21 - Connecticut – This could be our surprise team of the year, and if they are, we hope that we’ll get to see them play in two of their biggest home conference games of the season. We’ll see them play Big East favorites West Virginia on Friday, Oct. 29, and Pitt two weeks later on a Thursday night. Last time we saw the Huskies play, they hosted the Panthers in 2008. UConn’s Donald Brown ran for 189 yards, but they fell, 34-10, as their quarterbacks could not muster any passing attack. This year’s problem could be similar. The offense returns eight key players, especially TB Jordan Todman who led the team last year with 1,188 rushing yards and 14 TDs. Two QBs return, but neither shined last season until Zach Frazer tossed eight TDs during the team’s last five games. They won their last four including their bowl win over South Carolina. Original starter Cody Enders also returns after suffering a knee injury to end his season in the sixth game. Four offensive Lineman return including All Big East RG Zach Hurd, listed at 6-7, 323 lbs. Two starting wide-outs don’t return, but experienced WRs Isaiah Moore and Kashif Moore both return with 24 and 22 receptions respectively. TE Ryan Griffin also returns with his 23 grabs for 227 yards. On defense, HC Randy Edsall (11th season), switches several players around to put together his best eleven on the field. Eight starters return, but several have been shifted around. LB Greg Lloyd moves from LB to DE to join three other returning starters up front. Strongside LB Scott Lutrus, All Big East in 2008, moves to MLB. Lawrence Wilson, All Conference from a year ago, returns to weakside LB where he led the Big East with 140 tackles including 11 for losses. The unfortunate and hideous stabbing death of DB Jaspar Howard forced some freshman into starting roles last season. Experience returns to the secondary, but there will have to be some improvements. The Huskies 8-5 record a year ago consisted of all five losses by four points or less. If the quarterbacking and secondary improve, UConn could be a team to be reckoned with in the Big East. We’ll get to see two of their biggest conference games at home against top competition where they will also host Cincinnati in late November. If any team among those we’ll see are not in anyone’s preseason Top 25, this is the one we believe will be there in the end.
August 20 - West Virginia – We saw the Mountaineers surge past Auburn two years ago at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium, 34-17. In that game, we watched quick-footed Noel Devine display his running prowess gaining 207 yards and scoring a touchdown on 17 carries. We expect to see the prolific SR runner put on a similar show at UConn’s Rentschler Field on the last Friday night of this October. His quick darts and jukes make him fun to watch! Against Auburn, Devine got the offense moving despite a slow start by heralded, WVU QB Pat White whose two early INTs put WVU into a 10-0 deficit. Devine won’t be carrying the load himself versus UConn, but he and eight other returning Mountaineer offensive starters will be the supporting cast for a new QB, either Geno Smith or Coley White, Pat’s younger brother. Either one will have terrific go-to receiver in Jock Sanders who caught 72 balls last year for 688 yards and three TDs. WR Brad Starks averaged 14 yards on his 29 receptions. Devine not only has FB Ryan Clark, also listed as second team DE, blocking for him, but the sophomore put up eight TDs among his 250 yards in tough yardage situations. Four of five starters return to block up front for the O. Smith or White should have learned a lot with this much experience around them by the time we see them play with seven games under their belts. Bill Stewart’s third version of Mountaineers will be even more formidable on the defensive side with nine starters retuning as well. DE Julian Miller recorded 14 TFLs and nine sacks a year ago. All Big East LB JT Thomas put up 76 hits last season while SLB Pat Lazear put up 78. All conference CB Brandon Hogan broke up 11 passes while All Big East FS Robert Sands came up with five picks to tie him for best in conference. PK Tyler Bitancurt converted 13 of 15 FGs as a freshman, but Stewart will be looking for a new punter. Devine and Sanders offer a lethal kick return game. The Mountaineers will be an exciting team to watch. UConn will offer a formidable challenge. If the Mountaineers match up for a decisive Big East game at Pitt on November 26, we may look into stopping at Heinz Field to witness the traditional “Backyard Brawl” for the first time on our way to Columbus, Ohio before the other traditional rivalry played there the following day. The Brawl could mean Big East, BCS, and possibly something more. However, they may be answering some questions for the NCAA regarding practice habits relative to the Rich Rodriguez era that may have carried over into the Bill Stewart era. For the sake of seeing some exciting Mountaineer football that could have BCS implications, we hope that is not the case.
August 19 - Notre Dame – It’s been seven years since we last saw the Irish play, so we missed the Charlie Weis era. That’s alright. We heard enough about him after he coached at my alma mater, Boonton (NJ) HS, thirty years ago. We watched the Irish open the 2002 season to start the Tyrone Willingham era, and we will get to see Brian Kelly coach in his inaugural season with the Irish. We think Kelly will have much better success than his predecessors, and despite his team’s overall loss of key experience, don’t put it past his coach to pull off a couple of big wins to get this program turned around quickly and to put together a winning record. What did Cincinnati ever do before he showed up? What kind of talent laid in wait for him before he took over the Bearcats? He won national championships at D-II Grand Valley State and turned things around at struggling Central Michigan, and as a matter of fact, those programs continue to win after he’s long-gone. This guy knows how to coach college football. He comes to South Bend with a 171-57-2 career record. QB Dayne Crist is his most experienced QB – 10 of 20, 130 yards, and one TD pass. Ever hear of Zach Collaros? He had no experience as a true freshman a year ago at Cincinnati before stepping in for injured Tony Pike to win four games. WR Mike Floyd should improve on last season’s number of 44 catches for 795 yards and nine TDs under Kelly’s spread offense. TE Kyle Rudolph will be needed with his 33 catches, 364 yards and three TDs. RBs Armando Allen and Robert Hughes return with 697 yards/3 TDs and 416 yards/5 TDs respectively. Look for some unknowns to step up. The Irish always find talent. They just need the right coach to develop what they've got. Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco is putting in a new 3-4 scheme to replace the 4-3 with lot of experience which could be good for the Fighting Irish. Last season, the D set a new school record allowing 397.8 yards per game, worst in school history and 86th in the nation. DEs Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore return to apply pressure from the outside while NT Ian Williams plugs up the middle. LB Mauti Te’o is being called on to step up big after coming up with 63 stops last season. OLB Brian Smith returns and there will be a lot of competition among others for more playing time. Under Kelly, the Irish will show improvement as he’s already insisted they focus on playing for Notre Dame. During the past five years, many Irishman were only eye-balling the next level. They’ll be better, but we think Navy will be the favorite when they clash in the Meadowlands on Oct. 23. We look for Kelly to re-develop the “fight” in Fighting Irish. This season will get them headed in the right direction.
August 13 - Kean University – In last season’s regular season finale, Kean played for the New Jersey Athletic Conference title and a bid to the D-III play-offs. The Cougars fell short though to rival Montclair State in a hard-fought battle, 14-6. There has not been great success in 40 years of football at Kean, but for the last four under Head Coach Dan Garrett, a Montclair graduate who played there for current HC Rick Giancola, KU sports a 28-15 overall record. After the MSU loss last season, Garrett’s team went on to win the ECAC Southeast Bowl over Ursinus, 35-14, to finish 9-2 to tie the best mark ever in school history. Despite building the program over the last four years, Garrett again will have his work cut out for him in 2010 as he loses key seniors at most skill positions. He’ll build around his experienced QB Tom D’Ambrisi who returns with 17 TD passes and 1,768 yards. Only WR Matt Pouro returns to the receiving corps with any significant numbers – 23 receptions for 279 yards and four TDS. Even on the defensive side, many have graduated. DBs Jamahl Williams and Mike Mancini return as two of the squad’s top tacklers from 2009. We get to see the Cougars and Montclair Red Hawks go at it again on Friday night, Oct. 1, not only in a key re-match from a year ago, but for a game we attended between the two schools back in 1986. Kean, then known as the Squires, dropped another close battle against Montclair, then known as the Indians, in a 31-26 loss. Montclair’s QB at the time was “Shotgun” Johnny Briggs, known as “Shotgun” from his part playing the role of the QB in the Tom Cruise movie, “All the Right Moves.” The Indians went on that year to finish No. 8 in D-III. The Squires finished 3-7. We’ll see if Coach Garrett can keep his program competitive this year against a consistently good NJAC program despite his heavy losses to graduation.
Aug. 12 - Princeton – The Tigers finished 4-6, 3-4 in their tenth season under Head Coach Roger Hughes last year, and the Tiger admin felt it was time for a change. They reached back to 1989 and hired former Princeton Center Bob Surace who not only helped the Tigers to a share of the Ivy League Championship that year, but followed up with a successful stint as a college head coach at Western Connecticut (18-3 in 2000 and 2001) followed by nine years as the offensive line coach for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals. We enjoyed the Tigers’ 2006 season under Hughes when we watched four exciting games on the way to another share of the Ivy League title, but watched the Tigers lose to Colgate 21-14 last season in two OTs. QB Tommy Wornham returns as last season’s offensive leader. He led the team in rushing with 454 yards and 3 TDs. Through the air, he accumulated 1,624 yards and seven TDS. However, he has to improve the TD to INT ratio as he tossed eight picks a year ago. Wornham had a stronger second half last season as he completed 60% of his passes and averaged 181 yards per game when Princeton triumphed in three of their last four games. The Tigers will look for more yards out of FB Matt Zimmerman. Trey Peacock will continue to be Wornham’s main target as they hooked up for 527 yard sand three TDs in 2010. The defense looks strong anchored by three starters on the line, two-time All Ivy LB Steven Cody(104 tackles, 10 TFLs, 3.5 sacks and 2 INTs), and DB Matt Wakulchik returning. We hope Surace can breathe some life back into the Tigers. We may see the Tigers against Lehigh, Lafayette, and/or Pennsylvania depending on some pending changes to our early season plans. It’s fun to watch competitive Ivy League football at $7/ticket in a great seat at Princeton Stadium.
Aug. 11 - Rutgers - RU showed up twice on our slate last year losing to Pitt, 24-17, and then shutting out South Florida, 31-0, on their way to a 9-4, 3-4 season. Unlike UNC, they won’t answer many questions about how good they are as they open against Norfolk State and at Florida International before we see them face UNC. The hype at Rutgers is that Sophomore QB Tom Savage went from the least experienced QB in The Big East to the most experienced in one season. His 2,211 passing yards and 14 TDs earned him Freshman All-American Honors although five wins came against very sub-par competition. And as we saw it, USF didn’t show up to play at all in the RU whitewash. WR Mohamed Sanu returns in his sophomore season with 51 catches for 639 yards. RB Joe Martinek churned out the tough yards with 967 last year. HC Greg Schiano looks for some younger RBS to add some bursts of speed to his O. The openings may not come easy though as the Scarlet Knights have to replace three offensive starters on the line. The Scarlet Knights are very optimistic on defense as they led several categories nationally last year in fumble recoveries and tackles for losses while finishing fourth in sacks. They led the Big East in total defense and scoring defense, but when an FBS schedule includes the likes of Howard, FIU, Texas Southern, Army, and Louisville, there’s no excuse not to lead in some defensive categories along the way. DE Alex Silvestro had 12 of those TFLs, LB Antonio Lowery is the top returning tackler with 55, and S Joe Legefed hits hard, but sometimes his pass coverage can be suspect. When the Knights take on the Heels, and if the Heels come in with their defense intact, the final outcome will be a good indicator of how far this program has really come since the last time these two teams met. The difference may be found in the trenches up front. If the Knights don’t rise to this occasion, their fans may be disappointed in a bowl bid that falls well short of their desires for a meaningful post-season invitation.
Aug. 10 - North Carolina – A wide-open passing attack led by TJ Yates in 2008 ripped apart Rutgers defense in a lop-sided, 44-11, Tar Heel victory we attended, and the game wasn’t even that close. Last year, Yates remained the starter and Carolina finished 8-5, 4-4. The receiving corps has changed since 2008, but Yates remains, and he’s considered the big question mark this year in Chapel Hill. The defense is supposed to be one of the best in the country this year with five prospective, first-round picks. However, a little party arrangement held by some greedy agents down in South Beach, Florida may set the Heels, well… back on their heels. Butch Davis’s team has high hopes with a defense that allowed 17.1 ppg last season. DE Robert Quinn returns with 19 TFLs and 11 sacks. FS Deunta Williams has intercepted 12 passes during his UNC career. DT Marvin Austin shuts down the middle while LBS Bruce Carter and Qaun Sturdivant bring speed from their OLB positions. CB Kendric Burney was All-ACC along with Williams last year. Supposedly, two of the aforementioned could face some stiff penalties for allegedly fraternizing with some shady agents. Yates has 5,939 career, passing yards, but 15 INTs and accuracy problems last year could lead to an opening for red-shirt freshman Bryn Renner. WR Greg Little returns as a favorite target with 724 yards on 62 catches a year ago. The RB position has experience but has done little to impress. Shaun Draughn returns as the leading rusher with 567 yards. Luckily, the O-Line could be the offensive strength to get somebody going with four starters from a year ago returning. PK Casey Barth is effective making good on 21 of 25 FGS a year ago. Before we see UNC in a re-match at Rutgers, they face LSU and Georgia Tech. Will its defense remain intact? Who will start at QB? Will they come in with two tough losses, or a couple of big wins? Will they find a balanced offensive attack? The Tar Heels question marks should provide some pretty clear answers before they show up again on The Banks of the Old Raritan.
Aug. 9 - Lafayette – We watched the Leopards fall short of entering the FCS playoffs last season as they fell in OT to Lehigh, 27-21. An 8-3 record with some exciting wins could not cut it with the upset loss as they settled into a three-way second place tire in the Patriot League at 4-2. HC Frank Tavani (52-50 going into his tenth season on The Hill) has a big void to fill with the graduation of QB Rob Curley who has already taken his game to Europe where he led the Carlstad Crusaders of Sweden to the European Federation for American Football to the title game in July. Last season, Curley set school marks his senior season with 3,044 yard and 28 TD tosses. We saw him riddle Bucknell for 333 yard and 3 TDs in a 35-14 victory earlier last season. Tavani loses a lot to graduation. JR QB Ryan O’Neil was only 4 of 8 in the passing department last year. Lafayette’s two leading receivers come back to help him out though in Mark Layton (838 yards/ 11 TDs) and Soph Michael Bennett (596 yards/4 TDs). Third-leading rusher Jerome Rudolph gained 215 yards. On defense, LB Michael Schmidlein returns from his 100-tackle season with seven TFLs and two sacks. Only DE Doug Gerowski and LB Leroy Butler return with significant playing experience among the front seven a year ago. The defensive backfield returns three Junior starters. A lot of rebuilding seems necessary at Lafayette in the upcoming season at offensive skill positions and along the front lines. The Leopards may not dominate Georgetown in their opener as they did a year ago. We may get an opportunity to sneak them into our schedule again when the play at Princeton on the evening of September 25, but we’ll definitely be in Easton for the 146th edition of the Lafayette-Lehigh rivalry. We look forward to being part of a packed house at beautiful Fisher Stadium.
Aug. 8 - Georgetown – The Hoyas are the second of two teams we’ll see play this year for the first time, and it just so happens both reside in our nation’s Capitol. What can we say about Hoya football? They finished 0-11 (0-6 in the Patriot) last season and they graduated 22 players from last year’s squad. Why bother, you ask? Two reasons – to see the Lafayette-Lehigh game in Easton this season, we bought a Lafayette mini-package consisting of our choice of three games. This was one of convenience. Secondly, at 12:30 on September 11, we’ll see No. 1 Villanova visit Lehigh. About ten miles away, at 6 p.m., we’ll head over to Easton to see Lafayette open up against the hapless Hoyas. It will be our first Lehigh Valley double-header, and a day of seeing FCS football at its extremes. Fifth-year Head Coach Kevin Kelly added Dave Patenando from Hofstra as his new offensive coordinator. He’ll have to find a system to help improve on the 9.6 points per game averaged by Georgetown last year (vs. 28.1 points against). They only scored three TDs rushing last season. RB Philip Oladeji returns as the leading ground gainer with 308 yards. Isaiah Kempf and Scott Darby will vie to start at QB with 1,903 passing yards, 6 TDs, and 13 INTs between them last season. Patenando has his work cut out for him. LB Nick Parrish returns as the leader on defense with 79.5 tackles, 4.5 for losses. Things look bleak for Georgetown once again, a perennial contender as the doormat of Patriot League football. However, we look forward to a double-header day of college football in the Lehigh Valley on Sept 11. Georgetown took it on the chin from Lafayette in last season’s Patriot opener, 28-3. Will it be more of the same for the Hoyas in 2010? Probably, but as for the Lafayette game…
Aug. 7 Lehigh – Last season, we saw the Mountain Hawks pull off a 27-21 upset over archrival Lafayette in their season finale to finish at 4-7 (4-2 in the Patriot League) while knocking out the Leopards’ FCS play-off hopes in the 145th meeting between the two schools in the most played rivalry in college football. Andy Coen hopes to use the emotional win to springboard his charges to get off to a quicker, successful start in 2010. Five of their losses a year ago were by a touchdown or less. We plan to see the Mountain Hawks play early and late among the three games on our schedule. We’ll see them tested in their home opener on Sept 11 against defending FCS champ Villanova whom they lost to last season by a score of 38-17. A week later, they’ll host the Princeton Tigers in our Big Tailgate Party. PU won last season, 17-14. Once again, we’ll see them clash in their long-storied rivalry with Lafayette on November 20, but for the first time, we’ll attend this game at Fisher Field, home of the Leopards. On offense, JB Clark returns to call signals after throwing for 1,546 yards and 13 TDs in ’09. His two favorite targets return in Jake Drwal (641 yards and 4 TDs) De’Vaughn Gordon (504 yards/4 TDs). Top runner Jay Campbell rushed for 659 yards but for no TDs last year. TE Alex Wojdowski returns as the Mountain Hawks’ leading scorer with 7 TDs, so Clark will probably look for him again in critical situations. Four of five starting offensive linemen return which will be a key to Lehigh’s offensive improvement this year. On their 3-4 defense, all four secondary starters return. Safeties John Veniero and Jesse Sanchez return as leading tacklers with 62 and 61 respectively. The former came up with three picks to lead in that team category. Troy Taylor and Al Pierce return to their MLB duties, but we’re hoping JR Mike Groome who played locally for Lenape Valley (NJ) High School will get some more playing time at one of the other LB positions when we head out for our Big Tailgate party on Sept 18. The Hawks four wins last year came against Patriot League foes. They have a good nucleus of players returning at key positions that should help them compete for this year’s League title. After their season opener at Drake, we’ll look for improvements as we see them hook-up against two non-conference foes on consecutive Saturdays who defeated them last year. Villanova will be a formidable team to benchmark against. The Princeton game should be the site of a great tailgate party. Of course, we look forward to seeing the Hawks visit Lafayette in the 146th renewal to wind up their regular season. It may determine a playoff berth if the Hawks can turn close losses a year ago to Colgate (by 7) and Holy Cross (by 4) into wins.
Aug. 1 - Temple- This season begins where we left off last season. In our final game of 2009, Temple fell to UCLA in their season finale in the windy, frigid Eagle Bank Bowl in Washington, D.C., 30-21. We open this season with TU facing defending FCS Champ and cross-town rival Villanova in the Mayor’s Trophy Game of Philadelphia on Friday, Sept. 3 at Lincoln Financial Field. The Owls fell to the Wildcats in last year’s opener, 27-24. On Tuesday, Nov. 16, we will also see them host Ohio U., last year’s East Division co-champ, in a potentially crucial game for his year’s Mid-American Conference Championship. The Owls came out on top in Athens last year, 35-17. Despite the loss in its first bowl game in 20 years, the Owls enter this season upbeat coming off a 9-4 record under fifth-year Head Coach Al Golden. Co-champs of the MAC’s Eastern Division with Ohio last season, the Owls come back loaded with experience including 17 returning starters. Offensively, they are led by Soph RB Bernard Pierce who rushed for 1,361 yards, 16 TDs and 96 points –all freshman school records. A billboard along I-95 just north of Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Owls, proclaims Pierce is in the “Hunt for the Heisman.” Vaughn Charlton and Chester Stewart vie for starting honors at QB, but both will probably see action just as they did last year. On defense, DE Adrian Robinson, last season’s MAC Defensive Player of the Year, returns with his 13 sacks. Golden, who has a history as a top-notch recruiter as an assistant at several schools, has built some depth at Temple, a school booted out of the Big East for its lack of commitment to football. That’s all changed under “Golden’s Rule”. A former tight end at Penn State, we envision he’s just biding his time to return to State College whenever Joe Paterno decides to make his move. He goes up against his former mentor again this year on September 25 to show JoePa how his team is improving under him first-hand.