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Steve Kragthorpe – You’re F%^&ing Out

Dr. Cocknballs fires Krapthorpe

Kenny Powers is back, bitches.  And he wanted me to pass along a piece of information that you may have already heard.  Steve Kragthorpe, the embattled head coach of the Louisville Cardinals received his walkin’ papers.  I’d shed a tear for the poor sap, but I just can’t even do it.

Why isn’t Alan reporting this to you?  Well, quite frankly, he’s so ecstatic he can’t even think straight.  Seriously, you should see the text message I got this morning.  The only coherent parts of the message said “Krag is out”.  Plus, I hate Krag a lot less than Alan, so I should probably be the one to do it.  Let’s briefly look at some numbers for our former coach, shall we?

From 2007 through 2009, Steve was 15-21 for Louisville.  Ouch.  He was 5-16 in conference play.  Daaamn.  He is from Montana.  My… God…

So, Steve, here’s hoping a gig pops up for you in the next couple months.  I hope no FBS team will take that chance, but I hear Notre Dame is accepting applications.  With their last few hires, you actually have a good shot.  Steve Kragthorpe, you’re f%^&ing out!

 

Weekend Carnage Report

boom-goes-the-dynamite-bria

Boom goes the Weekend Carnage Report


If OTP were a train, our actual real life function and existence Monday totally derailed the high hopes and expectations of the morning and afternoon. Post victory hangover? Perhaps. And while I wish we had all day to celebrate and mock since we have victory numero uno, part of me falls along the “Act Like You’ve Been There Before” line. We have been here before… 12 times last season to be exact, but for whatever reason, this win, this 29-27 eeking out over Eastern Michigan just tastes a lot sweeter than many of the wins last season.

Perhaps that’s because this one was unknown. Perhaps because this one silenced more critics, both internal and external, than any victory last season. Perhaps it was because of the record breaking day on the ground. It really is hard to say why I feel the way I do, because the game was far from perfect. The defense played deplorable at times, outstanding at others. As good as the running game was with Quale Lewis and Cory Sykes going for over 500 yards, the passing defense was just as bad… going for 1 yard. Singular. Not good. The special teams were far from special, as an extra point and a field goal were both blocked, and EMU was able to have favorable field position thanks to shoddy kick coverage most of the time.

The injury bug? He’s back again, this time claiming Eric Williams, the promising young tailback who at times this season has been the most exciting player on the field offensively for the Cardinals. No official word from BSU, but Williams has alerted us it’s an MCL sprain.

Any other time, a victory over a winless, hapless, severely overmatched squad like Eastern Michigan wouldn’t be cause for excessive celebration, but this time is different. The monkey is off the back of Stan Parrish and the team… finally.

The rest of the weekend…

The Good

  • Iowa: Their wins have been far from sexy, but the Hawkeyes continue to roll them up. Only a handful of teams in each of the major conferences control their own destiny any longer for a conference title, and Iowa is one of those lucky few. A win at Ohio State on 11/14 and avoiding trap games against Indiana and Illinois locks the Hawkeyes in for the conference crown and the BCS payday.
  • Cincinnati: The Bearcats are also in the control your own destiny camp, and took most of the country by surprise. Cynics will point to the lack of major opponents, but supporters can just as easily point to what Cincy has been able to do to those not so impressive teams. The area of largest concern heading into the season, the defense, has been more than impressive for the Bearcats.
  • TCU: After dismantling BYU at BYU this weekend, the Horned Frogs are making a serious case that it should be them, and not Boise State as the top ranked non-automatic qualifier. TCU’s performance on Saturday was dominant and one-sided, which is what they’ll need to keep doing to have a shot at the big dollar Bowls.

The Bad

  • North Carolina: After squandering a second half lead to Florida State and dropping their 3rd ACC contest of the season, the Tar Heels, whom many predicted to contend for the ACC find themselves in a virtual must win this Thursday at Virginia Tech to save face and try to go Bowling.
  • Kansas: The Jayhawks had the opportunity to plant their flag in the Big 12 North race with a win over a depleted and somewhat weakened Oklahoma team. After their loss, the Jayhawks now find themselves in a perilous position with the meat of their schedule upon them.
  • Rice/Miami (OH)/Eastern Michigan/Western Kentucky/New Mexico: All still winless after 8 weeks of action.

The Ugly

  • Alabama: Needed a blocked field goal in the final seconds to ensure a victory over Tennessee. It certainly raises some questions about which team in this contest was wrongly valued by the pundits and pollsters. My gut says Tennessee just plays big against big time opponents, and I hope my worst case fears that the Kiffin system actually works are not realized.
  • Auburn: LSU delivered the Tigers’ third straight loss. Auburn was a team being lauded mere weeks ago as a potential SEC West darkhorse. After Arkansas, Kentucky, and LSU, Auburn is falling back to Earth and quickly.
  • SEC Officials: No one had taken more heat leading up to Saturday’s action than the official crews in the Southeastern Conference. After yet another gameday across the south dictated by shoddy calls and blatant incorrect review decisions, there are some major questions being raised. All totally valid and worth exploring, but truly unfortunate that the country’s best conference, who happens to find themselves under the biggest microscope, is missing call after call after call.

OTP Helmet Stickers
From Alan

  • MiQuale Lewis/Cory Sykes, RBs, Ball State: In the win over Eastern Michigan, the Cardinal backfield rushed for over 500 yards. That’s more than most teams gain on the ground in two games. Hapless opponent? Of course. Any reason to not celebrate their accomplishment? Nope.

Weekend Carnage Report

Huge ManateeBetter late than never, certainly, and the lack of which is making me reconsider heading to a distant road game in the future. On one hand, we have the delayed posting, the inability to get stuff done while traveling, etc. On the other, it’s southern barbecue, southern beauties, and maybe some of the nicest people on Earth. More on the Auburn trip tomorrow, but for now, it’s time to run through the weekend.

The Good

  • Florida/Texas/Alabama: Points to the top 3 for taking care of business and not losing. The same cannot be said for more than a few Top 10 teams. Bonus points to the Gators for doing it on the road, against a decent team, after an injury to Tebow.
  • Iowa: In what has become an annual rite of passage, the Hawkeyes knock off Penn State and essentially ending any hope of Joe Pa and the Nittany Lions to compete for a national title. Whether Iowa continues this sort of success is anyone’s guess, but for now, they certainly look like favorites for the Big 10.
  • Auburn: Bias because of watching them in person? Perhaps. But the Tigers looked damn good on Saturday against Ball State. Give a team like Auburn the emotion of a game against Alabama and they are certainly a darkhorse SEC West contender.

The Bad

  • Ole Miss: For weeks now, anyone that has lauded the Rebels as potential BCS busters has had to deal with a host of folks who throw around terms like “overrated”, “has played no one”, and “Nutt can’t coach a two-car funeral”. Frankly, after the performance on Thursday night, I may have to agree with the latter and not the former.
  • Maryland: Another week, another home loss for the Terps. At least this team the opponent was an BCS conference school. With Rutgers’ victory, the grumblings about Ralph Friedgen are getting louder, more insistent, and more correct.
  • Cal: Just as we were beginning to drink the Cal Kool Aid, Oregon came along with their fancy uniforms and ran roughshod all over the Bears. Did Cal not show up? Oregon simply play the game of their lives? Who knows. What is known is that Cal only mustered 77 yards on the ground. Not good at all.

The Ugly

  • LSU: Whether it was simply the football Gods not trying hard enough to upset the Tigers, their win over Mississippi State was not something that inspires any sort of confidence in the Tigers. This week? Georgia. Next week? Florida. Play like this past weekend, and say hello to 0-2.
  • Notre Dame: Notre Dame needed a miscue from Purdue’s coaches to pull out a victory, one that should have been nowhere as close as it was. Clausen injury or not, ND needs to lay the wood to teams like Purdue. This game did nothing to ease the yells for Charlie Weis.
  • Georgia/Georgia Tech: The Jekyll and Hyde sort of teams from the Yellow Jackets and the Bulldogs makes anyone watching them want to tear their hair out. GT gets blown out on national televison, then defeats UNC. Georgia struggles against everyone, does it again, but pulls out the victory. This has to stop eventually. Right?

OTP Helmet Stickers
From Alan

  • BJ Daniels, QB, South Florida: Leading the Bulls for the first time after an injury to Matt Groethe, and Daniels rings up the Noles for 341 total yards and 2 passing TDs.
  • Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati: 9 catches and 177 yards with his 2 TDs as Cincy outlasts Fresno, moves to 4-0, and gains even more national attention.
  • Russell Wilson, QB, NC State: Lights up Pitt for 413 total yards and 4 TDs… you know… that Pitt team that was vaunted for its defensive presence.

From Edge

  • The Oregon Ducks: Outgained the Bears 524-207, withstood 3 lost fumbles, scored 42 unanswered. Dominating.
  • Case Keenum, QB, Houston: 435 yards passing and TDs passing and rushing as the Cougars rally past Texas Tech, move to 3-0, and are looking every bit the team capable of busting the BCS
  • God, Jesus, Vishnu, Buddha, whoever: Offering up a plate of hot Karma to Tim Tebow for his apparent taunting of Kentucky fans in the first quarter.
  • De-sticker goes to Purdue for calling a timeout at the end of the Purdue-ND game.  Just stupid football right there.

From RV

  • Quoted for posterity: “I didn’t get a chance to watch enough but I give all my helmet stickers to the dude who knocked tebow into the afterlife.” (Ed. Note: “The Dude” being Taylor Wyndham, DE for Kentucky)

Weekend Carnage Report

Apologies for the delay this morning… stupid real life. We’re back now, though, and playing catch up for most of the morning. The weekend itself was noteworthy more for what didn’t happen (Tennessee not getting destroyed, USC struggling, etc.) than for what did, but it’s another weekend over.

Thankfully, the time for teams to load up on tomato cans from FCS or pitifully overmatched FBS teams is drawing to a distinct close as conference play is just around the corner for most. I, for one, cannot tell you how exciting it was to welcome the 3:30 SEC/CBS marriage back onto my television. It had been gone far too long. Off we go…

Ball State logoBall State Report: More coming in a bit, but frankly, this one was both disappointing and encouraging, if that’s even possible. In what’s sort of become a refrain so far this season… as bad as we played all game, we were still in a position to win it. While it sucks we’re 0-3, this isn’t like we’re getting beat by 60 points. Having said that, we play at Auburn this weekend, where the potential for a beating of epic proportions is entirely possible. Could this be the weekend where lightning strikes? Who knows…

Kentucky LogoKentucky Report: It was an ugly win, but a win nonetheless for the Wildcats. Years ago, that wouldn’t have been the case, as UK tried every way in the world to give that game to the Cardinals. Penalties, turnovers, clock problems, etc. all colored this game, and could have very easily been the reasons why a loss was inevitable. Fortunately for UK, the football Gods and more specifically Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb smiled on them Saturday as they walked out of Commonwealth a winner. Tremendous effort by Louisville, though. Totally unexpected. More a bit later on this one as well.

On to the weekend…

The Good

  • Washington: With a stout defensive effort, as well as some key USC injuries, the Huskies upset #3 USC on Saturday, snapping a 10-game Pac 10 losing streak and announcing to the world that Steve Sarkisian, was in fact, the right man for the job.
  • Oklahoma: No Sam Bradford? No problem for the Sooners, who dismantled Tulsa 45-0 behind the arm of backup QB Landry Jones. The freshman threw for 336 yards and 6 TDs, leaving many wondering how they would have done against BYU without Bradford at all.
  • Oregon: After the punch heard round the world, and their 1-1 start, most had written off Oregon as any sort of threat out west. With Saturday’s victory over Utah, the Ducks announced they are still very much in the picture, while dealing the non-automatic qualifiers a significant blow to their BCS hopes.

The Bad

  • BYU/Utah: Two teams that most thought would be in the conversation for a BCS at large berth, especially given the Cougars upset of Oklahoma to start the season. Both beaten on Saturday, and both virtually guaranteed to not be in the BCS.
  • Maryland: Following the trend of the last few seasons, Maryland certainly played to their competition Saturday in Byrd Stadium as they were upset by Middle Tennessee State on a last second field goal. “Upset” may be a bit much, though, considering the Terps needed overtime to beat James Madison last weekend and were beaten by MTSU last year.
  • USC: Saturday’s upset at Washington was another example of SC underperforming at least once per season. The last 4, to be exact, were all characterized by a Trojan loss to an unranked opponent. It’s not a question whether or not Pete Carroll can coach a big game, it’s whether or not he can coach the run of the mill ones.

The Ugly

  • Kentucky: A Louisville team that is the bottom of the Big East shouldn’t test anyone the way they did on Saturday. It remains to be seen whether this was more Louisville playing over their heads or Kentucky under theirs. With the Gators heading to Lexington on Saturday, we shall have an answer to that question.
  • Florida: Blame the swine flu, but Florida looked far from sharp or dominant in their 10-point victory over Tennessee. Rivalry games have a ridiculous tendency to be close, but the margin in this one was surprising to say the least.
  • Penn State: Another weekend, another win for the Nittany Lions, but like every other victory this season, it was far from a blowout, the Nittany Lions far from dominant, and this one was again against a MAC school. Ugly for not only their margin, but their continuous opponents who provide no real challenge.

OTP Helmet Stickers
From Alan

  • Jahvid Best, RB, Cal: Further proving that he is without question the best running back in college football, Best racked up 131 yards and 5 TDs in the Golden Bears victory over a tough Minnesota team.
  • Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame: 22-31 300 yds, 2 TDs in a victory over Michigan State, a win the Irish desperately needed.
  • Jeremy Avery, RB, Boise State: 186 rushing yards, 83 receiving yards, and a TD in the victory over upset minded Fresno State.

From Edge

  • Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: Record setting performance with 6 TD tosses in a Sooner victory… as a freshman.
  • Washington: The entire team for upsetting USC and costing them a good chance at a national title. Congrats.

Week One… with a Little Help from the Fab Four

Club_ID_by_BeatlesFanClubWith week one in the books, the football machine is now fully operational.  But if you haven’t noticed, this week is a landmark occasion in the music world.  The Beatles are set to release all their albums today, finally remastered on CD, as well as The Beatles: Rock Band video game.  I have had a chance to hear about half of the remastered albums (we rockers get early access to everything, or we find someone who does), and the results are nothing short of incredible.

But as I listened this weekend, a lot of the songs played as great soundtracks to the weekend of college football.  And once again, I did the work for you.  Here are some timeless Beatles songs and their connection to week one.

Here, There and Everywhere
Notre Dame was all over the field Saturday.  And for once, they weren’t being led around it.  They came out fast, and they stayed that way the entire game.  If they keep this up, maybe Crazy Lou was right.

Let It Be
Air Force did anything but let it be.  Demolishing Nicholls State 72-0 should show the rest of the Mountain West that Air Force should probably not be taken too lightly in 2009.

I’m Looking Through You
Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly almost seemed inside Rutgers’ head coach Greg Schiano’s head the entire game.  Taking a 47-15 beating from a fellow conference team is not a pretty way to start the season.

A Day in the Life
Leave it to Ohio State to make a close game out of a sure blowout.  Just another day in the life for Buckeye fans.

You Can’t Do That
LeGarrette Blount committed one of the worst acts of losing one’s temper that I have ever seen on national television.  Next to Ron Artest.  Needless to say, I fully agree with the year-long suspension, and it should serve as a reminder that as much as you want to lay out an opponent for talking shit, sucker-punches aren’t the answer.

Continue reading

Weekend Carnage Report

Football is back, ladies and gents, and with it brings the return of the Weekend Carnage Report, your Monday Must Read for football goings on. While the weekend was short on major earth shaking upsets, there was excitement to be found throughout the land. Blocked field goals, overtimes, sucker punches… and this was all week 1. It’s going to be a good year.

Ball State logoBall State Report: For the Cardinals, it was hardly worth rehashing. It was game 1, it was a learning experience, and we have an FCS team coming in on Saturday. Play like they did on Thursday and they’ll get beat again. Play like they’re capable of, and it’s an easy W. There are some that will tell you that the gap between non-BCS teams and excellent FCS teams isn’t all that large. I am not one of those people. The gap is there and this is a game BSU needs to win, and win big.

Kentucky LogoKentucky Report: What really can you say that hasn’t already been covered by A Sea of Blue? The Cats looked dominant, energetic, poised, and skilled. The things we thought would be troublesome, like pressure and skill from the defensive ends, or the offense picking up blitzing schemes was present, but that’s something teachable and nowhere near the problems that the Legion of Doom expected to be dealing with after game 1. The positives, like Randall Cobb, Mike Hartline, the offensive line’s dominance, and Trevard Lindley all looked extremely good. Yes, it was a MAC school… I get it. But a win like this builds confidence and swagger no matter who you beat… and that’s what this team needed. The most improvement usually occurs between games 1 and 2, and throw in a bye week and I’m feeling good about Big Blue.

On to the weekend…

The Good

  • Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish were lampooned early this season as a team exceptionally overrated and ranked to highly. Most pointed to their season opener against Nevada and their high octane offense as a potential upset for the Irish. After Saturday’s 35-0 shellacking, ND looks like a team to keep your eye on. Charlie Weis silenced some critics, the Irish certainly impressed some pollsters, and Jimmy Clausen finally looked like the Clausen he was expected to be out of high school.
  • Florida/Texas/USC: Three of the teams universally expected to compete for a national championship berth all came out and handled their business against lesser opponents. Impressive, dominating, and totally expected but good all the same.
  • Boise State/BYU: Two non-BCS conference programs that have catapulted themselves into the BCS conversation. Boise’s victory over Oregon was overshadowed by a sucker punch, and BYU’s upset of Oklahoma overshadowed by Sam Bradford’s shoulder injury, but both those wins will be worth their weight in gold come this week’s poll and for the hopes of both of those programs to crash the BCS party come January.
  • Kentucky/Tennessee: Two teams needing large wins to sort of ease the fears of fanbases in worry mode. Both did exactly what was needed as Kentucky took Miami behind the woodshed and Tennessee laid the smack down on Western Kentucky. Welcome to FBS, Toppers… now grab your ankles.

The Bad

  • Virginia: It’s hard to say what’s worse… the fact that UVA lost to FCS William & Mary or the fact that no one seems to really be talking about it. Is that because of the other stories happening? Or because UVA is just expected to be awful. Probably a little of both.
  • The MidAmerican Conference: Some were lauding the MAC as a conference on the rise and in a position to get back some of the prestige lost when Marshall and Miami stopped dominating. The first weekend was hardly anything to warrant celebration as the MAC went 3-10 and the universally thought stronger MAC West went 0-6. The most damaging losses? Ball State’s to North Texas and Temple to Villanova. WMU looked dreadful against Michigan.
  • Maryland: Many were expecting the Terps to be contenders in an ACC devoid of overwhelming talent and skill. After the thorough decimation at the hands of Cal, Terp fans have got to be concerned. The Golden Bears ran absolutely roughshod over the Terp defense, didn’t allow the offense to flourish, and simply dominated.

The Ugly

  • Iowa: In what was nearly the largest upset of the weekend, Northern Iowa played Iowa closer than nearly every expert expected. So much so that the Hawkeyes needed two blocked field goals in the final seconds to seal a win. Iowa has had a ton of injuries but this is a game they have to win… largely… impressively… going away.
  • Ohio State: The Buckeyes were one pass away from a tie game with under three minutes to go Saturday. I’m certainly a fan of not running the score up in any fashion against a service academy, but playing like this next week against the Trojans is going to be an ass whipping waiting to happen.
  • Indiana: Not surprisingly, IU ends up on this list again. But at least this time it isn’t in the bad! Congrats! After a lackluster performance against Eastern Kentucky, it’s looking like it’s going to be a long year for the Hoosiers and their fans.

OTP Helmet Stickers
From Alan

  • WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame: 4 rec, 189 yards, 3 TDs in an impressive win against Nevada, announcing to the fans that ND may in fact, be ready to lay claim to a BCS berth with hopefully different results.
  • RB Ralph Bolden, Purdue: Sure, it was against Toledo. But when you throw up 234 yards and 2 TDs, that gets you some OTP love. Now… do that against Penn State and the Buckeyes, and you’re getting invited to New York for a bronze stiff-arming trophy.
  • QB Max Hall, BYU: 26-38 329 yards and 2 TDs in a shocking upset of Oklahoma. Hall commandeered an offensive unit that was far from dominant, but he got the job done. And that’s all anyone can ever ask for.

From Edge

  • Arizona State LB Mike Nixon hauled in an impressive three interceptions and even took one to the house.  Granted it was against Idaho State, it was still a great effort, and he’s clearly someone to watch this year.
  • Tony Pike threw for a personal best 362 yards and three touchdowns in Cincinnati’s rout of Rutgers on Monday.  One hell of a performance from one surprisingly good team, at least from week one’s showing.
  • Purdue’s RB Ralph Bolden accumulated 234 yards and two touchdowns on just 21 carries against Toledo.  And I thought Ball State’s rushing defense was poor on Thursday… jeebus.

09 Homer Preview: The Scarlet Knights Edition

homer previewIn an effort to provide coverage of teams outside of the OTP Preseason Top 25, we’ve asked some of our friends and fellow college football aficionados to follow our preview format for their team or go outside the box. This edition of The Homer Preview is courtesy of Kevin Lawrence Pitts, a proud Rutgers alumni, who now resides in College Park. Kevin also follows the advice of Greg Schiano, and keeps chopping wood… proverbially speaking.

Homer Preview: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

rutgers logo

Resting Upon & Creating a Football Legacy

The moment you arrive on the banks of the old Raritan River as a wide-eyed freshman at Rutgers University you can feel the university’s history creaking under every step you take. The ghosts of Rutgers’ past are omnipresent on campus; at freshman convocation myself and a few hundred of my fellow freshman were marched past ivy coated buildings and rustic memorials of Rutgers legends past and reminded constantly that Rutgers rests on the shoulders of giants long gone. Rutgers is a curious mix of tradition and grandeur mixed with a hint of Northeastern athletic cynicism and apathy.

While pride certainly exists and strong alumni connections certainly remain, the history that weighs heavy on Rutgers’ campus is exactly that, “history.” And that disconnect between past and present is no clearer than with Rutgers football. From the moment you arrive on Rutgers’ campus you are reminded, again and again, you are a student on the hollowed grounds of the birthplace of college football, and Rutgers’ 8 to 6 historic victory over Princeton in 1869. But as a freshman entering Rutgers Stadium in 1998 for the very first time this disconnect between history and present was very real in so many ways.

The grandeur and pomp and circumstance was painfully absent as I sat in silent anguish through dismal seasons such as the infamous 1-10 1999. But with the acquisition of Coach Greg Schiano in 2000, Rutgers football has been re-branded, remixed and reformed into a respectable name in college football and a force to be reckoned with in the Big East and the Scarlet Knights seem to finally be building a legacy that seems separate and unique from the hollowed legacy that relied to heavily on Rutgers’ ancient history and not enough upon winning football games.

The 2008 season began disappointingly with three loses to unranked Fresno State, North Carolina and Navy but Coach Schiano, with the help of Mike Teel’s 60% accuracy in the quarterback position, was able to readjust and salvage the season with six straight strong wins, earning a trip to Birmingham, Alabama for the Papajohns.com bowl. While most loyal diehard Rutgers fans were pleased with Schiano’s cool temperament tempered with passionate leadership that motivated the team to pull the season from the ashes, many were disappointed that the Scarlet Knights weren’t able to replicate the success seen in 2006 when Rutgers ended the season at an unprecedented 11-2. Rutgers has lost some talented players including some of former quarterback Teel’s favorite targets in wide receivers Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood who combined, had almost 5,000 career receiving yards and 33 career touchdowns. Rutgers has also lost some defensive muscle with the loss of 6’3” 265 pound Jamall Westerman who had over 140 career tackles while at Rutgers.

Though Rutgers has experienced some dramatic talent transitions this offseason the Rutgers coaching staff has made some significant and tangible adjustments in both offense and defense for the 2009 season. With the loss of Mike Teel, the quarterback position is in flux with a multitude of great options for Coach Schiano to choose from. These names include: Tom Savage, who seems to be the heir apparent, Jabulani Lovelace who’s potential was hindered because of injuries, and D.C. Jefferson who stands at 6-6 and weighs in at a solid 240 pounds. Other names to look for this year include Art Frost, who at right guard is certain to make some noise this season. Frost is a perfect addition to an already very powerful, talented and explosive offensive line that will certainly be giving more than enough time to make quick and wise decisions in the pocket, whichever QB ends up residing there.

This highly anticipated offensive line will also be making holes for running backs De’antwan Williams and Joe Martinek who many hope can live up to Ray Rice type expectations. Rutgers defense seems to be rotating upon a powerful center of gravity also known as Manny Abreu who is nothing less than amazing and hypnotizing force of nature to watch and will certainly be an integral element of Rutgers’ defensive machine this season.

Being an alumnus of both Rutgers and the University of Maryland, I am naturally anticipating the rematch between these two teams this season. In 2007 Maryland shocked the prognosticators and left Rutgers Stadium with a win. This year it will be exciting and intriguing to see Rutgers fast paced passing offense and hard hitting defense against Maryland’s traditional heavy reliance on putting the football on the ground will certainly be one of the more entertaining match-up’s of the year.

Thinking back to those less glamorous and glowing seasons of the late 90’s and early 2000’s it certainly gives me a much deeper appreciation for how far Rutgers has come, as well as, a richer perspective and appreciation on my alma mater’s contribution to the game of college football. It is certainly time for Rutgers to write a new history and my only wish for this season is that Rutgers can continue to build upon a legacy rooted in victories of today and tomorrow and not a legacy only seen in black and white photos buried in the archives of college football’s past.

09 Homer Preview: The Orangemen Edition

homer previewIn an effort to provide coverage of teams outside of the OTP Preseason Top 25, we’ve asked some of our friends and fellow college football aficionados to follow our preview format for their team or go outside the box. This edition of The Homer Preview is courtesy of Matt Tobia, Syracuse alum and fan, and proprietor and creator of Get Gross Out, one of the only websites out there dedicated to firing the Athletic Director. Giddy up.

Homer Preview: Syracuse Orangemen
syracuse logo

What You Need To Know
After 4 years and only 10 wins, the Greg Robinson Experience at Syraucse has ended. Along with losses to Akron, Miami (OH), Rutgers and Washington, Robinson led the Orangemen to their worst 4 year stretch in their 120 year history. Following the 2008 season, Robinson was let go and former Orangeman and New Orleans Saints Offensive Coordinator Doug Marrone was hired as the new head coach. Marrone is another first time head coach, but he brought with him some experienced assistants and according to the committee that oversaw the hiring process (which included Donovan McNabb and Hall of Fame Coach Dick MacPherson), Marrone came into the interviews with binders upon binders of information on how he planned on turning the ship around. If nothing else, it sounds like Marrone is well prepared to attempt to right the ship.

While the Greg Robinson Experience left Syracuse fans with a sour taste in their mouths, Marrone seems to be making all the right moves and saying all the right things. Whether or not he will have the talent to actually turn the Orangemen around is another story. A total of 18 players have left the team since Marrone took over, with the latest being the Orangmen’s only scholarship PK, Shane Raupers. Punter Rob Long returns with the sixth best punting average in the country.

Returning for the Orangemen are three starters on an offensive line that improved from their abyssmal 2007 season. Marrone has focused extensively on both the offensive and defensive lines and both units look to be much improved. Being a former lineman himself and getting his coaching start on the line, Marrone has returned to the basics for what he is teaching the both units and the players are already noticing a marketed improvement.

Also on offense, converted tight end Cody Catalina should provide some balance to Mike Owen (TE) who was the second leading receiver last season. Leading receiver Donte Davis also returns. In the backfield, Syracuse will look to attack by committee. Returning are Averin Collins, Antwan Bailey and Delone Carter. Carter was a Sporting News Freshman All American in 2006 and had the most rushing yards by a Syracuse Freshman since Joe Morris in 1978. Carter was injured for the 2007 season and lost his starting job to Curtis Brinkley in 2008 but still managed to play in 5 games.

Fortunately for Marrone, he made two key acquisitions in the offseason. Starting off the acquisitions is the return of senior wide receiver, Mike Williams in March. Williams led the team with 10 touchdown receptions in 2007 but was suspended from the school in the spring of 2008 for academic issues. Williams returns to the team as their top receiving threat and his streak of 9 games with a touchdown catch leads the FBS division.

Marrone’s recruiting coup of the year was bringing in everyone’s favorite, flopping white guy, Greg Paulus. Paulus was last seen on the basketball court for Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils. Paulus was heavily recruited by the football programs of Notre Dame, Syracuse, Miami, etc. coming out of high school to lead their offenses. Paulus was the Gatorade National High School Football Player of the Year his senior year of high school and still holds most New York State passing records. Recently, Paulus was named the started for Syracuse and his effect will be seen immediately if only in the butts in the seats statistical category.

Defensively, Syracuse returns All Big East Nose Tackle Arthur Jones. Jones returned for his senior year (possibly so that he could play with his younger brother, Defensive End Chandler Jones). Jones led the team in tackles for a loss last season with 13. A candidate for the Outland Trophy, Jones is considered a Top 10 NFL draft pick and is the #2 Defensive Tackle behind #1 Draft Prospect Ndamukong Suh out of Nebraska.

If personnel issues aren’t enough to hamper the Orangemen this season, the schedule won’t do them many favors. While the Big East has no clear favorite for this season, the Orangemen are still considered the worst team in the conference and have little chance of beating most of their opponents. Fortunately for Marrone, Louisville is still on the schedule.

The Orangemen will be helped by the fact that they play 7 of their first 8 games at home with only a road trip to Penn State in their second week. Their first three games are against Big Ten opponents, starting with Minnesota and ending with Northwestern. A date with FCS opponent Maine gives the Orangemen a little break before the Big East season hits with home games against South Florida and West Virginia. Last season’s spoilers, Akron, return to the Loud House a week before the final game of the home stand against Cincinnati at the end of October. The Orange will play at Pittsburgh and Louisville before a home date with Rutgers and the season finale at Connecticut.

Picking up a win against any Big East team will be difficult this season for Syracuse and they can only hope that teams underestimate them and are looking ahead to other opponents. This will certainly be a tough year for the Orangemen, but there is a definite sense of calm amongst the fan base now that Greg Robinson is gone and former Orangeman Doug Marrone is at the helm.

Who You Need to Know And Their 08 Stats
QB Greg Paulus: None (HS Total: Over 11,000 passing yards, over 150 TD passes)
WR Mike Williams: None (2007: 60 rec, 837 yds, 10 TDs)
NT Arthur Jones: 60 tkls, 13 TFL, 3.5 sacks

Game To Watch
Syracuse has to start the season strong with a good showing on ESPN2 against Minnesota (9/5). It will be an extremely difficult game for the Orangemen to win, but if the team shows signs of improvement it could lead to a better year.

They’ll Do Well If…
..Greg Paulus plays half as well as he did in high school. This season is all about Greg Paulus and whether or not he can lead an offense that ranked at the bottom of the Big East and FBS last season in practically every category.

Season Outlook
There is no reason to believe that Syracuse will do better than 3-9 this season. Maine and Akron provide the only two non-conference games that the Orangemen can win and they have to hope that Louisville is just as bad as they were last season or that another Big East team chokes when they come to play in the Carrier Dome. Greg Paulus will provide some sort of boost to a floundering program and hopefully it is enough to allow Doug Marrone to move forward with recruiting and start setting the tone for future programs. On the positive side, they only direction that the Orangemen can go is up.

Conference Preview: The Big East

crystalballIn an effort to address all the teams and conferences that make the fall so exciting, OTP’s All-Star Editorial staff is putting on their prognosticatin’ hats and taking a stab at each of the conferences and all of the teams in FBS. Alan and Edge are giving you the conference’s order of finish, the records, the superlatives for offense and defense, and the biggest surprise for each conference. At the conclusion of our series, we’ll have the Bowl Projections for all 34 Bowl Games.

OTP Conference Preview: The Big East

bigeastfbcIt’s been an interesting half decade for the Big East Conference. They’ve endured movement, transition, compression, expansion, potentially losing their BCS bid, and the slings and arrows from any midmajor conference that wants a place at the BCS automatic qualifying table. Suffice to say the Big East is usually under a microscope, but fans point to the newly brought in teams and their growing success as one of the best things about the conference.

In 2004, Virginia Tech and Miami bid the Big East adieu with Boston College to follow in 2005. That cleared the way for Louisville, USF, Cincinnati and Connecticut, whom all have had their share of ups in the Big East. No one has exhibited the sort of dominance Miami did (9 championships in 13 seasons and 2 national titles) and conference parity has certainly made conference games late in the season ridiculously important. This year is certainly a down year for the Big East, as there is no real dominant teams, no real dominant players, and no one in the hunt for a national championship. That may not make for a national eye on the conference, but it will make for an exceptionally exciting fall.

Last 5 Conference Champions:
2008: Cincinnati
2007: West Virginia/Connecticut
2006: Louisville
2005: West Virginia
2004: BC/Pitt/Syracuse/WVU

Bowl Tie Ins:
The Big East Conference has seven bowl tie ins, up to six of which will choose a Big East school in any given year.[3]
#1– Bowl Championship Series. The Big East champion receives an automatic berth to a BCS bowl game. Unlike other conferences with automatic BCS qualifiers, the Big East champion is not tied to any specific BCS bowl, but is available to be selected by any BCS bowl game as the top-ranked “at-large” selection.
#2– The Gator Bowl and the Sun Bowl each have the right to the second selection from the Big East. The Gator Bowl has first choice between the second Big East selection and the fourth Big 12 selection. Should the Gator Bowl choose a Big 12 team, the second selection from the Big East falls to the Sun Bowl. The Gator and Sun Bowls also have the option of selecting Notre Dame, as long as Notre Dame is bowl eligible and not playing in a BCS bowl.
#3– The Meineke Car Care Bowl receives the third choice of Big East teams.
#4– The International Bowl receives the fourth choice of Big East teams.
#5– The PapaJohns.com Bowl receives the fifth choice of Big East teams. In years where the Big East does not have five bowl eligible teams, the Papajohns.com Bowl will select from the Sun Belt Conference instead.
#6– The St. Petersburg Bowl receives the sixth choice of Big East teams. In years where the Big East does not have six bowl eligible teams, the St. Petersburg Bowl will select from the Sun Belt Conference instead.

Alan’s Big East Predictions
Order of Finish:
Cincinnati: 9-3 (6-1) – League Champion, BCS Representative
Pittsburgh: 8-4 (5-2)
West Virginia: 8-4 (5-2)
South Florida: 8-4 (5-2)
Connecticut: 6-6 (3-4)
Rutgers: 6-6 (2-5)
Syracuse: 3-9 (1-6)
Louisville: 3-9 (1-6)

League MVP: Tony Pike, QB, Cincinnati
Offensive MVP: Matt Grothe, QB, South Florida
Defensive MVP: Greg Romeus, DE, Pittsburgh

Biggest Surprise This Season: The biggest surprise in the Big East this season will be the resurgence of Tony Pike as a great option at QB for the Bearcats. He’ll need to be for the Bearcats to win another BCS title… as the UC defense and their lack of experience may very well cause Pike and the offense to have to simply outscore everyone.

Edge’s Big East Predictions
Order of Finish:
Pittsburgh: 10-2 (6-1) – League Champion, BCS Representative
West Virginia: 10-2 (6-1)
Rutgers: 9-3 (5-2)
Cincinnati: 8-4 (5-2)
South Florida: 5-7 (2-5)
Louisville: 4-8 (2-5)
Connecticut: 4-8 (2-5)
Syracuse: 2-10 (0-7)

League MVP: Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati
Offensive MVP: Noel Devine, WVU
Defensive MVP: George Selvie, USF

Biggest Surprise This Season: West Virginia has it locked up until week 13 when Pittsburgh takes away their conference champion hopes and their top 25 ranking. And the Wannstache does not call the next day like he promises.

Prelude to a Season: #18

18.) Cincinnati Bearcats

CincinnatiWhat You Need to Know
2008 was quite a successful season for the Bearcats, as head coach Brian Kelly had his best season on the BCS stage, racking up an 11-3 record, a Big East title, and an Orange Bowl berth. The offseason saw his second contract extension in as many years, as the Bearcats administration has hitched their football wagon to Kelly’s fast-rising star. As 2009 dawns, Kelly finds himself with a veteran offense, untested defense, a brutal schedule, and a conference that is primed for the taking for the second consecutive season.

Offensively, the Bearcats return 8 starters to a unit that was 4th in the conference with just a shade over 370 yards per game. They were 2nd in the conference in passing, dead last in rushing, and 4th in scoring offense with 25.9 points per game. Leading the charge this year will be senior QB Tony Pike, who battled a broken arm last season, yet still managed to throw for over 2400 yards and 19 TDs. He was one of 4 players to play the QB position for Kelly, but looks to have a firm grip on the starter’s job. Also returning is senior WR Mardy Gilyard who will shoulder much of the burden of increasing production to help offset the loss of Dominick Goodman, whose 1028 yards and 7 TDs were second only to Gilyard. On the ground the Bearcats will look to a three-pronged attack in senior Jacob Ramsey, junior John Goebel, and Isaiah Pead who all combined for 315 carries, 1465 yards, and 9 TDs last season. The offensive line is the biggest question for UC, as two starters have been lost, one to the Arizona Cardinals in OG Trevor Canfield.

Defensively is where the predominant worries and questions are for UC as 09 begins. Losing 10 of their unit’s starters as well as Defensive Coordinator Joe Tresey, the Bearcats and Coach Kelly must essentially start over. In a perfect storm of sorts, new Coordinator Bob Diaco saw this as a perfect time to change schemes, and the Bearcats will transition from their former 4-3 defense to a newly installed 3-4. The only returning full-time starter is senior FS Aaron Webster. And while UC is losing 8 of their top 10 tacklers from last season, they do return a bit of experience, as 6 players besides Webster have at least 1 start last year including senior LB Andre Revels who started 7. Last year’s UC defense led by players like Terrill Byrd, Adam Hoppel, Connor Barwin and Lamonte Nelms racked up impressive statistics, finishing the season #25 nationally in total defense and leading the Big East in sacks and tackles for loss. For those sorts of numbers to remain steady or even improve, the newly installed defense with their fresh crop of talented young athletes will need to play beyond their actual experience.

The scheduler at Cincy certainly did the 09 squad no favors, as their non-conference schedule may be one of the toughest in the country. 2008 saw them travel to Norman for a game against the Sooners and 2009 shapes up to be just as challenging. Games against Oregon State, Illinois, and Fresno State with OSU on the road makes their non-conference schedule one of the best.

For Cincinnati, 2009 could easily be a rebuilding year with so many questions on the defensive side of the football. But fans of UC certainly expect no drop off in results, expecting Brian Kelly and company to continue dominating. The conference is void of any clear-cut power teams, so earning a second consecutive Big East title along with the BCS payday that comes with it is well within reach for 2009.

Who You Need to Know & Their 08 Stats
QB Tony Pike: 199-324, 2407 yds, 19 TDs, 11 INTs
WR Mardy Gilyard: 81 rec, 1276 yds, 11 TDs
RBs John Goebel & Jacob Ramsey: 255 att, 1271 yds, 9 TDs

Game to Watch
Three games essentially stand in the way for Cincinnati to repeat as Big East Champions, a task that may be derailed after game 1. A season-opening loss at Rutgers (9/7) would put Cincy behind the 8 ball in terms of the Big East. If that’s a win, then their October 15th contest against South Florida and their November 7th showdown with UConn will determine the conference champion.

They’ll Do Well If…
… the defense adapts to a new scheme with few big play mistakes and continued intensity and pressure up front. Simply put, the defense is the key to 2009’s success or failure for the Bearcats. A serviceable effort puts them in the driver’s seat for a Big East title.

Season Outlook
Replacing nearly your entire defensive roster, your defensive coordinator, and losing a 1000-yard receiver is often a recipe for disaster in major college football. Thankfully for Cincinnati they are members of the Big East, where there is no clear cut favorite, and there are several teams that will not require maximum effort to defeat. Out of conference, the Bearcats will finish no worse than 4-1, and have a legitimate possibility at 5-0. In the Big East, despite the fact that parity abounds, I look for UC to drop their season opener at Rutgers but rebound nicely with no other losses. They’ll finish the season 10-2 with a Big East title, a BCS berth, and many folks looking in Brian Kelly’s direction for national coach of the year honors.