Tuesday, May 13, 2008

CFN is Gracious and Giving

and has began their annual preseason preview of 119 teams.

We're starting the third leg of the race here folks. The worst is ahead of us.

Here's the links followed w/ a small excerpt:

Auburn Tigers

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback battle. Who's going to run the new attack? Kodi Burns, the hero of the bowl win over Clemson, finished spring ball on a high note and is an emerging passer, but the consistency won't be there for a full season; he needs a year before he reaches his potential. Texas Tech transfer Chris Todd would be the ideal option to start funnin' and gunnin', but he had a banged up shoulder this off-season and will have to fight for the job. There's a chance for a rotation unless one takes the job by the horns late this summer.

What to watch for on defense: The secondary will be dominant ... again. It's a no-name bunch that was fantastic despite the lack of a steady and consistent pass rush, and now it could be even more productive with CB Jerraud Powers blossoming into a star and the rising sophomore safety tandem of Mike McNeil and Zac Etheridge among the best in the SEC.

The team will be far better if … it gets into the backfield on a regular basis. Considering the ends were Quentin Groves, Sen'Derrick Marks and Antonio Coleman, you'd think the Tiger pass rush would've been lethal, but Groves got hurt early and was never right and Coleman didn't get much help from anyone else. It's hard to argue with the overall results of last year's defense, allowing fewer than 300 yards and 17 points per game, but the back seven could be even more effective if the opposing quarterbacks felt more heat.

The Schedule: There will be plenty of big-time games, but almost all of them are at home. Going on the road to face West Virginia in a mid-season Thursday night game is the only away date problem until the season-ender at Alabama. LSU, Tennessee and Georgia are all good enough to win the SEC title, but they're all coming to Jordan-Hare. It'll be vital to not be tripped up at Ole Miss or at Mississippi State; the Tigers must take advantage of the relative scheduling break. Yeah, AU deserves credit for going to Morgantown to face the Mountaineers, but it makes up for it with games against UL Monroe and UT Martin.

LSU Tigers

What to watch for on offense: The quarterbacks. Everything else is in place from the veteran offensive line to the NFL talents at receiver to the four-headed monster in the backfield. The quarterbacks don't have to play like JaMarcus Russell or even Matt Flynn; they just have to keep things moving, make a big third down throw here and there, and get out of the way. Jarrett Lee and Andrew Hatch will keep the battle going throughout the summer.

What to watch for on defense: The line to be every bit the killer it was last year, if not more so. Losing Glenn Dorsey hurts no matter what, but Charles Alexander, Ricky Jean-Francois, Marlon Favorite and Al Woods will keep the production going. If Tyson Jackson plays like the top ten pick he's supposed to be, no one's doing anything against this front four.

The team will be far better if … the penalties slow down. For the second year in a row, LSU struggled mightily when it came to the sins. After committing 83 in 2006, the Tigers were 117th in the nation (only South Florida and Cincinnati committed more) averaging 8.36 per game committing 117 on the year.

The Schedule: Opening up with lamb-for-the-slaughter games against Appalachian State (stop it ... this won't be Michigan Part 2), Troy and North Texas will give the team time to jell before going to Auburn for what could be the battle for the SEC West. The defending national champions don't get much of a break from the SEC scheduling gods facing road games at Florida and South Carolina before hosting Georgia in Death Valley. Get through those three, and the end of October, with just one loss, and the national title could be there for the taking with a manageable November facing Tulane, Alabama, Ole Miss and a road trip to Arkansas.

Miami Hurricanes
What to watch for on offense: The last time Miami started a freshman under center, Bernie Kosar was a teenager on campus in the 1980s. It’ll happen again this year, as Robert Marve tries to reverse a recent trend of inconsistency at quarterback and a last place ACC finish in passing. He’ll be surrounded by 10 players with something to prove, particularly RB Javarris James and WR Sam Shields. James is looking to bounce back from an injury-riddled sophomore season and a drop in production. Shields has a world-class blend of speed, burst, and leaping ability, but needs to put it all together to finally reach his enormous potential.

What to watch for on defense: The Cane defense will be looking to rebound from a November collapse that saw it sink to an un-Miami-like 10th place ACC finish in scoring D. While LB Colin McCarthy and DE Eric Moncur will be the catalysts, new coordinator Bill Young will also be weaving in a handful of younger players, including blue-chip true freshmen Marcus Forston, Arthur Brown, and Sean Spence. Keep an eye on sophomore DE Allen Bailey, a converted linebacker who has torn it up in the offseason and possesses a ridiculous combination of size, speed, and strength.

The team will be far better if… Marve doesn’t play like a freshman. Heck, this is Quarterback U., and it’s about time Miami starts playing like it. The defense will be better and the running game is in good hands, but the Canes can’t afford another season averaging just 169 yards a game through the air. The burden falls on the rookie quarterback and a group of receivers that’s been better in shorts than in pads.

The Schedule
: The Canes will know just how much better they've gotten this off-season in a big hurry. After a warm-up against Charleston Southern, road dates at Florida and Texas A&M could either set the tone for the season or show just how far the program still has to go. On the flip side, the big Coastal showdown against Virginia Tech is at home, missing Clemson and Boston College from the Atlantic, and getting Florida State in Miami are all tremendous breaks. Closing up with three road dates (Virginia, Georgia Tech and NC State) in the final four, with the home game against the Hokies, isn't a plus.

West Virginia Mountaineers

What to watch for on offense: Even after rushing for 1,335 yards, passing for 1,724 yards, and accounting for 28 touchdowns, the Mountaineers might need more from QB Patrick White this season. Without playmakers Steve Slaton, Owen Schmitt, and Darius Reynaud, who caught 12 touchdown passes, West Virginia is searching for reliable complements to its dynamic quarterback. The most likely candidate to step up is RB Noel Devine, who erupted for 627 yards and six touchdowns on only 73 carries as a rookie. The offensive line, always a constant in Morgantown, returns five starters and will be among the best units in the country.

What to watch for on defense: Coordinator Jeff Casteel was retained, good news considering how well the Mountaineers performed in 2007. The defense was air-tight in all facets, allowing just 300 yards and 18 points a game, while finishing ninth nationally in turnover margin. Maintaining that level of play, however, is about to get tougher. Even without Marc Magro, the linebackers will be fine, but the defensive line must be rebuilt, and there’s a depth issue in the secondary. While Casteel will continue to lean on undersized athletes that fly to the ball, he’s going to need help from a few newcomers and redshirt freshmen.

The team will be far better if
… Devine is able to handle the load as an every down back. Although Steve Slaton will certainly be missed, his production really tailed off last season, and injuries always seemed to be an issue. West Virginia believes it might do better with Devine taking carries, provided he can withstand the punishment that comes with 20 or 25 carries a game. A game-changer when he gets in space, he’s also only 5-8 and 170 pounds, a big concern if he becomes the go-to guy out of the backfield.

The Schedule: The schedule looks harder than it actually should be. The Big East slate isn't bad early and gets tough late with road trips to Louisville and Pitt in the span of six days, but remember, those two didn't go to a bowl last year. South Florida comes to Morgantown on December 6th; a perfect time to catch the warm-weather team. After a warm-up against Villanova to kick things off, the non-conference schedule gets nasty the rest of the way with trips to East Carolina and Colorado along with the mid-season showdown against Auburn. Win those three and a national title shot will likely be there for the taking.

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