Noles News 08.08.11

Fall camp starts today! Our offensive questions piece will run later this afternoon. Expect practice reports and the defensive questions piece to follow tonight and tomorrow, respectively. Don't expect much news, though, during the first few days because the guys are in helmets and shorts only.

FSU

U.Va. Football Begins Fall Practice - Streaking The Lawn
UVA has open practices. Meaning our UVA site gets to go.

Seminoles by position: A look at Florida State’s offensive line depth – Chopping Block – Seminoles Blog – Orlando Sentinel
Very nice look here.

The College Football Preseason Top 25: Part II | College Football

4. Florida State:

Now here’s a team I can get behind!

If you don’t like Florida State, the reasons why are understandable. They’ve got an inexperienced quarterback (which as I just mentioned, is something I think is overrated), and despite their ACC Atlantic Division title last year, they’re still a club that’s not totally used to winning. No one on this roster has ever played in a BCS bowl game.

A few things here.

One, for anyone who thinks E.J. Manuel is inexperienced, they clearly haven’t looked at his resume. No, he hasn’t started a ton of games. But amongst those he has, include: Last year’s ACC Championship Game. The 2010 Gator Bowl. Against Florida in the Swamp two years ago. And while he didn’t start last year’s Chick Fil-A Bowl, he did play most of the snaps. Basically, E.J. Manuel is about as experienced as an "inexperienced," quarterback can be.

Then there’s the, "They’ve never been there before," theory, which might hold water… you know, if Auburn hadn’t just proven 12 months ago that enough talent can trump experience. How many guys on the Auburn roster had won an SEC Division title, let alone an SEC title before last season? None that I know of.

Regardless, I’m fascinated with the Noles, and since I’m planning on writing about them quite a bit more in the coming days, I won’t add too much here.

What I will do, is leave you with this: In the BCS era, Bob Stoops, Jim Tressel, Urban Meyer, Les Miles and Gene Chizik have all won BCS titles in the second year at their particular school. Well, Jimbo Fisher is in his second year. That isn’t terribly significant, but interesting none the less.

And remember too that the schedule breaks nicely for the Seminoles this year. If they can by Oklahoma in Week 3 and a visit to Clemson in Week 4 (where they haven’t won in over 10 years), there doesn’t seem to be a game the rest of the year that they won’t be heavy favorites. Instead, they get to gorge on a crap-tastic platter of Boston College’s, Maryland’s and Wake Forest’s. Not to mention that their two biggest rivals, Miami and Florida are breaking in new head coaches this year.

In other words, there’s plenty to like in Tallahassee this year.

Rivals

Clemson Football - Tiger Tracks - Travis Sawchik | The Post and Courier, Charleston SC - News, Sports, Entertainment
Clemson will be playing a lot more 3-4 this year. Excellent choice by the Tigers and I'll have more on that. Read this article.

Will Vic Beasley find a home for Tigers at bandit end? " OrangeandWhite.com

Clemson's current personnel seems better suited to a 3-4 than the Tigers' familiar 4-3. Defensive line coach Dan Brooks recently talked about the interchangeability of the Tigers' big bodies up front – primarily in the context of adapting players from end to tackle positions. Rennie Moore has already made the switch, and Tavaris Barnes has been working primarily at tackle since the spring.

Hokies Football Media Day | The Key Play
Great recap of Hokies' media day.

Recruit Report: D.J. Humphries, T, Mallard Creek - Alligator Army
Gators land one of the top offensive tackles in the country. They'll need him to block FSU's ridiculous defensive line haul.

Twitter / @Jake_Trotter: Stoops: "Expect defense to ...
Bob Stoops: "Expect defense to be significantly better from a year ago. D-line, d-ends much better than they've been billed to be."

2010 ACC Football Starts Lost To Injury - BC Interruption
A look at Phil Steele's analysis of 2010 college football starts lost to injury as it relates to the 2011 ACC title run.

Clemson Football Practice Report - August 6 - CLEMSON UNIVERSITY OFFICIAL ATHLETIC SITE
Clemson running more of a 3-4 defense? Yep. Kevin Steele has the experience with that.

2011 Oklahoma Football Offensive Preview: The Line - Crimson And Cream Machine
Looks to be a very good group.

Tigers in training: 3 things to watch as Clemson opens football camp | The Post and Courier, Charleston SC - News, Sports, Entertainment
Clemson's personnel definitely fits a move to a 3-4 defense. Good position battles here.

K'Hadree Hooker Commits To NC State - Backing The Pack
Nice pickup for the Wolfpack

U.Va. Football Begins Fall Practice - Streaking The Lawn
UVA has open practices. Meaning our UVA site gets to go.

Preseason Coaches Poll Reactions: ACC - CBSSports.com

#5 Florida State - Seeing the Seminoles in the top 5 seems appropriate. They had a strong finish to the 2010 season, falling 44-33 to Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game then defeating South Carolina in the Chick Fil-A Bowl, and return 16 offensive and defensive starters. One of the new starters, junior quarterback EJ Manuel, was already selected to the preseason All-ACC team. Head coach Jimbo Fisher has embraced the expectations, and feels certain that his team is prepared to stay focus regardless of hype. Manuel himself claims that he doesn't even read articles and blogs about the team.

But as far as national dominance goes, the Seminoles' campaign hits a fork in the road on Sept. 17 when the top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners visit Tallahassee for a spotlight showdown that will likely make or break either team's national title hopes. A loss puts them in the position of battling for an Orange Bowl berth, a win makes a trip to New Orleans seem like a legitimate possibility for Florida State fans.

Other CFB

2011 Football Preview: The Idaho Vandals And America's Underdog - Football Study Hall
A look at the 2011 Idaho Vandals football team. Idaho is aggressive and active, but can they bounce back after falling to 6-7 last year?

Below is a small handful of projection and change factors most pertinent to the Football Outsiders' preseason projections you will find in the Football Outsiders Almanac 2011.

Four-Year F/+ Rk 117
Five-Year Recruiting Rk 111
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin**** +2 / -0.5
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 13 (5, 8)
Yds/Pt Margin***** -0.3

This is an enjoyable team. They wing the ball around on offense, they attack (for better or worse) on defense, and their coach is fantastically fun to listen to in interviews. But are they capable of actually playing good football? How good? Our Football Outsiders Almanac 2011 projections are not optimistic about Idaho's prospects this year, giving them just a 13% chance of reaching bowl eligibility. But let's look beyond this season for a moment.

Though I can't speak to the cultural differences of different portions of the great state of Idaho (granted, Moscow is as much a part of Montana, Oregon and Washington as the rest of Idaho), I can tell you about the differences in quality between the Idaho and Boise State football programs. The Vandals cannot compete with their neighbors to the south, but that's just as well because they're no longer conference mates with the Blue-Blood Broncos. In fact, Idaho faces an opportunity of sorts over the next few years. Boise State has left the WAC, and Hawaii, Fresno State and Nevada are soon to follow. That leaves Idaho, San Jose State, Louisiana Tech (seriously, can La. Tech and UTEP just flip conferences so I stop getting confused?), New Mexico State, Utah State (for now), and soon-to-be newcomers like UT-San Antonio and Texas State. Somebody could establish themselves as the class of the new (and incredibly weak) conference. Could America's Underdog fill the void?

Pre-Snap Read: #27-Utah

So here’s how I think the Pac-12 South will play out, from last to first: Colorado, U.C.L.A., Arizona, Arizona State, U.S.C. and Utah. If I could go back to July and know that Arizona would have Juron Criner, I’d probably push the Wildcats up to third and knock the Sun Devils down a peg. Most importantly, however, I don’t have Utah ahead of the Trojans because of the latter program’s N.C.A.A. penalties; I have the Utes atop the South on their own stature, thanks to the nice qualities this team carries on both sides of the ball. There’s the potential for a very nice offense should Wynn be – and remain – healthy; this means the Utes need to find a lead running back, but I don’t think the running game is going to struggle in the least, mainly because of the solid offensive line. The defense has holes to fill in the secondary, but there’s rising talent at cornerback and two talented starting safeties, albeit a pair without optimal college experience. So I think the Utes have a Virginia Tech-like debut in the Pac-12, hitting the ground running in their first season – against the odds and ahead of expectations, it’s safe to say. But this isn’t a great team, not one that lines up with a few of the program’s recent powers. The offense will have some growing pains, and the defense has a few issues to address before we get fully on board. Utah has the good fortune of playing in a wide-open South division, which will help. I think we’ll see the Utes float around a national ranking all season, and should win eight or nine games in the regular season.

Top Ten Teams: Who Is Likeliest to End Unranked? - Team Speed Kills

Last year, I ranked the top 10 teams of the preseason Coaches' Poll in order of who I thought was likeliest to end the season unranked. It went pretty well, all things considered.

The reason it works is because since 2002, roughly two preseason top 10 teams per year have ended the season unranked. The coaches have only avoided having top 10 teams fall out of the polls twice (2004 and 2007). All preseason polls are shaky, but the Coaches' Poll is the worst of them all. Coaches rank on reputation more than any other pollsters, and reputation factors in more in preseason polls than any of the rest of them.

Keep in mind that this list here doesn't necessarily predict that any team will finish the season unranked. It's merely the order of who I think is most to least likely to end the year outside the Coaches' Poll. When I list "potential losses" for each, it means that's the number of tossups (or worse) on the schedule in a worst case scenario. The magic number to hit is five, as about the only way to finish in the top 25 with five losses is to lose to the national champion twice like South Carolina did last year.

This is also not a ranking of overall quality of the teams. It's more about who has the lowest floor.

Debriefing: The old aura is long gone, but USC fights on - Dr. Saturday - NCAAF Blog - Yahoo! Sports

Debriefing: Stanford hits us with its best shot - Dr. Saturday - NCAAF Blog - Yahoo! Sports
Totally disagree with an 11-1 record for Stanford. Lost an enormous amount on a very good defense.

Debriefing: Bloodied Bruins climb back in the ring with Neuheisel’s fate at stake - Dr. Saturday - NCAAF Blog - Yahoo! Sports

Debriefing: Off life support, Washington’s rehab settles in for the long haul - Dr. Saturday - NCAAF Blog - Yahoo! Sports

Friday, It's So Fetch! Vol. 13
Here's a quick look at the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll Top 25 with some huh and what analysis.

Debriefing: Utah takes the Pac-12 plunge with head high, fingers crossed - Dr. Saturday - NCAAF Blog - Yahoo! Sports

Pre-Snap Read: #29 Michigan

Here we go. No more Rodriguez, Greg Robinson and company; Hoke, Borges, Mattison and company provide a spark, a new set of standards and a breath of fresh air for the Michigan program. It’s fine to be excited. There are issues to address on both sides of the ball, but we are going to see a vastly improved on-field product from the Wolverines in 2011. Offensively: the transition from pro-style to spread is far more difficult than the move back. Most of the attention has been paid to Robinson’s transition, but whether he’ll produce shouldn’t even be a question. If U.M. can find an answer at running back the offense should remain productive enough to lead the Wolverines back to bowl play on its own, as it did a year ago. Defensively: the slight personnel changes should yield immediate dividends. The reworked defensive line will be better against the run and in getting to the quarterback, which will have a domino-like effect for the defense at large. Will Michigan make a drastic leap in the national defensive rankings? The Wolverines won’t turn in a top 25 effort, but I think the defense will move from abysmal to the middle of the pack. For now, the secondary will continue be the defense’s Achilles heel. What about the schedule? U.M. gets eight games at home, including Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State. You really couldn’t ask for anything better than that in Hoke’s first season. So, the bottom line: eight wins, if not nine, a far better product, impassioned play, hope for the future.

2011 Season Preview: Dreams, Lullabies And The Auburn Tigers - SBNation.com
A look at the 2011 Auburn Tigers football team. Auburn rode a transcendent quarterback and a batch of since-departed difference makers to a national title in 2010. What happens when Gene Chizik, Guz Malzahn and company are forced to start over?

Summary and Projection Factors

Below is a small handful of projection and change factors most pertinent to the Football Outsiders' preseason projections you will find in the Football Outsiders Almanac 2011.

Four-Year F/+ Rk 14
Five-Year Recruiting Rk 11
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin**** +5 / +5.5
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 7 (3, 4)
Yds/Pt Margin***** -3.2

Considering the close wins, Auburn was not tremendously lucky in 2010, at least not according to fumbles and Yards Per Point. The luck came in the perfect confluence of blue-chippers (Newton) and players peaking at the perfect time (Fairley, for example). The problem, of course, is that such a vast majority of difference-makers is gone from a team that won so many close games that, if Auburn is a touchdown worse in 2011 (certainly a possibility), they could fall from 14-0 to about 5-7 in a heartbeat.

Of course, the numbers don't see it that way. Of course they don't. What Auburn did in 2010 -- casting aside recent history with sudden success, etc. -- made no sense to the numbers, and this fall they're dealing with an entirely new set of "knowns": championship-caliber teams don't fall off the face of the planet (then again, Texas probably tamped that sentiment down a bit), returning starter numbers don't matter as much as we might think, etc. In what is immediately the shakiest-looking projection in the Football Outsiders Almanac 2011, AU is projected to fall, but only to fourth in the country and 9-3 overall.

Make no mistake: there is still a significant amount of talent on this team, certainly enough to play at the level of a Top 15 team. Dyer and McCalebb are great, the offensive line is laden with blue-chippers, and a still-athletic defense is going to be pretty damn experienced by midseason. And they still have Gus Malzahn calling plays. Things could be worse. But the margin for error is so slim in the SEC, particularly in today's SEC West, that any slippage could take you pretty far down the slope. Phil Steele made waves when he picked AU to finish last in the West. With looming road trips to South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU and Georgia (plus Alabama, Mississippi State and Florida at home), not to mention the fact that you could be a Top 25-caliber team and still finish fifth in the West, would that much of a tumble really surprise anybody?

Solid Verbal: Bachelor Poddy (8/4)
Ty and Dan talk with Mark Ennis from BigEastCoastBias.com about expectations at West Virginia, the Tino Sunseri Experiment in Pitt’s new offense, USF’s progression as a major football program, UConn’s mantra for 2011, and prop bets for his own wedding.

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