2009 Jun 22
2009 National CFB: Five Teams Poised to Fall
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Today, we consider five teams that will take a step back – and maybe a dramatic one – in 2009.
South Carolina: Steve Spurrier has a date with irrelevancy, and it’s been coming for two years. In 2009, it finally arrives, as the Gamecocks face a brutal schedule. Three out of their four best opponents – Florida, Mississippi, Clemson – are at home, while pick em games vs. Tennessee, NC State and Arkansas are all on the road. Throw in a game at Alabama, and it’s a slate that USC’s uncertain offense just can’t handle. Five wins – maybe. Home games vs. Kentucky and Vanderbilt won’t be gimmes.
As for Spurrier – one has to wonder whether he’s got the patience or the stomach for the turf war the SEC East is about to become. Lane Kiffin resembles a more reckless, younger version of Spurrier. Urban Meyer could win awards for his insolence. The SEC’s revenue-sharing plan has given Vandy and Kentucky a real shot at competing. Georgia is still Georgia. Recruiting down there is a nightmare, and Clemson’s on the way back up now that Tommy Bowden’s out of picture. We suspect a retirement, soon.
Southern California: Blasphemy? Nope – just reality. The Trojans will boast one of the nation’s sturdiest running games, and Aaron Corp/Matt Barkley should capably fill shoes previously worn by Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, John David Booty and Mark Sanchez.
But the defense, awe-inspiring in 2008, needs a year to retool after losing nine of the top 12 tacklers. We suspect, for the first time in five years, that opposing teams might really gain some traction running the ball on USC. The September-October schedule is really tough – games at Ohio State, California, Notre Dame and Oregon – and we could see a trap set in one of the two final home games vs. UCLA and Arizona. The Trojans could still win 10 games. If not, don’t be surprised.
Utah: No undefeated season this year. The Utes lose quarterback Brian Johnson, their top four receivers and one of the nation’s best punter/kickers Louie Sakoda, who a consensus first-team All American. Throw in games at Oregon and the three best teams in Mountain West – BYU, TCU and UNLV – and you get the picture. A rebuilding job in Salt Lake City.
Wake Forest: The smoke and mirrors are going to run out for Jim Grobe’s crew. The non-conference schedule, with games at Navy and vs. Baylor and Stanford, is sneaky hard, especially for a team that lost all of its starting linebackers. And while the conference schedule seems manageable from afar, we see take Wake taking a hard dive with home games vs. Miami, Florida State and NC State and road games at Clemson and Georgia Tech. Something’s gotta give in the ACC, and this year, it’s the Deacs. Seven losses. Maybe more.
Oklahoma State: We make risky calls sometimes around here, and this is our riskiest. While many predict a breakout season for the Cowboys this year similar to the one Texas Tech (sorta) experienced last year, we go in the opposite direction.
Part of it is a matter of pressure and expectations. At Tech, Mike Leach crafts his teams to his liking, toils away from the state’s major newspapers, and keeps perspective and occasionally gets a pass from the media because of it. Not Mike Gundy, for obvious reasons: The watchful eye of T. Boone Pickens, and, well, this little moment.
The Cowboys also host Georgia to open the season, the most significant season-opener since, oh, whenever. OSU buckled in Athens back in 2007, and its fan base can taste a win here. If the Pokes can’t beat a Dawg team that’s replacing its top quarterback, running back and receiver, well, you can imagine the pressure that goes on the team, and Gundy, after that.
Thirdly, Oklahoma State couldn’t stop the pass in last year, and, with replacing three starters in the secondary, we don’t forsee it this year. Couple that with a front seven that gave up at least 110 yards in nine of 13 games, and you’ve got a defense poised for a major meltdown in 2009. Gundy seems to know as much, which is why he signed up coordinator-for-hire Bill Young to do something – anything – with the defense.
Finally, well, we just don’t trust the HC. Don’t trust a guy so involved in the offense that he turns his back on an awful defense to go draw up plays. Worked like a real peach in the last quarter of the season, when OSU went 1-3 and gave up more than 500 yards per game, didn’t it? We see too many similarities in Stillwater – meddlesome administration, aloof coaching, mercenary, cerebral guys on defense – to what happened at Nebraska in 2007.
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