Monday, May 3, 2010
Scouting the nonconference games
By ESPN.com staff
The post-spring power rankings are out, which means it's a good time to see where the A-list Pac-10 nonconference foes rank.
Sept. 18 vs. Iowa
Adam Rittenberg ranks the Hawkeyes second in the Big Ten. He writes: "A very good defensive line got better, players stepped up at linebacker, quarterback Ricky Stanzi worked on his interceptions and the offensive line saw some separation occur."
Sept. 18 at Wisconsin
Boy, Sept. 18 will be a Big Ten vs. state of Arizona challenge, eh? Rittenberg has the Badgers third in the Big Ten. Interesting note from Rittenberg here: "Injuries prevented the offensive line from truly coming together." Might this be a low scoring game because the Sun Devils should be pretty salty up front on D?
Sept. 11 vs. Colorado
Big 12 blogger David Ubben ranks the Buffaloes last in the Big 12, writing "... the defense gave up the second-most points in the conference last season, and there’s little reason to think they’ll be a lot better in 2010."
Sept. 17 at Nevada
The Bears better take the Wolf Pack seriously. First, it's not easy to win anywhere on the road. Second, Graham Watson ranks Nevada as the 10th-best non-AQ team in the nation. She writes, "... the defense still has a ways to go, but if the Wolf Pack can catch its defense up with its offense, it will be a tough team to beat this year."
Sept. 11 at Tennessee
This isn't your father's Volunteers. Chris Low dumps Tennessee into the 10th spot in the SEC, concluding "even getting to .500 next season will be a challenge for the Vols, who will have five new starters on the offensive line, a first-year starter at quarterback and no depth at defensive tackle."
Sept. 4 vs. TCU (Dallas Cowboys Stadium)
Welcome to the nation's toughest nonconference schedule. The Horned Frogs rank second in the non-AQ power rankings and sixth overall in the nation, according to Mark Schlabach, who writes, "Quarterback Andy Dalton and running backs Matthew Tucker and Ed Wesley lead what should be a very potent running attack."
Sept. 11 vs. Louisville
Brian Bennett dumps Louisville into the cellar of the Big East: "The team got better and tougher this spring under Charlie Strong but still has a long way to go," he writes.
Sept. 25 at Boise State
Boise State is this season's likely BCS buster but on a grander scale than previous versions, considering they almost certainly will start the season ranked among the top-five. Schlabach has the Broncos second and notes, "Boise State could very well be in the BCS title game hunt at season's end. The Broncos return 23 of 24 players who started against TCU in the Fiesta Bowl."
Sept. 18 vs. Wake Forest
The Cardinal will want to take revenge for their loss at Wake Forest a year ago. Heather Dinich has the Demon Deacons ranked ninth in the ACC, noting "The Deacs will reveal a more run-based, option offense under their new quarterback. The interior defensive line remains a concern. "
*The Cardinal also play at Notre Dame, which wasn't ranked by Schlabach.
Sept. 4 at Kansas State
Another "what were they thinking?" nonconference schedule. Ubben has the improving Wildcats sixth in the Big 12. He writes, "The Wildcats aren’t built to win 10 games just yet, but if Nebraska and Missouri stumble, they’ll be there to slip into the North conversation just like last season."
Sept. 18 vs. Houston
Watson has the Cougars seventh among non-AQ schools. She writes, "[New defensive coordinator Brian] Stewart’s work paid dividends during the spring game when his defense had 12 sacks, three interceptions and one fumble recovery."
Sept. 25 at Texas
Schlabach ranks the Longhorns No. 4 in the nation. He writes, "The Longhorns have several pieces to replace from the team that lost to Alabama in the BCS Championship Game, but replacing quarterback Colt McCoy doesn't seem as daunting after Garrett Gilbert's performance this spring."
Sept. 11 vs. Virginia
This shouldn't be much of a challenge for the Trojans, but it figures to be more of a challenge than it was in 2008, when they rolled 52-7 in Charlottesville. Dinich has the Cavaliers 12th in the ACC: "This will be a transition year with a new staff, new philosophies and possibly a new quarterback."
Sept. 18 at Minnesota
Rittenberg rates the Golden Gophers ninth in the Big Ten, and he suggests that Matt Barkley should be eager for this road game: "The Gophers had some setbacks on defense, including safety Kim Royston's broken leg, and still have to replace a whopping nine starters."
Sept. 4 at BYU
Is BYU rebuilding? That seems to be what Watson thinks, writing, "The Cougars had a lot of questions to answer this spring and they seemed to come out with more questions."
Sept. 11 vs. Syracuse
Huskies quarterback Jake Locker made an impressive debut three years ago at Syracuse. Bennett ranks the Orange seventh in the Big East, and his praise is faint: "Syracuse still should show improvement based simply on having more healthy bodies."
Sept. 18 vs. Nebraska
This should be a great matchup of Locker and a talented Huskies offense vs. a rugged Nebraska defense. Ubben ranks the Cornhuskers third in the Big 12, though with one reservation, "... don’t count on another 10-win season if the offense doesn’t improve."
Sept. 4 at Oklahoma State
The Cowboys lose a lot of key pieces from their 2009 team, which is why they are rated eighth in the Big 12. Writes Ubben, "Oklahoma State should have an impact player at each level of the defense in defensive end Ugo Chinasa, safety Markelle Martin and linebacker Orie Lemon, but they’ll need the rest of the D to solidify for the Cowboys to climb to a higher rung of the South ladder."
Sept. 18 at SMU
The Mustangs are on the rise under coach June Jones, even though they gave -- literally, gave, see four interceptions, two of which were returned for TDs -- Washington State its only win last year. Watson rates SMU fourth among non-AQ teams: "The Mustangs will be young for the second consecutive season, but a lot of that youth has experience."