AP Top 10 Preseason … ALL HAIL THE SEC! Part 2

6) Texas A&M

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There is so much stuff going on with this team at that the moment that I do not now know where to begin. First, the signal caller needs to stop being¬†Johnny “So College Bro” Manziel. This discussion is meant for another post, but for now I will say, “No Manziel equals no chance at the West title or even at a major bowl game.” Texas A&M has 6 starters both on offense and defense returning but this could change with a possible Manziel suspension. Their rushing game must pick it up in order for Manziel to have the heat taken off him (even if he plays). They have a strong schedule, but they will be “Roll-Tided” early on and knocked out of BCS chances if Manziel is not playing (Possible game of the year here). Whoever plays quarterback will have good protection again thanks to the depth of the line which is what the SEC is notorious for. Their secondary and defense looks good with some starters returning, but there is just so much in the air right now. You need Manziel, and if I were the coaching staff, I would sit this kid down and tell him he better shape up or the team has to take losses or even wins without him.

7) South Carolina

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I dont…I dont even know where to begin, but i will start in an obvious spot. I started following Clowney around the time I really got into college football and football in general. I remember him being the top prospect and wondering why he would go to South Carolina and not Alabama who had just won their first BCS National Championship or Florida who had Urban Meyer and were equally good. Ever since, this kid has been nothing but a menace. He is frightful and I have always thought of him as one of the best defensive ends even when he entered as a freshman. Now, South Carolina shares a similar schedule with Georgia in regards to having to play three top contending teams. The good thing is that South Carolina’s offense has matured, which means they can hopefully do a lot better this year. The defense has carried South Carolina for the past couple of years (as shown by Clowney’s murderous hit). If South Carolina’s offense puts up 30 points a game, then I would recant my comment about Georgia reaching the SEC Championship from before. The hard thing about this is which quarterback will take the snaps and the hopes of Davis filling in for Lattimore, who is a ‘Niner now, may be a long shot. I want Clowney to win this year so he can leave and start his NFL career, but that’s just me and the other SEC quarterbacks’ hopes.

8) Clemson

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Sorry, no glove … No love!

I will tell you why this team is going to be much better than the Florida State “powerhouses” we have seen in the past couple of years. Firstly, this team is going up against two SEC teams that are ranked in the top ten in two of their four out of conference games. That alone proves this team is willing to take on the best. Second, they quietly finished at 11-2 last year and they hit bad tides a couple years back when they got embarrassed by 70-35 in their bowl game. However, they can score and not many teams are going to be able to shut down their scoring efforts very well. They have defensive problems much like Georgia, and they look like the Mud Dogs defense without Bobby Bouche. There are 7 returning starters on each side, but the offense is more ready to go this year with Tajh Boyd and and Sammy Watkins. The hardest part is going to be the opener against Georgia (offensive powerhouse SEC) and the closer against South Carolina (defensive powerhouse SEC). If, however, this team rises up and beats both of them (even one of them), I can see them going to a major bowl game. Their schedule may be too weak to warrant a BCS national championship game, unless they are unbeaten and win the conference championship. However, I like this team and they can make a good run if the defense can find a rhythm.

9) Louisville

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Around a year ago in October to November, I text my brother telling him that Lousiville was third in the nation when it comes to the defense giving up points and I said their quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was a good player. I humbly stand corrected about this and say he is now an excellent player. Louisville is the underdog of this top 10 and I can see them climbing these polls as all these teams destroy their own seasons. The only way at this point for Louisville to make the Big Dance is to be the only team or one of the last two teams standing undefeated. With their schedule, they could be poised to go undefeated and should with all the talent returning. They have 17 returning starters and most of which are on that stingy defense. Their problem is running the ball and their offensive line. If those two big issues are fixed somehow, then Louisville’s fate is sealed and they can move “forward”. However, they showed they can play with the big boys when the thrashed Florida in the Sugar Bowl. That 33-23 win was not as close as many think. Louisville proved that day they can play with the big boys and teams better recognize. Teddy may end up being the Heisman trophy winner unless Clowney decides to start intercepting the ball and sacking the quarterbacks on every other play. Overall, this team can make a run and I am excited to watch them play. It is clear and simple Louisville and I will make it simple: “Win…Win…Win…Win.” You do this, and you will be in the dance or at least a major bowl game.

10) Florida

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Florida comes back with a lot of questions raised. The team did not perform well in their performance against Louisville, but that team was tough in respect to them. Florida’s secondary is somehow still good even though they have 3 returning starters. The team has to reload and begin figuring out how to pass the ball this year. In addition, the front seven must be addressed before they can step forward but this SEC team (like many) has good depth and they may only need to find the right chemistry to be okay. For the offense, Driskel must begin passing the ball more, means relying on his receivers to get open. For Florida, correcting the pass rush and getting a pass offense is what they lack from moving up further in the ranks, clearly the pattern is in the word pass. They must play Georgia, LSU, and South Carolina . They could also make a run for the title, but it will be a little more difficult as they are the last team in the top ten and would need to be all teams on their schedule.

BCS National Championship - Alabama v Texas

My choice for the championship realistically/idealistically:

Well, this is the breakdown from the top 10. This group seems to be heavily strong towards offensive prowess which is a nice change. Overall, Alabama is the more realistic choice here and it makes sense really. Three championships in the past four years. However, ideally I would pin them against the Lousville Cardinals. I love this team and everything they have achieved in the past year. They came from nowhere in the Big East and were probably underestimated by many teams and were expected to lose to Florida. Instead, Louisville came in and decided to K.O. Florida within three quarters and prove who the real team was. I hope it happens again and I hope the best for Bridgewater. This young man does not have the best line nor the best run game and he was able to produce an astounding 3,400 passing yards along with 25 touchdowns to 7 interceptions. Louisville v. Alabama, you heard it here first.

NCAA in Atlanta

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So, it’s all said and done. Louisville, the number one overall seed has cut down the nets after beating Michigan, which hadn’t been to the Championship game since the Fab 5 played for the Wolverines.

Final Four¬†and the ‘Ship

Wichita State and Syracuse deserve some serious props for their seasons. Wichita State had a typical Mountain Valley Conference season; they appeared in the top 25 a few times and lost in their conference final to the team everyone else thought was the better squad. Syracuse was looking like a championship favorite early in the season, but then they lost three straight games and didn’t look like the same team when James Southerland was injured. However, both teams were able to make dramatic runs through the tournament to fall just shy of the championship game. Syracuse looked awful in the first half against Michigan, but that defense nailed down in the second half as they made their run but came up just short as some questionable charge calls were made. Wichita State had built a large lead, but Rick Pitino called a key timeout and his team buckled down on their defense and made a run to take the lead. The last minute was an ugly minute with some tough jump balls and foul calls, but Louisville moved on to meet Michigan.

Last night Louisville captured its third National Championship in school history and first since 1986. Rick Pitino became the first coach to ever win two championships at two different schools. Let’s jump into the game. Michigan came out firing as most thought they would; however, nobody expected it to be Spike Albrecht tallying 17 points in the first half, including hit four straight three pointers, as Michigan built a double digit lead. However, Luke Hancock had something to say about it hitting four straight three pointers of his own and at half the Michigan lead was down to 1. I had the feeling, because of Louisville’s track record of second half surges, the game was already over. In second halves Louisville clamps down with their defense, pressing stamina and pressures opponents into mistakes.

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The second half was an unrelenting back and forth until Louisville went on a 9-2 run to drive the Cardinals’ faithful crazy in Atlanta, until Russ Smith decided it was a good idea to try and let Michigan back in the game. A few ill-advised shots and a stupid foul committed on Trey Burke when Michigan was already in the double bonus, had my brother jumping up and down screaming, “take him out!” Of course Pitino, couldn’t do that, but they were definitely punishable mistakes. It came down to foul shots, except John Beilein didn’t tell his guys to foul not realizing they had a couple of fouls to give. He later admitted that it was his mistake (at least he owned up to it). But the game was over and Louisville was cutting down the nets.

To review, the referees were awful, some of the worst calls I’ve seen in any basketball game ever. It went both ways too. A missed kick-ball here, strips or blocks that were called fouls, fouls that weren’t called, too quick or too slow on some jump balls. Bad calls were made both ways, but it seemed Michigan got hurt on a few more calls. However, as a Giant fan (I’m looking at you refs in the 2011 playoffs), you can’t blame the refs, you just have to beat the other team.

Louisville deserved this championship, they were a solid offensive team that boasted the best defensive side of the ball as well. Rick Pitino is easily a top 5 coach in the NCAA right now. Then there’s Kevin Ware, who is from Atlanta. His friends, his family were able to go out and win this one for him after his horrific injury. What a heart-warming story after such a heart-stopping moment last weekend. Louisville is now 3-0 in championship games and Michigan has fallen to 1-5 (OUCH!). The game was a classic though and the fans were into it, but the refs weren’t. A laughable moment is when Rick Pitino ducked after the fireworks went off inside the Georgia Dome. I guess this is how you react to loud booms when you’re born in NYC and raised in Bayville (that’s Long Island for all that don’t know)

Championship Moment

Championship Moment

The Champs

The Champs

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