Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Praise Galt for Football VI - NCAA

On to the NCAA. I'm getting a late start since it's already two weeks in to the season, but at least now I can make a more informed prediction. I'm skipping a few of the lesser Div 1 conferences (like the WAC and Mountain West) because I'm unfamiliar with them and they're unlikely to make much of an impact on the season.

ACC: Wake Forrest

For the past few years, Clemson has been picked as the favorite to win the ACC, and it stumbled out of the gate. Even if I hadn't seen the stomping the Tigers suffered at the hands of the Crimson Tide last week, I still would not have picked Clemson to win their conference. You have to beat the best to be the best, and the Tigers have consistently shown that they can't handle the pressure of being conference favorites. Wake Forrest, on the other hand, consistently outperforms preseason expectations. They step up to the challenge and win games they shouldn't. I don't know if it's the coaching, underrated recruiting, or what, but the Demon Deacons have an "it" factor that will lead them to the ACC Championship.

Big 12: Oklahoma

Oklahoma has reloaded this year, and will be as tough as ever. QB Sam Bradford threw *5* touchdown passes last week, albeit against a weaker Big East opponent. Their schedule is not all that difficult, with the only significant tests being against Texas, Texas Tech, and Kansas. If Oklahoma can get past these stumbling blocks, we may see them in the National Championship Game.

Big East: Who Cares?

After losing three of its best teams (Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Miami) to the ACC, the Big East is basically a basketball conference. Connecticut, South Florida, and West Virginia all have decent teams, but they can't compete with any of the other major conferences (with the possible exception of the ACC, which sucks this year). That said, South Florida will probably take the crown.

Big Ten: The Ohio State

The only easier pick than this one is USC in the PAC-10. Ohio State, once again, has all the makings of a National Championship contender. They're explosive on offense, devastating on defense, have plenty of depth, and are extremely well-coached. I wouldn't be surprised if Penn State gives them a run for their money, but I think Ohio State will come out on top.

Conference USA: East Carolina

What a pleasant surprise to see an unknown East Carolina program do so well against heavy-hitting out-of-conference teams. After their victories against successive ranked opponents (Virginia Tech and West Virginia), East Carolina should be favored in every game they play for the rest of the season. Lou Holtz must have taught his son (the head coach of EC) many tricks of the trade. And this from a team in tiny Greenville, NC. Go get 'em Pirates! The Flying Spaghetti Monster is pleased...

PAC-10: USC

Duh. Are there other teams in the Pac-10? If there are, I'm not aware of them.

SEC: Florida

This is the conference I know the most about, since my Carolina Gamecocks are in the SEC. Unfortunately, my only positive prediction for the poor Gamecocks is that they will knock off one ranked team this year. They play against 6 ranked teams, so god help them if they can't beat any of them. Most of the experts are picking Georgia (the #2 ranked team) to win the SEC this year. But Georgia, like Clemson, tends to under-perform the experts' predictions. They did finish the season strong last year, but they got beat by lowly South Carolina in their SEC opener. I doubt that will happen again this year, but Georgia also has to play Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, and Auburn. One of these teams will take them down, probably Florida. If Georgia makes it to the SEC Championship game, they will likely have to play Auburn again. I just don't see them running this Gauntlet. My prediction: Florida vs Auburn in the SEC Championship game, with the Gators and Tim Tebow coming out on top.

National Championship Game: The Florida Gators!

I predict that the winner of Florida vs Georgia will play against the winner of Ohio State vs USC. I'm giving the nod to Florida and USC in their respective games, so I have the Gators vs the Trojans in the National Championship Game. That's a good thing for Ohio State, because it would be a shame for them to get stomped by yet another SEC team in a title game. This time, it's USC's turn to get stomped. SEC rules, and wins another National Title!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Praise Galt for Football VI

This is the 6th annual edition of "Praise Galt for Football," in which I offer one educated fan's view of the upcoming NFL and NCAA football seasons. I'm going to try something a little different this year: I will pick a winner for each division (in the NFL) or conference (in the NCAA) and explain the reasoning behind my choice. Then I'll make a prediction for the Superbowl and NCAA Championship games.

NFL
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AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers

My theme for this year's preview is: you have to beat the best to be the best. The Browns are the sexy pick to win the AFC North, but I can't go against a Pittsburgh team that has proven itself time and again. The Steelers are always tough on defense. They were 3rd against the run last year, and I see no reason that will change. Willie Parker is a bruising runner who will pound away between the tackles all year. But "Big Ben" Rothlisberger is the only one who can answer the question of whether the Steelers will make it deep into the playoffs. If he has a great year (like he did a few years ago with his 15-1 season), then the Steelers have a chance to go far. If not, then it will be an early playoff exit for Pittsburgh.

AFC South: Indianapolis Colts

I know, the Jags are always tough. I know, the Texans are getting better every year. But: you have to beat the best to be the best. It used to be the case that the Colts were an offensive powerhouse that scored a lot, but were easy to score against. Not any more, not with Tony Dungy at the helm. Their defense will only get better this year.

AFC East: New England Patriots

This is the easiest pick of all. The Jets could make a run for the wild card if Brett Favre picks up a new offense quickly and does his thing, but there's no way you can pick against the Pats unless the whole team gets killed in a plane crash or something. Even then, I'd fear the ghosts of New England!

AFC West: San Diego Chargers

Too much defense (even with an injured Merriman), too much LaDanian Tomlinson, and too much of a track record to pick any other team than San Diego in the AFC West. I'm very interested to see how two top draft picks play together in Oakland (Jamarcus Russel and Darren McFadden), but no one will pose a real challenge to the Chargers.

NFC North: Minnesota Vikings

I'm going with the experts on this one. Everyone is picking the Vikings in the NFC North, and I don't see any compelling reason to pick differently. Adrian Peterson looks poised to be a top fantasy pick this year, and unlike some other fantasy picks, his production will also lead to wins for his team. I still don't know much about QB Tavaris Jackson. He seems to manage the game well, but can he lead his team to a Super Bowl? Well, if Trent Dilfer can do it... The defensive front for Minnesota is nasty, which gives me more confidence in this pick.

NFC South: New Orleans Saints

I'd love to pick my Panthers for the NFC North, but the addition of TE Jeremy Shockey pushes the Saints over the edge for me. New Orleans will have an exciting offense this year, and Shockey will open up the passing game even more. Their defense is less than stellar, but I don't think anyone else in the NFC North can put up as many points as the Saints on game day. If Panthers 1st round draft picks RB Jonathan Stewart and OT Jeff Otah have stellar years (Stewart is my upset pick to win Offensive Rookie of the Year), and if Julius Peppers returns to his regular form, then the Panthers have a chance to take it.

NFC East: New York Giants

You have to beat the best to be the best, and the Giants were the best of the best last year. Got that? :) Everyone will be gunning for the Super Bowl champs, but I think they can handle the pressure. They will be weaker at defensive end with the loss of Umenyiora and Strahan, but they will still be tough on defense. Eli Manning has settled into his NFL career and will get steadier as the years go on. Success is in his blood. The Dallas Cowboys, however, might have the best offense in the NFC, will finish the season strong, and will earn a wild card spot.

NFC West: Arizona Cardinals

This is probably the division I know the least about, but I still have confidence in picking Arizona. Kurt Warner is no stranger to success, having experienced plenty of it in his career. He's an old man, but his team is primed to upset incumbent Seattle. The Seahawks have won the division for the past four years, but they haven't shown me much. The Cardinals have a pair of incredible receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquon Boldin, and I believe veteran RB Edgerrin James has at least one great season left in him.

Super Bowl: New England Patriots vs Dallas Cowboys

How, you might ask, could I pick Dallas to lose their own division and then make it to the Super Bowl? Because I think they will get stronger as the season goes on. Their running game will wear defenses down in the playoffs. Tony Romo will get better and better as he begins the transformation from a young rising star to a solid veteran. Terrel Owens and Jason Witten will score many touchdowns. Pick a reason. And why New England? A better question would be: how could I pick anyone else besides New England? Even though they ended last season on a down note, they still made a run at history, and the team hasn't changed much.

New England is my pick to win yet another Super Bowl.

Stay tuned! I will handicap the NCAA football season within the next few days.

--Dan Edge