Archive for August, 2010

Too Good to be True…

We all know that North Avenue Trade School is legendary for its fan support.

I bet the powers that be in Atlanta are praying for full capacity as the Mighty Nerds take on the South Carolina State Bulldogs (who are the defending MEAC champion, by the way)– but the competition for a crowd is tougher than they think.

Dragon*Con, aka the:

largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the universe!

This year, Dragon*Con will be held…you guessed it this weekend in Atlanta, GA. Just too good to be true.

Maybe Paul Johnson will use his packets of health potion that gives him +1000 in defense points to win the game. Ah…the list of jokes is too long to type.

A Look Ahead: Louisiana Lafayette

Throughout the season we will be composing a preview of Georgia’s competition for the upcoming weekend.  Luckily for us and the Dawgs we get a warmup week to work the kinks out.

Louisiana Lafayette

Quick Hits
0-0 (2010) / 6-6 (2009)
5th place in the Sun Belt Conference
7 Offensive Starters
9 Defensive Starters
Interesting fact:
UL-La will host Oklahoma State on October 10.  I know T. Boone has taken a hit with his oil stocks but when you’re taking a pay check game by traveling to Cajun Field you’ve solidified your spot as the little brother in the state.

Positive Points
Louisiana comes to Athens as a middle of the road mid-major who looks to have a few issues and questions marks with their starting lineup.  On the positive side they are very impressive in the Red Zone, last year averaging the 16th most efficient in the nation and were 48th best in yards/game passing.  To put this in perspective, UGA was 75th.  Also, UL-La is known for their special teams and have blocked 41 kicks since 2002 – third most in the nation.

Key Players
Their most powerful offensive weapon, TE Ladarius Green did not start the final five games last season and has missed part of camp with knee tendinitis.  Depending on how his injury has improved, he may not see PT all 4 quarters.  Green was chosen for the preseason All-Sun Belt Team and if the game gets out of hand I see him resting on the side lines as this is not a conference game.  QB Chris Masson returns for his junior year hoping to improve 10:8 TD Int ratio but may have a rough start as five receivers have missed time in fall camp with injuries.  WR Marlin Miller has stayed healthy and should be his main target Saturday.

As for the running game, both leading rushers in 2009 graduated and preseason camp has seen the carries split evenly between four backs.  Soph FB Yobes Walker returns after starting 4 of the final 6 at running back and averaging 3.55 ypc.

On defense sr leader Grant Fleming is a two-time All-Sun Belt selection and moves from outside linebacker to inside linebacker.  And they return a secondary that recorded 16 interceptions last season, 23rd best in the country.

The Grit Tree’s Guess
If UGA can play smart vanilla ball this should be an easy Saturday.  With the injuries and inexperience UL-La’s offense should not be a problem for our new 3-4.  I am worried about Murray forcing any passes into their better than average secondary but I do feel okay knowing that 13 of the 16 interceptions came from their 6 wins.  I see this being a 38 to 6 kinda afternoon where Richt takes his foot off the gas early and Mason plays the entire 4th quarter. Don’t be suprised if you see some of the same plays you saw at your local middle school game this week.

Go Dawgs!

For your reading enjoyment
UGA Game Notes
UL-La Game Notes
(I always print the depth chart in UGA’s notes and keep it in my pocket on game days.  Works great when we start subbing in lineman late in the game)

Tuesday Leans

With Opening Day now on the horizon, we are glad to be back with our weekly leans and picks. Each Tuesday, The Grit Tree will provide you with a few leans as you look forward to the weekend. On Friday, we will lock in our picks for 3 games each week. If you are a gambler, use these as basis to pick the opposite way if you want to make your dollar go farther. With no further ado:


Kentucky (-3) @ Louisville Charlie Strong held out for a good head coaching job and got….Louisville.  Joker Phillips has some talent, and Hartline and Cobb are playmakers.  I like the Wildcats

Boise State vs. Virginia Tech (+3) The Broncos are traveling across the Country for a game in which is basically a home game for the castrated turkeys.  Virginia Tech has a power running game and a quarterback that can make plays with his feet.  Frank Beamer and Chris Petersen are complete 180 on coaching styles.  Two National Title Contenders enter DC on Labor Day, and only one survives-Virginia Tech and its strong defense and power running attack will overpower the Broncos and send them back to tater country

Utah State at Oklahoma (-34.5) Bob Stoops has some offense at his disposal.  Landry Jones has improved and Demarco Murray is 100% healthy.  Coach Stoops is an a-hole who wasn’t afraid to run up the score on opponents in Bradford’s 2008 Heisman campaign (50+ ppg) and will quiet the pissed off Sooner fans who were mad at a poor season last year.   Look for Stoops to run up the score for Boomer Sooner.


Southern Cal @ Hawaii (+21) Look for my boy Lane to run up the score here. I love this guy, and he could be the next coach at UGA if we play our cards right. The SEC will really miss his genius this year. Lay the points and take USC.

Utah State @ Oklahoma (-34) Bob Stoops is a jerk and is going to run up the score on lowly Utah State. Again, lay the points.

SMU @ Texas Tech (-13.5) Even though my second favorite pirate is no longer the captain of this ship, I love Texas Tech. I’ll give the points here against the Methodists and call for the Red Raiders to claim their bounty over the Mustangs.


Purdue at Notre Dame (-11) The Irish hit a home run when they hired Brian Kelley to coach this football team.  He is demanding and tough.  He mission to get Notre Dame back on track will begin Saturday against a Purdue team that has been flat out mediocre the last few seasons.  Call me crazy, but I think the Irish are a darkhorse to play for the national title.  If you don’t believe me look at the schedule.  It’s a breeze!  Irish will roll in Kelley’s first game and cover the 11.

UCONN at Michigan (-3) This is a make or break season for Rich Rodriquez.  UCONN returns a pile of starters and has a great coach in Randy Edsall.  However, I think Michigan will continue to improve, and they know the stakes for this opening game at Ann Arbor.  A loss here and the season could unravel quickly.  It won’t happen.  Michigan win will and cover the 3.

Oregon State at TCU (-13.5) This number looks very high on paper, however I think TCU is looking to make a statement here.  Boise State is getting all the preseason love as the non-BCS team that could make it to Glendale.  Oregon State is well coached under Mike Reilly but typically start out slow and catch fire late.  Plus the Beavers can’t be too excited about traveling to Fort Worth, TX to may in a small stadium so early in the year.  The Frogs will make a statement and roll Saturday.  Lay the 13.5


Purdue @ Notre Dame (-10) As bad as it pains me, I really like this season opener for the Fighting Irish. They have incorporated a new, faster paced offense and will be too much for Purdue. I’ll give the 10 and take ND in a big way.

North Carolina vs. LSU (pk) Vegas has this game as a pick. I’m mildly surprised that LSU isn’t a small favorite here. I think it will be a close game, but will lean towards the SEC in this matchup and take LSU to open the season with a W against a good UNC team.

Boise State (-2.5)  vs. Virginia Tech Vegas is throwing out a teaser here to see how many folks they can get to take VA Tech, but in the end it  just won’t be enough. Look for the Broncos from the Blue Turf to come east and win by………………..wait for it………………..2 TDs en route to a berth in the MNC!!!!!!!!


Oklahoma State (-14.0) vs. Washington State The ‘Boys from Stilly get a much easier opener from last year. Wazzu has been horrible for a long time.  RB Kendall Hunter gets 100+ rushing yards. Oklahoma State wins big.

So Cal (-19.0) vs. Hawaii  USC will try to beat their opponents into submission as much as they can– to at least get some brownie points. USC and give the points.

UL-L at Georgia (-24.5) Aaron Murray has a great debut. AJ makes Sports Center with some insane, Prothro like catch. The 3-4 gets a couple of offsides, but takes control early. Red kool-aid is the best flavor. UGA rolls.

The Grit Tree

I want to be Roger Federer

The women love him and oh yeah he can play some serious tennis.  Check out this shot in the 1st round of the U.S. Open last night.


#6 Boise State

While I realize Boise State, doesn’t play in a BCS conference nor has SEC type athletes I will rank their offensive unit against any team in America. Their QB Kellen Moore has been phenomenal since he took over the starting QB job his freshman season. He has thrown for nearly 7,000 yards in only two seasons and completed nearly 70% of his throws in 2009! He is back along with the best stable of RBs in the WAC led by Jeremy Avery and DJ Harper. The offensive line is one of the 20 best in the country and the Broncos are very experienced at receiver. The unit will strike fear in the hearts of any football team especially Virginia Tech come Monday night.

The Broncos get major pub for all their offensive prowess, however Boise State is also a solid defensive football team and will be strong again in 2010. The strength is the defensive line which returns All-WAC perfomers Ryan Winterswyk at DE and Billy Winn at DT. Winerswyk had 17 tackles for a loss last season while Winn had 44 tackles at his DT spot. I will shocked if this group allows over 100 yards rushing per game.

The linebacking and secondary corps are solid as well. Boise State returns its entire two deep at LB led by 2nd team WAC performer Winston Venable. The secondary loses their top guy from 09 and 1st round draft choice Kyle Wilson, however they return 5 with starting experience including 2-time 2nd team WAC star Jeron Johnson. Johnson is a stud, and he led Boise State in tackles last season and has 150 tackles in his career. Very solid from the safety spot.

Chris Peterson is outstanding, and I am shocked he’s still coaching at Boise State quite frankly. He has put a masterful run together going 49-4 with 3 undefeated regular seasons in his 4 years! Remarkable!

Many think this is the season that a non-BCS school will play for the title. Boise State will get that chance. They return a pile of talent, but open with a monster game against Virginia Tech in Landover, MD. Boise State must prove themselves in this game. The last time they made the trip to the East Coach they were blasted by Georgia 48-13. If the Broncos can make a statement and beat the Hokies, they will be a prime contender for the national title.

Target Acquired

One of my favorite things about UGA Basketball games is the crowd entertainment during timeouts.  If you’ve ever been to home games, the one guy wears boxing gloves and shorts and runs up the stairs ala Sly Stallone in Rocky as the legendary theme song plays on the speakers.

After seeing this quote from Coach Richt’s press conference today, I had a great idea. Via Seth Emerson at the Bulldogs Blog

Richt sort of cleared up who was starting at safety, with Bacarri Rambo. The depth chart said Nick Williams, but Jakar Hamilton said he’d been told it was him.

Richt agreed that it was Hamilton and Rambo, but added that Williams “will play.”

It just makes total sense to play this now, just substitute Murdock to your typical SEC RB or WR.


#7 Texas Longhorns

Garrett Gilbert was thrown to the wolves a little premature in the national title game last year due to the injury to Colt McCoy. After a first half that saw Gilbert complete just 1/10 throws, Gilbert rallied the Longhorns before falling short in the 2nd half. Gilbert will be sold piece of the Longhorn offense in 2010, and he’ll have a loaded receiving corps at his disposal. Despite the loss of WR Jordan Shipley, the Longhorns return WR Malcom Williams and John Chiles. Williams had over 500 yards receiving in 09 and with Shipley out of the picture, I think Williams may double his numbers this season.

The key for Gilbert to be successful in his starting role is to get better production from the RBs. Tre Newton led the way last season with a mediocre 552 yards on the season and fumbles were a major problem. However, I look for a much improved season out of Newton. Mack Brown is shifting to I-formation attack which will better suit Newton and Gilbert. Plus, the Longhorns return 10 players on their O-line two deep depth chart.

Another year and another stacked defensive football team for Texas. Each individual unit on Texas’ defense could compete for the best in the nation, which is a true testament to Mack Brown’s recruiting efforts. Alex Okafor returns on the defensive line after an outstanding freshman season. MLB Jarred Norton has 122 tackles and Emmanuel Acho will compete for All-Big 12 honors.

Texas for my money has the best secondary in America returning led by CB Curtis Brown. DC Will Muschamp is the best in the business and this group is just as talented and loaded with potential as any in Muschamp’s tenure.

Record breaking QB Colt McCoy is gone, but I don’t there will be the dropoff many expect with Garrett Gilbert. The key will be a solid establishment of a running game.

After what some considered an underachieving run in the first few years of Brown’s tenure, Texas has reeled off 3 BCS bids in five seasons including 2 national title appearances. The schedule sets up nicely, however the Longhorns have two mammoth games on the road at Nebraska and the annual Red River Shootout. Look for Texas to split these games and finish 11-1. However, this will be good enough to land in yet another BCS bowl.

#8 Oklahoma Sooners

This group was snake bit in 2009 as Oklahoma was devastated by injuries. Sam Bradford was out for most the season and stars Demarco Murray and Ryan Broyles battled injuries throughout the year. Considering he was only a freshman, I thought Landry Jones did a great job stepping in for Bradford. He threw for nearly 3,200 yards with 27 TDs. With a year of experience under his belt, I think Jones has a chance to get into the Heisman trophy picture.

A healthy Demarco Murray and Ryan Broyles should allow this team emulate the 2008 version that averaged 51 points a game!!! I look for Demarco Murray to have a big season and Ryan Broyles to lead the race for Biletnikoff award. The offensive line is stacked as well as Oklahoma returns 8 on the two deep with starting experience. OC Kevin Wilson is sleeping very well at night with all this talent at his disposal.

The Sooner defense does have some questions since they lose 1st round draft choice Gerald McCoy from the defensive line and LB starts Ryan Reynolds and Keenan Clayton. However, this group is still extremely talented.

3rd Team All-American Jeremy Beal is back as are his team leading 11 sacks. Last season Beal became the first Sooner ever to record 3 sacks in two different games. While there are losses in the LB corps, the coaching staff is very high on sophomore Ronnell Lewis who started the bowl game as a true freshman and finished with 22 tackles. MLB Tom Wort torn his ACL last year but is also highly touted.

The secondary for Oklahoma will carry this defense though. They lose CBs Dominque Franks and Brian Jackson but reload with highly touted freshman Gabe Lynn and Kevin Brent who are coming off redshirt seasons. Former UGA defensive coordinator Willie Martinez steps in to the role as secondary coach for the Sooners after being relieved of his duties as DC for the Dawgs. Despite his lack of success in Athens, Willie Martinez was a great hire for Bob Stoops and is one of the great secondary teachers today.

Despite his recent failures in BCS bowls, Bob Stoops is still one of the best football coaches in America. He won a national title in 2000 in just his second season, and has played for 3 more BCS titles.

The Sooner schedule is difficult in 2010 because they play 9 teams that played in bowls in 09. However, this group is deep and talented. Due to the injuries, Oklahoma played 9 true freshman. This will pay off this season. Once again, expect The Red River Shootout to decide the Big 12 South and a possible berth in the national title game.

Why Florida Won’t Be As Good In 2010

Unlike most members of the media, coaches, fans and even the other contributors on the Grit Tree, I think Florida will have a “down season”.  Now, a down season for the Gators is one where they aren’t beating every opponent by 40 points and aren’t contending for a National Championship.  I am not saying they won’t be good; I am not saying they won’t win the SEC East.  I am saying the Gators won’t be as good or great as they have been in recent years and a preseason #4 ranking is preposterous.

Reason 1:  Replacing Legends

Like him or not (and I don’t ), Tim Tebow was the greatest player  the SEC, even college football,  had seen since Herschel Walker was stalking the goal lines.  Don’t even look at his talent-his leadership made him valuable, too.  Yes, it was cheesey.  Yes, it was douchey.  Yes, Tebow was obnoxious every time he celebrated a three yard gain.  But you can’t deny his leadership ability.  Look what kind of leadership Florida has now

Florida lost Tebow, star receiver Riley Cooper and tight end Aaron Hernandez.  Hernandez was an absolute monster.  He was an exception athlete who was also open for big gains at crucial times.  He also was a weapon in short yardage; I don’t know how many times we saw Tebow do that shovel pass to him. 

You don’t have to look any further than UGA to see what happens when a team must replace great players at once.  UGA’s offense went from being one of the top ranked offenses in the SEC and being very dynamic in 2008 to being inconsistent in 2009 (despite having good ppg vs SEC opponents). The losses of Stafford, Moreno and Massaquoi were very apparent last season.  Florida has always recruited great. Brantley appears to be poised to be the next great Gator QB.   They still have Rainey, Demps and Moody.  But you honestly can’t expect to lose 3 talented, NFL caliber, integral parts of your offense and not expect some speed bumps along the way. 

And that’s just on offense skill positions.  The defense must replace all three starting linebackers-Ryan Stamper, Dustin Doe and who else? Um, let’s see…I don’t know-Brandon Spikes.  The Gators must also replace star DE Carlos Dunlap.  The transition to a 3-4 defense will provide some growing pains (as it will for UGA) and, while has recruited well in the secondary, Florida has to replace a lot of talent in its front seven. 

Again, they have recruited exceptionally well and have fast, talented players waiting in the wings, but you must expect some sort of regression after losing all talent they have lost.  You just can’t replace a Tebow, Spikes and Dunlap overnight.  

Reason 2: Loss of Great Assistant Coaches

Again, you don’t have to go any further than Georgia to see how the loss of a good assistant(s) can have a negative impact on a team-see Brian Van Gorder.  In College Football, attrition from both the players AND assistant coaches can be detrimental. 

It is easy to trace the demise of Bobby Bowden to 2001 when Mark Richt and Dave Van Hallanger left Florida State. 

In 2007, LSU’s strong defense led by Bo Pelini that helped lead the Tigers to a BCS National Championship.  In 2008, LSU’s defense plummeted (worse that UGA!) to dead last in the league. 

Pete Carroll had great teams at USC in the early-mid 2000s.  In 2009 Pete Carroll had his worse season since his first year at USC.  Now Matt Barkley isn’t Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer or Mark Sanchez, but USC had some great assistants over the years, too.  Norm Chow, Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian, Ed Orgeron, etc…  When a team loses top players, you can recruit more.  Finding great assistants and coordinators is harder to replace year in and year out. 

Charlie Strong has been a great defensive coordinator at Florida and South Carolina.  So good, Urban Meyer retained him following the Zook era.  Florida’s defense under Meyer/Strong was 18.8, 13.5, 25.5, 12.9 and 12.4 points per game from 2005-2009.  Except in 2007 when the Gators faced major personnel losses the Gators’ defense has been their strongest area on the team-and that’s saying something! 

Dan Mullen has been with Urban Meyer since he was at Bowling Green.  Florida went from scoring 44.9 ppg (!) in 2008 to 27.6 ppg in 2009.  It may take some time, but Dan Mullen is going to bring Mississippi State back to consistent credibility-and has some swagger to go along with it. 

By my count, 7/9 Florida Assistant Coaches are either in their 1st or 2nd year in the Gator Program.  QB and Tight End Coaches Scott Loeffler and Brain White are in their second year. Stan Drayton (RB), DJ Durkan (LB), Zack Azzanni (WR) and Teryl Austin (DC/Cornerbacks) are in their first seasons in Gainesville.  The pieces of the puzzle that were there when the Gators had their great success aren’t there anymore. 

Reason 3: Schedule Gets Tougher

Florida replaces Arkansas for Alabama in the SEC West rotation.  The Gators must replace Charleston Southern with South Florida.  The Gators will easily handle the Bulls, but South Florida has proven they are capable of playing good football.  In a span of 3 weeks, Florida must go to Knoxville and Tuscaloosa.  Tennessee won’t give the Gators much a problem, but the Tide will.  The toll of traveling to two large SEC environments in 3 weeks will be a test to this team. 

Even if Florida beats Alabama, you know the Crimson Tide are going to be a tough game.   LSU is a team I think will surprise people this year.  Florida must play Alabama AND LSU in back to back weeks.  Even if LSU isn’t good, you know it is going to be a physical team and John Chavis’ defense-that held Florida and all its stars to 13 points last year-will not be a push over.  Two tough, emotional and physical games in back to back weeks could spell trouble.

Depending on how well Jimbo Fisher has Florida State going Thanksgiving weekend, the trip to Doak Campbell could be pesky, too. 

Just the addition of Alabama to the schedule makes it tougher. 


Again, Florida could be good this year.  Can they still win the SEC?  SEC East?  Sure. But to expect another 12-0, 11-1 regular season with the personnel losses, attrition of great assistant coaches and a tougher schedule is unrealistic .  The Gators will come back to earth in 2010.


#9 Iowa Hawkeyes

There may not be a more clutch QB in college football today than Ricky Stanzi. He is the reason Iowa may win the Big Ten and is a darkhorse national title contender. Stanzi has a career completion percentage of under 60%, but he completes an outstanding 67% in the 4th quarter and has a pass eff rating of 200.2. Stanzi is also blessed to have a wealth of experience at his disposal at WR. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt return and the group combined for nearly 1,500 yards receiving in 2009. Iowa does have questions at RB, but Kirk Ferentz is an O-line guru and his unit will answer the RB uncertainity.

The defense is the strength of this football led by a stout D-line that is the Big Ten’s best. Adrian Clayborn turned down an early shot at the NFL and his 21 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks were among the best in the Big Ten in 09. DT Karl Klug is also a major space eater and leads a defensive line that only allowed 94 ypg on the ground.

Iowa also has the Big Ten’s best secondary. They return 5 with starting experience led by 1st team Big Ten SS Tyler Sash who had 85 tackles in 09. 2nd team Big Ten and senior FS Brent Greenwood is also back. The entire Iowa defense will do special things in 2010.

The only things that worries me about Iowa in 2010 is they typically underperform when expectations are high. In 2005 and 2006 Iowa was ranked #11 and #16 in the preseason and both times they finished the season unranked. The 06 team only finished 6-6. However, I think the talent is too strong in 2010 especially on defense, and I really believe that Ricky Stanzi is one of the best leaders at QB in college football.

The schedule also sets up very nicely for Iowa as they get Penn St, Ohio State, and Wisconsin at home. I believe the November 20 show down with the Buckeyes will be for the Big Ten title and depending on the records of both teams a spot in the Rose Bowl.