To quote Rakim, "It's been a long time", but with the beginning of fall camp for many of the nation's college football programs I'm back. By the end of the weekend players should be arriving, beginning preparations for a season slated to begin August 30 for some. Not sure how many of you like to sit down and watch footage from conference media days, but you usually end up hearing something quite interesting. From the one journalist who seemed to have one purpose for attending SEC Media Days (to ask each coach how the text messaging ban would affect them), to new Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh stating that this year's USC team may be the "best team in the history of college football" (this didn't make Coach Carroll too happy...and the UCLA contingent was quite chapped as well, given they beat the Trojans last year), the opening show for college football doesn't seem to disappoint.
With four bonafide Heisman candidates and a bowl record last season of 5-0, Big East members and their fans rightfully beamed with pride at their media event in Newport, RI. But of course, honeymoons can be short-lived, as seen in the rumors of a Big East program being the 12th member of the Big Ten. Of course, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany was sure to call Mike Tranghese to make sure that he knew the Big Ten wasn't the cause of this speculation. I don't see the Big Ten adding a new member any time soon, and wouldn't Notre Dame make more sense that Rutgers from a geographical perspective, as well as rivalries (ND already plays Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue and Penn State)?
The ACC was almost in damage control mode, and the media didn't make the same mistake in picking Wake Forest to finish last this time around. The defending champions are predicted to finish fourth in the ACC Atlantic. Many like Florida State to win that division, due to another year under the belts of quarterbacks Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee along with five new additions to the coaching staff (most importantly offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher and offensive line coach Rick Trickett). I don't agree with that pick, but you'll have to wait a bit to see who I like to take that division. But I like Virginia Tech to win the league, and if they can pull off a win at LSU, maybe even make a run to the national championship game.
In the Big Ten, the pundits like Michigan to finish ahead of Wisconsin, and I'm thinking that the quarterback position has a lot to do with that. Michigan has the experienced Chad Henne to call the signals while the Badgers counter with the young Tyler Donovan. But don't sell Wisconsin short, because with the "Wisconsin Winnebago" P.J. Hill in the backfield, they can pound opponents into submission. Team to watch in this league: Illinois. There's a lot of talent in Champaign now thanks to the recruiting efforts of Ron Zook, including sophomore QB Juice Williams. Can they make a bowl? Who knows, but things may be looking up for the Illini program.
If you're looking for quarterbacks that can crash the national scene this year, check out the Big 12. Everyone knows Colt McCoy, and you'll probably remember Nebraska's Sam Keller from his days at Arizona State, but how about Missouri's Chase Daniel and Iowa State's Bret Meyer? Texas A&M's Stephen McGee and Texas Tech's Graham Harrell? Kansas State's Josh Freeman and Oklahoma State's Bobby Reid? This league has quite a few talented signal-callers, and I like Daniel to make a national splash this season. But don't be surprised to see any of the other players listed above making noise this season either.
The Pac-10 is being hailed by many as "USC and those other guys", but don't sell this league short, as it could be the best league in America right behind the SEC. While it would be a stretch to say that nine teams have a chance to win the league, it wouldn't be crazy to say that nine have a shot at bowling this year. I only leave out Stanford, and they may have earned themselves a 50-plus point beating when they visit USC on October 6th with the aforementioned comment. But this league has some real power, not the sarcastically mentioned "juggernauts" by LSU head coach Les Miles a short time ago. My player to watch: Cal RB Justin Forsett, who becomes the Bears' feature back with the departure of Marshawn Lynch.
Of the BCS conferences, this leaves the vaunted SEC, which welcomes back Nick Saban. Coach Saban will in fact be the new head coach at Alabama, making the Bayou Bengals' trip to Tuscaloosa all the more interesting this season. I only wish it was the other way around, just to see how the LSU fans welcomed back their former coach. Guess we'll just have to wait until 2008. While LSU is the prohibitive favorite to win the West (and the SEC itself), good luck picking the winner of the East.
Florida, even with heavy losses on the defensive side of the ball, has plenty of weapons on offense to defend their crown. Georgia also has a lot returning on offense, but they have some holes to fill in the secondary (especially with Paul Oliver going into the NFL's supplemental draft due to his academic ineligibility). Tennessee should also be improved, looking to end the eight year drought between SEC titles. South Carolina and Kentucky are also expecting big things this season, and Vanderbilt has a shot to be bowl eligible this season. I don't think it would be a stretch to call the SEC East one of the toughest divisions in sports, let alone college football.
That's all for now, but fans of non-BCS leagues do not fret; I haven't forgotten about you and your programs. Expect more on leagues like the Mountain West, MAC, WAC, Conference USA and Sun Belt (Independents too) in the coming days, but my early pick for one of the top ten games of the year in all of college football this season: TCU at BYU on November 8th. Not only could the Mountain West be on the line, but a possible BCS bid could end up in the hands of the winner with an undefeated season. But both have intriguing non-conference matchups with Texas (TCU) and Arizona (BYU) respectively to navigate. BYU's solid stable of wideouts battling Arizona's talented secondary will be a duel to watch on the season's opening Saturday. Until next time, take care. And look for more content to be added to chnfootball.com in the coming weeks.
Almost forgot...my thoughts on the text messaging ban throughout college athletics that went into effect on August 1st. Some changes will need to be made when the committee gets together August 9th to discuss this rule. I originally thought that the rule was made specifically for college football, making it all the more surprising that the Ivy League set this legislation into motion. Hard-working recruiters such as Ron Zook (Illinois) and Urban Meyer (Florida) will have to find another way to get in contact with recruits for the time being.
The NCAA may mean well (save kids from having to pay astronomical cell phone bills), but many providers allow you to pay a small amount to receive and send unlimited text messages. For example, AT&T allows customers to pay up to $24.99 for 1500 messages per month, or you can go for a smaller message addition and just pay another $5 to have unlimited texting (from other AT&T customers of course). I, for one, don't think that text messages will break youngsters' piggy banks (especially when many plans only charge you for sending messages), and it makes it much easier to not talk to someone when you choose not to. It's prety rude to hang up on someone, so being able to simply delete their message makes things a lot easier.
In the end, I see a text messaging "dead period" put in place, similar to what the NCAA does with phone calls now. This would make the most sense. You can't postpone the future, so you may as well do your best to embrace it. Or at least live with it. Good night.