Ack's Insights (7/29/02)

In honor of the preseason voting and media days this week I will pick my conference winners from around the country as well as offer up some hoops, football and summer goodies.

Running of at the keypad...

CONFERENCE PREVIEWS:

Pac 10: The power is north in Washington and Oregon and I like the Ducks to repeat without Joey Harrington. Keep an eye on Onterrio Smith, the running back who transferred from Tennessee. Oregon was second in the conference and 25th nationally in running offense and he will help shoulder the load until Jason Fife gets comfortable at QB. Washington St. has never won consecutive years under Mike Price, but they will this year behind Jason Gesser at QB. Washington, USC and UCLA will challenge because of experienced quarterback play in Cody Pickett, Carson Palmer and Corey Paus.

(AP Photo/John Miller)

Arizona Head Coach John Mackovic
(AP Photo/John Miller)

Big early games: Washington at Michigan August 31 and Washington St. at Ohio St. Sept. 14
Big Late Games: Washington at Washington St. Nov 23 and USC at UCLA Nov 23
Sleeper Team: Arizona, year two of John Mackovic.

Big 12: Colorado and Oklahoma. Texas and Chris Simms have to prove it to me vs. the Sooners. Oklahoma must get better quarterback play and Colorado needs to get off to a better start. The Longhorns must find away to open holes in the Red River shootout for Cedric Benson. Nebraska is down a bit and must replace Eric Crouch, while I am not sold on Texas A&M's offense. Texas Tech could move up behind Kliff Kingsbury and a nice receiver corp, although their schedule is very tough.

Best Early Games: Alabama at Oklahoma. Sept 7 and USC at Colorado Sept 14
Best Late Games: Texas A&M at Texas Nov 29 and Colorado at Nebraska Nov 29
Sleeper Team: Oklahoma St. They will build on the Oklahoma game from last year.

Big Ten: They will have a new champion this year as Michigan finally gets back on top. I like the Wolves defense and quarterback John Navarre. They do travel to Columbus though and Jim Tressel is building at Ohio St.

(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Ohio St. RB Lydell Ross
(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)


They will have the best running game in the conference with Lydell Ross out of Tampa. Watch out for true freshman Maurice Clarett. After that there is a drop to Illinois, Michigan St. and Purdue. Penn St could be a factor as well.

Best Early Game: Michigan at Illinois Sept 28
Best Late Game: Michigan at Ohio St. Nov 23
Sleeper Team: Penn St., last seasons finish catapults the pride back in Happy Valley.

Big East: This conference is all Miami. The Canes toughest road game is at Syracuse. There non-conference schedule may play a factor as they face Florida, Tennessee and Florida St. Boston College gets second by default because of outstanding quarterback Brian St. Pierre. Virginia Tech could be back up this year unless Beamer goes with the "other" Vick...Marcus.

Best Early Game: Miami at Florida Sept 7
Best Late Games: Miami at Tennessee Nov. 9 and Miami at Syracuse Nov 30
Sleeper Team: Syracuse. The pressure is off Paul Pasqualoni but he must deal with off the field tragedies.

ACC: Florida St. is back on top after an aberration but they do have to go to a good North Carolina State team. The Noles receivers will be awesome and Eric Moore will be a defensive star. The Pack has the best quarterback in Philip Rivers and a world of confidence by winning in Doak. Maryland cannot duplicate last year's magic with Scott Mcbrien at quarterback. North Carolina must replace the defense and play Chris Stephens at quarterback and Clemson once again has a summer injury to a key player in receiver Roscoe Crosby.

(AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)

Clemson WR Roscoe Crosby
(AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)

Georgia Tech has a new coach and quarterback while Virginia has a tough early schedule.

Best Early Games: Virgina at FSU Aug.31 and Clemson at Georgia Aug 31
Best Late Games: Florida at FSU Nov 30 and FSU at North Carolina St. Nov.23 (could be for title)
Sleeper Team: North Carolina. They have a tough early schedule again with Syracuse, Texas and Georgia Tech. They must get a split.

Other Conference Winners: Conference USA-Louisville and Heisman candidate Dave Ragone; Mountain West-Utah behind underrated coach Ron Mcbride; MAC-Marshall and Byron Leftwich the nation's top statistical passer, but they do have UCF to contend with; WAC-La. Tech and Jack Bicknell Jr. They really know how to throw the football; Sun Belt-Middle Tennessee and Dwone Hicks, the great running back.

Whew that was tough now we must move on to the juicy stuff.

Snippets and tidbits...

Florida Basketball picked up another player for this year's team in Christian Drejer from Europe. The Danish star is a 6'8" (point-forward). He will battle James White for playing time at the #3 spot. Donnie Jones discovered the star and it gives Head Coach Billy Donovan 13 scholarship players heading into the season. One knock on Drejer is his defense, which will have to improve especially in Donovan's system. Expect at least one frosh to redshirt, possibly Rashid Al-Kaleem…Two incoming freshmen out of Miami have caught the Gators strength staffs attention: Steven Harris from Coral Gables and Taurean Charles from Northwestern look ready physically to come in and compete on the defensive line…Speaking of Defense, along with the McColloum twins, Nick Brooks out of Warner Robbins, Georgia will work at the cornerback position in the secondary…Robert Cromartie, the much maligned starter opposite Ratliff, has lost weight this summer and looks faster than ever…Expect the kicking position battle to be a focus in fall drills as well…Not only is place-kicker and punter up for grabs but watch out for the kickoff job as well. Apparently Matt Leach is getting the ball deeper and into the end zone more than incumbent Matt PiotrowiczEric Nappy the walk on from Bucholz High School will challenge Talcott, Leach and Whitaker as well for the placekicking job…Looking at the two other state powers, Miami's offensive line with Rasouli coming back from knee injury and no Frank Gore for the first half of the season is a major concern. Couple that with the loss of the entire secondary and Miami does not look as invincible as some might think. FSU has lost their biggest freshmen candidate most likely to contribute to a knee injury. Chris Davis was one player Bowden singled out as a player to watch this season from that freshman class…At the SEC media days in Birmingham this week its a who's who of top players in the conference. Rex Grossman, Ian Scott along with Eli Manning of Ole Miss, Casey Clausen of Tennessee, Jon Stinchcomb of Georgia, Bradie James of LSU and Tyler Watts of Alabama will all be present…Finally as we get ready for media days look for the votes for all-SEC quarterback to be closer than you would think, divided up between Grossman, Clausen and Manning. See you from Birmingham.

ACK


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