Straight Shots From Welch Ave.

College football junkies have been in heaven the past week, as the yearly college football preview magazines are now on newsstands. There's nothing better to a sports nerd then to walk up to a bookstore and spend 30 hard earned big ones on magazines you'll be memorizing from now until August. Today, in his weekly column, CN's publisher breaks down the Athlon Big 12 preview magazine.

I am going to come out right now and admit that I am a dork. Well, not so much a dork, but a complete college football junkie.


Here's an example. I was a fresh 21 year old college student. It was my first game ever being 21, and I could finally have a "real" college tailgating experience if you know what I mean. I chose not to. What did I do? I sat around and watched TCU upset Oklahoma 17-10 in Norman. I watched Iowa pounce all over Ball State 56-0.


Last September 3, AFTER the afternoon games were over, then I went to tailgate. The only problem was that I like to be in the stadium at least an hour before kickoff. That left me with only about 20 minutes of tailgating.


If you don't get what I'm saying here it is in a nutshell. I, unlike most college students, have my priorities very different. College football #1, tailgating #2, anything else in my way is #3.


That's why this past week was one of my favorite times of the year. Preview magazines are FINALLY out. You know what that means? That means from now until September, we can talk college football and not feel stupid about it. It's legit now.


My favorite magazines every year are the Athlon Previews. Not only are they the most informative, but they are beautiful to look at.


I picked up my new Athlon's Big Twelve Preview earlier this week and had half of it read by the end of the night when my girlfriend and her sister were shopping for a dress at the mall. So I got this idea to break down what I thought about this year's issue. The following is a piece I worked out stressing my frustrations with the issue, and also what I like about it.

Here goes nothing.


Key Cyclones


Athlons does this thing where they break down the key players on each team heading into the season. For Iowa State they listed Bret Meyer, Todd Blythe, DeAndre Jackson, Brent Curvey and Scott Stephenson. I agree with all of those. Good job Athlons.


BUT, where is Stevie Hicks on that list? Iowa State only won ONE game without Hicks in the lineup last season. One game! You can say that he dances all you want, but you have to recognize that he was a huge part of that team last season, and all indications to me say that he will be again. If Stevie Hicks is healthy, Bret Meyer and Todd Blythe will strive. If he's not, ISU could be in for a long season. It's that simple.


All Big 12 Projections


Athlons had Meyer, Blythe, Jackson and Aaron Brandt listed as first team all-conference members. Curvey was listed as a second team selection.


Meyer, Blythe and Jackson work for me. Blythe was also mentioned as a projected 3rd team All-American. Jackson is questionable, not because of his ability but due to the help he will have in the young secondary.


Here's my big question. Where is Scott Stephenson? He was 1st team All Big 12 last season, and this season you don't even mention him? Did Athlons forget about him? Are they worried about his shoulder? What in the world is going on here? Last year Athlons had Stephenson as the 3rd team starter before he had ever taken a snap at center at college. He goes out and is all-conference, and then you snub him? How much sense does this make to you people?


Brandt deserves to be mentioned, but I don't think he's 1st team. I would put Brandt on the 2nd or 3rd team but 1st is a stretch.


Seriously though, Stephenson wasn't even mentioned. That's some bulletin board material for the big guy right there.


Kris Means


Athlons mentioned how Kris Means might come right in and play. Have they been reading my stuff for the past six months or what? Good call Athlons.


Position Rankings


To me this is a tough thing to rank. How do you look at it is the big question? If you're going off of starters alone then it's no biggie, but if you look down the depth chart to some guys with no experience, the job gets a lot tougher.


The big thing that stood out to me is that Athlons had ISU ranked #1 when it came to QB's in the Big 12. I really want to say that I agree with this, but I can't. I would put Oklahoma at number one at I would put ISU at number two. That's no disrespect to Bret Meyer and here's why.


For Meyer to have the best year for a QB in the Big 12, so many things must go right. He absolutely has to have a healthy productive offensive line. If he has that, then he has to have a healthy productive running game. If both of those things happen, then Bret Meyer will be the best QB in the Big 12. If one of those factors goes wrong, he won't. ISU's running backs are ranked 9th in the Big 12. The OL is ranked 5th. Oklahoma's running backs are ranked first and the OL is ranked 6th. A running game is the most important thing in the world for a QB to succeed, and Oklahoma almost has that guarantee with a healthy Adrian Peterson. On top of that, OU's depth at the o-line puts them ahead of ISU. That's where Rhett Bomar gets my nod.


ISU's wide receivers are ranked 2nd in the Big 12 according to Athlons. Texas Tech is number one. Personally I would switch the two around. Tech is always loaded at receiver and once again, they are this season. Robert Johnson, Joel Filani and Jarrett Hicks all combined for197 catches last fall. That's an impressive number but the reason they are ranked this high and the reason that they had so many catches is simple. That's all they do! That doesn't mean they are the best. ISU will be forced to throw a lot this year. With a healthy Jon Davis, these WR are by far the best ever at ISU. Austin Flynn is automatic, Todd Blythe can do it all and R.J. Sumrall is going to blow up. Toss in a young but huge Marquis Hamilton and you have four guys who could potentially be number one receivers. Again, it all comes down to the running game. If Hicks is healthy and plays well, everyone else will strive.


Athlons has Iowa State's DL ranked 6th in the Big 12. If that's true, then I feel a lot better heading into the season. I don't see how this line can be ranked so high after losing Nick Leaders and Jason Berryman. Curvey will get double teamed every play and experience is lacking. I think this line has the potential to be the 6th best, but right now I would put them no higher that 9th.


Crucial Games


This more than anything is the category where I couldn't disagree more with Athons. If you're not familiar with how Athlons does this, let me explain. They break each game down with three categories. What they consider a: win, loss, or a crucial game. (meaning a tweener)


Here's what they had for ISU


Toledo – Crucial


@Iowa – L



Nebraska – L

@Oklahoma – L

Texas Tech – L

@KSU – W

Kansas- Crucial

@Colorado – Crucial

Missouri – Crucial


How is Nebraska not listed as a crucial game for ISU? If anything, that is the single most important game on ISU's schedule. Another game that I had a problem with is listing Tech as a straight out loss. That game is at Trice, at a time of year when McCarney's teams always thrive. Iowa State can and will win at least one of those two games.


I agree that the last three games on the schedule are crucial, but I would have put a W beside Kansas.


The Toledo game is a lot like the KU game, but putting that game as a maybe for Iowa State shows nothing but disrespect. I've said since the schedule came out that Toledo is going to be a scary game, but you have to expect ISU to be a favorite in that game by at least a touchdown.


Here is how I would rank the games individually.


Toledo – W


@Iowa – L

@Texas – L


Nebraska – Crucial

@Oklahoma – L

Texas Tech – Crucial

@KSU – W

Kansas – W

@Colorado – Crucial

Missouri – Crucial


Athlons has Iowa State going 3-5-4. I have Iowa State going 4-3-4. I will give my official predictions without the maybes in a future column; these are just in comparison to Athlons.


Other Notes


-          Athlons did a cool feature breaking down the 2001 recruiting class and they discuss how the players have done. Blake Larsen is mentioned. I laughed.

-          Dan McCarney is listed as one of the top five underrated coaches in the country.

-          The Big 12 is ranked as the 2nd toughest conference behind the SEC.

o        If Oklahoma is a national title contender and Nebraska can step up and be a top 10 team in the North, this will hold true. If those things don't happen, I put the Big Ten at number two and the Big 12 at number three.

-          Washington was listed as a program on the decline. That's got to be a joke. Ty Willingham takes over a program in the dumps and after one year you shatter his ability as a coach? Give me a break. Give Ty a chance out west, he'll turn things around.

-          I love the sideline section in these magazines. You all should know why. There's nothing like mixing football and semi-hot cheerleaders from Fresno State.


In Conclusion…


I was happy with this year's issue, for the most part. I encourage you all to pick one up and see what you think. I don't know about you all, but September can't come soon enough.





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