Laces out!

by: Andrew Welebir
twitter: @Spike1057

As summer fades into fall and students make their way back into the swing of school, it only means one thing. Another season of college football is upon us. However, this offseason seemed more like a bad dream. With the constant stories surrounding Penn State University and the mishandling of child rapist Jerry Sandusky, it seemed like last season never really ended. Normally I’m really excited for a new college football season to begin, not so much this year.

I won’t lie to you Chicago is not really a college sports town. When local media shoves Notre Dame down your throat, located 90 miles away from the city, it’s hard to really get excited. Sure Northwestern, a member of the Big 10, is much closer but for some reason they never garnered the excitement of University of Illinois. One team who we should be talking about is University of Northern Illinois. Here’s a team that will go into the season with the longest running winning streak (9) in college football. You read that right, but again the only people who care about these stories are alumni. This is probably why you won’t be hearing much college talk this year. Nobody really cares in Chicago.

So let’s just talk about 5 teams you should pay attention to this season.

  • 1.USC – Matt Barkley is back to finish off a very solid career at USC and make a run at a National Championship. The senior had an outstanding season last year throwing for 3,528 yards and 39 Touch downs and is a favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this year. USC just finished off a two-year ban from post season play, and once again find themselves on top of the AP poll. This season has two big road blocks ahead, Sept. 15 against Stanford and Nov. 3 against Oregon. The game against Stanford has the chance to be a trap game with in state rival California Golden Bears waiting in the wings the following week. If Barkley and his talented group of WR can maintain the hype they will be receiving all season long then this might be their march back to dominance.
  • 2.Alabama – Nick Saban has proven he knows what he’s doing as a College football coach. After a tough first year at Alabama, Saban has led the Crimson Tide to a 44-4 record and won 2 national titles. So why not another national championship? Trenton Richardson has left for the NFL and with that he takes away a huge weapon on the offensive side of the ball. Taking his place is Eddie Lacy, who has been a solid back up the last two seasons. Two years ago he finished with a thousand yard season and last year he averaged over seven yards a carry. A.J. McCarron will once again be under center, but his core of wide receivers have since left and he will have to adjust.

    The defense has many questions this season after losing two of the best linebackers in college football. However, under Saban this team has continued to find players to make it work and I have a hard time thinking they won’t again. The SEC is always full with tough matchups and will challenge Alabama all season long. Make sure to check out the opening week matchup between Alabama and Michigan, this should let us know what type of team we’re going to see this season.

  • 3.Florida State – Finally there is something to cheer about in Tallahassee, Florida, after being one of the greatest college football teams through the better part of two decades. Last season was a huge disappointment for the Seminoles. Injuries plagued the team costing their players 40 games, more than any other team in college football. What should have been an awful season saw the Seminoles finish at 9-4 losing to Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl.

    So why am I so optimistic for this Florida State team? Let’s start with the Defensive side of the ball. The team is one of the nastiest teams around. Last season they finished ranked as the 4th best defensive team and they only got stronger. The defensive line is stacked with many reserves that could be starters but the depth is such that they will rotate in. The offense should see improvements all around the field.

    The offensive line which was hit hard with injuries and bad play should bounce back nicely. The running game is nothing special but will help to take some of the load off talented EJ Manuel. Manuel has so many options at wide out that the sky is the limit for this kid. I think this team has an inside track at pulling off an undefeated season and taking on USC for the National Championship.

  • 4.Wisconsin – It’s not the team I’ll be watching this season. The only reason I care to watch a Big 10 team is because they have one of the most electric backs in all of college football. Montee Bell was about as good as possible last season. He only racked up over 2,200 total yards from scrimmage. Oh yeah he had 39 touch downs!! For some reason he felt he needed to return to Madison, Wisconsin for another season. Maybe he shouldn’t have seeing how he had a run in with three guys who bashed his head in. Hopefully he can take what he’s learned and do with it that others from Wisconsin could not do in the NFL. Time will tell.
  • 5.Texas – Truth be told I’m a huge Texas Longhorn fan, started with my love of Ricky Williams and Major Applewhite. By the way, I hate Chris Simms with a passion. I’ll never understand how that overrated trash could steal Applewhite’s starting position. Just because daddy was a NFL quarterback you deserve the starting nod over a guy who at the time owned every Texas football record. Screw you Simms!! Glad I got that off my chest.

    I’ll be honest I would love to see this team win another National Championship but I’m not stupid. The defensive side of the ball is solid, in fact they are the best in the Big 12 this year. Sure the loss of Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson at linebacker will hurt but the depth up front should help to overcome the inexperience at linebacker. Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat are two of the very best defensive ends in all of college football and should make for some great pass rushing.

    Running back Malcolm Brown shined last season as a freshman and should be the lead back again this season. If he can help shoulder the load and take pressure off a passing game which is very poor then this can be a Big 12 champion. However, if Brown struggles all eyes will move to David Ash and Case McCoy (brother of Colt McCoy) who will need to become more consistent than they were last year.

Notes:

-If you are looking for the next RG3 then look no further than Denard Robinson. Robinson will be working on his third straight season of 1,000 yards rushing and 2,000 yards passing. He’s proven he has the ability to move around the pocket but does he have what it takes to sit back and light up the field with his arm? If the Wolverines plan to take that next step one would think that’s a must.

-If Northern Illinois plans on keeping that 9 game winning streak intact then the Defense will have to step up and lead the way. With quarterback Chandler Harnish gone all eyes will be on Junior QB Jordan Lynch. Lynch helped lead NIU to the Go Daddy Bowl title last year when he took over at the end leading NIU to a come from behind victory. NIU opens up against Iowa who they have never beat. (0-4)

-If LSU plans to get back on top they will have to do it without DB Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu was kicked off the team for failing a drug test. Mathieu aka The Honey Bear will be missed he was one of the most exciting football players on the field last year.

-Surely there are plenty of talented players I did not mention. Hell I didn’t want to rewrite the book just let you know what I’m watching for. So sadly I did not include a long piece on Marcus Lattimore. Look for something on this kid next time.

Gamblers note:
I love to gamble so each week I’m going to include a few games my money will be on.
Alabama -14
Michigan St -7
If you have anything you’re betting on send me a message or post it on the Facebook page.

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