NCAA Conference / Independent Profiles

NCAA football preseason report: CUSA-East a league of extremes

by Mark Mayer
Go to www.gamingtoday.com for more articles like this from the team of experts

When I first sat down and looked at Conference USA East, I had a flashback to last year’s Dirty Dozen. Was there a worse team than Memphis?

Straight up, I think not.

And then there was the Central Florida story. A rising power in Florida, which says plenty considering Florida, Florida State and Miami rule the roost and South Florida is coming hard.

C-USA is a league that also boasts consistently solid programs in Southern Miss, Tulsa and Houston. No wonder Memphis has problems.

UCF (10-3 ATS): Coming off its best season in school history that included the league title and bowl win over Georgia. George O’Leary a quality coach and QB Jeff Godfrey a Davey O’Brien candidate. Games with Boston College and BYU will be interesting. A lot to be optimistic about in Orlando.

So. Miss (6-6 ATS): Southern Miss just announced a home and home series with Boise State starting next year. That tells me this program is in good shape. USM has had 17 consecutive winning seasons. Intriguing that listed as a key component for 2011 on the school’s website is kicker Danny Hrapmann.

ECU (6-7 ATS): The good news – having the first four games in Greenville. The bad news is three are South Carolina, Virginia Tech and North Carolina. UCF comes to town later on. The Pirates played a lot better in 2010 as an underdog. They’ll get that chance early on.

Marshall (4-8 ATS): You have to love a head coach named Doc Holliday, but the Herd is picked fourth in the East. And that may be a stretch. Bad weather caused Marshall reps to miss the C-USA preseason meetings in Memphis and there’s no definitive QB. Not good omens.

UAB (5-7 ATS): The Blazers open the season in Gainesville against Florida. Consider yourself “Swamped.” The school’s website said that the offensive line will be a priority in 2012 recruiting. That indicates 2011’s version is not so good. And that’s not promising news.

Memphis (5-7 ATS): Larry Porter’s first season at Memphis was 1-11. He won’t be there long if 1-11 comes up again, and it just might. Porter says the Tigers, “are ready to roar back.” Defense is said to be better. We’ll know early. Game 1 is home to Mississippi State, which won 49-7 a year ago.

 

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NCAA football preseason report: SMU rising from ‘dead’

by Mark Mayer
Read more by Mark at www.gamingtoday.com, it’s a great place to keep up with sporting and gaming news around the world
Wouldn’t it be something if “The U” receives the “death penalty” at the same time SMU rises from the dead?

It took SMU 25 years to make its football program relevant from the golden era of the Pony Express (the backfield Eric Dickerson and Craig James) and enough NCAA violations to fill the state of Texas.

Now the Mustangs are trying for their second straight appearance in the Conference USA title game – this time as a champion.

That will be one of the compelling stories in the league along with the continued rise of Central Florida and perhaps this year’s TCU – Houston.

SMU (6-8 ATS): The Mustangs return a whopping 18 of 22 starters. It won’t take long to find out if SMU is ready to crack anyone’s Top 25. The opener is against Texas A&M. But the June Jones quick pass system is working here as it did for years at Hawaii.

Houston (3-7 ATS): The Cougars were 5-7 overall, but that was without QB Case Keenum, who received the OK as a medical hardship to play a sixth season. A creampuff sked could see UH unbeaten until the finale at Tulsa. Opener with UCLA at home is key.

Tulsa (8-4 ATS): The Golden Hurricanes will be fine if able to survive a brutal early sked that opens at No. 1 Oklahoma and includes Oklahoma State and Boise St. Tulsa has 10 offensive starters back including GJ Kinne, rated as good as OU’s QB Landry Jones.

UTEP (5-7 ATS): Mike Price is being touted for Coach of the Year honors if he can preserve a program picked last along with Tulane. The cupboard is bare – 28 seniors are gone from last year’s bowl team. Still the Miners can be 2-2 heading to Houston.

Rice (6-6 ATS): The Owls were 5-2 ATS at home so that may be where bettors should focus getting points. Bad news already with loss of safety Travis Bradshaw, the team’s co-MVP from a year ago. More bad news: The porous Rice defense returns almost everyone from an awful 2010.

Tulane (4-6 ATS): HC Bob Toledo starts his fifth year still looking for his first winning season. Tulane added a 13th game at Hawaii meaning a bowl (Toledo’s goal) requires a 7-6 record. Dream on, although only Houston, SMU and Tulsa appear out of reach on the schedule.

 

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NCAA football preseason report: Independence whole new game

by Mark Mayer
Mark writes for the excellent publication www.gamingtoday.com
Life as a college football independent these days means strong religious ties, having your own network or producing our nation’s finest in the military.

In the case of Army and Navy, it’s fighting for freedom. For Notre Dame and BYU, it’s the almighty dollar. And for bettors, well, it’s less teams to study.

Yes, unlike the superconferences which are headed anywhere from 12 to 16 teams, we have just four. All have instant name recognition.

Independence is a whole new ballgame for BYU, which opted out of the Mountain West Conference to go it alone as the Mormon version of Notre Dame with a brand new network and schedule.

Money does change everything. Now, let’s try to make some.

Notre Dame (7-4 ATS): The Irish did go 5-1 ATS on the road a year ago and a Top 20 ranking is expected in Brian Kelly’s second season at South Bend. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock says this will be a big year for ND if all stay healthy. Mayock knows his stuff.

BYU (8-5 ATS): Bronco Mendenhall is one of the great names in college football not to mention a standout coach. Jake Heaps figures to be the next in a long line of standout QBs in Provo. An eclectic schedule starts with road games at Ole Miss and Texas.

Navy (6-5 ATS): The Middies goal each year is to win the Commander in Chiefs trophy. But Air Force ended Navy’s seven-year hold and figures to be better this year. Navy was 3-32 from 2000-2002. Since then 70-33 and eight straight bowls. Figure a ninth.

Army (5-7 ATS): QB Trent Steelman, who has started all 25 games as a freshman and sophomore returns to an improving offense. The Cadets are going for their first back to back winning seasons since 1989-90. Now if they can just end that nine-year losing streak against Navy!

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NCAA football preseason report: Sun Belt and  Schnellenberger
 by Mark Mayer  Mark writes for the excellent publication www.gamingtoday.com

Here in Las Vegas, virtually nobody can reel off the members of
the Sun Belt Conference. But, they play Division I college football and the
betting lines on their games (well, most of them) are on the board.

It’s fair to say nobody from this league is going to win the
national championship, but there’s a storyline here as good as anywhere in
college football.

Howard Schnellenberger is coaching his final season at age 77. He
made that announcement two weeks ago. Schnellenberger begins the campaign
157-140-3 as a collegiate coach, but that doesn’t even begin to tell the story.
He is a program builder.

At Miami, he won a national title back in 1984 defeating Nebraska
31-30 in the Orange Bowl in one of the greatest college football games ever
played. Schnellenberger then left Miami at his peak to coach at his alma mater
Louisville, which was rock bottom in football. He built a new stadium and made
the Cardinals respectable.

Then he left for Florida Atlantic, a program that didn’t even have
football. Now FAU is opening against Florida. The reason? Schnellenberger. The
line is Gators -33½ (MGM Resorts). Thank you Howard for all you’ve done and
allowing us to bet this game on Saturday.

FAU (3-9 ATS): Outside of the opener in Gainesville,
bettors should mark down Oct. 15 when the Owls christen a $70 million,
30,000-seat on campus stadium against Western Kentucky and Howie’s final game
Dec. 3 at home against Louisiana-Monroe. Otherwise, move on.

W. KENTUCKY (6-5-1): The Hilltoppers have gone 2-22 in two
seasons as a member of the Sun Belt, yet HC Willie Taggert voted them No. 1 in
the preseason poll. Huh? Senior RB Bobby Rainey led the nation in carries (340).
Sounds like an UNDER play.

TROY (5-8 ATS): The Trojans stand out in the league for
scheduling the big boys and hanging tough. Troy is the probable Sun Belt champ,
mostly due to having 2010 Freshman of the Year quarterback Corey Robinson, who
threw for 3,726 yards and 28 touchdowns.

NORTH TEXAS (6-6 ATS): If you notice a pattern in mediocre
to bad ATS records for this league, it’s because elite teams often schedule the
Sun Belt early on. (Ex: North Texas plays Houston and Alabama in Weeks 2 and 3).
That will kill optimism – and a defense – in a hurry.

MTSU (4-9 ATS): The Blue Raiders open at Purdue, host
Georgia Tech and visit Troy. That’s likely 0-3 heading to Week 4 against
Memphis. If Middle Tennessee doesn’t beat Memphis at home, just write off the
season. Unless, of course, you want to bet against them.

ARKANSAS ST (7-5 ATS): The ATS mark really stands out since
the Red Wolves were 1-6 straight up on the road. Hugh Freeze moves from
offensive coordinator to head coach with all of his offensive skill position
players back from a squad that averaged 30 points and 403 yards per game.

UL MONROE (6-6 ATS): A similar picture to Arkansas State
only the road record SU was 1-5. Warhawks HC Todd Berry has 19 starters back and
believes a league title and bowl game is possible. We love the passion. They
were picked third in the preaseason coaches poll.

UL LAFAYETTE (7-5 ATS): The Ragin’ Cajuns have a new
improved attitude after Ricky Bussle was fired ast head coach after nine
seasons. New HC Mark Hudspeth was an assistant at Mississippi State, but only
has 11 starters back. Cajuns were picked to finish next to last.

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NCAA football preseason report SEC West: LSU, ranked  No. 4
by Mark Mayer  Catch Mark’s insights at www.gamingtoday.com

 

The SEC West has enough storylines to fill Page Six of the New
York Post.

The lead item is LSU, ranked No. 4 in the country by AP and No. 1
by the Baton Rouge police. The Tigers’ has seen their national title hopes and
huge opening game matchup with No. 3 Oregon severely damaged with the arrest
warrant issued for starting QB Jordan Jefferson.

It’s an all too familiar scenario in college football that
probably damages LSU the way it did North Carolina last year and quite likely
Miami of Florida this season.

Auburn, the defending national champ, has been hurt in regular
football terms with the early exit of Heisman Trophy QB Cam Newton. There to
gladly take advantage is archrival Alabama, the national champ in 2009.

Mississippi State and Arkansas are right there in the division
chase with only Ole Miss looking to be out of the picture.

LSU (6-7 ATS): There are some who think Jefferson is
overrated at QB so losing him may not be critical. If new offensive coordinator
Steve Kragthorpe (ex Tulsa and Louisville coach) can install his high-powered
pass attack, LSU may just be better without JJ. Facing Oregon in the opener is
not good.

ALABAMA (8-5 ATS): The Crimson Tide is ranked No. 2 behind
Oklahoma and the favorite to win a very competitive division. Despite losing RB
Mark Ingram, QB Greg McElroy and WR Julio Jones to the NFL, nine players are
preseason first-team All-SEC. Nick Saban just reloads in Tuscaloosa.

AUBURN (10-4 ATS): The good news at Auburn is that not much
is expected from Gene Chizik’s Tigers in 2011. They are picked fifth, only ahead
of Ole Miss in the West. Considering the Tigers went 10-4 ATS as a champion, no
telling how good a bet they could be as an underdog.

MISSISSIPPI ST (7-6 ATS): The Bulldogs are no longer under
the radar but front and center as a legitimate sleeper to win, yes win, the
West. HC Dan Mullen is building a powerhouse in Starkville, which sees South
Carolina, Alabama and LSU visit this season. RB Vick Ballard (20 TDs) is a
stud.

ARKANSAS (9-4 ATS): HC Bobby Petrino is a winner wherever
he is. The Razorbacks won 10 a year ago behind star QB Ryan Mallett, now with
the Patriots. But losing RB Knile Davis to a season-ending injury is huge. If QB
Tyler Wilson can approach Mallett’s passing stats, Hogs will be a threat.

MISSISSIPPI (4-8 ATS): Are there any more Mannings
available to play QB? The Rebels allowed a school record 35.2 points per game a
year ago. Expect more of the same. HC Houston Nutt says he has recruited the
best players in Mississippi. Tell that to Mississippi St.

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NCAA football preseason report SEC East: SEC has last  five national champs
by Mark Mayer  Mark is among a group of fine sportswriters found at www.gamingtoday.com

 

The SEC has produced the last five national champions. Like it or
not, this is the gold standard in college football.

Last season Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton led Auburn to the
title, defeating Oregon. Previously it was Alabama (2009), Florida (2008, 2006)
and LSU (2007). And it could very easily happen again in 2011 with eight SEC
teams ranked in AP’s top 25.

This season begins a new era in Florida football with Will
Muschamp taking over as head coach for Urban Meyer, who resigned due to health
issues. Meyer more than filled the shoes of Steve Spurrier, who could have
walked on water in Gainesville.

Spurrier is now walking tall in Columbia, South Carolina where the
Gamecocks enjoyed their greatest football success in school history by defeating
Alabama and Florida en route to winning the SEC East.

A developing story is whether Mark Richt can fight off the critics
and keep his job at Georgia. Will he? Let’s find out.

GEORGIA (4-8 ATS): The Bulldogs will be challenged right
away with the opener at the Georgia Dome against Boise State. The Dawgs are
always formidable, but last year’s 6-7 record was the worst of Richt’s 10 years
in Athens. Georgia has six starters named preseason first team All-SEC.

S. CAROLINA (7-6 ATS): Expections have never been higher at
Carolina, which has not had a losing season since Spurrier arrived in 2004. RB
Marcus Lattimore and WR Alshon Jeffery are studs. QB Stephen Garcia is the key,
if he can keep from getting suspended again.

FLORIDA (5-6 ATS): Not a single Florida player made first
team SEC. That’s news not sitting well in Gainesville. John Brantley could not
approach the QB legend that was Tim Tebow. He will be under the gun in 2011 as
will Muschamp. Beware of a scorned Gator in the Swamp.

KENTUCKY (6-6 ATS): The Wildcats were 6-7 last year and
lost all-purpose RB Randall Cobb to the NFL. That’s huge, especially at a
basketball first school. The big obstacle will be Week 4 vs Florida. UK has lost
the last three meetings by an average margin of 42 points!

TENNESSEE (6-5 ATS): The Vols are still trying to forget
the Lane Kiffin debacle. But Derek Dooley is making strides in returning the
Vols to the prominence enjoyed during the Phil Fulmer era. Tennessee doesn’t
lack for talent or fan support but is probably a year away.

VANDERBILT (3-9 ATS): The Commodores were 1-6 in the
league, but there’s reason for optimism in Nashville. Vandy has 18 starters
back, including all 11 on offense. And the team is apparently buying what new
coach James Franklin is selling. Could be a bet-on team.

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