Monday, August 30, 2010

Sagarin has Villanova favored by 4 over Temple

I usually don't read too much into computer rankings especially since Miami was screwed out of a BCS Championship Berth in 2000 because the computers liked Florida State so much.  I've decided to take stock in these because Jeff Sagarin has Villanova favored over Temple by 4 points, despite Temple getting a three point home field advantage.  What this essentially means is that Villanova would be 7 point favorites on a neutral field and ten point favorites if the game were to be played at Villanova Stadium.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

What Bernard Pierce Needs to do to Win The Heisman Trophy

Maybe I was a little dismissive a week and a half ago when I said that Bernard Pierce has absolutely no chance of winning the Heisman Trophy.  I should have said that anyone can win the Heisman with the proper season.  Pierce has an uphill battle, especially because of the fact that in 2007, Central Florida running back Kevin Smith ran for 2,567 yards and 29 touchdowns and didn't even receive an invite to New York (he finished eighth in voting.)  Smith only had one game in 2007 where he didn't run for 100 yards and only three games the entire season where he didn't score a touchdown.  This was all while playing in Conference USA, a conference with a better reputation than the MAC.

Below are what I think are the prerequisites for Pierce to win the Heisman

Temple can only afford to lose to Penn State- If Temple loses a game to any team other than Penn State it will do irreparable damage to Pierce's Heisman hopes.  I think that even a blowout loss to the Nittany Lions will probably derail his chances.

Pierce must do something remarkable- Winning the Heisman Trophy is hard enough when you play in a BCS conference, but it is just about impossible if you don't.  2,500 regular season yards and 30 regular season touchdowns plus a blockbuster performance on national television are probably the bare minimum in this case.

Preseason favorites will need down years- Guys like Mark Ingram, Terrelle Pryor, Dion Lewis, and Jake Locker will have to disappoint for Pierce to get legitimate consideration.  When you have so many talented players in the minds of the voters, you have to hope for poor play or injury in order to get past them, because big numbers and a well performing team won't do it alone (see: Ian Johnson, 2006.)

Friday, August 27, 2010

This is Our Quarterback

 Matt Simms is the son of former NFL great Phil Simms and the likely starting quarterback at Tennessee this fall.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Early Villanova-Temple Storylines

Unless you have been buried under a rock, you should know that Villanova beat Temple in thrilling fashion last season with Nick Yako kicking the game winning field goal as time expired.  This years game shouldn't be anything other than a close game, especially since The Wildcats and The Owls return essentially the same teams from last year's showdown.  Here are some storylines for the game:

Has Temple Found a Quarterback? Incumbent starter Chester Stewart has completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes over his career and Temple doesn't have another quarterback on the roster with significant game experience.  The most experienced person at quarterback other than Stewart is tight end Vaughn Charlton, who started at quarterback against Villanova last year and proceeded to throw what seemed to be dozens of picks.  Last season, Villanova gave up 317 passing yards to Charlton, but Stewart's career high in passing yardage is 178. 

What's The Deal With Bernard Pierce? Temple's "Heisman Candidate" running back Bernard Pierce barely played in the Villanova game last year because he had only recently been cleared to play by the NCAA.  Recently it has emerged that Pierce has been demoted to second string at tailback.  Whether this is disciplinary related, due to an injury (he did take a shot to the head and sat out a bunch of practice,) or simply a motivational tactic no one outside of the Temple program knows for sure, but Temple's starting tailback position is currently held by the diminutive Matt Brown.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Season Preview Reference Guide for The Mentally Challenged

 Having recently completed a comprehensive (albeit less comprehensive than I thought it would be) season preview of the Villanova football team, I thought that I would compile this just in case you were mentally challenged and didn't know how to scroll down on a web page.
Part 1: Quarterbacks, Running Backs and Receivers 
Part 2: Offensive Line
Part 3: Defensive Line
Part 4: Linebackers
Part 5: Secondary
Part 6: Special Teams

Monday, August 23, 2010

Villanova Football Season Preview Part 6

This is the final part of a six part season preview of the Villanova football team, each part focusing on a different position group.

In the past few seasons, Villanova has been a powerhouse on special teams.  Not only have they done well in the kicking game, but they have had outstanding coverage teams and return units.  You can expect that   starters and key contributors usually have regular roles on return units and coverage teams if they play for Andy Talley Matt Szczur, Villanova's best offensive player is also the team's best special teams player, playing on coverage teams and returning kickoffs.  Szczur's efforts on special teams culminated in being named last season's CAA Special Teams Player of The Year. 

At Kicker, strong legged sophomore Nick Yako should only improve from a freshman season where he made a host of big field goals and only missed one extra point.  Yako started the season by kicking the game winning field goal against Temple and never let pressure situations get to him.  If the Villanova offense remains as high powered as it was last year, I fully expect Yako to lead the team in scoring.

Returning for his second year as punter will be Junior Dominic Scarnecchia.  Originally recruited as a defensive back (and still on the depth chart at strong safety,) Scarnecchia punted last season for the first time in his life and held the job despite the fact that three year starter Zach Ugarte was still on the roster.  Scarnecchia utilizes a bizarre looking, but effective rugby punt which helps the coverage team get downfield along with making the punts harder to block.  While nerve racking at the beginning of the year, eventually you get used to watching a guy who has never punted in his life kick rolling line drives.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bernard Pierce's Heisman Hype is a Delusional Pipe Dream

Temple has launched a promotional campaign with the intent to hype sophomore running back Bernard Pierce's quest for the Heisman Trophy.  While Pierce had a good season last year, Temple is spending  money on this (I read somewhere that it was 25K or more) with the hope that they can dupe a couple hundred people to go see a Temple's "Heisman Candidate" play against a Directional Michigan school in a stadium with 50,000 empty seats.  The people in the Temple athletic program have to know that Pierce probably won't even finish in the top 20 in Heisman voting. 

Pierce is impeded by the fact that he doesn't play in a BCS Conference.  there are only a few players I could see contending for the Heisman from a non BCS situation: Boise State Quarterback Kellen Moore, Houston Quarterback Case Keenum of Houston, and Navy Quarterback Ricky Dobbs.   All of those players that I just mentioned play on better teams, have tougher schedules, and have set records.  Bernard Pierce is simply an injury prone running back on a decent team from the MAC. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Villanova Football Season Preview Part 5

This is part five of a six part season preview of the Villanova football team, each week there will be a new post focusing on a different position group.

Secondary- In Villanova's 3-3-5 defensive scheme, the defensive backs need to tackle like linebackers and cover like cornerbacks.  This year, Villanova returns four of it's five starters from last year with only Ross Ventrone (who is currently with the New England Patriots) graduating.  With such an experienced group returning, The 'Cats should be improve on the back end of the defense.

At Cornerback, Junior James Pitts appears to be a rising star.  Pitts is a good Tackler who has a nose for the ball and is my pick to lead the team in interceptions.  Opposite Pitts is rising Sophomore Eric Loper, last season as a true freshman, Loper broke into the starting lineup and ended up being a rock in the backline of the defense down the stretch.  As good as James Pitts is, Loper could be even better.  The third corner is a bit of a question mark as last year's third corner, Josh Potts is no longer with the team.  So the most likely situation is that Kelvin Johnson will be the third corner with possibly a freshman (Craig James?) taking his place during the season.

The 'Cats are again loaded at safety, which is a pivotal position in this defense as the weak and strong safeties are surrogate linebackers that are used not only for run support, but are frequently sent on blitzes.  At strong safety, John Dempsey returns for his senior season as the most seasoned player in the Villanova secondary.  Last season Dempsey finished near the team lead in tackles, sacks tackles for loss and had a key interception that led to the winning field goal in the Temple game.  Returning to the weak safety position will be senior Fred Maldonado, a player who blossomed after being switched to safety from corner in the 2009 offseason.  Maldonado, who may have been the greatest high school player I have ever seen is strong and coverage and stout in run support and he also can get to the quarterback when called upon to blitz.  Starting at free safety will be Sophomore Ronnie Akins, a player who shined last year in special teams duty who should be able to capably step into the spot vacated by the graduation of Ventrone.  If Akins is to falter, Martel Moody, a fifth year senior with starting experience should be able to come in and play without issue. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Villanova Football Season Preview Part 4

This is part four of a six part season preview of the Villanova football team, each week there will be a new post focusing on a different position group.

Linebacker- Despite losing three year starter Osayi Osunde, the overwhelming strength of the Villanova defense will again be an experienced Linebacking corps.  Terence Thomas, a starter since his first day on the Main Line was voted preseason CAA Defensive Player of The Year.  Last season, Thomas led The 'Cats with 116 tackles and finished second on the team with 8.5 sacks.  Lining up in the middle, next to Thomas is two time All-CAA pick Marquis KirklandKirkland, who is coming off a monster game in December's national championship is a big thumper in the middle who is perhaps the key cog in the Villanova run defense.  Playing the third linebacker position is not cemented, but it will likely be either Anthony Johnson, or Jacob Wade.  Both Johnson and Wade have extensive playing time and should be able to transition into the defense nicely.  This year, I expect the pass coverage to improve as Osunde was never the greatest in pass coverage and all of the potential starters played extensively in sub packages which should in theory make Villanova less susceptible to the intermediate pass.  Other linebackers on the team such as Devon Bridges, and Delano Ferguson should be in the mix for serious minutes off the bench while contributing on special teams.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Villanova Football Season Preview Part 3

This is part three of a six part season preview of the Villanova football team, each week there will be a new post focusing on a different position group.

Defensive Line- The position group with the least turnover on the Villanova roster is undoubtedly the Defensive Line.  Defensive End Tim Kukucka and Nose Tackle Phil Matusz both graduate, which means the best two Defensive Linemen from last year will need to be replaced.  Sophomore Marlon Johnson likely has one of the End spots locked down, while Tamai Young, Mario Johnson, and Rakim Cox will likely compete or rotate in at the other End.  If I had to nail down the weakest position on the team, it would be Defensive End, but that could change quickly if someone steps up and has a big season.

At Nose Tackle, Thomas Weaver should pick up where Matusz left off as he is the type of big run plugger that this defense necessitates.  Behind Weaver, it's anyone's guess who will play the position.  This year's recruiting class features Antoine Lewis, but it's very risky to place any type of hopes on a true freshman, there is also Tamai Young who could presumably shoulder some of the load. 

The Defensive Line has gone from a dominant group last year to a big question mark this year.  Hopefully a veteran like Thomas Weaver steps up and has a big season or Rakim Cox continues the form that made him the most improved defensive player at spring practice this year.  If there isn't someone who steps up to compensate for the loss of a guy like Kukucka, this team's chances to repeat could be nought.