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College Football Preview

2013 College Football Season Preview: Washington State Cougars

2012 Record: 3-9 (1-8 in Pac-12)

Head Coach: Mike Leach (2nd year at Wazzu, 87-52 All-Time)

Last Bowl Game: 2003 Holiday Bowl: beat Texas 28-20

Stadium: Martin Stadium in Pullman, WA (capacity = 35,117)

Home Field Advantage: ranked 61st out of 69 BCS teams

Schedule Glimpse:

2013 Schedule Link

Out of Conference: 8/31 at Auburn, 9/14 vs Southern Utah, 9/21 vs Idaho

Conference Home Games: 9/28 vs Stanford, 10/12 vs Oregon State, 10/31 vs Arizona State, 11/23 vs Utah

Statistical Snapshot:

2012 Statistics Link

Stats to Fear: converted on just 31.72% of third downs (11th in Pac-12), scored TDs on 53.85% of red zone trips (11th in Pac-12)

Stat to Cheer: had 56 pass plays of 20 yds or more (tied for 1st in Pac-12), held opponents to 76.79% success rate in red zone (2nd in Pac-12)

Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 97th out of 124 teams

Personnel:

Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 8, Defense: 4, Special Teams: 0

Key Defensive Returnees: S Deone Bucannon (106 tackles), LB Darryl Monroe (80 tackles)

Key Offensive Returnees: QB Connor Halliday (1878 yds pass, 52.2% completions, 15 TD, 13 INT), WR Gabe Marks (49 rec), WR Brett Bartolone (53 rec), WR Isiah Myers (41 rec), WR Dominique Williams (34 rec)

Top 2013 Recruits: LB Ivan McLennan, WR Vince Mayle, QB Tyler Bruggman

Verdict:

The word of the day after Mike Leach was hired as Wazzu's new head coach was "excitement". After a disappointing first year, is that excitement still there? Coming off of a 4-8 season, most thought that Leach would be able to plug and play a bit with the offense and at worst finish the 2012 season with the same record as 2011. They started 2-1 but the 35-34 loss to Colorado was a heart breaker and Wazzu never recovered until the final week of the season when they popped rival Washington 31-28. Can they build on that upset as they enter 2013?

Junior Connor Halliday will get the football for the Cougars but he struggled last year in Mike Leach's offense as he completed just 52.2% of his passes and threw 13 INTs. In Leach's offense, Halliday has to be more accurate. In Leach's best season at Texas Tech, his RBs averaged 4.83 ypc and had 28 TDs. Last year the Cougars averaged 1.38 ypc and had just 6 TDs. They ran for just 349 yards. Even in an air raid offense there has to be some balance, some threat of run and something to check to but last year it was not there for the Cougars. The receiving corps is the strength of this team and that's good news for a team that likes to throw the rock around. The OL allowed 57 sacks last year. 57! What will year two bring for Mike Leach's offense? I'm interested to find out.

Statistically the Washington State defense took a small step back last year but that tends to happen when you are near the bottom of the league in time of possession and you don't have a solid run game to control the ball when needed. The defense has some good individual players in Deone Bucannon and Darryl Monroe. Mike Breske did a good job last year with the talent that he had and it will be interesting to see if the Cougars can show improvement in 2013.

There are a lot of questions for this Cougars squad and the schedule is going to be a tough one. The Pac-12 as a whole has stepped up their game with the massive turnover they've had in the coaching ranks over the last few years and every game in the conference will be a battle. The non-conference schedule should put the Cougars at 2-1 at worst unless they can go on the road and beat an Auburn team that really struggled last season. Despite that game featuring two teams with losing records from 2012, that will be a very interesting match-up and will serve as a launching spot for one of these two teams. This could definitely be a team that turns the corner this year but I think it's more likely that happens two or three years down the line. That being said, Leach always has some tricks up his sleeve so the Cougars will be a fun team to watch in 2013. If the buzz word for 2012 was "excitement", the buzz word for 2013 is "interest" and I'm very interested to see what Leach and Wazzu do this season.

Prediction: 4-8

Previous 2013 Pre-Season Previews:

ACC- Georgia TechMiamiVirginia, Wake Forest Demon Deacons Big 12- KansasKansas StTexas Tech Big Ten- IllinoisIndianaIowaNebraskaNorthwesternPurdue C-USA- ECUFAUFIULouisiana TechMarshallMiddle TennesseeNorth TexasRiceSouthern MissTulsaTulaneUABUTEPUTSA Independent: ArmyIdahoNavyNew Mexico StOld Dominion MAC- AkronBall StateBowling GreenBuffaloEMUKent StateMiami (OH)OhioToledoUMassWMU MWC- Air ForceColorado StFresno StHawaiiNevadaNew MexicoSDSUSJSUUNLVUtah StWyoming SEC- ArkansasVanderbilt Sun Belt- Arkansas StateGeorgia StateLouisianaSouth AlabamaTexas StateTroyULMWKU The American- HoustonMemphisRutgersSMUTempleUCFUConnUSF

Get more great college football analysis over at College Football Zealots.

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College Football Spring Practice Preview: Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Texas A&M and More

The East preview took place yesterday and can be found here in its natural state, and today we journey through the West, addressing the issues facing each team heading into spring practice.

ALABAMA

2012 record:  13-1

Bowl result:  National Champions, PAAAWWWLLL

Biggest issues going into the spring:  According to Nick Saban, EVERYTHING. 

"No one on this year's team has done anything in 2013, so to start heaping praise on a team that has won ZERO games this season is absurd.  It offends all the fibers of my being to hear fans and you writers talk like that.

"I mean, the offensive line is gone.  Got one running back.  Defense lost some key guys on a defense that, to be frank, had issues last year.  And the quarterback, well, he played well, but I remember that thing called Texas A&M.  We got some guys who'd rather be stealing money for snacks than doing what we ask.

"And to top it all off, my salad at lunch today had 10 pieces of turkey instead of 12.  So, you know, I don't know what the hell is going on around here.  Every time I turn around I see another problem, and yet we've got people talking about repeating as a national champion.  Unbelievable.  All of this is just disgustingly unbelievable."

Reasons for 14-0 hope coming out of the spring:  Best candidates for offensive line replacements are identified, one or two of the 25 five-star running backs on campus make the leap to T.J. Yeldon's assistant, and defensive talent does not catch the bubonic plague.

Reasons for PAAAWWWLLL coming out of the spring:  Saban refers to the offensive line as a "shitstorm of softness", T.J. Yeldon accepts the responsibility of rushing for 2500 yards next season, and defensive talent catches bubonic plague.

ARKANSAS

2012 record:  4-8

Bowl result:  HAHAHAHAHA.

Biggest issues going into the spring:  Bert Bielema in unfamiliar territory, a new quarterback, new style of play, and a defense with the hot mess status of the sweat swamp behind Bert's knee after he's been sitting for at least an hour.

Reasons for Independence Bowl hope coming out of the spring:  The quarterback competition is settled, the eye test suggests that chaos has less of a stronghold on the sideline, and the defense gains praise for really frustrating the 2nd team offense.

Reasons for a season of FOIA requests coming out of spring:  Co-starting quarterbacks for August practice, offense is described as "oh man, WAY behind the defense", and a 37-man rotation on defense.

AUBURN

2012 record:  3-9

Bowl result:  NOPE.

Biggest issues going into the spring:  An offense that looked like something out of the laboratory of Houston Nutt (note: Houston Nutt's laboratory is two pieces of plywood leaning against one another), potentially no quarterback on campus, and a defense still battling TRD (Ted Roof Disorder).

Actually, Nick Saban's "EVERYTHING" would have worked here.

Reasons for Independence Bowl hope coming out of the spring:  Gus Malzahn gets Kiehl Frazier or Jonathan Wallace to a level where they sometimes believe in themselves, the new offense is picked up quickly, and the defense is awarded a participation ribbon.

Reasons for PAAAWWWLLL coming out of the spring:  Frazier and Wallace are the same quarterbacks when Malzahn first got his hands on them, lots of quotes from offensive coaches like "they're still learning and can we have like 400 more practices by August?", and the defense has a nasty relapse of TRD.

LSU

2012 record:  10-3

Bowl result:  Lost to Clemson 25-24 LOLOLOLOLOLOL

Biggest issues coming into the spring:  Cam Cameron, yes, THE CAM CAMERON OF EVERY NFL TEAM EVER FAME, now calling the plays, Zach Mettenberger remains the favorite to start at quarterback, and like almost every year, defensive talent escapes to the NFL.

Reasons for Atlanta hope coming out of the spring:  Cam Cameron (note: must be referred to as "Cam Cameron" and never "Cam" or "Coach Cameron" as per universal announcer rules) adjusts well to college coordinating and Mettenberger, Jeremy Hill is promised 20-25 carries a game, and defense avoids bubonic plague.

Reasons for Les Miles hot seat talk coming out of the spring:  Words like "simplify", "tailor", and "adjust" are repeatedly used when describing the offense as it relates to Mettenberger's role, "a stable" and/or "committee" of running backs are used when referring to which running back will see the most playing time, and the defense catches bubonic plague.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

2012 record:  8-5

Bowl result:  THRASHED by Northwestern, 34-20

Biggest issues going into the spring:  Replacing two early-round NFL corners, new defensive coordinator, defense in general, finding new wide receivers, and Tyler Russell against equal or superior competition.

Reasons for #WeBelieve hope coming out of the spring:  Defense goes from hemorrhaging points and yards to merely lightly bleeding points and yards, wide receivers are unearthed, and Dan Mullen shifts his offense closer to the strength of Russell's abilities.

Reasons for has Mullen peaked talk coming out of the spring:  Dak Prescott (if he recovers from toe surgery) throws well against the 1st team defense, every corner on the roster gets a shot with the 1st team defense, and Mullen flatly describes the defense "coming along."

OLE MISS

2012 record:  7-6

Bowl result:  DOMINATED AND DESTROYED Pittsburgh, 38-17 in historic, tetanus and pools of water-riddled Legion Field

Biggest issues heading into the spring:  WHERE ARE ALL THOSE FIVE-STAR RECRUITS GONNA PLAY?  Only kidding, as they won't be on campus until the summer, but the answer anyway is WHEREVER THEY WANT PER THE RULES OF THEIR PAY-FOR-PLAY CONTRACTS.

Other issues include Bo Wallace most likely missing spring practice as he recovers from shoulder surgery, a defensive line (particularly defensive tackle) that is dangerously thin on experience and possibly talent, and an offensive line that is in a similar situation.

Reasons for Chick-fil-A Bowl hope coming out of the spring:  Wallace is at least throwing by the end of spring practice, a serviceable rotation develops at defensive tackle, and the offensive line finds seven to eight guys for its rotation.

Reasons for just missing out on the Compass Bowl talk coming out of the spring:  Wallace isn't able to start throwing until June or July, lots of talk about needing to see if the new players can work their way into the rotation in August, and a revolving door virus infects the cornerback depth chart.

TEXAS A&M

2012 record:  11-2

Bowl result:  Handing Bob Stoops YET ANOTHER bowl loss, 41-13 in the Cotton Bowl

Biggest issues coming into the spring:  Replacing one all-world offensive tackle, ditto a defensive tackle that will make millions in the NFL, and finding a second wide receiver to replace (insert all the words to describe Wes Welker because I'm POSITIVE they're the same exact player since they're both white and all) Ryan Swope.

Reasons for Atlanta hopes coming out of the spring:  Many of the Air Raid coaches talk about year two being the year when the offense really blows up, so if there are plenty of quotes like "it's all clicking", "this may be too easy", or "he's caught eight touchdowns and I only have six", I would consider that a good sign.  Additionally, Johnny Manziel improving his downfield accuracy, especially on the run, and a defense that finds a pass rusher or one guy that requires a double team.

Reasons for Independence Bowl talk coming out of the spring:  Manziel wears the Scooby Doo costume to all the practices (though my calculations say this would only affect his performance by about 50%), the defense becomes more like an Auburn or Tennessee defense, and the ladies of College Station surround the practice fields and chant "Bring back Kliff" for hours at a time.


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2013 College Football Season Preview: LSU Tigers

Under Les Miles, the LSU Tigers have won double digit games in three straight seasons and six of eight total seasons since he has taken over as head coach. Last year, the Tigers finished the regular season at 10-2 with losses to Alabama and Florida and then lost their bowl game in a close one against Clemson. The three losses came by an average of just over four points per game. 

LSU looks for offensive improvement in 2013 as they have brought in Cam Cameron. He had a one year run as an NFL head coach in Miami but is more well known as an offensive coordinator. His last stop was with the Super Bowl bound Baltimore Ravens but he was kicked to the curb half way through the season. Cameron has not been a hot prospect in quite a while but neither has the LSU offense. On paper it looks doomed for mediocrity but crazier things have happened and the LSU offense certainly has the weapons to make a big improvement this year.

Zach Mettenberger returns as the starter and he struggled in year one as QB1 for the Tigers (58.8% completions, 12:7 TD to INT ratio). Mettenberger certainly has the weapons to improve this year as both Odell Beckham Jr (43 rec) and Jarvis Landry (56 rec) return. RBs Michael Ford and Spencer Ware declared early for the NFL draft but the Tigers still have arguably the best set of running backs in the conference. Rising sophomore phenom Jeremy Hill came on strong at the end of the season as he had just 73 yards rushing going into the seventh game of the season and he finished with 755. Hill averaged 97.7 ypg in the final seven games and had three multi-TD games. Hill will be joined by Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue in the backfield. In addition to weapons like Beckham, Landry, Hill, Hilliard and Blue, the Tigers also return four offensive linemen. 

Defense has carried the Tigers in the recent past but they could struggle to find familiarity early in the season. The Tigers lose six players off of their defense to early entry in the NFL Draft. LB Kevin Minter (130 tackles, 4 sacks), S Eric Reid (91 tackles, 2 INT), CB Tharold Simon (45 tackles, 4 INT), DT Bennie Logan (45 tackles, 2 sacks), DE Barkevious Mingo (38 tackles, 4.5 sacks) and DE Sam Montgomery (37 tackles, 8 sacks) have all taken their talents to the NFL. Those six players were responsible for 41% of LSU's tackles, 52% of their sacks and 38% of their INTs in 2012. Replacing those guys won't be easy but don't forget that LSU has recruited with the best of them under Les Miles. Scout.com ranked them #6 in 2012 and #9 in 2011. The talent is there and they will have two early tests in their first five games as they will face TCU in Texas in their first game and Georgia in Athens in their fifth game.

Can Cam Cameron have a positive effect on the stagnant LSU offense? The talent is there, will it be utilized better this season? Will guys like Anthony Johnson and Jermauria Rasco step up on the defensive line to fill the shoes of Mingo, Montgomery and Logan? Can Kwon Alexander come back from an injury in 2012 to be an impact player at LB for John Chavis and the Tigers defense? The Tigers face a lot of questions in 2013 but one constant is that they've finished in the Top 10 more often then they haven't under Les Miles and I wouldn't bet against them to do the same in 2013.

Previous SEC First Looks:

Arkansas Razorbacks

Auburn Tigers

Kentucky Wildcats

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Missouri Tigers

Ole Miss Rebels

Tennessee Volunteers

Vanderbilt Commodores

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2013 College Football Breakdown: Arkansas Razorbacks

2012 was supposed to be a special year for the Razorbacks. They were coming off of an 11-2 season and were looking to take the final step in the SEC West arms race against Alabama and LSU. Instead of taking a step forward, the Razorbacks took a giant step backwards as their season started to unravel before they even hit the field and when it was all said and done the Hogs whimpered to a 4-8 finish in which they won just two SEC games. 

Arkansas made one of the biggest coaching splashes during the coaching carousel by picking up Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema. Bielema made his bones at Wisconsin by running the football and playing solid defense. Sounds a lot like the formula at Alabama and LSU. Bielema will bring in a familiar SEC face Jim Chaney (Tennessee OC) to run the offense and help him attempt to navigate shark infested waters. 

Chaney has his work cut out for him as he will try to replace two year starter Tyler Wilson. He also loses the triumvirate of RBs Knile Davis, Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo Jr. Did I mention Cobi Hamilton, who had 69 more receptions than anybody else on Arkansas last season, was a senior? Spring practice will be very telling as rising sophomore Brandon Allen tries to nail down the starting QB spot and new stars try to emerge. Will Chaney give former QB Brandon Mitchell a shot along with Allen?

Arkansas has a lot of questions on the offensive side of the football but they might have even more on defense. There were only four SEC teams that gave up more points last season than they scored and Arkansas was one of them (only Kentucky gave up more points). The Hogs gave up over eight more points per game in 2012 than in 2011, 

2013 is going to be a rebuilding season for Bielema and Arkansas. They will be changing schemes and you will see a ton of new faces leading the way for the Hogs. The biggest thing Bobby Petrino failed to do at Arkansas (besides cover up his affair) was recruit on the level with Alabama and LSU. If Arkansas truly wants to compete with the big boys, Bielema has to do a better job recruiting on both sides of the football and make Arkansas a destination spot for gifted athletes. While there is no doubt that Arkansas will be rebuilding in 2013, there is no reason they shouldn't be a lot better than their 4-8 2012 finish.

Previous SEC First Looks:

Auburn Tigers

Kentucky Wildcats

Get more great college football analysis over at College Football Zealots.


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Can Mark Stoops Save Kentucky Football in 2013?

Joker Phillips finished his career as the head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats with a total record of 13-24 and an SEC record of just 4-20. 2012 was the worst of the three years for Phillips as his team finished in the basement of the SEC East and went just 2-10 overall and 0-8 in the SEC.

Coming into the 2012 season, the Wildcats had lost Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy Jr off their defense and looked to take a step back on that side of the football but there was hope that the offense would improve. I tabbed Kentucky at 4-8 before the season while the Kentucky faithful were looking more at 5 or 6 wins. Even with those low expectations, winning two games was too much to keep Joker around for another year.

Kentucky now turns to Mark Stoops as he takes over for Phillips. Stoops has a background as a defensive guy, as did Rich Brooks who was fairly successful before Phillips took over, who coached most recently at FSU. Stoops turns to Neal Brown to handle the offensive duties and if his tenure at Texas Tech and Troy is any indication he will be throwing the ball around a bit.

Coming into 2012, Kentucky was the 12th most experienced team in the SEC (only Auburn and Mississippi State had less experience according to Phil Steele). Despite the youth, Phil Steele still has them listed 53rd in terms of returning starters for the 2013 season. 

Offensively, Kentucky has been dead last in the SEC the last two years in points scored (17.9 in 2012 and 15.8 in 2011) so it will be crucial that Brown gets these guys up to speed on his system. The Wildcats have three young QBs in Maxwell Smith, Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles and it will be interesting to watch this spring and fall to see if one of those guys takes to the new system and jumps out in front of his peers. Kentucky has talent at RB with Raymond Sanders and CoShik Williams but have struggled to keep their guys healthy. The loss of offensive lineman Larry Warford will hurt.

Defensively, Kentucky took a step back in 2012 allowing 6.3 more points per game than in 2011. They will be better on defense this season with Stoops, they almost have to be. Whether or not they are significantly better as a whole will be whether or not the offense can get going and how early in the season they can get going. The schedule, at least in the early going, is not going to be Kentucky's friend in 2013. After starting with two very winnable mid-major games they play Louisville, Florida, South Carolina and then Alabama. Ouch. Winning those first two games (against WKU with Bobby Petrino and Miami, OH) will be a big key for Stoops getting this young team to believe in 2013. Despite the tough schedule, it's impossible to believe that this team won't be better than they were last season. The question is how much better will they be?


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2013 College Football Preview: South Carolina Gamecocks

The 2012 South Carolina Gamecocks football season has officially ended, so we might as start focusing on the 2013 season.  Here is a (way too) early look at the schedule and how things look now....  

NORTH CAROLINA

The Tar Heels were unable to find a way to back out of the return game of a home and home contract.  It certainly wasn't for trying.  This game was also tenatively scheduled to open the season on a Thursday, but is now slated for Saturday.  It will be an ugly opening game as most of them are, but Carolina shouldn't have much trouble with the Tar Heels and should open 1-0.

@ Georgia

If you like hearing hype about Aaron Murray and Gurshall, this is the off season for you.  Expect to hear about how close the Bulldogs were in Atlanta against Alabama and how wonderful the UGa offense will be.  All that aside, Aaron Murray has the change to be the greatest Bulldog quarterback in South Carolina history.  I expect a shoot out in Athens like 2011, but I think the Dawgs finally get over the hump with their offensive firepower and a relatively inexperienced USC secondary. 1-1 (0-1)

VANDERBILT

This game won't be same old Vanderbilt, and as long as James Franklin is there we'll be obliged to begin all comments on the Commodores that way.  The Dores are still a recruiting class or two away.  South Carolina should win this game by about 10, something like 24-14.  2-1, (1-1).

@ Central Florida

The Golden Knights will be amped to play this game, but that probably won't be a big enough advantage.  Plenty of Florida grown Gamecocks will be amped to be back in their home state as well.  This should end up like ECU did last year. 40-something to less than 20.  3-1, (1-1)

KENTUCKY

There is no reason this game should be close.  None at all.  4-1, (2-1)

@ Arkansas

This should be a transition season for the Hogs, especially on offense.  Petrino's offense is on the other end of the spectrum from Bielema's.  I think Arkansas will take a season or two to adjust.  Also, this game falls at a really bad time for the Hogs.  They will be playing their 7th game in a row.  They will have just finished with Texas A&M and Florida, and have Alabama the next week.  Carolina should win a close one.  5-1 (3-1)

@ Tennessee

The Volunteer defense should be improved, but the offense will take time to rebuild.  Without Bray I'm not concerned about the offense.  USC should get their points and win in Knoxville for the second time in a row.  6-1, (4-1)

@ Missouri

This is the trap game on the schedule.  It's the third road game in a row.  On the other hand the Tigers have to play Georgia and Florida the two weeks before.  I expect this to be comfortably close, but I expect to have strong leadership from the upperclassmen.  That intangible should make the difference in close games like this one.  7-1, (5-1)

MISSISSIPPI STATE

Dan Mullen's Bulldogs are a good, but not upper level program.  Unless they find a way to take the next step, this is a W.  Weve waited for MSU to take that step for a few years now, and it hasn't happened.  I don't expect it to happen next year either. 8-1, (6-1).

FLORIDA

This game should be for the East.  I expect Georgia's defensive attrition to catch up with them a couple times this season.  Last year in the Swamp was ugly, but the Gators were not 33 points better than the Gamecocks.  In Williams-Brice in a prime time environment, look for USC to wrap up another trip to Atlanta.  9-1 (7-1).

COASTAL CAROLINA

This is solid scheduling.  You don't want an off week here, and you don't want a huge challenge here.  Playing a Top 25 team or a special (read: triple option) team this week isn't ideal either.  The Gamecocks reap the fruits of proper scheduling.  10-1 (7-1)

CLEMSON

It's been four wonderful years.  I expect Dabo to still be the full time head coach, so you can expect to be celebrating for a fifth year.  Perhaps they should relegate him to interim status to give themselves a chance.  This will be a very close game, but USC has the advantage where it matters: the trenches.  11-1 (7-1)

I've gotten atleast one of these wrong.  Could it be the Georgia game?  Could it be Florida?  Could it be Clemson?  Yes to all.  We'll look at these again in the summer and see how silly they seem then.


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