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Features & Blogs
"Life in the UK"
• Sideline: Yes, Non–Conference Games DO Count
• NCAA Preview 2009
• Sideline: Time For The Talking To Stop
• Sideline: In Memory of Air McNair
• Sideline: Will Goodell Hand Out Hard Time?
• Sideline: Marshall's Not Joshing
• NFL Draft: No Rush To Judgment
• NFL Draft Analysis 2009 (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts
• Sideline: Will Play For Food
• Sideline: Wonderlic Scores
• Sideline: Manning and Sanchez
• Sideline: 2010 Leagues Sci–fi, or Fantasy? / March Madness
• Sideline: Break Out The Brackets
• Sideline: LaDainian Tomlinson On The Record
• Sideline: The Incredible Sulk Continues
• Sideline: Guildford Heat Fired Up
• Sideline: Super Bowl thoughts from the Valley of the Sun
• Sideline: I know I came in here for something
• Sideline: College Football National Signing Day
• Sideline: 27 Points — 27 Super Bowl thoughts
• Sideline: An Epic QB Matchup?
• Sideline: Appreciating Arizona for What They Were
• Sideline: NFL Divisional Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Bowl Season Hangover
• Sideline: Six weeks Later
• Sideline: Wildcard Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Santa's Sackings
• Sideline: A Weis Decision ...for Now
• Sideline: Eye on the Ticker
• Sideline: Lions — An Anagram of Losin
• Sideline: Ready for the Turkey
• Sideline: Making it to the Big Dance
• Sideline: Brighter Days Ahead for Chargers?
• Sideline: Unnecessary Hits To The Pocket / Upset: BYU
• Sideline: Romo's Pause / Seattle Seahawks
• Sideline: Weekend Prep: Red River and More
• Sideline: College Football's 'Crossroads' Weekend
• Sideline: Gramatical Error
• Sideline: Turning The Page
• Sideline: So Cal 'Quizzed
• Sideline: 3rd Tuesday Panic / Forté Yard Dash
• Sideline: Two and Oh; Oh and Two
• Sideline: No More NCAAffeine
• Sideline: Week 1 College Football
• Sideline: How To Spell Heisman / Chad Ocho Cinco
• Sideline: A Second Slice
• Sideline: The Favre story STILL won't go away
• Sideline: Olympic Notes / Ricky's Still Relevant
• Sideline: Committee Meetings
• Sideline: Let the QB Battles Begin
• Sideline: Slinging The Slinger — More Favre
• Interview: Clint Dempsey
• Sideline: Welcome to the 2008 season
• Sideline: Plus One
• 2008 NFL Draft Review
• Sideline: Draft: The Morning After
• Sideline: Draft: Thinking the Unthinkable
• Sideline: Draft: Ready For The Long Haul
• Sideline: Sofa–bound Sport
• Sideline: Post–Winter Wonderland
• Sideline: Six Impossible Things
• Sideline: Brady's Misdirection Play
• Sideline: Colorful Language
• Sideline: Let the Romo–bashing begin
• Sideline: Bowl Bites: The Wrap
• Sideline: All About The Coaches
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 3
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 2
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 1
• Sideline: Coach Situations Vacant
• Sideline: For Some, The Playoffs Are Now
• Sideline: A Certain Lack Of Welcome
• Sideline: Unrelated Notes
• Sideline: Two Thanksgiving thoughts
• Sideline: Halftime: NFC
• Sideline: Halftime: AFC
• Sideline: London / A Tale of Two Chads / Intimidation
• Sideline: Damp Squib / Other London Notes
• Sideline: Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em / Dolphins – The Aftermath
• Sideline: The Dolphins Did What?
• Sideline: Notes on the Defenses
• Sideline: Habits to be Broken
• Sideline: Overtime
• Sideline: This Week's Starters
• Sideline: USF: Covering The Spread / Fantastic Football
• Sideline: Grossman: The Final Act? / McNabb, the Epilogue
• Sideline: Eagles QB in Slight Controversy
• Sideline: Leftwich's Parting Gift / Boos cruise
• Sideline: Notre Dame M.I.A.
• Sideline: Looking Beyond NFL Wk. 1
• Sideline: Best Hope For Heisman
• Sideline: Coaching Hot Seats / AP Poll Feeling ’Appy
• Sideline: The NFL’s Prime Cuts
• Sideline: Michigan Falls to Killer Apps
• Sideline: Look Out Couch / The Taint's On You, Bud
NCAA Preview 2009
Observations, Opinion & Occasional Silliness by Richard L Gale
A case could be made for any one of five teams in the Big East, but West Virginia's depth of talent impresses football writer Richard L Gale
The old offensive era — Rich Rodriguez, Steve Slaton, Owen Schmitt, Darius Reynauld, Pat White — passed into legend, officially closing this offseason with the graduation of White, who contributed over 10,000 yards of offense during his career, and averaged 28 touchdowns a season. While shifty back Noel Devine provided similar yardage to Slaton as his successor last year, he logged only four scores, so White's role as scoring threat is going to be harder to replace.
New quarterback Jarrett Brown has been a contributor the past two years, and looks to be a confident and mobile passer, but the Mountaineers spread could become a little more conventional this season as Brown utilizes an underused receiving corps to make trails and find the endzone. Senior WR Alric Arnett could make a fine case for an NFL career from an accentuated passing game.
There are only four returning starters on the entire offense, only one on the line, and while the next generation has talent, the Mountaineers are going to rely on their ball–stealing defense, lead by LB Reed Williams. The linebackers go two–deep in start quality, with JT Thomas a disrupter in the backfield. The defensive line could also be special, with four year starter Scooter Berry joined by promising sophomore end Julian Miller and incumbent NT Chris Neild; if E Tevita Finau joins Larry Ford and Josh Taylor in the rotation, there's solid depth. Three of last year's starters are back in the five–man secondary, and again there is promise beyond this season, with only ‘bandit' safety Boogie Allen a senior.
Despite so many juniors and sophomores in the mix, there is no sense that West Virginia is thinking next year is the year. Depth on defense suggests special teams should be stocked, even if kicking is a worry — kicker Pat McAfee graduated — and the team of Coach Bill Stewart, and coordinators Jeff Mullen and Jeff Casteel return from a 9–4 campaign. The schedule doesn't allow for a many down weeks with East Carolina and Colorado (who both beat the Mountaineers last season) either side of a trip to Auburn, a visit to South Florida, and a final stretch visiting reigning Big East champs Cincinnati, hosting many people's pick as conference champs, Pittsburgh, and finally away to Rutgers.
If West Virginia turn out not to be the dominant team of the Big East anymore, they may still be the most exciting.
100–Word Dash: Pittsburgh
The Panthers might seem a lesser team with runner LeSean McCoy replaced by a true freshman, but under new coordinator Frank Cignetti's less stodgy offense, and with an experienced line in place, RB Dion Lewis could be the Big East's newcomer of the year. QB Bill Stull is no stud, but he could be much improved, and receiver Jonathan Baldwin could be poised for a stellar breakout. Seven starters return for a powerful defense — including disruptive ends Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard — and Pitt were no.1 in special team kick blocks. It should be another high–profile year for the Panthers.
100–Word Dash: South Florida
South Florida could join all the dots to leap from sixth to first in the Big East, but only if QB Matt Grothe (the poor man's Tim Tebow) can cut the interceptions his senior year. Another senior star is DE George Selvie, who could be a very high NFL pick if he regains his sophomore form. The Bulls also need RB Mike Ford to at least double his yardage from a year ago (less than 500), and behind a rebuilding line, that's asking a lot. And while the Mountaineers visit, the Bulls play Pitt, Rutgers and UConn on the road.
100–Word Dash: Rutgers
Despite losing some good players on defense, the next layer of talent are strong on tackling, but the secondary has unproved spots and they might not want to get in any shoot–outs. The passing game is a potential flaw, with QB Teel, and receivers Britt and Underwood gone. If Rutgers have to run the ball down the throats of opponents, they'll do it — the backfield lacks a star, but a productive committee and the whole line return. Rutgers also host all of the major conference contenders. Come December, their season finale against West Virginia could still decide the Big East.
100–Word Dash: Cincinnati
The Bearcats are primed for a bit of a tumble. Tony Pike's first season as starting QB was moderately productive, the backfield committee chipped in, and receiver Marshwan Gilyard caught 81 passes and 11 scores last season; however, the defense returns just one starter. As well as changing personnel, Cincinnati's defense is changing coordinator and set (to the 3–4), so opening at conference rival Rutgers looks like a loss out of the gate. In fact, the other teams jostling for the Big East's upper echelons — South Florida and Pittsburgh — are also road games for Cincy. Some heartbreaking losses seem destined.
100–Word Dash: Connecticut
The Huskies lost some good names this offseason — RB Donald Brown and CB Darius Butler among them. While the running game inevitably takes a step back, the new no–huddle passing game could step forward from a hideous interception–strewn 2008 campaign. The pride of the team has to be a linebacking corps featuring Greg Lloyd Jnr, third year starter Lawrence Wilson, and all–conference tackling machine Scott Lutrus. There'll be fresh names at end, and mixed experience deep, so those linebackers must lead. At Pittsburgh, at West Virginia and at Cincinnati suggests UConn will have to scrap to be in contention late.
100–Word Dash: Louisville
The Cardinals have linebackers who can tackle, a 1000 yard rusher (Victor Anderson), a fast 60–catch receiver (Doug Beaumont) and another who presents a massive target (6–8 Josh Chichester). Most of the line have experience. What they lack is a quarterback, the position that has defined Louisville in recent years. The running game isn't robust enough to carry the offense, and the defense is a work in progress on the line and in the secondary. With such one–dimensionality Coach Kragthorpe and new defensive coordinator Brent Guy have their work cut out to coax Louisville to an even record in 2009.
100–Word Dash: Syracuse
The Big East is probably the nation's most competitive conference …at least seven teams deep. Eighth is Syracuse, so far off the map that new coach Doug Marrone's objective for 2009 has to be no more than grabbing at Louisville's heals. The team is so desperate, former Duke basketball star Greg Paulus has joined their quarterback competition. The Orange will run the ball behind an iffy line, but if the ball takes flight, the receivers could be a highlight. Yet with 15 junior starters (there's just one projected senior starter on defense), this looks like a dry run for 2010.