Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Fire when ready!

Opening shots are, depending upon the level of planning, to see where the damned shell lands or to hit close to the target with adjustment to come. I used to do that professionally. This opening salvo is a confusing mix of both, pretty much what you can expect for the first several weeks because I am not going go ACD on getting to know teams outside the conference on purpose. Kind of like the way my wife sees my house cleaning expertise. I’m retired but still don’t have enough time to get that involved in either endeavor and am in no way fearful I’ll lose my job here on the blog.

My first test comes on August 28 when California hosts Hawaii in Australia. Now that’s the way to host a party; in someone else’s house so nothing important gets broken. As near as I can figure Cal’s defensive philosophy is to hope the other team self-destructs before they score on a drive. On the other side of the ball they hope things aren’t as bad a losing somewhere around 80% of the players who produced on offense last season. In both cases, hope is going to be answered positively in this game. I’m not betting that will hold true for the rest of the season. Hawaii comes in not much better off. Their Offensive Coordinator was the Coach’s center when he played at Hawaii. My gut feeling is Cal winning the game by a touchdown or two.

Southern Utah plays a Thursday night game in Utah. Considering the difference in play level of the two schools this is an easy shoot from the hip trick, at least as far as predicting a win for Utah. The Utes should be able to pitch a shut-out and even their probably anemic offense should score at least three touchdowns. Their defense alone could easily outscore Southern Utah in a game they should win by at least 28 points.

When Oregon State opens the same night in Minnesota they have several things going for them. First is if they lose, only a few of their cow country fans probably have access to the Big10 network, the only place to watch the game. Second is they are playing the Gophers. Farmers know how to handle those. Both teams are in about the same shape. Maybe Minnesota has a QB who can continue to remain a strong mediocre one while we don’t know OSU has. Ryan Nall will run the ball for the Beavs against a bend-but-don’t-break defense and the last time he did so he gained a lot of yards against Oregon. Neither head coach has proven capable of establishing a great recruiting record in their early years at their respective schools so a team making radical improvement won’t emerge. Only because of my anti-east-coast bias will I predict a touchdown or so advantage for Oregon State.  That and the Big 10ish tradition of losing early season games to mediocre teams.

It took more time to find my football magazines (see opening paragraph remark about my housekeeping skill) than to predict a Friday night win by Stanford over Kansas State. Even remembering the Indians’ opening game loss last year to an inferior team I’m sticking to that. That fiasco should serve as a wake-up for this year. KSU predicted to finish 8th in the 9 team Big 12 is on the road vs a strong contender in the Pac12 north. Wildcat fans are probably happy this is not a home game.

Meanwhile in Colorado it’s a tussle between the Rams and the Buffalo. Common sense says most Pac12 teams should beat most Mountain West teams. The key word here is “most”. CSU has proven a tough opponent almost every year Colorado has been a member of the conference. The last three years CU has watched other teams play bowl games while the Rams have played in them, and probably will again this year while the Buffs probably won’t. Colorado State has a great chance, and will probably capitalize on it, to give their instate rivals a loss by a touchdown or so.

Rutgers plays UW on the first Saturday. While I don’t see Washington as good a team as most prognosticators do, I don’t see the Scarlet Knights as good as the Huskies are. However, if there is a trap game in Week 1, this is it.  In the end the scoreboard should indicate a touchdown or two more for the home team.

UCLA is good match against Texas A&M even on the road. Regardless of how the rest of the season goes the Bruins usually open with a strong showing on the road. They don’t play Oregon this year but this game could be a good substitute. Unless it is high scoring UCLA should be OK. They have plenty of experience facing fast paced read option type teams and TAMU is not going to be a finished product right out of the box. IF the visitors have a quarterback they will pull off an upset by about 10 points. You CAN get ten points in overtime, right?

UC-Davis and Northern Arizona vs Oregon and ASU respectively aren’t worth mentioning except for the fact they are on the schedule. If either PAC12 team loses there is a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.

It won’t be that easy in Tucson where BYU will be as loaded as they ever are. 16 starters from a team that went 9-4 last year and a couple former starters returning from injury will populate their line-up. There’s bound to be a returning missionary or two worth mentioning on top of that. I don’t see Anu as a QB who can win a shoot-out, which this might not be if Arizona doesn’t click on offense. Sorry Cat fans, this one is a loss, possibly a smashing one.

Washington State is taking the day off so that leaves only one more game to predicticate. Let’s see  … oh yeah … ‘Bama is visiting USC in a very un-SEC like opening game. Normally before their first tough game the Tide has rolled over a couple of opponents like Sisters of the Poor or the School for the Hopeless  … both as home games. Most people would predict USC won’t fare much better but Saban can do less with more than any other school except USC.  Alabama has the top recruiting class often enough they should win the national championship nearly every year. They win some but not as often as they should. The Trojans aren’t far behind in recruiting but have dropped back a way in winning games or even keeping coaches and AD’s. This may be a turnaround year.

I explained why SC’s loss of scholarships problem is the excuse but not the reason for their records the past few seasons in my last post. They have been a full participation for a couple of years. Now they have a new AD and a new head coach which are past due. I look for them to settle down and play much better. We don’t know how Alabama is going to do with a new quarterback, opening on the road vs a tough opponent. I’m looking for Troy to pull off the upset,

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