- Geno Smith went to complete 34 of 39 passes for 411 yards, moving past Marc Bulger (8,153) to set the school record for career yards passing (8,191). He also has thrown for 734 yards and nine touchdowns. All while only throwing nine incompletions in two weeks. Yes, the same number of incompletions as touchdowns. Just like RG3 last year. Continue reading
Coming off of a season that saw the Baylor Bears pull off crazy upset wins over TCU and Oklahoma, while also providing some exciting games, the 2012 season may be one that brings the Big 12 squad back to reality. The squad loses Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, All-American wideout Kendall Wright and record-setting running back Terrance Ganaway. Continue reading
Baylor – The Bears got off to an extremely hot start in the 2011 season, winning 24 of their first 27 games, including wins over Illinois, UCLA, Fresno State, San Diego State and two wins over Arizona. This just prepared Baylor for the grueling Big 12 season, one which would see them face eight NCAA teams from their conference alone. They compiled a 11-5 record against those conference foes, and a 19-10 record against all NCAA Tournament opponents. Continue reading
>Ball State - A year after winning the MAC West Division, the Cardinals struggled mightily, stumbling to a 2-10 record in Stan Parrish’s first year at the helm. But luckily for the Cardinals, they bring back 17 starters, including 10 on offense.
Offense - As stated above, 10 starters return including 2nd-Team All-MAC running back MiQuale Lewis. Lewis led the team with 871 yards rushing and five touchdowns last year. Outside of Lewis, Ball State also returns their other top three rushers, Cory Sykes, Eric Williams and Kelly Page. Sykes finished second on the team with 559 yards and three touchdowns, while Williams had 362 and four.
Kelly Page started the first game of his college career in last season’s season opener and the now-redshirt sophomore didn’t let go of it until he injured his thumb in the seventh game of the year against Bowling Green. In seven games, all starts, he completed just over half of his passes, throwing for 1,019 yards and seven touchdowns. Unlike last season where Page’s quarterback was a senior, if something happens to Page, there are no experienced quarterbacks on the roster. His two backups are redshirt freshmen and the Cardinals also bring in a true freshman.
Luckily for Page, he will have all of his top receivers from last year at his disposal. The Cardinals bring back the team’s top seven receivers from last season. Briggs Orsbon comes back after catching 51 passes for 461 yards and one touchdown. Despite only starting four games last year, Torieal Gibson comes back as the second leading receiver, piling up 337 yards, while leading the team in receiving touchdowns with three.
Defense - The defense brings back seven players who started a minimum of six games last year. They will need the experience because they gave up almost 30 point per game last year.
The linebacker position is the strongest by far for this year’s Ball State squad. The top two tacklers, Davyd Jones and Travis Freeman, from last year are both linebackers and return for another season of wrecking havoc on opponents. Jones piled up 100 tackles, eight tackles for loss and two forced fumbles in the 12 games he started. Freeman finished second in tackles with 93 stops and had one interception as well.
Outside of linebacker, the defensive secondary is the best unit as they return three of four starters. Charlie Todd, last year’s fourth-leading tackler, returns for his senior season at the right cornerback position. He came up with 80 stops, one interception, three passes broken up and a forced fumble. Sean Baker returns at one of the safety spots, where he started 11 games last season. Baker came up with 61 tackles, three and a half tackles for loss and led the team with four interceptions. Despite Koreen Burch having 43 tackles and nine passes broken up, he comes into fall camp as a backup to Jason Pinkston for the right to line up opposite of Todd.
The defensive line brings back two starters, both of whom have are entering their final seasons. Defensive end Robert Eddins returns for his fifth year. The 6’3 242 lb-er from Detroit was sixth on the team with 55 tackles, His 13.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks were both team highs. Rene Perry also returns at nose guard after starting 11 games and coming up with 26 stops.
Recruiting - The Cardinals focused on defense in this year’s class, as 13 of the 21 are slotted for some sort of defensive position, including seven defensive backs. Brian Jones enters Ball State from Morgan Park, a Chicago Public School, where he managed 75 tackles, six sacks and five interceptions as a senior. Aaron Morris comes in from Ohio powerhouse Glenville, where he put up a stat line that read 91 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, four sacks and three interceptions and forced fumbles each as a senior.
Schedule - The Cardinals start the season with two very winnable games against SE Missouri State as well as Liberty. The two games should be a warmup for the next two, which are road games at Big Ten schools Purdue and Iowa. Right after, Ball State takes care of the Michigan schools, when they travel to Central Michigan before hosting Western and Eastern Michigan. The Cardinals end the season with three of their last five games on the road, including road games at Toledo, Kent State and Buffalo, while hosting Akron and Northern Illinois in the last game of the year.
Baylor - The Bears are coming off of two consecutive 4-8 seasons and will look to get to .500 or above in Coach Art Briles’s third season at the helm. Despite their record, the team was within 14 points in three of their losses, including two games where they lost by 10 points or fewer.
Offense - The offense is going to depend on the return of Robert Griffin III as he comes back from a torn ACL suffered in the third game of the year. The dual-threat star will look to get back to his Freshman All-American form he displayed in 2008 as a true freshman. Even in three games last year, he completed 65 percent of his passes for 481 yards and four touchdowns, while rushing for 77 yards and two more touchdowns. His backup, Nick Florence, comes back after seeing extensive experience in his true freshman season last year. After the top two quarterbacks got injured, Florence stepped in and ended up throwing for nearly 1,800 yards and six touchdowns in nine games.
Jay Finley returns for his senior year after struggling with an ankle surgery which limited him to nine 2009 games. Despite only playing in nine games, he still managed to lead the team in rushing yards with 370. Last year’s rushing touchdowns leader, Terrance Ganaway, also returns. Ganaway rushed for five touchdowns and finished third in rushing yards with 200.
The receivers will be bolstered by the return of last year’s leading receiver, Kendall Wright. Wright led all players in receiving yards (740) and receiving touchdowns (four). The rest of the receiver corps will be made up of younger players who will need to step up and replace last year’s second and third leading receivers. Lanear Sampson is coming off of a season where he was named to the All-Big 12 Freshman team. He ended the 2009 season with 29 catches for 297 yards and two touchdowns.
Defense - Only five starters return from last years’ defensive unit. Among the seven players not returning is All-American linebacker Joe Pawelek, who led the team in tackles with 109.
Upperclassmen “Cousin Phil” Taylor and Zac Scotton return to lead the defensive line. Despite suffering from turf toe, Taylor managed to chip in with 25 stops and two blocked kicks. Tracy Robinson returns at tackle after leading the team with three sacks while also having five tackles for loss.
Linebacker Antonio Johnson returns as the leading tackler after piling up 77 stops, two sacks, a 56-yard interception return and two fumble recoveries. Elliot Coffey returns as the leading candidate to take over at the other outside linebacker spot after finishing the season with 35 stops. Chris Francis and Chris McAllister will have to try to fill the big shoes left by Pawelek. Francis is coming into his senior year after tackling 45 opponents last year. McAllister is a big redshirt freshman, listed at 6-2, 240.
Tim Atchinson will be moving back to his natural safety spot after starting all 12 games last year at cornerback. Atchinson added 42 tackles and an interception last year. Chance Casey returns as a starter who started at cornerback last year. He led the team in interceptions with two last year and added 36 tackles. Senior Byron Landor returns after starting three games at one safety spot last year. Landor led the returning secondary players with 46 tackles last season.
Recruiting - To say the defensive backfield is the strength of this recruiting class would be an understatement. The six DB’s make up a position that was ranked the fifth best DB class by rivals.com. Ahmad Dixon and Tyler Stephenson are the studs of the DB class. Dixon was rated the tenth-best safety in the nation by both rivals.com and scout.com. He registered over 300 tackles in his high school career. Stephenson doesn’t come in with as much fanfare but was ranked the No.18 corner by rivals.com and No. 39 by scout.com. He registered 63 tackles and five interceptions as a senior.
Schedule - The Bears have a possibility to get off to a strong start, as three of their first four games are against Sam Houston State, Buffalo and Rice. In between the Buffalo and Rice games is a game against in-state TCU, who is projected to be a Top 10 team in the nation. Baylor’s first four games in conference are winnable as well. They start out at home against Kansas, who is bringing in a new coach and having to replace numerous offensive record-breakers. Next is a game against Texas Tech at the Cotton Bowl. The Red Raiders are also bringing in a new coach in Tommy Tuberville. Next is a road game at Colorado followed by Kansas State. The Bears will be tested in their last four games as they travel to Texas and Oklahoma State before hosting Texas A&M and Oklahoma to close the season.
Boise State – Boise State is one of the best teams in the nation and it is to no one’s surprise that many college previews have them in the top five, some even as high as number two in the country. What some people do not realize is the amount of starters the Broncos have coming bac. Both the defense and offense have 10 starters returning. Ten. Twenty total starters returning, 19 of which are upperclassmen.
Offense - As always, a football team goes as their quarterback goes. When you bring back an All-American quarterback, the likelihood is that your squad is in good hands. That is what is happening this year in Boise, as Kellen Moore returns for his junior season. Moore put up stats most players can only dream of after completing 64 percent of his passes for 3,536 yards and 39 touchdowns, while only throwing three interceptions through 14 games.
Despite the gaudy passing statistics, the Broncos rushed for over 2,600 yards as a team, led by Jeremy Avery. Avery comes back for his senior year after rushing for 1,151 yards and six touchdowns. His backup, Doug Martin also returns after an impressive sophomore campaign. Although he was a backup, he still managed to rush for 765 yards in all 14 games. His 15 rushing touchdowns led the team. The Broncos will look for big things from junior DJ Harper who rushed for 284 yards and three touchdowns in three games.
Moore will be lucky as he returns nine of last year’s top 10 receivers. Titus Young returns after catching 79 passes for 1,041 yards and 10 touchdowns. Just as in rushing, the second-leading player led the team in touchdowns. Austin Pettis caught 14 of his 63 balls for touchdowns, all on his way to an 855-receiving yards campaign. Boise State had seven players record over 100 yards receiving and each one returns for the 2010-2011 season.
Defense - If you thought the offense returns a lot, wait until you see what the defense brings back. 26 of the team’s top 27 tacklers are back for a team that finished 14th nationally in total defense. Their stingy defense helped them outscore their opponents by 25 points (42.2-17.1). The Broncos forced 35 total turnovers, including 18 fumbles, 11 of which were lost and 24 interceptions.
The secondary is pretty much all intact, as it only loses cornerback Kyle Wilson. Safety Jeron Johnson returns after leading the team in tackles last season, totaling 91 and a team-leading six passes broken up and four interceptions. Winston Venable finished third on the team in tackles with 63, including eight tackles for loss. He also pulled down two interceptions, one of which he brought back for a touchdown. Brandyn Thompson led the team in interceptions with six, one of which was a touchdown. Thompson added 45 tackles and three passes broken up.
The linebacker position comes back fully intact and has the luxury of having multiple options at the two starting positions in the Broncos 4-2-5 defense. JC Percy returns for his sophomore year, an impressive freshman year that saw him come up with 64 stops, including four and a half tackles for loss. Percy added half a sack and one forced fumble and fumble recovery each. Aaron Tevis also returns after finishing fourth on the team in tackles with 54.
The defensive line brings back some star power as all of the returnees bring back impressive stats. Defensive tackles Billy Winn returns for his junior season after having a season with 44 tackles and six sacks. His counterpart, senior end Ryan Winterswyk, added 41 tackles, including 17 tackles for loss and none sacks, both team highs.
Recruiting - Because of most of the players returning from last year’s squad, the recruiting class of 10 should come as no surprise. The team signed two defensive ends, two wide receievsr, two defensive backs, two tight ends, one quarterback and one linebacker. The team brings in two stars, QB Grant Hedrick and S Jeremy Ioane. Hedrick comes to Boise after being named the Oregon High School State Player of the Year as a senior. In his final season he threw for over 2,500 yards, 34 touchdowns, and only one interception. He also rushed for over 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns. Ioane comes after being named the ninth best prospect in Hawaii. He played safety, running back, quarterback, wide receiver and linebacker during his high school career. Rivals.com rated him as the 74th best safety in the nation.
Schedule - As in previous years, the Broncos load up on teams that will prepare them for conference and postseason play. They open the season against perennial power Virginia Tech at a neutral site in Landover, Maryland. The opening weekend game will be ESPN’s feature game on Labor Day. It will also be one of at least six games that will be broadcast on the ESPN network. After a week off, the team travels to Wyoming to face a Cowboy team coming off of a bowl season. Next comes a home game against Oregon State, a year after a controversial end to the game. After last season’s BSU win, Oregon RB LeGarrette Blount punched a Bronco player and said something that was not revealed. He was suspended for the season for that incident but was later reinstated. The team finishes the regular season with five more home games and four on the road. The Broncos will play four games during the week instead of Saturdays, including a three week stretch that will see them play three Fridays in a row.