# 105- New Mexico (written by Bobb-O)
08 Record: 4-8 (2-6 Mountain West)
Overview:The Lobos bring in a new head coach Mike Locksley who is coming over from Illinois. He was the Offensive Coordinator and looks to bring the same success Illinois has had on the offensive side of the ball. He does inherit an offense that was ranked 76th in the country. This includes 2 quarterbacks who started last year, sophomore Brad Gruner (99-183, 1,037 yards, 3 TD, 6 INT) and senior Donovan Porterie (50-75, 372 yards, 0 TD, 5 INT). Although the switch from the option to a spread offense may mean a newcomer will start at QB. I have said this before…experience at the Quarterback position can help the new head coach can come in and be successful right away. There will be a new face at the Halfback position. Junior Terence Brown (3 carries, 62 yards, 1 TD) was expected to step up and play a lot for the Lobos but tore his ACL during spring practice and is out for the year. The Lobo defense finished 13th in the country last year under former coach and defensive mastermind Rocky Long. They were a senior led unit, and the experience showed. Hopefully for Lobo fans, the young guns learned what it takes to be a solid unit from the seniors and want to keep the momentum up. Defense wins championships and the Lobos will need to keep up the defense or they will struggle mightily. It could be scary to think of New Mexico without a 13th ranked defense. The Lobos also are in a very tough conference. Every year they face the likes of Utah, BYU and TCU. The schedule this year is also another tough one. Trips to College Station and Lubbock spell trouble for the Lobos. They also travel to TCU and Utah. You got to hand it the New Mexico, they aren’t scared to play anyone.
Reasons for Optimism: A new coach will bring a lot of hope for a team that went 4-8 last season. He has been successful everywhere he has gone and New Mexico should be no different. Two Quarterbacks who will be battling for the starting spot could be great for the team. They also return half of the offensive line. A solid O-line plus an experienced QB is a recipe for success. Look for the Lobo offense to keep moving forward.
Reasons for Pessimism: The defense loses 8 starters, that’s right 8. Don’t expect too much out of the squad as they will have growing pains. Also, the schedule will be brutal. New Mexico will be a good team but don’t expect the overall record to show how good they will be. New Coaches again mean new systems which can lead to trouble with a Quarterback who has his ways of doing things. If neither one “gets it” then the Lobos will be screwed.
Season Prediction: Sadly the schedule makes me think 3-9. They are better than a 3-9 team but it seems a lot of their games will be against the top 30 teams in the country.
Top Web Destination: The Red Menace
# 104- Syracuse (written by ElViento)
’08 Record: 3-9 (1-6 Big East)
Overview: Syracuse football is further proof that firing the coach who has consistently led you to good-not-great seasons is not necessarily a good idea. (See also, Iowa State.) After the 2004 season, Syracuse dumped Paul Pasqualoni, despite just one losing season in 14 years at the helm of the Orange program. The result was the forgettable period of Syracuse football known as the Greg Robinson era. In four years, Robinson went 10-37 overall, never winning more than one game in a single season of Big East play.
Syracuse went to the NFL to find Robinson’s replacement, in Doug Marrone. A Syracuse alumnus, Marrone was previously the Offensive Coordinator for the New Orleans Saints. Marrone does have collegiate experience, having served as a positional coach at various schools, most recently the Tight Ends/Tackles coach at Tennessee in 2001.
As you’ve probably heard, the most nationally newsworthy thing to happen to Syracuse football in a while is the May announcement that Greg Paulus, former Duke point guard, will transfer to Syracuse to play Quarterback. Paulus, a former high school national player of the year, was reportedly weighing transferring to Nebraska and Michigan before settling on the Orange. Since the starting QB coming out of spring practice is redshirt freshman Ryan Nassib, expect Paulus to at least get a long look in fall practice.
Reasons for Optimism: If Paulus is still anything like the high school player he was, he’ll be an improvement over what the Orange ever got out of the QB spot under Robinson. Even if Paulus can’t win the job away from redshirt freshman Ryan Nassib, named the starter by Marrone in spring practice, SU’s QB production can’t get much worse.
Running Back Delone Carter averaged an outstanding 4.6 yards per carry while leading the Orange in rushing in ’06 as a true freshman. However, Carter has played just five games in the last two years due to injuries, and lost his starting job to the now-graduated Curtis Brinkley. If Carter can replicate his 2006 success, the Orange should get some production on the ground.
Whether Paulus or Nassib is taking the snaps for Syracuse, they’ll have one hell of a target in Mike Williams. Williams was a record-setting Wide Receiver in his first two years (2006-07), but was suspended for the entire ‘08 season for violating Syracuse’s Academic Integrity Policy. Williams spent a year away from Syracuse, met and exceeded the mandated grade requirements at a Massachusetts community college to earn his way back into SU, and figures to be a key cog in the Orange offense this year.
Defensive Tackle Arthur Jones has 30.5 tackles for loss in the last two seasons, good enough to make Phil Steele’s all-Big East First Team. They return five starters in the linebacking corps and secondary. Their punter, Rob Long, is really good. Okay, now I’m reaching.
Reasons for Pessimism: There is nobody close to a proven commodity at the QB position. The Orange are depending on either a freshman, or a guy who hasn’t played the game competitively in four years. The RB Carter will have to put up big numbers just to equal the production that SU got from Brinkley, and that’s no sure thing after the injuries Carter has had. The O-Line loses its two top performers, Ryan Durand and Corey Chavers to graduation.
Jones, the most proven defensive player for Syracuse, tore a pectoral muscle lifting weights in February. SU says his rehab is going well, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be 100% by the start of the season. The rest of the D-line around Jones hasn’t been good lately, with all of 25 total team sacks combined in the last two years. The run D hasn’t been any good, either.
Season Prediction: The Orange have a tough schedule before them in 2009. Three of their five non-conference games are against Big Ten foes, and SU faces the two other most beatable Big East teams (Cincinnati and Louisville) on the road. Syracuse will have to defeat Akron (who topped the Orange by 14 last year) to ensure that they will even match last year’s 3-9 record. Which is exactly what I think they’ll do.
Top Web Destination: Syracuse Fan
# 103- Tulane (written by SarCoog)
’08 Record: 2-10 (1-7 CUSA)
Overview: Not much more could have possibly gone wrong during Tulane’s ’08 campaign, which started with so much optimism. The Green Wave had more offensive yards than SEC West champion Alabama (318-172) and lost 20-6 due to 2 ‘Bama special teams touchdowns. Coach Bob Toledo has a reputation as a great offensive mind, dating back to his days at UCLA where his team rattled off a 17-game winning streak during the 1997 and ’98 seasons. In Toledo’s two seasons at Tulane, the running game has been magnificent as current Chicago Bear Matt Forte rushed for 2,127 yards and 23 touchdowns in the ’07 season. Also, current senior Andre Anderson averaged 123.4 rushing yards/game before going down with a season-ending shoulder injury 7 games in. However Toledo’s specialty: quarterbacks, haven’t been so productive in the past two seasons. No Green Wave starting QB who’s seen significant action has finished with more touchdowns than interceptions under Toledo. But sophomore QB Joe Kemp (26-46, 344 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) emerged as the starter coming out of spring practice and would have won the job during this past season, but he had his collarbone broken on a late hit against Houston. In the receiving corps, senior Jeremy Williams (27 receptions, 437 yards, 5 TD) was the second-leading receiver, despite only playing in 5 games last season. The offensive line does lose two of their better players in recent years: LT Troy Kroprog (Tennessee Titans) and C Michael Parenton (New York Jets) to the pro ranks, but 3 experienced starters return. The defense loses three of their four top tacklers and will bring in their third defensive coordinator in three years: Steve Stanard (previously DLine coach at Ohio University and DC at Colorado State). Senior FS Corey Sonnier (86 total tackles, 3 forced fumbles) is the leading returning tackler and as a unit the secondary returns three of four starters. In the trenches, senior DT Reggie Scott (31 total tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks) returns for his 6th year of eligibility and alongside him is junior DT Oscar Ponce de Leon… need I say more about that unbelievably awesome name? The ‘Wave had to deal with as many as 15-20 injured players by the second half of last season and a little health will go a long way to improve the fortunes of this team. There has also been a positive vibe around recruiting, as Toledo and his staff have brought in solid in-state prospects, along with some good ones from Texas, Alabama and Florida.
Reasons for Optimism: I think I’ve said this at least a few times in other previews, but it’s just as applicable here: things can’t get any worse for Tulane this season. In the last six games of the ’08 season the ‘Wave were 0-6 and outscored 219-78 by opponents. I can guarantee that if the injury situation wasn’t so extreme and Joe Kemp was the starting QB, that they would have at least matched the previous year’s 4-8 record. If Kemp can master Coach Toledo’s West Coast offense and Andre Anderson is healthy, the faithful can reasonably expect 4-5 wins.
Reasons for Pessimism: The defense was truly atrocious during the second half of last season and that was such a contrast to how well they looked in the first few games. There was apparently a disconnect between former DC O’Neill Gilbert and Toledo, which led to Gilbert accusing his former boss of meddling and changing the scheme mid-season. In my opinion that is not a good sign for things to come in the Toledo regime. Plus there have been questions as to whether the West Coast offense hasn’t been passed by the types of spread offenses run by conference opponents like Rice, Houston and Tulsa.
Season Prediction: While Toledo is not a miracle worker, he has brought a winning mentality to a Tulane program that was mired in losing and post-Hurricane Katrina issues. Now the big question is whether that mentality will bring results in the ‘win-loss’ column. I think Joe Kemp (like Bo Levi Mitchell at SMU) will ideally be a multi-year starter down the road, who has mastery of a high-octane and unique offense. The ‘Wave unfortunately have Houston, Tulsa and BYU on their home schedule along with tough road-trips to LSU and Southern Miss. Still I believe a 5-7 season is very realistic and I can see the ‘Wave upsetting a team that has them marked as an ‘easy win’.
Top Web Destination: Ye Olde Green Wave Forum