Moving along with the triple-digit portion of the countdown, featuring more teams likely to be on the wrong end of getting half-a-hundred hung on them in the first few weeks of the season. …
No. 115: UL LAFAYETTE
It’s sad that it comes down to this, but the Ragin’ Cajuns are a victim of what not long ago was a staple of college football: The Snyder Rule.
Which is to say, if you’re on Kansas State’s nonconference schedule, you’re probably not all that great.
Granted, Bill Snyder just got back into coaching after a three-year hiatus, but there’s a couple lower-division teams on the schedule, as well as UCLA and the run-happy Cajuns.
ULL is actually an interesting test case of what means more on offense —- skill positions or linemen. It must replace its quarterback, as well as a tailback (Tyrell Fenroy) who topped 1,000 yards for four straight seasons. Yet the line returns more or less intact.
Should the Ragin’ Cajuns land in the top half of the Sun Belt, it will almost certainly be credited to that line.
114. UL MONROE
Just for fun (and the amusement of Navy fans), this was originally going to be a game called “Six Degrees of Charlie Weatherbie,” connecting the former Mids coach to some sort of sporting deity.
It might well be the last chance to pull it off, too. After all, Weatherbie has a new passing game coordinator, a new running game coordinator, a new defensive coordinator and enters his seventh season at the Sun Belt school without a winning record.
So that doesn’t bode particularly well.
What does, though, is a boatload of returning starters, even if the quarterback isn’t one of them. So should the Warhawks just improve a bit, it isn’t out of the question for them to make a 7-5ish run at a league title and a bowl appearance.
If not, Weatherbie could be joining the Tyrone Willingham Club of coaches jettisoned in some form or another by multiple programs this decade.
Very, very high on any college football fan’s bucket list should be attending an Army-Navy game.
I took care of that last year and was impressed with the pageantry and tradition and all the things that really had nothing to do with football. The game itself was lopsided, with Army rolling up seven first downs and 154 yards total offense. Navy, up the most comfortable 17-0 margin imaginable at the break, was playing the clock as much as their rivals in the second half en route to a 34-0 victory.
The Black Knights were, at best, feeble, and clearly someone else agreed. Stan Brock was sent packing after the season, and Army finally made what seemed like a smart decision in bringing in Cal Poly coach Rich Ellerson to take over.
So in comes the triple-option from a coach who has used it for several years, so that’s a plus. It’s also the scheme that’s made Navy a bowl regular under Paul Johnson and now Ken Niumatalolo.
So is Army on the right track? At long last, yes. Will it pay off immediately? Well, it really didn’t for Johnson until Year Two (aside from a pummeling of Army to finish the season).
The Black Knights do have a friendly schedule (seven home games, road trips to major-college dregs Eastern Michigan and North Texas). Matching or surpassing last year’s 3-9 season is possible.
But snapping a seven-game skid to Navy and reaching a bowl game for the first time since 1996 will have to wait for another year.
Give the Blazers this much for last season: They were consistently inconsistent. As in literally wretched one game, and respectable the next.
In their odd-numbered games, they were outscored by an average of 25.5 points and went 0-6.
In their even-numbered games, they outscored their opponents by an average of 8.5 points and went 4-2.
Not that any of that data does any good for this year, when UAB returns the bulk of that 4-8 team.
But here’s a problem: A buzzsaw of a schedule featuring seven road games out of nine in the middle of the schedule —- with all of them not difficult to envision as losses. In short, the Blazers could be better and still wind up with a worse record, regardless of consistency.
In what never constitutes a great sign, the Green Wave’s most heralded player might be punter Ross Thevenot.
That’s good for him, obviously, especially since he’s the nation’s leading returning punter at 45.8 yards a game.
It’s not great for Tulane, which could really use an offensive infusion after struggling (more than usual) late in a 2-10 season a year ago.
The Green Wave cracked 20 points just twice in their final eight games. It should come as no surprise, then, that they bring an eight-game skid into 2009.
Plenty of “help” —- if that’s the right term —- is back on offense. It’ll be up to them to ensure Tulane is known for more than just a good punter this fall.
—- Patrick Stevens