2012 NFL Mock Draft

Let me go on record as saying I hate mock drafts. They service no one and tend to leave us all with a false sense of hope.  The only thing they do is give credence to the notion that self appointed “gurus” such as Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. actually know something about evaluating college football players and how they’ll transition to the next level. Sure they may watch film, but neither has ever worked in an NFL team’s front office. I find it irritating that these guys pass themselves off as experts and for some reason we take their predictions as gold when it comes to trying to figure out what our team will do in the draft. Now that I’ve let you know my my true feelings about this ridiculous process let me present you with my 2012 NFL Mock Draft:

Andrew Luck is the consensus number one pick.

1. Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck, QB Stanford

2. Washington Redskins (from the St. Louis Rams) – Robert Griffin III, QB Baylor

3. Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil, OT, USC

4. Cleveland Browns – Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

6. St. Louis Rams (from the Washington Redskins) – Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

8. Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

9. Carolina Panthers – Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

10. Buffalo Bills – Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

11. Kansas City Chiefs – Mark Barron, S, Alabama

12. Seattle Seahawks – Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

13. Arizona Cardinals – Reilly Reiff, OT, Iowa

14. Dallas Cowboys – Michael Brockers, DT, LSU

15. Philadelphia Eagles – Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

16. New York Jets – Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama

17. Cincinnati Bengals (from the Oakland Raiders) – Quinton Coples, DE/DT, North Carolina

18. San Diego Chargers – Chandler Jones, DE/OLB, Syracuse

19. Chicago Bears – Cordy Glenn, OT Georgia

20. Tennessee Titans – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

22. Cleveland Browns (from the Atlanta Falcons) – Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State

23. Detroit Lions – Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama

24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Doug Martin, RB, Boise State

25. Denver Broncos – Dontari Poe, DT, Memphia

26. Houston Texans – Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois

27. New England Patriots (from the New Orleans Saints) – Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State

28. Green Bay Packers – David DeCastro, G, Stanford

29. Baltimore Ravens – Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama

30. San Francisco 49ers – Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech

31. New England Patriots – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

32. New York Giants – Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford

I’d like to take this time to introduce Dave Weibrecht to FDT. An always welcomed contributor, he likes to consider himself a mix between Mel Kiper Jr. and Mike Mayock except with better hair and a drinking problem. Here’s his mock:

1. Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck, QB Stanford

2. Washington Redskins (from the St. Louis Rams) – RG III, QB Baylor

3. Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil, OT, USC

4. Cleveland Browns – Trent Richardson RB, Alabama

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

6. St. Louis Rams (from the Washington Redskins) – Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

8. Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

9. Carolina Panthers – Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

10. Buffalo Bills – Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

11. Kansas City Chiefs – David DeCastro, G, Stanford

12. Seattle Seahawks – Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

13. Arizona Cardinals – Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

14. Dallas Cowboys – Mark Barron, SS, Alabama

15. Philadelphia Eagles – Quinton Coples, DE/DT, North Carolina

16. New York Jets – Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

17. Cincinnati Bengals (from the Oakland Raiders) – Courtney Upshaw, DE

18. San Diego Chargers – Chandler Jones, DE/OLB, Syracuse

19. Chicago Bears – Michael Brockers, DT, LSU

20. Tennessee Titans – Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

22. Cleveland Browns (from the Atlanta Falcons) – Kendall Wright, WR/KR, Baylor

23. Detroit Lions – Janoris Jenkins, CB

24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Cordy Glenn, G/OT, Georgia

25. Denver Broncos – Kendall Reyes, DT, Connecticut

26. Houston Texans – Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama

27. New England Patriots (from the New Orleans Saints) – Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois

28. Green Bay Packers – Shea McClellin, DE/OLB, Boise State

29. Baltimore Ravens – Peter Konz, C Wisconsin

30. San Francisco 49ers – Amini Silatolu, G/OT, Midwestern State

31. New England Patriots – Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech

32. New York Giants – Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford

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Five Names Eagles Fans Should Know For Thursday Night

All of us football fans know Thursday night is the first round of the NFL draft. This is really the second big event of the offseason with the first being free agency. Thursday is a day that gives us all hope as we inch toward next season and it offers excitement unrivaled by anything other than opening day.

The Eagles hold pick number 15 and judging by previous drafts its hard to predict whether or not they’ll stay at that spot. Assuming they do, here’s a list of five prospects that could be donning an Eagles cap by the end of the night:

Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle, Mississippi State

It remains unclear whether Cox will be there when the Eagles pick, but if he is, you have to believe they will give him a serious look. Cox physically fits the bill standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing in at 294 pounds, he has the speed and size to be a force inside. Cox combined for 19.5 sacks and tackles for a loss last year and was arguably one of the best players on the field when his team played Alabama, which is saying something as the Crimson Tide could have as many as four players go in the first round of the draft.  

Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback, Texas A&M

He wouldn’t be the most popular pick amongst Eagles fans, but let me ask you this, do you really think Michael Vick is the longterm answer? Or maybe the better question is, can Vick stay healthy for an entire season? If you answered no to any of these questions, and I admit I did, then you agree that a young quarterback must be a priority in this draft. Tannehill is by most accounts the next best guy behind Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. He has ideal size at 6-foot-4, however he’s only started 19 games for the Aggies after being converted to quarterback from wide receiver. He won’t come in and start from day one and the Eagles don’t need him to do that, so if they believe he will be a star with a few years of grooming wouldn’t he be worth the pick?

Quinton Coples, Defensive End/Defensive Tackle, North Carolina

The Eagles will love this guy’s versatility. At 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, Coples has the size to play defensive tackle and the speed to be an edge rusher. The one problem regarding Coples is that he should be a top 10 guy, however his character issues will most likely push him out of that range. Somewhere along the way Coples developed a reputation for not giving his “best effort” during his senior year at North Carolina, which would explain a dip in his production from recording 10 sacks in 2010 to just 7.5 last last year. Even with the character concerns most scouts rate him as the top pass rusher in the draft and with the proper coaching he could really help the Eagles’ pass rush.

Mark Barron, Safety, Alabama

What teams must be careful about when evaluating Barron is to question whether he is the best of a weak crop of safety prospects or whether he is the best safety that warrants a top 15 pick? The Eagles don’t want to reach on a prospect out of need, rather they want to get the best player on their board. Barron could very well be that player. He’s quite an imposing specimen at 6-foot-2 and 218 pounds. He was one of the best players on Alabama’s defense, which in my opinion is the best defense I’ve seen since watching college football. He would be an immediate upgrade over anything the Eagles have at safety, however drafting him would require the Eagles’ brass to admit they made a mistake in drafting Jaiquawn Jarrett in the second round just last year. We’ll find out if they’re willing to own up to that pick as a mistake or if they have Jarrett penciled in as a starter this season.

Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame

General Manager Howie Roseman has been on record saying the Eagles will pick the best player available and not focus so much on “need”. I’m a proponent of this strategy and if Michael Floyd is available at pick 15 the Eagles should take him. The Birds are in dire need of a red zone threat and even including Justin Blackmon, there’s no one in this draft that fits that role better than Floyd. Floyd stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 224 pounds and has impeccable ball skills, with a knack for being able to time his jump and catch the ball at its highest point. He uses his 224 pounds very well and is by far the most physical receiver in the draft. He’d be an instant upgrade over both Jeremy Maclin and Desean Jackson, who aren’t exactly know for their physical prowess. Would the Eagles take Floyd to help bolster their already formidable offense?

Stay tuned for my 2012 NFL Mock Draft

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My Memories of Joe Paterno

Is it possible to remember Joe Paterno for all the good he did and overlook the recent scandal that rocked Penn State and ultimately led to his dismissal as Head Coach? I won’t try to answer that right now. In fact, even if I wanted to answer it I still don’t know how to deal with the question. All I’d like to do is share with you my memories of Paterno and how he had an impact on my life.

I didn’t know him personally. I’m not a graduate of Penn State. I’ve never even stepped foot on the campus, yet for as long as I can remember, I’ve bled blue and white. Growing up in my house there was Penn State football and everyone else. I couldn’t tell you why I rooted for them, I have no ties to Penn State nor does any of my family, but every Saturday in the fall when I wasn’t playing my own football game, I was watching the Nittany Lions with my family.

It wasn’t until I got older for me to realize the allure of Penn State football. It was the white helmets, plain jerseys, black shoes, no names on the uniforms but most of all it was Joe Paterno. He was a man who preached about doing things the right way. I admired Paterno’s coaching style. He was passionate, brash, yet at the same time extremely humble. He was a perfectionist and a teacher.  It was more than football to Paterno, it was taking the game of football and using it as a tool to turn boys into men. His mantra was “success with honor” and he never compromised that.

Paterno’s record of charity is well documented. Not only did he give millions to Penn State, he gave his life. He lived on campus in a modest home. The same home he lived in for 45 years. He walked through campus to get to work everyday always stopping to converse with anyone who wanted to talk. He cared about his players as men and not just athletes. He was the Head Coach at Penn State for 46 years. While most high profile coaches are looked at as rock stars in their profession, Paterno was always just Joe. It was never about the wins or losses with him. When he decided to forego law school as a fresh graduate of Brown University and become a football coach at a little school in Pennsylvania, his father Angelo gave him one piece of advice; make an impact. He’s certainly made an impact on my life.   We will never see another coach like him.

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What to watch for: Texans vs. Eagles

The line: Eagles -9

What the line tells us: Vegas is practically begging you to take the Texans on this one. The Eagles are coming off a tough loss last week at Chicago while the Texans are coming off a shutout win over the Titans. Before taking the Texans with the points here are a few things to take into consideration:

Both teams are coming off short weeks, however the home team has a huge advantage in this one. The Texans are just 4-6-1 this year against the spread while the Eagles are 9-1 in their last 10 games in December and have a 7-3 combined record in their last 10 against teams from outside of their division.

Key matchups:

Andre Johnson vs. Eagles CB’s

With Asante Samuel officially inactive the Philadelphia secondary has its hands full. Whoever has the task of trying to matchup with Johnson will certainly have his hands full. Look for the Birds to try and confuse quarterback Matt Schaub with a lot of blitzes and mixing up the coverages to force him into mistakes.

Jason Peters vs. Mario Williams

There’s no doubt Williams is a freak athletically and must be accounted for on each snap. He leads the team with 8.5 sacks and Peters will certainly have his hands full, but Peters has been playing very well lately. He shut down Dwight Freeney and Osi Umenyiora in consecutive weeks and last week handled Julius Peppers rather effectively. It will be interesting to see how many times Head Coach Andy Reid leaves Peters isolated one on one with Williams.

Arian Foster vs. The Eagles run defense

The NFL’s leading rusher comes head to head with an Eagles rush defense ranked sixth in the NFC in yards allowed. Linebacker Stuart Bradley had a great game against the Giants two weeks ago when he aided in holding running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs to only 39 yards rushing. However, he played horribly last week while Bears running back Matt Forte carved up the Birds defense with 117 yards rushing on only 14 carries.

Michael Vick and Eagles WR’s vs. Texans Secondary

The Texans ranked 31st in the NFL in passing yards allowed and I fully expect the trend to continue tonight. This should be a game where the Birds offense gets back on track allowing players like Vick, Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin to shine.

Prediction: The matchups appear to be pretty even, but when I weigh the advantage the Eagles offense has over the Texans defense it seems too much for the Texans to handle. The Birds will benefit from being the home team coming off a short week and reestablish themselves as NFC contenders.

Eagles 38, Texans 24

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College Football: Preseason rankings part three

Here is the final installment of FDT’s college football preseason rankings. In the final installment I will break down the top three team’s in the nation and what we can expect from each of them.

In case you missed it, here are part’s one and two, where I take a look into the rest of the top ten with deep analysis of each team.

No. 3 Boise State

This is not the Boise State that we all fell in love with just a few years ago after playing “cinderella” in its upset over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.

The Bronco’s have established themselves as a dominant team ever since that program changing victory, and this year will be no different. Boise fully expects to be contending for the National Championship this season, and with 20 starters back from a team that finished 14-0 last year including a win over TCU in the Fiesta Bowl, it’s hard to argue with those lofty expectations.

Quarterback Kellen Moore threw 39 touchdown passes last season. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia, File)

Junior Kellen Moore returns as quarterback and he mans one of the most innovative offenses in the country. Coach Chris Petersen runs a variation of the spread offense, which requires the quarterback to be able to make quick throws on time, and Moore is one of the most efficient passer’s in the nation. Last year he threw 39 touchdowns to only three interceptions.

Moore will be throwing to one of the most talented receiving duo’s in the country, featuring Austin Pettis and Titus Young. Pettis led the team with 14 touchdowns last year and Young led the team in receiving yards with 1,041.

Defensively, former walk-on Ryan Winterswyk anchors the defensive line from his end position and may be the best player on the defense. He finished last season with a team-high nine sacks. Losing cornerback Kyle Wilson to the NFL will hurt the Broncos, but not as much as you might think. Five players with at least two interceptions return, so there’s talent there.

We’ll know how good Boise will be this year after its first game where they take on FDT’s No. 5 team Virginia Tech. The game will be played in Landover, Maryland so Virginia Tech will have the home-field advantage. If the Broncos win this game, they will have a real chance to play for a National Championship.

No. 2

After going back and forth on this one, the defending National Champions come in at the second spot.

After going 14-0 last year and beating Texas in the National Championship game, Coach Nick Saban will have a real chance to repeat. The Tide return eight staters on offense, but only one on defense, which is the main reason they come in at No. 2.

Offensively ‘Bama is loaded with Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram

Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram will carry the load for the Alabama offense. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)

returning at running back. Even more scary is that in my opinion, backup running back Trent Richardson is better then Ingram, so look for them to split carries and be the best tandem in the country. Quarterback Greg McElroy returns to run the offense and will be throwing to perhaps one of the best wide receiever duo’s on the country. 6-foot-4 inch Julio Jones lines up one one side and is complimented perfectly by speedy and underrated Marquis Maze on the other. The line should be good and get immediate help from massive offensie tackle D.J. Fluker, who as a freshman stands 6-foot-6 and weights 340-pounds. He will start at right tackle.

Outside of Marcell Dareus, the Tide have a lot of answers on the defensive side of the ball. Dareus is rumored to have had contact with an agent which would cause him to miss some time, but the word out of Tuscaloosa recently is that all of the talk about him receiving illegal benefits was fabricated and he should be cleared by the NCAA and not miss any time. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower also returns and should be an impact player after missing all of last year with a torn ACL. The rest of the defense is talented, but inexperienced so it will be the offense’s job to score points and allow the defense to gain cohesiveness through the first few games if they have any chance at winning the SEC and another National Championship.

The schedule is tough with games against Penn State, Florida and Auburn, as well as the rest of the SEC schedule, but the most challenging games are at home for the Tide which sets them up well to repeat as National Champs.

No. 1 Ohio State

Ohio State proved the experts wrong last year that said it couldn’t win the big game by defeating Oregon in the Rose Bowl 26-17. The Buckeyes return 14 starters from that team and are the favorites to win the Big Ten this year.

Quarterback Terrelle Pryor is the main reason Ohio State will contend for a National Championship this season. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

Offensively no one in the country is more important and dynamic then quarterback Terrelle Pryor. In the Oregon game last year, Pryor showed just how dangerous the offense can be when he’s able to keep defenses honest by completing passes and picking up first downs running the ball. Pryor will have veterans all around him starting with running backs Brandon Saine and Boom Herron as well as wide receivers DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher.

On defense it starts up front with All-American candidate Cameron Hayward who causes havoc from his defensive end position. He had six sacks last season and is a sure fire first round lock in next year’s NFL Draft.  Ross Homan is back at linebacker after posting 108 tackles last season and recording five interceptions. With Homan and Hayward, the defense will be a National Championship caliber defense.

The Buckeyes shouldn’t be tested until week seven when they travel to Madison to play Wisconsin. Their next toughest games after that are at home against Penn State followed by a trip to Iowa to play the Hawkeyes in a game that will most likely decide the Big Ten and could have hugh National Championship implications.

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College Football: Preseason rankings part two

Today we’ll take a look at part two of my college football top 10 rankings. In case you missed yesterdays post on FDT, here’s a link to my breakdown of teams 10 through seven.

No. 6  Texas

Quarterback Garrett Gilbert will have to fill the shoes of Colt McCoy. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

The Longhorns finished last year as the Big 12 champs and rode their victory against Nebraska into the National Championship game against Alabama. Unfortunately for them, their star quarterback Colt McCoy injured his shoulder in the first quarter of that game and ultimately it was too much to overcome as Texas fell to Crimson Tide.

This season Texas will be breaking in a new quarterback along with a new offensive scheme. Sophomore Garrett Gilbert will take the reigns under center as the Longhorns will switch from a spread offense to a more traditional pro-style offense. Coach Mack Brown has emphasized the need to be more effective in the running game and that will mean increased production from running backs Tre’ Newton and Fozzy Whitaker. Despite losing receiver Jordan Shipley the Longhorns are well stocked at receiver and their offensive line has great depth. Their offensive success will come down to the play of Gilbert.

Defensively corner back Aaron Williams is the star and should be considered as an All-American candidate. Along with Williams, their secondary is deep with safety Blake Gideon manning the middle of the field from his safety position. Losing defensive end Sergio Kindle will hurt, but let’s be honest, Texas reloads more then it rebuilds and the talent is there.

No. 5 Virginia Tech

Tech comes into the season with high expectations after finishing last season

The fate of Virginia Tech's season will rest with quarterback Tyrod Taylor. (AP Photo/J. Pat Carter)

with a 10-3 record and dismantling Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The offense is loaded with quarterback Tyrod Taylor entering his senior season and sophomore Ryan Williams expected to improve after a breakout freshman campaign. The biggest problem lies on the offensive line, where the Hokies will have to replace two offensive linemen they lost to graduation.

Defensively they lose a lot, but Bud Foster always produces one of the strongest units in the country. Strong safety Davon Morgan is the star player of the defense and he will hold down that defensive secondary, which should be the strong point of the defense.

Much like last year when it opened up against Alabama, Virginia Tech opens this season against Boise State, a team that will be previewed tomorrow. If the Hokies can get past that game, look out for them to make some noise in the National Championship discussion.

No. 4 Iowa

Iowa returns 14 starters from a team that finished 11-2 and won the Orange Bowl last season. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi is cool and collected in the mold  of Coach Kirk Ferentz. Stanzi can manage the game effectively but the moment an opposing defense sleeps on him, he’ll burn them. Running back Jewel Hampton is back after missing last year with a knee injury and he’ll be complimented by Adam Robinson who ranked fourth in the Big Ten in rushing last season. The offensive line will have to replace three starters, but Ferentz is a master offensive line coach so expect that unit to be just as strong as it was last year.

Adrian Clayborn may be the best defensive end in the nation. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Defenively, Iowa returns eight starters, none more important then defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who in my opinion would have been a top 10 selection if he would have declared for last year’s NFL draft. He will anchor a defensive line that should easily be the best in the Big Ten and perhaps one of the strongest in the nation. The biggest question mark is at linebacker where the Hawkeyes will have to replace Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds, both of whom are now on NFL rosters.

The schedule plays in their favor with their two toughest games being at home against Penn State and Ohio State. The Hawkeyes should be considered one of the favorites to play in the National Championship game.

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College Football: Preseason rankings part one

I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of preseason rankings primarily due to the fact they’re mainly based on a teams’ performance from a year ago instead of projecting for the year ahead. With that said, as a reader I see their value primarily being to draw conversation and stir up controversy between fan bases  and since every other credible site does one, I’ll give you my top 10 teams going into the college football season.

No. 10 Miami

Quarterback Jacory Harris should be a Heisman candidate this year. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

The Hurricanes return 14 starters from a team that finished last season ranked No. 19 in the AP poll. At quarterback returns junior Jacory Harris who had a breakout year last season and could be a Heisman candidate this year. Surrounding him is a plethora of offensive firepower including running back Greg Cooper and wide receiver Leonard Hankerson, who led the team with 801 yards receiving and six touchdowns a year ago. The one problem on the offensive side of the ball lies in perhaps the most important part-the offensive line. Miami will be breaking in new starters at center and both the tackle positions. So while the skill position players may be well above average, the offensive line, or lack-thereof, may hinder their ability to perform up to their abilities and affect the game as they’d be expected to.

Defensively the Hurricanes are led by cornerback Brandon Harris who recorded two interceptions and had 15 pass-breakups. He was a first-team All-ACC performer last season and a third-team All-American. The defense returns eight starters to a unit that was solid last season so there’s no reason to expect a drop-off this year, and they will have to be dependable especially if the offensive line fails to build cohesiveness causing the offense to struggle.

One thing that may hold Miami back this season is its schedule, which to put it kindly is brutal. After a cupcake in their opener against Florida A&M, the ‘Canes are on the road for three straight games against Ohio State, Pitt and Clemson, followed by a game at home against rival Florida State. Throw in later games against North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, and it could be a recipe for disaster. With that said, this will be the best team Coach Randy Shannon has had since he arrived in Coral Gables in 2006. He has the talent to have his team competing for a spot in the ACC Championship game this year and perhaps a BCS berth. While the talent is there this year, the ‘Canes may be building towards next season when they should be a team contending for a National Championship.

No. 9 Wisconsin

After finishing last season with a 10-3 record including a beat-down of the above

Running back John Clay led the Big Ten in rushing last season. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

mentioned Miami Hurricanes in the Champs Sports Bowl, the Badgers are riding high going into this season. On offense they return bruising running back John Clay, who is your prototypical Wisconsin/Big Ten back. He led the Big Ten in rushing last year with over 1,500 yards and should emerge as a Heisman Candidate, because Wisconsin has one of the biggest offensive lines in the country, averaging 321 pounds per man. Scott Tolzien is back as the Wisconsin quarterback and as usual with Wisconsin quarterbacks, his numbers aren’t going to blow you away. He’s consistent, will manage the game and not turn the ball over.

Defensively, the Badgers don’t have many standouts but they’re solid across the board. Strong Safety Jay Valai is an emotional leader and he’s as steady as they come back there. The biggest problem may be the lack of a pass rusher on the defensive line, but someone should emerge and look for that someone to be defensive end J.J. Watt.

Also in its favor is Wisconsin’s schedule. It’s only tough non-conference game is against Arizona State which is at home and Ohio State, also at home.The Badgers will be tested with trips to East Lansing to take on Michigan State as well as a trip to Iowa, but for the most part the schedule is manageable.

No. 8 Florida

You may see Florida ranked higher in other preseason polls but don’t be fooled. You simply

John Brantley has the impossible task of replacing Tim Tebow. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)

can’t replace Tim Tebow with an inexperienced quarterback and expect the same results. John Brantley looks like he has all the tools to be a capable replacement for Tebow, but he simply is unproven. With Brantley in the fold, Coach Urban Meyer’s offense should be different than in year’s past. Brantley is more of a pocket passer than Tebow was so expect a more traditional passing game. The offensive line should be a strong point for the Gators so running backs Jeff Demps and Emmanuel Moody will likely be the beneficiaries. Also look for slot receiver Chris Rainey to be used much like Percy Harvin was during his tenure at Florida. Rainey has the speed to break one at any time.

Defensively the Gators are absolutely loaded. Their secondary will be one of the best in the country with corner Janoris Jenkins and safeties Will Hill and Ahmad Black anchoring the bunch. Sophomore linebacker Jelani Jenkins has gotten rave reviews as have freshmen defensive linemen Sharrif Floyd and Ronald Powell, who are both projected to start.

The schedule is always tough in the SEC and there are a few road-bumps in games at Alabama and Florida State, but for the most part the schedule is manageable and if some of the young Gators grow up fast, Meyer could have his team once again playing for an SEC Championship.

No. 7 Oklahoma

DeMarco Murray is healthy this year and will carry the load in Norman. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

After a disappointing 8-5 record last season, the Sooners will look to bounce back in a big way. Coach Bob Stoops will not allow his team to have back-to-back embarrassing seasons, per Oklahoma standards. Quarterback Landry Jones got valuable experience filling in for injured Sam Bradford last year and he performed admirably. The offense should be equally good running the football with senior DeMarco Murray back and upstart sophomore Jermie Calhoun in the fold as well. While the Sooners are stacked in the backfield they are a bit thin at receiver and someone will need to step up and help out Ryan Broyles, who was their leading receiver a year ago.

Defensively the Sooners should be good enough all the way around with the one area of concern being the defensive line, and in particular the interior of the line. Gerald McCoy anchored that unit for the past two years but he’s now in the NFL. The Sooners have recruited well at that position so the talent should be there, it will just a matter of guys like former five-star recruit Jamarkus McFarland being able to live up to the hype.

Two games on the schedule jump out and that’s Oklahoma’s second game, which is at home against Florida State and its annual showdown in Dallas against Texas. Its season will more than likely come down to the outcome of those two games.

*No. 6 through No. 4 will be previewed tomorrow.

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