Archive for the 'predictions' Category

New Big Ten. New Favorite?

Wisconsin was already in good position to challenge for a Big Ten title this season, but one of many replacements head coach Bret Bielema had to contend with was the quarterback position, which had been vacated by Scott Tolzien.  As consistent as Tolzien was last season, the Badgers just upgraded this afternoon, when former NC State three-year starter Russell Wilson announced that he will be suiting up in Madison this fall.

Russell Wilson adds a new dimension to the Wisconsin offense (google images)

Wilson, who also plays professional baseball in the Colorado Rockies organization was released from NC State by head coach Tom O’Brien.  O’Brien wanted to have his team focused on the 2011 season, and he felt that Wilson’s baseball obligations hindered that focus.

This, despite overwhelming success in his three years as the Wolfpack’s starting signal-caller.  In his time in Raleigh, Wilson amassed over 8,500 passing yards and over 1,000 yards rushing, while throwing for 76 touchdowns, compared to just 26 Int’s.

His presence at Wisconsin should make a very immediate impact.  Unlike the spread offense at Auburn (which was reportedly the other finalist Wilson considered), Wisconsin is a more traditional offense, similar to the one he ran for three years when he starred at NC State.  The only difference is that Wilson never had a running game to rely on like the one he will join in August.

Although bruising tailback, John Clay is no longer there, the Badgers will once again boast one of the top rushing attacks in the nation, led by sophomore James White and junior Montee Ball.  Ball fell just four yards short of breaking the 1,000 yard mark, while White tallied 1,056 yards as a true freshman.  The tandem put up those numbers, despite splitting carries with Clay.

Cynics will point to the departure of both offensive tackles, including Gabe Carimi in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the Badgers will only reload in 2011 on a unit that has been a hot-bed for the NFL.  Expect senior guard Kevin Zeitler to be the next high draft pick to lead another smash-mouth running game this fall (and you can also expect to hear Zeitler’s name early in the 2012 NFL Draft…mark it down).

If the Wisconsin defense, led by safety Aaron Henry can hold up their end, Wilson and the Badger offense will be much more explosive than in year’s past.  Wilson is quite possibly at his best when the pocket breaks down–just ask Florida State, who gave up three rushing TDs to Wilson last season.

He adds escapability and play-making ability to an offense that only lost one game in the Big Ten last season.  Add talented wide out Nick Toon to the equation, and Bielema may just have the formula for a Big Ten title run and a shot at being a top 5 team.  Although one player doesn’t make a team, a smart, athletic quarterback who is a proven winner will only make Wisconsin better.  At the least, the Badgers will be favored by many to lock up the newly expanded Big Ten.

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College FootBlog 2011 Preseason Top 25

With the conclusion of spring football for all major FBS programs, it is time to release this year’s College FootBlog Preseason poll.  We will count down to the top five teams in five separate posts over the next couple of weeks, so check back often to see what teams we feel are the best of the best, long before two-a-days begin in August.  In this edition, we’ll break down teams #21-#25.

25.  Mississippi State:  Many analysts have the Bulldogs higher, but the SEC West is absolutely stacked in 2011, and we feel that while head coach Dan Mullen will continue to bring MSU along, although they get Alabama, LSU and South Carolina at home, it’s hard to imagine the Bulldogs winning two of those games.  Tack on trips to Arkansas and Georgia, and Mississippi State will be doing a lot to finish 4-4 in conference play.  Still, with a very forgiving non-conference schedule, the Bulldogs should have a great shot at a nine-win season, which is saying a lot for the toughest division in the FBS.

Can Garrett Gilbert get the Longhorns back on track in 2011? (google images)

24.  Texas Head coach Mack Brown will try to get the Longhorns back on track after finishing 5-7 and failing to make a bowl game for the first time since Brown took the coaching job in 1998.  The defense will have to replace fiery defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who left for the head coaching job at Florida, but the ‘Horns have a ton of talent on defense, and new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz showed a lot of promise with his work at Mississippi State–it will be interesting to see what Diaz can do with the talent pool at Texas.  The success and/or failure of this year’s Texas team will lie at the quarterback position.  As a sophomore, Garrett Gilbert was a major drop off from legends Colt McCoy and Vince Young .  Gilbert led the Big 12 last season with 17 interceptions, and posted a dismal TD/Int ratio of 6:16 in Big 12 play.  In order for Texas to take a step forward, Gilbert or one of the younger quarterbacks on the roster (Case McCoy and Connor Wood) will need a much improved offense in 2011.

23.   Auburn All the allegations and continued inquiries from the NCAA aside, it could be a tough year for Auburn.  Head coach Gene Chizik has talent coming back in 2011, led by explosive running back Michael Dyer.  Some polls have Auburn ranked higher, but we just can’t see a top 10-15 finish.  The Tigers must replace four starters on the offensive line, Nick Fairly, who was arguably the most dominant defensive player in the nation last season and the best player in the country last season, in Heisman Trophy winner and first overall NFL Draft selection Cam Newton.   Dyer and the offense will have success, but they will have a tough time with Bama and LSU this time around.

22.  Arizona State:  At first glance from the 2010 season, you might think ASU’s 6-6 record should not equal a preseason top 25 selection, but a deeper dive into the Sun Devils’ games show a lot of promise for 2011.  ASU was the only team in the country to challenge Oregon during the regular season, losing a heartbreaker at home 42-31.  The defense, which held Andrew Luck and Stanford to just 17 points last season, will once again be led by stud linebacker Vontaze Burfict.  More good news for the Devils is that quarterback Brock Osweiler was productive last season, after starter Steven Threet went down with a concussion.  ASU will need to get past Stanford and a sure-to-be improved USC team to stay in the top 25.

21.  West Virginia:  The Mountaineers lose electric running back Noel Devine, but they should roll through a weak Big East Conference in 2011.  The September 24th match up against LSU will be a tall order, but if WV can get past Pitt in Morgantown, the Big East should be theirs for the taking.  Quarterback Geno Smith was very effective last season, throwing for over 2700 yards and 24 touchdowns, and only 7 picks in his first full season as the starter.  Key to the success of WVU will be trips to Rutgers and South Florida.  If they can win one of those two games, they will be in great position to represent the Big East in a BCS bowl.

Week 6 College Football Preview: Florida State at Miami

With the recent decline of each program, the Miami/Florida State Rivalry hasn’t garnered nearly as much hype as it did in the late 80’s and 90’s.  In 2010, however, each program looks like a return to glory (at least in the ACC) could be well within grasp. 

The winner of this Saturday’s match up will put one team in solid position for a run at the ACC Championship Game, while the loser will have to claw back in the ACC title hunt.  On the larger scale, the outcome of this game will also let the college football world know which one of these storied programs is closer to regaining its place among college football’s elite programs.

Each team is still at least a year away from being a serious contender for a national title, as evidenced by Miami’s loss to Ohio State and Florida State’s dismal performance at Oklahoma in Week 2.  In this edition of College FootBlog, we take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of each team, we present key match ups, and we will make our prediction of one of the most intense rivalries in college football.

Florida State

RB Jermaine Thomas will look to lead FSU's potent rushing attack into Miami this weekend (google images)

Key Strength:  The Running Game–Before the Oklahoma game, FSU quarterback Christian Ponder was considered a viable Heisman candidate, but so far this fall, it has been the ‘Noles’ running game that has been the constant.  FSU is averaging just over 208 yards per game on the ground, which ranks them 26th in the nation.  Head coach Jimbo Fisher relies on three different running backs to carry the load.  The trio of Jermaine Thomas, Ty Jones and Chris Thompson presents three completely different running styles, and they have combined for over 7.1 yards per carry.  The Seminoles will need another solid ground performance this weekend if they want to control the tempo of the game.

Key Concern:  Passing Defense–New defensive coordinator Mark Stoops has shown dramatic improvement since getting sliced and diced by Oklahoma a few weeks ago, but the Hurricanes will present the first real challenge to FSU’s secondary since that blow out loss in Norman.  We will find out this weekend just whether FSU’s pass defense has improved that much or if they have simply been the benefactors of weak opponents with even weaker passing attacks.  As good as OU looked, the ‘Canes appear to have a deeper WR corps, and if the ‘Noles can’t hold their own against Jacory Harris and company, it could be a long night for FSU.

Miami

Key Strength:  The Passing Game–Although Harris has thrown for eight INTs this season, he has also thrown for ten TDs.   When Harris stands tall and steps into his throws, he may have the best touch of any QB in the country.  When his offensive line protects him, Harris does a tremendous job of distributing the ball to his talented group of wideouts, which is led by 6’3″ 205 lb. senior Leonard Hankerson, who already has six TDs on the year.  If Harris and his stable of WRs get hot early, the ‘Canes could present a lot more problems than OU did to the FSU secondary because Miami has a lot more to their passing game than the bubble screen (which shredded FSU in the OU game).

Key Concern:  Rush Defense–Take away Miami’s opening day cupcake against FAMU and focus on their three real football games (Ohio State, Pitt and Clemson), and the ‘Canes are giving up 157 yards on the ground per game.  As good as they have been against the pass (ranked #6 nationally), they have shown vulnerability against solid running attacks, and they will certainly face another solid ground game this weekend.  If the ‘Canes can’t control the line of scrimmage, the FSU ground game could wear them down and take over in the second half.

Jacory Harris will need to cut down his mistakes the 'Canes have any hopes of beating FSU this weekend (google images)

Miami Offense vs. Florida State Defense

While FSU has improved immensely since the Oklahoma game, it is hard to believe that they can shut down Harris and his wide receivers all game.  Look for Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple to challenge Florida State’s young corners early and often, and a couple of big plays are bound to happen.  The key here will be how much pressure FSU can get on Harris.  Even if the much improved FSU defensive line can get in his face, Harris is still likely to burn them a time or two.  EDGE:  Miami

Florida State Offense vs. Miami Defense

Look for Miami to stack the box and do whatever they can to take away FSU’s dominant ground game.  Still, look for FSU’s ground game to make an impact by the second half.  Also, although Ponder has not lived up to the lofty expectations so far this season, he has proven that he can perform against the ‘Canes the past two seasons, and with Miami focused on taking the running game away, FSU’s senior QB will get a few shots at one-on-one coverage, and if history is any indicator, he will produce some big plays.  EDGE:  Florida State

Special Teams

The one thing that kept Miami in the Ohio State game earlier this year was their explosive special teams play.  The ‘Canes returned a kick and a punt for touchdowns in that match up.  Senior kicker/punter Matt Bosher was named to the Preseason All-ACC Team, and he has not disappointed so far this season.  Florida State counters with kicker Dustin Hopkins, who has sent 19 of his 33 kick offs into the end zone for touchbacks.  FSU also has the ever-dangerous Greg Reid returning punts and kicks.  Reid led the nation last season in punt return average and has already brought one back for a TD this season.  EDGE:  Push

Final Analysis

Like most games in this rivalry, expect this one to come down to the wire.  Of the last five meetings in this rivalry game, only one (2007’s match up) was decided by more than four points.  The difference in this one will be who wins the turnover battle, and Miami’s Harris has not made the significant improvement in this part of his game that many thought he would this year.  Florida State leads the nation with 25 sacks, and Harris has shown the same tendency against pressure as he did last year–he tends to throw the ball up for grabs and doesn’t step into his throws.  This could be the difference in what should be another exciting, down-to-the-wire football game.  Final Score Prediction:  Florida State wins 33-30

College Football Week 2 Match Up: Miami at Ohio State

After dominant performances by both programs in week one, college football fans will get a great match up this weekend as the Miami Hurricanes travel to Columbus to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes.  A win for OSU will only solidify their #2 ranking and add more credibility to their quest for a BCS title game, while an upset win by the visiting ‘Canes will effectively put them in the BCS title hunt.

College FootBlog will break down this game, including the strengths and weaknesses of each team, we will present key match ups, and we will give our score prediction of this intriguing, early season match up.

Miami

Jacory Harris could bring some respect back to the "U" with an upset victory at Ohio State this weekend (google images)

Key Strength:  Jacory Harris–Harris has put his name in the list of Hesiman hopefuls based on his performance last season as the full-time starter, and he only added fuel to that fire with his 12-15, 210 yard, three touchdown performance last weekend.  He does a great job of distributing the ball to his stable of wideouts, headlined by senior Leonard Hankerson.  The ‘Canes will need a big game from Harris is they want any shot at upsetting the Buckeyes this weekend.

Key Concern:  Running Game–as great as Harris and his receivers were last year, the ‘Canes ranked 70th in rushing offense last season.  In order to keep Ohio State from simply pinning their ears back and going after Harris, Miami must show more balance.  The addition of a couple of freshmen tailbacks, Lamar Miller and Eduardo Clements, should help the ground game.  Just how much has yet to be determined.

Ohio State

Key Strength:  Defense–For a team known for its defense, it’s scary to think that this could be Jim Tressel’s best defense since his arrival in Columbus.  At the end of the season, we will see how this Buckeye defense ranks against their past defenses, but the 2010 version packs quite a punch.  All in all, the Buckeyes feature seven senior starters on defense, led by linebacker Brian Rolle.  The D-line and linebackers are as solid as there is in college football, but the secondary, anchored by three seniors is going to challenge Harris and his receivers as well.

Key Concern:  Which Terrelle Pryor will show up?–This weekend will be the first weekend this season to see if Pryor has truly grown up as a quarterback, or if the Rose Bowl performance last year was just an aberration.  In his third year as a starter, we should find out this season whether Pryor is a Heisman candidate or an over-hyped athlete that has trouble with giving his team a consistent, solid game, regardless of talent.  If he takes care of the football and makes good decisions, Ohio State will win.  If he reverts back to last year’s inconsistency, the ‘Canes will have a great shot at the upset.  This weekend will also determine whether or not the writers will give him serious consideration for the Heisman.

Ohio State Offense vs Miami Defense

Terrelle Pryor could do wonders for his Heisman hopes and his team's chance at a National Championship with a solid game this weekend (google images)

Pryor will get his shot to prove to the non-believers that he has matured into a great college quarterback this weekend.  As solid as the defenses are in the Big Ten, this weekend, he will face the fastest, most athletic defense  that he will face until a bowl game.  Look for Miami to load the box to try to take running backs Brandon Saine and Boom Herron out of the equation.  This will give Pryor one-on-one coverage with his wideouts.  Miami’s linebacker corps, led by Sean Spence, will try to keep Pryor in the pocket.  If Miami can shut down the OSU running game (which includes Pryor), they will stay in this game until the end.  EDGE:  Miami

Miami Offense vs. Ohio State Defense

This is a very intriguing match up.  The speed of Miami’s wideouts will go against the strength and experience of the best defense in the Big Ten.  Ohio State’s size and strength up front should make it very difficult for the ‘Canes to establish any kind of running game.  That means Harris and his receivers will have to have a huge day.  As efficient as Harris was last season, he struggled mightily against the solid defenses he faced–against Oklahoma, North Carolina, Clemson and Virgina Tech last season, he completed 56% of his passes for six touchdowns, compared to ten interceptions.  Like Pryor, Harris can put his name in serious contention for the Heisman if he can prove he can put up good numbers against great defenses, but the pressure from OSU’s front seven could disrupt his timing.  EDGE:  Ohio State

Special Teams

As usual, Ohio State will have speed in their return game.  WR DeVier Posey and running backs Saine and Herron could all get their shots at returning kicks and punts, but the strength of OSU’s special teams could be their kicker, Devin Barclay, who was 7-10 last year, including a clutch field goal to put away Iowa last year that effectively locked up the Big Ten Title.

Miami counters with a solid kicking game of their own.  Kicker/Punter Matt Bosher is the preseason All-ACC kicker and punter.  The ‘Canes have dangerous return men as well, with Graig Cooper and Travis Benjamin, who are both threats to take one back at any time.  EDGE:  Push

Final Analysis

Miami head coach Randy Shannon has put the Hurricanes back in contention for a BCS Bowl run.  This year represents his best shot at challenging for an ACC title.  His ‘Canes are one of the most athletic teams in the country, and unlike last season, their defense now has experience to go along with their talent. 

Jim Tressel is known for producing great defenses, but this unit could prove to be the deepest one yet.  Although Miami does present some match up problems for the secondary, look for OSU to get after Harris, which was the formula that North Carolina used last season.  Harris will show more poise in the pocket this season, but he needs to be able to step into his throws if he is going to be consistent.  OSU’s front four on defense should be able to wear down Miami’s offensive line, and that could cause a key turn over in the third or fourth quarter.  Final Score Prediction:  Ohio State wins 31-24, but Miami will challenge them.

College Football Week 1 Breakdown: Boise St vs Virginia Tech

With the absence of the entire North Carolina defense, the LSU-North Carolina game is suddenly no longer intriguing, so College FootBlog decided to break down the other key match up in Week 1 of the 2010 college football season–Boise State vs. Virginia Tech at FedEx Field in Washington D.C.

College FootBlog will analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each team, and we will give our first game prediction for the new season.  First, let’s take a look at the Hokies.

Virginia Tech

Va Tech RB Ryan Williams leads one of the most explosive running attacks in the country (google images)

Key Strength

Running Game:  Although Alabama is getting all the hype for the best tailback tandem in the country, Ryan Williams and Darren Evans would like to throw a hat in the ring as well.  Williams broke Evans freshman rushing record last season by rushing for 1,655 yards and 21 TDs.  He replaced Evans, who tore his ACL and missed the 2009 season.  In 2008, Evans rushed for 1,265 yards two seasons ago.  He is back, he’s healthy, and he gives a huge shot in the arm for what was already one of the top rushing teams in the country.

Key Concern

Defense:  The Hokies must replace seven starters from last year’s defense, don’t bet against defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s ability to coach up a defense.  Foster had all spring to reload, and although the departure of DE E Jason Worilds and inexperience up front, Foster will have his unit ready to play Monday, and they will only improve as the season continues.  Despite the losses of several key players on the defense, look for Virginia Tech to have yet another top 25 defense by season’s end. 

Boise State

Key Strength

Kellen Moore:  The Heisman hopeful completed an unbelievable 39 TDs last year to just 3 Ints last season.  The Broncos have a very solid running game, but Moore leads one of the top aerial attacks in the nation.  Moore has plenty of weapons around him, highlighted by senior wideouts Titus Young and Austin Pettis.  Look for BSU to throw the ball early and often on Monday.

Key Concern

Tough to Find One:  BSU has pretty much kicked the notion that they can’t play with the big boys to the curb.  Head coach Chris Peterson is 4-1 against teams from the BCS conferences.  They had a balanced attack last season, and the only area of their game that wasn’t lights out was their defense against the run.  They still finished 28th in the nation and were able to neutralize TCU and Oregon on the ground.  When they went against Fresno State’s Ryan Matthews, however, it was a different story.  Matthews went for 234 yards and three TDs against the Broncos, proving that a dominant RB can have success against them.  But again, that was just one game, and this BSU defense is a year older and wiser.

Virginia Tech Offense vs. Boise State Defense

Look for BSU to load the box and attempt to force VT quarterback Tyrod Taylor to beat them with his arm.  Taylor took a huge step forward in this department last season but still only completed 56% of his passes.  The difficult thing for BSU is that every other opponent of VT last season tried the same thing, but the end result was usually the same–Taylor was not only efficient (ranked #13 in passing efficiency nationally), but Williams still got his yards, too.  Add Evans to the backfield this season, and that will be a tall order for the Broncos, even with their experienced and disciplined defense.  EDGE:  Virginia Tech

A strong performance on Monday night could go a long way in Boise State's BCS Championship hopes, but it could also put him in the driver's seat for the Heisman Trophy (google images)

Boise State Offense vs. Virginia Tech Defense

The combination of Kellen Moore’s efficiency (ranked #2 in passing efficiency nationally in 2009) and a solid and underrated running game with the tandem of Jeremy Avery and Doug Martin.  BSU had one of the most explosive offenses in the nation last season, and the only thing that has changed this season is that they have more experience, and they have played in more big games.  There is no doubt that Bud Foster will put a solid defense on the field, but at least some inexperience is likely to show in the first game of the 2010 season.  EDGE:  Boise State

Special Teams

Senior Kyle Brotzman handles the kicking and punting duties for Boise State and has been solid on each.  Last season, he was 18-25 on field goal attempts, while averaging 43.9 yards per punt.  When you talk about Virginia Tech, however, you immediately have to think of Beamer Ball.  The Hokies have always been among the nation’s best in special teams under head coach Frank Beamer, and this year should be no different.  Va Tech will feature a pair of seniors who will handle the kicking and punting duties, and junior Dyrell Roberts returns after finishing 2009 as the nation’s #4 ranked kick returner.  BSU counters with versatile athlete Titus Young as threat on kick returns.  Slight EDGE:  Virginia Tech

Final Analysis

What more could you ask for on opening weekend of the college football season.  This match up has all the makings of a great football game.  Each team will be well-coached and will perform on both sides of the ball.  In games that are as evenly matched as this one, you have to go back to two areas–home field advantage and special teams play.  Even though this game is technically not a home game for Virginia Tech, it may as well be.  Tech fans have a four and a half hour drive to FedEx Field, while BSU fans have to cross the country.  While BSU should have some fans, the crowd will be overwhelmingly in favor of Va Tech.  As for special teams, one area we didn’t focus on in the above paragraph was the Hokies’ ability to block kicks and punts.  Look for them to go after at least two punts during this one, and if they get a blocked kick, that could be all it takes to pull out a narrow victory.  Final Score Prediction:  Virginia Tech wins 28-24

Key Week 1 Match Up?…not any more

Well, I was all set to provide my first game day breakdown, and the game I had selected for week one was LSU vs North Carolina.  On paper, it looked like a great match up–the preseason AP ranks UNC #18 and LSU at #21, and our College FootBlog Preseason rankings had LSU ranked #18 with UNC slightly behind at #23.

On paper, this match up looked like a great opener for the 2010 college football season–at least it did a week ago.  That was before it was announced a couple of days ago that the NCAA has expanded its investigation into North Carolina’s program.  What started as an investigation into a couple of UNC players for attending a party in Miami that was allegedly funded by a sports agent has now expanded to a full-blown academic fraud investigation.

UNC coach Butch Davis could be missing eight starters on defense when the Tar Heels open against LSU next weekend (google images)

No one knows how long the investigation will last, but we will find out next weekend which players are involved.  That’s because all of those players will be noticeably absent from the playing field.  And the impact is massive.  Without what is basically North Carolina’s defense, which ranked sixth in total defense last season, the game on paper has gone from being a great opening day match up to a preseason scrimmage for LSU, so much so that Vegas pulled the game completely from the lines yesterday.

Even with what seems to be an imminent beat-down for the Tar Heels on Saturday, a week one loss only scratches the surface of what Coach Davis and UNC fans should be worried about.  If this scandal reaches as far as it appears and affects as many players as it is being reported, this scandal could set the North Carolina program back 3-4 years.

When the NCAA dropped the hammer on USC a few months ago, cutting several scholarships and banning the Trojans from post season play for two years, they established a much more stringent and unforgiving stance on major violations.  Because the NCAA unleashed these heavy sanctions on Southern Cal just months ago, they will have to be just as stern going forward, and they will have to be even more so, given the short time since the USC sanctions were announced.

In three short years, Coach Davis has taken his team from a middle of the pack ACC team to a preseason top 25 team.  Unfortunately for him and UNC, his program could easily drop back to (or beyond) obscurity in less time that it took him to build.  Only time will tell, but we know this much–this Saturday could mark the last time North Carolina will be ranking in the Top 25 in college football for a long, long time.

Heisman Dark Horse Part 2: Noel Devine

It’s only July, but major universities and college football programs are already launching Heisman campaigns to generate the much-needed media exposure for select candidates.  Anyone who follows college football knows about Washington’s Jake Locker, Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor and last year’s Heisman-winner, Alabama running back Mark Ingram.

WVU running back Noel Devine has his sights set on a Big East Title and a trip to New York in 2010 (google images)

If you just take a look at his numbers, it’s amazing that the explosive running back is not on everyone’s watch list, but surprisingly, many of the so-called experts do not have Devine listed as a threat to take home the coveted trophy. 

Devine burst on the scene as a true freshman, when he took carries away from All-American running back Steve Slaton.  After Slaton was injured in the Fiesta Bowl, which meant Devine would have to carry the load for the Mountaineers, and he delivered, rushing for 105 on just 12 carries with two touchdowns.

His numbers increased his sophomore season, as he rushed for 1,289, and despite being hampered by minor injuries for much of last season, the talented back still managed to rush for 1,465 yards and 13 TDs.  If this trend continues, and more importantly, if Devine can avoid injury this season, there is every reason to believe that he could break 1,800 yards this season.  That sounds like a high number, but it is more attainable than you may think.

Since his arrival in Morgantown, the electric running back from Fort Myers, FL has averaged 6.5 yards per carry.  If he can stay healthy, there is every reason in the world to believe that he will get more carries than last season.  If he gets just 44 more carries than last season, that would put him at 285, putting him over 1,800 yards, given his career yards/carry average.

College FootBlog takes a look at the two things must happen for Devine to get serious consideration from the media and ultimately, the voters. 

West Virginia must win the Big East:  Six out of the last seven Heisman Trophy winners played on conference champion teams.  This could be a tall order for Devine and the Mountaineers, and given the emergence of the Big East as a formidable BCS conference in the last couple of years, it is.  But despite the success of WVU, Cincinnati, Pitt and others from the conference, the Big East is still unfairly viewed as a little brother to the other conferences by most writers.

In order for the national media to take notice of a Heisman candidate from this conference, they will have to win, and they’ll have to hope that others in the conference like Pitt and Cincy win as well.  This would set the stage for a national TV audience for the “Backyard Brawl” rivalry game on Nov. 26, when WVU travels to Pitt to take on the Panthers.

Will it happen?  They should be in the hunt, but the Pitt game will likely determine who wins the Big East.  West Virginia hosts Cincinnati, South Florida and Syracuse before the Pitt game, and they travel to UConn and Louisville.  Unless something unforeseen happens, the Mountaineers will be favored in all of these games.  If they take down Pitt, the conference title will be theirs, and they will lock up a BCS game, and the media will notice.

Devine must avoid injury:  At 5’8″ and just 176 lbs., Devine is far from a bruising back.  The only thing preventing him from eclipsing 1,500 yards last season was the fact that he played much of the season banged up.  He still managed to put up some very impressive numbers last fall, but his relatively small frame showed signs of fatigue last year, particularly in the middle of the season.

Devine needs at least 300 touches (rushing, receiving and returning) if he is going to put up the kind of numbers that will trump the other candidates.  If he gets that many touches, that means he made it through the year without a significant injury, and with his explosiveness and elusiveness, that means bigtime production.

Will it happen?  It should.  Despite traveling to Death Valley to take on LSU in September, the non-conference schedule is not that tough for the Mountaineers.  And despite his small frame, Devine has proven to be an extremely durable back.  In addition, new quarterback Geno Smith is more of a passer than a runner, which means that unlike in past years, Devine will not be splitting carries with his QB.  His strength and durability will be tested, but he has carried 447 times in his two years as the featured running back at WVU.  Look for that durability to continue in 2010 because it will be his last season, and Devine will have his chance to ease the concerns of NFL scouts that his body can handle the punishment of a 280-plus carry season.