College Football Preview: LSU and the SEC West

Never has such pre-season hype been laid upon LSU. The expectation from anyone who believes it is that LSU will play USC for the BCS title next January in New Orleans. ESPN is already pimping the potential of John David Booty playing for the BCS title in his home state against all the rest of Louisiana”s favorite sons. I can”t say I quite understand the incredible level of LSU hype. Sure, we”re bringing back an awesome defense and a good chunk of a great offense from a team that went 11-2, ended the season with seven wins and beat the crap out of Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. But there are plenty of questions to be answered about this team.

- How much of LSU”s success in 2005 – 2006 was tied to the four guys who got drafted in the first round by the NFL this year? Can we replace that talent successfully?

- How easy will the transition to Gary Crowton”s offense go?

- Can the defense, which will be incredible up front and strong at linebacker, fill two key spots in the secondary?

- How will the Tigers respond to the hype? Will Leslie be a calming force or do his off-season comments hint at a level of smug confidence that”s never helpful?

LSU has earned a certain level of ongoing respect, having won three SEC West titles, two SEC championships and the national championship in the last five years, so I”ll take the No. 2 pre-season ranking as a compliment for the program. And this year, the schedule lines up in our favor, which also raises expectations.

We”re capable, I believe, of winning the SEC West and potentially being in position to make the BCS title game, but this will be the year for Leslie to prove his worth.

There”s no doubt that SEC championships are won with defense, and LSU”s returning talent is phenomenal. The keys to the season lie here.

Line – With Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson up front, the Tiger defensive line should be the best in the country. Add in Charles Alexander, Marlon Favorite, Al Woods and Kirston Pittman, and there are some real monsters on the line. No worries there.

Linebackers – Ali Highsmith and Darry Beckwith are world-class; Luke Sanders is quite capable and there”s a lot of young guys behind them.

Backs – Corners are solid with Jonathon Zenon and Chevis Jackson, and Craig Steltz brings a lot of experience to strong safety. The weak links of the defense, however, lie in free safety and in the depth of our defensive backs. Long on youth, short on experience. How this unit comes together will be key, especially early on against Virginia Tech and South Carolina.

Gone are Russell, Bowe and Davis from an offense that rang up 33.7 points per game in 2006. To expect quite the same from Flynn, Doucet and LaFell might not be realistic, but there”s good reason to believe the 2007 offense will at worst be capable of controlling the flow (ala Matt Mauck”s offense of 2003) and at best could shake up SEC defenses with Crowton”s new scheme.

Quarterback – I like Matt Flynn, I really do. But enough with the hype about his Peach Bowl performance against Miami. That was a disinterested team not being prepared for Flynn”s style of game. It really proved nothing. But Flynn is a talented and mature guy who”s been around the program a long time. He should be a steady influence to usher in a new offensive scheme, and we”re lucky to have him.

Running backs – If Crowton”s game plan involves something other than running into the right side of the line (thanks, Jimbo!), 2007 could be a breakout year for Charles Scott, Keiland Williams, Richard Murphy, Jacob Hester or any combination of the four. Undeniable talent at a position that was hampered under the old offense.

Receivers – Early Doucet is clearly the star, and Brandon LaFell and Jared Mitchell are potential big-play receivers as well. Again, we”re looking at a new offensive scheme this year, so how the receivers are utilized will determine how many touches, yards and touchdowns these guys get. We”ll miss Bowe and Davis for sure, but those guys were clearly geared toward the big-play game of Russell.

Line – Will Arnold is looking iffy, but as usual there is a lot of young, big talent in LSU”s arsenal. Ciron Black and big Herman Johnson will anchor things, and we”ll have to see what develops beyond that.

Special Teams:
On the return side, we”re strong with Early Doucet and tiny Trindon Holliday available. Kicking and punting could be an adventure.


No, I”m still not sold on Les Miles. But this is his year to prove himself. High expectations and his big mouth in the off season will make success a validation and failure a spotlight. For a guy who”s 22-4 in two seasons, he just doesn”t inspire confidence. But prove me wrong, Leslie.

The big addition, of course, is Crowton as offensive coordinator and QB coach. He brings a good track record and a reputation as an offensive mastermind, so I”ll just sit back and watch. The timing seems right to bring more of a west-coast mindset to the SEC (see Urban Meyer), and anything is better than Jimbo “Run It Into The Line” Fisher. How quickly he”s able to get his guys up to speed (and he doesn”t have long) will be the early measure of his success.

A complement to Crowton should be new receivers coach D.J. McCarthy, who also comes from the Pac 10 (UCLA). If you”re gonna go west coast, it”s good to have your OC and receivers coach on the same page.

I”m not so sure about new offensive line coach Greg Studrawa, who comes to LSU from Bowling Green, where he was offensive coordinator. It seems like somewhat of a strange trajectory for a guy to go from OC back to the offensive line. How much he”s focused on blocking assignments rather than whole schemes will remain to be seen.

Bo Pelini has proven himself as defensive coordinator, and it”s very good to have him back this season. He”ll leave someday for a nice head-coaching gig, and LSU is fortunate to not be replacing both coordinators in a single year.

The Schedule:
Within SEC play, you have to like the draw LSU has. No Georgia, no Tennessee this year, and South Carolina, Florida, Auburn and Arkansas all have to come to Baton Rouge. As much as I dislike Thursday night football, opening with Mississippi State will be a good luke-warm test to start the season and should help get the Tigers ready for a tough home opener against Virginia Tech. MTSU, Tulane and La. Tech make for a manageable non-SEC lineup beyond that.

The pacing of the season also works in LSU”s favor. After MSU, there are nine days to get ready for Virginia Tech. There are no top-level games happening on back-to-back weekends, and nice things like Florida playing Auburn the week before they come to Baton Rouge and Auburn playing Arkansas the week before our game happen as well.

The Outlook
I see the upcoming LSU season boiling down to the mix of expectations, actual talent, coaching changes, a favorible schedule and the overall strengh of the SEC. I predict a very strong season and SEC West title, but not a BCS Championship Game appearance.

@ Mississippi State – WIN

Virginia Tech – LOSS
South Carolina – WIN

@ Tulane – WIN
Florida – WIN
@ Kentucky – WIN

Auburn – WIN
@ Alabama – LOSS
La. Tech – WIN

@ Ole Miss – WIN
Arkansas – WIN

So I see us losing to Virginia Tech and Alabama. With Virginia Tech, I think it”ll be a challenge for all of the changes to come together for such a tough second game. Later on in the year, I think we take that game.

As for the Alabama game, well … that”s about the point in the year where Fonzie will have his team working well, they”ll have the advantage of playing it in Tuscaloosa and I think at that point in the season Alabama will have pressure and LSU will be cocky. Call it a hunch.

The SEC West

Ah, the intrigue. LSU getting unprecedented hype, three teams with 10+ wins last year and – of course – Fonzie”s triumphant return. Going into 2007, it”s safe to think LSU and Auburn will be good and that Saban will make Alabama better than the 6-7 squad of last year. Arkansas is a program in disarray, but one that has a legitimate Heisman candidate at the center of its offense.

So who will break out in “07? The favorite LSU, the strong-as-always Auburn, Fonzie”s boys at Alabama or the wildcat Arkansas gang?

If you count reasonably well, you can tell I see LSU going 7-1 in the SEC. So I believe in our chances of coming out on top of the division. What I see from the other three:

- Alabama: You can”t discount what Saban is capable of. There”s plenty of talent in the Tide, and if they buy in to the program, results might approach the ridiculous expectations of Bama Nation.

- Arkansas: There”s no way McFadden can run every play, and the Hogs aren”t solid enough to win with straight-up football this year.

- Auburn: Expect the same consistent excellence again this year. Tommy T has established a clear identity for Auburn, and it”s a winning formula. Unless and until Saban claims back Alabama football dominance, Auburn will be a perinnial SEC West contender.

In general, I”m positive on LSU and Auburn and negative on Arkansas. Alabama remains a wildcard but will likely get stronger as the season wears on.

Predicted Finish:

1. LSU – 7-1, beating Florida, Auburn and Arkansas, losing to Alabama

2. Alabama – 6-2, beating Arkansas, LSU and Auburn, losing to Georgia and Tennessee
3. Auburn – 6-2, beating Florida, Arkansas and Georgia, losing to LSU and Alabama
4. Arkansas – 4-4, beating nobody much, losing to Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee and LSU

Mike VI is a half-breed?

What the hell?

Bengal tiger, man. Bengal.

College Football Preview: SEC East

The defending national champions, Tennessee and Georgia on the upswing, Spurrier still threatening to make South Carolina good … and Kentucky even won 8 games last year. All of these factors make the 2007 SEC East season a hard one to predict. Has Florida lost too much on defense? Will Tebow be a superstar? How good will Tennessee and Georgia be? Can the Cocks do anything significant, and how real is Kentucky? I”m inclined to believe the following:

- Urban Meyer is for real and has abundant young talent at Florida. But getting back to the SEC Championship Game will be a struggle this year.

- Tennessee and Georgia should both be strong, but Tennessee has a slightly more favorable schedule.

- Even before the season begins, Spurrier is struggling to keep things focused at South Carolina, with suspensions coming down to star players. A breakout year is not likely.

- Kentucky has a lot to prove in a year when nobody will take that W for granted.

Running through the schedules, I come up with a few potential outcomes, all involving Florida, Georgia or Tennessee taking a slight edge in the division. I don”t think any team in the East goes undefeated or only loses one conference game; two of the three contenders are likely to finish 6-2 with a head-to-head tiebreaker sending one to Atlanta. Please note that I am only predicting conference records, because what matters is winning the SEC. Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina each face significant out of conference foes.

The scenario I believe the most in:

1. Tennessee – 6-2, beating Georgia and Alabama, losing to Florida and South Carolina.

2. Georgia – 6-2, beating Florida, Alabama and South Carolina, losing to Tennessee and Auburn.
3. Florida – 5-3, beating Tennessee and South Carolina, losing to Auburn, (spoiler alert!) LSU and Georgia.
4. South Carolina – 4-4, beating Tennessee, losing to Georgia, (spoiler alert!) LSU, Arkansas and Florida.
5. Kentucky – 2-6, beating nobody, losing to people who Kentucky should lose to.

So in the end, I think this season the SEC East will be about good teams beating up on each other with no single powerhouse making a national title run and the top teams in the SEC West coming out on top in cross-division games.

Tomorrow: LSU and the SEC West

College Football Preview: The Others

We”re now just one week from the kickoff of college football season, and thus begins Cap”n Ken”s Outlook for 2007. The previews will cascade from The Others (non-SEC teams) to the SEC East, SEC West and finally my outlook for LSU.

Today – The Others: Hype I Buy:

1. USC. As much as SEC fans might want to see the Trojans sink back into west-coast mediocrity, the level of talent on the team can”t be denied. The only hitch for USC this year would come from the notion that the quality of Pac-10 football is improving. And I”m not sure I buy that. But if there is depth in the conference this league, USC will actually have to earn a spot in the BCS.

2. Oklahoma. By all rights, a 13-1 team in 2006 except for a game stolen by the refs and a sneak attack by Boise State at the close of the Fiesta Bowl. The Sooners will be vengeful and talented this year, which I think gives them an edge over Texas in the Big 12.

3. Texas. Two years after their national championship, the Longhorns have solidified their rightful place as the powerhouse of Lone Star football. They”ll be good. Colt McCoy is a star quarterback in the making, and the Longhorns will boast a powerful offense. That swagger and firepower will be what they throw at Oklahoma.

Solid Teams:

1. Wisconsin. Twelve wins in 2006 and they return 18 starters. But last year”s schedule was easy as they played from the ladies” tee of the Big Ten (no Ohio State, yes Indiana and Illinois), so they still have a lot to prove.

2. Michigan. Likely to be good but not great (like last year), but they return only 11 starters from 2006″s pretend powerhouse.

3. Virginia Tech. Bringing a lot of talent back from a 10-win season, the Hokies have solidified their place as the powerhouse of the ACC, having averaged 10.3 wins a season since joining in 2004.

Sure Things:

1. West Virginia. Two Heisman candidates and a joke schedule should result in 10 guaranteed wins, another (South Florida) game a real team would easily rise to and only one (Louisville) challenge of any significance.

2. Louisville. One Heisman candidate and a joke schedule should result in 10 guaranteed wins, another (South Florida) game a real team would easily rise to and only one (West Virginia) challenge of any significance.

Show Me:

- Cal, UCLA, Oregon State. What”s required for one of these also-rans of the Pac-10 to prove themselves worthy? Take the conference title away from USC. In lieu of a title game, the Pac-10 at least plays a full round-robin, so if there”s actual strength in the league below the Trojans, the title is within reach for a legitimate team.


1. Rutgers. Maybe Ray Rice will carry them to another decent year, but like The Sopranos, this feel-good Jersey story is over. Sure, they”ll roll up wins over the likes of Buffalo, Norfolk State and Navy out of conference and against Big East heavies Cincinnati and Connecticut, but this is the last hurrah.

2. South Florida. They”re a good story and people love saying they were the second-best team in Florida last year (speaks badly for FSU and Miami more than anything). But they”re still bush league, and only the weakness of the Big East makes them appear otherwise. Let”s see how strong they look against Auburn.

3. Boise State, Hawaii, TCU and the non-BCS hopefuls. Boy, that Fiesta Bowl was great last year. Good times, and hardly coincidental that Boise beat Oklahoma using the same kind of tricks I use to beat USC playing as Wofford on the PS2. But that was a fun distraction, not a trend. If TCU can beat Texas and go 12-0, they deserve to be in the expanded BCS lineup. Otherwise, these second-tier squads are going to have to start beating some real teams out of conference if they really want to be taken seriously.

Conference Predictions:

ACC Atlantic: Clemson

ACC Coastal: Virginia Tech
ACC Champion: Virginia Tech

Big East: West Virginia

Big Ten: Wisconsin

Big 12 North: Nebraska
Big 12 South: Oklahoma
Big 12 Champion: Oklahoma

Pac-10: USC

Sportswriters offer meaningless opinion on college football

From what I understand through browsing RSS headlines, the Associated Press today released a ranking of NCAA football teams based on the opinions of a set of sportswriters. I haven”t looked at it, because it”s meaningless. From the headlines, I”ve gathered that USC is ranked 1 and LSU is ranked 2, but so what? The Associated Press poll lost all of its relevance two years ago when the AP took itself out of the BCS formula. The AP ranking simply does not matter now.

Yet newspapers and TV network still use the AP ranking as context when they compare teams and promote matchups. That happens, I suppose, because these organizations are all members of the Associated Press. I imagine member media outlets are likely required to make the AP poll their main reference for rankings.

The only full-season human poll that matters is the USA Today / Coaches Poll, which is part of the BCS formula. When talking about Top 25 teams, that is the poll I reference for the simple fact that it”s the one that matters. I don”t particularly like the Coaches Poll (or, more precisely the Sports Information Director / Graduate Assistant / Anybody Other Than The Actual Coaches Poll) and put zero stock in pre-season polls. The herd mentality of human polls means teams ranked high to start the season have an unfair advantage through the season.

Whatever differences exist in the AP and Coaches polls now will fade away through the season as the two groups of biased humans try to get their polls aligned to add “validity” to the results. When the first Harris poll is released mid-season, it will no doubt mirror the AP or Coaches poll. The human Harris voters don”t look coldly at results and competition; they look at the existing rankings in the other human polls. That”s the flaw of humans, and the biggest flaw remaining in the BCS.

Jeff Notrica gets a tax-sale date

I reported back in May that the 2006 property taxes owed on East Atlanta parcels owned by Inman Park Properties and various Jeff Notrica entities totaled more than $92,000. And three months later, Notrica has trimmed his outstanding 2006 East Atlanta property tax bills down to $48,831 according to DeKalb County records, but also has a date with the tax sale man looming in October. According to county records, tax sales have been scheduled for 20 of Notrica”s East Atlanta parcels, with the outstanding tax balances for those properties reaching $48,224.90 (including a pre-2006 balance of $7,136.79 for 462 Flat Shoals Ave.). Tax sale notices starting springing up on Notrica properties this week.

Notrica owes 2006 taxes on two additional East Atlanta parcels not included in the October tax sale as well.

Of course, it”s unlikely that these parcels will actually be sold for unpaid taxes. More likely, Notrica will come up with the amount owed before the sale deadline. Then he can start rounding up the $130,047 owed for 2007 taxes. Those are supposed to be paid by September. We”ll see how long it takes to get those paid.

Jeff Notrica properties in East Atlanta scheduled for tax sales:

1257 Glenwood Avenue – $1,030 owed
1267 Glenwood Avenue – $1,072 owed
1269 Glenwood Avenue – $974 owed
1321 Glenwood Avenue – $2,543 owed
1331 Glenwood Avenue – $604 owed

529 Gresham Avenue – $1,085 owed
535 Gresham Avenue – $2,136 owed
440 Flat Shoals Avenue – $4,167 owed
462 Flat Shoals Avenue – $11,598 owed
512 Flat Shoals Avenue – $16,652 owed
535 Flat Shoals Avenue – $536 owed

567 Flat Shoals Avenue – $534 owed
1336 May Avenue – $485 owed
1342 May Avenue – $369 owed
1350 May Avenue – $369 owed
487 Haas Avenue – $1,607 owed
0 Joseph Avenue – $803 owed

0 Gresham Avenue – $351 owed
0 Glenwood Avenue – $1,042 owed
0 Glenwood Avenue – $276 owed

Alton Brown disappoints me

As loyal readers of The Wisdom know, I”m a big fan of Alton Brown and Good Eats (although the current season is kind of disappointing. Whole fish? No thanks. Didn”t even watch that episode). And I enjoyed the heck out of the first season of Feasting on Asphalt, Alton”s motorcycle tour / eating show.

But the first episode of Feasting II left me puzzled and hugely disappointed in Alton and the gang. Feasting II is a culinary motorcycle trip up the Mississippi River (on land, of course), which should yield a bounty of food and culture, at least until they reach Memphis. Episode 1 took the crew from the mouth of the Mississippi to just north of New Orleans, a slam dunk for a food show if there ever was one.

They blew it. Completely.

First of all, except for post-production voice-overs, Alton goes out of his way to not call Katrina by name. What”s that about? Driving from Venice to New Orleans, they show shots of land-bound shrimp boats and wrecked buildings, but only talk about the storm in vague phrases like “a very nasty lady” and “a little storm they had here a few years ago.” Strange, but whatever.

So the team rolls into New Orleans at dinnertime, and their restaurant of choice? Mulate”s. That”s right, Alton picked a tourist Cajun restaurant as his showcase of New Orleans cuisine. On the show, they”re surprised to find that the place is packed with tourists and decide they need a new plan. Alton announces that he has “the name of a place” that”s supposed to be “real” but it”s “not listed”. Unfortunately, they can”t find it and end up eating tourist Cajun food in the street.

How the hell do you plan a food show trip to New Orleans and end up at Mulate”s (which Alton couldn”t even pronounce – it”s MU-lots, not Moo-la-tays)? We”re talking about America”s great culinary city here. As hard as it can be to figure out what”s open when in the post-Katrina world, this is a professional production by a supposed student of culture and cuisine. Inexcusably lame.

Alton also doesn”t seem to understand that Louisiana isn”t sweet tea country. It”s not the South, Alton, it”s Louisiana.

The other place Alton visits in New Orleans is Big Fisherman on Magazine Street. OK, it”s a local place, but it”s also Cajun. And not that the Atchafalaya wouldn”t make for a darn fine road trip, but this is New Orleans. Go to Central Grocery and show the world a real muffaletta, head over to Franky & Johnny”s for some “yat lunch or, hell, head over to Cooter Brown”s. Anything would have been better than following the trip to the Cajun tourist trap with another Cajun place … and then splitting town.

Alton gave the nuanced and complex New Orleanian food experience the shaft, and he should know better.

The rest of the episode was pretty good, as they got out of New Orleans and found some good … Cajun food in Vacherie and … Cajun andouille sausage and hog”s head cheese in LaPlace.

Episode 2 premieres tomorrow night, and they”re headed toward Baton Rouge. Maybe they”ll find some Cajun food there.

Yes, we have a baby

As if I hadn”t abandoned The Wisdom enough already (don”t worry – football season is almost here), I find it pretty difficult to compose thoughts with a week-old baby to care for. But for any old friends who aren”t already aware of where to find pictures of the sweet little girl, drop me a line and I”ll let you know.

It looks good on you, though

With the 2007 football season a scant month away, I need to think about refreshing the old LSU merchandise closet. And with not having been in Louisiana since … I really can”t remember, I turned to for help. What I saw in the hat section disturbed me. No, not this:

Or even this:

… although both of those are pretty disturbing. What got me was this:

It”s a baseball hat featuring Mike the Tiger wearing a baseball hat. Too bad he”s wearing it backwards; I”m curious to know if his hat has a smaller version of himself wearing a hat.

Worse yet are the above hat”s brothers:

The camo (note, camo has no place in college athletics gear) hat with Mike wearing a purple hat:

And the mind-boggling white hat with Mike wearing a camo hat:

Can”t we just be happy with a simple hat with “LSU” on it?

This Sirius / XM plan I can endorse

So in hopes of getting their merger to go through, Sirius and XM are now pitching the idea of ala carte packaging of channels as a subscription option. As stupid as the idea of buying TV channels ala carte (ads and carry fees still pay the bills on most of cable, kids, so ESPN would cost you a whole heck of a lot more than Outdoor Life Network if all channels were optional), it makes perfect sense in commercial-free music.

Off the top of my head, I can rattle off maybe 20 channels (music and not music) on Sirius that I”m passionate about. I”m real passionate about a few (Underground Garage, Outlaw Country), but probably 60% of the music channels hold zero interest for me. Give me ESPN radio, etc. plus my favorite channels, and I can come up with 50 that”ll do me just right.

Of course, low take rates for those non-mainstream stations I like could spell doom for them, but I still hold my opinion that somebody looking for crap Top 40 or mainstream country ain”t the one looking to pay a monthly fee for music.

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