I sought the council of noted gambler Cornbread Rick,
the greatest money coach of all time - but he wouldn’t return my calls. I concluded he was less than
forthcoming. I consulted some
preseason rags; they actually give ‘rags’ a bad name. And I ran the CF.C servers &
computers 24/7, pouring over terabytes of data.
Clearly, its one of the more difficult topics I’ve
taken on to date. Still, I wasn’t
Because I have complete and unfettered access to one
of the most brilliant, innovative and perspicacious minds of our time. An individual so fearless, so ingenious,
so imaginary, he’s been lionized the world over in song, word, deed and
That’s right, baby: My imaginary friend,
Oh, we could give you the standard preview: All the
favorites snugly tucked away right where the “experts” slotted them. We could
give you the simplistic tripe you’ve already read. We could. But we won’t.
Jimmy and me, we mean to go out on an imaginary limb
with a few teams. We’re not
going overboard, but we’re not picking the favorites simply because some
Its go time.
Lets do it.
ARIZONA (2-10, 1-7)
Last season’s mutiny is still reverberating in
Tucson. But what is almost certain
to improve is the anemic running game.
Mike Bell and Clarence Farmer are battling for playing time at
TB. QB is unsettled; lefty Nic
Costa holds a slight edge over Ryan O’Hara. Injuries and academics have decimated
depth on the O-line. WR Lance
Relford will be counted upon to lead a young receiving
Defensively, the switch to a 3-4 means growing pains;
who starts & even what position many will play is in doubt. CB Michael Jolivette is the top
cover man. Joe Siofele heads
the LB crew. Both the new JC talent
and the veterans need time they don’t have to master the subtleties of
the new scheme. On the job training
at ‘Zona, and its going to be rough.
Brutal non-conference slate includes LSU, Purdue and TCU. Arizona ends with two of three at home,
all three in state, but by then the losses will have already piled
Player to Watch: RB Clarence Farmer. Lightning rod returns from knee injury
looking to reclaim starting role.
Farmer continues to voice undisguised animosity towards Mackovic - stay
The Jimmy Notes: Jimmy wonders if Mackovic will continue to damage
the legacy of a 34-year coaching career.
Year three of “Rebuild, What else?” includes the coaching staff;
more than half the assistants are new.
Jimmy thinks Jimbo Livengood should get Rick Dickson as a
consultant - complete his little Algonquin roundtable. Jimmy’s Doppler is picking up rain in
the desert. Pouring rain.
STANFORD (2-9, 1-7)
Playing 11 games means fewer losses for The Cardinal
this year! One returning starter on
offense could actually be good news down on The Farm. RB Kenneth Tolan must produce or
J.R. Lemon may be ready.
Signal caller Chris Lewis returns from injury but Kyle
Matter may claim the starter’s role.
Whoever it is better be fleet of foot; the OL needs time to
The defense has some talent but needs seasoning. The line (and D in general) should improve from
playing so many underclassmen last year.
DE Amon Gordon
continues to develop; he has all the tools. Solid Oshiomogho
Atogwe moves to FS, but holes
in the secondary will be exploited.
Linebacker is the strength with skill across the board. But Michael
Craven and crew shine
next year, not in ‘03.
Schedule: Trial by fire out of the Pac-10 gate
with road tests at UW, USC. Doesn’t
get easier, the only school they miss is Arizona. OOC opponents include Notre Dame &
Kirk Chambers. Lone
returning starter on Offense must help four new faces on the line by playing out
of his mind.
The Jimmy Notes: Jimmy
sees a team reminiscent of the 2000 Cougs.
Lots of losses, but right there at the end of several games. Jimmy thinks the D is improved after
gaining experience last season. How
good a coaching job Buddy Teevens does determines if Jimmy’s fully
convinced of the big Stanford turnaround in ‘04. Jimmy’s not sold on Teevens, not sure he
likes the cut of his jib.
OREGON (5-7, 2-6)
Two pretty good lines; and their talents look to be
wasted. No running back has
distinguished himself - LSU transfer Chris Vincent is the
frontrunner. Serious questions at
QB with Jason Fife (pictured)trying to hold off Kellen Clemens. Good bets to start at WR and TE out for
the year. Wideout Kellen
Taylor or someone else must step up; prevent teams from doubling star
Samie Parker. K Jared
Siegel is among the nation’s best.
Oregon ranked No. 6 in league in RYA, but don’t blame
the D-Line. Igor
Olshansky, Haloti Ngata and crew aren’t just good; they’re
damn good. Depth is a
concern, however. A new DB coach,
scheme and infusion of new players in the secondary; early results have not been
encouraging. Kevin Mitchell
is a monster LB but other two backers are green.
Lesser OOC competition abruptly ends when Michigan visits Autzen in Week 4. Oregon plays UW, ASU and UCLA on the
road. Good news, though: They miss
USC this year.
The Jimmy Notes: Jimmy
knows its seemingly madness a Bellotti-coached team falls this far. That said.. Welcome to hell, Duck
fans. Jimmy sees starter at QB
named by default.. Offense will have difficulty consistently moving the ball..
Secondary continues to get lit up.
And a talented line again wears down. Running game has looked worse than
expected in Camp. Double TE sets
are missing the bodies. Jimmy says
the Ducks don’t wait as long to begin the flameout in ‘03. Jimmy wonders why they didn’t scour the
police blotter for help on offense.
CALIFORNIA (5-8, 3-5)
The Golden Bears will be hard pressed to repeat the
magic of last season. Senior TB
returns from injury and has looked sharp.
is one of ten JC transfers cramming to learn the new system and looks to
start at QB. WR
Jonathan Makonnen leads a group
not quite where they need to be just yet.
The strength here, the
line, tries to seamlessly fold in two new starters - and be as good as they look
On D, the philosophy is to give
multiple looks, aggressively attack.
Players like JC transfer Joe Maningo will be turned loose at
linebacker. Redshirt freshman
Mixon has emerged as a shutdown
Cornerback. But the D returns only
two starters - major concerns in the secondary, at LB and on the line are for
real (especially at DE).
Schedule: Vicious non-conference schedule but they
miss WSU; get some tough foes at home.
Very young team but will field several former JC
Wilson. He’ll need to provide exceptional run
blocking if Cal has any shot at back-to-back winning
Notes: On paper, no way this team posts a .500
record let alone wins 5 games. Of
major interest to Jimmy: Cal’s special teams were huge last year - new personnel
steps in across the board. Still,
Jimmy sees Jeff
Tedford having the JCT’s and frosh
playing above their heads. Key for
Cal is how resilient they are after concluding the non-conference slate. And Jimmy was impressed by Tedford his
first year. So much so, Jimmy’s
Media Guide even mentions him this season.
COMING TOMORROW: Part II of the