2003 Pac-10 Preview, III

TROY BIENEMANN (Getty Images/Dunn)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL doesn't conform to a script. There will be upsets. Play it safe? No team falls to someone they're favored over? Not in this Preview. Not on my watch. And certainly not on Jimmy's.

Me and my imaginary friend Jimmy know underdogs can dance their way to Pasadena.  Teams often (indignantly) fall short of an expected coronation.  And teams finish shy of first, but still shake up the league.

 

Teams belonging to history have ZERO influence on the current squad.  It simply illustrates in this preview, where we feel an upset will occur - oh, we called it baby.   We seek no compromise.  Because me and Jimmy?  We are forthcoming. 

 

Lets all fear for our lives together, shall we?  Its go time Part III.  

 

No. 3 Arizona State  (9-3, 6-2)

QB Andrew Walter can go lights out on anyone but adjusts to life without his All-American WR.  Daryl Lightfoot, experienced Skyler Fulton look good, but work remains.  TE a drop off from last season, several players trying to fill roles.  Depth at RB but productivity questions; Mike Williams, Cornell Canidate among several vying for start/playing time.  LG Tim Fa'aita plus all starters return on O-Line.  Ground attack does just enough, Walter and wideouts don't have to be perfect to put up big points.

 

D-Line above average.  Still, miss Terrell Suggs who made everything go.  Lightning-fast 260 pound DT Brian Montesano one of strongest players; a testament to will & skill.  Concern at LB; Jamar Williams, Barton Hammit frontrunners to start in ASU's 4-2-5.  CB speed but coverage skills debatable.  Jason Shivers, Riccardo Stewart very solid at Safety - but other three spots very suspect.

 

Schedule: OOC opponents Iowa, N. Carolina, two waltzes.  Pac-10 slate difficult games on road in OSU, WSU.  ASU misses Washington.

 

PTW: LB Jamar Williams.  Guided missile must lead in the 4-2-5;diminish loss of senior backers.  Strong play last year but limited duty.

 

The Jimmy Notes:  Jimmy thinks a team of monkeys could coach better defense here.  And not astronaut monkeys either, just your group of everyday simians.  Jimmy fully acknowledges success & gives credit due the staff.  But Jimmy thinks it's a damn shame because talent resides on this D.  Fascination with all things Offense in Fall's Koetter & Ego catalog holds ASU short of Roses.  WR, TE steadily gain rapport with Walter.  Adequate running game just enough; keeps opponents honest.  Inconsistent D the difference.  Paging J. Fred Muggs.  J. Fred Muggs please report to the Ego in the desert.  Stat.

 

No. 2  WASHINGTON STATE  (9-3, 6-2)

Most starters set.  Athletic QB Matt Kegel must perform at higher level, doesn't need to be all-world; relatively strong Camp but Saturdays are benchmark.  RB Jermaine Green can take it to house every down.  JCT Chris Bruhn needs to learn system but has WSU buzzing.   LT Calvin Armstrong leads talented, veteran O-Line striving to reach elite level within grasp.  WR depth unproven after Devard Darling; Sammy Moore steps up, Chris Jordan will dazzle.   TE Troy Bienemann leads deepest position; all five capable of playing time.

 

D-Line will simply take over.  Strong, quick DEs and deep: Isaac Brown, D.D. Acholonu start, Adam Braidwood, Mkristo Bruce see plenty of snaps.  DT Tai Tupai looks to regain 2001 form, in best shape of career.  Phenom Will Derting leads LB corps but replacement needed for godsend Mawuli Davis at MLB.  Secondary is tight.  CB Jason David added amazing 20 pounds to frame; underrated S Erik Coleman will explode upon the scene.  Depth at corner untested.

 

Schedule:  Vicious.  OOC includes Notre Dame, Colorado on road, scrappy New Mexico.  Difficult Pac-10 slate but OSU, ASU, UCLA at home.  Misses Cal.

 

PTW: CB Karl Paymah.  Talk of Spring having stellar Camp.  Replacing star Marcus Trufant not expected but Paymah has all the tools to be one of the best by career end.  Speed to thrill.

 

The Jimmy Notes:  Bolton & Jimmy argued violently here.  Ultimately, everything must go perfectly for return to Pasadena; simply no room for error.  Jimmy sees Kegel alternating brilliance, inconsistency all season; and not necessarily corresponding to opposition level.  Jimmy says RB provides the heavy lifting on O.  TEs key contributors in receiving, plowing the road.  But Jimmy knows defense ultimately carries the day.  Jimmy stresses D won't tire as much; new ball control emphasis on O.  Coverage units yet to prove excellence but outstanding K, P, return men alone make special teams the X-factor.  Jimmy concludes D + running game = Victory while QB provides leadership, wins over fans.   

 

No. 1 Oregon State  (10-2, 7-1)

O-Line returns four and RB Steven Jackson tortures opponents.  1,656 yards rushing won't be repeated only because O more balanced.  QB Derek Anderson inconsistent yet still had solid numbers; looking very comfortable in new system emphasizing short/medium routes.  TE Tim Euhus leads wealth of talent at position. Look for double TE sets as often as 3 wides in the one back system.  James Newson unbelievable WR; not enough accolades - but depth a concern.  Several candidates in mix to step up alongside Newson.  Offense relentlessly wears opponents down with newly balanced attack.

 

Speed kills; this D has it.  MLB Richard Seigler is absolute terror, two new starters at LB but very experienced.  DE Bill Swancutt returns to veteran line with 21 TFL.  Secondary is an issue.  Two new corners will have growing pains.  S Mitch Meeuwson, Lawrence Taylor rock-solid but depth behind them thin.  Ultimately, Defense performs better than on paper; speed & quickness offset shortcomings in the secondary. 

 

Schedule:  OOC Fresno State, Boise State, two gift-wraps.  ASU,UW at home with WSU, USC,Civil War on road.  Seven home games and favorable non-con schedule significant.

 

PTW: WR Mike Hass continues outstanding Camp; pushing for either start/significant playing time.  Potentially huge; allowing Newson to shred defenses.

 

The Jimmy Notes:  Jimmy says D has enough swarm & speed to keep opponents down.  Jimmy thinks unit works exceptionally well together; sum of its parts far outshines individual talent breakdown.  D benefits enormously from ball control Offense; even more than WSU.  O will be tremendous; Jackson not only talented but capable workhouse when needed, good receiver out of backfield.  Physical WR Newson simply a star; put up great numbers with double, even triple teams.  Jimmy says if WR corps produces another threat, Newson puts up ungodly numbers.  K Kirk Yliniemi is money, P returns, special teams emphasized by Mike Riley; will be a strength.  Jimmy recognizes new coach concerns, but Jimmy cannot ignore this offense.  Its built for Roses.

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