This is my message and I will shout it from every hilltop until this SU team proves me wrong: SU will be bowl-bound in 2010.I get that there are the nay-sayers out there who'll point out that there's always some nutbag that predicts SU will miraculously go 9-3 or 10-2 or 12-0 prior to every season. But I'm not that kind of nutbag, I'm the more reasonable kind with a few cashews and raisins mixed in. So here's a few more nuggets of wisdom to chew on as we gear up for this glorious thing we call summer training camp in a few weeks:
(Note to any rookies out there...brevity is not my strong suit)
7-5 in 2010 is not that much better than 4-8 in 2009: As ridiculous as that statement may sound at face value, lets break this thing down. Last season, SU beat 2 teams they should have (Akron, Maine) and lost to one team they shouldn't have (L'ville). By those same lines, I am going to assume SU will beat Akron, Maine and Colgate this year, and for the record, I will ALWAYS assume SU would beat these teams in any given season. If you can't roll with me on that, stop reading this, and please, stop rooting for SU (If Doug Marrone loses to Akron so help me I will be just as incensed as when Greggers did it in 2008...I don't care that its @ Akron this year and its the first game of the season. Folks, its f***ing Akron!). Since L'ville is a home game this year, I just don't see Charlie Strong taking his team into the Dome and stealing that one from us like they did last year. He might be a better coach than Kragthorpe, but I'm not giving him that much credit to beat us on our turf in his first year. So theres 4 wins right there.
Now, if SU is good for 2 wins over bowl teams at home in 2009 (Rutgers, N'western), I'm going to say the same for 2010. That's why I'm picking SU to take the UConn and BC games at the end of the season. No matter how well SU plays in 2010, I expect them to give both of these teams 60 minutes of pure hell, especially if SU's bowl hopes are still alive at this point. Homefield advantage is huge for these games as well.
Looking at the remaining 6 games- @ UW, @ USF, Pitt, @ WVU, @ Cincy and @ Rutgers, each one of those is a winnable game. I'm going to say SU will catch one team napping, and my pick is USF. Chances are also good that SU will play tough in most of these games, but expect a couple losses that shoulda-coulda-woulda been wins, kind of like we saw during the Minnesota, USF and L'ville games in 2009. Also, on the negative side, SU was 0-4 on the road in 2009, so don't be surprised to see a couple of all-out ass kickings away from the Dome either. And when you considering all of these factors discussed, if SU only manages to go 5-7 or 6-6, I really don't see that as an improvement over last season. This all might seem like an unreasonably high expectation, but I assure you, Doug Marrone's are much higher.
The Defense: As much as I believe Doug Marrone will get the offense clicking in 2010, much like he did to close out the season vs Rutgers and UConn in 2009, the defense is what will turn SU into a winning team this year. The defense that Shafer put together last season was the type I was expecting to see out of Greggers way back in 2005 (y'know, before we realized he was an imbecile). There are plenty of proven playmakers, so I look for the defense to improve over 2009 and will give Ryan Nassib and the offense more chances to put points on the board. My only real concern is depth at linebacker, but based upon the productivity from the 2009 recruiting class, my guess is that there'll be a couple of freshmen studs ready to step up.
In addition, as much of a believer I am in Doug Marrone, I am equally a believer in Scott Shafer. I think Doug realized he didn't have to worry about his defense with Shafer running things, therefore he could direct most of his attention towards righting the offensive woes thus naming himself OC. Given that is was Doug Marrones offense that won a Superbowl for the Saints, I think we're in for good things in the future. It will take some time, but for now, its the defense that will carry the load for the team, which is a job that they'll be well equipped to do.
Player Turnover and Recruiting: Now that we're in year two, I think we're to the point where all of that turmoil and player turnover from last season is behind us, not only to the point where is stops hurting the team but it actually works to SU's advantage. For now, it appears that Doug Marrone has cut out all the dead weight, allowing him to bring in the players he wants. I'll take the 31 newbies Doug Marrone reeled in over a roster full of the oafs he ran outta town. I still won't be surprised to see some of these guys pull a Shane Raupers or JohnMark Henderson, but based upon the precedent set by the 2009 class, there's sure to be some guys that fit the mold and will be ready to play. Any one of the recruits at linebacker could see instant playing time, for example. On offense, I'm expecting to see something from the TEs, not to mention which WR wants to be the next Alec Lemon. My sleeper pick for this class is Tyson Gulley. My guess is we'll see him fall in line behind Collier and Bailey, but expect him to get some solid time on special teams, which I think will also be vastly improved (we can't do too much worse on coverage teams, right?).
Anyways, just my .02 while we trudge through another week of summer. Though I despise EA Sports, I hope you all are enjoying your NCAA 2011. And by that I mean I hope over the last week SU has won the national championship at least 2,104 times and Ryan Nassib has collected 1,456 Heisman trophies. And it goes without saying I'm sure Rutgers has been beaten a combined score of 75,942 - 0. But I digress....