Saturday, September 17, 2011

Canon Review Listamania: Top 10 Rookie Quarterbacks

Last Sunday, Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton made history in his first NFL start, passing for 422 yards in his first NFL game. Well, Newton's excellent performance got me to thinking about the best rookie quarterbacks in NFL history, and because I can, I decided to make a list of the top 10 Rookie Quarterbacks in the history of professional football. One of the things that I noticed while researching this list is that now more than ever, teams are relying on rookie quarterbacks a lot more often than they did 20 or 30 years ago. Sure, you get a few high draft picks like Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers that sit for a season or two, but in today's NFL, if a team spends a high draft pick and a whole lot of money on a quarterback, then chances are that that player is going to play. This year alone, both Newton and Cincinnatti's Andy Dalton started week one at QB, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if Tennessee's Jake Locker, Minnesota's Christian Ponder, and especially Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert got quite a few starts at quarterback this year. Consider this, from 2007-2010, there were nine rookie quarterbacks that started at least half of their team's games, which is almost as much as the number of rookie QBs that accomplished the same feat in the 1990s (11) and 1980s (10). What does this have to do with anything, you ask? Well, nothing really, I just found it kind of interesting. But don't be surprised if as a result, this list skews towards the more recent quarterbacks. Anyway, here is The Canon Review's Top 10 Rookie Quarterbacks.

Honorable Mention:

Dennis Shaw, 1970, and Vince Young, 2006: Both players did win the Rookie of the Year award during their first seasons, but neither player had a season that I'd say was great. Shaw, a former Buffalo Bill, was sixth in the NFL in passing yards with 2,507. However, his TD/INT ratio wasn't too hot (10/20) and his quarterback rating was a partly 65.3. Young may have had an 8-5 record as a starter, and he did add a lot of value with his running ability (552 yards, seven TDs). However, his performance as a passer (51.5 completion percentage, 12/13 TD/INT ratio), left something to be desired.

Peyton Manning, 1998: Guess who holds the NFL rookie records for passing yards and touchdown passes by a rookie? Quite obviously, it is Peyton Manning. So why in the world would I leave Peyton off a list of the top rookie quarterbacks? Well, despite his high yardage (3,739) and touchdown (26) totals, Manning wasn't quite the Peyton Manning that we would see on the field for the next decade or so. In 1998, Manning also threw for 28 interceptions, which was a factor in the Colts going 3-13 that year. So, because of his high interception total and somewhat pedestrian QB rating (71.2), Manning just misses the cut.

10. Sam Bradford, 2010, St. Louis Rams

Coming out of Oklahoma, there were some questions about how quickly Bradford would adjust to the NFL, especially since he was recovering from a severe shoulder injury. But Bradford showed to be a quick learner, and ended up starting all 16 games for the Rams last year and nearly leading them to a division title. In his rookie season, Bradford threw for 3,512 yards and set a new rookie record for most completions in a season with 354 on his way to winning the 2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. Bradford also became the first rookie quarterback to win consecutive Rookie of the Month awards (October and November) and set a rookie record for most consecutive passes thrown without an interception (169). All in all, a rather successful rookie season.

9. Charle Batch, 1998, Detroit Lions

Batch was the third quarterback selected in the 1998 Draft behind Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf, but it was Batch that was the most effective rookie quarterback that year. In 12 starts, Batch threw for 2,178 yards, had a nearly 2-1 TD/INT ratio(11-6), and his 83.5 QB rating is the sixth highest among NFL rookies with over 200 attempts. Batch also contributed to the Lions' cause with his feet, running for 229 yards and a touchdown. While Batch may not have had the career that Peyton Manning has had, at least he can say that he had the better rookie season.

8. Greg Cook, 1969, Cincinnati Bengals

In 1969, the Bengals thought they drafted their quarterback of the future when they made Cook their first round selection. At first, Cook did nothing to make the Bengals believe otherwise, as he won his first three starts. However, an injury to Cook's shoulder knocked him out of action for a few weeks, and with Cook out, the Bengals tumbled to the basement of the AFL Western Division. Even so, it was still a successful season for Cook, as he led the AFL in passer rating (88.3) and in completion percentage (53.8) despite playing most of the season with a torn rotator cuff. Cook was the AFL Rookie of the Year, but his shoulder injury was so severe that he never could regain his previous form, and only threw two more passes after his rookie season. Today, we can only speculate about what might have been had Greg Cook stayed healthy, but there's no doubt that he had a heck of a first season.

7. Otto Graham, 1946, Cleveland Browns

Graham served in the Coast Guard after starring at Northwestern, and didn't make his debut until 1946, where he was the quarterback for the AAFC's Cleveland Browns. Graham and the Browns took the new league by storm, as the Browns went 12-2 and won the first of their four straight AAFC League Championships. For his part, Graham was quite successful, finishing second in the league in passing yards (1,886) and first in touchdowns (17). His QB rating of 112.1 would have led the league if he had enough passing attempts, and would also be the fifth highest single-season total in pro football history. Yes, it was quite a year for Graham, but he does get penalized because the level of competition he was playing against wasn't exactly the strongest.

6. Charlie Conerly, 1948, New York Giants

Conerly was an All-American player at Ole Miss and the 1947 SEC Player of the Year, so the Giants had high hopes for their new quarterback. In his first season, Conerly not only met those hopes, but exceeded them, finishing 2nd in the NFL in completions (162), passing yards (2,175), touchdown passes (22), and QB rating (84.0). Not only did Conerly excel as a passer, he was also a dangerous running threat, running for five touchdowns. Even though he played over 50 years ago, only one other rookie has more touchdown passes than Conerly's 22. Despite Conerly's excellence, the Giants went 4-8, but Conerly still had a rookie season for the ages.

5. Joe Flacco, 2008, Baltimore Ravens

Coming out of 1-AA Delaware, Flacco was picked in the first round by the Ravens in the 2008 draft. In a surprising move, the Ravens made Flacco their opening game starter, and Flacco repaid the Ravens' confidence in him by leading them to victory in his first two starts. At the end of the season, the Ravens finished with an 11-5 record, and Flacco started each game, throwing for 2,971 and 14 touchdowns. Flacco was an efficient quarterback who completed 60 percent of his passes, and he finished the season with a QB rating of 80.3. The Ravens made the playoffs that year, and Flacco made history by becoming the first rookie quarterback to win two playoff games, both of which were on the road. While Flacco wasn't spectacular in each game, he was careful with the ball (0 turnovers) and led the Ravens down the field on their game winning drive against the Tennessee Titans in the second round. Yes, Flacco's Ravens were eventually beaten by the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, but it was quite an excellent first season for Flacco.

4. Matt Ryan, 2008, Atlanta Falcons

Despite Flacco's excellent rookie season, it was Matt Ryan that would win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award in 2008, and for good reason. The Falcons made Ryan the starter from day one, hoping that he would at least help to improve their 3-13 mark from last year. On his first pass, Ryan established himself as a player to watch, as he threw a touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins on a stunned Detroit Lions defense. From that moment on, Ryan was the man behind center in Atlanta, and he led the Falcons to a surprising 11-5 record and a spot in the postseason. Ryan also became the second rookie to throw for over 3,000 yards in a season (3,440) and put up very nice numbers in his rookie season (61.1 completion percentage, 16/11 TD/INT, 87.7 rating). Even though the Falcons lost their playoff game, Ryan made more history by completing 26 passes, a record for NFL rookies.

3.  Bob Waterfield, 1945, Cleveland Rams

At first glance, Waterfield's stats do not appear very impressive. He threw more interceptions than touchdowns (17-14), his completion percentage was 51.0%, and his QB rating of 72.4 doesn't look like anything to write home about. But 1945 wasn't exactly a banner year for passing, so Waterfield did quite well compared to his peers. He finished third in completions (89) and in passing yards (1,609), and his 14 touchdowns were tied for the most in the league. At the end of the season, Waterfield was named to the NFL All-Pro team, and led his Cleveland Rams to victory over the Washington Redskins in the NFL Championship game, making Waterfield the last rookie quarterback to lead his team to a title in the NFL, and is also the only rookie QB to win the NFL's Most Valuable Player award.

2. Dan Marino, 1983, Miami Dolphins

Marino was the sixth quarterback taken in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft when Miami picked him with the 27th pick. While the rest of his peers were either struggling or playing in the USFL, Marino thrived in his rookie year after taking over for David Woodley early in the season. This despite the fact that Woodley had led the Dolphins to the Super Bowl the prior season. But the Dolphins not only didn't miss a beat with Marino, they added a whole new element to their team, as Marino proved to be a much more skilled quarterback. At the end of the year, Marino led the Dolphins to a 12-4 record and a division title while throwing for 2,210 yards and 20 touchdowns while only throwing six interceptions. His 96.0 rating was third best in the league, and became the first rookie quarterback to be named the starter for the Pro Bowl.

1. Ben Roethlisberger, 2004, Pittsburgh Steelers

The number one quarterbacks on our list started the 2004 season as a backup to Tommy Maddox. But a week two injury to Maddox forced Roethlisberger into the lineup, and Roethlisberger never left. In fact, the Steelers went 13-0 with Roethlisberger as a starter that year, and finished the season with a franchise best 15-1 record, and a large part of that was the play of their rookie quarterback. Roethlisberger set rookie records for completion percentage (66.4) and quarterback rating (98.1), and finished in the NFL in both categories. He also passed for 2,621 and 17 touchdowns, while only throwing 11 interceptions. Not only that, but Roethlisberger proved to be a clutch performer, leading his team on five game winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. In the playoffs, Roethlisberger and his Steelers went all the way to the AFC Championship Game before falling to the Patriots. Nevertheless, it was a great year for Roethlisberger, who was named to the Pro Bowl and also won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Well, thanks for reading The Canon Review's list of the Top 10 Rookie Quarterbacks of All Time. Whether you agree or disagree, feel free to express your opinion on this article by leaving a comment on the blog. Also, if you have any requests for future posts, then send those along to me via e-mail at

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Your Canon Review 2011 NFL Preview

Hey, remember two or three months ago where we all wondered whether there would be an NFL season? Well, the players and owners agreed on a new labor deal just in the nick of time, and football season is back in full force. After one of the more chaotic seasons in recent memory, it remains to be seen just how things will play out. The Philadelphia Eagles made a huge splash in free agency, but can all those new players gel in time to excel in the regular season? Will the Packers repeat as Super Bowl champions, or will they take a step back? Will the Colts' Peyton Manning be healthy enough to play, or is this a lost season for the Colts? What crazy statement will Rex Ryan make next? All this and more will be discovered in the next few months. In the meantime, here's one man's opinion on what will go down during the 2011 NFL season.

AFC East (*=Wild Card)
1. New England Patriots
2. New York Jets*
3. Miami Dolphins
4. Buffalo Bills

This is really going to be a two team division. The Patriots went 14-2 last season before falling to the Jets in the playoffs. In the offseason, they picked up Chad Ochocinco to provide a downfield threat on offense and a plethora of veteran defensive linemen, including former All-Pro Albert Haynesworth. If the veterans work out, then the Patriots could be the best team in the NFL, and if not, then Tom Brady and company are still good enough to win at least 11 games. Last year, I predicted the Jets to falter, and I was wrong. So I'm not making the same mistake twice. Yes, QB Mark Sanchez can be inconsistent, but the Jets still have a strong running game and a top-notch defense led by CB Darelle Revis and MLB David Harris. So, expect the Jets to make the playoffs as a wild card once again. The Dolphins are a middle of the road team with a few stars such as OT Jake Long and OLB Cameron Wake. But they have an inconsistent QB in Chad Henne and not enough playmakers on either side of the ball to finish with more than an 8-8 record. I read a stat the other day that of the 24 players expected to start for the Bills (including kicker and punter), 22 were on the team last year, the highest total in the league. That's great, but then again these same players were on a 4-12 team last year, so I don't see a lot of improvement in Buffalo this year.

AFC North
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
2. Baltimore Ravens*
3. Cleveland Browns
4. Cincinnati Bengals

The Steelers went all the way to the big game last year, and with many of their key players back this year, they should be a contender once again. Sure, defenders such as NT Casey Hampton and MLB James Farrior may be a little over the hill, but any defense with OLBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley and S Troy Polamalu should not be taken lightly. Much like the Steelers, the Ravens also feature a top-notch defense with a few players (MLB Ray Lewis for one) that are closer to the end of their careers than the beginning. Both teams should fight for the division lead all year, but the Steelers' superior offense should provide the difference. The Browns have a new head coach in Pat Shumar, and QB Colt McCoy showed promise last year, but they still seem a year away from contention. The Bengals are a hot mess, and unless rookies WR A.J. Green and QB Andy Dalton can impress quickly, it's going to be a long season in Cincinnati.

AFC South
1. Tennessee Titans
2. Houston Texans
3. Indianapolis Colts
4. Jacksonville Jaguars

The injury of Colts QB Peyton Manning has made this division a wide open race. While the Texans have become the popular pick due to their explosive offense and new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, I'm picking the Titans here. For one, they were much better than their 6-10 record last season, and they have stability at the quarterback position with the signing of Matt Hasselbeck. Add that to superstar running back Chris Johnson and a solid defense, and I think the Titans will surprise some folks and take the AFC South. The Texans have a great offense with QB Matt Schuab, RB Arian Foster and WR Andre Johnson, but the question in Houston is can Phillips improve last year's horrendous defense. At least he has DE/OLB Mario Williams and LBs Brian Cushing and DeMeco Ryans to build around. The Colts could still contend, but that will all depend on how quickly Peyton Manning comes back. If he misses six games, the Colts are probably finished. Jaguars' coach Jack Del Rio is in danger if the team doesn't make the playoffs, and this bunch doesn't have the look of a playoff team, especially with the curious decision to start Luke McCown at quarterback. At least Jaguars fans can enjoy the running of Maurice Jones-Drew, but they won't enjoy many victories.

AFC West
1. San Diego Chargers
2. Denver Broncos
3. Kansas City Chiefs
4. Oakland Raiders

If it weren't for a historically bad season on kick coverage, the Chargers would have ran away with the division last year. So no team is probably happier that kickoffs have moved up five yards this season, making things a lot easier for the coverage. The Chargers are clearly the most talented team in the division, providing that TE Antonio Gates is healthy, and only their self-destructive tendencies can keep them from winning the AFC West this year.  The Broncos weren't very good last year, but Josh McDaniels is gone and John Fox is in. Plus, they should have an improved pass rush with the return of OLB Elvis Dumervil and the selection of OLB Von Miller. With QB Kyle Orton and WR Brandon Lloyd leading a strong passing attack, the Broncos will sneak up on some teams this year. The Chiefs used a weak schedule and some luck to win the AFC West last year, and I don't see it happening again this year. Sure, they have some stars in RB Jamaal Charles, OLB Tamba Hali, and WR Dwayne Bowe, but everything broke right for the Chiefs last year, and there is no way they'll get that lucky again this year. The Raiders took a step forward last year, then took a step backwards in the offseason by firing coach Tom Cable and losing key players such as CB Nmandi Asomugha. Even with RB Darren McFadden, the Raiders are more likely to stumble back to the basement of the division then take a leap to the lead.

NFC East
1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. Dallas Cowboys
3. New York Giants
4. Washington Redskins

With the signings of CB Nmandi Asomugha, RB Ronnie Brown, DE Jason Babin and others, the dunderheads at ESPN have begun to refer to the Eagles as a 'Dream Team'. Well, I'm not sure about that, but they are good enough to repeat as division champs, even if QB Michael Vick takes a slight step back from his career year last season. The Cowboys have a new defensive coordinator in Rob Ryan, and the best pass rusher in the league in OLB DeMarcus Ware. Their defense should be better, but can Felix Jones be the workhorse at running back the Cowboys need? Either way, I see them falling just short of the postseason. The Giants are already banged up on defense, especially in the secondary. Considering that pass defense was already a problem for the Giants, this does not bode well. Despite QB Eli Manning's best efforts, the Giants are not going to see the postseason this year, and we may see the end of Tom Coughlin in New York. The Redskins are starting the season with Rex Grossman as their quarterback, which is all you really need to know about their chances this year.

NFC North

1. Green Bay Packers
2. Minnesota Vikings*
3. Detroit Lions
4. Chicago Bears

This is probably the only division in which all four teams have a legitimate shot at a playoff berth. Even though the Packers suffered a ton of injuries last year, from RB Ryan Grant to TE Jermichel Finley to now departed MLB Nick Barnett, the Packers won the Super Bowl anyway, thanks in large part to QB Aaron Rodgers' emergence as a superstar. They've definitely got the talent to repeat as champs, but will they? I admit, I'm a little higher on the Vikings than others. But this year they've got a coach the team actually likes in Leslie Fraizer, plus talented players such as RB Adrian Peterson, DT Kevin Williams, and OLB Chad Greenway all return. Not to mention that QB Donovan McNabb is now in town, and even though last year was his worst year as a pro, it was still much better than the year Brett Favre had. McNabb should be fine in Minnesota, and the Vikings will make the playoffs as a Wild Card. The Lions are getting a lot of hype this season, and with WR Calvin Johnson and DT Ndamukong Suh, it's easy to see why. But let's hold off on the hype just a little until we can see what QB Matthew Stafford can do in a full season and until their poor secondary can improve. The Bears are getting a little over the hill on defense, and their offensive line is questionable at best. Yes, this team won the division last year, but much like the Chiefs, every break went the Bears way last year. So unless QB Jay Cutler becomes the next Aaron Rodgers, then don't expect to see the Bears in the postseason.

NFC South
1. New Orleans Saints
2. Atlanta Falcons*
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. Carolina Panthers

The Saints had two problems last year, running the ball and stopping the run. Well, in the offseason, the Saints went out and got RBs Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles to run the ball, and DTs Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin to stop the run. With QB Drew Brees back to propel the Saints high powered offense, and a defense that is both stronger and faster than last season's model, the Saints are the best team in the division, and maybe the league. The Falcons won 13 games last season, and have WR Julio Jones join a high powered offense that includes QB Matt Ryan, WR Roddy White, and RB Michael Turner. I wish they had done more to improve their secondary, but the Falcons should make the playoffs for two consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history. The Bucs used an easy schedule and the emergence of QB Josh Freeman to propel themselves to a 10-6 record. With a tougher schedule, they might take a step back this year, but if the Falcons or Saints slip up, then the Bucs are more than capable of taking advantage. The Panthers have a new coach in Ron Rivera and a new quarterback in Cam Newton. Plus, they should be healthier this season. They'll win more than 2 games this year, but probably not much more than five.

NFC West
1. San Francisco 49ers
2. St. Louis Rams
3. Arizona Cardinals
4. Seattle Seahawks

Maybe I'm crazy or just plain dumb, but I like the 49ers chances this year. Yes, QB Alex Smith hasn't proven to be anything but a bust thus far, but now he finally has an offensive minded head coach in Jim Harbaugh and with the addition of WR Braylon Edwards to a group that includes WR Michael Crabtree and TE Vernon Davis, Smith finally has a group of receivers that are at least adequate, provided that everyone is healthy.  Not to mention that he still has RB Frank Gore behind him, and a solid defense led by MLB Patrick Willis and DE Justin Smith. Perhaps most importantly, this division isn't that good, and they have a much easier schedule than the Rams, so for those reasons, I'm picking the 49ers as division champs. The Rams aren't going to go quietly though, and with an improved set of receivers led by WR Mike Sims-Walker, QB Sam Bradford could emerge as the next great quarterback this season. The Cardinals have a new quarterback in Kevin Kolb, and even if he isn't the long term answer, he has to better than the group that was there last year. Their defense is full of question marks, however, even with the solid play of DT Darnell Dockett and SS Adrian Wilson. The Seahawks won the division last year, and I guess they could do it again. But is anybody really sold on Tavaris Jackson being the answer at QB? This team was lucky to win seven games last season, and if anything they've only gotten worse. I could be wrong, but I don't see Seattle winning more than five games this season, and Jackson will lose his starting job by week 9 to Charlie Whitehurst.

Super Bowl Picks:

In the AFC, the Patriots and Jets will fight it out all season for conference supremacy, and that fight will commence at the AFC Championship Game. For the third straight season, the Jets will reach the Championship Game, and for the third straight season, they will fall short, as the New England Patriots will return to the Super Bowl. In the NFC, despite challenges from Philadelphia and Atlanta, the Saints and Packers will emerge as the two top teams in the conference. Interestingly enough, they play tonight in the first game of the season, and will also play in the last game of the NFC season. Unlike tonight's game, this one will take place at the Superdome, and the Saints will win a close one. As for the big game, the Patriots and Saints will light up to scoreboard in Indianapolis, but at the end, the New Orleans Saints will win their second Super Bowl in three years.


1. Drew Brees, QB, Saints
2. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
3. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
Dark Horse: Chris Johnson, RB, Titans

With the possible exception of Peyton Manning, nobody is more important to their team than Drew Brees is to the Saints. This year, he proves that and wins his first MVP. Rodgers established himself as an elite quarterback last year, and will do nothing to disprove that status this year, putting up excellent numbers and leading the Pack to many victories. Tom Brady was last year's MVP, and if WR Chad Ochocinco has anything left, then Brady will have another top-notch receiver to throw to, which is the last thing opposing defenses want to hear. If the Titans are going anywhere this season, then Chris Johnson will have to play up to his new contract and carry them. If the past three years are any indication, he's more than capable of doing so, and another 2,000 yard season is not of reach for Johnson.

NFL Defensive Player of the Year:

1. Clay Matthews, LB, Packers
2. Patrick Willis, LB, 49ers
3. Ed Reed, S, Ravens
Dark Horse: Cameron Wake, LB, Dolphins

Matthews may have been the best defensive player in the league last year, and he played much of the season hurt, so imagine what chaos he will cause opposing offenses when he's healthy. Expect a huge year from Matthews. Willis has been an elite defender for a number of years now, and if the 49ers perform as I expect they will, Willis will get a lot of recognition nationwide, fitting for the best MLB in the NFL. Reed played 10 games last year, and still picked off eight passes. As long as he's on the field, Reed's going to make a ton of big plays for the Ravens. Wake had 14 sacks last year for the Dolphins, and there's no reason to believe he won't at least repeat last year's performance, if not exceed it.

NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year:
1. Mark Ingram, RB, Saints
2. Daniel Thomas, RB, Dolphins
3. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
Dark Horse: Cam Newton, QB, Panthers

Even though he might share time with Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, expect Ingram to emerge as the Saints' workhorse in the backfield this season. With opponents gearing up to stop the Saints' passing game, Ingram's going to face a lot of favorable defenses, and he has the talent to take advantage. I wouldn't be shocked if Ingram had over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Thomas is going to get the bulk of the Dolphins carries this year, so as long as he's healthy, he should have a shot to put up big numbers this season. The Falcons traded a whole lot of draft picks to get Jones, and they didn't select him with the intention of sitting on the bench for a season. Even though rookie WRs tend to struggle, Jones could be one of the exceptions to the rule, especially since coverages will be shaded more to Roddy White. Newton's going to be the starter from the get go in Carolina, whether he's ready or not. Yes, he has some work to do, but remember, Vince Young won the Rookie of the Year Award, and Newton is more developed at this stage than Young was. I'm not saying it will happen, but it's not hard to see Newton throwing for 3,000 yards and running for 500 more.

NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year:
1. Von Miller, LB, Broncos
2. Marcell Dareus, DE, Bills
3. Patrick Peterson, CB, Cardinals
Dark Horse: Robert Quinn, DE, Rams

Like nearly everyone else, I expect big things from Miller in his rookie season. He has the talent to be the next DeMarcus Ware or Derrick Thomas and be and unblockable force. If he doesn't get 10 sacks this season, I'll be surprised. Dareus is just what the doctor ordered for the Bills, a run stopping force on their D-Line. He'll be someone opposing lineman worry about from the word go. Peterson will be tested early and often as the Cardinals' new cornerback, but make no mistake about it, he has the chance to be a top notch player. In a rookie crop full of quality defensive linemen, Quinn may be the most athletically gifted of the bunch. If he can adjust to the speed of the NFL game, then Quinn has an outside chance at snatching this award.

Well, thanks for reading The Canon Review 2011 NFL Preview. Hopefully, I'll be more accurate this year than my college preview looks to be (Darn Oregon Ducks). Anyway, if you have a comment about this topic or the blog, than share by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

Friday, September 2, 2011

Your Canon Review 2011 College Football Preview

Just like The Canon Review is back in action, so too is college football, and none too soon. After a tumultuous offseason that featured scandals from many top programs, including Ohio State and Miami, and more conference musical chairs, the 2011 college football season gets underway tonight. This year should be a rather historic year, as Nebraska makes their Big Ten debut and the Pac-10 debuts as the Pac-12 with the additions of Utah and Colorado. Also, 2011 will mark the last year of Texas A&M in the Big 12, and who the heck knows who the next team to change conferences will be? So, how will this season play out? Well, read on to see one man's opinion about how the 2011 College Football season will shape up.

ACC: Realistically, the race for the ACC Title should be between two teams. Sure, Georgia Tech may make things interesting with their option attack, and Maryland and Clemson both possess solid football teams, but ultimately, Virginia Tech in the Coastal Division and Florida State in the Atlantic Division. True, both teams are starting new quarterbacks (Logan Thomas for VT, E.J. Manuel for FSU), but these two squads are far and away the most talented in the Atlantic Coast Conference. At the end of the day, look for these two teams to meet in the ACC Championship Game once again, and once again, look for Virginia Tech and their plethora of playmakers (HB David Wilson, WR Jarrett Boykin, CB Jayron Holsey among them) to win the ACC Title once again.

Big East:  Last year the Big East failed to produce a Top 25 team, while the WAC and C-USA produced two top 25 teams apiece. While this should call into question the Big East's automatic qualifier status in the BCS, chances are that 2011 will be a stronger year all around for the Big East. West Virginia has a new coach in Dana Holgorsen and a top-natch QB in Geno Smith. Meanwhile, Pitt also has a new coach in Todd Graham, and the conference's best defensive player in LB Brandon Lindsey. South Florida has a rising star in coach Skip Holtz, but QB B.J. Daniels must show more consistency. UConn is the defending champ and brings back a slatwart defense, but may have suffered too much losses in the offseason. Ultimately, West Virginia is the best team in the conference, and they should emerge with the Big East title despite tough challenges from Pitt, South Florida, and a Syracuse team that is on the rise.

Big 12: The Big 12 starts it's first year with ten teams, and with Texas A&M jumping ship after the year, who can tell what this conference will look like next year. Speaking of A&M, they would love to leave the Big 12 with a conference title in their belts, and with 18 starters returning from last year's squad, they may just have the horses to pull it off. Oklahoma State may have the best QB-WR combo in the nation with Brandon Weeden firing passes to Justin Blackmon, but once again, their defense is a question mark. Texas is the traditional power, but it remains to be seen if Garrett Gilbert is the answer at quarterback. However, nobody's going to beat out Oklahoma this year. True, they end the season with a road date at Oklahoma State, but the Sooners are primed and ready to capture the conference title for the fifth time in the last six years. With QB Landry Jones and WR Ryan Broyles back on offense, and a strong defense led by lineman Frank Alexander and LB Travis Lewis, Oklahoma is the most well rounded team in the conference and maybe the entire nation.

Big Ten: The Big Ten starts it's 12 team era this year, and have split up into the Legends and Leaders divisions. Silly names aside, the Big Ten is as deep as it's ever been with Nebraska joining the fold. The conference's two traditional powers, Ohio State and Michigan, look to be in rebuilding mode this year, but each squad still has a lot of talent and could make things interesting in the Big Ten. Northwestern could be a factor if QB Dan Persi can come back from injury, while Iowa could make things difficult in the Legends division behind rising star RB Marcus Coker. Nebraska comes in with a top-notch defense led by DT Jared Crick, but I'm not exactly sold on QB Taylor "T-Magic" Martinez. So, I predict that Michigan State, led by QB Kirk Cousins and RB Edwin Baker, will emerge out of the Legends Division. The team that they'll face is the Wisconsin Badgers. True, they have a new quarterback, but that quarterback is an accomplished three-year starter in NC State transfer Russell Wilson, who will have a strong running game powered by James White to support him. Look for Wisconsin to win the first Big Ten Championship Game and return to the Rose Bowl.

Pac 12: Colorado and Utah make their Pac-12 debuts this year in the Pac-12 South, but the real power of this conference resides in the North, where two national title contenders reside. Oregon made it all the way to the National Title game last year, and both QB Darren Thomas and RB LaMichael James return to power the Ducks' quick strike offense. Meanwhile, Stanford may have lost coach Jim Harbaugh to the NFL, but QB Andrew Luck decided to return for his senior season, giving the Cardinal a heck of a chance to capture the Pac-12. The two meet at Stanford on November 12, and the winner of this game will likely win the Pac-12 North. I'm saying that that team will be Oregon. In the South, USC would be the logical choice to win the division, but they can't play in the conference title game due to NCAA violations. While Arizona State has a strong offense and a solid defense led by LB Vontaze Burfict, Utah also has a strong team and an experienced quarterback in Jordan Wynn. Perhaps more importantly, Utah has a favorable schedule that does not include Oregon or Stanford, and so they're my pick to represent the Big 12 South in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Utes won't avoid the Ducks forever, and look for Oregon to capture the title.

SEC: In a stat you've probably heard before, the SEC has produced the last five National Champions. Well, I say that there will not be a sixth, but that's for later. The SEC East may come down to a week two matchup between Georgia and South Carolina, and while Georgia has a solid QB in Aaron Murray and an improved defense (at least if you believe the hype coming out of Athens), South Carolina has the better team and the best player in RB Marcus Lattimore. As long as Carolina doesn't trip up too many times and QB Stephen Garcia can stay consistent, the Gamecocks should repeat as SEC East champions. In the West, it is conceivable that last year's national champions, the Auburn Tigers, could finish fifth in the division this year. Yes, it's that loaded. Mississippi State returns 15 starters from last year's surprising team, and Arkansas may have lost RB Knile Davis for the season, but still have plenty of offensive talent left over with WR Greg Childs and QB Tyler Wilson. Down in Baton Rogue, LSU expects to contend for a national title, and have the squad that may just do it. However, Alabama is once again loaded, with perhaps the nation's best defense and a star in RB Trent Richardson. Plus, they get LSU and Arkansas at home this year, so that's a plus. Look for Alabama to emerge out of the SEC with the conference championship, but they'll suffer one loss along the way and will be on the outside of the National Championship game.

Other Conferences: In the Mountain West Conference, Boise State joins just in time for TCU to blow town next year. The two will meet up this year on the blue turf in Boise, and look for Boise State to not only win that battle, but also the conference. Meanwhile, Boise State's departure has left the WAC a wide open race, with Nevada, Fresno State, and Hawaii as the favorites. Out of the quagmire, I look for Hawaii and their high-powered offense led by QB Bryant Moriz to emerge as champions. Last year, I picked Houston to win C-USA primarily because of QB Case Kessum, and then he got hurt. Well, this year, he's back, and despite strong squads in SMU, Central Florida, and Tulsa, I'm jumping back on the bandwagon and going with Houston. In the MAC, Toledo returns 16 starters, including star WR Eric Page, so they're my choice. In the Sun Belt, Troy and FIU are the two teams above the rest of the conference, and at the end of the day, I'm taking Troy to win the conference. As for Notre Dame, look for them to win eight or nine games and be a constant presence in the Top 25, but fall short of a BCS bid.

National Championship: As I said before, I think the SEC is so tough this year that no team is going to come out undefeated, not even Alabama. I think Boise State has a very good chance to go undefeated this year, but I think that they'll be on the outside looking in. Look for Oregon and Oklahoma to both emerge undefeated at the end of the regular season and meet in the National Championship game. At the end of the day, Oregon will learn from last year's experience, and emerge as the 2011 National Champions, provided of course that they don't have it taken away from them due to NCAA violations.

Heisman Candidates: Stanford QB Andrew Luck is perhaps the best player in college football and the obvious preseason favorite for the Heisman, but as we've seen before, the preseason favorite doesn't always come home with the trophy at the end. Since I expect Oklahoma and Oregon to compete for the title, it would stand to reason that Oregon's RB LaMichael James and Oklahoma QB Landry Jones would also top contenders. Alabama RB Trent Richardson and South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore could also emerge, while Michigan QB Denard Robinson is perhaps the most exciting player in college football. It would be a mistake to leave Boise State QB Kellen Moore out of contention, as he should once again be a top-notch performer as he tries to set the NCAA all time record for wins by a quarterback. Ultimately, I think that Landry Jones is going to emerge as the Heisman winner, with Luck finishing a close second. The top five contenders are:

1. Jones
2. Luck
3. Richardson
4. James
5. Moore
Dark Horse: Lattimore

Well, that's it for the 2011 College Football Preview. Hopefully, I'll get at least a few of these picks right. Thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this post, then share them either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at