The View From Section 241 -- Preseason Prediction | The Boneyard

The View From Section 241 -- Preseason Prediction

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So Sunday afternoon, blacked out at home, I spent over an hour typing only to be kicked off the internet before I could post. So now starting again, and it will be somewhat abridged.

Since I started following (o.k., becoming obsessed with) UConn football when they moved to the Rent, I have never had a hard time seeing how good the team would be for the upcoming year. I think my predictions have been within a game of the outcome for a number of years running (thought if someone wants to check and prove me wrong, go fot it -- I'm too lazy). This year, however, I have very little idea what to expect. and am not at all confident with what I am predicting. Let me then run through the three reasons I'm just not seeing this year's team clearly, some of which are obvious but some of which may not be, and then we'll hazard a number.

The most obvious reason that this team is hard to predict is the uncertainty at QB and TB, the two most important positions for a college football team. Yes, this is college, and yes, you change your QBs and TBs frequently, but we've always known more than we know now. When Tyler came to the program, we know he was good enough that a returning starter got shifted almost immediately to another position. When Zach and Cody took over in '09, we had seen each of them start due to injuries. This year, we know nothing. I am somewhat comforted that everyone seems to have beaten out Michael Box, as when I combine this with the facts that Box did beat out Zach at one point last year and how poor the QB play was, I intellectually believe that our QB play should be better. But I'm not convinced it will be Big East average, or that turnovers won't go way, way up. At TB, we had seen Todman and Dixon while the Donald was there. We had seen the Donald before he became the man in '08. This year, we have a senior with only a few carries playing his third position in college ball and a freshman who wasn't that heavily recruited. Obviously, I don't expect either to replace Todman. If Terry Richardson was back, I'd say we've never had less than good TB play, no matter whom we've plugged in, so why should that start now. But again, whether we will be conference average is a big unknown.

Second, without getting into whether P will ultimately be better than our former coach, because it's not particularly relevant at the moment, we don't know how the team will react in the first year of a new staff. Generally, teams move backwards even if the coach is good, as the players have to relearn almost everything and the new coaches have to fit another coach's players into the way they gameplan and scheme. Now, I'm hoping there is less of a negative effect here for two reasons. One is that there is a large amount of continuity in the staff, if not the three guys (P, Deleone and Brown) making all the decisions, and the second is that some of Edsall's biggest strengths -- players working their butts off in the offseason to improve and playing good, solid fundamental football -- shouldn't just disappear with a new coach. And, I'm certainly hoping that on some side of the ball we see some schematic advantages. But this is a big uncertainty as well.

The third reason for my uncertainty is the least obvious, but the most important to deal with in making a prediction. Normally, when you make a prediction, you determine how good you were last year, look at the schedule compared to last year's, look at your personnel changes, and determine if you will be better or worse than last year and by how much. But how good were we last year? It is very hard to answer that because of how schizophrenic this team was. Were we the 3-4 team that, frankly, sucked, and then we had a lucky run? Were we the 5-0 team that, while limited in its passing game, played exactly right for the weapons we had and was (make no mistake) the best team in the Big East? Or was neither the start or the finish of the season "who we were" and in fact we were an 8-4 team. Answer that and you can make a prediction.

So who were we? Despite the negativity thrown out by those who couldn't stand the thought that our former coach might be accomplishing something, I believe we were the 5-0 team that couldn't dominate good Big East teams but could get the W. I attribute the 3-4 start (without removing any responsibility for it from the coaches) to something just not being right mentally. I don't know exactly what that was. Was it the emotional hangover from Jasper's death and the rollercoaster finish to '09? The team not reacting well to Edsall as a position coach? The team not dealing with the Cody soap opera? Unable to deal with preseason expectations for the first time ever? An attitude that was too businesslike and not enthusiastic enough? Or my personal favorite, which is that we were too high for Michigan and when they beat us we took a shot to the solar plexus that we never recovered from until we got a week off? I don't know, but I know that the body language was totally different when they came out under the lights to play WVU, and I'm going to operate from the belief that it was that second half team that was what we were.

If you do that, then we have nine returning D starters (and a lot of backups as well), all 3 kickers and our top KR/PR on specials, and an offense that returns roughly 6 starters with major holes at the skill positions. Our combined D and specials I expect to be the best in the league. The offense may be the worst, but that doesn't mean the combination won't be fine. This offense on paper could have been the best team in the conference if Cody, the Bus, Smitty, Todman and Frey were still here, but they're not and, overall, I see a small combined personnel downgrade so long as the QB and TB play is o.k. I put a small negative on this year with the coaching change, but not a big one. But those facts are balanced by the fact that our schedule is much easier. We have 7 home games, our OOC schedule is the weakest I ever remember, and the conference starts the year with one borderline ranked team. Playing Cincy, Pitt and WVU on the road may make it harder to win the conference title than the years we get those schools at home, but the schedule makes it very easy to put up a solid, winning record if the team comes through.

If you look at the schedule, I divide the games into five categories. We should win at Buffalo and home to Fordham and WMU even if we don't play well. I expect us to be solid favorites at Vandy and home to ISU, Louisville and Rutgers. The home game against Syracuse, if played opening week, would be viewed as a toss up. I expect us to be underdogs, with a reasonable shot, at Pitt and Cincy and home to USF. And I don't see us winning at WVU.

So I add that all up, take a dose of optimism, and say we go 8-4. If the QB play is average and the TB play is above average, and we have a borderline Top 25 team in talent, 10-2 is not a stretch against this schedule. On the other hand, if QB play doesn't improve from last year and we struggle running the ball, 5-7 is not impossible. But I'll say 8-4, with P using Edsall's players, a Sagarin in the 40s, and P then needing to show his impact on the program next year when TCU enters the league and our OOC schedules become much harder.

80 hours or so until kickoff. I can't wait.
 

CTMike

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Good write up, BL... Couldn't agree more.
 
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hard to believe this is the abridged version;)

i'm actually encouraged that Box is transferring. i don't have anything against him and he has my thanks for playing for us, but that he's transferring tells me that the 3 options we have remaining are markedly better than last year. if he were equally in the mix that would tell me we're almost certainly going to be in the same boat as last year in terms of talent level at QB. hopefully i'm correct and and we'll be a little more settled at the position.
 
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Seems like a pretty accurate assessment to me. I'm not sure I'll buy that P was a minor downgrade because there is just so much we don't know. However, i can agree with the rest of the sentiments. I especially agree that with average QB play and above average RB play, we can be a very, very good team. Maybe not "beating WVU in Morgantown" good, but good. Depending on whether or not they're overhyped as well.

Can't believe we're only 3 days away from the first tailgate of the year. Can't wait.
 
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Agree with almost everything. You can tell me we'd be 5-7 or 10-2 and I wouldn't call you crazy.
 
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At the beginning of the year everybody will force us to throw and I think we will be diappointed with turnovers. We will see whether the O can make progress and the D & ST can help keep us in games. It's a formula.

I don't think the offense could be any worse than the last 12 or so quarters of last year. I expect that DeLeone's offense will be less predictable and much harder to defense than anything we have seen at UCONN. We won't get in these funks where the offense does nothing. They will take more risks and we will endure the learning curve. Sure, they will make mistakes (both coaches and players) getting used to this offense and defense, but at the end of the year we should have a better more balanced team and a developed QB.

I'll say 8-4 too. Think that we will take care of it at home and VANDY, while tougher at their place should be a W.
 
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I'll say 8-4 since I'm an optimist.

4-1 in OOC - not sure if we lose to Vandy (I really hope not) or Iowa State but think 1 loss is likely given the unknowns and related growing pains on offense.

4-3 in BE - I see at WVU, USF (they are overdue against us), and Louisville as L's. At Pitt, Cuse, Rutgers and at Cinci should be W's based on my reading of the camp / pre-season coverage.

Thursday cannot come soon enough!
 
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Wow! 8-4 Biz? Really?

Anyway, let me start by posting that I never predict a loss and, therefore, by inference, my OFFICIAL prediction is 12-0 and a win in the National Championship Game. A Husky first ever national championship in football.

With that said, the little sanity that I do have regarding this program says I will be happy to get to a bowl.....any bowl. The offense is almost a complete remake and I just don't see how that gets us to more than 6-7 wins. I know the prevailing sentiment is that the offense and in particular the passing game could not possibly be worse than it was last season. But, the reality is, that it is possible. It is quite possible that we don't have nearly the running game we did last season and it is also quite possible that we could turn the ball over much, much more. Just because we might pass for more yardage than last season does not mean the offense will be more productive.

The losses on the offensive side of the ball since the start of last season are as wide and deep as I can remember.
Our top 3 QBs (yes, we might get better play, but how long will it take new guys to get acclimated?)
Our top 4 running backs (Todman, Frey, Sherman and don't forget Meme who would have been right in the thick of things this season)
Our top 3 OGs
Our leading receiver in Smith and likely 2 deep in Difton and Kinnard
New HC and OC

That is a huge amount of depth to lose over one season. So folks see certain games as given Ws like Vandy and Iowa State and W. Mich. I don't. In fact, I think 3-2 or 4-1 OOC is realistic and 3-4 in conference. I simply do not see an offense that inexperienced winning on the road at WVU, Pitt or Cincy.

I will be happy to be proven wrong. But, my sense is that we will be huddled around our grills after Thanksgiving hoping to kick the snot out of Rutgers because.....they're Rutgers, but also because we'll need that win to assure bowl eligibility and not want to get that win at Cincy.
 
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Very good assessment as usual BL. I think our defense and special teams will be a great strength for us. I don't think we will be great on offense, but I think we will be more balanced and competent in the passing game. If we had that in our arsenal last year we really would have shocked the world. I think we will show other teams less predictable offense where they can't load the box against us and "T" off us. Part of the decision-making on the QB must center around how effective we are in the pro-style vs. option attack. The staff must need to see whether we can run the ball and pass the ball effectively from the pro-style set or if we need to inject the option style in order to supplement the run game. I keep saying that I hope we can do both, even though most experts always say that isn't the first choice of coaches. I guess if we can be more explosive and less predictable and really extend possessions against defenses, that will work in our favor. Less three and outs where we get a chance in the red zone or for field goals will be very productive for us and will pressure our opponents.
 
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Ooops forgot the prediction. 8-4. If it all comes together there's no reason we can't win our tough games on the road, but that's asking a lot and assuming no stumbles.
 
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I agree wityh you bl that this is the most unknowns we've ever had. Even the things we do know we don't know that much about...how are they reacting to the new defense for example. The coaches all say great and the players all say great, but what do you expect them to say? A new coach can sometimes be a pretty big step back, too for all the reasons you highlight. We don't have a quarterback. We don't have a running back. In my mind, our offense could indeed be worse than last year. If the options are a true freshman and a walkon, as they seem to be, then that suggests we are pretty limited at the position. On the other hand, if you look at the schedyule, hard to see worse than 5-7, but to me it is pretty hard to see mcuh better than 7-5, either. Pitt, Cincy, West Virginia will all be improved, I think, plus they are on the road. USF will be better too. I think we'll be hard pressed to go 3-4 in the conference. I think both Syracuse and Louisville will take a small step back, but if they don't we could really struggle. And I could see us losing one or even 2 non-conference just because of "growing pains." I hope I'm wrong, and everything fits well, but bottom line, I think 6-6 is likely.
 
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It's hard to win 5 BE games when you get out gained by opponents by 85 yards per game. Takes good specials, play making defense and some sweaty finishes. Problem I have is that BE teams seem more mature this year (new coaches have a few years in and are showing progress and two new coaches seem to have good talent for a good 1st year) and so better play by Uconn on offense might not get as much done without same positive turnover numbers and special team/defensive scoring as last year. I'm opting for the coaching change as being a positive and QB accuracy being a much more important improvement than some are (and without turnover increase killing any improvment). I see a 10-2 team, don't expect to see a no bend defenses giving up a 700 yard game for Collaros or let UNC complete on 3rd and 18 or Rutgers score long touchdown in last minute, no play calling that allows the Temple safety to disregard the pass and abuse Todman or offensive schemes that allowed Wake Forest to shut out our offense.

Should win all the OOC games, actually like playing WV there as gives the us against the world type attitude for 1st BE game and sets up rest of league games as "not as tough as going to Morgantown". 5-2 again in league is achievable, not easy, but can be done and might actually get a piece of title with that again as not going to be easy to win 6 or 7 games in BE.
 
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I think people are underestimating Vanderbilt. This won't be an easy game to win in Nashville.
 
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I predict we will play Fordham on Thursday night. :)

Seriously though, how the W/L record will turn out starts there. There's going to be a lot to look at after game 1.

When doing the comparisons though. The one thing that you didn't, or maybe you did and I missed it - is the conference opponents, and how they've changed.

I think that our coaching change, and our growth curve related to it, is going to be a lot steeper, and less bumpy than others, and there are some potential sophomore slumps out there.

If only the Stewie disaster could have waited a little longer in Morgantown!
 
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8 wins would be a hell of a season.

again, like everyone is saying... it's impossible to do this because we just don't know what happens at the QB spot.

Nebrich/McCummings steps in and is a play making qb who has the 'it' factor from day 1, we could win 8 games.
Nebrich/McCummings steps in like a deer in the headlights and seems overwhelmed and we could be in a qb carousel and win 4 or 5 games.
Johnny Mac steps in is a accurate passer who gives us the legit ability to move the ball in the air and convert 3rd downs, we could win 8 games.
Johnny Mac steps in and can't convert his practice skills into game speed and he makes bad decisions and we could be looking at a qb carousel and win 4 or 5 games.

the answer is usually somewhere in the middle... with all the growing pains we'll have flashes and we'll have dark moments... i'll go with 6-6.
 
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Maryland had a very tough year on defense in the first year that Brown was implementing his system. UConn has a ton of experience and talent on the defensive side so I am not sure it is accurate to make that comparison, but you can expect a few bumps in the road (i.e. giving up big plays with the blitzing defense). However, it is not like UConn was immune from big plays in the Edsall system.

My gut tells me that the offense won't be as bad as some are fearing mainly because of the strong offensive line with lots of experience. Masters, Petrus and Ryan are all battle tested and Friend, Greene, Bennett, Cruz and Bardczak provide talent and depth. I fully expect to see the use of the TEs at levels far beyond anything seen in ages. I and K Moore provide some nice stability at WR to allow Williams, Jones and Davis to grow into the system and make some big plays. Regardless of who we have at QB, the defenses will no longer be able to play a 15 yard field as we will have a QB that can throw deep.

Conversely, as presented above I don't think the defense will be as stable as some are expecting for no other reason that the learning curve associated with the new system.

Objective View -

4-1 OOC with the only loss being at Vandy. This is a huge game for the Vandy program and new coach. Got spanked by UConn in Storrs and if they lose again to a lowly northern team lots of stream will come out of Franklin's push to ignite football excitement in Nashville. First road game for new QB is never pretty

Key stretch at the opening of the BE schedule as UConn gets the top 3 or 4 BE teams at the start (WVU, USF, Pitt, 'Cuse). Could easily start 1-3

Finish with Louisville, Rutgers Cincy - Lets assume 2-1 for a 7-5 season

Rose Colored Glasses

Squeek by Vandy and go 5-0 OOC, split (2-2) against the pre-season top of the BE, sweep the last 3. 10-2, top 25 team. Better team than last year, but no BCS as WVU wins the league.

Wheels Fall Off

3-2 OOC with losses to the weakest BCS teams in their respective conferences, drop 4 straight in the tough start to conference play and go 1-2 against the last three - 4-8
 
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Great analysis and I can totally understand how the unknown factors can make you hesitate at that fork in the road of predicting records. What gives me hope is that I expect our returnees will be playing with an even higher motor. Our D line can cause a lot of havoc and I expect a few int's from our rush, especially with a proven D backfield. Couple that with what I believe will be a better balanced and more precise offensive approach. I'm counting on McEntee and either of the dual threats to give us a tougher scheme to defend against and gameplan. We'll have fewer 3 and outs, as we make use of screens, slants, and flares with our RB's TE's and FB. Sure we've tried that before, but when receivers are reaching back or getting howitzered at close quarters, it's just not the same. Plus, we should have a more accurate downfield attack. I think our run game will be good enough. Hopefully we don't do what Pitt and WVU did last year, fumble near the end zone. That's a demoralizer, and spoke volumes about discipline issues at those schools. I don't see it here. Now throw in how we'll be underestimated as we play our early conference games (picked 7th). For me WVU is the lynchpin game. We just might have the D to thwart the Holgersen express, and I sense their D will not be quite as psyched for our O. So having said all that where are we? I see 9-3. Well stay in the hunt till the end, but USF will go to The BCS.
 
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Thank you BL for a very sane and enlightening discussion. I think it all boils down to the team chemistry and how they perform with the new guys (coaches). Defense by all account will be very aggressive so either it's good or bad it's up the the players and their skill set. Offense is iffy for many reasons already outlined.
But this is college football so can we come together and play way beyond our sense and ability? I just have the unexplained optimism that we might. Why, because UConn just won the NCAA BB championship and the BE Championship when nobody gave us a chance. Coach P has done it before in Syracuse and he just might do it here. 10-2 is my hope and prediction.
 

ZooCougar

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I think last year's team was a 5-2 team that went 5-2. Luck is the collision of opportunity and preparation.
 

RedStickHusky

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BL, always look forward to reading the view. Like a few others, I lean toward the 12 one-game seasons perspective; with solid D and specials we should have a punchers chance in all of them. If any losses are balanced with an HTH (how the heck?) win or two, we may all be satisfied with the sum. I really hope, more than anything to be engaged and entertained throughout the season. Bottom line? Ecstatic at 10-2, pleased at 8-4, and disappointed at 6-6.
 
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I'm thinking 9-3 with the losses against the Mounties, Pitt, & Snooki (the albatross around our neck).
 

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I never finished my Big East rundowns, and the Rutgers one won't be nearly as fun without the Snooki's screaming at me.

I think our non-conference opponents are weak. Vanderbilt and Buffalo are terrible. Vanderbilt may win one game this year. Iowa State is a little better, but they also lose their QB and have much bigger losses on both sides than UConn does, and they weren't that good last year. WMU is a solid MAC team, and will give us a game. That said, anything less than 5-0 in the non-conference, and UConn is in trouble for their Big East schedule.

The Big East will not be that bad again this season. Fewer road games and better game coaches in the league. We are another year removed from the Kragthorpe and GRob debacles at Louisville and Syracuse. The league is going to be tougher than it was last year. The worst Big East opponent is probably better than the best non-conference opponent.
 
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Iowa St has most of, if not all, their back 7 on defense back, including an All American caliber LB. Their D' will be solid. Their O' may hinge on how a JUCO Transfer QB does. We should win this game being at home, but I don't think it will be as easy of a W as many here think.
 
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