Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sunflower League Compared to FBS

Since there is still one day to burn between now and putting up the game previews for week one, I decided to put together a creative piece comparing Sunflower League team outlooks for this season with some of the more well-known FBS programs with whom they match up closely.

Remember, this piece is totally subjective and for fun.  Tune in on Thursday for detailed analysis of the week one action to come on Friday night. 

1. Olathe South - Alabama

The Falcons, like Alabama, are more or less the favorite to take the league title and return to the title game to defend their championship from a season ago.  Both teams return their starting quarterbacks (Frank Seurer and AJ McCarron) and the bulk of their defenses.  Both teams possess passionate fanbases and great traditions of success through the years.  They also have the biggest games of the first week of the season (Olathe East and Michigan).

2. Lawrence - USC

Brad Strauss is the early favorite as the MVP of the Sunflower League and Matt Barkley is the early favorite to win the Heisman.  Aside from their quarterbacks, both teams return a top duo of receivers (Erick Mayo, Drake Hofer and Robert Woods, Marqise Lee).  With great histories both programs pride themselves on maintaining tradition with the goal of adding another championship this year.

3. Olathe East - Georgia

Seemingly always good, but yet to be the "best", these two teams have had similar patterns of success through the years.  Both teams are notorious for being more talented than the majority of their competition but it's always a small stumbling block that keeps them from running the table.  Both teams return solid quarterbacks (John Blazevic and Aaron Murray), and while they aren't being predicted to win the title this season, everyone knows they have the horses to put together a great season and potentially surprise some people when all is said and done.

4. Lawrence Free State - Oregon

Free State's primary nemesis this year will be cross-town rival, Lawrence (referenced by USC), similar to how Oregon's primary challenge this year is going to be attempting to defeat USC.  Both teams run a similar style zone-read option offense and both have been extremely successful with the attack in the past half-decade.  Another element of similarity is that both teams have two very reliable quarterbacks in their arsenals should one go down with an injury or outperform the other (Kyle McFarland, Joe Dineen and Marucs Mariota, Bryan Bennett).  You could make the case that both of these teams are among the best of their competition, it's just that for some reason they haven't received the hype you'd expect during the offseason. 

5.  SM West - Florida State

The respective fanbases of these two programs are amped up for 2012, and rightfully so.  Both teams have a great tradition of success and while the past few years haven't been bad by any means, both programs know they have a higher ceiling than what they've been hitting at.  Some of the pundits are afraid to anoint these programs as being back and among the most dominant just yet, but by the midpoint in the season it could be a reality. 
6. Olathe North - Ohio State

Legendary coaches (Gene Wier and Urban Meyer) take over the head coaching duties of these sleeping giants in 2012.  Recent turnover has created some wrinkles that may take a season or two to iron out, but we know that it's only a matter of time before these programs are back up and running the way they used to.  The longevity of both coaches at the respective schools is the primary concerns of the fanbases as there's no telling how long either head-man will ultimately decide to coach at the program.  That being said, success is brewing.

7. SM East - Clemson

We hear the hype every preseason and many times we catch glimpses of it during the year, but these programs need to finally put together a complete season of success before we get comfortable listing them among the best.  Both teams have a signature player (Jordan Darling and Sammy Watkins) who are darkhorses for Most Valuable Player honors.  Always exciting to watch on offense, it will be what the defenses do which really determines how far these teams go in 2012.

8. SM South - Washington State

It's been years since either of these teams have done anything of note but that could be changing soon.  With new (or relatively new in the case of SM South) head coaches in Ryan Lonergan and Mike Leach, both programs have a renewed sense of optimism in 2012 that could carry the programs to successful years above the .500 mark.  We know each team is going to be much improved--it's just a matter of how much improvement will be shown in the win column.

9. Leavenworth - Louisville

It's hard when the sport your school is most well-known for takes place on hardwood floors during the winter and spring months but this is life for both of these programs.  Neither has a history of success.  Sure, there were blips in the mid-2000s but nothing of note and for the most part these schools are afterthoughts when it comes to talking about football.  Both schools have relatively new head coaches in Kevin Kopecky and Charlie Strong who appear to have their program's in position to have more success in 2012 than they've had in many years combined.

10. Olathe Northwest  - Baylor

Both of these times kind of came out of nowhere last year.  Big time players emerged, games were won, and upsets (over Olathe North and Oklahoma) were had.  The problem is that much of that talent is now gone (Willie Cauley, Connor Middleton and Robert Griffin III, Terrence Ganaway) especially at the skill positions, and so a whole new crop of players is going to have to step up to take on the challenges this year.  Can they do it?  That remains to be seen.  The schedule isn't forgiving but both programs have the taste of success from last year to build off of.

11. SM Northwest - Kansas

These schools have new coaches in Linn Hibbs and Charlie Weis who have a strong history of success with other football clubs.  The programs both experienced peak seasons in 2007 but have since seen the wins dwindle along with the talent.  It won't be easy but things should slowly begin to change for the better for both programs.  It's hard to say where the wins will come from but it wouldn't be a surprise to see them sneak out an upset victory here and there and begin to establish a stronger outlook for coming seasons.

12. SM North - Colorado

Things haven't been the same since the mid-2000s when the coaches who were the faces of the programs (Sam Brown and Gary Barnett) left town.  Things have been a struggle ever since with coaching turnover, a lack of talent and difficult competition.  Still, there is hope that this season will be the the year that the program starts to turn things around. 


TheImpaler said...

Interesting. SMW = Iowa though.

Eli Underwood said...

Yeah looking back over the last decade SM West and Iowa have been pretty similar in their successes (and color schemes). I went with Florida State because they have a ton of young talent and are expected to make big strides this season, much they way things are expected of SM West. But the Iowa comparison would have been accurate too.

Who's Your Daddy said...

That's hilarious about East. " A small stumbling block".
Hello, when will someone in the media grow a pair and admit that poor coaching is Olathe Easts only problem. Olathe East is either 1st or 2nd every year in School population in 6A. That equates into more athletes. Good athletes. It usually equates into State Championships. There is only one stumbling block for the Hawks and its not talent related.

Eli Underwood said...

Give most programs a state championship appearance, three Sub-State appearances, five Sectional appearances, and 63 wins in the past seven seasons and they'd be more than happy.

I'm sure some of the frustration stems from the fact that Olathe South now has a title, to go along with Olathe North's seven titles, leaving Olathe East as the long-withstanding Olathe school without one. That being said, I'm sure it's only a matter of time before Olathe East finally breaks through for a championship. They're good every year--it's going to happen eventually.

TheImpaler said...

Yes, as much as I dislike the Hawk fanbase, I have the utmost respect for the program. Certainly they have been the most consistent Olathe school over the last 10 years.

Who's Your Daddy said...

One State appearance in twenty years. Sectional, sub State they sound good but their really just first and second round playoff games. You need to set your achievement bar higher. Playing teams like Leavonworth,Sm North, Sm South, Blue Valley North, among others. If you don't win eight games with that Schedule your garbage. They will win one eventually, when Meyers is gone. By the way Thelmpaler to say East is the most consistent over the last ten years is a joke. North has played in Multiple State finals over that time span.