Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Sunflower League Compared to FBS
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.
Posted by Eli Underwood at 1:18 AM