NCAA Preseason Predictions Mean Next to Nothing


Jul 14, 2009

It’s almost that time of year again — time for the preseason
All-America teams to be announced in anticipation for another glorious
season of NCAA football. It’s easy to speculate on who will make it,
because the formula is relatively generic. Usually, the quarterback is
someone who put up big numbers  the previous year for a big-name school
in a prominent conference. (No, of course I’m not talking about Tim Tebow.)

But preseason teams are interesting, because, ideally, they aim to
predict the very best players at each position. Technically, those guys
should be the ones who are selected at the top of that year’s NFL draft
(as long as they are three years out of high school).

Why, then, does it seem like nobody on the preseason All-America team ever makes a name for himself in the NFL?

There are players who do make it – but given the fact that preseason
teams have extremely limited success in predicting future talent, it
begs the question: Why speculate at all? Looking back on the 2003
preseason All-Americans, there are just a couple of names that actually
made a mildly significant impact in the professional sphere.

Take the case of quarterback Philip Rivers versus the case of running back Maurice Clarett.

Rivers, obviously, is a somewhat rare example of a hyped college
quarterback who was able to translate his skill set to the pros. The NC
State alum has never played in a Super Bowl (unfortunately for him, New
England always seems to get in his way), but he’s made one Pro Bowl
appearance after his first year as a starter in 2006. When Drew Brees
jumped ship for New Orleans, Rivers stepped in to lead the Chargers to
a 14-2 record. Despite an 8-8 campaign in 2008, he threw for a
career-best 34 touchdowns, and he’s been surprisingly durable:
Notwithstanding a slew of injuries – including torn knee ligaments –
he’s played in all 16 regular-season games throughout his entire career
as a starter.

The career trajectory of Clarett is essentially the polar opposite
of Rivers’. After his freshman year at Ohio State, Clarett became one
of the most hyped players in the game, and pundits were already
predicting a bright future for the young (and unproven) star. In his
only year with the Buckeyes, he scored 18 touchdowns and rushed for a
freshman-record 1,237 yards, then scored the winning touchdown against
Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.

That’s pretty much where his career ended. He got suspended for the
2003 season (but still managed to be named a preseason All-American)
because he filed a false police report. Then, he moved to L.A., partied
with too many rap stars, and got out of shape. Next, he filed an
infamous lawsuit to be included in the 2004 NFL draft, but he lost—and after that, he couldn’t get reinstated by the NCAA.

Where is Clarett now? In his case, the answer is short and sweet: He’s in jail. One All-American running back bites the dust.

What’s the point here? These preseason teams don’t seem to mean
much. They’re based on very little that has anything to do with the
upcoming season; all they’re based on is last year’s hype. What happens
if the running back on this year’s team pulls a Clarett and weighs in
at 260 pounds when practice begins? He may have been good last season,
but anything can happen during the offseason. There’s no way to predict
which dark horses will emerge into the limelight as superstars, and
which highly touted prospects will fall flat faster than Michael Bisping at the UFC 100.

It’s very probable there’s a quarterback out there who’s better than
Tebow. It’s also very probable he won’t be named a preseason
All-American this year. But it’s a fact that, when all is said and
done, it won’t matter at all.

Who’s hot?
Now that an academic cheating scandal could cost Florida State coach Bobby Bowden up to 14 wins – which would land him a long ways away from surpassing Joe Paterno
as the winningest coach in college football history – everyone seems to
be on his side. First, two Seminoles who had a hand in the cheating
scandal told the Orlando Sentinel that they are “sincerely sorry about
what happened,” because they don’t want the coach to lose his shot at
making history. According to linebacker Dekoda Watson,
“[The NCAA] can’t knock that he did win all of those games, fair and
square.” (Really? Fair and square? With players who cheat?)

Paterno, who currently has one more career win than Bowden, doesn’t
seem too concerned about his own legacy.  In the ultimate display of
unselfishness, the Penn State coach came forward and told
Pennsylvania’s Reading Eagle, “[Bowden] coached the team he had; they
played against people, and they won. They ought to be wins for them.”

Who’s not?
The Fighting Irish have been disappointing for the past couple of
years, but have they really been so bad that the prospect of coaching
in South Bend, Ind., repels Urban Meyer?
The Florida football coach, who is 45-9 with two national championships
during four years with the Gators, emphatically told the Gainesville
Sun that he has no desire to hold the reins for one of the most
prestigious programs in the history of college football.

Being a part of the Irish family used to be Meyer’s dream, but times
appear to have changed. During a charity golf tournament, Meyer asked
if he could make a special announcement, then told the crowd, “I’m not
going to Notre Dame. Ever.”

Ouch. It warranted a special announcement and everything. Something
tells me that if Sean Avery did something like this, a suspension would
be on the way.

Quote of the week
“With the success that we had, I would do everything in my power to
keep everything intact. I’m a strong believer in not upsetting the
apple cart.”
– USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo, on, articulating his desire for Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski to remain coach of the national team at the 2010 world championship

It’s a long way off, but if you’ve got any plans to watch the ACC
baseball tournament in the near future, there’s been a change of plans.
Disputes over the prominence of the Confederate flag have led officials
to move future tournaments out of South Carolina after 2010. The
festivities will move to Durham, N.C., in 2012 and Greensboro in 2012.
Maybe when South Carolina shows a little respect to the Union, it’ll
get its tournament back.

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