The Friday Tailgate: The Top Five, Running Back Tandems, and Kyle Parker

Dave WalkerCorrespondent IJuly 2, 2010

As we celebrate the fourth of July this weekend, I just want to remind you that we are now exactly two months from the Thursday night openers that signify the beginning of the college football season.


This week I am going to reach deep for my five topics that people in the college game are talking about, as next week I will begin my conference previews starting with the MAC.


For this week's tailgate I'll talk about the Clemson QB situation, my thoughts on the new alignments for next year, and throw in a few bowl surprises.


So be careful with the grill, don't blow off a finger, and relax with a cold one as we embark on this week's Friday Tailgate.


Will Kyle Parker choose baseball over football?


Clemson QB Kyle Parker was selected by the Rockies with the 26th pick in this year's baseball draft. Now he is “taking a month” to decide which sport he would rather pursue.


What is the effect on the Tiger football team?


Well, if Parker decides to go the baseball route, the Tigers will be inexperienced at QB to say the least. Michael Wade and Tajh Boyd will likely vie for the starting position with many predicting an athletic Boyd winning the job.


If Parker returns, Clemson will have a veteran QB to lead an offense that is missing many playmakers from last year's team that included offensive stud C. J. Spiller, and wide-out Jacoby Ford.


Ultimately, Clemson and head coach Dabo Swinney probably saw this coming from a mile away. They knew heading into the summer that Parker was going to be pushed into making a decision. It's just a question of if he can do both, like fellow ACC QB and Rockies minor leaguer Russell Wilson, or if he just wants to be the next up-and-comer in baseball.


Either way I think Clemson will be okay, and I think they will once again be a solid, bowl-contending team.



Who are the best 1-2 running back tandems?



In football nowadays it is almost a necessity to have two running backs that can step in and take solid carries at any point during the season. Most teams have what you could call the two-headed monster, but few have as solid a backup as they do starters.


The first exception is obvious. It comes to us from the University of Alabama.


Mark Ingram won the Heisman last year with over 1600 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns. All his backup, Trent Richardson, did was run for over 750 yards and eight scores. This 1-2 punch was one of the main reasons the Tide won the National Title last year.


Look for Richardson to see a few more carries this year, and look for the Tide to have more explosive plays because of this. This tandem is easily the best running back duo in the country.


Right on their heels are the Viriginia Tech Hokies' pair of Darren Evans and Ryan Williams. Last year Williams was thrust into the spotlight after Evans tore a knee ligament before the season started. The red-shirt freshman promptly ran for over 1600 yards along with 21 TDs.


Now Evans is back, along with Williams, and the question may be how to use them both?


That is a question that head coach Frank Beamer will happily address as he enters his 24th year at the helm in Blacksburg. With a veteran at QB in Tyrod Taylor, two solid receivers in Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale, this could be as potent an offense as Hokie fans have seen in quite some time.


Finishing out my top three running back tandems is the group at Iowa. Jewel Hampton returns after tearing his ACL before last season began. In 2008 he backed up Shonn Greene and went for nearly 500 yards on the ground. His return should add even more depth to an already stacked backfield.


When Hampton went down last year the pair of Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher did a fine job at filling in. Robinson ran for over 800 yards and five scores, and Wegher spelled him with 600+ yards and eight touchdowns.


With all three of these guys along with a healthy Ricky Stanzi and a stacked defense then you have a great Big Ten squad looking to smell the Roses in early 2011.



Biggest Bowl Surprises



Most college football seasons give us far fewer surprises when we talk about teams coming from nowhere to claim a bowl bid. Now with seemingly everybody earning bowl bids for going at least .500, it seems that these surprises are not as big of a deal as they once were.


This year I am gonna throw three teams on the map that could not only just earn a bowl bid, but could challenge for a top tier New Year's day game.


In an earlier Tailgate article I talked about Syracuse making some noise in the Big East. I am going to stay with that prediction and go even further and say that they will be at the top along with Pitt and West Virginia.


I think that coach Doug Marrone did a great job last season even at 4-8. They were able to put up some points and were competitive to a certain degree. This year watch out for Delone Carter at tailback and an improved defense to lead the way.


The first big test comes in Game Four at South Florida. This will be the measuring stick as to if they'll finish at the top or near the bottom again.


Another team to watch out for in the bowl race is Kansas State. Last year they were a victory over Nebraska away from going to a bowl and going to the Big 12 title game. Unfortunately they weren't able to put up enough points and fell 17-3 in Lincoln.


This year has the potential of being a break-through year for head coach Bill Snyder who is in his 2nd year of his second stint with the team.


Defensively the Wildcats are starting to look like a Bill Snyder defense, returning seven starters on that side of the ball. It is on offense that the 'Cats have the biggest question marks.


Daniel Thomas is a speedy back that will be the main play-maker. At QB the question is if Carson Coffman steps up and claims his spot, or if speedy JUCO transfer Sammuel Lamur will steal it. I say the latter of which will happen and the tandem of Lamur and Thomas will help lead the Wildcats to a top 3 finish in the division, and may even surprise for the division title.


Finally I am gonna go way out on the limb and say that South Carolina dethrones Florida is the SEC East. Yes, I know that Florida is better on paper in most everything, but the games aren't won on paper.


The Gamecocks have one of the better defenses in the SEC, but have to find some offense. Stephen Garcia is back again at quarterback, and this time he may have some help at tailback. Marcus Lattimore was the top running back in the 2010 recruiting class and should give the Gamecocks some support up front.


The key game will be on November 13th at Florida. As long as the Gamecocks have taken care of the rest of the East, this one should be for the division title.


Again, these are just predictions, and I could be wrong, so hold on to the comments until after the season....



Are the conference re-alignments for the better or worse?



First of all, I will say that I am more of a college football purist than a whatever you would call the opposite of that. I liked the Big Ten when it had ten teams, I liked the old SWAC, and back in the day before the BCS the Orange Bowl had more pull in the national picture than it does today.


But as times change, so does the way we shape college conferences. Money is the most important thing and you can make more of it by having your own network and a conference title game at year's end.


For the most part I don't mind what has happened so far. Boise to the MWC legitimizes them and a BCS deserving conference. Nebraska jumping ship to the Big Ten makes sense geographically and competitively. But I will say that Colorado and Utah to the Pac 10 doesn't really make a whole lot of sense.


The Pac 10 was simply going after TV markets. Salt Lake City and Denver are larger TV markets than say Boise, Fresno, Honolulu, or some of the others.


Utah, in my humble opinion, should have stayed in the MWC. I think when it is all said and done that the MWC will be just as good as the Pac 10. I can foresee a Pac10-MWC series of games that could bring in lots of cash for both conferences.


As far as the Buffs are concerned, I don't see them making much noise in the Pac 10 anytime soon. The conference as a whole is so much better than what the Big 12 North has been as of late, and a near the bottom Big 12 North team is not going to fare very well in a conference that is tough 1-10.



Who are the preseason top five?


The polls should be out in a few weeks and there will be much debate on who is ranked where and who got left out and so-on.


If there is one consensus pick it should be 'Bama at No. 1.


They return the Heisman winner from a year ago, along with a talented back-up, a QB with big game experience, and a coach that simply knows how to win.


Sure the defense has graduated a lot of guys to the NFL, but a solid recruiting class and depth chart will atone for that.


Simply put, to be the man, you have to beat the man, and Alabama is still the team to knock off going into 2010.


At No. 2 I will go with Virginia Tech. The defense they have returning along with the two-headed beast at running back, and Frank Beamer's experience should make this a team to watch out for all the way until early December.


The No. 3 squad should be Boise St. They have 21 starters returning from a team that went unbeaten in 2009. The big catch is that they open on the road against VaTech. That game could knock either one of them out of the national picture by week's end.


At No. 4 I will give the U a shout out. Miami has unbelievable speed on both sides of the ball and now have experience to back it up. Jacory Harris could once again be in the Heisman talk, but this time it may last longer than Week Four.


Rounding out the top five is Ohio State. On paper they look pretty solid, even though they have some holes to fill on defense. Again the catch 22 here is that Miami comes to town in Week Two and again the loser could be out of the National Title picture by week's end.


Also in the running for a top five should be TCU, Florida, Iowa, Wisconsin, Pitt, West Virginia, and Oklahoma.



What we learned today



As always we wrap the article with what we learned today in honor of the kids at ESPN's Sportsnation .


So here is what we learned:


Kyle Parker's decision on football or baseball won't affect the team as much as everyone is making it out.


The best 1-2 running back tandems hail from Blacksburg, Tuscaloosa, and Iowa City.


Syracuse, K-State, and South Carolina could be the feel good stories of college football at season's end.


The conference re-alignments have been for the most part good for the game.


'Bama, VaTech, Boise, Miami, and Ohio State are the preseason top five teams.


As always I leave you with my Dennis Miller quote, “that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.”


So what do you think about the preseason top five? Who are your surprise teams to challenge for a conference crown? Do you agree with my top 1-2 running back tandems?


Feel free to add a comment and spark some conversation as we get closer to opening day, and be sure to look for next week's edition of the tailgate as we start our conference previews with the Mid American Conference.



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