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College Football Bounce-Back Teams, Part 2

   by Al McMordie - 08/27/2005

Some football teams look very different from one season to the next. This is especially true in college football, where players graduate and have to be replaced with new faces. Let’s look at some more college football teams that are off frustrating seasons in 2004, yet may turn things around -- both straight up and against the spread.

Tennessee: It was a strange season for the Vols, going 5-3 SU, 2-6 ATS at home, but 5-0 SU, 3-2 ATS on the road. They made it to the SEC title game, so it certainly wasn’t a disappointing season. But Tennessee had a lot of injuries and is loaded for an even stronger campaign in 2005. Sophomore QB Erik Ainge (17 TDs, 9 INTs) is a keeper and the Vols return senior RB Gerald Riggs, who ran for 1,107 yards. The offensive line, long a staple of Volunteer football, is terrific, too, so the offense should be very balanced and productive. The Vols have gone 9-1 SU/7-3 ATS on the road the last two seasons, which isn’t easy to do in the rugged SEC.

Alabama: This is another SEC team that stumbled through an injury-riddled season. Yet, a dose of good health could make this a tough all-around team with seven starters back on offense and nine on defense. Senior QB Brodie Croyle had the offense cooking before he went down for the season, and senior RB Kenneth Darby had a workhorse junior year with 1,062 yards, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Despite injuries, the defense allowed just 3.3 yards per rush and has almost everyone back. The jury is still out on young coach Mike Shula, but he’s got a ton of experience and talent on the field to work with.

Purdue: Joe Tiller’s teams seem to lose when they’re supposed to win, and win when you don’t expect them to. The Boilermakers need to find a replacement for QB Kyle Orton, but still have seven starters back on offense and all 11 on ‘D’. Senior QB Brandon Kirsch played well in place of Orton, with 7 TDs and just 3 picks. Tiller likes an aggressive offensive attack and, with everyone back on defense, could field an even better defensive team than last year (remember that Purdue allowed just 17 points per game last fall).

Maryland: After a brilliant run the last few years under Coach Ralph Friedgen, everything fell apart in 2004 for the Terrapins. He has a fertile imaginative offensive mind and looks to bounce back after a frustrating season. Friedgen has three QBs returning and needs to find more consistency, most likely from junior Joel Statham. Most impressive was a defense that has been great the last two years, allowing just 3.4 yards per carry last fall. Don’t ever count a good coach out, especially in a bounce-back year. Good luck as always...Al McMordie.

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