Rocky’s V: Things to watch this college football season

08/29/2012

I.) Is Zach Mettenberger for real?

There have been few QBs in recent memory that have come into a season with as much hype as LSU’s untested Zach Mettenberger. Yes, he’s big and pretty. Yes, he’s got a cannon for an arm. Yes, he leaps tall buildings in a single bound. But can he produce in a REAL game? In my 12 years of playing major college and pro football I have seen many guys you’ve never heard of look like Peyton, Montana or Elway in preseason non-contact drills and in 7-on-7. But take off that red jersey and put them in a game with angry defenders storming the pocket and they quickly faded into obscurity. I want to see Zach Mettenberger produce when the bullets are live…until then, I’m not sold.

II.) Guy I’m rooting for:

Arkansas RB Knile Davis. His career so far has been thwarted by not just “an” injury bug, but a whole swarm of them. Since high school he has suffered two broken right ankles, a broken collarbone, and in 2011, a freak broken left ankle that cost him the entire year. This is after he exploded onto the scene in 2010 with 1,322 yards, 13 TDs and an astonishing 6.5 yards per carry. Word from camp is that he has recently squatted 570 pounds and ran a blazing 4.3 40-yard dash. If he stays healthy, he will rush his way into the top 10 in the 2013 NFL draft.

III.) Can Florida State get out of their own way?

FSU is poised for a huge year with talent galore thanks to the #1 recruiting class in 2011 and the #2 rated class in 2012. But the Seminoles are annually one of the most penalized teams in the country. Last year they ranked in the nation’s cellar with a whopping 103 infractions. By comparison, 2011 BCS Champion Alabama had just 66 penalties. Trust me, those additional yards add up.

IV.)  My dark horse Heisman finalist:

Clemson WR Sammy Watkins. Yes, he’s only a sophomore, but in 2011 he led all freshman in the nation in receiving yards per game, all-purpose yards per game, and touchdowns. Watching him on tape this offseason I saw a kid with a 6th gear who is noticeably faster and more explosive than anyone else on the field — and this is in the speedy ACC. If you pause his tape when he catches the ball and see his relationship to the closest defender then let the tape run a few seconds, he has expanded that distance three-fold. He will serve a two-game suspension for an offseason drug arrest, so I’m not saying he will win the Heisman – but he will be a part of the conversation at the end of the year. Once he’s back on the field, look for him to wreak havoc on opposing defenses and put up Heisman-worthy numbers.

V.) No fear for Arkansas

If you watched SEC media day as I did, you have no worries of a disastrous season caused by the offseason Bobby Petrino fiasco. The brilliant move to hire a familiar face to the program, John L. Smith, stabilized a situation that could have spiraled out of control. John L.’s energy is infectious and his demeanor is just what the doctor ordered. You’re talking about a guy who in his spare time has flown jets, climbed Mt. Kilamanjaro, and even ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, for God’s sake. Do you really think a football season against all odds is going to fluster him? Couple him with a team that has adopted a mantra of “us against the world” in the wake of all the doubters and you have a combination for championship football.

— Rocky Boiman

Rocky Boiman is an analyst for Westwood One’s coverage of NCAA Football. Each week in “Rocky’s V,” the former Notre Dame captain and Super Bowl champion writes about five topics that have captured his interest from around college football. You can also follow Rocky on Twitter.

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