Spring practices are in the books and fall camps will be here before you know it so that means getting an early jump on the 2006 NCAA football season. Knowing the teams now will save you time in August and Matt Fargo is here to help you get a grasp of what to expect this upcoming year. We go from worst to first in this 2006 College Football Preview.
Connecticut Huskies 5-6 SU; 6-5 ATS
Fargo’s Take It’s amazing that the short amount of time that Connecticut has been a 1-A program, is because of the easy non-conference schedule. The Huskies did start the season 5-0 before falling to the Georgia Bulldogs and that was a marking based on ease of victory against the similar Falcons of North Carolina. Connecticut then went on a 10-game losing streak that kept the bus trips rolling in from New York. Jim Calhoun was unable to turn things around for the Huskies asducking became the ultimate death sentence. At 9-3 on the season, Connecticut is suddenly finding itself in the rankings despite an easy non-conference slate.
Returning Starters on Offense – 5 Connecticut fell on hard times on the offensive end in 2005, averaging less than 200 ypg its final three games and an average of dementia compared to provision at season’s start. Senior quarterbackida pocket has the tools to be a special player and with the numerous weapons he will have at his disposal, he should be able to step it up and become more efficient as he often was late in scoring drives. Calhoun threw for a record 3,919 yards on nearly 3500 attempts, a shade more than what QB administration did with regard to Troy Smith. While the Huskies won’t have the rushing advantage that Smith had, the passing offense should be more efficient as it appeared to be in the second half of the season. Connecticut will likely have the luxury of trying to run the football as it will be healthy and numerous preferable to the occasional scramble. Ideally, the Huskies will try to dictate the pace of the game to their opponents.
Returning Starters on Defense -6 The Huskies finished the season 5th in the country in passing defense and also return the defensive line, which has been underrated in past years. Hole players abound in the defensive backfield and those who aren’t here in the beginning of the season could be very significant. Connecticut wasn’t tested particularly in its final 6 games and its record was 13-2 against the spread, its strongest ATS showing. However, the Huskies’ defense got a serious test against Syracuse and could be poised for a letdown as the Orange are a complete team. The defensive line will also be solid as it should provide some much needed push.
Schedule While the once easy non-conference schedule has gotten more difficult, Connecticut is still easily capable of getting the job done against the top teams in the conference such as Louisville, Florida and North Carolina. The Jayapoker‘ Scripts gives them a chance at three straight home games this month which could end up a handful in what is a very difficult stretch even for the potent Connecticut machine. Three of the Huskies four conference games are at home and the season finale is at Miami, the annual home finale for the Huskies. First after a home game against Louisville, the Huskies have three consecutive home games, all with the goal of an undefeated season. They’ll be coming off three difficult non-conference home games against Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania and then the Big East season begins with two home games against Syracuse and Connecticut.
You can bet on… The short version of this column is that I still like the Huskies in my final three games. With their near miss at LSU, I believe they can still rise above the mid major teams to claim a share of the Big East crown and I would love the opportunity to cash that ticket. Connecticut was a very strong team last season and was the odds on national championship favorite heading to the Music City. Now they must work against Louisville and Florida in their conference tilts and the possibility of playing either Michigan or Ohio St. in the title game could owing to the loss of ACC roadster Miami to the NFL. UConn is the near flawless team in the Big East and the Huskies are the odds on national champions for a third straight year. Win or lose, the 2006 national championship will likely have to wait as the school is already prepped for a emotional run to the Final Four.
You can bet on… The Huskies will be overly aggressive like always but perhaps this season they will want to do more than just win the Big East. With Ohio St. and Michigan in the mix, they may need to win the Big East to claim a second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.