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Posts published in August 2004

Change is the word as ’04 football season kicks off

Change is in the air as the 2004 football season kicks off into high gear this Labor Day weekend.



At the high school level, Aldine ISD will welcome three new head football coaches in Larry Haynes at Eisenhower High, Bob Jones at Aldine High and David Suggs at Nimitz High. Jerry Drones now becomes the most tenured head coach in AISD as he begins his third season at the helm of the MacArthur High program. The AISD schools and their counterparts in Spring Branch ISD will also be changing districts now that they are in District 18-5A after the University Interscholastic League realigned the state’s districts in February.



The college landscape won’t see such drastic changes, but the power has appeared shifted from the state of Florida to the West Coast, where USC appears to be the team to beat heading into the ’04 campaign.



But don’t count out the Oklahoma Sooners, who return the brunt of their team that reached the BCS title game a year ago before falling to LSU in the Sugar Bowl.



And in the NFL, look for a change in the way defensive backs will cover receivers this year. The league has vowed to enforce the five-yard bump rule and defensive holding, so expect the passing game to flourish in 2004. That’s good news for the Peyton Manning’s, Daunte Cullpepper’s and Trent Green’s of the world and bad news for defensive backs and defensive coordinators whose jobs will become all the more difficult.



Even with change on the horizon, it appears this will be another exciting season as the country’s most popular sport continues to grow and prosper. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at what the first full weekend of high school and college action has to offer.



High School



Aldine vs. Madison: Bob Jones takes over for the legendary Bill Smith at Aldine High and the former Fort Worth Dunbar head coach has brought energy and excitement to his new assignment. The Mustangs will present a balanced look on offense this year and their season opener against a perennial playoff contender will be a good test to see how the new system looks. My pick, Aldine 24, Madison 16



Eisenhower vs. Lufkin: Talk about going from the frying pan to the fire! Larry Haynes and the Eagles opened the season last Saturday in Reliant Stadium against The Woodlands, a team that reached the Class 5A Division I title game a year ago, and this week, they host a Lufkin team that could make a lot of noise themselves this year. But the Eagles have a few weapons themselves. Haynes will unveil his new offense, which will feature the passing game more, before the home fans in Thorne Stadium on Friday night. Expect plenty of fireworks in this one. My pick, Eisenhower 26, Lufkin 23



Nimitz vs. Klein: The Cougars and new head coach David Suggs play their second game of the season against a Klein High team that’s not expected to do much this season. Nimitz, on the other hand, is loaded with talent and has its sites set on ending Eisenhower’s reign as district champion. Look for Suggs’ crew to start building momentum in non-district as it looks forward to its season-ending showdown with the Eagles on Nov. 6. My pick, Nimitz 31, Klein 13



MacArthur vs. Conroe: Jerry Drones begins his third year as the Generals’ head coach with high expectations. The Generals will be young, but have enough talent to make some noise this year. Much will depend on how healthy the team remains throughout the season. Drones admits there is not much depth available, but he likes what he’s seen from his starters. Look for the Generals to get after a Conroe team that finished 2-8 a year ago. My pick, MacArthur 27, Conroe 12



College



Texas A&M at Utah: The Aggies open their 2004 season with a tough road test against a Utah team that finished 10-2 a year ago. Many believe the Utes could run the table and get in contention for a BCS (Bowl Championship Series) game, so the Dennis Franchione’s Ags will have their work cut out for them. One thing is for sure, Aggie fans should expect vast improvement from last year’s disastrous 4-8 season. Look for quarterback Reggie McNeil to bounce back to have a big year. The Ags may not win this one, but you can bet they will play harder this year. My pick, Utah 23, Texas A&M 20



North Texas at Texas: Texas fans may not be expecting a national title run, or for that matter, a Big 12 title run this year, but don’t be surprised if the ‘Horns pull a fast one on their fans this season. UT lost three-fourths of its receiving corps to the NFL, but there’s plenty of young (albeit untested) talent on hand to make Texas a factor this year in the conference race. And one of its best players is senior running back Cedric Benson, considered a Heismann Trophy candidate by many NFL scouts. Look for Benson to get plenty of work early while Vince Young settles into the starting QB position. Texas needs to take North Texas seriously. The Mean Green has won their conference three straight years and would like nothing more than to leave Austin with an upset win. My pick, Texas 38, North Texas 21



SMU at Texas Tech: It’s Sonny Cumbie’s turn to put up big numbers for the Red Raiders as Mike Leach’s high-octane offense makes its 2004 debut against a SMU team that finished 0-12 a year ago. Cumbie takes over for B.J. Symons, who in one year as the starting QB threw for more than 5,800 yards and set a single-season NCAA passing record along the way. Tech should be dangerous on offense again this year with the brunt of the unit back. Look for plenty of points to come out of Lubbock again this year, but it’s the defense that will be the key to how successful Tech is this year. That unit must improve on its porous 2003 season, and with another year under their belt, look for the Red Raider defense to carry its share of the load in 2004 as Tech competes for the Big 12 title. My pick, Tech 45, SMU 13



Notre Dame at BYU: The Catholics vs. the Mormons in the season opener for both schools that suffered disappointing seasons in 2003. The word out of South Bend is that this could be a make or break year for third-year head coach Tyrone Willingham. After leading the Irish to a bowl game in his first year on the job, ND fell to 5-7 a year ago and was outplayed much of the season. This year, the Irish return an experienced offensive line, so look for an improved running game, but their success will depend on how far sophomore quarterback Brady Quinn has advanced from last year to this year. This game should feature plenty of aerial excitement as the Cougars attack an inexperienced ND secondary. My pick, Notre Dame 34, BYU 30



Florida State at Miami: What a way to start the season. Two long-time and bitter rivals kick off their seasons Labor Day evening on ABC, with the Monday Night Football crew calling the game. And there will be more at stake this time around than state bragging rights. Miami is now a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, so this game is not only important as far as the BCS title hunt is concerned, but also the ACC race. These two played two hard-hitting affairs a year ago and expect much of the same this time around as a national television audience finishes off its holiday weekend with what should be a heck of a battle. Both teams return plenty of talent, but the quarterbacks will decide this one. Both FSU’s Chris Rix and Miami’s Brock Berlin had so-so seasons in 2003 and both are prone to turnovers. Both will need to be wise with the ball on Monday night. I’m giving the edge to Rix because of his level of experience, and because he has a solid running game to call on when he needs it. My pick, Florida State 23, Miami 21