Posted on: January 14, 2011 12:29 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Earlier today, our own Dennis Dodd posted his pre-preseason top 25 for the 2011 college football season. We here at the College Football Blog wouldn't dare disagree with our esteemed colleague's opinions ... but every year there's teams that vastly exceed the expectations of even the wisest prognosticators (like, say, Auburn in 2010) and some that disappoint despite some seemingly major advantages (like, say, Iowa in 2010).
So later today we'll name five more teams we think can crack Dodd's top 25 next season, and right now we'll name five that are in his top 25 that might slip out ... or, at least, fail to live up to where they're currently placed. Without further ado (and in no particular order):
1. Auburn (15). Slipping from first to 15th already seems like quite a slide, but the Tigers' losses are so major they could easily fall even further. The offensive line loses four starters representing approximately 200 collective career starts; Nick Fairley's departure is only the capper for an entire defensive tackle rotation that must be replaced; Auburn's two best linebackers are graduated, along with the best corner and best safety; and, oh yeah, that Cam Newton guy will be replaced by either a redshirt junior who's never started a game (Barrett Trotter) or a true freshman (Kiehl Frazier). The schedule also turns nasty, with this year's home dates against South Carolina, LSU, Arkansas, and Georgia all on the road. Gus Malzahn's continued presence means Auburn will have a fighting chance of getting back to eight or nine wins, but a bad break here or there could leave Gene Chizik's bunch outside the top 25 entirely.
2. Michigan State (9). The Spartans lived on the margins somewhat in 2010, needing big late comebacks to beat teams like Northwestern and Purdue while stumbling badly against more talented teams like Iowa and Alabama. And now Mark Dantonio loses three senior offensive linemen, soul-of-the-defense All-American linebacker Greg Jones, and offensive coordinator Don Treadwell, who took the vacant Miami (Ohio) head coaching position. For a team that may have already been not-quite-as-good as their record, those are big blows.
3. South Carolina (17). Their appearance on this list isn't necessarily about the Gamecocks themselves, though the losses of end Cliff Matthews on defense and guard Garrett Chisolm on offense will be larger than people think. It's about their SEC divisional rivals at Florida and Georgia bouncing back from subpar seasons, and a schedule that hands them tough road trips to Athens, Knoxville, Starkville, and Fayetteville. It's the sort of slate that likely has four losses on it lurking somewhere.
4. Northwestern (24). We love the plucky Wildcats as much as anyone, but the way the 'Cats were memorably run over at Wrigley by Illinois, it's hard to see them being physical enough to make that much headway in the new-and-improved Big Ten. Five of their seven 2010 wins came by a total of just 15 points, and for a quarterback whose underrated running skills are as much a part of his success as his throwing accuracy, Dan Persa's Achilles injury is a killer.
5. Oklahoma State (7). OK, so with Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon back and the Big 12 South not yet back to its 2008 glory days, it's not likely for the Cowboys to slip all the way out of the top 25. But the Cowboys haven't always done well with the kind of expectations they'll be dealing with in 2011, the defense still needs major work, and without Kendall Hunter the Pokes will have to work to ensure the running game can keep opponents from simply blanketing the Weeden-to-Blackmon connection. But the biggest loss by far is Dana Holgorsen, without whom the 2009 Cowboy offense was shut out by Oklahoma even with weapons like Hunter and Zac Robinson around. If Mike Gundy doesn't find a quailty replacement, the Cowboys may wind up as 2011's most overrated team.
Tags: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Barrett Trotter, Big 12, Big Ten, Brandon Weeden, Cam Newton, Cliff Matthews, Dan Persa, Dana Holgorsen, Don Treadwell, Florida, Garrett Chisolm, Gene Chizik, Georgia, Greg Jones, Gus Malzahn, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa, Justin Blackmon, Kendall Hunter, Kiehl Frazier, LSU, Mark Dantonio, Miami (Ohio), Michigan State, Mike Gundy, Nick Fairley, Northwestern, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Purdue, South Carolina, Zac Robinson
Posted on: January 12, 2011 12:55 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2011 1:40 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
The 2010 season has only been in the books for a little more than 36 hours, so naturally everyone has begun looking ahead to the 2011 season. One of the early favorites in the Big 12 for next year is Oklahoma, particularly with the announcement that Ryan Broyles would be returning to school. But the conference competition got even stiffer on Wednesday, with their neighbors in Stillwater making some big news of their own.
Oklahoma State has called a press conference to discuss the futures of quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who were both considering entry into the 2011 NFL Draft. Fox 23 in Tulsa is reporting that both players will announce their return to school in the fall of 2011. This is a huge boost for the Oklahoma State, who immediately become a contender in the Big 12 with the duo returning. The only question for Cowboys fans will be who is going to replace departed offensive coordinator Dana Holgerson, who is now the coach-in-waiting at West Virginia.
Blackmon, the 2010 Biletnikoff Award winner, led all wide receivers nationally in yards per game, touchdowns, and was third in receptions. Weeden, 27, still has a year of eligibility left after leading Oklahoma State to a school-record 11 wins in 2010. He threw for 4,277 yards and 34 touchdowns, completing 67 percent of his passes along the way. The former minor-league pitcher made quite an impact on NFL scouts, and could find himself in an even better position with another year of throwing the ball to Blackmon.
Posted on: December 30, 2010 1:55 am
Offense: The Cowboys weren't actually quite as dominant as the scoreboard (or their reputation) would suggest in the first half, punting four times and getting 14 of their 17 points via a 61-yard thunderbolt to Justin Blackmon and a short-field score following a muffed punt. After three quarters, they still hadn't even cracked 260 total yards, and their final total of 313 fell well below their nation-leading 537-yard average.
But with the Poke defense playing the way it was (and the Arizona offense helping OSU out the way it was), the most important thing for the Cowboy attack was simply to take advantage of its opportunities and not make mistakes, and that they did. Both red zone opportunities were converted into touchdowns, Brandon Weeden (who punctuated a pedestrian-looking stat line with several NFL-quality throws) didn't throw an interception, the Poke ballcarriers never fumbled, and Lou Groza Award finalist Dan Bailey went 3-of-3 with makes from 40, 50, and 44 yards. Combine that with the usual smattering of brilliance from Blackmon -- who finished his sophomore season with 100 yards and at least one touchdown receiving in all 12 games he played, not to mention two more highlight-reel scores in this one -- and it was more than enough to cruise past the bumbling Wildcats. GRADE: A-
Defense: The book on the Cowboy defense was that it could slow down most running games, but would really struggle against a competent passing game, and between quarterback Nick Foles and All-American receiver Juron Criner that's what Arizona appeared to have.
But that wasn't the way the game played out at all. In the secondary, the much-maligned Poke defensive backs picked off Foles three times, held him to a mediocre 5.6 yards per attempt (that still flatters his performance), and scored as many touchdowns from his passes -- thanks to a Markelle Martin pick-six -- as Arizona did. Criner grabbed nine receptions, but none for longer than 12 yards. Meanwhile, up front, Foles was sacked five times and hurried twice that many times at least. The end result was that a pass defense that appeared to be the most vulnerable part of the Cowboy team was its most vital part in San Antonio.
That's not to say the Cowboys didn't allow their fair share of yards; over a span of six drives in the second and third quarters, Arizona racked up 194 yards and crossed midfield five times. But thanks to the stiffening OSU defense, they scored fewer points on those drives (three) than the Cowboys did (six, thanks to Martin). As defensive performances go, it was just this side of dominating. GRADE: A-
Coaching: The Cowboy staff of head man Mike Gundy, now ex-offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, and defensive coordinator Bill Young have a collective reputation for aggressiveness, and they more than lived up to it Wednesday night. Holgorsen tested the 'Cat defense deep and with various misdirection plays, Young dialed up a number of successful blitzes, and Gundy's willingness to go for a 4th-and-2 near midfield up big in the fourth quarter paid off with an Arizona penalty and, eventually, the icing touchdown. The Oklahoma State staff showed by far the more aggressive coaching philosophy, and were rewarded with a far, far more aggressive performance from their team. GRADE: A-
Offense: Give the Wildcats some credit: with 369 yards and all the aforementioned forays into OSU territory, it's not like they didn't at least give themselves opportunities. But don't give them much -- or any, if you like -- since they squandered virtually all of them via a variety of mistakes. There was Foles, ruining Arizona's first threatening drive with a one-hopper to an open receiver on 4th-and-5 and throwing all three of his interceptions across midfield. There was the timidity in the running game, with the three Wildcat backs averaging just 3.5 yards on their 28 carries. There were the drops from the receivers, with even Criner joining in. There were the seven penalties, the five sacks, the four total turnovers. There was embattled kicker Alex Zendejas missing from 47 and 34 yards.
In short, there were far more shots aimed at the Wildcats' own feet than at their opponents in the Alamo Dome. When one final consolation touchdown with under five minutes to play -- on Foles' best pass of the night, a long arcing bomb to Richard Morrison -- was called back for a hold along the offensive line, you couldn't have asked for a better single-play summation of the Wildcat offense's night. That kind of sloppiness was simply never going to fly opposite a unit as explosive as Oklahoma State's. GRADE: D+
Defense: Frankly, given the quality of the opposition they were facing, you can't hang the outcome on the Arizona defense. With Weeden playing as well as he was and Blackmon being Blackmon (to say nothing of the likes of Kendall Hunter), to hold the Cowboys to 313 yards and three offensive touchdowns -- one of those coming on a turnover-aided short field -- is quite the accomplishment. A forced turnover somewhere would have been nice, but these Wildcats (active cornerback Joseph Perkins in particular) have nothing to hang their heads about. GRADE: B+
Coaching: Already down 23-7 with less than 10 minutes to play in the third quarter, Mike Stoops faced a decision: go for it on a 4th-and-5 from the Oklahoma State 30, knowing that his team would need all the points they could get given the potency of the OSU offense and the deficit his team faced, or try a 47-yard field goal with a kicker whose confidence had to have been badly shaken from the botched extra points that cost the Wildcats their rivalry game with Arizona State. That Stoops chose the "safe" route of kicking the highly-unlikely field goal (whcih badly missed, of course) tells you all you need to know about the halfhearted, play-not-to-lose, roll-over-and-get-crushed attitude Arizona approached this game with. For all his sideline bluster, Stoops didn't show the kind of actual fieriness and conviction his team needed. (And hey, that's not even mentioning leaving two timeouts on the board at the end of the first half while Stoops raged about a pass interference call.) GRADE: D
FINAL GRADE: Like so many other bowls this season, the game was firmly in one team's grasp by the end of the first half and entirely out of reach by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. Yawn. Again. At least Weeden-to-Blackmon was worth a look. Grade: C-
Posted on: December 23, 2010 3:47 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen as part of the blog's Bowl Bonanza series. For tonight's Poinsettia Bowl preview, click here .
The Basics: Oklahoma State (10-2) vs. Arizona (7-5), Dec. 29, 9:15 EST
Why You Should Watch: Because it's the Alamo Bowl, silly, the same game that gave us Texas Tech's stirring comeback against Michigan State last year, that saw Northwestern just miss out on their first bowl win since 19-dickety-two against Missouri in overtime, that unleashed this madness on us at the end of Michigan-Nebraska ... all in the past five years. And this year, we've got maybe the bowl season's best matchup of wide receivers in Justin Blackmon vs. Juron Criner, the carnival-worthy facial calisthenics of Mike Stoops, and one final chance to see Dana Holgorsen's flying circus at Oklahoma State before he takes his act to Morgantown. That ought to be enough.
Keys to Victory for Oklahoma State: More than maybe any school in the country other than Michigan, the Cowboys win by simply outscoring their opposition. With Holgorsen's unit ranked No. 1-with-a-bullet in the FBS total offense (and a robust third in scoring) but the Poke defense coming in 90th (and yielding a combined 98 points in their two losses), the pressure is permanently on the Cowboy attack to put points on the board. Anything less than 30-35 points, and the Cowboys will be cutting it awfully close.
The good news is that with arguably the best running back-wide receiver combo in the country in All-Americans Kendall Hunter and Blackmon (not to mention revelatory quarterback Brandon Weeden and his 32-to-13 touchdown-to-interception ratio), even the well-coached Wildcats may not be able to stop from Oklahoma State from hitting that mark. The bad news is that with as much time to prepare as Stoops and his staff will have, it seems unlikely the Cowboys will manage a 40- or 50-point explosion, either. That means the Cowboys will have to come up with at least a few stops, and that starts up front with a run defense that actually finished an impressive 27th in the country in yards-per-carry allowed at 3.57. Leading that charge was first team All-Big 12 senior linebacker Orie Lemon, who led the team in tackles and tackles-for-loss, but he was helped by an experienced (three senior starters) and deep defensive line that had four different members record at least 4 tackles-for-loss.
The front seven will have to be at its best to keep the pressure off of a secondary that ranked 115th in the country in defending the pass, but if the Cowboys can force just a handful of third-and-longs,even their defensive backs (particularly senior corner Andrew McGee) should be able to make enough plays to let Weeden, Hunter, and Blackmon win the game.
Keys to Victory for Arizona: On paper, the Wildcats don't have a whole lot going for them in this game. They come in riding a four-game losing streak that dropped them to 7-5, with the Cowboys at a stout 10-2; they have further to travel and will do so with dramatically less fan support; their last bowl "effort" was the 33-0 debacle against Nebraska in last year's Holiday Bowl.
But they do have Criner, a 6'4", 210-pound beast who quietly racked up 1,197 yards to finish as the nation's seventh-leading receiver. They also have Nick Foles, who equally quietly led the Pac-10 in passing yardage at 291 yards per-game, completed 67 percent of his passes, and finished in the national top 30 in both yards per-attempt and QB rating. And there's plenty more targets where Criner came from; eight different Wildcats finished with 20 or more receptions. Given the weakness of the Cowboy secondary, a huge night from Foles, Criner, and the rest of the 'Cat passing game could allow Arizona to keep up with an offense even as explosive as the Pokes.
And defying the West Coast stereotype, the Wildcats are also perfectly competent on defense, finishing as one of only 27 teams to allow fewer than 5 yards per-play. The triumvirate of Ricky Elmore, Brooks Reed, and Justin Washington (23.5 combined sacks, 33 tackles-for-loss) give them a dynamic defensive line that should be capable of slowing Hunter's interior running. If they can do that, a well-prepared back seven plays over their heads against Blackmon and Weeden, and Foles goes off, the Wildcats could very well pull off the upset.
The Alamo Bowl is like: the onslaught at the Alamo itself, at least when either offense is on the field; the overmatched and outmanned secondaries are going to come under a hail of football fire from their better-armed opponents, and will hope to simply survive until their compatriots on the offensive side of the ball can come to their rescue. If the quarterbacks and receivers play up to their capabilities, this year's Alamo Bowl will -- like its namesake -- definitely be something to remember.
Tags: Alamo Bowl, Andrew McGee, Arizona, Brandon Weeden, Brooks Reed, Dana Holgorsen, Holiday Bowl, Juron Criner, Justin Blackmon, Justin Washington, Kendall Hunter, Michigan, Mike Stoops, Nebraska, Nick Foles, Northwestern, Oklahoma State, Orie Lemon, Pac-10, Poinsettia Bowl, Ricky Elmore, Texas Tech
Posted on: December 13, 2010 4:11 pm
Edited on: August 20, 2011 9:00 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
UPDATE: In a blog from the Post-Gazette late Monday afternoon, Paul Zeise writes that "Dana Holgorsen will not be the next head coach of Pitt." He cites a source close to the situation, but does not elaborate. Though he does suggest that Holgorsen might still end up in the Big East, which could hint at possible openings at Connecticut (Edsall leaves) or West Virginia (Stewart leaves/retires). Regardless, something seems to have developed today to change the coaching search at Pitt. Stay tuned to CBSSports.com for more as this story develops.
Dave Wannstedt's "resignation" will go down as one of the more awkward departures of the 2010 postseason. Pittsburgh Athletic director Steve Pederson now must find a new face for the program. Facial hair or not, Pederson knows that he needs to take action finding his next coach. The coaching carousel has been spinning as fast as ever, and many of the names at the top of the national wish-list are quickly being employed.
Near the end of last week, it was believed the two top candidates for the job were Temple's Al Golden and Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. With Golden heading to Miami to lead the Hurricanes, Holgerson appears to be the new favorite for the job in Pittsburgh. Of course, there are no promises that Holgerson would be interested in leaving Oklahoma State right now. He has put together an incredibly potent offense with Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon, and Kendall Hunter as the cornerstones in 2010. With Weeden and Blackmon possibly returning for 2011, there is a chance that Holgerson could stay for one more successful year and boost his stock significantly.
But according to a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Holgerson was contacted by Pitt late last week and interviewed with Pederson at an undisclosed location over the weekend. Holgerson brings a high-energy offense that could energize the fanbase and immediately utilize some of the weapons already in place for the Panthers. Similar to Blackmon, Panthers' wide receiver Jon Baldwin could return for another season and join Dion Lewis and Tito Sunseri as the playmakers of Pitts offense. Sunseri and Lewis have both been inconsistent across their young careers, but have shown flashes of their potential (In Lewis' case, his entire freshman season). There are no notions as to if this will develop into anything further, but it sounds like one of the best potential scenarios for Pittsburgh.
Posted on: December 6, 2010 7:20 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2010 10:10 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given annually to the nation's top senior quarterback, announced its 2010 winner today. Wisconsin signal-caller Scott Tolzien , who led the Badgers to an 11-1 record and a berth in the 2011 Rose Bowl, won the award today.
Now obviously, the pool for this award is always going to be diluted on account of it being limited to senior quarterbacks, and the tendency of high-level QB prospects to declare for the draft before their senior season only further weakens the available list of candidates. Tolzien won this award over a rather tepid list of finalists: Andy Dalton , Colin Kaepernick , Christian Ponder , and Ricky Stanzi.
Or, more to the point, Tolzien wasn't up against Cam Newton , Kellen Moore , Andrew Luck , Ryan Mallett , Dan Persa , or Brandon Weeden. And that's good for Tolzien, because his statistics and the context surrounding them are totally underwhelming. While Tolzien led all seniors with a 169.80 passing efficiency and 74.8 completion percentage, he was hardly the focal point of the offense or the main engine getting it into the end zone; Tolzien recorded just 16 passing touchdowns, compared to his team's otherworldly 46 rushing touchdowns (of which Tolzien had none). Tolzien's total yardage accounted for just 42.6% of Wisconsin's yards, which compares rather unfavorably to Colin Kaepernick's 57.7%. And yes, Wisconsin is ranked higher than Nevada and was involved in more blowouts in which Tolzien's services weren't needed ... but TCU just so happens to be ranked even higher than Wisconsin, was involved in many blowouts of its own, and Dalton's total yardage was still 51.6% of his Horned Frogs' total yards. Also, keep in mind Tolzien was facing a defense with eight men in the box basically all the time, thanks to Wisconsin's thundering ground game. That's a luxury Dalton and Kaepernick didn't enjoy, and they still outperformed Tolzien in every category except passing efficiency, where Tolzien's lead is utterly marginal.
Beyond this year, though, Tolzien's numbers scarcely fit the typical profile of a Unitas Award winner. Beginning in 1995, when noted option enthusiast Tommie Frazier won the award with Nebraska, the average passing touchdown total of the Unitas winner has been 32.5 TDs ... or basically twice that of Tolzien and his 16 touchdowns. The only winner in that timespan with fewer than seven more touchdowns than Tolzien was (no surprise) Frazier, and even he threw for 17 TDs his senior year.
It just seems, like John Clay inexplicably being named a Doak Walker finalist, as if Tolzien is being given this award in lieu of a team award, since Wisconsin is ranked fourth and hooray for that. And it's not as if Tolzien had a bad season, either; his performance against the Iowa defense, especially when he drove the team down the field for a touchdown in the third quarter with only Montee Ball healthy (and Ball lining up at wideout since Nick Toon was out, no less), was really a fantastic display of passing. But by and large, there's just no way Tolzien was a more deserving recipient of this award than Dalton or Kaepernick.
Tags: 2010 Unitas Award, Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Big Ten, Brandon Weeden, Cam Newton, Christian Ponder, Colin Kaepernick, Dan Persa, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, Kellen Moore, Montee Ball, Nebraska, Nevada, Nick Toon, Ricky Stanzi, Ryan Mallett, Scott Tolzien, TCU, Tommie Frazier, Unitas Award, Unitas Award 2010, Unitas Award Finalists, Unitas Award Winner, Wisconsin
Posted on: November 27, 2010 10:05 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Things may have gotten off to a slow start in Stillwater on Saturday night, but Bedlam picked it up in the second quarter, and at halftime Oklahoma leads Oklahoma State 24-17. Both teams have made their share of mistakes, particularly Landry Jones and Brandon Weeden. Jones has thrown two touchdowns for the Sooners, but he's also thrown one for Oklahoma State, as one of his three interceptions was returned for a touchdown by the Cowboys' Shaun Lewis -- one of two Lewis interceptions in the half, though his second came courtesy of a fantastic play by Broderick Brown.
Jones came into the game having thrown only 7 interceptions all season.
Though, as troubled as Jones has been in the first half, Weeden has been worse. He's completed only 10-of-21 passes without a touchdown, and two interceptions of his own. A big reason for his struggles has been the fact that Oklahoma's secondary isn't letting Justin Blackmon find much room. Blackmon only has 3 catches for 62 yards -- which leads Oklahoma State -- but 45 of those yards came on one grab late in the second quarter.
A catch that helped set up freshman Jeremy Smith's second touchdown of the game to cut the lead to 21-17 with just over a minute before halftime. Oklahoma would then put together a nice drive in the final minute to set up a 29-yard field goal as time expired to put the score where it is now.
In other words, both teams have made mistakes, and both offenses seemed to be finding their groove towards the end of the first half. Hopefully they can keep it up in the second half, and the shootout we were hoping for continues.
Posted on: November 6, 2010 2:24 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Well so much for this morning's game between Oklahoma State and Baylor being a shootout in Stillwater. It seems Oklahoma State has decided to mix things up and bring a defense with them today.
It's halftime in Stillwater, and the Cowboys hold a 24-0 lead over Baylor. The Bears have only managed to put up 176 yards in the first half, and have killed themselves with three turnovers. The biggest one may have come late in the half. Baylor had put together its best drive of the game to get within the Oklahoma State 20-yard line, but Robert Griffin III was picked off in the end zone, ending the threat. It was the second time Baylor turned the ball over on what looked like a promising scoring drive.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma State can do no wrong on offense. Brandon Weeden has already thrown for 244 yards while Justin Blackmon has 8 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. Kendall Hunter has 69 yards rushing and the Cowboys other two touchdowns of the half.
Still, the story has been the Oklahoma State defense, which until this week, I wasn't even aware existed. Baylor has yet to find any rhythmn on offense, and when they do, the Cowboys for a turnover.
What I had thought would be one of the most entertaining games of the day looks like it's going to turn out to be a blowout, and Baylor can kiss whatever chance it had to win the Big 12 goodbye.