Posted on: October 2, 2011 4:22 am
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Posted on: October 2, 2011 12:16 am
Edited on: October 2, 2011 12:14 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
WISCONSIN WON. What looked like a clash of the titans quickly turned into a blowout, as No. 7 Wisconsin welcomed No. 8 Nebraska to the Big Ten with a 48-17 whipping. Russell Wilson was lethal leading the Wisconsin attack with 255 yards and two touchdowns on 14-20 passing, while adding six rushes for 32 yards and another score. Rex Burkhead was valiant in defeat for Nebraska, leading the Huskers in rushing with 18 carries for 96 yards and a score, but it was an exercise in futility since Wisconsin could do whatever it wanted on offense.
WHY WISCONSIN WON: It's simple why Wisconsin won: the Badgers have a great quarterback, and the Huskers plainly don't. Russell Wilson rejuvenated his Heisman campaign with a truly stellar showing today, while Taylor Martinez put together a 12-play stretch that wrecked Nebraska's chances at keeping this game competitive; in those 12 plays, Martinez threw three interceptions, and Wisconsin converted all three into sustained touchdown drives. Just like last year, when Wisconsin was on, it was unstoppable -- and it spent a whole lot of time being "on" tonight. And oh yes, Montee Ball's line tonight: 30 rushes, 151 yards, four touchdowns. The chains just about never stopped moving for the Badgers.
WHEN WISCONSIN WON: This actually looked like a balanced contest for most of the first half; Wisconsin was the first team to commit a turnover after Jared Abbrederis fumbled at the end of a punt return, and Nebraska held leads at 7-0 and 14-7. Taylor Martinez began throwing his interceptions at that point, though, and when Martinez threw his third pick of the evening early in the third quarter, Wisconsin responded with a 47-yard touchdown drive (capped by a Russell Wilson 10-yard score on a bootleg) that put the score at 34-14 and served notice that there would be no comeback.
WHAT WISCONSIN WON: Just about the only valid criticism of Wisconsin's season to this point had been the fact that the Badgers' schedule was pure cake, especially compared to the six teams ranked ahead of the Badgers at this point in the season. So while it's now obvious that Nebraska is simply not a great team, Wisconsin still has a Top 10 win on its resume now, and it's getting awfully hard to find anything wrong with this team anymore. The rushing, the passing, and the defense were all working, and as a whole Wisconsin looked like the kind of team that can run the table this year. Who's going to stop them if Nebraska can't even come close?
WHAT NEBRASKA LOST: This was a tough, tough way for Nebraska to begin its Big Ten Era; Wisconsin manhandled the Huskers in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and Taylor Martinez looked maddeningly inconsistent yet again. Now, Nebraska's had problems with its defensive intensity and passing game all season long, but up to this point, it had stayed undefeated, and let's face it: there are some things you can look past after a win that aren't so easily ignored with a 31-point loss on the books. Look for a lot of reevaluation in Lincoln as the team licks its wounds and prepares for Ohio State.
THAT WAS CRAZY: With Wisconsin leading 41-14 in the second half and generally having its way with the Nebraska defense, the Wisconsin student section couldn't resist the opportunity to mark the occasion. And lo, up went a "BIG TEN FOOT-BALL (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)" chant that the rest of the stadium couldn't help but join. Now, Nebraska isn't going to absorb 31-point losses every week in this new conference, but it's also not going to have many weeks of easy victories from here on out, either.
Posted on: October 1, 2011 3:04 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 3:07 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Seventh-ranked Wisconsin's defense will be at less than full strength for today's game against No. 8 Nebraska, as starting defensive end David Gilbert has suffered a broken foot. Not only will Gilbert miss today's game, it appears most of the regular season is now in doubt as well.
Wisconsin RapidReporter Tamira Madsen has the news on Gilbert, and it's not good:
Gilbert's loss is bad news for a Wisconsin defense that has looked vulnerable at times both this year and last (though with such a high-powered offense, it's easy not to notice). Gilbert's not an All-American or anything, but he is an incremental improvement over both Muldoon and Kelly, so Wisconsin's front seven is going to need account for his loss. And being that Nebraska's option offense relies so much on attacking the free defensive end and forcing fast decisions, Gilbert's replacement is about to be baptized by fire tonight.
Posted on: September 30, 2011 3:19 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 4:41 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet. Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.
I respect you all too much to lie to you, so I'll be upfront about the fact that outside of our dinner menu this week, we're a little light on the calories this weekend. Yes, having a matchup between two ranked non-conference opponents to kick things off in the morning is a wonderful way to start you day, but after that, it's kinda thin.
Of course, none of this means you shouldn't eat lunch. Many times the simplest meals turn out to be the best ones of the day. So keep an open eye while perusing this week's Meal Plan.
#18 Arkansas vs. #14 Texas A&M (in Dallas) - ESPN 12pm ET
The final meeting between these two schools as non-conference foes, and both teams are coming into the game with a bit of a limp. Texas A&M blew a halftime lead at home against Oklahoma State last weekend, and Arkansas did not enjoy its trip to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama. What better way to move on from a defeat than by beating one of your oldest rivals? It's not often that we're given a matchup like this so early in the morning, so take advantage of it while you can. - Tom Fornelli
#24 Illinois vs. Northwestern - ESPN2 12pm ET
You want points? You're going to get points. Northwestern finally welcomes 2010 dynamo Dan Persa back from his Achilles injury, and the Illinois pass/option attack led by Nathan Scheelhaase has led the Illini to over 32 points a game -- and a 4-0 record. Both teams are looking to make a darkhorse run at their respective Big Ten division crowns, and each would welcome a hard-fought win to begin the conference slate. I know it's an early kickoff, but don't sleep on this game. - Adam Jacobi
Navy vs. Air Force - CBS 12pm ET
Restaurants of all kinds tend to offer "alternative" meals for customers, so think of this matchup of two of our nation's military branches to be our vegan offering of the week. Just replace animal products with passing game, and that's exactly what this is. When these two teams meet it's like looking through a window back in time as both teams employ option attacks. - TF
#10 South Carolina vs. Auburn - CBS 3:30pm ET
Neither team enters this game feeling particularly good about itself, not after the Tigers wheezed their way past an awful FAU team 30-16 and Carolina watched Stephen Garcia throw four hideous interceptions against Vanderbilt. But given Auburn's persistent tackling issues, even Garcia shouldn't be able to keep Marcus Lattimore from racking up another Heisman-type day on the ground. - Jerry Hinnen
Kansas State vs. #15 Baylor - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET
I don't think many people saw this game on the schedule at the beginning of the year and envisioned a battle of unbeatens in Manhattan, but that's exactly what we're getting. Even if that weren't the case, this one would still be worthy of your attention for the prospect of seeing Robert Griffin play football for three hours on its own. It's the first time Griffin and Baylor have had to venture outside of Waco this season, so it'll be interesting to see how he performs in hostile territory. - TF
Ohio State vs. Michigan State - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET
The Big Ten's night game is going to get all the attention, but this game could prove to be the most ruinous for whoever loses it. Michigan State is reeling after seeing its vaunted offensive attack shut down by Notre Dame's, um, inconsistent defense. Meanwhile, OSU hasn't looked great since Week 2, and if Braxton Miller can't get the Buckeyes moving against the MSU defense, that QB controversy is firing right back up and we haven't seen the last of Joe Bauserman. - AJ
N.C. State vs. #21 Georgia Tech - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET
The days of Paul Johnson's offense being defined as "three yards and a cloud of dust" are long gone in Atlanta. The Rambling Wreck lead the nation in plays of 30 yards or more, and they passed their first conference test putting up 312 rushing yards against North Carolina's touted front seven. N.C. State did not pass their first conference test, allowing 438 yards of total offense against Wake Forest. The Wolfpack are banged up on defense, and enter the game with only one of their top three running backs (not good for keeping the opposing offense off the field). But Tom O'Brien's squad had their number a year ago in Atlanta, forcing some turnovers and blocking a punt on the way to a 45-28 win. Unfortunately for the struggling Wolfpack, the Yellow Jackets remember that game all too well. - Chip Patterson
#11 Virginia Tech vs. #13 Clemson - ESPN2 6pm ET
Two undefeated Top 15 ACC foes face off under the lights in Lane Stadium, and both have a lot to prove in this game. The Hokies haven't been tested by any kind of noteworthy competition, and the development of sophomore quarterback Logan Thomas has taken a bit longer than some expected. Clemson, on the other hand, is trying to win their third straight game against a ranked opponent - something an ACC member school has never done. But the Tigers' undefeated record has all come in the comfy confines of Death Valley. Before anyone anoints Dabo Swinney's squad as contenders, they need to prove themselves on the road. Chad Morris' offense against Bud Foster's defense. The young Dabo Swinney against the winningest active coach in the conference. It's the premiere game in the conference and should live up to the hype. Make sure you tune in early for a chance to see "Enter Sandman" in action. - CP
Iowa State vs. #17 Texas - FX 7pm ET
Another battle of unbeatens in the Big 12 takes place in Ames on Saturday night. Normally a matchup between Texas and Iowa State wouldn't seem like something you'd want to try, but remember that Iowa State went into Austin last season and beat the Longhorns. So Texas is going to want to return the favor this season, and if either team wants to have any legitimate chance to win the Big 12 this season, then this is one they'll have to win. - TF
#12 Florida vs. #3 Alabama - CBS 8pm ET
Another week, another serious challenge to Alabama's potential national title campaign. And given the environment (as hostile as you'll see in college football this season, most likely), the weaponry on the opponent's defensive line (Ronald Powell, Jaye Howard, Sharrif Floyd, etc.), and the big-play capability represented by Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, the Gators should prove an even more substantial challenge than Arkansas did. But it's going to take the performance of John Brantley's life to keep the Tide from collapsing on Demps and Rainey, and something similar from the Gator back seven to keep Trent Richardson from uncorking another 60-plus-yard game-changing run. Are they up to it? - JH
#7 Wisconsin vs. #8 Nebraska - ABC 8pm ET
Saturday is the day of reckoning for one of the Big Ten's two divisional favorites; Nebraska is ranked eighth, but has not looked like a world-beater in any of its non-conference games, whereas No. 7 Wisconsin has rolled in early play, but against clearly inferior competition. Wisconsin's the only team of the two that's been able to run and pass at will, but with Nebraska's defense at its healthiest all year, it remains to be seen whether the Badgers can move the ball reliably this week. What a great way to finish the first week of Big Ten play. - AJ [Video Preview]
LATE NIGHT SNACK
#6 Stanford vs. UCLA - FSN 10:30pm ET
Bruins head coach Rick Neuheisel said earlier in the week that one of the biggest differences between his program and what the Cardinal have been doing is easy: Andrew Luck. No doubt Rick, no doubt. The Heisman front runner should enjoy facing a UCLA defense ranked 98th in the country. This is also Stanford's first game without linebacker Shayne Skov so keep an eye on how they handle UCLA's Pistol offense. - Bryan Fischer [Video Preview]
Tags: ACC, Adam Jacobi, Air Force, Alabama, Andrew Luck, Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Big 12, Big Ten, Braxton Miller, Bryan Fischer, Bud Foster, Chad Morris, Chip Patterson, Chris Rainey, Clemson, Dabo Swinney, Dan Persa, FAU, Florida, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Iowa State, Jaye Howard, Jeff Demps, Jerry Hinnen, Joe Bauserman, John Brantley, Kansas State, Logan Thomas, Marcus Lattimore, Michigan State, Mountain West, N.C. State, Nathan Scheelhaase, Navy, Nebraska, Non-BCS, North Carolina, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Paul Johnson, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Griffin, Ronald Powell, Saturday Meal Plan, SEC, Sharrif Floyd, Shayne Skov, South Carolina, Stanford, Stephen Garcia, Texas, Texas A&M, Tom Fornelli, Tom O"Brien, Trent Richardson, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Wisconsin
Posted on: September 29, 2011 2:47 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 12:14 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.
Good news, my fellow containers of the Y chromosome: while we have yet to overtake her, we have crept ever closer to Woman this week in the standings. Woman is reeling from her first losing week of the season, and it has her shaken to the core. She's looking over her shoulder and she sees us drawing nearer. Her confidence is shaken.
She knows it's only a matter of time before Man rises up and takes his rightful place atop the throne.
And that time is now.
Pitt vs. South Florida (-2 1/2) - Thursday, 8pm (All Times Eastern)Man - Is there anything more exciting than the beginning of Big East football season? Of course there is, in fact, there are a lot of things more exciting. I'll still watch anyway, and since I had to suffer through 60 minutes of a Pitt game last weekend, I'm picking South Florida on principle. Pick: South Florida
Woman - "Skip Holtz's Bulls smacked Notre Dame around who, in turn, smacked Pitt around. That should make this pick easy but a short week + travel for South Florida and Heinz Field + two embarrassing losses in a row + points for the Panthers makes me waver. (By the way, am I the last person to realize the Holtz family are living the song 'SKIP to my LOU'? Ewwww.)" Pick: Pitt
Machine - The Machine foresees a bad night for B.J. Daniels in Ketchup Stadium on Thursday night, as he throws 3 costly interceptions and the Panthers emerge victorious, 27-20. Pick: Pitt
Michigan (-20 1/2) vs. Minnesota - Saturday, 12pmMan - This is a tough one to call. Not because I don't think Michigan is going to win, but because I'm not sure I trust Michigan's defense enough to give up nearly three touchdowns in the spread. Though I suppose that if Michigan could beat San Diego State by 21, then it should be able to handle Minnesota. Pick: Michigan
Woman - "Ah, yes, that storied rivalry known as the Little Brown Jug Bowl. Word is, next year they're changing it to the 'Little Brown Change Dish You Made for Your Dad at Summer Camp'.Bowl." Pick: Michigan
Machine - It seems the Machine is more committed to making Denard Robinson a pocket passer than Brady Hoke is, as Robinson throws for over 300 yards while rushing for only 27. Michigan wins rather easily, but Minnesota covers the spread, 38-20. Pick: Minnesota
Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (-3 1/2) - Saturday, 12pmMan - The last meeting between these two teams before they're conference rivals once again. I picked Texas A&M to end its losing streak against Oklahoma State last week, and the Aggies let me down. I don't know if I'm ready to make that mistake again. Pick: Arkansas
Woman - "'Welcome to the SEC, Aggies! Please accept these brass knuckles in your nether regions from Bobby Petrino.' 'Why, thank you, Razorbacks! Please enjoy our blood curdling practice cheers outside your hotel window at 3am.'" Pick: Texas A&M
Machine - You may want to reconsider the SEC, Aggies. The Machine tells us of a ritual sacrifice taking place in Dallas on Saturday morning, as Arkansas wins 42-21. Pick: Arkansas
Illinois (-6 1/2) vs. Northwestern - Saturday, 12pmMan - I was at the meeting between these two teams last season at Wrigley Field and I still remember Mikel LeShoure running wild on the Northwestern defense. I'm not a big fan of trusting Ron Zook with anything, but even if Dan Persa does play this weekend, he's going to have a bit of rust to shake off. Pick: Illinois
Woman - "Oh, Sweet Sioux, here we - yawn - go again. With or without Persa, the Wildcats are a strong team with the extra bye week to prepare. And give me the points from a Ron Zook-coached team any day." Pick: Northwestern
Machine - The Machine believes in the Fighting Zooks, but it also knows that Pat Fitzgerald's teams always keep things close. Illinois wins 24-21. Pick: Northwestern
South Carolina (-10 1/2) vs. Auburn - Saturday, 3:30pmMan - Before last week's game against Vanderbilt, South Carolina had failed to cover in any of its first three games this season. Which makes that spread seem a bit large, because although I know Auburn isn't the same team this season, it's offense has still proved to be pretty potent. I'm going to go with Auburn to at least keep it interesting. Or, more accurately, I'm going with Stephen Garcia allowing Auburn to keep it interesting. Pick: Auburn
Woman - "Seems like a mighty big line for an offense whose quarterback has thrown nearly as many picks as passes, until you realize he's up against a team who would have their hands full defensing this." Pick: South Carolina
Machine - Remember the Georgia Dome! South Carolina gets its revenge for the SEC title game last season, kicking the defending champs while they're down, 34-20. Pick: South Carolina
Kansas State vs. Baylor (-3 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pmMan - At some point this year you're likely to see the "Robert Griffin For Heisman" bandwagon rolling through your town, and when you do see it, I'll be the guy driving it. Pick: Baylor
Woman - "I don't care what record Kansas State brings to this contest, until Robert Griffin III does something - anything - to prove otherwise, I'm doubling down on the amazing Baylor QB. A game I will not miss." Pick: Baylor
Machine - Not even the Machine is impervious to RG3, though it sees Griffin only being able to complete 70% of his passes this week. Baylor rolls 38-14. Pick: Baylor
Virginia Tech (-7 1/2) vs. Clemson - Saturday, 6pmMan - I understand that expecting a Clemson meltdown is the natural thing to do, but at the same time, this Clemson team has already survived contests against Florida State and Auburn. Virginia Tech hasn't played anybody yet, and while I think playing at home gives Tech the edge, I don't think it's going to come easy, either. Pick: Clemson
Woman - "Virginia Tech should be stuffed on cupcakes by now and ready for some real football. Meanwhile, despite tougher opposition, I haven't been overwhelmed by Clemson's play and think the bubble will burst on Saturday. But I'm going to guess they'll cover." Pick: Clemson
Machine - It won't be very high-scoring, but the Machine sees an exciting game in our future. After a touchdown run by Andre Ellington gives Clemson a 21-20 lead with less than two minutes left, Logan Thomas leads a nice drive to set up a game-winning field goal in the final seconds to give the Hokies a 23-21 victory. Pick: Clemson
Florida vs. Alabama (-5 1/2) - Saturday, 8pmMan - I haven't seen much of the Gators this season, but from what I'm told, John Brantley hasn't been completely terrible at all. Which is definitely a bonus for Florida. That being said, Brantley hasn't had to face this Alabama defense yet. I expect a tough, low-scoring battle in this one, but I feel like Trent Richardson will break through at some point, and it may be all Alabama needs. Pick: Alabama
Woman - "Florida under Will Muschamp and his offensive coach Charlie Weis is strong in new, exciting ways, but I just can't seen them holding back Satan Saban and the Crimson juggernaut. Maybe next year." Pick: Alabama
Machine - I hope you like defense, because the Machine says there will be a lot of it in The Swamp on Saturday night. The Tide doesn't exactly roll as much as it drowns. Alabama wins 13-7. Pick: Alabama
Wisconsin (-9 1/2) vs. Nebraska - Saturday, 8pmMan - This seems like a trap. That spread just feels really big considering this game is between the two teams who are supposed to be the best in the Big Ten. Then you start thinking about how Nebraska has looked so far this season compared to Wisconsin, and it makes a bit more sense. That being said, who exactly has Wisconsin played? It's hard to make this call, but I think Taylor Martinez makes some key mistakes in a hostile environment on Saturday night and the Badgers capitalize. Pick: Wisconsin
Woman - "Welcome to the inaugural Big Ten Championship game, Round One. Of course, this version is going to be played in the cacaphonous craziness that is Camp Randall, led by a Badgers team with a dominant defense and a sterling new QB. By January, Nebraska should have the kinks worked out but this week they will yield to a superior home team." Pick: Wisconsin
Machine - The Machine says "If there's one Big Ten game you're going to watch this weekend, make it this one, because it's going to be crazy! Wisconsin holds off Nebraska 35-34." In other news, if your Playstation starts talking to you, it's probably time to turn it off or get some sleep. Pick: Nebraska
Stanford (-20 1/2) vs. UCLA - Saturday, 10:30pmMan - If Jim Harbuagh were still around, this one would be easy to pick. With David Shaw in charge, I'm just not as sure that Stanford won't slow things down a bit once this game is in hand late, and UCLA has been somewhat bi-polar this season, so I'm not sure which team to expect. Screw it, I'll go with Stanford. Pick: Stanford
Woman - "Through some hard-hitting investigative journalism, I've procured copies of Stanford's playbook and UCLA's. So... yeah. Stanford wins but without star linebacker Shayne Skov, I think they won't quite cover." Pick: UCLA
Machine - Andrew Luck is an unstoppable killing machine. He throws for 6 touchdowns and runs for another as Stanford obliterates the Bruins, 52-17. Pick: Stanford
StandingsSeason Record (Last Week)
1. Woman 28-17 (4-6)
2. Man 27-18 (6-4)
3. Machine 23-22 (6-4)
Tags: ACC, Alabama, Andre Ellington, Andrew Luck, Arkansas, Auburn, B.J. Daniels, Baylor, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Bobby Petrino, Brady Hoke, Charlie Weis, Clemson, Dan Persa, David Shaw, Denard Robinson, Florida, Florida State, Illinois, Jim Harbaugh, John Brantley, Kansas State, Logan Thomas, Man vs Woman vs Machine, Michigan, Mikel LeShoure, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Pac-12, Pat Fitzgerald, Pitt, Robert Griffin, Robert Griffin III, Ron Zook, San Diego State, SEC, Shayne Skov, Skip Holtz, South Carolina, South Florida, Stanford, Stephen Garcia, Taylor Martinez, Texas A&M, Tom Fornelli, Trent Richardson, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, Will Muschamp, Wisconsin
Posted on: September 28, 2011 2:38 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 11:47 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
We've got a Big Ten showdown in Wisconsin (where it's basically impossible to beat the Badgers at night), Will Muschamp's introduction to the Alabama-Florida rivalry, an ACC road test for Clemson, a bounce-back opportunity for both Arkansas and Texas A&M and much more. Ohio State faces a tough challenge as Michigan State comes to Columbus. USF looks to prove its legitimacy with a Thursday night game at Pitt. Does Auburn have a chance against South Carolina? Dan Persa returns for Northwestern, but can he beat Illinois? We've got it all covered with this week's Weekend Preview.
Click here for the pop-out player if you'd like to listen in a new window, otherwise just hit play right below.
The only thing I'll add to the Wisconsin-Nebraska discussion is that Adam and Darin are, in my mind, vastly underestimating Wisconsin's talent advantage here -- especially when the Badgers have the ball. Last year, I wrote that the Iowa defense was the biggest fraud in the Big Ten. This year, so far, Nebraska's defense looks ready to assume that ignominious title unless it starts shutting somebody, anybody down. Adam and Darin mentioned the pedestrian yardage numbers the Husker D has given up, but yardage allowed in double-digit victories can be misleading sometimes; teams scramble in the fourth quarter against defenses more concerned with keeping the clock running and not allowing big plays than with forcing a punt, for example, or maybe the defense has its reserves in with a 27-point lead and three minutes left or what have you.
So I'll just also point out that Nebraska has forced 3-and-outs on 16 of 50 possessions (not including end-of-half kneeldowns). And yeah, Nebraska's non-conference slate has been more challenging than Wisconsin's run of puff pastries, but we're still only talking about Chattanooga, Fresno State, Washington, and Wyoming here -- not exactly a murderer's row of offensive firepower. Nebraska's defense is supposed to be the best in the Big Ten, and instead it's, eh, decent. Guess what: Bret Bielema and Wisconsin's offense eat "decent" for breakfast and they still have room for brunch.
Posted on: September 28, 2011 1:16 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
No, we haven't done any scientific surveys or hired Gallup to conduct a poll. But we have an edcuated guess as to how most college football fans would react to this CBSSports.com Mike Freeman report that several NFL teams are looking at Les Miles as a serious head coaching candidate. And that reaction is: WHAAAAA?
Even amongst college football fans -- heck, even amongst LSU fans -- Miles is rarely viewed as some kind of coaching savant. There's the late-game clock mismanagement. The years of underachieving offenses. The inability to gets his uber-talented teams over the hump to an undefeated season, national title or not. (Say it with us, Miles skeptics: "You can't spell Les Miles without two L's.")
But even if you aren't impressed by Miles' record -- and with a national title, two SEC West titles, and four seasons of 11 wins or more in only six tries, you should be -- the wildly successful start to his team's 2011 season should be evidence enough that he's doing something right. Several somethings, in fact, somethings that could very well make Miles a success even after making the leap to the NFL.
And if you've missed them along the way, these are them:
He coaches to win. Sounds simple, right? But truckloads of coaches base their in-game decisions on not losing rather than winning, and the end result is that their record in close games hews to the .500 mark you'd expect when allowing luck to be the deciding factor. Not Miles: whether it's throwing the famous last-second bomb to beat Auburn in 2007, calling the last-minute fake field goal that helped down Florida in 2010, or a dozen other examples, Miles is committed to calls that give his team a chance to win, not just a shot at avoiding a loss.
The proof is in the pudding of his record in close games: 22-9 in his six seasons in games decided by a touchdown or less. In a league by nature even more conservative than the college game, Miles's go-for-broke approach could pay even bigger dividends.
He surrounds himself with the right coaches. Not every move Miles has made on his staff has been gold; after defensive coordinator Bo Pelini left to become Nebraska's head coach following the 2007 national championship. Miles promoted Doug Mallory and Bradley Dale Peveto as co-coordinators to fill that spot ... and promptly watched the Tiger defense take a massive step backwards in a disappointing 8-5 2008 season.
But Miles didn't wait around to see if Mallory and Peveto could get it together. He promptly went out and hired respected ex-Tennessee coordinator John Chavis, and the LSU defense has never looked back. Even many of Miles's less popular hires have paid dividends--look no further than Steve Kragthorpe, the widely reviled former Louisville head coach brought on as offensive coordinator this offseason to general disdain. But it's Kragthorpe having the last laugh: former pick-six machine Jarrett Lee is playing the best quarterback of his life and the Tigers have been ruthless in the red zone.
Assuming Miles learned the pro game well enough from his two-year stint with the Dallas Cowboys to have an idea of who he'd want on his NFL staff, that same eye for coaching talent should serve him well.
His special teams are dynamite. For years, LSU has boasted some of the best-coached, most consistent and most explosive special teams units in the SEC. Much of that success has been chalked up to the Tigers' string of top-notch return men: Trindon Holliday, Chad Jones, Patrick Peterson. But after watching Morris Claiborne emphatically end West Virginia's second-half rally with a kickoff return for touchdown last Saturday (and Tyrann Mathieu do much the same to Oregon with his forced fumble and reutnr-for-touchdown on punt coverage), it's time to acknowledge that LSU's special teams success runs deeper than just the guys asked to field the ball.
He connects with his players. It's not worth belaboring the point already made by Freeman in his report, but no one has ever accused Miles's teams of not playing their hardest for him, nor Miles himself of being unable to reach recruits or manage his star players. Motivating and focusing college kids is a very different task than doing the same for seasoned professionals, but Miles's homespun charisma and willingness to trust his players to win games (see the first item on this list) should go a long way towards helping him make the adjustment.
Miles would no doubt have a lot to learn about the NFL -- two years as a tight end coach doesn't seem like an ideal level of pro experience for someone being asked to take over his own team -- but he appears to have a foundation in place that would serve him well should he make the leap. With NFL teams apparently willing to offer him the chance, the question is: will he?
Tags: Auburn, Bo Pelini, Bradley Dale Peveto, Chad Jones, Dallas Cowboys, Doug Mallory, Florida, Jarrett Lee, Jerry Hinnen. Trindon Holliday, John Chavis, Les Miles, Les Miles to the NFL, Louisville, LSU, Mike Freeman, Morris Claiborne, Nebraska, NFL, Oregon, Patrick Peterson, SEC, Steve Kragthorpe, Tennessee, Tyrann Mathieu, West Virginia
Posted on: September 27, 2011 7:58 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 12:05 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Iowa and Nebraska are set to kick off a brand new rivalry this year as part of Nebraska's entry into the Big Ten, and the two teams have announced a Heroes Game theme to the annual contest, which is scheduled for the Friday after Thanksgiving.
When the Heroes Game was announced, one of the things that was conspicuously missing was the trophy itself; athletic directors Tom Osborne of Nebraska and Gary Barta of Iowa merely said that the trophy would be announced at a later date. That date is today -- sort of -- as Nebraska and Iowa have released a website where fans can vote on their favorite design for this November's trophy.
UPDATE: Although the NebraskaIowaTrophy.com website is legitimate and does represent a Nebraska-Iowa trophy, this will not be the official Heroes Game trophy; it is a student body trophy in a joint effort by Nebraska's Innocents Society and Iowa's President's Leadership Society. The website of the trophy has since been updated to more accurately reflect that this is a student body trophy, and we are grateful to have heard from the Innocents Society who provided some much-needed clarification.
Two things: on one hand, it appears the two schools' societies learned a valuable lesson from the failed Iowa-Iowa State trophy by putting the final design in the hands of the fans. On the other, it also appears they learned nothing from the failed Iowa-Iowa State trophy because all of these ideas are agriculture-related too. Observe:
Obviously, the pitchfork is the right choice here and it's not even close. There are two acceptable ideas for a corn-related trophy, and neither of them are represented here. If you must use a corn theme, the trophy either has to be A: a giant brass kernel of corn, because trophies are meant to be giant, brass, and hoisted, or B: a football opening up with a giant cob of corn inside it. EMBRACE THE THEME.
At the very least, though, there are no children on any of these trophy ideas, so this is a step up in that respect. But corn, guys? Again? Corn's not worth fighting over -- not in a state like Iowa or Nebraska, anyway.