Tag:Daniel Thomas
Posted on: September 25, 2011 1:00 am
Edited on: September 25, 2011 1:01 am
 

What I learned from the Big 12 (Sep 24)



Posted by Tom Fornelli

1. It's deja vu all over again. You can change the location of the game. You can change the Texas A&M starting quarterback. Hell, you can even change Texas A&M's conference affiliation, but it seems you can't change the Aggies' ability to implode against Oklahoma State. Last year in Stillwater, Texas A&M had a 21-7 lead over the Cowboys heading into halftime, but the second half was a barrage of Jerrod Johnson interceptions that quickly turned into 28 unanswered points by Oklahoma State. A&M would battle back to tie the game, but a last second field goal by Dan Bailey gave OSU the 38-35 win.

On Saturday Texas A&M again dominated the first half taking a 20-3 lead into the locker room. Then the second half came, and so did the barrage of turnovers and the 27 unanswered points from Oklahoma State. The only difference was that this time around the Aggies never completed the comeback, and the last second points were given to A&M by Justin Blackmon on a safety. All of which means that Texas A&M won't get the ultimate last laugh of leaving the Big 12 for the SEC as the defending conference champions.

2. Oklahoma State is a legit threat to win the Big 12. There's no guarantee that the Cowboys are going to run the table for the rest of the regular season, as their history has proved to us time and again. Still, the chance remains that when Oklahoma comes to Stillwater on December 3rd, both teams will be 11-0 and the winner might not only be playing for the Big 12 title, but for a berth in the BCS championship game as well. Do you remember Bedlam last season? Yeah, now just picture that game with all of that on the line. Sounds pretty fun, no?

3. Justin Blackmon is mortal. Seriously, Justin, I do nothing but talk about how amazing you are to anybody that asks. Critics respond by saying that "he's not a polished route-runner" and I just laugh it off. So you're not the best route-runner, you're still the best everything else in the land. But then you go and do something like this on Saturday, and I can't defend that, man. Come on, help a guy out.

4. Oklahoma isn't at its best yet, but it's above average is still pretty good. The closest that Oklahoma has looked to perfection was in its opener against Tulsa, and that was a somewhat rusty season-opening performance. Since then we've seen the offense struggle against Florida State, and the defense not have the best of nights against Missouri. Through all of this, though, the Sooners are 3-0 and still on course to win the Big 12. If Landry Jones stops turning the ball over, and the defense plays up to its ability, then this team could be downright scary. At the moment, however, I would put both LSU and Alabama above the Sooners on my ballot.

5. Robert Griffin is the truth. I'm running out of superlatives for this kid, seriously. Just another night of RG3 completing 88% of his passes and accounting for 389 yards and 6 touchdowns in three quarters of work. Yaaaaawn. (I know, I know, let's see what happens when Baylor has to face Oklahoma and company.)

6. Who needs Bryce Brown? Coming into the year I thought Kansas State would surprise people thanks to Bryce Brown replacing Daniel Thomas at running back. Well, I was half right. Kansas State is surprising people thanks to a 28-24 win over Miami on the road this week -- does this mean Kansas State is better than Ohio State? -- but it's John Hubert doing the work. Hubert had 166 yards on 18 carries for the Wildcats against the Hurricanes on Saturday while Bryce Brown never touched the ball. If Hubert keeps playing like that, Brown won't be touching the ball any time soon either.
Posted on: May 31, 2011 1:08 pm
Edited on: June 3, 2011 4:14 pm
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 70-61

By the Eye on College Football bloggers

To celebrate the (now fewer than) 100 days remaining until the first Saturday of the new college football season, this is the CBSSports.com College Football 100: our countdown of the 2011 season's 100 most influential players, coaches, administrators, venues, or any other related
things in college football. It's like that other "most influential" list, but, you know, more important. Also: it's supposed to be fun. Enjoy.

70. AGENT X, compliance disaster in-waiting, Potentially Everywhere. He's out there right now. Lurking. Ready to provide student-athletes with extra benefits at a moment's notice. "He" is Agent X, the person keeping compliance officers and athletic directors up at night. 2010 saw Agent X burst on the scene as infractions cases at USC, North Carolina and Auburn dominated the headlines. X could be a number of people, from a runner looking to steer kids to a school to an agent hoping to sign players when they eventually head to the NFL to an uncle looking to make a quick buck of the football talents of a kid.

From high school 7-on-7 tournaments to college campuses, the NCAA has taken notice of Agent X as well. They were out in the spring trying to learn more about runners' methods and a few of the major players. Compliance seminars have talked about ways to spot the tell-tale signs. USC, who was impacted by shady third parties as much as any school, hosted a summit designed to come up with way to combat the problem. Agent X is still out there though--and highly liable to pop up in a headline or two sometime, somewhere over the next few months. -- BF

69. DABO SWINNEY. head coach, Clemson.
One of the reasons Swinney was promoted to head coach after Tommy Bowden's mid-season exit in 2008 was his reputation as a stellar recruiter. We saw those skills in action this past February, as the Tigers brought in multiple huge late commitments on Signing Day--enough to bring their class rank all the way up into the Top 10. It always takes a few seasons for a new coach to make the program his own, and this upcoming season could be a pivotal one for Swinney. After 2010's 6-7 record, Swinney swiftly made changes on the coaching staff, most notably bringing in Tulsa offensive coordinator Chad Morris. Morris' fast-paced productive offense hopefully will alter last season's offensive struggles, but much of that will also depend on first-year starting quarterback Tajh Boyd.

The greatest challenge for Swinney in the upcoming season (or two) will be the personnel decisions with so much highly-rated talent coming into Death Valley. With so many players from the ACC being selected in the NFL Draft, the conference has come under fire in recent years for not being able to make the most of their talent while in school. Fans have drooled over Swinney's last two classes, and there will not be an acceptable excuse for another losing season. Swinney was fast to act after 2010 finished, now his decisions will either pay off or crash and burn. At 41, Swinney has a long career ahead of him in college football, but his length of time at Clemson could depend on how the next two to three seasons play out. -- CP

68. JARED CRICK, defensive tackle, Nebraska. It's pretty much impossible to win in a physical conference like the Big Ten without superior line play, so Jared Crick's decision to come back to Nebraska for his senior season bodes very well for the Huskers ... and very poorly for their opponents. Crick, a 6'6", 285-pound beast from Cozad, NE, was second in the Big 12 in sacks and fifth in tackles for loss--both ridiculous numbers for a defensive tackle. He's going to be drawing constant double-teams this season as a result, so look for his teammates up front to have even more opportunities to make plays than usual.

Of course, it's impossible to be a standout defensive tackle at Nebraska and not invite comparisons to Ndamukong Suh, Crick's former teammate. Both are terrifyingly powerful and athletic, and while Crick's production hasn't met Suh's level yet, Suh's junior stats (19 TFL, 7.5 sacks) are only marginally better than Crick's (14.5 TFL, 9.5 sacks). Crick may not meet Suh's senior-year level of performance this season, but that's really only another way of saying he probably won't be a Heisman finalist. Probably. He's a mortal lock for preseason first-team All-Big Ten, at least, and where he goes from there is up to him. -- AJ

67. CASEY PACHALL, quarterback, TCU. There was supposed to be a long, drawn-out battle to replace TCU's departiing quarterback and leader, Andy Dalton. After a few weeks of spring ball however, it was clear that the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Pachall would be the Horned Frogs signal-caller this season. With a strong arm and the ability to move around the pocket, the redshirt sophomore has more physical tools than Dalton did when he became the starter.

The redshirt year is important as it allowed Pachall to learn for a year behind Dalton and then receive some game action as the backup last season. Pachall has just nine career pass attempts -- which has to give you pause if you're a TCU fan -- but head coach Gary Patterson has raved about his performance as much as the typically understated coach can. It will be tough to fill Dalton's shoes after he won 42 games, but TCU believes Pachall will be able to fill them admirably as the school transitions from the Mountain West to the Big East. -- BF

66. 10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11,  day of remembrance. The second Saturday of the 2011 season won't be just another college football Saturday. It will be the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Every generation has that one moment in their history they remember for the rest of their lives -- the Kennedy assassination, John Lennon's death, the Challenger explosion -- and while the players on the field this fall were anywhere between the ages of 8 and 13 on that day, they no doubt remember exactly where they were when they first found out about the World Trade Center or the Pentagon.

Much like in 2001, when sports like football and baseball helped restore a sense of normalcy to life in this country, this day's college football will help show how the United States has healed. Obviously much has changed since then, but on this particular Saturday, when we take the time to remember that tragic day and mourn all the lives that were lost, we'll also be able to turn on our televisions and watch a game -- together -- that was played long before 9/11 and will be played for a long time after. -- TF

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65. BRYCE BROWN, running back, Kansas State. Bryce Brown is a name that has been known to college football fans for a few years now, even if he hasn't spent much time on the football field. The nation's No. 1 prospect out of high school in 2009, Brown spent a season in Tennessee before asking to leave and eventually making his way home to Kansas State, where he sat out the 2010 season. Now Brown will find himself in a feature role in Manhattan and will likely be a deciding factor in whether or not Kansas State returns to a bowl game in 2010.

While Daniel Thomas left some big shoes to fill, the Wildcats offense is one that should suit Brown. Bill Snyder loves to run the football and Brown will get plenty of chances to show the Big 12 why he was such a highly rated recruit out of high school. If he can live up to the stars that were attached to his name, Brown could be the difference between another seven-win season in Manhattan or a New Year's Day bowl. -- TF

64. ZACH COLLAROS, quarterback, Cincinnati. When Collaros was the backup quarterback behind Tony Pike, Bearcats fans got to see glimpses of a talented gun-slinger who they believed could continue the success they had experienced under Brian Kelly. And when Collaros finally got the starting job for himself in 2010 under first-year coach Butch Jones, he put together a 2,902-yard, 26-touchdown campaign--good enough to lead the Big East in both categories. Unfortunately for Collaros and Jones, those numbers will not be what is remembered from last season. Instead, Bearcats fans are still on edge from the 4-8 campaign that led to the program's first bowlless season since 2005.

But Collaros shoulders just as much of the blame for last season's struggles as anyone else on the roster. In addition to leading the conference in touchdowns, he also led the conference in interceptions. There was a lot of attention on the struggles of the Bearcats' defense (which allowed 28 points per game), but as the senior starting quarterback of this team the responsibility for Cincinnati's return to the top of the conference will fall on Collaros. He'll have the talent around him to put up big numbers once again (top receiver D.J. Woods returns, and former Tennessee commit Kenbrell Thompkins is now eligible), but a restless fan base will only care about the numbers in the win column in 2011. -- CP

63. STEVE KRAGTHORPE, offensive coordinator, LSU. The mind still boggles: in 2009, just two years removed from a national title and with an attack featuring multiple blue-chip recruits and future draft picks, the Bayou Bengal offense finished dead last in the SEC in total offense. Last. 12th. Sub-Vanderbilt. With his job (quite understandably) on the line, now ex-LSU coordinator Gary Crowton led a revival last year that took the team's total offense ranking in-conference all the way up to ... 11th.

Exit Crowton. And enter Kragthorpe, who arrives on the job with as tricky -- and as pressure-packed -- an assignment as any new assistant in the country. He must streamline Crowton's overstuffed playbook. He must finally produce some consistency out of quarterback Jordan Jefferson, or make the highly-combustible transition to JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger. He must overhaul a two-minute offense that in recent years has given Chinese fire drills a bad name. In short, he must make the LSU offense something much, much closer to what the LSU offense ought to be ... and if he does, the Tigers' terrifyingly athletic defense should be capable of doing the rest on the road to Atlanta. -- JH

62. BYU'S TELEVISION CONTRACT, independence-driving document, BYU. Why did the Cougars make the unprecedented decision to go football-independent in the era of the superconference? Because whether it's in Portland, Oregon or Portland, Maine, there's one thing you'll be able to do in both cities next year: watch BYU. That's the promise of the school's new-found independence and a Mountain West-free media contract that allows unprecedented access to BYU sports across the country. Nearly 140 events will air in high definition on ESPN or the school's own channel BYUtv. The rest will be available online as well as iPads, Xboxes and cellphones.

It's a new era for the school that is one of the few with a true national following. Every football game will be televised and the Cougars will see more exposure than they ever had in the MWC There's still work to be done as school officials responsible look to expand the reach of BYUtv but the promise of Cougar fans being able to finally watch their team without hunting around TV Guide is near. You might have heard about "TV everywhere," but be prepared for BYU everywhere with the new contract. -- BF

61. DENARD ROBINSON, quarterback, Michigan. Denard Robinson hardly needs an introduction. The man known by millions of fans as "Shoelace" set college football afire last year, leading the Big Ten in rushing yardage and rolling up a ridiculous 4,272 yards of total offense--good enough for second in the nation (only Bryant Moniz of pass-wacky Hawaii outpaced him). Robinson's one-man show was a delight to watch, but therein lies the problem: football is not a sport for one-man shows, especially when that man is just 193 pounds. Robinson got dinged up multiple times last season, enough to take him out of some games early, and that hammering's not going to stop any time soon.

Enter, then, incoming head coach Brady Hoke, who quickly named Robinson his starting quarterback but now must find a way to keep Robinson healthy for the span of the season. A tandem with Tate Forcier worked well at times last year, but Forcier has transferred after academic and personal issues. Devin Gardner is still around, but is he good enough to reliably spell Robinson for a few series every week? If not, Robinson's likely going to spend a lot more time in the pocket, and Atlanta Falcons fans who remember Jim Mora Jr.'s experiments in turning Michael Vick into a pocket passer probably have hair standing up on the back of their necks at the thought. No, nobody likes to see the fastest man on the field get the football only to stand still. But nobody likes to see the fastest man on the field get rocked 20 times a game and struggle to get back up, either, and that's the quandary Michigan faces in 2011. -- AJ

The 100 will return here to Eye on CFB tomorrow. Until then, check out Nos. 100-91, 90-81, and 80-71. You can also keep up with the 100 by following us on Twitter.



Posted on: April 1, 2011 12:03 pm
Edited on: April 1, 2011 12:05 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Kansas State

Posted by Tom Fornelli

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at Kansas State, which starts spring practice this Wednesday.

Spring Practice Question: Anybody want to play some defense?

On a lot of levels, 2010 should be considered nothing but a success for Kansas State. A team that many people saw finishing near the bottom of the Big 12 North (RIP) ended the regular season 7-5, and should have finished the year 8-5 had it not had a win in the Pinstripe Bowl stolen from its grasp by the officials on a bogus celebration penalty.

Seriously, I have absolutely no connection to Kansas State yet I'm still bitter about the ending of that game. I was half-tempted to do this whole primer as a "Can Kansas State figure out ways to celebrate without referees noticing in 2011?"

Anyway, let's put the past in the past, and look toward the future. There are plenty of questions that Kansas State will have to answer before the season starts. Most notably, how does Bill Snyder find a way to replace both Chase Coffman and Daniel Thomas? Neither will be easy, especially when you consider that the Wildcats second-leading rusher was Collin Klein, who was a quarterback and will now play wide receiver in 2011.

Still, as important as it is to find a new quarterback and running back. If I had to make a prediction, I'd go with Justin Tuggle at quarterback because nobody loves juco transfers more than Bill Snyder. At running back I'd go with Bryce Brown, provided that Bryce doesn't transfer four more times before the season starts.

More important than either of those decisions, in my opinion, will be the Kansas State defense. More importantly, will Kansas State have a defense in 2011?

Yes, the Wildcats exceeded expectations last year, but if they are to match the success of 2010 or improve upon it, then the defense will have to have a much better season. The Wildcats had the worst defense in the Big 12 last season, and gave up more rushing yards (3,008!) than any other defense in the country. Not the Big 12, the country. It came in 120th of 120 teams.

Now I should point out that while Kansas State gave up a lot of yardage on defense last year, as far as points went, the Wildcats weren't terrible. They checked in 78th nationally with 29.1 points per game.

Still, imagine how much lower that number would have been if the Wildcats knew how to tackle.

The one area that Kansas State actually did well in was in its pass defense, where it allowed only 212.25 yards a game. Of course, the question there is was it the ability of the Kansas State secondary, or just the fact that teams didn't need to throw much considering they could just break off 10 yards on every run. I'm guessing it was a bit of both, as opposing offenses completed only 55% of their passes against the Wildcats, which was the best mark in the Big 12. Which should continue in to 2011 as two of the secondary's best, David Garrett and Tysyn Hartman, are both back.

Big 12 Primers
Where the improvement will need to come is on the defensive line and the linebacking corps. One player to keep an eye on this spring is linebacker Arthur Brown. Yes, the brother of Bryce Brown, who was also a highly touted recruit in 2008 that originally signed with Miami before transferring to Manhattan. If he can live up to the hype he was given coming out of high school, his presence could go a long way in improving the run defense. Along with Brown, the team will need to see improvement from Alex Hrebec and Blake Slaughter.

On the defensive line, Kansas State loses Prizell Brown who led the team in sacks with 5 and made 42 tackles last season, 7 for a loss. It will be up to Raphael Guidry and Brandon Harold to step up and replace Brown in 2011.

Now, obviously, you can't take a defense that gave up so many yards last season and turn them into an elite unit only a season later. If defensive coordinator Chris Cosh can pull that off, then give him a huge raise and a head coaching position somewhere else in 2012. At the same time, however, it'll be hard for Kansas State not to improve on defense.

And with an offense that has so many questions heading into the season, it's going to have to.
Posted on: February 4, 2011 12:33 pm
 

KState moving Klein back to WR?

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Kansas State passing attack wasn't anything to write home about in 2010, but at times the Wildcats ground game worked so well behind Daniel Thomas that it didn't matter much. Just ask Texas. Still, the Wildcats offense seemed to be rejuvenated later in the season when Collin Klein began taking some snaps away from starter Carson Coffman. So it's not surprising that heading into 2011, coach Bill Snyder plans on having an open competition for the starting quarterback job.

What is surprising is that it sounds like Klein won't be a part of the competition. According to incoming freshman quarterback Daniel Sams, who just signed with Kansas State on Wednesday, Klein will be moving back to wide receiver this season.
From Slidell, La., Sams is one of two quarterbacks in the new class, including junior college transfer Justin Tuggle. Both are expected to compete for the starting job in the fall. Collin Klein, who played in 10 games this past season, may not be in the mix at QB any longer, as Sams said the junior-to-be is moving back to wide receiver full time.
Which, if true, means that the competition is now between Sams, Tuggle, Coffman and Sammuel Lamur. When Klein did play in 2010, he didn't throw all that often and was used as more of a runner. It seems that Snyder doesn't have as much faith in Klein as a passer, though he did complete 11 of his 18 pass attempts in 2010.

Still, if Snyder feels that his other quarterbacks give his team a better chance through the air, and bring the same benefits as Klein with their legs, then its hard to argue against moving Klein out to wide receiver. Though I'm not totally sold on the idea myself, because when I saw Klein playing last season the Kansas State offense looked a lot more dangerous to me than it did under Coffman.
Posted on: December 30, 2010 7:34 pm
 

Bowl Grades: Pinstripe Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Syracuse rides Delone Carter, Marcus Sales and some help from the refs to beat Kansas State 38-36 in first ever Pinstripe Bowl

Syracuse


Offense: Syracuse did not come into this game with the reputation as a strong offense, as the Orange averaged only 21.0 points a game this season.  Still, a funny thing happens when you have a running back like Delone Carter and are facing one of the worst run defenses in the country: you rack up yards like there's no tomorrow.  The Syracuse offense put up 498 yards of total offense on the day, led by Carter's 202 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns.  Ryan Nassib also found his groove after playing poorly down the stretch of the season, to throw for 240 yards and three touchdowns of his own.

All three of Nassib's touchdown passes went to Marcus Sales, who only had one touchdown during the season, and wasn't even listed on the depth chart before the year started.  Sales finished the day with 5 catches for 172 yards.  Grade: A

Defense: Much like its offense, Syracuse's defense took on an alternate personality in Yankee Stadium.  Syracuse only gave up 13.1 points a game during the season, but life is a bit different when you step out of the Big East apparently.  Still, even though Kansas State put up a lot of points, the Syracuse defense played a bit better than it looks.

First of all, holding a Kansas State offense that averaged over 200 yards on the ground per game to 120 yards and 3.3 yards a carry is nothing to be ashamed of.  No doubt the Syracuse game plan was to stuff the Wildcats ground attack and force them to air it out, which they did, but had probably been hoping they could do a better job of containing the passing game.  Grade: C

Coaching: Doug Marrone took the leash off his offense and let the kids play a bit in this one, and it worked out very well for the Orange.  From flea-flickers to reverses, to being smart enough to pound KSU into submission with Delone Carter, I can't find much in Syracuse's gameplan to complain about.  Grade: A

Kansas State 


Offense: Much like Syracuse, Kansas State didn't have a lot of trouble finding the end zone in this game.  What was surprising, however, was to see Chase Coffman have so much success throwing the ball.  I had thought that Kansas State would be better served with Collin Klein at quarterback in this game, and it turns out I was wrong.

Coffman completed 17-of-23 passes for 229 yards and a couple touchdowns.

The problem for the Wildcats was that aside from his 51-yard touchdown run in the first minute of the game, Daniel Thomas was virtually non-existent.  Yes, he finished with 3 touchdowns, but following that first run, Thomas had only 38 yards on 20 carries.  When he struggles like that, Kansas State isn't going to win a lot of games.  Grade: B

Defense: Did Kansas State play defense during this game?  I'm having some trouble remembering plays in which it did.

Seriously, Kansas State's defense wasn't anything to be proud of all season, and it wasn't on Thursday as well.  When you allow an offense that had been as lackluster as Syracuse's to pick up nearly 500 yards of offense, well, there's only one grade you deserve.  Grade: F

Coaching: Bill Snyder.  I love what you've done for Kansas State in your career, but you made some questionable decisions in this one.  While I loved the call to run the option on fourth and goal early in the fourth quarter, the fake field goal you ran later in the quarter when down five just didn't do it for me.  You know that touchdown you scored in the final minutes that the refs jobbed you on -- more on that in a bit -- and cost you a chance to send the game to overtime?  Yeah, well had you just kicked that field goal, the refs wouldn't have factored into the game and you'd have won. Grade: C

The Referees


Seriously, refs?  A personal foul in the final minutes after Adrian Hilburn scored a touchdown to bring Kansas State within two points?  Really?  Was a salute to the crowd actually enough to warrant a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call, and force Kansas State to go for two from the 18-yard line?  I hope it was for you, because I fear that what was a very good game will only be remembered for your boneheaded call at the end of it.

But, hey, at least you kept the kids from having any fun in their bowl game, right?  That's why we have these bowl games, isn't it?  As a reward for the players?

Final Grade: This game was not the crispest football game we've seen this year, but as far as the bowl games have gone, this was one of the more entertaining affairs for both the fans and viewers.  It's just unfortunate that a terrible call by the referees had such a dramatic impact on the outcome.  Still, even with that happening, I'm going to base this grade on the first 58 minutes and 46 seconds.  Grade: A-
Posted on: December 27, 2010 2:15 pm
Edited on: December 27, 2010 2:15 pm
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: Pinstripe Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli as part of the blog's Bowl Bonanza series.  Read our preview for today's Independence Bowl here.

The Basics: Kansas State (7-5) vs. Syracuse (7-5), Dec. 30, 3:20pm EST

Why You Should Watch: Because don't you want to be able to tell your children and grandchildren someday that you were there, at home, to watch the first ever New Era Pinstripe Bowl inside the legendary two-year old -- it may be 22 years old by then -- Yankee Stadium?  Who could pass that opportunity up?  Plus, given the latest weather patterns to hit New York this week, the game could be played under two feet of snow.

Keys to Victory for Kansas State: It seems pretty generic to say it, but it's true.  In order for Kansas State to beat Syracuse the Wildcats are going to have to win the battle up front on offense.  Syracuse has a strong defensive line anchored by defensive tackles Bud Tribbey and Andrew Lewis.  The interior of KSU's line, which has been strong all season, will have to neutralize those two and get to the second level and take linebackers Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue out of the equation.

This will be a key for Daniel Thomas to find room, and the more successful that Daniel Thomas is, the more successful Kansas State generally is.  

It's likely that Kansas State will also feature backup QB Collin Klein a bit in this game as well.  He saw a lot more playing time towards the end of the season, and he's more athletic and elusive than Carson Coffman is, and at times looked unstoppable.  It will be important for Kansas State to be successful on the ground because its passing attack has been suspect this season, and Syracuse is strong in pass coverage.

Keys to Victory for Syracuse: It's not exactly a secret that Syracuse's strength is its defense.  The Orange are ranked only 99th in the country with 21.0 points per game, but are ranked 13th in the nation on defense, allowing only 18.1 points per game.

That formula shouldn't change in this game, but Syracuse does have a chance to be a bit more successful on offense.  Particularly in the rushing game, as Kansas State has been pretty underwhelming against the run on defense this season.  So Syracuse's best bet would be to feed the ball to Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey and pound the Wildcats defense into submission.

There may be room for Syracuse to throw the ball a bit better than they have this season, but Ryan Nassib doesn't have many options around him and he can be a bit slow in making a decision. So Syracuse would be better served to pick its spots in the passing game, and let Carter and Bailey carry the load.

The Pinstripe Bowl is like: an actual baseball game at Yankee Stadium between the Yankees and Red Sox.  Not because this is such a strong rivalry, or because the stands will be packed, but because the final score is likely going to be 14-13 and the game will take over four hours.
Posted on: November 5, 2010 5:58 pm
 

Below the Radar: three other games to watch

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Every week there's plenty of interesting matchups -- no, really -- that don't feature ranked teams and don't make anyone's "must-watch" list other than the team's fans. Here's three of them you should keep an eye on regardless (all times Eastern)
:

UCF (6-2, 4-0) at Houston (5-3, 4-1), 8 p.m. Friday: It's less than three hours away from kickoff, but if you've got plans, change 'em: it's not every week you get a meeting between the leaders of each of Conference USA 's divisions (UCF in the East, Houston in the West). The schedule is less than kind to the Golden Knights, who already had what looked like a season-defining matchup in last week's 49-35 win over previous C-USA favorite East Carolina and now have the short week to prepare for their trip to Houston. But if they can get the same mix of Ronnie Weaver 's powerful rushing and new starting quarterback Jeff Godfrey 's efficient passing that powered them to 424 total yards last week, they'll be OK. For Houston, this is another chance to prove the three-losses-out-of-four skid following Case Keenum 's season-ending injury is truly behind them, and to put some distance between them and co-division leaders SMU .

Air Force (5-4, 3-3) at Army (5-3, n/a), 12 p.m.: It's been eight years since someone other than Navy took home the Commander in Chief's Trophy, but that could change tomorrow as a Falcons win would send the trophy back to Colorado Springs for the first time since 2002. That's not to say the stakes won't be equally high for Army; a win would make them bowl-eligible for the first time since 1996 and set up a winner-take-all showdown with the Midshipmen for the CIC Trophy. The Black Knights will be at home, but that may not be a help, since they've already dropped games to Hawaii and Temple at Michie Stadium this year and the Falcons have won six straight in West Point. With both teams well-versed in defending the other's option attack, the final result could come down to which team executes in their rare attempts to put the ball in the air.

Texas (4-4, 2-3) at Kansas State (5-3, 2-3), 8 p.m.: Admit it: it's fascinating to see how low the Longhorns can sink. And it remains possible they could sink all the way out of the postseason, with the 'Horns sitting at 4-4 and three potential losses still on the schedule in Oklahoma State , Texas A&M , and this week's date in Manhattan. If they can't contain Wildcat running back Daniel Thomas or get their 79th-ranked rushing attack going, Texas will slip below .500 for the first time in Mack Brown 's tenure in a long, long time. But there's a lot on the line for the Wildcats, too, who would secure themselves a bowl bid for the first time in Bill Snyder 's second stint at the KSU helm.
Posted on: October 22, 2010 3:14 pm
 

Below the Radar: Four other games to watch

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It's easy to pick out this weekend's biggest games: LSU and Auburn , Iowa and Wisconsin , Oklahoma and Missouri . But every week there's plenty of interesting matchups -- no, really -- that don't feature ranked teams and don't make anyone's "must-watch" list other than the team's fans. Here's four of them you should keep an eye on regardless (all times Eastern):

Penn State (3-3, 0-2) at Minnesota (1-6, 0-3), 12 p.m. This one won't feature a ton of points (the Gophers and Nittany Lions rank 76th and 108th in scoring offense, respectively), and obviously it's not going to have much impact on the Big Ten race, either. But this is the game that could legitimately be the beginning of the end of the Joe Paterno era; the Lions might be able to stomach one humiliating loss (last week's 20-point home shellacking at the hands of Illinois ), but a second at the hands of the reeling, coach-less Gophers -- not to mention the accompanying 0-3 conference record and dwindling hopes of bowl eligibility -- could start the succession planning in earnest. The long-term implications alone make this contest critical.

Rutgers (4-2, 1-0) at Pitt (3-3, 1-0), 12 p.m. Both the Scarlet Knights and Panthers have suffered some serious nonconference pratfalls --- Rutgers' unthinkable loss to Tulane , Pitt's home bludgeoning at the hands of Miami -- but both got off to 1-0 starts in Big East play with big wins over UConn and Syracuse , respectively. This is the Big East, after all: once you get to 2-0, it's impossible not to call you a serious contender in the conference. The key matchup will be Pitt's fast-rising Ray Graham (118 rushing yards per game) against Greg Schiano 's 15th-ranked defense.

Kansas State (5-1, 2-1) at Baylor (5-2, 2-1), 3:30 p.m. There's honest-to-God Big 12 implications here; if Mizzou loses to Oklahoma late Saturday, the Wildcats could forge a three-way tie atop the Big 12 North with their own date against the Tigers still to come. But the stakes are probably higher for the Bears anyway; a win would push Baylor to six wins and a postseason berth for the first time since they played the 1994 Alamo Bowl. There's surprising talent on display here, too: Wildcat back Daniel Thomas is the conference's second-leading rusher at 130 yards a game, and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin (14 TDs, 3 INT) has a Denard Robinson -esque blend of rushing speed and throwing accuracy.

Georgia (3-4, 2-3) at Kentucky (4-3, 1-3), 7:30 p.m. The storyline for this one is simple: the winner stays in the dead thick of the muddled SEC East race. Beyond that, last November the Wildcats used a bevy of Georgia turnovers to upset the Dawgs in Athens and have generally given Mark Richt 's team fits the past few seasons. If Richt wants to permanently silence the bleating for his head that began after Georgia's 1-4 start, he can't afford a second straight defeat at the hands of a team that's been Georgia's traditional inferior. Too bad for him the Wildcats have been feisty at home thus far this season, pulling one major upset against South Carolina last week and coming within one stop of doing the same to Auburn the week before. As long as Randall Cobb is around (even if Derrick Locke isn't), expect more feistiness to come, and for this one to come down to the wire.



 
 
 
 
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