Posted on: January 12, 2011 3:17 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The Pac-10 goes 2-2 in its four -- yes, just four -- bowl games. Wrapping up:
1. Oregon still has to prove it can outfox teams outside the conference. For all of Chip Kelly's undeniable brilliance at the Oregon helm, the last three times the Ducks have stepped out of conference to face quality defensive opposition -- and frankly, we're being generous by even including Auburn in that discussion -- they've scored 8, 17, and 19 points (against Boise State, Ohio State, and the Tigers, respectively). Those totals are a far, far cry from the Ginsu job the Ducks have performed on the Pac-10 the past two seasons, and they beg the question: what kind of kryptonite do defensive coordinators outside the league have that those inside it don't?
To be fair, it may be a simple matter of preparation; all three of the above teams had far longer than the typical work week to watch film and prep for the Duck tempo. And the torrent of TV-dictated stoppages in bowl games didn't do anything to help Oregon's attempts to wear down the Buckeyes or Tigers from a stamina standpoint. But the root of Oregon's problems in these games doesn't have anything to do with either of those issues; it's that they've simply been destroyed at the line of scrimmage. Whether it's Boise's Ryan Winterswyk, OSU's Cameron Heyward, or now Nick Fairley, the Ducks have had no answer for the elite linemen on the other side of the ball.
No one will argue that the Duck offensive linemen aren't well-coached, athletic, quality players. They've been good enough to win two Pac-10 titles and 22 games in two years. But to take the next step and win Oregon's first national title, Kelly may have to find a way to upgrade his offensive front all the same.
2. If they can keep the staff intact, Stanford's not going anywhere. Or at least, not far. No one will argue that Jim Harbaugh wasn't the driving force behind the Cardinal's unfathomable rise to 12-1 and beyond-impressive 40-12 demolition of Virginia Tech (remember that despite their short-week loss to James Madison, the Hokies had ripped through an improved ACC without even being seriously challenged), but that doesn't mean he was the only force. Andrew Luck will return in 2011 as the hands-down, no-debate best quarterback in the nation. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman has already drawn head coaching interest and has learned directly under Harbaugh the past three seasons. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio just finished overseeing the biggest single-season defensive improvement in the conference, if not the countr. And Harbaugh's recruiting prowess means the cupboard should remain well-stocked for the next few years.
2010 may be the high-water mark for the program all the same. But if both Roman and Fangio are retained -- and it seems likely they will be, if one or the other is named head coach -- don't expect much of a drop-off in the near future, even with Harbaugh in San Francisco. The team on display at the Orange Bowl was clearly constructed well enough to withstand the loss of a single pillar, even if it happened to be the biggest one.
3. Arizona doesn't really "do" that whole bowl game scene, man. The Wildcats' appeared to have taken an important step forward during the 2009 regular season, coming within one overtime loss against the Ducks of a Rose Bowl berth. But then they took a big one back with a 33-0 shellacking at the hands of Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. This year, Mike Stoops needed a solid performance in the Alamo Bowl to wash out the taste of the 'Cats' season-ending four-game losing streak, and instead his team laid another colossal egg, meekly succumbing to Oklahoma State 36-10.
With victories or even respectable performances in those two bowls, Stoops would still have his team firmly established as one of the "up-and-comers" in the Pac-10. As is, 2011 isn't a make-or-break year for Stoops just yet ... but another iffy regular season followed by a third bowl faceplent would mean 2012 certainly would be.
4. Washington had a winning season. OK, that's not really something we "learned" as much as something that simply happened, but it's as close as we'll get since we're not sure there really was anything to learn from the Huskies' 19-7 win over Nebraska in this year's edition of the Holiday Bowl. Certainly it was a thrill for Jake Locker and the other Husky seniors to go out with a win, and after a disappointing year for coordinator Nick Holt's defense, holding the Huskers to a measly 7 points -- after giving up 56 to them in Seattle during the regular season -- will provide some optimism for next year. But with the Huskers visibly unfocused and unmotivated for a bowl game they'd played the year before against a team they'd already flattened during the regular season (and Taylor Martinez still not 100 percent), it's questionable how much an accomplishment the win really is. And with the face-of-the-program Locker departed, it's equally questionable how similar next year's Huskies will look to this year's.
So: it's a nice story for Washington. But it doesn't tells us much, if anything, about the Huskies going forward.
Tags: ACC, Alamo Bowl, Andrew Luck, Auburn, Boise State, Cameron Heyward, Chip Kelly, Greg Roman, Holiday Bowl, Jake Locker, James Madison, Jim Harbaugh, Nebraska, Nick Fairley, Nick Holt, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Orange Bowl, Oregon, Pac-10, Rose Bowl, Ryan Winterswyk, Stanford, Taylor Martinez, Vic Fangio, Virginia Tech, Washington, Washington, What I Learned, What I Learned Bowl Edition
Posted on: January 9, 2011 3:40 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Virginia Tech now has a couple of running backs it'll need to replace in 2011. Earlier this week Darren Evans announced that he'd be leaving Blacksburg to enter the NFL Draft, and now Ryan Williams has decided to give professional football a shot as well. Williams made it official on Sunday morning, letting Virginia Tech know that he was not going to return for another season.
“It came down to what I felt like was the best decision for me,” Williams said. “When they say you have the potential to be a first rounder, that’s something that’s hard to pass up. This has been my dream since I was 6 and I’ve never wanted to do anything else. This is an opportunity to help out my family and especially my brother.
“I want to thank Coach Beamer for giving me the opportunity to play. I remember when he came for my home visit with a No. 34 jersey and he told me I’d look good in it. I just thank him for the opportunity to play for his team. I also have thank Coach Hite for the opportunity to play in his backfield and for teaching my how to block and Coach Stinespring for allowing me to play for his offense.”
Williams burst on to the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2009, rushing for 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns. Injuries hampered him a bit in 2010, as he finished the season with only 477 yards and nine touchdowns. Still, he's been told that he's likely to go in the first two rounds of the NFL draft, and that's a hard opportunity for anyone to pass up. Particularly when you play a position that's known to have a short shelf-life.
Posted on: January 6, 2011 4:02 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2011 4:07 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
After the Orange Bowl, Virginia Tech running back Darren Evans made it clear that he was going to seriously consider his options regarding the 2011 NFL Draft. The redshirt junior has one year of eligibility left with the Hokies, but has been leaning towards turning pro for some time. On Thursday, he made his decision official via a school release.
“After sitting down with family, I’ve decided to declare for the NFL Draft,” Evans said in the official release. “I felt like this is the best opportunity for me and my family. This was a tough decision because Virginia Tech was good to me and my family and I had fun. I was blessed to play at Virginia Tech and at that level of football. I have plans to graduate and I will, but the NFL has always been a dream so it’s hard to pass it up right now.”
This decision makes sense for a couple of reasons. Evans got married last winter, and the opportunity to provide for his young son is not something that he is prepared to risk. He tore his ACL the summer before the 2009 season and it forced him to miss the entire year. He has been dinged up a few times this season as well, but nothing serious enough to greatly jeopardize his status. Still, one more injury to his knee could shut the window of opportunity to play professionally. During his redshirt freshman season, Evans was the ACC Rookie of the Year and Orange Bowl MVP. When he returned to the lineup in 2010, he shared the backfield duties with 2009's star Ryan Williams and sophomore David Wilson.
“I’m very happy for Darren and his family,” running backs coach Billy Hite said. “At the same time, I’m very sad because of the kind of player he is and he’s an even better person than he is a player. We’re really going to miss him in our football program and I obviously want to wish him the best of luck with his future in the NFL.”
Posted on: January 4, 2011 10:09 am
Edited on: January 4, 2011 10:09 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
At this point, it's the worst-case scenario for Michigan and Wolverine athletic director Dave Brandon: let Rich Rodriguez twist in the wind for a month in the hopes of potentially landing Jim Harbaugh, watch Rodriguez's team get buried -- again -- in their bowl game, see recruits (and huge swaths of the fanbase) jump ship as the bulk of the free world assumes RichRod is a fired coach walking, watch Harbaugh destroy Virginia Tech in Stanford's bowl game as an indication of what the Wolverines would ge getting ... and then, finally, after all that, have Harbaugh tell his alma mater he's not interested after all.
But that's exactly the scenario Detroit Free-Press columnist Michael Rosenberg has laid out for the Wolverines, reporting that a source "with direct knowledge of Harbaugh’s thinking" has told him that the Orange Bowl champion is "highly unlikely" to accept an offer to become the new Michigan head man:
Harbaugh plans to decide this week whether he wants to take a job in the NFL. If he stays in college coaching, he has decided he will stay at Stanford, where he has built a potential powerhouse. It would take an extreme change of heart for Harbaugh to end up in Ann Arbor, according to the person, who did not want to be identified because Rich Rodriguez is still U-M’s coach.If you're Stanford, it's time to do some cartwheels, since the assumption for nearly the entire bowl season has been that if Michigan didn't poach him away, some NFL suitor would. For the Cardinal to still be a serious option for Harbaugh at this late stage would be something of a victory in and of itself.
But if you're Michigan, well, whatever the opposite of a cartwheel is (pantomiming bashing one's own head with a hammer?), it's time to do that. If Rosenberg's source is accurate, the Wolverines are left in an almost untenable position; they either let Rodriguez coach (and recruit, or, more accurately, fail to recruit) another year with the guillotine publicly perched over his head, or they enter into a full-on coaching search with lots of other attractive candidates already spoken for and less than a month to go until Signing Day.
By waiting until after the bowl games, Brandon has essentially put all his eggs into Harbaugh's basket. If Harbaugh returns that basket with a note saying "thanks, but no thanks," Rodriguez's rocky tenure might only be the start of the Wolverines' misery.
Posted on: January 4, 2011 4:43 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Following the 40-12 beatdown that Stanford put on Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl tonight, there were obviously some questions facing Stanford QB Andrew Luck and coach Jim Harbaugh about their futures with the program. Luck is widely projected to be the top pick in the NFL draft if he chooses to declare for the draft (always a risky decision for a sophomore quarterback), while Harbaugh has been rumored to be unlikely to return to Stanford.
Naturally, reporters were acutely aware of both of these facts, and asked both Luck and Harbaugh about their plans going forward. Both men were forthcoming and candid and everything in the first part of this sentence is a lie.
Harbaugh was clearly pleased with his quarterback's performance under pressure and followed Luck's lead shortly thereafter:
Now, obviously, refusing to comment on tough questions isn't exactly a new development, and while some players -- see: Jordan Todman -- are comfortable with declaring for the draft immediately after their bowl games, it's obviously acceptable if others want to wait before making any announcements. Further, if Harbaugh were really looking to upgrade from his perch at Stanford, it would be horribly tone-deaf of him to make any announcement to that effect immediately after the bowl game while his players are still celebrating.
Still, the lack of comment is, in and of itself, a comment; if it were really Luck's or Harbaugh's intention to return in 2011, what better stage exists on which to make the decision public?
Of course, that assumes either gentleman's mind is already made up, and that could very well not be the case. Supposed "done deals" fall through routinely, and that's not necessarily the fault of those involved or even those making the reports in the first place. We could well be in that position again, especially with Harbaugh (if Luck doesn't declare for the draft, he's insane). So, patience, Cardinal fans; there's more information to come in the days and weeks ahead.
Posted on: January 4, 2011 2:05 am
Edited on: January 4, 2011 8:35 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
Stanford holds Virginia Tech to a scoreless second half in their 40-12 win for the Orange Bowl title.
Offense - Stanford put together one of the most complete offensive second halves that Virginia Tech has seen all season after holding a 13-12 halftime lead. They did it the way they've done all season, with a balanced attack of rushing and passing. The final damage totaled an evenly distributed 534 yards of total offense, with quarterback Andrew Luck leading the way with 287 yards passing and four touchdowns. After being frustrated by Virginia Tech's defense in the first half, Luck adjusted at halftime. With the chains off, Luck's presence opened up the run game as well for Stanford, proving once again why they are the best one-loss teams in America The Cardinal fans may have seen their last of Andrew Luck in that jersey, but it was one heck of a farewell show. GRADE: A-
Defense - Virginia Tech has a backfield full of playmakers, and Stanford absolutely shut down the Hokie rushing attack. The Hokies were held to only 66 yards as a team on the ground, and the Cardinal successfully turned the Hokies into a one-dimensional team by the second half. Once they accomplished that, Stanford began turning up the pressure on Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor, normally elusive and cool under pressure, was sacked eight times and forced into throwing a crucial interception in the third quarter that led to a two play, 97 yard scoring drive. If the Hokies had scored on that position, they could have tied the game at 19, but instead the Cardinal defense answered and changed the gameplan entirely for the Virginia Tech offense. GRADE: A
Coaching - When John Harbaugh gave his interview right before halftime, he mentioned that he liked "some" of what Stanford was able to get done in the first half. Andrew Luck mentioned after the game the change was about the little things. This was one of those moments when you determine that someone is one of best coaches in college football. Harbaugh and the Stanford staff repurposed Stanford's scheme at half to match defensive coordinator Bud Foster in the ongoing coaching chess match. As we saw, it worked out well for the Cardinal. Having said that, Harbaugh is so gone. His stock won't get any higher than it is right now, and the way he treated the question all night just left a feeling that he was ignoring the inevitable. GAME: A
Offense - Tyrod Taylor had one incredible play. Don't let that go unnoticed. But the Virginia Tech rushing attack of Darren Evans, Ryan Williams, and David Wilson combined for only 44 yards, well below the trio's average. The rushing attack usually helps keep the defense honest and allows Taylor to make more plays. The offensive line also struggled late to pick up the blitzes, and the Hokie offense could not find any kind of production in the second half against Stanford. GRADE: D+
Defense - Virginia Tech has been strong defending the run for most of the season, but for the first time since Boise State (the last time they played a Top 5 ranked team) strong defensive play was negated by giving up the home run. Throughout the game, strong stops would be quickly overshadowed by a crucial and/or big yard play by the Stanford offense. The few highlights the Hokies defense did have occurred in the first half, but by the end of 40 points and 534 yards a few highlights won't give you a good grade here. GRADE: D
Coaching - Bud Foster dialed up a new set of blitzes that gave the Stanford offense fits in the first half. Unfortunately, Harbaugh and the rest of the Cardinal staff adjusted at halftime and Virginia Tech had no counter. The speed with which the game got out of hand in the third quarter was surprising considering how resilient this Virginia Tech team has been all season. I assumed that the Hokies would need to play a full 60 minutes of hard-fought football in order to win. One half of perfect football wasn't enough to win against one of the better teams in Stanford's school history. GRADE: C-
FINAL GRADE: I was really excited about this game, and figured that it had the chances to be a quarterback duel for the history books between Luck and Taylor. Instead, I was most impressed with Stanford's defense and Harbaugh's ability to adjust at half. The game quickly turned into a promotional piece for Luck and his head coach. Now we will wait and wade through days filled with sources and tips, all claiming to know the fates of Harbaugh and Luck. My guess? Both gone. No sources, just a hunch. FWIW. GRADE: B-
Posted on: January 3, 2011 11:06 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
At halftime, the 2010 Discover Orange Bowl has been a grueling battle so far, with Stanford leading 13-12. The Goo Goo Dolls are playing the halftime show, so naturally it is time to share with you some awesomeness from the first half.
Five minutes into the second quarter, Tyrod Taylor needed just a little bit more time in order to find David Wilson in the end zone for the Hokies' first touchdown of the game. Just make a man miss, do a quick spin move, tip toe the sideline, and deliver the perfect pass along the sideline. Simple stuff, right?
Posted on: January 3, 2011 12:21 pm
Edited on: January 3, 2011 12:36 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
The Basics: Virginia Tech and Stanford meet in the Discover Orange Bowl on Monday night in Miami at 8:30 p.m. EST.
Why To Watch: Many fans have complained about the level of play in the games thus far in the bowl season. If you enjoyed the thrill of the Rose Bowl, you can expect a similar battle in Sun Life Stadium on Monday. After losing to Oregon in Autzen Stadium, the Cardinal took matters into their own hands to prove themselves as the best one-loss team in the nation. Heisman runner-up Andrew Luck led Stanford as they won the last seven games of their schedule by an average margin of 22.0 points.
Virginia Tech has been on quite the tear themselves, having won 11 straight after starting the season 0-2. The Hokies fell to Boise State and James Madison in a five day span that caused many to write the Hokies off in 2010. When Virginia Tech picked themselves up, they stormed into conference play with a "refuse to lose" attitude that carried them all the way to their fourth ACC Championship since joining the conference in 2004. Whether it was coming back from a 17 point halftime deficit at N.C. State or knocking off Georgia Tech with a fourth quarter kickoff return TD, the Hokies have displayed a resiliency in each game that is representative of their season.
As far as personnel goes, the game could end up being a duel between two of college football's hottest quarterbacks. Luck, likely the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, has been phenomenal all season and will look to finish strong what will likely be his last season at Stanford. Virginia Tech has been led by ACC Player of the Year Tyrod Taylor, who has overcome multiple injuries throughout his career to thrive in his final season in Blacksburg. Taylor entered with expectations of the next Michael Vick, but it has not been until 2010 when those comparisons have really felt accurate. Both quarterbacks are as dangerous with their legs as they are with their arms, and it should make for a thrilling back and forth between the two teams.
Keys to victory for Stanford: Establish the running game early, and use it to dictate the pace of the game. So much focus is put on Luck's ability to spread the ball out to several receivers, running back Stepfan Taylor is often overlooked as one of the most consistent aspects to the Cardinal offense. Averaging just over 85 yards per game, and ranking second in the Pac-10 with 15 touchdowns, Stanford can utilize Taylor to control the game - particularly if the Hokies are forced to focus heavily on defending the pass. Getting penetration into the Virginia Tech backfield will be crucial for Stanford as well, forcing Tyrod Taylor to make decisions on the run out of the pocket. Taylor is at his best when he has protection to hang in the pocket and then take off up the middle, Stanford should focus on forcing him to the sidelines where he has less room to make people miss in the open field.
Keys to victory for Virginia Tech: The Hokies have to play a complete game against Stanford. The Cardinal are so talented on both sides of the ball, not to mention well-coached and tough as nails. There will be no opportunities to take a play off and certainly no second chances for Virginia Tech. This is a winnable game for the Hokies, but they must be as close to mistake-free as possible. Stanford didn't blow out all of their opponents this year, but they did a great job of wearing down their opponents. It would be incredibly unoriginal for me to reference "Beamer Ball," but if the Hokies can get a big play out of their special teams unit it could be the deciding factor in a gritty matchup that could come down to the final minutes.
The Orange Bowl is like: One of the "other" Summer Blockbusters. You know those summers when Hollywood trots out a series of big budget movies? Well the Orange Bowl is like the Memorial Day release. It's not going to get the July 4th treatment or anything like that, but it certainly will set the tone for the rest of the summer season. The Orange Bowl has the potential to be one of those memorable games, so getcha popcorn ready.