Tag:Nathan Scheelhaase
Posted on: January 14, 2011 9:21 pm
Edited on: January 16, 2011 3:20 pm
 

5 Up: Potential 2011 sleeper teams

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Earlier today, our own Dennis Dodd posted his pre-preseason Top 25 for the 2011 college football season. We here at the College Football Blog wouldn't dare disagree with our esteemed colleague's opinions ... but every year there's teams that vastly exceed the expectations of even the wisest prognosticators (like, say, Auburn in 2010) and some that disappoint despite some seemingly major advantages (like, say, Iowa in 2010).

So earlier today we named five that are in his Top 25 that might slip out or could otherwise disappoint, and right now we'll name five more teams we think can crack that Top 25 next season. Without further ado (and in no particular order):

1. Baylor - The good news for Baylor: dynamic quarterback Robert Griffin III is back along with most of the offense, and while he loses starting tailback Jay Finley to graduation, Finley's backups Terrance Ganaway and Jarred Salubi provide an intriguing balance of power and speed -- they both return. In addition, RG3 gets his top five receivers back (all of whom caught at least 40 passes this year), and three-year starting lineman Philip Baker will be the anchor at center for a mostly intact offensive line. Yes, Baylor still looks wretched at times on defense (53 points to Oklahoma and 55 to Oklahoma State aren't exactly solid efforts), so there's no telling whether the Bears' losses on that side of the ball are addition by subtraction or not, but one thing's for sure: there'll be points put up in Waco in 2011.

2. Illinois - This spot would likely go to fellow "Leader" Penn State if it weren't for the fact that PSU's replacing Evan Royster, two leading receivers, its two best offensive linemen, and there's really no telling who's starting at QB in 2011. Oh, and most of the Penn State defense -- including two of three starting LBs -- is graduating too. Contrast that with Illinois , who found a star quarterback in freshman Nathan Scheelhaase this year and returns four of five starting offensive linemen. The Illini won't miss early declarant Mikel LeShoure much with Jason Ford (who's basically a human truck) waiting to take over at tailback. The defense will definitely miss Martez Wilson and Corey Liuget on the interior, on the other hand; those guys were anchors of a stout rushing defense and their backups are unremarkable. Still, Illinois' 2011 schedule looks primed for some upsets, and nine wins is hardly out of the question. If Wilson and Liuget were returning, Illinois would probably be in Dodd's Top 25, but it's not as if no borderline-Top 25 team has ever exceeded expectations after losing two juniors to the NFL.

3. Utah - Everything's going to come crashing down once Utah joins a "real" conference, right? Maybe not. If QB Jordan Wynn recovers from December shoulder surgery in time for the season (which he should, but six months of rehab can turn into nine without the patient doing anything wrong), he'll be a third-year starter with a reasonable set of returning players. Senior wideout/returner Shaky Smithson is sure to be missed, but this is college football; so it goes. And while Utah's schedule looks daunting, it really could be worse; the Utes miss both Oregon and Stanford in inter-divisional play, and neither BYU nor Pitt should be as tough of matchups as they'd have been over the past couple years. In addition, the schedule's pretty top-heavy, and it's easily possible that Utah wins at least five of six down the stretch. Head coach Kyle Whittingham keeps proving predictions wrong by not bolting for a paycheck elsewhere, and now he's got a chance to lead his Utes into battle in a real conference and destroy the "mid-major" label that's been dogging the program -- even through multiple BCS bowl wins! -- once and for all.

4. Oregon State - Meanwhile, in the Pac-12 North, the Oregon State Beavers have a chance to make noise. Yes, Oregon and Stanford are the class of the division and should remain so for the near future, but don't sleep on the passing skills of QB Ryan Katz , especially now that he'll have his first full season as a starter under his belt. With the game slowing down for him and with Markus Wheaton and James Rodgers both returning at WR (to say nothing of Joe Halahuni coming back at TE), Katz should be able to more effectively use his NFL-caliber arm to put some points up in Corvallis. The offense will miss Jacquizz Rodgers desperately, and while deserved, his jump to the NFL will likely cost the Beavers a win or two. So while the defense struggled in 2010 and stands to lose several seniors, it may not matter in a Pac-12 with several struggling offenses and an OSU attack that should set 30+ points per game as a goal. Scheduling a road date at Wisconsin might not have been the wisest idea, though. Still, look for a push from Oregon State to hit that eight-win mark, which against a schedule like this could mean a spot in the Top 25 when it's all said and done.

5. Tennessee - Dodd ranks eight SEC teams in his Top 25 (26, really, but whatever). We're not sure all will end up ranked at the end of the 2011 season, but one thing seems clear: of the four teams he left out -- Kentucky , Ole Miss , Tennessee , and Vanderbilt -- Tennessee's the closest thing to a contender of the four. No, the SEC East shouldn't spend its entire season on fire like last year, where South Carolina took the division trophy in a five-loss season, but Florida 's going to be experiencing major upheaval and Georgia will be missing A.J. Green (again). With Tyler Bray coming off a successful freshman campaign and returning starting RB Tauren Poole and deep threat wideout Justin Hunter , we could see the Vols make some noise. On defense, the only major loss is leading tackler Nick Reveiz ; Herman Lathers made strides along with the rest of the defense down the stretch, and the secondary returns intact. If there's ever a time to make a run in the East, it's -- well, okay, it was 2010. 2011's not a bad opportunity for the Vols either, though.



Posted on: December 29, 2010 10:08 pm
 

Bowl Grades: Texas Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Ron Zook got the first bowl victory of his career as Illinois handed Baylor a 38-14 loss in Houston.

Illinois


Offense: This was likely Illinois' best all-around performance of the season since it beat Penn State, as both the offense and defense performed extremely well.  We already knew that Illinois could get the job done on the ground, but Nathan Scheelhaase showed everybody why he has such a bright future on Wednesday night.  The freshman completed 18-of-23 passes for 242 yards, while contributing 53 yards and a touchdown rushing.  Of course, 55 of those yards came on one play in the closing seconds as he kept the ball on a bootleg and nobody from Baylor followed him.  Still, as good as Scheelhaase was, Mikel LeShoure was the star of the show.  LeShoure rushed for 184 yards and 3 touchdowns to set the Illinois single season marks for yards in a season and touchdowns.  The Illini just had their way with Baylor all night long, racking up 533 total yards.  Grade: A

Defense: Illinois' defense hasn't gotten as much respect as it probably deserved this season thanks to some rough games against Michigan and Minnesota, but this unit isn't nearly as mediocre as most people think.  Case in point: On Wednesday night the Illini held a Baylor team that had averaged 32.6 points per game and 478.5 yards per game to 14 points.  Corey Liuget and the defensive line were in Robert Griffin's face all night, and most importantly, got off the field on third down, allowing Baylor to convert only two of ten third downs.  Grade: A

Coaching: After last season Ron Zook decided that if he wanted to keep his job and turn the Illinois program around he was going to have to start over.  So he overhauled his coaching staff and brought on Paul Petrino and Vic Koenning to run the offense and the defense.  Well, it paid off.  Zook has the first bowl win of his career thanks to the game plans his coordinators drew up to stop Baylor, and suddenly things are looking good in Champaign again.  Grade: A

Baylor


Offense: Robert Griffin is a remarkable kid. I feel the need to make this point because I'm sure a lot of college football fans don't get the chance to see Baylor play all that often, but I assure you, the Robert Griffin you saw tonight was not the Robert Griffin the Big 12 saw most of the season.  I'm not sure whether Baylor was nervous playing in its first bowl game in so long, but the Bears just didn't have it out of the gate on Wednesday night.  They showed some flashes on offense in the second half, but they were few and far between, and just not in time.  Any rhythm the team did pick up was quickly thrown off by penalties or bad decisions, and the Baylor offense that had shown up all season just never made its way to Houston.  Some of this has to be attributed to Illinois' defense, but Baylor didn't do itself any favors.  Grade: D

Defense: Was there that kid in your grade school that liked to beat up on younger, smaller kids during recess?  You know, the fifth grader with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove to the second grader?  Well, Illinois' offense was the fifth grader on Wednesday, and Baylor's defense was the second grader just lying on the ground hoping that a teacher would show up to break up the fight before he was dead.  You got the feeling that Illinois could have let Baylor know what it was going to do before every play and Baylor still couldn't have stopped it.  Grade: F

Coaching: There Baylor coaching staff isn't going to find much on the game film to be happy about when they get back to Waco.  It was just a bad night and the coaching staff deserves some of the blame for the Bears coming out so flat to start the game.  Still, considering what Art Briles has done at Baylor during his three years, and where this program could be going, it's hard for me to give Briles and company a terrible grade.  Grade: C

Final Grade


I was hoping this game would be a shootout that would come down to who had the ball last, or at least the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.  Instead it was a game that was pretty easy to figure out early, and felt more like a three and a half hour Illinois coronation ceremony.  Which is nice for Illinois fans, but for the impartial observer, it's rather boring.  Grade: D
Posted on: November 6, 2010 4:32 pm
 

Michigan wins 3OT epic; RichRod safe?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

At one point, it looked like Michigan had it in the bag, up 38-31 with the ball and driving deep into Illinois territory. Then it looked like they had no chance, down 45-38 with time for only one drive and Tate Forcier in for the injured Denard Robinson , out with either a head r hand injury (again).

But Forcier converted that drive into a critical last-minute touchdown, and Michigan survived three overtimes to win today's nominee for Big Ten game of the year 67-65 when Nathan Scheelhaase couldn't get a two-point conversion passoff. The game featured all kinds of superlatives and records, but maybe the most impressive is that Michigan receiver Roy Roundtree is now the school's single-game record holder for receiving yardage, having hauled in 9 catches for 246 yards. Even considering the addition of three extra frames, the amount of offense is staggering: 676 total yards for the Wolverines, 561 for the Illini. And the game provided some nice redemption for Forcier, the one-time golden boy who lost his job to Robinson in the offseason and began his outing today by setting up an Illini score with an unforced fumble.

But the biggest winner of all is Rich Rodriguez , who has his team bowl-eligible for the first time in his three seasons and could even push to seven wins with a victory over injury-riddled Purdue . As powerful as the Michigan offense looks, it seems unlikely the usually-stolid Michigan administration will rfire him after a bowl season over simply asking him to make defensive staffing changes. RichRod had never been in more trouble after last week's defensive meltdown against Penn State , but he might never have been safer than he is after this week's victory.

That's crazy, but it's also week-to-week business as usual in the college football business.
Posted on: October 16, 2010 11:48 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2010 9:19 pm
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Oct. 16)

Posted by Adam Jacobi

1. It's anybody's conference. With Wisconsin putting the finishing touches on a stunning 31-18 upset of the Ohio State Buckeyes, here are the teams that are at least tied with OSU in the Big Ten standings: Michigan State, Iowa, Purdue, and Wisconsin. Purdue is probably not going to contend for the Big Ten title, but the other three teams mentioned certainly will. Michigan State, of all the teams, must be the most ecstatic about the result in Madison; the Spartans are undefeated, the only Big Ten team who's 3-0 in the conference, and they miss Ohio State this year. But Iowa's at 2-0 in conference play, and the Spartans have to visit Iowa City in two weeks. Who would have thought back in August that MSU at Iowa could be the most pivotal contest of the Big Ten season?

2. Denard Robinson is most certainly mortal. It's not as Denard Robinson was a non-factor against the Iowa Hawkeyes today: Robinson racked up 204 yards of total offense in about 35 minutes of work. But for the third time this season, Shoelace left a game with an injury, and for the second time, that injury shelved him for the rest of the game. One of the most remarkable things about Robinson's production thus far is the sheer heft of Robinson's workload. Yes, he can't lead the nation in rushing and throw for over 200 yards without either throwing or rushing on the vast majority of Michigan's snaps. But that's an incredibly difficult thing to do, and now we're seeing some evidence that it's just not sustainable -- especially now that Robinson's not facing cupcake defenses like Massachusetts or Notre Dame (I kid, ND, I kid). Thanks to a bye week, Robinson has two weeks to recover before his next start, at Penn State. Does Tate Forcier still gets some snaps in relief at Beaver Stadium? Should he?

3. Wisconsin's rushing game is alive and well. Coming into today, John Clay was having a pretty good season, but considering Wisconsin's opposition, Clay wasn't looking dominant. That changed this week, when the big junior running back was running untouched through giant rushing lanes against Ohio State. That's not entirely surprising, but if Iowa doesn't have the best defensive line in the conference, then Ohio State surely must, and that Buckeye front four was absolutely gouged today. So if the Badgers can run all over Ohio State, they can probably run all over everybody left on their schedule. Again, the only remaining great defensive line on Wisconsin's schedule is Iowa, and that game's coming up this week. That should be just a little fun to watch. 

4. Congratulations to Penn State, who did not lose this week. Technically, it didn't play, but any iota of good news is welcome in Happy Valley these days.

5. Don't be that surprised if Illinois runs the table from here on out. It would be foolish to look at Illinois and see just another .500 team. Illinois' three losses are to still-undefeated Missouri, still-undefeated Michigan State, and only-recently-defeated Ohio State. In every one of those games, Illinois was competitive into the fourth quarter. And guess what: Illinois doesn't have any games against ranked competition left. Nathan Scheelhaase and Mikel LeShoure are growing as a QB-RB tandem week to week, and the toughest opponent left on the Illini schedule is, oh, let's say Northwestern. Illinois may be 3-3 today, but it may be 8-4 (or even better) before you know it.

6. The Tim Brewster farewell tour's going to be hard to watch. Fans of comedy in college football are going to lose an important ally this season, as Minnesota informed the world that Tim Brewster's not coming back next season. It's a shame, really, but it's only surprising insofar as Brewster hasn't been asked to clean out his office right now instead. Minnesota's got some decent athleticism, especially on the edges, so if that talent gets in the hands of a decent coach (MIKE LEACH MIKE LEACH MIKE LEACH DO ITTTTTTT), that program up north might wake up and make some noise next season. But only if Minnesota hires Leach.

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Posted on: October 10, 2010 3:38 am
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Oct. 9)

Posted by Adam Jacobi

1. Perhaps Denard Robinson's competition matters. Hey, we'll be the first ones to admit to falling in love with Denard Robinson's early-season performance. Sure, Michigan's opposition wasn't very good (at all), but lots of other teams were playing cupcake schedules at the same time, and nobody -- except maybe for Cam Newton -- was doing what Shoelace was doing. But Michigan State provided a pretty easy blueprint for containing Robinson: have a decent defense and don't do anything stupid with them. The Spartan defense, led as always by All-American linebacker Greg Jones, played disciplined defense against the explosive sophomore and forced him into three interceptions -- two of which came in Michigan State's end zone. Sure, Robinson ended up accounting for 301 yards (215 passing, 86 rushing), and those are good numbers, but remember: he's basically their entire offense. So while giving up 301 yards of offense to one guy isn't ideal, holding the entire team to 377 yards is much more palatable, and that's exactly what the Michigan State defense did. Next up for the Wolverines: Iowa -- and 60 more minutes of that defensive intensity.

2. Don't run up the score on Tim Brewster, please. The second-oddest thing about this week of Big Ten play was seeing Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster get into an arguing match with Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema after Wisconsin's 41-23 victory over the Golden Gophers. The oddest thing came about six minutes prior, when Bret Bielema elected to try a two-point conversion after the Badgers scored a touchdown to extend their lead to 41-16. The try failed, because not even Football God hates Minnesota that much, but Brewster certainly took it personally; the Minnesota coach said some very unprintable words to Bielema on the field, and used the word "wrong" to describe Bielema's decision about 15,000 times in his postgame press conference. Bielema said his little when-should-you-go-for-two card dictated that his team attempt the two-point conversion in that scenario. Even assuming Bielema's excuse is true, we have to wonder why Bielema didn't heed his card's advice 5:16 earlier, when his team scored a fourth-quarter touchdown to go up by 25 the first time. After John Clay's third touchdown of the game, Wisconsin led 34-9 with 11:55 to go, and Bielema kicked a harmless extra point then. Maybe, maybe Minnesota could have engineered 27 points in 11:55, but there was no chance of it happening with 6:39 left, so there's really no sense in kicking the extra point the first time but not the second. Bielema doesn't necessarily owe Brewster an apology; he's Bret Bielema, and he's kind of a jerk, and that's what he does. But at the very least, he owes Brewster and the rest of Big Ten fans an actual explanation of what the heck he was thinking going for two.

3. Penn State just isn't very good. Okay, we sort of knew coming into this season that Penn State would be taking some more lumps than usual on account of their true freshman quarterback, Rob Bolden, winning the starting job in Week 1. And sure, their 24-3 losses to Alabama and Iowa were disappointing, but not really shocking; 'Bama and the Hawkeyes are both pretty legit programs with pretty legit defenses. But 21-point losses to top-15 teams are one thing; a 20-point loss to middling Illinois is another altogether. Illinois controlled the action on both sides of the ball Saturday, shredding Penn State's vaunted front seven for 282 yards on the ground. Mikel LeShoure was a workhorse with 119 rushing yards and a 32-yard reception, and Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaase was both efficient (15-19, 151 yards, 1 TD) and mobile (eight carries, 61 yards). Meanwhile, Bolden had one of his worst starts of his nascent career, going 8-21 for 142 yards, a score, and a pretty bad pick-six to Nate Bussey that pushed Illinois' lead to 14-3. It was a freshman mistake, of course, and one he probably won't make next season and beyond. But it's that sort of thing, coupled with a general lack of special talent on the rest of the offense, that dooms the Nittany Lions when their defense isn't perfect. The Nittany Lions are 3-3 (0-2) now. Right now, it's pretty hard to guarantee they're going to a bowl this season.

4. Northwestern is also not very good. Going back to 2008, Northwestern's habit of winning games by close margins -- which is to say, playing both up and down to the competition -- has never really come back to haunt them; coming into Saturday's game the Wildcats were 14-4 in one-possession games since '08, a streak that's both remarkable and completely doomed to come back down to earth sooner or later, and that's where we find the Wildcat today. Two special teams disasters in the fourth quarter -- a blocked field goal and a poorly-kicked game-tying attempt with a minute left -- effectively kept six points off the board for the Wildcats, and a Dan Dierking rush from 7 yards out sealed the 20-17 upset for lowly Purdue. It's a bummer of a loss for the Wildcats, but the type of inexplicable upset that besets them pretty much every year. Their benchmark game is likely their next: Michigan State comes to town, and a win would put Northwestern back on the map. But it would take the Wildcats' best performance of the season, and any time the prerequisite for respectability is something a team hasn't yet shown itself to be capable of doing, odds are that the fans will go home disappointed.

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Posted on: October 9, 2010 2:23 pm
 

Penn State getting handled by Illinois, 30-13

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Happy Valley? No no, not today. Penn State is hosting Illinois this afternoon, and the Illini are positively rude guests. Illinois leads 30-13, having just completed a 41-yard field goal.

There's been no gimmick to Illinois' success; they're just grinding out drive after drive, primarily on the ground. Mikel LeShoure topped 100 yards early in the third quarter, and Nathan Scheelhaase has been efficient on the ground and through the air.

Meanwhile, Penn State has only four first downs to Illinois' 19, and Rob Bolden just isn't effective enough as a passer to get Illinois' defense to stop keying on Evan Royster; Royster's dinged up and at only 35 rushing yards after three quarters.

If Illinois hangs on, perhaps this won't be considered an upset after the year's over; Penn State's just not very good, and it wouldn't be a terrible surprise to see both teams at 3-5 in the conference when it's all said and done. For now, though, yes, the Upset Alerts tag rides again.

 
 
 
 
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