Posted on: September 25, 2011 1:43 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
1. Resetting the conference order - Saturday was the last week of non-conference match ups for the Big East, with the conference schedule kicking off on Thursday night with South Florida's visit to Pittsburgh. Every team has played three or four games, and there are things we've learned about these teams that have changed my view of the conference landscape.
In August, my projected order of finish looked like this:
1. West Virginia
3. South Florida
After four weeks of non-conference competition, my new re-shuffle looks a little like this:
1. West Virginia
2. South Florida
2. West Virginia's team got pushed, and they showed fight. The Mountaineers played LSU much closer than the 47-21 score indicates. Turnovers and impossible field position made it difficult for West Virginia to translate their 533 yards of total offense into the points needed to keep up the Bayou Bengals for four quarters. But West Virginia did not back down from the challenge, showing an impressive amount of resilience after trailing LSU by 20 at halftime. The two unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter took a gritty tenacity from both the offense and defense. Unfortunately that third unit, special teams, was caught off guard with Morris Claiborne's 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. With that special teams play, LSU swung the momentum and the game back in their direction.
But the Mountaineers kept fighting, which is a good sign with conference play staring Oct. 8. The key for Dana Holgorsen's squad will be maintaining this high level of play for the rest of the season. The way the Big East title race has sorted out in recent years, the only way to control your destiny is to avoid two conference losses. At their best, West Virginia should beat four opponents. The final stretch of the Mountaineers' schedule includes Cincinnati, the Backyard Brawl against Pittsburgh, and a Thursday night showdown with South Florida on Dec. 1. It is very possible that matchup with the Bulls could be an unofficial Big East title game. But they must maintain their high level of play in order to get there.
3. Pittsburgh has not lived up to their expectations on either side of the ball. Todd Graham's arrival in Pittsburgh was supposedly going to issue in a new ear of offense that would be defined by high tempo, high scores, and lots of excitement for Panther fans. There was absolutely none of those things present at Heinz Field on Saturday in Notre Dame's 15-12 defeat of Pittsburgh. For the second week in a row, Pittsburgh failed to close out an opponent despite being handed several opportunities in the form of turnovers and poorly executed possessions by their opponents. It seemed like Notre Dame was begging Pittsburgh to put them back into their misery, and the Panthers did not display the offensive firepower or defensive intensity to create the points or stops necessary for a single field goal or touchdown in the fourth quarter. The frustrating finish comes just a week after blowing a 17-point fourth quarter lead to Iowa. Maybe I'm in the wrong gear, but nothing about Pittsburgh's team seems high-octane right now.
4. Butch Jones appears to have things turned around. During fall camp, the Cincinnati players made several comments about there being a different feeling around the program in Butch Jones' second year at the helm. Normally, phrases like "buying in" throw up huge red-flags for coach-speak and I try to take them with a grain of salt. Cincinnati's defense was criticized as the weak link holding the team back in 2010, and this year the entire unit is back and leading the nation in forced turnovers. The offense hasn't skipped a beat, ranking first in the Big East in points scored with 49.5 points per game. The Bearcats defense still got shredded by Tyler Bray and Tennessee, but it is clear there is a different feeling and focus around the program. In August the players claimed they were buying in to second-year coach Butch Jones. By the end of September I'm buying their story.
5. Syracuse got some help from the stripes on Saturday. Toledo just can't catch any breaks. Two weeks after falling 27-22 against Ohio State, the Rockets took Syracuse to overtime in the Carrier Dome only to lose 33-30.
But the game should have never gone to overtime.
Video evidence shows that Orange kicker Ross Krautman actually MISSED the extra point that tied the game at 30 and caused overtime. The kick was ruled good on the field, and there was not substantial video evidence in the official's review to overturn the call. Some enhanced views of the kick reveal the hooking kick passing in front of left upright, therefore leaving no possibility of it sailing through. The mistake was noticeable enough for the league office to issue a statement on the ruling, and Syracuse should feel damn lucky for getting a much-needed win before conference play begins.
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Posted on: September 24, 2011 5:58 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2011 8:16 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
UPDATE: The Big East issued this statement from the conference office Saturday evening.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Sept. 24, 2011) -- BIG EAST Conference coordinator of football officiating Terry McAulay has issued the following statement, with regard to a play in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s football game between Syracuse and Toledo.
"After studying the videos of the Syracuse extra point attempt at 2:07 of the fourth quarter, we have concluded that the ruling on the field that the kick passed between the uprights was incorrect, and that the replay official made an error in failing to reverse that ruling. In reviewing the video, we have determined that the angle from behind the kicking team shows conclusively that the ball passes outside the right upright.
Our review of the process determined that the replay official mistakenly focused his attention on the sideline angle, which proved to be distorted. We are confident that our officiating staff will learn from this situation in order to prevent a reoccurrence. "----------------------------------
One thing the 2011 season had been blessedly free of through its first three weeks was a major officiating controversy. So it's a shame that all good things do come to an end.
The scene: in a back-and-forth game against Toledo, Syracuse scores a touchdown with 2:07 remaining to go ahead 29-27 on the visiting Rockets. Ross Krautman lines up for the extra point. The kick is signaled good, but the call goes to the booth. And then this happens:
We'll offer a modicum of forgiveness for the official on the field, who at least has the excuse of the ball whizzing over his head at an high rate of speed. But this blogger doesn't believe he's ever seen a more glaring example of indisputable evidence than the ball remaining in view during the entire replay, which means that according to nothing less than the laws pf physics which govern the universe as we know it, there is no possible way the ball passed inside the left upright.
It would have been nice for the Rockets if this stunning display of incompetence hadn't affected the outcome. But of course the Rockets drove for a field goal on the final play of regulation--a field goal that should have given them a deserved 30-29 victory. Instead it only took them to overtime, where Austin Dantin threw an interception on the Rockets' first play of OT, dooming them to the 33-30 loss.
We want to give the officials the benefit of the doubt, we really do. But sometimes there's just nothing to say other than: this was a terrible, terrible mistake, and this result is terribly, terribly unfair to Toledo. A suspension or reprimand is no doubt coming for the replay official -- you did watch the video, right? -- but we doubt that's going to make the Rockets feel any better.
Posted on: September 22, 2011 12:38 pm
Edited on: September 22, 2011 12:39 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
It seems that three games was all Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell needed to see from quarterback Joe Bauserman to realize a change was needed for the Buckeyes on offense. Fickell announced on his radio show Thursday morning that freshman Braxton Miller would start at quarterback for the Buckeyes on Saturday against Colorado.
While Bauserman performed well in Ohio State's opener against Akron, throwing for 3 touchdowns, he wasn't very good against Toledo and Miami the next two weeks. In those two games Bauserman completed only 41% of his passes for 202 yards and 1 touchdown. Miller also played well against Akron in the opener, throwing for 130 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 30 yards.
He didn't see any time on the field against Toledo, but played against Miami, throwing 4 passes for 22 yards. Like Bauserman, he didn't have much of a positive impact against Miami, and had two costly turnovers, but he also brought a bit of a spark to the Ohio State offense. Miller's ability to make things happen with his legs is just a facet of the offense that is not available when Bauserman is in the game.
It's also something that's needed with the suspensions of so many Buckeyes playmakers stemming from the fiasco last season that led to the dismissal of Jim Tressel and departure of Terrelle Pryor.
Miller was one of the most highly-touted quarterbacks coming out of high school last season, and was seen as the eventual successor to Pryor in Columbus. While he wasn't supposed to be starting this soon, it's become pretty clear that Ohio State isn't going to win the Big Ten this season with Bauserman at the helm, so it seems the coaching staff feels it's time for Miller to get some experience.
Though Bauserman is still expected to share time with Miller under center.
Posted on: September 16, 2011 4:16 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
The world of college football this year seems to be about everything but the games six days a week. Saturday, of course, things stop. There's tailgates and touchdowns, quarterbacks and queso, defensive backs and racks full of ribs.
Likewise, much to Mark Emmert, Donna Shalla and E. Gordon Gee's chagrin, Saturday's primetime match up between Miami and Ohio State has seemingly been about everything but what will take place at Sun Life Stadium. The Ineligible Bowl. The Tats and Cash Fiesta. The Yahoo! Sports Bowl. Convict Boosters vs. well… Convict Boosters.
For what it's worth though, there will be no boosters on the sideline according to Miami officials.
Everyday this week, it seemed that each program was in the news for off the field distractions. Tuesday, the NCAA reinstated three Buckeyes after accepting money - via disgraced quarterback Terrelle Pryor - from a booster. On Thursday, Miami's most famous booster, Uncle Luke, announced plans to sue Miami's most infamous booster, Nevin Shapiro. Before the game on the field, games were played in the headlines during the run-up.
"What has been our strategy? Just focus on what we can control," Hurricanes head coach Al Golden said. "Again, I keep saying it. No one on our staff was involved with anything that occurred here, and 90% of our team wasn't.
"There are some distractions there. There are a lot of things. I'm sure Coach (Luke) Fickell has the same issues in terms of every move that you make requires a double move basically."
Golden's starter at quarterback tomorrow, Jacory Harris was suspended for the opener, a loss to Maryland. He's looking to make up for his performance in the Horseshoe last year when he threw four interceptions in a 36-24 loss. For a team looking to put it all out on the field after a rough month off of it, perhaps it is fitting that the Hurricanes' fate will rest on someone who was taken off of it for eligibility issues.
Beyond last year's loss and Harris' issues though, this game means something to Miami. They're looking to avoid an 0-2 start for the first time since 1978 and end their four game losing streak. It's Golden's home debut leading the Hurricanes as well, something the team is clearly focused on - not the nicknames for their Ohio State showdown.
“He's been through the thick and thin with us through this whole [NCAA investigation]," senior Travis Benjamin said. ”We just want to come out and get a W for coach Golden.”
The Buckeyes are not without their own issues as they take their slightly less talented roster to South Beach. The team struggled last week and almost lost to Toledo were it not for John Simon's interception of the Rockets' backup quarterback late in the game. They'll be without four key players due to suspension in receiver DeVier Posey, tackle Mike Adams, running back Dan Herron and backup end Soloman Thomas. Those four will stay in Ohio while the other member of the Buckeye Five will be in Oakland. Not that anyone will bring any of that up.
"We hope and we think that this is what the game is all about, to be able to handle adversity and we believe it's going to make us stronger in the long run," Fickell said. "It starts from the top down. We can't let it affect me so that we can't let it affect them, as well."
Speaking of suspended players, Miami has at the early lead going on: they'll get back five players to Ohio State's three.
The Hurricanes will likely play a key role in the game as well. Linebacker Sean Spence will be a key defender in the middle of the defense behind linemen Marcus Forston and Adewale Ojomo. A speedy receiver, Benjamin should also provide a boost for the offense. Starting running back Jordan Hall, corner Travis Howard and reserve safety Corey Brown are back for the Buckeyes.
It won't quite be the 2003 Fiesta Bowl in terms of talent on the field but there's no ignoring how big a game it is between the two programs who are not on friendly terms.
"We try not to focus on, `Hey, this is a national game because of Miami and their great history and Ohio State's great history,'" Fickell said. "We're still making sure we understand it's one game at a time, like we always say, but it's still about getting better. It's a chance to obviously test ourselves."
Miami's home opener will be emotional. Ohio State is no doubt looking to silence critics. There will be story lines aplenty.
But as 7:30 eastern rolls around, it will - finally - be just a game.
Tags: ACC, Adewale Ojomo, Al Golden, Big Ten, Boise State, Bryan Fischer, Buckeye Five, Corey Brown, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Donna Shalla, E. Gordon Gee, Fiesta Bowl, Jacory Harris, John Simon, Jordan Hall, LSU, Luke Fickell, Marcus Forston, Mark Emmert, Maryland, Miami, Mike Adams, NCAA, Nevin Shapiro, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Pac-12, Sean Spence, Soloman Thomas, Sun Life Stadium, Terrelle Pryor, Toledo, Travis Benjamin, Travis Howard, Uncle Luke
Posted on: September 15, 2011 7:14 pm
Edited on: September 15, 2011 9:41 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
One of the three suspended Amsterdam natives on the Boise State roster has been reinstated by the NCAA--and fortunately for the Broncos, it might be the one due to make the biggest impact as the Broncos prepare to face Toledo Friday night.
The school announced Thursday that safety Cedric Febis has been officially cleared to play by the NCAA following eligiblity concerns, ones likely (though not officially) related to his move to the United States from the Netherlands to play prep football in Idaho. Boise released the following statement:
Boise State University officials learned late Wednesday (Sept. 14) evening that the NCAA has reinstated senior safety Cedric Febis to the Bronco football team.Febis was projected to be the Broncos' starting safety following the graduation of Jeron Johnson and will likely get the nod Friday against the Rockets. Febis appeared in 12 games in 2010 and recorded 27 tackles.
Boldewijn and Tjong-A-Tjoe obviously aren't in the clear yet, but seeing the NCAA offer Febis the stamp of approval must be an encouraging sign. Neither player was expected to start, but both were projected to see major snaps as the Broncos looked for receiving playmakers and defensive line depth.
On the other, less encouraging hand, Febis's situation and Boldewijn's/Tjong-A-Tjoe's aren't perfectly analagous. A fifth-year senior, Febis visited the Broncos' 2005 camp alongside fellow Dutchman and future Boise student manager Floris Mendonca. Mendonca would later return to the Netherlands as a coach and bring Boldewijn and Tjong-A-Tjoe (along with 10 other players) to BSU's 2008 camp. Mendonca was suspended by the program earlier this week, though the school declined to specify why or if the suspension was related to the eligibility concerns with the three Dutch players.
In any case, if the Broncos had to choose one player of the three to return, it's likely they'd have taken the experienced Febis--especially against explosive Rocket receiver Eric Page. The Broncos were already heavy favorites, and Febis's return should only make them that tiniest bit heavier.
Posted on: September 13, 2011 6:03 pm
Edited on: September 13, 2011 6:49 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Ohio State may not be at full strength in terms of getting players back on the field, but it's getting there. The NCAA has officially reinstated RB Jordan Hall, CB Travis Howard and S Corey Brown as of today, ending the three Buckeyes' two-week suspension for accepting money from a booster at a recent fundraiser.
According to the NCAA, whose full statement on the reinstatement is linked here, the three players will be forced to repay the money they received from the booster, with the money going to an undisclosed charity.
The reinstatement means that the players have finally gotten their stories straight about where the money came from, which was not the case last week when two different people (a former player and a booster) were named as sources for the money in Ohio State documents. That clearly didn't sit well with the NCAA, and the suspensions continued through the Toledo game.
Nonetheless, Ohio State didn't have any public gripe about the length of the investigation and suspensions. “The university appreciates the NCAA’s expeditious response in reinstating these three student athletes,” said Gene Smith, Ohio State Director of Athletics.
The NCAA's statement ends on this well-known, but still ominous note (emphasis ours):
In other words, this situation isn't fully resolved in the NCAA's eyes, but at the very least the three players involved can get back on the field.
One must wonder when the boosters in Columbus are going to stop providing benefits to players. It may be a noble gesture and the rules may be illegitimate in the boosters' eyes, but they are still the rules, and the more those rules are broken the worse off Ohio State is going to be. It seems very counterintuitive that a "booster" would take such destructive action, then, but such is the world we live in.
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Posted on: September 12, 2011 3:08 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 3:09 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Life is frustrating for Brian Kelly right now. He's the head coach of a Notre Dame team that really should be 2-0 on the season, but is 0-2 thanks to ten turnovers -- five in the red zone -- in two games, and Denard Robinson. Kelly also believes that Notre Dame's schedule is a big reason why the team is 0-2, as he believes his team is playing tougher games this early in the season than some of its counterparts, like, say, Ohio State.
“We’ve made so many mistakes against two pretty tough teams coming out,” Kelly told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Again, as you see the schedule, Ohio State is playing Toledo. I mean, teams are playing easy games early on in the schedule. We don’t get that luxury. We have to go play in front of 115,000 [at Michigan Stadium]. Those mistakes are more glaring against opponents that are physically pretty good, as well.
“I believe that we’re going to be a good football team. We won’t be until we clean up the little things that keep popping up on Saturdays.”
Why Kelly felt the need to take a shot at Ohio State's early season schedule, I'm not sure. What's further confusing about it is that Kelly is also taking a veiled shot at Toledo, a school that gave Ohio State just about all it could handle on Saturday, and one of the best members of the MAC conference which is exactly where Kelly helped make a name for himself coaching at Central Michigan. It was hardly an "easy game" for the Buckeyes.
Personally, instead of making excuses for the team's start by pointing out how tough Notre Dame's schedule is, I feel like Kelly should say that his team just isn't that good right now. After all, whether the Irish were playing South Florida, Michigan, Toledo or some tiny FCS school, it wasn't those teams fumbling at the goal line or making terribly advised passes in the red zone.
It was Notre Dame and the Irish have nothing to blame but themselves for this start.
Posted on: September 12, 2011 9:41 am
Edited on: September 12, 2011 10:03 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
College football's encore weekend not only lived up to expectations, but beat them.
It also caused at least few hearts to skip a beat or two around the country. It seemed like every channel you were on, there was a game coming down to the wire or ready to head to overtime. From the noon games to the night games, last Saturday was one big, drama-filled day.
Notre Dame-Michigan, USC-Utah, Cal-Colorado, Washington-Hawaii, North Carolina-Rutgers, Auburn-Mississippi State, Ohio State-Toledo, Texas-BYU, Iowa State-Iowa, Vanderbilt-UConn and several others left everyone on the edge of their seats. There weren't a ton of great defenses among the group but that didn't hamper the fun as teams either came back or fell just short. Heck, the first night game in Ann Arbor had as much drama as any of them in just 72 seconds.
One game I was really looking forward to going into Saturday was between the Hedges and that game more than lived up to expectations and put one coach in even hotter water.
The game seemed to be South Carolina personified. It's why everybody's hand trembled writing them in to win the SEC East this year. Not only was it the Gamecocks' history but they had a quarterback who frustrated fans and Old Ball Coaches alike in Stephen Garcia. When he threw his first interception of the game, it was simply Garcia being Garcia. The ESPN director, as if he understood perfectly, cut to a shot of Garcia with his hands on his hips, staring down his mistake while clinching his lips and a coach yelling at him. Later in the game he rolled out of the pocket and threw a beautiful pass that reminded everybody of his talent. Again, just Garcia being Garcia.
This is a good and very talented Gamecocks team that can beat anybody on any given Saturday if they don't wind up beating themselves first.
“Georgia outplayed us, give them credit, they outplayed us but somehow or another we won the game,” Steve Spurrier said post game. “Somehow it happens like that. Somebody was looking out for us tonight.”
Running back Marcus Lattimore broke out for 176 yards and a touchdown as the team rode him for 27 carries. USC will have to be wearing of overusing Lattimore because he's the key to their success but at least he had 10 fewer carries than he did against the Bulldogs a year ago. His ability to find just a little hole and take off is special and he certainly can run very hard between the tackles.
On the other side of the ball, how scary is the Gamecocks' defensive line? We knew it was going to be good but maybe not quite this nasty. Melvin Ingram was superb, taking a fake punt 68 yards for a touchdown and scooping up a fumble for a touchdown after fellow end Jadeveon Clowney nearly took off the head of UGA quarterback Aaron Murray. Only in the SEC do 275-pound defensive ends score twice in a game and run 68 yards while doing so.
The thing about Clowney, the nation's consensus number one recruit out of high school, is how he stands out on every snap just due to his size. Then, as soon as the ball is snapped, he stands out for his explosiveness and physicality - making you drop your job and say 'Wow' a couple of times a game. Heck, Murray might want to leave school early just to get away from him. Clowney still isn't up to speed mentally but it's coming and coming quickly. If you're an SEC quarterback with South Carolina on the schedule, prepare your ice bath in advance.
For Mark Richt, he might have to go bang his head against the wall a few times after every game. He's had injuries and suspensions and even NCAA issues thrown his way but there's still no getting around the fact that this is a good group of players who haven't lived up to expectations. Just when it seemed like Georgia was about to break through, they'd commit a big error. The good news is it looked like freshman running back Isaiah Crowell got going, rushing for 118 yards and a touchdown after breaking a few nice runs into the open field. But even as he took two steps forward, his fumble at midfield that Stephon Gilmore returned to the red zone was a step back. He's still a little behind in pass protection but the flashes he showed reminded everybody, coaches included, why he was so highly recruited out of high school.
The biggest thing that Richt can do next week is get his team to have fun against Coastal Carolina. There will be no avoiding hearing about his job status as the heat was turned up even higher after the loss - he has to get his team refocused before starting the heart of their SEC schedule. Get everybody involved, call some trick plays, something - anything - to get his team focused on having fun playing football instead of worrying about him. He can't eliminate all the distractions but he can get his team to buy back in week-by-week. The schedule is manageable enough that they could conceivably go 10-2 this year - more than enough to quiet critics for a few more months. The Bulldogs are talented but lost to two teams they should have to fall to 0-2 for the first time since 1996.
Now the trick is winning out using their own talented roster. No easy task but one that can certainly happen.
Stat of the week
If I had to take someone to Vegas with me, I just might select Gene Chizik. All he seems to do is give heart attack to the Auburn faithful and win last second games. The Tigers pulled off the upset this week against Mississippi State thanks to a goal line stand that kept quarterback Chris Relf out of the end zone by inches to preserve a 41-34 win at home.
"We'd prefer to win football games a lot different than we are, but there's something to be said when you can fight down to the end when it doesn't look good and still win the game," Chizik said after the game.
While the head coach certainly would prefer a less stressful ending to games, he might need to get used to them if his team is to keep winning. After taking nearly two hours just to play the first half against the Bulldogs, I was digging around looking for the total game time but managed to find an even more eye-popping stat.
Auburn's offense has averaged 56.5 plays during their first two games while the defense has averaged 90.5 snaps per game. Yes, the defense is almost literally on the field twice as long the offense. For a young team with issues on both sides of the ball, that's an uh-oh.
For comparison's sake, Arkansas has averaged 74.5 plays on offense and 57.5 on defense during their light non-conference schedule. Only two SEC teams have average more than 70 snaps on defense, and just six teams nationally have their defense on the field for more than 80 plays a game. No one even approaches 90 defensive plays a game. The national average for number of plays on defense is 67.3 and 68.8 on offense.
Up against that little issue, it's almost shocking Auburn's 2-0 but they are thanks to some late game heroics. Whether this is a serious flaw of just the byproduct of two crazy games remains to be seen but, bottom-line, Chizik needs to make some adjustments.
Other stats of note
- Michigan's Denard Robinson thrilled the country against Notre Dame and became the first UM quarterback to beat the Irish twice since Jim Harbaugh did so back in the late 1980's. He also has accounted for an astounding 96% of the offense the last two games between the schools.
- Texas has outscored its opponents 35-6 in the second half while USC outscored their opponent in the 4th quarter for just the fourth time in 15 games this weekend.
- Tyler Bray's 405 yards are the most for a Tennessee quarterback since the legend himself, Peyton Manning, wore orange. Bray finished 34-of-41 and tossed four touchdowns. Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers both had 10 catches for over 100 yards and the pair combined for three TD receptions.
- In the last 11 years, the Georgia-South Carolina series has only been decided by nine points or less eight times. Since 2004, the winner has had fewer than 20 points every year but 2009 and 2011.
- Alabama has not allowed a touchdown in the first quarter for seven straight games.
- Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly is a tackling machine once again this year. He has a nation's-best 35 total tackles while the next closest player has 27.
- What an impressive, almost surgical attack led by Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden. The Cowboys' offense came out and pretty much blew away the Arizona secondary on Thursday en route to a 37-14 win in Stillwater. Weeden connected on his 13 passes and finished up with a ho-hum 397 yards after slowing down in the second half. He's flown under the radar a little bit (even in his own state) but in 15 starts, he has only two losses by a total of 16 points. It's sometime easy to say a lot of his success is due to receiver Justin Blackmon but Weeden is the triggerman for what the team does. This team can also run the ball pretty well - Joseph Randle is 15th in the country in rushing - and should make for a fun Big 12 regular season when they play fellow top 15 teams Oklahoma and Texas A&M.
- Senior writer Bruce Feldman touched on FIU in his Sunday column but what a win for Mario Cristobal's program. Their win over Louisville was the first win ever for the program over BCS team and showed that the Golden Panthers are more than just the dynamic all-purpose superstar T.Y. Hilton. They take on another rising in-state program in UCF this week and if they can pull off the upset, a run at going undefeated isn't out of the question. It will be tough to stop the Knights but FIU has the athletes and coaches to make it a game.
- Speaking of Louisville, their game against Kentucky might be downright unwatchable. Louisville is a mess offensively and their defense is suspect. Luckily for Charlie Strong, they'll face a Kentucky team that has serious issues with both lines. It's going to really be rough once the Wildcats get into SEC play this year if they continue to play as sloppy as they have been during their first two games. Fans from both schools are probably counting down the days until basketball season already.
- If there's one thing that might be different under Luke Fickell at Ohio State, it's the offense is involving the tight end more. Senior Jake Stoneburner came into the season with 22 catches for 252 yards and two touchdowns. Through two games this season he has eight catches for 93 yards and four TD's and seems to be one of quarterback Joe Bauserman's favorite targets. The Buckeyes haven't look completely in rhythm on offense but that's not Stoneburner's fault.
- Not sure what to make of Texas' win over BYU other than it's a baby step back to respectability. Garrett Gilbert's not who Mack Brown wanted him to be coming out of camp, looking shaky again with some bad decisions before being pulled for David Ash and Case McCoy. Using Ash in some zone read situations was a good change of pace and was a productive play with their speed at running back - a group that finally got going, including freshman Malcolm Brown. The defense still is a concern, as BYU seemed to pick apart the middle of the field. Might take awhile for everybody to get comfortable with Manny Diaz' system but there's some talent on the team. Baby steps.
- Two quarterbacks in the Northwest were rolling this weekend. In Oregon, Darron Thomas and the Ducks offense seemed to be back in their normal sixth-gear against Nevada. Thomas had just 13 attempts - after throwing for 54 against LSU - but six of them were for touchdowns on Saturday. Freshman De'Anthony Thomas had over 200 all-purpose yards and scored two touchdowns. He's a small but tough back who has speed to burn, should be fun to see what Chip Kelly does with him as he learns more of the playbook.
At Washington, Keith Price got the Huskies off to a 2-0 start by throwing for 315 yards and four touchdowns. He connected on his first eight throws and has spread the ball around to a good receiving group well. Things got a little tight against Hawaii but Price and running back Chris Polk kept the Huskies moving. This team may not be a top 15-caliber squad but they're certainly going to give others fits if they can stop playing down to their competition at times.
- I was a bit shocked to see that Clemson opened up as a favorite against Auburn this week, their own issues aside. Dabo Swinney's club struggled against Wafford and things are not going to get any easier. The offense is productive in the stat sheet but in they're still struggling to adjust to Chad Morris' system. The rush defense in particular is very concerning, ranking 107th in the country after two games against a Sun Belt and an FCS opponent.
- Several people in the Alabama program told me that the Crimson Tide defense might be the best ever under Nick Saban. After watching two games, I think they're close to being right. The score was a bit closer than expected against Penn State at 27-11 but this is a very good group. They look faster and deeper than the national championship squad a couple of years ago and are not the opposing quarterback's best friend, to say the least.
My top 10 after week 2:
4. Boise State
5. Texas A&M
8. Florida State
9. Oklahoma State
10. South Carolina
Where we'll be this week
I'll be out at the Ineligible Bowl, Ohio State at Miami on Saturday. Senior writer Brett McMurphy is in Tallahassee for the top five showdown of Oklahoma and Florida State.
Across the goal line
There were a series of firsts in the USC-Utah game I was at this weekend. Trojans kicker Andre Heidari recorded the first points in Pac-12 conference history while teammate Marc Tyler will be in the record books for scoring the first touchdown. Thanks to their 17-14 win over the Utes, USC won the final Pac-10 game and the very first Pac-12 game.
In many ways, the first ever Pac-12 conference game - which wasn't really true because Colorado and Cal played earlier that day in an overtime "non-conference" game - featured many of the same elements of its Pac-10 predecessors. There were big plays on offense, a close game, USC on national (cable) television at night and, oh yeah, an officiating controversy.
As I walked down the steps of the Coliseum toward the field right before their drive, I kept thinking this was a welcome to the conference moment for Utah. Boy was it ever.
I was about 10 yards away when, on 4th down, DeVonte Christopher caught an in-route that seemed to fall just short of the first down marker. It seemed like a bad spot but the refs said it was a turnover on downs. Then they reviewed it, remarked the spot and gave Utah a first down. Saved by Pac-10… er, -12 replay officials.
Then there was the pass interference call on the next play. That set up the Utes' field goal attempt. I couldn't quite see the holder but was looking at the middle of the line in case the kick was blocked. Next thing I know the ball is bouncing right into the hands of USC corner Torin Harris and he's off to the end zone. The crowd and sidelines were going crazy as he raced to the end zone. I turned to talk to a colleague and saw a few players run out to get a better angle on the return. Seconds later I saw the flag, then the announcement that the game was over. The touchdown didn't count, but the game was over.
What just happened I wondered. Duty, however, called as I tried to grab a few players to talk about the win (or, in the case of the Utes, loss). I kept thinking how close Utah had gotten and, in their first conference game, they had played like they belonged despite coming up short in the win column. They came into a storied venue and almost knocked off the conference's most storied program. Utah is a good team that was well coached but wasn't quite good enough on a beautiful Saturday night in Los Angeles.
Then there was a tweet that popped up as I got back to the press box to begin transcribing. Hold your horses, the score was in question. The Pac-12 was reviewing what happened at the end of the game. As Michael Lev of the O.C. Register noted down on the field, the touchdown had huge implications for bettors across the country with USC favored by 8-8.5 points.
That's when the story changed from Utah being not quite good enough to, apparently, the Pac-12 officials "miss-communicating" and they were actually nine points from being good enough.
It was an unusual ending that I'm still trying to get my head around because the score itself changed after the fact - regardless what the conference says. The Caesars, MGM and Wynn sports books apparently stayed with the 17-14 result. The Hilton, Cantor, South Point sports books switched to 23-14. Some honored both. If you threw away a winning ticket, that is a bad beat that will be with you for a long time.
A finish that was wild, unbelievable and involved money. In a roundabout way, the first ever Pac-12 game got me very prepared for the Ineligible Bowl next week.
I knew you were good Larry Scott, didn't know you were this good.
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