Tag:What I learned
Posted on: September 11, 2011 1:12 am
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Posted on: September 11, 2011 1:10 am
Edited on: September 11, 2011 1:24 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
1. I'm not sure who Texas' quarterback is, but I know it shouldn't be Garrett Gilbert. While the Longhorns' win against BYU on Saturday night wasn't pretty, wins should be enough these days in Austin. And it seems more and more apparent that those wins aren't going to come very often when Garrett Gilbert is lined up under center. On Saturday night Gilbert completed only 2 of his 8 passes. Which is the exact same number of passes he completed to BYU defenders. Then, led by backups Case McCoy (7/8 57 yards) and David Ash (2/3 35 yards) the Longhorns were able to come back from a 13-3 deficit at halftime to squeeze out the victory. Hell, even Jaxon Shipley had a better night throwing the ball for Texas, completing his only pass to Ash to ice the game.
What truly sparked the Texas offense, however, was the combo of Case McCoy and Jaxon Shipley -- McCoy to Shipley? What year is this? -- on the touchdown drive that finally put Texas ahead in the fourth quarter. I'm not sure if Texas should start McCoy next week, Ash, or just use a combination of the two, but it should not be Garrett Gilbert.
2. Steele Jantz is a bad, bad man. You know, if you have a name like Steele Jantz, that's a lot to live up to. I mean, you need to save the world from an asteroid or catch a school bus full of first graders after it goes over a cliff if you're going to have any hope of being as awesome as your name. Or you can just deliver a performance like the one Jantz did against Iowa on Saturday afternoon. With Iowa State not exactly expected to compete for a Big 12 title, this was Iowa State's Super Bowl, and Jantz is going to Disneyworld. He threw for 279 yards and 4 touchdowns, answering every touchdown that Iowa scored to keep the Cyclones in the game and force overtime. He then converted a big third down in the second overtime which led to the winning touchdown run by James White, giving the Cyclones the opportunity to destroy the interim Cy-Hawk Trophy.
3. I can't figure James Franklin out. It's only been two games for Franklin as Missouri's quarterback, and he has me as confused as any player ever has. He throws passes that float like wounded ducks that cause me to think they're going to be intercepted everytime, yet on Friday night, he completed 26 of those helium bombs for 319 yards and 2 touchdowns, leading Missouri back from a 14-point deficit to force overtime against Arizona State. I'm still not totally sold on his ability as a passer, but he showed that he can make the throws that he has to, even if I can't help but think that a team with a secondary better than Arizona State's -- like Oklahoma -- will have a field day against him.
4. Oklahoma State's defense is improving. Now that statement comes with a caveat. Yes, the Cowboys allowed 34 points against Louisiana-Lafayette in their opener, but 14 of those points came on interception returns, and another 14 of those points came when the game had long been decided. On Thursday night against Arizona, the Cowboys defense allowed only 14 points in the entire game, and though Arizona was without Juron Criner, that's still something to be proud of. The thing is, in two games the Oklahoma State defense has given up 759 yards of total offense, but it's not giving up points. At the end of the day, an offense can rack up as many yards as it wants against a defense, but if it's not putting up points it doesn't really matter. The Cowboys are doing a good job of keeping opponents out of the end zone, and with that offense, that's more than enough.
Posted on: September 11, 2011 1:10 am
Edited on: September 11, 2011 1:23 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
1. Time to re-rank the ACC Atlantic. Two weeks into the season, and my projected order of finish for the division in the ACC Preview already looks way off. I'm trying to be careful not to jump to any conclusions, but I think it's safe to say my predictions (below) will not be very similar to the final standings.
1. Florida State
3. NC State
3. Boston College
6. Wake Forest
See what I mean? No chance. So based on what we've learned from the last two weeks, here is how I would re-rank them. Consider it a "power ranking" of sorts.
1. Florida State (2-0) - No real surprise or change here. Who we thought they were.
2. Maryland (1-0) - The Terps made our jaw drops twice on Labor Day. Once when they ran out of the tunnel in those uniforms, and again when they completed the 32-24 defeat of Miami.
3. Wake Forest (1-1) - Tanner Price has been one of the most impressive quarterbacks in the ACC so far this season, and if the Deacs can learn how to hold a lead they could end up giving a lot of teams trouble this year.
4. NC State (1-1) - Quarterback Mike Glennon put together a great second half on Saturday, helping the Wolfpack fight back from a 27-6 third quarter deficit and nearly steal a win from Wake Forest. 315 yards passing and three second half touchdowns will help the first-year starter build some confidence moving forward.
5. Clemson (2-0) - The Tigers have more talent on paper than many teams in the ACC, but they also have more talent than both of their opponents this season. Unfortunately things are still a work in progress for this young team, and their showing against Troy and Wofford have been less than impressive. Can be better, should be better, just not putting it together right now.
6. Boston College (0-2) - That defense can only do so much when the offense struggles like they have been this season. From Montel Harris to losing their top receiver for the season, injuries will unfortunately be the story of the 2011 Eagles.
2. North Carolina/Bryn Renner not so flawless anymore. I opened last week's What I Learned with a glowing review of North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner. Well the sophomore faced a new challenge on Saturday with the Rutgers defense, and his performance did not match his 22-for-23 debut. Renner did complete 20 of 26 passes for 273 yards, but half of those incompletions were once again thrown to the other team. But Renner's mistakes were hardly the only frustrations for interim head coach Everett Withers. The Tar Heels were penalized 9 times for 94 yards, and finished the game with five turnovers in their narrow 24-22 win over Rutgers. After looking so sharp a week ago, the Tar Heels will have some work to do this week before kicking off the conference schedule against Virginia in Chapel Hill next Saturday.
3. Virginia Tech's greatest opponent is Virginia Tech. The Hokies have one of the most favorable schedules in the ACC, and it has been a reason that many people have penciled them in to repeat as Coastal Division champs. Virginia Tech's mental mistakes and inability to get a passing game going nearly cost them a game on Saturday in their 17-10 victory over ECU. The Hokies were penalized 12 times and turned the ball over twice, while quarterback Logan Thomas completed only 8 of 20 passes for 91 yards and no touchdowns. The defense was doing their part, holding the high-powered ECU offense to just 112 total yards. But there were too many mistakes that almost cost the No. 11 Hokies an early loss that would have crushed their potential bowl resume.
4. Duke's "breakthrough" will not occur until they fix red zone woes. Preseason All-ACC kicker Will Snyderwine shocked us when he missed a 28-yard field goal against Richmond that could have won the game. But on Saturday the streak continued with two more field goal misses in Duke's 44-14 loss to Stanford. Those missed field goals complimented a turnover on downs from the Stanford 14 yard line to equal a day of red zone troubles for the Blue Devils. Sean Renfree, Conner Vernon, and the Blue Devils offense entered this season with a lot of hype, but the inability to finish will keep the Duke in the ACC cellar in 2011 unless something changes.
5. No more coach speak, let's talk Oklahoma. All through training camp and the first two weeks of the season, the media has been frowned upon when asking questions about the early-season showdown between Oklahoma and Florida State in Tallahassee. With the Seminoles' 62-10 win over Charleston Southern, "Oklahoma Week" has officially begun for the FSU fan base.
The defense looks as ready as they could be for the Sooners' potent offense, after only allowing one touchdown in eight quarters of play. On Saturday the Seminoles' defense did not even let the Buccaneers get a first down until the third quarter, and this week they will get Greg Reid and Telvin Smith back from one-game suspensions. Head coach Jimbo Fisher admitted the Seminoles "didn't play perfect," but he was able to use the big lead to get extra quality snaps for his offensive line and running backs as they work to advance a rushing game that hasn't hit 2010's production yet.
Tags: ACC, Boston College, Bryn Renner, Charleston Southern, Chip Patterson, Clemson, Conner Vernon, David Wilson, Duke, Everett Withers, Florida State, Greg Reid, Jimbo Fisher, Logan Thomas, Maryland, Mike Glennon, Montel Harris, N.C. State, NC State, North Carolina, Sean Renfree, Tanner Price, Telvin Smith, Tom O'Brien, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Week 2, What I Learned, Will Snyderwine
Posted on: September 4, 2011 2:57 am
Edited on: September 4, 2011 3:07 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
1) Connecticut finally has an answer at running back. Connecticut does not have a clear-cut answer for quarterback. That was obvious with head coach Paul Pasqualoni's use of Johnny McEntee, Michael Nebrich, and Scott McCummings during the Huskies opener against Fordham. However, the game might have answered the team's concerns about replacing 2010 Big East Player of the Year Jordan Todman. Senior transfer D.J. Shoemate was replaced last minute by redshirt freshman Lyle McCombs because Shoemate got "banged up" in practice late in the week.
The switch could end up having an effect on the Huskies season, because McCombs certainly looked like the best choice possible for starting tailback on Saturday. It was the first collegiate appearance for the Staten Island native, and he made the most of every opportunity. By the time all the damage was done McCombs racked up 141 yards on 24 carries with four touchdowns. Regardless of opponent, those are impressive numbers for anyone's NCAA debut. If McCombs can keep it up, Pasqualoni may have found a great building block for this new chapter of his seasoned career.
2) It's not always pretty, but the Orange get it done. Doug Marrone was celebrated by the Syracuse football community for returning to his alma mater and bringing them back to the postseason. The Orange's 8-win season was considered by many to be a sign of things to come for a once-storied program. However peeling back the shiny reviews of last season reveal a grimy, hard-nosed battle through the regular season. Syracuse simply found ways to win, and most of the time it was not pretty.
With only 20 letterman and over half of his defensive starters gone from that team, the gritty "find a way to win" style appears very much a part of Syracuse football. Wake Forest appeared to have Thursday's game won, and even fans in the Carrier Dome agreed and were heading for the exits as the Orange trailed by 15 points in the 4th quarter. But the fans that stayed got see Ryan Nassib and Antwon Bailey lead the Syracuse offense to 22 straight points in the final quarter + overtime to pull off the win over the visiting Demon Deacons. The Orange may have been slowly reversing the trend of their home struggles, but certainly not the one of winning ugly.
3) USF made a statement to the conference with upset of Notre Dame. Skip Holtz was forced to spend most of his time with the media this past week answering questions about playing at his alma mater and the school where his father spent 11 years as the head coach. But the story of the game ended up being mother nature, with two different delays due to storms in the area. But more than six hours after kickoff, a statement was made with South Florida's 23-20 victory over No. 16 Notre Dame. The Bulls, who have pulled off five straight 8+ win seasons, are ready to compete for a Bit East title.
The Fighting Irish had plenty of internal issues, including a mid-game quarterback switch during one of the delays, but USF showed up unintimidated and prepared. Holtz seemed excited about his defense heading into the season, and Saturday's performance legitimized his sentiments. The Bulls defense forced five Irish turnovers, and found a way to turn them into enough of a lead to secure a huge confidence-booster for a program looking to break through to the elite. Next for the Bulls will be three more non-conference games before kicking off the conference schedule with one of the most difficult challenges on the slate: a road test against Pittsburgh
4.) What the Dana Holgorsen era looks like at West Virginia. We will find this one out Sunday afternoon when the Mountaineers face in-state rival Marshall. Kickoff at 3:30 p.m., check back after the game because this is something we definitely want to learn.
Tags: Antwon Bailey, Big East, Chip Patterson, Cincinnati, Connecticut, D.J. Shoemate, Dana Holgorsen, Johnny McEntee, Jordan Todman, Louisville, Lyle McCombs, Marshall, Michael Nebrich, Notre Dame, Paul Pasqualoni, Pittsburgh, Ryan Nassib, Scott McCummings, Skip Holtz, South Florida, Syracuse, Tino Sunseri, USF, Wake Forest, West Virginia, What I Learned
Posted on: September 4, 2011 2:53 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
1. LSU isn't going anywhere, even with Jarrett Lee at the controls. The expectation is that one of these years, one of these games, putting out a quarterback scarcely more competent than your average Sun Belt starter is going to finally catch up with Les Miles and the Tigers. Saturday night's 40-27 thumping of Oregon wasn't that game, though, and this may not be that year.
As my collegue Bryan Fischer wrote, Lee didn't do anything to lose the Tigers the game; the flipside is that he barely did anything to win the game, either, putting together a 10-for-22, 98-yard effort that we promise you'll see referred to in the dictionary next week in the entry for "pedestrian." Aside from one well-thrown fade to Rueben Randle for his only touchdown pass of the evening, Lee's primary instruction for the night was just to stay the hell out of the way.
And, as it always seems to for Miles, that instruction worked to perfection. The Tiger defense and special teams forced four turnovers, Spencer Ware and Michael Ford combined for nearly 200 yards on the ground, the LSU secondary held Darron Thomas to a miserable 4.4 yards per his 54 attempts, and only a last-second Duck touchdown prevented the final from being a three-touchdown rout ... even though Oregon finished with more total yards than the Tigers.
We still don't think it's likely LSU wins an SEC championship with Lee at the helm and completion percentages just over 45 percent in the stat book. But looking at what the Tigers did against one of the nation's best teams Saturday, you can't rule it out, either.
2. Florida will have a say in who wins the East. First, the caveat: FAU is bad. Really, really bad. As in, "may finish dead last in the Sun Belt" bad. But still: the casual ease with which the Gators brushed the Owls aside -- scoring 24 points over the first four possessions, holding FAU to 30 rushing yards on 30 carries, outgaining the Owls by 331 yards -- was the farthest of far cries from last year's opening-week wheeze past Miami (Ohio). Bad team or not, Florida pounded the Owls the way an SEC contender ought to pound them.
Meanwhile, the two teams expected by many to top the East standings had less-than-comfortable Saturday nights. Georgia, of course, began 2011 looking for all the world like the same team that ended 2010. South Carolina spotted East Carolina a 17-0 lead by starting Connor Shaw, then ran off 56 of the game's next 70 points behind Stephen Garcia. Still, there's little doubt that being caught in a four-point game late in the third quarter and outgaining the Pirates by all of six yards wasn't what Steve Spurrier had in mind.
It's still too early to anoint the Gators East favorites, or even on even footing with the Gamecocks. (As for the Bulldogs, well, maybe if they'd just kept things close ...) But it's not too soon to recognize this as a three-team race until such time the SEC standings say otherwise.
3. Auburn should be happy, but it shouldn't be confused. Somewhat lost in analyzing the rampant flaws that led to the defending national champions' 38-28 deficit to Utah State has been the resolve and determination that led to their stunning comeback; for Gene Chizik to hold his senior-laden 2010 team together in the face of staggering deficits is one thing, to do so with his all-but senior-free 2011 team another. Going back to the 2009 Outback Bowl, Chizik has now won nine straight one-possession games, a testament to his team's remarkable fourth-quarter focus and resilience.
But being a resilient team is nice. Being a good team is better, and even the cardiac-inducing Tigers of last year didn't bother to let the likes of Utah State take them to the wire. Thrilled as Auburn fans have a right to be with the comeback, it also shouldn't make them blind to the kind of major issues that result in needing a borderline-miraculous comeback against a 4-8 WAC team in the first place. Much as the aforementioned Miami (Ohio) struggles proved an accurate foreshadowing of 2010's Gator troubles, so it's now safe to say Auburn will not challenge for the West title ... and against their brutal schedule, might need every ounce of that resilience just to make a bowl.
4. Jacksonville State didn't show up to this year's party. The three SEC-on-FCS matchups Saturday were every bit as lopsided as the SEC might have hoped, with Arkansas blasting Missouri State, Tennessee handling Montana by an impressive 26-point margin, and even Vanderbilt getting into the act with a 45-14 thumping of Elon in James Franklin's debut. Exactly how much these victories mean is a matter of conjecture -- FCS schools, after all -- but at the very least the conference avoided the kind of egg on its face Ole Miss's infamous loss to JSU's Gamecocks produced in last year's opening week. (That egg is perhaps being saved for Jacksonville State's visit to Kentucky.)
5. Speaking of the Rebels, they still don't have a quarterback--or an offense. There's no shame in losing to a solid-enough team like BYU by a point, even at home. But totaling barely more than 200 yards and averaging all of 3.6 yards per-play, 2.2 yards per-rush, and 5.1 yards per-pass ... there's some shame in that. And the quarterback issues that have plagued the Rebels for years showed no signs of abating; Houston Nutt turned to JUCO pocket-passer Zack Stoudt for the bulk of the second half, and Stoudt rewarded him by fumbling the game away on the goalline. The road back to relevance for Nutt and the Rebels still looks plenty long.
Tags: AJ McCarron, Alabama, Auburn, BYU, Connor Shaw, Darron Thomas, Elon, FAU, Florida, Gene Chizik, Georgia, Houston Nutt, Jacksonville State, James Franklin, Kentucky, Les Miles, LSU, Miami (Ohio), Michael Ford, Missouri State, Montana, Ole Miss, Oregon, Rueben Randle, SEC, Spencer Ware, Stephen Garcia, Steve Spurrier, Tennessee, Utah State, Vanderbilt, What I Learned, Zack Stoudt
Posted on: September 4, 2011 2:50 am
Edited on: September 5, 2011 4:41 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
1) Unproven UNC QB Bryn Renner answered doubters with a record setting day. Renner only attempted two passes during his freshman year, one of them fell incomplete. In his first career start on Saturday against James Madison, the sophomore quarterback once again only missed his receiver once. Unfortunately it was intercepted, but it was the only miscue in Renner's 22-for-23 performance against the Dukes. Renner's 95.7% completion rate set a new ACC record and was a big reason the Tar Heels were able to give Everett Withers his first head coaching victory.
Renner's opposition will get much more difficult as the season goes on and teams get to prepare for the first-year starter, but that's where he will be aided by a two-headed rushing attack that also looked sharp on Saturday. Redshirt senior Ryan Houston and redshirt freshman Giovani Bernard both returned from injuries just in time to combine for 125 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries. Combine their success with the reliable Dwight Jones receiving, and the quarterback position no longer looks like a question mark in Chapel Hill.
2) The ACC at least has the capability to put up big points - Of the ten ACC teams with a game under their belt, eight teams scored at least 29 points with the entire conference averaging AVERAGE points on the weekend thus far. Granted, only Wake Forest and Boston College played teams from an AQ conference (both lost) and six of the conference's opponents were FCS teams, but for a conference that has been criticized at times for a lack of offensive talent it was a nice change to see some points. For Clemson it took awhile before Chad Morris' signature offense got clicking, but the 31 second half points were testament that it is capable of wearing down a defense. Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech's 60+ point performances can be attributed to a combination of their opposition (Appalachian State and Western Carolina) and some explosive playmakers. North Carolina and North Carolina State both piled on late TD's against their FCS opponents, and Florida State's defense contributed as much as their offense in the Seminoles' 34-0 shutout of Louisiana-Monroe.
3) FSU's greatest offense might be their defense. Speaking of Louisiana-Monroe, the Seminoles had a matchup advantage over the Warhawks as soon as the teams hit the field. But that fact should not take anything away from the impressive performance from the Florida State defense. ULM's offense was held to just 191 yards of offense and despite 39 rushing attempts, the Warhawks could not collect more than 99 yards. Brandon Jenkins and Tank Carradine were physical in the trenches while the Seminoles' back seven, led by safety Lamarcus Joyner, swarmed to the ball to stuff Warhawk receivers when quarterback Kolton Browning tried to utilize under routes on third downs. In fact, Florida State's ten third-down stops were a key in keeping ULM's running game from gathering any kind of momentum. The coaching staff will be focusing on Charleston Southern, but I'll say it: that kind of defensive performance will be needed if the Seminoles want to knock off No. 1 Oklahoma on Sept. 17 in Tallahassee.
4) Georgia Tech's offense shows explosion, and more of the same bad habits. Paul Johnson's first two seasons as Georgia Tech's head coach had 9+ wins both seasons and an ACC title. So there was no surprise that Yellow Jacket fans were concerned with 2010's 6-7 finish that included dropping five of their final six games. One of the reasons Georgia Tech struggled down the stretch was trouble holding onto the ball. No FBS team lost more fumbles than Georgia Tech (20) in 2010, and they ranked last in the ACC in turnover margin. So while there was plenty to celebrate with the offensive performance in the season opener, there are also plenty of red flags.
The Yellow Jackets totaled 662 yards of offense, the most for any Georgia Tech team since 2000. Tevin Washington had more passing yards in the first quarter (148) than any quarterback had in an entire game during the 2010 season. Stephen Hill's four catches for 181 yards provided support to claims that he was set to be the next great Georgia Tech receiver in the line of Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas. But Georgia Tech still fumbled the ball six times, luckily only losing the ball twice. Thursday's season opener showed Georgia Tech fans that this offense is dangerous. They can be dangerously good, but also dangerously destructive if they can't fix their turnover issues.
5.) Maryland - Miami - The opening weekend in the ACC wraps up on Monday night when Miami visits College Park with a shortened roster to kick off the conference schedule. It will be the first game for new head coaches Al Golden and Randy Edsall, and I'm positive we will have plenty to learn about both squads. Keep it here at the Eye on College Football for all your ACC coverage.
Tags: ACC, Appalachian State, Boston College, Brandon Jenkins, Bryn Renner, Chad Morris, Chip Patterson, Clemson, Dwight Jones, Everett Withers, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Giovani Bernard, Kolton Browning, Lamarcus Joyner, Louisiana-Monroe, N.C. State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Paul Johnson, Ryan Houston, Tank Carradine, ULM, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Western Carolina, What I Learned
Posted on: September 4, 2011 12:20 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
1. There's a reason the other conferences want the Oklahoma schools. Okay, so I knew that going into the weekend, but both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State showed why both schools began the year ranked in the top ten. Sure, the opponents weren't exactly the best college football has to offer, but the two Oklahoma offenses might be. Combined the Sooners and Cowboys outscored their opponents 108-48 and racked up 1,329 yards. That's getting it done when you have the ball.
2. Garrett Gilbert is improving. It's dangerous to rate a team or a player based on one game, but Texas fans had to be happier with the Garrett Gilbert they saw against Rice on Saturday night. In the season opener against Rice last season Gilbert completed 14 of 23 passes for 172 yards and no touchdowns. On Saturday he threw for 239 yards and a score, including a pretty little 56-yard bomb to Mike Davis with the Longhorns pressed against their own goal line. He didn't throw an inteception either, and while these might be baby steps, at least they're baby steps in the right direction.
3. Baylor is still one of the most entertaining teams in the country. Without a doubt, the biggest story of the weekend in the Big 12 so far is Baylor's 50-48 win over TCU on Friday night. Of course, while the Baylor offense showed the entire country why it's so fun to watch, the Baylor defense also showed the country why you can't turn a Baylor game off no matter what the score is. There are going to be plenty more shootouts to enjoy in Waco this season.
4. James Franklin needs some work. Missouri picked up a win against Miami (OH) to start the season, but James Franklin didn't do too much to erase the memory of Blaine Gabbert. Franklin averaged only 5.0 yards per attempt passing on Saturday as the Tigers offense struggled to get points. Most of the yards Franklin did complete came on screens, and even though the Mizzou defense still looks stout, Franklin is going to have to improve his downfield passing if the Tigers want to compete with the top-tier teams in the Big 12.
5. Kansas may not be the worst team in the conference. Remember last season when the Jayhawks started their season with an embarrassing 6-3 loss against North Dakota State? Yeah, well not this season. The Jayhawks handled McNeese State 42-24 on Saturday night while both Kansas State and Iowa State needed last-minute touchdown drives to escape their respective games against Eastern Kentucky and Northern Iowa.
6. Off-field distractions don't seem to be on-field distractions. There's a lot of talk surrounding the Big 12 these days about schools leaving and the conference ceasing to exist, but it didn't show on the field. Sure, teams like Kansas State and Iowa State struggled, but the Big 12 is 9-0 in its first nine games of the year. If Texas A&M can beat SMU on Sunday night, the conference moves to 10-0.
Posted on: September 3, 2011 11:37 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
1. Ohio State isn't back, because they never went anywhere to begin with. Let's get one thing out of the way: Ohio State was only playing Akron. Beating Akron proves nothing. The Buckeyes probably aren't going to be the last team to beat Akron by 42 points this season. And yet, that sure looked like Jim Tressel's Ohio State, didn't it?
It makes sense that OSU still looks mostly the same, to an extent; Luke Fickell is a Jim Tressel disciple, and the rest of the Tressel staff is still in place. Further, the vast majority of OSU's superior talent is back. Terrelle Pryor is gone, obviously, and there are a handful of starters who are suspended for the early going. But OSU's real strength didn't lie in its starters' talent, it was having second- and third-stringers who could start for pretty much any other team, and those guys are all still around. So Fickell's got some institutional advantages in place.
But keeping those players focused in the middle of what's arguably OSU's largest scandal is much easier said than done, and Fickell deserves a ton of credit for maintaining control of the program when it looked like all hell would break loose. Nobody's talking about Terrelle Pryor in Columbus today, they're talking about the Buckeyes. That's the way it ought to be.
2. It's like thunder! And lightning! On its face, it seems silly to discuss non-catastrophic weather in a column called "what I learned"; everyone's got that sort of thing figured out by, oh, third grade. But I did learn that even in the legendary, leaderish Big Ten, they will flat-out cancel the rest of a football game on account of lightning if it persists long enough.
That's precisely what happened Saturday, when Michigan and Western Michigan officials decided to call off a 34-10 contest with over a full quarter remaining in the game. The weather report looked grim at that point, and it was unlikely that the game could be finished before at least 10:00. Still, even though it's admirable that there are rules with the protection of fans and players in mind like this, it also seems decidedly un-football to do so. Oh, if it weren't for that pesky liability. Alas.
3. The Leaders Division is Wisconsin's to lose right now. Sure, Wisconsin's defense struggled at times with the UNLV rushing attack, but not disastrously so, and the second unit of the Badger offense was pretty pedestrian. That's all true. What Wisconsin showed on offense on Thursday rendered that all moot. Russell Wilson made the best reads of anybody in the Big Ten in Week 1, and he's only been in Madison for a few months. He also showed the best rushing acumen of any Big Ten quarterback not named Taylor Martinez or Denard Robinson. And oh yes, the Wisconsin rushing attack is as mansome as ever. The Badgers don't have a bruiser anymore, and mountain man Gabe Carimi is off starting in the NFL, but the mashing will continue apace for another year as long as James White and Montee Ball are healthy.
If Wisconsin had a decent second quarterback (or if presumptive backup Jon Budmayr's arm were healthy), or if this game were in November, it might have hung 70 or 80 on UNLV. The offense scored touchdowns on seven of its first eight possessions, and the only reason it didn't get eight was because it got the ball in its own territory with only 47 seconds left (that ended up being a field goal). It was 51-3 early in the second half. Yes, it's only UNLV, but the Badgers are probably going to score at least 31 points in every game in the Big Ten. Do you really see any team that's going to outscore them?
4. Being a running back at Iowa is still a catastrophic idea. Iowa tailback Marcus Coker was expected to be the workhorse of the Iowa offense in 2011, so it was jarring to say the least to see him put two fumbles on the turf early in the first quarter of Iowa's opener against Tennessee Tech. In came true freshman Mika'il McCall, who wowed fans with 61 yards on nine carries in the first quarter. For a backfield that's short on experience, that kind of firepower would be crucial over the course of the Big Ten season.
So naturally, McCall suffered a broken ankle on his ninth carry, and he is gone for the year, according to Kirk Ferentz. McCall is just the latest in a series of Iowa runing backs who have been stricken with serious injuries, missed seasons, or other early exits over the last few years, a list that includes former starters Jewel Hampton (ACLs, transfer), Adam Robinson (concussions, dismissal), Brandon Wegher (personal issues, transfer), Paki O'Meara (concussions), and even in a sense Shonn Greene (academics, early NFL entry). Former starting fullback Brad Rogers is also sidelined with a heart issue, although he's still working to rejoin the Hawkeyes at some point. It's a legacy of disaster that some have semi-jokingly blamed on the "Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God." The evidence seems to be overwhelmingly in the favor of such a god existing. At any rate, here's hoping McCall recovers well from his broken ankle and the Big Ten sees him again in 2012.
Tags: Adam Jacobi, Adam Robinson, AIRBHG, Akron, Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God, Big Ten, Brad Rogers, Brandon Wegher, Denard Robinson, Gabe Carimi, Iowa, James White, Jewel Hampton, Jim Tressel, Jon Budmayr, Luke Fickell, MAC, Marcus Coker, Michigan, Mika'il McCall, Montee Ball, Mountain West, Non-BCS, Ohio State, Paki O'Meara, Russell Wilson, Shonn Greene, Taylor Martinez, Tennessee Tech, Tennessee Tech, Terrelle Pryor, UNLV, Week 1, Western Michigan, What I Learned, Wisconsin