Tag:Todd Graham
Posted on: September 29, 2011 11:41 pm
Edited on: September 29, 2011 11:52 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Pittsburgh 44, No. 16 USF 17

Posted by Chip Patterson

PITTSBURGH WON. The Panthers overcame both their offensive inefficiencies and their fourth quarter woes in their 44-17 rout of South Florida on Thursday night. Under the lights of Heinz Field and with the attention of national television, Ray Graham stole the show. Graham picked up 303 all-purpose yards (226 rushing, 42 receiving, 35 return yards) and was a crucial piece of every Pittsburgh scoring drive.

HOW PITTSBURGH WON: Head coach Todd Graham's "high-octane" offense finally lived up to their reputation against USF, and the result was a production of 523 total yards. South Florida's defense looked visibly worn down, starting with hands on hips as early as the second quarter and finishing with gasping defensive lineman in the fourth. Pittsburgh's defense also dialed up the pressure on BJ Daniels in the second half, and the junior quarterback - for the first time in a couple contests - looked completely out of sync with his wide receivers.

WHEN PITTSBURGH WON: The Panthers dominated most of the second half, but the game's fate was not sealed until Pittsburgh defensive back Jarred Holley forced Darrell Scott to fumble early in the fourth quarter. The Panthers flipped the turnover into a field goal, but most importantly ate up more than six minutes of clock to put the game out of reach.

WHAT PITTSBURGH WON: After a rocky start, the Panthers are rejuvenated. If there were any doubters, Todd Graham may have won the respect of the locker room with Thursday night's win. It was validation for Graham's system, and validation for his preparation to get Pittsburgh ready for a talented USF team on a short week. The Big East title race is focused on league play, and league play alone. At least for the next 40+ hours, Pittsburgh sits alone the top of the standings.

WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA LOST: A huge shot to the momentum that the Bulls have had rolling since the end of the 2010 season. The Bulls will likely lose their Top 25 status, and now will need to fight their way back into Big East title contention. The Bulls play three of their next four contests on the road, so this was not the best start to their October stretch. The next couple weeks will be crucial if the Bulls plan to contend in November and December.

THAT WAS CRAZY: I was going to write something about South Florida's tendency to choke on Thursday nights, or the strange trends regarding the Bulls and national television. Thankfully, our own Brett McMurphy summed up it well with this tweet.



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Posted on: September 25, 2011 1:43 am
 

What I learned from the Big East (Sept. 24)

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
2. Pittsburgh
3. South Florida
4. Cincinnati
4. Syracuse
6. Connecticut
7. Louisville
8. Rutgers

After four weeks of non-conference competition, my new re-shuffle looks a little like this:

1. West Virginia
2. South Florida
3. Cincinnati
4. Pittsburgh
5. Rutgers
6. Syracuse
7. Louisville
8. Connecticut

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 14, 2011 9:46 am
Edited on: September 14, 2011 12:12 pm
 

Despite numbers, Graham sticking with Sunseri

Posted by Chip Patterson

Pittsburgh's "high-octane" offense has not exactly put up the kinds of numbers that were expected when head coach Todd Graham arrived from Tulsa. The Panthers are clearly still getting adjusted to the fast-paced scheme, and the results in their first two games have been mixed. Moving Tino Sunseri out from under center reportedly had a positive impact on the quarterback's performance in camp.

But Sunseri has had issues in the new offense, struggling to get the ball downfield and relying on the efforts of running back Ray Graham to spark production. The sample size is small, but after facing Buffalo and Maine at home many did not expect Sunseri to put up the kind of numbers currently on his stat line.

Sunseri has completed 37-63 passes for 403 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, and a 111.4 quarterback rating which ranks next-to-last in the Big East. After struggling through three quarters of action against Maine, backup Trey Anderson finished out the game against the Black Bears.

Quarterback controversy?

"We planned on putting Trey in anyway, it wasn't that I pulled Tino, It was a planned deal," Graham explained after the game. "I still have 100 percent belief in Tino and like I told you at the beginning of the year, he has a very difficult job, he has a lot on his plate and we've got to execute better at that position.

"But Tino is our quarterback and will be next week and we will move forward from there. I didn't want to come out of this week, playing against an opponent we should totally dominate, and not get another quarterback any reps."

In Sunseri's defense, the close final score is more of a credit to a relentless Maine team than discredit to the Panther's offense. The Black Bears score 14 points in the final four minutes, including a touchdown with just three seconds remaining to bring the final margin to six points.

Furthering Graham's confidence in Sunseri and the quarterback position was the announcement Anthony Gonzalez's move to H-back for Saturday's game at Iowa. Gonzalez pushed Sunseri for the starting quarterback role in spring practice, showing off his athleticism to the new coaching staff. The redshirt freshman was the recipient of the team's Ed Conway Award, annually presented to the most improved players of spring practice. But after an Aug. 31 arrest for possession of marijuana, Gonzalez was suspended for the first two games of the season.

With Gonzalez back in the lineup, the staff clearly wants to use the dual-threat signal caller's talents on the field - but not at the expense of Sunseri's playing time. The tight-end/running back hybrid position is currently manned by Hubie Graham and Drew Carswell. Gonzalez provides a nice change of pace to that position, and I would not be surprised to see him get some snaps against Iowa on Saturday.

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Posted on: September 11, 2011 1:27 am
Edited on: September 11, 2011 1:28 am
 

What I learned from the Big East (Sept. 10)

Posted by Chip Patterson

1. The conference got a reality check after 8-0 start. I wrote earlier this week about the Big East not getting to comfy with their undefeated record, and my suspicions became true this weekend. The conference went 4-4 with South Florida's victory over Ball State being the only win against an FBS opponent. Syracuse and Pittsburgh had to hold off late rallies from Rhode Island and Maine, while Rutgers and Connecticut were unable to capitalize on multiple opportunities to defeat North Carolina and Vanderbilt. But the weekend of frustration for the conference started with Louisville's 24-17 loss at home to Florida International.

2. Louisville's offensive line has to be fixed. Florida International exposed a glaring weakness in the Louisville offense on Friday night in their 24-17 victory over the Cardinals. The Panthers defense sacked Will Stein seven times and held running backs Jeremy Wright and Victor Anderson to a combined 83 yards on 28 carries (2.9 ypc). Youth has been a concern for Louisville coming into the season, particularly with four new starters on the offensive line. But the performance against FIU was embarrassing for Charlie Strong's squad, and now the entire nation knows where and how to beat the Cardinals. Luckily, their next game is their annual matchup with Kentucky - who looks even worse. My thoughts are that Strong uses Kentucky and the next bye week to fix the issues. But that's probably a lot more hope than thought.

3.Pittsburgh is still adjusting to new systems on both sides of the ball. Todd Graham was supposed to bring the "high octane" offense to Pittsburgh, but the only player up to speed appears to be running back Ray Graham. Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson installed a 3-3-5 attacking defense, and spent time refining it with Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. But neither system appeared to be clicking in the Panthers' 35-29 win over Maine on Saturday. Quarterback Tino Sunseri could not get synced with his receivers, only finding success on short and intermediate routes due to heavy pressure from Maine's defensive front. He was sacked seven times and tossed two interceptions before getting replaced by true freshman Trey Anderson.

The defense was picked apart by Maine quarterback Warren Smith in the second half, with the senior signal caller totaling 334 yards and three touchdowns in a failing effort to bring the Black Bears back from a 20-7 halftime deficit. The defense was hardly "attacking" down the stretch, and if Maine can make Pitt pay the Panthers have some serious concerns heading into next week's non-conference showdown with Iowa.

4. West Virginia's offense needs a consistent rushing attack. The statement sounds critical, but that is only because of how productive the offense is when the Mountaineers can move the ball on the ground. When Norfolk State was holding a 12-10 lead over West Virginia at halftime, they were daring head coach Dana Holgorsen to run the ball with only four men in the box. The Mountaineers were not able to get anything going on the ground with either Andrew Buie or Vernard Roberts, and Geno Smith was struggling to find receivers open in space. When the Mountaineers starting creating holes for their backs in the second half, it opened up the entire field and sparked the 45-0 second half run.
Posted on: September 6, 2011 11:12 pm
 

Big East poll reactions, Week 1

Posted by Chip Patterson

Predictably, the preseason polls did not have much of a Big East presence. The preseason Associated Press poll only opened the door for West Virginia to sneak in at No. 24. But on Saturday South Florida made quite the statement to the voters, pulling off the upset win over Notre Dame in South Bend. Now the conference gets to revel in two teams represented in the polls, with one more collecting votes.

19. West Virginia - Dana Holgorsen's debut in Morgantown was far from normal as the Mountaineers collected their first victory in a game called for lightning. The new offensive scheme under the direction of quarterback Geno Smith sputtered at first, but by the time the game was called the offense had scored five times on eight offensive drives - something that Holgorsen singled out on Monday as "pretty good." Next the Mountaineers will host Norfolk State before traveling to College Park and face Maryland in Byrd Stadium.

22. South Florida - Skip Holtz said before the season that his team had some momentum coming off the Bulls' dramatic late season victories over Miami and Clemson in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. That momentum off those two close wins carried over to South Bend on Saturday with the 23-20 victory over the then-ranked Irish. The Bulls' defense was opportunistic, and BJ Daniels was able to orchestrate enough scoring drives (granted, field goals) in the first half to put the game out of reach by the time the Irish made the quarterback switch. The Bulls now have three winnable games ahead with the possibilities of traveling to Pittsburgh 4-0. After that begins the brutal road journey through the Big East that includes four away games in five weeks.

Other Receiving Votes 38. Pittsburgh - The Panthers' "high-octane" offense took a while to get going against Buffalo, and it is clear the Panthers are sell getting used to operating at Todd Graham's preferred speed in a game situation. Luckily Pitt welcomes Maine to town on Saturday for one more test-run before taking Graham's "high-octane" show on the road to face the Hawkeyes in Iowa on Sept. 17.
Posted on: September 1, 2011 1:16 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2011 1:28 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 1



Posted by Tom Fornelli


For thousands of peaceful, happy years the world was ruled by men. But no longer. Between women and machines, men watch helplessly as our power is tragically wrested away. Surely it can't be true. A world men no longer are in complete control of? Insanity. But how best to prove it?

That, my friends, is where Man vs Woman vs Machine comes in.

I am standing up for men everywhere, yelling from the mountaintops, "You can't take our football from us!" That's right. Every week, I will compete against my girlfriend, Lynn, and a machine, my Playstation 3, as we go head to head to yet another head picking winners of 15 of the biggest college football games of the week.

I will prevail. The fate of our gender and our species depends on it. I shan't let you down.

Let the reclamation of our throne begin.

Wisconsin (-35 1/2) vs. UNLV - Thursday 8pm (All times Eastern)

Man - The excitement of a new season is going to end rather quickly when Wisconsin has this one wrapped up before the end of the second quarter. While I'm a bit leery of spreads this large, I'm also fully aware of the brand of American Football that Bret Bielema likes to play, and I don't doubt for a second that the Badgers will go for 100 points if the possibility is there. Pick: Wisconsin

Woman - "I hate a spread this big, especially when it's being set by some button man UNLV alum named Mo at Caeser's Palace." Pick: UNLV

Machine - The Machine doesn't seem to have a "Crush, Kill, Destroy" philosophy that is as strong as Bielema's. Though the machine really believes in the power of Russell Wilson, as he throws for 4 touchdowns and then runs for another to cap off the scoring in the third quarter. Wisconsin wins 35-7. Pick: UNLV

Baylor vs. TCU (-5 1/2) - Friday 8pm

Man -  This game was a lot tougher for me to call than you would normally think it would be. I'm not sure how TCU's offense will look this season without Andy Dalton around, but I do know that this will still be one of the top defenses in the country. I also know that Baylor's defense is rather porous, which should help TCU because no matter how good Robert Griffin III is, the Horned Frogs defense will make a stop when it needs to. Pick: TCU

Woman - "Home field advantage won't win the game, but it will help cover the spread." Pick: Baylor

Machine - The Machine likes the upset! Apparently there is no defense that Robert Griffin cannot solve, as he throws for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns to lead Baylor to a 34-30 victory. Pick: Baylor

Ohio State (-33 1/2) vs Akron - Saturday 12pm

Man - What should we expect from an Ohio State team this season that doesn't have Terrelle Pryor or Jim Tressel? I don't know yet, and odds are this game won't give us much of a clue either. Ohio State should still win rather easily, but with two quarterbacks and the team's top running back and wide receiver sitting this one out, I don't think the offense will be running too smoothly. Pick: Akron

Woman - "Little known fact: A pair of Goodyear rubber zipper boots inspired Akron's nickname "The Zips."  Coincidentally, the same chance it has of beating the spread." Pick: Ohio State

Machine - Suspensions? What suspension? The Machine has Ohio State winning this one 49-14, and that was with Joe Bauserman taking all the snaps. Pick: Ohio State

Alabama (-36 1/2) vs. Kent State - Saturday 12:20pm

Man - Is Alabama replacing a lot of star power on offense this season? Yes. Is Kent State still Kent State? Yes. Trent Richardson may rack up close to 200 yards in the first half and then sit out the second half, and though I'm somewhat scared that the Tide will call off the dogs a bit late in the game, I still like them to cover this spread. Pick: Alabama

Woman - "Hey, Kent State, do you really want to take the chance? I didn't think so." Pick: Alabama

Machine - Well, Kent State, at least you're going to get some points out of it. The Tide rolls 56-3. Pick: Alabama

Notre Dame (-10.5) vs. South Florida - Saturday 3:30pm

Man - It's a new year and the expectations for Notre Dame are high, so there's nothing new to report. Which is why I'm incredibly leery of Notre Dame being a double-digit favorite because this is a team that hasn't lived up to those expectations for a while, and I'm not going to buy in until the Irish show it on the field. I think Notre Dame starts its season 1-0, but it's going to be close. Pick: South Florida

Woman - "If Skip Holtz has any unresolved daddy issues, now's the time for payback." Pick: South Florida

Machine - Much like the Woman and I, The Machine isn't buying the Notre Dame hype either, and Brian Kelly is going to start feeling some pressure after the Irish lose 23-10 to the Bulls. Pick: South Florida

Florida State (-29 1/2) vs. Louisiana-Monroe - Saturday 3:30pm

Man - I'm not entirely sold on Florida State being ranked as high as it is to start the season, but I don't foresee the Seminoles having any trouble with Louisiana-Monroe this weekend. There's a chance the 'Noles will get caught looking ahead to their date against Oklahoma, but it's a small one. Pick: Florida State

Woman - "F-L-O-R-I-D-A-S-T-A-T-E cupCAKE cupCAKE cupCAKE" Pick: Florida State

Machine - It's a clean sweep as The Machine believes Chief Osceola will send his spear right through the heart of the Warhawks, 42-6. Pick: Florida State

Ole Miss vs. BYU (-3) - Saturday 4:45pm

Man - I know Ole Miss started its 2010 season with a loss at home against Jacksonville State, but to be an underdog at home against a BYU team that wasn't exactly a world beater itself in 2010? Why I'll gladly take the points and put my faith in the Reverend Houston Nutt. Pick: Ole Miss

Woman - "Is it just me or does "Ole Miss" sound like somebody's pet dairy cow or an arthritic spinster? Whatever, Spinster squeaks by at home. (And serves up a delicious applesauce crumb cake.)" Pick: Ole Miss

Machine - The Machine is not religious, but even it succumbs to the powerful words of the Reverend Nutt. There will be no Jacksonville State repeat, Ole Miss wins 44-20. Pick: Ole Miss

Florida (-34 1/2) vs. Florida Atlantic - Saturday 7pm

Man - While I have no doubt that Will Muschamp will have the Florida defense looking as strong as ever before the year is done, I have plenty of doubts about John Brantley and the Gators offense. Because of these doubts I have a hard time believing the Gators will blow Howard Schnellenberger's boys out of The Swamp on Saturday. Florida wins comfortably, but not by a blowout. Pick: Florida Atlantic

Woman - "The Schnellenberger's Last Season Effect: FAU will just beat the spread, which Charlie Weis will promptly schmear on some bagels." Pick: Florida Atlantic

Machine - A new offense? The same questionable quarterback? The Machine fears not these things, and the Gators roll 59-10. Pick: Florida

Oklahoma State (-37 1/2) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette - Saturday 7pm

Man - I'm of the opinion that Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon could end up with 2,000 yards receiving this season, and he's going to get a large chunk of those yards on Saturday night in Stillwater. The Ragin' Cajuns will come after Mike Gundy, but he's a man, he's over 40 and he has an offense that will put up at least 40. Pick: Oklahoma State

Woman - "The only Louisiana Lafayette I know hates vampires and wears false eyelashes." Pick: Oklahoma State

Machine - While The Machine believes in the prowess of Justin Blackmon (8 catches, 238 yards, 3 TDs) it is not nearly as confident in the Oklahoma State defense. Cowboys win 38-17. Pick: Louisiana-Lafayette

Texas (-23) vs. Rice - Saturday 8pm

Man - This game has me torn. On the one hand, I don't know that I want to count on Garrett Gilbert being able to limit turnovers enough to keep the Longhorns comfortably in the lead. On the other hand, Rice. After flipping a coin I've decided to believe that since this game is on the Longhorn Network and nobody will be watching it, Gilbert will feel much more relaxed and the Longhorns will win easily. Pick: Texas

Woman - "The Longhorns enjoy a rebound effect from last year's nightmare season and take out all their frustration on those wise old Owls." Pick: Texas

Machine - Garrett Gilbert for Heisman! Gilbert throws for 278 yards, 5 touchdowns -- half his total from last year -- and only 1 interception as the Longhorns roll 38-7. Pick: Texas

Oklahoma (-24 1/2) vs. Tulsa - Saturday 8pm

Man - This spread is pretty big for an offense that was as potent as Tulsa's last season, but I'm not sure the Hurricanes can put up astounding numbers against the Oklahoma defense without Damaris Johnson and Todd Graham. Landry Jones gets his Heisman campaign off on the right foot. Pick: Oklahoma

Woman - "Seriously, can someone explain why a school located in the heart of Tornado Alley calls itself the Golden Hurricanes?  Tulsa loses but covers." Pick: Tulsa

Machine - The Machine believes in the Tulsa offense a lot more than I do right now, but the Golden Tornadoes fall just short in a 31-24 loss. Pick: Tulsa

Georgia vs. Boise State (-3 1/2) - Saturday 8pm in Atlanta

Man - There are many who believe that Mark Richt is coaching to save his job with Georgia this fall, and his hold on the position will be a bit more tenuous after this one. Kellen Moore and Boise State are going to claim another BCS scalp on Saturday night in front of a packed Georgia Dome, and I don't think it'll be interesting in the fourth quarter. Pick: Boise State

Woman - "Sorry, adorable l'il Uga the Fiftieth, it's not happening." Pick: Boise State

Machine - Wow, I think Boise State's going to win this one comfortably, but The Machine doesn't even think Georgia should bother showing up. Boise State wins 48-9. Pick: Boise State

LSU (-2 1/2) vs. Oregon - Saturday 8pm in Dallas

Man - Is this game going to be played in a parking lot or a football field? To be honest, I'm not sure if being without Jordan Jefferson hurts LSU or helps it, and I hate going against the magic of Les Miles, but I just have fewer questions about Oregon right now. LSU may pull off another insane last second victory, but I still see the Ducks covering that spread. Pick: Oregon

Woman - "Les Miles will be flossing with Cowboy Stadium's Matrix turf." Pick: LSU

Machine - The Machine feels that Jordan Jefferson is incredibly important, and it shows in the final score. Oregon racks up 598 yards of total offense against the LSU defense and wins rather easily, 42-23. Pick: Oregon

Texas A&M (-15 1/2) vs. SMU - Sunday 7:30pm

Man - The team that's leaving the Big 12 against the team that would like to take its place. If SMU wins do they get in? I'm not sure, and I don't think they'll find out on Saturday. While I expect the Mustangs offense to keep things interesting, I think the Aggies will have too much in the end. Still, SMU covers and then Craig James will claim he doesn't remember a thing that happened during the game. Pick: SMU

Woman - "Aggies starting off what could be a great season and a Big 12 swan song with a win, but they won't cover." Pick: SMU 

Machine - The Machine sees a barnburner in our future on Sunday night. The Aggies narrowly escape with a victory thanks to a field goal in the final minutes, but it's not good enough for a cover. A&M wins 34-31. Pick: SMU

Maryland vs. Miami (-5 1/2) - Monday 8pm

Man - Randy Edsall's dream becomes a reality in his first game at Maryland against whatever is left of the Miami Hurricanes by the time the ball is kicked off. All I know is that I wouldn't be shocked if Miami won this game, but there's just no way I'm going to pick the Canes after the amount of work I had to put in to remove all the ineligible and suspended players from the roster before simulating this game. I hope Nevin Shapiro's yacht stalls in the middle of the ocean while you're out there watching the game. Pick: Maryland

Woman: "Instant karma and home field gives the edge to Maryland." Pick: Maryland

Machine: The Dream Job turns into an early nightmare. Despite having to pull players from the stands to complete its roster, the Machine still sees Miami pulling this one off 28-20. Pick: Miami 
Posted on: August 31, 2011 4:40 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2011 4:46 pm
 

Panthers' defense getting notes from Steelers DC

Posted by Chip Patterson

Pittsburgh has adapted the "high octane" moniker of new head coach Todd Graham, who is well-known for his no-huddle hurry-up offenses. But throughout the fall camp Graham and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson have insisted that the offense won't be the only high-octane aspect of the Panthers this season.

Patterson is installing a new 3-4 defense that will utilize a fourth "Panther linebacker" at times - a hybrid between a defensive end and outside linebacker. Pittsburgh will show all kinds of movement and different looks before the snap with their four linebackers, and use zone blitzes to try and throw off opposing quarterbacks. Patterson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about reaching out to one of the best zone blitz minds in the game of football this offseason.

Luckily, the Panthers' defensive coordinator didn't have to go far for advice.

Patterson said he sat down with the current Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive coordinator, the legendary Dick LeBeau, several times this offseason to learn even more about the defense he was preparing to install in fall camp.

"To have the opportunity to sit with him and ask him questions, was really special," Patterson explained. "And some of the things he said reaffirmed what we were doing and some showed me we were missing the boat.

"But the little attention to details of it was amazing. Anyone can run a certain blitz or pressure, but he spoke of the intricacies, the details, some techniques or an alignment, and that is where he really helped us. So I am going to continue to rely on him as resource, and he's the best guy in the business at what he does, so that's huge for us."

Best in the business is right. In 2010 the AFC Champion Steeler defense gave up fewer points and the second-fewest yards of anyone in the NFL. Outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley terrorized quarterbacks and combined for 20.5 sacks on the season. There has been talk that defensive end Brandon Lindsey will move to that Panther linebacker position in some packages, unleashing the defensive end who totaled 10 sacks (2nd in the Big East) in 2010.

Expecting Steelers-esque performance from the start is asking a bit much from the Panthers, but there is no doubt that Keith Patterson is using a good model for his new scheme. Pittsburgh has been picked to finish right near the top of the conference, likely battling Backyard Brawl Rival West Virginia for the title once again. Their campaign kicks off Saturday when they play host to Buffalo at 6 p.m..
Posted on: August 18, 2011 6:33 pm
Edited on: August 20, 2011 8:58 pm
 

PODCAST: Big East season preview

Posted by Chip Patterson

The Big East gets criticized often on the national level for being the one of the weaker BCS conferences, but with new coaches and high-octane offenses 2011 could be a bounce back year for the league. I join Adam Aizer to sort through the many story lines in the Big East and try to make sense of a league that has had 5 different teams win a share of the conference championship since 2005.

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If you are having trouble seeing the player, you can download the MP3 HERE

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com