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Tag:Utah
Posted on: September 12, 2011 9:41 am
Edited on: September 12, 2011 10:03 am
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 2

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.

Yard-by-yard

- 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.

Pulling Rank

My top 10 after week 2:

1. Oklahoma

2. LSU

3. Alabama

4. Boise State

5. Texas A&M

6. Stanford

7. Wisconsin

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.

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Wait, excuse me, thanks to their 23-14 victory.

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.

Posted on: September 10, 2011 8:50 pm
Edited on: September 10, 2011 9:15 pm
 

Larry Scott not proactive in conference expansion

Posted by Bryan Fischer

LOS ANGELES -- While Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott's newest acquisition, Utah, was warming up on the field of his conference's most storied member, USC, the former tennis executive strolled into the Coliseum press box beaming about the first ever conference game that was to take place a few minutes later.

Then he met a swarm of media interested in just one topic.

"I'd prefer to be less popular," Scott joked after being inundated with questions about conference expansion. "On this topic, we're trying to stay out of the story frankly. Our position hasn't really changed, we haven't been looking for or aspiring to expand since we made the decision on 12.

"If schools are going to leave the Big 12 and there's going to be a paradigm shift, or a landscape change as people like to describe it, we'll go ahead and step back and look at our options, then reconsider."

Scott is just one of the key figures in the ongoing conference realignment saga that has infringed on the start of the college football season. In a nod to the fact that the story seems to change by the day, if not by the hour, Scott couldn't even confirm that he would be running a 12 team league next year.

"I know there will be a Pac-12," he said before cautioning, "I hope there is. The ink is still drying on our new logos and the field paint and uniforms. It's our hope that the world stays the same and we get to enjoy what we've created. I don't think anyone, with how dynamic the situation is, would stick their neck out and say nothing is going to change."

While most of the nation was focused on the thrilling Missouri-Arizona State game Friday night, Scott not only took in the action in Tempe but also discussed issues with the man who has seen several of his teams openly flirt with other conferences, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe.

"I did speak with Dan yesterday," Scott said. "He was due to be in Tempe but didn't go. So we spoke over the phone and had a nice chat."

Scott already tried to raid Beebe's conference once before. Last summer he tried to boldly add Colorado, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to form a Pac-16 superconference. While he was unsuccessful in fulfilling his goal of adding all six teams - settling for the Buffalos and Utes - he still sees the future of major college athletics as having four, 16-team superconferences.

"I still believe it and I think what's going on is evidence that there's a disparity between certain conferences," he said. "I've been saying that over the past year that there will be more consolidation. I didn't think it would happen so quickly - a year after we expanded - that we'd have so much noise around the issue."

The commissioner did acknowledge that several schools have reached out to him - presumably Oklahoma and Oklahoma State - to gauge interest in the Pac-12 being a popular landing spot. Scott cautioned that there have been no votes nor any formal talks at adding teams to the conference. Given the threats of legal action from schools like Baylor, he chose his words carefully when asked about what could happen over the next few weeks.

"We're not being proactive, we're not trying to initiate any move to conferences beyond 12," said Scott. "I'm trying to be more precise in the language because it's a highly charged situation. People are hanging on every word, I felt that the media was getting a little further out in front of where we actually were, so I have had to be more precise that we're not initiating a move to superconfereces. We are only evaluating anything if other conferences go first."

For now, Scott and Pac-12 will wait. And watch. And listen.


Posted on: September 10, 2011 11:51 am
Edited on: September 10, 2011 11:51 am
 

Gameday weather updates, Week 2

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Here's the rundown on the weather for all of today's big games (all times Eastern). It can't be any worse than last Saturday, but it does look as though we'll get a good bit more sunshine:

Noon kickoffs

Toledo at No. 15 Ohio State, 12:00, Columbus, OH: Mid-to-low 70s, scattered thunderstorms

Oregon State at No. 8 Wisconsin, 12:00, Madison WI: Sunny, high of 80

No. 16 Mississippi State at Auburn, 12:20, Auburn AL: Sunny, mid-to-low 80s

Afternoon kickoffs

No. 11 Virginia Tech at East Carolina, 3:30, Greenville, NC: Sunny, high of 84

No. 3 Alabama at No. 23 Penn State, 3:30, State College, PA: Scattered thunderstorms and showers, low 70s

Nevada at No. 13 Oregon, 3:30, Eugene OR: Sunny, hot. High of 93

No. 12 South Carolina at Georgia, 4:30, Athens GA: Sunny, mid-to-low 80s

Evening kickoffs

UAB at No. 18 Florida, 7:00, Gainesville FL: Isolated thunderstorms, chance of rain 30 percent. 70s.

Fresno State at No. 10 Nebraska, 7:00, Lincoln NE: Mostly clear. Low of 58

BYU at No. 24 Texas, 7:00, Austin TX: Clear. 70s.

Utah at USC, 7:30, Los Angeles CA: Partly cloudy, 20 percent chance of rain. 60s.

Notre Dame at Michigan, 8:00, Ann Arbor MI: Showers throughout day, thinning out during evening. 60s.


Posted on: September 9, 2011 3:02 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 2

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet.  Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.

Admittedly the menu this week is not as artery-clogging as last week's, but that's probably a good thing. After the five-day all-you-can-eat buffet that was the first week of the season, we should all eat a bit lighter this week. Of course, just because we won't be feasting on meals guaranteed to shorten our life spans, that doesn't mean there aren't some tasty entrees at our disposal.

Let's take a look at what we have to dine on this Saturday.

BREAKFAST

#8 Wisconsin vs. Oregon State - ESPN 12pm ET

It's hard to imagine two seasons starting in such opposite directions. Oregon State dropped an overtime thriller to Sacramento State, while Wisconsin breezed to victory over UNLV. If these teams play at the same level tomorrow, this could be a historic blowout. And we all like watching touchdowns by the bucket, don't we? - Adam Jacobi

#17 Michigan State vs. FAU - ESPN2 12pm ET

Howard Schnellenberger's five-game road trip to kick off his farewell season rolls into Detroit to face a Spartan team looking to rebound from a sluggish start. This was supposed to be a home game for FAU, but with the $70-million stadium in Boca Raton still under construction the contest was moved to Ford Field.  After coaching from the press box last week due to complications from hip surgery, Schnellenberger will return to the sideline and try to inspire more than 137 yards of offense for the Owls.  Michigan State fans will also want to see more cohesion out of the Spartans, who committed eight penalties and never really hit their stride against an inferior Youngstown State squad. - Chip Patterson

Auburn vs. #16 Mississippi State - SEC Network 12:21pm ET 

It won't have the divisional title implications of the Georgia-South Carolina matchup, but both the Tigers and Bulldogs will be fighting every bit as tooth-and-nail for a victory here as their Eastern counterparts will later in the day. Dan Mullen's State team wants to cement its status as a legitimate West division factor but simply can't without a win over the brutally inexperienced Tigers; Auburn, meanwhile, is in desperate danger of being branded a one-year wonder if they follow up their escape from Utah State with a loss in one of the most winnable games on their SEC slate. - Jerry Hinnen

LUNCH

#23 Penn State vs. #3 Alabama - ABC 3:30pm ET

If Penn State fans want some respect from the national media for this team, the Nittany Lions are going to have to earn it on the national stage, hosting No. 2 Alabama. The Tide is loaded again this year, but like PSU, there's some QB drama at Bama. Watch to see if McCarron or whoever else the Tide throws out there on Saturday can handle what promises to be a maniacally loud Beaver Stadium. - AJ

#13 Oregon vs. Nevada - FX 3:30pm ET

After getting embarrassed by LSU's defense in the opener, I expect Mark Helfrich to have the attack meter all the way turned up against the Wolf Pack. Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, and Co. have not derailed from their 2010 form, it just seems these massive SEC defenses are the Ducks' kryptonite.  After a frustrating loss, coaches will want to take advantage of every single snap against their next opponent.  You will want to watch this game because Oregon will put the foot on the gas pedal (Cliff Harris!) and never let up for four quarters. - CP 

Air Force vs. #25 TCU - Versus 3:30pm ET

You can be sure that TCU didn't exactly enjoy having the entire country see Baylor tear its defense apart last Friday, and the unit is going to look to save some face against Air Force on Saturday afternoon. This game will also mark the beginning of the final year of Mountain West conference play for the Horned Frogs, and I'm sure they'd like to go out with quite a bang. - Tom Fornelli

Georgia vs. #12 South Carolina - ESPN 4:30pm ET

Well, this is it: the defining game of Mark Richt's Georgia tenure. Lose it, and any shred of momentum from the "Dream Team" offseason or hope of a divisional title (most likely) is gone. Win it, and the Dawgs suddenly sit in the East catbird seat with the SEC's easiest schedule on tap. It's either the miserable end for one of the sport's most visible coaches, or the giddy start to a stunning reclamation project, with no in-between ... and Stephen Garcia's involved, too. A must-watch. - JH

DINNER

#24 Texas vs. BYU - ESPN2 7pm ET

The Big 12 of the future! Does BYU win the game in hopes of gaining a Big 12 invite, or does it show its true Big 12 street cred by allowing Texas to walk all over it? Tune in to find out! Seriously, though, this will be a much better indication of how improved Texas is this year than last week's game against Rice. BYU is fresh off a nice road win against Ole Miss and should provide a much tougher test for the Longhorns. - TF

USC vs. Utah - Versus 7:30pm ET

The Pac-12 officially kicks off conference play and it should be a good one as former BCS busters Utah will try and prove they can play with the conference's most storied program from the get-go. USC's record-setting pair of quarterback Matt Barkley and wide receiver Robert Woods won't have much time to throw the ball around as the Utes have a very good front seven this year. Old friend Norm Chow also returns to the Coliseum, this time with a solid quarterback in Jordan Wynn, so it should be a fun league opener. - Bryan Fischer

Michigan vs. Notre Dame - ESPN 8pm ET

The first night game in the history of the Big House has plenty to offer everyone. How will Michigan's defense perform this week now that it might have to play an entire 60 minutes, and do so against a Notre Dame offense that features a lot more weapons than Western Michigan's did. Also, will Denard Robinson have an encore performance of his game against the Irish last year? That's the one that made him a household name last September when he accounted for 502 yards of total offense and 3 touchdowns. - TF

LATE NIGHT SNACK

UCLA vs. San Jose State - 10pm ET

Rick Neuheisel cares. He might be the only one at UCLA who cares, but he really does care passionately about his alma matter. The Bruins hope to turn things around after their disappointing loss to Houston in which the defense looked like a mess. San Jose State isn't the most appealing opponent but it's the only late night game on Saturday and the Bruins should get the offense going no matter who's in the backfield. - BF
Posted on: September 8, 2011 2:02 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 2:41 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 2


Posted by Tom Fornelli


Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.

It is clear that this is a fight that will not be won easily, as both Woman and Machine dealt me a crushing blow in the first week of the season. Fear not, my fellow containers of the Y chromosome, for a war is not lost in the first battle, and we have many more to fight. So let's get to the senseless slaughter, shall we?

Oklahoma State (-14 1/2) vs. Arizona - Thursday, 8pm (All times Eastern)

Man - This one could wind up being quite the barnburner much along the lines of the Baylor/TCU game we saw on Friday night. It's two good offenses facing off against each other, and it may come down to which defense can make a stop when it has to. Even though I'd give the edge on defense to Arizona, the fact that this game is being played in Stillwater makes me lean toward the Cowboys, but at the same time Oklahoma State's defense makes me think this one could be a lot closer than the spread indicates. Of course, it's hard to forget Oklahoma State beating Arizona 36-10 in the Alamo Bowl. Screw it, I'm riding with the Cowboys. Pick: Oklahoma State

Woman - "Remember the Alamo Bowl." Pick: Oklahoma State

Machine - The Machine sees a lot more defense in this one than I'd expect, and Brandon Weeden struggles against Mike Stoops' defense, throwing for only 245 yards and 1 touchdown. OSU wins 27-14, but the Cats cover. Pick: Arizona

Arizona State (-7 1/2) vs. Missouri - Friday, 10:30pm

Man - I really don't have a lot of faith in the Missouri offense after last week's performance, but it's hard to get a decent read on Arizona State based on one game against UC-Davis. While I still believe in the Missouri defense, I think being on the road will catch up to them in the second half and the Sun Devils pull this one off. Pick: Arizona State

Woman - "This is Frank Kush Field in 108 degree weather.  This is your football team on Frank Kush Field in 108 degree weather. Any questions?" Pick: Arizona State

Machine - The Machine is fearful of James Franklin's inability to throw passes over 7 yards as well, but it does not think that will keep the Tigers from putting up points and the defense from smothering ASU. Missouri 24-10. Pick: Missouri

Wisconsin (-21 1/2) vs. Oregon State - Saturday, 12pm

Man - Bret Bielema let me down last week. After Wisconsin buried UNLV early on Thursday night he decided to call off the dogs and not pursue 100 points. That being said, Oregon State lost at home to Sacramento State. I don't care how kind and cuddly this new version of Bret Bielema has become, nor how large the spread, I am not picking a team that loses at home to Sacramento State. Pick: Wisconsin

Woman - "On one hand, Russell Wilson magic and a monster Badger homefield advantage.  On the other hand, a hammy-challenged Beaver rusher and a secondary that might as well be wearing Louboutin athletic shoes.  Wait, that's the same hand.  Wisconsin wins easily but throttles back, so doesn't quite cover." Pick: Oregon State

Machine - ALERT! ALERT! THE MACHINE HAS BEEN COMPROMISED! IT IS ON DRUGS! IT HAS OREGON STATE WINNING THIS GAME 16-0! Pick: Oregon State

Auburn vs. Mississippi State (-6 1/2) - Saturday, 12:21pm

Man: We saw how tough life could be for Auburn this season without Cam Newton when the Tigers barely had the power to squeak by Utah State at home last weekend, and Mississippi State is a much tougher foe than the Aggies were. That being said, a spread this large for a team on the road in the SEC seems rather ominous, so while I wouldn't be shocked if Auburn loses, it's going to be another close game. Pick: Auburn

Woman - "Pay no attention to the neutered Tiger behind the curtain. Mississippi State wins but doesn't cover." Pick: Auburn

Machine - According to The Machine, Auburn will once again find itself in a whole during the fourth quarter this week, but unlike last Saturday, this hole will be too deep to climb out of. Mississippi State wins 35-21. Pick: Mississippi State

Penn State vs. Alabama (-9 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - An SEC team makes a rare appearance in a Big Ten stadium this week, and I have a feeling that the Tide won't be the most polite visitors the conference has seen. I know that there are still some questions on offense for Alabama, but I just don't see Penn State's offense being able to do much against that Alabama defense. Pick: Alabama

Woman - "Do you ever wonder if Joe Paterno is actually comatose lying in a hospital bed at some nursing home called Happy Valley and we're all just figments of his imagination? No? Uh, me either... Regardless, good D versus great D means JoePa's gonna have bad dreams." Pick: Alabama

Machine - The Machine sees Robert Bolden enjoying his date against Alabama a lot more this season, but unfortunately a late 40-yard touchdown run by Trent Richardson makes it a Not-So-Happy Valley. Alabama just gets by 24-23. Pick: Penn State

Duke vs. Stanford (-21 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Let me make this clear: There is nothing I enjoy less than picking against a home team that is a 21 1/2-point underdog. That being said, one of these teams has Andrew Luck and the other one lost to Richmond last week. Pick: Stanford

Woman - "Crimson last year, now Cardinal? Red looks terrible on Duke. Coincidentally, reverse the spread and it would equal the mean IQ point differential in respective student bodies." Pick: Stanford

Machine - The Machine does not experience human emotions, but it is torn on this game. Does The Machine go with the kids who designed it, or the kids who begged mommy and daddy to buy it for them? Stanford wins 34-31. Pick: Duke

Georgia vs. South Carolina (-3 1/2) - Saturday, 4:30pm

Man - This is an incredibly important game for so early in the season as it could play a large role in who wins the SEC East. It also features yet another home underdog, but to be honest, I'm not all that concerned this time around. What I am concerned about is the fact I have so much faith in a team that features Stephen Garcia as its quarterback. Pick: South Carolina

Woman - "I'm assuming Mark Richt's players want him to get out of Sanford Stadium alive." Pick: Georgia

Machine - Stephen Garcia not only starts for the Gamecocks, but he plays so unbelievably well that Steve Spurrier doesn't even think about pulling him. Garcia throws for 296 yards and 4 touchdowns as Mark Richt's seat grows even hotter. South Carolina wins 28-21. Pick: South Carolina

Nebraska (-28.5) vs. Fresno State - Saturday, 7pm

Man - While I have no doubts about the fact that the Nebraska defense is going to make life hell on the Fresno State offense, I'm just not ready to give the Cornhusker offense enough credit in this one. Until Taylor Martinez can show me he can have consistently good games, a spread like this is just too large to bet against. Pick: Fresno State

Woman - "Quick question: Can Bo Pelini find out where I live? He can?" Pick: Nebraska

Machine - Much like The Woman, The Machine fears Bo Pelini smashing it into a million pieces. Nebraska wins easily, 48-17. Pick: Nebraska

USC (-9 1/2) vs. Utah - Saturday, 7:30pm

Man - We all saw how much trouble that USC had with Minnesota last week, and I have a hard time believing that Utah is any weaker than the Golden Gophers. Plus at some point Lane Kiffin is going to blow USC's chances of covering by going for two and failing, and I don't want to have to rely on one of Kiffin's dumb decisions paying off to get me a win. Pick: Utah

Woman - "I'll take the points over boneheaded Lane Kiffin, even if the Song Girls try to lure the Utes into the rocks." Pick: Utah

Machine - The Machine's pick does not disappoint me this week, though I was saddened to see that USC kicked two field goals rather than failing on a two-point conversion. Utah wins 21-6. Pick: Utah

Michigan vs. Notre Dame (-4 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - You know, Notre Dame's offense actually had a great game against South Florida last week if you could somehow erase the five turnovers, and the idea of that same offense facing a Michigan defense that can't be totally over 2010 causes me to lean towards picking the Irish here. That being said, the first ever night game at the Big House is bound to give the Wolverines a pretty nice boost, and I think this game is going to be pretty darn close. I'm not sure who wins, but I have to take the home team and the points here. Pick: Michigan

Woman - "After last week, Notre Dame has officially become the Chicago Cubs of college football." Pick:Michigan

Machine - The Machine nailed Notre Dame's loss last week, but it seems its faith in the school has been restored a bit. Or at least it believes in the healing powers of Tommy Rees as the new Irish starter throws for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Irish cruise to a 46-29 win. Pick: Notre Dame

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Machine 11-4 (11-4)
1. Woman 11-4 (11-4)
3. Man 8-7 (8-7)
Posted on: September 7, 2011 3:49 pm
Edited on: September 9, 2011 12:49 pm
 

PODCAST: Previewing Week 2

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

No, Week 2's slate of games doesn't have the blockbuster matchups that marked Week 1, and it'll be lucky to get a surprise classic half as good as Baylor-TCU. But that doesn't mean there's not a stout lineup of compelling, competitive games on tap: Georgia trying to get off the mat against South Carolina, Auburn hosting Mississippi State in a game that could stamp the Bulldogs as contenders, a desperate Notre Dame team playing the first-ever night game at Michigan, Utah going for an upset of USC in its Pac-12 debut, Alabama putting their top-3 bona fides on the line at Penn State, and plenty more.

Our Adam Aizer and J. Darin Darst discuss all of that in the College Football Podcast's Week 2 preview. Listen below, download the mp3, or keep browsing while listening in the popout player. Like what you hear? Subscribe to the CFB Podcast on iTunes.





Posted on: September 6, 2011 8:29 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2011 8:31 pm
 

Pac-12 Poll Reactions, Week 1

Posted by Bryan Fischer

It was a rough week for the Pac-12, certainly not what Larry Scott had hoped for in the first (and perhaps only) year of the new twelve team league. Oregon was embarrassed in the featured game of the week, UCLA had issues with Houston in the afternoon, USC didn't impress against Minnesota and, oh yeah, Oregon State lost to an FCS foe. This week could be a make or break week for some in the conference and also could give everybody some clarity in how the South division will sort out with Utah traveling to Los Angeles to play USC in the first ever conference game.

But at least we actually got to see everybody play someone other than themselves so it's a bit easier to figure out how they fall in the Top 25. A look at the conference of champions in the latest AP and Coaches polls:

AP/Coaches

6/6. Stanford

The Cardinal are the top team in the polls for the Pac-12 and it might be awhile before they face a stiff enough test to knock them from off their perch. They easily won their game against San Jose State, 57-3, and Andrew Luck did a good job of getting his new receivers the ball early. Running back Stepfan Taylor rushed for two touchdowns and most of the first team players on both sides of the ball played sparingly. Up next is a trip to Duke.

13/14. Oregon

Quite the drop for the Ducks after the loss to LSU in Dallas. No, they didn't play very well and yes, it's a little concerning that they couldn't get the ground game going against another big SEC team but the drop should be temporary for Oregon. This is still a good football team who has a chance to run their way to the Rose Bowl and, keep in mind, it was a three point game against the Tigers at halftime. Running back LaMichael James needs to get going after posting just 54 yards against a stout defense. Nevada is up next in the Ducks' home opener.

NR/23. Arizona State

The Sun Devils are a borderline top 25 team according to the pollsters but certainly impressed last week against an overmatched UC Davis, winning 48-14. Running back Cameron Marshall looked good for the offense, catching the ball out of the back field four times for 86 yards and rushing for two touchdowns. The defense was as advertised, as linebacker Vontaze Burfict racked up thee sacks and - shockingly - didn't commit a single penalty. The real test comes this week as they'll host Missouri in a big Friday night matchup in the desert.

Others receiving votes:

Arizona State (119 points in the AP poll), USC (69 in the AP), Utah (24 in the AP/42 in the coaches), Arizona (5 in the AP, 28 in the coaches), Washington (3 in the coaches), Cal (1 in the coaches).


Posted on: September 3, 2011 7:52 pm
Edited on: September 3, 2011 7:55 pm
 

QUICK HITS: USC 19, Minnesota 17

Posted by Bryan Fischer

USC WON. Barely. The Trojans held on to dear life after getting shut down on offense in the second half but still managed to beat Minnesota for the second straight year, 19-17 at the Coliseum. USC looked like they were going to roll early on after taking a 19-3 lead into the locker room but the offense sputtered and the defense was just average late. It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win.

WHY USC WON: Robert Woods and Matt Barkley. Head coach Lane Kiffin said after the game that the offense had only two good players right now and that was in reference to the dynamic duo that hooked up early and often at the Coliseum. Woods caught a school-record 17 passes for 177 yards, including three touchdowns in the first half. Barkley also set a USC-record with 34 completions for 304 yards.

WHEN USC WON: This game felt like the Trojans were going to win going away based on the first half but new Gophers head coach Jerry Kill made some terrific halftime adjustments to give his team a shot to win it at the end. Thanks to two missed two point conversions early in the game, quarterback Max Shortell had the ball in his hands but threw an interception to USC cornerback Torin Harris to seal the Trojan victory in the final minute.

WHAT USC WON: A game, that's about it. It certainly wasn't a good one but if there's one take away for the coaching staff, it's that they shored up their two-minute defense a little. After bending and breaking at the end of games in 2010, it appears the 2011 edition is a bit better equipped to handle a pressure situation. The defensive line was active but trailed off and managed to record only two sacks on the day. The victory over Minnesota won't inspire much confidence as USC takes on Utah next week but getting a key stop in the 4th quarter is somewhat encouraging.

WHAT MINNESOTA LOST: Jerry Kill's debut. Though his first game as coach ended with a loss, there was a lot of good signs that he'll eventually right the ship. He lost a first-time starter at quarterback in MarQueis Gray to cramps in the 3rd quarter and brought in a true freshman in Shortell, who almost pulled off an upset. The defense adjusted well and, despite allowing a record-setting day to Woods and Barkley, did a good job of holding USC's offense to just 100 yards rushing. It might take some time but Minnesota fans have to be excited about how hard Kill's team competed.

THAT WAS CRAZY: The Trojans attempted two, two-point conversions out of the swinging-gate formation and didn't come close either time. When the team finally lined up to kick an extra point, the Coliseum crowd gave a loud Bronx-cheer for Kiffin.


 
 
 
 
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