Tag:What I Learned
Posted on: October 24, 2010 12:24 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
1. Missouri is for real. Okay, I'm convinced now, are you happy, Tigers fans? Missouri proved something to me on Saturday night be beating Oklahoma 36-27. Still, what impressed me the most was Missouri's defense. Landry Jones was pressured by the front seven all night, and though they gave up some yards and 27 points, they made a play everytime they needed to and forced a couple of big turnovers. I also learned that Gary Pinkel likes to go for the throat, because a lot of teams might have gotten a bit too cautious down the stretch, but not Pinkel. Pulling out the hook and ladder, along with throwing the ball late in the fourth quarter, and converting. Kudos to you, sir.
2. Bob Stoops makes some very questionable decisions. It all started with Stoops' decision to go for two after the Sooners had cut Missouri's lead to 36-27 late. Obviously, they didn't convert, but even if they had it's still the wrong decision. There's no point in going for two so early because if you do convert it's still a one-possession game, and if you don't it's a two-possession game. That affects your playcalling ability because you can't afford to run the ball anymore. And don't even get me started on Stoops' decision to punt on fourth down, down nine, with three minutes left and no timeouts. Just bust out the white flag and go home, why don't you.
3. Baylor is going bowling. Congratulations to the Baylor Bears for beating Kansas State 47-42 on Saturday night. The win means that Baylor has six wins already this season, and that for the first time since it joined the Big 12, Baylor will be going to a bowl game this winter.
4. Hi, my name is Texas and I'm a schizophrenic. What do we make of this Texas team? One week it's losing at home to an awful UCLA team, then it's knocking off undefeated Nebraska on the road. Then it follows up that win, which has us wondering if maybe the Longhorns have worked things out, by losing to Iowa State at home? Iowa State!? At least people in Texas have the Rangers to root for right now, because the Horns won't be providing much entertainment in November.
5. Oklahoma State's defense just isn't good enough. Okay, so I didn't really learn that this week, I've pretty much felt that way all season, but it finally bit the Cowboys in the butt on Saturday against Nebraska. The Cornhuskers put up 51 points and 540 yards of offense on Oklahoma State. Though the good news for Oklahoma State is that Oklahoma lost too, so they didn't lose any ground in the Big 12 South.
Posted on: October 23, 2010 9:33 pm
Edited on: October 23, 2010 10:43 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
1. You're going to have to knock Sparty out. The Michigan State Spartans, even sitting at 7-0 entering this week's trip to Northwestern , weren't exactly strangers to adversity. They trailed Notre Dame in the fourth quarter. They gave away all kinds of points in turnovers against Wisconsin . Their offense sputtered for a half against both Michigan and Illinois . Their head coach had missed time with multiple ailments including a freaking postgame heart attack.
But in football terms, none of that quite matched trailing the Wildcats 17-0 on the road midway through the second quarter this afternoon. The Spartans were lucky it wasn't worse, as Northwestern had fumbled a certain touchdown at the 1 and had both run the ball and stopped the MSU run with impunity. No matter: the Spartans turned to quarterback Kirk Cousins and their excellent receiving corps, and responded with an immediate touchdown. Just a few minutes into the second half, it was 17-14. A fake punt helped keep them within 24-21. And two touchdowns in the game's dying minutes gave them a 35-27 win . They just never stopped coming.
The lesson -- as the lesson has been all season with the Spartans -- is that you'd best put your boot on Sparty's throat when you get the chance. If you let them stay upright, their offense is too balanced and their confidence too high for them not to overtake you eventually. Just ask the Wildcats.
2. Iowa's fourth-quarter mojo is missing. A year ago, Ricky Stanzi was unstoppable in the final period , and the Hawkeyes rode his arm to a perfect 10-0 record in games he started and finished. Four of those wins came by a teeth-skinning total of eight points, with several others blown open by the Hawkeyes in the fourth after three evenly-played quarters. In short: no team in America was more clutch.
In its five wins so far this year, Iowa hasn't needed any of those heroics, winning by an average of 23 points. But twice in 2010 the Hawkeyes have found themselves in fourth-quarter struggles, and in neither case have they come up with the plays that made 2009 so special. Against Arizona , it was a collapse on the offensive line that led to a series of game-ending sacks. Against Wisconsin today , it was the Iowa special teams and defense that allowed the Badgers to drive 80 yards in 7:29 with the game on the line, eventually giving up the winning touchdown to Badger backup Montee Ball . The Badgers converted a pair of fourth downs on the drive, one on a fake punt deep in their own territory.
And this time, with barely more than a minute to work with, Stanzi wasn't able to pull off the miracle drive for the win. As they say: what a difference a year makes .
3. Move along: there's nothing to see in Minneapolis. Playing at home after the embarrassment of having its coach fired midseason, Minnesota allowed the previously moribund Penn State offense -- and "moribund" is being kind -- to rack up 145 rushing yards and 33 points in a comfortable 12-point win , all without injured starting quarterback Robert Bolden . We knew that the next Gopher head coach was by far the biggest question surrounding the program; after a performance like Saturday's, it's fair to call it the only question.
4. The Big Ten is one game away from total chaos. Or total boredom. Wisconsin looked utterly lost in East Lansing in Week 5, but after massive wins against Ohio State at home and now Iowa on the road, it's fair to say the Badgers have their usual ground-pounding attack operating at maximum efficiency. The Buckeyes made clear Saturday they're not going anywhere, obliterating Purdue 49-0 . And as painful as their come-from-ahead loss Saturday may have been, Iowa has just the one conference loss and is all the more dangerous for having been stung by its setbacks to date.
Meaning that if Michigan State falls in Iowa City this coming Saturday, no less than four of the Big Ten's powers could be tied at the top of the conference standings with a single loss, with only one game -- Iowa against Ohio State -- still to play between the four of them. The mind reels at the tiebreakers.
The flip side is that if Michigan State wins in Iowa City, to sit at least a game up on the rest of the field ... with head-to-head tiebreakers over the Hawkeyes and Badgers in hand ... no game scheduled against Ohio State ... and only dates against Minnesota, Purdue and Penn State remaining ... you might as well go ahead and pencil the Spartans in for Pasadena, or something even greater.
So, Michigan State at Iowa: the game of the Big Ten's season? Yes, Michigan State at Iowa, the game of the Big Ten's season.
Posted on: October 17, 2010 3:14 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
1. Oh, right, USC. That team with an embarrassment of riches. Them. It's easy (and not altogether unwise) to forget sometimes based on their on-field "exploits," but the USC Trojans still have a ton of talent. They don't have a ton of experience and they're with a brand-new coach, but still: these guys have some innate physical advantages. Take Matt Barkley, for example. The 5-star recruit had a rough freshman campaign last season with 15 touchdowns and 14 picks, but, y'know, he's still a former 5-star recruit. And he flashed that talent in a big way today with a 25-37, 352 yard, five-touchdown, zero-interception performance against Cal in a 48-14 whipping. Even with the reserves seeing plenty of garbage time, the Trojans still racked up 32 first downs, 602 total yards, and 5.9 yards per rush. And this is against a Cal defense that held UCLA to seven points and Arizona to 10 in their two prior games (yes, 52 to Nevada prior to that, but hey). USC isn't allowed to go to a bowl, and its scholarship restrictions are going to sting for years, but every now and then these Trojans are going to lay waste to mediocre opponents. This was one of those weeks.
2. Jake Locker is here, and not a moment too soon. Washington QB Jake Locker, the much-ballyhooed freshman of three years ago, is a senior now, and whether through lousy luck with injuries, insufficient surrounding talent, or poor play of his own, he hasn't really lived up to his high expectations for any sustained amount of time. Again, not completely his fault, but it's true. To Locker's credit, he's kept his head down and stayed at the task of improving this whole time, and he was rewarded today with a five-touchdown performance in Washington's 35-34 overtime win over Oregon State. Locker made some gorgeous throws today, and the memories of his ghastly 4-20 performance against Nebraska just four weeks ago seemed much further away today. Locker wasn't perfect, and his fourth-quarter fumble in Beaver territory killed the Huskies' most promising shot at a game-winning score in regulation, but still: five touchdowns.
3. Meanwhile, bravery and stupidity are not mutually exclusive. After seeing his team match Washington's touchdown in the second overtime, Oregon State coach Mike Riley made the commendable decision to go for the win right then and there, to tell his team that victory was only three yards away. Curiously, though, Riley declined to dial the number of Jacquizz Rodgers, who had played like a man possessed up to that point with 189 total yards and four touchdowns up to that point -- including three rushing scores from within six yards. No, Riley called on his sophomore quarterback Ryan Katz, who tried to connect with tight end Joe Halahuni on the conversion. The ball slipped through Halahuni's hands before falling harmlessly incomplete, and that was that. Now, going for two was a bold, mansome decision, but not giving the ball to Rodgers even if the defense was expecting it (much as they had for the entire game thus far) doesn't put Oregon State in the best position to succeed, and for that Oregon State now has a loss instead of a win.
4. Is Matt Scott better than last season? We're about to find out. There wasn't a whole lot to take away from each team's performance in Arizona's 24-7 win over Washington State; the Huskies are improving but still not very good, but we already knew that. The real news is that Arizona's star QB Nick Foles injured his knee after getting rolled into early in the second quarter. Early indications are that it's a dislocated kneecap, which sounds far worse than it is; Matt Barkley suffered the same injury last season, and he was practicing after a week or two. Mike Stoops told reporters he expected Foles to miss two to three weeks. If true, that's rough news for the Wildcats, who will face Washington, UCLA, and Stanford in their next three games. Backup Matt Scott came in for Foles, but he's the guy who was benched for Foles after three games last season for ineffective play. He sure didn't do much for Arizona against Washington State, and there's no guarantee he can put up points against some of the Pac-10's better defenses. For the sake of everybody on the Wildcats, let's hope Scott can put together some good games in Foles's absence, because it's incredibly disheartening to see a team's shot at a conference crown go south on account of one key injury.
Posted on: October 17, 2010 12:23 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
1. Parity has wrought havoc in the SEC. Remember the days when there was no question that the SEC was the class conference in college football? Well, that either no longer applies to the conference, or everybody has become so good that everybody can beat everybody. No matter which side of the argument you fall on, one thing is clear: when it comes to who is going to win the conference, none of us know anything.
2. The SEC East is up for grabs. Sticking with the parity theme, while we know that the SEC West is going to finish with either LSU, Auburn or Alabama on top, the SEC East can be had for the taking by anybody who wants it. South Carolina may have lost to Kentucky on Saturday night, but no matter, if it wins out it's still theirs. Right behind the Gamecocks is Florida, who have lost three in a row, and Georgia. The same Georgia team that we all thought might have a new head coach by the end of the season.
3. Cam Newton is a monster. Newton had a monster performance against Arkansas on Saturday, leading the Tigers to 65 points -- the first time that Auburn's hung 60 on an SEC opponent since they did it to Florida in 1970. With all the losses in the top 10 this week, it's safe to say that Newton will be on top of the Heisman list come Monday. The only question is how long will his defense let him stay there?
4. Florida REALLY wishes it still had Cam Newton. You really do have to wonder how much time Steve Addazio has left in Gainesville following another anemic performance from the Gators offense against Mississippi State. Anytime your defense holds an opponent to 10 points in your building, you have to win that game. Florida just couldn't get it done. It's time to go back to the drawing board, and the Gators may need to put the dry erase marker in somebody else's hand.
5. Marcus Lattimore is the key to South Carolina's offense. Lattimore had 212 yards and three touchdowns in the first half against Kentucky, and South Carolina had a 28-10 lead. Then Lattimore spent the second half on the bench on the second half, and the Gamecocks couldn't do anything on offense, getting outscored 21-0 in the second half and losing. Leaving the ball in the hands of Stephen Garcia is just not a winning formula.
Posted on: October 16, 2010 11:48 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2010 9:19 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
1. It's anybody's conference. With Wisconsin putting the finishing touches on a stunning 31-18 upset of the Ohio State Buckeyes, here are the teams that are at least tied with OSU in the Big Ten standings: Michigan State, Iowa, Purdue, and Wisconsin. Purdue is probably not going to contend for the Big Ten title, but the other three teams mentioned certainly will. Michigan State, of all the teams, must be the most ecstatic about the result in Madison; the Spartans are undefeated, the only Big Ten team who's 3-0 in the conference, and they miss Ohio State this year. But Iowa's at 2-0 in conference play, and the Spartans have to visit Iowa City in two weeks. Who would have thought back in August that MSU at Iowa could be the most pivotal contest of the Big Ten season?
2. Denard Robinson is most certainly mortal. It's not as Denard Robinson was a non-factor against the Iowa Hawkeyes today: Robinson racked up 204 yards of total offense in about 35 minutes of work. But for the third time this season, Shoelace left a game with an injury, and for the second time, that injury shelved him for the rest of the game. One of the most remarkable things about Robinson's production thus far is the sheer heft of Robinson's workload. Yes, he can't lead the nation in rushing and throw for over 200 yards without either throwing or rushing on the vast majority of Michigan's snaps. But that's an incredibly difficult thing to do, and now we're seeing some evidence that it's just not sustainable -- especially now that Robinson's not facing cupcake defenses like Massachusetts or Notre Dame (I kid, ND, I kid). Thanks to a bye week, Robinson has two weeks to recover before his next start, at Penn State. Does Tate Forcier still gets some snaps in relief at Beaver Stadium? Should he?
3. Wisconsin's rushing game is alive and well. Coming into today, John Clay was having a pretty good season, but considering Wisconsin's opposition, Clay wasn't looking dominant. That changed this week, when the big junior running back was running untouched through giant rushing lanes against Ohio State. That's not entirely surprising, but if Iowa doesn't have the best defensive line in the conference, then Ohio State surely must, and that Buckeye front four was absolutely gouged today. So if the Badgers can run all over Ohio State, they can probably run all over everybody left on their schedule. Again, the only remaining great defensive line on Wisconsin's schedule is Iowa, and that game's coming up this week. That should be just a little fun to watch.
4. Congratulations to Penn State, who did not lose this week. Technically, it didn't play, but any iota of good news is welcome in Happy Valley these days.
5. Don't be that surprised if Illinois runs the table from here on out. It would be foolish to look at Illinois and see just another .500 team. Illinois' three losses are to still-undefeated Missouri, still-undefeated Michigan State, and only-recently-defeated Ohio State. In every one of those games, Illinois was competitive into the fourth quarter. And guess what: Illinois doesn't have any games against ranked competition left. Nathan Scheelhaase and Mikel LeShoure are growing as a QB-RB tandem week to week, and the toughest opponent left on the Illini schedule is, oh, let's say Northwestern. Illinois may be 3-3 today, but it may be 8-4 (or even better) before you know it.
6. The Tim Brewster farewell tour's going to be hard to watch. Fans of comedy in college football are going to lose an important ally this season, as Minnesota informed the world that Tim Brewster's not coming back next season. It's a shame, really, but it's only surprising insofar as Brewster hasn't been asked to clean out his office right now instead. Minnesota's got some decent athleticism, especially on the edges, so if that talent gets in the hands of a decent coach (MIKE LEACH MIKE LEACH MIKE LEACH DO ITTTTTTT), that program up north might wake up and make some noise next season. But only if Minnesota hires Leach.
Posted on: October 16, 2010 11:02 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
1. T-Magic has a lot of tricks left to learn. Seems somebody left their top hat and magic wand back in the dorm room this morning, because Taylor Martinez had no answer for the Texas defense in Lincoln on Saturday. Martinez only had 21 yards on 13 carries and had completed 4-of-12 passes for 63 yards before getting yanked by Bo Pelini in favor of Zac Lee. The good news for Martinez is that Lee didn't exactly do anything to take away his starting job.
2. Texas' defense is still pretty good, the offense, however, is not. Hey, listen, the way things have gone for the Longhorns this season, they have no reason not to be thrilled after picking up a big win on the road against Nebraska. That being said, unless they start picking things up on offense, whatever slim hopes they have of winning the Big 12 are nothing more than a pipe dream. The good news is that the 'Horns finally found some semblance of a running game, as they did gash a stout Nebraska defense for 209 yards on the ground. The biggest surprise being Garrett Gilbert 's 71 yards and two touchdowns. Still, that 4-of-16 passes for 62 yards needs a lot of work.
3. I still don't know what to make of Missouri. I made a comment about this on Twitter on Saturday afternoon, and caught a lot of flak from Missouri fans over it. Listen, I don't think Missouri is a bad football team, it's just I don't know how good they are. I'm sorry, but beating Texas A&M just doesn't impress me all that much because the Aggies are horrible. So far the Tigers most impressive win is against an Illinois team that is 3-3. Other than that it's wins against teams like McNeese State, San Diego State and Miami (OH). Next week's date with Oklahoma will give us all a better idea of how good this Missouri team actually is.
4. Jerrod Johnson just isn't working. It's time for a quarterback change in College Station. I don't care what Johnson has done in the past, or what everybody thought he'd do this season, the fact is the kid has played horribly. Maybe Mike Sherman is just worried about losing his job and doesn't want to give the ball to another quarterback at this point in the season, but trust me, staying with Johnson at this point is only going to help ensure he's out of work at the end of the season.
5. More people need to learn about Justin Blackmon. The Oklahoma State wide receiver has been a monster this season, and his name should be thrown out there when it comes to Heisman talk. He has 48 catches for 748 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, including a 10-reception 207-yard performance against Texas Tech on Saturday. His worst game of the season (yardage wise) came in the Cowboys' opener. Blackmon only had 8 catches for 125 yards and 3 touchdowns that day.
Posted on: October 10, 2010 3:38 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
1. Perhaps Denard Robinson's competition matters. Hey, we'll be the first ones to admit to falling in love with Denard Robinson's early-season performance. Sure, Michigan's opposition wasn't very good (at all), but lots of other teams were playing cupcake schedules at the same time, and nobody -- except maybe for Cam Newton -- was doing what Shoelace was doing. But Michigan State provided a pretty easy blueprint for containing Robinson: have a decent defense and don't do anything stupid with them. The Spartan defense, led as always by All-American linebacker Greg Jones, played disciplined defense against the explosive sophomore and forced him into three interceptions -- two of which came in Michigan State's end zone. Sure, Robinson ended up accounting for 301 yards (215 passing, 86 rushing), and those are good numbers, but remember: he's basically their entire offense. So while giving up 301 yards of offense to one guy isn't ideal, holding the entire team to 377 yards is much more palatable, and that's exactly what the Michigan State defense did. Next up for the Wolverines: Iowa -- and 60 more minutes of that defensive intensity.
2. Don't run up the score on Tim Brewster, please. The second-oddest thing about this week of Big Ten play was seeing Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster get into an arguing match with Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema after Wisconsin's 41-23 victory over the Golden Gophers. The oddest thing came about six minutes prior, when Bret Bielema elected to try a two-point conversion after the Badgers scored a touchdown to extend their lead to 41-16. The try failed, because not even Football God hates Minnesota that much, but Brewster certainly took it personally; the Minnesota coach said some very unprintable words to Bielema on the field, and used the word "wrong" to describe Bielema's decision about 15,000 times in his postgame press conference. Bielema said his little when-should-you-go-for-two card dictated that his team attempt the two-point conversion in that scenario. Even assuming Bielema's excuse is true, we have to wonder why Bielema didn't heed his card's advice 5:16 earlier, when his team scored a fourth-quarter touchdown to go up by 25 the first time. After John Clay's third touchdown of the game, Wisconsin led 34-9 with 11:55 to go, and Bielema kicked a harmless extra point then. Maybe, maybe Minnesota could have engineered 27 points in 11:55, but there was no chance of it happening with 6:39 left, so there's really no sense in kicking the extra point the first time but not the second. Bielema doesn't necessarily owe Brewster an apology; he's Bret Bielema, and he's kind of a jerk, and that's what he does. But at the very least, he owes Brewster and the rest of Big Ten fans an actual explanation of what the heck he was thinking going for two.
3. Penn State just isn't very good. Okay, we sort of knew coming into this season that Penn State would be taking some more lumps than usual on account of their true freshman quarterback, Rob Bolden, winning the starting job in Week 1. And sure, their 24-3 losses to Alabama and Iowa were disappointing, but not really shocking; 'Bama and the Hawkeyes are both pretty legit programs with pretty legit defenses. But 21-point losses to top-15 teams are one thing; a 20-point loss to middling Illinois is another altogether. Illinois controlled the action on both sides of the ball Saturday, shredding Penn State's vaunted front seven for 282 yards on the ground. Mikel LeShoure was a workhorse with 119 rushing yards and a 32-yard reception, and Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaase was both efficient (15-19, 151 yards, 1 TD) and mobile (eight carries, 61 yards). Meanwhile, Bolden had one of his worst starts of his nascent career, going 8-21 for 142 yards, a score, and a pretty bad pick-six to Nate Bussey that pushed Illinois' lead to 14-3. It was a freshman mistake, of course, and one he probably won't make next season and beyond. But it's that sort of thing, coupled with a general lack of special talent on the rest of the offense, that dooms the Nittany Lions when their defense isn't perfect. The Nittany Lions are 3-3 (0-2) now. Right now, it's pretty hard to guarantee they're going to a bowl this season.
4. Northwestern is also not very good. Going back to 2008, Northwestern's habit of winning games by close margins -- which is to say, playing both up and down to the competition -- has never really come back to haunt them; coming into Saturday's game the Wildcats were 14-4 in one-possession games since '08, a streak that's both remarkable and completely doomed to come back down to earth sooner or later, and that's where we find the Wildcat today. Two special teams disasters in the fourth quarter -- a blocked field goal and a poorly-kicked game-tying attempt with a minute left -- effectively kept six points off the board for the Wildcats, and a Dan Dierking rush from 7 yards out sealed the 20-17 upset for lowly Purdue. It's a bummer of a loss for the Wildcats, but the type of inexplicable upset that besets them pretty much every year. Their benchmark game is likely their next: Michigan State comes to town, and a win would put Northwestern back on the map. But it would take the Wildcats' best performance of the season, and any time the prerequisite for respectability is something a team hasn't yet shown itself to be capable of doing, odds are that the fans will go home disappointed.
Posted on: October 10, 2010 1:44 am
Edited on: October 10, 2010 3:39 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
1. This conference is Oregon's and nobody else's. The Oregon Ducks didn't look great tonight in their 43-23 win over Washington State -- and they weren't looking great even before Darron Thomas left, either -- but they must be thrilled with the way the rest of the conference shook down tonight. Stanford dispatched USC, and we'll talk about that in a second, and Oregon State knocked Arizona from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 29-27 win. The more the other nine teams of the Pac-10 beat each other up, the easier the Ducks' road to the conference crown becomes. Not like they've needed the help so far.
2. When it matters, USC can't make the stop. Last week, Jake Locker led the Washington Huskies on a last-minute drive against the USC defense, and Erik Folk hit a game-winning field goal to beat the Trojans, 32-31. This week, same scenario: the Trojans score a touchdown to take a 35-34 lead on Stanford with 1:12, and everybody in the stadium knows that's too much time to give Andrew Luck. Sure enough, Stanford drives, Stanford moves the chains over and over, and Luck gets the Cardinal in place with enough time to spare that before the game-winning field goal, Luck had the luxury of running a play where he could down the ball in the middle of the field. Nate Whitaker was true on his kick, and USC found itself on a losing streak. Clearly that can't continue if the Trojans want a better destination than the Emerald Bowl this season.
3. The end zone tackle has got to go. First of all, if you haven't seen the knee injury suffered by James Rodgers, don't. It's gross and heart-breaking. The fact that it came on a tackle in the end zone, two strides past the goal line, only worsens the circumstance. Obviously, Arizona safety Adam Hall was just playing defense and not giving up on the play, but his effort really should have stopped at the strip attempt he made at the goal line--not by dragging Rodgers down five yards in. If the NCAA wants an issue to take up in the offseason, declaring tackling in the end zone after the whistle unnecessary roughness would be a good place to start.
4. This conference might be Andrew Luck's and Jake Locker's now, but it'll be Ryan Katz's soon. Oregon State's sophomore quarterback Ryan Katz, a first-year starter, is not the best quarterback in the conference. He might get honorable mention. But from Week 1, he's been a surprisingly talented thrower, and he looked as good today against that normally decent Arizona pass defense as he has all season long. Katz had 393 yards and two scores through the air, and he did it without Rodgers for more than 30 minutes of play. As long as Oregon State keeps talented receivers around Katz, he's going to be putting up some huge numbers very soon.