Category:NCAAF
Posted on: October 21, 2011 12:02 pm
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Friday Mailbag: The mess at UCLA

Here is this week's mailbag. If you have questions, send them to me on Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.



From @hogeandrew With the blowout loss to Arizona last night, is Rick Neuheisel finally done?

 
I realize UCLA Dan Guerrero tried to be supportive of his coach in the wake of that embarrassing 48-12 loss but the Arizona game was critical for Neuheisel. Not only could he not afford to lose that game, the last thing he needed was for his team to get blown out on national television by a team that was 1-5 and ranked 119th in rushing. Zona finished with 254 rushing yards and clearly looked like the team that wanted to be there. The Bruins, who were still in the thick of the Pac-12 South race, never showed up.



The Bruins fell to 3-4 and 2-2 in conference play. I supposed if they ran the table, which would include beating ASU and arch-rival USC that--and probably only that--would save his job. But realistically, the team that showed up Thursday night does not appear capable of running off five consecutive wins. Four of which would come against teams better than the one that mauled them on national TV.

Personally, I like Rick Neuheisel a lot. I think he's one of the brightest guys in coaching. He's personable, funny and I can attest to him being a truly decent man. On paper, he has recruited very well at UCLA with his first three signing class all in the top 15. But for a variety of reasons, it just isn't working out: They've never been able to find a QB; the O-line has been a disaster for much of his time and the defense, which on the hoof sure looks the part, has not gotten any better. It's only gotten older. And when Neuheisel hit the re-set button on his coaching staff after three seasons, it hasn't gotten results. And quite frankly, it is all about results. It's Year Four and they should be doing better, especially since with USC falling off and dealing with NCAA sanctions, the window of opportunity has only widened since he arrived.


From @kacpeters where would you rank texas a&m in the sec this year (obviously behind lsu/bama at 1&2)

At this point, with Marcus Lattimore out for the season, I'd rank Texas A&M fourth among SEC teams behind Alabama, LSU and Arkansas. The Aggies have an explosive offense and a suspect defense, but one that is good at getting pressure on the QB. In many ways they remind me of Arkansas, the team that rallied to beat them. Now if Lattimore was healthy, I'd say the Aggies would also be behind South Carolina.



From @Ole_Met now that Carolina has an AD, any idea who they're looking at for HC?



My hunch is that Bubba Cunningham will take a long look at Auburn OC Gus Malzahn. Both have Tulsa ties and Malzahn is a well-respected offensive mind. His offense has struggled quite a bit this year (the Tigers are 77th in scoring), but a big dropoff was expected with the program losing Cam Newton and almost all of their O-linemen. Even if they finish no better than 7-5, Malzahn still will be an attractive candidate and I'd think would be tempted given the ACC is a lot easier to win a conference title than the SEC would be.


From abellwillring do you think FSU has a chance to salvage the season? Would winning out make the year a success or still a huge disappointment?


No. It's too late for that. This was supposed to be the year the Noles came back on the national stage in a big way. And, it wasn't just the media talking them up. Jimbo Fisher played a big part in that in the off-season. They came into the year ranked No. 6, but they completely fizzled. Falling  to OU at home, especially after losing your starting QB is nothing to be ashamed about, but to drop three in a row, including against unranked Wake Forest isn't the stuff of elite programs. 


Look at the rest of the schedule. There are no ranked teams remaining. There is nothing that will get people's attention and show that this isn't the same overhyped team that it had been in the past few years, where all of those four and five-star recruits didn't translate into Top 10 teams.
 

From @SteveFeenEven with Penn State's revolving QB door, do you think they have a legit shot at the B10 title game behind Redd and their D?


I doubt it. They are too sluggish on offense. If they're going to win their division, one of these two QBs needs to really emerge fast. I'm skeptical because you'd have think if it was going to happen, it would've occurred by now. Thus far, they've been winning on defense and, quite frankly, shaky competition. The closest thing PSU has to a good win is beating unranked Iowa, who had already lost to Iowa State. After this Northwestern game, the schedule gets much tougher, the Nittany Lions are going to have to do much better. They've played a bunch of suspect defenses (aside from Alabama and Temple) and they're still only 96th in scoring and 102nd in passing efficiency.

From @adamdounn How do you think The U will do the rest of the season? I love Golden and very impressed with Jedd Fisch on improving J-12

After this week's game against No. 22 Georgia Tech, the Canes schedule eases up some, I'd expect them to be no worse than 8-4, which considering they started 2-3 and with a ton of turmoil amid the Nevin Shapiro scandal and all of those suspensions, that wouldn't be too bad for Golden's first season. Not great, but respectable all things considered.


Fisch has proven to be a terrific find as the OC. People were skeptical because he had only one season as a college offensive coordinator at Minnesota and the results were mediocre. Well, it's been quite the opposite for him at UM. The work he's done helping get Jacory Harris' confidence back has been head-turning, as I wrote in the Big Picture. The Canes are 48th in scoring and ninth in passing efficiency despite having already faced four defenses ranked in the top 25. Keep in mind last year UM was 67th in scoring and 97th in passing efficiency.


That said, I expected more from the defense. Then again, that side of the ball got hit harder by the suspensions and has now been hammered by injury along the D-line.


Obviously, for Golden and this program, the biggest thing will be how much the NCAA can find -- and prove from the Shapiro allegations. And then how harsh the sanctions are.



From @gibsonjosh79 who has the tougher job ahead of them Will Muschamp or Derek Dooley?



Dooley probably does. He inherited a bigger mess, not just in terms of talent left in the program but the profile of the Gators program is still very high in many recruits' minds. The Vols have been struggling for a few years now, which is a long time for kids who weren't old enough to remember the Tee Martin BCS title team. Also, Florida has so many more elite recruits close by.



From @LandonP23 Is Tyler Wilson of <s class="hash">#</s>Arkansas hands down the best Qb in the Sec?


Yes, Wilson has been as good as advertised. Maybe even better. The toughness he showed when he got battered at Alabama was really something. The Razorbacks have had some significant injuries to some of their best offensive weapons, but this offense still piles up points. I give Wilson the edge over Aaron Murray, who has thrown seven INTs, more than double Wilson's total this year. 



From @ChrisSedenka  Is it time for Geno Smith to start getting more national attention?


Geno's gotten plenty of attention, and if WVU continues to roll up wins, his stats will surely keep people buzzing. Thing is, if he was going to really enter the Heisman race, he needed to lead WVU to an upset win over LSU on national TV. That was really his only shot this year at a cache win over an elite team. Smith was pretty good in that game, but despite the gaudy numbers, he wasn't at his best and LSU cruised. Smith just needs to keep growing in this system. Look for him to be a serious Heisman contender in 2012.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 10:27 am
Edited on: October 18, 2011 12:59 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: MVPs of the season's first half

Over the weekend South Carolina got some devastating news: Star RB Marcus Lattimore was lost for the season with a knee injury. I brought up the point on Twitter that Lattimore, one of the real workhorses in the sport, might be the most valuable non-quarterback in college football. Where would he rank overall?  This week's Top 10 list: most valuable players of the first half of the 2011 season:



1-Robert Griffin III, Baylor QB: Yeah, his numbers have tailed off a bit since his incredible first month, but RG3 has still been phenomenal for what used to be such a dismal Bears program. Griffin has a 22-2 TD-INT ratio and is connecting on over 78 percent of his passes while accounting for, on average, 374 of Baylor's 550 total yards per game. Look at it this way: Griffin has been a franchise talent for this program that has been embroiled in the rough side of the conference realignment stuff. The Bears have spent several weeks in the Top 25 this season, have a shot at making a New Year's Day bowl and have been nationally relevant for more than a month despite having the 100th ranked scoring D in the country.


2-Andrew Luck, Stanford, QB: As advertised, Luck has been brilliant leading this top 10 team as it moves on without Jim Harbaugh. The Cardinal are unbeaten and no one has gotten closer than 26 points from them while they coasted past a bunch of teams that are mediocre at best. As impressive as Luck's passing numbers are: 71 percent completion percentage, 18 TDs, 3 INTs, something else is even more of a head-turner: Stanford lost three of its five starters up front from last year and they still only have surrendered two sacks all season. A lot of that is due to the big QB's guile and grasp of the offense. Luck makes it all look so easy.

More Midseason Coverage
Related links



3-Trent Richardson, Alabama, RB: The current top guy on my Heisman list, Richardson has a better supporting cast than anyone out there. With as devastating as the Tide's defense is this season, Bama could be a top 25 team just with average talent on offense. But it's Richardson who makes the Tide such a force on this side of the ball too. He is a bruising back with outstanding speed and now everyone knows about how slick his moves are after the number he did on Ole Miss last week. Richardson is the engine of the Tide offense, which had to replace, Mark Ingram, Julio Jones and QB Greg McElroy. Despite all of that turnover, Bama is actually still leading the SEC in scoring (39 ppg) and averaging almost six points more than it was at this point last year.


4-Denard Robinson, Michigan, QB: Last year at this time Robinson's act felt like a phenomenon. We've almost gotten used to it, but he is still arguably the most exciting player in college football. Robinson's performance in an amazing comeback win over Notre Dame in September was one for the ages. The Wolverines are much better on D this year, but actually not quite as prolific on offense. Robinson's passing game has regressed a bit from last year, but the load he carries is still remarkable. He is accounting for 312 of Michigan's 451 total yards of offense (69 percent). 


5-Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina, RB: The SEC has a couple of great tailbacks. Whether Lattimore is actually better than Trent Richardson is debatable, but the loss of the star back on Steve Spurrier's team figures to be huge. Lattimore wasn't just a great physical runner, he also was a very capable receiver and the guy who kept the Gamecocks offense going.


6-Russell Wilson, Wisconsin, QB: The NC State transfer has fit into Badger football beautifully, taking this program to a new level. Wilson leads the country in passing efficiency and has thrown 14 TDs against just one INT. As the schedule picks up, Wilson's worth figures to continue to increase.


7-Kellen Moore, Boise State, QB: His yards per attempt and passing efficiency rating are slightly down from last year. Then again, he did have to replace two superb receivers, but Moore has still been his usual outstanding self, completing 76 percent of his passes for the Boise State powerhouse that looks like the safest bet in college football to run the table this fall.


8-Tyrann Mathieu, LSU,  CB/SLB/PR: The Honey Badger is the star of the dominating LSU D, lining up all over the field, blitzing, dropping, playing man, flying in for tackles while trying to rip the ball free. He just has a real knack for making big, momentum-swinging plays. The 5-9, 180-pound Mathieu leads the Tigers in solo tackles (29); forced fumbles (four), fumble recoveries (three) and is tied for second in INTs (two) and for third in TFLs (five).


9-Devon Still, Penn State, DT: A few years back Nittany Lion D-lineman Jared Odrick was such a handful for rival offenses that he won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. Still is playing at that level and might be in line for similar honors if he can keep this up. The Nittany Lions are No. 6 in the country in scoring defense with Still anchoring their front and barreling his way into the other team's backfields consistently. Stats often can't truly measure a lineman's merits, but Still makes more than his share of plays besides the ones he creates for teammates. His 10 TFLs are among the nation's leaders and his play on a good defense has enabled PSU to go 6-1 in spite of a dreadful offense, ranked 96th in the nation.

 
10 (tie)- Sammy Watkins, Clemson, WR-KR: The most spectacular freshman in football, Watkins' worth was evident last weekend when he turned in big play after big play to bail the Tigers out of a tight situation as they rallied to overtake Maryland. In that game he set a school-record with 345 all-purpose yards. On the season, he already has five plays of 60 yards or longer.



10 (tie) Robert Woods, USC, WR-KR: The Trojan offense has sputtered quite a bit this fall, but Woods is the one USC player who consistently looks like the kind of stud that this program had when it was competing for BCS titles. Woods is on pace for 120 catches and almost 1600 yards receiving for a team that is 5-1, but might only be .500 if it weren't for the sophomore wideout.

Posted on: October 16, 2011 2:46 am
 

Oregon rallies behind back-ups to beat ASU

EUGENE, Ore.--After Arizona State QB Brock Osweiler burned the Oregon defense in the first half , and the Sun Devils came out for the third quarter and rumbled 67 yards to take the lead 28-24, it sure looked like they had the Ducks reeling.  

 

The rain was pouring down. Star running back LaMichael James was already out for the game with an injury, so when starting QB Darron Thomas was knocked out of the game with a leg injury, things seemed pretty shaky for the Ducks. Unproven redshirt freshman Bryan Bennett entered the game to face a defense that had already forced 19 turnovers in its past five games.


However, Bennett, a fantastic athlete who was a standout prep triple jumper in Southern California, deftly 
handled Chip Kelly's spread-option attack. An Oregon running game which had sputtered for just 58 rushing yards on 16 carries, with no run longer than 16 yards in the first half, got into a rhythm rolling up 168 third-quarter rushing yards as speedsters Kenjon Barner and freshman sensation DeAnthony Thomas and Bennett blazed through the ASU defense for one big play after another. Oregon with its back-up QB responded with consecutive TD drives totally two minutes and 55 seconds and the Ducks cruised to a 35-24 lead while their D clamped down on Osweiler, limiting him to just four yards of passing in the third quarter.
 

For Bennett, shining in a relief appearance is nothing new. Back in his high school days at Crespi High, he once stepped into the line-up when starting QB Kevin Prince (now at UCLA) went down with a knee injury. Bennett would go on to lead Crespi to a win over local powerhouse Mater Dei, quarterbacked by Matt Barkley. After the game Saturday night Bennett told me that experience helped him "so much" to handle this situation, saying it taught him the importance of staying poised.
 



Oregon moves to 5-1, while ASU, drops to 5-2 and suffers its first loss in conference play.
Category: NCAAF
Tags: ASU, Oregon
 
Posted on: October 14, 2011 1:49 pm
 

Mailbag: Should Dooley be on the hot seat?


Here is this week's mailbag. If you have questions, send them to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

  From @JackParMa Is Derek Dooley the right hire for Tennessee?

  I'm skeptical at this point but I honestly don't know. I don't think anyone can say with much certainty one way or the other. I realize one of my friends who grew up a diehard Vols fan, Clay Travis wrote the other day about Dooley on the hot seat, but I really think it's too soon for that. 

On paper, you wouldn't have expected a guy with Dooley's record at La. Tech to have been able to land the UT job in the first place. He had a 17-20 career record at La. Tech and didn't even have a winning record in the WAC. But he is what they could get at that time and he deserves a legit chance to make it work. He inherited a very unstable situation that had seen two dramatically different coaching regimes in the previous two seasons that had basically torn up the fan base.

Publicly, Dooley has said and done many of the kinds of things that UT fans would like to hear and see from their head coach off the field. The issue has been he's yet to have anything close to a win that would show that he can coach and he's the guy to lead this program back into the top 15. The Vols are just 3-7 in SEC play since he took over and those three wins were against UK, Vandy and Ole Miss, teams that went 4-20 in league play. They've lost to every good team they've faced. They've also had a bunch of double-digit losses in these games: losing by 35 to Oregon; 14 to UF; 27 to UGA; 31 to Bama; 14 to South Carolina and by 10 this year against a young UF team. They did give a scare to LSU though. Before Mike Hamilton left, he even softened up the non-conference schedule even more to give the Vols and Dooley (his hire) a better chance by dumping a solid UNC team for woeful Buffalo.

All that said, this is still a sophomore-dominated team and now it's one that has suffered two injuries to its two best players, WR Justin Hunter and QB Tyler Bray. It is still only year two for Dooley. The Vols should keep getting better and be much improved in 2012. The question though is, can Dooley actually get them from being a fringe top 25 team to what we expect the Vols to be? A big leap is going to have to take place at some point. Who knows if he can do that? The one thing I do think you can say is that given all of the chaos this program has gone through, pushing the reset button at this point would only lead to more chaos. And who knows how good of a coach they may be able to get this time around? It's not like you're going to get Urban Meyer to take this job right now. UT hired Dooley. The school needs to give him at least two more years before we can begin to figure out whether he is the right guy there.

From @jasonrub  Washington Huskies are 4-1, Keith Price 7th in passing efficiency, Chris Polk 16th in yards rushing. Can Sark keep this going?

Yes, and because of those two guys (Price and Polk) the Huskies have been consistently good, scoring at least 30 in each of their first five games. They have a decent chance to be a top 25 team this year. Things are going to keep getting better for U-Dub with Sarkisian there. He's got them on the upswing. He's proven he can win big games. He's proven he can recruit. He's got a good product that he believes in and can sell, and with the instability at UCLA and USC (and Cal and Arizona for that matter), it gives the LA native an even better run to recruit in Southern California. The stock is going up for Washington football. Way up.

From @Lexvegaskid  should strength of schedule be factored back into the BCS?

It really already is a big component via the human polls. The voters factor in which opponents teams beat (or lose to) basically in how they fill out their polls. It's certainly more subjective than it is in some computer formula too.

From @ABThatIsMe  Thoughts on Mike Glennon's performance thus far.All we hear ab as State fans is Russell Wilson but our qb is playing lights out

Glennon's numbers are good: 16 TDs, 4 INTs, 64 percent completion percentage although he wasn't as sharp in the games against even close-to-decent competition: Wake Forest, Cincy and Ga. Tech (7-4 TD-INT). NCSU is averaging 25 ppg against those three and 39 ppg against Liberty, South Alabama and CMU. The Pack has also taken a lot of sacks, ranking 107th in sacks allowed. Even if Wilson was there, I'm not sure they'd be be that much better. You never know. 


Their biggest problem is on defense, where they're 89th in scoring D and the schedule only gets tougher from here.

From @gnewburn What does Muschamp need to do to right the ship after UF's recent beatdowns?

Just keep recruiting to fit his system and continue to keep preaching disciple, focus and toughness. UF is 94th in turnover margin and near the bottom of the country in penalties--things almost no team can overcome, especially not a young team in such a brutal league. But a lot of this should've been expected.

I didn't get where people in the preseason saw this UF team as a top 20 bunch. They had to replace almost the entire O-line, didn't have a proven QB and had a very young secondary. They did have speed, but speed alone isn't going to make you an SEC title contender. 

From @TjzyChocChzy  When will the media start giving some real attention to who the next coach will be at Oh. St?

Huh? The media's been talking about it quite a bit for months. I wrote a detailed list of candidates, leading with Urban Meyer back in May. Actually, I first mentioned the possibility of Meyer going to Ohio State back in Dec., 2010.

The reality is Luke Fickell has the job and nothing is going to happen till the season wraps up. OSU wanted to be fair to him and to their players because this program has had more than its share of distractions over the past year. 

From @DavidLeake Fielding college football questions for the Friday mailbag.

Defense carries more weight than offense if you look at the teams that have won BCS titles, starting with the first one Tennessee. UT didn't win anything with the great Peyton Manning, but he left and they had a fierce D and they shut down FSU in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl. Two years later, OU had a great defense and held FSU to two points in the 2001 Orange Bowl. Miami's defense, led by the great Ed Reed, had more stars than any D perhaps in the history of the college game, destroying Nebraska the following season. USC had Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart, but it was really the Trojans defense that took apart Oklahoma. Florida's defense de-railed Heisman winner Troy Smith and Ohio State, and that run of BCS titles the SEC has gone on has been predicated by dominating defensive linemen and fast defenses.

From @Kilo1899 Mailbag question: Halfway through the season, who is your coach of the year? Player of year? Freshman of year?

Coach of the Year: Dabo Swinney, Clemson.
  Player of the Year: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU.

Freshman of the Year: Sammy Watkins, Clemson, WR.
Posted on: October 14, 2011 1:48 pm
 

Mailbag: Should Dooley be on the hot seat?


Here is this week's mailbag. If you have questions, send them to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

  From @JackParMa Is Derek Dooley the right hire for Tennessee?

  I'm skeptical at this point but I honestly don't know. I don't think anyone can say with much certainty one way or the other. I realize one of my friends who grew up a diehard Vols fan, Clay Travis wrote the other day about Dooley on the hot seat, but I really think it's too soon for that. 

On paper, you wouldn't have expected a guy with Dooley's record at La. Tech to have been able to land the UT job in the first place. He had a 17-20 career record at La. Tech and didn't even have a winning record in the WAC. But he is what they could get at that time and he deserves a legit chance to make it work. He inherited a very unstable situation that had seen two dramatically different coaching regimes in the previous two seasons that had basically torn up the fan base.

Publicly, Dooley has said and done many of the kinds of things that UT fans would like to hear and see from their head coach off the field. The issue has been he's yet to have anything close to a win that would show that he can coach and he's the guy to lead this program back into the top 15. The Vols are just 3-7 in SEC play since he took over and those three wins were against UK, Vandy and Ole Miss, teams that went 4-20 in league play. They've lost to every good team they've faced. They've also had a bunch of double-digit losses in these games: losing by 35 to Oregon; 14 to UF; 27 to UGA; 31 to Bama; 14 to South Carolina and by 10 this year against a young UF team. They did give a scare to LSU though. Before Mike Hamilton left, he even softened up the non-conference schedule even more to give the Vols and Dooley (his hire) a better chance by dumping a solid UNC team for woeful Buffalo.

All that said, this is still a sophomore-dominated team and now it's one that has suffered two injuries to its two best players, WR Justin Hunter and QB Tyler Bray. It is still only year two for Dooley. The Vols should keep getting better and be much improved in 2012. The question though is, can Dooley actually get them from being a fringe top 25 team to what we expect the Vols to be? A big leap is going to have to take place at some point. Who knows if he can do that? The one thing I do think you can say is that given all of the chaos this program has gone through, pushing the reset button at this point would only lead to more chaos. And who knows how good of a coach they may be able to get this time around? It's not like you're going to get Urban Meyer to take this job right now. UT hired Dooley. The school needs to give him at least two more years before we can begin to figure out whether he is the right guy there.

From @jasonrub  Washington Huskies are 4-1, Keith Price 7th in passing efficiency, Chris Polk 16th in yards rushing. Can Sark keep this going?

Yes, and because of those two guys (Price and Polk) the Huskies have been consistently good, scoring at least 30 in each of their first five games. They have a decent chance to be a top 25 team this year. Things are going to keep getting better for U-Dub with Sarkisian there. He's got them on the upswing. He's proven he can win big games. He's proven he can recruit. He's got a good product that he believes in and can sell, and with the instability at UCLA and USC (and Cal and Arizona for that matter), it gives the LA native an even better run to recruit in Southern California. The stock is going up for Washington football. Way up.

From @Lexvegaskid  should strength of schedule be factored back into the BCS?

It really already is a big component via the human polls. The voters factor in which opponents teams beat (or lose to) basically in how they fill out their polls. It's certainly more subjective than it is in some computer formula too.

From @ABThatIsMe  Thoughts on Mike Glennon's performance thus far.All we hear ab as State fans is Russell Wilson but our qb is playing lights out

Glennon's numbers are good: 16 TDs, 4 INTs, 64 percent completion percentage although he wasn't as sharp in the games against even close-to-decent competition: Wake Forest, Cincy and Ga. Tech (7-4 TD-INT). NCSU is averaging 25 ppg against those three and 39 ppg against Liberty, South Alabama and CMU. The Pack has also taken a lot of sacks, ranking 107th in sacks allowed. Even if Wilson was there, I'm not sure they'd be be that much better. You never know. 


Their biggest problem is on defense, where they're 89th in scoring D and the schedule only gets tougher from here.

From @gnewburn What does Muschamp need to do to right the ship after UF's recent beatdowns?

Just keep recruiting to fit his system and continue to keep preaching disciple, focus and toughness. UF is 94th in turnover margin and near the bottom of the country in penalties--things almost no team can overcome, especially not a young team in such a brutal league. But a lot of this should've been expected.

I didn't get where people in the preseason saw this UF team as a top 20 bunch. They had to replace almost the entire O-line, didn't have a proven QB and had a very young secondary. They did have speed, but speed alone isn't going to make you an SEC title contender. 

From @TjzyChocChzy  When will the media start giving some real attention to who the next coach will be at Oh. St?

Huh? The media's been talking about it quite a bit for months. I wrote a detailed list of candidates, leading with Urban Meyer back in May. Actually, I first mentioned the possibility of Meyer going to Ohio State back in Dec., 2010.

The reality is Luke Fickell has the job and nothing is going to happen till the season wraps up. OSU wanted to be fair to him and to their players because this program has had more than its share of distractions over the past year. 

From @DavidLeake Fielding college football questions for the Friday mailbag. <more important for a championship team, offense or defense?

Defense carries more weight than offense if you look at the teams that have won BCS titles, starting with the first one Tennessee. UT didn't win anything with the great Peyton Manning, but he left and they had a fierce D and they shut down FSU in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl. Two years later, OU had a great defense and held FSU to two points in the 2001 Orange Bowl. Miami's defense, led by the great Ed Reed, had more stars than any D perhaps in the history of the college game, destroying Nebraska the following season. USC had Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart, but it was really the Trojans defense that took apart Oklahoma. Florida's defense de-railed Heisman winner Troy Smith and Ohio State, and that run of BCS titles the SEC has gone on has been predicated by dominating defensive linemen and fast defenses.

From @Kilo1899 Mailbag question: Halfway through the season, who is your coach of the year? Player of year? Freshman of year?

Coach of the Year: Dabo Swinney, Clemson.
  Player of the Year: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU.

Freshman of the Year: Sammy Watkins, Clemson, WR.
Posted on: October 12, 2011 11:02 am
Edited on: October 12, 2011 12:58 pm
 

Stats That Matter: It's a snap for Chad Morris

The Clemson Tigers are the biggest surprise of the first half of the 2011 college football season. The Tigers were unranked in the AP preseason poll. They didn't even register a single vote. Twenty-three teams outside of the Top 25 even got one vote, including Maryland, N.C. State and Miami.

Entering the season, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was on the hot seat. In what what a rather bold move, Swinney handed the keys to his offense over to Chad Morris, a 42-year-old long-time Texas high school coach, who had all of one season of college experience, at Tulsa. To say the new Tigers offensive coordinator has had a huge impact would be an understatement. The 6-0 Tigers are 19th in total offense and 31st in scoring, up from 88th and 86th, which helps explain why they've already matched last season's win total. So for the latest installment of Stats That Matter, I figured it was a great time to find out what number Chad Morris really puts a premium on.

"Total snaps," Morris said without any hesitation as soon as I began to explain the concept of the column. "We want 80 or more. If can snap the ball 80 times or more, we've only lost one time since we put this offense in, back in 2004 and that one loss was in the first year of the system. We snapped it 99 times and got beat."

Morris' Stephenville High School team in Texas lost to Wichita Falls Rider High 63-56, he said.

Why 80?

"We feel like like it does a lot of things for us," Morris said. "By getting 80 or more, it tells us that we've had great tempo through the course of the game. We have a chance to wear down a defense. Obviously if you've had 80 snaps, you're having success because you look at your average scoring and it's about one out of every 15 to 18 snaps. Your conversion rates go up. All of that stuff. Everything works hand-in-hand. It's just something we target. We chart it every day. I know at halftime if we have 44 snaps, you double it, and I know we're on track."

The hand-in-hand part goes like this: The added pace that enables Morris' offense to get into a rhythm also takes a physical and emotional toll on the defense, which ups the frequency of the Tigers hitting more big plays as the game wears on. Defenders wilt, becoming more prone to busted assignments and just having trouble getting lined up before the ball is snapped and end up caught out of position. "There's no question about that," he says. "We've doubled the output of big plays in six games from what they had this time last year just because of what we're doing tempo wise."

Even though the Tigers seem to be thriving, they are technically about one snap per game on average below Morris' magic number. "We're averaging 79.1 snaps a game," he says. "We're pretty close to what we want."

In the Tigers first two games, the players, especially first-time starting QB Tajh Boyd, were still getting up to speed, literally. They ran off 72 snaps in each. But they followed up that by rolling up 92 snaps against FSU and Auburn. At Virginia Tech, they fell back to 67. 

"Well, 'OK, why didn't we get 80?'" asks Morris, who actually has a bachelor's degree in mathematics and a minor in statistics. "Then the next stat we look at is the number of three-and-outs. For every three-and-out that you get, you take three snaps away that we figure you probably would've gotten at a minimum. So at Virginia Tech, we had seven three-and-outs, which is 21 snaps for the game that we figure we didn't get. Or let's just say we cut that down to three three-and-outs instead of seven, that's 12 more snaps you pick up, which basically puts us at our number. 

"We talk to our players about this stuff religiously. It's 'Tempo! Tempo!' every day. We always talk to our quarterback and our center because they're the ones who control the tempo of the game."

Factored into Morris' math are plays that may not officially count because they get nullified by a penalty, but the coach still adds them to the tab.

Morris developed his system after spending time about a decade ago learning from another wildly successful coach in the Southwest, Gus Malzahn. "Eighty snaps is the targeted number that both Gus and I have talked about. It's something we've worked together on. He's been using it, and obviously he shared with me."

Other up-tempo guys may focus on a different key number. Former West Virginia and Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez's barometer for his offense was first downs, and his target number was 25, because, he told me Tuesday, if you don't get those first downs, you can't ramp up tempo.

Asked what the biggest difference are between what Morris is doing and what Malzahn does now, the Clemson coach said:  I think there's a little bit of difference with what we do. Right now, he's running a little bit of more gap-scheme than we are. We're more of a zone-scheme. They run more counter and power. But the next year you may change it because that's the old high school coach in you because you have to adapt to what you've got."

In Clemson's case, it helps in their zone scheme to have a dynamic running back like 190-pound Andre Ellington, who is very suited to what they're doing. "It doesn't require you to have guys that just blow people off the ball up front," Morris said of the zone scheme. 

The comparisons between Malzahn and Morris, who clearly has benefitted from the path the Auburn coach has paved, are obvious. Of course, having the personnel to make things sizzle is key. Without Cam Newton and an experienced O-line, Auburn is ranked 80th in total offense and 64th in scoring, down from seventh in both in 2010. Morris, meanwhile, inherited a pretty gifted triggerman when he got to Clemson in sophomore Tajh Boyd, a 6-1, 225-pound former blue-chip recruit with good feet and a very quick release.

"He's a pleaser," Morris said. "Tajh is learning this system and having fun in it. He's flourishing in it and it fits him to a T. He's not having to think a whole lot. He's just going to play."

But there were some growing pains. "It was pretty difficult because it changes his thought process," Morris said of his QB, who is completed 63 percent of his passes with a 15-2 TD-INT ratio. "He was trying to think every play when he first started in this system instead of letting the system dictate itself. That's one thing I always stress to our players: 'I don't want you thinking. I want you reacting.' And right now he's doing a great job of just managing the game as far as when to move the chains with his feet, when to throw a ball away. He's also done a great job of not putting a ball in jeopardy."

The Tigers did have a big scare last week when Boyd went down awkwardly against Boston College. What initially looked like it could be a gruesome knee injury, proved to be a sprained hip that probably won't keep him out of this week's game against Maryland. 

"I was hoping it wasn't his knee," Morris said. "I didn't have a whole lot of thinking to do other than having my next guy calm and ready to go."

After all, being in a hurry is something Morris knows plenty about.
Category: NCAAF
Tags: Auburn, Clemson, Tulsa
 
Posted on: October 11, 2011 10:45 am
Edited on: October 11, 2011 6:08 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: Biggest duds of first half

We've seen through the first half of the season that many things (Oklahoma, LSU, Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson) have been as good as advertised while a few others have emerged as pleasant surprises (Clemson, K-State, CSU's Nordly Capi, Illinois), which we hit on last week here in the blog. But there is a flipside to that. This week's Top 10 list: biggest disappointments of the first half of the season:

1. FSU: After an off-season of hype about how "the Noles are back!!", the team that was preseason No. 6 team, has been a complete dud. FSU has lost three in a row and really hasn't beat anyone of note. FSU is one of those schools that the media (and I'm guilty of this too because I was practically serving drinks on that bandwagon since January) is all too eager to get fired up about. Then again, anyone who spent time around Tallahassee this off-season heard the way Jimbo Fisher talked about this team and its talent and its focus and maturity and well, we couldn't help but get more intrigued. Yes, there have been injuries to a few key guys (QB E.J. Manuel and WR Bert Reed) but lots of teams deal with injuries. The Noles have been mistake-ridden and are doing the kinds of things elite teams simply don't have issues with. They are 114th in turnover margin, 112th in rushing, 100th in sacks allowed and 120th in penalties.

2. Maryland's offense: Maybe this stems from The Curse of Ralph, but whatever it is, things are off to a dismal start for Randy Edsall in College Park. Danny O'Brien came into the season as one of the most promising young QBs in college football (22-8 TD-INT ratio as a freshman in 2010) but now looks completely lost. O'Brien has a 4-6 TD-INT mark and was benched after going 1-6 last week against Ga. Tech. O'Brien was sharp in last year's West-Coast style offense. In Edsall's new spread under Gary Crowton, the QB has been a mess. The Terps who were 9-4 last season and 29th in scoring and scored over 40 points five times last season, are 91st in scoring.

3. Mississippi State: No one thought Dan Mullen's team was going to win the loaded SEC West this year, but the way the Bulldogs have fizzled has been a head-shaker. They needed overtime to beat La. Tech and trailed a miserable UAB squad 3-0 at halftime before coming back to win 21-3. And those are actually some of the more positive things. MSU is 0-3 in SEC play and will likely need to knock off one of the SEC's better teams (South Carolina, Bama or Arkansas) just to finish above .500.

4. Memphis: It's only Year Two for coach Larry Porter running this dumpster fire of a football program and it's hard to think any coach could fix things in that short of a time frame, but should things look as bad as they do now? The C-USA Tigers actually might be the worst team in FBS. They are 1-5 with their lone win coming against FCS Austin Peay. The Tigers then lost to a Sun Belt team that was 4-8 last year (Arkansas State) 47-3. Then they lost to a Rice team that came in 1-3 and the Owls crushed Memphis 28-6. The Tigers are 116th in scoring and 115th in defense. And this is a program that Memphis AD R.C. Johnson "deserves to be in the SEC"?!?! Of all of the out-of-touch comments made by administrators and power brokers in the NCAA in the past year, Johnson's line is king.

5. Ohio State: An offseason overstuffed with off-field drama has carried over to the fall, where the Buckeyes and first-year head coach Luke Fickell have dealt with more player suspensions, which has only created more problems for a team that was already depleted. There were signs early that this could be a long season for OSU when the Buckeyes almost got knocked off by a Toledo team that gave Fickell's team all it could handle despite committing a ton of penalties in Week 2. Then Miami and Lamar Miller lit them up while the OSU passing game was atrocious. It hasn't gotten much better since. OSU barely avoided getting shutout in Columbus by Michigan State. Then last week, the Buckeyes blew a 21-point lead in the second half at Nebraska and lost 34-27 thanks to more ineptitude in the passing game and the Huskers run game rolling over the OSU D. With a road trip to unbeaten Illinois, Wisconsin and games against Penn State and at Michigan remaining, it's no stretch to think Ohio State could miss a bowl game entirely. The good news? Word is Urban Meyer is going to be very tempted to take this coaching job.

6. Kentucky offense:
We know that the Wildcats lost some key offensive guys from last year's team when WR Randall Cobb, RB Derrick Locke and QB Mike Hartline moved on, but no SEC team should be this much of a mess on offense, especially when you consider most of the offensive line was back. UK managed only 14 points and just 190 yards of total offense in its opener against WKU, a 1-4 team that gave up 44 points to Indiana State.  
Last weekend against South Carolina, UK's level of ineptitude was staggering: matching its number of first downs (six) with turnovers (six). The Cats QB went 4-26 for 17 yards with four INTs, which was indicative of a team near the bottom of the NCAA ranks in rushing and passing and 119th in scoring. Kentucky beat writer Kyle Tucker broke down the futility even further. He noted that 174 of their 377 offensive plays (over 46 percent) have gained no yards, negative yards or ended up turning the ball over. It's been that bad.

7. Arizona:
 As I reported here in the blog Monday, despite leading the Cats to bowl games in three straight seasons (something which doesn't happen much with Wildcat football), a 1-5 start meant the end of Mike Stoops in Tucson. The Cats were dreadfully inexperienced on both lines and missing their best DB, safety Adam Hall for most of the season so far and standout WR Juron Criner also had been out didn't help. Nor did a front-loaded schedule, which featured back-to-back-to-back games against three top 10 teams. Last week's loss to previously winless Oregon State 37-27 proved to be the final straw. The Cats would be higher on this list, but realistically looking at the first half of their schedule and all of the inexperience on the lines and it was hard to figure they'd be more than 2-4 at this point.

8. Texas A&M defense:
This is the second year in Tim DeRuyter's system, but even without the great Von Miller, things have been a lot shakier for the Aggies than most would've expected. A&M suffered consecutive second-half collapses against Oklahoma State and Arkansas, where the Aggies gave up almost 1000 yards or passing. A&M was able to stop the losing streak at Texas Tech last weekend, but still got shredded for 40 points. They are dead last in pass defense and close to that in turnover margin (104th).

9. Boston College:
The Eagles (1-5) have one of the best players in college football in LB Luke Kuechly but the rest of the team is simply not producing. Their lone win was over FCS UMass. BC has lost three home games to Northwestern, Duke and Wake Forest. And the schedule hasn't really started to get into the toughest part for them yet.

10. Minnesota:
It has been a trying year for the Gophers. First-year head coach Jerry Kill has battled health issues, but after a respectable close loss at USC in the opener, it's been one dreadful performance after another for this team. The Gophers lost at home to New Mexico State, a team that has a hard time beating anyone that isn't New Mexico. Then, Minnesota lost to North Dakota State and been outscored by Michigan and Purdue 103-17 the past two weeks. A 1-11 season looks likely.
Posted on: October 11, 2011 10:44 am
 

Tuesday Top 10: Biggest duds of first half

We've seen through the first half of the season that many things (Oklahoma, LSU, Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson) have been as good as advertised while a few others have emerged as pleasant surprises (Clemson, K-State, CSU's Nordly Capi, Illinois), which we hit on last week here in the blog. But there is a flipside to that. This week's Top 10 list: biggest disappointments of the first half of the season:<br /> 

<br /><br />

<strong>1. FSU:</strong> After an off-season of hype about how "the Noles are back!!", the team that was preseason No. 6 team, has been a complete dud. FSU has lost three in a row and really hasn't beat anyone of note. FSU is one of those schools that the media (and I'm guilty of this too because I was practically serving drinks on that bandwagon since January) is all too eager to get fired up about. Then again, anyone who spent time around Tallahassee this off-season heard the way Jimbo Fisher talked about this team and its talent and its focus and maturity and well, we couldn't help but get more intrigued. Yes, there have been injuries to a few key guys (QB E.J. Manuel and WR Bert Reed) but lots of teams deal with injuries. The Noles have been mistake-ridden and are doing the kinds of things elite teams simply don't have issues with. They are 114th in turnover margin, 112th in rushing, 100th in sacks allowed and 120th in penalties.<br /> 

<span style="color: #333333; font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><br /></span>

<strong><span style="color: #333333; font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">2. </span>Maryland's offense:</strong> Maybe this stems from The Curse of Ralph, but whatever it is, things are off to a dismal start for Randy Edsall in College Park. Danny O'Brien came into the season as one of the most promising young QBs in college football (22-8 TD-INT ratio as a freshman in 2010) but now looks completely lost. O'Brien has a 4-6 TD-INT mark and was benched after going 1-6 last week against Ga. Tech. O'Brien was sharp in last year's West-Coast style offense. In Edsall's new spread under Gary Crowton, the QB has been a mess. The Terps who were 9-4 last season and 29th in scoring and scored over 40 points five times last season, are 91st in scoring.

<br /><br /><br /><strong>3. Mississippi State:</strong> No one thought Dan Mullen's team was going to win the loaded SEC West this year, but the way the Bulldogs have fizzled has been a head-shaker. They needed overtime to beat La. Tech and trailed a miserable UAB squad 3-0 at halftime before coming back to win 21-3. And those are actually some of the more positive things. MSU is 0-3 in SEC play and will likely need to knock off one of the SEC's better teams (South Carolina, Bama or Arkansas) just to finish above .500.<br /> 

<br /><br /><strong>4. Memphis:</strong> It's only Year Two for coach Larry Porter running this dumpster fire of a football program and it's hard to think any coach could fix things in that short of a time frame, but should things look as bad as they do now? The C-USA Tigers actually might be the worst team in FBS. They are 1-5 with their lone win coming against FCS Austin Peay. The Tigers then lost to a Sun Belt team that was 4-8 last year (Arkansas State) 47-3. Then they lost to a Rice team that came in 1-3 and the Owls crushed Memphis 28-6. The Tigers are 116th in scoring and 115th in defense. And this is a program that Memphis AD R.C. Johnson "deserves to be in the SEC"?!?! Of all of the out-of-touch comments made my administrators and power brokers in the NCAA in the past year, Johnson's line is king.

<br /><br /><strong>5. Ohio State:</strong> An offseason overstuffed with off-field drama has carried over to the fall, where the Buckeyes and first-year head coach Luke Fickell have dealt with more player suspensions, which has only created more problems for a team that was already depleted. There were signs early that this could be a long season for OSU when the Buckeyes almost got knocked off by a Toledo team that gave Fickell's team all it could handle despite committing a ton of penalties in Week 2. Then Miami and Lamar Miller lit them up while the OSU passing game was atrocious. It hasn't gotten much better since. OSU barely avoided getting shutout in Columbus by Michigan State. Then last week, the Buckeyes blew a 21-point lead in the second half at Nebraska and lost 34-27 thanks to more ineptitude in the passing game and the Huskers run game rolling over the OSU D. With a road trip to unbeaten Illinois, Wisconsin and games against Penn State and at Michigan remaining, it's no stretch to think Ohio State could miss a bowl game entirely. The good news? Word is Urban Meyer is going to be very tempted to take this coaching job.

<span style="color: #333333; font-family: verdana, helvetica, arial, sans-serif;"><span style="color: #000000; font-family: Helvetica;"><br /><br /></span></span>

<strong>6. Kentucky offense:</strong> We know that the Wildcats lost some key offensive guys from last year's team when WR Randall Cobb, RB Derrick Locke and QB Mike Hartline moved on, but no SEC team should be this much of a mess on offense, especially when you consider most of the offensive line was back. UK managed only 14 points and just 190 yards of total offense in its opener against WKU, a 1-4 team that gave up 44 points to Indiana State.  <br />Last weekend against South Carolina, UK's level of ineptitude was staggering: matching its number of first downs (six) with turnovers (six). The Cats QB went 4-26 for 17 yards with four INTs, which was indicative of a team near the bottom of the NCAA ranks in rushing and passing and 119th in scoring. Kentucky beat writer Kyle Tucker broke down the futility</a> even further. He noted that 174 of their 377 offensive plays (over 46 percent) have gained no yards, negative yards or ended up turning the ball over. It's been <em>that</em> bad.

<br /><br /><strong>7. Arizona:</strong> As I reported here in the blog Monday, despite leading the Cats to bowl games in three straight seasons (something which doesn't happen much with Wildcat football), a 1-5 start meant the end of Mike Stoops in Tucson. The Cats were dreadfully inexperienced on both lines and missing their best DB, safety Adam Hall for most of the season so far and standout WR Juron Criner also had been out didn't help. Nor did a front-loaded schedule, which featured back-to-back-to-back games against three top 10 teams. Last week's loss to previously winless Oregon State 37-27 proved to be the final straw. The Cats would be higher on this list, but realistically looking at the first half of their schedule and all of the inexperience on the lines and it was hard to figure they'd be more than 2-4 at this point.

<br /><br /><br />

<strong>8. Texas A&M defense:</strong> This is the second year in Tim DeRuyter's system, but even without the great Von Miller, things have been a lot shakier for the Aggies than most would've expected. A&M suffered consecutive second-half collapses against Oklahoma State and Arkansas, where the Aggies gave up almost 1000 yards or passing. A&M was able to stop the losing streak at Texas Tech last weekend, but still got shredded for 40 points. They are dead last in pass defense and close to that in turnover margin (104th).

<br /><br />

<strong>9. Boston College:</strong> The Eagles (1-5) have one of the best players in college football in LB Luke Kuechly but the rest of the team is simply not producing. Their lone win was over FCS UMass. BC has lost three home games to Northwestern, Duke and Wake Forest. And the schedule hasn't really started to get into the toughest part for them yet.

<br /><br />

<strong>10. Minnesota:</strong> It has been a trying year for the Gophers. First-year head coach Jerry Kill has battled health issues, but after a respectable close loss at USC in the opener, it's been one dreadful performance after another for this team. The Gophers lost at home to New Mexico State, a team that has a hard time beating anyone that isn't New Mexico. Then, Minnesota lost to North Dakota State and been outscored by Michigan and Purdue 103-17 the past two weeks. A 1-11 season looks likely.

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