Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Week 5: Time for some reconsiderations

Complaints about Sunday/Monday workload forcing this to be super late go here.

Alabama is officially back to juggernaut status: Florida made things interesting for about a quarter and a half, but once John Brantley went down with an awful-looking ankle injury, it was over. After true frosh Jeff Driskell came in to start the second half, Florida had one drive the rest of the game that wasn't a three-and-out (and it ended in a punt anyway). It wasn't even fair. And for all the good stuff I've been saying about Florida's defense the past few weeks (I still think most of it is true since Will Muschamp is very good), Trent Richardson is just better; the guy is a man-child. Numbers against Florida: 29 carries, 181 yards, two touchdowns. My "OMG that guy is so good" crush bounces back and forth each week between Richardson and Marcus Lattimore. Something to consider: A.J. McCarron did basically nothing of note (12 for 25 with no TDs and no picks) and Alabama still beat a legitimate top-15 team on the road by four touchdowns. The countdown to November 5 is at 32 days. Also, this is awesome (hat tip to the always-brilliant LSUFreek):

Wisconsin is probably running the table: That was a paddlin'. Wisconsin is every bit as good as I suspected, and Nebraska's hypothetically elite defense just isn't that impressive. Wisconsin put up almost 500 yards and punted twice (!) while generally doing whatever they wanted on offense. And Nebraska's offense made no sense: After Wisconsin scored to tie at 14-14 midway through the second quarter, Paul Chryst decided to turn into Mike Leach despite having the 2011 version of Scott Frost at quarterback. Results: interception, Wisconsin touchdown, interception, Wisconsin touchdown, interception, Wisconsin touchdown. Granted, the first two picks were on third-and-6 or longer, but the third one was on the first play of the second half. Wisky took over at midfield and ran seven straight times en route to the "it's over now" touchdown. Montee Ball went for five yards a carry and four TDs, Russell Wilson averaged 12.1 yard per attempt, etc. I just don't see a weakness on this team, and looking at the schedule, I don't see who can beat them. Unless Michigan State's defense plays out of its minds in two weeks in East Lansing or Nebraska/Michigan/random Legends Division winner gets a lot better over the next two months, Wisconsin is going undefeated.

Ohio State and Michigan State play the worst game ever: This game was only watchable because of the amusement I got from watching my two least favorite teams outsuck each other up and down the field. I said this on Facebook during the game, but to reiterate: Ohio State's offense is flat-out awful, no qualifiers necessary. With no competent quarterback and no strength to fall back on, it reminds me a lot of the horrific 2008 Michigan offense that only briefly offered glimpses of future fun while mostly making me get all stabby. Great quote from Kirk Herbstreit on College Football Live: "That might be the worst offensive-line play I've ever seen at that school." They can't protect their deer-in-the-headlights QBs and can't block for their unexciting group of running backs. No matter if/when Boom Herron (who's solid but far from great) and DeVier Posey come back, this offense is just not going to be good. The defense is OK, but it doesn't matter. Ohio State is 108th in total offense right now and 91st in scoring offense, and the next three games are at Nebraska, at Illinois, Wisconsin. There's a pretty good chance they'll be 3-5 in a few weeks -- bowl eligibility isn't a certainty. This is the point at which the fun gets even funner, as the people criticizing OC Jim Bollman range from good Ohio State blogger Ramzy at Eleven Warriors to running back Carlos Hyde:

"I felt we should've run isos," Hyde said. "They kept running off the edge, so I thought we should hit them in the middle. We've got to get better. I told the coaches some plays we should've run, but I don't get paid to coach, so I guess they don't listen."


Entertaining game of the week: All ur offense r belong to Texas A&M and Arkansas. Total yards Saturday: 1,209 (!!!), with Arkansas getting slightly fewer of those but slightly more of those point thingies and pulling out an immensely entertaining 42-38 win. By the way, A&M would be approaching top-five status if the defense could hold a lead. They blew a 17-point lead last week against Oklahoma State and one-upped themselves against Arkansas, getting outscored 24-3 in the second half. Sorry, Christine Michael: Your 230 rushing yards (on 32 carries) and three touchdowns were insufficient, because ...

Player of the week: Tyler Wilson went absolutely bonkers, going 30 for 51 for an SEC-record 510 yards (!) with three touchdowns and no picks. Most of that yardage went to Jarius Wright, who had a ridiculous 281 receiving yards and a touchdown on 13 catches; he and Christine Michael can share runner-up honors. Ohio State fans were probably watching this game and going "WTF?" Also deserving: Matt Barkley (32 for 39 for 463 yards and four touchdowns in USC's ridiculous 48-41 win over Arizona) and Western Michigan's Alex Carder (37 for 51 for 479 yards and five touchdowns in a 38-31 win over UConn).

Clemson is the best team in the ACC: This isn't even debatable anymore after a 23-3 beatdown of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. The fact that Tajh Boyd and Sammie Watkins finally got held in check was made irrelevant by a defense that held a boring but reasonably talented Va. Tech offense to 258 total yards and no touchdowns (the first time that's happened in Blacksburg since the pre-Michael Vick era). Let's zoom out a bit: In the past three weeks, Clemson has beaten Auburn, Florida State and Va. Tech -- all ranked at the time -- by a combined 39 points. If your ballot is based purely on resumes, Clemson has to be in the top five right now. But I'm still not sold that this is a truly elite team that deserves to be in the LSU-Alabama-Oklahoma-Wisconsin tier, especially after years of watching Clemson underperform due to mediocre coaching. I expect a totally illogical loss somewhere ... I'm just not sure where. The only teams left on the schedule that might be ranked are Georgia Tech and South Carolina, and neither one looks super intimidating. A 10-win season looks like the floor right now.

There are zero excellent teams in the Big East: I'm pretty sure we already knew this, but apparently there were still some people holding out hope for South Florida, which was undefeated until getting crushed by a mediocre Pitt team Thursday night. The way I see it, the Big East has one borderline top-25 team (West Virginia), two top-50 teams (South Florida and Pitt) and a whole bunch of indistinguishable blah. Imagine if you took Oregon, Stanford and USC out of the Pac-12; that's what the Big East is right now. For the record, I'm still picking West Virginia as the conference's totally undeserving BCS representative, if for no other reason than the offensive potency to stay within shouting distance of LSU for three quarters. On a related note, Dana Holgorsen should fit right in with his couch-burning OUTRAGE at the lack of fan support:

“You only get seven opportunities a year. What’s so hard about it? It’s too cold? Wasn’t too cold for our players. Wasn’t too cold for our coaches or managers or trainers; they’re out there. So why did we have 20,000 people less at this one than we did last week?”

“The funny thing about it is we’re all talking two weeks ago about how much difference the fans and the crowd’s going to make to the LSU people. Well, LSU played well in front of 62,000 of our people and then turned around and went home and played a Kentucky team at noon and have 95,000 people there. You want to talk about an elite program, that’s one of them. I don’t know about this place.”

Ouch. You were playing Bowling freakin' Green.

The Pac-12 isn't very interesting: Wake me up on November 12, when Stanford hosts Oregon for the North Division title and (basically) a spot in the Rose Bowl. Assuming Arizona State beats Utah in Salt Lake City on Saturday, the South Division race will be over with six weeks left even though the best team in it is barely ranked. Utah will be 0-3 in conference play, USC is ineligible, Arizona has Nick Foles but hasn't won an actual game in the last nine tries, UCLA is bad and Colorado is downright awful. And as much as I'd love to see it, ASU isn't going on the road in December (woo for the Pac-12 giving the best team the right to host the title game) and beating Stanford or Oregon. Those two teams are just way better than everybody else, which is kind of depressing given that neither one seems quite as good as last year's version. I'd be curious to see Stanford's poll support with a win over Oregon and 13-0 record that'd include basically no other meaningful wins.

Robert Griffin nooooo: RGIII's ridiculous run is over: He no longer has more touchdowns than incompletions after going 23 of 31 with only five touchdowns (lol) and a pick (!) in Baylor's somewhat-surprising 34-31 loss to Kansas State. He now has 18 touchdown passes (which leads the country) and 20 incompletions. Boo. He's also completing 82.3 percent of his passes and has a QB rating of 230.33, which is about 50 points better than everybody else in the country other than Russell Wilson (216.89). Baylor's schedule gets pretty tough over the next two months, so 8-4 might be the realistic ceiling, but I really hope Griffin stays on the national radar long enough to get some serious Heisman consideration. My eyes and the numbers say he deserves it.

South Carolina gack: I watched significant chunks of the South Carolina-Auburn game and still can't figure out how South Carolina lost. No, that's not true: Stephen Garcia was downright turrrible (9 for 23 with a TD and two picks) and should get most of the blame, but why Marcus Lattimore had 17 carries rather than 40 I'll never know. Auburn wasn't much more effective but was smart enough to give Michael Dyer the ball 41 times (see?), and he ran for 141 yards and a touchdown and was the main reason the South Carolina defense couldn't get off the field -- South Carolina ran a whopping 52 plays on offense and had the ball for about 23 minutes. I was planning to use this space for a monotribe about how bad Stephen Garcia is (four TDs and nine picks!) and how I can't believe he's starting at quarterback for a ranked BCS-conference team, but he's no longer starting at quarterback: The OBC announced Monday that Connor Shaw will start this week against Kentucky because "our quarterback play has not been as good as we hoped." Woo for massive understatements.

Most ridiculous play of the week: This is the most future-giggle-inducing 2-yard gain you'll ever see (it's also what I was referring to in Sunday's post -- note the alignment of the guy who usually plays quarterback):

Penn State gets my Weekly Big Ten Embarrassment Award: Penn State actually won Saturday, but it hardly counts as a win when it's a 16-10 survival against an Indiana team that lost at home to North Texas (lol) the week before. Remarkably, there are Big Ten offenses as bad as Ohio State's. I demand that you click this link and watch the accompanying tells-the-story video from excellent Penn State blog Black Shoe Diaries. Here's his schadenfreude-tastic takeaway:

Penn State is a bad team with an above-average defense. They have beaten two tomato cans (Indiana State, Eastern Michigan), been snuffed out by a true national power at home (Alabama), and needed last minute defensive stands to beat a higher-end MAC team that was just pounded at home by 23 points by Toledo (Temple) and one of the worst Big Ten teams in recent memory (Indiana), which lost to Ball State and North Texas. Despite the mind-blowing fact that Penn State started as a two-point favorite against Iowa on Sunday (note: this will totally change by Monday morning), it's hard to picture this team having more than a coin flip's chance of beating anybody but Purdue given its current trajectory. That's not to say OMG 5-7, but ... that's kind of in play, isn't it?

Did you know Penn State is 4-1 right now? Yikes. BTW, Penn State only gets my attention this week because Minnesota is so awful that I legitimately feel bad. Remember, BSD: It could always be worse.

"LOL WUT" stat of the week: Michigan is fourth in the country in scoring defense (w00t). And if that's not shocking enough for you, Washington State is ninth in the country in total offense and 10th in scoring offense. One more: Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington is averaging 30.25 yards per completion (!) this season. He's 31 of 54 for 938 yards with 10 touchdowns and one pick, which gives him an utterly absurd passer rating of 260.73 that would lead the country by a mile if he were eligible.

Going for two is sometimes the only option: Arizona missed an extra-point attempt Saturday for the third time this season (we won't even get into last season). And yes, the kicking game is that bad: Jaime Salazar and Alex Zendejas are a collective 16 for 19 on extra points and 2 for 5 on field-goal attempts. Awful. So the question has come up (as it should, Mr. Fera): Why not go for two after every touchdown? I've never seen an accurate compilation of college numbers, but according to AdvancedNFLStats.com, the NFL success rate (which is probably slightly lower than the college one but will be used here anyway) is 44 percent. Just for argument's sake, let's extrapolate Arizona's current extra-point numbers over the course of the season and assume they finish at 84 percent. If you go for two every time and get it 44 percent of the time, you're getting 88 percent of the possible points; that's obviously better than 84 percent. And that's assuming an average success rate, which isn't necessarily a fair assumption given that Arizona (a) could work extensively on a package of two-point plays if the plan is to go for it every time and (b) has a good offense led by a borderline-elite quarterback in Nick Foles. In short: Do it. It's unlikely to be any worse in a game-theory sense, and it couldn't possibly be any more embarrassing than the kicking game.

Post-Week 5 top 10: As I mentioned earlier, the top four teams have separated themselves from everybody else. Pay no attention to the order at the top; my opinion varies depending on which SEC West team impresses me most in a given week.

  1. Alabama
  2. LSU
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Wisconsin
  5. Boise State
  6. Oregon
  7. Stanford
  8. Clemson
  9. Oklahoma State
  10. Arkansas (almost by default -- seriously, look at the alternatives)


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