Monday, September 10, 2012

Week 2: Woo nonsensical happenings

Uhhh Arkansas? That was unexpected (kind of). Louisiana-Monroe was a 4-8 Sun Belt team last year -- a 4-8 Sun Belt team that got outscored by its three legitimate opponents 117-34 -- playing its season opener with a redshirt freshman quarterback. WTF? WTF indeed. And it was no fluke: ULM put up 412 passing yards (!) and outgained Arkansas 550-377. Tyler Wilson getting knocked out in the second quarter shouldn't have made that much of a difference but apparently did since freshman fill-in Brandon Allen went 6 for 20 as Arkansas blew a 28-7 lead. Also a contributing factor: Knile Davis was held to 62 yards on 16 carries. Oh, and that 412-passing-yards-allowed-to-a-redshirt-freshman thing. Never underestimate John L. Smith. That said, given Wilson's absence, I think dropping Arkansas out of the top 25 entirely (the largest drop ever other than LALALALALA) was a bit extreme. Just look at the teams toward the bottom; yikes. Anyway, Arkansas gets Alabama next, which ... ummm ... yeeeaaahhh. Wilson is questionable with a "head injury" but should really be held out for the sake of the rest of the season since the chances of beating Bama are somewhere in the vicinity of nil even if he plays. BTW, Arkansas is giving up 27 points a game after playing an FCS team and a mediocre Sun Belt team. It's possible that the defense is just awful, which would be bad given the schedule (and would make being unranked somewhat justifiable).

Play of the Week: This goes here since it's directly related to the above-referenced game.

That's a ballsy fourth-and-1 call (a field goal would've tied it) and a hell of a play by a guy making his first career start.

Oh hai Arizona: I've been telling everybody since spring that Arizona's offense is/will be pretty good. Putting up 59 points (woulda been 63 if not for some awful end-of-the-first-quarter officiating) is pretty good. Matt Scott and Ka'Deem Carey are both legit All-Pac-12 players, and the offense is already doing some stuff that Michigan was struggling with in Year 3; I'm not sure if that's a product of the personnel being a better fit for the system or Matt Scott having a better understanding of the offense or something else, but it's happening, which is why UA has over 1,100 total yards in two games against a decent team and a very good team. BTW, I totally nailed that "1,000 yards of total offense" prediction; there were 1,137. On a related note, the defense is gonna get lit up on the regular by good offenses, but Jeff Casteel at least has some idea of what he's doing with the 3-3-5; the oh-wow-this-is-actually-happening pick six early in the fourth quarter was a direct result of a perfectly timed/executed zone blitz on a big third-and-12. I have no idea whether UA is really a top-25 team yet but can't find a game other than the ones against Oregon and USC that's not winnable with an offense that's gonna put up yards and points like whoa.

Wisconsin just isn't very good: That Northern Iowa game was a harbinger of bad, bad things. To be specific: Wisconsin got held to seven points and 70 non-sack rushing yards -- Montee Ball had 61 of those -- by an Oregon State team that finished 101st in the country in rush defense last year and 89th in scoring defense. Through two games against relatively crappy comptition, Ball is averaging 3.85 yards per carry and has one touchdown. And that's not his fault; it's the offensive line's fault. Keep in mind that Wisconsin lost Paul Chryst and most of the rest of the offensive assistants (including O-line coach Bob Bostad) to Pitt after last year and replaced Bostad with longtime SEC O-line dude Mike Markuson, who came pretty highly regarded. How's that workin' out? Not good: Markuson got fired Monday and was replaced by a graduate assistant who has never actually worked on a coaching staff. Yeesh. Danny O'Brien has been about as expected -- by which I mean he's been OK -- but he isn't Russell Wilson, and even if he were, there's a huge situational/playcalling difference when most of the first-down plays are going for three yards instead of six or seven. I still think Wisconsin is the best (eligible) team in the division, but that says more about the division than it does about Wisconsin at this point.

UCLA haz quarterback? UCLA haz quarterback. I know. Brett Hundley absolutely torched Nebraska for 305 yards and four touchdowns to go along with 53 rushing yards, and while it's entirely possible that Nebraska's defense isn't good, it's also entirely possible that Hundley is good. The guy was a big-time recruit who's completing close to 70 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and one pick and averaging about 10 yards a carry (although that's skewed by a 71-yard touchdown last week). More importantly, UCLA is, like, scoring points; their 49 and 36 points are more than they scored against any non-Colorado team on the schedule last year with Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut being meh. Having a quarterback has done a lot of things, most noticeably opening up some stuff for Johnathan Franklin, who's averaging an absurd 215 yards a game right now. The numbers obviously aren't gonna hold up for long but are at least indicative of something other than incompetence. That's progress. As for Nebraska, Taylor Martinez's newfound OMG NFL-ness lasted all of one week; he went 17 for 31 for 5.8 yards per attempt with no touchdowns and a pick against a not-that-good UCLA defense. Paging Rex Burkhead.

Was that worse than losing to Ohio? The good news: Penn State probably deserved to win Saturday and therefore might not be that bad. The bad news: Penn State did not win Saturday. Matt McGloin was fine and the defense was better than fine; everything was fine, really, except a kicking game that was a complete and utter disaster. Sophomore walk-on Sam Ficken had an extra-point attempt blocked in what turned out to be a one-point loss and went 1 for 5 on field-goal attempts, including a 42-yarder from the middle of the field on the last play of the game that went wide left by a good 10 yards. Fun fact: Last year's kicker, Anthony Fera, went 14 for 17 on field-goal attempts. He's now at Texas. NCAA 1, Penn State 0. It should be noted that Virginia put together an 88-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes that included four third-down conversions, one of which was on a third-and-16 and one of which was for a touchdown on third-and-goal from the 6. That is some clutch offense from a team that previously had 209 total yards and some whatever-is-the-opposite-of-clutch defense from a team that will desperately need clutch everything to be anything other than really bad this year. Penn State's next two games are against Navy and Temple; after that, they probably won't be favored again until the next-to-last game of the year against Indiana.

The Big Ten is awful: The only unbeaten bowl-eligible team in the Leaders Division: Indiana. Gah. Wisconsin isn't very good, Purdue isn't any better, Iowa has lost to Iowa State (a week after holding on to beat Northern Illinois), Nebraska has gotten lit up by UCLA and Southern Miss and Illinois has gotten totally pwned by ASU. Michigan State and/or Michigan might be good pending some development and some more meaningful data points; same with Ohio State, although it's irrelevant thanks to CheatyPants McSweatervest. Upshot: I'll take USC/Oregon to cover in the Rose Bowl.

LSU is still LSU: The LSU-Washington game wasn't a game so much as it was a trucking; LSU had 242 rushing yards, allowed 36 rushing yards and led 14-3 after four possessions, at which point the game was over because it was obvious that Washington had zero chance of scoring multiple touchdowns. The competitive portion of the game featured six Washington first downs (!) and one U-Dub drive that got past past midfield (and that was only nominally past midfield since the LSU 45 is basically midfield). More evidence to add to the "LSU and Bama are that much better than everybody else" pile: Washington is an above-average team with a pretty good quarterback and lost by 38 because of a physical discrepancy that made Michigan-Alabama look competitive. Prepare for The Gary Danielson Hyperbolic Game of the Century Part III (and maybe The Gary Danielson Hyperbolic Game of the Century Part IV).

That's an interesting quarterback thingy: Tommy Rees wwwhheeeee! The Notre Dame offense was relatively uninspiring Saturday until it had to be something other than uninspiring with two minutes left, at which point Brian Kelly decided that he trusted Rees more than he trusted Everett Golson; the NBC guys were saying throughout the final drive that Kelly said he'd probably go to Rees as his "closer" in a hypothetical situation in which the quarterback actually had to win the game. Credit Rees with a save, I guess. I'm not sure why he'd be a preferable option in that scenario but NOT the first 58-ish minutes, but whatever. Kelly does what he wants. As for the Michigan State game, Kelly said Monday that "there is no quarterback controversy," so it's apparently Golson's job unless it isn't. BTW, the Notre Dame rushing game that was awesomely awesome against Navy was probably a mirage; ND had 67 yards (with sacks excised) on 2.09 yards a carry against Purdue, a team that finished 82nd in the country in rushing yards allowed last year and just lost its best linebacker two weeks ago. I'm skeptical that the offense is gonna be able to produce consistently against the better teams on the schedule, which is just about all of them the rest of the way.

Savannah State really is that bad: That 70-point line might have been insufficient: Florida State led 28-0 barely seven minutes into the game. It was 35-0 when Savannah State got its first first down, and it was 48-0 by the middle of the second quarter, by which point FSU's backups had already been in for two possessions. They could've won by 100 if they wanted to; they won by 55 because the game got called for rain/lightning midway through the third quarter. And since you're wondering, all bets were refunded since the game didn't go 55 minutes (that's the minimum to be considered an official game in Vegas). That's pretty much the only interesting takeaway from Florida State's first two games, both of which were meaningless exhibitions that will have no bearing on the next 10.

Georgia by 20? Georgia by 20. To be fair, Mizzou was winning by eight in the third quarter and only trailed by four going into the fourth. Still, Georgia by 20 (21, to be specific). Aaron Murray is REALLY good, BTW; he was largely responsible for all of Georgia's 32 second-half points and ended up going 22 for 35 for 242 yards with three touchdowns despite having very little at receiver and going against a pretty good defense. Speaking of which, Missouri will be fine. Speaking of which ...

Tweet of the Week: This is from Georgia fullback Dustin Royston:

Well played.

Colorado is so awful: This year's version of Colorado might be even worse than last year's, which I didn't think was possible until I realized Saturday night that Colorado had just lost to Sacramento State. A little context: Sacramento State is an FCS team that lost by 30 last week to New Mexico State. I can't possibly overstate how awful Sacramento State has to be to lose to New Mexico State by 30, which means I don't even have words to accurately describe the craptacularity of an FBS team that loses to that team. There is a legitimate possibility that Colorado goes winless this year.

Related Postgame Moment of the Week: This came from Sacramento State's official Twitter feed after the aforementioned Colorado game, which ended with kicker Edgar Castaneda hitting his third field goal of the night as time expired:

Good stuff.

Didn't Miami used to be good? I vaguely recall Miami being Miami and not the Miami that loses to Kansas State by 40 while getting outgained by 250 yards and being incapable of scoring a meaningful-part-of-the-game touchdown. I thought Miami might be pretty decent this year since last year's six losses were all by a touchdown or less; apparently not. Another 6-6-ish season beckons.

Worst Trick Play of the Week/Ever: I ... uhh .. I dunno.

That's a 19-yard loss on third-and-goal from the 1. I have nothing to add here.

Weird Line of the Week: Matt Barkley put up the following numbers against Syracuse: 23 for 30 (good) for 187 yards (a pretty mediocre 8.1 yards per completion) and six touchdowns. Yeah: six touchdowns. I guess it's not that weird considering that USC went off for 258 rushing yards (a lot of which came on a couple end arounds to Robert Woods and Marqise Lee) and Lee ran a punt back deep into Syracuse territory, which necessarily limited the distances needed on some of those touchdown passes, but man ... 187 yards and six touchdowns? That's, like, efficient.

Auburn's offense is a mess: For serious. Auburn finished with 216 total yards, averaged 3.5 yards a play, went 2 for 12 on third-down attempts and scored a total of three offensive points against Mississippi State; it wouldn't have been even remotely competitive if not for Onterio McCalebb's 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half, a touchdown that turned out to be purely cosmetic since Mississippi State won by 18. Kiehl Frazier looks like he might be good eventually but just isn't right now: He went 13 for 22 with no touchdowns and three picks and rushed for 22 yards on 11 carries. That's ... uhh ... not good. And the McCalebb/Mike Blakely/Tre Mason combo wasn't a whole lot better: The three of them collectively had 27 carries for 71 yards. There were obviously going to be some offense-related issues in the short term given Gus Malzahn's system/personnel preferences and Scot Loeffler's polar-opposite system/personnel preferences; the extent of those issues is the somewhat-surprising thing. It's kinda hard to envision a team that can't crack the top 80 in rushing yards or passing yards or scoring or basically anything else on offense being good enough against an SEC schedule to get to .500 and into the Whatever Bowl, which means Gene Chizik is probably a crappy 2013 season away from getting fired. SEC, baby.

Catch of the Week: I saw this one live and immediately closed the voting.

IMO, the holding-on-while-getting murdered part was more impressive than the one-handed-grab part.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week: Denard Robinson had 101 percent of Michigan's total yards Saturday. No joke. Denard's yardage: 426. Michigan's yardage: 422. Ermagerddddd.

Post-Week 2 top 10: This is gonna be pretty similar to last week's top 10 since the top two (and then the next two after that) are about eleventeen miles in front of everybody else and the remaining seven have almost no relevant data points to differentiate them. I'm moving Georgia up a couple spots based on the road win over Mizzou and dropping Arkansas (O RLY). Beyond that, I have no idea what to do; any of about 10 equally mediocre teams would be justifiable at No. 10. Whatever.

1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. USC
4. Oregon
5. West Virginia
6. Georgia
7. Florida State
8. Oklahoma
9. Michigan State
10. Clemson (???)


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