Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Catching up will always remember that xx-xx win

Mike Riley has zero tolerance: Sean Mannion was excellent through three games, played like crap against Washington State before getting hurt and missing three weeks with a knee injury, came back early for the Washington game and then threw four picks in a mind-blowingly awful performance that resulted in Oregon State's first loss. Result:
Oregon State coach Mike Riley has decided to start junior Cody Vaz at quarterback Saturday against Arizona State. Vaz had started two games for the Beavers while starter Sean Mannion recovered from arthroscopic knee surgery.

"Obviously, it's one of those things that's not easy," Riley said. "You look at the integrity of the competition and you try to make a decision for the team that's right this minute. We think Cody's playing a little bit better right now and deserves the start."
Well yeah. But what's interesting is that Mannion was pretty much the entirety of the Oregon State offense prior to the Washington State game, at which point he was averaging 339 yards a game with six touchdowns and one pick; he's now at eight touchdowns and eight picks and has averaged 245 yards in his last two games. So I dunno. I'm guessing the early-season numbers were inflated by the craptacular defenses of UCLA and Arizona (keep in mind that Oregon State scored only seven points in the opener against Wisconsin).

As for Vaz, he was very good against an excellent BYU defense, did almost nothing in a closer-than-necessary game against Utah and then relieved Mannion last week and went 7 for 11 for 97 yards and a touchdown, although Oregon State's last series (which ended just outside of field-goal range in a three-point loss) went incompletion, incompletion, sack, incompletion. Whether he's actually any better than Mannion is yet to be determined; he'll have to be at least decent against both ASU (10th in pass-efficiency defense, although that's massively inflated by a schedule full of crappy quarterbacks) and Stanford (32nd in pass-efficiency defense and legitimately tough to throw against just ask Matt Barkley lol zing) for Oregon State to have a realistic shot at a BCS bid heading into the Civil War.

Because it (probably) can't get any worse: Auburn is officially giving up (for now) on the Kiehl Frazier/Clint Moseley experiment:
Coach Gene Chizik said Tuesday that freshman Jonathan Wallace would start Saturday against New Mexico State.
Moseley is actually out with an ankle injury but was probably gonna get benched anyway; he'd started the last four games and accumulated an average of 124 yards a game with one touchdown and three picks while Auburn dropped to 120th (that's dead last) in the country in total offense and 119th in scoring offense. Guh. Wallace went in against A&M after Moseley got hurt and Frazier was his usual unproductive self and went 6 for 9 for 133 yards and two touchdowns (Frazier and Moseley had combined for three all season) and ran for 71 yards on 13 carries. In other words, he did something, which is a lot more than can be said for the other two guys.

These are actual numbers here (cumulative ones) for Frazier and Moseley this season: 57 percent passing at 6.4 yards per attempt with three touchdowns and 11 picks (!) to go along with -127 rushing yards. It really can't get any worse. Unless it does. And anything resembling a close game against New Mexico State -- a team without an FBS win this year that's 102nd in total defense and 99th in scoring defense -- would be worse.

Woo vote of confidence: Purdue got destroyed by Minnesota (Minnesota!) on Saturday and is now 0-4 in the Big Ten, with the only close loss of those four being the one to Ohio State (???) in overtime. That's bad, especially considering that people (actual people like Kirk Herbstreit) were picking Purdue to win the conference a month ago.

Athletic director Morgan Burke seems unimpressed based on this statement that came out after the game and seems to be the administrative equivalent of message-board/talk-radio RABBLE RABBLE:
"Everyone around our football program has high expectations for the 2012 season. We have worked very hard over the past four years to improve our personnel, facilities and every phase of our program, which is evident. Our student-athletes, alumni, fans, coaching staff and administration all expect to see the program move forward and take a step up the postseason ladder. Currently, our performance has kept us from reaching our goals. But we have a third of the season left to play, and our focus is to achieve that consistency over the remaining four games. We need to press forward, converting potential into results and having fun playing Boilermaker football."
Upshot: Commence the search for the next Wilford Brimley lookalike. It's probably worth noting that Hope is in his fourth year, hasn't done better than 6-6 and needs at least one win in the next two games (Penn State and at Iowa) just to get Purdue into the Little Caesar's Bowl for the second straight year. Woo Purdue!

Complicating things always improves them: So the NCAA officially implemented its new penalty structure the other day, with the two major changes being as follows:

1. A four-tiered infractions system, with what used to be secondary violations being considered Level 4 and what used to be major violations being considered either Level 1 (Penn State-type institutional implosions), Level 2 (Ohio State-type extra-benefits stuff) or Level 3 (marginal stuff that currently rides the fine line between "secondary" and "major").

2. A bylaw specification that makes head coaches directly responsible for all violations committed by assistant coaches, with the punishment being that "the head coach must prove he or she was unaware it occurred or face a suspension ranging from 10 percent of the season to one full season."

Those are relatively significant in the big picture. Will they matter? Ehhh. I'm skeptical that the first one will have any real impact since it basically just allows for more lawyer-ing come hearing time, although it'll be nice to have a distinction between Michigan's gray-area stretching/practice-time violations and Miami just throwing the NCAA bylaws into the fire. Right now, the only differentiation is in the penalties, and those tend to be wildly variable depending on the Committee on Infractions' mood that given day. The more defined structure should (emphasis on "should") make things a little more logical in that regard.

The holding-coaches-responsible thing, IMO, will actually be of more value since there will now actually be some motivation to have guys on your staff not doing unethical things rather than doing them and then just pretending not to know about them. Putting the burden of proof on the coach rather than the NCAA shifts the balance of power a little, and suspensions/show-cause penalties are real things. That said, head coaches (see Tressel, Jim) have directly done plenty of stupid things to keep winning and will never stop until the point at which the benefits of doing so are outweighed by the potential cost of getting caught, and that point definitely hasn't arrived yet.

Really, Missouri? Remember this day:

Because there's nothing more glorious than an xx-xx win over Kentucky. I can't even decide which part of that sentence is more laughable.

That's the end of that chapter: Utah's attorney general is giving up on that BCS lawsuit that started way back in 2008 and was supposedly gonna blow the whole thing up but really did nothing whatsoever:
It began more than three years ago with fire and brimstone.

By late Friday, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s case against the Bowl Championship Series — a lawsuit that never got launched — was declared suspended, seemingly diminished to embers with Shurtleff set to leave office next year.

"We have a core group of four antitrust experts working in our office, and whether to pursue it will be the decision of the next attorney general," Shurtleff said. "I don’t see any other way I’m involved at all."
There was no chance that lawsuit was going anywhere regardless once the playoff-type thing got implemented. The BCS wouldn't even exist (at least not in a championship-related format) by the time the thing went to court, and the elimination of autobids come 2014 would make it pretty hard to argue that there's any sort of advantage (other than the obvious inherent ones) for major-conference teams. Granted, the revenue distribution will still be skewed, but that was never the crux of the lawsuit. It's over.

Color scheme FTW: A random Sports Illustrated cover for no particular reason (via MGoBlog):


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

This guy wins Halloween

Unless this baby does, and the slicked-back baby hair definitely warrants some bonus points:

If that pic had been taken in a casino instead of a leafy field, game over.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Week 9: Oh that's exactly what I expected

O RLY, NOTRE DAME? Yeah ... about that. I was generally right about Landry Jones and the Oklahoma wideouts having their way with Notre Dame's secondary but definitely wasn't right about the amount of scoring that would produce; Oklahoma ended up with 364 passing yards (at a pretty solid 7.0 yards an attempt) and all of 13 points. It could've been a totally different game if Oklahoma had punched it in on either of its two red-zone possessions in the first half (the second one actually produced a touchdown that got called back on a hilariously late holding penalty) rather than kicking two field goals and going into the half down 10-6, but alas. Notre Dame's defense did basically what it's done all year (a couple sacks, 50 rushing yards, etc.), and that plus two big plays equaled a win just like pretty much all the others this season. Speaking of which, ND's offense was only slightly better than usual, with about a third of the total yardage coming on a 62-yard Cierre Wood touchdown run and a 50-yard bomb in the fourth that set up the go-ahead score. Everett Golson went the usual 11 for 25; amazingly, this team is getting basically nothing from its quarterback and is gonna go into the USC game 11-0 with a legitimate chance to play for the national title. In other words, 2012 Notre Dame = 2002 Ohio State. The 30-13 thing was a little deceiving since the last 10 of those ND points were a byproduct of Oklahoma having to go balls out in the last five minutes and turning it over on the wrong side of the 50 twice. Oklahoma very easily could've won that game; Notre Dame actually did and looked like the slightly better team in doing so, which wow. As for Oklahoma, the realistic best-case scenario at this point is winning out and hoping to go to a BCS game at 10-2 since it's highly unlikely K-State is gonna lose twice, which is what'd be necessary for Oklahoma to win the Big 12. Commence laughable complaints about Bob Stoops only have a .900 winning percentage.

Cocktail party craziness: I have no idea how Georgia won. I really don't. I mean other than the turnovers. Obviously. So here's the thing: For the first time all year, somebody totally stopped Florida's running game (2.0 yards a carry) and forced Jeff Driskel to throw, which didn't work out so well since the O-line can't protect him very well and he can't hold on to the ball. Driskel personally accounted for five turnovers (three fumbles and two picks), all of which nearly resulted in Will Muschamp's head exploding and one of which was in the end zone right before the half and directly cost Florida at least three points. Georgia didn't really have any more success on offense than anybody else has against Florida (273 total yards and three picks by Aaron Murray) but put together one amazingly fortunate drive that included an iffy defensive holding call on a blown-up screen on a third-and-10 play, an incompletion that was overturned to a rather generous catch after a review and then a broken-tackle touchdown. And that's to say nothing of the most ridiculously fortunate turnover in the history of turnovers:

Wowwwww. And thus ends Florida's national title hopes since Georgia -- the team that lost by four touchdowns to South Carolina three weeks ago -- now just needs to beat Ole Miss and a historically terrible version of Auburn to win the SEC East (and then get killed by Bama). Crazy. BTW, Georgia should send the SEC schedule-making guy a bottle of some super-expensive bubbly for leaving both Bama and LSU off the regular-season schedule and thus making a 7-1 conference record possible.

The stupidity of the universe: Marcus Lattimore should've been playing in the NFL after his freshman year; there hasn't been a running back at his level of physicality since Adrian Peterson. Instead he's had his legs destroyed twice in the last 18 months, with the most recent destruction being one of the most horrifying injuries I've ever seen (no hyperbole):

Ughghghghgh. According to South Carolina, the awfulness encapsulated in that video has been officially diagnosed as a hyperextension with accompanying ligament damage. The bad news is that he's obviously gonna need extensive rehab and will be out for at least a year; the good news is that it's not a career-threatening injury in a sense that there was no permanent nerve damage or anything along those lines. FYI, Lattimore never took a redshirt and thus has a medical redshirt available. Given the time frame for his recovery, it sounds likely that he's gonna miss all of next year and would need said redshirt in order to finish his career in the distant future of 2014. I mean, he could enter the draft but would be costing himself a crapload of money by doing so; he'd be a top-half-of-the-first-round pick if healthy. As for South Carolina, the loss to Florida last week pretty much eliminated any chance of getting into the BCS, so the difference between 10-2 (the best-case scenario) and 9-3 (the worst-case scenario if the offense can't do anything against Clemson) is largely inconsequential, especially compared to the look on Lattimore's face when he ripped his helmet off knowing that the next month of crushing SEC fools had just turned into a year and a half of pain and rehab. Yeesh. BTW, today is the guy's 21st birthday.

Ummm nooooo: All that "Mississippi State controls its own destiny in the SEC West" crap -- which was ridiculous to begin with considering the backloaded schedule -- was forgotten after about 19 minutes Saturday, at which point it was 21-0 Alabama. A.J. McCarron did whatever he wanted, T.J. Yeldon did whatever he wanted and Alabama's defense did whatever it wanted (Mississippi State finished with 256 total yards and didn't score until it was 38-0). It was never legitimately competitive at any point, which duh; Mississippi State is a pretty good team but nowhere close to the level of Alabama. I mean, the Fightin' Cowbells' best win this year is either an 18-point victory over Auburn or a 10-point victory over Tennessee, and those might be the two worst teams in the SEC (Kentucky doesn't even count). Alabama's closest game this year: the 19-point win over Ole Miss (followed by the 27-point win over Michigan woo). If LSU doesn't get any closer, nobody will until maybe the SEC title game. Alabama wins ALL OF THE THINGS.

K-State is probably for real: Texas Tech hung in for about two and a half quarters and then got run off the field, partially because of turnovers and partially because the defense just couldn't stop Collin Klein. He ended up with the usual line: 19 for 26 for 233 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 83 rushing yards and two more TDs. Amusing stat that I'm pretty sure I've seen somewhere before: Texas Tech outgained K-State and lost by 31. Yeah. A bit of explanation: All three of Tech's turnovers got run back into or near the endzone, which eliminated a bunch of hypothetical Kansas State yards. What's more useful is the stat that says K-State scored on its last eight possessions (!!!), which was obviously more than sufficient since the defense allowed a total of one drive longer than 11 yards from the time it was 10-10 until the time it was 55-17. So ... considering that Texas' defense is terrible, TCU can only score against Texas Tech and Baylor has lost four straight, the hypothetical losses on K-State's schedule are getting pretty hard to find. They get Oklahoma State at home this weekend; get through that one and 12-0 (and maybe a spot in the national title game) becomes a legit possibility.

So long, Oregon State: Let's be realistic here: There was no chance Oregon State was going unbeaten this year. None. Sean Mannion and the defense yadda yadda yadda; the difference between Oregon and Oregon State is massive, hence Oregon State's average margin of victory this year of 7.9 points against a schedule that's included one team currently ranked in the BCS (that being Arizona), and there are just too many other good-ish teams in the Pac-12 for one good-ish team to survive against all of them. Speaking of which, Washington apparently is quite good at beating undefeated-and-overranked Pac-12 teams, which is weird since Washington can't actually score against anybody. Seriously: U-Dub is the only BCS-conference team in the country that hasn't scored more than 21 points in a game this year. Even Auburn has scored more than 21 points! How is this possible?!? Anyway, Oregon State still has a decent shot at 10-2 (assuming Sean Mannion/Cody Vaz don't throw four picks in any other games); I don't see ASU and Stanford as being unbeatable. And that'd probably be good for a BCS bid since, given the mediocrity of USC, the Big Ten (the eligible portion), the ACC beyond Florida State and the Big East beyond maybe Louisville, the BCS bids will be there for the taking. Really, the team that was hurt the most by Oregon State's loss was Oregon, which would've benefited significantly in the computers from an end-of-the-regular-season game against an unbeaten top-10 team. Alas.

Oregon lol: Colorado put up about as much of a fight as expected, which is to say none at all. It was 14-0 less than three minutes into the game, 28-0 after a quarter and 42-0 after 19 minutes. Colorado had acquired 14 yards when it was 41-0. Oregon finished with 617 total yards, including 425 rushing yards (!!!); Colorado had 245. Oregon had the ball for just over 27 minutes and scored 70 points, which lol time of possession. I honestly have nothing insightful to add from a useful-takeaways standpoint but really wanted to document some of the statistical hilarity. Actually, I will add this: Oregon isn't gonna get jumped in the polls and thus will probably go to the title game by going 13-0 since that would mean a win over a 9-3/10-2 Oregon State team and probably two wins over USC. Kansas State and Notre Dame have already played their most meaningful games; Oregon hasn't, which means the strength of schedule and computer rankings will only go up, and that will probably be enough to close the pretty small gap that currently exists in the BCS.

DeAnthony Thomas Ridiculousness of the Week: Just watch and be entertained:


USC confirmation and Arizona coronation: So USC isn't that great. I've been suspecting as much for a while but figured the talent on offense would probably be sufficient to beat everybody except Oregon; apparently not. To be fair, they did put up over 600-plus yards on Arizona's craptacular defense, but the running game is meh (which makes it unreliable) and the defense can't consistently stop any good offense. With the Oregon game still to come, it's very possible that USC won't even play for the Pac-12 title, although that would require either UCLA beating USC or somebody else winning out. Oh, and the BCS is gone barring a win this week, which no. As for Arizona, RichRod FTW. UA is now fourth in the country in total yards (553 a game) and two plays from being 6-1 after going 4-8 last year and generally being awful. Of the three losses, only the one to Oregon didn't come down to the last play, and that game was more competitive than any other Oregon has played this year. Arizona is legitimately good, mostly because the offense is doing all the things the Michigan offense was just starting to do in 2010. The reasons: Matt Scott and Ka'Deem Carey. An athletic AND accurate quarterback + an uber-talented running back = good times for RichRod. The guy knows how to run an offense. And as statistically terrible as the defense is, Jeff Casteel knows how to coach the 3-3-5 and knows how to make adjustments: USC had five three-and-outs in seven full second-half possessions and scored a total of 15 points, and the Oklahoma State game earlier in the year was very similar. Here's a crazy prediction: If Arizona beats UCLA this week, the team that has never won an outright Pac-10/Pac-12 title will play for one (and lose) against Oregon.

Player of the Week: Marqise Lee. Geez. He had 255 receiving yards at halftime and broke both the USC and Pac-12 record when he hit 299 yards on his 14th catch of the game with 11 minutes left in the third quarter (insert head-asploding gif here). The guy looked to be about two standard deviations of speed faster than anybody in the Arizona secondary, and the result was stuff like this over and over and over:

He finished with 345 yards (breaking the previous conference record by 52 yards) and a respectable two touchdowns.

The game that didn't matter: Ohio State! Penn State! With nothing on the line! Penn State actually hung in for two and a half quarters before a pick six, an Ohio State stop inside the 10-yard line and two soul-crushingly long touchdown drives featuring a lot of Braxton Miller (and little of anything else) opened things up a little bit; it was 7-7 at the half and 28-10 at the end of the third. Urban Meyer apparently figured out whatever it was Penn State was doing defensively since Ohio State did literally nothing on offense over the first six possessions and then scored four touchdowns on drives totaling 309 yards over the next five possessions. That was to be expected, I guess, given that Ohio State's done pretty much the same thing to everybody else (except Purdue, inexplicably). The real problem for Penn State: the lack of a running game, which really hasn't existed all year. Matt McGloin is probably the best passer in the conference, but getting 69 non-sack rushing yards on 24 carries is just lighting downs on fire. The pick six didn't help, either. Regardless, Penn State is 5-3 and is probably gonna end up no worse than 7-5 (the remaining schedule includes Purdue, Nebraska, Indiana and Wisconsin), which is insane. Ohio State will definitely be 10-0 heading into the Wisconsin game and therefore will probably be 11-0 heading into the Michigan game. No comment.

Woo Leaders Division: Wow. Purdue lost to Minnesota by three touchdowns (!) in a game that was 34-7 at the half. Minnesota!!! Wisconsin lost to Michigan State in overtime and lost quarterback Joel Stave to a broken collarbone, which might be problematic with games left to play against both Ohio State and Penn State. Amazingly enough, Indiana might actually win the division. Yeah. Indiana. The Indiana that's 1-3 in the conference and lost to Navy last week. They're averaging just under 35 points a game and have games remaining against Iowa (which can't score), Wisconsin (pending), Penn State (ineligible) and Purdue (winless in the Big Ten). Basically, wins the next two weeks would probably put Indiana in the Big Ten title game (the tiebreaker against Wisconsin would be the difference) and result in everyone everywhere laughing at the Big Ten, albeit somewhat unfairly since Ohio State and Penn State are both pretty decent but cheaty. I'm for serious here: If Wisconsin doesn't win the division, Bret Bielema should probably be fired because there has never been a more winnable division in the history of divisions.

The Big East! Louisville and Cincinnati actually played a pretty dang entertaining game Friday night; Louisville survived and is now the frontrunner since Rutgers, while still undefeated in Big East play, just lost to Kent State by 12. And yes, I realize that Kent State is 7-1. I don't care. Any team that loses to Kentucky by 30 is unquestionably bad. A couple questions: Why did Rutgers let Kent State run for 242 yards (kneeldowns excluded) at over 5.2 yards a carry? Why did Gary Nova throw six interceptions (!!!) against a defense that was 68th in the country in pass efficiency? I don't get it. Anyway, Rutgers still has to play at Cincinnati and at Pitt, which means Louisville might actually have the conference wrapped up before going to Piscataway for the regular-season finale. And realistically, Louisville is probably gonna be unbeaten at that point (?) despite having nothing more impressive on its resume than ... uhhh ... the five-point home win over North Carolina? Wow. Louisville might actually be a pretty decent team (and Charlie Strong almost definitely is a pretty good coach) but won't ever have to prove it except against teams that are presumably comparable just because they're having similar success against the same steaming pile of mediocrity. Upshot: Whichever teams wins the Big East might or might not be any good since the only real points of reference are in the Big East.

Uhhh Texas? Mack Brown was one good drive away from having Austin Torch & Pitchfork set up shop on his lawn Saturday. Fortunately for him (and Texas), Case McCoy put together said drive and then threw the go-ahead touchdown pass on a spectacularly designed play-action fake on third-and-goal from the 1 with 12 seconds left, and that was just enough for a three-point win over a Kansas team that finished with 39 passing yards (lol) and came into the game below 90th in both scoring defense and total defense. Wha??? David Ash was downright bad; he got yanked after going 8 for 16 with two picks, both of which came inside the Kansas 20. Texas' only touchdown drive before the fourth quarter started in Kansas territory and consisted entirely of four running plays. It probably shouldn't have been as close as it was between the two aforementioned picks and Texas getting stopped on a fourth-and-1 at the Kansas goal line in the third quarter, but still. Between the early four-play touchdown drive and the two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, Texas had eight possessions, and none of them produced more than 27 yards. Against Kansas! In conclusion, Texas makes no sense whatsoever.

That's the end of that: Ohio isn't unbeaten anymore after a 23-20 loss to Miami (Ohio), a team that even with Saturday's win is 4-4 with an offense that's 80th in total yards and a defense that's 115th in total yards allowed. I have nothing to add here. It's the MAC.

Post-Week 9 top 10: So ... I have no idea what to do after the top two. I still think Florida's the best of the rest (games featuring nine turnovers, including the one in the video at the top of this post, tend to be not entirely representative of overall quality) but am much less sure about that now than I was a week ago; probably any of the teams after Oregon and before Florida State could justifiably be ranked third, with Notre Dame/Florida State representing the threshold between the "really good" tier and the "good" tier populated by the assortment of these-guys-definitely-have-weaknesses teams. South Carolina probably deserves a spot based on resume but just isn't a top-10 team without Marcus Lattimore, as unfortunate as that is. And please ignore everything below Georgia.

1. Alabama
2. Oregon
3. Florida (?)
4. LSU
5. Kansas State
6. Notre Dame
7. Florida State
8. Oklahoma
9. Georgia
10. Ohio State (ugh)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Monkey darts and Denard appreciation

You are Al Borges. It's first-and-10 on the Nebraska 38 on Michigan's first sustained drive of the game. Denard and Fitz Toussaint have alternated 7-ish-yard gains for the last six plays. Vincent Smith has had one moderately successful carry to date this season. So you do this:

It's now second-and-10 from the Nebraska 38. You have just been reminded that Vincent Smith is not an effective running back, which is why there are four guys (including a receiver) getting more regular carries than he is. So you do this:

The drive ends on a third-and-8 incompletion, resulting in a missed 53-yard field goal.

It's now third-and-3 from the Michigan 23 late in the first quarter of a scoreless game. It's been pretty well established at this point that Nebraska (which gave up roughly 6 bajillion rushing yards to Ohio State) can't really stop the zone read; Denard and Toussaint and averaging just under five yards a carry and at a pretty consistent clip (nothing long to skew the average). Your quarterback is the modern-day Barry Sanders. So you do this:

Because running out of the I into a nine-man front while eliminating your quarterback as a threat totally makes sense.

It's now third-and-7 from the Nebraska 18 late in the third quarter. Denard is done for the night because of an aggravated nerve in his elbow, which means the maybe-slightly-more-accurate-and-moderately-mobile-but-not-that-mobile Russell Bellomy is in the game. Nebraska leads 16-6. A field goal does little; the offense has done literally nothing since Denard left over a quarter ago and will have to get at least one touchdown at some point in the next 16 minutes. So you do this with your not-super-athletic backup quarterback and your picks-up-blitzes-like-a-mofo third-down back:

LOLWUT. Ask Corso? Ask Corso.

I could go on but will stop there since Bellomy produced maybe the worst 35-minute quarterbacking performance in the history of ever and the receivers were desperately in need of some towels from the Chargers. When a redshirt freshman quarterback with five career passes gets thrown into a road night game he's woefully unprepared for and proceeds to start 0 for 10 with -12 total yards, that's probably not (entirely) on the O-coordinator. That will be largely written off to the stupidity of the universe. The first half will not be because OMG AAARRGHGHGHGHGH.

The first half will be remembered for the text I sent after the above-referenced third-down play:
A monkey is throwing darts at a play sheet. I'm positive.
So this:

. . . . .

Michigan has not scored a touchdown against a top-50 defense since the Alabama game (and the only two touchdowns in that game came after Alabama jumped out to a 31-0 lead, at which point they didn't even matter). In the previous decade before this year, Michigan was held without a touchdown three times; it's happened three times this year, which is the first time that's happened since the 1962 team got shut out three teams in a row (how fun) en route to a 2-7 finish. I'm pretty sure that team didn't have Denard Robinson, a returning 1,000-yard running back and/or four O-line starters returning from a team that finished 13th in the country in rushing.

It's time for a painful acknowledgment: Michigan's offense has regressed significantly from last year, and last year represented a moderate/not-insignificant regression from 2010. And the starters on that 2010 team were mostly sophomores who are now seniors but haven't scored a meaningful touchdown against a decent team in four games this year.

To be fair, a little of that regression this year was to be expected. David Molk was an all-world center last year; he's gone. Junior Hemingway was the one legitimate deep-ball threat on a team full of poorly utilized 5-foot-10 guys; he's gone. Kevin Koger was a pretty decent blocker and a pretty decent receiver at tight end; he's gone, and Michigan does not have a replacement who can do both of those things. The coaches have also had an epiphany: The defense is good enough that no crappy team will be able to score enough points to win without being given some via head-asploding interceptions, and that means it's Going Into a Shell Time. The stats have suffered to a marginal extent; I'm fine with that when it results in wins.

That said, holy unwatchable, Batman. Watching Michigan games at this point is like watching 2010 Michigan games but in bizarro world: The strategy apparently revolves around hoping the defense is so good that the offense just has to be something better than incomprehensibly awful in order to win. I wrote off some of the incomprehensible awfulness last week since (a) Michigan won, (b) there were some good drives and points that could've been had but weren't because of blah throws and (c) the gameplan was an admittedly conservative one given the quality of the other team's offense, which OK. But doing that every week isn't being conservative; it's just being bad on offense.

The We Heart Borges Club is leaning on "it's not his fault Denard threw 47 interceptions against Notre Dame," which is only partially true in a sense that at least a couple of those picks were destined for failure via the play design. There's also been some success that hasn't shown up in the scoring totals: In all three games against top-10 defenses, Michigan has put up significantly more yards than the opposing defense has allowed on average. So that's something. The offense isn't totally ineffective; it just doesn't have anything to rely on other than "be Denard," doesn't do anything whatsoever to make "be Denard" more effective (other than the inconsistent use of the veer) and doesn't do anything to take advantage of defenses' awareness that "be Denard" is all there is. It's just Denard. Any criticism of the guy was rendered irrelevant when Michigan had five total yards in the seven possessions after he left the game Saturday night. Michigan's success on offense is dependent entirely on Denard and (to a lesser extent) the O-line just being better than the guys up front on defense.

How much of that is on Borges? A lot. Not all of it. Michigan's receiver-type guys had, by my count, six borderline drops in the first two and a half quarters, at which point I stopped counting. And said receiver-type guys include the 5-foot-10 Jeremy Gallon, converted quarterback Devin Gardner, the 5-foot-nothin' Drew Dileo and a couple freshmen and a walk-on at tight end. The talent just isn't there for a pro-style-ish passing tree since the receivers can't get open and the quarterback isn't accurate enough to throw guys open. This is not 2001 Michigan; this is an experienced version of 2008 Michigan, with the legit NFL talent pretty freakin' hard to find.

But I just don't know, man. Even the '08 team scored a touchdown in every game (and probably would've scored more than one against a totally hypothetical defense that had given up 63 points to Ohio State). There is an obvious chasm there between what Borges is good at and what this offense should be good at based on personnel, and the result is infuriating (even more so after watching Arizona put up 600 yards and 39 points against USC despite having a bunch of just-a-guy types at receiver and a not-very-good O-line). Saying "it'll be OK when Borges has elite players to work with" is (a) swell, Captain Obvious and (b) not very soothing since Michigan is two or three years away from having elite (and upperclass) players. If the next two years are gonna be like the second half of the Nebraska game, no thanks. Again: Five total yards in seven possessions before the last one, which didn't matter. And that's not even taking into account the inability to score any points against decent-to-good defenses this year with Denard. There are some things competent coordinators do in terms of constraint and playing off the stuff the offense does well, and those things don't exist right now; that's not a Denard/personnel problem as much as it is a coaching problem, and that's a scary, scary thing.

And it's actually gotten worse, which doesn't even make sense. Last year's offense had more inside-zone/veer variation, the Devin Gardner-at-quarterback-and-Denard-in-motion package, etc.; there was stuff that allowed the offense to seemingly be something other than "be Denard," and that stuff worked pretty well at times. And now there's not. And that's bad since it's both easy to scheme against (nine in the box on every play, with the degree of Denard's athletic superiority largely determining success or failure) and capable of spontaneously combusting into a pile of flaming debris at the whim of a stupid elbow nerve. I'm hopeful that the regression has been a weird thing due maybe in part to whatever is going on with Denard's arm and maybe in part due to the complete lack of a viable receiving threat and definitely in part due to the defense allowing Borges (via mandate from Brady Hoke, I assume) to completely remove the high-risk/high-reward stuff from the playbook. I'm not totally optimistic, though, since my hopefulness is based mostly on the 2011 Nebraska and Ohio State games and my skepticism is based on a much larger (and mostly more recent) sample size.

So ... I just produced 1,500 words about the playcalling. That was fun. There was other stuff.

Let's start with this: The defense yay. The last six weeks were not a mirage generated by the vapors of horrific offenses; Nebraska has easily the best offense in the Big Ten (seventh nationally in rushing, 17th in pass efficiency, 15th in total yards and 18th in scoring) and had scored 29-plus points in every game coming in. The irrelevant end-of-game drive notwithstanding, Michigan gave up a total of 283 yards (!) and 23 points, and 13 of those points were gifted via Bellomy picks in Michigan territory, one of which got run back to the 4-yard line (guh). Amazingly, despite all the stuff written above about the playcalling and the offense in general, Michigan got the ball back with 11:40 left down only a touchdown at 16-9. That in and of itself is an amazing statement about what the Michigan defense did to a borderline-elite offense.

The reason: The Michigan front seven dominated the line. Jake Ryan was barely relevant but didn't have to be because of the way Craig Roh, Quinton Washington, Brennen Beyer and an assortment of other guys cumulatively produced a wall of nothing that yielded a bunch of 2-yard gains, a lot of punts and a sufficient number of chances for the Michigan offense had it been anything other than totally incompetent. The only problems, really, were the lack of quality coverage from time to time -- with this play ...

... being the particularly aggravating one for obvious reasons -- and the accompanying lack of a pass rush, although that wasn't surprising given that Michigan used a slightly heavier front than usual. Michigan largely sold out to stop the run, did it and still only got beat deep once, with the result being by far Nebraska's worst offensive performance of the year.

It's now safe to say this without any caveats: Michigan's defense is approaching elite (again). Despite losing three starting D-linemen (including Mike Martin) to graduation and top cover corner Blake Countess to a torn ACL and then getting smoted by Alabama in the opener, Michigan is ninth in the country in total defense and 14th in scoring defense. And the three offenses other than Ohio State's left on the schedule are average (Northwestern), bad (Minnesota) and pathetic (Iowa). It's likely that anything better than 14 points wins all of those games since I'm having a hard time envisioning Michigan giving up anything consistently against any of those teams.

This is probably worth noting here:
Asked whether or not he was concerned Robinson wouldn't be available next week, Hoke replied "No." He also said the normal rehabilitation process for this type of injury is mainly rest and time.
Hosannas, angels, etc.

With that in mind, holy hell Bellomy was terrible. He finished 3 for 16 with three picks (!!!) and generally looked like a kid who just found how babies are made and how hot dogs are made on the same day. The accuracy he'd shown in his extremely limited playing time to date disappeared entirely; he missed about three wide-open guys with inexplicably awful throws, and his three picks were the result of three terribly thrown balls into not-a-chance coverage. Like so:


I'm thinking 0 for 10 would've been the point at which I would have made the switch to Gardner (if that were a possibility since Gardner has allegedly been nursing some kind of injury). Hoke said after the game that he hadn't taken enough snaps at quarterback this year to be a viable option, but ... I mean ... he couldn't possibly have done any worse, right? Michigan was averaging 0.71 total yards a possession in the second half until Nebraska started sitting back with three guys deep after taking a two-touchdown lead with about five minutes left. I have to believe Gardner gets a few more snaps over the next couple weeks in the event of disaster. I also have to believe he's the probable starter at quarterback next year, but if he isn't even taking snaps this year, is it realistic to think that he's just gonna switch back over for spring ball and be any better than Bellomy? I really don't know. Either way, I will spend the next nine months praying that Shane Morris is Chad Henne.

As for this year, there isn't a game on the schedule Michigan can't lose if Denard goes down for any extended period of time since even Minnesota and Iowa are capable of acquiring double-digit points via luck or whatever. There's also not a game on the schedule Michigan shouldn't win pretty easily (until Ohio State) if Denard can stay healthy, especially with Brendan Gibbons becoming automatic and thus making any drive that ends inside the other dudes' 40-yard line guaranteed points.

Sadly, it might not matter. Nebraska now has the tiebreaker and will have to lose at least once (maybe twice, depending on what Michigan does against Ohio State) for Michigan to win the division. Plausible? Yeah. Nebraska still plays at Michigan State, against Penn State at home and at Iowa. Probable? Ehhh. Note to self: Just think of it as rooting for Nebraska to lose rather than rooting for Michigan State to win. It's better that way.

Anyway, all Michigan can do is win out, beat Ohio (BEAT OHIO) and hope Nebraska goes down at least once. If that doesn't happen, it's Denard Appreciation Month* followed by the Capital One Bowl, which would be pretty much exactly what I expected but would still be ultimately disappointing given the lack of roses in a "here please take the roses" year and the distinct possibility that 2013 Michigan will look a lot like 2012 Michigan State, which yuck.

* Denard appreciation, man. Get on board.

This is just getting hilarious (not for Maryland)

Maryland quarterback Caleb Rowe is out for the year. Of course he is.
Coach Randy Edsall announced Sunday that Caleb Rowe has a torn anterior cruciate ligament and is done for the year.

The injury occurred in Saturday's 20-17 loss to Boston College. It was the first college start for the true freshman.
Great googly moogly. Rowe was literally the only quarterback left on the roster following a foot injury to Devin Burns, a converted receiver who was filling in for Perry Hills, who tore his ACL while replacing C.J. Brown, who tore his ACL in fall camp. In other words, Maryland has lost four quarterbacks this season, three of them in the last two weeks.

The remaining options: linebacker Shawn Petty, who ran some option in high school, and tight end Brian McMahon. I know.

This is what I wrote the other day when Maryland announced Burns' injury just a couple days after acknowledging Hills' injury:
Caleb Rowe should probably put his legs in bubble wrap, because there is now an Angry Maryland Quarterback Hating God, and he apparently learned from the master.
Beware, next guy taking snaps. Seriously. Beware.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Notre Dame clearly knows how to win in Norman

Bob Stoops has a 78-4 home record at Oklahoma. That's amazing (even considering the State Fair deal that eliminates the possibility of one home loss every two years). Similarly amazing: Bob Stoops has a home record of 14-1 against ranked teams, and Kansas State is the only team to get within single digits in any of those games (a five-point win this year and a one-point loss in 2001).

Even more amazing: Oklahoma once won 47 straight games. Yeah: 47 straight games of any type. That was a long time ago, obviously. It was so long ago that it ended against a Notre Dame team coming off a 2-8 season, which would be incomprehensible today oh wait haha just kidding.

Anyway, that was also the last time Notre Dame played at Oklahoma; it was 1957. Crazy.

BTW, Notre Dame was an 18 1/2-point underdog that year, meaning this year's team is only considered about a touchdown closer to a pretty good Oklahoma team than the '57 Notre Dame team was to a team that hadn't lost in five years and had obliterated ND 40-0 in South Bend the previous year. I'm not entirely sure what that means.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

This is just getting ridiculous

It took all of zero days for the next-in-line Maryland quarterback to go down for the year:
COLLEGE PARK — Medical tests have confirmed that Maryland lost not only starting quarterback Perry Hills for the season in last Saturday’s game but also his replacement, Devin Burns.

“You take a look at it, it’s kind of crazy,” coach Randy Edsall said of losing the freshman Hills to a torn anterior cruciate ligament and Burns, a redshirt sophomore, to a serious left foot injury in the 20-18 loss to North Carolina State. Hills had taken over in August after presumptive starter C.J. Brown’s ACL injury sidelined him before the season.

Burns suffered a Lisfranc injury — in which bones in the midfoot are broken or ligaments are torn — Saturday but continued to play despite a noticeable limp. Burns’ injury was diagnosed during the week but not officially released until Thursday’s injury report.
There is now one quarterback (scholarship or otherwise) left on the roster: Caleb Rowe, a freshman who threw the first three passes of his career last week while playing one series before Burns moved over from wide receiver to take snaps because obviously. Rowe had no other FBS scholarship offers. He has no meaningful experience (or experience of any kind, really). And he is the last hope for Maryland, which is preparing a Plan B featuring a backup linebacker running the option or something (I'm serious).

Accordingly, Caleb Rowe should probably put his legs in bubble wrap, because there is now an Angry Maryland Quarterback Hating God, and he apparently learned from the master.

Gene Chizik gets a ringing endorsement

An open letter written/published earlier today by Auburn president Jay Gogue:

Upshot: Please qualify your boos for Gene Chizik with support for the players unfortunate enough to be playing for Gene Chizik, who will be gone by December since every single person who has emailed me hates him with the passion of a thousand Harvey Updykes.

BTW, I'm unclear as to whether Updyke is included in "the local community"; I'm guessing not but could be mistaken.

Tackling is so much harder on a red field

This play is so ridonkulous that the head-asploding awfulness of Eastern Washington's field is but an afterthought:

A belated Great Googly Moogly Play of the Week award to you, Vernon Adams. And no, there was definitely not any holding by the right tackle. None whatsoever.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Catching up is fine or done for the year

How is this possible? Braxton Miller had his head/neck forcefully detached from his body Saturday, went limp for an extended period of time, was ambulanced to the hospital, recovered miraculously and is now good to go, according to Urban Meyer:
All test results on Braxton Miller came back negative. Said he's very sore, but expects him to practice tomorrow.

Meyer said Braxton suffered from whiplash and was rattled.
Oh ... OK. I don't doubt that he checked out with no structural damage but question the thought process that leads to a guy who's still "very sore" after being diagnosed with whiplash practicing three days after the event that lead to said soreness. I mean, from an observer's standpoint, I'd prefer an Ohio State-Penn State game featuring Braxton Miller to one not featuring Braxton Miller, but I dunno.

Anyway, Penn State is 21st in the country in rushing defense despite playing three teams in the top 25 in rushing offense, although of those three teams, only Northwestern runs a system that even vaguely resembles Ohio State's. It'll be interesting to see whether Penn State can follow the Purdue blueprint and keep Miller from going off like he has against pretty much everybody else. I think Penn State can score some points based on a passing game that's at least as good as Indiana's, which put up 49 points against a meh Ohio State defense that's 52nd in pass efficiency and 102nd in passing yards allowed. The question is whether those points will be enough; Miller's presence makes it somewhat less likely.

Man down at Florida State: Chris Thompson is done for the year; I covered this in my Week 8 thingy but figured I'd repost the analysis given the newsiness:
Chris Thompson tore his ACL, which is unfortunate for him and similarly unfortunate for a Florida State offense that finally had been generating a running game this year (15th nationally at about 231 yards a game). The good news: (a) James Wilder Jr. is a man-child who can easily take on another seven or eight carries a game and (b) Thompson clone Devonta Freeman has been getting about seven carries a game already and averaging about 7.1 yards a pop. So the replacements aren't terrible; they just aren't (yet) All-ACC dudes putting up 7.6 yards a carry on 15 attempts a game. Expect a little more of those guys, maybe a little more E.J. Manuel and probably only a marginal drop-off offensively.
It's worth mentioning that Thompson was on pace to be Florida State's first 1,000-yard back since Warrick Dunn (!) but only had about 46 percent of FSU's running-back rushing yards, with Wilder Jr. having about 400 and Freeman having about 300. BTW, Freeman led the team in rushing last year while Thompson missed most of the season with a broken back (yeesh).

Hey, has anybody noticed that Florida State plays Florida (in Tallahassee) in the last game of the year? I'm intrigued by that game and would like to subscribe to its newsletter.

Maryland is cursed: Redshirt freshman quarterback Peyton Hills is done for the year with a torn ACL, which means Maryland has lost Danny O'Brien, returning starter (kind of) C.J. Brown and now Hillis in the last eight months.

Here's a quote from Brown this week:
“We’re down to our third or fourth-string quarterbacks already and we’re going to Week 8 or whatever it is,” Brown said. “It’s just unfortunate. I don’t think anyone would see this happening."
True. Accordingly, freshman Caleb Rowe (a two-star recruit with zero other FBS offers) is now the only scholaship quarterback on the roster and threw the first two passes of his career against NC State; sophomore Devin Burns, who moved over from receiver, actually took more of the snaps after Hills went down and did a lot of Wildcat-type stuff while throwing four passes. Upshot: Don't expect much from the Maryland passing game.

Hills had been surprisingly decent this year -- he'd completed about 56 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and seven picks -- but had relatively little to do with Maryland's 4-3 start seeing as how Maryland is 116th in total offense and averaging about 21 points a game. The credit goes to the defense, which is 11th in yards allowed and 31st in points allowed and was almost solely responsible for the 7-6 win over William & Mary (lol) and the 19-14 win over Wake Forest. That said, the schedule's about to get a lot tougher (at Boston College, Georgia Tech, at Clemson, Florida State, at North Carolina), so I won't be totally surprised if the defense turns out to be somewhat of a mirage and the offense turns out to be as awful as it appears to be, which case 4-8 and more Randy Edsall hot-seat rabble become legitimate possibilities.

The timing seems suboptimal: Georgia defensive end Abry Jones has missed the past couple games with an ankle injury and apparently will miss several more games -- like, all of them -- with the same injury:
Tweets from several current and former teammates indicated that Georgia Bulldogs defensive end Abry Jones could be out for the season. The team has not yet confirmed these rumors. Still, tweets like the one below seem to express that Jones is done:

Big S/o to my homie my brother my dawg @justab3 he had surgerytoday and is done for the season... Stay up fool I'm here we here #salute — Derrick Lott (@Dlott_UTC91) October 23, 2012 
Jones wasn't expected back this week for the Cocktail Party thing but definitely would've been of same value seeing as how Georgia's allowed an average of 34.3 points over the past three weeks, with two of those games against teams ranked below 90th in total offense. He's a multiyear starter, and while he only had one tackle for loss in the first six games, last year he was third on the team with four sacks and tied for fourth with seven tackles for loss.

One possible replacement: Ray Drew, an uber recruit two years ago who's played pretty sparingly thus far (12 total tackles in his career) but might be able to provide a little bit of pass rush given his alleged athleticism. Then again, the pass rush will be less of a concern against Florida than not getting trucked, so I won't be surprised if Georgia just goes heavy up front in an effort not to give up a gajillion rushing yards. We'll see.

IT'S SO HORRIFYING: There might be something wrong with this guy (click for the video, which is so much worse):

Srsly. WTF.

Settle down, Ohio State: On a tangentially related note, Ohio State and Oregon have agreed to a home-and-home series in 2020-21. That's, like, a long time from now; the second of those two games will take place on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. I know.

Regardless, Ohio State has now scheduled home-and-home series for the not-too-distant future with Oregon, TCU (2018-19) and Texas (2022-23) and adjusted its overall scheduling philosophy as follows:
Beginning in 2018, athletic director Gene Smith said he wants OSU to play all four nonconference games against schools from the six power conferences.

“Hopefully we’re going to schedule one team in the top 10, two other teams we hope are going to be in the top 30 or 40, and then someone else from a (major conference),” Smith said of his new philosophy in a phone interview with The Blade.
That's ... impressive? Stupid? I'm not sure. There's definitely something to be said for playing real games on a somewhat-regular basis. There's also something to be said for not losing a nonconference game; I really don't think strength of schedule is gonna have the overall impact some people tend to think it will have, at least not relative to the potential damage (in the polls) inflicted by a loss. That's probably worth a separate post. Just know that Ohio State will have a bunch of interesting games on the schedule when my kids are in high school.

Random stat of note: Oklahoma is 1-8 against Notre Dame. That's a .111 winning percentage, Oklahoma's lowest against any opponent (minimum five games). Come Saturday night, that'll be either a much-more-satisfying 2-8 or 1-9, in which case Notre Dame will not only own Oklahoma but also have a legitimate shot at the national title.

Just kidding: There probably won't be a seventh BCS bowl come playoff time:
A proposed seventh access bowl is becoming less likely, and the commissioners of the BCS might stick with their original plan of only having six in the new playoff format, sources told ESPN.

After the commissioners met in Rosemont, Ill., in September, The Associated Press reported that they had discussed the possibility of creating a seventh access bowl. The game would give smaller conferences guaranteed access, pitting the top-ranked champion from the five non-power conferences (Big East, Mountain West, Conference USA, Mid-American and Sun Belt) annually against a team from either the Big 12 or Pac-12.

However, this is becoming more unlikely because of a myriad of concerns and obstacles involved for a seventh access bowl. Among them: The bowl's lesser worth compared to the other access bowls, the difficulty of selling tickets for an annual bowl featuring a non-power conference team and finding a bowl that wants to host the game that also meets the stadium capacity requirements for an access bowl and the national semifinals, sources said.
The last graf pretty much says it all: There's little interest among either bowl games or networks in paying a ginormous chunk of money for a BCS game that's not really a BCS game. Surprise!

That story also includes some clarification/confirmation on the playoff-affiliated bowls: As expected, the six games in the rotation will be the Rose Bowl, Champions Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Chick-fil-A Bowl. No surprises there, either; please note that the Champions Bowl is expected to rotate between the Cotton Bowl and Sugar Bowl, so the assumption is that both games will be included in some capacity.

This is very important: Central Florida's NCAA appeal has gotten pushed back to January, which means the one-year bowl ban won't be decided until after bowl season and thus:
Central Florida will be eligible to compete for both the Conference USA championship and a bowl game this season with its appeal of a one-year football postseason ban not scheduled to be heard until next year.
The Liberty Bowl rejoices (or does nothing; whatever).

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The inevitable end for Robb Akey

Idaho fired coach Robb Akey on Monday. I know you don't care; I'm only really posting this because it backs up a general point I've been making for a while.

Akey went 20-50 in six-plus years and got canned with a 1-7 record this year (the only win was over New Mexico State, which hasn't even come close to beating an FBS team this season). His winning percentage: .306. That's terrible, obviously.

Akey took over in 2007 for Dennis Erickson, who went 4-8 in a pity year at Idaho (he'd been fired by the 49ers) and then took the job at ASU. Erickson had taken over for Nick Holt, who ran USC's pretty-dang-good mid-2000s defenses and then went 6-18 in two years at Idaho before resigning. Holt took over for Tom Cable, who went 11-35 in four years, took an O-line job in the NFL and went on to coach the Raiders (and do not too badly). Their cumulative winning percentage in those 12 years, which coincided exactly with Idaho's first 12 years in actual I-A/FBS conferences: .273. Yeah. In the 12 1/2 years since moving out of the Big West, Idaho -- despite having three good/widely respected coaches -- has gone 40-111 and has played in one bowl game, that the Humanitarian Bowl after somehow going 7-5 in 2009. How Akey didn't get a lifetime contract extension for getting that team to a bowl game I have no idea.

Actually, I do have an idea: Akey probably wasn't a very good coach. The 2009 team was only decent because of a passing game that produced a boatload of yards a game against craptacular WAC defenses, and he came to Idaho after a four-year stint as D-coordinator at Washington State in which the defenses there got basically progressively worse, going from 23rd to 53rd to 106th to 86th in yards allowed (and the Wazzu defense has been in a dumpster that's been torched every year since). And his only meaningful experience before that was as a coordinator at a couple middle-of-the-road I-AA schools.

So how did he get a head coaching job? It's Idaho. Three straight good-ish coaches had come and gone with zero traction and zero success (or anything even resembling success). The options were Robb Akey and the lizard from the Geico commercials, and Akey at least had a spectacular/creepy mustache. What I'm saying is that the only coaches who will seriously consider taking the job at Idaho (or similar places) are (a) below-average FBS coordinators (since the good ones are making more money than $300K a year and can typically hold out for better jobs) and (b) second-tier FCS coaches (since the first-tier guys would have little reason to leave presumably successful jobs for a job with almost no chance of success an and extremely high chance of a career-destroying flameout).

And that brings me to the (interim) new guy: Jason Gesser, the same Jason Gesser who quarterbacked Washington State to the '03 Rose Bowl. His resume consists of three years as a high school assistant, two years as a high school head coach and a year and a half as an Idaho assistant (the last eight months as O-coordinator). BTW, Idaho is currently 107th in total offense and 117th in scoring offense, with both of those numbers worse than last year (which was worse than the year before).

I don't know what else to say here. This is an accurate indicator of where Idaho stands as a program right now. They will probably go out at the end of the year and hire a not-that-exciting guy from somewhere and hope things will get better to the point that a bowl game will be more than a once-in-a-generational thing; it probably won't be. Said not-that-exciting guy will coach there for a few years, leave after going 8-28 and wish for a return to his previous locale, which wasn't in Idaho and wasn't the occupational equivalent of a dying hole.

We go over to the dying holes and we die
The only real draw is the possibility of the very hypothetical scenario in which Idaho is vaguely competitive, in which case the guy who produces said vague competitiveness would be immediately hirable for just about any job nationally (preferably one much, much better than the one at Idaho). Woo.

Have I mentioned that Idaho is going independent next year? And the future beyond that is unknown (even at the administrative level):
"Definitely short term. I don’t see us (staying independent) beyond two years."
Why do it at all? Idaho has been a dying hole for going on a dozen years despite having some pretty good coaches in that time and has now reached the point where the good coaches are way, way out of reach and the crappy ones won't be nearly good enough to overcome the programatic deficiences, of which there are many. Give it up. This is from my post a couple months ago titled "I'm not sure why the Sun Belt exists":
There's a very, very fat line between the haves and have-nots in the college football. It's tough for me to argue that they shouldn't have football at all given the circular benefit of increased spirit/pride/interest that leads to increased donations that leads to an increase in the overall quality of the school that leads to an increase in enrollment and so on and so forth; it's much easier for me to argue that they should drop down to a level that's more financially viable and ... I dunno ... appropriate? That seems like a good word choice.
Again: Give it up. The appropriate level is the FCS, where Idaho went to the playoffs 11 times in the 14 years preceding the jump to the FBS and played in the national semifinals twice. The choices are (a) that and (b) somewhere between .273 and .306. I don't get it.

Week 8: That answers that question

K-State kaboom: Ummm ... yeah. The thing that happened to West Virginia against Texas Tech happened again except against a better team and a better quarterback, and the result was a lookin'-out-the-window paddlin'. Total yards: Kansas State 479, West Virginia 243. Geno Smith finished with 143 yards (!) on 4.4 yards an attempt with a touchdown and two picks (his first two picks of the year after an NCAA-record 273 passes without one), and West Virginia didn't score an offensive touchdown until the fourth quarter, which was problematic since Collin Klein was ravaging their villages and burning down their couches and whatnot. Seriously: The guy went 20 for 23 for 323 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 52 yards and four touchdowns. According to my mathematical skillz, Collin Klein accounted for seven touchdowns, which is a lot of touchdowns. If that game were for the Heisman, Klein won it unanimously. I mean, the guy's always been a good athlete but was doing stuff like this ...

... and this ...

... on the regular and looking incrementally better with every meh Geno Smith throw to a reasonably-well-covered receiver. He's good. He's also the Heisman front-runner unless/until he implodes in a Kansas State loss, and even that might not really matter since K-State can lose at least once (maybe twice depending on what Oklahoma does) and still win the Big 12 via tiebreakers. Upshot: Kansas State is probably going to the Fiesta Bowl. I still don't think an unbeaten season is very likely given the number of good-ish teams left on the schedule and K-State's overall lack of elite talent but have to acknowledge the possibility since Bill Snyder is a wizard.

Player of the Week: Collin Klein. Ridonkulous. Similarly ridonkulous: Matt Barkley went 19 for 20 for 298 yards (that's 14.9 yards an attempt!) with six touchdowns and no picks. Yeah. Barkley for Heisman? And it's probably worth mention that New Mexico running back Kasey Carrier had 39 carries for 338 yards (!!!) and three touchdowns against Air Force, a team that presumably has some idea of how to defend the triple option.

Some SEC resolution (but not a lot): I really wasn't expecting much from South Carolina given Marcus Lattimore's uselessness and Kelcy Quarles' suspension; I got what I expected. It just wasn't realistic to think South Carolina was gonna go on the road and beat Florida without a legitimate running game and with a good interior D-lineman being replaced by a backup-type guy. Connor Shaw has gotten pretty good over the last year or so but isn't that good, especially without the benefit of the guy who gets most of the hard stuff in that offense and gets accounted for accordingly by every team South Carolina plays. That said, the game wasn't anywhere near as hilariously lopsided as the score implied; South Carolina actually outgained Florida (?) 191-183 and held Florida to 89 rushing yards at 1.9 yards a carry. The problem: holy hell the turnovers. Shaw got stripped on the first play from scrimmage to set up Florida at the 3-yard line and effectually make it 7-0, Ace Sanders fumbled a punt a few minutes later to set Florida up at the 29-yard line on the drive that made it 14-3 and Damiere Byrd fumbled the ensuing kickoff to set Florida up at the 1-yard line and effectually make it 21-3 and end the game. Amazing stat: Florida became the first team ever (EVER) to get outgained and win by 30-plus points. Think about it. Florida's better but not 33 points better; 44-11 should be largely ignored as not at all representative of what would normally happen between the full-strength versions of those two teams.

LSU meh: I keep expecting LSU to start trucking/dominating the various teams on the schedule that have infinitely less talent; it's probably time to acknowledge that it just isn't gonna happen because the offense just isn't any good. Actually, let me clarify: The running game is fine thanks to an O-line that's pretty good and a group of about five starting-caliber guys at running back, with Jeremy Hill taking over as somewhat of a feature guy the last couple weeks and doing some seriously impressive things (especially for a freshman). It's the passing game that sucks, mostly because of Mettenberger but partly because the receivers are doing nothing whatsoever to help. Mettenberger's cumulative numbers over the past three games: 36 for 79 (guh) for an average of 134 yards a game with a total of one touchdown and two picks. Turrible. And that's why LSU has averaged 21.2 points in its five games this year against actual teams. That said, the LSU defense is legitimately elite, which is why is beating Alabama in a replica of last year's regular-season game isn't totally outside the realm of plausibility (that's only realm-of-plausibility way Alabama is losing in the regular season). In the likely event that this isn't 2011, LSU is probably headed for 10-2 and the Capital One Bowl, which meh. NEED MOAR QUARTERBACKING. Speaking of which, Johnny Manziel might be Johnny Football but is also a redshirt freshman and played like it against LSU (29 for 50 with no touchdowns and three picks). LOL Heisman. But seriously, Kevin Sumlin's done a pretty good this year at A&M, which is probably headed for 8-4/9-3 and a decent bowl game despite a pretty horrifying schedule.

Survival of the Irish-est: Notre Dame, man. Notre Dame. There's a ginormous pile of evidence at this point that Notre Dame is just a pretty good team with a really good defense and a below-average offense (mostly because of craptacular quarterback play). To be fair, BYU's defense is legit: fourth in total yards, eighth in scoring, eighth in rushing yards and 29th in pass efficiency. And that's after playing ND, three Pac-12 teams (including Oregon State) and Boise State. So in that regard, 17 points (despite two missed chip-shot field goals) and 389 total yards don't seem so bad. Still, the quarterbacking: yeesh. All that stuff I said about Tommy Rees being preferable to Everett Golson was rendered meaningless when Rees went 7 of 16 with a touchdown and a pick that set up one of BYU's two touchdowns. I don't know what it is about Brian Kelly's not-that-complicated-but-freakin'-effective four-verts-based system that the ND quarterbacks just can't get; he probably doesn't either. BTW, Golson has already been named the starter for next week, which is harder to argue now given his mobility and Rees' inconsistency when not entering with two minutes left in the game. Either way, one of 'em is gonna have to do something eventually, and by "eventually" I mean "against Oklahoma and/or USC." It's worth noting that Notre Dame hasn't played a team that's currently higher than 76th (!) in pass efficiency. Landry Jones is 37th and over the last three weeks (against the top-20 defenses at K-State and Texas Tech and the crappy defense at Texas) has gone for an average of 290 yards a game with a combined five touchdowns and two picks. I won't be totally surprised if Notre Dame's held-together-with-paper-mache-and-freshmen secondary gets destroyed by the Kenny Stills/Justin Brown/Jalen Saunders/Sterling Shepard combo, which might be the best receiving corps in the country. Upshot: Notre Dame is almost definitely gonna have to score some points. And I'm skeptical that Notre Dame is capable of scoring said points (regardless of quarterback play) against an Oklahoma defense that's 15th in yardage and 12th in scoring despite having played three teams with top-11 offenses nationally. It could happen -- in which case 12-0 becomes totally realistic and Lou Holtz expactorates at record levels -- but probably won't. Regardless, with only two more plausibly losable games left, Notre Dame is going at least 10-2 and therefore going to the BCS this year, which dang. Defense FTW.

Survival of the Ohio-est: Wow. Please note that Braxton Miller left the game after the last play of the third quarter, at which point Purdue was winning 20-14 (it became 22-14 a couple minutes later). Why was Ohio State losing to Purdue? I dunno. Why was Purdue going for its third win over Ohio State in four years? I dunno. Nothing about that latter stat makes any sense given the talent disparity and general quality of Ohio State during that time. And this year's closeness wasn't really a fluke since Ohio State got outgained 347-342 (and that includes OSU's touchdown in overtime), gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown and got a total of nine rushing yards from Miller (on 11 carries) prior to the play on which his head got detached from his body. Kenny Guiton had to come in at that point and throw the first meaningful passes of his career, with a couple of them being pretty terrible but the one that mattered being just good enough (apologies in advance for the awful musical accompaniment):

Overtime was a formality given Purdue's last-minute collapse. So ... Ohio State is 8-0 and Miller is reportedly healthy (as hard as that is to believe). Given the defense's general mediocrity (about 29.2 offensive points allowed against major-conference teams this year), the offense's performance against Purdue and the debatable status of Miller's probably-not-so-awesome-feeling neck, both of the remaining two road games (at Penn State and at Wisconsin) are losable, as is the Michigan game (duh); those are also all totally winnable, but I'm really starting to think the record is more indicative of a crappy schedule than an elite-ish team. I'm thinking 11-1 while trying to decide whether I'd find 12-0 infuriating or hilarious in a big-picture sense (the Michigan game would obviously be infuriating).

Game of the Week: Texas Tech and TCU lol wwwhheeeee!!! Does it mean anything that Texas Tech held West Virginia to seven non-garbage-time points and then went out and gave up 36 in regulation and 53 total to TCU, which has a redshirt freshman quarterback who's played three career games? I dunno; probably not. Anyway, there were at least 17 points in every quarter except the third, when the only scoring (inexplicably) was a field goal, and neither team led by more than a touchdown at any point. The quarterbacks went off for a combined 650 yards and 11 touchdowns despite the pass defenses both being way above average statistically, which made it pretty likely that TCU was conceding defeat by kicking a field goal on the first possession in triple overtime. Result:

BOOM DOEGE'D. BTW, Texas Tech is now 7-1 with a not-that-bad loss to Oklahoma and relatively impressive wins over both West Virginia and TCU. The next two games: at Kansas State, Texas. Win one of those two and 10-2 becomes realistic (although that probably still wouldn't result in anything better than the Cotton Bowl); get back to me in 13 days.

Einhorn is Finkle: Texas is Baylor. Baylor is Texas. The result: Texas 56, Baylor 50. There is no defense; it's your mind that bends the defense. OK I'm all out of random '90s movie references. Just know this: Texas hasn't allowed fewer than 31 points against a major-conference team this season. Kansas will present the ultimate test.

Yeah, Auburn sucks: Auburn lost to Vanderbilt on Saturday and is gonna go winless in the SEC and 3-9 overall; the only question is whether that gets Gene Chizik fired. I write basically this same paragraph every week but seriously can't get over how terrible Auburn is. I mean ... wha? Here are some numbers: Auburn is 121st in the country in scoring (at 15.7 points per game) and 122nd in total yardage (277.6 a game) even though there are only 120 non-provisional FBS teams. I know. Assuming Auburn really does finish 3-9 (which will require beating New Mexico State and Alabama A&M and therefore isn't a certainty), Gene Chizik will be 19-19 in non-Cam Newton-blessed seasons since taking over, with the records over the last three years going from 13-0 to 7-5 to (presumably) 3-9. I really don't know whether he keeps his job after that; at the very least, I think he'll have to cut bait on O-coordinator Scot Loeffler, who was given the impossible job of taking a bunch of Gus Malzahn-recruit spread guys (especially at quarterback and running back) and running a pro-style offense, which has turned out to be as amazingly awful as anyone could've imagined.

Penn State, eh? Penn State beating Iowa wasn't entirely surprising in and of itself; Penn State destroying Iowa in amusing fashion in Iowa City was both surprising and impressive. Amazingly, Penn State has won five straight games and has scored 35-plus points in all but one of those games. Granted, none of those games was against a good team (Iowa was probably the best of 'em and had previously lost to both Central Michigan and Iowa State), but still. This is going to be both inherently ridiculous and true: Matt McGloin is the best passer in the Big Ten. I'm serious. And that means Penn State has the best passing game in the Big Ten, which is largely due to Bill O'Brien doing an amazingly good job of implementing a pro-style-ish offense with a bunch of guys who should be backups and getting good-ish results immediately. Realistically, I don't see Penn State beating Ohio State or Nebraska but could definitely see a 2-3/3-2 finish, which would be sufficient for either seven or eight wins and a respectable bowl game if not for The Stuff. BTW, the Penn State-Ohio State game would actually be pretty interesting if it meant anything. Alas.

Ohhh so close: ASU spent about four days hyping the Oregon game as the biggest thing ever (or since '96 or whatever), led 7-0 after 49 seconds despite kicking off to start the game and then trailed 43-7 less than 18 minutes of game time later. It was as laughable as it was depressing (from an ASU perspective). I mentioned to a friend before the game that I thought ASU could hang in but was somewhat skeptical of a team that was getting a ton of credit for doing nothing other than beating Cal (meh) and losing to a mediocre version of Missouri. Oregon confirmed my skepticism; they could've put up 100 if they wanted to (no joke) and held ASU to 118 first-half yards, at which point the game was over and I stopped counting. It was only by the grace of Chip Kelly that it didn't go from "yeesh" to "ughghgh." Oregon is legit in every way, as evidenced by four Pac-12 wins (including two against teams in the top 25 in the country in total offense) by an average score of 49-17. As for ASU, the next three weeks will determine whether the first five games were representative of real progress or representative of a hilariously easy schedule. The upcoming schedule: UCLA, at Oregon State, at USC. I wouldn't be totally surprised by anything from a win over USC (and potentially a Pac-12 South title) to three straight losses (and the necessity of a win over either Washington State or Arizona to get to the Kraft Whatever Bowl).

The ghost of Steve Spurrier: Duke is 3-1 in the ACC and bowl-eligible after beating North Carolina like so:

David Cutcliffe FTW.

Amazing Stat of the Week: Virginia Tech's run of eight straight 10-win seasons is over. I mean, it's not technically over since Va. Tech could win out, win the ACC title game and then win the Orange Bowl, but it's over; there's no way a team that's 4-4 and pretty mediocre at everything is gonna beat Florida State twice in the next month (or Clemson, the team that just beat Va. Tech by three touchdowns).

Convenient Interception of the Week: This is Virginia Tech's Michael Cole showing the analyst guy what's up:

Oh hai ball.

Ahh Florida State-Miami: You mattered once. You matter now only in a sense that I feel obligated to watch in case something crazy happens. Ummm ... guy?

Just a couple seconds earlier and that would've been awesome. Anyway, Florida State did what was expected and thus is in control of the ACC, with the only potential caveats being the trip to Virginia Tech in two weeks and Florida State being down a good running back for the season; Chris Thompson tore his ACL, which is unfortunate for him and similarly unfortunate for a Florida State offense that finally had been generating a running game this year (15th nationally at about 231 yards a game). The good news: (a) James Wilder Jr. is a man-child who can easily take on another seven or eight carries a game and (b) Thompson clone Devonta Freeman has been getting about seven carries a game already and averaging about 7.1 yards a pop. So the replacements aren't terrible; they just aren't (yet) All-ACC dudes putting up 7.6 yards a carry on 15 attempts a game. Expect a little more of those guys, maybe a little more E.J. Manuel and probably only a marginal drop-off offensively. I still don't see Florida State losing to Va. Tech, and that's probably the only way anyone other than Florida State (Clemson, in that case) wins the ACC. BTW, that NC State loss makes less sense every week; in its five FBS games, NC State has lost to mediocre versions of Tennessee and Miami and beaten a terrible UConn team by three, Maryland by two and Florida State by one. I dunno. It's the ACC.

Good work, Big East: I was of the opinion prior to Saturday that Cincinnati was probably the best team in the Big East, with Louisville and Rutgers a close second and third, respectively. Cincinnati just lost to Toledo (which, granted, is a pretty good team at 7-1 that's lost only to Arizona in overtime but also almost lost to Eastern Michigan), and none of the those three teams has a win over (or has even played) a team that's getting votes in either of the polls. The Big East's future is now, and it is so, so awful. As for this year, the three aforementioned teams do the round-robin thing over the next five weeks and thus will decide by process of elimination which one gets to be Florida State's sacrificial lamb in the Orange Bowl. Remind me not to watch that game kthx.

Good work, Ellis Johnson: Southern Miss went 10-3 last year and won the Conference USA title by pantsing a Houston team that came in 12-0. This year's version of Southern Miss is 0-7 and just lost to a 3-4 Marshall team by 25. Was Larry Fedora that good?

Ivy League Play of the Week: This will definitely a regular feature:

Take that, Michigan of the East.

It doesn't matter: As always, everybody everywhere is freaking out about (insert team here) being ahead of (insert team here) in the BCS standings. News flash: IT DOESN'T MATTER. It's the middle of October. The teams of relevance all have to play other teams of relevance in the next five weeks, at which point the standings will look immensely different and most (maybe all) of the teams that are unbeaten won't be unbeaten anymore and the October standings will be rendered totally meaningless. Stop.

Post-Week 8 top 10: I'm slightly less uncertain about what to do with West Virginia this week ... so that's nice. I'm slightly more uncertain about what to do with Oklahoma in relation to the SEC teams, though; I'm thinking the ability to score points warrants a move up. And speaking of the SEC teams, I'm leaving South Carolina right behind LSU since, as I explained above, the final score of the Florida game means little to me given the circumstances.

1. Alabama
2. Oregon
3. Florida
4. Oklahoma
5. LSU
6. South Carolina
7. Kansas State
8. USC
9. Florida State
10. Notre Dame
Powered by Blogger.