Posts Tagged 'Florida'

College FootBlog Week 6 Recap

Mark Richt may have gotten himself off the hotseat last weekend (photo courtesy of blogs.ajc.com)

Week 6 of the college football season is in the books, and once again, College FootBlog brings you a complete recap of the week that was.  Check out our breakdown of five key bits of info you can’t do without as we continue through the 2011 college football season.

No Florida Schools in the Top 25: Florida State was supposed to be the bell cow of the ACC and the state of Florida in 2011, but after suffering their third straight loss to Wake Forest last weekend, the ‘Noles are out of the top 25.  Much hype was surrounding the Florida Gators, but back to back games against Alabama and LSU would be enough to drop anyone.  The Gators were hammered 41-11 by LSU, and the second-straight loss was too much to keep them in the rankings as well.  Miami, USF and UCF have all been mentioned in the top 25 at different points this season, but all have lost critical games this season, and all are on the outside of the polls looking in.

Red River Blowout:  Many (including myself) thought Texas was way overrated coming into this game–the Longhorns were ranked as the #11 team in the nation, but very few predicted the kind of beat down the Sooners would deliver last weekend.  The OU defense outscored Texas in this one, accounting for three touchdowns.  The fast-paced OU offense did their damage as well, on their way to a 55-17 blowout victory for Oklahoma.

Michigan off to the quietest 6-0 start in history: The dominance of Wisconsin and the implosion of Ohio State have been the main topics of discussion this season in the Big Ten.  That has overshadowed a fantastic start by first year head coach Brady Hoke’s perfect start in 2011.  Hoke has done a lot with very little, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but the Wolverines aren’t getting much love.  A win at rival Michigan State this weekend would not only make the Wolverines bowl eligible in mid-October, it would also serve as notice to the college football world that, while Michigan is still not a top 10 team, Hoke has cleaned up Rich Rod’s mess much faster than anyone could have imagined.

Mark Richt gets 100th win: After starting the 2011 season with a loss against Boise State and a heart-breaker at home to South Carolina in week 2, the Bulldogs won their third straight game last weekend at Tennessee.  The win was head coach Mark Richt’s 100th as a head coach in Athens.  Richt, who came into this season on the hot seat, has Georgia playing better than any team in the SEC East.  A win against rival Florida on October 29th could buy him an extra year and vault the Dawgs into an SEC Championship Game.

In a stunning revelation, Ohio State is the “poster child” of compliance:  I was under the impression that massive suspensions of key players, the untimely departure of a hall of fame coach amid controversy, inappropriate dealings with boosters and free tattoos and gifts from a known Columbus drug dealer were signs that an athletic program wasn’t keeping very good tabs on its student-athletes.  Fortunately, for people like me, who were completely misunderstanding the situation at OSU, their president Gordon Gee took the liberty of clearing up that slight misconception.  Gee informed the Ohio State faculty last week that OSU is the “poster child” of compliance.  In the wake of that announcement, Charlie Sheen is expected to announce that he is the poster child of child care, Lindsay Lohan is expected to announce that she is the poster child of sobriety, and Carrot Top is expected to claim he is the poster child of comedy.

Advertisements

College FootBlog Week 4 Recap

Week 4 of the College Football season is officially in the books, and the dominant players and teams are beginning to separate from the rest of the pack.  College FootBlog breaks down last weekends action in the Week 4 Recap.

Sooners fall out of #1 spot:  Once a Heisman front-runner, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones has been very average the last two weeks, throwing for 4 TD’s and 4 picks.  The Sooners still won, but they didn’t exactly get the payback they were looking for against Mizzou, who upset OU last season in Columbia.  Wins against Florida State and Mizzou, who are both 2-2 with no big wins against major programs, along with LSU’s dominance against top-tier competition allowed the Tigers to jump ahead of the Sooners in the AP Poll.  Luckily for Sooner fans, LSU and Alabama square off in Tuscaloosa in a month, so one of those teams will drop a few spots.

Brandon Weeden continues to lead the high-octane OSU offense (photo courtesy of OSU Marketing)

LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu may be the best DB in the country:  LSU and Alabama have the two best defenses in the country–and it’s not even close.  The Tigers have forced 12 turnovers against top-flight competition, all away from Death Valley.  Their defense is full of elite talent that will be playing on Sundays in the near future, but the guy that always seems to make the biggest plays on the biggest stages is cornerback Tyrann Mathieu.  In last weekend’s bigtime match up against West Virginia, the sophomore DB had a key interception and a forced fumble, in which he literally ripped the ball right out of the hands of WV wideout Brad Starks.  That makes twice that Mathieu has brought his A-game to a national television audience–in week one, he stripped the ball from Oregon punt returner Kenjon Barner and promptly took the fumble in for a touchdown, and the Ducks never recovered.

Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden continues to light it up:  We anticipated a shoot out, and that’s exactly what we got last weekend, when Oklahoma State traveled to Texas A&M.  Weeden threw for 438 yards (a new school record) and two TDs against the Aggies.  The senior quarterback completed a whopping 47 passes in 60 attempts and spread the ball around nicely–he had three different receivers with ten or more catches, led by dynamic wideout Justin Blackmon, who had 11 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown.  Weeden currently leads the nation in passing yards per game with 398.0 per contest.

Florida could be back:  After a disappointing 2010 season, first year head coach Will Muschamp has the Gators off to a 4-0 start, 2-0 in SEC play.  Quarterback John Brantley looks much more comfortable in Charlie Weis’ pro-style attack versus Urban Meyer’s spread attack that made Tim Tebow a household name, although they didn’t need much passing last weekend against Kentucky, as both Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey rushed for over 100 yards a piece.  More importantly, Muschamp has brought his attitude to the Gator defense, who created four turnovers last weekend.  We’ll see just how far Florida has come very soon–the Gators host Alabama this weekend and travel to LSU next weekend.

The ACC is not good at tackle football:  I’m not sure how the intramural flag football programs in the ACC are, but several programs proved their conference still isn’t ready for big boy football.  After giving then #1 Oklahoma all they could handle, Florida State’s defense was gashed by the Clemson QB-WR combo of Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins.  The ‘Noles gave up 455 yards to the Tigers, 366 coming through the air.  FSU was supposed to be the ACC’s hope for a title-contender in 2011, but that’s not going to happen.  Miami lost to Kansas State, NC State was destroyed by Cincinnati, and Maryland had the ugly knocked out of their uniforms by Temple 38-7.  Until the ACC can beat quality out of conference opponents, they will not be taken seriously in the BCS title talk.

Why College SuperStars Are Bad for Their Teams and the NCAA

Why College SuperStars Are Bad for Their Teams and the NCAA–by Christian Hon/Contributor. 

What do the following players have in common?  Reggie Bush, Terelle Pryor, Mariuce Clarett, Peter WarrickMaurikce Pouncey, Cam Newton, Rhett Bomar, Lawrence Phillips and to make it interesting – O.J Mayo

Interestingly, they all have several things in common – they were all prized recruits – all, except Mayo, touched or have been within a win of the national championship trophy and all have or will leave their team in worse shape than when they arrived. 

I’m sure you expect this diatribe to steer towards the familiar road of “The Case For Paying College Players” but it won’t.  In fact, you can’t.  The nuances of college sports and what make them great is exactly what prevents you from doing so.  The fact remains however, a super star athlete, especially a superstar football player, at the college level is more often the fuse that ignites a negative PR bomb more than a “get over the hump to greatness” one.

Is USC better or worse off because of Reggie Bush? (google images)

I recently finished reading Tarnished Heisman – How Reggie Bush Turned His Last Year At USC to a Six Figure Job and got to thinking, do I really want my favorite team to get a player like that?  The quick answers is yes.  All college football fans are glued to their TV and computer for national signing day.   Short of our bowl game, it’s the biggest day of the year. 

What ranking we achieve by the recruitment review services is as much of a bragging point with our rivals as our record and/or bowl game finish.  With each star that our recruits receive, more hope springs for the following 4 years.  A thought out answer tells us a different story however. 

Are USC fans glad that Reggie Bush is considered a Trojan?  Will his number be retired?  When you thought of Auburn a year ago, what came to mind versus what you think of now? ( Crimson Tide fans please refrain from answering this one – you skew my point )  Is it coincidence that post Bush, USC have lost their dominance?  If so, what about Phillips at Nebraska?  What about Pouncey at Florida? Clarett at OSU? What about the glaring post Warrick years at FSU

Don’t get me wrong, there are several superstars that are never caught up in these media storms – Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, etc.  But if you look at the averages, you can’t deny that the greatest teams are typified by a crescendo of winning years leading to utter dominance, then severe drop off. 

It’s not because the teams can’t replace the talent, it’s because of the shock wave felt once their gone, both from a media standpoint and a game plan standpoint.  You never wondered if Bush was going to get his yards every game but when Joe McNight took over the starting RB job ( McNight was also the #1 recruit in the nation when he came out of high school)

I doubt the other team had a defense, blitz package and spy designed specifically for him from the first play of the game.  Players like these draw attention from the opposing defensive coordinator just as much as they do from ESPN‘s Game Day.  The fact is, superstars make the other players around them better just as hitters benefit from batting behind Pujols, Cris Carter benefitted from the arrival of Randy Moss and (insert Jordan / Pippen, Kobe / Shaq, Magic / Jabbar reference here)

Adding to the headaches of departed stars are the pitfalls they often fall in to while at their university.  All the aforementioned players had significant stories of misconduct to explain away, some of which added to the challenge of replacing them because of the imposed NCAA sanctions. 

Replacing a star is hard enough, replacing a controversial star is impossible.  Without Bush, USC would likely have won their national championship behind Lendale White and the stable of running backs they enjoyed.  With Bush, they lost scholarships , the best recruiter in the pacific time zone,  a Heisman Trophy, a percentage of their fans and the respect of college fans across the country.  (They got Lane Kiffin back though!)

Lastly – We all know how much the NCAA hates cheaters…once their caught.  ( Pre-conviction, the NCAA is rather fond of the revenues brought in by top-tier teams that dominate)  Their unrelenting pursuit of improper benefits is second only to John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted in regards to “hunting down the bad guys.” 

The NCAA is this strict because anything less than severe punishment of any impropriety is a swing in the direction of college football being a business ( which it is) and they can’t have that.  By trumpeting the “passion of the game” and purity of college athletics” their coffers stay full while they 18-22 year olds kill each other in the weight room and on the field for the glorious payment of free tuition, room and board and food.  And for the really good teams, there are goodie bags of portable DVD players and sweatshirts at the bowl game but you better not sell them or you’ll be expelled!

I root for my favorite college team with true passion and live and die with the scoreboard on Saturdays in the fall.  I, as much as any fan, have my favorite players on the team and they are often the players scoring the most points, making the most tackles and featured in an expose by Erin Andrews

With that said, I fear the day that my team gets a true top-level player that can change the outcome of a game by himself.  The more media attention we receive, first place recruiting votes we garner and appearances at the Heisman ceremony we have, the closer we are to the dark days of “rebuilding.”  Can you hear me post Gino Toretta Miami fans?  Ok, ok…post Charles Woodson Michigan fans…no?  Post Peyton Manning Tennessee fans?

Later, Gator…

Florida head coach Urban Meyer pulled his best Brett Favre impression today, retiring for the second time in less than a year.  Last spring, Meyer announced his resignation as Florida’s head coach, a resignation that lasted all of one day.  There was speculation that Meyer was persuaded to have the sudden change of heart when multiple blue chip recruits began to waver, just weeks before National Signing Day.

After winning two BCS Titles, 2010 has not been a fun ride for Urban Meyer and the Gators (google images)

Meyer may regret his decision to return.  The Gators underachieved mightily this season, going 7-5 during the regular season, with an implosion against rival Florida State a couple of weeks ago, in which the Seminoles spanked Meyer’s Gator squad 31-7.  The loss was Meyer’s first against their hated rival in Tallahassee.

That loss fueled even more fire to the questioning of whether or not Meyer, who many credit with mastering and even starting the spread option that has redefined college football, had the bulk of the responsibility for teaching and coaching the Gator offense, which put up record numbers with marquee players like, Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and Aaron Hernandez.

The X-box-type of numbers that Tebow and Harvin put up a couple of years ago took a substantial dip in scoring last season, when his offensive coordinator, Dan Mullen left the program to take over the head coaching job at Mississippi State.  Those numbers plummeted in 2010, after Meyer not only lost his offensive coordinator, but he also lost his Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, in Tebow.

What may have been the writing on the wall for Meyer was the consistent drop in scoring over the past four seasons.  Below is a breakdown that illustrates this:

  • 2007–552 total points
  • 2008–611 total points
  • 2009–502 total points
  • 2010–351 total points

Granted, the Gators still have a bowl game to go, but barring a 149-point outburst in the Outback Bowl against Penn State, this season will mark the first time the Gators have failed to hit the 500-point mark in the past four seasons.

In the press conference following Florida State’s dismantling of the Gators, the usually confident Meyer was visibly rattled and bewildered when he explained that the Gator program “would be back,” and he acknowledged that his team had quite a bit of work to do.

It appears that Meyer has left that work for someone else.  Unless he changes his mind tomorrow.

Changing of the Guard

Florida State’s 31-7 throttling of the Florida Gators this past weekend was much more than a win–it marks a new beginning for the Seminoles and a sign of things to come.  All three of the state’s major programs (Florida, Miami and FSU) have made runs, but with blow out victories over Miami earlier this season and over the hated Gators and Urban Meyer last weekend should have FSU fans very excited about the direction of their program.

College FootBlog takes a look at four major evolutions that were apparent with FSU’s coveted “State Championship”–something the ‘Noles had not done since the 1999 season.

1.  Talent discrepancy:  Over the last decade (Miami in the first part of the decade and Florida over the last six years), FSU was outmatched on at least one side of the ball.  FSU had no answer for Sean Taylor and the dominant Miami defenses in the early part of the decade, and they were absolutely no match for Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin.

My, how times have changed.  While Florida has plummeted to #78 nationally in total offense, the FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher has the ‘Noles have continued to develop into a more balanced offense, but the biggest difference has been the FSU defense.  After ranking in the 100’s in every major statistical category last season, new defensive coordinator Mark Stoops has revamped the D in the top 40 defenses in the nation this year.   While the Gators and Hurricanes have dropped to worse records this year, Florida State already has nine wins with two more games left in the season.

FSU Head Coach Jimbo Fisher beat rivals Miami and Florida in his first season (google images)

2.  Recruiting:  Florida State was already off to a great start in recruiting (Rivals currently has FSU ranked 4th overall), and the huge wins over the ‘Canes and Gators will only solidify a top five finish in recruiting.  There were over 100 recruits at the Florida game, and many of those athletes are considering the Big 3 schools in the state of Florida. 

Those recruits saw a completely one-sided game on Saturday, one in which the Florida Gators displayed an unimaginative, ineffective offensive game plan that generated a whopping 64 yards passing.  Meanwhile, the Hurricanes lost an overtime game to the South Florida Bulls, which resulted in a 7-5 regular season and the firing of head coach Randy Shannon.

3.  Preparation for the NFL:  Tebow’s lack of development as a passer was well-documented last spring before the NFL combine.  Tebow had to spend his spring retraining himself how to throw a football.  Urban Meyer was openly criticized by scouts and media for not making those corrections in the four years he had Tebow on campus.  In contrast, current Florida QB John Brantley, who is more of a pro-style quarterback has struggled mightily in Meyer’s spread attack, posting anemic numbers this season.  Despite having all the speed and talent at wide receiver, Brantley is averaging just over 168 yards passing per game.

In Miami, quarterback Jacory Harris entered the season on the Heisman radar, but he has noticeably regressed in 2010.  Both Harris and FSU quarterback Christian Ponder have been down statistically versus last season, and injuries to each have been a major culprit.  However, there is no question on which QB is more NFL-ready. 

4.  Size of Players:  Since Fisher’s arrival as the offensive coordinator four years ago, he immediately began recruiting bigger, more physical players, and that trend has continued on defense since he took over as head coach this past January.  On the defensive line, FSU is beginning to look more like an SEC team, with defensive tackles going from the 270 lb range to 285-300 lbs.  Defensive ends, linebackers and safeties are getting much bigger and faster as well (FSU’s starting safeties are Nick Moody at 6’2″, 228 lbs. and Terrance Parks at 6’2″ , 218 lbs.).

The past few years, FSU has lost games in the trenches to bigger, stronger teams.  That discrepancy was not as apparent this season, and as Fisher and his staff continue to recruit bigger players, along with an enhanced strength and conditioning program that Fisher instituted immediately after taking the reigns, expect this trend to continue.

College FootBlog 3rd & 1: Week 8

For the second consecutive week, College FootBlog rolls out our 3rd & 1 feature, which breaks down three observations from the college football action from the previous weekend.  And we finish by giving one key match up to look for in the upcoming week.  Let’s get to it, shall we?

1st:  Another week, another set of hangover games.   Last weekend, the Alabama Crimson Tide fell at South Carolina after thumping the hated Florida Gators the week before.  This weekend, Kentucky returned the favor.  Steve Spurrier took his Gamecocks into Lexington, and the Wildcats shocked them 31-28.  Not to be outdone, Oregon State lost a double-overtime thriller to Washington, just one week after knocking off previously undefeated Arizona.   

2nd:  Michigan QB Denard Robinson cannot take the punishment of a full Big Ten schedule.  Although Robinson is the most explosive player in college football, Rich Rodriguez has no other legitimate weapons on offense, making Robinson a one-man show.  Robinson is on pace for around 250 rushes this year–if his body can take it.  They need more production and more carries from their running backs to take some pressure off Robinson (RB Vincent Smith is second on the team in yards and carries and currently has nearly half the rushes (70) that Robinson has accumulated this season.  More importantly, Robinson, who is listed 6’0″ and only 188 lbs. does not have the body to take that many hits in the thick of the Big Ten schedule.

Wisconsin's bruising running back, John Clay took it to Ohio State this past weekend (google images)

3rd:  John Clay is the real deal.  The Big Ten’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year, along with Wisconsin’s massive offensive line smacked Ohio State right in the mouth this weekend, en route to this season’s biggest upset as they took dominated the Buckeyes 31-18.  Clay led the Badgers’ ground assault with 104 yards and two touchdowns on just 21 carries (5.0 yards per carry).  Behind arguably the most physical offensive line in the country, the 255 lb. junior proved to be too much for a Ohio State defense that features seven players who could be playing in the NFL in the very near future.  Clay and fellow tailback James White will get another opportunity to shine on national television this upcoming weekend when they travel to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes.  If he has a similar performance against Iowa’s stout defense, Heisman voters will be forced to take notice.

…and 1:  Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert will get his first major test of 2010 this weekend when Oklahoma comes to town.  At 265 yards per game, Gabbert ranks 20th in the country.  Statistically, the Sooners defense has been far from stellar this season, but a closer look shows that Bob Stoops’ squad has brought their A-Game in their only two legitimate contests so far this season.  The Sooners shut down Florida State in week 2 and rattled Texas QB Garrett Gilbert in the Red River Rivalry game a couple of weeks ago.  Look for OU to come after Gabbert, who has battled through a hip injury.  The Sooners will bring it this upcoming weekend, and they will look to ruin Mizzou’s homecoming weekend on the national TV game of the week.

College FootBlog 3rd &1: Week 7

In this new feature, College FootBlog’s 3rd & 1 will provide a quick, three-part analysis of the current week of college football, and we’ll also feature one thing to look for in the upcoming week of action. 

1st:  11 wins, 8 losses.  That’s Lane Kiffin’s record as a college football head coach after losing for the second consecutive week on a late field goal.  Things could get much, much worse for Kiffin as the season moves along.  The Trojans have given up 30 or more points in three of their six games this season, and they still must face the nation’s top offense, Oregon and the 22nd and 26th offenses in the country, Arizona State and Arizona, respectively.  With that schedule looming, Kiffin could find himself out of USC almost as quickly as he left Tennessee last season.

So far in 2010, Florida QB John Brantley has not been able to get the Gators going on offense (google images)

2nd:  Florida’s offense will cost them at least one more loss.  Urban Meyer has tried to downplay John Brantley’s ineffectiveness all season, but here is a stat that no one saw coming–the Gators offense is ranked 96th nationally.  Looking at the remaining games on the schedule, the Gators have three games that should have fans concerned.  Georgia is down this year, but look for them to pull out all the stops in their annual battle in Jacksonville, and then UF will take on South Carolina before finishing up in Tallahassee against the much-improved Florida State Seminoles.  It’s hard to imagine the Gators winning all three of those games with their play so far this season.

3rd:  Alabama will still be in the SEC Championship Game and challenge for the BCS National Title.  Give all the credit in the world to Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks for knocking off the defending national champs this past weekend.  After blowing out the hated Gators the previous weekend, the Tide’s defense was exposed against Carolina QB Stephen GarciaNick Saban will use this as a wake up call, and if the Crimson Tide can take care of business and win out the rest of the season, it will be very hard to keep them out of the national title game in January.

….and 1:  Although Alabama’s running back duo of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson get all the hype, Wisconsin’s tandem of John Clay and freshman sensation James White have 339 more yards and seven more touchdowns in the same number of games.  Clay and White have combined for 1,177 yards and 17 touchdowns behind the Badgers’ massive offensive line.  Fire meets steel this weekend in Madison as Ohio State brings the nation’s #4 ranked rushing defense to town in a contest that has Big Ten title implications.  If Wisconsin can run the ball effectively, they will have a great shot at knocking OSU off, which would create a wild finish for the conference title.