Posts Tagged 'nick saban'

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.

Advertisements

Will Alabama Do It Again?

When you look at the 24-20 close call in Fayetteville, you have to wonder if Arkansas is better than we thought or if Alabama has some serious holes.  College FootBlog takes a look at a couple of areas of concern for the Tide and a couple of reasons they could represent the SEC in another BCS National Championship, and we’ll wrap up by breaking down our thoughts of just how far they should go in 2010.

1.  Youth in the Secondary:  Any time you lose three of four starters in the secondary, it takes time to reestablish that continuity.  We saw this inexperience last weekend, as Ryan Mallett threw for over 350 yards.  The Tide did manage to pick him off three times, but they showed that they can be vulnerable, particularly to the intermediate pass.  This weekend, they face more speed and explosiveness at wide receiver.  If they are relying on the interceptions and big plays (something Bama has had a knack for since Nick Saban’s arrival), the Gators could pull off the upset.  If, however, they play more consistent and force Brantley to check down to the short routes, the Tide should win and win big.  With Saban’s scheme and his ability to coach up DBs, this unit will continue to improve and could be lights out by season’s end.  In the meantime, however, they still have some work to do.

2.  Greg McElroy struggled against his first SEC Defense:  After blowing up in the first three games against vastly inferior opponents (including Penn State, who struggled last weekend with Temple), McElroy looked like a different QB than the one we saw last season.  Against the Razorbacks, McElroy struggled, going 18-26 for under 200 yards and two picks.  He will face much more speed and athleticism against Florida and LSU.  McElroy must step up in these games if he wants to lead a balanced attack.

While those two factors have been weaknesses in this early season, here are a couple of key factors that could continue to off-set the Crimson Tide’s few deficiencies.

Despite missing the first two games, Mark Ingram has put his hat back in the ring for this year's Hesiman race (google images)

1.  The Running Game:  Most running backs have a difficult time getting back after even the smallest knee surgeries.  But Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram seems to have even more explosion after a late-August knee procedure.  In his two games since being activated, Ingram has blown up for 308 yards and four touchdowns and is averaging nearly ten yards per carry.  Add sophomore Trent Richardson and his 356 yards and 7.6 yards per carry, and Bama boasts the most explosive backfield tandem in the nation.  Teams that run the ball effectively win games, and nobody does it better than the Tide, now that Ingram is back and healthy.

2.  Remaining SEC Schedule:  We discussed Bama’s need for improvement in the pass, but they just faced the best passing team they will face in conference play this year.  Florida’s John Brantley has fallen short of expectations, and the rest of the teams on Bama’s schedule depend on the run to move the ball.  The secondary will continue to improve under Saban’s tutelage, and the rush defense for the Tide is already solid, holding opponents to 106 yards per game.  If they can continue to limit the ground game, there will be another SEC Championship Game in their future.

Overall Analysis

After losing three starters in the secondary, All-World linebacker Rolando McClain, Terrence Cody and several others on defense, there had to be at least a slight drop off on defense.  Since his arrival, Saban has recruited well, and he has the talent to field one of the best defenses in the SEC, but it will take some games for the younger players to get acclimated.  McElroy wasn’t nearly as sharp last week, but as the running game continues to hit its stride, that will only help the passing game.  Records and rankings go out the window in rivalry games, and Bama has two big ones (one this weekend against Florida, and the Iron Bowl against Auburn).  Florida has not found their rhythm yet, and Auburn is still probably a year away, and most importantly, both of those games are in Tuscaloosa this season, which is a huge advantage for Bama.  It would be a huge shock if Saban doesn’t lead his team onto the field at this year’s SEC Championship once again.  If they take care of business, there is every reason to believe they will be playing for a second straight BCS Title in early January.

2010 College Football SEC West Preview

Over the last three weeks, College FootBlog has provided preseason power rankings for the ACC and Big Ten.  Earlier this week, College FootBlog broke down the SEC East (see link).  The SEC has been known for being the best conference in college football, and for good reason–the last two national champions have come from that conference.  We now take a look at what we expect from the much deeper SEC West Division.

1.  Alabama:  Even though the tide lose several key defenders including both starting corners and All-American linebacker Rolando McClain, head coach Nick Saban has more than enough talent to put another sound defense on the field in 2010.  People outside of Tuscaloosa will know the name Dre Kirkpatrick after this season.  The sophomore corner has the size (6’3″ and 190 lbs.) and skills to be the Tide’s next All-American defensive back.  On offense, Bama has the top running back tandem in the nation with Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and sophomore Trent Richardson, who rushed for over 100 yards and two TDs in last year’s BCS National Championship.  Wide receiver Julio Jones will be an NFL first rounder next spring if he chooses to leave early, and quarterback Greg McElroy enters this season with big-game experience.  The running game and Saban’s ability to coach up the defense make the Tide the front-runner to not only win their division, but also challenge for another BCS National Championship.

Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett enters the 2010 season as the SEC's top quarterback (google images)

2.  Arkansas:  As quarterback Ryan Mallett goes, so will the Razorbacks.  Mallett, who goes 6’7″ and 238 lbs., should only improve his draft stock by sticking around another season in Bobby Petrino’s offense.  The Heisman hopeful will look to build on last years numbers of over 3,600 yards passing with 30 TDs compared to only seven picks.   Defensively, the Hogs must improve and a couple of new coaches on that side  of the ball and the return of cornerback Isaac Madison, who missed last season due to injury, should help a secondary that finished 99th in the nation against the pass, giving up just under 250 yards per game through the air. 

3.  LSU:  Les Miles will have a pretty young team, but he has recruited extremely well.  The Tigers must replace a couple of key weapons on offense, including WR Brandon Lafell, but they have a stable of big, physical receivers like 6’5″ Terrence Tolliver and and 6’3″ Rueben Randle.  Quarterback Jordan Jefferson must be more consistent this season, but with a full season under his belt and the talent he has at WR, he should take a step forward this fall.  Stevan Ridley looks like he will take over the starting running back spot with the departure of Charles Scott, but the Tigers will split carries among a few running backs.  Defensively, LSU lost two-sport star Chad Jones, but they have some decent depth and athleticism in the secondary, including freshman safety Craig Loston.  The schedule is not in LSU’s favor, though, as they go on the road to face Auburn, Florida, Arkansas and North Carolina.

4.  Auburn:  Head coach Gene Chizik silenced all who criticized his hiring from lowly Iowa State in last year’s off-season.   The new head coach led the Tigers to an 8-5 record and gave Alabama all they could handle in the Iron Bowl before losing to the Tide 26-21.  On offense, the Tigers return running backs Ben Tate and Onterrio McCalebb and four of their five starters on the offensive line that combined for the nation’s 13th best running game in the country in 2009.  Add to the mix, junior college transfer quarterback Cameron Newton and a deep and talented receiving corps, and Auburn could easily move up the power rankings in a hurry this fall.  Defensively, the Tigers gave up 30 or more points in seven games last season.  That must change if they want to challenge Bama for the SEC West, but Chizik is known for his defenses, and with a year under his belt and another solid recruiting class should provide much better results this fall.

5.  Ole Miss:  Although quarterback Jevan Sneed did not perform well last season, throwing 20 picks, he was still a leader on a Rebels’ squad and replacing him will be easier said than done.  Whoever assumes the starting job at QB will be inexperienced and unproven.  By far the biggest hit on Houston Nutt’s offense, however, is the graduation of do-everything RB/WR Dexter McCluster.  The Rebels’ defense, along with the electric play of McCluster, was what kept them in games last season, and the good news for the fans in Oxford is that several key defenders, including mammoth NT Jerrell Powe who weighs in at 340 lbs.  Powe will attempt to lead another top 25 defense, like the Rebs’ fielded last season.  Even with a stout defense, the key losses on offense will prove very difficult to overcome, and staying afloat in what is probably the toughest division in all of college football (SEC West) will probably make a .500 season a difficult task.

6.  Mississippi State:  Second-year coach Dan Mullen will have his work cut out for him again competing in this division.  The Bulldogs lose their running back from last season, Anthony Dixon, and that loss will hurt.  Robert Elliott is the front-runner for the starting RB spot, but replacing 1,300 yards will be difficult to pull off.  A major reason for the Bulldogs’ 3-5 SEC record from last year was their pass defense, which was 11th in the conference.  It doesn’t help the Bulldogs that instead of Vanderbilt this season, they pick up Georgia.  Coach Mullen should have an improved product on the field this season, but that will not necessarily translate into a better SEC record in 2010.

College Football Preseason Top 25 (#1-#7)

The countdown is over.  For the past week, College FootBlog has broken down college football’s 2010 Preseason Top 25.  In case you missed them, take a look at teams #8-#15 and teams #16-#25.  We now unveil our Preseason Super 7, along with some things to look for this fall.  

1.  Alabama:  The Crimson Tide will likely be everyone’s #1 going into this fall, and why shouldn’t they be?  They lost All-Americans at all three levels of their defense; DT Terrence Cody, linebacker Rolando McClain and cornerback Javier Arenas, but ‘Bama will reload at each position, none more that Dre Kirkpatrick at corner.  The strength of the Tide, however, will be the offense.  The running game will once again feature the tandem of Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and ultra-talented Trent Richardson.  Wide Receiver Julio Jones could be next year’s top receiver taken in the NFL Draft, and under center will be Greg McElroy, who, as opposed to last fall, has not only played on the biggest stages (see SEC Championship and BCS National Championship), but he has come through with flying colors.  Put it all together, and Nick Saban appears to be in position to win it all again in 2010.

Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor will look to pick up where he left off last season in the Rose Bowl (google images)

2.  Ohio State:   If Terrelle Pryor picks up where he left off in the Rose Bowl, look for Ohio State to challenge for a BCS National Championship this season.  Pryor was inconsistent at the beginning of the season, but as the 2009 season progressed, he seemed to be more relaxed and confident, and he helped lead the Buckeyes to six straight wins to close out the season.   Tailbacks Brandon Saine and Boom Herron will compliment Pryor in the backfield behind a very physical and very experienced offensive line.   As is typically the case in Columbus,  Jim Tressel will have a stacked defense.  Although changes in the depth chart could happen after two-a-days in August, the spring depth chart for the Bucks has ten seniors starting on defense, highlighted by linebacker Brian Rolle.

3.  Boise State:  This fall the Broncos will not have to fight the preseason rankings like they have in year’s past.  The BCS formula and bowl selection failed miserably by putting BSU against TCU in last year’s Fiesta Bowl.  The Broncos return 23 of 24 starters from last year’s undefeated squad, including quarterback Kellen Moore.  Chris Petersen’s team will also have a national audience for their opener at Virginia Tech.  If they can win that game and take care of business for the rest of the season, pollsters will find it difficult to continue to keep them out of the BCS National Championship, especially if Ohio State or Alabama suffers a loss.

4.  Virginia Tech:  The Hokies will try to break the recent trend of ACC teams that are hyped up all preseason, only to fail miserably early in the season (see Clemson).  The defense will break in several new starters, including the DE position vacated by E Jason Worilds, who left early for the NFL.  While the youth and inexperience on defense may be an issue, this is certainly not defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s first rodeo.  Look for the Va Tech defense to be solid, and they will be aided by the running game on offense.  Ryan Williams blew up last season for over 1,600 yards and 21 touchdowns, and he will be joined by Darren Evans, who sat out last season with an ACL tear.  Tyrod Taylor is still more dangerous with his feet than his arm, but last season, he proved he could win games by throwing the ball, too.

Sophomore QB Garrett Gilbert will take the keys to the offense in Austin this fall (google images)

5.  Texas:  With the losses of Heisman runner-up Colt McCoy and soon-to-be first round pick Sergio Kindle, one might think the Longhorns would be in a bit of a rebuilding year, but Mack Brown is one of the best recruiters in the business, consistently replacing All-Americans with newer All-Americans.  The early departure of McCoy due to injury in the BCS National Championship was a major blow to the ‘Horns chances of beating Alabama, but it provided great experience for then-freshman Garrett Gilbert.  It did not take long for Gilbert to settle in, and when he did, he gave the Crimson Tide defense (which was arguably the best in the country) a run for their money.  Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp once again has a talent-rich defense led by linebackers Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho.

6.  Oregon:  Had it not been for Jeremiah Masoli’s suspension for the entire 2010 season, the Ducks would be ranked as high as #3, but when you lose a Heisman candidate, it is going to drop you at least a few spots.  Head coach Chip Kelly proved last year that he can not only keep his team focused despite a suspension to a key player (i.e. LeGarrette Blount), but he can also replace talent with more talent.  LaMichael James replaced Blount with seemingly no issue, as the freshman tallied just under 1,500 yards on his way to earning the Pac 10 Freshman of the Year.  An off the field incident in February, however, will result in a suspension of at least one game this fall.  If the Ducks can finish with one loss or less, they will have made a very strong case for a shot at the BCS title.  That is because their schedule is one of the toughest in the country, and includes road games at Tennessee, Cal, USC and they cap off the season in Corvallis for the Civil War against Oregon State.

7.  TCU:  In ten years at the helm, head coach Gary Patterson has quietly led the Horned Frogs to an 85-28 record.  Like Boise State, they return the majority of their starters from last season.  Led by quarterback Andy Dalton, the offense returns nine of their eleven starters.  Last season,
Dalton accounted for over 2,700 yards passing and over 500 yards rushing.  On defense, TCU loses linebacker Daryl Washington and dominant defensive end Jerry Hughs.  Linebacker Tank Carder should fill the void at LB, but the Horned Frogs will need to find someone off the edge to provide pressure on opposing quarterbacks for Patterson’s defensive scheme to be effective.  Patterson’s troops open up at home against Oregon State.  A win against the Beavers on national television combined with their high preseason ranking could likely send them to their second-straight BCS bowl at season’s end.


Twitter Updates

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 4 other followers

Advertisements