Posts Tagged 'oklahoma'

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.

College FootBlog Week 3 Recap

Landry Jones stepped up big when he need to against #5 Florida State (photo courtesy of National Scouting Report, http://blog.nsr-inc.com)

Another week in the books for the 2011 college football season, and as we continue to learn more about the contenders and pretenders, College FootBlog breaks down some of the action from Week 3.

Oklahoma passes major test:   One of our contributors, Christian Hon, and I actually covered this game and the pregame festivities (check out the on location podcast and tailgate and game footage),  and what a fantastic football game!  In the end, though, the Sooners showed why they’re the #1 team in the land.  Although OU quarterback Landry Jones was held under 200 yards passing and picked off twice by Florida State, he completed a clutch touchdown pass in the fourth quarter when the game was tied.  Oklahoma is known for their explosive offense, but it was their defense, led by linebackers Travis Lewis and Tom Wort that stepped up and passed what may have been the most difficult test of the regular season.

Notre Dame finally gets a win:  The Irish still have a tough road ahead of them if they want to finish above .500, but they managed to knock off the favored Michigan State Spartans in South Bend last weekend.  Similar to Oklahoma, it was the defense that stole the show for Notre Dame, holding Michigan State to just 29 yards rushing.  The defense was non-existent against Michigan in week 2, so Irish fans have to feel good about the 31-13 victory over their hated rivals from East Lansing.  The next three weeks see the Irish traveling to very mediocre Pitt and Purdue, followed by a home game against Air Force.  If they can win two of those games, Brian Kelly’s face may turn back to red, as opposed to the bright purple shade he sported in the South Florida game.

Oklahoma State continues to win shoot outs:  The Cowboys have given up an average of 27 points per game so far this season, which ranks 76th nationally.  The good thing for Mike Gundy is that the OSU offense is averaging over 52 points per game, which ranks #3 nationally.  The main reason for this offensive output is senior quarterback Brandon Weeden, who has thrown for 1154 yards in the first three games of the season.  OSU will get their first real test of the season this weekend, when open up conference play at Texas A&M this weekend.  With Oklahoma State’s non-existent defense, there won’t be a shortage of points this weekend at College Station.

Kellen Moore keeping his name on the Heisman list:  While Toledo may not garner a ton of national attention, they are a legitimate football team, one that gave Ohio State all they could handle in week 2.  For Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore, it was just another day at the office.  The senior QB threw for 455 yards and 5 TDs.  On the season, he is completing 78.9% of his passes with 8 TDs and only 2 Ints, and that’s only in two games.  Look for Moore to put up 4,000 yards and 35+ touchdowns and represent the Broncos in New York as a finalist for college football’s most prestigious award.

Heart of Stanford’s defense, Shane Skov done for the season:  While most of the hype of the Stanford Cardinal surrounds Heisman front-runner Andrew Luck (and rightfully so), the heart of the Cardinal defense is (and has been) Shane Skov.  This is a huge loss to a team that many expect to challenge Oregon for the inaugural Pac 12 title.  The junior linebacker was highly touted coming out of high school and has lived up to his billing, leading Stanford defensively in last year’s Orange Bowl with three sacks and leading the Cardinal in tackles so far this season.  Luckily for Stanford, October 22nd is the first test against a decent offense, when they play host to the Washington Huskies.  Three football games should give the defense a chance to gel as a unit before they get into the meat of their schedule.

Big 12…11…10…9…

The Big 12 Conference is looking more like a countdown for a space shuttle launch than it is a football conference these days.  The 2011 season will be the first year since the inception that, despite still being called the Big 12, the conference will only have ten teams.

Nebraska bolted for the Big Ten (which now has twelve teams) and Colorado moved to greener pastures and potentially more revenue with their move to the newly established Pac 12 Conference.

The Big 12 seems to be shrinking by the day these days (logo courtesy of Big 12 Conference)

Over the last few days, there are more and more rumblings of Texas A&M moving to the SEC, which would likely be straw to break the dwindling Big 12’s back.  But the move to college football’s most powerful conference won’t go through without the Big 12 Conference pulling out all stops to maintain the status quo (if there is one).

Regardless of what the Big 12 officials and the state of Texas choose to do, in the end, A&M would be crazy not to jump at this opportunity.  The SEC has long been the best conference in all of college football, and with their recent contract with ESPN, their recent dominance of the BCS National Championships (an SEC team has won the National Championship in each of the last five years), and recent talk of courting Florida State or Virginia Tech to create two, separate 7-team divisions, the SEC shows no signs of looking back.

When the dust settles, we take a quick peak at where the other teams in the conference could end up:

Texas: The Longhorns should be kicking themselves for not jumping at the opportunity to join Colorado when the Pac 10 came calling last year.  Instead, Utah jumped at the chance to get out of the BCS purgatory known as the Mountain West.  Look for the Pac 12 to become the Pac 14 in an attempt to rival the SEC 2.0 version in 2012 or 2013.

Oklahoma: Like their hated rivals, Texas, there was a lot of talk last year of the Sooners joining the Pac 12, despite the fact that Texas and Oklahoma are nowhere near the Pacific coast, which was the original geographic concept of the conference when they were the Pac 8.  You lost yet?  Anyway, look for the Sooners and Longhorns to continue their rivalry within the same conference, which will likely be the Pac 14.

Missouri: Like the Huskers, the Big Ten courted the Tigers last season, but Mizzou opted to stay, especially once it was confirmed that Texas was staying.  The Big Ten would love to bring on the Tigers and bring a great rivalry with Nebraska inside the conference.  This would make the Big Ten’s thirteenth team, and maybe at this point, they really should think about dropping the “Big Ten” name, even though they have retained that name despite having eleven teams since Penn State joined the conference in 1993.

Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State will have to scramble to find a home.  These programs have had flashes, but unlike Mizzou, Oklahoma and Texas, they haven’t quite been able to crack or stay in the Top 25 for more than a year or two at a time.  And that will hurt them and possibly leave them with no choice but to join a new version of the Mountain West, but for basketball, Kansas may have to pull a Notre Dame and go independent.  Confused yet?

Rumors and scenarios will run rampant in the coming months, but one thing is for sure.  The Big 12 was already on life support, and A&M’s likely departure will be the death of the conference.

Week 9 College FootBlog 3rd & 1

Week 8 in college football was saw another big upset and saw a Heisman contender move to a Heisman front-runner.  We cover these topics and more in this week’s edition of our 3rd & 1.

1st:  Oklahoma’s lack of a vertical passing game finally caught up with them.  Whether it is conservative play calling or zero confidence in quarterback Landry Jones, the Sooners’ lack of the intermediate and deep passing game was finally exposed by the Missouri Tigers this past weekend.  In match ups against Florida State, Texas and Mizzou, it was abundantly clear that the OU coaching staff does not want the sophomore QB to make reads down the field.  Until the Mizzou weekend, Jones’ weaknesses were somewhat masked by a barrage of bubble screens and the fast pace of the no-huddle offense.  Mizzou walked their safeties and corners up to the line of scrimmage and kept the bubble screens in check, and begged OU to challenge their pass defense.  Still, the OU play calling was bubble screens and quick slants, and it cost the Sooners one loss and could easily cost them another if the coaching staff doesn’t improve the passing game.

QB Cameron Newton has led Auburn to an 8-0 start this season (google images)

2nd:  The Heisman Trophy is Cameron Newton’s to lose.  Auburn’s  junior signal-caller eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark in last weekend’s victory over previously undefeated LSU.  Although his passing numbers were far from explosive (10 for 16 for 86 yards), the elusive QB rushed for over 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns against a LSU defense that had previously only allowed one player, Tennessee’s Tauren Poole, to break 100 yards.  Newton is 9th nationally in total yards per game with 305.1 and has already accounted for 27 touchdowns, despite going against the stout defenses of the SEC.  If he can put up similar numbers in the Iron Bowl, not only will he have a great shot at the Heisman, but he will have the Tigers in position for a BCS Championship.

 

3rd:  Oregon’s offense is scary-good.  The Ducks lead the nation with just under 570 yards per game.  Their lowest scoring output so far this season was against Arizona State, when the Sun Devils “held” them to a mere 42 points.  Last Thursday’s 60-point, 582-yard thrashing of UCLA gave the rest of the nation an opportunity to see just how explosive the 2010 Ducks are.  Quarterback Darron Thomas has made everyone forget about Jeremiah Masoli’s departure last spring.  The sophomore QB has accounted for over 1,500 yards passing and 17 TDs to go along with 269 yards and two TDs on the ground.  Sophomore running back LaMichael James has picked up right where he left off last season and currently leads the nation in rushing yards per game with just over 161 YPG.

….and 1:  Only Iowa stands in the way of a Big Ten Title for Michigan StateThe undefeated Spartans invade Iowa City this weekend and face the Hawkeyes, who lost a heart-breaker at home last weekend to Wisconsin (who Michigan State beat earlier this month).  MSU has the luxury of not having Ohio State on the schedule this year, and after this weekend’s trip to Iowa, they wrap up the rest of the regular season with home games against 1-7 Minnesota and 4-3 Purdue, before traveling to Penn State for the finale.  If the Spartans can knock off Iowa this weekend, they can still afford to lose one game and be guaranteed at least a share of the conference title.  Look for Kirk Ferentz and his Hawkeyes to give MSU all they can handle in what should be a great game.

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.

Week 6 College Football Preview: Florida State at Miami

With the recent decline of each program, the Miami/Florida State Rivalry hasn’t garnered nearly as much hype as it did in the late 80’s and 90’s.  In 2010, however, each program looks like a return to glory (at least in the ACC) could be well within grasp. 

The winner of this Saturday’s match up will put one team in solid position for a run at the ACC Championship Game, while the loser will have to claw back in the ACC title hunt.  On the larger scale, the outcome of this game will also let the college football world know which one of these storied programs is closer to regaining its place among college football’s elite programs.

Each team is still at least a year away from being a serious contender for a national title, as evidenced by Miami’s loss to Ohio State and Florida State’s dismal performance at Oklahoma in Week 2.  In this edition of College FootBlog, we take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of each team, we present key match ups, and we will make our prediction of one of the most intense rivalries in college football.

Florida State

RB Jermaine Thomas will look to lead FSU's potent rushing attack into Miami this weekend (google images)

Key Strength:  The Running Game–Before the Oklahoma game, FSU quarterback Christian Ponder was considered a viable Heisman candidate, but so far this fall, it has been the ‘Noles’ running game that has been the constant.  FSU is averaging just over 208 yards per game on the ground, which ranks them 26th in the nation.  Head coach Jimbo Fisher relies on three different running backs to carry the load.  The trio of Jermaine Thomas, Ty Jones and Chris Thompson presents three completely different running styles, and they have combined for over 7.1 yards per carry.  The Seminoles will need another solid ground performance this weekend if they want to control the tempo of the game.

Key Concern:  Passing Defense–New defensive coordinator Mark Stoops has shown dramatic improvement since getting sliced and diced by Oklahoma a few weeks ago, but the Hurricanes will present the first real challenge to FSU’s secondary since that blow out loss in Norman.  We will find out this weekend just whether FSU’s pass defense has improved that much or if they have simply been the benefactors of weak opponents with even weaker passing attacks.  As good as OU looked, the ‘Canes appear to have a deeper WR corps, and if the ‘Noles can’t hold their own against Jacory Harris and company, it could be a long night for FSU.

Miami

Key Strength:  The Passing Game–Although Harris has thrown for eight INTs this season, he has also thrown for ten TDs.   When Harris stands tall and steps into his throws, he may have the best touch of any QB in the country.  When his offensive line protects him, Harris does a tremendous job of distributing the ball to his talented group of wideouts, which is led by 6’3″ 205 lb. senior Leonard Hankerson, who already has six TDs on the year.  If Harris and his stable of WRs get hot early, the ‘Canes could present a lot more problems than OU did to the FSU secondary because Miami has a lot more to their passing game than the bubble screen (which shredded FSU in the OU game).

Key Concern:  Rush Defense–Take away Miami’s opening day cupcake against FAMU and focus on their three real football games (Ohio State, Pitt and Clemson), and the ‘Canes are giving up 157 yards on the ground per game.  As good as they have been against the pass (ranked #6 nationally), they have shown vulnerability against solid running attacks, and they will certainly face another solid ground game this weekend.  If the ‘Canes can’t control the line of scrimmage, the FSU ground game could wear them down and take over in the second half.

Jacory Harris will need to cut down his mistakes the 'Canes have any hopes of beating FSU this weekend (google images)

Miami Offense vs. Florida State Defense

While FSU has improved immensely since the Oklahoma game, it is hard to believe that they can shut down Harris and his wide receivers all game.  Look for Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple to challenge Florida State’s young corners early and often, and a couple of big plays are bound to happen.  The key here will be how much pressure FSU can get on Harris.  Even if the much improved FSU defensive line can get in his face, Harris is still likely to burn them a time or two.  EDGE:  Miami

Florida State Offense vs. Miami Defense

Look for Miami to stack the box and do whatever they can to take away FSU’s dominant ground game.  Still, look for FSU’s ground game to make an impact by the second half.  Also, although Ponder has not lived up to the lofty expectations so far this season, he has proven that he can perform against the ‘Canes the past two seasons, and with Miami focused on taking the running game away, FSU’s senior QB will get a few shots at one-on-one coverage, and if history is any indicator, he will produce some big plays.  EDGE:  Florida State

Special Teams

The one thing that kept Miami in the Ohio State game earlier this year was their explosive special teams play.  The ‘Canes returned a kick and a punt for touchdowns in that match up.  Senior kicker/punter Matt Bosher was named to the Preseason All-ACC Team, and he has not disappointed so far this season.  Florida State counters with kicker Dustin Hopkins, who has sent 19 of his 33 kick offs into the end zone for touchbacks.  FSU also has the ever-dangerous Greg Reid returning punts and kicks.  Reid led the nation last season in punt return average and has already brought one back for a TD this season.  EDGE:  Push

Final Analysis

Like most games in this rivalry, expect this one to come down to the wire.  Of the last five meetings in this rivalry game, only one (2007’s match up) was decided by more than four points.  The difference in this one will be who wins the turnover battle, and Miami’s Harris has not made the significant improvement in this part of his game that many thought he would this year.  Florida State leads the nation with 25 sacks, and Harris has shown the same tendency against pressure as he did last year–he tends to throw the ball up for grabs and doesn’t step into his throws.  This could be the difference in what should be another exciting, down-to-the-wire football game.  Final Score Prediction:  Florida State wins 33-30

NFL QBs: Here’s to the Underdogs

For the elite high school quarterbacks in the country, the opportunity to play quarterback at one of the bigtime college football programs is a dream come true.  One major factor in making the final decision on which program gets the signature on the letter of intent is the degree to which that individual player will be prepared for the next level (the NFL).

The high-powered programs like Florida, Oklahoma, Miami and USC are just a few of the major BSC schools that elite high school quarterbacks consider, and why not?  These teams are known for their juggernaut offenses, and they are consistently in the hunt for a national championship.  College FootBlog takes a deeper look into the progress of the top performing quarterbacks from the NFL and where those QBs played their college ball.

Drew Brees has continued to relish the underdog role in the NFL, much like he did when he played QB at Purdue (google images)

If you are a coach or a parent of an elite QB, the you may want to take a hard look at the numbers because you’ll probably be very surprised.  For a number of reasons, which we will cover later, the major programs typically do not groom their top-tier signal callers for the NFL.  Let’s take a look at the passer ratings from the last season.

Of the top ten quarterback ratings, only two, Peyton Manning (Tennessee) and Tom Brady (Michigan) went to perineal BCS power houses, and Manning was ranked sixth, with Brady at #9. 

Purdue’s Drew Brees was the Superbowl MVP and the top-rated QB in the NFL last year, with a QB Rating of 109.6.  Brett Favre was a close second and is a sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Famer, and he played at Southern Miss.  

Phillip Rivers was the 3rd-ranked QB last year and has been a dominant player since his arrival in 2004, but NC State is not exactly known as Quarterback-U.  Aaron Rodgers was #4 and played at Cal, which doesn’t have the glamor of USC, but he outperformed his former rivals from LA last season.  Matt Schaub was ranked seventh and hails from the University of Virginia. 

The other three QBs in the top ten really dispel the idea that you have to go to a bigtime program to prepare for the NFL.   Fifth-ranked Ben Roethlisberger went to Miami–no, not that ‘Miami’…Miami of Ohio.  Eighth-ranked Tony Romo and 10th-ranked Kurt Warner played Division IAA (or FCS for those who are up on the new abbreviations) at Eastern Illinois and Northern Iowa, respectively.

Now, let’s take a look at the lowest ranked QBs from last year’s NFL season.  Five of the worst eight QBs in the NFL last season were from major programs, including #32 (the worst) first-round bust JaMarcus Russell from LSU.  Former USC quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Mark Sanchez were numbers 25 and 28.

Former Notre Dame star Brady Quinn came in at #27 and rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford struggled in his first season out of the University of Georgia, ranking 29th.

When digging into the numbers it really should not come as a huge surprise.  Afterall, the quarterbacks at the major programs typically have a bigtime advantage with their receiving corps versus the opposing secondaries.  For example, in Stafford’s last season at Georgia, he had 6’2″ and 2nd round pick Mohamed Massaquoi and soon to be first rounder AJ Green, who is 6’4″ and could be the best wideout in the country this year.

Even in the SEC, which is widely known for being the best conference in college football, the dominant programs have bigger, faster and stronger WRs, creating bigger windows to throw into and much more room for error. 

In the NFL, it is typically the cornerbacks that are the fastest players on the field, and while they may be at a disadvantage in size, the talent pool is much smaller, and those large windows to complete passes are not only smaller, but they also close very quickly.  In the NFL, a ball delivered a split-second too early or too late is the difference between a completion and a pick-six for the defense.

The QBs at the lesser-known programs have to deal with a more balanced and level playing field and often do not have this colossal advantage with their receivers, forcing them to make better reads and to thread the needle, instead of throwing to an area.

In the end, there are a few low-ranked QBs that could easily turn things around.  After all, Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford were only rookies last season, but the trend is quite staggering when you take away all the glamor and simply look at production on the field.  For the time being (and seemingly for the immediate future), it is the underdogs that continue to lead the way.