Saturday, September 27, 2008

Rearview: Feeling a little UPSET?


What began on Thursday, continued to roll through the weekend. If Oregon State was the Hurricane that struck USC two days ago, it was downgraded to a tropical depression that rolled across the country to wash away several clean slates. It’s called the “upset”, and when the dust settled on Week 5, there were a total of 7 teams among the nation’s top 25 that became victims.

Oregon State over No. 1 USC
No. 8 Alabama over No. 3 Georgia
Ole Miss over No. 4 Florida
Michigan over No. 9 Wisconsin
Navy over No. 18 Wake Forest
Maryland over No. 20 Clemson
Houston over No. 23 East Carolina

TIDE ROLLING

Alabama looks scary good. Don’t they? Just take a look at what they just did. They went into Athens, against a very good program, and didn’t just play between the hedges, but owned the field. There are plenty of people that don’t like Nick Saban, especially in the SEC, but you can’t deny his football genius, and his ability to turn programs around in a hurry.

THE NUTTY PROFESSOR

Houston Nutt may be criticized for rarely raising a program to elite status, but if it’s one thing he’s good for, it’s a signature upset. Be it Arkansas over LSU in 2007 or Ole Miss over Florida today, the Nutt is always good for one weekend of giant killing.

ABANDON SHIP

The East Carolina Pirates came out of the box with consecutive victories over ranked opponents, which gave them a national ranking. The Pirates have now lost consecutive games to unranked opponents, after barely escaping unranked Tulane in week 3. It's time to take a closer look at their early opponents, and a more distant glance at possible greatness.

DIGITS

-On this upset weekend, 3 of the nation’s top 4 teams met defeat.

-Ole Miss snapped a 9 game SEC losing streak by beating the Gators in the swamp, where Florida had won 21 of its last 22 games.

-1994 was the last time Wisconsin won a game at Michigan. And this weekend, marking the 500th game played in the Big House, the Badgers failed again.

-Navy’s upset of Wake Forest marks the Midshipmen’s 1st victory over a ranked opponent in 23 years.

-Toppling UCLA gives Fresno State’s Pat Hill 14 victories this century over BCS opponents, more than any other mid-major program.

-For the first time in 46 years, Northwestern is 5-0.

-Duke snapped a 25 game ACC losing streak with their victory over Virginia.

-Houston’s upset of East Carolina marked their 1st victory over a ranked opponent in 12 years.

-Against a stout Georgia defense, Bama scored on their first 5 possessions.



GALLOPING FINISH

Texas- It’s time to start talking about the Horns.
Penn State- Possibly has just one Buckeye obstacle in their way.
Auburn- Who needs an offense?
SEC West- the better division in the conference?
Maryland- And to think we laughed at this team.
Nebraska- more work to do
Arkansas- knowing Petrino’s history, let’s list him as a “flight risk”
Notre Dame- found their offense?
Washington State- Puke!
Georgia- props to the “no quit” attitude
Utah- remember them? They are ranked, ya know?
Oklahoma- Number 1
Week 5- absolutely crazy!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Damage Assessment: Maualuga, Mays, Cushing, and Heberer

Besides for taking an obvious hit in the rankings, the Trojans also suffered some physical damage in Corvallis. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the injury list is as follows:

Rey Maualuga: Sprained Knee (Examined today with results pending)

Brian Cushing: Broken bone in hand

Taylor Mays: Chest injury that caused him to cough up blood.

Zack Heberer: Toe Injury

The Oregon Ducks come to town in 8 days.

It’s Déjà vu in Corvallis as No. 1 USC falls to Oregon State


For the third time in the past four trips to Corvallis Oregon, the USC Trojans will ride the loser’s bus home. Fans of the empire can cancel your reservations to Miami, unless you plan on watching two other programs play there in January. And as for Pete Carroll, how much money did Mike Riley just take from his wallet, when you put it into the perspective of incentives and bonuses? Best team in the country? Scratch that for the moment, because you certainly can’t be the best nationwide while sitting at the bottom of the Pac 10. And if they needed a reminder of how they got there, a scoreboard reading “Oregon State 27, USC 21” is it.

Even in the one victory scored by USC in the span of 4 games at Reser stadium, it would be tagged more as a “2004 escape”, since the Matt Leinart team also failed to dominate the Beavers, but did manage to win the game. Why have the Beavers been so dominant over the Trojans, when very few can say the same? Mike Riley. Since Riley took over for Dennis Erickson in 2003, no coach in the nation has been better prepared to face USC and use their home field advantage as Riley has done.

1. Keep the Trojans offense off the field. (check)
2. Patiently and conservatively move the ball. (check)
3. Limit Mistakes (check)
4. Keep the 12th man in the game. (check)
5. Storm the field (check)

Containing the Trojan offense wasn’t difficult, as USC has become more and more predictable over the years. Not since Norm Chow departed have the Trojans shown difference in each outing. Ironically, not since Norm Chow departed have the Trojans finished an entire season undefeated, though that was several times the projection. No one sees this offense more than the Pac 10, so is it really a surprise that the Trojans have more struggles in conference than out?

The last 5 conference losses:

(2008) Oregon State 27, USC 21
(2007) Oregon 24, USC 17
(2007) Stanford 24, USC 23
(2006) UCLA 13, USC 9
(2006) Oregon State 33, USC 31

At the time of each defeat, only Oregon was a ranked program. The Trojans struggled offensively in the first half of each of those games, still having a shot in the end, while falling short. In the same period, they scored early and often against their out of conference foes, forcing them into a game of “catch up”, and making it easier for the defense to tee off on quarterbacks. Pete Carroll claimed this year’s defense is the best he’s ever coached. After watching Oregon’s freshman Jacquizz Rodgers rush for 186 yards, I’d say they are really missing Sedrick Ellis, Lawrence Jackson, and Keith Rivers.

What’s next? Time to regroup, tend to the wounded, and prepare for another run at the Pac 10 title.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Football’s Future: Maualuga or Laurinaitis?


It wasn’t a secret that September 13th's "collision in the coliseum" featured more NFL prospects and more potential first round selections than any other college game to be played this year. But going in, we didn’t know which players would separate themselves from others, perhaps taking a step forward and a small climb in draft position.

Rey Maualuga and James Laurinaitis are two of the biggest linebacking names in the country. Each is a certain first round choice, as they would have been if they elected to forgo their senior years and enter the 2008 draft. But if we had to draft today, which would go before the other? Though it may have been a toss up before the collision, and Laurinaitis may have edged Maualuga in ’08 draft position, I believe there is now more separation.

Now 27 pounds lighter than his 2008 Rose Bowl weight, Maualuga stood out among all linebackers in the head-to-head September 13th matchup between USC and Ohio State. The knock against him had been his tendency to sometimes get lost in coverage, but he appeared anything but lost against the Buckeyes. To see a 247 pound linebacker with the closing speed to read a quarterback and jump the route for an interception is impressive. But even more impressive was watching him out-run a wide receiver down the sidelines and into the end zone for a score.

Laurinaitis didn’t get an assist from his defensive line, but he is a linebacking prototype. If you want to teach somehow how the position is to be played, just roll tape on the Buckeyes' senior. Staying disciplined and sniffing out each play, he is a disruptive force of the Ohio State defensive front, and should easily adapt at the next level.

If you’re an NFL GM looking to bring youth and improvement to your defensive unit, specifically looking for a linebacker, which would you choose? You honestly couldn’t go wrong with either, but does one have a clear edge over the other? In my opinion, the edge goes to Maualuga, because the physicality of his play gives him more of a field presence.

Maualuga or Laurinaitis? You make the call.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Virginia’s Lalich headed to Oregon State


Call him a glutton for punishment or a person looking to get as far away from Virginia as possible, but either way, it appears the Wahoos’ exiled quarterback is on his way to Corvallis Oregon to become a part of the Beavers’ roster. It was just 5 weeks ago that Peter Lalich played the role of punching bag for an aggressive USC defense, in Virginia’s 52-7 opening loss. Now he’s serving himself up for at least two more years of the same, by becoming a member of the Pac 10.

Lalich was removed from the Virginia football program last week for violating terms of his probation, after starting the first two games of the season. He considered Cincinnati and UCLA, before filing the paperwork at Oregon State. Why would Oregon State be a draw? Coach Mike Riley is one reason. The former NFL head coach has developed quarterbacks for the next level. Matt Moore went from a reserve role at UCLA to starting QB at Oregon State, before reaching the NFL. Riley also coached Derek Anderson in his senior year.

Mustain slides to 4th; Cushing ailing


Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain wasn’t pleased to be dropped to third on the Trojans quarterback depth chart, but as bad goes to worse, Mustain continues his descent and is now a notch lower at fourth. Junior Garrett Green has shown so much progress in practice that not only did he jump Mustain, he also leap-frogged Aaron Corp to become USC’s backup behind Mark Sanchez.

Green is one of the most athletic players on the Trojans’ roster, and mainly saw the field on special teams in his 3 years at USC. He worked as a safety and wide receiver in his freshman year, before settling in on the special teams unit. Special teams duties have now been scratched, as Green is positioned to call offensive signals in the event of Mark Sanchez being knocked from the lineup with injury.

A strained hamstring has linebacker Brian Cushing doubtful for Thursday night’s game against Oregon State. Clay Matthews would receive the start at strongside linebacker, but it’s still likely a game time decision.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

From the Horse’s Mouth- Week 5 Spotlight games


If you enjoyed week 4, this week gets even better. We get two SEC heavyweights battling again, a couple of contests that will stand large in deciding the Big 10, and a fallen program facing another that appears to be rising.

(8) Alabama at (3) Georgia


The Horse’s must see rating: 10

Quickie: The Georgia Bulldogs figured to have some bumps in the road towards an SEC championship and possible appearance in the BCS title game, but I doubt playing an Alabama team ranked in the top 10 in week 5 was one of the expectations. The overachieving Tide are now among the nation’s elite and appear as the Dogs’ second SEC foe and first AP ranked opponent of the season.

BULLDOGS (3-0)
Last week- W-Arizona State (2-2)

Georgia is often advertised as “Knowshon Moreno and the Bulldogs”, but there’s much more than that. Their trip to the desert not only earned the respect of western viewers, but gave us an opportunity to learn more about the third ranked team in the nation. Although Moreno has more than lived up to the hype, equally impressive is the poise of QB Matthew Stafford. Stafford appears as a solid first round draft prospect, commanding the Bulldogs offense with a combination of skill and leadership. A player overlooked in all the mass publicity is freshman wide receiver AJ Green, who caught 8 passes for 159 yards in Saturday’s victory over the Sun Devils. Tagged as a freshman, Green has the appearance of someone that has being playing the college game for years, and is easily an overlooked weapon of the offense. The Bulldogs defense is solid, making each opponent fight for each yard gained. They defend the ends well, but don't appear to have that same pressure up the middle as they did in 2007.

TIDE (3-0)
Last week: W-Arkansas (2-1)

Nick Saban has said to hell with a rebuilding plan, and uses the better motto of “the time is now”. After opening impressively against Clemson, the Tide has continued to roll. They’ve done it with a mixture of youth and experience, and an offense that continues to put up big numbers. Although we weren’t really sure what to expect from the Tide in 2008, they may have found something in running back Gary Coffee. Coffee ripped an Arkansas defense on Saturday for 162 yards, averaging more than 16 yards per carry. When the backs are churning, it relieves the stress from QB John Parker Wilson, and phenomenal passing statistics aren’t necessary to earn victories. A pressuring defense and workmanlike offense has Alabama sitting undefeated and ready for more.

Xtra Points: The team most effective in stopping the run is the team that will win this game. The quarterback match up isn’t favorable, with Matthew Stafford having a clear edge, so it’s more important for the Tide to establish something on the ground than be put in a position where a victory would be riding on Wilson's arm.

All Time Series: Alabama leads 35-25-4
Streak: Georgia won 3

(22) Illinois at (12) Penn State


The Horse’s must see rating: 9

Quickie: After watching Ohio State over the course of the first few weeks, it’s clear that the Big 10 race is wide open. Penn State remains my favorite, and they’ll receive their first true test in this Big 10 conference opener.

NITTANY LIONS (4-0)
Last Week: W-Temple (1-3)

Joe Pa’s Lions may have off field issues, but on field, everything appears to be clicking. Though their first 4 opponents combine for a record of just 5-10, Penn State made quick work of each, as they should. Their defense has been stingy, while the offense has recorded a low of 45 points and high of 66. The 40 or more points scored in each of the first 4 games are a school record. Powered by the offensive line, sophomore running back Evan Royster has found the end zone 7 times in the 4 games played. That line has also offered protection for QB Daryll Clark, who has only been sacked twice in 4 weekends. In comparison, Penn State sacked Temple quarterbacks 7 times in Saturday’s 45-3 rout of the Owls.

FIGHTING ILLINI (2-1)
Last Week: W-Louisiana Lafayette (1-2)

The Illini have the early season out of conference loss to Mizzou, but still remain in the running for the Big 10 title, and anything else, if others begin to stumble before them. It’s been an up and down season for QB Juice Williams, who has thrown for 7 touchdowns but also been picked 5 times. His most impressive passing day came in the loss to Missouri, where he wracked up 451 yards in the air and 5 of those touchdown tosses. But since the opener, he hasn’t thrown for more than 150 in any game, and is on the wrong side of the touchdown to interception ratio (2/3). The Jekyll and Hyde act doesn’t only represent the Illini QB, it’s descriptive of the program. After appearing impressive in the opener, though they did lose, this team struggled last week to edge Louisiana Lafayette. Now they head to the Big 10 opener and we wonder which team will show up.

Xtra Points: If there is a team that plays according to their competition, it would be Illinois. Going to Happy Valley to play the 12th ranked Nittany Lions, they better bring their “A” game, and leave the gameplan from last week at home. If Williams fails to give the true look of a quarterback again this week, the Illini will suffer a lopsided defeat.

All Time Series: Penn State leads 12-3
Streak: Illinois won 1

(9) Wisconsin at Michigan: The wolverines have a streak in jeopardy. Michigan has won 22 consecutive Big 10 home openers, and with a rebuilding program and a ranked opponent coming in, it will be difficult to maintain.

Minnesota at (14) Ohio State: The Gophers are the surprise team, opening 4-0. The Buckeyes are another surprise, as the experience of the roster hasn’t proven to equate to dominance on the field. They now weigh their hopes on the inexperience of freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

Arkansas at (7) Texas: An old rivalry renewed, but shouldn’t prove to be much of a battle. Look for the Horns to win this one big.

Tennessee at (15) Auburn: The coach’s seat in Knoxville has been uncomfortable. Look for the tigers to light a match.

(25) Fresno State at UCLA: The Pac 10 should take another mid-major hit here. For the first time in 44 years, a Bruins offense has failed to score a touchdown in back-to-back games. And this is occurring with Norm Chow as the offensive coordinator.

Colorado at Florida State: The Buffs are undefeated and for real. The Noles appeared to be real, until they finally played a program from the FBS.

Purdue at Notre Dame: For two years now, the Boilermakers have struggled to hold leads. The Irish struggle to get ahead. Don’t let the halftime score fool you. Despite what it may read early, this one won't be over until the fourth.

(24) TCU at (2) Oklahoma: Can the Mountain West continue to do some damage? Nah. I really doubt it happens against Bob Stoops.

(1)USC at Oregon State: The Trojans return to the scene of the crime. Preview here.

Virginia Tech at Nebraska: A program rising, and another falling? Guess which is which, and you can probably predict the outcome.

A Re-Pete of 2003? Be very afraid


If you’re a Trojan fan you have to be happy with the program’s current position, but you also have to be worried about the future. Sitting atop the national rankings with the majority of first place votes can make you feel comfortable, but if you view the path for the remainder of the season, you have to wonder how long they can cling to those votes, as well as considering how long before voters begin to lose interest.

If you look at the top 25 rankings, noticeable absences are Pac 10 programs other than USC. Not only are there no Pac teams ranked, but neither is Notre Dame, the Trojans’ only remaining out of conference opponent. When you stare upon the paved path to season’s end, if there are no changes in coming weeks, USC will play no more ranked opponents this year.

If 3 or more BCS teams finish the season undefeated, USC could possibly be in danger of being snubbed from the BCS championship game. With no ranked opponents, they won’t receive a favorable score from the computers. Meanwhile, the Big 12 and SEC have all the ranked guppies aligned in a row, and would be the clear computer favorites in an undefeated season. We should remember this from the 2003 season, when the top ranked Trojans were left out of the BCS title game because of what they lacked in strength of schedule, and was forced to play in the Rose Bowl instead. As the Victor in the 2004 Rose Bowl, the AP awarded the Trojans a national championship trophy, giving us the first and only split of the BCS era.

Since then, changes have been made in the system, obviously recognizing the ’03 blunder. Now the human element makes up two thirds of the equation, but that also does not work automatically in USC’s favor. By December, most voters will have forgotten the Trojans’ body of work to begin the season. What they’ll remember is the number of unranked victims they stepped over down the stretch. To leave a lasting memory of each from beginning to end, and hold the interests of voters, USC will have to “leave no doubt”, leaving a path of destruction behind them.

The polls are never Pac 10 friendly, and the coaches’ poll usually shows preferential treatment to the SEC. Vanderbilt entered the coaches’ top 25 by going 4-0, but their opponents combine for a record of 7-9, and two were mid-majors. Alabama shot from the bottom of the polls and into the top 10, by only posting wins over Clemson, Western Kentucky, Tulane, and a very bad Arkansas team. And the worst ranking for the season, so far, had to be Florida State jumping into the top 25 last week, after only scoring 2 lopsided victories over FCS opponents. You should never reward a program for victories outside the FBS, and definitely not a program that scheduled FCS programs in consecutive weeks.

Pete Carroll claims to not pay attention to the polls, and doesn’t even have a vote. He always says all he can do is play the games and let others sort it out in the end. To avoid a repeat of 2003, it’s time to pay attention to those polls. It’s time to be unsportsmanlike and leave no doubt. It’s time to make a statement each weekend or face the probability of being omitted from the championship game. They say you should never look too far ahead, but if you're a Trojan, you look back at the history, and it's really hard not to see what has happened and fear a re-occurrence.

Injury, and not legal problems, sidelines Wright for 3 to 6 weeks


USC's standout cornerback Shareece Wright's services will be unavailable until at least November, after suffering a fractured vertebrae that likely occurred during the Ohio State game. Josh Pinkard will fill the void at cornerback until Wright's return.

Wright made headlines last week after authorities arrested him on charges of resisting, which stemmed from a party two weeks ago where Wright was told by local police to leave and he refused. There was a question of whether or not disciplinary action would be handed out by the USC coaching staff, but none was given. Wright is said to be the best cover corner in the Pete Carroll era of USC.

Monday, September 22, 2008

DOH-mer Of The Week- Eye Da Ho


The Idaho vandals are basically the laughing stock of the college football world. They’re already 1-3 this season, and 15-54 over the past six. To see Idaho on your football schedule is to consider it a bye week. To play Idaho is to have more competition in your own football practices. In other words, If Boise State represents the luxury restroom in the state, the Idaho Vandals are the toilet paper used to wipe a program’s ass. But despite their failures on the football field, only in Moscow Idaho will you find a football coaching job safe and a cheerleading director on the hot seat.

I’ll go ahead and make the assumption that the majority of football spectators are male. I think it’s a fair assumption, until someone can prove me wrong. I would also make the assumption that males in Idaho are no different than males in any other part of the country, but the latest development has me thinking and dismissing that theory. It seems that the most horrifying visual in Moscow wasn’t the 70-0 beating the football program took from Arizona, but the outfits worn by their rah rah girls.

If I’m a native of Moscow Idaho, I certainly wouldn’t be attending a football game with the intention of actually seeing my hometown team win. The results are a long gone conclusion, in any given year. Watching your team get embarrassed on a field is hardly entertainment. You know what’s entertaining? Girls in short skirts shaking their pom-poms, Isn’t it? You can get your hotdogs, peanuts, and cold beer at any convenience store, but outside of the local strip clubs, where else can you eye females in short skirts, waiting for leg kicks and angles not shown to national television audiences, and get to do it without the dark shades, trench coat, and fake mustache? If you’re answer is a football game, then you’ve got it right.

Unfortunately, the University actually received complaints about the cheerleading outfits in the above photo. I know. I can hear the cry all the way from BYU and Provo Utah, in chorus, with an “ARE YOU SH**ting me?!?!?” Not only were the complaints received, but the school complied, and the Vandals have now changed to the photo below.


Only a DOH-mer (or nun) would transition from the first photo to the second, knowing what the majority of their audience is. The second photo is high school gym class revisited. The first photo is music and a tip rail. Now you get to see the football team lose, and not much of anything else. But I’ll say this, for the first time, the school actually made national headlines for their coverage (literally) of T & A. I’ll now make a new assumption, saying that it’s my belief that the biggest booster for the University of Idaho football program is “N.O.W”.

1-12, here you come. You’ll always be ranked at the bottom of college football, but it’s a terrible ploy to initiate a change to allow your gridiron boys to have a better placing in Division-1 than your cheerleaders will in competitions. Congrats on gaining an edge, DOH’mers! And thanks for not going with the "pioneer women of the 19th century" look. America just can't wait to see the ankles on those Vandals.... GO TEAM!

Preview: (1) USC at Oregon State

(1) USC at Oregon State

Quickie: In 2006, the top ranked Trojans traveled to Reser Stadium to take on the unranked Beavers of Oregon State. As history had it, The Trojans just needed to score to win the game, since Oregon State had never beaten a USC team that they didn’t shutout. Well, the Trojans scored, and No. 1 still fell like the John David Booty pass on a tying two point conversion attempt that was batted to seal their fate. Last year, USC got their revenge, overpowering the Beavers, with Mark Sanchez making only his second collegiate start. Now it’s a flip of venues, and the top ranked Trojans head back to Corvallis and the scene of the crime.

BEAVERS (1-2)
Last week: BYE

Last year, OSU featured one of the nation’s stingiest defenses, ranking 8th in the nation overall. Now we have a complete reversal, with Oregon State only able to contain one of their first three opponents, and that was a miserable Hawaii team. The Beavers surrender 36 points in their opening loss to Stanford, which was followed up by Penn State hanging 45 on the scoreboard and wracking up 454 yards of offense.

The Beavers didn’t suddenly forget how to play on the defensive side of the ball. The 2007 season ended with the loss of their entire defensive front seven, quickly casting the program into a defensive rebuilding mode. But even with a nationally ranked defense last year, a downscaled Trojan offense managed to score, with Sanchez picking up a 24-7 victory after being thrust into the starting role.

The offense of Oregon State has been equally woeful. Rumor has it that quarterback Sean Canfield will return to the Beavers line up for Thursday night’s game. Canfield had missed the first 3 games recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. Lyle Moevao opened the season as the signal caller, and in the case of OSU QBs, it’s a question of which is the lesser of two evils. Moevao and Canfield combined for 11 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions in 2007, and are hardly the strength of the Beavers offense. This program is typically powered by a running game, and they also lost leading rusher Yverson Bernard to graduation. Freshman Ryan McCants will look to be Mike Riley’s 3rd freshman to rush for 1000 yards in a season. By far, the biggest offensive weapon they possess is WR Sammie Stroughter, but it becomes an issue of getting him into space, which they haven’t found to be easy. Stroughter missed the majority of the 2007 season, while suffering with depression.

TROJANS (2-0)
Last week: BYE

If there’s one thing certain, the Trojans love the national spotlight. Not only have they managed to dismantle their first two opponents (Virginia, Ohio State) in nationally televised games this season, it continues a trend of dominance, with the exception being the nail biting loss to Texas in the 2006 BCS Championship game. Now here they come again on Thursday night, televised before a national television audience, and looking to use the Oregon State Beavers as another statement game.

With Oregon State not presenting much of a pass rush, chances are Joe McKnight (9.2 per rush) will get the starting nod at tailback. He’s surrounded by the usual suspects, including QB Mark Sanchez who has quickly emerged as a solid Heisman candidate. One of the unsung heroes of the first two games has been offensive lineman Jeff Byers, who created his own personal highlight film by pancaking two Ohio State Buckeyes on a single play. This line that was supposed to be the Achilles heel has proven otherwise, and if anything, represents a strength. 11 different Trojans have scored in the two games this season, with only WR Damian Williams scoring twice. The spreading of the wealth should continue, with USC easily possessing more talent than their opponent.

The Trojans defense has been phenomenal. In the two games against BCS opponents, they’ve only surrendered one touchdown, which was aided by penalties that drove Virginia down the field, and held the defending Big 10 champions and national championship runner up Buckeyes to just a field goal. Now in game three, the unit may be looking for a shutout. Another body returns for the defensive squad, as LB Chris Gallipo will rejoin the team after missing the opening games recovering from back surgery. One player to watch is rising star Clay Matthews. The seldom noticed member of the linebacking group made it a habit of calling opposing backfields home in the first two games.

Xtra Points: After suffering the shocking loss to Oregon State in 2006, it was the first time since 2003 that I’ve seen a Trojan team without swagger, even if short-lived. It was a reality check in the worse way, ending a streak of domination over not only the Pac 10, but also against regular season opponents. Historically, USC has had their struggles early, and usually against their first Pac 10 opponents on the road. If you recall, they again struggled with Washington in Seattle last year, before being upset by Stanford at home. But this time there is no looking past Oregon State. There are still players on the roster with that bitter 2006 taste in their mouths. And just like all road revenge games in the past, they usually end with the embarrassment of the home team.

All Time Series: USC leads 58-9-4
Streak: USC won 1

Bush trying to repair a BUST-ed reputation


The expectations were high for Reggie Bush in New Orleans. The Saints drafted the electrifying Heisman Trophy winner to be just that, and his rookie season showed flashes. By year two, production was decreasing and the “bust” tag was elevating. He failed to complete his sophomore NFL season, finally sidelined with a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament, an injury he continued to compete with for a month before calling it quits. Still, that wasn’t good enough for the public. Injury or not, the build up had been so high that Reggie was supposed to put on his cape each weekend and take flight.

Now in his third season, Bush has found the end zone in each game played in the first three weeks, and in a variety of ways. Being on the running, receiving, and returning end of scores, he resembles that all purpose player drafted second overall by the Saints in 2006. He’s among the league leaders in receptions, and has become a focal point in the Saints offensive production. What about running between the tackles? Every back in New Orleans averages less than 4 yards per carry. That would say there is no “between” the tackles. After watching the Saints fail to push the ball into the end zone from just inches away, eventually turning the ball over on downs to the Broncos on Sunday, I’ve concluded that either the run blocking stinks in New Orleans or Payton’s ground game is too predictable. It also makes me wonder what Bush’s production would be like behind some of the greater gap creating lines in the NFL, such as the one in Dallas. My vision is Reggie Bush running wild. Hell, my vision even shows me running wild behind those men with stars on their helmets, despite the fact that the refs have a better 40-time than my own.

When you’ve performed as a superstar in college, it’s an open invitation for criticism in the NFL. Lendale White was being called a bust in his rookie season, and now all he does is sniff out the end zone. Bush was given the tag in his second season, and now plays every game with a chip on his shoulder. What I don’t understand is why that 3rd overall selection down in Tennessee was given 3 years before people started using the “B” word. Maybe they give quarterbacks more time. Who knows? But for Reggie Bush, 2008 is make or break. And so far, he's making the most of it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Week 3 Heisman Peformances- Receivers


I have only 3 receivers on Heisman watch, and one, Percy Harvin is dropped with the Bye week adding to his lack of production. In 3 weeks, Harvin has just 32 total yards of offense and 1 touchdown. This is a position least likely to win the award, and Jeremy Maclin is easily the front-runner, considering he gets many touches in a variety of ways. Michael Crabtree is the best pro prospect, and despite opponents singling him out as the biggest weapon of the Red Raiders offense, he remains active and equally productive in each game.

RECEIVERS

Jeremy Maclin, Missouri
Opponent: Nevada

6 receptions, 172 yards, 3 tds
6 returns, 62 yards, 0 td

Season: 12 receptions, 223 yards, 4 tds
All Purpose: 538 yards, 5 tds
(297 return yards, 1 td)
Opponents: Illinois, SMS, Nevada

Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
Opponent: SMU

8 receptions, 164 yards, 3 tds

Season: 24 receptions, 395 yards, 5 tds
All purpose: 398 yards, 0 tds

DROPPED

Percy Harvin, Florida

ON THE BUBBLE

None

Horse’s receiver choice: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Mizzou
Horse’s overall choice: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma

Next update: Week 6

From The Horse’s Mouth: Week 4 Spotlight games


I actually like what the fourth week has in store, because not only does it bring some key conference games involving both the SEC east and west, it also combines some out of conference match ups between some big name programs. We have a Florida State team that has climbed back into the rankings and will receive their first true test of the season, and an entire group of mid majors continuing their quest to invade the BCS.

(3) Georgia at Arizona State

The Horse’s must see rating: 10

Quickie: For the first time since Eisenhower was president, The Georgia Bulldogs will play a regular season game in the western time zone. The last trip came in 1960, where they fell 10-3 to USC in the Los Angeles Coliseum. They face a Sun Devils team fresh off an upset loss to UNLV that pushed them out of the AP top 25, and leaves them hanging by a thread in the coaches’ poll.

SUN DEVILS (2-1)
Last Week: L-UNLV

Anyone reading me over the course of 2007 knows I had the Sun Devils consistently on “fraud alert”. 2007 featured 8 games at home, bottom of the barrel out of conference opponents, and a loss to each power opponent they played.

QB Rudy Carpenter is a pro prospect, and near the top of the 2009 class at his position. But seldom do we get a good look at his abilities, because his line buckles and fails often. Carpenter was sacked 58 times last season, and has already eaten turf 5 times through the first 3 games of 2008.

BULLDOGS (3-0)
Last week: W-South Carolina

Georgia faced a challenge against a stiff South Carolina defense on Saturday. The Gamecocks limited the Dogs to 289 yards of offense, and allowed running sensation Knowshon Moreno just 79 yards on 20 carries.

The Bulldogs’ pass defense currently ranks 11th of the 12 SEC programs (263.3 ypg), and will face a Sun Devils passing offense ranked 1st in the Pac 10 (324.7). Pressuring the quarterback is of the utmost importance, as Dennis Erickson will likely go back to airing it out after losing in an upset to the Rebels, with the Devils altering the game plan and showing a big increase in rushing attempts and decrease in pass attempts. Expect them to go back to their strength, and Georgia to flex theirs. Georgia’s 42 sacks led the SEC last year, and can play a major role against a program that still struggles to protect their quarterback.

Xtra Points: I’ve seen some funny things happen in the Arizona desert. The last SEC program to visit Tempe was LSU in 2005. It took a tremendous comeback and late fourth quarter score for the 5th ranked Tigers to edge the 15th ranked Sun Devils in a game that ended 35-31, and saw an LSU defense surrender 560 yards of offense to the Devils. The tone should be set early. And if ASU opens by being overpowered by the Georgia defensive front, Carpenter is in for a very long day.

All Time Series: No prior meetings.

(4) Florida at Tennessee

The Horse’s must see rating: 10

Quickie: As rumor had it, it didn’t matter where you coached before or the success you had, because no coach could just walk into the SEC and take over. Well, Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, and Les Miles all have. It took Saban just 4 years to not only win the SEC, but also a national championship. It took Les Miles just 3, and as little as 2 for Urban Meyer. Meyer now looks to make it 4 straight victories over Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer.

GATORS (2-0)
Last Week: BYE

The book on the 2008 Gators was an explosive offense with a suspect defense. The offense was supposed to offer more firepower, with an addition of a running game. I’m still waiting to see that ground game, because they haven’t showed much of it. Emannuel Moody is obviously buried deep in Meyer’s doghouse, but is expected to have more carries against the Vols than he has all season. That season total for Moody is “2”. Percy Harvin was limited in his first game back, either by the Miami defense or the rust of sitting out for weeks. I expect a more productive game from Harvin against the Vols, as he’s slowly worked back into the rhythm.

VOLUNTEERS (1-1)
Last Week- W- UAB

The Vols are still searching for an identity. Are they the preseason power as reflected in the polls, or the team dominated in the trenches by UCLA in week one? The victory over UAB still leaves these men behind the mask, and they should reveal their true faces on Saturday. Neyland Stadium offers a small advantage, as the Gators are 2-3 in their last 5 games away from the swamp (losses to Michigan, LSU, Georgia). Even in their road victories, the Gators aren’t nearly as impressive as they are on their home field.

Xtra Points: Arian Foster and the Vols ground game could be the key if Fulmer is to end the streak. In 3 losses to Florida, Tennessee has no runs of more than 6 yards. A 1-2 start would be awful in Knoxville, and though I don’t like to call a game in the fourth week a “must win”, for Tennessee, this is one.

All Time Series: Tennessee leads 19-18
Streak: Florida won 3

(6) LSU at (10) Auburn- The two teams played a thriller last year that ended with Matt Flynn finding a receiver in the end zone with time running out. I’m not sure this one will be as classic, with that new spread offense at Auburn looking about the same as the one in Michigan.

Notre Dame at Michigan State- The Irish can match their win total of a year ago. The Spartans can continue their ownership of the Boys from South Bend.

Miami at Texas A&M- As a ranked team, the Aggies were dominated by the Canes in 2007. Toss out the numbers next to the names, and expect more of the same.

(18) Wake Forest at (24) Florida State- Are the Noles back? They will answer that on Saturday.

(21) WVU at Colorado- In the thin mountain air, have no fear of Colorado coach Dan Hawkins. Fear his son, Cody, the Buff’s quarterback, instead.

(20) Utah at Air Force- What? Are you still sleeping on the Falcons?

Portland State at Washington State- Why is this game listed? It’s because I believe Washington State is bad enough to lose to this team.


Boise State at (17) Oregon- This game has upset written all over it. Oregon is limited to using their 3rd and 4th team quarterbacks. That’s about the same as UCLA, and things aren’t working well for the Bruins.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

DOH-mer Of The Week- Clash Of The Titans


We’ve had a week of Vince Young’s near nervous breakdown, with just about everyone coming out to speak in his behalf before he finally gave statements of his own, which in short said, “Everything’s cool with me.” Who am I to say things aren’t cool, despite what our media sources are making it out to be? He’s not even my DOH-mer, because I don’t know the facts of the situation, but he did face the embarrassment of an important lesson that went unlearned. Every male should know, once you reach adulthood, you should never allow your mommy to speak for you. It’s even worse when you play a contact sport against grown men trying with all their might to bring you pain, and your mom is using the media as her canvas and painting you as a b*tch. And for all you mothers out there reading this, take note. I know you spend the majority of your lives running to the defense of your little ones, but the last thing they need in their adult lives is a new crop of “Yo Momma” jokes generated by you and hurled in their direction.

My DOH-mer is even bigger than that story, because he helped create it. If you go back to the 2006 draft class, the Titans, picking in the third spot, had a choice of future quarterbacks for the franchise. The coaching staff didn’t want a quarterback from a one read passing offense, with a Wonderlic score equal to Karl’s of “Slingblade”. But the owner, Bud Adams, being a Houston man chose the hometown boy and put him in those Tennessee blues.

Now, before the Longhorns’ fans start jumping out of their seats with their “HOOK’EM”, and start talking about his “offensive rookie of the year” award, allow me to give a one word description. BULLSH**! Sure, he broke a rookie rushing record for quarterbacks that had stood since 1969, but the forward pass has come a long way since then. Yes, he took over the quarterbacking duties and his Titans went 8-5 in that stretch, but it appears the defense was the anchor to the ship. And yes, he made it to the Pro Bowl, by filling in for an injured Philip Rivers. How does a QB with a 66.7 passer rating get to Hawaii? That number ranked him 31st in the league, and only 31 QBs qualified for the ranking. That’s artificial excellence, which never lasts long. If you don’t believe me, ask the once cheered Rex Grossman about how short lived that excellence can be when your team underachieves. There honestly wasn't much to choose from in the 2006 offensive rookie class. It's not like anyone was giving an Adrian Peterson type performance.

The Titans made the wrong selection, and it didn’t stop there. There were other options. And though Matt Leinart is riding pine in Arizona behind a former NFL and Superbowl MVP, the difference is that Leinart would do anything to get on the field, while Young allegedly wants to get off. Being a franchise in Tennessee, where Vanderbilt just happens to be located, how could you not pick Jay Cutler? NFL scouts raved about him, and they were obviously correct. Cutler is the best quarterback of the 2006 draft class, and he's from your own backyard.

After the first f*** up, it got worse. With Young still not adapting to NFL defenses, the Titans were left with a choice, and they chose to fire offensive guru Norm Chow and make him the scapegoat. Chow has a successful track record of NFL quarterback production, but somehow that was overlooked, since Vince still couldn’t pick up a blitz or read coverage, and only think about those “French fried taters”. Then we hear the news about the police spending a couple of hours last week looking for the quarterback. But in Tennessee, coaches and fans have been in search of one for about 3 years now.

My DOH-mer now has a dilemma, the same as the management in San Francisco. He’s invested a ton of money in a franchise quarterback, but the franchise is moving on without him. If Kerry Collins is successful in the upcoming weeks, do you dare bench him when Young is healthy enough to return? Well, Collins is from Lebanon Pennsylvania and not Houston Texas….so, maybe?

Week 3 Heisman Performances- Running Backs


Of all positions, the early season running back statistics offer a lot of deception. Some may have greater numbers in terms of yards, but you have to take into consideration how many times they carried the ball to achieve those numbers. The average gives you a better idea of how productive a back may be, just as the amount of carries may show a workhouse that is valuable to the program’s production and success. For example, Joe McKnight’s carries through two games are less than other backs for a single game. But of all the runners on the list, McKnight’s 9.2 average per rush is the highest. Shun White, my bubble back, averages a ridiculous 12.5 yards, and already has a 300 yard performance under his belt. But with his Navy team being below .500, I couldn’t put him on the list with a losing record.

Ohio State’s Beanie Wells was dropped from the list this week, due to lack of production. The toe injury has caused him to miss consecutive games now, and he has only the opening performance against Youngstown State to use for measurement. Michigan Mike Hart’s absence with injury was costly in 2007, and when Beanie returns we’ll have to see if he can work his way back into the mix. Also dropped is Clemson's James Davis. Davis has one performance over 100 yards, and two others that don't total 100 yards combined. Unlike some other backs, Davis doesn't accumulate any stats in other areas of the game, so his strength is strictly running with the rock. Here’s the list of running backs in no particular order.

RUNNING BACKS

Joe McKnight, USC
Opponent: Ohio State

12 carries, 105 yards, 0 tds
AVG: 8.8

Season: 18 carries, 165 yards, 0 tds
AVG: 9.2
All Purpose: 224 yards, 1 td
Opponents: Virginia, Ohio State

Knowshon Moreno, Georgia
Opponent: South Carolina

20 carries, 79 yards, 1 td
AVG: 6.3

Season: 46 carries, 306 yards, 7 tds
AVG: 6.7
All Purpose: 434 yards, 7 tds
Opponents: Georgia Southern, Central Michigan, South Carolina

DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma
Opponent: Washington

16 carries, 100 yards, 0 tds
AVG: 6.3

Season: 46 carries, 312 yards, 3 tds
AVG: 6.8
All Purpose: 414 yards, 3 tds
Opponents: Tenn-Chat, Cincinnati, Washington

C.J. Spiller, Clemson
Opponent: NC State

10 carries, 61 yards, 1 td
AVG: 6.1

Season: 18 carries, 143 yards, 4 tds
AVG: 7.9
All Purpose: 447 yards, 6 tds
(210 return yards, 1 td)
Opponents: Alabama, Citadel, NC State

P.J Hill, Wisconsin
Opponent: Fresno State

26 carries, 112 yards, 0 tds
AVG: 4.3

Season: 70 carries, 379 yards, 4 tds
AVG: 5.4
All Purpose: 379 yards, 4 tds
Opponents: Akron, Marshall, Fresno State

BYE

Noel Devine (West Virginia)

DROPPED FROM LIST

James Davis (Clemson), Chris Wells (Ohio State)

BACKS ON THE BUBBLE

Shun White (Navy), Evan Royster (Penn State)

The Horse's RB choice: Knowshon Moreno, Georgia
The Horse's overall choice: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma

Next Update: Week 6

Kiffin to Syracuse rumors flying

With the Oakland Raiders making headlines with uncertainty in the coaching staff, it was only a matter of time before rumors of Lane Kiffin going to Syracuse would begin to surface. With Greg Robinson failing to make any progression in his tenure as the coach of the Orange, and opening this season 0-3, there’s no doubt the coaching seat will be empty soon. It’s just a matter of when the time is right. Syracuse can opt to have him finish up the 2008 season, but if the Raiders boot Kiffin Today, chances are Robinson may be out tomorrow.

It’s a crazy connection between Lane Kiffin, Al Davis, and Syracuse University. Al Davis is Syracuse Alum. Lane Kiffin never attended or worked for the institution, but he did work as the recruiting and offensive coordinator for Daryl Gross, formerly the assistant athletic director at USC.

If Kiffin is done in Oakland, look for Gross to immediately make him an offer, before another program can scoop him up. But even if an offer is made, it doesn’t necessarily mean Kiffin would accept. Would you? Which could be worse, that hell hole in Northern California or the one in Upstate New York?

Answering the ongoing Matt Cassel question


Since it was learned that New England’s Tom Brady was done for the season and Matt Cassel would be taking over the quarterbacking duties, I’ve been bombarded by an ongoing question, and I’ll try my best to answer it again.

WHY DIDN’T MATT CASSEL START AT USC?

When Matt Cassel arrived, USC was hardly the quarterback factory it is now. It was still a place known for hosting the nation’s top tailbacks, living up to the “tailback U” moniker. Though there were some former Trojan QBs that played at the next level, such as Pat Haden and Rodney Peete, the numbers were few and the program wasn’t inviting to top prospects of the position.

Cassel was a prep-100 all American quarterback in high school, and redshirted his first Trojan year in 2000. USC football was run by Paul Hackett and his staff, and it was their system he would learn. By 2001 Pete Carroll and Norm Chow took over, and Carson Palmer was chosen to lead the offense. Cassel was relegated to two years of clean up duty behind Palmer, and thought to be his eventual successor.

In 2003, despite having a field presence the year prior, Cassel was skipped over in the spring by the inexperienced Matt Leinart. Norm doesn’t choose the quarterback with the better physical package. He makes his choice based on which candidate learns the system the fastest. This is still evident as he coaches at UCLA, with Ben Olsen always being considered the starter in previous years, but Chow naming Patrick Cowen the starter this fall. Even at USC today, the reason Mark Sanchez received the nod over Mitch Mustain is because of his knowledge of the system. It’s that same grading scale that contributed to Mustain’s drop in rank that places him now in the third slot behind Aaron Corp. Can Mustain never start a game at USC and still get drafted? Of course he can.

New England’s coaches and scouts were so impressed with the upside of Cassel that they drafted him in the 7th round of the 2005 draft, rather than him becoming an undrafted free agent that could freely audition for several NFL teams. That same draft saw Oklahoma’s Heisman winning QB Jason White go undrafted. It’s role reversal. Cassel never started a game in his collegiate career, and the Heisman winning White never started or played a single game in the NFL.

The average fan will give too much focus on roster positions of amateurs. Position on a depth chart is sometimes a reflection of the talent on one team at a single position. USC currently has 5 running backs on their roster that can easily start for most teams in the nation. College football's home viewers probably couldn’t name more than 2 of them, but NFL scouts already know the physical dimensions of each. Besides, it’s not like Cassel is the first guy to play in the NFL without starting in college. Until Antonio Gates became a pass catching tight end for the San Diego Chargers, his last football game was in high school, opting not to play at all in college.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Week 3 Heisman Performances- Quarterbacks


The race for the Heisman Trophy hasn’t taken full form, but it’s slowly revealing a shape. Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel and Max Hall have jumped out quickly with huge numbers, while some others find themselves in vicarious positions. Overall, quarterbacks continue to stand out, with quite a few lighting up stat sheets in the first 3 games.

Rudy Carpenter took a heavy hit with a loss to UNLV. As it stands now, for Carpenter to pull himself out of the hole and make it to New York, his Arizona Sate Sun Devils will probably have to defeat both Georgia and USC, and he needs to be impressive against both. That would also suggest that he needs to win the Pac 10 and secure a top 10 finish. The most memorable number from Todd Reesing’s game against South Florida is “1”. One interception late in the game set up the Bulls with field position to kick the game winning field goal. Reesing can easily make up for that error, considering the Big 12 has so many Heisman candidates and exposure games. Here’s the list for week three, in no particular order.

QUARTERBACKS
New to list: Matt Grothe, USF

Mark Sanchez, USC
Opponent: Ohio State

17 of 28, 172 yards, 4 tds, 1 INT

Season: 43 of 63, 510 yards, 5 tds, 2 INTs
Rating: 166.57
Opponents: Virginia, Ohio State
Record: 2-0

Matthew Stafford, Georgia
Opponent: S. Carolina

15 of 25, 146 yards, 0 td, 0 INT

Season: 46 of 74, 634 yards, 4 tds, 0 INT
Rating: 159.97
Opponents: Georgia Southern, C. Michigan, S. Carolina
Record: 3-0

Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
Opponent: Washington
18 of 21, 304 yards, 5 tds, 0 INT

Season: 64 of 81, 882 yards, 12 tds, 2 INTs
Rating: 214.43
(1 rushing td)
Opponents: Tenn-Chat, Cincinnati, Washington
Record: 3-0

Juice Williams, Illinois
Opponent: Louisiana Lafayette

Pass: 13 of 25, 147 yards, 1 td, 1 INT
Rush: 11 attempts, 35 yards, 0 tds

Season: 65 of 92, 722 yards, 7 tds, 1 INT
Rating: 139.94
(Rushing: 46 attempts, 219 yards, 2 tds)

Opponents: Mizzou, E. Illinois, Louisiana Lafayette
Record: 2-1

Chase Daniel, Missouri
Opponent: Nevada

23 of 28, 405 yards, 4 tds, 0 INTs

Season: 65 of 90, 973 yards, 10 tds, 1 INT
Rating: 197.48
Opponents: Illinois, SMS, Nevada
Record: 3-0

Cullen Harper, Clemson
Opponent: NC State

20 of 28, 262 yards, 2 tds, 1 INT

Season: 54 of 80, 642 yards, 3 tds, 2 INTs
Opponents: Alabama, Citadel, NC State
Record: 2-1

Graham Harrell, Texas Tech
Opponent: SMU

31 of 48, 418 yards, 5 tds, 0 INT

Season: 93 of 152, 1,251 yards, 8 tds, 3 INTs
Rating: 143.74
(1 rushing td)
Opponents: E. Washington, Nevada, SMU
Record: 3-0

Todd Reesing, Kansas
Opponent: USF

34 of 51, 373 yards, 3 tds, 1 INT

Season: 103 of 141, 1,041 yards, 9 tds, 2 INTs
Rating: 153.30
(1 rushing td)

Opponents: FIU, La Tech, USF
Record: 2-1

Rudy Carpenter, Arizona State
Opponent: UNLV

13 of 23, 242 yards, 2 tds, 1 INT

Season: 62 of 87, 975 yards, 6 tds, 2 INTs
Rating: 183.56
Opponents: N. Arizona, Stanford, UNLV
Record: 2-1

Matt Grothe, USF
Opponent: Kansas

32 of 45, 338 yards, 2 tds, 0 INTs

Season: 61 of 93, 780 yards, 7 tds, 2 INTs
Rating: 156.58
(1 rushing td)
Opponents: Ten-Mart, UCF, Kansas
Record: 3-0

Max Hall, BYU
Opponent: UCLA

27 of 35, 272 yards, 7 tds, 1 INT

Season: 91 of 117, 1,095 yards, 12 tds, 2 INTs
Rating: 186.82
Opponents: UNI, Washington, UCLA
Record: 3-0


BYE WEEK

Pat White (WVU), Tim Tebow (Florida), Colt McCoy (Texas)

DROPPED FROM LIST

Dan LeFevour (Central Michigan)

ON THE BUBBLE

Dan LeFevour (Central Michigan)

The Horse’s Early QB Pick: Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
The Horse’s Early Overall pick: Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Clean up duty after a 35-3 Traveler romp


Wouldn’t it be something if the losing team was forced to clean the horse sh*t off the coliseum track? The Trojans would have only performed this service once in the last 6 years, meaning an entire graduating class would have avoided the foul stench of Traveler’s droppings. Fortunately, there’s a clean up crew to perform that function, and USC opponents can tend their wounds and not worry about public sanitation.

Two storied programs leave plenty of stories to tell, after the Trojans romped 35-3 over the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday night. When you listen to post game interviews or watch game replays, you could see the difference in preparation, with Carroll’s staff receiving an “A”, and Tressel’s failing. Both Mark Sanchez and Rey Maualuga repeatedly spoke of having “great preparation” for the incoming Buckeyes. And for that preparation to be so effective, it would mean the Buckeyes' staff didn’t change much, if any at all.

In reference to the first touchdown of the game, a pass to fullback Stanley Havili, where he scampered down the left sideline and into the end zone, Sanchez said they run that play at least 4 times in practice, against that same defense, and against that same blitz. They also scrimmaged in preparation for both Beanie Wells and Terrelle Pryor, and Ohio State never showed a wrinkle that proved threatening or confusing to the USC defense.

Offensively, USC didn’t shy away from the hyped defense of Ohio State. The players always believed they faced a better defense each day in practice, and play on the field showed that. With so much talk about the coverage skills of Malcolm Jenkins and the skills of the linebacking unit, the Trojans attacked and exploited their weaknesses, again benefiting from film study. The Buckeyes were the top defensive unit in 2007, and returned all players except Vernon Gholston. That top ranked defense, with loads of experience, appeared defenseless against a Trojan offense that did practically anything they wanted.

Even though Carson Palmer received a lot of flack for his comments about Ohio State, what he said was true. Now the Buckeyes will go back to the Big 10 and people will go back to talking about how great they are. I don’t even fault the players, because the roster is stacked with guys that will play on Sundays. The problem is that the sweater vest gives the appearance of genius, but he’s been severely outcoached by the big names and better staffs outside the conference and in the biggest games. Sure, he defeated Larry Coker's Miami Hurricanes to earn an upset victory and BCS championship trophy. But the last I checked, Larry Coker is still unemployed.

Even a team lesser in athleticism can be coached to a respectable score or victory. But when a team appears so dominant in conference, then ventures out to be destroyed by Urban Meyer and Florida, Les Miles and LSU, and now Pete Carroll and USC, you can’t look much farther than the Buckeyes coaching staff.

Mark Sanchez: “It was like we played this game 10 times already.”

That’s preparation.

Rearview: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


No, this isn’t about a spaghetti western, but it is about the west. And to be more specific, it’s about the Pac 10 conference. After coming off the blocks with some impressive victories on the resume, this weekend’s showing went from the extremes of spectacular to embarrassing.

The "collision in the coliseum" turned out to be anything but what it was advertised, and more of what was expected. Ohio State and USC didn’t actually collide. With USC’s 35-3 victory, it looked more like the Buckeyes were run over. But the Pac 10 highlights for week three end there, with the other members not fairing as well.

Oregon State posted a victory over Hawaii, and Oregon fought from behind on the road to top Purdue in overtime. But anything good stopped there. Both UCLA and Washington were drubbed by ranked BYU and Oklahoma, being outscored by a combined score of 114-7. Washington State was routed by Baylor on Friday night. Arizona fell to New Mexico, Stanford to TCU, Cal to a struggling Maryland team, and Arizona State was upset in their own house by UNLV.

IRISH EYES ARE SMILING

Either the Fighting Irish have given us an indication of how far the Michigan program has fallen or they’ve finally awakened those echoes. Their 35-17 victory over the Wolverines is by far the most impressive win since Brady Quinn was the signal caller in South Bend. With Michigan now 1-2 on the season, at some point people will start questioning whether or not this team will finish bowl eligible.

LET’S HEAR IT FOR JOE PA

Only 3 weeks in, and in my opinion, Penn State has been the most impressive Big 10 program. Their opponents may not have been mighty, but they’ve managed to destroy each, as a superior team should.

DAWG DAY AFTERNOON

Spurrier’s gamecocks fought the 2nd ranked Bulldogs for 4 quarters and still remained on their feet. The South Carolina defense gave Georgia all they could handle, but in the end, it’s that same error prone gamecocks offense that is their own worst enemy. The difference in this 14-7 contest was a goal line fumble. And I can’t help thinking, with the defense in South Carolina, they wouldn’t need an explosive offense to be a major player in the SEC east, just one that makes fewer mistakes.

Auburn only needed 3 points to defeat Mississippi State, as the Bulldogs only managed to score 2. The Tigers always play well defensively, but there has to be some concern about the offensive unit. The offensive change played a major role in my decision to not pick Auburn as a preseason favorite to win the SEC west. They’ll need more than a FG to beat LSU next week. And if they don’t progress over the course of the season, I believe this year’s Iron Bowl will belong to Bama.

ACCent on the “A”

After a bad start to 2008, the ACC showed some victories they can be proud of in week 3. As a whole, Virginia was the only loser of the weekend, with North Carolina, Maryland, Florida State, and Duke picking up victories over out of conference opponents. Speaking of Duke, in just 3 weeks, new coach David Cutcliffe has already managed to equal the programs win total (2) for the 3 previous years combined.

DIGITS

*BYU’s current win streak of 13 games began after a loss to UCLA. Since then, they’ve beaten the Bruins twice. In the 3 games over a 12 month period, UCLA had a different head coach for each (Karl Dorrell, Dwayne Walker, Rick Neuheisel).

*BYU’s Max Hall tied a school record with 7 touchdown passes against the Bruins.

*With BYU, UNLV, TCU, and New Mexico all posting victories, the Mountain West Conference went a perfect 4-0 against the Pac 10 this weekend.

*Mizzou’s Chase Daniel has now passed for 9,153 yards, surpassing Brad Smith’s 8,799 to become the school’s all time leader in the category.

*With USC’s victory over Ohio State, the Trojans remain undefeated under Pete Carroll against the Big 10. Going into Saturday’s game, the margin of victory against his 4 Big 10 foes was 28 points. The Trojans defeated the Buckeyes by 32.

*Which would you rather face in 1-on-1 coverage, Jeremy Maclin or Michael Crabtree?


GALLOPING FINISH

Wazzu- may be the worst program of all the members of BCS conferences.
Oklahoma- made sure Pac 10 refs couldn’t decide this one.
Mississippi State- Any love left for Sly Croom?
E. Carolina- how does it feel to wear the “X”?
Arizona State- getting exposed as a fraud early this year.
Illinois- not looking like someone that will contend in the 10.
USF- The best program in the Big East?
Virginia- Don't expect schedule strength help for the Trojans from the Hoos.
Purdue- Four quarters equal one whole.
Week 3- I loved it! But overall, it was so-so.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

F@#* BEANIE WELLS


Yeah, I said it. One of the biggest games of the year, maybe of the decade, and all the media can talk about is Beanie Wells. Yes, he’s a Heisman contender. Yes, he’s a spark plug for the Buckeyes' offense. But hell, if you listened to analysts over the past week or so, you would swear THE Ohio State was a one man show. That’s not true. The Buckeyes are loaded with talent. And if the loss of Beanie Wells is worth this much hype, then obviously all the others are overrated. Besides, here in Los Angeles, we fully expect him to play.

But let’s look at what’s being preached, and what has occurred. Beanie was injured in the Buckeyes’ opener against FCS Youngstown State, leaving the game after running for 111 yards. That was an opening game 43-0 ass whipping, right? The Buckeyes followed up the opening weekend by struggling with the Ohio Bobcats. We all know this, because it was highly publicized. But how did Youngstown State follow up their paddling? They went back for seconds. “Thank you sir, can I have another?” In week two, Youngstown State was drubbed by South Dakota State by a tune of 40-7. Dakota’s Kyle Minnett ran for 123 yards and 2 scores. In fact, the Jackrabbits were more productive on offense (506 total yards) than the Buckeyes (495) managed against the Penguins.

Beanie Wells played in January’s BCS Championship game, and played well. Even with his 146 yards, the Buckeyes still lost by 14. Wells also played in the 2007 BCS title game against Florida, and the Buckeyes as a team rushed for only 47 yards against the speedy Gators defense, losing by 27 points. The point is, fixing whatever is broken doesn’t begin with Beanie Wells.

Flashback to 2006, and look at the UCLA Bruins. Ben Olsen goes down with an injury (imagine that?), and the team is set to face the second ranked Trojans. They insert Patrick Cowan as quarterback. Cowan allows Dwayne Walker’s defense to work, and he manages the game to keep his team in it. Final score, UCLA 13, USC 9.

Move on to 2007, and Stanford quarterback T.C. Ostrander suffers a seizure just days before the Cardinal are scheduled to meet No.1 USC in the coliseum, where the Trojans hadn’t lost since 2001. Insert Tavita Pritchard at quarterback, who never started a game. The 42 point underdogs take advantage of Trojan errors, and Pritchard tops his final drive with a touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone. Final score, Stanford 24, USC 23.

All this hype about Beanie Wells is painting THE Ohio State as a program without depth, and a program that leans on one man. The program is more rounded than the media is making them out to be. No mention of Trojans that are game time decisions, such as starting linebacker Brian Cushing and starting receiver Vidal Hazelton. Why? It’s because USC is expected to just plug in new players in those positions, and regardless of game time experience, they are expected to outperform their opposition. It’s always been the Trojan way. A man goes down, and you "fight on" with what you have.

But I’m pretty tired of hearing about Beanie Wells all week. Aren’t you? Yeah, I know. I just rambled about him, myself. But there’s a big difference between a “sky’s falling” rant, and just putting your frustrations simply, by saying……F@&* Beanie!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Los Angeles is buzzing; Trojans are not


A city overflowing with stars is ecstatic to be hosting gridiron stars from the Midwest. You would have to go back to the 80s to find this much excitement over a single game. No.8 Auburn came in 2002, Arkansas in 2005, and Nebraska in 2006. But the Ohio State Buckeyes and their No. 5 ranking bring a mystique unseen since the top rated Trojans defeated the second ranked Sooners in 1981.

Why is this greater than games against ranked Bruins teams or those of the Fighting Irish? It’s because Ohio State/USC doesn’t happen as often, and we’re rewarded with their first meeting in 12 years, and both are ranked in the nation's top 5. There’s also the fact that both programs are easily in the early running for “programs of the decade”. Both the fans of Ohio State and USC should thank their athletic directors for providing us with this, because it takes a lot of balls to schedule an out of conference opponent that can wreck your season, when you can easily avoid them until bowl games.

For the football Trojans, this game is no different than any other. It’s business as usual at USC. The preparation is the same, and they take the Buckeyes to be no different than any other program. There isn’t a player on the team that hasn’t already been showered by media hype and high expectations. Excluding the true freshmen, they’ve all played in “big games” and so called “games of the century”. As tailback Allen Bradford put it, “It’s just a different team, same preparation.” And I would suggest his assessment is just part of the Trojan programming on how to address the media, if I didn’t know different. But those comments coincide with all big games played, home and away. They never change a thing. In fact, two weeks ago, they had players from the Virginia Cavaliers watching their walk through, before the two teams played the next day. Trojan practices are open. The philosophy would be, it doesn’t matter if you know how we work, if you don’t have the athletes to stop it from working.

So while the City of Los Angeles is festive, the players are relaxed and loose, as they are for any other game.

NOTES

Brian Cushing is nursing a bruised hip. If Cushing is unable to go on Saturday, Clay Matthews will fill his position.

Joe McKnight played quarterback in Tuesday's practice, simulating the fumble prone freshman Terrelle Pryor.

Vidal Hazelton (ankle) is still a game time decision.

From The Horse’s Mouth: Week 3 Spotlight games


Two weeks is hardly enough time to clarify the overall picture for 119 programs. But as we enter week three, we should start separating true contenders from preseason pretenders. After some lackluster performances in the second week, there are quite a few programs that need this coming weekend for image repair. The most spotlighted game for week 3 is Ohio State and USC, which is already previewed here. But there are several other games of interest that will make for another exciting weekend of fantastic finishes and upsets.

(13) Kansas at (19) South Florida

The Horse’s must see rating: 10

Quickie: This game is a perfect indication of how much college football has changed in the last 4 years. 4 years ago, this match up doesn’t even get a mention. If it did, it would be viewed as the often underachieving Jayhawks selecting a cupcake for automatic victory, and would probably be played in Kansas.

JAYHAWKS (2-0)
Last Week: W- Louisiana Tech

I spent the majority of 2007 projecting the Jayhawks to lose games. And at the end of each week, they served up a new plate of crow. The fighting Manginos finished 12-1 with a BCS bowl victory, but I still remain skeptical. Yes, the program has showed major improvement, but there's a question of whether or not the one loss was a reflection of power or scheduling. They can provide further proof of their arrival, by showing the same success this season as last.

Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing is one of the most underrated players in college football, at any position. Somehow, his 33 touchdown passes in 2007 were overshadowed by passers from more prominent football programs. Someone says “Kansas” and the brain registers “hoops, but this program has the opportunity redirect our way of thinking. JayHawk receiver Dezmon Briscoe has been one of the most productive in the nation after just two games played. In two contests, be it against lesser opponents, Briscoe has over 200 yards receiving, while finding the end zone 4 times.

The Jayhawks defense has power on the defensive ends. Both Russell Brorsen and John Larson are on the Lott Trophy watch list. The secondary took a hit with the loss of Aqib Talib, but they still have Chris Harris, who was named Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year in 2007. Starting 10 games as a true freshman, Harris is now alone in the spotlight. They also return a linebacking unit that ranked second in the Big 12 against the run in 2007.

BULLS (2-0)
Last week: W-UCF

By now, everyone should know the story of South Florida. As little as 3 years ago, they were the FBS cupcake, but is hardly the meal to fulfill your sweet tooth today. Upset kings East Carolina are the early talk of 2008. But what some don’t realize is the South Florida Bulls are looking to upset their 4th consecutive ranked opponent, going back to last year.

The Bulls’ offense is all about quarterback Matt Grothe. Last week they barely survived in overtime against UCF, with Grothe not only passing for 346 yards and 3 touchdowns, but also adding another 54 on the ground. The ground work should be no surprise, seeing that he has led the Bulls in rushing the past 2 seasons.

South Florida’s 2007 upsets of Auburn and West Virginia came on the might of their defense, and they’ll be challenged against this Jayhawks offense once more. NFL prospect George Selvie becomes the biggest name, with cornerback Mike Jenkins now employed by the Dallas Cowboys.

Xtra Points: Is this going to be my Kansas “proof” game? I don’t think so. South Florida isn’t as balanced offensively as the majority of their Big 12 powers. They could very well walk away with this victory, and though the Bulls are ranked, it still wouldn’t be enough to make me slot them among the more serious contenders.

All Time Series: Only one meeting recorded. Kansas 13, South Florida 7. September 23, 2006.

Michigan at Notre Dame

The Horse’s must see rating: 6

Quickie: Okay, I’ll admit this game is spotlighted on name alone. Neither team is ranked, and the expectations on the season aren’t that great. But it is Michigan and Notre Dame, two of the most storied programs in college football.

FIGHTING IRISH (1-0)
Last Week: W- San Diego State

The Domers’ performance against San Diego State is inexcusable. This was easily an athletic mismatch on paper, but took on the semblance of the Irish battling for their lives against a heavyweight. I was anxious to see if 2008 would be the awakening in South Bend, but the offense appeared to be slumbering, as Rip Van Winkle begins year two of his nap. I’ve watched Notre Dame football for many years, but to see a team that lost to an FCS school in week one stay on the field, and in the game, in Notre Dame’s HOUSE, was clearly a new experience.

Whatever it is that Charlie Weis' Irish are trying to do with the offense isn’t working. I’m not going to blame the athletes, unless you can name a single 5 star player on that Aztec team. Okay, I’ll even settle for a 4 star. If I had to point to an area, it would be the offensive line. You’ll never see the full potential of Jimmy Clausen if you can’t protect him or support him with a decent running game. The Irish managed only 105 rushing yards against the Aztecs. In comparison, FCS Cal Poly rushed for 263 against that same opponent. Jimmy Clausen had more completions (21) than Cal Poly had pass attempts (20) in their victory. If you can’t run the ball, you’ll always struggle to win games, regardless of the quality of the opponent. And when you include 4 turnovers with everything already said, you can see why last week’s game became such a fight when it shouldn’t have been.

WOLVERINES (1-1)
Last Week- W- Miami (Ohio)

Michigan also had their hands full last weekend, but theirs is a different problem. Unlike Notre Dame, who has consistency in the coaching staff and system they play, Michigan is in transition. The roster was gutted by graduation, early NFL entry, and transfers. It’s a program rebuilding from scratch, and going from a pro style offense to a spread. The greatest disadvantage in making such a drastic change in an offensive system, compared to one more gradual, is that it takes more than a year to recruit the proper personnel to run it.

But Michigan is still very strong on the defensive side of the ball, which will allow them to stay in most games. But even the best defenses perform less than average, when inept offenses lean on them repeatedly, leaving them to tire on the field.

Xtra Points: May the best offense win. Or should it be, “may the best defense win?” This one has all the makings of a defensive battle, with the aforementioned struggles of both offenses. Regardless of the winner, the losing coach is sure to get the most heat. And if that coach is Charlie Weis, the leash is shortened to the effect of a choke chain.

All Time Series: Michigan leads 20-14-1
Streak: Michigan has won 2


(2) Georgia at South Carolina: Knowshon Moreno and Matthew Stafford face their first stiff test of 2008. Steve Spurrier is desperately in need of wins, and taking down this SEC Eastern foe will bring an immediate boost in team confidence.

Arkansas at (8) Texas: An old rivalry renewed. This game may be impacted by Hurricane Ike, making for sloppy conditions and limited performances.

(16) Oregon at Purdue: Another Pac 10/Big 10 match for the weekend. Oregon’s offense has appeared unstoppable, though their opening opponents won’t teeter on the top of any power rankings.

UCLA at (18) BYU: At 12 games, BYU owns the longest winning streak in the country. UCLA fell from the rankings without playing a game, providing more proof that voters have short term memory.

Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech: ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit has been perfect in predicting upsets this season. This week he picks the Jackets to upset the Hokies.

(10) Wisconsin at (21) Fresno State: This would be my pick as a likely upset for the weekend. Pat Hill has played so many BCS conference contenders over the years that his program is hardly viewed as a mid-major.

Don’t forget, Kansas/South Florida is a Friday night prime time game on ESPN. Enjoy!