Friday, October 31, 2008

Carroll admits predictability of offense leads to Pac struggles


This is old news for anyone that's followed the Trojans over the past few years, but Pete Carroll finally came out and said it. No one knows you better than your neighbors, and the struggles in conference are a result of an opponents preparation for something they've seen over and over again. It's a plug in of new faces in any given year, but it's the same system running the same attack at USC. A well prepared team, though lesser in talent, can neutralize the strengths of the opponent, and appear on an even playing field.

With no doubt, fans of the Empire expect lopsided victories in travels outside the Pac 10. The tension builds when play moves inside the conference, as typically the offensive output is lower and final scores often closer. If you're a gambling man, the best option would be to take the Trojans to cover the spread against out of conference opponents, regardless of the weight they may carry, and take the opponent to cover in-conference. Vegas continues to set the smaller spreads for out of conference play, when we know it should be opposite.

THE BCS EFFECT

You would think this reasoning holds true for every conference, feeding the "we beat up on each other" notion, but it's opposite when you look at the Buckeyes. Ohio State, like everyone else, will play some very competitive games against ranked opponents in the Big 10, but step outside the conference and it's no longer a match. For the Buckeyes, it's the total opposite of USC, as they get embarrassed by out of conference opponents with a national ranking. Since the Ohio State victory over No. 2 Texas in 2006, they've fallen victim to out of conference ranked opponents by these scores:

(2006) No. 2 Florida 41-14
(2007) No. 2 LSU 38-24
(2008) No. 1 USC 35-3

Two of those games decided the National Championship, and the game against USC is the only ranked opponent the Buckeyes have played outside the Big 10 during the regular season in 24 months, being one of only 3 BCS conference opponents (also Washington and Cincinnati) with a regular season date against Ohio State in the period.

What a difference a conference makes. The Big 10 has made Ohio State. The Pac 10 is breaking USC. The difference in the conference play of each program over the past two seasons is the difference between making a BCS title game appearance and not. The Trojans have finished unblemished outside the Pac 10, while dropping 4 games in conference during the period (5 including Oregon State in '08). Until the recent loss to Penn State, the Buckeyes had lost just once in the Big 10. If not for the September meeting with USC, despite the loss to Penn State, with the game being so close, THE Ohio State would have again been in the hunt to make their third consecutive BCS championship game appearance.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Woe-and-7 Preview: Washington at USC


The Huskies have already made headlines before ever touching down in Los Angeles. The Monday firing of Coach Ty Willingham spins the program further into shambles. But nonetheless, they must play out the remainder of their schedule, including this post-announcement clash with the Pac 10 giant. As miserable as Washington has been, they’ve played the Trojans tough in recent years. It was a 27-24 USC escape in Seattle last year, and a 26-20 victory in the Coliseum in 2006. A victory for Washington on Saturday wouldn’t save Willingham’s job, but he would go out on a high note. A win on Saturday would also record a first, not only for Willingham as a coach of the Huskies, but with this weekend ringing in the new month, it would be the first November loss ever suffered by Pete Carroll in his 8 years with the program.

HUSKIES (0-7)
Last Week- L-Notre Dame

Washington remains the only winless BCS conference program in the nation. It’s a feat that could have been easily matched by their in-state neighbors, if not for Washington State scheduling and defeating FCS Portland State earlier in the year. Be it home or away, the Huskies are equally woeful, ranking among the nation’s worst in nearly every category.

Their offense has been playing without the services of quarterback Jake Locker for the past 3 weekends. Before being sidelined with the thumb injury, Locker provided 70% of the Huskies offense. As it stands, Washington ranks 108th in the country in total offense, which isn’t the worst the Trojans defense has faced this year. Washington State is 115th, and the Cougars never crossed midfield. Surprisingly, the Washington offensive ranking actually has them sitting above some of the bigger names in college football, such as Auburn, Michigan, Tennessee, and Virginia Tech. Freshman Ronnie Fouch is the Huskies signal caller, and D’Andre Goodwin is the favorite target. The running game is non-existent, as Locker also led the team in the category. The only other productive ground gainer is freshman David Freeman, who totaled just 16 yards last weekend versus Notre Dame. His season total is 152 yards, and Washington fails to have a single runner ranked among the nation’s top 100. The offense operates behind a transparent line that has allowed 24 sacks in the 7 games played.

On the other side, Washington doesn’t fair any better, as only 3 national defenses rank lower than the purple people. They surrender a whopping 235 yards per game on the ground, and 244 in the air. Opposing quarterbacks are efficient, and their units score often. You can credit that to the defense totaling just 5 sacks in 2008, allowing hurlers all day to distribute the ball.

TROJANS (6-1)
Last Week-W-Arizona

USC possesses the nation’s No. 1 defense, allowing opponents just 8 points per game, and 215 total yards. The obvious backbone of the program now smells blood in the water, and based on the Washington numbers, may easily record their third shutout of the season. The unit will have some missing pieces, as Averell Spicer (sprained ankle) will miss Saturday’s game, and Everson Griffen (toe) remains questionable.

The offensive performance against Arizona was frustrating to watch, and we’ve spent days reading about it. The play calling has come under question, as well as the decision making of Mark Sanchez. We won’t really get a good look at any adjustments or improvements this week, because as dismal as the offense was last week, they should with little resistance against the Huskies. C.J Gable is starting to show his own frustrations, but mostly in lack of carries. I believe he’ll get a good chunk on Saturday, the same as a frustrated Broderick Green did against Washington State. Receiver Damien Williams is nursing a sore shoulder and hasn’t participated in any contact drills, but hasn’t been ruled out for the weekend. Vidal Hazelton has a stubbed toe, but his role was sparse against the Wildcats. Joe McKnight is supposedly healthier than he’s been in two weeks, so don’t expect to see as little productivity from the sophomore as was seen in Tucson.

Analysis: Washington opens as a 43 point underdog, and there’s no reason to believe the Trojans won’t cover. Though the Huskies played tough the past two seasons, they don’t have Isaiah Stanback or Jake Locker to lead them. Last year’s contest was closer than it should have been, with Washington still featuring a poor roster of talent. The difference between winning big and nail-biting was the Trojans being penalized 16 times for 161 yards on a drizzly night at Husky Stadium. This one should be over by halftime, but Willingham no longer has anything to lose, so who knows what they’ll bring to the table.

All Time Series: Trojans lead 48-26-4
Streak: Trojans won 6

Huskies chasing pupils when they should pursue the master

Lane Kiffin has interest in the soon to be vacant coaching vacancy in Washington. Now add USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian to the list. The two men have a lot in common, mostly from being on the same staff at USC. But there's an even greater common link between them, and it's their teacher, Norm Chow. Steve Sarkisian was taught by Norm Chow as both a QB at BYU in '95, and as a USC assistant under Chow from '01 to '04. Lane Kiffin also joined Chow's staff in 2001, beginning as a tight ends coach, before taking over Chow's duties in 2005.

With both the students having interest in the job, you would have to wonder about the master. Norm Chow is a recent hire by UCLA, but everyone knows he's still waiting for a head coaching position. What would it take to coax him away from the Bruins of Westwood? I don't think it would take much. I would expect his name to enter the mix in coming weeks, as it only seems logical and proper. If it doesn't, it will be about as shocking as Ty Willingham avoiding the axe at the end of last season.

Trick or Treat: The most horrifying defeats in sports history


No matter which teams you follow and declare your loyalty, I’m sure there is a certain game you can reflect on as one of the most horrific defeats they’ve ever suffered. But just as Stanford and Appalachian State may have shocked the sports world in 2007, their upset victories over highly ranked Southern California and Michigan are mild in comparison to the teams on this list. There's nothing more newsworthy in the sports world than a good paddling. Regardless of sport or public interests in a particular game, if an opponent inserts a boot in your backside, we're going to read about it. A game that held no meaning before it was played, 100 years later can mean so much. And as long as we have guys like myself to blow the dust from history, we get another chance to relive the embarrassment.


SAW
(Georgia Tech 222, Cumberland 0)

This movie has many sequels, each revealing different methods of a slow torturous death. But even in the movie, the victims had options, though not fair, which could inevitably save their lives. In 1916, Cumberland College was given an option. Pay $3000 and the football team would be released from a standing agreement to play John Heisman’s Georgia Tech squad. Although the Cumberland football program had been discontinued, the agreement was still in place. Rather than fork over the 3 grand, George Allen assembled whichever able bodies he could find, and Cumberland played the game.

It was the rout of all routs, as Georgia Tech scored 63 in the first quarter, and matched it in the second. Tech rolled to 222 points, without ever throwing a forward pass. They rushed for 1650 yards and 28 touchdowns, doing it all on just 40 carries. Cumberland finished with -96 yards rushing, just 14 passing yards, and 15 turnovers. $3000 dollars was a lot of money in 1916, but this ass kicking was priceless.

28 DAYS LATER
(Bears 73, Redskins 0)

It wasn’t exactly 28 days, but in 1940, the Washington Redskins defeated the Chicago Bears 7-3 in a regular season game. 3 weeks later, the two teams met again to decide the NFL Championship. Chicago played the game as if they were alone on the field. Managing just 3 points in the earlier meeting, they jumped out quick to a 21 point lead in the first quarter, before adding another 7 by halftime. The Bears added 45 more in the second half, and the massacre was complete. Down the stretch, officials asked the Bears to run the ball in for the extra points, because too many Footballs were lost in the stands, due to multiple point after kick attempts. This game ranks as the most lopsided victory in NFL history.


THE WARRIORS
(Rangers 30, Orioles 3)

The Warriors isn’t categorized as a horror flick, but one particular New York street gang had their faces painted as if they were prepared to go trick or treating. The “Baseball furies” would chase down their enemies, fully clad in baseball uniforms, and carrying bats to do some clubbing. Last year, the Baltimore Orioles picked a fight with those Baseball furies, jumping in front to a 3-0 lead, before the bats of the Texas Rangers started singing to the tune of 30 unanswered runs. In all, it was 30 runs in a total of 6 innings, an average of 5 per inning, with the onslaught beginning in the 4th. It was the first time in 110 years that a major league team scored 30 runs in a game. The Orioles were the home team, and at the time of this occurence, their NFL neighbors (Baltimore Ravens) hadn’t surrendered 30 points to an opponent in 2 years.

CARRIE
(Lisa Leslie scores 100 points)

Carrie was a loner, doing all the work herself. She left a lasting memory on one high school, and they’d be haunted by the event for years to come. In the same way, South Torrance High School will be forever haunted by the name Lisa Leslie. The senior from Morningside High School never broke Cheryl Miller’s record of 105 points in a game, but she was denied the opportunity. In this game, Morningside High ran out to a 102-24 lead by halftime. Lisa Leslie had 101 of her team’s total first half points. She would finish the night stuck on that number, as South Torrance opted to forfeit the second half of the game. The decision made by the opposing coach to not bring his team back on the floor sparked criticism, But honestly, can you really blame the guy? Both Lisa Leslie, like Cheryl Miller before her, went on to star for the Lady Trojans of USC basketball, and are arguably two of the greatest female basketball players in the history of the sport.

FRIDAY THE 13TH
(Slovakia 82, Bulgaria 0)

Thanks to Jason Voorhees, the mask of a hockey goalie has become synonymous with horror. As for the Bulgarian women’s hockey team, they fear the mask, the ice, and anything related to the sport. The Slovakian women defeated Bulgaria 82-0, having 130 shots on goal to their opponents zero. It’s pretty amazing, when you look at the facts. A hockey goal scores as just one point, and there are only 60 minutes in a match. This would mean the Slovakians were scoring at a pace of more than 1 goal per minute. Bulgaria was eventually eliminated from the tournament, having been outscored 192-1 by their opponents.

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
(Houston 95, SMU 21)

In 1989, the University of Houston had a future Heisman winning QB leading the offense. Southern Methodist was one year removed from the NCAA death penalty that wiped out the football program, and Coach Forrest Gregg had only freshmen and sophomores on the roster. 14 of those freshmen were starters. This game was record setting before the kickoff, with Vegas having the Mustangs as a 59 1/2 point underdog. Though Andre Ware only played the first half, the Cougars set several collegiate records that day. Houston amassed 1,021 yards of offense, with 771 coming from the air. In the first half alone, Ware threw for 517 yards on 41 attempts. A 95-21 victory isn’t nearly the same as the terrible loss suffered by Cumberland. But Houston and their Chainsaw once chopped up another opponent in 1968 (Tulsa), finishing with a final score of 100-6. That victory gave the Cougars the honor of being the last major college program to score 100 points in a game.

From the Empire, to you and yours,
have a happy and safe Halloween.

Football’s Future: Safety Valve; Taylor Mays


College football currently features two great Safeties, but only one will be draft eligible. Tennessee’s sophomore Eric Berry is in the NFL’s distant future, but for USC’s junior Taylor Mays, the future can arrive in April.

Mays is a freak of nature that has NFL General Managers anticipating his arrival. Standing at 6’3 and 230 pounds, he was a two time high school track champion in both the 100 and 200-meters. At USC, he’s been clocked at 4.25 in the forty. The combination of size and speed brings a physical force that draws Ronnie Lott comparisons for the punishment dished out on opponents. His presence is intimidating, and skills are polished. On the field, he is a man amongst boys.

Mays opting to return to Southern California for his senior year would be the most shocking announcement of all Trojans underclassmen. He has no reason to remain at this level. He is a certain first round selection, with the potential for an overall top 10 appearance. Rey Maualuga is by far the biggest name of the Trojans defense, but Taylor Mays is the greatest athlete of the unit.




Tuesday, October 28, 2008

DOH-mer of The Week- Worst preseason acquisitions of 2008


Some NFL franchises were willing to gamble and take a stab at the poor free agency market, providing the cash and hoping for performance. Others gambled with picks, acquiring what they believed to be immediate impact players and sacrificing positions in future drafts. With 8 weeks complete, and teams and players settling in, let’s give a group hug to all the DOH-mers that flushed their funds and selections down the toilet.

1. Adam “Pacman” Jones, CB, Cowboys- Pacman tops the list, because unlike the others, it’s doubtful that he’ll have the opportunity to improve. Now suspended again by the NFL, the cornerback failed to be a force on the field as either a cornerback or return man. But this acquisition amounts more to a waste of time, since Jerry Jones did leave himself a way out, and retrieved draft picks granted to Tennessee in the trade. There’s still the issue of Dallas paying the fines for taking a chance on a problem player. But then again, as I’ve always said, Goodell should also fine himself for even allowing the opportunity. I’ll admit that I supported Jerry’s decision to add Pacman to the roster, as I believed he could change. But hey, I’m not eligible to be a DOH’mer on my own blog….so back the f*ck up!

2. Javon Walker, WR, Raiders- If you think Javon Walker being robbed on a street corner in Vegas was horrible, reflect back on the robbery that took place months earlier in an Oakland office. Al Davis dished out a $55 million contract for a player the Denver Broncos were glad to boot from the mountain. That contract came with $27 million in guarantees. In 6 games played, Walker has 12 receptions and just one touchdown. The lone score came against the Jets, and marked his first time in the end zone in two years. That breaks the contract down to $27.5 million per touchdown, and nearly $460,000 per catch.

3. Brett Favre, QB, Jets- The New York Jets acquired Brett Favre for a conditional 4th round pick in the 2009 draft. It turns into a third round pick, if Brett plays in at least 50% of Jets games. Just go ahead and bench him now, because you have nothing to gain and more to lose. What the Jets acquired was an NFL turnover machine and an 89.5 passer rating. I’m sure they already had that sitting somewhere on the bench. Didn’t they? As it is, the man sent packing to make room for Favre (Chad Pennington) is 6th in the league in passing, with a passer rating of 100.5. Favre has thrown 11 interceptions in 7 games played. Pennington has thrown just 3. The only thing right about the New Yorkers’ decision to ship Pennington out is that it avoids a quarterback controversy, as fans aren’t likely to call for Clemens. And don’t give me any of that sh*t about Favre leading the Jets to a tying score, before falling to the Raiders. And don't talk to me about heroics against the Kansas City Chiefs. Those are woeful franchises, and it was Favre’s play that allowed them both to remain in the game.

4. Jeremy Shockey, TE, Saints- The Saints gave up second and fifth round picks to the Giants for Jeremy Shockey. Obviously the Giants didn’t need him, improving as a unit during his absence, and were waiting for a victim to punk in a trade. This isn’t about his 22 receptions and no scores in 2008. It’s about his return from a sports hernia, only to complain about pain in the leg damaged last year with the Giants. The Saints gave up draft selections for damaged goods. Shockey says New Orleans erred in misdiagnosing his injury in camp, but the error came before that, in the trade. You have a pro bowl tight end playing in the best passing attack in football, and he hasn’t seen the end zone. In contrast, Kevin Boss may only have 10 receptions with the Giants, but he has scored twice.

5. Troy Williamson, WR, Jaguars- When you look at the sixth round pick the Jags gave up for Troy Williamson, it may not look like much. But then again, they didn’t gain much. It was nearly a “nothing-for-nothing” deal. Williamson’s strength is speed to stretch the football field. His weakness is his hands, as the guy can’t catch for sh*t. If you ever wonder what Usain Bolt would look like on a football field, just watch Williamson play. Aside for missing 4 games with an injury, Williamson (the stretch performer) has no catches longer than 6 yards. His receptions have only moved the sticks once, and he hasn’t scored. The Vikings used the 6th round pick to select Jaymar Johnson, another speedy receiver, and he's currently a member of their practice squad. Why did I say it was "nearly" a nothing-for-nothing deal? It's because the salary of a former first round draft choice is substantially greater than the salary of a 6th round practice squad player. Neither are productive on Sundays, but who got the better deal?

I could easily dig deeper and add more names to this list, since the free agent market was so horrible. But the 5 listed didn’t require any digging, because you could almost see that teams weren’t getting what they bargained for, before these men ever set foot on the field. Oddly, Redskins owner Dan Snyder managed to avoid any bonehead moves during the offseason, though people thought the hiring of Jim Zorn was “it”. Maybe the little guy has finally learned. But as for the rest of them, take this DOH’mer as a lesson, before you pull out your wallets in 2009.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pasadena in January appears more likely


Sometimes there’s just no getting around that “oops”. Last year, with the madness of the season, USC nearly had the opportunity to overcome the horrible loss to Stanford and still qualify for the BCS championship game. It was the second loss, to Oregon, that ultimately did them in. And even then, it was still close. Two years ago, it wasn’t the slip up against Oregon State that kept the Trojans out of the National Championship game, it was the “oops” at the end, losing the regular season finale to UCLA. This year, it’s appearing more and more likely that the bad outing against the Beavers will stick and deny USC another title opportunity.

There’s still a lot of college football to be played, but if you look at the current BCS standings, and the games to be played by those ranked opponents, it would take a couple of heavy hitters to also fall flat on their faces against lesser opponents for the Trojans to have a chance. A big blow was Ohio State losing to Penn State on Saturday. Not only did the Buckeyes serve as a road block for lower ranked programs nipping at the Trojan heels, but their loss may have granted Penn State a free pass to Miami.

Texas has just one obstacle remaining, and that’s this weekend’s opponent, Texas Tech. Even if the Red Raiders bring down the Horns, with USC’s dismal performance against Arizona, and a winless opponent in Washington this week, there stands the chance that Tech would leap-frog Southern Cal in the BCS standings. For Trojans fans, the game in Lubbock is a “lose-lose” situation, unless you believe the Red Raiders wouldn’t win out.

Then you have a softened SEC, and Alabama rolling through it. The SEC West is the Tide’s to win, and the lone obstacle may be Florida in the SEC title game. Then again, depending on this weekend’s results, it may be Georgia, and we already know what Bama did to the Dawgs. But again, it’s another “lose-lose” situation, because the SEC champion, regardless of who it is, will likely finish ahead of USC.

This leaves us viewing the postseason through Rose colored glasses, and that isn’t even certain. For USC to even have a date in Pasadena, they need Oregon State to lose another game in conference, as a tie-breaker would be the head-to-head meeting with the Beavers, and they would receive the automatic bid. The most important thing is to not lose again. Even if Oregon State was to win out, a one loss Trojans team would surely pick up an at-large BCS bid and appear in a BCS game. If you really look at it, that may actually be better for the fans, if we can’t play in the championship game. Just imagine, Penn State rolling into the National title game, and a USC Pac 10 champion drawing Big 10 runner up Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. Why not? Illinois had 3 losses and got there. It would mean the Buckeyes and Trojans would meet 3 times in a two year span. I don’t know about you, but give me someone else. After all, the drubbing of Big 10 opponents becomes…well…boring.

Willingham out; is Kiffin In?

The sound we've been waiting for in the Pacific Northwest was finally heard on Monday. That thud was the University of Washington dropping the axe, cutting ties with Coach Ty Willingham at the end of the season. It was inevitable, and certainly won't create ripples of "fair or not" discussions across the nation, as the firing of Tommy Bowden did in Clemson. Going into the season, Willingham already knew he needed to win games to save his job, and he responded with the Huskies sitting at 0-7, the only winless BCS conference program in America.

UW now has several months to find a replacement, though the recruiting clock is ticking. And that replacement may be closer than we think, with Lane Kiffin already being mentioned, once his unemployment became official. The hiring of Kiffin would add the fourth former NFL coach to lead a program in the existing Pac 10, joining Pete Carroll, Mike Riley, and Dennis Erickson. The addition of Kiffin would add a face for recruiting, as his name and face are already well known in the Southern California hotbed, as well as various parts of the nation.

I think it would be a good fit in Seattle, but they'll go through their process. I can't say with any certainty who will be leading the program next year. But now I can say, definitely, that Willingham will not.

Did voters forget or not care about Tulsa?


Tulsa was ranked 19th and 21st in last week's coaches and Harris polls. They premiered at No. 19 in the preliminary BCS standings. The Golden Hurricanes managed to jump spots in this weeks standings without playing a game, and without having a bye week. By late Sunday afternoon, the results of both human polls were combined with computer data, and fresh results were published. The only problem is, Tulsa was playing UCF on Sunday night. Were voters and computer geeks so certain that Tulsa would be victorious that they automatically factored them in as a winner, or did they simply not care? Had the game been scheduled and played on Saturday, it wouldn't matter if they won, because they would likely appear in the same Sunday position. But what if they lost?...then what? A loss to Central Florida could have easily left them hanging by a thread in the top 25, if not falling out completely, which would create a domino effect on their BCS bearing.

Had this been a Sunday game featuring the higher ranked opponents, the poll results would have likely been delayed, as the games outcome would have been important to positioning. If a win or loss for Tulsa isn't important to position, then I have to ask why there is so much depth in the rankings. Why not rank the top 15 and leave it at that? What is the importance of numbers 16 to 25? "1" and "2" are the magic numbers, since the top spots get into the BCS championship game, as well as "1" in the AP, because it has potential to be different, which would award a split title. "12" is also significant, as it represents the level for automatic entry into BCS bowl games for mid-majors achieving this level in the final BCS standings. Stretch it to 15, and we can see 3 programs knocking on the door as the season rolls along. Outside of mid-majors and the national title games, rankings don't determine the other BCS participants. Illinois played in the 2008 Rose Bowl, despite sitting lower in the standings than programs that didn't receive a BCS bid.

When voters and computers posted results, before Tulsa ever took the field on Sunday, they told us the lower numbers in the top 25 are insignificant. And you know what?...They're right. Tulsa is an undefeated mid-major program that has been clobbering their opponents. By being ignored on Sunday, they were delivered a message that says no matter what they do, they will not jump ahead of the 3 mid-majors above them to snag the at-large BCS bid, unless all 3 of those teams suffer a defeat in these final weeks. What Tulsa does is about as important as anything accomplished by Ball State, meaning it's not really important at all. The important results weigh on Boise State, TCU, and Utah, who all happen to be among the top 15 of the BCS standings, and control their own destiny.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sharing the backfield may not carry the load


We're now in year two of USC's "running back by committee" offense, and the more I see it, the more I see a need for change. The interchangeable parts of the Trojans offense may prosper against lesser defenses, as they did in posting three 100 yard rushers against Washington State. But when it comes to the better defenses, especially in the Pac 10 conference, whatever happened to the phrase, "If it aint broke, don't fix it"?

Aside from the predictable play calling of Steve Sarkisian, some of the USC offensive struggles can be credited to never allowing a runner to get in rhythm. We can use the most recent contest against Arizona as an example. As quickly as Stafon Johnson established himself as a force against the Wildcats defense, is as quickly as we saw new faces enter the backfield to be dropped for losses. Stafon Johnson averages 5.4 yards a carry, yet we resorted to throwing incompletions on 3rd down and 2. In the second half of the ballgame, an Arizona defense was obviously tiring, but we failed to take advantage, looking for the homerun shot, instead of punishing them with smash mouth football.

It hurts when unhappy players transfer out of the program, in hopes of receiving more playing time elsewhere. But it's even more painful to see a great defensive effort nearly go for naught, because coaches are trying to keep everyone happy. Build a lead and everyone can play. Play as a committee, create offensive disruption, and you chance an entire team not playing at all in January. I know "a win is a win", regardless of how ugly. But the offensive play calling and substitutions were the difference between a blowout and a near upset. The Trojans sputtered to an escape in Tuscon, with Mike Stoops also making some bad decisions on the opposing sideline. But we should already know from the notch in the loss column that sometimes when you live on the edge you're liable to fall.

Rearview: Horns continue game of ‘catch me if you can’


Another Saturday and another ranked opponent. Such has been the life of the Texas Longhorns. The Horns have been the BCS leader since defeating their first ranked opponent, the Oklahoma Sooners, three weeks ago. Their weekend disposal of No. 6 Oklahoma State now makes it 3 consecutive ranked opponents to collide with the burnt orange, and and 3 more notches in Mack Brown’s belt. And still there is no time for a breather, as they now prepare for the undefeated and 8th ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders to invade Austin next weekend. Texas has built an impressive BCS resume, and if they manage to make it 4 victims in as many weeks, I doubt anyone can catch them in the BCS standings. One more game, and then smooth sailing ahead. Well, until you reach that Big 12 title game, where they would most likely have a rematch with Missouri. I’m sure the Tigers would love another shot, but I don’t think the result would be any different.

LIVE FOR TODAY, WORK TOWARDS TOMORROW

The Nittany Lions got their first victory in Columbus since they joined the Big 10. In this battle of BCS heavyweights, neither team ran over the other, and nearly punched to a draw. This one was already set up to be a defensive battle, and the Buckeyes may have lost the game on a coaching error. Todd Boeckman had plenty of success in previous years against Penn State, but the Buckeyes chose to ride young Terrelle Pryor, and the horse came up lame in the end. Preparing a young man to be your program’s future leader is one thing. Preparing your team and putting them in the best position to win their biggest game in conference is another.

FREE FALLING

If we’re wondering if the SEC has dropped off, I think this weekend continues to give signs. Not only did Auburn jump out of conference and drop a game to West Virginia, but Vanderbilt took a hit from Duke. How can you continue to make the “top to bottom” claim, when the the perennial bottom sitter of the ACC just claimed a victory over the middle of your conference? What makes the swelling around the black eye stand out even more is Mississippi State edging Middle Tennessee State after a long fought battle. LSU has definitely dropped off defensively. A couple of weeks ago, it was shocking to see a Tigers defense give up 50+ points. Now, just two weeks later, they’ve done it again.

DIGITS

-Saturdays Victory over Tennessee marked the 1st time in 16 years that Alabama has won back-to-back games in the series.

-Georgia's victory in Baton Rouge snapped an LSU streak of 30 consecutive Saturday home victories.

-Kentucky has now lost 22 consecutive games to Florida.

-Oklahoma tied a school record with 55 first half points in their victory over Kansas State.

-USC’s defense allowed just 88 passing yards to Arizona’s Sonny Dykes offense.

-Rutgers’ Mike Teel threw for a school record 6 touchdowns in Saturday’s upset of Pittsburgh.

-Virginia’s defense limited Georgia Tech to just 7 completions in their upset victory.

-Louisville’s defense held South Florida to just 8 rushing yards in their upset victory.

-Ball State has 4 opponents remaining and 0 games to be played on Saturdays.

-Another Hokies loss to Florida State makes it 34 years since Tech has won a game in Tallahassee.


GALLOPING FINISH

Kansas- Defense isn’t played in this state
Kansas State- See above
Kentucky- just got scored on again
Kent State- I just wanted another “K” school here
Pitt- Wanny is owned by Schiano
Penn State- Is Joe Pa really coaching in that booth?
Ohio State- Is Tressel really coaching from that sideline?
Minnesota- dodges Penn State in scheduling
Michigan- hasn’t dodged anything in 4 weeks
Pac 10 officials- called a holding penalty on USC’s #5 (Reggie Bush?)
Arizona State- The season’s great pretender
Week 9- no surprises in the BCS 10

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Trojans edge Arizona 17-10 to avoid desert trap


The Southern California Trojans spoil Arizona’s homecoming with a 17-10 victory in Tucson. Though the Wildcats had developed a reputation for sinking top 25 opponents in the desert sand, the Trojans defense ensured that the 5th ranked visitors would leave on their feet.

With Arizona’s defense appearing up to the task, limiting USC to their lowest scoring output on the season, the Trojans' defensive unit flexed their superiority. USC stretched their scoreless string to 11, shutting out Arizona’s offense in the first quarter. The string was finally snapped on a Wildcat’s field goal to begin the second. The field goal was set up by a Mark Sanchez interception that left the Cats sitting in the red zone and looking for the lead. The men of Troy held, and Arizona settled for a tying 3. A third quarter fumble by Mark Sanchez set up the Cats’ only touchdown, with Nicholas Grisby running it in from 5 yards out.

In all, the Trojans limited Arizona’s high powered offense to just 188 total yards, with just 88 in the air. USC moved the ball well, but failed several times to capitalize movement with points on the board. Mark Sanchez went 21 of 36 for 216 yards and a touchdown, but his two turnovers kept the hosts hanging around anticipating a homecoming after party. Stafon Johnson led the Trojans in rushing (83 yards), and Joe McKnight was used sparingly.

Taylor Mays said before the season began that defense is what this team thrives on. He was correct, as the defensive collapse in the first half in Corvallis, and a strong performance in every game since, is the difference between USC remaining in both the conference and national title hunt or packing their bags early for the Holiday Bowl.

Fight On!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

From The Horse’s Mouth- Week 9 Spotlight Games


With the preliminary BCS standings revealed, the landscape has a different look. For now on, all digits preceding a program’s name will reflect their position in the BCS standing, and no longer represent positions in the AP poll. As always, the AP may come into play down the stretch, if it appears college football may be headed towards a split title. But until then, the AP poll is irrelevant, as its data is not part of the BCS equation.

(3) Penn State at (9) Ohio State

The horse’s must see rating: 10

Quickie: Are we still doubting the legitimacy of the Nittany Lions championship contention? Here’s a golden opportunity to strengthen their worth and remove those doubts. The Buckeyes have regained their swagger and are riding the momentum from last week’s drubbing of Michigan State. Preseason analysts claimed the Big 10 title runs through Columbus. Let’s see if Joe Pa can come out clean on the other side, leaving Tressel and Ohio State in his rearview.

NITTANY LIONS (8-0)
Last week- W- Michigan

Penn State’s record remains unscathed, largely due to the winning of key position battles that enable them to bury their opponents. Their foes have been overpowered at the skill positions, as well as in the trenches. One key match up this week will be Jordan Norwood looking to get off the block and find space against NFL first round corner prospect Malcolm Jenkins. Appearing as the favorite target for quarterback Daryll Clark, Norwood was limited to just 4 catches and 28 yards in last week’s victory, and must have more production for the Lions to be positioned for this win. Just as the sturdy Buckeyes defense limited Michigan State’s Javon Ringer, running the ball may again be troublesome for this week’s opponent, and an elscalation of their season's passing attempts and yardage may be the difference between winning and losing.

BUCKEYES (7-1)
Last Week: W-Michigan State

It’s homecoming in Columbus, and Ohio State hasn’t lost one of these games since 2001. They're coming off their most impressive victory of the season, after appearing sluggish in earlier weeks. Quarterback controversy is squashed (for the moment), and the roster is filled with believers again. The Buckeyes enter Saturday’s game ranked 10th in the nation defensively, a tribute to the unit that has carried them this far. The offensive unit holds concern, with the inconsistent play of inexperienced freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Though he has slowly showed signs of improvement, one has to wonder if he’s improved enough to conquer these incoming Lions. A healthy Chris Wells should relieve some of the strain placed on the passing game in previous weeks, allowing the Buckeyes a more methodical approach to move the sticks.

Xtra Points: Defensive strength outweighs offensive presence, and I pick the Buckeyes to prevail victorious for their 7th straight homecoming. With a switch in venue, I’d give the opposite choice, but I believe Ohio State’s young signal caller will find comfort in the friendly confines of the Shoe, allowing him to play smart and efficient in this high profile game.

All Time Series: Buckeyes lead 12-11
Streak: Buckeyes won 2

(6) Oklahoma State at (1) Texas- Gundy’s program is on a magical ride, but it stops in Austin. The Horns should roll the Cowboys.

Auburn at West Virginia- Before the season began, this was one hell of game that would be played with BCS implications. Know I’m not really sure what it is, but you can catch in airing Thursday night on ESPN.

(8) Texas Tech at (23) Kansas- If you’re looking for a Big 12 shootout, here it is. This game features the nation’s 58th and 65th ranked defenses, and the 2nd and 14th ranked offenses.

(7) Georgia at (13) LSU- The loser is officially knocked out of the BCS championship race, but would still remain hopeful to win the SEC.

(5) USC at Arizona- The Sand Trap

Notre Dame at Washington- Come on now! It’s the “Ty Bowl”!

UCLA at California- Two schools with the same fight song. That has to be annoying to listen to in the stands.

Upset special- Virginia over (18) Georgia Tech, (23) Kansas over (8) Texas Tech, (9) Ohio State over (3) Penn State

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sand trap preview: (5) USC at Arizona


Before the regular season began, and long before the Trojans suffered the unlikely loss in Corvallis, one Pac 10 road game has been circle on the schedule, and that was the October visit to Tucson. It’s amazing that fans of the Empire would circle any game with Mike Stoops coaching on the opposing sideline, but I can see some reason to worry. Over the past 4 seasons, the Wildcats have presented a sand trap. Though their regular season records were woeful, the underdogs of the desert managed to claim a top 25 victim in each. The tombstones would read No. 2 Oregon in ‘07, No. 8 Cal in ‘06, No. 7 UCLA in ‘05, and No. 20 Arizona State in ’04. Are this year’s Wildcats worth the worry for the incoming 5th ranked (BCS) Trojans? Maybe, but they aren’t as problematic as they may appear on paper.

WILDCATS (5-2)
Last Week: W-Cal

What Arizona brings is a load of offensive hype. The Sonny Dykes offense is finally clicking, and quarterback Willie Tuitama has matured into an efficient passer. Nicolas Grisby adds the ground support, and together, the Cats move the ball pretty well. But even with all that said, and all the hype given, Arizona still ranks 32nd in the nation offensively. Both Oregon schools are more productive, and the Trojans are the Pac 10 leader in the category. As we dig deeper, their offensive totals were amassed in games against Idaho, Toledo, New Mexico, UCLA, Washington, Stanford, and Cal, meaning the best defense they’ve faced was Cal’s 32nd ranked unit last weekend.

The same can be said about a Wildcats defense that lost their biggest playmaker, cornerback Antoine Cason, to the NFL in April. Arizona hasn’t battled an offense ranked among the nation’s top 20 this season. USC will represent their first. The defensive line doesn’t apply much pressure on the quarterback, recording an average of one sack per game, and aren’t very strong against the run, giving up more than 130 yards to opponents. Their “paper” strength would be in defense of the pass, allowing 253 to opponents. But as we view the larger picture, some of their opponents have woeful rankings in the air, New Mexico (111th), and Stanford (109th). Ironically, Arizona lost to both struggling air attacks.

TROJANS (5-1)
Last week: W-Washington State

Southern Cal is fresh off the thrashing of Washington State. Since the loss to Oregon State, the Trojans have outscored their opponents 141-10, including consecutive shutouts in the past two weeks. Against the worst BCS conference program in America, USC was given the opportunity to rest healthy players, allow injured players to heal, and give the inexperience on the roster some time on the field. They bring a double edged sword to the Arizona desert, an offensive unit that is very efficient and stingy defense that allows little movement.

USC is the Pac 10 statistical leader in nearly all offensive and defensive categories. Quarterback Mark Sanchez is 7th in the nation in pass efficiency, and the Trojans rank second overall nationally in total defense, surrendering just 220 yards per contest. The offensive line protects well (just 6 sacks on the season), while the defensive line lives in opposing backfields (15 sacks). The defense also allows just 83 yards rushing, and a ridiculous average of just 7 points to opponents.

Analysis: As in every game already played this year, only the Trojans can beat the Trojans in the desert. This unit is far superior to the one led by Mike Stoops, and only the team’s lack of focus would keep the Wildcats in this ballgame. The environment presents the trap, with a full stadium anxious for a field storming. Allow the Cats to jump out to any kind of lead, and the roaring crowd will give them the confidence to finish. This may possibly be the last desert dance for Mike Stoops, but if David can take down Goliath, he may avoid the unemployment line for at least another season.

All Time Series: Trojans lead 25-6
Streak: Trojans won 6

Football’s Future: Mark Sanchez considering NFL jump


According to the Los Angeles Daily News, the Sanchez family arranged a meeting with Joe Mendes, the vice president of football operations for the Washington Redskins, and a good friend of Pete Carroll. It was a consultation, with the family weighing their son’s future options, though the USC redshirt junior quarterback claims he was unaware of the details. USC is an NFL football factory, and Coach Pete Carroll is an NFL guy with NFL ties, so these meetings aren’t uncommon, though it may have come earlier than others I can remember. Last year, a meeting was set up for all daft eligible players, with NFL scouts informing them of possible draft status, and decisions were made from there. That assembly occurred after the Trojans' final regular season game.

Sanchez claims he’s committed to returning to Southern California in 2009, but the entire scenario reminds me of Reggie Bush in his junior year. Bush openly stated that he hadn’t made any decision about a possible NFL jump, and was weighed more towards a return. On the other hand, his step father informed the press that his son would be forgoing his senior year and entering the NFL draft. You may also remember in that same year, with the end of season meeting set up with NFL advisors, Lendale White was absent, with his decision apparently made months prior.

As much as the Empire would love to have Sanchez for one more season, I would say the time to make the jump is now. His large frame, big arm, and work in a pro style offense make his stock high. Even if Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford opts to make the jump, the quarterback field is still mostly thin. The Sanchez negative would be his gambling mentality, often making ill-advised tosses, when it’s best to surrender the down and throw the ball harmlessly to the turf. But if the comparison’s to Carson Palmer are correct, with Palmer going as the No.1 overall pick in his draft class, Mark Sanchez should be a definite first round choice.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

DOH-mer Of The Week- Name Calling Again


We all know Lou Holtz. Well, at least most of us do. If you follow college football at all, you know he was one of the great coaching names of his time, now works as an analyst for ESPN, and recently had a statue in his likeness unveiled on the Notre Dame campus. Some people love him, and others hate him. If you’ve heard his opinions on college games, you realize he represents “homerism” to the extreme. The man has a doctorate degree, and has a segment called “Dr. Lou” that airs during halftime of college football games broadcast on ESPN. And though I’ve always admired his coaching skills, I’ve never been a fan of his commentary. To hear him, my belief is that he dips into the cooking sherry before going on air. But last week, he made one of the biggest no-no’s of broadcasting, referencing the infamous German dictator Adolf Hitler in comparison to a college coach.

Is the entire thing overblown? All he said was, “ya know, Hitler was a great leader too”. Some people think something was made out of nothing, but I’m not one of those people. Nothing is going to ruffle feathers more than the use of Hitler in a positive light. Great? He was about as great as the first lemming that leads the others to the cliff, before they all plunge to their death. As I see it, he led his country to be conquered, divided, and controlled by other powers. Leader? If anything…“cowardly”. He sent 12 year old boys to fight his enemies, while he refused to suffer the consequences of his actions, choosing suicide, instead. It reminds me a lot of the huffing and puffing “leader” of Iraq, who ordered his citizens to fight off the invading Americans with their kitchen knives and what-not, only to be found cowering inside a farm hole with candies and small children. There was nothing “great” about Adolph Hitler. Even his artwork was a piece of sh**.

If Dr. Lou is going to use Hitler as a comparison to Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez, who will he choose to be Pete Carroll’s leadership mirror? Is it Charles Manson, leading an entire cult to fulfill his desires. Maybe Jim Tressel can be compared to Jim Jones, who had so much influence over his congregation that he led them out of the country, before leading then to drink cyanide laced Kool-Aid. Maybe Nick Saban has so much success in his short time in Alabama, because like David Koresh, his leadership has his football team believing he’s Jesus Christ.

Overblown? If you’re calling Rich Rodriguez a bad coach and leader, who will eventually lead to the demise of the program, that’s one thing. But the Wolverines look to defeat their opponents, and not to exterminate them based on prejudices. In some countries it’s unlawful to name a child “Adolf Hitler”, and that certainly doesn’t reflect the opinion of “greatness” in his leadership.

Dr. Lou takes this DOH-mer home, and not for just making that asinine mistake, but also for not knowing better. In June, Jamele Hill, also employed by ESPN, was suspended for Hitler comments. I guess Lou doesn’t pay attention to what goes on in the office, while he's refilling his flask.

And in case you haven't seen any of those horrible "Dr. Lou" segments, here's my offering:




Reggie Bush Update

As reported earlier, Reggie Bush did sustain a tear in his left knee during Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers. Bush underwent arthroscopic surgery on Monday, and is now in recovery. The timetable for his return remains unknown. The estimate for a cartilage tear is about 2 to 4 weeks. Bush's teammates are in England, preparing for Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers.

Niners opening tags Carroll as a 'flight risk'


Pete Carroll turned down the San Francisco job offer in 2005. He then turned down the Raiders in 2006. But he is a California Bay area guy, and the firing of Mike Nolan has to raise some concerns. Carroll was born and raised in San Francisco. He attended Northern California's University of the Pacific, eventually moving on to later become the 49ers defensive coordinator in '95 & '96. A return to his old stomping grounds may have been doubtful in the past, but would appear more probable today.

2005 offered a golden opportunity for Carroll and the Niners. Many believed he would flee Southern California, jumping on a chance to go home again, and possibly coaxing his Heisman winning QB to go with him. Matt Leinart was the top prospect in the upcoming draft, and the 49ers were holding the first pick. Fresh off an Orange Bowl victory and his second national championship in consecutive years, both Carroll and Leinart remained at USC. San Francisco hired Mike Nolan and drafted Utah quarterback Alex Smith.

With the San Francisco job open again, circumstances have changed. Though the Trojans are the 6 time defending Pac 10 champions, they've appeared in the national title game just once, since Pete turned down the earlier job. With a roster loaded with talent, USC has underachieved in recent years, and the local media points fingers at the man they once proclaimed "The king of Los Angeles". Many questioned whether or not Carroll still had the NFL itch, but if you couple the added pressure to reach the BCS championship game with the possibility of a homecoming, the time may be right to give it a scratch. Carroll refused to comment on the Bay area job opening, but his history shows that he'll at least listen to the offers. No comment is the same as saying you're leaving the door open. If the door is closed, and the 49ers are definitely out, why not say so?

Monday, October 20, 2008

White Cassel: Not a burger story; or is it?


Lendale White is still physically larger than he needs to be, and his jersey still grips tightly around the burger patties in the middle, but the big guy can still rumble. USC’s all time leader in rushing touchdowns (52) has taken his end zone sniffing to the NFL. His Tennessee Titans are 6-0, and Lendale has 8 touchdowns in the six games played. 3 of those scores came on Sunday, including an 80 yard burst through the middle of Kansas City’s defense. He finished the game with 149 yards on 17 carries. As he was the thunder to Reggie Bush’s lightning as a Trojan, he maintains that role as a tandem with rookie running back Chris Johnson. White and Johnson combined for 317 rushing yards against the woeful Chiefs.



On Monday night, quarterback Matt Cassel passed for 3 touchdowns, as the Patriots rolled the Denver Broncos 41-7. Cassel was sacked 6 times in the game, an indication that he still holds the ball too long, trying to make something out of nothing. But if you’re keeping score, season stats and comparison look something like this:

Matt Cassel- 6 tds, 4 ints
Carson Palmer- 3 tds, 4 ints
Matt Leinart- 0 tds, 0 ints
J.D. Booty- 0 tds, 0 ints

Patience is a virtue.

Willingham should be the poster boy for midseason firings


Believe it or not, there are some folks that insist that a coach should at least be allowed to lead their programs for the remainder of a college season, though termination is a definite on the horizon. Last week, Tommy Bowden refused to agree to the proposed incentives to keep his job, choosing to walk away from Clemson instead. And though it may shake up a locker room and unearth concerns, a midseason firing/resignation may be more beneficial for a program than waiting until all games are played.

Unlike the NFL, the amateurs aren’t placed in a draft pool. Good or bad, you still have the opportunity to latch on to the nation’s top prospects. The firing in Clemson has already impacted Tigers’ recruiting, with at least 3 prospects de-committing since the announcement. But the sooner you establish stability in the program, is the sooner you can have strength on the recruiting trail again. Nebraska quickly lost commitments with the firing of Bill Callahan, and then just as quickly gained, with the announcement of the hiring of Bo Pelini. Michigan’s delay of the termination/resignation process hurt the program, and the late transition from resignation to Rich Rodriguez accepting the position in Ann Arbor hurt both his former and new employer.

But when we look at Washington and Ty Willingham, some of his actions give immediate justification to why you shouldn’t prolong the agony. Not only is Willingham’s presence in Seattle effecting recruiting, but his decisions are affecting the future of a program he will no longer be connected to. The Huskies haven’t won a game. And in all probability, they’re likely to win just one (Washington State). They will finish as one of college football’s doormats, yet Willingham is still there. This program needs a boost in recruiting, yet Willingham is still there. And two weeks ago, Ty Willingham made a move that will impact Washington’s future, with no personal consequences.

It was another lopsided affair, with the Huskies being pounded by Arizona. The game and season are a wash, and there’s nothing left but the building of the future. Willingham inserts Wide Receiver Cory Bruns into the game, giving him his first action of the season. Bruns was on the field for 3 plays, and didn’t follow up with any action in Saturday’s loss to Oregon State. When Bruns entered the game and the ball was snapped, the freshman was automatically stripped of his redshirt, counting this entire season against his eligibility. Willingham forfeited the young wide receivers redshirt year for 3 plays in a game that could not possibly be won, and in a season that can't possibly be salvaged.

Willingham will eventually be gone, and with his act, one young receiver will have fewer years in the program. Is it stupidity or sabotage? I choose the latter. Stupidity would mean Willingham was unaware of the consequences to the program by playing the redshirt. If we rewind a couple of seasons, the Huskies were trying to make a run at bowl eligibility, when 2 quarterbacks went down with injuries. Willingham opted to surrender the goals of the season, and suffer the losses, rather than insert a redshirt freshman at quarterback. That quarterback was Jake Locker, and his future eligibility was preserved. Now there is no apparent future in Seattle for the coach, and in essence, nothing to preserve.

Have you ever wondered why some programs swing the axe in the middle of the season? Tyrone Willingham, and his actions, are a perfect example.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rivers' rookie season comes to an abrupt end

Bengals rookie linebacker Keith Rivers may have possibly played his final game of the 2008 season. Being on the receiving end of a block by Steelers' receiver Hines Ward, the diagnosis is a season ending broken jaw for the former USC All-American. The play drew no flag, but did draw discussions about possible penalties issued by the NFL against the Pittsburgh receiver that is already running a tab for league fines. Ward has a reputation across the league as a dirty player, and we'll await the decision from the league office on this latest hit.

Bengals linebacker Brandon Johnson also addressed the issue of the double standards of the NFL. Johnson's belief is that a flag would have been thrown quickly if Rivers were an NFL quarterback, but the league fails to offer the same protection on the defensive side. Rivers was blind sided while in pursuit of Pittsburgh tight end Matt Spaeth. The collision was violent, drawing a reaction from CBS commentators and the crowd. Rivers laid on the turf for several minutes, before bouncing to his feet and exiting to the locker room.

On another note, Seattle's Lofa Tatupu left the Sunday night game against the Tampa Bay Bucaneers with an apparent concussion.

Bush shelfed with possible torn meniscus


According to FOX Sports and The Associated Press, there is speculation that Reggie Bush has torn his meniscus during Sunday's loss to Carolina. Bush is scheduled to see Dr. James Andrew in Alabama and won't be making the trip to London with his Saints to face the San Diego Chargers at Wembley Stadium.

Even before today's game, there was already concern about swelling of the knee during weekly practices. It's a tough break for the former USC star who was having an outstanding season. Bush rushed for 55 yards on 9 carries, before limping from the field after a return. The loss of Bush had an immediate impact, as Coach Sean Payton said the team's offense became "one dimensional", and New Orleans was drubbed by Carolina 30-7.

As soon as there is confirmation as to the exact extent of the injury, I'll forward that information.

No Surprise, Texas tops first BCS Standing


The Texas Longhorns appear atop the first BCS standing of 2008, which isn't a surprise. It would have been more shocking if they were not. The standings offer little difference between the other national polls, and the top 5 is consistent to the 5 chosen by Harris voters. Though the Los Angeles Times projected the Trojans to appear in the fourth position this week, USC chimes in at No. 5, trailing Oklahoma, Penn State, Alabama, and front running Texas.

Mid-majors need a BCS standing of at least 12 to receive the automatic at-large bid, and both Boise State and Utah are already positioned to do so. In previous years, mid-major representatives made a slow crawl, opening low on preliminary BCS standings, before working their way into bowl position. Utah has a date with TCU later this season, and with a victory, the Horned Frogs may easily steal the Utes' bowl seat.

BCS STANDINGS (OCT. 19)

1.Texas .997
2.Alabama .948
3.Penn State .866
4. Oklahoma .831
5. USC .775
6. Oklahoma State .772
7. Georgia .720
8. Texas Tech .712
9. Ohio State .702
10.Florida .699
11. Utah .634
12. Boise State .587
13. LSU .498
14. TCU .419
15. Missouri .368
16. South Florida .329
17. Pittsburgh .283
18. Georgia Tech .240
19. Tulsa .236
20. Ball State .234


Rearview: A spanking in East Lansing


The obvious key to derailing the Michigan State Spartans is containing super back Javon Ringer. The Ohio State Buckeyes did just that on Saturday, limiting him to just 67 yards. Of course, Containment is easiest when you jump all over your opponent, forcing them to abandon the running game. An immediate indicator is Ringer’s 16 carries, his lowest total of the season. The Buckeyes led 28-0 at the half, building to 35-0 by the end of the third, before completing the 45-7 drubbing of the 20th ranked Spartans, their highest offensive output on the season. With questions and worry surrounding the Buckeyes past performances, they gave a quick message and delivered a Big 10 statement, which basically said “The champs are here”.

And speaking of spankings, Southern Cal was swinging its own paddle, which is already reviewed here.

GRABBING A BULL BY THE HORNS

The Texas Longhorns are rolling, and the Missouri Tigers latched on and were taken for a ride. Stampeding out of the gate, the Horns had hung 28 before every fan was settled in their seats. Riding the momentum from last week’s victory over Oklahoma, Texas left no doubt about the top spot in the polls. Although we all knew Missouri’s defense wasn’t challenging, I think most expected the Tigers’ offense to at least keep pace. Missouri has now dropped games in consecutive weeks, but can still be considered a favorite in the Big 12 north, meaning they may meet Texas again. Is that a good thing?

FEAR THE TURTLE…SOMETIMES

The most difficult team to figure out is the Maryland Terrapins. They’ve squeaked past Delaware, and lost to both Middle Tennessee State and Virginia. On the flip side, they’ve defeated 3 ranked opponents this season, with No. 20 Wake Forest being the latest victim. The Terps host N.C. State next week. Maybe they should hold their weekly practices as if the Wolfpack were ranked.

TOP 25 UPSETS

(9) BYU defeated by TCU
(17) Virginia Tech defeated by Boston College
(18) North Carolina defeated by Virginia
(21) Wake Forest defeated by Maryland
(25) California defeated by Arizona

Did you notice that 3 of the 5 occurred in the ACC?

DIGITS

-After a poor start, Virginia has now won 3 straight. Their victory over North Carolina marked the 14th straight defeat the Tar Heels have suffered in Charlottesville.

-Syracuse’s Greg Robinson is now 2-22 in Big East play since taking the head coaching job.

-Maryland’s blanking of Wake Forest is the first time the Deacons have been shutout since 1998.

-For the first time in his coaching career, Alabama’s Nick Saban is 7-0.

-1896 was the last time Missouri beat Texas in Austin.

-Colt McCoy’s 82 career touchdown passes overtakes Vince Young as Texas’ leader in that category.

-LSU was aided by a season high 6 sacks in their escape of South Carolina.

-In the last 10 quarters of football, Southern Cal has outscored their opponents 114-0.

-In the shutout of Washington State, the nation’s second longest scoring streak was snapped at 280 games. Michigan is the leader in the category.

-BYU’s upset loss to TCU snapped the nation’s longest win streak, at 16 games.

-Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford threw for a school record 468 yards in the Sooners’ victory over Kansas.

-1939 was the last time Baylor won a game in Stillwater.

-Baylor’s Robert Griffin set a new FBS freshman record, with 155 consecutive pass attempts without an interception.



GALLOPING FINISH

Texas- Without a doubt
Mizzou- Without a defense
Kentucky- Phew!
Tennessee- Not the worst in the SEC
Clemson- New coach, same result
Washington State- Terrible
Virginia- Huh?
Michigan- 2 halves= 1 whole game
Wisconsin- missing out of conference play
Michigan State- A dead Ringer
Ohio State- resembling 2007
Penn State- Catch me, Bowden, if you can.
USC (west)- Bye Week
Northwestern- Bowl eligible
Washington- Willingham is 0-6
Oklahoma State- Shhh
Week 8- BCS standings are here!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cougars fail to cross midfield in 69-0 Trojans Whipping


People will read the score and automatically draw references to the Trojans offense, but this game was a tribute to the USC defensive unit. Southern Cal has now recorded consecutive shutouts for the first time since 1971, and now has held their opponents scoreless for 10 consecutive quarters. It has been 11 quarters since they’ve surrendered an opposing touchdown, and that came assisted by a roughing the kicker penalty on a field goal attempt that extended an Oregon drive.

The Victory equaled the largest shutout victory for USC since 1931. It was the worst defeat for Washington State in the program’s long history that stretches more than 100 years. The victory also snapped Washington State’s streak of scoring in 280 consecutive games, which was second only to Michigan. The crippled Cougars managed just 28 passing yards and 88 on the ground, while managing just 4 first downs and punting 9 times. Even with the starters sitting in the second half, the shutout was preserved by bench players and walk-ons, with the Cougars playing 60 minutes of football without ever running an offensive play in Trojans territory.

Mark Sanchez equaled a school record with 5 touchdown passes, and three Trojan running backs eclipsed the 100 yard mark. Redshirt freshman, Broderick Green, who had been very vocal in the prior weeks for being buried on the depth chart and not getting much playing time, led the stable with 121 yards and 2 touchdowns. Though the Trojans tried repeatedly to keep the clock moving, the Cougars failed to stop simple running plays up the middle, which Green broke for large gains.

Even with the Trojans’ roster thinned by injuries and a stomach virus that has been circulating the SC campus for the past two weeks, the Men of Troy could have easily scored 100 points against their opponents, and damn near scored 70 without trying. I’ve said for weeks that Washington State, with all their problems, is by far the worst team of all in BCS conferences. And with every week that passes, they continue to prove me right.

Fight On!

Friday, October 17, 2008

B-Y-WHO?


As the final seconds ticked from the clock, no smiles were wider than those belonging to members of the BCS committee. The 8th ranked BYU Cougars had fallen 32-7 to the TCU Horned Frogs. For the moment, the intentions of the BCS are preserved, and they could now pull their eyes away from the Mormon school in Provo Utah, and focus more on their upstart neighbors, the 14th ranked Utah Utes. What began as a mid-major scare tactic, with the two Mountain West programs surging upwards in national polls, and perhaps headed towards an undefeated collision to end the regular season, ended with a good old fashion Texas ass kicking, and a quick sigh of relief. TCU had saved the day. Well, at least for now.

Unlike the unbeaten WAC champions of previous years, it would have been difficult to truly justify an undefeated Mountain West champion not qualifying for the BCS Championship game. Reason appears, if we finish with 2 undefeated programs from BCS conferences, but that doesn't seem likely. If you are voters and computer geeks, how could you justify rewarding points to Penn State for a victory over Oregon State, but see Utah's victory over those same Beavers as a lesser accomplishment? How would you ignore BYU's victories over UCLA and Washington, but credit Oklahoma for the blowout in Seattle? How could you possibly explain either BYU or Utah being stripped of championship opportunities, when one would have finished their unblemished season run with a victory over the other, which would have been a top 10 opponent?

The effort of the Horned Frogs enabled a system built with closed doors to deny entry to mid-major programs to hide the key and enforce their wishes. Utah can win out, but just as the WAC Champions, they won't have that final regular season opponent to lift them into discussions. As competitive as the Mountain West conference has been in 2008, TCU's victory was great for the home team on Thursday, but it also put a hurt on the conference that won't be felt until season's end.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The financial obligation of gridiron success


Football recruiting is busy work and the most essential process of a team's success or failure. USC is always among the national leaders in the category, and it doesn't come cheap. Although the University of Southern California sits in one of the nation's hottest recruiting beds, the Trojans spent $8,712,687 on recruiting alone. In all, the football program generated $28,595,881, seeing a profit of $8 million. In contrast, the Trojans basketball team drew a negative of $300,000.

Typical of all fiscal reports in college sports, coaching salaries appear more mythical than factual. USC lists the head coaching position at $642,254, yet Pete Carroll earns $4.1 million for his efforts. Assistant coaches are listed at just over $100,000. Steve Sarkisian will make $700,000 this year.

As for that other sport that was once dominated by USC, the Trojans of the baseball diamond spent just over $2 million in recruiting expenses.

40 years ago in Mexico City


It’s been 40 years now since Tommy Smith and John Carlos stood atop an Olympic Medal podium in Mexico City. The two American track athletes claimed the gold and bronze medals in the 200-meter event, with Smith doing it in world record time. They approached the podium shoeless, wearing only black socks to represent the poverty faced by African Americans of the 60s. They stood tall in their podium positions, received their medals, and as the American flag is raised and the National anthem did sound, Smith and Carlos raised a gloved fist above their lowered heads, a non-violent protest of America’s inequalities.

Their actions prompted the removal of the pair from the Olympic Games, as ordered by the IOC. Back home, they received death threats, and were blacklisted, having difficulties finding employment and housing. America revealed their hate for two individuals symbolizing America’s freedom of expression. 40 years later, we look back and realize how much courage it took during a time of racial tension for anyone to even take it upon themselves to express their frustrations on the world’s biggest stage. These weren’t politicians. These were average men. They were you and I, as well as our neighbors. We sit in our homes today, each with political views, and each with fair amount of dissent in various areas of American politics, and our thoughts an opinions go unheard, and are cast aside as a silent vote. But how many of us, knowing that our expressed freedom would result in unemployment, public resentment, and threats against our lives, would still speak those words or perform those acts of protest. Few, if any, would have the courage to accept the punishment.

The Mexico City protest hits home for me. Not because it affected my life in 1968, but because it marked the first heated disagreement I ever had with my girlfriend. Her stance, the protest was an embarrassment to America, and the athletes deserved to be removed. My stance, America suffered greater embarrassment before the games, with human rights issues. She viewed it as unnecessary, and the use of an improper forum. I viewed it as courageous, with the only alternate forum being the same as we all share now, our homes, where not a single ear or eye of power will give us a glance or listen.

It finally came down to education. She repeated words as taught to her in her Washington school district. The district teachings continued to blackball the athletes for their act, without ever reflecting on issues that brought about cause. This prompted the “Little Giant”, as friends tend to call her, standing only 5’1, but appearing as an enormous presence for community related issues, to approach her district and the board. She demanded to know why she was cheated of an education. She demanded to know why more than 30 years later, the district was still clinging to curriculums from the early 70s. She wanted to know why the teachings at her school resulted in her speaking without knowing. Ironically, a member of that board, and a good friend of her family, was a civil rights activist of the 1960s, and marched with Martin Luther King. In the end, the little giant forced change, assisting in the betterment of education in the State of Washington.

You can see how far we’ve come, since those fists were raised in the air. This is a nation that imposed sanctions on South Africa, for human rights violations that mirrored our own. Look at the recent Summer Games, and the outrage of media censorship and the Chinese government disallowing any content that displays political protest. Carlos and Smith were tagged as “radicals” of their time, for a non-violent act. 4 years later, the world got a glimpse of true radicals in Munich, as innocence became victim to a cowardly act of terrorism, expression in the violent form.

To bring about change, there must first be recognition of a problem. Many men and women throughout history have made sacrifices to bring awareness before we could act on solution. 40 years ago, two of those men raised a fist in the thin air of Mexico City. And 40 years later, I give them their honor and remembrance.