Saturday, September 29, 2007
I am so proud of my team, especially our defense. Barring a last-minute loss on the road to Missouri earlier this month, we easily could be 5-0 heading into next week's big game. And that one had more momentum swings in it than a Yankees / Red Sox playoff game. HUGE PLAYS at key game moments are starting to define this year's club. Rather than giving up big plays on defense we're making them. And shame on you if you don't know who Jeremy Leman is, probably one of the best linebackers in the game today averaging double-digit tackles. He just makes big plays all over the field. If the first half was about offense and big-time plays with the ball, then the 2nd was about defense, stepping it up, and testing manhood. Up 21-17 at the break, the defense showed up down the stretch time and time again to make big plays and force turnovers that kept LION drives from ending up in points. We forced three turnovers in the 4th quarter, each time with Joe Pa's boys ready to go in for the go ahead or tie score. Yes indeed, the Chief is back in 2007. Anybody. Anywhere. Anytime. I told you we're going bowlin' this year. There's a great chance we don't lose again this year at home. Next weekend we get BIG W - the cheesheads from Madison; Wisconsin Badgers. We owe them some.
Actually, it turned out to be a very typcial BIG-10 showdown with both offense and solid defense on exhibit. You'll be hard-pressed to find a more exciting finish today - Oregon / Cal excluded. BIG plays were made at key moments of the game on offense and defense. In the end, that was enough to send a senior Nittany Lion squad back to no-so Happy Valley this week in a game they could have easily won with some better execution. Keep in mind this LION team was ranked in the TOP-10 last weekend before a tough loss in Ann Arbor. Rashard only had 75 yards on 16 carries, but did have a key 1st-half touchdown in a gind-it-out game. Let's face it, Penn State does have a great defense. The passing game is still a source of concern, accumulating 117 yards on 11/27 passing shared between Williams and McGee with 1 TD and 2INTS. Yuck. That won't help our 104th ranking in the passing game. We need to turn this around if we want to really challenge for the BIG-10 title this year against teams like Ohio State. But, we did have another strong rushing performance with 213 yards on the ground in total. And how 'bout Regis Benn? Remember this name. Just how good is this young stud, and how good will he become? A star was born today on Zupke Field inside Memorial Stadium. For the first time since 1991 we start the BIG-10 season at 2 and 0. You might be able to contain him for a quarter or two, but you can't stop the CHIEF this year. Bring on the cheeseheads from Madison. We're ready. They're due. Losing streak ends on Saturday.
And what a crazy Saturday on the college gridiron. Are there any elite teams on the landscape these days? Just when I thought LSU might go down inside the dome against Tulane, they pull away in the 2nd half. Then, the shocker of the day - down goes Oklahoma at the hands of the Buffaloes. Wow - the North strkes back. Down goes one of the title contenders in a game that really surprised me. Check that, down go two BIG SOUTH challengers - upset TEXAS. KSU pulls one of the biggest upsets of the year in AUSTIN today against Mac Brown's club. Wow wow! Any given Saturday. This just in, Auburn (21-point dog) just whacked Florida as time ran out. Oh my! It's a different team and a different game each weekend. Unbelieveable. I didn't even mention the big Friday-night upset in Tampa as USF man-handled WV in a game that made a mess out of the BIG EAST. Watch out for the Bulls. Ten years ago they didn't even exist and now they're on top of their conference and headed towards the BCS. Oh my golly! This has been a crazy season so far. Wow! You just never know. That's why they play the games. Lookahead, and you get killed in CFB. 6 of the top 11 went down today, including 5 of the top-10. Nobody is intimidated by anybody anymore. Does homefield advantage really matter? CAL won today on the road. Same for Auburn, KSU, and Maryland - all on the road. So what was the biggest loss of the day? Oklahoma blowing a lead late in the game with that defense was a big surprise to me. And Florida, losing to lowly Auburn in the SWAMP. The TIGERS should play more SEC road games. Texas going down today hard really didn't surprise me, even in a beatdown at home. Rutgers was exposed. Every week is a different team and a different game. Past performance means less and less with each passing week. Check out this week's TOP25 GRID.
And how 'bout those Ducks? Great game. Another tale of two halves. CAL walks away with its first win in Autzen since 1987. Wow! Great game for both teams, the conference, and the Pacific Northwest. Is the PAC-10 the best conference in the land right now? Hmmm......Can you say replay? What is it with Oregon and replay anyway? The Quack Attack played an awesome game (all except Dixon). Two late picks in the 4th quarter, at home no less, was the delta today. The 2nd one late in the game while driving for the score really hurt. What is it with Dixon and the Bears? Have you ever seen such a voo-doo effect? Dennis just can't seem to get his mind in the game at key moments when they play CAL. Ouch, I should have kept my 4 points on CAL this morning but I had a feeling Oregon would find a way. I was wrong, like so many other times today. Nonetheless, it was a great game - especially for the PAC-10 on the national stage. Just two key mistakes for the Ducks (Dixon) down the stretch at the wrong time. Where does Oregon go from here? The next two weeks are going to seem like an eternity. Tough time for a loss with so much at stake. This was a heartbreaker. So close, and yet so far.
Hot (buy buy buy - only upside here):
Illinois, CAL, Georgia, BC, USC, USF, KSU, Ohio State, Kentucky, & Miami (canes are coming back).
Not (sell now - these stocks have peaked):
Texas, West Virginia, Penn State, Alabama, Clemson, Rutgers, & Notre Dame.
My TOP TEN(10):
4) Ohio State
10) Wisconsin (but not for much longer)
Key Stats of the week -
1) Ohio State never lost inside the metro-dome (11-0 , including yesterday's romp over the gophers.
2) Badgers now have the nation's longest winning streak (for now) at 14 games.
3) BC is 5-0 for the first time in 50 some years. Watchout.
4) Nebraska beat Iowa State yesterday but has given up > 1000 yards in its last two games.
5) USC squeaked past UW in Seattle, committing 16 penalties for 167 yards. Ouch!
6) Tulane sacked LSU's QB six times yesterday for a total of -39 yards. Yikes...
7) What's with Auburn - I mean the gator killers. 11-game streak ends with the Tigers, again.
8) Rutgers goes down to Maryland at home after cracking the top-10 for the 2nd time in two years.
9) K-Stated picked off Colt McCoy 4 times and knocked him out of the game for a 2nd-straight year.
10) After starting the year with 11 TD's and no picks, Dennis Dixon had two big ones yesterday late in the CAL game which were likely the difference makers.
Lasting quotes from today's big Penn-State victory:
- "I'm catching the ball and saying to myself, 'I will not be denied'," Benn said.
- "Right now, I don't want to say we've turned it around - we haven't turned it around - but we've made some progress," Zook said.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
It's been said that average teams can find a way to win at home. Heck, even bad teams can win at home against good competition once in a while. Good teams find a way to win on the road at all costs, especially in conference during the first weekend of BIG-10 action. It wasn't pretty. And the offense did struggle at times today with the passing game. But, our unstoppable running game led by Rashard Mendenhall and a tenacious defense who made several big stands in this one were enough to triumph on the road inside Memorial Stadium (Bloomington, IN) over a pretty decent Hoosier club. Final score - ILLINOIS 27 / Indiana 14 (recap).
Mendenhall did indeed answer the call and continues to be one of the best backs if not THE best back in America whom nobody seems to know. He rushed for a career high 214 yards today on 27 carries including a punishing TD romp in the 2nd half. All in all the ILLNI racked - up 293 yards on the ground and only gave up 134 yards to the number 6 rushing offense in the land. The Defense played awesome today in forcing four turnovers at key moments of the game when Indiana was on the prowl. Special teams were good with a blocked punt as well. We're not 3-1 on the young season for the first time in a long time as we head back to Champaign for a showdown on Zupke Field with Penn State. Should be a good one.
Elsewhere in week #4 there was carnage and underperformances all over the place. Let's face it, going into this weekend the slate of games was less than stellar. Sure, there were a few great matchups like GEORGIA and BAMA, but there were also a ton of 'who cares' games. It was a weekend of surprises and coma-state performances by a bunch of the big dogs. Nebraska, Florida, Louisville, Arkansas, and Penn State all looked sluggish today either at home or on the road. Nebraska was fortunate to come away with a win at home. Same for Florida on the road at Ole Miss today. And what the hell happened to Louisville? That's two straight losses for the team that just can't seem to play defense to save its life.
Penn State / Michigan was a battle in the trenches today - classic BIG-10 football. Mike Hart is a stud who deserves a week off after carrying 44 times for 150 yards. This, after his 35 carries against Notre Dame last weekend. And speaking of the Irish, they finally scored an offensive touchdown and rushed for over 100 yards. Still yet, despite a pep talk by REGIS they lost badly at home to SPARTY. I honestly don't see a win on their schedule until early to mid november. It doesn't get any easier over the next month or so.
Kentucky looked impressive to me today on the road in Fayetteville against Arkansas. Sure, the HOGS gave it away on penalties and mistakes at home. RUN DMC (McFadden) is amazing, but give credit to Woodson and head coach Rich Brooks. He did the impossible at Oregon in turning that program around for Bellotti and is now doing a better job in Lexington at Kentucky. Most people have no idea how difficult it is to field a competitive team in the SEC especially when you're known for your hardwood prowess. Kentucky has always sucked at football with a few exceptions over the years. Rich Brooks is my early coach of the year with wins over TOP-20 teams in consecutive weeks: Louisville and Arkansas.
Ohio State looks like the frontrunner in the BIG-10 right now. Wow, sure it was Northwestern at home but they looked very impressive last week and now this week. Michigan seems to have a clean shot for 6 or 7 wins in a row with the possible exception of that 10/20 showdown in Champaign. Penn State was exposed today as a fraud - not nearly as good as their 3-0 start suggested against what literally amounted to the ultimate cream-puff schedule.
And never bet against Georgia and Coach Richt ont he road in the SEC, now 23-3. Wow, that's an impressive figure. Unless you play in the SEC or are other familar with that conference you don't have an appreciation of how good that is. QB Stafford had a great game. I must admit he's really blossomed over the past two years. Watchout for the DAWGS - they are for real this year as SEC contenders and BCS players. Loaded with speed and talent.
On a side note, it looks like GAMEDAY may be heading West to Eugene next weekend with the DUCKS up on Stanford 45-31 late in the 3rd. That could be a great showdown between top-15 clubs as CAL (The Fighting Tedfords) comes north to take on Bellotti's DUCKS in Autzen. Oh Nellie! Where's Keith Jackson when you need him? That should be your ABC game of the week.
My undisputed top10: USC, LSU, Oklahoma, Florida, WV, Ohio State, CAL, BC, Texas, and welcome Georgia. On to week #5 already (can it be?). And check-out College Gameday Final for all you need to know about what you missed on Saturday.
Bonus coverage this week, my conference rankings:
1) SEC (no question here at least, far and away the strongest).
2) PAC-10 (actually, not that far behind the SEC top to bottom - ok, maybe they are).
3) BIG-12 (TX and OK are the cream of the crop here). Where's Colorado? Where's Nebraska?
4) BIG-10 - Ugh, Ohio State and then a mess of mediocrity. Illinois is on the move!
5) ACC - BC and the other 11 schools. Watchout for Miami - are they for real?
6) BIG EAST - We'll see how good this conference really is over the next month.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
I know it was against one of the worst teams in CFB this year. And I know it's only September. Still yet, the scoreboard and boxscore doesn't lie - ILLINOIS pounced on the CUSE today in the Carrier Dome (41-20). And it really wasn't that close save a late on-side kick recovery by the Orange, and conversion. Sure, we were almost a 2-TD favorite. I know that, you know that. But you still have to show up and play the games. Anything can happen when you hit the road, especially in a hostile dome environment. We took care of business today, mostly on the ground - hammering out 350+ yards of total rushing. We stampeded the ORANGE, no way around that. And the passing game with Williams and McGee was an efficient 15-20 for 132 yards and 1 TD (no picks). Illinois is 2-1 heading into next week's game on the road in Bloomington, IN. Bring on those nasty Hoosiers. We're ready. Anybody. Anywhere. Anytime. Cheif's goin' bowlin' this year.
Wow, what a Saturday of action in CFB today. Several themes emerged. The BIG - 10 bounced - back strong after a few soft weeks to start the year. Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois, Wisconsin, Penn State, Purdue, Michigan State, and Indiana all won, convincingly. Ohio State looked particularly impressive in Seattle on Lake Washington against the Huskies today. It was a Tressel-like process of dismantling the young DAWGS with stout defense and a relentless offense which just continues to pound and pound and pound its opponents into submission. I'm not sure there is a better - prepared team in America, week in and week out. The Buckeyes are for real this year, even without Troy Smith and Teddy Ginn. The Senator just finds a way to win the big game (Florida excluded). I think he's 8-3 all-time verus top-10 opponents. But the Huskies shouldn't hang their heads in shame. They just lost to a better team today. Jake Locker is a future star in Seattle. They will make some noise this year in the PAC-10. Watchout for Washington next season - that could be special.
And how about those WILDCATS from Kentucky under the leadership of Rich Brooks (former Duck coach). Wow, what a game and what a comeback. First time in 30 years that Kentucky beat a top-10 team. And to do it in that fashion with time running out on the clock. Louisville had won the four previous matchups. But, when you don't have a defense you are in trouble. Defense wins big games and championships. You can't expect your offense to hang 60 points a night on the opposition. That was a great game. Too bad I came up on the losing end of that coin flip. Same for Bama and the Hogs. Looks like Saban has the TIDE rolling this year. Of couse, it doesn't hurt to have a little home cooking with the officianting. There were some questionable calls and clock management issues late in the game which were both factors in the outcome. Still yet, the TIDE found a way to fight back after the Hogs scored 21-unanswered points in the 2nd half. I love Saturdays.
Trojans - statement delivered, big time. They answered all of the critics tonight on the road in Lincoln. It was close for a while before the USC offensive line started opening up monster holes for the committe of running backs featured by USC. Honestly, this one was never in doubt. The Trojans just have too much of everything for just about everybody in the land. That was clear again tonight. Nebraska is a good football team and should challenge Missouri for the BIG-12 North. But, that's about as far as that will go. There's football speed and there's USC speed. There's football acumen, and there's Trojan football. USC has been the best team in the country for the past five years. The BIG-12 Champ will once again come from the Southern division of that conference in the form of TEXAS or OKLAHOMA. Give Pete Carol two weeks to prepare for a game and you practically hand in the W. He and his staff have proven that time and time again in some of the biggest games and most hostile environments in college football. Kudos to the Husker nation and 283 consecutive sellouts. They may just be the best fans in the game.
And on the opposite end of the spectrum of excellence is Notre Dame. Just how bad can it get for the Golden Domers this year? Well, I'm not sure I see a win on the schedule, especially considering that Duke won today in Evanston over Northwestern. I think the irish only had 79 total yards of offense today, including 33 rushes for -6 yards on the ground. Ouch - not good. I didn't even watch much of that 'game'. Mike Hart backed up his words with a huge day on the ground as Michigan seemed to find its direction again. Although, that's not saying much since most teams will get 'healthy' against Notre Dame this year. It's going to be a long fall in South Bend, indeed. Quick send help, the Irish have fallen and can't get up. They've been outscored 102-30 this year. And for the first time ever, they've given up 30 points for five consecutive games. This team is going in the wrong direction. To quote Coach Weiss, "One game is worse than the next game." I was going to say that the loser of the UM/ND game today would know what it's like to be DUKE. But, after their win today, ND is looking up at the bottomside of the Blue Devils.
Looking good - (buy this stock) -
- Boston College - very impressive road victory tonight against the vaunted defense of Georgia Tech. Matt Ryan kept throwing and throwing and throwing all night for almost 500 yards. Wow, very impressive. Keep in mind that Georgia Tech one its first two games convincingly, against Notre Dame and Samford. Ugh! What was I thinking?
- Florida - the gators don't rebuild under Urban Meyer. They reload. And Tennessee is a good football team. But, that was ugly. I can't remember the last time anybody beat them in the SWAMP.
- Oklahoma - the Sooners are rolling this year under a freshmen QB, Bradford. They look solid on both sides of the ball.
- USC / LSU - no surprises here. These are the two best teams in the game today with Oklahoma a close 3rd.
- Ohio State - very impressive win today in Seattle. They showed me something.
- Kentucky - great win today for Rich Brooks. They're not done yet either.
- ILLINOIS - it's early, but buy low and sell high. I'm buyin' into Zook this year.
- Oregon - good win today at home against Fresno State who almost beat A&M last weekend. Congrats to Mike on this 200th win. Free the Duck!
- BAMA - and wait until Saban gets his guys in there.
- Duke - first win in 22 games.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Michigan has now lost four games in a row dating back to the Ohio State game last year; something which hasn't happened since the 60's. But big kudos today Oregon who just played a great game. The Ducks had 624 yards of total offense today, pretty balanced in the air and on the ground, while holding Michigan to just 365 total yards. It was a one-sided affair petty much from the start of the 2nd quarter. This one was over at the break. It's hard to tell how good the Ducks are right now. We know for sure Michigan is pretty bad.
So, where does BIG BLUE go from here? 0-2 to start the year at home, worst since 1959. We're talking about the winningest program in CFB history. Today marks 4 straight games giving up 30 points or more. Short answer is nowhere, they get a bleeding Irish squad who lost big today in Happy Valley to Penn State. Who'd have thought that 0-2 Notre Dame comes limping into the 'BIG HOUSE' to take on 0-2 Michigan? Wow, that's a story in and of itself for two of the most storied college programs. But it's true. Will Michigan even be competitive this year? Is it time to stick a fork in Lloyd Carr once and for all? What coach, another week of bad preparation? Honestly, to me it comes down to the spread offense and team speed by the opposition. Michigan just doesn't match up well against high-powered speedy offenses that run the 'West-coast' model of football. Good news for Michigan is that Notre Dame is conventional in that sense. I feel for Mike Hart (stud running back and former Heisman candidate). He's the only one with character and is guaranteeing a win next weekend at home against the Domers. I like that pick right now, I think.
And how about those Oklahoma Sooners? They miticulously dismantled an undiscipled Miami 'team' in Norman today, 51-13. The Sooners looked like men against boys today on both sides of the ball. Their speed and strength and just about every position was impressive to witness against what was thought to be a decent Miami team under 1st-year coach Randy Shannon. Watch out for Oklahoma going forward. The Red River Showdown with Texas is starting to look like a great game (October 6th in the Cotton Bowl). Signature win for them to date.
Illinois won convincingly today at home in a fashion I was expecting, 21-0 over Western Illinois. But kudos to the Leathernecks who held us scoreless in the 1st quarter until the running game kicked in under R. Mendenhall (139 yards) - a true stud. Unfortunately, we had too many mistakes today (fumbles, holding penalties, untimely sacks, and bad throws). Juice also didn't have any TD passes today versus 1 interception on 13-25 passing for 135 yards. Regis Benn lead the ILLINI today in receving on 5 catches for 62 yards. We did end up with 400 total yards on 80 plays while holding Western to just 148 on 55 plays which tells me the defense has come to play this year. We amassed 21 first downs to their 4. It was a decent but not great win. Next weekend we travel to Syracuse for a rematch of a game we should have one in Champaign last year. Let's hope for a different outcome this year.
What else did I see today that was impressive? Nebraska held on late for a very good road win in Winston Salem, NC today against a very speedy and athleteic Wake Forest squad. This was a trap in my opinion with USC looming on the horizon next weekend, in Lincoln. When you consider that Nebraska has never played a road game against an ACC team it's even more impressive. Good news, the Husker defense made big plays all day - especially late in the game with WF driving for the lead. The bad news, Sam Keller needs to work on his play - especially in the passing game. He just didn't look comfortable in the pocket all day with several poor decisions and overthrows. Washington looks to be a year ahead of schedule with its 2nd win in a row, this time over the Fiesta-Bowl Champions from Boise. Wow, it looks like Mr. Willingham has the Huskies pointed in the right direction. Their defense has been very impressive over the past two weeks in particular. Boise State is known for its high-powered nifty offense. Good win today at home against a ranked opponent for the dawgs. BC dominated a weak NC STATE team today in Chestnut Hill to earn two staright ACC wins (nothing to sneeze at in the age of September cream puffs).
Texas opened up a 4th-quarter can of whoop ass on TCU to pull away 34-13. The Longhorns finally figured things out in all aspects of their game. Of course, it doesn't hurt when you have a great defense that not only forces turnovers but turns them into touchdowns. And, Penn State figured things out in the 2nd half to pull away from anemic Notre Dame bunch. For a while I thought the Nittany Lions were on upset alert. It's going to be a long season in South Bend this fall. Will Charlie be around next season? I don't see a win on the schedule until November and by then it may not matter much. LSU is frightening right now. I seriously doubt there is a better team in the land including USC. They're totally dominating in every facet of the game. I haven't seen a defense that fast and that physical in a long long time. They will hit you, and hit you, and hit you, and hit you all night long. Offense isn't that bad either (again, very fast and physical). Wow, lookout. Bayou Bengals have reloaded. They could easily beat the Saints and 10 other NFL teams. Here's the complete TOP 25 Roundup from FoxSports.
Other teams on the rise:
- Georgia Tech - 69 to 14 today over Samford. Michigan, take note.
- Rutgers - 2 more to continue an amazing run dating back to last year.
- USF - The Bulls downed a giant tonight on their home turf.
Others on the decline or at least going sideways:
- Michigan, Michigan, Michigan - gone. Unbelieveable collapse to start the year.
- Ohio State? Sure they're 2-0 versus Ohio but it hasn't been pretty or convincing.
- Florida State who almost lost today at home to UAB. Definitley Miami.
- Georgia who lost at home to SC (16-12). It was an ugly offensive showing for UGA.
- Oregon State. What was that Thursday night? No QB = big trouble.
- Auburn. Those Tigers were living on borrowed time before tonight anyway.
- West Virginia
A little PAC-10 / West-Coast love for the teams from California. But honestly, does any team in sports have prettier unis than the Bruins from UCLA? Love the powder blue and gold.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
- ILLINOIS - see above.
- BYU - good home opener for the COUGARS.
- Georgia Tech - maybe, hard to tell given the sub-par competition. Long year for the IRISH.
- Oregon - too early to tell. It's not November yet either. Let's just wait and see.
- Oregon State - same as above. It was a good game until Utah lost its two superstars.
- Nebraska - not bad, struggled early - but not bad.
- Georgia - who said this would be a close game or a win for the Cowboys between the hedges?
- Oklahoma - sure it was against North Texas. Did you see the final score?
- CAL, and Tennessee - not a bad game. Tight until late in the 4th.
- Washington - good road win in Syracuse. I know, it's Syracuse - but still.
- Wisconsin - especially late in the game against a game Cougar squad.
- BC - yes, kudos to the Eagles. Tough ACC clash against Wake.
- Michigan - see above.
- Texas - uh oh, barely squeaked by Arkansas State at home.
- Notre Dame - somebody tell me where the first win is in that schedule. Long year.
- All you cupcake eaters - you know who you are. Pathetic. Shame on you!