Saturday, September 27, 2008
Down goes #1 (USC). Down goes #3 (Georgia). Down goes #4 (Florida). Down goes #8 (Wisconsin). I told you that misery loves company. And thank the Beavers for getting the insanity started Thursday night in Corvallis.
CHIEF on the TRIBE -
Well, the passion may be back in Champaign. Tonight, for the first time really this year, I saw my team (at least on offense) play closer to its real potential. Juice and Rejis both stepped - up to the WHITE OUT challenge in Happy Valley. Sure, it was a loss, but the final score wasn't indicative of the effort (38-24, Penn State). Dufrene continues to impress me at tailback this year (96 yards on just 14 attemps). Williams went just 13/24 for 183 but with 2 TDS and only 1 INT, in the first half. We put up nearly 400 yards of offense in a balanced attack with 196 yards on the ground.
But, the defense just struggled throughout the game to really get in front of Penn State's 'HD' offense. And their special teams beat ours (1 kick-off return after we drew within 7 points in the 3rd). Derrick Williams was fantastic, scoring 3 TDs 3 different ways for 241 total yards.
And how about the 'WHITE HOUSE' Saturday night? Happy Valley has to be the most initmidating road destination in CFB these days, especially at night in front of 108k rabid fans. That crowd reminded me of a soccer crowd in Europe. There was all kind of action taking place in the stands. It's a special place to play the game, especially on a Saturday night. We have yet to win there in six tries now.
Still, I saw enough against Penn State Saturday night (now one of the best teams in the nation) to give me hope for this year's campaign. We can learn and build on this effort, especially on the defensive and special-team's breakdowns. We'll have to, and quick. Up next is BIG BLUE in Ann Arbor (which now looks like a real contest), followed by Minnesota and Indiana at home. We should head into Madison at 4-3 or 5-2 come Ocotober 25th.
Message to Coaches (since I know you read these) - Good job this week in getting the team ready to play. It showed. Having the bye last week worked well. That being said, there's more work to do on special teams and defense. It's true that the 'D' is young, but we need to tighten up our pass coverage in space. I think our tackling is getting better, more physical, but there's still work to do on the fundamentals and positioning. Obviously, we can't allow kick-off returns in close games. I'd also like to see us do more with Dufrene and the rushing attack. We should have a goal of 250 yards / game on the ground with the stable we have including Williams and Benn. Coupled with 200 yards /air, that would be a formiddable attack.
Obviously, we'll need to get things in order quickly for next week against Michigan. No shame in losing to Missouri or Penn State (good losses). Who knows, they might play in Miami come January for all the marbles; they're that good. Looking back, we were competitive in both games for large stretches of each. But, to be honest, we now need some good 'wins' to sprinkle over the resume'. We'll have hour chances now that conference play is here. It's time for a few quality wins folks. Go get 'em! Make a statement. We need more nights like Saturday. I agree coach. Not sure it's a 'peace of mind' with our gameplay yet, but Saturday's performance showed me that things are moving in the right direction. We are making small progress. The key is to sustain the momentum no matter the location, our competition, or adversity we have yet to face. Lets hope Michael Phelps won't be in attendance again next Saturday.
AROUND THE NATION -
I mean, there was no wayUSC would go down to the BEAVERS. The Trojans were so confident they only brought half the band and the b-squad cheerleaders. Some 2000 seats went unclaimed by the men from Troy. It was supposed to be a 25-point rout. But the BLACK and ORANGE had another thing coming. Sure USC looked flat. They missed tackles and dropped balls. It didn't look like Sanchez was a full speed all night. But give most of the credit to Oregon State and Coach Mike. He had the Beavers ready to play. And they simply took it straight at USC all night behind the hard running of the QUIZZ, J. Rodgers. Great job men. You earned that one and shocked the CFB landscape in so doing. Given the relative weakness in the conference this year, a Rose Bowl may not be out of the question (but take care of business first).
And how does Florida lose at home to Ole Miss? How does Georgia get blown out between the hedges in a BLACK OUT? Wow, the SEC is a loaded / well-balanced league. Nick Saban seems to be worth every penny in Tuscaloosa thisyear. Poor Wisconsin, Bielema's boys found another way to blow a 19-point halftime lead on the road against Michigan who scored 27 un-answered points. Like I've been saying all year, it's never the same game each week. Ah yes, misery does love company.
The ACC continues to confound me. Clemson, Miami, and Wake Forest all lost on Saturday. VT and FSU found ways to win. Ugh - what a mess. But DUKE has to be one of the biggest stories of the year that conference. Cutcliffe has them going in the right direction (31-3 over Virginia).
Gap is closing between the BIG-12 and SEC. I'd give the slight edge to the SEC conference in terms of power rankings, mainly because of defense. Offense is a bit of a concern. I see a shift in power within that conference from EAST to WEST. To me, the WEST is stronger right now with LSU, Alabama, Auburn, and Ole Miss playing some good ball. Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee seem to have taken a few steps backwards - for now. Otherwise, my conference rankings remain largely unchanged from last week: 1) SEC, 2) BIG-12, 3) BIG-10, 4) ACC, 5) PAC-10, 6) BIG-10.
Heartbreak moment of the week. Many to chose from with the upsets galore. But the blog is here for you, working overtime to get the inside scoop. Where did Michigan get the motivation for a second - half 27-point comeback against Wisconsin? Answer = Michael Phelps. He was at the BIG HOUSE on Saturday wearing a #8 jersey. Result, biggest comeback at home for Michigan in school history.
And speaking of heartbreaks, there is the case study of Washington State. Losing to Oregon is nothing new. It happens just about every year, no matter the venue. But the alumni won't be scurrying to contribute heaping sums anytime soon after this weekend's 63-14 home loss; yes, it was homecoming too. Ugh! Sorry John. And I'm sure the ride back on Sunday from Pullman with Chris wasn't a lot of fun either.
My NEW TOP-10 - Featuring 3 BIG-12 schools in your TOP-5:
- Oklahoma - Good win over TCU. Looking more and more likely like a trip to Miami.
- Missouri - Didn't play. Defense still a concern. Should roll Nebraska next.
- Alabama - I mean WOW! Didn't see tha coming. Fear the TIDE in the SEC.
- LSU - Struggled with MSU last night. We'll learn more @ Florida shortly.
- Texas - Continues to roll against weak competition. Colt's team. @ Colorado next.
- Penn State - Scary team in HD. I've been saying this all year. BCS? Schedule is favorable.
- USC - Uphill climb in the PAC-10. Where do the Trojans go from here?
- BYU -How about some love for the MWC? @AF, @TCU, and @ UTAH. Win = BCS.
- Texas Tech - Who knows? But, I have to rank somebody here.
- Ohio State - Looks who's back in the top-10, for now. Buckeyes found themseles a QB.
FINAL NOTE - It's never the same game twice. And that's why we love the game. You can stink one week and knock-off #1 the next (Oregon State example this year). Every week matters. Every game has play-off implications. It's college football. It's the best thing going. At least we can agree it gives me something to chat about. And that's what we learned this weekend.
And if you're like me, looking ahead to the bowl action already this year, feast your eyes on these projections from MSNBC: DRIVE to the BCS. Right now, it's looking like a CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL matchup between the Fighting Zookers and North Carolina (BIG-10 / ACC showdown). That would be fun. They currently have LSU facing Oklahoma in Miami for the title. Your Rose Bowl is shaping up to be Joe Pa versus Pete(Penn State and USC - not bad). And, if both go undefeated, you're looking at two BCS busters in Boise State (Orange Bowl) and BYU (Fiesta).