Saturday, October 18, 2008

Week #8 - It's the Little Things ...

CHIEF on THE TRIBE - I ask myself, self - how are we 3-3? Self answers, "It's the little things." Were it not for key defensive breakdowns and disasters in the kicking game we'd be 7-0 at this point. Ugh! It's the little things. They turn into big things in close games. Tighten it up and you dominate. Execute the little things all the time. And be strong in the kicking game. Sure, we whipped - up on Indiana tonight to bring the record to 4-3. Not bad. Not great. That's about how I would summarize my season. At this point in the year, I'd expect us to be 5-2 instead of 4-3. Up next, a road trip to Madison to play a reeling Badger squad who's now lost four in a row, and maybe more.

Quick thoughts on the Indiana game tonight:

  1. Offense executed in all facets. I'm not sure there's a defense in conference that can stop us right now. We'll put up 30 points / game and nearly 500 yards per effort and are at the top of most statistical offensive BIG-10 categories, right behind Penn State.

  2. Defense / Special Teams - need more work. Too many blown coverages, missed tackles, and questionable plays on special teams including kick-off coverage and field goals / extra points. If we expect to contend for the crown this year then we'll need to tighten up these facets of the game.

  3. Juice continues his domination in conference and across the nation. There may not be a more prolific offensive player in the land right now. He's averaging over 400 total yards / game this season. Wow!

  4. Good to see Jason Ford arrive on the scene in the rushing game. We'll need his power and speed in the 2nd half of the season to complement Dufrene. I must say we're not missing Mendenhall this year. Daniel and Jason provide us a nice 1-2 puch! Bammmm.....

  5. And give credit to OC Mike Locksley. Balance on offense. 300+ passing yards and 250+ rushing yards tonight. Wow! We can run it or throw it whenever we want to on offense. As long as we don't turn it over, we can name the final score right now. But, it's one thing to do it against Indiana. It's quite something different to do it against the powerhouse in conference. We'll have our chances.

  6. How 'bout the 'D' tonight? We held them to 10 points and 200 yards total offense most of the night, at least until it didn't matter anymore. They average almost 200 yards / game. We kept them under 100 for most of the game.

  7. Keep getting AJ (Jenkins) as many touches as possible. I like him returning kicks and punts. The true freshmen from Jacksonville is special.

I knew this would be an interesting year of football in Champaign. Let's face it; 2003 was ahead of schedule. And, it's always hard to follow - up a great season with a good one. We seem to be back on track tonight after Indiana. But, we have more work ahead of us. Juice Williams has arrived as a big-time QB in CFB. He may be the best in the game right now in terms of balanced rushing and passing. Nobody is putting up numbers like he is right now back to back to back. Wow! It's not just the X's and the O's but the Jimmies and the Joes! Go get it boys; it's right there to be taken! Do it like you've done it before. We should be favored in our next three games (Wisconsin, Western Michigan, and Iowa). But they won't be gimmies.

Inside the STATS -

  1. Almost 600 yards in total offense tonight. Williams with another 300 yards and 4TDs.
  2. Welcome Jason Ford - 171 on 19 carries and 3TDs including a 41 - yard gallop. 2nd-best rushing effort in school history for a true freshmen. Yes, the future is bright in the backfield.
  3. Benn, 7 for 130 and 1 TD on 37 yards. A.J. Jenkins - 2 kickoffs for 116 yards and 1TD.
  4. Defense gave up just 13 points tonight, mostly when they didn't matter. We're now 8th in the conference in terms of points allowed (27/game on 354 yards / game).
  5. As a team, we're 2nd in BIG-10 scoring at 36.1 points / game on 485 yards / game with good passing/rushing balance (205 yards / game on the ground).

My Top-10:

  1. Texas - nobody has two better wins in Oklahoma and Mizzou.

  2. Alabama - struggled with Ole Miss tonight. Many more teams will as well.

  3. Penn State - slow start against Michigan. Ran away with it down the stretch.

  4. Oklahoma - good win over a solid KU squad under Reesing.

  5. Florida - off this week hosting KY next.

  6. USC - 69 points better than WAZZU. Yep, they covered

  7. Oklahoma State - beating Baylor is one thing. At Texas next week is another.

  8. Texas Tech - good road win over A&M.

  9. Ohio State - who had Bucky 38 better than SPARTY?

  10. Utah - we'll learn more in two week against TCU, unless they lose next week at NM.

FINAL NOTES - So, now that we've crossed into the 2nd half of the season and the heart of conference play, what did we learn this weekend? The TOP-half of the TOP-25 stabilized this weekend, for the most part. The bottom-half of the same group had more Ls than Ws. Expect more shake-ups in the polls this week as the BCS debuts. Here are this week's winners and losers. Sorry John, the 280-game WAZZU scoring streak came to an end in Pullman last night at the hands of the Trojans.

TEXAS and OHIO STATE really imprssed me this weekend, but for different reasons. The Horns cambe back to blow-out a mighty good TIGER TEAM at home after an emotional victory in the Red River game. And Ohio State went on the road in conference to dismantle Michigan State (yes, another sign it's October). Ohio State has themselves a QB. Penn State beat Michigan for the first time in 9 tries, but didn't look all that convincing in the 1st half. Their defense has some work to do in order to contain that powerful Buckeye offense next weekend in the Big Horseshoe. That is shaping up to be another great showdown of powers.

Here are your current bowl projections as of WEEK 8. Right now, it looks like a trip for the CHIEF to the CHAMPS SPORTS bowl against BC or VT. Most have TEXAS playing either Penn State or Florida for the national title with a rematch in the Rose Bowl between Ohio State and USC. On the slate for next Saturday, I'll be looking forward to the following matchups:

  • Texas Tech @ Kansas - are the Red Raiders for real?
  • Illinois @ Wisconsin - can the chief sustain the momentum?
  • Georgia @ LSU - another inter-divisional SEC clash with national implications.
  • Okie State @ Texas - promising to be another classic BIG-12 showdown.
  • VT @ FSU - somebody has to win this one. Two teams looking to get back on top.
  • Penn State @ Ohio State - will the real BIG-10 champion please stand up?

And my final thoughts on the BCS; rumor has it that the first ranking of the 2008 campaign was unveiled today. What to make of it? What to hope for? What, in this crazy world does it all mean? I don't know. But I do know this: in the 10 years of the BCS system, 20 teams have played for the nation title. 19 of them have come from the initial ranking of the top-6. So, take a close look at the list today and you'll likely find the National Champ in there somewhere.

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