Saturday, November 08, 2008

Week #11 Wrap - Chaos in Champaign?

CHIEF ON THE TRIBE - OMG... WTF....OMG .... WTF! Even I didn't think it would be quite this bad. From Rose Bowl to NO BOWL? Ugh! I've been saying all year it would be a tough road for us in 2008 after going 9-3 in 2007. We have a history of underperforming after Rose-Bowl appearances and winning seasons. I said in August we would likely go 7-5 this year and that 2009 would be the year of the CHIEF. Now, I'm not so sure about either.

I mean seriously, what the heck is going on behind closed doors in Champaign these days? Does Ron have control of this team? I've been questioning the discipline of this year's edition all season. After last year's 9-3 run, we now have to be one of the most disappointing clubs in the country. And there is good reason for concern going forward. We are little more than an over-hyped, under-achieving, inconsistent gang of drunken sailors in a stormy sea without a moral compass, searching for some religion. At 5-5, we should be 8-2 or better. It's not a leap to say that three of our losses to Wisconsin, Minnesota, and now WM were mostly self-inflicted. Taking nothing away from those teams, they didn't beat us so much as we beat ourselves. And if we played with any discipline and fortitutde against Mizzou and Penn State (games we lead at one point), it's not altogether unreasonable to envision different results. Oye ... ugh! I bet the $300K guarantee for playing on Ford Field against WM doesn't feel so good right now.

Message to Coaches - I know you guys are trying. No lack of effort. The 12% rule is a good one (and I'm sure we exceeded it against the Broncos). Actually, that's what concerns me most. We are one of if not they most talented teams in conference so you can see why these results don't meet expectations. So between you and me, what's going on? Does Coach Zook have control of this team? I'm mean what the hell is going on behind closed doors; I want to know? It's a fair question based on what we see. More of the same, not good. Last week's off - field issue centered around a potential squabble between Cumberland and LeShore. I'm not sure exactly what happened, but in-fighting is never good especially when one player ends up with a broken jaw. And that's just one event in a series of off-field problems this year. On the field, my team has been plagued with penalties, turnovers, and a lack of consistent execution on both sides of the ball. We need to become more than just a collection of physical specimens. Great teams become much more than the sum of their parts. Yes, the wheels appear to be coming off the wagon as we start the downhill decline. Oh do we miss Rashard Mendenhall. Juice is trying to do too much for this team right now with his legs and arm. He's clearly pressing with the absence of a sound rushing attack.

Today's first-half effort in Detroit against Western Michigan is more proof. Juice had 2 first-half picks that led to 14 points on short fields. Senseless personal-foul penalties killed drives. I just don't see the chemistry and consistency we should be seeing this year wiht a junior QB and plenty of skilled players to go around. Benn went just 1 for 3 yards while juice was just 3 for 9, 69 yards, and 2 INTS. Ugh! The Broncos outgained us 239 to 125 in yardage, 14 to 6 in first downs, and executed 12 more plays on offense. Yikes! We have to figure out how to execute better in the red zone.

More of the same in the 2nd half even though we outscored them 10-3. Just wasn't enough to overcome our own damn mistakes on the road. Juice ended up with another 3INTs, including one in the red-zone as we were trying to convert a 4th down to win the game late. He ended up going just 20/44 for 328 and a TD to tighten things up a bit. Benn had 7 catches for 111 (nice average), but no win. The running game was non-effective once again amassing just 125 yards on 30 attempts. We clearly need more balance from the rushing attack. When juice throws for 60% or more and no INTs; we win - period.

When we play best we play balanced. Instead of 200 yards on the ground and perhaps 250 yards passing, our recent box scores read more like my frequent flier mileage with United, skewed to the air. Dufrene, Ford, LeShore, Pollard, Benn, and company need to find a way to accumulate 150 yards on the ground. It can't all be on Williams. He's good, but only human. And while we all know he can set stadium records, he can't be relied on for 450 yards of offense very time he takes the field. When Juice is 80%+ of the total offense you know we're in trouble, usually playing desperation football from behind. It's never good to see four 4-th down attempts in the box score even through we did execute on two of them. The 1 for 13 on 3rd down was painful. WM also owned TOP, especially in the first half.

Up next, a surging Buckeye club that demolished a decent NW team today. We should take a chapter out of Tressel's playbook on playing patient disciplined football. Ohio State was solid in all aspects of the game this afternoon up in Evanston. We're in deep trouble next week at home. And what kills me is that we have the raw talent to hang with anybody in conference. But we lack the discipline, the execution, and team play that makes the other teams better. It could get ugly and at home. Ugh! At 5-5, we're on the outside of the bowl picture looking in. And with just two games left, it would be in our best interest to win both of them to secure a spot. I'm not sure we'll get a bid at 6-6. Rose Bowl / no bowl? In their latest bowl projects, Schlabach feels confident enough in 6th win over Ohio State or NW to put us in the Insight Bowl against Kansas. Feldman is probably more realistic with a trip back to Detroit to face Ball State (of the MAC conference) in the Motor City bowl since I don't see us getting seven wins this year at this point. God help us.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” Zook said. “We’ve kind of slipped back a little bit. We can be a good team, but we’re going to have to put a lot of things aside and put the team first and see if we’re the type of people we think we are.”

My New Top-10:

1) Bama - it took OT, but Saban has the TIDE undefeated in the SEC West. Yep, #1 - for now.
2) Texas Tech- Guns up Red Raiders. Nobody can stop this offense right now. 10-0 since '38.
3) Florida- Romped over Vandy, now 17 in a row. This team controls its own destiny in the SEC.
4) Texas- Good win today coming back after Tech. Still in the title hunt. Needs help.
5) Oklahoma - Another 40-point victory. Only loss is to #4 in the Red River Classic.
6) USC- May be the best defense in the country. Offense is good. Title hopes are slim to nill.
7) Utah- Should have lost to TCU Thursday night. Gutty win. Gutty team. Holy War remains.
8) Boise State - Too much blue for my liking. Why not go with blue shoes too? Ugh!
9) Penn State - Tough loss. Kinnick is a hard place to win on the road. Pink lockers win again!
10) Georgia - Tough win today at KY. But an SEC team with just two losses. Hmm....

Final Notes around the Nation -

Tough loss today for Penn State and Paterno. The Lions are done. And make that three straight losses to Iowa coming off a bye week. I should have known better. Give credit to Iowa for beating a top-5 team for the first time in nearly 20 years. The Rose Bowl isn't a bad gig. Penn State was the sentimental favorite, but looking back on the season and the performance today, it was probably the best thing to happen today for CFB. And how about Michigan retaining the Lil' brown jug with a surprising win over slumping Minnesota. The BIG 12 South continues to dominate with Texas, Oklahoma, and TT all rolling tonight. And keep your eye on Florida, the best team in the country right now. GAMEDAY FINAL has you covered in case you missed any of this week's heart-pounding action. And here's how I see bowl season shaping up with a few more weeks to go:

My Projected Championship Game = Florida versus Texas Tech or Texas (BCS #1 and #2). Yes, I know that may mean that Texas could sneak into the BIG GAME without a conference championship. But they are the most deserving one-loss team outside of Florida. I don't see things working out for Oklahoma or USC this year. All depends on the Red Raiders right now and that showdown in Norman in a few weeks. My money is on Texas, 11 straight 9-win seasons under Coach Mac Brown leads the nation.

Likely Rose Bowl = USC and Penn State. I guess there's an outside shot of Michigan State sneaking into the Grand Daddy. But it's not likely since that would mean a road win in Happy Valley.

Maybe Sugar Bowl = Alabama versus FSU, or the ACC champion. I expect Bama to lose to Florida in the SEC Championship game. Not exactly what is going to happen in the ACC between WAKE, FSU, VA. Tech and Carolina. Say what you want about Bowden, but that's 32 consecutive winning seasons in Tallahassee. Dawg Gamut!

Probable Orange Bowl = Oklahoma versus BIG EAST (WV, Pitt, or Cincy). Wow, Texas Tech could win the BIG-12 and end up not playing in a BCS game this year. Even more motivation for a play-off in CFB. With 3 one-loss BIG-12 teams in the TOP-10 right now, and deservingly so, how do we reconcile the two best?

Buster Fiesta = Boise State versus Ohio State. Not a bad match -up in the desert. I dont' see either one of these teams losing in the month of November.

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