Week 3 recap

Logan Thomas and self doubt

As you have probably seen by now, the Virginia Tech Hokies lost @ Pitt on Saturday by a score of 17-35.  On one hand, this loss was miserable for the Hokies because of how terrible Pitt looked in the first two weeks, losing to both YOUNGSTOWN STATE and Cincinnati.  But, on the other hand, this loss was miserable because of how awful Logan Thomas played.  Many draft ‘experts’ consider Thomas to be one of the five best QB prospects in America.  Having just released my own QB rankings of draft eligible quarterbacks, I couldn’t help but feel a little self doubt with having Logan Thomas ranked so low.  Screw that.  I don’t care how big, athletic, or promising Thomas is, in this game he threw three first half interceptions, played like a total bonehead and was able to lead the Hokies on ONE drive of more than eight plays.  He has a LONG WAY to go as a passer.  Don’t buy the hype (at least not at this point)  Pathetic.

In related news, the Big East showed some life this week.  Pitt, UConn, and Louisville notched solid wins, with Louisville looking especially mean for three quarters.  I guess I’ll have to wait another week to bad mouth the crumbling Big East conference.

So this is a Harvard bar?  I thought there’d be equations and shit on the wall.

Let’s give it up for the smart kids: Stanford, Northwestern, and Cal.

Maybe the biggest story of the day was the Stanford win over USC, knocking off golden boy Matt Barkley and dashing USC’s national championship hopes.  In 2006, the last season pre-Harbaugh, Stanford went 1-11.  The Pac 10 was a high flying conference with an improving national profile on the shoulders of USC, CAL, and Oregon.  The league was perceived to be pass heavy, defense light, and soft.  So what did Jim Harbaugh do?  Look at the direction everyone else was going and do the exact opposite.

First things first, Stanford is an incredible school with elite admission standards.  So?  So my point is that right off the bat, Stanford is playing with a different deck of cards.  They’re going to be limited as to the type of players they can recruit.  Otherworldly athletes who may, or may not, have gotten pushed through life because of their out of classroom abilities aren’t going to cut it in Palo Alto.  So, what does Harbaugh do?  He says “screw the speed game.  Screw finesse and speed and flash.  We are going to be tough.”  He went out and got big, tough, smart players.  Yes, Andrew Luck didn’t hurt, but if you think this is about Andrew Luck then you’re missing the point.  Even WITH Luck they perpetually ran a variation of the goal line offense on EVERY PLAY.  They lined up with two running backs, two or three tight ends, and said “if you’re going to be stupid enough to leave your scrawny, punk cornerbacks on the field, then we’re going to run off-tackle right at them all game every game.  We’re going to outblock you, outtackle you, and out-execute you, and if you can stop it, hats off to you.”

Yea, we’re smarter than you AND we just beat you on the field (Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP)

Contrast this with USC.  The Trojans drops a game like this every year.  Honestly, I think the NFL-like-hype and big city lights go to the heads of these So Cal kids.  If ‘talent’ was all that mattered, few teams in college football would belong on the same field with USC.

There are currently ten teams in BCS conferences who are undefeated and have all three wins against FBS opponents.  Stanford is one of them.  Northwestern is another.  The Cardiac Cats have defeated a Big East team, and SEC team, and an ACC team.  Coach Fitzgerald’s team has now been to four straight bowl games and looks well on their way to a fifth.  At a time when the B1G Ten is taking its lumps and losses, it’s good to see the Northwestern Wildcats doing their part to carry the conference’s banner.

And, finally, the Cal Bears deserve a tip of the cap.  They were 17 point underdogs and went into Columbus for a 9am PST game, and played the Buckeyes right down to the wire.  If not for a missed field goal in the final minutes, the Bears could have pulled a colossal upset.

Speaking of Ohio State

Braxton Miller is not a good QUARTERBACK.  He is a nice football player.  Dare I say, a good halfterback?  Yes, a halfterback.  Part halfback.  Part quarterback.  I have been infinitely amused by Ohio State fans this season who insist on him being a good quarterback.  At first I got annoyed by this, then I took a sort of pity on these Ohio State fans.  The following list represents their idea of a ‘good quarterback’:

  • Terrelle Pryor
  • Troy Smith
  • Craig Krenzel

How are those guys doing in the NFL?  Oh?  Really?  Okay, glad we’re on the same page now.  Braxton Miller is a nice football player in an outstanding scheme.  (see:Denard Robinson)  He should thank his lucky stars that Urban Meyer is his coach and that he has the talent around him that he does.  The sad thing is that I’m not sure who in the B1G Ten has the personnel to slow them down.  The conference is looking more and more like a trainwreck every day.  Is Michigan State going to slow them down?  Maybe, but they’re offense is brutal.  Nebraska?  Meh.  Looks like we’re going to keep hearing the Braxton hype.  Ok, fine.  But, please, don’t call him a “good quarterback.”

Bret Bielema and Gene Chizik are frauds

While we’re on the topic of actual, real-life, outstanding players, let’s talk about two coaches who are getting exposed this season.

Imagine being Gene Chizik.  You lead Iowa State to a resounding 5-19 record in two seasons.  Somehow you career into being named a head coach in the SEC after having failed miserably in the Big12.  You inherit a team that went 5-7 in 2008 with a poor turnover ratio and a bottom feeding offense.  You hire Gus Malzahn, acquire Cam Newton as a JUCO transfer, win three bowls and a national championship and everyone loves you.  Your a genius!  Or are you?  It’s one thing to be a solid 8-5 SEC team.  It’s another thing to hitch your cart to arguably THE BEST offensive mind in college football (Malzahn) and have a once-in-a-generation lightning-in-a-bottle season from Cam Newton.  Now, what is going on?  Newton leaves after 2010 and you slip back to 8-5.  Malzahn leaves after 2011 and your offense putters out of the gate to the tune of 29 points in two games.  In game 3 you get taken to overtime by UL-Monroe.  Now you’re 1-2, have a new offensive scheme (mistake) and are embarking on this schedule: LSU, Arkansas, @ Ole Miss, @ Vandy.  Nobody would be surprised if you are 2-5 in mid-October.  The question is how are you going to pull another rabbit out of your hat?  Or better yet, how much longer can you ride on others’ coattails before people realize what you really are?

“I thought I told you not to share how big of a fraud I am!” (Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP)

Elsewhere, the Downtown Athletic Club has retroactively awarded Russell Wilson the 2011 Heisman trophy.  So far in 2012, sans Wilson, the Badgers have scored 26 points to defeat Northern Iowa by five, 7 points to lose to Oregon State by three, and 16 points to defeat Utah State by two. Yes, Bielema has won 10 games per year in Madison, but in big games–especially ones on the road– the Badgers continue to come up short.  This is a program that grows first round NFL lineman in their back yard.  Yet, this team continues to fatten up at home and run it down everyone’s throat (sorta).  Away from home, they are just 22-17.  If Wisconsin ever wants to truly take their seat at the big boy table, they need to cure their road woes or find a new coach who can.

The Muschamp Connection

Has anyone else noticed how eerily similar Will Muschamp’s current team, the Florida Gators, and Will Muschamp’s old team, the Texas Longhorns are?  Both teams have played for a National Championship in the past five seasons.  However, after sub-par seasons by both in 2010 and 2011 (Florida: 15-11, Texas: 13-12) these teams were waaaay under the radar this season.  In reality, both programs have struggled to find their identity after losing all-time greats Tebow and McCoy after the `09 season.  In 2012, these teams have found their way.  Both teams have elite defenses, anchored by their outstanding defensive lines.  Both teams have sophomore quarterbacks who have struggled to find their way, but look to be on track now.  Both teams have the capability to make a run for the national title. It will be interesting to watch them lean on their defenses and let their young offenses come along.  The true benchmarks will come in the next few weeks.  Florida hosts Kentucky before having a bye week and then hosting LSU.  Texas is off this week then plays @OK State, WVU, then vs Oklahoma at the Red River shootout.  Come October 13, we will have our answer.

In defense of defense.

While watching the Miami RedHawks play Boise State yesterday, it occurred to me how much defensive line play and tackling matter.  The RedHawks repeatedly missed tackles on the edge and got ZERO push with their defensive line.  With Boise, the first defender nearly always made the tackle and the defensive line dictated when on the field.


Fastforward to Alabama beating Arkansas 52-0.  For as much as college football has become a score-score-score fest with an ever-increasing love affair with offense, to play championship football still means to dictate with your defensive line and to tackle well.  When I think about Alabama, I continue to be amazed at how their defense keeps them in EVERY GAME.  I got to thinking “how often does their defense allow 10 pts or less?”  So, I went back and looked up the numbers.  Only looking at games played within the confines of the SEC conference since 2007 (Saban’s first year), what follows are the percentage of games in which the defense for these teams held their opponents to 10 or fewer points:


  • Alabama (47.7%)  `09 and `11 national champ
  • LSU (27.9%)   `07 national champ… LSU more than doubled their percentage with 2011’s defensive dominance
  • Florida (23.8%)  `08 national champ
  • South Carolina (19.5%)
  • Auburn (14.6%)  `10 national champ
  • Georgia (14.6%)
  • Tennessee (12.2%)
  • Arkansas (7.5%)
  • Mississippi St (7.5%)
  • Vanderbilt (7.5%)
  • Ole Miss (7.5%)
  • Kentucky (2.5%)

Yes, there is more to the picture, like being able to sustain drives, prevent turnovers, and play good special teams.  However, I can’t help but wonder what this means for other teams in the league.  When I think about Arkansas (moreso in the Petrino era) and the new Hugh Freeze era in Oxford, MS, I can’t help but wonder if the fans of these teams falsely put their hopes in high-flying offenses.  After all, it’s the defenses that are winning championships.

New Rule:

I ALMOST understand playing FCS teams in week 1.  However, to be playing FCS teams in week 3 is embarrassing.  Arizona, Clemson, West Virginia, and Oregon, I’m looking at you.  No more than one FCS school per year (ahem, florida state) and you have to play them in week 1 or not at all.

Quarterbacks I love:

Geno Smith (season):  66-75 (88%)  734 yards, 9 TDs, 0 int

Casey Pachall (season): 33-39 (84.6%) 536 yards, 5 TDs, 0 int

Can you hear me now? Good. So you don’t forget who I play for, I shaved it into my head.