Who to watch: Texas v. Oregon State (Alamo Bowl)

Stay tuned for must-see prospects from every game of the bowl season.

Valero Alamo Bowl

Saturday, December 29, 6:45pm EST

ESPN

This guy beat DeAnthony Thomas in a track meet… no, really, he did.

Oregon State

Markus Wheaton, #2, Senior, WR

Wheaton has been a solid receiver for three seasons now.  The question coming into 2012 was his ability to find the end zone, having posted just 5 touchdowns over 128 catches between 2010-2011.  Wheaton has made dramatic strides in 2012 though, improving in all 9 of my metrics to post an 88 reception–1207 yards–11 touchdown season.  As much as I like his progression, I also like his consistency, going over 85 yards in ten of twelve games.  While his numbers profile similar to former USC and NYG receiver Steve Smith, he actually looks to have the speed to grow into a Lee Evans or Jeremy Maclin type player.  To illustrate this, he beat Oregon’s “Black Mamba”  DeAnthony Thomas in a 100M dash.  Expect Wheaton to go somewhere between picks 45-70.

See Wheaton make several nice plays in the first two minutes.

 

Texas

Mike Davis, #1, Junior, WR

Davis is the one skill player on the Longhorn offense that is even remotely interesting, which is a bizarre thing to say considering this is… Texas.  But if you think about it, who are the stud NFL offensive (skill) talents the longhorns have produced in recent years?  Seriously, please list them in the comments…  In any case, Davis i’s still a junior who I fully expect to return for his senior season.  Keep an eye on him, but I’m not ready to draw any conclusions.

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.

TAAAACKLEEE!!!

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.

Week 2 recap

John L. Smith, perpetual train wreck

At the end of last season Arkansas was a hot team with an emerging star QB and the potential to contend for an SEC and National Title in 2012.  Then, John L. Smith happened.  In the wake of former coach Bobby Petrino’s motor cycle accident and discovery of an extramarital affair, Smith was promoted to head coach as the Razorbacks had few other options in April.  Long time college football fans will remember Smith as the Michigan State head coach from 2003-2006.  His teams were notorious for their late season collapses and after three straight losing seasons, Smith was dismissed in 2006.

So what was my first clue that he IS NOT made to coach in big games and pressure filled environments? Check out his teams’ records in games played after November 1:

2003: 1-4

2004: 1-3

2005: 0-3

2006: 0-3

Total:  2-13

On Saturday night the #8 ranked Arkansas Razorbacks lost AT HOME to Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks in overtime  34-31.  In the last two seasons, Arkansas won 21 games compared to only 5 losses, one of the best records in America.  By comparison, ULM has gone 9-15 in the past two seasons.  Before pulling this upset, ULM had the following results against BCS teams in Coach Berry’s two seasons:

2010:  24 pt loss to Arkansas

2010: 49 pt loss to Auburn

2010:  51 pt loss to LSU

2011: 34 pt loss to FSU

2011: 21 pt loss to TCU*

2011: 28 pt loss to Iowa

POOF!  Out of nowhere, after having not been within three touchdowns of a BCS conference team before, they pull the outright upset.  Is Bobby Petrino that amazing of a coach?  Maybe.  Probably.  But, on this night, the story was about a national champion hopeful losing a game, losing their edge, and further proving the incompetence of John L. Smith.

The Florida Gators would like your attention

Some years the national champion is a team that is highly regarded from week 1 and dominates throughout the season en route to their title.  Other years the eventual champion strings together wins, has timely clutch plays, and seems to have a magical way of getting the job done.  (See: 2010 Auburn.  2002 Ohio St.)  I get the sense that this 2012 Florida Gators team just might fall into that category of teams that find a way to win.

Last weekend in College Station the Gators crashed Texas A&M’s SEC-welcome-party.  After falling behind 17-7 in the first half, Florida grinded their way to a 20-17 win, playing excellent defense and making pointed half time adjustments.  They have settled on a quarterback and will be able to rely on their defense to keep them in games.  If they can get past an emerging Tennessee team on Rocky Top this weekend, the Gators have only one true road game between games 4-11.  This is an early story to keep an eye on.

Hear that?

That’s the sound of Texas and Iowa State off to solid (and eerily quiet) 2-0 starts.  For the Longhorns, the early success is expected and yawned about.  However, after going a combined 13-12 in the last two seasons, it’s encouraging to see them win like their supposed to against two respectable mountain west foes.  In eight quarters of football played, Texas has pitched a shutout in six of them.  They’ve turned the ball over only once and have run the ball well.  This week they play @ Ole Miss  (9:15pm ESPN) in what should be a solid opportunity for them to truly demonstrate their progress.

Iowa State on the other hand… (wait, seriously am I writing about Iowa State?)  The Cyclones are off to a 2-0 start with solid wins over Tulsa and Iowa.  Yes, those two programs might not be up to past performance, but they are two teams that I think Iowa State would have been thrilled to beat in recent years.  With those two wins under their belt, they get Western Illinois and Texas Tech at home (sandwiched around a bye week) to close out September, meaning that the Cyclones could enter October at 4-0.  The strong start coupled with two bowl games in the past three seasons and last year’s upset of OK State leads me to believe that Coach Rhoads has this program quietly going in the right direction.

The B1G Ten’s black eye

Penn State loses at Virginia… and boy did they ever LOSE that one

Iowa loses at home to Iowa State

Purdue loses at Notre Dame

Wisconsin loses at Oregon State

Nebraska loses at UCLA

Illinois loses at Arizona State

Ohio State lets Central Florida hang around

Michigan darn near loses to Air Force

Pretty brutal weekend for the B1G Ten, I’d say… But, hey, at least Northwestern beat Vanderbilt!  The conference isn’t doing itself any favors to shake the perception that the B1G Ten is behind the times.

PAC12 up and PAC12 down

HOORAY!  Arizona State, Arizona, UCLA, and Oregon State all pulled off big time wins against strong non-conference foes!  The PAC12 is king!  Call your friends!  Post to your facebook!  The PAC12 is back!!!!

Actually… hold on a second… what’s that?… everything isn’t peachy in the Pacific?

The  Colorado Buffaloes got beat at home by Sacramento State.  (The same Sac. State team that lost by 30 at NEW MEXICO STATE in week 1.  NEW MEXICO STATE!)  How?

The Utah Utes saw their 12 game win streak against Utah State come to an end over the weekend.

The Cal Bears held a measly 20-17 lead over FCS Southern Utah entering the fourth quarter of their game.  Hey, Bears, good luck with that noon EST kickoff next week against Ohio State.

Finally, the Washington Huskies got annihilated by 38 against LSU.  No shame in losing on the bayou.  Lots of shame in losing by more points than North Texas did in week 1.

That void in your college football weekend?

Geno Smith had a bye week.  Don’t worry.  When he plays, you will hear about it.

That’s what caught my eye in week 2!  What about you?