As the temperatures drop, the games get more heated… and nowhere saw this more true than in the Midwest, where three games with title implications found themselves coming down to the final seconds.
You read that right. The midwest- “flyover country” and “battleground states”. We’ll get to the events in Louisiana and Los Angeles in a bit, but there was a 25 minute period on Saturday that saw the eyes of college football fans tuned to the states of Indiana and Michigan.
First, the Battle in the B1G Legends Division saw either a “Sparty NO!!” moment or the referees stealing yet another game from Dantonio’s team, depending on your perspective and your proximity to LeVeon Bell. Nebraska managed a last second touchdown after two huge mental errors/penalties against the Spartans- first, Taylor Martinez was intercepted on the two yard line as the Huskers were threatening to score; the INT was taken back for an apparent score, but a personal foul well away from the play ended up costing MSU the score (they would get no points from the turnover). As Nebraska mounted a late drive for what would prove to be the go ahead score, a pass into the endzone was called Spartan interference,allowing Martinez to throw the game winner on the next play.
Not only did the win keep the Huskers in the drivers seat for their trip to Indy, but it also helped keep Michigan one game behind for that same opportunity- in spite of their “Denardless” win against Minnesota. Devan Gardner was more than adequate to beat the Gophers and maintain the Little Brown Jug for another year- as someone commented, Michigan’s QB turned WR turned QB outperformed Minnesota’s QB turned WR turned QB turned WR. Here’s hoping that TTUN’s RB masquerading as a QB doesn’t have any permanent damage to the nerves in his puntin’ arm.
After the Nebraska win, most of us clicked over to the Leaders’ game of the week, where we watched Indiana continue their storybook season… if you like storybooks where the protagonist essentially backs into something amazing out of default. In spite of James’ Vandenberg’s mom’s son having a pretty decent day, B1G coach of the year Kirk Ferentz’ team fell just short after holding a 14-10 lead at the break. IU punted back to Iowa with 18 seconds left on the clock, but the last Hawkeyes plays were not able to get the job done, given that the “interesting” B1G refs were in East Lansing this week. And so, should the Hoosiers beat Wisconsin this week (in what’s sure to be a trap game), they are headed to Indianapolis for a chance to play for all the Roses.
At this point, most of America was looking to kill time before the Alabama/LSU game kicked off, only to have their friends text them that the Pitt/Notre Dame game was headed to overtime. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Panthers held a 20-6 lead; when that scrolled across the ticker, I commented to my wife that Notre Dame would win, since the game was being played in South Bend. The Irish scored 17 points in the final period, and we headed to overtime.
After exchanging field goals, Notre Dame’s Cierre Wood fumbled on his way into the end zone and Pitt recovered. And, this time the officials made the right call and gave Pitt the ball. The Panthers chose to run three straight plays to set up the field goal, but on third down chose not to center the ball on the field of play. You can guess what happened next- the field go was wide right; kicked from the right hash, it never wavered from it’s initial trajectory. It was, unless you’re Brian Kelly, an exciting moment.
Ah, but we can’t have “the luck of the Irish” without a little controversy; this one emerging after the fact. On the missed field goal, Notre Dame had two players on the field with the same number, which should have resulted in Pitt having an automatic first down. It’s not as if the officials might have seen this before, or that Notre Dame might have been aware that they should address this issue… nonetheless, a Pitt Field Goal led to a Notre Dame touchdown and the undefeated season continued.
There are a lot of folks who are comparing this year’s Irish season to the 2002 Ohio State champions… good enough offense, but an outstanding defense and a little luck from a resurgent program. Here’s the problem with that analogy… it doesn’t take into account the obnoxiousness that Irish fans bring due to their perceived “special” place in the “annals of college football history”. For a point of reference, this week’s offering by MSPaint maestro ThuJone might help clarify the issue just a bit… warning, most of his stuff is hilariously not safe for work. Read More
Ah, fall… the wind turns brisk and in Los Angeles the birds turn colors and fall from the trees (ht: David Letterman). We talked last week about “pumpkinitis” that’s sweeping the country… some people are taking it seriously. Instead of subjecting yourself to such a task, take time to kick back with some new tunes and enjoy a great weekend in college sports.
In case you haven’t noticed (and if you haven’t, please PLEASE let me know how you’re managing to pull that off), it’s election season. And you thought the BCS was complicated and overwrought… three more weeks, people. You can do it.
“But Mali- there’s never been politics on tBBC… what gives?”
That’s a fine point, but it’s the only way I could think of to lead into this week’s “marquee” matchup. Given how much they like football, I’m sure that there was some tension on the Romney/Ryan campaign bus when Notre Dame and BYU squared off in South Bend. (See, ’cause one candidate is a Mormon and the other is a Catholic… oh, nevermind.) Yup, The Golden Domers met the People of the Golden Plates, with the former looking to continue their undefeated season. The Cougars managed to do something that was pretty rare this season, and scored an offensive touchdown against a resurgent Irish defense, led by Heisman (?) candidate linebacker Manti Te’o. It wasn’t enough, though, as they fell to .500 in a 17-14 loss to Brian Kelly’s team, who was led by backup quarterback Tommy Rees’ and his one completed pass after halftime. So, yeah- that Notre Dame fan in your office has yet another week to be a bit boisterous regarding his fifth ranked favorite squadron.
In order to make sure I cover both sides of the 2012 election, here. Ok, I’m done talking religion and politics… you can come back now.
On the topic of mistakes that I’ve made recently, I’m more than willing to acknowledge that my purchasing the hype regarding West Virginia was misguided. They still seem to be a Big lEast team of sorts, where defense is even more optional than it has been in the B12 lately. This isn’t to take anything away from the October Heisman frontrunner; Colin Klein has rightfully taken the crown from Mr. September, particularly in their “head to head” contest on Saturday. The Wildcats now sit at 7-0 , and even managed to jump Oregon in the BCS rankings this week, all the way up to #3. While I won’t argue with the BCS… At least Oregon beat a team this week that had a defensive pulse. We’ve not seen that from West Virginia, so it’s hard to assess Kansas State’s victory fully. Hooray subjectivity!
Although this is traditionally a “Saturday” wrap up, the truth of the matter is that Thursday’s game between the Ducks and Arizona State was pretty freaking impressive. After an initial ASU score, Oregon cranked up it’s offensive game and scored 43 points before there was even ten minutes left in the second quarter. Mercifully, they pulled back the horses at that point- although, they certainly could have kept rolling if they chose to… when a team scores on a two point conversion this easily, you’ve got to know that they are only stopping themselves for the rest of the game. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that Chip Kelly was pissed that his team was only ranked third in last week’s BCS- since they actually fell one slot this week, I’m afraid to see what happens to this week’s
victim opponent. Read More
Midweek look at news and notes from around Ohio State and the nation… getting ready for what’s been predicted to be a very wet weekend.
As we get closer and closer to kickoff, we’ll be looking across the nation at other (read ‘inferior’) conferences. This way, you’ll have just enough information to justify watching every single game that comes across the telly. First up- the fellers on the Left Coast.
Where does the conference fall in the national rankings- how likely are they to have a team in the Title game?
This is a tough one to assess… the conference is pretty top-heavy, but that top looks really really good. Feel free to make a “Los Angeles plastic surgery” joke right about here.
In terms of conference strength, I’d say that the PAC is about average: Overall not better than the SEC, certainly better than the Big lEast and ACC. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if their best team this season, the Southern Cal Trojans, didn’t lock down one of the slots in the national title game. Pending, that is, an all too familiar letdown against Oregon State or something.
Who’s the best team in the conference? Who will play for in the conference title game (if there is one)?
Well, I’ve already tipped my hand on this one- the Trojans are back. I have no idea how they managed to come through sanctions AND are starting their tenure of reduced scholarships and still remaining national contenders, but that’s certainly the case. Having Matt Barkley return did wonders, to be sure… although it’s yet to be seen if his return will be similar to Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow in effectiveness.
Oh, wait- I do know how they’re back… They are the only program of note in one of the most talent laded areas of the country. Right.
Representing the North Division will be the Oregon Ducks, in my opinion; and this will be a heck of a championship game. The North will be significantly more competitive than the South, as Washington is on the rise and Stanford will be looking to maintain excellence without much Luck (see what I did there?).
Who’s the worst team(s) in the conference? Read More
Keep passing to the TE’s and RB’s - We had great success in the passing game last week by going to the TE’s and RB’s – in fact the top two receivers were at TE/RB. USC will be a lot better in pass defense than Navy was, and we will need to spread it around in order to be able to move the ball at all against them.
Better blocking from the RB’s - Apparently, given what’s been said among the Buckeye blogosphere the last few days, I was too harsh on the offensive line and not nearly hard enough on the running backs. The RB’s need to learn to pick up the blitzes better in pass blocking or LiC is going to be on his back every single day.
The Defensive Line must slow – if not stop – the run – Barkley is going to be a fantastic quarterback for USC for the next several years. Fortunately for us, he’s still a freshman and prone to mistakes if he’s forced to make them. USC cannot be allowed to run the football and must be forced to have Barkley win the game with his arm. If the DL succeeds in making USC one-dimensional, USC should be a lot easier to control.
The secondary has to grow up and make plays - Kurt Coleman did a wonderful job against Navy. Anderson Russell…well…not so much. The corners weren’t tested much, unfortunately. If we’re going to force USC to beat us through the air, we need to be able to take advantage of it. Mistakes in the pass defense game will kill us as easily this year as last.
We must make some big plays early – The crowd is going to be fired up for this game without a doubt. Throw in an early sack from Thaddeus on third down or a 40 yard scramble from Pryor and the stadium will be shaking. Energy from the crowd is going to play a major role in this game, and nothing will bring that energy to a fever pitch like a few big time plays early in the game.
We must break Matt Barkley - I want ears ringing before kickoff. I want his ass on the ground every time he drops back. I want him crying for mommy at halftime. I want him curled up in the fetal position when the game is over. Barkley is a cocky little snot, we must shatter his confidence early, we must hit him constantly, we must break him.
Pryor must roll out of the pocket – Pryor came to Ohio State to become a passing quarterback. He can do that later. I want Pryor rolling out of the pocket early and often and I want him taking off the moment he sees some open field. Pryor outside of the tackles is the most dangerous weapon that we have on offense. Take advantage of it.
We must stop pulling guards on short yardage plays – Pulling a guard clogs the hole with a slow lineman, it forces the running back to slow down and adjust when he needs to be hitting the hole full speed, it allows weak-side penetration which usually runs into the running back who is waiting on the guard to get out of the way, it only works about half the time at best and we need to STOP DOING IT.
A freshman quarterback on his back A LOT – If you’re going to rattle Barkley into turnovers (and he CAN be forced into a bad night, he hasn’t had many good days in practice so far), you’ve got to make him wonder where the hits are coming from next. Two sacks in the first two drives will do that. Be all up in his jersey and he will throw three interceptions by game’s end.
No mental mistakes – That means EVERYBODY. No unnecessary penalties. Don’t blow the coverage. Kick the FG on 4th-and-2. Heads in the game…you’re at HOME. The pressure is on THEM. Let them know it.
Terrelle Pryor – leave the pocket – Not that he spends a lot of time there anyway, but the best way to knock USC off is to make Pryor as mobile as possible. USC has never handled mobile QBs very well and they tend to surrender a lot of points when they face one. With this young defense, it could get lead to a lot of yardage, but only if we force them to chase LiC.
Make Joe McKnight have more than half of USC’s total offense – McKnight is going to get 130 yards rushing and a few receiving yards. The rest of USC combined needs to be held to less than that. McKnight alone cannot beat us….so stop the rest of the Trojans and you get the W.
NOISE NOISE NOISE* – There’s 105,000 of you in that stadium, and I can’t be one of them. If you have tickets and you’re as quiet as you were last week, I’m personally going to beat the shit out of you Sunday morning. This is the biggest game in the Shoe since Michigan 2006. Act like it!
Barkley flustered – Look, champ- this isn’t your seventh grade all-stars game. It’s THE Horseshoe, the BDBITL, and 105,000+ screaming fans. Plus, eleven warriors who’ve been waiting all summer to make your acquaintance, and who couldn’t play like their hair was on fire last week because of the “read and react” option offense. I want him to have a Colt McCoy type night, circa 2006.
No false starts or stupid offensive line penalties – I’m going to keep asking for it until it happens.
U$C’s defense out of position – Open the playbook, make them guess where you’re going next. LiC, work your magic.
Mark May with his foot in his mouth – Dig your way out of the hole when the Bucks win, you hack.
With all the things going on in LA LA Land these days, it would be understandable that college football would have slipped to the back of people’s minds.
I mean, it’s not like we have any major announcements or catastrophes to cover, or that our state budget is still tooling around in a hand basket.
Plus, when it comes to sports, LA fans are a little… peculiar. The best baseball player in Los Angeles is a proven cheater obtained from another team. The best basketball team in the NBA is here, but it took some interesting trade shenanigans with a former LA player turned GM to make that happen. There are no major franchises (sorry Angels) here that were born here- all borrowed from somewhere else. And the good ones don’t stay- the storied NFL program left for friendlier pa$tures in $t. Loui$. The top two NFL franchises followed here (judged by area residents’ apparel and car flags) are Dallas and Oakland/LA/Oakland. The Chargers are a distant third, and even then only recently (read- when they started winning).
Again, this makes sense: Everyone is a transplant from somewhere else, and there’s so much more to do here than in, say, Dayton. It’s logical that most Los Angelenos would choose to pay attention to sports only if and when it is big and shiny.
However, when it comes to LA sports, nothing rallies bandwagon SoCal fans like the best college team money can buy. But even then, it takes something major to stir the masses.
Yawn. Let’s go to the beach or Disneyland…
But one name, though, has stirred more controversy and conversation than any other this pre-season: Barkley.
That would be true freshman Matt Barkley, something of a California QB legend, who was named starter for the U$C program earlier last week.
A bit of history- Barkley started at Mater Dei High School as a true freshman, taking over the reins of a powerhouse southern California program.
Expected to “compete” for the starting job even in his first year, many have been surprised that he was named the starter for the San Jose State sacrifice and (apparently) the September 12 trip to Columbus.
USC Coach Pete Carroll’s decision Thursday to name (too-good-to-be-true?) freshman Matt Barkley the team’s starting quarterback may have just clinched a spot in the Bowl Championship Series title game . . . for Ohio State.
They’re probably pouring beers and doing knuckle-bumps at Betty’s Fine Food and Spirits on High Street in Columbus — with good reason.
We wonder whether Buckeyes Coach Jim Tressel has passed along to his two savvy, veteran senior safeties — Kurt Coleman and Anderson Russell — the fact Barkley threw 18 interceptions last year to high school defensive backs.
Making Barkley’s first-ever road trip a nationally televised game at Ohio Stadium is like sending a first violinist to Carnegie Hall before he has learned to play the entire concerto.
The OC Register posts that he’s ready for the fire, though, having seen “every defense in the book-
“Week to week, it’ll be different according to what team we’re playing. But I think we’re better prepared than a lot of offenses because of what we see day to day.
“All the fronts, the blitzes we see in practice — I’m confident in our defense and what they show us every day. A lot of schools can’t do that.”
The Register also goes onto say that there are a number of reasons that this decision is a wise one, not the least of which is Aaron Corp’s injured leg. Somehow, they also manage to slam Mitch Mustain in that article- wasn’t he the #1 QB coming out of HS, and a freshman starter at Arkansas?
Most Trojan faithful (and, given what we’ve already talked about regarding the fickle nature of SoCal sports fans, I use that term loosely) seem to concur that “If Pete says he’s good enough, then he’s good enough. Pete’s never let us down before.”
Well, things are different now. Gone are Norm Chow and Steve Sarkisian, the architects of Palmer, Leinart, Booty, and Sanchez’s successes. It will be interesting to see how Carl Smith and John Morton utilize the freshman.
Personally (’cause I know you want to know) I think that this is a case of Cool Hand Pete doing a bit of Rick James- He believes that he’s good enough and smart enough to make the magic happen, no matter who his QB is.
And, he may be right. You can’t argue with his record, or his player’s successes in the NFL. Shoot, Matt Cassell makes millions and just stood next to Pete holding a clipboard for four years.
But it’s hard not to remember that this is the same coach who, when leading the “mostest awesomest team ever” into a home game in Pasadena, out-thought himself and lost the game. In crunch time, with a 4th and short, he decided that having the Heisman Trophy winner on the field would be a bad idea. Hand off, turnover on downs, and Vince Young makes confetti happen.
So, is starting Barkley a bad idea? Obviously, we’ll find out on September 12. I agree with Eric that I want U$C to be at full strength with no “excuses” for the game. Let’s settle it on the field at our best. If that’s your first year QB, then so be it.
As a word of caution before we start to celebrate at Betty’s- last year, there was a lot of clamor for a freshman QB to start in the game in the Coliseum. Fans thought that this would make all the difference, and would springboard their team to the National Title.
And while Terrelle Pryor didn’t lead the Bucks to victory, he certainly played up to expectations and set the standard for the future of the program.