The Week That Were: 10.5.13

Written October 7th, 2013 by MaliBuckeye

Sooo… big victory, at night, outside of Chicago, in a hostile environment, behind an old favorite. Yup, there’s really only one choice for the soundtrack for our look back at college football’s big weekend.

Day-um

Day-um

As the season progresses, there will be a number of weekends that provide “clarity” in the national rankings scene… and this past weekend answered a few questions.

Three sets of undefeated teams squaring off; obviously, readers of this site will be aware of what happened between two of the B1G’s three last undefeated teams. Hell, Vegas knows what happened, and has $300 million reasons to hate Joey Bosa.

The early matchup wasn’t anywhere near as dramatic as the marquee in Evanston, at least not after the first few minutes. Facing undefeated (and B1G) Maryland at home, the Florida State Seminoles made quick work of the Terrapins, pitching a 63-0 shutout.

I’m impressed with both FSU and their freshman quarterback, and bumped them up significantly in this week’s Top 10 rankings that you’ll see on Wednesday. Even more frustrating? In the play on the right there, Winston connects with tight end Nick O’Leary, the grandson of Buckeye great Jack Nicklaus. If Winston was a Buckeye lean during his recruitment as is rumored, that connection could have been in Scarlet and Gray.

The final battle of the unbeaten was the nightcap, as Stanford hosted resilient Washington. The Cardinal somehow managed to seemingly get all 27 tight ends on the field at the same time, and were effective in the power game against the undersized Huskies. Sarkisian’s team wasn’t to be overlooked, however- they managed to make a late run at the Cardinal only to have a late catch overturned on review. Based on, from all we know, this view right here. PAC12 refs, man… And here I thought that the SEC was the conference that bent over backwards to ensure that their top teams kept winning…

A celebrity of sorts was at the Husky Cardinal (also a descriptor for St. Louis fans) game, as former Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice was present to watch her alma mater win. The timing couldn’t have been better- she has also been connected to the upcoming “College Football Playoff Committee”, and was dismissed for that role by ESPN’s David Pollack. I’m sure you can imagine how well that went over… it was all we could to to keep Clair from hunting him down.  Dr. Rice’s name has also been bounced around as a possible replacement for Dr. Gee as president at The Ohio State University- who knows… Read More

The Week That Were: 09.21.13

Written September 23rd, 2013 by MaliBuckeye

Monday’s menagerie of thoughts and wonderings on Saturday’s shenanigans comes with music. It was an “ugly” weekend, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make a silk purse out of it all.

Before we dive into the scores, it’s important to remember how trivial college athletics is in the big picture of things. Unfortunately, this is only brought home when we remember the frailty of life, and there were three chances for reflection this weekend.

Ohio State started with a tribute to Columbus Newscaster Dom Tiberi’s daughter Maria, who lost her life in a traffic accident this week.

UCLA followed suit later on Saturday with a 10 man play from scrimmage to honor wide receiver Nick Pasquale, who was killed in a traffic event last week.

And sadly, we found out on Sunday that Cincinnati freshman Ben Flick died after yet another motor vehicle incident.

Again, football is fun… but it ain’t life.

Mid-season Form

Mid-season Form

Let’s stay in the Buckeye State with a reminder of the awesomeness that Ohio State unleashed on Saturday. Sure, it was an undermatched opponent, but that doesn’t mean that the game was insignificant for those that played in it. And, while this was the best block of the week by FAR, the game was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Ohio State did allow ten runs and have two errors in the victory.

PS- I didn’t know that Pam Oliver was a Cal grad. At least TBDBITL seems to think so and responded to criticism in a different way than Charles did earlier.

Ken will be by later to respond to those pundits who seem to have issues with Ohio State’s 76 point victory, but I’ll add only this- I sure don’t hear any bitching about Baylor or Louisville or Miami doing the same on Saturday, and when Oregon did it earlier in the year against an FCS program, they jumped Ohio State in the polls.

You know who doesn’t have a problem with playing until the final gun? The Pirate Cap’n… that’s who.

As you can see up there in the right corner, Coach Kelly and the Irish are celebrating another win in the very friendly confines of South Bend. And by “very friendly”, I mean the kind of affectionate that allows a receiver to climb over the back of a defender and still benefit from the pass interference call. The “Sparty NO!” moment might have happened as soon as Michigan State left the locker room; it’s certainly an uphill battle when you’re playing 11 on 16. Read More

Silver Bullet Points Fingers

Written September 12th, 2013 by MaliBuckeye

As you’re reading this, I’m prepping for the drive from Los Angeles to the Bay Area with the Mrs. for Saturday’s game. Given that we got engaged on the Marin Headlands, this song by one of her favorite performers is the obvious choice for this week’s soundtrack. Gonna’ warn you, though… this week’s reflection is… uh… verbose.

Waiting

Buckeye 411

  • Injury Update- The question that everyone’s been asking hasn’t yet been answered, as Coach Meyer said that Braxton threw a bit on Wednesday before leaving practice to get more treatment on his knee. Coach commented that the issue isn’t pain, but seems to be “stability”, and that Braxton is adjusting to his knee brace. It would not be surprising to see Kenny G start and be relieved by Miller, nor would it be a shock to have them split time at the position. Both will travel, Coach Meyer indicated that they would know more after Thursday’s practice and that he remained optimistic.
  • Two Thoughts- 1) The last time Braxton was held out of play in a game he returned to action and performed pretty well. 2) That being said, if Ohio State feels that they can win the game with Smooth Jazz and give Braxton a week (or two) to recover, I wholeheartedly support that decision. Long term goals here, peeps.
  • Also- Adolphus Washington did not practice on Wednesday, but is expected to travel. His is a bit of a different situation, as the injury is something that can linger. Also, as amazing as Washington is on the field, the Young Bucks are doing good work under Coach Vrable’s direction.
  • Good News- Corey Linsley is scheduled to play the entire game this week at center, having gotten the clearance to do so from the medical staff after his foot injury has significantly healed
  • Red, Not Scarlet- A couple of older “back ups” that many are surprised have not gotten the playing time they were expected to were discussed on Wednesday, and Coach Meyer said that it’s a possibility that Bri’onte Dunn and Michael Thomas may end up redshirting if they aren’t going to be a part of the planning this season. He also discussed how he felt that they were “wasted” by the coaches last year, and didn’t want to make the same mistake moving forward.
  • Getting Defensive- Ryan Shazier talked about the Silver Bullets’ excitement to play Cal, and that they were working diligently to ensure that the Bears didn’t have the success necessary to string together drives and run 100 plays a game. He also spoke about the need to maintain leverage on Cal’s running back Brendan Bigelow, as his ability to get to the edge is a strength that created issues for Oho State last year. However, Shazier mentioned that Bigelow’s talents were helped by a number of small mistakes that the young defense made last season.
  • Getting Ready- Playing the role of Bigelow this week in practice? Carlos “I’ll be back next week” Hyde. Not too shabby.
  • Stripes Lost- I guess we’re still doing that now, as Cameron Johnston, Tyquan Lewis, and Trey Johnson all had their black stripes removed today. Woot!
  • Honors- This week’s Sammy Silverman graphics, for your enjoyment Read More

The Week That Were: 9.7.13

Written September 9th, 2013 by MaliBuckeye

Given the rain delay in the BYU /UT game this week and the deluge of rushing that befell the Longhorns after kickoff, there’s only one option for this week’s soundtrack.

See, this is why there should be no polls before the first weekend in October.

Hook’em

Once again, we see a number of teams that got votes due to their “name recognition” shown up early in the season, and others who are rising to the occasion still find themselves with a long way to go until November.

Cases in point: Texas, Notre Dame, Florida, and Southern Cal; all of whom lost on the same Saturday for the first time since September 11, 1976.

For the Longhorns, it’s been a slide into mediocrity for a while now. I’m not sure that people really understand the significance of the Mack Brown era… As the flagship school in of the top three recruiting hotbeds in the country, Brown’s teams have historically underwhelmed with the exception of two “lightening in a bottle” moments- Vince Young and Colt McCoy. Outside of their leadership behind center, the program has struggled; and it can be argued that some of this is due to poor coaching (see the Major Applewhite -vs- Chris Sims debacle) or poor recruiting (Texas recruited the last two Heisman winners as defensive backs, and didn’t reach out to Jamies Winston- this year’s new hotness).

While those things may be true, Mack seems to think that the issue is defense; as evidenced by the 550 yards rushing that they gave up to BYU on Saturday, the majority of which happened in the first three quarters. In response, Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz was fired on Sunday. Before you get excited, Austinites- his replacement is none other than Greg “GERG” Robinson, who’s amazing Michigan defenses gave up over 100 points in two games against Illinois.  I’m sure he’ll get the team motivated to return to the lofty status that UT should assume.

But you’ve also got to think that this is merely shuffling chairs on the Titanic- when your team plays so poorly that Shaggy Bevo’s servers go down as they did on Sunday, then you’ve got yourself a problem. Read More

The Week That Were: 11.17.12

Written November 19th, 2012 by MaliBuckeye

We’re going to do things just a little bit differently this week, given all of the amazing news and events that happened this past weekend. So, this will be part Silver Bullet Points, part Monday Morning Commentary, and the usual chunk of random observations from Saturday’s events in the world of college football.  Here’s something to listen to while you’re fighting the urge to tl;dr- we’ve certainly got a lot to be Thankful for.

Prepping for Kiffy?

In this year’s edition of the Battle For Los Angeles, the upstart UCLA Bruins jumped out to a quick lead and held on to “upset” the Trojans by ten points on a gray day in Pasadena.  While the Bruins obviously have been playing much better football this year, you’ve also got to wonder if the trajectories of the programs have now crossed, particularly given some of the issues that continue to swirl at Southern Cal.

As the team that was picked by many to contend for the national title, the frustration for many SC fans has been swirling since the loss to what we now know is a pretty good Stanford team. That game highlighted the Trojans’ issues with depth; injuries since then have continued to create problems and have certainly didn’t help in their back to back losses to Arizona and Oregon. The defeat by the Ducks made things even more problematic, since SC’s defense was a point of strength for them under current coordinator Monte Kiffin; their being gashed turned up the heat on the current coaching administration. And now, to lose to “little brother” has many wondering if it’s not time to make a change.

Coach Kiffin’s actions certainly haven’t helped this season- cutting media opportunities short, banning reporters outright… it certainly makes sense that he’d not want to leave the Rose Bowl via the obvious entrance on Saturday night.  Other controversy swirls around Lane as well; while possibly not related, it’s definitely not helping matters at all.  You may remember “inflation-gate” and the termination of a student manager following the revelation that game balls for kickers were under-inflated against Oregon. For those not infatuated with special teams- a “flatter” pigskin has a much larger “sweet spot”; as a great Buckeye Planet poster pointed out, the Trojan’s kicking game has not been anywhere near as efficient ever since they were penalized for this “mistake”.

In addition, earlier this week Tennessee was dinged for recruiting issues that occurred under Kiffin’s one year tenure in Knoxville- issues that involved Chip Kelly’s favorite videographer, Willie Lyles.  Given the length of the investigation into Oregon’s program and this new decision at UT involving Lyles, you’ve got to think that there’s more than a few million good reasons for Kelly to take the Pete Carroll route and jump to the NFL ASAP.

What does this mean for Kiffin? At this time, it’s difficult to say, but losing Matt Barkley for the matchup against Notre Dame this weekend, combined with the continuing scholarship losses for the next couple of years would certainly be reason to wonder how warm his office chair will be getting this winter.

Sentient?

Interestingly enough, the other two programs involved in “affair du Lyles” also had difficult weekends. Derek Dooley’s Volunteers lost to cross-state foe Vanderbilt, and it wasn’t even close. The win ensures that UT will have a losing season for the third time in as many years, and was only the second victory for the Commodores in 35 years.  Following the game, the inevitable happened… Dooley was fired, effective immediately.  If you’re an Ohio State fan, you’ve got to wonder if this might have an impact on current recruits looking at both programs… Vonn Bell is the name that pops up, but there may be others in the 2014 class. This year’s season ending clash between the Vols and ‘Kats will feature both coaches in either interim or lame duck status… it’s going to be a fun coaching carousel for the SEC this season.

Lyle’s third “partner” in all of this felt the sting of their first loss on Saturday, at home, to a Stanford team that should be in the conversation about the top programs in the nation.  Remember, they’re a botched call from extending overtime in South Bend and possibly ending the Irish Nightmare that we are currently facing.  I was most impressed with The Cardinal’s defense on Saturday- disciplined, aggressive, and never seemed to give up the big play to an offense that most often looks like throwing kerosene on a bonfire… one blink, and it’s over. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything. Ahem.

Does Nike gear wick away tears?

The loss can easily be attributed to a lot of things- Oregon being too confident, and this being the Duck’s annual brain fart game; Questionable officiating, A “trap” game, with the resurgent Beavers looming Thanksgiving week… But all of these would not do a service to the great work that the coaches at Stanford, starting with Jim Harbaugh, have done in building a program that can certainly play with anyone in the country. It’s also why I think that Alabama, if given the usual bowl prep to face Oregon, would beat them- I believe that the Tide’s defense is more athletic and much more disruptive than Stanford’s… and the template we’ve seen in the Ducks’ losses over the past four years is now pretty well known. You just need to have the horses to pull it off; Stanford did on Saturday, and now control their PAC12 destiny. They’ll need to beat UCLA twice in two weeks to do so, but doing so may have the Oregon Ducks on the outside of the BCS championship game AND the automatic Rose Bowl berth… along with USC.  It’s been that kind of year.

Oh, and on Saturday Northwestern, Stanford, and Vanderbilt all won.  Nerds, y’all.

Commentary: Polls and Playoffs Read More

The Week That Were: 11.10.12

Written November 12th, 2012 by MaliBuckeye

Oh, college football… How I love you!!

2012 Version

Well, that happened.

While a lot of people were saying that Alabama was ripe for a loss against a Texas A&M team that’s been playing really well over the past few weeks, most of this felt like lip service. You know, the kind of things that ESPN makes one person say on the Gameday set in order to appear unbiased.

And then- “Johnny Football”.

There are a lot of reasons why Alabama lost- coming off of an emotional win on the road in Death Valley, LSU’s offense showed a lot of people the issues that the Tide have in their secondary, Saban’s fear of the high speed offense is based on his knowledge of his team’s weaknesses; but the fact of the matter is that the Aggies outplayed Alabama, in Tuscaloosa, in several key areas of the game.

The Crimson Tide defensive front was stifled, for the most part, by the aTm offensive tackles. Combined with concerns about a quarterback’s mobility, the Tide were not able to mount the type of disruptive pressure that they are so used to.

Alabama’s offense made key mistakes and turnovers, and seemed out of rhythm all night long.  The three turnovers didn’t help, particularly when the Tide defense couldn’t get any of their own… and the mental errors were even more egregious. On the final interception, it seems to me that the receiver on the end of the line of scrimmage did a poor job getting depth in the end zone, making it easy for defenders to cover both him and the primary target.  In addition, with Bama’s defense stiffening and forcing a punt, to have a member of their punt return/block team create a neutral zone infraction for an automatic first down is an aggressive penalty, but one that is terrible to have happen in that circumstance. Again, the intensity was there for the student in question, but the lack of focus eventually cost them a final chance at victory.

Yeah, He's Good

But we can’t miss the point here- this game was won by Johnny Manziel’s continual ability to make plays and put the Tide defense on their heels.

After the third week in a row with this type of performance (Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State), the redshirt freshman has lifted himself into Heisman candidacy- and for good reason.  Given the lack of a clear “star” this year, given Matt Barkley’s struggles, the game this weekend was his “Flutie to Phelan” moment; outstanding performance in high profile opportunity. I’ll leave the debate to others, but will certainly enjoy watching the electricity that all of these candidates provide.

Even if he doesn’t win this year, you’ve got to think that next year’s Heisman race is going to be something spectacular- Braxton Miller, Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, Everett Gholston, Tahj Boyd, DeAnthony Thomas… and those are just the ones I’ve got off the top of my head.

(And since I’m on the topic, I think that Marquis Lee needs to be included in this year’s debate. But that’s just me).

Does this loss end the run of SEC titles in the final year of the BCS? Well, not exactly… more on this in a bit.

Read More

The Week That Were- 11.03.12

Written November 5th, 2012 by MaliBuckeye

Hey, how about some country for this week’s soundtrack?

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.

Making Friends

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.

Meh.

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

The Week That Were: 10.27.12

Written October 29th, 2012 by MaliBuckeye

In spite of the huge win in Happy Valley on Saturday, I’m feeling a bit of the blues are in order for this week’s recap. So, enjoy some Collins, Cray, and Copeland.

It’d be easy to say that this week was “spook-tacular”, and “scary” for a lot of top teams, but that would be way to easy. So, let’s just admit that Saturday once again proved that we’re fans of the greatest sport in the world; because anything can happen once the ball is kicked.

Whoops

As a promise to a “friend” that’s a Notre Dame fan who I’ve been justifiably ripping for the last ten years, we’re leading off this week with the Irish’s huge win in Norman over the Sooners.  Like most of America who pays attention to the sport, I imagined that Oklahoma would stomp a mud hole into Brian Kelley’s team- Stoop’s defense, high powered offense… not exactly playing Air Force here. So, because the Irish emerged victorious, undefeated, and “relevant” enough to bump up to the third ranking spot in the BCS, I tip my journalistic cap to them- particularly their defense, which is playing lights out this season.  Although they gave up their first* (non-official assisted) rushing touchdown to Oklahoma, they were able to keep Sooner QB Landry Jones guessing all night long. That’s not to say that we’re not without some controversy, as the “luck of the Irish” continued when Heisman Candidate Manti Te’o intercepted the Sooners late in the game to seal away the victory. Your perspective of the play will depend on your hopes prior to the game- Irish fans were elated, others thought that the initial play was a case of pass interference resulting in a ball that clearly touched the ground. At any rate, complaining about the officiating is better left to other fan bases; the Irish are undefeated, and have overcome all but one of the games that had people pointing to theirs as the toughest schedule in college football. Congrats indeed.

Although… How much of this gets pinned on Bob Stoops? “Big Game Bob”, as we’ve discussed before, has built a reputation on an early BCS championship and his ability to beat his rival. However, given the state of his rival over the past few years, is it really fair to continue to give him a pass for his team’s coming up short in these types of games? The loss to Notre Dame is the second at home this year… although, to be fair, both teams are undefeated currently. So, Sooner fans- enjoy that BCS win over Connecticut a few years back, and hope that things can get turned around in the B12 for your squadron in the near future.

Since we alluded to them, let’s talk Texas, shall we? It took some late game heroics by a McCoy (no, not that one) to keep from being beaten by Kansas.  You read that correctly… the Jayhawks and their “Coach by weight” strategy were within seconds of beating the Longhorns and turning the heat even higher up on coach Mack Brown. I’m not one to jump on a dead bandwagon- check out the great “post a picture of our defense” thread on Shaggy Bevo- but I still can’t figure out how the flagship school in one of the most talent rich states in the nation continues to struggle on the field. Granted, it may be the competition in the conference and adjacent conferences, but you’ve got to think they’d be able to be successful whether or not there’s a prodigy at quarterback.

Also in the B12, Kansas State, the new #3 in the BCS continues to roll, playing even with Texas Tech for a half and then making the adjustment necessary to blow out the Raiders in Lubbock. Read More