Sunday, September 6, 2009

Thoughts from first weekend of college football

1. Man, the wildcat has caught on like wildfire – nearly every team that I’ve watched this weekend has some form of the Wildcat in the game plan and is showing it in the first week. Why? Preparation. Opposing defensive coordinators are now going to have to spend hours preparing for the Wildcat look. Unfortunately, with nearly everyone running some version of the scheme, it’s not a unique look and won’t cost teams in preparation time down the road. They all look the same, too, with guys who can’t throw taking the snap from center. But, analysts and the sort have to be careful in some sense with the Wildcat. Just because a guy takes a shotgun snap that isn’t typically a QB DOESN’T exactly mean it’s the Wildcat. What makes the Wildcat special in some sense is the use of the tackle over concept. Just stay tuned for a Put the Film on, Bro segment sometime soon.

2. Say what you will, Sooners fans, about BYU getting lucky because of the injury to OU’s Trophy, the Cougars were more physical, more organized and more prepared (also keep in mind BYU beat OU without All-MWC RB Harvey Unga). Defensively, the Cougars were as good as any year I’ve ever seen them. What struck me was how well that defense tackled. But, they kept using a simple linebacker blitz off the weakside (the same one that injured Bradford – If I was OL coach Kevin Wilson, I would be sick today watching the film) that the Sooners NEVER picked it up. Other thoughts after watching up close and personal.

a. Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy isn’t 40 years old, but he is a MAN! When the Cougars tried to block him one-on-one, he engaged and disengaged as quickly and powerfully as any defensive tackle in college football. His strength and quickness are matched by only one man – Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh. He uses his hands so well to shed blockers and BYU G Braden Hansen will be telling all of his friends five or six years ago that he faced Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy.

b. I love TE/WR Dennis Pitta – this guy is the new James Casey. And, I love the way BYU’s offensive staff uses him. They line him up in a way that opposing defenses can’t put a defensive back on him. He found open areas throughout the second half – I thought BYU would force the issue to him in the first half and didn’t, but in the second, BYU QB Max Hall was looking for him as much as possible.

c. All the talk in the off-season in Norman was about an inexperienced offensive line. But, prior to kickoff, Sooner fans and coaches were confident that it wasn’t going to be an issue. Not only was it an issue, it might’ve been one of the worst OL performances for a highly ranked team in quite some time. The inability to make adjustments to the BYU linebacker blitz cost them Sam Bradford. The Sooners couldn’t punch it in the end zone from seven yards out with six tries. RT #70 Cory Brandon was horrible. He had a couple of holding calls, jump offsides three times, including one late in the game that moved K Tress Way out of make-able field goal range. Actually, earlier in the game, the coaching staff had moved RG Jarvis Jones out to RT and put in a new RG, and the offense ran as well as it had all night. Then, on the last two drives in the fourth quarter, the coaching staff went back to Brandon at RT and Jones at RG. Bad move. Horrible one. May have cost the Sooners a shot at a national championship.

d. Although the Sooners OL was a disaster, OU LT Trent Williams proved that he may be worthy of a top 15 pick from his pass protection alone. He locked up BYU DE Jan Jorgensen on the pass rush all night long. His feet were solid and his technique was nearly pristine. Jorgensen made a couple of plays against the run, but didn’t sniff either of the OU quarterbacks.

e. BYU QB Max Hall is a stud. Tough. Smart. Quick release. I just love what he did on the 16 play game winning drive. His fourth down throw to Pitta was a short throw, but a difficult one to fit into the space he threw that one into. Then, on the touchdown to McKay Jacobson, he makes a wonderful read and took advantage of the Sooners’ six eyes on Pitta. He’s not a huge guy, but if he continues to have outings like this, he’ll move into high draft consideration.

f. In essence, OU had no business winning that game. It scored ten points off turnovers and on short fields. BYU out-coached, out-efforted, our-everythinged the Sooners and it’ll be a long week back for OU. I know BYU missed a tackle at some point, but I just don’t remember one. Defensive coordinator Jaime Hill had a magnificent game.

3. The Big Ten and the ACC weren’t thought to be world-beaters this year, but are you kidding me? In the Big Ten, Ohio State faces a game tying two point conversion late in the fourth quarter against Navy. Iowa has to block not one, but two field goals on the last play of the game to beat a D1AA team Northern Iowa. Illinois was flat out embarrassed by Missouri. A joke. Thank god for Michigan or the conference wouldn’t have had even a decent win. The ACC? Not much better. Duke and UVA lost to D1AA teams at home, while Wake, NC State, Virginia Tech lost tough games to schools from BCS conferences. Clemson’s win over MTSU was the conference’s only win over a D1A school (MTSU).

4. UGA’s secondary was laying serious wood on Oklahoma State receivers all day long, even on All-American Dez Bryant. But, in the third quarter, safety #9 Reshad Jones put a hit on OSU TE #81 Justin Blackmon that gave me a tingly feeling all over. But, then a 15 yard penalty was called for unnecessary roughness on the receiver. Now, the ref says #18 who is giving some kind of throat slash, but his reasoning was meant for the hit. He wouldn’t have said “unnecessary roughness on the receiver” and meant that for the throat slash on #18 Bacarri Rambo. This was a bull-bleep call to say the least and cost Georgia huge. First, he hit Blackmon with his shoulder, this was not a spearing at all. And, if you want to say he’s defenseless, then Zac Robinson shouldn’t have thrown the ball. This is football; it’s a collision sport and that was a bad call. This officiating crew will see that when they watch this film. Basically, Jones got a penalty for hitting Blackmon too hard, but when S Bryan Jones knocked Dez into next week, nothing was called. Nothing I hate more than a lack of consistency, especially from my favorite group on Earth – the refs.

5. I tweeted this on Saturday night, thank god Baylor won with the stormtrooper outfits. I didn’t want to see those things go away, but Oregon did everything possible to have those things burned forever. Speaking of the Bears, I only got a chance to see the highlights of the game, but every big play I saw from Baylor was a result of the Bears spreading teams out, sideline to sideline, and utilizing the blazing speed the offense possesses. That was a huge hurdle for head coach Art Briles’ team to get across on its way to Baylor’s first bowl game since JJ Joe was taking snaps under center.

6. Virginia Tech fans aren’t happy this morning after another loss to a big-time BCS conference’s program, but I’m telling you right now DE #6 Jason Worilds is a big-time player. Wow. His burst off the edge is insane. He can play off blockers and make plays in the run game. He can redirect once he has the tackle beat rushing the passer, such that he doesn’t get pushed past the quarterback on the pass rush. I liked him before, but I really like him that much more now.

But, the story of this game was the continued progress of sophomore RB Mark Ingram. Since Alabama decided to change its philosophy prior to the 2008 season, the run game continues to make progress (the 2009 Sugar Bowl notwithstanding). And, the beneficiary last night was power back Ingram. As I noted in my Keys to the Game, Ingram was the hammer, rushing for 150 yards, a career high and running over nearly every Hokie in sight. RB Roy Upchurch contributed 90 yards as well and as long as the defense can respond a little better in sudden change situations, ‘Bama is going to be tough to beat with this running game.

7. I’ll admit, I’m cheering for head coach Mike Sherman to have a solid season at Texas A&M this year. If last night (41-6 win over New Mexico) was any indication, his work with a bunch of youngsters is paying off. He’s got talented skill players and it shows – just look at how many RBs had quality carries last night and how receivers caught a ball. Then, look at what year each one is – nearly all freshmen and sophomores. They won’t beat teams that are superior up front, but I like the progress that has been made.

8. You know last year, I overshot a little bit with Notre Dame in our pre-season top 25. But, the Irish would’ve been in the top 25 had they not mentally crumbled against Syracuse and Pitt, in particular. Regardless, 6 and 6 is 6 and 6, so I was wrong. Now, I feel like putting them at number 20 might be way too low this season. Yes, I know it’s Nevada, but you watch, Nevada is going to give good teams fits this year. And, the Irish shut them out. The passing game is as dangerous as any team’s in the nation and WR Michael Floyd is the next big Domer superstar. A trip to Michigan is next and it’ll be another test for the defense to stop a young, but explosive-looking Michigan offense. However, Michigan better find a way to stop the Emu, aka Jimmy Clausen, and this offense that appears to have taken the next step toward offensive dominance. Finally.

9. Okay, I’m just going to say this real quick – I can’t stand the pounding of the chest after a simple pass break-up or tackle. Just do your job, sport.

10. Florida hammered Charleston Southern as expected, but watching that game what got my attention was how many young players Urban Meyer has put on the field early. True freshman LB Jon Bostic got plenty of playing time, while true sophomore S Will Hill started over last year’s starter Ahmad Black. Tim Tebow did what Tebow does, but on offense, he has two of the most dynamic running backs in combination in the nation – Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey. LT Carl Johnson went down with a leg injury and that could be a problem in a couple of weeks when Tennessee comes to town.

11. Ohio State got a scare against Navy, but it’s not too surprising for a couple of reasons. One, preparing for a true option team like Navy is extremely difficult. And, two, keeping the Buckeyes focused on Navy when USC is looming was maybe more difficult. Navy just sent Diet Dr. Pepper dabblers into scramble mode – I still think Ohio State will play better against USC’s more conventional offense. OSU QB Terrelle Pryor looks 1,000 times more comfortable in this offense and, in particular, throwing the football.

And by the way, this Navy offense has some quickness, perhaps more than this unit has had in past years. QB Ricky Dobbs, outside of his heinous throwing decision on the two-point conversion, is going to be a monster to stop this year. The other thing is that your offense is probably going to get only two drives per quarter if the Navy offense is clicking.