Posted on: November 29, 2010 5:58 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The ancient saw about football is that offense sells tickets and defense wins championships. But based on this offense-dominated 2010 season, it may be time to admit that when it comes to college football, offense can just about handle the whole thing, thanks; likely BCS title game participants Auburn and Oregon both ride their record-breaking offenses first and their defenses second, and whether it's the Big Ten with Wisconsin , the Big 12 South with Oklahoma , or the SEC East with South Carolina (and their 100th-ranked pass defense ), defense-first teams are giving way to more explosive counterparts.
Which helps explain why of the five finalists announced today for the Broyles Award , given annually to the nation's top assistant coach, four of them are offensive coordinators at the helm of some of the nation's best attacks. They are:
Dick Bumpas, defensive coordinator/defensive line coach, TCU
Paul Chryst, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, Wisconsin
Dana Holgorsen, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State
Gus Malzahn, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, Auburn
Greg Roman, offensive coordinator, Stanford
Of the five, Malzahn has become (almost without question) the biggest name in the group and with his unorthodox scheme producing not only an SEC West title but a probable Heisman Trophy for Cam Newton , he's your likely front-runner. But all five have done incredible work this season: Holgorsen took over a Cowboy offense missing its longtime quarterback and biggest receiving threats and helped make Justin Blackmon and Kendall Hunter All-Americans; Chryst has made Scott Tolzien the most efficient quarterback in the Big Ten by a mile while maintaining the Badgers' bulldozing ground-based mentality; Roman, likely the most obscure name in the bunch, has coordinated an offense that lost Toby Gerhart and still averaged better than 40 points per game; and though a couple of off-games have denied TCU their run at being the best statistical defense of the decade , Bumpas's perenially excellent Frogs again lead the nation in both total and scoring defense.
But a vote for Bumpas in 2010 feels a bit like counterprogramming opposite the Super Bowl or something similar. This is the season of offense in college football, and the Broyles winner will likely reflect that.
Posted on: November 27, 2010 2:09 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The news just broke this morning that Vanderbilt head coach Robbie Caldwell had resigned, and that today's game against Wake Forest would be his last. This happened barely two hours ago, but the rumors about who Vanderbilt will be pursuing to replace Caldwell have already begun. It seems that Vandy isn't looking outside the SEC for its top choice.
Not surprisingly, that choice seems to be Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.
Now, as Schad mentions in his tweet, Gus Malzahn will be one of the most sought after coaches during the offseason. Everyone has seen what he's done on the offensive side of the ball during his coaching career, particularly this season with Cam Newton and Auburn. So it isn't surprising at all that Vanderbilt would be interested.
What would be surprise would be to see Malzahn take the job at Vanderbilt. Listen, I don't mean this as an insult to Vanderbilt, but let's be real here. Gus Malzahn can find a lot better head coaching job than Vanderbilt. He'll have his choice of any position that becomes available, be it one we already know of, or one that will come open after the season.
Vanderbilt is not the kind of school that Malzahn could walk into and experience success quickly, as the Commodores have a long mountain to climb if they want to contend in the SEC. Sure, Malzahn would be a fantastic start to getting that accomplished, but I just can't see it happening.
Posted on: November 3, 2010 12:43 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
One of the most talked-about columns to emerge in the college football media this past week has been this one by the Denver Post 's John Henderson, which not only confidently claims that Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins won't survive into the 2011 season but offers an early shortlist for his replacement. The four names allegedly being considered by Buffs brass: Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain , retired former Colorado head coach Bill McCartney , LSU head coach Les Miles , and Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn .
Of those four, Miles is widely seen as unattainable; McCartney (who has been out of coaching for the past 16 seasons) is seen as old and potentially out-of-touch; and McElwain is seen, as, well, the less-exciting of the two Alabama-based coordinators. Which has focused most of the speculation in response to Henderson's column on Malzahn, whose go-go offense has transformed Auburn from one of the SEC 's worst attacks to one of the nation's best in two short seasons (not to mention turning Cam Newton into the Hesiman front-runner). His approach would seem to be a good fit both for the Buffs' move to the high-scoring Pac-12 and for a Colorado fanbase that could use some excitement after the stultifying Hawkins tenure.
But Malzahn, like his quarterback , has already taken enough turns on the coaching speculation carousel to know not to give anything away this early :
"To be honest, I’m in my own little world," he said. "My entire focus is on this team and making it the best it can be. I’m extremely happy. I’ve said that time and time again. I love coach (Gene ) Chizik and I love coaching these kids. And my only focus is trying to win games and trying to win a championship."This is standard boilerplate for a coach who's a candidate for another job in midseason, but of course that boilerplate is something other than "I'll be at Auburn next year" or "I'm not going to Colorado."
So the door for a move to Boulder still is, in the most technical sense of the metaphor, still open. But at this premilinary stage, reading anything into Malzahn's comments other than that he doesn't want to comment is reading too much into them.
Posted on: October 29, 2010 7:38 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Every season, every month, every week, there are several outcomes and achievements that, frankly, nobody operating within reason would ever predict. Who could have predicted Nebraska would beat Florida for the 1995 title by 38 points, or that Boise State would pull off three late trick plays to knock off Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, or that Iowa State would put up 28 points on Texas before hanging on for victory OH WAIT ADAM JACOBI DID EXACTLY THAT. WHAT. WHAT. (You can't see this, but I'm posturing like an imbecile.) We're going to try capture that lightning in a bottle by making similarly absurd predictions every week. Are they at all likely to come true? No. Do we even believe the words we're writing? No. But if we make even one correct call on these, we will never stop gloating. Ever. As you can tell.
Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin goes B-A-N-A-N-A-S on homestanding Texas, throwing for 310 yards without an interception and running for another 75 with a pair of touchdowns, leading the Bears to a season-defining 27-24 win over the Longhorns. Afterwards, Texas coach Mack Brown first blames a failed attempt to do the John Wall dance as a motivational tactic in the pregame locker room, then complains that the Bears' Waco recruiting base gives them "a big leg up when it comes to athletes."
During the second quarter of the Auburn-Ole Miss game, Cam Newton is tackled after a 15-yard gain on the Rebels sideline near Jeremiah Masoli. As Newton gets up to the ground Masoli yells at him "Hey, I totally would have ratted you out to the cops if I'd seen you with that stolen laptop, Newton!" This enrages Cam Newton, who then immediately triples in size and turns green. He literally rips Masoli in half, and Auburn is assessed a 15-yard personal foul. Oh, and Newton is kicked out of the game, to great protestation from Auburn head coach Gene Chizik. Without Newton, offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn suddenly seems like less of a genius, and Auburn's offense stalls. Ole Miss comes back to win and ends Auburn's hopes for a national title. -- Tom Fornelli
Michigan State loses to Iowa this weekend. Okay, that's not exactly a wild prediction, but what ensues turns the college football world on its head. Michigan State wins the rest of their games, as does Ohio State, and both teams finish the season at 11-1 (7-1) without facing each other. The Big Ten tiebreaker rules award Ohio State the Rose Bowl bid, enraging the Spartan faithful. However, Oregon earns a trip to the national championship, freeing their spot to be taken by a BCS-eligible team from a non-qualifying conference, as is the new rule. Trouble is, Boise State also makes the title game, while TCU beats Utah to knock the Utes out of contention. But instead of the Horned Frogs receiving the bid to Pasadena, TCU is ruled ineligible for bowl play and stripped of all 12 wins after an investigation reveals that they'd been using ringers from the NFL, and nobody at the NCAA had really bothered to check until a concerned Utah fan noticed that the players kept arriving to the games in their personal helicopters. I assume everybody in the NFL has their own helicopter. With no non-AQ schools left standing and no other Pac-10 teams in the top 16 of the BCS standings, the Rose Bowl instead selects Michigan State to face Ohio State, creating the first real Big Ten Championship Game a full season before Nebraska even shows up. The Rose Bowl Committee decides that this game is "kinda way better without the Pac-10 around," and the Big Ten decides to make the Rose Bowl the permanent home of its conference championship game, to be decided every year on January 1. You know, because of tradition. -- Adam Jacobi
Tags: 2011 Rose Bowl, Auburn, Baylor, Big 12, Boise State, Cam Newton, Gene Chizik, Gus Malzahn, Insane Predictions, Iowa, Jeremiah Masoli, John Wall, John Wall Dance, Mack Brown, Michigan State, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Robert Griffin, Rose Bowl, SEC, TCU, Texas, The Incredible Hulk, Utah
Posted on: October 23, 2010 5:23 pm
Edited on: October 23, 2010 5:27 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Through one half, the LSU defense has lived up to its reputation ... and unfortunately for the visiting Tigers, so has their offense. Gus Malzahn 's dynamic Auburn offense was held to just 10 points and 177 yards in the first half, well below their season averages. While Cam Newton ran for 78 yards and a touchdown, he also threw for only 32 total yards and looked uncomfortable in the pocket against LSU's (arguably) SEC-best secondary.
But those 10 points were good enough for a 10-3 lead until the final 15 seconds of the half, when Jordan Jefferson escaped a Daren Bates tackle at the 10 and sprinted in to tie the game. The play capped a huge 14-play, 78-yard, momentum-changing drive for LSU following a missed field goal by the usually-reliable Wes Byrum , the miss wasting Auburn's own 13-play march. Both teams will kick themselves for missed opportunities; LSU took the ball across midfield on their first three possessions and scored just one 48-yard Josh Jasper field goal.
So who's got the upper hand? LSU will take the second-half kickoff, a big deal in what's shaping up as an extremely low-possession game, but LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee suffered a wrist injury just before the half; Les Miles just said he would play in the second half, but if he can't, can Jefferson throw well enough to keep LSU moving? Can Auburn use their big home crowd to propel themselves into a big second half, as they did against Clemson and South Carolina ? But what if Nick Fairley really has a head injury and has to miss the second half himself?
The Lee injury might tilt the odds slightly in Auburn's favor, but after 30 minutes, things are way too close to call.
Don't forget to stop by Tom Fornelli's live Facebook chat during the second half and have your say.
Posted on: October 19, 2010 4:29 am
Edited on: October 19, 2010 5:30 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
We're halfway through the regular season, so it's time for the Midseason Report. Who the real contenders are in the Big Ten is pretty clear. Who'll actually win the conference, however, is a little more muddled. This certainly looked like Ohio State's conference to lose seven days ago -- and it still might be -- but Wisconsin's superlative 31-18 upset of the Buckeyes in Madison muddled the picture somewhat. Here's a list of the contenders for the conference crown thus far.
Michigan State (7-0, 3-0): It's generally lazy analysis to assume that a current front-runner -- especially one without any recent history of success -- will maintain its place atop the conference. And yet, Michigan State has, essentially, a two-game schedule to sew up a trip to Pasadena. After all, of the Big Ten teams with one conference loss or fewer, Michigan State has already beaten one (Wisconsin), won't face another (Ohio State), and gets another at home (Purdue, who, yeah). The only games left are visits to Northwestern and Iowa in the next two weeks. If the Spartans win these, they'll have the tie-breaker over everyone in the conference. Add a loss anywhere, and the prospects get a little dicey -- especially since if it comes down to Michigan State and Ohio State both at 11-1. More on that in a bit.
Iowa (5-1, 2-0): If the Spartans are the new frontrunners to the Big Ten title, then the Hawkeyes are the gatekeepers. Iowa has three home games remaining, and they're against the other three teams on this list: Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State. Will the Hawkeyes beat all three of these teams? That'll depend on the leadership of Ricky Stanzi, the senior quarterback who's playing at a level few would have expected after last season. The Hawkeyes' defense, anchored by Adrian Clayborn and the rest of the line, is still their strong spot. But if Stanzi malfunctions like he did on occasion in 2008 and '09, the Hawkeyes could take a very damaging loss and (probably) watch their Big Ten title hopes evaporate.
Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1): Which Wisconsin team will show up in Iowa City on Saturday? The high-octane world-beaters that ran Ohio State out of the stadium last weekend? Or the semi-suspect squad that looked sluggish against plainly inferior non-conference competition and got outgained by 150 yards in a 10-point loss to the Spartans? Granted, 2009 Iowa demonstrated the folly of reading too much into low margins of victory against putative cupcakes, but Iowa won the majority of their games against upper-level Big Ten competition, and Wisconsin hasn't reached that plateau quite yet. A win in Iowa City changes that outlook substantially. Still, when the Badger rush offense is struggling, QB Scott Tolzien's track record isn't promising. It's probably wise to expect one more loss from the Badgers before the season's said and done.
Ohio State (6-1, 2-1): Ever thought you'd see the day when a 6-1 Ohio State had arguably the fourth-best chance to win the Big Ten crown? Here we are, though; for as good as Michigan State's prospects look, the Buckeyes' seem to be on the other end of the spectrum. Of the contenders, they've already lost to one (Wisconsin), they play another on the road (Iowa), and the last they miss entirely (Michigan State), which means OSU can't take matters into their own hands and put a loss in the Spartans' column. Essentially, to win the conference, Ohio State needs every other team to lose at least once -- and the Buckeyes only play Iowa in the second half of the season. That's a lot of help needed. The Buckeyes have the talent to keep up their own end of the bargain, of course; that defense is still stellar across all 11 positions, and OSU's offensive line will keep their offense humming. But for all his otherworldly physical talent, Terrelle Pryor still isn't taking over games at the level that, let's say, Cam Newton is. Further, this is Pryor's third year in Tressel's offense. It's Newton's first with Auburn OC Gus Malzahn. Either this trend gets corrected, or Pryor's collegiate career becomes a relative disappointment; it's not as if OSU's a seven-win team without Pryor at the helm, is it?
Any of these four teams could go to the Rose Bowl without any surprises; Wisconsin's an underdog at Iowa, but not prohibitively so. Yes, technically, Northwestern and Purdue are in the mix for now too, but they're definitely longshots next to these four teams. My prediction is that Iowa effectively eliminates the Badgers from the discussion by beating them this weekend, while MSU handles Northwestern. Iowa then hands Michigan State their first conference loss in Iowa City, all while Ohio State keeps winning. Then, Ohio State knocks off the Hawkeyes in Iowa City. All three teams win out otherwise, and there's a three-way tie atop the Big Ten standings at 7-1. Tiebreaker time!
Iowa will be the first team to be eliminated from consideration, as the Hawkeyes will be 10-2 while OSU and Michigan State are 11-1. Now, a few years ago, the Big Ten had a Rose Bowl tiebreaker after head-to-head competition and overall record that gave the bid to the team that hadn't been to Pasadena in the longest amount of time. This would obviously be Michigan State. But! That tiebreaker was ditched a few years ago and replaced with a Big XII-style stipulation that the highest BCS ranking is awarded the bid. So here we go again. Ohio State, having been ranked ahead of Michigan State when both were undefeated and having an earlier loss than the Spartans, is likely ranked higher at the end of the regular season and sent to Pasadena. Spartan faithful cry foul, but they're rewarded with an Orange Bowl bid in consolation. Iowa represents the conference in the Capital One Bowl, and Wisconsin goes to the Outback for the third time in the last seven years.
Of course, watch Northwestern beat Michigan State this Saturday and render this entire prediction worthless.
Tags: Adrian Clayborn, Auburn, BCS, Big Ten Bowls, Big Ten Outlook, Big Ten Report, Big Ten Tiebreaker, Cam Newton, Gus Malzahn, Iowa, Michigan State, Midseason Conference Reports, Midseason Reports, Northwestern, Ohio State, Pasadena, Purdue, Ricky Stanzi, Rose Bowl, Rose Bowl Tiebreaker, Scott Tolzien, Terrelle Pryor, Wisconsin