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Tag:Iowa
Posted on: September 23, 2011 2:03 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2011 4:57 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 4

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet.  Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.

Finally, we've reached the point of the season where conferences that aren't the Big Ten begin to offer actual meals rather than boring appetizers that add nothing. The SEC and ACC have delved into conference play a bit this season, but now the Big 12 and Pac-12 are diving in as well, which means we've got quite an impressive slate of games to sample from this weekend. 

BREAKFAST

#22 Michigan vs. San Diego State - Big Ten Network 12pm ET

Brady Hoke is San Diego State's old coach (haven't you heard?), so that's all anybody's going to talk about during the game. Don't focus on that fact too much, though, otherwise you're liable to stop paying attention to Denard Robinson, and that's a terrible idea. If Shoelace plays four quarters Saturday, he'll put up mammoth numbers on the Aztec defense. - Adam Jacobi

#25 Georgia Tech vs. North Carolina - ESPN 12pm ET

The Yellow Jackets kick off conference play with one of their most formidable Coastal Division opponents in the Tar Heels.  Georgia Tech leads the nation (yes, United States) in total offense right now, averaging just over 675 yards per game.  The numbers have been inflated thanks to a schedule, but the potency of Paul Johnson's option offense cannot be underestimated.  North Carolina's front seven is one of the ACC's best on paper, and Saturday is their chance for them to live up to the hype. - Chip Patterson

Pitt vs. Notre Dame - ABC 12pm ET

With so few must-see games going on in the morning, this matchup could prove to be quite entertaining. Notre Dame finally put a full 60 minutes together without driving off a cliff last week to pick up a win against Michigan State, and Pitt did quite the Notre Dame impression last Saturday while blowing a 27-10 lead over Iowa in the fourth quarter. Tune in for the future ACC follies! - Tom Fornelli

LUNCH

#3 Alabama vs. #14 Arkansas - CBS 3:30pm ET

The first clash of legitimate SEC heavyweights offers a compelling contrast in offensive styles: Arkansas's aerial circus of nationally-elite receivers and precision Tyler Wilson passes against a Tide attack that (thanks to the humdrum nature of AJ McCarron's performances to date) is likely to pound away with Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, pound away some more, and when that fails? More pounding. Winner becomes heavy favorite to land at BCS bowl berth--at minimum. - Jerry Hinnen

#8 Texas A&M vs. #7 Oklahoma State - ABC/ESPN2 3:30pm ET

The Big 12 no longer has a championship game, but this one could serve as a mini-playoff. The winner of this contest between two teams ranked in the top ten moves on to face Oklahoma later this season in a game that will likely decide the Big 12 title. Aside from the BCS implications, however, this matchup should be incredibly entertaining for all involved, as the Oklahoma State offense faces its toughest test of the season so far. - TF

#21 Clemson vs. #11 Florida State - ESPN 3:30pm ET

The Seminoles enter Death Valley banged and bruised after their 23-13 loss to top-ranked Oklahoma.  The most popular word in the pre game notes for Florida State is QUESTIONABLE, and thus so is the outcome of this game.  Clemson finally got their offense going against Auburn thanks to Tajh Boyd and breakout freshman Sammy Watkins, and the Tigers have a lot of momentum with their Atlantic Division rivals coming to town.  Last season this game was decided by a 55-yard walk-off field goal by Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins.  Saturday's tilt could be just as close. - CP

Ohio State vs. Colorado - ABC/ESPN2 3:30pm ET

What looked like sort of a throwaway game in August now has some intrigue. Colorado's not very good at all, but Ohio State has its own quarterback issues to work out after last week's disastrous showing in a 24-6 loss at Miami. The game's in Columbus, so it's unlikely that all hell breaks loose, but if Colorado hangs around, you never know... - AJ

DINNER

#12 South Carolina vs. Vanderbilt - ESPN2 7pm ET

The upstart Commodores move up about three or four classes from their featherweight bout against Ole Miss when they travel to Columbia to take on Marcus Lattimore and Co. Knowing that Lattimore will get his and that the terrors on the Carolina defensive front will hamper any effort to run, any chance of Vandy springing the upset rests in the passing game--in Larry Smith taking advantage of the soft Gamecock secondary, and the ballhawking Vandy defensive backs wringing a couple of game-changing turnovers out of Stephen Garcia. - JH

Kentucky vs. #15 Florida - ESPN 7pm ET

You there, good sir (or madam): do you enjoy the spectacle of wholesale slaughter? Do you take pleasure in the most savage of horse-whippings? Then may we please direct your attention this-a-way to yonder annual meeting between the Wildcats and Gators, won by the Floridians by an average of 42 points these past three years. And with these unfortunate Wildcats having had their offensive teeth removed this offseason just hence -- from cuspid to canine! -- this sideshow could be the bloodiest yet! - JH 

#1 Oklahoma vs. Missouri - FX 8pm ET

Last year on a Saturday night in Columbia, the Oklahoma Sooners came into town sporting a new spot atop the rankings. They would not return home with that #1 next to their name. This season it's the Tigers who come to Oklahoma to once again face the top-ranked team in the land. Can Missouri destroy Oklahoma's national title chances two years in a row? Tune in to find out. - TF

#16 West Virginia vs. #2 LSU - ABC 8pm ET

Anticipation for this game has had Morgantown buzzing since Monday, and I suggest you are settled into your spot on the couch (if city officials haven't removed it yet) by kickoff.  Dana Holgorsen's offense has been among the most efficient in the nation, and LSU's defense has worn down and broken every challenger they have faced.  I expect the Mountaineers to feed off the home crowd and get a fast start, the question will be how long they can keep it up against the tenacious Bayou Bengals defense.  It's the heavyweight match up of the evening - no reason to miss this one. - CP 

LATE NIGHT SNACKS

Arizona vs. #10 Oregon - ESPN2 10:15pm ET

Oregon begins conference play this weekend and is looking for their 13th-straight league victory against Arizona. The Ducks have bounced back from their opening loss against LSU to blow out a pair of opponents and get the offense cranked up again. Arizona is in the middle of a rough stretch to open the season but they do have an excellent quarterback in Nick Foles, the third best passer in the country, who has yet to throw an interception. - Bryan Fischer

Arizona State vs. #23 USC - ESPN 10:15pm ET

Though USC is ineligible for the Pac-12 South title, they will essentially be settling it on the field as the Trojans head to Tempe to take on Arizona State. Dennis Erickson's team fell to Illinois in a close game last week but are hoping to get things going again. ASU has lost 11 straight to USC so this game is about more than winning a game, it's about ending a long streak with the best team the Sun Devils have had. This game is worth watching just to see linebacker Vontaze Burfict take on Matt Barkley and Robert Woods. - BF
Posted on: September 19, 2011 4:40 pm
Edited on: September 19, 2011 4:41 pm
 

Big 12 Poll Reactions, Week 3

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The new polls came out on Sunday, so let's take a look at which schools in the Big 12 get to continue putting a number next to their name this week, and discuss whether they should have that number or not.

Oklahoma (AP:1/Coaches:1) - The last few weeks I had some questions about whether or not Oklahoma truly deserved to be the top-ranked team in the country since the Sooners had only won one game against Tulsa, while LSU went out and beat Oregon to start the season. Well, I can keep my mouth shut now because Oklahoma went on the road -- something it's had trouble with the last few years -- and took down Florida State in front of a very hostile crowd in Tallahassee. The majority of the credit for the win, however, has to go to the Oklahoma defense. It wasn't exactly a wonderful night for Heisman hopeful Landry Jones, as he threw for only 199 yards and 1 touchdown while also throwing 2 interceptions. Not exactly the kind of performance a Heisman Trophy winner has in big games.

Oklahoma State (7/6) - The Cowboys jump up a spot in each poll, and a part of me has to laugh at this a little bit. Not because I don't feel that Oklahoma State deserves the ranking, but only because I have serious doubts about how many voters in both polls actually watched Oklahoma State's victory over Tulsa early Sunday morning. I'd also bet that most of them turned in their ballots before the game even started under the impression of "They're gonna kill Tulsa, so let's rank 'em a bit higher this week." Truth be told, Oklahoma State's defense did not have it's best night/morning of the season, but I'm going to give the unit a break seeing as how most of the points it surrendered came after 2am. I know this because I actually watched the game. Why? I don't know. I have a problem.

Texas A&M (8/8) - Much like the Cowboys, the Aggies also enjoyed the fruits of Oklahoma's victory by climbing up a spot following Florida State's loss. The Aggies haven't exactly faced a team that can truly test their top ten status in their first two games, but they've gone out and filled the role of what a team with this ranking is supposed to do with inferior competition thus far. So it's hard to argue with A&M's ranking, but a pretty large game looms on the schedule this weekend when Oklahoma State comes to town. Only one of these two teams will be in the top ten next week.

Baylor (17/19) - I'd like to take a moment to congratulate the voters of the coaches poll. Sure, seeing Baylor beat TCU on the first weekend of the season wasn't enough for you to justify putting Baylor ahead of TCU in your rankings the first two weeks, but after seeing the Bears take care of mighty Stephen F. Austin this weekend, you finally took them seriously. Good for you.

Texas (19/18) - Longhorns, I hadn't been all that kind to you in the poll reactions the last two weeks. It was my feeling that the only reason you were ranked was because you were Texas, and not because of anything you'd done on the football field. Well, that has changed thanks to a very nice win on the road against UCLA this week. Am I convinced that you're a top 20 team? No, the quarterback situation is still a bit iffy, even if it does seem more stable at the moment. However, you definitely deserve to be ranked, but I'd have you more in the 21-25 range.

Drop Outs: None.

Receiving Votes: Iowa State showed up on a few more ballots in both polls this week after beating UConn on the road Friday night, but it didn't get enough to gain entrance to the top 25. Which is probably right. Iowa struggling at home to beat Pitt kind of lessened that win for Iowa State last week, and UConn isn't exactly a powerhouse, but Iowa State should be happy with what it's done and where it is.  The Cyclones have a week off before hosting Texas in their next game. Win that one, and we'll see you up above.

Then there's Missouri, which bounced back from its loss against Arizona State with an easy 69-0 win over Western Illinois. Of course, how many votes Missouri gets next week after travelling to Norman this weekend, we'll have to wait and see.
Posted on: September 19, 2011 11:18 am
Edited on: September 19, 2011 12:47 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 3

Posted by Bryan Fischer

A longtime Floridian told me Friday he couldn't remember the last time the state was the center of college football like it was this past weekend. Sure there have been big games and plenty of teams in championship contention, but it's hard to think of a time when each corner of the state had a big primetime match up. Equally surprising, he said, was that traditional rivalry Florida-Tennessee was only the third most interesting game on the docket.

The spotlight was indeed on the Sunshine State and things couldn't have gone better for the most part. At the northern end, number one Oklahoma rolled into Tallahassee to play Florida State and there were moments when you genuinely stopped and said, "FSU's back." A loss is a loss but the way the Noles played was encouraging.

The storyline coming out the game seems to be all about Big Game Bob Stoops' team getting their first non-conference road victory over a top-five team in over three decades. The Sooners were gritty, responding to scores like a top-ranked and championship team should. Quarterback Landry Jones had several clutch throws and it seemed like linebacker Tom Wort was making every other play on defense. Oklahoma looked the part and survived with a victory.

The key word being survived. Yes their road woes are well documented but the reason the game was close - closer than most thought - was that Florida State looked the part of a top five team as well. For three quarters at least, it was a knockdown, drag out fight between two high profile head coaches. After FSU freshman Rashad Greene caught a beautiful 56 yard touchdown pass to tie the game, Doak Campbell was rocking. As more than one writer said on Twitter, it was partying like it was 1999.

One wonders what might have been had quarterback E.J. Manuel not gotten hurt. Could he have pulled off the upset? Who knows? But the biggest take away was the defense held an explosive, veteran-laden OU offense to just 23 points and showed they are close to having the athletes at every position like they used too when things were rolling. They were kids last year in Norman and it took less than a year for them to grow up into men. The offense still needs some work - especially along the line - but the defense should help carry the Seminoles through ACC play.

Jimbo Fisher has Florida State making waves on the recruiting trail and there are plenty of signs that the on the field product is coming along as well. The next step is winning games like the one on Saturday but, by all indications, that's coming. Party like it's 1999 indeed.

A couple hours down the road in Gainesville, two teams showed they still need work if they're to take the next step. It looked like Florida was going to run away with the game up 30-7 late in the third but the defense seemed to take the foot off the accelerator. For the most part though, the defensive line was active and did a great job of shutting down the Vols' running game. Completely. Florida's defense held Tennessee to just -9 yards on the ground, the third best mark in the country so far. The offense took a hit once receiver Justin Hunter went down but it was the young offensive line that just couldn't handle the pressure Florida was generating.

All-purpose threat Chris Rainey was everywhere Saturday for the Gators' offense. He had 233 all-purpose yards and recorded his fifth career blocked punt. The Gators are still adjusting to Charlie Weis' offense and Will Muschamp's defense but Rainey is a constant playmaker that the team will have to lean on as they get into the thick of the SEC schedule. Is this team in the same class as Alabama or LSU? Not even close. But there's enough there on both sides of the ball to put up a fight with Georgia and South Carolina for the East title.

Further South, some observers would have had no issue with vacating the Ineligibowl. It just wasn't a pretty game. Ohio State was a step slow all night and Miami struggled on offense outside of their scoring drives to open and close the game. Both teams got back several players from NCAA suspension and Miami's certainly made the difference in the game: Jacory Harris was efficient outside of two boneheaded interceptions and linebacker Sean Spence truly transformed the defense into a much stouter unit that was able to apply pressure on nearly every snap.

Sophomore running back Lamar Miller set the tone early with a big run on the first play of the game en his way to a career night that made him the fourth leading rusher in the country at 151.5 yards per game. There's plenty of talent on this team to get nine or so wins but there's still moments when the Hurricanes revert to last year's form and make a boneheaded mistake. It will be curious to see how they use this game as a momentum builder going forward. At full strength and with some confidence, the Hurricanes have a little bit of swagger back.

On the other side, Ohio State is lacking an identity and has to figure out their quarterback position and do so soon. The Buckeyes have no clue about what kind of team they want to be and there could be some doubt amongst the players about head coach Luke Fickell if post game comments are to be believed.

"I felt like me and Jordan (Hall) were doing a great job in the run game, so I felt we should have just come out and ran at them," tailback Carlos Hyde told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "We should have manned up and ran straight at them, see if they could stop us."

Also, don't overlook the other game in Miami on Saturday: FIU following up it's big win over Louisville with a solid victory over in-state foe UCF to start 3-0 on the season. Many had pegged the Knights as a possible BCS buster at the beginning of the season so for FIU to knock them off does wonders for a program that was the definition of a rebuilding job just a few years ago. Yes it's a Sun Belt team but with the schedule like it is, don't be surprised if FIU keeps things rolling. The defense recorded six sacks against UCF and did a great job the week before against the Cardinals. Plus they did everything without all-everything star T.Y. Hilton, who missed most of the game with a hamstring injury. Take note, the program in the state with the most upside is the one that's not in a BCS conference.

The state of Florida won't be the center of the college football universe like it was this past weekend for some time. But while it was, it delivered.

Stat of the week

Auburn's win streak was snapped at 17 games by Clemson on Saturday, which was the longest in the nation. It was the 10th longest streak in the past decade and amazingly, 10 of the 17 games were decided by eight points or less. Stanford now has the longest win streak in the country with 11, just two seasons removed from a losing record and five seasons away from the school's 1-11 mark.

Biggest reason why the Tigers' streak ended? They're 117th in total defense, 100th in pass defense, 116th in rush defense, 107th in scoring defense and dead last in the country in third down stops. Yikes.

Other stats of note

- Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege broke the NCAA record for highest completion percentage for 40 or more completions in a game. He completed 40 of 44 against New Mexico for a healthy 90.1 percent clip. He also hit 15 passes in a row at one point, tying a school record on his way to a 401 yard and five touchdown day.

- Kellen Moore's 457 yards of offense against Toledo was third most in the country this year and he averaged nearly 10.39 yards a play. His completion percentage on the season is at a remarkable 78.9 percent.

- With the loss to LSU on Thursday, Dan Mullen fell to 2-10 versus the SEC West as head coach at Mississippi State. Both wins are over rival Ole Miss. While the Bulldogs have been much more competitive under Mullen, they still haven't quite gotten over the hump just yet. He was 8-6 against the West while an assistant at Florida.

- There are beat downs and there's what Missouri did against Western Illinois. The Tigers defense allowed just one first down and 44 total yards on the day while the offense rolled up 744 total yards to set a school record that had been set just after World War II. Tailback Henry Josey ran for 263 yards and three touchdowns, the most in a game this season. The mark was also good enough to move him into sixth place on the national rushing list.

- Of the five players to top 200 yards rushing in a game so far this year, three did so on Saturday (Josey, Marcus Lattimore and LaMichael James).

- Georgia Tech's game against Kansas was pretty amazing to take a look at after the fact. The game delivered the longest run from scrimmage of the season (Orwin Smith went 95 yards for a touchdown), featured two 100 yard rushers and had five players with over 70 yards on the ground. The Yellow Jackets also piled up a school-record 768 total yards, 604 of them via the running game. The 12.1 yards per rush also set an NCAA record for highest in a game.

- Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly has games with 18, 17 and 23 tackles to lead the nation in that category. His 58 total tackles are 19 more than the next player.

- Jeff Fuller became Texas A&M's all-time receptions leader against Idaho while Cyrus Gray topped the 100 yard mark rushing for the ninth time in a row.

- Via senior writer Bruce Feldman, Baylor's Robert Griffin III has eight touchdowns and just eight incompletions.

Yard-by-yard

- Impressive, impressive comeback by Iowa from down 24-3 in the 3rd quarter to Pitt. James Vanderberg has been a little underrated early in the season in the face of replacing a longtime starter and doing so with plenty of fresh faces around him. The junior quarterback is 31st in the country in passing efficiency and 25th in total offense after Saturday's game in which he had several impressive throws in the second half in route to a 399 yard and three touchdown day. The lack of a running game has to be concerning if you're Kirk Ferentz, especially as the begin Big Ten play in two weeks with a trip to Penn State. A heck of a comeback but it's apparent there's plenty of flaws in the Hawkeyes.

- Why hello there Sammy Watkins. While it has taken some time for the Clemson offense to adjust to Chad Morris' new system, Watkins has been an explosive playmaker for the Tigers they really haven't had since C.J. Spiller left for the NFL. Yes it was against a porous Auburn defense, but this week was Watkins' coming out party to the nation with 10 catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns. He shows an explosiveness you just can't teach whenever he gets the ball in his hands and was the spark that allowed Clemson to turn things around. A former five-star recruit, he was ranked behind fellow Tiger frosh Charone Peake coming out of high school by Maxpreps which should give you some indication what kind of young nucleus Dabo Swinney has assembled when you add in running back Mike Bellamy and quarterback Tajh Boyd. Speaking of Swinney, he channeled his inner-Howard Dean in his post game remarks on television.

- Al Golden didn't leave the cupboard bare at Temple as the Owls almost beat Penn State for the first time since Joe Paterno started coaching in Happy Valley. Despite giving up the lead late, Steve Addazio's club showed they can play with bigger and stronger team and should have no problem contending for a MAC championship this year.

- Kudos to James Franklin and what he's been able to do with Vanderbilt. After a close, 4th quarter win against defending Big East champ UConn, the Commodores embarrassed Ole Miss on Saturday 30-7. Franklin has really gotten the team and the rest of the community to buy into what he's building there and it's starting to pay off with the team's 3-0 start. Quarterback Larry Smith isn't sharp enough in the passing game yet but the offense is moving the chains on the ground and playing good defense - they're currently 10th in the country in total D. Things will get much tougher as they head on the road to face South Carolina and Alabama but with home games against Army and Kentucky and a date with Wake Forest, bowl eligibility is possible in Franklin's first year.    
 
- It looked like West Virginia finally started to get their rushing attack going against Maryland this weekend. Geno Smith is putting up great numbers from the quarterback position but head coach Dana Holgorsen knows that if the team wants to win the Big East - or beat LSU this week - they're going to have to be able to run the ball. Whether the answer at tailback is Vernard Roberts or Andrew Buie still remains to be seen but it can't just be all Smith, all the time. Tavon Austin is a dynamic threat who adds a few wrinkles but there still needs to be a consistent rushing attack so the defense can't play nickel the entire game. The Mountaineers did have an impressive three players top the 100 yard receiving mark last Saturday though.

- It was not pretty at the Rose Bowl as critics briefly turned their attention from overrating Texas to remarking on how hot UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel's seat is. He's an alum who probably cares more about the program winning than anyone there yet there's been hardly any progress to show for it. The defense was supposed to be much better this year and strength of the team but it was anything but in the blowout loss to the Longhorns. Case McCoy (with a little David Ash mixed in) appears to be the answer for UT at quarterback and freshman tailback Malcolm Brown showed flashes on his way to a 110 yard day.

- I am not a believer in Nebraska's defense after playing Washington last week but they'll still do just enough to make it to the title game in their first year in the Big Ten. Still, the effort against the Huskies had a lot to be desired of a top 10 team.

- After returning from Sun Life Stadium late in the Miami night, I was surprised to find out there was not one, but two football games on and I managed to stay up for Oklahoma State-Tulsa late, late, late into the night. I couldn't believe they kicked off after midnight local time, much less that Brandon Weeden was still throwing to Justin Blackmon late in the fourth quarter - and well past 3 AM Central - with the game well in hand. Mike Gundy is not only a man, he's all in on this Cowboys team it appears. All or nothing, this is the most talented squad since Barry Sanders was in Stillwater and everybody is onboard. Why Gundy still had his stars on the field that late in the game for a blowout continues to baffle me however.

- I thought Navy's offense in the middle of the season always spelled trouble for teams that weren't ready for it - especially those coming off an emotional victory like South Carolina. The Midshipmen had a chance late but ultimately the Gamecocks ended up winning 24-21 thanks to a last minute interception. As one head coach told me, you schedule option offenses early or play them in a bowl game or else you'll end up upset. South Carolina wasn't upset but they nearly were with the way they played.

- I couldn't believe the score when I first saw it but here it was, Utah 54, BYU 10. A week ago in the Coliseum, I saw the dejected faces on the Utes sideline as their rally came up short against USC. I thought it would be another tough battle in the Holy War but the Utes smacked everybody around Saturday. Don't count out Utah as representing the Pac-12 South with USC ineligible for the title game and Arizona State still Arizona State.

- Kudos also go out to Wyoming, who blocked Bowling Green's extra point to win 28-27. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat…

Quote of the week

Craig James during LSU-Mississippi State: "You play four quarters in the SEC."

Tweet of the week

Myself following the second ESPN account to feature the word Genocide in place of West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. Not a bad nickname if he keeps putting up passing numbers in Dana Holgorsen's offense however.

"Company-wide memo about Geno & autocorrect on Monday. RT @McShay13: WVU QB Genocide Smith off to a fast start."

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Fisch's Finest

My top 10 after week 2:

1. Oklahoma

2. LSU

3. Alabama

4. Boise State

5. Stanford

6. Wisconsin

7. Texas A&M

8. Oklahoma State

9. Florida State

10. Oregon

Where we'll be this week

Tony Barnhart will be at the big Arkansas-Alabama game, Dennis Dodd will be in College Station for the top 10 matchup between Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. Brett McMurphy gets another great game this weekend, showing up at LSU-West Virginia Saturday night.

Leaning this way

Arkansas-Alabama: The secondary for Alabama will be flying around and turnovers will doom an explosive Arkansas offense.

Oklahoma State-Texas A&M: The Aggies defense is underrated but this game will still be a shootout. The home crowd will give them the edge in a close one.

LSU vs. West Virginia: LSU's defense is just too much late in the game for Dana Holgorsen's offense to break through.

Across the goal line

I was going to write about conference expansion in this space but figured things would change by the time I finished writing the final paragraph. 


Category: NCAAF
Tags: ACC, Al Golden, Alabama, Andrew Buie, Arizona State, Arkansas, Army, Auburn, Barry Sanders, Baylor, BCS, Big 12, Big East, Big East, Big Ten, Big Ten, Bob Stoops, Boise State, Boston College, Bowling Green, Brandon Weeden, Brett McMurphy, Bruce Feldman, Bryan Fischer, BYU, C.J. Spiller, Carlos Hyde, Case McCoy, Chad Morris, Charlie Weis, Charone Peake, Chris Rainey, Clemson, Craig James, Cyrus Gray, Dabo Swinney, Dan Mullen, Dana Holgorsen, David Ash, Dennis Dodd, Doak Campbell, EJ Manuel, FIU, Florida, Florida State, Geno Smith, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Henry Josey, Idaho, Iowa, Jacory Harris, James Franklin, James Vanderberg, Jeff Fuller, Jimbo Fisher, Joe Paterno, Justin Blackmon, Kansas, Kellen Moore, Kentucky, Kirk Ferentz, Lamar Miller, LaMichael James, Landry Jones, Larry Smith, Louisville, LSU, Luke Fickell, Luke Kuechly, MAC, Malcolm Brown, Marcus Lattimore, Maryland, Miami, Mike Bellamy, Mike Gundy, Mississippi State, Missorui, Navy, NCAA, Nebraksa, New Mexico, NFL, Non-BCS, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Orwin Smith, Pac-12, Penn State, Pitt, Rashad Greene, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Griffin III, Rose Bowl, Sammy Watkins, Sean Spence, SEC, Seth Doege, South Carolina, Stanford, Steve Addazio, Sun Belt, Sun Life Stadium, Surveying the Field, T.Y. Hilton, Tajh Boyd, Temple, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Toldeo, Tom Wort, Tony Barnhart, Travon Austin, Tulsa, UCF, UCLA, UConn, USC, Utah, Vanderbilt, Vernard Roberts, Wake Forest, Washington, West Virginia, Will Muschamp, Wisconsin, Wyoming
 
Posted on: September 18, 2011 5:32 am
Edited on: September 18, 2011 5:56 am
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Sep. 17)



Posted by Adam Jacobi

1. It's Wisconsin, then everybody else. In a week where Ohio State and Michigan State both flunked their first major tests and Nebraska looked increasingly like a three-loss team in the making, Wisconsin blew out yet another opponent, this time working NIU 49-7. And yes, Northern Illinois is a MAC team, but a good one at that, and one that was expected by Vegas to keep the game within three scores. That went out the window by halftime, and the Huskies never looked capable of challenging Wisconsin. Russell Wilson (pictured above, striking a perhaps prophetic figure) looked fantastic once again, and now it's down to him and Denard Robinson in early consideration for first team All-Big Ten at QB.

As for things that aren't perfect about Wisconsin, it's a pretty short list. Russell Wilson did finally threw an interception, so he's clearly mortal, but even that's bad news for the Big Ten -- if he's mortal, then the rest of the Big Ten can't play its games against Wisconsin under protest (because immortal QBs have to be illegal, right?). We'll know way more once Nebraska comes to Madison on October 1, but until then, this is a one-team race.

2. It's Ohio State's turn to have no quarterbacks: Last week, Penn State's duo of Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin combined for a horrific 12-39, 144-yard passing tally in a 27-11 loss to Alabama. McGloin in particular submitted a near-impossible 1-10, 0-yard performance. But hey, at least it was against Alabama; facing Temple on Saturday, PSU went a much more reasonable 22-37 through the air for 216 yards (and confoundingly, McGloin looked far better than Bolden). Not great, but not awful.

No, awful had somewhere else to be, and this week, that was "under center for Ohio State." Ohio State lost to Miami under the lights at Sun Life Stadium, 24-6, and it looked capital-B Bad in the process. Facing Miami's secondary, which certainly isn't as good as Alabama's, QBs Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller combined for the following line, which contains no typos: 4-18, 35 yards, 1 INT. Passer rating: 27.4. HELPFUL POINT OF COMPARISON: Penn State's passer rating vs. Alabama was 56.7. Yes, for as awful as Penn State look against the Crimson Tide defense, Ohio State was way, way worse on Saturday.

Needless to say, the OSU tailbacks weren't thrilled at the result. "I felt like me and Jordan were doing a great job in the run game, so I felt we should have just come out and ran at them," OSU tailback Carlos Hyde said after the game. "We should have manned up and ran straight at them, see if they could stop us. I think it would have worked. I mean, to me, I don't think they were stopping us on the run, so I feel like it probably would have worked."

Just as with Penn State last week, there will be better days for both OSU QBs over the rest of the season. There just has to be. Otherwise, we'll have two stadiums on the east side of the Big Ten, filled with 100,000+ fans who'll have nothing to say. And for once, neither will be the Big House. I KID, I KID, Michigan. You're a peach.

3. The Big Ten is almost certainly not expanding east: If one continues to subscribe to the theory that the Big Ten will join the ranks of the 16-team superconferences, one would have thought recently that its expansion would be largely eastward, with both the Big East and ACC seemingly vulnerable. Slight problem for that plan, though: the ACC is getting proactive in a hurry, and now the main suspects for Big Ten expansion to the northeast are all off the table. Syracuse and Pitt are in the ACC, and if the USA Today report is correct, UConn and Rutgers are next for the ACC. That basically dooms Big East football, and of the five football-participating conference members left (TCU, South Florida, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Louisville), none look like strong candidates for Big Ten membership and all that entails, to say nothing of their limited geographical desirability.

Moreover, even the potential big-ticket schools out there have severe challenges for fitting in the Big Ten. Texas and Notre Dame have their own lucrative television deals already, and thus probably zero interest in equal revenue sharing in the Big Ten Network's plan. The remaining Big 12 North teams are more likely to join the rest of the Big East's football programs en masse than to split entirely off of their traditional base of rivals and go it alone in a new conference. And after all that, there just aren't a lot of schools that would bring more value to the Big Ten than they'd command in an equal revenue sharing program -- at which point it makes no sense to expand at all.

So when Jim Delany says the Big Ten's "as comfortable as we could be" staying at 12 teams... he probably means it.

4. Even Michigan State can disappear on offense: I mentioned in the Big Ten Bullet Points that MSU had to put up large amounts of points to hang with Notre Dame, because the Irish were going to get theirs pretty much no matter what. Notre Dame held up its end of the bargain, racking up 31 points in a variety of ways. MSU? Not so much. The Spartans managed 13 points of their own, and that's almost entirely due to Notre Dame's rushing defense coming up big. The vaunted Spartan rushing attack managed just 29 yards on 23 carries, and MSU effectively abandoned the run in the second half after Notre Dame established a double-digit lead.

That's a shocking result for a backfield that was universally regarded as the second-best in the Big Ten, and the only one even close to matching the potency of Wisconsin's ground game. MSU's got plenty more tough road dates coming its way once conference play starts, and plenty more stout front sevens to face. If this is the way Michigan State responds to tough defenses, it's going to be a long year in East Lansing. 

5. James Vandenberg and Iowa are not dead (yet): When Pittsburgh took a 24-3 lead at Iowa late in the third quarter, Hawkeye fans began panicking; this was the worst deficit the Hawkeyes had faced in four years, and a larger deficit than Iowa had ever overcome for a win. Ever. Quarterback James Vandenberg looked out of sorts for most of the first three quarters, and announcers were wondering for the second straight week if he just couldn't overcome a shaky set of nerves. All of this on top of a three-overtime loss to rival Iowa State the week prior made the outlook dim and grim for Iowa.

All of a sudden, Vandenberg and the Iowa offense sprang to life, racing to a 60-yard touchdown drive in 1:55 of play, and when Pittsburgh could only manage a field goal in response after achieving a first and goal at Iowa's 3-yard line, Iowa smelled blood. The Hawkeyes stayed in a hurry-up offense for the rest of the game, and Vandenberg engineered three fast but sustained touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to bring Iowa back for the 31-27 victory. Vandenberg went 14-17 for 153 yards and three TDs in the 4th quarter alone, and none of his last four touchdown drives lasted any longer than 2:11 -- or went for any fewer than 60 yards.

Iowa can't rely on 153-yard, 3-TD quarters from its quarterbacks, ever, so this will almost certainly be a result in isolation from the rest of the season -- especially since there were a lot of recurring problems that Pitt exploited in both Iowa's pass rush and its secondary. But at the very least Iowa's not 1-2 right now, and it's not on the ledge of disaster and/or apathy before the conference season even begins. Whether the Hawkeyes can parlay this comeback into big things down the line remains to be seen, but it was a magical afternoon at Kinnick Stadium either way.

6. Northwestern is not kidding about bringing Dan Persa back slowly: Northwestern put Dan Persa in uniform for its Week 3 matchup against Army, and Persa warmed up with the offense, but when the Wildcats struggled for most of the contest, it was Trevor Siemian why came in to spell Kain Colter, not Persa. Siemian would throw a game-tying pass to Jeremy Ebert, but Army still ended up prevailing in a stunner, 21-14. With a bye week next for Northwestern, Persa should be ready to go for the next game on October 1. If so, that's a merciful end to the Kain Colter era for the time being, and Persa can probably right the Good Ship Northwestern just a tad.

One does have to wonder, though -- shouldn't someone in the football program have notified the athletic department that Persa probably wasn't going to play a snap until October before the department put up Persa For Heisman billboards? The billboards came down after just two weeks; did nobody know he'd still be out today? And here Northwestern was supposed to be the "smart" member of the Big Ten.

Posted on: September 18, 2011 12:19 am
Edited on: September 18, 2011 12:20 am
 

What I learned from the Big 12 (Sep 17)

Posted by Tom Fornelli

1. Oklahoma's defense is championship caliber. Having to go to Tallahassee to face a top five team in Florida State in only your second game of the season is not an easy test for any team. That being said, it was still a test that Oklahoma passed on Saturday night. Now, it was not a pretty game, particularly for Oklahoma's offense, as Landry Jones and the Sooners looked as discombobulated as I can ever remember them being in the last few seasons. Thankfully the Sooners defense was more than up to the task. Florida State scored 96 points in its first two games of the season, but the Sooners held the Seminoles to 310 yards of total offense and only 13 points.

The Sooners also brought the wood on defense, handing out some big hits -- including a scary one on Florida State receiver Kenny Shaw that ended up with Shaw immobilized on a stretcher -- and knocking quarterback E.J. Manuel out of the game. It was nice that the world finally got a chance to see just how good this unit is since the Sooners offense struggled so much. If Will Venables' unit keeps playing like this for the rest of the year, it's going to be hard to beat Oklahoma.

2. Texas needs to run the ball more. Texas's offense looked the best it has all season on Saturday afternoon in the Rose Bowl -- something about that venue for the Longhorns -- and it wasn't just because Garrett Gilbert had been replaced by Case McCoy. No, while McCoy and David Ash played well enough, it was the ground game that really carried the Longhorns. Texas rushed for 284 yards against the Bruins on Saturday, led by Malcolm Brown's 110 yards. Fozzy Whittaker also rushed for 63 yards and 2 touchdowns. Still, the more I see of Malcolm Brown running the football, the more I begin to feel that Texas may have finally found the back it has been looking for since the days of Ricky Williams and Cedric Benson.

3. If you offer the Big 12 cupcakes it will eat all of them up, possibly even the wax paper that comes with them. On Saturday Texas Tech, Missouri, Baylor, Texas A&M and Kansas State played New Mexico, Western Illinois, Stephen F. Austin, Idaho and Kent State respectively. In those five games the Big 12 schools outscored their opponents 250-20. Of those 20 points, 13 were scored by New Mexico and the other 7 were scored by Idaho on the Vandals' final possession of the game. Though I suppose it's possible Stephen F. Austin might have managed a touchdown against Baylor if the two teams had been allowed to play a fourth quarter.

4. Seth Doege is somewhat accurate with a football. Speaking of Texas Tech's scrimmage against New Mexico, quarterback Seth Doege made some history in the Raiders' 59-13 win. Doege completed 40 of 44 passes for 401 yards and 5 touchdowns. And he did this without playing in the final quarter. Still, the truly remarkable thing is that Doege's completion percentage of 91% is the highest completion percentage in NCAA history in a single game for a quarterback with at least 40 pass attempts. Who knew Texas Tech quarterbacks would still be re-writing history books even after Tommy Tuberville came to Lubbock?

5. Steele Jantz may not be the greatest thing ever. Last week I was very impressed with Steele Jantz's performance against Iowa, and apparently so was the Big 12 as he was named the conference's offensive player of the week. Well, let's hope the Big 12 wasn't watching Jantz on Friday night. Steele threw three interceptions in his first four passes of the game. Yet, somehow, someway, Jantz was able to recover from that terrible start and help lead the Cyclones to a comeback victory over UConn, giving Iowa State its first 3-0 start to a season since 2005. Iowa State would go on to finish the 2005 season 7-5 following a loss to TCU in the Houston Bowl.

6. The Kansas defense is terrible. I know that Georgia Tech's option offense can be tough to handle. I know this. Still, I don't care how tough it is to stop, that's no excuse for allowing it to rack up 768 yards of offense against you. No that is not a typo, and yes you read it right. SEVEN HUNDRED SIXTY-EIGHT yards of total offense. That includes 604 yards rushing! Georgia Tech ran the ball 50 times and averaged 12.1 yards per carry! Georgia Tech also scored a 95-yard touchdown on its first play from scrimmage, and then tossed in a 63-yard touchdown run, a 67-yard touchdown pass and a 52-yard touchdown pass just for added flavor. It was one of the most embarrassing performances I've seen from a defense in a long time, and that includes pee-wee games.

7. Weather is terrible too, but not as terrible as Kansas' defense. Once again college football saw games have to be ended early, as Baylor's 48-0 win over Stephen F. Austin ended after only three quarters. Which means that Robert Griffin's brilliant night (20/22 for 265 yards and 3 touchdowns, 78 yards rushing) likely won't count in the NCAA record books. To make matters worse, storms in Tulsa postponed the Oklahoma State/Tulsa game long enough that it is yet to kickoff as of the time this post was published.
Posted on: September 17, 2011 11:41 am
 

Big Ten Bullet Points, Week 3

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Here's a quick rundown on what every Big Ten team should be focusing on in today's action.

ILLINOIS: Consistency. Ron Zook-coached teams and mental toughness don't often go hand-in-hand, but that's a trait the Illini will need when No. 22 Arizona State comes to town. With QB Brock Osweiler, WR Aaron Pflugrand, and LB Vontaze Burfict, ASU has a plethora of playmakers. And yet, Missouri nearly pulled off a fourth quarter comeback win on ASU last week by staying focused and taking advantage of the Sun Devils' mistakes. Illinois will likely need to do both to pull the upset today.

INDIANA: Just get the win. Indiana's had two games and two disappointing close losses to start the year, and now South Carolina State comes to town. The Hoosiers should be easily capable of defeating the Bulldogs here, and only a continued mental letdown from the first two losses can or should stand in Indiana's way.

IOWA: Avenge Jake Christensen! In 2008, Iowa travelled to Pitt with embattled QB Jake Christensen starting under center. Iowa lost a 21-20 heartbreaker, Christensen was benched for Ricky Stanzi, and that was that. Now, Pitt comes to Iowa City with junior QB Tino Sunseri struggling mightily. Can Iowa bury Sunseri and the Panthers? 

MICHIGAN: That's enough drama for one month, thanks. The Notre Dame comeback was one for the ages, but Michigan's got Eastern Michigan and San Diego State to close out the month of September. Brady Hoke's got to be looking for safe, low-blood-pressure wins tomorrow and next week before Big Ten season begins.

MICHIGAN STATE: Score points (because Notre Dame sure will). Unless Notre Dame has one of the worst cases of the yips in football history, it won't turn the ball over five times again, which means that potent offense is going to put up points -- even against MSU's underrated defense. But Michigan State has major-league talent at every skill position, and that talent's going to have to pay off early and often today.

MINNESOTA: Jerry Kill wants you to kill. We're continually buoyed by the good news coming out of Minneapolis about Kill's improving condition, but meanwhile there is a game to be played, and as head coach, Kill must want nothing more than to see his players take the fight to Miami University -- and take the spotlight off him and his seizure condition.

NEBRASKA: So what's Taylor Martinez here to do? Nebraska has looked unstoppable on the ground at times this season, but good heavens is Taylor Martinez hit-and-miss when he throws the ball. Today's a good day to show the coaches he's been watching game film -- and to make better reads and passes against Washington's sturdy secondary as a result. Otherwise he's a glorified tailback running the wildcat.

NORTHWESTERN: The Kain mutiny. This is likely Kain Colter's third straight start under center for Northwestern, and since there's a bye week coming up and Dan Persa's at least suiting up for today's game against Army, it's also likely Colter's last start. His last, that is, unless he earns the spot over Persa with play on the field. What I'm saying is, he should aim for at least eight touchdowns today against our troops. It's not patriotic, but neither is any team that beats Army, so what're you gonna do.  

OHIO STATE: Win the aerial battle. Both Ohio State and Miami have somewhat suspect situations at quarterback, with Joe Bauserman and Jacory Harris both seemingly one or two bad weeks away from a spot on the bench. OSU's got the better secondary, but not by much, so execution on both ends of the passing game is going to be critical in this night game.

PENN STATE: Don't sleep on Temple. The Alabama nightmare is gone and done, and Penn State can get back on track this week. Except... Temple's off to a hellacious start. It beat FCS powerhouse Villanova 42-7, then stomped MAC rival Akron 41-3. The line on this game is seven points. SEVEN! Temple RB Bernard Pierce vs. Penn State's front seven should be great fun to watch.

PURDUE: A new peace at quarterback? Purdue fans are probably eager for a familiar face under center against Southeast Missouri State, and to that end, Robert Marve appears to be ready to take snaps today. Caleb TerBush is still the starter, but it's generally accepted that he was just placeholding until Marve's rehab from last year's ACL injury; he wasn't even expected to play much this year, but putative starter Rob Henry tore an ACL before Week 1. Sophomore Sean Robinson has had his expected redshirt burnt for the second straight season, and has struggled in his limited opportunities. Sound like a mess? It is. So if Marve looks good today coming into next Saturday's bye week, expect him to be written into the starting role for Week 5.

WISCONSIN: No alarms and no surprises. Wisconsin is headed for a classic "trap game" at Northern Illinois this weekend, and Northern Illinois is better than you think. The Badgers have the horses to win handily, but they're on the road and facing former defensive coordinator Dave Doeren, who's now helming NIU. A fast start and a minimum of mistakes will help put this game away early -- and keep blood pressures down back home in Madison.

Posted on: September 16, 2011 3:28 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 3

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet.  Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.

We're in the third week of the regular season which means that we're finishing up with the appetizers of the college football menu and getting to the main courses. This week we've got plenty of entrees guaranteed to keep your cardiologist's savings account healthy, as plenty of BCS schools clash and conferences like the SEC continue to delve into conference play. So prepare yourself for an endless bounty taste and bold flavors, and for the love of Bear Bryant, make sure you wear pants with an elastic waistband.

BREAKFAST

Maryland vs. #18 West Virginia - ESPNU 12pm ET

The Terps will be donning their all black uniform combination for their first outing since taking down Miami on Labor Day evening. West Virginia's potent offense has been scoring on nearly 70% of their drives, so it will be on sophomore Danny O'Brien to keep up with the high-powered Mountaineers. Unfortunately, he lost two of his top weapons when Ronnie Tyler and Quinton McCree were suspended indefinitely on Thursday. - Chip Patterson

Clemson vs. #21 Auburn - ABC 12pm ET

There won't be much in the way of offensive surprises for either defense this game: Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris learned his offensive schemes from Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn when both were high school coaches, and both vaulted to their current jobs after operating that same scheme at Tulsa. If that would seem to favor Malzahn's Tigers (who have three years of familiarity with the offense over Clemson's one), remember that this is also the exceptionally green Auburn lineup's first game away from the Plains. Can the Tiger cubs handle Death Valley? - Jerry Hinnen

Iowa vs. Pitt - ESPN2 - 12pm ET

This should be quite the interesting game. Both teams are coming off subpar Week 2 performances, with Iowa dropping a 44-41 thriller to Iowa State in 3OT, and Pitt holding off a late Maine rally to win 35-29. Iowa would appear to hold the advantage here, being that the game is at Kinnick Stadium, but since neither team is playing at a high level, no result would be a shocker. Plus, if anything, Michigan and Notre Dame just demonstrated how fun games can be when both teams are trying to lose. - Adam Jacobi

LUNCH

#11 Nebraska vs. Washington - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET

Incredibly, this will be the third meeting between Nebraska and Washington in the last year; the two teams met on September 18 last year, then held a rematch in the Holiday Bowl. The rubber match here should tell us plenty about where both teams stand as we near conference play -- does Washington have what it takes to hang with a ranked foe this year? Will the Cornhuskers finally live up to their preseason hype and No. 11 ranking? Let's find out. - AJ

#16 Florida vs. Tennessee - CBS 3:30pm ET

Don't expect Week 2's trend of high-scoring shootouts in the SEC's highest-profile games to change in Gainesville. The Vols are banged-up and inexperienced in the front seven, and seem like little match for a Gator ground game featuring Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps; the Gators start two true freshmen in their secondary and could be lit up by quarterback Tyler Bray and explosive receiving duo Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers. First team to 40 wins. - JH

UCLA vs. #23 Texas - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET

Much like the city of Los Angeles itself, Rick Neuheisel forever finds himself standing on shaky ground at UCLA. The Bruins haven't quite become Los Angeles' team like the program boasted it would when Rick came to town, but a second straight win over the Texas Longhorns could go a long way toward making it a reality. Meanwhile the Longhorns will unleash the quarterbacking duo of Case McCoy and David Ash this weekend, so tune in to see what the Texas offense might look like when it isn't tossing out interceptions like Tootsie Rolls on Halloween. - Tom Fornelli

Notre Dame vs. #15 Michigan State - NBC 3:30pm ET

The first two weeks of the season have been a nightmare for Notre Dame. Ten turnovers and two losses are not the way the Irish had planned on starting the return to glory, and things may get even worse before they get better. Michigan State has yet to be truly tested so far in 2011 but if Sparty can go into South Bend and get a win then Brian Kelly will have some pretty big fires to put out. - TF

DINNER

Kentucky vs. Louisville - ESPNU 7pm ET

While this game might fall short of marquee status, it still pits two hated rivals against each other early in the year. Louisville needs to bounce back from a home loss to FIU, and Kentucky needed a 4th quarter comeback to defeat Central Michigan. I expect a lot of passion, and possible hilarity to ensue as both the Cardinals and Wildcats will be starting true freshman on the offensive line. Though, as Morgan Newton has proven this year, you don't need defensive linemen for a sack. - CP

Illinois vs. #22 Arizona State - Big Ten Network 7pm ET

Fresh off an overtime win, Arizona State heads on the road for the first time of the year to take on undefeated Illinois. This game features an underrated quarterback match up between 6-foot-8 signal-caller Brock Osweiler and dual-threat Nathan Scheelhaase. Of course you'll also want to tune in for one of the best linebackers in college football in Vontaze Burfict trying to stop the Illini. - Bryan Fischer

Miami vs. #17 Ohio State - ESPN 7:30pm ET

One team prefers to trade memorabilia for tattoos and cash, the other has enjoyed cover charges and open bars at adult entertainment nightclubs.  What better idea than to get them all together in South Beach on a Saturday night?  Al Golden and Luke Fickell navigate two programs under NCAA investigation into a primetime heavyweight bout with both teams needing a strong performance to live up to expectations. Get your "LAST" button greased up so you can bounce between this game and OU-FSU. - CP

#5 Florida State vs. #1 Oklahoma - ABC 8pm ET

In a weekend full of wonderful games, this one is the marquee matchup. Two top five teams clash in Tallahassee as Florida State tries to show the world that it is indeed back and a national title contender, while Oklahoma looks to prove to the world that it is the best team in the country. This one should be an exciting battle, and one of the key areas to watch will be how Florida State's offensive line handles the Sooners' defensive line. - TF

LATE NIGHT SNACK

Arizona vs. #6 Stanford - ESPN 10:45pm ET

Do you like quarterbacks? Do you like offense? If so, the Stanford-Arizona game will offer plenty of both as Andrew Luck roles into the desert to take on Nick Foles.  While the Cardinal are not quite as explosive as the Wildcats' opponent last week (Oklahoma State), they bring in a trio of tight ends to watch out for and running back Stepfan Taylor to pound away in the running game. - BF
Posted on: September 14, 2011 9:46 am
Edited on: September 14, 2011 12:12 pm
 

Despite numbers, Graham sticking with Sunseri

Posted by Chip Patterson

Pittsburgh's "high-octane" offense has not exactly put up the kinds of numbers that were expected when head coach Todd Graham arrived from Tulsa. The Panthers are clearly still getting adjusted to the fast-paced scheme, and the results in their first two games have been mixed. Moving Tino Sunseri out from under center reportedly had a positive impact on the quarterback's performance in camp.

But Sunseri has had issues in the new offense, struggling to get the ball downfield and relying on the efforts of running back Ray Graham to spark production. The sample size is small, but after facing Buffalo and Maine at home many did not expect Sunseri to put up the kind of numbers currently on his stat line.

Sunseri has completed 37-63 passes for 403 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, and a 111.4 quarterback rating which ranks next-to-last in the Big East. After struggling through three quarters of action against Maine, backup Trey Anderson finished out the game against the Black Bears.

Quarterback controversy?

"We planned on putting Trey in anyway, it wasn't that I pulled Tino, It was a planned deal," Graham explained after the game. "I still have 100 percent belief in Tino and like I told you at the beginning of the year, he has a very difficult job, he has a lot on his plate and we've got to execute better at that position.

"But Tino is our quarterback and will be next week and we will move forward from there. I didn't want to come out of this week, playing against an opponent we should totally dominate, and not get another quarterback any reps."

In Sunseri's defense, the close final score is more of a credit to a relentless Maine team than discredit to the Panther's offense. The Black Bears score 14 points in the final four minutes, including a touchdown with just three seconds remaining to bring the final margin to six points.

Furthering Graham's confidence in Sunseri and the quarterback position was the announcement Anthony Gonzalez's move to H-back for Saturday's game at Iowa. Gonzalez pushed Sunseri for the starting quarterback role in spring practice, showing off his athleticism to the new coaching staff. The redshirt freshman was the recipient of the team's Ed Conway Award, annually presented to the most improved players of spring practice. But after an Aug. 31 arrest for possession of marijuana, Gonzalez was suspended for the first two games of the season.

With Gonzalez back in the lineup, the staff clearly wants to use the dual-threat signal caller's talents on the field - but not at the expense of Sunseri's playing time. The tight-end/running back hybrid position is currently manned by Hubie Graham and Drew Carswell. Gonzalez provides a nice change of pace to that position, and I would not be surprised to see him get some snaps against Iowa on Saturday.

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