Iowa's true failing, Weis' flickering Irish hopes, more Snap Judgments
Playing 12 straight games may have caught up with Iowa vs. Northwestern
If Virginia were to fire struggling Al Groh, who would be his replacement?
Pitt's Dion Lewis isn't a Heisman contender yet, but he's putting up huge numbers
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Thoughts, observations and helpful suggestions as the college football season hurtles toward the BCS apocalypse ...
The Big Ten's decision to implement a permanent bye week came one year too late for Iowa. Beginning in 2010, the league will add a week off during the eight-game conference schedule. This is a wise move, and it may someday help an elite team avoid a letdown, stay undefeated and eventually reach the BCS title game.
Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes, they have to play all of their 2009 schedule in a 12-week slog. And after several far-too-dramatic wins, all the tight games finally caught up with Iowa. Maybe if, at some point in the past 10 weeks, Iowa had taken a week off, Hawkeyes players would have been mentally refreshed and not have let their guard down against Northwestern and stumbled to a 17-10 loss.
I went a little open-date crazyresearching this story to advance the Alabama-LSU game, but Nick Saban's explanation made sense. As a season drags on, 18- to 22-year-old college students tend to lose focus mentally. "You can tell more by the players in the meetings than on the field," Saban told me. "They have a hard time getting it because their ability to focus and concentrate is not quite what it needs to be."
Maybe it had nothing to do with fatigue. Maybe the injury to quarterback Ricky Stanzi doomed the Hawkeyes. Or maybe Iowa players were looking ahead to Ohio State. Maybe they mentally checked out after their previous heart-stopper against Indiana. It should be noted here that Big Ten colleague Wisconsin had an open date after its loss to Iowa on Oct. 17. On Oct. 31, the refreshed Badgers crushed Purdue, 37-0.
Maybe if the Hawkeyes had gotten a chance to freshen up this season, they'd still be national title contenders.
If Groh Goes, Who Will Replace Him?
Can Virginia please put Al Groh out of his misery? I mean, the guy always looked miserable, but at least he used to win a few games to keep Cavaliers fans happy.
Saturday, Virginia put up a fight for a half before rolling over and dying in a 52-17 loss at Miami. That makes Virginia 3-6, and the Hoos don't look capable of winning any of their three remaining games.
Groh is the type of guy who, during bowl practice, will walk past Virginia beat writers and then conduct a teleconference from his hotel. He's also the type of guy who coaches in one of the most talent-rich states in the country and still manages to put together a team that loses to William and Mary.
If Groh gets canned, there are a few coaches out there who could do well in Charlottesville. Al Golden has Temple bowl eligible. David Cutcliffe is working miracles at Duke. Turner Gill isn't duplicating the success of last year, but he coaches at Buffalo, for goodness sakes. Meanwhile, at Richmond, Mike London has the Spiders (8-0) looking like the favorite for the FCS national title. Any of these guys would be an upgrade.
Whoever gets hired at Virginia should watch the news out of Albuquerque. If Mike Locksley gets fired after an abysmal first season at New Mexico, the ace recruiter of the Maryland/DC/Northern Virginia area would make a fine recruiting coordinator. Sure, Locksley was accused of trying to strangle an assistant, but as we learned this week, he's not even the most violent person in New Mexico's athletic program.
Irish Eyes Are Frowning
When I visited Notre Dame in the spring, Charlie Weis struck me as a man at peace with his circumstances. He knew if this season didn't go well, he might wind up unemployed. But he also knew he had a boatload of talent.
Well, that boat got sunk Saturday by a less talented but ultimately superior force. Barring some sort of miracle finish, Navy's 23-21 win probably spells doom for Weis in South Bend. Even if Weis wins out, Notre Dame can do no better than the Gator Bowl, which certainly can't be how Weis envisioned closing this season when he looked over his roster in March and saw Jimmy Clausen, Michael Floyd, Golden Tate, Brian Smith and Ethan Johnson.
This team has BCS-bowl talent, and Weis didn't get it done. The master of the "decided schematic advantage" and his defensive coordinator, John Tenuta, got outflanked by Navy's Ken Niumatalolo, who assumed that Notre Dame would use exactly the same defensive schemes it used in 2008, when the Fighting Irish held the Midshipmen to 178 rushing yards. Niumatalolo and his staff designed plays they knew would work against the formations and personnel groups the Irish used.
Niumatalolo guessed correctly. Notre Dame hadn't added even the slightest new wrinkle, and Navy bulldozed ahead for 348 yards. After the loss, reporters asked Weis if he worries that now his job status will be questioned.
"That comes with the territory," Weis said. "It comes with the territory. You know, the sad part about it is that's this job every week. It's a week-to-week deal."
Weis said he'll handle the criticism the way he always does.
"As I just told the team, I coach the team exactly the same way every week regardless of the situation, whether it's win or lose," Weis said. "One thing they know from me is I never change, never, ever change."
And that's precisely the problem.
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