Dissecting Notre Dame hatred, more mail (cont.)
After watching last night's Miami-Florida State game, I knew we were going to see headlines calling the teams "relevant" again. Even though the game was exciting, I felt like I was watching two of the worst pass defenses I've seen. Are these teams really "back" or are they just imitating the defenses of the Big 12?
It depends on your definition of "relevant." Did the Hurricanes and Seminoles prove they're ready to contend for national titles again? I wouldn't go that far. Miami's pass-rush was non-existent. FSU's secondary and running games were suspect. But considering the type of squads these two trotted out the past three or four years, it felt like watching two entirely different teams -- two exciting teams. That alone, in my mind, makes them relevant again.
First and foremost, I was impressed with the quarterbacks -- and it's been a long time since I've said that about either team. Miami's Jacory Harris is a sparkplug. He's young, and he makes some bad decisions, but he's got an undeniable swagger and he made some spectacular long throws on the run. FSU's Christian Ponder was less flashy but more steady. If he'd gotten just a little more help from his receivers, he would have been on the winning side.
The other thing that we can't overlook: Both teams' offensive lines have improved immensely. Miami running backs Graig Cooper and Javarris James finally had some holes to run through, which meant they finally got to show off their open-field ability. Ponder had all day to sit back and find his targets. While I expect both teams will still endure their share of growing pains, I fully expect to see both factor in their respective ACC divisions (the 'Noles have the benefit of playing on the easier side) and sit in the top 15 or 20 come December.
First Alabama's Julio Jones and Mark Ingram got in trouble for taking an impermissible Gulf Coast fishing trip. Then I see Texas' Colt McCoy on the cover of Bassmaster magazine. Does the NCAA rulebook differentiate between freshwater and saltwater fish?
Considering the size of that thing, I wouldn't be surprised. But as long as Colt or his family paid for his own fishing expenses, he should be in the clear.
Stewart, I agree LaGarrette Blount overreacted, but Boise State's Byron Hout physically touched the guy as well as saying something to him. This is not Little League. Don't you think Hout should be suspended by his coach as well for a game or two?
Stewart -- How can BSU's coach not suspend Hout? Taunting and a shove go unpunished? Where's the WAC's commissioner on this incident?
I'm a little perplexed by all of this talk about suspending Byron Hout. If Blount hadn't lost his mind and punched him in the face would you still be calling for this kid to get suspended?
I was amazed by how quickly the discussion over Thursday night's melee shifted from Blount's punishment to Hout's lack of punishment. That first e-mail from James arrived shortly after the game ended, and similar ones streamed in for several days. On Monday, when I gave my own take ("How does the school not punish Byron Hout?"), I was immediately deluged by e-mails like Justin's defending Hout.
To answer the question, no, Hout's taunting would never have become an issue had Blount simply walked away. But you know what else? Had the whole thing taken place on a Saturday at 4:30 in the afternoon on Versus, Blount would currently be serving a three-game suspension, not sitting the entire season. It's unfair, but it's reality. Blount made the mistake of going berserk at the worst possible moment -- on national television, on the season's opening night, during a slow news-cycle when SportsCenter could replay the meltdown over and over. Oregon found itself under a national microscope for the worst possible reason, forcing Chip Kelly to act decisively.
And for that same reason, Chris Petersen needed to punish Hout, even if only for one game. The nation was watching. It saw a Boise State player do something unbecoming of the program. Petersen had a chance to take a stand against Hout's actions, but he didn't. (Sorry, no one's buying the "internal discipline" thing.) It may seem unfair to single out Hout for something that goes on all the time, but hey, not everyone who drives over the speed limit gets a ticket. Not every one who does drugs gets arrested. If you don't impose consequences when someone does get caught, you're sending the wrong message.
Hi Stewart. Do you still think Rutgers will win the Big East? Thanks.
No, I do not still think Rutgers will win the Big East. Cincinnati is now the hands-down team to beat. I learned two lessons from this prognostication humiliation: never doubt Brian Kelly, and never place a team in the "BCS Forecast" on Monday morning that's playing later that afternoon. (A rule, of course, I won't get to apply until next Labor Day.)
I rarely see you discuss Colorado, and for good reason, but was last weekend's loss to Colorado State the beginning of the end for Dan Hawkins?
Since you like to try your hand at prognosticating -- when will Al Groh be fired? Will he make it to the end of the season, or will UVA go all Clemson/Tommy Bowden on him?
Ah yes, the Week 1 hot seat.
With the obvious exception of Oregon (and possibly Illinois), no one delivered a more discouraging opening-week performance than Colorado. Hawkins pledged this would be the year the Buffs turned the corner, but they seem plagued by the same things as last year -- shoddy quarterbacking, lack of playmakers and an offensive line that got physically dominated.
As bad as it looked, however, I'm not giving up on Colorado just yet. For one thing, Colorado State may turn out to be pretty darn good. Steve Fairchild did a heck of a job in his first season, improving the Rams from 3-9 to 7-6, capped by a bowl win over Fresno State. Last season, Colorado State lost by less than a touchdown to both TCU and BYU. You could be looking at a Mountain West contender, in which case the Buffs' loss might not seem so incriminating down the road.
As for Groh ... don't pretend you didn't see this day coming. He's only been underachieving there now for NINE YEARS. However, he also seems to have nine lives, which is why I'm afraid I'll put my foot in my mouth if I make any definitive declarations here. In 2007, the Cavs opened with a 23-3 loss to Wyoming, then rolled off seven straight wins and went to the Gator Bowl. Last year they started 1-3, then got to 5-3 before tanking the rest of the way.
But who am I kidding? The Cavs just lost to William and Mary. If we're starting a pool, I'll take Nov. 9.
Is it just me or is the nation significantly misinterpreting the Ohio State-Navy game? I watched the whole game and came away very impressed with Navy. It outplayed OSU on a down-to-down basis (the two bad turnovers really hurt the Middies) and they did not seem overwhelmed athletically in the least. Paint me green and call me Gumby, but I think they could run the table. (Yes, I am aware they play at Pitt and Notre Dame and host Wake.)
I came away very impressed with Navy as well, particularly quarterback Ricky Dobbs. Not only does he run the option well, but he's easily the best passer to date in the Paul Johnson/Ken Nuimatalolo era. Dobbs completed 9-of-13 passes, which may not seem like much, but it was more completions than Navy managed in any game last season. It's possible Ohio State simply wasn't prepared for that element of Navy's offense, and that future opponents will be, but I doubt the performance was fluky.
Navy is no slouch. The Midshipmen have been to six straight bowls and beat two BCS-conference bowl teams last year (Rutgers and Wake Forest). However, this was the first time during their current run that we saw the Middies hang toe-to-toe with a nationally elite team. (Their games against Notre Dame's 2005 and '06 BCS teams were not competitive.) It will be interesting to see if they can knock off Pitt or the Irish.
You wrote: "Only one weekend in, and I already want to pound my head into a wall every time I hear that Kenny Chesney snippet. Why, ESPN? Why?" There's hope for you yet on the music front, Mandel! Nice one.
For the record, I wasn't thrilled with the Dave Matthews segments, either, but ESPN seemed more actively determined to shove Chesney down our throats.
Let me just reiterate what I wrote on Twitter during the Miami-FSU game: If any of you suddenly feel tempted to download a Kenny Chesney song while watching a college football game, please, send me the 99 cents instead.
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