SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
9/10/2006 01:49:00 PM
Saturday Observations Part III: Closing Thoughts
The Longhorns' coaching staff didn't expect Troy Smith would beat them with his arm.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
AUSTIN, Texas -- On the morning after, three feelings stand out about Saturday night’s Ohio State-Texas game: 1) Awe over just how polished and poised the Buckeyes performed in such a challenging environment. 2) Disappointment that such an anticipated game was, in the end, largely anticlimactic. And 3) Bewilderment over Texas’ defensive strategy.
While it’s hard to be critical of a defensive coordinator, Gene Chizik, who just lost his first game in nearly three years, the postgame comments of both he and Mack Brown made me wonder whether the 'Horns scouted the wrong team. Brown said they, "didn’t expect Troy [Smith] to pass this much." Chizik also indicated that Texas spent more time focused on Smith's feet than his arm. If you watched the Buckeyes (which I'm sure they did) over the second half of last season and in last week's opener against Northern Illinois, you know that designed QB runs have largely vanished from the OSU playbook, and that the Buckeyes' preferred weapon of choice is quite clearly the deep ball. And while it's not inconceivable they would have broken it back out for this one, I’m sure Chizik realized OSU was going to try and exploit the absence of starting CB Tarell Brown. And yet, the 'Horns' secondary looked lost in the first half. As I noted in my column from the game, Buckeyes receiver Anthony Gonzalez even acknowledged afterward that he was basically left uncovered by Texas’ safeties. Strange.
∙ Even as the No. 1 and 2 teams played on the field below me, it was hard not to keep one eye on the fourth quarter of the Florida State-Troy game last night, as the ‘Noles needed a Drew Weatherford touchdown with 2:05 remaining to break open a 17-17 struggle. As they drove down the field at the end, do you think Weatherford turned to his teammates in the huddle and said, "OK guys, let’s punch this in" or "Guys, if we don't score here we’re going to be the laughingstocks of the country."
∙ Why, oh why, do I continue to underestimate Georgia’s ability to reload each season. Despite three interceptions from freshman QB Matthew Stafford (who conveniently got his big break when Joe Tereshinski injured his ankle), the Dawgs still shut out South Carolina on the road. Of course, that also begs the obvious question: What has happened to Steve Spurrier's offensive wizardry? The Gamecocks were also unproductive against Mississippi State in their opener.
∙ I made mention of the Big Ten’s horrific performance earlier. It wasn’t a particularly enjoyable weekend for the Pac-10, either. Though Cal got back on the right track against Minnesota, Oregon State got pummeled by Boise State on Thursday night, Stanford lost to San Jose State and purportedly-improved Arizona looked completely outclassed at LSU. The one team that does continue to impress (besides USC) is Oregon, which pulled out a hard-fought win at Fresno State last night thanks to another solid effort from QB Dennis Dixon.
∙ As I read the recaps of yesterday’s games, it’s amazing how many were decided by kicking snafus. In the ACC alone, Clemson had an extra point blocked in its overtime loss to Boston College, Wake Forest blocked Duke’s 27-yard field goal try on the final play to preserve a 14-13 win and Wyoming missed an extra point on the final play of overtime to give Virginia a particularly ugly 13-12 win. UTEP also missed three extra points in its overtime loss to Texas Tech.
No doubt, coaching played a big part of the Ohio State win. I think the only person which could not take the heat in Austin last night was Mack Brown! Each time the ABC camera focused on the respective head coaches, there was Tressel cool as ice (wearing his trademark sweatervest no less!) contrasted with Mack Brown - sweating profusely and biting his lip. He is simply not a very good game-day coach; and without VY to counteract the effect, it rubs off on his players.
Give Troy a little credit, someone, please. While Troy (to again answer the question where we are at, yes, we are in Alabama)is a new kid on the Division I scene, we are not a patsy, as the Orlando Sentinal described us in Saturday morning's edition. We play big name schools, and play well against them. We have been in Division I-A since 2001. Since joining, we have defeated Mississippi State, Missouri and Marshall, lost to LSU in Baton Rouge 24-20, and led Nebraska in Lincoln before eventually losing 31-16, which is to be expected. But my point is that it may not be this year or the next, but eventually people will take note that Troy is getting better, recruiting more 1-A athletes, and continuing to get the great coaching from Larry Blakeney. Yes, Auburn and Alabama rule our great state now, but we hope that one day we will be considered in the big three. Anyone that was in Doke Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee Saturday night would likely agree that Troy is not a patsy.
So, at home, FSU is held to under 50 yards rushing by Troy (TROY FOR PETE'S SAKE!), and only 2 INT's in the last 6 minutes rescue the Seminoles from the year's biggest upset (if not the decade's), yet those so called journalistic "experts" feel fit to leave them right where they are at #9 and the "roaches" poll only drops them one spot to #10. Tennesee and Iowa tumble with close calls against much, much better opponents, but FSU gets a pass.
The polls are a crock. They should go with the computers.
Whomever Posted the "Anonymous . . . Polls are Crock" comment above that said "Tennesee and Iowa tumble with close calls against much, much better opponents . . . " clearly knows NOTHING about football. Tennessee BARELY beat an Air Force Team that had a 4-7 2005 Record in the all powerful MOUNTAIN WEST Conference!
However, that comment looks like a pure genius compared to this guys even more of ignorant comment about Iowa's "much better opponent." For crying out loud Iowa beat SYRACUSE in OVERTIME!
Syracuse might have a rich history of players who eventually had nice PRO careers (i.e., Jim Brown, Floyd Little, Marvin Harrison, Donavan McNabb, etc.). HOWEVER, they have been the DOOR MAT of the Big LEAST for year.
Hey Einstein, Syracuse 2005 Record in the Big East was 1-10!!! How in the world do you substantiate your moronic statement that Air Force and Syracuse are "much, much better opponents" than Troy? Shoot, Troy matched Air Force's 2005 Record at 4-7.
Hey, it's alright to be a "Homer" and root for your home team or conference. However, next time bring some concrete facts to support your argumenet. I surely hope that at the universities that you use for your sorry examples (Tennessee and Iowa) accept totally baseless and unsubstantiated arguments in the classroom when kids submit their papers.
ok, while the team iowa was playing might not have been as good, they were playing at syracuse, not at home, and without their starting quarterback. instead thye had a backup who threw four picks. no excuse for florida state. OVERRATED! but then again, what else is new? florida state proves why coference campionship games suck. the acc is nothing but hype, with the possible exception of va tech.
To "Go_ACC" - To ridicule the Big East and the Mountain West when Troy plays in the SUN BELT is fairly amusing. Furthermore, if you read both our posts again, the only area in which we disagree is my use of the words "much, much better opponents". I've already acknowledged that as a mistake, or at least a stretch. The rest of your statements (except for the ranting) only support my position. Disparaging my intelligence is interesting, given the grammar in your post. Finally, which of my comments gave any indication of which conference I support? Ironically, I like the ACC, being a fellow Hokie like yourself.
I think you are remiss in failing to point out just how miserable the ACC looks so far this year. NC State loses to the Zips, FSU barely ekes one out against an opponent who only recently moved to I-A, and UVA has to go to overtime to beat lowly Wyoming. And then there was UNC last week, getting whooped by (an albeit improved) Rutgers team. What a pathetic conference.
What's the problem, Stewart? Is it coaching? In Clemson's four losses last year and now the loss to BC on Saturday, the Tigers have lost 5 games by a total of 15 points. Three of these five were in overtime. Do we blame the players or the coaches?
I've noticed that the Big East may be sneaking up on people. So far they have the best combined record in Div 1 non-conference games, and three teams that can compete with most if not all teams in the country this year. The Big Least of last year seems to be turning quietly around!