SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
9/30/2006 07:17:00 PM
Saturday Observations Part III
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer was not too happy about his team's performance against Georgia Tech.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- On a day when two more embattled coaches (John L. Smith and Dirk Koetter) moved one step closer to sealing their pink-slip fate, let’s take this opportunity to mention someone who deserves much praise. If this guy isn’t asked to fill one of the vacancies this offseason, there should be an investigation. That would be Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta.
While it was Calvin Johnson’s catches that got the ball rolling against Virginia Tech Saturday, it was Tenuta’s always-solid defense that carried the Jackets to a big 38-27 victory, limiting the Hokies to 43 rushing yards and sealing the game on Phillip Wheeler’s fumble-causing sack of QB Sean Glennon, which Gary Guyton returned for a touchdown to go up 31-13. Tenuta’s blitz-happy defense has become one of the most feared in the country, and this was just the latest example why.
• Speaking of hot-seat coaches, what a crushing blow for Texas A&M’s Dennis Franchione. The Aggies played a terrific second half on both sides of the ball to turn a 24-14 deficit into a 27-24 lead. They even appeared at one point to have thwarted Tech’s last-minute drive with an interception, but it was overturned on replay, and Raiders QB Graham Harrell ended up hooking up with Robert Johnson for a game-winning 37-yard touchdown. I guess Mike Leach’s guys got the “prima donna” message.
• I have to admit, I really underestimated the abilities of Alabama’s rebuilt defense. The Tide took it to Chris Leak and Florida for three-plus quarters before Dallas Baker’s nifty 21-yard touchdown catch finally gave the Gators some breathing room. If you’re Urban Meyer, you have to be concerned with your uneven offense the past two weeks headed into a murderous stretch of three straight top-10 opponents (LSU, Auburn and Georgia).
• If Oregon were to play USC on a neutral field right now, I’d take the Ducks. Seriously. While the Trojans are still finding themselves offensively, the Ducks look like a well-oiled machine. They put up nearly 600 yards on Arizona State in a 48-13 victory, with RB Jonathan Stewart (12 carries, 142 yards) and WR Jaison Williams (10 catches, 137 yards, two TDs) once again strutting their stuff. Of course, Oregon plays USC at the Coliseum, and not until November, when the Trojans will presumably be much improved.
• Very impressive performance by Boise State in thrashing Utah 36-3 in Salt Lake City. The Broncos now jump to the front of the line of potential BCS crashers (unless Houston knocks off Miami), but will likely be met with much backlash if their best win of the season turns out to be Oregon State.
• It’s getting close to kick off here, so blog posts will be limited from here. Look for a regular column off the Ohio State-Iowa game later tonight.
I think Cal has been just as impressive as Oregon this year. They have absolutely rolled their opponents and were strong on the road against Oregon State today. Longsdhore has been phenomenal since week 1 and all the other stars (Lynch, Jackson, and Hughes) are rolling too. Even better, their run defense finally showed up today. It's going to be quite a battle in Berkeley next week.
Stu, Gator fans are just thrilled to be 5-0 right now. Been too long for us. We knew this schedule would be tough no matter how well we play, so it's a moot point that the Bama game was closer than people expected. Perhaps we are just trying to pace ourselves. Oh, and Bob says Florida will get "thrashed" against LSU and AU, so Gator Nation should just throw in the towel now I guess.
The Gators seem to be better conditioned than thier opponents, thats why they keep winning games in the fourth quarter. They are also the most talented team in the SEC, they will beat LSU and Georgia, and thanks to Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks, they now have a blueprint for hanging with Auburn. The idea of the gatrs running the table is so much more than a pipe dream, its a strong possibility
It doesn't matter what the scoreboard says, if you're a Gator fan you have to love how they fought back unlike last year. This team is much tougher than last year and more talented on offense. The man that makes this offense go is Tebow the true freshman. Every single time the offense is struggling, he comes in to pick up big first downs and give the team a much needed spark. I think they can get by LSU next week at home to set up a HUGE showdown against Auburn on national television. You know how they've historically dominated the Georgia rivalry so I expect them to pull that out as well. Other than the FSU game at the end of the year, the Gators national title hopes rest on the trip to Auburn and the possibility of the SEC championship game. I love their defense and the ability to answer with a score when they need it most late in the game. Maybe that's just me being a really optimistic Gator fan, but that's all I got.
That "average" Alabama team has a pretty strong defensive unit and would win more games if they had an offense to match. Each team had a turnover for a touchdown. Take those mistakes away, and you have a 21-6 Florida win. I don't think you could find an employed coach who would turn down that victory against a major rival.
That said, Florida is heading into a very tough schedule. I think Florida will pull through and wind up with only two losses on the year, and both of those to Auburn (see: 2004 Tennessee.)
If you want to talk about "average" teams, take a close look at USC. Sure, the Trojans have talent, but do they have heart? Not from what I saw in the Washington St game. Did they even cover the spread? Maybe they were just looking ahead to their first real challenge, Cal on November 18?
USC showed a few flashes of the old 'SC, but mostly they stunk up the joint. so much for their super D. I frankly think they need to can Kifflin(sp) I don't think he is capable at the position. Kif and Sark together last year was better than this year. His running calls are so boring and don't seem to get anywhere. Thankfully SC isn't going to Oregon this year or Cal, otherwise they would eventually end up out of the top 25. Interesting to see if playing at home will help next week against Washington.
I'm sorry to say it but Oklahoma is not a good team.
Despite USC's struggles against Washington St, which are a blip, don't forget the Ducks effectively lost at home to Oklahoma. That isn't a testament to the strength of the Sooners, they shouldn't even be a top 20 team, it is a testament to Oregon's weaknesses.
Arizona St. is in complete panic mode at this point. They would give up three scores to The Citadel. So while putting up 600 yards (or near) on anyone is impressive, doing it against the Sun Devils doesn't deserve shouts of greatness. The Trojans haven't lost in the PAC 10 in how many games? I would take Mandel's bet on the Ducks any day of the week (and so would any Vegas book).
As a lifelong USC fan...I agree with Stewart about Oregon playing better, and I agree with the first blogger about Cal. My Trojans are gonna have to play a lot better to beat those teams. Fortunately, SC's pattern is to get better as the year goes on...looking forward to great Pac 10 games...
To respond to an earlier post, Cal has been nowhere near as impressive as Oregon. The only quality opponent that Cal played, Tennessee, rolled them. The other teams they beat are Portland State, ASU, Minnesota and Oregon State. Portland State is far from a quality opponent, ASU was obviously overrated and looked terrible, and Oregon State's only wins have come against Eastern Washington and Idaho. Meanwhile the Ducks have argueably the toughest schedule in the country having already beaten Fresno State on the road and Oklahoma, albeit controversily. If Cal can beat the Ducks, then I'll give them credit, but so far they haven't done anything to warrant the label of impressive.
As close as the UF game was, the Gator defense really dominated. They allowed 6 points (Bama's only TD was off a botched snap) and scored 7 points. UF's defense outscored Bama's offense. They gave up a lot of first downs, but when it comes to containing a team, the Gators are one the best in the nation. Last year they were burned by a lot of big plays. This year they are making the big plays.
Also, LSU is going to have to deal with Percy Harvin who should finally be healthy this saturday.
Home nursing the tail end of pneumonia - watched as many games as I could today with my bride's blessing, of course. I bleed green and yellow and was very nervous about the game at ASU today, but was impressed with the intensity of Oregon's defense. Did anyone think Oregon would sack Rudy what, six times, today? Even with the loss of players to graduation and the pros, I think we have a better unit this year. And the offense is very scary - Dixon looks like he's been running the offense for years. It should be a great game next week against Cal - wish it were a home game for us. I think the winner of next week's game will win the Pac 10, especially after watching SC come away with two close wins.
I also have to take issue with the recent post that suggests that Cal has "absolutely rolled" their opponents - did he/she forget the game against Rocky Top?
Utah has a very strong program and team this year. So when Boise blows them away on their own field and gets nothing more than curious glances from the national audience, I kind of feel sorry for them. Do we need a Division 1A.b for teams like them. Of course talk like this doesn't make the Oregon Beavers feel good.
What about USC? Auburn played a nail-biter with the other USC- South Carolina that is. ANd I know the voters are saying that Auburn didn't look that good against a decent SEC team. Do they know that Auburn scored on 4 out of 6 possessions. The other 2 possessions ended both halves. Yeah, we didn't do a good job at stopping Newton. What i want to know is what about USC-southern cal that is. I predicted that they would lose to Wash State. I was close. Auburn beat Wash State 40-14 and USC barely won against the cougars. SO I think the voters need to think about their voting a little deeper.
It is Oregon STATE Beavers, Oregon is the Ducks (interestingly enough they weren't technically supposed to be called that, initially the nickname for the university was the "Webfoots," a group of pioneer settlers from the Willamette valley, but the local media assumed it was another word for Ducks, so began to used the terms interchangably and the name Ducks stuck). I know nobody outside of the west coast believes it worth the trouble of telling the difference between the two schools, but try to imagine if I used a phrase like "Iowa Cyclones" or "Florida Seminoles" or even "Michigan Spartans." I think it would upset people.
CAL vs Oregon should be good. Oregon did not clearly beat OU and barely escaped Fresno St. CAL’s only lost was the first game of the year, with a QB that had never completed a NCAA game, in arguably the toughest place to play on the road. USC can’t score enough to beat Oregon or CAL. New PAC -10 Champs – The Golden Bears of Berkeley!!
Mandel must be hallucinating. Florida's uneven offense? They had 140 yeards rushing and 200 yards passing. I think 340 yards total offense against Alabama is quite impressive. We'll see what happens next week, but Leak and the offense so far is doing great!
Virginia Tech is the biggest fraud, Every year they get a high ranking, every year they go down !! Frank Beamer should be the one who should be on the hot seat. Every year, he has 3or 4 games where he is just unprepared.