SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
9/02/2006 08:07:00 PM
Saturday Observations Part IV
Saturday's win should help Phillip Fulmer and the Vols forget about last season's struggles.
Remember that Boise State-Georgia opener last year? How Boise State, the trendy upset pick, went to Athens and promptly laid about a six-pound egg? Yep ... that’s Cal-Tennessee this year.
I figured it wouldn’t take long for one of my preseason darlings to go belly up, but never did I imagine it would be this ugly. The Bears may well rebound and have a decent season, but they’re certainly not the elite, top-10 type squad many of us projected them to be (I’m just glad I didn’t pick them to win the national title like a certain pencil-pointing TV analyst). Cal’s offensive line, which lost three standouts from last season, got absolutely manhandled by Tennessee’s defensive front, leaving star running back Marshawn Lynch with nowhere to run. And the defense just looked plain lost.
On the flip side, Phillip Fulmer couldn’t have asked for a better way to bury the memory of last year’s 5-6 debacle. QB Erik Ainge looks a whole lot more comfortable (though he certainly shouldn’t count on his receivers running so wide open against Georgia or Alabama). And obviously, the Vols’ swagger is back. They have to be considered a factor in the SEC now.
∙ Did you catch Northern Illinois RB Garrett Wolfe’s numbers from the Ohio State game? In addition to running for 172 yards on 26 carries he caught five passes for another 115. I’m thinking Texas just found its blueprint for next week.
∙ New UCLA QB Ben Olson couldn’t have looked better early on against Utah, completing his first nine passes (and the 10th was a dropped touchdown pass).
Cutcliffe got shortchanged at Ole Miss. Frankly, I don't think they ever wanted him to coach... too low key. But they needed him to lock up Eli. When Eli left, Cutcliffe's days were numbered. But don't forget Charlie Weiss wanted Cutcliffe to coach quarterbacks at Notre Dame. Cutcliffe is an excellent coach. Now with Cut back in the fold and Chavis with the defense, the Vols may have the best coordinators in the nation.
Looking at the SI Home Page... today's games were, for the most part, your typical "tune-up" games. The big wins many teams posted were over teams who were not expected to play well... after all... you can't devote game time to "tweaking" your offense and defense if you have to worry about winning!
...and then there was the California vs. Tennessee game. Just why we (UT) were even ranked is amazing, especially from all the abuse of the sportswriters after last season. But I don't believe Cal scheduled this as a "tune-up" game. I believe they expected to win but I also believe they knew it would not be the "cream-puff" kind of game many other major teams were enjoying today!
My Alma Mater was victorious! Go Big Orange... another chorus of "Rocky Top"... but also a "kudos" to Cal for wanting to come and play football rather then score an easy first win! This makes them "winners" in my book!..
The Vols are back, but with something that has been lacking -- an offensive gameplan that showcases the tight end and running backs on patterns out of the backfield. Somewhere, Coach Neyland is smiling. Somewhere else, Coach Majors is wondering why he never thought of that. And then there's Air Force and Florida. No letdowns or look-aheads. Man, that was fun to watch!
I hope Texas creams that Ohio school next week so we don't have to listen to all the Buckeyes fans tooting their own horn. Then again, they will be singing the blues that someone stole the game from them.
On a better note, my UT boys looked good against Cal. It is still a long season, but I have hope! Go VOLS!!!
I felt like Tedford couldn't find a right balance between Tedford's pro-style offense and Dunbar's spread offense. As a result of that, plus good defense from the Vols, Cal's running game suffered greatly and Longshore didn't look comfortable at all throughout......and Ayoob looked as erratic he was last season considered he missed 2-3 passes to wide open receivers.......my beloved Bears' season doesn't look as bright as I had pictured......
How was Cutcliffe shortchanged at Ole Miss? He left a very rich man. He was released from Ole Miss after his recruiting went downhill quickly in the two years prior to his dismissal. Take notice of how the last two years at Ole Miss have been rough from a talent perspective. His X's and O's were second to none, but his gameday coaching skills left much to be desired.
Curiously enough, college football games dont always work out the way the media would have you think. Apparently TN had completely forgotten how to be.. well... TN, according to a large portion of the media (Colin Cowherd needs to own up to his previous statements on his show on monday). Even the Cal coordinators jumped in on the action claiming the Vol's offensive scheme isnt anything that Cal hasnt seen before. He went on to say "I dont think there is much to it, other than getting ready to play". I wonder what he thinks about it now.
Cal? Welcome to the SEC... Imagine if you got to play a game like this 4-5 times a season.
Keep in perspective that in the OSU/NIU game that OSU potentially lost 20 points between two fumbles and two missed FGs. Then OSU wins by essentially the same margin as UT, and people are telling Texas that they are in trouble.
The Buckeyes have a VERY young defense, and after they got up big early, the offense became conservative and "called off the dogs." Justin Zwick on the four yard line in the middle of a drive???? If the game had mattered, OSU would have left Troy Smith in.
AND...keep in mind that Wolfe was the leading rusher in the NCAA last year, AND he torched UM last year too. This guy is an NFL talent, so just because he came from the MAC doesn't mean anything anymore.
OSU wins a squeaker ... UT is too young at the QB position when it matters most...with the game on the line.
Once again, the SEC has proven that it is the strongest conference in the nation, and even though an SEC team probably wont win the national championship(because of the number of tough teams they have to play), an SEC team with one loss is a better team that a PAC-10 or a Big 12 team w/ no loss. Top to bottom,(except for vandy and kentucky), the SEC is the best. Cal was supposedly one of the best of the PAC-10, and they were manhandled. They just werent used to the physical style play of the SEC.
Wolfe had a great day indeed but most of his runs came where tressel was substituting freshman and red shirt freshman to see how they would look on film. To me he wasn't that great. most of the plays were screens and sweeps. and again when these long plays happened the so quoted starters weren't in at that time. nothing up the middle went for more that 10 yards. No long bombs. Just Wolfe. Colt is not ready for the buckeyes.
Wolfe had a great day indeed but most of his runs came where tressel was substituting freshman and red shirt freshman to see how they would look on film. most of the plays were screens and sweeps. and again when these long plays happened the so quoted starters weren't in at that time. nothing up the middle went for more that 10 yards. No long bombs. Just Wolfe. Colt is not ready for the buckeyes.
I believe the point about Texas' blueprint was that Ohio State's run defense is suspect, therefore, Texas should run the ball. No need to be obtuse.
As for SEC teams vs. Pac-10, there's no doubt that having to play in those environments (UT & Auburn) 4-5 times a year against that kind of talent would take a toll on a team like USC, I think it would be erroneous to equate Cal & WSU to USC. SC's talent level is unbelievable. Certainly on par with the elite SEC teams. That said, is always nice to see west coast teams come to Knoxville and experience real southern-style college football.
For everyone bashing the pac-10 during this "pac 10/sec challenge" weekend remember that all three games were played in the south when is Auburn coming to Pullman? or Tennesee coming to the bay area? I would like to see how these teams play on the road against a Pac 10 school I bet the results would be 2 out of three for the home team just like yesterday.
So the SEC gets one win over a rated team, while feasting on 1-AA teams the rest of the non conference schedule, and we are supposed to believe the SEC is the wonder conference (ask Auburn about a playing a weak NC schedule, see how that worked out for them in 04). Quick, in the last 10 years, what are the number of teams busted for cheating by the NCAA between the SEC and the PAC? Oh right, integrity counts for nothing in the SEC. Look forward to the BCS when hopefully the PAC can line up across from the SEC!
The fact of the matter is the best teams in the country reside in the SEC and this is incredibly unfortunate for the SEC because they beat the living daylights out of each other week in and week out.
The result, of course, is that SEC schools cannot make it through unbeaten unless the rest of the league is in a down year (which is still better than other conferences)and when that unbeaten season happens the BCS formula says that the schedule was weak the unbeaten SEC school cannot compete for the championship (Auburn).
Here we have UT, supposedly the 5th best team in the SEC right now beating the snot out of the second best team in the Pac-10. I hate UT as a Bulldogs fan, but nothing could have made me happier than seeing the SEC represent.
Idiot. You are an idiot. Cal laid an egg, no doubt. But Auburn was expected. Tell me, how does that mean Auburn or Tennessee would have beaten USC? USC went on the road and crushed a supposdly imporved tough SEC team playing in a hostile environment. You SEC idiots are all the same. Even if Cal had won you guys would say the same thing.
Here we go again, everyone drinking from the SEC kool-aid. USC is still the cream of the crop out west. And yes, they would have spanked Tennessee and beaten Auburn as well. Washington state isn't even considered a contender in the Pac-10 and Auburn was ranked 4th. On paper, that's a mismatch, yet WSU had their chances until late in the second half. I'm not making excuses for Cal. I actually thought they were going to lose. Cal is overrated in my opinion, NONE of their quarterbacks are good. I'd like to see a bunch of SEC schools come out West to open the season and see how you guys fare. You guys love to load up with home games and cupcakes in September. Maybe if your teams played some road games in September against quality competition, then they'd be better prepared for conference roadies. Just a hunch. I hear every year about how hard it is to go on the road in the SEC. It's b/c most teams haven't been away from home in 6 weeks!!
Gotta love the SEC fans. They may not be smart but they can lift heavy weights.
One win against an overrated team with bad quarterback problems who was on the road for the first game of the season and Tennessee is back on top?
And let's be honest. Tennessee MAY finish with a decent record but seriously who do they play? Florida? overrated. Georgia? Please. LSU? South Carolina? All of them are OK teams. None of the are great and none of them will be ranked in the top 10 at the end of the season.
Tennessee should just be grateful they aren't playing in the Big 10 or Big 12 or even the Pac 10.
It's good they won though because it gives them something to feel good about until they reach a bowl game and discover they're just mediocre all round.
Washington State? They're not even a good Pac 10 team. Auburn - Oregon would be a better matchup. Tennessee - UCLA would be more entertaining. Tennessee - USC would be humbling for the Vols.
Cal isn't the best team in the Pac 10 or even in the top 3-4 of the Pac 10. Cal has no offense and sometimes has a decent defense. I don't know why anyone expected Marshawn Lynch to carry them through the season.
They'll finish the rankings behind USC, Oregon, UCLA and Oregon State, yes that's right, Oregon State. Possibly even behind Arizona. Cal and Arizona State are both wwaaayyyy overrated but that's what happens when you get people who think SEC football is the end all be all trying to pick winners in a conference they can't stay up late enough to watch .
OSU was being very aggressive on defense and blitzed into screens more than once in yesterday's game. Wolfe's numbers were exaggerated because of the choice to do this. This aggressiveness also lead to some big sacks and losses, so it cut both ways. The point is, Texas simply can't choose to do the same thing unless they were to catch OSU in exactly the same strategic situations.
Here's the problem with ole miss....YOU CANNOT RECRUIT THE INFAMOUS REBAL FLAG. Other than the Eli Manning era (do you think he would really follow peyton to rocky top?) what has ole miss accomplished in the last 30, 40 or 50 years????? Nothing but 3-8 and 4-7 seasons.
It is very obvious Cal has serious problems at qb. Levy should get the start against Minnesota. Tedford, despite being labeled a genius, really has not done much the last couple of years in developing a qb. Finally, the Pac-10 is really the Pac-1. Other than USC, it would not surprise me if the Pac-10 does not win a game against another BCS conference team.
outside of USC, I don't think there's a Pac-10 team that could win the Big East if they switched conferences. Although I am a UT fan, I honestly didn't know what all the Cal hype was about, nor the big swing in the point spread leading up to the game. I honestly expected what happened yesterday to happen. I think all the "experts" got tired of hearing the "East Coast Bias" whining from the west coast teams, so they subconsciously overhyped Cal, only to find out that the East Coast teams are, as a rule, better.
The guy who says the PAC 10 is weak because two SEC teams beat up on two PAC Teams. Now give you Cal getting waxed by Tenn. doesn't look good but Auburn beating Washington State is hardly proof of anything. Wazzu is like the ninth best team in Pac 10. Auburn beating them is like USC beating Ole Miss or Vanderbilt. The fact that USC put the screws to Arkansas shows the first game of the season is proof of very little. So don't making statements about a conference until the end of the season.
Um.. beating Washington State and Cal isn't that big of a deal. WSU has no weapons now that Jerome Harrison is in the NFL, Cal and Notre Dame are way overrated. Auburn and Tennessee are good teams, but if you think that the Vols or Auburn can steam roll SC, I think you need to actually watch an USC game. The difference in talent and depth between SC and any other PAC-10 program is night and day. We've got 4 RB's that could start for Auburn, the Vols or any team in the nation, 7 LB's in the rotation, and a veteran D-Line. The talent level is ridiculous. It is on par with the squad that traveled to Auburn, shut down 2 NFL RB's and skunked the Tigers. Comparing SC to Cal or WSU is like comparing Auburn to Vandy or Georgia (who lost to a Big East, BIG EAST opponent) to Arkansas. I give kudos to the Vols for making a fool out of the pundits that predicted Cal would run the table and possibly compete for the national title. I respect the SEC teams, but please don't think beating up on WSU or Cal is the same as taking SC.
Why is the PAC 10 for the past few years consistently been so overhyped??? Sure USC had a good team, but who else??? And once again, the PAC 10 is exposed, only this time, it didn't take until the season was over. Great job Tennessee in helping expose the follies of the poll voters.
Wasn't this the same guy who last year ranked number two in rushing yards in division 1A? It's not like this is just your typical back. Although I haven't examined the stats at all, I'm pretty sure that between his receptions and carries he was almost the entire offense. It seems to me that Ohio State did a pretty good job shutting down the rest of the team.
The Sec is way overrated. I will say this though they do have a lot of balance, but to call an SEC team on of the "ELITES" like the likes of a Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, USC, Michigan, Ohio State, Miami or Florida State is absurd. Florida would be the closest team to mention, but only when they had Steve Spurrier. Shoot, when they won the two National Titles, Tennessee played a Florida State team, who's best player was was hurt and LSU got an Oklahoma team that just had a$$e$ handed to them by Kstate. Give me a break SEC is way overhyped. Look I am not saying that they aren't good, but in my mind they have been the Fourth best conference for the past five years, behind the Big Ten, Big Twelve and Pac Ten. Look at the numbers, head to head those three conferences own you. So enjoy your victories, but remember had those games been played in Berkely, the colliseum, and Poluose, the outcome would have been the same only vice versa, the Pac Ten would have came out on top. I will make this prediction, a team from the Pac Ten will win the national title and I hope it is against an SEC team, but it will likely be from the Big Ten, because they are stacked this year. Oh and SEC "newsflash" you are still the fourth best conference this year.
The easiest way to prove the corralation between USC winning is this. Look at Florida State before the ACC took in Miami, VT, BC, etc. When you play against cupcakes every year, it is not that difficult to run the table and NOBODY will know how good you really are. Not to take anything away from USC, but if they want this doubt to go away, tell them to play QUALITY teams (At least top 25) more than once a year and see if they come out unscathed.
I stopped reading right there, so I apologize if you went on to said "Just kidding about that one." 117 teams in the nation have 0 RB's that could start for Auburn. Peterson in the only RB in the nation I would rather on my team than Kenny Irons, easily the most dangerous player my LSU Tigers will face this year.
And give me a break, had Cal beat Ten, PAC10 fans would be on here bragging about how an "OK" Pac 10 team beat an "OK" SEC team. It was the only game between the two conferences this weekend that had meaning (No matter how much Pac 10 fans will deny it, Arkansas is a bottom feeder in the SEC). Not to mention that it was a 9 point game at half, a score that could have been closer had that backwards pass by USC not been ruled incomplete.
I know it is only the first week of the season, but can we please dispel the myth that USC is going to have any serious competition for the Pac-10 title this year. Cal was supposed be USC's biggest threat, but Tennessee exposed their mediocre offensive line, mediocre quarterbacking, and horrendous secondary that gives up long touchdowns on easy square outs. The other main threats Oregon and Arizona State didn't look any better against USC in the home stadiums last year than Arkansas looked against USC this year. They all hung with USC in the first half and got steamrolled in the second half. Since all the top teams must play at USC this year,does anyone with half a brain actually think that Cal, Oregon or Arizona State can beat USC on the road this year?
SEC apologists are correct when they say that the SEC is a stronger football conference than the Pac-10. However, why do they assume that many of your SEC teams can beat USC. When the 49ers were winning all those Super Bowls with Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, they played in the weakest division in football (Rams, Saints, and Falcons); however, that didn't mean the best teams from the strongest divisions could beat the 49ers. They couldn't and didn't. The fact is USC is 4-0 against SEC teams in the Peter Carroll era, with a cumulative score of 161 to 48 (average score would be 40 to 14). The SEC had two great opportunities to knock off USC, two season openers at an SEC home stadium in which USC was breaking in a quarterback that had no starting experience. The SEC failed miserably both times, with USC beating Auburn in Leinart's first game 23-0, and USC beating Arkansas in Booty's first game 50-14. In the last five years, I don't think even the best team in the SEC has even won at Auburn by 23 points or at Arkansas by 36 points. I seem to remember Arkansas losing some close games to the best SEC competition.
A few people commented on the fact that the SEC teams were playing at home in these games, and that they schedule light out-of-conference foes. I don't know about Auburn or any others, but Tennessee returns the favor by opening the season at Cal next year. (And Tennessee also regularly schedules good OOC games, like Notre Dame the past 2 years, Miami the years before that, and a series with Oklahoma coming up soon) We'll see how the predictions about home field advantage play out, but I don't think any SEC teams will exactly be shaking in their cleats about playing in front of 50-60,000 people. Or going against those cute little defenses.