SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
9/02/2006 11:58:00 PM
Saturday Observations Part V: Closing Thoughts
Notre Dame's defense gave up an early touchdown before locking down the Yellow Jackets.
The most unexpected development on opening Saturday was how the overwhelming majority of the top teams played almost exactly as expected. With the exception of Cal, no real paper tigers have been exposed yet.
∙ Notre Dame's oft-maligned defense answered a lot of questions Saturday night, completely shutting down Georgia Tech in the second half, and yet, for the umpteenth time during Chan Gailey's tenure I'm left wondering how things might have been different if the Jackets weren't led by the nation's most reactionary coach. Even the commentators were baffled as to why Tech wasn't trying harder to get the ball to Calvin Johnson.
Meanwhile, Charlie Weis definitely has some big ones. That QB draw call with Brady Quinn right before the half could have been a complete disaster if Quinn hadn't scored. Instead, after looking out of sorts most of the first half, you could tell as soon as Quinn crossed the goal line that the worst was behind him.
∙ It's safe to say USC's rebuilt offense isn't going to scare anybody just yet, but I bet it will soon enough. Against Arkansas, QB John David Booty looked more and more comfortable as the game went along and the young running backs can only get better. Meanwhile, the Trojans' defense was far more dominant than at any point last season.
∙ Man, Auburn's offense is going to be tough to stop. Not only can Kenny Irons run on you all night and Brandon Cox can beat you deep, but you've also got to worry about Irons and Brad Lester catching passes out of the backfield. You could tell against Washington State that offensive coordinator Al Borges is modeling this year's unit a lot like that of the great 2004 team.
∙ The fear after Oklahoma lost Rhett Bomar was that the Sooners would become too one-dimensional. I'd say those fears are legitimate after a shaky 24-17 win over UAB in which Paul Thompson threw two picks and got nearly a third of his passing yards on one 69-yard screen to Adrian Peterson.
∙ Fantastic debut for UCLA QB Ben Olson: 25-of-33 for 318 yards, three touchdowns and no picks in a 31-10 beatdown of Utah. It's as if the other Olson never left. I thought the Bruins' offense would suffer without the presence of star TE Marcedes Lewis, but Logan Paulsen stepped right in with five catches for 90 yards.
∙ Though I have a feeling Virginia is going to be really, really bad this season, beating the Cavs 38-13 was still an encouraging outcome for second-year Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt coming off a 5-6 debut. Senior QB Tyler Palko, after struggling much of last season, was 17-of-22 for 286 yards and three touchdowns.
∙ Finally, it's over. Twelve straight hours of football is a lot, even for me. I'm beat, and all I did was sit here. The afternoon games were kind of blasé, but it was all worth it when Notre Dame, USC and Oklahoma were all involved in dog fights at the same time around 9 p.m. EST. Time to catch some shut-eye before jetting to Miami tomorrow. Enjoy Louisville-Kentucky.
I would just like to say that I see a lot of "Cal was overated, and just didn't play." I however am not seeing or hearing much about Tennessee actually playing well. It seems that even in victory everyone is trying to downplay their great game. Maybe they seemed to play bad because the other teamed made them look that way??
Some college football fans out there may say that Notre Dame was lucky to come out on top in the end against a Georgia Tech team which had x amount of opportunities to put the game away, both early and late, yet could the Yellow Jackets actually be considered to win the ACC this year? Reggie Ball and Calvin Johnson are a huge threat, and with defensive players like Wheeler, the Jackets could surprise more than just the Irish faithful. Notre Dame did not get lucky by the way, Charlie Weis is an offensive mastermind and Brady Quinn will still win the Heisman. Players such as John David Booty still have much to prove, while the entire Notre Dame defense answered all the questions surrounding them by shutting down one of the most lethal wide receivers in the country.
The only thing ND did was show that, even when it wasn't playing at its best, it had the guts to tough out a win over a credible opponent on the road. That's what championship teams do, and what USC and TX have done in the past. GT are a better team than any team played by OSU, USC or TX this weekend.
No question that USC has just reloaded, and will have a great year. But I kept wondering why Booty did not try to stretch the field to Jarrett and Smith. It seemed like every pass they caught was underneath for less than 10 yds.
I don't feel Notre Dame is deserving of its #2 ranking at all. The only reason ND won that game was because Georgia Tech **lost** it. To make Weis and Quinn look like heroes after that is tantamount to spin-doctoring.
I saw how comfortable Ainge looked. I saw how well the Volunteer front seven played, so, there's no reason to call me crazy or say I'm uninformed.
And now for the prediction itself, the Volunteers will not walk out of Fayetteville with a victory on Nov. 11, and Mustain will start that game for the Razorbacks.
What USC did was the most impressive of any of the Top 10 teams.
Anyone who thinks Notre Dame is going undefeated after watching that game (imagine it without a helmet to helmet penalty) has too much green in their blood. Although Brady Quinn and Weiss have some cajones.
Yeah USC, as Mike Patrick kept point out, played a very "workman like" offensive game. The Trojans didn't take any shots down field as JW said. That is the play calling of a team trying to allow a QB to get comfortable. The offensive strategy on Saturday - no mistakes. No turnovers, just play smart.
You have to keep things in perspective, this offense will open up immensely as the season goes on. We saw Booty's accuracy on two of his touchdown passes, and no one would claim he doesn't have a stronger arm than Leinart. This team will be able to go down the field.
But, keep in mind when disparaging the lack of a vertical passing game so far, those linebackers and especially the middle of that Razorback defensive line are not pushovers by any stretch and we ran all over them. This USC offensive line is going to be just as good as last year.
The only thing that ND proved was that they could beat a team that is poorly coached on the offensive side of the football. Any other coach would have taken advantage of Calvin Johnson and shredded ND's defense. Good luck with Penn State and Michigan, ND, you're gong to need it
I wonder if people would be talking about how good USC's defense is if they had beat Arkansas 14-10. I'm pretty sure they'd be saying something more along the lines of USC being more regressed than everyone thought, USC would indeed be called a paper tiger. USC should do what everyone else does and play 1-AA opponents, maybe then they'll get some respect.
USC definitely had a safe gameplan. To be honest, Arkansas gave them 16 first half points. In the second half, USC just wore them down. They have a plethora of weapons. The potential is there. Four quality running backs? A solid TE in Fred Davis. Jarrett and Steve Smith are still an excellent combo, even though that wasn't too evident yesterday. They are finally working in Pat Turner adn Chris McFoy. Even the fullback was making plays in the passing game. Not many teams look like world beaters in the first game, but it still looks like USC is separate from the rest of the Pac-10. I live in Los Angeles, so I'm definitely biased towards the Pac. All the "pac-10 is soft" banter may apply to the other 9 teams. But you can't say that about USC. Most people out west were more concerned with SC's defense and they looked pretty sharp. They already look faster and more in-tuned than last year.
Notre Dame saved by the brilliant Quinn, the masterful Weis? ...or a phantom helmet to helmet personal foul and an overturned catch by Calvin Johnson? If Notre Dame is the number 2 team in the nation then Georgia Tech must be number 3.
I watched the Notre Dame game last night although I am a huge fan of theirs I was suprised by the play of Reggie Ball in the second half. What's with all those draw plays, is he calling his own number instead of getting the ball to Calvin Johnson. Chan better get back to calling plays because you guys missed the boat
Chan Gailey is America's "most reactionary" coach? Let's make it simpler; he's America's worst coach. My god, ND tried everything to hand him the game yesterday and he did everything he could to hand it right back. Any other coach in the country (even the lame Dirk Koetter) wins that game by 20 points. I'm not a GT fan, but if I were, I'd be circulating the petitions for his firing already.
The Yellow Jackets a threat to win the ACC? Not as long as Gailey is the coach. God, he's as bad as Don Morton and Rick Venturi.
Don't everyone go hop on the "Notre Dame's defense is improved" bandwagon just yet. Keep in mind, this was GEORGIA TECH'S offense they shut down, an offense that has never been ranked higher than 85th during Chan Gailey's tenure. Georgia Tech's offense has had a bad habit of making even the most benign defenses look spectacular. The jury is still out on Notre Dame's defense until they start playing some solid offenses.
As a Tech fan and alum I can honestly say that watching a Chan Gailey coached team is truly painful. 3rd and 11 from the Notre Dame 13 and the call is a run to center the ball for a field goal instead of a shot to the endzone. Gailey has always done this type of thing. He gets an early lead and slams on the brakes allowing an opponent to mount a come back. On one sideline, you had Gailey leading an offense that didn't cross the 50 in the second half and didn't bother to get the ball to the best receiver in the nation. On the other side was a coach challenging his team to win the game with gutsy calls and a clear desire to put points on the board. Georgia Tech was the better team last night with an infinately worse coach. Tech should start paying it's fans to watch this guy.
"Geargia Tech was the better team last night." Really? Notre Dame had 21 first downs to GT's 14, 384 total yards to GT's 259, and time of possession at roughly 35 minutes to 25 minutes. Notre Dame also missed two field goals that would have put the game away. And complaints about the refs? The helmet to helmet call was a close one but was not clearly incorrect, unlike the holding call on Notre Dame's first drive on a long gain by Jeff Samardzija that took away a first down and forced a punt when it looked like ND was driving for a score. Calvin Johnson made a great play but he didn't catch the ball so it is hard to cast GT as victims of bad calls. GT played a good game with a great defensive plan and ND shouldn't get too much credit for beating an unranked team, but GT was hardly the best team last night.
OU QB Paul Thompson was indeed as erratic as feared. The Sooners lost all chances of a Big 12 title, much less a national championship, when they booted Bomar. If something happens to Peterson they won't even have a winning season.
Suppose that Auburn (I didn't go there and have no loyalty or animosity towards them)) squeaked by GT in the same fashion ND did. Would writers be praising them or would they be saying that they're possibly overrated?
Let's face it: a top-five team should beat any unranked team by more than a touchdown or something's wrong. I have a feeling that if GT had been up by 28 at the half and ND ended up winning by one point, writers across America would propel ND to #1.
Maybe GT couldn't get the ball in Calvin Johnson's hands because he was too well covered. A coach at this level doesn't just stop throwing to his best receiver, there had to be something else at issue.