SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
10/28/2006 03:50:00 PM
Saturday Observations Part I
Oklahoma's Paul Thompson has exceeded all expectations with his play behind center this season.
He might not have Troy Smith-type numbers, and his team is out of the national-championship race, but one of the unsung heroes of the 2006 season has to be Oklahoma quarterback Paul Thompson. Remember all the panic in August when the fifth-year senior had to switch back from receiver and take over the Sooners’ offense? The guy has turned out to be rock solid, and his poise and performance Saturday (12-of-20, 131 yards, two TDs, no INTs and a rushing TD) was the biggest reason OU was able to go into Columbia and pull out a big victory over Missouri.
Don’t get me wrong, RB Allen Patrick (33 carries, 161 yards), the defense (four turnovers) and special teams (blocked punt) all came up huge as well, but with Adrian Peterson on the sideline, Thompson has become the heart-and-soul of the Sooners, who are suddenly looking at the possibility of returning to a New Year’s bowl game.
∙ Ladies and gentlemen, the Indiana Hoosiers are one win away from reaching a bowl game – and could get No. 6 as soon as next week at Minnesota. It’s been 13 long years since the Hoosiers’ last bowl trip, spanning the end of the Bill Mallory era, the arrivals and subsequent dismissals of Cam Cameron and Gerry DiNardo, Antwaan Randle El, Matt LoVechhio, etc. At last, Indiana has a coach, Terry Hoeppner, worthy of its quarterback, Kellen Lewis, who threw for five touchdowns in Saturday’s 46-point explosion against Michigan State.
∙ If only Michigan State’s Drew Stanton were so lucky.
∙ I know it’s tough to win on the road in the SEC, blah, blah, blah, but following Auburn’s less-than-impressive 23-17 win over 2-7 Ole Miss, it’s time to concede that the Tigers’ 2006 offense – the same one that scored one offensive touchdown against Arkansas, none against Florida – isn’t very good this year. As much as I love Kenny Irons, he hasn’t been nearly as productive, whether due to defenses keying on him or the fact that Auburn’s O-line isn’t nearly as dominant as it was the past couple years.
∙ It’s a good thing for Michigan that it was facing Northwestern today, because the Wolverines easily could have lost to a more formidable opponent the way its offense played Saturday. In a sluggish performance in the rain, they practically begged the Wildcats to make a game of it, but that wasn’t going to happen with a quarterback (C.J. Backer) making his second career start against that ridiculous Michigan defense.
∙ With banged-up running back P.J. Hill limited to 12 carries Saturday, John Stocco’s second-half passing show helped Wisconsin stave off a potential upset at the hands of Illinois. The Illini are quietly becoming more competitive, but the Zooker is still looking for that first signature win.
∙ Finally, I really wish I hadn’t run that “revising the worst coaches list” column a few weeks back, because a couple of the guys whom I gave a reprieve have promptly lived up to their reputation. Congratulations to N.C. State’s Chuck Amato for following up on the momentum of those big wins over Boston College and Florida State with a three-game losing streak, highlighted by Saturday’s embarrassing loss to god-awful Virginia. Meanwhile, I had to scrape my jaw off the floor after watching a decision made by Missouri’s Gary Pinkel. Facing a fourth and goal at the Oklahoma 1 down 23-10, Pinkel lined up QB Chase Daniel in the shotgun like it was any other play and had him throw a jump ball into the end zone. Yeah -- that made sense.
What really has to irk you is Lloyd's conservativeness. He took a healthy Hart out of the game with the whole 4th quarter to play, while only up by 2 touchdowns! He really was begging for Northwestern to make a game of it.
I'm not one to be a PSU Homer, and I don't think they deserve to be in the Top 25, but thanks for mentioning the PSU shut-out of Purdue in your observations. The first time since '96 Tiller has been shut-out and no love at all. Excellent "observation".
And when Wisky struggles to beat Illinois, then Illinois is an up and coming team. When PSU struggles to beat them, PSU is a team in shambles.
Watching Michigan play is really odd. They seem like a very methodical team and just let that defense do all of the work for the most part. The offense has that big strike mentality but they don't seem to come with the same intensity week in and week out. It almost seems like they knew once they got past Notre Dame that they could beat anyone if they came to play and just don't seem concerned. Just have to hope they can turn the switch for OSU.
Amen to the comment about LLoyd Carr's play-calling! I KNOW this offense is capable of so much more, not to mention that sometimes for the Pollster's benefit you need to thrash the bottom feeders. Henne only passed like 10-11 times! A win is a win, but I wish this team would just wrap up games early once for the health of all it's fans!!
Mandel on Illinois/Wisconsin: Illinois is an up and coming team. Mandel on Illinois/Penn State: Penn State fans need to be committed.
It's true that no sane person would think Penn State currently belongs in the Top 25. However, any intelligent person would also realize that Penn State will probably be there when it's all said and done.
It isn't a stretch to say that Penn State is within reach of their 10th nine-win season since joining the Big Ten. Ohio State, by comparison, will also this year have their 10th nine-win season over that same time period. However - and this is important - no matter what the team did last year or this year, the media seems convinced that they're still the team that struggled a few years ago. An 11-win season, followed by a 9-win season, a young team, with two undeniably outstanding recruiting classes in the last two years, losses this year to three Top 5 teams, and a defense that shut out Purdue and gave Ohio State and Michigan their toughest games (something that is *never* talked about) ... and Mandel's reaction is, "meh."
On October 28, they are not a Top 25 team. But why do you wonder that Penn State fans have a chip on their shoulder?
And the race is on for the title. Not the BCS title, but the title as to whose fans whine the most. Penn St. vs Notre Dame. Even though neither team has done anything to prove their worth this year (and they've both had opportunitites) their fans just sit there and whine when we don't annoint them the center of the universe. Enough already!
Despite today's game (which I think my fellow Mizzou fans will agree was scarier than anything in Saw III), I still think removing Pinkel from the list of worst coaches was the correct. Missouri, after all, is still 7-2 and still in control of their own fate in the Big 12 North. The Tigers are going to their third bowl game in his six years, which is one more than in the 18 years before he arrived in Columbia. He also has a knack for recruiting unheralded QB's. However, for whatever reason, he's proven to be utterly inept in 4th-and-goal situations. Both the Godawful fake FG against A&M and today's call prove that Pinkel needs to replace whoever is in charge of those situations, even if it's himself.
Come on. Loosen up, and cut Ole Miss some slack. Yes, it's true: they are 2 and 7. And, yes - "almost" and a dollar bill won't buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks. But, they are not a BAD 2 and 7 team [LOL! humor in everything, Stewart - even adversity].
Georgia, Alabama, and Auburn were just plain-damn-lucky to win.
One-sided losses to Missouri and Wake Forest, in retrospect, don't seem quite as reprehensible now, as then.
I know your position on the firing of David Cutcliff. I agreee, he is one of the premiere assistant coaches in college football. However, he was not - and, never will be - a good head coach, no matter the program. To wit: 1.he cannot recruit his way out of a paper sack. 2. temerity [read: nice guy] won't cut it [pun not intended, I swear] in a head coach in college football, these days. NOTE: we are the poorer, for it.
Despite what some in the comments section believe, Penn State fans don't think their team is at the center of the football universe. But, at the same time, they're not orbiting near Pluto either. Earth to Mandel and others - three losses or not, it's not 2004 anymore.
Michigan was very conservative today, and you can be absolutely sure it was because they knew they didn't need to do anything special to win given their absurd defense (who injured their 4th QB in the last 3 weeks today and had another performance holding the other team to negative rushing yardage). But why should they do anything special when they don't have to? I think they're just holding back the good stuff for OSU, and they don't need to impress the pollsters anymore -- beat OSU (and the others on their schedule) and they're in the title game, no doubt about it, especially since it's looking very bad for USC right now. The main thing is to stay healthy and be at full strength for OSU.
I do think you'll see them closer to normal at Indiana, who has proven to be a pretty solid team, and is the week before the OSU game so it's a perfect time to ramp them back up again instead of just running the ball all day (and I think the weather did play a part in the play calling today). My guess is that Manningham will be back on the field for that IU game as well.
They've shown the ability to air it out when they need to, I don't think anyone should read much into this one.
Can somebody...anybody...figure out a way to get up-Chuck Amato out of Raleigh? Please? He has only managed to have a .500 team with Rivers, arguably the best quarterback to ever come out of the ACC, and then two years with one of the best defenses in the country. His teams are routinely out-coached and undisciplined. Finally, his decision to hire and retain Trestman, his offensive coordinator, only solidifies his ineptitude as a coach. Please, somebody figure out a way to get him out of Raleigh.
"It’s a good thing for Michigan that it was facing Northwestern today, because the Wolverines easily could have lost to a more formidable opponent the way its offense played Saturday. In a sluggish performance in the rain, they practically begged the Wildcats to make a game of it, but that wasn’t going to happen with a quarterback (C.J. Backer) making his second career start against that ridiculous Michigan defense."
The above is a statement from someone who has not even watched a Michigan game this year. Our team is not built around the offense, it's foundation is the defense. If you are going to be a critic, do a little research. Our offense is currently a one pronged attack due to the injury to Mario (our deep threat). Offense has not won the games we played this season, it has been our defense. A key part of our offense sat out almost an entire half due to the coach playing "careful". Obviously I'm biased, but if you want to be a critic, then recognize the defense for it's win and then call out the poor offensive play along with poor play calling. Defense is going to get us where we want to go.
I kinda have to agree with CaliforniaRebel on this one Stwewert. I know it does get mentioned week in and week out, blah blah blah whatever, but the SEC really truly may be the best confrence top to bottom in the league. Auburn alone has had victories over conference foes of 4, 7, 3 plus a last second touchdown on a turnover, and now 6 points! And two of those teams, South Carolina and Ole Miss, are not even ranked. And just tonight South Carolina went down to the wire with Tenn. Stewert in this conference you can not ever ever let your B game out.
Although I do agree, as an avid Auburn fan our O really sucks right now and our D isn't looking much better.
I seem to remember saying the same thing about the end of the season when John Cooper was at Ohio State. "Oh, don't worry, the offense can turn it back on when they get to Michigan. The Defense will keep us in it." You don't know how happy I feel when I see Michigan fans making the same case about the ho-hum performances. Oh how I can't wait for the thrashing on Nov 18th. Go Bucks!!!
I've been attending games at the Big House for two decades, and the weather conditions for this past Saturday ranked in the bottom ten. It wasn't the rain/sleet/snow mix, but a gusty, swirling wind that made passing outside the hash marks nearly impossible. It was an adventure any time the ball was in the air. Yeah, it was boring and methodical, but Michigan's style for this game was largely dictated by Mother Nature.
No, Stewey, Auburn's Offense isn't that good but it's not because Kenny Irons Isn't good. And Kenny (who did rush for 106 yards Saturday) isn't as good as last year bc of injuries. He is playing on 2 injured ankles and turf toe. With the turf toe, he has a steel plate in his shoe just so he can be on the field. Given that, I would love to give some props to our Defense. Even though our corners were burned 3x on Saturday and our line has given up major yardage to the run in the past (a la arkansas and buffalo), the 'Man-up' when needed. In 1992, there was another team from our state who had a mediocre offense but won the NC - mind you, Defense wins championships.