SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
9/21/2007 05:37:00 PM
Four Thoughts for Friday
Hurricanes QB Kyle Wright shredded the Aggies on Thursday.
Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, begins at sundown Friday, and in observance of the holiday, I will not be conducting my usual running blog entries Saturday (at least until after sundown). To tide you over until then, here are four questions to ponder heading into week four:
1) Is Miami back on the right track, or is Texas A&M that bad? If you missed Thursday night’s game, you missed an old-fashioned, Hurricane beatdown, the kind that used to be par for the course at the Orange Bowl before Miami began its decline to mediocrity during Larry Coker’s twilight years. It was only two weeks ago that the ‘Canes were on the wrong end of another blowout, at Oklahoma, and it looked then like not much had changed yet under Randy Shannon. But Thursday night, Miami’s defense came out energized and on fire, forcing three first-half turnovers and allowing just 40 yards of offense to race to a 24-0 halftime lead. The truly stunning part, however, was watching long-suffering QB Kyle Wright execute several brilliant play-action fakes and light up the Aggies’ defense for 275 yards on 21-of-26 passing.
It was definitely Miami’s most impressive performance in two years and a huge momentum boost for Shannon, but it also confirmed what I’ve long believed (and why I had yet to insert A&M into my top 25) -- that the Aggies, which needed triple overtime to fend off Fresno State, simply aren’t that good. How can that be? Dennis Franchione has now had five years to mold that program. And yet, based on last night’s performance, you’ve got to wonder how far the Aggies have really come since that 77-0 nightmare at Oklahoma his first season. (I guess we’ll find out Nov. 3 when they return to Norman.)
2) Is Alabama for real? Or, for that matter, is Georgia? CBS may be giving top billing Saturday to LSU-South Carolina, but the most intriguing game to be will be the one in Tuscaloosa. The Tide’s 41-38 victory over Arkansas last weekend was impressive and dramatic, but it also wasn’t entirely unexpected. Beating a second straight ranked foe this week would be a big eyebrow-raiser for Nick Saban’s team, particularly because it will probably require QB John Parker Wilson and RB Terry Grant shining against a much stiffer Georgia defense than any they’ve faced so far.
That being said, the Dawgs haven’t exactly capitalized on the momentum of last season’s strong finish as of yet, and the South Carolina game raised questions about whether QB Matthew Stafford may be underachieving (possibly by no fault of his own; his receivers leave a lot to be desired). Alabama’s defense is good but not great and provides him another showcase opportunity.
3) Is Boston College the most overlooked team in America right now? The Eagles are already 3-0 in the ACC. They’ve already beaten both of last year’s divisional champions (Georgia Tech and Wake Forest), with QB Matt Ryan -- “Mattie Heisman” as he’s becoming known in Chestnut Hill -- throwing for more than 400 yards against both. Yet as New York Times blogger Pete Thamel points out in this Q&A with the quarterback, his team, as always, is no better than the third-biggest sports story in its own city right now, behind the Patriots’ spy scandal and the Red Sox’s budding choke job. The Kevin Garnett/Celtics era is also right around the corner.
BC will likely fall even further under the national radar over the next month due to a bizarre schedule in which the Eagles now take a break from conference play for a string of snoozers against Army, UMass, Bowling Green and, yes, Notre Dame. By the time Ryan and the Eagles reemerge for their Oct. 25 showdown with Virginia Tech, they could potentially rise well into the Top 10 -- if the pollsters remember to include them on their ballot.
4) How many points will Hawaii score on Charleston Southern? If Colt Brennan’s ankle heals in time (and possibly even if it doesn’t), this has the potential to be one of the uglier scores in recent memory. The Warriors beat Northern Colorado 63-6 in their home opener (with Brennan playing only the first half). Charleston Southern, which currently checks in four spots below Northern Colorado at No. 208 in Jeff Sagarin’s Division I power ratings (Hawaii is 36th), gave up 52 in a recent loss to Wofford. Hide the women and children.
I'm not sure Georgia's D is as impressive as you're assuming Mandel (even as a Dawgs fan). I think we've played offenses that were just overrated and failed to capitalize (i.e. South Carolina). Having said that, it seems like the Dawgs always pull off big wins in opponent's stadiums when least expected (see Auburn last year). I have a feeling that we could see the focused Dawgs that could compete with anybody in the nation...well almost everybody.
Ags are that bad, and it seems to be getting worse. I almost want us to finish 6-6 (which is very likely) so we can finally get rid of fran, and his whole play book of 6 plays. Miami did not get really good in one week. Remember their struggle with Florida Intl. last week. Miami is medicore team, Ags really, really bad.
Well, this is for Charles...Not sure what the crack is about Hawaii, but if they do go undefeated they will likely end up getting a call from a BCS bowl - regardless of where the ESPN and SI sportscasters/writers think they will end up. I thought you were going to say that since Hawaii always plays to their competition they will win against their opponents who play in tougher conferences. I do think they are stronger than last year, I do think that having their toughest games at home is a huge plus in their favor, but not sure if they will go undefeated and crack into a BCS bowl.
Don't blame the boys from Hawaii for the cupcake schedule. The A.D. dropped the ball early, and then when it was crunch time NOBODY accepted the challenge to play them. So, laugh now, and if they do get a BCS bowl because of their record, they just may eat some prime rib, and the doubters some humble pie.
Hawaii is really good they should win the BIG game this week. Every year we have to watch Hawaii run up the scores on folks until they finally play a football team. It is hard to have a joke schedule and pretend to have a good football team. I do think they are good but need to stay over on the island and play football.
I'm an A&M grad, so it pains me to say we are this bad. A&M's heyday coincided with UT, OU and LSU being down. Now that all three of those programs are strong as ever, we can't win the recruiting battles. There are a lot of reasons for this, not the least of which is that A&M hasn't won 10 games in years, and those schools win 10 games every year. It also doesn't help us that Austin is one of the nicest cities in America (unless, like me, you think it has too many Longhorns!). Until the Ags get a coach who can recruit against Stoops, Brown and Miles, there is no way to expect us to win in the fall. Our only hope is to find the next Urban Meyer and hope to heck that he wants to raise his family in a nice college town like College Station. Other than that, it was fun while it lasted.
Re Hawaii - I keep hearing how hard it is for Hawaii to fly to the mainland to play, but it is easy for teams to fly to them. What nonsense. Anyone who thinks BCS schools won't play mid-majors should review the Utah schedule. Utah took some lumps in their non-conf scheduling, but they also distinguished themselves with UCLA. In a real sense the Utah scheduling people were champions before their games were played. Hawaii plays Boise St and Washington, two teams that have a total of one quality win between them if you go back three years and only count victories over teams that were ranked when they played as quality wins. That's hardly a resume for Hawaii to use when it claims elite status and wants a BCS bowl bid.
Guys, As an SEC fan, I agree that Hawaii has a week schedule and that it is not really fair to grant them a BCS bowl based on dominating weak opponents; However, I am also against the current system which unfairly screens out smaller programs by use of pre-season polls and bias AP voters. The current BCS system is just a tweaked version of an old system that allows the major sports media (i.e. ESPN) to control who they want to see in bowl games each year.
Take a look at this website, www.vlogdogs.com . These guys provide "sports chat" videos which really break down the flaws in the current sytem.
Keep in mind that Hawaii was willing to go to Michigan to play in the first game of the season and Michigan ducked out to play Appalachain State instead. That's how they ended up against Northern Colorado. They were also supposed to play a mid-major team this week (Colorado State, maybe?) and ended up against Charleston Southern. Final score this week, 134-9.
...and let the filtering out of the SEC begin. Three Top 25 matchups today. I agree, Hawaii doesn't belong in the BCS, no matter what margin of victories become. The BCS is flawed because it is based on underlying flawed polls. The biggest case-in-point occurred when Oklahoma was blown out by Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game a few years ago, but didn't fall far enough in any poll to drop out of the BCS championship game. Their wonderful offense was then shut down by LSU, while a much more deserving USC took out their frustration in another bowl (I think it was Michigan in the Rose.) Follow that up with a USC blowout over Oklahoma (while an undefeated Auburn team is left out), then last year's pasting of Ohio State by Florida, and we can see that human bias continues to match up the wrong teams.
How pathetic to make it seem like it is EVERYONE ELSE BUT Hawaii's fault that they play NOTHING but super soft easy win games which don't prove a thing, CMON!
Whether they've had some difficulty or not, it's THEIR burden to shed. Like the poster above said, the AD dropped the ball early, and there are plenty of ways that a team like that can get on the big forum, however...
It seems like Hawaii wants to do it on their terms, and that's just now how it works! if you want the big respect than YOU have to make some sacrifices, PERIOD. It often starts with a grueling and bumpy road, but that's how you establish yourself as a serious team. The rest of the nation doesn't owe anything to Hawaii, and NOBODY in the nation gains any respect by blowing out horribly untalented teams by 50+points.
The burden is on YOUR shoulder, Hawaii, you want respect then GO AND EARN IT, it's not coming to you, nor should it. Just follow Louisville's example, they are now a bigtime national team because they were willing to bite the bullet and play big teams on the road in games they often got blown out in at the beginning. That's how they got respect, they didn't sit back and cry that no one would play them, THEY WENT OUT and found the big teams that would. USF is doing the same thing now, rather than sitting home and complaining that no one will play you. I'm sure there are plenty of true teams that would be willing to beat you down and give you a reality check in their stadium, but they aren't going to commit to flying to Hawaiin in return, nor should they!
Give me a break! In the meantime, you don't deserve to be in any BCS bowl, LOL!!!!, I don't think you should be considered as a Top 25 team until you beat someone even mediocre, which you haven't. Get real!
In regards to A&M, I do think they were terribly overrated (Fresno had already proven that, hadn't they?) but don't take too much away from Miami. They really did improve THAT much in one week, or probably better put, just played that much better.
Miami dominated on defense, tore through their O-Line, and was flying all over the field making plays like the Canes of old. On the flip side of the ball, Kyle had his most solid performance ever, Nix's play calls were much better, and they executed all night long.
I'm not saying Miami is back as a powerhouse, no no, that will be in 09 or may even 08, but Miami simply played a GREAT ballgame Thursday, regardless of how overrated A&M was. I guarantee that at least half of the Top 25 teams would have had a real tough time beating that Miami team that took the field Thursday night.
I don't think there is much question that A&M is an underachiever. But I think to discredit Miami is also mistaken. They struggled their first two games with Kirby Freeman at QB, and admittedly Freeman is awful. However, Kyle Wright looks like he really has turned a corner and if that is the case, Miami is actually good. Not elite, but good. That should be good enough to potentially win the ACC. In the FIU game, and in the A&M they shot themselves in the foot with untimely turnovers that took points off the board. At OU it was 21-13 in the 3rd WITH Freeman and before OU's O-line finally wore the D down. OU's O-line will wear everyone down, look at how they dominate the second half and especially 4th quarter against everyone. Miami will be ok. Can't say the same for Texas A&M.
Jackson, I checked out vlogdogs.com ,,, thanks,,and it was pretty funny. That one guy really seemed to hate on Notre Dame and Michigan. I like the way they are challenging ESPN and the bowl sytem though...
Jayddrew makes a good point on the NCAA's inability to match up the two best teams for the title game. But until there's a playoff, how else do the "right" teams get selected? The term "human bias" is kind of redundant since you can't have one without the other. To get an objective basis for selecting teams for the title game, there first must be a big shift to more interconference games between the BCS conferences. As long as the SEC (and others) schedule only one opponent from the other BCS conferences, there's no process that could get it right, as conference comparisons would be apples to oranges.
Why is the burden solely on Hawaii to go play teams in their stadium? Why shouldn't they go to Hawaii as well? They did try to schedule Michigan and a lot of other teams, but no one is willing to go there. As far as them having to take their lumps to become respected, you mean VT playing William and Mary, or Florida playing W. Kentucky, earns those teams respect? At least Hawaii is trying, unlike the "power " schools afraid to go away from their home.
its not that they aggies have bad players, guys like goodson an bennett are excellent, but the thing holding back a&m is the coaching. As good as fran has been in the past, he has not showed anything here at a&m. His recruiting has not brought in many big time players, and when he does, he doesnt use them to their strengths. His play calling has also been terrible, an he has created a very one dimmension offense. He constantly says that A&M can pass the ball, but every time Mcgee drops back, he is either pressured to much or over throws receivers, and most of the time, the routes called dont get any receivers open, unless its a 2-3 yard route.
Then the defense cant stop anybody, especially in a strong offensive conference like the big 12. Gary darnells 4-2-5 defense never gets any pressure on the QB an as a result, he has all day to pick the secondary apart.
After all that, its not so much the players, because they have talent, but its the coachin that is keeping this a&m team from being any good.
That's a link to a Honolulu Advertiser (one of the two big papers out here) story talking about the difficulty the Warriors have scheduling. You would think that teams would line up to play out here if for nothing else, it's a trip to Hawai'i.
Yes the schedule is weak. But give the Warriors a break, they tried to make it more competitive.
Re Charles Comment: It actually is easier to fly east to west then it is to fly west to east. Because of the time zone changes an early game that Hawaii plays in Louisiana seems like early in the morning.
Irrelevant point, James, regarding VT and UF's mentioned games. Every team plays a few cup cakes each year, the difference is that VT already went to the Bayou to play LSU and will also be playing Miami, Florida State and BC this year... can Hawaii claim A SINGLE game on their schedule that even holds a candle to any of those? UF will play FSU, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida State this season... again, does Hawaii have ONE game half as hard as any of those? Exactly. So why should they go to a BCS bowl by blowing terrible teams out by 50pts? I'd rather take a team with 1 loss who's played 4 or 5 ranked teams than an undefeated team who's beaten nobody. It's very clear who deserves it more.
And why is the burden solely on Hawaii? Because THEY are the ones in need! All the big teams already play several big games each year, they're fine, they're not looking for any help on their schedule... Hawaii is! Just like Lousville had to do, Fresno used to do, Utah, Boise, you've got to GO AND MAKE THE BIG GAMES HAPPEN and win some to earn some respect. The burden is not on the rest of the nation to go cater to Hawaii, it is Hawaii who is looking to take their game to another level. It's that simple.
Hawaii needs to bite the bullet and go on the road and face some big teams, and come away with a few W's if they want the respect of the nation... putting up 70 points on a team of nobodies is never going to do anything towards getting Hawaii credence.
Does that mean it'll be a difficult task at first, and be rather one-sided in Hawaii having to bite the bullet and go on the road? Yes. But that's not unfair because it is HAWAII who stands to gain from that. If they can then win some big games and prove themselves worthy, THEN they'll have bargaining power and the right to say "ok, it's time to lock up yearly home-and-aways", but until then, the burden is on them. Period.
Again, look at how some of those other "smaller schools" accomplished the task of getting themselves in the national spotlight, it wasn't the big schools who lobbied and fought for that and did what needed to be done to make it happen, it was the other way around. And no, a late bid to get Michigan isn't a prove-all that they've "tried to make it more competitive"... they continue to want to do it on their terms, which just isn't going to be the way the first bricks are laid, and rightfully so. They HAVEN'T tried hard enough or long enough, or they'd have a few big teams on their future slates (even if they were road games), and they don't. And until then, they don't deserve to be talked about in the BCS picture, no matter how many yards Brennan throws for against teams with no defense that half the nation could beat by 20+.