SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
9/29/2007 02:37:00 AM
Saturday Observations I (Friday's game)
Speedy West Virginia barely had any room to run all night.
Marc Serota/Getty Images
Saturday's action hasn't even begun and already the college football world has been turned ... over.
West Virginia and Louisville, the Big East’s two most recognizable torch bearers of the past three years, have been all but eliminated from the national title picture. The many Big East skeptics out there will now likely tune out the league the rest of the season. Anyone who took in South Florida’s 21-13 upset of the fifth-ranked Mountaineers on Friday night, however, saw an overwhelming USF defense that makes the Bulls impossible to ignore.
Pat White and Steve Slaton have torched nearly every defense they’ve faced the past three seasons, yet for the second straight year, Jim Leavitt’s Bulls rendered them ordinary (and in White’s case, injured, as he missed the entire second half). Since the beginning of last season, the Mountaineers have averaged 39.3 points per game. Their past two meetings against South Florida have rendered 31 points total. This is no coincidence.
The spread offense can be a great neutralizer in college football, but it’s contingent on one central factor: Speed. Not just pure foot speed, mind you -- speed between plays (no huddles), speedy decisions by the quarterback on nearly every snap (the zone-read) and speed in the execution (swift handoffs and option pitches). The one proven way to counter it: Being even speedier on defense.
Anyone who tuned in to Friday night’s contest saw South Florida’s defense exhibit the same kind of terrorizing defensive speed their more established Sunshine State counterparts (Florida, Florida State and Miami) have been doing for two decades. Play after play, defensive ends George Selvie (who raised his staggering season totals to 9.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss) and Jarriett Buie collapsed the quarterback’s pocket within nanoseconds of the snap. Linebackers Ben Moffit and Tyrone McKenzie raced to Slaton before he could gain a head of steam. Safeties Nate Allen and Carlton Williams appeared out of nowhere to close open-field spaces. And lockdown corners Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins helped hold top Mountaineers receiver Darius Reynaud to 47 yards on five catches despite the fact QB Jarrett Brown spent the entire second half looking to pass. (Brown did complete several long third-down passes during the Mountaineers’ brief fourth-quarter comeback effort, but also spent a lot of plays tucking and running because no one was open.)
Speed helped the Bulls cause six turnovers -- two of them interceptions by star LB Ben Moffit that required lightning-quick reflexes (one at the line of scrimmage, the other off a deflection), others the kind of reckless fumbles (including two by Steve Slaton) that come when a team is playing rattled. Even when they weren’t being chased, it was as if the Mountaineers could hear the footsteps. Perhaps the Bulls were still in their head from last year’s loss in Morgantown. Or perhaps USF’s defenders are just that good. This is, after all, the same team that teed off on Louisville star Brian Brohm throughout a 45-14 beatdown in Tampa two years ago and the same team that walked into hostile Jordan-Hare Stadium three weeks ago and pulled out an overtime win over then-No. 17 Auburn. Selvie, Moffitt, Allen and Jenkins will all merit All-America consideration as the season progresses.
The Bulls are a team that can no longer be taken lightly, no matter what conference they play in, no matter how unfamiliar their acronym. Their offense may not be the prettiest thing to watch (the Bulls managed just 274 total yards and had four turnovers of their own) -- and those who didn’t watch at all will likely discount USF’s upset on account of West Virginia being “overrated” (as it turned out Auburn was) -- but anyone who’s paid any attention to college football over the past 20 years would agree that a fast, athletic defense can take a team a long way.
It was just such a thing, in fact, that allowed Florida to win a national championship last season in spite of its own dysfunctional offense. Can South Florida pull off the same feat? Only if enough people start taking the Bulls seriously enough to be considered.
Saw the game live at RayJay Stadium last night and it was thrilling. WVU was stopped dead in their tracks for a second straight year by USF and it was truly inspiring play. Bulls in the Top 10? Dunno. Definitely Top 15...and climbing. Rutgers and Louisville have got to be feeling the heat.
Maybe Auburn wasn't overrated after all, Stewart, if USF is THAT good, as you bear witness they are. I, personally, think that's the case: WVU plays an extremely weak schedule and IS overrated (like Louisville), while USF is the new "Miami" of the Big East (I would say the new "Miami" period, meaning a truly strong team in a truly weak conference, but that would be USCal).
Oh, Mandel. Of course USF is the greatest thing to happen to college football since Rutgers won a few games last season. If they weren't then you'd have to admit that you've been so busy drooling over WVU and Louisville for the last two seasons that you forgot they spend over half of their schedule beating up on the likes of UConn, Temple and the rest of the perennenial pretenders that compose the Big Easy. This is what happens when teams are overranked and overhyped because of poor preseason projections by so-called "experts." See: Michigan v. App. State.
To the haters, USF is for real. Try and discount everything they accomplished but anyone who has followed this team for year will know where they were and where they're at, and I dont mean as far as the program. Their D a few years ago was horrible. Trae and Mike got harassed their freshman year their last year in Conference USA, especially that UAB game. With OU losing, Michigan State hanging in with Wisconsin, Texas down by Kansas State and the winner of Cal-Oregon Game, USF will be ranked as high as 9, and rightfully so. Numbers dont lie and this team has put up incredible numbers against big time teams when it comes to this defense. On offense we got a little to work on but nothing we cant fix before the Rutgers game.
good win by south florida. But WVU is wildly overrated. Saw them in person against Marshall and was not impressed at all. White doesnt have a deep ball that scares teams and a decent defense can shut down the many, many screen plays that offense runs. they also arent very physical and it showed when S. Florida controlled the line of scrimmage.
WVU might be overrated, but is this team really any different than the team that beat SEC champ Georgia a couple years ago? They seem to me to be at the same level. Let's not use any "they couldn't do it week in and week out" arguments because those arguments don't have any validity. Louisville overrated? Yep. Definitely. They look like the 4th place Big East team, maybe 5th behind Cincinnati even. But they barely lost to Kentucky, who appears to be the 3rd or 4th best team in the SEC. Seems equitable in my opinion after Florida/LSU.
Kentucky is not the 3rd best team in the SEC. Expect them to lose the next three against USC, LSU, and Florida. Georgia should also beat them when they meet. It will be a good season for Kentucky but they are at best the 5th/6th team in the SEC. Big win for USF but lets try not to give the ball away 4 times in a game before we consider them national title contenders.
The Big East's only signature win was WVU beating UGA 2 years ago. Does no one remember that when Georgia finally woke up in the 2nd half, they outscored West Virginia 32 to 3 and were very unlucky to lose? Rutgers today proved that they were the most overrated team in the country. I was in the stadium last night as a very average USF team beat a very average WVU team. Next you're gonna tell me Cincinatti is the real deal. Please get off the Big East bandwagon!!!
I thought USF played a great game and everything went their way (a charged atmosphere with the whole city rallying behind them). Even with that, and the despite WVU's horrendous play, the Mountaineers almost came back. But it would be dumb to say we didnt lose to the better team playing that evening. Congrats to the Bulls. But Bull fans, keep your wits about you. Don't become overly exuberant. As you can see, any team can lose on any given day. Your offense is weak.
The positve thing about this weekend...it appears quite a few unbeatable teams are now sharing from the same bowl of misery. I guess we must all be overrated. Some people really should think before they type.
wvu over rated? lets look at the 2 teams rated higher who lost to unranked teams this week. USC got lucky. Alot of upsets and I am convinced more to come next week. Always bad mouth WVU but at the end of each year, they are in a bowl and come out the winner. Give USF the credit they deserve. Their defense stopped one of he best offenses in college football. alot of football left in this year. In the end we will see where WVU ends up. If I were a betting man, I would bet WVU does not loose another game this year and wins the Big East and their BCS bowl game.
USF clearly wanted the game more than WVU...but to say they stopped their offense...i believe WVU had around 450 yards offensively...USF about 250 yards...WVU just did not execute..which the hard hitting USF defense was sure a big factor...the 6 turnovers killed WVU...I still believe they are a top 5 team...not a national title contender by any means...USF does not have the offense needed to contend either...
a.p. boynton, apparently Roger is assuming USF will (likely) falter along the way. I am a WVU fan and a realist. Obviously, USF has a very good fast and aggressive defense. But just as they deserve to rise way up the rankings while WVU deserves to tumble some, lets not anoint USF the 70's Steelers just yet. I think WVU will be fine with their improving defense and the offense is still overpowering.
We hear the same old (put WVU against a good team in a bowl and they get crushed. I suppose he means like they did against Top 10 Georgia in the 2006 Sugar. How did that work out for the Dogs?) slogans from people like Mathew. He must have been referring to the powerful K-State and Colorado taking down a couple "unbeatables" from the Big 12.
Nobody is unbeatable. The days of Nebraska, OU, and others dominating are gone. People need to remember, teams like USF, Kentucky, UCF, K-State, Cincinnati, etc. also give free room & board, books, and tuition to athletes who are pretty good.
Also, apparently Auburn wasnt as overrated as originally thought. Or maybe Florida just wasn't as good as everyone thought. So which is it? Yea, I don't know either. Play the games!!!!!
charbel, you are hilarious with the "did you see what happened in the 2nd half" comment about the Sugar Bowl. Last time I checked, a football game is 4 Qtrs. and if you get your a _ _ kicked like UGA did in the first half, you usually lose. And as happens many times, when a team gets way up they go conservative and good teams will make things close. I suppose we should just chuck Auburns win out from last night over Florida since they were up 17-3 in the 4th and "barely" hung on to win a field goal as time ran out?
It was a thing of beauty to see mighty Urban Meyer have to try and rely on gimmicks to pull out a win by using the now famous time out trick during field goals.
Those Gator fans of another "unbeatable" SEC team must have loved seeing that freshman kicker running around midfield giving them back the beloved Gator chomp. Personally, I loved it!!!
I'm astounded at the continuing WVU bashing, and of the Big East in general. Out of all the top 10 that lost wasn't WVU the only one who played a ranked opponent? Why should they farther then 6th?
Overrated is being used alot this year, but let's face it, so far there is only 1 team right now that looks great and that is LSU. Everyone else looks beatable. I see alot of mediocrity out there and that includes the SEC. Florida will be great, but not this year.
Back to the USF/WVU game. Let's give some credit to WVU's defense who played gamely after all those turnovers. I also don't hear anyone say that Rich Rodriguez didn't prepare his team well, and did not have a good game plan or that his team came out with no intensity. He flat out got out coached. Same happened last year against Louisville. Also, they not only can blind you with speed, but they wear down defenses too. How in the world can you not give Slaton the ball over and over again. 11 carries - please! Rich Rodriguez deserves as much heat in this game as anyone else.
Are you kidding me? Florida and Oklahoma lose to poor unranked teams and they still hold their positions as the top one loss teams. While Oregon and West Virginia are beaten by a higher ranked team and a ranked team respectively. You guys are nuts. If anyone should be getting some credit it should be South Carolina. The Ol' Ball Coach at least was beaten by LSU. After that, Oregon is the only one beaten by a good, dominant team. I love the nostalgia of the great traditional teams, I'm talking the 70's and 80's, but you guys hold on hard to the "good teams" of last season or 2 weeks ago. Start paying attention to what teams do and who they play. Currently the only relevance people involved with polls have is determining which teams will financially benefit the most at the end of the season.