SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
9/08/2007 04:00:00 PM
Saturday Observations Part I
Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford has thrown eight touchdown passes in his first two weeks behind center.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Count me a Sooner believer. Specifically, a Sam Bradford believer.
While I figured Oklahoma would handle Miami, I assumed it would be a low-scoring affair, and I assumed the ‘Canes defense would fluster the Sooners’ redshirt freshman quarterback. Instead, Bradford looked like a savvy veteran in OU’s stunning 51-13 blowout, recognizing man coverage against stud receiver Malcolm Kelly and hitting him in stride on two first-quarter touchdowns, then pouring it on from there. Bradford finished 19-of-25 for 205 yards, five TDs and zero interceptions, looking a lot like vintage Jason White the way he stood in the pocket, patiently went through his progressions and found the open receiver almost every single time.
Bob Stoops is known primarily as a defensive coach, but you’ve got to give a lot of credit to his offensive staff (current coordinator Kevin Wilson has been there since 2002). No matter who they put back there -- from Josh Heupel to Nate Hybl to White to Paul Thompson and now Bradford -- the guy is always productive, and the offense is always molded to his strengths. I don’t know if Bradford (who went 21-of-23 for 363 yards last week against North Texas) is going to stay this hot forever, but in light of the Sooners’ overall dominance against Miami -- holding the offensively challenged ‘Canes to 139 total yards -- this is a team that has to be taken very seriously in the national-title picture.
* Meanwhile, another Big 12 quarterback with four years of experience on Bradford, Nebraska’s Sam Keller, was not nearly as impressive in his first big test Saturday at Wake Forest. The guy certainly has a cannon for an arm, but unfortunately that arm spent much of the day overthrowing open receivers and forcing things when under duress (two interceptions). His biggest mistake was an easily preventable fumble at his own 10, up just three with 7:33 left, that could have been devastating had Huskers CB Zack Bowman not saved things with an interception in the end zone on Wake’s next possession.
Even though Nebraska barely escaped 20-17, there’s reason for encouragement heading into next week’s showdown with No. 1 USC. A week after running the ball down Nevada’s throat, Bill Callahan’s offense showed it can be productive either way (Keller threw for 249 yards on 42 attempts and RB Marlon Lucky followed up last week’s big performance with 90 yards on 24 carries). While the defense struggled at times, it came up with two big stops at the end with the game on the line. Keller just needs to calm down and get in better synch with his receivers.
* It’s been a strange week already for the Big East. Unheralded Cincinnati stunned Oregon State 34-3, while supposed top-10 Louisville pulled an even bigger stunner by allowing 42 points and 500-plus yards to Middle Tennessee State. Then Marshall went out Saturday and gave No. 3 West Virginia a huge scare for three quarters, bottling up Steve Slaton for much of the contest. But the difference between West Virginia last year and West Virginia this year is if you somehow shut down its running game, Pat White (13-of-18, 149 yards, two TDs; 24 carries, 146 yards, another two TDs) and WR Darius Reynard (nine catches, 134 yards, two TDs) will burn you in the passing game.
Slaton eventually got hot (24 carries, 146 yards, two TDs), and the Mountaineers eventually ran away with it 48-23, but not before Marshall rolled up nearly 400 yards of offense. What we’re learning so far is that Louisville and West Virginia, as expected, are going to score a lot of points this season, but neither has the defense to win a national title. Don’t look now, but Rutgers -- which held Navy to 289 total yards Friday night -- may be the conference’s most viable BCS contender.
* You wouldn’t think beating Vanderbilt would be a feat of note for the Alabama football coach, but make no mistake, the Crimson Tide's 24-10 win on Saturday was an impressive accomplishment for Nick Saban’s first team. ‘Bama’s defense -- considered its bigger question mark coming in -- held preseason All-SEC quarterback Chris Nickson to 5-of-18 for 67 yards (though Nickson was suffering from a sore hamstring) and stud receiver Earl Bennett to four catches for 61 yards. That’s going to raise some eyebrows in SEC coaches' offices this week.
* Finally, it’s been another banner day for the Big Ten, with Ohio State mustering three first-half points against Akron (the Buckeyes eventually racked up 20), Northwestern staving off Nevada on a last-second touchdown and, just before I posted this, Oregon picking off a Chad Henne pass in the end zone on Michigan’s first possession and Miami of Ohio taking Minnesota into overtime.
Last week, Kirk Herbstreit made the once-unthinkable statement on air during the Cal-Tennessee game that the Big Ten may now be "sixth out of six" among the BCS conferences. I’d say the ACC still has a more convincing argument -- but so far the Big Ten is a lot closer to sixth than it is to fourth.
Yeah, Oklahoma looks scary good. I know Miami isn't the Miami of a few years ago, but still. The only real tests the Sooners have left are Texas and Texas A&M. If they win those two games...hmmm. Think Bob Stoops would lik to get a shot at either USC or LSU?
OK is vulnerable. They looked like they were gonna let Miami back in it there for a while. Well see how good Texas is tonight when they play TCU. Something tells me last week was a wakeup call that was heard loud and clear down in Austin. Mack Brown and his boys are the only real test OK will have all year. Recent history tells us that the winner of the Red River Rivalry is gonna lay claim to the a spot in the national title game. The winner should go undefeated barring unforseen injuries. But OK is looking far better than I expected.
Rutgers may have held Navy to 289 yards, but they spent most of the first half shooting themselves in the foot. It really was a tough game to watch with all the yellow laundry on the field. Michigan may have the worst defense in the country. Louisville isn't that far behind. The Bearcats are not a huge surprise. Just don't play QB for them if you expect to stay healthy. They are the masters of the screen; let the defense in and make them chase you going the other direction. The Big East may be the best conference. We'll find out this evening when Auburn loses at home. JimRay
Miami hasn't been very good for several years now. Oklahoma isn't that good. You know who is good, the top 5 out of 8 teams in the Big East. When you can take your 5th place team (Cincinatti) and they beat down one of the top 5 in the pac10, that's saying something. Remember the pac10 has a few more teams then the Big East as well. I would lay money on the Auburn vs. South Florida game tonight that USF beats them by 2 touchdowns. So in conclusion the Big East will have beat down the best MAC team, one of the better Pac10 teams and one of the better SEC teams. Last 3 years all the Big East has done is WIN, while all these other conferences have whined and moaned, especially the overrated SEC.
Even if OK does go undefeated, I think they should be placed on a two year probation from any BCS game (especially the national title game) after being the singular cause of three of the last four years worth of BCS controversies.
I think what squirrelnut is saying is that the Pac-10 is a far greater conference than the Big East so for Cin. to go and beat O-State IS saying something. The Big East needs a little more respect than they are getting. I guess they are going to have to clean house in every non-conference game this year to get it. Wait they have beat the SEC champs, and the ACC champs the past two years in BCS bowls.
I don't think OU looks scary good. They have just played two inferior teams. This win against Miami was nice, especially if you are old enough to remember the 80's. OU looks extremely capable of repeating as Big 12 champs and with some more experience and quality wins could win the title this year. What everyone should be thinking about is next year. OU will return virtually the entire offense and defense and should be the odds on favorite to go undefeated next year and thoroughly dominate everyone in 2008.
What a day. I thought Michigan would have the heart and the character to bounce back. Silly me. The Cincinati win was a good one, but one game cannot change the picture. Oregon St got off to a bad start last year, losing to Boise St and it struggled against other weaker teams. The PAC Ten will be good this year and I suspect establish itself as #2.
Let us look into the future guys. The Big 12 will dominate appearance in this years bowl games. Matter of fact the B12 could possible have the best win/loss record. I know this may be hard to swollow. Remember, know one is promised a rose garden. Yes, OU is still vulnerable with tender youth but as long as the offenseive line keeps the quarterback healthy there is enough depth on the roster to finish high in the voting.
What do Notre Dame and Michigan have in common? They each have as many loses as the entire Big East combined. The Big East teams have beaten teams from the ACC, PAC-10, SEC (ranked Auburn at home), the pre season MAC conference favorite, C-USA, and Navy. Over the last three years we have won 2 BCS bowls, went 5-0 last yearin bowls and beaten the ACC, and the SEC champs! We certainly recognize the PAC-10 and the SEC are the pre-emminent conferences but at least give us our due! The PAC-10 looks great this year and the SEC always does, but at least admit we are better than the Big-10 and the ACC! Or due we have to beat Akron and 1-AA Appy state to prove that? It goes SEC, PAC-10, Big East, Big 12, MAC, C-USA, Mountain West, etc, etc, etc,...Big 10