SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
9/22/2007 07:25:00 PM
Saturday Observations Part I
Mike Williams and the Syracuse offense left the Louisville defenders behind all day.
When Bobby Petrino abruptly departed Louisville for the Atlanta Falcons after last January’s Orange Bowl, AD Tom Jurich took less than a day to bring in his replacement, Tulsa coach Steve Kragthorpe, a new-age offensive thinker very much in the same mold as Petrino with whom Jurich had first crossed paths with nearly two decades earlier at Northern Arizona. When Kragthorpe, a former NFL quarterbacks coach, promptly convinced Heisman candidate Brian Brohm to return for his senior season, it appeared the Cardinals’ fast-rising program had averted a potential crisis.
The Kragthorpe era is officially off to a nightmare start following Saturday’s stunning 38-35 loss to previously hapless Syracuse. Offensive wizardry – even with a senior quarterback the caliber of Brohm – is only half the battle. Simply put, the Cardinals’ defense is atrocious, which is puzzling considering holdover coordinator Mike Cassity was largely successful under Petrino. The Orange came in with the nation’s 97th-ranked pass offense, but QB Andrew Robinson might has well have been Matt Leinart the way he torched Louisville’s secondary, continually burning them deep en route to a 428-yard, four-touchdown day.
The win couldn’t be any bigger for embattled Syracuse coach Greg Robinson, whose three-year record to date was 5-21 and whose team had not accomplished anything remotely close to Saturday’s victory. Robinson is clearly a star in the making. As for Louisville, the one-time national title aspirant will have its hands full just trying to finish higher than fifth in the offensively loaded Big East. Sadly, Brohm, who turned down a lot of money for one last shot at hometown glory, likely saw his Heisman hopes go up in smoke Saturday (two interceptions) despite throwing for a ridiculous 555 yards.
Speaking of horrendous defenses, top-ranked USC’s “statement” against Nebraska last week suddenly seems far less spectacular considering what Ball State did to the Huskers on Saturday. The Cardinals – whom, you may recall, gave Michigan fits last year – rolled up 606 yards of offense (including 424 passing yards by QB Nate Davis) and came within a long last-second field goal (and dropped last-second touchdown pass) of knocking off the Huskers in Lincoln. Nebraska has allowed 89 points the past two weeks. Best of luck against Missouri’s Chase Daniel in two weeks.
How badly must Penn State fans miss Michael Robinson right about now? Not to mention Tony Hunt? Saturday in Ann Arbor, the Nittany Lions’ offense was ... hmm, what’s the best word here ... impotent? Zero touchdowns and 271 total yards against the same defense Appalachian State and Oregon attacked at will. Michigan’s 14-9 win puts the once-forlorn Wolverines squarely back in the right direction, but with all due respect to Mike Hart (who was his usual splendid self) and Ryan Mallet (who didn’t do much, but more importantly, didn’t do anything particularly badly), this game was as much about what Penn State couldn’t do as it was what Michigan did.
Now I know what you’re thinking -- those teams ran spread offenses (the Wolverines’ long-standing Achilles heel), but JoePa was probably too stubborn to do the same, right? Well ... not at first. As you may recall, offensive coordinator Galen Hall ran the shotgun-spread often during Penn State’s 11-1 season two years ago when the athletic Robinson was his QB. At the start of the game, the more statue-like Anthony Morelli did the same thing, lining up in the shotgun in a four-receiver set. Two Wolverines pass rushers blew through, sacked him and he fumbled, setting up Michigan’s first touchdown. That was the end of that.
Penn State is in the unfortunate predicament that they have all kinds of athletic receivers perfect for the spread but no QB capable of running it. Meanwhile, RB Austin Scott (nine carries, 35 yards) may be an even bigger hindrance. The Nittany Lions’ best drive of the day ended on a Scott fumble, his third in two weeks. Penn State’s defense should once again keep it in every game this season, but you can’t reach the BCS with an offense that was mediocre last year and may be even worse this year.
How good is LSU? It was obvious from the beginning that QB Matt Flynn’s ankle was nowhere near healthy. He couldn’t get any push, which meant he couldn’t really throw – so the Tigers didn’t bother. Flynn threw for just 80 yards, but LSU ran for nearly 300 yards using seven different players (including backup QB Ryan Perriloux, who came in exclusively to run the spread-option, carrying eight times for 62 yards) and despite what the 28-16 score might indicate, the Gamecocks were never really in it after the first quarter (LSU led 28-7 until midway through the fourth quarter).
Tennessee and Ole Miss have shown the past two weeks that you can throw the ball on Florida (not exactly surprising considering the young secondary). But it’s going to take one heck of a passer to upstage Tim Tebow, who followed up his huge performance against Tennessee with another masterpiece against the Rebels (20-of-34 for 261 yards and two TDs, 27 carries for 166 yards and two TDs). I know the guy’s not exactly lacking for hype, but that’s just unreal. Going into the season, I thought Heisman talk for the then-unproven sophomore was premature – but not anymore.
Finally, in a classic chess match of renowned coaching wits, Virginia’s Al Groh (2007 Mailbag Worst Coach) appeared set to embarrass Georgia Tech’s Chan Gailey (2005 Worst Coach, 2006 finalist) early, jumping to a 21-7 first-quarter lead, did his best to choke it away (falling behind 23-21 late in the third) only to come through in the end, 28-23. It was a much-needed win for Groh’s Cavs – their third straight since an opening-week debacle at Wyoming and a sure sign that Gailey’s 2-2 team, after winning a division title last season, is headed back toward what Every Day Should Be Saturday once dubbed the "Chan Gailey Equilibrium" (seven wins).
Way to go JoePa, the only thing more pathetic than the Michigan Wolverines was your game-plan. Could you make it any easier for them? Joe, it is time for you to go. Please do so now so Penn State can get Greg Schiano in for recruiting. Your team is an embarrassment. Maybe we should put that on a plaque next to your statue outside Beaver Stadium. Losing to Michigan was one thing when you had control of your team, now that you do not even have that, get out.
Ole Miss had the perfect D to stop Florida and the big play...only problem was Harvin can turn a screen or quick pass into 10 every time...Oh yea and has Tommy Frazier come back to his home state of Florida?
Wait...so Mississippi almost beating Florida doesn't shake anyones confidence in that "invincible" team? How about a shout out to the Buckeyes? I know it was just Northwestern...but how about that offense (and defense)?
How about before all of you in the press anoint Tebow a god we actually see him against a team that isn't the typical UF cupcake early in the season? If he puts up numbers and wins against UGA and LSU then fine. But there is no way that slow, unathletic, painfully slow delivery on his passes etc. etc....does.
Hold on now, since when are Ole Miss(took a top 5 team in LSU to OT last season) and Tenn. cupcakes? Tebow single handidly won that game today acounting for 4 touchdowns!! He now has 10 TD passes and 7 rushing TD's for the season...does OSU even have that many TD's all season?? And unathletic?? how do you complete 70% of your passes on the season and become the leading rusher on your team with no Athleticism...give me a break you Northern Homers!!
HOW ABOUT THE FIGHTING IRISH!!! In Need of a Little Luck?
I'm glad to see that Notre Dame football is off to a historic start. Maybe they better call T-y-r-o-n-e, . . . Can't you hear the chorus in a silky, sexy voice: "Call him." and then Ms. Baddu adds: "And tell him to come and help Charlie win those games, . . ." I could murder the hits here and write a parody about the old Erika Baddu song from a few years back entitled "Call Tyrone" for those of ya'll who don't listen to R & B. But I won't, this isn't the Tom Joyner morning show.
In a sense, it seems as if poetic justice is being served. Notre Dame cuts ties with Tyrone Willingham (the brother that had a winning program in most places he has coached and as currently at the University of Washington). They canned him because he didn't meet expectations.
Well, now that Tyrone's recruits like Brady Quinn et al are leaving the program, it seems like Ole Charlie is having a difficult time. A coincidence, . . . I think not. Who has Charlie recruited (as in, legit blue chippers?) Now he's been there a few years with inherited talent. The first showing of how well a coach teaches and motivates is how one gets the maximum from nominal players. How about this from the armchair brain trust: the college game is different from the pro game!
I'm going to call the university out on this -- and I hope that the media makes this a mega story. If Notre Dame doesn't get rid of Weis after this pitiful season because he doesn't/can't meet expectations, we can say that Tyrone never could meet expectations because he is African American unless he won the national title, he didn't have an honest chance there.
Could you tell me that a historic 0-4 start and a soon to be longest losing streak in school history (0-7 or 0-8) and a really bad season will meet expectations? (We need to look at their graduation rate and compare the rates between the Weis and Willingham eras as well for a fair comparison -- after all, we are talking about student athletes (LOL).
Now, the real media story is what type of BS excuses the university is going to proffer for not getting rid of Weis. By next year, with the ND football contract on national television being reworked (due to a loss of income) and a few other factors, maybe they'll respect a coach (regardless of the color) who can win.
Let's call a spade a spade! I'm calling ND out on the race card here. Any takers?
Since Callahan has taken over the Huskers, there has been continuous steady progress on offense and continued poor tackling, preperation, and intensity on defense. It is time for Callahan to part ways with his longtime friend Kevin Cosgrove, who was unable to prove himself as a defensive coordinator in Wisconsin and now is showing how bad he sucks at Nebraska. The talent is absolutely there but the coaching and scheming is not. The blackshirt pride must be restored. Is it too late to bring back Bo?
Commenting on the commentary about Virginia's win over Georgia Tech--saying Al Groh tried to "choke it away?" after Virginia took a 21-7 lead--what kind of commentary is that? Biased is what it is. Just trying to justify your ridiculous "worst coach in the country" opinion. First of all, Al Groh didn't play a down today. He didn't commit 3 turnovers. He didn't drop passes. But he did ultimately prevail as the winning coach because he maintained his cool, didn't choke, and guided his team to a win. Mandel, you simply prove yourself once again a typical opinionated, bandwagon-riding, out-of-touch commentator (as in never watching the games, just the scoreboard) with an agenda.
Matt Flynn thre for 81 yards because, as Stewart said, he has a sprained ankle and so they minimized the pass. There was also the fact that the LSU running game was phenomenal. Why do you need to pass when your backs can pound away at the ball effectively.
A factor that Stewart didn't mention was that it was pretty much a monsoon in Baton Rouge for huge pieces of the game.
I am a little confused about the Tebow hype. I watched that game, and while his performance was impressive, it was Ole Miss. How do you put up such huge numbers against Tennessee and then keep Ole Miss in the game until the very end? Percy Harvin was far more important to Florida in that game than Tebow was, and if someone on that team is going to get Heisman chatter, I think it should be him.
Northern homerism? Too funny. Anyone who says Tennessee has any semblance of a defense has no credibility whatsoever. I'll jump all over the Tebow hype if he can do it versus any true top 25 team. He'll have some chances coming up so relax..if he does well then I'm wrong.
It's funny hearing people shout about the demise of Florida. They came in off a big rivalry win, with Auburn & LSU waiting for them, and they did what was necessary. OSU has not played a strong team yet, and with the look of Penn St & Wisconsin are unlikely to all season. Absolutely no lesson learned from last year. Too bad if hopes get high again.
I hear JoePa said "Hey you kids get off my lawn" at halftime, before ABC explained to him that the "kids" were the Wolverine and Nittany Lion players and the "lawn" was the football field. I am a Big Ten fan and must admit I was torn at this game. Part of me wanted Penn St to run the table, and part of me wanted them to lose since they're not a real Big Ten team.
If you read my post I said nothing about the Tenn D...that said WOW OSU beats NorthWestern!!! That team lost to Duke...think Tenn would lose to Duke..enough said about the Competition factor. And everyone should learn from what Charles said...Did you not learn from last year!!! Sometimes great teams have to win the close games against inferior competition, that is what seperates the big boys from the pretenders. Over the course of a season a team will have let downs and those that fight through them and find ways to win (remember FLA's win over Carolina??). FLA should not have beat S. Carolina on that day but they did and look what happened after that, a great team learned from it and moved on. My opinion, USC and LSU are the cream of the crop right now, but FlA, OK, and W. Virgina could get some breaks this season and end up winning it all. Oh yeah and who will beat FLA for those 3 losses this should be great!!!!
Penn State. I was at the game right behind the PSU bench cheering for Michigan with my brother in law who is a PSU fan. We could not believe it when the PSU starting QB was yelling at fans during the game. The more the fans got on him the more he taunted us back. At one point he was on the phone with a coach and he was trying to listen but was gesturing to us rather than really focusing. The sad time was when he told one fan who was riding him hard to come on the field and say that. Joe Pa was in the game. His coaches were in the game. I am a UofM fan and football fan. WHen your QB is more concerned with the fans rather than the game maybe he should look elsewhere for leadership. Coaches had to tell him and another starter to ignore the fans and play ball. Not a coaches fault his kids do not understand that games are won on the field. Play calling was ok but his players just didn't execute. One player was wide open and the QB just did not look his way. The last drive had one Michigan reception that the PSU coaches told the corner to watch and that play he "forgot" because that was the route they ran. The sacks were just blown assignments. One thing that got me though and i will leave on this note is how can the PSU QB be laughing while walking the sidelines when he played that badly. His WR were open. Thank god he was too busy yelling at us in the stands to see them. If you do not believe me watch the tape LOL. All the fans commented after the game that they have never seen a player become so obsessed with the fans he would have conversations with them!!
Phoenix, if Florida loses to South Carolina AND LSU, and South Carolina doesn't lose any other games, USC would be in the SEC championship based on the tie-breaker. Both teams would have two losses, but South Carolina would have beaten UF. For that to work USC would have to lose more games, and if they can beat Florida I think they are good enough to avoid that. More likely UF loses to UGA or Auburn.
All that being said, I think if UF loses anything it will be to LSU. I don't foresee them losing anything else. If LSU and UF meet again in the SEC championship, it will be a sad repeat of 2003, where LSU OR Florida is forced to beat a quality opponent TWICE to make it to the big time.
I just have a feeling Spurrier will find a way to beat Florida this year. SC would still have Tenn, Ark and Kentucky. My prediction they lose two of those three. In my three loses for Florida you could maybe sub in Kentucky or Georgia rather than SC all three could be tough road games. FL loses one of those but Auburn looks terrible this year so I did not consider them. Anyway Chris said he wanted to see three loses. 2 to LSU, 1 to any of the other teams mentioned makes for three.
So many scenarios. I doubt that Fla or LSU can beat each other twice. I doubt S. Car. holds up, but they may beat Fla. Fla & LSU probably split the series sending WV against USC (or Ohio St). Given the state of the Big Ten that is a real but nauseating thought. OK might slip through, but may not have the horses to handle all of the Big 12 South. What seems all too certain given the strength of the SEC is that no team will survive unbeaten.
So that's 4 games for LSU, and 4 opposing QBs who could not finish a game against LSU's defense. LSU's passing game may come and go, but as long as that defense and running game show up, they're going to be a tough out.
robert, you're still stinging from 41-14, and it's sad. Let it go. It's a new season. The probability that we'll have to crush Ohio State again is pretty slim, so shelf the bling Gator hate. No one is beating Florida by 20 this year. LSU may win in Baton Rouge, but it will be a war. The reset in Atlanta will be a whole other ballgame.
Oh, and Florida was without Caldwell, Cooper and others today. They're all back next week for a tune up in the Swamp against Auburn. We'll be very ready for LSU.
PR West, no I don't think it's racism that ND released Willy but not Weiss. It's not inconceivable, sure, but it's certainly very hard -- very, very hard -- to swallow the idea that an entire institution is conspiring to keep a white coach on simply because ... he's white. Nope. Sorry. Not at all buying it. If you want to believe it, go nuts. And a missile hit the pentagon and 911 was an inside job and everyone in the world is conpsiring against you all the time.
No, Willy was released because he lost -- a lot. He was not a good coach at ND. And neither is Weiss. And he'll be released too, soon enough. The problem is ND is into him for big bucks.
Occam's razor my friend. The simplest explanation is usually correct. So, no, I don't think we're witnessing a concerted, institutional level to prop up a fat white dude because of his racial makeup. The very idea sounds silly.
Joel - Let Robert talk. He reminds me of the OSU people last season. Even if he is right it does not erase that delicious massacre. Such sweet memories. Florida may not repeat, few do, but I do enjoy the comments.
Hey! Boomer Sooners! I live in China and I am feeling some magic in Norman. Kiper said OU has best Oline in football. What about their defense as well? Also the missing element pops up in Bradford. Follow the season and see how both Miami and Tulsa end up doing as well. I have followed college football for a long time and there is a chemistry with this team. Conferences be dammed! This is a special team and all the preseason crap is crap. Why is it so hard for all people in Sports reporting to give the midwest/southwest their due. Texas proved it awhile couple yrs ago to USC and OU will quietly be there at the end proving it again. Does anybody see what I am seeing even here from China that this is a special team without the preseason hype that so many times goes awry. So keep ignoring possibly the best team this year in all of college football and then try and get on the bandwagon late that is most of what you do is cover your in chinese pigot! DC
Penn State and Joe Paterno are a tired act. All that talent, all wasted. It's not that Michigan has defeated Penn State nine straight times -- it's that five of those times, Penn State was the higher ranked team going into the game. The constant losing to Michigan was cute, until today. Now it's just annoying.
Ben (and others) - Go back to the context of the Willingham dismissal. ND was quick to dump him, but was it disappointing results on the field or the thought that Urban Meyer was available? I honestly think ND was burned in more ways than one because they panicked and believed Meyer would be unavailable if they waited another year. People were as certain Meyer would jump to ND as they were Donovan was going to Kentucky this year. ND has also been burned and embarrassed over time because of their inside track to a BCS bowl where they have shown they do not belong. They will be spared that this year. Weis will likely be kept another year due to financial reasons, and I think the verdict is still out on his recruitment and maybe now his coaching skills.
weis's recruitment is going fine, its just that all of his 4 and 5 star recruits are still learning the ropes. 'Just wait' is all i can say to the fans and haters of ND. if Weis was fired before his contract was up, then what coach would ever sign up to a university that fired 2 coaches in a row before their contracts expired? Willingham was fired simply because he wasn't producing. He had one good year, and then it all imploded. Where would ND football be today if Willingham had remained coach for his last 2 years? i can only imagine that it would be worse, and maybe beyond salvageable.
HappyValleyTom, historically, losing is not a big deal, even against Michigan as Joe ran a tight ship. Notice the word ran, because, as evidenced by the number of issues related to football players culminating in this summer's debacle, Joe no longer has control of this team. He no longer has the moral high ground either. I have stuck my Joe through thick and thin, but no longer. If I had to make a choice, I would take losing the right way over winning the wrong way, however, Penn State is now losing the wrong way. Losing to Michigan and other inferior teams is one thing when you take care of business off the field, it is quite another when you don't.
Penn State is Wasting incredible talent on both offense (the receivers) and an awesome defense. You can't expect to beat talented teams with a quarterback as inept as Anthony Morelli, or a Running Back as Fumble prone as Austin Scott. I love Penn State but our offense was flat out embarrassing.
RE: Anthony Morelli & the anemic Penn State offense:
Penn State needs to bring its offense back into the 21st century (last attempted when Michael Robinson was on campus). The first step is to bench the roller-coaster ride known as Anthony Morelli and give someone else a shot - maybe the more athletic Daryl Clark.
When it is as obvious as it was that Michigan's defense couldn't handle a spread offense, it is idiocy for any opponent not to install a spread package for the Wolverines to deal with.
Bottom line? Not only did Morelli drop the ball - figuratively and literally - so did the always-too-conservative Penn State coaching staff.
With a quality defense, PSU could go a long way - particularly in what is clearly a "down" year for the Big 10. Installing a spread attack for Clark to run - taking advantage of the offense's strength (receivers) and limiting the number of running back touches (a clear offensive weakness) - could only help the Lions. Staying the course and playing not to lose instead of to win, however, is the best way I know to reinforce the perception that Penn State football is comprised of chronic underachievers, playing a brand of football from a time that has long since passed.
There is a lot of football left to be played in 2007-08. We'll see what - if anything - the PSU coaching staff does to jump-start the offense. And no, scheduling more Florida Internationals & Buffalos is not an option . . .
kindofblue, unfortunately, that brand of football (the one we love to hate) is good enough to give Penn State ten wins this year and possibly a share of the Big Ten title if they can run the table (quite possible), nine with a worst case scenario. What is his motivation to change. He still thinks this strategy works (even though it does not). The defense is good enough to get them to a BCS game with the remaining schedule.
I don't think anyone is really seeing Florida's "demise" this year, just that they might not be as unbeatable as their fans think. And to Charles in particular, there's no "lesson" to be learned from last year. The Big 10 is clearly having a down year this year, but OSU was a great team last year and two teams they beat were enough to beat your #2 and #3, so how about letting your hatred for the Big 10 go? Ginn getting knocked out of the game caused much the same effect if Tebow was knocked out against USC, etc. Keep him in and it's a different game, end of story. If there's ANY lesson to learn, it's from seeing that Florida stunk not too long ago, and seeing where Miami and Florida State are now. Like Stewart says, strength is cyclical. I think the SEC is a good conference, with some great teams...but as you'll see at the end of the year there are great teams all over.