It is being reported that Bryan Harsin, who was an assistant in Boise from 2001-2010 was hired by Boise State to be the head coach today. This is in the wake of Chris Peterson leaving the Broncos last week after 8 seasons to take over at the University of Washington. Harsin spent the 2011-12 seasons in Austin as the co-offensive coordinator for the Longhorns and was rumored to be on the short list to the Texas job if Mack Brown is convinced to step down this week. He went 7-5 at Arkansas State this season.
The coaching carosel is in full swirl. Still “up in the air” (and we don’t think it’s that up in the air) is the status of Mack Brown in Austin.
UPDATE: 12/10/2013 – 23:34 PM – ESPN’s Brett McMurphy now reporting that Mack Brown will make the announcement that he is stepping down before the weekend. Sources close the Mack Brown are saying he prefers to tell his staff and players in person instead of them reading it on the internet.
UPDATE: 12/10/2013 – 16:34 PM – ESPN’s Joe Schad says Mack Brown has texted 247 SPORTS (HORNS247 section of the site) that he is not going anywhere. He says, “I haven’t seen [the] article,” Brown wrote in a text message to the website Horns247. “I’m in Florida recruiting. If I had decided to step down, I sure wouldn’t be killing myself down here. I have not decided to step down.”
12/10/2013 – 15:04 PM – Chip Brown at Orangebloods.com is reporting that Mack Brown will announce that he is stepping down after 16 seasons in Austin.
If Mack leaves, it opens up all kinds of question regarding the rumors of Nick Saban making a move from Tuscaloosa to helm the Longhorn program. If that were to happen, it would be an unprecendented move. To have a head coach at a blue blood program to leave after 3 national championships in the last 5 seasons, even it is for another blue blood program, just sounds flat out crazy to me.
Other, more likely, rumors include James Franklin the current head coach at Vanderbilt and the former Longhorn offensive coordinator and current Arkansas State Head Coach, Bryan Harsin, taking over control. It would be Harsin’s first stint as a head coach and while he would be a decent enough choice, Franklin, with what he’s done in Nashville, would be a much better choice.
What say you?
1. Oregon is not for real. While they have a very fast-paced offense that can put up a load of points on you in a hurry, they are a finesse team that has trouble taking a punch in the mouth as demonstrated last night by Stanford. The Trees rolled out and shut down the Ducks offense holding them scoreless until the 10 minute mark of the 4th quarter. By that time they had built a 26-0 lead on the strength of a smash-mouth running game that amassed 274 yards rushing against Oregon’s defense that seemed completely unable to stop the juggernaut. Stanford has to be the favorite to win the PAC 12 right now.
2. Baylor is for real. The Bears got punched in the mouth by Oklahoma’s defense out of the gate in Waco, but held their ground against the Sooner running game. Oklahoma lead 5-3 at the 8:16 mark of the 2nd quarter. It’s worth mentioning that Oklahoma was inside the 5 yard line on two different drives in the first half and came away with only 3 points. At that 8:16 mark, the walls collapsed for OU. Baylor scored on their next three possessions and lead 24-5 at the half. It didn’t get any better in the second half where Oklahoma’s offense, led by Blake Bell was only able to muster a single touchdown and the subsequent defeat to the Bears 41-14. The Bears’ schedule doesn’t get any easier down the stretch with matchups against Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU & Texas. They should at this point be considered the favorite to win the Big XII championship. As for a shot at the national title, they’ll need help from teams playing against Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State. Unless two of those three teams lose at least one game, the Bears could likely be left out of the BCS Championship.
3. There is liable to be a shake-up in Norman. Thought Bob Stoops said after the game that the loss last night wasn’t Blake Bell’s fault, I would expect a shift over the next couple of games to work Trevor Knight back in as the starting quarterback. Based on the last couple of games, it has become clear that Bell has issues with the vertical passing game. He seems to have trouble with accuracy on downfield throws and is much more comfortable with timing routes no more than 10-15 yards where the receiver is on a button-hook (stops and turns around) route. Another possible shake-up coming, but not before the end of the season, could be co-Offensive Coordinator Josh Heupel and his future with the team. His play calling has become predictable and his ability to adjust when the game plan isn’t working is a question mark right now.
4. Marcus Mariota lost some ground in the Heisman Race last night. Though he passed for 250 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Ducks’ loss to Stanford last night, his scoring came after the game was decided. Per ESPN’s stat tracker had his lowest adjusted QB rating performance of the season at 76.7. In today’s slam-bang Heisman world, the top prospects have to take the bull by the horns against the toughest opponents on their schedule. He was unable to do this last night on the national stage and voters tend to take major stock in that.
#10 Oklahoma at #6 Baylor – 7:30 PM
#3 Oregaon at #5 Stanford – 9:00 PM
Oklahoma is in Waco to take on the Baylor Bears and hoping to slow down the #1 scoring team in the country. The Bears are averaging 63.9 pionts per game, but they haven’t played a lot of tough competition up to this point. The only teams they’ve played with less than 4 losses so far are Buffalo (7-2) and FBS school Wofford (5-3). The rest of the teams on their schedule are a combined 16-26. Tonight is a proving ground for Baylor. Win this one and they could be on their way to a conference championship.
Oregon heads to Palo Alto with the #2 scoring offense in the country (55.6 pts per game) and will be looking to avenge the 17-14 loss from last season to Stanford the de-railed their potential national championship run. Can the Cardinal pull it off again and ruin the Ducks title shot?
Just a few thoughts on last nights games.
North Carolina 10
South Carolina 27
Gamecocks jumped out to 17-0 lead in the first quarter in this one. Looked like it was going to be a blowout, but the Tarheels were able to claw and bite their way back a bit and keep it respectable. Jedeveon Clowney was catching some slack from the sports pundits for “taking a play off” here and there through the course of the game. Yes, you should be giving 100% effort every play, but considering the unseasonably cool weather we’ve had across the country the past couple of weeks and to suddenly have temps spike into the nineties with the humidity at an Ann Margaret level of sultriness – I think we can give the big boys up front a break for a minute of two in week one with a 17 point win in their pockets.
This one started out ugly for USC. With three drives in the first quarter, the Tojans only had three points to show for it with two drives stalling – one of them a turnover on downs after failing to convert a 4th and 4 at the Warriors 36. Hawaii pinned USC back at their own one early in the second and on the first play from scrimmage, Art Laurel sacked Cody Kessler in the endzone for the safety. Hawaii then got a great return on the ensuing kick to the USC 41 – they settled for a field goal, but did have the lead at the 11:43 mark of the 2nd 5-3. After that is was all USC as they intercepted Taylor Graham 4 times including a 35 yard return for a TD. The Warriors problem was a complete lack of balance. While they did have 208 yards, passing, they only mustered 23 yards rushing. Not exactly a recipe for success against one of college football’s big boy teams. For USC, it was still an ugly game and the “tandem QB” system Lane Kiffin is trying to work in, wasn’t so smooth last night. Kessler and Wittek combined to go 15 of 29 for 172 yards passing, 1 TD and 1 Interception (both by Kessler). They had ratings of 19.4 and 24.0 respectively. The only adage is true – If you have two quarterbacks, you don’t really have one.
Indiana State 35
Yes, yes, Hoosier fans, Indiana scored 73 points . . .against Indiana State. Before anyone in Bloomington gets too excited, keep in mind last season when the Hoosiers averaged 30 points per game. Scoring hasn’t been an issue since Kevin Wilson took over as head coach. Stopping other teams from scoring has been the chink . . .okay, you can call it a chink in the armor, but others might call it a big gaping hole in the armor. They gave up 35 points (28 in three quarters) last night . . .to the fighting Sycamores. So let’s be real and hope some of those problems get addressed as the season progresses.
UCF in a new conference – the American Athletic Conference (or the New Look Big East or the Old Conference USA Re-United as some would call it), but it’s still the same old Akron. One would think that having James Madison on the schedule next week would be a god-send for the Zips. Let’s hope that’s the case and they aren’t suffering a post beat-down, let-down. This one was pretty much over then Akron got off the plane in Orlando They didn’t score until there were 38 seconds left in the game. The Knights shouldn’t necessarily be chest thumping over this one. The Zips were 1-11 last season. The Knights will be getting ready for their next powerhouse game when they take on the Panthers of Florida International next Friday night.
This is the “Embarrassing Loss of the Night” – UConn isn’t exactly a dominant team in college football, but to lose to an FCS team on your home field in the season opener is never a good way to start the year. The Huskies scored first, but Towson answer right back late in the first quarter. The Tigers added to that lead midway through the second and never trailed after that. UConn gets next week off to lick their wounds before starting conference play against Maryland on the 14th. Towson gets to feel good for a minute, but moves on to Holy Cross next week.
Ole Miss 39
At halftime it looked like Vanderbilt had this one under control with a 21-10 lead going into the locker room, but Bo Wallace and the Rebels wouldn’t be denied outscoring the Commodores in the second half 29-14. The dagger in Vanderbilt’s heart came with 1:23 left in the game when Jeff Scott took the hand-off on the read-option from the Rebs own 25. He swept around the left end then made a beautiful cutback into the middle where he outran the remainder of the defenders for the go ahead touchdown. Both of these teams have FCS matchups next week with SE Missouri for Ole Miss and Austin Peay for Vanderbilt which works out nicely for them as they both have marquee matchups the week after that with visits to Austin and Columbia respectively to take on the Longhorns and Gamecocks.
Fresno State 52 – OT
This game was the very definition of a back and forth battle with 9 lead changes through the course of the contest. Midway through the second quarter, it looked like Rutgers was going to run away with this one when they opened up a 20-7 lead, but the Bulldogs fought their way back with the turning point coming after Janarion Grant fumbled a punt return. The subsequent drive lead to a touchdown making it a 20-14 game. The Dogs capped the first half with an 11 play, 80 yard drive that ended with a 2 yard TD pass from Derek Carr (yep, David’s little brother) to Davante Adams to give Fresno the lead 21-20 going into the locker room. The second half was a see-saw battle with both teams trading punches back and forth along with the lead. With Fresno down 45-38 and 1:18 left – Derek Carr put together a 5 play, 60 yard drive capped by a TD pass from the 2 to Josh Harper to tie the game at 45. Rutgers got the ball back with 38 seconds left and managed to get into field goal range, but Kyle Federico missed the 43 yarder that would have won it as time expired. In overtime, Carr wasted no time on the Dogs first possession completing a 25 yard pass to Greg Watson for the TD. Colin McGuire made the PAT to put Fresno up 52-45. The Scarlet Knights didn’t take much longer on their possession when, on the third play, Gary Nova found Brandon Coleman for a 4 yard TD. Rutgers decided to go for two points and the win (both teams looked exhausted by this time). Unfortunately, Derek Nova’s pass was incomplete and your Fresno State Bulldogs have now won 17 of their last 19 home openers. The two teams combined for 1,080 yards of offense and 5 turnovers. It wasn’t a defensive struggle, to be sure, but boy-oh-boy was it fun to watch!
This one has turned ugly here late in the game . . .no . . not ugly . . .stupid. Yeah – that’s it – STUPID!
I went to the Iowa vs. Michigan game last week for my first trip to the Big House in Ann Arbor which I will write about later. In that game, Michigan had a great offensive strategy. They used Denard Robinson as a running back, as a slot receiver as a wildcat QB and a lot as a straight up decoy. It worked like a charm as he is the kind of player that draws a lot of attention from a defense. You always have to account for him no matter where he is on the field.
Today against Ohio State in Columbus, every time I’ve seen him in the game in the second half it’s been as a quarterback with Devin Gardner on the sideline. When Gardner is in at QB, Robinson is on the sideline. They haven’t even tried to throw today with Robinson at QB making a defensive scheme incredibly easy for the Buckeyes: If Robinson is in, they are running the ball. Sure, he’s got 122 yards and a touchdown rushing today, but they haven’t done anything similar to what worked so well last week.
What was the thought process here? “Oh we did that last week, so they’ll be ready for it.” If that is the thinking, fine, but at least try to make them work for it by having Robinson and Gardner on the field at the same time. If you think I’m wrong, keep this in mind, after being up 21-20 on the Buckeyes at halftime, the Wolverines didn’t take a single snap on offense on the Ohio State side of the 50 in the second half.
The Buckeyes scored a pair field goals in the second half and held on to win 26-21 over Michigan and finish their season 12-0. The road ends here for Ohio State for this season as they are not eligible for the conference championship or a bowl game due to “Tattoo-gate.”
Michigan will go on to some bowl where I’m sure they will re-institute the Denard Decoy Offense and actually be competitive throughout the entire game.
Let me just tack on my conspiracy theory here: The Big Ten made a call to Brady Hoke at half time and requested they go into a shell with the offensive play-calling so Ohio State could finish undefeated and the conference would have a team that could possibly get an AP national championship which is good for the conference . . .right?
(most recent drive at the top)
The Irish came in and executed the perfect game plan to beat Oklahoma. Their defense is definitely for real as they held the Sooners to 13 points and it was due in large part to keeping the completely out of balance – Jones passed for 364 yards, but only had 15 yards rushing for the game – even if they did get the first rushing TD of the season against this stout Notre Dame defense. Hats off to the young quarterback, Golson passing for only 177 yards, but also opening it up just enough to keep the Irish rushing game going (215 yards on the ground). The argument can now begin as to who should be number 2 – Notre Dame, Kansas State or Oregon. Notre Dame heads back to Southbend to take on Pitt next week. They are now set up for a possible run to and undefeated season with the biggest roadblock to that being their final game in Los Angeles against USC. Almost as big as that will be to not lose focus between now and then with the other three games (Pitt, at Boston College and Wake). Oklahoma will have to re-group and get ready for a trip to Iowa State and try to keep their hopes for a conference championship alive . . . .though they still need a lot of help to get that – Kansas State will need to drop two games among their remaining schedule (OkState, at TCU, at Baylor and Texas)….good luck with that.
Oklahoma – starts at the 48 after a great return by Brennan Clay. Jones gets a some completions. Damien Williams is hurt on a 2nd and 7 play and leaves the game limping (helped off the field by a couple of trainers). The first play after the injury timeout was a touchdown pass to Kenny Stills for a “Pride” score (play under review – he may have stepped out at the 1) – after review – the play is reversed and he’s out of bounds inside the 1. 1st and Goal inside the 1 yard line and Jones stays in the game. Pass interference on Kenny Stills and the ball is pushed back out to the 15. 1st and goal from the 15. Jones is sacked there and that ends the game. END OF GAME
Notre Dame – starts at the 19 after the turnover on downs. First play is a run for 1 yard. Riddick up the middle for a three more on 2nd down (TIMEOUT – NOTRE DAME – 1:41). 3rd and 6 at the OU 16and Riddick runs it in for a touchdown to seal the game 30-13 – 1:36 – 4th
Oklahoma – starts at the 18 after the return. The snap goes through Landry’s legs into the endzone, he scoops it up in the endzone and just throws it out where it is caught by Clay at the 9. A completion to Saunders at 19. 3rd and 9 and Jones overthrows the pass to Shepard bringing up a 4th and 9. Jones in the gun – Irish with 7 in coverage and it’s incomplete when the pass is dropped by Clay. Notre Dame takes over on down at the OU 19.
Notre Dame – Starts at the 45 after the turnover. First play is a fun up the middle by Riddick for a gain of 10 and a first. Riddick again for 4 yards – OU takes their first timeout of the half (3:39 – 4th) – 2nd and 6 and Golson keeps in on a bootleg to the left for a gain of 2 – Timeout by OU (3:32 – 4th). 3rd and 4 after the timeout – Golson throws and it’s incomplete – 4th and 4 at the OU 29. 46 yard field goal is good extending the Irish lead to 23-13 with 3:22 left in the game.
Oklahoma – Starts at the 25 after a touchback. First play is a 7 yard completion to Saunders followed by an incomplete. 3rd and Jones completes it to Stills for a first down at the 41. One 1st down, the ball is tipped by Saunders and Te’o makes the interception (under review) (4:27 – 4th) – after review the play stands. Notre Dame takes over at the OU 45.
Notre Dame starts at the 27 and on 2nd and 2, Golson completes a 50 yard pass to Chris Brown at the OU 15. Then a 13 yard completion to the OU 3. 3rd and goal from the 2 and Golson dives in for a touchdown. 20-13 Irish – (5:05 – 4th) Took them 7 plays to go 73 yards.
Oklahoma – Starts at their own 48 and 7 plays later BLAKE BELL punches it in for a TD and the first rushing touchdown against Notre Dame all season. 13-13 (9:10 – 4th)
Notre Dame – starts with the ball at their own 10 after the punt. First play from scrimmage and Golson has to throw the ball away after scrambling. On 2nd and 10 Riddick is stopped after a gain of 3 up the middle. 3rd and 7 and Notre Dame has to take a timeout (12:14 – 4th). On 3rd and 7 after the timeout – Golson has to throw it away after being pressured. .
Oklahoma – starts with the ball at the 25 after a touchback on the kickoff. Saunders makes a catch on the first play for a first down at the 44 followed by Williams and a 5 yard run around the right end. Jones has to throw the ball away on 2nd and 5 outside the pocket. On 3rd and 5 and the pass is incomplete downfield intended for Justin Brown. OU is forced to punt yet again (13:10 – 4th).
Notre Dame – starts at their own 2 after the punt. One first down, they get 5 yards out to the 7. 2nd and 5 from the 7 and Golson runs a bootleg out for a first down on a huge run to the 24. The next play was a completion to Daniels on a jump ball out to the 46. At midfield on 2nd and 6 they gained a couple to bring up 3rd and 4 at the OU 48. Golson completed a pass to Toma for another first down at the OU 41. Hurst helps break up a pass on first down and on 2nd and 10 Tony Jefferson absolutely leveled Golson on a quarterback draw. He’s down injured for the moment (0:55 – 3rd). Looks like he got the wind knocked out of him. Reese has to come in at Qb for a play on 3rd and 7 from the OU 38. Empty backfield for Reese and he completes a pass of the left for a first down to Eifert at the OU 27. (END OF THE 3RD QUARTER). Golson comes back in and they try a reverse with a pass, but OU wasn’t fooled incomplete on first and 10. Golson keeps it on the option and is stopped by Gabe Lynn for no gain. 3rd and 10 from the OU 27 and the pass is incomplete intended for Eifert. The field goal attempt of 44 yards is just barely good inside the right upright and the Irish lead 13-7 (13:57 – 4th).
Oklahoma – starts at their own 20 after the missed field goal. Williams starts off the show with a 7 yard run up the middle followed by a hurry up to Saunders ou to the left for a first down and a quick pass back to the left to Stills for 5. 2nd and 5 from the 38 was a swing pass to Williams for a first down at the 46. Next play was another first down pass to Saunders at the Notre Dame 38. No gain on a dump off to Millard on 1st down was followed by a 2 yard loss on a delayed hand off to Williams. On 3rd and 12 from the 40, Jones along in the backfield, pass complete over the middle to Williams for a gain of 4 but well short of the first down. OU is forced to punt and Justin Brown downs it at the 2. – 4:41 – 3rd.
Notre Dame – starts with the ball at the top of the 3rd quarter. They return the kickoff to the 22. TJ Jones makes a great catch on 2nd and 9 from the 23 for a first down at the 36. Golson scrambles on 2nd and 9 for a first down at the 48. Irish starting to run and try to eat clock to shorten the game and keep Jones and the Sooner offense on the sidelines. On 3rd and 2 – Golson runs the draw to the OU 35. Irish offense starting to mix it up a bit and keeping OU defense off-balance. 1st and at ot the 24 after a pass. On 3rd and 4 from the OU 18, the Irish take a timeout. (8:15 – 3rd). 3rd and 4 from the OU 18 after the timeout – Golson throws to his left incomplete – and they have to settle for a field goal attempt with is PULLED LEFT – OU’s defense holds – still 10-6 Irish – 8:06 – 3rd.
Notre Dame starts at their own 19 after the kick off return. They are happy to take a knee and go into the locker room leading 10-6 – HALFTIME
Oklahoma – starts at the 21 after the kick off. OU finally gets another first down when Sterling Shepard comes up with a catch over the middle to the 39. Stills makes a catch on 2nd and 9 from the 40 for a first down across midfield to the Irish 47. The next play Jones completes a pass to Justin Brown for another first down at the 29. Notre Dame jumped offsides on 2nd and 10 to make it 2nd and 5 from the 24. Stills makes the catch for the first down at the 18 on a slant with a very good catch. Williams gets 5 on 1st down, then Stills gets another 1st down at the 5 yard line on a quick pass. Damien Williams got 1 on first and goal and we have our first appearance of the Belldozer Package. There was a holding call that cancelled a Blake Bell touchdown so Jones came back in and then had to throw it away on 2nd and goal from the 13 followed by a dropped pass at the 5 to a wide open receiver. Hunnicutt gets the field goal – 10-6 Irish 0:43 – 2nd (NOTE ON THE PENALTY: THERE WAS A LOT OF CONFUSION ABOUT WHEN THE FLAG WAS THROWN AS IT CAME WAY AFTER THE TOUCHDOWN RUN BY BELL AND THEY COULDN’T FIND A HOLD ON THE REPLAY – coming back after halftime – they found a holding call – ticky tack as it was)
Notre Dame – starts at their own 19 after the punt. On 3rd and 8 from the 21, Golson completes a pass to Daniels out at the 35. They they quickly get out close to midfield with a bootleg pass in the flat to the right. OU is having to respect the pass a bit more and it’s starting to open up the running game as two more run plays get the Irish down to the OU 36. On 2nd and 10, Notre Dame fumbled the ball forward and recovered instead of a 3rd and 10 it’s a 3rd and 5. Bob Stoops challenges that it was a fumble but it wasn’t reviewable. Then Golson completes a short pass for a frist down to Toma down to the OU 25. One 1st and 10 from the 25, Demontre Hurst went out of bounds on the Notre Dame sideline on an incomplete pass and got injured. That could be a blow to OU’s secondary. Hurst seems to be OK after the injury timeout, more on that later. Notre Dame drive stalls and they settle for a field goal.10-3 Irish – 5:58 – 2nd .
Oklahoma starts with the ball at their own 31 after the punt. Oklahoma starts off the drive looking to establish more of a rushing game (as I said in the preview: BALANCE is the key to beating the Irish). Jones is sacked on 3rd and 6 by Manti Te’o and the Sooners are forced to punt after 3 plays and negative 5 yards of offense. – 11:44 – 2nd
Notre Dame – starts at their own 12 and gets out to the 30 on a pass play (END 1ST QUARTER) The first down at the 30 resulted in 3 plays for 1 yard and and Notre Dame has to punt. 7-3 Irish – 13:52 – 2nd
Oklahoma – starts at the 32 after the punt. Oklahoma is able to move the ball initially again and on 3rd and 7 at the Irish 44 the drive stalls again. Oklahoma is forced to punt. 0:38 – 1st
Notre Dame – starts with the ball at their own 24 after the punt. They then have a three and out of their own.
Oklahoma started with the ball at the 25 after a touchback. Oklahoma promptly goes three and out. – 7-3 – Notre Dame – 5:16 – 1st
Notre Dame – starts at their own 33 after a decent kickoff return. On the second play from scrimmage – Cierre Wood broke straight up the middle for a 62 yard touchdown run to give the Irish the lead and likely giving Mike Stoops a couple of popped blood vessels on the sidelines – 7-3 – 6:24 – 1st
Oklahoma started at their own 18 yard line this time and were out to midfield in three plays and then down inside the 20 in two more plays. The drive then stalled and OU had to settle for a field goal try from the 11. Michael Hunnicutt put it through and Oklahoma draws first blood – 3-0 OU – 7:12 – 1st
Notre Dame – started with the ball at their own 23 – They came up just short of the first down marker on 3rd down so they have to punt and OU takes over at their own 18 after a fair catch by Justin Brown – 10:42 – 1st
Oklahoma started off well enough on the first drive, but it stalled and a screwed up snap that lost them 19 yards on 1st down out near midfield. A miscommunication at Landry Jones was trying to make a quick play change and the center snapped it right past him. Oklahoma ends up punting and Notre Dame takes over. 12:21 – 1st
Texas managed to survive with a late touchdown from Case McCoy to DJ Grant with 7 seconds left in Lawrence for the come from behind win over the Jayhawsk – 21-17 – so Texas gets not only a win, but a nice quarterback controversy.
South Carolina held on for the win over Tennessee 38-35 when Jadeveon Clowney made a monstrous play inside their own 20 by forcing a fumble from Tyler Bray which was recovered with 1:06 left. The Gamecoks win, but they lost Marcus Lattimore to a horrendous injury to his right leg which, from the looks of it, will end his season.
In the first quarter in Eugene, the Oregon Ducks are already up in Colorado’s grill leading 21-0 early there. (UPDATE: This one ended up being ridiculous with Oregon winning 70-14 over the Buffaloes)
BYU and Georgia Tech are tied up at 7 early (UPDATE: BYU ended up winning this one handily in Atlanta, 41-17
Other games that I think will be interesting to watch in the 3:30 eastern time slot are the USC/Arizona game in Tempe, TCU/Oklahoma State in Stillwater and Texas Tech/Kansas State in Manhattan – all those are just getting under way – the first two are scoreless so far, but Texas Tech just took a 7-0 lead on their opening drive.
Georgia pulled an upset in their match-up with Florida 17-9 with the Gators turning the ball over 6 times including twice in the endzone when they were trying to score. It was also a sloppy game in terms of penalties with 24 penalties for 227 yards between these rivals.
Arizona is working on an upset of USC – leading 39-28 with just over 5 minutes left and the Trojans have turned it over 5 times in this one. USC scored at the 4:40 mark and got the 2 point conversion to make it a 3 point game at 39-36 and now Zona is trying to milk as much clock as possible with their running game. So far in this game: 1168 total yards of offense between the two teams. The Wildcat managed to bleed off about 3 minutes of time on the clock leaving Matt Barkley and the USC offense 55 seconds after the punt to get within field goal range with a starting field position at their own 13 and no timeouts for either team. Then the Matt Barkley that everyone was expecting to be the #1 draft pick marched the Trojans to mid-field in 4 plays and with 5 seconds left from the Arizona 48 yard line – the Hail Mary into the endzone fell incomplete after being tipped away by a Wildcat defender giving USC their second loss of the season and Rich Rodriguez gets his first signature win as the head coach of Arizona 39-36.
It looked early on like TCU would give the Pokes all they could handle in Stillwater, but in the end Oklahoma State scores 27 unanswered points in the second half to win this one 36-14.
Kansas State lead 13-10 at halftime over the Red Raiders then outscored Texas Tech in the second half 42-14 to make a final score of 55-24
If the Irish are going to win this one, it is going to be on the backs of the defense, particularly the front 7.
Oklahoma has been on a tear since its one loss of the season, scoring over 50 per game. In the past, OU’s Landry Jones has been inaccurate when his rhythm is interrupted and Notre Dame will need to find some way to make that happen. The captain of the defense and Heisman dark horse candidate, Manti Teo will need to keep the defense focused and locked in on Jones (and hopefully pull in a couple of the turnovers he dished up so readily against Michigan’s Denard Robinson). Notre Dame’s young cornerbacks will also have to maintain excellent coverage to avoid the quick releases that other quarterbacks that Notre Dame has faced have not managed to do with any consistency. Otherwise, any pressure on Jones will be all for naught.
The burden of the team falls on the defense because, quite frankly, Notre Dame’s offense cannot score 50 points. Notre Dame was dealt a major blow when it was announced that running back George Atkinson III would not be making the trip to Norman because of flu-like symptoms. While Atkinson is not ND’s first back, he is their source of speed and outside yards and can be a major threat on punt returns. Golson, while showing tremendous talent, cannot be counted on to drive the team up and down the field, so the defense Is going to have to keep the game close into the fourth quarter and hope for an upset win in the closing minutes.
Notre Dame does have several things going for it, any one of which may prove to be the difference maker in this game. One: a really good defense. The game may be in their hands, but they have done it before. Let’s not forget that besides the two touchdowns by BYU (one of which was with a short field), their defense has allowed very few points since week 2. Two: a closer in Tommy Rees. If Golson gets rattled, injured, or if it just comes down to the two-minute offense, there is no backup QB in the country I’d rather have. Finally, three: Manti Teo. The man is a beast and is without question the leader of the team. If anyone can keep the team on track it is Notre Dame’s star linebacker. Even so, the luck of the Irish will need to be in full force for this one. GO IRISH!
I haven’t blogged in awhile either on sports or on working out. I’ve been nursing a bad heel for about 5 weeks new. Plantar Faciitis is not a fun thing when you are trying to maintain a cardio regimen. But I digress.
When last I wrote something here, it was right after OU dropped their first game of the season at home to Kansas State. Since then the Sooners have been on a tear winning three games in a row averaging 52 points per games and giving up 16 points per game. The Red River Shootout (that’s right – it’s still the “Shootout” for those PC thinkers out there that stomp about and insist that a shootout has negative connotations to it). To them, I say this, “DEAL WITH IT!” But I digress.
On second thought, to call this year’s game in Dallas a “Shootout” might be inappropriate, but not for the reasons mentioned above. Normally when one thinks of the word “shootout” it would indicate there was a flurry of shooting from both sides of the battle/skirmish. In this one . . .not so much. It was more like the result of a firing squad the way Oklahoma absolutely dismantled the Longhorns. The previous week, Texas had lost a close game to West Virginia in Austin in a game that was more reminiscent of a shootout than the match-up in Dallas. The horns lost 48-45 to a Mountaineer team that, as it turns out, has developed an OLE’ defense giving up just under 40 points per game (118th in the country on that stat). Man, I’m digressing a lot this morning. Rolling into Dallas, it looked for all the world like it would be more of the same, but the Oklahoma defense stymied the horn’s offense all day long with their only offensive points coming late in the 4th quarter when the game was already out of hand. A side note here: If you’re team in winning 36-2 early in the 3rd quarter and your quarterback throws a pick 6 from his own 20 and you start yelling the the TV in anger . . .you might be a Sooner fan. The final score in Dallas was 63-21 in yet another rout by Bob Stoops over Mack Brown. There are rumblings in Austin that it might be time to show Mack the door, but that will have to wait at least until the end of the season. The other two games featured Oklahoma getting their first win in Lubbock since 2003 win a 41-20 win over the Red Raiders (which was actually played the week before Texas) and a butt whuppin’ in Norman over Kansas 52-7 who looks even worse this year than last.
SO! – Oklahoma has bounced back and been rolling since the KSU loss.
Let’s look at Notre Dame.
The Irish are undefeated right now. 7-0 – their best start since 2002 when they started 8-0 before dropping a game at home to Boston College. That team has no relationship to the current edition of the Irish. This year Notre Dame features a very strong defense; 2nd in scoring giving up only 9.4 points per game which is pretty impressive. They have a very big, very physical front seven on defense led by linebacker Manti Te’o. His instincts on defense are amazing. He always seems to be where the ball is and is a play-maker and leader on the team.
The offense for Notre Dame also has a strong presence up front with the offensive line that has a lot of experience and a solid running game (38th in the country). The offense this weekend will be led by a talented redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson who has a lot of mobility and can make plays out of the pocket.
There are those who will tell you that this game is obviously “advantage Irish” because of the stingy defense that has only given up 17 points once this year while OU has given up more than that three times including a loss at home to a run-heavy Kansas State that looks similar to the Irish offense. Let’s look at that a bit more closely though, shall we?
Oklahoma has faced 3 top 10 scoring offenses this season, Kansas State, Texas Tech and Texas. The best offense Notre Dame has faced is Purdue who is ranked 50th in scoring. There are those who will say that the three top high scoring teams OU faced are a product of crappy defense in the Big XII and the low scoring teams the Irish have faced are a product of the amazing defense in the Big Ten. There are those who will say the Big Ten opponents Notre Dame has faced don’t have a lot of balance and limited weapons on offense. In fact, the most balanced offense the Irish have faced this season, Purdue, passes the ball roughly 55% of the time on offense, but even so, their running game has been abysmal averaging only 3 yards per carry. The Boilermakers took Notre Dame down to the wire and the Irish came away with a win on a 27 yard field goal with 7 seconds left in the game. So if you can bring some balance to the table, you can give the Irish trouble. (side note here: Purdue is 71st in giving up points this year at 27.7 points per game and they held the Irish to 20 in that one)
Oklahoma’s offense will be, by far, the best offense the Irish have faced this season ranked 22nd in passing, 34th in rushing and 5th in scoring. The big question for the Irish defense: How economically can you stop the rushing game of Oklahoma. If you can do it with just the front 4 or maybe 5, you can drop 6 or 7 into coverage and make it a long day for Landry Jones and company. If they have to use 7 up front to stop the OU rushing attack, Jones will pick apart the young cornerbacks as there are just too many weapons in OU’s passing game. Trey Millard, OU’s fullback, will likely have a huge role in this game, even if it’s just as a decoy to get Manti Te’o out of the middle to open up things there. If Te’o doesn’t pay Millard any mind, the Sooners will exploit that all night long and the Irish will go home very sad.
For OU, this will be the best defense they’ve faced, though not “by far.” Kansas State’s defense is ranked 14th and while they beat OU, it was due in large part to two of the three turnovers in that game being unforced errors on the Sooners part that the Wildcats were able to exploit.
The experts on ESPN and elsewhere keep talking about how OU’s offense matches up against Notre Dame’s defense, but what seems to be ignored here is the Sooner defense. Have the Sooners had three games where they gave up more points than the Irish have in any game all season? Yes. But can we break that down a bit?
Kansas State game (24 total points against OU) – the Wildcats had a defensive score on a forced fumble inside the Oklahoma 5 so that’s not on the Sooner defense – Defensive points given up in that game: 17
Texas Tech game (20 total points against OU) – It was 41-13 late in the game and all 2nd and 3rd stringers in for OU against Tech’s starters who got a touchdown with 56 seconds left in the game to lessen the sting of the blowout at home – Defensive points given up by starters: 13
Texas (21 total points against OU) – The horns got 2 points early when they ran back a botch extra point try after the Sooners first score. Their next trip to the endzone was the pick 6 early in the 3rd quarter when OU was winning 36-2. They score two touchdowns late in the game (at the 4:43 mark on a long bomb pass and the last play of the game) similar to Texas Tech, against 2nd and 3rd string defenders when the game was even worse than the Tech blowout – Defensive points given up by starters: 0
Suddenly – OU’s defensive points per game given up (when it matters) drops from 15.3 per game down to 9.5 right in line with the Irish and this done against offenses that run much more wide open than do the Irish opponents up to this point.
The Irish offense is strong in the running game, but inconsistent at best in the passing game. Golson will need to use his legs a lot to buy time and will need to be more accurate than the 58% completion rate he has had so far this season. Look for Mike Stoops to stack the box and dare the Irish to pass. This is possibly the best defense the Irish will face this season since USC now looks more vulnerable than they did at the beginning of the year.
If it all comes down to defense stopping the opponent’s offense, it’s advantage Oklahoma. I think for Notre Dame to win this game, they will need at least one defensive scoring play. They Irish will need to use their run game to eat clock and shorten the game. If they can’t stop the passing game of OU, it will be a long night for them.