September 25, 2010

#1 Alabama def. #10 Arkansas 24-20

Very convincing game for Alabama. They weren't at their best by any means, especially on defense. But after an incredible start for Mallet and the Razorbacks died down with the game still in reach, it started to look like an inevitably that the Tide would win. Good on them for weathering the storm until Ingram and their O- and D-lines could save them.

Mallett, for his part, was unimpressive. My games of the week of late seem to be designed to sink the draft position of top quarterbacks. Mallett still tends to miss throws high (Gary Danielson suggested that this was the result of poor footwork, which certainly seems possible) and he throws too hard on the underneath passes. A great arm isn't such a huge asset if you can't control it. His last two mistakes were killers for Arkansas - an interception three feet high that kick started Alabama's go-ahead touchdown drive and the ill-fated throwaway that iced the game. I suppose being the goat is an ever-present danger if you're a quarterback, but this was a very unfortunately timed for a guy who wants to win the Heisman and be the top QB taken.

September 21, 2010

Game of the Week

Saturday, September 25
#1 Alabama at #10 Arkansas
Lots of talk about Ryan Mallett as the first or second quarterback taken in next year's draft. When I've watched him in the past, my impression has been: great arm, great leadership, good instincts, poor mobility, tends to miss high. I'm excited to see the 2010 version and he really couldn't have a better stage: this will likely end up being the premiere SEC matchup of the year. Alabama hasn't played anyone particularly impressive (Penn State is rebuilding!), so this is their chance to show that they're back in 2009 form. Big Questions:
Can Alabama's defense stop Mallett?
What are the Razorbacks going to do about Mark Ingram?
Prediction: I'll be rooting for the Razorbacks (woo pig sooie!), but based on last year, I'd have to say Mark Ingram rolls and carries the Tide with him.

September 19, 2010

#8 Nebraska def. Washington 56-21

The best thing I can say about this game is that the weather in Seattle looked fantastic. Even in low definition! Other than that, it was a bit of a sleeper. Despite an absolutely raucous home crowd, UDub QB Jake Locker played perhaps the worst game of his career and Nebraska's Taylor Martinez pretty much showed him how it was done with nearly 300 total yards and FOUR touchdowns. During the rare moments when Martinez wasn't holding the ball, tailbacks Roy Helu Jr. and Rex Burkhead ably stepped in. Nebraska's power running game shredded the Huskies defense to the point that Martinez only attempted 11 passes. The only misstep they had was when, up 21-7 and rolling, they inexplicably switched to Cody Green, who promptly fumbled and was removed.

The commentary this week is about 10% Taylor Martinez' coming out party and 90% Locker's draft status. I really don't understand how Locker's draft position could have changed at all. Before this game, what did we have? A stand-up kid from Ferndale, WA with off-the-charts athletic ability and a 98mph fastball who was labeled as a #1 pick not because of his polish, but because of his potential. I think we're in exactly the same position now. If you thought he was worth the project after three losing seasons, I don't see why you would change your mind now.

September 16, 2010

Game of the Week

I'd like to watch #8 Nebraska at Washington, but ABC has not announced its lineup yet. If that one doesn't work out, the game of the week will be #9 Iowa at #24 Arizona. I'll check the listings again tomorrow!

UPDATE: I do indeed get Nebraska at Washington...but only in low def. I think I can make out what's going on though! Anyway, it'll be nice to check out the progress of both teams. Nebraska is playing it's first non-cupcake after a breakout 2009, at least on defense. Their offense struggled last year under Zac Lee, but believe there's a new QB in the mix.

Meanwhile, Washington lost to BYU, but should make a bowl game for the first time in a while. And it's always fun to check on Jake Locker, the probable #1 pick in the NFL draft.

Prediction: Nebraska should be stronger on both lines and shouldn't have too much trouble, but if the Cornhuskers can't contain Locker, Washington could be able to keep it close. Let's say Nebraska by 10.

September 12, 2010

#2 Ohio State def. #12 Miami 36-24

This one really wasn't as close as it sounds. Ohio State scored eight times to Miami's four and two of three 'Canes' TDs were on special teams. The Buckeyes just settled for field goals on five of those eight. If they had had a real quarterback and just slightly better kick coverage, it would have been more like 48-14.

Pryor...well, you know my feeling on Pryor. It is very likely that we will never again see an athlete of this caliber - this big, this fast, this strong. But athletic ability makes a decathlete, not a quarterback. Pryor doesn't seem to understand the finer points and he doesn't have the touch. He's too quick to run, he throws too hard on underneath passes, too soft on the long balls, and he's really not very accurate. Think of the star Ohio State receivers of the past few years. Robiskie, Hartline, Sanzenbacher (I'd go on, but Michigan fans can't be listing Buckeye receivers all day) - does your mind instantly conjure an image of these guys leaping through the air to make an incredible catch? You know why that is? Pryor doesn't hit 'em between the numbers. The first OSU drive was ended by a relatively un-pressured Pryor throw at least three feet over the receiver's head. Thereafter, they pretty much ran the QB draw on 3rd and long, just like they have for the past two years.

As unimpressive as Pryor was, Jacory Harris was worse. It's true that he didn't get a lot of help from his receivers, but four interceptions is bad no matter which way you slice it. About the best thing I can say for him is that he just keeps on keepin' on, which can't be easy when you weigh 145 pounds.

Overall, not a great win for the Buckeyes, but they did well to keep the momentum even through Miami's special teams fireworks.

September 7, 2010

Game of the Week

Saturday, September 11th
2:40 PM CDT: #12 Miami at #2 Ohio State
This is a bit of a throwback to the Big Ten brawn vs. the South speed games. Can Ohio State continue the momentum from last year’s Rose Bowl or will Miami’s speedy defensive ends contain Terrell Pryor enough to show that that game was a fluke? Has Jacory Harris cleaned up the interceptions from a year ago?

Prediction: Didn't manage to see either team last week, but just based on who's back from last year, gotta take the Buckeyes.

Pretenders No More

College football season started with a bang this past weekend as former upstarts TCU and Boise State proved they’re ready to play with the big boys this year. Well, at least the mid-sized boys who were willing to play them (let’s see if anyone is willing to do it next year…). I thought both games were QB stories, actually:

Boise State def. Virginia Tech 33-30
I’ve been saying for three years that Tyrod Taylor is not a legitimate D1 quarterback (search the blog for Tyrod!) and I stand by my decision. Here’s the difference: After Virginia Tech inexplicably tries to pass for the first down on 3rd and 8 instead of taking another 35 seconds off the clock, Boise State gets the ball back down 4 points with 1:47 on the clock and no timeouts. No matter, because Kellen Moore needs only 38 seconds to take his team 56 yards to pay dirt. Seems like they might have left too much time (1:09) on the clock, right? Not a chance, because without the threat of the scramble, Taylor can’t attack through the air. Essentially, he’s not a dual threat quarterback the way Jake Locker is or Michael Vick was. Taylor has both skills, but they must be used in tandem. Boise State contained him just enough in the early going to make it too late for the Hokies at the end.

TCU def. Oregon State 30-21
Another senior quarterback with all the intangibles leads his team to victory over a team with an overrated quarterback. Oregon State’s Ryan Katz, however, is overrated in a different way. I’m pretty certain he’ll be an NFL quarterback. Fantastic arm, throws a nice deep ball, and he did show some resilience. But he’s not ready yet, and he was asked to do too much too soon. The result: a fade down the stretch which culminated in a snap over his head that effectively ended the game. Andy Dalton may be just the opposite. Probably doesn’t have the tools to be an NFL quarterback, but his experience meant everything. It wasn’t one of his better games, but he made plays with his legs, and showed his toughness and his leadership in overcoming two bad interceptions.

So, what does it all mean? On one hand, Oregon State and Virginia Tech are elite teams in name only. They don’t have the horses to hang with the Tide or the Buckeyes and beating them may only prove that TCU and Boise State belong in the top 25, which everyone already knew. On the other hand, what do these mid-majors have to do? They’ve beaten everyone in their path and everyone else is too scared to get in their path.

Here’s my take: In general, I think you need sustained success to be a true contender and these programs both appear to have gotten lucky on a quarterback other schools misjudged. It could very well be a flash in the pan that will be gone next year when these guys graduate. But it’s hard to ignore the fact that Boise State burst onto the scene by beating Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl after the 2006 season. That was a while and 2 quarterbacks ago. If you consider the recruiting push they’d get from being in the national championship game and the ungodly number of talented football players in California paired with the watering down of the pac-10, they have a real shot at sustained success. TCU, maybe not so much. There’s a reason you hear Andy Dalton compared with Sammy Baugh so much – there hasn’t been anyone else like them at TCU. And yes, there’s a large talent pool in Texas, but UT, A&M and even SMU now that June Jones is there have a pretty good pull. And the SEC and Big 12 are much harder to contend with for players.

Advantage: Boise State. I’ll be rooting for them this year.