Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sunday Morning Quarterback: Week Six

Last night, I discovered two college football saviors. One was Ohio States phenom frosh, Terrelle Pryor. The other was ESPN 360. Had I not had the latter, I would not have witnessed the former. Anyway, it was a good Saturday of college football. Here are my thoughts...

Ohio State
Over Jim Tressel's seven or so years as OSU's head coach, I have become accustomed to close games with dramatic endings...oh, that and Big Ten championships, BCS bowl games,
and victories over Michigan. Last night's contest in Madison was no different.

This game marked the coming out party for Terrelle Pryor. Although, he is not the first mobile
quarterback to take a starting position from an all-Big Ten performer and co-captain. Back in the 70's, the great Woody Hayes sat Greg Hare for the shifty Cornelius Greene.

The good: First of all, Ohio State won. They accomplished this win over a solid, top-25 team that may not lose another game. (Mark my words.) They won in a stadium where Wisconsin does not lose (16 straight, second longest streak in the nation) during a time of day the
Badgers rarely falter (at night, 11 in a row). The best part is that the defense and special teams played well enough to keep the Buckeyes in the game while Pryor and the offense grew up a little. Also, Beanie Wells proved that he is still an elite player that will not be denied first downs and TD's. Oh, and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins proved with his game-clinching interception that he is the defensive MVP for the team so far this season.

The bad: Although Pryor led the team to two fourth quarter scores, including the game-winning TD, he still looks really green. For all of Todd Boeckman's faults, he never took 16-yard sacks or a really long time to find open receivers. (Of course, he did like to throw into do
uble-coverage, something I have not seen from Pryor thusfar.) My hope is that these issues will only get better as the season goes on. My only complaint on the other side of the ball is that OSU should not play prevent defense at the end of the half. They have the athletes to cover anyone. They really could have clamped down better in the second quarter as they did at the end of the game.

So much for history. This Tiger team continues to rewrite the history books, but putting up 52 on Nebraska in their backyard is ridunculous. Next week's meeting with the Oklahoma State Cowboys should be a shoot-out. Then, it's off to Austen. We'l
l see how Mizzou does, but this win in Lincoln was huge for the program, overcoming a 30-year drought.

The good: Uh, I'd say hanging 52 on "the children of the corn" was good enough. Their defense even came to play. The game was not as close as the 52-17 score might suggest. Daniels continues his Heisman Chase, but it will probably take an undefeated season to guarantee that award.

The bad: Well, I really don't know. I guess the only thing I can come
up with is the threat of next week's trap game. Mizzou will be high on their drubbing of the Cornhuskers and looking ahead to their match-up with Texas. OK State is no joke.

Big Ten
The conference is looking mighty strong right now. There are still two undefeated teams in the conference (Penn State and Northwestern). Several teams look to be solid top-25 squads, plus yesterday's games were as entertaining as any in the nation.

The good: A really competitive race for the conference title is developing. Ohio State, Michigan State, Northwestern, and Penn State are all undefeated in conference play. Penn State is a top-10 squad and will more than likely enter Ohio Stadium in a couple of weeks for a huge top-10 battle for Big Ten supremacy. I look for OSU to find ways to win and for Wisconsin and Illinois to fight it out for runner-up status.

The bad: Kirk Ferentz has to be the most overrated coach in America. Although the Iowa coach has a winning record (63-50, 38-34 conference) he has sandwiched three 10+ win seasons with seven sub-standard campaigns. Announcers always talk about what a great coach he is, but where are the results? His teams rarely beat anyone in the top-25 and are staring at a third-straight 6-win campaign. This is not the Iowa team I remember growing up. Plus, the team was recently involved in a sexual assault scandal, which he and other university officials handled rather poorly.

The other stinking mess in the Big Ten? Michigan returned to Earth this week by giving up 45 to Illinois in the "Big" House. (The quotation marks are mine.)Top 25
For the most part, the top-10 stayed intact, sans regular pretender South Florida. There wasn't a huge shake-up like last week, but there was some nice drama. The story of the week is easily Vanderbilt as they beat Auburn to go 5-0 for the first time ever.

The good: Vanderbilt's win has landed the team from Nashville into the top-15, and they're legit. This team really reminds me of the 2002-2003 Ohio State Buckeyes who won the national championship. They scrapped their way to every win while nearly losing week after week. Using a team-concept and heady play, they beat an unbeatable Miami team for their first championship in over 30 years. Vandy looks very similar. Also, the Ohio State/Wisonsin game was the game of the day. The whole country got to see the next superstar of college football emerge in Terrelle Pryor. Most everything else went according to plan this Saturday.

The bad: For some asinine reason, the local ABC affiliate opted to show the USC/Oregon blow-out instead of Ohio State/Wisconsin. This made no sense. Geographically, we are much closer to Big Ten country than the PAC Ten. I know of way more Wisonsin and OSU sympathizers in these parts than I do USC fans. Luckily, as mentioned before, I had ESPN 360 to save the day.

What else? Well, Kansas was lucky to beat Iowa State. Southern Florida looked as overrated as they were last year in losing to Pitt (who lost to Bowling Green earlier this season). Florida entered the fourth quarter only up ten points against a pathetic Arkansas team. Another undefeated team in UCONN went down to a very good UNC team...and it wasn't in basketball.

The Heisman
The defending Heisman winner, Tim Tebow, has looked more Clark Kent than Superman this season. If it weren't for his backs, he would have found himself in a dog-fight for the second-straight week with lesser competition. This leaves the race wide open. Chase Daniels (Mizzou's delivery dude), Sam Bradford (super-Sooner), Colt McCoy (Is there a better name for a Texas QB?), and Graham Harrell (yet another Texas Tech QB with unbelievable numbers) are not only in the race for first-team all-Big 12 honors, but are the front runners for Tebow's trophy. The only running back to consider is Michigan State's (and Dayton native) Javon Ringer. There's still a lot of football left, but that's sort of where the race stands.

Overall Grade: C+
I actually prefer it when the day is not overrun with upsets. Plus, there were just enough dramatic games to keep it interesting. The downside was that USC still plays football. They are my new most-hated team. Michigan is down and Florida is pedestrian. I can't stand that USC loses to unranked teams and only drops six or seven spots, while Ohio State loses to #1 in their house and drops eleven. It doesn't seem fair. I expect the next few weeks to be much more intense.

Next Week
Clemson at Wake Forest (What was once considered the marquee match-up of the mean ACC has since become just another Thursday night game.)
Texas vs. Oklahoma, aka "The Red River Rivalry" (This one is going to be HUGE. #5 vs. #1. Two of college football's best quarterbacks will face off in this rivalry game held on the Texas state fairgrounds. Fried Twinkie on a stick, anyone?)
Toledo at Michigan (Toledo gave Fresno State all they could handle. This would be gigantic for the MAC conference if the Rockets pull this one off.)
Vanderbilt at Mississippi State (Definition of a "Trap Game": when a team comes off a big, emotional win and has a game versus a scrappy underachiever just before another big game. Vandy edged Auburn and has preseason #1 Georgia the week after the MSU game.)
Purdue at Ohio State (OSU has a week to get Pryor some more reps before they enter a stretch that includes at Michigan State, Penn State, at Northwestern, at Illinois, before hosting Michigan.)
Notre Dame at North Carolina (This one decides which team is the bigger pretender.)
Michigan State at Northwestern (Big Ten game of the week)
Oklahoma State at Missouri (This will be a shoot-out. Also, see Vanderbilt/MSU above.)
Penn State at Wisconsin (Is Penn State for real? How will the Badgers respond with their backs to the wall? I predict an upset. Write it down.)
LSU at Florida (Is this where the SEC starts to beat up on itself?)
Ball State at Western Kentucky (Does anyone remember when I predicted that Ball State would be this year's BCS-buster? Just asking.)

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