September 28, 2009

Around the Nation: Jimmy Clausen saves the day for Notre Dame. Is he going to the NFL though?? Plus, some thoughts on UCLA, Auburn, and Ohio State

More thoughts from another great day in the world of college football.

10) Jimmy Clausen is being rumored as the possible #1 pick in the NFL Draft next year?? WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?? You could have knocked me over with a feather when I saw this mock draft listing Clausen as the #1 pick going to the Cleveland Browns next year (which would also be extremely ironic considering their current starting quarterback). I've occasionally pondered the possibility of Jimmy Clausen going pro after his junior year due to his age as a 22 year old junior, but I never really gave it serious consideration. I mean, four weeks ago, we were all sitting on pins and needles wondering if Jimmy Clausen was even an elite quarterback. Not only was I not sure that he was a future NFL pro, I wasn't completely convinced that he was the answer for Notre Dame. Remember all the concerns about his athleticism and his decision-making and his pocket presence??

Well, Clausen has obviously been spectacular through four games so far, but no part of me ever thought we would be losing him to the NFL after this year. I figured he would be back for his senior year for a multitude of reasons:

1) to soak in one more year of tutelage under Charlie Weis
2) the clutter of big name QBs earmarked for the 2010 Draft who were projected ahead of him going into the season (Bradford, McCoy, Tebow, Snead)
3) whole cast of skill players back at ND to make a run at a BCS bowl and a Heisman trophy

Strong reasons to come back for sure, and there are plenty of examples of quarterbacks who stayed all four years and have gone on to great NFL careers. Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger are two great examples.

However, I think there are some other factors in play that will probably have an effect on Clausen's decision. As you look more closely, there are reasons to be concerned that he might leave.

1) The Matt Leinart/Sam Bradford Factor -- While coming back for your senior year can be a great thing to boost your draft stock if you aren't really well known, it's not always a great idea if you're already being looked at as a top 10 type pick after your junior year. If you're a top 10 pick as a junior, you're pretty much a known commodity. Coming back to school just gives scouts another year to pick apart your flaws. The more they know about you, the less they love you. Suddenly, you are getting overlooked and everyone is jumping on the next big thing.

Matt Leinart is the perfect example. If he had come out after the 2004 college football season, he would have been the #1 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. By the end of 2004, everyone loved Matt Leinart. He was viewed as a winner, accurate passer, and intelligent player who was perfect for a pro style offense.

Take a look at who went #1 that year. Alex Smith!! Just a hilariously bad pick, but the 49ers needed a QB and rolled the dice. If Leinart had come out, he would have been a 49er that year.

Instead, Leinart comes back in 2005 and has another great year, but scouts had another year to look at him and started picking apart his flaws. Weak arm strength, lack of mobility, etc. Suddenly, he drops all the way to #10. I'm not sure he's ever really recovered from that.

Another one would be Brady Quinn. Even though I think he made the right decision to come back for his senior year, he might have actually had more value by leaving after his junior year. People hadn't really picked apart all of his flaws by the end of his junior year. The perception of Brady Quinn after his junior year was that he was a rising star, and he probably would have shot up the draft charts after setting weightlifting records at the combine. If there's one thing we know about scouts in any sport (NBA, MLB, NFL), it's that they love upside. The longer you stay in college, the less upside you are perceived to have.

Finally, there's Sam Bradford. If he came out last year, he's currently suiting up for the Detroit Lions after signing a $70 million contract as the #1 overall pick. His value was at an all time high last year coming off the Heisman and those eye-popping numbers. Heck, I've never been one to buy into system QBs like what you'd see at Oklahoma, but even I was buying into Bradford after watching him play relatively well against Florida's defense.

Now?? He's suddenly got a shaky shoulder, and all bets are basically off on Sam Bradford. What if he struggles coming back?? Are there going to be injury concerns now?? Are scouts going to be concerned about how good he is after seeing his backup put up huge numbers as well?? Is he still the consensus #1 pick?? Should he have come back even though OU had to replace all those linemen??

Compare Sam Bradford's situation to Mark Sanchez. Sanchez could not have timed his decision any better. He went when his value was peaking after a really good junior year, and suddenly he was a top ten pick after a good combine. I thought he was making a mistake by coming out, but it turns out he made a shrewd decision. Knowing your value is a huge thing when it comes to declaring for the NFL Draft.

I even see it a little bit with Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy. It almost feels like people are a little fatigued by those two guys and looking for someone new. I wouldn't be shocked if neither one of them got picked in the first round next year.

So what does that mean for Jimmy Clausen?? Clausen and his family are very well-educated on the business side of football. Clausen even has stated that going to ND was a "business decision," so you know he's going to be talking to everyone and studying all of this stuff. He's going to be looking at guys who have benefited from leaving and other guys who have benefited from staying (as well as guys who didn't benefit from staying). A lot of this probably depends on his value after his junior year. If he's a top 10 pick after his junior year, it probably makes sense for him to leave.

By my count, there are probably 4-5 guys who are serious competition for Clausen in the 2010 Draft: Bradford, Tebow, McCoy, Snead, Locker. Right now, the only guy I'd say Clausen is behind is Bradford, and even that one is debateable. Too early to tell on Clausen's value, but we'll probably find out a lot more in the next 2-3 weeks. If we beat Washington and USC, his value is going to skyrocket.

2) The offensive line -- Two tackles are gone next year, and that's part of the reason why Sam Bradford got hurt. Then again, we have all of our top skill guys back, so Clausen would have plenty of opportunities to put up huge numbers in his senior year.

3) The new NFL collective bargaining agreement -- Probably the most obscure but also a potential major factor in Clausen's decision. The NFL CBA is going to be coming up soon, and the buzz from the owners/Roger Goodell side is that we're going to see a serious push from the owners for a rookie salary cap in 2011 and beyond. I think the owners are feeling burned by all of the holdouts and huge contracts for guys who have never taken a snap before. Michael Crabtree has become the symbol of the movement for a rookie salary cap. The guy hasn't played a down, and he's asking for money that would make him the highest paid player on the team.

If I was the players' association, I would go all the way to the point of a strike to avoid a rookie salary cap. If they agree to a rookie salary cap, all it does is amount to a giant pay cut for the players. If all rookies are held to a pay scale, are NFL owners really going to start handing out huge deals to veteran players with all that extra money?? I don't see it. The New England/Pittsburgh model is in vogue where you shy away from big money veteran free agents and continue to recycle with young players. That's how you win in the NFL. So if NFL teams can get away with paying their rookies even less money, they're not going to splurge on veteran players. All it does for NFL teams is allow them to cut their payroll. It's a win-win for owners and a lose-lose for players.

Now, NFL owners and Goodell will try to spin this by saying that there will be more money for veteran "proven" players, and I bet a lot of players will buy into it. I personally think it would be a mistake for the players to agree to that type of a deal.

Anyway, back to Clausen. We have no idea if this rookie salary cap is going into place, but isn't there going to be a strong incentive for Clausen to go pro in 2010 if he fears that it might be the last chance for him to sign a big rookie deal?? If 2010 is an uncapped year and he can get a huge deal as a top 15 pick in 2010, that might be his best bet if a rookie salary cap is coming in 2011. If Clausen waits until 2011 and suddenly has to sign a 4 year, $12 million deal because of a rookie salary cap, that would be a financial disaster.

Of course, all of this is rampant speculation. Clausen is already really banged up, and still has a tough game coming up with USC. We have no idea what ND is going to do for the rest of the year, and Clausen's value will probably rise and fall throughout the season.

Ultimately, I think Clausen will be back for his senior season when he will be the undisputed top player in the 2011 Draft, but I am glad that Crist is at least getting some snaps this year. We might need him a lot sooner than we anticipated.

9) Great to see that one of my favorite websites is back in business!! Well, sort of. is now defunct, but has picked up where the old site left off. And it looks like it's the same guy who ran the Florida site. Man, that guy has it out for Ron Zook. I might buy a t-shirt this time around if they're selling them because Ron Zook will probably not be a head coach again to have a third "" site pop up at another school.

Guess we all should have seen this coming. I wish I had bought the rights to that site two years ago at the height of the Ron Zook lovefest at Illinois. Would have been a great "buy low" opportunity. I'd be selling tee shirts right now to every Illinois fan in the Midwest.

Illinois is a real bad football team. Real bad. We were sitting about ten feet behind their bench yesterday at the Ohio State-Illinois game, and they looked like they packed it in about midway through the first quarter. Ron Zook's seat has to be extremely warm at this point.

8) On behalf of the rest of the college football world, thank you to the Iowa Hawkeyes. You have done America a favor for a second straight year. Now, we just need you to lose yourselves. Don't look now, but Iowa has an opportunity to make a lengthy run as an unbeaten. Tough trips to Madison and Columbus, but they suddenly look like a possible 10 win team.

7) Time for a new segment on the blog! I'll call it the Handicappers Corner. This week, I'd like to take a look at a few overrated and underrated teams from a gambling perspective.


UCLA - Could be a bit of a sleeper team in the Pac 10. Rick Neuheisel seems to be turning them around. 3-0 against the spread and they are dogs again this week. Interesting game against Stanford. I'd strongly consider a moneyline bet on the Bruins if you are feeling frisky.

South Carolina - 4-0 against the spread so far, and I think maybe the most underrated team in the country. Their defense and athleticism are ridiculous. Honestly, if you put South Carolina in the Big 10, I think they could win the conference. They aren't the prettiest team out there, but watch the athleticism and speed of these SEC teams. It's a different level of play. Mark this down, South Carolina will end up in the Cotton Bowl or something like that, people will be talking them down because they play "ugly" ball, and then they'll roll some Big 12 team. Just like Ole Miss did last year.

Auburn -- Another team that is 4-0 against the spread. I didn't think much of them going into the year, but Chizik and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn have them flying around and playing great football so far. That blowout win over Mississippi State is looking strong now since it appears that MSU is at least a little frisky this year under first year coach Dan Mullen. Auburn has a brutal schedule that might eventually catch up to them, but I've been impressed so far.


Southern Cal -- 1-3 against the spread right now and really not playing the kind of football that we have come to see out of USC under Pete Carroll. They are still getting old school USC betting lines that I'm not sure they deserve at the moment. 44 points against WSU was absurd. Their defense is still extremely stingy, but they are missing their mojo on offense. USC feels vulnerable this year. Their defense will still win them games, but we haven't seen one of those vintage USC offensive performances where they pour it on yet.

I have as much respect for Pete Carroll as anyone, but they are still a work in progress. That could change in the blink of an eye though, and USC is one of those teams that always peaks down the stretch. It'll be interesting to see how handicappers adjust to them. They might be one of those teams that suddenly becomes underrated if Vegas overcompenstate for their early struggles.

LSU -- 1-3 against the spread and looking every bit like the classic Les Miles team. Talented as all get out but capable of losing to anyone and always somehow pulling out wins in improbable fashion. LSU was 5-7 against the spread in 2007 but won the national championship that year. Last year, they were 2-9 against the spread. We'll find out a lot more about LSU this week against Georgia.


Notre Dame: 1-3 against the spread so far, and still giving 13.5 points against Washington. I must say that I'm shocked by that line. We were sizeable favorites over MSU and Purdue and needed everything in the bag to beat both those teams. I figured there would be a correction against Washington, but 13.5 is there for the taking.

6) Another new segment on the blog. Nobody loves a good bandwagon more than me, but only to a point. Once the media latches on to a bandwagon, it's probably a good idea to start heading in the other direction. Of course, once that bandwagon falls off the tracks, the media is already on to the next bandwagon. Well, I love nothing more than holding the media accountable, so let's break out the "Flat Tire on the Bandwagon" Award for bandwagons that were abandoned almost as quickly as they were formed. Last week's winner was the "Tate Forcier for Heisman" bandwagon. I'll nominate two winners for this week:

1) The "Miami for the national title game" bandwagon
2) The "Jevan Snead for Heisman" bandwagon

Jump! Not a lot of people driving either of those buses today. Jevan Snead, might want to think about coming back to school next year. Can't say I was too impressed with him. Pretty good mobility, but not nearly the playmaker that I had expected to see.

5) As for the Heisman race, it's hard to really get excited about anyone right now. I think I'm going to just stick with the career achievement award for now until someone definitively steps up from outside the big two and snatches away this award:

4) Tony Pike
3) Jimmy Clausen
2) Colt McCoy
1) Tim Tebow

4) Went to the Ohio State-Illinois game and figured I'd throw in some thoughts on the OSU gameday experience. Haven't been to a game in a couple years, so it was interesting to get back into the Horseshoe and see how much things have changed. All in all, a great day of football.

--Weather was brutal. The only other time I've been that wet at a game was ND-Michigan last year. Just a complete downpour for most of the game.
--Crowd was great though in spite of the weather. Extremely loud. Whatever they are doing to get the crowd noise up, it was working. Even though the Buckeyes were in complete control of that game, the crowd was good from start to finish.
--Ohio State's band is still good, but what's up with all the copycat stuff?? They're doing the Star Wars "kill" thing and the 1812 overture now?? It felt like I was at Notre Dame Stadium. It would be one thing if they had been doing those songs forever, but they're basically blatant ripoffs.

Plus, the new kickoff thing is that White Stripes "Seven Nation" song where the whole crowd sings in unison like the Penn State crowd. Another copycat move. Just seemed strange. There are thousands of songs out there and you pick the Penn State song?? Isn't there another song out there that the Buckeye band could play to get the crowd fired up??

Ohio State has a huge repertoire of different Buckeye songs for the band to play. Give me the fight song and other stuff that you'd typically hear the OSU band play. I don't understand why they are suddenly trying to copy other schools. I'm not going to an Ohio State game to hear ND and Penn State traditions. It devalues the experience. Either come up with your own song, or play the tradtioanl stuff.
--Ohio State's defensive line is awfully good. Completely dominated the game. There are 4-5 NFL players in their d-line rotation.
--Tressel Ball is boring, but it was a perfect game plan for the weather they had yesterday. Control the game with your defense and special teams, play field position, and keep knocking on the door until you break through. Illinois had no answer for Pryor's scrambling ability. If I was Tressel, I would be spending tons of time figuring out a way to get Pryor out in space.

3) I probably shouldn't say much about the ND game other than heaping a whole bunch of praise on Jimmy Clausen. With Jimmy Clausen, we're a top 30ish team. Without Jimmy Clausen, we're Purdue. Simple as that. Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but that's where we are from my perspective. Clausen might not seriously contend for the Heisman Trophy, but he is as good as any player in the nation.

Oh and Golden Tate and Kyle Rudolph?? They're pretty darn good too. For all the people who have been ripping Golden Tate the last couple weeks for "dropped passes" (even though the guy makes ten great plays for every bad one), you should probably just pour yourself a giant bowl of crow. He carried the team for a good chunk of the game, but that's what he does week in and week out. Get the ball in Golden Tate's hands, and good things happen. I'll take him on my team any day of the week.

Other unsung heroes:
-Darius Fleming-- Thought he played well
--ND run defense - I was at a bar for the entire game and couldn't see that well, but it seemed like our run defense played really well. Purdue only ran for 72 yards on Saturday. It seemed like Purdue had quite a few 2nd and short situations where we got stops
-Robbie Parris -- Man, Parris made a huge catch when we needed him to come through. If he doesn't get open or drops that ball, we probably lose that game
-Robert Hughes-- A Robert Hughes sighting was nice. He ran with some power yesterday. Encouraging sign. At this point, I think he's gotta be the backup running back.
--Wildcat -- Great day for the Wildcat yesterday. I thought we had some great looks to get the ball into the hands of Golden Tate. I'm officially coming around on the Wildcat. It has become a legitimate weapon in this offense, and we're probably going to need to use it to succeed without Michael Floyd. Weis deserves a ton of credit for getting more and more production out of the Wildcat each week.
--Nick Tausch -- Very solid performance out of him. I think we've got a good one there.

Things that didn't go so well:
-Pass Defense -- It really is sad that teams can just march down the field on us whenever they really need to. At some point, it would be nice to see this defense carry us to a win. Yesterday was a golden opportunity for that to happen. Unfortunately, the defense laid down yet again and needed yet another bailout from the offense.
--Maust -- Jesus, can we at least audition Turk for a series??
--Game management -- I've come to accept Charlie Weis for what he is at this point, and you just have to take the good with the bad. I think he's done a good job with this team so far, but I will say that he has some Marvin Lewis-esque tendencies when it comes to game management. When in doubt, Weis errs on the side of going all in. He's a gambler by nature. Sometimes I like it, but other times I'd just rather see him take the prudent approach and play it safe.

Two gambles that really backfired in my opinion:

1) Going for it on 4th and 1 instead of kicking a 38 yard field goal -- This move didn't really kill us, but to me it's just the message here. Why not kick the field goal and get on the board?? That is well within Tausch's range. It's almost as if Weis has zero patience. We fell behind 7-0 and he's already in a bit of a panic mode feeling like we need to get that touchdown right back. I love the aggressiveness, but what about managing the game?? Get the three points and give yourself a little momentum. Just let the game come to you a little bit. Could you imagine going to Vegas with Charlie Weis?? He'd lose the first couple hands in Blackjack and then throw all his chips in on the next hand to try to win it all back. Sometimes it can be brilliant, but patience isn't always a bad thing. It's a 60 minute game.

1) Going for it on 4th and 10 from their 40 -- In one respect, I can understand why he wanted to go for it here. If we get that first down, we might be on our way to six points and a score. But isn't a punt a better play here?? Why not punt that thing down inside the ten yard line and give your defense a chance?? Why hang your defense out to dry like that?? Going for it on 4th and 10 is such a low percentage play that Weis had to know that Purdue would be jacked up about stopping us and about having great field possession. What kind of message does that send to your defense??

That sequence just confirms to me is what I have known for years. Charlie Weis is not a believer in the field position game. He has no regard for the concept. He has an NFL mindset where field position is not that big of a deal because teams can move the ball quickly down the field from just about anywhere.

In Weis' mind, every offensive series that doesn't result in a score is a failure. That's not a bad attitude to have, but there can be "good" offensive series that don't result in a score. On that drive against Purdue, we moved the ball, ate up some clock, and could have punted it down there and given the defense a new life. If we have them pinned inside the ten, the defense might come out fired up and make a big play. Maybe we get a pick deep in their territory or something. By going for such a low percentage play and basically handing them the ball at the 40, it completely changed the game for Purdue.

I don't want Weis to suddenly turn into Jim Tressel Jr, but why not occasionally play the field position game?? Part of the reason why our defense stinks is that Weis hangs the defense out to dry so many times. He still coaches games from the perspective of an offensive coordinator instead of a head coach.

That's about all I really care to discuss on yesterday's game. It was a gutsy win considering all of the injures, and 3-1 is certainly better than 2-2.

I'd rather dive back into a big picture discussion though. It feels like there are two camps forming among the ND fanbase that have sort of divided the "Nation."

1) The "I don't care if we come back in the last minute to beat a I-AA team, survive and advance is all that matters in college football. The only thing that matters is coming out on top" camp


2) The "We just needed a last minute heroic effort from our superstar quarterback to beat one of the three worst teams in the Big Ten after barely getting by another mediocre Big Ten team the week before. I'll take the win, but these feel like empty victories. Are we even any good?" camp

Walking out of the stadium after the Michigan State game, I was firmly in camp one and didn't really understand all the anguish about the game. I felt the emotion in the stands, saw how much Sparty wanted that game (their players were literally lying on the ground in anguish after Cousins threw that pick), and knew that we had earned a tough win even if it didn't look impressive on paper. Michigan State is flaky, but they have talent and always bring their "A" game against ND. Coming out of that game with a win no matter what the score was a big step for the program.

But for this game, even though everything about the win says "camp one" considering all of the injuries, I gotta say that I'm leaning towards a "camp two" perspective after that game. I mean, my god. Purdue is a horrible football team. Their QB stinks, they couldn't run the ball on us, their defense stinks, and they have a new coach. Take a look at their schedule. Purdue is going to win like 3 games this year.

Even without Clausen and Armando Allen, we were so much more talented than them. We jumped all over them and then just started sleepwalking. I was at a bar for the game and sort of lost focus on the game for a stretch in the third quarter. Suddenly we were in a dogfight out of nowhere. It feels like we do this every week. We had an opportunity to put that game away by halftime and let them hang around.

Now, I know there's a ton of parity in college football right now. LSU almost got beat by Mississippi State, Penn State lost at home to Iowa, FSU lost at home, Georgia squeaked by at home, Michigan squeaked by at home. This season has already been insanely upset-laden, and I think it's safe to say that there are only three elite teams in college football this year. Florida, Texas, Alabama. If you don't show up to play, you can lose to ANYONE this year.

So in that sense, I think there's a lot of reason to feel good about any win against a team that shows up motivated to play you. Teams like Mississippi State and Purdue lay it all on the line to knock off a traditional power like LSU or ND. We usually get their best shot every year. Survive and advance is the story of the year in college football so far.

But I gotta say that my feeling after the game was one of relief rather than one of joy or elation. We were at an ND gamewatch event, and people were hugging and screaming after the Rudolph touchdown like we had won the BCS title game over Florida. I just couldn't bring myself to really celebrate or let loose after that play. I was relieved to get the win, but has it gotten to the point that I need to be hugging random strangers because we beat Purdue?? It's Purdue!! Now we're celebrating because we needed everything in the arsenal to get by Purdue and Michigan State in back to back weeks?? If we are barely beating the bottom half of the Big Ten, would we even be competitive with the best teams in the league?? And that's just the Big Ten. Imagine this team matching up with an SEC team in a bowl game.

This team has a lot of room to improve, but the feeling I get with this 2009 team is similar to some of the other "Wake up the Echoes" teams of the past decade or so. A pretty good team that seems to be playing with a lot of heart, but ultimately a very flawed team that will probably get exposed in the big games against good opponents. We've been through this before several times. The 2000 team that sort of won in smoke and mirrors fashion and got housed by Oregon State. The 2002 team that somehow started 8-0 with a series of close wins but got exposed down the stretch. The 2006 team that won several close games to get to 10 wins but got plowed by USC and LSU at the end of the year. When I look at this ND team, that's where I see us again this year. I certainly hope I'm wrong. We have an opportunity to beat USC this year, and that would be the type of win to show that this team is truly different. And even if we are a smoke and mirrors team, it's certainly better than what we've had in recent years.

While I don't know what to make of this team, I think Weis has done a good job this year. He has really had us ready to play offensively, and we are adding new wrinkles to the Wildcat every week. Considering all of the injuries we have had, he has done all that we can ask him to do to get us to 3-1.

The good news is that winning these games keeps the momentum going on the season. If we were 2-2 or (gasp) 1-3 right now, the team would be in the tank. At 3-1, the guys still can dream big things and feel like they have a lot to play for (double digit wins, BCS bowl, etc). Now we just have to keep getting better.

Seems like a lot of people are worried about Washington, but they got hammered by Stanford on Saturday. Of course, that means they'll probably be sky high for the Irish, and Jake Locker is going to be looking to make a statement on national tv. I expect to get their best shot in this game, but it's a very winnable game. If we can sneak by Washington and get to 4-1, that will be a good feeling going into the bye week before USC.

2) Who Dey! Who Dey! Who Dey think gonna beat them Bengals!! I'm not sure if the Bengals are any good, but to be sitting at 2-1 after that brutal loss to the Broncos is certainly not where I expected to be after three games. At least the Bengals are interesting and playing hard. That's about all I can ask for. Maybe they'll lose to the Browns next week and kill all of their momentum (that would not shock me at all), but this win over the Steelers was as good as it has been in a long time for Bengals fans. Probably the biggest home win in 15 years. I would describe the attitude of the fans as "detached anticipation" going into the game, but it ended with pure pandemonium. There are very few times when being a Reds or Bengals fan can bring joy to your life, but today was one of those days.

Credit to Marvin Lewis as well. He can be maddening at times (i.e. ordering a clock spike on first down inside the Steelers 20 even though we had two timeouts left, which almost came back to haunt us), but I think the defense is finally looking like the type of defense that he wanted. The Bengals have spent so many draft picks on front seven players in the last 3-4 years that it's good to see it finally paying off. It's not a championship defense by any means, but at least they can get off the field on occasion now. When the Bengals really needed to get a couple stops in the fourth quarter, they got them. Last year, Roethlisberger would have picked up first down after first down.

In the NFL (especially the AFC North), it comes down to three things: running the football, stopping the run, and good quarterback play. The Bengals had some shaky moments, but won all three of those phases in the second half. The only way to beat the Steelers is to match them physically up front. If you can't run the football or make a dent into their offensive line, you have no chance. The Bengals got beat up physically for the first quarter and a half, but made up for it big time in the second half.

As for the Steelers, they BADLY miss Troy Polamalu right now. With Polamalu, their defense is unbelievable. Without him, it's merely a good defense. I can think of a half dozen plays off the top of my head where Polamalu would have made a huge difference. There's no way Brian Leonard would have converted that fourth and ten if Polamalu was in the game. There's no way Cedric Benson takes a 30 yard run to the house if Polamalu was there. He would have caught Benson and shoved him out of bounds at around the 10 and forced the Bengals to punch it in from there (which we probably wouldn't have done). The Bengals worked the middle all day in the passing game. Polamalu would have taken that away. He's the biggest difference maker in football, and the Steelers really miss him.

Finally, the Brady Quinn saga. I mentioned this last week, but I think we just saw the end of Brady Quinn's time as the quarterback of the future on the Browns. Maybe he can resurrect his career somewhere else, but it's not working in Cleveland. If I had to take a guess, I'd say it won't work out for him anywhere to be perfectly honest. Quinn is not a good NFL quarterback. You have to be able to make plays down the field, and Quinn doesn't have that in his repertoire.

Derek Anderson is equally bad, but at least the Browns can run their full offense with him in there. I think I'd put him in there. He'll throw picks left and right, but at least Mangini will be able to implement his full offense to be able to evaluate some of the younger receivers on the roster. With Brady Quinn, they can't run the ball at all because there's no threat of a downfield passing game, and the rookie receivers can't get experience running longer routes because Brady can't make those throws. The entire offense with Brady Quinn is a three step drop and dump off pass. That's not going to cut it.

The Browns are almost undoubtedly going to take a quarterback with their top five pick next year. They need to get their guy to build around for the future. Perhaps it will be another Notre Dame quarterback?? It certainly will be interesting.

Really enjoying the start of the NFL season. I've already watched more NFL football in three weeks than I did all of last year.

1) The Week Four WEISND Power Poll:

3) Texas
2) Florida
1) Alabama

Right now, I don't see any reason to rank anyone beyond those three teams. Bama, Florida, and Texas have distanced themselves from the rest of the college football world, and I'm about 99% sure that one of those three schools will be the national champion at the end of the year. Of course, this has been a wacky college football season, so anything is possible. For now, I'm listing those three and that's all. Unless someone like LSU or Oklahoma or USC jumps back up and starts making noise again, I'm content to just focus on those three teams for now.

Personally, I think Bama and Florida are the only two truly superior teams, and I think either of them would roll by Texas in a championship game. If I had to choose between Florida and Bama, I still think I'm going with Bama. Losing Dont'a Hightower was a HUGE loss for them (can't you just picture Verne Lundquist pronouncing the name Dont'a Hightower? That just makes me giddy thinking about it.), but they are a great team that looks like they are only going to get better as the year goes along. They have are loaded with seniors in their front seven, and the young offense is improving every week. When you look at how many young skill players are playing prominent roles for the Tide (Jones, Ingram, Richardson, etc), their future is extremely bright.


Craig said...

Regarding field position, the field position game becomes less important as you move down the rungs and the kicking teams become sketchier. It's most important in the pros, where the kicking is very reliable. Charlie's mindset on field position is very much not a common one in the NFL (in fact, coach timidity in the "maroon zone" is something that TMQ has harped about in NFL commentary in the past).

None of which is to say that I'm a fan of either 4th down decision, because I'm not. He should have kicked the FG in the first quarter, and I'm no better than 50/50 on the decision in the third.

rakeback said...

The Irish have looked very mediocre so far, and without Michael Floyd in the lineup their vertical passing game is gonna take a big hit. The Trojans will be getting back Matt Barkley, so that should bolster their chances as well. I hope Charlie Weiss can finally pull out a big win...its about time!