Some thoughts from another wild weekend in college football:
14. Just looked at the AP Top 25 poll for the first time all year, and I can't believe who I'm seeing at #5 in the country right now. Penn freaking State. You have got to be kidding me. If you're a Penn State fan, you should be embarrassed to be ranked #5 with that nonconference schedule. Penn State may well be a good football team (I personally think they'd go 8-4 in the SEC), but they have done nothing to deserve that ranking. Play someone with a pulse, and then we'll talk.
Again, take a look at who they are playing in the nonconference this year. It is an abomination.
What a joke! There are MAC teams that could go 4-0 against that schedule. How do you look yourself in the mirror and call yourself a big time program with a schedule like that??
Barring a fluke upset, Penn State basically has a two game season with a road game at Michigan and a home game against Ohio State. If Penn State goes undefeated this year and somehow sneaks into the title game over a 1 loss SEC champion, I am going to lose my mind. We ALL watched what happened in the Rose Bowl last year. Penn State got absolutely housed by USC, and I have no doubt that the same would happen this year if they had to play one of the big boys. Penn State is not an elite team and should not even be in the conversation for the national title game. Unfortunately, they're already in the top 5.
13) Is it me or are there are a lot more guys in football losing their helmets during the middle of the play than there used to be?? It feels like every other play someone's helmet is popping off during the middle of the play. Not only is it dangerous, doesn't it effectively take you out of the play?? How can you really bust some heads when you don't even have your helmet on?? With football as violent and dangerous as it is today, shouldn't helmets be more secure and not less?? Someone at Riddell Helmets might want to look into this issue.
What happened to the chin strap?? Do we not own chin straps?? Maybe they fall off because no one buckles them anymore. I don't understand it. All I know is that ND leads the nation right now in helmets flying off during the play.
I'm trying to think back to my high school football days, and I don't see how it's even possible for your helmet to pop off. If you have a chin strap on, the helmet could only pop off if your chin strap wasn't buckled properly. Are helmets just made differently now?? Is there a performance reason to not have your chin strap on or to have your helmet a little loose??
I'd like to hear more from the NCAA on the "helmets falling off" trend. One of these games, someone without a helmet is going to get leveled and get seriously hurt. You can see it coming from a mile away.
12) My Heisman ballot through week 3:
3) Jacory Harris
2) Jimmy Clausen
1) Jahvid Best
This list is very fluid of course through only three games, but that's where I stand through the first quarter of the season. Maybe that #2 pick is biased, but tell me who is playing better right now at quarterback?? I haven't seen anyone yet. Clausen has thrown 9 tds and ZERO picks. I watched a good bit of the Texas-Texas Tech game, and Colt McCoy is not playing as well as Jimmy Clausen right now. McCoy already has four picks this year. Plus, Jimmy Clausen is the #3 overall player right now in my fantasy league behind Jahvid Best and Taylor Potts. The numbers don't lie. I'll go with Jahvid Best at #1 for now based on the absurd numbers that he has put up so far on a top 10 team. This list will change multiple times over the course of the season.
11) What is going on with SEC defenses this year?? I watched that Arkansas-Georgia game, and it was borderline comical out there. NO ONE was playing any defense. Crazy game. Arkansas is fun to watch. Ryan Mallett looks like a completely different player. They are going to be a very interesting team the next couple years.
I don't have a read on the SEC at all this year. I've been to three straight ND games and haven't had much of a chance to watch much SEC football. The league has a little different feel this year. Lots more offense and passing than I'm used to seeing in the SEC. Other than Alabama, of course, who is just pounding teams on the ground.
Looking forward to settling in these next few weeks to watch some SEC football. There are some dandies coming up over the next few weeks (LSU-Georgia, Bama-Ole Miss, LSU-Florida). Buckle up folks. It's SEC time.
10) Something that I noticed in the box score that didn't get as much attention nationally as I thought maybe it should:
Tate Forcier against EMU: 7 for 13 for 68 yards, 2 sacks, 6 carries for 5 yards
Denard Robinson: 0 for 4, 0 yards, 2 INTs
Ouch. The Tate Forcier for Heisman bandwagon lost a wheel. I think he's having a remarkable year for a true freshman, but there will be some clunkers for him this year. I have no doubt about it. Freshmen QBs usually don't make it through the season without some rough patches.
9) I have some thoughts on the ND game below, but I wanted to chime in with a couple thoughts on recruiting first. If you're an ND prospect, wouldn't this start give you a lot of reason to think about coming to ND?? Matt James (OL recruit from St. Xavier in Cincy) was at the ND-MSU game, and he had to have been excited about how good our o-line has looked so far. If you come to ND, you get to play for Frank Verducci, who has been a miracle worker thus far. Same goes for any skill player in the passing game. Come to ND, and you'll put up huge numbers. Andrew Hendrix must be licking his chops to play in this offense. I would think we will get a 5 star QB next year if Weis is back (another hidden reason to keep it going with Charlie Weis).
Defensively, wouldn't you be watching that game thinking that you could get on the field right away?? A 300 pound DT beast like Nix has to be thinking he could come in and get snaps immediately. Same for Chris Martin (who I have no doubt is coming to ND) or any linebackers or safeties we are recruiting. Charlie Weis can go to any living room in the country and offer immediate playing time to anyone who wants to make a difference and put this defense over the top.
8) Great win for Washington, but all that game really proves to me is that college football is completely unpredictable from week to week. It's part of the beauty of the game, but also makes the week-to-week "instant analysis" stuff a little misguided. Washington is ABSOLUTELY a bowl team, but I'm not ready to crown them a 9-10 win team by any means. Incredible win for Steve Sarkisian (who seems like a great guy), and I have no doubt that Washington is a program on the rise that could be a major force in the Pac 10 in the next few years. But they could easily lay down next week at Stanford and lose by double digits. It's impossible to predict how teams are going to perform week to week. More often than not, big wins are followed by big losses, and bad losses are followed by inspired performances the next week. At the end of the day, college kids aren't professionals. You are going to have extreme highs and lows more often than a pro team.
The ND-MSU game was another great example. Sparty lays down against CMU at home, but you KNEW they were going to show up ready for ND. If they had played against CMU like they did against ND, they would have won by 3 touchdowns.
One final Washington note. Maybe the best move Sarkisian made as a head coach was to lure Nick Holt from USC. I can't believe he pulled that off. I think Holt is going to be an outstanding head coach someday. It's already paying major dividends for the Husky program.
7) Brady Quinn -- Oh boy. Didn't get a chance to watch Brady in week one, but I saw his performance yesterday. It did not go well. I hate saying this as much as anybody, but Brady Quinn is not a good NFL quarterback. He can make the short dink and dunk throws, but he has no ability to stretch the field. He really isn't even that great with the short stuff either. Lots of balls behind guys or balls getting batted down at the line.
Watching Brady yesterday, it brought back memories of his biggest flaws when he was at ND. He's a great athlete, but his accuracy occasionally gets away from him. There were always stretches in a game where Brady was either too pumped or just not feeling right for whatever reason. He could get away with it in college, but not in the NFL.
Granted, the Browns have zero running game and are really a bad football team from top to bottom, but Brady does not look like a guy who can start 16 games in the NFL right now. Maybe he will get better as the season goes along, but it's his third year. He really should be looking much better by now. I can at least see why Mangini was iffy about Brady Quinn going into the year. Do not be shocked if Derek Anderson is back in there at some point.
Oh, and there's this.
Dan Dierdorf probably sprinted to his phone to call up Gumbel as soon as he saw it and they both simultaneously shrieked "RAY LEWIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" like they were school girls with a crush on their 6th grade math teacher.
Ray Lewis is the most obvious HGH user since Barry Bonds, but the man is probably the best middle linebacker of all time. He's making a case to be considered the greatest defensive player of all time to be perfectly honest.
Monstrous win for the Ravens. Seems like Ray is going to have a great shot at one more ring.
6) Not enough data points to sound any alarms yet, but is it time to at least take a peek at Florida and USC and wonder just a bit about their offenses?? Both those teams have new offensive coordinators after Mullen left Florida for Mississippi State and Sarkisian left USC for Washington.
I didn't get to watch a play of the Florida game, but I'm shocked that they didn't lay the wood on Tennessee. I know it's a rivalry game that UT was really up for, but Florida has basically had all offseason to get ready for that game with two cupcakes to start the year. Maybe they're still working out the kinks or holding things back, but I'm curious to see how their offense looks in the next couple weeks. They have a moderately interesting game at Kentucky this weekend followed by a big one at LSU and then Arkansas.
Who is their Percy Harvin this year?? Doesn't seem like they've really found that guy yet. Are they going to more of a pro style offense and still adjusting?? Looking forward to watching them play.
For all I know, the Gators are just lying in the weeds waiting to explode from here on out. Their defense is still as good as any in the nation, so it's not like they can't win low scoring games either. But I must say that I was surprised by the low scoring game with the Vols and the low offensive output in general from a yardage standpoint (323 yards total).
As for USC, they brought in Jeremy Bates from the Denver Broncos, but he is taking all kinds of heat this week for conservative playcalling. Is it the young QBs or the offense or something else?? Guess we'll have to see how they look the next couple weeks.
5) To me, the defining game of the weekend was what happened out in Provo, Utah. The worst Mormon bloodbath since the Battle of Crooked River in 1838. Does that Florida State thumping of BYU finally put the rest the notion that these mid-majors should be included in the BCS championship game discussions?? Just stop already. Florida State is not even a great team right now, and they destroyed BYU in their building. Maybe these mid-majors can sneak up on a BCS team when they aren't up for the game like Boise and Utah have done, but if you put a motivated and talented team like FSU against a mid-major, it's a no contest. I still firmly believe that. It comes down to the Jimmys and the Joes. Florida State has elite talent. BYU has white corners. Enough said. Week in and week out, those teams don't play teams with elite talent and depth, and I don't think they would survive life in a big time league. Put Boise or BYU in the SEC with the pounding that those teams take week in and week out, and they'd lose 4-5 games AT LEAST.
I think the BYUs and Boises and Utahs are up and coming programs, but I don't want any part of those teams in a BCS title game. Win 11-12 games in a BCS league, and then we'll talk.
4) I know people are probably surprised to see Miami ranked in the top 10 this week, but I actually think you could have justified them in the top 5 after that performance against Georgia Tech. How many teams have been as impressive as Miami so far?? They look as talented as anyone in the nation, and completely outclassed Georgia Tech in every way.
Amazing turnaround job by Randy Shannon so far. I'll be the first to admit I was completely wrong on him for calling him Tyrone Willingham 2.0. He's recruiting well, and he made a great hire to bring in Mark Whipple as offensive coordinator.
Guess we'll see how they fare over these next two weeks with Virginia Tech and Oklahoma coming up, but I wouldn't be shocked to see them win one or both. They look legitimate at this point.
Only one complaint about Miami. I think they should move back to the Orange Bowl. Pro Player is fine, but it's kinda bowl game-ish for a home stadium. If Miami wants to seal the deal and get back to being the intimidating Miami brand, I'd get out of that Pro Player and try to revive the O.B.
Great to have The U back to prominence in college football. There have been quite a few resurgence stories this year. Miami, Michigan, and Washington to name a few. That's three of the best programs of the 90s right there. I like when the big names are good in college football.
By the way, Miami-Ohio State in the Horseshoe in 2010. VERY interesting game all of the sudden. Could be the marquee game of the nonconference season in 2010.
3) Some random thoughts on the ND game after watching it from the stands and then watching it on TIVO:
--First, the crowd was outstanding again on Saturday. Both home game crowds have been as good as I've heard them.
ND has always had a great crowd (especially earlier in the year when the weather is good), but it's really been a lively place this year. I hope we bring more of the same the next couple weeks.
--Loudest moments from the crowd in order:
3) Mike Collins announcing the final score of the USC-Washington game.
2) The Tate touchdown to take the lead
1) The McCarthy pick. As loud as I've ever heard it at ND Stadium. The crowd went from freaking out and incredibly nervous (bordering on resignation to an inevitable MSU td) to pure pandemonium. Great moment.
Some other random observations from behind the team bench:
1) The student section is as good as ever. Saw a great shirt from a student. There was a picture of a kid shotgunning a beer, and above it read: "The Shotgun: A Decided Schematic Advantage" Fine work.
2) Great to see Vince Vaughn on the sideline in an ND hat. He must have taken 50 pictures with different groups on the sideline. Hope he comes back for USC in a Jimmy Clausen jersey.
3) Tim Brown was on the sideline as well and was so into the game that several times he went over to the replay booth to try to watch the replay and lobby the officials to make a call in favor of ND. Gotta love that.
4) Corwin Brown really lights into the team on the sideline. Very intense coach.
Ok, onto the game:
--Jimmy Clausen -- What else can be said about Jimmy Clausen that hasn't already been said?? How great did he play on Saturday?? The game winner to Tate was a spectacular pass. I hope people realize that players like Jimmy Clausen don't grow on trees. We may never have a passer as good as him ever again.
Every question that we sort of wondered about him coming into the season has been answered. Pocket presence?? Not even the slightest problem anymore. He feels the rush, slides up in the pocket, and either runs or finds a guy. I haven't seen him turn his back away from the pocket once this year. He knows exactly where he wants to go with the ball in this offense, and every ball is right on the money. The only incompletions he seems to have are dropped balls.
Clausen was really banged up on Saturday. He was limping on every play and on the sideline. To hang in there and play that well for three quarters with that bum toe is pretty remarkable.
I used to worry about Clausen. That feels silly now. He's a mature, veteran leader who is playing at a really high level. As well as any QB who has ever played at ND.
--Golden Tate -- I'm actually surprised that he's been getting so much heat from ND fans about his performance on Saturday. So he dropped one pass and hotdogged it a little bit after the last td. Big whoop. He was awesome Saturday. Think about how many tackles he broke, especially in the second half. He singlehandedly willed the team to a couple huge first downs by breaking tackles and scraping and clawing. Plus, the two long balls down the field were incredible plays.
Maybe Tate is a little volatile, but he's another guy who doesn't come around too often. He carried us in the second half from a receiving standpoint even though Michigan State paid close attention to him with Floyd out.
I'm a huge Golden Tate fan. He's not the pure receiver that Floyd is, but he's as good a playmaker as anyone in the country.
--Armando Allen -- Maybe the biggest improvement from year to year that I've seen out of an ND player in a long time. Credit to Coach Alford and to Armando Allen for what we are seeing now. He is a legit feature back, and I expect his workload to only increase now that Floyd is out.
As good as the running game has looked, I actually think there's room to run the ball even more as the year goes along. We were gashing Michigan State with off tackle stuff. If our line continues to block this well, we should just keep hammering the run.
--O-line: In Frank Verducci I Trust. What a great hire he has turned out to be. Remember when the o-line was a huge question mark?? That feels like years ago. We run block well, we pass block well, we can go power, we can go finesse. This line has played GREAT through three games. Clausen has hardly been touched, and the running game has been powerful.
The right side of our line is just blowing people off the ball. Really impressive stuff. The days of putting our line play in the hands of young 18-19 year old kids are over. These guys are men now.
I really can't say enough good things about our offense this year. As fun as the 2005 offense was, this offense is better I think. Almost every drive has been a touchdown or a field goal. And it's not just smoke and mirrors or all jump balls. It's a balanced attack that picks up first downs on the ground and gets different guys involved in the passing game. With this new found running game and Clausen playing as well as he is, I really don't think there will be that much of a drop off offensively (if at all) even without Floyd.
--Kyle McCarthy -- Did it feel like he made every tackle on Saturday?? Where would this team be without Kyle McCarthy?? Honestly, not only is McCarthy so far and away the MVP of the defense, he's just about the only guy on the defense who is even playing well. He saves a touchdown like once a series. At least.
--So many things going on with this defense that I still can't figure out:
1) When are we going to make personnel changes on the d-line?? It's time to try something different up front. I think you gotta move Ethan Johnson to end and get some more beef in the middle. Ethan Johnson is supposed to be a playmaker on this defense. He's wasting away at DT right now. At least at DE, he'd have some matchup advantages. At DT, he just gets stymied.
The quintessential play where our d-line came up small was that stretch play to the left that MSU ran in for a score in the 3rd quarter. Just gashed us. Teams don't really have any trouble moving our d-line wherever they want.
From our seats, you could really see how small our d-line is. KLM is skinny, John Ryan is nothing physically, Kerry Neal never seems to play much, and our tackles aren't all that big. Ian Williams has some size, but he's the only real big guy in this unit. We badly need Hafis Williams or Cwynar to step up and earn more snaps.
2) Where are the linebackers?? Did our linebackers even make a tackle on Saturday?? Toryan Smith got abused all game long. He really cannot be starting much longer. He doesn't get off blocks, and he can't cover anyone.
The problem is that Te'o seems like he's a little too raw himself. He got burnt badly on a pass play to the tight end. I'd like to see more of Te'o, but he's probably going to have to be brought along slowly. I expect to see him getting more involved in the defense as the season goes along.
Darius Fleming has been a playmaker though. About the only positive out of the linebackers.
3) What is going on with this secondary?? I can't believe how mediocre the secondary has looked. Darrin Walls is legitimately getting picked on at this point. He gives like a 10 yard cushion every time. Plus, he dropped two picks. He's either rusty or hurt or not that good. Or the scheme is messed up.
Honestly, Blanton hasn't been quite as good as I thought he'd be either. I thought he was going to be a big time playmaker, and he really has been sort of pedestrian.
I think the corners need to get a lot more aggressive. Get up on these guys and make them beat you deep. Forget the cushion. Our secondary needs to be ballhawking and making plays. If we're going to blitz and put pressure, it makes no sense to leave the quarterback with open receivers underneath.
--Special teams -- Tausch looks like a keeper, but I'd really like to see a kick of his go to the end zone. The kickoff return unit looks pretty good so far. I'd like to see us break one.
I'm not a big Eric Maust guy though. His punt before the last drive went like 25 yards. If not for that holding penalty on MSU, they would have started that last drive with much better field position than they deserved. I think Turk should get a chance to hit a couple punts in a game just to see what he can do. Maust is mediocre, and he's hurt us with mishits each of the last two weeks.
--PENALTIES - UGH. What is with all the penalties?? Too many late hits and personal fouls. The penalties have been killers. I like the aggressiveness, but we should not be dumb about it.
Then again, the late hit call on Harrison Smith was questionable, and the Sam Young penalty was garbage. So maybe we just need to get away from these Big Ten refs. The officiating in the last two games has really not benefited the Irish. Not sure what to make of it, but it's really hurt this team on multiple occasions. The Armando out of bounds thing, the Floyd touchdown, all the penalties. Some really strange stuff.
--Wildcat -- Man, I don't know what to make of the Wildcat. We did some spectacular things with it on Saturday, but I'm also just feel uneasy about the whole thing for some reason. It just feels like it takes us out of our rhythm a little bit. I won't deny that it worked on Saturday, but we also had some real negative plays in the Wildcat that threw us off.
Personally, I'd rather just stick with the I-formation and run our standard offense. Give me an off tackle run over the Wildcat. For every good Wildcat play we have, we have at least one negative play with it. I'd rather just do what we do best. We're an I-formation/shotgun spread team, and that's where we do most of our damage.
I know why Weis likes it, but I wouldn't miss it if we never ran it again. Then again, Weis has produced one heckuva an offense, so I probably should just drop the subject.
Overall, it was a great win, but I'm not sure what to make of this team at this point. The offense is as good as it's ever been at ND, but the defense is badly in need of work. We'll look brilliant for a stretch, and then listless right after that.
There's been some talk of yesterday as a "signature win," but I think that's a little overstated. It's Michigan State at home. They're a middle of the pack Big Ten team. How is that a signature win?? By proving that we're 3 points better than a 7 win Big Ten team??
Walking out of the stadium, I was excited about the win, but also relieved that we didn't blow that game and ruin the season. I'm happy to be 2-1, but we can play much better than this as a team. It took a superhuman performance from Clausen and our receivers to squeak out a win over a mediocre Big Ten team. Gotta get better every week. If the defense could get it going, maybe we can really get something going in the next few weeks.
While I don't know what this team will end up doing this year, the "fire Charlie" talk on NDNation is silly. I can't believe people are openly discussing replacements after a win.
Whether you think Charlie is a great coach or not, he is not going to get fired after this season if he can win 8-9 games (or 10 for that matter). Jimmy Clausen came to ND to play for Charlie Weis, and we owe it to him to have Charlie on the sideline until he graduates. It would kill his NFL prospects if we have a new coach on the sideline next year. Plus, all these guys who have thrived in the Weis system (Floyd, Tate, Armando, etc) are playing for future NFL jobs as well. I think people need to consider the consequences of running off Weis before we do something like that. Weis has built this program for success in 2009 and 2010, and a lot of players are counting on him being here for both those seasons. There's no use tearing apart the fanbase with the constant speculation. Let the season play out. If we go 6-6 and the team tanks, then make a change. But I think this team will be much better than that.
Two big games coming up with Purdue and Washington. Hopefully the Irish can win both of those games, get to 4-1, and set up a big one with USC on October 17.
2) One last thought on the Floyd injury. First, can't say enough great things about Mike Floyd. That play where he broke his collarbone was a touchdown. He got absolutely robbed. What an incredible player.
Second, I think this offense will be fine without Floyd. It's a big loss, but we have enough receivers and a good running game to rely on now. Plus, Jimmy Clausen. If I was Charlie, I would look to run the ball more and work the middle more with Kyle Rudolph like we did with Fasano and Carlson. So far, we've mainly had Rudolph on the outside, but he could be even more deadly over the middle. He's an impossible matchup for linebackers or DBs. Too big for DBs and too fast for LBs.
I think we could squeeze a half dozen more carries out of this running game as well. Our running game has really looked good so far. If we aren't quite as vertical without Floyd, we should hammer the ground game a little more and keep our defense off the field as long as possible.
Finally, a thought on Mike Floyd's future. What is his future at ND?? Is he going to just come back next year for one year and go to the league?? Is he going to need to stick around for two more years because of injury concerns from pro scouts?? Is he one of those Adrian Peterson guys who is a spectacular player but always seems to get snake bit with injuries??
I always assumed Floyd was a 3 year college player and first round NFL pick, but now his future is a little more uncertain. It would help the team if he had to stay for two more years at ND, but there's not really much he has to prove on the field in college football other than staying healthy. He is too good for college DBs, and I still expect him to only play one more year at ND.
Floyd is one of the best players I've seen at ND, and he will certainly be missed. But I think ND has the horses to keep this offense going strong.
1) WEISND Week 3 Poll:
3) Miami (FL)
Florida and Bama will probably settle it on the field in the SEC Championship game, but I'm starting to think Alabama might be the best team in the nation this year. I don't think there's a team that I enjoy watching more than the Tide. Defense and power football. Throwback football like the old Lou Holtz ND teams. We're running it down your throat, and there's nothing you can do about it. Ingram and Trent Richardson (phenomenal looking true freshman) are a dynamic duo, Julius Jones is a playmaker, McElroy looks fine, and I love everything about "The Nicktator." Mark Ingram might be the most NFL ready running back in the country. The Tide could be in for a special year.
I have Miami all the way up at #3 because of who they have beaten so far. The Sagarin ratings actually confirm it. I'm a subscriber to the Jay Bilas method of polling. Who have you played, where did you play them, and who have you beat?? Miami has beaten FSU on the road and demolished a ranked Georgia Tech team. Maybe they'll fall apart from here, but they get my #3 spot this week.
Texas got the win against Texas Tech, but they did not impress me Saturday night. Not sure what to make of them this year. I think they'd get whacked by either Florida or Alabama. Plus, their schedule is a joke. I cannot reward a nonconference schedule like that with Louisiana-Monroe, UTEP, Wyoming, and UCF. What a joke. I normally like Texas, but I'm rooting against them this year. The scheduling gods should punish them.
And while I don't think they are anywhere near the #6 team in the country, I am putting the Cincinnati Bearcats there for what they have done on the field. They have now won at Oregon State and at Rutgers, and they've done it with a completely rebuilt defense. To go to Corvallis and win that game convincingly is remarkable when you consider the history of the UC program. Five years ago, they were an objectively worse program than Miami (Ohio). Now, they're going on the road and winning at Oregon State in a game that Oregon State really wanted.
A great day for the Big East in its bid to win back some credibility, and a great day for Brian Kelly and the entire city of Cincinnati. If there's a coach out there doing a better job than Brian Kelly, I have yet to see him. The fact that Demetrius Jones is looking legitimately good as a LINEBACKER (read that again) and is currently their fourth leading tackler is all you need to know about what Brian Kelly is doing at UC. Pound for pound, he is as good as any coach in the nation. I hope UC can come up with the money to keep him there for the rest of his career.