Monday, September 25

Week 3 Thoughts

Note: these are for my top 25, not the top 25 as espoused by actual pollsters. I'm mean-spirited like that. Also, they get *really* fast near the end.

Auburn (#1)
Pretty much a talent-disparity victory of 38-7. Nothing major to see or take away from it, other than Kenny Irons sat. Brad Lester and Ben Tate took most of the offense; Tate looked especially impressive. Still, this is effectively a 1-AA opponent, so evaluate at your own risk.

USC (#2)
Sleptwalked through a 20-3 victory over Arizona. Really didn't do much of note, but props to the defense, who just obliterated the Wildcats.

Ohio State (#3)
28-6 victory over Penn State looked better than what it was thanks to a couple of late picks for TDs. The offense was pretty much shut down all game, although part of that was PSU and part of that was the rain. Important to note is that rain neutralized a lot of OSU's speed, which could be important later.

West Virginia (#4)
Tougher-than-expected victory over East Carolina. I think that Skip Holtz should sell his plan for stopping WVU's rushing attack to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, WVU just passed it instead. What could be interesting to note is that WVU actually can pass if needed, although I'm not sure if they can against a good secondary.

Florida (#5)
Basically the Tebow Game, for all intents and purposes. Kentucky put up a pretty good fight for 2 1/2 quarters, then Florida just slowly overwhelmed them. Watch for the Tebow Effect to have a pretty good impact on the team, as they can bring him in as basically a short-yardage QB.

Michigan (#6)
Woke up late to win a post big-game trap game over Wisconsin. Wisconsin's not that bad a team, either, so kudos to the Wolverines for pulling it off. Iowa's the only road block to an undefeated showdown against OSU. (Note that Iowa is a roadblock for both those teams.)

Louisville (#7)
Not too bad performance against a half-decent KSU defense. Don't look now, but Lousville's defense might be getting better at not allowing scores, which bodes well.

LSU (#8)
Woodshed beating of Tulane. Not that anyone's surprised at this; again, it's tough to take away much from a killer victory over inferior competition, as this is basically what LSU's done all season. Still like the team.

Virginia Tech (#9)
Struggled early against Cincinnati (the worst team in 1-A). Woke up to put them away, but lack of focus might be an issue down the line.

Georgia (#10)
Colorado gave the Dawgs one hell of a scare. Who knew? Hawkins fared better this time between the hedges, and Joe Cox unseated Matt Stafford, renewing the QB controversy. Just what this team needs.

Oregon (#11)
Beat the bye week after a questionable pass interference call; replays clearly showed Oregon's CB mauling a WR in the end zone (right down to the decapitation), but offensive pass interference was called. For some reason, Stanford also applied to have the result of their game stricken from the record books, although they were reluctant to explain.

Notre Dame (#12)
Brady Quinn for Heisman oh my god ND is back holy crap MSU sucks - which one of these three statements strung together is actually true?

Texas (#13)
Played pretty damn strong against an Iowa State team that I honestly thought was better than this. They've got the same question marks, but evidently the game was a blowout because Mack Brown and Greg Davis didn't think it was a big game.

Iowa (#14)
Quietly won 24-7 over Illinois. Notice that the only real press these guys have gotten was after the Syracuse victory. Wonder why that is; think they've noticed?

Boston College (#15)
LOLZ. Sorry. Win by luck, lose by luck, as NC State beat them in an ugly, ugly 17-15 game. So much for that BC in the BCS bandwagon - that had about 4 people on it, but still.

Clemson (#16)
Walked all over UNC big-time. Great game for them, as they're quickly proving that BC loss was a total fluke. Well, they had already proved it in my eyes with the FSU victory, but I'm a little biased.

TCU (#17)
(bye week)

Tennessee (#18)
Won 33-7 against Marshall, pulling away late. LaMarcus Coker may be the answer at RB, and they finally figured out how to stop the option - go after the ball carrier. Yeah, I know.

Oklahoma (#19)
Obliterated MTSU - just totally obliterated them. Now they've got two weeks to prep for Texas, and I'd be a little worried if I was a Longhorn.

Nebraska (#20)
Proved they're way better than FSU, killing Troy. Much-needed confidence booster.

California (#21)
Went all Madden-offense on Arizona St., just totally obliterating them and justifying my not ranking ASU. Yes, it is all about me.

Rutgers (#22)
Blasted Howard 56-7 in the "no shit" game of the week. Also, they're ranked for the first time in 30 years, which is admittedly cool.

Boise State (#23)
In a game that can't be good for the defense, Boise State beat Hawaii 41-34. Not the best of victories, I don't think, as Hawaii historically has problems on the mainland, but it was early in the season, which means that - among other things - it's not freezing-ass cold in Boise, meaning the Warriors had a shot.

Michigan St. (#24)
Why did I say "why not" last week, anyway? Played the entire second half of the ND game with both hands around their neck. Yikes. Great first half, though.

Missouri (#25)
Uh, don't look now, but Mizzou's defense is damn impressive. Maybe there's a second team from the Big 12 North after all.

Thursday, September 21

Stat Time! (or, what I do when I'm bored)

So I was tooling around over on and I ran across this guy talking about how good K-State's defense is. At this point, my initial reaction was somewhere close to, "WTF is he smoking?" - although I'm not the type to express that thought in so many words. So I decided to conduct a little stat experiment. I asked myself the following questions:

1 - how good is K-State's defense, anyway?
2 - how good did K-State do with respect to stopping the offenses they played?
3 - how good are the offenses they faced?

To answer those questions, I went over to - which is pretty straightforward to figure out (awesome site, check it out) - and decided to check a couple of things. First, I checked K-State's defensive yardage numbers against their 1-A opponents this year. Then I checked the yardage numbers that their opponents had gone for (also only against 1-A competition). So I ended up with the following numbers:

K-State's defensive rushing YPG allowed
K-State's defensive passing YPG allowed
Opponents' offensive rushing YPG
Opponents' offensive passing YPG

So now I had a clear answer to Questions 1 and 3. What I didn't have was an answer to Question 2. That was found simply enough, though - I found the yardage stats for a specific game and compared them to K-State's averages (and their opponents' averages). I didn't know what to call it, but I ended up with something called the ratio of suppression. It looks like this:

RoSr(x) = rushing yards by opponent X / defensive rushing YPG

RoSp(x) = passing yards by opponent X / defensive passing YPG

RoSt(x) = total yards by opponent X / defensive total YPG

Obviously, RoSr is the rushing ratio of suppression, RoSp is the passing ratio of suppression, and RoSt is the total ratio of suppression. Don't be confused by the terminology X - that really just means "for this opponent". (i.e., K-State would have a specific RoSr, RoSp, and RoSt in their game against Marshall. In this case, X would be Marshall. Make sense?) You can also find the aggregate RoS's (aRoSr, aRoSp, aRoSt) by the following formulas:

aRoSr = defensive rushing YPG / average rushing YPG of all opponents

aRoSp = defensive passing YPG / average passing YPG of all opponents

aRoSt = defensive total YPG / average total YPG of all opponents

With me so far? I hope so. Here's a quick example: Miami has allowed an average of 48 rushing YPG. The average rushing YPG of all their opponents is 153.17 YPG. That means their aRoSr is:

aRoSr = 48 / 153.17 = 0.313 = 31.3%

Basically, that means that teams facing Miami have only run for about 31.3% of their "usual" output. In addition, Miami allowed 294 yards passing against Louisville, and their average passing D YPG is 234.5 yards. So the RoSp(Louisville) is:

RoSp (Louisville) = 294 / 234.5 = 1.254 = 125.4%

This is important to note! It's possible to have a ratio of suppression that's greater than 1. What that means is that the defense basically got taken out back.

Of course, you can do this for offensive stats, too - we'll call that the Ratio of Achievement (I was going to use Ratio of Success, but, well, that'd be too confusing). Here's what those look like:

RoAr(x) = rushing yards against opponent X / offensive rushing YPG

RoAp(x) = passing yards against opponent X / offensive passing YPG

RoAt(x) = total yards against opponent X / offensive total YPG

aRoAr = offensive rushing YPG / average defense rushing YPG of all opponents

aRoAp = offensive passing YPG / average defense passing YPG of all opponents

aRoAt = offensive total YPG / average defense total YPG of all opponents

Basically, these are kind of the inverse of RoS. Quick example: take the Louisville passing numbers and apply them to RoAp(Miami) (Louisville's passing YPG: 307)

RoAp(Miami) = 294 / 307 = 0.958 = 95.8%

So while Miami felt like they got torched, they pretty much held Louisville to what they normally do. In short, the RoS* / RoA* stats (the ones that talk about specific games) compare a team's performance to itself (did they struggle? did they do exceptionally well?) and the aRoS* / aRoA* stats (the cumulative ones) compare a team's performance to the teams it faced (are they beating up on most defenses, or can they be shut down?).

There you have it. It looks like a lot of math, but the math itself is incredibly simple - it's just summing ratios at worst, and obviously there are a couple of things that aren't addressed here. It's not entirely clean, but it's functional, which is what I'm going for.

What's its functionality? Well, if a defense has only given up 60 YPG rushing, that sounds like it's an awesome defense, right? It'd make sense to think that. However, what if their opponents only rush for an average of 40 YPG? Obviously, those are some pretty bad rushing offenses. But if they went for 60 yards against that defense, well, they did better than they normally do. That's the purpose of these stats - to provide clear answers to those questions. In this case, their aRoSr is 1.5, or 150% - they're allowing 150% of their opponents' normal rushing output. Let's say this defense faced, oh, West Virginia. Think WVU would be held to only 60 yards if that defense is allowing 150% of WVU's normal rushing yards? I doubt it.

For the record, there's no direct relationship between any of these stats and points given up. A 30-yard drive that begins at your 20 is worth the exact same as a 30-yard drive that begins at their 30 in this system. Obviously, that's not how it is in the real world, but I'm not concerned with point output in this case. There's no direct relationship between yardage and points - after all, a 79 yard drive can result in no points and a -10 yard drive can result in a FG. Don't use these formulas as a medium to compare points and yards and you'll be okay. Hope that made sense.

Tuesday, September 19

Asterisk U? Throwing out games in sports.

In the aftermath of the Oklahoma-Oregon game, one small snippet from an article about the Pac-10 suspending the offending officiating crew stuck out in my mind. OU president David Boren asked Big XII commissioner Kevin Weiberg to try to get the game removed from the books, a request which Weiberg refused.

Before proceeding, as a primer to just how bad that call was, I'd recommend some background reading. It's rare that I'll be linking you to other opinion articles, but here's one that you should really read - Monday Morning Quarterback by Matt Zemek.

You may also be aware that Oklahoma is next-in-line to receive the 2004 title should the NCAA decide to vacate USC's games in which Reggie Bush participated from October 2004 on. This, on the other hand, would be an example of acceptable throwing out of games. (that is, if USC is guilty of rules infractions) Not that too many people would, in their hearts, believe OU was the best team that season after a 55-19 beatdown in which Leinart moved the offense and Bush didn't even score. But rules are rules and the NCAA should enforce them, you know, on occasion.

What would happen if the NCAA removed the OU-UO game from the books? First, every Louisiana State fan in the country would say "and while you're at it, take out the Auburn game where we should have had pass interference called!" And then...?

It becomes a cloudy issue of opinion and perspective. Zemek laid out a solid reason why the onside kick call is worse than, say, a missed pass interference. But I could just as easily construct an argument about pass interference in or near the end zone as being a score-changing play, while the onside kick itself doesn't actually put points on the board -- the opposing defense still has the chance to negate the official's error. While it's highly likely, it's not guaranteed that Oklahoma would have won this game had they recovered the onsides. (surely some of you remember how Arkansas lost to eventual champ Tennessee back in 98) On the other hand, if a ref doesn't call pass interference during a certain Fiesta Bowl overtime on 4th down, Miami wins its second BCS title as a matter of fact. So in certain situations, the PI call can be just as game-altering, if not moreso. There's no limit to where it goes from there. USC had the "Bush Push" a season ago, which happened on the last play of the game. In their epic Rose Bowl game, Texas's first touchdown should have been ruled dead around the 10 yard line -- that was also a bad call, not a controversial call -- Young's knee quite clearly touched the ground. The Michigan-Nebraska Alamo Bowl had so many missed calls and prcedural errors, I don't even know where to begin... and those are just games from last season.

If we throw out OU-UO, how many other games have to be thrown out with it for the sake of consistency? What even defines consistency, in this case?

Mistakes by referees are, unfortunately, still a part of the game. Replay is going to help that, but clearly the replay system still needs to be improved upon itself. What's not "just a mistake" is having a professional, or otherwise ineligible, athlete play college ball. That's the only place the line can be drawn without leading us down a slippery slope, and a place where the line must be drawn for the sake of fairness. All other results must stand.

Week 3 Rankings - Yet Another Perspective

Well I am second this week afterall ;-)

1. Auburn
Almost completely shut down in the first half, Kenny Irons started to lean on LSU's defense in the second. Brandon Cox had an unispiring performance but didn't do much to hurt the team, which may be all that's asked of him. The defense has allowed just 17 points all season, and holding LSU to 3 is no small feat. A red herring was John Vaughn's miss of a 26 yard FG.

2. Ohio State
It's hard to say if the defense is solidifying or if Cincinnati is just that bad. I'm not yet concerned about a slow start by the offense in one game, but if there's a repeat performance this week that could be another issue. On the bright side, 3/3 FG (47, 43, and 52 yds) is a big improvement.

3. USC
Against Arkansas, their performance answered any questions about the Trojan offense. Against Nebraska, the defense answered many of its critics. It must have been nice for Trojans fans to see their team able to win despite scoring less than 30 points. John David Booty is the real deal at QB, but at the same time this is not the offensive firepower SC has brought to the table the last two seasons.

4. West Virginia
The Mounties have one of the scariest offenses in the NCAA... even many top ten teams would struggle to slow it down. Discipline and focus for 60 minutes (!) are some concerns.

5. Florida
Taken to the wire by the Vols, but Tennessee is a solid team who matches up against UF very well. The Vols were able to use Ainge's short passing and physical receivers to move the ball with short outs. That and the kicking game are the only real concerns for the Gators. Leak's play, the sick rushing defense, and the med-long passing coverage are all solid strengths.

6. Louisville
Giving up just 7 points against the Canes answered some questions I had about their defense after week 1. Now, Miami isn't a great offensive team, but their defense looked pretty nasty against FSU. Louisville (sans Bush) made it look like nothing... then they lose Brohm and keep rolling?? This team is deep, unlike WVA who could not stand similar injuries to White/Slaton. Brohm's likely out for the next four games, if they can win those then they will have a bye week to get ready for the showdown with WVA.

7. Michigan
Had they not started at #15, this team could be in your top 5. They dominated Notre Dame, and all three games have been comfortable victories thus far. The defense is good, good enough that they could upset Ohio State. Henne got his act together just in time for the Fighting Irish, showing the nation what this team is capable of. Now the question is whether they (specifically in the passing game) will continue this level of play over the season.

8. LSU
The defense has still given up just 13 points all season. Russell's decisionmaking needs to improve a little, and the running game may not be a strong as it had looked in early competition.

9. Georgia
If I'm a Dawgs fan, I'm nervous about having a freshman QB with Tennessee and Florida on the plate for October. I like Georgia's ability to run against the Vols, not so much against the Gators. Like LSU, the defense has givne up just 1 TD all season, and barely over 200 yds/game... that and a strong special teams unit should keep the next five games manageable for Stafford.

10. Virginia Tech
Like Richmond, their defense can shut out Duke. They host Cincy next week... maybe Georgia Tech on 9/30 can give us a better look, as the Hokies have been impressive but against weak opposition.

11. Oregon
Caught a lucky break against OU, and the defense got hammered by AD. But they won't face another back like that all season, and the offense is looking solid. After a bye week, they'll be on the road to face ASU and Cal, which will be the teams challenging for #2 in the Pac 10.

12. Texas
Well, we know that they're not quite in Ohio State's league, but that they're tons better than North Texas and Rice. Iowa State should be a little better guage than their two wins so far. Every position is solid except QB, but that's a big one.

13. Notre Dame
Exposed as overrated. The defense was shown to be pretty much what they had last season. Quinn's Heisman hopes took a major blow.

14. Iowa
Tate's return heralded the return of the Hawkeye offense, completing 68% of his passes and throwing for 3 TDs against Iowa State. Considering that they lose this game last season and that it's a rivalry game, I consider a 10-point 4th quarter win to be solid.

15. Oklahoma
Let's be honest, were it not for horrible officiating, Oklahoma would have gone into Autzen and won. That said, even an undeserved loss can be revealing. OU's secondary continues to be torched, and the opponents' yards per carry has been just a shade under 6 for two consecutive weeks. Thompson finally had a good game.

16. Tennessee
Tennessee simply has no running game, and Ainge had an awful outing against Florida after great games vs Cal and Air Force. The secondary and LBs remain solid, but the D-line got a little exposed against the Gators and with Harrell now gone that will only get worse.

17. Boston College
Definitely the luckiest team in college football... they'd be 1-2 were it not for two weeks of kicking game miscues by the opposition. How many weeks can it continue? Certainly Virginia Tech's special teams won't blow it on their Thursday night game in October.

18. Clemson
Special teams are a major, major liability. Cost them the BC game and their kicking unit (you know, when your own team kicks PATs and FGs) GAVE UP nine to the Seminoles.

19. California
Nothing like Portland State to solidify that confidence still two weeks following a terrible flop. But with the best RB in the Pac 10 (though don't write Moody out of that yet), they could test Oregon in a home game.

20. Nebraska
The defense has actually looked good so far, even giving up 28 to USC... many teams have fared far worse in LA. The Trojans did expose flaws in the offense that previous inferior competition couldn't, namely the inability of the o-line to create holes and protect Taylor.

21. TCU
I said I'd rank them when they beat Texas Tech... well, here they are. 12 penalties for 105 is a concern, as is 101 yards passing. The defense looks tough, obviously.

22. Florida State
Holding Miami to 10 doesn't look so impressive after Louisville held them to 7. The Seminoles' best offensive output for the season? 24 against Troy in a game where they fumbled 7 times, losing 3. So why do I have them ranked here? Look at who's below them.

23. Michigan State
24. Rutgers
25. Boise State

Monday, September 18

Week 3 Rankings - Another Perspective

Normally I post my rankings after Bradley posts his, but since I had time early this week, I decided to go ahead and take care of mine now. Shockingly, I'm actually ranking 25 teams this week - realistically, I could probably slice Missouri out, but it's the 25th spot; I'm not going to think about it too much this time around, and as 3-0 teams go, they're better than Purdue, Wake Forest, Houston, etc.

Just missing out: Wisconsin, USF, a bunch of teams with losses that are underperforming (lookin' at you, state of Florida - Florida excluded).

1 - Auburn
Won a hard-fought battle over a tough, incredibly talented LSU team. It wasn't without controversy - maybe you've heard about it. It was a tough defensive struggle all around, but this will only be a sign of things to come for Auburn, since they have to face both Florida and Georgia. Auburn loses some points for being totally ineffective both rushing and passing the ball - although if you look at LSU's total defensive stats, Auburn did about as expected. They'll have to do better than that if they want to make it through SEC play, but limiting LSU's rushing attack to 56 yards is impressive no matter how you slice it.

2 - USC
Two games, two victories - one solid, one impressive. The 28-10 win over Nebraska was pretty solid - Nebraska kept it close for the first three quarters, but USC showed a huge talent gap by holding onto the ball for 11:28 of the 4th quarter, which is scary. Oddly enough, the yardage outputs between the Arkansas game and the Nebraska game were somewhat similar (~80 yards less vs. the Huskers, but 11 less plays, too). The defense was strong, forcing two fumbles and holding the Husker running game to 2.6 YPC.

3 - Ohio State
Sleptwalked through the first half of their game against Cincy before waking up in the 3rd and 4th quarter to pull away for an unconvincing 37-7 victory. Cut them some slack after the Texas game, though. Ohio State also gets to deal with Penn State coming to Columbus this weekend, which will be much more of a challenge. Tough to take anything from this game, as Cincy kind of falls into the "almost 1-AA" category.

4 - West Virginia
Think Steve Slaton was pissed on Thursday? 167 yards in something like 20 minutes of game time. Not surprisingly, the result was a 45-24 pasting of Maryland where the Mountaineers just fell asleep once the game was out of hand. It'll be interesting to see what happens to WVU once they're in a game where the outcome is in doubt after halftime; the sad part is that we may not see that until Louisville.

5 - Florida
A victory in Knoxville is a victory in Knoxville no matter how you get it. Florida came in and ran the Vols out of their own stadium to the tune of 168 - -11. (Those were the rushing totals for each team.) Not surprisingly, they walked away with a victory. There's plenty more to read about this game in other places, so I'll pass on the analysis.

6 - Michigan
That sound coming from South Bend was the Brady Quinn for Heisman bandwagon running into a tree. The louder sound about 15 minutes later was the Notre Dame to the Championship bandwagon breaking an axle. Complete domination by the Wolverines in that game. Michigan's path doesn't get a whole lot easier over their next few games, as their easiest game until October 28 is argueably Michigan State. Of course, there's not a ton of "tough" games, but facing the mid-level teams from your conference week-in, week-out can wear a team down. We'll see if they have enough.

7 - Louisville
Miami refused to learn from Cincy - don't stop on the Cardinals' logo. Oops. Louisville then turned around and hammered Miami to the tune of 31-7. Only downside? Brian Brohm is out for the next few weeks. There's a trap game this week at Kansas State, but it should be relatively smooth sailing after that until the WVU showdown - provided that Louisville has the depth to compete. I wouldn't sell them short, though - they look legit.

8 - LSU
Don't knock the defense for their loss against Auburn - they made the Auburn offense look like LA-Lafayette, too. The offense, however, was ineffective, and there was something about a pass interference non-call you may have heard about. Still, I feel at this point that LSU is still one of the most complete teams in the nation, and they basically played with another incredibly complete team for 60 minutes on the road and still nearly came away with the victory. Don't think they're out of the national title hunt yet - and don't think of suiting up for Tulane, which gets the misfortune of dealing with a pissed-off group of Tigers.

9 - Virginia Tech
Yeah, it's tough to tell how good a team is when they've played Pushover U three games running. We'll start to get a read on them in a couple of weeks when they play Georgia Tech, and we'll certainly know more after their trip to BC. For now, we'll be content with what we've known about Tech teams all along: great defense (10 points allowed all season), great special teams (punt return for a TD this week). We'll figure out more later, but since the ACC looks weaker at the top than it has in a while, this could be Tech's year.

10 - Georgia
Not a whole lot to see here either, as all the 34-0 victory over UAB really told us is that Georgia is much, much better than Oklahoma, which we should've known already anyway. Stafford is slowly getting broken in to the Georgia offensive scheme, but the Bulldogs will probably rely on their running backs for the next couple of weeks. Georgia's first real test is October 7th when Tennessee comes calling; we'll know how far Stafford's progressed then.

11 - Oregon
Kind of here by default, as they won a tightly-contested 34-33 game over Oklahoma. There was controversy here, too - maybe you've heard about it, still heard about it, heard about it some more, seen the video, seen *that* video, and then stuck your head in cold water to get away from it all. It's tough to argue with two quality wins in a row, though. Oregon gets two tests in a row, though, going to ASU and then to Cal. Of course, those tests start after the bye week they have this week.

12 - Notre Dame
Got utterly embarrassed by Michigan at home. I'd want to drop them further, but among other things, BC is already ranked too high for my liking and UND is still a better team than most anyone below them at this point. They get a chance for revenge against Michigan State this weekend, but most importantly, we know that this team has the same weaknesses that last year's team had; this time, though, everyone's seen tape from last year. It won't be easy. But don't worry - beat Michigan State and the pollsters will have you back at #5.

13 - Texas
Sticking around after a confidence-boosting hammering of Rice. Nothing to see here; they still have the same issues, wake me when conference play starts, etc., etc. Will be hurt big-time in their title aspirations by both Oklahoma and Texas Tech's losses out of conference this past weekend, which is probably the most important thing to happen to them. Largely here by default.

14 - Iowa
Won a tough rivalry game over a better-then-you-realize Iowa State team (that beat a Toledo team - that beat Kansas this past weekend). This is the first really impressive showing I've seen from an Iowa team that always somehow managed to come off as less than the sum of its parts. They get a breather against a horrible Illinois team before traveling to Columbus - yikes. There's the real test; can they give OSU a game?

15 - Boston College
Here by default - sense a running theme? Probably the luckiest team in Division 1-A, winning 2 OT games in a row while being outgained both times. I'd like to put Clemson ahead of them, but they beat Clemson, and I'm not the AP voters. Not a complete team - issues on defense have persisted all season - but seem to put up enough points to win. They have the yardage, but they don't seem to score often enough given that yardage... this is a weird team, and I don't know what to make of them beyond lucky.

16 - Clemson
The 27-20 victory over Florida State confirmed a couple of things that we should've known: Clemson's rushing attack isn't half bad, and the Florida State offense is completely inept. (Shockingly, is not registered.) Granted, it wasn't all FSU's fault - Clemson's D is pretty good. More importantly, they have work to do with their protection schemes - Jad Dean's a pretty good kicker, but you have to let him kick the ball first without having it blocked. Clemson gets it relatively easy for the next couple of weeks - home against UNC and LA Tech.

17 - TCU
Fine, I'll rank them now after a 12-3 victory over Texas Tech. Holding the TTU passing offense to just over 200 yards is impressive; holding the team yardage under 300 should get you a medal. It doesn't hurt to put up nearly 200 yards on the ground yourself, either. TCU has a decent shot at 12-0, and a really good shot at 11-1. Matter of fact, they'll probably get that one - their toughest opponents from here on out are BYU and Utah, and those are their next two games. Wonder if the BCS is going to wear Cougar blue this weekend.

18 - Tennessee
Blame it on the injuries if you want, but the little signs were all there for the Florida game: relatively ineffective running game, mounting injuries, inexperience in the defensive front seven. I wasn't surprised by the outcome, but the Vols did a good job of keeping the game close even after being outplayed. They absolutely *have* to get the ground game going to stand a chance in the SEC, though; look for at least 60% runs against Marshall if only to prove a point to the rest of the conference that they can still run the ball.

19 - Oklahoma
Well, so much for the defense. Don't put yourself in a position to get nailed by bad officials and the OU controversy never happens. Shockingly, the offense looks pretty healthy - although Paul Thompson is a WR-turned-QB. Someone will figure that out eventually. They needed this game to have any shot at a national championship. Now they need to win out, hope Texas starts winning and Nebraska more or less wins out to have a shot. Yikes.

20 - Nebraska
The USC loss was kind of expected, but Nebraska covered, which has to count for something, I guess. Pretty solidly dominated across the board - again, though, keep in mind that USC is one of the few complete teams in the nation, and if there's one thing we're learning this season, it's that the tiers of teams are in total effect this year. (Michigan, for example, was a way more complete team than anyone realized, although it makes sense in retrospect.) Nebraska is not a top-level team; rather, they're somewhere between 2 and 3 at this point. Probably closer to second-tier. They get Troy this weekend - uh-oh? Troy played both FSU and Georgia Tech close.

21 - California
Don't look now, but Cal's running the ball again. Not surprisingly, they hammered an overmatched Portland State, but the Golden Bears may be rounding into shape. The offense gets another chance to scrimmage against Arizona State this weekend. The defense gets tested.

22 - Rutgers
Uh, don't look now, but the Rutgers rushing attack is on a roll - two victories over other BCS teams (granted, not *great* BCS teams, but in a conference struggling for respect, take the wins when you can get them) and a win over Ohio for a total of 600 yards on the ground this year. Quite frankly, who's going to stop them at this point (beyond Louisville and WVU)? They get South Florida in two weeks followed by Navy, Pitt, and UConn. If they can come out of that stretch 3-1, they're probably for real. (The Navy and UConn games may set football back 40 years, though; those teams can run.) Also, UNC was the only team to move the ball on these guys so far this year. Keep that in mind, too.

23 - Boise State
Eh, an unimpressive 17-10 win over Wyoming - but really, who else would take this spot? Penn State, which struggled early against Youngstown State? Alabama, who salted off Vandy to the tune of 13-10? Seriously. They're here mainly for that 42-14 hammering of Oregon State still, since - like Rutgers - beat the other BCS schools when you can and kill your conference. That's all they can do.

24 - Michigan St.
Eh, why not. People were thinking about jumping on the Pitt bandwagon before the Spartans took care of them. Now they get to take on a reeling UND at home. This isn't a big game in any way, no sir - but be warned, UND is pissed. MSU's offense - especially on the ground - is damn scary. 6.24 YPC is sick no matter how you slice it. The pass defense is shaky, though, which could do them in.

25 - Missouri
I'll give the honorary "yo, down here" slot to a team that's surprising me at 3-0. Realistically, they've got a good shot at 5-0 before going to TTU - and could be sitting at 7-1 by the time Oklahoma comes calling. Considering these guys were probably mid-level bowl fodder, that's damn impressive to be staring that kind of record down. Give some love to the defense for that, which has played out of its mind this year.

Thursday, September 14

People Get Paid for This?

Yeah, I know it's easy to pretty much obliterate some sports writing - which is why I rarely do so. However, sometimes I can't help myself. Check out this gem over at from Tom Dienhart. He goes through and does a quick recap of all the BCS conferences. Who's up for some fun? Let's take it by conference. First up - ACC:

Looking good: Boston College. The Eagles' scintillating double-overtime win over Clemson sets them up for a 5-0 start. Which leads me to ponder: Is there a better coach in the nation than Tom O'Brien? I think not.

Looking lame: Florida State. Face it, the Noles should have lost to Troy State. Or is it Troy? Doesn't matter. Whoever the hell that was, the Seminoles should have sodded the field with them. Until FSU figures out how to run the ball, it isn't a legit national title contender.

Game of the week: Clemson at Florida State. Bowden Bowl 8 lost lots of luster with the Tigers' loss at BC and FSU's struggles vs. Troy. Nonetheless, we'll be treated to myriad camera shots of Mama Bowden wringing her hands. The drama of Bowden vs. Bowden ended long ago. The drama now: Can Papa Bowden make life even tougher for Tommy Boy?

Yup, that Tom O'Brien is sure good. Two wins, both at home, combined margin of victory: 8 points! Of course, considering everyone else in the ACC turned in a lackluster performance last week, I can understand. Wait, Virginia Tech beat UNC 35-10? Frank Beamer must be a horrid coach.

Seriously, I can at least understand the logic behind saying that BC's on a roll right now - I'd argue that it's flawed by virtue that neither victory looked pretty impressive (they were lackluster against Central Michigan and got outplayed for most of the Clemson game), but Tom O'Brien for Coach of the Year? Hell, I'd put the guy from Akron up for that honor before I'd even consider O'Brien - and neither of them would be in my top 20 at this point.

As for the rest of it - yeah, FSU did suck, no argument there, Jeff Bowden blows, we'll go through this 20 more times before the season is over. FSU/Clemson probably can pass as the game of the week, although - again - I'd argue that the biggest issue for Clemson is the players they've lost on defense so far, not the loss at BC. Of course, FSU is missing almost all of their DTs at this point, so who knows?

Onto the Big East!

Looking good: Pitt. Kudos to Wanny for getting things straightened out in a jiff. Tyler Palko looks like, well, Tyler Palko. And that's a good thing for a program that -- I can't believe I'm gonna type this--could win the league title.

Looking lame: Cincinnati. I still have trouble embracing the Bearcats as a BCS team when I see programs like TCU, Utah, Boise State, Fresno State, BYU and UCF on the outside looking in. Nonetheless, UC marches on with trips to Ohio State this week and Virginia Tech the next. I ask: Why?

Game of the week: Miami at Louisville. I'll go ahead and call this the biggest game in Louisville history. Kinda like picking the greatest Pauley Shore movie ever. But I'm not here to dump on the Cards. No, I'm here to give them a hug. Can't wait to watch that high-powered Cardinals' offense vs. that NFL-quality Hurricane defense.

Yeah, Pitt's been impressive - but league title? Wonder if Dienhart forgot to pay his oxygen bill. And yes, Cincy is clearly the worst BCS team in college football. Syracuse, Duke, Kentucky, Vandy, Wake Forest, Illinois, Colorado, etc., can rest easy. And did he include "we just lost 42-0 to Florida" UCF? (By the way, it's easy to pick the GotW when you only have two ranked teams in a conference.)

Next - Big 10!

Looking good: Ohio State. Nothing like clearing your highest hurdle before you've even hit the first turn of the race. But here are the Buckeyes, just a road win at Iowa and home triumph over Michigan from a trip to the national title game.

Looking lame: Purdue. I admire Joe Tiller's positive spin. You know, saying stuff like "we will improve." But I'm gonna stick to the facts. You know, stuff that's actually happened. And here's the honest truth: This just isn't a good team. The secondary is a mess - again -- and quarterback Curtis Painter is quickly becoming a liability.

Game of the week: Michigan at Notre Dame. This is the game that inspired you to dig out that Irish T-shirt you had buried in your dresser last year. A win would do the same for Wolverines fans this year. Did you just hear that, too? It was Lloyd Carr's collar tightening. FYI: Big Blue hasn't left South Bend with a "W" since 1994.

Good news - Dienhart finally hits! Of course, everyone's saying (t)OSU's looking good, so whatever. Also, good to hear that he's blasting on Purdue when the Zooker and Illinois got blasted by Rutgers. At least they're better than Cincy, right? Right? Anyone? Bueller?

Dienhart forgot to include "and burn" in one of his GotW sentences. See if you can figure out where it should go. "This is the game that inspired you to dig out that Irish T-shirt you had buried in your dresser last year."

Big 12 time:

Looking good: Missouri. It wasn't a shock that the Tigers beat Ole Miss. But it WAS a shock that they thumped the Rebs. Quarterback Chase Daniel only will get better, along with the rest of the offense. And the defense, especially the line, has been sterling. There's a great chance MU could be 5-0 when it heads to Texas Tech on October 7. Yes, you read that right.

Looking lame: Kansas. Hey, I love Mark Mangino and the Jayhawks, but that's a mighty flimsy 2-0 dais they are standing on. A big dose of reality could be served Friday night, when KU travels to Toledo. The Jayhawk offense has to get on track.

Game of the week: Oklahoma at Oregon. The Sooners are 2-0, but you, me and the RufNek driving the Sooner Schooner know that it's a shaky 2-0. It's this simple: The offense is too reliant on Adrian Peterson, and the defense flat out can't tackle or stop the run consistently. Add in a hot Ducks team and one of the nation's toughest venues and, well, I think you know where I'm going with this.

Yeah - Missouri is quietly turning into a half-decent team, so Dienhart did bring the analysis. I'll give him some credit. But last I checked, Colorado lost to a 1-AA team. Did they get kicked out of the league for that?

How does Dienhart define "too reliant on Adrian Peterson, anyway"? Running 60% of plays? Well, he's doing less than that. Pretty damn close to 50%, which means - say it with me - a balanced attack! Also, Peterson is one of the best backs in the nation, just so you know. Dienhart also defines "hot" as winning your last game by 7 and beating a team that lost to San Diego State.

Mercifully, we're almost done. Pac-10.

Looking good: Cal. Welcome back, Golden Bears. The offense dominated and the defense stifled. Of course, playing Minnesota helped. No matter, football is all about confidence. And Cal got a big dose of it. The Bears will continue to right themselves this week vs. Portland State before Arizona State comes calling.

Looking lame: Stanford. The Pac-10 head coaches I talked to this summer all said the Cardinal was the least talented team in the league. Guess they were right. If Stanford doesn't beat Navy or Washington State in the next two weeks, it could go O-fer 2006. Did you know Stanford is known for its academics?

Game of the week: Nebraska at USC. Many felt Bill Callahan scored a signature win vs. Michigan in last year's Alamo Bowl. A win here would be way bigger. But there's no way, no how the Cornhuskers are ready for the Trojans' load.

I'll be honest - I don't follow the Pac-10 much. But even though I just gave Oregon hell, they are 2-0 with an actual quality win. Not hot, but good. Looking good, in fact. Also, UCLA is going to light a bag of dog poop and put it on Cal's doorstep. And Stanford sucks, but we knew that already. They're better than Cincinnati!

Yeah, yeah, the GotW isn't a bad choice, especially since he already got Oregon in the Big 12 GotW.

Almost done with this mess - it's SEC time:

Looking good: LSU. This is the quintessential buzz saw. But remember, the Bayou Bengals ARE the most talented team in the league. The way LSU flogged Arizona was frightening. Can't wait to see if those injured running backs regain their form.

Looking lame: South Carolina. Yeah, yeah, Steve Spurrier is a great coach. But the Gamecocks are living, breathing proof that this is a game that's all about the players. And South Carolina just ain't got 'em. But, God bless 'em, they try.

Game of the week: Florida at Tennessee. If defense wins games, then the Gators have this one in the bag. But the key for Florida will be its ability to continue running well. The Vols? Well, I'm not convinced they aren't still sick. I'm gonna go ahead and call this Tennessee's litmus test vs. what I feel is the best team in the SEC East.

Let's blow through the easy ones - yeah, LSU is looking good (check my rankings, check the other rankings here), no issue there. You can make a case for Auburn, Georgia, and Florida, too, and you'll probably be right there. Also, South Carolina is pretty hideous at 1-1. They're way worse than a Mississippi State team that has yet to put a point on the board - but they're both better than Cincinnati!

Also, there's a game this week between a couple of SEC teams. Maybe you've heard of it - it's LSU @ Auburn. Two national title contenders and two of the most complete teams in the nation fighting it out. But don't watch it, it'll suck. Watch Florida/Tennessee instead - that's a much better option. Also, way for Dienhart to go out on a limb and say Florida is the best team in the SEC East along with most other analysts during the preseason. Way to go, buddy!

(For the record, this post was done without looking up numbers of any kind. I figure this was only fair, as I'm unconvinced that Dienhart did this before writing.)

Tuesday, September 12

Week 2 Rankings - Another Perspective

Again, I'm going 22 deep this team. Just missing out are BC (got outplayed, even if they walked away with the W), Cal (can't get the Tennessee game out of my head), Clemson (see above, also take a look at their injuries when you get a chance), and UCLA (not shabby, but nothing to quite write home about at the moment). Here's the guys who made it.

1 - Ohio State
What's more to ask? Exposed - not just beat - a Texas team that was pretty highly regarded. Anthony Gonzalez looks to be better than most everyone thought, although the rushing game suffered (if nearly 100 yards can count as suffered). Proved that even with going up against a defense with one possible weak point, pounding that weak point into the ground is enough to effectively dominate the game. Had Texas kept pounding the ball, it might've been a different story, but for now, they beat what was the #2 team in country, so to the top they go.

2 - LSU
I'd like to issue an apology to LSU for not thinking they were a complete team - I was wrong. The defense has scored more points than they've given up so far this season (12-6), which is more than you can really ask for from a defense. In addition, the D has yet to give up over 200 yards in a game, including not allowing any RB to go over 55 yards so far. They've forced 5 interceptions, 4 fumbles, and has 6 sacks. Not to mention that their starting safeties were part of the '03 BCS championship team, so they've got leadership that has won before. Offensively, there's no kind of QB controversy, as JaMarcus Russell has done everything that's asked of him, averaging ~225 ypg passing, 5 TD/1 INT. They've got an incredibly deep rushing attack that has so far been "limited" to 411 yards rushing. Oh, and keep in mind that if Russell falters, they can either bring in the guy that whipped Miami last year or one of the best young QBs in the nation. I'd talk about the Arizona game, but really, those numbers up there pretty much sum up what happened: they made Arizona look like LA-Lafayette.

3 - Auburn
I was a little worried last week that Brandon Cox might not be maturing quite as fast as I thought. Uh, never mind. 249 yards passing, 67% completion percentage, 2 TDs against a strong Miss. State defense that limited the Spurrier attack to just under 200 yards passing (no mean feat). Irons was limited (probably because the defenes was keying on him), but Auburn did what any good team does in that situation: shut down one option and the other one will beat you. (See OSU/Texas, too.) Unlike LSU, the defense has allowed more points than they've scored. Clearly, this defense is horrendous - what kind of shoddy defense allows nearly 200 yards to Miss. St.? Seriously. (Note: preceding sentences may have been sarcasm.) Oh - don't look now, but John Vaughn hasn't missed a FG yet this season. Think that may play a role against LSU?

4 - Notre Dame
See, this is what everyone expected from ND. Functionally speaking, the game was really a 41-3 hammering on Penn St., who put up 14 in the 4th after the Irish were bringing guys in from the stands to play D. I'm not really sure what to talk about, as not only did most people see this game, but even a simple glance at the stats will tell you the amount of dominance that ND had. One thing that might be important to note is PSU did move the ball decently between the 20s, but that was about it, and even that's debatable. The only reasons they're not higher are: 1 - I want to see more of a rushing attack and 2 - I'm not quite sold on their defense, as I want to see them play a strong offensive team. PSU isn't, quite frankly. Too much youth.

5 - USC
Bye week - repeat what I said last week about them, as I didn't get a chance to watch any of their practices this week. Must be because they don't play anywhere near where I live and I don't have a press pass. Minor details.

6 - West Virginia
Ho hum - another week, another blowout against a clearly overmatched team, another 300+ yards on the ground. Not a lot through the air, but quite frankly, who cares? This game only had 2 TDs from beyond 15 yards out - both on Steve Slaton runs. The thing is, this offense should be beatable - shut down the rushing game and force Pat White to beat you with his arm. Of course, this is way easier in theory than in practice - I can only think of a few front 7s that have a shot of doing that.

7 - Florida
This is the Florida we expected, too. Hammered UCF to the tune of 42-0 (34-0 at the half); the defense held UCF to under 200 yards total, including less than 50 on the ground. Leak played very well, going 19/29 for over 300 yards and 4 TDs. There is some cause for concern, however: UF had 4 turnovers and 10 penalties for 71 yards. That can't happen this week if they want to be victorious in Knoxville.

8 - Virginia Tech
Blocked punt, fumble, INT return for a touchdown (4 picks total), all in one game. Did I really need to tell you that was the Hokies doing that? Sign of concern: Brandon Ore was responsible for over half the offense and the Hokies were outgained 268-224; of course, when you begin two drives at the UNC 1, that makes it hard to get a lot of yardage.

9 - Louisville
So much for my "they're dead after Michael Bush went down" theory. 318 yards rushing - even against Crackerjack U - is pretty impressive, although Miami's D is a little better than Temple's. Miami should be a tough matchup for them; if Louisville can walk away with a win, then that'll be a sign that the Big East has at least two high-quality teams this year. Injury warning: starting CB and KR Rod Council is out for the year.

10 - Michigan
Good comparison last week between Michigan and, oddly, Boston College. The major difference is that Michigan is much better than BC, as they pretty much ran with impunity all over Central Michigan this week. There's room for improvement, though; Henne needs to step up, as 113 passing yards won't cut it against Notre Dame this week. It's looking like Michigan will need all the points they can get.

11 - Georgia
Tereshinski unintentionally brought some resolution to the QB situation - by getting injured. Matthew Stafford played about how you'd expect from a freshman QB with high hopes: some great decision-making and some head-scratchers. He's got some time to work it out, though. UAB will be a test, but Stafford gets UAB, Colorado, and Ole Miss before Tennessee comes to town. Oh, the rest of the team? About what you'd expect: 200 yards rushing, a shutout against South Carolina. Maybe that Spurrier offense isn't quite as potent as we thought it was initially - or maybe Georgia's D is that good. They'll need to be solid until Stafford learns the ropes.

12 - Nebraska
They're in the driver's seat in the Big 12. That may change this week, as they have yet to play a true quality opponent, but they've looked good against the teams they have played so far - basically, they've done exactly what was expected of them. Right now, that's pretty good. USC will be a better barometer of their true skill level, but this team could very easily go 10-2 or even 11-1.

13 - Texas
Good news: CB Tarrell Brown is reinstated. Bad news: almost everything else. Colt McCoy looked ...well, like a freshman, as he went 19/32 for only 154 yards. In addition, Texas accomplished a rare feat: their average yards/pass attempt was less than their yards/rush. Given the choice between relying on two solid running backs in Jamaal Charles and Selvin Young or freshman McCoy, which would you choose? If you said McCoy, you could be Greg Davis. Texas got burned in the passing game, but that should improve with the readdition of Brown.

14 - Florida St.
24-17 victory over Troy. I'll say that again: 24-17 victory over Troy. (Who?) Bingo. How the hell did this happen? This game should've been a blowout, and it certainly shouldn't have been 17-10 Troy at Tallahassee in the 4th quarter. Why was it? 83 yards rushing (3 ypc), 43 pass attempts, 7 fumbles. You're telling me that Jeff Bowden couldn't figure out a scheme that'd be more effective against Troy? When he watches game video, what game is he watching, anyway? Wheel of Fortune? Other bad news: Paul Griffin, Emmanuel Dunbar, and Letroy Guion - all DTs - are out for the year.

15 - Tennessee
In retrospect, the 31-30 victory over Air Force makes perfect sense. Tennessee's young linebackers and defensive line could be easily confused by something as complex as the triple option, making Air Force's 250+ yards on the ground understandable. Chalk it up to gimmicks. What's more damaging is losing DT Justin Harrell and CB Inky Johnson for the season. Tennessee has the secondary depth to semi-adequately replace Johnson, but will struggle without Harrell. Florida comes calling this week - uh-oh.

16 - Oklahoma
Still supposedly have a fantastic defense. I'm waiting to see it. Finally showed up for their first half of the season in a 37-20 win over Washington. Paul Thompson did throw for 272 yards, but it seems a little ...counter-productive, I guess, when you have an (allegedly) fantastic defense and one of the best RBs in the country. Thompson should really be doing a Brandon Cox impersonation, but yet he's throwing 30+ times a game. Of course, most of those yards came in the first half, and AP ran in the second half. Having the ball more would probably cut down on the number of yards allowed. Oregon will be a serious test for them.

17 - Miami
Played Nowheresville U - and of course hammered the daylights out of them. Pretty much what you expected, and unlike last week where we had to read into teams playing 1-AA teams, we don't have to now, as we can just say crazy things like "the Troy offense is better than the Miami offense". Kyle Wright has to grow up, otherwise even a good (but not great) defense will eat him alive. Possibly not coincedentally, Louisville has a pretty good defense. Guess who Miami plays?

18 - Oregon
Quality win over Fresno St. Jonathon Stewart will be back at RB this game, which gives Oregon plenty of offensive weapons. They'll need them, as Dwayne Wright and the Fresno St. line pretty much wore down the Oregon D. Think Adrian Peterson and the Oklahoma offensive line hasn't noticed this? (Think Stoops has noticed this? I'm not sure.) One hidden yardage stat to keep an eye on: Oregon already has 16 penalties for 185 yards. If they give up another 50-plus yards to Oklahoma, that might be the difference. Sloppy play will not get them another quality win.

19 - Texas Tech
Got a nailbiter 38-35 OT win over a better-than-you-think UTEP. Offense was what you'd expect, but the defense was lacking. Of course, UTEP has a pretty high-powered offense. TCU will be an incredibly tough matchup for the Red Raiders: figure that TCU will try and control the game on the ground with Aaron Brown and go from there. Texas Tech has the firepower to win, though, even on the road.

20 - Iowa
Got a gutsy, gutsy performance from their defense against Syracuse (you've heard of this by now, surely: 7 stands on their own 1-yard line to win the game). Of course, the question - to me - is why they were in that position in the first place. Both offenses struggled in that game. Undoubtedly, Iowa's offense should return with Drew Tate coming back to play against Iowa State, which is always a tough game for both teams.

21 - Boise State
Followed up a 45-0 drubbing of Sacramento St. with a 42-14 statement win over Oregon St. Sure, (this) OSU's not the best in the nation, but 42-14 is impressive no matter how you slice it. After Oregon State jumped out to a 14-0 lead, the Broncos scored the next 42 - and again, we've got a team with over 300 yards on the ground my top 25. I'm starting to sense a trend.

Monday, September 11

College Football - Keys to a Championship?

In what seems like one of the most wide-open college football seasons in recent memory, let's look back to the past to gain a little insight as to what it takes to be a champion. Call me old-fashioned, but I've always liked experience at the QB position and a strong defense. Why? Only an unbeaten team has a strong chance of making it into the BCS championship. Several 1-loss teams have made it, but far more have been relegated to lesser bowls. Going undefeated means having a consistent performance game in and game out. An experienced QB is less likely to make the kind of mistakes that can lose a game, and a veteran QB will often have a calming effect on the entire team in those do-or-die situations that seemingly every to-be champion has to go through to keep their record unblemished. A strong defense can cover for the occasional poor outing by the offense, can turn their team's mistakes into 3's rather than 7's, and can stop the opposition from turning the game's final possession into a game-winning drive.

Statistics for the 1999-2005 seasons are listed here. 1998 info from here. Bolded teams finished the regular season undefeated.

1998: Tennessee
QB - Tee Martin (Sr)
Defense - 14.5 ppg (#8)

def Florida State
QB - Chris Weinke (So, injured for game)*
Defense - 12.4 ppg (#3)

1999: Florida State
QB - Chris Weinke (Jr)
Defense - 15.8 ppg (#10) , 304.6 ypg (#19)

def Va Tech
QB - Michael Vick (Fr)*
Defense - 10.5 ppg (#1), 247.3 ppg (#3)

2000: Oklahoma
QB - Josh Heupel (Sr)
Defense - 16.0 ppg (#7), 278.9 ypg (#8)

def Florida State
QB - Chris Weinke (Sr)
Defense - 10.3 ppg (#2), 277.0 ypg (#6)

2001: Miami
QB - Ken Dorsey (Jr)
Defense - 9.4 ppg (#1), 270.9 ypg (#6)

def Nebraska
QB - Eric Crouch (Sr)
Defense - 15.8 ppg (#6), 287.2 ypg (#8)

2002: Ohio State
QB - Craig Krenzel (Sr)
Defense - 13.1 ppg (#2), 320.9 ypg (#23)

def Miami
QB - Ken Dorsey (Sr)
Defense - 19.1 ppg (#22), 285 ypg (#7)

2003: LSU
QB - Matt Mauck (Sr)
Defense - 11.0 ppg (#1), 252.0 ypg (#1)

def Oklahoma
QB - Jason White (Jr)
Defense - 15.3 ppg (#5), 259.6 ypg (#3)

[USC's stats:
QB - Matt Leinart (So)*
Defense - 18.8 ppg (#19), 337.8 ppg (#33)*]

2004: USC
QB - Matt Leinart (Jr)
Defense - 13.0 ppg (#3), 279.3 ypg (#6)

def Oklahoma
QB - Jason White (Sr)
Defense - 16.8 ppg (#11), 299.0 ypg (#13)

[Auburn's stats:
QB - Jason Campbell (Sr)
Defense - 11.3 ppg (#1), 277.6 ypg (#5)]

2005: Texas
QB - Vince Young (Jr)
Defense - 16.4 ppg (#8), 302.9 ypg (#10)

def USC
QB - Matt Leinart (Sr)
Defense - 22.8 ppg (#35), 360.9 ypg (#48)*

I should note that these statistics include the bowl games, so for example 2005 Texas and USC's statistics both took a hit by that 41-38 thriller (I recall UT was #4 scoring), USC had the #2 scoring defense in the regular season in 2004, and OU had the #1 total defense in the 2003 regular season.

For the most part, the trend holds. Very few teams even make it to the championship game without both a Jr/Sr quarterback and a stiff defense. As for the four exceptions, 1998 Florida State did have an outstanding defense, though many did feel that Ohio State (Sr QB Joe Germaine, #2 scoring defense) belonged in that game against Tennessee. 1999 Va Tech had the #1 scoring defense, and QB Michael Vick is an exception to most rules. 2003 USC was not actually in the title game (nor was 2004 Auburn, though I listed them as an unbeaten team). 2005 USC's defense was probably ranked 5-10 spots higher prior to the Rose Bowl, and one of the best offenses in the sport's history was able to win a handful of shootouts prior to that game. Of those exceptions, only 99 Va Tech and 05 USC went unbeaten, so it is very rare to have an unbeaten team without both an experienced QB and a top defensive unit.

So where does that leave us for 2006?

#1 Ohio State
QB - Troy Smith (Sr)
Defense* - returns 2 starters, questions at LB, allowing 9.5 ppg through 2 games

#2 Notre Dame
QB - Brady Quinn (Sr)
Defense* - weak unit a year ago, but returns 9 starters, allowing 13.5 ppg through 2 games

#3 Auburn
QB - Brandon Cox (Jr)
Defense - returned 6 starters, allowing 7 ppg through 2 games

#4 USC
QB - John David Booty (Jr)
Defense* - returned 6 starters, allowed 14 points in opener

#5 West Virginia
QB* - Pat White (So)
Defense - returned 5 starters, allowing 6.5 ppg through 2 games

#6 LSU
QB - Jamarcus Russell (Jr)
Defense - returned 5 starters, allowing 3 ppg through 2 games

#7 Florida
QB - Chris Leak (Sr)
Defense - returned 6 starters, allowing 3.5 ppg through 2 games

#8 Texas - likely eliminated with loss to #1 OSU
QB* - Colt McCoy (rFr)
Defense - returned 7 starters, allowing 15.5 ppg through 2 games

#9 Florida State
QB* - Drew Weatherford (So)
Defense - returned 5 starters, allowing 13.5 ppg through 2 games

#10 Georgia
QB - Joe Tereshinski (Sr) (* Fr Matthew Stafford starts next 4-6 weeks)
Defense - returned 5 starters, allowing 6 ppg through 2 games, gave Spurrier first shutout since 87

#11 Michigan
QB - Chad Henne (Jr)
Defense - returned 8 starters, allowing 12 ppg through 2 games

#12 Louisville
QB - Brian Brohn (Jr)
Defense* - returned 7 starters, allowing 14 ppg through 2 games

#13 Tennessee
QB - Erik Ainge (Jr)
Defense* - returned 5 starters, two key injuries in week 2, allowing 24 ppg through 2 games

#14 Virginia Tech
QB* - Sean Glennon (So)
Defense - returned 5 starters, allowing 5 ppg through 2 games

#15 Oklahoma
QB - Paul Thompson (Sr)
Defense* - returned 9 starters, allowing 18.5 ppg through 2 games

LSU, Auburn, and Florida all have experienced QBs and excellent defenses to cover up mistakes. However, they may all do each other in. Ohio State and Notre Dame have experience at QB but uncertainties at defense. USC has a junior quarterback who is a first-year starter, and questions at defense. Booty looked strong in their opener. West Virginia has a good, but sophomore, quarterback. Though both play with great defenses, I'm not confident about Weatherford's and Stafford's abilities to lead their teams through their schedules. Michigan's Henne has two years under his belt but needs to play better. The defense is improved but needs to step it up another notch before travelling to Columbus. Louisville has more experience with Brohm, but their defense played in spurts against Kentucky. Tennessee's defense was impressive against Cal, but unimpressive and lost key players against Air Force. Va Tech's Glennon is a sophomore first year starter, who must face the Miami and FSU defenses in the ACC. Oklahoma has a good defense on paper but one that is badly underachieving early on. Though a senior, Paul Thompson has not shown great decision making nor consistency at QB.

College Football - week 2 rankings

Lots of teams gave very different impressions this week than they did a week ago.

#1 LSU - I don't know how many times I've said something about this season having no complete team. Ask yourself, what the heck is the weakness of the LSU Tigers? What's wrong with a team that has Jamarcus Russell at QB, backed up by Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux? Ask yourself what's wrong with a team who has won its last three games 40-3 (Miami), 45-3 (UL-Lafayette), 45-3 (Arizona)? Is the weakness the offense that hasn't scored less than 40 in the last three games, or the defense that's given up just a field goal each time? Perhaps it's the special teams that are perfect on field goals. I can't even judge the punting unit because it didn't happen against Arizona. What's wrong with a team whose two senior leaders on defense were the starting safeties for the Tigers' 2003 BCS championship squad. Ladies and gentlemen, there is a complete team in college football.

#2 Auburn - I've never seen Notre Dame win a game and drop in the polls, but it happened last week. My only explanation that's consistent with the fact that the media LOVES the Irish is that they love TV ratings even more. #1 vs #2 is sexy. So let's make it two weeks of that in a row. Besides that, dominating Washington State 40-14 and then shutting out Mississippi State 34-0 makes them kind of like LSU. What exactly is this team's weakness? The kicker who's 7 for 7? The junior quarterback who can run the offense in his sleep? The senior RB, possibly the best back in the league?

#3 Ohio State - An incomplete team, but a good team. OSU's offense actually could have made their win over Texas even more lopsided, but they continued their habit of not scoring as much as they should. Then again, Texas's defense did have just one (very pronounced) hole in their defense, so perhaps 24 points against them is on par for OSU's talent. I'm very concerned about the field goal unit, whose miss in Austin spoiled a good opening drive and could have let the Longhorns seize the initial momentum. The punting unit and coverage teams, however, look excellent. On the defensive side, the secondary has solidified but the rushing defense still looks like a liability. Nonetheless, they are the only one of the "good but incomplete" teams that has actually accomplished something.

#4 Notre Dame - What the Irish did to Penn State should serve as a warning to every team of their schedule. Notre Dame dominated every aspect of the game. They were helped by some untimely mistakes by PSU, but the fact that the defense is looking this good is not a good sign for Irish opponents. The offense looked every bit like the offense that was so hyped during the preseason, and this was against a very stout Penn State defensive unit.

#5 West Virginia - With the teams they've faced it's so hard to say. But West Virginia has still done everything that you could have asked of them and more. The rushing attack appears unstoppable and Pat White is becoming enough of a threat as a passer that teams can't just put 9 in the box against them.

#6 USC - Bye week. I like the offense.

#7 Florida - This is looking more like an Urban Meyer team. The offense is rolling, and UF's defense has surrendered just seven points total in their opening two games. Remember UCF was a bowl team last season, and they just got blown out.

#8 Louisville - Hey, whoa, hey. Yes they have looked this good in my opinion. There's not a lot of really stout defensive teams early in this season, and I'm not sure who could stop this offense. Half of the teams who could (Texas, FSU, Miami) might not be able to score enough themselves for it to make a difference.

#9 Michigan - There's a gap between 8 and 9. Hart is looking great but the offense is very one-dimensional. Henne needs to improve; really, he just needs to be himself. The defense has been suffocating, as they should have pitched a shutout in week 1.

#10 Florida State - Nearly laid an egg against Troy on Saturday. The Seminoles rebounded, but it makes you wonder whether their paltry 1 rushing yard against Miami was more the Canes defense or more the sign of a Jeffy Bowden team.

#11 Nebraska - Another team where it's so hard to say. Within the Big 12, I will say that this is the only team of those expected to contend for the conference title that is playing to its potential. Zac Taylor has been impressive and the defense is regaining its "blackshirt" reputation.

#12 Texas - I'm tempted to drop them further, and this team could fall fast if they don't patch up the offense. I have a feeling that with Tarell Brown and Drew Kelson, this defense would have held Ohio State in the 10-17 point range. But an offense that scores just seven in the big game is no help. Colt McCoy needs to grow up fast; meanwhile, Greg Davis is trying to compete with Jeffy Jeff for worst OC at a major football program.

#13 Georgia - Defense and special teams continue to be outstanding. The QB question must be answered if they are going to avoid multiple losses in the SEC.

#14 Va Tech - Beamerball rolls on - a blocked punt and a defensive score against UNC. The offense wasn't as good as they'd like, but it was a strong performance all-around.

#15 Tennessee - Against Cal, everything clicked. Against Air Force, so much went wrong. A team cannot be that inconsistent in SEC conference play, or they will lose. End of story. Losing two defensive starters for the season doesn't help.

#16 Oklahoma - Baffling. Once again the team tried to lean too heavily on Thompson to start the game, then closed the door by going to Peterson. DJ Wolfe is a liability at corner and I don't think he'll be starting any more games.

#17 Iowa - Without Tate, this team had one thing that's been missing from previous squads. Heart. The defense willed the team to victory with that dramatic goalline stand.

#18 Miami - A 51-10 domination of Fla A&M does not erase the memory of how inept Kyle Wright looked against FSU's defense in the opener and against LSU's defense in their bowl game last season. This team is still not ready to play against a good defense.

#19 Oregon - Fresno did play the pretty close, but Fresno has proven that they can do that against good BCS teams. Dennis Dixon looks really good running the spread option.

#20 Boston College - I'd feel bad about ranking less than twenty teams, and they did win a good game over Clemson. No they haven't looked great in either performance, but unlike the teams below them they have beaten a good team and so at least they've done something to make them worthy of the spot.

#21 Cal - This was more what we'd expect from a top 25 team. Minnesota scored early and tied the game at 14 with a kickoff return for TD, but then the Bears broke the game open. I still don't like Longshore as starting QB, but he did do much better in week 2. They probably won't see another defense as good as Tennessee's anyway.

On the bubble: Arizona State, Boise State, Rutgers, TCU, Texas Tech

Sunday, September 10

College Football - week 2 in review

Another great Saturday of watching football and more football. I'll let these games soak in some before posting my own rankings tomorrow, but here were my initial impressions of the AP top 25:

#1 Ohio State - A very solid performance. The kicking game and the run defense need a lot of work. On the other hand, the offense looked fantastic and the secondary unit was good. Troy Smith passed for 269 yds, 2 TDs, and 10 yards per attempt! Trepasso is a weapon at punter.

#2 Texas - Vintage Mack Brown... and to think, I was starting to like him. The defense played well and will be a lot better when Tarell Brown and Drew Kelson return. Both runningbacks looked great, and I was particularly impressed by Selvin Young (135 yds total offense, 8.5 ypc). Jamaal Charles showed not only the speed and agility he's known for, but also great power. McCoy looked terrible and the playcalling was baffling. I don't know if it's McCoy's inexperience or Brown's Brownness, but one way or another this team isn't going to be winning the big games this season unless something changes.

#3 USC - Best team ever! Shutout, 0 yds allowed, in bye week.

#4 Notre Dame - I'm an Irish hater. But I'll admit this team looked good. The defense looks like they've patched up their holes from last season, and Brady Quinn (288 yds, 3 TD) regained his form from last season.

#5 Auburn - Granted Mississippi State is not the best team in the SEC, but winning a conference game 34-0 is a statement. Vaughn was 2-2 on FG including a 55 yarder, so his confidence has to be high heading into a rematch with LSU. (recall that he missed 5 last year against them) Irons was held in check so Cox simply had a monster game.

#6 West Virginia - OK, this offense is frightening. 579 yards, 392 on the ground. Pat White completed all of his passes (all four, yes). Slaton tore them up on the ground. It was a massacre.

#7 Florida - This looked more like the #7 team than what we saw last week. I don't know which is more impressive - 431 yds passing or only 22 yds rushing allowed? Leak looked every bit as good as some of the more hyped QBs.

#8 LSU - I don't think people are watching the Tigers. That's the only reason I can think of why they'd be rated this low. Admittedly, I watched very little of this game once UT-OSU kicked off... but it was over by then anyway (24-0 I think). Their last three games have been 40-3 over Miami, 45-3 over UL-Lafayette, and 45-3 over Arizona. Jamarcus Russell is playing the best I've ever seen him play, and their defense is back at its 2003 form if not better.

#9 Florida State - Relaxed after a big win? Tired after playing just 5 days earlier? Jeff Bowden at offensive coordinator? All three of these played a factor as this team had to come back to beat Troy.

#10 Michigan - Another strong performance by Hart and weak performance by Henne on offense. If I'm a Michigan fan, I'm very concerned about Henne's performances in the opening two weeks against sub-par defenses. On the other hand, the Wolverine defense looked great - particularly against the run - and from the looks of the game in Austin, having a strong running game will be critical to having a shot at stealing the Big Ten crown.

#11 Tennessee - Now this is more like what I'm used to from the Vols. Air Force gave them all they could handle, jumping out to a 10-3 lead and having enough for the late-game comeback, just falling short going for the win on a final two-point attempt. Aside from the passing game, this game was a disaster for the Vols.

#12 Georgia - The Bulldogs rushing attack materialized this week in a big way against an SEC foe. Stafford had a very poor outing at QB, though Tereshinski looked good... but he will be out for a month or longer with a sprained ankle. The defense gave Spurrier his first shutout since 1987, what else needs to be said? Special teams continue to be a strength of this Georgia squad.

#13 Louisville - 62-0 annihilation... but of Temple. It's hard to say what this means, though it is obviously impressive to be averaging over 60 ppg in the first season of shorter games. Five Cardinals scored on the ground and three ran for over 70 yards, as the team appears to be making a statement that they are still a great rushing offense without Bush.

#14 Iowa - One thing was impressive about their 20-13 OT victory over Syracuse. On their final drive, the Orange had a 1st and goal from the Iowa 2. Three plays later, they still weren't in but a penalty gave them a 1st and goal from the two all over again. FOur runs, one yard, zero points! This is a defense that won't quit and won't simply let you have a single yard. The offense was lackluster, but some of that can be blamed on Tate's last-minute unavailability.

#15 Olahoma - Very much a tale of two halves for the Sooners. The team somehow allowed Washington to be tied 13-13 at halftime, before scoring 24 straight points in the second half. AD was impressive, but Thompson was very streaky at QB. They'll need more good streaks than bad to crack the top ten. For the second straight week, DJ Wolfe got burned at corner and had to be taken out.

#16 Va Tech - The margin of victory was what you'd expect for VT vs UNC. But looking colser, Tech's offense struggled all game long. They coughed up 2 fumbles and barely topped 100 yards through the air. However, the defense forced four interceptions - scoring on one of them - and the special teams blocked a punt.

#17 Miami - 337 yards rushing this week is better than the single-digit total from last week. Then again, Florida A&M is hardly Florida State. If nothing else, this game is good for Kyle Wright's confidence.

#18 Clemson - Losing a close game hurts. Losing a close game because of a missed kick hurts even more. Losing a close game because of a missed extra point hurts the most. A missed FG, a missed PAT, a fumble, and 65 yards of untimely penalties negated their offense's edge in yardage in a very hard-fought game.

#19 Penn State - Simply dominated by Notre Dame. Don't let the 17 points fool you either, this game was 41-3 before Penn State added two meaningless scores. Three turnovers and a 33-yard punt average swung the field position battle, and the game was downhill from there. Both sides of the ball need to improve for them to battle Michigan and Ohio State.

#20 Oregon - I'm watching the game in progress as I write this, Oregon just won 31-24. I know Fresno is good for a non-BCS team, but I'm still not impressed. Fresno State was pounding the ball at will, which has to worry Duck fans as AD comes to town next week.

#21 Nebraska - Nebraska can sure blow out a non-div IA team. Old Huskers faithful must have thought Nicholls State was cute, trying their best to run the option. Meanwhile, Nebraska's offense is showing shades of the old juggernauts.

#22 California - I think this is what people were expecting in week 1. Trading scores early, the Bears pulled away from Minnesota before halftime and pitched a shutout in the second half. More impressive was holding Minnesota to just 109 yards rushing. Lynch looked significantly better than last week, but did lose a fumble.

#23 TCU - An early 3-0 deficit proved to be a false omen, as TCU blew out Cal-Davis. Jeff Ballard is back in good health after being knocked out of last week's game.

#24 Texas Tech - Jordan Palmer simply TORCHED the Red Raider defense. Fortunately for TT, Graham Harrell had an even better night. There was not a lot of defense played in this shootout. Trileca struggled, missing two FGs, but did hit a 49 yard game-winner.

#25 Arizona State - Rudy Carpenter played a great game. He did throw a pick, but five TDs more than make up for that. They gave up two turnovers but forced four. Perhaps most importantly, Nevada averaged just 3.8 yards per play. For a team whose weakness is defense, that's a great stat.

Friday, September 8

#1 Ohio State @ #2 Texas - what to expect and more

For what could be the biggest regular season matchup of the 2006 NCAA season, we'd like to take a closer look. I'll preface this preview by admitting that I may have a personal bias. Both of my parents are Ohio State alums, so if I unintentionally underestimate the Texas Longhorns I apoligize. I will do my best to be impartial.

Positional Comparisons:
+0 - even
+1 - slight but noteworthy edge
+2 - significant edge
+3 - huge edge

* The most important position in the game yields probably the biggest advantage one team will have over the other at any one position, and is therefore the simplest to argue. Troy Smith is a leading Heisman candidate, one of the most prolific offensive players in college football, and an experienced leader.
* Colt McCoy, while impressive in his opening debut, is an untested freshman playing a live game against a strong defensive team for the first time.
* Smith will have the edge in agility, arm strength, pass accuracy, and decision making. Ohio State +3.

* The rest of the backfield should be one of the most even matchups in the game. Ohio State will lean on Antonio Pittman, who performed well against NIU averaging 5.8 ypc, roughly on-par with his 5.5 ypc average from a year ago, and scoring a touchdown. Freshman Chris Wells will see less playing time, but provide a good contrast with his more powerful running style. Maurice Wells, who split time with Pittman last season, is a solid third back.
* As a freshman last season, Jamaal Charles recorded the longest run by a Texas player in the history of the Red River Shootout, 80 yards for Texas's first touchdown. He is an elusive runner with excellent field vision, averaged 5.5 yards/carry against UNT after averaging 7.4 ypc last season. Senior Selvin Young will split carries with Charles, having trimmed down ~15 pounds to improve his acceleration and agility. He looked good against UNT, though Longhorn fans may be wary of his habit of fumbling. Both backs scored TDs in the opening week. In short yardage situations, the Longhorns may employ 270-lb bruiser-back Henry Melton.
* Charles is the best back in this bunch. Texas +1

* Ohio State will be pretty much a two man show, but one of those men is Heisman potential Tedd Ginn, Jr. Ginn will be the fastest player on the football field, and he is greatly improved since the last time these teams met. In the Fiesta Bowl, he torched the Irish for two long touchdowns, one off a reverse, and is a threat to score any time the ball is in his hands. On the downside, he has a habit of disappearing from some games. Ginn's partner is Gonzalez, a solid #2 receiver perhaps best known for a key third down catch in OSU's comeback drive against Michigan. Not as fast as Ginn, but more of a posession receiver. A year ago, tight end was the position that let Ohio State down as Hamby dropped what could have been a clinching TD in the fourth quarter. Without a reliable go-to guy at this position, expect most of Smith's passes to be targeted at Ginn, Gonzalez, and the occasional toss to a RB.
* A year ago in Columbus, Limas Sweed scored the game-winning touchdown for the Longhorns, and is the Longhorns' greatest receiving threat. Last week he caught a pair of touchdowns and gained 111 yards on 5 receptions. Texas has a very deep roster of good if unexceptional wide receivers; Cosby, Shipley, and Jones are all capable players. The Longhorns will also use Charles and Young as receivers out of the backfield, which was very effective in this matchup a season ago as often two linebackers were spying Vince Young. The Longhorns do not appear to have found a replacement for star tight end David Thomas.
* Ginn is the biggest scoring threat on the field. Ohio State +2.

Offensive Line:
* Though not as heralded as their counterparts, Ohio State has a strong line. Downing, Datish, and Barton return from last season, though the loss of Mangold at center will be felt.
* Texas returns a veteran line that neutralized the defensive fronts of OSU, OU, and USC a season ago. In fact in that Rose Bowl, the only times Vince Young felt any pressure was when the Trojans blitzed multiple players from the secondary. Seniors Sendlein, Blalock, and Studdard return as the core of that group, and the new starters are a junior and a sophomore.
* The unsung heroes of an offense, this is a position where the Longhorns hope to even the offensive scales. Texas +1

Defensive Line:
* Ohio State returns its tackles Patterson and Pittcock. At defensive end, Richardson has a fair amount of experience. The group is solid against the run and can create pressure on the QB without having to bring extra men.
* Texas returns Crowder, Robison, and Okam as starters, with Robison being the player who recovered Justin Zwick's late game fumble in last season's game. Robison is also a threat on field goals, and blocked a kick against UNT. Many experts rank this line as #1 or #2 along with Oklahoma's.
* Last season, you could make the case that these were the two best defensive lines in football. With a little more experience and a deeper rotation, the edge goes to the Horns. Texas +1

* Ohio State struggles to replace a stellar corps of LBs from their last squad, a task made more difficult by a late-summer injury to much-hyped Mike D'Andrea. Freeman has good speed and Kerr is solid in the middle; Laurinitis was a liability against Michigan, and Grant has almost no experience. Indeed there is little experience from anyone in this group.
* The most memorable incomplete pass thrown by Matt Leinart in the Rose Bowl featured a streak route by Reggie Bush out of the backfield and LB Drew Kelson in man-to-man coverage. Kelson stayed with Bush in deep coverage, nearly intercepting the pass. That is the kind of speed this Texas unit brings to the table, quite possibly the fastest linebacking corps in football, as is preferred by defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. This year Kelson will start and Bobino slides over to MLB to replace Aaron Harris, with Robert Killebrew returning on the strong side.
* Texas LBs have two things they'll need against Ohio State - speed to help contain Troy Smith and coverage skills to help out underneath. Texas +2

* Ohio State must replace an excellent departing group Everett, Salley, Whitner, and Youboty. CB Malcolm Jenkins and SS Jermario O'Neal are well-regarded players, but the #2 corner will be a weakness. FS Brandon Mitchell is the only senior in this bunch with no juniors.
* For Texas, once again speed is the name of the game. Though Thorpe winner Michael Huff and #1 corner Cedric Griffin graduated, the group was expected to be one of the best in the NCAA once again. However, the loss of senior #1 cornerback Tarell Brown - the faster of the two corners whose assignment would have been Ted Ginn - takes this group down a notch. Aaron Ross is an experienced corner who might match up against Ginn in short yardage situations. Michael Griffin is a quick and physical FS who led the team in tackles and tied with Ross for most interceptions a year ago.
* Perhaps the hardest thing to do as a defense is learn to cover as a group. With four new starters, Ohio State may botch a few coverages. Texas +2

* First there was Mike Nugent. Then Josh Huston filled in well enough. But last week, Pretorius and Pettrey both went 0-1 on FG. Ohio State had two FGs blocked by Notre Dame in the Fiesta, which doesn't bode well against Texas.
* After a lackluster season from David Pino, Greg Johnson takes over as a competent kicker. Brian Robison is a kick-blocking machine, already blocking UNT's only field goal attempt the opening week.
* Forgotten in last year's thriller was that Huston did miss a long field goal. Texas +1

* A year ago, AJ Trepasso kicked a 40.3 average and 37.6 net.
* Greg Johnson was punter for Vanderbilt in 2002 as a freshman, where his net average was #4 in the NCAA at 38.8. With the Texas punt coverage team and four years of training under his belt, you can expect that number to approach 40 in 2006.
* Ever so slight an edge to Texas, but I'm giving this one a +0.

Return Teams
* Ted Ginn is the most dangerous man on the field, and the return game is where he excels the most. Despite a 10.0 punt return average and just 1 TD last season, it only takes one mistake for him to make you pay. His kick return average was just shy of 30.
* Aaron Ross was a solid return man last season, averaging 14.7 yards per punt return. But in addition to that, the Longhorns are a threat to block punts, having blocked 6 last year and 20 in the last 5 years. On the down side, last season's top two kick returners are gone - Ramonce Taylor was kicked off the team and Tarell Brown is suspended.
* The punt blocking ability of Texas closes the gap a little, Ohio State +1

Coverage Teams
* Ohio State is always one of the top coverage teams in the nation. Tressel been quoted as saying that the punt is the most important play in the game, showing OSU's dedication to the kicking game.
* A year ago the kick coverage unit was a weakness for the Horns, but that was fixed following the Ohio State game. The Longhorns have not allowed a PR for TD since... I don't know, a while ago.
* Even... OSU a little better against KRs, Texas a little better against PRs, +0

* Jim Tressel replaced Joe Cooper aka The Coach Who Couldn't Beat Michigan or Win the Bowl Game. Since taking over, OSU is 4-1 vs Michigan, 4-1 in Bowl Games, including 3-0 in BCS bowls - each time the Fiesta, and has won a national title in an upset victory over the Greatest Dynasty Ever, Miami. One might note that Michigan has had a bit of a downturn by their standards, averaging fewer than 9 victories per year in that stretch. Under Tressel Ohio State tends to have one of the best special teams units in the nation, a sturdy defense, but has underachieved on offense leading some to question the conservative playcalling. Prior to coaching at Ohio State, Tressel won three national championships with Yongstown State in Div I-AA.
* Mack Brown is notorious for probably costing Texas a spot in the 2001-02 title game by refusing to start Major Applewhite at QB. Four years later he made up for it with an upset victory over the Greatest Team Ever, USC. In Brown's eight years at Texas, the team is just 3-5 against Oklahoma, though it should be noted that in those five losses (2000-04 consecutively) the Sooners averaged 12 victories for the season with three title game appearances. Like Tressel, Brown's teams are noted for outstanding special teams play, sturdy defense (particularly with the addition of coordinator Gene Chizik, who has now won 29 straight games dating back to his days with Auburn), but an offense that disappears in the big games. Indeed, much of that blame has also been placed on OC Greg Davis becoming too conservative for such games. In Brown's defense, Texas was a below .500 program prior to his arrival in 1998, and since then the Horns have averaged just under ten and a half victories per year with their worst record 9-3. His bowl record with Texas is 5-3, including 2-0 in BCS bowls - both times the Rose, the program set a school record for consecutive seasons with 10+ wins, and in 2001-02 finished with back-to-back top 10 rankings for the first time since 1978. Since 2001, Texas has won more games than any other program.
* Even... in fact, very similar I'd say. Were Michigan and Oklahoma to swap their previous five teams, we'd have the entire state of Texas singing Mack's praises and the entire state of Ohio calling for the removal of Tressel. +0

Advantage Totals:
Offense: Ohio State +3
Defense: Texas +5
Special Teams: +0
Overall: Texas +2

* Ohio State was -9 in turnovers last season, their worst performance in six years. The team is still +21 over that period of time. OSU coughed up two fumbles and was -1 vs NIU. The one interception, however, prevented a likely NIU score.
* Texas plays the turnover game as well as anyone other than USC, and in the last six years they are +46 turnovers with positive totals each season. Texas coughed up two fumbles and was +0 vs UNT. The defense scored on a fumble recovery.
* Last season, Texas turned the ball over 3 times to Ohio State's 1. Two interceptions were actually caused by Vince Young being too athletic for his own good, throwing poor passes as tacklers tried to bring him to the ground. Justin Zwick's fumble at 23-22 allowed Texas to burn away much of the clock and set up the clinching safety.

* For Ohio State, this game is all about revenge. The team had Rose Bowl hopes last year, hopes that were taken away in the final minutes of an early-season game by QB Vince Young. Troy Smith said earlier that he wished VY was still at Texas for this game... of course, that would be terrible news for Ohio State, but it hints at the mentality that the Buckeyes are taking into this rematch.
* For Texas, this game is about defending their title and their pride. OSU will likely be their toughest opponent, and a victory this weekend would put them firmly in control of their own destiny. It is also about proving that they can win big games without Vince Young and proving that their victory last season wasn't luck.

Home Field Advantage:
* A year ago, I boldly predicted that Texas would appear to have the home field advantage in the early game, and indeed this was true as the Horns jumped out to a 10-0 lead before the Bucks scored 16 straight. This prediction was due to my unique experience as a Texan who moved to Ohio for college, and experienced the state myself. This season, however, Texas will have the true home field advantage. Don't expect Troy Smith, who has played games in the Big House in November, to get terribly intimidated by a September game anywhere. But perhaps more importantly for the Horns is that Colt McCoy will have the home crowd behind him rather than the Horseshoe's crowd against him. As the game is played in the evening, the weather will not have as much of an effect on the Buckeye players.

Situational Comparisons:

Ohio State Offense vs Texas Defense

Amazingly, Ohio State's 4.7 ypc average last season was their best in the last six years. The Buckeyes have had great offensive lines and solid backs, but do not seem to run the ball like other top rushing programs. Texas gave up 3.7 ypc a year ago and 3.2 ypc the year before that. Against UNT, the unit surrendered just 8 yards rushing on 28 attempts... 36 yards on 19 attempts for the running backs. With a 284 pound average, don't expect Texas's defensive line to get pushed back too much, and the linebackers all have big game experience. For Ohio State, getting the passing game going early and utilizing Smith as an option/decoy will be key to establishing the ground game. Expect some, but limited, success by the Buckeye running game.

A year ago, Ohio State had their best passing offense in years, completing just shy of 65% of their passes to the turn of 226 aerial yards per game despite having a preference for running the ball. Last week they boosted that to 315 yards through the air in an impressive performance. Ohio State lost their go-to receiver, but Texas lost their Thorpe winning safety and #1 corner. Now with their new #1 corner suspended, you'd think Ohio State will have success throwing the ball. The Horns gave up just 87 yards passing in their opener, coming off a season when they had one of the best pass defenses, giving up just 172 passing yards per game at a 51% completion rate. For Texas, it will be important to try to get pressure with the front 4 and to get help from both the linebackers and safeties. Expect Buckeye success in the passing game.

Texas Offense vs Ohio State Defense

Texas averaged 275 rushing ypg and 5.9 ypc a season ago. Though Vince Young's departure will hurt that number, don't underestimate the contributions of the offensive line and the running backs to those statistics. Texas did gain 212 yards rushing against UNT, but the average fell to 4.8 ypc. A season after giving up just 73 ypg and 2.2 ypc on the ground, Ohio State gave up 151 yards and 4.6 ypc to the NIU rushing attack, with Wolfe getting 171 and 6.6. The loss of two linemen and three linebackers was obvious. Though Wolfe is arguably as good as Texas's backs, there is no comparison between the offensive lines, nor the receiving corps which will prevent OSU from giving as much safety support. Expect Texas to go to the ground early and often, as they try to keep the ball away from Ohio State's powerful offense. And expect them to have success with this approach.

Last season, passing was that thing Vince Young sometimes did when the defending corners came up to stop him and he didn't feel like juking them out. He did it so well that he had the #1 quarterback rating in the country, and the offense gained 237 yards at 65% completion through the air. Ohio State gave up 208 yards through the air per game at 61% completion. In the opening week, Texas gained 198 yards through the air, with McCoy being much more efficient than Snead. Ohio State gave up 192 aerial yards, though about half that came on two screen passes. What will be interesting to watch is an inexperienced quarterback with good receivers working against an inexperienced secondary. Expect lots of vanilla from both sides of this one. So long as the line holds and gives McCoy time to find the open man, expect decent success from the Longhorns. Greater success if the running game requires safety support to slow down.

Interesting facts:

Returning Offense/Defense:
* Ohio State returns their top five rushers (in terms of yards gained) from last season, and have added Chris Wells to the attack.
* Ohio State returns their #2-#5 receivers. However, #1 Holmes had 11 TDs to Ginn's 4 and actually averaged more yards per catch.
* Sophomore cornerback Malcolm Jenkins recorded 37 tackles last season for Ohio State. The eight players above him are all gone. Only two other players on OSU's defensive roster recorded more than 20 tackles a year ago. The group has one interception.
* Texas returns rushers #2, #4, and #5 from last season, and you can guess who was #1. Jamaal Charles, however, had the highest ypc.
* Texas returns receivers #3 and #4 from last season, but are aided by Jordan Shipley's return from injury. #1 receiver Billy Pittman returned but was injured during the summer.
* Michael Griffin was the Longhorns' leading tackler and tied with Aaron Ross for leading interceptor a year ago. Tacklers #2-4 graduated and #5 (T. Brown) is suspended. Tacklers #6-11 return, and there are 10 defensive players who recorded over 20 tackles a season ago, with the group totaling 8 interceptions.

Completely Random Yet Fun Facts from Steele's:
* Texas is 13-3 against the spread after their last 16 straight-up victories. The spread calls for Texas to win the game by a field goal.
* The Longhorns have won 21 straight games, longest in the nation.
* Ohio State is 8-3 against the spread after their last 11 straight-up victories.
* Ohio State is 22-4-1 vs the Big 12 during the regular season. However, they are just 5-8 against the spread in those games.

Oh, so I'm supposed to make a prediction?
Texas 24, Ohio State 17