5 Thoughts, Week 5
Week 1 - Is TCU Deserving? |
Week 2 - The bad, bad ACC
Week 3 - Uhhh ... Texas & Florida? |
Week 4 - Ohio State's
1. Somehow, somewhere, Billy Tubbs will be smiling.
Boise State, welcome to your 2010 national championship wake-up call. You can go back to being a good old steady rock of a program next year once you hit the Mountain West, but this might be your one and only dream shot, sport, and you’re blowing it.
There’s a very good chance that Stanford isn’t that great. Check that; there’s a very good chance that Stanford isn’t appreciably better than Oregon State, who Boise State beat in a yawner of a walk two weeks ago.
All of a sudden, though, because the Cardinal obliterated a mediocre Notre Dame team on national TV, the showdown in Autzen
became big enough to be on the front-burner next to Florida vs. Alabama
and ahead of Texas vs. Oklahoma and Penn State vs. Iowa. It was
Stanford, people … STANFORD.
You know, Northwestern with better weather; no bowl wins since 1996; one bowl appearance in the last eight years; seven straight losing seasons before last year; going back to being Stanford again once Harbaugh and Luck bolt to the big league; Stanford. And yet, Oregon’s phenomenal second half performance was enough to push ahead of Boise State into the high rent district of the top three in the Coaches’ Poll (the one that matters).
Never mind that Boise State blasted New Mexico State 59-0, and feel free to blow off how shaky Oregon was at times in layups against Tennessee (who stinks) and Arizona State (who isn’t going bowling, either), and forget that the other wins came over New Mexico (arguably the worst team in college football), and mighty Portland State, to go along with the Stanford win. Oregon is fun. Oregon is fast. Oregon is Denard Robinson with a defense. Oregon is wacky uniforms, smoking hot cheerleaders, a loud stadium, Nike, a creepy mascot who does pushups, and lots and lots and lots of points.
Boise State has a dopey blue field.
Who doesn’t want to see Oregon play in the big game? Apparently the same people who don’t want to see Boise State come within 1,500 miles of the BCS Championship.
The concern isn’t Oregon (it’s Oregon; the gack will come), and Ohio State isn’t going unbeaten unless Terrelle Pryor can prove he can complete a 3rd and seven throw for more than six yards (or at least is allowed to). Alabama might not even be the issue with a brutal remaining schedule with six dates against teams that get two weeks off to prepare. The problem is Boise State, and it’s not the WAC schedule. There’s no sizzle to the steak.
Boise State needs to learn its lesson from this week’s drop in the rankings. It was thrown a bone this offseason because
everyone by Kyle Wilson returned from a team that smoked through the 2009 season (including a dominant win over Oregon) and beat TCU in the Fiesta Bowl. Oh sure, everyone loved the idea that this
was the year that the Broncos deserved their shot at the big time, and
yeah, everyone said that the little problem of the WAC schedule would be
swept under the rug with a road win over Virginia Tech and a good
victory over Oregon State.
And now Oregon is ranked No. 3, and Boise State is fourth.
The voters are never, ever, ever, going to let Boise State play for the national championship if there are
other reasonably viable options to go with, and this week’s polls proved it.
Nothing has changed with the Broncos after being put No. 3 to start the
season. They beat Virginia Tech (who, by the way, has won two straight ACC road games, will end up being 6-0 in conference play going into the showdown against Miami on November 20th for the Atlantic Division title, and could very easily end up in the BCS as the
ACC champion). They beat Oregon State and they blasted Wyoming, yet even though they did everything they were supposed to do, they moved
down after a 59-0 win while Ohio State, who was a mess against Illinois, didn’t budge an inch from No. 2.
Boise State became Boise State by maintaining an eerie focus that never wavers. Take your eye off the ball and think only about the big fish and you let the little ones get away (I’m looking at you, Fresno State). It’s that ability to take the one game at a time cliché to another level, and it’s that ability of head coach Chris Petersen to get his players to buy into the idea that all they can do is win this week, and what happens, happens, that has led to the phenomenal success. But now it’s time to go for it.
I’ve got news for you, pal, they’re going to nail you no matter what you do, so you might as well have a good time. Boise State, it’s time to go 1991 UNLV basketball on the sports world. It’s time to become appointment television every Saturday night, and it’s time to become the high-flying, showtime team that makes
America care about that date at San Jose State and the showdown against Louisiana Tech. 59-0 against New Mexico State doesn’t get the needle moving, but 72-0, like Oregon came up with at home against New Mexico, does.
Boise State has more than earned its sportsmanship stripes over the years to be allowed to spin the ball on its finger for one season,
and it's leaving the WAC, anyway, so it doesn't matter whose feelings
get hurt. It stinks that running up the score will make a difference in today’s day and age, and it’s easy to take the high road and say that it’s not how things are done at Boise State, and that’s great, and
they'll be able to mention that before their game in Glendale on January 1st instead of the one on January 10th.
Meanwhile, Oregon will keep chirping about its point-a-minute attack.
Boise State has to want to make the voters care. It has to become such a big story that everyone will want to see what it can do against Alabama or Ohio State or Oregon or Nebraska for the whole ball of wax. Half of America will miss the BCS Championship anyway because it
won't be on real TV, and college football doesn’t want the other half tuning out because Boise State might represent itself well with
merely a respectable performance.
Boise State, you have my permission. Go out there and nail Toledo 81-0 and follow it up with a flirtation with triple digits against
Hawaii. Unload the playbook. Do some of that wild and crazy 2007 Fiesta Bowl-like stuff. Have another player ask another perky cheerleader to marry him after whacking Utah State by 65. We’ll all understand that desperate times call for desperate measures and that you might never fly this close to the sun ever again. We’ll all get it that every week you need to come up with another nip, another waxing, and another augmentation to compete in this beauty contest.
You have a free pass to be a jerk.
Boise State, the system stinks, and as you learned this week, you’re getting screwed by it. Do what you must.
2. Somehow, somewhere, Mickey Andrews will be smiling
If the 1980s and 1990s are the measuring sticks, neither Miami nor Florida State is back. If, however, you’ve watched the defenses over the last few weeks, there have been some striking similarities to the glory days.
As of Sunday morning, the Seminoles led the nation in sacks. The Hurricanes were No. 2. That’s big news for a couple of schools that used to win championships on the backs of ultra-fast, ultra-aggressive defenses. In Tallahassee, first-year coordinator Mark Stoops is doing a terrific job with a unit that ranked 108th nationally and last in the ACC a year ago. Yeah, it wilted in Norman back in Week 2, but that feels like a long time ago. Since then, Florida State has reached the quarterback 20 times, routinely collapsing the pocket with pressure coming up front from DE Brandon Jenkins, tackles Everette Dawkins and Demonte McAllister, and a mix of blitzes. If the secondary hasn’t fully evolved, you won’t know it because the opposing quarterback rarely has enough time to set his feet. The ‘Noles have always had the athletes on this side of the ball. Now they have a coach who’s putting them in the best position to make plays.
Over in Miami, the ‘Canes have rebounded from their own humbling road loss in Week 2, a 36-24 defeat at the hands of Ohio State. And just like their long-time rival, they’ve been fueled by the play of the D. In beating Pitt and Clemson in back-to-back trips, the Hurricanes collected a whopping nine turnovers, including three picks and three fumble recoveries in Death Valley.
After not being healthy a year ago, LB Sean Spence has been instrumental to the turnaround, using his blinding speed to blow up plays and rack up a team-high eight stops for loss. With Spence requiring constant attention, it’s helped free up his teammates, like LB Colin McCarthy and ends Olivier Vernon and Andrew Smith, to get into the backfield. And with CB Brandon Harris walling off half the field for quarterbacks, Miami has yielded just one touchdown pass all year.
Miami and Florida State are on a collision course this Saturday at 8:00 ET. For the first time in years, it’s going to matter for reasons beyond just regional bragging rights. The nation will be engaged in this one, in large part, because the defenses have slowly started turning back the clock and channeling their predecessors from a generation ago.
3. The second show is completely different from the first
If this coaching thing ever stops working for Oregon’s Chip Kelly, he might want to consider a career as a chiropractor. Through five weeks, no one in the country is making better halftime adjustments.
There are a million different ways to judge the effectiveness of a coach and his staff. In-game adjustments are a big one. How well does he adapt to a deficit, changes in personnel, and unexpected looks from the opposition? In other words, how nimble is he when circumstances change and he’s forced to react accordingly? In the case of Kelly and his assistants, the numbers are indisputable. In the second half of five games, the Ducks have now outscored their opponents 114-7. 114-7!
Saturday night’s critical game versus Stanford was a microcosm of this staff’s ability to adjust on the fly. Early in the second quarter, the Cardinal led 21-3, but Oregon didn’t buckle or panic. It simply made the right tweaks on both sides of the ball and voila … the Ducks went on a torrid 49-10 run that showcased the ability of the offense and the defense to produce big plays.
If any of the seven remaining opponents on the schedule hope to defeat Oregon, it won’t be enough to simply try and outscore it. As if that isn’t difficult enough when the Ducks are averaging a nation’s-best 56 points a game, opposing coaches will have to outsmart them as well. As long as Kelly and his gang are able to sublux their way out of difficult situations and slow starts, beating Oregon this year is going to require 60 minutes of flawless play. One half of good football just isn’t going to hack it against this group.
4. The more things change, the more Les Miles doesn't know about clock
Well, it took one month - and five weekends - for one of college football's most amazing yet enduring truths to emerge: Though players come and go every four years, the schools that play college football remain remarkably similar from year to year, adopting the textured personalities of people. It's always a mind-boggling encounter with reality - just how can endlessly fluid teams exhibit the same tendencies and produce the same cringe-inducing moments with different players and coaches, year after year?
Yes, it's true that some programs - think Michigan State for the better and Georgia for the worse - defied the progression of the past 10 years with their performances this weekend. Air Force also snapped a seven-game skid against Navy (though the Falcons were far more sluggish than many expected them to be), and Iowa State scored 52 points (!). For the most part, though, the identities of the nation's FBS programs were reaffirmed in week five:
Clemson was Clemson. Dabo Swinney hasn't transformed the culture in the Palmetto State. That was a Tommy Bowden-esque display this past Saturday against interception-happy Jacory Harris, who failed in his attempt to hand ACC leverage to the Tigers... because Clemson and Kyle Parker were worse. Of course! That's what Clemson does.
North Carolina State was a Tom O'Brien-coached team playing at home in a huge ACC game. Again, no explanation necessary.
If you saw Washington State's four-down sequence from the UCLA 1 in a 28-28 tie, followed by the Bruins' 72-yard run and subsequent touchdown, you'd know that "Couging it" is still a part of a Pac-10 fan's vocabulary.
Army blew a turn-the-corner game against Temple... just as it did last year.
LSU is still coached by Les Miles, of course (talk about your psych wards).
Arizona State once again fell short in an entirely winnable game against a good opponent, largely because of its own unforced errors in key situations. Nothing new there, no matter the coach in Tempe over the past several years.
Kentucky dropped a road SEC game that was there for the taking. Stop me if you've come across that tale of woe over the past few decades.
Minnesota still has the darndest time finishing off wins. In all fairness to Minnesota Athletic Director Joel Maturi, who has royally messed up the coaching situation for the Gopher program, Glen Mason did have problems in the fourth quarters of games before Tim Brewster came along.
Let's recall, too, that Texas A&M played entirely within character on Thursday against Oklahoma State.
The more things change, the more our old friends manifest the same psychic problems. These are people we've come to know over the course of many years and, in some cases, multiple decades.
This is some kind of sport, where schools act like living, breathing human individuals. I'll never cease to be fascinated by this dynamic.
5. Somehow, somewhere, after a Botox injection, Burt Reynolds will be smiling
By Matt Zemek
Next Saturday, guess what will be the biggest game in the ACC? Why, it will be the game that was ALWAYS supposed to be the classic confrontation in one of college football's most underachieving conferences.
With Virginia Tech knocking off Atlantic aspirant North Carolina State, the ACC has no unbeaten teams heading into week six. Moreover, Miami's win over Clemson elevated the Canes in the Coastal Division while taking a bite out of the Tigers' plans for an Atlantic Division repeat.
If you were to conclude from the above information that Miami (in the Coastal) and Florida State (Atlantic) were the two best teams in the ACC, the teams best positioned to contend for the league championship, you would not be laughed out of the room. A fair number of people would agree with you.
True, Jacory Harris needs to... you know... LEARN HOW TO PLAY THE QUARTERBACK POSITION.
True, Florida State needs to play real defense against an offense that... you know... ACTUALLY HAS A PULSE. (Wake Forest and Virginia don't count.)
Nevertheless, it could very well be that these proud programs are ready to reclaim past glories. It will be quite interesting to see if these teams stir the football fan's soul when they take the field once again.