Monday, September 30, 2013

Lane Kiffin Out at USC

I had Kiffin on the hot seat in one of my preseason posts, but I didn't think he would get canned so early in the season. The Trojans got destroyed by Arizona State 62-41 on Saturday night after which Kiffin was promptly fired. Its not just that he was fired: apparently he was pulled off of the team bus when the team landed back in LAX and told he was fired. Not only that, but USC Athletic Director Pat Haden said the decision to fire him came in the third quarter. Kiffin was a dead man walking. Could you imagine if he was fired at half time in the locker room? That's asking for a lot, but is it really that far off from what actually happened?

What this means for Kiffin
Kiffin is in a bit of a tough position now. There isn't exactly going to be a line of athletic directors waiting for him to pencil them in for an interview. He has shown nothing to give any program any sort of hope for their future. He has so much talent from the fantastic recruiting he is responsible for, but can't do anything with it. And its not just that he is an inept coach. He is also a terrible leader to have in a locker room. Kiffin has built up a terrible reputation for being an arrogant, self entitled dick because he is an arrogant, self entitled dick. Numerous coaches who have worked with him at the pro and college level can't stand his attitude. And he has already shown that he isn't subject to morality, so what is to keep from leaving some minor, less glorious position the moment Texas or Nebraska becomes available? I can see some mid level team take a chance on Kiffin at the end of this season just to see what they can get, but I can't imagine him landing another dream job.

What this means for USC
Well, as if the Trojan's season wasn't already dead, now its been buried and read its last rights. There is so much dysfunction on this team it is unbelievable. The team somehow loses a game to Washington State 10-7, and then loses 62-41 a few weeks later to a team of slightly better competition. There really is no explanation as to how that happens. I'm starting to believe that Lane Kiffin was some sort of Bane-like character sent by the NCAA to topple the mighty USC program. The team still has a lot of key pieces to being a good team, but the quarterback play is inconsistent and they are being coached by an interim coach. They still have a tough road ahead of them, having to play at Notre Dame and Oregon State while making home stands against Stanford, Arizona and UCLA. This could really turn into an ugly season, and it wouldn't be surprising if they are happy to get into a bowl game. It seems like quite a number of coaches could be getting fired after this season, so USC could find a good replacement for Kiffin in the offseason. Seriously, at this point anyone would be better.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Best Games for 9/28

Noon Game
Meh, to be honest none of the games at noon are that great. There's only about seven games for the noon slot and none of them are ranked match ups. If you want to see a ton of points scored, check out No. 11 Oklahoma State visiting West Virginia (ESPN). West Virginia has been struggling lately on both sides of the ball, so its pretty feasible that the Cowboys could put up 60 on them. Besides that, you can either watch No. 12 South Carolina take on UCF (ABC) or watch No. 15 Miami dismantle South Florida (WATCHESPN).

Afternoon Game
No. 6 LSU Tigers @ No. 9 Georgia Bulldogs (3:30 on CBS) 
This should be a really damn good game. For already the third time this season, Georgia will be taking on a team ranked in the top 10. The series has been fairly even since Richt and Miles started coaching each school, but the last time they met was in the SEC Championship game a couple years ago when LSU killed Georgia 42-10. This is going to be an interesting game because the traditional staple of each team, the defense, hasn't really developed for either team yet. Both are experiencing the growing pains of losing a bunch of talent and trying to plug in kids who haven't had a lot of playing time. I think LSU has the advantage on defense, but offense clearly goes to the Bulldogs who have a lethal tandem of running backs and a seasoned quarterback. Mettenberger has been playing well for LSU, but if Jeremy Hill and the running game can't get going to set up play-action, he might struggle. I think Murray gets his first true marquee victory of his career in this game and leads Georgia to victory in a close 31-27 game.

Evening Game
No. 21 Ole Miss Runnin' Rebels @ No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (6:30 on ESPN)
I think that Ole Miss has a better chance of keeping this game close than more people are giving them credit for. Their offense is something that the Alabama defense better take seriously or they could find themselves on their heels. Their quarterback Bo Wallace has been able to eliminate the mistakes that he made frequently last year and has the ability to get the first down with his feet as well. He has skill players around him, specifically in receivers Laquon Treadwell and Donte Moncrief. Both are guys who sure handed and can get open easily while also being phenomenal down field blockers. Alabama's defense has looked very vulnerable in their small sample size this year. I think that their offense might have to carry the burden in this game as they did last week against A&M. Saban should be looking to get the ground attack going early, but if that is stifled he will put the ball into McCarron's hands more often like he did against the Aggies. The talent pool in the SEC West is closing, but Alabama still has what it takes to win this by a healthy margin, 35-24.

Night Game
No. 23 Wisconsin Badgers @ No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes (8:00 on ABC)
We're about to learn a lot from these two teams. Wisconsin has been steamrolling teams with the rush, averaging 350 yards per game. That is not good news for the young front seven of the defense which has yet to be truly tested in rush defense. Both James White and Melvin Gordon for Wisconsin are great runners who know how to read the blocks, hit the hole hard, and get down field for as many yards as possible. It is a formula that Wisconsin has followed for years which has usually yielded good results. For Wisconsin to win this game however, sophomore QB Joel Stave is going to need to step up and complete passes to someone other than Jared Abbrederis. If Badgers TE Jacob Pederson is out this week with injury, Abbrederis will be the leading the next receiver by 17 catches. Meanwhile, the Wisconsin defense is going to have their hands full whether Braxton or Guiton plays this week. The Buckeyes possess a stable of running backs that can produce what Gordon and White can but also have a more dynamic passing game. Evan Spencer, Philly Brown, and Devon Smith have all stepped their game up from last year. Wisconsin is going to find success on the ground no matter what the OSU defense does, but I think the the defensive line of the Buckeyes will pressure Stave enough that he forces the ball and throws a pair of picks. It will be a close one, so strap in. My prediction is Urban keeps the streak alive in a 33-24 victory.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Top 10 for 9/22

1) Alabama Crimson Tide (beat Colorado State Rams 31-6 at home)
This Alabama team is kind of weird. They seem to be playing down to their competition but then went and rolled over Texas A&M last weekend. Sure, they had a healthy margin of victory but they just didn't look as crisp as they should against a team like Colorado State. AJ McCarron was productive, but he didn't play nearly as well as he did against the Aggies defense. As a whole, the Tide only ran for 66 yards which is pretty concerning. Again, aside from the game last week against A&M, the running backs have not played well in the other two games. That is very worrisome for a Nick Saban coached team as that is basically how he wants to win his games. It seems like the changes that took place along the offensive line are starting to catch up. Aside from that, the defensive backs don't seem to be as good as they have been in the past. Teams are figuring out ways to get big chunks of yards against the secondary that Saban had been so good at limiting in recent years. I'm starting to wonder if this team is really as unbeatable as I proclaimed last week.

2) Ohio State Buckeyes (beat Florida A&M Rattlers 76-0 at home)
Think Urban was tired of dropping in the polls? He cranked up the heat and didn't stop until time ran out. Kenny Guiton set an OSU record by throwing for six touchdowns, all in the first half. He was basically throwing the wide open receivers all day. Its great for Urban to know that he has such a reliable back up since Braxton seems to be injury prone. This may set up a weird scenario as Urban has already stated that Braxton will get the start next week against Wisconsin. How long does he wait to put Guiton in if Braxton is rusty and struggling? Hopefully it doesn't come to that. This game was also allowed Urban to showcase freshman Ezekiel Elliot, a highly touted running back out of Missouri. He made the most out of his opportunities, running for over 150 yards and two touchdowns on only 14 carries. Elliot looks like he could be a real threat in the backfield along with Carlos Hyde.

3) Clemson Tigers (beat NC State Wolf Pack in Raleigh 26-14)
This game was close for a while but Clemson did a good job of not choking like they have in the past. Tajh Boyd continues to make his case for the Heisman, throwing for 244 yards and 3 touchdowns on 66% passing. He is not a guy who is going to light up the scoreboard for five touchdowns a game, but he is a very polished passer who can also make plays with his feet. It really helps that he still has a very talented duo of wide receivers to throw to in Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant. They combined for 16 catches, 169 yards and two of the receptions and it is clear to see that Boyd trusts them and feels very comfortable throwing to them on most routes. It will be important for running back Roderick McDowell to continue his solid play to open up the big plays down the field, but so far he has lived up to the challenge. The Clemson defense did its job too, limiting most big plays for the Wolf Pack. They did get very lucky that an 80 yard touchdown run was called back (incorrectly by the way) or else they would have put their team in a hole. The pass defense is solid, but the run defense could still use a bit of fine tuning before some of their tougher games.

4) Stanford Cardinal (beat No. 23 Arizona State Sun Devils 42-28 at home)
This game ended up getting a bit closer towards the end than head coach David Shaw wanted to see. After pitching a shutout in the first half, the Cardinal defense allowed four touchdowns in the second half, three in the fourth quarter alone. Arizona State has a pretty good team this year, so it isn't like Stanford should be upset that they didn't get a the shutout. My guess is that they figured they were ahead by so much and just let off the gas. The good news for them though is that the offense continues to be very efficient. Quarterback Kevin Hogan again had a typical outing for him, completing 11 of 17 for 151 yards, 2 TDs and 1 pick. He continues to find comfort in throwing to Ty Montgomery who caught 4 of his passes and both touchdowns. Again, it was the Stanford rushing attack that did most of the damage. Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson each had 18 carries to combine for 155 yards and three scores. They each bring a different element to the run game which allows them to control the pace of the game. It is a formula that numerous teams try to attain, but few can actually achieve with such efficiency.

5) Oregon Ducks (idle this week, home against California Golden Bears next week)

6) Louisville Cardinals (beat Florida International Golden Panthers 72-0 at home)
This isn't even worth talking about really. I mean, what do you need to know that the score already doesn't? FIU was over matched from the start and didn't have a prayer as the Louisville offense just tore through them. Oh yeah, and the defense only gave up 30 yards. Total.

7) LSU Tigers (beat Auburn Tigers 35-21 at home)
This game was surprisingly even despite LSU winning by two touchdowns. Two interceptions thrown by the Auburn quarterback was really the difference in this game. It was raining the whole game so play did get a bit sloppy at times for both teams. This shifted the offensive tone to the running game, and Jeremy Hill continued to have an outstanding performance since coming back from suspension. Hill exploded for 183 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries, showing the ability to bounce off tackles and hit the next gear to get down field. Mettenberger and the receivers were hampered due to the weather, but were still solid enough out there to gain first downs and put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter. The run defense wasn't up to par however. They allowed over 200 yards and 3 touchdowns, but were able to eliminate runs of over 20 yards. LSU plays a very tough Georgia team next week that can do all its damage through its running backs, so they have a bit to work on during this week.

8) Georgia Bulldogs (beat North Texas Mean Green 45-21 at home)
Somehow, in some way, this game was tied at 21 just after half. That was due to special teams giving up two touchdowns, so it isn't like the offense or defense suffered some sort of catastrophic meltdown. Those were actually firing on all cylinders. Murray had another productive day, throwing for over 400 yards and three touchdowns against one pick. Georgia fans should be ecstatic that Murray has been able to continue his high level of play despite losing his best receiver Malcolm Mitchell in the first game of the year. They are also fortunate that Todd Gurley can take over a game by himself. His stat line was pretty average this past week, but when your quarterback throws for 400 yards, it isn't like Mark Richt is going to him every other play. He is going to be the most crucial component to the game next week against LSU.

9) Florida State Seminoles (beat Bethune-Cookman Wildcats 54-6 at home)
Just your typical blowout against a school that had no business of being there. Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston continues to look great, but I want to see what he does against some tougher competition. We have to wait a few weeks until they travel to Clemson to get a true gauge of where he is at, but this week at Boston College could pose a few challenges.

10) Texas A&M Aggies (beat Southern Methodist Mustangs 42-13 at home)
Even when it doesn't look like their trying, this offense knows how to score. Manziel only need 14 completions to get 244 yards and a touchdown while adding another 102 and two touchdowns rushing. SMU was clearly overmatched against the reigning Heisman champion, who helped carve up this defense before being sat down to let the second and even third string quarterbacks get some reps. The best part about this game for the Aggies though had to be the improvement on defense. After being flat out dominant at points last year, they have really struggled to regain their form against even the lowliest of competition. Garrett Gilbert did pass for almost 350 yards on him, but it took him over 60 throws to get to there. Coach Sumlin needs to keep improving the defense or they could get beat again later down the road and be pushed out of the SEC West race.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Best Games for 9/21

There aren't any. No joke, this Saturday's lineup is unbelievably pitiful. The only ranked match up occurring is between No. 23 Arizona State at No. 5 Stanford. Arizona State doesn't even deserve to be ranked after beating Wisconsin last week thanks to the mind-numbing ineptitude of PAC 12 officials. A couple games have some intriguing aspects, but there really isn't anything that makes you want to glue yourself to the couch. Fortunately for us, next week is when most conferences start their conference play, so games improve dramatically. If you really need to feed your addiction, here are a few games that could be worth tuning in to while you're repairing your engine, or building a deck, or whatever shit Lowe's commercials think all guys do:

Tennessee Volunteers @ No. 19 Florida Gators (3:30)
Why: Because it's the SEC and we are all so privileged to watch them play.

Michigan State Spartans @ No. 22 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3:30)
Why: Who doesn't enjoy watching ND choke at home? Unlikely though as the Spartan's offense is anemic, but it is always fun to hope.

No. 23 Arizona State Sun Devils @ No. 5 Stanford Cardinal (7:00)
Why: Like I said, it is the only game between two ranked teams. Also a good chance for East Coast viewers to get a glimpse of Stanford and if they're for real.

So, there ya go. Don't bother to wake up to the refreshing smell of stale beer and pretzels on your shirt until 2 o'clock or so. Enjoy the weekend.

Saban's reaction to this week's lineup was similar to mine.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Top 10 for 9/15

1) Alabama Crimson Tide (beat No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies 49-42 at College Station)
Alabama now has a clear shot to the national title game. They are better than anyone in the SEC that they will face all year and just proved that they can win any style game. Defense be damned, let the offense steal the show. Alabama's defense gave up 628 yards of total offense. I honestly don't even know how much farther ahead of the next most yards Nick Saban has ever surrendered that ranks. While their defense did allow a tremendous amount of yards, they managed to force Manziel into two interceptions. But the real story is with the offense, which racked up over 560 yards itself. McCarron was on fire for 334 yards and four touchdowns while completely eliminating mental mistakes. DeAndrew White and TE OJ Howard both stepped up to take pressure off of Amari Cooper and combined for 7 catches, 180 yards and a touchdown. TJ Yeldon was unstoppable on the ground, rushing for 150 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. Fellow sophomore back Kenyan Drake also produced 50 yards and a touchdown and showed good burst and elusiveness which will be crucial in giving Yeldon a breather. It is amazing what Saban did after one disappointing game and two weeks to prepare.

2) Ohio State Buckeyes (beat California Golden Bears 52-34 in Berkeley)
34 points is the only thing that is really marring this victory. The defense gave up 500 total yards, 370 of which came through the air. Cal QB Jared Goff played a great game and was very effective with the play action, but he was forced into one interception by Christian Bryant. Meyer is still trying to mold a young offensive front, and if he can get them going, the defensive backs should benefit greatly from increased pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The real stars of the show for Ohio State were on offense, where Kenny Guiton replaced injured Braxton Miller and had a fantastic day. He threw for three touchdowns on their first three possessions and ended the day with another and 276 yards. Devin Smith and Philly Brown were absolutely torching Cal's cornerbacks, and Guiton showed a lot of touch on the deep passes to them. He also contributed 92 yards on the ground out of the total 332 rushing yards. Jordan Hall continues to look impressive this year as he rolled again for over 150 yards and had three rushing touchdowns. Braxton comes back from injury next weekend against Florida A&M, so I imagine this offense continuing to see just what it is capable of.

3) Clemson Tigers (idle this week; next game at NC State Wolfpack)

4) Stanford Cardinal (beat Army Black Knights 34-20 in West Point)
20 points might seem like a lot to surrender against Army, but it was really only 13 until they scored with less than 30 seconds left. Army runs a crazy triple option scheme, so giving up over 250 rushing yards to them really isn't that big of a deal either. The continued development of their young quarterback is their most important objective, and he again played well in this game. Hogan did throw an interception, but otherwise took care of the ball and threw for three touchdowns and 188 yards on 11 completions. Coach Shaw will continue to put him in a position to manage the game and not force to him into situations he doesn't have the experience to handle. Hogan is developing a strong rapport with receiver Ty Montgomery, who was responsible for most of Hogan's production (6 catches, 130 yards, 1 TD). Having a security blanket in Montgomery will help Hogan's progression in this offense immensely. Running back Tyler Gaffney is still putting up big numbers, this week rushing for 130 yards and a touchdown while also catching one as well. The offensive output is about 50-50 right now which will be the key for their future success or failures.

5) Oregon Ducks (beat Tennessee Volunteers 59-14 at home)
Just read everything I wrote last week. Their offense is insane and they will continue to put up huge numbers until they play UCLA or Stanford that fields a somewhat competent defense. What is really impressive is how good the defense is. If they can catch up to even a fraction of how good the offense is, they could be a serious title contender.

6) Louisville Cardinals (beat Kentucky Wildcats 27-13 in Lexington)
Finally, a little competition for Louisville. Bridgewater had his worst statistical day of the year, throwing for 250 yards and one touchdown on 57% passing. Kentucky has marginally better athletes than anyone Louisville has faced thus far, so this is mildly concerning. That is mostly overshadowed by the emergence of the running game. Three players got at least 11 carries and together they were able to produce over 200 rushing yards. They were led by Sinorise Perry who ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns on only 11 carries. Michael Dyer also rebounded from last week, rushing for 62 yards on the same amount of carries. The defense also stepped up to a bigger challenge than what they've faced so far. They held the two Kentucky QBs to under 50% and only 214 yards. If this is any indication of the extent of Louisville's competition this year, the Cardinals are all but guaranteed to go undefeated.

7) LSU Tigers (beat Kent St. Golden Flashes 45-13 at home)
Jeremy Hill enjoyed his return to starter as he accumulated 117 and 2 touchdowns on 11 carries. He was the catalyst to this win, scoring both times in the first quarter to ensure this game wouldn't have any chance of an upset. Junior back Terrence Magee also had an unprecedented impact, rushing for 108 yards and a touchdown on 9 carries. Altogether, this team rushed for 307 yards and tacked on another 264 through the air as Mettenberger followed up a career performance last week with another great outing this week. He only needed 13 passes to get 264 yards and also added three more touchdowns of his own. Odell Beckham Jr. was on the receiving end of five of those passes and a touchdown while Jarvis Landry had another 4 catches and the other two touchdowns. These two are finally forming the dynamic receiving core that Les Miles envisioned when he recruited them. They should be able to stand up to most secondaries they will face the rest of the year. If they can continue to play at this high of a level, LSU can give A&M and maybe even Alabama a real run for the SEC West.

8) Georgia Bulldogs (idle this week; home against North Texas Mean Green)

9) Florida State Seminoles (beat Nevada Wolf Pack 62-7 at home)
I know it is only Nevada, but good God. The Seminoles rushed for a total of 377 yards, primarily utilizing four running backs who each had a touchdown as well. This stable of running backs will be very valuable if redshirt freshman Jameis Winston begins to actually look like a redshirt freshman. So far, he has lived up to the hype as he continued his outstanding play, this week throwing for 214 yards, two touchdowns and a pick on 15-18 passing. He has more touchdown passes (6) than incomplete passes (5) through his first two games as a starter. I know they haven't played stellar competition in his first games, but he looks to be the real deal and could even establish himself as one of the best by the end of the year. Receivers Kenny Shaw and Rashad Greene have been instrumental to those statistics. They have been able to get open coming out of their breaks and also have the speed to get into space, giving Winston easier throws to get him acclimated to this offensive system. The defense looked great too, holding Nevada to just a shade over 200 total yards. Head Coach Jimbo Fisher has done a fine job of replacing the lost talent along the defensive line. If he can keep getting pressure out of young sophomore defensive ends Mario Edwards and Giorgio Newberry, the Seminoles will really push Clemson for the Atlantic Division.

10) Michigan Wolverines (beat Akron Zips 28-24 at home)
I should honestly just drop Michigan out of the top 10. They were mere minutes away from having another Appalachian State-esque loss on Saturday. Devin Gardner took a step back after a terrific game against Notre Dame last week. He completed only 16 of his 30 passes and while he had two touchdowns, through three picks against a drastically inferior defense. He did make some things happen with his legs which propelled them to victory, but his mistakes put the team in a bad spot in the first place. You can't depend on him to be consistent which is going to drive Brady Hoke mad. The offensive line also needs to start doing a better job of opening up running lanes. Toussaint only managed a meager 71 yards on 19 carries while freshman Derrick Green was again inexplicably held out of the game. If Michigan can't improve next week against UConn, they could be in real trouble when B1G play starts.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Best Games for 9/14

Early Game
No. 16 UCLA Bruins @ No. 23 Nebraska Cornhuskers (12:00)
This game has implications for both teams as each is trying to get back to their respective conference championship. UCLA looked very good in their first game against Nevada. Brett Hundley picked the defense apart on the ground and through the air while Jordan James made a case for the primary running back role after a good performance (21 carries, 151 yards, 1 TD). Meanwhile Nebraska had a close call in the first week against Wyoming. The offense for them has been cruising, averaging 46.5 points over their first two games with Taylor Martinez playing very efficiently. Yet this team can be maddeningly enigmatic and play just awfully on defense at times. Nebraska is favored in this one, but I'm going to go with the Bruins to pull the road upset.

Mid Afternoon Game
No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide @ No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies (3:30)
You know the story by now. The most talked about football player at any level looks to beat the Crimson Tide juggernaut for the second straight year, this time in his own house. And he'll get it down, too.

Evening Game
Vanderbilt Commodores @ No. 13 South Carolina Gamecocks  (7:00)
Another quality SEC match up. South Carolina is looking to rebound from a shoot out at Georgia and get their first conference win. Don't underestimate Vandy though, who has a competent quarterback and a great receiver in Jordan Matthews. He can take control of a game almost at will and will be integral if the Commodores want to pull the upset. I think they'll score points but South Carolina is going to prove the better team in the end. They have a much better team than either Ole Miss or Austin Peay and have the ammunition on offense to keep pace. This game has some good potential. 

Night Game
No. 20 Wisconsin Badgers @ Arizona State Sun Devils (10:30)
Like the noon game, this one has implications for both teams. Wisconsin has looked very good two games into their season with a new coach. Running backs Melvin Gordon and James White each have at least 250 yards and 2 touchdowns a piece. Sophomore quarterback Joel Stave has taken control of the position and has so far looked pretty good. The defense pitched a shut out in both games. Arizona State has only played one game, a 55-0 blowout of Sacramento State, but they have some pretty talented skill positions themselves. This is a tough game on the road for the Badgers, but they're running game and strong defense should give them the edge here.

College Station Chaos

Once the clocks hit triple zero last year in Tuscaloosa, this weekends game was already being discussed and analyzed as everyone knew it would be pivotal in the SEC and national championships. Teams almost never make it through an entire season unscathed anymore, but it is obvious that a loss can be extremely detrimental to their chances of even getting a spot in the championship game. The BCS computers care about who you lose to but that is garbage. Everyone knows that its when you lose, not who you lose to. One of these teams has to lose, so here is what would likely play out over the rest of the season in either scenario.

If Alabama Loses
No player dares to mess up
with this face always looming.
Alabama is actually favored in this game despite it being a road game for them. That should speak to the abundance of talent and shows how respected (or feared) Nick Saban is. Except for his 2009 team, Saban has lost one game in each season he has won a national title. What he excels at so well is identifying what went wrong in the loss, understanding what he himself needs to do to better prepare his players, and then berating it into them to the point of perfection. Alabama has suffered midseason losses and then come back to absolutely manhandle future opponents unlucky enough to get in his way. If Alabama loses this game, they are in some trouble but not as much as you'd think. Remember, they have only played Virginia Tech so far, so if they lose they would easily be able to work their way back to the top two spots of the polls. Since the SEC championship game is the national semifinals, all the Tide would have to do is win out and get into that game. Considering their schedule, I could see that happening very easily. Alabama somehow finagled their way into only getting four true road games and none of them (except A&M this weekend) look like they would stay within three touchdowns of the Tide (Kentucky, Miss. St., Auburn). The toughest game they have the rest of the season is at home against LSU.

The biggest factor working against Alabama in the event of a loss is that A&M would have a leg up on them in the SEC West race. If Alabama loses, it will be interesting to see how far they fall. A&M is ranked 6 right now, so it would be hard to imagine them still being behind Alabama if they win. No matter how far they drop, you know they have basically an entire season to work their way back up while hoping that A&M loses along the way. This is what it would probably look like at the top of the polls if Bama loses.

1) Oregon Ducks
2) Clemson Tigers
3) A&M Aggies
4) Alabama Crimson Tide
5) Ohio State Buckeyes

If A&M Loses
The A&M Manziels face a bigger uphill battle should they lose to Alabama, mostly due to their current ranking. They would not be penalized too heavily for losing to the number one team in the country, albeit in their own stadium. Yet like Alabama's scenario, they would be forced to play catch up for the rest of the season and pray that Alabama loses to a conference rival. The Aggies also have two road games that could be speed bumps on their way to a national title. They first have to travel to Oxford and play Ole Miss on October 12th. Ole Miss has been recruiting well and has put together a pretty good team this year that could tack on another loss for A&M. And then in their second to last game, A&M has to go to Death Valley to try and avenge one of their two losses from last year. LSU figured out Manziel last year and really limited what he could do on the ground while forcing him to make mistakes throwing the ball. Should A&M lose this weekend, they would probably fall to 10 behind fellow SEC teams LSU and Georgia. LSU has a much more daunting SEC schedule, so I think that A&M would be wedged in between them and Bama in the race for the SEC West. Given Alabama's easier schedule, this game is a must win for the Aggies and rests on the shoulders of their polarizing quarterback.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Top Ten for Week of 9/8

1) Alabama Crimson Tide (idle this week, next game @Texas A&M 9/14)

2) Ohio State Buckeyes (beat San Diego State Aztecs 42-7 at home)
That was more along the lines of what Urban Meyer wanted to see out of his squad. Despite Braxton Miller going down early with a knee injury, Ohio State cruised to a victory over the Aztecs behind Kenny Guiton. The injury to Miller wasn't serious, but Urban erred on the side of caution in sitting him. Guiton looked very good in commanding the offense, throwing for two touchdowns and running for another on a 44 yard keeper. While he was able to lead the Buckeyes to victory, one has to worry about the durability of Miller. Meyer doesn't want him to carry the ball so often, but then that takes away part of what makes him so dangerous. The running game kept on course as Jordan Hall again had a good day and freshman Ezekiel Elliot managed to pick up good yards on his limited carries. The Ohio State defense continued to play well and continued to improve from last week. While they did allow a single touchdown, they also forced four turnovers. They play a Cal team in Berkeley next week, but Cal hasn't been able to stop any team on offense. Ohio State should be able to handle their match up next week with some ease.

3) Clemson Tigers (beat South Carolina State Bulldogs 52-13 at home)
This was an odd game to recap. Clemson dominated but Tajh Boyd barely had to do anything to get the victory. He lead the first several Clemson drives but didn't throw for a single touchdown pass. He wasn't as sharp as he was against Georgia, but I think that Dabo used this game to tune up the other pieces of the machine. He fed the running backs who played well, and wanted to see what he had in his second stringers who also showcased abilities. Most importantly, his defense got game time to gel which resulted in two interceptions and almost securing a shut out. This was a good warm up match before their first road game next week at NC State.

4) Stanford Cardinal (beat San Jose State Spartans 34-13 at home)
This was a solid victory for Stanford despite them not running the score up. The defense is going to be the life blood of this team and they held the Spartans in check last night. Spartans' QB David Fales is projected as an early round pick in the draft, possibly even a late first, and he was neutralized. He was held to 216 yards on 29 completed passes and the running backs were held to a collective 35 yards. Those are both improvements from their top 10 defense from last year. Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan is already showing signs of maturation, completing 63% for 207 yards and two touchdowns (he only threw 10 last year). Ty Montgomery stepped up at receiver and looks to be Hogan's go to guy. Coach Shaw must be happy that Tyler Gaffney chose to return to football instead of baseball because he had a great night as well. He gained 100 yards and 2 touchdowns on 20 carries while Anthony Wilkerson chipped in another 65 yards on 9 carries. Coach Shaw is building a team in the same mold as Alabama and it looks like they could even compete with them now.

5) Texas A&M Aggies (beat Sam Houston State Bearkats 65-28 at home)
It is still kind of concerning for the Aggies that they allowed 28 points to a lowly team. Sam Houston State garnered almost 400 total yards of offense and had 3 touchdown plays of over 30 yards and we incredibly effective running the ball. It is possible that this is the product of the Aggie's own uptempo offense. Manziel was leading very quick drives on their way to eight offensive touchdowns. Manziel looked a lot better this week while playing a full game. He threw for over 400 yards and three touchdowns, adding another 36 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. The running backs put together an impressive performance, rushing for a total of 201 yards and three additional touchdowns. This game was mostly a tune up before the Aggies welcome the Crimson Tide next week. We'll see if they'll be more effective stopping the run then.

6) Oregon Ducks (beat Virginia Cavaliers 59-10 in Charlottesville, VA)
Pretty much what you'd expect out of Oregon playing a lowly team. The Ducks had superior speed at all positions and utilized it with no mercy. Mariota had an average day throwing the ball, only completing 50% for 199 yards and 2 touchdowns. However, he was much more effective on the ground, going for 122 yards and a touchdown on only 4 carries. His abilities, when combined with De'Anthony Thomas (11 carries, 124 yards, 3 TDs) electrifying speed, makes this unit absolutely lethal. Freshman Thomas Tyner also showcased his abilities, running for two touchdowns and 51 yards on four carries. He looks like a more suitable number two running back than current second stringer Byron Marshall. Receiver Josh Huff continues to be the most reliable receiver they have, but someone really needs to separate themselves opposite him. What's really impressive from this game is the defense, which only allowed 298 total yards and forced three interceptions. The defensive backs of this unit are experienced and have some real play making abilities to force more turnovers this year.

7) Louisville Cardinals (beat East Kentucky Colonels 44-7 at home)
Any regression in the running game can easily be overlooked by what Bridgewater can do. Despite only gaining 76 rushing yards, the Cardinals stormed their way to another victory thanks to the arm of Bridgewater (72%, 397 Yards, 4 TDs). He continues to do a great job of distributing the ball and leading his team down the field when his running backs stall. What is really impressive is the fact that he doesn't seem to have a primary receiver that he locks on to. There is no Marquise Lee or Sammy Watkins on this team. Last week, Damien Copeland and Bridgewater got into a rhythm and that's who received most of his passes. This week, Devante Parker was able to get separation and caught more passes than Copeland. Bridgewater is so effective at going through his reads and delivering that teams cannot continuously defend against him. The defense was stout, but let's wait until next week when they play Kentucky to get a slightly better indication of where they stand.

8) LSU Tigers (beat UAB Blazers 59-17 at home)
Finally, a good performance out of Mettenberger. Les Miles knew that his team would overwhelm the Blazers, so he used it to Mettenberger some in game practice. The results are what Tigers fans have been waiting to see. He went 16-19 with 282 yards and 5 touchdowns. He appeared to be much more confident in his throws and decisions. Receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry accounted for all five of his touchdowns and more than 200 of his yards. Both were very promising coming out of high school and are now both juniors, so it is starting to look like they've also hit their stride in their second year with Mettenberger. Jeremy Hill returned from suspension and ran for 50 yards and a touchdown while Kenny Hilliard tacked on 54 more yards and another touchdown. If Miles can come to rely less and less on the running backs, LSU could compete for the SEC West. Look for him to allow Mettenberger to throw a lot in the next two weeks as they take on Kent State and Auburn before heading to Georgia.

9) Michigan Wolverines (beat Notre Dame Fighting Irish 41-30 at home)
If you're a Michigan fan, you better start praying that Devin Gardner has turned the corner after this week's game. He put on a clinic, totaling more than 350 yards and five touchdowns, four coming through the air. Like Mettenberger at LSU, he looked much more confident in his throws and was able to deliver all over the field. He was needed as Fitzgerald Toussaint could only manage 3.2 yards a run and was held without a touchdown while freshman Derrick Green was held out of the game for reasons I have yet to hear about. Gardner was in sync with receiver Jeremy Gallon all night, who ended with 184 yards on 8 catches and three touchdowns. He showed the ability to get open and make plays after the catch. If he can become a security blanket for Gardner, this offense just got better. The Wolverines gave up more points than I thought they would, but they really held Notre Dame to two offensive touchdowns and three field goals (the last touchdown was an INT return). They challenged Tommy Rees to throw and did a very good job of limiting him (29-53, 314 yards, 2 INT and 2 TD). They still have 3 weeks before B1G play to shore up the secondary.

10) Georgia Bulldogs (beat South Carolina Gamecocks 41-30 at home)
This division just got very interesting. Georgia dumped a three year running inferiority complex against the Gamecocks and came away with a huge victory thanks to the arm of Aaron Murray. Murray had a signature victory for his career in this game, going 17-23 for 309 yards and four touchdowns. He looked crisp in all of his throws and was delivering the ball with deadly accuracy. He didn't lock on to a single player, but rather ran threw his progressions and made the right choice on a consistent basis. It also helped that Todd Gurley continues to assert himself as one of college footballs best running backs. He carried the ball a whopping 30 times for 134 yards and a touchdown. His carries were invaluable as they chewed up clock and allowed the defense to rest. The defense is really the only concerning factor to this team. I knew they lost a lot of talent to the pros last year, but they have struggled pretty mightily in their first two games, giving up more than 450 total yards. That will need to change if they hope to beat LSU in two weeks.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Best Games for 9/7

Early Game
No. 12 Florida Gators @ Miami Hurricanes (12:00)
This old rivalry might start to head back to it's glory days now that Miami is starting to reemerge despite an apparently never ending NCAA investigation. Florida looked very good on defense despite having players missing from suspension. They definitely need to cut down on their penalties which allowed Toledo some extra life to carry on drives but will have a much tougher opponent in Miami. Both defenses will be gearing up to stop the run. Cane's rusher Duke Johnson actually had more yards than quarterback Stephen Morris last week and he will be counted on this week. Morris and Driskel both looked shaky against inferior competition, so I suspect both coaches will limit their respective quarterback from throwing more than 20-24 times. Don't be surprised if Miami pulls off a low scoring victory over the Gators.

Mid Afternoon Game
No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks @ No. 11 Georgia Bulldogs (4:30)
Georgia is going to come out firing in this game after the loss last week and with the thought of last year's 35-7 beatdown still in their minds. I don't think they are in trouble of losing this game. South Carolina has a better defense than Clemson, but there is no denying the firepower that Georgia possesses. Murray will definitely be harassed by the likes of Clowney and Chaz Sutton, but I imagine that Richt will feed Todd Gurley the ball to force the defense to play honest. Georgia's defense won't have as tough an outing as they did last week. They have the athletes to run with South Carolina's receivers that the Tar Heels didn't and should be able to make Connor Shaw uncomfortable and mistake prone. Richt knows that a loss puts them out of the SEC East race, so I think this team brings their A game and takes this one.

Evening Game
Syracuse Orange @ No. 19 Northwestern Wildcats (6:30)
Syracuse didn't play an inspiring game last week against Penn State, but I think they will have an easier time against Northwestern. Drew Allen should be able to fare better in his second game since he probably won't be pressured as much. I expect the Orange to try and run the ball more effectively than they did last week to take the pressure off of Allen. Their offense will need to score to keep up with Northwestern who has a surprisingly potent offense. Northwestern put up 44 points at Cal last week, but they were also a bit mistake prone on offense. This game isn't a real marquee matchup, but at this point of the season you're not going to get those at all time slots. Still, I imagine that this game could be pretty entertaining since there will probably be multiple turnovers that lead to quick scores. I say Northwestern gets this win with the teams combining for 60-65 points. 

Night Game
No. 14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish @ No. 17 Michigan Wolverine (8:00)
This game has been one of the most anticipating and exciting over the past few years. Too bad, like Brady Hoke said, that Notre Dame is bailing on this rivalry game after next season. This is going to be a very compelling game. Tommy Rees hit his stride last game and the running backs accumulated almost 200 yards. They will face a much tougher test this week in Michigan who has a defense that is on its way to regaining its mid 2000s form. Michigan knows it can run the ball, but it will be up to QB Devin Gardner to take care of the ball and move the chains. He will definitely be tested against the defensive line of Notre Dame and he must be confident in his throws. Michigan does have history on their side, as they haven't been beaten at home by the Irish in the last four meetings. It's a phrase that is overused, but this game will definitely come down to one crucial play and could be decided in the final few minutes. I got Michigan in a nail-biter, something like 23-21.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Was AJ McCarron Exposed Against Virginia Tech?

This was definitely a game that he would like to forget. McCarron completed only 48% of his passes for a laughably bad 110 yards. He did throw an touchdown, but also threw an interception. He looked a bit confused at times, which is also testament to Tech's coaching staff doing their homework and developing a good game plan. Yet for a kid whose won two straight national titles, you'd expect him to fare better against an unranked team. I think this game validated the suspicions I've had of McCarron since last year.

McCarron became the full time starter in 2011, his sophomore year. His stat line was pretty much what you'd expect out of a young, first year starter: 2634 Yards, 66.8% Completion, 16 TD, 5 INT. Not a bad start to a career, especially when it is capped off by a national title victory over one of your biggest rivals. Last year saw a massive spike in his stats: 2933 Yards, 67.2% Completion, 30 TD, 3 INT. The last two numbers are important here. That is what you'd expect Aaron Rogers or Tom Brady to be achieving in the NFL. But while these numbers are indeed impressive, they are somewhat skewed and misleading.

I hate this cliche, but football is a team sport. The nature of the quarterback position leads them to either receiving a tremendous amount of credit or getting crushed by media and fans. After the improvement he made last year and hoisting another crystal football, McCarron began receiving a lot of praise. In fact, too much praise. He was listed as a Heisman favorite at the beginning of this year, but I don't think people are looking at him in the same like as last year after this first game. McCarron has benefited greatly from the other recruits that Saban has brought in about from about 2009 on.

We'll start on the defensive side of the ball. In 2011, his first year as a starter, Alabama sported one of the greatest statistical defenses in decades. They led the country in total defense (190 YPG) and scoring defense (8 PPG). Good God. While they did allow some more yards and points in 2012, they again finished at the top of those two categories. As the saying goes, defense wins championships and that was never more evident for the last two years of Crimson Tide football. These teams barely had to play offense in order to win games. Saban could have just started challenging other opponents with the opportunity to only play offense and he still would've found ways to win with his defense. It isn't that difficult to be a successful quarterback when your defense only allows an opponent to score more than 14 offensive points 7 times over 27 games. Between the 2012 and 2013 NFL Draft, Alabama sent 9 defensive players to the pros and it is likely guys from this year's squad like CJ Mosley and Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix will be first rounders. McCarron has always had the luxury of a defense than can flat out dominate an offense and give him great field position. And in the one game where the defense gave up their most points last year, Alabama lost and McCarron threw two of his three picks of the season trying to make something happen.

On offense, McCarron has again not been asked to shoulder much of the burden. Alabama has always had exceptional talent on offense while he has been the starter, and it all starts up front with the linemen. He has always had exceptional players to block for him and open up lanes for the running backs. Since 2011, McCarron has been blocked by Barrett Jones (4th round pick in 2013), DJ Fluker and Chance Warmack (1st rounders in 2013), and Anthony Steen and Cyrus Kouandjio (both projected 1-3 round picks this year). That's insane. He basically has never been touched by an opposing player. I mean really, he barely has a defensive lineman within three yards of him. Any quarterback can operate with five seconds to make a read and throw on every single play. Against Tech, it was clear that his line still hasn't meshed yet and he struggled behind them. The passing game has never been the focus of this offense either. Nick Saban has always preferred to have a strong rush attack with a modest passing game to keep defenses from stacking the box. The three main running backs during McCarron's tenure have been: Trent Richardson (5* prospect, drafted 3rd overall), Eddie Lacy (4*, 61st overall), and now TJ Yeldon (5*, projected first round). In 2011, McCarron only threw for 9 more yards than the team rushed for; in 2012, Alabama rushed for 130 more yards than he threw for. The running backs take all pressure off of him. Put him behind a totally different line, and I guarantee he struggles.

Now, people would defend McCarron by bringing up two games last year in which they won in the final minute or so of play. The first was in Death Valley where they trailed 17-14. McCarron went 4-5 including the game winning touchdown on Alabama's final drive. While that might seem very impressive, you need to take a look at what was unfolding. LSU didn't want to give up the big play that could lead to a touchdown, so they were giving the receivers about a 5-10 yard cushion, giving him tons of room to get the ball to his receivers. On the touchdown, the credit goes more to Saban for recognizing that Les Miles was coming with an all out blitz and calling a screen play. McCarron was able to dump the ball off to Yeldon who ran practically unopposed into the endzone. The second game people would bring up is the SEC Championship game in which he completed the game winning touchdown to Amari Cooper. Again, the play is a bit deceiving if you don't watch the actual tape. It was a nice pass and right on the money, but Cooper had blown by the corner for about 3-5 yards of separation. You're expected to complete that playing at a powerhouse SEC school.

This is not meant to say that McCarron sucks. You don't play for Saban if you suck. There are dozens of quarterbacks who don't have the abilities that he does. This is just meant to show how much he has benefited from exceptional talent around him. My issue is that writers and analysts continue to gush about him like he is Andrew Luck. If Luck was on those teams instead of McCarron, there would be no question if Alabama was going to three peat this year. Despite his veteran experience, he may actually be considered a weak link in the team this year. He's not going to be going up against the Fuller brothers from Tech each week, but if there is a team that is able to disrupt at the line of scrimmage, he could be forced into mistakes. He'll definitely have a big test coming up in two weeks at College Station against the team he had his worst outing against last year.

Monday, September 2, 2013

New Top 10 After Week 1

**NOTE: the rankings in the parentheses are the official AP ranking, not my own**

1) Alabama Crimson Tide (beat Virginia Tech Hokies 35-10 in Atlanta)
This is not the start that Nick Saban was looking for this week. While the defense remained strong despite losing multiple players, Virginia Tech managed to be effective in the ground game, rushing for 153 yards. However, they shut down Logan Thomas and held him to fifty yards on five completions. Special teams was easily the best unit of the night as Christion Jones returned a punt and kick for a touchdown. Its a good thing that he did, because without him the Tide are cutting it close in this game. Frank Beamer has always been able to build a good defense, but the Tide offense has done better statistically against better defenses. AJ McCarron was just 10 of 23 for 110 yards, a pick, and a touchdown. TJ Yeldon also started the season on a bad note, rushing for only 75 yards on 4.5 a carry (down from 6.3 last year) and the offense as a whole struggled as they barely mustered 200 yards. After the departure of three linemen, that unit was going to be a question mark and it showed as they committed multiple penalties and McCarron looked uncomfortable in the pocket. If that unit can't mesh like past ones have been able to, Alabama could have a tough time against teams like A&M and LSU.

2) Ohio State Buckeyes (beat Buffalo Bulls 40-20 at home)
You could tell Urban wasn't exactly pleased after the game ended. Ohio State started out fast, scoring 23 first quarter points. However, two turnovers allowed the Bulls to get back into the game. Freshman Dontre Wilson fumbled trying to pick up extra yards and Braxton threw an interception that was returned to the house. The pick wasn't totally Braxton's fault, as it looked like a designed play where he was supposed to throw it immediately into the flat and the lineman just didn't block the Khalil Mack who was able to jump up and intercept it. Apart from those two mistakes, the offense was in rhythm for most of the game. Braxton threw for two touchdowns and 178 yards on 17 completions while adding almost 80 more on the ground. Jordan Hall had a career game in place of Carlos Hyde and it looks like he could live up to expectations this year if he can stay healthy. The defense looked average, but they were also dealing with a lot of injuries, especially in the secondary. They gave up 14 points, but one was due to Wilson's fumble in their own territory after just coming off the field. Still, this defense still needs time to get healthy and come together as a more cohesive group.

3) Clemson Tigers (beat No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs 38-35 at home)
I normally wouldn't knock Stanford down because they didn't play, but after Clemson's performance they deserve this slot. What a game for Clemson and especially quarterback Tajh Boyd. Boyd accounted for all five touchdowns scored by the Tigers and strongly outplayed Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. Boyd threw for 3 touchdowns, 270 yards, and had a 60% completion rating against a very tough defense. Sammy Watkins looks like he is back to his freshman form after catching 6 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. Luckily for Clemson, multiple receivers were able to step up and make contributions for them last night. They also seem to have found a suitable running back in Roderick McDowell, who averaged 6 yards a pop on 22 carries last night. The defense also played well enough to make crucial stops when they had. Todd Gurley ran all over them, but they managed to get pressure on Aaron Murray up front and make him uncomfortable to the point where he didn't throw a touchdown pass all night. This team did exactly what they needed to and will continue to do all season: put up points and hope the defense can make stops when they need to.

4) Stanford Cardinal (idle this week; first game Sept. 7 against San Jose St. Spartans)

5) Texas A&M Aggies (beat Rice Owls 52-31 at home)
I'm actually kind of wary about leaving the Aggies this high up. Yesterday showed that they could be one dumb decision away from losing both Manziel and any hope of winning the SEC West. Their defense doesn't look as stout as it did last year considering they gave up three touchdowns to Rice in the first half. Rice doesn't run any kind of overly complex offense, so this is mildly worrisome as they were able to score on long, sustained drives. The return of Manziel in the second half turned their fortunes around as they only surrendered 10 more points. He threw three touchdowns on 6 completed passes but didn't have much room to run. However, the offense still looks like it will put up tons of points and yards this year. The running backs all looked good in their limited duty and should do a good job of keeping all the pressure off of Manziel's feet this year. The wide receivers are going to make news this year. Mike Evans towers over people and has the hands to pluck the ball out of the air any time it is near his body. Freshman Ricky Seals-Jones also impressed, especially on a 70 yard catch and run for a touchdown. A&M has two weeks to prepare for Alabama, and they better every hour.

6) Oregon Ducks (annihilated Nicholls St. Colonels 66-3 at home)
Okay, so maybe the Ducks won't miss Chip Kelly that much. Everyone knew the team had the speed, but no one was quite sure what they would do with it. I know it was only, hold on......Nicholls State, right, but the offense remained absolutely electrifying. Big play followed big play and they continued their up tempo offense on their way to NINE touchdowns. DeAnthony Thomas looks like he can carry the burden as their featured back as he maintained 7 yards a carry. Sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota picked up where he left off, accounting for three touchdowns and 350 total yards. He could definitely become a Heisman favorite by the end of the season. The defense was good, but what did you really expect from this game? To be honest, it is possible they really won't be tested all year long.

7) South Carolina Gamecocks (beat North Carolina Tar Heels 27-10 at home)
It only took South Carolina three plays to score the opening touchdown of 2013. After that, South Carolina had a rather uninspiring performance. Connor Shaw was decent, but a lot of people thought he would look a lot more dominant after a good season last year. Still, Spurrier must be glad he found a suitable running back in Mike Davis who averaged almost ten yards a carry on Thursday. Most of the attention from this game went to Clowney for his lack of effort. After doing some research, it seems that scouts have noticed his tendency to take plays off and it was actually pretty evident during the game. Yet if the defense performed that will with him pulling a Randy Moss, just imagine how much better he and the whole defense could be as a result. Spurrier knows how to push the right buttons, so maybe he can get Clowney moving and really forge a dominant defense.

8) Louisville Cardinals (beat Ohio Bobcats 49-7 at home)
This may end being a team people underestimate, including myself. Bridgewater was on fire, completing 82% of his passes for 350 yards, FIVE touchdowns, and one pick. Watching him play, his talent is glaringly obvious. He has incredible accuracy, great understanding of his receiver's routes, and can get the ball forty yards downfield with ease. His receivers all looked comfortable as he spread the ball around, completing at least four passes to four different receivers. Coach Charlie Strong also seemed happy with the state of the running game. Using more of a running by committee approach, Louisville racked up almost 200 rushing yards, including 50 by former Auburn transfer Michael Dyer. The defense was also impressive, holding the Bobcats to just one touchdown. Ohio isn't some random FCS team so this is a pretty good accomplishment. Considering they don't play anyone of real note, their defense could be ranked in the top 15 mid year.

9) LSU Tigers (beat No. 20 TCU Horned Frogs 37-27 at Jerry Jones's Ego Palace)
If Les Miles can get that kind of production out of his offensive line and running backs, this team may do better than I thought this year. The team almost got to 200 yards again using multiple running backs who all averaged at least 4.5 yards a carry. That unit should only get better when sophomore back Jeremy Hill returns from suspension. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger continued to look shaky in the opener. He completed only 16 of his 32 passes but did have one touchdown. The defense also wasn't as good as it has been in recent years, but that is mostly due to younger guys finally getting their chance to start. The unit did allow some sustained drives, but ultimately ended up forcing TCU to kick field goals. Miles does have his work cut out for him if they really want to overachieve this year.

10) Michigan Wolverines (beat Central Michigan Chippewas 59-9 at home)
Devin Gardner may not make it the whole season under center. He underwhelmed against inferior competition, completing 10 of 15 for only 160 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. That's not going to cut it against a scrub MAC team. Touted freshman Shane Morris also saw time, but threw six passes and was intercepted once. Fortunately for Brady Hoke, freshman running back Derrick Green was impressive in his debut. He gained 58 yards on 11 carries and had a touchdown to go along with it. Senior Fitzgerald Toussaint also had 57 yards and two touchdowns. Overall, the Wolverines rushed for 242 yards which is what Hoke wants to see. The defense was stout, but what did you really expect. We will have a lot more insight as to how potent their defense can be after they take on Notre Dame next week.