Friday, December 19, 2014

The Top Four: Alabama

Welcome fellow football fanatics! We have made it to the first ever playoff in college football which was full of controversy and now full fledged conspiracies (I'll get to that later in the article). It was pretty easy to see the top three teams that made it, but it really wasn't until the time it was revealed that anyone could definitively say who the fourth team was going to be. Ohio State, Baylor, and TCU were all in contention, but ultimately the committee decided that Ohio State was the most worthy much to the ire of the Big 12 and those two respective teams. Baylor and TCU do each have some legitimate gripes with the committee, but the lack of a championship game in their conference is what really sunk them. I know that Baylor is really pissed off considering they had beaten TCU head to head, but their out of conference schedule is absolutely pathetic (SMU, Northwestern State, and Buffalo....). TCU had a more convincing overall resume, but as the case with Baylor their lack of a chance to make a final impression while playing Iowa State killed them. So now you have it all set for New Years Day. Alabama will play Ohio State in rematch of Urban Meyer and Nick Saban while former Heisman winner Jameis Winston and Florida State will battle likely recipient Marcus Mariota and Oregon in the other game. I'm not going to do a rundown of the top ten since a lot of them didn't play. Rather, I'll just recap the games that brought these lucky four into the fold.

1) Alabama Crimson Tide
Championship Game Result: Beat No. 16 Missouri Tigers 42-13
Alabama receiver Amari Cooper

Alabama is playing like the best team in the country right now and I think that they were properly rewarded with the first seed in these playoffs. Since their loss against Ole Miss and some close games mid season, they have been lights out. I know they gave up a ton of yards and points against Auburn, but Auburn tends to do that to even the best of teams. The Tide came into this game as big favorites and didn't have too much to fear from Mizzou other than a pass rush, and what they did is exactly what you would expect out of a team that is lacking offensively and defensively. They caught a huge stroke of luck when one of Mizzou's best defenders, Shane Ray, was ejected in the first half for targeting Blake Sims. Despite the huge shot that Sims took on the play which clearly rattled him, Sims had a tremendous day through the air. He stood calm in the face of pressure and hit his guys when called upon. His job is made so much easier by the presence of Amari Cooper who is head and shoulders above the rest of the receiving class. In this game, Cooper just completely abused the Tigers' secondary to the tune of 12 catches for 83 yards. That might seem like a modest total, but consider the fact that he sees some double coverages and is one of the only true reliable targets for Sims. He made a lot of crucial catches on third downs to help keep the chains moving and made some big ones to make second or third and manageable. DeAndrew White also had a big game, catching four passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. White is a solid compliment to Cooper but doesn't always get consistent targets from Sims. That really isn't his fault as Lane Kiffin's system calls for a premier wide receiver to consistently beat his man and be the recipient of most passes. Cooper has caught exactly 50% of Sims's passes this year and is one of the most unstoppable players this year, a big reason why he is a Heisman candidate. Alabama is just as dangerous on the ground with the tandem of Derrick Henry and TJ Yeldon. Yeldon is a very talented running back but has started to lose some time to Henry who has proven to be unstoppable at times. In this contest, Henry carried the ball 20 times for 147 yards and two touchdowns. He has regularly ran well against the best defenses as his 5.6 yards per carry average and 12 total touchdowns would indicate. Yeldon has been hampered by injuries which is why he hasn't played quite as well this year, but he has still come up big in a lot of games. He scored two touchdowns on the ground as well, but only ran for 47 yards on 17 carries. Saban rides the hot hand, so it really doesn't matter who is getting most of the carries as both are easily capable of carrying the offense.

Alabama safety Landon Collins
Defensively, Alabama still boasts one of the best overall units in the country. They are fourth in the country allowing only 16.6 points per game and 312 total yards per game. Saban has built a dominant program by recruiting and building up an insanely talented and athletic defensive line. They have 29 sacks and often play much better than the sack total indicates. But where they really earn their keep is in the run game. They have only allowed opponents an average of 88 yards per game at a grueling 2.8 yards per carry. They are able to hit their gaps early and dominate the line of scrimmage to force running backs to alter their route. So far this season, Auburn has had the best success against Alabama which is really nothing new when Malzahn has been coaching. The best way to beat Alabama's defense is to have an athletic quarterback that keeps the defense guessing and can gain first downs through the air or with their scrambles. The back end of the defense has really come together after a shaky start to the season. Alabama had a lot of youth and inexperience at both linebacker and defensive back, but leave it to Saban to get these guys to gel by midseason. The two most impressive players in the secondary are safety Landon Collins and cornerback Cyrus Jones. Both of them are impressive players against the pass who can make plays on the ball. Collins is a terrific defender as a fifth man in the box against the run, but he has shown the ability to go sideline to sideline and pick of quarterbacks. Jones isn't as good as some of the recent defensive backs to come through Alabama, but has really been able to go toe to toe against some of the best in the conference. Both of these players are a big reason why Alabama had a great game against Mizzou and numerous other teams this season.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Pay Day

By Justin Rasile

Dez Bryant has been a polarizing figure ever since he appeared in his first NFL game back in 2010.  Now Dez’s contract is up and he wants to get paid just like he saw his teammate Tyron Smith ink an 8 year and $110 million dollar deal.  Dez, love him or hate him, is one of the best receivers in the league and deserves to be paid like it.  If you take him away from that receiving core, all you have is the inconsistent Terrance Williams and Jason Witten, who is trying his best to run away from father time.  The problem with Dez is not his on the field abilities; it’s his off the field boneheaded and immature decisions that have the Cowboys organization teetering on the edge of what to do with him.  Obviously they are going to pay him but it seems like they are attempting to low ball the man that has led this team’s receiving core over the past couple years.  So what is this man worth?  Dez does not seem like the type of guy who would take a hometown discount so I believe he will try and squeeze as much as he can out of Jerry Jones’s pocket.  Calvin Johnson currently has the richest contract for all of the receivers and his contract was for over $113 million and Bryant will most certainly want to surpass that amount.  So how much is Bryant worth?  I believe he is looking for a 7-year deal that will be worth $120 million.  His ego and his signing with Jay-Z’s Rocnation agency will definitely give the Cowboys a run for their money. 

Well, it looks as though the Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick $100 million contracts are ill-advised and stupid deals.  Dalton’s deal was for 6 years and $115 million dollars but only $17 million of it was guaranteed.  Likewise, Kaepernick’s deal was 6 years and $114 million but he is guaranteed $61 million dollars.  The Bengals could easily move on from Dalton after this season and not suffer too much of a cap hit and dead money but the 49ers are stuck for a little while.  That $61 million could likely end after his third year into the contract and if San Francisco decides to cut him then, they would still owe roughly $7 million in dead money.  I give credit to the Bengals for making a deal like that.  This year was a prove it deal for Dalton and he hasn’t exactly met expectations.  They could take one of the top quarterbacks in the draft and develop him for a year while Dalton takes the brunt of the hits and damage.  The 49ers have to deal with Kaepernick for a couple of years.  Hopefully whoever comes in to replace Jim Harbaugh can fix Kap’s mechanical and mental errors and make him into a student of the game (He NEVER audibles at the line of scrimmage.  Either he wholeheartedly trusts every single play call exactly how it was designed or he has no idea what the hell is going on).  Who knows, maybe these two quarterbacks will pan out to be something but only time will tell.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Championship Weekend

It's hard to believe that this season of college football is almost over. There have been some serious surprises with the rise and fall of teams, Heisman contenders, and coaches. It is actually also really interesting to see how the polls look in comparison to the preseason. Out of the top ten teams from the AP Poll at the start of the season, six of them are currently still in the top ten with much of the very top looking the same. But most of these teams must face one final test in their bid to gain entry into the first college playoff. Here is a preview of those games and what to expect this weekend.

No. 4 Florida State Seminoles vs. No. 11 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
8:00 PM on ABC

The Seminoles have to be feeling the pressure by this point. For the second time in as many weeks, the playoff selection committee dropped them down another spot, putting them right on the fringe of the top four. This means that despite their spotless mark on the season, the committee has not been impressed by their wins and barely views them as one of the best teams in the country. Meanwhile, Georgia Tech has all the momentum in the world after defeating rival Georgia in overtime last week on a wild finish. Their offense will provide an interesting test for Florida State as they are one of the few teams that runs the triple option in college football, and also run it to great effectiveness. This is dangerous because Florida State has had trouble stopping the run all year. They have terrific talent and athleticism on their defensive line, but they haven't played with consistency to shut down running lanes. The bigger problem has been their lack of experience at linebacker. Despite the athleticism there, they don't always follow their gap assignments which leads to big plays between the tackles. That is not a weakness that can be easily masked when going up against a triple option offense. Yellow Jacket quarterback Justin Thomas has commanded this offense very well this year knowing when and who to hand the ball to. He is also their most effective runner when he decides to keep the ball. The Seminole defense is going to have to make crucial stops on first and second down to get Georgia Tech into obvious passing situations. Although Thomas is a good runner, he has only completed 50% of his passes on the season. However, 16 of his 81 passes have gone for touchdowns. He is going to have to throw the ball here and there in order to keep Florida State honest and not stacking the box on every play. The Seminoles secondary hasn't been quite as effective this year, but there are tremendous athletes who can make a quarterback pay for an errant throw. 

This could end up being a shoot out if Florida State's offense can play up to their potential. I don't have to tell you that it all starts with Jameis Winston, who had the worst game of his college career last week against the Gators when he threw four picks, three in the first quarter. He has struggled to see the field clearly and his ball placement has been really bad at times. A lot of it comes from his terrible offensive line which just continues to allow ungodly amounts of pressure every week. That will be difficult going up against a Georgia Tech front that has garnered 20 sacks on the season. He should expect to see a lot of blitzes in this game and will have to be on his mark or else the ball hawking secondary, which has 17 picks, will make him pay. If he is able to get into his rhythm early, Winston should have a good day. He has three young receivers who are still adjusting to the game and aren't always running good routes which hurts Winston since he likes to anticipate routes and make throws before breaks. I think he is going to have to take advantage of one on one matchups with his tight end Nick O'Leary early to open up his receivers a bit. O'Leary was the deciding factor against Florida last week and is as good a safety valve as a quarterback could ask for. Jimbo also needs to get the running game going early on. You cannot ask Jameis to do it all, even though he probably can and has for most games this season. But again, a lot of that comes from an offensive line that has just looked like a high school squad out there. They don't get much of a push and force the running backs to bounce it outside where linebackers are already swarming to the ball. Georgia Tech's defense has been allowing almost 170 yards on the ground at 5.1 yards per carry. The Seminoles need to give the ball to freshman Dalvin Cook and allow him to make plays as he is a much better back than Karlos Williams.

Prediction: 34-28 Florida State Seminoles

No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers
8:17 PM on FOX

Ohio State might have the worst luck in the world. They are now down to their THIRD string quarterback after losing B1G record setting quarterback JT Barrett to an ankle injury last week. Now enters Cardale "We ain't come to play school" Jones who has a week to prepare against one of the staunchest defenses in the country.  They have only allowed a opponents to post 260 yards per game and are very strong against the run and the pass. One of the only things going for Ohio State right now is that they have better athletes at the playmaking positions and Jones is a complete unknown. He has come in for relief of Barrett in blowouts, but has primarily run the ball on read options. He seems to have a good understanding of the system that Tom Hermans has implemented and is a surprisingly agile runner for checking in at 6'5, 250. He isn't going to blow past anyone, but he is big and powerful enough to pick up extra yards after contact and can convert third/fourth and shorts with ease. The offensive line is going to be key in this game. They are going to have to give him time to throw and open up lanes for Ezekiel Elliot. Elliot has become the feature back this year and is making the most of his opportunities, but will have a real challenge against a front seven that allows just over 100 yards a game on the ground at three yards a carry. Ohio State has better athletes at receiver and in the backfield than Wisconsin does in their secondary, but that doesn't mean that Cardale will air it out with ease in this one. Wisconsin has only six picks on the year but has a whopping 37 sacks on the year. Consistent pressure is a bigger reason why opponents have completed less than half of their passes against the Badgers. Ohio State's receivers are going to have to get open and not commit stupid, drive killing drops. With the receivers' speed and Cardale's big arm, I expect a lot of shots down field.

For Wisconsin, you know that the offensive strategy in this game will begin and end with Melvin Gordon. The best running back in the country, he is a threat to take the ball to the house anytime it is in his hands. He has averaged eight yards a carry this season to go along with 26 rushing touchdowns. He has everything you want in a running back: vision, patience, strength, and most of all, acceleration. His attributes are greatly enhanced by his offensive line which continues its tradition of mauling defenses at the point of attack. This does not bode well for an Ohio State defense that has been gashed by some of the better running backs that they have faced this year. They have given up a lot of yards to Jeremy Langford, Tevin Coleman, and David Cobb, none of which are as good as Gordon. Ohio State doesn't always get the best push in the run game from their defensive line, and the linebackers can be streaky at times. Their weakness isn't so much athleticism as it is learning a slightly new defense under Kerry Coombs which causes breakdowns in gap control. I don't expect Wisconsin to throw that much considering their duo of Tanner McEvoy and Joel Stave has been anywhere between average to terrible. For as bad as Ohio State's rush defense can be, their pass rush is fantastic. One of those quarterbacks would have to constantly worry about Joey Bosa and Michael Bennett on every pass. They also have a very athletic secondary that has been generating turn overs and playing much better since the beginning of the season. They should be able to convert some passing plays for first downs, but they will be out of their comfort zone if they aren't in third and short. Still, I think that MG3 is good enough to carry an offense against a team without a very deep defensive rotation.

Prediction: 31-20, Wisconsin Badgers

BIG 12
Iowa State Cyclones @ No. 3 Texas Christian Horned Frogs (12:00 PM on ABC)
No. 9 Kansas State Wildcats @ No. 6 Baylor Bears (7:45 PM on ESPN)

These two teams playing at home don't have a title game to look forward to like normal conferences, but this is basically a de facto game for each team. If they both win, then Baylor is the winner by having only one conference loss this year. However, the playoff committee has spoken by placing TCU ahead of Baylor AND undefeated Florida State. Baylor has to be praying to every conceivable god out there Iowa State pulls a miracle victory at TCU. Baylor ultimately has the tougher challenge against a sneaky good Kansas State team. It sucks for Baylor, but they should have played a better out of conference schedule to appease the committee.

Prediction: 45-13, TCU Horned Frogs
                    35-27, Baylor Bears

PAC 12
No. 7 Arizona Wildcats vs. No. 2 Oregon Ducks (9:00 PM on FOX on Friday Night)

Championship weekend gets started early in a good way with probably the best game. Arizona is the only team that has handed Oregon a loss this year. However, this time the game will not be at Eugene since they are playing in the new 49er's stadium. In rematches, the upper hand tends to go to the initial loser, but Arizona definitely has the ability to pull the upset. Remember, Arizona also torched Oregon last season to end their title hopes. Rich Rodriguez has this team firing on all cylinders offensively as they average 480 yards and close to six touchdowns a game. Quarterback Anu Solomon is a pass first quarterback with just enough athleticism to make him an effective scrambler. He has passed for over 3400 yards and has 27 touchdowns to only seven interceptions with most going to receiver Cayleb Jones. Jones will likely see at lot of Oregon defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, a smaller but very agile and athletic back who can cover almost any receiver despite his height. But similar to the previous matchup, you can expect Arizona to run a lot in order to keep Oregon's offense off of the field. They ran it over fifty times last game with a mix of keepers from Solomon and Nick Wilson, who has almost 1300 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground. He carried it 13 times for 92 yards and two touchdowns and is going to have to be the workhorse to power Arizona. But with them having nothing to lose and everything to gain, I can see them giving Solomon opportunities to make a lot of throws and keep the defense off balance. 

Oregon obviously played their worst game of the year against Arizona, but they are much a better team now that they are fully healthy again. Their offensive line had multiple injuries which created havoc for Mariota since he really didn't have a lot of time to throw. Despite his line being healthy now, he is going to have his hands full with Arizona's dangerous pass rush. Mariota has been almost flawless all season however and is the leading Heisman candidate due to his absolutely incredible season. He has accounted for 48 total touchdowns and 4000 yards on the year at 69% completion. Despite injuries to a lot of his players and no one with any real experience at receiver coming into the season, Mariota has performed above expectations all year long. He doesn't really have any favorite receiver, but this team has been a running team all year long. Freshman running back Royce Freeman accounted for 1300 yards and 17 touchdowns, stealing the spotlight from upperclassmen on the team. With a healthy offensive line, he should be able to continue his season average of six yards a touch. To win this, one of their receivers is going to have to step up. Overall, they are the better team but it is by a slimmer margin than you'd think. They are going to have to score a lot of points to keep up with Arizona but they are definitely capable of it. If Mariota does have time to throw, they should be able to sustain yards and generate big plays on keeps. What he can't do is have a fumble on the last drive in the fourth quarter. He has been great when throwing, but he has a tendency to fumble which has cost them or put them in bad positions late. If he avoids critical turnovers, the Ducks will have a great shot as always.

Prediction: 38-34, Oregon Ducks

No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. No. 17 Missouri Tigers (4:00 PM on CBS)

Alabama comes into championship weekend number one in the country by the committee's rankings. Their game against Auburn wasn't their greatest display defensively, but their offense has really been clicking with the emergence of Amari Cooper. Cooper is easily the best receiver in the country and can completely dominate a game as he has demonstrated multiple times this year. He already has 103 receptions for just under 1600 yards and 14 touchdowns. Kiffin dials up his number almost every other play and challenges him to beat one on one or double coverage. Missouri has a pretty good pass defense because of their edge rushers, Markus Golden and Shane Ray. Both are lightening quick and powerful and have generated pressure all season. Pass protection has been solid for Blake Sims all season, but it helps that he has good mobility to pick up yards with his feet. Sims has been up and down all year, but when he is on he can be very difficult to stop. He had a rough game against Auburn by throwing three picks, but he was able to make up for it with four touchdown passes. Outside of Sims and Cooper, the biggest offensive weapons on this team are in the backfield. Derrick Henry and TJ Yeldon have combined for a lot of yards and touchdowns this season. The offensive line has overcome inexperience to provide a lot of running lanes for both backs. Both average over 5.5 yards per carry and have eight touchdowns while combining for over 1600 yards. With the threat of Ray and Golden, I think that they will be called upon to really carry the team. Cooper is almost always open, so Sims is going to air it out at times. But I would be surprised if Henry and Yeldon didn't combine for 40 carries in this game.

I'm not sure I see how Missouri can stay in this game against a team that really outmatches them at most levels. Quarterback Maty Mauk has been wildly inconsistent all year, ranging from dual threat to just dismal. It doesn't help that he lost one of the best receivers in the country, Dorial Green-Beckham, to a dismissal from the team. Bud Sasser leads to the team with the most receptions and touchdown catches, but he hasn't gone up against defensive backs of Alabama's caliber. Quarterbacks have barely completed over half of their passes against Alabama, thanks also in part to a ferocious pass rush that provides pressure on every snap. Against the best defense Mauk saw all year against Georgia, he had a terrible day throwing four picks against only nine completions for less than 100 yards. As usual, Missouri will probably also struggle to run the ball against a staunch front seven that has held opposing rushers to 2.9 yards per carry. I really just don't see how this team is able to muster the fire power to keep up with Alabama. Auburn did and nearly came out on top except that a terrible defense cost them the game. Mizzou is not at the same level offensively and it will show in this game.

Prediction: 42-20, Alabama Crimson Tide

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Week 14 Top Ten

I hate to do this two weeks in a row, but I am just giving you guys my top ten for the week without any insight since I am running really far behind. I promise that my championship preview will be well worth the wait.

1) Alabama Crimson Tide
Week 14 Result: Beat No. 15 Auburn Tigers 55-44 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 2

2) Oregon Ducks
Week 14 Result: Bear Oregon State Beavers 47-19 in Corvallis
Last Week's Ranking: 1

3) Florida State Seminoles
Week 14 Result: Beat Florida Gators 24-19 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 3

4) Texas Christian Horned Frogs
Week 14 Result: Beat Texas Longhorns 48-10 in Austin
Last Week's Ranking: 4

5) Baylor Bears
Week 14 Result: Beat Texas Tech Red Raiders 48-46 in Lubbock
Last Week's Ranking 5

6) Ohio State Buckeyes
Week 14 Result: Beat Michigan Wolverines 42-28 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 6

7) Michigan State Spartans
Week 14 Result: Beat Penn State Nittany Lions 34-10 in Happy Valley
Last Week's Ranking: 8

8) Wisconsin Badgers
Week 14 Result: Beat No. 18 Minnesota Golden Gophers 34-24 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 10

9) Arizona Wildcats
Week 14 Result: Beat No. 13 Arizona Sun Devils 42-35 at home
Last Week's Ranking: Outside Top Ten

10) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Week 14 Result: Beat No. 9 Georgia Bulldogs 30-24 in Athens
Last Week's Ranking: Outside Top Ten

Monday, December 1, 2014

What Does Loyalty Get You?

by Justin Rasile

What have you done for me lately?  That seems to be a common saying in the world of sports, but especially in the NFL.  With upcoming contract expirations and off the field/ locker room disputes, this topic of loyalty has become a point of interest.  It is quite an anomaly how quickly fan reaction can change.  One minute a player is beloved by the whole fan base, then after a few bad performances or a poor season the love quickly turns to hate and fans start calling for the player or coach’s job.  I also believe it is extremely hypocritical that team personnel and “experts” call for players to play out and honor their contracts when in reality, those players can be cut the very next year.  I took a few topics that have been pointed out in recent weeks and I figured I would add my two cents.

Marshawn Lynch is at the forefront of this discussion.  Since arriving in Seattle, Lynch has been a polarizing figure, not by his off the field antics but by his magnificent on the field play.  The man who occasionally goes by Skittles has had over 1200 rushing yards in each of his 3 seasons starting for the Seahawks and now he wants to get paid again.  We have seen the recent signing busts for older running backs with not much tread left on the tires but who knows how much Lynch has left.  Everybody was writing him off in the offseason claiming he was going to get cut or that Robert Turbin or Christine Michael was going to overtake him for the starting role (YEAH RIGHT).  The Seattle running back is once again on pace for over 1200 rushing yards and looks to set a new high in receiving yards.  Does he deserve a new contract?  Absolutely.  He has not showed any signs of slowing down and will once again have to carry the team on his back to try and get the defending Super Bowl champions back to the postseason.  Now if there are locker room issues that I do not know of, then that may change things a little bit but for now please pay the man.  He has been loyal to you, be loyal back to him.

Keeping on the topic of loyalty, there is another issue that will have to be figured out.  The Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning conundrum.  These two have teamed up to win 2 Super Bowls for the New York Giants and nobody can take that away from either of them.  But as this team is staring at a top ten pick in this year’s draft, fans are questioning as to whether it’s time to move on from the Coughlin/ Eli era.  I don’t mean to sound like an ass when I say this, but these two guys did win you 2 fucking SUPER BOWLS.  Most recently in 2012.  Maybe that is just the New York market overreacting because they aren’t winning despite a somewhat talented team.  The defense is old and the offensive line is horrible. If you fix that then maybe the Giants can turn things around quickly.  The team is going through a transition as Eli Manning is going through his first change in offensive coordinators and has been playing average at best.  Manning had been playing very well up until two weeks ago when he threw 5 picks, but if you take away the game against San Francisco his stats are 20 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.  That’s not a bad stat line at all considering the offensive line has been pretty terrible and the running game is non-existent.  The emergence of Odell Beckham Jr. has been a lone bright spot on a lackluster team as he has the ability to add a spark that this team has desperately lacked since Victor Cruz went down with an ACL injury.  During the game against the Cowboys, Eli looked like the Eli of old and was zipping the ball to his targets and putting it in places that nobody else could get them.  He has amazing ability, but he just has some off games where he has a massive brain fart and decides to take a dump all over the offensive game plan.  Eli has already matched his touchdowns from last season.  So I still believe that he can remain this teams quarterback but they must draft a quarterback relatively soon and develop him so that when Eli is done, they will be able to seamlessly transition to the next era.  Coughlin on the other hand may have his days numbered.  From everything that I have heard and seen with my own eyes, players don’t respect/ fear him as much as they used to.  He has two rings but when your team stops listening to you it’s time for a change.  It could be an age factor or it could be the way he leads with authority as a dictator.  Players are adamant in their telling that they don’t want to play for hard ass coaches anymore (Belicheck is the exception).  They are adults and professionals and they don’t want to be constantly screamed at and treated like college kids.  Players want to play for “player” coaches like Pete Carroll.  He is a man that treats his players with dignity and respect and will fight for his players.  So maybe it’s time for the 68 year old to hang it up and move on.

The dumpster fire that has been the RG3 situation has been fun to watch but it is incredible how far he has fallen and how quickly fans have turned on him.  He has just been benched for the enigmatic Colt McCoy, possibly ending Griffin’s tenure in the nation’s capital.  The Redskins traded away 3 FIRST ROUND PICKS for this guy.  15% of the Rams roster came through the Griffin trade (8 players in total).  He was the quarterback of the future and the man who was supposed to lead Washington to the promise land.  He was assumed to be a better version of Michael Vick with his amazing downfield accuracy and ability to extend plays and pick up huge chunks of yards with his legs.  He was named to the pro bowl his first year and led his team to the playoffs but was injured in the process.  He ended up tearing his ACL, which normally takes away the explosiveness from athletes when that happens.  And that could not have been worse for RG3 because he relied on his legs when the pocket broke down.  Now he can’t do that, even though he tries.  The Redskins fired Mike Shannahan and hired Jay Gruden to adapt his pro style type offense to RG3’s skill set and capabilities.  This requires being a quick decision maker, which Griffin is not.  Now fans are starting to turn on him and have been calling for a change at quarterback.  Even team owner Daniel Snyder agrees with Gruden’s decision to bench the quarterback.  It is amazing how far this pro bowler has fallen and how quickly the love for him was lost.  It’s time for a change of scenery for him.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Week 13 Top Ten

Due to some time constraints, this will be an abridged version of what happened over the weekend.

1) Oregon Ducks
Week 13 Result: Beat Colorado Buffaloes 44-10 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 1

The Ducks are pretty much a lock right now for the playoffs. They play Oregon State next week and will likely have a rematch against UCLA for the PAC-12 Championship. We know that this team can put up points, but I'm more interested in seeing how their defense plays come the playoffs. Can they stop a team like Alabama from running the ball down their throats? Will they be able to fend off Jameis or the mysterious fourth team in? That remains to be seen.

2) Alabama Crimson Tide
Week 13 Result: Beat Western Carolina Catamounts 48-14 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 2

Kirk Herbstreit called the SEC teams playing FCS teams in the second to last week "the worst thing in college football". I have to agree with him. Amari Cooper was hurt in this game, but by all expectations he should be ready to go next week against Auburn. I know Auburn has been slumping, but they will need him as you know Malzahn will bring his very best to this Iron Bowl match up.

3) Florida State Seminoles
Week 13 Result: Beat Boston College Golden Eagles 20-17 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 3

God, this team is so annoying. They consistently blue ball everybody by playing down to their competition, only to pull win after win out of their ass. I don't know if it will catch up to them before the playoffs, but I really do think there are a few teams that could beat the Seminoles on a neutral site.

4) TCU Horned Frogs
Week 13 Result: Bye Week
Last Week's Ranking: 4

5) Baylor Bears
Week 13 Result: Beat Oklahoma State Cowboys 49-28 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 5

We wont' know until tomorrow night what Baylor will be ranked by the committee. Baylor or TCU is going to be debated constantly down the stretch, but they do hold the edge in the head to head. All they can really do is win convincingly since the BIG 12 doesn't have a championship game.

6) Ohio State Buckeyes
Week 13 Result: Beat Indiana Hoosiers 42-27 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 6

Ohio State has won the last two games in sloppy fashion after destroying Michigan State only a few weeks before. They've secured a spot in the BIG-10 Championship Game where they will likely play Wisconsin. If their offense doesn't get out of this rut and improve their run defense, Wisconsin could be a bit of a nightmare scenario for a young team.

7) Mississippi State Bulldogs
Week 13 Result: Beat Vanderbilt Commodores 51-0 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 7

Mississippi State should have no problem taking care of Ole Miss next week. They were embarrassed by Arkansas last week as they were completely shut out and turned the ball over six times. The real team they need to root for this week is Auburn to pull a miracle win at Tuscaloosa.

8) Michigan State Spartans
Week 13 Result: Beat Rutgers Scarlet Knights 45-3 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 8

Playing for a respectable bowl game. They should be able to secure another double digit season in Happy Valley.

9) Georgia Bulldogs
Week 13 Result: Beat Charleston Southern Buccaneers 55-9 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 9

Like Mississippi State, Georgia has to hope that another team can take care of business to give them a boost. If Arkansas beats Mizzou, Georgia would go to the SEC Championship Game by virtue of the head to head win. Providing they can take care of business against Georgia Tech's triple option.

10) Wisconsin Badgers
Week 13 Result: Beat Iowa Hawkeyes 26-24 in Iowa City
Last Week's Ranking: 10

Melvin Gordon had another great game to propel is team and keep them in the running for the B1G West. They should beat able to get past Minnesota this week and would be well on their way to a game against the Buckeyes.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Week 12 Top Ten

1) Oregon Ducks
Week 12 Result: Bye Week
Last Week's Ranking: 2

2) Alabama Crimson Tide
Week 12 Result: Beat No. 1 Mississippi State Bulldogs 25-20 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 3

Alabama wide receiver DeAndrew White
Alabama played a tough game and came out with a solid victory at home over the top ranked team, but it is a bit unsettling how this team can't always be consistent. They had a 19 point lead at one point but allowed the Bulldogs to come back and never really put the game away. Consistent quarterback play is what continues to keep them from truly excelling. Blake Sims completed 19 of 31 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown, but also left some plays on the field. He also hasn't been running quite as effectively in recent weeks as he was in the beginning of the season. However, his life is made much easier by Amari Cooper. Cooper has had a few drops over the last couple of weeks, but he still shows week in and week out that he is capable of making big plays when called upon. Him and DeAndrew White combined for 12 catches and 128 yards and were able to find soft spots in the defense all day. It was tough running for TJ Yeldon and Derrick Henry all day, but they got the job done by rushing for over 100 yards and two touchdowns combined on the afternoon. Yeldon looked to have regained his explosiveness after suffering a leg injury against LSU last week and was really the catalyst for the offense. Defensively, Alabama played a great game but also benefited from poor concentration by the Bulldogs receivers. They didn't allow Dak Prescott a lot of running room, containing him 82 yards on 22 carries and completely blanketed his receivers. The defensive backs had arguably the best game of the year, providing tight coverage and getting their hands on a bunch of passes. They picked off Prescott three times on the day, including two in the redzone when the Bulldogs were trying to get some momentum going. Their defensive line was equally impressive, clogging running lanes and firing into the backfield. Mississippi State ran for 138 yards, but they did it at 3.5 yards per carry and could not rely on it to get them first downs in third and short situations. With how poor Auburn has been playing, I think Alabama is a lock to make the playoffs.

3) Florida State Seminoles
Week 12 Result: Beat Miami Hurricanes 30-26 in Miami
Last Week's Ranking: 5
America's reaction to another Noles comeback

The AP Poll has the Noles ranked first this week, but I still am not completely sold. I have to give a lot of credit to Jimbo who is a genius at half time adjustments, but I just get the feeling that one of these games they will dig themselves into a hole too big to climb out of. You also have to wonder if they would have won this game if Miami had stuck with their strategy from the first half, which was to feed Duke Johnson the football. The Noles defensive front got bullied around in the first half as Johnson had a touchdown and over 100 yards, but only got a few carries in the second half. Johnson was simply untouched as he reached the linebackers on most carries. Their secondary was also tested very early in the game as they had to commit more men to the box and the corners were put in one on one situations. Freshman Brad Kaaya had a lot of success and receivers were able to get good separation from the corners. Phillip Dorsett and tight end Clive Walford both found a lot of room and made tough catches, but when Miami was driving Jalen Ramsey sealed the game with a pick with tight coverage. Offensively, Florida State had a rough start to the game as they really weren't able to get into any sort of rhythm. Jameis seemed off with his receivers, but a 44 yard touchdown run by Dalvin Cook opened up the scoring and gave them some momentum. Cook also had the go ahead touchdown run with just a few minutes left in the game. Jameis completed 25 of his 42 passes on the day, but again was just really unspectacular. He was credited for a touchdown pass on a fluke play where the ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage and caught by his running back near the goal line who was able to just walk in. He also threw a pick on the night, his twelfth of the season. He was able to get more receivers than just Rashad Greene involved, but the big plays just weren't available. It was a good win after being down by 13 points, but this team needs to start getting off to faster starts.

4) Texas Christian Horned Frogs
Week 12 Result: Beat Kansas Jayhawks 34-30 in Lawrence
Last Week's Ranking: 4

TCU quarterback
Trevone Boykin
This was not a pretty game for TCU as they were almost upset in embarrassing fashion by a Kansas team that just won their first conference game last week in almost four years. It was a sloppy game offensively by TCU that allowed the Jayhawks to grab a big lead on them and keep it going until a punt return put the Horned Frogs on top. TCU fumbled the ball twice early in the game that allowed Kansas to jump out 13-10 lead at half time that they continued to build into a 27-17 lead. They still managed to rack up over 450 yards of total offense, but you would think they could put up some more points with that kind of yardage. Trevone Boykin had a bit of a rough game. He still completed 72% of his passes for 330 yards, but he threw only one touchdown pass and also threw an interception to give them three turnovers on  the day. He also ran the ball 11 times for only two yards. Kansas did a great job of closing off lanes when he began to take off. It was like that for the running backs too as they only manged 3.6 yards per carry in this game after having a ton of success in their previous games against much tougher defenses. It was also a bit shocking to see the pass defense play this poorly for TCU. Their run defense was phenomenal as they allowed just over two yards a carry, but they allowed a ton of big plays to Kansas's receivers. Two receivers, Jimmay Mundine and Nigel King, each had over 100 yards and a touchdown on the night. Kansas quarterback Michael Cummings turned a mere 19 completions into 332 yards and two touchdowns. We've seen TCU give up serious chunks of yards and points to high octane offenses before, but Kansas is pretty much the exact opposite of that description. This game could cost them in the playoff rankings as the committee could really question how good they are.

5) Baylor Bears
Week 12 Result: Bye Week
Last Week's Ranking: 6

6) Ohio State Buckeyes
Week 12 Result: Beat No. 25 Minnesota Golden Gophers 31-24 in Minneapolis
Last Week's Ranking: 7

Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliot
The Buckeyes met a good amount of adversity in this game (much of it self inflicted) but they managed to pull out a victory in what was unanimously coined a trap game. In frigid conditions, Ohio State accounted for 489 yards of total offense on another ridiculous day for JT Barrett. Barrett got the day started with an 86 yard touchdown run on an option and that set the tone for him on the ground. Barrett is the fastest or most elusive player, but he ran the ball 17 times at an average of eleven yards. He was able to pick up crucial first downs with his feet, but struggled throwing the ball a bit in the cold weather. He had some overthrows, one of which lead to a pick, but also put the ball into some tight windows. Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliot has improved pretty much every week this season and was really the work horse for the offense. He ran for 91 yards on 18 carries but was held out of the endzone. This game was frustrating because of the mental errors that lead directly to Minnesota points. After Jalin Marshall caught a bullet pass and ran in for a 57 yard touchdown, he fumbled the ball at the one yard line on a sweep play. Marshall also had a fumble on a muffed punt that allowed the Gophers to cut the lead to 10 halfway through the fourth quarter. Again, the cold had a lot to do with it and really affected other players. Michael Thomas dropped a pass in the endzone that would have put Ohio State up by seven going into halftime, but they ended up having the settle for the field goal. Defensively, Ohio State had a bit of a mixed outing. David Cobb is one of the best running backs in the country and ran the ball very effectively. His shiftiness got him out of situations in which he was dead to rights. He had some plays where his offensive line didn't give him any room, but overall he ran for 145 yards and three touchdowns on 5.4 yards a carry. The secondary had a much better day, picking off Mitch Leidner twice and allowing him to complete a mere seven passes for 84 yards. The Buckeyes should be able to win out the rest of the season, but if their run defense can't tighten up they will be in for a tough day against the presumable BIG West champs, Wisconsin.

7) Mississippi State Bulldogs
Week 12 Result: Lost to No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide 20-25 in Tuscaloosa
Last Week's Ranking: 1
Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney

Is it fair to drop this team six spots after losing to the number five ranked team in the country on the road? Probably not, but the fact of the matter is that the game wasn't even as close as the score indicates. Dak Prescott had a below average day, not being able to find any running lanes and made some terrible throws. With his team trailing and needing anything to get some momentum, he overthrow a wide open receiver in the endzone by about ten yards. He barely manged to complete half of his passes and threw two touchdowns, one coming in garbage time. It doesn't help that his receivers could not make some routine catches either. I'd estimate that his receivers dropped at least six passes on the day, most of them that would have given them first downs and gotten them into at least field goal range. Their offensive line really didn't show up either as they simply could not get any push in the game. Prescott and Josh Robinson had absolutely no room to run and it really stagnated their offense. Their defense played a bit better than their offense did, but it still wasn't enough to overcome the offenses shortcomings. Alabama had only 335 yards of total offense, but they got several explosive plays that put them in a position to score touchdowns. Mississippi State only dropped to number four in the polls which I obviously disagree with as shown by my rankings. I don't know if they should be seven as mine is admittedly harsh, but only dropping a few spots is a bit ridiculous. At this point, who is their signature win? At the time, their wins were impressive because of the rankings but those teams each now have at least three losses. They went into Baton Rouge and beat No. 8 LSU, but the Tigers have now lost four games and were just shut out by Arkansas who hadn't won an SEC game in their previous 16 attempts. Texas A&M was No. 6, but they seem incapable of playing defense and continue to be maddeningly inconsistent. Now, Auburn has lost three games and was annihilated by Georgia. Their resume isn't as impressive as many people think.

8) Michigan State Spartans
Week 12 Result: Beat Maryland Terrapins 37-15 in College Park
Last Week's Ranking: 10

Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook
Michigan State had a good rebound after getting shellacked by Ohio State last week, but it could be a bit too late for them. If Ohio State wins against Indiana next week, they will play in the BIG 10 Championship game. Once again, Connor Cook was very underwhelming in this game. He only completed 14 of his 31 passes for 240 yards and no touchdowns. It doesn't help that he really doesn't have any reliable targets outside of Tony Lippett, but he has garnered some high praise by NFL scouts and doesn't seem to always be putting together his intelligence and physical tools. Lippett had another quit night, catching four passes for 46 yards. Senior receiver Keith Mumphrey lead the way with two catches for 78 yards, 62 of them coming on one pass. No one seems to be able to get separation on a down to down basis for the Spartans which has to be agonizing to Spartan fans who have a very good quarterback. The running backs were the cog in this game and were again lead by Jeremy Langford who ran for 138 yards and two touchdowns at over five yards a pop. His touchdown run right before half time gave them a nine point cushion that was never relinquished and gave them a lot of momentum going into the locker room. Until that point, they had settled for field goals and let Maryland hang around for the most part. Defensively, the Spartans rebounded very well after getting embarrassed at home. I don't know why, but Maryland thought that completely ignoring the run and throwing the ball 43 times would be the key to victory in this contest. CJ Brown had a rough night as he only managed to complete 20 of those passes and had three interceptions to go along with two touchdown passes. It was very obvious that he was not as comfortable in the pocket with Michigan State's relentless pass rush and the absence of Stefon Diggs. When Maryland did try to run the ball, they were bottled up quickly as the Spartans linebackers got to their gap and closed all lanes. Sparty needs a lot of help if they want to get into a top tier bowl game this season.

9) Georgia Bulldogs
Week 12 Result: Beat No. 9 Auburn Tigers 34-7 at home
Last Week's Ranking: Outside Top Ten

Georgia running back Nick Chubb
The last few rankings here are kind of a crap shoot as you have to rank teams that are just a bit above average. This is a perfect example as the loss to Florida still looms large for Georgia and Auburn is a reeling team. But it is insanely impressive what the defense did in this game after getting completely gashed on the ground by the Gators. Auburn's defense is anywhere between bad and pitiful, but their offense can play with the best of them and was completely neutralized in this game. They were held to only 292 yards of total offense 150 yards on the ground after averaging more than 200 in previous games. Georgia's defensive line and linebackers played a very impressive game. They got a lot of movement up front and were able to close lanes and force the running backs right to the linebackers. Their defense also did a fantastic job of containing Nick Marshall who only managed to gain 41 yards on nine rushes. The secondary also shut down the big plays that guys like Sammie Coates are capable of. Auburn only had 142 passing yards on the day and could never really exploit a secondary that is prone to lapses. It was a very good day offensively for Georgia but they received terrible news Sunday when they learned that Todd Gurley had torn his ACL after returning from suspension. It is a real shame since Gurley is a true difference maker and a terrific athlete, but they have to be comforted by how freshman Nick Chubb has played in his absense. Chubb ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns on the evening and has given Mark Richt a lot of confidence he can be the offense. Chubb doesn't have the explosiveness that Gurley does, but he is a big and powerful back with deceptive speed. The offensive line has done a great job all year of opening running lanes and opening holes to the outside. I just don't know if this team will be able to overcome their two conference losses as Mizzou still holds first place in the SEC East. Even if they do somehow make it to the championship game, I can't see them beating Alabama. Hutson Mason just does not inspire any hope that he could lead a team to victory if called upon. He just has no confidence throwing the ball further than ten yards down the field. Any team that can stop the run has a great chance of beating Georgia.

10) Wisconsin Badgers
Week 12 Result: Beat No. 16 Nebraska Cornhuskers 59-24 at home
Last Week's Ranking: Outside Top Ten

Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon
This is definitely a bit ambitious, but when you have the best player in the country on your team that can mask other offensive issues, you can be a top ten team. However, I first want to address the defense which does not get credit enough when Wisconsin is mentioned. Nebraska has been explosive this year, thanks primarily to running back Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah had been averaging close to seven yards a carry, yet in this game he was held to a mere 69 yards on 18 carries. The Badgers defense was very aggressive in this game as well as they forced him to cough up the ball a few times on the night. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong also had a rough night, completing 33% of his passes for 68 yards, a touchdown and a pick. He also had absolutely no success running the ball. It was an impressive defensive performance by Wisconsin to limit the Huskers to 180 yards on the night. Now, about the offense. I don't think I've ever seen a more impressive performance by a single player than what Melvin Gordon did. Gordon broke the single game record that had been set by Ladainian Tomlinson almost two decades ago. Tomlinson ran for 406 yards on 43 carries while Gordon ran for 408 yards on only 25 carries, a jaw dropping average of 16.3 yards per carry. Gordon has elite acceleration and his breakaway speed is something else. Oh yeah, and he did all of that in only three quarters before being pulled to give him some well deserved rest. He had six runs of more than thirty yards and two of more than fifty yards to go along with four touchdowns on the day. Again, he did this all in only three quarters. It wasn't a perfect day as he had a couple of fumbles, but his production more than made up for it. With the flux at the quarterback position, teams constantly gear up to stop the run and just can't do anything about it. I hate to say it, but I don't think he's going be a true threat to win the Heisman since that award is now reserved for quarterbacks. However, if any player can break the streak, there is no doubt it will be Gordon. If you didn't get a chance to watch this game, please find the highlights somewhere. You owe it to yourself as a football fan.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Best and Worst of the NFL

by Justin Rasile

Best 3
Arizona (8-1)- Bruce Arians better win coach of the year for the job he has done with this Arizona team.  Week in and week out this team finds a way to win, no matter who is at quarterback; this team went 3-0 despite missing Carson Palmer.  Now the rest of the season’s fate lies largely on Drew Stanton’s shoulders.  Stanton, while he may not have the stats and the numbers that everybody craves over, has done exactly what you want a quarterback to do and that is win games and take care of the football.  He does not have a turnover yet this season and that goes a long way with what Arians preaches.  All Stanton has to do is hand off to the workhorse in the backfield that is Andre Ellington and this team will continue to win.  Crazy stat about Ellington this year: despite being ninth in the NFL in rushing this season, the Cardinals running back has yet to break a hundred yards on the ground (although he did have over 100 yards receiving in one game).  Arians consistently finds ways to get the most out of his players and I expect nothing less out of this squad on their pursuit to be the first ever team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium.

Denver (7-2)- The Broncos and the Patriots will be in a dogfight for home field advantage in the playoffs, and they may both desperately need it.  Denver does not want to play in New England and vice versa.  Peyton probably doesn’t even want to see that guy from New England as Peyton has a head to head record of 4-11 against Tom.  But back to this week, Denver better not sleep on the Rams this Sunday.  St. Louis may only have three wins but Jeff Fisher gets this team ready to play every week and they consistently keep games close.  Robert Quinn is also starting to regain last year’s pro bowl form.  He now has 6 sacks in his last two games and that could cause a problem as Peyton may be without another starting running back and the offensive line is always being shuffled around.  Ronnie Hillman suffered a foot injury that could derail him for a couple weeks but the next man up philosophy is common and all to real in the NFL, so C.J. Anderson gets his shot to prove that he can be the main back down the stretch and one to pick up the blitzes to keep Peyton upright and healthy.

New England (7-2)- Remember after week 4 when critics were calling for Tom Brady to be benched and the whole Patriots team was written off?  Well things have changed.  This team is HOT right now and may be the best team in the league.  They have averaged over 40 points a game since that blowout loss to Kansas City and absolutely manhandled the Broncos in the last game this team played.  Belichick has had two weeks to get ready for the high flyin’ Colts and Andrew Luck’s potent offense but this will be a tough road test for the Patriots and possibly a preview of a playoff matchup.  Andrew Luck has the ability, and the offense, to stand toe to toe with Brady’s team this year but this game will come down to the way the defenses play.  The Colts have been very good at stopping the run but Rob Gronkowski is whom they have to worry about (shame to all of you who chose to stay away from this beast in fantasy football).  The “Bionic Man” has 49 catches for over 660 yards to go along with his 8 touchdowns.  He is the key to the game because if he can get off to a hot start, his fire can ignite this New England offense to unload on the Colts.  Side note; in Bill Belichick’s 14 games as the Patriots head coach after the bye week he is 10 and 4.  5 of those victories are against the Bills (4 years in a row from 2004-2007).  Buffalo should be pissed at that but they should be thankful that they aren’t playing the Pats this week.

Worst 3
Jacksonville (1-9)- The Dallas defeat was a brutal one to watch, considering I have friends who are Dallas fans.  The game started off well when Denard Robinson scampered into the endzone on a 32 yard run but it quickly changed when Ace Sanders muffed a punt and Dallas quickly punched it in after that and never looked back.  Dez Bryant made this team look like a bunch of junior varsity players that tackle when they feel like it.  Now this team enters a bye week, just as it did last year, with one of the worst records in the league.  Maybe Gus Bradley has some magic from last year where his team went 4-4 after the bye.  As a fan, I want wins but at this point I also want a high draft pick as there are some phenomenal prospects coming out this season.  Looking at the rest of the season, Jacksonville has a chance to win 4 of the remaining games.  How many they win remains to be seen but they do play the Giants, Titans, and Houston twice.  Best chance at another victory is against the Titans on Thursday Night Football at Jacksonville.

Oakland (0-9)- Can this team actually go defeated?  Losing all the games in one season is a tough task to achieve just as we saw the Detroit Lions do it back in 2008.  Oakland is a bad team but Tony Sparano has them ready to play every week and  they do have a decent core of young players, led by Khalil Mack, which they can hang their hats on.  The rest of the games for the Raiders are as follows: Chargers, Chiefs, Ram, 49ers, Chiefs, Bills, and Broncos.  I really don’t know where they can win but a fluke victory is always a possibility in the NFL- on any given Sunday anything is possible.  If I had to pick a victory, it may be the Thursday night game against the Chiefs on November 20.  In addition to it being a short week, Kansas City will be playing against Denver the following week.  It’s one of those classic bait games that the Raiders have a shot of winning if the Chiefs don’t take the game seriously.  The Rams game is also a potential victory.

Tampa Bay (1-8)- At least the emergence of big Mike Evans gives Bucs fans something to root for and watch.  Other than that, the offense is a shell of what it could be.  Doug Martin is nowhere to be found.  Bobby Rainey has played pretty well and Charles Simms has some big hype behind him.  The Buccaneers have a brutal schedule coming up.  They play the Redskins, Bears, Bengals, Lions, Panthers, Packers, and end the season against the Saints.  The funny, yet sad, thing is that the Bucs are technically not out of the playoff picture despite having one win this late into the season.  New Orleans leads the division with four wins in what was supposed to be a top notched division, potentially having a wild card winner as well.  It will be interesting to see what happens with Lovie Smith because even Greg Schiano won four games with virtually the same team.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Week 11 Top Ten

1) Mississippi State Bulldogs
Week 11 Result: Beat Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks 45-16 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 1

*Yawn*. Bring on Alabama.

2) Oregon Ducks
Week 11 Result: Beat No. 17 Utah Utes in Salt Lake City
Last Week's Ranking: 4

Oregon Running Back Royce Freeman
Oregon came up against an upset minded team and looked to be in trouble at the very beginning of the game. But a DeSean Jackson-esque play by wide receiver Kaelin Clay dropping the ball at the one before crossing the goal line allowed Oregon to get back into the game instead of going down by 20 points. This came at a cost though as arguably their best receiving threat, Pharaoh Brown, went down for the season with a gruesome injury. This team is strangely thin at receiver, but Marcus Mariota is one of the best players in the country and is able to work the receivers at his disposal in the system he operates in. Mariota makes some made some good throws in this game, but also really struggled with some of the more contested throws that he saw. However, he was an absolute beast in the ground game this year. He ran for 114 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries and took off immediately instead of standing in the pocket and trying to force a throw. He was the leading rusher, but was just a bit ahead of star freshman Royce Freeman who rattled off 99 yards and a touchdown on only 15 carries. Freeman is quite possibly the next running back sensation as he combines a huge physique with tremendous speed and agility. He isn't quite as good as Gurley was during his freshman season, but he has taken control of the number one running back position with numerous veterans on the team. Defensively, they really got after the Utes and made their quarterback uncomfortable. There was some problems early in the game, but after settling down and getting a feel for the rhythm of the offense, they dominated the game. Poop skillet. Utah quarterback Travis Wilson was forced into two interceptions and they only allowed a total of three touchdowns. The Utes gained over 400 yards of total offense, but Oregon did a great job of limiting them getting into the endzone. I can't see the Ducks facing a real challenge until they (presumably) play Arizona State in the PAC-12 Championship game.

3) Texas Christian University Horned Frogs
Week 11 Result: Beat No. 7 Kansas State Wildcats 41-20 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 8

TCU Quarterback Trevone Boykin
I said last week that if TCU wins out they will be in the playoffs and I could not be more confident in that prediction than after this week. TCU is absolutely manhandling teams as Kansas State has had a very impressive season with their only loss prior to this game being to Auburn. Quarterback Trevone Boykin absolutely needs be in the Heisman conversation as he is the catalyst of an explosive offense. He can get it done through the air or on the ground and feels comfortable under pressure. His legs allow him to get out of dangerous pass rush situations and as a former receiver, he has great elusiveness in the open field and has the instincts to pick up the first down when necessary. Boykin completed 23 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown against a formidable pass rush from Kansas State, but in this game it was his legs that managed to put the Horned Frogs on top. He ran for 123 yards and three touchdowns on the ground at over seven yards a carry. That was coupled with starting back Aaron Green's 171 yards and a touchdown at just under ten yards per carry. Boykin also spreads the ball around very impressively. Josh Doctson leads the team with seven touchdown receptions and 42 catches while their second leading receiver, Kolby Listenbee averages almost 20 yards a catch. It is a bit troubling that they tend to give up a lot of points. Gary Patterson had built TCU up creating a stifling defense that could neutralize even the most potent of offenses. It does hurt them that they lost their best defense player Devone Fields at the beginning of the season because he was a shit head and got kicked off the team. But this team has given up over 30 points three times this year which has caused them to play out of their comfort zone. But with games coming up against Iowa State, Kansas, and an underachieving Texas team. Barring an upset, this team is destined for the playoffs.

4) Alabama Crimson Tide
Week 11 Result: Beat No. 16 LSU Tigers 20-13 in OT in Baton Rouge
Last Week's Ranking: 5

Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper
Alabama, much like Florida State, has a very annoying habit of pulling games out of their ass. They were down by a field goal with fifty second left, but a kickoff out of bounds gave them the ball at the 40 which allowed them enough time and gave them a more manageable distance to overcome. This wasn't the most impressive victory for Alabama, but they seem to be able to find ways to win no matter what kind of scenario is presented to them. They struggled to move the ball in this game, but LSU's defense has improved over the course of the season and gaining more than 300 yards is a rather impressive feat. Alabama also benefited immensely from some atrocious play calling by Les Miles in overtime. Miles elected to throw the ball four times when their running game had been very effective against the Tide up until that point. In any case, it was impressive to see Blake Sims move the ball into field goal range with only fifty seconds to go and needing forty or so yards. Sims struggled against LSU's ball hawking defensive backs, completing only 20 of his 45 passes, but he passed for over 200 yards, moved the ball when they needed to respond, and threw for two touchdowns without any picks. Amari Cooper continues to prove he's the best receiver in the country as he made some clutch catches to tie the game up and move the ball down the field at the end. It would be nice to see them get tight end OJ Howard more involved as he is a physical specimen with a great catch radius. But as average as the offense was, you have to give all the credit to the defense which played lights out in a game they were supposed to dominate. LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings completed a putrid 8 of 26 for just over 70 yards while Alabama held LSU's rush attack to just 3.3 yards per carry. Their secondary continues to improve after a shaky start, and their front is getting great push and wreaking havoc on quarterbacks. If the Tide can get past Mississippi State at home next week, they should have little trouble with Auburn at home to close out the season.

5) Florida State Seminoles
Week 11 Result: Beat Virginia Cavaliers 34-20 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 6

Florida State corner back PJ Williams
I can't wait to see this team get their ass kicked in the playoffs by Alabama by, like, four touchdowns. It is so frustrating watching this team manage to win games when they play so horrifically. Florida State was actually down by a touchdown in the first quarter, but they managed to fight back and take the lead for good in the second quarter. I really wish that I had an answer for why Jameis is playing so poorly this year. It definitely has to d with how bad their offensive line is, but it goes beyond that. He is forcing throws and not seeing the field as clearly as he did last season. He threw two picks this game that allowed Virginia to stay close and doesn't seem to have that killer instinct. He focuses on trying to get the ball too much to Rashad Greene. Greene is a very good receiver and a good safety blanket, but Jameis has several other receiving targets that he doesn't seem see on the field. He didn't even target his top tier tight end Nick O'Leary in this game. It is very puzzling to see regression like this from an elite talent. It doesn't help him that his running game can't get going, but if he is a true franchise quarterback he should be able to shoulder the burden of the team against inferior opponents. And it doesn't help that the secondary was again torched by an average quarterback. Greyson Lambert of Virginia passed for 220 yards and three touchdowns against what is probably the best secondary on paper. He was picked once, but the fact that he found that much success against the Noles is a scary thought. As bad as their secondary was, their run defense was phenomenal, albeit against a team that doesn't have much success on the ground. Virginia ran the ball 32 times for a net gain of 37 yards. So with that in mind, it becomes a bit more acceptable that they weren't as stout in pass defense. Still, it is tough to imagine this team doing much of anything in the playoffs with how mediocre they are.

6) Baylor Bears
Week 11 Result: Beat No. 15 Oklahoma Sooners 48-14 in Norman
Last Week's Ranking: 10

Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman
If Baylor and TCU win out, it will be interesting to see what the playoff committee does as Baylor actually beat TCU but have a "worse loss", losing at West Virginia who TCU beat in the same scenario. But this game right here will give Baylor a ton of credibility towards getting a spot in the playoffs. After going down 14-3 in the first quarter, Baylor rattled off 45 unanswered points and completely embarrassed the Sooners in their own stadium. Bryce Petty hasn't been quite the same quarterback that he was before suffering a back injury, but he still moved the ball like there were five guys on the Sooners' defense. He passed for only one touchdown, but racked up 396 yards through the air on 32 completions. In every game, he seems to lock on to a different receiver and just feed them the ball. This game, it was Corey Coleman who caught 15 passes for 224 yards and Petty's one touchdown. Coleman was absolutely unguardable in this game as he got it down both down field and on intermediate routes. Antwan Goodley also had a very solid game, catching nine passes for 92 yards on the day and overall just being a good number two option for Petty. Baylor went with a run by committee approach in this game that paid huge dividends. Three running backs scored a touchdown in this game and although they only combined for 132 yards, they kept Oklahoma off balance which allowed Petty to sling it. Equally as impressive was how the defense performed in this game. After taking some punches early in the game, the defense completely shutdown Oklahoma over the next three quarters. There was some success on the ground, but the Sooners were forced to abandon that once they started to get deeper into a hole. Overall, they were held to just 319 points on the day. Baylor gets their remaining three opponents at home, so it will be interesting to see how this BIG 12 race unfolds.

7) Ohio State Buckeyes
Week 11 Result: Beat No. 8 Michigan State Spartans 49-37 in East Lansing
Last Week's Ranking: Outside Top Ten

Ohio State quarterback JT Barrett
Finally, Urban Meyer has his statement win for his tenure at Ohio State. He wasn't given that many options in his previous two seasons, but this was a game that they had to have. After a back and forth first 27 minutes, Ohio State tied the game and subsequently took the lead right before half, a lead that they would not relinquish. Michigan State's defense has not been as good as they were last season, but they still ranked in the top five in most statistical categories. Tom Herman and Urban developed a game plan that just absolutely crushed the Spartans and gave them no chance to slow down a pissed off team looking for revenge. The Buckeyes racked up 568 yards, more than double what the Spartans had been giving up per game all year. It starts as it always has this year, with redshirt freshman JT Barrett taking command of the offense and making some spectacular plays. On 16 completions, he tossed three touchdowns and 300 yards and was in command from start to finish. He made some throws that you'd expect pros to make, but was also very effective rushing the ball as he tacked on 86 yards and another two touchdowns 14 carries. Devin Smith made some tough catches, including the go ahead score right before halftime while Michael Thomas again displayed his big play potential with a 79 yard catch and run to tie the game up. What had been a suffocating run defense was mauled all night by Ezekial "Easy-E" Elliot. Whether it was between the tackles or breaking it to the outside, Elliot could not be stopped. He ran for 154 yards and a couple of touchdowns on 23 carries which helped put the dagger through the Spartans heart. Ohio State's defense struggled a bit today, but that was a bit expected as Sparty's offense was one of the best in the country. Connor Cook was only sacked a few times in this game, but he had been sacked only five times entering this game and the consistent pressure really through him off his game. Cook completed 55% of his passes for 348 yards but a good amount of those yards came on screens to the running backs and was never able to get too much going down field. Ohio State's front seven was handled in the run game, but they made crucial stops when called upon. They have a tough test at Minnesota this week, but if they can past that they should cruise to the BIG 10 Championship Game.

8) Arizona State Sun Devils
Week 11 Result: Beat No. 10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 55-31 at home
Last Week's Ranking: Outside Top Ten

Arizona State wide receiver Jaelen Strong
Like Ohio State, Arizona State has a rather puzzling loss as they were annihilated 62-27 at home by UCLA. But outside of that game, they have had some close calls along with some very impressive victories. This game was a bit more harrowing as they built up a massive lead only to watch it evaporate, and then go on another rampage to close out the game. Arizona State gave up a lot of yards through the air to Everett Golson, but they forced him into a lot mistakes on the day. While he did throw for 446 yards and a couple of touchdowns, he didn't complete too many of his passes and also threw four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Arizona State's defense harassed the hell out of him all day and the corners provided a lot of tight coverage which resulted in those aforementioned picks. Their run defense was top notch, allowing only 41 yards on 38 carries. Their goal line defense was pretty solid, but did let up two touchdowns but there isn't much they couldn't done about that. Offensively, the Sun Devils had their way with Notre Dame as they got more than 400 yards on the day and had a good distribution between rushing and passing yards. Running back DJ Foster found a lot of holes and rushed for 120 yards, moving the ball well and setting up quarterback Taylor Kelly for some deep passes due to play action. Kelly himself had a great day as he threw for 224 yards and three touchdowns against a secondary that had lost their best player, Cody Riggs, right before the game. He has one of the best receivers in the game to throw to in Jaelen Strong, a 6'3 physical receiver with fantastic body control. He got the Sun Devils rolling with a ridiculous one handed grab near the side of the endzone. After that, Kelly distributed the ball very well and kept Notre Dame off balance for most of the night. With only one tough game left at Arizona, the Sun Devils could crash the playoff party with a shocking upset of Oregon in the PAC 12 Championship.

9) Auburn Tigers
Week 11 Result: Lost to Texas A&M Aggies 38-41 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 2

Auburn running back Cameron Artis-Payne
What a great ending. I really have nothing against Auburn, but watching a team completely shit their pants with the game on the line is always fun. Auburn played an awful game but had a chance to actually win it TWICE in the last couple of minutes, but sloppy ball security has basically cost them their shot at a playoff spot. They found themselves down by 18 at halftime, but managed to work their way back into the game thanks to some great plays from Nick Marshall. Marshall had a very good game as he accounted for over 270 and three touchdowns and completed 15 of 21 passes against a weak Aggies secondary. He connected on several long plays to Sammie Coates, Quan Bray, and Ricardo Luis but also left a couple on the field that could have put them in scoring position at different points throughout the game. The real workhorse of this game was Cameron Artis-Payne who carried the ball 30 times for 221 yards and two touchdowns on the day. He consistently gained big yards on early downs to put Auburn in good position to sustain drives, but his fumble at the goal line really cost his team. This defense was embarrassed on their own field and has almost cost them a few games leading up to this one. They gave up 277 yards and FOUR passing touchdowns to a true freshman starting in only his second game. He made great throws all night and often had receivers who were wide open. There was just big play opportunities all night for the Aggies who capitalized to pull of the improbably upset.

10) Michigan State Spartans
Week 11 Result: Lost to No. 13 Ohio State Buckeyes 37-49 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 3