Wednesday, October 22, 2008
College Gameday Final Recap
A couple of teams looked championship ready -- and one was Ohio State
Guess Who's Back?
Alabama coach Nick Saban spoke after the No. 2 Crimson Tide's 24-20 victory over Ole Miss on Saturday about his team's lack of self-discipline.
"Discipline is doing what you're supposed to do the way you're supposed to do it when it's supposed to get done," Saban said. "But self-discipline means you can do it in any circumstance whether you feel like it or not. You make yourself do it."
Listen to the coach. Don't give in to the dread in the pit of your BCS stomach that the Big Ten champion and the Pacific-10 champion have reasserted themselves in the national championship race.
You know you want to scream, "Not Ohio State! Not again!" Don't do it.
You know you want to penalize USC, not reward it, for winning at Washington State 69-0. Don't do it. Had the game been in Los Angeles instead of Pullman, the score may not have gotten out of control. Trojans coach Pete Carroll could have emptied his bench. With only 64 players on the USC travel roster, per Pac-10 rules, Carroll didn't have a bench to empty.
But let's get back to Ohio State. The fear that the Buckeyes have rewritten their name on the short list of BCS Championship Game contenders is based not only on their back-to-back losses in the past two of these games, but also the 35-3 beatdown Ohio State suffered against USC last month. Your fears may be valid. But consider:
First of all, Ohio State beat a very good Michigan State team 45-7 in East Lansing. As much as it may hurt to say it, the Buckeyes on Saturday looked like one of the best teams in the country.
Second of all, Ohio State next plays Penn State. The winner of their game in Columbus on Saturday night will be one of the best teams in the country, even if it's leading the Big Ten.
And third, with Missouri and BYU eliminated from the national championship race, there is that much more room for an Ohio State to re-enter the discussion.
The Nittany Lions overcame a sluggish start, scoring the last 39 points of the game to defeat Michigan 46-17. Penn State performed the mirror image of Alabama by starting slow and finishing fast. That will always be more impressive than a team that starts fast and hangs on.
"We're not just focused on winning," Saban said after the game. "We're focused on how we win."
If it will make you feel better, concentrate on the way Texas toyed with Missouri in a 56-31 victory Saturday night. When the Longhorns ascended to No. 1 last week, they earned a combined 83 of 126 first-place votes between the AP and coaches polls. Between their performance and that of the Tide, the Longhorns received 123 of 126 first-place votes Sunday. One team looked championship-ready again this week. Ohio State did too, and if the Buckeyes find a way to upset Penn State, you may as well get ready to deal with them again.
A New Way Of Offense
It wasn't exactly how Barry Switzer would have called the offense.
There were no wishbone elements in Oklahoma's offensive attack. But other elements of the Sooners' offensive onslaught were eerily reminiscent of how "The King" would have done it -- mainly in its sheer domination.
Oklahoma erupted for 674 yards of total offense -- its best performance in more than 20 years -- as the Sooners cruised to a 45-31 win over Kansas.
But unlike some of Switzer's run-heavy efforts back in the day, this one was a bow to modern offensive philosophy. Sam Bradford threw for a school-record 468 yards and the much-maligned offensive line paved the way for 206 rushing yards as the Sooners cruised to a convincing victory.
"We always want more," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said of his team's 97-snap offensive binge. "I would have liked to have had three more snaps and just kept moving and gotten to 100. I would have liked to have had a couple of plays back. But I guess that's being a little greedy."
Bradford broke the previous school record of 429 yards set by his quarterbacks coach, Josh Heupel. But Bradford was happier about his team's ability to bounce back from its late struggles last week against Texas than any individual accomplishment.
"Obviously, getting the numbers are nice, but the most important thing is come out here and get a win," Bradford said. "Our offensive line did a great job, we got the running game going and I had all the time in the world back there to pass."
Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper said he was told one thing by his new coach before he took the field against Georgia Tech on Saturday: "Go out there and lead."
Easier said than done.
In less than a week, the Tigers had lost just about all of the offensive leadership they had, and in less than a quarter on Saturday, they lost their starting quarterback. Again.
Harper, who was benched in one of the final decisions former coach Tommy Bowden made for the program, took over for an injured Willy Korn and made enough plays for his team to beat Georgia Tech. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they also made enough mistakes not to.
Despite the 21-17 home loss to the Yellow Jackets, interim head coach Dabo Swinney said Harper earned the starting job back for their Nov. 1 trip to Boston College.
McCoy's Cold Shoulder
In a team meeting Thursday night, Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt gave LeSean McCoy a little history lesson.
He told McCoy that Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium is where Tony Dorsett set the all-time NCAA career rushing record in 1976. Wannstedt wasn't just trying to further his sophomore running back's education; the implication that McCoy needed a big game on the same turf was pretty clear.
McCoy didn't set any records in Saturday's 42-21 win over the Midshipmen. But maybe he would have if he could have caught his breath. The man they call "Shady" overpowered the Midshipmen, rolling to a season-high 156 yards and three touchdowns on just 18 carries.
All but 28 of his yards came in the first half. Dealing with a chest cold, he touched the ball only four times in the second half and sat out the entire fourth quarter.
"I couldn't breathe tonight," he said. "I was gasping for air. It sucks because I really couldn't get in there too much."
THREE OBSERVATIONS FROM THE WEEKEND
1. Lane Kiffin is going to Clemson, unless it's Syracuse, Tennessee, Washington or campuses yet unnamed. Listen, Kiffin performed well as an offensive assistant at USC. He's a personable guy. But just because he became the latest victim of the Al Davis Freak Show, he is the hottest head-coaching candidate? Kiffin took the Raiders job! That's a question about his judgment. Kiffin lost in Oakland. If I'm an athletic director, explain to me again why I'm chasing him.
2. Wake Forest, Boston College, Florida State and Maryland are tied for the ACC Atlantic lead with 2-1 records. BC is the only one of the four that hasn't yet played any of the other three, and two of those three games will be on the road (at FSU, at Wake). The Seminoles and the Eagles have played the most consistent football of the four. Their game is in Tallahassee on Nov. 15.
3. UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow has coached three Heisman winners, but his work with former third-stringer Kevin Craft may be the best of a distinguished career. The Bruins are 3-4 after beating Stanford 23-20, scoring 10 points on two-minute drives. They ran 13 plays in 2:30 before halftime to go 88 yards and pick up a field goal. They went 87 yards in 10 plays over 2:21 to score the winning touchdown, a 7-yard pass from Craft to Cory Harkey, with 10 seconds to play. That's good coaching.
McCoy The numbers Colt McCoy has put up against Oklahoma and Missouri the past two weeks are just plain sick. I don't remember anybody operating at such an efficiency level as he is right now.
Helmet Stickers Go To:
• QB Brian Brunner, CMU
20-28, 346 yards, TD vs. WMU
• QB Mike Hartline, UK
239 yards, 2 TDs in final 4:15 vs. Arkansas
I just feel like there's something special about this Penn State team. They're as balanced as any team in the country. They play smart, have a precision passing game, can run the ball and play great defense.
Helmet Stickers Go To:
• WR Brennan Marion, Tulsa
233 rec yards, 3 TDs vs. UTEP
• QB Chris Turner, Maryland
28-41, 321 yards, TD vs. Wake Forest
To me, Texas Tech still has major problems on defense. Of all the top 10 teams that have a good chance of falling off in the second half, I think the Red Raiders are the leading candidate
Helmet Stickers Go To:
• QB Colt McCoy, Texas
29-32, 337 yards, 4 total TDs vs. Missouri
• RB Shonn Greene, Iowa
217 rush yards, 4 TDs vs. Wisconsin