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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Buckeyes Remain Number 3 in Latest Play-Off Rankings

Ohio State kept it close to the vest before MSU, Michigan

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
The Buckeyes ran on Illinois with relative ease on Saturday. Let's take a look at the tape.
The Buckeyes brought their vanilla playbook to Champaign on Saturday, which will give Michigan State and Michigan as little on film as possible.
Out of the 75 plays that they ran, they kept the ball on the ground 50 times, for a tune of 283 yards. Ezekiel Elliott had a typical, complete performance for him as a runner and blocker. J.T. Barrett was also strong on the ground and made plays as a runner and as a decision maker in the read option game.
If there was one complaint from Saturday, it would come from the right tackle position.Chase Farris has struggled throughout the season, but it was magnified against Illinois, and it may only get worse against the more talented Spartan and Wolverine defensive lines. Barrett was pressured nine times and hit seven times during pass attempts, with the majority coming from Farris' edge. It is most likely too late to make a change at the right tackle position, so we may see more 12 personnel and help from an extra blocker on Farris' side.
Here's the breakdown:

J.T. Barrett

Designed runsDropbacksCompletionsIncompletionsTD passScrambleOverthrowUnderthrowThrowaway
PressuredSackedHit during throwPass break-upBatted at LOSDropsTurnoversTD runDefensive PI
*Tap passes do not count as attempts
  • With the vanilla playbook, the passing game made minimal impact on the day. As I mentioned above, the pressures and hits on Barrett were the main story of the day, which will need to be cleaned up for the upcoming stretch run.
  • We all know Coach Meyer's infatuation with designed quarterback runs in the red zone, but it got a little too predictable at times. Yes, it should not have come down to this play (below) on third down due to the egregious non-touchdown call, but look at the Illinois defense pursing the football. The entire stadium knew where the ball was going and it led to no points on the drive. Mix in some play action in the red zone.
  • Barrett's touchdown pass came on a beautiful fade ball that was perfectly placed in Thomas' hands. Thomas cannot be checked in single coverage and he does a great job of winning contested balls. Barrett recognized Cover 0 on the play and took advantage of it.
  • The interception was not on Barrett. The right side of the line got beat and his arm got hit as he threw the ball. After a missed call on an earlier Elliott fumble, the ball didn't lie and Illinois was quickly rewarded with the football.
  • Barrett was once again put on a masterful performance in the read option game. Below, he read the player and made the right decision. What is great with Barrett is that his reads are never pre-determined and you can always see his eyes on the read defender at the mesh point.

Running backs/ H-backs

  • The nation has finally realized how great of a blocker Ezekiel Elliott is, and it showed with two monster lead blocks on Saturday. One led to a big gain on third down and the other resulted in a Barrett touchdown run. Blocking is mostly about effort and pride, and Elliott shows both with regularity.
  • Elliott got lucky that the referees blew the call on his lost fumble. With how hard Elliott runs, he has to focus on ball security when finishing plays.
  • After Braxton Miller's head violently bounced off the turf against Minnesota, he was held without a carry on Saturday. I personally believe that Meyer wanted to limit his touches and keep him healthy for the upcoming stretch. We did not see him in the Wildcat and I think he will be a big part of the offense against Sparty and Michigan.
  • Curtis Samuel continues to make the most of his limited touches. Right now, his limited touches are a product of the older talent around him, but his time will come (next year).

Wide receivers

  • Michael Thomas made a great play when he held onto the ball while taking a huge hit from the Illinois' safety. It was great to see that the referees reversed that ejection call, which would have been extremely unfair to the safety.
  • As I mentioned, Thomas destroyed single coverage on his touchdown catch. Take advantage of watching Thomas, because his time will be up very soon in Columbus.
  • Jalin Marshall had four catches, but like the majority of the perimeter options, they were asked to do more blocking and run less routes due to the shortened playbook.
  • I expect big things and heavy involvement from 'Zone 6' the remainder of the season.

Tight ends

  • It was nice to see Nick Vannett get rewarded with the first reception of the game, along with two others. Vannett is a reliable pass catcher and he can be an effective weapon, especially in the red zone. Look for more targets to come his way.
  • Marcus Baugh also made his first catch of the season. Like Vannett, Baugh is also a big bodied tight end who has soft hands. I would not expect many more targets for Baugh, but he is more than a capable option.
  • Look for more 12 personnel and more blocking on the right side of the line to help Farris when he struggles. He faces a tough match-up against Michigan State and Coach Harbaugh will try to attack him in two weeks.

Clemson, Alabama, Ohio St, Notre Dame top playoff rankings

Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame remained at the top of the College Football Playoff selection committee rankings Tuesday night, marking the first time in two seasons the top four was unchanged from the previous week.

Florida is eighth, Michigan State, which plays Ohio State on Saturday, is ninth and Baylor dropped to No. 10 after losing for the first time this season.Iowa stayed at No. 5 and Oklahoma State moved up to No. 6, one spot ahead of Big 12 rival Oklahoma.
Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State seem to have control of their playoff hopes. If those three win out they should be in, with the final spot coming down to the Big 12 contenders or Notre Dame. Oklahoma State has the advantage of being unbeaten and has chances to pad its resume over the next two weeks with home games against Baylor and Oklahoma.
Unbeaten Iowa would likely have to go through either Ohio State or whatever Big Ten East team beats Ohio State, so the Hawkeyes appear to be in good shape if they win out.
The highest ranked Pac-12 team was Stanford at No. 11.
What else you need to know about the third College Football Playoff rankings.
The conversation started Saturday night and it could end up being the great debate of this season's playoff rankings.
If the Fighting Irish (9-1) and the Sooners (9-1) both win out and finish 11-1, and things don't get too messy in the other conferences, the chances are the final spot in the playoff will go to one them.
It has the making for an excellent debate. The Sooners would end the season with three big victories against Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State. Notre Dame's best wins would likely be USC, Stanford and Navy. The Irish's loss was by two at Clemson. The Sooners' loss was by seven to Texas. Notre Dame beat Texas 38-3, and the committee considers games against common opponents in its selections protocol.
''It doesn't go away,'' committee chairman Jeff Long said of OU's Texas loss.
How much consideration will that be given? Who knows?
''It's just really hard for us to look out and anticipate those things, so we don't,'' Long said.
The Sooners would have a conference championship. The Irish, of course, do not play in a conference. And there is no way to figure out how that would sway the committee.
Last season when Ohio State jumped TCU and Baylor in the final rankings to reach the playoff, some Big 12 fans claimed the Buckeyes were aided by brand bias. The traditional power got the benefit of the doubt, they said.
If it comes down to Notre Dame and Oklahoma, two of the most storied programs in college football, brand bias should not be a problem.
Many an obit was written for the Pac-12's playoff hopes on Saturday night when both Stanford and Utah lost, leaving the conference with no better than a two-loss champion.
The committee's rankings suggest the Pac-12 might not be dead yet. Stanford is right behind Baylor and Utah is No. 13. If the choice comes down to either Cardinal or Utes at 11-2 and Baylor at 11-1, the Pac-12 might have some hope.
Remember, Stanford would have a win against Notre Dame and Utah a victory against Michigan, which is currently No. 12 and still in contention for a Big Ten title.
Navy was the highest-ranked Group of Five team and American Athletic Conference rival Houston was No. 19. The Midshipmen and Cougars play on Nov. 27 in a game that should decide the AAC West division, a trip to the conference title game and ultimately which team gets the guaranteed spot in a New Year's Six bowl game that goes to the top ranked champion from the American, Mountain West, Mid-American, Sun Belt or Conference USA.
Memphis, which has lost to Navy and Memphis the last two weeks, is No. 21 and the only other Group of Five team ranked.

Judging the College Football Playoff Rankings: TCU takes too big a hit

Another week, and another set of College Football Playoff Rankings for us to dissect.
While the CFP Selection Committee made plenty of changes to the bottom half of the rankings, the biggest news is that things look steady at the top. The top five from last week is still the top five for this week, though Oklahoma State -- and not Oklahoma -- replaced Baylor at the No. 6 spot.
So which teams did the committee overrate and underrate? Who did they get perfectly right?
Well, I'm glad you asked.
Just Right -- No. 2 Alabama: I want to start with the Tide because there was some speculation Alabama could climb to No. 1 after beating up on Mississippi State. I'm glad it didn't.
Now listen, I honestly feel that -- right now -- if you put Alabama on a neutral field against anybody, it's more likely to win than lose. It's just that the whole reason behind starting a playoff was so that things could be settled on the field -- and that results matter. As good as Alabama is, it still has a loss on its résumé. At home.
So until Clemson loses a game, Alabama should remain at No. 2.
Overrated -- No. 11 Stanford: The Cardinal fell only four spots in the rankings following their loss to Oregon on Saturday, and this caught me a bit off-guard. I mean, if we're supposed to re-evaluate every team's résumé on a weekly basis, then Stanford's no longer strikes me as one being worthy of this high a ranking.
As of right now, the Cardinal have played three teams that are currently ranked by the committee. It has a record of 1-2 against them, with the lone win being against No. 24 Southern California. The two losses have come against No. 20 Northwestern and No. 23 Oregon, the latter of which is new to the rankings this week based on nothing but that win over Stanford.
But what's Stanford's next-best win after USC at this point? It has to be a two-point victory over a Washington State team that may be 7-3 but is unranked. After that, the Cardinal's résumé gets rather flimsy. I'm not saying that the Cardinal shouldn't be ranked. I think this team is worthy of a top 15 spot, it's just that spot should be a lot closer to 15 than 10.
Underrated -- No. 18 TCU: I know there are questions about the Horned Frogs with health concerns surrounding both quarterback Trevone Boykin and receiver Josh Doctson. And I know we both saw how scary things can get for TCU when they lose Boykin, as Kansas gave the Frogs quite the problem last week. But No. 18? Does this team really deserve to drop three spots this week?
It's still 9-1, after all, and its only loss came to the team the committee deems to be the sixth-best team in the country right now. I totally understand that TCU's résumé is a bit shaky overall, but two weeks ago when it was 8-0, it had the same résumé and was ranked No. 8. The last two weeks have been scary, but I don't know if it justifies a 10-spot drop.
Overrated -- No. 16 Navy: I don't know if I consider Navy overrated as much as I'm just not sure it should be ranked ahead of Houston. Both teams share the same best win: Memphis. Neither team has a great second win, as Navy's would probably be South Florida, and Houston's would be Louisville, Cincinnati or Vanderbilt (I honestly don't know which one of those is the best).
But the difference is that, while Navy has a very respectable loss in Notre Dame, Houston doesn't have a loss at all. Considering these two teams are in the same conference -- and have the same "big" win -- shouldn't the fact Houston is undefeated be enough to rank it ahead of Navy? Especiallly when Houston has two wins over Power Five programs and Navy doesn't have any?
I certainly think so.
Just Right -- No. 17 North Carolina: I know it seems strange that North Carolina would be 9-1 in the ACC yet still ranked so low by the committee, but I fully understand it. It's not just the season-opening loss to South Carolina holding it back. As we learned with Ohio State last year, the committee can forgive you for an early loss when you respond by playing well from then on.
The problem is that aside from that loss, the Tar Heels' schedule isn't exactly impressive. Two of their seven wins have come against FCS programs (North Carolina A&T and Delaware). The combined records of the seven FBS teams the Tar Heels have beaten is 33-37.
Now, if North Carolina wins its final two games of the regular season and then beats Clemson in the ACC Championship Game, it suddenly has an argument to make. But right now this is where it should be.

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