Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Wall to wall college football

At least that's what this weekend would have been for me, absent the first of two inconveniently scheduled weddings in the Northeast on my September docket. On the bright side, the wife and I did get to play the "count the passed-out drug addicts and disoriented-looking senior citizens on the Atlantic City boardwalk" game. We also got to watch the world's oldest profession at work later that night, although not too close for comfort, thank you very much. With that incoherent lead-in, here are my thoughts on the weekend:

It goes without saying that Georgia looked great, as we said they would this summer. (Incidentally, HeismanPundit has now taken the position that if he would have known that Jared Zabransky would turn the ball over six times in a half, he wouldn't have picked them. That's helpful. I would have taken Wisconsin over Bowling Green if I would have known that Wisconsin was going to score more point than BGSU. I hope to get to his rebuttal in greater detail, but the short version is that he doesn't understand what is most important in college football and what makes his own beloved Trojans a national title team: defense. I'm also looking forward to addressing his argument that ACC teams are exposed to sophisticated offenses, but SEC teams are not. Maybe he hasn't had a TV over the past two nights?)

My first thought is that Georgia fans should not get carried away. We didn't learn that much about the Georgia offense on Saturday, other than that they can dominate a team that can't stop anyone on the road. Georgia fans were rightly confident going into the game after looking at Boise's defensive record from last year, but that record limits the deductions we can draw from a 48-point outburst. We did learn that D.J. Shockley is fairly accurate when he has time and that Georgia is going to spread the ball out among its receivers this year, which will make them harder to defend.

We did learn a lot about the Georgia defense, namely that they are still great hitters even with Brian VanGorder plying his trade in Jacksonville. I've only watched the first half of the game tape, but the number of great hits by Georgia defenders was outstanding. The Georgia defensive line controlled their theater, which allowed the back seven to ignore the play-action fakes that are the basis of the Boise State offense and drop into deep zones. Jared Zabransky was clearly flummoxed by the athleticism of the Georgia linebackers in coverage, which is not surprising since WAC defenders aren't exactly on the same level. I'd also be willing to bet that Zabransky was thrown off-kilter by 1) the crowd noise and 2) the hits he took from the outset. Again, this was all new to him.

Somewhat surprisingly, Georgia Tech also looked very good in dispatching Auburn. I said before the game that the team that scored the first touchdown would win and that turned out to be right, although there was more offense in the first half than I expected there would be. The second half played out like I thought the entire game would: the trailing team was forced to take risks offensively and ended up making mistakes that killed them. Georgia Tech has a very good defense and Brandon Cox trying to lead his team from behind against that unit, especially with no semblance of a running game to take the pressure off, was always going to be a losing proposition. Reggie Ball looked pretty good, although he did have a running game to help him and 4.8 yards per attempt is nothing to get too excited about. That said, he only threw one pick, which means that he controlled his bete noire for at least one night.

Speaking of HeismanPundit, I was thinking about him over the past couple nights watching ACC offenses attempt to gum one another to death like denture-less senior citizens in heat. Miami, Florida State, and Virginia Tech are the conference favorites and they combined for 715 yards of offense, although the quality of the defensive opposition has to be taken into account. Miami looks like the most likely of the three to have a decent offense by the end of the year, based on the facts that Kyle Wright got better and better as the game went on, Tyrone Moss gave them a reasonable running threat until he cramped up, and they have two quality receiving threats in Ryan Moore and Greg Olson. That said, their offensive line was completely dominated last night. Florida State consistently got pressure with three- and four-man rushes and when FSU actually brought more than that, rushers were getting free shots at Wright. The communication between the Miami linemen was abysmal.

Speaking of abysmal, Florida State fans are probably happy that they got the Miami monkey off their backs (and to do so on botched field goals must have been especially sweet,) but they can't feel confident that Jeff Bowden has figured out what ails his offense. The Noles had absolutely no passing game other than the screen passes that they ran successfully to their running backs, the only strong suit of their offense. What's worse, Gary Danielson kept saying that Miami was bringing their safeties up and pressing the FSU wide receivers, but the Noles never took any shots down the field. Given that they were punting on every possession anyway, what would have been bad about an interception that functions as a 40-yard punt? And the Noles would have completed a downfield pass eventually, which would have given them more offense than they had otherwise and would have backed the Miami safeties off. Instead, FSU kept trying short passes that were low reward. I didn't see anything last night to make me think that FSU is better than an 8-3 team. No matter how good their front seven is, they will eventually play a team that has a competent long-snapper and/or exploits their shaky tight corner.

And then we come to Virginia Tech. From the post-game coverage, you would have thought that Marcus Vick played like his brother for a night. You wouldn't know that Lil' Vick averaged 5.1 yards per pass attempt and 2.4 yards per carry. He had a couple great runs and a couple beautiful throws, but, like his brother last year, he was wildly inconsistent. (And speaking of his brother, the HateVick crowd got a little boost on Sunday night by ESPN's continued love-in with him. Big Vick was on camera more than the players themselves were, as if seeing him eat fries or react to a three-yard run is a matter of national security. We all knew that Patrick, Theismann, and Maguire all want to have Vick's babies, but who knew that they also work as producers for ESPN's college football coverage.) Tech does have a fairly decent running game, but Vick right now is the anti-Randall: occasionally brilliant, but not the guy who's going to throw an accurate pass on third and five to move the chains.

Fortunately for the Hokies, they were playing self-destructomatic N.C. State, who killed themselves like they've been doing for years. The wife and I played the "guess when N.C. State gets their first personal foul" game and she won because she took the first quarter and I foolishly thought they would wait 15 minutes. After two personal fouls and a third false alarm, I left with my tail between my legs. Just like Florida State fans with their inept offense and Michigan fans with their underperforming defense, N.C. State fans have to be discouraged that their team lost games last year because of penalties and there was apparently no effort to correct this problem in the off-season. It's unbelievable to me that the Wolfpack kill themselves repeatedly and yet Chuck Amato still refuses to get onto his players for committing stupid penalties. At most major programs, the coach would curse at and then bench a player who commits a 15-yard penalty. At N.C. State, you apparently get a helmet sticker for doing so.

And lets go back to the media criticism for a second. I'd like to keep a list of media gems from this year. Here's what I have from this weekend:

1. Mark Jones refers to the weather in Madison as "irradiant," which, like "irregardless," is not a word, unless he means that Madison was being treated with radiation at the time.

2. Thanks to ABC for refusing to switch from the latter stages of Notre Dame's annihilation of Pitt to the finish of the weekend at Clemson. Charlie Weis is so damned sexy and we really needed all those additional shots of him looking constipated as his team returned to glory.

3. The crew doing the N.C. State-Virginia Tech game saw fit to remind us that Chuck Amato understands the importance of recruiting in Florida. That must be why he's in Mensa! Where else is he going to get players who can get personal fouls while putting on their pads before the game?

4. Do we really need sideline reporters to tell us that the bench is excited after their team scores a touchdown?

5. Nick Lachey on Gameday? Really? What college football fan takes him seriously or views him as anything more than the guy who rolls his eyes at his wife every time she says something stupid. And did they really call him a "life-long USC fan"? He grew up in Ohio, for G-d sakes. Now I trust him even less.

And the king of media idiocy goes to our old friend Terrence Moore, who has deduced that wearing a David Greene jersey makes the wearer racist. Who knew that Terrence is a post-modern deconstructionist who can find racist power relationships in jersey choices? I hesitate to link to this column because doing so serves the interest of a true huckster, but you need to read this column to get its full magnificence.

And for more media idiocy, here is my overrated list that ran on CFN on Thursday and here are some nice words from the Boston Herald about it. I take back everything I've ever said about Mass Holes.


peacedog said...

I can't even feel confident from the SC UCF result. I just don't know what to think. Spurrier could line his visor with red kryptonite and boomerang it at Richt during warmups. God only knows what the result will be then.

Steve said...

Nick Lachey's arrival onto the scene is nothing more than a pitiful attempt to maybe reach more of the coveted 18-34 demographic (obviously more of the women).