I never liked Miami growing up (except during the Catholics vs. Convicts games), but I find this Miami team quite rootable for two reasons. First, I have liked Randy Shannon ever since the SI's excellent piece on his background. Second, after a half a decade of atrocious quarterback play in the ACC, I'm going to support a team with a good signal caller and a good offensive coordinator. As long as I can ignore ESPN's shots panning the crowd at Miami home games, I can support the Canes.
I don't have much of a feel for the Georgia-Arkansas game. On the one hand, I was very high on Arkansas going into the season. South Carolina threw the ball successfully on Georgia, so you would think that Bobby Petrino would be able to get Arkansas to do the same, especially with two weeks to prepare for what ought to be a statement game for the Razorbacks. On the other hand, Georgia's offensive line should win its match-up with the Arkansas defensive front, which will mean that Richard Samuel will have holes and Joe Cox will have time to throw. In the end, it's hard to see Mark Richt losing two road games in a row. If Georgia loses this game, then there will be some significant questions about where this team is.
The Michigan board that I visit has been obsessed this week with the dilemma of picking a rooting interest between Michigan State and Notre Dame, a classic meteor game for Michigan fans. Personally, I'm agnostic on the question. I don't really care whether the Nazis or the Communists prevail, so long as they slaughter millions of one another's troops and thus make it easy for my team to occupy Western Europe. I'm not above rooting for an arch-rival in the right circumstances - I rooted for Ohio State against Notre Dame with gusto in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl because of my annoyance with the Charlie Weis love-in - but I can't come up with a reason to root for either of these teams. Maybe I pull for the Irish because I don't want them to fire Charlie Weis and hire Brian Kelly? Maybe I pull for the Spartans because the thought of Weis pissing and moaning for another week about Big Ten officials is appetizing? This makes my head hurt.
Speaking of Charlie, he catches a lot of flak for good reasons, but his playcalling at the end of the game last weekend was not that bad. Take it from someone who watched Michigan blow leads on countless occasions because of totally predictable run-run-throw on third and long sequences, Weis was getting risk-reward calculations right by trying to get the first down that would kill off the game. The fly pattern on second down was not a great choice, but the general thrust of throwing the ball in a non-obvious passing situation is a great approach. The meme that Weis botched the end of the game, which has become gospel in the media, is a great example of conventional wisdom being wrong.
The sneakily interesting game of the weekend: Cincinnati at Oregon State.
To be armchair psychologist for a moment, I'm wondering if Urban Meyer's good relationship with Monte Kiffin will cause him to call off the dogs on Tennessee tomorrow. Seriously, a betting person has to get inside of Meyer's head in order to decide whether he is going to put a big number on Tennessee as a comeuppance for Lane or if he is going to bleed the clock in the second half because of his affection for Lane's dad. And speaking of the game formerly known as Florida vs. Tennessee, Chris Brown's analysis of the Tampa Two against the Meyer spread (or, more precisely, Kiffin's modified defense against the Meyer spread) is very interesting:
There is a lot of talk about Kiffin’s “Tampa Two” defense, but I don’t really expect them to play a lot of true “Tampa Two.” In that coverage, the two safeties play deep and show a “cover two shell,” but the middle linebacker retreats down the middle, making it like a three-deep defense, which lets the safeties squeeze the outside corner routes. The advantage of Tampa Two over regular three-deep is that the cornerbacks can press and jam the outside receivers and funnel them inside. (They also can either sit shallow for short throws or retreat if the outside receiver runs deep; this is infuriating too and defenses can switch up this technique.) But the thing the Tampa Two defense does as well as anything is take the other team’s outside receivers — often their best — out of the game. For more, see this fairly informative video from nfl.com.Big Ten fans, do you see what you're missing because your (our?) cheap-ass schools don't turn their massive sums of ticket and TV revenue into coaches with good resumes? On top of seeing Nick Saban match wits with Urban Meyer with the SEC title on the line last December, SEC fans wills get to see the best defensive coordinator in recent NFL history take a crack at the best college offense currently operating. Think about that in a few weeks as Michigan State and Iowa plough the ball into one another's lines repeatedly.
That’s a great strategy in the NFL because offenses are designed to get the ball to the outside guys. But with Florida? Their strength is inside to out: Tebow, Demps, Rainey, and the tight-end Hernandez. If Kiffin overemphasizes taking away the outside receivers, this plays into Meyer’s hands. Instead, expect Kiffin to do what his protege Tony Dungy did with the Colts more often than people gave him credit for: to go to a single-safety look with one of his safeties in “robber” coverage both spying Tebow and taking away inside routes. Likely Eric Berry will play the “Bob Sanders” position. Kiffin appears to be a big fan of Tebow, but he knows the easiest way to lose to Florida is to get spread out and have them run right up the middle on you; he will test to see if Scott Loeffler, Tebow’s new quarterbacks coach, has taught him anything and, more importantly, if Tebow’s new outside receivers can make enough plays. If they can, it could get ugly.