Friday, October 26, 2007

Random [Insert Vulgar Word for Feces Here]

BC-Virginia Tech

If you want a classic case of sports talk radio overreaction, take Steak Shapiro's take this morning that Matt Ryan solidified his place in the top five of the Draft, as well as his Heisman candidacy, with last night's rally. I'll freely admit that I didn't watch the end of the game. I turned it off after another Ryan interception in the fourth quarter. I was muttering to myself about Virginia Tech winning unwatchable games in which they are remarkably unpenalized for never having had an offense other than the "Vick run around!" set. Being the unreconstructed Wahoo, I was also whining in my head about the Hokies scoring a touchdown that wasn't a touchdown and a field goal on a drive kept alive by an appallingly weak pass interference call.

So imagine my surprise when I woke up and found that the Eagles had rallied for a 14-10 win. Imagine my total lack of surprise that Shapiro glossed over Ryan's weak performance for the first 55 minutes of the game and solely focused on the last five, ignoring the fact that Ryan's inability to hit his receivers was the reason why his heroics were needed in the first place. (and add in the fact that Tech's putrid offense is the only reason why the score wasn't 24-0 at the time). I'll grant you that Virginia Tech whipped BC's offensive line for the first 55 minutes and the rain also made it hard to throw the ball. I'll also grant you that his first touchdown throw was a thing of beauty. That said, Matt Ryan has never impressed me as anything more than a guy who can throw underneath accurately and move around in the pocket well. He's a second-tier Brian Brohm. He should be a second- or third-round pick. Instead, because he plays in Boston, he's a Heisman front-runner. Let's just say that there would be something very wrong in the universe if Boston College picks up its second Heisman Trophy this year and Alabama and Tennessee are still sitting on nil in that category. Let's also say that if Dennis Dixon plays well against USC this weekend, there are no reasons other race and geography why he shouldn't be miles ahead of Ryan in the Heisman race. Speaking of which...


This is the weekend that USC finally puts together a performance that leaves the rest of the country saying "yup, that's the team that we all voted #1 before the season." USC showed the pattern last year of going through the motions against unranked opponents and then kicking ass when the spotlight was on. Well, the spotlight is on this weekend and Oregon's crowd will almost certainly get the Trojans' attention. USC is still the best team in the country when they're focused. I am not at all a John David Booty fan, but Oregon's defense isn't good enough to punish USC for their weakness under center. Additionally, USC's front seven are going to present major, major challenges for Oregon.


I have a pretty good feeling about Georgia this weekend. This season is full of examples of teams playing well coming out of bye weeks. Remember Tennessee's performance against Georgia? Or Florida's performance against Kentucky? (Note: Alabama has the week off before hosting LSU.) Georgia has their backs against the wall and will be putting everything they have into this game. Theoretically, Georgia has the personnel to exploit Florida's weak secondary: a rifle-armed quarterback and a bevy of receiving threats. The problem is that said quarterback and receivers are very inconsistent. Additionally, Georgia has been very conservative offensively this year, in part legitimately out of concern for the offensive line and in part mistakenly "protecting" the offense by being limited and predictable. This is the game in which Georgia has to open up the playbook and put some faith in its quarterback of the future. It's an interesting sink-or-swim scenario.

Defensively, Georgia has done well against Florida's offense in the past, but I think we all understand now that Meyer's offense is much better with a running threat under center. Tennessee did a fine defensive job on Florida when Chris Leak was under center (37 points in two games) and then promptly shipped 59 points to the Gators in September. Florida's offense was also more effective against LSU this year than it was when Leak was the quarterback. In other words, don't expect the defensive effort we've been accustomed to against Florida. Overall, I see a fairly high-scoring game (28-25?) and Florida winning in the end, but I certainly wouldn't take the Gators -9.5. JMHO.

Penn State-Ohio State

I like Penn State in this game for a few reasons:

1. Ohio State has a terrible history at State College. They're 2-5 at Penn State, with one of the wins coming in a very tight game against a 3-9 Penn State team. Of course, that was during the era in which Ohio State won every game by one point on field goals that hit both goalposts and the crossbar before going through. OSU won in this fashion regardless of whether they were playing Michigan or Tattnall Square Academy. G-d I hated those teams. (I didn't really dislike the '05-'06 OSU teams. I could respect them for being really good and entertaining to watch.)

2. Penn State's defense is excellent and this Ohio State offense can be shut down. At a minimum, this means that Saturday night is going to be a tight, defensive game. In said circumstances, do you trust a quarterback making his first difficult road start? A quarterback who let an inferior opponent back into the game last week with turnovers? Me neither.

3. Ohio State is unbeaten, but it bears mentioning that this fact is not important in light of the weakness of their opponents. OSU has not played a single team ranked in Sagarin's top 30. (LSU, by contrast, has played five.) They're ranked #1, but they're not really a #1 caliber team. And who the hell am I kidding? I don't like the idea of an Ohio State-Boston College snoozefest in the title game, I'm rooting against that possibility, and I don't trust my alma mater to prevent it from happening.


peacedog said...

1. I think it would be an injustice to the state of affairs to claim that the reasons for Dixon not being the heisman front-runner after a hypotehtical good performance/win over USC this weekend would boil down to race/geography.

Not that either won't play a factor (and IMO, the latter would play a bigger factor). But people do stupid shit all the time. I think you have to take into account "narrative momentum", for example. Dixon didn't start the year as a Heisman candidate. A win here and he becomes one, but he hasn't been one, and disproportionate focus is still given to people who started the year as one (not unlike starting the year ranked and continuing on with a string of unimpressive victories over mediocre teams; you're suddenly highly ranked and "in the picture" whether you ought to be or not).

Having said that, Ryan is defiantely way overrated. He was overrated coming into the season - a 5th year guy on a decent team in a mediocre conference. He was positioned for a Heisman run, whether he should be a legit candidate or not.

Also, I can't *stand* the recency issue (which can play out over any time frame). There are people all over UGA boards right now pining for Ryans "leadership" and "knowing how to win". Get bent.

UGA - here;s hoping. I've actually heard tell that the team coming off a bye week has a losing record in SEC play in the SECCG era, but this is unconfirmed. It wouldn't be surprising - a bye week is only as good as it's coaching staff. And I think the extra week generally only matters to them. A team can get some of it's legs back and get healthier - and I think Georgia is doing this to a degree; look for Marcus Washington's return for example - but the extra time to gameplan and figure out things that do or don't work is important. To a staff who knows how to figure it out.

Look for us to burn Caleb King's redshirt, by the way. It looks like this means the coaches don't expect Thomas Brown back until after Auburn at the earliest.

Unknown said...

"USC is still the best team in the country when they're focused."

C'mon. Thats a pretty weak qualifier.

Anonymous said...

Just watched the rebroadcast of the BC-VT. On second viewing, it's just hard to fault Ryan for BC's lackluster offensive performance for the first 55 minutes of that game. His O-Line was getting crushed. And, he did have several drives that should have been a lot more -- but his receivers were dropping easy, easy balls. (Maybe the was the rain.) Go back and re-watch the tape. Not sure if he's deserving of the Heisman yet, but this guy is gonna be one hell of an NFL QB. No question.

Fox said...

I agree that all pro athletes are clutch to varying degrees or they wouldn't be pro athletes. But that doesn't mean they can't freak out when the stakes are highest. The easiest example is all those young players who just suck their first time in the playoffs/championship game. Yes, pro athletes have higher thresholds but everyone has a breaking point somewhere.

You are right re the Jeter hype, sort of. For someone who plays as well as he does, to maintain his numbers in the postseason is a sign of some "clutchness" and something that stands in sharp contrast to ARod and his New York playoff woes. But Scott Brosius was much more clutch than Jeter--Brosius's postseason numbers were much better than his regular season ones). And Jeter is certainly no Josh Beckett (who clearly goes to another gear in the playoffs).

Anyway, I think what you mean to/should say is the media overplays the clutch issue and often miscasts the wrong guys as clutch or unclutch. But anyone who thinks someone like Brady isn't more clutch than, say, David Carr or Joey Harrington, is crazy.

Fox said...

Sorry, my previous post somehow ended up under the wrong column.

As to the BC-VT game, I have to say that Ryan impressed me. I don't know if he is the certifiable stud people claim but he certainly has the moxie and the arm. Despite getting continuously nailed for the first 57 minutes, he kept his cool and led two beautiful drives (aided, no doubt, by VT's prevent defense and the exhaustion of their D-line). And the two TD passes were great plays, both on 3rd and long no less. I was less impressed with his on camera puking (especially since I got to witness it in all of its HD glory) but he is a good one. The rest of his team? Not so much.

Anonymous said...

I trust young Master Sam wore the appropriate attire this weekend?

Go Ducks!

Anonymous said...

Michael how do you know it's the baseball off-season? That's right it's Terence Moore's "Let's get Griffy" column time*. Are we even sure Terence is a real person anymore and not some lame ai project? Or is he just seeing how low he can go before the AJC dumps his ass.

* Note I didn't actually read it as I'm sure it's the same column I've read for the past 30 years (some exageration possible). But I love the AJC sport section's link's claim that the Braves need a CF and Griffy would fit, ignoring HE DIDN'T PLAY CF FOR THE PATHETIC REDS LAST YEAR.