No Sleep Till Football

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2011 Week 1 Power 15

Strangely enough, what was a very exciting Week 1 in college football was overshadowed by the events surrounding the sport relating to expansion. That talk simply won’t go away. More reports of Texas A&M going to the SEC were heard while a new rumor speculating that Oklahoma is in the process of persuading Oklahoma St., Texas, & Texas Tech to join with them in defecting to the Pac 12, giving college football its first 16-team super conference.

Of course with that speculation came more speculation about what happens tot he Big XII; what will the Big 10 do in response; who does the SEC add if they stay at 14 teams or what other 3 teams do they add if they go to a full blown 16; where does Notre Dame wind up; does the Big East survive? It goes on and on and on. Amidst all this speculation we had some incredible football games which translated into a Power 15! Let’s take a look.

RANK TEAM COMMENTS
#1 I got to watch the Alabama/Kent St. game this weekend simply because I wanted to know just how good the Tider were. In a word? This team is unbeatable. Maybe that’s a bit of hyperbole after just one game, and I know Kent St. isn’t exactly the most intimidating of opponents, but Alabama’s defense is SCARY good. I thought be the season they would have a hard time giving up 10ppg. I don’t think they will. AJ McCarron is solid at QB and RB Eddie Lacy actually looked better than Trent Richardson. It doesn’t matter. This team could score 7ppg and go undefeated. I know it’s only one game, but WOW!
#2 Oklahoma did what was expected which was light Tulsa up. I actually thought this might be more of a game because the Golden Hurricane is expected to have a prolific offense. Maybe losing HC Todd Graham means that much, but what is probably more the case is that the Sooner defense is being a bit overlooked because the offense is so good. I didn’t get a chance to watch this game because I don’t get FX, but Landry Jones threw for 375 yards while Ryan Broyles caught 14 passes for 158 yards. It’s almost inevitable that Oklahoma & Alabama meet in the BCS Championship. The Sooners offense looks incredible while Alabama’s defense would be more than ripe for the challenge. What happens when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force?
#3 What do you expect from “Lucky Les?” I’ve been saying this for years and it’s that you never can really tell how good LSU is because of games like this. Oregon muffs a punt in the 2Q and LSU scores a TD. Oregon fumbles deep in their own territory? LSU scores a TD. That’s 13 points there in a 40-27 game. Oregon fumbles a kickoff after that TD and it’s another TD. That’s 20 points now. We saw this in the Notre Dame game, but you simply can’t be -3 in TO margin and win. Give credit to LSU. For the most part they stopped LaMichael James & Darron Thomas didn’t throw too well against the Tigers. QB Jarrett Lee wasn’t great, but LSU did a good job eating clock by running the ball. Outstanding win for LSU and you have to give credit to a team for not beating themselves in a situation as big as this game was.
#4 Let’s not get crazy with Boise St. beating Georgia 35-21. Boise was ranked #5 with the Bulldogs being #19 so the Broncos should have won this game. A couple of things stand out here. The first is that Kellen Moore is an incredible QB. Maybe he’s not a prototypical NFL QB, but neither was Drew Brees. Despite losing his top 2 receivers, Moore completed 82.4% of his passes while throwing 3TD to 1INT. I’ll take that ratio. The other thing that stands out here is the hidden yards that special teams provides. Go take a look at the boxscore and you’ll notice how close this game was statistically, but Georgia had 14 drives in this game with exactly NONE of them starting on Boise’s side of the field. It took Georgia until their last drive of the 3rd quarter to start a series past their own 25 yard line! Georgia’s average start of drive was at their own 20-yard line. Of their 14 possessions, Georgia started 9 of them inside their own-20. That’s outstanding special teams right there. Boise is going to be extremely tough to beat.
#5 The most surprising thing about Stanford’s 57-3 win over San Jose St. wasn’t the absolute beating the Cardinal gave the Spartans, but rather that QB Andrew Luck had 9 incomplete passes on the afternoon! If you would have asked me if I thought Luck would have more TD passes or incompletions against San Jose St., I would have taken TD passes! Stanford’s defense did a great job against the run holding San Jose St. to 27 yards on 32 carries. That’s come in handy when they face Oregon. With Oregon losing to LSU, the only thing standing in Stanford’s way of a perfect 12-0 season and a shot at a national championship is their own defense. How good can they be?
#6 People are sleeping on Mississippi St. It’s that simple. I think it’s possibly because of the brand and the fact that the Bulldogs play in the same division as Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn & LSU, but I’m telling you right now that MSU finishes 2nd in the SEC West and pushes for a BCS bowl. They moved up to #16 in AP Poll after starting the year at #20, but that’s going to get a lot higher. Mississippi St. crushed Memphis 59-14 to open up the season which isn’t that surprising, but I was happy to see how well MSU played with their rush defense. They also put up 645 yards of total offense on the Tigers. Chris Relf is a hulking QB at 6’4/250lbs. He’s a senior as is RB Vick Ballard. HC Dan Mullen knows what to do with an offense and I’m surprised we aren’t getting more Cam Newton comparisons with Relf in size alone. Ballard ran for 166 yards & 3TD in only 10 carries! Relf completed 62% of his passes which was solid. MSU is WAY TOO low in the polls.
#7 The 46-14 win over SMU might have been the most impressive of opening weekend. SMU is a solid football team and Texas A&M put the hammer down. QB Ryan Tannehill was amazing as was RB Cyrus Gray. WRs Jeff Fuller & Ryan Swope were fantastic. A&M has an offense that is going to be incredibly difficult to stop. Defensively they have a little room for improvement. While the overall rushing numbers looks amazing, they had a bit of trouble stopping SMU RB Zach Line. Line got them for 128 yards & 1TD on 22 carries. We are talking about a June Jones led offense here that was held to 14 points so I’m certainly picking nits. How A&M hammered SMU and Oklahoma beat down Tulsa is interesting. I’d think those are two schools who could have fared better, but what it makes me think is that no matter how good a non-AQ school might be, if the AQ school is at the top of their game, it really isn’t much of a contest. Texas A&M & Oklahoma proved that this week by destroying 2 of the best CUSA has to offer.
#8 I got to watch Wisconsin/UNLV and I came away super impressed with the Badgers. My one worry coming into the season for Wisconsin was how new, and former NC State QB Russell Wilson would fit into a team that was very much run oriented and needed their QB to be more of a game manager than an actual playmaker. Wilson did a fantastic job of that against the Rebels in Wisconsin’s 51-17 humiliation of UNLV. Granted, UNLV is one of the worst teams in the FBS, but Wilson only attempted 13 passes to Wisconsin’s 38 rushes. Montee Ball & James White did the heavy lifting while Wilson on attempted runs twice. The Badgers did give up 300 total yards and didn’t force a single TO, but for now Wilson looks like a godsend for a team that didn’t have a ready replacement for Scott Tolzien.
#9 You can’t nitpick when you team throws a 34-0 shutout, but Florida St. looked a bit raw thumping UL-Monroe. It was obvious that UL-Monroe was incredibly overmatched by the talent FSU put on the field which is why the 34-0 final looks almost like a misprint. The Warhawks are one of the better teams this year coming out of the Sun Belt and they actually did a decent job of controlling clock with the run. It was an odd type of game really. FSU was up only 17-0 at the half so ULM probably didn’t think to start passing heavy to get back into the game. Instead they bled the clock while FSU held on. One thing about this game that stood out is how aggressive FSU was on defense. This looks like the old Seminoles where it was attack with ridiculous speed.
#10 The Cornhuskers got their first win as a member of the Big 10 by defeating Chattanooga 40-7. Obviously Nebraska is going to concentrate on their ground game as they should. QB Taylor Martinez & RB Rex Burkhead ran for 210 yards & 4TD on 30 carries. That a 7.0ypc average. If an opposing defense has no chance at stopping Nebraska’s rushing attack, then they are going to keep rushing the football. It makes sense. On the other hand, if true frosh QB Bubba Starling had suited up in Lincoln instead of going full time for the Kansas City Royals, how firm would Martinez’s hold on the starting QB position be? He was just 11 of 22 for 116 yards. He didn’t throw any picks, but that’s not a great start. My guess is that he’s going to face a lot of defenses better than Chattanooga’s! This will be interesting to see play out especially with Michigan St.
#11 I can’t hammer Oregon too much for losing to LSU. If you believe LSU is a top-5 team then you could easily argue that Oregon belongs in the top-6. I think the take away point here is the same as the one Notre Dame learned against South Florida. Oregon was -3 in TO margin and -48 in penalty yards and expect to beat good teams. LSU is a really good team. So is South Florida and teams like Oregon & Notre Dame can’t just show up. Even a team like Alabama playing Mississippi St. later on this season can’t just show up be -5 in TO margin and expect to win. The same for when Oklahoma plays Texas A&M. The downside for the Ducks here is that they are on the outside looking in. To get back to the national championship game they need to run the table and hope nobody goes undefeated. The loss against LSU won’t look bad at the end of the season unless LSU tanks (I think they might), but the Ducks have solid chances to get back into the thick of things and at least get to the Rose Bowl. Chip Kelly is an excellent coach so it’ll be interesting to see how he motivates the troops going forward.
#12 According to Phil Steele, Akron is the worst team in the FBS this season. Ohio St. dominated the Zips in a 42-0 blowout in Columbus. How much does it mean is up for debate, but now that Miami-FL is dealing with their own suspensions and Colorado not looking so hot, Ohio St. could start the season 4-0 before hosting Michigan St. Statistically Ohio St. put on a clinic. Akron was held to 5 first downs and 90 total yards while the Buckeyes totaled 27 first downs & 517 total yards! Again we’re talking the Akron defense, but I think a lot of people were curious how Ohio St. would look at RB & QB and they looked good. Joe Bauserman & Braxton Miller combined to go 20 of 28 for 293 yards & 4TD. In Dan Herron’s absence, Rod Smith & Carlos Hyde ran for 167 yards & a TD. Their yards per carry average wasn’t fantastic, but still. This week against Toledo will be more interesting I think, but Ohio St. looked pretty good post Tressel and post-Pryor.
#13 Oklahoma St is ranked in the top-10 and that’s too high. The Cowboys certainly put on an offensive display in beating Louisiana 61-34, but the Rajun’ Cajuns suck and OSU gave up 34 points & 320 total yards. That means Texas A&M and Oklahoma are likely to put up 50 points and 500 total yards on the OSU defense. QB Brandon Weeden was a bit off. He completed only a tick above 61% of his passes and threw 3 interceptions. Weeden did throw for 388 yards so maybe he gets close to 500 without the picks! Justin Blackmon & Joseph Randle combined for 282 total yards & 2TD. I said at the beginning of the year Oklahoma St. was going to have an incredible offense, but that the defense might be their limiting factor in how far they can go nationally. Playing Arizona and Nic Foles on Thursday should tell us something.
#14 Talk about a weird game. ECU beat South Carolina 24-14 in the first half, but the Gamecocks came back in the 2nd half to beat the Pirates 42-13 for an eventual South Carolina win by a final of 56-37. The game had 9 turnovers and East Carolina ended up running 20 more plays than SC with time of possession being almost identical. There were 8 fumbles lost! Big picture here is that South Carolina didn’t get very good games from QB Stephen Garcia or RB Marcus Lattimore. East Carolina isn’t supposed to be very good, but SC played a very sloppy game. Kudos to Steve Spurrier and his staff for some halftime adjustments, and keep in mind that this is a game South Carolina would have lost in recent years. I thought they might come out slow because they normally do, but coming out rusty and still winning by 20 is a pretty big confidence boost.
#15 In case you were wondering, this is the 4th team out of the SEC West in the Power-15 and the 5th from the SEC giving the conference a full third of the top-15 teams in the nation. I wasn’t sure how Arkansas would fare after losing QB Ryan Mallett, but I thought worse when star RB Knile Davis got injured and is now out for the season. Arkansas opened up the year with a 51-7 beating of Missouri St. That’s not overly impressive, but Bobby Petrino is an incredible college football coach and the Razorbacks have a shot at having a pretty darn good defense. The QB combination of Tyler Wilson & Brandon Mitchell went 28 of 35 for 364 yards & 3TD. Ronnie Wingo and true freshman RB Kody Walker ran for 76 yards & 2TD. The running game is still a work in progress, but if the passing attack really is that good moving forward, Arkansas isn’t going to miss much. Their only problem is playing in the SEC West. They’ll likely start 3-0, but we’ll get a clearer picture in Week 4 when they travel to Tuscaloosa.



DROPPING OUT

#11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish: There isn’t a ton you can say here about Notre Dame. Finally when the program is starting to garner some national respect, they go and shoot themselves in the foot with a home opening loss to South Florida 23-20. It was a frustrating game to watch really because the weather got in the way causing a couple of delays and Brian Kelly mistakenly tabbed Dayne Crist as the starting QB for the first half. Tommy Rees came in and turned it around, but it was too little too late. Something to keep in mind is that South Florida is a pretty good football team. Notre Dame was NEGATIVE 5 in turnover margin. If the Irish were playing Eastern Michigan they could absorb that kind of TO ratio, but not against a top-15 or top-20 team like South Florida. Throw in 73 yards worth of penalties and you have a significant problem. The Irish can still get to 10-2, but they need the 10-2 to get to the BCS. The room for error is down to zero because Stanford looks amazing.

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September 8, 2011 - Posted by | Alabama, Arkansas, Boise St., Florida St., LSU, Mississippi St., Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio St, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Oregon, Power 15, South Carolina, Stanford, Texas AM, Wisconsin

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