This ‘n that on a Wednesday:
—Congrats to Stewart Mandel of SI.com, who had the foresight and guts to pick Washington to beat USC. That’s why the guy is an “expert.”
—ESPN’s Heisman Watch is out and its top five is the same as the HP Heisman Poll.
—Can Sam Bradford strike the pose again? John Rohde thinks so, but it sounds far fetched to me. He was already a super long shot before he got hurt. Missing two-and-a-half games will bury his candidacy for good.
—Watching the Arkansas-Georgia game on the replay right now. Bobby Petrino really is an offensive genius. The Arkansas offense is so creative and fun to watch, you don’t want the game to end. It doesn’t hurt having a future top five NFL pick in Ryan Mallett, but the Razorbacks will be tough for years to come thanks to one of the best schemes in college football.
By the way, isn’t it funny how the introduction of all these dynamic offensive styles to the SEC has suddenly meant fewer great defensive teams in the league? Whatever happened to the Georgia defense, for instance? Maybe some of us were right to say that one reason the defenses were looking so good for so many years was because the offenses were so freakin’ vanilla. How hard is it to stop a team that runs off-tackle every play?
Speaking of great offenses, here are my top five offensive minds in college football right now:
1. Gus Malzahn, Offensive Coordinator, Auburn
2. Art Briles, Head Coach, Baylor
3. Bobby Petrino, Head Coach, Arkansas
4. Urban Meyer, Head Coach, Florida
5. Kevin Sumlin, Head Coach, Houston
Rising Star: Mark Whipple, Miami (Fla.). It’s amazing how much a competent offensive coordinator can mean to a program. Memo to all Athletic Directors: Do not let your head coach hire as offensive coordinator a guy who tries to run an NFL-style scheme and by that I mean whatever it is you see being run on Sundays by most teams in that league. Miami made this mistake for years, squandering a bunch of talent along the way (USC is doing the same thing now). The ‘Canes are finally reviving offensively with Whipple and now, lo and behold, it suddenly seems like Miami has a bunch of fast, productive players flying around out there. Well, some of them have been around for a couple years, it’s just that they weren’t being used properly. Now, they’ve been coached up and it shows.
This is college football. You have 20 hours per week to get players ready (insert obligatory Rich Rod joke here) and trying to teach NFL schemes to young players is counter-productive. It takes a long time for many NFL players to learn these offenses and they have more than 20 hours per week. What’s more, it takes a perfect storm of talent and experience for those offenses to work really well in college (see Miami 2001 and USC 2005). Who has time to wait for that? Certainly not most head coaches.
—On the other end of the offensive mind spectrum, Pete Carroll says that Jake Locker is the best quarterback USC has faced in his nine years as head coach of the Trojans. Just off the top of my head, the names Vince Young, Aaron Rodgers, Joey Harrington, Dennis Dixon and Jason Gesser come to mind and I can’t help but think this is a handy rationalization for a tough loss. I think Locker is a great talent with amazing upside, but so far his production is not up to the standards of the guys I listed. Not even close.
—A lot of people fell in love with Georgia Tech’s Jonathan Dwyer last season, but I never thought much of him. He only has 168 yards on 30 carries so far this year. I still think Tech QB Josh Nesbitt is the more talented runner of the two.
—Future star alert: Keep an eye out on Kansas state running back Daniel Thomas. I know he didn’t do very well against UCLA on Saturday–what do you expect playing against a team from the physical Pac-10 Conference?*–but the JC transfer looks like he’s going to be a load for the Big 12 to handle.
—Everyone thought this would be a scintillating college football season, but you have to admit it’s been a bit lackluster thus far. Florida and Texas seem sluggish, USC has already laid its annual egg, Terrelle Pryor doesn’t appear keen on becoming the next Vince Young, Oklahoma lost Sam Bradford, the ACC and Big East look as bad as we all feared (save Miami and Cincinnati) and the BCS upstart most thought would break through–BYU–got crushed. To top it all off, everyone has the swine flu.
This is just the kind of season where a gritty, not-so-flashy team grinds its way to a title. Which is why, right now, I like Alabama to do just that. Who will the Tide play in the BCS title game? I think probably Texas, though Miami and Cal are a couple good dark horses.
—The Big 12 has had a good two-year run, but it looks like the league is a clear No. 3 this year after the SEC and Pac-10. The turnover in players next year is going to be remarkable. Just look at the quarterbacks alone. Gone will be Sam Bradford (unless he’s an idiot), Zac Robinson, Todd Reesing and Colt McCoy. Naturally, that means OU, Texas, Oklahoma State and Kansas will be in rebuilding mode (to the extent that the first two actually rebuild). Can the Sooners and Longhorns win the Big 12 title with new quarterbacks? Maybe. But at this point you have to like the chances of Texas Tech and Baylor to challenge for the title as those two teams will clearly have the two best returning quarterbacks in the conference.
—A lot of people aptly compare Jahvid Best to Reggie Bush–they are about the same size, have elite track speed, outstanding receiving and kick return abilities and both play/played in the Pac-10–but has anyone ever noticed that both players have the same number of letters in their first and last names? Spooky.
—What the…? ESPN.com has some stat guy doing a Heisman Predictor formula, which I can’t read much about because I’m too cheap to shell out for the ESPN Insider package. From what I understand, you pay to get Heisman projections based on stats and some other factors. Here’s the teaser from the latest installment:
Through the first three weeks of the college football season, there has been very little movement at the top of the Heisman Predictor standings. Florida QB Tim Tebow and Texas QB Colt McCoy are firmly planted in the top two spots, and they’ll continue to be until either Florida or Texas loses a game. But other players have positioned themselves for a run at the top of the leaderboard should either team falter.
I’m pretty sure I wrote that sort of thing on at least one occasion here at HP and it did not require any sort of algorithm (just the trusty Heismandments, plus the ability to gauge voter sentiment).
And…it was free.
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