Impressions From Saturday

Things are starting to take shape in the national title and Heisman races…

Bruce Feldman thinks “The U.” is not back yet.  Well, I agree.  But “Miami” might be.  We may never return to the days of the army fatigue-wearing, Luther Campbell-cavorting swaggering Hurricanes, but is that really necessary for Miami to be an elite program again?  I don’t think so.  This group can form its own identity on their way to resurgence and I like their chances of doing just that.  Sure, there was the debacle at Virginia Tech, but I remember the 1985 ‘Canes getting crushed by Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl, too.   This Miami group is very young, but they are already performing like seasoned veterans.  They bounced back against a good Oklahoma team with no problem.  Looking ahead on the schedule, Miami will be favored to win every game.   Even a slip up along the way gets the ‘Canes to 10-2.  I think that will qualify as being ‘back’.  

—What ails Cal?  Simply put, the Bears lack players, espcially at the quarterback position.  That spot continues to be a thorn in Jeff Tedford’s side.  For a guy who has such a grand track record of tutoring quarterbacks, his recruiting for the position has been awful at Cal.  Just look at it:  He inherited Kyle Boller and helped salvage his career.  He then lucked out by finding a diamond in the rough in Aaron Rodgers.  But since 2003, he hasn’t been able to recruit a top flight talent at the position.  They have all been mid-level guys and he hasn’t been able to make any of them great as he has done with past players.  Tedford’s offense is heavily dependent on good quarterback play and Kevin Riley has been spotty at best.  Meanwhile, Cal’s overall recruiting efforts have been tepid.  The Bears have a couple 10-win seasons in Tedford’s time there, but he has yet to produce a consensus top 10 or even a top 15 recruiting class.  He gets the occasional five-star stud, but has been relying on overlooked and underdeveloped recruits to build his classes.  That’s fine to a point and if you scout guys well, you can have some success.  But if you get too many sleepers, you put your program to sleep.  And that’s why Cal just can’t turn the corner.

—Iowa has beaten Northern Iowa and Arkansas State by a combined four points.  At home.  This is why they are not in my top 10 teams.

—Everyone is talking about how much better Jake Locker is, but I think that Steve Sarkisian is making a mistake  by turning him into (primarily) a pocket passer.  The guy has serious wheels and yet he hardly ever took off on any designed runs against Notre Dame.  Why take that element out of your game plan?  Locker’s improvement in the pocket will help his NFL stock later, but downplaying his special running skills hurts Washington now. 

—Two of my darkhorse teams for this year going in were Stanford and Auburn.  They are now a combined 9-1.  I’m very impressed by the new-found toughness that Jim Harbuagh has brought to Stanford.  I think the Cardinal will be the main challengers to USC in the Pac-10.  Meanwhile, watching Auburn’s offense against Tennessee was a delight.  Once the Tigers get a couple recruiting classes in place, look out.  The only question:  How long can Auburn keep Gus Malzahn?  He will no doubt be a hot head coaching commodity after this season.

–I watched the Texas A&M-Arkansas game with great anticipation.  I wanted to see what all the fuss was over Aggie quarterback Jerrod Johnson.  Color me unimpressed.  Granted, I don’t think he has a great supporting cast, but I saw a lot of throws off the back foot and some iffy feel in the pocket.  He puts up numbers, but until he does it against some good defenses, count me as a skeptic. 

—Don’t look now, but after five games, Jimmy Clausen is leading the nation in passing efficiency.  I haven’t always been a fan of Clausen’s.  I think when he arrived at Notre Dame he was an overhyped prima donna.  But he has paid his dues.  For two years, he was beat up behind a suspect offensive line and was the scapegoat for some embarrassing losses.  He could’ve packed it in or transferred.  He was humbled in a big-time way, but now he is tougher–and better–because of it.   He has become more than a hotshot passer–he’s become a great quarterback and leader for the Irish.  Is there anyone else–outside of Tate Forcier, maybe–that you want leading your 2-minute drill to win the game?  He puts throw after throw on the money and he is doing it despite turf toe and the pressure of leading an offense that gets little help from a suspect defense.  I don’t know if Clausen will win the Heisman, but he’s become a very good player who has a chance to be great.   

—Watching the LSU-Georgia game, I was struck by how poorly coached these two teams looked.  The game was exciting, no doubt, and these teams have a ton of talent on hand.  But the game basically boiled down to a bunch of athletes flying around, with the coaches hoping for the best.   For the life of me, I’m not sure how LSU lets Georgia complete a 46-yard pass on third and six late in the fourth quarter to a wide open Tavarres King.  Then, how does Georgia allow Charles Scott to take a basic off-tackle play for a 33-yard touchdown?  It’s no wonder LSU can almost lose to Mississippi State one week and then win a game like this.  You just never know which team is going to show up.  The Tigers could lose by 40 to Florida next week or win by 10.  Georgia could explode for 50 on a team or whimper its way to 13.  Nothing surprises me when it comes to these two programs.       

—Top competitors for some of the other awards, after 4-5 games:

Biletnikoff (top receiver)–Golden Tate, Eric Decker, A.J. Green, Dez Bryant

Thorpe (top defensive back)–Eric Berry, Taylor Mays, Rahim Moore

Outland (top interior lineman)–Gerald McCoy, Brian Price

Butkus (top linebacker)–Rolando McClain, Eric Norwood

Doak Walker (top running back)–Jahvid Best, Doel Devine, Toby Gerhart

—Florida papers are calling for Bobby Bowden’s head after the Seminoles’ loss to Boston College.  But the problem isn’t just Bowden–merely a figurehead at this point–but the coach-in-waiting, Jimbo Fisher.  Why does anyone think FSU is suddenly going to get better with this guy as the head coach?  What FSU needs to do after this season is thank Bowden for a great time and force him to retire.  Then, they need to can Fisher for his horrible performance as offensive coordinator.  Finally, go out and get Houston’s Kevin Sumlin or Auburn’s Gus Malzahn to be your coach.  Problem solved.

—BCS Bowl projections right now: 

Title Game: Alabama-USC

Rose Bowl: Ohio State-Miami

Sugar Bowl: Florida-Cincinnati

Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech-Texas

Fiesta Bowl:  Oklahoma-Boise State

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Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.

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22 Responses to Impressions From Saturday

  1. CloroxingTheGenePool October 4, 2009 at 4:31 pm #

    #1 Why has Miami suddenly gotten good?
    #2 Will Iowa’s winning the Big 11 convince you that they are good? This is their best team since 2002.
    #3 I don’t see Ohio State in a BCS bowl game this year. See them losing at least twice more.
    #4 I don’t see USC as being deserving of a BCS title game slot, even if they finish out the season undefeated.
    #5 Texas vs. Alabama or Florida for the national title.

  2. Heismanpundit October 4, 2009 at 4:39 pm #

    1. I attribute it to better recruiting and bringing in a superior offensive coordinator in Mark Whipple.

    2. Good, but not great. I doubt they get by Ohio State and will probably lose another somewhere.

    3. Someone has to win the Big Ten. I think OSU will and go to the Rose Bowl.

    4. I don’t know if USC is deserving now, but if they finish 11-1 with wins over Ohio State, Oregon, Stanford, etc., they’ll go to the BCS game.

    5. I originally had Alabama-Texas, but I think Texas might lose to OU, which could knock Texas out and send anothe team (USC? Va Tech/Miami) in.

  3. Anonymous October 4, 2009 at 4:40 pm #

    —BCS Bowl projections right now:

    Title Game: Alabama-USC

    Rose Bowl: Ohio State-Miami

    Sugar Bowl: Florida-Cincinnati

    Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech-Texas

    Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma-Boise State

    Are you drunk?

  4. Heismanpundit October 4, 2009 at 5:16 pm #

    All that has to happen for this to take place is for Oklahoma to beat Texas and then win the Big 12 (they get Bradford back, so it could happen) and then USC has to win out. Of course, it may not happen, but we’ll see, won’t we?

  5. Bucknut October 4, 2009 at 7:28 pm #

    Already told y’all. USC and Ohio State will play in the Rose Bowl. Everybody is overlooking Auburn in the SEC. If they beat Alabama and go to the SEC championship and play Florida. Tebow is 0-2 vs Auburn. They are the dark horse in the SEC as Iowa is the dark horse in the big 10.

  6. Anonymous October 5, 2009 at 6:50 am #

    Do you think Cal will ever be able to turn the corner, or is Tedford squeezing the most out of Cal that is possible?

  7. Rick Vigorous October 5, 2009 at 12:36 pm #

    Umm. Of course OU could win, but who in their right mind picks them over Texas? Texas’ bread and butter is attacking the middle of the field, the underneath stuff. Miami killed OU underneath. I’m not saying, I’m just saying…

  8. Max October 5, 2009 at 1:13 pm #

    Good observations, HP. QB is indeed what’s killing Cal. Makes them one-dimensional.

    This year is going to be bittersweet for Auburn, I think. Malzahn comes in and delivers a great offense…then will probably bolt for a HC position.

    Malzahn is the real deal…I thought world hunger would be solved before anyone brought good offense to the SEC. He’s basically taken Tuberville’s players and coached em up.

    I agree with Bucknut…USC will play in the Rose Bowl (if that). They’ve burned voters too many times with these losses to bad teams. All things being equal, they will get passed over for a title slot by a one loss Texas team or Florida/Alabama/Auburn. It’s a shame because they would probably win the title game if they got there, but they have no one to blame but themselves. You can’t lose to UW and expect to get a shot at the natty.

  9. Eric October 5, 2009 at 9:04 pm #

    Max –

    What do you mean burned voters with these bad losses?

    I understand there have been bad losses, but when I think of being ‘burned’ I think of OU or Big X teams in the BCS games…those are examples of being exposed by other teams.

    With the exception of UT and the best college football game ever played, USC has dominated the BCS.

    All USC’s losses show over the year is that the Pac X is better than people think and going on the road in the conference is harder than people think.

  10. Max October 6, 2009 at 9:26 am #


    I am actually a USC fan. Been a season ticket holder for 15 years. So I am intimately familiar with not only the team but also the conference.

    I agree that USC has dominated the BCS. You don’t need to be a fan to see that. They spank everyone out of conference, including Big 10, Big 12 and yes, even the mighty SEC. Hence my comment that USC would probably win the championship if they got to the title game.

    I also agree that the Pac 10 doesn’t get enough respect nationally. They were undefeated in bowl season last year but, more than that, they also play the toughest non-conference schedules of any conference out there. While I take pride in playing the least amount of I-AA teams of any conference, I wonder if it’s really the right strategy. The SEC, Big 12 and Big 10 all play a bunch of cupcakes out of conference, so they pad their records (and statistics) before going into conference play. Meanwhile, the Pac teams will play a tougher OOC conference game…and for what? If they lose, they don’t get any credit. So which game is more impressive: A narrow road loss by Stanford at a tough Wake Forest team, or Arkansas’ 48-10 home field win over Missouri State? Obviously, Stanford’s performance is more impressive, but it’s a loss and it automatically puts them a loss behind in the chase for any kind of decent bowl berth. In other words, voters don’t care if you schedule cupcakes – they only care if you win. Hell, the coaches – who make up half the BCS poll – aren’t even paying attention to their ballots. They (or their interns) are looking at won-loss records or scores, and they see the loss for Stanford and the win for Arkansas, and automatically put Arkansas ahead of Stanford.

    Another issue for the conference is exposure. Tom Hansen was a dreadful commissioner. He preserved the Rose Bowl ties, even when it hurt the conference, and tied the conference to deals with FSN and Vs while other conferences were tied to major networks. Hopefully he cuts some better TV deals.

    This all relates to USC. The above points contribute to the Pac 10’s weaker reputation. That makes things hard enough for USC already. Even though the conference is much tougher than people give it credit for, the national misperception hurts USC. So there is already low margin for error. Now, when the Trojans go on the road and lose to a team like UW, it’s hard to defend them. And let’s face it…they had no business losing that game (road game or not).

    And one bad loss is OK. Every team has an off game. But this has happened for 3 years. Stanford, UCLA, Oregon State. If you look at the other national championship participants, they didn’t lose to a team like UW or Stanford (who is good now but was awful when USC lost to them). That would be like Florida getting to the title game after losing to Vandy.

    Without these losses, USC possibly could have won 5 titles this decade.

  11. ChloroxingTheGenePool October 6, 2009 at 9:59 am #


    The Pac 10 and in particular, Southern Cal, hasn’t recently played the likes of Florida, Georgia, LSU, or Alabama, i.e., the best the SEC has to offer. I think you overestimate how good your conference is, to be honest and to say the least. Until you’re butting heads upon the field with the SEC’s best in bowls regularly, like the Big 10 has (& not done well), I think it’s ignorant & foolhardy to talk of how the Pac 10 could have won this or that or more importantly, will win.

  12. Max October 6, 2009 at 10:08 am #


    Why hasn’t USC played the likes of UF, Georgia, LSU or Bama? Because they won’t play USC.

    The Trojans will play anyone, anywhere…unlike SEC teams.

    Also, when the Trojans played Auburn in 2003, they were ranked #6. Is that not considered the SEC’s best? (USC won that game, by the way).

  13. ChloroxingTheGenePool October 6, 2009 at 10:24 am #


    Are you implying that those SEC teams would be afraid to play USC?! LOL. Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it. I imagine the bravado from Pac 10 fans would be a little less if there was a yearly bowl tie-in vs. the SEC each year, as there is with the Big 11.

    No, I don’t think Auburn belongs in the conversation because they are only occasionally good. Same with Arkansas, Tennessee, etc.

  14. Max October 6, 2009 at 10:59 am #


    I’m not implying that SEC teams are afraid of playing USC. I’m outright saying it.

  15. Ed Newman October 6, 2009 at 11:14 am #

    I think it is crazy to think USC couldn’t play and win titles in the SEC. Would they year in and year out win the conference? No. But neither does UF or Bama or Georgia or LSU.

    Could the rest of the PAC 10 do well in the SEC? That is a tougher question since the rest of the conference can’t seem to put consistent winners together. Most years I think Oregon could compete with the best of the SEC, but I don’t think any other team would be expected to be in the top half of the SEC more than once or twice in any four year period.

  16. Anonymous October 7, 2009 at 1:40 pm #

    USC is a good Team. But each SEC team already plays most of the other teams in the SEC. That in itself is a difficult schedule. BTW where is Brandon Spikes for the Butkus.

  17. Eric October 7, 2009 at 3:24 pm #

    The best comparison for USC and the SEC is when we played Auburn back in the Caddillac/Ronnie Brown days and destroyed them in both games. We’ve also had fun tussles with Arkansas teams that certainly competed in some SEC games that weren’t close. Your argument that Auburn is only occasionally good – even though that matched up in years when they were the best the SEC had to offer has no logic behind it. Not surprised you’re an SEC fan at all.

    What no one in SEC country admits is that the drop off in division 1A is more than people think. We’re talking about 18 yr old kids here. They make mistakes, especially in front of hostile drunk crowds – no matter if they’re in Louisiana or Oregon.

    All I know is that USC can’t get a game with the SEC – mainly because people learned from those Tubberville mistakes. It’s easy to schedule 4 wins “because we have the SEC schedule”…it’s much harder to go out and play legit teams in a home and home.

    The SEC needs to act like the Pac X and schedule 9 conference games so you actually get more of the potential good games. The fact that Big XII, Big 11 and SEC avoids so many teams year in year out is sad. The argument for a champ game negating the need for this has never made sense to me.

    Gotta love the rumors of USC – Texas matching up…

  18. CloroxingTheGenePool October 7, 2009 at 5:19 pm #

    The last Pacific 10 team other than Southern Cal to win the national title was Washington, and that was almost 2 decades ago. To find the next Pacific 10 football national title not won by Southern Cal, one has to go back over 5 decades. The Pac 10 has one good team, USC which surely benefits from playing in a weak conference, i.e., it only has to worry about the out of conference games each year. But I’m not complaining. Keep Pete Carrol on. Never has a coach done so little with so much (& will continue to).


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