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