Here’s some random thoughts on what transpired over the weekend:
— Ah, the Game of the Century. Sorry, but it failed to live up to the hype, despite all the SEC apologists who contend that what we witnessed was, in fact, a defensive masterpiece. Fellas, just because a game is low scoring doesn’t mean it’s due to incredible defensive play. In truth, the outcome of the game shows what happens when two really good defenses play two really average offenses.
Think about it. Outside of that flanker pass by Marquis Maze, neither LSU nor Alabama attempted anything on offense that would remotely be considered as ‘taking a chance’. The game plans were as tight as an old man’s back. It’s actually surprising to me that the teams produced as much offense as they did considering the vanilla play calling that took place. Those flares to Trent Richardson were about as crazy as it got…and we all saw how poorly LSU covered them. Hard to blame them considering they were probably expecting (1) off tackle (2) sweep (3) down & out or (4) bomb. In other words, the same playbook from that old classic roller-ball arcade video game between the X’s and the O’s.
Relax, that doesn’t mean these aren’t the two best teams in college football this year. But I think in order to be called a great team, you have to have to be at least very good on both sides of the ball. Yes, these are two very good teams, but no great team fails to score a touchdown in a matchup like this (and please don’t bring up the old Army-Notre Dame scoreless tie…).
— I also think another reason for the offensive banality was that a close second item on each coach’s to-do list (after the top item: win!) … was (2) Make sure if you lose, you lose a close one since the pollsters will barely punish you and maybe we can have a rematch. Go SEC!
So both teams played not to lose, knowing that if the other won by a hair, its chances at a title berth would still be alive. If this were the era before overtime, both sides would have been quite happy with a tie.
And Ara Parseghian would be proud.
Of course the pollsters played right along, rewarding this strategy by dropping the Tide a whole two spots in the rankings to No. 4, which helped put Bama at No. 3 in the BCS rankings that just came out.
— Just because I think the LSU-Alabama game was a dud between two cap gun offenses doesn’t mean I’m excusing poor defense by the rest of the title contenders. I’m talking about you, Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are an amazing offensive team, but I don’t think they’d stand a chance against an LSU defense that was given a full month to prepare.
— By the way, I joked after LSU’s opening win over Oregon that the Tigers will definitely go undefeated if they get 5 turnovers per game the rest of the way. Well, the numbers aren’t quite that high, but LSU sure does seem to get its share. The Tigers are second nationally in turnover margin (to that other unlikely undefeated team, Oklahoma State). But it’s the quality of LSU’s turnovers that make you shake your head. Case in point, Eric Reid’s interception where he stripped Alabama’s Michael Williams as both fell to the ground. It was a great play and if Williams comes down with it, the Tide probably comes away with the victory. But he didn’t. What’s amazing is that this kind of play would usually be seen as a freak occurrence for most teams, but it’s happened several times this season for the Tigers in some very key moments: the muffed punt by Oregon that allows Tyrann Mathieu to waltz into the end zone; Mathieu tapping a ball to himself to set up a Tiger score against West Virginia; probably another one or two I am forgetting–and now this.
At some point, these stop looking like freak occurrences and start looking like the work of some pretty unique playmakers. But I still wonder how long they can keep it up.
— The team that probably matches up best with the Tigers is Stanford. The Cardinal are a physical team and they have, arguably, the best player in college football. Stanford is banged up right now, but if it can get through the regular season unscathed, currently injured players like Zach Ertz, Levine Toilolo, Chris Owusu and Delano Howell will have plenty of time to heal in time for a potential BCS title game showdown.
— Why isn’t Brandon Weeden getting more Heisman love? Oklahoma State people want to know. I think the issue with Weeden is that he has gotten a bit lost in the shuffle of what was once a very strong Heisman field. Quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, Kellen Moore, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III dominated much of the early Heisman talk, so it was hard for Weeden to gain traction. There was also the factor of Cowboys wide out Justin Blackmon sucking up much of the preseason attention being given to the program.
I think Weeden has a chance to change all this if he can finish the season strong, but this is also one of those cases where the much-pooh-poohed idea of a Heisman campaign (horrors!) would do his candidacy a great service. Believe it or not, Weeden is not a well-known name in college football and letting voters know what he has done, while maybe providing a little compare-and-contrast with the other candidates, would go a long way.
— I know the honor usually goes to the coach of the national champ, but I’d like to see Bill Snyder get Coach of the Year for what he’s accomplished at Kansas State this season.
— I’m not a big fan of what Al Borges has done with Denard Robinson this year. Clearly, the shift in offensive philosophy is hurting his performance. Yes, Robinson can pass, but he’s not a pocket passer. As a result, his numbers are down in every passing category (with his accuracy plunging from 62.5% to 53.1%) and it’s not because he suddenly forgot how to throw the ball. If Michigan is going to stick with this style of offense, it needs to find the right quarterback for its system…or not run that system.
— I took some grief on Twitter on Saturday for suggesting that Texas freshman running back Malcolm Brown has been a big disappointment this year. After watching Joe Bergeron rush for 191 yards and 3 touchdowns against Texas Tech, it occurred to me that Brown isn’t even the best freshman back on his team. Because Twitter has limited contextual capability, let me expand here.
I am not suggesting that Brown is a bad back. I think he’s a good back and has a chance to have a very successful career. He’s been very solid as a freshman, with 635 yards in seven games (he did not play against Tech due to injury).
But the expectations for Brown were through the roof before the season (look here , here and here for examples) and I tended to agree, though I didn’t expect him to be the reincarnation of Adrian Peterson, as some claimed.
Much of that opinion was based on how he looked on tape in high school. After watching him several times this year, however, I see a good power back with slightly above-average speed and decent vision. He has the size and strength to be a successful running back in college and it wouldn’t surprise me if he racks up a couple thousand-yard seasons.
But he’s not a phenom. He’s not Ricky Williams. He’s much closer to Cedric Benson.
And Bergeron? I thought he showed some special stuff last Saturday and it wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up having a brighter future than Brown, though I wonder if he’ll get a real chance to show it while at Texas.
In the meantime, the Longhorns have a pretty good pair of freshman backs on hand.
— All I will say about UCLA is that when the apocalypse hits, all that will be left are the cockroaches, some canned goods and Rick Neuheisel.