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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Weekly Round-Up 9/24/13

Live Game Random Thoughts

A snippet of this speech being aired during the North Carolina-Georgia Tech game as the commercial promoting Georgia Tech is perhaps the most epic win of all time.

It's tough being little brother, isn't it Utah State?  ESPN should probably know better.

A lot of quarterbacks change plays at the line of scrimmage but I swear, I hear Tony Romo "kill, kill, kill" every single play.  Someone doesn't trust his OC.

It is a truly rare gem like Santana Moss that gets the chance to play so long in the NFL, while being merely "meh" as a player the whole time.  

Christian Ponder may not be able to throw for shit but man does he take off quick.   He should run every time the first read is bad.

My wife nearly fell off the couch laughing when Roethlisberger pump faked and then fumbled the ball after he hit it against his facemask bringing the fake in.  Hilarious.

Dolphin Watch

A 3-0 start has me feeling better about this season than I have in a long time.  The Falcons are a talented team and win over them, along with the beatdown the Colts gave San Fransisco, the last two victories look really nice.  Also helping with the optimism is the rest of the division.  I don't know who should be more embarassed today between the Jets, who had a mind-blowing 20 penalties for 168 yards (2 shy of an NFL record), or the Bills who actually managed to lose to the aforementioned Jets team.  As I have taken time to point out in previous blogs, the Patriots offense looks like a shell of its former self right now as well.  The Dolphins do not look like a 13-3 team, but 11-5 could take the division and that is totally achievable right now.  Now, the scorecard.

QB: B- - Ryan Tannehill's "internal clock" is hard to watch.  Holding the ball waaaaaaaaaay too long and putting the ball on the ground when he gets hit frequently.  The passes downfield looked beautiful but he needs to be getting more of them off.  The line is not good enough for him to look at the field like a TV guide until he finds a suitable show to watch.

RB: B - I am starting to question how badly Lamar Miller even wants to be a starter.  The starting job was all but given to him in the spring, then summer camp went so bad that Daniel Thomas started seeing more carries.  Miller has struggled to find much spark in the regular season as well and his days as a starter may be numbered.  Outside of one big run Sunday, Miller was pedestrian at best and Thomas actually scored a TD and moved the ball better.  Miller also had a few big drops in the passing game, one in a clutch situation in the fourth quarter.  Still, as a unit, these guys did what they needed to and Thomas actually came up big a few times in pass protection.  

O-Line: D+ - The reason I said that Miami can't be a 13 win team, these guys right here.  Tannehill was under constant duress all afternoon and allowed 5 sacks and countless more hurries.  As mentioned above, Tannehill needs to get rid of the ball quicker but part of the reason is because he is going to have to learn not to trust his line.  Pouncey can't make up for the other 4 guys alone.  

WR: C+ - During the offense, I was very skeptical of the re-signing of Brian Hartline.  It seemed that the team was rewarding him for being the only decent guy on the unit last year, despite the fact that he seemed likely to have peaked.  Hartline is the go to guy on this team, Mike Wallace is there to take all the attention off of him.  Hartline was the guy making big plays all game long and I'll begrudgingly admit Rishard Matthews (Nevada dirtbag) broke through big time in the clutch as well.  Wallace and Gibson were pretty quiet most of the day.  The corp looks strong as a whole but all seem less than spectacular individually.  

D-Line: C- - To be fair, this unit was far from 100% on Sunday, Cameron Wake left in the first quarter and never returned.  Koa Misi limped through parts of the game and spent considerable time on the sideline.  The line played the run very poorly all afternoon and took bad angles in pursuit.  Atlanta shred the line running the ball all day long, despite the absence of starter Steven Jackson.  The pass rush was non-existent for three quarters for a second straight week but in the fourth, it got going just in time to win the game.  

Linebackers: B+ - This unit took a step back from last week.  They were less helpful rushing the pass and were not as aggressive in shutting the run game down at the line of scrimmage, however these players cleaned up a lot of tackles that got through wave one in the run game.  If the tackles were not made clean, Atlanta would have blown Miami out.  The linebackers really shined in pass coverage though.  Tony Gonzalez was a non-factor after the first quarter.

Secondary: B - Brent Grimes is going to get a big contact offer next year.  He was solid all day long and came up with some huge pass breakups in the fourth quarter.  The seconds corner still looks like a weak spot though, Jimmy Wilson and Nolan Carroll were picked on all day long and were clearly outmatched by Julio Jones.  However, it's hard to hold being outmatched against Julio Jones against anyone.  

Coaching - A+ - There are games where the job of the coaching staff really shows, this was one, and the largest reason I believe in this Miami team.  Atlanta had more total yards, jumped out to a big early lead, dominated time of possession, and the turnover battle was even.  Coaching was the difference.  For the seconds straight week, Miami came out and was the undoubted better fourth quarter team, forcing turnovers, pressuring Matt Ryan, and buying Tannehill just a bit more time to find his receivers.  Worth noting as well, through three games, Miami has a total of just 90 penalty yards.  They have also been outgained in total yards every week, yet still 3-0.  That's a well coached team.

Bronco Watch

The Boise State game brought a lot of flashbacks of the opening disaster at Washington.  Sure, the offense played well enough, but the defense struggled mightily.  The Boise State defense is not going to be awful this year but it does look like it could very well be on the same levels as a dozen other defenses throughout college football's smaller conferences, such as Toledo, Tulsa, or San Jose State but that will not get this team to 10 wins.  A few emerging stars are starting to show up, most notably Aaron Baltazar, who will continue to see more looks until Jay Ajayi gets his past his bout of fumbleitis.  Boise State is going to struggle from here to keep the streak of 10 win seasons alive.  BCS hopes are over at this point but the MWC championship is still a viable goal.  The success of the season from here likely will be decided in the game at Utah State.  

Top 25

Please keep in mind that this is a very fluid list and that with such a small number of games to judge a team on, they may move quite a bit week to week.  

1. Oregon - Wins against UVA, Tennessee not huge wins but better than a lot of other top 10 teams. 
2. Alabama - Dropping a spot because the O struggled again against lowly CSU.
3. LSU - The Tigers have passed the eye test with ease, now prove it games start with UGA up next.
4. Louisville - FIU not a great team but allowing only 30 total yards to an actual FBS team is incredible.
5. Stanford - Garbage time looked bad, but affordable after 3 quarters of making ASU look like garbage.
6. Florida State - Jameis Winston is living up to the hype, watch out ACC.
7. Clemson - Hard not to drop after they nearly "Clemsoned" against NC State on Thursday.
8. Ohio State - With Wisconsin next we can finally find out if that D can hold up against equal competition.
9. Oklahoma State - The way the schedule lays out, Pokes should stay unbeaten through Mid-October.
10. Oklahoma - Big brother probably won't lose any ground though.
11. Washington - Offense is rolling, now time to see how it holds against PAC-12.
12. Miami - Always a good laugh when Savannah State visits a FBS stadium.
13 UCLA - The Bruins look to be a big favorite in the PAC-12 South now that USC is Kiffining it hardcore.
14. Ole Miss - I smell an upset in Tuscaloosa this week.  The Rebels are due for a big upset.
15. Georgia - Struggled this week against UNT - Will need to be better to hang with LSU this weekend.
16. Central Florida - A victory over South Carolina this week would really put them on the map.
17. Texas Tech - The Raiders will enjoy a bye before preparing for the meat of their Big 12 schedule. 
18. Fresno State - Beating BSU a huge breakthrough for program, Rutgers over Arkansas helps them too.
19. Georgia Tech - Win over UNC will go a long way towards ACC championship game hopes. 
20. Arizona - Game against Washington will show who is really better and who is carbo loading on patsies.
21. Maryland - WVU is bad but the game shows how much the Terps have come this year.
22. Northwestern - Defense has been shaky thus far but offense is probably Big 10's second best.
23. Michigan - Wolverines followed up near choke against Akron with near choke to UConn?
24. Minnesota - No, I'll don't believe they'll stay here either.
25. Navy - Unbeaten counts for something in my rankings, even 2-0 after 4 weeks.

Also considered: Houston, Colorado, Northern Illinois, South Carolina, Notre Dame, Texas A&M.  

NFL Power Rankings

1. Seattle Seahawks
2. Denver Broncos
3. Chicago Bears
4. New Orleans Saints
5. Miami Dolphins
6. Kansas City Chiefs
7. New England Patriots
8. Cincinnati Bengals
9. Indianapolis Colts
10. Baltimore Ravens
11. Tennessee Titans
12. Houston Texans
13. Green Bay Packers
14. Dallas Cowboys
15. Atlanta Falcons
16. San Fransisco 49ers
17. Detroit Lions
18. Carolina Panthers
19. San Diego Chargers
20. Philadelphia Eagles
21. New York Jets
22. Cleveland Browns
23. Buffalo Bills
24. St Louis Rams
25. Arizona Cardinals
26. Oakland Raiders
27. Minnesota Vikings
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
29. Tamp Bay Buccaneers
30. Washington Redskins
31. New York Giants 
32. Jacksonville Jaguars

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Weekly Round-Up: 9/17/2013

Topic One: Pay for Play?

It's been a rough week for the NCAA Offices.  First the news broke about reports linking several major infractions at Oklahoma State including everything from the standard money allegations to paying for sex for players.  A headache for sure but Oklahoma State is at most the third largest program in its own conference and the infractions seem to have taken place long enough ago that they seemed unlikely to have major implications on recent history. Then the bigger news broke later in the week with very strong evidence being provided that high profile players at Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Alabama had received compensation, potentially in excess of $40,000.  That is huge, given that Alabama has won three of the past four national championships and is currently on probation.  Let's not forget that the near three year investigation into the University of Miami is still drudging on at a snails pace.   At the end of all of this one has to wonder when the NCAA offices can hope to find time to even investigate all of these cases.  With so many different violations around and a clear lack of ability to investigate or enforce anything until well after the damage has been done, the theories that players should just start getting paid for their play seems to be gaining momentum everyday. This is the hottest topic in college football today, bigger than Bama, bigger than the scandals, bigger than Johnny Football.  Should players be paid?  The momentum from the media seems to be shifting further towards "yes" all the time. My take on things?  No.  Hell no.  

Here is why.  For starters, I am apparently one of the few that think a free education is worth the work that goes into playing college football, specifically given that most these kids are playing because they enjoy it in the first place.  There are a lot of people that say that a free education isn't worth that much.  Well I can say I'd love to have the $500 I throw back into student loans in my wallet each month, and I'd be happy to have been the guy missing field goals at Boise State a few years back to accomplish that.  Forget Boise State though, you want to tell me the four star recruit at Stanford isn't fairly compensated?  How about Duke?  Let's step away from the elite educational programs for a second, do you have any idea what an education at Ohio State, Miami, or UCLA costs?  

Now come the naysayers who will say that it encourages the players to leave early for the NFL so they can get paid.  Well I personally have yet to hear a single representative come out and say that college players should be paid millions of dollars, so I don't think a few thousand dollars a month is going to keep them from chasing NFL money early.  The NFL by the way, has 1696 players on their combined rosters.  That is fewer than the SEC and Big 12 combined, and they turnover their entire teams every 4-5 years, so don't even start the argument about how all the players are just going pro anyways.  It's statistically impossible.  The strong majority will be lucky to ever sniff a jock in an NFL locker room.  

All that aside, I'm willing to hear out the plan for how paying players will work, but I can't see how that would work.  The reason that this won't work is because before it can happen, the NCAA has to find a way to ensure one thing: That the pay does not create a competitive advantage. 

Schools obviously have athletic departments of various sizes and budgets, and the NCAA would bear the responsibility of ensuring the top flight programs can't overpay recruits to ensure they end up at program X. For example, Ohio State's athletic department has a budget that is literally more than 10 times that of a decent small conference program in Nevada.  What's to stop Ohio State from determining that the "real cost of education" is $4,000 a month on top of the normal expenses covered under the general scholarship?  How about $10,000?  Ohio State can afford either.  If that is where the dollar value falls, forget about trying to compete, Nevada either closes up shop on athletics altogether or tucks it's cute little wolfie tail between it's legs and runs back to the FCS.  

This is an extreme example obviously.  So let's look at teams that historically are reasonably evenly matched.  Let's talk TCU and Boise State, teams that played three times between 2008 and 2011 before TCU joined the Big 12.  In these three games, the margin of victory for the winning teams were 3, 7, and 1 points.  Evenly matched?  Without players being paid sure.  TCU's operating budget for football prior to joining the Big 12 was slightly under $25 million per year.  Boise State's?  Just under $9 million.  Now let them pay players, what do you think happens to those margins of victory?  TCU-BSU just became the financial equivalent of Yankees-Blue Jays and we all know how that ends.  There are examples of where this could occur within existing conferences.  The gap between Oregon and Colorado would look similar in the PAC-12, same as between Northwestern and Michigan in the Big 10, and Alabama and Vanderbilt in the SEC would just be laughable.  Kansas State would never be able to hang with Texas again.  

The point is that the NCAA can't just let the individual programs decide what they need to pay players.  It would ruin college football.  You could argue that the gap between the top program in the country (Alabama) and whoever you think is second has never been wider, however the gap between the number two program and the 126th program has never been more narrow and paying players ruins that.  It kills the unpredictable upsets, it ruins BCS busters, it virtually takes the MAC and Conference USA out of existence.  Rice, Tulsa, and Nevada's programs will cease to exist.  The NCAA owes it to every team not in a BCS conference to keep the playing field at the current level of inequality, they are already going to court to defend the legality of that, expanding the inequality inherent in the game is not option.  

The only way this works then is if the NCAA sets the fair stipend amount itself and advises each program what they can pay their players.  Easy solution yes?  In theory great, you just set an amount to pay players, enforce that all programs pay equally and move on.  This presents a few problems still.  One, Nevada still kills it's programs, Rice is dead too, and don't be surprised if even a few BCS teams like Wake Forest and Colorado go belly up with them.  That still isn't the biggest issue though.  Move to Los Angeles.  Seriously go live there for three months.  Once you've had your fill, move to Moscow, Idaho.  Then try out Miami, Florida, then give Ann Arbor, Michigan a shot.  Now tell me the "real cost of education" is the same in all of them.  Life in LA is probably twice as expensive as it is for other cities (say Pullman, WA) in their own conference.  So an equal stipend for all programs really won't work.  No, we will need the NCAA to send delegates to live on campus at each university.  Live life like a student and comprehend the what real costs are for each campus.  So now we need to hire 126 more NCAA officials to calculate the costs at each university.  Oh, and NCAA officials to track all the balance sheets for the payments now going out for any possible violations.  The military academies all just said "forget this shit, we don't need football that bad."  

Okay, let's just pretend that this all works.  We've hired all the people, we have realistic comparables about how individuals at each program should be paid, and we are going to live with the detriments and let Nevada, Idaho, North Texas, Tulsa, and probably 10-12 other schools I don't know much about eat the bullet and give up on playing FBS football, and we're ready to pay out our players.  The kid at USC is going to get $1,200 a month for his efforts, the star player at Washington State is going to get $550 a month.  The controversy is over, we can stop worrying about all the scandals ruining our games.  We simply monitor the balance sheets at each school and ensure they are paying accordingly and we're good right......  

Wait stop - what?  So you're telling me that Marquis Lee is going to stay for his senior year at USC for $1,200 a month?  You think these kids are going to take pennies on the dollar and stay in school and not still seek extra benefits.  Sammy Watkins can sell his jersey he played in last week for three grand anytime he wants.  Stop being stupid.  This doesn't work.  The only way this ever works is if the NCAA chooses to actually allow student athletes to unionize like the NFL players and demand a share of the profits from television contracts, so they can get their millions, or at minimum their tens of thousands.  Or hundreds if at Idaho..... or maybe some quarters for the vending machine with the knock off Jelly Bellies in it.  The problem with that theory is that the university presidents will never allow it.  I can't wrap my head around any strategy for paying players that doesn't either force about half of the FBS schools back down a level or leave the players so underpaid that the scandals continue anyways.  

My point is this: Don't open Pandora's box unless you know what's inside.  Be careful about assuming you know what it will take to keep a 19 year old start athlete that's been told he's untouchable his whole life happy.  It's probably more than you'll try to pay him.  

Topic Two: Dead Dynasty - Take Two

Remember that movie The Patriot starring Mel Gibson?  There is this scene where you see a soldier get their head taken clean off by a cannonball.  Tom Brady probably felt like all his receivers where that patriot on Thursday night.  Last week I questioned if the Patriots could really be as bad as they looked week one against Buffalo, after week two I wonder if they are even that good.  Tom Brady is supposedly the master of throwing the ball around the field but there is the matter of having any reasonable targets at all.  People were questioning who would catch the ball at the beginning of the season, that was before Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen got hurt.  That was when people actually believed Stevan Ridley could run the ball.  Now?  Well I think Miami is going to win this division and that has nothing to do with me believing in Miami and everything to do with me thinking the entire rest of the division is garbage.  Tom Brady can no longer spread the ball around, he doesn't have enough options.  Julian Edelman was targeted 18 times on Thursday night, entering the season, he had 69 career receptions in four seasons.  Those receivers are garbage, Pats fans should expect to see a lot more of this:

Topic Three: Desert Disaster

I'm still waiting for the refs to walk back out on the field and fix this mess and I bet there are a lot of players in the Wisconsin locker room waiting with them.  Badgers QB Joel Stave doesn't deserve to be one of them but he put it into the hands of referees to let his stupidity go in the first place.  In case you missed this catastrophe, watch the video below.

There are at least four different mistakes made on the play, three by referees.
1. The really obvious one.  Joel Stave takes the football and tenderly lays it on the field like he is laying a baby down for a nap.  No spiking the ball, no taking a knee to actually center the ball, simply setting the ball down on the turf.  A boneheaded move for sure. Mistake One.

2. The play obviously results in a loose ball.  Every player seems to be in shock as he lays it down and since nothing is happening, no one is moving to attack the ball.  A few moments later a few ASU defenders snap out of their trance of "he can't have been so dumb as to do what I think he did" and pounce on the ball.  However, for no explainable reason, a referee has already blown the whistle for no reason at all.  So the play is apparently dead with a loose ball in the middle of the field.  Mistake two.

3. The player for Arizona State that jumped on the football, just stays there huddling the ball like he's protecting his child from a sandstorm.  The whistle has blown and all the other players cleared away, yet the player on the ball is permitted to lay there and hide the ball, which according to every rule book in the history of football is a delay of game penalty on the defense.  This of course doesn't get called, he just stays there while seven seconds tick off the clock before the refs actually make him get up.  Mistake three.

4. The referee places the ball and then stands over it and doesn't not signal ready for play dispite the fact that neither team has made a single substitution.  He stands over the ball under the clock is at one second, effectively making it impossible for Wisconsin to actually win the game.  I cannot come up with a single valid reason as to why the ref was standing over the ball.  Mistake four.

I'm not sure who you want to say actually won this game but it's clear that neither team can feel that they earned their final score on the board.  How in the world this win convinced some pollsters to move Arizona State into the Top 25 is just another reason why the polls are a joke.  I'm not saying ASU isn't good enough to be ranked, I'm saying that there is no way that you could move them up based on this "win."  What's your take on this?  Does Joel Stave deserve more blame or the refs?

Twitter Recap

I don't tweet, but if I did, here is what my Twitter would have looked like while watching Alabama at Texas A&M on Saturday afternoon.

I'm sure there was a time when Verne Lundquist was one of the best sportscasters there was.  Today he is just a legendary voice that yells "WOW and "OH, MY GOODNESS" and often audibly asks Gary Danielson what he saw because he isn't sure.  I know, it's hard to know when it's time to hang it up sometimes, so here's your hint Verne.  It's time.

McCarron looks nervous back there early on, he is throwing some off passes without any pressure.

Analysts have been so focused on the poor run defense of A&M, they forgot to point out how awful the cornerbacks are.

I forgot to give Verne credit for laughing really loud at every single quip Danielson makes.  He's still good for that too.

After one quarter it kind of looks like instead of spending nine months planning to contain Manziel, Saban simply shrugged his shoulders and said "let the kid run."

Holy Shit, Manziel is untouchable.  Repeat Heisman moment, 11:58 to go in the second quarter of game three.  45 yard pass to gain 12 yards.  This kid is crazy.

And he follows it up with a god-awful throw that is picked in the end zone.  You're not so good you don't have to read the coverage before you read kid.

Seriously, these Aggie corners may not have great cover skills but at least they miss tackles.

This new targeting rule really is joke.  You can review the penalty and prove it wrong but if you do the yardage still will be enforced?  Ridiculous.

Story before the game: Can the A&M defense abuse the inexperienced line enough to hold Bama to few enough points that Manziel can survive a prepared Bama D.  Story at half time: Will either team actually play defense.  Nothing has slowed Bama down and only A&M has slowed A&M down.

That pick six could be contributed to the A&M offense taking tackling lessons from the A&M defense.

Saban's coaching in this game is shining, not in that he is shutting Manziel down but because he is letting the other team make all the mistakes when the talent seems almost neutral, the game is still getting out of hand.

42-21 near the end of third.  I'm out, the first few drives gave me hope that I was wrong about expectations for this game but A&M's defense gives me no hope that this game is getting any closer.

I hope Johnny Manziel's Heisman stock doesn't tumble because of this game.  He played outstanding.  Historically though, voters care more about your team's BCS standing than an individuals performance, so we'll see.

Top 25

1. Alabama - Still have some obvious weaknesses but no one has two wins that look stronger on paper.
2. Oregon - Hard to move them down after the humbling given to former SEC power Tennessee.
3. LSU - Still haven't played anybody but they are clicking on offense like we haven't seen in years.
4. Clemson - No movement on an off week.
5. Florida State - Anytime that starts sluggish and still scores 62 points deserves some recognition.
6. Ohio State - The D has a long way to go if they are really thinking National Championship Game.
7. Stanford - Looked uncharacteristically sloppy early against Army. Still hard to drop them too much.
8. Washington - Neither win so far is a blockbuster but giving credit for no flunkies on the schedule either.
9. Oklahoma State - The offense is back to it's normal 60 point game performances.  Watch out Big 12.
10. Oklahoma - Bedlam game could feature unbeaten teams, rest of Big 12 looks miles behind these two.
11. Louisville - Sloppy game against Kentucky may have been the biggest game of the season for Cardinals.
12. UCLA - PAC 12 defenses aren't exactly scary, Hundley may sneak into the Heisman race.
13. Michigan - Yes, they deserve a big drop after letting Akron nearly steal a huge upset in the Big House.
14. UCF - Louisville may actually have a threat in the AAC if the Knights keep playing this way.
15. Georgia - A much needed week off for a team that started the season on a brutal two game stretch.
16. Miami - If the offense finds a way to play at it's potential, Canes are a BCS sleeper.
17. Ole Miss - Rebs recruiting class is paying immediate dividends.
18. Baylor - The Offense looks unstoppable but can the D even slow down other Big 12 teams?
19. Northwestern - Teams have done less against worse schedules so far.
20. Michigan State - Proved this week that the O is at least capable of scoring.  D is built to win in B10.
21. Auburn - Three and zero is three and zero.  The Tigers are crawling back to relevancy.
22. Arizona State - I'm dropping ASU two spots because I'm still not actually sure they won this week.
23. Texas Tech - Win over TCU proves they can beat more than outclassed teams.
24. Arizona - Real tests soon to begin.  Don't worry AU students, I just mean on the football field.  Rimshot.
25. Fresno State - Delayed game gives some other teams a chance to impress and move ahead.

Also Considered: South Carolina, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Northern Illinois, and Georgia Tech.
Dropped from Rankings: Texas A&M and Wisconsin.

Bronco Watch

Now this was the kind of game that Bronco fans have come to expect.  The game went back and forth in the first half but then at halftime came the adjustments that I have been sorely missing in the first few weeks.  Air Force moved the ball almost at will through two quarters but the Broncos kept pace with them.  In the second half the D shut the Falcons down.  Reading the option, making clean tackles, forcing turnovers and on offense Southwick was incredibly efficient and Ajayi had the game Bronco faithful have been waiting over a year for.  Air Force is hardly an elite defense but they should be on par with Nevada and Fresno State's.  It was good to see a nice measuring stick against an upper tier conference foe and while BSU has far from their best team this year, the game gives hopes that they can still hope for a conference championship caliber year in a down Mountain West.  Given the respect BSU now carries in most polls, an unbeaten conference slate could actually put the Broncos in the running for a BCS bowl as well, but don't get hopes to high on that count.

Dolphin Watch

Last week against Cleveland, I saw a team that was ready to go out an win their winnable games but still had a lot of weaknesses.  This week I saw a team that may truly be prepared to hang with anyone on any given Sunday.  The game at Indianapolis would have gone the other way in years past.  The defense would find a way to fold, Luck leads his last minute drive, the Phins head back home to open their schedule there 1-1.  This team isn't just better it's tougher and ready to step up and make big plays when needed.  Here's my grade card for the week.

Ryan Tannehill: B - There are some things you don't tend to catch about a QB's play when looking at the box score.  Tannehill's stats through two games look quite similar to what he did last year but watching the game you see enormous improvements. His accuracy is spot on and he is making good decisions.  The main reason the numbers are the same is the added pressure he is facing with a rebuild offensive line in front of him and the fact that his receivers are struggling to get seperation.  He made a lot of the the "right" throws on Sunday to receivers that couldn't reel balls in because they were merely open enough to try but not open enough for it to be easy.  The one improvement he needs to make is adjusting to his pressure and getting rid of the ball faster.  The line is not going to buy him any time this year.

Lamar Miller: B - A good bounce back game after a horrible showing in Week 1.  He probably could have done more as there were good gaps on almost every run but Miami just wanted to throw the ball.  Could have topped 100 yards if he had 20 touches.  Also, since he had a decent game, can we cut Daniel Thomas yet?

Offensive Line: C- - Ah, there's the concern I couldn't spy in week one.  To be fair to the guys up front, they are not all bad.  It's pretty much just the tackles that are struggling.  Jonathan Martin is having a very hard time adjusting to Left Tackle a Clabo out at Right Tackle just isn't a great talent.  The interior of the line played very well.  But a unit that is 40% bad succeeds very rarely and hat is what happened this week.  THe line does seem to have gained their footing in run blocking though.  

Wide Receivers: B - Mike Wallace had the break out game he needed and Brian Hartline played well again this week.  Charles Clay looks to be a good safety valve as Tannehill seems to be growing attached to his tight ends.  Brandon Gibson was virtually invisible all day though and while the receivers made some big catches, they are still very much lacking in that big play ability as they struggled to find real separation all day and mostly made a lot of tough catches in tight holes.  The downfield blocking by this unit really impressed though, especially on the touchdown play to Wallace.  

Defensive Secondary: B- - The secondary as a whole played a solid game, especially in the first half when there was almost no pass rush to speak, it's a wonder that Hilton and Wayne didn't find a way to shred them.  I was very excited by how great Victor Grimes played, he looks like he is back to Pro Bowl form and has completely recovered from the ACL tear a year ago.  The reason the score is lower is the other corner Chris Clemons who covered well enough but missed several tackles and was easily bowled over on every play where downfield blocking applied.  The second corner spot is the clear weak spot on the Dolphin D.

Linebackers: A - For the second straight week, I was impressed with both of the new pickups.  Ellerbe and Wheeler both played great and without them the pass rush would have been hurting all day.  They made some great open field tackles and were difference makers on each blitz that Mike Sherman called.

Defensive Line: C+ - Virtually a non-factor until the fourth quarter.  The rush was almost invisible and while they stuffed the run well, they brought virtually no heat on Andrew Luck for three quarters.  Towards the end of the game, we finally heard Dion Jordan's name called and got a glimpse of the future as he brought pressure on some critical plays in the fourth quarter.  Still, they need him to get ready fast as the rush is invisible if lines are able to safely call double teams on Cameron Wake.  

NFL Power Rankings

1. Seahawks - Hard to pick anyone else after the dismantling they gave the Niners Sunday night.
2. Broncos - Can do more in the second half than most NFL teams do in four quarters.
3. Texans - Both wins show that this team is ready to fight for four quarters every week.
4. Saints - Defense is back to top form with Payton back at the helm.
5. Bears - Enjoy it now Bears fans, Cutler still looks like Cutler to me, we'll see how long this lasts.
6. Dolphins - The win over Indianapolis shows they are ready to hang with teams better than the Bills.
7. Chiefs - 2-0 is a big accomplishment after the past few seasons.  There is big time talent on this team.
8. Packers - Thrashing of Skins was a nice bounce back from a rough loss in San Fran.
9. Patriots - I can't remember the last time a 2-0 defending division champ was so uninspiring to watch.
10. Falcons - Game in St. Louis was nowhere near as close as the final score indicates.
11. Titans - Tough loss to Houston but this team looks ready to fight all year long.
12. 49ers - Embarrassing loss to Seattle but there is too much talent for this team not to bounce back.  
13. Bengals - Biggest concern is that Andy Dalton looks exactly the same as last year. 
14. Colts - A sophomore slump for this team looks likely.  Talented but too young for consistent winning.
15. Chargers - Honestly should be 2-0 but that receiving corp is going from thin to anorexic.
16. Eagles - Yes, NFC East, I remembered you were there.
17. Cardinals - Could Patrick Peterson really be the difference for this offense?
18. Cowboys - For every step forward..........
19. Bills - This team may be more ready to compete than anyone gives them credit for.
20. Lions - New Lions still seem to carry that old Lions stench.
21. Ravens - New Ravens carry nothing near that old Ravens scent.
22. Rams - Hard found win followed by blowout loss.  Guts. Glory. Rams.
23. Raiders - I know it was the Jags but they looked not awful on Sunday.  
24. Vikings - Team looks ready for glory everywhere but at QB.  It's a passing league.
25. Panthers - This team looks really close to being special.  A lot of coaches get fired for being really close.
26. Browns - Put a tough fight up in both losses.  The D is for real.
27. Jets - What do you mean Mark Sanchez is on IR?? Then who threw all those picks on Thursday night?
28. Steelers - They have to find something to work on offense or it could be the first 4th place finish in ages.
29. Bucs - The team has two big weaknesses: penalties and Josh Freeman, both have lost them a game.
30. Giants - Someone needs to remind Eli that he's not supposed to target the cornerbacks.
31. Redskins - Did RGIII tear an ACL or spend the summer at the bottom of the dead sea?  So, so rusty.
32. Jaguars - New Orleans levies can hold back more than the Jags O line. 0-16 a possibility?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Weekly Round-Up 9/8/13

Football is back and therefore so is my motivation to blog.  My intention this year is to write one blog each week that simply recaps the week for college and pro.  If you are a previous follower of my blog, you probably know that you can't trust my commitment to make this happen all year long but for now lets have some fun.

Subject One: Please Exit the Bandwagon to the Right

Before the college season kicked off, the level of hype that Jadeveon Clowney was receiving was off the charts level of ridiculous.  The Manning vs. Manning game in a few week will get less attention than Clowney did.  The Big Three for the Miami Heat think the kid was overhyped.  The expectations for this kid were higher than Eminem in an interview with Brent Mussberger.  You get the picture.  The point is that this kid had won the Heisman before the season kicked off, which is strange as no purely defensive player has ever won the award and no defensive lineman has even finished higher than fourth in the BCS era.  
After two weeks the speculation about his chances can officially be removed from my television, the talking can feel free to stop now.  One would have to believe that since a defensive player has not won the award in it's 78 year existence that it would take some truly miraculous numbers to accomplish it now.  Clowney's numbers through two games (nationally televised game by the way): 6 tackles, 1 sack.  According to this article on ESPN, the Gamecocks are statistically better with his ass on the bench. 
Personally, I believe the hype was never warranted.  The hype had everything to do with natural physical ability and nothing to do with the player's performance.  If you actually follow college recruiting, you have known Clowney's name for a long time, he was the number one overall recruit in 2011.  If you don't, then you probably didn't know who he was until this play last year.  

An absolutely incredible play, that I don't dispute.  I'm about to quote a statistic that I have done absolutely zero research to back up that I am going to present as fact: no player has ever won the Heisman trophy for making one great play in the previous season.  Quote me. Clowney is a great player and will succeed at the next level but he won't be at the trophy presentation in New York.  His Heisman campaign is rightfully over.

Subject Two: The Mortality of the SEC

 The SEC has won seven straight national championships and are heavily favored to win an eighth this year.  However that campaign appears to have hit some substantial roadblocks.  Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, SEC teams that all started the season in the top ten, have already dropped games in the first two weeks in the season.  Top-ranked Alabama will play seventh ranked Texas A&M this coming week.  The conference that started the season with six teams in national championship contention will be down to two unbeatens left in the top ten by the end of week three.  Now make no mistake about it, people will find a way to get a one loss SEC team into the championship game but one has to question if the conference is losing some of it's luster.  Alabama and Florida have both looked terrible on offense in their games played thus far and South Carolina, Georgia, and Texas A&M all have shown defense vulnerabilities that range from "they need some more tackling drills" to "holy shit, can Texas A&M stop anybody?"  The big tilt in College Station next week could come down to which unit is less abysmal the Tide O or the Aggie D.

Subject Three: Lane Kifiin Can't Wait to Go to Hell, His Seat Will Cool Down a Bit

There probably is not a whole lot to add to this subject that can't be summed up with the words of the USC faithful as the final seconds ticked off the clock on Saturday night.  A chant of "Fire Kiffin" was the only thing to interrupt the boos in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.  Despite having the preseason support of his athletic director, one has to wonder how much longer Kiffin can inspire any support. He has never proven to be a consistent winner with in his previous two jobs and while, sure 7-6 is a winning record, seasons like the one in 2012 will not be tolerated in USC.  In three short years, Kiffin has completely changed the perception of USC.  Remember folks, U-S-C.  The team that has won more than one-third of all Pac-12/10/8 championships ever.  After the Trojans, there is no real number two in the Pac 12.  Sure the Ducks are great right now, so is Stanford, but historically the number two is probably Washington, UCLA, or Arizona State.  The fact that I just named five teams as the potential second best program tells the story.  You come to USC to win PAC-12 championships and compete for national recognition.  Kiffin is an embarrassment to that legacy right now and the Trojans could feasibly finish 10th in the conference this year because Colorado is the only team left on the schedule that is worse than the Washington State team that beat them Saturday.

Subject 4: Dead Dynasty?

What the hell happened to the Patriots and Ravens?  I think just about everyone expected some drop off from last year's Super Bowl season thanks to the extensive turnover in players.  That being said, this is Baltimore.  One losing season since 1999, a perennial top five defense, and a coach that seems to make the most out of every player.  Here's what we learned on Thursday night.
1. Defenders don't become good simply by putting on a Ravens uniform.  Peyton Manning made Baltimore look like a practice squad this week.  Don't get me wrong, Peyton Manning is great but no QB has been seven TD passes great in half a century.  The Ravens secondary was historically bad.
2. Anquan Boldin should probably still be in a Ravens uniform.  The Ravens have absolutely no playmakers on offense and defenses will spend the entire season stacking the box on Ray Rice and making Joe Flacco throw the ball downfield.  Torrey Smith is the only threat on the team downfield.
3. Skeptics of Joe Flacco are right.  A poor defense can be fixed over a couple seasons by replacing a few players, so can a receiving corps.  How do you get 120 million dollars back though?  On Thursday, the weight of the team was on Flacco's, likely gold plated shoulder pads, and he responded by..... playing just like Joe Flacco always plays when it's not the playoffs.  The only difference is he threw more but the results were the same as usual. It's nice that you show up big for the postseason but someone has to get you there and it won't be the D this year. 
The Patriots were the real stunner.  Sure they won the game but come on, this is New England vs. Buffalo.  Buffalo was starting a rookie QB, that was a highly criticized draft pick, who missed most of the preseason.  Additionally Buffalo's best defensive player, safety Jarius Byrd, sat the game out as well.  I know there are questions around the skill positions this year but the Patriots have done more with less before.  If you look at the history of the Belichik Pats vs. teams in disarray.  You will see a litany of 63-7 and 49-0 scores.  On Sunday Brady and company were lucky to survive the day.  Apparently Brady and Belichik together are not an automatic.  If the Patriots are really the team we saw on Sunday then the AFC East is wide open.  

Subject Five: History Will Probably Have to Wait Another Year

There has been a lot of talk in the offseason about the historic seasons that Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson had last year.  The goals these players stated they had for this season: Megatron wants 2000 receiving yards and All Day is looking for 2500 on the ground.  How did they start the season? Johnson racked up a meager 37 yards and Peterson had a misleading 93.  I say misleading because on the first play from scrimmage Peterson reeled off a 78 yard touchdown run.  For the remainder of the game, Peterson compiled 15 yards on 17 carries.  From this point forward Johnson will have to average 130 yards per game and Peterson will need to average 160 and since his first run he is averaging .88 yards per carry.  

Subject Six: Commercials

I have DVR.  What that means to me is that from February through the end of August, I don't have to watch commercials.  I rarely watch anything on live television because if I record and watch later I can skip having these advertisements try to scramble my brain.  Then football season hits.  Sports are the only time I need to watch TV live, specifically because there are usually four or five games I flip between.  When I want to stick to a single game, I have to tolerate commercials.  I know a lot of people say they hate commercials but I have a really deep committment to such hatred. I HATE COMMERCIALS!!!!!  It's the marketer in me.  For most people many commercials are stupid, they hate seeing the same one over and over again, don't care about the product, or just don't think the joke is funny.  I share all of these sentiments but unlike most people, I can't just tune out and survive until the break is over, I have to analyze it.  I can't help it, it's the businessman in me.  So many commercials make my head hurt because I can't comprehend how they are supposed to promote the product.  Here are some of the commercials that are grinding my gears. 

All cell phone commercials: Seriously, we're at the point where cell phones have become a market of companies that feel so damn good about themselves it hurts to see them smugly promote their products.  Seriously, it's become elistist.  The commercials seem to aim less at making the phone seem great so much as making everyone who doesn't use it look like morons.  Examples include the commercials for the phone with a great camera that has all the parents fighting over position for taking their pictures at a school play.  Meanwhile, mom and pop hot shit sit in the back and sneer at all the other parents that dared to not center their point of personal pride around the picture quality of their cell phone.  Or every commercial for the Galaxy 4S.  The commercial with all the little green impish things washing the car also boggles mind.  What does it even mean?  Are we supposed to be impressed that your phone plays music?  I have been using a smart phone for 3 months and got the cheapest phone on the market, and I can play music.  Go die in a fire.

The French Fry Burger at Burger King: Is there any person out there that sees this commercial and thinks anything other than "that's just a really tiny hamburger with like four french fries on it."  They are acting like they just invented the freaking wheel and virtually every person who has ever eaten a burger has done this and then not patted themselves on the back for it.  

I do need to point out one or two commercials have got a good chuckle out of me.  My favorites are the GEICO "hump day" commercial and Cheez-It commercial that culminates in the cheese singing "Wild Zings."

The Dolphin Watch

I came into this season very nervous about my beloved Miami Dolphins.  They spent a ton of money and made some aggressive draft picks, there is a ton of potential for this team but if things don't click the failure could be monumental.  After one game, and seeing what the rest of the AFC East looks like, I think this is a playoff team.  Not a Super Bowl team mind you but a playoff team.  Here is my summary of the players that saw big spending come their way this offseason.
Mike Wallace: Most people thought the signing was risky.  After one week, I can say that it wasn't risky, it was stupid.  Wallace was invisible all day.  His route running is terrible and pure speed is all he brings.  He won't live up to salary but he does pay dividends for.....
Brian Hartline: Hartline was a Dolphin last year but signed on for a big contract as a free agent this season. The extra attention paid to the threat of Wallace on deep routes made Hartline very dangerous.  With one on one coverage he was a beast throughout the game, including catching one long touchdown pass.  Hartline's contract will pay off as long as Wallace takes attention off of him.
Brandon Gibson: Gibson played unevenly throughout the game.  He was the second leading receiver and saw ten targets but he also dropped two easy passes, both on third down and looked lost at times.  The jury is still out on Gibson.  
Phillip Wheeler: Wheeler shined on Sunday above all other signing.  He had six tackles, a pass defense, and QB hit, but beyond the stat sheet was active on seemingly every play all game long.  Wheeler will pay dividends.  
Dannell Ellerbe: Ellerbe had almost the same game as Wheeler on paper but off paper, he felt invisible. The jury is still out on this one. 
The Draft Class: What draft class?  Dion Jordan played on a few special teams plays.  Cornerbacks Will David and Jamar Taylor sat the game out.  I like the talent picked up in the draft but the fact that none were healthy enough to really spend time on the field in week one is disheartening.  

Overall, I loved the defense play all game long.  The linebackers look to be worth the contracts, the line was every bit as stout against the run as last season and Victor Grimes looks to be a nice upgrade at CB as well. Tannehill looked improved and the receivers helped out quite a bit.  The line pass protected well enough to give him some looks and new kicker Caleb Sturgis looked strong.  The run game looks to be the biggest weakness by far for this club though.  Lamar Miller played poorly enough that Daniel Thomas seemed not awful.  

Bronco Watch

I was pretty disappointed in the game Boise State played against Washington last week and not simply because I hate seeing my team lose.  The loss showed a lot of weak points that could haunt throughout the season.  Those points were built upon this week.  On the surface, you see a 63-14 win.  Go Big Blue, the Broncos are back on track, 11-1 here we come, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.  Let's look at the box score a little further.  
The Broncos only outgained Division II nobodies Tennessee-Matin in total yards 472-362.  Not nearly the difference one would expect with such a lopsided scoreboard.  Specifically concerning because the Broncos again gave up big yards to the hurry up offense of the Skyhawks.  Through two game the defense looks to have no answers on how to slow down a fast paced offense and the schedule still features teams that run up-tempo in Fresno State, Utah State, Nevada, Air Force, and BYU, all of which are considerably better that Tennessee-Martin.  The Skyhawks also converted 11 of 20 third downs and the real difference in the game was six turnovers and 110 penalty yards by the Skyhawks.  None of this is likely to be repeated in conference games.  
The silver lining: The Mountain West conference looks like it will be just absolutely dreadful this year. Outside of Fresno State's week one victory over Rutgers, the best win for the entire conference looks to be New Mexico over UTEP. Yuck!!!  Despite plenty of concerns on both sides of the ball, there is plenty of reason to believe BSU can still win the MWC. 

NCAA Top 25

For those of you that have never seen one of top 25 lists before be prepared to see a radical difference from the one in the polls.  There are two reasons for this.  First, preseason polls are a joke.  Just because a team was predicted to be a top 5 team before the season started, leaves me with no obligation to leave them there just because they have not lost yet.  Every year there are teams that look bad while winning early on yet manage to stay their spot in the polls.  None of that here, your polls are based on performance, not assumptions.  Secondly, I will rarely put teams with losses ahead of teams that have one.  If there are undefeated teams left, they should be the top teams. I am not going to leave Florida in my polls simply because they are supposed to be good.  They played like shit on Saturday, they are 1-1 on the year.  I am am keeping them out.  It's that simply.  Your hype has no place here. The one exception to this rule this week is Georgia, who is the only team in the country to play a ranked team each week so far and have a good showing in each game. 
1. Oregon - The point a minute offense lives even in the absence of Chip Kelly
2. Clemson - Victory over Georgia is the biggest win for any team so far in the season
3. LSU - Don't sleep on the Tigers, they look more complete right now than A&M or Bama
4. Stanford - A full season of Kevin Hogan at QB will give the Cardinal a crack at first national title since '26
5. Michigan - Win over Notre Dame is one of the best wins for anyone in the young season
6. Florida State - Freshman QB?  I think they'll be fine
7. Alabama - Offense had a lot of ?'s in game one, still that D will be elite all year
8. Oklahoma - Defense has been suffocating in two games
9. Louisville - Don't be surprised if Louisville stays in this slot all year
10. Oklahoma State - J.W. Walsh has established himself as "the guy," Pokes tend to be when the QB is
11. Texas A&M - That D has to have Aggie fans concerned but Manziel is still playing like last season
12. Washington - Still in mild shock about how complete the beatdown on the Broncos was
13. Miami - Win over Florida biggest in a long time and that D looks sharp
14. Baylor - Offense seems to keep rolling no matter who's under center
15. Ohio State - Too low you say? Baylor beat Buffalo by 30 points more than the Buckeyes did Week 1 
16. Ole Miss - Don't be shocked if the Rebs finish above A&M in SEC West
17. Georgia - Huge rebound over South Carolina, offense good enough to cover black eyes of the D
18. Northwestern - Maybe the best offense in the Big 10 
19. Wisconsin - Back to back shut deserve some recognition even if the opponenets were bad
20. Arizona State - In a wide open Pac-12 South, the Sun Devil may contend for a conference title
21. UCLA - See above
22. Fresno State - Moutnatin West looks to be theirs for the taking this year
23. Auburn - Back to back wins over some decent teams have Auburn back on the rise 
24. Marshall - The offense is good enough for the Herd to maybe sneak into BCS buster contention
25. Michigan State - If the offense ever gets going, Sparty will be dangerous

Also considered: UCF, Navy, Arizona, Bowling Green, Nebraska