Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It’s a Trap! Michigan 27, Wisconsin 25

By Admiral Ackbar (John Sears)

“It’s a trap!”, Admiral Ackbar warns the Rebel Alliance that is planning an attack on the Death Star in Return of the Jedi. In retrospect, this notable quote and scene becomes and interesting descriptor of what transpired at the Big House on Saturday. Coach Brett Bielema of Wisconsin warned that their Big Ten opener against Michigan could be a “trap game”. Is this the type of battle that can make or break a Badger team on the losing end?

I saw it with my own eyes and I still don’t believe it or understand how the trap happened. Maybe that’s because the only time I left my seat was when the Badgers attempted a quick pass deep in their own territory that was tipped, intercepted by weak-side linebacker John Thompson, and returned for a lead-changing touchdown. The stadium started to erupt because the home team somehow took the lead, and I was ignorant - jamming a soft pretzel in my mouth behind section 42.

I am compelled to give an eye-witness account and feel for the roller-coaster transgressions that culminated in the second largest comeback in the Big House…ever (amazing considering Michigan was also celebrating their 500th game in Michigan Stadium). To start, the loudest cheer from the 109,000+ during the first three hours of attendance came when gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps was introduced just before kickoff. Surprisingly, the crowd didn’t crescendo to this level again really until said interception described above, which gave Michigan the lead for good.

The loudest booing prior to halftime was offered to the Wisconsin marching band just before kick-off…ironically while the band stood in block M formation respectfully offering their rendition of The Victors. Strange. Possibly afflicted by this bad karma the Maize and Blue closed out the first half horribly (down 19-0, 10 possessions netting 17 yards, five punts, three fumbles and two interceptions), They received a meteor shower of boos from a sea of maize exasperated and salty - reinforcing this is not how they envisioned their Big Ten campaign starting.

Fast forward to 2:27 left in the third quarter, out of nowhere (obviously in response to a mind-bending motivational half-time speech by none other than Yoda) and within 12:33 of game clock, the Wolverines rattle off four touchdowns, rack up 242 yards of offense and take the lead. In that same time period, the methodical power rushing attack of Wisconsin sunk in to a black hole, yielding three punts, one interception, one fumble and zero points.

And if that weren’t enough to make all of us feel like we’ve come out of a three hour cycle of being frozen in carbonite and standing toe-to-claw with the Rancor, the Badgers regroup and find themselves within Michigan’s red-zone thanks to some nifty passing by quarterback Allen Evridge. The Wolverines’ defensive line stepped up again as junior defensive end Brandon Graham took down Evridge, causing a fumble that Michigan recovered. Game in hand? Hardly: A three-and-out later, Evridge and company start a last-ditch effort out of the shotgun with just 1:19 left on the clock, down eight. With the sudden emergence of tight end Travis Beckum off the bench, the Badgers march down field and Evridge finally connects with David Gilreath in the end zone over cornerback Morgan Trent to come within a two-point conversion of a tie. And they convert! No, wait, penalty (illegal procedure). Do over fails and the trap game has come to fruition just as Coach Bielema warned.

So if there was a move script that seemed to recap all that transpired, it would sound something like this: The Galactic Empire (Michigan) is struggling on rebuilding its Death Star (rebuilding off of last year’s loss to the Badgers). Meanwhile the Rebel Alliance (Wisconsin) are trying to overcome the deadly power of an operational Death Star (not winning in Ann Arbor since 1994) with a full frontal attack force (power rushing attack). The Rebel attack seems to be primed for success and has all its pawns in place (19-0 lead at half-time) when Admiral Ackbar (Bielema) realizes they have fallen in to a trap (four unanswered Wolverine touchdowns). The fleet tries to withstand the onslaught (late touchdown pulls them within two to tie), but succumb to the power of the Empire (lose 27-25).

This sounds like a movie with a lot of potential, but it lacking the storybook ending. In Return of the Jedi, the Rebel Alliance persevered in the end by the leadership of their Jedi Master. As the Big Ten story continues to unfold, will the Badgers find a way to persevere after losing a battle to win the Big Ten war? Bucky would say, “The force is strong with this one.”

National Football Foundation Chalk Talk

NFF News

With more than $300,000 in scholarships and 15 all- expense paid trips to New York City at stake, The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) is set to announce Wednesday more than 160 semifinalists for college football's most prestigious academic honor - The 2008 Draddy Trophy presented, by HealthSouth.

One of college football's most sought after and competitive awards, the Draddy Trophy recognizes an individual as the absolute best in the country for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership. From the 160- plus candidates from all divisions of play creating the pool of semifinalists, the NFF Awards Committee will select the 15 finalists for the award, which will be announced on Oct. 23. Each of the Draddy Trophy finalists will win a $18,000 NFF National Scholar- Athlete Award for his post-graduate education.

NFF Chairman Archie Manning will be the keynote speaker for the Murphy Enterprise Center's 2008 Leadership Luncheon at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas on Friday, Nov. 14.

To become a member of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Alumni Association, please contact NFF Director of Special Projects Hillary Jeffries at 800-486-1865 or via email at hjeffries@footballfoundation.com.

Two-Minute Drill

College Football Hall of Famers Doug Flutie, Bob Griese, Lou Holtz, Mark May, and Andre Ware are among the broadcast teams for ABC Sports and ESPN football this autumn... Hall of Famer and 2007 NFF Gold Medal co-recipient Roger Staubach was honored for his efforts in the construction of Pope John Paul II High School Stadium in Plano, Texas, last week. The Navy great performed the ceremonial coin toss as John Paul II faced Trinity Christian-Addison last Friday night... Georgia broadcasting legend Larry Munson officially retired from the Bulldogs' radio booth... SEC schools participated in the "Together We Can" food drive collected 40,000 pounds of food for underserved families in the region during 12-day activities. For every yard gained by both teams in the Raycom SEC Game of the Week, Regions Bank will donate a new tree to the Arbor Day Foundation's work to reforest areas in the southeastern part of the country... Duke head coach David Cutcliffe entertained students and faculty at "Chat With Coach Cut" activities on the Durham, N.C., campus last week... Tulane hosted "Bring Your 'A' Game - Celebrating Education in New Orleans," as the Green Wave took on SMU at the Superdome... Navy and UNLV have scheduled a first-ever four-game series from 2014-17. Navy also has been designated as one of the teams represented in the 2010 San Diego County Poinsettia Bowl pending eligiblity after the '10 regular campaign... NCAA Football has launched a special link via NCAAFootball.com to download schedules for all schools... Thom Gossom, Jr. , the first African- American athlete to graduate from Auburn, recently released his memoir "Walk On," which depicts his struggles on and off the football field in the 1970s... Mike Flynt, who started playing linebacker for Sul Ross State (Texas) at age 59, released his new book "The Senior" detailing his experiences as the oldest contributing member of a college football team in NCAA history... HBO Sports has opened production on "Breaking the Huddle: The Integration of College Football," noting integration of college football in the South and the Civil Rights movement of the '60s. It will debut on Dec. 16. The program uses extensive research from the College Football Hall of Fame archives and culminates with the famed Southern California- Alabama of Sept. 1970. ESPN's acclaimed primetime E60 newsmagazine program Tuesday at 7 p.m. (EDT) features Hawai'i graduate assistant coach Brian Kajiyama and his courage of fighting through a cerebral palsy affliction since birth... The Big Ten Network will premiere Hail to the Victors: Greatest Stories of Michigan Football, a new show which traces the lineage of the storied program, following the Michigan-Toledo game on Oct. 11. Narrated by Thom Brennaman, Hail to the Victors will examine some of the most successful seasons of Michigan football with archived interview footage with legendary coach Bo Schembechler.

Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium will honor American Indian tribes with the new Minnesotal Tribal Nations Plaza. An 18-foot sky marker for each of the state's 11 tribal nations will be placed outside the main gate of the new stadium... Cal recently kicked off a $250 million football fundraising drive, pushing the purchase of premium seats at its new stadium... North Texas students will vote Oct. 13-17 on an expanded fee structure to help finance a new on-campus stadium for the Eagles... Dick Jacobson of Iowa State has contributed $5 million to ISU - most of the gift to help revamp Jack Trice Stadium... Smithville Communications has made a $250,000 donation to Indiana athletics... Ellen and Dr. Brent Feller have made a $500,000 contribution for Iowa athletics facilities... Sacramento State has received a $50,000 endowed scholarship from the family of the late Hank Elespuru... Arkansas State Athletics received its largest single donation from Charles Luter for improvements to its athletic academic facility.

College Football Hall of Famer Joe Theismann was recently named the 2008 Davey O'Brien Legends Award recipient in recognition of his life-long contributions to football. Theismann will be presented with the award at the 32nd Annual Davey O'Brien Awards Dinner on Feb. 16, 2009, at The Fort Worth Club in Fort Worth, Texas... Miami (Fla.) added five former standouts to its Football Ring of Honor: RB Edgerrin James, QB Jim Kelly, DT Cortez Kennedy, C Jim Otto and QB Gino Torretta... R. C. Slocum, Texas A&M's winningest football coach, was inducted into the schools's athletic hall of fame... College Football Hall of Famer John Gagliardi (St. John's, Minn.) was named the 2009 recipient of AFCA's Amos Alonzo Stagg Award... Beth Holtz, wife of former Notre Dame football coach and 2008 College Football Hall of Fame inductee Lou Holtz, has been awarded an honorary monogram by the Notre Dame Monogram Club. Coach and Mrs. Holtz founded the Lou and Beth Holtz Charitable Foundation in 1998 to help support disadvantaged persons of all ages and homeless shelters in South Bend, Ind., and Columbia, S.C.... DB Ron Allen is the most recent inductee into the Rutgers Athletics Hall of Fame... Baylor's 2008 Hall of Fame class includes football great Ray Crockett and former director of athletics Tom Stanton, who spearheaded the fundraising efforts for the Texas Sports Hall of Fame Southwest Conference wing... Kansas State inducted retired head coach Bill Snyder and university president Jon Wefald into its Athletics Hall of Fame as key participants in the "Miracle in Manhattan" turnaround of the Wildcats' football program... New Mexico State added Pervis Atkins, Denvis Manns and Walt Williams to its Aggie Football Legends Ring of Honor... The Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation released its "Watch List" for its 2008 Dodd Trophy.

Connecticut and IMG College have signed a multi-year year agreement for broadcast and marketing rights... Arkansas has extended its corporate partnership with Collegiate Licensing Co. for five years.

Charles Walemon "Cotton" Price, 90, quarterback and captain of the 1939 national champion Texas A&M squad, died last Wednesday. The 1937-39 letterman paced the '39 squad to a 11-0 record... Dick Lynch, 72, 41- year member of the New York Giants' radio broadcasting crew and a standout at Notre Dame and in the NFL, died last week... Former San Jose State HB and decorated World War II pilot Bert Robinson, 86, passed away... Wally Hilgenberg, a standout lineman at Iowa, passed away at 66... Plato Gus Andros, all- conference guard for the 1946 Oklahoma team, died at 86.

Key NFF Dates

Oct. 19: First Release of 2008 BCS Standings - Irving, Texas
Dec. 9: NFF Annual Awards Dinner at the Waldorf=Astoria - New York, N.Y.
Jan. 5, 2009: National Hall of Fame Salute at the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl - Glendale, Az.
Jan. 9, 2009: Presentation of MacArthur Trophy to BCS champion - Miami, Fla.

2009 BCS Schedule

Jan. 1: Rose Bowl presented by Citi - Pasadena, Calif., ABC
Jan. 1: FedEx Orange Bowl - Miami, Fla., Fox
Jan. 2: Allstate Sugar Bowl - New Orleans, La., Fox
Jan. 5: Tostitos Fiesta Bowl - Glendale, Ariz., Fox
Jan. 8: FedEx BCS National Championship Game - Miami, Fla., Fox


DALLAS (FWAA) - North Carolina strong safety Trimane Goddard has been named the FWAA/Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week for games of the weekend of Sept. 27.

Goddard, a 5-11, 195-pound senior from Robersonville, N.C., made eight tackles, intercepted two passes and broke up another in the Tar Heels' 28-24 come-from-behind victory at Miami.

On the final play of the game, Goddard intercepted a pass in the back of the end zone after knocking it out of the hands of the intended receiver. Earlier in the game, Goddard returned an interception 35 yards.

Goddard will be added to the 2008 Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List. The Bronko Nagurski Trophy will be presented to the best defensive player in college football on Dec. 7 by the FWAA and the Charlotte Touchdown Club at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte, N.C. Five finalists for the Nagurski Trophy will be announced on Nov. 17.

Each week during the 2008 season the FWAA All-America Committee will select a national defensive player of the week from nominations made by the 11 Division I Bowl Subdivision Conferences and major independents.

Last season, LSU tackle Glenn Dorsey won the coveted Bronko Nagurski Trophy during the 13th season the FWAA has named a national defensive player of the year.

The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit organization founded in 1941, consists of more than 1,000 men and women across North America who cover college football for a living. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include game day operations, major awards, a national poll and its annual All-America team.


DALLAS (FWAA) - With their 27-21 win over top-ranked USC, the Oregon State Beavers (2-2) are the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl National Team of the Week for games of the weekend of Sept. 27.

Freshman Jacquizz Rodgers ran for 186 yards and two touchdowns as the Beavers sprinted to a 21-0 halftime lead. Safety Greg Laybourn's fourth-quarter interception led to Oregon State's final score and sealed the win.

It was the second time in school history that Oregon State has knocked off a No. 1 team, the last coming in a 3-0 win over USC in 1967. Two years ago, the Beavers beat No. 3 USC in Corvallis as well.

Other Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Bowl National Team of the Week nominees for the weekend of Sept. 27 included:

· Alabama (5-0): The Crimson Tide scored on its first five possessions to lead 31-0 on its way to a convincing 41-30 win at Georgia.

· Duke (3-1): The Blue Devils ended a 25-game ACC losing streak with a 31-3 win over Virginia. Duke, off to its best start since 1994, forced five second-half turnovers in the win.

· Ole Miss (3-2): Jevan Snead threw two touchdown passes and ran for another and the Rebels blocked the game-tying extra point and stuffed Tim Tebow on fourth down to upset Florida, 31-30, in Gainseville. The win ended a 14-game road losing streak in SEC play for Ole Miss.

The FWAA has named a national team of the week since the 2002 season. This is the fifth season that the award has been sponsored by the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

Members of the FWAA board of directors and All-America committee decide the weekly honor. Each Monday during the 2008 college football season, the FWAA will name the Tostitos Bowl National Team of the Week through Dec. 1.

Since 1971, the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl has hosted six games that have decided the college football national championship, including three Bowl Championship Series title games. This season the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl game will be played on Jan. 5, 2009 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., and the Insight Bowl will be played on Dec. 31, 2008 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.

For more information on the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl National Team of the Week, go to footballwriters.com or fiestabowl.org.

2008 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl National Teams of the Week
· Weekend of Aug. 30: Alabama
· Weekend of Sept. 6: East Carolina
· Weekend of Sept. 13: USC
· Weekend of Sept. 20: Boise State
· Weekend of Sept. 27: Oregon State

This Date in College Football History

September 30, 1939: Fordham and Waynesburg College (Pa.) play in the first televised college football game via experimental NBC station W2XBS in New York. Covered by one camera at Triboro Stadium, the game is seen by over 500 viewers within a 50-mile radius of New York City.

Credit: The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame

Monday, September 29, 2008

Big Ten Power Rankings - Week Five

1. Penn State (2) 5-0
Last week:
W: 38-24 vs. Illinois
Red-hot Penn State wins convincingly against #22 Illinois. Star athlete Derrick Williams scores rushing, receiving and on a kick off return. Coach Joe Paterno hasn’t seen that since, well, never. They are first in points scored -- brought to you in “HD” format -- and second in points against in Big Ten.

2. Ohio State (3) 4-1
Last week:
W: 34-21 vs. Minnesota
Ohio State’s new rushing attack with quarterback Terrelle Pryor (eight carries, 97 yards, three total touchdowns) and Beanie Wells (14-106 yards) in the same backfield left Minnesota’s defense helpless on their keys. The defense was opportunistic (three turnovers) and stout, preventing the big play (average 4.2 yards/play against). Not to belittle their poor performance against USC, but the Buckeyes with their new look will be a force during the conference schedule.

3. Michigan State (5) 4-1
Last week:
W: 42-29 @ Indiana
Energizer Bunny tailback Javon Ringer does it again, amassing 198 yards and a score on 44 carries. More promising is quarterback Brian Hoyer answering the bell, passing for 261 yards and two touchdowns. Less promising, however, is the defense giving up almost 500 yards.

4. Wisconsin (1) 3-1
Last week:
L: 27-25 @ Michigan
Tough loss experienced by Wisconsin at the hands of a schizophrenic Michigan team. Up 19-0 at halftime and perhaps looking ahead to Ohio State, the Badgers become victim to the second largest comeback in the history of the Big House. It is gut check time for the Badgers.

5. Northwestern (8) 5-0
Last week:
W: 22-17 @ Iowa
The Wildcats preserved their best start in over 45 years with a come from behind win on the road at Kinnick Stadium. Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bacher was inconsistent at first, but out-classed (28-of-45, 284 yards, three touchdowns) Iowa’s quarterback Ricky Stanzi (21-of-30, 238 yards, one touchdown, two turnovers).

6. Minnesota (7) 4-1
Last week:
L: 34-21 @ Ohio State
A tough draw for the Gophers to open up conference play against Ohio State. They hung with the Buckeyes momentarily, lost a key fumble and lost the game. Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber was gutsy and is a star in the making for the Gophers, despite a modest box score (23-of-36, 187 yards, one touchdown, one interception).

7. Illinois (4) 2-2
Last week:
L: 38-24 @ Penn State
Maybe a tougher draw was Illinois squaring off against the unstoppable Penn State offense. Illinois was lead by star wideout Arrelious Benn, shredding Penn State’s defense for 110 yards receiving and two touchdowns on only four grabs. Defense seems to be the question mark – in their two losses, the Illini have surrendered 971 yards and 90 points (maybe unfair assessment as their other loss came to the number one offense of Missouri).

8. Michigan (11) 2-2
Last week:
W: 27-25 vs. Wisconsin
First half: Build a deficit of 19-0 with 10 possessions netting 17 yards, five punts, three fumbles and two interceptions.
Second half: Within 12:33 of game clock, the Wolverines rattle off four touchdowns, rack up 242 yards, and absolutely steal their conference opener against Wisconsin. The defense finally cashes in and proves its worthiness. The offense and the problems with turnovers have, well, have I mentioned Michigan’s defense?

9. Iowa (6) 3-2
Last week:
L: 22-17 vs. Northwestern
The Hawkeyes build up a 17-3 lead with a robust rushing attack lea by Shonn Greene (21-159, one touchdown). Unfortunately, Greene left with an injury and Iowa’s offense looked lost without him after coming out flat from halftime to give up a game-tying touchdown. Greene needs to stay healthy for Iowa to keep moving forward.

10. Purdue (6) 2-2
Last week:
L: 38-21 @ Notre Dame
I thought that stat sheet stuffing by running back Kory Sheets (87 yards and a touchdown) and quarterback Curtis Painter (359 yards and two touchdowns) would be enough to overpower a pedestrian Notre Dame squad. Too bad I forgot that team intangibles such as character and overcoming adversity are just as important as statistics. And Purdue, again, doesn’t seem to have the fortitude to put together consistent quarters or games. Yet another Purdue let down.

11. Indiana (10) 2-2
Last week:
L: 42-29 vs. Michigan State
Another game demonstrating an insurmountable tipping-point: a nine-point swing on a touchdown pass turned safety due to a holding call proved too much for Indiana to overcome. Quarterback Kellen Lewis and running back Marcus Thigpen carried the load offensively, but the defense yielded almost 500 yards to the Spartans.

Colt McCoy named O'Brien Quarterback of the Week

FORT WORTH, Texas (September 29, 2008) - The Davey O'Brien Foundation has named Colt McCoy of the University of Texas the O'Brien Quarterback of the Week for week five. McCoy, a junior, led the Longhorns to a dominating 52-10 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks last Saturday in front of 97,833 fans at Royal Memorial Stadium.

"Colt is playing as well as any quarterback in the country," Texas head coach Mack Brown said in post game comments. "It would be hard to imagine anyone playing better. Colt's confidence is just oozing."

After breaking the Longhorns' school record for career passing touchdowns in the previous game against Rice, McCoy continued his quarterback prowess on Saturday in Austin. With just two incompletions, he passed for 185 yards and three touchdowns, bringing his season total to 14. He also ran for a game-high 84 yards and two touchdowns. With a 209.71 quarterback rating, he now ranks second in the nation.

"Colt is playing at a really high level," offensive coordinator Greg Davis said of the Texas quarterback after Saturday's game. "He is working during the week at a very high level."

The six-foot-three quarterback is currently in his third season as the Longhorns' starting quarterback after taking over for 2005 O'Brien Winner, Vince Young. McCoy started all 13 games in the 2007 season, passing for 3,303 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Prior to enrolling at Texas, McCoy was coached by his father, Brad McCoy, at Jim Ned High School in Tuscola, Texas. He finished his high school career with a 34-2 record as a three-year letterman at quarterback. With 9,344 yards and 116 touchdowns, he ranks as the all-time leading passer in Texas 2A history.

Texas will begin conference play next Saturday as they head to Boulder to face the Colorado Buffaloes. Following Saturday's win, McCoy is already focused on this upcoming Big 12 North/South conference match-up.

"We did what we needed to do," McCoy said when asked about Texas' win over Arkansas. "Our total mind-set is on conference play."

The O'Brien Quarterback of the Week is determined by a subset of the Davey O'Brien National Selection Committee. The subset of the committee is chaired by Verne Lundquist (CBS Sports) and consists of Dennis Dodd (CBS SportsLine), Ivan Maisel (espn.com), Joe Schad (ESPN/ABC), Dick Weiss (New York Daily News) and Kelly Whiteside (USA Today). This subset will select the quarterback of the week based on their performance during the prior weekend's game, taking into consideration individual statistics, contribution to team performance, strength of opponent, etc.

The O'Brien honors the nation's best college quarterback of the year. Currently all 119 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) quarterbacks are candidates for the award until Semifinalists are announced on October 27. Finalists will be announced November 24. The 2008 Winner will be announced December 11.

About The O'Brien Fan Vote

Fans can now register and vote for The O'Brien Fan Vote online at www.VoteOBrien.org to show their support for their favorite college quarterback. Fans will be able to choose from any of the 119 FBS quarterbacks beginning on Tuesday, September 2, leaving room for the possibility of a quarterback who is not on the Watch List to win the award. The top three quarterbacks who garner the most votes will be added to The O'Brien Semifinalist List, and the Fan Vote will then count as 5% in determining the Finalists and Winner. The 2008 Winner will be announced during The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards Show airing December 11 on ESPN. The recipient will be honored February 16, 2009, at the 32nd Annual Davey O'Brien Awards Dinner at The Fort Worth Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

About The Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award®
The O'Brien honors the nation's best college quarterback of the year and inspires student-athletes to triumph both on and off the field. By recognizing and honoring athletes who excel in both sports and academics while exhibiting strong character and leadership, The O'Brien aims to help instill a lifelong moral fiber in each candidate. The O'Brien is overseen by the Davey O'Brien Foundation, which was founded in 1977 and is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. The Foundation has given away more than $750,000 in scholarships and university grants to help high school and college athletes transform leadership on the field into leadership in life. For more information, visit www.DaveyOBrien.org.

This Date in College Football History

September 29, 1973: Texas hands intrastate rival Texas Tech its only loss of the season with a 28- 12 defeat in Austin. The Longhorns go on to win the Southwest Conference crown, but Tech (No. 11) finishes the season with a Gator Bowl win, landing three spots ahead of the Longhorns (No. 14) in the final AP rankings.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Game of the Week - Alabama @ Georgia



THE 4-0 ALABAMA Crimson Tide face their toughest opponent yet this Saturday in the third-ranked Georgia Bulldogs as they play “between the hedges”.

When the Tide Have the Ball

WHEN YOU TALK about Alabama football, everything starts with their running game. Coming off a 162-yard, two touchdown performance in ‘Bama’s 49-14 rout of Arkansas last week, Glenn Coffee is a supremely-gifted runner who can take it between the tackles or break it to the outside. Coffee’s burst makes him a big-play threat that always has to be accounted for. Backup running back Mark Ingram is a true freshman who has endeared himself to teammates with his take-no-prisoners style of play, which often sees him break several tackles. Ingram has quickly earned the trust of coach Nick Saban by carrying the ball late in games to grind some clock. Both Coffee and Ingram run behind one of the more experienced offensive lines in college football, led by All-American candidate Andre Smith at left tackle. The 6’5” 340 lb. lineman had key blocks last week on four of Alabama’s touchdowns against Arkansas. Versatile junior Mike Johnson is another standout along that line. The Crimson Tide also boasts firepower at wide out with true freshman Julio Jones, who has the size, speed and leaping ability to strike fear in the heart of any secondary. Senior tight end Nick Walker is another weapon that defenses need to be aware of. Unlike Georgia’s Matthew Stafford, Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson is a caretaker in this offense. Saban will seldom put the game in his hands due to his less-than-stellar arm strength and questionable decision-making.

Alabama’s running game will certainly be put to the test by a ferocious Georgia defense that features a disruptive defensive line and a hard-hitting linebacker corps. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins is a supreme run-stuffing defender, who frequently makes his way into the opponent’s backfield. Middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe also contributes in stopping the run by filling in the open spaces behind his defensive line. Outside linebacker Rennie Curran is a phenomenal athlete that constantly makes plays due to his to his great instincts and lateral quickness. Fellow outside linebacker Darryl Gamble is valuable for his ability to shut down tight ends. Due to the absence of star lineman Jeff Owens (who suffered a season-ending injury) and a premier defensive end, defensive coordinator Willie Martinez has made a point of utilizing his linebackers more as pass rushers. Asher Allen is the Bulldogs’ top defensive back. The 5’10” cornerback is a difference maker who can force fumbles, blitz quarterbacks and return kicks as well as cover receivers like a glove. Sophomore safety Reshad Jones is an emerging talent.

When the Dawgs Have the Ball

QUARTERBACK MATTHEW STAFFORD is the complete package when it comes to throwing the football. In addition to having an absolute howitzer of an arm, the 6’3” junior can also put nice touch on his passes when necessary. Critics will often highlight his penchant for leaving the pocket and tossing interceptions, but Stafford has improved in that area this season and has yet to throw a pick in his first four games. Stafford’s number one deep threat is true freshman A.J. Green, who usually gains good separation from his defenders and uses his outstanding body control to make acrobatic plays in the air and along the sidelines. Coming off an eight catch, 169-yard performance versus Arizona State last week, Green just continues to improve. If the Bulldogs’ passing attack wasn’t enough to keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night, running back Knowshon Moreno is one of the top players at his position. After bursting onto the scene with 1,334 yards as a freshman in 2007, the New Jersey native seems to be the closest thing to Herschel Walker with his low 4.4 speed, vision and athleticism, which he’ll occasionally use to quite literally jump over oncoming defenders. Moreno’s backfield partner Caleb King is no slouch either. The freshman has proven to be a very dynamic back. A preseason injury to left tackle Trinton Sturdivant has forced coach Mark Richt to shift some of his linemen to different positions. Center Ben Jones and right tackle Justin Anderson, both freshmen, made their first career starts last week.

Alabama’s defense, which is ranked eight in the nation versus the run (55 ypg and 2.2 ypc), features a three-man defensive line, anchored by noseman Terrance Cody. The line is flanked by two outside linebackers, Cory Reamer and Brandon Fanney playing on the edges. Sopho-more inside linebacker Rolando McClain is the motor of this impenetrable front seven. The 6’4” McClain is a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine, who leads the defense in that category with 29. The former tight end can also make plays in space and move to the outside if called upon. Fellow linebacker Dont’a Hightower is a powerful player who’s also a run-stuffing force with 17 tackles through four games. Running back turned free safety Rashad Johnson was last year’s revelation on defense and has become a dominant component of this unit. Johnson is a good hitter with remarkable closing speed. The senior’s knowledge of Alabama’s defensive scheme allows him to effectively diagnose the opposition’s plays. The Crimson Tide corners play a very physical brand of football led by Kareem Jackson and emerging playmaker Javier Arenas, aka Agent 28. In addition to being one of the more electrifying kick returners in the country, Arenas can also be a difference maker in pass coverage, as evidenced by his 63-yard score off a Casey Dick interception last week.

Final analysis

WHILE THE TEAMS match-up very well in most areas, Georgia’s playmakers will be hard to contain for four quarters. Look for Stafford to hook up with Green on a few big plays and for that to be the difference in what should be a close contest.

Final Score: Georgia 24 Alabama 16

Photo Credit: SEC Sports Media

Featured Match-Up: Derrick Williams vs. Vontae Davis

BIG TEN PLAY opens this week, as the Fighting Illini of Illinois make their way to Happy Valley to take on the undefeated Penn St. Nittany Lions. Penn State’s offense is averaging 53 points per game and if Illinois is to tame the Cats for a second straight season, their key players on the defensive side of the ball will have to step up and play their best football this season.

Wide receiver Derrick Williams, the Maryland native, came to Happy Valley as one of the Nittany Lions’ biggest recruits in school history. The physical skills are there, particularly in the speed department—Williams is a legitimate burner capable of running by defenders. His biggest strength is the ability to make people miss, particularly in the open field, so it’s no surprise that Williams is an electrifying return man as well.

The Nittany Lions use him primarily as a punt returner but he is also a weapon in the running game, on reverses or end-arounds. On the season, Williams has compiled 415 all-purpose yards, averaging 31.8 yards per kick return with one touchdown as the Nittany Lions have roared to a 4-0 start. While he may trail fellow seniors Jordan Norwood and Deon Butler in receiving production so far, Williams (eight receptions, 113 yards) is capable of breaking loose at any point and turning in a big game—he had five receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown when these teams met last season.

One player who will be charged with keeping Williams in check is Illinois cornerback Vontae Davis. The Washington, DC native plays a physical brand of football and racks up tackles at an unusual rate for a cornerback. Through three games, Davis has recorded 23 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, guiding the Illini to a 2-1 start. During his first two seasons, the junior corner registered 128 tackles, five interceptions, 14 passes broken up and 6.5 tackles for loss.

He capped off his sophomore season with a 13-tackle performance against USC in the Rose Bowl. Davis was so good last year, that he was the only sophomore who was a Jim Thorpe semifinalist. He is considered by some as the top cornerback in all of college football this season. Vontae’s brother, Vernon, played tight end at Maryland and was the sixth overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, selected by the San Francisco 49ers.

When the duo from the Atlantic coast square off against one another in Beaver Stadium Saturday night, not only will bragging rights be on the line, but possibly the outcome of the Big Ten’s premier opening week contest.

Photo Credit: Illinois Sports Information

Fan’s Weekend Guide

The Conference Title is on the Line When…

Auburn Hosts Tennessee (September 27, 3:30, CBS): Each team is coming off a loss, but as we learned last season, one, even two losses in SEC play does not rule one out from making the championship game. LSU repress-ented the West last year with two losses, as did Tennessee out of the East, and one of the Vols’ two losses was a 59-20 drubbing at the hands of the Florida Gators. Win or lose, if UT signal caller Jonathan Crompton does not play better, Tennessee could find themselves missing a bowl game for the second time in four years.

Conference Pride is on the Line When…

UCLA Hosts Fresno St. (September 27, 3:30, ABC):
Two weeks ago, the Pac-10 conference went 0-4 when they took the “Mountain West Challenge”. TCU drubbed Stanford, New Mexico upended Arizona, UNLV upset Arizona St. and BYU absolutely undressed the Bruins 59-0. Last week, Oregon fell to Boise St., the Broncos first ever road win over a BCS conference foe. So, before the Pac-10 can talk about playing with the likes of the SEC and Big 12, (USC excluded) they need to show they can hang with the mid-majors west of the Mississippi. To some, Fresno St. is the ultimate BCS buster—anytime, anyplace. If they are to live up to that standard, a season-opening win over Rutgers won’t be enough. A loss to the Bruins would not only knock the Bulldogs out of the polls, but place the WAC clearly behind the MWC on the mid-major totem pole.

The Team That Can’t Afford to Look Ahead is…

Wisconsin Visiting Michigan (September 27, 3:30, ABC):
Whoever thought the Badgers could look past a trip to the Big House? With the Wolverines reeling at 1-2 and a visit from the Buckeyes coming the following week, Wisconsin needs to be careful that they don’t put the cart before the horse. Michigan is a prideful bunch (really, they are) and would love nothing more than to get Rich Rodriguez his first marquee win with everyone counting them out. If Wisconsin is going to be in the running for a Big Ten title, they must put away the Maize and Blue.

Don’t Call it an Upset When…

Illinois Visits Penn St. (September 27, 8:00, ABC):
Penn St. has dominated their opponents by an average margin of 53-10. Of course those opponents—Coastal Carolina, Oregon St., Syracuse ad Temple—have a combined record of 5-10, with three of those wins coming against FCS foes. So, we may not know as much about the Nittany Lions as we think. While the Illini have been lackluster in the early going, this is a major step up in competition. With quarterback Juice Williams and wide out Rejus Benn on offense and a defense that features star cornerback Vernon Davis and man-child Martez Wilson at linebacker, Illinois is not wanting for talent.

The Team on the Cusp is…

Colorado Visiting Florida St. (September 27, 3:30, ABC):
The Buffs are undefeated and coming off a victory over a ranked foe (WVU). They could find themselves cracking the polls if Cody Hawkins (below) can lead them to another upset.

A Football Fan’s Four-Pack…

Purdue @ Notre Dame (September 27, 3:30, NBC):
This will be the 80th all-time meeting between the two schools. Will Notre Dame bounce back from a loss last week? How will Purdue fare in their first contest away from home -- especially in the unfriendly confines of South Bend? In Joe Tiller’s final meeting with the Irish, one thing should be a certainty—the Boilermakers will play hard.

Super Senior: Kory Sheets, RB, Purdue

Star of Tomorrow: Golden Tate, WR, ND

Mississippi St. @ LSU (September 27, 7:30, ESPN2):
Will the Bulldogs be able to contend with the Bayou Bengals at home? LSU has held their opponents to a mere 55.3 yards per-game average on the ground so fat this season. But Mississippi State’s quarterback Wesley Carroll has thrown six interceptions this year and only three touchdowns. It’s a pick your poison type of theme for Sylvester Croom’s boys.

Super Senior: Derek Pegues, FS, Mississippi State

Star of Tomorrow: Kelvin Sheppard, LB, LSU

Arkansas @ Texas (September 27, 3:30, ABC):
In a game postponed from Sept. 13, due to Hurricane Ike, the No. 7 Longhorns will look to have their stout run-defense ready and waiting for the Razorbacks. Through three games, Texas has held their opponents to a total of 199 rushing yards. Look for Arkansas to attack through the air, early and often.

Super Senior: Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas

Star of Tomorrow: Jerry Franklin, MLB, Ark.

Virginia Tech @ Nebraska (September 27, 8:00, ABC):
Will Virginia Tech be able to contain the Nebraska offense? Under first-year head coach Bo Pelini, the Huskers are averaging 189 yards-per-game on the ground and 261.3 through the air. Look for the Hokies to have a busy day on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker Brett Warren, who had 15 tackles last week against Georgia Tech, better get a good night of sleep before this one.

Super Senior: Orion Martin, DE, Virginia Tech

Star of Tomorrow: Eric Hagg, CB, Nebraska

Photo Credit: SEC Sports Media, University of Texas Athletics

This Date in College Football History

Sept. 27, 1958: Football was revolutionized in West Point, N.Y., as Army Coach Earl "Red" Blaik unveiled the "Lonely End" offense against South Carolina. Future College Football Hall of Famer Bill Carpenter stands 18-25 yards away receiving visual signals from the huddle, while halfback Pete Dawkins (another future College Football Hall of Famer) rushes nine times for 113 yards and four touchdowns. The new offense amassed 529 yards in a 45-8 victory.

Credit: The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame

Big East Preview - Week 5


In their first four games the Syracuse defense hasn't proven they can stop anyone, even allowing 21 points and 293 passing yards last week versus Northeastern. They have had trouble tackling, putting pressure on the quarterback and defending on passing downs. This week the Panthers look to start off conference play with a victory in the Carrier Dome—with good receivers and a star running back they shouldn't have too much trouble. LeSean McCoy has not had a break out game yet but still ranks fourth in the conference with 242 yards. Pittsburgh’s backup tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling rushed for 221 yards last time he played in the Carrier Dome in 2006. Syracuse cornerbacks Mike Holmes, Nico Scott and Da'Mon Merkerson have been very shaky and still learning the position, so expect Pittsburgh receivers Oderick Turner and Derek Kinder to be open and put up a lot of receiving yards. The Syracuse rushing attack of Curtis Brinkley, Delone Carter and Doug Houge should be able to carry on the success from last week. Brinkley, who is second in the conference in yards, is healthy and having himself a great senior season. If the Orange can run the ball early it will set up the play action pass and allow quarterback Cameron Dantley to roll out, which is when he is most effective. This week Syracuse AD Darryl Gross stated this week that he has not seen any obvious progress from the football team since coach Greg Robinson has taken over—it will be interesting to see if this has any effect on how the ‘Cuse come out and play.

Both West Virginia and Rutgers are on losing steaks and have must win games on Saturday at home. West Virginia has lost two-in-a-row and look to get a victory in Morgantown versus rival Marshall. It is no secret the Mountaineers’ rushing attack is their bread and butter, Quarterback Pat White and running back Noel Devine should be able to run all over their Conference USA opponent. Last season when these instate rivals matched up White rushed for 125 yards and threw for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Devine touched the ball five times and rushed for 76 yards with two touchdowns. It will be important for West Virginia to improve in their efficiency, they were pitiful on third downs in their losses at East Carolina and Colorado. Rutgers welcomes Morgan State with open arms, desperate for a win. The winless Knights gave the ball to their freshman tailback Jourdan Brooks last week and will do the same on Saturday. If Rutgers needs a score they should not have trouble passing the ball, Morgan State just does not have the ability to shut down Kenny Britt, who ranks third in the conference with 21 receptions or Tiquan Underwood. What to watch for is the defensive shuffling by Rutgers and how the fans will react to Quarterback Mike Teel. Head Coach Greg Schiano said he has been very disappointed with his defense and will try different players and looks in this game. Teel was caught on camera last week punching a teammate and is off to a bad start with one touchdown and six interceptions, if he and offense are off to a bad start they will hear it from the Rutgers faithful. Nevertheless, both West Virginia and Rutgers will probably get their much needed victories before meeting up next week in Morgantown.

South Florida and Cincinnati are favorites to win on the road this week but will be tested in their respected match-ups. The USF Bulls had scares on the road already this season and will face off at North Carolina State, who are fresh off of their overtime upset of East Carolina. When South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe plays well his team usually wins, Grothe leads the conference in passing yards and touchdown passes despite throwing none last week. Expect South Florida to throw the ball and wide out Taurus Johnson to have a bounce back game. Because of an injury to Russell Wilson, Harrison Beck will start at quarterback for the Wolfpack. Beck was not effective in his last two games against Clemson and East Carolina. Cincinnati will visit Akron at the Rubber Bowl this Saturday. Watch for how quarterback Tony Pike performs in his only second start. The Zips offense has been good led by quarterback Chris Jacquemain who has thrown for 960 yards and seven touchdowns in four games.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Oregon State Gets it Done – Stuns USC in 27-21 Upset


If you were wondering who freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers was – wonder no more. He was the guy in the orange jersey blowing by USC defensive players like they were standing still, compiling 186 yards and a pair of touchdowns as he lead Oregon State to a huge 27-21 victory over Pete Carroll’s shell shocked Trojans.

The USC squad never found it’s footing and looked overwhelmed for the first three quarters, unable to get any rhythm on offense and rarely containing the Beavers on defense. Trojan quarterback Marc Sanchez’s 227 yards, three touchdowns and one interception are deceptive stats. It wasn’t until the end of the game that he looked like himself — he was constantly under pressure, as were his receivers.

Everything went the Beavers way – from perfect execution on plays to quirks of fate, like the touchdown caught by Jacquizz Rodgers’ brother James near the end of the first half. The pass from Beaver quarterback Lyle Moevao should have been intercepted by USC cornerback Kevin Thomas, but bounced off his hands and into the arms of the elder Rodgers brother.

But the biggest story of the game, aside from the upset, was younger brother Jacquizz. The five-foot-seven (maybe) freshman seemed to constantly elude the Trojans, who were called for two horse-collar penalties while trying to tackle him. They could not get low enough to take him down when he was in space. The never found a solution and he burned them all game long.

The Trojans came into a tough Reser Stadium flat, just like they did in 2006. Just like then, they paid the price, which could be a chance to play for the National Championship. The Beavers executed perfectly (no turnovers, balanced game plan, few penalties) and were able to stifle USC’s ground attack (86 yards total) and lock down the Trojan wide receivers. By the time the Trojans got their feet, there was just not enough time left.

It’s too early to count the Trojans out of National Title contention, but they will have to work hard to bounce back. The Pac-10 will smell blood in the water and as always, bring their A-game to their matchups with USC. The Men of Troy will truly be tested after this defeat. How they react over the next few weeks will tell the tale of what their season will be.

Pac-10 opponents will certainly be taking a close look at Jacquizz Rodgers over the next few weeks. They will have to find a way to slow him down if they don’t want to fall victim the way USC did.

Regardless of the rest of the season, Corvallis has once again been the sight of a huge defeat for the University of Southern California.

The king is dead. Long live the new king – at least for this week.

Pac-10 Preview - Week 5


#25 Fresno State @ UCLA

When #25 Fresno State decided to have UCLA on its schedule, it probably thought that the Bruins might serve as a challenge, not the other way around. But the way both teams have been playing since opening day, it’s exactly that--the Bulldogs have survived a tough loss to then 10th ranked Wisconsin, while Rick Neuheisel’s Bruins have slipped down into the abyss after a stunning win against Tennessee. UCLA will have to pressure Bulldog quarterback Tom Brandstater and try to force mistakes, a tough thing to do to an experienced senior who has thrown only one interception this year. The Fresno State offensive line has allowed seven sacks, but UCLA has not been able to take advantage of any opportunities in their last two games. If Brandstater has problems getting started, Fresno State will turn to its ground game. Ryan Matthews has been the ‘big dog’ thus far in the backfield and he should do well against a UCLA defense, that has had issues against the run--even Tennessee was able to put up almost 200 yards on the ground while losing. The Bruins have more problems on offense. Quarterback Kevin Craft is still trying to find his way at the position and has limited his mistakes the last two games, but was almost completely shut down by the Arizona Wildcats last week. The Bruins’ run game has also been woeful, though when you are down by more than one touchdown early in games, the run game tends to fade away quickly. It remains to be seen if this unit has anything to offer, or if it will even get the chance against Bulldog coach Pat Hill’s defense.

Colorado State @ California
Jeff Tedford’s
Bears have had two weeks to lick their wounds after the stunning loss to Maryland on September 13th. Whether they will dwell on this or use it as fuel to right the ship is a huge part of this match-up against a visiting Colorado State Rams team that would like to get a little respect. Cal quarterback Kevin Riley was red hot as he led his offense in a valiant comeback against the Terrapins, but his three fourth quarter touchdowns were not enough. The road back to legitimacy starts with Colorado State. Rams quarterback Billy Farris has been effective so far, but can turn the ball over and California’s defense can be opportunistic. If they can force mistakes and the offense can take advantage of the turnovers, the Bears have an excellent chance to get back on track this weekend in Berkeley.

Oregon @ Washington State

The Oregon Ducks may have dropped a close one to Boise State, but it makes them no less dangerous against Washington State. The key may be if freshman quarterback Darron Thomas gets a chance to continue the excellent play he showcased while appearing in the final quarter against the Broncos last week. If he gets the nod, he will find a Washington State secondary that can play well, though will likely be overmatched by a prolific Ducks offense. The Cougars’ offense suffers from making far too many mistakes. Between their two quarterbacks they have thrown nine interceptions. If their play continues like that, Washington State will not be able to keep up with an Oregon team that desperately needs to make some noise and get back on track.

Stanford @ Washington
This game finds two teams struggling. Both the Cardinal’s losses were on the road and although the Huskies haven’t exactly been stout at home, Stanford will have to prove they aren’t suffering from homesickness before they can be taken seriously. The difference may once again come down to turnovers. Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard has thrown at least one interception the last three games and the entire Cardinal offense has struggled in part because of it. Huskies’ quarterback Jake Locker hasn’t been turning the ball over, but he hasn’t been able to make much headway through the air either. Where he does excel is on the ground, totaling 163 yards and three touchdowns. If he can keep the ball moving with his feet and the occasional pass to receivers like D’Andre Goodwin, Stanford will be hard pressed to keep up with Washington this weekend.

Photo Credit: Collegiate Images

Big Ten Week Five Previews: Quick Start Key for Visiting Teams


We have a lot to preview this week, so let’s get right to the match-ups:

1. Illinois at Penn State: Why Illinois must get off to a quick start – because it’s a lot easier to stand toe-to-toe 11-on-11, then 11-on-11 plus 107,000 of arguably college football’s best fans.

If Illinois can take the crowd out of the game by establishing an early rhythm, they may be able to walk out of the moonlit Happy Valley with a win. By far the most intriguing game in the Big Ten: both offenses are putting up big numbers (Illinois: 468 yards/game, Penn State: 538 yards/game), Illinois is averaging 225 yards/game on the ground while Penn State is surrendering a mere 50 yards per game rushing, and each team has a dual-threat quarterback (Penn State’s Daryll Clark and Illinois’ Juice Williams) compiling statistics worthy of post-season award consideration. Can Williams and his all-around game lead the Illini to victory? It appears to be too high of a mountain to climb at night.
PREDICTION: Penn State 38, Illinois 20

2. Wisconsin at Michigan:
Why Wisconsin must get off to a quick start– because they can’t give a beatable Michigan team belief they can win and Wisconsin is not built to play from behind.

Dear Coach Bielema,
I am sure exactly what you need right now is for a know-it-all writer who never played college ball and never coached anything above high school girls’ soccer to tell you how to scheme against Michigan. But trust me, because, well…just because. Do not out-coach yourself. On offense, line up Ace-double Tight, and for the first three drives, do nothing but run right up the gut with P.J. Hill and company. You may go three-and-out every time, but that’s okay. Because what you will then do in the same set is work in play-actions, bootlegs, and nakeds. Let your receivers stretch the field on the outside, leaving room for your star tight ends (Travis Beckum and Garrett Graham) to work underneath all day long. Michigan’s linebackers are poor covering in space. Their defense prefers to play man coverage, which will then give you the chance, after dinking and dumping down the field, to hit your X or Z in man coverage (with an inconsistent free safety in Stevie Brown covering center field) over the top. Plus, you’ll see if Michigan’s defense is lighter, tougher, and in better shape or if they are just lighter compared to your giant front line. Trust me, I’m a doctor.
Yours truly,
John Sears, PhD
PREDICTION: Wisconsin 26, Michigan 16

3. Minnesota at Ohio State:
Why Minnesota must get off to a quick start – because this will put pressure on Ohio State freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor who isn’t used to playing from behind.

Last week was a relatively safe environment to hand the offense over to Pryor (at home, against Troy) and he responded well with four touchdown passes. But Pryor, like any young, athletic quarterback, is susceptible to holding on the ball too long and taking costly sacks. Another week without Beanie Wells means Pryor should continue to get more carries. On the other side of the ball, Minnesota will need to play mistake-free football in their first true test of the season. Can sophomore quarterback Adam Weber escalate his magical season with a win and continue to bring chaos to the Big Ten? I say no. Minnesota will be too conservative, trying to limit the inevitable mistakes from the young Weber. That lack of derring-do gives Ohio State the victory.
PREDICTION: Ohio State 24, Minnesota 13

4. Michigan State at Indiana:
Why Michigan State must get off to a quick start - because in their only other road game (a 38-31 loss to Cal), they fell behind early and didn’t have the firepower to take back the lead.

The Hoosiers need to get the bad taste out of their mouths, coming off a blowout loss to Ball State where they surrendered four touchdowns on the ground alone. This does not bode well as Michigan State comes to town hoping to ride their Heisman-hopeful, running back Javon Ringer (175 yards/game and 11 touchdowns). But if Indiana can restore their respectable rushing defense (35th in the FBS), and get quarterback Kellen Lewis working early, Michigan State may have to prove they are not a one-dimensional team. Ringer continues his Heisman pace, disguising the Spartans’ pedestrian passing attack.
PREDICTION: Michigan State 28, Indiana 24

5. Purdue at Notre Dame:
Why Purdue must get off to a quick start - because they can continue to put doubt into a Notre Dame squad that was handled last week from start to finish (Michigan State led out of the gates until the final whistle). Where has NFL-destined quarterback Curtis Painter been? If Kory Sheets can shred Notre Dame’s porous defense as his Big Ten predecessors have in the previous two weeks, the passing lanes may be there for Painter to put up some good numbers. Purdue comes in balanced with Sheets running well and Painter playing well enough to put The Fighting Irish back at .500.
PREDICTION: Purdue 23, Notre Dame 14

6. Northwestern at Iowa:
Why Northwestern must get off to a quick start – because at home the Wildcats are outscoring opponents 79-25 compared to their 24-20 win on the road against Duke.

Surely the Hawkeyes cannot be satisfied coming back from Pittsburgh with a loss; and now they host a Northwestern team that hasn’t been this hot (4-0) in over four decades. But are the Wildcats hot on the road as well? At face value, this match-up may look like the undercard to this week’s conference openers, but take note – these teams are a combined 7-1 to start the season. Quarterback consistency is the key: Northwestern’s C.J. Bacher needs to recover from his dismal four-interception performance against Ohio and Iowa needs to have a starting quarterback emerge from the tandem of Ricky Stanzi and Jake Christensen. Northwestern comes in confident, and with more veterans on both sides of the ball.
PREDICTION: Northwestern 23, Iowa 17

O'Brien Quarterback Award Marquee Match-up for Week Five

FORT WORTH, Texas (September 24, 2008) - The 2008 Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award® (The O'Brien) Match-ups for week five feature six O'Brien Watch List candidates. The O'Brien continues to highlight weekly match-ups featuring O'Brien candidates as they compete for the prestigious award honoring the nation's best quarterback in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).

Marquee Match-up: Alabama at Georgia

Saturday, September 27 at 6:45 p.m. (CST) on ESPN
John Parker Wilson and the Alabama Crimson Tide will square off with Matthew Stafford and the Georgia Bulldogs in this SEC battle between the hedges. Both quarterbacks direct powerful offensive units and have an undefeated 4-0 record on the line. Wilson takes the Crimson Tide to Athens with the momentum after a 49-14 win over Arkansas last week. This six-foot-two senior from Hoover, Ala., has thrown for 542 yards and five touchdowns this season in addition to one rushing touchdown. Stafford and the Bulldogs return home after a 27-10 victory over Arizona State. Stafford completed 16 of 28 passes for 285 yards and one touchdown in last Saturday's match-up and hopes to capitalize on the chemistry with running back Knowshon Moreno this week. This will be the first time the two have gone head-to-head while both were undefeated with a top 10 ranking since 1942.

Head-to-Head O'Brien Match-ups
(based on start times)
These O'Brien Watch List quarterbacks will clash in this week's games.

* Purdue (Curtis Painter) at Notre Dame (Jimmy Clausen)
Saturday, September 27 at 2:30 p.m. (CST) on NBC

* Navy (Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada) at Wake Forest (Riley Skinner)
Saturday, September 27 at 2:45 p.m. (CST) on ESPNU

About The O'Brien Fan Vote
Fans can now register and vote for The O'Brien Fan Vote online at www.VoteOBrien.org to show their support for their favorite college quarterback. Fans will be able to choose from any of the 119 FBS quarterbacks beginning on Tuesday, September 2, leaving room for the possibility of a quarterback who is not on the Watch List to win the award. The top three quarterbacks who garner the most votes will be added to The O'Brien Semifinalist List, and the Fan Vote will then count as 5% in determining the Finalists and Winner. The 2008 Winner will be announced during The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards Show airing December 11 on ESPN. The recipient will be honored February 16, 2009, at the 32nd Annual Davey O'Brien Awards Dinner at The Fort Worth Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

Joe Theismann to receive O'Brien Legends Award

FORT WORTH, Texas (September 23, 2008) - The Davey O'Brien Foundation announced today Joe Theismann is the 2008 Davey O'Brien Legends Award recipient in recognition of his life-long contributions to the game of football. Theismann will be presented with the award at the 32nd Annual Davey O'Brien Awards Dinner on February 16, 2009 at The Fort Worth Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Davey O'Brien Legends Award recognizes a college or professional quarterback who has made a significant contribution to the game of football, distinguished himself as an extraordinary leader and demonstrated exemplary conduct on and off the football field. The award was established in 2001 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Davey O'Brien Foundation. Previous recipients include Steve Spurrier (2007), Paul Hornung (2006), Len Dawson (2005), Archie Manning (2004), Terry Bradshaw (2003), Bart Starr (2002), and Roger Staubach (2001).

"It is an honor to be recognized for my achievements both on and off the field. To join a group of men such as these is truly humbling," said Theismann.

At five feet-eleven inches tall and 147 pounds, Theismann began his college football career at Notre Dame. In 1969, the junior starting quarterback led the Irish to a number-five ranking and their first bowl appearance in 45 years. The following year, Theismann and the Irish ended the season with a 10-1 record, a number-two ranking and a victory over Texas in the Cotton Bowl. As the starting quarterback, he set school records for yards (2,429) and touchdowns (16) in a season. His record for passing yards in a game (526) still stands today. Theismann was also a first team All-American and an Academic All-American and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003.

In 1971, Theismann was selected in the fourth round of the National Football League (NFL) draft by the Miami Dolphins as well as by the Minnesota Twins as a shortstop in the Major League Baseball draft. He instead signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League (CFL). During his rookie season Theismann led the team to a 10-4 record and a berth in the championship game, The Grey Cup. He was named to the CFL All-Star Team in 1971 and 1973.

In 1974, Theismann signed with the Washington Redskins of the NFL and volunteered to be the team's punt returner. Theismann earned the starting quarterback position in 1978 and led the Redskins to victory in Super Bowl XVII and an appearance the following year in Super Bowl XVIII.

Theismann played in 163 consecutive games from 1974-1985 and holds several Redskins' records, including most career passing yards (25,206), completions (2,044) and attempts (3,602) while also throwing 160 touchdowns.

A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Theismann was selected the NFL's Man of the Year in 1982 for his community service and dedication to the health and welfare of children. He won the league's 1983 Most Valuable Player Award for leading the Redskins to an NFL-record 541 points and a second consecutive Super Bowl appearance. His career ended abruptly in 1985 after sustaining a broken leg against the New York Giants on a nationally televised Monday Night Football broadcast.

Following his tenure as an NFL quarterback, Theismann began a career in broadcasting which began in 1985 when he helped call Super Bowl XIX on ABC. After spending two seasons as an NFL analyst on CBS, Theismann spent the majority of his broadcast career as a color commentator on ESPN's Sunday Night Football from 1988-2005. He then wrapped up his commentator career on ESPN's Monday Night Football in 2006 and has since helped with a variety of pre-season Washington Redskins games on CSN.

"Joe Theismann exemplifies strong work ethic, leadership and character," said Scott Murray, the Davey O'Brien Legends Chair. "Whether it was in college, the CFL or NFL, he always maintained his integrity as a leader within his team."

About The Davey O'Brien Foundation
The Davey O'Brien Foundation (the Foundation) was founded in 1977 to honor and remember the strong character and leadership of football great, Davey O'Brien. Widely known for its Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award®, the Foundation recognizes champions on and off the field through national awards programs encouraging academic and career success. The Foundation has given away more than $750,000 in scholarships and university grants to help high school and college athletes transform leadership on the field to leadership in life. The Davey O'Brien Legends Award was established in 2001 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Foundation and to pay tribute to Davey O'Brien. The Legends Award recognizes a college or professional quarterback who has made a significant contribution to the game of football, distinguished himself as an extraordinary leader and demonstrated exemplary conduct on and off the field. More information about the Foundation can be found at www.DaveyOBrien.org.

Rutgers QB Out Indefinately


Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano announced Thursday that backup quarterback Jabu Lovelace suffered a broken left leg during practice this week. Lovelace had surgery on Wednesday, and is “out indefinitely”.

This leaves Rutgers with junior Chris Paul-Etienne as the No.2 QB behind a shaky Mike Teel. Paul-Etienne only has one college completion in his three years at Rutgers, and has attempted three passes.

The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Scarlet Knights, who are off to a 0-3 start, their worst in nine years.

This Date in College Football History

Sept. 26, 1981: The nation's top two active coaches in winning percentage, John Robinson (.850) and Barry Switzer (.894), match up in a battle between No. 1 Southern California vs. No. 2 Oklahoma in Los Angeles. Trojans tight end Fred Cornwell emerges as a hero catching a seven-yard touchdown pass with two seconds left in the game, sealing a 28-24 USC win. The reception is only Cornwell's second career catch.

Credit: The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


DALLAS (FWAA) - Vanderbilt strong safety Ryan Hamilton has been named the FWAA/Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week for games of the weekend of Sept. 20.

Hamilton, a 6-2, 210-pound senior from Wycombe, Pa., tied a school record with three interceptions. He returned one interception 79 yards for a touchdown in Vanderbilt's 23-17 victory at Mississippi. Hamilton's third interception sealed the victory as time expired.

Hamilton, who became the second Vanderbilt defender to win the FWAA's weekly award this season, added a fumble recovery and had six tackles (four unassisted), including a goal-line stop that prevented a Rebel score. The other Vanderbilt winner of the award this season was linebacker Patrick Benoist in a 24-17 victory over South Carolina.

Hamilton will be added to the 2008 Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List. The Bronko Nagurski Trophy will be presented to the best defensive player in college football on Dec. 7 by the FWAA and the Charlotte Touchdown Club at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte, N.C. Five finalists for the Nagurski Trophy will be announced on Nov. 17.

Each week during the 2008 season the FWAA All-America Committee will select a national defensive player of the week from nominations made by the 11 Division I Bowl Subdivision Conferences and major independents.

Last season, LSU tackle Glenn Dorsey won the coveted Bronko Nagurski Trophy during the 13th season the FWAA has named a national defensive player of the year.


DALLAS (FWAA) - Central Florida's Johnell Neal is this week's nominee for the 2008 FedEx Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award, to be announced at the end of the season. Neal, a senior cornerback from Baton Rouge, La., returned to play this season, less than four months after he was shot four times.

Last May, six days after Neal graduated with a degree in criminal justice - becoming the first person in his family to earn a college degree - he was ambushed outside the family's home in Baton Rouge. Neal, his brother and a cousin had just returned from his brother's R&B concert when they were attacked. Three people have been charged in connection with the shooting.

The alleged shooter apparently was angry with Neal's cousin for a long-ago incident. Neal was shot twice in the arm and twice in the chest.

"We ended up at the wrong place at the wrong time," Neal told the Orlando Sentinel. "We didn't see it coming." Neal underwent surgery to repair a punctured lung, but was able to start rehabilitation within two weeks. His goal was to return in time for the start of football season.

"All I could think about when it happened was I wanted to come back to Orlando and be with my team," Neal told the newspaper. "I'm better when I'm with these guys. I wanted to work hard to be back stronger than ever for our first game."

Neal achieved that goal. He has started 41 games, including 16 straight. He has two interceptions this season to share the team lead. In 2007, he shared the Conference USA lead in interceptions with six.

For the third straight year, the Football Writers Association of America and the FedEx Orange Bowl will announce a weekly nominee each Wednesday during the season. A blue-ribbon panel will determine the winner from all of the nominees. The winner of the FedEx Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award will be announced in December and be presented with the trophy.

The Courage Award was created by ESPN The Magazine's senior writer Gene Wojciechowski, also a FWAA member. A select group of writers from the FWAA vote on the winner each year. The requirements for nomination include displaying courage on or off the field, including overcoming an injury or physical handicap, preventing a disaster or living through hardship.

Previous winners of the FWAA's Courage Award are Navy's Zerbin Singleton (2007), Clemson's Ray Ray McElrathbey (2006), the Tulane football team (2005), Memphis' Haracio Colen (2004), San Jose State's Neil Parry (2003) and Toledo's William Bratton (2002).

This Date in College Football History

Sept. 24, 1966: Florida State quarterback Gary Pajcic throws two touchdown passes, while future Florida State University President T.K. Wetherell returns a kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown as the Seminoles down Miami 23-20 in the Orange Bowl.

Credit: The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Big East - The Week That Was - Week Four


On Friday night, the Connecticut Huskies rolled past visiting Big 12 opponent Baylor 31-28. Connecticut tailback Ronald Brown rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner in the fourth quarter. It was Brown’s fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing game and his 716 yards lead the nation, with his 10 rushing touchdowns second only to Javon Ringer's 11. Brown and the Connecticut offensive line made up for the lack of a pass threat, as Huskies’ quarterback Tyler Lorenzen was ineffective, throwing two interceptions. Highly touted Baylor freshman quarterback Robert Griffin didn't disappoint, as he threw for three touchdowns and 208 yards, including a late fourth quarter scoring strike to wide out Kendall Wright. The freshman wide receiver caught six passes for 114 yards. Despite allowing four touchdowns, the Connecticut defense stepped up late, stopping Baylor in their final two possessions. The Huskies remained undefeated and look to continue their success on the road, as they visit Louisville for another Friday night under the lights.

Cincinnati, South Florida and Pittsburgh all prevailed on Saturday.

Pittsburgh tailback LeSean McCoy rushed for 78 yards on 18 carries, including the game-winning touchdown early in the fourth quarter against the previously undefeated Iowa Hawkeyes. The Panthers continue to struggle through the air, as quarterback Bill Stull completed only eleven passes and no receiver had more than two receptions. The Pitt rush defense was not strong either, giving up 158 yards on the ground.

Meanwhile, in the Sunshine State, the USF Bulls survived their third straight scare with a 17-9 win over Florida International. South Florida's defense allowed a total of 189 yards and didn't allow FIU to reach the end zone until the final minute of the game. Quarterback Matt Grothe was held without a rushing or passing touchdown for the first time in his career. Bulls’ tailback Jamar Taylor led all rushers with 56 yards on twelve carries. South Florida looks to cap off a perfect non-conference this week at NC State.

Cincinnati bounced back versus Miami (OH) with a 45-20 win against their rival. The story of the game was quarterback Tony Pike, who made his first start. The junior was 20-of-24 for 241 yards and three touchdowns. He hooked up with wide receiver Dominick Goodman for a couple of big plays to set up scores. Goodman finished the game with six receptions for 94 yards. Senior Mike Mickens picked off his first pass of the year, returning it 72 yards for a touchdown.

Photo Credit: USF Athletics Communications