Friday, October 30, 2009

CFI Coaches Corner: HC Mike Stoops

Coach Mike Stoops is in his sixth season as the Arizona Wildcats head coach. The ‘Cats are coming off an 8-5 season and bowl in over BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. This season Arizona is 5-2, 3-1 in the Pac-10 which is them ranked in the top 25 both in the polls and in the BCS Rankings.

Interview conducted by College Football Insiders founder Daniel Mogollon.

Length: 14 Minutes

Click Here to Listen Now

Topics Include:

* His take on quarterbacks Jake Locker (3 TD passes vs. Arizona) & Dan LeFevour (108 yards vs. Arizona)

* How good are the Iowa Hawkeyes (Beat Arizona 27-17)

* Injury update of Rob Gronkowski and the impact of his loss

* The development of sophomore quarterback Nick Foles

* What Coach does on Saturday when he's not coaching

* Arizona's stretch run which includes games against ranked foes USC, Oregon, Cal, as well as a road trip to in-state rival Arizona St.

Photo Courtesy of Luke Adams of J and L Photo/Arizona

Draft Watch: Florida vs. Georgia (Jack, FL)

10.31.09 @ 3:30 PM Eastern on CBS

1) Tim Tebow: Stock Up/Stock Down –
There’s no question Tebow’s stock is down, although no one can question his talent—he is an amazing college football player who could break Herschel Walker’s all-time SEC rushing touchdown record this coming Saturday in Jacksonville, ironically against the Dawgs. Even though Walker did it in just three seasons, it’s impressive for a quarterback to surpass the legendary runner regardless of how many more games he’s played. But we’ve seen great college quarterbacks do little to nothing playing on Sundays, and Tebow could fall under that category. He is not a polished passer. Sure he completes some nice passes; he isn’t awful, but he simply doesn’t look like an NFL passer. This season his numbers have taken a major dip, and he is coming off a game where two of his passes were returned for touchdowns by the Mississippi St. Bulldogs’ defense.

2) First Gator defender off the board – Depending on who decides to leave early, senior MIKE Brandon Spikes could be the third Gator defender to hear his name called in April. The most talented Florida defenders are defensive end Carlos Dunlap and cornerback Joe Haden. At 6’ 6” and 290 pounds, Dunlap is an absolute beast coming off the edge. His combination of size and athleticism at the end position is unparalleled in college football, which is why many scouts will have Dunlap rated as the top defensive end if he declares. The same could be said of Haden should he decide he is ready for the NFL once his junior season is over—the 5’ 11” Maryland native is as talented as any cornerback in the nation. Haden took his lumps as a true freshman, but has developed into one of the game’s top cover corners. Spikes, who is listed as “probable” after leaving the Arkansas game with a groin injury and sitting out last week’s contest versus Mississippi State, still figures to go in the first round, but it will more than likely be in the bottom half.

3) Georgia’s best defense prospect is – There are several names to choose from, starting with defensive tackles Jeff Owens and Geno Atkins, followed by linebacker Rennie Curran, cornerback Brandon Boykin and safety Reshad Jones. Right now, neither Owens nor Atkins has been their most productive interior lineman—that would be Kade Weston. Boykin is just a sophomore, while Jones is still a better athlete than he is a football player. That leaves us with Curran, Georgia’s stellar outside linebacker. He is undersized and is limited to playing in a four-three defense where he can be protected by his defensive line. Nevertheless, he is an outstanding football player and his speed, recognition skills and tackling ability don’t need protecting. Curran’s 72 tackles are 29 more than Jones, who is second on the team. Curran may not have the upside of Atkins or Jones, but he is certainly a good enough football player to play at the next level.

Photos Courtesy of SEC Sports Media

Draft Watch: Texas @ Oklahoma St.

10.31.09 @ 8:00 PM Eastern on ABC

1) Colt McCoy vs. Zac Robinson –
Even though he has led the ‘Horns to an undefeated record to this point, including a win over Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry and #3 BCS Ranking, it’s hard to say that McCoy has improved his draft stock this season. As a junior, McCoy threw for 3,859 yards and 34 touchdowns (eight interceptions) while completing a record 76.7 percent of his passes. This year the Longhorns’ signal caller is on pace for 3,096 yards (71.7 percent), 24 touchdowns and 14 interceptions—that’s a significant dip in production any way you slice it. Even in victory McCoy failed to impress against the Sooners, and this week’s contest may his last chance to show scouts what he’s got before bowl season. On the other side, Robinson has been solid and while he isn’t putting up big numbers, he has played very smart football throwing 12 touchdown passes, just three interceptions and has been sacked only four times. What’s most impressive is in three Big XII games—without star wideout Dez Bryant—Robinson is averaging 252 yards with six touchdowns and one interception. A solid performance against the highly-touted ‘Horns could boost Robinson’s stock and if the Pokes pull off the upset, so much the better. While McCoy gets most of the attention, these quarterbacks are closer than most might think.

2) Russell Okung vs. Sergio Kindle – With so many top left tackle prospects having inconsistent senior seasons, Okung may have vaulted himself to the head of the class and has certainly helped himself as much as any senior. Some thought he might declare for the 2009 Draft following a solid junior campaign, but the left tackle appears to have made a wise decision to return to Stillwater. Okung has the size to protect the blind side, as well as the feet, having shutdown all opposing pass rushers to this point. This will be a big test for Kindle, who isn’t exploding as a senior the way former ‘Horn Brian Orakpo did last season. Kindle has seven tackles for a loss, but only two sacks. He is an athletic freak, but may be a bit overrated as a football player—he needs to show more if wants to cash in on that “first round talent”. Expect Okung to continue to handle his business and Kindle to come up empty against the Cowboys’ left tackle. You can be sure there will be a bevy of scouts spotlighting this one-on-one battle.

3) Jordan Shipley vs. Perrish Cox –
We likely will not see these two lined up across from each other as often as Okung and Kindle, but when they do lock horns, it will be an opportunity for each to make a statement. Shipley does his best work in the slot and is more quick than fast. That’s not to say he lacks the speed to hit the home run, because he is more than capable of making a big play either as a return man or receiver. Shipley has great hands, runs crisp routes and has an uncanny chemistry with his buddy and roommate McCoy. Cox is the Cowboys’ best defensive back and the Pokes will need him to make big plays this Saturday night. Cox has good size, speed and length, which is why he is a better fit doing his work on the outside. While he has only intercepted one pass, Cox has gotten has hands on 11 footballs this season and is someone opposing quarterbacks tend to avoid. Shipley is averaging over 15 yards per punt return with two touchdowns, while Cox is no slouch himself as a return man, averaging 11.2 yards on punt returns and 24.9 on kick returns.

Photos Courtesy of University of Texas Athletics, Oklahoma State Athletics Media Relation

Draft Watch: West Virginia @ South Florida

1) Jarrett Brown – The senior quarterback had to wait for three years, biding his time behind West Virginia legend Pat White before he could be the man in Morgantown. At 6’ 4” and 220 pounds Brown has good size, his arm is NFL quality and he is an excellent athlete who can make things happen with his legs. However, he has not improved his stock through seven games (injured early in win versus Marshall); his touchdown to interception ratio of eight to six is unimpressive, and he struggled in his two toughest contests—at Auburn and last week against UConn. He has completed 67.1 percent of his passes overall, but connected at just a 56.3 rate against the Tigers (1 TD, 4 INTs) in WVU’s lone loss of the season. Against the Huskies, the West Palm Beach native completed only 59. 3 percent of his passes and failed to find the end zone (1 INT). In cornerback Jerome Murphy and safety Nate Allen, the USF Bulls have a dangerous secondary that will take advantage of Brown’s mistakes.

2) Noel Devine vs. Kion Wilson – This should be a fun match-up, pitting the speed and open-field shiftiness of Devine against the hard-hitting and sound tackling of Wilson. Devine is coming off a 178-yard performance against the Huskies, which included a spectacular sideline, game-winning scamper that displayed both his speed and balance. He likes the lights too. Earlier this season on Thursday night against the Colorado Buffaloes he rumbled for 220 yards on 22 carries. This is an interesting match-up against maybe the speediest defense the Mountaineers have faced to date led by Wilson, who tops the Bulls with his 49 tackles. The junior college transfer is flourishing in his second season at the Division I level and facing a back like Devine in the open field will be the ultimate test.

3) Better prospect George Selvie or Jason Pierre-Paul –
Could Selvie not even be the best defensive end prospect on his own team? Gone are the days of video game numbers for the former high school center, which he put up as a sophomore. Last season much of that was attributed to double and sometimes triple teams, but this year more often than not, Selvie is being slowed down one-on-one. The senior still leads the line with 27 tackles, but not tackles for a loss (6.5 TFLs) or sacks (3 sacks). Pierre-Paul may not be as polished as Selvie, but is bigger and perhaps a more impressive athlete. Although he is still refining his pass rushing skills (2 sacks), Pierre-Paul has lived in the opposition’s backfield this season and leads the Bulls with his 9.5 tackles for a loss. Not many ends can combine size, speed, athleticism and wingspan (81”) the way this junior college transfer does. He has better upside than Selvie, but Pierre-Paul would be wise to return for his senior season to refine his game. It will be interesting to see how each does when matched up with WVU's top tackle Selvish Capers.

Photos Courtesy of WVU Sports Communication, USF Athletics Communications

Big East Power Rankings Week 9

By CHRISTOPHER MOGOLLON - BIG EAST INSIDER

1. Cincinnati Bearcats 7-0, (3-0): Last week: Win vs. Louisville 41-10 - Instead of taking the conservative route, like most offenses would do with their back-up quarterback starting, Cincinnati played aggressive with Zach Collaros under center and took advantage of his running ability. He rushed for 52 yards on 11 carries last week, which helped opened the running game. On shotgun formations the Louisville defense was conscious of Collaros and had to account for his legs, so on handoffs the Cardinals were a little slower to react to when a running back got the carry. It’s a different look Cincinnati can bring when their back up is playing. Sophomore Isaiah Pead ran for two touchdowns including a 67-yard run on a draw play. But Collaros was also impressive through the air completing 15-of-17 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns. The receiving core also had a fantastic game led by Marshwan Gilyard who caught four balls for 82 yards and a touchdown. Junior Armon Binns continues to step up as the team’s number two wide out and as scoring threat, he made a tremendous touchdown catch in the back of the end zone and finished the game 75 yards. Binns has reeled in 12 catches and four touchdowns in the last three games and has made a handful of tough catches look easy. His development is an important component for the offense to take the next step and take some heat of Gilyard who’s constantly seeing double-teams.

Up next: At Syracuse -
Another game without Tony Pike shouldn’t be a problem...the offense hasn’t missed a beat so far and it won’t be the Orange defense that takes them out of rhythm. It’s important for the Bearcat defense to have another big game. The defensive line has been playing well and did a lot of disrupting in their previous two games versus Louisville and South Florida, expect more of the same against a banged up offensive line. Andre Revels is playing like an all-conference linebacker; he will be a key to shut down the Syracuse running game.

Prediction: Cincinnati 30, Syracuse 14

2. Pittsburgh 7-1, (4-0): Last week: Win vs. South Florida 41-14 -
Why have the Panthers moved up a spot? Their route of USF is part of it, but in terms of the big picture the answer is quarterback Bill Stull. Talks have to start for Stull as conference player of the year–he’s thrown for 1, 654 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions and against South Florida he starting out completing his first 11 passes and completed 72 percent of his passes. He’s no longer a liability; Stull is playing like a star. When their quarterback is on top of his game this offense is dangerous. With his 111 yards from this weekend freshman running back Dion Lewis eclipsed the century mark once again, bringing his season total to 1,029. He ranks second in the nation in rushing, Lewis isn’t just the freshman of the year in the conference, he’s the most dynamic newcomer in the country. Against the Bulls they played a perfect game–was it a one time thing or just the start to an incredible run?

Up Next: Idle

3. West Virginia 6-1, (2-0): Last week: Win vs. Connecticut 28-24 -
The 56-yard touchdown run that saved the day by Noel Devine is all you need to see to know what an amazing running back he is. When he burst down the sideline it looked as if he would be pushed out of bounds at around the 30-yard line, but remarkably he kept his balance and his feet from touching the sideline, and eventually took it to the house for a score. Playing a close game at home against the Huskies isn’t something to panic about; they’re a gritty football team. But overall Pittsburgh has been playing better football, close calls aren’t a problem-but getting quarterback Jarrett Brown in sync is.

Up next: At South Florida - This is certainly a game West Virginia has to be eerie of. First of all, recent history. The Bulls have taken two of the last three from the Mountaineers and are one of the only defensive units that thrive at stopping mobile quarterbacks and lateral runners. If Brown doesn’t play a crisp game, it will be another close call for West Virginia. There will be a lot of pressure on the defense to stop South Florida’s duel-threat quarterback, B.J. Daniels–they may force him to throw a little bit more then he would like but he’s got the arm for big plays.

Prediction: West Virginia 27, South Florida 23

4. South Florida Bulls 5-2, (1-2): Last week: Lost at Pittsburgh 41-10 - The Bulls are sputtering. The last two years this football team has collapsed down the stretch and after back-to-back losses including a spanking in Heinz Field there’s panic. There is a lot of worry when this defense, what is supposed to be the backbone of the team, is dominated for 486 yards, 214 on which came on the ground. At this point they can’t recruit a giant nose-tackle to solve their woes, it’s time for the staff to make adjustments and utilize their athleticism in a different way. Offensively, this team is expected to struggle a little bit. With a freshman quarterback and inconsistent receivers it was bound to happen, however they can’t let up or it’s going to be three mid-season collapses in a row.

Up Next: West Virginia - This is perfect timing. With the team moral low, what better way to boost it back up again than with a big home win? And the West Virginia is a good match-up for them. Even though they struggle against the run, they have the hard nose tacklers to limit Devine from running over people and the speed to contain him on the outside. A lot of pressure for senior George Selvie to step up, he hasn’t been himself lately. But the Bulls won’t win this game unless a receiver steps up, the quarterback can’t just run the offense alone. Will this be the game Carlton Mitchell or Sterling Griffin breaks out?

Prediction: West Virginia 27, South Florida 23

5.Connecticut 4-3, (1-2): Last week: Lose at West Virginia 24-28 -
No shame in losing the way they did to West Virginia last week...a tough loss for an emotionally charged unit. Right before Devine made his legendary run, Connecticut had a magical touchdown score of their own. After a fumble recovered on an interception return allowed the Huskies to retain possession, quarterback Cody Endres hit Marcus Easley from his own 12-yard linea cross midfield that the wide out took the rest of the way for the score. It was a magical moment in a game that had a lot more meaning than just a win or a loss. The Huskies remain at the same spot despite a loss.

Up Next: Rutgers - It will be another emotional scene in Storrs as the football team returns to play their first home game since the death of teammate Jasper Howard. This very big game for Connecticut. A loss would put them in a position where they will have to fight for bowl-eligibility but a win could propel them to have a shot for a better bowl game. The offense has looked more and more balanced each week, and against Rutgers, expect plenty of deep balls again. What gives the Huskies the edge is their defense. Other than stellar backs Lewis and Devine, Connecticut hasn’t had trouble stopping anybody and they will be geared up to stop the run and make the freshman quarterback beat them.

Prediction: Connecticut 25, Rutgers 17

6. Rutgers 5-2, (0-2): Last week: Win at Army 27-10: A win is a win; even if comes against one of the worst teams in college football. Rutgers dominated this contest, more than the score will even tell you. The triple-option was no problem to defend and any time Army had an opportunity to take advantage, the Cadets would shoot themselves in the foot with a fumble or a dropped pass. There’s not a whole lot to learn about Rutgers from this game. Joe Martinek rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns.

Up Next: At Connecticut - This is a chance for Rutgers to prove themselves. They have no signature wins, unless you count the victory at Maryland (you shouldn’t) and this is a big game. It’s a big game because they come in as heavy underdogs to a team that’s not that much more talented then they are. But all the things that Rutgers does to hurt themselves like committing too many penalties, sloppy quarterback play or inconsistent tackling...Connecticut does well. Both teams run the ball pretty well and can defend it too, so the key to the game is who is a better through the air. Does Tom Savage finally break out in a conference game?

Prediction: Connecticut 25, Rutgers 17

7. Syracuse 3-4, (0-2): Last week: Win vs. Akron 28-14 - Finally this team blocks for their talented tailback. Delone Carter broke free for 170 yard rushing and three touchdowns and was given the opportunity to do what he does best. He’s one of the toughest backs to take down on first contact; the problem is that contact usually comes behind the line of scrimmage. It’s great for Carter and Syracuse fans to see what the former Mr. Ohio can do when he has the chance. Mike Williams was suspended for violating team rules, but sophomore receiver Marcus Sales stepped up with six catches for 61 yards and a touchdown. Senior linebacker Derrell Smith continues to have a tremendous season. Against Akron he recorded three tackles for a loss including two sacks, and was in on forcing a fumble. He leads the team 64 tackles and 10 for a loss; he’s been one of the most improved players on this defense over the last two years. Special note in the game, Dashan Miller of Akron who set a school record of 191 kickoff return yards, on four returns.

Up Next: Cincinnati - The Biletnikoff semifinalist, Williams, will be back for the game versus Cincinnati and boy do they need him. The only way Syracuse pulls off the upset is if quarterback Greg Paulus limits his turnovers and gets Williams the ball. The secondary has been spotty to say the least, so they catch a break not facing Pike. The defensive line has been playing well and they might give Collaros a challenge. Defensive tackle Arthur Jones has been hungry for a big win on a big stage.

Prediction: Cincinnati 30, Syracuse 14

8. Louisville 2-5, (0-3): Last week: Lost at Cincinnati 10-41 - No surprise that this team was spanked on the road. There’s a lot to be concerned about. The secondary has been horrific all season, the offensive line is in shambles and the running game has all but vanished.

Up Next: Arkansas State - This game is the season. Coming into the year it was expected the Cardinals would finish at or near the bottom of the division and loss here would be truly rock bottom. They already manhandled Indiana State in their opener and took care of Southern Miss, but they cannot lose to the 2-4 Red Wolves out of the Sun Belt. Running back Victor Anderson will likely get the ball a lot in this game, and versus a poor run defense it should mean good things for Louisville.

Prediction: Louisville 36, Arkansas State 20

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Photos Courtesy of University of Pittsburgh, USF Athletics Communications, Tom Ciszak Rutgers Athletics

Thursday, October 29, 2009

College Football Insiders Newsletter 3.8

In this week's issue:

* Inside the Nation: What four surprise schools could be going bowling?

* Award Watch:
The Heisman Trophy & Davey O'Brien Award

* On Location:
Pittsburgh Panthers

* One On One
with Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams

* Player Spotlight
on Blair White of Michigan State

* Game of the Week:
Texas @ Oklahoma St.

* Conference Focus
on Conference-USA

* Plus CFI's Top 25, BCS Busters, Fans Weekend Guide & Football Fans Four-Pack


To Subscribe for FREE email Daniel Mogollon @ dan@collegefootballinsiders.com

Photo Courtesy of David Knachel, Virginia Tech Athletics Communications

Preview: Notre Dame (5-2) vs. Washington State (1-6)

By Mark J. Zavodnyik

Alamodome; San Antonio, TX; Saturday, 7:30PM ET, NBC


Overview

Notre Dame and Washington State will engage in a battle of passing games when the two teams meet at the Alamodome on Halloween night. NBC will be sure to get plenty of offense in their primetime coverage of the game as neither team defends the pass well.

Washington State head coach Paul Wulff leads a very young Cougar team that has struggled offensively and defensively this year. Wulff has been forced to start his youngest players due to injury and recruiting problems. Washington State’s freshmen have combined for a total of 36 starts this season. Five players who started the season have missed a total of 13 games due to injury.

Clearly a win would be an incredible victory for the Cougars. But beyond that, just a competitive performance against a ranked team in a nationally televised primetime game would be a huge accomplishment for a Washington State program in need of some positive momentum.

Notre Dame continues to play down or up to the level of their opponents. Other than the opener against Nevada, every game in which the Irish have played has come down to the final minutes and has been decided by seven or fewer points.

Notre Dame wants to rise up the rankings. To do so, the Irish need to prove to the pollsters that they have the ability to dominate a team with less talent and experience than their own.

Keys for a Washington State Victory

1. Protect the Quarterback:
True freshman Jeff Tuel has emerged as the starting quarterback for the Cougars. Tuel made his debut in Washington State’s 27-6 loss to USC.

He has gotten better with experience, having his best game of the season last week against California throwing for 354 yards and two touchdowns. As a team, the Cougars have been effective throwing the ball this season, averaging 221.14 passing yards per game.

Tuel is the key for Washington State’s offense because the Cougars do not run the ball effectively, ranked 116th in FBS at 72.57 yards per game. Luckily for Washington State, their best offensive weapon is Notre Dame’s weakness. The Irish are allowing their opponents 282.43 yards per contest through the air.

Considering how much Washington State relies on the passing game, the Cougar offensive line needs to do a better job protecting Tuel. Currently Washington State is last in the country in sacks, allowing five per game. This number needs to go down.

Left tackle Tyson Pencer and left guard Zack Williams are two new starters for the Cougar offensive line. Both made their college debut this season. Senior center Kenny Alfred provides leadership up front for the Cougars.

Sophomore wide receiver Jared Karstetter is the team leader in catches with 24. The Notre Dame defense will also need to watch out for junior receiver Johnny Forzani. The Cougar deep threat has touchdown catches of 68 and 99 yards this season.

2. Don’t Lose the Game in the First Quarter: A major reason for Cougars’ struggles this season has been that they have fallen behind so quickly in their games that it becomes impossible to mount a comeback. Washington State has been outscored by their opponents 112-3 in the opening period. Combine first quarter offensive problems with quality defensive opponents like Oregon (19th in total defense) USC (16th), & Arizona State (11th), and it is no wonder the Cougars have struggled to stay competitive.

As this is not a true road game for Washington State, the Cougars could gain some crowd support if they can put points on the board early.

Were Washington States to win the coin toss, Wulff would be smart to take the opening kick and immediately start throwing deep on Notre Dame’s poor pass defense. No better way to get a neutral crowd on your side than to make some exciting plays from the onset.

3. Win the Turnover Battle: On defense, Washington State has proved they have a knack for the take-away. The Cougars are ranked 10th nationally, with 19 forced turnovers on the year. They will have their work cut out for them as Notre Dame has committed just five turnovers this season.

However, if Washington State can get one or two timely turnovers during the game, they will greatly increase their chances of victory. It will be vital for Tuel and the Cougar offense to capitalize on any opportunities provided by Notre Dame.

Keys for a Notre Dame Victory

1. Golden Tate:
Sometimes it is just not that complicated. Tate is one of the most dynamic players in the country. He is fourth in the nation in receiving with 121 yards per game, and he is 10th in receptions per game at 7.43. Tate has caught half of quarterback Jimmy Clausen’s 16 touchdown passes.

When receiver Michael Floyd went down with a broken collarbone against Michigan State, there was an assumption that defenses would focus on Tate and do everything in their power to eliminate him as a threat.

Head Coach Charlie Weis has done a great job of combating these efforts by moving Tate around in different formations and even utilizing him in the wildcat offense. Just last week against Boston College Tate set a career record for catches in a game with 11.

Tate’s performances have been so impressive that he is now being mentioned in the Heisman conversation. If Tate and Clausen (second in the nation in passing efficiency) continue their production, it will be very interesting to see which Irish player is deemed to be the catalyst for Notre Dame’s offensive success.

The more the Cougars have to worry about Tate, the more dangerous Notre Dame’s running attack will be in this game. Armando Allen is Notre Dame’s leading rusher on the season with 542 yards on the ground. Allen seems to be running harder than any other point in his Notre Dame career. It would not be a surprise to see Allen break a long touchdown run against the porous Cougar run defense that allows 215.43 rushing yards per game.

2. Figure out how to defend the pass: While the Irish continue to struggle in pass defense, they seem to have shored up their front seven. The team’s rush defense has improved dramatically in their two recent games.

The Irish defense held Southern Cal to 80 yards fewer than their season average. Last week, Notre Dame held Boston College running back Montel Harris to just 38 yards after he gained 264 against NC State the previous week.

Linebacker Manti Te’o has played a key role in the improvement of Notre Dame’s rush defense. The true freshman has an instinctual ability to make plays and to be around the ball like no other defender on the team. Te’o was a major factor in controlling BC’s Harris last week, leading the Irish with seven tackles.

Despite the improvement up front, Notre Dame’s pass defense has regressed as the season has gone along. Productivity from the free safety position has been a problem for the Irish.

Junior Harrison Smith started the season at free safety but his struggles culminated when USC freshman quarterback Matt Barkley threw for 380 yards two weeks ago. Since then Smith was moved to outside linebacker, while Jamoris Slaughter and Sergio Brown were moved to safety to replace Smith.

The changes didn’t seem to matter as Notre Dame allowed Boston College freshman quarterback Dave Shinskie to throw for 279 yards. Prior to last week, Shinskie was averaging 116.4 passing yards per game. As long as Notre Dame continues to give up big plays in the passing game, the Irish will be at risk of losing games in the final moments.

Prediction

Notre Dame’s offensive weapons will over-match the Cougar defense. Washington State starts too many inexperienced players in key positions to keep pace with the Irish.

Tuel has added a nice spark to the Cougar offense and he will throw for two touchdown passes in the game. But it will not be enough as Notre Dame’s skill players will dominate.

Score: Notre Dame 45, Washington State 17

Notre Dame Sports Information

Heisman Ballot: Week 9

By Mark J. Zavodnyik

1. Colt McCoy, Quarterback, Texas Longhorns

Last Game:
26-of-31 passing, 269 yards, three touchdowns, one interception in a 41-7 victory over Missouri

Analysis: In a season where no one seems ready to make a strong claim for the Heisman, McCoy, the best player on a surprisingly under-appreciated Texas team, is the current leader. This year’s Heisman Trophy will likely go to the player who dominates in November and McCoy’s great game against Missouri comes at just the right time. The Longhorns face Oklahoma State this week in a game that is sure to be a display of offensive firepower. McCoy will remain in the driver’s seat if he can come close his performance in last year’s victory over the Cowboys when he threw for 391 yards and two touchdowns.

2. Jimmy Clausen, Quarterback, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Last Game:
26-of-39 passing, 246 yards, two touchdowns in a 20-16 victory over Boston College

Analysis: Not Clausen's most impressive performance from a statistical perspective, but another solid game that included two great touchdown passes to wide receiver Golden Tate. Clausen will need big games against Washington State and Navy in the coming weeks to stay in the race.

3. Mark Ingram, Running Back, Alabama Crimson Tide

Last game:
18 rushes for 99 yards in a 12-10 victory over Tennessee.

Analysis: In today’s SEC, it is probably impossible for a running back to continuously put up monster yardage as Ingram did in his previous performance against South Carolina (246 rushing yards). However, Ingram falls from the top spot due to a key fumble with the Crimson Tide leading Tennessee 12-3 and just over three minutes remaining in the game. The critical turnover allowed the Vols to get within a field goal of de-railing Alabama’s perfect season.

4. Tim Tebow, Quarterback, Florida Gators

Last Game:
12-of-22 passing, 127 yards, two interceptions; 22 rushes for 88 yards, 1 touchdown in 29-19 victory over Mississippi State

Analysis: With his 26-yard scamper for a score in the second quarter, Tebow tied Herschel Walker for the most rushing touchdowns in SEC history. One the other hand, Tebow had two interceptions returned for touchdowns. His 127 passing yards are not that of a Heisman winning quarterback. Tebow is not having the same statistical year as he had in his Heisman winning campaign of 2007. Nonetheless, he still has plenty of chances to re-claim the top spot, particularly with the game-formerly-known-as-the-world’s-largest-outdoor-cocktail-party against Georgia on the horizon this Saturday.

5. CJ Spiller, Running Back, Clemson Tigers

Last Game:
14 rushes, 81 yards; 6 receptions, 104 yards, one touchdown; three kick returns 125 yards, 1 kickoff return for touchdown in a 40-37 victory over Miami.

Analysis: Spiller’s presence on the list is an indication of the fluid nature of this year’s Heisman race. Like Ingram the week before, Spiller was not on many Heisman ballots prior to his game against Miami. That all changed with an electric performance that included a 90-yard kick return for touchdown and 56-yard touchdown catch. His 310 all-purpose yards were a school record. Spiller is now the nation’s leader in all-purpose yards per game at 207.86. He will need to keep up this impressive pace to offset Clemson’s three losses which likely will hurt him in the eyes of some voters.

Photo Courtesy of College Press Box

BCS Buster: Week 9 Preview

By KENNY FRANEK

Game of the Week - Central Michigan @ Boston College

Chippewa quarterback Dan LeFevour is coming off a huge game and will take his show on the road to play the Eagles. Boston College is coming off a disappointing loss at Notre Dame and will be hungry for a win. They have had trouble containing dual-threat quarterbacks, as shown in the 48-14 loss to Tyrod Taylor and the Hokies of Virginia Tech. The problem for them is that LeFevour is an even better run/pass quarterback than Taylor and is harder to defend.

The Chippewa defense will have their problems to deal with as well. Boston College running back Montel Harris currently has 794 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns while averaging 5.1 yards-per-carry. Wide receiver Colin Larmond is averaging 21.5 yards-per-reception and stands at 6’ 3”, which will make it tough for the Chippewa secondary to cover him man-to-man.

This will be the Chippewas’ toughest match-up since its season opener at Arizona, their only loss this season. The Eagles, on the other hand, have played the likes of Virginia Tech, Florida State, Clemson, and Notre Dame so they have experience playing in tougher games. The Chippewas already have one big road win against a BCS school (Michigan State) and will look to make it two for their eighth-straight win. Regardless of outcome it should be a wicked awesome game in Boston.
Prediction: Boston College 23; Central Michigan 17

Players to Watch: Central Michigan: QB Dan LeFevour; WR Antonio Brown; LB Nick Bellore; DB Josh Gordy; Boston College: QB Dave Shinskie; WR Rich Gunnell; WR Colin Larmond; LB Luke Kuechly; DL Alex Albright

Other Games to Watch

Sothern Miss @ Houston

Southern Miss has given up 30 or more points three times this season and no one has been as explosive as Case Keenum and the Cougars. Projection: Houston 48; Southern Miss 24

Wyoming @ Utah

If Wyoming wants to stay in the MWC race with TCU and BYU, they need to win this game. But scoring 19.4 points-per-game and giving up 23.6 won’t allow you to win many games, especially when you are playing an opponent of Utah’s caliber on the road. Prediction: Utah 30; Wyoming 14

UNLV @ TCU
Who doesn’t love a match-up between acronyms? Oh, and the TCU defense might just win the game by themselves. Prediction: TCU 23; UNLV 9

Photos Courtesy of Robert Barclay Central Michigan, University of Houston

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Big East On Location: Pitt 41, USF 14

Pittsburgh, PA-The Pittsburgh Panthers are 4-0 in the Big East for first time since 2003 and with another victory this weekend versus a talented South Florida team, the Panthers are making some noise in western Pennsylvania. Looking down at the field before the game and seeing their cheerleaders bundled up in the comfortable 62 degree fall day in downtown Pittsburgh, I should have known what kind of game it would be for South Florida.

Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt said, “That was a great team win today. I don’t know how it could of come together any better than it did today” when referring to the 41-14 home win at Heinz Field in front of 50,019.

With four games remaining the Pitt Panthers took another step towards winning a Big East title, but it won’t be easy…not with the heart of the schedule approaching. With Syracuse on November 7th at home followed by Notre Dame at home on November 14th, Coach Wannstedt said, “Oh God yeah. Syracuse. We will take a day or two off. Then we will get on to Syracuse. Conference game, priority…” which the coach said with authority, lest anyone think his Panthers are might lose focus on the task at hand.

Freshman Superstar

It’s not like Dion Lewis came out of nowhere this afternoon as he surpassed 1,000 yards rushing, becoming only the fourth freshman in school history to reach that milestone. After seven games in the 2009 season Lewis has 1,028 yards on the ground. He joins Tony Dorsett, Curvin Richards, and current Philadelphia Eagle LeSean McCoy as freshman 1,000-yarders. That’s some pretty good company and Lewis said, “It’s something special, but I’m not really thinking about all that stuff. I’m just taking things week-by-week and getting ready to win. Maybe after the season is over I’ll think about that stuff, but right now I’m just focused on getting the next victory and helping my team win.” Standing fourth in Pitt history with four games to go, he should finish behind Hall of Famer Dorsett and would need to average 165 to eclipse Dorsett’s single-season freshman rushing mark.

Sophomore Sensation

Youth is being served at Pitt’s skill positions and not to be outdone by freshman running back Lewis is Jonathan Baldwin, the wide out from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. He’s an intimidating presence at 6’ 5” and 225 pounds…numbers that are reminding some of another former Pitt receiver—Larry Fitzgerald. Baldwin took it to the USF secondary, carving out six catches for 144 yards in the win. Pitt’s quarterback Bill Stull said of Baldwin, “He’s an incredible athlete and great teammate. He’s made big catches all year”.

The Art of the Knock-Out Punch

With 1:10 left and the ball on their own 46-yard line the, Pitt laid the gauntlet down on the Bulls. Instead of working through the air, Lewis scampered down the right sideline for 48 yards. The long dash put him over 1,000 yards in just seven games and as we mentioned above, he is only the 4th freshman in Pitt history to record 1,000 yards rushing. Short, but thick (think Maurice Jones-Drew), Lewis is special. In fact, walking into the stadium listening to Pitt fans’ chatter, I actually heard several say they liked him more than Shady (LeSean McCoy). With that Lewis-led score, the Pitt lead was increased to 31-7 and the door was closed on the game as the teams headed to their locker rooms at the break.

NFL Radar Screen

Many players had great games today but it was the play of USF’s senior linebacker Kion Wilson that I wanted to sit back and look at over and over again. What I saw was a guy who gets after it, and does so quickly. When asked about the pro game and who he looked up to, he said, “Tyrone McKenzie, who was with us last year. He carved the path. He got picked up in the third round. I just basically follow his work ethics on and off the field. Hopefully I can follow the same path”.

Facing McCoy and Lewis, the transfer from Pearl River Community College had this to say, “Dion is a pretty good athlete. He can run and he’s got great vision”. And Wilson should know after he watched Lewis carry the ball 23 times for 116 and two scores. Wilson finished the game with six tackles and his intense play was something I took note of.

The Prize Fight

Sometimes the hype doesn’t live up to actual game performances. However, today I was privileged enough to view two of the finest linemen the Big East has to offer—Pitt’s junior left tackle Jason Pinkston and USF’s senior defensive end George Selvie. Pinkston kind of had his way today with Selvie. The 6’ 4” 305-pound left tackle overpowered the 6’ 4” 245-pound Selvie, plowing him backwards while making room for Dion Lewis and tying him up in pass protection; it was definitely Pinkston’s day today.

Selvie said of Pinkston, “It was a very good match up. He’s a good player. He does everything well. He’s coached very well. He would come down on blocks, he gives you hands to tie you up…He played a good game today.”

First Time for Everything

Whenever I attend a live game, I’m always looking to see something new and it wasn’t long before I noticed four students with P-I-T-T painted on their stomachs. You might say, ‘That isn’t new! I see guys painted all the time!’ That’s true…but there was one change on these bellies—they belonged to four Pitt female students. From the crow’s nest (press box) I could see these four students proudly standing in the front row, representing their Panthers. It was a sight to see and something I’ll walk away from today’s game remembering.

Trick or Treat

Halloween is just around the corner and instead of merely mentioning that the Pitt Panthers are 7-1 and off to their best start since 2003, I thought I’d give you some tricks and treats from today’s game.

Breaking away from the X’s and O’s I asked Pitt quarterback Stull (245 yards and two TDs on the day) when he last went trick-or-treating. Stull responded, “Maybe when I was eight”. When asked if there where any Halloween plans for the team, he added, “We are going to do a little something our last year in college (laughs). I’ve actually had some conversations with some guys…we’re going to have some fun”. Stull added that he and his roommate—senior tight end Dorin Dickerson from Imperial, Pennsylvania—“Might do like a Michael Myers and Jason thing, I don’t know”. One thing he did know, was his favorite candy, “Reese’s…I love peanut butter”.

When asked what his favorite scary movie was, USF's Wilson responded, “I don’t know. When I sit and watch the movie I can’t get into it because I’m sitting there thinking ‘this isn’t real, this isn’t real’”. Wilson added, “I take my nieces and nephews trick-or-treating” and his favorite candy is “Snickers, hands down”.

Stull’s teammate Dickerson got into the mix saying “I like scary movies a lot”. Asking him what he might go as for Halloween Dickerson, also a Reese’s fan, said, “I’m going to be Michael Myers this year. I have a Michael Myers mask and stuff”.

Stat That Stood Out

Freshman Dion Lewis has 72 points this season, which ties him for third in freshman scoring (at Pitt) with Fitzgerald (72 points in 2002).

Looking Ahead

Pitt has a week off before they host Syracuse on November 7th at Heinz Field. After that game their true grit and character will show when they get the meat of the 2009 schedule. The Panthers will face Notre Dame at home, travel to West Virginia, then close the regular season at home against the sixth-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats.

Coach Wannstedt said, “It was a great team win today. We constantly talk about trying to improve every week and playing as a team. I don’t know how it could have come together any better than what happened today.” If the coach can say anything close to that after the next four games, the Pitt Panthers will have concluded one of their finest seasons ever.

Photos Courtesy of University of Pittsburgh, USF Athletics Communications

Friday, October 23, 2009

CFI Preview: Penn St. @ Michigan

Penn State enters the contest riding along a cream puff schedule (Akron, Temple, Eastern Illinois) and against teams with Swiss cheese defenses (Illinois, Syracuse). The signature victory of the year? A nice 20-0 shutout of Minnesota at home (nice – used in the way that people never want to hear themselves described by the opposite sex). When the chips were actually down for the Blue and White, the river card flipped was the “Ace of Hawkeyes”, as Iowa downed Penn State 21-10 at White Castle the Whitehouse.

In conference games (three), the Spread HD boasts a ninth-best scoring offense of 21.7 while boasting a perfect score (8-for-8) in red zone scoring. Problems moving the ball? You wouldn’t think so as Team JoePa leads the Big Ten in rushing in conference games (208 yards/game) with Evan Royster second in the conference (311 yards, 103.7 average).

But Linebacker U has less to prove on the other side of the ball. They boast the number one scoring defense (12.7) and total defense (276.3 yards/game) as well as the number two pass defense (166 yards/game). Sean Lee made his return last week against Minnesota and helped make life miserable offensively for the Golden Gophers (zero points, 37 yards rushing, 19:59 time-of-possession).

Michigan started the season 4-0, with their signature victory coming under the last-second heroics of the rookie quarterback Tate Forcier against rival Notre Dame (38-34). The love affair peaked at week four (a 36-33 shootout against Indiana), and has tapered significantly with back-to-back losses to in-state rival Michigan State and then Iowa. Both were tough losses as Big Blue had chances in both games, but Forcier proved that kryptonite exists (and that he needs to gain about 20 pounds so he doesn’t 1) blow away in the wind and 2) sustain through a full collegiate schedule) having his worst showing (8-for-19, 94 yards, one interception, one fumble) in the Blackout at Kinnick Stadium.

In conference games, the Wolverines are tied for tops in scoring offense (28.0, Ohio State), but bottoms in scoring defense (29.7). What looked like a dominant year on the ground has now leaned toward mediocrity (6th, 124 yards/game), which certainly can be attributed to the loss of center David Molk for a month and a subsequent O-line shuffle. Forcier was even shuffled out for back-up Denard Robinson in the fourth quarter against Iowa, which now leaves those in Ann Arbor with that question – quarterback controversy? Pump the breaks everyone, even magic men like Forcier need learning lessons and potential starts like Robinson need growth opportunities. This is still a transition year, remember?

Final Analysis: Molk will likely make his return back as a starter of the buffet line (so long as Mike Barwis isn’t watching). So Michigan may return to their 270 yards/game rushing average they celebrated through week three. Forcier is apparently as healthy as ever, so the offense may have its best shot at eclipsing its season low scoring stretch (excluding Delaware St. – that never happened; the previous two weeks’ average of 24). Good luck against Penn State’s front seven, which will finally start the potentially devastating trio of Josh Hull, Navorro Bowman and Lee at the linebacker position behind havoc-wreaker lineman Jared Odrick. When Michigan runs the ball (behind well-rested Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown) against Penn State’s White wall, the showdown will certainly bill up to being the unstoppable force vs. the immovable object.

When Penn State takes control of the offense, look for them to try and attempt to run early with Royster, with a few long shots attempted by Daryll Clark. Michigan has shown the susceptibility of the big play, particularly down the deep middle. The Michigan secondary is clinging by a thread without a natural second cornerback on the field (Troy Woolfolk switching back from safety to corner). Clark’s receivers like to attack the deep outside, which may favor the Nittany Lions against this pass defense. Michigan’s chances will only improve if their down lineman (Brandom Graham, Mike Martin, Ryan VanBergen and Craig Roh) succeed at pressuring Clark without the blitz (as they did against Iowa). So far, Graham is the only one making it rain in opposing backfields. A concern for Penn State, is that their slower run game with Royster could stall against the Wolverines’ aggressive/attacking style, especially with the speedy Stephfon Green doubful with an ankle injury. Penn State’s offensive line must show it can play as a solid unit, and this will be a very good proving ground.

Prediction: I like Michigan’s chances being healthy with their offensive line, running game and quarterback. Penn State’s fluff schedule hasn’t really prepared them for the diesel offense Michigan runs, and it will be a fun one watching Michigan’s run game [ultimately succeed] versus Penn State’s front seven.

Michigan 32, Penn State 27

Photos Courtesy of Mark Selders/Penn State Athletic Communications

Big East Week 8 Preview

By CHRISTOPHER MOGOLLON

South Florida 26, Pittsburgh 23


Tune in to watch two very talented defensive lines, both with more than one future NFL prospect, most notable are Greg Romeus and George Selvie. This is a difficult game to call because both teams are very similar. Each have tremendous pass rushes, hard nosed linebackers but have offenses that are prone to stalling. An important match-up in this game will be the South Florida secondary versus the Pittsburgh receivers. Last week Jonathan Baldwin was held to only one catch and others like tight end Dorin Dickerson picked up the slack. South Florida has one of the Big East's top cornerbacks in Jerome Murphy, who had his ups and downs against Cincinnati a week ago. Keep an eye on the Murhpy-Baldwin battle. Two key difference makers are freshmen Dion Lewis from Pittsburgh and USF's B.J Daniels. The talented Daniels had his freshman moments against Cincinnati, but don't be surprised if the quarterback has a breakout game this week. The Pitt defense might not do as well against the scrambling youngster. Lewis, who leads the Big East in rushing, will test the Bulls' rush defense.

West Virginia 25, Connecticut 17


The Huskies are always a tough opponent. They’re gritty and possess a consistent rushing attack. With all that has happened this week there’s going to be a little extra fight in them. The status of quarterback Jarrett Brown, who suffered a concussion from last week’s game, is critical to the Mountaineers success. He’s likely to start but his status is a game-time decision. This game will probably close up to the very end but the difference maker is Noel Devine.

Syracuse 33, Akron 21

This is a huge game for this Syracuse football team. Last year they dropped a home game versus the Zips and it was the low point of the season. It’s a must win, not only to spare the embarrassment to losing two in row to Akron but to turn around the season. After a two-game winning streak the Orange followed up with a sloppy performance against South Florida and contest against West Virginia where everythign went wrong. Off a bye week, the team should be prepared for this one. Mike Williams is quietly having an All-American caliber season leading the conference with 712 yards and 45 receptions and won’t face a defender who can cover him in this one. The defense has done a lot of shuffling especially on the defensive line, so it should be interesting to see how some of the lineup changes affect the unit plays.

Cincinnati 26, Louisville 14

Last year Cincinnati snapped a five-game losing streak to the Cardinals. Look for Cincy to make it two in row in this battle of former Conference USA programs. Defensively, the Bearcats has improved and are continuing to get better each week. Linebacker Andre Revels and cornerback Drew Fey have been playing well of late with senior safety Aaron Webster. Quarterback Tony Pike is questionable but that shouldn’t stop the Bearcats from remaining undefeated, at least not this week.

Last week: 3-1, Season 35-6


Photos Courtesy of USF Athletics Communications, Syracuse University Athletics

Preview: Notre Dame (4-2) vs. Boston College (5-2)

Where: Notre Dame Stadium; When: Saturday 3:30PM ET; TV: NBC

Overview

Whenever Boston College faces Notre Dame, the Eagles always play one of their best games of the year. Historically, this game has meant more to the Eagles and their fans than it has to Notre Dame. These contrasting viewpoints have been evident on the field as the Eagles have won six consecutive games in the series.

Over the years, Notre Dame always seems to play BC at an inopportune time on its schedule. Whether it be on the heels of a great win (Florida State 1993, 2002) or a tough loss (Pittsburgh 2008, USC 2009) Notre Dame has frequently entered the contest against BC unfocused.

The task of ending the losing streak will be tough as the Irish face BC on the heels of a heartbreaking, eighth consecutive loss to Southern Cal just last week.

It will be important for Notre Dame to regroup quickly as BC is playing some of its best football of the season. New head coach Frank Spaziani leads a team that struggled offensively early in the season (most notably gaining only 54 yards of total offense in a Week 3 loss to Clemson) but has improved of late.

In last week’s 52-20 victory over North Carolina State, sophomore running back Montel Harris set school records with 264 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Not your typical freshman, 25-year-old Dave Shinskie has established himself as the starting quarterback and provided some stability to the offense.

The Eagles will not be lacking for additional motivation this year. They continue to play in honor of linebacker Mark Herzlich, who was diagnosed with cancer before the season began.

Keys for a Notre Dame Victory

1. Forget Southern Cal -
In 2008 Notre Dame lost a stunning quadruple overtime game to Pittsburgh, 36-33. Unable to forget the tough loss, Notre Dame was mentally unprepared the following week and fell to Boston College 17-0.

Charlie Weis will need to accomplish what he failed to do against BC last season: get the team to forget about last week’s game and come out of the tunnel ready to win.

For Notre Dame to avoid a hangover from the USC loss, it will be vital to get off to a fast start and play well in the first quarter. Points from the offense and productivity from the defense will be just the tonic to help the Irish forget about last week.

Both of BC’s losses have come on the road this season. In those games, the Eagles have struggled offensively, averaging just 10.5 points and 108.5 yards of offense in losses to Clemson and Virginia Tech. Should Notre Dame get out to an early lead, Boston College will struggle to mount a comeback.

However, if Notre Dame lets BC hang around and puts itself into a position where the Irish yet again need a fourth quarter comeback, there may not be any late-game magic left.

2. Expose BC’s inferior Pass Rush - The biggest weakness to the Eagle defense this season has been their inability to pressure the quarterback. Boston College has been unable to find suitable replacements for star defensive tackles BJ Raji and Ron Brace, both of whom were high picks in last April’s NFL draft.

As a team, the BC defense ranks 86th nationally in sacks with just ten. Their inability to pressure the quarterback has made their pass defense susceptible to big plays.

Jimmy Clausen should have plenty of time to distribute the ball to Golden Tate and the Irish receivers. Tate continues to be a dynamic part of Notre Dame’s offense. Despite continuous double-teams by USC’s vaunted defense last week, Tate was able to catch eight passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns.

3. Force Boston College to Throw - Boston College has one of the nation’s better running attacks, averaging 155.29 yards per game on the ground. However, they are much less effective through the air. The Eagles are 106th in FBS with 171 passing yards per game.

Notre Dame will employ the same strategy it used against USC: force a good running team to throw the ball. Coming into last week’s game against Notre Dame, USC was averaging over 200 yards per game on the ground. However the Irish defense was able to hold the Trojans to 121.

In doing so, Notre Dame was able to put the game in the hands of USC freshman quarterback Matt Barkley. While Barkley ended up playing great, the Irish were able to take the Trojans’ biggest offensive strength, and force them to win in a different way.

Notre Dame will look to do the same thing to Boston College on Saturday. They will load the box and attempt to eliminate Harris. In doing so, BC will need Shinskie to play great.

Keys for a Boston College Victory

1. Establish the Running Game -
The number one priority for BC offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill is to get production from Harris. At 5’8”, 192 pounds, the sophomore from Jacksonville, Florida is not the biggest or the fastest running back. However, Harris has great quickness and is difficult to bring to the ground.

The Boston College running game has been effective against some of the best rush defenses in the country. Going into last week’s game against the Eagles, NC State was giving up just 62.8 yards per game on the ground. Harris torched the Wolfpack for 264 yards and five touchdowns by himself. It will be vital to continue their trend of effective rushing to keep Clausen and the potent Irish offense off the field.

2. Exposes Notre Dame’s Biggest Weakness - The Irish have been terrible defending the pass this season. The Notre Dame defense has continually made other quarterbacks look great, giving up 283 passing yards per game (ranked 117th in FBS). Just last week, Barkley tossed for 380 yards and two touchdowns. Coming into the game, Barkley was averaging 239.5 yards through the air.

Shinskie has had an up and down season, averaging just 116.4 yards passing per game. However he played well last week when the BC running game was at its most effective.

Shinskie’s ability to capitalize on an Irish weakness will be a major factor in the outcome of this game. If he can get the ball to leading receivers Rich Gunnell and Colin Larmond, he will give the Eagles a great chance to steal one from Notre Dame.

Prediction

Boston College will enter Notre Dame Stadium as they always do: fired up and ready to win. Yet for the first time in a while, Notre Dame will have the proper focus necessary to beat the Eagles. The Irish finally understand that this game cannot be a one-way rivalry.

BC’s inability to get a consistent pass rush on Clausen will provide the talented Irish signal caller with too much time to make plays.

The Notre Dame run defense will do a good job limiting Harris’ effectiveness, holding him to less than 100 rushing yards on the day.

Shinskie will have his best passing day of the year. However, Boston College does not have the offensive firepower to keep pace with the Irish scoring attack.

Regardless, the Eagles will play hard and keep the game interesting in the first half. Notre Dame will pull away for good in the third quarter riding another impressive performance from Clausen.

Notre Dame 41, Boston College 24

Photos Courtesy of Notre Dame Sports Information

Big East Power Rankings Week 8

By CHRISTOPHER MOGOLLON

1. Cincinnati Bearcats 6-0, (2-0): Last week: WOn at South Florida 34-17 -
Talk about an impressive victory. With their starting quarterback Tony Pike out for the entire second half with a shoulder injury, the offense managed to put up 17 points in the second half and secured a victory on the road. Back-up quarterback Zach Collaros only completed four-of-seven passes, but on a key third and long it was his 75-yard designed run for a touchdown that was the back breaker in the game—an outstanding call to take advantage of the over pursuit of the South Florida blitz. Coaching, advantage Brian Kelly. But what was most impressive about the win was the play of the defense. The big play: on the first play of the second quarter safety Aaron Webster turned the game around with an interception in the red zone that was returned 83 yards to set up a touchdown, at least a ten point swing. Closing Out: In the second half they held the Bulls to three total first downs and forced five three-and-outs. This team seems to have that special element that equates to victories. Some how, some way they get it done. Up Next: vs. Louisville

2. West Virginia 5-1, (1-0): Last week: Win vs. Marshall 24-7 -
It took a second half surge to put away their in-state rival, but don’t get down on the Mountaineers. An early injury to quarterback Jarrett Brown caused the offense to get out rhythm. His replacement, freshman Geno Smith was four-of-eight in the first half but didn’t complete a pass over ten yards until midway through the third quarter. His longest pass was a 33-yard touchdown connection with Alric Arnett late in the third. It was Noel Devine leading the way as usual. Up Next: vs. Connecticut

3. Pittsburgh 6-1, (3-0): Last week: Win at Rutgers 24-17 - Another week, another close call. They handed Rutgers several chances to take this game-fumbles on special teams, missed field goals and costly penalties. But the end result was a win. Most of the credit goes to the front seven on the defense and freshman phenom Dion Lewis. The linebacking play was tremendous, Max Gruder is is a star of tomorrow in the Big East. The defensive line was spectacular again, not giving any room for Rutgers' ball carriers to do a thing (38 yards total rushing). However there is a vulnerable spot on this defense. With cornerback Aaron Berry out for the game with a shoulder injury the secondary was ineffective. Lewis is third in the nation in rushing and was clutch last Friday, which included a 58-yard touchdown run was the biggest play of the game. On the Panther’s final drive that melted the clock it was Lewis gaining chunks of yards on all seven touches he had. There’s a lot of promise for this team, they possess enough talent to take the conference but one has to wonder not if, but when will this sloppy play catches up to them. Up Next: vs. South Florida

4. South Florida Bulls 5-1, (1-1): Last week: Lost vs. Cincinnati 17-34 -
This defense can put the heat on the quarterback but when it counts, they struggle to stop the run. Cornerback Jerome Murphy had a disappointing game committing two personal foul penalties and was beat more than once on key plays. However, the panic button shouldn’t be pressed just yet, but the way this team has collapsed in seasons past, a win at Pittsburgh is badly needed. The key for the next game and for how successful this team can be this season is the play of freshman quarterback B.J Daniels. Up Next: @ Pittsburgh

5.Connecticut 4-2, (1-1): Last week: Win vs. Louisville 38-25 - It was all about airing it out, well at least for UConn's standards. Quarterback Cody Endres threw for a career-high 273 yards and a touchdown. Not to say the reliable running game wasn't there, Andre Dixon rushed for 153 yards and three touchdowns. He’s quietly having a fantastic senior campaign. The story was the defense, perhaps one of the most underrated units in the league. They are an aggressive bunch-forcing four turnovers and some big stops when it mattered most. Up Next: @ West Virginia

6. Rutgers 4-2, (0-2): Last week: Lost vs. Pittsburgh 17-24 -
Bad. That’s basically how Rutgers has played in their two Big East games this year, and if wasn’t for Syracuse and Louisville, the Knights wouldn’t be this high. Luckily a gift turnover that led to a touchdown avoided a near touchdown-less game. Not much positives to take from this game. Up Next: @ Army

7. Louisville 2-4, (0-2): Last week: Lost at Connecticut 25-38 - They have one of the worst defenses of any team in the BCS conferences and have already allowed over 30-plus points four times this season. The Cardinals are likely to be visiting the bottom sometime very soon. Up Next: @ Cincinnati

8. Syracuse 2-4, (0-2): Last week: Bye -
Can’t move a team up after a bye, but a win against the Akron Zips could get them out of the basement for a week. Two weeks ago Greg Paulus was benched for the second half in the team’s loss to West Virginia. It will be interesting to see how he responds and how the fans react; they will get on the former Duke point gaurd if the Orange fall behind early. Up Next: vs. Akron

Photos Courtesy of University of Pittsburgh, Tom Ciszak Rutgers Athletics

BCS Buster: Week 8 Preview

By KENNY FRANEK

Game of the Week - TCU @ BYU

The top defense in the MWC heads to Provo to clash with the top scoring offense. The Frogs give up a meager 13.7 points per game, while the Cougars average 38.6 points-per-game on offense. One has to give, but which will it be? For the record, BYU is giving up 22.7 points-per-game and TCU is averaging 33.8 points-per-game, so both are solid on both sides of the ball. The key match-up here will be TCU’s defensive line, starred by defensive end Jerry Hughes, versus the Cougar offensive line. BYU quarterback Max Hall has thrown 10 interceptions to date and can be forced into throwing errant passes when pressured. Hughes has eight sacks this season and is one of the best in the country at getting to the quarterback. If the Cougar offensive line can keep Hughes and Co. at bay, then he will have time to pick away at the TCU secondary, which is the weakest area for them on defense. If they cannot succeed in doing this, then it will be a long day for Hall and the Cougars.
Prediction: TCU 23; BYU 17

Other Games to Watch

Air Force @ Utah

Quarterback Terrance Cain and running back Eddie Wide will need to have big games against a good Falcons defense. Prediction: Utah 27; Air Force 14

Southern Methodist @ Houston
The only question here is: How many yards will Cougar quarterback Case Keenum throw for? Prediction: Houston 45; Southern Methodist 24

Idaho @ Nevada
Vandal running back DeMaundray Woolridge versus the Wolf Pack rushing attack of Luke Lippincott and Vai Taua is enough to make this an entertaining game. Throw in the fact that both are fighting for a share of first-place in the WAC and you got yourself a winning combination. Prediction: Idaho 30; Nevada 20

Central Michigan @ Bowling Green
The Dan LeFevour show is about to start, so in the words of T.O. “Get your popcorn ready”. Prediction: Central Michigan 33; Bowling Green 17

Photo Courtesy of College Press Box

Friday, October 16, 2009

Big Ten Preview: Iowa at Wisconsin

By JOHN SEARS - BIG TEN INSIDER

The Iowa Hawkeyes (6-0, 2-0) look to storm Camp Randall Stadium and the hosting Wisconsin Badgers (5-1, 2-1) in a pivotal match-up atop the Big Ten leaderboard. Last week propelled the Hawkeyes further up the rankings with a close victory over Michigan (30-28), while the Badgers suffered their first loss of the season in a mistake-ridden showing in Columbus versus the Buckeyes, falling 31-13. Despite the Badgers losing control of their own destiny with their loss to Ohio State, they can still finish with a share of the title if they win out. Iowa’s destiny is still in hand, already disposing of 5-1 Penn State just three weeks ago and reserving a showdown with the 5-1 Buckeyes in the Horseshoe November 14th.

The Hawkeyes have already tallied quality victories (at Penn State, Arizona, Michigan), so approaching the midway point of the season we have a decent sense of Iowa’s ability to make a significant conference/BCS splash. On the contrary, Wisconsin’s margin of victory (excluding the mighty Wofford), has been just 5.5 over Northern Illinois, Fresno State, Michigan State and Minnesota. Further, last week’s implosion on national television versus the Buckeyes did not help critics’ opinions of the team from Madison, who have now put themselves on an uphill slope towards tops of the Big Ten.

Therefore, it makes complete sense that I see Wisconsin handing the Hawkeyes their first loss of the season. Here’s why:

1. Michigan found a hole in Iowa’s defense and the Badgers will follow suit – Don’t think the Badgers weren’t happy to see that Michigan found great success pounding the ball versus Iowa’s stingy defense. Although the Hawkeyes proved why they have the Big Ten’s best pass defense (171 yards/game), holding the Wolverines to just 124 yards through the air, they almost squandered a nine-point lead while the Wolverines decided to rush the ball late in the fourth quarter…successfully (finishing with 195 yards on the ground). Iowa’s rushing defense sits sixth in the conference (134 yards/game). To boot, the Hawkeyes faced the number two rushing offense last week in Michigan (197 yards/game) at home and now get to visit the conference-leading rushing attack in the Badgers (200 yards/game). Which leads to an extension of point one:

2. Michigan’s hard-nose, downhill style of Brandon Minor (6-1, 216) will be topped by John Clay’s (6-1, 248) –
Of course you can’t compare across teams and schemes, but it was became obvious that Michigan wore down Iowa’s defense behind the legs of Minor, who finished with 95 yards and two scores. Clay was contained nicely by Ohio State last week but leads the Big Ten in rushing yards/game (107) and touchdowns (seven) while splitting the workload with Zach Brown. You have to point to the recovery of injuries from the offensive line, which outside of the six sacks surrendered last week, looked like tops in the conference. So it seems like Iowa may have a harder time stopping the physical rushing style. To this point, Iowa shut down Penn State’s rushing attack (109 yards rushing allowed) against a weaker offensive line and shifty/speed backs in Evan Royster/Stephfon Green duo despite the Nittany Lions holding third place in rushing (189 yards/game).

3. Wisconsin is used to seeing a tight end as a pivotal part of the offense – This will be a great match-up at the tight end position for the conference elite as Garrett Graham and Tony Moeaki will be showcased against each other. In just three games, Moeaki is tied for team lead in receptions (17) and possesses three of ten of the Hawkeyes receiving touchdowns. Moeaki was a Wolverine killer last week, which made quarterback Ricky Stanzi’s play-action bootlegs infinitely more effective and eventually set up the run in the third quarter. But Wisconsin sees this every week in practice with Graham, who leads his team in receptions (27) and touchdowns (four, which is four of nine total team receiving touchdowns). The Badgers should be better prepared to stop Stanzi’s number one option.

4. Iowa is 2-4 at Camp Randall since 1997 (5-7 overall) –
Home field has to count for something, right? I was at the 2007 contest between these two teams in Madison, and number nine ranked Wisconsin prevailed 17-13 (although then quarterback Jake Christensen barely overthrew a pass at the end of regulation to a wide-open receiver that could have stole the game, but I digress). Weather shouldn’t be a factor (high 30s, partly cloudy at game time), and it’s not a night game, but all-time on October 17ths, Iowa has won just four out of 15 contests and is winless against the Badgers (1959 – lost 25-16, 1964 – lost 31-21).

Final Prediction: Wisconsin 24, Iowa 20


Photo Courtesy of Iowa Sports Information

BCS Buster: Week 7 Preview

By KENNY FRANEK

Central Michigan @ Western Michigan


Tim Hiller vs. Dan LeFevour...it doesn’t get much better than this. They are numbers one and two, respectively, in career touchdown passes among active quarterbacks in the MAC. The records both quarterbacks hold could fill a trophy case and fans will get an opportunity to watch these two battle on Saturday in a much anticipated in-state rivalry game. The Chippewas boast the best scoring defense in the conference, allowing just over 14 points-per-game. They will likely try and force Hiller out of the pocket and make him try and make throws on the run. But Hiller isn’t the only Bronco player they will need to worry about. Running back Brandon West and wide receivers Jordan White and Juan Nunez all possess playmaking ability and could pose match-up problems for them on defense. The Broncos, on the other hand, will have their hands full dealing with the arm, and legs, of LeFevour who leads the team in rushing. Chippewa receiver Antonio Brown has the speed to breakaway from corners and can turn a five-yard pass play into a 70-yard score. It should be a great offensive show put on by these two MAC schools.
Prediction: Central Michigan 34, Western Michigan 23

Players to Watch: Central Michigan: QB Dan LeFevour; WR Antonio Brown; LB Nick Bellore; LB Matt Berning; CB Josh Gordy; DE Frank Zombo; Western Michigan: QB Tim Hiller; RB Brandon West; WR Jordan White; WR Juan Nunez; LB Austin Pritchard; DL Cody Cielenski

Other Games to Watch

Northern Illinois @ Toledo


The dynamic duo of Husky running backs Me’Co Brown and Chad Spann look to out-duel Toledo quarterback Aaron Opelt and running back DaJuane Collins and move to 2-0 in the MAC.

Colorado State @ TCU

Quarterback Andy Dalton looks to get back on track after a disappointing outing at Air Force and move the undefeated Frogs to 2-0 in the MWC. The Rams will be looking for a win to ease the pain of blowing a 14-point lead in the second half against Utah.

Utah @ UNLV


The Utes come-from-behind win at Colorado State saw quarterback Terrance Cain play his most inspired football of the season and may have fired this team back up. Meanwhile, the Rebels defense is looking to improve in any way possible after giving up 30 points or more in their past four games.

Photo Courtesy of Robert Barclay Central Michigan