Sunday, September 27, 2009

College football, Saturday viewing

12:00, Indiana-Michigan
It's hard to evaluate these two teams properly. Michigan's probably not one of the top 25 teams in the country, and Indiana's probably somewhere between sixth- and ninth-best in the Big Ten, but on Saturday they looked pretty even. Michigan's defense looked pretty bad for most of the game, and once again Tate Forcier had to finish off a late touchdown drive for the win.

Naturally, with Big Ten refs involved, there were egregiously wrong calls. I find it hard to believe that there are officials employed with the league who don't know basic rules like simultaneous possession, but apparently there are, and Jim Delany will crack down on that as soon as he figures out it's not 1970. Indiana fans should be justifiably upset about that blown call: the strides that the Michigan offense has made were noticeable, and this was likely IU's last shot at a win in Ann Arbor for a long time.

I think it should be clear that the version of the spread that Rodriguez has brought to Michigan is already paying dividends, and when you think about the type of recruits he should be able to get the next year or so, you may well see an offense like what Urban Meyer has at Florida. (Then compare that to what Jim Tressel is running at Ohio State. And smile.)

3:30, Western Kentucky-Navy
Blackout stupidity: Illinois-Ohio State wasn't available on ESPN because it was the local game on ABC. Two questions: why was it on ESPN then, especially considering that ABC and ESPN are owned by the same company, and why wasn't I shown an alternate game? I mean seriously, I have about eight games from which to choose and you think I'm going to watch ABC because you can "make" me? That's so '60s.

So I watched some old-style option football. Not much to say about this, other than they had an interesting thing on the sidelines where I think the Navy mascot was trying to toss cheerleaders' pompoms into the Western mascot's mouth. I love college football.

Also, it's hard to explain how difficult it is to defend the option when a) the team you're playing runs it well and b) you don't run it at all. Unless you have superior athletes (who can thus overcommit and still catch up on the play), you spend the entire game chasing the wrong guy with the ball. As Paul Johnson is showing at Georgia Tech, it can be successful to a certain extent against top competition (and perhaps not much more than that), but for lower teams, it's definitely a good, well, option, especially when you remember that Navy can't recruit just whoever they want.

8:00, Purdue-Notre Dame
To my great surprise, Purdue's defense didn't look nearly as bad against Notre Dame as they did early this season. (Then again, maybe they faced some tough offenses ... Idaho's win at Northern Illinois made that loss look a lot worse, but look at home Oregon shredded Cal in Eugene and it makes that loss look a lot better.) Special teams weren't bad (meaning Valentin didn't fumble), but then there was the offense. Let's be honest, Elliott is still the same guy who couldn't beat out Curtis Painter for the starting job last season; in some respects, he's the equivalent of Nick Sheridan, a caretaker who's the best option available. Next season, with Marve available and perhaps some recruits, Hope might have a guy better suited to the offense or perhaps to being a QB in general. Elliott just doesn't seem to make enough good decisions.

Notre Dame is starting to collect injuries at their skill positions and I think that might be a problem moving forward. They don't have too many easy games left on their schedule (only Washington, Washington State, and Navy really fit that category), and if they are struggling to put their starting offense on the field, it could be another tough year in South Bend. Of course, Weis always brings a tactical advantage to the field, isn't that what he said? I wonder what level of football he was referring to.

Late game, Texas Tech-Houston
I don't remember the last time I saw fans rush the field when their top-25 team beat a team they were expected to beat. I guess that tells you what it's like in Houston. It's been a while since they've been consistently good, and really the last stretch was probably the late '80s or so when Jack Pardee and John Jenkins ran up the score so people would think better of their teams ... as soon as teams adjusted to their run-and-shoot offense, that came back to bite them hard. The Cougars seem to be running a Big-12-like offense, and I'm still not convinced that the Big 12 actually has defenses to match, so this was an interesting game to watch.

Thoughts on other scores and games
Maybe JoePa needs to start scheduling better opponents early in the season. That stuff makes sense if you're rebuilding a weak program and trying to slip into a bowl, but it doesn't make sense if you're trying to win a "title", and even though the Hawkeyes have been struggling in most of their other games, Ferentz still seems to have the Lions' number.

California didn't even make it a week before tripping over their first-place position in the conference. But who knows? Maybe Oregon is really the team that's going to challenge USC's checkbook for the conference title, and their rough start against Boise State and Purdue isn't indicative of that team's quality.

The bloom is off the Spartan in East Lansing; maybe Mark Dantonio is focusing a little too much on big brother and not quite enough on the rest of the schedule. Two weeks ago, Michigan State could have been entertaining thoughts of a New Year's Day game, but now they could be in a position where another untimely loss or two might cost them a bowl bid. With Michigan and Penn State at either end of their remaining schedule and some potentially tough games in between, the Spartans are looking more like a middle-of-the-pack team and less like a contender.

I don't know why Kentucky fans were booing as Florida took them apart. Hello? You're hosting the #1 team in the country, and frankly, your team isn't that good. Settle down and be thankful you're not getting blown out by a bad team.

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