Monday, November 16, 2009

College Football Analysis After Week 11

With the season coming to a close the season is really taking shape as to who is really legit and who was nothing more than overhype.

24 LSU 16 Louisiana Tech

I have seen a lot of games at Tiger Stadium, but this one takes the cake as the worst game I have ever seen in person. One week after a devastating loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide, LSU came out of the gates flat. The team overlooked a pumped up Louisiana Tech team and in turn LSU was fighting for four quarters to win. Two main things stuck out about this game - Jarrett Lee and LSU's game plan.

Jarrett Lee: Last year Lee threw 16 interceptions as a freshman at quarterback. Of those 16 interceptions, 7 were returned for touchdowns. It was a horrific experience for Lee, the team, and the LSU fan base. But we were told that was water under the bridge. We were told that Lee had matured and that last year was no reason to cast him in the fire. He was a 19 year old freshman for crying out loud. If anything this Louisiana Tech game was the biggest game of his career. When the clock struck zero Lee's stats was appalling. He finished 7 of 22 for 105 yards against a 3-7 Louisiana Tech team! I never expected Lee to play lights out (he is the backup after all), but I did expect to see improvement from last year and I did expect him to show LSU that he indeed does have lots of potential for the future.

I saw neither. I saw a deer in the headlights quarterback who, outside the first couple of drives, really struggled. I really must say I was blown away on the lack of progress Lee showed on the field Saturday. He has no confidence in himself and when a play breaks down he panics. Before you know it the ball is sailing out of bounds again. Sure that's better than a pick six but there comes a certain point when you have to say, 'What are you doing?' And worse his teammates do not have confidence in him. After what seemed like the 100th overthrown ball to Brandon Lafell, Lafell ripped off his chin strap in frustration. When he does get a throw off Lee's pass seems to hang in the air for an unbelievable amount of time.

I hope Jarrett Lee has a great life and turns out to be a great father with a successful career, but I do not think (or want) him to be LSU's quarterback. He does not have it. If he truly wants to continue pursuing a career as a quarterback he needs to transfer because I honestly do not see any reason to think things will change for the better.

The second thing I wanted to talk about deals LSU's offensive game plan. In short the game plan sucked. Period. I am still baffled as to why offensive coordinator Gary Crowton called some of the plays he called. At quarterback is Jarrett Lee, a man who has no confidence in himself. After a nightmarish freshman year Lee is now terrified to throw the ball. With all that taken into account why would Crowton think the best way to beat Louisiana Tech was to throw the ball? LSU was running the ball on Tech. Senior running back Keiland Williams was having his way with the Tech defense, yet for some reason Crowton would always resort back to throwing the ball. Why? Why? Why? At the end of the day what helped LSU avoid an upset? RUNNING THE BALL. I can only hope Crowton gets things together for Ole Miss, otherwise confidence will be lost in him as well.

With all that considered I do have to give credit to the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. Head coach Derek Dooley (former LSU special teams coach) made his players believe they could beat LSU in Tiger Stadium on Saturday night. For much of the game that dream seemed like it could really become a reality. Using a wildcat offense and a series of trick plays, Tech was able to keep the game close. I know this has been a difficult year for the Bulldogs as they are now 3-7, but rest assured Dooley is a special coach who continue to improve Tech each and every year.

55 Stanford 21 USC

Two weeks ago the USC Trojans got destroyed in Autzen Stadium to the Oregon Ducks 47-20. The game was the biggest blowout in Pete Carroll's career at USC. No way a loss could get any worse than what USC experienced that Saturday, right? Wrong. Someone forgot to tell the Stanford Cardinals they are not supposed to be fighting for the Pac-10 title. Someone forgot to tell Jim Harbaugh's crew this is a game they are supposed to lose.

Two years Stanford beat USC 24-23 in the Coliseum in arguably the biggest upset in college football history. (Stanford was a 41 point underdog.) For their homecoming game and only two weeks removed from the Oregon embarrassment it was expected that USC would rebound in a big way. Going into the fourth quarter Stanford held a narrow 28-21 lead.

But then it all collapsed. By the time the clocked ticked zero Stanford had cruised to an unheard of 55-21 victory over USC. There are several things that stick out about this game. First, where is USC's defense? Consistently, year in and year out Carroll has a team with defense, but this year the unit has looked atrocious at times. The second thing that stuck out ties in with the first. I was blown away by the success Toby Gerhart. All season Gerhart has been torturing opponents, yet in the back of my mind I felt USC would still neutralize him come Saturday.

At day's end Gerhart had 29 carries for 178 yards and 3 touchdowns. I think it's fair to say that Gerhart did whatever, whenever, against the Trojans.

Now the big question is, is this a sign for things to come for a Harbaugh-led Stanford squad or are they just this year's Ole Miss? It will be interesting to see.

45 Wisconsin 24 Michigan

Four weeks into the season and the Wolverines were 4-0. Now Rich Rod's crew stands at 5-6 with the final game in the Big House against Ohio State. So yes you read that right, in order to avoid a second consecutive losing season UM has to beat the 10th ranked team in the country. The minor defensive holes for the Wolverines have blown up as the season has progressed and in turn the Wolverine fan base has begun to show frustration with Rich Rod's job so far. Keep in mind this is only his second year, he is installing a completely new system, the defense is weak, and lastly, but most importantly there's a true freshman playing quarterback. Also keep in mind that three of the Wolverines' losses have been by an average of 3 points. This is a team that will improve in the future. Give it time.

On the other side the Wisconsin Badgers have slowly gone through this season under the radar with an impressive 8-2 record. Coming into the season Coach Bret Bielema was definitely starting to get on the hot seat, but I doubt that's the case anymore. The Badgers only two losses have been to Ohio State and Iowa. The best news they have is their top quarterback (Scott Tolzien), running back (John Clay), and wide receiver (Nick Toon) will all be back next year. Look for Wisconsin to be a dark horse sleeper for next year's Big 10 title.

24 Cincinnati 21 West Virginia

Cincy has had a pretty easy time with it's opponents this year, but things this week things changed. With 2 minutes left Cincy kicked a field goal to go up 24-14 so the final was closer than the actual outcome, but rest assured WV put up a fight. With all that said, unless Cincinnati falls flat on it's face against Illinois on November 27th, you can assume that Cincinnati will be playing at Pittsburgh December 5th in easily one of the biggest games of the year. Winner of that game will get a BCS bowl.

Currently West Virginia is 7-3, but the team still has a home match up with Pittsburgh (a team who's season they would love to ruin after what happened in 2007)and a road game against Rutgers. If the Mountaineers dropped those final two the team will finish 7-5 and things will start to get a little uneasy in Morgantown with how Bill Stewart's tenure has gone. Yes, going 9-4 last year and 7-5 this year is not bad, but keep in mind this program was flying high when Rich Rod was in town. Fans expect more.

27 Pittsburgh 22 Notre Dame

Charlie Weis you are going to be fired. With 12:44 left in the game ND was down 27-9. The team was able to rally, but again Weis's team fell to a ranked squad. And to top it off ND (already with 4 losses) still has to play Connecticut and Stanford. On paper and from what we have seen I can not see Notre Dame beating Stanford so you are looking at another 7-5 season. That's not Notre Dame. Maybe at Temple or Baylor, but not Notre Dame. Weis has been given enough time and still his teams are, well, average.

Also, I have to say I'm awfully impressed with how well Pittsburgh is doing. In particular Coach Dave Wannstedt who has this Panther team two wins away from a BCS bowl. During his first season Wannstedt went 5-6, the following year he went 6-6, and then the next year in 2007 his team went 5-7. Looking at his first 3 years at Pitt (16-19) it makes you think why Wannstedt was not let go. I honestly think the thing that really factored into him coming back last year was the monumental upset Pittsburgh pulled over West Virginia in 2007. The Mountaineers were one win away from going to the BCS National Championship. All they had to do was beat a 4-7 Pitt team that was a 24 point underdog. Pitt won 13-9 and since that game both programs have been going in opposite directions. That win has catapulted Pitt into believing that they can compete with the nation's best.

24 Florida 14 South Carolina

Florida continued its winning streak to 20 games, but at the same time the team was not over the top impressive. A lot of that has to do with great South Carolina defense. A couple things stood out to me. First, with this loss Spurrier is 34-27 at South Carolina. The Ole Ball Coach really is not much of a coach anymore as his teams rarely finish the season strong. The Gamecocks do consistently play tough, but in the end they lose. Their biggest win in Spurrier's tenure was a six point win over a then top 5 ranked Ole Miss team. Would South Carolina ever think about firing Spurrier? Each year it's the same story. Start strong, finish awful.

Florida has the regular season wrapped up. They play Florida International followed by Florida State, so you can pretty much start talking about the SEC Championship Game. That is a tough game to say the least on who I think will prevail. On one hand I say, 'This is Florida and Tim Tebow. The quarterback advantage for Florida is the clear reason the Gators will win again.' But on the other side I have to think, 'Alabama lost last year and has spent an entire year anxiously awaiting a rematch. Rarely do teams beat Nick Saban twice with the same game plan. If Florida wants any shot of beating Alabama they have to change their game plan.' Because of the events that happened late in the fourth quarter in the LSU/Alabama game I will not be watching the SEC Championship Game, but I can pretty much guarantee it will be a defensive struggle. I will take Florida 24-16.

42 Ole Miss 17 Tennessee

Just when you thought Ole Miss's season was going to completely unravel the team came out and beat up a good Tennessee defense. Dexter McCluster ran for 282 yards and 4 touchdowns! REREAD THAT THREE MORE TIMES! This is not Madden, this is real life! Wow! Despite a season that has had some major disappointments, the Rebels still have a very good chance of finishing the season strong. Their ability to score points against a good defense shows that this team can take down LSU this Saturday. Put it this way - if Ole Miss beats LSU and Mississippi State, and wins their bowl game then you have yourself a 10-3 season. Not bad at all.

With that loss the Vols slip to 5-5. Their two remaining games are against Vandy and Kentucky. If Kiffin's crew finishes strong they will get a bowl. Kiffin has this program going in the right direction. Think of it like this - the Vols do not have the top notch athletes they use too, yet they hung with Florida and almost beat Alabama. Once they get the athletes things will really change. The future is bright.

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