Wednesday, October 28, 2009

College Football Analysis After Week 8

Sorry for taking so long to get another post out. I was actually kidnapped by a wild pack of bandits who desperately wanted me to turn over my 2001 Camry to them.

I would not give in to their threats...

12 Alabama 10 Tennessee

For much of year the Crimson Tide were looked at by all as the most complete team. The defense was one of the best and the offense had a running game close to unstoppable. The best luck anyone had was South Carolina who fell 20-6. No one had ever hung with Alabama. No one had ever really made the Tide fight to the end.

That was until Tennessee.

Prior to this game not much of a chance was given to the Vols, but after the 12-10 score stood Kiffin and crew got respect. Yet I'm positive his team is still very unhappy with the outcome. It always seems the importance of special teams is pushed behind offense and defense, yet as the UT/Bama game shows you the special teams is just as important as any of those three. 3 missed field goals, including a potentially game winning 44 yarder with 4 seconds left. Unfortunately for the Vols Terrence "Train" Cody broke through the line and destroyed the Orange Crew's dreams of ruining Bama's season. It was interesting to note that once in field goal range Kiffin thought it was a gimme. Gary Anderson is the NFL's all-time leading scorer. If he was kicking a 44 yarder in his prime I would still be nervous. This was a college kicker! Point is UT needed to get closer. The fact that Kiffin did not have the urge to move further ahead only highlights even more the little confidence he has in QB Jonathan Crompton.

In two big games this year (Florida and Alabama) Kiffin has managed to put together a very impressive game plan. His teams were very heavy underdogs yet they still had a chance to win in the end. Once Kiffin starts really getting some athletes Tennessee will be a force.

So what did we learn about Alabama? First, they are vulnerable. They, like every other team this year, do have flaws. Biggest thing is QB Greg McElroy still has some maturing to do. Tennessee knew Mark Ingram was Bama's biggest weapon and they neutralized him much of the game. McElroy has to be able to pick up the slack. Second, despite not playing the best game Alabama found a way to win. That is something that needs to be noted. Sooner or later there will be a game that Alabama finds themselves in where they are not playing there best, yet they have to fight to the end. This was that. Even when the odds where against them the team hung in there and blocked a field goal to, as Cody says, "save the season."

15 Iowa 13 Michigan State

I love when the claims come out that a one loss USC team would go over an undefeated Iowa team. Wow. Can someone please give the Hawkeyes some love? I can only help but think the only reason USC would go over Iowa is because I don't know maybe the fact that USC is in Los Angeles and Iowa is, well, in the middle of Iowa. Anyway onto the game.

In yet another Big 10 slug fest the Hawkeyes found themselves behind (13-9) late in the fourth quarter at Spartan Stadium. With a mere two seconds the Iowa Hawkeyes managed to convert a 4th and Goal that yet again resulted in a heart attacks across Iowa. Iowa is not the most glamorous team, but in all honesty few teams have a better knack at finding a way to win than the Hawkeyes. Look at there schedule right now. In week 1 they blocked two field goals by Northern Iowa in the final seconds to preserve a 17-16 victory. Okay so it was only Northern Iowa. September 26 Iowa triumphs over Penn State Happy Valley. And there's the home win over Michigan 30-28 and the road victory at Wisconsin where the team came from behind to win 20-10. And finally there's this victory at Michigan State on the last play. How is that not an impressive resume?! The Big 10 is a lot stronger than it was two years ago. I can only hope the voters see this.

There are four games remaining for the Iowa Hawkeyes. Sure they could trip up against Indiana, Northwestern, or a solid Minnesota but let's me honest the biggest remaining test is a November 17th showdown in Columbus against Ohio State. It will be tough, but again hasn't the season been like that the whole time?

31 LSU 10 Auburn

LSU fans have waited an awful long time to finally see some offense. After a dreadful showing in a 13-3 loss to Florida, LSU came out firing on all cylinders against the War Eagles. Unlike every other game this year, LSU punched the ball in for touchdowns (not field goals) right from the get-go. Had it not been for Jefferson's fumble in the first quarter it would of 21-0 after one quarter. And finally Russell Shepard got to see pay dirt. On a 69 yard scamper Shepard burst through the War Eagle defense and put the score at 31-3. Also worth noting is the LSU defense. Each game Defensive Coordinator John Chavis's crew looks better and better. LSU fans can only hope the Tigers can keep this complete game effort as LSU gets ready for a November 7th showdown against the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Jordan Jefferson played the best game of his career Saturday. His ability to get better every week is what makes this LSU team so potentially dangerous. If he can really get a handle on this LSU offense like he did against Auburn then watch out.

On the other side are the Auburn "Tigers". Through five games the War Eagles were 5-0 and hype began to form that maybe Auburn is better than we thought they were. After all there offense was running through everyone. Now fast forward to the present. First the War Eagles got dominated by Arkansas, then they lost at home to Kentucky who just lost their starting quarterback and finally they got dominated much worse than the score at Tiger Stadium against LSU. Auburn is currently 5-3 and you can not help but think that it might get worse. Auburn still has to play Ole Miss (this weekend), Georgia, and Alabama. Gene Chizik needs to get things under control before things really get chaotic.

29 Florida 19 Mississippi State

Something is not right in Gainesville. Prior to the season the Gators were touted as potentially the greatest team ever. Now granted most likely the team will go undefeated and win the national championship, but still it has to be noted how much the team is, well, struggling. It was a one score game going into the fourth quarter. Sure you can say that Bulldog coach Dan Mullen use to be Florida's offensive coordinator, but again this is supposed to be the greatest college football team ever. Tebow does not look like Tebow. He threw two pick sixes! Florida was fortunate to not have their interception in the fourth quarter overturned (the referees once again went brain dead), otherwise it would of be a one score game deep in the fourth quarter. Now I have to ask how does LSU's struggles against the Bulldogs look now? Maybe not so bad. If the Bulldogs took Florida to the brink you can not help but think that maybe, like Kiffin, once Mullen gets the athletes the wins will start happening.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Historic Photos of LSU Football: Best Holiday Gift

One of my greatest passions is LSU football. My admiration for LSU football is the combination of the culture, the atmosphere, the sport, and lastly, but most importantly, the history.

Even though I love watching LSU football in the present time I still very much enjoy seeing how LSU football has progressed over the years. How Tiger Stadium has grown, how the uniforms have changed, and also how the passion for LSU football has always remained the same. The best way to visually capture an era of LSU football is through historic photos from that time period. If you are looking to add another book to your collection of LSU memorabilia than I have the perfect LSU book.

Historic Photos of LSU Football by Mark E. Martin and Barry Cowan is the culmination of over 100 years of never-before-seen LSU football photos. To top off an array of priceless photographs the book also highlights significant moments in LSU's football history since it started in 1893.

Here are some of the photos you can expect to see in this 150+ page book.

This is a picture of one of LSU's teams in the early 1900s. I am sure these guys did not have to worry about being scrutinized on message boards 24/7.

ROTC use to be a requirement for students at LSU. It was later stopped in the 1960s. Here is a picture of some of the cadets in 1923 boarding a train for an away game at Vanderbilt. Here is an interesting little tidbit. During this time Louisiana Governor Huey Long wanted the train company to charge less for each train ride so LSU's fans could afford to go to the game. When the train company refused to lower prices Long jacked up a Louisiana tax he could inflict on the train company. Not wanting to pay this new fee the train company eventually lowered their prices as Long initially insisted.

Also in the picture you can see a paper mache tiger. Before LSU got their first live tiger in 1936 this paper mache tiger was brought to every game, home or away.

You have to love the leather helmet. Players use to pack newspaper in them to make them fit tighter. I admire photos like these because in each shot you see guys just playing football. No whining, no complaining, just hard nosed American football.

This is another great photo. If you had not already noticed on the far left of the screen is the 1959 Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon. You have to like the fact that the coach has a hat and a whistle - that's it. No headset or enormous playbook. Just a whistle and a hat.

And outside of these pictures there are some very interesting stories. In 1908 over 33 college football players were killed playing football. The reason was because the sport was over-the-top physical. President Roosevelt even talked about stopping the sport forever if rule changes were not made! Well rule changes were made and the sport only continued to grow.

Or how about the story behind Tiger Stadium? The state of Louisiana was not going to directly fund a stadium that was just for football. No need to worry as former Louisiana Governor Huey Long found another way. Long was going to put dormitories in Tiger Stadium. Because dormitories were seen as educational, Long got the funding he desired.

There are a lot more interesting facts and historic photos that I would like to talk about, but I could go all day. Overall, if you really want to experience LSU football from it's start to present buy this book. You might even learn about how Mike III was let out of his cage by Tulane students...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gators Triumph Tigers in Defensive Slugfest

It was a little past 10 o'clock Saturday night when the dream was officially dead. The No. 1 Florida Gators defeated the No. 4 ranked LSU Tigers 13-3 in what will easily go down as the most anti-climatic game of my life.

Myself, along with countless other LSU fans spent months anxiously awaiting Saturday's game. Even fans outside of Florida and LSU waited for this game. It was supposed to be the game of the year, but at the end of the day the game was nothing to write home about.

Let me clarify that I am not calling this an ugly game simply because LSU lost. It's more complex. I was well aware that LSU might lose to Florida, it's just the manner that it happened in.

The thing that is troubling to me is that LSU's defense did it's part to give the Tigers a shot to take down Florida, but as everyone saw the offense for LSU did nothing. The Gators showed why they have the No. 1 defense, but at the same time let's be frank - the Florida Gators have a great defense but not a 3 points per game defense. My point? LSU hurt themselves a lot. And as good as the Gators' defense was the offense was nothing too thrilling.

On one end I think to myself about how well the LSU defense did. They shut down a powerful Florida attack to a mere 13 points. The defense went above and beyond what, we, the fans, thought they could do. But on the other end is the cold reality of the situation. LSU's offense was beyond inept. It looked disturbing like something out of the 1940s. HB dive, two yard pass, HB dive, and a lousy punt. I do not know where to point the finger.

Yes, it was apparent that Jefferson was having lots of trouble as he once again got sacked numerous. And there were the numerous missed throws. But still it has to be acknowledged how much the offensive line is still struggling. Okay so Jefferson struggled and the offensive line really struggled. That is not even the worst part.

The worst part about LSU's 13-3 loss was the absolute abysmal play calling by LSU. I will give LSU's defense a solid B. As for the offense and in particular play calling there's no question Crowton and Miles earned an F. For the life of me I will never understand why Miles and Crowton stuck to the same bleak, bland offense that has been haunting this team the entire year. The one thing that shocks me is there were no changes to the offense against a much better defense. It was a stubborn approach. There were no trick plays. And by all means the running back up the middle on first down 95% of the time is getting old. There was no attempt by the coaching staff to add a spark to the offense. Case and point can be seen in Russell Shepard. In the biggest game of the year the highly touted recruit played ZERO snaps. Not one. And this my friends is the most confusing part of LSU's 13-3 loss.

Through the grapevine I heard the two biggest things the Florida defensive line was worried about where Charles Scott and Russell Shepard. Miles gift wrapped the defensive line's job by not putting Shepard in the game.

Have you ever heard of the story where the amateur chess player plays the professional chess player? The amateur takes whatever move he can get, while the professional keeps looking for a move that he thinks the amateur is playing. So the game continues and the professional keeps looking for a strategy that the amateur is playing to, and the amateur is taking whatever opportunities are given to him. In the end the amateur wins. This is what is going on with the LSU offense. Miles and Crowton are looking for something bigger. They are thinking too much. They are not taking the opportunity which is you have a true freshman who is getting 6 yards every time he touches the ball. That is all that matters. Put him in the game!

And that's the answer to your trivia question! How do you kill a crowd of 93,000 fans? You run a dreadful offense, and as Saturday showed us it worked like a charm.

As painful as it was to see the LSU game I anxiously awaited I must say there are positives. Keep in mind Jefferson is young and that the defense did play great. Also, through six games LSU has only one loss.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Florida Comes to Death Valley

This is it. The one game that has kept me up at night. The one game that motivates me when on the treadmill. It was about 83 days ago when I sent my dad the text, "84 days until Judgment Day!" It was the one game I could not stop dreaming of because of that smidgen of hope that the impossible could happen.

For months I proclaimed Saturday as Judgment Day. The day Superman fell. Superman is invincible? Nope. Turns out the Man of Steel loses to a fellow by the name of Doomsday. I have hoped for months that LSU would someone find a "Doomsday" by October 10th. Possibly, Chad "Dreadlocks of Doom" Jones? I could only ponder.

Tomorrow night Judgment Day will take place. The No. 1 ranked Florida Gators will come into Tiger Stadium to take on the LSU Tigers. The Gators are riding a 14 game winning streak and they are the over-the-top favorite to win the BCS National Championship.

Leading the way for the Gators is senior Tim Tebow. Behind Tebow there's an amazing defense, a stellar running game, and plethora of talent all over the field. Even with Tebow's current state the Gators are seen as an anonymous favorite to beat LSU.

No Tebow? Psh. Who cares! John Brantley will be an excellent quarterback. He will do fine against an average LSU defense!

A lot of those arguments do make sense. LSU does have a suspect offense and defense. How are they going to muster enough points to beat Florida? And really is Brantley that big of a downgrade from Tebow? For a whole week I have read them all, but in the end regardless of what I hear or read or how much I hear about how "upset" Florida is about their last trip to Tiger Stadium I still see an opportunity for LSU.

There's a reason it's called Death Valley. There's reason the stadium has a reputation as daunting as the Roman Coliseum. There's a reason it registered an earthquake back in 1988. There's a reason Bear Bryant referred to the stadium as "being inside a drum." The reason is because that place is the most over-the-top, intimidating place for a football team to play. There is something about. It is something you can not describe or define, but when that football team comes out onto the field and they see 93,000 screaming fans it is an instant shot of adrenaline. They feed off the crowd.

I look at that stadium I say LSU has a chance against Florida because of it. I honestly do not know what will happen Saturday. Most likely Florida will win because there's that notion that Florida's defense is far too good to let LSU beat them. Regardless of who is at quarterback the biggest battle is the LSU offense versus the Florida defense. You also look at the fact there's a young quarterback in Jordan Jefferson who is going against an experienced defense.

All that does not bode well for LSU...or so they say.

But then there's the other side. The X-factor. This game is in Tiger Stadium and like I described earlier the stadium is one of a kind. Take into account that last year LSU got embarrassed at The Swamp 51-21 and you have yourself the possibility of a fired up LSU coming out of the gate Saturday night.

If LSU wants to even think about beating Florida they have to punch the Gators in the mouth right out of the box. They have to make Florida fear. Florid has no fears. During this 14 game winning streak most teams have been blown out by the Gators. Sure there was the close game against Alabama in the SEC Championship, but that was in Atlanta.

And the intense National Championship game? That was in a neutral site as well.

My point is LSU has got to take advantage of the what should be the largest crowd in Tiger Stadium history. Les Miles's team has to grasp this advantage. I understand Brantley's great potential, but this is his first start. Take advantage of that LSU. Make them question Brantley early on. Make them panic. Make the Florida defense second guess each other. Plant in their minds LSU is outplaying them. Make them think they are not invincible.

In the words of King Leonidas in 300 during his talk with the tyrant Xerxes, "The world will know that free men stood against a tyrant, that few stood against many, and before this battle was over, even a god-king can bleed."

Show the world LSU that Florida can bleed. Show the world that Florida can fall.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

College Football Week 5 Analysis

With the college football season a third of the way done things were only expected to get more intense in the coming weeks. This past weekend was only the tip of the ice berg.

21 Miami 20 Oklahoma

There a couple things I noticed in this game. First, Miami has a defense. Yes, I understand Sam Bradford is out, but regardless Landry Jones was doing a solid job...up until he played Miami. Jacory Harris threw two costly interceptions in the first half which cost Miami big points. It was 10-0 Oklahoma and the game was one score away from getting out of hand. Because of an underrated Miami defense the Hurricanes were able to get back in the game. Good teams do this: they find themselves in ugly games, down early, and are able to pull themselves together and pull out a win.

Up 21-10 Oklahoma punted and the Hurricanes looked in control of the game. Then it happened. I see it all the time. The silly defensive player runs into the punter. In this case that call was probably justified, but in so many other cases it AMAZES me how easily referees throw the flag on that play. You are one inch away from blocking a punt and poof! it's a 15 yard penalty? Do they really think players can move their bodies in that moment? With all that said Oklahoma got that first down off that penalty and scored a touchdown. Despite all this Miami was still able to hold on and pull out their GUTSIEST victory of the season.

Miami's Drive of the Season: Oklahoma opts for a field goal to cut the score to 21-20. Miami got the ball back with 4:18 and the Sooners still had two timeouts. The Hurricanes milked the clock and then the offense pulled off the biggest conversion of the season. It was 3rd and 6 with 2:35 at the Sooner 36. Miami had two options they could run it up the middle and kill tons of time off the clock. The team would then either kick a field goal or punt. Long story short - Oklahoma would get the ball back with around 1:50 still left. Then there's option b) get the first down and end the game.

Miami did just that with an eight yard pass to Dedrick Epps. That takes a lot of guts to do that. If Harris does not make the place Oklahoma gets the ball back with 2:20 left in the game and down by only one point.

37 Notre Dame 30 Washington

Similar to LSU, Notre Dame finds ways to win. It might not always be pretty, but the team WINS. Against Washington the Irish were on the ropes. It was 24-19 and the Huskies (8 point losers to LSU and defeaters of USC) were looking to go up 31-19 and put the game out of hand. But Weis's team hung tough and gave up zero points on that drive. It says a lot about a team that gives up only 3 points when there opponent gets inside their 10 twice. For once I have to agree with Lou Holtz - Jimmy Clausen is looking like a Heisman trophy candidate. 23 of 31 422 yards and 2 touchdowns! You can not overlook stats like that.

Here's the thing I know there is a lot of ND hate out there, but you have to look at what this team has accomplished. They have one loss (Michigan) where the team lost right at the end. They beat Purdue at Purdue on a fourth conversion, and they also beat an always tough Michigan State that is notorious for playing spoiler. Am I saying they are top 5 material? No. But they are sure as heck a top 15 team Mr. Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated!

This is there best chance in years to beat USC.

26 Michigan State 20 Michigan

You never know what to think about the Spartans. One week they look like a 5 loss team, the next they are playing to their potential and taking down undefeated teams like the Michigan Wolverines. It will be interesting to see if this win will catapult Michigan State into playing to their potential the rest of the season. The Spartans are still not a top tier Big 10 team.

On the other side I want to point out how impressed I am with Tate Forcier so far. I understand he threw a critical interception in overtime, but rest assured overtime never happens if Forcier does not drive Michigan down the field late in the game. It is amazing to think how good Forcier can be in a year. I mean at this young of an age he is already making veteran-like plays. There was 2:53 left in the game. Michigan was down by 7 and they had the ball on their 8 yard line. And to top it off they were on the road in an underrated hostile crowd, yet Forcier still manages to bring his team down for the tying touchdown. That speaks volumes. team down for the tying touchdown. Biggest concern is the Wolverine defense. If Michigan can get a defense in the coming years no reason to think they can not be in the national championship talks again.

20 LSU 13 Georgia

There's a number of things I want to talk about as far as LSU's game goes. First, LSU was ticked off. A week of hearing how "overrated" they were got the team motivated...and it showed in the first half. Despite the all around amazing defensive performance in the first half LSU's offense failed in punching the ball in the end zone. With only a 6-0 lead at the half I was afraid LSU was going to suffer from what I call the Kiss of Death. The Kiss of Death is when a team goes up only 6-0 after having dominated the game. It was a given that the third quarter would start with UGA fired up. To go up 7-6 after being dominated in the first half was nothing short of a huge confidence boost for Georgia. Still making your opponent use 18 plays to go 60 yards to get a touchdown is nothing to be ashamed of LSU. Later in the game Joe Cox threw what I thought was a blatant intentional grounding in his own end zone. LSU would get the ball back and in time Jordan Jefferson would put together the drive of the season.

There was 6:47 left in the game and LSU trailed 7-6. The Tigers had the ball on their 12 yard line. Jefferson showed his potential and beyond. The drive was nothing short of heart stopping. Twice Brandon LaFell, our big time first round pick, dropped big passes. And then Richard Dickson, the old reliable tight end, dropped a pass as well. But where others fail, someone new steps up. Big time recruit Reuben Randle caught only two catches for 28 yards...and they could not have come at a bigger time in the game. The sky is the limit for a true freshman who catches a huge third down on good coverage, in a hostile environment.

After LSU's touchdown to go up 12-7 I thought LSU could hold on. I felt the final score would be 12-7. The Bulldogs faced a 3rd and 6 deep in their territory and in one play a simple screen turned in a nauseating 46 yard gain. One play later AJ Green made an incredible play and the Bulldogs were up 13-12.

There's a lot to say about a team that takes the lead after a long drive, loses it, and has the drive to again go down the field and score once more. For 57 minutes LSU could not score a touchdown, yet for some reason when the fourth quarter was coming to a close LSU's urgency kicked in. They executed. After an incredible 40 yard kickoff by Trindon Holliday LSU was back in UGA territory. A couple plays later and the Charles Scott of last year showed up. 33 yards later LSU grabbed the lead for the final time. The defense closed the deal and LSU won again 20-13.

Let me clarify that excessive celebration penalty was an AWFUL call, but if you honestly think that's why LSU won I have to question whether you watched the game. (Cough! College Football News staff!) After LSU scored to go up 20-13 Scott was flagged for excessive celebration as well. Yet on that kickoff LSU stopped UGA at their 33. What am I saying? UGA needs to be pointing the finger at their special teams. And keep in mind if Scott does not make that touchdown run LSU is looking at a 45 yard field goal to win the game. By no means is that a gimme.

I guess that's all I have to say this week....

Wait, what's that? LSU plays who this weekend? Fla-or-da? Is that how you say it?

Do not worry I will breakdown that game...