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Friday, September 27, 2013

College Football Cupcakes: Quit Eating them

Recently there has been much ado made about college football powerhouses Ohio State, Louisville, and Miami (FL) scheduling games versus FCS opponents Florida A & M, Florida, International, and Savannah State. More than that is the money these teams receive before being humiliated on the field.

And while I think these games should go away, let's not ignore the elephant in the room. The problem is not that these teams are on the schedule, it is the large margin(s) of victory that the FBS schools rack up.

But let's not be ignorant about this. It's not like Alabama and the rest of the SEC aren't scheduling cupcakes of their own. In fact, the Crimson Tide face Chattanooga, an FCS squad that struggled to a six win season in 2012, a week before they play hated rival Auburn to end the season.

Alabama isn't the only one from the South to play weaker teams, either. Texas A&M feasted on Sam Houston State a week before hosting the Tide, and No. 6 LSU plays Furman.

And where was all the uproar when Oregon beat Nicholls State 66-3, an FCS school that WON ONE GAME ONLY in 2012?  Actually in the eyes of the Associated Press, that opening week victory vaulted them to No. 2 in the nation above Ohio State, who beat FBS school Buffalo handily, but didn't put up 70 on them.

Point is that teams need to stop scheduling these games, regardless of conference. And that everyone is guilty of doing it, not a few select schools. It's no less of a travesty whether it happens in week 4 (in the case of OSU, UL, and Miami), week 9 (LSU), or week 11 (Alabama).

So we should all stop pretending that this goes on among a few schools that are looking to rest their players, and hope the new playoff format results in better scheduling across the board.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cleveland Browns: NFL's version of "Groundhog Day?"

The Cleveland Browns suck, plain and simple. Unlike other fans and Cleveland media types, I won't sugarcoat it. Honestly, I would be shocked if the Browns ended the season better than 4-12.

In fact, after watching Sunday's loss to the Baltimore Ravens, I am convinced that the Browns are the NFL's version of the film 'Groundhog Day,' doomed to repeat the same season year after year.

I had hope that the new management team of Jimmy Haslam, Joe Banner, and Mike Lombardi would bring in the talent necessary to compete in the AFC. To that end, they have upgraded the roster, but there are significant holes that remain. They also seemed to keep two players--Brandon Weeden and Greg Little--who are mostly dead weight (more on that in a bit).

I was initially skeptical of the Rob Chudzinski hiring, but I liked how he filled his assistant positions. Norv Turner and Ray Horton were two of the more respected coordinators in the league. Add to that the enthusiasm that 'Chud' brought to the table, and we might have the makings of something special here in Cleveland.

The reality is that this team is no different than the five previous versions. The defense is just good enough to keep the games close, but not good enough to win the game by itself. The offense is absolutely putrid, to the point I'd almost rather have a root canal without the novocaine.

One would think that a head coach--Rob Chudzinski--who is also a fan of the organization would be aware of the slow starts Cleveland has had in recent years. Yet going into the game versus Minnesota, here Cleveland is 0-2 once again. 

And the manner in which Cleveland has lost their first two games has made it even more frustrating. A team that was among the most penalized in the NFL last year, the Browns have committed 14 penalties through two contests in 2013. They consistently put themselves in 3rd and long situations, something even the Denver Broncos would find hard converting into first downs. Red Zone opportunities end in field goals rather than touchdowns as well.

But if I were to point out Cleveland's biggest problem, it might be starting quarterback Brandon Weeden. Despite the fact that this article calls Weeden an NFL quarterback, I just don't see it. In fact, Sunday's performance might be the worst by a QB who completed 21 of 33 passes for 227 yards and no TDs. If his delay of game penalties weren't bad enough (could someone please explain to me how you get called for a delay of game after you just called a timeout), he also failed to lead receivers past the first down marker on several 3rd and short situations. And even the most average college qb wouldn't have overthrown a wide open Davone Bess, who was ready to take the ball to the house.

Of course, it didn't help Weeden that his No. 1 receiving option, Josh Gordon, was in street clothes, and his top alternative receiver, Greg Little, couldn't catch pneumonia if it was thrown to him. I am not sure if the NFL officially keeps track of drops, but Little might actually have more drops through two games than receptions.

And then there's Trent Richardson. The No. 3 overall pick of the 2012 draft, he's starting to remind fans of William Green more than Jim Brown. In two games this year he has 105 yards and no TDs.  He is on pace to end the season with 840 yards and 7 rushing TDs (I'm being generous with the latter stat, of course).

Of course, with Brandon Weeden now sidelined for the Minnesota game due to a thumb injury, fans will get to see how good the offense can be with Jason Campbell at the helm. Funny thing is it really can't get any worse.

Monday, September 2, 2013

More Observations on Week 1 of College Football

As the opening weekend of college football comes to a close tonight with Florida State vs. Pittsburgh, there might be more questions than answers. While some of the top teams took care of business as expected, other teams were upset, some by FCS (Division I-AA schools).

Looking back at the weekend's action, here are several observations:

Alabama is still the top team in the nation, at least for now. 

There is an old saying that goes 'in order to be the champ, you have to beat the champ.' Well, Alabama is the defending national champ. And, despite a less than stellar performance offensively against Virginia Tech, they still defeated the Hokies rather handily. So, until someone beats them, the Crimson Tide is the No. 1 team in the nation by default.

 It certainly looks like Christion Jones might be the heir apparent to Eddie Lacy for this squad.

The state of South Carolina might have two teams that are legitimate BCS contenders in 2013.

Everyone knew that Jadeveon Clowney and company were going to be a force to be reckoned with in Columbia.

Yet the unknown might have been how Clemson, South Carolina's other BCS squad, would perform in 2013. A 270 yard, 3 TD passing performance by quarterback Tajh Boyd certainly has people talking about the Tigers chances to run the table in the ACC.

 The biggest threat to Clemson's chances at an undefeated season might be the Gamecocks, who will face the Tigers in the season finale in Columbia.

Speaking of running the table, the Louisville Cardinals began their quest to go 12-0 with a resounding 49-7 victory yesterday over Ohio. Teddy Bridgewater, one of the favorites for the Heisman this year, made a emphatic opening statement passing for 355 yards and 5 TDs.  Everyone has been chirping about how Ohio State has an easy chance to run the table this season, but the Cardinals don't face one team ranked in the preseason AP Top 25.

On the West Coast, Oregon made it's claim to being in the top 5, but they still might not be the best team in the PAC-12. 

The Ducks' rolled against a clearly overmatched Nicholls St team, with DeAnthony Thomas and Marcus Mariota picking up where they left off last season.  Yet Stanford, the defending PAC-12 champs, didn't even play this week. This debate may not be settled until these two teams meet on November 7.

Finally, Michigan and Notre Dame, two teams that have quietly flown under the radar this preseason, made big statements of their own a week prior to their showdown in the Big House.

Both the Wolverines and Irish opened the season with new signal-callers under center. And while Michigan's 59-9 demolition was not totally unexpected, it was Notre Dame's 28-6 win that set up what should be a very intriguing matchup.

Michigan's Devin Gardner, a better pure passer than the departed Denard Robinson, might be one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the nation. It will be interesting to see how an Irish defense missing its leading tackler from last year handles him.

For the Irish offense, they will need senior Tommy Rees to play like he did on Saturday.

Ohio State Football: Rapid Reaction

Okay, so maybe this post shouldn't be called rapid reaction since it has been almost two days since the Buckeyes' victory over Buffalo. But here are some thoughts on that contest and some observations in general about this Buckeye team:


Jordan Hall's return was a smashing success. The senior tailback, now in his fifth(or is it sixth?) year with Ohio State, ran all over the Bulls to the tune of 159 yards and two TDs. For anyone wondering how the Buckeye run game would hold up with Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith in street clothes, I think Hall erased any questions the doubters might have.

Dontre Wilson is as good as advertised. I know it was only Buffalo, but fans have to be pleased with the true freshman's performance on Saturday. Not only did Wilson show some of his elusiveness on a screen pass that he turned into an 18-yard gain, but I am sure many people thought he was going to take his lone kickoff return(which ended up as a 51 yard gain) to the house.

Kenny Guiton proved once again why he is the best backup qb in the nation. When Miller went down early in the third quarter, I'm sure everyone in 'The Shoe' were holding their collective breaths. Yet Guiton, as Mr. Joe Cool, calmly went in and led Ohio State on a three play scoring drive. As much as OSU fans think the season would be lost if Miller were to go down, I think they'd be surprised to see how well the offense fares with Guiton under center.


Ohio State's defense. Not only did the Silver Bullets defense, with star recruits Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington as bookends on the line, fail to produce any pass rush, they only forced one turnover against a mediocre Bull offense. What's even more concerning is that the linebackers, without Shazier in the lineup, seemed to lack punch. As I have said before, Curtis Grant needs to step up in a big way at the mike linebacker if this defense is to be successful.

Turnovers. Ohio State lost one fumble, had one pass intercepted for a touchdown, and almost had another fumble recovered by Buffalo for a touchdown if it weren't for an illegal hands to the face penalty. The Buckeyes can get by with mistakes like these against lesser teams, but once Big Ten play starts they need to be winning the turnover battle.


Offensive line play. It was to say the very least, offensive(pun intended). Right guard Taylor Decker, so highly touted during the offseason, got beat so many times he should have been playing for the other team. And aside from Hall's two TD runs and some runs by Braxton Miller late in the fourth, the run blocking could definitely use some work.

Moving Forward

There are many in Buckeye nation who believe that Ohio State doesn't belong in the top 10 after their performance against Buffalo, let alone the top 2. To those people I would say slow your roll, homies. Ohio State won the game, and, although the margin of victory wasn't 60 points, I think anybody would be hard-pressed to say the outcome was ever in doubt.  So bottom line is Ohio State did what they needed to do, regardless of what anyone else might say.

Do I think Ohio State is a top 2 team right now? No, but that is beside the point. Everyone in Buckeye nation is chomping at the bit to get their hands on an SEC team in the national championship game. Personally I don't give a shit about the SEC at this point. They're a great conference, and they've won the last six or seven national title games, but Ohio State can only worry about the games in front of them. There is no use worrying about how we stack up against Alabama, Florida, Oregon, or even Texas A&M because at this point there is no guarantee we will even play one of those teams at the end of the season.

It is clear the Buckeyes have significant work to do, and hopefully they're focused on San Diego State next week, and not worried about what lies further down the road in the schedule.