Chomp

AP/Chris O'Meara

AP/Chris O'Meara

Florida 24, Oklahoma 14Well, I wasn’t too far off, a touchdown a piece. Not bad.

We come not to bury Tim Tebow; we do have some praise for him, and he had a very good second half after a bland first half with two picks. The reason the “Greatest QB EVAH!” (according to just about every damn commentator Fox and ESPN can muster) was even able to overcome his early mistakes was because Charlie Strong and his defense put an absolute lock down on the Oklahoma no-huddle offense, forcing them to slow down, call time outs they normally don’t, and did what not even TCU could do: hold them under 20 points by tightening up when the Sooners got into the maroon (I can’t believe I borrowed that from Easterbrook) and red zones, including an early 4th down stop that set the tone for the rest of the game.

Sam Bradford could only finish a couple drives to Jermaine Gresham, not looking anywhere near the form that earned him a Hesiman Trophy, because he was rushed and his receivers covered fairly well most of the night. It was a slog ’em out where Florida, for the most part, when it scored, did what I thought it would do:  get the ball moving down the field, keeping it out of the hands of that offense, and the Gators would hamstring themselves with some dumb, cheap false start penalties, too.

Let’s be clear: Tebow is not the most dominant or best player ever in college football, no matter what Crazy Uncles Verne and Gary, various Four-Letter talking heads, and Thom Brennaman tell you*. This is the first national championship that is all his own as a leader; he was an important cog in 2006-2007.  This wasn’t dominance on the level of Vince Young in the 2006 Rose Bowl; that’s still the gold standard when we think of pure, unvarnished football domination by one player in the modern era, and rightfully so.  But to give Tebow his due without slurping, I’ll say this: that Gator team feeds off his energy and his presence. This is visible.  There are a lot of great athletes on that team, and they all deserve credit — Percy Harvin, Louis Murphy, Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps, Anthony Hernandez, the Pouncey twins, Brandon Spikes, Jeff Haden, Jarious Jenkins, et al.  — but Tebow’s virtue is that he’s really good at being the leader of the team along with being a great athlete at the collegiate level. No more, no less.

(*Brennaman’s aural fellatio was particularly obnoxious, and thankfully captured by the Big Lead: “In such a cynical, sarcastic society, oftentimes looking for the negative on anybody or anything, if you’re fortunate enough to spend five minutes or 20 minutes around Tim Tebow, your life is better for it.”

Go back to the Big Ten network, take Charles Davis with you, and never come back after next year. ESPN’s rights to the BCS cannot come soon enough, not only for these hacks but the studio guys [die in a fire, Chris Rose] and all their other impromptu announcing teams, including Zombie Pat Summerall.  Fire your entire truck and graphics crew while you’re at it.  An idiotic number of band shots and an inability to break down what defenses were doing are the death of television football broadcasts, and Fox is not helping, on either the pro or collegiate levels.)

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A Quarter Century Of Trying

charliestrongAfter so long, a man has to get frustrated. I suppose that’s what’s happened with UF D-coordinator Charlie Strong, whom in the Offseasn Of Black Coaches Getting Hired By Non-BCS Programs and the Turner Gill Effect, apparently got not one call for an interview about a head coaching gig, if his chat with an Orlando Sentinel writer is to be believed — and that his white wife is a factor (as written earlier, Gill’s also married to a white woman.) This is now getting even more attention post-Gill, as the NYT’s Harvey Araton is the latest to write about it.

Strong is a victim of the consistent bad rap against many lifetime coordinators (“they don’t interview well”, which is an excuse for just about anything, and also a legit reason to an AD when considering a man to be the head of its most prominent athletic program), being in the shadow of an immensely successful head coach, and the current college AD’s obsession with offensive numbers (because, if you are a D-IA program in a top BCS con, running up the score may be essential to your poll impact).  So he’s got the triumverate going against him, and a good enough job (with enough security) to wait to get a shot at a program with a chance to compete at the national title level.

But at what point will he get that chance? He’s 48 now, and watching men in the age ranges of his fellow Florida coach Dan Mullen get hired at Mississippi State (which we understand, given the complete O-related shortcomings under Sly Croom) and Lane Kiffin get inked at Tennessee (which I understand a bit less so, although I think it has a good chance of working out.)  Eventually, the only shot he may have, given the way ADs are chasing after younger coaches, hoping to latch onto a long-term solution, the more it seems Strong’s only shot might be if Meyer leaves Florida and the AD dubs him the successor.

If the man has two BCS chamipionship rings after tomorrow and there aren’t teams rushing to pay him after the 2009 season, something’s up.

Ill-Advised BCS Championship Game Prediction

Getty Images/Doug Benc

Photo: Getty Images/Doug Benc

Not like this ever pans out or means anything. Please see everything under the “previews” category so you can observe my hit and miss ratio at this sort of thing, always.

So, consider the spectacle in Miami tomorrow, in which we only have the track records of the two 12-1 teams competing at Dolphins Stadium and their conferences to wage any sort of hacking through the guesstimation muck in order to consider what the end result of a BCS “championship” game might be (championship in quotes for damn good reason; Utah’s bid being the top one) between Oklahoma and Florida. We have the team with the fastest athletes playing the team that runs its offense the quickest.

Ultimately, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Florida will have all its playmakers, no matter how gimpy Percy Harvin may be — and OU is missing DeMarco Murray, which will hurt them in a sizable way, despite the capable back-ups available to take his place, Murray is a unique presence in that backfield.  Secondly, after watching two of the Big 12 South’s teams look rather pedestrian in bowl games, the equation is starting to skew a bit — and that’s before you consider that Bob Stoops has spit the bit in four consecutive BCS appearances, most recently, the Orange Bowl loss that was a wonderful rebound fuck of sorts for West Virginia after Rich Rod’s ignominous and acrimonious exit; as a result, WVU then decided to turn that ho Bill Stewart into a housewife (and has paid for it by wasting Pat White’s senior year in a bowl named after the dudes who fix your brakes.)

Meanwhile, the UF offense does not come unfocused much, and while the OU defense was stout enough to get by, there’s something that’s always unnerved me about a tema that’s compelled to put up half a hundred as often as possible — and sometimes they’ve actually kind of needed it (witness Kansas State, in which the Sooners actually allowed a 20+-point swing when up by gangbusters; it didn’t matter in the end, but you notice.) By default, it appears Florida’s defense will likely be the second best the OU offense faces, behind TCU — but the Horned Frogs don’t have anything close to an offense attack to respond in kind.

I will say Florida, 31-21, thanks to slow play from Tim Tebow and his corps of speed talent — an offense just as capable of slowing the pace down in order to keep the Sooners’ O and Sam Bradford off the field.

College Football’s Inconvenient Truth

Based on his MAC championship turnaround of a Buffalo Bulls football team that had been the worst in Division I-A when he took over in 2005, one would think Turner Gill would have already been money-whipped by a bigger football factory school by now. But no, Syracuse passed him over for Doug Marrone, who has never been a head coach at the pro or college level (although reports say Gill wasn’t really convinced that ‘Cuse was right for him), and in one of the dumber coaching hires since I’ve been following the sport, Auburn decided on Gene Chizik for its head coaching vacancy. Yes, the same Gene Chizik who went 5-19 in two years at Iowa State.

This is the kind of environment black coaches are in, now with their ranks up to 4 out of 119 D-IA schools as head coaches.  Outside the Lines looked at the number in its Sunday report, based on an article by Dr. Richard Lapchick making recommendations on how to remedy the problem — and this was even before Chizik’s hiring.

The OTL show is in four parts. I’ll link to them, since WordPress hates outside video players not YouTube or DailyMotion:

  • Bob Ley’s tracked piece on Gill and the hiring issue
  • Discussion with Mike Locksley, the new HC at New Mexico and Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin
  • Another discussion, this time with Ohio State’s AD, a member of the board of trustees at Michigan State, and Floyd Keith, the head of the Black Coaches Association
  • Roundtable with Lapchick, an NCAA diversity administrator, and ESPN’s Mark Schlabach

OK, so you’ve likely watched all of them by this point — or I hope you have, because Schlabach made an absolutely stunning statement, or it would be to people who think we’ve somehow gotten past institutional racism in less than half a century:

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Rushing The Field: Poll Anarchy

Well, seven weeks in and we’ve got the same damned problem we had last year with college football (or non-problem, for without these issues, the sport isn’t as half as fun to discuss or opine on.)  The field has leveled out so greatly that you have three of the top five getting knocked off on a Saturday.

Oklahoma and Texas were essentially trading blows for about three quarters, with Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy upping the ante on who would be favored in the Heisman race. Texas turned it in the 4th quarter: prodding Bradford into picks and getting big play from McCoy (who was 28-35 passing, good accuracy) along with a huge 60-yard run from Chris Ogbonnaya, and the Horns took the win 45-35. However, any analysis of this game without a lament about the sorry Big 12 officials in charge is incomplete. I understand the reasons for stringent rules about roughing the passer or personal foul calls; you want to keep people from getting hurt. McCoy flopped twice on ruhses out of bounds that got called for 15-yard flags, he and Bradford both were given the gift of flags on roughing penalties that shouldn’t have been called, an OU interception that should have been in the first half wasn’t, and the OU punter put on an acting job that Cristiano Ronaldo would have been ashamed of.

The Swamp is an entirely different beast of a stadium, particularly for a new starting QB like Jarrett Lee in his first road game as LSU “supplied the butt” for Florida to whip, in Mike Patrick’s parlance.  Florida got out to a 20-0 lead at one point; LSU closed it to 6 points, but the Gators’ defense finally stepped up, turning the multitude of running backs of LSU into an ineffective rotation, and forcing them to try to win on Lee’s arm — never a good prospect for a redshirt freshman.  Urban Meyer’s squad wound up putting half a hundred on ’em in the first complete game where Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin were not the sole playmakers in the Gator spread.

T. Boone Pickens’ money is apparently going to good use; it’s enough to buy a defense when there apparently was none.  A 28-23 upset of Missouri at Columbia gives Oklahoma State some of the respect they’ve been seeking, as no other team made Chase Daniel look out of sync as often as the Cowboys did (Mizzou fans may be tempted to blame the fact that Daniel was wearing #25 in honor of a fallen teammate rather than his usual #10 jersey), forcing him into crucial picks late.  Zac Robinson was a revelation for those of us who haven’t taken the time to watch him, pulling touchdown passes out of his ass. One in particular impressed me in the second half: he rolled out left and had NOTHING at the time downfield, he’d just avoided a sack, and to avoid another one, he hurled it to a spot in the end zone where he had two receivers against one cornerback — leap, catch, touchdown.

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Would A “Bush” Label Stick For Potential First-Round Picks?

This question is prompted by Dan Shanoff, who wrote this morning that New Orleans RB Reggie Bush is essentially Devin Hester with a devastating salary cap hit for his team attached — certainly not the revolutionary RB that he had been projected as back in the 2006 draft.  The pretty basic point about Bush, so far, is that he isn’t a between-the-tackles guy, and the breakaway speed he showed at USC isn’t quite so unique at the pro level, where even the mediocre linebackers are often fortified with SEC speed.

But the second, short part of his assessment of a possible “Bush-like” label for current college football star players with similar skills is a bit lacking:

There is an incredibly strong class of Bush-like players coming to the ’09 NFL Draft: Jeremy Maclin (a draft-eligible redshirt sophomore), Percy Harvin and Derrick Williams, to name the Top 3. Will the “Bush-like” label help or — to bring it back to the ’08 Election — hurt?

Labeling Percy Harvin with that brush may not be terribly far off, and that’s really the fault of his coach, Urban Meyer.  Meyer’s refusal to devleop actual running backs in Florida’s offense (don’t tell me you have Emmanuel Moody and Chris Rainey and can’t use either one of them in the backfield efficiently) keeps Harvin from developing more straight-ahead route-running  skills, and he still seems to be somewhat raw at it.  But as far as Jeremy Maclin and Derrick Williams go, those two — and many of your multi-option threats in that vein — are on the depth chart as wide receivers; they know how to run all the routes asked of them by their coaches.  You see plays run for them to get them into the backfield, not out of it — end arounds, reverses, etc. to throw wrinkles into the offense (and you can include Harvin there, easily.)  Those types of trickery are part of the playbooks of most of your NFL coordinators; they work best with a WR who has the basic skills, so defenses can’t peg it as a play for that particular multi-dimensional player right off the bat.

Hester is learning that at the NFL level, and Bush is pretty much turning into a slot guy and outside-running back at the pro-level.  Those aren’t good comparions at all. I think there is a better one out there, and considering how his rookie season has gone so far, “the next DeSean Jackson” might be the label that Maclin and Williams are looking at. So far, Jackson has two scores (one a punt return TD) and 335 receiving yards in 5 games. That’s not bad for a rookie that wasn’t expected to crack the starting line-up when camp opened.

Maybe Bush should have been a very short slot receiver instead. Hell, he might not have as many endorsements or that fat contract, but there are worse things to be in the NFL than Wes Welker.

Rushing The Field: Another SEC Barnburner

Seriously, if we’re gonna go through this every week with SEC teams in the night game on ESPN, it’s gonna be a real long, nail-biting season.  LSU pulled out the victory in the Tiger Bowl against Auburn thanks to a late touchdown pass from Jarrett Lee, who was subbing after Andrew Hatch got concussed, to Brandon LaFell to end a game largely characterized by the hard hits on both sides along with fits and starts on offense that have to infuriate Auburn fans. I mean, just watching the passing on Tony Franklin’s offense look spectacular one minute and awful the next has to drive the Auburn faithful nuts rights now.  So much more of the game was about the heavy hitters on defense, and the eight guys LSU rotated in and out on the D-line came through and pounded Chris Todd in the end to secure the win.  Les Miles would also like to remind you about the size of his play-calling balls.

When UGA’s Rennie Curran took Rudy Carpenter’s helmet with him on a sack in the first half of Georgia’s visit to Tempe to face Arizona State, I knew this game was going to be in favor of the Dawgs, and ugly in the second half. Matthew Stafford now has a new target in A.J. Green, who caught for more than 150 yards last night and a score on top of two more touchodwns from the reliable Knowshon Moreno.  Carpenter now has a fifth off-brand orifice thanks to an offensive line that can’t protect him; at least two of them were provided by USC’s Rey Maualuga.

The Tennessee Volunteers just flat out gave up when Florida came to town. The final score does say that the Vols got on the scoreboard, but really, when you’re down 27-0 in the third quarter, do any points after that count?  It wasn’t exactly a spectacular game for Tim Tebow, and that offense still looks a little too dependent upon him and Percy Harvin, but the Vols defense had very few counters and the Vols on offense — well, this is a team with two studs at RB in Arian Foster and Monterio Hardesty whom they can’t open holes for and get the ball to. Jonathan Crompton is still being asked to do way too much.  In joining Steve Spurrier as the second Florida coach to beat Tennessee and Phil Fulmer four times in a row, Urban Meyer would be perfectly within his rights to snark, “You can’t spell Outback without UT.”

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