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You've just been awarded an NFL expansion team and must build your personnel department. How would you do it? Matt Waldman takes on the exercise.

21 Nov 2011

One Foot Inbounds: Intrasquad

by Robert Weintraub

So, anyone up for an LSU intrasquad scrimmage in the BCS title game?

This was to be a week that was the calm before the storm. Instead, a tempest blew in and demolished the championship hopes of the "O" teams: Oregon, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. It also likely crippled the chances of avoiding a LSU-Alabama rematch on January 4, which would guarantee the SEC a sixth-straight title.

I was sucked in to thinking USC would have no chance at Autzen Stadium without gifted sophomore wideout Robert Woods, who was supposed to miss the game with injury. Instead, there he was, catching a pair of touchdowns from Matt Barkley and drawing coverage away from the equally gifted Marquis Lee, who went bananas with eight catches for 187 yards and a score.

Barkley was the key as the Trojans built a 38-14 lead: I continue to think that he is every bit as good as Andrew Luck, despite the lack of seasoning. He was excellent on throws to all levels, especially in play action, and he was great at looking off defenders and making quick decisions. Oregon got its offense untracked and made a huge second-half run, cutting the lead to three, 38-35. Barkley then led a very impressive drive that was poised to ice the game when a handoff went awry, and the fumble gave the Ducks a chance at a miraculous win. But the magnificently named Alejandro Maldonado shanked a 37-yard field goal, and Oregon’s shot at consecutive title game appearances ended in the exact manner that Boise State's did.

There’s not much shame in losing to USC. Losing to Iowa State the week before Bedlam is less explainable -- though the plane crash that tragically claimed the lives of the OSU women’s basketball coach and his assistant couldn’t have helped. Oklahoma State fell in Ames on Friday night in a stunner, 37-31 in double overtime. ISU held OK State 20 points under its average offensive output. The key matchup was cornerback Leonard Johnson covering Cowboys standout Justin Blackmon, and while Blackmon’s stats (10 receptions, 99 yards, and a score) look just fine, Johnson did an excellent job frustrating the passing attack. If Blackmon is the Belitnikoff Award frontrunner, then Johnson should be right there for the Thorpe Award.

Oklahoma State was fortunate to get back in the game after falling behind 24-7, and then were unlucky to go to overtime, as (what else?) a missed 37-yard field goal with just over a minute left gave the Cyclones overtime. Where are all the good kickers being recruited to? Iowa State scored on its first play of the extra session on a beautifully-executed wheel route, then intercepted Brandon Weeden on the first play of the second frame to set up the winning score. ISU head coach Paul "The American Dream" Rhoads was pumped after the game, and he has the Cyclones’ arrow pointed up. Rhoads was the defensive coordinator at Pitt when the Panthers pulled off a similar late-season upset of a BCS contender, besting West Virginia in 2007. Coincidence? I think not.

(OK, probably.)

The great Joe Tessitore did the Friday night game for ESPN in Ames, then booked it south to Waco to do the Oklahoma-Baylor game 24 hours later. Sooner State fans have someone convenient to blame for ruining what promised to be a monster Bedlam game on December 3. OU was done in by the September Heisman Trophy winner, the "Waco Wonder" himself, Robert Griffin III. The consensus preseason No. 1 was done in by the arm and legs of the amazing Baylor quarterback, who broke school records for passing (479) and total yards (551).

The signature play was probably the 87-yard touchdown to Kendall Wright that deflected about 20 yards in the air off a teammate’s helmet directly to Wright. It was reminiscent of an NFL play: the 1985 carom that went straight to Mark Clayton, keying the Dolphins upset of the great Bears team that season. Wright's catch tied the game at 24, after it appeared Oklahoma had seized control behind the short yardage unstoppability of Blake Bell, otherwise known as "The Belldozer." The Sooner redshirt freshman is like Tim Tebow 2.0 -- he scored four times, none from more than six yards out, on five carries. One more Broncos victory and Bell may become a first round draft choice...

Baylor scored twice after the Karma Carom, but Oklahoma rallied to make it 38-37 on Blake’s fourth touchdown with under a minute left. Bob Stoops (wisely in my opinion) lined up to go for two and the win, and surely The Belldozer would have gotten OU to 9-1. But a false start penalty on left guard Adam Shead took the tread off, and OU was forced to kick to tie.

Enter Griffin. And Stoops. Baylor looked ready to play for overtime, handing off on first down. But Stoops strangely called timeout, allowing Baylor coach Art Briles to reassess. From there, Griffin ran for 22 yards, then eight, then hit Wright for 12. With the clock rolling off the final seconds, Griffin rolled left, then uncorked a missile across the field to the right corner of the end zone, where Terrance Williams hauled it in for the game-winning touchdown. It was a throw to make NFL scouts drown in their own drool -- Griffin threw it under duress, about 50 yards in the air, right on a dime. The Bears won for the first time in 21 games against Oklahoma.

Arkansas’ easy win over Mississippi State jumps the Hogs up to No. 3 in the rankings behind their SEC West brethren, an unprecedented development. Of course, last year’s champ was yet another SEC West team. In other words, it sucks to be Ole Miss, even more than usual. We’ll get into the Arkansas-LSU game more in Seventh Day Adventure, but even a loss by LSU wouldn’t knock the Tigers from the title game, most likely. The same applies for a loss in the SEC title game to Georgia. Fans not wanting a rerun of the slobberknocker in Tuscaloosa from a couple weeks back should instead pull very hard for an upset in the Iron Bowl: If Auburn can best Bama, we just might see Tyrann Mathieu covering Reuben Randle and Jordan Jefferson trying to elude Barkevious Mingo in a LSU-LSU matchup for all the Tostitos.

TOEDRAGS

  • Looking for a Heisman candidate not named Griffin? How about Wisconsin’s Montee Ball, who got to 30 touchdowns on the season in a tough 28-17 win over Illinois. No. 30 came after one of Ball’s patented (and tremendous) spin moves. There was also great blocking, as there has been all season, from the Wisconsin wide receivers. Jared Abbrederis, in particular, has been excellent on the outside. It will be a shame if the only moment remembered from Jared’s season is his mistimed leap that resulted in the Michigan State Hail Mary.
  • Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Michigan pounded Nebraska 48-17 to ironically put rival Michigan State into the inaugural conference title game. Denard Robinson threw for a pair of scores and ran for two more. However, the game’s best play was turned in by the Huskers: quarterback Taylor Martinez ran a standard read option, and handed to fullback Rex Burkhead. Instead of plowing over a tackler, however, Burkhead then option pitched to Ameer Abdullah for an easy three-yard score. Michigan coach Brady Hoke was caught saying "What the hell was that?" on camera.
  • Speaking of great plays in a losing effort, Oregon tight end David Paulson made an incredible one-hand grab in traffic late in the USC game. The Ducks came up shy, but that catch was amazing.
  • Georgia struggled to best a tough Kentucky defense (look out for a freshman hybrid end named Alvin Dupree -- he’s going to be a force) but came away with a 19-10 win to lock up the SEC East. As usual, linebacker Jarvis Jones made the key play, with a strip sack after bullrushing through a pair of blockers with the Bulldogs only up two. For all the talk of Mark Richt’s recruiting acumen saving his job this season, it was talking Jones into transferring from USC that was the key. The win was tempered on Sunday by the death of longtime UGA broadcaster Larry Munson, whose legendary calls are still replayed over and over around the south. Stomp somebody with a hobnail boot in tribute. RIP.
  • Mad love to Virginia and head coach Mike London, who deserves Coach of the Year credit for the job he’s done in Charlottesville. The Wahoos came away with a 14-13 win over Florida State when the ‘Noles (wait for it ... wait for it...) missed a field goal at game’s end. Amazingly, if the Cavs beat rival Virginia Tech next week in the Commonwealth Challenge, UVA will be in the ACC title game. Not bad for a team we projected to go 4-8.
  • Yale quarterback Patrick Witt was supposed to be in Georgia over the weekend for a Rhodes Scholarship interview. Instead, he chose to lead the Bulldogs in The Game against Harvard in Massachusetts. It wasn’t a decision Cecil Rhodes would approve of, as the Crimson mauled Yale 45-7, intercepting Witt three times. Take that, smart guy!

OFI TOP 25

1. LSU
2. Alabama
3. Arkansas
4. Oregon
5. Stanford
6. Boise State
7. Virginia Tech
8. Oklahoma State
9. Oklahoma
10. Houston
11. Michigan State
12. USC
13. Wisconsin
14. South Carolina
15. Kansas State
16. Georgia
17. Michigan
18. TCU
19. Penn State
20. Baylor
21. Notre Dame
22. Clemson
23. Virginia
24. Rutgers
25. Georgia Tech

LOWSMAN TROPHY WATCH


1. Ron Brooks, CB, LSU.
It wasn’t much of a contest, but Brooks ensured the Tigers wouldn’t fall victim to the upset bug sweeping the country by staking out a pick-six on the first Ole Miss possession, then strip-sacking Zack Stoudt later in the first quarter before shutting it down.

2. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia. In addition to the big play mentioned above, Jones added another 1.5 sacks, and now leads the SEC with 12.5 of them on the season.

3. Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky. We’ve sung Danny’s praises before, but he was truly heroic against UGA: he notched 17 tackles, including three tackles for loss, and also forced two fumbles.

4. Anthony Fera, P/K, Penn State. The Nittany Lions defense was stout in the 20-14 win over Ohio State, but Fera is the one who bottled OSU up, pinning the Bucks deep on several occasions. He also drilled 43 and 46-yard field goals for the decisive points.

5. Brandon Jones, CB, Rutgers. Jones had a strip-sack, recovered a fumble, and intercepted a ball in the end zone as the Knights took down Cincinnati 20-3.

Posted by: Robert Weintraub on 21 Nov 2011

22 comments, Last at 27 Mar 2013, 5:59am by pawello

Comments

1
by rd (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2011 - 12:47pm

Ok state was up 24-7 and then collapsed. They didn't come from behind.

2
by White Rose Duelist :: Mon, 11/21/2011 - 1:56pm

If only there were another team that had no losses that you could put in the BCS Championship Game...

4
by Kal :: Mon, 11/21/2011 - 4:24pm

What would the purpose of putting Houston - a team that barely beat some of the easy teams on the schedule - playing LSU?

You realize that all that encourages is teams scheduling the easiest possible teams they can every year, right?

7
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 11/21/2011 - 5:34pm

Alabama scheduled an FCS school, plus two more teams not quite as good as that. Outside of LSU, the SEC has nothing to brag about as far as non-con scheduling goes.

And don't talk to Oklahoma or Oklahoma State about performance against the lesser teams on the schedule. =)

9
by DEW (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2011 - 5:48pm

Heck, I'll go one further: the argument every year against teams like Boise State or TCU getting a shot is that they don't face the level of competition an SEC team does on their conference schedule. Seems to me that the SEC this year consists of a few good teams (LSU, 'Bama, Arkansas, Georgia, SC) that beat up on the bad teams and play each other maybe once or twice. Exactly what evidence is there that a schedule full of Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Kentucky is somehow better than playing Colorado State, Wyoming, and similar cupcakes?

12
by Viliphied (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2011 - 7:55pm

Yeah that Penn State is a real cupcake I hear...

18
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 11/22/2011 - 10:10am

This isn't a circa-1994 Penn State team.

They have a decent record, but also play in the weaker half of the Big 10, haven't yet played Wisconsin, and only beat Ohio State because OSU has even less offense this year than Penn State does. This is a PSU that escaped from a Temple team (14-10) that got housed by Toledo and Bowling Green.

Basically, Penn State's schedule isn't much stronger than Houston's, and weaker than Stanford's, and still has two losses.

14
by Kibbles :: Mon, 11/21/2011 - 9:14pm

That's a great question. If only there were some smart, dedicated, statistically-oriented guys who would be interested in taking an evidence-based approach to answering that question. It'd be tough to find guys like that in the football establishment- you'd really need to recruit a couple of outsiders to undertake a project like that. And they could create a SoS measure that wasn't just a simple average of all the teams on the schedule, it was a measure of the percentage chance that an elite team would go undefeated against such a schedule. If only we lived in the kind of crazy bizarro world where guys like that would band together and publish their findings on some sort of global information-sharing network, sort of a "world wide web". And if they got really ambitious, they could come up with some sort of rating system that rates how well teams have performed after actually accounting for the quality of the competition. Maybe then we could learn some fascinating (and obviously completely hypothetical) tidbits such as "LSU has faced the 16th toughest schedule in the nation", or "Alabama has faced the 20th toughest schedule in the nation", or "out of the 120 FBS schools in the entire nation, only THREE have faced an easier schedule than the sorry sack of creampuffs that Houston has been facing off against (and occasionally barely squeaking past)", or "objective statistical models agree that Houston isn't even one of the top 20 teams in the nation, and the thought of putting them in the championship game is even more ludicrous than the thought of giving the 2007 Hawaii squad a shot at the title, and we all (hopefully) remember how that one turned out".

20
by Hang50 :: Tue, 11/22/2011 - 1:32pm

Nah.

I think we ought to poll a bunch of so-called experts -- people tending toward group-think who don't have time to watch most of the games -- to stage a beauty contest. Candidates may be asked questions like

  1. How often have you played on national TV?
  2. What do people think about your conference?
  3. Are you historically successful or just a flash in the pan?
  4. Do your fans travel to bowl games in droves?
  5. Do you have "momentum"?
  6. Do you have a Heisman candidate or a beloved/controversial coach?

Questions about actual football prowess are completely optional and often distracting.

15
by Kal :: Mon, 11/21/2011 - 9:14pm

The out of conference results in bowl games, honestly.

The fact that the SEC has won the national championship against Big-12, Big-10 and Pac-10 teams for the last 5 years.

Other than that, nothing at all.

13
by Kal :: Mon, 11/21/2011 - 9:13pm

And yes, outside of the good teams Alabama played they've played nothing but bad teams.

So by giving Houston a shot you're basically suggesting that LSU's schedule and Alabama's schedule is equivalent to Houston. Which is so obviously silly and wrong that I don't know why you'd suggest it.

Honestly, do you really want to see LSU vs. Houston? Do you think that that game would be remotely competitive?

17
by White Rose Duelist :: Tue, 11/22/2011 - 9:25am

No to the second, but yes to the first. I fail to see why being undefeated against any schedule is not enough to get you to the championship game unless there are three or more teams with no losses.

21
by Kal :: Tue, 11/22/2011 - 2:47pm

Because you could schedule the easiest 12 teams you could possibly find?

Because you're competing with other teams that don't schedule super amounts of cupcakes?

Because just because you win doesn't make you better than a team that loses some games?

Seriously, why are you posting this kind of drivel here? If you want 'just wins, baby' go to ESPN.com or something and post there. There's no reason to think that Houston has earned a title game role or would perform remotely well compared to even VTech or OKST, much less Alabama or Arkansas.

3
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 11/21/2011 - 2:49pm

It's funny that everyone who thinks there's going to be a NC rematch doesn't seem to remember either 2003 (when Big 12 #2 Oklahoma got stomped) or 2006 (when the voters jumped Florida over #2 U-M on the last ballot to prevent a rematch).

Simply, after 2003, there will not be any non-conference champs in the title game. Which has the unfortunate side-effect of probably being bad news for Stanford, Boise, and likely two of the LSU/Alabama/Arkansas group. They just picked the wrong teams to lose to. But if you can't win your conference, let alone your *division* (I mean you, Stanford, Alabama, and Arkansas), you don't have a claim on the crown.

And lest you think the rest of the road is paved, remember that 2-loss LSU made the game in 2007 only because a clearly superior WVU ganked against a 4-7 Pittsburgh team in the last game.

6
by Anonymous (not verified) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2011 - 5:11pm

We'll see what actually happens when it happens. If OSU loses to Oklahoma this week, they will have a really hard time finding someone to jump the SEC. Even if OSU wins, you're looking for trends where perhaps you shouldn't.
I'd not be surprises if the voters buck tradition when the top 3 are already from the same conference and division. That bucks tradition on its own, and I can see them giving Alabama a rematch after a 3 pt OT loss...

8
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 11/21/2011 - 5:37pm

I'd not be surprises if the voters buck tradition when the top 3 are already from the same conference and division. That bucks tradition on its own, and I can see them giving Alabama a rematch after a 3 pt OT loss...

Again, see Big Ten in 2006.

OSU was 11-0.
U-M was 10-1, with a loss (7pts) to OSU
Wisconsin was 10-1, with a loss @Michigan.

U-M didn't get a rematch, and Wisconsin didn't even get a BCS game.

Now the real anarchy will be if LSU wins, OK State wins, and GA beats LSU. Because Boise beat GA (badly; in Atlanta). That yields 5 teams with near-identical claims.

10
by Hang50 :: Mon, 11/21/2011 - 7:07pm

I think the situation gets murky if Georgia wins the SEC title, regardless of opponent. My understanding (which might be flawed) is that Alabama will advance to title game if Arkansas beats LSU. If Georgia beats Bama, then there are two one-loss SEC squads mighty irked if they don't make the dance.

Plus... Oregon with two losses can still win the Pac 12, but there would be Stanford with just a single loss. No Big 10 squad can finish the year with fewer than two losses. If OK State wins out, it'd have just a single loss -- but a late-season loss. Ditto for Boise St., plus it wouldn't be conference champion. Then there's Houston, perhaps the 2011/12 version of the 2007/8 Hawaii team.

If it devolves into a beauty contest, what criterion will win out: overall record or final conference standing? How will strength of schedule be kneaded into the mix?

And there are two weeks of games remaining to muddy the waters even more!

The bright side is that there are so many possibilities for intriguing bowl games.

11
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 11/21/2011 - 7:35pm

If Arkansas wins, it's complicated. It comes down to the same 3-way BCS comparison that decided the Big Ten last year. Because they beat Arkansas by 24, expert believe Alabama would likely come out ahead, assuming they beat Auburn, but it's not guaranteed. If Arkansas smokes LSU and Alabama wins close, it could be Arkansas. If Arkansas wins really close, or controversially, or Auburn makes it close w/ Alabama, it could still be LSU.

Also, if VT wins out, there's a one-loss ACC champ.

Houston might be 2007 Hawaii, but they might also be 2005 Utah or 2006 Boise.

16
by Kibbles :: Mon, 11/21/2011 - 9:30pm

Statistical models don't think that's very likely. All of the statistical models thought the Utes and Boise were legit (and Hawaii was a joke). Remember, Utah was the only non-auto-bid team to make a BCS bowl back when there were only 8 slots (all subsequent non-AQ teams have done it in a BCS that takes 10 teams). Also, Vegas thought much more highly of the '04-'05 Utes than they do of this year's Houston squad. Utah was favored by SIXTEEN POINTS on a neutral field over Pittsburgh- an underwhelming team, but still the champion of an AQ conference. Houston doesn't get 16 points unless it's playing SMU or UAB at home.

I firmly believe that the '04 Utes would have been in the national championship instead of 2-loss LSU if they'd had the good fortune of playing in 2007, instead.

19
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 11/22/2011 - 10:19am

Would Houston get 16 points against a similarly putrid Big East champ this year? I think that's possible.

5
by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/21/2011 - 4:32pm

Robert, if you traded Stanford's receivers for USC's, what do you think would change regarding your evaluation of Barkley vs. Luck? I tend to think that throwing to two receivers who have excellent NFL potential helps a college qb quite a bit.

22
by pawello (not verified) :: Wed, 03/27/2013 - 5:59am

Plus... Oregon with two losses can still win the Pac 12, but there would be Stanford with just a single loss. No Big 10 squad can finish the year with fewer than two losses. If OK State wins out, it'd have just a single loss -- but a late-season loss. Ditto for Boise St., plus it e-papierosy wouldn't be conference champion. Then e-papierosy there's Houston, perhaps the 2011/12 version of the 2007/8 Hawaii team.