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Two NFC teams were hit hardest by injuries last year. One already set the AGL record in 2016, while the other has a coach with the worst AGL since 2002. Also: the Rams' incredible bill of health in L.A., and Tampa Bay's questionable injury reporting.

15 Sep 2005

Seventh Day Adventure: Play for the Loogie

by Vinny Gauri and Russell Levine

Michigan State (+6.5) at #10 Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC

Russell: Vin, I overheard somebody at Michigan Stadium last Saturday mention that Michigan State has benefited over the years from catching Notre Dame the week after Michigan plays the Irish. Hey, it was that kind of day at the Big House.

Vinny: Yes, it was. We know the Irish are for real, and suddenly they look like a team that has a real chance to win every one of the games on its schedule. Who can honestly say they believed that before the season? Charlie Weis, and maybe his players after he gave them the "Remember, you're a Melon!" speech a few times.

Russell: The Spartans have pretty much had their way with the Irish over the years, winning four straight at Notre Dame Stadium. Weis certainly seems to know this -- I think he's worried his team will grow overconfident after season-opening road wins over Pitt and some other school.

Vinny: The jury is still out on Michigan State, which has beaten up on Kent State and Hawaii, but the thing we do know is, if QB Drew Stanton can stay healthy, the Spartans have another potent offense this year. They're averaging nearly 600 yards per game. This will be the first mobile QB the Irish defense will face this year. But Stanton should stay in the pocket more -- or at least look for the sideline more when he does scramble -- now that John L. Smith has convinced him (probably with some slapping) how important it is for Stanton to stay healthy. The Spartan secondary should be vulnerable (when's the last time it was a strength?) due to some injuries to corners Irving Campbell and Ross Weaver.

Russell: That secondary was pretty tough back when Eddie Brown was tripping people back there. But I digress. It's getting tough already to pick against Weis, but I do think the Irish might have a tougher time with Michigan State than they realize. I know I don't have to convince you that ND could easily have lost by two touchdowns last week. But they didn't, and a lot of that has to do with Weis. Stanton and the Spartans will keep it close into the second half, but Notre Dame wins going away -- and covers.

Vinny: To me, the story for the Irish has been their defense. Everyone expected the veteran offensive group to prosper under Weis, but defensive coordinator Rick Minter has a young unit playing very well. I like the Irish to cover also.

#13 Miami (Fla.) (-7) at #20 Clemson, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Russell: Home 'dog, anyone? You know I love those home underdogs. Miami is favored by a touch over Clemson at the original Death Valley. The Tigers have already shown some grit this year, rallying to beat both Texas A&M and Maryland, while Miami has not played since losing its opener to FSU.

Vinny: I have to believe the 'Canes will still be an angry bunch after hitting each other in practice for the past two weeks. The question is whether they have solved their pass protection problems which, along with special teams snafus, cost them the FSU game.

Russell: Charlie Whitehurst seems to have found his mojo for Clemson. The guy who was one of the best QBs in America in 2003, and who looked lost most of last season, looks like the player of two years ago. He leads the ACC in passer efficiency, whatever's that worth.

Vinny: The Tigers looked decent in holding off Texas A&M and Maryland, but I don't think their defense will cause nearly as many problems for Miami as FSU's did. Probably a mistake, but I like the 'Canes to cover on the road here.

Russell: Miami no doubt remembers a home loss to Clemson last season that helped to wreck its season. The 'Canes can't afford to go 0-2, with both games in conference. They'll get enough out of QB Kyle Wright and the defense will take care of the rest. Miami covers.

#21 Oklahoma (+6.5) at UCLA, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Russell: Oh how the mighty have fallen. Anybody care to guess what the preseason advanced line on this game was? I bet it was at least a touchdown the other way.

Vinny: Are these two programs passing each other in different directions? Doubtful, but a loss here and the alarm bells will be sounding in Norman. Every program -- even the elite ones like FSU, Miami, Ohio State, and Penn State -- seems to go through a downturn once in a while with a five-plus loss season. Could this be the one for the Sooners? It's almost unthinkable with the walk-on-water status Bob Stoops has attained the last six years. But the warning signs may have been there in those three blowout losses to Kansas State, LSU and USC the last couple years.

Russell: Oklahoma still has a tough defense and Adrian Peterson -- although he may face a suspension during this game for skipping class. Quality quarterback play? Not so much. Rhett Bomar was named the starter after splitting time with Paul Thompson in the opening loss to TCU, but the offense didn't look any better last week against Tulsa.

Vinny: The Sooners didn't attempt a single pass in the 2nd half against Tulsa. This is a pride game for Oklahoma, and you have to believe Stoops will have the Sooners ready to eat light bulbs by the time he's done with his pre-game sermon. I don't know if that will be enough if Peterson doesn't play though.

Russell: UCLA and coach Karl Dorrell are under pressure to get things turned around this season, especially with the success of USC across town. A win over Oklahoma, even a diminished Sooners squad like this one, would go a long way towards building the program's legitimacy. I think they get it done, behind QB Drew Olson and RB Maurice Drew (9.5 yards per carry). I'm picking the Bruins.

Vinny: Call me a sucker, but I can't get past that spread. I think the Sooners fall but keep this close enough to cover.

#23 Fresno State (+2.5) at Oregon, 7 p.m. ET, TBS

Vinny: Most folks have pointed to next week's game at Oregon as the trap in #1 USC's schedule. And it would be understandable for the Ducks to be looking past Fresno State this week. But the Bulldogs have won their last three contests against Pac-10 teams.

Russell: Pat Hill's club has certainly proven capable of pulling off the road upset. In recent seasons they've won on the home fields of plenty of BCS-league schools, so you know they won't be intimidated, even among the flying urine cups at Autzen.

Vinny: I think they save those for Oregon State. How long has QB Kellen Clemens been in Eugene? I thought he was a sixth-year senior when he led the Ducks to a win over Michigan in 2003. This looks like the same old Oregon team to me: plenty of (spread option) offense, not much defense, and plenty entertaining.

Russell: Has Clemens been at Oregon any longer than Paul Pinegar at Fresno? I think he was Trent "the Gunslinger" Dilfer's backup.

Vinny: Bulldogs sophomore Clifton Hill has now returned three of the six punt returns he's handled in his career for scores. I'm predicting that percentage will go down this week, but I like Fresno State to win outright.

Russell: I'm going with the Ducks at home, as Haloti Ngata spends a lot of time in the Fresno backfield. Oregon covers.

#8 Florida State (-1) at #17 Boston College, 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

Russell: Here's the problem with judging teams by looking at the score in the morning paper: FSU 62, The Citadel 10. But if that's all you saw, you didn't know that the 'Noles actually trailed, 10-3, late in the second quarter. Something stinks in Tallahassee, and it's not coming from Chief Osceola's horse. It's coming from the FSU offensive huddle.

Vinny: You certainly have to wonder how many more games the 'Noles would have won in the post-Weinke era if they had a serviceable signal-caller.

Russell: True enough. Drew Weatherford looked totally overmatched in the opener against Miami that Florida State somehow managed to win despite generating next to no offense. Sure, he lit up The Citadel in the second half, but Boston College's D is a lot closer to Miami's than The Citadel's.

Vinny: This will be the biggest game at the Heights since Miami (Fla.) came to town in 2001. And since FSU fans travel much better than 'Canes fans (many of whom are incarcerated), this will be the best atmosphere up there since the mid-90's. While the Eagles have giant OT Jeremy Trueblood anchoring a veteran offensive line, we'll see if it's good enough to give senior QB Quinton Porter time to throw against Mickey Andrews' defense. I'm surprised to see the line this low, but that tells you how little confidence FSU's offense inspires in people, including me. I'm going against my better judgment and picking BC to win by a Will Blackmon touchdown.

Russell: Florida State used to laugh at games like this. Some ACC interloper, say North Carolina in 1997, would get all geared up to take down the Seminoles and stake a claim to the conference crown. And then they'd kick off. And the final was usually something like 42-7. Well, we haven't seen those Seminoles the last few years. They're no longer capable of hammering teams like that. But they still have a huge advantage in big-game experience, and I think that will make the difference in this win. FSU wins by at least a figgie. In fact, I can't believe I'm going to do this with a shaky QB on the road, but FSU is my Fred Edelstein Lock.

#5 Tennessee (+6) at #6 Florida, 8 p.m. ET, CBS

Russell: This could turn out to be the most important game of the year in the SEC, as both these teams have conference- and national-title aspirations. It also represents the biggest-ever test for Florida coach Urban Meyer's spread-option offense. Meyer won with the scheme at both Bowling Green and Utah, but he's never taken it up against a team ranked higher than 19th.

Vinny: Tennessee slogged through an ugly 17-10 win over UAB in its opener and healed up some injuries during its bye week. The Vols better be healthy and ready, because they follow this trip to the Swamp with another road game at #3 LSU next week.

Russell: Those who question whether all Florida's delay draws, shotgun traps, shovel passes, and other misdirection plays can work against a top-flight defense, are going to get their answer this week. Chris Leak has thrown the ball well in two opening wins over directional patsies, but has struggled with the option game.

Vinny: It should be interesting to see how Vols defensive coordinator John Chavis deals with the Florida attack. Tennessee had success getting to Florida's quarterbacks in the Zook and (late) Spurrier eras, but Leak gets rid of the ball pretty quickly in Meyer's offense.

Russell: Vin, I know how much you love QB rotations, like the one Fulmer employs at Tennessee with Erik Ainge and Rick Clausen. Personally, I'd like to see big Phil stick with Clausen, who has delivered time and again since the end of last season. If he does, I like Tennessee to pull the road upset, or certainly keep it close enough to cover.

Vinny: The Big Creamsicle has given Clausen the start, but I'm sure Ainge will get the call as soon as Clausen struggles in the Swamp. Still, six points is too much here. I like the Vols also.

New Mexico State (+22.5) at New Mexico, 8 p.m. ET

Russell: Our "Guy Named Gal" blogger special this week is the battle of New Mexico. Is there even one of those goofy college football trophies at stake in this game? I mean, if Iowa and Iowa State play for the Cy-Hawk, do the Lobos and Aggies play for the Loogie?

Vinny: Umm. Let's move on. Personally, after hearing Paul McGuire will be calling college football games next year, I'm hoping this is the type of game ESPN assigns him to. "You think Jimmy Cottrell doesn't want to win this game? And watch this! Look at that! He made the tackle!"

Russell: Vin, this game is on local TV. And the broadcast is delayed until later in the evening.

Vinny: Exactly.

Russell: Anyway, New Mexico State has -12 yards rushing in two games. If that's not a Hal Mumme offense, I don't know what is. I like the Lobos (that's New Mexico) to win in a rout. They'll cover.

Vinny: The Aggies have been pounded 73-17 in their first two losses. Brings a whole new meaning to Hal "I Want My" Mumme. But it's a big number in a rivalry game (this is a rivalry game, right?), so I'll take the Aggies and the points.

#12 Purdue (-8) at Arizona, 10 p.m. ET

Russell: You think anybody enjoyed last Saturday's out-of-town Big Ten scoreboard more than Purdue? While the Boilers were busy destroying Akron 49-24 in their opener, conference heavyweights Michigan, Iowa, and Ohio State all lost non-conference games. With Purdue not playing either Michigan or Ohio State this season, an undefeated non-conference slate could give the Boilers a leg up on the Big Ten's BCS bid.

Vinny: This is the start of a rough stretch for Arizona. After hosting Purdue, the Wildcats are on the road against #15 Cal and #1 USC. Ouch. And taking a look at the rest of the schedule, that opening loss to Utah might be the one that keeps the 'Cats home for the holidays.

Russell: Kyle Orton is gone from last year's Purdue team, but he's one of the only missing pieces, as the Boilers returned 19 starters, including all 11 on defense. With their schedule and all those other teams already having lost, Purdue has a golden opportunity to get to the BCS this season.

Vinny: Brandon Kirsch doesn't have the same arm as Orton but he's accurate and has good feet. These are two pretty quick defenses but I don't trust the 'Cats to keep pace with the Purdue offense. The Boilers win (and cover) in a rout. This is my Fred Edelstein Lock (sorry Purdue fans -- I really don't do this on purpose to curse teams! I swear!).

Russell: I'm not sure how quickly Arizona is progressing under second-year coach Mike Stoops. I do know the uniforms are regressing. A big off-color stripe across the back with "Arizona" printed on it ... are you kidding me? That's enough for me to lay the eight with Purdue.

The Picks
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" in bold)
Game Vinny says Russell says
Michigan State (+6.5) at #10 Notre Dame Notre Dame Notre Dame
#13 Miami (Fla.) (-7) at #20 Clemson Miami Miami
#21 Oklahoma (+6.5) at UCLA Oklahoma UCLA
#23 Fresno State (+2.5) at Oregon Fresno State Oregon
#8 Florida State (-1) at #17 Boston College Boston College Florida State
#5 Tennessee (+6) at #6 Florida Tennessee Tennessee
New Mexico State (+22.5) at New Mexico New Mexico State New Mexico
#12 Purdue (-8) at Arizona Purdue Purdue
Season-long Results
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
  Last Week Season Total
Vinny 5-2-1 (0-1) 9-6-1 (0-2)
Russell 3-4-1 (0-1) 5-10-1 (0-2)

Posted by: on 15 Sep 2005

68 comments, Last at 21 Sep 2005, 12:49pm by B


by Rami (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 1:50am

Wow, it sure takes a man to predict a good Purdue team over a Pac-10 nobody like Arizona. Despite all of the losses last week, the Big 10 is still a better conference now than the Pac-10 probably ever has been. Outside of USC, Cal, and maybe (maybe) Oregon, the Pac-10 is a football wasteland.

Also, the ACC is very much like the Pac-10. Outside of FSU and the three Big East imports, it's an awfully bad football conference. No one outside of those 4 and NC State has a prayer at decency besides perhaps Georgia Tech. Except, of course, that FSU has absolutely no offense whatsoever, and may struggle to win 7 games this year. If FSU hopes to get back in contention for winning their own conference much less the national title, Jeff Bowden must go.

by Teddy (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 10:56am

Rami, you do realize that they're picking Purdue giving up 8 on the road, right? I agree with the pick, but it's not like it's some kind of no-brainer they put in to pad their stats.

by MDS (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 11:26am

So how 'bout TCU-Utah? Why would an official wind the clock when a guy steps out of bounds right in front of him? How did TCU lose to SMU? How bad is Oklahoma? Why does Russ still have Oklahoma in his Top 25? How many consecutive sentences can I end with a question mark?

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 11:46am


I still can't understand how TCU managed to lose to SMU. TCU, had they beaten SMU, could be top-15 next week after the OU win and stopping Utah's win streak. Instead, everyone think it's a fluke.

Re: #1, I think you are neglecting a very good Arizona State team.

And in answer to the question of OU and the line, I believe the preseason line on the OU/UCLA game was OU-7. Now of course it's OU+6.5 - a two touchdown swing. Can UCLA do it? I think they can, but most of their roadblocks the past few years have been mental, and they've yet to have that statement game that shows they've gotten past them. If they win this game, the Dorrell Era is officially there. If they give it away through mental mistakes, the Dorrell Watch will have begun.

On a side note, I mentioned this once before - what criteria do you guys use to select the games you're picking each week? It's always an interesting collection.


by Russell (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 12:37pm

Re: 4

We usually try to cover all the big games, then pick others that have interesting lines, or interesting storylines. Plus, we try and spread things out so we don't end up doing the same teams every week. And we've also added the blogger special gamem, which was suggested by a friend -- one totally random, off the beaten path matchup. This week, it's the battle of New Mexico.

by GatorGriff (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 12:49pm

Thank you both for picking Tennessee, that should guarantee a Gator victory.

by Tom W (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 1:13pm

Notre Dame looks like it has a chance to win every game on it's schedule?!! You got a few bucks you'd care to wager on that proposition. So far, they've beaten the Pitt Wannstedts, which, you may have noticed lost to mighty Ohio last week, and a Michigan team that looked vulnerable on the O-line and generally overrated, and still should've won. Gosh, it seems like just yesterday that Ty Willingham's 1st N.D. team was penciled into the national title game after some early success, so you might wanna hold off on that prediction until the Irish have played, oh, say U.S.C.

by Vinny (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 1:44pm

Tom - The key word is "chance." Everyone (myself included) took a look at that team and that schedule and pegged them for something like a 2-6 start. And it looked like they had absolutely no chance against some teams (USC, Tennessee, Michigan, etc.). Now, after 2 games, it looks like they have a real CHANCE in every game. USC will probably be a 2 touchdown favorite, but you're telling me that ND has NO CHANCE to win that game???

by DMP (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 2:01pm

The View From MSU says ND goes down to the perennial Big Ten and ND spoiler, the glorious institution on the banks the Red Cedar. And if the Spartans win there AGAIN, they might as well plant a giant green "S" flag in the stadium.

Funny you mentioned the lack of talent over the years in MSU's defensive backfield. I was just commenting to a friend that was the difference between a prgram that can consistently get the better recruits (ie, Michigan) versus a program hustling to get a few playmakers (MSU). You end up seeing a bunch of UM offensive linemen and DBs going to the pros, indicating that this school has had the team structure to win in college. On the other hand, you only see some playmakers from MSU making it to the pros (most notably to me the wide-receivers), showing that the recruiting at that school hasn't been able to get enough players to consistently fill the backbone of a college team.

I'm so happy I got the chance to post my break down on something no one else cares about!

by Tom W (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 2:07pm

O.K. I agree they have a chance. After seeing Michigan, OSU, and Iowa all lose last week, I'd also say that 9 of the 11 teams in the Big Ten have a chance to win each of the remaining games on their schedules. But, I'd be surprised if N.D. ends up with fewer than 3 losses, which will still probably enable them to deprive a more deserving team of a BCS bowl bid.

by Frank G. Hillary (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 2:10pm

Love your work- great stuff.
btw: how long before Pitt realizes Wannstedt isn't Carroll

by Todd S. (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 2:28pm

Arrrggghhh! No, no...you want to pick against Purdue. AGAINST! (Although I hope you're right, of course.)

Also, I'm not sure I would characterize Kirsch as accurate. Orton is actually a more accurate passer. Kirsch brings more athleticism: scrambling and rushing. He's got a ways to go on his decision-making. This Purude team will be much more ground-oriented, with a deep stable of running backs (Jerrod Void-power, Brandon Jones-receiving, and Korie Sheets-bigplayability) along with Kirsch out of the backfield. They'll run, and stop the run...but can they defend the pass? Remains to be seen...

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 4:07pm

*In Wanny's Defense*

Well, Carroll's career at USC didn't start out with an instant transformation into a juggernaut. They were 2-5 in his first 7 games (and 40something and 4 since). You do need to show a little patience when a new coach comes in, especially because the old coach tends to leave the cupboard a little understocked (which is why he's gone), either in terms of talent or discipline/scheme. It takes some time to get these things corrected.

Now, if after enough time passes, and it looks like they have decent talent but no clue what to do (Nebraska, Willingham's ND), then you start sharpening the axes. Same thing if the coach is there three years and the talent still stinks - you can't use that excuse forever. But 2 games is not enough to plug in the electric chair just yet.

by MDS (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 4:13pm

Good point, Trogdor. I lived in SoCal at the time and the local media were savaging USC when Carroll first got hired. In fact, I distinctly remember a columnist writing that they should have instead hired Illinois head coach Ron Turner. What I wouldn't give to be able to go back in time and orchestrate a Turner-for-Carroll trade.

by Nate (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 4:23pm

Slightly odd question... How can Cal-Illinois not be televised anywhere? I mean, not even in Berkeley and Chambana. The name schools of two of our more populous states are playing, one is ranked, and one at least has some coaching drama going on, and the game isn't televised anywhere. I want to see my Illini cover the spread, dammit.

by MDS (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 5:15pm

I'm with you all the way, Nate. I was stunned when I learned that. I mean, I've got DirecTV with hundreds of channels and they can't find one to put on a ranked team against a big-conference rival? Makes no sense.

by Russell (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 5:41pm

Re: 15/16 ... I'm pretty stunned that's not televised either, but you can't blame DirecTV. They may carry hundreds of channels, true, but they're not responsible for the programming on them. If you want to blame someone, blame the Big Ten and Pac-10 TV partners for not including this game on their schedules.

by MDS (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 6:07pm

No, I wasn't blaming DirecTV, I was just saying that it amazes me that with the plethora of available channels Disney can't figure out a way to make that game available on ABC or ESPN or ESPN2 or ESPNU or ESPN GamePlan. I assumed when I got the sports pack that includes ESPNU and all the regional Fox Sports outlets and everything I'd be able to watch every game imagineable, but apparently not.

by TMK (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 6:08pm

I'm surprised that one of the smaller Chicago channels (26,50), for example, didn't pick this up.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 6:17pm

Purdue-Arizona isn't televised either. They had a little blurb on that somewhere - seems that even in this day and age, the various sports networks can only cover one game at a time, which is silly. So you get 11 Fox Sports Net stations showing the same game.

When it's at a Pac-10 team, ABC picks their game, then Fox Sports picks theirs, and then TBS picks theirs (or maybe TBS and then Fox Sports). So UCLA, USC, and Oregon are televised, and nobody else.

If Purdue's pass defense plays as well as it did against Akron, I'd take the points and Arizona. The Boilers only destroyed them on the scoreboard. Purdue's kicking game wasn't very good either, except for the long kickoffs and the blocked punt - coverage on the squib kicks and regular kickoffs was atrocious.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 6:18pm

Sorry, I meant that this week, it's USC, UCLA, and Oregon.

by Todd S. (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 7:23pm

Re: #15/16/17/20

It just goes to show you that we still have progress to be made as a society.

by Nate (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2005 - 7:32pm

The smaller Chicago channels can't "pick it up," because there is nothing to be picked up. There won't be a camera crew at the game.

by RCK (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 11:02am

I'm glad I have tickets to the Cal game. I was surprised that even Comcast Sports, which just inked a contract with Cal, wouldn't be airing the game. There will be cameras somewhere for the highlight shows, but probably not many.

by MDS (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 11:21am

Remember how when Miami joined the ACC, people talked about how they'd just waltz right through, only occasionally stumbling against Va Tech and FSU? Sure hasn't worked out that way. If they lose to Clemson they'll have lost five of their last seven ACC games.

It's a great night with FSU-BC and Florida-Tennessee (I'll be bringing the bedroom TV into the living room so I can watch both), but not much during the day. I wish they'd spread these games out a bit.

by Vinny (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 3:25pm

I don't want to jinx them but Vandy is 3.5 games from bowl eligibility. They are up 17-3 on Ole Miss at the half.

by Vinny (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 4:38pm

For the first time in 15 years, I saw an official break out an index card during a measurement to confirm that the offense was just short of the 1st down (st finish of UVa-Syracuse). Maybe this is the same ref from that old ND-Michigan game.

Then, after the win, in explaining why he went for it on 4th and an inch in a 24-24 game, Al Groh asks the sideline reporter, "Haven't you seen Risky Business? Sometimes you just gotta say,'What the heck?'" He was paraphrasing, but still a brilliant reference from a seeming curmudgeon of a coach. Al Groh!

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 8:00pm

Amazing ending at Pitt/Nebraska. Pitt down 7-6, gets in FG range with 7 seconds left. Bad snap, the kicker gets it and alertly throws it away. It falls incomplete with 1 second left, and they get another shot at it.

But it's blocked. Nebraska wins.

(On a side note, it should have been intentional grounding on the kicker, and roughing the passer on Nebraska, but it doesn't matter now)

by Vinny (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 8:03pm

Poor Wanny. Meanwhile, ND keeps hanging around.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 8:20pm

OU is down by 17 with 2:30 left. It's over, Oklahoma - this is not a regrouping year, it's a rebuilding year. Focus on Texas.

Meanwhile, Miami/Clemson is heading to overtime.


by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 8:37pm

Sheesh MSU/ND was like 38-17 and I pretty much stopped watching and went back to Miami/Clemson. Now it's 38-38?

And MSU just fumbled, ND recovers. I tell you, except for the fact that ND actually has offense, they're getting the same luck of the Irish that ND was getting when Willingham first took over. But since they can actually score now, they're a very scary team.


by Vinny (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 8:40pm

This is almost a replay of UM-MSU last year. MSU just can't close the deal.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 8:46pm

After the first near-safety, why would they not go to the QB sneak on 2nd down? Why risk another handoff, if they were just trying to kill clock anyway? They got lucky the back made it out on 2nd - a safety would be a horrible way to lose.

By the way, I haven't been watching the entire game (I was busy watching OSU's offense suck again), but it sounds like MSU was up by a lot. How big of a lead did they find a way to blow?

by Nate (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 8:59pm

38-17, I believe.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 9:01pm

I had heard all week about how MSU had won 4 straight times in South Bend, and really thought it didn't matter (and it didn't). Now make it 5 straight. I'm not sure how I feel about planting the MSU flag on the field though - sure I laughed, and they do pretty much own that place, but still...

by Russell (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 9:09pm

I have no problem with the planting the flag -- they've earned it. It's uncanny how MSU owns ND. Why can't Michigan play Notre Dame like that?

by MDS (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 9:12pm

OK, anyone who still puts Oklahoma in the Top 25 should never be allowed to vote in the polls again. But I wouldn't be at all surprised if someone still does. The Sooners really are awful. If you missed OU-Tulsa, suffice to say that through the first three quarters Tulsa looked like a much better team. And today they lose handily to UCLA, not exactlyl a first-rate team.

I can't believe the Illini are keeping it close at Cal. Ron Turner's teams haven't been competitive against a ranked opponent in years.

I said this about FSU-Miami and now I'll say it about FSU-BC: The two worst players on the field are the quarterbacks.

by Russell (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 9:34pm

Uncle! You won't find Oklahoma anywhere on my blogpoll ballot this week. I'm open to suggestions from people as to how high Michigan State ought to be ranked ... and not just relative to where I had ND last week, but in general.

by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 10:06pm

OK, back from the OSU-San Diego game (yes, I'm a Penn State fan in Columbus). I'm not sure how much of this you could see from the TV, but Troy Smith is not a good QB. First off, easily 15 plays were planned QB draws - which is a problem when one of your best players on offense is a WR. Second, he was wildly inaccurate all night. For the number of times I could count the football bouncing at the player's feet...

Also, SDSU's coach is an idiot. They kept calling screens and short slants the entire game, even though they never worked after the first play (80 yard pass for a TD), nor would you expect them to given OSU's linebackers.

And I am so glad to see that PSU pounded another opponent, even if it is another powder puff team. Seriously, I doubt that last year's PSU team could've even caught that many passes.

So are they going to be 5-0, and unranked, when OSU comes to town? Given the skill sets of both teams, this is a huge candidate for an upset week.

by BHW (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 10:47pm

And today they lose handily to UCLA, not exactlyl a first-rate team.

UCLA is a lot better than people think they are. The offense has clicked, and the defense is athletic enough. It's a good team.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 11:00pm

Saying anything negative about UCLA is like saying "Beetlejuice" or "Derek Smart" three times - BHW seems to appear out of the woodwork to defend them.

UCLA is a good team this year, and will be ranked next week, but that does not discount the fact that the Oklahoma of the past few years would have beaten them, and now OU is having trouble with Tulsa, and being manhandled by UCLA (and frankly, that's what the game was - UCLA really dominated the trenches). It's rare that a team has such a pronounced negative shift in one offseason, regardless of how many players were drafted (or that were really good but went undrafted), since most of the time, those teams can recruit such talent that they at least remain well ahead of teams like Tulsa.


by BHW (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 11:08pm

Hey, I have to represent!

I'm certainly not saying that UCLA would have beat the OU of the past few years, and clearly OU has a lot of problems right now. But it's not like OU came out flat or played particularly poorly, either. The Bruins forced and took advantage of some turnovers, and played a terrific offensive game despite having the running game completely taken away from them.

And though his stats weren't spectacular, Adrian Petersen did look impressive as a runner. As Romar continues to improve, I'd be suprised if OU were to just collapse this season.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 11:13pm

Actually the running game was what shocked me more than anything else - I thought UCLA was going to win because Drew would run over OU. But OU contained UCLA's running game, and forced them to win it through the air. And frankly, if you told me UCLA was going to have to win it through the air, I'd say that their chances would have been significantly reduced.

But Olson played superbly, and they deserved the win.


by Vinny (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 11:18pm

UCLA does look solid. They've had a good D for the last couple years and now they have some real skill players on offense.

As for OSU, their offense can look bad for weeks, but it's a sleeping giant - look how it evolved into a juggernaut at the end of last year. And they have everyone back.

With the schedule they're playing this year, I don't think PSU should be ranked going into that OSU game.

Same old Wisconsin. They may not throw another pass if Alvarez has his way.

Meanwhile, what is BC's O-coordinator thinking running all these plays to the sideline? You're not going to get to the corner on that defense. Throw the ball down the field.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 11:36pm

In watching Tennessee/Florida, we continue to have demonstrated to us why the whole "Let's rotate quarterbacks" thing doesn't always work.

Or at least, why does one take out a quarterback when they're playing decently? It seems like Fulmer is rotating the quarterbacks at certain times just because he wants to keep doing so, and not because one is playing better than another. But that prevents any one of them from getting into a decent rhythm and from adapting to the defense. It seems like as soon as one of the QBs starts to gel, Fulmer rotates them out.

It's time for Fulmer to be an adult and not be scared to name a starting QB. If he honestly can't tell after spring practice, fall practice, and a few games, which QB it is he thinks should start, then he has no business continuing to coach.


by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sat, 09/17/2005 - 11:55pm

ESPN.com's scoreboard hasn't updated in like half an hour. Its most recent update for Florida/Tennessee is at the start of the 3rd quarter, and for BC/FSU midway through the 3rd.

Great job, guys! Perfect time for to scores section of the website to go kaput.


by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 12:20am

USC has, right now, run 8 total plays on offense, and has scored a ridiculous 28 points on those 8 plays.

One "drive" of 1 play - Reggie Bush run for a TD.

One "drive" of 2 plays - ending with a Leinart TD pass.

One "drive" of 3 plays - ending with a Leinart TD pass.

One "drive" of 2 plays - ending with a Leinart 17-yard TD *run*.

However, the young 'SC defense isn't playing particularly well (although they do have an interception), which could come back to haunt them in future weeks.


by MDS (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 10:37am

I like how comment No. 1 criticizes Vin and Russ for even bothering to pick Purdue, since it's so obvious they're going to cover...except they didn't.

I'm surprised more people haven't pointed out that both coaches failed to understand end-game strategy in Virginia-Syracuse. Once Virginia converted on fourth-and-the-width-of-an-index-card, they should have just taken a knee to wind the clock before kicking a field goal. Instead, the Cavs ran a play, which was a gift to Syracuse -- but Syracuse wouldn't accept the gift and tackled the UVa running back twice when they should have just let him score so they'd get the ball back in time to send it into OT. Where's Bill Krasker when we need him?

by Vinny (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 1:10pm

Hey, it's Greg Robinson coaching -- you know he's always going to make the wrong decision. But "welcome to hard hitting, exciting football." Then again, even Robinson might have beaten my 1-7 mark this week. Go Aggies!

by Pat (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 1:47pm

As for OSU, their offense can look bad for weeks, but it’s a sleeping giant - look how it evolved into a juggernaut at the end of last year. And they have everyone back.

You're a lot more optimistic than I am. Smith's just a bad passer, and the more I've seen him, the worse he's gotten. Zwick's a better QB, but Tressel gets impatient with him constantly.

What's interesting is that Smith virtually always underthrows the receiver. I only saw one pass on the weekend where he overthrew the receiver - and it was promptly intercepted.

Regarding PSU, I'm thrilled about the possibility of them being 5-0, unranked, and dismissed with OSU coming to play them at home. That game simply has upset written all over it.

by Vinny (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 2:35pm

I think Tressell sticks with Smith b/c he's in love with his athletic ability and he knows Smith can make plays with his legs when everything else breaks down. Thing is, Zwick (while nowhere near as quick as Smith) moves pretty well for a big guy and can pick up some yardage also. Should be interesting to see if either can regain their form from late 2004.

Along the same lines, PSU has a chance to beat anybody if Robinson can convert on 3rd down with some of his throws. He hasn't shown he can do it in his career against quality opponents. Maybe this is the year.

by Domer (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 2:44pm


That ND MSU game is an example of why I think there should still be ties in colege football. I know I am probably in a small minority on that, but some hard-fought games should end in a tie.

I'm not distraught - this turned out to be the game I though we'd have last week with UM. I'm sorry we lost but 2-1 at this point, with an offense that can rack up points is serious progress.

I think MSU benefits from usually playing us the week after we play UM, but make no mistake - they are a tough team, especially on the D-line, and with fast LBs as well. ND didn't pick up the delayed blitzes that MSU was running all day. I think they are as tough as anybody, but precedent dictates that they will be inconsistent and end up as the best 6-5 team in the country. I'd like to see them do well. I'd rank them in the top 20.

The stadium was electric; more excitement than I've seen in 10 years.
The flag-planting was unsportsmanlike, and I dislike things that are disrespectful after such a tough game, but hey - they beat us.

by Todd S. (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 6:09pm

I listened to the Purdue game on the radio, so take this with a grain of salt, but after 2 weeks, one thing is clear:

If a team can pass the ball, there's a really good chance that team will beat Purdue. Purdue's pass defense appears to be three-fold:

1) Sack the QB
2) Hope for a poorly thrown ball.
3) Hope for a dropped pass.

They don't cover anyone, so there isn't a #4. The front 7 is good against the run, but LBs and secondary cannot cover. It certainly doesn't look good for Purdue against Notre Dame.

(And Pat, Purdue-PSU could easily be a 6-3 slugfest.)

by DMP (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 9:27pm

I can't believe MSU actually planted the flag at ND like I wanted them to (comment 9)!! Make no mistake, this will become common place whenever the road team beats a big rival at their home a few times in a row. This is going to spread like wild fire. Eventually any ol' win at the rival stadium will prompt flag planting. Why do you think ESPN was so intent on NOT showing that celebration.

Now for MSU, the obvious thing is to avoid the (traditional) letdown after the big win.

Two things are baffling with the media on this one: how much they want to praise ND for how they LOST (oh, sweet, the held strong and tried a comeback AT HOME, with the crowd on their side - oh how brave); and how the only thing they say about MSU is how they "played defense when they had to." Umm, not letting ND score 3TDs in what seemed like 6 plays would have been a good time to "play defense when they had to." Not leaving their tight-end alone in the endzone would have been a good time to play D. Maybe it's just me.

by Pat (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 9:32pm

Along the same lines, PSU has a chance to beat anybody if Robinson can convert on 3rd down with some of his throws. He hasn’t shown he can do it in his career against quality opponents. Maybe this is the year.

I've always been of the opinion that deep throws depend more on the skill of the receiver rather than the skill of the quarterback. This is good, because Robinson isn't that great a passer. But I don't think I've ever seen a better trio of freshmen receivers at PSU in my life. If Penn State simply chucked it deep on almost every play, I think they'd have a much better offense than last year - this has more to do with how bad their offense was last year.

(And Pat, Purdue-PSU could easily be a 6-3 slugfest.)

Well, we'll have a better idea by then. Right now I'd say that if a team doesn't have a good set of corners/safeties, they better hope their D-line can get to Robinson and contain him before he can throw deep.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 9:40pm

Stat of the year candidate, from si.com:

Since 1997, Michigan State is 9-1 against top-10 opponents. In that same span, they are 46-43 against everyone else.




by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 9:44pm


I respect Weis for not letting the media force-feed him excuses. They practically were putting them in his hands. "Is this really because of X?" blah blah blah blah during the postgame press conference. They were practically begging him to find some excuse after which they would have happily gone and printed it just so they wouldn't have to think - they could just say "It was X" and they wouldn't have to 'blame' Weis or ND in general.

But he said no, it's our loss, it's the team's loss, period, no excuses. That was good.

As for MSU, I was surprised they won in OT. Once ND tied it up, I was sure they were going to win the game - how could MSU blow a 21 point lead so quickly? That was amazing.

OU is out of the poll for the first time since like the turn of the millenium.

And Tennessee, will Fulmer finally decide to name a starting QB? He's certainly taking a lot of heat for continuing with the QB rotation. Tressel gave up on that after the Texas loss...will Fulmer after the Florida loss? Stay tuned...


by Pat (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 9:56pm

I think Tressell sticks with Smith b/c he’s in love with his athletic ability and he knows Smith can make plays with his legs when everything else breaks down.

This is the problem, though. With Smith in, Tressel calls QB draws.

They have capable receivers on the team. Really good receivers, in fact. That "Ted Ginn" guy might be good, I hear. But with Smith in, they barely even look to him.

by MDS (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 10:58pm

DMP, mad props on your flag-planting comment. Correctly predicting postgame celebrations is tough -- I haven't gotten one since my streak of 87 straight correct predictions that Michael Irvin would celebrate a Cowboys win with some coke and some strippers.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 11:18pm

Thanks again guys for picking Tennessee over Florida.

On a side note, this Florida offense is starting to worry me, but Chris Leak demonstrated once again in the second half why he's easily one of the 3 best QBs in college football. 3rd-and-19, 3rd-and-11, 3rd-and-3, game.

I'd be concerned if I was a Tennessee fan. Not only do they face the prospect of a 1-2 start, but disturbingly enough, their running game wore down at a point where the defense should have been the one wearing down. I know they aren't going to drop TOO much because of the Florida loss, and again by the LSU loss, but it begs an interesting question... can you have a team in the top 25 if they're 1-2? I don't think you can, no matter WHO the two losses were to.

by Vinny (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 12:56pm

Hey, we do what we can here (and we're taking requests this week!). Good question re: whether a 1-2 team can be ranked in the top 25. I think it could happen to the Vols, and I really wouldn't have a problem with it based on those two losses.

Pat, that's true about Tressell calling all the draw plays with Smith in at QB. He's creating a monster with Smith b/c he's always thinking run first, even when it's a designed drop-back. So he's always looking at the rush and debating whether he should take off through any lane that develops instead of watching Holmes, Ginn, Hamby et al.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 1:14pm

Wait, I'm confused. Is that a good thing for Smith, or a bad thing? To me, that's a bad thing - Ginn and Holmes are darn good receivers, and it's a waste to try to rush for 5 or 6 yards when 20 are waiting downfield.

The main criticism of OSU after the Texas loss was that they couldn't capitalize and get into the end zone, and that happened again on Saturday - against San Diego State, they only scored 2 real touchdowns. (It doesn't take much to get in when you start at the 1 yard line).

Two out of their 4 actual scoring drives stalled because their running game slipped just a little, and Smith threw an incomplete.

I just don't understand the Troy Smith love. I don't see how it's not going to lead to the same situation as last year - beat the tar out of lesser opponents, and fail against quality ones who are able to stiffen up close to the red zone when the field shortens.

by stan (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 1:25pm

It's even money that Vandy loses one of the next two against Richmond or MTSU. Think Tulane in 1984. I think the 'Dores were 4-0 and ranked 17th (?) and Tulane had nothing. I don't think the loss was even close.

Hey, I'd love to see them start 5-0. And they should. But .....

BTW -- did anyone notice that Vandy put the win in doubt by scoring the late TD? Had the RB fallen down as soon as he picked up the first down with a minute and a half left, they could have taken 3 knees and secured a 1 point win. Instead, he tries to score, gets knocked OB at the 2 (stopping the clock). Vandy scores on 2d down (after UM's last TO) and Ole Miss drives down the field with a chance for a TD and 2 pointer which would have tied it. Rebels were down close before they fumbled.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

by Vinny (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 4:04pm

Pat - I agree. By "monster," I meant it's a bad thing b/c Tressell has Smith thinking pass as an afterthought only. Still, Smith looked like Steve Young against Michigan last year (but then so did a lot of QB's) with the accuracy of some of his downfield throws plus his scrambling, so I'm hesitant to assume he can't regain that form.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 4:53pm

Oh, OK. I thought you meant monster good, not monster bad.

Incidentally, the funniest thing I heard was when SDSU scored that 80 yard touchdown. As he's running down, the entire stadium shuts up, and all you hear (far off in the distance) is someone shouting "You've got to be f*&!ing kidding me!".

That was awesome.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 5:05pm

I'm clueless as to why OSU doesn't use Ginn more. Pre-season, you heard so much about how explosive he is (and he IS). He was compared side-by-side with Reggie Bush, another amazing "explosive" (I hate that term but I'll use it here) athlete.

After a few games, it's clear that USC is trying to get the ball to Reggie Bush when they need that jolt. He simply makes plays. He turns gains of 2 yards into gains of 10 yards and when he's on the field opposing defenses cannot ignore him. Even worse when he's paired up with another RB, or WR.

Ginn could be the same way, but they seem unable, or willing, to use him in that way except on kick returns.

It makes no sense to me.


by Kibbles (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 7:35pm

Re #61: I think I'd definitely have a problem with Tenn being in the top 25 if they lose to LSU. Maybe if they had beaten UAB by more than 7, and maybe if their offense hadn't just shut down in the second half... but I haven't seen them play like a top 25 team at any point this season, except the first quarter of the Florida game.

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/21/2005 - 12:49pm

The Onion has broken down the latest BCS poll changes: Suprisingly, there's no mention of Notre Dame.