Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features


» Defense and Rest Time

Do defenses really wear out over the course of a game? Do defenses benefit from long drives that give them more time to rest on the sideline? Guest columnist Ben Baldwin investigates.

02 Nov 2009

One Foot Inbounds: The Kelly Gang

by Robert Weintraub

The Kelly Gang was a group of fabled Australian Outback outlaws, led by Ned Kelly, who defied colonial authorities and were hanged for their troubles in the late-19th century. This season is all about the Kelly Gang -- specifically, coaches Brian and Chip Kelly, of Cincinnati and Oregon, respectively. The two were afterthoughts headed into the year. Now they're headed for a Coach of the Year Award showdown, and, almost certainly, the BCS.

Both replaced well-thought-of coaches: Chip took over this fall for Mike Bellotti, Brian took over in 2006 to replace Mark Dantonio, who left for the green (if not greener pastures) of Michigan State. Both are poised to outdo their predecessor's greatest hits. Chip's Ducks were by far the weekend's most impressive squad, laying a 47-20 whipping on USC -- an unprecedented defeat in the Pete Carroll era (for perspective, all eight of USC's losses, dating back to 2003, have been by 29 points combined). Nothing fluky here, folks -- just total control by Oregon's unheralded but effective offensive line, and a canny game plan executed to perfection.

It was Deja Q for the Trojans -- RB LaMichael James went all JacQuizz Rodgers on the Trojans. Quizz scatbacked for 186 yards and a pair of scores on USC in last season's huge upset in Corvallis. Saturday, 50 miles or so south in Eugene, James squirted, dashed, and powered for 183 yards, albeit with only one touchdown. USC had no answer for Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, either. Masoli was no bullfrog early in the season, regressing badly and battling injury, but he has come on strong as the Ducks have turned their season around. Masoli gashed the once-proud Men of Troy for 222 yards in the air and an absurd 164 on the ground. If a Pac-10 squad was finally going to stage a coup d'etat on the USC monarchy and seize the conference title, this was the way to do it -- the Trojans went out like the Romanovs.

Meanwhile, the beat went on for Brian Kelly's Bearcats -- with a twist. Starting quarterback Tony Pike, who has gotten some Heisman mention in this star-free season, sat out with an injured wing. His backup, Zach Collaros, may just have Wally Pipped Pike, throwing four touchdowns in the Carrier Dome in a comfy 28-7 whipping of lowly Syracuse. That makes nine touchdowns to only a single pick for Collaros. Pike may have to shave his ‘stache to prove his worthiness and regain his position.

Cincy is 8-0 for the first time since 1954, although that year they lost their final two games to tumble out the championship race. Fifty-five years later, it looks like the season finale at Pitt will be for the Big East title. The Panthers are good, but you can't spell Bearcats without BCS.

At the top of the table, Florida finally resembled Florida! in laying waste to Georgia, 41-17, sending thousands of weeping Bulldog fans north along the Trail of Tears (aka Interstate 95) back across the state line. Not only did UGA put up little fight against its archrival, it allowed Tim Tebow to break Herschel Walker's SEC touchdown record against its defense. At least three of Walker personalities are reported to be very upset.

Barring a sizable stunner, and assuming it gets by Alabama in the Georgia Dome in December, Florida's opponent in the BCS title fight will be Texas. At least the Longhorns looked the part, at last, stomping on Oklahoma State and all of T. Boone's windmills to boot. Texas' secondary has been unsung, but they have some serious ballhawkers back there, including many of the folks branded as goats last season after the Texas Tech nightmare. This year, the Longhorns' defensive backs are more like the Men Who Stare At Goats (read the book, forget the Clooney flick). Texas picked off Zac Robinson four times on Saturday.

Still, it was a turnover that wasn't that turned the tide -- having finally scored to cut the Texas lead to 17-7 late in the first half, Oklahoma State appeared to rip the ball away from receiver James Kirkendoll. A subsequent score would have changed the game, but the officials missed the fumble, and Colt McCoy put Texas in the end zone before halftime instead. All the lasso went out of the Cowboys' rope after that.

Speaking of rope, Indiana found a way to hang itself, instead of completing a deserved upset and perfect season-kibosh against Iowa. You have to look high and far in the annals to find a quarterback throwing five picks and winning 42-24, yet that's just what Hawkeye hurler Ricky Stanzi managed, thanks to some huge fourth-quarter breakdowns by the Hoosiers. Give Iowa credit for taking advantage, yet I still find it hard to believe in them. Awhile back I compared them to the Ohio State “Luckeyes” from early in the decade -- except Iowa isn't nearly as talented. The turning point Saturday came thanks to the replay official, who (incorrectly, in my view) overturned an apparent touchdown that would have given the Hoosiers a 14-point lead. Instead, they missed a field goal, and the stage was set for an epic collapse.

The Hawkeyes have ironically had the luck of the Irish, considering they don't have a coach named Kelly. But they shouldn't be ranked ahead of either Oregon or Cincinnati.


  • Week's biggest laid egg goes to Virginia Tech, not USC. The Hokies were terrible at home to an awful North Carolina squad on national TV. The 17-point favorite, and my lock of the week (natch), lost outright when Ryan Williams made his first freshman mistake and coughed up a fumble deep in his own territory with two minutes to play. Farewell, ACC Championship game, thanks to a mind-bogglingly passive effort.
  • Of far more ACClaim, Duke won its third straight conference game, a staggering achievement given the Blue Devils recent futility. But Duke isn't close to the nation's best reclamation project -- after all, David Cutcliffe is an excellent coach and Thaddeus Lewis a fine quarterback. But Temple! Try to wrap your head around this -- Temple has won six straight. They became bowl-eligible before November. Not even the Huxtables' lifestyle on The Cosby Show was that far-fetched. This is a program that was asked to leave the Big East Conference, mind you, a collective that still holds my wretched Orange to be a member in good standing. Bernard Pierce, the studliest freshman running back in Philly since Brian Westbrook was a pimple-faced Villanova Wildcat, continues to run roughshod, piling up 267 yards and a pair of long scores against Navy.
  • Nice win for Tennessee, over their usual pigeon South Carolina, but did they really have to wear those Halloween black jerseys over the orange pants? On the subject of lame black attire, someone needs to perform an intervention in Athens, and tell Mark Richt that all attempts to wear gear other than classic red is herewith banned.
  • You knew USC was in for a long night when defensive end Everson Griffen pulled up lame coming out of his three-point stance.
  • B.J. Daniels continues to impress for South Florida as Matt Grothe's replacement -- he ran West Virginia ragged Friday night. Give Grothe credit for not sulking after a career-ending knee injury and giving Daniels considerable assistance in his unlikely rise to prominence.
  • My wife, a proud Wake Forest alum, is still trying to figure out how the Demon Deacons blew that one to The U. Riley Skinner is one tough nut, but he took a hellacious shot that nearly removed his head midway through the fourth quarter. That set the stage for Miami's comeback, and, when you leave a gap, Jacory Harris is going to step through it.
  • Tough day for Michigan schools -- Big Blue is humbled by the Zooks; Sparty loses a shootout at Minnesota; Eastern is routed by Arkansas; Western drops a bad loss to Kent State; and Central -- the state's best team -- gets pummeled by Boston College at Chestnut Hill. And you thought the auto industry had it rough.

The OFI Top 25

Every week, Robert votes in the BlogPoll, hosted by mgoblog, and available on CBS Sportsline.

Rank Team Delta
1 Florida
2 Alabama
3 Texas
4 Cincinnati 1
5 Boise State 1
6 Oregon 1
7 TCU 1
8 Iowa 1
9 Georgia Tech 1
10 Penn State 1
11 LSU 1
12 Southern Cal 8
13 Ohio State 1
14 Houston 1
15 Miami (Florida) 3
16 Notre Dame 3
17 Pittsburgh 4
18 Virginia Tech 5
19 Arizona
20 Oklahoma 2
21 Utah 2
22 South Florida
23 Wisconsin
24 Oklahoma State 8
25 California
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: West Virginia (#17), South Carolina (#20), Central Michigan (#24), Navy (#25).
Lurking: Auburn, Oregon State, Temple

Posted by: Robert Weintraub on 02 Nov 2009

12 comments, Last at 14 Dec 2012, 2:01am by stolcalia


by Mac (not verified) :: Mon, 11/02/2009 - 3:01pm

I didn't think that Tennessee's uniforms could get uglier than the all-orange atrocities, but I was wrong.

by beargoggles :: Mon, 11/02/2009 - 4:28pm

What team is it that would beat Oregon right now? So much for their inexperienced O-line and receivers, poor passing QB and mediocre defense that graduated several players to the NFL. As a poster on my local fanboard put it, it was like the whole Oregon team was replaced by a juggernaut from another planet, right before the Conference season began. I never in a million years imagined a Carroll USC defense giving up 600 yards in a game.

by T. Diddy :: Mon, 11/02/2009 - 7:45pm

I wouldn't mind seeing a Boise State-Oregon rematch in the BCS.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/02/2009 - 6:32pm

The 17-point favorite, and my lock of the week (natch), lost outright when Ryan Williams made his first freshman mistake and coughed up a fumble deep in his own territory with two minutes to play.

The coach also made an absolutely awful decision after that fumble. The game still had 2 minutes left, and UNC was in makeable field goal range - they promptly ran the clock out and kicked the field goal as time expired, and Va Tech let them.

It's a bit much to suggest that Va Tech should've just let them run the ball into the end zone after the first play, because, well, it is college, and a 30-40 yard FG isn't a given. But after they gained the first down (and Va Tech had no timeouts), they were basically in automatic field goal range, and the extra first down gave them the ability to take the clock to zero. After that first down, the Va Tech coach should've said "just let the guy run in. Seriously, do it."

Driving down the field for a matching TD wouldn't've been easy, but it would've given them a chance.

by Rover (not verified) :: Mon, 11/02/2009 - 8:28pm

I wonder about the seemingly objective computers. Florida has beaten only 2 teams with winning records (Troy, LSU) and a bunch of loser schlubs. Everyone here can eyeball that team, its NFL talent, its College hall of famer QB, its pioneering coach who introduced the forward pass to the SEC, and we all can say say that Florida is clearly better than Oregon, Cincy, Boise, TCU, Texas?

How do the computers elevate Florida given its 1 significant win? Is it huge helpings of subjectivity? Oregon beat much better teams (Cal, USC, #17 Utah, UCLA). Does anyone who developed the analytic methods used by this website agree with a program that weighs Oregon’s close road loss to an excellent team so heavily relative to 3 wins over a string of paid whipping boys? I ask honestly, I don't know this computer programming business.

by Rover (not verified) :: Mon, 11/02/2009 - 8:33pm

Sorry, shouldn't have that "?" after the first paragraph. Florida is defintely #1. I just don't know how computers arrive at that based on its opponents' records.

by peachy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/02/2009 - 9:10pm

Sagarin's ELO-CHESS, which is the "official" non-MOV algorithm he uses for the BCS, has Florida #1 and Oregon #4. His Predictor rating (the gambler's algorithm), which is based on MOV has... Florida #1 and Oregon #4.

There are teams that can complain about the official rules shorting them - Texas is #9 and #2 respectively, VaTech #22 and #6 (just as others can be grateful for the quirks of the BCS, such Iowa at #2 and #15, Cincy at #3 and #10, and LSU at #8 and #17.) Oregon is not one of them.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/02/2009 - 10:03pm

that weighs Oregon’s close road loss to an excellent team

The degree of Oregon's victory is really, really debatable. To a statistical ranking it's just a loss, and that's the way it should be. You say it was close. At the time, the AP called it "commanding." Oregon didn't gain a first down until midway through the 3rd quarter, and in general looked totally inept on offense.

How do the computers elevate Florida given its 1 significant win?

Because 5 wins over teams that would be ranked in the top 50 if they went that far aren't insignificant. Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, even Troy, are all half-decent teams. Throw in a loss, and it's easily understandable.

by OMAR :: Tue, 11/03/2009 - 6:43pm

Bunch of loser schlubs? Urban introduced the forward pass to the SEC? Is this your first year watching college football?

Here is a giant comparison of College Football Rankings:
(I have no connection to that site whatsoever. Sorry if linking off-site is not permitted. Please delete if warranted.)

For any set of rankings or power ratings that you come across, there will be a different methodology involved, but you may have to contact the author for specifics. That being said, many have Florida's strength of schedule rated above Oregon's. Your perception of Oregon beating "much better" teams may be entirely wrong.

I rate Cal about the same as Tennessee, somewhere in the top 20.
Utah is not a team I would put in the top 25.
UCLA would be lucky to crack the top 50 in anyone's poll.

However, to answer your question, "Yes". Huge helpings of subjectivity are required before any games are played.

by Todd S. :: Tue, 11/03/2009 - 12:30pm

The turning point Saturday came thanks to the replay official, who (incorrectly, in my view) overturned an apparent touchdown that would have given the Hoosiers a 14-point lead.

I'm fairly sure I'm in the minority on this, and I know I'm a biased Purdue fan, but I thought the official got the call right. It looked to me like the receiver's foot lifted off the ground before he caught the ball and then the leg landed out-of-bounds before his foot came back down.

by mjb :: Wed, 11/04/2009 - 2:35am

Concerning how Temple left the Big East - I have heard that it was actually Temple's President, Peter Liacouras, who ASKED to be kicked out the Big East. Doing so while the school's AD was working on a deal to keep the school in the Big East. Do not ask me why he did this, because after I heard this it did not make any sence to me either, other than the high probability that Liacouras knew nothing about college athletics.

by stolcalia (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2012 - 2:01am

I always was concerned in this topic and stock still am, appreciate it for posting .