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Monday, September 8, 2008

Good Sign/Bad Sign Week 2

Non-BCS: Notre Dame
Good Sign: They won. In fact, they are now on pace to win 4 times as many games as they did in 2007. Clausen was solid, completing 57% of his passes, averaging just under 7 yards per pass, and got better as the game progressed-managing an almost heroic 4th quarter. The O-line was able to get a push and showed a recognition that they have blocking assignments, which allowed the Domers to scratch out more than 100 yards on the ground. The 4th quarter domination also demonstrated that the Domers have a little depth and are better conditioned than last year-and maybe, just maybe, they got their fight back.
Bad Sign: The score was 13-7 when SDSU fumbled in the Notre Dame end zone early in the 4th quarter. San Diego State had more total yards than Notre Dame and should have won, but the Aztecs gave the game away. San Diego State is really bad but still had a better chance of beating the Irish than they did Cal Poly. This is the easiest game on the schedule for Notre Dame and the Domers barely snuck by with a W.

Big East: USF

Good Sign: South Florida unofficially won this game by 3 touchdowns. They more than doubled UCF in yards and first downs. Grothe put up impressive numbers while he comfortably waited in the pocket as long as he needed for receivers to get open. Statistical domination is a better predictor of future performance than domination on the score board.
Bad Sign: A bad special teams mistake (91 yard touchdown return in on UCF's first offensive touch) and an inability to get the ball in the end zone allowed UCF to hang around, and then a complete inability to establish the funning game let UCF make their run in the 4th quarter. Grothe was the teams leading rusher, getting 20 carries-way too many-and just 2.7 yards per attempt. Being one dimensional makes it harder to convert in the red zone and to effectively run out the clock, both weaknesses that haunted the Bulls on Saturday.

Big Ten: Penn State

Good Sign: Here's why Penn State is quickly becoming my Big 10 favorite. First, Daryll Clark. He can stretch the field through the air (15 yards per completion, 215 yards passing against Oregon St), and then he can tuck it and run (12 yards per carry, 61 yards rushing)-that combo has given many of the Big 10 defenses fits. RB Evan Royster will get over 1,000 yards rushing (141 yards against Oregon St), so the offense is far from one dimensional. Then defense is solid, but more important, Penn State has demonstrated an ability to jump out early on teams and force them into a passing contest. With Wisconsin's and Ohio State's combination of lines and backs, that could be invaluable. I am officially off the Ohio State bandwagon and on the Penn State one.
Bad Sign: I don't know . . . their coach is really old?

Big 12: Texas Tech
Good Sign: On a day in which Graham Harrell struggled, Tech still won. Inconsistency has been a big problem for Tech, but they now have the depth of options that it didn't bite them too hard. They got a special teams touchdown early when the offense was completely out of whack and then 3 rushing touchdowns to pull away. The backs were productive, which gives Leach one more option if the day-to-day offense isn't clicking.
Bad Sign: Saturday's numbers may be more of a trend than a hiccup. Coordinators have had an off-season to analyze the Harrell to Crabtree connection, which is one reason it might be less reliable-take out the 82 yard reception against Nevada and Crabtree's numbers are quite pedestrian this season. Nevada outgained Tech as they moved the ball effectively on the ground and through the air, so aspirations for the defense might have been premature. Tech is still averaging 8 yards per pass attempt this season, but if that numbers drops to 6.5 against stiffer Big 12 defenses, folks in Lubbock might be very disappointed this season.

SEC: Kentucky
Good Sign: 5, 0, 370 = total points, total touchdowns, and total yards allowed this season. And one of those opponents was Louisville. Granted this is not the Louisville of the Bobby Petrino era and Norfolk St does not scare many opponents, but those numbers are the mark of solid, mistake free defense regardless of the opponent.
Bad Sign: Kentucky will need a very good defense to succeed in the SEC, because the offense isn't there. Kentucky has been trying to replace former QB Andre Woodson, and the dismissal of QB Curtis Pulley didn't help. Consequently, the Wildcats have managed only 147 yards passing in each of their first two games. They racked up 298 yards against Norfolk St., but those yards will be harder to come by against real opponents. The 210 yards of offense against Louisville might be the norm for this Kentucky team, which could make for a very long season.

ACC: Georgia Tech
Good Sign: The Yellow Jackets took a triple option offense to Boston College, faced off against one of the best run defenses in the country, and came home a winner.
Bad Sign: Tech's offense did not win this game. They managed only 162 yards on the ground on Saturday and dropped it 3 more times. The defense played well, but if Boston College had been able to convert its three short field goals into touchdowns, this game wouldn't have been close. At some point you start to wonder if this team this season with this group of athletes will ever get Paul Johnson's offense rolling.

Pac 10: Oregon
Good Sign: It is a statistical fact that demonstrating an ability to throw the ball against much weaker opponents is a better predictor of future success than running the ball, because it doesn't require any offensive sophistication to boll over 150 lb nose tackles. But running for 408 yards against a D1A opponent, even if that opponent was Utah State, is still impressive. Oh yeah, and they threw the ball effectively with two different quarterbacks. And the defense's work against Locker a week earlier now looks more impressive after he ran free against BYU.
Bad Sign: Their quarterback still isn't named Dennis Dixon and the running back dares to be someone other than Johnathon Stewart. That step down in athleticism will catch up with them against the more athletic defenses in the Pac 10.

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