Thursday, September 18, 2014

Week 4 - Paring the Ranks of the Undefeateds

Standings
1) Schweinfurth     7-5    (1-2 upset)
1) Draper                7-5    (1-2 upset)
1) Seeberg              7-5    (0-3 upset)

4) Hoying               6-6    (1-2 upset)

After Ohio State's biggest D-1A blowout since Pitt in 1996 (sorry we're not sorry, Mark May), the Buckeyes are a virtual lock this Saturday against someone named "Bye Week," so we'll turn our attention to FIVE marquee match-ups across the country, from Kansas to Nebraska.

Auburn Tigers @ Kansas State Wildcats
Draper: Kansas State has been limping through the beginning of their schedule.  They woke up just enough to stave off my Upset Special two weeks ago, but Auburn's running game should be too much.  Nick Marshall keeps running Gus Malzahn's machine rumbling along to steamroll Bill Snyder's team on Bill Snyder Field.  Thursday night matchup, but blowout results like most games this coming weekend.  Aub: 45--KSU: 23
Hoying: Wow! An SEC team other than Tennessee goes on the road and actually leaves the South! In the last 31 years, Auburn has played 3(!) road games in Union territory (yes, yes, I know, excluding games @ Kentucky): 2008 @ West Virginia, 2002 @ USC, and 2001 @ Syracuse. What else do these games have in common? Auburn lost them all. If we expand our search to nonconference road games in general, the picture remains unchanged: of 5 such games in the last 13 years, the Tigers won zero of them. In a stunning twist, this creates a heavy presumption against the SEC team winning a game, but let's consider these teams on their own merits first. Auburn had a fantastic surprise season that ALMOST nobody at Let's Go Bucks! saw coming, but much of this success was driven by QB Nick Marshall and RB Tre Mason, the only combo in the country to rival Braxton and El Guapo for rushing prowess. Mason may be gone, but his replacement, Cameron Artis-Payne, gashed Arkansas and San Jose State for 6.9 yards/carry. Kansas State needed some 4th quarter magic to take down Iowa State, but they now have dealt with adversity and a hostile road environment, which Auburn has not. KSU QB Jake Waters is a dual-threat QB in the mold of Collin Klein, but he doesn't quite have the talent in and around him to pull off the upset. Aub: 27--KSU: 24
Schweinfurth: It has to be asked...is the the furthest north a SEC team is going to travel this year?  I really don't know much about these two teams other than Nick Marshall and Malzahn's beast of an offense.  KSU can hang with the Tigers, I'm sure and I believe that they will keep it within one score for most of the game.  I still think Auburn is better.  Aub: 28--KSU: 17
Seeberg:  KSU is a tough team to figure out this season, having crushed a nobody and then sleepwalking against a mediocre Cyclone bunch (that then beat Iowa, woe is the B1G) before holding on late.  Auburn has rolled two opponents, and their win over Arkansas looks pretty decent after the Hogs smashed the Ryan Gosling-led Red Raiders.  This game is likely to be close for a half or so, but Auburn just has too many weapons to be shut down indefinitely.  Aub: 34--KSU: 21

Clemson Tigers @ Florida State Seminoles
Draper: Clemson looks for revenge against the Noles who blasted them in Death Valley last year with their statement win.  Sadly for the Tigers, Boyd and Watkins are playing (or benched) on Sundays.  FSU has had an extra week to prepare for the Chad Morris weirdness and to seal some of the holes in their team.  Winston will be fine (author note: The recent suspension of Jameis for a half--Why you so stupid Jameis?--makes this more interesting but FSU is still the better team.  Final score has been adjusted but result doesn't change) and lead another big win on the way to another ACC title.  Watch Rashad Greene.  He may be a better possession receiver than Kelvin Benjamin.  Clemson was serviceable between the hedges but maybe UGA wasn't as special as we thought.  Clem: 17--FSU: 34
Hoying: Clemson had a hell of a game against "Bye Week" on Saturday, good enough to move them past Ohio State in the AP rankings. Unfortunately for them, Florida State played the same opponent, so both squads will be equally rested. Clemson pooped the bed against a fading Georgia team back in August and have yet to establish a viable running game. On the other sideline, Florida State will be without frittata Heisman-winning QB Jameis Winston for the first half, but it's not like Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins are going to be stepping in to save Clemson anytime soon. The Noles have looked unremarkable so far this season, but the lack of bed-pooping should continue for at least a few weeks. Clem: 16--FSU: 31
Schweinfurth: Is there anyone in college who is getting less out of an education than Jameis Winston?  Look, I'm not saying he's a bad football player, I just think he may give Vince Young a run for his money come Wonderlick time.  Even without Jameis, Florida State is loaded on both sides of the ball.  Clemson is still reeling from the loss of Boyd and Watkins.  This game feels like it could be a bit out of hand by half time, making a full game benching of Winston even more likely.  Clem: 14--FSU: 45
Seeberg:  This game was pretty cut and dry until In-Famous Jameis got himself benched for a half.  Unfortunately for the Tigers, not only is this game @FSU, but their easy dismissal by Georgia wasn't as impressive a loss as most thought it to be after watching the Gamecocks score pretty much at will against the Bulldog D.  The Seminoles' offense may be stagnant for a half, but their D will keep it close and Winston will close the door in the second half.  Clem: 20--FSU: 31

Mississippi State Bulldogs @ Louisiana State Tigers
Draper: MSU may be undefeated but wins over Southern Miss, UAB, and South Alabama don't really impress.  LSU's win over Wisconsin (even with a craptastic QB) easily trumps the Bulldogs'.  Add in Death Valley and it's a recipe for disaster.  Miles eats grass and poops out the Bulldogs.  MSU: 17--LSU: 31
Hoying: After trailing Wisconsin 24-7, LSU has scored 108 unanswered points in this young season. The Tigers have looked great, but the SEC West appears to be the buzzsaw that everyone expected, going 18-0 against external opponents so far. The winner of this game finds themselves on Auburn's lap in the driver's seat toward the SEC championship. LSU struggled against the Wisconsin running game until they figured out that the Badgers couldn't throw. In contrast, MSU has shown great balance. Were this game in Starkville, I would be tempted to pick the upset, but Death Valley is a death sentence. MSU: 24--LSU: 31
Schweinfurth: Mississippi State is that one team that can rise up and pull the upset every now and again.  Unfortunately, LSU is pretty good and at home.  I'm with Hoying, I want to call the upset but Death Valley will prevail.  MSU: 10--LSU: 28
Seeberg:  I would REALLY like to see this game played in Starkville instead of Death Valley.  Dan Mullen is doing a remarkable job in what is, as ESPN constantly reminds us, easily the best division in all of college football.  Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, so is the Mad Hatter which, by the way, is the name of a new burger joint here in Greensboro, NC that is REALLY good.  I won't be dining there on Saturday, but the Mad Hatter's grass smoothies will get them to another win.  MSU: 13--LSU: 24

Florida Gators @ Alabama Crimson Tide
Draper: What year is this? Is it 2008? No?  Ok.  Tebow is commentating and not playing harder than any quarterback has ever played before.  Bama is at home to make things worse.  I watched some of the UF/UK debacle on the SEC Network (I thought ESPN was already a thing?) which raises the concern in Gainsville exponentially.  Sure, there's a chance UK is improving, but to seriously threaten the Gators in the Swamp? Now Muschamp goes to Bama to take his medicine.  Just close your eyes and think of a better place.  Papa Saban won't be gentle.  UF: 10--Bama: 38
Hoying: After an awful 4-8 campaign last season, Florida...is still bad. With the return of Tennessee and the rise of Missouri,  coupled with a schedule that includes Alabama AND LSU from the West, the Gators are going to have a heck of a time getting to .500, especially after losing a practically free win in week 1. Alabama looks fine, the game is in Tuscaloosa, nothing more to say. UF: 6--Bama: 27
Schweinfurth: This game can be summed up by one thing Will Muschamp's job.  IF the Gators win, he may earn another year.  Unfortunately for him, Nick Saban has an over-signing problem a really good team again.  Oh, and Florida almost lost to KENTUCKY in FOOTBALL.  The Gators are bad and Bama puts Muschamp to bed.  UF: 7--Bama: 35
Seeberg:  Amazingly, there is a significant amount of good news for the Gators heading into Crimson Tide territory on Saturday.  They're 2-0, their defense is looking quite stout under defensive-minded Will Muschamp, and they aren't in the SEC West.  The bad news:  Kentucky nearly pulled out a win against them in The Swamp, they have to play a couple teams from the SEC West, and Tim Tebow is too busy plugging T-Mobile to play QB.  Reality, the form of Nick Saban's perfectly coiffed 'do, will set in quickly and coast late.  UF: 10--Bama: 34

Miami Hurricanes @ Nebraska Cornhuskers
Draper: So many games and so little that matter.  The Huskers finally looked competent last week. Jim Delaney needs that to continue.  Miami has been 'eh' like Nebraska but the game in Lincoln should hopefully tip the scales (expecially since the weather seems to be breaking early.  Perhaps this is more of a heart over head pick, but I'm going with the Huskers.  Ameer Abdullah is a talented back that should be the Xfactor.  Let's just hope Miami doesn't cause another opponent to have a "heart attack"UM: 17--Neb: 23
Hoying: Is this finally the year of Miami's triumphant return? Since the giant was slain in the desert by Ohio State on January 3, 2003, the Hurricanes have had exactly 1 10-win season. The comeback train might need to wait another year for its arrival, since the Canes got smacked by Louisville in week 1, but this year has shown that you don't have to be a juggernaut to knock off a B1G team, even on the road. Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah has been a bright point for the conference and an early favorite for MVP, and QB Tommy Armstrong is a terrific dual threat, but the Huskers looked tremendously mediocre against 1-AA McNeese State. If the Lackshirts can limit the Miami deep ball, Nebraska should be able to keep the playoff train rolling. UM: 27--Neb: 35
Schweinfurth: This is a bit of a nostalgia game to me.  Miami has fallen on some rough times of late, but Nebraska hasn't exactly been blowing people's doors off either.  Miami is just bad and Nebraska has Ameer Abdullah.  Look for Abdullah to run for 125+ and Bo's cat to run for food.  UM: 17--NEB: 28
Seeberg:  If you had told anyone in college football 20 years ago that a 3-0 Nebraska team would just barely have squeaked into the rankings, they'd say you're crazy and that's a top 5 team easily.  Today?  I can't believe they're ranked at all after it took a Herculean effort by Ameer Abdullah to stave off Steve McNair's alma mater (sounds better than "middling I-AA McNeese State).  The Hurricanes looked pretty lousy in their first away game, an 18-point loss at Louisville who was subsequently beaten at Virginia.  Neither team is anywhere close to the level that their history would suggest, but the Cornhuskers offense is the best unit that will take the field, and they will eventually win the day.  UM: 24--Neb: 38

Upset Special
Draper: Iowa over Pitt
Hoying: Utah over Michigan
Schweinfurth: West Virginia over Oklahoma
Seeberg: Central Michigan over Kansas

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Grading the Bucks: Week 3--Kent State

Let's be clear: this game really meant nothing.  OSU dominated from the first snap, but that was partially due to good execution and primarily due to a poor opponent.  This was a game where a blowout means nothing, a close win elicits worry, and a loss is an instant death sentence.  Onto the letter grades.

Offense: A-
How can I give this offense anything but an A+?!?!?  66 pts?!? Remember Tressel? Calm down and don't forget that Kent State plain sucks.  I will give JT an A+ because he was phenomenal.  The RBs and OLine looked good as well.  The problem is that I can't give an A+ or even an A with the receiver play.  They weren't terrible, but there were some terrible plays.  Two dropped touchdowns that were dropped in beautifully by Barrett (one to Smith and one to Thomas) are inexcusable (see last week vs. VT--looking at you Smith).  Barrett is clearly a more polished passer than Miller was even last year.  Give him time (and catch a freaking ball), and the Bucks will do just fine.

Defense: A
Ok, I will say 0 is 0.  A shutout in the game of football today is very difficult and should be  recognized even against an inferior opponent.  I want to highlight the play of Darron Lee and Tyvis Powell as they were very good.  The screwup yet again of Noah Spence appeared to have no ill effects.  I'll give credit where credit is due. Let's see if they can play sound against Cincinnati.

Special Teams: C-
Boy, I had no clue how to grade this unit but I simply have to downgrade them for some mistakes.  No missed kicks is a positive but there were 3 issues:
1) Another shanked punt by Johnston (what happened to him?)
2) Blocking a punt (YAY) then recovering (YAY) then fumbling it back (....really...REALLY?!?!) and giving the Flashes a first down.
3) Marshall getting stopped on the kickoff return...BY THE FREAKING PUNTER!!
These all deserve a hearty 'C'Mon Man?!?'

Coaching: A-
The Oline is the problem, so we saw some intermediate and short passes....GENIUS! Finally, the playcalling matched the personnel.  I think I actually saw a slant thrown in. Defensive playcalling and film study was clearly effective as the scoreboard shows.  Going for it on 4th down was a little questionable late in the game, but I can understand letting the backups get some reps.  Playing a weak opponent hides a lot of issues, but I think some steps were taken in the right direction. Why the downgrade to A-.  This is purely due to VT...Tech losing at home to ECU makes me question the coaching and prep work from two weeks ago.  That stings.  Yes, they coached well today, but that score makes me angry thinking about the suck 2 weeks ago so I move em down.

Overall: A
Let's be honest, the downgrades were for little individual issues.  At the end of the day, this was a complete game with a complete blowout.  An A grade is nice, but let's do it when it matters.  Keep the train rolling. I guarantee a Bucks non-loss this week (although I've heard 'bye week' has a new coach).

Friday, September 12, 2014

Week 3 - I Just Figured Something Out, Beavis...huh huh...This Sucks

Standings
1) Schweinfurth     4-4    (1-1 upset)
1) Draper                4-4    (1-1 upset)
1) Hoying               4-4    (0-2 upset)

1) Seeberg              4-4    (0-2 upset)

In case you missed this past weekend's action, here's a quick recap:

1. Michigan was shut out for the first time in 30 years, losing by 31.
2. Michigan State and Ohio State flirted with competence before losing by multiple scores.
3. Purdue was crushed at home by a MAC team that almost lost to Chattanooga.
4. Northwestern lost at home to another MAC team.
5. Iowa needed two touchdowns in the game's final 3:00 to avoid losing to yet another MAC team.
6. Nebraska needed a last-minute touchdown to avoid overtime with a D1-AA school.
7. Maryland needed a fourth-quarter comeback to beat an AAC team that went 2-10 last year.
8. Illinois needed a fourth-quarter comeback to beat a C-USA team at home (actually not bad for Illinois).
9. Penn State, Rutgers, Wisconsin, and Minnesota managed to avoid crapping the bed.
10. Indiana didn't play.

All in all, not a banner day for the conference that we play in. It sucked more than anything has ever sucked before. We at Let's Go Bucks! are not SEC hive-minders, but we understand that a poor conference perception might limit Ohio State's chances to make the inaugural College Football Playoff after they win their next 11 games.

With that out of the way, let's turn to the snore-fest that is Week 3. The B1G conference season kicks off on the east coast, two blue-chip programs meet in Norman, and the presumptive SEC East favorites butt heads (huh huh).

Georgia Bulldogs @ South Carolina Gamecocks
Draper: Two words: Todd Gurley.  SEC folk want to tout the toughness of the Gamecocks, but nothing on the field has supported that.  The Dawgs, however, are led by a grown a$$ man in Todd Gurley who look absolutely beastly in week 1 over a tough Clemson team.  It's in Columbia, but A&M handles the Cocks in their house.  I expect UGA to follow suit and cruise to a fairly easy win.  UGA: 48--SCar: 20
Hoying: I know, faithful readers, you'd rather hear our thoughts on the weekend's showdown between two undefeated SEC teams, Kentucky and Florida. But the inconsequential AP still inexplicably has South Carolina ranked after getting spanked by Kenny Football and a newly-functioning Aggie defense, so you'll have to suffer through this analysis instead. After their aforementioned loss, Cocky almost laid another egg against their directional rival, East Carolina. The Bulldogs looked fantastic in their only showing this season, dominating Clemson behind Todd Gurley and an imposing O-line (sigh). I imagine this game will play out about as you'd expect. UGA: 45--SCar: 24
Schweinfurth: We can keep this one short.  South Carolina was exposed by TAMU.  Yes, that was a spread system vs. a pro system but the Dawgs have the Gurley man.  I fully expect Georgia to hop out to an early lead and not look back.  UGA: 38--SCar: 17
Seeberg:  On the surface, this looks like a solid game.  Two ranked, divisional SEC foes doing battle.  Unfortunately looks (and rankings) can be deceiving.  The Gamecocks are still ranked solely because voters were slightly uncomfortable taking them from #9 all the way out after their debacle against A&M.  Thankfully, that won't be an issue after this week.  Gurley, Mason & Co. will pull away after the SC home crowd keeps them in it early.  UGA: 41--SCar: 21

Penn State Nittany Lions @ Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Draper: Blech...scraping the bottom of the barrel here.  This matchup faces the 2 programs with the most impressive out of conference wins for the B1G (UCF and Washington State....yeah....).  Can Hackenburg not suck it up like he did last week?  I'd say yes.  I have no faith that the undefeated juggernaut of the State School of New Jersey will continue to press on.  Why is this a thing?  Thanks Jim Delany.  PSU: 34--RSUNJ: 20
Hoying: Ah, Big Ten football the way it was meant to be played: between the flagship state programs of two original American colonies. Good news: the B1G will get a victory out of this game. Better news (or not): the NCAA burned a chicken's entrails and decided not to care anymore about child molestation negligence, paving the way for a brighter future for Penn State football, chock full of bowl appearances and full scholarship rosters. The Nittany Lions sport the most extreme road win of the young season, beating a Bortles-less UCF in...Ireland...but they've looked terribly one-dimensional so far, relying far too heavily on QB Christian Pick, er, Hackenberg. The Scarlet Knights don't feature a great pass defense, but they showed great balance in wins against Washington State and Howard (don't laugh). Let's see how long Rutgers' B1G reign of terror can last (spoiler alert: next four conference games are against Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, and Wisconsin). PSU: 20--RSUNJ: 24

Schweinfurth: It's time for Rutgers to become B1G.  This is time for Franklin and Freeze to work on that grudge match that's been brewing in the off season as well.  The Knights are going to come hard at the Penn State O-Line to rattle Hackenberg.  If Hackenberg stays vertical, the Lions will pull of the win.  PSU: 28--RSUNJ: 24
Seeberg:  Fifteen years ago, this would have been a pretty rude welcome to the B1G for the Scarlet Knights.  Now, however, the Lions have been tamed somewhat.  An upset by Rutgers is a distinct possibility here, but the Nittanys will be buoyed by the recent news that they can actually head to a bowl this year (what're they calling the Alamo Bowl now?  Still, better than spending the Christmas holiday in Happy Valley, the most misnomered place in the known universe).  Hack-a-Shaqberg avoids just enough disasters to squeak out a win.  PSU: 20--RSUNJ: 13

Tennessee Volunteers @ Oklahoma Sooners
Draper: I expect this to be another blood bath.  OU has absolutely demolished their first 2 foes and UT was simply OK.  Where is this game? Norman? Good God.  Stoops should have no problem with the Vols at home.  Knight has looked fantastic.  Expect the Sooner Schooner to get tired out early.  UT: 17--OU: 41
Hoying: Oklahoma entered the 2014 season as an overwhelming favorite to storm through the B12G and secure a spot in the playoffs. The Sooners have looked the part so far, plastering Louisiana Tech and Tulsa by a combined score of 100-23. Will the undefeated Volunteers provide a stiffer test? Last year's squad also started 2-0, then got shellacked by Oregon on the way to a 5-7 skid of a season. A trip to Norman this Saturday won't be any more forgiving. UT: 17--OU: 38

Schweinfurth:  This is an SEC suck team versus one of the best teams in the country.  It's gonna show too.  Big Game Bob has the best QB in this game and that offense is gonna make a SEC defense look like swiss cheese.  Oklahoma in a rout.  UT: 10--OU: 45
Seeberg:  Ah yes, my alma mater- at least for my master's degree.  The Vols have been supposedly on the upswing for years, yet have middled around .500 for nearly a decade now.  This looked like a banner matchup when it was scheduled in probably 2008 or so, but now OU is still solid and UT has fallen by the wayside.  UT has some skill talent, but their O-line is as inexperienced as tOSU, and we all saw what happened there.  Boomer Sooner big.  UT: 13--OU: 42

Kent State Golden Flashes @ THE Ohio State University Buckeyes
Draper: Time to bounce back.  KSU is just what the doctor ordered.  The O-line should not (and better not!) have any problems here.  Time to work on fundamentals and get back to winning individual battles.  If this is close, time to panic in Columbus.  The defensive line should absolutely smoke the Flashes and harry the QB all day.  JT throws for 250+, Zeke/Marshall/Wilson run for 150+ and the d shuts it down.  Big bounceback win that really means nothing.  KSU: 10--OSU: 48
Hoying: How bad was last week? Our offensive line was embarrassed so completely that one of the linemen quit the team. Fortunately, our beloved Bucks get a chance to regroup against a truly awful squad. Dr. Lou's alma mater has already lost to D-1A newcomer South Alabama and an Ohio team that got blasted by Kentucky. Look for the Buckeyes to try to establish the run with anybody but Barrett, given that they only have about 5 or 6 running backs from which to choose. Look for the receivers to bring their hands closer together when the ball arrives, to better counteract the downward force the Earth puts on it. Look for the D-line to play containment and get a few stops on third down. Look for signs this team won't end up 7-6 after a bowl loss to a MAC school. KSU: 10--OSU: 38
Schweinfurth: Man I did not see that one coming last week.  We all knew the offensive line would be a work in progress but 7(!) sacks.  That is just horrendous.  What also worries me is the offensive play calling.  It's like the coaching staff writes scripts the entire game and won't deviate from that plan.  This has been going on for the last two years, it's just Braxton and El Guapo masked the issues.  Herman and Urban need to make adjustments other than throw bombs to a wide out who dropped every thing thrown at him.  The Silver Bullets will be fine.  The play calling on first and second down was great...third down was same old, same old.  Time to bring some pressure and get in the QB's face.  There is talent there, it just needs to be put in a better place to succeed.  I expect these changes to be made.  An inferior opponent will help that as well and give that offensive line time to gel.  I feel bad for the Golden Flashes.  Urban's boys are mad as hell and are going to take that anger out on the rest of the teams on the Buckeye schedule.  KSU: 14--OSU: 52

Seeberg:  Well, despite how horrendous we looked for 3.25 quarters or so last week, we were STILL within one possession with the ball with less than two minutes to play.  There is another silver lining:  The D-line looked much more solid than in the Navy run-game gashing we took the first week.  J.T. Barrett actually handled himself reasonably well- it's not his fault we couldn't seem to run a single screen pass, or slant, or 5-yard out, or any pass play not requiring a 7-step drop for that matter.  At this time last year, this game could have been a bit scary with Dri Archer running the ball and returning kicks.  He's gone, and the Golden Flashes are pretty flashless again.  Urban's message to the team after the loss?  That tOSU can still accomplish everything it set out to at 11-1.  With no discernable threats on the schedule until PSU in late October, it is still not out of the realm of possibility.  OSU: 38--KSU: 13

Upset Special
Draper: UCF over Missouri
Hoying: Iowa State over Iowa

Schweinfurth: Central Michigan over Syracuse
Seeberg: UMass over Vanderbilt

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Grading the Bucks: Week 2--Virginia Tech

Oof...that one hurt.  This team has some serious gaps (paging the offensive line), but give credit to the Hokies.  They brought their A game with a solid transfer QB and a relentless pass rush.  I was impressed with them...but that was not a good day for the Bucks.

Offense: D+
Let's nip this in the bud right away--J.T. Barrett was not the problem.  He wasn't perfect, but that line was a dumpster fire.  He showed his youth with his quick abandonment of looking downfield, but he had good reason.  The line is a train wreck.  No QB would have had a chance in that situation.  If they don't improve, it will be a rough season.  The silver lining is that the Bucks won't face anyone near the quality of VT until MSU, but they have serious retooling work ahead of them.  In addition, the WR corps needs to get better (Corey Smith? I'm talking about you).  A freshman QB delivered a giftwrapped TD and he became Greg Little.  There is no excuse for that at OSU.  Running game?  Where were you?  JT ran well, but it's not his job! Tom Herman needs to utilize his athletes and sprinkle in quick slants/screens with some runs to keep that crazy pass rush honest.  The Oline couldn't stop my grandma...

Defense: B-
Watching the game, I saw a lot of hate being lumped on the defense.  I'll be honest, I thought they looked markedly better than last year.  They are not world beaters by any stretch of the imagination, but it appears that the stud line was harrassing and the secondary prevented the big play. The main knock (giant elephant in the room) is the inability to get off the field on third down.  That being said, Brewer played like a polished veteran and looked fantastic.  I'm not convinced that was due to our defense as much as to VT having a competent QB.  The secondary was improved, but still not there.  I maintain that Darron Lee is a man but the other linebackers need work.  Again, the silver lining is a nice soft schedule before PSU (which shouldn't be too bad).

Special Teams: F-
 While the offensive line was offensive, the special teams was special.  2 missed kicks (including a 27 yarder!?!), a kick out of bounds, and a shanked punt?  This cannot stand.  I was impressed in week 1with the freshman kicker, but this is unacceptable.  Yeah, he's young and the stage was huge, but we need consistent play in that aspect.  I have a feeling the mystique of VT special teams created more havoc than the actual special teams.  Tech was fine on special teams, but not any better than any other team.  OSU let themselves down without much pressure. 

Coaching: B-
The coaching wasn't horrific in this game other than some questionable playcalling.  When the pressure turned up, it's time to start looking for quick throws.  I don't like an offense based on flanker screens, but they can be involved in the gameplan.  Also, maybe a HB screen or a FREAKING QUICK SLANT would relax some of the pressure on the QB from the revolving door Oline.  The defensive gameplan was fine in my opinion, but Brewer just had a great game.  Is the lack of usage of a power running game an artefact of a) a horrid Oline, b) no good backs, or c) a refusal to run between the tackles.  a) I can understand, but we didn't keep the defense honest, so they pinned their ears back and attacked.

Overall: D
I want to give an F for failing when all that matters is winning, but I can't forget about Barrett playing at a non-F level and the defense showing up.  This was a game the Buckeyes needed and they didn't show up.  Credit to the Hokies for a superior gameplan that exploited the weakness in the O-line.  At the end of the day, a loss is a loss and there are some serious holes that need plugging.  You have a month to get better Bucks.  Time to get to work.  (Anyone seeking to play O-line for the Bucks should contact Urban ASAP).
 

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Week 2 - B1G Chances for Redemption

Standings
1) Schweinfurth     3-1    (1-0 upset)
1) Draper                3-1    (1-0 upset---WEAK)
1) Hoying               3-1    (0-1 upset)

1) Seeberg              3-1    (0-1 upset- I should get .5 for mine, FCS team loses by 1 b/c of miraculous 2 TD comeback?? C'MON MAN!)

The B1G actually had a pretty decent week 1, going 12-2 with Ohio State, Penn State, and Rutgers scoring decent road wins, and no team falling flat on its face against a garbage opponent. However, all anyone will remember is Wisconsin's 2nd-half collapse against LSU, so it's up to the conference to notch a win against a top-level opponent to save face. Fortunately, three such opportunities present themselves in week 2.

Michigan State Spartans @ Oregon Ducks
Draper: This is a litmus test for both teams.  Did MSU take a step back from the magical 2013? Is Oregon the juggernaut on offense they always claim to be?  I'm expecting a pretty good game here in which the Spartans lay it all on the line...but fall just short in Autzen.  The losses in MSU's secondary are just too much when going up against Marcus Mariota.  I know he's not an exceptional passer, but with all the weapons on the ground, that pulls bodies out of pass protection.  MSU looks good, but Oregon is no Jacksonville State (and MSU is no South Dakota).  MSU: 24--Ore: 27
Hoying: Welcome to Part II of the B1G vs. Pac-12 Challenge. After B1G linchpin Rutgers dispatched Washington State last week, the stakes skyrocket in this showdown of presumptive conference favorites. 
Neither team will be out of the playoff hunt after a loss, but the loser will have to take care not to drop a conference game as well. Oregon is plenty flashy as always, rolling up 62 points against South Dakota, but the Ducks usually struggle against solid-tackling, defensive-minded squads (see 2011 LSU, 2010 Auburn, 2009 Ohio State and Boise State). MSU QB Connor Cook will have to continue his upward trend, but the Spartans should be bursting with confidence after their victory over last year's Pac-12 champ, Stanford, in the Rose Bowl. Remember, the Spartans need this win so that it's even more embarrassing when they lose to Indiana or Wyoming or whoever. MSU: 31--Ore: 27
Schweinfurth: Boy does the B1G need some love after Wisconsin choked (and that is putting it kindly).  Everyone is talking about Michigan State's defense, and for good measure.  They held Braxton and El Guapo in check for most of the B1G Championship Game and looked impressive doing it.  Oregon runs a similar type of spread; run to set up the pass, short passing game, and a mobile and explosive QB.  The difference here is that Mariota is a better passer than Miller.  MSU challenged Braxton to throw across the middle of the field and he couldn't do it.  Mariota can.  This will likely be the Spartans' gameplan against a fast spread team like the Ducks.  Combine that with the loss of Dennard and you have one MSU loss.  Sorry Sparty, I just can't buy in.  Prove me wrong.  MSU: 24--Ore: 35
Seeberg:  Time to put on the big boy pants and see who's who.  MSU's offense is likely to be much improved, though we learned next to nothing about them against the South Carolina Jacksonville State Gamecocks (seriously?  There are TWO Gamecock mascots?  Still not as bad as a community college in Arizona, the Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes- I kid you not).  Likewise, we learned nothing about Oregon's supposedly vaunted offense against the likes of South Dakota.  I get the sense that MSU cannot let Oregon get rolling early or it could get ugly, much like Seabiscuit retraining to break first in his match race against War Admiral (look it up).  Bottom line?  The two strongest units on the field will be Oregon's O and MSU's D, and sadly I trust Oregon's O a bit more.  Let the B1G bashing commence.  MSU: 20--Ore: 28

Michigan Wolverines @ Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Draper: Does the winner of this game get the ever present 'They're back!' label?  Seems to be a recurring tradition between these two historical juggernauts that just haven't lived up to consistent expectations in the recent past.  The Irish are sporting their revamped Everett Gholston (apparently, he's smart now!), but have serious questions from the academic issues that hit near the end of the offseason.  Michigan is on cloud nine after evening their record with the powerhouse Mountaineers, and I think they keep it going.  Gardner and Devin Funyons will be too much for the Domers to contain on offense.  They're BACK! (until next week) UM: 31--ND: 24
Hoying: Say it ain't so! Notre Dame's fifth most important rivalry is about to go on hiatus for the fifth time. Both of these historically superlative but contemporarily mediocre programs are missing major offensive performers from last season, the Wolverines losing RB Fitz Toussaint and the Irish losing QB Tommy Rees. Then again, neither player was actually any good, so don't expect these units to break stride from where they ended last year. Michigan has been in a total nosedive since firing Lloyd Carr 7 years ago, but since it's still September, a win is within the realm of possibility. Notre Dame is still missing a few players for being too dumb to play college football, but there's hope: QB Everett Golson has finally found his way back onto campus after a similar problem last season. Too bad he won't do well enough to overcome the Gardner & Co. sporadic juggernaut. UM: 38--ND: 24

Schweinfurth: This is a rivalry game that I am sad to see get put off by conference politics.  And by sad I mean I just like to watch both teams bumble all over the field.  Yes, Everett Golson is back.  Yes, Devin Gardner is back.  To acknowledge that this game will blow anyone's doors off would insinuate that both QBs were competent in the first place.  I really don't care who wins this game, but I think scUM's defense is better, but not by much.  This game will be close as always.  UM: 24--ND: 21
Seeberg: Ah yes, the annual "can they just play to a hideously contested 3-3 tie because I despise both teams?" game.  Both dispatched lousy opponents with ease last week, but TTUN's offense was surprisingly, well, surprising, in that the play-calling was marginally less predictable than usual.  Assuming there are more wrinkles reserved for their first real game, I expect UM to meet little resistance offensively en route to a double-digit win, thereby gratefully removing the perenially overrated Irish from the rankings, silencing the echoes yet again.  UM: 34--ND: 20

USC Trojans @ Stanford Cardinal
Draper: I don't know what to think about these Pac 12 foes.  Both teams crushed vastly inferior opponents last week but we really have no clue what to expect in an actual game.  Sark has the SC history with him, but the roster isn't quite like the Leinhart and Bush days.  I think the Trojans are on an upswing, but this is a doozy of a game on the road this early.  Stanford has a nice consistent product that doesn't have the flash, but should come up with the meat of the sandwich to come out with a win.  Blue collar boys slow down the flash...just enough. USC: 24--Stan: 27
Hoying: Now that the Lane Kiffin dumpster fire in Los Angeles has been extinguished, the Trojans are dreaming of regaining their Pac-12 supremacy status. Unfortunately, the conference isn't the one-team laugher it was back in the 2000's, and the Cardinal aren't keen to see their Rose Bowl streak ended at 2. Both teams feature great quarterbacks and untested running backs, most notably Stanford sophomore RB Barry Sanders, Jr. I'm tempted to give Stanford a slight edge due to the home field advantage, but that would require some fans to actually show up. This one will come down to whether the Cardinal play "Stanford football." I'm guessing...no. USC: 28--Stan: 27
Schweinfurth:  I really don't know much about these teams, and honestly, haven't paid much attention other than the RB drama at SC.  USC is still breaking in a new offense and that Stanford D is usually pretty nasty.  Stanford with a senior QB at home? Yup, the Cardinal move on.  USC: 17--Stan: 28

Seeberg:  I...I just don't know.  This is a flip of the coin for me.  It's strength on strength similar to MSU's D against Oregon's offense (USC O vs. Stanford D).  I would like to think the score will stay in the 20s and Stanford has the advantage.  Then again, USC proved it can win a low scoring game against the Cardinal, eking out a 20-17 win just last year.  Stanford appears a bit less 1-dimensional this year however, trusting their senior QB to throw to people other than the tight ends.  They'll need a play or two from the wideouts, and they'll get just enough to get some payback on the Trojans.  Dance ugly tree, dance.  USC: 20--Stan: 24

Virginia Tech Hokies @ THE Ohio State University Buckeyes
Draper: Bucks look a little iffy out of the gate but settled down quickly.  I really like what I saw out of Barrett when the kid gloves were removed, but the O-Line is a concern.  With Bud Foster's defense bringing the lunch pail, the Bucks need to get to work. I actually think this game sets up nicely for a strong Buckeye win.  VT is a very traditional football team and the Bucks are designed to take on a traditional football team.  Add in the lights in the Shoe, and it's a recipe for a coming out party.  Dontre takes one to the house and the defense steps up their game.  Bucks roll.  VT: 17--OSU: 38
Hoying: I'm not sure what to make of this Virginia Tech team. Like the Buckeyes, they're breaking in new starters at QB and RB. However, the Bucks are a bit more battle-tested after taking Navy's best shot in Baltimore. Were this a road game, I'd be extremely nervous, but Barrett and (insert Buckeye RB here) should get a nice boost from the home atmosphere. This game should give us some opportunities to finally see if the Buckeye D has made any strides in the offseason (or in the last week). Expect some mistakes on both sides of the ball, but Ohio State should squeak out a close win and move on to next week's breather against Kent State. VT: 24--OSU: 27 (OT)
Schweinfurth: I am sooooooo glad to be done with Navy.  I respect our troops, but as Draper likes to say, "Why do you ever schedule a service academy?!"  We really didn't learn much about the Bucks revamped defense, and that may be a good thing.  VaTech has no film to go on with regards to the Silver Bullets and that is a big advantage.  What concerns me is that offensive line.  They now have one game under their belt.  The talent is there, the communication just needs to be fixed and this unit will start providing better protection.  I think J.T. has earned the right to throw down field a bit more.  Urban and Herman need to try and take the top of that defense off if they want to run the ball against a very well coached Bud Foster defense.  I also think we see more Curtis Samuel, that dude is gonna be a good one.  I can really see this game playing out much like the Navy game; close going into the 4th quarter and then the talent gap shows up.  VT: 20--OSU: 35

Seeberg:  This game is likely the Bucks' biggest challenge until a late October trip to Happy Valley.  It is that fact that buoys my middling confidence in the Buckeyes.  D-line was gashed too often for a unit that was supposed to be our strength on that side of the ball, but some second-half adjustments helped.  Barrett looked pretty impressive, showing nice touch on many throws.  When pressured, however, he took too many sacks that seemed preventable, and of course the one horrible INT near the goal line was painfully foreseeable.  Freshman mistakes will happen, but you can be sure VT will be bringing the heat against that unproven line.  However, that unproven line may have been lackluster in the pass game, but it was opening some pretty consistent holes in the run game, and a heavy dose of Elliot, Wilson and Co. is in order.  The Bucks will use the crowd, get up early, and VT is not much more built to come from behind than Navy was.  VT: 16--OSU: 27  

Upset Special
Draper: Iowa State over Kansas State
Hoying: San Diego State over North Carolina

Schweinfurth: Western Kentucky over Illinois
Seeberg:  Middle Tennessee over Minnesota

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Week 1: Grading the Bucks--Navy

Take a deep breath everyone. It's going to be ok.  There are FAR too many people jumping off the deep end concerning a slow start against Navy.  I know I'm a homer, but I saw far more positives than negatives in that game.  Also, the defense is built to stop all of the other opponents on our schedule.  The option provides little information.

Offense: B
This could (and should have been higher), but the coaches insisted on taking it easy on the freshman early.  I think it was apparent that treating JT with kids' gloves was a mistake.  When they opened up the playbook, he became much more comfortable and looks better throwing the ball than Braxton.  Yes, the interception was a horrible freshman blunder, but it happens--great teaching moment.  I've been on record disliking Tom Herman's offense with all the read options and lack of a consistent downfield passing game, but he's going to need to change a bit.  The threats are too good and Barrett can hit them in stride.  Zeke wasn't showcased as much as I expected, but Samuel looked fantastic.  Overall, I would have liked/expected more points, but Barrett appeared forced into 'don't screw it up' mode in the first half.  Once the trust was shown, he shined.  The only area of concern was a little chink in the O-line that was beastly last year.  They'll improve, but it will take time. 

Defense: B
I honestly take very little (information) defensively from this game.  The adjustments at half were tremendous as someone actually covered the pitch man as the game progressed, but we won't face this offense again.  Darron Lee looked really good and I expect more great things from him.  The secondary wasn't tested at all and the line couldn't play to their strengths.  Bennett was a handful up front and Bosa consistently hit the QB.  There were still some missed tackles which brought back nightmares of last year, but I'm hoping that was first game jitters.  We'll learn a lot more about this unit this upcoming week.

Special Teams: A
The freshman kicker looked excellent calmly drilling a 45 yarder to get things going.  More impressive was the always steady Cameron Johnston booming ridiculous punts (58+ yarder in the air touchback?!?)  If Urban needs to punt, he's gonna feel pretty good with Johnston.  The return game looked pretty good too with some sizzle from Wilson.  Expect him to take one to the house soon.

Coaching: B
I appears that my pleas have yet again fallen on deaf ears...on 4th and a foot--SNEAK THE BALL!!  I have no idea why a quarterback in any system is not taught how to take a snap from under center. This also follows from my disbelief that a simple dive play or iso has been removed from the play book.  Screens are nice...to mix things up, but nothing wrong with a quick slant or traditional route.  I'm ok with the aggressive playcalling (i.e., going for 4th down), but I think the plays called in those situations need some review.

Overall: B+
Navy is the worst program to schedule, but the Buckeyes got through it.  Don't let the talking heads at ESPiN confuse you: Navy won 9 games last year and was a far bigger challenge than some of the other marquee matchups.  Nowhere near FSU/Oklahoma State, LSU?Wisconsin, or Clemson/UGA, but Navy is better than West Virginia...ask Hoying to show the results of media bias.  Credit to the academy for a tough game.  More credit to OSU for growing up quite a bit offensively in 60 minutes.  I'm truly excited to see what this team will bring in the future.  Lots of talent, but that's only part of the equation.  Expectations don't change much for me after the Braxton injury.  Most likely scenario is 10-2 (loss @MSU and vs. someone who shouldn't beat us), but I'd be far more surprised with 9-3 than I would with 12-0.  Go Bucks! 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Preseason Predictions

Conference Champions
ACC (Atlantic, Coastal, Champ)
Draper: A: FSU, C: VaTech, Champ: FSU
Hoying: A: FSU, C: VaTech, Champ: FSU
Schweinfurth: A: FSU, C: VaTech, Champ: FSU
Seeberg: A: FSU, C: Miami, Champ: FSU

B1G (East, West, Champ)
Draper: E: OSU, W: Nebraska, Champ: OSU (Homer pick but I'm going for gel before East Lansing)
Hoying: E: MSU, W: Iowa, Champ: MSU
Schweinfurth: E: OSU, W: Nebraska, Champ: OSU (Same as Draper, but you can't overlook the Spartans losses on D)
Seeberg:  E: MSU, W: Wisconsin, Champ: MSU

Big 12
Draper: Oklahoma 
Hoying: Baylor
Schweinfurth: Oklahoma
Seeberg: Oklahoma (for lack of a better option)

Pac 12 (North, South, Champ)
Draper: N: Oregon, S: UCLA, Champ: UCLA
Hoying: N: Oregon, S: UCLA, Champ: UCLA
Schweinfurth: N: Oregon, S: UCLA, Champ: Oregon
Seeberg: N: Stanford (hopeful- I hate Oregon) S: UCLA, Champ: UCLA

SEC (East, West, Champ)
Draper:  E: UGA, W: Bama, Champ: Bama
Hoying: E: UGA, W: LSU, Champ: UGA
Schweinfurth: E: UGA, W: Bama, Champ: UGA
Seeberg: E: UGA, W: Bama, Champ: Bama 

Playoffs (champ in bold)
Draper: FSU, Bama, OSU, UCLA
Hoying: FSU, UGA, MSU, Baylor
Schweinfurth: FSU, UGA, OSU, Oregon
Seeberg: UCLA, FSU, MSU, Bama

Heisman Ballot
Draper
1) Jameis Winston
2) Brett Hundley
3) Todd Gurley
Dark Horse: JT Barrett (redshirt freshman #3?) 
  
 Hoying
1) Jameis Winston
2) Bryce Petty
3) Marcus Mariota
Dark Horse: Devin Gardner

Schweinfurth
1) Todd Durley
2) Jameis Winston
3) Trevor Knight
Dark Horse: Keenan Williams

Seeberg
1) Todd Gurley
2) Brett Hundley
3) Jameis Winston
Dark Horse: Nick Marshall

Friday, August 29, 2014

Buckeyes: Better Off With Braxton Hurt?

Entering a new season, a team's expectations are built mostly on last year's performance and the quality of the returning players. For example, following an undefeated 2012 campaign, expectations for Ohio State in 2013 were national championship or bust. While the 2012 Buckeyes weren't exactly dominant, the team returned the entire offense minus one offensive lineman and a wide receiver. While the defense suffered heavy losses to the line and the linebackers, the depth of the line and the return of star LB Ryan Shazier seemed to be enough to keep the ship steady. However, despite this wealth of talent and experience, the defense fizzled down the stretch and the season ended in supremely disappointing fashion.

The end of the 2013 season saw the departure of
Our star senior running back, Carlos Hyde
4 of 5 OL starters
Our ultra-dependable backup QB, Kenny Guiton
Reliable WR Philly Brown
The only excellent linebacker in a crew of scrubs, Ryan Shazier
3 of 4 DB starters
Our 4-year starting kicker, Drew Basil

All that remained was the excellent defensive line, a mediocre squad of receivers, and our record-setting QB Braxton Miller, who the coaches repeatedly described as a vastly improved passer. Championship expectations remained high, especially given the transition from a two-team to four-team championship playoff, but the optimism was a bit more cautious.

You know what happened next. Bye bye, Braxton; hello, J. T. Barrett. The 2014 championship hopes now appear all but dashed, unless Barrett turns out to be the next Jameis Winston (not even freshman Johnny Heisman could lead A&M to even a conference title, let alone a shot at the crystal football). However, given the question marks surrounding this year's men of the Scarlet and Gray, might the Buckeyes be better off in the long run with Braxton's senior campaign being deferred to 2015?

Let's have a look at the depth chart for this year. With so many new faces, it's tough to know who'll pan out and who'll flame out, but let's assume Urban knows what he's doing: the starters are the best players available and they'll continue to improve.

OFFENSIVE DEPTH CHART:

Offensive Line
The line returns only one starter from 2013, junior LT Taylor Decker. This crew will need some time to jell and may take a step back from last year's excellent squad. Looking forward, the offensive line has only one definite senior starter, RT Darryl Baldwin. Additionally, seniors might start at C and LG. But the two-deep for the line includes only these three seniors, which means the line is likely to largely remain intact next year, and will probably improve.

Wide Receivers
Here's where the turnover will hit hardest. All our starting receivers, including TE Jeff Heuerman, are seniors. It's not a stellar group (the Buckeyes haven't had a great receiver since Sanzenbacher), but the 2015 team will have to make sure their receivers are ready to be on the same page with Braxton.

Running Backs
Ezekiel Elliott and Dontre Wilson are plenty young, and another year of experience will make them all the more dangerous in 2015. We'll lose Rod Smith, but if he was going to make some noise, he'd have done so already.

Quarterback
Remember how nice it was to have a backup on whom we could rely to preserve any victory if Braxton went down? As this offseason showed, we'll need a competent backup to carry us forward whenever Braxton's senior campaign begins. I'd feel much better if that backup, either Barrett or Jones, had a year of experience under his belt, and this season is a perfect opportunity.


DEFENSIVE DEPTH CHART:

Defensive Line
Good news: other than the loss of Joel Hale (to the offensive line?!?) this outstanding crew is still intact. Better news: barring any early exits, the 2015 starting D line will lose only Michael Bennett (technically, senior Steve Miller is starting at Viper, but junior Noah Spence should be back to take his place soon). Don't expect any steps backward from this squad in the near future.

Linebackers
Ryan Shazier is gone, which is essentially equivalent to a full flush of the position. No one else in last year's corps was any good, but they'll have a chance to prove themselves anew under new co-DC Chris Ash. Fortunately, only one LB in the two-deep, captain Curtis Grant, will be gone next year, so expect this group to improve.

Defensive Backs
These guys sucked pretty bad last year, but their backups were even worse, and three of last year's starters (Bradley Roby, C. J. Barnett, Christian Bryant) are now gone. The good news is that 2015 will bring the departure of only Doran Grant, so these guys have another two years to channel their inner Silver Bullets.


SPECIAL TEAMS
Replacing a four-year kicker isn't easy, but Ohio State thinks they have an answer in freshman Sean Neurnberger. Again, he's a freshman, so look for him to improve over time. Also, last year's most undervalued Buckeye, P Cameron Johnston, is plenty young, so expect him to be an all-star by the time 2015 rolls around. Meanwhile, young speedsters Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall will be terrorizing oppenents' kicking and punting games for the foreseeable future.


BOTTOM LINE
The depth chart is notably light on senior leadership, even more so following the loss of Braxton. While it's tough to accept anything less than undefeated championship seasons at OSU, the thought of Braxton using  another year to improve and get healthy and retaking the reins of an adversity-toughened 2015 squad sends chills down my spine. With Braxton's return, the 2015 Buckeyes could be the most talented and complete squad since 2006, or possibly of all time, if we can discover greatness among our stable of running backs and turn a corner in the secondary.

So grit your teeth, Buckeye Nation, and prepare for what should be an exciting 2014. Don't cry for Braxton or the Buckeyes. If Barrett turns out to be terrific, this team could still end up in Pasadena. If he experiences some growing pains, remember that the best is yet to come for Urban and the Bucks.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Week 1 - PLAYOFFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Welcome to the 2014-15 season edition of Let's Go Bucks! Now that D-1A football has entered the PLAYOFF ERA, the expert analyses of your four favorite football forecasters should be more exciting and less controversial than ever. Join us every week to learn in advance precisely how the SEC's top four teams will position themselves for a shot at the national championship.

Here are the week's four top matchups, based on what what a few coaches and writers think about the quality of teams that they've never seen play.

Texas A&M Aggies @ South Carolina Gamecocks
Draper: Sigh....SEC. SEC.  These teams are ok, but they won't be as good as last year's installment.  Manziel and Clowney would have made this an epic matchup, but I can't really think of anyone on either of these teams.  Even though the Cocks generally weak in the early season, I'll give them the edge at home.  The SEC defenses have been a shadow the past few years but A&M has just been terrible.  Let's kick this season off with a little SEC fizzle.  TAMU: 24--SoCar: 41
Hoying: Why do teams allow conference games to be scheduled for week 1? Exiting the offseason, a team's growing pains may hamper it even against a garbage-level opponent. Ask Michigan. Imagine having to find your footing against Sumlin's offense or Spurrier's defense...Both teams enter the season with new faces at quarterback, after the departures of Johnny Manziel and Connor Shaw (both to the Browns). The Cocks are missing our favorite Wolverine decapitator, Jadeveon Clowney, but they retain the advantage, seeing as how the Aggies were missing an entire defense last season and aren't likely to have instantly righted the ship. The Ol' Ball Coach knows offense, and without Johnny Clipboard to bail out the awful awful A&M defense, South Carolina should start their playoff push on a high note. TAMU: 20--SCar: 38
Schweinfurth: Well, this game officially kicks off the college football season.  I really think this game will be a showcase of what the SEC will be all about this year: defense-dominated.  Look, all of the "big name" SEC quarterbacks are gone and it's gonna show.  So before we get into the whole "SEC is all about defense" conversation, just remember ALL OF THE QBS ARE NEW!!!! Oh yea, this game? South Carolina's gonna win.  TAMU: 13--SCAR: 31
Seeberg:  This is a battle of who-can-manage-to-still-function-after-losing-a-crapton-of-talent game.  The Gamecocks are without Clowney and 4th string Browns quarterback Connor Shaw.  Similarly, TAMU has lost 5th string Browns quarterback Johnny Money-Signing, Bird-Slinging Manziel (ok, I know he's actually the Browns' backup, but really, does it matter?).  A&M also lost Mike Evans, and still has a lackluster D, so the cupboard is at least a lot less bare in Columbia.  TAMU: 17--SCar: 34


Clemson Tigers @ Georgia Bulldogs
Draper:  I remember last year when Clemson was a pretty good football team...and then this year they're...a team.  UGA has no Aaron Murray, but Todd Gurley is a beast who, in my opinion, is the most likely non-QB Heisman contender. Last year, Clemson rode the backs of Watkins and Boyd to an explosive offense, but they're gone.  Bulldogs start strong and wait until midseason to crap out.  Clem: 17--UGA: 38
Hoying: Answer: Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, Roderick McDowell, Martavis Bryant. Question: who are (1) the top four skill position players on the 2013 Clemson team, and (2) four players no longer playing for the Tigers? Yup, that buzzsaw that shredded through an overrated Georgia squad and a depleted-though-already-awful Buckeye defense has been de-toothed. Meanwhile the Gurleyest man in college football is all healed up and ready for revenge. The loss of Georgia QB Aaron Murray will hurt, but the wounds won't show in this mismatch. Hey Bulldog! Clem: 17--UGA: 31
Schweinfurth: Clemson lost their offense last year with Boyd and Watkins gone (I still have nightmares of Watkins catching screen passes).  Georgia get's Todd Gurley back and he is a load.  I really expect Gurley to literally carry the load for the Bulldogs all year and could be a darkhorse Heisman candidate.  Clem: 10--UGA--24
Seeberg:  Seemingly, Georgia has been on the precipice for quite some time.  This year wouldn't seem to be the year they get over the hump as Aaron Murray- who appeared to be UGA's QB about as long as the rest of the world seemed to think Aaron Craft was the Buckeyes' point guard- is finally gone.  However, assuming Todd Gurley can make it through at least one game healthy, he will see the ball almost as much as Georgia's quarterback.  Meanwhile, Clemson is far from the offensive juggernaut that burned through much of their schedule last year.  It's gonna be a good day, Tater.  Clem: 13--UGA: 28


Wisconsin Badgers vs. Louisiana State Tigers
Draper:  LSU is a nice consistent program that everyone's favorite grass-eating lovable doofus keeps at the forefront.  The Badgers look to have a nice season in the wide open B1G West but they can't figure out who to start at QB.  This could get ugly and start the SEC over B1G nonsense early.  Wisconsin is not the Wisconsin of old, and LSU full of studs.  Could get ugly early on the Bayou.  Wisc: 13--LSU: 30 
Hoying: Once again, our beloved conference gets a chance to make a B1G statement against an SEC opponent to kick off the season. If there's one team on which we can rely to carry the flag in a marquee out-of-conference showdown, it's the Badgers. Stop laughing. I mean it, cut it out! They could win! Really! Wisc: 10--LSU: 27
Schweinfurth: For once I want to see the B1G give a big, Johnny Football-esque finger to the SEC.  Unfortunately, I don't think Wisconsin will be the team to do it.  Yes, Melvin Gordon is a good player, but he was best with White in the backfield and running the fly sweep.  This will be a good game but Wiscy falls just short. Wisc: 14--LSU: 17
Seeberg:  Alright, let's be clear, I despise Wisconsin...darn near as much as TTUN.  The Badgers became suddenly relevant in the two most glamorous college sports (football, men's basketball) in the late 90's and they have been insufferable ever since.  Still, I picked them to get to the Final Four this past March, thus salvaging a rough bracket year, and it wouldn't be a stretch to see them come out of the oh-so-loaded B1G west (this realignment is just atrocious- post proving this point coming next week).  Even further, I would still like to see them force-feed Les Miles some freshly fertilized grass.  LSU may have trouble scoring with Mettenberger and their top 2 wideouts gone from a season ago.  Unfortunately, LSU hasn't lost much from a solid D and are likely to stifle a Wisconsin team that has named Tanner McEvoy (man that is a boy-band sounding name if I've ever heard one) over previous starter Joel I-only-throw-to-Abbrederis Stave.  If McEvoy has the goods, this may be a huge upset, particularly for ESPN after just launching the SEC Network.  Sadly, I don't see that happening.  Wisc: 13--LSU: 24


THE Ohio State University Buckeyes @ Navy Midshipmen
Draper: Oh Braxton, wherefore art thou Braxton.  The Glass QB went down earlier than expected this year which has put the pundits on alert.  You don't lose an athlete of Braxton's caliber (not to mention Carlos Hyde) and get better, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.  This team is still full of talent and the schedule is total garbage.  I feel that Ezekiel Elliot will tote the rock admirably and J. T. Barrett will step in just fine (the last 2 years saw a redshirt freshman win the Heisman so.........  Navy is perhaps the worst team anyone can schedule in the 'preseason'.  They run a gimmick offense and cutblock like crazy.  That being said, OSU's defensive weakness was the passing game...and the Midshipmen can't pass.  This should be a solid drubbing that allows JT to get his feet wet.  The Bucks will be just fine this year.  OSU: 48--Navy: 10
Hoying: After an awful end to a promising season, the Bucks are finally back and ready to see if a new face can fill the void left by the unfortunate departure of our best offensive player. Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott did average 8.7 ypc last year, but most of that was garbage time against garbage teams...what?...you want me to talk about the QB situation? Very well...regardless of what Braxton's mind-bogglingly stupid haters continue to aver, the Buckeyes will almost undoubtedly suffer a giant step backward at quarterback after the injury to arguably the greatest athlete ever to take snaps under center at Ohio State. Make no mistake, J. T. Barrett is ready to play football (and hopefully play school too, unlike backup Cardale Jones), and he'll get a nice soft test from a middling Midshipmen defense. But a freshman is a freshman, and a QB's first year under center is usually a rough one (see 2004 Troy Smith, 2008 Terrelle Pryor, 2011 Braxton Miller). Let's hope the senior receivers are finally ready to step up. On the other side of the ball, we won't learn much this week about the development of last year's sieve of a defense. Navy QB Keenan Reynolds can throw, I guess, but that's not really Navy's style. Expect big plays from the experienced and talented Buckeye D line, and look for indications that Chris Ash is smart enough to plan for misdirection plays. If not, expect Michigan to hang 40 on us again at season's end. OSU: 31--Navy: 16
Schweinfurth: For the record, I'm writing this while watching the previous OSU/Navy game.  My goodness, STOP THE QB FOLLOW!!!  But I digress.  The Buckeyes have so many question marks coming into this season and an even bigger question mark at the QB position.  There are weapons and skill all over the field for the Bucks and I am excited to see what Wilson, Elliot, and company can do.  I expect a lot more passing but fewer big plays.  I am very nervous about the defense.  I mean, they can't get any worse than last year right? RIGHT?!?  Navy will move the ball, that rushing attack is just too good, but I don't foresee may trips into the endzone.  This one won't tell much about the "improved" pass defense but the Bucks should be able to get some young pups valuable experience.  OSU: 38--Navy: 20
Seeberg:  
I hate to admit it, but I am somewhat concerned about this game.  As pointed out above, Navy's old-school attack is a nightmare to plan for at any point in the season.  Our D should be very stout up front, but the back seven?  No Shazier, no Roby, no Barnett, no Bryant, that means lots of question marks.  Obviously the offense suffered an enormous setback with Braxton's injury (2015 Heisman campaign already in full swing).  The receivers are another big unknown, so I expect a game plan Woody Hayes would be proud of...except a lot of the runs will be around end instead of up the middle.  I'll be high up in the Ravens *gag* stadium on the 50, hoping to see our new offensive line gel together and open up some holes for Elliot, Barrett and Co.  It may not be pretty, but 1-0 is 1-0.  OSU: 34--Navy: 20



Upset Special
Draper: Penn State over UCF (I know, weak)
Hoying: Appalachian State over Michigan
Schweinfurth: North Dakota St. over Iowa State
Seeberg:  Georgia Southern over NC State

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

BCS Bowl Picks

Final Regular Season Standings
1) Hoying              48-22    (1-14 upset)
2) Schweinfurth    46-24    (4-11 upset)
3) Draper                43-27    (3-12 upset)
4) Seeberg               5-7      (0-2 upset)

Bowl Prediction Records Through December 30
1) Hoying                 12-7
2) Schweinfurth       9-10
2) Seeberg                9-10
4) Draper                  7-12

Rose Bowl: Stanford Cardinal vs. Michigan State Spartans
Draper: This may be the most boring game of the bowl season.  Two teams with similar schemes will just beat the crap out of each other.  The loss of defensive leader Max Bullough is immense.  The Spartans are a good team, but the strength is stopping the pass--not as important vs. the Cardinal.  If Stanford watched the B1G Championship, they'll know to feed Gaffney and continue to slam the rock.  MSU will hang for awhile, but Stanford pulls away late.  Stan: 27--MSU: 17
Hoying: After a few years of "almost" under Mark Dantonio, the Spartans have finally taken their B1G step toward national relevance. Going into championship week, I didn't feel too good about Sparty's ability to compete in the Rose Bowl, but I saw a truly complete team crush my Buckeyes' hopes and dreams at Lucas Oil Stadium. Unfortunately, at the same time, Stanford was busy dismantling a very good Arizona State team for the second time. The Cardinal are basically a better version of Michigan State, a tough, physical team with super defense. The Spartans will be ready to play in this one, but the Connor Cook's success against Pitt Brown and C.J. Barnett won't translate into success against a tough Stanford secondary. Kevin Hogan will find just enough holes in the "no-fly zone" to lead the Cardinal to their second straight Rose Bowl victory. Stan: 24--MSU: 16
Seeberg:  This one will be in a style that would make Woody proud.  Lots of running, lots of physicality, not much of that thing where two things can go wrong, you know, passing.  Michigan State has had the best defensive player in this game in Max Bullough, but his suspension is a big blow to MSU's strongest unit.  Before his suspension I had MSU winning a nail-biter, 16-13 or something in that vicinity.  Losing their defensive signal-caller, however, will prove too much for the Spartans to overcome.  The tree prevails in a slugfest.  Stan: 20--MSU: 13

Fiesta Bowl: UCF Knights vs. Baylor Bears
Draper: Both teams have had relatively charmed seasons, but Baylor has faced MUCH better competition.  The Bears have scored on everyone they've faced and won fairly easily while the Knights have squeaked out a few late in the season by the skin of their teeth.  This shouldn't be close. Brice Petty and Seastrunk should have their way.  The American representative was really hoping for a better matchup.  UCF: 24--Baylor: 44
Hoying: For a team in the awful awful AAC, UCF actually has a pretty decent resume, with a great road win over Penn State and a near victory over South Carolina. Unfortunately, they've been playing like absolute garbage down the stretch, limping to lifeless wins over terrible teams like USF, Memphis, and SMU. Meanwhile, Baylor shook off the spiders of the Oklahoma State blowout to dominate Texas on their way to their first Big 12 championship. You think the Bears won't be excited to play in this game? You think UCF can slow down the nation's top offense? You think they'll ever catch the guy who really killed Kennedy and Oswald? UCF: 20--Bay: 59
Seeberg:  On paper, this game shouldn't be close.  It won't be close on the field either.  Blake Bortles is playing some darn good QB for UCF, arguably better than his conference foe Teddy Bridgewater (whom, it bears mentioning, he beat on Bridgewater's home field).  Baylor's D, or extreme lack thereof, will allow UCF to hang around for a quarter or two, but in the end Bryce Petty and Co. will put the Knights away.  UCF: 27--Bay: 52

Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma Sooners vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
Draper: The only question is which Alabama team shows up--Will the dominant defense full of NFL draft picks impose their will or will we see a total 'we-don't-care' Tide that faced Utah in 2009 Sugar Bowl.  If Bama plays with some pride, this game will be a blowout over a completely overmatched Sooner squad.  The Sooners are lucky to be here after upsetting their rivals to end the season.  Their big fanbase doesn't hurt either.  Saban won't let this team relent as he's seen a Sugar Bowl collapse before.  This one's done by halftime.  OU: 10--Bama: 34
Hoying: Another year, another Oklahoma appearance in a BCS bowl. Big Game Bob has led the Sooners to the promised land at the end of 9 of the 16 BCS seasons. Unfortunately, they've struggled a bit in the last 10 years, losing 5 straight BCS bowls before a gimme against 8-4 Connecticut. But let's not pile on the hate and accusations (that's reserved for teams with 6 BCS wins). Miracle win against the Cowboys aside, the Sooners haven't really had a great season: they're still not settled at QB and they were demolished in their two most significant matchups (Texas and Baylor). Alabama has looked great, but there's a potential letdown factor after a heartbreaking loss on one of the more memorable plays in college football history. Coach Saban's hunger for victory is insatiable, and unless AJ McCarron wants his still-beating heart ripped from his chest and fed to the volcano, he'll spur the Tide on to a win. OU: 13--Ala: 24
Seeberg:  So...we have Florida State against a team from Alabama in the national title game.  All is right with the world, or is it?  'Bama's well-chronicled loss to Auburn almost transcended hyperbole as the most incredible way to lose a football game that has ever been conceived...if only all the band was out on the field.  Oklahoma benefitted from a Big 12 that was markedly weaker than in recent years and was able to sneak into another BCS game courtesy of their voodoo-like influence over their in-state rivals, the other OSU.  Alabama is superior in all three phrases with the possible exception of defending against returned field goals, but thankfully for the Tide this game will not be anywhere near close enough for another miracle to cost them a win.  A.J. McCarron finishes his career with one final W.  OU: 10--Ala: 35

 Orange Bowl: Clemson Tigers vs. THE Ohio State University Buckeyes
Draper: If you like offense.... Will ANYONE get a stop?  The Buckeyes are littered with injuries/scratches (but thankfully, Shazier, the only real defensive player, will be play for lots of money).  This game is going to come down to: Is Clemson, gonna Clemson?  Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins should have their way with the Buckeye defense, but let's not forget the Miller and Hyde should do the same to the Tiger defense.  Mistakes will right the headlines.  Miller CANNOT turn the ball over.  The Buckeyes game plan should be to never get rattled and hold onto the ball at all costs.  Boyd makes a few key mistakes as Buckeyenation gives the traditional homefield advantage.  Just stay the course and the Bucks can steal a shootout.  Clem: 48--OSU: 52
Hoying: For all you who hated the defense down the stretch, I have good news: it seems like none of them will be there for this game. No Roby, no Grant, no Bryant, no Spence. I'd be worried, but after watching the Silver Bullets give up 34 to Connor Cook and Michigan State I wasn't really counting on the D in this one. Fortunately, it appears the only thing that can stop Ohio State's rushing attack is Tom Herman's play calling. Just run Hyde until Clemson stops him, and if the game ends first, all the better. I'm really worried about this one, more than any other this year (including both Michigan teams) but in the end, the coaching differential between Urban and Dabo should make up for any trouble stopping Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. Clem: 45--OSU: 49
Seeberg:  I am absolutely, positively terrified to pick this game.  It is a distinct possibility that the Buckeyes will need to win this game to save the B1G from the ignominious distinction of an 0fer in the bowl season.  When combined with the MAC's dismal performance, the Midwest will suddenly be the national laughing stock of college football.  This game hinges on exactly what went wrong in the two games against the teams from up north:  play-calling.  We have the ability to score 60 on Clemson without much resistance, but if we call nothing but behind-the-line passes and bombs with nothing in between, and take the ball out of Hyde's hands, we may be in trouble.  On the defensive side of the ball, just sitting back against a turnover-prone Tajh Boyd and Clemson would be a HUGE mistake, and hopefully they take some cues from the Gamecocks who forced SIX turnovers in their season finale (five while the game was still in question) by bringing consistent pressure and not sitting 12 yards off of every wideout.  I fear that we will sit off and allow Boyd to pick us apart, primarily due to the plethora of defensive starters who may miss the game.  I actually fielded a call from Luke Fickell asking if I was available for his secondary in emergency situations (hey, I had a pick-six once, true story!  So what if it was in middle school?).  Sadly, my eligibility has expired, so Fickell will be forced to make due.  It won't be pretty, but the D forces a couple of turnovers to offset the points given up, and Braxton and Hyde pound out a win in the fourth quarter.  Clem: 38--OSU: 45

BCS National Championship: Florida State Seminoles vs. Auburn Tigers
Draper: Yes, the Noles schedule has been weak. Yes, the Tigers have some premier wins (albeit on miracle plays).  I've watched a lot of FSU this year, and I don't see a glaring weakness on this team.  The offense is a force behind Jameis and the best trio of wideouts in the country (Shaw, Greene, Benjamin), not to mention 2 great RBs and the Golden Cub at TE.  The defense is better than most know which has led to the enormous margins of victory.  Auburn has a fantastic running game but the defense is suspect.  Also, I don't think Marshall's arm can defeat the Nole secondary.  FSU will be the 2nd best defense the Tigers have faced--and the offense is MUCH better than Alabama.  There will be no decided advantage in Pasadena for the crowd, but the Noles have been as good on the road as at home.  The Tigers need that homefield bump for the miracles to occur.  This game reminds me of last year with one team leading a charmed existence facing a juggernaut of a complete team...we know how that ended.  FSU: 45--Aub: 31
Hoying: At first glance, this looks like a total mismatch. The Noles have been a veritable juggernaut on both sides of the ball, blasting through their schedule with ease. The Tigers won 2 games on miracle plays and were thoroughly outclassed by LSU. But, at the risk of dredging up ugly old arguments, who has Florida State played? The Miami team that just got obliterated by Louisville? The Maryland team that lost to Marshall? Bethune-Cookman? The Clemson win still looks nice, but if Ohio State gives them the West Virginia treatment on Friday night, Seminole fans might start getting nervous. Auburn has dealt with adversity, and they feature the nation's top rushing attack (sigh), but Jameis Winston is just too good and too consistent to let the Heisman jinx affect him. Congrats, Chief. FSU: 31--Aub: 30
Seeberg:  With apologies to Clemson fans, this is easily the best test the Seminoles have seen all year.  Auburn's ground game rarely turns the ball over and the Tigers (Auburn Tigers, that is) will not beat themselves and they will score TDs, not just settle for field goals.  That said, barring a Troy Smith-esque Heisman jinx debacle (or a celebratory ankle sprain following a kickoff-return TD), Jameis Winston and FSU are more explosive on offense than Alabama and every bit as talented on D.  Auburn scores 28 again, just as they did against 'Bama until the miracle FG-return, but FSU scores more, and Chief has his national title, albeit with the garnet and gold instead of the scarlet and gray.  FSU: 45--Aub: 28