All posts by MPCMI

It's M-P, C. Mi. Do my thing...

Rapid Reaction: No. 2 Oregon 51 – No. 7 Arizona 13 (Pac-12 Championship)

By Ariel Bedford


The Ducks came into Santa Clara looking for revenge. Removing any doubt of their playoff worthiness as Kings of The West Coast, Oregon simply bottled up Arizona—claiming another Pac-12 football crown on a rainy Northern California night.

How Ducks Won: UO ran the ball with more effectiveness, especially from the quarterback position. Marcus Mariota finished the game with 313 yards passing and three rushing scores, including two key touchdown runs in the first half. Oregon’s Heisman front runner was looking to tuck and sprint much more often this time around, unlike early October in Eugene when he tallied only 1 yard on the ground versus the ‘Cats and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Scooby Wright.

X-Factor of Game: OLB Tony Washington, Oregon. The Senior from Rancho Cucamonga made up for the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he received after a sack on AZ QB Anu Solomon late in the regular season match that may have cost them a close victory. His sack on the aforementioned Solomon in the title game, with 4:03 left in the second quarter for a loss of 6 yards to the Arizona 35, was the signature example of constant pressure applied  by Defensive Coordinator Don Pellum’s unit throughout the battle.

Stat of the Contest: After three quarters of play, Arizona only amassed 45 rushing yards as a team.

Why It Matters: Besides securing a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff by beating a Top 10 opponent, Oregon put the nation on notice—the Ducks are ready to play physical, championship caliber football versus anyone the committee pits them up against. The defense stifled ‘Zona’s version of the zone read attack crafted by Head Coach Rich Rodriguez, forcing the ‘Cats into 3rd and long situations on a very consistent basis.

Offensively, it wasn’t a perfect outing for UO. With 10:16 left in the second quarter OL Doug Brenner committed a false start on 4th and goal from Arizona’s 1-yard line; another false start by DL Erik Armstead made the chip shot field goal try in wet Levi’s Stadium slightly more slippery, with kicker Aidan Schneider missing a 27-yard attempt.

Despite choppy play at times from the offensive line, Oregon washed over the Wildcats to make a legitimate case for the top overall seed. Depending on how the rest of Championship Weekend pans out, the Ducks might be hitting Bourbon Street instead of going back to Cali for the National Semifinals.

Featured Photo Credit: Image via seatvalet.com


Ariel Bedford writes for Scouts Alley. A freelancer from Florida, he also is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Check out his personal media profile page and follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.

 

SEC-ular Sacrament: The Week That Giants Will Fall?

By Ariel Bedford


 

“It’s… About… To go-DOWN!”—a rap phrase by one Jay-Z that has never resonated more than when used to describe this upcoming weekend’s slate of college football games within the Southeastern Conference.

       Photo via rockdalenews.com
                                     Photo via rockdalenews.com

Mississippi State travels to Tuscaloosa. Auburn heads to battle UGA “Between the Hedges” with a motivated monster of a running back in Todd Gurley returning as starter. SEC East defending champs Mizzou taking on a suddenly hot Texas A&M Aggies squad led by freshman QB Kyle Allen. Most of the six head-to-head SEC matchups have some meaning in one way or another.

The implications of these contests will be huge after the dust settles Saturday. Why, you ask? Because the cannibalization of the conference will truly become apparent for all to see. A best case scenario would probably be the Bulldogs squeaking by ‘Bama, and only LSU and Texas A&M falling out of the AP/Coaches Top 25 ranks after respective losses.

The worst case scenario could be the Bayou Bengals, Aggies, Bulldogs, and Auburn Tigers losing on the same day. This chain of events would cluster the entire conference and make for some potentially wild outcomes before two combatants are chosen to face off in the Georgia Dome come December.

Photo via athlonsports.com
                                      Photo via athlonsports.com

If you’re a fan of SEC football, be on alert for the next 60 hours. The results from this weekend’s games could jeopardize your beloved conference’s chance of getting ANY team into this year’s CFP format, let alone two…

Featured Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


Ariel Bedford writes for Scouts Alley. A freelancer from Florida, he also is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Check out his personal media profile page and follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.

 

 

Where The Wild Things Are: College Football ’14 Mid-Season Recap

By Ariel Bedford


Oct 11, 2014; Waco, TX, USA; Baylor Bears wide receiver KD Cannon (9) catches a touchdown pass as TCU Horned Frogs cornerback Nick Orr (18) chases during the first half at McLane Stadium.
Oct 11, 2014; Waco, TX, USA; Baylor Bears wide receiver KD Cannon (9) catches a touchdown pass as TCU Horned Frogs cornerback Nick Orr (18) chases during the first half at McLane Stadium.

Zany 100-plus-point shootouts. Come-from-behind victories within the last seconds of games. Shockwaves being sent through an entire region due to the resurgence of one state’s major programs. These are some of the many storylines within an exciting—and still fresh—college football season for 2014.

Week 6 saw Arizona State spoil USC’s ascension back to the upper room with their shocking 38-34 win in LA. In Week 7, we were blessed with a game straight from the annals of a Sony Playstation computer code; Baylor’s Bryce Petty put up 510 yards on 55 pass attempts and 6 touchdowns to bring the Bears back from a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter. This weekend, we will witness the revival of a ’90s superpower rivalry, pitting Notre Dame against Florida State in Tallahassee.

There is plenty to come, but let’s review some of the headlines of what we have seen so far:

Football is back in the state of Mississippi

It was generally acknowledged that the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Ole Miss Rebels would be good this year, especially considering the latter was ranked 18th in the Associated Press Top-25 Poll when they opened their schedule in Atlanta versus Boise State. Even the Bulldogs’ upset win over LSU was not that surprising. And yet, one weekend in the beginning of October changed everything.

Saturday, October 4th will go down in infamy as the day all Magnolia State alums rejoiced; their flagship schools became serious players in college football again. In Starkville, Mississippi State simply out-gunned the Texas A&M offensive machine by a final of 48-31. Then, with all eyes on Oxford, the Rebels got past the proverbial bullies of the conference by defeating Alabama 23-17.

Both teams followed up their Week 6 upsets with strong showings in Week 7. Mississippi State took down the other big school from the Heart of Dixie, and the Rebels sidestepped past the Aggies with ease. Dak Prescott was unflappable versus Auburn despite a few turnovers, finishing with 246 yards passing and 121 yards rushing on the day. The 12th Man was no match for all the momentum Ole Miss carried into College Station; the Rebels forced a pick-six on Aggie quarterback Kenny Hill that put the contest out of reach before halftime.

Oct 4, 2014; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs defensive back Justin Cox (9) and Mississippi State Bulldogs running back Josh Robinson (13) celebrate their teams win against the Texas A&M Aggies at Davis Wade Stadium. The Bulldogs defeated the Aggies 48-31. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 4, 2014; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs defensive back Justin Cox (9) and Mississippi State Bulldogs running back Josh Robinson (13) celebrate their teams win against the Texas A&M Aggies at Davis Wade Stadium. The Bulldogs defeated the Aggies 48-31. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss now sits third in the AP Polls—and Mississippi State is No. 1 in the land. In fact, the Bulldogs are the fastest team to go from unranked to the top of the AP in its total history. The question is, can they stay there? Both schools still have plenty of tough opponents from the SEC West to play. If somehow they can remain in their current positions, this year’s Egg Bowl will have not only conference championship, but national championship implications. As impressive as both squads have performed to date, the notion of this still sounds a little odd.

Big Ten is earning its reputation for “toting the rock”

After Braxton Miller’s preseason injury and Week 2 loss by Michigan State to the Ducks of Oregon, your grandfather’s favorite college football conference looked insignificant in the broad scope of things. Alas, there is still something for him to stick that chin out on: the running game!

As of all games through October 14th, the Big Ten sports three of the top-10 rushing offenses in the country. Wisconsin sits at the top piling up on average 343 yards per game; Nebraska and Indiana are fifth and sixth respectively, each compiling over 300 yards on the ground per contest. You could even attribute Arkansas, the school that rounds out the top-10 within the category, and their success at running the ball to the Big Ten.

Their head coach Bret Bielema has basically taken the formula he learned while steering the ship that Barry Alvarez built with the Badgers to Fayetteville. If you listen in on a televised game featuring the Razorbacks, you’re almost certain to hear a commentator gush at how Arkansas’ O-Line is bigger than any college or pro team’s. Recruiting gargantuan bodies for the trenches has been a long-standing staple of Wisconsin football.

Individually, the conference is highlighted on the ground as well. The top rusher in the nation right now is running back Tevin Coleman of Indiana, but Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon is nipping at his heels. Both players have over 1,000 yards rushing on the season. Speedy all-purpose back Ameer Abdullah from Nebraska is fourth with 878 rushing yards; Minnesota’s David Cobb, piling up 819 yards on the ground, is seventh in the country.

Depending on the status of Todd Gurley’s eligibility for Georgia this year, and possible slips in public opinion on high-profile QBs already in contention, the Heisman Trophy winner could very well come from the Big Ten. What would be ironic is if at the same juncture the conference can’t place its eventual champion into a playoff slot.

CFB Playoff will be another case of ‘The Haves and the Have Nots’


The clamor for a solution to “settle it on the field” finally gained steam. Rudy’s proclamation notwithstanding, the powers that be surely assume there will be nothing but approval bestowed upon 2014’s postseason results. We all know that most (besides the athletes themselves) are winning financially, but will we truly crown a worthy champion?

There is little deviation between the AP and Coaches’ Polls so far this season—and both have shown an affinity for the SEC West. But have all of their teams deserved it? LSU, while still highly talented, doesn’t appear to be a team that should have been thought of as a top-10 contender. Alabama is prime for a disappointing multiple-loss campaign, to the chagrin of their iron maiden of a ballcoach.

For that matter, the SEC as a whole is probably overrated. The East Division is simply not good. Florida is lucky to have any wins this year besides a drubbing of Eastern Michigan. UGA is competent but flawed without Gurley. Kentucky and Tennessee are nice stories, but won’t be competing for much besides your typical middle-of-the-pack bowl game bid. Vanderbilt is, well, yeah…

Now compare all of the SEC to the Pac-12. Or perhaps the Big-12. You should notice a difference in that other conferences actually have better teams lower on the rung. Teams like Utah, Washington State, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Maybe it’s time to start believing the Oregons and Baylors of the world have it tougher than we thought.

The problem is, when forecasting what the College Football Playoff rankings may look like come the middle of November, a prediction of the four coveted spots of interest seems log-jammed with usual suspects. The SEC really should only have one representative—their rightful conference champion after a brawl in the Georgia Dome. Yet, based on the current AP Polls placing half of the Top-10 as Southeastern Conference members, it appears that there could be at least two or more destined to make it in.

Marshall's quarterback Rakeem Cato (12) looks for a receiver in the "Battle for the Bell" against the Ohio Bobcats at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Charleston Daily Mail/Craig Cunningham 9/13/14
Marshall’s quarterback Rakeem Cato (12) looks for a receiver in the “Battle for the Bell” against the Ohio Bobcats at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Charleston Daily Mail/Craig Cunningham 9/13/14

By the way, what about equal representation? After all, there is still Marshall who should be a bigger part of the equation. With a veteran quarterback in Rakeem Cato, the Thundering Herd are 6-0 and showing no signs of stopping. Conference USA doesn’t provide the best resume for the other team from West Virginia, which is why East Carolina is ranked ahead of Marshall despite having lost to South Carolina. But shouldn’t not losing count for something more than a simple nod in cracking the Top-25?

As we look towards the second portion of the college football season, here are three games in Week 9 that standout:

(21) Texas A&M vs (7) Alabama

The Aggies have suffered back-to-back division losses in as many weeks. They’re reeling. The defense looks lost, and the other side of the ball is showing signs of added pressure because of it. If Kenny Hill and the offense can play mistake-free football for four quarters, they can outscore the Crimson Tide. Alabama will be looking to provide a crippling body blow in this knockout match of a game, with the winner still on track for a potential late push into playoff contention.

(15) Oklahoma State vs (12) TCU

The Horned Frogs, coming off a wild-west showdown in Waco, will look to bounce back at home against the Cowboys. Oklahoma State has shown admirable resolve after losing QB J.W. Walsh to injury; Tyreek Hill has the world-class speed to change the outcome of any battle on one play (such as his 99-yard kickoff return TD against Kansas last week). Okie State would set up a huge game versus Baylor towards the end of November with a win over Texas Christian. TCU can stay in the conference title hunt if QB Trevone Boykin can provide a lead for his opportunistic defense.

(5) Notre Dame vs (2) Florida State

Nostalgia reigns supreme in this colossal clash of the titans. The Fighting Irish and Seminoles are similar in many respects—both have playmakers behind center and controversy surrounding their programs. Once you get past all the hoopla and extra chatter not dealing with what happens between the lines, there is a great matchup between the Notre Dame offense and ‘Noles’ defense to look forward to.

The Golden Domers may slow down Jameis Winston and Co. to some degree, but they won’t totally shut FSU down. The key will be if Everett Golson can match his counterpart on the scoreboard long enough for his troops to believe they can pull out a W in hostile territory. If RBs Mario Pender and Dalvin Cook gain around five yards per carry (as they did in the Carrier Dome for FSU), the Garnet and Gold will not make it a close affair.

Tons of change can occur in the next few weeks as we draw closer to the playoff selection committee’s first official rankings release. Look for two to three schools among the Big-12, Big Ten and/or Pac-12 to establish themselves as legit contenders too impressive to ignore by the end of October.

Featured Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports


Ariel Bedford writes for Scouts Alley. A freelancer from Florida, he also is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Check out his personal media profile page and follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.

Report Card: Green Bay Packers Season (1st Quarter)

By Ariel Bedford


The gridiron gladiators donning Green and Gold have done their usual slow start to breakout game spiel for the first part of the schedule. Like in years past, the Pack have some major questions to answer after lackluster efforts on defense and in the trenches. Here is a week-to-week breakdown on how Green Bay has fared so far this season:

Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images
Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images

Week 1 at Seahawks: Grade-D

Simply put, Green Bay got steamrolled by Seattle. It could be assumed that GB had a big disadvantage facing the defending Super Bowl Champs in their space shuttle launch site of a football stadium noise-wise. Besides the revenge factor from the “Fail Mary” game, even the most staunch Packer-Backers had to see the lopsided outcome as not a surprise.

What was so disappointing about the loss was A) the lack of ingenuity on offense, and B) the ease at which the Seahawks ran it down GB’s throat. Seattle’s O-Line and mercurial RB Marshawn Lynch helped them rack up 207 total yards rushing, which was the main reason why they won.

Green Bay Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s strategy of not throwing to the right side of the field (avoiding CB Richard Sherman at all costs) proved futile. The Packers’ hopes of avenging a tough 2012 defeat by displaying a steady run offense and stingier run defense blew in the Pacific Northwest wind to start the 2014 campaign.

Wide receiver Davante Adams #17 of the Green Bay Packers is tackled by cornerback Dee Milliner #27 of the New York Jets after a reception during the NFL game at Lambeau Field on September 14, 2014 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Jets 31-24. (September 13, 2014 - Source: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)
Wide receiver Davante Adams #17 of the Green Bay Packers is tackled by cornerback Dee Milliner #27 of the New York Jets after a reception during the NFL game at Lambeau Field on September 14, 2014 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Jets 31-24.
(September 13, 2014 – Source: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)

Week 2 vs Jets: Grade-B-

The Packers overcame a 21-3 deficit in resilient fashion, out-gaining the Jets by 170 yards in the air to eventually get past New York’s AFC affiliate 31-24. Green Bay had problems again stopping the run early, but when it counted the defense made plays, including a much needed interception by corner Tramon Williams right at the two-minute warning mark in the first half.

This win was good because GB’s offense began to show sparks of their usual potent selves. Jordy Nelson broke out for 209 yards receiving on nine catches, including an 80-yard touchdown bomb out of a double tight end ace formation with 2:21 left in the third quarter.

It wasn’t pretty, but it wasn’t ugly, either. The pass rush was there late, and minus a fluke TD from Jets QB Geno Smith to WR Jeremy Kerley that got called back, the secondary did just enough to secure the Packers’ home debut as successful.

Rick Osentoski/Associated Press
Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

Week 3 at Lions: Grade-C+

The Packers defense only allowed eight points in the entire contest against Detroit. The offense, unfortunately, gave up nine in a frustrating loss to GB’s first “Black and Blue” divisional foe of the year.

Aaron Rodgers and his unit weren’t just off-they were bad. Uncharacteristically bad to be nice about it. A fumble recovery by Detroit returned for a TD in the beginning part of the game put a funk over not only Eddie Lacy but the entire offense. Green Bay never got into a rhythm on O, and despite a valiant effort by their defensive counterparts (who generated 3 turnovers on the Lions) the Pack got packed up inside Ford Field.

Green Bay’s offense cannot have a game so devoid of effectiveness and expect for the team to win. Especially when the defense is keeping you in the battle.

Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews sacks Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports photograph
Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews sacks Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Week 4 at Bears: Grade-B

The Packers were in a near must-win scenario heading into their self-proclaimed “business trip” to Chicago.

Under only moderate, but still existent, scrutiny during the work week, the face of the franchise proved he and his playcalling head coach were on the same page all day in the oldest National Football League rivalry.

Getty Images
Packers LT David Bakhtiari protecting for QB Aaron Rodgers in their first game of the 2014 season versus the Chicago Bears-Photo via Getty Images

Thanks to a steady performance by the Packer offensive line, Rodgers proved why when he is on no one in the league is better at slicing up a defense. He finished the day completing 22 of 28 passes for 302 yards and 4 TDs with no interceptions. His 43-yard deep shot to rookie TE Richard Rodgers on the second offensive play for GB set the tone. The Pack were offensive and explosive in their approach, answering every blow Chicago tried to dish out at them.

The only issue was the defense still didn’t put together a solid effort for four full quarters. The Packers’ D bent but didn’t break against the pass, with rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix preserving a 21-17 halftime lead with a tackle on Bears TE Martellus Bennett near the goal line. Yet they were again porous against the run, allowing Chicago (led by RB Matt Forte) to rack up 235 total rushing yards. The saving grace was the tendencies of QB Jay Cutler to falter in clutch situations, with the former Vanderbilt gun-slinger forcing bad throws to the tune of two third-quarter interceptions.

In a game which saw zero punts by either team (only the second time in the history of the NFL of such an occurrence) and nearly 900 yards of total offense, the Pack were the more consistent squad. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb each gained 100 yards receiving for Green Bay, whom also reached the 700 win milestone as a franchise against their bitter rival.

Packers 1st QTR: Overall Grade-C

We’re playing the averages for the Green and Gold at this early point in the season, mainly because that’s just what they’ve been-average. The pass offense showed some jolt in their last game, but the running platoon of Lacy, James Starks, and DuJuan Harris have not given much balance to the overall attack. Green Bay’s O-Line played well against the Bears, but didn’t have to face some of Chicago’s best defensive lineman, including former Minnesota Vikings sack king Jared Allen.

In order for the Packers to compete at a higher level than what they’ve displayed, the offense has to get more consistent. The Packers’ D has got to find an answer to losing NT B.J. Raji in the preseason, and find ways to get off the field faster. However, if previous years are any indicator, GB fans should begin to breath a relaxing sigh of relief by the time Green Bay heads into their bye week.

 Featured Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America


Ariel Bedford writes for Scouts Alley. A freelancer from Florida, he also is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Check out his personal media profile page and follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.

Week 5 Preview: Creepin’ On A Come-Up…

By Ariel Bedford


The fourth official college football weekend had few marquee matchups, yet still produced entertaining competition, such as a much-closer-than-it-looked 38-10 win by Texas A&M over Rice, or Georgia Tech surviving a 42-38 shootout with Head Coach Paul Johnson’s former team, Georgia Southern. With the majority of Power 5 teams beginning to dig into their conference schedules, what will the fifth week have in store? Here’s what to look out for in Week 5:

1. Will Auburn prove to be a legitimate national contender in Manhattan?

The Tigers’ offense has shown nearly the same potency that pushed the pack all the way to Pasadena last year. The addition of JUCO wideout D’haquille Williams and continued development of backup QB Jeremy Johnson has put a much improved passing game on display under Gus Malzahn’s watch. With Nick Marshall still leading the troops, though, the run game is what frustrates opponents most in facing Auburn. After defeating Arkansas and cruising past San Jose State, is Auburn ready to face a quality out-of-conference opponent on the road?

2. Which ACC team will stand out as a possible 3rd banana?

Miami, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech all play in the Coastal Division—basically the “B-Side” of the ACC. Funny thing is—especially during FSU’s supposed down years—it has usually been the more tightly contested side. Since Florida State has returned to prominence, the members of this division have generally been non-existent as real adversaries.

With all three teams showing major vulnerabilities so far (even though GT technically has yet to lose) there are question marks about each squad’s viability as detractors to the Seminoles’ throne. The Tech teams face off against each other in an important divisional game, while the Hurricanes have a big test with the Cornhuskers in Lincoln. If one emerges later on to be the probable opponent for State in Charlotte, we may look back on this week’s set of games as the spark.

3. Is this the point at which the ‘Noles finally falter?

FSU is still the defending champs, no matter how close the Cowboys played them or what other team arguably “looks better” in their respective games so far this season. They still have a lightning-fast defense (despite losing former DC Jeremy Pruitt to UGA) and a powerful offensive line. But how much can they trust their Heisman Trophy winning quarterback?

By now, most in the sports realm are aware of Jameis Winston’s reported comments made on campus that prompted HC Jimbo Fisher to suspend him for the first half of their next game. By doing so, is FSU showing chinks in the armor of confidence in their two-sport star? And more importantly, will this move prove to be too costly to overcome against a foe seeking revenge for being embarassed the last time they met?

After three quarters, FSU had already smoked Clemson 41-7 in Death Valley last year. A gigantic top-5 conference matchup was decimated into nothing more than the typical Seminole spearing of an ACC wannabe. The motivation fueling entire off-season workout programs are games like this.

Assume the Tigers have the loss still engrained in their memories like it was yesterday, and will play spirited football in the first half because of it. If State cannot get the ball to Rashad Greene effectively, or come out flat/make untimely mistakes early against Clemson, it could be a long night of anxiety for fans of the champs.

This weekend of games should give us more clues as to who is primed to be a contender, and identify those that are merely pretenders in the College Football Playoff race. Expect out-of-the-blue upsets, closer games and even more fourth quarter drama, some of which may leave your favorite team scratching their head…

Featured Photo Credit: Joshua S. Kelly, USA TODAY Sports


Ariel Bedford is a writer for Scouts Alley. Follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.

Week 3 In Review: Big Ten, Big Wins, Big Fines

By Ariel Bedford


The still-fresh college football year’s third official weekend, besides one colossal top-ten clash, was more bark than actual bite. Here’s what we learned in Week 3:

1. This was the week that the athletic director scheduled your big-time school for a paid win

Dick Vitale’s signature phrase “Cupacke City, Baby!!!” couldn’t have been more fitting for many games on the ledger. Take this telling fact: There were tons of high-scoring matchups during Week 2, but no team scored over 70 points in a contest. There were five teams that did so this past week.

Even the Miami Hurricanes, who previously lost a tough conference road opener to Louisville, got some mojo back with a 41-7 drubbing of frequent FCS in-state opponent Florida A&M.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson #4 of the Clemson Tigers hurtles over free safety Mariel Cooper #20 of the South Carolina State Bulldogs on September 6, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Mary Ann Chastain/Getty Images)
Quarterback Deshaun Watson #4 of the Clemson Tigers hurtles over free safety Mariel Cooper #20 of the South Carolina State Bulldogs on September 6, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Mary Ann Chastain/Getty Images)

 

Clemson bounced back from their loss to Georgia with a 73-7 trouncing of South Carolina State University at home, which highlights a common trend of Power 5 Conference stalwarts sending large checks to smaller (often HBCU) FCS schools as compensation for literally being feasted upon.

While the funds are sorely needed for these colleges as a whole, for simply the sake of equal competition, the new formatting of FBS postseason play will likely diminish the amount of these types of games slated in the future.

2. The Big Ten got exposed

Michigan State falling to Oregon wasn’t great, but it wasn’t horrible, either. Purdue 17-Central Michigan 38, Notre Dame 31-Michigan 0, and Virginia Tech 35-Ohio State 21, however, were all nightmares for your grandfather’s favorite football conference.

The shocker of the weekend was almost Nebraska losing to the McNeese State Cowboys out of the Southland. Pundits have wondered aloud whether the traditionally revered conference would have a team worthy of a playoff spot by the end of the regular season. The flat-out embarrassing results from the majority of its football collectives don’t bode well for their argument as deserving a shot at the national title.

3. Guess what? Humans can be just as flawed as computers!

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian jumps in celebration with Athletic Director Pat Haden after they beat the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Palo Alto, California. EZRA SHAW/GETTY IMAGES
USC head coach Steve Sarkisian jumps in celebration with Athletic Director Pat Haden after they beat the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Palo Alto, California. EZRA SHAW/GETTY IMAGES

 

The men of Troy have been down in the dumps lately. From dealing with a depleted talent pool from NCAA-sanctioned scholarship limitations, to coaching issues/rumblings of strained relationships with current players, Southern California’s football program has been due for some luck.

But the breaks USC tried to lobby for in their nail-biter with Stanford raise too many flags to ignore. While a head coach taking umbrage to a referee’s calls against them is normal, calling your athletic director down from the press box to protest on your squad’s behalf isn’t.

The general thinking was that everyone agreed to finally have a playoff because the BCS was flawed. This flaw was mostly due to computers being the main determining factor of who the #1 and #2 teams in the land were. By getting rid of the BCS, computers could be replaced by the human “eye test” element that is supposedly pivotal to truly figuring out a champion.

Instead of tweaking what was already in place, a committee of 13 was chosen last year to select four contestants in the upcoming college football playoff for the first time ever at the FBS level. The list is impressive, including Ole Miss legend Archie Manning and former Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham.

And yet, that may be just what’s so wrong about this committee. The names of the members runs like an ensemble cast in the next classic American drama centered on collegiate athletics. Many are former and current athletic directors, including one Pat Haden.

A public reprimand and $25,000 fine by the league was more than warranted, but is it enough? Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, in a statement yesterday, stated that “such actions by an administrator in attempt to influence the officiating, and ultimately the outcome of a contest, will not be tolerated.” Should said actions be acceptable of the same individual in charge of picking the quartet of participants in 2014’s College Football Playoff, albeit without bias or prejudice?

As we approach Hump Day, we can look forward to more competitive games and even more interesting developments within the lower tiers of the Power 5 this weekend. Unfortunately, we may also wish that the Sagarin Ratings were more respected than Barry Alvarez if Wisconsin mysteriously leaps up in the polls.

Featured Photo Credit: Zach Llorens | The Observer


Ariel Bedford is a writer for Scouts Alley. Follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.

Rapid Reaction: No. 3 Oregon 46 – No. 7 Michigan State 27

By Ariel Bedford


In the biggest match-up of the college football season so far, the Oregon Ducks pushed the Big Ten bullies back, gaining a key victory and earning some cache come playoff selection time.

 

Why the game lived up to the hype: UO jumped out to an 18-7 lead early, sparked by a 36-yard interception return by FS Erick Dargan that set up the first TD of the game. The Spartans responded with 20 unanswered points to put MSU up 27-18 with 10:55 left in the third quarter. QB Connor Cook rebounded from his pick to orchestrate a patient offensive onslaught for Michigan State, relying on timely run calls and intermediate throws to WR Tony Lippett, who finished with 11 receptions for 133 yards and a score.

With Oregon’s defense showing fatigue due to the time of possession deficit, losing the line of scrimmage battle and not getting pressure on Cook, things looked similar to the Ducks’ previous losses at the hands of physical foes from the SEC and Stanford in big games.

How the contest turned: Oregon’s all-world QB Marcus Mariota had just been sacked to set up a 3rd and 10 at their own 41-yard line. Facing a fierce middle rush, Mariota showed dazzling escape moves to shovel the rock to true freshman RB Royce Freeman near the far sideline, who finished it off by gaining 17 yards for a Duck first down at the Spartan 42-yard line. Easily the play of the game.

Players that stepped up big: CB Troy Hill and wideout Devon Allen. Make no mistake, Mariota won the football game with his arm, ball-security, and decision-making. But timely plays by the two red-shirted Ducks are what allowed them to pull away.

Hill, a senior from Ohio, was targeted more often than Oregon’s All-American Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. He accepted the challenge well, being in the proper place on most passing situations and making strong tackles to stop Spartan receivers on third down. Allen, a freshman track star in the 110-meter hurdles, was the deep threat unleashed on the Sparty D. His three receptions for 110 yards and 2 TDs were all massive plays, especially considering UO couldn’t consistently run the ball until late.

What the win means: Oregon fulfilled their motto. Besides that, a lot in the eyes of the college football world. They finally solved the puzzle of beating a defense equipped at stuffing their renowned spread running game. Mariota was patient, and the Duck offense displayed an advanced passing attack that matched the potency of what they love to do on the ground. Considering Michigan State has excellent corners and a beastly front seven, Oregon should be pleased with the points that they were able to amass.

For the defense, this win is signature. Defensive coordinator Don Pellum’s unit found a second wind in the latter half, and took the fight right to the Spartans. Playing physical, generating pressure to force Cook away from his spots in the pocket, and getting off the field quickly allowed the offense to take over. They got more stingy against the pass, and “drew the line in the sand” against the run.

The Ducks solidified their position as the premier West Coast team with the win today. Moving forward, they should build off this game by getting more unpredictable in their play-calling and not forgetting to utilize Mariota’s running capabilities. Beating the defending Big Ten Champs gets them something even Nike can’t guarantee though: respect.


Ariel Bedford is a writer for Scouts Alley. Follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.

Rapid Reaction: Green Bay 16 – Seattle 36

By Ariel Bedford


The game was closer than the score looks, but Seattle dominated the run game on both sides to secure a victory on opening night.

Why It Matters: Green Bay’s defense was supposed to show a new and improved look—which in some respects it did. The pass rush appeared to have more punch with the addition of Julius Peppers roaming along the front seven. We even saw an effective amoeba defensive front utilized against the Seahawks O-line. Unfortunately, the loss of B.J. Raji was glaring, as Seattle was able to run the football at will.

The Packers have been bit with the injury bug for far too long, and it reared its ugly head again tonight, with tackle Bryan Bulaga and running back Eddie Lacy being knocked out of the contest. While Lacy’s apparent concussion-like symptoms might not cause him to miss extensive time, another offensive lineman not being able to play would be huge cause for concern. Derek Sherrod gave up the pivotal sack that led to a fumble, which gave the Seahawks two points (and control of the game’s momentum) in spot duty for Bulaga.

Why Green Bay Shouldn’t Panic After The Loss: Seattle has one of the most athletic defenses in NFL history and were playing at home in front of an attendance-record-setting crowd. Had inside linebacker Brad Jones not made a ridiculously unnecessary holding penalty on 3rd down, the Pack could have had possession with over eight and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter after scoring a TD on a tired Seahawk unit. Despite a clear advantage in the trenches favoring the defending Super Bowl Champs, the result of the game could have been much different.

Giving up 207 net rushing yards is unacceptable. Letroy Guion and Mike Daniels must play better in order for the defense to see how good it can be, and most importantly, stay off the field by stopping drives quickly. Even with the spotty defensive miscues, Aaron Rodgers finds a way to win this game if it’s played against most pro teams. The champion quarterback, like the team he leads, will have better days to come this year.


Ariel Bedford is a writer for Scouts Alley. Follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.

Week 1 in Review: Kenny Trill! But SEC Still?

By Ariel Bedford


It seems like the three major American sports are year-round spectacles nowadays, with all the offseason attention to every little detail sandwiched between any proverbial break of competition. Big-time college football is no different, with arguably as much hype for the ’14 openers than the feverishly exciting ’13 finale.

With major programs such as Maryland and Louisville moving off to new conferences, intriguing questions about replacements to former stars turned pro and the unveiling of the SEC’s own cable network, the 2014 season could very well pull off the seemingly impossible task of topping last year’s whale of a campaign. Oh, did I mention that the big boys also will FINALLY have a playoff?

The starting act gave those salivating for gridiron battles plenty to chew on as we venture into life without the BCS. Here are five things we learned about college football in Week 1:

ScoutsAlleyArt1Pic1
University of Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya runs through drills as the University of Miami practices on August 24, 2014. PATRICK FARRELL / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

1. The youth movement is REAL

Clemson lost an all-time school great in Tajh Boyd. So obviously in the attempt to replace him experience trumps talent, right? Ask “Sunshine Scooter” what the proper response to that question is and you will understand why the future is now in FBS football.

Senior Cole Stoudt started off well vs. Georgia at Sanford Stadium, capping off a 12-play drive with a touchdown for his squad. Yet after a trio of three-and-outs, Dabo Sweeney inserted true freshman Deshaun Watson as the signal caller. The former four-star recruit and top dual-threat QB of 2014 (who just so happens to hail from Gainesville, GA—a mere 40 miles from UGA’s campus) rewarded his coach by zipping a 30-yard post down the heart of the Bulldogs D, recording a TD on his first series as a Tiger.

The Killers’ track “When You Were Young” is a fitting theme song for Coral Gables fans right now, with lyrics like “…We’re burning down the highway skyline/On the back of a hurricane that started turning.” University of Miami fans sure hope true freshman Brad Kaaya has what it takes to turn things around for the ‘Canes, finally free from years of major sanctions to the football program.

The West Hills, California native (whose actress mom starred in cult classic Friday) experienced somewhat of a baptism by fire against Louisville’s formidable defense built by former head man and new Texas jefe Charlie Strong. Kaaya did show signs of good things to come, though, being able to matriculate Miami’s offense when protected for a TD early in the contest.

Oregon is not new to the recent trend dominating the college scene, considering Marcus Mariota was a redshirt freshman when he flashed before our eyes. But just the fact that so many players coming from prep-level play are being counted on to contribute means mountains.

And with the war on the recruiting trail being just as, if not more, important than the war in the trenches, the elite programs are staking their cases to potential signees loud and clear: “If you come here, you will play here. Not someday, right NOW!”

2.  SEC West is top division in the land

Five teams in the AP Poll’s Top 15. A perennial basement dweller (Mississippi State) getting well over 100 votes to potentially soon crack into the Coaches and/or AP Top 25. The current worst team (Arkansas) scrapping toe-to-toe with the defending conference champions on the road until wilting late. If the SEC is the baddest bully on the block, it is mostly due to its west side connection.

Alabama and Auburn are in most national chip topics of discussion, and yet the pair from the Magnolia State could not only be huge determining factors of who gets to go to Atlanta, but also legitimate oddball picks as playoff participants. LSU looked like LSU against the Badgers in Houston. But based off of who dazzled the most…

SAArt1Pic2
Texas A&M defensive lineman Justin Manning (55) and quarterback Kenny Hill (7) celebrate with fans after defeating South Carolina 52-28 in an NCAA college football game on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)The Associated Press

3. Texas A&M will be SEC Champs

Do the Aggies have a porous secondary? Yes. Will Johnny Football be able to suit up and work his magic against the Crimson Tide this year for them again? No. None of that matters. College Station, start accepting applications and get the WD-40 ready for your giant bandwagon.

Courtesy of Kenny Hill, any doubts of how A&M would replace #2’s production on the field have been muted. Connecting with an eye-popping 12 different receivers and amassing 511 yards in the air, the Southlake Carroll blue-chipper and 2012 Texas Gatorade Player of the Year broke Manziel’s school single-game passing yardage record in his first real game as the true leader of Texas A&M football.

The guys that rep for college football’s version of the 12th Man took the basketball approach against South Carolina. The Aggies simply ran the Gamecocks out of the gym using their vaunted spread attack. Malcome Kennedy’s 14 receptions addressed the potential void of big play from the wideout spot left by Mike Evans; A&M’s run game complimented their pass game subtly but with marked effectiveness. Regardless of their schedule, if they bottle up their first showing, no one will be able to stop them. A “bend but don’t break” defense will be all they need to beat Georgia for the crown in December.

SAArt1Pic3
Kenny Hill, left, is among the candidates to replace Johnny Manziel as the starting quarterback in Kevin Sumlin’s offense at Texas A&M. (Associated Press)

4.  Kevin Sumlin is the new Jeff Tedford

Almost every program aims to have a powerful passing scheme, but many can’t cut the mustard with longevity. The reason? Inconsistency at the quarterback spot. One season you have a Heisman hopeful, the next a guy some third-stringers on opposing rosters could out-duel.

Every few years a person catches fire within the ranks, becoming the buzz word for how to draw excellence out of QBs. In the 1990’s that coach was Jeff Tedford, the one responsible for revitalizing Cal football with his West Coast/Spread offensive mix (and sending Trent Dilfer, Akili Smith, Joey Harrington, David Carr, Kyle Boller, and Aaron Rodgers to the NFL).

Enter Kevin Sumlin. The Indiana product was a defensive gem at Purdue, but he understudied in the coaching realm with the likes of Mike Price and Joe Tiller, known for their offensive prowess. After a successful stint as associate head coach/co-offensive coordinator in Oklahoma with Bob Stoops, where the Sooners averaged over 40 points a game, he got his own gig in Houston. Grooming Case Keenum into a record-setting thrower after having to split time under Art Briles was a start. Turning the world upside-down with Johnny Manziel in College Station has been the clincher.

His offensive coaching tree ties are about as extensive as an Eastern Cottonwood. Dana Holgorsen and Kliff Kingsbury were both OCs for him. Aggie legend R.C. Slocum gave him the chance to call plays on gameday, a crucial element of any offense’s direction. Now on his second run with Texas A&M, this time as chief, he succeeds with his quarterbacks in similar fashion to the aforementioned Tedford. But in an opposite style entirely.

Tedford’s offenses, lauded in the NFL for giving college kids an advantage in the transition to the pro level, are known for being intensely complex. Sumlin’s offenses use Air Raid spread principles made famous by Mike Leach but with streamlined concepts in order to facilitate voluminous repetition during practice sessions. The result is a rocket-fueled passing arsenal run at a Chip Kelly-esque pace that not just the quarterback, but all 11 players master. Sumlin’s niche, however, is the way he instills confidence into his extension on the field. Former quarterbacks of his swear by his loyalty to them after poor outings and ability to make playing not only simple, but fun—the ingredients of quite a few winning college coaches that eventually got NFL jobs (Pete Carroll, anyone?)…

5. Only 1 SEC squad will survive to make 4-team playoff

Due to many factors, this will be true, and it will disappoint fans all over the South. But a stacked division that will cannibalize itself, a flawed Georgia gang, a depleted South Carolina squad, and a much improved cellar dweller bunch, among others, will prove to be the reasons for a derailing of an SEC monopoly within the new system to determine the best in college football.

Kentucky and Tennessee are better than you think. So are Vanderbilt, no matter how bad they lost to start their schedule. Which means USC and UGA both will be lucky to even be ranked by the time they complete their gauntlet of a regular season.

The Wild, Wild SEC West will surely be a joy to watch. The members of this juggernaut, however, will not be as enthusiastic about their division by Thanksgiving weekend. Ole Miss is used to possibly having four losses around that time of the year; Alabama will be livid about it. Even if Auburn, LSU, or Texas A&M make it out alive, they may already have two, or even three, stains on their record. The team that leaves the Georgia Dome victorious will probably be assured at least the last spot in the playoff, but that’s about it.

FSU will almost certainly have the number one position on lock. An Oregon team that manages to beat either the Spartans or Cardinal and win the Pac-12 should have another. That leaves just a single chair at the table. Would a 9-3 Auburn or 9-4 Georgia deserve that place over an 11-2 UCLA (whose only losses could come to the hands of the Ducks, setting up a potential rubber match in the Rose Bowl), or even an 11-1 Oklahoma/Oklahoma State/Baylor? Smart money would say the answer will be no, and the good ol’ boys conference will have to eat a small slice of humble pie.

If the first week was any indication, we are in for a roller coaster ride this fall. Everyone that loves college football (including those that are die-hard SEC fans) should buckle up—it will get bumpy.

 

Featured Photo Credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images


Ariel Bedford is a writer for Scouts Alley. Follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.