Sunday, September 20, 2009

Depth Charges

More than anything else, games like yesterday's game against Eastern are about depth - developing depth by giving backups and second and third stringers a chance to play, and using depth to avoid the inevitable letdown that comes when you play a team you're expected to beat handily.

It's clear that we have developed the depth we need to be a championship team in some areas, but are still sorely lacking in others. We have as much talent at the offensive skill positions (QB, RB, WR, TE) as anyone in the league. The depth certainly helped yesterday. Tate Forcier had his worst game of the year. He missed a number of passes. Not Threet or Sheridan missed, but turn a 20 yard gain into a 5 yard gain type misses. A number of times he passed up a sure couple of yards trying to make a big play. It seemed pretty clear that he had read some of his press clippings this week and wanted to show that he was the newest superstar. As a result, our passing game was not nearly as efficient yesterday as it was the previous two weeks. In it's place was a devastating rushing attack. From the first snap, it was clear that Carlos Brown was going to have a great game. Eastern had no answer for his speed. Michael Shaw looked almost as good.

On the other hand, it's equally clear that we are nowhere near a championship level defense, and we are amazing thin there. With the Big Ten suspending Jonas Mouton just a day before the game, we were left starting a walk-on, Kevin Leach at linebacker. What's worse, he appeared to be the better of our two inside linebackers. Obi Ezah just seems lost out there at times -- tentative, slow, and consistently out of position. EMU basically had success with two plays, a sort of counter that sucked the linebackers into the line, before the RB bounced the play around the end, and a play action waggled that got the linebacker open crossing in front of the moving QB. Both plays really took advantage of the decision making of our linebackers. Given that poor play, I was disappointed to not see more of the backups once we got up big late in the second half. If backups like Kenny Demens, Brandon Smith, and JB Fitzgerald can't get playing time against Eastern, the chance of them helping later in the year is slim to none.

-Eastern may have provided the game plan to beat us this year -- run, run, run, play action to the TE. Keep our D on the field.
-Denard clearly has a long way to go at QB. He made a couple of bad reads that led to our two turnovers. But he has good arm, decent mechanics, and of course could turn off the light and be in bed before it gets dark. The bar is not very high for his passing competency. He only needs to be adequate at passing to make him a quarterback capable of moving the ball against good defenses.
-I was hoping to see more of the OL backups - Omaneh, Barnum, Khoury, Mealer.
-I hope Andy Schmitt is ok. He's a good QB, and Eastern really has no chance of having any sort of season without him. I was watching him with the binoculars when he went down, it looked bad. He planted and his knee buckled.
-There were a couple of spreads this week that looked like fool's gold. Unfortunately this fool only recognized one of the three before the games were played. What's the old saying, "It's not the Xs and Os, it's the Jimmies and the Joes." In college football, most times, talent wins. That's why OSU wins 10 or 11 games every year with the world's dullest offense. There were three games where the talent gap between the two teams seemed to be at odds with the spread:
1) BYU was favored by a touchdown over Florida State. While everyone focused on BYU's win over Oklahoma and how they executed, the truth is, even as much as the 'Noles have slipped in recent years, they still have a lot more talent than BYU
2) Oklahoma was only favored over Tulsa by 18. Everyone wondered if OU could recover from the loss of Sam Bradford. But remember that a program as good as OU always has talent waiting in the wings. Given a couple of weeks, It should have been obvious that Landry Jones (the backup QB) would be just fine.
3) Florida was favored by 30 over Tennessee. With all the hype about Kiffin's comments and conjecture about how much Florida would run up the score, we lost sight of the fact that Tennessee's problem in recent years hasn't been their defense, and that they still have a fair amount of talent, with a very good defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin.
-Watching the Texas - Tex Tech game, it appeared to me that the new enclosed end of the stadium, which was only partially completed when we went there, makes a big difference in the noise level of the stadium. Perhaps I should attend another game there.
-I think that the end might be near for the USC "dynasty" They really looked quite mediocre against the Huskies and I wouldn't be surprised to see them lose to Cal, UCLA, or even, gasp, Notre Dame. I think Carroll should really think about opening up the offense a little, there appears to be little imagination in what they do.
-Is it just me, or did it seem like Tennessee wasn't really trying to win the game against Florida, so much as just keep the score down.
-I didn't really see much of the MSU/ND game, but it looked very similar to our game against ND a week earlier, except that the absence of Michael Floyd hurt the Irish in the stretch run. I was kinda surprised how much the announcers were commenting on every penalty the Irish got. I think that they've bought into what Weis was trying to convey last week - they only lost to us because of the officials.
-The Arkansas / Georgia game was absolutely bonkers. Ryan Mallet is going to make opposing defensive coaches in the SEC sweat for three years. Of course the Razorbacks don't have enough other talent to win a title, but their games will be fun to watch.
-Ditto for the Fresno / Boise game on Friday night. Boise may have a great rushing attack and some good skill players, but they will get carved up when they play a BCS conference team on New Year's if they don't improve their rush defense. A lot. And why did Fresno keep kicking the ball deep, after giving up two kickoff returns for TDs (one that counted) and two other 60 plus yard returns? Pat Hill is vastly overrated as a coach. Did you realized that he has never won a conference title?