Assorted Thoughts, And Music
This game can manufacture buckets of hype, but hype is a fickle, ill-tempered beast. This week's example is Ohio State, which has blown out opponents for two weeks in a row but somehow left fans disappointed along the way. In many ways, it's hard to say what more could have been expected. The Buckeyes will improve as they go along, and so far they've taken care of business. ♪ ♫ ♪ Basically, it's a non-story.
Still, it is true that the Buckeyes have shown more flaws than a lot of people were expecting. The quarterback position has looked rusty at times, and the offensive line is a stark disappointment so far for OSU fans. (Pat Elflein was pegged as a preseason All-American. He has not played like one.) The play-calling under Ed Warinner is a little rougher, too, than it was with Tom Herman calling the shots.
Moving forward, the Buckeyes need to solidify the line and return to the inside run game. Urban Meyer has been gentle on Ezekiel Elliott so far, but not to 'save him' for later games. They've also been struggling with a lot of interior disruption against two defensive lines that should be getting dominated. Meyer has had to lean on the athleticism of his H-backs (Braxton Miller and Curtis Samuel: 9.1 yards per carry), while, outside of one 80-yard gallop by Ezekiel Elliott, the Buckeye running backs are averaging just 4.1 yards a pop. That's not going to get it done all season long.
Is Rutgers really this bad? How else do you explain a 3-9 Big Sky member (Portland State) beating Washington State 24-17 in Week 1, then Mike Leach's squad returning the favor against Rutgers (a 37-34 final) this Saturday?
For what it's worth, Portland State benefited from a couple lucky bounces in their Week 1 upset, and they had a game plan that mostly kept the ball away from Washington State's better athletes. PSU's starting quarterback: 12 passes. The running game, though: 48 carries for a manageable 4.9 yards a pop. A couple timely turnovers and some third down conversions, and you have a recipe to beat a pretty athletic team in WSU.
But, with all due credit to the Cougars and Portland State, Rutgers belongs at the bottom of the pile with how they've played so far, and that's not a good sign. Eleven penalties for 100 yards against WSU, after 11 penalties for 90 yards against Norfolk State - several of those because offensive linemen were getting beaten badly. Three turnovers. An inability to control the run game or rush the passer. Beyond the box score, this has been a really rough start for Kyle Flood.
Alex Erickson just doesn't get enough respect. Wisconsin's star wide receiver may be undersized (6'0", 199) and lightly used (73 yards in each of his first two games on an average of 5.5 catches), but he's a great complement to Wisconsin's physical game plan. With Erickson, Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst can use plenty of heavy sets, but still threaten defenses deep with only one or two guys. If more was asked of him, he could put up some bigger numbers. Instead, Erickson supplies just what his teammates need.
The Big Ten may have notched some high-profile wins against Oregon, Stanford, and Virginia Tech, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a truly well-rounded team. Minnesota's and Michigan's passing attacks have struggled, Penn State has been one-dimensional, and Maryland, Rutgers, and Illinois are mixing some of the best wide receiver talent in the conference with putrid front lines that will get blown up quickly by elite talent. Things have to get better.
Teams like Northwestern (now ranked!) and Iowa might not be perfect, but they won't need to be to win their share of games.
Hitting the Links Recommends Denim
Bret Bielema, Steve Spurrier, and Dan Mullen all criticized Ohio State's schedule this week, and all promptly lost.
Two teams who have surpassed my expectations. Both have been organized, prepared, and had something to prove.
Rowe has not looked good either. This has been strangely handled by Edsall and his staff.
Pitt may have resumed the Backyard Brawl with West Virginia, but the Nittany Lions are a little less interested.
Wow, Kyle Flood says Leonte Caroo has been suspended from the program due to an incident outside the stadium after last night's game.— Dan Duggan (@DDuggan21) September 13, 2015
Kyle Flood also dismissed another player last week related to the earlier turmoil involving house burglaries. And Leonte Carroo, a captain, is supposed to be setting an example. Not only that, but Chris Laviano - who Kyle Flood said will start this week against Penn State - was seen limping out of Rutgers' locker room after the Washington State loss. That's not going to help with an athletic, in-your-face defense coming up on the docket.
When I said last week that Rutgers' skill positions could weather some casualties, I didn't expect the team to promptly start testing their limits. This was the only strength of the team, but losing Carroo is a big loss. There's still a likely win coming up with Kansas (seriously, the Jayhawks have lost to South Dakota State 41-38 and Montana 55-23), but there aren't a lot of easy games after that. Indiana? Army? Maryland?
Utah TE Lo Falemaka and RB Marcel Brooks-Brown are both stable but recovering from gun shot wounds. What we know: pic.twitter.com/MXF9dMV98K— Chantel Jennings (@ChantelJennings) September 13, 2015
Prayers to both Utah players for a quick recovery.
In a move that made plenty of waves, Texas' AD decided last week he would force Rice band members to pay for tickets if they wanted to perform. Now, Dave Brandon 2.0 might be on the way out.
Oklahoma has looked ghastly so far, though I give them credit for the grittiness they've shown. Northwestern, meanwhile, made quick work of its resurrection to relevancy, and this is something Pat Fitzgerald can use as he tries to improve a recruiting class that's ranked #33 right now.
On defense, Tennessee is still lacking depth up front, and their secondary can be exploited. Luckily for them, that back seven could somehow survive a tough SEC slate thanks to some really iffy quarterback play that's been happening in the conference so far.
Tennessee's eight conference opponents are Florida, Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, Missouri, and Vandy, and while Alabama, Arkansas, and surprisingly Florida have been stellar (13 touchdowns to 4 interceptions, 67.3%) the rest have combined for 16 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, and a completion percentage of 53.4%. So, some hope for Rocky Top.
Obviously a rocky go of it for Clark. Best of luck to him, though; he was easily one of the best tight end prospects of the last few years, and hopefully he's able to hone his talent.
Peter King's weekly column highlights Marcus Mariota, Tom Brady, and the new point-after rules. Naturally Harbaugh makes a couple appearances, and Marcus Peters (a troubled star booted from the Huskies) seems to have found a home in KC.