The Football Blitz

Why don't the Big East teams get more respect? What will Florida be like next season with Tim Tebow at the helm? What will D'Angelo McCray do? Why doesn't the media give Notre Dame more love? I will answer these questions and more in this week's Football Blitz.

Help me understand something here, Louisville and West Virginia play an outstanding high scoring football game and are ridiculed by the national media for a lack of defense. Yet, last year USC and Texas score more points and have more yards and it is considered an instant classic. Then last week Ohio State and Michigan play another high scoring offensive game and you guessed it, "instant classic." Please explain.
Tony (Louisville, Kentucky)
It's simple. It's all about perception. If you look at last week's huge game between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan, the perception was it would be a lowing scoring game because both defenses are very good and have played exceptionally well since week one. Despite Ohio State being loaded on offense across the board with players like quarterback Troy Smith, running backs Chris Wells and Antonio Pittman, wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. and company and perhaps the top offensive line in college football, no one would have expected the potent Buckeye attack to score 42 points against that Wolverine defense. On the other side you have a Michigan team almost as potent on offense with quarterback Chad Henne, running back Michael Hart and wide receiver Mario Manningham. Again, no one would have expected Michigan to put up 39 points on the Buckeyes.

Look at the numbers, going in, Ohio State was allowing under 8 points per game and Michigan was allowing 12 points. Neither team gave up more than 26 (Michigan vs Ball State) points in one game going into the big game last weekend. Again, it's all perception. The perception is that both the Buckeyes and Wolverines are very balanced teams that play good offense and equally good defense. If that game is played nine more times I would find it hard to believe we would ever see the offensive output that we saw on that Saturday. The bottom line is that both offenses, despite a few miscues, executed brilliantly for the most part. That's why they are ranked as the top two teams in the nation.

You are certainly in the minority if you don't feel like that Big 10 showdown was an "instant classic".

The same can be said about last year's National Championship game between USC and Texas. Granted, both the Trojans and Longhorns defenses of last season were not on par with what the Buckeyes and Wolverines are this year. On the other side of the ball you could make a case that there was just as much firepower though with USC's Heisman Trophy winners Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush and Trojans receivers Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith. Texas quarterback Vince Young gave a superman like effort to help propel Texas to a come from behind victory (41-38) in one of the most memorable games in recent memory. Again, this was an "instant classic"

Now lets breakdown Lousiville and West Virginia. What are these two teams known for? I will give you a hint. It's not defense. Both Louisville and West Virginia are among the top offenses in college football. Both teams have stars in quarterbacks Brian Brohm and Pat White, running back Steve Slaton (WV) and Michael Bush (Louisville) and both teams are blessed with talented wide receivers. What type of superstars are their defensively on either side and where do you think these two teams are ranked defensively among their peers? Louisville allows 16.5 points per game while West Virginia gives up 19 points per game.

Again, the perception is that these two Big East powers don't play defense the way "championship" defenses are supposed to play. The game was still an "instant classic" and by no means is the general perception of these two programs in a bad light. But there is a national perception that both the Cardinals and Mountaineers are outstanding "offensive" teams and not known for their defenses. It is what it is and I think most fans of both schools should be perfectly content with how well received both programs are on a national level.

Has USC ever faced Ohio State in a Bowl game that wasn't the Rose Bowl?
Larry (Cleveland, Ohio)

No, at least not just yet. They have faced each other in seven Rose Bowls, with USC having won four of those games. It's the only Bowl game they have faced each other. They have played during the regular season, beginning in the ‘30s. The Buckeyes and Trojans faced each other a dozen times between 1937 and 1964 and again in 1989 and '90. During those regular season contests USC holds a slight edge (7-6) and there was one tie. In the over all series the Trojans hold a modest edge over the Buckeyes in this series (11-9-1).

If the Trojans defeat UCLA this weekend they will likely play Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl for the National Championship. It will be the first time these two teams have matched up against each other in post season play outside of the Rose Bowl.

Rebels celebrating
I noticed that when you talked about the power of the SEC you mentioned eleven of the twelve teams in a positive light. Was it too hard to recognize Ole Miss' overtime losses to Alabama and LSU, it's 14-9 loss to Georgia and it's six point loss to Auburn? Three of those teams were in the top ten when their game was played. They have played more freshmen than any D-1 team in the nation, Coach (Ed) Orgeron is preparing to have his second straight Top-15 recruiting season. Don't climb aboard when it's too late! Go Rebels!
John (Jackson, Mississippi)
I didn't overlook the Rebels. The fact is they are 4-8 and have only won two league games, against Vandy and Mississippi State. They have a three point win against Memphis and they also beat Northwestern State (not confused with Northwestern of the Big 10). Granted, they are playing some of the better teams in the SEC very well, especially lately. Since mid-season they have lost some close ones to Alabama and LSU by three points and Auburn by six. They also lost to Georgia by five. That tells me that Orgeron has his team playing hard.

I would also agree that this is a team building for the future. Trust me when I say this that no one is as big of a fan of Ed Orgeron then I and I expect big things from his program both on and off the field in the future. He has turned the Rebels into one of the better teams in terms of recruiting and you are right to speculate that Ole Miss will finish somewhere in the top 15 or so nationally in terms of recruiting once again.

But at some point they are going to have to start winning and right now I wouldn't categorize them as a power in the SEC, rather a team building for the future. Sure they have played some good teams tough. But remember Northwestern played Ohio State close and Ball State played Michigan close in recent weeks. The point is sometimes good teams play down to the level of the competition. Sorry if that stings a little but right now Ole Miss is just not a very good football team. Like I said, I love Orgeron and what he is trying to build in Oxford but they have a ways to go.

I do think there is a positive to this season despite the losses. They are playing a lot of young kids and they are breaking in a new system offensively. If Ole Miss continues to recruit like they have been I certainly expect them to challenge in the West very soon.

I have been saying for a year now that I think this is a program on the rise and that Ed Orgeron is the right man for the job. They just need a few more recruiting classes and they need to learn how to win.

I know UF has had a shaky season and their loss to Auburn combined with other close calls has all but eliminated their shot at the big game but what do you see for them in the next season with the star studded recruiting class last year and a new quarterback that seems to fit the system much better?
Eric (Palm Coast, Florida)
Well, honestly, I think there will be a drop off defensively and I think their offense can show improvement next year. Let's face it, as good as a passer that Chris Leak is he does not fit that system. Freshman quarterback Tim Tebow does. In limited playing time Tebow has played well but it has been more from running than throwing. Tebow had a couple of big pass plays against LSU and he put up great numbers last weekend. But let's temper the enthusiasm a little. That was against a bad 1-AA team.

The fact of the matter is that Florida is going to lose a lot this season, especially defensively. Defensive linemen Joe Cohen, Steve Harris, and Ray McDonald are all seniors and there is a good chance that standout defensive end Jarvis Moss goes pro. Linebackers Earl Everett and Brian Crum and cornerback Reggie Lewis will be lost to graduation. Then you have to look at free safety Reggie Nelson and linebacker Brandon Siler, who could both leave early for the NFL Draft. Chances are at least one of these guys goes maybe even both.

Florida has won the SEC East and won 11 games this season. Much of that is due to their defense and how well they have played. The offense has just been just good enough. To me, the defense has carried Florida in the two seasons Urban Meyer has been in Gainesville.

There will be a drop off defensively next season for the Gators and it's their offense that will have to carry them. Can Tebow and company do that? I think the jury is still out. I think he has already proven that he can run the Florida run game. The question still remains can he be an effective thrower in the Florida passing game against the top level SEC defenses? Can Tebow manage the game and make the right decisions at the line of scrimmage before the ball is even snapped? Can he find his secondary receiver when the first one is taken away in coverage? Who will emerge as their running back? They must also replace senior wide receiver Dallas Baker and fullback Billy Latsko and junior wide receiver Andre Caldwell could turn pro early.

I do think Florida can see the same type of results next season in the won-loss column but it's going to take Tebow being the total package at quarterback. He's young and has talent but can he put it together? That will be the single biggest factor for UF to have great success next season.

There is no doubt that Meyer and his staff have assembled an array of talent just about everywhere on this football team. The Gators are so young and athletic. They will be replenishing the defensive line with this class and bring in the mother load across the board one again. But again, they will be young.

Florida will be good next season. Just how good is a guessing game because of Tebow, the running back situation and a defense that will have to replace many talented starters.

Jamie - in your review of the various conferences you say the SEC is the best because it has the most depth. I agree that the SEC has the most depth (although it lacks any truly dominant teams at the top.) However, I would take issue with your statement that both Ohio State and Michigan, while being good enough to win the SEC, would not be able to go undefeated through an SEC schedule. The obvious problem with your statement is that (with one game remaining) Arkansas has managed to go undefeated through an SEC schedule - so in order to win the SEC, either Ohio State or Michigan would have to be undefeated, or else they'd be behind Arkansas. Secondly - both Ohio State and Michigan are clearly superior (well, more balanced) than Arkansas is, and Arkansas is undefeated in the SEC (after getting drilled by a less-than dominant USC team.) I think both Ohio State and Michigan would be good enough to run the slate in the SEC, since that conference doesn't have any elite teams (other than possibly Florida) this year - and the SEC certainly doesn't have any complete teams. Anyway, that's my two cents.
James (Atlanta, Georgia)
James, I agree with much of what you stated. You hit the nail on the head describing Michigan and Ohio State as balanced teams. They are and they are more so than any team in the SEC and perhaps the entire country. I am certainly not disagreeing with you on that because I think that is fact.

Now that Arkansas lost to LSU, there are no unbeaten teams in SEC league play. It's too tough to do and it doesn't happen all that often. Take Florida' schedule for example. In one four game stretch they played Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia. They have also played Tennessee and South Carolina. To be emotionally up and ready week in and week out is awfully tough anyone in college football. Ohio State's two toughest opponents in conference play were Michigan and Penn State while Michigan played Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State. What I am trying to get it is that top to bottom the SEC is clearly the deeper league. How do you think Michigan State, Minnesota, Iowa, Northwestern, Indiana, Purdue and Illinois would fair against the middle to bottom tier SEC teams? Over the course of the season in conference play it was easier for Michigan and Ohio State to do what they did. It's obviously not their fault that teams like Michigan State, Iowa, Purdue, Northwestern and Minnesota are a little down this season. Hey, it is what it is and you to credit what the Buckeyes have done. They played their schedule and won in each game. Ohio State scheduled Texas and beat the Longhorns on the road. I give them a ton of credit for not just winning that game but to schedule a home and home with Texas. Same with Michigan in scheduling Notre Dame. As a fan I sure wish we saw more of that from big name teams throughout the country. I think it's great.

I agree that Ohio State and Michigan appear better based on what we have seen on the field this season than any team in the SEC. But I think it would be much harder for an Ohio State or Michigan team to run through conference play undefeated playing in a deep conference like that of the SEC. Could it be done? Certainly. I just think it would be a lot harder to do.

As a long time Irish fan I have seen and understand the "love or hate 'em" national feelings towards Notre Dame. It's the same for the Yankees, Cowboys, etc. But this year the media seems to have really jumped against them. Why? Charlie (Weis) is going a great job, the team is 10-1, their strength of schedule is very respectable and quite frankly his comments on the polls were taken out of context. What's your take?
Mike (Lakeville, Minnesota)

While I agree with you that people either love or hate Notre Dame I don't think there is a media bias against them. To be honest, there were high expectations this season and perhaps they were a tad over rated and ranked to high in the preseason. I never thought they were a top five club, mainly because of their defense. But I do think that the Fighting Irish are a solid top 10 team. The schedule is okay but they have only beaten one BCS top 25 team, Georgia Tech. They got throttled at home to Michigan and they lost this past weekend to USC. In between they have played Michigan State, North Carolina, Army, Air Force and Stanford. I wouldn't exactly call that the strong part of their schedule.

Quite honestly I think Weis has a great reputation and gets the respect he deserves. I certainly think the national media across the country respect him and the job he has done. I for one feel he is one of the top offensive minds among his peers and has this team headed in the right direction.

How come Notre Dame can't recruit any five-star receivers after already getting the No. 1 quarterback (Jimmy Clausen) to commit? Who do you think Notre Dame has a better chance of signing Martez Wilson or Ben Martin?
James (Thousand Oaks, California)
Notre Dame has two outstanding athletes headed their way in wide receivers Duval Kamara (Hoboken, N.J.) and Greg Little (Durham, N.C.). We think Little will end up on the other side of the ball playing safety of linebacker because of his inconsistent hands. But we have been wrong before. Regardless, he is the kind of athlete that you want in any program and can help out the Irish. Little is ranked as the nation's No. 2 weak-side linebacker prospect. Kamara is the No. 13 rated receiver in the nation and he is an outstanding talent with good size.

Notre Dame lost Arrelious Benn (Washington D.C.) to Illinois. He is a five-star receiver and now the nation's No. 2 rated prospect at that position. For a while the Irish were the leaders for Benn and it was expected that he would be headed to South Bend. How they lost him to anyone is still a mystery.

As far as the stars I wouldn't get too caught up in the star game. You need to trust your coaching staff, knowing and hoping they are recruiting the kind of prospects and athletes that can help your program no matter the position. You also know these players will be well coached and plugged into one of the best offensive schemes in college football spearheaded by one of the top offensive coaches in the game.

Bill Callahan
Nebraska has two of three losses to top 10 teams. They are ranked to low as I see it. If they win Big 12 Championship Game what bowl will they go to? Will it be a BCS bowl as outlined?
Lisa (Maryland)

Hey, the Cornhuskers are back. Maybe not back as a true national power but they are a lot closer than they were a few seasons ago and Head Coach Bill Callahan has Nebraska certainly headed in the right direction. They are a definite top 25 type of team that has lost on the road to USC and at home to Texas. They had their chance to put the Longhorns away late in the 4th quarter to secure a win only to put the ball on the ground and allow Texas to win in the end. The following week they caught a pretty good Oklahoma State team and lost as well. So to say you lost to USC and Texas isn't really a bad thing, especially considering how well they played. They held their own against the Trojans and had a chance to win against the defending national champions.

This team has made huge strides and has won the Big 12 North. That's always has to be their first goal and they achieved it. They will get a red hot Oklahoma team this weekend in the Big 12 Championship Game and they will have a good shot to win the conference title.

Nebraska is going "Bowling" regardless. If they win the Big 12 Championship Game they will be in the BCS and likely headed to the Fiesta Bowl. If they lose to the Sooners they could end up in the Cotton Bowl.

As far as their ranking, I think they are a top 25 team that should end up being in the top 20 before it's all said and done. After all, you are right in saying they did lose to two teams in the top 10 and USC could once again be playing for the national title.

Where do you see D'Angelo McCray heading to play college football?
Eric (Palm Coast, Florida)

Well, D'Angelo McCray (Jacksonville, Fl.) is scheduled to make his announcement on December 14. I think it comes down to two teams – Florida and Illinois. He had previously committed to the Gators only to back off that pledge. I would give UF the edge with him but watch out for the Fighting Illini. They pulled wide receiver Arrelious Benn away from Notre Dame, FSU and others. Ron Zook and company could certainly steal McCray away as well. McCray is also considering Georgia Tech. While I don't think it will be the Yellow Jackets, they have had a great recruiting season and made his final cut. Perhaps they sneak up on everyone and get him. Like I said, I think it comes down to Florida and Illinois.

The Heisman Race

1)Troy Smith (QB) Ohio State
Season complete. Smith completed 67% of his passes for 2,507 yards, 30 touchdowns and only five interceptions.

2) Brady Quinn (QB) Notre Dame
This past weekend Quinn threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns against USC. For the season he has completed 63.4% of his passes for 3,278 yards, 35 touchdowns and only five interceptions.

3) Colt Brennan (QB) Hawaii
Brennan threw for 434 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. For the season he has completed 71.9% of his passes for 4,589 yards, 51 touchdown passes and only nine interceptions.

4) Darren McFadden (RB) Arkansas
McFadden rushed for 182 yards (21 carries) and two scores. He also threw a touchdown pass. For the season McFadden has rushed for 1,485 yards rushing and 14 rushing touchdowns while averaging 6.3 yards per carry.

5) Steve Slaton (RB) West Virginia
The Bulls stuffed Slaton, holding him to 43 yards on 18 carries. So far this season he has rushed for 1,621 yards and 14 touchdowns while averaging an eye popping 7.8 yards per rush.

The Football Blitz Power Ratings
Top 20
1) Ohio State (12-0)
Regular season is completed. Who will they play for the national title? Looks like Southern Cal but the Trojans need to get by UCLA this weekend.

2) USC (10-1)
Southern Cal rolled past Notre Dame 44-24 behind quarterback John David Booty and wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett. USC facs cross town rival UCLA this Saturday. A win against the Bruins almost assures USC a title matchup against the Buckeyes.

3) Michigan (11-1)
Regular season is completed. The Wolverines are pulling hard for UCLA to upset USC this weekend. A Bruin win means Ohio State will play either Michigan or Florida (if they win SEC title) for the national championship. If that happens the edge goes to Michigan.

4) Florida (11-1)
The Gators knocked off their biggest rival in Florida State 21-14 in Tallahassee to finish with 11 wins. They face Arkansas this weekend in Atlanta for the SEC Championship. Florida is still clinging to hopes to they meet Ohio State for the national championship but it's a long shot at this point.

5) LSU (10-2)
LSU got a huge win against a very good Arkansas team on the road 31-26. It looks like the Tigers could be headed for the Rose Bowl?

6) Louisville (10-1)
The Cardinals flew past the Panthers 48-24 behind the arm of quarterback Brian Brohm. Louisville faces Connecticut this Saturday. If they win and West Virginia knocks off Rutgers, the Cardinals will win the Big East.

7) Oklahoma (10-2)
The Sooners beat in-state rival Oklahoma State in Stillwater 27-21. They will play Nebraska for the Big 12 Championship on Saturday.

8) Wisconsin (11-1)
Regular season is completed. The Badgers are headed to the Capiltol One Bowl in a potential match-up with either Arkansas or Florida.

9) Arkansas (10-2)
LSU was a little too much for Arkansas, as they knocked off the Razorbacks on the road 31-26. The Hogs can still win the SEC title with a victory over Florida this weekend in Atlanta.

10) Notre Dame (10-2)
The Fighting Irish couldn't handle a hot Trojan team in L.A., losing by 20. Notre Dame is likely headed to the Sugar Bowl with a possible match up against the Florida/Arkansas winner.

11) Auburn (10-2)
Regular season is completed. They could be headed to Cotton Bowl to face either Oklahoma or Nebraska.

12) Boise State (12-0)
The Broncos rolled past Nevada to likely earn a berth in the Fiesta Bowl. They could face the Big 12 Champion.

13) Rutgers (10-1)
The Scarlet Knights blew out Syracuse 38-7. A win over West Virginia this Saturday means they win the Big East. A loss means the Big East will likely go to Louisville.

14) Tennessee (9-3)
The Vols narrowly beat Kentucky 17-12. They now await their Bowl fate which could land them in the Outback against Penn State.

15) Texas (9-3)
In-state rival Texas A&M upset Texas 12-7 on Friday. This Longhorn loss, coupled with Oklahoma's win on Saturday means the Sooners win the Big 12 South.

16) West Virginia (8-2)
South Florida gets their biggest win in school history by knocking off West Virginia in Saturday's biggest upset. West Virginia faces Rutgers this weekend.

17) Hawaii (10-2)
Hawaii beat Purdue 42-35, showing the college football world they can play with teams from the BCS conferences. The Warriors can further validate themselves with a win over Oregon State this weekend.

18) Cal (8-3)
The Bears were idle this week. They take on Stanford this weekend.

19) Nebraska (8-3)
The Cornhuskers took care of the Buffaloes 37-14 on Friday. Nebraska takes on Oklahoma for the Big 12 Championship on Saturday.

20) Virginia Tech (10-2)
The Hokies finished off the season on a high note by shuting out in-state rival Virginia.

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