What was your evaluation of USC in their opening game vs. Virginia Tech?
Chris Landry - Virginia Tech played with a great deal of emotion. Their defensive front was very aggressive, they did a good job of being physical and re-routing USC ‘s receivers and disrupted the timing the first half. Offensively, Tech slowed down USC's pursuit angles with quite a bit of option, mis-directions and waggle rollouts. The tight end was open most of the evening. USC did a great job with halftime adjustments, creating some pre-snap motions offensively and getting Reggie Bush involved in the passing game. They also adjusted their blocking schemes to better account for Tech's stunt package. This allowed the Trojan receivers more time to get out of their routes. It was a good, tough test for USC and one that they will grow from.
Can anyone challenge USC in the Pac-10 this year?
CL - No. They have superior talent to everyone in the conference. Too much speed and by far the best defense in the conference. The key will be for them not to lose focus on a couple of road trips like to Corvallis or Pullman. Cal-Berkley has a good team and Oregon will be solid once again.
Who are your favorites to compete for a national championship?
CL - USC may not be the best team but they are the best team with a very favorable schedule. With strength of schedule taking out of the BCS formula, this works to their advantage unless the voters figure it out. Oklahoma is loaded again and has a good chance. LSU and Georgia are national championship caliber but play in the toughest conference. Michigan and Ohio State have a chance to be undefeated headed into their matchup at year's end and the winner of Florida State/Miami will have a shot. West Virginia has only the soft Big East to contend with and will be in the race but is not national championship caliber.
Which non-BCS teams could make the biggest noise this year?
CL - Utah has one of the top 3-4 teams out west and has a good chance to knock off Texas A&M early in the season. Urban Meyer does a great job of giving teams multiple looks offensively and has a good quarterback in Alex Smith. Memphis, Hawaii, Louisville, Boise State and Toledo will all spend some time in the national rankings this year.
Who are the biggest game breakers in college football this year?
CL - You saw the top candidate Saturday in RB Reggie Bush of USC. USC Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow spent some time with the Rams this offseason getting a feel for how the Rams have gotten Marshall Faulk the ball in the passing game. Expect to see more big plays from this exciting sophomore this season. Kansas State RB Darren Sproles, Auburn's Cadillac Williams and LSU's Justin Vincent have big playmaking skills as well.
Which coaches do the best job of preparing his team for game day and making game day adjustments?
CL - Nick Saban of LSU is the best at getting opposing offenses pro-style blitz looks which is why he is ahead of the curve defensively in college football. Kirk Ferentz of Iowa gets the most out of his team. Bob Stoops is very aggressive and seemingly always has his team prepared for big games. Pete Carroll of USC has a great staff and always puts his players in position to make plays. Jim Tressel of Ohio State will always play disciplined defense and will be sound in the kicking game. They win by winning the turnover and field position battles and help their offense play on a short field. Ralph Friedgen of Maryland is as good as it gets creating offensive schemes, Jeff Tedford of Cal-Berkley develops quarterbacks very well and has a great understanding of the passing game. Mike Bellotti of Oregon gives you more offensive looks to prepare for than just about anyone and Bill Snyder is the master of detail and no one understands what it needs to do better to beat an opponent than him. Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech always does an outatanding job. Al Groh of Virginia and Rich Rodriguez of West Virginia have both done good jobs with those programs. Urban Meyer of Utah is a coach on the fast track to a big job shortly.
Is Georgia the best team in the SEC this year?
CL - They have more experience at quarterback and wide receiver but LSU is better defensively. I would not be surprised if Georgia beats LSU in Athens October 2 but I expect LSU to win the conference championship re-match.
Break down the Big 12 conference?
CL - Oklahoma has the most talent, experience at the key positions and is very well coached. Texas is very talented but must prove it can step up in big games. Texas A&M will be improved this year while Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor will bring up the rear of the south. In the North, Missouri and Kansas State will battle it out. Missouri has a dynamic playmaker in quarterback Brad Smith but if Kansas State can get solid quarterback play, they will the north. Nebraska will have a much different look offensively and be competitive but needs at least two recruiting classes to fit their scheme.
How do you see the Big 10 shaking out?
CL - It will be Michigan and Ohio State again. Michigan has more playmakers on offense. They have the best receiving corps in the nation. Ohio State is their equal defensively and if they can get through a very balanced Big 10 schedule, they have Michigan at home this year. Iowa will be tough to beat. They are so well prepared week in and week out. Purdue will take a step back defensively but will be a tough out as will Wisconsin. Minnesota will surprise some people in the league and Penn State will be better but not the Penn State of old. Michigan State causes some matchup problems with their offense but losing Smoker hurts them a great deal. Northwestern could finish ahead of Indiana and Illinois this year.
How do you assess Washington's team this year?
CL - Replacing Cody Pickett and Reggie Williams will be difficult for the
offense. With the offensive line problems this spring, that could make
for a tough combination. I expect them to try and establish toughness in
the offensive line and run the ball more with Pickett and Williams gone.
I also expect to see some option looks. It will be interesting to see how Keith Gilbertson handles the quarterback situation. (Casey) Paus has decent passing
skills and (Isaiah) Stanback is very athletic. They need one of the young tailbacks
to step up. I think receiver Charles Frederick has a chance to be a
special college receiver and I think weak tackle Khalif Barnes is one of
the very best in the country. Defensively, I like (Manase) Hopoi up front and
(Donny) Mateaki is solid. I think Tim Galloway is a good linebacker and
we'll have to see if moving Evan Benjamin to OLB will work. I think both
CB Derrick Johnson and FS Jimmy Newell have ability and potential.
Without question, it's a piviotal year for Gilbertson with a new
University President (Mark Emmert) who is deeply committed to athletic
success. This team must show gradual improvement through the year.
Can you give your perspective on Fresno State's team?
CL - Tough team to start with if you are Washington. This could be Pat Hill's
best team, which is saying a lot considering they beat Oregon State last
year, pushed Wisconsin and Oregon in 2002 and, beat Colorado, Oregon State
and Wisconsin in 2001. Their defensive line is a good penetrating group
led by tackles Donyell Booker, Garrett McIntyre and DE Bryan Morris.
Offensively, they have a solid quarterback in Paul Pinegar and scheme very
well on that side of the ball. The operate out of a west coast-style
short passing offense that releases the ball quickly. They are a very tough
and smart team that plays with a chip on their shoulder. Washington can
win this game if it plays smart, limits mistakes and create a short field
for the offense, but it will not be easy.
Chris Landry is a veteran NFL scout, having served with the Cleveland Browns, Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans and formerly ran the Indianapolis Scouting Combine. He now runs his own Scouting Consulting business where he scouts NFL and College personnel for NFL teams and help Universities and NFL teams in their Coaching evaluations and Searches. He can be heard nationally on FOX Sports Radio as their college football and NFL analyst.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL Q&A – 9/1
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