From what you have seen, is the Big XII conference down this year?
I would have to say yes. Oklahoma is the only national championship caliber team at this point. Texas has a good team but must improve it's pass rush and passing game. They were taken to the limits by a middle of the pack SEC team in Arkansas. And, the north took a beating last week. Missouri played poorly vs. Troy and have struggled on the road under Gary Pinkel. Nebraska's strong defense is being undermined by poor quarterback play in their west coast offense and Kansas St. is having their own passing game troubles in addition to leadership issues. However, Bill Snyder's team usually get better as the season progresses. A team like Colorado may get themselves in the north picture before the season is done.
With all the talk surrounding the Non-BCS schools, which one has impressed you the most?
Very close between Fresno St. and Utah. Both are very well coached. Utah bring more versatility on offense while Fresno St. is extremely tough and physical and better defensively. Fresno St. plays more like a traditional power BCS type team.
How do they compare with the top teams in the country?
They are definitely in the top 15-22 type teams in the country. They can play with anyone in the country and beat anyone on any given day with the only difference being depth which tends to catch up with these teams late in the season in conference play.
What are the keys to the LSU/Auburn game this weekend?
LSU will get quite a test defensively as Auburn has two premiere backs in Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown, whom you will see in the backfield together some. Auburn's version of the west coast offense has not had much of a workout as of yet but features more high percentage pass opportunities for quarterback Jason Campbell. New coordinator is doing a better job of moving the pocket with Campbell and using a variety of bunch formations. LSU will look to force them in third and long situations where they can use their blitz pressure to create confusion and indecision. LSU offensively will continue to utilize both Marcus Randall and JaMarcus Russell at quarterback. While Russell has the better passing skills and poise, he has not developed well with his progressive reads and limits their offensive package. Randall has some movement skills but is not a consistent passer and makes poor decisions for a fifth year guy. Whatever team can make the most plays in the passing game will have the best chance as it will open up both of their fine rushing attacks.
What are you looking for in some of the other key action set for this weekend?
Maryland will give West Virginia's defense a lot of looks. The Terps are one of the most prepared teams in the country with Ralph Freidgen pulling the strings on offense and Gary Blackney doing a very good job with their defense. The task becomes more difficult if running back K.J. Harris is not available. Rich Rodriguez has his offense rolling so it should be a good matchup. Ohio State will face an offense in N.C State that gives them trouble with all those shallow crossing routes. In the end, they should win but it will not be easy. Look for Oregon's Mike Bellotti to pull out all the stops with some trick plays on special teams this week but Oklahoma's team speed may be the best in the country. I'm curious to see how Dennis Franchione's defense handles Clemson's no huddle offense. There is a lot of talent on the field when Florida and Tennessee square off and Arizona State is looking for some revenge when Iowa comes to town.
What ACC team has impressed you the most so far this season?
Despite the fact that they have not played a tough schedule, Virginia. Their offensive line is very good and their linebackers may be as good as any in the country with the possible exception of Ohio State's. They have done a nice job with Marques Haggans at quarterback running more boots and waggles as opposed to the west coast dropback stuff they employed with Matt Schaub the last couple of years.
What are the chances of anyone else besides Michigan and Ohio State winning the Big 10?
Purdue has impressed me thus far but still needs to prove that they can win on the road. They have Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State all at home this year. Road games at Iowa and at Northwestern will be a test as Iowa is underrated athletically on defense and Northwestern can spread you out and score some points. Wisconsin has played well defensively getting outstanding play from DT Antajj Hawthorne and some pass rush from Erasmus Jones.
Did you notice any improvements from USC vs. Colorado State?
They played better defensively and solved some of the protection problems. This was not one of Sonny Lubick's better teams at Colorado State but the Trojans will only get better. Against better teams they must get better edge rush pressure.
Can you explain the difference between a 3-4 and a 4-3 defensive front?
In a 3-4 defense, you play an odd front which is having a nose tackle playing over the center and two defensive ends playing over the offensive tackles. You have 2 inside linebackers playing off the line of scrimmage but positioned over the guards. They have to be physical enough to take on a guard and athletic enough to slip and avoid blockers. Your outside linebackers are standup rush type guys. Your strongside linebacker has to be strong and big enough to whip a tight end and pinch versus the run and get upfield as a rusher. Your weakside linebacker has to not only have rush speed but athletic enough to open his hips, drop and cover a back. The 3-4 defense was invented by Bill Arnsparger whom I had the privaledge of working under. The advantage is that you can still have four rush guys but that fourth guy is tougher for the offense to locate and block as he is not lined up on the line of scrimmage and can me more easily moved in pre-snap adjustments. The 3-4 requires defensive lineman to play a 2-gap technique meaning the lineman is responsible for controlling the gap on either side of the player he is lined up against. The 4-3 defense has two tackles and two ends. The ends line up over the tackles while the tackles can be aligned in any combination of covering both guards and leaving the center uncovered or covering the center in a shade technique (lined up on his shoulder) and covering one guard in what we call an overloaded front. In some 46 principled looks, you cover both guards and the center in an eight man front. In most 4-3 alignments, the lineman has only a one gap responsibility meaning his job is to penetrate up field through that gap.
What is the difference between a nose tackle and a three technique?
CL - A nose tackle lines up over the center and can be aligned in a "0" technique (head up over the center) or usually in a shaded technique (lined up on his shoulder). A three technique tackle lines up on the outside shoulder of the offensive guard.
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 – 9/16
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