What are the Keys is the Texas/Oklahoma game this weekend?
Texas must create some breaks and take care of the ball. This has killed them in the past and will do them in again if this does not change. Field position and turnovers are critical in every game and this one is no different. Texas has had 16 turnovers in their last four meetings against Oklahoma. A short field early would help Texas. Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson has already forced 6 fumbles this season. A couple of more would go a long way this week.
The Longhorn defense has a different attitude this year thanks to the two new defensive coaches, Greg Robinson and Dick Tomey. They are not going to allow sixty to get hung on them again. These are two very smart, very creative defensive coaches that will find a way to pressure White and utilize LB Derrick Johnson in creative match up situations where he can continue to force turnovers.
Jason White is healthy and back to playing poised, smart football. He and the Sooners offensive front will get tested. Freshman running back Adrian Peterson is as good as advertised, so look for lots of I-formation with power sweeps and traps. That sets up the play action to wide receiver Mark Clayton, a mismatch for safeties from the slot. Texas will utilize several zone blitz looks to free up playmaker LB Derrick Johnson in an effort to create big play opportunities. Discipline will be key in Texas' defensive aggression, however as Oklahoma wide receiver Antonio Perkins can counter UT's pursuit with reverses.
Texas has established it's power running attack with Cedric Benson. How Texas establishes it's running attack this week is crucial. On early downs, if OU comes out in it's "Bear" front, expect Texas to come out in empty sets to get OU in the nickel. I would throw against these sets and run power against their nickel package. Double tight end sets is something I would use as well with Bo Scaife effective underneath and David Thomas deep. There could be some easy passing opportunities for Young versus OU's aggressive front. Oklahoma has few if any weaknesses on defense and it's pressure package is better this year under new coordinator Bo Pelini. Benson will get his yards. Whether Texas has success offensively will depend on whether quarterback Vince Young can make precision passes versus zone coverage, something completely different that doing it versus man coverage looks.
Against Texas' zone read, OU will attempt to attack the line of scrimmage and force the issue with their linebackers. The outside linebacker to the strength of the formation keys right to Benson, while the outside linebacker on the other side keys and steps hard right into Young, filling the cutback alley when if Benson is handed the ball. This allows OU's DE's Dan Cody and Jonathan Jackson to crash hard on Benson without having any responsibility for Young. When Young sees the DE crash hard, he automatically pulls the ball but again there will be a linebacker who has keyed him the entire way and is lying in wait for him. A bootleg tight end pass off the zone read could be there for the Longhorns if executed properly as well as the counter trey (pivot re-direction behind pulling offensive lineman). Hard charges by OU's defensive lineman would make this difficult as it can disrupt pulling lineman, forcing Benson to have to bounce it back which gives more time for the linebackers to adjust. Give Benson room and force OU to tackle him and he could do some damage,
Defensively, Texas' defensive line must play with better leverage. They have been dominated at the point of attack as they have allowed Oklahoma's offensive lineman to get under their pads. Rodrique Wright must stay low and play well at the point of attack for Texas to have success versus Oklahoma's running game. If Robinson plays him at a "3 technique", there is no way OU's guards can reach him. They will have to down block with Jamaal Brown or Wes Sims and pull the guard around. This would make it easier for the linebackers to being matched up versus a slow guard. If Wright is manhandled by the guard, the tackle has a good angle on the linebacker, making pursuit very difficult. If Wright is played in a "one technique", it will be difficult for him to get reached in either direction. By not allowing the center to get over on him, forcing the guard to stay, Derrick Johnson and crew will be running free much of the day.
Jason White had lots of time in the pocket last year. Texas needs to a healthy blitz pressure package in this game. This not only disrupts White timing with his receivers but it also works Adrian Peterson extra in blitz protection. Safety Michael Huff has excellent blitz potential and could be effective from the open side. This would dictate to Jason White where he needs to go with the football, which is something UT has not done in previous meetings. LSU did that to him in the championship game last year and zoned their coverage behind it. Robinson is not as aggressive in his approach but in order to beat Oklahoma, you must force them to adjust to you, not the other way around.
How do you see the big Pac 10 match up between California and USC?
California's offensive passing attack has really taken off with the emergence of senior receiver Chase Lyman and tight end Garrett Cross. Along with stellar running from J.J. Arrington, Cal's offense has opened up to the tune of 49 points and 539 yards per game.
With Lyman's emergence and raw speed, look for Pete Caroll to roll safety coverage to his side to give the corners help. This will leave Geoff McArthur, Cal's best receiver coming into this season alone in man or single coverage on the backside. Arrington and Marshawn Lynch ran the ball very well against USC last year in Berkeley. The Trojans front seven will have to step up and defend the Bears running game without safety help or prove vulnerable versus the pass if they need to slide a safety in the box. Cal coach Jeff Tedford will work to get McArthur in single coverage and in combination routes with Lyman to disrupt USC pass coverage.
USC will try and generate enough pass rush on Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers to force bad decisions and throws like it did last year when he did not even finish the game.
Carroll loves to bring his defensive backs on a blitz off the short side on the corner cat blitz or disguising a safety coming up through the A gaps. He can do this as his linebackers run extremely well and are extremely adept in pass coverage. Rodgers has shown that he can beat an all-out blitz, zero coverage blitz. Look for Carroll to disguise carefully, mix it up and bring lots of heat particularly in the second half.
USC running back is the "x" factor in any game USC plays. He simply is the most versatile and dangerous weapon in college football. He is explosive to the hole on the inside. If you bounce him outside, he will beat you to the corner most often. If you play the correct pursuit angles to the outside, he can cut it back inside on you. You must keep him between the tackles and force with your safeties in an effort to wear him down and possible force a turnover.
When Bush lines up in the slot, you cannot let him run down the seam or in the flat. Be physical with him at the line of scrimmage to slow him down from his route. If he motions to or lines up as the outside receiver, then the Bears should roll coverage to him, forcing one of the other young receivers to beat them. He is deadly on the wheel route up your sideline.
Cal is better this year. This is a payback game for USC as they want to remain in the national championship hunt. Should be interesting.
What are Minnesota's chances against Michigan?
They've got a shot with their solid running game and if QB Bryan Cupito continues to play well. The key offensively will be to block Michigan's front seven to force them into man coverage on the outside. Jared Ellerson and Ernie Wheelwright have a size advantage over Markus Curry, so the deep fade route could be there. Tight end Matt Spaeth has been the key to their play action attack. Michigan will not play much nickel against this run offense so that means Michigan inside linebackers will have Minnesota running backs Marion Barber III and Lawrence Maroney in pass coverage.
Look for Michigan to open things up offensively with the passing game, even with a young quarterback. This is as soft a Michigan running attack in some time. Michigan plays very well in conference games at home.
How do you see the Wisconsin/Ohio State game shaking out?
It should be an interesting old fashion Big 10 style match up---physical and tough with a heavy emphasis on the running game. Wisconsin running back Anthony Davis seemed healthy in his return vs. Illinois. The Badgers do a nice job with their zone blocking scheme and will face one of the nation's best linebacker units. The problem for even one of the best linebacker units against a zone scheme is that even when you have played it like you're supposed to, a back like Davis can use your discipline to cut back against the grain and leave you out of position. Playing proper contain and gap control up front will be key for the Buckeyes defensively. With the emphasis on stopping Davis and Wisconsin's running attack, look for UW quarterback John Stooco to use multi-talented TE/WR Owen Daniels with their waggle/bootleg action crossing routes.
Defensively is where the Badgers have made their mark. Tackle Anttaj Hawthorne and End Erasmus James have been outstanding as has free safety Jim Leonhard. James in particularly has been the focus of attention of blocking schemes. Look for Ohio St. to hit him with tight end chips, as well as doubles from fullbacks and tailbacks. You must go low on him in passing situation to keep his hands down to protect himself. If third and long situations, you want to roll away from him, then go screen back to Santonio Holmes on James' side.
Can Tennessee beat Georgia?
It's going to be difficult. Georgia is better than Auburn although Georgia sold out in an effort to beat LSU last week and may not have as much left in the take for the Vols. Quarterback Erik Ainge had not seen a defense as fast as Auburn's and he struggled. UT's offensive staff must make the proper adjustments. They need to simplify things by giving him double read concepts. Against Georgia's zone, they need to go with more high-low action using one receiver deep and one shallow. Wherever the defender goes, your read is to the other guy. Simple reads equals simple throws. The offensive line must step us as well. They will need to max protect to keep Pollack and the rest of the Georgia defensive front out of their backfield. Play action has a chance to work against Georgia's aggressive safeties. Tennessee has used some roll out to give his QB some extra time, and that could be effective, especially if Schaeffer is the one used on the roll. However, that puts a back or tight end on Pollack, which is a mismatch. In order to defend Georgia, Tennessee's weak secondary will have to play a myriad of zones and make the Bulldogs go short. Georgia has struggled offensively to put long drives together.
Can you explain LSU's problems defensively?
They are not getting enough push up front. Corey Webster is about 75% health wise and neither he nor Travis Daniels is playing with good technique right now and are letting receivers get a free release off the line of scrimmage. If you miss or fail to jam and cannot get their with the blitz, you will give up some big plays which they have. The linebackers have taken poor pursuit angles to the ball resulting in poor tackling and they lack a leader. Every player on the defensive line has more ability than Chad Lavalias but none are playing with the heart and dedication to technique that he did last year.
How good is LSU's quarterback JaMarcus Russell?
Not as good as he thinks he is. He is very gifted physically and throws a nice ball but he has not progressed rapidly despite having one of the best quarterback teachers in Jimbo Fisher. Until he commits himself to learning how to play the position, he will be struggle. He needs more reps but right now he is not taking advantage of the reps he is getting. He consistently makes careless mistakes with his reads and ball security. He seems more interested in doing things his way instead of the right way.
With Fresno St's loss, what non-BCS school has the best chances of going undefeated?
Utah and possibly Navy if they can pull the upset over Notre Dame next week.
Based on your film grading, give us your top 5 going into this weekend?
No one has totally impressed me as head and shoulders above the rest so this is a very fluid situation which will begin to settle some after this week's action. Right now;
Oklahoma, USC, Georgia, Miami and Auburn slightly over Texas for now.
Can you explain what the "bubble" screen is?
It is a two man pattern that consists of a stalk block by the X receiver (split end ) and a short flair to the sideline by the Z receiver (flanker).
Can you explain the advantages and disadvantages of the 3-4 defense?
The 3-4 defense allows you more blitz looks and packages and is tougher to block for an offensive lineman. It puts more pressure on the inside linebackers because they have to take on blocks. To help this, you can reduce the look (move the DE down over the OG) to take up blockers freeing up the linebackers but the linebackers must be very athletic and be able to scrape and fill.
What are the toughest areas of special teams to get across to players as a coach?
Punt and kick coverage. It requires so much lane discipline and the tendency is for players to abandon their position in an effort to chase and make a play. It's usually this mistake that results in a long return. These units are the most important and most worked on in off season and early in the season as they have the most affect on field position.
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 – 10/7
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