The powers that be must have read my complaint about last year’s Week 1 schedule because there are a lot of big games kicking off the 2018 campaign. Here’s what you should know about each one going in:
Please pardon my tardiness and please enjoy this week’s notebook.
Clemson Escapes Tallahassee
Deandre Francois did exactly what a quarterback can’t do on a fourth down with the game on the line – he took a sack. That turnover on downs secured a 37-34 victory for Clemson to help the Tigers stay undefeated on the season.
Week-by-week, Deshaun Watson’s Heisman hopes continue to waiver. His performances have been excellent, but his solid and consistent numbers are not staggering enough to earn him consideration for the award.
Last week, Watson’s performance was only average by Heisman standards (378 yards, two touchdowns, an interception, 35 rushing yards and a touchdown). Yesterday, Watson completed 27 of 43 passes for 378 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. He also rushed for 52 yards.
Watson still doesn’t stack up to Lamar Jackson. Jackson has thrown for more yards and a higher passer rating. They’ve also thrown the same amount of touchdowns.
We can officially count Watson out for the trip to New York for the Heisman ceremony.
- Florida State’s final drive was possibly the worst final, comeback-attempt drive a top 25 team has ever had.
- The drive started on FSU 21-yard line.
- The first two plays each resulted in a first down. A third-down holding penalty on the fifth play of the drive created a third and 23 from FSU’s 40 yard-line, but Francois completed a 26-yard pass to Travis Rudolph for the first down on the Clemson 34, which should have set up a game-tying field goal.
- However, two different FSU linemen moved early on consecutive plays, pushing the Seminoles back ten yards and out of field goal range. Francois threw consecutive incompletions, then took a sack on 3rd and 20. After an FSU timeout, Francois took another sack on 4th and 32.
- To recap: Florida State committed three penalties for -20 yards and gave up two sacks for -33 yards, including one on fourth down that ended their attempt to tie or win the game.
- Dalvin Cook has been outstanding. Cook rushed 19 times for 169 yards and a season-high four touchdowns, including this 70 yard TD run. After three sub-100 yard games to start the season, Cook has averaged 168.2 rushing yards and nearly two rushing touchdowns per game. He’s 5th in the nation in rushing yards and 10th in touchdowns.
- Clemson should cruise through the rest of its regular season schedule with matchups against Syracuse, Pitt, Wake Forest and South Carolina remaining.
Washington Remains Unbeaten
Washington may be the most balanced team in the country. Jake Browning is a solid passer/decision maker and Myles Gaskin is electric (he averages 6.5 yards per carry). At the same time, the Huskies’ defense has been stout, helping the team win games by an average of 30.4 points per game.
Browning passed for 186 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception, and Gaskin rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
Utah’s effort should not go unnoticed, however. Quarterback Troy Williams threw for 163 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Joe Williams carried the ball 35 times for 17 yards and a touchdown. 24 points are the second most points any team has scored on Washington all season.
Utah’s defense also held the Huskies’ offense to its fewest point total of the season.
- It’s very likely that the Utes and Huskies meet each other again in the Pac-12 championship game. Utah is currently second, behind Colorado, in the Pac-12 South. The two will meet in the last week of the season, which will likely decide the South champion.
- Washington is tied with Washington State for first place in the North. Washington will play Cal, USC, and Arizona State before a match-up with Washington State during the last week of the season, which could very well decide the North champion.
Cornhuskers Can’t Complete Comeback
Many would consider Nebraska and Wisconsin to be the Big Ten’s third and fourth best teams. They surely played like it yesterday, as Wisconsin staved off a Nebraska comeback to beat the ‘Huskers 23-17 in overtime.
This was a defensive battle as neither team was able to get much going on the offensive end. The only impressive offensive performance of the day came from Wisconsin’s Dare Ogunbowale. Ogunbowale rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries (10.9 YPC).
- Nebraska still controls its own destiny in the Big Ten west. It is currently ahead of Wisconsin with a 4-1 mark in the conference, but the Cornhuskers still have Ohio State to get through. Wisconsin has a much more favorable remaining schedule (Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota).
-Jimbo Fisher wasn’t happy with the referees.
-Les Miles really wants a new job.
-Boise State lost to the only team that can pull off a brown and yellow uniform combo.
-Texas probably has no idea what to do with Charlie Strong. Just when it seems Strong will be axed, he wins a game like yesterday’s upset of Baylor.
-Notre Dame upset Miami but somehow still looked bad.
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Photo: Flickr, Phil Roeder
As college football fans turn the corner into October, we start getting into match-ups that will determine division titles. The Washington Huskies and the Stanford Cardinal will battle each other on Friday night to gain an advantage in the Pac-12 North division.
The Washington Huskies are the team on the rise. It’s been a long time since the Dawgs have been even remotely relevant. Washington will have the opportunity to make a statement against the team that is the current big dog in the conference.
The Huskies have a lot going for them. The Huskies have a quarterback that one could argue is the best in the conference, have running backs that can break off a big play at any moment, and have a physical defense that can also make plays.
Jake Browning, Husky quarterback, is one of those dual-threat quarterbacks that makes life miserable for defensive coordinators. He has led the Huskies to perfect start so far and was instrumental in the Huskies overtime win last week against Arizona.
However, Browning has his first big test of the season with Stanford. The Cardinal defense will certainly try and go the physical route with trying to contain Browning. The Cardinal have to make sure Browning doesn’t get out and extend plays. If Jake Browning is able to extend plays and make big plays it will be a long night in Seattle for Stanford.
Not only do the Cardinal have concerns with Browning, Stanford doesn’t have either starting cornerbacks. Quenton Meeks and Alijah Holder went down against UCLA last weekend. That plays right into the hands of the Husky offense. The receivers are fast and having new cornerbacks on the perimeter will be something to watch as the game progresses.
The offensive line for Washington has to hold strong on enough plays so the Huskies can make plays down the field with Jake Browning’s accurate arm. In my opinion, the offensive line of Washington will be the key to victory for the Huskies.
Husky Stadium will be loud and rocking. I’ve been there for games and it is one of the loudest stadiums in the country. You can’t underestimate the effect that a loud crowd can have on an opposing team. Stanford is experienced in playing in big games, but having a new quarterback in this type of situation can be an adventure.
Myles Gaskin, the ultra-quick running back for the Huskies, has not gotten off to the start that he had hoped for. Gaskin is listed as the starter and certainly could make this game his 2016 coming out party. However, look for running back Lavon Coleman to get some more touches. Coleman came into the game last week against Arizona and ran for 188 yards. Having a combination like these two could prove deadly against a weakened Stanford defense. I look for the Huskies to try and exploit this advantage when the Washington offense is on the field.
Defensively for the Huskies, the goal will be to hold Christian McCaffrey in check. I know, easier said than done. Look for head coach Chris Peterson to try and make some adjustments in the kicking game. Peterson will want to limit McCaffrey to as little return yards as possible. I would kick at angles to make the sideline an extra defender. We all know all dangerous Christian McCaffrey is when he is on the field, so controlling him is a must. The Huskies have to limit McCaffrey to 150 all-purpose yards to be in the game. With the speed the Huskies have, this is a possibility.
When it’s all said and done at Husky Stadium, I believe this will be the first big upset in the Pac-12 this year. The Dawgs will come out on top in a tight game. Huskies win 35-24.
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Image: Courtesy of Mike Wilson
Hype can be a dangerous thing for any football team. It can motivate a team to loftier goals or it can do just the opposite. Hype causes expectations to get raised by the media, fans, and players. The 2016 Pac-12 Conference team that is receiving hype is the Washington Huskies. Have the Huskies done something to deserve the hype? Can they live up to the hype or will they wilt under this new pressure?
I don’t think the hype is warranted for the Huskies.
First of all, the Huskies have not beaten a team of consequence in the Pac-12. Beat an Oregon, a UCLA, Stanford, and I’ll buy into the hype that a lot of people want to throw upon Washington. The program has lost 12 straight to the Ducks and with the game being in Eugene this year, that streak doesn’t appear to be ending. Stanford is favored to win the conference, so that’ll be a game in which getting a win will be tough. UCLA has probably the best quarterback in the conference and that’ll make defeating the Bruins that much harder.
The Huskies did beat USC last season, but beating the drama filled Trojans last season isn’t saying much.
Here’s why I don’t trust the Huskies and all this hype. In one possession games last season, they were 1-3, with the lone win being over USC. However, when you take into account the six other top-50 programs that were on the schedule they were a dismal 0-6. Washington was competitive in those games, but being competitive is one thing, while actually winning those games is something totally different.
Win those games this year and I’ll climb on board the Husky train. Until then, I don’t think so.
The hype has surrounded their young quarterback Jake Browning, but putting this pressure on Browning can actually work against his development. If things start going south for him it could get ugly. Young quarterbacks start forcing things into tight windows on their throws and doing things that they are not ready to do. Browning is good, but being ready to lead can be a difficult thing for any quarterback. He needs to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump for Washington to make believers out of more than their fans.
Do the Huskies have some nice pieces? Absolutely, but these pieces don’t warrant Pac-12 Championship talk. At least not yet.
Having seen them in person against Arizona State last season I certainly saw the potential with the team. Washington was as athletic as anybody, but their youth was evident. Turnovers and penalties helped destroy what would have been a nice road win. The good, young skill players that they have still needed some seasoning.
Chris Peterson spoke of this breakthrough moniker at the Pac-12 football Media Days. He compared the hype surrounding his team to the new Pokemon game that is taking over everyone’s phone.
“We’re amused-that’s probably the best word-that we continually get better every single week with doing nothing. We have as much hype as the new Pokemon game that nobody knows anything about, but thinks is really cool.” Peterson said.
Peterson has a point. The Huskies are coming off a season where the record was only 7-6. He seems a bit befuddled about why his team is getting this love.
“We want to get out there, and get better, and we want to get a chance to go prove that we’re getting better.” Coach Peterson explained at the Pac-12 Media Days.
At the end of the day, the Huskies have a tough road ahead of them in the Pac-12 North division. They have to battle two of their biggest rivals in Oregon and Washington State. The Huskies also have to contend with Stanford as well. Washington has to beat two out of these three teams to legitimately have a shot at the division crown.
The Washington Huskies may be the hyped Pac-12 team going into the season, but don’t expect the hype to be fulfilled.