Tag Archives: Stanford Cardinal

College Football’s Opening Weekend Owes Us More

I love college football just as much as the next guy.  Saturdays aren’t for the boys so much as they are for the boys to gather around a big screen, drinking as many 96-calorie Miller Lite’s as they’d like.  We’ve yet to find anything that comes anywhere near college football’s ability to help us justify that weekly decision.

We owe a lot to college football Saturdays.  When I pick through the Week 1 schedule we have lined up for Labor Day weekend, though, it feels like college football owes us a little more.

Stanford is beginning its season with a game in Sydney, Australia.  That’s cool.  The fact that the Rice Owls are the opposition is not cool.  There’s a Florida rivalry game right off the bat.  Unfortunately, it’s between Florida International and Central Florida.  University Alabama-Birmingham makes its glorious return to football after a two-year hiatus, against Alabama A&M.  How have we possibly contained our excitement all summer?

In all seriousness, there are some things worth looking forward to.  P.J. Fleck, Lane Kiffin, and Tom Herman take the field with their new teams for the first time.  Ohio State opens on the road, on a Thursday night, against a conference opponent for the first time in… probably ever.  Florida State and Alabama collide in a top-five matchup in Atlanta.  Michigan and Florida head for Jerry World and a top-15ish meeting.  West Virginia and Virginia Tech will likely both be ranked for their opening contest in Landover, Maryland.

If you’re not a fan of those programs, you’ll probably be forced to watch your team playing in a glorified scrimmage.  Whether your team is the one laying the beat down or getting its ass kicked makes no difference, really.  Nobody wins if the boys had to finish the Miller Lite by halftime just to make it interesting.

At what point do we stop flooding to football just because it’s back?  At what point do we demand more as consumers, as opposed to blindly accepting whatever we’re given?  My guess is that will never happen.  Until it does, we’ll continue to receive a mediocre slate of games on opening weekend, with the only ones truly worth watching happening hundreds of miles off campus, in NFL stadiums.

This is big business we’re talking about and there’s a ton of money involved in these neutral-site games.  I understand that.  Still, it pisses me off.  These are essentially bowl games.  Actually, these games are more important because the whole season is still ahead.  If money grabbing is what we’re doing now, and it most certainly is, then why not take it to the extreme?

What Can We Do?

Let’s schedule bowl game rematches for the first week of the season.  Think for just a second about the storylines.  Would Clemson be able to pull off another upset of Alabama eight months after their instant classic?  Could USC and Penn State replicate the craziness of last year’s Rose Bowl Game?  Is Lamar Jackson really that containable, or did LSU’s defense just do everything right that day?

Wouldn’t it be fun if the two semifinal losers got a crack at each other to start the new season?  Imagine the hype that would surround a Washington-Ohio State clash in a couple weeks.  Automatically, one of the top contenders to reach the playoff would have an impressive feather tucked into its cap.  The four-letter network could have a field day with that buildup.

If your team was not invited to participate in a bowl game the previous year, it can do whatever it would like.  Honestly, nobody outside of the school gives a damn about your five-win team.  I’m only concerned with the primetime programs here.  And in tying them all up in these bowl game rematches, I am, in turn, saving a lot of you from an opening week embarrassment anyway.  It’s a win-win, even for the losers.  You should be thanking me for ignoring your meaningless team.

Is this grand idea ever going to materialize?  No, it won’t.  Like so many things in the world of college football, it makes too much sense to become a reality.  Still, it doesn’t hurt to dream, especially when the boys still have two weeks to save up their beer money.

E-mail Mitch at mitch.gatzke[email protected] and follow him @GreatGatzke.

Photo: Wikipedia

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Time is Ticking Away for the Golden Bears

As a kid, I would watch soap operas daily.  One of my all-time favorites was “The Days of Our Lives.” I know, I know. What’s a child doing watching soap operas? Well, I don’t have a legitimate answer for you. Moreover, I really don’t care what you think anyway. So, for those that are familiar with the popular daytime soap, the introductory line to the show went something like this, “Like sands through the hour glass, so are the days of our lives.”  Well, this notion is sadly similar to my beloved California Golden Bears. Fresh off a super-sized beat down from the #4 Washington Huskies, Cal is left picking itself off the turf at Memorial Stadium.

The night’s festivities couldn’t have begun any sweeter, Cal alum Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch whipped and swerved his way across Kabam Field in a golf cart as he did 10 years ago after an overtime win over these same Huskies. This time, Marshawn was accompanied by his mother for the first few whips about the field, but she soon got out and was replaced by none other than Bay Area Hip Hop legend, E-40. With the crowd in a frenzy, this was on the verge becoming something special. Could lightning strike twice, albeit 10 years apart? Let me put it to you this way, it was close for a few moments, literally, but in the end, the Golden Bear secondary was abused, torched, burnt, etc. in rout to a 66-27 drubbing. What a waste of a Beast Mode and E-40 sighting! Their mere presence alone should have garnered at least 50 points from the Bears in pure hype. Alas, all we were privileged to was just another dismal performance from the ever-suspect Cal secondary.

Cal (4-5, 2-4) is now down to its final three games of the season in hopes of winning at least two to gain bowl eligibility for the second consecutive year under head coach Sonny Dykes. Oh, and just in case you were wondering who those next three opponents are, let’s see. There’s #23 Washington State, The Big Game with Stanford, and UCLA. Luckily, the last two games are in front of the home crowd. At this juncture last year, Cal was 5-4 with only one more win to secure a bowl berth. Now Cal is faced with the un-enviable task of taking two wins from these three teams that have a combined record of 124-136 (Cal owns a 46-16 record over Washington State).

I swear, and I swear quite often and frequently, but why oh why must Cal’s bowl chances come with so little margin for error? Yeah, I get it. It’s clearly a sign of a mediocre team. But this is my mediocre team, dammit! I know I should be looking at this situation with the “glass half-full” approach, but why? This is ridiculous! When are we going to learn? Hell, I’m five seconds from reaching out to Nnamdi Asomugha to re-enroll and man the secondary again. Geesh! I don’t ask for too much. Or in Cal’s case, maybe I do.

Time is of the essence and if there ever was a time when Cal needed to play out of its mind (in a good way) and snatch at least two more victories, now is the time. The road isn’t going to get any easier and it would be a travesty to see the Golden Bears regress after they have made steady progress under Coach Dykes. Unless something miraculous occurs on defense in the next few weeks, we’ll be watching bowl season with Oski and friends at the local bar–and the clock will again be ticking on the Sonny Dykes regime.

Although I’m a loyal fan, I can’t escape the reality in which I live. Cal is not a good team overall. There are some bright spots and a lot of glaring deficiencies. These do not have overnight solutions. These are systemic issues that may take some time to correct. Unfortunately, it takes a change in staffing and/or culture to bring about desired results. Let me be clear, I’m not calling for Coach Dykes’ job. I am calling for a change in recruiting strategy. There’s plenty of talent offensively, but for Pete’s sake, can we please hang our hat on somebody on defense?

Football, unlike soap operas cannot be written and rewritten at the drop of a hat. For Cal to make the necessary changes, it will take time and patience. With the “win now or else,” mantra in full bloom among collegiate programs, dutiful program development under a coaching staff is a notion that has run out of sand.

Email David at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @VirgosAssasin.

Featured image courtesy of Andy Simmons/ Flickr

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College Football Midterms

In college football, you either win or lose.  There are no letter grades.  You can try to put degrees on performances, but when it comes down to it, you pass or you fail.  This past weekend marked the halfway point for most teams as they played their sixth game of the season.

Let’s see who passed the test and who still has some studying to do.

Pass

Alabama – We don’t make a big deal about the Tide’s more impressive wins because we’re so used to them by now.   Until proven otherwise, this is still the best team going.  Saban’s big, bad Bama boys showed us why with a three-score road win over a ranked conference opponent.

Ohio State – The Buckeyes also earned a three-score victory over a conference opponent.  Indiana certainly isn’t on Arkansas’ level, but Ohio State doesn’t really need good wins.  At this point, just keep winning and you’ll be where you want to be.  The Buckeyes are.

Clemson – After a huge win like the one over Louisville two weeks ago, you need to avoid that hangover loss we often see from top teams.  The Tigers quickly shutdown any chance of that happening Friday night in Boston.

Michigan – I don’t care who you are.  I don’t care who the other team is.  Scoring 11 touchdowns on a conference opponent in their own barn is commendable.  Oh, and the Wolverines pitched a shutout, too.

Washington – Saturday night was duck season and it got quite ugly for those defenseless “Web Foots.”  In the last two weeks, the Huskies have embarrassed the two teams that have been dominating the Pac-12 North division for years.  Quickly, a team we didn’t know much about has legitimized its claim as a Playoff contender.

Texas A&M – A 21-point fourth quarter from Tennessee forced overtime, but finally the magic ran out.  Kevin Sumlin’s team now has three wins over ranked opponents.  Next is a date at Alabama, with A&M idle this week.

Fail

Houston – It’s tough to play with a target on your back, especially when you’re used to being the hunter, not the hunted.  The Cougars learned that by falling to the Navy Midshipmen, effectively ending their possible run to the Playoff.  Suddenly, Houston is in a position where it needs help just to have a shot at winning its division.

Tennessee – Let’s be honest.  It was a bit of a mini-miracle that the Vols had remained undefeated for as long as they did.  The furious comeback wasn’t quite enough and now the battle for the SEC East gets interesting.

Miami – As far as the most excruciating ways to lose a football game are concerned, this has to rank quite high.  I have been saying Mark Richt needs some time with his Hurricanes before they become real players in the ACC.  This loss proves my point.  They’re just not ready to be that good yet.

Stanford – Yikes.  Getting stomped by Washington on the road is one thing.  Getting rolled by Washington State at home is another entirely.  Clearly, the Cardinal is done-zo.

Failing the midterm exam doesn’t necessarily kill your semester, but it sure does make the latter half less fun.  Passing, on the other hand, allows you to focus on just taking care of your business, letting everything else take care of itself.  Such is now the task for the Tide, Buckeyes, Tigers, Wolverines, Huskies and Aggies.

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @GreatGatzke

Photo: Wikipedia

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College Football Playoff Rankings: Week 5

Welcome back to the 5th hebdomadal publication of the Campus Pressbox 2016 Playoff Rankings. As always, the previous rankings can be found here.

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide (1)

Week five brought what may have been the least impressive victory thus far for the Crimson Tide. Alabama only managed to beat Kentucky by 28 points…so yeah, that’s its worst win this season. ‘Bama still remains the top team in the country, but with three top 20 teams on the docket (plus LSU) before the end of the month, Paul Finebaum’s analysis may be spot on.

  1. Ohio State Buckeyes (2)

Honestly, I wish I could have titled Ohio State’s No. 2 Ranking as No. 1B, as the Buckeyes are not quite at the level of the Crimson Tide, Ohio State’s season up until now has been worthy of more than the No. 2 spot that the Buckeyes continue to hold. This weekend, the Buckeyes host Indiana, who continues to improve, culminating with a home upset of Michigan State last week. Ohio State cannot afford to be caught off-guard, as the Hoosiers will certainly be looking for the upset.

  1. Clemson Tigers (4)

This was the college football world’s reaction to Clemson’s victory over Louisville Saturday night. Though it wasn’t a flawless victory, it was the one the Tigers needed. The team that so many of us had picked to do well finally came back to full form. Clemson may finally be the team we all expected it to be, and I am predicting Clemson to come out and drub Boston College this weekend. The path is now clear for the Tigers to waltz into the College Football Playoffs.

  1. Washington Huskies (10)

The King is dead, long live the King! Washington dethroned Stanford (and especially Christian McCaffrey) on Saturday. The Huskies proved how dominant its defense is when it shut down the single most impressive player in the NCAA. If Washington keeps up its winning ways, and doesn’t lose more than a single game, it would be hard for anyone else to nab the 4th spot in the CFP. That is, of course, if the Huskies can survive staring at these for three hours on Saturday

  1. Michigan Wolverines (6)

And somehow, despite a win over a top 10 Wisconsin Badgers team, Michigan is still on the outside looking in at the rest of the Playoff teams. Most of this has to do with the fact that the Wolverines have been playing second fiddle all season in the Big Ten, as Ohio State has refused to give up the reigns. It’s very safe to say, unless chaos ensues, since Wisconsin, Michigan State and Iowa have all been seemingly eliminated from contention, that the Wolverines and Buckeyes clash the last week of the season will determine which Big Ten school makes it to the Playoff. Terrell, you can handle this one.

  1. Houston Cougars (5)

Ahh, the poor Houston Cougars. The now forgotten child of the Playoff race. After gaining everyone’s attention in week one, monster win after monster win hasn’t been enough to stop everyone from ignoring the sixth-ranked Cougars once again. If Houston wants to side step its way into the Playoff, a lot needs to happen. The Cougars also cannot afford to be fighting one another. For now, Houston continues to be a long shot.

  1. Texas A&M Aggies (8)

The Aggies suffered slightly from “September Sumlin” on the first day of October, as A&M struggled a bit more than it should have against South Carolina. In a crowded SEC West, it is still hard to see anyone other than Alabama winning.  The Aggies also need to do its best to fight off the injury bug that has started to plague the team. However, a strong win against Tennessee this week would certainly improve the morale going into the make or break game for the Aggies, a visit to Tuscaloosa.

  1. Louisville Cardinals (3)

I’m going to be honest. I’m still sitting here yelling at my screen anytime I try to re-watch the final play (courtesy of SB Nation) of the Cardinals loss at Clemson. I don’t necessarily blame James Quick, but come on, really? JUST TAKE ANOTHER STEP, FOR GOODNESS SAKE. …sorry about that. Anyway, Louisville still honestly has a chance at the Playoffs. Just like a lot of teams on this list, the Cardinals do need a good number of breaks, but if Louisville can win in Houston week 11, there may still be a chance for (still) Heisman frontrunner Lamar Jackson and his Cardinals.

  1. Tennessee Volunteers

So the Volunteers are officially this years version of the 2013 Auburn Tigers, right? If that’s true, and the wacky ending to the Georgia game seems to suggest that’s the case, the Volunteers may have an actual chance of getting out of the Alabama game in two weeks without a loss. Though that certainly would seem a miracle, after the Georgia game, I feel that I’ve lost my right to doubt the Vols.

  1. Miami Hurricanes

The U is back!…pending the next three weeks of football. Many, including myself, certainly want to believe that the Mark Richt lead Hurricanes are finally back to full force, but until its matchups against Florida State, North Carolina and Virginia Tech, it is not a sure thing for the ‘Canes. This next stretch is certainly the most important of Mark Richt’s young tenure at the U. Right now, Miami is a growing tropical disturbance, time will tell if this one will become a hurricane.

Drop Outs & Honorable Mentions

Wisconsin and Stanford unsurprisingly and unceremoniously dropped off this weeks list following losses to Michigan and Washington respectively. Miami fought off the aforementioned Badgers, as well as Nebraska and Baylor, in order to grab the No. 10 spot this week. All four teams, including the Hurricanes, are volatile, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a new team in at No. 10 next week.

E-mail Cooper at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.
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College Football Shames Schools With Directional Names

What’s in a name? Sometimes, it’s mostly the name that sells the perception. The name of the state is good, and in most cases, it’s still good when you throw a “State” suffix on the end. In the cases of Alabama and Ohio State, adding or dropping the “State” can mean a serious downgrade to the caliber of football we’re talking about. For the most part, State Name U and State Name State give the book a decent cover, if you’re prepared to judge it that way.

Cities are a good bet too, especially if that city is Houston, or perhaps one of the three cities in the ACC that host schools that occupy a spot in this week’s Top 10.  However, there are a few types of school names that create a seed of doubt.  If the word “directional” can be used to describe your favorite university’s title, it automatically means bad news for that school’s football program.

For example, with a win over the San Diego State, the University of South Alabama (USA) picked up their second name-brand win of the season on Saturday. They had previously shocked the College Football world in Week 1, upsetting a school with that Southeastern Conference pedigree, at Mississippi State.

Why is it so shocking, though? South, West, East, and North are great for navigation, but serve as a poor verbiage for the name of a power house.

Southern California Gets Away With Being Directional

Maybe it’s just that it’s easier to use three letters, because University of Southern California is such a mouthful, but you never think of USC as directional California. I guess, at 2-3, there isn’t too much reason to spend time thinking about the Trojans in 2016.

The Battle of Directional Michigan

With all respect due the team that plays on the grey turf in Ypsilanti, the directional Michigan schools did battle in Mount Pleasant on Saturday.

Central Michigan, you might recall, stole that win in Stillwater over Oklahoma State, and hosted Western Michigan on Saturday. PJ Fleck’s Western Michigan Broncos came away with the 49-10 road win, improving to 5-0 on the year, building on their Group of Five résumé, which already included wins over Northwestern and Illinois. You may not care about about “a couple of directionals”, but at least one of the coaches involved does.

“I would rather go through eight weeks of chemotherapy radiation again then lose to that team the way we lost tonight. That’s the truth to how I feel.”

-CMU Head Coach/Cancer Survivor John Bonamego

Not Just a Name, But Some Person’s Actual Name

When James Madison upset Virginia Tech in 2014, it was brought to my attention that it’s bad to lose to a school named after a person. You’ll only find first and last names in the FCS ranks and below, but the FBS features strong academic institutions named after Cornelius Vanderbilt, Washington Duke, and R.E.B Baylor.

By their full names, the schools would sound worse than they already are. If Stephen F. Austin was just Austin, I’d respect their name a lot more. It’s just good that Leland Stanford didn’t live to see what happened to the Cardinal in Seattle on Friday.

[Name of City] State Universities Are So Mountain West

You hear about these a lot more in basketball than football. If you think your team is a contender and they’re playing Something State, but the “Something” isn’t the name of the state, your team better win. Four such teams play in the Mountain West.

Before the hiccup at South Alabama, the San Diego State was rolling. At 3-1, with a win over Cal, look for the Aztecs to contend in the Mountain West.

Boise State is the only team in this group that occupies a prestigious spot in the Top 25. They started their Mountain West schedule with a win over Utah State this weekend, and they have two wins over Pac-12 competition in their back pocket. Neither Fresno State, nor San Jose State, have a win over an FBS opponent yet.

The MAC is Directional (So Is the SEC, But Shut Up)

Bowling Green doesn’t use their “State” often, but they’re in the previous group. Having been outscored 249-86 on the year, the Falcons don’t look like promising favorites to return to the MAC Championship for a fourth straight year. Quite frankly, neither does Northern Illinois, who went to Muncie with an 0-4 non-league record.

Ball State, named after the Ball family, fit in the “named after a person” category, as well as the “Not The State…State”.  It’s no wonder they gave Directional Illinois their first win of the season.

The Ampersand, Agriculture, and Mechanical

It’s not like we don’t respect institutions that specialize in Agriculture and Mechanical. Believe me, we do, but it has to be in Texas. We’re not digging the ampersand that comes with their A&M counterparts in Alabama and Florida. As for the Aggies, if they’re truly the SEC West darkhorse we need, they ought to be the ones to expose Tennessee next Saturday, despite the horseshoe Butch Jones’ proctologist has probably been warning him about.

E-mail Jeff at jeff [dot] rich [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter, @byjeffrich
Photo Credit: Gregory Vamum via Wiki

The Sunday Morning Notebook- First Edition

What an impressive week of college football. We saw a new Pac-12 favorite emerge from the far northwest, fans rushing the field at Clemson, another top-notch kicker celebration, a not-so-strong performance from Charlie Strong’s Longhorns, and much, much more.

Enjoy a few highlights on the very first edition of The Sunday Morning Notebook.

Heisman Voters will be Watchin’ Watson Again

He may have thrown three interceptions, but Deshaun Watson’s five touchdown passes were enough top Louisville in a 42-36 shootout in Clemson.

This game featured two Heisman Trophy candidates and it didn’t disappoint. The front-runner on most lists is Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, who came into the game averaging over six touchdowns per game (combined rushing and passing).  SIX.  He finished the night with a touchdown through the air and two on the ground on 162 rushing yards.

Despite the loss, Jackson is still the Heisman front-runner.

Watson, who had fallen off most Heisman short lists after multiple lackluster performances, played his way back into the picture last night.  Watson threw for 306 yards and rushed for 91 to compliment his five passing touchdowns.

Notes:

  • Clemson’s Deon Cain stepped up in a huge way, catching four big passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns.  One thing that Clemson has lacked is a big play receiver, and if they found one tonight in Cain, they’ll be even more dangerous going forward.
  • Louisville had eight different players catch passes tonight. Four of those players caught four or more each.  If any aspect of Lamar Jackson’s game is underrated, it’s his vision and pass distribution.
  • Louisville should have won the game. On fourth and 12 with 33 seconds left, Jackson hit James Quick with a pass. With about six yards to run for a first down, Quick took the ball outside and met a defender a yard short of the yard-to-gain. All he needed was a quick cut to the inside or a forward dive and he would have had the first down. Instead, he put up zero fight and let a small defensive back push him out of bounds. The lack of effort was nearly sickening.
  • Louisville is not out of the playoff picture. If they win their remaining games, which includes a road matchup with undefeated Houston, they’ll deserve consideration from the College Football Playoff Committee.

Kirby’s players weren’t so smart

The second most exciting game of the weekend took place between the hedges in Athens, Georgia. A last second heave from Josh Dobbs lodged itself snuggly in Jauan Jennings’ gracious hands to give Tennessee a 34-31 win over SEC rival Georgia.  The win puts Tennessee in the drivers’ seat for an SEC East championship.

It was a marvelous play that should have never happened, at least not in the way it did.

Georgia scored a touchdown with 10 seconds left on the clock to go ahead 31-28. After a unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on the celebration pushed the ensuing kick-off back to the Georgia 20-yard-line, the Bulldogs made the decision to “sky” kick the ball to prevent a big return.

A sky kick from the 20-yard-line. What could go wrong? Well, a number of things could go wrong, but here are two:

  1. Tennessee’s athletic kick returner Evan Berry could still run up and catch the ball, resulting in a quick return into Georgia territory.
  2. Your kick-off squad could go offside before the kick and add five yards from the spot of the ball.

… Or both.

Berry caught the ball and returned it 20 yards to the Georgia 48. Georgia was offside and the ball was moved to the 43. You already know what happened next.

In his post-game press conference, Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart had incredibly harsh words about his team’s lack of discipline. You can’t blame him, really.  Those were two bad penalties and terrible spots to commit them.

“When undisciplined players make undisciplined decisions, that’s what happens,” Smart said.

Nonetheless, Tennessee stayed perfect. Other than back-to-back games against Texas A&M and Alabama, the Vols’ schedule is weak and Kristen Botica’s prediction should come true.

Notes:

  • Georgia runs the ball very well. Even without leading rusher Nick Chubb the Bulldogs were able to rush for 181 yards. Leading rusher Sony Michel averaged 5.7 yards per rush, which played a big part in opening up the passing game for quarterback Jacob Eason, who completed some huge passes.
  • Tennessee’s offensive line has struggled mightily this year. Georgia only capitalized twice with two sacks, but Tennessee is really going to struggle against Texas A&M and Alabama if they don’t get things straightened out.
  • Jalen Hurd gave us his own rendition of “dropping the ball before the goal line”. As long as you aren’t a Tennessee fan, it was pretty humorous.

Kickin’ it with Kenny

Michigan and Wisconsin gave us a show in the Big Ten’s game of the week. The Wolverines came away with the 14-7 victory in Ann Arbor, but the story of the game was Michigan’s inability to get the ball through the uprights.

Kenny Allen missed both of his field goal attempts, one from 31 yards and the other from 43.  Jim Harbaugh decided to give sophomore Ryan Tice a chance from 40 yards, but he found the same result.

Notes:

  • Wisconsin is way too one dimensional, relying too heavily on the run for success. Michigan loaded the box with seven, eight, or nine defenders on nearly every play and Wisconsin didn’t have an answer.  Badgers’ quarterback Alex Hornibrook completed just 9-of-25 passes for 88 yards and three interceptions.  That hard-nosed style may work against most Big Ten defenses, but they’ll struggle to score against Ohio State and probably any team they’ll face in a bowl game.
  • If it wasn’t for the Hail Mary in Athens, the play of the week would have been Jourdan Lewis’ one-handed interception to seal the deal for Michigan.

Washington is for real

Most of the nation hasn’t seen much from Washington this year due to its late, west coast start times.  I finally got my first look at them on Friday night and I loved what I saw as the Huskies smashed Christian McCaffery and the Stanford Cardinal 44-6. 

Washington quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskins are for real and may lead Washington to a Pac-12 Championship and playoff birth.

Notes:

  • Washington was impressive on both sides of the ball, but it’s the defense that the rest of the country should fear.  The Huskies’ defense held the Cardinal to just 213 total yards of offense and limited Heisman hopeful McCaffery to 49 rushing yards (he averaged 145 yards per game going into Friday night’s match up).
  • The Huskies have some real playmakers at receiver.  Nine different players have caught touchdown passes this year.  John Ross caught his sixth touchdown of the season and Dante Pettis caught his fourth.
  • Washington will win the Pac-12

Quick Notes

-Charlie Strong won’t be the head coach at Texas next season.

-Even though he won this week, Brian Kelly will also be out of a job before the 2017 season begins.

-North Carolina’s kicker lived every young man’s dream and chopped his way around Doak Campbell Stadium.

-Derek Mason shouldn’t have punted and Vanderbilt is still Vanderbilt.

E-mail Evan at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter@skilliter.

Photo: Lauren Nelson, Flickr

Washington Huskies Look for the Upset Against the Stanford Cardinal

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.

Email Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion.

Image: Courtesy of Mike Wilson

The Pac-12 Earned this Smack

No. 7 Stanford travels to No. 10 Washington in what could be the must-see game of this weekend.  That is if it weren’t scheduled for the Friday night graveyard shift.

This is going to be a hell of a game between two Pac-12 North opponents with early aspirations of a berth in the College Football Playoff.  It’s tough to pick but I’ll have to go with the Stanford Cardinal.  Mostly because I like to rely on what I know, rather than what I think I might know.

I know Stanford is a solid, well-coached team that’s not afraid of playing big games on the road.  I know the Cardinal is good for about 24 points on any given, and I know its opponent is normally held around 13.  I know Christian McCaffrey is the most electric player in college football.  I know I can count on Stanford.

I think I might know that Washington has the talent to win this game.  I think I might know that the secondary is lights-out.  I think I might know this could be the year the Huskies sneak up on everyone and end up in a semi-final.  What I do know about Washington is that I don’t know enough about Washington.

U-Dub has beaten up on three teams that didn’t belong on the same field and escaped Tucson with a 35-28 win over an awful Arizona Wildcats team.  This weekend is our best opportunity to see what the Huskies are really made.  I hope you didn’t have Friday night plans.

Still, as much as Washington needs to prove itself to a national audience, so does Stanford.  The Cardinal will also be looking to impress the committee, having robbed UCLA last weekend.  Again, I’m going with Stanford, but this one’s a win-win for me.

All this is to say, I don’t want to smack down Stanford or Washington.  This is going to be a great game and I’ll be happy either way it goes, honestly.  No, the real chump here is the Pac-12.

You’ve got two top 10 teams facing off in the best game your conference has to offer all season and you’ve fumbled it into a 9 p.m. Eastern start on a Friday night in September.  Forget about the ratings.  Those numbers will be laughable.

As a conference, you’ve got one shot at sending a team to the playoff in this, a “down” year.  You need an undefeated team that cannot be denied a spot.  The best way to do that is to showcase your big boys beating up on each other and let everyone see which team emerges.  In the Pac-12’s case, it had this one shot to do so, and the game is being stashed away on a Friday night.

The idea might have seemed cool at the time, but how ‘bout now?  Yeah, as it’s turned out, not such a good idea after all.  Think back to Stanford’s opening week, too.  Oops, another Friday night fireworks special.  This is not high school football.

So, Pac-12, stop with the Friday night nonsense.  Get your primetime games on Saturdays like the other Power 5 conferences, or surrender your membership to the club.

I guess there is a bright spot here.  At least the game won’t be broadcast on the Pac-12’s failure of a network.  That thing will take you longer to find than it’ll take an eight-year-old to pick all the choice pieces in his or her giant pillow case of upcoming Halloween candy.

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him @GreatGatzke.

Photo: Wikipedia

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At .500, Cal is at a Crossroad

After four games last year, the California Golden Bears were sitting pretty at 4-0. Hopes were high. The necessary talent was there with an elite quarterback, swift, sticky-handed receivers, and four diverse, yet effective, running backs. Cal had all the offensive firepower to make some noise in the Pac-12.

Of course, their Achilles heel, a much-improved, yet not-quite-there defense, was exposed too often to make Cal a legitimate contender in the Pac-12. However, Cal was good enough to post its first winning record since 2011’s 7-6 mark. To boot, Cal reached and won a bowl game (a 55-36 win over Air Force Academy in the Armed Forces Bowl).

I mentioned all of that to say this: Cal is not undefeated after four games this year. It doesn’t have world-beaters on the offensive side of the ball as in years past. Yet, it has the rarest of opportunities to mask those two blemishes in the loss column this Saturday.

Currently, the Golden Bears are 2-2, with a notable win over previously 11th ranked Texas.

Not bad.

In their two losses, both coming in the waning moments of each contest, Cal had the opportunity to change its fate. Against #19 San Diego State, Cal quarterback Davis Webb had the Bears knocking on the door for what would have been the go-ahead score and win. Unfortunately, Webb threw a costly interception that sealed the deal.

Last week at Arizona State, costly turnovers and a returned onside kick foiled what should have been a decisive victory. In retrospect, any time you give up 31 points in a quarter, you deserve to lose, hands down! Great game, Sun Devils.

Now at .500, facing what will no-doubt be a very difficult stretch to close out the season, Cal is at the inevitable crossroads all .500 teams encounter.

Which way will it go?

Currently on a two-game skid with #18 Utah coming to Strawberry Canyon, Cal is in quite the predicament. Utah (4-0, 1-0) is a talented bunch with an impressive defense and an effective run game, all the tools necessary to slow down that Bear Raid offense and make this one a real grinder.

If there was ever a statement game of the season, this one against #18 Utah would be it. This could be the monumental upswing that they have been looking for. If the Bears can knock off another ranked opponent, they will clearly show that they can hang with the “big boys” and be in prime position to make a run at the Pac-12 title.

If Cal can pull off the upset this weekend, I believe the preseason consideration it received will be reinstated. Cal would have to be recognized as a quality program worthy of a national ranking.

All (and I do mean all) the teams in the Pac-12 are in a down year. There are no clear favorites and every game is ripe for the taking. It just depends on which team is willing to reach for it. I know some may argue #10 Washington is very much worthy of the ranking and void of criticism. After Friday’s game against # 7 Stanford, we’ll have a bit more meat to chew on in that regard.

As far as Stanford is concerned, it goes as Christian McCaffrey goes.

Until then, I stand by my words. Every team in the Pac-12 is ripe for the taking. And it just so happens that both teams are on Cal’s upcoming schedule. Foreshadowing much?

Of course, if Cal lays an egg this Saturday, all won’t be lost per se.  They would have to gather themselves and march on to the next opponent. A third consecutive loss definitely affects the psyche. It very well could lead to a spiraling and eventual bottoming out. The season will go up in flames.

It’s sad, because there was optimism in this year’s Golden Bears. In the end, it’s up to Coach Sonny Dykes to rally the troops regardless of this weekend’s outcome. If Cal takes another loss this Saturday, you can kiss all hopes of a Pac-12 title away. However, consecutive trips to a bowl game are not entirely out of the picture. But we’re trying to aim high here! Bowl games are secondary to a conference title. Hell, you can make a bowl game and get the brakes beat off you. Where’s the fun in that? If you capture a conference championship, that accomplishment can never be taken away. That’s forever. As Michael ‘Squints’ Palledorous from “The Sandlot” put it, it’s “foooooreevvvvvvvvver”

Looking at the entire college football landscape, there are improbable wins and losses every week. It really has come down to which team shows up on Friday or Saturday. For Cal, it showed up to each and every game thus far. Admittedly, they checked out a bit early on a couple games. Nonetheless, Bears have demonstrated that they are a competitive and resilient bunch.

It’s time Coach Dykes makes good on the extension he received this offseason and gave a little return on investment to his employers. If he’s able to pull off the improbable, they will sing his praises for seasons to come. If not, well, cue the familiar song of ineptitude that has been playing in the background for quite some time.

E-mail David at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @VirgosAssasin

Featured image courtesy of Eric Chan/ Flickr

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College Football Playoff Rankings: Week 4

Welcome back to the fourth week of Campus Pressbox’s College Football Playoff rankings. Check out the previous rankings here.

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide (1)

In a result that surprised no one, the Crimson Tide blew out Kent State by the tune of 48-0. There isn’t a whole lot to discuss regarding this win, to be honest, as Alabama did exactly what it was supposed to do against one of the worst teams in College Football right now. Other than a handful of injuries, this game was nothing to write home about. Frankly, last week was pretty much a bye week and with Kentucky this week, Alabama should be safe. Any fluctuations with the play out of Nick Saban’s squad would be a shock. Alabama remains a lock for the College Football Playoff, though Tennessee and Texas A&M continue to gain ground in the SEC.

  1. The Ohio State Buckeyes (2)

The Buckeyes were off last week after winning big against the Oklahoma Sooners two weeks ago. The Buckeyes only have to beat out Rutgers this weekend, a game between the best and worst team (that just lost key players to injury) in the Big Ten. Just like Alabama, seeing anything other than a blowout would be troubling and could hurt the Buckeyes’ CFP hopes. However, it looks like Ohio State is really taking its time with its game prep this week. As things stand now, the Buckeyes are a lock for the Playoff.

  1. Louisville Cardinals (3)

Louisville (unsurprisingly) continued to impress the college football world with a 31-point win over Marshall. Though Lamar Jackson never seems content with his own performances, everyone else is, and Jackson continues to be the Heisman front-runner by a very wide margin. Louisville travels to Clemson this weekend in what is probably the game of the weekend. This is another tough test, but if their demolition of Florida State showed us one thing, it’s that we should never underestimate the Cardinals. If the Cardinals manage a win this weekend, expect changes to the top of next week’s standings.

  1. Clemson Tigers (5)

Clemson is finally starting to look more and more like the team we expected to see at the beginning of the season and, as stated above, that has come just in time. Clemson opens as a slim favorite over the Cardinals, but I think most of the college football world will see Clemson as the underdog for this game. Clemson must win this game in order to fully dispel any and all memories of the Tigers’ struggles in the early season.

  1. Houston Cougars (4)

After becoming a household name following their win over Oklahoma in Week 1, the Cougars have begun to slip, slowly, back into a bit of obscurity. So many Power 5 teams have proved themselves thus far that Houston’s big wins over bad teams are starting to mean less and less. Houston really cannot afford to lose any games this season. With their weak schedule, compared to some Power 5 schools, doing so will most certainly eliminate the Cougars from playoff contention. The biggest concern for Houston right now is LSU’s open head coaching job.

  1. Michigan Wolverines (6)

Well, would you look at that, the Michigan Wolverines finally have a challenging game coming up this weekend. Michigan really hasn’t been tested at all this season, a large part of that due to the fact that it hasn’t left Ann Arbor so far. However, the Wolverines have to beat Wisconsin, which has to be one of the most “proven” teams in college football right now. We will finally be able to see how legit the Wolverines are this weekend and be able to really figure out their playoff odds.

  1. Stanford Cardinal (7)

Stanford continues to sit pretty at No. 7, as the Cardinal has more or less just sat back with a bag of popcorn and watched Christian McCaffrey continue to prove that he is a cut above everyone else in college football, even if his spotlight is getting stolen. If Lamar Jackson were not putting up out-of-this-world numbers right now, there is no doubt that McCaffrey would be leading the Heisman charge. Stanford has a big chance to gain national attention with its visit to Washington this week. While this game is bigger for the Huskies than for Stanford, the Cardinal’s Playoff argument would unquestionably be bolstered with a big win on Saturday.

  1. Texas A&M Aggies (9)

Following an explosive fourth quarter, the Aggies’ win over Arkansas went from decent win to a huge win for A&M. A&M has officially racked up a number of impressive wins versus competitive opponents. Still, Kevin Sumlin needs his team to keep up its pace if it is to have any chance of prying the SEC West away from the grip of Alabama. The next several weeks of difficult matchups will truly show whether or not the Aggies are Playoff contenders.

  1. Wisconsin Badgers (10)

Wisconsin’s string of impressive wins continued on Saturday with a devastation of the Michigan State Spartans. The Badgers have proved themselves a legit contender for the Big Ten championship. Wisconsin’s matchup against Michigan in Ann Arbor this weekend will truly prove whether or not it deserves to be the Big Ten favorite to make the Playoff. The Badgers, much like the Aggies, cannot afford any type of regression now, especially considering the Badgers upcoming schedule.

  1. Washington Huskies (8)

The Huskies, sitting at the bottom of this week’s list, remain the biggest enigma competing for a spot in the Playoff. None of Washington’s victories thus far have proven whether or not it should be seriously considered. However, Washington hosts Stanford this weekend. As big as this game is for the Cardinal, it is exponentially more important for the Huskies. A victory this week would cement Washington as a household name and help begin to build the Huskies’ Playoff resume.

Honorable Mentions

Though none were close to beating out any of the teams that made the list, Tennessee, Baylor, and Miami are the next teams in line, all pretty much waiting for the three Top 10 face-off games to play out this weekend.

E-mail Cooper at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.

Image courtesy of Andrew Horne – Wikimedia Commons

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