Welcome, welcome, one and all to the first of this week’s Musings! As per normal, it’s college football time. The last few weeks’ picks have been exceptional, and Ladbrokes have been rinsed in recent times. So interest has peaked, the games are getting more exciting, and the BCS title challenge this week faces its first monstrous game as #1 LSU travel to Alabama to take on the #2 Crimson Tide. In the second half of the article, we move on to 10 things to consider and look at some issues from Week 8 in the NFL, before the previews on Saturday. Let’s get cracking!
Post Week 9 BCS Rankings
1. LSU Tigers
2. Alabama Crimson Tide
3. Oklahoma State Cowboys
4. Stanford Cardinal
5. Boise State Broncos
6. Oklahoma Sooners
7. Arkansas Razorbacks
8. Oregon Ducks
9. South Carolina Gamecocks
10. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Let’s be having some movers and shakers then! Dropping this week are the Clemson Tigers, who plummet from the #5 spot after suffering a 31-17 upset away at Georgia Tech. Also sent tumbling are former #8 Kansas State, who were utterly annihilated at home against the Oklahoma Sooners 58-17. Kansas State were undoubtedly unfortunate enough to suffer a horrendous backlash from an angry Sooners team the week after their humiliating home loss to Texas Tech. Speaking of Texas Tech, the Red Raiders couldn’t cross their form over from the previous week, getting slaughtered at home to the Iowa State Cyclones. #16 Texas A & M imploded yet again, with the Missouri Tigers second half comeback exploiting the Aggies shoddy defense. Finally, #16 Wisconsin fell yet again, to the odd Ohio State Buckeyes, whose offense has finally realised they are capable of moving the ball. Rising this week is Nebraska, who completely shut down the Michigan State Spartans offense, conceding only 3 points. Virginia Tech and West Virginia continue to underwhelm but saw off Duke and Rutgers respectively, while #24 ranked Texas saw off Kansas 43-0. However, the game of the week saw #6 ranked Stanford defeat #20 USC in a 3rd overtime. I can’t remember the last time a Pac-12 game was so exciting.
This week, I took in most of the Nebraska- Michigan State game and was shocked to see the ‘Husker defense playing so well for the majority of the game after struggling against Wisconsin so badly a few weeks back. Nebraska is a very good football team, and was it not for their loss against the Badgers, should be higher up the rankings. It will be interesting to see how Taylor Martinez develops over time. However, the key game of the week was undoubtedly the game in LA. It looked for all money that USC would hold on and see of the Cardinal, but Andrew Luck and his Stanford team came through for victory. What’s more interesting, for a USC fan anyway, is that Matt Barkley played at least as well as Andrew Luck. Barkley, as well as Luck, can make all the throws, and can move around brilliantly in the pocket. Although Barkley is 3 inches shorter than Luck, he possesses great leadership qualities. As a Trojan fan, we can only hope Barkley stays for another year, when USC are actually eligible to win a title.
Players to Watch
1. Case Keenum, QB, Houston Cougars – Little fact for you here. Keenum has thrown more TD’s in his last 2 games than 91 of the 120 FBS teams have thrown all season. Seriously. He threw 9 TD’s last week against Rice, and 534 yards. Keenum is easily going to break the all time passing yard record in the NCAA. The likelihood is that Keenum is not going to be an NFL QB, he throwing action is utterly bizarre, it’s kind of sidearm, but he is extremely efficient at the college level and has his Houston Cougars at 8-0 and up to #17 ranked. Even if they win out, they are unlikely to move much higher up the rankings too far, but records wait for Keenum, enough perhaps to increase his Heismann chances further. Although it will have to be something pretty epic to bypass Andrew Luck. Keenum already has 3219 yards and 32 TD’s to 3 INT’s this year, with a 71.9% completion rate. Outstanding.
2. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State Cowboys- Weeden is intriguing, drafted by the MLB before suffering a career ending arm injury. Strangely enough, the same arm injury doesn’t prevent him from playing football. So, at 28 years old, he is eligible to be drafted next year. Far more impressive is his play this year for the #3 ranked Cowboys, who destroyed Baylor last weekend. Weeden has 2710 yards this season, with 22 TD’s to 7 INT’s, with a 71.3% completion rate. The fewest points the Cowboys have scored this season is 30, in a one point with over Texas A & M. That’s ridiculous. Weeden looks to tackle Kansas State this week, who were blown out by Oklahoma. Major points coming up!
3. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State Cowboys- Perhaps one of the major reasons for the Cowboys success, and Weeden’s, is Justin Blackmon. One of the consensus first round WR picks in 2012, Blackmon’s rise has been fairly meteoric. Already having 834 receiving yards and 10 TD’s this year, Blackmon is going to end up with monster yardage and stats. Whether he can improve on his 1782 yards and 20 TD figures from last campaign is another matter; those were nonsense stats. Look for Blackmon to go high in the 2012 draft.
Week 10 Matchups
It all revolves around LSU vs. Alabama in Week 10. It may not have mattered much in previous weeks; the BCS title match will probably be between these two teams anyway. However, with Oklahoma State playing so remarkably well, it’s becoming much more crucial to both the Tigers and the Crimson Tide that they win this game. All eyes glued to the TV at 8pm ET for this one, it should be spectacular. #4 Stanford and #5 Boise State have relatively simple tasks against Oregon State and UNLV respectively. Both should have blowout wins. Off the back of Oklahoma, Kansas State must travel to Oklahoma State to take on the high powered Cowboys. #9 South Carolina take on #7 Arkansas. Without QB Garcia and RB Lattimore, the Gamecocks have looked pretty awful on offense, and Arkansas must be considered favourites heading in to Week 10. Aside from the aforementioned games, no Top 25 game has a particularly difficult contest and upset should be few and far between this week.
NFL Week 8 Results
Miami Dolphins 17 @ New York Giants 20
Jacksonville Jaguars 14 @ Houston Texans 24
Indianapolis Colts 10 @ Tennessee Titans 27
Minnesota Vikings 24 @ Carolina Panthers 21
New Orleans Saints 21 @ St. Louis Rams 31
Arizona Cardinals 27 @ Baltimore Ravens 30
Detroit Lions 45 @ Denver Broncos 10
Washington Redskins 0 @ Buffalo Bills 23
New England Patriots 17 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 25
Cleveland Browns 10 @ San Francisco 49ers 20
Cincinnati Bengals 34 @ Seattle Seahawks 12
Dallas Cowboys 7 @ Philadelphia Eagles 34
San Diego Chargers 20 @ Kansas City Chiefs 23
10 Things to Consider
1. Philip Rivers- Philip Rivers is still elite. People are going to focus on the fumble on MNF, and it was quite simply atrocious, but aside from that and one errant throw in the first quarter (his second INT was tipped at the line) he played outstanding in Kansas City. Rivers avoided Tamba Hali magnificently and made several amazing throws in key situations. Rivers and co have to rue one bogus PI call on Antonio Gates which ruled out a touchdown in the 3rd quarter. San Diego should have won and are still a good team. Unfortunately, Green Bay rolls in to town on Sunday. Nobody expects to beat them.
2. Eric Weddle- Speaking of San Diego, Eric Weddle maybe the only Chargers playing at a pro bowl level and justifying his new contract. Weddle leads the league with 5 INT’s and continues to make numerous plays. Every time someone throws deep in to the Chargers secondary he is there. Kudos to Weddle, his is proving the naysayers wrongs.
3. The Philadelphia Eagles- Finally! Some sort of redemption for Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles. They took apart the Dallas Cowboys on SNF. The first half in particular showed us just how exciting it is to watch the Eagles offense click. Between the hash marks, Vick is one of the most accurate throwers in the league. He may not have great touch and lacks the ability to throw the deep out like elite QB’s but he has a bullet and hits his receivers in stride like Aaron Rodgers. Redemption too for Jim Washburn. The Eagles defense finally showed up and proved to us that the Wide 9 D Line technique can be very effective, particularly on passing downs in a 2nd or 3rd and long situation. The Eagles problem has been too many YPC given up on 1st and 2nd down, ensuring the pass rush gets nowhere near opposing QB’s in vital situations when you can’t stop the run. The Eagles short term schedule is eminently winnable as they look to catch the New York Giants at the top of the NFC East.
4. The AFC North- Have the Arizona Cardinals begun to morph in to the Minnesota Vikings of earlier in the season? Perhaps a little harsh, but the Cards proceeded to throw away a big 24-3 lead in Baltimore, with the game ending up 30-27 in favour of the Ravens. A massive win for Baltimore, who travel to Pittsburgh this Sunday Night to face off with their great rivals in a matchup which will probably decide the direction in which the AFC North is headed. With all due respect to Cincinnati of course. Anquan Boldin and Joe Flacco came up big for the Ravens, with Boldin making several awesome catches against his former team. How Larry Fitzgerald must miss Boldin across from him to take some coverage away. It hardly helps that the Arizona offensive line can’t keep Kevin Kolb upright.
5. Cam vs. Christian- Speaking of the Minnesota Vikings, Christian Ponder came out on top in the battle of the first round picks in Carolina. Cam Newton played lights out once more, but a missed field goal by Olindo Mare as time expired ensured that there would be no overtime as the Vikings held on 24-21. The future looks bright for both of these teams. Unfortunately for Cam and the Panthers, they simply don’t have the defensive staying power that Minnesota provides Christian Ponder as a fall back. Jared Allen leads the league with 12.5 sacks and is on pace to break Michael Strahan’s 2001 total of 22.5. Watch this space to see how he progresses as the season goes on. Lurking behind Allen is Demarcus Ware on 12 sacks. Both men are beasts.
6. New Orleans falling apart?- Shock result of the Week! New Orleans travelled to St.Louis expecting a simple win over the 0-6 Rams only to be beaten in to submission by a rampant Steven Jackson, who ran for over 150 rushing yards and 2 TD’s. The Saints may well have suffered a hangover after last Sunday Night’s 62-7 drubbing of the Colts but can’t have expected St.Louis to put up much of a fight with Sam Bradford out and AJ Feely at the helm. The Saints look set to be chased to the wire by Tampa Bay and Atlanta, both of whom have picked up after a sluggish start. For St.Louis, with Bradford probably unlikely to play against Arizona on Sunday in the battle of the 1 win teams, they possibly forfeit a chance of gaining momentum. Then again, with the Cards playing so poorly on defense the Rams could stand a chance of putting up big points.
7. Tim Tebow- Tebowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww- sucks. It’s a shame he can’t play the Dolphins every week eh? The Lions defense commented after the game that it was a bit of an embarrassment to beat up on poor Tim. They felt it a little bit of a joke. Well, they were probably right. Tebow was awful, as we all knew he would be. In tight games, he may will something to happen. Unfortunately, by the 4th quarter, the Lions already led by more than 30.
8. The Pittsburgh Steelers- Are we finally seeing the Pittsburgh Steelers of 2010? Dismissed as being too old, the defense shut down Tom Brady completely. I’ll admit I was wrong; the Steelers do have it left in them. However, it doesn’t help that the Pats defense is like a wet paper bag, utterly dreadful. It doesn’t matter how great Tom is, they are going to come unstuck in the playoffs unless they learn to stop the best offenses.
9. Eli Manning- Eli is, for once, playing well. I like the Giants but haven’t been a big Eli fan. He seems to get by playing average and won the Superbowl on the back of a monster defense. However, statistically at least, this is his best ever year. What’s more, the Giants are 5-2 and look playoff bound, unless the Eagles can dig their way out of the hole they’ve out themselves in. Whether it’s Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz making Eli look better or the other way around; well the jury’s still out on that one.
10. The AFC South- were it not for the NFC West, this would be the worst division in football in 2011. The Texans aside, everyone else is horrible. I know the Titans are 4-3 but they’ve beaten some tripe, the Ravens on an off day aside. The Texans blew out Tennessee in Nashville and should stroll to the division title. Finally!
Adieu for now, until Saturday for previews!
Musings from the National Football League- 27/10/11 NCAA Thursday’s
Rejoice for musings has returned; bi-weekly now with NCAA Thursday’s and a recap of last weekend’s game in 10 things to consider, with the follow up Saturday previews as we arrive almost at midseason. Several divisions stand upon a knife edge, others look well set, but we shall press on and delve in to all things college! So without much further ado, on y va, with the rankings first as per norm.
Post Week 8 Top 10 AP Rankings
1. LSU Tigers
2. Alabama Crimson Tide
3. Oklahoma State Cowboys
4. Boise State Broncos
5. Clemson Tigers
6. Stanford Cardinals
7. Oregon Ducks
8. Kansas State Wildcats
9. Oklahoma Sooners
10. Arkansas Razorbacks
First, the monotonous grind of the movers and the shakers from Week 7. Oh my, egg on face time for the Oklahoma Sooners. Lance ‘Landry’ Jones, Ryan Broyles and co, fresh off the drubbing handed out to Red River Rivals Texas Longhorns metaphorically laid an egg against Texas Tech. Not only losing, but losing AT HOME, which NEVER happens. I’m not sure the Longhorns will be slapping their inter-state Tech rivals on the back (in fact it makes them look even worse) but the Sooners fall to #9 and their BCS titles chances are utterly cooked. Some teams that haven’t been much discussed are quietly moving up the boards, with Oklahoma State leapfrogging Boise to #3. Hardly surprising, as although Kellen Moore equalled the all-time college win record this weekend nobody deigns to give the blue-turfed Broncos any respect. Also steadily advancing up the boards are the 8-0 Clemson Tigers, who have seen off some stiff competition on the back off that mean defence, the Kansas State Wildcats, who laid a 50 burger on state rivals Kansas (who by the way, must have conceded close to 400 points this season already, no joke) while the Oregon Ducks continue to bounce back after the Week 1 loss to LSU by seeing off Colorado 45-2. Yes 2, Colorado managed a safety, that’s it. Falling this week are the Wisconsin Badgers, who went down 37-31 to a very good Michigan State team (isn’t it nice to see the Michigan teams finally doing well again) and West Virginia, who got blown out by the Syracuse Orangemen. We won’t say anymore about the Sooners.
On Scout watch this week (as well as money watch of course) I took in a fair bit of Stanford-Washington, simply to see some more of Andrew Luck in action, as well as a highly entertaining game at South Bend, Indiana, as my USC Trojans saw off the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in probably the statement result thus far of Lane Kiffin’s tenure as Head Coach in Los Angeles. Coincidentally, watching both matchups set’s us up very nicely for Week 9 as the #6 ranked 7-0 Stanford travels to the Rose Bowl to take on the 6-1 USC Trojans with Matt Barkley and Andrew Luck going toe to toe, presumably cementing their places as the top 2 QB’s in the 2012 draft (assuming they both don’t attend their senior years in college). Speaking as a USC fan, I hope Barkley stays as sanctions get dropped, he may be the best USC QB in a long time and Trojan signal callers tend to get drafted by NFL teams I really don’t like. Stay put Matt! Week 8 saw the Cardinals utterly demolish Washington 65-21, with Luck once more showcasing his vast array of talents. Sometimes I can’t fathom the obscene level of hype surrounding the guy, others times I feel like pumping up the hype. He is big, strong, and athletic and can make every throw in the game. Think Aaron Rodgers but 50 pounds heavier. Scary! I’m not saying he gets drafted by Miami (presumably) and plays lights out like Rodgers but the skill set is clearly there. A sign of a deadly QB is that he can put up a 120+ passer rating on the run or in the pocket. Luck can do that. Just as an added thought, I would love to see Jim Harbaugh give up everything, or a kidney or something, to trade up and get Andrew Luck. I want him nowhere near the AFC West or the AFC in general. Give him to the NFC West and watch the Niners crush that division for a decade. It won’t happen but re-uniting Luck and Harbaugh would be something mesmeric. Oliver Luck wouldn’t scupper that concept. On the other side of the ball, Matt Barkley would undoubtedly be the consensus #1 guy coming out of college any year besides 2012. He isn’t the tallest or the strongest, but his arm is impressive, he has great smarts, is an outstanding leader and can make all the throws. It helps that Robert Woods is catching his balls, and I shall probably come to him later. As a USC fan, I’m clearly not in love with the Fighting Irish, I just don’t like them, but it’s great to see them back to relevance, even if they have managed to find ways to throw away games this year. Comparable to the Oakland Raiders of the NCAA, I dislike them, but it’s better for their respective leagues to see them in contention. It’s been a while since any I-A Independent Teams have been any good, and ND are the cream of that particular crop.
What’s that you say; players to watch? Ok why not.
Players to Watch
1. Robert Woods, WR, USC Trojans- I told you I would get to this guy. Comparable to Michael Floyd at Notre Dame, without the off field problems, Woods is the be all and end all of the Trojans receiving core. The guy is so clean dropping his hips in to a route, is quick, big and strong and only a freshman. Oh, and he doesn’t drop the ball. Period. 3rd in the nation with 902 yards (ahead of much touted Ryan Broyles, Michael Floyd and Justin Blackmon), as well as having 8 TD’s, Woods is going to end up with a monster year. He may come out in 2013, but at least that means the Trojans have his services for another year.
2. Matt Kalil, OT, USC Trojans- I may as well discuss this guy while we are on the topic of the Trojans (sue me), because he is the consensus top tackle touted to come out in 2012. Kalil played so well as a junior that he kept Tyron Smith, the first tackle selected in the 2011 draft, at RT for the entire year. Matt Barkley has no need to worry with a pass rush off his blind side with Kalil protecting the flank. What a physical specimen Kalil is, big and strong with legs like tree trunks. Watch his block of a field goal in Week 2?!? If you don’t believe me on his athleticism. If I were St.Louis, I would snap Kalil up in an instant.
3. Manti Te’O, ILB, Notre Dame Fighting Irish- I only like to talk about guys I’ve seen a fair bit of and since I watched the USC-ND game last weekend, Te’O falls in to that category. It’s tight at the top of the ILB rankings and LB rankings overall for who is off the board first in 2012. Te’O was the consensus guy before people realised that he struggles to tackle. Ray Lewis stands aghast. Te’O should have wrapped up Curtis McNeal for a loss but let him go and make a huge gain and a first down. This is a continuing trend; he was made to look foolish by Denard Robinson against Michigan in a game the Irish somehow contrived to lose. He will still go in the first round due to his size and speed but really needs to improve his technique.
Week 9 Matchups
USC-Stanford we have already covered. But happily this is not the only exciting matchup to come this Saturday. Robert Griffin III and his Baylor Bears travel to Oklahoma State to take on the #3 Cowboys. Now the Cowboys have struggled on defense in recent weeks and this projects to be a shootout and a possible upset. Definitely one to keep your eye on. The 8-0 Clemson Tigers travel to 6-2 Georgia Tech with a tough task to keep their unbeaten season going. Fresh off the back of the utterly horrific loss at home to Texas Tech, #9 Oklahoma must go to #8 Kansas State, in a character test to keep their season and bowl prospects alive. Rounding our quality games off is #11 Michigan State Spartans at #14 Nebraska Cornhuskers. I fancy the ‘Huskers here but the Spartans have continually surprised all season long. A great Week 9 in prospect. Saturday is going to be a write off.
NFL Week 7 Results
Houston Texans 41 @ Tennessee Titans 7
Denver Broncos 18 @ Miami Dolphins 15
Washington Redskins 20 @ Carolina Panthers 33
San Diego Chargers 21 @ New York Jets 27
Atlanta Falcons 23 @ Detroit Lions 16
Chicago Bears 24 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 18
Seattle Seahawks 3 @ Cleveland Browns 6
Kansas City Chiefs 28 @ Oakland Raiders 0
Pittsburgh Steelers 32 @ Arizona Cardinals 20
St.Louis Rams 7 @ Dallas Cowboys 34
Green Bay Packers 33 @ Minnesota Vikings 27
Indianapolis Colts 7 @ New Orleans Saints 62
Baltimore Ravens 7 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 12
10 Things to Consider
1. What on earth is up with Philip Rivers? He hasn’t played this bad since taking over the starter’s job from Drew Brees. More interceptions this Sunday against the Jets after a pretty good first half. The Chargers blew that game, and they really should have won it. Antoine Cason utterly failed in coverage against Plax and Shonn Greene did his best impression of the 2009 AFC Divisional Playoffs. I’m going to have to put this down to the Jets being the Chargers bogey team. The loss aside, when have the Chargers played this badly early and been 4-2? Both losses came on the East Coast against tough teams. When Rivers does start lighting it up, they may be in position to take advantage of a quick start for once.
2. Let’s stay in the AFC West. What an utter abomination in Oakland. The Chiefs and Raiders combined for 8 interceptions, 3 from Kyle Boller, including a pick 6, 3 from Carson Palmer, including a pick 6, and 2 from Matt Cassel. The Chiefs won 28-0 and shut out Oakland without actually playing well. They didn’t need to! It’s clear to me that Palmer wasn’t ready and that Kyle Boller was so abjectly horrible that Hue Jackson felt obliged to stick Carson in. Apparently he could only call 3 types of reads. Palmer isn’t getting a bye week like the rest of his teammates. He is going to have to be working 24/7 to get up to speed. For the Chiefs, they are back to 3-3. Wins against the Colts, Vikings and that tripe game in Oakland are not indicative of how good they are. MNF at home to San Diego will be.
3. Very me-centric this week. Another thought from the AFC West. Tim Tebow, of course. Tebowmania is like the Stockholm Syndrome for me. 95% horrible and then someone gives you a cookie and you think they’re great. This is what Broncos fans are going to get. Good teams will shut the Broncos down; they will go nowhere, until suddenly the will of Tim forces something to happen. It’s utterly bizarre. He is awful mechanically, still, but creates things. Detroit poses a sterner test however, and they are angry after the last 2 defeats.
4. Matt Ryan continues to improve from his shaky start, while his fellow ’08 draft classmates Josh Freeman and Joe Flacco are seemingly regressing. Freeman already has 10 picks this year while Flacco… what was that on MNF? GIVE RICE THE BALL. I wasn’t ready to bench Ryan from my fantasy team, he does have something about him and he proved it in Detroit. Josh Freeman is too much of an enigma for me, something good, something bad, a great comeback, and then a 3 pick game. Too inconsistent. Flacco better hope that was a one off. They have Pittsburgh in Week 9, and the Steelers are baying for Ravens blood.
5. Pay the man! Matt Forte is the Bears offense, and he came up big again in London. 145 yards and a TD are about par for the guy. There is a worrying trend of the Bears not taking care of their guys needing contract in Chicago. Lance Briggs highlighted it before the season began. Mike Ditka would not have run things this way. Sort it out please Lovie Smith.
6. Garbage bowl of the week in Cleveland! What the hell was that? Somehow the Browns pulled off a win, but they have no way of scoring points. The only saving grace for them was that the Seahawks are worse. And apparently the Seahawks are the second best team in the NFC West. My word. Charlie Whitehurst, after performing admirably in New York against the Giants, was a shower of s**t in Cleveland. Pete Carroll must be tearing his hair out. Who would have thought the Seahawks would be willing Tavaris Jackson fit again? For the Browns, they travel to the Bay Area to take on the 5-1 49ers this week. Oh dear…
7. Speaking of the 49ers, to quote Warren Sapp, they utterly demolished the bye week. They smashed it. All 3 fellow NFC West teams lost, and they are now 3 games ahead of anyone else after only Week 7. Magic number time coming up for San Francisco, the other 3 teams are cooked.
8. Kudos to Dave Dameshek. He informed everyone that Demarco Murray was going to get at least 150 yards from scrimmage against St.Louis on Sunday. He got over 250. What an impact the rookie made, 253 rushing yards making 9th on the all time list. Move over Felix Jones, there’s a new kid in town.
9. The Indianapolis Colts have had enough. After somehow losing several close games they appear to have lost heart. Sunday night was an abject mess, and I can’t remember the last time someone put up 60 points on the Colts. Peyton Manning’s face was a picture. MVP! MVP!
10. I would be remiss not to mention Aaron Rodgers. He is going to break a lot of records this year. The guy is going to become one of the all time greats, if not the greatest ever. A big moniker perhaps, but he is just so damn good. Green Bay comes to San Diego Week 9, anticipating that one I am not.
See you Saturday for the previews!
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