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Monday, September 14, 2009

NCAA College Football week 2 - wrap up

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NCAA week two was marked by two marque games: Notre Dame v. Michigan and USC v. Ohio State. In the first game, Notre Dame, which was 18th ranked and is now dropped from the rankings, looked to the contest as the "must-win" if The Fighting Irish were to prove to themselves and to America that they were indeed BCS-bound.

They failed.

The reason for their failure could be directly attributed to the fact that they don't have enough talent to beat or even compete with teams that commonly play at the BCS level. As I stated before, Notre Dame's academic requirements prevent it from consistently getting those players and Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weis has not demonsrated an ability to "scheme" his way out of that problem.

I still believe it wise to place the game in the hands of the superbly talented sopohmore quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who's an amazing passer and a capable leader. But what he's asked to do from a perspective of play design is my concern.

I contend that if Notre Dame believes it can reach the BCS it has to "scheme' its way there. It doesn't have a defense strong enough to stop, for example, the Michigan running game and that "belly series" from the Spread, which Michigan ran to perfection under freshman quarterback Tate Forceir.

Spread "Belly" Triple Option 

That game's not the last time Notre Dame will  see this play.

Rather than focus just on defensing it, Notre Dame needs to move toward a better short passing and roll-out passing game.  Weis spent so much time trying to bomb the Wolverines into submission - and racking up over 400 yards in the process - he left time on the clock for Michigan's offense - its easier to run when the clock's working in your favor.

USC beat Ohio State.  Guess how?

The ability to run was what lifted the then-third ranked USC Trojans over the Ohio State Buckeyes.   And in that game we saw the coming of age of another freshman quaterback, Matt Barkley.

Barkley, who took over for the man who-would-be-the-senior quarterback Mark Sanchez (who won his first game as a rookie quarterback with the New York Jets), came in with a lot of questions because of his youth.  But he answered them all in the Trojans' final drive to win the game, which even though it was driven by a suddenly powerful running attack, saw Matt hit open receivers on time.

While running back Joe McKnight did much of the heaving lifting in the drive, along with the SC offensive line, Barley did his part in completing the passes when they neeeded them the most.  That was something Ohio State could not do. 

What that game demonstrated was that Ohio State has an undisciplined passing attack.  Many of the plays are out of play action and the patterns are some of the most ineffectively unusual I've ever seen.  What I mean is that they call for the receiver to be out of proper position just by their design.

Plus, the passing game lacks the timing necessary to complete passes even with close coverage.  And forget the idea of Ohio State mounting a pass-oriented comeback because they don't seem to practice the two-minute drill. Quarterback Terrell Pryor is an obviously talented athlete, but he's a raw passer who needs a lot of drilling in basic timed throwing; he's not getting it at Ohio State.

Cal steamrolls opponents

With all this, my Cal Golden Bears dropped 50 points on its last two "challengers", Maryland and Eastern Washington. Look out for the 7th ranked Golden Bears.


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