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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Stanford/USC, Oregon State/Arizona and more.


  • First, let's play catchup and comment on last week's game. Oregon was the better team v. Stanford. Yes, there were a lot of "if's" such as Stanford fumbling on the goal line, penalties on just about every key play in the 4th quarter and a nasty helmet to helmet hit on receiver Owusu in which the refs looked the other way.  (So much for the emphasis on safety in the game.)  With Owusu out, Stanford was missing their top two receivers.  All that said, Oregon wasn't dealing with such issues because they were better that day. 
  • This week, Stanford-USC was the most entertaining game I've seen this year.  Both teams played well. USC exploited weaknesses in Stanford's secondary. They had no choice -- they couldn't run the ball on Stanford.  Stanford had a more balanced attack throughout.  I had the impression after last week and through most of this game that the near-deified Jim Harbaugh was getting out-coached.  (Harken back one week: his team was totally unprepared for Oregon's onside kick, which helped turn the momentum.)  But the final Stanford drive was a thing of beauty.  With a minute left, Stanford took what USC would give them, firing short 10 yard buttonhook routes over the middle.  A reception means you get the yardage.  Contrast this with Arizona who, with the clock winding down against OSU, would throw small flare passes to their running backs or ends and let them make the yardage after the catch. Stanford did what fit their personnel.  Masterful.  
  • A lot of attention has been paid hereabouts about Stanford's ineffectual secondary.  Against Notre Dame, the secondary looked at least average, but Barkley lit 'em up. Why? Stanford's pass rush got to Notre Dame's QB early and regularly. They were unable to get to Barkley last night, giving him plenty of time to find an open man. Even the best secondary will falter under those conditions.  
    • Kudos to USC coach Lane Kiffin.  He could have used his last timeout in an attempt to "freeze" Stanford placekicker Nate Whitaker.  He didn't.  Apparently, he believes his role is to coach during the week and let the players play on Saturday, eschewing the psych-out mind games from the bench.  Bravo!

    Oregon State v. Arizona
    • Another immensely entertaining game.  Both teams deserve to be ranked. Local columnist Jon Wilner ranked OSU 10th after yesterday and he has a case (although I wouldn't have ranked them quite that high). Their losses are to #3 Boise State and #4 TCU. Try to find a team in any of the other major conferences who play a non-conference schedule like that.
    • In fact, only the computer ratings consistently recognize the tougher schedules of the PAC in general.  For example, here's the Sagarin ratings where the PAC has 5 of the top 11 positions.  Note the Strength of Schedule numbers. The non-emotional computer ratings reward teams for facing tough competition, unlike the pollsters who only care about your number of losses, whether or not you have the equivalent of a community college non-conference schedule.
    • On that note, gotta wonder if Utah will suddenly drop in its rankings next year when they start playing the PAC schedule. 
    • Random thought:  USC would beat half the currently ranked teams.

    • Doff of the cap to Michigan State for sticking it to Michigan (with condolences to my friend, Michigan grad Doug in Seattle, and thumbs up to my other friend Doug in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who has a family legacy going with Michigan State graduates).
    • Gotta wonder #2: Do we really believe Ohio State has earned the title as currently the best team in the country? They beat Miami, a team that now, after a blowout loss to Florida State, looks run-of-the-mill. Their other wins?  Marshall, Eastern Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. Ho Hum.  On the other hand, Nebraska has a similar cupcake schedule, but I have to admit I was impressed watching them dismantle Washington on the road. 
    • Best observation of the week, also from Jon Wilner of the Mercury News: Quick Big Ten aside: In the wake of Miami’s loss, I was thinking: What’s the best team that a Big Ten team has beaten? (I mean, besides all those MAC powerhouses.) It has to be either Miami, Notre Dame or Arizona State, which speaks for itself …