New format for this week since it is getting really boring just recapping games you doubtless already saw highlights for. Get excited.
The New Boise State
I do not get around to saying too many controversial things, so I would like to take this chance to do that. You, as a college football fan, should not root for Boise State. Wait, before you hang me, have my lifeless corpse fed to pigs, and then kill those pigs for having any remnant of me inside them, allow me explain.
Once upon a time, Boise State was the little guy. They did not have the athletes of the bigger teams, but it did not matter because they were a disciplined team that did the little things right and had moxy like few other teams in the country. We rooted for them because they were spunky without being jerks, had an awesome field, and executed to perfection. What is not to love about that?
Nothing. If Boise was still all those things above, I would still be in their corner, but they are not. This weekend against Oregon State gave us a real look at what Boise State is now and what it is not. Let’s go through the things above one by one just so you know I am not leaving anything out or denying them credit somewhere they deserve it.
- The Athletes- There is no reason to blame a team for having better athletes, and I am not doing so. It is great that better athletes and football players are going to Boise to play football. Not docking them any points here.
- Discipline- This is a huge sticking point with me about Boise. The Boise teams we fell in love with played the game clean and were almost always the less-penalized team. The new version of the Broncos commits dumb fouls far more often and a good deal of this up-tick in penalties comes with personal fouls. Boise was always teh team that played it straight up more and would beat you with its discipline. It seems that somewhere along the line they have started to lose that.
- Doing the Little Things Right- I feel, rightly or wrongly, that the college teams that do the little things right seem to excel in special teams. My logic follows that if a team pays attentions to the details in practice, this is an area where that attention to detail and the little things would show up. In both the Virginia Tech and Oregon State games, Boise gave up big returns and seemed to commit costly penalties at a rate unheard of for them. They still get it done because they have superior athletes, but their ability to do the little things right is waning.
- Moxy- In tact, but predictably lower with their higher ranking.
- Spunk- Lately I have been watching the Boise State games and seeing more and more of what would cross the jerk-line. The jerk-line is an imaginary line that is of no football significance that determines if a play was just made with outstanding energy, or if it crossed into being an act of self-promotion in addition. Boise State’s players have been crossing that line with more and more frequency and it is unsettling for a fan expecting to see a team come out there and do things “the right way”. It does not meant they are not making plays, just makes it harder to root for some of their players.
- Blue Field- Still there. Still cool.
So why shouldn’t you root for them? You are still welcome to, but if you are doing so because they are a little guy doing it right, you need to change your reasoning. They are not now the evil empire or anything, but they are not what they used to be as far as a small market team doing it right. Same goes for the Minnesota Twins in baseball and Gonzaga in college basketball. Nothing wrong with rooting for them as long as you are not disillusioned about the team you are rooting for.
Luck, Locker and Mallett
Coming from a Notre Dame fan, this will probably sound like sour grapes, but I promise it is not. I walked away from that game sure of a few things, but one which is pertinent to the NFL. Andrew Luck is not that good. Notre Dame played in a soft shell defense or much of the game allowing receivers to run free for 10 yars underneath before being touched by a defender (sweet strategy, Irish). However, Luck was only 19-32 for 238 yards, 1 TD and 2 picks. His arm strength was nothing to write home about, his decision making against a pretty mediocre defense was sub-par, and, most of all, he only completed 19 of 32 on routes that were mostly underneath with very little close coverage. You are telling me this it the #1 pick in the draft? Not a chance. He might get picked there, but he is nowhere good enough to live up to it. In fact, this current group of quarterbacks reminds me of a QB draft class a few years ago.
Coming out of that year, we had two highly touted QBs (one from the Pac-10). One was noted for his accuracy and leadership but lacked arm strength and the other had supreme athleticism but there were questions about his mechanics. The third guy in that race was a big armed QB from the SEC who had some decision-making issues but was athletically gifted. Those players? Matt Leinart, Vince Young, and Jay Cutler.
This is not the purest comparison, but as far as an NFL draft class, I think it holds true. Luck plays the role of Leinart; a savvy QB who would not kill you on his own, but surrounded by an excellent running game and a good line, he thrives. The most flawed among these comparisons is Jake Locker and Vince Young because Terrelle Pryor is clearly more related to Vince Young than Locker is, but bear with me. Locker is still learning the QB position and is probably an even better athlete than Young. Locker has been shooting himself in the foot lately with some shaky play, but he will still go pretty high because of his athleticism and the team will vow to “turn him into a top QB” somewhat like the Titans did with young. Perhaps the example I like best is the Jay Cutler-Ryan Mallett comparison. Both are from the SEC, blessed with outstanding arms, height, all the measurables, and none of the decision making abilities. Like Cutler, however, I think Mallett will be the best NFL QB of these three and will likely get drafted a bit after them, assuming they all come out this year.
If there is a pool taking bets on which of the three will have the best NFL career, give me Mallett and everyone who wants to bet on Luck and Locker.
Alabama over Arkansas
I am not going to waste too much time here. I just have to say “that is why they are the champs”. The composure down the stretch was absolutely frightening and Mark Ingram looks as good as ever. We were spot on about Arkansas not being for real, too. Watch out for the Tide.
I would like to start this little section where all sports columns start: with a quote from Top Chef. In the most recent season, there was a quote, which I could not find online, in while Amanda says of Alex, “Alex is a really good chef, he just has execution issues”. Why is this relevant? Because there are many college teams this applies to. Since I am most aware of my own team, I will use the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. It seems like they have good players on offense, but they just cannot move the ball. Whether it is a dropped pass or just a bad route or throw, the offense just seems to find a way to punt. Same is true of the defense. There are flashes of brilliance (all of them from Manti Te’o), but they just cannot stop anyone when it matters. They are a good team if things go right, they just have execution issues. This is true of teams all over the country who seem like they should be able to put it together, but just do not.
The moral of the story? Well, anyone who watched Top Chef knows that Alex was an awful chef, and that if your team fits the description above, you are a pretty bad football team. Execution is like 90% of the battle, so if you do not have that, you do not have much of anything.
The Pretender List
We started this last week and I figured we would check in with these highly touted soon-to-be busts. I reserve the right to add teams to this list as they reveal themselves.
Oklahoma- Snuck past Cincinnati in a game that the Bearcats absolutely threw away at home. Meeting with the Longhorns next week. Speaking of which…
Texas- Thrashed by UCLA at home. Thrashed. Redemption vs Oklahoma, but both are pretenders
Wisconsin- beat Austin Peay by 67 points. Might have over-exaggerated the Badgers’ issues, but I do not like them long term.
Auburn- Snuck past South Carolina at Jordan-Hare Stadium. If South Carolina holds onto the ball they come out of a big conference road game with a W.
Oregon- Offense is prolific, but if not for 7 Arizona State turnovers, the Sun Devils have a legitimate shot at the upset. Not impressed by the Ducks this year.
Florida- Looked better against Kentucky, but lots of teams look good against Kentucky. Alabama should blow them out next week.
Michigan- Denard Robinson is a one-man wrecking crew, but that is the problem. one injury or one bad game and they are done. There is NO way they are the 20th best team in college football.
USC- I do not think most people think the Trojans are contenders at this point, but they are on the list just to be safe. Notre Dame might actually beat them this year, though I wouldn’t bet on it.
Alright, that is all for this week, the Picks column should tie up any loose ends about next weeks matchups.