Thursday, September 22, 2016

North Dakota State beat Iowa...what does it mean?

I wrote up some of the big takeaways from the Bison's most recent achievement, a road win in Iowa. Check it out at Football Study Hall.

Breaking down how basic D took down the Sooners

Read about it at SB Nation!

You'll notice in the article that while Oklahoma did a better job against this style of defense than Notre Dame did against Michigan State, they didn't really get after the Buckeyes with as precise an attack as I would have liked were I a Sooner fan.

Perhaps the real crime though was on the part of "big game Bob" for allowing "cautious Mike" to putting such an unaggressive and poorly prepared defense on the field to defend his legacy and the Sooners' home field.

This play says it all...
That's Ohio State's favorite play on 3rd and 5 or less and not only were the Sooners poorly lined up to stop it, they didn't even seem ready at the snap. It was obvious to me what play was coming and it clearly wasn't at all obvious to the players.

Urban Meyer had Oklahoma out of sorts all day long with his formations, particularly a trips set that featured an H-back motioning around and one of the receivers lined up in such a way that made him an ineligible receiver. You have to know Ohio State is running the ball from that set yet Oklahoma couldn't stop it.

No more of this, Oklahoma fans, cautious Mike has got to go...

Monday, September 19, 2016

Monday check-up on the Big 12

It was another tough week in the Big 12 with presumptive frontrunner Oklahoma getting predictably pasted by Ohio State, TCU losing star skill player Kavontae Turpin, and Texas failing their first road test in dramatic fashion.

My expectation all offseason was that the Big 12 would be competitive and lack an elite team that would make the playoffs...that may have been an understatement. The league looks WIDE open right now and none of these teams seems remotely likely to make the playoffs.

Ian's pick: Baylor -30 over Rice. Wrong


The Bears only won by 28 points against the always sound and sturdy Owls, who gashed Baylor on the ground but were helpless when throwing the ball.

Interesting notes from this game seem to be the continued ascendance of JaMycal Hasty (14 carries, 105 yards) and Seth Russell continuing to work his way back into shape.

Ian's pick: Memphis +19.5 over Kansas. Vindicated


Montell Cozart played terribly in this game and was replaced by Ryan Willis, who performed better. I think Beaty needs to accept that his best chance to win is with the less mobile pocket passer than the better athlete who struggles to throw the ball. Otherwise, they may not win another game.

Ian's pick: TCU -24 against Iowa State. Wrong


The Frogs came close but couldn't quite cover the spread against the Cyclones. Interesting notes from this game include the fact that Turpin was lost for the year, TCU ran the ball pretty well, and TCU locked down Allen Lazard.

I didn't watch the game so I don't know how they achieved that result but either they fixed their cornerback issue already or they kept him bracketed for the entire game. I'm guessing the latter.

The Frogs now get a sort of respite with SMU next up and then they take on the 1-2 Oklahoma Sooners in what will be a YUGE Big 12 opener.

Ian's pick: KSU doesn't cover -22.5 vs Florida Atlantic. Wrong


I don't feel bad, who knows anything about Florida Atlantic? The Wildcats interestingly seemed to focus on their run game in this one with eight different guys getting carries. They didn't suffer any major injuries (that I'm aware of) and they had a chance to practice some stuff they'll need later in the year.

I already feel confident that this will be a 7-8 win team that has an impact on the Big 12 race, whether or not they can actually improve enough to contend for the B12 will be hard to discern until they play another good team.

Ian's pick: Pittsburgh +6.5 over Oklahoma State. Totally wrong.


I thought Pitt's clever, pro-style offense would give the Cowboys fits while I questioned whether OSU was effective enough in the run game to really get after the Panthers' brand of press-quarters.

The 'Pokes definitely got ripped by the Panther offense, but they in turn destroyed Narduzzi's defense in the air and on the ground. Surely Pat is re-evaluating some of his anti-spread tactics at this point after surrendering over 100 rushing yards to Rennie Childs. Right?

James Washington amusingly had 296 receiving yards in this game. Talk about padding stats.

Ian's pick: Tech covers 10.5 against La Tech. Vindicated


The Raiders gave up 45 points though and had to score 59 to cover the spread. Wowzas. The Bulldogs did basically whatever they wanted on offense while Mahomes did all that and more.

Kingsbury is going to need to look in the mirror this offseason and ask why his teams are so wretched on defense. You can't count on scoring 60 points every week in the Big 12.

Ian's pick: tOSU covers 2.5 and beats the Sooners. Vindicated


Haven't had a chance to break this game down yet but I will in the coming days. I don't know how OU approached the Ohio State run game but whatever they tried didn't work. It may have been a simple issue of the Buckeyes simply having a superior team though, I was never buying this Oklahoma team as being on that talent level.

A Sooner victory was going to have to come as a result of superior experience and planning on both sides of the ball, the latter is hard to pull off against an Urban Meyer team.

The Sooners get TCU and Texas after a bye week. They could conceivably start the year 1-4. It's hard to believe that Stoops would ever allow that to happen, but it's not like Patterson and Strong are just sitting on their hands right now either.

Ian's pick: Texas covers -8 against Cal. Wrong


Should have been the case, but Texas shot themselves in the foot a few times and Cal ended up taking over in the fourth quarter after looking like they were going to be murdered on the field early in the game.

More on Texas' defensive woes and their solution can be found here.

Next week's Oklahoma State vs Baylor game is looking like it may reveal a lot about how wide open the Big 12 is this season. The Bears seem an ominous threat to contend for the league title, which would probably infuriate everyone outside of Waco.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Breaking down TCU's problems on defense

Read up on what I found over at Football Study Hall.

On the TCU run defense, I just didn't see much to give me a lot of pause. For every play where there were errors and breakdowns there were others in which their DL made some plays, the linebackers flashed athleticism, or the safeties ran guys down on the perimeter.

For instance, here's TCU struggling with "power" from the Jackrabbits.


You see the Jackrabbit RB nail the cutback lane left open by the pulling guard and TCU doesn't fill it very aggressively, leading to some nice space.

Here's how the play was supposed to work for TCU:

The backside end is looking to keep the QB contained, the nose is working over into the new backside A-gap, the linebackers are fast flowing to the point of attack where the double team and lead block are, and the weakside safety is supposed to drop down and defend the cutback lane.

As you saw on the clip though, weakside safety Nick Orr was late to fill that assignment and since the Jackrabbits stacked up the strong side of their formation to the boundary the RB had a LOT of space to work in when he cleared the first level.

Later on that drive, the Jackrabbits ran power again:


This time the Jackrabbits get into a similar formation where the strength is loaded into the boundary again via motion. Nose tackle Joseph Broadnax doesn't get over into the new A-gap properly this time, perhaps because he's wary of giving up the cutback. Field cornerback Ranthony Texada and weak safety Nick Orr both rush to fill that cutback lane in the B-gap this time and get too deep to recover when the RB instead plunges into the A-gap.

What you're seeing here isn't really a failure in which players are being over-matched or unable to fulfill their assignments though. It's just missed assignments and mental busts that lead to costly mistakes.

I'm very confident that Gary Patterson can clean that up, and indeed the following week they were fairly solid against the Arkansas run game. The cornerback issues in coverage I broke down at Football Study Hall on the other hand...those might be bigger issues that linger into the season.

One stop shop for Texas coverage

Crazy things are happening with Texas football. Well they're sort of normal, in a way. All of the talent that the program is regularly able to bring to campus is being deployed in a way such that the players' strengths can overlap, build on each other, and bring devastation as a result.

I'm not at all convinced that Texas is ready to win the Big 12 (though plenty of other Texas writers are, naturally) but another convincing win against Cal would be a good indicator. You can read my Cal preview FREE by following this link.

What's more, Inside Texas is offering a promotional opportunity in which you can get all of our content FREE up till the OU game by signing up now. Options include a $9.99 a month deal, $99.99 for a full year, or the current "free for 17 days, then $9.99/month" deal.

If you want regular, nearly 24/7 access to my own thoughts on Texas as well as those of Eric Nahlin, Justin Wells, Joe Cook, or Scipio Tex then this is the way to go.

How good or bad are the Vols on offense, really?

That seems to be the biggest question in the SEC East and the stakes are really quite high. If Tennessee won the SEC East with 1-2 losses and then managed to win the SEC title by some fluke or another, they'd be in the playoffs for sure.

If they took down an Alabama team that had bad luck with turnovers, was missing a player to injury, etc and who had thrashed the Vols earlier in the year (very likely) then what? Then maybe we have two SEC teams in the playoffs.

Regardless of all that, Tennessee is a big part of the story of 2016 and it's been a struggle to get a good handle on what part they are going to play. They look like the over-hyped team that "Clemsons" hard but then they haven't actually lost yet.

Over at SB Nation I break down what's up with their offense and whether it can be good enough to achieve something meaningful and interesting this season.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Breaking down Texas' 3-4 package and victory over UTEP

Texas showed a fun 3-4 package against UTEP that could come up again later this year I've dubbed "Hager is coming..." and is proving that some of the whiplash hype on the team may be warranted.

Read about it at Inside Texas.