Friday, September 14, 2018

On week 2 of the 2018 College Football season

Some thoughts from around the country...

  • My biggest takeaway from Texas A&M's near loss to Clemson is that Jimbo Fisher might just have his quarterback in Kellen Mond. I was never a big fan of Mond last year, and it's possible he simply picked the right time to play the best game of his career, but I was really impressed by his pocket presence and his accuracy when throwing on the run.
  • I thought Clemson's secondary could have performed better, but they will improve throughout the year and in most cases their defensive line will protect them. My bigger concern coming out of this game is that their offensive line simply couldn't handle Texas A&M's front seven. I thought this would be Trevor Lawrence's breakout game, but instead they leaned on Kelly Bryant's legs to ease the burden on their line. It's fortunate that Clemson develops wideouts so well, because those guys are the ones who carried the team. I think Clemson's best shot at the national title involves letting Lawrence get his reps now so that he's ready for the playoffs; but if their offensive line doesn't play better then I worry about how they will fare against the other elite teams.
  • I'm not surprised USC lost - I thought they would struggle to start the year. But to not even score a touchdown is pitiful. I actually thought their power running game looked alright, however they couldn't generate any explosive plays in the passing game. Their offensive line doesn't appear to be any better in pass protection that it was last year; Sam Darnold struggled mightily to overcome their protection issues, and it's not fair to ask a true freshman (even one as gifted as JT Daniels) to do the same. I still think USC is the favorite to win the south division because of their talent advantage, but to not be able to even score a touchdown is troubling.
  • Stanford's opponents are stacking the box to stop Bryce Love at all costs. In both games David Shaw stubbornly tried to establish the running game until late in the second half, at which point the KJ Costello/JJ Arcega-Whiteside connection has proven to be a nightmare to defend. I think at some point Shaw's refusal to utilize his passing game early on will cost Stanford against an opponent with a better offense than USC's.
  • Notre Dame didn't look very good against Ball State, but the fact that they called so many passes leads me to believe they were trying to practice their passing game against an opponent that they new they could beat in their sleep. You would've liked to see them hold up better in pass protection, and I think Brandon Wimbush still has a ways to go as a passer, but I think the Michigan game was more indicative of how they'll look against Vanderbilt.
  • Coming into the year I thought Boise State was the best group of five team, but not a serious playoff contender. UConn isn't great, but the fact that Boise outgained them by 700(!) yards is eye-opening. They were up 41-0 at halftime, so this wasn't just a case of running up the score. To some extent that game was an outlier, but Boise sure looked like a team that can physically overwhelm the other teams in their conference. I think Brett Rypien should feast against Oklahoma State's defense, but if Boise can shut down that offense we have to consider their case for being ranked in the top 10.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

On Washington vs. Auburn

Some thoughts on the game...

  • The glass half full version of this game goes as follows: Washington lost by 6 in a de facto road game against a top 10 team. At one point they had a lead in the fourth quarter, and had the ball with a chance to win at the end. And all of this happened despite Washington missing their starting left tackle and tight end. Washington's young receivers repeatedly made plays against an SEC secondary; their defensive line controlled the second half (until the final drive). Washington should come out of this loss feeling encouraged, right? If Washington's goal is to win the Pac 12 and make the Rose Bowl, then I agree with that assessment. However, if you came into the season expecting Washington to make and be competitive in the playoff (which I did), this game had some troubling signs. For one, Washington's offensive line looked completely overwhelmed. Their two running backs had decent numbers, but I thought that had more to do with Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed finding ways to bounce it outside and make guys miss rather than the line consistently opening holes in the middle. Jake Browning was running for his life from the opening snap. I actually give Browning a lot of credit for craftily evading edge rushers when he could, and taking hit after hit after hit when he couldn't. But that's simply not a winning formula against elite teams, especially with a quarterback like Browning who depends so much on rhythm and timing rather than improvisation. Their blocking woes may disappear as soon as Trey Adams returns - he is that good - but who knows how good he'll be coming off knee and back injuries? I also was pretty disappointed by how unprepared Washington's secondary looked at the start of the game. They eventually settled in, but they didn't smother Auburn's receivers the way I expected. It's fair to point out that Jarrett Stidham is a likely first round picky. However when it comes to competing against potential playoff teams, I thought Washington's secondary would need to be their trump card. They looked alright against Auburn, but not like the the kind of elite position group that can warp the flow of games even against teams like Alabama and Ohio State.
  • If I were an Auburn fan, I would be pretty disappointed that Auburn needed to eke out a win in the fourth quarter. In the first half Auburn established a clear advantage over Washington's offensive line while Jarrett Stidham sliced up Washington's secondary. After the first quarter I thought we were headed towards a blowout. Instead, Auburn's corners couldn't cover a fade route to save their lives, and their offensive playcalling went into a shell. Auburn's offensive line didn't answer any of the questions they had coming into the season, failing to consistently open holes in the running game. I thought Washington was pretty fortunate that Auburn kept waiting until 3rd and long to throw the ball. If Auburn wants to win the SEC they have quite a bit to clean up.