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College Football Realignment… Again?

Once again, college football’s conference realignment is the topic on everyone’s lips. 

It’s something that I wrote about last year, and I’m going to attempt a very late follow up here. So why has this talking point been thrust into the news cycle once more? 

Yesterday evening, just as we were all settling down for a nice quiet Thursday, the bomb dropped. 

USC and UCLA were applying to join the Big Ten conference, and was this just entering the Twittersphere as a rumour, no! After just a few hours in the news cycle this was being talked about in ways that seemed like it was inevitable.

The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach tweets that I’ve dropped in here show just how quickly things moved… There were 65 minutes between those two tweets. 65 minutes which feel like they have changed the college football landscape forever.

Although… Is it going to change forever? And did this all actually happen in the space of 65 minutes?

Well… The answer to the first one is, possibly and the second answer is, no, of course not. 

As mentioned, we only have to cast our minds back around 12 months for the rumblings of Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC, and once that particular domino fell later in 2021, was the writing on the wall? Was this the genesis for the latest era of college football’s conference realignment? 

Of course, even with USC and UCLA, they didn’t negotiate this in a smidge over an hour either – This has likely been a plot between Angeleno schools for a number on months, and with how quickly it appears to have been concluded, it seems like the Big Ten were in the know, unlike the Pac-12 who seem to have been caught off guard almost entirely.

So, the questions now, with this deal seemingly done, is what does this mean for college football, and does this really make sense for a pair of teams based in Los Angeles to be joining a conference which already spans from Lincoln, Nebraska to the Jersey shore?

I’ll start with the latter question and in short, I don’t know if it does. I will take some convincing that after spending all of the money on Lincoln Riley, his staff, and an abundance of spending on transfers and NIL deals that USC wants to be playing road games in Illinois at Noon, or a December game at Capital One Field in Maryland, a handful of miles away from the Nation’s capital.

Is this conducive to good on-field play and the best product for everybody’s television screens? I mean, what is it with the sports world these days and just treating the players like cattle who can just be herded on to a plane and expect to perform for the baying public an extraordinary amount of times per season, whilst accumulating an extraordinary amount of air-miles?

Do players and coaches want these pan-American trips? Sure, it’s a thing for the glamour games against Ohio State and such like, but who wants to leave comfortable temperatures and sandy beaches in LA to play in Ryan Field against the Northwestern Wildcats with the wild ripping off Lake Michigan? 

I do not think this makes sense for either USC or UCLA.

However, there are a couple of reasons why this is something that is happening.

To be a member of the Big Ten, a school usually has to be a member of the AAU (Association of American Universities), which in short is a group of schools who are “devoted to maintaining a strong system of academic research and education”. So in short, education matters and USC and UCLA embraced the criteria of entry to the Big Ten’s club because of that.

It also makes sense because USC and UCLA are probably tired of being in the nation’s biggest sports market and being weighed down by the Pac-12’s inability to keep up with the rest of college football from a financial standpoint (thanks, Larry Scott). So what do you do when you’re a big fish in an increasingly smaller pool? And I guess they see the answer as, try to jump to a different pool, or at least, try to make your existing pool a little bigger. 

I am talking about conference realignment, rather than these two high-tailing it to a conference which makes very little geographic sense to be a part of – I think this is a play to shake things up and to put pressure on the other Pac-12 teams to make good use of their alliance and good relations with the Big Ten and essentially stop the SEC getting too far ahead of everybody else.

Now we start to get into the predictions…

The proposed move isn’t due to occur until 2024 so that gives a couple of years worth of moving and shaking to take place… So buckle up, it’s going to get rough!

I would be shocked if we don’t find ourselves in a position where we have a group of “Power 4” conferences, each with 16 teams. The SEC, The Big 10, The… East Coast Conference (?) Mainly replacing the ACC, and the new Western States Conference, being the successor of mainly the Pac-12 although, as you will see in a moment, with my alignment, will absorb a number of current Big XII teams. I don’t think the two agitators end up moving to the Big Ten but they do continue the chain reaction of change around college football…

So here we go then;

SEC

West

Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Arkansas, Ole Miss

East

Mississippi State, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, South Carolina, Vanderbilt

So this is just what the SEC will become when Texas and Oklahoma join, and really, what every other conference wishes it was. It’s a shame to break up the Mississippi teams but it’s the most sensible way that I can see.

Big Ten – Which can actually keep its name as it’ll be split over ten states in this format

East

Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Indiana, Cincinnati, Clemson

West

Iowa, Iowa State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northwestern, Illinois, Notre Dame, Kansas

A little to unpack here – A number of new joiners; Notre Dame being the most contentious as a current independent but with Clemson jumping aboard too, the Big Ten’s TV contract will be enormous. 

Cincinnati are an up-and-comer who join the Big Ten rather than the Big XII as planned, which is a win and a better geographic fit. Iowa State joins to keep the Big Ten feeling like the Big Ten and Kansas is a geographic fit and adds to the Big Ten’s college basketball portfolio.

East Coast Conference – I don’t love this name and originally had it as the “Big East” but that’s already taken. It’s not a conference naming article anyway, so…

North

West Virginia, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Pitt, Louisville, Boston College, NC State, Syracuse

South

UCF, Houston, FSU, Miami, UNC, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Duke

Nothing too crazy here, just taking the Big XII, or future Big XII members left in the footprint that aren’t in the Big Ten or SEC now.

Sorry, Rutgers and Maryland, I guess the American conference has plenty of room now?

Western States Conference 

Coastal

USC, UCLA, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, California, Stanford

Mountain

Utah, Colorado, Arizona State, Nebraska, Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State

A little bit of a Pac-12 and Big XII merger, with the Western States conference taking five Big XII schools. No huge hitters joining but so really solid teams and some Texas real estate, as well as some exceptional basketball programmes too add to the mix too.

Arizona misses out along with BYU, who I guess could remain independent or join the Mountain West along with Arizona.

Underneath the Power-4 conferences would probably be another four or five lesser conferences, which by virtue of the domino effect would probably face some kind of realignment as well, but that’s an article for next year.

In conclusion, is this perfect? Absolutely not! I’d expect, and welcome, comments about which schools wouldn’t join, and there are factors which I’ve almost certainly not taken into account but one thing is for certain, change is coming.

I didn’t even think about how the expanded playoff would work in this format..

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College Football: UK TV Preview Week 12

#7 Michigan State Spartans (9-1) vs. #4 Ohio State Buckeyes (9-1) – Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

Saturday 20th November 5pm (UK)

Ohio State 18.5 point favourites at the time of writing

To say, this game is big for the outlook of the College Football playoffs, maybe a slight understatement. Win and the dream is still alive; lose and either team can kiss goodbye to being talked about in any championship conversation. 

For Ohio State, the double header with Michigan State this week and Michigan next couldn’t be tougher, however their current form suggests a team high on confidence and they should be relishing the chance to win both games and take the Big XII title. 

This game will be billed as the battle of two of the best RB’s in the land; Kenneth Walker III and Treveyon Henderson. Both have shown on a weekly basis that they are special talents, and they are key pieces for their respective offenses. A standout game from either will put them firmly at the forefront of any Heisman conversation. 

For Michigan St, the blueprint for Mel Tucker and his men should be similar to that of Ohio State’s sole defeat against Oregon; where a heavy dose of the run game was too much for the Ohio State defense to handle. Where the run defense has slightly improved, against Purdue, the pass defense for Ohio State was porous, giving up 390 air yards in a total of 481 yards. Therefore there should be opportunities both in the air for Payton Thorne and co to exploit as well as on the ground for Walker III. 

For Ohio State, it’s about getting the offense to light it up once again. CJ Stroud has improved every week and is a far better QB compared to the early season hiccups. The supporting cast of Olave,Wilson and Smith-Njigba are the best receiving trio in the land and the dicey Spartans secondary will have a tough time stopping this juggernaut of an offense, hence more of an emphasis on the Michigan St pass rush to add to their 31 sack tally this season. 

Expect a high scoring, gripping game where by the end of the evening, one team will remain in the hunt for honours at the end of the season, whilst the other can say sayonara to their season. 

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (9-1) @ Clemson Tigers (7-3) – Memorial Stadium, Clemson, South Carolina

Saturday 20th November – 5pm (UK)

Clemson 4.5 favourites at the time of writing

Clemson can take their win streak over Wake Forest to 13 games with a win on Saturday, but this is surely the best opportunity that the Demon Deacons have had to upset the odds for a long time.

The last time the two teams met in 2020 saw a 37-13 Tigers win, but a lot of things have changed since then. For a start, it is Wake Forest that are currently in pole position for a shot at the ACC Championship, then there’s the fact that Clemson’s offense has been subpar most of the season and Dabo Swinney’s men have made hard work of the majority of their games.

The key to this game will be when Sam Hartman has the ball in his hands, all season long the Demon Deacons’ offense has been able to run up points, but against an astute Clemson defense they face their biggest challenge yet. It’ll be fascinating to watch how the tandem of A.T Perry and Jacquarii Roberson matchup against Andrew Booth and Mario Goodrich. Presumably Hartman will be targeting Goodrich early and often on Saturday afternoon, with the highly rated Booth capable of blanketing any receiver in college football.

On the other side of the ball, Wake Forest have been largely unable to stop opposition offenses this season – relying on Hartman and co to outscore their opponents. Clearly Clemson haven’t been at their best this year, but their offense has slightly picked up in recent weeks. Look out for 6’4” freshman receiver, Dacari Collins, who introduced himself in style last week with a huge game against UConn – he’ll be a factor in this Tigers’ offense for the next few years.

This game feels very well priced, it’s incredibly tempting to take Wake Forest and the points given how they’ve performed this year, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that Dabo knows his team has to show the ACC who is boss. Either way this should be a great way to get the Saturday action underway.  

Arkansas Razorbacks (7-3) @ Alabama Crimson Tide (9-1) – Bryant – Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Saturday 20th November – 8.30pm (UK)

Alabama 20.5 favourites at the time of writing

The Arkansas Razorbacks have had an incredibly successful season up to this point, they’re 7-3, ranked in the playoff committee’s top 25 and have got a few notable wins on their resume.

However, this week is a different type of challenge. The Crimson Tide haven’t always looked like their normal selves in 2021, but they’ve still smashed aside the majority of their opponents. Bryce Young is the current favourite to take the Heisman Trophy in the first season he’s been the starter in Tuscaloosa, add that to the £1m in NIL deals he struck in the off-season and he’s had a pretty good year.

One player who scouts are starting to warm up to is transfer receiver, Jameson Williams. Prior to transferring to the Crimson Tide, Williams had a season best of around 150 yards with Ohio State, however this year has seen him explode onto the scene. Working with Young, Williams now has more than 1000 yards receiving, with ten touchdown grabs. His fluid route running and ability to create separation put him as easily the best option in the receiving game for Alabama at this moment in time. Look for him to have another big day on Saturday.

Arkansas has talent throughout their roster, KJ Jefferson has surprised many in his debut season as the Razorbacks starting signal caller, and he’s joined by the likes of Treylon Burks and Trelon Smith. On their day, that trio of players can be a handful for any defense, even one as supremely talented as Alabama. However, with some of the outstanding athletes that the Crimson Tide can trot out opposite them, Will Anderson, Phidarian Mathis and Josh Jobe to name a few, it feels like the Razorbacks might be in for a very long afternoon.

Alabama needs this win to stay as the second ranked team in the nation, the 20.5 spread shows that the bookies feel they’ll do it easily. Despite the fact Arkansas have had a great season it is difficult to disagree with the bookies, Alabama minus the points feels like the bet.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-7) @ #15 Wisconsin Badgers (7-3) – Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wisconsin

Saturday 20th November 8.30pm (UK)

Wisconsin 9.5 point favourites at the time of writing

Over on the lesser side of the Big Ten, Wisconsin has some business to take care of when they look to take another step towards a divisional title in their game against Nebraska.

A few short weeks ago, it was Iowa who looked like they had the division sewn up, however they seem to have dropped the ball and now the Badgers have been on a tear recently and are on a six game win streak, including a win over Iowa that gives them the all important tie-breaker. Their final game is a tough one against Minnesota, so it’s kind of tradition for the bigger teams to have a little bit of a cupcake the game before, right?

That’s perhaps a little unkind to Nebraska but when does the Scott Frost era start? I heard that’s going to be big…

Adrian Martinez, for a four-star prospect who was heralded has been disappointing throughout his Nebraska career in comparison to the hype. He’s another college only QB (as discussed on this week’s pod and in yesterday’s Thursday Night Preview), he’s Nebraska’s leading rusher, and is a genuine rushing threat, who can have his exciting moments.

As a passer he’s not a finished product but his legs are his main weapon and he could give Wisconsin’s defense some scares if he gets out in space. When he does pass, the main weapon in the passing game is Senior wide receiver Samori Toure who transferred in from Montana to get a shot at a Power-5 school.

Toure is a big play receiver who averages over 20 yards a catch. He’s certainly not a volume receiver with only 32 catches on the season but at 716 yards for it, he’s a player that Wisconsin needs to account for in the passing game.

Outside of that… Well, there’s not a whole lot going on.

For the Badgers, well we know what’s coming, I’m sure Nebraska knows what is coming and it’s a case of whether they can stop it. They’re going to run the football.

Graham Mertz again, is a QB that isn’t really it, despite what was a pretty hot start in his first outing as a starter against Illinois last year where he threw 5 touchdowns and had one incompletion…

Wisconsin has a pair of rushers who are over 800 yards in Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi. Of course they have, it’s Wisconsin, they have over three times as many rush attempts on the season compared to their pass attempts! And at the end of the day Mertz is there to facilitate the run-game.

That’s where I arrive at my prediction for the game – It’s not bold, or out there but Wisconsin will run all over the Cornhuskers and it’ll be one sided, even if the ‘Huskers had a proficient offense, Wisconsin actually has the best defense in college football in terms of giving up fewest yards per game. They’ve been low-key lights out.

Auburn Tigers (6-4) @ South Carolina Gamecocks (5-5) – Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, South Carolina

Sunday 21st November 12am (UK)

Auburn 7.5 point favourites at the time of writing

There was one point during the season where Auburn looked like they might do something this year, a 4-1 start looked pretty healthy and through 8 games they’d won 6 with only a narrow loss to Penn State and a seemingly inevitable loss to Georgia on the record.

However, in just a couple of weeks they’ve regressed back to also-rans in the SEC, which is a label which could be placed on their opponents this week, who are 5-5 and together these two teams have only mustered 5 SEC wins between them.

I’ve written about a few games this week that fall into the category of, let’s just go out and have some fun, because there’s not much riding on them. They’re games that have some talent on show or a QB or two who have some fun plays in them each week, although without the interest of watching future NFL players… However, this game is different.

Despite these two being fairly average teams in the grand scheme of college football, there are some Sunday players in this match up, so get your scouting notebooks out.

I like Auburn linebacker Zakoby McClain and defensive backs Nehemiah Pritchett and Roger McCreary, and on offense there is, of course, Tank Bigsby at running back and the exciting Kobe Hudson at receiver (the later of whom you can read more about here).

The NFL talent to watch out for in garnet and black is edge defender Kingsley Enagbare – I violent and polished pass rusher who, whilst not perfect, can certainly cause offensive tackles a problem when he’s on top form.

Neither of these teams seem to give up a whole lot on defense and neither have a really potent offense, so this could be one for those defensive players to put on a show for potential NFL scouts who will be in attendance. Take the under, folks.

#3 Oregon Ducks (9-1) @ #23 Utah Utes (7-3) – Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah

Sunday 21st November 12.30am (UK)

Utah 3 point favourites at the time of writing

Here. We. Go! The biggest game in the Conference of Champions so far this season.

Utah welcome the Ducks who are well and truly in the hunt for a playoff spot and currently sit at #3 in the college football playoff rankings, however, it’s a ranking and a situation which feels so, so finely and delicately poised… One loss or even a narrow win in the wrong circumstances and the Ducks will be dropped. We all know the Pac-12 isn’t held in the same esteem as other Power-5 conferences and the loss to Stanford leaves Oregon exposed, and as much as Utah are ranked and the Ducks may have to beat them twice to get in.

Utah is going to revel in their role as party-poopers too.

Rice-Eccles, for all its picturesque beauty, is going to be chilly on Saturday night. It’s going to be November football at the business end of the regular football season. It’s a huge challenge for Oregon.

Plus it’s not just the environment, it’ll be the atmosphere – Rice-Eccles will be a fierce place and a hostile place for those guys in a Ducks uniform.

Speaking of uniforms and breaking away from the game preview for a second, Utah will be wearing these beauties on Saturday night.

Anyway… Back to the game. I feel that it’s a little disrespectful to have the #3 team in the country as underdogs, even if they are on the road against a tough environment against a good team. I think it shows how little faith the bookies have in Oregon and their quest to keep another loss out of that column and make it to the final four.

In terms of players to watch out for, I think this game will revolve around two running games and whose defenses will need to shut the other team’s offense and running game down.

Utah’s Devin Lloyd will absolutely be one to watch both for fans of these teams, fans watching for fun on TV and NFL scouts.

Keep your eyes on #0 on Saturday, he has 85 tackles, 6 sacks, 6 pass deflections and 3 interceptions. Lloyd is a top-50 player and a fringe first rounder as things stand for me, he’s my kind of linebacker as someone who can affect the game in multiple ways, as seen in his season stat line.

On the other side of the game, the Ducks have a linebacker of their own who can cause some ripples in an offensive game plan, and that in Noah Sewell, Brother of former-Duck and now-Detroit Lion, Penei Sewell. Sewell is in his first year as a starter a Redshirt Freshman and he currently leads the team in tackles with 79, whilst he’s also registered 3 sacks and a handful of pass deflections.

Whilst these aren’t Lloyd levels just yet, he’s on the way to becoming a special player in his own right.

I’ve spoken for a while on the podcast and in articles that the Oregon defense is what drives this team and that unit also has the best player in college football at defensive end – Kayvon Thibodeaux – and a defensive back who is tied for the most interceptions in college football at the moment, in Verone McKinley III. Both of these guys will be in the NFL next year and have the ability to ruin Utah’s day.

They’ll be hunting Utah QB, Cam Rising’s passes, and the Sophomore passer himself on Saturday. They’ll need to as well because since beating Charlie Brewer essentially into retirement, he’s been very good and looked after the football really nicely, and it’s easy to see why Kyle Whittingham chose to go in the direction that he did – Another one for NFL scouts to keep their eye on for in a year or two, and one for fans to get a look at in a big game on Saturday evening.

Again, I think this one will be close, I think this one will be low-scoring, but this will be fascinating and it, of course, will be full of drama. Make sure you tune in to this one. 

Arizona State Sun Devils (7-3) @ Oregon State Beavers (6-4) – Reser Stadium, Corvallis, Oregon

Sunday 21st November 3.30am (UK)

Arizona State 2.5 point favourites at the time of writing

Lastly, the night owl game is a real under-the-radar, sneaky good clash between two teams who have had really good seasons out west and should get selected to a couple of decent bowl games in a few week’s time.

However, depending on how Oregon and Utah shakes out, it could leave the door ajar for Arizona State to win in Corvallis and have a platform to win the Pac-12 South, a race which only has two potential winners now in ASU and Utah.

Arizona State is 5-3 in conference play with Utah 6-2, although the Utes hold the tie-breaker, so they do need favours from Oregon and Colorado to close out the season, and to beat Oregon State and Arizona in their final two games but since losing to the Utes, they are unbeaten and will want to close the season out strong.

If the Sun Devils are to do that, they’ll be leaning on star running back Rachaad White once again – White has over 1,200 all-purpose yards and 15 touchdowns to his name and has been a big play waiting to happen this season…

White is a true dual-threat and with a Senior Bowl invite secured, I have a feeling that a lot of fans are going to be joining the bandwagon that a few of our team have been on all season, once they get eyes on him. Right now, White is probably in the draft sleeper category but it won’t be too long until everyone wakes up.

Over on defense for Arizona State, you’ll want to keep eyes on #8 Merlin Robertson too. Robertson is a hard-hitting strongside linebacker who also has a nice habit of getting his hands on the football – He’s got 3 interceptions this season, one of which he’s taken back for six points.

On the flip side of this game, the Oregon State Beavers are enjoying their best season since they went to, and won, the Hawaii Bowl in 2013. They’ve never been bowl eligible again until now and currently lie second in the Pac-12 North and are well and truly in that category of Pac-12 teams who the bigger programmes feel uncomfortable about playing…Earlier this year they handed Utah an L, and in their remaining two games they have a chance to snuff out Arizona State’s potential title tilt and ruin their neighbour’s playoff chances as they face Oregon in their final regular season game.

On offense they actually gain more yards and score more points than their bigger in-state rival Ducks, on average per game. Which isn’t much to write home about but it’s probably something that most wouldn’t have assumed – Much of the offense runs via BJ Baylor the Senior running back who has 12 scores and will likely tick over the 1,000 yard mark in this game.

Over on defense for the Beavers, again, they’ve held their own well and are no pushovers – If you are a fan of the series Last Chance U, you may recognise starting corner, Rejzohn Wright, #1, who was a transfer from Laney College in Oakland and featured heavily in season 5 of the popular Netflix series.

Wright is having  a nice year and has registered a sack, a forced fumble and a pair of interceptions.

Give me a Beavers at home for this one, just by a hair.

By Lee (@Wakefield90), Andy (@ajmoore21) & Raj (@The_Garch)

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College Football: Winners & Losers – Week 11

Winners – Andy (@ajmoore21)

Oregon Ducks

We’re at the point in the year where every game has the potential to make or break the season for all those teams in contention for a playoff berth. Oregon potentially have the most to lose at this point, ranked as a top three team with only the might of Alabama and Georgia ahead of them, one loss would knock them out of contention.

It is therefore a good job that the Ducks keep winning. With a 38-24 victory on Saturday night, Mario Cristobal’s men have won five on the bounce and moved one step closer to the Pac-12 North title. They had a strong run game and their defense to thank for the win, with QB Anthony Brown only passing for 135 yards.

Brown was much better on the ground, adding 123 yards and a score on 17 carries. He was joined by Travis Dye and Byron Cardwell who put up 88 and 98 yards respectively as the Ducks ground out the win in Eugene. Oregon ranks in the top ten in rushing offense in 2021, a feat that is all the more impressive following the loss of CJ Verdell to injury.

Equally impressive is the Ducks’ ability to force turnovers, this was the fifth time that they’ve forced three or more takeaways this season and they’ve now got 15 at home on the year. Verone Mckinley III and Bryan Addison both picked off Jayden de Laura on Saturday, and the Oregon defense also forced a fumble.

Utah and Oregon State stand between the Ducks and their playoff berth, both teams have been good this year so Cristobal will need to ensure there’s no let off from his team in their pursuit of the postseason.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Another team in the playoff mix is Ohio State. Since an early season defeat to Oregon the Buckeyes have been on fire, blowing their way by the vast majority of opponents. CJ Stroud silenced any talk of a QB controversy with the help of some of the best weapons in the game and the emergence of a freshman superstar at Running Back. 

On Saturday they blew past Purdue, who had been given the nickname, ‘Spoilermakers’ following their defeat of Michigan State in week ten. Stroud threw five touchdown passes, with Garrett Wilson showing why he’s one of the best WRs in the country by catching three of those. Every analyst in the country waxed lyrical about the Buckeyes’ receiver room before the start of the season and they’re now showing why, alongside Wilson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba has become the guy to move the chains with Chris Olave the big play threat.

The one worrying feature for Ohio State fans as we move towards the playoff season is the capability of their team’s defense. The Buckeyes didn’t register a single sack on Saturday, they let Aiden O’Connell complete 40 passes for 390 yards and four scores and they couldn’t prevent Davil Bell from catching 11 of those passes for more than 100 yards receiving. Whilst their offense should help OSU win against most opponents, it feels like the Alabama’s of the world could make them pay if they can’t solidify on the other side of the ball.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Who is the best team in the Big 12 this year? It could well be Oklahoma State given their pasting of TCU on the same day that Oklahoma came unstuck against Baylor. 

The Cowboys are 9-1, with their one defeat coming in a close matchup against Iowa State. On Saturday they utterly obliterated TCU, with five Oklahoma State players rushing for more than 50 yards – Jaylen Warren and Dominic Richardson both made it over 100. Warren is a large part of the success that Mike Gundy’s offense has enjoyed in 2021, through ten games he has rushed for 1041 yards and ten touchdowns, adding another 164 yards in the passing game. 

Gundy has been able to rely on his defense all season long, and it was no different on Saturday. Without their starting Running Backs, TCU were unable to produce in the run game and Caleb Morris had nothing to offer through the air either. The Cowboys’ defense limited him to 103 yards on 20 attempts. They’ll have to be at their best next weekend as they come up against a resurgent Texas Tech offense, with a lot on the line ahead of their rivalry matchup against the Sooners to end the regular season.

Losers – Jake (@ACCUKAnalysis1)

​​Texas – Biggest Shock Ever?

One of the most dramatic games of the weekend, and possibly ever, came in Texas. There are so many words that can be used to describe Kansas’ victory over the Longhorns. Disastrous, exhilarating and refreshing are but a few. What happened in the Texas Memorial Stadium will go down in folklore for years to come.

To start with, there were over 100 points scored over 4 quarters and overtime, there were 6 touchdowns thrown by the Longhorns’ starting QB, and there was a shock that reverberated over the College Football world.

This game couldn’t be any more in Texas’ favor on paper if it had tried. 31.5-point favorites, Jayhawks not winning in 56 road games against teams in the Big-12, and the Jayhawks being 1-8 entering the contest. Although the Longhorns had lost 4 in a row, this result was never expected by anyone, especially the lovers of College Football.

So, we enter the game. The Jayhawks came out like a house on fire, scoring 5 touchdowns in the first half alone, sandwiching Texas’ first half touchdowns. Then the 3rd quarter twisted the game massively, Casey Thompson throwing 2 TDs and running in another to bring Texas within a score before the 4th. Thompson then threw another 2 TDs in the 4th, including one with 28 seconds left to play to take the game to overtime.

This is where it got intense. Thompson yet again did his bit to put his team ahead, before one of the craziest events of the season. Devin Neal ran in his 3rd TD of the game, before running back Jared Casey caught the 2-point attempt to win the game. The significant thing about this was that Casey has yet to make a catch all season. Some way to make your first impression of the year!

There’s always going to be shocks in any sport, but this one for the Longhorns will be tough to take. The 31.5-point spread is the largest spread upset ever in the Big-12, and is also the Longhorns’ first 5 loss streak since 1956. The trip to West Virginia next week can’t come sooner, they will need to bounce back, and do so in style.

The Unbeaten Streak Ended

Okay the No.13 ranked team beating the No.8 team can’t be deemed as a massive shock, they are both very good teams, with outstanding records. But this felt different. Oklahoma was going along nicely at 9-0 for the year. Yes, there has been plenty of eyes on them due to the quarterback situation, and I touched on this recently, but the trip to Baylor should have been more fruitful for them.

They weren’t great at all. They had just 260 yards overall offensive yards, Caleb Williams was intercepted twice, and they gave up over 400 yards. In terms of performance, this is the worst they could have got. They set new lows in terms of points and yards under Lincoln Riley’s command and were dominated by a physical Baylor side.

Nine tackles for loss and five sacks kept Oklahoma to just 4.3 yards a play, albeit before some big plays at the end boosted that number. They just could not stop this Baylor side. Gerry Bohanon was incredible on the ground. He threw just 10 yards more than he ran during the game, as well as scoring more rushing touchdowns than he threw. The Bears’ QB combined with Abram Smith to rush for 255 yards, a phenomenal total.

Does this highlight Oklahoma’s faults and weaknesses? Or does this give them a nudge not to take things for granted? History would say that it is more the latter, having won the Big-12 and going to the CFP all 4 times after losing a Big-12 contest. The question marks over the QB position have really been exposed during this contest, and will need to be resolved before big games against Iowa State and Oklahoma State.

For Baylor, this win is huge. This can give them the boost to potentially go on and win the Big-12, whilst showcasing themselves as a team who can bully the higher ranked teams. The slip-up to TCU was a wake-up call to this Bears side, they have the ability and belief to go on and challenge for the Big-12. And who is going to argue with that?

Texas A&M

Again, this isn’t a result all that surprising, but one of significance for the Aggies. Their loss at the hands of Ole Miss not only snapped their 4-game winning streak, but potentially dashed their hopes of making the postseason.

After their win against Alabama a few weeks ago, the Aggies went on an impressive streak that saw them within touching distance of the postseason. Their record now though after losing to Ole Miss means that they are reliant on Ole Miss and Alabama dropping their last 2 games for them to reach Atlanta. Not only that but they dropped 5 places in the rankings as well.

After being 15-0 down at half-time, the Aggies were never in this battle. They mustered 378 yards but were hugely outperformed by Ole Miss both on the ground and in the air. Ole Miss had 524 overall yards, largely helped by Jerrion Ealy’s 161 yards on the ground. Although he didn’t pick up a well-deserved touchdown, he kept the Aggies’ defense on the pitch a lot longer than they would have wanted. This significantly stifled their offense, despite the best efforts from Zach Calzada and Devon Achane.

The Aggies have an uphill battle to try and make the postseason, nothing is impossible but Ole Miss and Alabama both losing their final 2 games seems highly unlikely. This unfortunately puts Aggies on the Losers of the Week list.

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College Football: Week 10 – Winners & Losers

Winners – @Ajmoore21

Georgia Bulldogs

Georgia just kept on being themselves at the weekend, brushing aside Missouri in a 43-6 win and continuing to prove that they are head and shoulders above any other team in College Football this season.

The Bulldogs are 9-0, they’ve got the second best statistical defense in football (shoutout Wisconsin) and despite deficiencies on offense, they are putting teams to bed – which is more than can be said for a lot of the bigger schools in 2021. 

On Saturday Georgia’s run game wasn’t as impactful as it has been, largely due to the Tigers completely stacking the box, and so the pressure to put points on the board fell to Stetson Bennett, before he gave way to Jayden Daniels. The Bulldogs came up with seven plays of more than 15 yards, helping reassure some doubters that they can win through the air when they need to.

Kirby Smart’s men finished the season against Tennessee, Charleston and Georgia Tech, if they can successfully navigate a Vols team that has shown sparks of life recently, this is surely a roster that is on its way to an SEC title and the number one rank in the College Football Playoff.

South Carolina Gamecocks

Here’s a team that hasn’t had many shout outs this year – the South Carolina Gamecocks. It’s Shane Beamer’s first year in the job and despite being down to his third string QB, Beamer has started to leave his mark. On Saturday the Gamecocks got a statement win over Florida, lifting themselves to a respectable fourth place in the SEC East.

It was Jason Brown’s first time as the starting QB for South Carolina since his offseason transfer from St Francis, an FCS school not known for its football programme. The former two-star recruit completed 14 of 24 passes for 175 yards and two scores in showing that he’ll almost certainly remember for the rest of his life.

Whilst Brown had a good day, there’s no doubt that the Gamecocks’ win came on the back of standout performances from their defense and their rushing attack. Kevin Harris and ZaQuandre White both ran for more than 100 yards, with both backs healthy alongside Marshawn Lloyd, Beamer must be incredibly excited to see what this trio can achieve in the final three games of the season.

South Carolina’s defense has been their strong point all season, and it was no surprise that they held the Gators’ rushing attack to less than 100 yards in total. They also picked off Emory Jones and returned a fumble for a touchdown in a display which perhaps showed a sign of things to come.

Miami Hurricanes

Over the last three weeks Miami have picked up a bit of steam in the ACC, they’ve dispatched NC State, Pittsburgh and on Saturday they beat Georgia Tech to move to 5-4. The Hurricanes struggled earlier in the season as question marks around the health of D’Eriq King lingered, but they seem to have comfortably moved on from that now.

The reason they’ve been able to move on is the rise of Tyler Van Dyke. The former four-star QB has been electric to watch in recent weeks, adding another 389 yards and three touchdown passes to his resume on Saturday afternoon. His rapid ascension has greatly benefited Oklahoma transfer, Charleston Rambo, who cashed in big time against the Yellow Jackets as he caught seven passes for 210 yards and a score.

However, the success of the passing game arguably wouldn’t be possible without the emergence of Jaylan Knighton as a legitimate threat in the run game. Knighton missed the start of the season because of an unexplained suspension, but since his return he’s proved he has what it takes to be the starting back for the ‘Canes. On Saturday he picked up 162 yards on 32 carries and went into the end zone for a touchdown, who needs Cam’Ron Harris?

The ‘Canes face FSU in their annual rivalry game next weekend, a game which Noles’ fans are hoping that Jordan Travis is ready to go for. If he’s not it could be a fairly one sided affair.

PHOTOS: Miami Hurricanes against Georgia Tech
Jaylan Knighton’s return from suspension has been a boost for the Canes’ (photo: 247)

Losers – @Wakefield90

USC Trojans

This USC programme is an absolute disaster zone at the minute.

Prior to the season, the fans didn’t want Clay Helton in charge, but the hope lay in a pretty talented roster, with a potentially high-powered offense who could (and probably should) have blown every other Pac-12 team on their schedule out of the water, maybe with the exception of Utah.

I, like many others, backed the Trojans to take the Pac-12 South and take a serious run at the conference championship. However people like me forgot one important thing… Coaching matters.

The USC brass recognised this and with the season going south, having only beaten objectively bad teams so far this season, they fired Helton.

However, things have only gotten worse. USC continues to lose games against any opponent who is competent, and whilst some players are playing ok, it feels like there’s even less cohesion, even less chance of a victory and even less of a plan.

The lack of plan is really being highlighted with the use of their two quarterbacks; Kedon Slovis and Jaxson Dart.

Slovis came into this season off a poor showing in 2020, although he was only a season removed from a fantastic Freshman campaign in 2019, so 2021 was an opportunity to show which season was the real Kedon Slovis.

It has not gone well.

Now the Trojans are mixing in Jaxson Dart and it feels like Slovis needs a fresh start elsewhere for his Senior year and the NFL is a million miles away. As is the Pac-12 championship game for this team.

The end of this season can’t come quick enough. USC needs to get to the new year, make their Head Coach hire and build themselves back from the ground up.

Wake Forest and the ACC

I won’t feel bad for USC, at all. Even though I’m a Pac-12 guy and generally want to see the conference do well, USC has needed to hit the reset button for a while.

However, I do feel for Wake Forest.

I think they have been a breath of fresh air for college football and more specifically for a conference which feels like a foregone conclusion before a snap is taken most years.

Wake has played well and won a lot of games, and this weekend’s loss to UNC might not be terminal to their ACC Championship aspirations, although NC State is only a game behind now.

So why do I feel sorry for them?

I guess it’s because when it comes to our F10Y CFB Top 25, I’ve been dying for an excuse to put the Deacs a little higher but just couldn’t find a reason why, and I guess this game against a decent conference opponent could have provided me with a little more ammo to do so.

But no dice. And they have to go into the loser’s section here.

The ACC as a whole also joins them as this loss for Wake Forest also extinguishes the conference’s chances of having a representative in the college football playoff.

Everyone on the College Football Playoff Committee who Voted to put Minnesota in at #20

I mean, what were they thinking?

The Golden Gophers’ best win of the season so far was beating Purdue by a touchdown, their best result outside of that might have been only getting beaten by 14 by Ohio State.

Ok, that second one was harsh, but still… What did they see in a 6-2 team (at the time those rankings came out and were met by a collective, “what the..?”.

Purdue is only dangerous if you’re ranked in the top five, Northwestern is meh this year, and Maryland and Nebraska are super-meh, as always, and outside of that Minnesota have beaten a terrible Colorado team and two MAC teams.

The College Football Playoff guys obviously thought they were being smart, and they didn’t even just sneak them in at #25, they were safely in at #20. I guess that does fall into my nobody is good this year energy that I’ve been giving out on Twitter recently, because nobody outside of around 11 or 12 teams is good, and there is only one truly great team this year and that’s Georgia.

Anyway, back to Minnesota… As I say, I think the committee were trying to be smart and maybe thinking that they could win their final four games (Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin), charge up the rankings, play Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game, lose, and then that gives Ohio State a nice meaty championship game to push them over the top and into the final four.

Oh what drama it would have been?

Alas no, Illinois beat Minnesota and the Gophers put up 6 (six) points. Welp.

Now we can concentrate on the real drama in the Big Ten between Ohio State and the Michigan teams.

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College Football UK TV Preview Week 9

We are well into the swing of the season now with games coming thick and fast, with week 9 being no different at all. With the Thursday night games having whetted our appetites last night, Jake and Lee have 7 games for you to sink your teeth into right here, starting tonight with a game from the American conference…

Navy Midshipmen (1-6) vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (3-4) – Skelly Field at H. A. Chapman Stadium, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Saturday 30th October 12.30am (UK)

Tulsa 11 point favourites at the time of writing

Despite the battle of the negative records in the AAC, there is plenty to like about the game in Tulsa. The Midshipmen are struggling for form, but can gain positives from their narrow loss to #2 Cincinnati last time out, whilst Tulsa will be looking for their third win on the bounce after victories against Memphis and South Florida.

The stat that really makes this game intriguing is Navy’s 6-2 series lead over the Hurricane, including a 4-0 record in Tulsa. Despite Tulsa coming in favourites for this game, there is certainly an element of optimism in the Navy camp based on recent record alone.

Despite the youthfulness of Navy’s offensive line, they can rely on Isaac Ruoss and James Harris II to build upon their 211 rushing yards a game, whilst Tai Lavatai can exploit the running game, as well as being consistent with his throwing. They certainly have the running game to attack Tulsa, and cause them problems, but the reliance on their offensive line to allow Lavatai to make plays will be key.

Tulsa will need to find a way to control the ball due to Navy’s reliance on the running game. If they can manage the clock and have the ball as often as possible then they can stifle Navy’s offense and find a way to pick up points. Navy currently ranks 2nd in AAC for rushing yards allowed, and 3rd overall for total yards in the AAC. This will make them a tough proposition to break down, but the offense will be led by Davis Brin, and if he can make plays happen and get his receivers the ball things may look better for Tulsa as the game goes on. They will also need Shamari Brooks, Anthony Watkins and Deneric Prince to continue their fine form on the ground to attack the solid defense of Navy.

Tulsa are expected to turn Navy over with plenty of points to spare, but this one could be a lot closer than first expected.

Texas Longhorns (4-3) vs. #16 Baylor Bears (6-1) – McLane Stadium, Waco, Texas

Saturday 30th October 5pm (UK)

Baylor 3 point favourites at the time of writing

It may not be the big rivalry in Texas, but the Big XII clash between these two certainly has excitement written all over it. The reeling Longhorns will be desperate to stop the rot after two tough home losses to two Oklahoma teams, whilst the surprising Bears will look to pick up where they left off last time out.

With 61.5 being the over/under total in this game, there must be plenty of offense expected from these two teams. 

Texas will look to talisman Bijan Robinson, who has been incredible this season so far. He has 10 rushing touchdowns in 7 games and averaging 6.3 yards a carry. If there was going to be a running back that will break down Baylor’s tough defense then there must be optimism from the Longhorns that it will be Robinson.

From the aerial side of things, Casey Thompson will find it tough against a defense that is only allowing 6.8 yards a pass, the fewest in the Big-12. He will need to try and play the short passes consistently and often, as well as throwing in the occasional play-action to try and catch Baylor off-guard.

Baylor has the solid and impressive Gerry Bohanon at quarterback, a player who has been intercepted just once this season. He has thrown for 12 touchdowns and averaged 9 yards a pass, the third best in the Big XII. If he runs into any trouble, then he has the explosive Abram Smith and Trestan Ebner to exploit the running game. Averaging 6.1 yards a carry, the highest in the conference, Smith is also joint on rushing touchdowns with Robinson. 

https://twitter.com/FTBVids_YT/status/1446904329424674816?s=20

The Longhorns’ defense has been leaky to say the least in the last 4 games, allowing 37 points a game, including 55 to Oklahoma. They will need to be as good as they can to overcome Baylor, and the bye week may have allowed them to come up with a plan to ruin Baylor’s season. This game should be a Baylor win, but don’t be surprised to see Texas cause an upset in Waco.

Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-3) vs. #4 Oklahoma Sooners (8-0) – Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium, Norman, Oklahoma

Saturday 30th October – 8.30pm (UK)

Oklahoma 19.5 point favourites at the time of writing

Oklahoma are sitting atop of the Big XII with a perfect record of 8-0, however we all know this doesn’t tell the full story of the Sooners’ season, not at all.

Oklahoma has been in a couple of scraps, they’ve had their noses bloodied, they’ve had spotty quarterback play, to the point where their presumptive top-5 draft selection doesn’t look like he’s even going to be in the NFL next year. So you can see this one of two ways; they’re either very fortunate to be in this position, or they’re a gritty team who finds a way.

They answer, as is so often the case with these binary choices, is actually somewhere in between the two.

It is undeniable that Caleb Williams’ introduction to the team has lit a fire under the offense – To the point where he’s quite literally ripping the ball off his team mates to make a play and ensure that Oklahoma comes away with the win.

Did anybody actually establish whether that was legal or not, by the way?

Although, it’s also undeniable that the Sooners’ defense isn’t having a great year.

I am a fan of Alex Grinch, their Defensive Coordinator, but they’re looking disjointed and giving up far too many points.

So what will we see on Saturday evening?

Well, Texas Tech is a team who can trade blows. These guys have been in a number of high scorers this year and have been on the giving and receiving end of these kinds of results – So if you want to see explosive offenses and a whole heap of points getting scored, this one is the game for you!

The under/over is set at 66.5, which I think is pretty low considering the games that these two teams have been involved in.

There will be a good amount of offensive talent on show on both sides here; my guy Erik Ezukanma (above) could be on for a good game. The Texas Tech star has actually scored more rushing TDs than receiving TDs this season (2 vs. 1), which is odd for a 6’3 wide receiver but I’d back him to cause Oklahoma’s DBs a few problems.

That said, I could say the same for Marvin Mims and Jadon Haselwood for the Sooners.

Get some snacks in and get comfy because there’s going to be points here!  

#10 Ole Miss Rebels (6-1) vs. #18 Auburn Tigers (5-2) – Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Alabama

Sunday 31st October – 12am (UK)

Ole Miss 3 point favourites at the time of writing

In the SEC this week we are being treated to a clash between a pair of teams who are enjoying decent seasons in the West division of the conference.

Way back before the season began I actually backed Auburn to have a bit of an iffy year, although I have to say I do think they’re maybe a game better off than I expected, but I do expect them to be dealt three more losses in conference play the rest of the way, starting with this game against the Mississippi Rebels.

I do think that this will be an intriguing game with the strengths of each team facing off against each other; the offense of Mississippi vs. The defense of the Tigers.

I like a good number of Auburn defenders, in particular the starting corner duo, Roger McCreary and Nehemiah Pritchett.

The will be doing well to suppress the arm and passing attack of Matt Corral, who will surely be looking to wrestle back some of the attention from others now that he’s not still flavour of the month when it comes to draftable quarterbacks.

Linebacker Zakoby McClain will also have to be on point too, as Ole Miss has a pretty balanced offense who can also move the ball on the ground as well as via the pass. McClain is having a good year so far – He’s a player who is anchoring the front seven for Auburn and is a player who can do it all, and if he has a great game he gives Auburn a real shot at keeping the score low and giving the Tigers a chance.

The fact that the defense needs to keep the score low is actually pretty imperative for this Tigers team.

The offense just isn’t prolific. It never has been with Bo Nix at the controls. Which for me, makes this game a difficult one to win.

Ole Miss put up points too easily with Corral and I just feel like they will overpower Auburn, if not at first then eventually they’ll grind them down and in my book, Auburn either needs to play outstanding defense or hope for an off day. That 3 point handicap shouldn’t take too much to overcome.

#20 Penn State Nittany Lions (5-2) vs. #5 Ohio State Buckeyes (6-1) – Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

Sunday 31st October 12.30am (UK)

Ohio State 18.5 point favourites at the time of writing

This game should be close if you see the records on paper but take a deeper look and you see a Penn State side who have lost their last two games and really struggle to get it going on offense. Then you look at Ohio State, and you see a side who narrowly lost to Oregon, before going on an explosive run in their last 5 games, scoring less than 50 points in just one of those games.

C.J Stroud and the Ohio State offense are playing unbelievably in the last 5 games. They have the nation’s best receiving trio in Garrett Wilson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Chris Olave, whilst possessing one of the standout quarterbacks in 2021. Their running game has also been electric, with TreVyeon Henderson averaging 8.8 yards a carry and having 22 rushing touchdowns, whilst Miyan Williams is averaging 7.7 yards a carry. So how do you stop this offense? Especially when your defense allowed 356 rushing yards last time out. You just can’t, you just hope the secondary holds the receivers to minimal yardage, and the rushing defense steps up. If all else fails….

Penn State’s offense relies heavily on Sean Clifford being 100% and producing the performances that sees him have 1,647 yards this season. However, with him struggling to be 100% for the game at the weekend, then there could be holes in the Penn State offense. If he can pick up his performances and go back to the Clifford that started this season, then the Buckeyes may find it hard to control him. 

The Buckeyes’ defense has been steadily improving, and results have matched this. But as seen by the loss to Oregon, they have some holes in certain areas. Even Tulsa and Minnesota were very much in the game up until the 4th quarter. If Penn State can exploit the lack of a real game breaking pass rusher, then they may push this game a bit closer than expected.

However, Ohio State is strong in most departments and will look to control the ball for a length of time. If this is to be the case then the Nittany Lions have zero to minimal chance to be brutally honest. This game could be tight, or this game could be heavily controlled by the Buckeyes. My initial thought is the latter, and with the options they have in offense, then they can quite easily dispatch Penn State quite heavily. 

UCLA Bruins (5-3) vs. Utah Utes (4-3) – Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah

Sunday 31st October – 2am (UK)

Utah 4.5 point favourites at the time of writing

And for the night owls amongst us, the Pac-12 is offering up a treat with another really interesting match up within a division, but unlike the SEC match up, this one will have a huge bearing on who takes the Pac-12 South title.

Both Utah and UCLA lost last week and handed Arizona State a place in our winners column last week, despite not taking the field.

UCLA has zero ranked opponents left to play and really has a soft schedule for the remainder of the season (although, when does that matter in the Pac-12?). Utah, on the other hand, has this game against UCLA, a chippy Stanford side and Oregon to face, so they can afford no more slip-ups, especially when you consider that Arizona State is a game in front. However Utah do own the tie-breaking courtesy of their win of the Sun Devils earlier this year, which could be massive!

When we look at the odds, Utah being favoured by 4.5 says a lot. We usually allow a 3 point sway just for being at home, so really the bookies think this is pretty much a push, and as even as they come, which I would tend to agree to.

Both of these teams have their flaws, but they’re also pretty decent teams as well. They are both liable to drop a game where they shouldn’t, BYU and San Diego State are testament of that for Utah, and for UCLA you could point towards losses against

Although nice wins against LSU for UCLA and the aforementioned victory over the division leaders for Utah, shows that these teams can overcome big tests too.

So where will this one be won and lost?

For me, Utah is always a sum greater than their parts, whereas UCLA has some of the more individually talented players who can be game winners on their days, such as Zach Charbonnet and the talented offensive linemen that they have.

So with that in mind I feel that this comes down to the guy who is going to be the best player on the field, who is in fact a defensive stalwart for the Utes – Linebacker Devin Lloyd.

Can Lloyd lead the unit to smother and suffocate the Bruins offense?

If he can, then I think Utah keeps the score low enough and the Utes win the game.

Whilst Cam rising isn’t a super-explosive QB at this point, he beat out veteran competition to win the job, and they do have the trio of tight end talent to work with (as pointed out by our guy Keith in his scouting notes for week 7).

I’ll back the Utes here to take it in a close on – However, expect this game to have the usual thrills and spills that litter every Pac-12 game! 


Follow Lee on Twitter – @Wakefield90

Follow Jake on Twitter @ACCUKAnalysis1

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2021 College Football: Week 8 Scouting Notes

Week 8 Scouting Notes

Real life got in the way a bit for the week 8 slate of games, as I had some family commitments, but I still managed to sneak a couple of games in…

This looked like a good week to not overindulge as there were no top 25 matchups, but that didn’t stop the drama unfolding in typical fashion. There were a lot of almost upsets, with Arizona pushing Washington, Navy scaring the life out of Cincinnati and a 1-win Kansas team giving a resurgent Oklahoma all they could handle. But it was Illinois who did manage to get a shock result over the line, beating Penn State in overtime, well about a million overtimes it seemed…

Anyway, on to the two games I did get an in-depth look at, and we’ll start with a one-sided Thursday night affair in the American.

Tulane @ SMU

I’ve been very eager to clamp eyes on SMU as they had rolled to a 6-0 start, without generating much noise doing it. In those 6 wins the standout one is against a very decent TCU side, so whilst all the talk is about (and rightly so) Cincinnati from the American, SMU are quietly putting together a nice season of their own. This game was never really close, apart from a mini Green Wave revival at the start of the second half, but SMU looked good in all phases and even had the luxury of letting star running back Ulysees Bentley IV have most of the night off. They do have a very tough run of Conference games coming up in Houston, Memphis and UCF, but I’m hopeful they can win all of those to set up a mouth-watering match-up against Cincinnati on November 20th. On what I’ve seen here, SMU may just have the Offense to finally test that awesome Bearcat defense. 

Anyway back to this game and I’ve picked out Four Mustangs, all on Offense, who really impressed.

Tanner Mordecai, Quarterback, 6’3 218lbs, Junior

A former 4-star recruit at Oklahoma, Mordecai sensibly transferred out of Norman to try his luck elsewhere, somewhere where he didn’t have to worry about Spencer Rattler or Caleb Williams as competition. He has walked into the starting spot vacated by Shane Buechele at SMU, and the biggest compliment I can pay him is that this team hasn’t missed a beat with him at the controls.

It’s easy to see how he was such a high recruit, as his poise, mechanics and leadership are top drawer, and he certainly made a very good first impression on me. He put up some gaudy numbers in this one, he was 42-30-427-3-0 passing and even managed 34 yards and a touchdown on the ground too. This is a Tulane team that kept the score close with Oklahoma earlier in the season, but they currently rank 128th in total Defense, with only Arkansas State and South Florida below them in all of the FBS. Whilst they played hard here, the secondary was severely over-matched and Mordecai spread the ball around with ease, completing passes to ten different players. I liked how he moved around in the pocket and remained calm under pressure, but I will say that his receivers bailed him out on numerous occasions making some really big time catches on slightly inaccurate throws. That really was the only knock on this first watch of him, but I’m hoping to catch at least a couple more SMU games as they hit the meat of the schedule.

https://twitter.com/FTBVids_YT/status/1451366906363924484?s=20

Jaylon Thomas, Offensive Tackle, 6’5 326lbs, Senior

I’ve been a fan of Thomas since his 2019 tape, where he graded really highly for me in the games I saw. He was good in the three games I caught of SMU in 2020 also, so I was eager to see if he was keeping this good run up on my first watch of 2021, but, to my bemusement, Thomas didn’t start this game. In fact, SMU moved regular starting center Alan Ali over to play Left Tackle instead, with no sign of Thomas at all early on in this contest. It took an injury to Right Tackle Marcus Bryant (who we’ll talk about later) that forced SMU to move Ali over to the right side and insert Thomas back into the line-up at Left Tackle. 

What followed was 32 snaps of sheer dominance from Thomas, as he handled the pass rushers with ease and was a force in the run game, moving effortlessly to the second level and creating holes. This left me very confused, as what I was watching was the same player I’d seen in the previous two seasons, so I had to take a deeper look at why he didn’t start this game.

 On further investigation it looks like he started the first two games of the season at Left Guard, and the next three at Left Tackle, but it appears he graded really poorly in two of those games and was benched for this game and the previous one against Navy. 

If the benching was meant to light a fire under him then it certainly seemed to work, as he was a monster when he was in there, so I can only hope now that he keeps that Left Tackle job for the rest of season, and shows us what he showed here again.

Danny Gray, Wide Receiver, 6’1 199lbs, Senior

SMU have three quality Wide Receivers, all of whom should get drafted in the next two years. Rashee Rice will more than likely be a 2023 prospect, but Reggie Roberson and Danny Gray should both get selected in the 2022 draft, and perhaps even break into day two territory if they continue to put up these kinds of numbers. I love what Roberson was doing last year before he suffered a bad injury, and whilst he played well here it was his mate Gray who stole the show in this game.

When your nickname is “Big Play” you better live up to it, and Danny Gray did here. He had 8 catches for 140 yards and ran a whole variety of routes from the outside and showcased some very strong hands. He looks smooth in his routes and breaks, and he isn’t afraid of coming over the middle either where he gets the most out of his YAC ability. He can also stretch the field vertically and is a weapon with his speed alone, but he has more to his game than just speed and in fact he represents a pretty nice complete receiver profile. 

I think if Roberson can show us he is healthy for the remainder of the season, then he’ll get drafted first, but Gray can certainly turn some heads with more games like this, and with his athletic profile I think you’re looking at an early day three type of player.

Marcus Bryant, Right Tackle, 6’8 314lbs, Sophomore

I had no idea who Marcus Bryant was before this game, as he had only 150 freshman snaps last year, and none in the games I’d seen. This was a very pleasant surprise indeed, as what I got to see was an athletic, strong and clever young Right Tackle. As previously mentioned, this Tulane Defense as a group is pretty bad, but you still have to do your job no matter the competition, and Bryant did that effortlessly. He looked so natural and comfortable, particularly in Pass Protection, where he has good outside space awareness, and strong hands to control edges. At 6’8 he looks the part, but he isn’t one of these too big/too heavy Right Tackles who struggle with speed, in fact his athleticism on display here makes me think his future could well be at Left Tackle, and that would increase his appeal to the NFL.

Unfortunately, he got injured in the third quarter and didn’t come back in, but I’m hoping it was just a precautionary measure rather than a long-term injury. He got rolled up from behind and those ones can be nasty, but let’s hope it isn’t and he can come back this season and help this impressive team stay unbeaten.

Only a true Sophomore so not draft eligible yet, he certainly has made a good first impression and I’ll put him on my watch list for the rest of the season, if he can return from the injury.

Honourable Mentions:

Turner Coxe (Edge, SMU), Elijah Chatman (Defensive Tackle, SMU), Will Jones (Defensive Tackle, Defensive Tackle, SMU), Michael Pratt (Quarterback, Tulane), Tyjae Spears (Running Back, Tulane), Shae Wyatt (Wide Receiver, Tulane), Adonis Friloux (Defensive Tackle, Tulane), Nick Anderson (Linebacker, Tulane). Jaylon Monroe (Cornerback, Tulane). 

USC @ Notre Dame

This is one of those classic rivalry games that I don’t usually get to see, but with Sky Sports showing all Notre Dame home games this season, this was too good an opportunity to pass up. I’ve seen Notre Dame a couple of times so my main focus was on the Trojans and their two Drakes (London and Jackson).

The match-up we were all looking forward to was USC receiver Drake London up against Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton, but unfortunately the Fighting Irish star Safety was hurt early in the first quarter. Reports suggest that the injury isn’t serious, which is great news for the draft, but cost us what would have possibly been an epic match-up. Whether Hamilton would have been able to stop London’s immense performance we’ll never know, but the Trojan Wide Receiver is putting on one hell of a show this year. Notre Dame’s Cornerback Clarence Lewis may never sleep again after being tortured here, but he isn’t the only Corner in the College Football world to have their dinner money taken by the big play Receiver. I had London as WR #1 heading into the season and I can’t see how he won’t be come draft day after the season he is putting together.

The “other” Drake, USC Edge Drake Jackson also had himself a nice day, albeit against a very average Offensive Line. I wasn’t so high on Jackson during the summer scouting, but he is looking much more physical and sturdier against the run this year and seems to have more ways of winning as a pass rusher then he did a season ago. I’m still not there on top half of the first round for him, but he’ll almost certainly carry a round one grade for me come the Draft.

The game itself was a bit of a one-sided affair, despite the efforts of the two Drakes, and Notre Dame ran out comfortable winners. These teams boast a couple of really good Running Backs who I like a lot but are very different in stature and style…

Kyren Williams, Running Back, 5’9 199lbs, RS Sophomore

Kyren Williams really looked good in 2020, his first year of starting for the Irish. Statistically at least, he isn’t having the same kind of year this year, but he looked good when I saw them against Cincinnati and he was terrific here in this game, so I guess I must be his good luck charm! He is really quick footed, jumping and cutting in short spurts and it seems he always makes that first defender miss. He isn’t one of those backs that has happy feet though, his movements are never wasted, and he rarely gives up negative plays. He seemed to always gain the important yards in this game and proved his worth as a receiver too with 6 catches, consistently moving the chains for his team. This was his best rushing output of the season so far, with 138 yards at a 5.5 average and two touchdowns. In summer scouting it was easy to see how he stays on the field for all three downs as his hands, and his Pass Protection, maybe the best of this crop of draft eligible Running Backs. 

Some teams won’t like him because of his size, but he plays bigger than that, and although not a burner, he has adequate speed to suit his style of play.

If I were him, I’d definitely be coming out this year as it’s hardly a stellar class, and the 2023 group looks to be sensational, so getting in now may make him quite a bit more money than waiting another year.

Keaontay Ingram, Running Back, 6’0 215lbs, Senior

Keaontay Ingram was a four-star recruit who stayed in state and played three years for the Texas Longhorns. I always felt he looked good there, but his time will always be marred by a couple of highlight bad plays. In 2019 against LSU, he dropped a fourth down touchdown catch when he was wide open, but his most famous error was his fumble at the goal line against TCU last year that cost the Longhorns what was going to be a comfortable win. These mistakes affected his play and his mental health, and he would eventually concede carries to the very highly touted Bijan Robinson. This led to his decision to transfer to USC, and he seems to have rediscovered his high level of play out in the sunshine of Southern California. 

Ingram is a totally different type of Back to Kyren Williams. He is built much bigger, happy to take on contact and willing to grind out those tough yards. But he is more than just that, he can make people miss too, and shows great vision at times cutting back to running lanes that open up away from the designed path. 

He, like Williams, had his best rushing numbers of the year in this game, gaining 138 yards, at a 5.75 average and a score. He isn’t the best receiving back or the best Pass Protector either, so his draft value will be much lower than that of Williams, but the change of scenery for this season has made him relevant again, and a possible late round draft pick

Honourable Mentions:

Jalen McKenzie (Right Tackle, USC), Chris Steele (Cornerback, USC), Jarrett Patterson (Center, Notre Dame),  Michael Mayer (Tight End, Notre Dame), TaRiq Bracy (Cornerback, Notre Dame).


Follow Keith on Twitter – @LordLucken

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Kenny Pickett: The Real Saviour of the 2022 QB Class?

Kenny Pickett is just about the hottest name when it comes to quarterbacks for the 2022 draft class.

Pickett is shining in a Pittsburgh team who are having a good season in an ACC which is certainly more open this year, given the power vacuum which has come about due to Clemson having such a down year.

Speaking of Clemson, Pickett’s stock is about as high as it ever has been right now, thanks in no small part to a marquee victory against The Tigers this past weekend. Pickett’s name was hot before this weekend but now it’s even hotter with the Panthers QB now fourth favourite in terms of Heisman odds.

He’s a player who has caught our eye before at F10Y CFB and we’ve kind of rooted for him as he’s a player who has flashed ability but he’s also done silly things too – Ball security has been an issue at times and he’s never really wowed in terms of putting up big numbers. In the past two years he’s registered a 13:9 TD:INT ratio, with a pass completion percentage of just over 61% and a yard per attempt of less than 7 in every year before this. All very run-of-the-mill.

Fast forward to this year and we find ourselves in a position where this draft class and perhaps college football as a whole is lacking a proven, marquee QB, perhaps even a marquee player at the moment and I feel like everyone is scrambling around to find the guy to pin their hopes on and hitch their bandwagon to.

Pickett’s 2021 season has seen upticks in stats and in his play, so I thought I’d dig into the tape and bring you my thoughts, because whilst I recognise that he is having a fantastic year, his rise has been sharp, almost too sharp for my liking, especially when some want to push Pickett towards being drafted in the first round, or even first overall!

So once again, I am here to tell everyone to slow down on another QB who is on everyone’s lips at the moment.

Background

Pickett was born on June 6th 1998 and was a 3-star QB out of New Jersey, and the #33 Pro-Style QB in the 2017 class according to 24/7 sports. Measuring 6’3 and tipping the scales at 220lbs (school measurements), coming out of high School Pickett had offers from Temple, Toledo, Monmouth, Buffalo, Texas State, UConn, Coastal Carolina, Boston College, Pittsburgh, Iowa and UNC.

He comes from an athletic family with both his Mother and Father playing college sports, as did this older Sister. Pickett has graduated with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and is enrolled in Pittsburgh’s business school completing a postgraduate degree in business.

Pickett has appeared in 46 games at the time of writing, and if he plays the rest of Pitt’s schedule, including bowl game and ACC Championship Game, that number will rise to 53. 

Pickett has been measured and has 8 ¼ Inch hands and he wears two gloves on both hands when he plays, although there has been no confirmation that wearing two gloves is linked to his smaller hand measurement.

He has never suffered a major injury, but did suffer an ankle injury in 2020 and missed two games.

Scouting Report 

Games Watched (7): Miami 2019 (A-22), UNC 2019 (Broadcast), Clemson 2020 (A-22), NC State 2020, UMass 2021 (A-22), Tennessee 2021 (A-22), Clemson 2021 (Broadcast)

Best game: Tennessee 2021

Worst Game: Clemson 2020

Notes about Pittsburgh’s Offense

Pitt run a version of the spread offense with a lot of verticality and receivers run routes mainly off of a vertical stem (Go, Corner, Post, plus in and out-breaking routes in the deep and intermediate levels of the field, as well as short curl and comebacks.

The short routes that are run seemed to be screens to either the running backs or wide receivers and some slants. Until 2021 the Pitt offense felt very “all or nothing” because of the vertical nature of it, so it forces Pickett into long throws which feel like they’re at the limit of his capabilities in terms of arm strength, which led to him forcing the ball downfield or leaving him without many options in the short and intermediate parts of the field – He often ran into these spaces when nobody was open.

There is very little pre-snap motion and in the games I watched I noted very little play-action – The most common play-action was zone-read plays where Pickett was given the opportunity to show off his rushing ability if the play allowed.

Because of the nature of the routes being run this means that we don’t have much evidence (from what I’ve seen) of him throwing into tight windows over the field with much success.

I also noted the spacing in the offense is generally poor, with far too many occasions where routes were being run and finished in the same area of the field by more than one receiver.

Lastly, there was an abundance of drops from receivers on almost every game I watched. 

Accuracy & Ball Placement

Prior to the current season, my notes contain a lot of red ink and warnings of carelessness, badly thrown and mistimed passes. 

I found myself begging Pickett to lead his receiver with the ball in order to give them an opportunity to gain more yardage. I feel that there were flashes in this area and some genuinely great throws (sometimes let down by a receiver) but these flashes weren’t consistent at all.

A couple of examples from Miami 2019 here – The first throw is into traffic and as much as you could say this is unlucky, he’s asking for trouble by putting a ball into an area with three defenders – If he led the receiver he’d have been fine. Second throw is a prime example of “if you miss the receiver, miss them long” – Really underthrown and showed a lack of deep ball placement.

However, move to 2021 and this is now a much stronger part of Pickett’s game – Compared to previous years, he seems more assured, more precise with the placement and he’s also throwing his receiver open much more often and giving his guys an opportunity to make a play with ball-in-hand.

Towards the end of my film study, I did see more evidence of anticipatory throws which was very encouraging – Such as this throw against Tennessee:

Lastly, Pickett has shown an improved ability to throw on the move – for a QB who likes to scramble and has decent athletic traits this is another area of encouragement. In the modern NFL it’s almost a prerequisite now that you must have some sort of mobility and be able to have success out of the planned structure of the offense, and I think we are working towards that here with Kenny Pickett.

Decision Making & Mental Processing

At the start of my film study, especially in the 2019 games I saw, this was an area of serious alarm.

There were just some bone-headed decisions; throwing the ball into double coverage, hospital passes, locking on to an initial read when a more fruitful throw is available elsewhere and just some downright horrible decisions.

The First two of these throws literally made me say, “what are you thinking?” and “what are you doing?”. The third throw shows a lack of processing and a poor decision in not recognising the moment passed – He has the receiver open for the pass he eventually throws as soon as he sets his feet, yet he delays and then throws it anyway. 

However, again much like the accuracy and ball placement, Pickett’s decision making is an area where we can see clear improvement. You can clearly see a level of understanding of the concepts that the offense is running, the right reads and keys and most importantly how to execute them. That’s almost been the most stark improvement of all – He just looks like he’s operating at a higher level of execution this season, he looks confident and comfortable, like he’s letting the game come to him and not having to force things. I do think this is partly down to some offensive tweaks where more short and intermediate routes and throws have been infused but still, credit where it’s due – Pickett is making the right choices and connecting the dots.

I thought both of these throws were great examples of the ability that Pickett has in terms of processing the defense, and then delivering a well placed ball. He reads his keys correctly and throws the ball… Just how it’s drawn up. 

Arm Talent (Strength, Touch & Mechanics)

Ok, let’s start with the positives – Mechanics are good, Pickett has a nice action with the whole body working in unison and the foundations for this are set in place by sound footwork and good posture in the pocket. There is also a small amount of evidence of Pickett being able to deliver off-platform and with different arm angles – Again, this is much improved from game one to game seven that I watched.

However, arm strength is not anything above passable. Here is where the roof and ceiling is placed on Pickett’s game because I don’t think I saw huge improvements in this area and because of that my question start to centre around whether his arm is as strong as it’s going to be, which in the NFL could be a problem and in terms of his draft position, it will likely mean that teams look elsewhere with premium draft capital.

Throws die on deep balls and often receivers are slowing or waiting for the ball to arrive. There isn’t any real top tier zip on throws and because of that, I didn’t really notice much variation in ball speed and touch comes from additional loft being placed on balls, rather than a variation of speed.

It feels like Pickett is trying to play a round of golf with just a four iron and there was this one play against Tennessee which stood out to me because I feel like you see the new confident Kenny Pickett, who is operating at a high level and is getting used to being able to make plays every game but his arm let’s him down on this one.

He tries to make something happen but just doesn’t have the arm strength to make this play – It’s not a bad play, I don’t even think he’d have attempted this a year or two ago but top tier QBs in the NFL like Patrick Mahomes, Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford and Justin Herbert make this play, routinely.

It’s a 23 yard pass across his body rolling to his right and it just doesn’t make it. Obviously it’s just one throw and he could get stronger in an NFL strength programme but he lacks that X-Factor here. 

Mobility & Ability to Work Off-Script

Pickett’s mobility is a strength of his. As mentioned above, mobility is a prerequisite of being an NFL QB nowadays and Pickett gets a tick in that box from me for sure.

As I will discuss shortly, his pocket movement and management is very good and he can easily leak out of lanes that opposing defensive lines leave him and break out for a long gain if it’s there.

However, he is very much a pass-first QB who keeps his eyes downfield when he has escaped the pocket. Pickett is mobile but he’s a scrambler and a guy who can use his legs rather than a prototypical dual-threat QB.

One thing I definitely noted was that once he decides to make a break for it, he can move! Long strides eat up the turf quickly and he can beat linebackers to a spot or turn the corner on them.

He almost reminds me of a slower Daniel Jones in this regard. Jones is one of the most sneaky athletic guys in the NFL and can really motor when he has grass in front of him. Pickett gives away a couple of inches in height to Jones, and as mentioned he isn’t quite as quick but he can break off a long run if given a chance. 

Pocket Management

As I alluded to above Pickett’s pocket management and ability to buy himself time and space is really one of his best qualities – On my grading scale, he actually scored 9/10 in this area which makes it his best attribute in my eyes.

This is a nuanced aspect of quarterback play and Pickett seems to have mastered it from an early stage.

Eyes are always down field and he is able to adjust his position within the pocket in order to be able to make a throw. He can also use this ability to evade on coming rushers but also then get his eyes back on target to make a play.

I rarely saw an instance where Pickett got fuzzy and lost on a play and gets himself sacked because he’s moved towards pressure or his internal clock is off and he just stands in the pocket too long and takes a sack. This is aided by his scrambling ability as he is willing to take off and move away from danger if needed.

This isn’t the best pass, by that little slide to the left in the pocket bought him time – Subtle, but it’s a typical example of what he does quite often and seemingly automatically. 

Summary and Final Grade

I think Pickett will make a solid NFL career for himself – I think, and I hope, that he goes somewhere where he doesn’t have to start right away. I hope he can go there, be surrounded by a good team and a good culture, and have a veteran team mate to learn from and develop behind.

If he gets a spot start in year one he could survive a game or two if he has a talented offense around him. He would make some plays but in reality he’ll need those around him to create the magic for him.

I think Pickett can be a facilitator but not a star in the league. Whilst the 2021 season has raised the floor of the NFL player he can be, I still think there are limitations both mental and physical which mean you are banging your head on the ceiling.

Despite playing his college career in a vertical spread offense, I actually think he’d be much more suited to a west-coast offense based on short and intermediate throws where he can get into a rhythm early and play point guard.

If he lands in the ideal situation and if given time to develop, I think the ceiling is an average starting QB in the NFL, and the floor is a career backup who will have a long career in that role. If a team spends a first round pick on him and he plays too early, I believe he’ll turn out to be the sort of pick who loses a GM their job. 

Final Grade: 5.44 (out of 7) or 77.79 (out of 100) – Early to Mid Third Round Grade

Where Pickett Fits in this Draft Class

Overall, as much as I completely recognise and applaud that Pickett has made some fantastic strides during this season so far, I just don’t see many elite level traits on film at this point, which thrust Pickett into the upper echelons of the draft class.

I think he has elevated his game to the levels where he’s absolutely going to get drafted and is a firm day 2 prospect now – Let’s remember that the grade above isn’t final as there are still plenty of games left in the season for him to impress. There will also be the Senior Bowl, which he is nailed on to be invited to, as well as the Scouting Combine too.

I think that this year with there being no slam dunk QB to select at the top of the draft, the NFL is likely to draft for upside and hope that the one they pick is able to be developed by their coaches.

Kenny Pickett doesn’t fit this billing. There are more talented guys ahead of him in that regard. Players who are more physically gifted, players whose body of work throughout college is more impressive and players who have just been in NFL GM’s eyeline for much longer. 

Pickett just doesn’t have the physical attributes to take his stock to that next level, as well as a couple of potential red flags in the form of hand size and age. As mentioned, he’s improved in many areas of his play, he’s a competitor, he’s got some intangibles that coaches will like and it has finally clicked for him at the college level, so there should be more to unlock in the pros.

However, I don’t think he’s ready to start at the next level and I am not sure if the ceiling is high enough to warrant paying the price of a first round draft pick. This isn’t to say he can never be a starter but I just don’t see that ceiling right now and I don’t think he’s close enough to the next level, having only just elevated himself this year, for coaches to throw him in and hope he swims.

I do think the clamour partly comes from the fact there’s a void for top tier talent that we haven’t really had since 2013 and if this were a normal year with some very good to elite prospects in the class, Pickett would be everyone’s favourite sleeper, rather than a potential saviour and he should be graded and thought of accordingly. 


Follow Lee On Twitter – @Wakefield90

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College Football: Winners & Losers Week 8

Week 8 and we are well and truly into the season now and what a feeling it is, it feels like football has never been away! Some teams are looking ahead to the post season and some are just waiting for it to be over. Which encapsulates what we’re here for right now – Winners and losers, let’s get right into it…

Winners – Lee (@Wakefield90) 

Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins, Michigan Running Backs

Speaking of players who are the driving forces of their offense, I think it’s time I gave some love to Michigan – Not a team I am accustomed to loving but it’s undeniable that the Wolverines are having a great year, as they are another one of our unbeaten teams in college football.

The rushing attack has been really, really potent so far this year. I mean, it’s a good thing because the passing attack it, well… Sub-optimal.

Anyway, we’re talking winners here – Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins are about as potent of a running back duo as you’ll find in college football.

Corum has 729 yards on the ground whereas Haskins has 602, which has powered the Wolverines to an average of 253.3 yards per game, which is good for the fifth best in the nation – Which when you consider the service academies play triple option football, is fantastic going.

The Big Ten East is just about to heat up with Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State all about to play each other in the remaining weeks of the season.., Starting with Ohio State vs. Penn State and Michigan vs. Michigan State next week!

I fear that this Michigan side is a little one dimensional but with Corum and Haskins, they have a pair of backs who they can lean on and they opposition has to stop – Let’s see how far it gets them!

Arizona State

What a week for the Sun Devils. The guys from Tempe spent the week in the film room, as well as getting in some well deserved rest and recuperation and everyone in the Pac-12 South lost.

The Pac-12 North could also be classed as winners by the same token too – Oregon State, Oregon, Cal and Washington handed losses to Utah, UCLA, Colorado and Arizona respectively. In the South, USC also lost to Notre Dame making it a clean sweep of losses for the Pac-12 South, so at 5-2 and with a conference record of 3-1, Arizona State is now in the driving seat for the Pac-12 South and have a good shot at making it to the Pac-12 Championship Game.

The Sun Devils have games remaining against Washington State, USC, Washington, Oregon State and Arizona.

As always in the Pac-12 that looks tricky, but they can get the required amount of wins needed to make it, and after a week off they should be fresh and raring to go, buoyed after this weekend’s results. Arizona owns the tie-breaker with UCLA but not Utah, so as always out west, there is some jeopardy. Although some good news is that Utah and UCLA play each other next week, and Utah still has to play Oregon.

It’s all to play for, for Arizona State but they’re big winners this week.

Sam Hartman, QB, Wake Forest

Forget Kenny Pickett – Is Sam Hartman the best QB in the ACC right now? Wake Forest is certainly the best team and the Hartman-led offense is the driving force.

The Deacs have a top 5 scoring offense, they’re one of nine unbeaten teams and they’re coming off a weekend where they just put up 70 on Army.

Much like Pickett, Hartman is enjoying the season of his life with upticks in stats across the board, from pass completion percentage, to touchdowns to yard per attempt, and he is doing so whilst keeping negative plays to a minimum.

This weekend against Army, Hartman had 458 yards through the air, connecting for 5 passing touchdowns, he also picked up 22 yards on the ground and ran a score in too.

The Wake Forest QB was super-efficient, connecting on 23 of his 29 passes too, so it really was a career day for him, albeit not against a premium opponent.

Wake Forest has two rivalry games coming up next, firstly against Duke and then UNC the following week – If Hartman can navigate two more victories with two nice performances, I reckon he’ll be the next flavour of the month in terms of draftable QBs…

Photo Credit: Saturday Blitz

Losers – Andy (@AJMoore21)

Cincinnati Bearcats

Wait, what? Cincinnati are 7-0 and have beaten some good teams on their way to that record? Well, we’re only a few weeks away from the first playoff rankings of the year, and do you know what the committee will be looking for? Any excuse to keep the Bearcats out of the top four, that’s what.

At the weekend, Cincinnati really laboured to get past a Navy team that has only won once all season, and despite scoring 14 unanswered points in the third quarter, they only won by seven points. For any normal team that would be the last of it, job done after grinding out a win against a stubborn, poorer opponent. But Cincinnati are a different team, they’re vying to be the first AAC team to qualify for the college football playoff, and they’re doing it against a series of opponents who aren’t exactly highly ranked. 

Therefore they can’t afford to struggle against the likes of Navy, these are the games that they should be absolutely dominating. On Saturday they had to rely on a last minute interception to secure the victory, after the Midshipmen managed to recover an onside kick. Is the playoff committee going to look at this and think, that’s a team that should be in the final four over Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma or whoever it might be? Probably not, and that is why the Bearcats feature in the ‘loser’ column this week.

Penn State Nittany Lions

The UK is very lucky to get live college football on BT Sport, but occasionally there’s a game or two which are a slog to watch. Penn State and Illinois gave us one of those very games this weekend, as they ground out four quarters plus NINE rounds of overtime. It wasn’t just the ridiculously long overtime that was painful, but also the fact neither team could get the ball into the end zone.

In many ways the nine rounds were funny for the neutral fan, but for the Nittany Lions this was a really bad loss that will hurt their chances of a Big Ten title and all but rule them out of playoff contention. 

Photo Credit: Writing Illini

It was quite clear that Sean Clifford shouldn’t have been out there as he lacked his normal presence in the shotgun, but he can’t be blamed for this defeat. Instead, that honour goes to Penn State’s defense. Illinois were able to run for more than 300 yards, as Chase Brown had a huge breakout game (33 carries, 222 yards, TD) and the Nittany Lions just couldn’t find any way of slowing him down. 

The only saving grace for James Franklin’s men is that they now have the chance to be the creator of chaos for some of their highly rated Big Ten rivals. In their remaining five games they play Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State – who they play next weekend – there’s every chance they could dent at least one of those teams’ top 10 ambitions.

NC State Wolfpack

This one isn’t really a knock on NC State, more the fact that their loss to Miami on Saturday puts a huge dent in their ACC title aspirations. With ACC Atlantic rivals Wake Forest still to play, the Wolfpack really didn’t want to drop any conference games, but with the loss yesterday (and Wake Forest’s win) NC State now sit two games behind in the race to the championship game.

Interestingly, the Wolfpack started the year with a highly rated running game but in recent weeks both Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person Jr have struggled to make an impact. This culminated in Saturday night’s defeat, in which the one-two punch only managed 70 yards on the ground and Dave Doeren’s decision to focus on the passing game. Devin Leary slung the ball all over the park in a 310 yard appearance, but that lack of balance allowed Miami to clamp down – which is exactly how they won the game after a fourth down stop deep in the final quarter.

Miami’s stand-in starter Tyler Van Dyke is looking less and less like a stand-in as each week goes by, and it’s not controversial to say that his emergence might just save Manny Diaz’s job. They’ve got a tough matchup with Pittsburgh next week, which could also blow the ACC Coastal wide open if the ‘Canes can snatch a win. 

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College Football UK TV Preview Week 8

College football has gotten off to another flier with the midweek action provided all kinds of drama! And the fun doesn’t stop there, with plenty more games to keep you entertained over the weekend, starting on Friday morning, all the way through ’til the earlier hour of Sunday, allowing just enough rest time before your favourite NFL team kicks off on Sunday.

Let’s dive right in…

Washington Huskies (2-4) vs. Arizona Wildcats (0-6) – Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona

Friday 22nd October – 3.30am (UK)

Washington 17 point favourites at the time of writing

On Thursday I wrote about a couple of contests that seemed pretty one-sided… And I am here again to do the same thing with my first game of this preview too.

Let me get the truth out of the way before I start… This is a game between two teams that have been really poor this season, and in the case of Arizona, a few seasons.

On the preseason Pac-12 podcast, Andy and I were talking up the Huskies and especially their defensive unit.

The Huskies have been fine defensively, but the offense just hasn’t got it done. At all.

Dylan Morris just isn’t it at QB and Washington doesn’t have the offensive playmakers to accentuate average QB play.

Cade Otton is an NFL tight end, and there are NFL guys on the offensive line but it’s just not enough. Why the Huskies haven’t turned to Sam Huard at this point, I don’t know.

Huard is a five-star prospect with family ties to Washington. He’s the next in line, he’s the future and with Washington’s season on a hiding to nothing, the future really is now.

I guess I’ve not really spoken too much about the game so far in this preview, but could you blame me?

I’ve got to put something together about a disappointing Washington squad and Arizona, who are the embarrassment of the Pac-12.

Ok, let’s at least try to be positive – Or at least bide my time from talking about Arizona.

At least from a scouting point of view there will be some talent on show in this game – Jaxson Kirkland, Luke Wattenburg, and the aforementioned Cade Otton on offense and on defense, corners Kyler Gordon and Trent McDuffie, as well as linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio, are all going to play on Sundays – So get your notebooks out.

Right… Ok, let’s go, let’s talk Arizona.

A few weeks ago I predicted that Arizona is going to go winless this year. They’re a rudderless ship with barely any talent on the roster.

I am not looking at budging from my prediction. So cue the Wildcats downing the Huskies in the early hours because, Pac-12. 

Memphis Tigers (4-3) @ UCF Knights (3-3) – Bounce House, Orlando, Florida

Saturday 23rd October – 12am (UK)

Memphis 1.5 point favourites at the time of writing

In previous years this would have been a highly anticipated matchup, with two of the more exciting teams in the AAC coming up against each other. However, this year there’s a bit of a ‘meh’ feel about the game as both Memphis and UCF find themselves in the midst of transition seasons.

The Knights featured in our ‘losers’ column this week, as they took a beating at the hands of highly rated Cincinnati. The loss against the Bearcats may have been inevitable but losses to Louisville and Navy were both bitterly disappointing blows to a team that started the season with a lot of hope for the 2021 season.

Star QB, Dillon Gabriel, was injured earlier in the season and replacement Mikey Keene is still a very raw prospect. However, Gus Malzahn and the UCF fans will still be positive ahead of their matchup with Memphis because of the weapons Keene has at his disposal. Running Back duo Isaiah Bowser and Johnny Richardson have both had big games in 2021, and they’ll be confident of putting up yardage on a Tigers defense that has given up nearly 150 yards a game so far this season. Add into the mix a solid receiver core and this Knights offense is no slouch.

On the other side of the field, Memphis threw away a very promising 3-0 start by dropping a trio of close games against UTSA, Temple and Tulsa. They got back to winning ways against Navy, but even in that game their play often seemed slow, lumbering and lacking in inspiration. 

The one expectation to that assessment is Wide Receiver, Calvin Austin III, who is enjoying a monster season. Following on from his 1000 yard 2020, Austin has already turned 50 catches into 857 yards and eight touchdowns in 2021 as he looks set to set new personal records in all categories – he’s also got return and rushing TDs to his name as well. Look out for him to be the difference maker in this one, against a fairly inexperienced UCF secondary.

Memphis’ attempts to stop the ball through the air have been worse than the aforementioned run defense so far this year. The senior-freshman tandem of Jacobi Francis and Greg Rubin are likely to be targeted often in this one, with UCF’s desire to throw all over teams still evident despite the hire of Malzahn as coach. If the Tigers’ defense holds up against the aerial bombardment early doors then they’ve got every chance of winning this one.

Illinois Fighting Illini (2-5) @ Penn State Nittany Lions (5-1) – Beaver Stadium, Pennsylvania 

Saturday 23rd October – 5pm (UK)

Penn State 23 point favourites at the time of writing

As the point spread suggests this one really shouldn’t be a close game to kick off our Saturday evenings. Penn State come off a bye week and their first loss of the season in a close game against Iowa, to play an Illinois team which has really struggled in recent weeks.

However, the Nittany Lions will be without starting QB Sean Clifford, and as our season preview alluded to, there is very little established depth behind him on this Penn State roster. According to James Franklin, Ta’Quan Roberson and Christian Veilleux have been splitting reps with the starters over the last week and there’s no clear indication who is going to start on Saturday. Roberson came into the game against Iowa but only completed seven passes, whilst throwing two interceptions on 21 pass attempts.

Even without Clifford this Penn State team should make light work of Illinois, largely due to their strong defense. With established stars such as Brandon Smith, Tariq Castro-Fields and Jaquon Brisker the Nittany Lions have got the 22nd best defense in the country so far this season, and it’s hard to imagine Illinois putting a dent in that reputation this weekend.

The Fighting Illini have only won once since their opening weekend triumph over Nebraska, as they beat a poor Charlotte team a couple of weeks ago. Against Wisconsin in week seven, the combined pair of Brandon Peters and Artur Sitkowski completed 11 passes on 34 attempts for a huge 67 total yards. Things weren’t much better on the ground as Chase Brown rushed for 35 yards and nobody else managed more than a single yard. 

Things probably won’t be quite as bad for Illinois this week but Penn State and the points seems like the right bet, even with an inexperienced QB under centre. 

Oregon Ducks #10 (5-1) vs. UCLA Bruins (5-2) – Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California

Saturday 23rd October – 8.30pm (UK)

UCLA 2 point favourites at time of writing

Back to the Pac-12 then and this time we actually have a contest worth talking about!

The Oregon Ducks and UCLA Bruins have been two of the better teams in the conference this year.

However, the usual Pac-12-iness has struck both of these teams this year, after impressive wins against the odds both have succumbed to losses that they probably shouldn’t have suffered.

Oregon overcame Ohio State in a mighty triumph, even more impressive that it was on the road, at The Horseshoe. Yet despite beating one of the best teams in the country, they lost to Stanford just a couple of weeks later (I won’t mention the officiating again). 

On the other side of this battle, UCLA beat LSU, a win that in hindsight probably isn’t as impressive as it seemed in Week 1, but then lost to Fresno State. Although more troubling could be the loss to Arizona State at the beginning of October, since the Bruins are locked in a three-way race for the Pac-12 South division with Utah and also the Sun Devils themselves.

Oregon doesn’t face as much jeopardy, and despite their in-state rival, the Oregon State Beavers, enjoying a great season, by their recent standards, should make the Pac-12 Championship game as the kings of the North.

However the sort of roller coaster battle that could ensue for the South title, between our three aforementioned challengers is exactly the sort of game that the Pac-12 routinely throws up, and this game is routinely part of that roller coaster.

If UCLA wins they take another step along the glass bridge that is a Pac-12 conference schedule and advance another step closer to the championship game, and Oregon is plunged into some serious bother in the North and the Civil War game is Corvallis, the final game of the Ducks’ regular season takes on even greater importance.

If Oregon wins on Saturday, they take a stranglehold on the North, and despite tricky games on their schedule towards the end of the season, they’d expect the rest of their division to fall over themselves enough that they’d make it. This pushes UCLA down the pecking order and relying on Utah and Arizona State slipping up later in the year.

Why on earth don’t more people watch this conference? It gives you the drama that we all love in sports, every single week.

I guess what is letting the conference down is the slight dearth of talent, even at the top. Sure there are really top level players who will have successful careers in the NFL at some point, but not quite enough of them on one team.

Bring on the 12 team playoff format, but until then, let’s just enjoy the chaos.

I’ll take Oregon to squeak it, but it’ll be a wild ride in the Chip Kelly revenge game. 

Photo Credit: KSL Sports

Ohio State Buckeyes (5-1) @ Indiana Hoosiers (2-4) – Indiana University Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Indiana

Sunday 24th October – 12am (UK)

Ohio State 21 point favourites at the time of writing

Another game that promises to be fairly one sided takes us into the early hours of Sunday morning. Ohio State have been solid so far in 2021, easing in CJ Stroud to the point at which he’s proving why the Buckeyes had faith in him as the heir to Justin Fields. They face an Indiana team which has hung around in games but failed to pick up wins against any of the teams in their conference.

The bookies have got the point spread at 21 in this game for a reason, in their last three games Ohio State have scored 66, 52 and 59 points. Granted that was against Maryland, Rutgers and Akron, but you can’t overlook how high powered this Buckeyes offense – especially with the emergence of freshman Running Back, Treyveon Henderson, as one of the best in the game.

The Indiana defense has been pretty solid this year, ranking 37th in the country in terms of total yardage, but it is their offense that has struggled – putting up just 340 yards per game to date. There’s an interesting dynamic this week however, with stand-in starter Jack Tuttle coming up against his former High School teammate, Chris Olave. Tuttle was less than impressive against Michigan State, but we’ve also seen the movie – old friends reunited and the underdog triumphs. 

Indiana will need a Hollywood script and some if that storyline is to unfold, and looking at their roster it’s hard to see where that sprinkle of stardust will come from. Ty Fryfogle is the obvious answer, but until Tuttle gets comfortable he’s not going to be able to have his normal impact on games. Grad transfer, Stephen Carr, has got plenty of experience at Running Back but has failed to really make an impact since his move from USC. 

After comparing both rosters, it’s hard to come to the conclusion that this will end in anything but a blowout Buckeyes win. Hammer Ohio State and the points.

Tennessee Volunteers (4-3) @ Alabama Crimson Tide (6-1) – Bryant-Denny Stadium – Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Sunday 24th October – 12.30am (UK)

Alabama 25 point favourites at time of writing

A couple of weeks removed from a shock defeat to Texas A&M and everything looks to be back on track for Alabama. They romped to a 49-9 win over Mississippi State last week, Nick Saban has been taking questions from babies in his press conference this week and they’ve had various players named in the AP Midseason All-American team.

They come up against a Tennessee team which seems to be going through an experimental season with a mixture of Joe Milton and Hendon Hooker at QB, whilst relying on Jabari Small to carry most of the weight at Running Back. It’s been hit and miss so far, last week against a good Ole Miss side, Hooker had a solid game and the Vols were unlucky to lose. However, they’ve been thoroughly outplayed by Pitt and Florida in their other losses.

Is there any chance of an upset then, despite the huge point spread? Well, possibly. If the Vols choose to go with Hooker rather than Milton this week, then they’re only ever seconds away from a huge play as the former four star recruit is a true dual threat – using his legs wherever possible to move the chains. 

Either way, Tennessee will need a big outing from their defense, which has been fairly average through seven weeks of action. Standout CB, Alontae Taylor, will have his hands full with an Alabama receiving core which has been pretty underrated so far in 2021. But if he can prevent Jameson Williams getting the ball and rely on some of his teammates to come up big against Metchie then there’s a sneaky chance that the Vols could at least cover the spread.


Follow Andy on Twitter – @AJMoore21

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College Football: Winners & Losers Week 7

Things are really starting to hot up at the top of the College Football world, it’s not long until the playoff rankings start to be released and there’s so many storylines to follow. So without any further chatter, who are Andy’s winners and losers this week?

Winners

Auburn Tigers

Auburn have had a characteristically hot and cold season up to this point, a win against LSU was tempered by defeats to Georgia and Penn State. So coming into Saturday afternoon there was an uncertainty around their ability to overcome an Arkansas team that has looked solid all season.

Step forward the Tigers’ defense. Derick Hall sacked KJ Jefferson and caused him to fumble early in the third quarter, with teammate Marcus Harris recovering the ball for a touchdown. On the following drive, Jefferson was stopped on a QB keeper on fourth and short and the Auburn offense took over 71 yards from the Hogs’ end zone. It took Bo Nix just one play to eat up that yardage, as he hit a bomb to Demetris Robertson for the score.

That proved to be the hammer blow to an Arkansas team that has gone up against a seriously tough slate of opponents in recent weeks. Just a couple of weeks since he was benched against Georgia State, Nix had his best game of the season – going for 226 yards, two scores and an interception – and it was his leadership on the 75 yard end of game drive that topped an excellent day for the Tigers.

Michigan State

Hands up if you had Michigan State going 7-0 before the season? Not even the most ardent Spartans’ fan could have predicted their success to date. On Saturday they faced a resolute Indiana team who caused them a fair amount of trouble, but they still came out with the win. Good teams do that.

Kenneth Walker III has been a revelation for MSU this season, gaining 1022 scrimmage yards over seven games and adding 10 touchdowns. On Saturday he often found space hard to come by, but he still managed to grind out 84 game deciding yards on 23 carries to put his team in a position to win. 

However, Spartans’ fans have their defense to thank for continuing their unbeaten streak. Freshman Linebacker, Cal Haladay, came up with a huge pick-six in the first half, putting up MSU’s only points through the first 30 mins of the game. In the second half Darius Snow added a second crucial pick of stand-in QB, Jack Tuttle, and the game was sealed.

Michigan State now stands at their highest ranked position in six years, just in time for a juicy matchup against Michigan in a couple of weeks.

Caleb Williams – Oklahoma Sooners – QB

All week the weird and wonderful circus around Spencer Rattler had thrown question marks around how Oklahoma would approach the QB position against TCU. We had student reporters with binoculars leaning out of windows, co-starters named on the depth chart and the Sooners’ communications team shutting down interviews at one point.

Surely, from the moment they stepped off the field there was no doubt in Riley’s mind that Williams would start this game? If there was, then they will certainly have evaporated after a huge performance from the freshman on Saturday evening. Williams put up 295 yards and four touchdowns through the air, adding another 66 yards and a score on the ground.

From start to finish TCU could do very little to slow the former five-star recruit. Williams showed immediate rapport with Marvin Mims, Mike Woods and Jadon Haselwood, the former of which will be relying on the young QB to boost his draft stock over the next season and a half. Whilst on the sideline Williams was composed and comfortable communicating with coaches and teammates, a far cry from the scenes we saw from Rattler in the previous weeks. It is fair to say that the Sooners’ have found their guy and kick started their Championship hopes in one quick swoop.

Who is Caleb Williams? Meet the Oklahoma QB taking over Sooners' offense  for Spencer Rattler | Sporting News
Caleb Williams had a monster first start for the Sooner (photo: Sporting News)

Losers 

UCF Knights

Prior to the season there was a feel good factor around UCF, a highly rated Coach had arrived in town and there was a lot of talent to play with on the roster. A combination of injuries, mistakes and bad luck have followed ever since and the Knights find themselves at 3-3, a long way behind their opponents on Saturday, Cincinnati.

But the Knights don’t appear in this column because of a loss to the second best team in the nation (according to the AP25), they do so because of the manner in which they got run over at the weekend. Bearcats’ QB, Desmond Ridder, only threw for 140 yards in this one, and that wasn’t because he missed any snaps. In a clearly orchestrated change of approach, Luke Fickell decided to ram the ball down the throat of the Orlando-based team, with Jerome Ford alone rushing 20 times for 189 yards and four touchdowns.

With UCF missing star QB, Dillon Gabriel, they don’t offer any consistent threat on offense either, freshman replacement, Mikey Keene, has been inefficient at best and pretty abysmal at worst. This allowed Cincinnati to stack the box whenever Isaiah Bowser was in the game, holding the Knights’ main ground threat to just 28 yards for the whole game.

BYU Cougars

After being widely praised for their performances through the first five weeks of the season, the Cougars have stumbled and ground to a halt in weeks six and seven. First they dropped a very winnable game to Boise State and on Saturday they were thoroughly beaten by a Baylor team that is very much on the up.

So what’s the cause of this? Well, opponents have cottoned onto the run game, particularly that of first year starting QB, Jaren Hall. Over the first few weeks of the season Hall came up with pivotal plays on the ground, getting out of a collapsing pocket and making things happen, but over the last two weeks he has put up a total of 22 yards. Star Running Back, Tyler Allgeier, couldn’t muster much better on Saturday as Dave Aranda’s defense held him to just 33 yards on 15 carries.

On the other side of the ball the Cougars were just outmatched in the early hours of Sunday morning (UK time). Abram Smith and Trestan Ebner combined for 283 yards on the ground, with Smith scoring three of the Bears’ four touchdowns. Added to that, the fact that the BYU defensive line couldn’t get anywhere near Gerry Bohanon meant that there was very little chance of forcing decisive stops, even on third and long. 

Miami Hurricanes

The Hurricanes came into the season tipped for big things, at least by some pundits. What has transpired is a familiar tale of injury, questionable play calling and a team that struggles to turn its sideline antics into any meaningful results on the field. 

A week after being shown up by Florida State, North Carolina welcomed the ‘Canes into Chapel Hill. Both teams have struggled to convert preseason optimism into a good end product, but one of these teams is quarterbacked by a future NFL signal caller. Sam Howell truly was the difference in this one, as he slashed open the Miami run defense for 98 yards and two touchdowns and added 154 further yards through the air.

It was another disappointing day for Manny Diaz’s team as their big weapons on offense failed to really make an impact. Charleston Rambo was held to 35 yards on four catches and Will Mallory continued his disappointing season, only bringing in one catch for 11 yards. However, there is a spark of hope, with Cam’Ron Harris now out for the season, Jaylan Knighton stepped up at Running Back – totalling 165 yards and three scores of all round offense.

At 2-4, the Hurricanes look like their season is well and truly done already, and one of the F10Y crew is particularly looking forward to their rivalry game with FSU (insert eyes emoji).

By Andy Moore @ajmoore21