Thursday, September 14, 2006
First off, the Trojans are without LenDale White, Reggie Bush, and Matt Lienhart. But they are "reloading" with John David Booty. They do have a decent backfield and if we look at what they did to Arkansas, then we can see they are clearly the powerhouse dynasty, correct? Well, not entirely. Remember that Houston Nutt is exactly what his name proclaims him to be. He wanted a high school player so bad, that he made this kid's high school coach the Offensive Coordinator. So Nutt then allows him to run this "high school" offense in a IA level, without Mustain starting. The results could not have been more disastrous. (unless of course you are a Colorado player). So USC did good against a "high school" offense. And let's face it, out of the 100+ NCAA Div IA teams today, I am going to say that a good 95% of those teams could have beaten Arkansas that day.
But USC has talent. And they also have talent that is injured. Fullback Brandon Hancock sustained a season-ending knee injury in practice August 14, safety Josh Pinkard sustained a season-ending knee injury in the Trojans' season-opening 50-14 victory at Arkansas on September 2 and now nose tackle Sedrick Ellis' right knee locked and underwent arthroscopic surgery Tuesday. Tailback Chauncey Washington may not see the field this weekend. And their are rumors of a CB that may not start for the Trojans. But make no mistake, the Trojans will be ready.
All you have to do to see that is look at the head coach, Pete Carroll. While he may seem calm and collected at times, he really is a fun-loving guy. He expects many things from his team, but above all, he expects them to execute, and win. An outcast from the NFL, Carroll has made the Trojans into a team to be respected. In all of his games against former NFL head coaches, Carroll is perfect. He has not lost to former NFL head coaches. But it is not just that either. USC has a swagger now. The last time that was seen was when Robinson was in his prime. They have done a great job in the Pac 10. However, against Big XII schools, Carroll is 2-3, losing to K State twice, and Texas last year. So Carroll is going to be ready, and he is going to get his team ready. Although it looks as if this game is going to go USC's way, history has proven that rankings in a poll do not determine the winners of a game.
Let me take you back to 1996. Nebraska had just played in the past three National Championship games, and won 2 of those games. Nebraska had multiple award winners and was considered to reload, not rebuild. Sure the Touchdown Tommie era had ended, but Nebraska just reloads. Nebraska had played an overmatched Michigan State team and beat them very handily, 55-14. Then the Huskers were to go to ASU and play them in two weeks. Now this ASU team, with the core almost entirely intact, had lost to Nebraska the previous year by a score of 77-28. Local Phoenix stations were welcoming the Huskers to town, the fans they bring to a game means a lot of money to local businesses. And many stations wanted to see how far the Devils had come since last year and the maturity of one Jake Plummer. In fact, local Phoenix stations were saying that this Sun Devils team was good enough to compete for the Pac 10 title, and would only lose by a little bit to the vaunted Huskers. Sure the Devils would get beat this year, but not by the huge difference from the previous year. Nebraska has a "bye" week to prepare for this ASU game. And ASU played a small patsy named North Texas beating them 52-7. Then came Nebraska. Nebraska had a week off, ASU did not. Nebraska was ranked in the top 5 in the polls, ASU was ranked #17. Kickoff happened on September 21, 1996. And as Nebraska marched up and down the field, ASU matched them and outplayed them. In fact, ASU made Nebraska go back to Lincoln with a big fat goose egg. The Sun Devils not only won, they shut out the Huskers. A team that did not have any hope to win the game, and it came away with a shutout.
USC is a 2 time National Championships winner, playing in the last three national championships. They just lost their starting QB and the backfield to graduation, and have been pronounced as "reloading". They played an overmatched team and then had a week off. Maybe history is going to repeat itself.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
USC Preview: Keys to the Game
*Nebraska's best chance to win this game is to run the football, controlling the clock and negating USC's speed and athleticism. I think USC would rather have Taylor hit a few big plays than have Nebraska rush for 200 or more yards.
*If Nebraska does get behind, will Callahan stay with the run? Nebraska would have lost the Alamo Bowl if Callahan hadn't gone back to Ross running the ball. I hope he doesn't give up on the run if USC gets a lead.
*If USC does start stacking the line and blitzing, Nebraska's best formation will be the trips set. Against a pressure defense, Nebraska should be able to get outside with that toss play or break a few big runs off the trap. More importantly, with USC in man coverage, those shallow crossing patterns will be available for Taylor.
*Callahan is probably anticipating zone. If USC start playing pressure defense, I hope Callahan will adapt and not continue to call 5 and 7-step drops as he did against Missouri and Oklahoma last season. It could get Taylor killed.
*Will Nebraska change of some of the tendencies USC is sure to have noticed or has Callahan been setting the Trojans up?
*Will Purify provide Nebraska with a true deep threat to counter press coverage? Is he ready for that so soon?
*With USC's speed on defense, will Nebraska try to run the ball with power-type running plays or will they attempt to use zone-blocking (which seems to be what Callahan favors).
*And, of course, will Coz:
A) Revert to his favored "off-man" coverage and allow USC's giant receivers to torture our smaller DB's for somewhere between 40 and 50 points?
B) Outsmart himself with some wacky (and ill-advised) defense as he did against Missouri last season?
C) Play mostly zone to protect his DB's while pressuring Booty into occasional mistakes with zone-blitzes? (My idea. )
*Will our coaches adapt their gameplan if it proves to be ineffective or if USC comes out with something unexpected? This is the one thing I haven't really seen this staff do yet.
*Finally, if Nebraska does lose...will we see a return of the subtle hints by some of the coaches that it was the players' fault?
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Week 3 around the BIG 12
The BIG 12's third week of the 2006 season would be called 'A BIGGY' around these parts. I mean, so far the BIG 12 has a pretty salty 20-4 record but it wouldn't be a shock to see the conference go 4 - 8 this weekend. After the Texas 'deer in the headlights' performance last week, the BIG 12 needs this week to improve its national image.
In my opinion, the only 'locks' this weekend would be Oklahoma State (home vs Florida Atlantic), Missouri (@ New Mexico), Texas (@ Rice) and Texas A&M (home vs Army).
KU kicks off BIG 12 action Friday night at Toledo. After barely surviving at home against Louisiana Monroe, I don't think they'll survive this visit.
TOLEDO 21 - KU 17
KSU is at home this week, playing Marshall. The Wildcats win by ONE POINT over 1-AA Illinois State and then stomp Florida Atlantic 45-0 ??? Is coach Prince starting to build a team or is Florida Atlantic that pathetic-??
KSU 31 - MARSHALL 20
Oklahoma visits what may be the loudest stadium in the country - Autzen Stadium at Oregon. Oklahoma still appears surprisingly unsettled on defense and Oregon should have a huge chip on their shoulder after losing TWICE to Oklahoma last year-!!
OREGON 24 - OKLAHOMA 20
Colorado -? at home against Arizona State - this ain't gonna be pretty-!
ASU 35 - CU 10
Texas Tech visits Texas Christian and TCU is still smarting over last years 70 - 35 whupping at Lubbock while the Red Raiders needed overtime to beat UTEP last week - this is a 'PICK'EM' - but I'm predicting an upset -
TCU 31 - TT 24
Baylor will be at Washington State on Saturday - although WSU just hasn't been the same since the days of Coach Mike Price, they should still have the edge at home.
WSU 28 - BU 17
Iowa State is fortunate to be 2-0 after rather disappointing performances at home and this week they visit arch-rival Iowa.
IOWA 24 - ISU 10
And finally, NEBRASKA visits the Trojans of Southern California. After two impressive performances against teams that aren't anywhere near USC's capability, this will be the week we Husker fans find out how close the program is to being near the level Coach Osborne left it in. My heart tells me we're close but my mind says there isn't ANY PROGRAM in the country near, let alone equal, to what Coach Osborne left us. At the same time, I haven't seen enough of USC to make me think they are at the level they were over the past 2 or 3 years - but could this could be the week they 'put it together'-?? I don't think so but it may well be enough to win on Saturday. USC has had 2 weeks to prepare and Nebraska's history is not that good when visiting teams that have 2 weeks of preparation time. Well, it's time to change history-
UPSET NU 35 - USC 27
How's that for improving the Huskers AND the BIG 12's image-?? See there, I let my heart do my thinkin' fer me again-!!
Friday, September 08, 2006
Nicholls State Colonels
Last week, Nicholls State shut down Southern Arkansas 35-0. However, Arkansas State is a Div II school, so they were facing an overmatched opponent. So now they are going to face the Huskers, who should be able to out-power them. But here are some interesting tidbits of information on Nicholls State. According to their official sports site, they have never won on September 9th. They have played five times on this date, and lost all five times. They are also 1-13 when facing IA opponents. They did beat Arkansas State in 2001. So this quote came from the head coach of Nicholls State: "We just want to put a good product on the field and be competitive with Nebraska." But that is just what he should say. So how is Nicholls State preparing for Nebraska? X-box.
Yes, that is right, I read from the paper in Thibodaux that since Montana State did that before they beat Colorado, that Nicholls State is using the same method. The kids are playing X-Box pitting the virtual Huskers against the virtual Colonels. They said that they can beat the Huskers on the game, so they know they can do it on the field. Which is somewhat good. But somewhat bad. Sure Colorado lost to Montana State and K State had a hard time putting away Illinois State, but those teams are having major changes. Nicholls State players are going to see that you can not just push the "reset" button or change sides real quick, or change the AI level mid-game.
But what about the actual Nichols State team, not the virtual one. In last weeks game, they only allowed Southern Arkansas into field goal range once, but never allowed them to score. They allowed 200 total yards on 67 plays while racking up 261 total yards on 51 plays. Out of the 261 yards, they had 229 from the rushing game, or at least that is what their sports site claims. According to the NCAA Stat Site, they had 195 rushing yards and 66 passing yards. Either way, they still run an option and pass second. So as long as the Huskers can contain that, they should be ok. But one of the most telling stats is the score. The offense did not score all of the TDs or even drive for all of the TDs. One TD came from a bad snap to the punter where the Colonels fell on the ball, in the third quarter, Southern Arkansas had another bad snap on the punt, it was fumbled, and recovered on the 1 yard line. They did have three drives that were good drives, and took up time, but they should have a harder time against the Huskers.
But after reading that the Colonels are practicing on the real field and the virtual field, I think the Huskers should be able to put them away in the first half. And I am hoping it is enough to get Zac to rest the entire second half, get Ganz in there for some plays and get some other players to really get some time in there. This should be a win for the Huskers, but they still need to prove it on the field. And just so Nicholls State players know, I had my son play Nebraska against the Nicholls State, and he won. And he is seven years old. Maybe you should be putting in more time on the field. . . .
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Week 1 In the Books; USC awaits Huskers
-Nebraska, at the very least, is a lot better than it was at the beginning of last season. After watching Nebraska struggle with Maine and not be able to run consistently on a Division 1AA team to open last season, I was sincerely worried about a repeat of 2004. LaTech, which beat Fresno State late last season, is a legit 1A team and a much better opening opponent than Maine was last season.
-Callahan's committment to running the ball appears to be the real deal, but I already suspected as much after watching the spring game.
-The offensive line, while still not dominating or superior, is light-years ahead of last season.
-I'm not usually a big proponent of the "running back by committee approach". However, after watching the Huskers wear down a decent LaTech team with its four-headed monster, I'm think it might work out nicely. All four appear deserving of playing time and all four bring a little something different. If it were up to me, I'd have the backs in this order: Glenn, Lucky, Jackson, Wilson. If the game were on the line and the Huskers needed 4 yards...I'd probably give the ball to either Glenn or Jackson.
-It was nice to see Matt Herian back. He didn't look quite as explosive as he used to, but he still looked like one of the best tight ends in the country.
-It was not nice to see so many dropped passes. Zac Taylor could have been well over 300 yards with over 80% without the drops.
-Nebraska's secondary looked shaky at best. The defensive tackles are not yet up to the standard set last season. The corps of defensive ends is possibly the best in the nation, and the linebackers are as deep as talented as almost any team.
-I hope Cozgrove was holding something back against LaTech. If he elects to use the "off-man" coverage he's so fond of against USC in two weeks, I strongly suspect Nebraska might have to score 40 or 50 points to win. Personally, I'd like to see Nebraska use a zone-blitz type scheme against USC.
-If you didn't watch USC against Arkansas on Saturday, be warned: USC still has plenty of talent even with Bush and Leinart gone. USC's receivers will be an absolutely matchup nightmare for Nebraska's secondary.
-USC gloom and doom aside, Nebraska looked like a 9 or 10-win team against LaTech. When you consider the problems in the North Division (particularly at K-state and Colorado), Nebraska should be able to win the division easily this season. That even takes into account a possible loss on the road at Iowa State. The Cyclones have a brutal conference schedule that includes Oklahoma and Texas.
Monday, September 04, 2006
Week 1 Thoughts
But that was not the only story. There were different things that happened. Like ASU almost losing to NAU. Now I know the score shows different, but that game belonged to NAU for three quarters, then the IAA team just simply wore out. But it could have been worse. Ask Kansas State. They almost lost to an IAA by a closer score. Even though the game was not broadcast, there were many ways to see the "play by play" and I have got to say this, Ron Prince I am hoping you are happy you forced out 3 QBs, ones who could have helped on Saturday. Then you have Colorado, and Dan Hawkins. I really do feel for this guy. He was a great coach in Boise State, but losing to Montana State, which by the way is the first IAA team Colorado has scheduled. It looks to be a long season for both K State and Colorado. But, another team that was supposed to contend for the North title was Iowa State. They had to go to 3 OT to beat Toledo. That does not look good for a team vying for the title of a weak North division. Missouri beat up on an overmatched Murray State, and Kansas beat up Northwestern State. So there may be competition from them, but we will not be able to tell until they actually play an IA school. But next week the Huskers have an IAA to scrimmage and practice (and hopefully get the backups to play a full 3 quarters).