Ben (Clemson, South Carolina)
First of all Ben, I think using the word salvage in regards to Clemson is a bit extreme. The Tigers are a good team but not a great team and they are after all 8-3. Great teams can show up with their "B" game and still win. Good teams can show up with their "B" game and may not and that's what happened against Maryland. And the Terps are a good team as well, although I still would call it an upset.
All was looking good for the Clemson Tigers. Yes they lost early in the season but it took overtime for Boston College to beat them. In that game they botched an extra point or they could have escaped with a win. Clemson then reeled off wins against Florida State, North Carolina, Louisiana Tech, Wake Forest, Temple and Georgia Tech and looked pretty impressive in the process, with the exception of the game against the Demon Deacons (How ironic was it that it was a big Clemson special teams play on a botched field goal attempt that turned that game around in favor of the Tigers?).
The key to the Tigers success is their run game. Sophomore James Davis and true freshman C.J. Spiller are as good as any running back tandem in the country. When they are on Clemson is so tough to beat. In their eight wins Clemson averages a stout 270.2 rushing yards. Four times this season the Tigers have rushed for 300+ yards and seven times they have rushed for 150+ yards. Each time they have won. In their three losses Clemson has averaged 119.6. When they struggle to rush the ball they need to go to the air more and Will Proctor isn't the type of quarterback to carry an offense. Granted, he has played pretty well considering he is a first time starter. But in their three losses he is a combined 54/95 for 680 yards, two touchdown passes and one interception. Again, those are not bad numbers but they are also not good enough numbers to compensate for the opposition taking away the Clemson rushing attack.
If you break it down a little further, two of the Tiger losses are by a single digit. In the BC loss you can say special team's breakdowns as a major contributor to their loss. The Eagles returned the second half kickoff for a touchdown and Clemson place kicker Jad Dean missed the point after touchdown in OT. Against Maryland Clemson had to settle for four short field goals (27, 32, 25 and 22). So it was their inability to move the ball in the red zone against the Terrapins.
The Virginia Tech loss came after an emotional home win against Georgia Tech on national TV. The Tigers traveled to Virginia for a Thursday night game and the Hokies were ready for them in Blacksburg. They caught Virginia Tech on a night where they arguably played their best football of the season. The Hokies held Clemson's offensive attack to 166 total yards. Davis and Spiller rushed the ball 22 times for only 71 yards and the Tiger offense was held to only three first downs in the first three quarters.
So the bottom line with Clemson this season is that when they are rushing the football effectively they are awfully tough to beat and they have eight wins to prove it.
I was wondering with all the freshmen getting snaps at running back for USC, why hasn't Stafon Johnson been getting any playing time? This question is coming from a Cal Fan!
Alan (Modesto, California)
Johnson got buried in the Trojan depth chart at the running back position. He began on the scout team and has slowed worked his way up learning the playbook and also learning that you must play hard on every snap. There is no doubt that he has a bright future for USC. Johnson got his first three carries of the season against Stanford in their 42-0 win.
Going into the season McFadden was certainly on everyone's watch list. He had an incredible freshman season, rushing for 1,113 (6.3 yards per carry) yards and 11 touchdowns. McFadden entered the opening game against Southern Cal with a toe injury and it took him a few weeks to get healthy and close to 100%. After the slow start he now leads the SEC in rushing with 1,219 yards (6.2 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns.
Also, how much exposure has Arkansas really gotten on the national level? Up until last weekend their signature win was on the road at Auburn. There, McFadden rushed for 145 yards and a 63 yard touchdown run to help the Hogs whip the Tigers. Since, he has been on a tear but who has really noticed his numbers outside of the SEC? That all changed on Saturday, where Arkansas pounded a good Tennessee team on nationally TV. In that game McFadden ran to his abilities and he showed the college football world that he is as talented as any running back in the country. He finished the game with 181 yards and two rushing touchdowns and McFadden also threw a touchdown pass.
He may not be invited to Downtown Athletic Club for the Heisman Trophy proceedings next month but McFadden will be one of the top favorites in 2007.
Absolutely! There is no question that if Brohm and Bush return for Louisville they will join White, Slaton and Rice as pre-season Heisman favorites. That's some serious offensive talent in the Big East.
Other players that should receive strong consideration for the 2008 Heisman Trophy are Arkansas running back Darren McFadden (soph), Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart (soph), Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan (jr), Cal wide receiver DeSean Jackson (soph), Michigan running back Mike Hart (jr), Texas quarterback Colt McCoy (freshman), USC quarterback John David Booty (jr), Clemson running back James Davis (soph), Oklahoma State quarterback Bobby Reid (soph), Michigan quarterback Chad Henne (jr), Michigan wide receiver Mario Manningham (soph), USC wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett (jr), Wisconsin running back P.J. Hill (freshman), and LSU quarterback JaMarcus Rusell (jr). Now many of these players are juniors and some will certainly declare early for the NFL.
Speaking of juniors, there are two that will certainly have a say so for the game's most prestigious award – Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson and Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson. But I think both of those players will opt for the NFL as they both could very well be among the first picks of the draft in April. If both or one do decide to return for their senior years they would be considered the front runner for the Heisman. But that's a long shot as it is pretty much a fore gone conclusion that both Johnson and Peterson will be gone.
The Heisman Race
It's status quo for the Heisman Trophy. Smith still in a runaway and he can put the icing on the cake with a win this weekend over Michigan.
1)Troy Smith (QB) Ohio State
Smith lit up Northwestern like a Christmas tree, throwing for 185 yards and four touchdown passes in a 54-10 win. For the season he has thrown for 2,191 yards, 26 touchdown passes and only four interceptions.
2) Brady Quinn (QB) Notre Dame
Quinn threw for 207 yards and four touchdowns in leading Notre Dame over Air Force 39-17. For the season he 2,786 yards, 29 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
3) Colt Brennan (QB) Hawaii
After a slow start Hawaii heated up behind Brennan against Louisiana Tech. He threw for 406 yards and four touchdown passes. In ten games Brennan has 3,753 yards, 43 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions. He has also completed 72.4% of his passes.
4) Darren McFadden (RB) Arkansas
McFadden was playing like a man among boys on Saturday night. He rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns and also thrown a TD pass. For the season he leads the SEC in rushing with 1,219 yards (6.2 avg) and 12 touchdowns.
5) Steve Slaton (RB) West Virginia
Slaton got back on track, rushing for 148 yards (12 carries) and scoring two touchdowns in West Virginia's 42-24 win. For the season he 1,441 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. Slaton is averaging an amazing eight yards a carry.
Tom (Boise, Idaho)
Let the name calling begin. After all, it is that time of the year when reporting your opinion often ignites some nastiness among some recruiting fans. Tom, I just call it like I see it. I don't have a hidden agenda or a bias against Notre Dame or anyone else. Like I said, I just call it like I see it.
A few weeks ago in this column I reported that in my opinion, I thought Benn would likely end up committing to Illinois. Benn (Washington D.C.) is currently the nation's top wide receiver prospect. So whose reasoning was off, mine or yours after Benn committed to Zook and his Fighting Illini last week? Maybe you were just too close to the situation being a Notre Dame fan and just didn't want to accept the fact that Benn was heading elsewhere. It happens in recruiting.
Hey, on one hand I am just as surprised as anyone else with this one, especially considering that Notre Dame was a huge leader for Benn for some time. Some say he was a "lock" to land in South Bend. One thing I have learned in covering recruiting since 1992 is that there is no such thing as a lock. EVER. Too many strange things happen and I still can't figure out what happened with the Irish and how they lost him. On the other hand, I have been saying since Ron Zook took over the Illinois program that he will recruit his tail off and get prospects that no one expected them to land. Last season they held on to sign quarterback Isiah Williams. This season that got Benn and this is only the beginning for Zook and company. Other big names will certainly follow and Illinois will be the big surprise in recruiting this season. Mark my words that Zook is not done yet.
For the record I was actually a good athlete as a kid and wasn't picked last in the school gym as you suggested. I even made my high school's sports Hall of Fame as a sophomore.
In responding to Notre Dame's ranking in my top 20 last week I felt it was justified. The Fighting Irish have one win (Georgia Tech) against a top 25 BCS team and have will have played three games against the service academies and lowly Stanford. Notre Dame did have impressive come from behind wins against UCLA and Michigan State. They are one of many good teams out there and I slotted them where I felt it was appropriate. This week I have the Irish up to No. 6 and if they can win out they will certainly land in my top five and with some help from others have a chance to get to the National Championship game.
Marvin Austin, from Washington D.C. (Ballou), is the nation's top prospect. This big time d-tackle prospect is playing things close to the vest but it appears that Florida State is the front runner. At one point he favored the Seminoles and Hurricanes but with Miami's uncertainty, especially with head coach Larry Coker, you have to think that FSU is in pretty good shape. But the ‘Noles having struggled and slipped to 5-5. It makes you wonder if they have lost some flavor with Austin.
Here's something else to consider. His friend, Arrelious Benn just committed to Illinois. How much of an impact will Benn's decision have on Austin? They are both being recruited by Mike Locksley, the Illinois Offensive Coordinator. He is considered one of the top recruiters in the game and has done exceptionally well over the years in the D.C. area. And don't forget that Illinois Head Coach Ron Zook will lend a hand to Locksley. Austin officially visited the Fighting Illini back in September. At this time he currently will visit USC (11-24) later this month. He is also showing strong interest in Maryland, Tennessee and Virginia. This one could get very interesting before it's all said and done.
Which is more accurate, forecasting recruiting classes or forecasting the weather? The University of Wisconsin rarely if ever has a recruiting class ranked in the national top 20 yet win Rose Bowls, recently beat Auburn and win 9-10 games each year. What gives? Pat (St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin) You bring up something up that's interesting. On one hand you have teams like Wisconsin and Virginia Tech that rarely land in the top 20 recruiting rankings. Then you have teams like Texas and Southern Cal that end up near the top. There is something to be said to recruiting the very best recruits in the country. But you can also recruit good players and develop them and that's exactly what teams like the Badgers and Hokies have done a very good job at. They have recruited athletes that fit their systems, pencil them in and coach them up. There is as much coaching stability at these schools as anywhere and that helps too. Systems and coaching techniques are not changing.
Will Oklahoma find a good quarterback this late in recruiting?
Martin (New Mexico)
Boy Rhett Bomar put OU in a real bind. His dismissal made the Sooners scramble and Bob Stoops and his staff may have done their best coaching jobs to date. From a recruiting perspective the timing really could not have been much worse. At the start of this season when Bomar was dismissed, virtually all of the highly rated prospects had made their college commitments. Oklahoma was relatively set and didn't put a big emphasis on landing a top notch signal caller. That all changed when Bomar went bye-bye.
The Sooners jumped on everyone but it was a little too late in these recruit's eyes. OU tried to turn John Brantley (Ocala, Fla.) away from Texas and they have made overtures to other quarterbacks like Kodi Burns (Fort Smith, Ar.) and Stephen Garcia (Tampa, Fl.). Now Brantley could very well change his mind with Texas but it won't be Oklahoma. He could very well sign with Florida. Burns picked Auburn last week while it appears Garcia is headed to Columbia to play for Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks. A few Texas quarterbacks like Gilbert Moye and Joe Chaisson are showing interest in the Sooners but they don't have offers yet from Oklahoma.
So maybe Stoops and company ride it out and hope one of the committed quarterbacks has a change of heart. That doesn't seem like at this time. In all likelihood, they will wait and get a quarterback or two next season.
On a side note I can't understand why there has not been more interest in quarterback prospects with OU. After all this is the University of Oklahoma. The quarterback position is a little different from the others. Think about it. Most schools sign only one quarterback and with all of these signal callers across the country, one commits and then you see a domino effect. So by the end of the summer, most have made their college choices.
Some will say that it's just too late in the process. This is where I ask the question how is it too late? Prospects still have time to take visits and due their research.
Hey, what do I know? To each his own.
T. Hammond (Griffin, Georgia)
Georgia's season will likely not affect any one of these three prospects. Running back Caleb King will likely land in Athens and we could know something shortly. Auburn is the other program that is right there but at this time I would favor the Dawgs. Eric Berry is another story. The nation's top cornerback has long claimed he is open among Georgia, Tennessee, Auburn, USC and Ohio State. But his father played for the Vols and that's where I think he is headed. Allen Bailey is the one I can't get a real feel for. Bailey is a big linebacker/defensive end prospect. It will likely come down to Georgia, Florida and Alabama. Right now I think it's between the Bulldogs and Gators and I would give a slight home team edge to UGA. Two out of three for the Dawgs wouldn't be bad with this trio.
The Football Blitz Power Ratings
1) Ohio State (11-0)
The Buckeyes destroyed Northwestern. Ohio State is hitting on all cylinders going into the game of the year this weekend with arch rival and No. 2 rated Michigan. The winner goes to the title game. How far will the loser fall? Maybe not fall at all.
2) Michigan (11-0)
Like the Buckeyes, Michigan took care of business against the Hoosiers in another dominating performance. They got big plays in all three phases and should be ready for Saturday's big game against Ohio State.
3) USC (9-1)
The Trojans are a different team after losing to the Beavers. They rolled over Oregon. USC will need to be on their "A" game this weekend as they face a mad and determined Cal team. They are battling the SEC title winner for a chance to play the Big 10 winner for it all the marbles.
4) Florida (9-1)
The Gators escaped the Swamp with a huge win over the Gamecocks. Three blocked kicks keep Florida in the championship hunt. They will battle USC for the two spot for the next three weeks. UF has to play better, especially offensively if they expect to pass the Trojans. If not and USC wins out, the Gators will be left out of the very big dance. Next up, Western Carolina.
5) Arkansas (9-1)
I am now a believer after watching the Hogs dismantle a good Tennessee team. When healthy there might not be a better back in America then Darren McFadden. He was superb against the Vols. A win this weekend against Mississippi State clinches the West for Arkansas.
6) Notre Dame (9-1)
The Irish are on cruise control until they face USC at the end of the regular season. They are certainly in title contention, especially with the way teams are falling ahead of them. This weekend they get Army.
7) Rutgers (9-0)
Rutgers shocked the college football world and beat Louisville. They are the college football story of the year. This week they face Cincinnati.
8) Louisville (8-1)
The Cardinals got stuffed in the second half and now have no title hopes at all. They need to rebound quickly as they host a good USF team on Saturday.
9) West Virginia (8-1)
The Mountaineers came off a tough loss to Louisville to put up 42 points in a win over Cincinnati. They travel to Pitt. on Thursday in what is a big rivalry game.
10) LSU (8-2)
LSU fought off Alabama in Baton Rouge. When they are playing well they are so difficult to beat, especially at home. They host Ole Miss this weekend. The Tigers need a Mississippi State upset win over Arkansas to stay alive in the West.
11) Texas (9-2)
Many felt the Longhorns were the best one loss team going into last weekend. Someone forgot to tell that to K-State, as the Wildcats upset Texas 45-42. They get A&M this weekend.
12) Wake Forest (9-1)
How about those Demon Deacons! They go to Tallahassee and shut out the Seminoles 30-0 in one of the biggest wins in school history. They have another big challenge this weekend as Virginia Tech comes to town.
13) Oklahoma (8-2)
Like Texas, OU came from behind to beat a good Texas Tech team. Bob Stoops has done a masterful job with this team and has the Sooners playing very well right now. ]
14) Cal (8-2)
Arizona caught the Bears looking ahead and pulled off a stunning upset over Cal. The Bears need to regroup as the showdown with USC looms ahead this weekend.
15) Wisconsin (9-1)
The Badgers went to Iowa without their starting quarterback and beat the Hawkeyes 24-21. Wisconsin plays Buffalo on Saturday.
16) Auburn (9-2)
Georgia went to Auburn and spanked the Tigers 37-15. It was Auburn's second home loss this season and ended any hope of the Tigers sneaking into the National Championship game. This weekend Auburn faces Alabama in the Iron Bowl.
17) Boise State (10-0)
The Broncos came from behind to beat a pretty good San Jose State team to keep their unbeaten season alive. They face Utah State this weekend.
18) Tennessee (7-3)
The Volunteers got run over at Arkansas against the Razorbacks as running back Darren McFadden went hog wild against Tennessee. They travel to pesky Vanderbilt on Saturday
19) Georgia Tech (8-2)
Congratulations to the Yellow Jackets for earning a spot in the ACC Championship Game with a 7-0 win at North Carolina. Georgia Tech faces Duke this weekend.
20) Hawaii (8-2)
The Warriors got off to a slow start and fell behind Louisiana Tech. Then they got hot and scored 60 points for the fourth consecutive game, winning 61 -17.
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