Tag:Steve Addazio
Posted on: January 30, 2012 10:25 am
Edited on: January 30, 2012 4:58 pm
  •  
 

Rutgers talks fall through; Cristobal to stay put

Posted by Chip Patterson

UPDATE: CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy reports that Rutgers and FIU head coach Mario Cristobal were never on the same page with regard to possible contract terms, and Cristobal will remain with the Panthers.  Scarlet Knights' interim head coach Kyle Flood expected to "be the beneficiary" of the fallout.



With National Signing Day rapidly approaching, Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti has been on the move to try and replace head coach Greg Schiano as quickly as possible. Pernetti has already interviewed multiple candidates for the job, reportedly including interim head coach/offensive line coach Kyle Flood, Temple head coach Steve Addazio, and FIU's Mario Cristobal.

Tom Luicci, of The Star-Ledger, reported that Cristobal spoke with the Rutgers athletic director on Sunday. Pernetti reportedly requested and received permission from FIU to speak with Cristobal, which a person with knowledge of the search process said "went well." Multiple reports from Philadelphia indicate that Steve Addazio plans to stay put at Temple, narrowing Rutgers' apparent wish-list to Flood and Cristobal.

When Pernetti addressed the media after Schiano's departure on Thursday, the athletic director indicated his intentions to have a new head coach named no later than Wednesday - National Signing Day. Rutgers has already lost out in-state athlete Devin Fuller, who said on Sunday Schano's decision to leave "made a big difference" in his choosing UCLA over the Scarlet Knights.

Defensive end Darius Hamilton, one of New Jersey's top in-state recruit, plans to make his announcement on Tuesday night. One would assume Pernetti hopes to have his coach in place in time for Hamilton to make his decision. With the dead period now in place until Wednesday, the only best way to end uncertainty is make headlines with a coaching hire.

Cristobal is one of the hottest rising coaches in college football, taking over the FIU program in 2007 after spending time on Schiano's staff at Rutgers (2001-2003) and Larry Coker's staff at Miami (2004-2006). Cristobal led the Panthers to their first winning season in program history in 2010, winning the Sun Belt Championship and the Little Caesars Bowl. FIU finished 8-5 in 2011, falling to Marshall in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the opening kick of the year all the way through the offseason, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview.

Get CBSSports.com College Football updates on Facebook   
Posted on: January 22, 2012 8:20 pm
 

Auburn hires Temple's Loeffler as new OC

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Gene Chizik has made his choice to replace Gus Malzahn--and it's a name that won't be unfamiliar to SEC fans.

Auburn has announced that it has hired away Temple offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. Loeffler spent five seasons as the Michigan quarterback coach and also has stints with the Detroit Lions and Central Michigan, but is best known for having served as Florida's quarterbacks coach for two seasons--including their 2009 undefeated regular season with Tim Tebow

“Auburn is one of the special jobs and special places in college athletics with a tremendous amount of history and tradition," Loeffler said in a statement. "It’s an honor to be joining Coach Chizik’s staff and I’m very appreciative of this opportunity. I’m excited to get started and look forward to beginning recruiting, meeting the players and staff, and interacting with the Auburn family.”

"Scot is a rising star who has worked with some very good quarterbacks, and has achieved a tremendous amount of success," Chizik said. "He is a tireless worker, is an outstanding recruiter and knows the rigors of competing in this conference."

Chad Henne was one of multiple quarterbacks to have flourished under Loeffler's tutelage in Ann Arbor. 

Despite those qualifications, Loeffler, 37, remains an unproven quantity when it comes to running an SEC-level offense; his single year at Temple (having followed ex-Gator coordinator and current Owl head coach Steve Addazio) is his only one as a play-caller. The Owls finished 63rd in total offense but a much-better 35th in yards-per-play, with the ground game particularly impressive; behind Bernard Pierce's 1,481 yards, the Owls finished 7th in the FBS in rushing.

Between Loeffler's track record of quarterback coaching, his effective 2011 run-scheming, and an age and energy level that should play well on the recruiting trail, it's easy to see why Chizik would be interested. (That Loeffler may be able to install some of Urban Meyer's spread concepts along with his bread-and-butter pro-style running attack could help ease the transition from Malzahn's spread   philosophy.) But a coach with as little play-calling experience is a huge gamble all the same--and it's one that after an iffy 7-5 season, Chizik likely can't afford to lose. 

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview. Like us? Tell our Facebook page.

Posted on: December 17, 2011 5:31 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2011 5:32 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Temple 37, Wyoming 15



Posted by Chip Patterson


TEMPLE WON. The Owls jumped out a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and never looked back, relying on their constricting defense and bruising rushing attack to wear down Wyoming for a 37-15 victory in the New Mexico Bowl.

HOW TEMPLE WON: Temple established the tone on the very first drive of the game. Running back Bernard Pierce carried the ball eight times on a 13 play touchdown drive that totaled 90 yards and lasted nearly half of the opening quarter. Pierce continued to be the focal point of the Owls offense, rushing 25 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Temple's defense also lived up to their national ranking, holding Wyoming to 267 yards of total offense (most of that late in the game) and picking off MWC Freshman of the Year Brett Smith three times.

WHEN TEMPLE WON: With time winding down in the second quarter, Smith led Wyoming on an impressive touchdown drive to cut Temple's lead to 21-7 with just 37 seconds left before halftime. The Cowboys were set to receive the opening kickoff in the third quarter, and momentum appeared to be swinging back in their direction. But the Owls delivered a swift and punishing answer as wide receiver Rod Streater slipped behind the secondary for a 61 yard catch-and-run touchdown. Wyoming entered halftime deflated, and the Cowboys never regained control of the game.

WHAT TEMPLE WON: After three crushing four-point losses, Temple delivered one last time on the big stage to cap a strong first season for head coach Steve Addazio. The Owls 9-win season matches their best finish since joining the MAC, a credit to Addazio's staff for keeping this talented bunch on track after Al Golden's departure. It was also the second bowl win in program history, the first since 1979.

WHAT WYOMING LOST: Dave Christensen did agree in principle to a contract extension before the game, so Saturday's loss wasn't ALL bad for the Cowboys. It was a rough performance for Brett Smith, who will likely try to use this game as motivation as he returns to lead Wyoming next season.

BOWL GRADE: C-minus. It was football, and we were happy to be watching.  But the sleepy second half and Brett Smith's inability to create the big play eliminated much of the intrigue in this matchup.  Props to the Owls for the W, but this one won't make anyone's Top 10 list at the end of the postseason. 

THAT WAS CRAZY: The ESPN cameras caught a Wyoming fan wearing very little but a barrel. Thanks to help from Adam Kramer, of Kegs 'N Eggs, we discovered the backstory behind this passionate Cowboys fan.




How many experts picked the Owls to take care of business on Saturday? Check out the entire slate of selections at the Expert's Bowl Picks.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: December 13, 2011 5:32 pm
 

New Mexico Bowl Key Matchup



Posted by Chip Patterson


A look at the key matchup that could decide the New Mexico Bowl

Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming vs. Temple's defense

Temple's two strongest advantages heading into the New Mexico Bowl are their productive rushing attack and one of the nation's stingiest defensive units. The Owls rank third in the country in scoring defense, with their 13.8 points allowed per game trails only Alabama and LSU. But Wyoming has one weapon to counter Temple's touted D, and he is still just getting warmed up to the college game.

True freshman quarterback Brett Smith graduated early from high school in order to join the Cowboys football program in January, and the offense has not been the same since the 6-foot-3 dual-threat from Salem, Ore. won the starting job. Smith threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns while adding 44 yards and a score on the ground in the Cowboys season-opening win and has been shredding school and conference records ever since. He finished the regular season with 28 total touchdowns (18 passing, 10 rushing) and only eight interceptions, throwing for 2,495 yards and finishing second on the team in rushing with 645 yards. His 3,140 yards of total offense broke Andy Dalton's single-season MWC freshman record, and earned him Mountain West Freshman of the Year honors.

Smith is dynamic and explosive enough to keep the Owls guessing, and Wyoming will need him to deliver big plays and first downs to keep Temple's rushing attack off the field. The Owls' defensive numbers are impressive, especially considering some of the high-scoring teams in the MAC this season. But Temple did benefit from missing Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan in the regular-season schedule. NIU's Chandler Harnish and EMU's Alex Gillett were arguably the best rushing quarterbacks in the conference, with Harnish collecting conference MVP honors at the end of the season.

So before we can crown Temple's defense as the best in the conference, they need to contain a dangerous dual-threat quarterback. Before Brett Smith can be considered the future of Cowboys football, he'd like to deliver a bowl win. It's the matchup that will likely determine the winner of the first bowl game in the 2011-2012 schedule.

For more New Mexico Bowl coverage, check out the Keys to the Game and the latest news at New Mexico Bowl Pregame

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: December 13, 2011 12:04 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2011 12:07 pm
 

Keys to the Game: New Mexico Bowl

Posted by Chip Patterson

TEMPLE WILL WIN IF: The Owls can control the game with their defense and a steady ground game. Even in the high-scoring MAC, Temple's defense ranked in the Top 15 nationally in total defense and trail only LSU and Alabama giving up just 13.8 points per game. Complimenting that stout defense is a Top 10 rushing attack led by First Team All-MAC running back Bernard Pierce. First-year head coach Steve Addazio has had the benefit of relying on a steady ground game to keep scores low and take the pressure off a revolving door quarterback scenario. Redshirt sophomore Chris Coyer is expected to get the start under center after injuring his throwing in the regular season finale against Kent State. Coyer served mostly as a rushing threat/change-of-pace quarterback until taking over the starting duties in the last month of the season. If Pierce and backup Matt Brown can get going early, they should be able to rack up the yards against a Cowboys defense giving up roughly 230 yards per game on the ground.

WYOMING WILL WIN IF: The Cowboys can force turnovers and create the big play on offense. Knowing Temple's strengths on defense and in the rushing game, Wyoming will need to take some shots to create explosive plays and rattle the Owls. Thankfully, their best weapon for that task seems up to the challenge. Dual-threat freshman quarterback Brett Smith shattered Andy Dalton's MWC freshman records for total offense with 3,140 yards passing and rushing on the season, earning him conference Freshman of the Year honors. Steve Addazio has gone as far as to compare Smith to a certain former Florida quarterback you might have seen in the NFL headlines recently. Defensively, the Cowboys have to find a way to disrupt Temple's rhythm by creating turnovers. Wyoming led the Mountain West in fumbles recovered and turnover margin, and will need to win that battle in claim another New Mexico Bowl win.

X-FACTOR: Adjustment to the altitude. University Stadium in Albuquerque is roughly 5,000 feet above sea level, creating an atmosphere that many athletes over time have had difficulty adjusting to in regards to getting enough oxygen during competition. With only two bowl appearances since 1979 - and the last one played in nearby Washington, D.C.- it is safe to assume Temple is not used to dealing with extraneous climate factors on a regular basis. On the other hand, Wyoming stormed back from a 28-17 fourth quarter deficit to eventually beat the Ryan Matthews-led Fresno State Bulldogs in double overtime in this same bowl game two seasons ago. As Temple's touted defense works to contain Brett Smith late into the fourth quarter, they'll need every gasp of air they can get to pull out a victory in Addazio's first season at the helm.

For much more on Wyoming and Temple, cruise over to our New Mexico Bowl Pregame and get ready for Saturday's kickoff.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: October 4, 2011 1:23 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 2:42 am
 

CBSSports.com Conference Power Rankings (Oct. 4)


Posted by Chip Patterson

Just after I wrote last week about how the Big 12 is pushing the SEC for the top spot in the power rankings, Texas A&M shows up with a monumental collapse against Arkansas in Cowboys Stadium. Despite the jokes about it being a "SEC West conference matchup," this was a poor display for the 2011 version of the Big 12. But the most glaring conference realization from Week 5 was in regards to the Big Ten.

Wisconsin handled Nebraska in Camp Randall easily, becoming a conference favorite and national title contender. But elsewhere in the conference, Michigan State and Ohio State - both ranked at the beginning of the season - played out a painful 10-7 Spartan victory that displayed more offensive inefficiencies than defensive dominance. Illinois and Michigan have been the surprises of the Big Ten this season, and if you have watched either team play that should not give the conference a ton of confidence.

The ACC has begun to make their case with the emergence of Clemson and Georgia Tech in the national spotlight. If Virginia Tech and Florida State can bounce back this weekend the league will have four teams in the rankings and boost their stock significantly. Mountain West had a rough weekend, and if the struggles continue it could end up costing Boise State a shot at the title. The most shake up in this week's rankings come near the bottom, where the Sun Belt has fallen two spots to last place.

You can give your opinion in the comment section below, but here are the CBSSports.com 2011 Conference Power Rankings heading into Week 6.


1. SEC (LW: 1)- Alabama and LSU continue on their warpath towards the Nov. 5 meeting in Tuscaloosa, but the conference takes a bit of a hit with Florida's stock dropping. As much as a mess the SEC East is, the West has four teams in the Top 15 of the AP Poll and the conference showdowns once again reminds us how big and bruising these SEC teams are, and why they have won the last five national championships.  The Big 12 was certainly pushing the SEC last week, but Arkansas' come-from-behind victory over future confernece rival Texas A&M has kept Mike Slive's conference in the top spot of the power rankings. 

2. Big 12 (LW: 2) - As mentioned above, the Big 12 does settle back into No. 2 after that monumental collapse by the Aggies in Arlington on Saturday. However, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State appear to be dancing their way to a Bedlam showdown for the ages. But Texas will have something to say about that in the Red River Shootout this weekend. The Longhorns have their quarterback situation sorted out, and have looked dominant in road wins over UCLA and Iowa State. Despite the off-field headlines, all seems normal on the field with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas vying for the Big 12 title.

3. Pac-12 (LW: T-3) - Stanford's seventh straight win of 26 points or more has reminded the nation that there is a powerhouse on the West Coast that does not quack. Arizona State survived Oregon State's best shot to preserve a solid representation in the polls, and Washington has emerged as a surprise thanks to a 4-1 start. The addition of Colorado no longer makes Washington State the conference door mat, and the Pac-12 leaps out of a tie with the Big Ten to hold third place to themselves in the power rankings.

4. Big Ten (LW: T-3) - Wisconsin's beatdown of Nebraska on national television cemented their status as a title contender and kicked off Russell Wilson's official Heisman campaign. But outside of Madison, there are a lot of question marks surrounding the Big Ten's "frontrunners." Michigan, Illinois, and Michigan State all have displayed frustrating inconsistencies, and if the Cornhuskers are the second best team in the conference there is a huge gap between the Badgers and the rest of the league. Ohio State, on the other hand, is doing a great job of making headlines off the field. If the on-field performance won't cut it, at least the Buckeyes have that - right?

5. ACC (LW: 5) - The ACC is beginning to make a charge up the power rankings, but still don't quite have enough going for them to jump the Big Ten or Pac-12. Clemson's defeat of their third straight ranked opponent makes them the first ACC member to accomplish that feat in the league's history. Georgia Tech has also jumped into the scene with their 5-0 start thanks to one of the most productive offenses in the nation. Predicted division-winners Florida State and Virginia Tech haven't derailed just yet because of their 0-1 conference starts, and will be looking to bounce back in crucial division match ups this weekend.

6. Big East (LW: 6) - South Florida's rising bubble burst on Thursday night, getting embarrassed by Pittsburgh on national television. In the words of Adam Jacobi: "It's the Big East, where nothing that is supposed to happen happens!" West Virginia remains at the top of the pile, but the rest of the conference is up for grabs at this point. Some call it parity, others call it mediocrity, but the fact remains you never know what kind of performance you'll get your opposition in Big East conference play.

7. Mountain West Conference (LW: 7) - The Mountain West has slowly fallen from a borderline premiere conference thanks to several notable losses and a recent hiccup in the non-conference performance. In Week 5, the league went 1-3 in non-conference matchups - with Air Force's overtime victory against Navy as the only win. TCU's overtime loss to SMU is embarrassing for the league, and despite expectations Colorado State and New Mexico losing home games to WAC opponents doesn't help. None of this is helping Boise State's cause, who has continued to steamroll through their schedule.

8. Conference USA (LW: 10) - After a questionable start, Conference USA bounced back in a big way this past week - picking up three impressive non-conference wins. Marshall's takedown of Louisville, SMU's upset of TCU, and even Tulsa's victory over North Texas provided enjoyable entertainment for Conference USA fans. Even lowly UAB hung tight with Troy, one of the top teams in the Sun Belt. Tulane's loss to Army doesn't look great, but it was overshadowed by the big wins mentioned above.

9. MAC (LW: 8) - Western Michigan's takedown of Connecticut was the bright spot this weekend's MACtion, which featured four conference matchups while Ball State, Bowling Green, and Miami were fed to BCS Rancors. Toledo and Temple not nearly as close as I expected, with the Rockets jumping out to 15-3 first quarter lead and never looking back. Owls fans filled less than 22,000 of Lincoln Financial Field's 68,000+ seats, and the game did little but lock in Toledo's status as the conference favorite moving forward.

10. WAC (LW: 11) - San Jose State and New Mexico State delivered non-conference wins over Mountain West opponents while Nevada received the revenge punishment from Boise State on the Smurf Turf. Idaho put together a respectable performance taking Virginia to overtime on the road. Fresno State also came close to knocking off a BCS opponent last weekend, but blew a 28-27 fourth quarter lead to Ole Miss.

11. Sun Belt (LW: 9) - Not a great week for the Sun Belt. Conference favorites FIU suffered their second consecutive loss, and this time at the hands of Duke. Troy struggled to beat UAB, and one of the conference's only non-conference wins was Middle Tennessee squeaking past Memphis. When Louisiana-Lafayette is the conference leader, things aren't' off to a great start for the league.

Check back in to the Eye On College Football next week for the updated edition of the Conference Power Rankings.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: September 27, 2011 1:25 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 1:28 pm
 

CBSSports.com Conference Power Rankings: Week 5


Posted by Chip Patterson


We took Week 4 off for the conference power rankings to put together the Future Conference Power Rankings.  With realignment rumors slowing, we made a few projections and broke down how the conference's would rank in 2014 at the BCS automatic qualifying renewal.  I put together a set of power rankings for football, Matt Norlander did college hoops, then we put our brains together for a joint future conference power ranking.  

The exercise was an interesting look into the makeup of building and sustatining a conference, but I was more than excited to turn the attention back to what we know: football in 2011.  

LSU and Alabama have continued to carry the SEC banner as the game's leading conference.  The two juggernauts have overcome every obstacle in their path so far, heading down a collision course to their Nov.5 meeting in Tuscaloosa.  But the Tide should be on upset alert this weekend, as defeating the Gators under the lights in The Swamp will be no easy task.  Oklahoma showed no signs of slowing from their methodical road victory against then-top-ranked Florida State, and the Cowboys' comeback victory against Texas A&M showed the strength of the conference lies in the Bedlam schools.  Mountain West and Conference USA suffered some embarrassing losses, while Big Ten's weak slate left room for the Pac-12 to move up into the No. 3 spot.  

You can give your opinion in the comment section below, but here are the CBSSports.com 2011 Conference Power Rankings heading into Week 5.


1. SEC (LW: 1)- The giants in the SEC West each pass their Week 4 tests with flying colors, and LSU takes over as the No. 1 team in the nation according to the writers.  Mississippi State avoided dropping two in a row barely, but the Bulldogs can pick themselves up before heading back into conference play.  Florida performed their annual slaughter of Kentucky, and their defense and running game could give them a shot to challenge South Carolina in the East.  

2. Big 12 (LW: 2) - The Big 12 is definitely closing the gap on the SEC for top conference in the nation, which is interesting considering the instability off the field.  While Oklahoma and Oklahoma State continue to lead the way in the polls, the depth of the conference has been more impressive as of late.  With Kansas State knocking off Miami in Coral Gables and Baylor continuing to follow Robert Griffin III's lead the league has five teams in the top 20.  That's just as much as the SEC and an argument could be made for the middle of the Big 12 looking better on the field than the middle of the SEC recently.

3. Big Ten (LW: 3) - The Big Ten gets very little credit for their weak non-conference schedule in Week 4.  While Wisconsin, Michigan, and Michigan State all did their part to take care of the inferior competition the rest of the conference did not fly the banner with pride.  Minnesota and Indiana's losses and Illinois' squeaker against Western Michigan put a stain on what could have been a clean sweep for the B1G.  Legends and Leaders will strap it up in Week 5 though, with five conference matchups on the slate.

3. Pac-12 (LW: 4) - With Oregon showing flashes of 2010 in their rushing game, the Ducks sent a warning shot across Stanford's bow with their performance on Saturday.  Arizona State's victory over USC helped justify what may be the Sun Devils' berth to the inagural Pac-12 title game (due to USC's postseason ban).  The conference has plenty of question marks when you look down the entire membership roster, but the heavy-hitters at the top of the standings keep the conference near the top.  

5. ACC (LW: 5) - Florida State's second loss in a row removes the ACC's lone team from the national spotlight.  However with a victory over Virignia Tech, Clemson could find themselves elevated to that elite group of undefeated teams.  The Tigers have never defeated three ranked opponents in a row, and will be trying to do so on Sunday evening in Blacksburg.  The Hokies have played an unimpressive collection of early season non-conference matchups, so Frank Beamer and Co. will be looking for a win to justify their place in the naitonal scene.  Georgia Tech is also on the rise, but Maryland's loss to Temple and Miami's loss to Kansas State the ACC's "middle" took a hit in Week 4.

6. Big East (LW: 7) - West Virginia deserves credit for giving LSU their best shot.  They were able to move the ball on that touted defense and until Mo Claiborne's 99-yard kickoff return TD it looked like the Mountaineers could take it to the wire.  South Florida continues their offensive tear, but that will be put to test in the conference opener at Pittsburgh on Thursday.  Despite only having to vote-getting teams in the polls, the conference moves up a spot in the power rankings thanks to a little bit of hope shown by the league's middle.  Cincinnati looks like they could be headed back to the postseason after their dismantling of N.C. State and while Pittsburgh is still horrendous to watch at times they gave themselves a shot to win at Notre Dame..

7. Mountain West Conference (LW: 6) - Kellen Moore and Boise State will stay on course, and I imagine their revenge victory against Nevada will be quite the offensive output.  TCU is starting to get their footing back as well, but still has not displayed anything on field yet that looks like they could give the Broncos a run for the conference title.  The league takes a one-spot drop in the power rankings after San Diego State looked shellshocked against Michigan in the Big House.  The Aztecs weren't expected to win, but Rocky Long's squad could have definitely put up a better fight against the Wolverines.  

8. MAC (LW: 9) - Nothing quite like some MACtion upsets to make for good conference smack talk.  The fighting Addazio's have lived up to their hype once again, this time picking Maryland apart on their own field.  Temple's strong start, and what should have been a Toledo win against Syracuse have the MAC ranking just below the MWC in terms of non-AQ conferences.  Throw in Ball State's win over Army and it was a blown call away from a MAC sweep in Week 4.

9. Sun Belt (LW: T-10) - The Sun Belt's darling in 2011 was FIU, at least until Wesley Carroll and T.Y. Hilton left Saturday's game with injuries and the Panthers dropped their first contest of the season.  After knocking off Louisville and UCF in back-to-back weeks, it is unfortunate Mario Cristobal's tear came to an end against a conference opponent.  Troy now has second life as they try to pursue at least a share of their seventh straight Sun Belt Confernece title.  North Texas delivered the upset of the weekend for the league, knocking off Indiana 24-21.  

10. Conference USA (LW: 8) - In a weekend that featured several notable non-conference upset opportunities, Conference USA really dropped the ball.  Southern Miss was able to hold on against Virginia, but after the Cavaliers' recent performances even that ACC victory might not be an upset.  UCF lost a very winnable game against BYU on Friday night, and an improved Tulane squad certainly had a fighter's chance against Duke.  As a league, Conference USA went 2-6 in non-conference play during Week 4.  Making their case worse, Memphis continues to make a case for being the worst team in the bowl subdivision.  The jury is still out, but the Tigers are making their case.

11. WAC (LW: T-10) - Lots of "almosts" for the WAC in Week 4.  Utah State almost knocking off Colorado State.  Nevada almost upsetting Texas Tech, and Louisiana Tech almost pulling the upset of the week.  Unfortunately "almost" is only acceptable with horshoes and hand grenards.  Need more W's to move up these rankings. 

Check back in to the Eye On College Football next week for the updated edition of the Conference Power Rankings.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: September 26, 2011 10:07 am
Edited on: September 26, 2011 2:20 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 4



Posted by Bryan Fischer


As much as it frustrates the rest of the country, there's a reason why the SEC is continually touted as the nation's best conference. There's a reason why they've won five straight BCS championships.There's a reason why the league is so competitive. And it's not hard to figure out either.

Defense, and lots of it. S-E-C Speed, S-E-C D.

With nearly half the league ranked 75th or worse in total offense through four games, five ranked teams and a 25-4 non-conference record don't happen by accident. Six teams are in the top 30 in scoring defense, including Alabama and Florida in the top five.

For LSU, the fearsome part of their defense is the backend. Defensive back Tyrann Mathieu repeated as Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week thanks to six tackles and two turnovers against West Virginia. A week earlier, his teammate Morris Claiborne was tabbed for the award after two interceptions against Mississippi State. If there's a better pair of corners in the country on one team, they're in the NFL. Mathieu's interception that he took down to the one right before halftime helped stretch the Tigers' lead to 20 and Claiborne's 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown ended all hopes of a Mountaineers rally and kept momentum planted firmly on the LSU sideline.

"West Virginia did a very good job, but our defense showed up to play and we got off to a nice start," Les Miles said after the game. " Morris Claiborne’s return was right on time, and we were able to finish it off. We made some mistakes, but we overcame that adversity."

What was surprising Saturday was just how little pressure LSU's front seven were able to get on opposing quarterback Geno Smith. He finished with a school-record 468 yards of total offense as the Tigers game up more yards in a game than they had since 2005. Giving up chunks of yards to a Dana Holgorsen-led offense is nothing new, but what kept the game in LSU's favor was the big play ability of coordinator John Chavis' defense.

Ultimately, the Tigers don't win by scoring, they win by scoring on defense.

Mathieu, who wears Patrick Peterson's old number seven, is as ball-hawking as you can get. Peterson was a one-man island last season, often taking away half of the field by himself in zone coverage if he wasn't locking up his man one-on-one. While Mathieu isn't as good in coverage as the man he took over for, he has a great feel for the game and reads plays as well as anybody on the back half. When he roams or blitzes, things just happen - as they did in Morgantown on Saturday. Despite losing Peterson, this secondary is better and deeper than it was a year ago as Claiborne and others have elevated their game. As one NFL scout told CBSSports.com writer Gregg Doyel, there are actually more than four NFL players among this group.

Read more about Tyrann Mathieu in Bruce Feldman's Big Picture

"The offensive game plan was not a problem," Holgorsen said. "Turning the ball over four times is a problem, and they have something to do with that too. They have a pretty good defense."

LSU has scored first and led at halftime in each of the Tigers' games this year. It's all part of the plan: Score first, play defense, be opporunistic and win the fourth quarter.

Alabama uses a similar strategy. Before the season, one person inside the program said what many had been saying: this defense was better than 2009's championship squad and might be one of the most talented ever under Nick Saban. They might have an even faster secondary than LSU and use the speed to play everything in front of them, swarming to ball seconds after the snap.

Against Arkansas, they also delivered shot, after shot, after shot on quarterback Tyler Wilson. The 3-4 the team runs allows Saban and coordinator Kirby Smart to mix in plenty of zone blitzes to create pressure on quarterbacks who rarely can tell where it's coming from before the snap. The Tide recruit athletes who can move well in they scheme more than anything and that's translated into a fearsome unit that is living up to their reputation as the best in the country. They play smart and play well.

"Well we set out to establish that we were going against the best offense in the SEC and a lot of people were labeling us as the best defense in the SEC, so we wanted to go out and show people what we were capable of with all cylinders turning," linebacker Dont'a Hightower said.

Though the highlight of the game with Arkansas was Marquis Maze's punt return for a touchdown, that was nearly the straw that broke the razorback's back. As Saban and others admitted it was a defensive play, DeQuan Menzie's interception, that shifted the momentum after the offense couldn't convert on the goal line.

"That was a big turning point in the game from a momentum stand point, and you know, we need to make more plays like that, get more turnovers," Saban said. "People are going to see what we do and figure out ways to deal with it. Our challenge is to get better every day."

That's a scary thought - for Alabama or for any SEC defense. Can't wait to see them match up with LSU on November 5 as much as the offensive coordinators do not.

Stat of the week

After wrapping up a 56-31 win over Rice, just about everybody was talking about Heisman candidate and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. Look up the box score and it's easy to see why: he went a ho-hum 29-33 for 338 yards and five touchdowns as the Bears racked up 673 yards of offense. Even more eye-popping was the fact that he threw more touchdowns than incompletions for the second consecutive game. Griffin has also thrown more touchdowns (13) than incompletions (12) this season. He is completing 85% of his passes, hasn't thrown an interception and is throwing for nearly 12 yards per attempt. As one would expect, he tops the NCAA efficiency rankings, just ahead of Wisconsin's Russell Wilson.

Other stats of note

- Florida beat Kentucky for the 25th time in a row and by at least 34 points for the fourth straight year.  The Wildcats are on the losing end of the two longest active losing streaks to one team, the other being the 26 game streak to Tennessee.

- Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz set a school record and tied the NCAA record by throwing seven touchdown passes against UC Davis over the weekend. He sat out the second half after the Warriors led 49-0 at half but not before he also passed for a school record 424 yards in a half.

- Notre Dame is dead last in the country in turnover margin at -2.50 a game. The Irish have given the ball away 15 times in four games, more than they did in all of 2009 and 2006. The defense has forced just five this year.

- Quarterback Denard Robinson is the nation's leading rusher at 168.7 yards per game, over 15 yards a game more than runner up LaMichael James. While that's pretty impressive, he wouldn't be in the top spot were it not for the NCAA not counting his stats from the game against Western Michigan - which was stopped early. Of course, who knows, he might have been able to pad his stats during that game and still be in the lead a few weeks later like he is now.

- Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray had his nine-game streak of at least 100 yards rushing broken. The Aggies really went away from the ground game in the second half and never did establish Gray against Oklahoma State. Meanwhile, Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden set school records for completions (47) and passing yardage (438).

- James was back to putting up video game numbers for Oregon against Arizona this weekend. He rushed for a school record 288 yards and also set the all-purpose mark. His first quarter touchdown run also gave him the Ducks record for career touchdowns as well. His 288 yards were more than the Wildcats have rushed for all year (249).

- Florida Atlantic had just one first down against Michigan State but racked up 20 against Auburn's defense in a 30-14 loss. The Owls are dead last in the country in offense and have scored only 17 points all year. 62% of FAU's offensive yardage this year came against Auburn.

- South Carolina's defense allowed just 77 yards to Vanderbilt and only five first downs all game. Defensive stud Melvin Ingram scored yet another touchdown, his third in as many weeks. By reaching the end zone, Ingram is tied for third on the team for points scored with quarterback Stephen Garcia.

- A few miles away from Columbia, Clemson receiver and freshman sensation Sammy Watkins is leading the Tigers in scoring after 141 yards receiving and two touchdowns in a victory over Florida State. Through four games this year he has 433 yards receiving and six touchdowns, marks that would have placed him second and third on the team respectively in each category last year.

- Four teams topped the 400 yard rushing mark last Saturday, led by Air Force rolling up 595 yards against hapless Tennessee State. Oregon had 415 yards against Arizona, Florida rushed for 405 against Kentucky and Army pounded Ball State for 402 yards. A team has rushed for over 400 yards 10 times this year while a team has passed for over 400 yards 22 times through week four.

- According to SI.com's Stewart Mandel, Illinois is 4-0 for the first time since 1951. I'm with him, how is that possible?

- Georgia Tech has six plays of 70+ yards this year and seven one-play scoring drives.

Yard-by-yard

-  Hats off to Mike Gundy's halftime adjustments. After being held about 1,000 points below their average in the first half to trail by 17, the Cowboys offense exploded as Brandon Weeden started picking apart Texas A&M's secondary with intermediate passes on their way to a comeback win. The Aggies turned the ball over three times and anytime you give Weeden the ball on a short field, watch out. The most telling sign was the lack of panic on the OSU sidelines as they fell behind. Though they hadn't been in the position before, it was as if they knew what to do and went out and executed. The defense isn't quite as good as Oklahoma's but they'll be able to ride the offense quite far in Big 12 play.

- I'm not quite ready to say the Michigan defense is good but it's certainly much improved and solid enough in a weaker Big Ten for new coordinator Greg Mattison. After the much maligned unit struggled all of last year, they seemed to turn a corner against a very good offense in San Diego State. The Wolverines shutout talented running back Ronnie Hillman and the Aztecs in the first half, the first time they've pulled off the feat in the first half in over two years. Hillman hadn't fumbled since the first carry of his freshmen season last year and yet coughed it up twice. We've been in this position with the Wolverines before last year - a fast start, Denard Robinson being Denard Robinson - before fading badly at the end in Rich Rodriguez' last year as head coach. This year, though, might be different. The schedule is manageable and with the defense being more opportunistic than they have been in the past, Michigan could have a much different ending.

- Michigan's archival Ohio State doesn't have the kind of stability that the Wolverines have but they had to be encouraged with the solid first start for quarterback Braxton Miller. He didn't cause anybody to label him the "next" anything after going 5-13 for 83 yards and rushing for 83 yards but it looks like he's the future after a disastrous passing game for the Buckeyes I saw firsthand against Miami. What's funny is the last time I saw Ohio State play on the road was a couple of years ago at USC. The offense struggled and the next game a talented true freshman by the name of Terrelle Pryor started for the first time. Pryor tossed four touchdowns in that game and led the Buckeyes to an 8-1 record as a starter. While Miller didn't come anywhere close to looking like his predecessor, he looked comfortable running the offense and playing with what the defense was giving him. No one's saying he'll be able to replicate what Pryor did on the field but it looks like yet again the Buckeyes have another true freshman ready to lead them into Big Ten play this year.

"I slept pretty good," he said of his first start. "I really didn't have any jitters at all."

With improved play from Miller and the rest of the offense, head coach Luke Fickell might sleep better too.

- There's no offense quite like Georgia Tech's. It's an option attack but one that has a dangerous passing game that is part of the reason the Yellow Jackets are leading the nation in yards per game. They piled up 496 yards on Saturday in a nice win over North Carolina. Quarterback Tevin Washington is the triggerman but unlike previous players at the position under Paul Johnson, he looks like he can legitimately get the ball down the field accurately. Of course, it helps to throw the ball to 6-foot-5 receiver Steven Hill. There were times where he looked just like Calvin Johnson while making one-handed catches on his way to 151 yards and a touchdown. Hill might be the best receiver no one's really talking about but with Washington throwing the ball and running back Orwin Smith helping out on the ground, expect to hear more about Georgia Tech going forward.

- Poor N.C. State fans. As if it weren't enough to see former quarterback Russell Wilson at the helm for a top 10 team, Thursday's blowout loss to Cincinnati couldn't have given anybody any confidence in what's to come this season. The offensive line gave up six sacks to go on top of three turnovers, two of which were interceptions thrown by Wilson's replacement Mike Glennon without much thought. There's some talent on the team but clearly not enough in a much tougher ACC this year. It's going to be a long season until North Carolina's Committee on Infractions hearing for Wolfpack fans.

- I thought the Clemson game would be a bit of a letdown game for Florida State and while they made it close, the execution just was not there for the Seminoles. Of course they wanted to win and definitely were without some key players, but they invested so much into the game against Oklahoma one would have to think that they spent a little too much time watching film from last week instead of film of the Tigers. Just when it seemed like the defense was ready to make a stop or the offense get going, there'd be a penalty (they finished with 11 for 124 yards). On the other side, it finally appears that Clemson is getting the hang of offensive coordinator Chad Morris' new hurry-up system. Tajh Boyd still has moments that must make Morris rip out some hair but he is looking much more comfortable behind center. With electric freshman Sammy Watkins making plays every time you tune in, it's easy to see why there's plenty of optimism in Death Valley.

"I'm super excited about how our players keep growing this offense and executing. And we're only four games into this offense," Morris said. "It's crazy."

- Penn State beat Eastern Michigan 34-6 as part of the Big Ten's weekend of home games against directional schools to raise money for themselves. The Nittany Lions might have come out with a victory but it was a costly one - starting outside linebacker Mike Mauti will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Considered to be the team's best backer, this is needless to say a big blow to a team that already has struggled some on both sides of the ball. Mauti missed the 2009 season with an ACL injury to his other knee and was limited at times last year due to a shoulder injury. Senior corner D'Anton Lynn was also hurt and had to be transported to the hospital to have his head and neck examined after a hit.

- Speaking of Penn State, the team that almost beat them last week, Temple, ended up routing Maryland 38-7. Steve Addazio has quietly taken what Al Golden left him and turned the Owls in a forced to be reckoned with. Junior back Bernard Pierce is the Northeast's best kept secret, as he rushed for five touchdowns and 149 yards to power Temple's first road win over a BCS foe in nine years.

- How bad is Oregon State? The Beavers lost 27-19 to a UCLA team that is not without their own issues on both sides of the ball. Many expected them to get a boost - they were favored at home - with the return of all-purpose threat James Rodgers and tight end Joe Halahuni but it was to no avail. It's the worst start of the Mike Riley era and unlike many of his previous teams, there's just no execution. There's been issues behind the scenes and at quarterback on offense while the defense is still breaking in plenty of new players. As Pac-12 play continues, don't expect things to get any easier until the Beavers get back to their roots of playing smart football and keeping the turnovers to a minimum. For UCLA, it was a game they just had to have if they're to sneak into a bowl game this year. According to the LA Daily News , a joyous Rick Neuheisel told a group of fans after the game  "Anybody have fun on the flight here? Not as much as you'll have on the flight home!" Of course, he also added that the Bruins haven't been 1-0 in the conference, "in a long time."

More on College Football
Analysis
Dennis Dodd Dennis Dodd
That Okie State rallies past Texas A&M is insult enough. That the Aggies cough up a 17-point halftime lead to a Big 12 power on their way to SEC is more than Dennis Dodd can stand.
Read >>
Brett McMurphy Brett McMurphy
LSU proves worthy No. 1 by beating three ranked teams on the road, whipping West Virginia on Saturday. Read >
Gregg Doyel Gregg Doyel
Notre Dame's Brian Kelly is an offensive genius and generally a wise man. Gregg Doyel says that intellect pushes Kelly to rely on defense. Read >>
Related links
Video
Quote of the week

"Big 12! Big 12! Big 12!" - Oklahoma State fans after their victory at Kyle Field. Perhaps it was also fitting that Texas A&M had two 12th man penalties on defense early in the game.

Quote of the week, part II

"The speed of the game, it's kind of lighting struck the outhouse and we were in it." - Kentucky defensive coordinator Rick Minter after the Wildcats' 48-10 loss to Florida.

Tweets of the week

"Arizona will always be a basketball school.. So Child please!" and "If one more person EVER tells me Arizona is turning into a "football" school .. Can kiss the baby"

- Former Arizona forward Derrick Williams during his football team's blowout loss to Oregon. Ouch.

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma

4. Boise State

5. Stanford

6. Wisconsin

7. Oklahoma State

8. Oregon

9. Virginia Tech

10. Nebraska

Where we'll be this week

The big CBS primetime matchup between Alabama and Florida from the Swamp will have Mr. College Football himself, Tony Barnhart, in attendance. Dennis Dodd will be at Camp Randall for Nebraska's first Big Ten conference game against Wisconsin while Brett McMurphy will be listening to 'Enter Sandman' as Clemson plays at Virginia Tech. I've got early duty as I'll be at Texas A&M's first SEC conference game (well, first unofficial one anyway) against Arkansas at Cowboys Stadium.

Leaning this way

Alabama at Florida (8 p.m. ET, CBS)

The past three meetings has featured one of two teams ranked number one overall and while neither will be in the top spot in the polls this year, a top 12 matchup awaits down in the Swamp. Both the Gators and Tide have tough defenses that are ranked in the top five nationally in the three big defensive categories (total/rushing/scoring defense) so each offense figures to have a little more trouble moving the ball than they have so far this year. Alabama's speed will be the difference as they bottle up Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps to come out with a victory.

Nebraska at Wisconsin

Welcome to the Big Ten Nebraska. Camp Randall should be jumping around as they welcome in the Cornhuskers and Taylor Martinez. Look for Russell Wilson to continue to be sharp and not turn the ball over and the Badgers' defense to make just enough plays to win. Martinez should be able to move the ball though, Wisconsin's defense hasn't really been tested - much less by an offense like Nebraska's.

Clemson at Virginia Tech

The first big test for both teams as Clemson goes on the road to take on Frank Beamer's squad. Clemson made several key mistakes that kept Florida State in the game last week and if they turn the ball over, that plays right into the Hokies game plan. Virginia Tech should win but don't be surprised if this is a close ACC battle.

Category: NCAAF
Tags: ACC, Air Force, Al Golden, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Army, Ball State, Baylor, BCS, Bernard Pierce, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Boise State, Brandon Weeden, Braxton Miller, Brett McMurphy, Bruce Feldman, Bryan Fischer, Bryant Moniz, Calvin Johnson, Camp Randall, Chad Morris, Chris Rainey, Cincinnati, Clemson, Cowboys Stadium, Cyrus Gray, D'Anton Lynn, Dana Holgorsen, Denard Robinson, Dennis Dodd, DeQuan Menzie, Derrick Williams, Dont'a Hightower, Eastern Michigan, FAU, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida State, Frank Beamer, Geno Smith, Georgia Tech, Greg Mattison, Gregg Doyel, Hawaii, Heisman, Illinois, James Rodgers, Jeff Demps, Joe Halahuni, John Chavis, Kentucky, Kirby Smart, Kyle Field, LaMichael James, Les Miles, LSU, Luke Fickell, Marquis Maze, Maryland, Melvin Inrgam, Michigan, Michigan State, Mike Gundy, Mike Mauti, Mike Riley, Mississippi State, Morris Claiborne, N.C. State, NCAA, Nebraska, NFL, Nick Saban, Non-BCS, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Oregon State, Orwin Smith, Pac-12, Patrick Peterson, Paul Johnson, Penn State, Rice, Rich Rodriguez, Rick Minter, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Griffin III, Ronnie Hillman, Russell Wilson, Sammy Watkins, San Diego State, SEC, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Stephen Garcia, Steve Addazio, Steven Hill, Stewart Mandel, Tajh Boyd, Taylor Martinez, Temple, Tennessee, Terrelle Pryor, Tevin Washington, Texas A&M, Tony Barnhart, UC Davis, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Western Michigan, Wisconsin
 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com