Tag:Luke Kuechly
Posted on: June 6, 2011 2:45 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:43 am
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 30-21

By the Eye on College Football bloggers

To celebrate the (now fewer than) 100 days remaining until the first Saturday of the new college football season, this is the CBSSports.com College Football 100: our countdown of the 2011 season's 100 most influential players, coaches, administrators, venues, or any other related
things in college football. It's like that other "most influential" list, but, you know, more important. Also: it's supposed to be fun. Enjoy.

30. LAMICHAEL JAMES, running back, Oregon. Granted, it was just Oregon's spring game. But Duck fans had to like the fact that LaMichael James had only three carries (lest he gets hurt) and that one of them went for a touchdown--your simple, run-of-the-mill, back-and-forth 67-yard "scamper" as the Oregon media described it. The run was almost par-for-the-course for the reigning Doak Walker Award winner, but that's the thing about James: when you're a threat to score just about every time you touch the ball, 67-yard touchdowns happen sometimes.

On top of setting his sights on a host of Oregon and Pac-12 rushing records this season, James hopes to help lead Oregon back to the BCS championship game and finish what the team came so close to doing last year. The Ducks have to replace several offensive linemen, but that might not be a big issue for James, who can hit the tiniest of holes in split-seconds. Speed is the 5-foot-9, 190-pound back's greatest asset, considering he moonlights on Oregon's track team and anchors the 4x100 relay team (among other things). James will leave the track behind soon though, moving on to playing a game of "catch me if you can" and blowing past defenses come fall. A second trip to New York as a Heisman finalist -- and possibly more -- seems likely. -- BF

29. LUKE KUECHLY, linebacker, Boston College. The ACC has produced several dominating defenders in the last couple of years, but few have demanded the attention from day one like Kuechly. Tapped to replace Mark Herzlich in the BC linebacking unit in 2009, Kuechly stepped in and set an NCAA freshman record with 158 tackles on the season. When the two were on the field together in 2010, Kuechly led the nation with 183 tackles and was named a unanimous All-American by pretty much anyone with a publication.

Entering his junior year the expectations are as high as ever for Kuechly. He is widely considered a first-round draft pick in 2012, but will need another impressive season to cement that status. The good news for Eagles fans is that head coach Frank Spaziani and the rest of the staff believe that Kuechly has done nothing but improve. But with a much younger defense alongside him in the huddle in 2011, Kuechly will need to provide more than individual statistics to help Boston College get back to the postseason. The good news is the mere presence of the 6-foot-3, 235-pound playmaker on the field is a tactical advantage, with the opposition always having to keep an eye on No. 40. Considering the potential for Kuechly in 2011, it won't just be the opposition--we'll all have our eyes on No. 40 this fall. -- CP

28. BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, title tilt, Indianapolis. For years and years, the Big Ten stood apart from the rest of FBS college football in one very unfortunate aspect: it was the only conference that did not employ either a full round-robin conference schedule or a conference championship game. In other words, only in the Big Ten could two teams potentially go undefeated in conference play (or otherwise tie for the conference championship) and have no way to break the tie on the field. In fact, that's not just a pointless what-if; it actually happened in 2002, when Iowa and Ohio State both ran the table in Big Ten play. Iowa had one blemish on its non-conference record and OSU didn't, so the Buckeyes went to the BCS Title Game and won. But Big Ten fans had (and still have) the right to feel cheated out of what would have been an excellent conference championship game.

No more, no more, as the Big Ten is going to be invading Indianapolis and the Lucas Oil Dome every December from now until 2015, settling the age-old controversy on whether being a Legend or Leader is better (more on that in a little bit). Purists are understandably chafed that the Big Ten--the conference that couldn't get more arctic or physical without literally employing polar bears as offensive linemen--is deciding its conference championship in a dome, but watching a game in horrible weather is miserable, and misery in the name of purity is still misery. It's good to see Jim Delany's still got something of a heart. -- AJ

27. THE SMURF TURF, home field, Boise State. It's rare for the actual field to be a school's most recognizable feature, but that's certainly the case for the love-it-or-hate-it blue turf at Boise State's Bronco Stadium. The only blue artificial turf in the world, it's rumored (though not confirmed, alas) that migrating birds sometimes mistake it for a giant lake and try to land on it. Like the birds that may or may not land flat on their face, opposing teams seem to nose-dive when they play on the turf, going 2-77 against the Broncos there since 1999.

Perhaps most impressive is the fact that the home team is perfect in conference games, going 40-0 on the Smurf Turf during WAC play. This is Boise State's first year in the Mountain West and they aim to keep that mark going, but it won't be easy. Looming large on the schedule is a game against departing MWC power TCU in the middle of November. The Horned Frogs aren't expected to be quite as good as they were last year (or in the teams' 2009 Fiesta Bowl meeting) but they do figure to be the Broncos' biggest road block to another BCS game -- and possibly even the national title game -- if they get by Georgia in their opener. With plenty of returning starters back from last year's 12-1 squad, don't be surprised if Boise proves unbeatable on the blue turf once again. -- BF

26. MIKE SHERMAN, head coach, Texas A&M. When Sherman was hired at College Station before the 2008 season, replacing Dennis Franchione, it wasn't exactly the kind of move that had Aggie fans celebrating impending national championships. A 10-15 mark through his first two seasons didn't help matters, and Sherman found himself on the hot seat even after signing a seven-year deal. That seat only got warmer when the Aggies started off the 2010 season 3-3 ... and then a funny thing happened. Sherman finally pulled the plug on Jerrod Johnson and went with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, and after that all Texas A&M could do was win. The team finished the year 9-4 after losing to LSU in the Cotton Bowl, but by then the Aggies had already picked up their first share of the Big 12 South title since 1998.

So it's safe to say that Sherman's seat has cooled considerably in 2011. Of course, while he may not have come to College Station with the highest of expectations, now that Aggie fans have a taste for winning again, Sherman's biggest task will be to keep that momentum going. To do that he's going to have to make sure his defense continues to improve. After finishing dead last in 2008 and 2009 in the Big 12 in points-against, the Aggies rocketed up to second in the conference last season, allowing only 20.3 points per-game. If Sherman can continue leading the Aggies to improvement on both sides of the ball, as he did last season, the Longhorns won't be the only team from Texas to worry about in the Big 12 championship race. -- TF

25. MANTI TE'O, linebacker, Notre Dame. During his time in South Bend, Charlie Weis seemed to have a lot of success recruiting offensive players. On the defensive side of the ball, while Weis brought in some solid players, the game-changing playmakers you need to win were never seemed to be among them. That is, until Weis went to Hawai'i and landed Manti Te'o. Weis may be gone, but the "Hawaiian Hitman" remains and Brian Kelly is thrilled to have him. The biggest factor in Notre Dame's strong finish in 2010 was a defense that shut down opposing offenses, and Te'o was the driving force in that unit.

Through his first two seasons Te'o has racked up 192 tackles (129 of them in 2010) and 14 tackles-for-loss. Te'o can be counted on to fly to the ball on every play, and while he's not as polished in pass coverage, he can stuff the run with the best linebackers in the country. What should scare offensive coordinators this year is that with the stockpile of talent Notre Dame has built on its defensive line the last few years, Te'o should be free to seek and destroy all season long. And if that's the case, it may not be long until Notre Dame is back on a BCS stage -- with Te'o the face of its success -- and college football fans are forced to hate the Irish again instead of just laughing at them. -- TF

24. LES MILES'S COJONES, coaching decision-makers, LSU. Since Les Miles took over for Nick Saban at the Bayou Bengal helm in 2005, it's no secret that LSU has won its fair share of thrillers. But it's not just the selective memory of the charmed 2007 run talking; over Miles's six seasons, LSU has gone a stunning 22-9 in games decided by seven points or less. Since we're talking about games potentially decided by a single bounce of the ball, most teams' records in these situations naturally yo-yo back and forth year-to-year--look at Iowa's rise-and-fall over the past few seasons, for instance. But not LSU. Aside from a 2-2 mark in 2008, Miles has finished above .500 in this category ever year of his Baton Rouge tenure.

The majority of observers (including many within his own LSU fanbase) have chalked this up to blind luck, and sometimes--as in Tennessee's 13-players-on-the-field penalty that saved the Tigers from themselves last season--they're right. But Miles also hasn't gotten nearly enough credit for the ballsy, go-for-broke, correct decisions that have often turned the tide in such games. While it's easy to note how fortunate Miles was when last year's botched fake field goal pitch against Florida bounced straight into his kicker's arms, it overlooks the fact that playing for a game-winning touchdown is by far the superior choice to settling for a long-distance field goal that would only tie the game even if good. If Miles ignores the criticism and continues to let his cojones do his thinking for him, expect another year of success for the Tigers in the dying minutes--and given how much talent his team will wield, potentially another run at a crystal football. -- JH

23. TODD MONKEN, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State. Last season the Cowboy offense averaged 44.9 points and 537.6 yards per game. That, to keep the superlatives to a minimum, is rather good. Then Dana Holgorsen left Stillwater to become the head coach-in-waiting at West Virginia, and Monken was hired to replace him. Those are some high-octane shoes for Monken to fill, especially considering he hasn't been a play-caller since 2004, when he was working a previous stint in Stillwater for Les Miles. Since then, Monken followed Miles to LSU for a couple of years and then went on to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

So there's going to be an adjustment period, but the good news is that Oklahoma State still plans to run the same system it ran under Holgorsen. Unfortunately Monken won't have the same command of the playbook right off the bat that Holgorsen did, but he does at least have Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon to help cover him. Still, if Monken doesn't get the handle of things quick enough, Oklahoma State's top-10 season could already be "over" (and the immense potential of another year of the Weeden-Blackmon connection "wasted") by the time things are firing on all cylinders.-- TF

More CFB 100
Related Links
22. "LEGENDS" AND "LEADERS," division names, Big Ten. One of the most dramatic changes in college football this year is the realignment of the Big Ten to a 12-team, two-division conference. Not only does that bring the aforementioned Big Ten Championship Game into existence, but it also introduces new and different conference tensions into play. Michigan and Nebraska as hated rivals? It sure could happen. Ohio State being more concerned with Wisconsin than the Wolverines? If a division title's on the line, absolutely.

But good lord, those names. It's one thing to deal with them over the course of an off-season, when they only come up once a month or so or whatever. Imagine what happens when they become part of the daily conversation. The derision will be deafening. Newscasters won't want to use them. Every time there's a slow moment in a football game, odds are pretty good that some bored color commentator is going to roll his eyes and casually call the division names stupid, and fans will laugh along with them. The Big Ten should be celebrating a brand new era and all of everything else that goes along with Nebraska's entry into the conference, and now instead it's going to have to defend the indefensible "LEGENDS" and "LEADERS" constantly. It's not too late to scrap them and just go with an admittedly imperfect-but-close-enough East-West nomenclature, right? Yeah, it's boring, but boring is good. It lets the on-field product speak for itself, and Big Ten football certainly can do that, right, Mr. Delany? Right? -- AJ

21. URBAN MEYER, television analyst/coaching free agent, ESPN. As we knew already and as Meyer spelled out for us just a few days ago, the most successful head coach of college football's previous decade won't be coaching anywhere in 2011. He'll be living the good life as a talking head at the "Worldwide Leader," offering what we hope will be pointed analysis and sharp X's-and-O's from one of the sport's shrewdest coaches.

But the shadow he'll cast over the college football coaching market will reach far longer than anything he does as a TV analyst. By specifically saying he won't be coaching "this fall," Meyer has all but announced he'll be looking for a new gig for next fall--meaning his name will be dropped into every conversation about currently vacant jobs (ahem), jobs that become vacant during the season, and even jobs that seem like they might become vacant if Meyer would show an interest. Like a prized NBA free agent, Meyer's influence is sure to be felt keenly in the narrative of the 2011 season ... even if he's not on the sidelines for a minute of it. -- JH

The 100 will continue here on Eye on CFB tomorrow. Until then, check out Nos. 100-91, 90-81, 80-71, 70-61, 60-51, 50-41 and 40-31. You can also keep up with the 100 by following us on Twitter.



Posted on: May 2, 2011 6:13 pm
Edited on: May 2, 2011 6:19 pm
 

What I learned this spring: ACC Atlantic

Posted by Chip Patterson

With all six spring games completed, we wrap up spring practice in the ACC Atlantic Division.

BOSTON COLLEGE: One of the things that became increasingly evident this spring was how much the Eagles have riding on running back Montel Harris going into the 2011 season. Harris tore his lateral meniscus in Boston College's ACC finale against Virginia and missed the rest of the season after undergoing surgery. Even missing the last game, Harris finished second in the ACC with 1,242 yards. After one carry in Boston College's spring game (which really is more of an offense-defense scrimmage), Harris was taken out for "precautionary measures."

All spring, the Eagles' foremost concern has been the health of their prized running back, as it should be. Boston College's muddled quarterback situation does not provide a whole lot of confidence in the passing game. Chase Rettig has likely emerged spring as the starter, taking significantly more reps near the end of the practice than Dave Shinskie, and Mike Marscovetra. Rettig emerged as a freshman in 2010 and finished the season as the starter. But his 6 touchdowns to 9 interceptions on the season hardly secured him the gig for 2011. But after completing 20-of-29 passes for 182 yards in the spring game, popular belief is that Rettig will be the starter in the fall. Boston College's greatest asset still is their defense, which will be highlighted once again by Kevin Pierre Louis and Luke Kuechly, who was recently got named to the Lott Trophy Watch list.

CLEMSON: With Kyle Parker off with the Colorado Rockies for good, this spring was the time for former backup Tajh Boyd to take command of this team. The obstacle he faced heading into practice was doing it with a brand new offensive coordinator. Since taking over under Todd Morris' new system Boyd has been consistent in his effort and leadership, just inconsistent on performance. In the Tigers' spring game Boyd looked out of rhythm with his receivers, completing only 8 of 24 passes for 114 yards. Head coach Dabo Swinney hopes that Boyd will be pushed by backup quarterback Cole Stoudt, but Boyd has been the man in charge of Morris' new offense - which is reportedly only about 60% installed.

The new up-tempo offense could benefit the Tigers in the ACC, particularly with the athletes they have at the skill positions. If the spring game was any measure, Clemson should see a significant increase in their play count per game. The scheme has proven to put up big numbers, but it relies about as evenly on the run game as the passing game. Luckily the Tigers are well equipped at running back. Andre Ellington returns after collecting 686 yards and 10 touchdowns in just eight games of action before suffering a season-ending toe injury. Sitting out of spring drills, Clemson fans got a good look at his backups and - what should be - a very deep running back position. Demont Buice (18 carries, 102 yards), Roderick McDowell (12 carries, 100 yards), and D.J. Howard (11 carries, 97 yards) all had strong showings in the spring game and should make for an interesting competition once camp opens in the fall. Defensively one big surprise was the emergence of Corey Crawford. The 6-5, 275-pound early enrollee has raised eyebrows all spring, and figures to already be a part of the defensive end rotation in the fall. Wearing Da'Quan Bowers' No. 93, Crawford appears to be taking the responsibility of upholding the legacy of Bowers and the late Gaines Adams.

FLORIDA STATE: Without a doubt, the Seminoles exit the spring as a favorite to repeat as Atlantic Division Champions in 2011. With the talent returning from last year's squad and the rise of junior quarterback E.J. Manuel, head coach Jimbo Fisher has Tallahassee buzzing once again about brining the ACC title home to where it started. Florida State won in the inaugural ACC title game in 2005, and the closest they have come since then was last year's 44-33 defeat to Virginia Tech.

The hype set the bar high, but spring practice posed a different set of challenges for Fisher and his staff. The Seminoles had seven starters miss practice due to injury, so the coaches used much of the spring to sort out depth issues. The offensive line is a bit of a concern for Fisher, as they have had to do some shuffling in order to fill out the line and establish some depth. The coaches were pleased with Manuel's spring as a whole, but the junior quarterback struggled in Florida State's well-attended spring game. Fisher has said that he is mostly concerned with Manuel's development as a leader at this point, and did not seem to think much of his spring game outing.

"He was frustrated but I got more out of him today because we struggled and he didn't have a good day," Fisher said following the game. "At the end of the day we had a chance to make plays and we made a few plays."

Many of the injuries were on the defensive end, but with all of those players getting back to 100% before training camp it should not play a major factor in the Seminoles' readiness for the season. If there is any "red-flag" from spring practice it would be a fear of complacency. There were several early practices that led Fisher to criticize his team's speed and toughness. Florida State cannot afford to be slow-starting in 2011 if they truly plan on competing for a National Championship. With Oklahoma visiting Tallahassee on Sept. 13, the Seminoles need to be competing in midseason form from the first day of camp. If Florida State is "going through the motions" at the beginning of the season, the Sooners will be a rude wake-up call after Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern.
 
MARYLAND:
There will be no surprises this year with sophomore quarterback Danny O'Brien. After being named the 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year, O'Brien's development has not been slowed due to the coaching changes at Maryland. In fact, the new system installed by former LSU offensive coordinator Gary Crowton has the players feeling like there could be even more passing in 2011. O'Brien took advantage of the vanilla scrimmage coverages in the spring game, completing 16 of 23 passes for 199 yards and a pair of touchdowns. New head coach Randy Edsall is very excited about the rotation of wide receivers taking shape, with Ronnie Tyler, Kevin Dorsey, and Quintin McCree all having strong springs.

With defensive coordinator Don Brown leaving to take the position at Connecticut, Maryland's defense has spent most of the spring trying to learn a new system. Edsall promoted assistant coach Todd Bradford to the position in mid-February, and the newness of the change seems to still be setting in for the players. Brown's system carried lots of blitzing packages and multiple looks, the players say Bradford's relies more on coverage responsibility. Maryland's defense is experienced, but they are still a little slow getting on the same page at this point.
 
NC STATE:
What I learned this spring is that head coach Tom O'Brien's word at N.C. State is firm and unwavering. O'Brien told Russell Wilson that if he wanted to be the starting quarterback in 2011 he needed to stay with the team instead of playing minor league baseball in the offseason. Even when Wilson, an All-ACC quarterback and 2010 Champs Sports Bowl MVP, asked O'Brien if he could return in August - O'Brien said no. So now the reigns are officially in the hands of Mike Glennon, the highly-recruited younger brother of former Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon. Glennon, a redshirt junior, checks out on paper as a strong candidate for the Wolfpack starting job. The only thing that he lacks is actual game experience. The problem is that with Wilson's departure to continue football elsewhere (as opposed to sticking with professional baseball) will have an effect on the fan base's expectations from Glennon. Glennon did not have a great outing in N.C. State's shortened spring game (inclement weather), and it will be important for his confidence to get some early wins in the fall.

N.C. State lost leading rusher Mustafa Greene to injury during spring practice, but he is expected to be back in time for fall practice. Greene emerged as the answer to one of the big question marks in 2010, and he will be leaned on to help Glennon get comfortable in the starting position. This year it has been the wide receiver position that was not addressed this spring, as T.J. Graham leads a crop of wideouts that lack experience in game situations. Wolfpack fans are hoping for another Greene-type situation out of the position next fall. The linebacking corps will be strong point once again for N.C. State, led by Terrell Manning and Audi Cole. Cole moves over to Nate Irving's position of middle linebacker, and while the transition has not been easy the coaching staff seems pleased with his progress and potential heading into the new season.
 
WAKE FOREST:
We knew that Wake Forest had a long way to go to improve on last year's frustrating 3-9 season. With spring practice in the books, the Demon Deacons still are a ways away from the squad that was competing among the ACC elite a half-decade ago. Head coach Jim Grobe often mentioned how inexperience played a factor in 2010's struggles, with the Deacons having to start several freshman (especially on the defensive end) throughout the season.

"I think last year we were a soft group of freshmen, and now we're just a crusty group of sophomores,"Grobe told the Winston-Salem Journal. "I know coaches are worried about playing too many sophomores but for me, we're light years ahead of where we were last year with these guys."

Offensively, the Deacons will hope to get running back Josh Harris going behind a more experienced offensive line. The talented sophomore broke out against Virginia Tech (20 carries, 241 yards, two touchdowns) and in the season finale against Vanderbilt (18 carries, 138 yards, one touchdown). But inconsistent production during the regular season have left Wake Forest fans looking for more out of the running back from Duncanville, TX. Harris led all rushers in the spring game with 85 yards, but missed many of the workouts due to injury. If Harris can't get the ground game going there will be a lot of pressure on quarterback Tanner Price to make plays with his wide receivers, which doesn't appear very threatening at this point.
Posted on: February 22, 2011 2:19 pm
 

Heisman talk should talk about defense

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Pop quiz, hotshot: who had the higher (public )* vote total in the 2010 Heisman Trophy balloting, Stanford fullback/linebacker Owen Marecic or DaQuan Bowers, Nick Fairley and Patrick Peterson ... combined?

Since we're asking the question in the first place, you can probably guess that the answer is Marecic, who collected three first-place votes and 16 points, while arguably the three best defenders in the country totaled just one confirmed second-place nod and a smattering of third-place votes. This post isn't about Marecic (though we would like to take a moment to condemn his attention-seeking supporters like David Whitley , who decided that thanks to Cam Newton, they were justified turning the voting for "most outstanding" into a holier-than-thou morality play), since the question that needs answering isn't Why did Marecic get so much support? but Why do even the best defenders in college football get so little Heisman love?

It appeared things might be changing in 2009, when Ndamukong Suh finished fourth , coming as close as any defensive player since Charles Woodson to claiming the award. But after a year in which even a Lombardi Award- winner playing for the national champions couldn't get more than a few token mentions, it appears that defenders aren't actually any closer to full Heisman citizenship.

That point was driven home by the 2011 Heisman watch list released today by popular Heisman-tracking site Heisman Pundit. No one will argue that superstars like Andrew Luck or LaMichael James don't deserve their status as front-runners, or that superb skill-position talents like Alabama tailback Trent Richardson and Oklahoma State wideout Justin Blackmon haven't earned their spots on the list. But of the 22 players mentioned by Heisman Pundit, every one is a running back, quarterback, or wide receiver. Given the Heisman's track record, yes, those are probably the 22 most likely candidates for the coming season, but shouldn't the conversation surrounding the game's "most outstanding" player at least consider those guys on the other side of the ball?

So in that spirit, we offer five defensive players that deserve to enter 2011 as part of the Heisman talk, our own defense-only "Watch List":

Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska: The senior ably filled Suh's shoes as the central anchor for one of the nation's best defenses in 2010, and will likely begin this fall bearing "the country's best defensive tackle" billing.

Mark Barron, S, Alabama: Barron's already been dotting All-American teams for two seasons, and as the highest-profile player on a loaded Tide defense that should keep Nick Saban and Co. in national title contention throughout the season, he'll have plenty of opportunity to put his name in the Heisman hat.

Tank Carder, LB, TCU: Like Barron, Carder (pictured) should benefit from being the best, most-recognized player on a defense itself widely recognized as one of the nation's best; his MVP performance in the Rose Bowl defeat of Wisconsin won't hurt him, either.

Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon: The only defender to ever win the Heisman did so not only blanketing receivers at corner, but returning punts and kickoffs for highlight reel-touchdowns; if Harris can continue doing the same for Oregon as the Ducks win a third straight Pac-12 title, he'll draw his fair share of attention.

Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame: A wildcard, but if the Fighting Irish (and specifically, the Fighting Irish defense) take the quantum leap forward many expect, the former five-star recruit and budding star could find himself the media-friendly face of the Irish's latest "Return to Glory."

Honorable mention: Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State; Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma; Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall; Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College.

*The Heisman only makes official the ballot totals for the top 10 vote-getters, but the site StiffArmTrophy.com compiles all available public votes, including (in this case) those few cast for Peterson, Bowers, or Fairley.
Posted on: January 10, 2011 3:48 am
 

Bowl Grades: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Nevada shut down an anemic Boston College offense en route to a 20-13 win.

Nevada

Offense: Rishard Matthews had two first-quarter scores, but the Nevada offense was uncharacteristically subdued today, largely due to three turnovers -- two interceptions and a lost fumble. Still, Nevada had to punt seven times (Nevada typically punts fewer than three times a game), and scored less than half its usual amount of points. Vai Taua was held in check, with 76 yards on 22 carries, and Colin Kaepernick had a positively pedestrian performance in this, his last game as a Wolf. 20-33 for under 200 yards and only one score usually won't cut it; Nevada was fortunate to be facing Boston College. Grade: C-

Defense: Nevada typically isn't thought of as a defensive powerhouse, but it's actually not that bad. From a total yardage standpoint, Nevada's pretty middle of the road, but the Wolf Pack only gives up about 22 points a game -- second only to Boise State in the pinball-scoreboard WAC. Tonight, Nevada was all over Boston College's rushing attack, giving up 30 yards on one rush and 34 yards on the other 24 rushes combined. The Wolf Pack secondary forced two interceptions from Chase Rettig and could have had three or four more; Rettig's passes were frequently deflected or otherwise found a defender's hands. Boston College had one drive of over 30 yards all day long. That's more than you can ask from a defense -- dropped interceptions aside. Grade: A-

Coaching: It's not exactly an indictment of Chris Ault if his players weren't amped up for today's game. BC was 7-5 in a very unimpressive ACC this season, and didn't look like a worthy opponent for the champion of a conference that boasted 10-win teams Nevada, Boise State, and Hawaii among its members.  Moreover, the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl came 36 days after Nevada's last game, so there's always going to be some rust with that long of a layoff -- as was evident during this game. But Nevada looked pretty well-prepared, and Ault's play calls were fine. They were conservative, sure, but conservative wins games when leading against an inferior opponent. Really, this game wasn't nearly as close as the seven-point margin would indicate; only the turnovers kept the game "in doubt," and last we checked, Ault wasn't the one giving the ball up. Play calling is more than "you should throw a touchdown here and not an interception," after all. Grade: B

Boston College

Offense: Chase Rettig tries hard, and he tried hard for all four quarters today. Now, whenever it's necessary to mention that a player "plays hard," it's a safe assumption he just had a terrible game, and that's what happened here. Rettig's final stats were 14-34 for 121 yards and two interceptions, good for a 59.3 passer rating. Worse yet, he spent most of the game with a lower rating, and it wasn't until the fourth quarter that he stayed above three yards per pass attempt. And again, it could have been worse; Nevada should have had somewhere between three and five interceptions on the day. It didn't help that Andre Williams contributed a 30-yard rushing score and basically little else, of course, nor that the Eagle offense was painfully predictable (oh, we're getting to that). Still, this was a painfully bad offensive performance, to the point that head coach Frank Spaziani himself called it "anemic" during his halftime interview, and considering what gifts Nevada gave BC with its turnovers (an interception returned to the Nevada 6-yard line resulted in a field goal, for crying out loud), the Eagles really had no business scoring only 13 points. Grade: F

Defense: Aside from Boise State, Boston College might have the best front seven Nevada faced all year, and it was immediately evident. Nevada rushed for 114 yards, including 76 for Taua and 22 for Kaepernick. If it hadn't been for a 51-yard performance by Taua against Eastern Washington in a warmup at the beginning of the year, all three of those numbers would be season lows. All-American LB Luke Kuechly had an interception and a boatload of tackles for the Eagles, and BC frequently and reliably moved the point of attack backwards on defense when Nevada tried rushing the ball. The secondary struggled at times, though, especially on throws to the sideline. Grade: B

Coaching: Eagles fans were understandably upset with their team's play-calling, and rightfully so; it's infuriating to watch a straight-laced, run-run-third-and-long offense when the other team has a quarterback like Kaepernick and a fun system like Ault's pistol offense. The fact is, though, that Spaziani really doesn't have much talent on offense (especially with dynamic starting tailback Montel Harris still out with injury), and his defensive planning and second-half adjustments were praise-worthy. Boston College needs players on offense, plain and simple. Grade: C-

Final Grade

This practice of scheduling minor bowl games for January dates -- historically the province of only high-profile bowls -- could end today, and no college football fan would be upset. This bowl game was laughably bad, particularly when Boston College was on offense, and the fact that it comes on the eve of the national championship seems like cruel and unusual punishment. During the game, when the Kraft commercial featuring the dulcet-toned former homeless man Ted Williams finally aired, the prevailing sentiment on Twitter was that it was the unquestioned highlight of the game. It was that bad. At the very least, Boston College's defense helped get the game back to a one-possession contest, but this was the most lopsided seven-point game in recent memory. Thankfully, it's over, and real January football can be played. Grade: D- and only because it was close


Posted on: January 10, 2011 3:44 am
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Posted on: November 17, 2010 12:10 pm
 

Nagurski Trophy finalists announced

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The Nagurski Trophy is handed out annually to the nation's best defensive player by the Football Writers Association of America , and if there's no slam-dunk choice for the FWAA this year like Ndamukong Suh in 2009, it's hard to argue -- depending on how you feel about the under-fire Nick Fairley -- that any of the five finalists for the award wouldn't be entirely deserving. They are:

Da'Quan Bowers, End, Clemson, 6-4, 275, Jr. (Bamberg, S.C)
Nick Fairley, Tackle, Auburn, 6-5, 298, Jr. (Mobile, Ala.)
Justin Houston, Linebacker, Georgia, 6-3, 258, Jr. (Statesboro, Ga.)
Luke Kuechly, Linebacker, Boston College, 6-3, 235, So. (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Patrick Peterson, Cornerback, LSU 6-1, 222, Jr. (Pompano Beach, Fla.)

You know Bowers as the nation's leading sackmaster with 13.5 takedowns of opposing quarterbacks, but he's also added 22 tackles-for-loss, second in the nation; Fairley as the SEC 's most purely disruptive defender (with possible apologies to Houston and LSU tackle Drake Nevis ), and his 18 tackles-for-loss rank first in the country amongst defensive tackles; Peterson as the nation's consensus best cover corner, the absolute prototype for the next level with his combination of size and breathtaking speed; and Houston as the SEC's leader in both sacks (11) and tackles-for-loss (18.5) from his position as a rush linebacker in Georgia 'a new-for-2010 3-4 defense.

But you may not know Kuechly at all, and not without reason; when you share not just a team or a defense but a linebacking unit with an incredible story like fellow Eagle Mark Herzlich and his recovery from cancer, it's hard to get noticed in the national press no matter what you do on the field. But as the nationa's most efficient, productive tackling machine, what Kuechly has accomplished has been no less impressive than the achievements of any of the other four Nagurski finalists. He leads the nation in both total tackles with 146 (or 14.6 per game ) and solo stops with 83; no other player in college football has yet crossed the 80 threshold. Kuechly is also the only player in the country to make 20 or more tackles in one game, and has done so twice: once against North Carolina State and again against Duke this past Saturday, when he also added two pass breakups, a forced fumble, and recovered fumble just for good measure.

So even if the most under-the-radar finalist for the Nagurski goes home with the hardware, complaints should be kept to a minimum. Though anyone other than Suh would have been a mistake a year ago, this year the FWAA cannot go wrong.
 
 
 
 
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