September 2nd, 2008 13:22 EST
The Mouthpiece: College Football Weekend Recap
Hindsight enlightens all.
It is the one factor that allows every attentive college football fan to review what was previously only speculation. Prior to kickoff nobody has much of a clue. At best, "anointed experts" and people like me take the most tediously researched, educated punches-in-the-dark that the world has ever seen.
After the kickoff, it is a different story. After the kickoff, every body-painted homer lunatic, press box analyst and proud momma can basically see what coaches and the media are paid to see ahead of time. (Well, except for the Tech fan sitting behind me who proclaimed, "Well, that was a great quarter!" after ECU pulled within 3 in the 3rd. Like I said, basically anyone.)
And, like kindergarteners at a birthday party, there are always a couple of swings that hit the piÃ±ata. On the flip side of that coin, there are always some swings that hit dad in the crotch and end up on America`s Funniest Home Videos.
There are some predictions that look brilliant, and some convictions that should be criminal offenses if anyone went to Vegas with them.
There are coaching decisions that deserve a medal.
Still, someone always gets the baseball bat in the crotch. College football is a great sport to follow, but you have to hope your team (or your shamelessly self-righteous column) gets the candy.
This week the Hokies took a low blow from a plastic yellow sword. While it certainly feels lonely down on the concrete garage floor with 5-year-olds giggling overhead, it is important to remember that everyone is the victim of college football`s cruel game sometimes, and somebody is down there with you.
College football has dealt its opening shots. The Mouthpiece wasn`t safe from all of the punches, but came out intact. Here is my rundown of the football happenings of opening week. I won`t judge the many media predictions of "experts" or myself just yet.
Hit the PiÃ±ata
Stanford- Jim Harbaugh could be described as aggressive, maybe even brash. He could also be described as an up-and-coming coach. His Stanford team, complete with what`s-going-on white running back, took out Oregon State. Stanford was picked by nearly every person outside of Palo Alto to bring up the rear in the Pac-10. Gut instinct: They`ll be a little better than that. The Beavers were, and are, my pick to play Stanford this year and upset USC (they never lose to a team that actually should compete with them). The Cardinal, meanwhile, look to be on the road to winning. Kudos to Harbaugh.
Alabama- In case anyone forgot, Nick Saban is the Tide`s coach. Yes, they lost to Louisiana-Monroe last season and, yes, beating Clemson is not worth a whole lot, but this team looked spectacular. It was even more impressive considering many of the key contributors, such as running back Mike Ingram and highly touted receiver Julio Jones, are freshmen. Saban has his troops rallied in Alabama. The SEC West, including that other team in the state, had better watch out.
Southern Cal- Dislocated kneecap? Quarterback controversy? Throw those worries out the window. The Trojans smashed UVA, even worse than I expected and I expected a lot. They should be favored to beat Ohio State, Beanie or not. They have four-- yes, four-- running backs who can play at a high level.
Utah- Now, I do not count beating Rich Rodriguez`s quarterback tryout team as an accomplishment. However, the hype for this team just skyrocketed right over that of BYU and Fresno State. Utah has a legitimate chance at running the table and being in contention for the non-BCS conference BCS berth. More than any other prize, that one is all based on media attention. If Utah wins out, it won`t matter what BYU does, and Fresno State will have to take out Wisconsin to surpass the Utes. Quick! Everybody bid for Michigan`s home opener! Never thought you`d hear that did you?
Hit the Deck
Frank Beamer and staff- Boy it sure is nice of the coaches to let Sean Glennon play his senior year. How rude it was for the crowd to boo him and chant for Tyrod Taylor. Now that I have expressed the views of Sean Glennon`s grandmother, let`s be honest. Any coaching staff that really tried to pick the quarterback who gave them the best chance to win would pick Tyrod Taylor. Actually, any coaching staff that was focused on the business at hand (most major programs such as USC and Ohio State, the only programs with more wins than Tech since 2000) would have fired offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, never hired an offensive line coach whose previous job was at James Madison, and sat Sean Glennon on the bench until he cried like a baby and transferred to North Carolina A&T. Quarterbacks coach Mike O`Cain would certainly be on a hot seat as well. Sorry Frank, sorry Jim Weaver this is big time college football. There are plenty of offensive coordinators who could actually come up with something useful once in a while. And there are plenty who would abandon Cincinnati, Tulsa or Central Michigan to coach a perennial contender like Tech. This is not a program that needs to covet a prized recruit, or reveal its hand and let a team from Conference USA pinpoint our offensive plan. Putting Tyrod Taylor on the field gives the offense a playmaker (as opposed to Glennon, who gives fans gray hairs). Putting Taylor on the field gives the team the best chance to win. That will draw another recruit like him for that 2011 season you are so worried about. Frank Beamer, the consummate southern gentleman, has built Virginia Tech from the ground into a powerhouse program, and his judgment is certainly hard to question, but this issue simply would not have existed at programs of comparable stature. Frank Beamer coaches a top-tier program. It`s about time he started acting like it.
Sean Glennon- The worst part is, now Beamer and company have basically thrown the season down the drain, and will be hard-pressed to find a face-saving reason to yank Tyrod`s redshirt. Now, I know I bash Glennon very frequently, so I will now use his performance against East Carolina to show the less aware fans exactly what Glennon does wrong.
Firstly, I will say that Glennon would not be such a poor choice under center at a program with a competent offensive coordinator. Tech is not one of those programs, so he is hanging out to dry quite frequently. That said, Glennon has an almost comical lack of field awareness. When on the hash mark, the wider side of the field is typically going to offer a more open receiver, by the simple logic that there is more field to work with. Even if the prime target is not on that side, it should certainly draw a glance. Several times on Saturday, Glennon threw the ball to the short side of the field (usually to Greg Boone) without even looking to the wide side of the field. On his first interception (also his first pass) he threw into triple coverage on the short side without looking at the unmistakable man-on-man coverage to the wide side. He threw the ball downfield twice, once wildly successful, but had he checked all his targets before panicking and dumping to Greg Boone, Glennon could have had at least two more long completions to Danny Coale or Dyrell Roberts. On a smaller note, he has horrible ball security, and probably has less than a 50 percent chance of holding onto the ball every time he gets hit.
Furthermore, he scrambled on several occasions, and was more successful gaining yardage on the run than in the air. Think about it: Sean Glennon gets a first down, Tyrod Taylor would have taken it to the house.
Yep, Sean Glennon will probably play the rest of the season, and will likely even have a stolen jersey miracle game or two, but he will never be able to improvise his way around awful offensive playcalling, and he will likely never obtain the full support of his teammates. They have 20/20 hindsight as well, but I daresay this piÃ±ata came with a road sign and flashing lights. Maybe it was a life-sized LSU mascot. Just saying.
Clemson- If it weren`t for a guy named Bowden coaching Clemson, there is zero chance the Tigers would have been in the preseason top 10. There is also little chance their "spectacular" running back tandem would have garnered a nickname for producing the 50th best rushing offense in the nation, or popping out exactly zero yards Saturday night in a game that they were favored to win. Tommy Bowden`s Clemson club cannot take the big step, win the big game or succeed in the spotlight. It didn`t matter if it was 24th ranked Alabama or a well-promoted high school JV team, the Tigers could not handle the pressure. Somehow though, his daddy`s name keeps blocking the blame. Maybe people will get it this time around. He may have the ACC`s biggest name, but little old Wake Forest should be the favorite to take the conference. Publicity doesn`t win championships or games.
Pittsburgh- Dave Wannstadt and his team are probably realizing the same thing everyone else realized as the Panthers were whipped by Bowling Green: Beating West Virginia 13-9 to cap off a 5-7 year is not a sign of a promising future. It is a sign that West Virginia had the worst game of their season. There is not a defense in the country that could have held West Virginia to 9 points. That game, and thus Pittsburgh`s preseason ranking and hype, was a fluke.
Rich Rodriguez/Michigan- Despite all the things I dislike about West Virginia, I dislike Rich Rodriguez most. He deceitfully, greedily and maliciously betrayed and deserted his alma mater in order to take over a bigger name. He took a system that clearly succeeded for one program and jumped to one that would pay him more. He forgot that, at West Virginia, he had established a recruiting base and a type of player, such as a quarterback with a desire to run the spread offense and a clue how to do so. On Saturday, Richie ran some walk-on quarterbacks onto the field and hoped for the best. The coach who went through so much to promote his name, to bring his victories more glory, got what he deserved: An embarrassing loss that is sure to run his reputation through the mud. Good thinking, Richie. At least last season`s victor had a nice story. Utah was just flat out better.
The ACC- Speaking of just flat out better. That is what most every other conference in America is compared to the ACC. Obviously, Alabama took the hammer to the ACC`s most overrated team and worst possible flagship program, Clemson. Virginia Tech suffered an embarrassing loss to the likely champion of Conference USA. Beyond those readily apparent signs of weakness, several other ACC teams put on pitiful performances on Saturday. Supposed "darkhorse" contender North Carolina got all they could handle from McNeese State. Maryland was incapable of pulling away from (or even scoring on) Delaware, as the Turtles squeaked out a 14-7 victory over their intended creampuff opener. Of course, there was also the futile display of UVA. The fact is, the ACC will likely lose its BCS game this year, no matter who the opponent is, WAC or Mountain West players included.
After one week, yes, it is a depressing view from Blacksburg, but it is worth remembering that a bowl game is still nearly certain (cross fingers and remember that even Grant Noel played in a bowl game). Throw all the tirades you like, trust me I got my fill, but in the end it really is just a season to sit back and enjoy the sport, the tailgates and the experience of being a Hokie fan. Hey, maybe you`ll even get a better parking spot next year. If you need a contending team to root for, take a look at the South Florida Bulls. There has never been a more similar program to Virginia Tech. The scrappy Bulls will use bone-crushing defense and a scrambled offense to contend with West Virginia in the Big East. Think Hokies 1999.
The Mouthpiece will be giving ample coverage to national college football alongside Virginia Tech football this season (I promise that was planned even before Saturday). Like this column, there will be a recap of the previous weekend featuring comments on Tech, but also on the biggest national stories. Also, I will stick my neck out further this year, with a weekly Thursday column picking all the biggest games of the season and breaking down Tech`s next opponent.
There will be more weekends, and purple won`t hurt your eyes forever (Furman should cure that). En route from Charlotte to Blacksburg, this is The Mouthpiece. Until Thursday, chew on that. Zc