College Football Week 7: Options galore
BRING BACK THE ‘BONE!
Georgia Tech is 6-1 and ranked 12th. The Yellowjackets are 4-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and play brain schools (Virginia, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Duke) between now and Georgia on Nov. 28.
So I think we can agree that Georgia Tech’s rough part of the schedule is over and we can adequately analyze how the ‘Jackets’ triple-option offense has fared.
Famously is the answer.
Paul Johnson’s offense, imported from Navy for the 2008 season, ran for 309 yards against Virginia Tech in a 28-23 win last Saturday. The Jackets rushed for 401 yards vs. Florida State, 317 yards vs. North Carolina, 301 yards vs. Clemson and 213 yards vs. Mississippi State (but with 266 passing yards, on just 11 completions).
And if you think that sounds a lot like Barry Switzer’s old wishbone days, here’s the kicker. Georgia Tech ran for just 95 yards on Miami. Switzer knows that feeling, too.
Football is a copycat game. If Paul Johnson can win by running the option at Navy and Georgia Tech, someone else will try it. The offense will spread like the spread.
Will it work in other ports?
“Sure it could,” said Bob Stoops. “It would still be effective.”
The benefit of the triple option in the current climate is the mystery. Few teams run it, so defenses rarely see it.
“You have to spend more time understanding it,” Stoops said. Then you don’t get to use any of those principles the rest of the year.
Time was, Mike Leach’s offense had the same advantage. Now, all kinds of teams use Leach/Hal Mumme principles. You see it all over the Big 12, for example.
The option, not so much. As in any.
“”It makes it challenging,” Stoops said.
You would think a school like Iowa State or Vanderbilt or someone would embrace the option. In a way, Northwestern has, with some success.
But as Georgia Tech is proving, the option doesn’t have to be the home of the downtrodden. A school with a fighting chance should install the option and send its conference mates into a frenzy. A Stanford. A Purdue. A Pitt.
In fact, here’s the perfect school to go back to the option. Colorado. The Buffs have shown over the decades that they can recruit. Run that option in the thin air, and no opposing coach would get a wink of sleep the entire week he’s playing Colorado.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE SKYSCRAPER
One of my favorite lines from the David and Goliath story is this.
When they David to stay away from the giant, they said, “He’s too big to kill.”
David responded, “He’s too big to miss.”
I thought of that story Saturday morning getting to the Cotton Bowl.
We left our Las Colinas hotel at 8:38 a.m., 23 minutes later than planned. Had a parking-pass miscue and some miscommunication and some general punctuality problems, so five of us piled into a Grand Cherokee at 8:38.
I was supposed to do my Sports Animal radio gig at 9:20. Seemed like a longshot to make it. In fact, some of the rookies in the backseat speculated how close to kickoff we would cut it.
I guessed we would park by 9:10. Johnny Damon Fontenot, our trusty videographer, had the faith. He said 9:14.
We pulled in at 9:12. Here’s how we did it. We drove towards downtown until the tiniest bit of traffic backup. Then we got off I-35.
Do not - I repeat DO NOT - sit in game-day traffic in Dallas. That’s for suckers.
Even if you don’t know where you’re going, you can find the Cotton Bowl, because you can find Fair Park, because you can find downtown. They’re too big to miss.
Fair Park is about a mile, mile and a half, east of downtown, just south of I-30. So anytime you’re driving to the game, get off, go towards downtown, then get east.
It’s not complicated at all. There are no specific streets. Dozens will get you there.
Now, this getting off the trail and going all Lewis & Clark sometimes doesn’t pay off.
I’ve always heard that if you back up in Denton going into town - and you always back up in Denton - to get off on State Highway 380, go east to the Tollway and then south.
Well, Denton backed up even before we got to Denton, so when we reached 380, off we went. But we didn’t go all the way to the Tollway. We meandered south and back west and then back east, trying to find I-35 in Lewisville, where the road usually opens up.
It did and we did. But it took a long time. Not sure we saved anything. But I saw some country I’d never seen before. Bartonville, for example, where these gorgeous housing additions just spring up out of nowhere.
Anyway, I always recommend getting off the freeway. It’s a chance to see America. And it’s a chance to get to the stadium on time.
TEN BIGGEST WINNERS OF THE WEEK
10. Tony Moeaki: Not since 1985 has Iowa started 7-0 (Chuck Long, anyone?), but this Hawkeye tight end made sure the drought would end. He had a 24-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter to tie - Moeaki’s third long TD catch in the last two games - and a tough catch in traffic in the fourth quarter to set up a game-sealing field goal.
9. Jahvid Best: California had fallen from Pac-10 contention and Best had fallen from Heisman Trophy contention. A 45-26 rout of UCLA probably won’t jump-start the Bears’ Rose Bowl hopes, but it might bring the spotlight back to Best, who had a 93-yard touchdown run and a 51-yard TD catch. Best needed those big plays; in Best’s other18 touches (17 runs, one catch) he accounted for just nine yards.
8. Tyler Hansen: The Colorado quarterback was handed the reins at the expense of Cody Hawkins, son of coach Dan Hawkins, and Hansen responded by leading a 34-30 upset of Kansas. Hansen becomes CU’s quarterback of the present, not to mention the future. The only question is, will that future include Dan Hawkins?
7. SEC squabbling: First Lane Kiffin and Urban Meyer. Now Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban. Spurrier accused Alabama of using tape to mark the spot for placing the ball on field goals. Saban says Bama won’t do it again.
6. Texas: The Longhorns survived what is annually their toughest test, Oklahoma, 16-13, and now are on track to reach the national title game, if they can win in Stillwater.
5. Matt Barkley: The true freshman quarterback wasn’t perfect. He threw an interception that gave Notre Dame life. But Barkley completed 19 of 29 passes for 380 yards and two touchdowns and served notice that another Heisman Trophy could be in USC’s near future.
4. Pac-10 shootouts: 45-26 (Cal over UCLA), 34-27 (USC over Notre Dame), 24-17 (Arizona State over Washington on Danny Sullivan’s 50-yard TD pass to Chris McGaha with five seconds left) and 43-38 (Arizona over Stanford). The latter game was the best, as Mike Stoops’ team rallied from 15 points down. Stanford’s Andrew Luck (423 yards) and Arizona’s Nick Foles (415 yards) had the two biggest passing games of the week. But it was two long TD runs - Greg Nwoko’s 43-yarder, Nic Grigsby’s 57-yarder - in the fourth quarter that lifted ‘Zona.
3. ACC races: Both divisions tightened. The loaded Coastal was set up for a possible three-way tie when Georgia Tech beat Virginia Tech 28-23. Virginia Tech routed Miami, but Miami routed Georgia Tech. And that trio doesn’t even lead the Coastal; Virginia is 2-0 in the ACC with victories over North Carolina and Maryland. In the Atlantic Division, Clemson’s 38-3 rout of Wake Forest forged a logjam. Boston College leads at 3-2, followed by Clemson and Wake at 2-2.
2. Cincinnati quarterback carousel: The Bearcats reached the Orange Bowl last season despite a string of quarterback injuries, which gave Tony Pike a chance to shine. Thursday night, Pike suffered an arm injury in the second quarter against South Florida, yet backup Zach Collaros built on Cincy’s 17-10 lead. Collaros ran for two touchdowns, including a 75-yard burst, as the Bearcats won 34-17.
1. Mark Ingram: The Alabama sophomore stamped himself as a Heisman Trophy contender (maybe the leader?) with a 246-yard rushing game against South Carolina. Ingram now has 905 yards in seven games.
Deer Creek’s Tyler Tidwell, who played linebacker at Navy from 2003-06, was named to the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium’s all-time team last week.
Tidwell helped lead Navy to three straight Commander-In-Chief trophies and three straight bowl games. Navy was 27-10 in Tidwell’s four years, including a 10-2 mark in 2004. As a junior, Tidwell recorded a school-record 10 sacks, while his 19 tackles for a loss are the second most in school history. He finished his career with 16 sacks, the third most in school history.
The team was selected as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, which is No. 2 on my bucket list of college football venues I want to visit.
Oh heck, I’ll just give you the whole list.
1. Army’s Michie Stadium
2. Navy’s Marine-Corps Memorial Stadium
3. Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium.
4. California’s Memorial Stadium.
5. Penn State’s Beaver Stadium
6. LSU’s Tiger Stadium
7. Ohio State’s Ohio Stadium
8. Brigham Young’s Lavell Edwards Stadium
9. Michigan’s Michigan Stadium
10. Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium.
I’ve been to most of the other great ports in college football.
Saturday night we left the Cotton Bowl later than expected, after 8 p.m., and had to run back to the hotel and pick up our car to drive home. Everyone was beat, and the Boss declared, hey, if you want to stay another night, it’s not that expense. Our rooms were $79 a night at the Courtyard; you can always get great weekend deals in Las Colinas.
Anyway, the vote said stay, so that’s what we did, and it gave us a chance to watch OSU-Missouri.
We walked across the street to a Boston Market and got takeout. I’ve never been to Boston Market; it’s sort of a Furr’s to go type of place.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I love Furr’s.
Boston Market was just OK, I thought, but the ensuing picnic was fun. It’s sort of a tradition.
Twice at the Fairfield in Kansas City during NCAA Tournaments, we’ve gone down the street to Gates Barbeque and brought it back to the Fairfield dining room to watch hoops. So that’s what we did at the Courtyard, sat in their lounge area and watched OSU-Missouri, five of us, not counting a random fan who sat and watched and seemed intently interested even though I never could figure out if he was an OSU or a Mizzou man.
Anyway, a hotel picnic, watching ball after a hard day’s work, not a bad way to unwind.
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