Saturday, December 5, 2009

Glory Week: Heisman Hopefuls Come To Play

What a great week of College Football matchups. I really wish the Big Ten would suck it up, add a twelfth team, and go for the title game setup, because it has now been two weeks of college football action with no sort of Midwestern coverage (well, except Wisconsin @ Hawaii, Illinois @ Cincinnati, Illinois vs. Fresno State).

On that note, Wisco @ Hawaii is tonight at 11:30 on ESPN2. Sweet.

Anyway, the slate of championships and huge games this weekend includes the final regular season games of many Heisman hopefuls. Let's take a look at who's in action and what they've done to state their cases for Heisman hardware.

The Civil War: #7 Oregon vs. #16 Oregon State, Thursday. Oregon won 37-33.

This was a great game to watch. The Beavers led through much of the evening, and were hoping to get revenge for last year's drubbing at the hands of the Ducks, who denied them a Rose Bowl berth.

No such luck. The Pac-10's second leading rusher, sophomore Jacquizz Rodgers, went for 64 yards and a touchdown, giving him twenty TDs and 1,377 ground yards on the season. Rodgers was a trendy dark horse Heisman pick in the preseason, and has had a great year. However, I don't think this showing was nearly enough for him to leapfrog fellow Pac-10 running back Toby Gerhart for a spot in the top four Heisman finalists.

Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, another Heisman dark horse, had yet another solid game in passing for 201 yards with a TD and an INT. His yearly totals look pretty good, with 2,066 passing yards, a 15:5 TD:INT ratio, and another 12 touchdowns rushing to go with an impressive 659 yards.

Still, I think his team's strength at running back, with freshman LaMichael James (166 yards against the Beavs, over 1,400 on the season) and The Mad Puncher, LeGarrette Blount, have hurt his chances, because he's had to share the ball so much. Still, with a 10-2 record and a Rose Bowl bid coming, Masoli is a lock to battle Stanford's Gerhart for the Pac-10 MVP award.

Central Michigan 20, Ohio 10

Okay, let's talk about real dark horses. Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour has led the Chippewas to an 11-2 season and, by the way, is also the NCAA all-time leader in combined passing, rushing, and receiving touchdowns with 148. He broke Chad Pennington's (from??) mark in this game.

LeFevour gets no Heisman love because he plays in the MAC. But you have to give him some credit for beating Michigan State earlier this year and playing tough games on the road at Arizona and Boston College. Not to mention, CMU beat good MAC teams - Temple, Ohio, Bowling Green and Northern Illinois all have winning records, and all felt the wrath of the LeFevour this season.

His final stats? 3,043 pass yards on 285-401 attempts (71.1%). 27 touchdowns versus 6 interceptions. Oh, and 174 rush attempts, yielding 701 yards (4.0ypc) and an impressive 14 TDs. Those numbers stand up against anybody in the country.

SEC Title Game: Florida 13, Alabama 32

This was a game featuring two true Heisman threats in Florida's Tim Tebow and Alabama's Mark Ingram. Tebow, who already has one stiff-arm trophy in his display case, didn't play terribly. He totalled 247 passing yards and 63 on the ground, with a touchdown and a pick.

But this game illustrated Florida's problems with the running game beyond Timmy, as nobody else carried the ball more than twice. Tebow will not be repeating as the Heisman winner, but at least he has a BCS bowl in his immediate future to make his case to NFL scouts.

His 30:4 TD:TO ratio for the year is extremely impressive, and between that and his name, I wouldn't be surprised if he is one of the finalists.

Mark Ingram, on the other hand, took advantage of this Heisman showcase. Already touted as a possible winner, the sophomore carried 28 times for 112 yards against a supposedly stout Florida defense, racking up three TDs. He also broke a huge 69-yard pass play on a dumpoff near the line of scrimmage, one of his pair of receptions in this game.

You can go ahead and pencil Ingram in for a spot in New York. His stats on the year?

221 carries for 1,429 yards, a 6.5 ypc average. 28 receptions for 289 yards, an 8.8per average. Fifteen total touchdowns. No fumbles. All while sharing time in the Crimson Tide backfield, and against tough competition including the SEC and Virginia Tech. This kid is for real.

Big 12 Title Game: Nebraska vs. Texas

It's too bad Nebraska has no offense, because their defense has been suffocating all night. At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Huskers are finally driving and trail 10-6.

Golden Boy Colt McCoy has less than 100 yards and two interceptions, but he does have Texas' lone TD on a rush near the goal line. Ten rushes for -24 yards and a TD is nothing to write home about, however.

Season stats: 3,328 yards, 27 TD:9 INT, 71.8 completion pct., 561 rush yards, 11 rush TD.

I don't think Texas has been all that impressive in their undefeated run thus far, and Nebraska's D is giving Colt fits tonight. But is he a Heisman finalist? Probably. He could even win, if enough people vote on name recognition.

Meanwhile, Nebraska's amazing DT Ndamukong Suh, the keystone to the Husker's #3 ranked defense, has eight tackles and 3.5 sacks tonight. Shining on the biggest stage is the best way to impress Heisman voters.

Suh is approaching 80 tackles, at least 16 for loss, with at least 11 sacks, a forced fumble, an INT, and multiple pass deflections on the year. Oh yes, and 22 quarterback hurries. He's going to be a top-ten NFL pick. Heisman finalist? Maybe. He has a better chance if he can make a game-changing play in this fourth quarter. Really, Nebraska's entire defensive line is full of NFL prospects.

Georgia Tech 33, Clemson 27 (ACC Title Game)

The only Heisman hopeful in this one is Clemson's superb RB C.J. Spiller. If I had a vote, this is the guy that gets it. Even though his Wildcats are trailing tonight, Spiller is the reason they're still alive. He has FOUR touchdowns, on rushes of 3, 41, 36, and 9 yards. He is averaging almost ten yards per carry.

For the season, Spiller's pure rushing stats may not look that amazing. Including this game so far, he has 11 TDs and close to 1,100 yards. But C.J. is really a triple threat. He also has 32 receptions for 440 yards and four TDs, and has taken an amazing five kicks to the house.

If you're counting, that's over 2,000 all purpose yards and 20 TDs. Spiller IS Clemson this year.

I've gone way over my word count and haven't even mentioned Houston's Case Keenum, who lost at East Carolina today. Quite a weekend for college football!!

If you've made it all the way through this post, thanks for your patience. I swear, I'll get some pictures up soon. For now, it's time to watch the exciting conclusions of the Big 12 and ACC title games!

My Heisman Finalists:

Mark Ingram
Ndamukong Suh
C.J. Spiller (just made another HUGE run midway through the fourth! 54 yards all the way inside the 10-yard line!)
Colt McCoy/Tim Tebow

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Film Study 101: Hoosiers vs. Terps

Last night, while putting off my essay for class, I tried a little experiment. With MacBook in hand and remote nearby, I put on the DVR'd Indiana v. Maryland game from last night and tried to really dig in to the details of what, exactly, was happening.

As a non-athlete (at least not past high school) I have never really made a serious effort at Peyton Manning-style film study before. But here are a few unusual things that occurred to me in the first half (second half coming after I finish this paper!):

1) When the starters or top eight guys (including Dumes, Hulls, Elston) are in the game, defense was fairly good. Rivers was doing an outstanding job on Greivis Vasquez early in the game. Creek also played him tough, but both he and Dumes let General Greivis slip over screens to take open threes that really put Maryland back in the game.

Still, the zone was very solid with all of these guys. Capobianco and Jobe are defensive liabilities. I was pleasantly surprised at how hard Jordan Hulls worked on the defensive end, and also at how mobile Tom Pritchard looked at times.

2) Devan Dumes made at least two great leading passes (to Jones and Creek, I believe) that both ended up not counting in his favor thanks to misses or blocks. He looked very heady running the fastbreak on these occasions and also showed exceptional range from beyond the arc. If he's still not 100%, then he's going to be a factor for this team once he gets there.

3) Christian Watford is an amazing athlete. Elston has a similar game but just isn't as springy or dominant. Elston needs to capitalize on his chances - he hurried several putbacks which resulted in wasted possessions. Still, his energy is excellent.

4) Jeremiah Rivers made three Top-Ten caliber plays. His block near the 10-minute mark on Moseley, then his flying steal on the ensuing inbound and fast-break throwdown were all just awesome moments. Actually, make that four, because that twisting reverse layup early in the game was great, too.

5) Hulls looked solid coming in and running the offense. He is more of a three-point threat than Rivers, which could be an X-factor going forward.

6) Verdell Jones looks like a man without a position. He and Creek have very similar skill sets, but Creek may already be as good of a defender and a better three point shooter. Verdell needs to keep driving the basket and taking those pull-ups that he is so good at. He also needs to finish stronger. He failed to draw several should-have-been fouls near the hole. Still, his mistakes are down somewhat.

7) Pritchard, despite a lack of stats, actually played well in the first half alongside Watford. He's one of the team's best pick and roll options.

Anyone else watch the game? Agree? Disagree? Let me know below.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Kevin Coble and the Ewing Theory

I don't want to get too excited about this.


But Northwestern just took down the ACC's North Carolina State 65-53. Last week, they beat ranked Notre Dame and a good Iowa State team to win the Chicago Invitational Tournament.

This is a team that, after losing both 6-foot-8 star Kevin "Big Bird" Coble and top sixth man Jeff Ryan to freakish season-ending injuries, was supposed to be cooked. Done. Dead and buried.

Instead, they are currently 6-1 with their only loss coming to Butler. The Bulldogs will be a 2- or 3- seed come March. And Northwestern was actually in the game for at least a half. Juice Thompson, John Shurna (pictured), Jeremy Nash, and Luka Mirkovic can all really play. Hell, even Kyle Rowley has looked competent at center!

Is it maybe possible that the 'Cats are better without Coble to lean on? Or is this just a fluke? With four games left until the Big Ten season, all of them pretty much automatic W's except Stanford, a 9-2 nonconference schedule is a sure thing.

Anyway, just some food for thought... Northwestern bandwagon, plenty of seats available.

The Indiana Hoosiers' All-Decade Team: Assembly Hall Superstars 2000-2009

It sure has been a long ten years for fans of Indiana basketball. Just a decade ago, Bobby Knight was still working the sidelines in Bloomington. Since Knight's 2000 firing, Indiana has experienced a true roller coaster of highs and lows, leaving fans elated and/or throwing up in their mouths, sometimes in the same season!

A fairy-tale run to the national championship game in '02 under Mike Davis gave way to a series of early-round ousters, the departure of Davis (also known as "Not The General" by Knight faithful), the much-anticipated hiring of Kelvin Sampson and his cell phone collection, a ranking as high as eighth nationally in '08, the ensuing train wreck (I don't wanna talk about it), and the high hopes of the Crean era, which have been seasoned with a healthy dose of humble pie in the form of a 6-25 season, the worst in Hoosiers history.

Yeah, it's been one heck of a decade. So let's take a minute to recognize the players who have done the Cream and Crimson proud through both good and bad.

PG Tom Coverdale (1999-2003)

It seemed like Coverdale was at least thirty by the time he graduated from IU. During a lengthy four-year career, Tom accumulated 500 assists, averaging almost five per game. He is third all-time in Indiana history in the category, and his 178 dimes during the '01-'02 season marked the second-best passing season by a Hoosier.

He was also no slouch while taking his own shots. Coverdale scored over 1,200 points in his career, and his marks of 200-555 from behind the three point line make him second all-time in both categories.

His leadership was also key during the Indiana run to the 2002 title game, and he was named South regional MVP during that tourney.

Honorable Mention: AJ Guyton, Marshall Strickland, Earl Calloway

SG Bracey Wright (2002-05)

If you like me-first shooting guards, then this ten year period in Indiana history has got to be one of your all time favorites. Bracey averaged 17.6ppg throughout his three year career at the Hall, but his .405 shooting percentage indicated the sheer number of possessions Wright claimed in racking up all those points (#15 all-time in scoring).

Bracey gets the nod at SG because Eric Gordon was even more of a ball hog in his one year at Indiana (amazingly enough), and because Wright and Mike Davis actually won an NCAA tournament game (vs. Alabama, 2003), something Gordon couldn't manage.

Honorable Mention: Eric Gordon, Roderick Wilmont, Kyle Hornsby

SF Jared Jeffries (2000-02)

The tall, skinny, and talented Jeffries spent just two years at Indiana before jumping to the NBA. In his sophomore year, he was a second team All-American while averaging 15 points, 7.6 rebounds, and almost three combined blocks/steals per game. He was also the Big Ten MVP that year.

A Bloomington native, Jeffries started all seventy games of his too-brief collegiate career. (picture: we call this the "I shoulda stayed at Indiana!" shot.)

Honorable Mention: Robert Vaden

PF Kirk Haston (1998-2001)

A 'tweener for the All-Decade team, since he only played a season and a half of the 'oughts, Haston nevertheless earned this spot. During the '00-'01 year, Haston was a monster, and helped Mike Davis start out reasonably well in replacing the legendary Bobby Knight.

He averaged 19 points per game while stuffing the stat sheet in every category. He even added an outside shot to his repertoire, shooting almost 38% from beyond the arc on the way to being the first-round pick of the Charlotte Hornets in the 2001 NBA Draft.

Honorable Mention: Jeff Newton, A.J. Moye (led team in rebounds in 2004 despite being only 6'3" - that earns you a picture, man!)

PF/C D.J. White (2004-08)

I have to be honest: D.J. is my favorite player in Hoosiers history. He may not have won a championship, or even gone deep in the tourney, but he became Indiana's bulwark during a tumultuous four year career during which he played for three different coaches.

White averaged around 13ppg and almost 5ppg as a freshman before missing most of the '05-'06 year due to injury.

A solid junior year during which he was paired with the jumbo-sized Marco Killingsworth gave way to a senior season in which Indiana and Kelvin Sampson had some extremely high expectations. Throughout the awful mess that that season would become, White was Indiana's rock.

All he did was come to work every day and dominate every big man he played against. Twenty-two rebounds at Michigan. The sixth-best single season rebounding total in Indiana history. Meanwhile, DJ upped his scoring as well, hitting over 17 a game and showing off a solid jump shot to go with his dominant post moves.

His 17.4-10.6 (pt/reb) season average was, statistically, the best for anybody in the Cream and Crimson, ever. That includes Walt Bellamy, George McGinnis, and Alan Henderson.

Honorable Mention: George Leach, Marco Killingsworth.