Beware The Tide: Why Rex Ryan Should Pray At The Altar Of Saban

Justin breaks down what we learned about defensive football in the National Championship Game

Enough. Enough whining from everyone associated with Oklahoma State about how they should have been in the BCS Championship game, not because they deserved to be in the Championship game, but because it would have been more entertaining. Sure, and watching the Broncos play the Packers in the Super Bowl would be the most watched game in the history of the NFL and/or the ugliest blow out ever put on a green field.

When did things reach their most insane in the aftermath of last nights game? When the unanimous whine from the OK State crew and others trickled onto the radio waves today, where people were proclaiming that Oklahoma State would have beat LSU. By 40. Really? OK. Theoretically Oregon could have beaten LSU if we are to just take the game as LSU’s lack of execution. That’s an open ended theory/excuse that falls on deaf ears for anyone who hasn’t been smashing pint glasses over their head for the past 36 hours. Which is in many ways similar to my one trip to New Orleans, but that’s between me, god, and the sheriff. Even now, as I am writing this, Mike Wilbon is proclaiming that CAM NEWTON WOULD HAVE BEAT LSU!!! OR ALABAMA!!!!

So what happened to the war painted Tigers? Fear. You want to see fear in the NFL? Watch the game tape from when the Jets played the Ravens this year. Mark Sanchez had the same fear Jordan Jefferson had last night. Blind side hits from behind, receivers getting blasted over the middle, fumbles, delays in handoffs, and general skittishness all made more evident by 10 on field cameras and the screaming, half crazy crowd of drunks, freaks and fools in the stands.

Simply put, the front 7 of Alabama may be some of the scariest set of college football players to ever step foot on the field. But it’s not fear of simply getting picked off or losing a fumble that turned the voodoo daddies into porcelain dolls, it’s the combination of experience, retribution and pure rage. (There are 8 seniors on defense). Translation? Ray Lewis. Imagine 4 Ray Lewis clones (actually bigger and faster as the average height of the linebacking core is 6’4 and around 265lbs) lining up in a 3-4, waiting on every play, knowing every gap to shoot, and not just getting to your quarterback or running back, but exactly how to line him up and inflict the most damage. Every time someone from LSU tried to go down the field on a toss or a read option, there were not 3, but usually 4 linebackers waiting to break them in half.

For all the magic around the LSU Tigers, the honey badger, the free for all defense that logistically relies on mostly it’s edge rushers and secondary to lock down receivers, there was too much reliance on their ability to get turnovers, opponent plays for a loss, and kicking domination. Alabama wiped the floor with LSU on special teams, case in point being the honey badger’s attempt at a kickoff return that got him knocked back about 15 yards and Marquis Maze running his first attempt back about 42 yards before pulling up lame with a hamstring injury. Oh yes, and Maze, the number one receiver for Alabama, DIDN’T EVEN COME BACK TO PLAY IN THE GAME.

What no one will state, because it is theoretically impossible, is that every defensive coaches ultimate desire is to play in base packages for an entire game. That is, a 3-4 base, a nickel and a dime. If you had an All Madden defensive squad, there would be no need to switch from base defenses. You make your adjustments pre snap, and shut the play down before it even starts, and if it does start, don’t let it finish. Alabama didn’t blitz, they didn’t come overloaded to one side, and they didn’t get into exotic personnel packages. Perfection needs no decoration.

In the era of teams averaging 45 points a game, Alabama gave up 9 touchdowns in 13 games. They averaged 8.2 points per game allowed, and didn’t let the Tigers cross the 50 yard line until 8 minutes left in the game. Mind you, if AJ McCarron didn’t get sacked on a third down play, the Tigers might not have crossed the 50 yard line at all. THE LSU TIGERS – who wiped the floor with almost all competition between the SEC, the Pac 12, and the ACC, couldn’t score a point the entire game. Even if they had Sebastian Janikowski lining up kicks, they wouldn’t have even been close. Roll tide. Oh yes, and Michigan, who happens to play Alabama in the season opener next year, should start looking for another backup QB. Denard doesn’t stand a chance.

PS – If the Jets don’t draft Courtney Upshaw I’m giving up on them for good.

Hangovers, Brunch and Wake Up Calls From The Front Desk: 3 Weeks of College Football

Week 2

College football is a beautiful thing, made even more so by new technology. Before the expansion of cable, the choices in college games were at most 4 games throughout the day and night. Thanks to networks such as ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, Versus, MSG, CBS, NBC & ABC, there were approximately 20 games I had my choice of watching last weekend. Naturally the best games are usually on ABC, CBS or the ESPN night game, but there were a few surprises, as in the USC vs. Utah game. So what made week 2 great? Great players.

Jadaveon Clowney is perhaps the only defensive end in college football that will eventually outsize Julius Peppers. In brief, he is big, fast, and stronger than most grown men. He was also the #1 high school player in the nation last year. Barring any sort of career threatening injury, Clowney already has the length and the motor to chase down even the most nimble of quarterbacks in the SEC.

If you watch his game clips from high school, you see a player that was 6’6 and 235 lbs and literally throwing off offensive lineman like they were toys. People who played against him were rumored to have gone mute, switched to defense themselves, or decided their efforts in football were pointless and thought they would be better suited to the spirit squad. Quarterbacks suddenly pulled hamstrings, got leg cramps or decided it was in their best interest to give their backup a few reps.

On Saturday the boy became the man. In the first half, there were few moments when Clowney was able to dominate offensive lineman, that is until a left guard decided to cover a blitzing linebacker and let Clowney have a 5 yard dash to Aaron Murray. That move of brilliance resulted in a strip sack and a touchdown for the South Carolina defense. It may have also cost Mark Richt a contract extension.

To say the Gamecocks are lucky to have Clowney is an understatement. To note they also had last year’s #1 RB recruit in the country Marcus Lattimore is what may get them to the SEC championship game.Lattimore is a 6’0 220 lb running back that plays like he’s always on the goal line. He finds a hole and jumps through it, very rarely getting caught trying to make a second cut. His numbers, 4.8 YPC and 1197 rush yards as a freshman, do not even speak to how good he can be. If Stephen Garcia can air it out and not grow a beard, Lattimore will get over 1500 this year, in the SEC.

So are the Gamecocks the best team in the SEC? No. That would be Alabama. As an introduction, the only thing you need to know is that 8 of the 11 defensive starters are predicted to either go in the first or second round of the 2012 draft.
If it is defense that sets the tone for Alabama, it’s going to be their running back tandem that closes games out. Trent Richardson is the sort of physical prodigy that makes linebackers and safeties look like they’ve been watching Glee and taking too many yoga classes. Trent Richardson goes to the weight room. He benches 475 and squats 600, which is better than most lineman. NFL lineman.

So if Richardson is the bruiser, what is Eddie Lacy? A clone with a spin move. Circle Button. If you looked quickly, you would think he IS Richardson. Same cut, same insane physique. Same insane ability to run over linebackers and safeties without losing any steam. Alabama will not put up big passing numbers. Neither will teams playing against them. If anyone wants to test what they’ve got, do it against Alabama, not against anyone in the PAC-12. They’re all smoke and mirrors out there anyway.

P.S. – Alshon Jeffery does look fat.

Week 3

Maryland unveiled their 2nd imitation of the Nike Pro Combat line. Normally I wouldn’t care about something like this, but the whole point of that line is to be a relevant school in a featured game of the year. Maryland will be in no featured game this year, and there will be no point in advertising mediocrity.

Trent Richardson is going to prove he is worth more than Michael Dyer. He will get more 3rd downs, while Eddie Lacey becomes the faster clone. Don’t trust Auburn’s defense, it will leave you cold and alone. Why Cam why? The defense of Auburn will keep them out of the top 10 in the final FBS rankings, and may keep them out of the top 25 by the end of the year. The SEC has no mercy for the weak, ask Tennessee and Georgia.

There is a certain trifecta of teams that I consider “old world”. Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin always seem to be of interchangeable parts. Power run. Big defensive line. Nameless quarterbacks, but it’s ok. It’s the system, and the system works in the waterless, landlocked midwest. It makes men of boys.

No one put faith in any Notre Dame quarterback. I’ve seen too many conversations between Brian Kelly and his young quarterbacks and we’re not even a quarter way through the season. They will win a few off pure luck and circumstance, but whatever Notre Dame was before I was born, it is gone and it is not going to be back any time soon. Sorry Golic, this is the age of the SEC.

Florida. Florida will finally make a return to the SEC front, bringing back many a fundamentalist flashback of the great holy ghost of Tebow. Florida defense is probably 3rd biggest in college football after LSU and Alabama. They will run through opposing quarterbacks, and halfbacks will think twice about off tackle runs.

Has anyone noticed Marcus Lattimore’s machinelike tendencies? Even when the game is getting out of hand against Navy, he stands like a statue, waiting to go 5, 8, 6, yards at a time. Gets hit, gets up, walks right back over to the huddle without saying a word. There are few things as terrifying as a running back with Lattimore’s skill set that don’t react to anything.

On the thought of South Carolina, shouldn’t they be more of a threat? Having a top 10 running back and a top 10 defensive end should scare people, right? Well Stephen Garcia is at the helm, and the ship is taking on water. You never know what you get out of Garcia, but it will make things interesting. 3 interceptions and the winning touchdown pass.

Belief in Miami? Who is Lamar Miller? Frank Gore with speed? Will he lift Miami out of the swamps of unranked teams? We all know Jacory Harris will win 2 games himself and lose 2, in no particular order.

They must be doing something right in the state of Florida, because if Florida has a big fast defense, then Florida state has the same thing, except they play with the intensity of rabid wolves. Big hits, big blocks, scary stuff.

Week 4

Penn State is beating up Eastern Michigan, who is looking like the redheaded stepchild of Michigan for another year. Even Michigan State is enduring beatdowns akin to the one Alabama gave them last year after a baffling end of season slew of losses to Auburn and LSU.

Tommy Rees is again talking to Brian Kelly, who is probably having his Proust moment (A Remembrance of Things Past) with the duo of Mardy Gilyard and Tony Pike putting ridiculous numbers up. Kelly lives in the big time now, and the clergy are waiting for him to lose his cool. Fat paychecks and the attempt to get Michael Floyd the ball keep him up very late at night. How does Kelly cope with having opposite ends of the talent spectrum at quarterback and receiver? Lord only knows.

Why the obsession with teams that don’t matter anymore? History. Penn State and Notre Dame are two of the most historic franchises that are literally running on fumes at this point. Notre Dame hasn’t done anything significant in terms of postseason play in 10 years, Brady Quinn couldn’t keep a starting job and Penn State is a semi talented coachless joke against serious competition (any team from the SEC). Notre Dame will suffer losses against USC and Stanford, while Penn State already got beat again by Alabama, and will have their offense shut down against Nebraska and Wisconsin. I will give them good marks for their defense, but they will not make it back into the top 25 this year.

Oklahoma State is being exposed as a finesse team that relies on the spectacular play of a few, although never count out the heroics of Justin Blackmon. Maybe Texas A&M will make it in the SEC after all.

Alabama is making it clear that they have the best defense in the SEC. LSU may have faster players, but Alabama is bigger, stronger, and more experienced. They are making Arkansas look silly about halfway through the 3rd quarter, holding them to one touchdown, with the possibility another looking less and less likely with every hit they put on the quarterback. 38-14 with 8 minutes left in the 4th is the mark of a team that believes they have something to prove, and Trent Richardson is yet again proving that he is faster and much stronger than most linebackers and defensive backs in college football.

As of now the SEC is beginning to look like it will yet again put a team in the national championship, Oregon looks again to be the only real contender in the PAC 12, Boise State looks like it can go undefeated, and Stanford continues to defy expectations. By the end of the night, there will be fires in Morgantown, and living rooms across West Virginia will be without seating.