Now that Week Three and Week 2 of the college and NFL seasons are in the books, let’s take a minute to go over some weekend observations. You may agree with me on some, you may not, but in the end, we’re just talking football.
We’ll start with the college game first.
Alabama keeps it rolling: The Crimson Tide beat Arkansas like a drum last Saturday and even pulled off the accelerator early in the second half. Alabama’s defense was suffocating, the offensive line manhandled the Razorbacks front and AJ McCarron was sharp yet again. And those tailbacks … man, they are impressive. Eddie Lacy looks like he loves contact. And TJ Yeldon has special written all over him. This Bama squad is a really impressive football team. It’s also one that is very well coached. And that makes a major difference folks.
Florida’s for real: I wasn’t sure that the Gators could take out both Texas A&M and Tennessee on the road in back-to-back weeks, but boy was I wrong. Coming into the season I knew Florida could play defense, but I was skeptical about the offense. I’m not anymore. After watching Jeff Driskel work his magic for a second straight week, I’ve officially got on this guy’s bandwagon. He can play. And he looks like he knows how to win. This young team should only get better with each game.
Welcome to the party Irish: Notre Dame sits at No. 11 in the country after flexing its defensive muscle against a well-coached Michigan State team. The Irish are led by middle linebacker Manti Te’o, but the defensive front is tough too. Brian Kelly has recruited that unit well over the last few years and it’s paying off now. I talked in last week’s Lowe Down about QB Everrett Golson, and he didn’t let me down with his play against the Spartans. This time next year, everyone who knows college football will know who this kid is.
Where has Auburn’s defense been?: The Tigers used to be known for their stout defenses in the 80s, 90s and early part of the 2000s, but that hasn’t been the case over the last few seasons under Gene Chizik. Some of that can attest to personnel, but some of that is also due to fundamental issues. Last year, Auburn ranked 78th in scoring defense (28.9 ppg), 94th in rush defense (189.2 ypg) 51st in pass defense (218.8 ypg) and 81st in total defense (408.0 ypg). This year, the Tigers currently sit 78th in scoring defense (27.3 ppg), 107th in rush defense (217.0 ypg), 65th in pass defense (225.0 ypg) and 94th in total defense (442.0 ypg). The Tigers have also picked off just one pass. Those numbers will have to change if Auburn wants a shot at a winning season. A major crutch for Chizik’s team has been poor play up the gut of its defense. The defensive tackles aren’t getting off blocks and making plays, the middle linebacker play has been poor and the safeties have had to make way too many tackles. You have to be strong in the interior of your defense to be a good unit. If you’re not strong there, teams can basically do what they want to against you schematically. There lies the problem with AU’s D. If you plug the middle, it forces plays to the perimeter, which is what a defense wants. You can cut people off to the perimeter with pursuit and containment. You can’t cut a team off when they are steamrolling the middle of your defense. That opens up plays on the perimeter if that’s happening.
USC not so good after all: You also heard in The Lowe Down last week that the Cardinal had a chance to give USC a game. Well, they did that and more. A huge part of the victory was the Stanford defense slamming the door on the USC rushing attack. The Trojans had just 26 yards on the ground in 28 attempts, which turned out to be a major factor in the Cardinal’s upset. Like I just mentioned before with middle of defenses, if you take away the inside, it forces a team to go outside. And by taking away the run, it makes a team one-dimensional. Then a defense can T off on the quarterback, which is exactly what Stanford did for most of the game. The Cardinal sacked USC quarterback Matt Barkley four times and forced him to throw two interceptions. A big reason Stanford was able to do that was due to taking away the run. Again, that is a huge, huge, huge key to winning the war in a football game. If you win the battles on the line of scrimmage and take teams out of their game, that’s how you win the wars.
As for a little NFL, here are a couple of things that I took away from Week 2.
Come on Greg: Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano took some heat for his defense attacking Giants quarterback Eli Manning while taking a knee at the end of the wild and crazy game between the Bucs and G-Men. Although no one was injured, New York head coach Tom Coughlin got in the face of the rookie head coach for ordering his defense to try to bust up the center-QB exchange. Hey, there’s some things you don’t do in the NFL, and that’s one of them. It will be interesting to see if other teams attack Schiano’s QB and center when the Bucs are attempting to close out their next game.
Greg Knapp sucks: Yeah, yeah, some of you probably have no idea of who I’m talking about, and there’s good reason for that. Knapp is the offensive coordinator for the 0-2 Oakland Raiders, and he’s one of the shoddiest play-callers in the league. Take this week’s blowout loss to Miami for instance. In that game, Knapp gave tailback Darren McFadden 11 carries all game long. Really? C’mon Man!! The dude is one of the most explosive players in the league and he gets 11 carries? There’s a reason why this guy can never stay anywhere for too long, and it’s game-planning like that that keeps his boxes moving from city to city. But, it’s the NFL, and even the sorriest coaches always have a job somewhere. Unfortunately for Raider fans, he’s running their offense. I have a feeling it won’t be for long though.
Hot-lanta looking Super?: I have to tip my hat to the Atlanta Falcons. They looked sharp in the big Monday night win over Peyton Manning and the Broncos. After watching last year’s playoff implosion against the Giants, it’s obvious that Atlanta has gotten better on the offensive line and on defense. The Falcons picked off Manning three times and had him confused for most of the night. The addition of veteran cornerback Asante Samuel could help this team get over the hump and contend for a title. Samuel brings leadership and swagger to a defensive unit that’s been playing together for a few years now. His play in Monday’s game was a big reason why the Falcons stymied the Broncos offense for much of the evening.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattLowe777 or @Lindyssportsmag