It's November, which means that while the weather's getting cold college football is heating up. The big conference-deciding showdowns kick off tonight when West Virginia visits Louisville (more on that later) and continue throughout the month building up to the (hopefully) epic Ohio State/Michigan showdown that will close out the regular season. There's just too much going on at FSU and around college football to write columns about all of it, so here's what's been floating around my head the last couple of days...
- X marks the spot? While I enjoyed Xavier Lee's outstanding debut as a starter as much as the next 'Nole I think the Heisman-hype may be a bit premature. That's the first time Xavier has looked good in an FSU uniform and it came in a situation in which there was absolutely no pressure. He found out he was starting just before the game so he didn't have time to think, all he did was go out and make plays. But what happens when he does have time to think? Will he get nervous once the pressure's on? How will he respond this week in a situation where he's expected to produce in front of a home crowd? I want to see X succeed as much as anyone, but right now he's a rookie with an 0-1 record. Let him grow into the job before declaring him the next Charlie Ward.
Are you the Chosen One?
- For the ACC to rebound from it's slump to the bottom of the BCS barrel there must be an infusion of fresh coaching talent throughout the league, which makes UNC's new head honcho a big deal for a league looking to regain the respect it's lost in 2006. The Big East's growing rep has been built on the solid foundations laid down by Rich Rodriquez, Bobby Petrino, and Greg Schiano. North Carolina must find a similarly gifted, dynamic coach to replace the rotund John Bunting in order to put the ACC back on the road to recover. UNC has money, facilities, and talent in the high school ranks. A decent coach could build a solid program there...a great
coach could build a monster. Here's hoping they stay clear of the trendy Gene Chizik (another DC in the mold of Carl Torbush and Bunting) in favor of a proven winner from a smaller school, along the lines of a Jim Tressel. Whatever the Tarheels decide to do, they should move quickly before the coaching searches at Miami, NC State, and maybe Virginia start up in earnest.Can't figure out why the ACC sucks? I'll give you three hints...
- Is it just me or is Troy Smith successfully executing the most boring, unremarkable Heisman campaign of all time? The guy's made one exciting play all year, yet he's unassailable in the race for the stiff-armed statue thanks to the superiority of the talent around him and the struggles/injuries of Brady Quinn and Adrian Peterson. It's just that kind of year...nothing really jumps out at you. Ohio State isn't as good as they were last year, yet they've been a comfortable #1 all season and their only competition appears to be a Michigan team that is defensively stout but inconsistent offensively. Maybe some enjoy the mess of mediocrity this season but I prefer last year when two juggernauts rumbled headlong through the regular season on the path to a National Championship collision. But maybe it is
The next Vince Young... or the next Geno Torretta?
- I don't know how feasible it is considering his current employer, and I don't know if there's some history that would make it difficult, but I for one would love to see current Clemson OL coach Brad Scott return to the Florida State coaching ranks. Scott was the OC for the beginning of FSU's dynasty run and coached Charlie Ward before leaving for the South Carolina job. While things didn't work out in Columbia, Scott's a good coach and great offensive mind. I'd love to see Bobby bring Brad back to Tallahassee as QB Coach/Co-Offensive Coordinator in order to maximize Xavier Lee's abilities and help Jeff Bowden infuse some unpedictability and precision in the offense.
- Are we still pretending the SEC is that tough this year? Let's see what has become of the league that was supposed to have six MNC contenders this year... in the West, Alabama's offense has actually regressed from last year's inept unit, Auburn's offensive scheme is called "Kenny Irons", and LSU can't beat anyone with a pulse. Arkansas narrowly escaped Bama and Vandy and was destroyed by Southern Cal, and ff the SEC is going to base a large portion of its rep on Tennessee's thrashing of California they must also take the hit for Arkansas' beat-down at the hands of the Trojans. In the East the Vols have made a nice turn-around but everyone seems to weigh their pasting of the Golden Bears much more than the close call against Air Force. Florida's defense is lights-out, but that offense make you want to turn the lights off
so you don't have to watch, while Georgia's as good as
their quarterbacks (in other words, not very
good). UF in particular gets much love for squeaking by mediocre teams like Bama and Georgia. All in all these teams seem to be ranked highly because of recruiting rankings and hype rather than the product on the field. What else is new?Overrated, overrated, overrated. Seeing a pattern here?
- If FSU can stay healthy next year you'd have to think that they'll improve on this year's record (hard to imagine they could do much worse), and the core of next year's team will be a bunch of sophomores and juniors, most of whom will be back in 2008. With a potentially good team and an easier schedule in '08, can I go ahead and assume that Bobby Bowden will be back to take another shot at a third ring after next season? Hey, if he revamps his offensive staff in the off-season he might even have a legitimate shot at it. All I'm saying is, all those fans who are holding out hope that 2007 will be Bobby's swan song may want to brace themselves for disappointment. Barring health issues I think the Bowden era will continue for at least
two more years.
- How thankful is the Big XII for the ACC's rough year? While everyone's busy trashing our five ranked teams and competitive division races nobody seems to have noticed that Texas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma are the only decent teams in the Big XII, and Texas has barely escaped with one loss the last two weeks while Nebraska just got spanked by Oklahoma State and the Sooners have disappointed on both sides of the ball. And the Big XII North is still
the worst division in any BCS conference. As bad as the ACC is this year at least there's hope on the horizon. Next season the Big XII will be the conference everyone loves to hate on.Texas is the only thing separating
the Big XII from the WAC
- One thing's been bothering me the last few weeks: I know I'm seeing improvement in FSU's offense, yet we can't seem to score more than 24 points against anyone decent. If the execution is better than last year and the 'Noles have been putting together better drives recently then why hasn't point production increased? It took me a while to figure it out, but the key is field position. FSU has consistently lost the field position battles this year because of defensive inconsistency, poor special teams coverage, and lack of takeaways. The 'Noles are consistently forced to drive the length of the field, chewing up time, limiting scoring opportunities, and forcing FSU to play flawless football. In addition, the teams that score 30+ a game are those that can force turnovers and use special teams as a weaponm, and the 'Noles have been unchacteristically weak in both of those areas. The effect of the injuries on the defense gets a lot of attention, but you can't overlook what the losses of Marcus Ball, Jae Thaxton, and Tony Carter have meant for the special teams and FSU's ability to put points on the board.
Damn you BC, with your competent
ball-control offense! Damn you to hell!!!
- Poor Mickey Andrews. It's got to be killing him trying to stay patient with this young, reshuffled defense. He was forced to move his best pass rusher inside to DT, but the youngsters who are playing DE can't get much pressure so the baby-faced DBs are hung out to dry. So either he can blitz his LBs to get pressure which will force FSU's shaky secondary into man-coverage all over the field (see: Clemson loss), or he can pull the LBs back into zone coverage leaving the opposing QB all day to throw (see: NC State loss). There's nothing wrong with Mickey or his scheme, he just doesn't have the horses to play his brand of football this season. But when all looks lost I look at the projected two-deep for next year and see a lot of seasoned, talented players coming back a year stronger. My prediction for 2007? Pain.
- Speaking of which, allow me to wish a speedy recovery to Paul Griffin, Emanuel Dunbar, DJ Norris, Aaron Jones, Marcus Ball, Jae Thaxton, Derek Nicholson, Geno Hayes, Tony Carter, and Anthony Houlis. That's ten
key defenders, for those of you keeping score at home.
- Unfortunately, considering the struggles and class-size limits of FSU and the coaching uncertainty at Miami, UF is looking at a banner year in recruiting, and for Florida that's saying something. Urban Meyer's offense will still suck, but in a state as talent-rich as Florida you don't want to see one school getting a big advantage like UF has this year. This will bite us in the ass in 2010.
- The Chop Shop extends a big thank you to Drew Weatherford for playing his heart out every game and leading FSU to the ACC Championship last year. Even if XLee leads us to the National Title and picks up a Heisman Trophy along the way Drew will always be one of our favorites for his toughness, his class, and his great work ethic. Drew 'da man!
- Note to the 'Noles: remember how Virginia got insanely lucky to beat you last year, hitting ridiculous play after ridiculous play? Rememebr how bad it felt to get knocked out of the National Championship race? For that matter, remember what it felt like to win an ACC game? What's say we get a little payback this Saturday and beat the living crap out of the Cavaliers for four quarters! Go Noles!!!
Seek. Destroy. Repeat.