Friday, September 23, 2011

Thoughts on college football, last week, this week, etc

Last week I briefly spoke about 3 games of interested, and wouldn't you know it, I nailed all 3. I said OU would beat FSU, Texas would easily win against UCLA, and that A&M would destroy Idaho. The A&M prediction was easy to make, but I feel smart nailing the OU and Texas picks. Lots of people had talked about OU's recent road struggles, but they managed to get over that, while Texas was only favored by a few points at UCLA, but just like I predicted (I'm really hurting my arm, patting myself on the back...), Texas finally decided to use their better players, dropping the odd strategy they had been employing (using their worst players), and sure enough, running away with an easy victory over an AWFUL UCLA team.

The true test start for Texas next week, so I'll talk more about them then. This week, the true test starts for Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. Here's a summary of a lot of the common thoughts from Aggie fans:

Last year, even with 5 turnovers and playing on the road, A&M statistically dominated the game only to lose on a last second field goal. Avoid the turnovers and A&M wins easily (so the thinking goes).

Last year, OSU had evil the evil genius Dana Holgerson calling plays, and they were really, really good offensively. This year, stud QB Brandon Weeden and uber-stud WR Justin Blackmon are both back, but without Holgerson calling the plays, their offense loses something (there may be something to this based on Blackmon's statistical drop-off this year and Weeden's increased interception total this year, but still too early to say conclusively, since they are average over 600 yards per game so far in 2011.). Meanwhile, in year two of the Tim DeRuyter era for A&M, the defense now knows the entire playbook and is free to run around at full speed without having to think so much, while also being free to run all sorts of crazy schemes, which will confuse OSU and A&M will slow them down and win easily (so the thinking goes).

This year, A&M's offense is one of the best there is and has no weaknesses, so whatever the defense for OSU (which has not been good so far) tries, we can counter with something and will be able to score at will. So then we will just need a few stops on defense, and should be able to win easily (so the thinking goes).

Here are my thoughts, which somewhat overlap with aspects of the above, but don't necessarily align all the way through. A&M does indeed have the best offense the history of Aggie football. We have one of the best quarterbacks we've ever had, we have the best running back tandem since Greg Hill and Rodney Thomas were running on bright green artificial turf with maroon numbers, and we have either the best or second best group of wide receivers we've ever had (the Bethel Johnson/Terrence Murphy/Jamaar Taylor/Greg Porter group was equally amazing). Put these skill players, along with a solid offensive line, up against a defense for OSU that is not spectacular, and we really should have no trouble scoring points.

A&M has already proven that we can move the ball and score points quickly, and we haven't even used big plays to do it. Amazingly, A&M only has 2 plays this season of over 30 yards (a 37 yard run by Cyrus Gray and a 32 yard pass from Tannehill to tight end Hutson Prioleau), yet the Aggies have still put up huge numbers in less than 3 quarters in each of their first two games. That means A&M is doing it bit by bit, 6, 8, 14 yards at a time, content to march down the field like that. It also means that there are big plays coming. A game like this, with so much at stake (Did I mention that this is the first matchup of two top-10 teams at Kyle Field since I've been alive? Yeah...), teams start taking chances. OSU will take chances. A&M should have a couple big (40+ yards) plays. Defenses get lulled to sleep by boring, rhythmic offenses, which is what A&M has sort of pretended to be this year. But that's the great part about this Aggie offense. They are able to be the boring, efficient offense, but rest assured, they can hit you with the big plays. Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael are both capable of making the 80 yard run at any time. The receivers for A&M are as well. So what's my point? It is this: A&M will be able to move the ball, both methodically and with big plays, all game long, in my opinion.

The game then comes down to A&M stopping OSU. I don't personally subscribe to the notion that the loss of Holgerson will hurt OSU that much. They are still, in my opinion, one of the best 10 offenses in the country, if not top 5. So can A&M stop them? I honestly think the Aggies will struggle to. OSU has scored 30 or more in 15 of their last 16 games. I think it will be very difficult for A&M to hold them under 30. The defense for A&M has shown signs of being very good, but the loss of Von Miller still hurts A&M. To win this game, the Aggies HAVE to do three things:

-Stop the run. A&M must force OSU into predictable passing situations. If they keep us off balance, they'll score 50.

-Bring pressure when we do know they're passing. We have to force Weeden to throw before he's ready. If he has time, he WILL pick us apart.

-Catch the ball if and when he throws an interceptable pass. A dropped interception cost A&M the game two years ago against this same opponent. Everyone knows how important turnovers are. The assumption is that Weeden will throw a couple bad balls. A&M must catch those.

Can A&M do those things? I really, honestly think we can, but stopping the run is the toughest of the three, and the most important. The other two follow from the first one.

I'm gonna cheat and do two official predictions. If A&M accomplishes what I believe they need to, A&M wins 45-31.

If A&M fails to stop the run and/or struggles to pressure Weeden and catch one or two bad passes from him, A&M loses 48-45.

Ok, no cheating. My OFFICIAL official prediction is the first one. I do think A&M wins. I think this is a special group of guys that A&M has right now, and I think Kyle Field is still Kyle Field, which means that as long as the talent is close between the two teams, A&M wins at Kyle.

Gonna be a great day.

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