FIU is putting together a nice season
Mario Cristobal and FIU started the season with 3 straight wins, but had lost 3 of their last four games before last night's win over Troy. FIU had the lead going into the 4th quarter in two of those losses, and was only down 5 with 14:06 left against Louisiana-Lafayette .
Last night defensive coordinator Todd Orlando and the defensive staff did an impressive job against Troy holding them to 3-14 on 3rd down conversions and putting the defense in great position to get off the field. Leading up to last night's game, Troy was running an average of 92 plays per game. FIU held the Trojans to a third of that, only allowing them to run 59 plays.
Cristobal has made some impressive progress at FIU since being hired in 2006, and has a great opportunity to build on this season with his final 4 games coming against teams with losing records. If Cristobal is able to win 3 of those next 4 it would get FIU to 8 wins and would mark the best season since joining the FBS, topping last seasons 7-6 record.
Value of the special teams coordinator
Paul Johnson's Georgia Tech team is 6-2. He doesn't have a coach on staff whose primary role is special teams coordinator, in fact he never has.
Unfortunately, this season, Tech's special teams haven't been all that special (currently ranked in the bottom half of all FBS teams in net punting (93rd), punt returns (68th) and kickoff returns (102nd) and have only blocked one kick through 8 games).
Johnson was recently grilled on special teams decisions and schemes after the Miami loss, and the question of having a designated special teams coordinator was asked.
"The whole thing is ridiculous. Guys calling for special teams coordinators don’t have any idea. You know how many teams in the ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten have special teams coordinators that don’t coach another position? Six. You know who it is in our league? Boston College – which is helping them a lot – and N.C. State. And the Big Ten, it’s Purdue. In the Big 12, it’s Kansas State. I think it’s Coach (Bill) Snyder’s son. Most staffs are set up the same as ours.
Johnson noted that his staff went this past off-season and spent two days with the Atlanta Falcons staff. "We're doing the same stuff they're doing. It's the same schemes, it's the same stuff."
In his 32 years coaching, Johnson said that every staff he's every been on has always split the special teams duties up amongst the whole staff. As Johnson put it "Sometimes you're better than others."
Well, we know where Johnson stands on this issue; and we certainly know other coaches who feel the exact opposite way about this.
What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments section below.
The most improved defense in the country
Earlier today we saw a good article by Bruce Feldman that pointed out that Michigan's defense has moved up 100 spots in scoring defenses going from 108th in 2010 to 8th this season. Any time you improve 100 spots, that's newsworthy.
Greg Mattison's main focus this season has been on limiting missed tackles. The goal for the defense is to finish the game with less than eight missed tackles per game, and right now the defense is averaging about six. In their lone loss to Michigan State, the Wolverines had 18 missed tackles.
Mattison and the defensive staff have also clearly put an emphasis on turnovers this season as well. The Wolverines are tied at the top of the country in fumble recoveries, recovering 14 fumbles out of 16 loose balls. Michigan had 7 recoveries out of 12 loose ball opportunities all of last year.
Michigan's five remaining games are all against teams with winning records, starting on Saturday as they take on Purdue (4-3) in Ann Arbor.
Nebraska's no huddle
Nebraska's first year offensive coordinator Tim Beck is pushing tempo in their no huddle offense. Tempo, in terms of fast, faster and crazy fast.
On the field, the tempo seems to be working as Nebraska's offense is 7th in the nation in rushing offense. Here's something that caught our eye, Nebraska is currently averaging right at 150 yards of rushing in the 2nd half of it's games.
We hear this week's opponent, Michigan State, is borrowing a strategy from Les in trying to prepare for Nebraska's no huddle attack. Michigan State is having two scout teams alternate snaps against the Spartan defense, simulating the speed that the offense reloads for the next snap. Hey, it worked for LSU against Oregon...
The Huskers will take on Michigan State Saturday at 12 eastern on ESPN.
Tough season continues for Troy
Troy lost last night in overtime to FIU 23-20. The loss drops Troy to 2-5 overall and 1-3 in conference play.
This in uncharted territory for the Trojan program, who have won at least a share of the past five league titles.
Since joining the Sun Belt in 2004, Troy has been the staple of consistency, reaching at least 8 wins in six of seven years (and each of the last 5). Since their first season as an FBS school in 2001, Troy has only lost more than 5 games twice. Those two seasons came as an Independent in 2002, and in 2005 as a member of the Sun Belt when they went 4-7.
Offensively, the Trojans are still able to throw it all over place, ranking #16 in the country in pass offense. Defensively they are generally sound, but we noticed their defensive coordinator, Jeremy Rowell, mentioned last night that each game they have given up a couple of big plays.
Troy's defensive end #94 Jonathan Massaquoi really caught our eye last night. In his first season as a DI starter last season, after transferring from Butler Community College, Massaquoi racked up 13.5 sacks. This season he was named Sun Belt pre-season player of the year, which shouldn't come as a huge surprise given his genes. Jonathan's cousins Mohammed Massaquoi and Visanthe Shiancoe are both in the NFL. Troy has a history of sending some great DEs to the league. Give defensive line coach Maurea Crain some credit for getting the most out of these guys.
The Trojans next game will take them to Navy on November 5th. Navy has lost their last 5 straight, and four of those five losses have come by a combined 8 points.
Hopefully Larry Blakeney, in his 21st year with Troy, can get them back on the track.
Big East matchup (well, this year it is...[poor realignment joke]).
All times are eastern.
UConn at Pitt - 8 - ESPN
Eastern Illinois' Bob Spoo to step down
Bob Spoo announced at the end of last season that 2011 would be his last on the sideline for the Panthers.
Spoo has built an impressive coaching resume over the last 50 years at the high school and college level, and holds a 140-113-1 record during his 25 years at Eastern Illinois. He is currently tied as the 4th longest tenured coach at one school.
In his tenure, Spoo has led Eastern Illinois to nine playoff appearances and eleven top 25 rankings. From 2000-2009 the Panthers won 72 games and 5 conference titles, and Spoo was named Ohio Valley Conference coach of the year 4 times.
Although they have struggled this season, Spoo has built a proven winner at Eastern Illinois, and the next head coach should have great community support and rich tradition to build on. A large part of that tradition and support includes alumni like Mike Shanahan, Sean Payton, and Tony Romo.
The Panthers will travel to take on Austin Peay Saturday in Clarksville, Tennessee.
Kentucky unveils all black uniforms
Kentucky rolled out some new black on black uniforms during their team meeting today.
Joker Phillips mentioned he had been catching some heat from the players, media, and fans about wearing all black for a while, and just feels like now is the right time.
"Just anything we can do to get some excitement. I think there will be more excitement if we’re making plays in those black uniforms. I explained to them that uniforms do not make plays. The people in them have to have the right attitude.” Joker said.
While everyone was busy raving about the new look, Joker added "If we don't play well, we won't see them again".