Pac-12 programs on the rise

This weekend Zach Barnett and I traveled to Arizona to see how football is played in the great state of Arizona. 

We arrived early in the day Thursday. After a quick lunch on Mill Ave. (more on this area later) we went to Oregon's team hotel to meet with their coaches. Two key takeaways from that meeting - first, it's a long day of waiting before heading to the stadium for a 6 p.m. ESPN game; and second, Oregon's coaches have a lot of confidence in this year's team. A third note that only Opps guys will appreciate - when I asked what one of the coaches what time they were going to step on the field, he pulled out a laminated business card size sheet that showed his group on the field at 3:59. Not 4 p.m.,  3:59. Hawk doesn't mess around.

We headed back to campus to check out the pre-game festivities. The pre-game scene outside of the stadium was a little lighter than anticipated, but given that this was a 6pm game on a "school day"...

The vibe on the field before the game was awesome. Todd Graham and his staff have several huge speakers set up on the field blaring music certain to get their players excited. Every player was bouncing around, big smiles and clearly ready to roll. 

Down on the Oregon side I witnessed something that I thought was pretty cool. As the players finished up pre-game action on the field and headed to the locker room with Chip Kelly, all of the assistants got together to shake hands, encourage each other to have a great game and to just take a minute to enjoy the moment. This is what these guys work for. Enjoy it, remember it, embrace it, because too soon the season will be behind you. 

Five minutes before the game I looked up and the stadium was still less than half full...five minutes into the game the place was packed and loud (unfortunately those arriving five minutes late had missed the first 17 touchdowns). The student section was loud. Question for the Pac-12: Why are so many student sections located behind the home team's bench? Crazy. 

On the field, injuries slowed Arizona State after losing their best defensive player on the first play of the game. Slow and Oregon don't mix well. Oregon is fast and when their quarterback is making good decisions on the read they are tough to stop. Chip Kelly, Mark Helfrich, Nick Aliotti and the rest of the staff have their guys playing at a high level. 

After the game we stopped by Mill Ave. once again to enjoy post-game ASU style. Did. Not. Disappoint.

Friday we went in to see the Arizona State coaches. We spoke separately with AD Steve Patterson and Todd Graham who both said about the same thing, "Didn't play our best but the program is getting better. Need to continue to add depth and talent, but we're still in this battle for the south." Todd Graham left me with this nugget, "I sure hope we get another crack at them in 5 weeks." 


ASU's team room has a fresh design

Friday afternoon Mike from Overtime Software and I headed down to Tucson. Upon entering the football offices we were promptly greeted by Rich Rod. Rich is one of the head coaches I most enjoy visiting with. When he speaks with you he's completely engaged with you. He remembers every time you have met and is truly interested in you. He's the exact same way with his staff and his players. This group is bought in to what Rich is doing.

LSU and Texas A&M kicked off at 9am local time, which at first seemed so odd but then seemed so wonderful. West coast life ain't so bad. Mike and I were fairly engaged with the game at the hotel's pool bar (yes, that's Pac-12 living) and from time to time might have raised our voices at the TV. Pretty sure most of the others at the pool thought we were crazy; one even said, you guys must be from the South. Yes, yes we are. 

We arrived on "The Mall" at Arizona around 2pm and found a delightful atmosphere. A nicely defined and orchestrated tailgate scene was enjoyed for several hours. I had the pleasure of meeting countless high school coaches from the area and enjoyed talking ball with them. Each had very positive feedback regarding the direction that both Arizona and Arizona State's programs are headed. Overall, we encountered nothing hospitality and saw a vibrant scene. 

We joined the Arizona staff on their sideline for the game. Rich-Rod-SidelineI took turns standing by Jeff Casteel (and David Lockwood) as they called the defense and watching Rich Rod and his guys call the offense. Most of this staff has been together for quite some time and this is truly a sideline that is all on the same page. They move fast and make changes on the fly but I rarely saw any sort of communication issues between the staff or the players. I like how these guys work as a staff. 

After the game I had the pleasure of meeting several of the coaches families on the field. Arizona is very much a family atmosphere both within the program and university wide. 

University Blvd./Main Gate Square was enjoyable after the game with fans from several Pac-12 programs in attendance. We liked the crowd upstairs at Gentle Ben's. 

Both Arizona and ASU appear headed to have their programs headed in the right direction. When Rich Rod was hired I immediately thought it was a great hire by Greg Byrne and my visits there since have reinforced that belief. Upon hearing of Todd Graham's hiring at ASU I didn't honestly know how that would work out but after this visit and spending time with he and his staff and the AD I feel very confident that this program is in good hands and is headed in a good direction. It's going to be a lot of fun to watch these two teams play football for a long time. Football in this state is on the rise. One thing to watch for...if either (or both) of these teams can improve their ability to pull the right recruits from Texas and/or Southern California look out. I like the future of football in the Pac-12.

Last note, I cracked a smile when late in the game I turned around and noticed where Arizona had UW's band. Take a look at this picture...way, way up top in far, far right corner. Nice.



Video from Toledo: "The Quest for Greatness"

The Quest for Greatness - 2012 Toledo Rockets from Toledo Football Rockets Video on Vimeo.


First year Toledo head coach Matt Campbell has done a terrific job of  winning close ball games through the early part of the year, and has the Rockets picking up this season right where they left off in 2011. Their largest margin of victory through the first eight games is 20 points.

After finishing last season 9-4, the Rockets have gotten off to a fast start, currently sitting at 7-1, and 4-0 in MAC play, with their lone loss of the season coming to Arizona in an overtime thriller in the season opener (24-17). 

Here's a well done video that highlights the first half of the Rockets season, and one that they hope is the first step in their "Quest for Greatness." Very well produced, and really gets the message across without using more than a few words.

This weekend, Toledo takes on Buffalo on the road, and then comes back to Ohio for a night game against Ball State before rounding out the season with a big test at Northern Illinois and then wrapping up the regular season at home against Akron.


First and 10 - October 22, 2012

1. What stat best correlates with winning? The answer is clearly turnover margin. The top 12 teams in turnover margin hold a combined record of 72-4. Eight of college football's 11 undefeated teams are among that group, while the two undefeateds executing tight rope walks every week to remain unbeaten, Louisville and Ohio State, rank 38th and 52nd. Of the top 43 teams in turnover margin, only four carry losing records. On the flip side of this statistic, just six of college football's bottom 40 turnover margins have managed to produce winning records. We'd like to give a special congratulations to Nebraska and Maryland, who are a combined 9-5 despite producing 1.29 more giveaways than takeaways every week. 

2. Pac-12 teams need to appeal to the conference schedule maker to get Oregon after Week 8. With the win over Arizona State on Thursday, Oregon improved to 27-0 under four years under Chip Kelly in Week 2 through Week 8. 

3. Congratulations to David Cutcliffe and Duke. For the first time since 1994, Duke is going bowling. The Blue Devils didn't make it easy; after building a 20-6 lead, Duke needed a five-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds to play to hold on for a 33-30 win over North Carolina. There are bigger things ahead for Cutcliffe's team than simply playing in a bowl game because at 3-1 the Blue Devils are alone in first place of the ACC Atlantic Division. Duke will likely need to upset either Florida State or Clemson, take care of Georgia Tech and then beat Miami in the regular-season finale to appear in the ACC Championship. 

4. And then there were two. We try to stay as neutral as possible here at FootballScoop, but one thing we definitely root for every fall is for every team to get at least one win. Eastern Michigan won its first game of the season on Saturday, 48-38 over Army. That leaves only Southern Miss and Massachusetts, in the transition phase from FCS to FBS, without victories this season.

5. What stat best quantifies the amount of offense the Big 12 produced on Saturday? Six of the Big 12's 10 teams topped 50 points. Four teams topped 450 yards and two gained more than 600 yards. But the best stat is this:

6. This note, courtesy of ESPN's Ivan Maisel, is astounding. Division III Mount Union (OH) has tied the NCAA record for consecutive shutouts with their sixth consecutive blanking. Plymouth State (N.H.) set the record in 1982, and Mount Union tied the mark in 2007. With one more shutout, this year's Mount Union team can tie its 2007 single-season record of seven total shutouts. The Purple Raiders defeated Otterbein (IN) 51-0 on Saturday. With seven points allowed all season, Larry Kehres' team is within range of breaking Millsaps' (MS) single-season scoring defense mark with just 31 points allowed in nine games.

In addition to scoring defense, Mount Union also leads Division III in rushing defense (30.7 yards per game, .99 per carry), passing defense (88.1 yards per game, 3.51 per attempt), total defense (118.9 yards per game), pass efficiency defense (one touchdown, 10 interceptions, 60.3 rating), first downs defense (7.71 per game), third down defense (18-for-107) and red zone defense (zero points in four trips). Oh yeah, Mount Union also leads Division III in scoring offense at over 55 points per game.

 7. Party like it's 1999. With a win over Alabama on Saturday, Mississippi State will take the lead in the SEC West standings in November for the first time since 1999. If the Bulldogs find a way to beat the Crimson Tide, Dan Mullen's team will hope to write a different ending than the 1999 MSU team, which started 5-0 in league play and rose to No. 8 in the polls before dropping two straight games. 1999 also marks the last time Mississippi State finished with a winning record in SEC play.

8. Florida can clinch the SEC East win a win on Saturday. With more than a month still left in the regular season, Florida fans can make plans for Atlanta if Will Muschamp's team finds a way to beat Georgia for the 12th time in 15 years on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS). The Gators close SEC play at home versus Missouri before hosting Louisiana - Lafayette and Jacksonville State and wrapping up the regular season at Florida State on Nov. 24.

9. Wisconsin needs just a win over Indiana on Nov. 10 to return to the Big Ten title game. After a shaky start that inclduded dismissing its offensive line coach, Bret Bielema's team has quietly had a very good October. This month the Badgers have beaten Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota by a combined score of 107-41 to run their record to 6-2 and 3-1 in Big Ten play. With Ohio State and Penn State ineligible for the Leaders Division championship, Wisconsin's only competition for the division crown, Purdue, Illinois and Indiana, are a combined 0-9 in the Big Ten. A win over the Hoosiers on Nov. 10 clinches a second consecutive trip to Indianapolis for Bielema and co. The Badgers face Michigan State on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2) before an off week on Nov. 3.

10. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Gene Chizik and his family today. Chizik's mother, Rita, passed away Monday morning. 


HS quarterback tops current rushing total of 10 FBS teams...in one game

Tanner Wood, a Kansas high school quarterback at Conway Springs high school, rewrote the state record books this past Friday, carrying the ball 36 times for 659 yards and accounting for 9 total touchdowns in a 84-56 win over Chaparral (KS).

The new state rushing record crushed the previous record of 488 yards set back in 1998.

While the final score makes it look like a blowout, the Wichita Eagle reports that the game was tied at 48 midway through the third quarter before Conway Springs ran away with it, scoring the next 36 points in a quarter and a half.

What makes the accomplishment even more impressive is that the quarterback, Tanner Wood, plays both ways, starting at linebacker on the defensive side of the ball, and still had over 300 yards of total offense at halftime. And by the way, he's verbally committed to Kansas State.

To put this all in perspective, the 659 yards in one game is more than ten FBS teams have rushed for all season. Boston College, Oregon State, New Mexico State, Hawaii, Maryland, Idaho, Miami (OH), UAB, Washington State and Tulane all have less than 652 yards rushing as a team through at least six games this season.

Also, Tulane has accounted for a total of nine touchdowns (Wood's total touchdowns in the game) through seven games.


D-III school ends decade long losing streak

D-III Manchester University (4-4, 4-2) traveled down to Cincinnati on Saturday to take on a Mount St. Joe (3-4, 2-4)  team that they hadn't beaten in 10 years.

Manchester, who opened the season with four straight losses (including a two point loss to Rose-Hulman and a quadruple OT loss to Kalamazoo), came into the game on a three game HCAC conference win streak (against Bluffton, Defiance and Earlham).

The Spartans defense held Mount St. Joe to 325 yards of total offense in the victory and the offense put together two scoring drives of over 70 yards against the conference's stingiest scoring defense to come out with a 17-14 win.

Perhaps most impressively, Manchester came into the game allowing 175 yards passing (#3 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference), and held the Lions to just five completions for a grand total of 16 passing yards.

Head coach Shannon Griffith (who is in his ninth season as the head coach at Manchester) and his staff obviously put together a solid game plan on both sides of the ball, and were able to get a quality conference win under their belt as they look to finish up strong against conference opponents Hanover (5-2, 5-0), and Anderson (0-7, 0-5).





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