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Looking Back Before Moving Forward, Week 6

   by Scott Spreitzer - 10/02/2005

It’s Been the Pitts: A Pittsburgh newspaper writer had this to say: "Pitt hired Dave Wannstedt for this? Wannstedt came back to Pitt for this? A 37-29 beating by Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey? The only good news for Pitt is that this nationally televised fiasco was on a Friday night. Many of its recruits were playing their high school games and missed it." It's clear that Wannstedt has been vastly overrated as a head coach. I pointed out back in Week 1 that Wannstedt had a poor track record with the Bears, then his teams in Miami underachieved and flamed out often late in the season. Just because a guy was a coach in the NFL doesn't always mean he has talent.

In the loss to Rutgers, Pitt QB Tyler Palko took a 21-yard sack on a second-and-1 play, then running back Raymond Kirkley lost 5 yards on the ensuing third-down play despite a hold by center Joe Villani. Through halftime of the Rutgers game, the Panthers had played 14 quarters against Division I-A opponents and failed to score an offensive touchdown in 12 of them. Back in 1962, Richard Nixon ran for Governor of California after losing the 1960 presidential race after eight years as vice president. He later admitted his heart wasn't in the gubernatorial race of '62 and that it was a mistake. One has to wonder if Wannstedt's heart is in this. Pitt is playing in a fog with little direction, let alone heart.

Depth and Defense: USC doesn't always bring its 'A' game, which was the case in the first half Saturday, trailing at Arizona State 21-3. But their depth, running game and defense were the difference as they dominated the second half. Arizona State looked worn out defensively, too, as Reggie Bush and LenDale Wight ran at will in the third and fourth quarters.

So Much For Being Favored: For the first time since the 1960s, Michigan State was favored over Michigan. For the Wolverines, that was BB (Before Bo). The Wolverines were without receiver and kick returner Steve Breaston because of an undisclosed injury, but got a huge boost from Mike Hart's return in their 34-31 OT win. Hart ran for 218 yards and a touchdown. Still, Michigan's defense is a weak spot, giving up 454 yards, including 175 rush yards, 4.7 ypc.

Longhorns On a Roll: Missouri has been a poor defensive team under Gary Pinkel, with lazy tackling a problem. They still haven't figure out how to tackle properly, after Texas ran all over the Tigers Saturday, 51-20. The Longhorns (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) have won 11 straight road games and 11 straight games overall. On deck: Nemesis Oklahoma! If Mack Brown can't top the stumbling Sooners this year, he might never come close to a national title shot.

Speaking of the Red River Battle: It's no secret Texas wants to run the football. They have a mobile QB in Vince Young who is still not an adept passer. Even though Texas has its best shot in years to stop the Sooners Saturday, notice that after three games Oklahoma's run defense has been sensational, allowing 79.7 rush yards per game, at just 2.3 yards per carry. Oklahoma is 5-0 ATS the last 5 meetings with Texas and 8-4 ATS the last 12. Texas got shut out a year ago by Oklahoma, 12-0, as Young's passing let the offense down. OU's strategy Saturday will be to take away the running game again and dare Young to beat them with his arm.

Commander in Chief: The service acadamies play a key game this weekend, as Air Force plays at Navy. Air Force is at a crossroads with its 1-3 start after last week's 41-23 loss at Colorado State. "We have to quit talking about it and do it," said RB Chad Hall. "It's a must game for us." Added coach Fisher DeBerry, "It's an important game because (the trophy) is the No. 1 goal in our program. This is the first time this year that we've been knocked off the ball at the line of scrimmage. We didn't tackle very well and that's basic fundamentals." Air Force is 1-5 ATS the last 6 meetings with Navy. Navy won 24-21 a year ago, even though Air Force had the edge in yards 415-321.

The hardest nut to crack in Happy Valley: A Big 10 showdown takes place Saturday as the Buckeyes travel to unbeaten Penn State. The favorite is 9-3 ATS the last 12 meetings. Oh, and this will be the 5th home game in six games this season for Penn State. Think the fans will be up for this one?

Mountain West Conference: Colorado State head coach Sonny Lubick is spreading the ball around on offense. With 123 yards on five catches against Air Force, sophomore Luke Roberts became the fourth Ram this season to post a 100-yard receiving game. He is also the sixth wide receiver to catch a touchdown pass for CSU this season. That's a huge reason Colrado State is 4-0 "over" the total in 2005. Despite giving up 33 ppg, Lubick is pleased with his defensive line play: "They're a little undersized, but those guys are tackling well," Lubick said. "They play hard."

Roll Tide!: Florida came into Saturday's SEC showdown with Alabama first in the SEC in total defense, passing defense and pass efficiency defense. The Gators were second behind Tennessee in rushing defense. But the Gators were outplayed in a huge 'Bama victory, 31-3. QB Chris Leak finished 16 of 37 for 187 yards with two interceptions. His first four series, he couldn't complete any of his five passes with an interception and a fumble recovered by a teammate while Alabama applied constant pressure. Is Florida overrated, or is 'Bama this good? Pity Mississippi State, a team that has to travel to the Swamp this weekend!

Bounce Back: Louisville bounced back from its embarrassing defeat at South Florida by ravaging (and covering) poor Florida Atlantic, 61-10. Bobby Petrino is an offensive mastermind, but a great coach needs great talent. Keep an eye on Louisville's Mario Urrutia. He's 6-foot-6, has good speed and great hands, averaging 27 yards per catch over the last three games. Against Oregon State and South Florida, he caught 12 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns. Saturday against Florida Atlantic he had 4 grabs for 138 yards!

Big 12 Action: Both Missouri and Oklahoma State got flattened Saturday and have to get up off the carpet to face each other this weekend. Missouri is 8-2 against the spread the last 10 meetings with the Cowboys. Texas A&M survived a scare with Baylor Saturday. Now they battle Colorado, a team they are 1-5 ATS against the last six years.

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