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Looking Back Before Moving Forward, Week 7

   by Scott Spreitzer - 10/09/2005

Stumbling Trojans?: Don't be fooled by the second quarter score of USC 7, Arizona 7 Saturday, with USC squeezing out a 14-7 halftime lead as a 39-point favorite. At halftime the Trojans had the edge in total yards 309-92! At the nine-minute mark of the third quarter USC had the edge in yards 404-106. And even though they had a 28-21 lead early in the fourth quarter, USC had the edge in first downs 30-9!

USC at Notre Dame: USC is 7-3 against the spread the last 10 meetings with Notre Dame. However, they have not yet faced a Charlie Weis offense, which will be the case in this showdown. Weis is a master innovator on offense and has been impressive with his adjustments, with a strong second-quarter dominance. Weis doesn't believe in waiting until halftime to make adjustments, and ND's 75-16 supremacy in the second quarter this year backs that up.

This is not a home run hitting offense, but one that spreads the field and takes what the defense gives them. For an offense that's averaging 504 yards and 37 points a game, the 6 yards per play is just 30th nationally. The Irish average roughly 15 plays a game more than their opponents and have been great in the red zone. "For me, it's very easy to be patient," Weis said of his offense.

Having a running game to balance the offense is the main key for Notre Dame. When QB Brady Quinn throws 32 or fewer passes, he began 12-3 as a starter. When he throws 33 or more, he began 0-9. However, in his last two games, Quinn has reversed the trend, throwing 37 in a rout of Washington and 36 in their 49-28 waxing of Purdue. Notre Dame's defense is allowing 305 pass yards per game, so this is likely an offensive shootout between the Irish and Trojans. No back has rushed for more than 80 yards against the Irish this season, a trend that will be tough to keep against USC's dynamite backfield. However, in the fourth quarter, Irish opponents have converted one third down in 18 attempts this season! On the other hand, all four Irish games against No. 1-ranked USC Trojan teams have resulted in double-digit losses. Its most recent game at home against No. 1 was a 27-24 overtime loss to Nebraska in 2000.

The Rambling Wrecked: I've written in the past about how overrated and inaccurate Georgia Tech's QB Reggie Ball is. The Yellow Jackets should have gotten a win, though likely not a cover over NC State, but Ball was picked off in the end zone with 26 seconds left. While the pass should have been caught, the ball was a bit behind the tight end, who had to leap and twist his body to make what should have been an easier catch if it had been thrown better. Ball passed for 279 yards and rushed for 88, but threw two interceptions. Georgia Tech was 6-of-21 on third down, while Ball was 21-of-53 with 2 picks. He should get back on track against Duke this weekend, but beware when Ball faces tough defenses. They've already lost 51-7 to Virginia Tech.

Wolverine Blues: If you only saw a recap of Michigan's 23-20 loss to Minnesota, the first since 1986, you probably thought it was fairly even, seeing Michigan miss a late field goal, followed by a late Gopher field goal for the win. But don't be fooled: This Michigan defense is soft. They allowed 211 rush yards to Northern Illinois (6.6 ypc), 140 to Wisconsin, 173 to Michigan State, and now 286 to Minnesota. Two of those games were at home. Minnesota had the edge in total yards 405-248 and Michigan rushed for only 2.8 yards per carry. Remarkable, in that it came one week after Minnesota allowed 364 rush yards to Penn State. Hats off to Glen Mason, who can coach.

Red River Rout: You can bet Texas enjoyed thrashing Oklahoma 45-12 Saturday, a victory a long time in coming for the Longhorns. Most impressive was the arm of Texas QB Vince Young, not so much his legs, as he finished 14-of-27 for 241 yards with no interceptions. Texas can now focus on trying to win its first national title since 1969. In fact, the Longhorns haven't lost since falling 12-0 to the Sooners last year. So who's going to stop them before a potential No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup with USC? Texas hosts Colorado and Texas Tech the next two weeks, and has the finale at Texas A&M. A year ago, Texas beat Colorado 31-7 (on the road), won 51-21 at Texas Tech, and 26-13 over A&M. Are you sitting down for this next one? The Longhorns allowed A TOTAL of 17 yards rushing in those three Big 12 wins!!!

Bear Power!: Speaking of the Big 12, I had Baylor as my Dog Pound play of the week, and the Bears got the money winning 23-13 at Iowa State. Baylor is really playing hard for coach Guy Morris. They upset Texas A&M last season as a 24-point dog, then nearly did it again last week as a +23 dog, losing in OT. Then the undervalued Bears won at Iowa State, forcing 3 turnovers. When it was over, the Bears acted as if they had done this before. While a couple of managers hugged on the sideline, the players and coaches shook hands with their Iowa State counterparts, then walked calmly up the incline to their dressing room. Coaching makes a huge different in football at all levels.

How About Them Dawgs?: Is there a better tight end in the country than Georgia's Leonard Pope? He's six-foot-seven, has great hands and can jump. He tore up Tennessee Saturday, and presents impossible mismatches for defensive coordinators. Handicappers often look for key mismatches like that. The Bulldogs still suffered poorly in the red zone, something that will hurt if they have any aspirations of playing for a national title. It's a weakness that will catch up with them eventually if they don't improve.

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