1. You both traveled to watch your teams lose in person this weekend. What was your impression of how the Irish/Nittany Lions played? Why couldn't they get over the hump and snatch a W?
Mattare: The Irish outscored Michigan 24-7 when Dayne Crist was at quarterback and piled up 535 yards of total offense on the day. When the backups were in we had no prayer of doing anything so I'm going to pretend for the sake of evaluating things moving forward that the nearly two quarters quarterbacked by Rees and Montana don't exist. Like Reggie Bush's Heisman.
We're not quite to the point where the offense is running like clockwork (1 out of 3 trips to the redzone resulted in a touchdown), but there's some definite progress and we got a taste of just how explosive the team can be with two touchdowns from 50+ yards.
The defense was forced to deal with the reincarnation of Michael Vick and honestly I thought they did an admirable job--especially in the second half--even though he rolled up an absurd 502 yards. We forced the Wolverines to punt 10 times, repeatedly bending but not breaking once the Skunkbears got over midfield.
Is this a glass half full view? Of course it is. The fact remains we gave up 502 to one player, couldn't stop the opponent on a game-winning drive with three minutes left, and once again lost...but this was not the type of shredding we became accustomed to last year where the defense looked totally clueless. They ran into a great player having the game of his life and he won, in large part because we essentially forfeited two quarters when Crist went out.
You could argue the defense let the team down by not stopping Michigan on their final drive, but Crist's extended absence was the main reason we lost. If he's in there for the entire contest we do more than snatch a W--we blow the Wolverines' doors off.
Bill: I'll start with the second part. We didn't snatch a W because Nick Saban didn't get struck by lightning before the game. As far as impressions I got from this game, surprising but not all bad. Offensively I came away from the game feeling pretty good. Three times we were in the red zone before turning it over - a trend I'm hoping doesn't continue. We actually moved the ball fairly well, we had 17 first downs and only punted four times.
The turnovers and missed opportunities prevented us from gaining any momentum. If we don't turn it over on our first two red zone attempts and come away with only six points, it's a 14-6 game at halftime and we got the ball back. Then if Graham Zug doesn't drop a pass over the middle for 20 yards we're in field goal range again. A lot of ifs but I'm only assuming field goals and it could've been 14-9! I was happy with the play calling actually, the game plan was not timid.
The defense shocked me. Somewhat. The game plan was familiar, the tackling was not. Game plan first--Nick Saban came right out and said it in the post-game press conference: they game planned against Penn State's history of staying in the base defense against the spread defense. That's what they did on their second drive, scoring in I think 6 plays? All passes.
Which coaches on our staff think its a good idea to match up an Alabama receiver with Nate Stupar? I would've hoped none, I guess I'm wrong. Maybe that's why we're 2 deep at linebacker and 1 deep at every position in the secondary. They don't feel that it's good defense to match speed with speed? Really wish they would've kept Powell on defense and played him at nickel in that game. The changes have come on offense I just have to hope that they'll come on defense too. Or maybe Tom Bradley knows more about defense than me, I'm just frustrated.
2. No doubt the long trips home on Sunday were miserable, but dig deep and try to find some silver linings. What are three positives you can take from your squad's loss?
1. The Maturation of the Offensive Line...The line cleared the way for 535 yards of total offense, a yard per carry average approach five (4.8), and gave Dayne all the time in the world down the stretch. A big question mark is morphing into a strength.
2. Armando Allen...He's finally coming of age in his senior season. Everyone was raving about Cierre Wood after Purdue, but Michigan showed why he's the best, most complete, and arguably hardest running tailback on the roster.
3. Dayne Crist...He's progressed quicker than I thought. He has plenty of things he needs to work on (like accuracy on his deep ball), but if we can keep him healthy he can take us very far.
1. Silas Redd...The true freshman saw time in the 4th quarter and proved to be the only back we have capable of making the first guy
miss. He looked like he belonged on the field with the Bama players. I'm hoping he splits time with Green next year.
2. Offensive play calling...We moved the ball, what more can you say. The players turned it over a couple times. Otherwise I feel we would've hung 13 points on them! Penn State has always shaped their play calling around what the coaches think the QB can handle. And at this point in Bolden's career it is clear that the coaches are going to continue opening the playbook for him.
3. Offensive Line...Hey for how low the expectations were, they kept Bolden upright and we still managed 4 yards per carry. 1's jersey wasn't clean at the end of the game, but you expected Bama's line to get pressure. Pannell was pulled for Troutman early in the game and he played a little better. I think Troutman will hold onto the starting job for the rest of the season.
3. Turn your attention to the opponent who beat you. What's your impression of the teams fielded by Bama/Michigan? Are they legit or bound to trip up?
Mattare: Denard Robinson is unbelievable, his team is thoroughly unimpressive. If he stays healthy for the length of the season then there's no telling what the Wolverines are capable of against normally lead-footed Big Ten defenses. Make no mistake though, Michigan will go only as far as Denard takes them. I will concede that their offensive line was pretty effective. There's no one on the perimeter that scares you like Manningham or Terrell used to, the running backs didn't do anything (30 yards on 13 carries), and the defense surrendered 535 yards in essentially 2.5 quarters (since we barely did anything when Dayne wasn't in the game).
Robinson is so good that he can single-handedly take them to a New Years Day Bowl, but he's not going to carry them into the championship hunt. I can see them locking down a lower-level New Years Day bowl but not much else more. Eventually Denard is going to have a bad game or get hurt and they don't have enough in other places to overcome that.
Bill: Bama is legit. I don't think anyone doubts that. The entire team is fast and strong, and at the moment no one has cracked Saban's defensive schemes. Trent Richardson is a Heisman candidate as long as Ingram doesn't play, and maybe after he comes back. He bounced off tacklers like a high school highlight tape. They are going to punish every defense they play, no one wants to tackle those guys.
McElroy just doesn't lose. The run game is their bread and butter but they are still able to put the ball in McEroy's hands if they need to. He doesn't turn it over and he's faster than people think. I think they land in the national championship game.
4. Virginia Tech laid an egg at home and lost to James Madison. This affects Boise State probably more than it affects the Hokies and the result has been talking heads on ESPN ranting and raving about how Boise shouldn't be in the championship game even though we're barely two games into the season. Do you think it's a little ridiculous to be having these heated discussions on the topic this early in the year and where do you stand on the debate as of right now?
Mattare: Yes, it's completely ridiculous but the TV shows on ESPN thrive on these sort of debates whether it makes sense to argue them at the time or not. Does anyone remember Steve Young getting on TV last year after BYU beat #3 Oklahoma in the season's first week and proclaiming he'd "boycott college football forever" if his alma mater ran the table and was left out of the championship? He was genuinely heated about it.
As it turns out if he would've just waited until the end of September he would've known Oklahoma was a fraud (and en route to the Sun Bowl) and the BYU didn't have a prayer of going to the championship because they had their doors blown off at home by an unranked Florida State squad.
Virginia Tech could pull a Lazarus act along the lines of Oregon last season and run the table to land in the BCS. Future Boise State opponent Oregon State could win the Pac-10. The Broncos could lose to Fresno State. No one knows, especially not after two weeks. This is equally as absurd as debating whether Notre Dame deserves an at-large BCS berth at this point. Let things play out and as approach the finish line you can debate the validity of teams and their rankings.
Bill: I think they have to talk about something on TV. These debates are going to carry on every week. As long as there are preseason rankings, week 1 rankings, there will be banter. Personally, I can't hate on it because I watch. So go right ahead!
I don't think Boise is being punished, the pollsters must take into account these things. It's unfortunate for the Broncos, but sympathy isn't a criteria when you vote on the top 25. They already sit at #3, so if they win out they stand their best chance to get into the BCS game so I think that's what they need to worry about. Not what VT isn't doing.
5. Other than the Virginia Tech debacle, what was the thing that shocked you most about this weekend that was dubbed "Monster Saturday?" What's one team you'd label legit contender and one that's already been exposed in your eyes as a pretender?
Mattare: Oregon, come on down! The Ducks return 9 starters on offense and 8 on defense from the squad that went to Pasadena last season. This is a team built on speed, speed, and more speed. Last weekend it waltzed into Rocky Top and laid the smackdown on the Volunteers, scoring 45 unanswered points after falling behind 13-3. The Pac 10 race is just as wide open as it was last year and I'll hitch my wagon to the Ducks not only to head to the Rose Bowl, but also make a serious run at the national title. Jeremiah Who? They of the ridiculous uniforms are for real.
In terms of a pretender it's easy to give that title to the entire ACC Conference. In an epic fail of a weekend, its top teams took the gas on grand stages (Miami in the Horseshoe, Florida State at Oklahoma) and tiny ones (Va Tech at JMU, Georgia Tech at Kansas). Miami has the best chance to bounce back from their slip-up, but people once again were roped into the hype of Florida State despite the fact their secondary was two steps beyond terrible last season.
We're two weeks into the season and there's only one team (Miami) in either poll. Looks like another year of pillow fighting and placing a mediocre squad in the Orange Bowl for the ACC...
Bill: Well I'll be honest. I didn't watch a single other game because I was too busy sweating and getting exhausted from having back to back to back stop and chats with friendly Bama fans.
A team that's been exposed already goes to Florida. Brantley is not Tebow. Uh oh! Why was he dubbed a good quarterback before he started the season? Why can't they snap the ball? No one knows.
Ohio State looks to be for real, sadly. The whole rest of the nation will get mad when they play for another national title, but I'd like to see your team beat them.
RAPID FIRE FINISH!
Mattare: Are you as appalled as I am by Vinny on Jersey Shore lowering himself to sleeping with that gremlin Snooki despite his declaration in episode one that this season was about "quality of girl, not quantity"?
Bill: Less appalled, more encouraged. He's really coming into his own now. MVP could prove to be a real force now that Vinny has gone from shy guy to bottom feeder. It completes the group dynamic.
Bill: Do you think Randy Moss' comments are reminiscent of his old way or do you think this is a vet lighting a fire under his organization's ass?
Mattare: I'll lean toward the latter. He wants to be treated fairly but the Pats are notoriously cheap. He's been setting this stage for months. Unfortunately he can't fall back on the Lehigh Valley Valley Dogs anymore if things go wrong.
Mattare: Our friend is trying to come up with a name for his new charity/drinking club. The best he has is "The Civic Cobblers Guild." First, grade that name on a scale of 1-10 and then tell us what this group SHOULD be named.
Bill: I support this idea, but I have no idea what that name means. Do we make shoes? Am I too dumb to be in this club? I give it a 4. What's wrong with "New World Order"?
Bill: I had "nachos" in Tuscaloosa at 3am that were tortilla chips, pulled pork, and jalapenos. Holy cow. What's the best drunk food you ever had?
Mattare: Jumbo Slice in DC. You stumble out of Adams Morgan bars at 3am and are greeted with pizza slices that are literally the size of a steering wheel.
Mattare: I face Aggon this week in our PS3 NCAA Football Dynasty. My #22 ranked Demon Deacons against the Terps. You've already played both teams--what's your prediction?
Bill: Wake Forest 27, Maryland 14. That doesn't mean you're good though. Wait until I start a defense that doesn't include 5th year seniors tipping 65 in the player ratings.
Bill: Did you see Clausen's interview on SportsCenter? He told us "backups are one play away from starting" nine times. Did you know he was a terrible interview? Does Matt Moore hate him for being so excited?
Mattare: He's the most coached, robotic interviewee ever. He never had one interesting or revealing thing to say in his four years at ND. And Matt Moore is atrocious--even high school quarterbacks would be excited to be backing him up.