Monday Morning Kickoff: Rough Slates, Tough Pitches, Cruel Beginnings and a Fond Farewell
By Tony Gerdeman
* The college football season isn't even here yet and I'm already tired of hearing about Notre Dame's schedule. If you haven't heard about how amazingly difficult it is, then your self-imposed media blackout has been a tremendous success. Congratulations to you.
The Irish schedule currently features five ranked teams: at #13 Michigan State, vs #8 Michigan, vs #21 Stanford, at #4 Oklahoma, and at #1 USC. It's a nice schedule, but I'm incredibly tired of hearing just how brave Notre Dame is to even attempt such a schedule.
Scheduling Oklahoma is definitely noteworthy, and they should be given credit for that. However, Michigan State, Michigan, Stanford and USC have been on their schedule each of the last ten seasons. They are essentially conference games for Notre Dame. The credit shouldn't go to the Irish for playing these four ranked teams, the credit should go to these four teams for being ranked.
So, yeah, Notre Dame has five ranked teams on their schedule this year. You know who had five ranked teams on their schedule last year? Ohio State, and a ton of other teams. I don't recall hearing about those tough slates.
In fact, Iowa State and LSU each had seven ranked teams on their schedule, and that doesn't even include LSU's two postseason games last year. Do you remember the Cyclones' schedule being raved about for months prior to the season?
The biggest joke in all of this is that there is no way Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is happy with this schedule. And he certainly doesn't want to start it in Ireland against Navy like he has to this year.
The Irish definitely deserve credit for only having one non-BCS opponent on the schedule, assuming we're calling BYU a "BCS opponent". However, how much credit should you really give a team for playing Wake Forest, Boston College and Miami (in Chicago)?
Don't get me wrong, it's a nice schedule, but it's very comparable to a typical schedule of an upper echelon team in a major conference that isn't Wisconsin.
* While watching portions of Buckeye games from 2010 and 2011 this past week, I got to thinking about the past success of the option pitch in the Ohio State offense. Or, more accurately, the lack of it.
Watching Terrelle Pryor try to run any type of pitch play in his three years at Ohio State was like watching some poor kid who stutters ask the prettiest girl in school to prom.
It wasn't that much different in 2011 with Braxton Miller, as he was much more effective keeping the ball and either throwing a deke or reversing field.
Basically, under Jim Tressel or Jim Bollman, three things could happen on a pitch play, and two of them were bad. It never looked natural, and it always seemed to be a begrudging part of the offense.
It's my belief that this was the situation simply because there wasn't much work put into it during practice. However, with good tailbacks and a dynamic running quarterback, they had to at least try it. And we saw the frustrating results.
I think business is about to pick up in this regard simply because the option pitch is going to be a much larger part of this team's offense. It won't be the bread and butter, but it will at least be a vegetable on the side.
The goal will be to get each aspect of the offense, including the pitch play, to look natural, because that's when everything is at its most effective.
* Boise State head coach Chris Petersen has named Joe Southwick as his starting quarterback. Southwick, a junior, had been Kellen Moore's backup the last two seasons.
Generally, Petersen (and every Boise State coach before him) just plugs in a quarterback and they find a way to produce 45 points and do it while being six-feet tall on their tiptoes.
Southwick played in most of the Broncos' games last season and has completed 40-54 passes for 400 yards in his first two seasons.
But it will be interesting to see how he does in his first start, a Friday night affair in East Lansing against the Michigan State Spartans.
Michigan State's defense is expected to make Southwick's life miserable, but imagine the explosion of publicity if he can somehow lead his Broncos to a victory over arguably the Big Ten's best defense.
Kellen Moore debuted against Idaho State in 2008. The year before, Taylor Tharp got his first career start against Weber State. Before that, Fiesta Bowl winner Jared Zabransky got his career started against Idaho in 2004.
The last Boise State quarterback to notch his first career start against a ranked opponent was Ryan Dinwiddie. The Broncos fell to #21 South Carolina 32-13, and Dinwiddie eventually went on to a remarkable career.
So while the world will be missing Kellen Moore, and even more so after the Spartans potentially beat up Boise State, remember that one rough outing doesn't usually mean much to a Chris Petersen quarterback.
* In the past week, Alabama, USC and Ohio State have all rewarded scholarships to senior walk-ons.
Crimson Tide long snapper Carson Tinker got his last Monday. Buckeye linebacker Stewart Smith got his on Saturday, and Trojan punter Kyle Negrete got his on Sunday.
Walk-ons earning scholarships is always a testament to hard work, but especially in these three cases. Ohio State and USC are both under scholarship restrictions, so any extra room was certainly not planned by either coaching staff. Still, the players kept at it, and when Urban Meyer and Lane Kiffin had an opportunity to reward their hard work, they took it.
The most amazing situation of the three, however, is obviously Carson Tinker, as Nick Saban is usually making roster moves in order to get down to 85, not up to it.
And if you want to see a great video of a walk-on receiving a scholarship, here's one from earlier in the month at Vanderbilt.
Watch the video, because sometimes it's just good to know that not everybody takes their circumstances for granted.
*Now that the ESPN All Access and Training Days specials on Ohio State are over, Buckeye fans are free to return to their distrust and abhorrence of all things ESPN.
In other words, consider the armistice over.
It was unnatural anyway.
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