The self destruction of the Maryland team that I had envisioned didn’t quite happen this weekend. There are a host of excuses or reasons that can be attributed to the measly ten point victory and I’d be lying if I told you that I knew exactly which ones deserve the credit. For one, I think we can go ahead and give their defense a bit more credit as they are still statistically the 8th best defense in the country. That is obviously still inflated, but they were much better than I thought. Now, how much were we impacted by the absence of Shawne Alston, a lack of focus by the offense, did Geno just have an off game (yea, only 338 yards and 3 TDs), or was this a wake up call playing our first decent to good defense? I have no clue, but would lean towards the Alston factor being the most significant as the running game looked putrid without him. That could in itself be concerning if he should be out during significant games. We will certainly have to dial it up more than we did as we enter into Big XII play.
On the bright side of things, we still won the game on a day we didn’t look to be firing on all cylinders. Tavon Austin had a huge day and outside the big pass plays to Stefon Diggs, I thought the defense played reasonable well in limiting the Terps to 351 total yards. On the flip side, Maryland really hadn’t been a great offense all year, but it did seem like we were making big plays all afternoon (5 sacks, 3 turnovers). The only thing that plagued us was getting off the field on third and long, a seemingly perennial issue. For a unit that has taken the brunt of the skepticism, I’ll take the positives as an improvement. The only thing that is concerning is that the pass defense is where we are giving up the majority of our yards and we are entering into a pass happy league that currently holds five of the top ten rated passers in the country (including Geno), 7 of the top 20, and that doesn’t even include Oklahoma’s Landry Jones.
Other interesting stats for WVU: We are 14th in turnover margin at 6:1, which is the lowest gained of anyone in the top 34. We #3 in the country in tackles for a loss per game. Why are these two interesting? The premise of the defensive change and the philosophy of guys like Joe Deforest is that we know that we will give up a lot of points in league that spreads the ball around like the Big XII teams do, so we A. need to score a lot of points ourselves and B) need create turnovers and cause three and outs through negative yardage plays. The philosophy is futher accentuated by the fact that if your offense is explosive, your defense will be back on the field quicker. It certainly is a break from the old school ways of an SEC defense, but has worked for schools like Oklahoma State. Only problem with our solution this year is that we are 89th in third down completions given up at 42.3%. It will be interesting to keep track of this as the year progresses.
Bears ya say? There are a lot of mixed messages out there are about the Bears. Some would say that they should be feared at all costs. Others would say they are not much different the us, the Mountaineers. The truth is that there are a lot comparisons between Baylor and WVU. We both have high flying offenses built on foundation of the worlds greatest mastermind. By the end of last year Baylor had the nation’s number two defense. We all knew coming into this year that we could match their offensive output, but could we improve on their 116th defense? I sure hope we can top that, but by how much. As I have said for a few weeks, this is our first true test against a potent team that could light up the scoreboards. This is the first step in finding out if we can top their 10-3 record of last year . . . hopefully we will make these bears look tame.
I really thought we might drop this week as some of the teams right around us had great weekends and that was exactly what happened in the AP poll. In the coaches we held steady as Oklahoma dropped behind us, but South Carolina jumped us. With highlights like this though . . . fair enough. I am a big fan of the polls reflecting what teams have actually earned and we have yet to beat someone of importance, so I am fine with having teams jump us. We’ll have our opportunities.
Around the Nation
It speaks volumes to how poor the weekend slate is that Michigan State vs Ohio State is hosting Gameday this weekend. I am curious to see how good Ohio State is though. They appear to be the best squad in the Big 10 and Michigan State is perhaps the next best at least according to the rankings, which is kind of like saying you are the fastest couple in the nursing home. Much to my dismay, Notre Dame made Michigan look foolish this weekend, claiming their second Big 10 foe and putting them in contention for a BCS bowl (2nd weak of terrible thoughts while typing). Thankfully Jim Delaney’s crew continued to embarrass themselves with the Illini getting crushed by La Tech, Wisky surviving vs UTEP, Ohio State struggling with the UAB Blazers, and Iowa losing to directional Michigan. This league’s blight doesn’t get old.
For inevitable backlash I will receive from the Big Ten homers, your commish agrees with me. Specifically for the Buckeye homers, here’s a quote from your beloved Herbie, ‘This is the lowest it’s ever been from top to bottom. They don’t have anyone in the top 15 in the country.’ One more statement I like, check out this interview (8:55 mark).
Give FSU credit for beating Clemson, but if you hear anyone talking about them being “back”, ask them at what point in the 90′s would the folk in Tallahassee be excited about giving up 37 points. Unfortunately FSU may not be tested again this year outside of a trip to Blacksburg. I wish we were able to them on the schedule. Oregon was more than impressive by beating down Rich Rod, and LSU really looked subpar against Auburn. Its still early, but it looks like Oregon and Bama are in a class of their own. Then we have UGA, South Carolina, USC and a host of Big XII teams. It is incredible to see seven conference teams ranked and but the fighting Weis’s receiving votes.
One game I am particularly interested in is Va Tech vs Cincy at Landover. Not that either are overly relevant, but I do still follow the BE and Cincy looks like it could steal some of Louisville’s thunder . . . and watching the BE go 2-0 against Tech would be awesome. Other than that, this weeks schedule is awful. AWFUL. The best games in primetime are Oklahoma State vs Texas and Wisconsin vs Nebraska. Then you have a couple completely irrelevant SEC games and a bad Pac 12 game. I suggest celebrating the start of Big XII football by partying with Holgo at Bent Wiley’s. Hellz yea, I’ll be there.
Just a thought; with all of the issues USC and UCLA are having with kicking the media out of interviews, how much attention would we get if Holgo kicked out our media and later on, photos leaked of him proceeding to drink them all under the table at Chicken Bones??
This ESPN/WVU commercial is much better than the last.
Okay, now everyone raise your glasses high, and cheers to be in the Big XII! Let the games begin.