Wednesday, September 16, 2015
As usual. the NFL's opening weekend was loaded with shocking wins and losses, because transitioning from meaningless exhibition games to meaningful games isn't as easy as it looks. Some teams need a wake-up call. One of the sleepyheads is the Minnesota Vikings, who got trampled, 20-3, Monday night by the San Francisco 49ers..
It was possibly the biggest stunner of all..
The consensus was that the 49ers are ticketed for the NFL scrap heap while the Vikes are headed to the playoffs. Did the experts blow it? Don't think so. The results just might be misleading. After examining the game tape closely here's what happened.
The game was a miserably-played mess, full of bad blocking, bad tackling, bad quarterbacking, bad everything. The Niners won but they were awful. The Vikings, though, were worse. For some reason they simply didn't show up..
After several years of success, the Niners, who struggled through the exhibition games, figured to be horrible this season.. They have nothing going for them, a star-studded team that suddenly lost nearly all its stars, A team that had one of the best head coaches in the league, Jim Harbaugh, is now run by a rookie, Jim Tomsula, who appears to be in way over his head. The biggest problem, though, is that QB Colin Kaepernick, has been in regression mode since the start of last season.
In Monday's game Kaepernick didn't do much, but that was the plan. He became Trent Dilfer--hand the ball off, through the occasional short pass and don't make a mistake. He was a supporting player in the Carlos Hyde show. The second-year RB had the game of his career, rushing 26 times for 168 yards, carrying the offense just as the departed Frank Gore had done for so many years,. The defense, bolstered by the return of LB NaVorro Bowman, essentially won the game for the Niners, keeping the Vikings out of the end zone.
But the defense wasn't really taxed. QB Teddy Bridgewater was in a fog, missing open receivers, making bad decisions. The passing game was supposed to set the stage for the running game, the star of the offense, featuring RB Adrian Peterson, the best in the league. But Peterson, returning to the team after missing most of last season grappling with child abuse charges, wasn't ready. Reeking of rust, he carried just 10 times for a measly31 yards,
So, Niner fans,don't read so much into what happened Monday night. What most likely happened was that the 49ers ran into a superior team having a lousy night.
Still, it's possible the Niners, with this new cast of players and coaches, are much improved. Maybe coach Tomsula has some Bill Belichick in him and can wring wins out of a team loaded with inferior talent. We'll know more after Sunday, when the 49ers travel to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out Pittsburgh's game plan. Armed with a tape of Monday's game, they will plot to gang up in the rushing lanes to stop Hyde and force Kaepernick to beat them. The Niner defense will have to slow down a solid offense lead by QB Ben Roethlisberger, who's much better than Bridgewater.
The Steelers are favored by five. If the Niners win or come close to beating a tough opponent on the road, then there will be real reason for SF fans to make plans for a decent season.
But not until then.
Posted by Dennis Hunt at 4:30 PM
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
All we've been hearing this year, since the PAC 12 beat the pants off the other power conferences in the last bowl season, is loud chest-thumping from league fans and players, crowing about how the PAC 12 is the best in college football.
All of a sudden, though, you don't hear a peep out of those PAC 12 braggarts. What happened? A disastrous weekend, that's what.
The worst thing was that mess at Oregon, which is the No 1 team in the conference and No. 7 nationally. Oh, the Ducks won, scoring at will, piling up 61 points on 731 yards, on a northwest patsy, Eastern Washington. But here's the ugly part. EWU scored 42 points and gained 549 yards. Could it be that the PAC 12 big dog has a lousy defense? Looking at that game, it seemed like lack of talent, rather than lack of effort, was the problem.
But Oregon was just one part of the PAC 12 meltdown. No.15 Arizona State got whipped, 38-17, by an unranked SEC team, Texas A&M. No. 21 Stanford didn't even score a TD in its 16-6 stumble against a minor Big Ten team, Northwestern. No. 22 Arizona didn't look very strong sneaking past a very weak opponent, Texas San Antonio, 42-32. Even the PAC 12 bottom feeders stunk, with Washington State losing to pitiful Portland State, 24-17, and Colorado not being able to handle horrible Hawaii, bowing 28-20. .
It wasn't all bad, though, for the PAC 12. Utah did triumph, 24-17, over Michigan, but the Wolverines, under new coach Jim Harbaugh, aren't very good and don't have a quality quarterback. The top 25 Los Angeles teams did win big, However, SC trampling little Arkansas State, 55-6, means nothing and UCLA beating a so-so ACC team, Virginia, 34-16, isn't anything to crow about. Bruin freshman QB Josh Rosen was impressive but that Virginia secondary that was supposed to be so stellar looked like one of the sieves in the Mountain West conference. Rosen could be a superstar but let's hold judgement until he faces a tougher opponent.
The other second-tier PAC 12 teams had so-what victories. Cal beating up on poor Grambling State, 73-14, and Oregon State whipping Weber State, 28-7, is nothing for PAC fans to get worked up about.
Bottom line. Two of the PAC 12's six Top 25 teams, Stanford and Arizona State, lost and two others, Oregon and Arizona, won but looked wobbly doing so, playing crappy defense against lowly teams.
You can't tell much about PAC 12 strength from the wins by SC and UCLA.
But you will be able to tell something about the PAC 12 after Saturday, following the biggest game of the early season, a battle of Top10 powers, Oregon playing Michigan State in East Lansing.
For MSU, still smarting from last season's infamous 48-17 loss to the Ducks, this is a revenge game. The Spartans are coming off a lazy 37-24 win over Western Michigan in which their pass defense seemed suspect..Neither the Oregon nor the Michigan State defense looks to be superior, but MSU lives off its defense, while Oregon, with that explosive offense, can often get by with an average defense..
This game means more to Oregon because they are the PAC 12 kingpin. If they lose to MSU, the PAC 12 rep goes down with them. The Big Ten rep, however, lives and dies with Ohio State, not MSU.
Michigan State is favored by 3 1/2. Who wins?. I'm betting on the Oregon offense and multi-talented new QB Vernon Adams. After Saturday, PAC 12 fans, quiet this week, will be roaring again.
Posted by Dennis Hunt at 4:25 PM