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Monday, September 25, 2006

Michigan State - Pittsburgh

Still a known quantity. The Michigan State offense remains the vastly intimidating thing it was last year, though I think Pitt's defensive line is amongst the least likely in the country to pose a test for a mostly-new offensive line. Still: Michigan State gashed Pitt impressively all game and Stanton was Stanton. They'll be hard to stop for anyone if the offensive line isn't a mirage.

This year Michigan State seems to be going for broke with Stanton and having him run significantly more. The quantity of Stanton options, draws, and scrambles in the Pitt game was much closer to his crazylegs sophomore year than his fairly restrained junior one. Maybe they have more confidence in the backup; maybe they just want to get the maximum use from Stanton before he graduates.

One evident weakness: wide receiver. Jerramy Scott is kind of bad. Trannon's huge but lumbering, and no one else stands out as a major threat. Kerry Reed seems pretty good, though. Caulcrick and Ringer are still Caulcrick and Ringer.

I think they might have a pulse on defense, too. Nehemiah Warrick had a couple of nice sticks in run support and DT Clifton Ryan is fully healthy for the first time in a while and playing at a more natural position for his ginorbous body.

...but there are still major issues. The DL made very few plays in the run game and didn't get a whole lot of pressure on Palko. State's corners often panicked in deep coverage and committed a series of pass interference penalties that they dodged because Palko threw the ball well out of bounds. They also spent the entire game lined up 8-10 yards deep.

Ohio State - Penn State

Yick. Not a particularly well-played game. Ohio State is clearly the better team but given Penn State's deficient offensive line, meh running back, and goofy playcalling the Buckeyes have to be concerned about the rushing yards they gave up to an awful offensive team.

And there's the definitive proof of that: Tony Hunt's thirty-some yard run in the third quarter would have been a touchdown if a glorified fullback didn't have the ball. I know Mike Hart isn't exactly Flash Gordon but even he has the decency to get 50 or 60 yards downfield before being caught from behind. PSU ended up running the ball into the line a lot, then false-starting on fourth and goal inches away from the line.

You have failed to maintain your spot on my prestigious ballot, please quit football. Troy Smith was hearteningly mediocre all day, save for that one ridiculous "I'm Troy Smith" play that made me shiver. Most of his passes were inaccurate. He was behind his receivers all day and could have been picked a couple more times if ricochets had bounced wrong. His first interception to Justin King was a Ginn touchdown if thrown in the right spot, but it was way long and well wide of his post route.

So, yeah, Calvin Johnson heads to the top of the Maxwell Pundit ballot.

It looks like that particular debate is settled. Who said this about Anthony Morelli at the start of the year?
Taken together, Facts About Anthony Morelli bode unwell for Penn State's chances for a repeat. He's a raw recruit with no experience coached by the most widely reviled son this side of Jeff Bowden being handed the starting job in an offense that has to change drastically to accommodate his talents.

Er... good luck with that.
This guy.

Who got ripped up and down by Penn State fans for saying that? This guy. Who is now patiently awaiting a flood of Nittany contrition sure to never come? This guy. Who is way, way better than Anthony Morelli? Chad Henne. And probably this guy, as even I wouldn't flip a little floater into double coverage when attempting to drive for a tying score. Malcolm Jenkins' interception that sealed the game was a ludicrously bad throw that proves claiming Anthony Morelli has a ten-cent head is doing grievous injustice to dimes. Dimes are useful. You can put them in parking meters and get gumballs and make phone calls with them. Meanwhile, Anthony Morelli led his team to three meaningful points against Notre Dame, a team that's given up 47 and 37 the last two weeks, and negative eight against Ohio State and their nine new starters.

Is it just me, or... has James Laurinatis built his reputation largely because other people deflect balls right to him?

Penn State: irritating. Morelli does have his moments of laser-armed bravado and their receivers have the ability to separate and make the proverbial plays, which makes them more of a threat than Wisconsin was to get a few big gainers. Their defense is not terrible, though they've given up on their defensive ends and started using linebacker Tim Shaw as a standup DE, which is about as effective as you think it sounds, and could bend-but-not-break against us and create a close game. Michigan shouldn't lose to PSU but there's a lot of variance in their offense that could create an unpleasant minor point explosion.