It really doesn’t matter whether Jim Tressel, Jim Bollman or Granny Nevada is calling the plays. When push comes to shove in the red zone, it’s the offensive scheme and not so much individual play calls that mean the difference between touchdowns and field goals.
Whether or not you believe the intimation that Tressel may tweak his offensive coaching staff during the offseason, it seems altogether logical that a guy who has 215 career victories knows a thing or two about what does and what doesn’t work. If you and I can figure out that a team with Terrelle Pryor at quarterback and Beanie Wells at running back is underachieving, chances are real good that Tressel has figured it out as well.
The nagging question is what the OSU coach does about it. How does he tweak the offense?
It’s an old sports adage that you can’t fire the players, so the coach is the one with his head on the chopping block. It seems difficult for me to believe that Tressel will dismiss his old friend Bollman. However, with quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels perhaps ready to retire, Tressel could retain Bollman as offensive line coach and hire a new quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.
Whether you like Bollman as a line coach or whether you don’t, it’s important to keep him on staff for continuity’s sake. Since Daniels and Bollman were vital parts of the recruiting process where Pryor was concerned, it probably wouldn’t be in anyone’s interest to completely revamp the offensive staff.
If Bollman was left to concentrate solely on the offensive line, it would leave the QB/coordinator to help devise new and innovative ways to get the Ohio State offense in gear. Let’s face it: There is no reason why a team with the number of four- and five-star prospects it has should struggle so mightily. It should be near the top of the nation’s offensive statistics, not near the bottom.
There are plenty of members in the coaching fraternity who would jump at the chance to coach the Buckeyes. But if we’re going to dream, let’s dream big. (And, no, that doesn’t include Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach or firing up the Wayback Machine to bring Walt Harris out of mothballs.)
Not that he needs my help, but when/if Tressel goes on the hunt for a new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, here are five names with outstanding résumés.
1. Dave Christensen, Missouri – One of the main architects of Mizzou’s potent offense, Christensen has the Tigers purring along with the nation’s No. 4 passing offense and No. 5 total offense. Despite the fact he has been in Columbia for eight seasons, Christensen still knows Ohio well from spending nine seasons at Toledo. His final season with the Rockets was 2000 when they went 10-1 and finished 13th in the country in scoring. Best of all, Christensen employs a wide-open offense that includes lots and lots of throws to the tight end in the middle of opposing zone defenses.
2. Chip Kelly, Oregon – Kelly is one of those excellent young coaches who has a vast playbook and isn’t afraid to use every page. He spent eight seasons at I-AA New Hampshire, and the team averaged better than 400 yards per game in seven of those seasons. At New Hampshire, Kelly tutored QB Ricky Santos, who earned the Walter Payton Award, symbolic of Division I-AA’s best offensive player. When he got to Eugene, Kelly immediately installed an offense that highlighted the talents of quarterback Dennis Dixon (remind you of anyone, Buckeye fans?) and the Ducks shot to the top of nearly every major offensive category.
3. Gus Malzahn, Tulsa – In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Golden Hurricane is scoring points in bunches and Malzahn has them atop the national stats in total offense as well as scoring. They are also No. 5 passing thanks to Malzahn’s tutelage of senior QB David Johnson, who has thrown for 3,133 yards and 34 TDs so far in just eight games. And just so you know those numbers are not a one-year fluke, Tulsa had the nation’s No. 1 offense last year, too, when it averaged 543.9 yards per game.
4. Stan Parrish, Ball State – If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Parrish spent six years on Lloyd Carr’s staff at Michigan, including the Wolverines’ half-national championship season in 1997. Parrish also served two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including the year the Bucs won the Super Bowl, and he is now offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Ball State. Before you laugh, understand that the Cardinals have one of the most potent offenses in the county, currently ranking 17th in scoring and 14th overall thanks mostly to the performance of quarterback Nate Davis. Parrish, who is an Ohio native, obviously knows a thing or two about coaching mobile quarterbacks.
5. Chuck Long, San Diego State – Maybe a long shot but my personal favorite, Long is about to wash out as head coach of the Aztecs. Just because he failed his first test as a head coach, however, doesn’t mean he’s forgotten about running an offense. Before going to San Diego, Long was a miracle worker as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Oklahoma. If you don’t believe it, how other than a miracle do you explain Josh Heupel finishing second in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 2000 and Jason White winning it three years later? Long also has knowledge of the Big Ten as a record-setting quarterback at Iowa in the mid-1980s. You know how some guys are just meant to be coordinators instead of head coaches? I think Long is one of those guys and would look pretty good in scarlet and gray.
AROUND THE COUNTRY
** All hail Goldy! After improving to 7-1 with last week’s win over Purdue, Minnesota is gunning for the biggest one-year turnaround in NCAA history. The record currently belongs to Hawaii, which finished 0-12 in 1998 before improving to 9-4 in 1999, an 8½-game turnaround. The Gophers, who finished 1-11 last season, have home games against Northwestern and Michigan the next two weeks followed by a road trip to Wisconsin, Minnesota finishes the regular season Nov. 22 by hosting Iowa, the team’s final game in the Metrodome before moving to the on-campus TCF Bank Stadium in 2009.
** No. 12 TCU is having another excellent season, and at 8-1 retains an outside shot at one of the at-large bids in the Bowl Championship Series. How have the Horned Frogs managed to do so well? Averaging 35.8 points per game offensively doesn’t hurt. But TCU is also pretty strong on defense, ranking No. 2 nationally in scoring defense at 10.4 points per game. The Frogs are especially tough in the latter stages of a game. In nine games so far, they have not allowed a single fourth-quarter point, outscoring their opponents 78-0 in the final period.
** In last week’s 34-7 victory over SMU, Navy ran 77 offensive plays and not a single one of them was a pass. It marked the first time in 11 years that a major college team played an entire game without attempting a single pass. On the final stat sheet, the rushing totals showed 404 for the Middies, minus-13 for the Mustangs.
** During his team’s 58-0 blowout over Colorado last weekend, Missouri tight end Chase Coffman had seven receptions for 50 yards and broke the Division I-A record for career catches by a tight end. Coffman now has 220 receptions for his career, good for 2,416 yards and 25 touchdowns. The previous record-holder for I-A tight ends was Ibn Green of Louisville, who had 217 catches for the Cardinals from 1996-99.
** That shutout was Colorado’s first since a 7-0 loss to Nebraska in November 1988. It ended a streak of 243 games without being blanked, the third-longest in the nation. The Buffaloes drove to the 9-yard line late in the game, but Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel put his starters back in the contest to preserve the shutout. It was Mizzou’s first shutout of a Big 12 opponent since a 48-0 win over Kansas in November 1986.
** Scholarships may suddenly become scarce for kicking specialists. Texas Tech walk-on Matt Williams was 9 for 9 on PATs last week during his team’s 63-21 win over Kansas. Believe it or not, Williams won a halftime kicking contest last month and one of his prizes was a tryout for the team.
** Our weekly update of the undefeated teams at Division I-A finds the number dwindling to just eight: Alabama, Ball State, Boise State, Penn State, Texas, Texas Tech, Tulsa and Utah. That number has to be pared by at least one on Saturday night when Texas Tech hosts Texas.
** I guess I put the kiss of death last week on another undefeated team. Just two days after mentioning that San Diego was the last remaining unbeaten at the Division I-AA level, the Toreros went out and got beat 30-29 by Jacksonville, a team that was just 4-3 heading into the game.
** If Texas, Alabama and Penn State all keep winning, the Nittany Lions will likely be the odd man out of the BCS National Championship Game. Of course, Joe Paterno is used to that kind of scenario. He has guided his team to perfect seasons four times – 1968, 1969, 1973 and 1994 – and never got a sniff of the national championship. The Nits finished second to Ohio State in ’68, second to Texas in ’69, fifth behind Notre Dame, OSU, Oklahoma and Alabama in ’73 and second to Nebraska in ’94.
** Alabama has played eight games so far this season. That computes to 480 minutes of football and the Crimson Tide have trailed their opponents for exactly 75 seconds.
** After losing an early-season contest on an extremely questionable celebration penalty, losing the services of all-purpose quarterback Jake Locker and getting head coach Tyrone Willingham fired, you would think things couldn’t get much worse for Washington. Think again. Freshman defensive tackle Senio Kelemete injured his left knee during warmups before last week’s game against Notre Dame.
** The University of Tulsa recently announced it will retire the jersey number of former All-America receiver Steve Largent. Because he was from a small school and only 5-11 and 187 pounds, Largent was a fourth-round draft choice in 1976 by Houston, who then shipped him to Seattle before he had ever played a game for the Oilers. Largent, of course, went on to become one of the productive receivers in NFL history, tallying 819 receptions for 13,089 yards and 101 touchdowns. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995, and the Seahawks retired Largent’s No. 80 in 1992.
** Thirty-seven years ago today, Michigan State halfback Eric “The Flea” Allen established a new NCAA single-game rushing record. During his team’s 43-10 victory at Purdue on Oct. 30, 1971, Allen exploded for 350 yards. That broke the old mark held by Ron Johnson of Michigan, who rushed for 347 yards during a 34-9 win over Wisconsin in 1968. Allen’s record has been eclipsed several times since, but still ranks second in the Big Ten. Indiana tailback Anthony Thompson ran 52 times for 377 yards in a 45-17 win at Wisconsin in 1989.
** Also occurring during this week in college football history: On Oct. 28, 1939, Nebraska spoiled Kansas State’s homecoming with a 25-9 triumph in the second college football game ever televised; on Oct. 29, 1955, future Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung led Notre Dame to a 21-7 upset of No. 4 Navy before a record South Bend crowd on Knute Rockne Memorial Day; and on Nov. 1, 1926, the NCAA’s all-time winningest coach was born. John Gagliardi, currently in his 59th season of coaching, has 458 career victories, most of them with the Division III St. John’s (Minn.) Johnnies.
** This week in college football history also has special significance for Ohio State fans. On Nov. 2, 1974, legendary head coach Woody Hayes marked his 200th career victory when the Buckeyes beat Illinois by a 49-7 score. In that game, tailback Archie Griffin rushed for 144 yards and set a new NCAA record with 18 consecutive games of 100 yards or more. Hayes would go on to win 238 games in his career while Griffin would stretch his consecutive streak of 100 yards or more to 31 straight games, a college football record that still stands.
Ohio State may be taking the week off but the college football season marches on as does the forecast. Last week, we posted a decent 7-3 record but all three losses came inside the conference we’re supposed to know the most about. While we were mildly surprised at Penn State’s win over Ohio State, there was no way we saw Wisconsin knocking off Illinois or Indiana rising up to beat Northwestern. We are now 58-19 for the season straight up.
Against the spread, we have hit a midseason slump. After going 4-6 two weeks ago, we were just breakeven at 5-5 last week. That makes the season ATS ledger at 43-33 but we’re clearly looking for a new strategy to get us out of the doldrums.
Here is what’s on this week’s menu.
No. 24 South Florida at Cincinnati: If you think the Big Ten gets its share of heat from the national media, what about the Big East. Of course, I guess any BCS conference with just one ranked team – and barely ranked at that – deserves what it gets. Each team heads into this short-week game off a loss and neither team performed very well on offense last Saturday. The talent slightly favors the Bulls but the Bearcats are awfully hard to beat at Nippert Stadium. I’ll flip a coin … South Florida 23, Cincinnati 20. (7:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN)
Northwestern at No. 20 Minnesota: After last week, we’ll dip our toe lightly in the Big Ten. The Wildcats are going to have to make due without tailback Tyrell Sutton, who is out for the rest of the season with a wrist injury. QB C.J. Bachér was bothered by a gimpy hamstring last week, and his backup Mike Kafka didn’t exactly distinguish himself in relief. Put that against the Gophers, who are gaining more and more confidence with each passing week as well as looking to go 8-1 for the first time since 1960 … Minnesota 27, Northwestern 20. (12 noon EDT, ESPN2)
Michigan at Purdue: To say the 2008 season has not gone the way either Rich Rodriguez or Joe Tiller envisioned would be the understatement of the year. The Wolverines are simply devoid of playmakers on offense while the Boilermakers have apparently thrown in the towel on Uncle Joe’s final season, losing five in a row and averaging a scant 12.4 points per game during that span. I am tempted to pick Purdue here mostly because it’s difficult to go winless in the Big Ten (no matter how poorly you perform) and the Boilermakers have done it only once since 1946. But I’ve seen both of these teams play and it seems as bad as they are, U-M is still trying … Michigan 17, Purdue 16. (12 noon EDT, Big Ten Network)
Pittsburgh at Notre Dame: I look at the five wins by the Irish so far and I see victories of teams that are a combined 9-30. I look at five wins by the Panthers so far and I see victories over teams that are a combined 22-18. Notre Dame is undefeated at home so far but Pitt has yet to lose in three road games, including a big 26-21 triumph at South Florida. I’m not sure either of these teams is ready to contend for a national championship, but it sure looks to me like the Panthers are a little more battle-tested at this point … Pittsburgh 27, Notre Dame 23. (2:30 p.m. EDT, NBC)
Arkansas State at No. 2 Alabama: Before you laugh this one off in the Tide’s favor, understand that the Red Wolves are one of those teams that backs down from no one. Last year, they pretty much outplayed Texas before finally bowing in a 21-13 decision. Also, Bama has suffered November swoons the past couple of seasons and it has a huge game coming next week when Nick Saban returns to LSU for the first time since his abrupt resignation four years ago. Think about those things when you place your bets … Alabama 27, Arkansas State 14. (3 p.m. EDT, ESPN GamePlan)
No. 8 Georgia vs. No. 5 Florida: The winner of the World’s Largest Cocktail Party stays in the mix for a possible national title game berth while the loser will be lucky to remain in the running for a BCS at-large berth. These two teams really don’t like one another, especially after the Bulldogs’ wild end zone celebration early in last year’s 42-30 win. The Gators have circled this game in red ever since, and seem to be on the rise after scoring 114 points in their last two games. Oh, yeah … they’ve also won 15 of the last 18 meetings in the series … Florida 27, Georgia 17. (3:30 p.m. EDT, CBS)
North Texas at Western Kentucky: What if they held a college football game and no one cared? About the only news being generated from this stinker is that North Texas had 15 players fail a recent test for illegal drugs. Obviously they weren’t performance-enhancers since the Mean Green ranks dead last in the country in point differential, getting outscored by an average of 33.1 points per game. The Hilltoppers aren’t much better but at least they have a couple of victories and are playing at home … Western Kentucky 29, North Texas 12. (4:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN GamePlan)
Washington at No. 7 USC: Fact: The Trojans are 23-0 under Pete Carroll in November. Fact: Since losing to Oregon State, USC has outscored four conference opponents by a 158-20 margin. Fact: The Huskies are 0-7 for the first time since 1969. Fact: U-Dub ranks 115th nationally in scoring defense and 117th in scoring offense. Fact: The Trojans rank No. 14 nationally in scoring offense and No. 1 in scoring defense. Fact: This is going to end badly for anyone wearing purple … USC 52, Washington 7. (6:30 p.m., FSN Regional)
Nebraska at No. 4 Oklahoma: Not only will you get to see how far the Cornhuskers have come under first-year head coach Bo Pelini, you will also get to see how much farther they need to go in order to compete with the likes of Oklahoma. The Sooners are one of the most potent offensive teams in college football, and it will be difficult for Nebraska to outscore them. Still, NU has made steady improvement this season and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them hang in and make the game a lot closer than most people think … Oklahoma 37, Nebraska 28. (8 p.m. EDT, ESPN)
No. 1 Texas at No. 6 Texas Tech: It is amusing to see all of the national media types crying about having to go to Lubbock for this week’s marquee game. As anyone who has lived in Texas can tell you, there is no good way to get to Buddy Holly’s hometown unless you get in the car and drive. That said, the Red Raiders will host what could be described as one of their biggest games ever. They can throw the ball like almost no other team in college football can, but when push comes to shove, I just don’t think they’ll have enough to outscore the Longhorns … Texas 45, Texas Tech 35. (8 p.m. EDT, ABC)
No. 10 Utah at New Mexico: What do I know about the Lobos? Other than having a losing record and being 2½ games behind the Utes in the Mountain West standings, I know that they have been a thorn in Utah’s side from time to time. The fact of the matter is that New Mexico has won five of the last eight games in this series, and for the Utes to continue to harbor hopes of a BCS-busting berth, they cannot afford to look ahead to next Thursday’s showdown with TCU. If they do, the Lobos may be able to stick around for a while … Utah 28, New Mexico 17. (9:30 p.m. EDT, The Mtn.)
Here are the spreads for the aforementioned games: South Florida (-2½) at Cincinnati; Northwestern at Minnesota (-5½); Michigan (+3) at Purdue; Pittsburgh (+5½) at Notre Dame; Arkansas State (+24½) at Alabama; Georgia vs. Florida (-5½); North Texas at Western Kentucky (-16½); Washington at USC (-39); Nebraska (+21½) at Oklahoma; Texas (-5) and Texas Tech; Utah (-7½) at New Mexico.
Enjoy the games and we’ll see you again next week.