A few thoughts to jumpstart your Wednesday morning:
When I watch Trey Burton run the wildcat, the first thing I think of is Tim Tebow in 2009. Tebow carried the ball 217 times for 910 yards and 14 touchdowns that season, and while he was effective on the option plays when he got outside the defensive end or on scrambles up the middle, the bruiser plays up the middle were less and less effective as the season wore on. Why? It wasn’t because the Gators lacked offensive linemen – all five of the starters in 2009 are playing in the NFL now – but more of a case that opponents saw enough film and tendencies to find a way to stonewall the play. I think that’s what has happened with Burton, who has become less and less effective in the wildcat in the past season and a half. Everybody knows what Trey is going to do so they stack and stuff. Here’s a novel approach: let him throw the ball downfield. Just once or twice. If he can throw it 20 yards accurately I can almost guarantee that someone is going to be open, which might unstack the box next time the Gators run a wildcat.
GETTING TO THE QUARTERBACK
This is another mind-numbing stat: the Gators have gotten to the opposing quarterback only 13 times in eight games. When they registered two sacks against Georgia last week – one of them the corner blitz by Loucheiz Purifoy that resulted in a safety – it broke a two-game streak without getting to the quarterback even one time. Take away that five-sack game against Kentucky – and doesn’t everyone get to the Kentucky quarterback? – and the numbers are even more disturbing. You want to know why the Gators have only two interceptions in their last four games after picking off seven in their first four? It has everything to do with pressuring the quarterback. If the Gators can’t bring the heat Saturday on Vanderbilt freshman quarterback Patton Robinette, he’s going to have a field day throwing the ball. Vandy receivers Jordan Matthews and Jonathan Krause aren’t as good as the LSU or Missouri receivers, but they will be playing on Sundays in the future. Without pressure, the Gators will struggle to cover them.
A LITTLE LESS SUMO, A LITTLE MORE FINESSE
It’s about time basketball policed itself and did away with the trend toward Sumo wrestling that we’ve seen the past 20 years. There are men doing hard time in Raiford for less than what players were getting away with on the court. That’s about to change starting Friday when the zebras have been ordered to crack down on physical play. Great defensive players will have to earn their reputations by moving their feet and getting in position instead of mugging opponents, which will be a novel concept. Expect a lot more free throws than what you’re used to seeing, at least in the early going. You can expect a lot more whistles until the zebras and players alike adjust to the rules changes.
A SELECTIVE LEAK?
It’s very interesting that the Associated Press reported Tuesday that Nick Saban’s agent told University of Texas Regent Tom Hicks back in January that Texas was the only job that Nick would leave Alabama for and that the incredible run of success at Alabama had put him under “special pressure.” We’ve known for some time now that Jimmy Sexton (Saban’s agent) was contacted by Hicks back in January so why is it just now that the AP finds out that Sexton says Saban would possibly leave Alabama for Texas? Was this a selective leak to prep people that a move is impending by Saban? He’s been at Alabama for seven years now. That’s the longest he’s stayed anywhere and the longer he stays at Alabama the more pressure he’s going to be under because now he’s doing things that even Bear Bryant didn’t do.
SHOCKER AT TEXAS
Oliver Luck to Texas was supposedly all but a done deal on Monday, but obviously nobody told University of Texas president Bill Powers, who hired Arizona State athletic director Steve Patterson to succeed DeLoss Dodds on Tuesday. In some respects, Patterson makes even more sense than Luck, a UT law school grad. Patterson did both his undergrad and law school at Texas and he has experience as an executive in both the NFL and NBA in addition to serving as an athletic director. Patterson will have the unenviable job of deciding the fate of Texas football coach Mack Brown and basketball coach Rick Barnes, both of whom have been underperforming to the point that the fan base is restless and angry.
BULLETIN BOARD MATERIAL
When he’s healthy, DeAnthony Thomas is the most electrifying athlete in college football. He’s a highlight reel looking for a place to happen when the ball is in his hands, a weapon the Oregon Ducks will need Thursday night when they face Stanford in a showdown game that could derail the Ducks’ hopes to play in the national championship game. Tuesday Thomas probably needed to keep his lip zipped when he told Oregon’s official website that, “I feel like, this team, we should at least put up 40 [on Stanford].” In Thomas’ defense, the Ducks are averaging 55.6 points per game even though the first team rarely plays beyond the midway point of the third quarter.
STAT OF THE DAY
As #1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC West) prepares for its Saturday showdown with LSU (7-2, 3-2 SEC West), this stat jumps out at you: Alabama hasn’t allowed a sack since the third quarter of the Ole Miss game back on September 28. That’s 17 quarters of perfect protection for quarterback A.J. McCarron. If LSU can’t put the heat on McCarron Saturday, this game will be a blowout win for Alabama. McCarron is too good to be able to stand in the pocket until a receiver breaks free. LSU’s secondary has plenty of talent, just not enough to cover forever if McCarron isn’t hurried by the front four.
BUCKEYES WILL BE PULLING FOR STANFORD, OKLAHOMA
The most interested spectators for the two Thursday night showdowns – #6 Stanford at #2 Oregon and #12 Oklahoma at #5 Baylor – will be #4 Ohio State, winners of 21 straight games yet a longshot to make it to the national championship game. The Buckeyes need all the help they can get, and seeing two unbeatens go down would definitely be in their best interests moving forward. Although Baylor is ranked one spot behind the Buckeyes in both the polls and BCS standings, the Bears have the chance to catapult past Ohio State these next three weeks with wins over ranked teams while Ohio State will be playing the usual Big Ten patsies.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Paul Butterfield is another musician who died way too early. He was 44 in 1987 and should have been just getting into his prime as a blues singer and harmonica player when he OD’d on heroin in his Los Angeles apartment. He teamed up with Mike Bloomfield, Elvin Bishop, Bugsy Maugh, Phillip Wilson and David Sanborn in the mid-1960s to form the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and for a seven-year stretch they produced seven extraordinary albums for Elektra Records. This song is “One More Heartache.”