Friday, November 10, 2006

Dr. Schiano, Or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Big East Football.

Rutgers beat Louisville last night, in what I am not hesitant to call, an epic battle between two Big East powers. In a game that saw Louisville come out and start stomping an overwhelmed Rutgers team, only to be matched and then toppled by Ray Rice and Schiano's blitzing defense, we saw two of the fine, aggressive coaches in the country.

Look no further than Greg Schiano and Petrino's first play call of the game. Rutgers, a team with little proven offensive talent outside of Heisman candidate Ray Rice, drops back 5 steps and chucks it deep against Louisville's top cornerback; and their true Freshman wideout Britt burns the guy, only to have the ball be thrown a yard too long. Nonetheless, Rutgers still mounts a decent first drive.

What does Louisville do on it's first play. Brohm throws a deep post laser to his slot receiver, and Louisville marches right through a stunned Rutgers D and crowd. Petrino backs up that with a brilliant fake punt on 4th and 5; and going for and converting every reasonable fourth down opportunity the whole first half.

And for Rutgers - instead of backing down and stopping the big play, the big plays seemed to fuel their pass rush even more in the second half - somehow both swarming Brohm on every passing play and Louisville's backs on running plays. ( I do think this game would have been different with a healthy Michael Bush though).

Also, the final two plays of the game, can't be overlooked. With 13 seconds left in the game, Schiano decides to run a normal kickoff despite having one returned for a touchdown earlier in the game. And know what. . it works! Proving for the 800th time that the squib kick is the dumbest move in football. I repeat, the dumbest move in all of football. The Louisville guy even had a good return, but because they ran a normal kickoff it took 10 seconds to get the ball to the 40 yard line. Then, Schiano, brought a linebacker blitz off the edge to continue harassing Brohm. (When more fearful coaches would have rushed three and waited for the bomb.)

What I learn, more and more from watching all football, is that "aggressive" coaches shouldn't be called "aggressive," but simply good. Aggressive coaches don't worry about conventional wisdom or second-guessing - they simply have a vision of how the game is going to be played and they stick to it. Truly a joy to watch those teams go at it last night. This on the heels of the brawling West Virginia - Louisville fight one week ago. The Big East now owns the two most exciting and well-played college football games of the year. Cheers to the Big East.

A few more quick thoughts:
* That being said, I don't belive that a Rutgers team should get in ahead of a 1 - loss Florida team, if Florida is there. Schiano has done a great job - but not scheduling one decent non-conference foe, when you play in a pretty weak conference should have a consequence. Granted, I don't know how much better the Big Ten is than the Big East this year - but OSU and Michigan both went on the road in their non-conference. Still- Rutgers would get to go to a BCS game and test their mettle against Auburn or Cal - a job well done either way. And they do deserve the same recognition as a 1 - loss Cal, USC, or Texas squad.

*Very excited for this Rutgers - West Virginia game. If you thought that WVA - Louisville game was fast, this will pit the fastest offense in the country against a very lively defense. I like the Mountaineers in this one, because home field advantage has been huge in these games so far - but I'm definitely tuning in.

*A real danger game this week for Michigan. Two really awful games by the Wolverines at home against bad opponents - and this is the season for Indiana. We really will have to bring at least our B - game to put this away. If not, it'll be another tense Saturday in Ann Arbor.


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