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  1. 2011 Sep 07

    COLLEGE FOOTBALL: A Look Around the Nation - Week Two


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brian Towle

    What a great week to start off the season!. Before we move on to week two, let’s review last week’s winners and losers.


    Boise State – The Broncos went to Atlanta and throttled the Georgia Bulldogs. For a team that isn’t supposed to be able to hang with the worst of the SEC because of the conference’s supposed superiority, their performance was pretty impressive.

    LSU – Their performance against Oregon wasn’t fantastic, but they took advantage of several Oregon errors and managed the game well enough to make the final score look like a blowout.

    BYU – Starting the season in unfriendly confines for the second time in three years and winning a slugfest speaks volumes about the Cougs.

    Baylor- Robert Griffin III is the real deal.


    Auburn – The Tigers needed an onside kick and what appeared to be favorable clock operation to beat a team from the WAC? Really? Aim for the Independence Bowl, Auburn, because it’s the best you can hope for. A special round of applause goes to Tiger fans who decided to rush to the gates.

    Congratulations on leaving your team lying in the lurch before clapping and celebrating a win on your way out. Apparently the national championship shirts are getting difficult to wear from swelling heads.

    Notre Dame – The weather delays were a sign. You’re doing it wrong.

    Georgia and Ole Miss – A picture’s worth a thousand words, right? -

    Here are your week two dandies. All times listed are in CST.

    Arizona at No. 9 Oklahoma State (7 PM Thursday, ESPN)

    The fantastic duo of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon take on the Wildcats in a Thursday night tilt in Stillwater. Arizona comes into town following a beat down of Northern Arizona while Okie State took care of business against Louisiana-Lafayette. Arizona quarterback Nick Foles returns for what seems to be a ninth season, and has a talented receiver to go to in Juron Criner.

    The Wildcats did shut out Northern Arizona while Oklahoma State had some issues stopping the Raging Cajuns and Weeden did throw a pick-six. However, Weeden also threw for 388 yards. Blackmon helped pick up 144 of those. OSU sophomore Joseph Randle ran for 129 yards at 5-plus yards per carry, too.

    Boone Pickens Stadium has provided solid home field advantage for Mike Gundy, and with the knowledge that a Mike Stoops team doesn’t play well on the road, look for the Cowboys to roll to a win.

    No. 21 Missouri at Arizona State – (9:30 PM Friday, ESPN)

    Gary Pinkel takes his Tigers back to the site of the 2010 Insight Bowl debacle as Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson and linebacker Vontaze Burfict welcome them into the desert heat. Mizzou didn’t impress anyone last week with a lackluster win over Miami of Ohio. Quarterback James Franklin didn’t look remotely as poised as his predecessors Blaine Gabbert and Chase Daniel did.

    For the Sun Devils, quarterback Brock Osweiler did well against UC-Davis until a cramp sidelined him in the third quarter. This game will depend on Franklin’s ability to improve. Defeating a MAC team at home is one thing. Going against defenders like Burfict on the road is a completely different task. Arizona State wins barely because they can run the ball better. If it’s up to Osweiler to save the day, expect struggles by both teams.

    No. 3 Alabama at No. 23 Penn State – (2:30 PM Saturday, Regional)

    Alabama played very well last week versus Kent State. Sophomore quarterback AJ McCarron will more than likely getting the starting nod again. While Nick Saban’s offense was merely efficient, the defense is back to their ball-hawking selves. Penn State didn’t get a proper test from the Indiana State Sycamores as Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin split time at quarterback.

    Joe Paterno has a difficult decision with those two. Bolden is a great talent, but McGloin seems to be the more efficient choice. Regardless, Alabama won’t be scared of Beaver Stadium. The game may be close early, but the mental toughness that Saban instills will be a huge benefit. The Crimson Tide pulls away at the end.

    No. 16 Mississippi State at Auburn – (11:21 AM Saturday, SEC Network (JP)/ESPN3.com)

    Hopefully Gene Chizik realizes that the Bulldogs are legitimate and are far from a WAC team. Dan Mullen brings his boys into Jordan Hare Stadium hoping to get a jump on the SEC West race. Mullen has quarterback Chris Reif and running back Vick Ballard, two seniors with live game time against SEC opposition.

    If freshman wide receiver Jameon Lewis can replicate the numbers he did against Memphis, Mississippi State could be dangerous. Auburn, on the other hand, played down to their competition and looked lost on both sides of the ball. Unless the Tigers improved dramatically in the span of six days, expect the Bulldogs to do well and stake their claim as legitimate SEC competition.

    BYU at No. 24 Texas – (6 PM Saturday, ESPN2)

    The final preview takes us to Austin where the Mighty Mormons invade to take on the Longhorns. Bronco Mendenhall takes super sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps into a second-straight brutal environment. On paper, the Cougars and Longhorns appear to be equals. Texas didn’t look great early on against Rice, but looked far more polished in the second half.

    The locals were not impressed and know that BYU is a very dangerous team to test quarterback Garrett Gilbert and wide receiver Mike Davis against. With running back Malcolm Brown toting the rock, the Longhorns are talented, but young on offense. Jake Heaps is very raw but incredibly talented, and will likely outperform Gilbert. Don’t be shocked if BYU wins, possibly by more than a score.

    Coaches on the Hot Seat:

    Houston Nutt, Mississippi: Well done, coach. You apparently didn’t take another home opener seriously, and BYU made you look silly. The pick-six thrown on 3rd and 23 cemented that. Your game against Southern Illinois is a must win.

    Mark Richt, Georgia: Fans across the nation knew you might be in trouble against Boise, but Aaron Murray should give you hope. That said, starting the season 0-2 by losing to South Carolina would be near-fatal.

    Rick Neuheisel, UCLA: San Jose State is a welcome sight at the Rose Bowl. You’d better beat them so that people might forget how good you made Case Keenum look last week.

    Mike Riley, Oregon State: Sacramento State? You lost a lot, but come on, man. Wisconsin is going to destroy you this week.

    Mike Locksley, New Mexico: The good news is that you kept Colorado State to 14 points. The bad news is that you could only muster 10. Bobby Petrino can easily hang 70 on your nose.

    Bonus Conference Official – Dan Beebe, Big 12 Commissioner: It’s not your fault that Texas A&M, Nebraska, and Colorado left you or that Oklahoma and Oklahoma State want new partners. Repeat that while staring into the mirror and it just might be believable.

    Follow Brian on Twitter: @btbowling
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    Tags: college football, boise state, lsu, georgia, ole miss, auburn, notre dame, brandon weeden, justin blackmon, nick foles, joseph randle, mike gundy, mike stoops, gary pinkel, missouri, arizona state, brock osweiler, james franklin, chase daniel, blaine gabbert, vontaze burfict, miami of ohio, alabama, penn state, aj mccarron, nick saban, rob bolden, matt mcgloin, indiana state, joe paterno, gene chizik, mississippi state, texas, byu, houston nutt, mark richt, rick neuheisel, mike locksley, dan beebe, big 12

  2. 2010 Jun 24

    NEBRASKA BIG TEN: Bad Blood Abated


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Almost as a weed sprouting up through the cracks in an old driveway, the bad-intentioned rivalry between Nebraska and Missouri had emerged and begun to grow.

    With its roots in rudeness - that is, Kellen Houston’s knockout punch of a celebrating Mizzou student in 2003 and the taunts and accusations of Chase Daniel in 2007 and 2008 - the game charted a course for NU/Colorado, circa 1990s, when the Buffaloes awakened for a brief, spectacular era before crawling into their current fetal state.

    Then the Cornhuskers and Tigers squared off for the prize Missouri wanted - and expected - most: A call-up to the Big Ten. When Nebraska claimed that crown, poof went the bubbling bad blood.

    It’s hard to hate what you must, to some extent, pity.

    How close was Mizzou to becoming Nebraska’s Big 12 brother in the Big Ten? Probably as close as Texas was to hopping to the Pac-10. Had that domino tipped, the Tigers were well-positioned for a second wave of Big Ten invitations. But Texas A&M flashed its SEC card, UT got its golden deal and both - plus Oklahoma - extracted a pound of flesh from the Tigers, among other Big 12 North programs, in the process.

    Life just became harder for Missouri in nearly every way. That’s true of every Big 12 North school staying behind - but especially so for Mizzou, which roused itself from a football coma seven years ago, and seemed poised, with a new arena and flashy recruits, to finally challenge Kansas for basketball supremacy.

    Mike Anderson’s basketball program should proceed unfettered - although the Big 12 may be so difficult it wears out the teams in it - but Gary Pinkel must now confront the reality that, starting in 2011, there is no “division” crown to claim. No Big 12 Championship game for exposure. It’ll now be nine games - six of which will be waged against teams with comparable or superior athletes to his own team.

    Mizzou fans are a fickle lot anyway; how will they embrace the prospect of a third-place finish being an achievement? I know how Nebraska fans, who are not particularly fickle, would embrace it: With ever-growing rage. Missouri faithful may perhaps shrug and wait for basketball season.

    For decades, that’s what Kansas and Kansas State did, until Bill Snyder arrived in Manhattan and embarked on this funny thing called a winning season. Snyder’s job is much harder now - he can’t just go out and nab a five-star JUCO quarterback - and KU’s Turner Gill will fight against the same negative, unspoken energy: When does hoops season begin?

    But Missouri always had a greater potential in football, with solid talent in Kansas City and St. Louis, and it seemed like the Big 12 North was the perfect place to work out the kinks. Nebraska was the perfect rival. The culture of the two states are starkly different, for one thing - especially the farther you travel south or east in Show-Me country - and NU stumbled around enough during the Callahan era to open the door wide for the Tigers to waltz in. It takes a certain kind of arrogance, after all, to rebuff a talent like Jeremy Maclin when you’ve already landed one of his best friends in Mike McNeill.

    The 41-6 backyard beatdown Mizzou delivered on Nebraska in 2007 - it’s still the most complete, humiliating loss of that year, because NU played hard and simply got stoned - was exacerbated by the 52-17 thumping Missouri delivered one year later in Lincoln, when it appeared on a crash course for the national title. NU’s “secret” defensive plan gone horribly awry, Daniel’s accusation that Ndamukong Suh spit on him during warm-ups, the personal fouls, the chatter. The 2009 game, waged in a driving, unceasing rainstorm, seemed almost apocryphal, the storm having knocked out the Tigers’ video boards, leaving the roar and silence of a wet, wild crowd as the primary signals of success or failure. NU’s fourth-quarter comeback will remain one of the most pivotal games of Bo Pelini’s Husker career. And Missouri fans are not likely to soon forget Suh because of it.

    Yes, something was growing between the two programs, and though it’s fun to poke at Missouri, that “something” had substance, however rooted it was in an ill, blue mood. The venerable Kansas City and St. Louis media rose to the occasion of the last three games, pumping out commentaries and interviews. The ongoing Gabbert drama - quarterbacks Blaine and Tyler committed to NU, then backed out to play for Missouri - created a different kind of tension. Pinkel, making the state rounds in a helicopter. Pelini, standing like a general in the Missouri rain.

    I can’t help but think it made both programs a little better.

    The most decisive battle, strangely, was fought in academia, as Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman - a deft, bold leader - orchestrated an invite for NU that somehow left Missouri - always considered the “Harvard of the Plains,” an academic darling with freshly-mowed grounds and Greek houses the size of a small European nation - waiting for a proposal.

    It was a battle Mizzou, giving its standing, should have aced. Indeed, one its officials - athletic director Mike Alden and chancellor Brady Deaton - thought it had aced, based on its comments to the news media. As it pertained to the Big 12, Alden was the king of candid, as evidenced in a lengthy interview he granted to the Columbia Tribune right after Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany announced his intention to explore expansion.

    The Mizzou media - an impressive and accomplished group of local and national sports journalists who graduated from Missouri - pushed the expansion story until a certain reporter from Texas started carrying the Longhorns’ water.

    It seemed a done deal until the day it wasn’t, when the Big Ten settled on, for the interim, one team, and it wasn’t cosmopolitan Mizzou, but Nebraska, a school that had quietly, but vastly, improved itself since Perlman took over.

    Did Missouri talk too much? Did Perlman’s connections and visibility with the NCAA and BCS seal the deal? Was it Barry Alvarez, a Bob Devaney pupil and one of the last great Big Ten coaches? Wisconsin sure seems happy to see NU in the league, doesn’t it? Like it’s been waiting two decades for it to happen.

    I wonder if Missouri ever gets a good answer to that question. I doubt it. The Big Ten, for all its strengths, is mercurial and imperial. So let Nebraska’s inclusion be written, so let NU’s growing rivalry with Mizzou be done.

    See also: One Last Chance to take our Big Ten Survey!

    Tags: nebraska big ten, missouri, chase daniel, ndamukong suh, bo pelini

  3. 2009 Oct 07

    All Eyes on Blaine


    By HuskerLocker

    During his press conference Sunday, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel frequently put his hands on the lectern about a foot apart, as if describing a small rock bass he caught in the Lake of the Ozarks or demonstrating how the umpires in Australian Rules Football signal a goal.

    But he’s really talking about the mental and emotional “zone” he likes his quarterbacks to reside in, whether they throw four touchdowns or four interceptions.

    Pinkel said his latest prodigy, sophomore Blaine Gabbert, is skilled at staying inside that zone. Whether it was his astonishingly good first start in the “Braggin Rights” game vs. Illinois, or a crucial second half comeback at home vs. Bowling Green, the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder is a tough kid to rattle.

    "I'm impressed with his poise,” Pinkel said. “He's kind of trying to find where he fits himself in a game, mentally, where he keeps focused…one important thing for quarterbacks is to stay in a place where you can function, where you don't get caught up in the hype or the negative of what's going on and you kind of stay in the zone. Whether you get sacked, or throw a touchdown or an interception, you come right back in this zone. I've been impressed with him.”

    The numbers make those intangibles look like a shabby coat. Gabbert’s thrown for 1,161 yards and 11 touchdowns in four games. Nary a pick. Thus far, he’s been at his best in the second half, where he leads the nation in passing efficiency – 33-of-43, 547 yards and six touchdowns.

    Pinkel shrugs off those numbers a little bit.

    “He's only played four football games,” he said. Against Nevada, Furman, Illinois and Bowling Green at that.

    But Gabbert had the advantage of one year behind former starter Chase Daniel, whom Pinkel referred to frequently during Sunday’s press conference, labeling him “a battlefield commander.” Getting to watch Daniel run and operate the offense, Pinkel said, helped Gabbert to hit the ground running in 2009. Another Mizzou standout, Brad Smith, didn’t get that chance. He and Pinkel were learning the life of the spread offense together, on the fly.

    Several years later, the Tigers’ passing game seemingly works to a metronome. Receivers know their spots, taking the short, choppy steps on bubble and tunnel screens necessary to set up blocking before accelerating, 0 to 60, with impressive speed. Gabbert, positioned in a deep shotgun, gets the snap and is ready to fire to them immediately.

    "When we get going and when our tempo is up, everything is pretty much clicking,” Gabbert said. “That's when our offense really rolls.”

    He’s taller than Daniel, and can see receivers Daniel could not. Graced with a bigger arm, Gabbert is able to manufacture long passing plays – he threw several howitzers at Nevada – outside of the offense’s framework. He’s burly, too, which allows him to throw the ball under duress with more velocity and accuracy. For all their talents, Daniel and Kansas’ Todd Reesing are forced to skitter about, inviting a risk-reward proposition that tilts toward the lesser choice against better defenses.

    Count Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini as impressed. He complimented Gabbert more than once during his Monday press conference. They weren’t expansive compliments – Pelini prefers the “good football player” line – but he went out of his way to suggest that no matter Gabbert’s performance Thursday – if it were, say, ugly – it wouldn’t change that Gabbert can play.

    Pelini never bothered to say that about Daniel.

    Indeed, the one element Nebraska and Missouri fans can agree on before this game is that Gabbert’s a keeper. NU players are friends with him. He’s impressed the pants off of the Kansas City and St. Louis media, for good reason, without giving off Daniel’s almost aggressive charm.

    “We all know what Chase was like, he was wired all the time,” Pinkel said. “…He was just electric out there all the time. Blaine doesn't have to be like that, he doesn't have to be like Brad Smith.”

    He might be better than either one of them.

    Tags: ten days of tiger, blaine gabbert, gary pinkel, chase daniel

  4. 2009 Oct 04

    Chalk Talk: Mizzou's Passing Offense, Part 1


    By HuskerLocker

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    We've given you the skinny on Missouri's running game. Now learn about the meat of the Tigers' offense: The passing game. We talk origins, philosophy and the idea of "attacking grass."

    It's the insight you've got to have! Check it out with a Locker Pass!

    Tags: gary pinkel, blaine gabbert, chase daniel, brad smith

  5. 2009 May 21

    Redskins Cut Ties with Ganz


    By HuskerLocker

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    So reports the Washington Post. The Redskins will bring back Jason Campbell and Todd Collins, obviously, plus Colt Brennan and Chase Daniel for the next minicamp.

    From what we read and heard, Ganz looked better in drills than Daniel, and certainly knows the West Coast Offense better than Daniel does.

    But it seems the Redskins are more interested in giving Daniel another look in early June.

    Now we'll see if Ganz tries to catch on with another team, or pursues that graduate assistant job waiting for him up in North Shore at Northwestern.

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    See also: Podcasts are here!

    Tags: joe ganz, chase daniel

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