Blog Entry

Tuesday Top 10: Biggest Surprises of first month

Posted on: October 4, 2011 11:32 am
Edited on: October 5, 2011 9:48 am
A month into the 2011 season and it's time to look back on the biggest surprises thus far. And by surprises I mean pleasant surprises, not disappointments. That's a list for another day.

1. Clemson: 
The Tigers who have been perpetual underachievers prone to teasing more than producing may just have turned the proverbial corner under Dabo Swinney this year. Swinney hired former HS coach Chad Morris to run his offense and Clemson is really getting results, going from 86th in scoring up to 33rd. After looking shaky early, the Tigers, led by QB Tajh Boyd and WR Sammy Watkins, have responded by knocking off three ranked teams in a row, highlighted by last weekend's win at Lane Stadium. That W was also quite a departure for a team that had lost four of its previous five road games.

1. Nordly Capi, DE, Colorado State: 
Talk about a shocker. Capi was thrown into action four snaps into the 2011 season after standout DE Broderick Sargent was lost of the year with an ACL injury. Capi, a 6-3, 249-pound sophomore from Florida, who had no sacks in four games last year, goes on to terrorize the New Mexico offense that day, forcing four fumbles, setting an NCAA single-game record. And, the kid hasn't really slowed down much since, going on a five-game sack streak, CSU's longest since Clark Haggins had one of the same length in the late 90s. Capi, who is said to have a really outgoing and fearless personality (he wants to be a fire fighter after his football career is over), leads the nation in both sacks (eight) and forced fumbles (five).

3. Michigan Defense: The Wolverines D would be even higher on this list if they've played a few more decent teams (although WMU, ND and SD State do have capable offenses), but the fact that this unit has gone from 108th in scoring defense to 4th is still remarkable and a big tip of the hat to new DC Greg Mattison who has replaced Greg Robinson. Finally, this D is more than just stud DT Mike Martin as DE Craig Roh has gotten healthy and given them some presence and Kenny Demens, Thomas Gordon and Jordan Kovachs really have taken to the new system, which is a big reason why a unit that was 114th in pass defense has jumped 100 spots despite seeing some good passing attacks.

4. Robert Griffin III, Baylor QB:
RG3 has played out of his mind in the first month. The guy who arrived at Baylor with the rep as one of the fastest men to ever play QB in college football, has blossomed into a true passing threat. Griffin leads the nation in passing efficiency by a wide margin, has a sterling 18-1 TD-INT ratio and almost unfathomable 18-20 TD-INC ratio. For comparison, the No. 2 guy in passing efficiency Russell Wilson is 13-28 in TD-INC.

5. K-State: Bill Snyder is doing it again at Kansas State. The Cats went to Miami and took down a Miami team that was coming off a big win over Ohio State and then they took down a ranked Baylor team. Led by speedy Miami transfer Arthur Brown, K-State has gone from 78th in scoring defense up to 17th and this team has a decent shot of opening the year 7-0, matching last season's win total before OU comes to town in late October.

6. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin, QB:
We knew the former NC State QB was good. His 3-1 TD/INT ratio in three seasons in the ACC was very strong, but it's been how quickly he has taken to this new system and his teammates and how accurate he has been that is so impressive. You'd think the timing with the new receivers wouldn't be as crisp as it has been. Remember this is a guy who had never completed above 59 percent of his passes. This year he's at 75 percent and is averaging a gaudy 12.5 yards per pass attempt, tops in the country and on pace to shatter Ty Detmer's NCAA record of 11.1 ypa. Just a part of the reason why RussellManiaXVI is running wild in Madison.

7. Ga. Tech offense:
Guess opponents haven't quite figured out Paul Johnson's offense after all. The 5-0 Jackets, 71st in scoring and 119th in passing last season, have been very sharp in 2011 behind QB Tevin Washington who has been burning defenses with the pass, sporting a 10-1 TD-INT ratio and a passing efficiency number of 260.7 (he'd be #1 in the nation if he had enough pass attempts). Tech is #2 in the country in scoring and up to No. 79 in passing offense.

8. Auburn:
The Tigers may have been in the preseason top 25, but they had many critics looking at all of the talent the defending national champs had to replace and were scratching their heads. Gene Chizik's team has looked pretty shaky at times, but this bunch is still finding ways to win close games. Their 16-13 win at No. 10 South Carolina last weekend earned them a place on this list as the young Auburn D kept Marcus Lattimore from running wild and limited Steve Spurrier's team to 2-10 on third downs.

9. The Big 12:
For all of the chaos with this conference off the field, the product on the field has been better than expected. Both Oklahoma schools look like potential BCS title game candidates. Texas is undefeated and showing some spark on both sides of the ball, while getting some plays from its young QBs. Baylor knocked off TCU early and has been turning heads. Texas Tech and K-State are both still undefeated. Even though A&M's second half troubles cost them a win over future SEC brethren Arkansas, the Big 12 is still 27-3 in games outside of the conference play and has six teams in the PA top 25, the same as the SEC has.

10. Vanderbilt:
James Franklin is generating a lot of buzz on the recruiting trail and that vibe is carrying over to the field, where the Commodores, a team that won four games the previous three seasons, is 3-1. Vandy's D has been very sharp forcing turnovers at an eye-catching rate (the school is No. 5 in turnover margin). Vandy absolutely dominated Ole Miss, 30-7 in mid-September in a way that jogged people's minds trying to recall the last time Vandy football demolished another SEC opponent the way they did the Rebs that day.


Since: May 9, 2009
Posted on: October 5, 2011 10:31 pm

Tuesday Top 10: Biggest Surprises of first month

Amen gholsong...Give credit to Michigan for taking advantage of TR's miscues but give me a break about any dominance of Notre Dame in that game. The stats tell the story even though the only thing that counts is the final score. Congrats to the Wolverines but need to chill about your record. Rich Rod had the same record before the team went south. Not saying they will because Brady Hoke is a good coach but checking out the teams they have played vs the upcoming games and it isnt even close. Beating up on the Western Michigans of the world is nothing to brag about. We all know the B10 is basically Wisconsin and everyone else - that is except Ohio State this year. This may very well be the year the maize and blue gets Ohio State which given how bad the OL and qb are would not be all that impressive either.

Since: Aug 24, 2006
Posted on: October 5, 2011 3:38 pm

Tuesday Top 10: Biggest Surprises of first month

The blame for the defense dropping so far statistically was the inept offense. They lost Henne, Hart, and Long from the previous year and they lost their only QB with any experience (Mallett). They were starting a walkon QB at times and were learning a new offense with players that were recruited for a much different system. Take a look at the turnovers. No defense would hold up with an offense that was continually putting the D in tough situations.

Since: Oct 5, 2011
Posted on: October 5, 2011 3:28 pm

Tuesday Top 10: Biggest Surprises of first month

I agree Auburn has been a surprise.  The win over USC gurantees them at least a 6 and 6 season (wins over Ole Miss and Samford) and a possibility of more W's if they sneak up on UF and/or GA.

Since: Nov 28, 2007
Posted on: October 5, 2011 2:24 pm

Tuesday Top 10: Biggest Surprises of first month

What about the Illini? 5-0, #19 in the nation, got a great offense with dual QB threat Nate Scheelhasse who can run and throw the football, good receiving core in AJ Jenkins, Darius Millines, and now Spencer Harris, and a good running game with Jason Ford, Donovan Young, and Troy Pollard chipping in.

Along with that is the fact that they also have a good defense now thanks to D-coordinator, Vic Koenning.

How do you put Russell Wilson on your list if he was supposed to be good in the first place? Surprises mean people or teams who were not expected to be as good as they are.

Give the Orange Krush some respect already, eh?

Since: Sep 29, 2009
Posted on: October 5, 2011 2:24 pm

Tuesday Top 10: Biggest Surprises of first month

What about the numbers that Keith Price is putting up at UDub? Palm probably hasn't seen him play though but he should. For a first year starting QB to do what he is doing is awesome. He already has 17 TD's! That is as much as Locker threw all of last year but still no recognition?

Since: Dec 2, 2007
Posted on: October 5, 2011 1:56 am

Tuesday Top 10: Biggest Surprises of first month

If you look further out West you might find another big surprise in Seattle...  As a diehard Husky fan, I'm shocked at how well Keith Price is playing-- especially when Jake Locker struggled last year, and was a knighted/annointed/omni-capable QB while playing in front of Price.

All Price has done in his own first opportunity this season is lead the much maligned Huskies (0-12 just 3 years ago) to a 4-1 record, flirting with the Top 25 (#28), throwing 17 TD passes (2nd in the nation)... Completing nearly 70% of his throws (68%)... With over 1200 yards passing... And only 4 interceptions.

Not unusual numbers for a QB on a losing team that plays behind a lot.  But for a winning team, with a Heismann candidate at tailback coming off back to back 1000 yard season, these are pretty darn great numbers for a 1st year starter on a Pac 10 team.  (For context, Stanford's Andrew Luck has 200 fewer yards and 6 fewer TD's so far this year.)

What's so surprsing?  Price had 2 TD passes and 160 yards passing in his college career prior to 2011.  And he was an afterthought on a team that had Jake Locker entrenched as the golden child (which actually didn't bother Price, having grown up on the "other side of town" from Matt Barkley during his High School glory days), while awaiting the maturing of the NEXT Washington golden child QB- NFL offspring Nick Montana.

He's actually on the peripherals of some Heismann talk, which is just nuts...  A lot of us didn't expect him to stay the starter all year, but he's made us believers with a quick accurate arm, and the ability to extend the play and make things happen downfield when he gets outside the pocket.

Keep an eye on him going forward.  He's fun to watch.  Washington has a chance to surprise some people-- and we haven't said that in the Northwest for a long, LONG time.

Since: Oct 2, 2011
Posted on: October 5, 2011 12:24 am

Tuesday Top 10: Biggest Surprises of first month

Orygun Quacks- you are an idiot. Anyone who knows anything about college football knows Michigan is a top program. Yea, they had some down years like every program, but you don't have the winningest program if you suck. Go win 4 national championships and 40 plus PAC 10 titles and then we'll talk. Until then, you should be the one to STFU!

Since: Oct 4, 2011
Posted on: October 4, 2011 11:45 pm

Tuesday Top 10: Biggest Surprises of first month

Baloney.  Ryan Mallett was the only person Carr advised to leave, and that was after 1) NimRod very publicly had made clear that Mallett did not fit into his plans, 2) after NimRod failed to talk to Mallett privately about his situation, and 3) after Mallett had asked to speak with NimRod and came away feeling as if he had been given the cold shoulder.  As for the 2008 defense, it had 8 starters returning from a defense that had been ranked 24th in the nation in 2007.  Yet that defense packed with veterans fell to 68th in the nation in 2008.  So much for the Blame Lloyd Carr crappola.

Since: Apr 2, 2011
Posted on: October 4, 2011 11:39 pm

Tuesday Top 10: Biggest Surprises of first month

Michigan hasn't played great teams, but most other teams haven't either and they aren't up where Michigan is statistically.  Do I think they belong in the top 12?  I guess so, for now, because they haven't lost when others have.  I don't expect them to stay there (hopefully finish in top 25 somewhere) but this is based on the results SO FAR and those results have been extremely positive for Michigan.  When they lose, they will drop, same as everyone else.  If they don't lose, then how can you argue?  My prediction is 3 losses in the regular season and then a 50/50 shot at a bowl win depending on who they draw.

Since: Jun 5, 2011
Posted on: October 4, 2011 11:13 pm

As for the actual article...

Michigan's defense is good because of Greg Mattison, but it is also good because it features mostly experienced players and upperclassmen for the first time since outgoing coach Lloyd Carr "advised" everyone to leave instead of staying to play for Rich Rod.  Michigan has been playing mostly boys against men for three years.  Now, they are playing men against men, and the difference is self-evident.

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