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November 5, 2012No. 1 - 7 Scattershots on the Longhorns
I. The season suddenly feels a little different after Saturday. That's what happens when you win the first of two swing games that determine on which direction the season ends. Nothing is ever going to take the Oklahoma disaster off the ledger and the ceiling for this season is only so high because of it, but that doesn't mean that the rest of the season is completely meaningless. No matter how you spin things, the Longhorns are 7-2 and that represents at least some progress from a season ago when the Longhorns didn't get to seven wins until Case McCoy went streaking down the A&M quad and into the gymnasium. With three games to go, the Longhorns are in a position to run their record to 9-2 before the season-finale in Manhattan. For all the doom and gloom in the last month, that would represent some pretty real growth over the course of 12 games.
II. Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the win over Texas Tech was the noticeable improvement that could be seen in several key areas. Those linebackers are getting better. The tackling was better. The defense as a whole was much better. Even on the offensive side of things, I thought the line finished the game like the coaches had hoped it would against West Virginia. The heat in the kitchen might be extreme, but the staff and players are working hard and making gains. It has to be acknowledged.
III. I thought a few of my initial impressions from the game were a little off-base after re-watching the game a couple of times. One of those incorrect positions I took was that Bryan Harsin called a more conservative game in the opening couple of series of the second half than he had previously called in the first half. What I learned in re-watching the game was that he mixed it up in terms of personnel groups and sets like he had in the first half, but the execution of the offense and some of the decisions made in regards to touch distribution were the bigger issues. As far as what he threw at the Red Raiders on Saturday, check out the personnel groupings he used throughout the game:
Drive one: 3 WR/1 RB/1 TE (2 plays), 3 WR/2 RB Three (2 plays), 2 RB/2 WR/1 TE (2 plays), 2 TE/2 RB/1 WR (1 play), 2 TE/3 WR/1 RB (1 play), 3 TE/ 2 RB (1 play)
Drive two: 4 WR/1 TE (1 play) 2 TE/2 RB/1 WR (1 play), 2 TE/1 RB/2 WR (3 plays)
Drive three: 2 TE/1 RB/2 WR (1 play)
Drive four: 3 WR/1 RB/1 TE (1 play) 2 TE/1 RB/2 WR (2 plays)
Drive five: 3 WR/1 RB/1 TE (2 plays), 3 WR/2 RB (1 play), 2 RB/2 WR/1 TE (3 plays), 1 TE/3 WR/2 RB (1 play) and 4 WR/1 RB (1 play)
Drive one: 3 WR/2 RB (1 play) 2 RB/2 WR/1 TE (2 plays), 3 TE/2 RB (1 play), 3 WR/2 RB/1 TE (1 play), 2 WR/2 TE/1 RB (1 play), 4 WR/1 RB (1 play) and 3 WR/RB/TE (1)
Dive two: 2 RB/2 WR/1 TE (1 play), 3 WR/1 RB/1 TE (1 play) and 3 WR/2 RB (1 play)
Drive three: 3 WR/1 RB/1TE (1 play), 2 WR/2 TE/1 RB (3 plays) and 4 WR/RB (1 play)
Drive four: 3 WR/2 RB (1 play), 2 RB/2 WR/1 TE (4 plays), 2 WR/2 TE/1 RB (1 play), 3 WR/1 RB/1 TE (2 plays)
IV. Also, if you think the Carrington Byndom/Eric Ward battle was a draw, go back and watch the video. Byndom had as many pass break-ups by my count as he allowed catches and he never let Ward into the end zone. Considering the red zone has historically been an area he's struggled in, Saturday was the spark we've been waiting to see all season.
V. If Malcolm Brown is truly healthy and ready to go, he needs to play. Yes, the backfield gets a little crowded, but he was arguably the offense's best player in the first two games. This team isn't so good on offense that it can't use a kid that would have been headed for 1,000 yards without the injuries.
VI. An underrated storyline from Saturday's game was the improvement of safeties like Mykkele Thompson and Adrian Phillips. The missed tackles and busted coverages were kept to a minimum and the truth is that the middle of the field was mostly on lockdown in the passing game all day. Duane Akina's troops took a step forward on Saturday.
VII. One thing Bryan Harsin cannot do in these final three drives is lose confidence in his quarterback. Although Ash had a slump throwing the ball, the Longhorns have to keep letting him attempt to make plays because the ball cannot be in Mike Davis' hands enough. They have to find a way to double Davis' touches each week.
No. 2 - The grades are in The Texas Tech Report card
Carrington Byndom: Shame on me for not giving the junior corner from Lufkin more due as soon as the game ended. While matched up with Tech's best receiver Eric Ward, Byndom limited Tech's No. 1 to five catches on 11 targets for 72 yards. None of those plays came in the end zone and five times he was responsible for breaking up a pass, even if he was credited with only one pass break up. Oh and he blocked a kick that helped seal the game. Finally, the Byndom of 2011 returned to the field in 2012.
Mike Davis: Just throw Magic Mike the damn ball. Four catches for 165 yards and two scores. Don't look now, but he's on pace for 1,000 yards and possibly 10 scores.
David Ash: Ash was a playmaker and a caretaker at the same time on Saturday, which was critical to the team's game-plan. Yes, he was in a little bit of a funk in the third quarter, but the guy made plays all day when he needed to. Given what happened in Lawrence, this represented a big step forward for him.
Malcom Brown: The coaches put Brown into the game in the early stages of the first quarter and he showed up all over the field. It just seems like he is always active, always disruptive and always productive with his time on the field.
Steve Edmond: This was the best game of his young career by far, as its one thing to limit mistakes and quite another to do it while you're making a batch of important plays. The sophomore was a striker on Saturday, leading the team in tackles and playing a fairly strong game in pass defense as well. This is the player some of us thought we'd be seeing all season.
Dominic Espinosa: There have been times this season when the sophomore has taken some lumps, but I thought he played at a high level against the Red Raiders. On multiple occasions, he made very tough blocks at the second or third levels of the defense that helped spring big plays and his pass protection was very good. Outside of a couple of exchanges with Mason Walters (not sure they were really Espinosa's issues), I saw very little to nitpick. The left-center of that Texas line is playing very well.
Johnathan Gray: Texas doesn't win this game without the true freshman tailback from West Texas that started fast and ended with a flurry. A few more touches might have sent him into the championship level territory.
Trey Hopkins: Each week it seems like Hopkins is playing very good football, with Saturday being no exception.
Alex Okafor: The stat sheet suggests that he had a fairly quiet game, but I thought Okafor was key from start to finish in helping make Seth Doege's life in the pocket a miserable existence. Believe me, Doege knows that Okafor played well.
Nick Rose: Just keep letting him swing away, Mack. MVP of the special teams.
Kenny Vaccaro: The senior safety gave up a single reception from his nickel back position and played a solid brand of football overall. Vaccaro didn't make the big plays this week that he did in Lawrence, but he helped erase the slot position from the Tech offense.
Solid game, winning play
Greg Daniels: It's not the thing that gets a lot of attention because there's no direct stat that reflects it, but he's evolving at the position and the Longhorn ground game was better this week with his presence on the field.
Quandre Diggs: There sophomore corner gave up six receptions out of nine targets for 71 yards and a pass interference penalty in the end zone. That being said, he didn't give up the big play in the passing game, just a few nickels and dimes.
Desmond Jackson/Brandon Moore/Chris Whaley: All three players have been disappearing at times in the last few weeks, but all three played their rear ends off this weekend, as they dominated the line of scrimmage and seemed to collectively live in the Tech backfield. Texas can win out if this group is dealing on a weekly basis like it was against Tech.
Peter Jinkens: The true freshman was forced into duty when Kendall Thompson went out and I Jenkins handled himself more than adequately, making one stop on third down to get Tech off the field and never making a mistake that would have led to any momentum for the Red Raiders.
Cedric Reed/Reggie Wilson: The pass rush isn't quite there yet, but the run defense is much improved.
Mykkele Thompson: He's making progress. I didn't count any critical mistakes, missed tackles or busts in coverage. He played a very solid brand of football.
Others that graded in this group: Joe Bergeron , Josh Cochran, Anthony Fera, Donald Hawkins, Bryant Jackson, Alex King, Adrian Phillips, Luke Poehlmann, Ryan Roberson, Jaxon Shipley, Kendall Thompson, Josh Turner and Mason Walters.
Daje Johnson/D.J. Monroe: You know the drill by now
Duke Thomas: The youngster was pushed into first quarter duty early in the game when Byndom briefly left the field and he not only gave up a reception, but missed the tackle that would have helped limit the damage. You can't grade a guy off of a few plays, but he has to do better when he gets game reps.
Others that graded in this group: DeMarco Cobbs, D.J. Grant, Marquise Goodwin, Jeremy Hills, Kendall Sanders and Dalton Santos
No. 3 - Quick impressions from the third weekend of action in the Big 12
Baylor: Lache Sestrunk had 194 yards of offense on Saturday in what amounts to something of a coming out party.
Kansas: It defies logic that Kansas nearly beat Texas last week.
Kansas State: Everyone waits with bated breath until we find out the severity of Collin Klein's injured wrist, but if he's out of action, it would represent a cruel, cruel blow to perhaps the only team that could give Alabama a tussle in the BCS title game. Of course, I've said all year that Daniel Sams will be hell on wheels next year when he takes over at quarterback. Well, next year could be this year very quickly.
Iowa State: The Longhorns better strap it up this weekend. The Cyclones aren't very good, but they fight their rear ends off to the final seconds and I'm convinced that fight is probably worth 10-14 points each week. The bad news for them is that Jake Knott being out of the line-up is worth a touchdown.
Oklahoma: Sooner fans have been clamoring all year for Brennan Clay to get more touches (he's sort of their D.J. Monroe) and they finally got their wish on Saturday, as Clay had a coming out party against Iowa State in Ames. There wasn't anything flashy about the win in Ames, but they were never really in danger. It was a good, solid win.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys gave a hell of an effort on Saturday, considering the quarterback play was dismal until very late in the game. That being said, Joseph Randle has to be better than 43 yards on 15 carries.
TCU: Watch out, folks. Gary Patterson's young group of kids is growing up and getting better by the day. Yes, the Mountaineers have long since been exposed as just another version of Texas Tech, but for Trevone Boykin to take that team into Morgantown and snatch a win from the jaws of defeat is really impressive. They won't be an easy out for anyone the rest of the way.
Texas Tech: Tommy Tuberville didn't do as good of a job as Mack Brown this week in preparing his football team.
West Virginia: I guess the win over Texas really was their Super Bowl. Who would have thought Geno Smith wouldn't even garner an invite to New York in December? Tavon Austin deserved better on Saturday.
Post-Week 8 Big 12 Power Poll
Note: Last week's rankings are listed in parentheses
1. Kansas State (1)
2. Oklahoma (2)
3. Texas (5)
4. TCU (8)
5. Texas Tech (3)
6. West Virginia (4)
7. Oklahoma State (6)
8. Iowa State (7)
9. Baylor (9)
10. Kansas (10)
No. 4 - College football thoughts: From A-to-Z
A: All about the Mad Hatter: LSU deserved a better fate on Saturday night than it received, but it just could not overcome four quarters of terrible game management by Les Miles. The Tigers dominated three quarters of that game and found a way to steal defeat from the jaws of victory. The contrast between the way Miles handled the game versus the velvet touch that Nick Saban displayed throughout was apparent.
B: BCS Musical chairs: With several teams pulling rabbits out of their collective hats on Saturday, it seems like we're headed towards a matter of if and not when as it relates to giant outrage from some school.. or two.
C: Cajun Cannon: Oh, bother. I think it's safe to say that there's only one Bobby Hebert and the mold was broken in sports media the day that the former NFL quarterback hopped into the fray. Apparently the Cajun Cannon was so out of control in the press box cheering for the Tigers that he had to be escorted out of the press box by police. "He was disturbing other media members who were trying to do their jobs and he was warned twice," LSU associate sports information director Bill Martin told NOLA.com. "We had complaints from several people in the press box." WTF?
D: Defensive Player of the Week: Kansas State was in a dogfight with Oklahoma State in the first half when Josh Chapman essentially ended the game with his pick-six with 2:31 left in the half. It turned a 24-17 game into a 31-17 game. His three interceptions kept that game from every being as close as it could have been.
E: Eating Crow: It wasn't my day when you consider that I missed on Texas/Texas Tech and my upset special of LSU over Alabama. Do not bet on my picks, folks.
F: Freshman of the Week: It's amazing to think where Johnny Manziel was this summer compared to where he is right this second, which seems to be the boy wonder of the SEC. When he plays average to below average teams, he's just destroyed the competition. He was the best player on the field in a win over Mississippi State.
G: Good game, good effort: Missouri probably gave its best collective effort of the season, but was a missed touchdown pass in the final seconds away from pushing Florida to overtime. James Franklin needed to throw a better ball in that situation because the window was there.
H: Heisman Tracker After Week 3 1. Colin Klein (quarterback/Kansas State) 2. Braxton Miller (QB/Ohio St.) 3. Marquis Lee (WR/USC)
I: If I had a vote that mattered (last week in parenthesis)
1. Alabama (1)
2. Kansas State (2)
3. Oregon (3)
4. Notre Dame (4)
5. Georgia (6)
6. Florida (7)
7. LSU (5)
8. Florida State (8)
9. South Carolina (9)
10. Oklahoma (NR)
J: Just win, baby! It's easy to look at Notre Dame's harrowing win over Pittsburgh and nit-pick. There's no way any of the other national title contenders would have been pressed at home like the Irish were, but who cares? The dream season continues, period. There are moments when the bigger picture must stand out from the pack and this was one of those moments. No person outside of South Bend or besides Lou Holtz thinks the Irish are No.1 in the country, but to even have an invite to the dance at this late date means that the clock has not yet hit midnight. Just. Win. Baby.
K: Keep an eye on these games next week: Texas A&M at Alabama, Kansas State at TCU, Oregon State at Stanford and Penn State at Nebraska. There's not a lot of meat on that bone.
L: Losing doesn't seem right: In his last two games, USC receiver Marquis Lee has 28 receptions for 502 yards and four touchdowns, along with 384 yards and a touchdown on kickoff returns and has an 0-2 record to show for it. That's 886 yards and five scores. What's that dude got to do to get a win?
M: Memo for Brian Kelly: Let Everett Golson be your quarterback. It was absolutely unreal that Golson was on the bench one week after he led the Irish to a win in Norman. He's a young quarterback and trial/error is part of the process of his development. Guess who led the Irish back from the dead in the final moments? Yes, it was Golson.
N: N-n-n-a-i-l-s: Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron was 1 of 7 for zero yards in the second half when he took to the field in the final 90 seconds, down by three points and a national title possibility on the line. McCarron and his teammates played like champions in finding a way to pull that rabbit out of a hat. They deserve their No. 1 ranking and that classifies as the best win any team in the country has accomplished in 2012.
O: Optimus Klein: The Autobots might have won the battle on Saturday night, but did they lose the war with the injury to Klein's wrist? That trip to Fort Worth looks so much trickier today than it did going into the weekend.
P: Player of the Week: If you didn't really know the name Kenjon Barner before this weekend because the only thing you knew about Oregon was that DeAnthony Thomas played for them, well welcome to the party. That man had 38 carries for 321 yards and five touchdowns in a 62-51 win over USC. It was the first time in school history USC has allowed 60+ points and Barner seemed to have damn near all of them.
Q: Quote of the weekend: "I should have kept that one in my hat," Les Miles replied when asked at halftime about his fake field goal attempt against Alabama.
R: Real talk: Once you get past the top five Top 10 teams and Texas A&M, the rest of the SEC is a steaming pile of garbage. That means more than half.
S: Snap judgment Alabama received its scare. They'll win out in the regular season and in the SEC title game from here on out.
T: True statement: Nothing about Arizona State/Oregon State interested me at all by the time Alabama/LSU had ended. Everything else just felt irrelevant at that point.
U: U.G.L.Y. You ain't got no alibi, you ugly, hey! My goodness, USC's defense never had a chance. I guess Super Bowls never prepared Monte Kiffin for Chip Kelly.
V: Voldemort Update: The coordinator whose name shall remain unspoken had a rough weekend as the running game couldn't get rolling in Bloomington and the Hawkeyes lost to Indiana. It'll never be January 4, 2006 ever again, will it?
W: What if . That must be the thought that runs through every LSU fan after seeing Nick Saban beat the Tigers twice in the last 11 months in the state of Louisiana with national title stakes on the line.
X: X-Factor: Braxton Miller has Ohio State at 10-0 with two to go. Only Shoelaces can stop Miller from a perfect first-year run with Urban Meyer.
Y: You heard it here first The Aggies give the Tide a game for 30 minutes on Saturday before the No. 1 team in the country separates emphatically 17-10 at the half 41-17 at the end.
Z: Zoolander look of the day: Via Twitter: @yookc: Kenjon Barner has more rushing yards today than Washington St. has ALL SEASON.
No. 5 - Ho-hum, the Cowboys lose to the Falcons in Georgia
What do you want me to say?
You cannot miss tackles, drop passes, make penalties and generally suck at offense, and still think you can win games against really good teams in the NFL and still win. Oh, I'm sure some will label this game as the Orlando Scandrick game, but the truth of the matter is that all of the same ugly vices that the team in silver and blue have possessed all season reared their ugly faces throughout this game.
It's just maddening to watch this team play football, but there was nothing new on Sunday night that we hadn't seen a million times.
Someone really needs to remind me what Jason Garrett did to earn his job. He's supposed to be an offensive guy, right?
No. 6 - Ho-hum, the Texans beat the Bills at home
The worst thing about Houston's NFL team franchise is that it plays a lot of boring football. Well, it's boring if you are an impartial observer looking for a competitive game. If you're a Texans fan, you probably like games that make you work hard enough to sweat, but not hard enough to sweat hard.
Buffalo gave a game effort, playing one of its toughest games of the season, but pushing the Texans isn't the same as beating them and when all the pieces come together like they did on Sunday for Houston, the Bills needed to play perfect football and the Texans wouldn't allow it.
Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels all did their things and the run defense was suffocating.
That's all that mattered, really. When you're really good in the NFL, sometimes you win games that few will ever remember.
I wish my team was this boring.
No. 7 - It's the sport of kings, better than diamond rings, That's why we're here to sing, football Sunday in the snow, referee's whistle blows, We've been warriors toe-to-toe
That was a big boy, big-time win by the Steelers at New York.
So, that Andrew Luck guy is going to be ok in the NFL, huh? Wowzers, he's incredible.
Peyton Manning didn't even play all that well on Sunday at test and he was still money in the bank in Cincinnati. The Broncos are not a team I'd want to see in the playoffs if I'm the Texans.
Chicago's defense is just manhandling teams. It's just incredible how well they are playing and how many points they are creating. That was a humiliation in Nashville.
Doug Martin is the real deal, if you didn't know.
Adrian Peterson is the real deal, but you already knew that.
Aaron Rodgers might be having a better season in 2012 than he had in his MVP year of 2011 when you consider all of the injuries that the Packers keep suffering on offense. He took a collection of Randall Cobb, James Jones and Tom Crabtree and went to serious work against the Cardinals.
My fingers are crossed for Aaron Williams.
I'd feel bad Jacksonville Jaguars fans if I knew any. I don't know what the game plan is with that franchise, but that's a bad team.
Of course, I'm playing Carson Palmer in fantasy football. Goodness, gracious.
No. 8 - Opening week thoughts on the Association
I'm not going to go overboard, but the Knicks looked like an improved basketball team. Melo finally looks comfortable.
The Lakers better pray to the stars above that Steve Nash's injury isn't anything more than a 1-2 weeks deal like the initial reports suggest. You can't roll out Steve Blake every night at the point and expect to win a lot of games. Mike Brown might have to ride Kobe into the ground just to survive December.
Kevin Durant's greatness as a player will get tested with the loss of James Harden. This will serve as an opportunity for Durant to be even more assertive as a player, which he needs.
If the Thunder struggle at all without Harden this season, the national fall guy will be Russell Westbrook. We all know that, right?
How well would the Rockets have to play for James Harden to be an MVP candidate? Top four in the West?
No. 9 - Pop goes the culture because the culture goes pop.
Movie Trailer of the Week: Not because this is good, but just because it looks entirely wretched .
Memo to Kirstie Alley: I'm pretty sure John Travolta does not feel the same way .
Declaration: Carrie Underwood won the CMAs.
Sign that the apocalypse is upon us : Casablanca 2. Oh, brother.
Question of the day: Did Paris have work done?.
Hotties of the Week: Sophie Turner wins Halloween.
100-Word Movie Review of the Week: Flight (B+)
Denzel. Is. Back. Perhaps not since Training Day has he been this good. We hate him, we love him. He repulses us and charms at the same time. There's not much in this movie that won't make you repulsed at a basic personal level, yet Denzel is so good that the idea of hope or something better never quite dies. The real star of this movie is addiction, as it is at the root of everything we watch. Denzel's ability to take us into dark places makes for a showcase performance. Oscar-worthy stuff.
No. 10 - The List: Amos Lee
It turns out that the Boss is more than a five-day challenge, so while I work the rest of this week to turn out the definitive Springsteen list, I'll wet your lips with one of my favorite current performers.
After listening to The Strokes last week, I really needed someone's voice that makes me feel good and not turn off a song.
If you are unfamiliar with Amos Lee, you can just thank me later.
Quick story I first heard Amos on a date at a Norah Jones show at the Backyard. While the date was a drag, getting turned on to his music was one of the better wins of the decade as far as music is concerned. After the show was over, I ended up meeting Amos and nearly taking him to Houston the next day, but he found a ride from someone else.
Let's get on with the list ( subscribe via Spotify )
Just missed the cut: Kid, Won't Let Me Go, The Darkness, Careless, Leaned a Lot, Violin, May I Remind You, It Started to Rain and What's Been Going On
10. Shout Out Loud
This song just makes me want to come out of my seat. It's Amos with an up-tempo message song with a gospel feel the song is like a cozy Sunday on the couch.
9. Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight
There are times when I hear a little Stevie in Amos' voice and this is one of those songs that brings out that kind of quality.
8. Black River
A simple, beautiful, uplifting song.
7. All My Friends
Mellow Amos with everything stripped down so that it's just a simple song that allows his musical gifts of story-telling to take over.
6. Give It Up
Amos at his funkiest. It's impossible to not get in the groove.
5. Windows Are Rolled Down
One of Amos' most powerful songs, the best of his voice can be found inside of this song.
4. Night Train
It's impossible for me to listen to this song just once and it's impossible for me to not have it in my head all day as a byproduct. I love this song.
3. The Wind
I'm absolutely in love of a lot of Amos' early stuff, which can often involve nothing more than him and his guitar, but this song off the Supply and Demand album is a more mature, refined song that has some country/R&B roots and shows how dynamic when he combines the right song with the wrong sound because his naturel gifts after out of this world. This song really is perfection.
This is one of the songs that caused me to fall in love with his music. I could literally listen to this song on loop all day.
1. Arms of a Woman
One of my favorite songs of the last decade, maybe even my No.1.
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Previous Lists on Spotify: 2-Pac, Beastie Boys, Beethoven, Biggie Smalls, Boyz II Men, Jeff Buckley, Phil Collins, Sam Cooke, Joe Ely, Al Green, Guns N' Roses, Hall and Oats, Jimi Hendrix, Whitney Houston, Jodeci, 2-Pac, Bob Marley, George Michael, Mo-Town, Willie Nelson, Stevie Nicks, One-hit Wonders from the 1990's, Prince, Prince (After Hours), Outkast, Queen, Reba, Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones, Scarface, Snoop Dogg . Gary Stewart , George Strait, The Strokes, UGK, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Hank Williams Sr.