BLITZING 7: Road Warriors, Big Brother and AARP's Maize and Blur Defense
1. Big Brother/Little Brother Keystone Edition: Penn State and Pitt play Saturday for the 98th time in a Rivalry that was once an annual season-ending game as bitter as any in college football. While the rivalry faded with Penn State joining the Big Ten, Pitt fans kept harboring a venomous dislike for Penn State. Penn State fans tended to be dismissive of Pitt much like the Panthers were the pesky little brother that kept wanting to play with you and your friends. Well Pitt Coach Pat Narduzzi knows how to play the Big Brother/ Little Brother scenario. He learned from his time at Michigan State working for Coach Mark Dantonio whose Spartans played and beat “big brother” Michigan in seven of the last ten games.
2. Tough Road Debut: New Oklahoma Coach Lincoln Riley gets a brutal career road debut when he takes his team to #2 Ohio State. Since Urban Meyer took over in Columbus the Buckeyes are 34-2 at home and have outscored their opponents by 945 points (an average of 26.25). Talk about jumping on a bike for the first time with no training wheels. The key will be how well they handle the noise in a stadium that architecturally holds in sound. Want a tougher road debut? Joe Paterno took Penn State to play #1 and eventual National Champion Michigan State in his first road game as Penn State head coach in 1966.
3. Speaking of Road Trips: UCLA may have had a comeback on Sunday night and a short week, but they do get Hawaii for their next game. The Rainbow Warriors should change their name to the Road Warriors. The trip to LA for this game is their SHORTEST road trip of the year at 2,550 miles. The longest was week one at UMass (5,080 miles). Their total travel for 6 games will be 19,310 miles an average of 3,418 miles—about the same as going from JFK to London for every game.
4. More Road Warriors: While Hawaii has some long trips Stanford is on the road at USC after a 7,420 mile trip to wallop Rice in Australia. The Cardinal play their first three games on the road including the Sydney trip the USC trip and next week at San Diego State. The Cardinal only play six home games this year in an era when most Power-5 teams play seven home games. While the Cardinal looked impressive in their opener, USC took a long time to shake off Western Michigan 49-31. We don’t know enough about either team yet to assess their playoff contender status but we'll know a lot more by game’s end.
5. Maize and Blur Defense sponsored by AARP: Cincinnati goes to Michigan tomorrow to face a defense that appeared to have video game speed in all-Maize uniforms as they dominated Florida. In the 33-17 win both of Florida’s touchdowns came courtesy of interception returns thrown by Michigan’s offense. This is a speedy tough defense that plays fast with little hesitation. The old-school approach makes sense given UM’s veteran defensive coaches. Defensive Coordinator Don Brown, D-Line Coach Greg Mattison and Safeties Coach Michael Zordich are experienced detail-oriented coaches. All three are AARP eligible and the average age of the defensive staff is about 51 years old. Who says this is a young man’s game?
6. Upset City: Hats off to the huge upsets by Liberty (at Baylor) and Howard (at UNLV). Looking for upsets this week? Maybe UConn over #21 South Florida or Arkansas over #23 TCU.
7. Early Returns for Best Conference: After a lot of off-season noise by ACC coaches touting their conference as the Nation’s best the ACC fell flat. So where do we stand after week 1? The PAC 12, The Big 10 and the SEC are in a dead heat for week 1 honors.
Overall vs FBS vs Power-5 vs Ranked
The PAC 12 12-1 7-1 3-0 0-0
The SEC 12-2 9-2 3-2 1-1
The Big Ten 10-2 10-2 2-2 2-2
The ACC 10-4 4-4 2-4 1-1
The Big 12 7-3 2-2 0-2 0-1
All three can make an argument. The PAC 12 was 3-0 against Power-5 teams but did not play a single game against a ranked team. The Big 10 was 2-2 against ranked teams but in three of those four games unranked Big Ten teams faced ranked opponents. The SEC had a narrow escape (Tennessee over Ga Tech) and an epic meltdown (Texas A&M at UCLA). This week the PAC 12 hosts two unranked Big Ten teams. The ACC has two big chances to claw back some ground with Pitt at #4 Penn State and Clemson hosting #13 Auburn. The Big 12 needs Oklahoma to have a great night at Ohio State.