BLITZING SEVEN: Tackling Trump, Saquon's Place in History, Style Points and Friday Night Lights
1. Where Saquon Ranks Among The Greats: As a guy with a long knowledge of Penn State football, I’ve been asked to "rank" Saquon Barkley among the all-time Nittany Lion greats. His career has already been special. But ranking players across generations is impossible. You can argue either way. While Barkley catches passes, runs the ball and returns kicks Lenny Moore did all of that AND played defense at a time when guys didn’t come off the field. On the flip side when Lenny Moore played, the game was less integrated and was not as open to all the best players. In defense of players like Larry Johnson or Curt Warner the tackling in that era was much better than it is now…..around and around you can go. So what’s the answer? Saquon is a unique talent so enjoy him while he is still playing college football. Special seasons like the one he’s having tend to fly by……
2. Generations of Greatness: Sticking with Penn State, the Nittany Lions have created a “Generations of Greatness” uniform that highlights several eras of Penn State’s history. One topic of conversation among players, coaches and fans has been the white shoes the team will wear. They’re a reminder of the white shoes Penn State wore in one game the 1979 Sugar Bowl—a game they lost. There is a story behind those unicorn-esque white shoes. At that time the Superdome’s astroturf surface was not common in college football so it was tough to find the right shoes. Penn State players were allowed to wear whatever Adidas shoes they felt gripped the turf best (before the PSU/Nike days). Some players wore white shoes and others wore black. After the loss it was the last time Joe Paterno allowed white shoes.
3. Tackling Trump (not what you think): Last week while making his anti-NFL comments the President ranted on tackling and the targeting penalty. Trump complained that they are throwing flags after what used to be good hits and throwing people out of the game. That is a dangerous statement to make given football’s existential concussion threat. Even at 8th and 9th-grade football games parents complain about penalties for targeting-type hits. As a guy who coached players who were targeted with helmet to helmet shots I view the President's rhetoric about how the game should be played as dangerous. He certainly wouldn’t advocate NASCAR taking away safety devices and procedures for their drivers.
4. It Could Happen in Football: Amid college basketball’s rough week, we'd be wise to remember that football is not without its own agent and recruiting corruption. Basketball’s one and done NBA model exposes high school players to agents, advisers and shoe companies. If they buy a high school basketball player they wait less than a year to make money on him. Football’s 3-year NFL waiting period simply may postpone the dangerous period for two years. For example if Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports meets with a big-time sophomore and his family the player can’t sign with them. But there’s nothing keeping him from giving a nod that he’ll sign at the end of the year. To compete with that kind of star power other agents will certainly cut corners. Stay tuned.
5. For Poll Voters Offense = Style Points: Woe to teams that grind people down and beat them with defense. Michigan and Georgia have beaten ranked teams but are ranked behind teams with softer schedules. Why? Both of those teams are judged to be offensively deficient. Michigan has beaten Florida, Cincinnati, Air Force and Purdue (two of those games away from home) but has struggled in the red zone. Georgia has beaten two ranked teams (at Notre Dame and Mississippi State) but scored just 20 points against the Irish. Still, nobody gets to the playoff dance without a very good defense. While Michigan is off this week, Georgia travels to Knoxville to take on Tennessee’s shaky offense. Look for another lockdown performance by the Bulldogs.
6. Friday Night Lights --ACC: Late Friday night we’re going to know something more about either Duke or Miami. If you switch these team’s names and ranked them solely on 2017 results Duke (4-0) would be ranked and Miami (2-0) maybe not. Duke’s played a tougher schedule and has a balanced offense averaging over 200 yards both on the ground and in the air. Miami’s defense will have to shake off the rust of playing 1 game the last three weeks. At night’s end one of them will have taken a big step in their division.
7. Friday Night Lights --PAC 12: The Pac 12’s game of the week is tonight with #5 USC traveling to face #16 Washington State. Once again the Cougars are scoring a lot averaging nearly 44 points per game. USC’s defense has been solid but not great. As good as he is, USC’s Sam Darnold has also thrown 7 interceptions. The Cougars are good enough on offense to make the Trojans pay should they continue to turn it over. This one will be worth staying up to watch.