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UNDER THE RADAR: Playoff Contenders Narrow, Big 12 vs Big 10, Notre Dame & The ACC, Sparty Rises

And Then There Were Nine: After a wild weekend the playoff contender field narrowed from 13 and now just 9 remain standing. The ACC has Clemson and Miami, the SEC has Alabama and Georgia, The Big 12 has Oklahoma and TCU and Notre Dame is the lone independent. The Pac 12 has Washington while Wisconsin is the lone survivor in the Big 10 after Penn State and Ohio State lost.

Big 12 Vs Big 10 Heisman Edition: After Baker Mayfield's huge game against Oklahoma State many Big 10 fans on social media started dissing Big 12 defenses. The numbers do not lie but there is more to it than meets the eye. The average national rank of Big Ten defenses is 41st and for the Big 12 it is 80th. But switch sides of the ball and Big 12 offenses on average rank 47th and the Big Ten 80th. The Big 12 has 4 offenses in the National Top 9 and the Big Ten only has one (Ohio State) ranked in the Top 32. That raises two questions. Are Big 12 defensive numbers bad because they play great offenses or vice versa? And are Big 10 defenses good because they play below average offenses or is it the other way around? Probably some of both.

Sparty's Rise May Be Just Starting Again: When the season is over Michigan State’s win over Penn State may look like less and less of an upset. Mark Dantonio and his staff weathered a tough offseason after a disappointing 2016 season. After nine games they are 7-2. The defense is rebuilt and they have probably found their quarterback of the future. Four different wide receivers gave Penn State big problems. But they may be just getting started because Saturday’s depth chart listed only 3 senior starters..

Notre Dame’s Southern Strategy: When Notre Dame signed a deal to play in the ACC in sports other than football it also included an agreement to play several ACC football game every year. This gives the Irish a number of games played in the South getting them exposure in rich football states from Virginia through Florida. But for the ACC selling out to get a part-time football member may backfire this year. If the Irish beat Miami and Oklahoma wins out a 12-1 Miami ACC Champion could be left behind one-loss Notre Dame.

A QB Under Center Part 1: During the Iowa-Ohio State game Hawkeye Quarterback Nate Stanley kept the Buckeye defensive line guessing with his snap count from under center. His use of the lost art of the hard count drew OSU offside twice. While 2 penalties for 10 yards may not seem major, on every other play under center the d-line has to focus on staying onside and that slows down their takeoff. For Ohio State with their spread offense and a defense that never really hears cadence in practice it is an adjustment in a game like Saturday.

A QB Under Center Part 2--Saquon Barkley: As fans and scouts alike watch Penn State RB Saquon Barkley many wonder how he'd do in Pro-style formations witha QB under center. No doubt he has the skills to take a pitch on a sweep or go north-south on a power play with his shoulders square to the line. For comparison we used the past two seasons versus the 2015 season when the QB and run game emanated from both under center and in the shotgun. Using Power-5 Opponents as the measuring stick here are the rushing numbers. They're not dramatically better but it is an interesting comparison for those gauging how Saquon will do in the NFL (I’ll go out on a limb and say VERY well)

Power 5 100-yd Yds Per Yds Per Carries Per

Games Games Game Carry Game

2015 8 4 (50%) 112.3 5.6 20.1

2016-17 19 6 (32%) 103.7 5.3 19.4

Screenshot of the Week: So why did the Penn State-Michigan State in East Lansing suffer through a 3:23 weather delay? With the lightning that was in the area the safety of players and fans was very important. Just take a look at this satellite image and realize that East Lansing is the circled area that is about to get smashed.

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