Happy Monday, Cougar Nation.
Hope you are all still basking in the glow of the 45-28 who-cares-fest that was Saturday night...Don't know about you all, but watching that game was like putting various body parts in a vice and just tightening, tightening, and tightening......
So, as we head into the conference slate and this weekend's game against CONQUEST, here are a few takes (and please add yours) regarding the upcoming game and conference tilt.
ON OFFENSE: This game is only worth watching because I think it will give us our first real look at how good this offense really is. As Brinkhater has noted, I believe that Wisconsin is a fraud. We also know that SDSU is terrible, and while Idaho's effort was superb, they just aren't very good either...USC clearly is...so it will be a great test for us..
Though stated many o time this year, Brinkhater STILL can't emphasize enough that in order to sniff mediocrity this year, the offense is going to HAVE TO put up a lot of points. My sense is that if we can put up some points against SC on the road, then we can feel pretty good about our chances against the Mildcats in a MUST WIN game the following week.
That noted, in addition to being #1, USC poses an interesting test for us based on Petey's continued use of the two-deep shell. As you all may know, the two-deep shell enables us to run the football with some success if the line is playing well. That said, it also really eliminates our ability to stretch the field vertically. Typically, when we play SC, you'll see the LBs and safeties work in tadem to jam the middle while the corners lay off to jump the short stuff. In other words, this game is REALLY going to be a test for Alex Brink...Brinkhater thinks that if Alex can hit his receivers a little earlier than in games and seasons past--and if we can generate some meaningful yards-after-catch, then that will bode VERY well for the rest of the season. In other words, score points this weekend, and I think we can be confident we'll score all year long...
On DEFENSE, well, I don't even know where to start. Although I am stealing a bit of Sedihawk's take on AOL, the one note from the Spuds game was how incredibly and ridiculously far back our safeties are playing. When you add an absolutely INCOMPETENT group of linebackers and a weak pass rush too boot, you have the recipe for a defense that very well could rank in the bottom 15 nationally. They really could be that bad.
That said, Brinkhater understands why Dobes would want to protect his young corners early, keep the game in front, and play "not to lose." The problem is that everyone is playing so far back that, absent a pass rush, its just pitch and catch with poor run support as well. Thus, we aren't stopping anybody, our d is spending lots of time on the field, and as a result, our offense is not getting enough time on the field.
Thus, this weekend must be the game that is all about PROTECTING THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELD. Doba MUST let his corners loose--even if that means that we get beaten deep 5 times a game. The bottom line: we need to get our offense on the field as much as possible and we need to be able to get some stops down the road...so, we need to go for broke, allow our kids to get beat down the sidelines a few times and let them learn to use their athleticism to recover.
Simply put: It is hard to imagine us giving up less than 35 points against most Pac-10 offenses no matter what we do. But, IF we continue our continued bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, touchdown scheme our offense will not have enough possessions to top that. In fact, our current scheme is so dour, that Brinkhater actually pondered whether or not Saturday night's win might be the last of the year.
So, pay attention to what the middle of the field looks like on Saturday..if you see a bunch of crimson helmets, then I think we will be witnessing the seeds of a potentially respectable campain. If not, LOOK out. It could get really ugly.
Finally: you saw earlier in the month, staff predictions regarding order of finish in the Pac. Now that the conference slate starts this weekend, here's Brinkhater's revised predicitons:
1) SC (Too much of the total package, but really could be challenged with a full slate of Conf games)
2) CAL (Offensive Speed just too much to handle)
3) Oregon (Cal Lite)
4) Arizona State (Denny wins early, but give him time to tear ASU down)
5) Oregon State ( Brinkhater still likes their running game and defense)
6) UCLA ("over-rated")
7) Washington (game versus UCLA this weekend crucial to Dawg season and verse vice-ah)
8) WSU (Safe pick, could go "up" or "down;" Arizona game is EVERYTHING!)
9) Arizona (Brinkhater's darkhorse no more)
10) Stanford (will not be a cupcake late......)
Give us your takes...
And have a great week.