Friday, December 13, 2002
Miami and Oklahoma look like the best
By Terry Bowden
Special to ABC Sports Online
Before Miami's 28-27 win over Florida State, I felt there were three possible outcomes to this game: the Hurricanes winning big or either team winning close. Having talked with my father and brother about their gameplan, I thought if FSU could run the ball it would have a chance to stay close and take the game into the second half, which the Seminoles surely did with 298 rushing yards.
Florida State did as well as it could expect. The Seminoles had breaks and opportunities, and things went their way until the last field goal attempt. Miami showed what championship-caliber teams do by finding a way to win when someone was taking it to them and the quarterback was not having a great game.
Miami has never been very committed to stopping the run, and I don't know why. As good as the Hurricanes are, they are going to let you run a little bit. But I will say this: Miami is one of the few teams in the country that plays pure two-deep coverage the entire game. Neither of the safeties get very close to the line of scrimmage. Everyone else is putting eight or nine people on the line stop the run, but the 'Canes believe they are so talented up front that they can stop the run with seven people, leaving the two corners out wide and the two safeties very deep.
If those seven can stop the running game teams will never beat Miami because of the athletes in the secondary. The problem last weekend was that Florida State is a good running team and the Seminoles proved that every now and then they can find a way to stop the run on defense.
That would seem to give Virginia Tech a chance against Miami, but rushing the football for 200 yards and scoring more than 17 points may be two different things. The Hurricanes will let you run the ball the way other teams let you throw it short, but they let very few big plays happen against them.
On offense for Miami, Ken Dorsey proved that he is a human being. He had what some would say is a bad day, but it was a bad day in which he threw for 360 yards and two touchdowns. He showed that he can make mistakes and have a bad day and still be a quarterback who can lead Miami to the national championship. When the game is on the line he had the ability to lead Miami down the field for the winning score.
If a team is going to play for and win championships like the Hurricanes want to do, there will be two or three games during the year in which when it runs into mistakes or a hot team and somehow doesn't do anything right except find a way to win. Last year for Miami it was games against Boston College and Virginia Tech, and now this year they have dodged a bullet and proven they are a championship-caliber team by hanging in there and coming back against Florida State.
FSU will respond the right way to this game. The 'Noles are not going to play for a national championship, but they are making strides. They are showing that while they may be behind Miami from an athletic standpoint in the secondary, other than that they seem to have the players they need. Florida State needs to win the ACC and get to a BCS bowl if it can, and in the offseason make sure to recruit great players and continue to develop.
Red River rout
|Larry Coker agrees Miami can't keep living "on the edge."|
Of all the things that happened in Oklahoma's 35-24 win over Texas, Quentin Griffin rushing for 248 yards was the biggest surprise. I did not think that Texas would let him get over 100 yards. It was amazing that he could gain that much ground against a great Longhorns defense.
Sooners quarterback Nate Hybl threw four interceptions but never lost his cool, and that combined with the running game shows that OU will be able to ride a great that defense and have just enough offense to be a real national championship contender.
The fact that Hybl threw four picks is alarming, but he also had two touchdown passes and showed that he is the type of guys who will not to let his mistakes bring the team down.
I don't think there is a clear path to the national championship for OU, though. The Sooners are in the drivers seat but there are some obstacles in the road. They face Iowa State this week, a team that has the type of quarterback in Seneca Wallace who can give Oklahoma fits the way Missouri's Brad Smith did earlier this year and Ell Roberson of Kansas State did last year.
I also look at Colorado as a potential problem now that it has its quarterback situation solved and is playing big-time football. Oklahoma also gets stuck in close games on occasion, but is clearly the No. 2 team in the country and looks to be a team that will make the national championship game.
I thought before this game that Texas would win and Chris Simms would play a solid football game, but it did not happen thanks to his three interceptions and no touchdown passes. His legacy at Texas will be that he was not able to play well in big games, and big games at Texas are against the ones against Oklahoma.
Simms did nothing to change that, but you have to look at the fact that the really threw no foolish interceptions and did not really throw many bad passes. All of his interceptions came on deflected balls or great plays by defensive backs. But the fact is he couldn't make the big plays and turned the ball over. This should not affect him the rest of this year, though, and the Longhorns should be able to win some big games before the season is over.
I think what made a bigger impression on me is that the Texas game plan did not give Simms a lot of downfield throws that could get him touchdowns. The plan was to go with short, safe throws that would help prevent turnovers. When a defense has great athletes like OU, though, who make deflections and great breaks on the ball, that will lead to turnovers as much as poor quarterback play.
Texas coach Mack Brown just has to live with the talk about his inability to win the big games. He makes a lot of money and is in a top-notch program, and if you do not win the national championship at Texas things like that will be pointed out. But if someone tells me Mack Brown is on the hot seat because he can't beat win the big one they are crazy, because there are about 100 coaches in Division I-A that can't even get their teams to the big one. He's going to be criticized and he will be uncomfortable, but Texas isn't about to get rid of Mack Brown.
More criticism for officials, less for Navarre
Michigan's 27-24 win against Penn State in overtime was a great that nether team deserved to lose. There were two questionable calls down the stretch that could have cost either school the game, but thank goodness they balanced themselves out because you would hate to see a game like this decided on a bad call by the officials.
After we saw the Big Ten do the unimaginable a few weeks ago and dismiss four officials who worked the Wake Forest-Purdue game, you have to wonder what is going on with the officials in Big Ten.
But on to the more important things: this was a great game. Penn State has now lost two overtime games in the conference but this should be a big lift for Michigan, which just can't seem to play as good as we think it should. This game does show that the Wolverines have a chance in every game.
John Navarre threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, and including his four-TD game at Illinois has now played well in two straight games. He has taken a lot of criticism over the years and maybe it has been a bit much because he is doing the best he can. Navarre has upgraded his game to the point where he may now be the factor that wins close ball games for the Wolverines.
I still say Michigan does not run the ball like it used to, ranking 6th in the nation at 146 yards per game, and that always the heart of the U of M offense. But with John Navarre playing the way he is, there are only two a few big games they need to win (vs. Iowa, vs. Michigan, at Ohio State) in order to get to the Rose Bowl.
Terry Bowden is an analyst for ABC Sports and contributes a weekly column to ESPN.com.