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CounterIntelligence: The IU Edition

From time to time, when able, we like to reach across the aisle to our brethren in the blogosphere and gain some insight about that week’s opponent. This week is no different, as we were approached by John from CrimsonQuarry about a Q&A exchange. As a point of information, despite the good natured fun and shots we take at IU and how we see it as a rivalry, John and his site are a great measured perspective on Hoosier athletics. Granted (and much like BSU) there are vocal groups of fans that don’t necessarily speak for the group, but John does a particularly good job from a blog perspective keeping a pretty objective and rational keel. You can read my responses to John’s questions here, and also peruse the comment section that accuses me of being a fictitious parody. Great fun and not the first time (nor last, probably) that the messageboards and blogs don’t take us seriously. Same thing happened in 2008 and 2011. Those two years worked out well.

1.) Obviously with Tre Roberson being injured that changes things a bit on the IU offensive side of the ball. What do BSU fans need to know about Cam Coffman?

John, CQ: Coffman played one year at the junior college level , at Arizona Western, and had some pretty solid recruiting interest coming out of high school. Although Rivals listed him as a “dual threat” quarterback, he definitely is a pass first QB, and was selected for this offense by offensive coordinator Seth Littrell, who is a Mike Leach protege. He certainly is talented, but I don’t have a sense of how he will respond in his first start. He played well on short notice against UMass, completing 16-22 passes, but obviously UMass isn’t very good.

2.) The BSU offense, especially the running game, seems to be hitting on all cylinders so far. Who are the keys to the IU defense that BSU fans need to be aware of?

John, CQ: Well, IU struggled to contain Indiana State’s Shakir Bell, so win or lose I am sure that the Cardinals will gain a bunch of yards on the ground. IU has experience at the DT positions, with Adam Replogle and Larry Black, Jr., and sophmore Mike Murphy has been solid over the last two seasons at safety. Sophomore Chase Hoobler, a linebacker, played quite a bit as a freshman as well. The defense is still young, and will give up some yards, but at least thus far it has been bend-but-don’t break instead of break-and-break-again.

3.) As one of the most measured and objective IU fans I know, what are your thoughts about Kevin Wilson and the future of IU football? When does the decision point come regarding the future of the program? What are realistic expectations that fans should keep in mind?

John, CQ: Given what you have said on your site about Wilson, perhaps my answer will have you doubting my objectivity. I liked the Wilson hire when IU made it, and I’m still in his corner. Wilson has an excellent background, coming out of the Cradle of Coaches at Miami, helping Randy Walker win a Big Ten title at Northwestern, of all places, and then spending the better part of a decade as the OC for Bob Stoops at Oklahoma. Obviously, the one piece missing from his resume was head coaching experience, and I think that showed last year. But he’s a smart guy, a great football mind, and has assembled a strong staff, so I do think the program is in good hands. For this season, I expect to see progress but recognize that it may not be accompanied by a major uptick in wins. Next year, I’ll expect to see more wins. As for “the decision point,” I don’t think it’s anywhere close. I think it would take a complete lack of progress for Wilson to get any less than the customary five years, absent a change in the leadership of the athletic department, which I don’t anticipate.

4.) Perhaps least important to the outcome but most important to my morbid curiosity is the IU fan support. Talk a little about the support from the general IU fanbase and what you expect on Saturday night. What would you like to see changed or addressed concerning IU fan participation and buy in?

John, CQ: I think fan support has been fine. IU drew 41,000 for the Indiana State game and I expect a larger crowd considering the weather, the 8 p.m. kickoff, and the opponent (Ball State will bring some fans and IU fans realize this is an important game). Fred Glass has done a great job marketing the program to students and families, and it has paid off so far. I think the program is in a good position, but in the long term, success is going to determine fan support.

5.) Prediction not only for the final score but flow of the game?

John, CQ: I anticipate a high scoring game. Both offenses have looked pretty good, and both defenses pretty suspect. I don’t think it will be easy, but I do think IU will prevail in a back-and-forth affair by something like 42-35.

Big thanks to John for putting this together. If you’re looking for IU information and/or commentary, CrimsonQuarry is a good place to start and really the only place you’ll need to go. Feel free to register for an account there and inform that this site and its leadership are actually real people.



Counterintelligence: EMU Edition

From time to time when it comes to game prep, we reach across the aisle of the MAC legislature to get some feedback on our opponent. This week’s opposition? The Eastern Michigan Eagles, repped by the great blog Eagle Totem. I really admire what Carter and crew have been able to do in terms of coverage and attention for a program whose interest and attention makes Ball State look less like a MAC program and more like Notre Dame. It’s an uphill climb to begin with when you’re covering the Mid American Conference, but Eagle Totem does a great job. Carter answered our questions and we did the same for him. You can check our answers out here, and read on for EMU’s perspective on our quandaries.

OverThePylon: EMU and BSU seem to be by most expert predictions in similar spots in the MAC West. What needs to happen for EMU to be considered an above average MAC team?
EagleTotem: EMU needs to go 2-2 in non-conference play — very realistic this year — and find a way to get over .500 in league play. Looking at this year’s schedule, getting to 5-3 in the MAC would probably mean wins over Central Michigan, Kent State, Ball State, Bowling Green, and Western Michigan, with losses to Toledo, Northern Illinois, and Ohio. To me, it seems possible that this team could be playing in Ford Field on November 30, but it’s also possible that they could drop to 5-7 or even worse. Last year an OK EMU team was the beneficiary of an easy schedule in going 6-6; this year, a team that might be EMU’s best in two decades could post a worse record on a more difficult schedule. That’s just how it goes.

OTP: The offense for EMU ran wild on BSU last year. How does the eagle defense look this year? Is this a game where BSU needs to outscore EMU in a shoot out or is the EMU defense a hard to break unit?
ET: It’s hard to say because there are a lot of new names, particularly the defensive line and the safeties. The corners should be at least MAC-respectable this fall, and the linebackers are strong. Weak-side linebacker Justin Cudworth definitely has the potential to be first-team All-MAC.

OTP: What players do BSU fans need to be aware of? Who are the players that will ultimately define EMU’s success?
ET: EMU’s best defensive player last year was definitely Cudworth. On the defensive line, Andy Mulumba is one to watch out for. Offensively, the coaches hinted in the off-season that they’ll be looking for Alex Gillett to throw the ball a lot more, and if that’s the case, keep a close eye on Garrett Hoskins, Donald Scott, and Dustin Creel. If they come out running, any one of at least three guys (Gillett, Dominique Sherrer, Javonti Greene), and maybe others, could have a big game.

OTP: If you were putting together a game plan, how wold you beat EMU?
ET: Until I see it in action, I have no confidence in EMU’s passing game. I’d stuff the box defensively to try to shut down EMU’s running game and trust the secondary not to give up any big plays — force Gillett into making repeated 6-8 yard passes to move down the field. Offensively I’d stretch the field vertically and put pressure on EMU’s inexperienced safeties. Turn the game into a shootout and make the EMU offense keep up with you. Adopt an aggressive mindset of never giving the ball up, and be willing to go for it on fourth downs to keep drives going rather than punt or kick a field goal.

OTP: Predictions for the game?
ET: Here’s what I wrote in my game preview: “Although it’s possible that both defenses could come out strong, my best guess is that this is more likely to be a shoot-out than a defensive struggle. These teams have been very close the last two years and scored between 31 and 41 points against each other, and there’s no reason to expect anything different this year. It’s also worth noting that both teams have aspirations for a MAC West championship this year, making this a critical game for both teams. If I had to make a prediction, I’d say that EMU will come out with a significantly improved passing attack and both defenses will be thoroughly tested, en route to a 38-35 EMU win.”

Eagle Totem calls it a field goal win for them, I call it a field goal win for BSU. Looks like if the bloggers are to be believed, then this one is going to be close. Should be worth watching. 7pm. ESPN3. You know, in case you were looking for something to do tonight.

Counter Intelligence: Buffalo

Time to reach across the aisle to our opponent this week and see what they think to be the critical components of the contest Friday night as Buffalo hosts the Ball State Cardinals. We spoke to Tim at the Buffalo blog UBBullRun, who has made a nice little name for themselves on the SBNation platform as well as one of the better blogs in the MAC0sphere. Enjoy…

OTP: Most BSU fans are still smarting over the MAC Championship Game from 2008. Yes, it was two years ago, but it still stings as much now as it did the day after. Admit once and for all that you guys fluked your way into a MAC Championship and that will help. More to the point, do you think UB fans get as emotionally charged for BSU as we do for UB?
BR: Firstly we did not fluke that win! Buffalo was a ball stealing machine that season we did that week in and week out. Also our record (7-5) was not reflective of how good we were. UB was a goal post away from beating CMU and lost to WMU only after a collapse in the 4th. UB was, at least, on par with CMU and WMU that season. BSU probably wins that game seven out of ten times but the fact UB came out and played their game is not a fluke. I am feeling a whole lot less charged up for BSU than I was at the beginning of the season. Maybe it’s the beat downs we have suffered but at this point I look at BSU, EMU, and Akron all the same way. Teams I really, really don’t want to lose to.

OTP: Say I have a giant red Stan phone that rings direct to Coach P’s cell phone, assuming he even has one or knows what those new fangled things are. Since he directs the offense, what are the cracks in the Bulls’ defensive unit? What are the weak links in the defensive chain for the Bulls?
BR: Oddly enough it’s been the secondary. The one area that was supposed to anchor the unit while the front seven adjusted to the 3-4. Our Cornerbacks have really had a hard time keeping the play in front of them. The more aggressive posture taken by the Bulls have opened up some ugly holes when the play action is executed well. The main way to beat our defense is to keep them on the field; we don’t have the depth needed on the line to maintain pressure thought a long game.

OTP: Say the Stan phone doesn’t ring to him, but does hit up the defense and coordinator Jay Hood. What do the defenses that the Bulls have struggled against this season have in common? Any particular thing that’s an offensive problem for Buffalo that the defense can exploit?
BR: UB’s offensive line was suspect coming into this season; injuries have only made things worse. We can’t run block or protect the QB very well so I can’t think of a single thing a defense, outside of Bowling Green, tried that did not work on us. Basically we have a young QB with just three games behind him. Don’t give him time and you’ll be ok even if your coverage is not that great.

OTP: Give the BSU fans two players on offense and two on defense that we need to keep our eyes on.
BR: Ball State should watch for Alex Zordich who is quickly becoming our biggest running threat on the team. Time and time again he runs right through a defense carrying anyone smaller than a big linebacker. Rivers has huge big play potential but he has been a victim of a dysfunctional offense. On defense there are three guys Means, Mack, and Cook. Means has been a beast on the line, as a pure pass rusher we have not had anyone this good since Trevor Scott. Means is complimented on the other side by Khalil Mack who has been a force in the backfilled in almost every game this season. Finally Domonic Cook is the only think keeping UB anywhere near a non negative turnover ratio.

OTP: Buffalo is clearly struggling this season; much like BSU struggled last year. Is it solely because of Coach Gill leaving? Is there a lack of talent on the roster? What gives for a team that many thought were on the rise and a frontrunner for a BCS conference snapping them up?
BR: One of the big reasons you guys suffered so much last season (you’re not doing that hot this year either) is because Parrish insisted on mucking about with your defensive set. I think you guys cut over from a 3-4 to a 4-3 last season. UB is going through a similar thing this year. In addition to losing our QB, two receivers, and quite possibly the best pass catching tight end of the modern era we have ‘system issues’. Turner Gill built up a pro-set offense and Jeff Quinn took that nice shiny peg and used a hammer to jam it into a round hole.

OTP: As we’re a bit of music buffs here at OTP, give us a theme song for this season for Buffalo football.
BR: Have to go to Clapton for this… “Broken Down” Yesterday we were on a roll, baby, then we end up in a fight/Everywhere I look, I see problems, where I never seen before.
(Ed. Note… I think the theme should be Coach Quinn’s personal theme below, but I guess Clapton works as well.)

OTP: Prediction for not just the score, but how the game goes. The pace, the turning point, etc.
BR: Buffalo plays a great second and fourth quarter and the Cards have really punched the gas early in the game. BSU Is going to jump all over UB until the offense gets going and the Bulls will claw their way back in. The Bulls return two consecutive fumbles four touchdowns in the second half to run away with the game.

OTP: Really? Want to bring up those fumbles again? Johnny… anything for BullRun?


Counterintelligence: Toledo

Occasionally, OTP has the great fortune of being able to reach across the various state lines of Blogfrica to learn a bit about upcoming opponents. Today, we turn to Toledo blog Let’s Go Rockets for their wisdom and the answering of our five questions for this weekend’s epic contest between the Rockets and our beloved Ball State Cardinals.

OTP: So, Toledo… you’ve got Ball State coming in on Saturday, the same BSU that dropped a Homecoming contest in extremely failtastic fashion to Western Michigan and followed that up with a bed shatting against the MAC doormat of Eastern Michigan. Realistically, how concerned are you at all that BSU even covers the spread? Any possibility of a win for the Cardinals? Are the fans and students already chalking this up as a W and moving on to the next week?
LGR: The EMU game is a shining example of how you can’t underestimate or look past another MAC opponent. That being said, we don’t think you can count BSU out of this ballgame and Beckman and his team won’t go into the matchup on Saturday night thinking they’ve already won. While Toledo’s defense has played well, our offensive play has been sporadic at times and while we don’t view this as an opening for BSU to sweep in, it is possible that it’ll keep this game closer than we’d like.

OTP: Give the Cardinals fans something to worry about when Toledo has the ball. What’s been the brightest spot of success so far this season for the Rockets? Any superstar playmakers we should know about as we build our taunting base?
LGR: As was the case last year, Eric Page is a threat anytime he’s on the field (WR, KR/PR) while our young QB (Dantin) is progressing, Page is already at the next level and is dangerous everytime he gets the ball. The ability to make plays after the catch and get separation from his defender will leave opponent defenses chasing him all over the field. Our running game is picking up steam as well, Adonis Thomas and Morgan Williams are able to hit the openings created for them by the o-line and make plays. Be mindful of the QB scramble as well, Dantin has rushed for 236 yards on the season (72 yards in the last game against Kent State).

OTP: Same for the Toledo defense. Who stirs the drink on UT’s defensive side? Who should we purchase voodoo dolls for?
LGR: Ball State will want to watch out for our defensive line. Malcolm Riley and T.J. Fatinikun are particularly pesky up front for opponent defenses. Archie Donald, Dan Molls and Isaiah Ballard will also cause problems from the linebacker position. Keep an eye out for senior DE Alex Johnson who is returning from an injury (suffered against WMU).

OTP: You guys are undefeated in the MAC, yet got drilled by your two most impressive opponents (Boise State and Arizona). Clearly there’s no shame in that, but has there been any noticeable differences in the performance, execution, or gameplan in the Ws as opposed to the Ls?
LGR: As with most big name opponents, it’s tough to keep your composure when the heat is on. We can claim that we were shaking off the rust and getting into a rhythm when we played Arizona the first week of the season, but the same excuse doesn’t fit for the Boise State game. Aside from the obvious talent of those opponents, a lot of little factors contributed to the two loses for the Rockets. Penalties and poor execution let a lot of opportunities slip past the team and with a slightly stunted offense at times, the play-calling has errored on the side of conservative in the hopes of giving the defense a chance to keep us in the game. That has worked at times, but doesn’t always put points on the board. In situations where we’ve relaxed and played Toledo football, we’ve walked away with the Ws even out of conference (here’s looking at you, Purdon’t).

OTP: Assuming you’ll predict a Toledo win (and feel free to predict a W and the score), what would you consider to be a victory you’re happy with? What sort of things will have to occur for you to consider Saturday a successful outing outside of just throwing up a W?
LGR: As we mentioned before, if we settle in and play Toledo football, we don’t see any reason that the Rockets won’t be happy at the end of the night. It would be good to see Dantin have another successful night and get the ball out to Page for plenty of catches. It’d be a good night if the running game really takes off and gets a good foothold and confidence boost for the rest of the season by putting up some strong numbers and showing they can score as well. The defense needs to continue dominating the opposing offenses and hold BSU to as few rushing yards as possible (currently, the UT defense is first in the conference in rushing defense against MAC opponents and allows just 63 yards / game) Creating a few turnovers, whether by fumble or INT would go a long way to showing that in a pinch, we can still rely on our D (something we haven’t been able to say for the last few seasons) We would also like to avoid the injury bug.

Counter Intelligence: NIU

niu logoFrom time to time, OTP likes to touch base with bloggers who know our opponents best. Today’s guest is Mike from Red and Black Attack, your one stop shop for anything NIU related, at least from the perspective of the blogosphere. Red&Black Attack is a voting member of the CBSSports Blogpoll and also a member of the MAC Roundtable.

We exchanged questions and answers with them about tonight’s contest between the Huskies and the Cardinals…. and this is their responses to our questions of them. You can check out our answers to their questions at the above link. Let’s get it on…

OTP: So this is apparently a “Rivalry Game” with a fancy bronze corn stalk and such. Do you really consider this game a rivalry?

RaBA: No. A rivalry represents a back-and-forth series with conference titles on the line. Let’s just face it, with the exception of last year, Ball State just hasn’t been a major power in the West this entire decade. It certainly could develop in to one, but there isn’t any animosity between the schools that I’m aware of. This is just from NIU’s perspective. Yours could be different. The rivalry trophy was force fed to us like two lonely housewives seeking some excitement in their lives.

OTP: After the pounding NIU took last year in Muncie, are the NIU fans salivating at the chance to take BSU behind the woodshed?

RaBA: Absolutely. You guys straight up kicked our butt last year. It really was upsetting to get embarrassed like that on a national stage. Last year we had losses by 4 pts or less to Minnesota, WMU, Tennessee & CMU. I was so, so sad to see Nate Davis leave early for the NFL.

OTP: Chandler Harnish has been battling an injury recently. How has that changed the offensive approach for NIU? Will we see him at all tonight or are we simply going to get Spann jammed down our throats?

RaBA: I expect after NIU gets a comfortable lead of 14-21 pts, you could see Harnish come in to the game. Before that, we’re just going to run the ball and run the ball some more. Our backup DeMarcus Grady is also an underrated passer, so watch out for the play action.

OTP: NIU will most certainly be Bowling. Have you taken a gander at potential destinations and opponents? Where is your ideal Bowl and your ideal matchup?

RaBA: The bowl that we would most certainly like to go to is the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl. NIU has gone to bowl games in 2004, 2006 and 2008, but it’s always that we’re the 2nd choice to bowls that couldn’t fill their spot. This year it would be nice to get a bowl game that actually is affiliated with the MAC. Detroit would be a great present to our fans, who had to travel to California twice and Louisiana once to see the recent postseason appearances. In addition, we’ve had recent history with about any Big 10 team you can muster up to place in that bowl. NIU-Northwestern would be a matchup for the ages if it ever happens.

OTP: With any knowledge or understanding of these teams, I think most would consider this a sure victory for NIU. Often times, winning a game doesn’t count as a success. What will you be looking for as a “successful outing” for the Huskies?

RaBA: A successful outing for the Huskies includes being effective on offense. We’d like to run the ball all game, but if that isn’t working a couple passes mixed in wouldn’t hurt. There’s been some heat on playcalling and personnel decisions that has cost us some games this season. Stopping the run on D is a big part as well. Good special teams play is probably the most underrated aspect of this team as Tommy Davis is as good as anybody returning kickoffs and punts. Thanks for the questions and good luck Cardinals!

Counter Intelligence: BG!

bowling-greenFrom time to time, OTP likes to touch base with bloggers who know our opponents best. Today’s guest is BJ from Falcon Blog, your one stop shop for anything BG related, at least from the perspective of the blogosphere. FalconBlog is a voting member of the CBSSports Blogpoll and also a member of the MAC Roundtable.

We exchanged questions and answers with them about this weekend’s contest between the Falcons and the Cardinals…. and this is their responses to our questions of them. You can check out our answers to their questions at the above link. Let’s get it on…

OTP: So.. Freddie Barnes. That dude catches more balls than Paris Hilton. Please tell me he’s due for an off game. Assuming he isn’t and BSU decides to actually cover him, how does the rest of the receiving unit look?

FB: Well, I guess it depends on what an off day qualifies as in your book. I don’t think he will get 22 catches every week, but he has shown the ability to produce catches almost every week. Frankly, I don’t understand how he can keep getting open. I keep figuring teams are going to start throwing their whole backfield over there just to keep him in check, but whatever they are doing isn’t having a huge impact. Coach Clawson has indicated that our offensive game plans place a high priority on moving Barnes around to get him the ball, and that effort appears to work. The good news for Ball State is that BG’s receiving corps behind Freddie has been decimated by injury. Calvin Wiley, Derek Brighton, and Ty Pronty were all lost for the season, and Ray Hutson missed the Kent game and has an uncertain status. So, our depth at WR is being tested. Chris Wright is experienced but sometimes get the drops, and Justus Jones has stepped up and made some grabs when pressed into service. Adrien Hodges has also made some nice plays. But, in general, our WR corps behind Barnes is stretched thin.

OTP: Tyler Sheehan seems to me to be quite underrated in the MAC. What are his strengths? His weaknesses? Why isn’t he getting the same sort of attention as Lefevour, Hiller or Harnish?

FB: Tyler Sheehan is an interesting case. He is certainly putting up impressive numbers, especially the last couple of weeks. He had an excellent game against Kent. At his best, he manages our offense very effectively, can make most of the throws, has added the long ball to his repertoire. He is a true competitor who even tried to become a running QB in the Brandon system. He is typically pretty accurate as well. His weaknesses are that he doesn’t always see the field real well, can lock onto receivers, and has a tendency to hold onto the ball too long, leading to sacks. These weaknesses become even more pronounced in the red zone where the defense has the ability to dial up the pressure. I think he is not as well known as Lefevour because Lefevour is a dual threat QB with a couple conference championships. Coach Clawson said we needed all-MAC play from Tyler for us to compete, and for a couple of games this season, we didn’t get that, even when he was good.

OTP: The Clawfense sucked balls at Tennessee, and now seems to be ripping up the MAC. Just how is the fanbase embracing Coach Clawson despite the 2-4 record? Am I stupid for thinking BG is a hell of a lot better than that record indicates?

FB: I think fans are happy with the progress with Coach Clawson. I think we see a proven winner who is going to bring the program back around again. Contrary to his reputation at Tennessee, he is not committed to a system 100%. He has, for example, adapted his approach to include much more passing than he would like, simply because we have failed to run the ball with any consistency at all. I think there were probably many other issues in Tennessee in addition to the Clawfense—or, he learned from the experience and is a better coach today. Either way, fans are giving him time. We fully support his motto, which is for every player to get a diploma in one hand and a championship ring on the other.

At halftime of Missouri, things were looking great. There was apparently some foul water in there, because from the second half of that game, through Marshall, OU and the first three quarters of the Kent game, we were decidedly average.

Now, as for you being stupid…..uh, no, I think we are better than 2-4. You gotta be careful, there is this trap you can fall into….you know, we’re only three plays from being 5-1 or something like that. I mean, we’re only one play from being 1-5 too. This is a team with flaws, though. If we get better, I think we have a chance to make this an interesting year.

OTP: Say I have a hotline to Coach Parrish. A Stan-Phone if you will. What would you say is the kyrptonite for BG? And more importantly, how in the hell do they play so damn good in Muncie!?

FB: I would call the hotline and let Stan know that the teams with the best success against BG this year have run the ball right down our throats. That’s how Missouri turned the game around, as well as Marshall. Our defensive line is inexperienced and small, and typically gives up 200 yards or more in each game. Second, we are terribly susceptible to the big play, so any chance to get our guys away from home and then reverse field….well, that’s kryptonite.

I was at the last win in Muncie and BG had to rally in the 4th to win the game. Honestly, my impression is that it is mostly based on us hitting you at the right times and missing the best of the Hoke years.

OTP: Normally we ask about predictions, but assuming you’re rational, you’re going to select a BG victory. What sort of things do you look for this weekend to judge it successful, aside from a winning margin on the scoreboard?

FB: Well, you’re right, I’d like to see BG win this game. We are happy for each win at this time. In looking for things we can build on, I’d mostly like to see us show some ability to stop the run and some ability to run the ball on offense. As one dimensional as we are, I can’t believe we can continue to score like we have. And, it is difficult to beat anyone when you can’t stop them from running.

Counter Intelligence: Toledo!

ToledoRocketsLogoLargeFrom time to time, OTP likes to touch base with bloggers who know our opponents best. Today’s guests are the gents at Let’s Go Rockets, your one stop shop for anything Toledo related, at least from the perspective of the blogosphere. LGR is a voting member in the CBS Sports Blogpoll and also a participant in the MAC Rountable.

We exchanged questions and answers with them about this weekend’s contest between the Rockets and the Cardinals…. and this is their responses to our questions of them. You can check out our answers to their questions at the above link. Let’s get it on…

OverThePylon:The Rockets have the 9th best passing offense in the country. That’s impressive. Is that more about the skill of Toledo or the lack of skill of the defenses they’ve been bending over?

LetsGoRockets:Both, maybe. Our skill is in exploiting the mismatches in the secondary with Eric Page and Stephen Williams, a tough combo to cover by any secondary. Also, Toledo is on track to have another 1,000 yard rusher in Collins. By implementing both the running and passing game, it helps keep the defense guessing and opens the field.

OverThePylon:Toledo seems to have been heavily penalized this season, clocking in at 93rd in the country at nearly 68 yards a game. That seems like a metric shit-ton. 12 against Colorado, 10 against FIU… that has to worry you. What is the reason for this? Can a team like BSU exploit it?

LGR:Through 4 games this season, Toledo has had 33 penalties for 272 yards, or 68 yards a game. Toledo opponents have had 25 penalties for 239 yards, or 59.75 yards a game. The Colorado game had a total of 21 penalties called, 12 against Toledo, 9 against Colorado. I remember one official saying during the game “well…. umm…. see….” and then turning the mic off and not explaining it. Fans on both sides of the ball were cracking jokes all game about the poor officiating. The total number of penalties has to drop, sure, but it’s not much of a concern at this point.

OverThePylon: You guys hire Tim Beckman, who’s background is coaching the secondary at OSU, and the offense suddenly explodes. What the hell? Who is responsible for this sort of offense-gasm in Toledo? Is this just a gimmick that is easily stoppable once people figure out what the hell is going on?

LGR:Matt Campbell, the Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach has 5 national championships as a player and coach for Mount Union. He has had great success teaching the offensive lineman. Scott Satterfield, the Passing Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach has coached for three national championship teams and has coached a Walter Payton Award winner at Appalachian State. In those three championship seasons, the Mountaineers went 39-6, including a 34-32 win over then-No. 5 Michigan in 2007, considered by some observers to be the biggest upset in college football history. Satterfield has really mastered the spread offense.

I don’t think the spread offense is easily stoppable, unless you have superior athletes on defense like Ohio State. Toledo runs a hurry up offense, allowing for minimal substitutions that really wears a defense down.

OverThePylon: Everyone knows (or should know) about Aaron Opelt. Who else should BSU fans be concerned about?

LGR:Eric Page is a freshman wide receiver from a local high school. He is listed at 5’10, 165 lbs, but don’t let those stats fool you. Page is 8th in the country in receiving yards with 433, good for 16.7 yards a catch and 4 TD’s. He has break away speed and has already shown he can put the moves on defenders when needed. Stephen Williams has been plagued by injuries the first part of the season, but if he can remain healthy, he will be the go to guy for the toss up in the end zone. Standing at 6’5 he is a clear mismatch for most cornerbacks. Barry Church is a 3 time (will be 4 time) first team all-MAC player. He punishes opposing QB’s not looking for the blitz and has been known to get a few interceptions along the way. Church is 2nd on the team in tackles and is a candidate for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back and Bronco Nagurski Award as the nation’s top defensive player.

OverThePylon: I’m sure you’ll predict a Toledo win. To be expected. So in the prognosticatin’ department, how about we predict something else… like how many BSU fans are going to pack the Scheu. We’re 0-4, but it’s Homecoming weekend. 22,500 is the ceiling… how many fans show up to watch BSU win their first game?

LGR: This is a tricky one because you setup one question and then asked another. How many fans will fill the stadium for Saturday’s game against Toledo? We’d love to see a ravenous homecoming crowd of 22,500. But, you ask how many fans show up to watch BSU win their first game. The first game they CAN win will be next week at Temple. How many fans show up for the first win at the Scheu? That won’t be until the end of the month against Ohio on the 31st. Halloween. Scary.

Big thanks to Let’s Go Rockets for doing this, and here’s hoping that come Saturday evening they have the arduous task about posting a recap on a game they feel they should have won… it’s only happened to us 3 times this season.

Counter Intelligence: Auburn

auburn_logoFrom time to time, OTP likes to touch base with bloggers who know our opponents best. Today’s guest is Jerry at the War Eagle Reader, your one stop shop for anything Auburn related. While the game itself may be hard to watch, at least Jerry wasn’t a miserable prick about it. Kudos.

We exchanged questions and answers to said questions with Jerry about the Tigers and the chances Ball State has to potentially upset them at home. You can check out our answers to Jerry’s questions at the above link. Let’s get it on…

OverThePylon: Reading the messageboards and the fan sites, heck even one of your own writers, most seem to think that this is going to be a cupcake stroll for the Tigers. Something akin to the Navy Seals battling a paintball team. Of 5th graders. From Special Ed. What’s your take? Is there any possibility of the Tigers finally having a bad game or looking forward to Tennessee?

War Eagle Reader: I’ll say this: I wouldn’t wager anything more valuable than Monopoly money on Auburn covering that fat 30-point spread. For starters, because Auburn’s been kicking off the Gene Chizik era–an era I think you know has been viewed with more than its fair share of skepticism in non-Auburn climes–these first three weeks have been a lot more emotional than “vs. Louisiana Tech, vs. Mississippi St., vs. West Virginia” makes it look like they should have been. And next week comes the trip to Tennessee, Auburn’s first road tilt of the year and a chance for Chizik to prove he was the best offseason hire in the SEC all along.

But not only is Auburn emotionally primed for a let down, they kind of have to let down from a personnel standpoint: Auburn is a thin, thin team, and our first-string linebackers, wideouts, defensive ends, corners, offensive linemen etc. have wound up playing a metric assload of snaps. Part of that is the lack of a second string the coaches trust, part of it is the Gus Malzahn-dictated hyperdrive tempo that forces both sides of the ball to play an extra 20-30 snaps or so. So: I expect to see Auburn’s backups in early and often, and I don’t expect them to blow Ball St. off the field.

I think Auburn’s still too good to be seriously threatened by a team that has the kind of issues the Cards seem to have, but it’s not going to be a Florida-vs.-Charleston Southern-style beatdown, either.

OTP: Oh look… it’s Gus Malzahn. Gee… he looks familiar… oh wait… WAIT… that’s the guy who totally decimated our team last year in the GMAC Bowl. Fabulous!! Give me some sort of weakness this Auburn offense has. I mean, you have to have one. Right? RIGHT?!!?

WER: Honestly … I don’t know. Before last week I would have suggested packing eight into the box to stop the run and hoping your corners could keep up with Auburn’s iffy receivers one-on-one. But West Virginia tried that and sophomore Darvin Adams blew up (6 catches, 80 yards, 3 TDs) while the shockingly efficient Chris Todd wound up with career highs in yards and touchdowns.

So I’m not sure. Auburn does still need a second and third receiver to emerge and take some heat off of Adams (Terrell Zachery has made a few big plays, but hasn’t been a consistent threat as of yet), and I haven’t been all that impressed with the Tigers’ ability to handle a blitz. Tailbacks Ben Tate (he’s the bruiser) and Onterio McCalebb (he’s the burner) are too dangerous to let them get going, so I’d say you stack the box, shade your coverage towards Adams, blitz like hell on any obvious passing down, and just pray Todd has an off-day.

How Malzahn’s built something as versatile and intimidating as Auburn’s offense in this short a time, I have no idea. He is The Genius of Our Time.

OTP: Little known fact… Tommy Tuberville, aside from being your ex-coach, is married to a Ball State grad! Huzzah! On a scale of ambivalent to seething rage, how do you think Tubs watches this game? Follow up: Now with Chizik winning games and looking good, are the fans sold on him? Are they glad they got rid of Double-T?

WER: Wow–to quote Jimmy Carson, I did not know that. (About Tubby’s wife.) I suspect that Tubby is ambivalent about how Auburn fares these days–as a coach I’m sure he roots for his former players and is happy for them when they win, but at the same time his relationship with the Auburn administration was already frosty even before they showed him the door. His relative silence on the Chizik hire and conspicuous lack of public support for the program suggests to me that he doesn’t care all that much about Auburn for Auburn’s sake.

As for whether the Auburn A.D. made the right decision, I said at the time that Tubby had earned the right to come back for one more year, even if it wasn’t the best thing for the program–there was no way he and his coaching staff were going to get the ship turned back around. But now that Chizik is on board, I can’t imagine Auburn not having made the change. The energy in the fan base, the excitement in Malzahn’s offense, the joy Chizik and his staff have brought to the team and the program … even though Tubby won 9 games as recently as 2007, it feels now like the change was, somehow, overdue.

OTP: From what we’ve gathered, Chris Todd is the passing QB, Kodi Burns is the rush it down your throat on the goalline QB. Fair assessment? How does anyone hope to contain this offense? And more importantly, if the offense cannot be stopped, is the defense one that can be scored on… you know… assuming BSU can maybe sort of kind of muster any offense whatsoever?

WER: Yes, that assessment is fair, although unlike most Wildcat operators Burns was a QB in high school and his first two seasons at Auburn, so he’s much more of a threat to throw the ball than, say, Darren McFadden was.

I think I already covered how you might hope to contain the offense, but that brings us to the one sore spot on Auburn’s season to date: the defense’s tendency to give up yards, and I mean in chunks. For all the bending they haven’t broken that often, and they’ve shown a fun knack for coming up with a big, big play here or there … but Auburn’s also getting nothing from their weakside linebacker position and while they’ve been nice on the pass rush, the defensive line hasn’t bowed up and shut down the opponent’s running game since the opener. I don’t expect that BSU will bring in the same kind of strength on the ground that Miss. St. or especially West Virginia brought, but I’d wager MiQuale Lewis will see some space here and there. The Cards will probably have a handful of red zone opportunities–if they want to make a game of this, they’d better make the most of them.

OTP: Normally we ask visiting bloggers for a prediction about the score. Assuming you, like everyone else who watches, follows, or even knows about football would pick Auburn: A lot, Ball State: not as much, instead give us some recommendations of must hit places while we’re down in Auburn. There is a decent number of Cardinals fans who would love some good BBQ to drown their tears in.

WER: Unlike Dreamland in Tuscaloosa, I would say there’s not one single go-to BBQ place in Auburn, but Byron’s Smokehouse is highly thought of for a reason. Country’s Barbeque is also popular (and good), but I personally think it’s a touch overrated. Probably the most popular restaurant in Auburn is Niffer’s Place–it’s got a great college town feel and is famous for its burgers, corn nuggets, and cheap beer, though I’m partial to its grilled chicken sandwiches. Downtown pizza places Brick Oven Pizza and Mellow Mushroom both do very good work if you’re in the mood for a slice. If you’re looking for a quality pint, try the Olde Auburn Ale House–it’s been a while, but last time I was around it wasn’t as overrun (or as “clubby”) as some of Auburn’s bars can be on the weekends. And lastly, if you’re coming from Muncie or anywhere in the Midwest, you’ll need to eat some high-quality chicken fingers while you’re in the South. Chik-Fil-A, Guthrie’s, Zaxby’s, or any half-dozen other chicken finger joints in the Auburn area will work.

Counter-Intelligence: Everyday Should be Saturday

In an effort to gain some much needed counter-intelligence on the upcoming matchup with the Florida Gators, we exchanged questions with our favorite Florida bloggers about their team, their coach, and all things Gator related. Today’s session is with Orson Swindle, Gator fan, Sporting News blogger, mustache aficionado. Orson also runs the wildly popular EverydayShouldBeSaturday. Enjoy! (Our answers to his questions will be linked when posted).

OverThePylon: You stop in to a watering hole somewhere in a dusty Texas town to check out the newest recruit about to be purchased by Pete Carrol. A bar brawl breaks out for no apparent reason and Patrick Swayze is nowhere to be found. You realize fighting is your only option and as you look down the bar you see Urban Meyer with his Heineken and his blackberry, or Rich Brooks with a large glass of Cutty Sark and a bowl full of Worther’s candies. Who do you want on your side and why?
Orson Swindle, EDSBS: Prior to this week, I would have snapped up Brooks and his mighty scotch tumbler of doom, but two nagging facts prevent me from doing this now. One, Brooks is an Oregon guy, and a confessed oenophile, so he’d likely be way more into the vino, and thus would have a spindly wine glass and not a massive, skull-thumping crystal goblet in hand. Two, Urban Meyer punched a recruit so hard in the chest this week that it made the AJC. Thus, I’ll take the younger, sternum-bruising Meyer.

(Brooks does get my pick if I have to call someone about a discrepancy on my cable bill. He’d be awesome at that.)

OTP: So your QB is out cutting off dickskins in the offseason and mentoring rapists and murderers about the awesomeness of Jesus. Do you find the collective love affair with Tebow and the national media as infuriating as the rest of us?
O/S: No. He’s obvious media bait, a very agreeable guy who does interesting stuff without winding up in jail. You can’t blame the press for hopping all over that, because it’s what they do: they cover simple stories for simple minds. Blame the hog eating the slop, not the farmer who’s just making bacon.

OTP: Speaking of murderers and rapists, would you consider Miami or Florida State your biggest rival? Someone else? Does the Kentucky game even get the fanbase remotely enthused?
O/S: Florida State is the bigger rivalry of the two. Every now and then Miami drives in and cuts donuts on the lawn and knocks down our mailbox, but that bastard down the street in Tallahassee is the local asshole, and there’s no asshole more noxious than a proximate one. Kentucky does not get us excited because there’s no pain involved: Florida has beaten the Wildcats 21 straight years. The excitement, she does not appear here.

OTP: We got to see the darker side of fandom last week as the Arkansas faithful proved that football in the south brings out a very… uh… unique set of people. We’ve always found Florida fans to be somewhat measured and the Cadillacs of SEC football fans. Unlike those God awful Tennessee fans. Who’s your 3 worst SEC fanbases?
O/S: I’d prefer to avoid a blanket “worst” and instead refine the study a bit. Most implausible: South Carolina fans, who prove every year that hope is the weed that not even the foot of an angry god can stomp dead. Most obnoxious: Georgia fans, who have one tired, ill-considered line for everything in life, and it shows. Most delusional: Alabama fans. That doesn’t really require explanation.

OTP: Give our readers something we wouldn’t know about this Florida football team that makes them a lock to win the game. Conversely, give us something we may not know about Florida that makes you think Kentucky has a shot.
O/S: The return of Torrey Davis to the defensive line altered the dynamics of our run game, and played a large part in the stifling of Charles Scott in the LSU game. Conversely, our pass defense will give up big plays, a la the long TD against busted coverage Kentucky had against Alabama.

Counter-Intelligence: Saurian Sagacity

In an effort to gain some much needed counter-intelligence on the upcoming matchup with the Florida Gators, we exchanged questions with our favorite Florida bloggers about their team, their coach, and all things Gator related. Today’s session is with Henry Gomez, one of the resident experts for Saurian Sagacity. Enjoy! (Our answers to their questions will be linked when posted)

OTP: Kentucky has beaten Florida once since I’ve been alive. A thrilling 10-3 win in 1986 over Galen Hall’s Gators. Does the streak continue this year? And assuming the answer is yes, do you expect a Spurrier-esque 50-point pounding or a Merciful Urban sort of 20 point win?

SS: Ah Galen Hall. I began my life as a Gator the following year when I entered UF as a Freshman in 1987. I wasn’t really aware of UK’s futility during that period. On the bright side for you guys, I think the Wildcats are underrated. Especially on defense. But I think you’re catching the Gators at the wrong time. One-loss with the big prize still in theoretical grasp and a bunch of unfriendly computers in the way doesn’t bode well for UK.

OTP: The Kentucky offense has struggled mightily save for a flash of a great six minutes or so against a hapless Arkansas team. Which unit cracks first and has a break out game? The Kentucky offense or the Florida secondary? Why?

SS: Don’t know. See answer to number 3 below. I think the real question is how will Florida’s offense do against Kentucky stingy (to date) defense.

OTP: Florida is coming off a 30-point spanking of LSU and a bye week. For the Kentucky faithful is there a weakness in the armor of Florida?

SS: More than weaknesses I’d say question marks. I know it seems crazy to say this many weeks in but we still don’t know what kind of team we have, especially on defense. Our best win was against LSU, a team we suspect is much worse than people think. We’ve had two bye weeks already and thus have played fewer games than many other teams in the top 25. The really tough stretch of schedule, believe it or not, begins this week with you guys, UGA in Jax and then at Vandy.

OTP: So your QB is out cutting off dickskins in the offseason and mentoring rapists and murderers about the awesomeness of Jesus. Do you guys find the collective love affair with Tebow and the national media as infuriating as the rest of us?

SS: We’re definitely not infuriated by it. Before last season I was asked by some UT bloggers “What happens if Tebow is a bust?” and I honestly answered “I don’t know, I don’t even know who our back-up is.” We had no choice but to believe the hype. Now if you’re asking me if I’d like it better if he were banging broads and hanging out at keggers, then I’d probably say “yes, that appeals to the part of me that isn’t a 39-year old father of 14-month old twins.” It’s kind of hard to live vicariously through a vessel of our Lord and Savior.

OTP: Speaking of murderers and rapists, would you consider Miami or Florida State your biggest rival? Does the Kentucky game even get the fanbase remotely enthused?

SS: Our biggest rival has been Tennessee over the recent past. It’s been either them or us for the SEC east. Now with UT sucking, and UGA rushing the field in Jax last year like they had never scored a TD before, I think all Gators want to put down the Dawgs. Put down as in humanely, or maybe inhumanely, who gives a shit? FSU is a dead man walking with the NCAA hangman lurking. Miami? I thought Randy Shannon was going to turn them around but what I hear locally in Miami is making me change my mind on that. Kentucky? Honestly I’d be lying if I told you Kentucky gets our hackles up. Last year there was anticipation and trepidation with Woodson going up against our crummy pass defense. And it was a close game. I think what we’re seeing is that you have to respect EVERY SEC team on your schedule, lest you get croomed or now nutted.

OTP: Give our readers something we wouldn’t know about this Florida football team that makes them a lock to win the game. Conversely, give us something we may not know about Florida that makes you think Kentucky has a shot.

SS: You’ve already mentioned the bye week. I think Urban Meyer has some ungodly statistic like being 5000-1 in season openers and other games he has more than one week to prepare for. Also home games at Florida in the Urban Meyer era are pretty good for the Gators and after losing to Ole Piss at home I’m sure Meyer has had Underarmor commercials playing in an endless loop in the weight room. But here’s the weakness. Gator home games sometimes lack the type of intensity you see at other places. Gator fans can be lulled into a quiet unease if you hang around and keep it close. It’s almost like we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. That’s second nature for many of us who have been fans long enough to remember Galen Hall.