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Before we move on to Saturday’s games, let’s review yesterday’s news from Ann Arbor. Plus, Bruce Feldman joins us to talk about questions about USC’s offense.
Signal stealing spies?
Another investigation in Michigan
The NCAA announced yesterday that it is investigating Michigan’s program amid allegations of sign theft. Here is the detail:
- Stealing signs in and of itself is not against the rules. Bruce Feldman wrote a behind-the-scenes look at the work of spying in 2018. The coaches Feldman spoke with estimate that 80-90 percent of college teams do some form of it. Stealing signs means what it sounds like: It identifies signals for opposing teams to know what play they are going to make before it happens.
- The rule in question is NCAA Regulation 11.6.1Which states: “In-person scouting of future opponents off campus (in the same season) is prohibited.” NCAA claims Michigan casts ‘wide net’ To steal rival teams’ signs, said a source familiar with the allegations.
- On Wednesday, Michigan State (which plays Michigan on Saturday) and the Wolverines’ other future opponents, Top 10 competitors including Penn State and Ohio StateThe investigation has been notified.
in Yahoo reportsources claim Michigan may be the same “Use of unknown individuals” To attend games and scout banners used by “scheduled opponents and potential opponents in a College Football Playoff.” ESPN overnight report He says “Low-level employee with military background” It is one of the keys to the scheme.
And don’t forget, Michigan is under investigation for a series of Level 2 rule violations. We’ll keep you updated as this story develops.
USC Offensive Questions
With all the questions and criticism directed at USC’s defense, the Trojans’ offense is already in question. Although the Trojans are averaging a solid 7.77 yards per game — second-best in the Pac-12 behind Washington’s gaudy 8.49 — their numbers have diminished significantly over the past few games. Three weeks ago, USC averaged 7.66 against Colorado’s miserable defense (No. 115 nationally), but it was 6.29 against Arizona and then just 4.16 against Notre Dame in a game in which the Trojans also turned the ball over five times. It’s no coincidence that USC’s rushing numbers have dropped so much.
One of the big problems the Trojans have right now, according to opposing coaches, is that their offensive line may actually be as problematic as their defense, maybe even more so.
“It’s a really weak group,” said one opposing coach who faced USC. “It doesn’t look like what the USC O-line should look like. It looks like they’re playing guys that are going to be in the Mountain West. I think Caleb (Williams) made up for a lot of that, but maybe now he’s also falling apart because of that and always trying to do too much.”
The statistics reflect that last point. According to PFF, Williams, who was the highest-rated player under pressure in the FBS in 2022, is now the 175th-ranked player under pressure — or the fifth-worst — in 2023. That mirrors a quote a veteran NFL scout told me Monday: “It’s like he’s trying to hit a five-run home run every time.”
This scout made an interesting observation that he believes feeds into another problem the Trojans’ line is dealing with: “They sit there in their stances for about 30 seconds waiting for the play to get going and catch the ball, and then there’s a lot of false starts and it ends up being a terrible rhythm without any speed.
It will be fascinating to see how USC responds to last week’s atrocious performance at Notre Dame. Now, he gets the strongest defense in the Pac-12 in Utah next. The Utes lead the conference in sacks and in rushing defense.
Week 8 breakdown
Qualifying tests and competitive matches
Implications for the College Football Playoff
Noon: No. 7 Penn State (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) at No. 3 Ohio State (6-0, 3-0), FOX: Penn State hasn’t won in Columbus since 2011, and James Franklin is 1-8 against the Buckeyes. The stakes are high, but our writers answer this lingering question: Is there a real rivalry between Penn State and Ohio State?
Afternoon: Washington State (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) at No. 9 Oregon (5-1, 2-1), 3:30 p.m., FOX: Both teams have a chip on their shoulder. The Cougs have lost two in a row while Oregon is coming off an upset against Washington. (Minnesota is 24th, and Iowa was another favorite here. Why? Because the pesky Big Ten West might actually help decide the East.)
Primetime: No. 16 Duke (5-1, 2-0, ACC) at No. 4 Florida State (6-0, 4-0), 7:30 p.m., ABC: Florida State Keon Coleman He looked unstoppable last week. Meanwhile, Duke awaits the return of QB Riley Leonard from an ankle injury. There are high ACC title game stakes in this one.
Noon: No. 22 Air Force (6-0) at Navy (3-3), CBS: The Falcons have won three in a row in this series. Both teams rank in the top five in rushing yards, and Air Force appears to be one of the better teams in the group of five. Another note: The home team has won nine of the last 10 games in the series.
Afternoon: No. 17 Tennessee (5-1, 2-1 SEC) at No. 11 Alabama (6-1, 4-0), 3:30 p.m., CBS: Last year’s film snapped Tennessee’s 15-game losing streak to Bama. But both teams have new identities this season. Will The Tide regain control of the series?
Primetime: No. 2 Michigan (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) at Michigan State (2-4, 0-3), 7:30 p.m., NBC: The pressure has been building on this one. Aside from the latest Michigan news, this is the Wolverines’ first trip to East Lansing since their heartbreaking loss in 2021. The dark cloud over all of that, of course, is last year’s tunnel incident, which left many wondering: Will this rivalry become too Toxic?
FCS Stars: Dakota
The four Dakota programs (South Dakota, South Dakota State, North Dakota, and North Dakota State) crush the competition. The only losses (besides games against each other) were against Boise State and Missouri. They are all ranked among the top 15 teams in the FCS with SDSU in first place all-time. The defending champion Jackrabbits have a top-five scoring offense on offense and defense.
- South Dakota at Indiana, 1 p.m., ESPN+
- South Dakota State at Southern Illinois, 3 p.m., ESPN+
- Western Illinois at North Dakota State, 3:30 p.m., ESPN+
- North Dakota at Northern Iowa, 5 p.m., ESPN+
Best Bets by Austin Mock
Penn State at Ohio State (-105), first half under 22: “I don’t have a strong opinion on this game, but both offenses are against it here. Factor in that both teams have been slow to start games offensively, and we may have to wait until the second half for some fireworks.
Tennessee at Alabama (-115), under 48.5: “My model is a big fan of Alabama’s defense, especially its run defense. Tennessee is going to have a hard time having any success on the ground, and I don’t like its chances of finding the end zone if it’s one-dimensional. Alabama’s offense has also had scoring issues. This could be The game is a stark contrast to last year’s shootout in Knoxville.
Duke +14.5 (-110) at Florida: “That depends entirely on whether Leonard is able to leave, which I believe he will be. But I trust Mike Elko and his defense will be prepared to slow down the Seminoles’ offense regardless. Duke has an exceptional pass defense, and slowing down is the most efficient part of the State’s offense Florida is essential to staying within two goals.
“Alcohol enthusiast. Twitter ninja. Tv lover. Falls down a lot. Hipster-friendly coffee geek.”