It is Wednesday, and that means that we are giving you the mailbag treatment. We have some quality questions and plenty of hot takes to give, so here we go!
This is a tough question because right now, I'd say give me the one-loss SEC team if it is Georgia or LSU. That is no disrespect to the Buckeyes, and it isn't merely a reaction to surviving a tough game on the road. Rather, I think they deserve credit for that survival—big credit—but I have not walked away impressed with Ohio State.
That said, if we are talking realistically, based upon the numbers and how it works, Ohio State would certainly be in over a one-loss SEC squad. Beating No. 16 Northwestern, sitting inside of the Top Four already with space to move up, it would take a miracle for a one-loss team to leap the Buckeyes. It is not happening.
If you're Ohio State, what you should be worried about is the ACC. Everyone assumes the Pac-12 is in with Oregon, Stanford or UCLA going undefeated. What no one is counting on is the ACC's trio of Clemson, Florida State and Miami, especially the Tigers and Seminoles. Both are right in the thick of things. Should they reach the end undefeated, based upon beating Georgia, Florida State and South Carolina, or Clemson, Miami and Florida, the Buckeyes would be on the outside looking in.
At 13-0, Ohio State should not fear the one-loss SEC team; rather the 13-0 ACC squad should give Buckeye fans nightmares.
I'm not ready to crown Jameis Winston just yet. Is he good? Absolutely. But, he's got a ways to go this year and, to be fair to true freshmen all over the nation, he's not a "first-year" quarterback. He's a second-year guy who sat out a season ago and went through spring ball in the hopes of polishing his skills.
That said, he certainly is putting together a season that throws his name into the ring as one of the best redshirt freshmen we've ever seen. Johnny Manziel's 2012 was just uncanny. Brett Hundley and Marcus Mariota killed it for their respective teams. Going back further, Andrew Luck was a beast in his redshirt freshman season as well; granted, folks were not paying nearly enough attention to him.
Oh, and let's not forget that Colt McCoy came out and crushed it in 2006 for Texas. And let's not forget what Sam Bradford did in 2007. There are a lot of successful guys, and it is far too early to anoint Jameis Winston; he still has some heavy lifting to do for Florida State.
Gotta play physical defense and disrupt the timing. In the last season-plus, the Tigers have been held under 30 points just four times; Auburn 2012, South Carolina 2012, LSU 2012 and NC State 2013. All of those teams found a way to get to Tajh Boyd.
Get to him in the backfield, jam up the wide receivers, be comfortable playing man coverage to add more immediate pressure to the rush, and this Clemson offense's flow can be disrupted. Unfortunately for most teams, they don't have the blend of corners and front-seven personnel to execute that plan. So, this year, outside of Florida State and South Carolina, odds are that no one actually stops or slows them down.
Oh, and as NC State realized with Boyd missing some critical passes, it also helps to have the quarterback have a bit of an off-day.
His boys get fired up to play teams in the state—plain and simple. Sort of the way ECU gets jazzed up to play the Heels and the Wolfpack, Wake is a team made up of plenty of North Carolina kids who did not get offers, or got offers but not the top interest of some of the other schools in the state. They want to win and, because they are well-coached and the talent separation between the in-state schools is not very big, the Demon Deacons win, especially at home.
On tape Wake is underwhelming, but when teams show up in Winston-Salem to play a squad that desperately wants to beat them, it turns into a fistfight. A fight that we see time and again results in a Wake win. It has been a little while since Wake Forest was flat-out better than UNC or NC State, yet, because they are well-coached and want that game badly, they keep getting it done.
Not good. Really, really not good.
Last week Tray Matthews did not make the trip; he's the best freshman that they have. The other young kids playing, Shaq Wiggins, Quincy Mauger and Brendan Langley, have been hit or miss. Obviously they have a lot of growing to do, and the biggest thing for them will be working on communication.
It often takes guys some time to grow into a place where they can open their mouths and get on the same page. Everyone is so focused on making sure they are in the right spot, looking out for what they have to do, that teams lose some cohesion in the back end by guys not talking.
They need a leader in the back to get all of them on the same page. Unlike a linebacker or a defensive lineman who can have people give him big help, the leaders of that defense are not turning around; and to fix the secondary, it just doesn't work that way. It has to be a defensive back, and more directly, it needs to be a safety.
Matthews is growing into that role, but he's still wet behind the ears himself. I think over time, they will be fine, and this season's struggles will be a long-term positive for the Dawgs. Right now, they just have to talk; if they can all get on the same page, even if the coverage is not the right call, they will be better off.
The Shield Punt formation.
Usually teams go tight-punt from their own end zone, but once they get out of the goalpost's shadow, with ample room to get the proper punt depth, they go back to the Shield Punt. Personally, I'm not a fan of it anywhere on the field, but teams make use of the formation to aid players in blocking assignments and getting defenders out in coverage.
Since the blockers are so spread out, usually two- and three-yard splits, it eliminates the block team's ability to confuse the punting teams setup with twists or overloads. The formation also clearly sets up the lanes for the coverage unit, something that a whole gang of teams struggle with out of standard punt formations.
The idea behind it makes plenty of sense, but I'd rather see coaches just teach their kids how to get to landmarks, handle stunts and overloads and block for a punt for real. But, hey, whatever works.