Things have been crazy here at Your Best 11, but with the weekend just a day away, we decided to knock out a mailbag just for you. Got a couple good questions, so enjoy them folks!
Can yes be the answer to both of these questions? Yes, Sonny Dykes is trying to build something in Berkeley. Yes, this team is not very good.
Dykes is building toward a better program, which is part of the reason this team looks so bad. There are a lot of guys out there that simply do not know what they are doing. That starts with Jared Goff at the quarterback position, a guy that is just sort of out there winging it as a freshman in this system. Winging it can get a player some yards, overall, but it does not lend itself to producing successful drives, and that is Cal's biggest offensive issue.
Well, aside from a virtually non-existent rushing attack. A blend of choice and inability has led to the Bears being an almost exclusive passing football team. That's never a good thing. When Khalfani Muhammad and Brendan Bigelow get minimal touches, the offensive line does not settle into a groove on the ground, and what you have is a team that has failed to top 150 rushing yards in every game this season.
Of course, that also has to do with the ineffective nature of the defense. When the team is facing a deficit straight out of the gate, it goes into panic mode, and that means trying to score 10 point touchdowns with big gains in the passing game. The Bears can't stop the run and the pass.
Year one is a tough one for most new coaches, especially for a guy stepping into his first BCS-level job at a program that was trending downward with the former coach. Dykes had to get an inexperienced quarterback ready to play, something that is never easy, all while trying to change an entire program.
Next year should be better, especially on defense. That is when players transition from just hoping to get to landmarks to actually understanding where their individual piece fits in the defensive puzzle. Offensively is where I question the Bears. With the entire Pac-12 trending up, I wonder if Dykes is going to be able to keep pace without the elite players featured on other teams' rosters.
All of these defenses are really good. They fly around to the football, they challenge offenses on every play and they tackle very well. If I can only pick one, I'm going with Michigan State, with absolutely no shade or disrespect to the Hokies or the Gators.
Max Bullough is the best true Mike backer in college football today. A guy that can get sideline-to-sideline, but he is at his best coming downhill to take on blockers, disengage and make tackles. Love his game. Darqueze Dennard is having a year for the ages at the cornerback spot. For some reason, teams keep challenging him like he's not a beast on the edge. A beast that teams should throw away from every play.
That said, the case can certainly be made for the other two squads. Florida has a bunch of monsters in the back-end, guys that can lock down wide receivers all over the field. Dante Fowler is playing good football, and even with the loss of Dominique Easley, Florida's got a high-caliber group.
The same goes for Virginia Tech. Derrick Hopkins is the best defensive tackle that no one is talking about. He's not just a space eater, but a kid that can disengage, get penetration and be a big factor against the run and the pass. Obviously, Kendall Fuller is a beast. Whoever picks the Thorpe and the All-American CBs is going to have plenty to discuss, as Fuller, Dennard and the punch at Florida are making great cases.
Yes. Or, at least, I think they do. They are operating on a win and your in situation. Beat Miami next Saturday, and the Hokies are back in Charlotte to play for an Orange Bowl bid. That's a good spot for this team to be in, especially given its woes scoring the ball.
Miami's a good football team, but a team that Virginia Tech can handle on the field. Kendall Fuller and the rest of the defense play well against the run and the pass, and they have the ability to make Stephen Morris uncomfortable. Regardless of how this weekend goes for Miami, next Saturday will be for the keys to the division, and barring a loss at BC this Saturday, the Hokies are still in good position.
FSUGrad97: I'm worried about FSU's run defense against Miami. What do you think about that matchup? #YB11
Miami's rushing attack is good, but not great. They are not true bullies on the ground, and while the 'Canes' rushing yards per game numbers are good, actually watching the games has been less than impressive. The biggest key is don't over-pursue Duke Johnson and don't miss tackles.
In other words, play gap-sound football and do what you're supposed to do on defense and things should be alright. Especially, given the way Florida State has grown into the 3-4 scheme. This team is actually better at stopping the run out of the new 3-4 looks than they are out of the 4-3. Part of what makes them better is a critical element to stopping Johnson from exploding gap integrity.
The Seminoles are one of the more gap-sound teams in the nation. As the year has progressed, they have crept into the Michigan State, Virginia Tech and Florida realm as a unit, largely because they do what they are supposed to do.