Folks, I'm going to keep it so real with you: We have been super busy here at Your Best 11, behind the scenes. Last week, work got a little nuts and we had to miss the mailbag. Sorry, Charlie. However, we are back this week to help you get answers in your brains. Here we go!
@InTheBleachers ACC football question - does VT close out the season 9-3?— MSW (@hokiesmash) November 13, 2013
If the Hokies do not finish the regular season 9-3, I will be shocked. Maryland has again been hit with the injury bug, taking away a lot of the punch that team possessed to start 2013, and the Cavaliers are just not a good football team.
Although no game is a cakewalk for a team that is as inconsistent on offense as Virginia Tech, the Hokies' final two games are "should-win"-type contests. Not only are they "should-win," but they are "must-win" affairs as well, if Frank Beamer's team wants to keep its Charlotte hopes alive. If multiple teams finish with two losses, Virginia Tech likely holds the tiebreaker in the ACC Coastal. However, the losing tiebreaker for the Hokies is very real should only VT and Duke finish atop the division.
@InTheBleachers Is Carolina defense up to the challenge to stop Pitt passing game this weekend— The Achievers (@DonDelarente) November 13, 2013
Man, I have no clue. This defense has been so up-and-down over the course of the season. Technically, statistically it has been better in the last three games, but that was against a hapless Virginia team, an N.C. State team that struggles to throw and Boston College. The game against the Eagles definitely speaks to some improvement, regardless of the nothing that the UVA and N.C. State contests tell us.
Jabari Price, Tim Scott and Dominique Green have come on strong, and while the Wahoos and Wolfpack are not potent air attacks, the confidence gained should have a tremendous effect on these ballplayers. Confidence goes a long way, and that means fewer missed assignments.
That said, I love Devin Street and Tyler Boyd. Those guys are both high-caliber receivers, and no one has shut both of them down in 2013. The key will be limiting explosion plays and keeping them out of the end zone—both are easier said than done.
Boyd and Street are going to get their yards, and they will also find the end zone a time or two. However, North Carolina is playing some good football right now, riding high off of putting a couple wins together. Pitt's also on cloud nine following a big win over Notre Dame. This game is a coin flip, and the home team certainly will come to play.
@InTheBleachers Is Michigan State underrated in the polls because defense is not considered sexy? Or is it just that the B1G kinda sucks?— Patti Jones (@DrPattiJones) November 6, 2013
Yes and yes.
Michigan State, for the average "offense is fun" football fan, is not a great team to watch. The Spartans don't score a point a minute or do wild and crazy things to generate excitement. At least not to ball-watchers who love offense. So the lack of "sexy" with this team has stopped it from shooting up the list as a one-loss football team in the middle of November.
Plus, yes, the Big Ten is bad and that holds the few good teams in the league down. Beating down Michigan means nothing because the Wolverines are a bad football team. It's tough to get credit for wins when no one respects the teams that a squad is beating.
I think the Spartans are as good as an Auburn or Texas A&M in the grand scheme of things. The issue is people are far more willing to excuse flaws on defense than they are on offense. All three of the teams have massive flaws—it just so happens that Michigan State's are on offense and are, thus, to the common folk, inexcusable.
After all, if you suck out loud on defense, but you can score points, to a lot of folks that makes you great. Meanwhile, if you are offensively challenged but are the nation's best defense, you apparently are not a good enough football team. Good take from the bulk of the nation. Fantastic.
@InTheBleachers if Auburn were to win out how high would they finish???— Jeremy Pace (@pace_jeremy) November 13, 2013
If the Tigers win out, they'll likely finish fifth or sixth in the country. Winning out would mean beating Alabama and, of course, winning the SEC Championship Game. Assuming Florida State, Ohio State, Baylor, Stanford and Oregon all win out, the odds that they jump more than one of those teams are somewhat slim.
Passing Oregon is likely with more wins, but the gap between them and the other four squads is fairly large, and while wins over No. 1 Alabama and Top 10 Mizzou or South Carolina will help, they likely won't be enough. Especially since Stanford will be playing a ranked team in the Pac-12 Championship Game, Baylor will be putting together a final stretch against quality teams and Ohio State will likely have a ranked Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game.
A top six-ish finish isn't bad, and after the season the Tigers were expecting to have, I think that would be icing on the cake. Simply put—not just to Auburn, but to SEC fans as a whole—a one-loss SEC champion will find its behind in the Sugar Bowl, not jumping undefeated teams to play for a title.
Julie Andrews will always be Maria to me, so the obvious answer is the defensive pass interference bailouts—bad balls that are overthrown or off target still drawing pass interference calls to extend a drive. It is just another assault on the defensive back, which is what football has become in the year 2013.
We live in a world where a quarterback can chuck and duck, not get the ball anywhere near the actual receiver and then get rewarded with a penalty. It stinks, it sucks, but that's how it works right now. Basically, if you're a quarterback and a wide receiver with nothing going for you, just throw it up and you'll get a free first down.
@InTheBleachers What is it about Baylor's offense that makes it so effective?— TheIrishWon (@TheIrishWon) November 13, 2013
This is something that I've hit on a couple of times, in a couple of different ways this season. Lache Seastrunk, as a one-cut runner, has been a phenomenal piece of the Baylor puzzle. I've also hit on the offense as whole and how it is able to put pressure on defenses using a sound plan of attack.
What we've seen lately is that Baylor also stretches the field very well with Bryce Petty's arm. You mix in the run game, the play-action game, the spacing game with short passing and the vertical threats and that's Baylor's recipe for success.
@InTheBleachers How would you try and stop Auburn's rushing attack?— Chris Miller (@millergchris) November 13, 2013
Just play rules defense. Gus Malzahn didn't reinvent the wheel. He's not doing things that are uniquely Auburn. His team executes the plan well, but it's far from special when it comes to schematics. The problem is the Tigers exploit something that is running rampant through college football: defenders guessing.
Defensive football is not about guessing or taking gambles. It is about 11 players each doing their jobs and fitting together like a puzzle. A puzzle of well-executed defense. That means gap integrity and sticking to responsibilities.
When people guess on defense, bad things happen. They guess run when it's a pass, and then a receiver is wide open deep. They guess quarterback when it's a give and the running back ends up scooting for a big gain. They guess running back when it's a keeper and the quarterback gets loose. Guessing gets you beat, more often than not.
To thwart the guessing, teams have to play disciplined football. That means setting up rules to battle the zone-read and the inverted veer. Back-side defenders have to stay home against zone away because giving chase creates space for Nick Marshall to pull the ball and keep it. Against the inverted veer, the defensive end has to know if he's taking wide give or the quarterback power. Linebackers have to flow over the top to fill in from the inside out.
Basically, a team has to do all of the things that every good defense in America does. And, because Auburn has been so limited in throwing the ball, load up the box and force Nick Marshall to beat you over the top consistently, while generating pressure with a disciplined pass rush.