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Before we get to Saturday’s games, let’s take a look at yesterday’s news from Ann Arbor. Plus, we’re joined by Bruce Feldman to talk about questions for USC’s … offense.
Another Michigan investigation
It was announced yesterday that the NCAA is investigating the Michigan program. Here’s a breakdown:
- Identity theft is not against the rules. Bruce Feldman wrote a behind-the-scenes look at the sleuthing act in 2018. Coaches Feldman estimates that 80-90 percent of college teams do that. What does identity theft look like: Identifying signals from opposing teams to identify what they will play before this happens.
- Rule in question NCAA Bylaw 11.6.1It says: “Off-campus, in-person search for future opponents (in the same season) is prohibited.” The NCAA says Michigan uses a “broad network.” to steal the identities of opposing teams, a source with knowledge of the allegations said.
- On Wednesday, Michigan State (which plays at Michigan on Saturday) and the Wolverines’ future opponents, including top-10 rivals Penn State and Ohio StateThe inquiry was notified.
In A Yahoo reportSources say it could be in Michigan “Used unnamed persons” To attend games and scout signs used by “projected opponents and potential College Football Playoff opponents.” ESPN reported overnight He says “A low-level officer with a military background” One of the keys to the project.
Don’t forget, Michigan is under investigation for persistent Level II rule violations. We’ll update you as this story develops.
The Feldman Files
USC offensive questions
With all the questions and criticism about USC’s defense, the Trojans’ offense has really come into question. While the Trojans average 7.77 yards per play — second best in the Pac-12 behind Washington’s gaudy 8.49 — their numbers have dropped significantly over the past few games. Three weeks ago, USC averaged 7.66 against a poor Colorado defense (No. 115 nationally), but it was 6.29 against Arizona and then 4.16 against Notre Dame, a game in which the Trojans also turned the ball over five times. Not so coincidentally, USC’s rushing numbers continued down the stretch.
A bigger issue for the Trojans right now, according to rival coaches, is that their offensive line may actually be as much of a problem as their defense, if not more so.
“It’s a very weak team,” said one competitive coach who faced USC. “They’re not what the USC O-line should be. Looks like they’re playing with guys from the mountain west. I think Caleb (Williams) made up for a lot of that, but now he’s broken some because of it and is always trying to do more.
The statistics reflect that last point. According to PFF, Williams, who was the No. 1 passer under pressure in the FBS in 2022, is the 175th-ranked passer under pressure in 2023 — or fifth-worst. “It’s like he’s trying to hit a five-run home run every time.”
That scout made an interesting observation that he thinks feeds into another problem with the Trojans’ line-handling: “They sit in their stance for 30 seconds waiting for them to get the play and get the ball, and then they end up in a terrible rhythm with too many false starts and no momentum.”
It will be interesting to see how USC responds to last week’s atrocious performance at Notre Dame. Now, it gets the stingiest defense in the Pac-12 next up in Utah. The Utes lead the conference in sacks and rushing defense.
Week 8 breakdown
Playoff tests, competitive clashes
College Football Playoff Implications
Afternoon: No. 7 Penn State (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) No. 3 at 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 Penn State-Ohio State a real rivalry?
Afternoon: Washington State (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) at No. 9 at Oregon (5-1, 2-1), 3:30 p.m., Fox: Both teams have a chip on their shoulder. The Cougs have lost two straight while Oregon is coming off a heartbreaker against Washington. (Minnesota at No. 24 Iowa is another candidate here. Why? The troubled Big Ten West could actually help decide the East.)
Prime Time: No. 16 Duke (5-1, 2-0, ACC) No. 4 at Florida State (6-0, 4-0), 7:30 p.m., ABC: Keon Coleman of Florida State Last week I couldn’t stop watching. Meanwhile, Duke is waiting for QB Riley Leonard to return from an ankle injury. It has high ACC title game stakes.
Afternoon: No. 22 Air Force (6-0) at Navy (3-3), CBS: The Falcons have won three in a row in the series. Both teams are in the top five in rushing yards, and Air Force looks to be one of the better teams in the Group of 5. Another note: The home team has won nine of the last 10 games in this series.
Afternoon: No. 17 Tennessee (5-1, 2-1 SEC) No. 11 Alabama (6-1, 4-0), 3:30 p.m., CBS: Last year’s thriller was Tennessee’s 15-game losing streak to Bama. But both teams have new identities this season. Will the Tide regain control of the series?
Prime Time: No. 2 Michigan (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) at Michigan State (2-4, 0-3), 7:30 p.m., NBC: The pressure is on. Outside of the recent Michigan news, this will be the Wolverines’ first trip to East Lansing since losing a heartbreaker in 2021. Of course, last year’s subway incident left many wondering: Is this competition also toxic?
Stars of the FCS: The Dakotas
Four Dakota programs (South Dakota, South Dakota State, North Dakota and North Dakota State) crush the competition. The only losses (other than back-to-back games) have come against Boise State and Missouri. All are ranked in the top 15 of the FCS with SDSU at No. 1. The defending champion Jackrabbits play a top-five scoring and defensive game.
- South Dakota at Indiana State, 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+
Austin Mock’s best challenge
Penn State (-105) at Ohio State, Under-22 First Half: “I don’t have a strong opinion on this game, but both offenses are up against it here. We’ll have to wait until the second half for some fireworks as both teams are slow to start plays on offense.
Tennessee (-115) at Alabama, 48.5 under: “My model is a big fan of Alabama’s defense, especially its run defense. Tennessee will have a hard time finding any success on the field, and I don’t want its chances of finding the end zone if it’s one-dimensional. Alabama’s offense also has problems scoring. This game could be the complete opposite of last year’s shootout in Knoxville.
Duke +14.5 (-110) at Florida State: “It all depends on whether Leonard can go, and I’m sure he will. But I’m sure Mike Elko will be ready to slow down the Seminoles’ offense regardless of his defense. Duke has an exceptional pass defense, and slowing down a very efficient part of Florida State’s offense should be within two touchdowns. necessary