The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Quarterback problems? Get another one

Let me begin this week by expressing my sincere condolences to the many disappointed Chicagoans who had been so hopeful about their chance to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. Their hopes were dashed by European antipathy towards American hegemony (who can blame them?) and a desire, it seems to me, for everyone to get to go to the beach. Maybe 2020, guys. 

For this week’s column, I’m changing up my style a little bit, and will be discussing, rather than obtuse prognostications based upon minimal expertise about teams you don’t care about from parts of the country that you’re not, something interesting. I bring you, this week, talk about teams from the same region as Iowa, the Lovely and Sunny Midwest! And with that winsome sales pitch, we’re off!

In other disappointing Illinois news, it’s also been a terrible few weeks for Ron Zook’s University of Illinois football team. The Fighting Illini are now 1-3, with their lone win coming against FCS competition, the fearsome Redbirds of Illinois State. The Redbirds, by the way, are currently outpacing their big brother with a 3-2 record. So now Coach Zook, who has always been ragged on for recruiting better than he coaches, is benching quarterback and former blue chip recruit Juice Williams for three-year back-up Eddie McGee. Juice Williams is capable of running and passing successfully, but in an offense where he is the sole focal point (due to the absence of injured receiver Arrelious Benn), he’s in over his head, Fray-style.

The University of Michigan Wolverines have found a solution to their quarterback problem. The Wolverines just lost their first true road game to in-state rival Michigan State, and some of the blame for that loss can be placed on true freshman quarterback Tate Forcier. Forcier’s mistake, a key overtime interception, was one of youth and inexperience, not lack of skill. The Wolverines wouldn’t have been competitive without his 223 passing yards and two touchdown passes; he’s also been key to their previous success this season, especially with his clutch play against Notre Dame. 

In fact, Forcier has been stellar all season, throwing for 894 yards and nine touchdowns with only three interceptions. His quarterback rating is an impressive 142.69–the guy is like a Bizzaro Juice Williams! The reason he’s succeeding and Juice isn’t remains as obscured as the catacombs Ron Zook will be sent to at the end of this season. We can start by looking at Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez’s decision to utilize multiple quarterbacks to mitigate the pressures of the job. Williams would clearly benefit from a scheme that would lessen his responsibility to pass the ball. Michigan has devised the perfect tactic for this scenario, and it’s one that Illinois would do well to copy. Tate Forcier can run all right, but the competition is worried about his passing, as his numbers indicate they should. 

When Rodriguez wants teams to have to worry about his quarterback scrambling, he’ll put in another true freshman, Denard Robinson, who is more skilled at running, but can also throw the ball a little. Robinson is a lesser Juice Williams, and though Forcier is obviously better than McGee, Zook obviously feels confident starting him. It seems to me that Illinois could have a lot of success switching off quarterbacks depending on the situation rather than overburdening just one. 

If anyone doubts that switching quarterbacks can bring success, look at the 2007 BCS National Championship, in which Florida, using a combination of scrambler Tim Tebow and pocket-passer Chris Leak, stomped Ohio State. The Buckeyes only used one quarterback, Heisman-winner Troy Smith. Smith threw 30 touchdowns that year but only rushed for one, but against an elite defense like Florida’s, OSU’s one-dimensional offense wilted, only putting up 14 points. The NFL provides further evidence that two is better than one with the popularity of the Wildcat offense, which benefits tremendously from having a second quarterback who is a mostly a run threat, but can also complete a pass. Pat White of the Dolphins and Michael Vick of the Eagles both earned spots on their respective teams because of the dissemination of the Wildcat offense. Troy Smith now plays sparingly in the Wildcat for the Ravens, a likely prediction of Juice’s future. So, my advice to teams struggling with quarterback play–get another one. Using tandem signal-callers might be as much of a fad as that odd moment in the ’90s when swing made a comeback, but hey, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies still sold over a million copies of Zoot Suit Riot. 

Well, enough of my blathering. Here, with almost no analysis, are my forecasts:

 

Buy

LSU: Tigers proved themselves with a big win at Georgia after taking some heat for being over-rated.

Miami: ’Canes got a huge win last week over Oklahoma after stumbling against Virginia Tech.

Virginia Tech: Hokies beat Miami and Duke, have only one loss, and look like the probable ACC champ.

Alabama: Tide keeps on rolling, but face some stiff competition in Ole Miss on the road. However, Jevan Snead hasn’t looked himself this season, and I predict ’Bama’s defense will pick him off at least twice en route to a big win. 

USC: The Trojans looked strong against Cal last week and face little opposition on the path to another Pac-10 Championship.

Special Anachronistic, Possibly Embarrassing Pick–Missouri: While I don’t yet know this, I feel deep in my bones that Mizzou is going to crush Nebraska this Thursday night and position themselves for a third straight Big 12 North Championship. Go Tigers!

 

Sell

California: Jahvid Best and the Golden Bears have now taken two lop-sided losses to conference foes. Emerald Bowl, here we come!

Florida State: Seminoles seem to be suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder after losing to Boston College, and some football prognosticators seem to feel Bobby Bowden has lost his touch.

Houston: To make any real noise in the post-season, the Cougars needed to win out. They failed to do that, losing by 17 points to UTEP last Saturday. 

 

Games of the Week: There are a couple big conference games this week that will have a major impact on bowl season. Florida at LSU is a matchup between two very hot teams right now and will go a long way towards determining who will win the SEC and thus go to the BCS National Championship. If Tim Tebow is healthy, the smart money is on the Gators. 

Michigan faces off against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium in another intriguing matchup. The Wolverines are good, but Iowa’s defense has been pretty dominant this season. If they can stop the run, I predict a big win for the Hawkeyes. 

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