BOULDER, CO - SEPTEMBER 10: Place kicker Will Oliver #91 of the Colorado Buffaloes kicks a field goal from the hold of Justin Gorman #14 of the Colorado Buffaloes in the first posession of overtime to take a 33-30 lead overthe California Golden Bears at Folsom Field on September 10, 2011 in Boulder, Colorado. The Bears defeated the Buffaloes 36-33 in overtime. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Welcome to our weekly discussion amongst The Ralphie Report's staff. Same format as last week, so dig right in.
Feel free to throw your answers to the same questions into the comments below.
1) How would you handle balancing the poor special teams play to date with the lack of depth (healthy or otherwise) at many key positions? Would you add the best athletes (like a Greg Henderson) to the special teams units and risk further injury or hope that the current units can improve?
Bob: I think the only way to improve is do exactly what Jon Embree is doing. Put your best players out there and go. Yes, you will risk injuries but it is now apparent against teams with depth and talent, it will cost you games.
Ash: You know, I think to say that 'Special Teams as a whole has been poor' is unfair. Our team net punting is 4th in the conference (39.9 yds), and Darragh O'Neill's punting average is basically tied for 4th in the conference (39.9 yds). (Although I'm disturbed that O'Neill has had to punt a conference-high 21 times). It's really our punt return and kickoff return teams that need work. I have to believe that we have 10 hungry guys who aren't a starter somewhere else. I guess I'd've done the same thing as Embree; try to ignite the fire in kids by giving them the opportunity to contribute on special teams. I mean, how many more teams with explosive special teams will we face this year? ...Oh.
David: Our special teams have been so bad that I think I do risk the injury of some key contributors on offense and defense. Some of them are already there and have been some of the best ST players. I don't think it's a coincidence that it was Ryan Deehan who recovered the blocked punt that was touched against CSU and not one of the freshmen.
Jon: Can I say we do a mid-season special teams coaching switch? These units have been bad for while in Boulder and I would assume we have had plenty of highly athletic players out there in the past. I guess at this point you should have the best players for those roles playing.
2) What player has surprised you the most this season (in a good way)?
Bob: I have two. Will Oliver and Doug Rippy. True freshman kicker comes in and just destroys it. He is perfect on all field goals and PATs. It is a shame that the rest of the special teams is masking his great success through four games. He seems rock solid and never rattled. On defense, Doug Rippy has been outstanding. It makes me sick that he has been wasting away on the bench. Maybe he prepared better this season, maybe he was in better shape but he has sure stepped in and done a great job and made you wonder why is was on the bench.
Ash: Josh Hartigan. Tied for first in the Pac-12 in sacks? Awesome. Colorado has the most team sacks in the conference, too. To me this bodes well in a largely QB-heavy conference.
David: Do you mean besides Greg Henderson? I'm going to go with Doug Rippy. We knew he was talented but was still figuring things out. Well, he still is, but he's making more good plays than bad, and those good plays are pretty darn good. He's a beast, and looks like one of the strongest guys out there on the field. I can't wait to see how good he can be.
Jon: There are a lot of candidates to pick from. Greg Henderson, Paul Richardson, Josh Hartigan, Doug Rippy. But for me, I keep coming back to true freshman kicker Will Oliver because of how bad the kicking game has been around here lately. I can't express enough how happy I am that we have this kid around for the next four years.
3) Starting off Pac-12 play with a win is absolutely crucial with games against Stanford, Washington, Oregon, and Arizona State (all but Oregon on the road) to follow. How crucial is a fast start against the Cougars to the Buffaloes chances of a win?
Bob: Its very important because if the Buffs aren't ready to play, Wazzu can put 30 on you before you know it. WR Marquess Wilson is very special and has Paul Richardson like ability to take it to the house in a blink. The offense has to help the defense and not do what it did last week. Go three-and-out four times and turn the ball over. Washington State's offense is much more potent than Ohio State's and with the Buffs having major depth concerns at the cornerback position, the CU offense needs to dominate early on.
Ash: It must be the cornerstone of our offense against Wazzu. Even if we're not explosive, our first drive must result in points. Whatever we call must focus on getting first downs on our first drive and not our fourth.
David: We always have a chance to come back at home because of the altitude, but it wouldn't be easy this week. We need to be able to force them to be one-dimensional, and we need to be able to keep them off of the field. To do that, we need to have an early lead.
Jon: Against a high-octane passing attack like the Cougars games can be prone to wild swings on the scoreboard. It isn't quite as important to take an early lead as it would be against a defensive, ball control team like Alabama. San Diego St. fell behind WSU early and then roared out of the gate in the second half to handily win the game. However, it would behoove the Buffs to come out of the gate rocking this weekend. The crowd may not be able to handle an early deficit.
1) Where would you see that Ohio State team finishing in the Pac-12 conference this season?
Bob: The one we played without all the suspended players, middle of the pack. It all depends on how Braxton Miller develops. I think against a quicker defense that wasn't playing on its own side of the field all day would have much better luck against Ohio State's offense. I just don't see them scoring a ton of points this year.
Ash: Uh...hmmm. Third behind Stanford and Oregon? I can't really justify it, though. Maybe that's where i want them to be... good, but not better than our whole conference and still only 3rd in the B1G.
David: In which division? Honestly, they would have as good a chance to represent the south as anyone in the conference championship game, but I think they would be right in that second tier in the north behind Oregon and Stanford, competing with Washington, Cal and possibly WSU for the 3rd and 4th spots.
Jon: As I said in my gambling post, that Buckeye team is still getting too much credit for a win over a Buffaloes team that loves to make their hosting opponents look amazing. They would definitely be well behind Oregon and Stanford. They probably fall in line somewhere amongst ASU, UW and USC, but I haven't seen enough football to know yet.
2) What are your thoughts on the push to get rid of the two schools per conference rules per BCS conference, especially how it may pertain to the Pac-12?
Bob: Not a fan, I get it but not a fan. Basically you would just let the BCS standings slot your bowl games for you and it can't even get one bowl game right. Stop changing college football, It is just fine the way it is.
Ash: I pretty much agree with Avinash at Pacific Takes: it's bad for the Pac-12 and the SEC should field teams that are more than just hype. They don't like it? Maybe they should break up and make two separate conferences, the bestest conference evar (SEC West), and the Collective Association of the Schools of north, middle, and south Georgia (SEC East).
David: I only like it when there are fewer automatic qualifying conferences. As long as there are still 6, no matter how big they get, I don't think we can have more than 2 per. I agree that it isn't fair in years where the SEC (or any of those leagues) has 4 teams that are worthy, but, there just aren't enough BCS bowl slots to go around.
Jon: I would absolutely love it if there was a selection committee sending teams to the bowls instead of the bowls themselves. It would help get the best teams into those games. But since the bowls pick the participants based almost solely on selling tickets, I really, don't want it to happen. No reason to see 3 B1G and 3 SEC teams every single year.
3) Give me the final scores:
- Alabama @ Florida
- Nebraska @ Wisconsin
- Clemson @ Virginia Tech
- Texas A&M @ Arkansas
- Arizona @ USC
- Alabama @ Florida 24-21
- Nebraska @ Wisconsin 20-27
- Clemson @ Virginia Tech 24-26
- Texas A&M @ Arkansas 27-24
- Arizona @ USC 17-25
- Alabama 27 @ Florida 21
- Nebraska 35 @ Wisconsin 38
- Clemson 30 @ Virginia Tech 24
- Texas A&M 3 @ Arkansas 2
- Arizona 48 @ USC 51
- Alabama 29 @ Florida 17
- Nebraska 32 @ Wisconsin 39
- Clemson 20 @ Virginia Tech 37
- Texas A&M 41 @ Arkansas 13
- Arizona 16 @ USC 34
- Alabama @ Florida 27 - 17
- Nebraska @ Wisconsin 28 - 41
- Clemson @ Virginia Tech 17 - 20
- Texas A&M @ Arkansas 27 - 35
- Arizona @ USC 38 - 27
1) What's the first sporting event you ever attended (or recall attending)?
Bob: It was definitely a Broncos game. I wish I could remember the first game. Certainly my fondest sporting event memories are from watching John Elway. They drafted Elway the same year I was born so that wasn't a bad era to be a sports fan in Denver. Now, it sucks!
Ash: It was a football game in the Astrodome between the Houston Oilers and the Cincinnati Bengals, while we still had Warren Moon. About all I remember is the green of the astroturf and my dad playfully cheering the Oilers to "break his arms!" and to "kick 'im while he's down!" I learned how to cheer at sporting events from my dad, it was awesome. (Finally one with a ready answer!)
David: The first one I remember was a Dallas Mavericks home game in the old Reunion Arena. Dallas folks can confirm this, but that place was friggin LOUD. I remember not being able to hear anything my family said from the time we entered the arena until we left. That was back when our colors were white and green (instead of blue), and before we were any good. But it was awesome and a lot of fun and it was the day that I fell in love with ballpark/arena hotdogs. Also, it was when I first learned that my eyes are too close together for binoculars...
Jon: 1989. Notre Dame @ Penn State, back when the Nittany Lions were independent. It was amazing even though the bad guys won. Stupid Notre Dame.