A Glance at the CFB Playoff

Later today, we ring in 2016. However, from a sports standpoint 2015 is sure to go out with a bang. A full slate of college football is on tap, highlighted by the two national semifinals. The winners will play each other for the National Title on January 11th Here is a snapshot of both games.

Orange Bowl- Clemson (13-0) vs. Oklahoma (11-1) 4 ET ESPN

Two high-powered offenses here. Oklahoma comes in with the most versatile QB in the country, Baker Mayfield. The Sooners also have two talented running backs led by Samaje Perine. They have destroyed everyone since an inexplicable loss to rival Texas. They just seem to be on a mission to me. Also, I give Bob Stoops a major coaching edge here over Dabo Swinney, for whom this is uncharted territory. Clemson is undefeated. That says a lot, but their recent close wins against lesser opponents suggest to me they may be running out of gas. Heisman finalist QB Deshaun Watson and a talented defensive front seven will keep the Tigers in it, but I like OU in a shootout.

Cotton Bowl- Michigan State (12-1) vs. Alabama (12-1) 8 ET ESPN

These teams handle business much the same way. Run first offenses, extremely physical, and do not make mistakes. The dirty little secret about Alabama is that the formula to beat them is simple. Their QB play has been awful this year. They are a one man offense spearheaded by Heisman winner RB Derrick Henry. All teams have to do is have a defense good enough to contain Henry, force them to throw as often as they run, and have their QB make a few plays against their great defense. Obviously, this is easier said than done. Look at Alabama’s record. However, the Spartans fit this bill nicely. Their QB Connor Cook is the only QB in this playoff with a shot at playing on Sundays and their defense is the best in the country. MSU as a 10 point underdog here is a joke. In fact, I will take the outright upset in a low scoring fist fight. Happy New Year!

 

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Why The Manning/Osweiler Debate is Pointless

The Broncos are now 10-2 and 3-0 under the young, fresh arm of QB Brock Osweiler. A first round bye and/or home field advantage in the playoffs is suddenly very realistic. The situation could get murky when 39 year old legendary veteran starter Peyton Manning gets healthy. All anyone wants to talk about is what head coach Gary Kubiak will do when that time comes. As a diehard Broncos fan, I am here to tell you it does not really matter.

Denver’s defensive dominance this year has been nothing short of amazing. They are in the top five in every major statistical category including leading the league in sacks, points per game, yards per game, and defensive touchdowns. These kind of defensive numbers are not a flash in the pan. We are 13 weeks into the season. A defense like this also makes the formula for the Broncos to win games and ultimately a Super Bowl real simple.

Whoever plays QB for Denver going forward, the objective is clear. Generate two or three scoring drives a game, limit turnovers, and let the defense do the rest. Denver will win a lot of games in the last part of the season like this. This formula requires the QB to complete five or six “must have” throws per game. Both Manning and Osweiler have had shining moments nailing these “must have” throws this year. Despite throwing multiple INTs in both outings, Manning engineered two late scoring drives on the road to knock off the Browns and Chiefs. Osweiler had a similar coming out party against the then undefeated Patriots in the snow. When comparing the tow Manning’s 17 INTs compared to Osweiler’s 3 jumps out. However, Manning has started more than double the games Osweiler and was clearly playing injured for some of the year before taking a seat.

The point is both guys are capable of doing what needs to be done for Denver to win it all when healthy. Both QBs have different strengths and weaknesses. The offense looks different under each guy, but the formula above remains unchanged. Osweiler’s mobility allows the entire run game to function better. However, Manning reads defenses better and seems to have better chemistry with the wide receivers. The offensive line needs to block better no matter who is slinging the ball around, Thus, head coach Gary Kubiak has a tough choice to make.

Kubiak has handled this brilliantly, especially when you consider who Peyton Manning is and what he has done. He has named Osweiler the starter each Monday since Manning’s disastrous four INT outing in the first half against KC at home. He has continued to speak highly of Manning’s recovery since the foot injury, while describing the QB situation as “week to week.”

Osweiler will start again this week vs. the Raiders, but Kubiak also said Manning will start throwing. This means he could be cleared for next week on the road against the Steelers. How would I handle this going forward? With Denver winning and Osweiler doing all that he is asked to. I see no need to rush Manning back. I would also start Osweiler the next two weeks for very meaningful and tough games against the Steelers and Bengals. If healthy, I would have Manning start the regular season finale vs. San Diego. Then, I would decide on a starter for the playoffs. However, the fact remains the Broncos will go as far as their defense takes them.

You Can Learn an Awful Lot From a “Meaningless” Game

After being in a creative rut for a month, I am back to blogging. However, I have been very active on the blog’s Facebook page and have done a lot of different things. Please take a look and give it a like here: https://www.facebook.com/dylansdosesportsblog/?pnref=story.

My inspiration came from an odd place. The Monday Night Football matchup between hopeless Cleveland and slightly less hopeless Baltimore ended with an improbable game winning blocked field goal returned for a touchdown as time expired by Baltimore’s Will Hill. This “meaningless game” spoke volumes about both franchises.

The Ravens have had issues from day one this year. They had legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. In fact, I picked them to win it before the season. However, key injuries and close losses mounted quickly. QB Joe Flacco, WR Steve Smith, LB Terrell Suggs, and RB Justin Forsett have all suffered season ending injuries. Thus, the Ravens are playing with backups and spare parts everywhere, but no one could tell on Monday. Head coach John Harbaugh was joking with the media in pregame and seemed genuinely excited about building a game plan around journeyman backup QB Matt Schaub and rookie 6th round pick RB Buck Allen. To Harbaugh’s credit his team was motivated and played a smart game. They were rewarded with a win. When a team preforms like that when their season is lost already, it is no wonder why John Harbaugh has never missed the playoffs as a NFL head coach. Even though he likely will this year, Harbaugh and the Ravens will no doubt be back.

Then there is Cleveland. It was night that summed up the state of the Browns perfectly. Dropped passes, poor QB play surrounded by drama, and high priced free agent signings sitting on the sidelines ruled the evening. Johnny Manziel losing his starting QB job due to bye week partying helped no one, but he did not commit a mortal sin. This organization needs to find out what they have in the former Texas A&M star, and they refuse to play him. I do not get it. The Browns secondary was carved up by QB who hadn’t thrown a meaningful pass in two years. One more thing remained constant for the Browns Monday night. They found another creative way to lose. So many of Cleveland’s issues are effort related, like dropped passes and penalties. No coach can fix that. However, at 2-9 head coach Mike Pettine is destined to take the fall. So, the Browns will likely continue to play coach and QB carousel as another awful season wraps up. As long as they do, they will go nowhere. They could learn a lot from their opponents Monday night. Since returning the NFL in 1999, the Browns have changed head coaches an average of every 1.2 seasons. No coach in the history of man can turn this mess around in 1.2 seasons. Unfortunately, there is no end in sight for Browns fans and they deserve much better. From what I saw, fans took this loss harder than the players and coaches. That may be the most concerning thing of all.