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What we learned: Dion Lewis needs help; so does USC’s defense

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 26:  Dion Lewis #28 of the Pittsburgh Panthers runs with the ball against the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game on December 26, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Now that college football is back and we no longer have to spend our time over-analyzing off-field issues, let’s turn our attention to over-analyzing what we’ve seen in one night the play on the field.

The first night of games was pretty vanilla — outside of Utah’s overtime win over Pittsburgh, as Anthony pointed out earlier — but it did give us a little bit of insight into a few teams, and what we could possibly expect to see from them down the road.

Let’s take a look at three things we learned on Thursday night: Read the rest of this entry »

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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USC hires Lane Kiffin to replace Pete Carroll

In rather surprising news, USC has tabbed former Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin to fill the position vacated by Pete Carroll, who signed a contract over the weekend to coach the Seattle Seahawks.

From ESPN.com:

“We are really excited to welcome Lane Kiffin back to USC,” Garrett said in a statement. “I was able to watch him closely when he was an assistant with us and what I saw was a bright, creative young coach who I thought would make an excellent head coach here if the opportunity ever arose. I’m confident he and his staff will keep USC football performing at the high level that we expect.”

He was a member of the USC coaching staff from 2001 to ’06, first as wide receivers coach and then as offensive coordinator under Carroll.

Kiffin will bring his father and defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin, and assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron to Southern California with him.

The hiring is surprising, but what isn’t surprising is the way Kiffin left Tennessee after just one season. The fact of the matter is that college coaches come and go as they please. As long as there is more money and a bigger opportunity to be had, coaches will always be a threat to leave.

That said, it never ceases to amaze me that coaches can walk into a recruit’s home and talk about commitment, loyalty and family, and then leave a program at the drop of a hat. There is something incredible wrong with the process, but it has become such a norm that nobody is surprised by it anymore. As the clichéd response goes: It is what it is.

I wonder if some in Knoxville are secretly glad to see Kiffin go. He rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and never seemed like a great fit for UT. Considering he helped Carroll make USC’s program a success earlier this decade, it stands to reason that he will be a much better fit in Southern Cal, but we’ll see. It’ll also be exciting to see what Monte Kiffin can do with the talent he’ll have on the defensive side of the ball at SC.

This is pure conjecture on my part, but if I’m venturing a guess as to whom will replace Kiffin at Tennessee, I’d say Jon Gruden might be a great fit. He was a graduate assistant there from 1986 to 1987 and also met his wife at UT as well. If he wanted to take a crack at the collegiate level, Knoxville might just be a solid fit.


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Alabama’s passing game continues to struggle

At the end of the day, winning games in college football is the only thing that matters. That’s why Alabama won’t apologize for its 12-10 victory over Tennessee at home on Saturday, even though it needed a blocked field goal as time expired to secure the win.

That said, Nick Saban better figure out a way for his team to move the ball through the air or else the Tide won’t find themselves playing for a national title this year.

The Alabama coaching staff showed little to no confidence in quarterback Greg McElroy today. Either that, or McElroy played too conservatively because he barely threw the ball vertically and his average pass went for a paltry 4.1 yards.

The playcalling was also highly questionable at times for Alabama, especially in on the Tide’s final drive before halftime. Their offensive line was blowing the Vols off the ball and Mark Ingram had gapping holes to run through. Yet when ‘Bama got inside the 10 yard line, Saban’s crew called two straight passes on second and third down, both of which fell incomplete and the Tide had to settle for a field goal.

Why, when you’re completely dominating the line of scrimmage and running the ball at will, would you call two straight pass plays? The calls made no sense and they probably cost ‘Bama six points. Granted, Monte Kiffin’s defense deserves a lot of credit for taking away the run and neutralizing Ingram (he had 99 yards on 18 carries) as much as possible, but the Tide coaching staff flat out blew it before half.

Outside of the final two minutes when they allowed Tennessee to get back into the game, the Tide defense played great. There were multiple times today when the Vols got on ‘Bama’s side of the field and the Tide defense knocked them backwards. Just as they’ve been all season, they were impressive.

But again, if this team wants to play for a national championship then Saban needs to figure out how to move the chains outside of handing the ball to Ingram every play.

Florida unimpressive in win over Tennessee

It’s my own fault, really. I figured that after Lane Kiffin spent the majority of the offseason running his mouth and making false claims about Urban Meyer that Florida would come out and tear Tennessee a new one when the two teams met in Week 3.

But I came away feeling awfully unsatisfied by the Gators’ 23-13 win over the Vols in Gainesville on Saturday. In fact, I was more impressed with Lane Kiffin’s defense than I was with anything Florida did today. His front four pressured Tim Tebow all game and safety Eric Berry once again proved that he’s one of the best defenders in the nation, if not the best. I thought I was watching Bob Sanders of the Colts with the way Berry played sideline-to-sideline today. I could watch him and Tebow go at it every Saturday. (Did you see that collision in the first half?!)

Again, this was the media’s fault. We all figured that Meyer, a man who had no issue with his team hanging 63 points on Kentucky last year, would put together some magical game plan that would embarrass Kiffin and serve notice that he and Florida aren’t to be f’d with.

But there was no magical game plan. Tebow was good (115 passing yards, 76 rushing yards and a TD on 24 carries), but far from great as he threw an interception in the first half that led to a UT field goal and fumbled in the fourth quarter, which produced a Vols’ touchdown. Florida’s lack of playmakers in the passing game was on full display and it’s apparent that the Gators are hurting without Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy.

Florida’s defense was great again, although Tennessee’s offense is vanilla as it comes. Montario Hardesty is all they have and the passing game is non-existent with Jonathan Crompton under center.

I’m not a Florida fan, but I expected more. I expected the Gators to be up by 30 late in the fourth quarter and tack on another touchdown just for good measure. Instead, I’m left wondering if Florida won’t get knocked off again at some point this year. I know had Tebow not fumbled and the Gators went on to score in that drive, this probably would have been written differently. But if Tennessee had more playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, it’s not unfathomable to think they could have pulled off the upset.

Cowboys minus T.O. = Perfect Harmony

…or at least that formula worked for the first week of the 2009 season, as the Cowboys defeated the Bucs 34-21 in Tampa on Sunday.

Dallas had concerns about the chemistry between quarterback Tony Romo and receiver Roy Williams entering the season. After releasing Terrell Owens in the offseason, the Cowboys were praying that Romo and Williams (whom the team acquired from Detroit in exchange for a first round pick last season) would develop a connection.

The Cowboys’ fears about the tandem were quelled early in the game on Sunday when Romo connected with Williams twice for 20 yards during a nine-play, 31-yard dive that ended with a Nick Folk 51-yard field goal. Romo also found Williams on a beautiful 66-yard touchdown pass early in the second half to give Dallas a 20-7 lead.

On the day, Romo finished with 353 yards on 16 of 27 passing and three touchdowns, while Williams caught three passes for 86 yards and a TD. Patrick Crayton had a productive day as well, as he hauled in four passes for 135 yards and also caught an 80-yard touchdown pass from Romo early in the fourth.

Read the rest of this entry »

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