The Blitz: Deals that would fix contenders' weaknesses

BY foxsports • October 21, 2013

"When something’s broke, I wanna put a bit of fixin' on it ...
When something’s bored, I wanna put a little exciting on
it."

-- Pearl Jam's 'The
Fixer'


Like Eddie Vedder and his band
mates, The Blitz is intent on taking something -- in this case national
title contenders -- and making it a little
better.

With all due respect to Alabama's Nick Saban
and his "process," some times the pieces just aren't there. Luckily, The
Fixer can, well, fix all that, zeroing in on the biggest deficiencies
of the current top-10 teams and filling them with stars from teams out
of the running.

For the sake of this exercise, let's
imagine the NCAA has a trade deadline, where teams can give up current
players or scholarships to fill their on-field needs. Here's where the
top-10 can improve and the new additions that can make it
happen.



He's been guarding
Johnny Manziel's blindside this season, but Matthews played right
tackle a year ago. The 6-foot-5, 305-pounder could fill that same role
for the Crimson Tide and benefit an offensive line that, despite the
talent at the skill positions, has paved the way for just 211.7 yards
per game on the ground (25th) and 248.7 through the air (53rd).




The
Ducks' offense is otherworldly and they've been stronger against the
pass than their 87th (251.9 ypg) ranking would indicate, coming in ninth
in pass efficiency D (102.6). If we're going to upgrade Oregon, it
would come along the defensive line, where coordinator Nick Aliotti
could line Clowney up opposite end Tony Washington, who leads the team
with 6 1/2 sacks and nine tackles for loss. Imagine the damage Clowney
could do with a running mate like that.


The Seminoles don't have
many holes, but punting remains a minor weakness where they're 103rd
behind sophomore Cason Beatty, who is averaging just 38.3 yards per
attempt. His 47 attempts in six games don't qualify him for the national
rankings, but if they did he'd be 85th in FBS. Florida State could
bolster this unit with Murphy, who is averaging a nation's-best 47.4 per
for the winless RedHawks.


The Buckeyes' 78th-ranked pass defense would
get a boost from All-American corner Jason Verrett. (Tim
Heitman-USA TODAY
Sports
)



Despite having a
first-team All-American in Bradley Roby at cornerback, the Buckeyes have
struggled against the pass, giving up 240.7 ypg (tied for 78th) and
they're 71st in pass efficiency D (130.47). Bringing in another
lock-down corner in Verrett, who has 12 passes defended, 11 break-ups
and 28 tackles, including 3 1/2 for loss, could be the answer and allow
Urban Meyer's defense the capabilities to commit more bodies to the pass
rush.



No disrespect to
Maty Mauk -- who was strong against Florida's vaunted secondary in his
first collegiate start, throwing for 295 yards, a touchdown and an
interception and he also ran for a score -- but in the absence of the
injured James Franklin, the move to add Bridgewater would answer any
lingering doubt with the Tigers. Should Missouri continue its run toward
and SEC East title, it's an intriguing matchup to think of Teddy and
the Tigers against Alabama's improving pass defense.


The Bears' run defense
remains an issue, as QB Daniel Sams and Kansas State showed in rolling
to 327 yards on the ground -- and that's a unit that went into their
Oct. 12 matchup ranked 75th in the nation in rushing. Enter Irish
Chocolate, Notre Dame's 6-foot-2 1/2, 342-pound space eater who would
provide a strong answer should the Bears find themselves facing another
team with a QB whose capable of racking up yards on the ground (we're
talking about you, Oregon's Marcus Mariota).



Without top
receiver Phillip Dorsett and his team-leading 20.9 yards per catch out
for six-to-eight weeks with a partially torn ligament in his left knee,
the Hurricanes are in need of a weapon to step up on the perimeter.
There's arguably been no one better than the Aggies' Evans, who has two
games with at least 279 yards receiving and four of 116-yards plus. You
just know QB Stephen Morris is salivating thinking about having this
athletic 6-5 target as his new security blanket.




With Ty
Montgomery, the Cardinal aren't exactly missing a deep threat. He has
564 yards and five TDs on 36 receptions. But the problem is, those
catches are as much as Stanford's next three leading receivers have.
Cooks, the nation's leader in yards (1,176 yards), yards per game (168)
and receptions (10.9 per) is the solution. But would the Beavers' Mike
Riley be willing to deal Cooks to a Pac-12 North Division
rival?


Daniel McCullers could provide a boost to
Clemson's troublesome rush defense. (Jim Brown-USA TODAY
Sports
)



Outside of the
Seminoles' Jameis Winston, Brent Venables' defense hasn't had much issue
getting to opposing QBs with 27 sacks, which is tied for the most in
FBS. The rush defense has been an issue though and it could be helped by
the 6-8, 360-pound McCullers, a mountain of a run-stopper. He would
also severely limit anyone from double-teaming end Vic Beasley and as an
added bonus, McCullers already used to wearing mass amounts of orange.




From a
pure statistical standpoint, the Red Raiders are already among the most
lethal passing attacks, sitting second (416.4). The reality is that
freshman QB Baker Mayfield has missed two games with a knee injury and
coach Kliff Kingsbury turned to another freshman in Davis Webb. Mannion,
a junior who leads all passers with 2,992 yards and 29 TDs, would bring
a prolific and veteran hand that has thrown for at least 367 yards in
every game this season.  



One picked up the
pieces from his predecessor, a power never missing a beat; another has
made his mark with his easy swagger, good looks and the Air Raid, and
the third is a read-option mastermind with a national title
pedigree.

There's no denying the results for a trio
of first-year coaches as Mark Helfrich and No. 2 Oregon are rolling
along, Kingsbury has Texas Tech up to No. 10 in the latest AP poll and
Gus Malzahn has guided Auburn to 11th.

Frankly, the
success of Helfrich, Chip Kelly's offensive coordinator, was expected;
there was just too much talent on the Ducks roster to think it would be
anything other than business as usual at Nike
U.

While Kingsbury's quick turnaround was unexpected,
it wasn't entirely out of the realm of reason. The Red Raiders did go
8-5 the previous season, beat No. 5 West Virginia and No. 23 TCU and
returned 13 starters.

The favorite son's return to
Lubbock has been a great story, but it's not the best yarn being spun by
a new coach in 2013. That would appear to be what Malzahn is doing in
The Loveliest Village On The Plains.



Taking over a
program that went 3-9 and 0-8 in its last season under Gene Chizik,
Malzahn seemed to have his work cut out for him. Wins in his first three
games over also-rans Washington State, Arkansas State and Mississippi
State were nice, but not a sign of an immediate turnaround. Even if
anyone was buying it, a 35-21 loss to No. 6 LSU on Sept. 21 cast those
notions aside.

Now, they've rattled off wins over
No. 24 Ole Miss and, most recently, a stunning turnaround-validating
45-41 victory over No. 7 Texas A&M. With a winnable slate of
Florida Atlantic, Arkansas, Tennessee and banged-up and now unranked
Georgia, the Tigers could do their part to set up an epic Iron Bowl
clash with No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 30 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.


That's a scenario that absolutely nobody saw coming.




Jumping from 14th to
fifth in the AP poll -- their best ranking since 2008 -- on the heels of
the win over Florida, the Tigers now have a two-game lead in the SEC
East. They can all but wrap up the division by beating No. 20 South
Carolina, which will likely be without QB Connor Shaw, at home on
Saturday. The talk at SEC Media Days back in July was that coach Gary
Pinkel was firmly on the hot seat and now, we could be looking at a
potential national coach of the year.



The national title
hopes are over, along with -- most likely -- Teddy Bridgewater's Heisman
chances. Without some luck, the Cardinals won't even represent the AAC
in a BCS game after their home loss to UCF. Most disappointing was a
Louisville defense which came into the week ranked first in scoring
defense (7.3 points per game) and second in total D (229.5), yet allowed
38 points and 446 yards. The Knights gouged them for 122 second-half
rushing yards, which were 110 more than the Cards allowed in their
previous game against Rutgers. Louisville was simply exposed and
unfortunately there may be no chance at getting back on the college
football public's good side the rest of this
season.



Coming off a stunning
loss to Utah, a date with then-No. 9 UCLA had the potential to send the
Cardinal's season into a free fall. But they responded with their most
dominant defensive performance of the season, picking off Bruins QB
Brett Hundley twice, outgained UCLA 419-266 and held a offense that was
averaging 45.8 points per game to just 10 (it was the Bruins'
lowest-scoring game since losing 50-0 to USC on Nov. 26, 2011). That
comes just in time with Stanford facing the nation's No. 1 passing
offense (Oregon State) and No. 2 scoring offense (Oregon) in the next
two weeks.



The Jayhawks hadn't
beaten Oklahoma since 1997 and lost their last 24 straight Big 12 games,
10 of those coming under Charlie Weis, who had all of three total wins
in his first season-plus in Lawrence. Kansas holding a 13-0 lead on the
then-No. 18 Sooners was simply stunning, but it didn't last as Oklahoma
won 34-19 and the Jayhawks' hopes of getting that elusive conference win
won't improve anytime soon with No. 12 Baylor, improving Texas and No.
21 Oklahoma State in the next three games.



A weekend of upsets
benefitted these two non-automatic qualifier conference squads in the
human polls, but the biggest boost came in the BCS standings.
Louisville's loss to UCF put the Bulldogs and Huskies very much in line
to earn a BCS automatic bid, as they sit 17th and 18th, respectively, in
the initial rankings. Either team -- and only one can grab an auto bid
-- would need to be 12th or higher to guarantee a BCS berth or at least
16th and better than a AQ-conference champ. Currently, both teams are
ranked higher than the top AAC school, No. 23 UCF, and it could stay
that way without the Knights facing another marquee opponent the rest of
the season.  


On
Oct. 5, the Wildcats were ranked 16th and led Ohio State in the fourth
quarter, but that loss has led to a free fall. Northwestern dropped its
third straight, falling 20-17 to Minnesota -- a 12-point underdog -- at
home, no less. Now, it enters a difficult stretch that includes trips to
Iowa and No. 25 Nebraska and No. 24 Michigan and Michigan State, which
boasts the nation's top-ranked defense. At 4-3, it would take a complete
collapse to not get bowl eligible, but it's not unthinkable to envision
a regular-season finale at Illinois that could decide whether the
Wildcats can get that sixth win.


Jameis Winston passed for 444 yards and had
four total TDs as Florida State thumped No. 3 Clemson. (Joshua
S. Kelly-USA TODAY
Sports
)





He thoroughly dominated
Clemson, throwing for 444 yards and three TDs and running for another
score in a win that vaulted the Seminoles into the Tigers' previously
held No. 3 spot in the rankings. It has been 13 years since the ACC had a
Heisman finalist, let alone a winner, and Winston emerged from his
supposed duel with Clemson's Tajh Boyd as the surest bet. Also, he
managed to quote MC Hammer
postgame.

*NOTE: Winston
just edges out Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch, who ran for an FBS QB
record 316 yards and three TDs and had 155 yards and a TD through the
air. That came against Central Michigan, while Winston decimated a team
that was ranked No. 3 and in their
house.




It's not BMOCs: Seminoles
Edition, it just feels that way. Joyner had eight tackles, forced two
fumbles in the first quarter and had an interception in the second and
also registered a sack in the win in Death Valley. The first of those
forced fumbles came on the opening play of the game, ripping the ball
away from Tigers WR Stanton Seckinger as Florida State silenced a
raucous crowd in a hurry.


The Volunteers'
first win over a ranked opponent since topping 21st-ranked South
Carolina on Oct. 31, 2009 -- a span that saw them drop 19 such games --
ended thanks to the leg of Palardy. He hit a 19-yard field goal as time
expired to give Tennessee the 23-21 win and also hit from 37 and 33
yards. Palardy also lived up a clutch prediction he made to coach Butch
Jones a day before. "I said, 'You've got the game-winner tomorrow,
right?,' Jones recounted. "And he said, 'I got you,
Coach.'"


Byron Marshall and the Ducks will face a Bruins
defense that is 50th vs. the rush, allowing 149.5 ypg. (Don
Ryan/Associated Press
)





The Bruins lost the
first of their back-to-back season-defining matchups as they were
overpowered by Stanford's defense. Now, they'll get the unenviable task
of needing to rebound against Mariota and the Ducks at Autzen Stadium.
UCLA has given up 740 yards in two Top 25 games vs. Nebraska and the
Cardinal and neither is anywhere near as explosive as Oregon. The Ducks
will roll in what may be the first of two meetings, with a potential
Pac-12 title game clash a possibility.

The
Pick:
Oregon 48, UCLA 34



Mauk was up to the
task in his first career start, now he and the Tigers appear on a
collision course with No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. A win
over the Gamecocks will move that game one step closer to reality and
everything seems to be breaking in Mizzou's favor with Shaw unlikely to
play. A South Carolina win would give us more chaos in a chaotic East
Division, but with a strong rush defense (ranked 19th in FBS) capable of
slowing Mike Davis, the Tigers will keep up their surprising
run.

The Pick: Missouri 27, South
Carolina 20



After pumping up the
Sooners as BCS title contenders following their win at Notre Dame, they
went on to barely beat TCU, get trucked by Texas and look unimpressive
vs. woeful Kansas. They may not be crystal ball-material, but with the
country's top pass defense, Oklahoma does pose a major challenge for the
Red Raiders and their uncertain QB situation. The Sooners will end
Texas Tech's perfect season and put their focus on doing the same to
Baylor when they face off on Nov. 7.

The
Pick:
Oklahoma 30, Texas Tech
21

Last Week:
1-2
Overall: 16-5


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