Nationals

Big Ten shows it can put up the points, too

Big Ten shows it can put up the points, too

The rough-and-tumble Big Ten can put up gaudy score lines, too.

Ohio State scored 63 points last weekend, Michigan 44. After a paltry start, Penn State is pouring it on with 34 points or more in three of its last four games. Nebraska has yet to dip below the 30-point mark. As the season approaches its midway point, half of the teams in the conference so gritty the colors of its logo are black and blue are averaging 30 points or more.

``I think that's where college football is today,'' Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said Tuesday. ``Just to watch the way everybody is in a spread mentality, is playing with tempo, it's just a matter of time until teams score when you've got the defense out there as long as you are.''

Scoring has been on the rise across the nation, thanks largely to the proliferation of spread and pro-style offenses and the introduction of the running 40-second clock. Three years after Boise State and Houston were the only two teams to average more than 40 points a game, at 42.2 each, 17 schools are scoring 40 or more. Five teams are scoring in the 50s, led by Oklahoma State with 55.8 points per game.

It's not only the traditionally prolific schools piling up the points, either. Texas A&M, better known for its ``Wrecking Crew'' defense, is averaging almost 45 points a game, eighth most in the country.

``Football is a trendy sport, by nature,'' Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said.

Yes, but trendy and Big Ten don't usually go together.

Scan the yearly list of the Big Ten's leader in scoring offense, and you'll see a lot of numbers in the 20s and 30s. Oh, sure, a 40 would show up every once in a while (40.0 by Ohio State in 1969 or 48.1 by Penn State in 1994). Most years, however, reflected the conference and its grind-it-out nature.

Then, in 1997, Joe Tiller arrived at Purdue, bringing his ``basketball on grass'' offense - and a kid named Drew Brees - with him. Pretty soon, that old notion that pro-style, pass-happy offenses couldn't work in the snow and cold of the Midwest had been turned on its head. Same for the idea that the only good football game was a 9-6 slugfest.

Wisconsin led the league with 43 points per conference game last year, and 45.2 the year before that. It was the first time ever the league's scoring average leader had topped 40 in back-to-back years. And it could be three in a row, with Nebraska currently averaging almost 44 points a game, 10th highest in the country.

``With the rise in talent level offensively and the things people are doing conceptually, it's been a big positive,'' Michigan State coach Mark D'Antonio said. ``The defense is working in those same realms. But ... since I was a defensive coordinator back in `02, 03, the game has changed dramatically.''

Now, not every Big Ten team looks like a WAC wannabe. Wisconsin's offense is still built around the ground game, and probably always will be. Yes, the Badgers had Russell Wilson last year, but that was an oddity. The year before, when Wisconsin was scoring in bunches, it was thanks to a behemoth offensive line that bulldozed such big holes the Badgers almost couldn't help but score.

But the league is no longer running different own versions of the same offense, either. Look at Ohio State. The school that produced Eddie George and Archie Griffin has opened things up under Urban Meyer, and is scoring 30 or more points in all but two games this year with its spread offense.

Nebraska runs a lot of option out of the shotgun. Illinois' aim is to run the spread. Michigan State and Iowa are more traditional.

And then there's Michigan, which changes from week to week depending on the kind of game Denard Robinson is having.

That variety, rather than the offenses themselves, are what has the most impact, D'Antonio said.

``It's not that one particular philosophy is good, bad or indifferent. It's that every week in college football, offenses change dramatically,'' he said. ``You only have three, four days max to prepare for that offense, and what you're seeing is people not executing on the defensive side of ball as well due to the complexities and changes. ... It's tough for a young player to (adapt).''

In the end, though, good football will always trump glitzy schemes. Just look at last year's Big Ten title game, which featured Wisconsin and Michigan State, two of the conference's most traditional offenses.

``If you can control the football and play good defense, play great on special teams, good things are going to happen for you,'' D'Antonio said. ``There are all different ways of getting to the top. It's just a matter of, philosophically, what direction you're going to take. In the end, it's about how you execute and your ability to adapt.''

Quick Links

How to execute the ultimate D.C. sports day of the summer

natspark.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

How to execute the ultimate D.C. sports day of the summer

Summertime; the time of year when you only look at your calendar to make sure you haven’t double-booked yourself for your ritual weekend brunches, or the time of year you exhaust every vacation day you’ve stored up over the course of the year to get the kids somewhere near their grandparents so you can continue to work on that ever-elusive summer dad-bod. Either one is a win in my book.

Summer also gives birth to one of the rare occasions when there can be three to four different DC-sports related activities all occurring within the same 24-hour timeframe. Thursday, June 20, is THAT day!

Who’s playing? Is there a chance I can attend the game? If not, how do you watch them all? These burning questions are about to be answered faster than you can ride down the escalator at the Pentagon City Metro Station…I think. So, let’s hurry and get started.

We’ll run through these one at a time, in chronological order!

Event 1: Soccer: 3 p.m. EST

1.       Who’s playing?

a.       The US Women’s National Team takes the pitch against Sweden as they look to continue their international dominance in the Women’s World Cup. And yes, it’s DC team because we’re the nation’s Capital.

2.       Reason to watch/attend?

a.       These women are the best Soccer players on the planet; having showcased their proficiency for many years on the world stage. Remember they put up 13 against Thailand in their first match! Don’t miss an opportunity to witness history in the making.  

3.       How to watch/attend?

a.       You can either pull up to Dulles and jump on the next flight to France, or you can be like the rest of us Super-geniuses and tune in at 3pm to watch it from the comfort of your favorite Soccer bar. Make sure to buy a round for anyone rocking a USWNT jersey; #OneNationOneTeam. USA, USA, USA!!!

Event 2: Baseball: 7 p.m. EST

1.       Who’s playing?

a.       The Washington Nationals are wrapping up a 4-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

2.       Why should I watch/attend?

a.       This is the last day of Bryce Harper in THIS city for the remainder of the season. HALLELUJAH! 

3.       How to watch/attend?

a.       First pitch is at 7:05p so you can either slide by the park and enjoy the smorgasbord of delicacies offered at Nats park, or you can tune in on the tube. I suggest hitting the park and booing Harper until you lose your voice! Tell your boss it’s my fault you’re hoarse. It won’t be the first time someone did that.

Event 3: Basketball(NBA): 8 p.m. EST

1.       Who’s playing?

a.       NOBODY, derp! But, it’s the NBA draft and frankly put, I couldn’t be more excited it’s finally here.

2.       Why should I watch/attend?

a.       This is the first official activation in the post-Grunfeld era for the Wizards. More importantly, this will be the first chance for Wiz fans to wrap their minds around the new direction the team will be taking. Optimism starts here!

3.       How to watch/attend?

a.       Unless you feel like hopping a flight to Chicago to see the Draft in person, I highly suggest you tune in to NBC Sports Washington for full draft coverage on ‘Wizards on the Clock’ at 8p. In my humble opinion, you won’t find better comprehensive coverage. You can watch on TV or via the MyTeams App while you’re at the Nats game booing Bryce if you’re slick with multi-tasking.

Event 4: Basketball(WNBA): 10 p.m. EST

1.       Who’s playing?

a.       Your Washington Mystics are out in Sin City to take on the Las Vegas Aces. Note: Bill Laimbeer sighting!

2.       Reason to watch/attend?

a.       The Aces sit atop the Western Conference with Australian native Liz Cambage (she can BALL) holding down the paint. It’s going to be a good test for the Mystics and you’ll get a chance to see how unrelentingly talented Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Cloud, and crew really are. Buckets, the Mystics get buckets!

3.       How to watch/attend?

a.       I know the temptation to hit Vegas is rising by the moment but fret not. You can save a ton of money and possibly help your best bud save his fragile relationship by staying in DC and catching the game at 10 p.m. on Monumental Sports Network/NBC Sports Washington.

Now you know how to do it while maintaining some semblance of sanity, and you can even keep a running tab on who’s been the most DC among your friends. I’m certain we’ll have another opportunity for this phenomenon when Fall comes back around, but for now, let’s all enjoy the summer and all the games therein!

Quick Links

Redskins fans shouldn't forget about Colt McCoy because the coaches haven't

Redskins fans shouldn't forget about Colt McCoy because the coaches haven't

After a third surgery on his leg in April, Colt McCoy did not practice with the team during OTAs or mandatory minicamp. He was in Ashburn for many of the workouts, but did not take any team snaps.

In a normal quarterback battle, that would put McCoy at a distinct disadvantage, but the Redskins quarterback battle is not exactly normal. 

Veteran Case Keenum and rookie Dwayne Haskins got nearly all of the work at signal caller during the spring practice sessions, and both showed signs of being able to take over head coach Jay Gruden's offense. Keenum proved he can handle the huddle and has quickness when plays broke down behind the line of scrimmage. Haskins showed a rocket arm and a ton of potential, but he's also a rookie trying to learn a boatload about life in the NFL in a hurry, like calling plays, and that showed too. 

All of that is a long way to say neither Keenum nor Haskins locked up the top QB job. And that means the door is still open for McCoy.

"We would love for him to take some reps, but obviously his health is more important right now than anything, and that is the most important thing for him," Gruden said about McCoy on the first day of minicamp. "When his time comes it will come quickly. He will be ready."

Gruden's quote speaks to the biggest advantage McCoy will have once he hits the field. He's been with the Redskins since 2014, and knows Gruden's version of the West Coast offense backwards and forwards. 

Throughout the spring sessions, Haskins made clear that his number one goal for the offseason was to learn the playbook and gain mastery of calling plays in the huddle. McCoy already has that.

Speaking with reporters on the last day of minicamp, Keenum explained that Gruden's offense is the seventh or eighth new system he's learned in the NFL. Keenum said each system is like learning a new language, and that "there is no Rosetta Stone for the West Coast Offense."

If there was a translator, its name would be Colt McCoy. 

Once doctors clear the former University of Texas star, he will immediately be the Redskins quarterback with the best understanding of the offense. That will show up on the field right away.

Remember too that Gruden has tried to turn to McCoy as his quarterback at a few different turns, but injuries have always derailed those plans. If McCoy gets fully healthy in time for Richmond, which team sources believe will happen, he has a chance to finally take over this job.

Make no mistake, Haskins is the Redskins long-term future at the quarterback position. He has the talent but needs to learn the speed of the NFL, from playcalling to pass rush. Eventually though, he will be on the field for the Redskins. 

If he wins the job, it's his.

Same for Keenum, who is probably better than he showed last year in Denver but not as good as his career season with Minnesota in 2017. Keenum could certainly start Week 1 in Philadelphia and is probably ahead of Haskins right now. 

But fans would be wise not to count McCoy out of the quarterback competition. The Redskins coaching staff definitely hasn't. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS: