Bret Bielema, Joel Stave

O’ Brien maintains tenuous hold on Badgers’ starting QB job



A freshman All-American in 2010 under Ralph Friedgen, Danny O’ Brien‘s performance took a precipitous drop in 2011 under Randy Edsall and the quarterback ultimately transferred from Maryland to Wisconsin.

The Badgers were hoping, after losing one-year rental Russell Wilson, they had gotten the ’10 O’ Brien model.  Instead, at least early on, it appears they have gotten the newer, less reliable model.

O’ Brien is ranked just 75th in the country in passing efficiency through three games, with the low point of the start of his Badgers’ career coming in the close shave against Utah State.  An O’ Brien fumble — the QB has turned the ball over three times in a game and a half — helped the Badgers dig a 14-3 first-half hole against the Aggies, and prompted head coach Bret Bielema to yank O’ Brien in favor of backup Joel Stave.  While Stave didn’t even remotely set a fire under the UW passing attack — he completed 2-of-6 passes for 15 yards — he was under center as the Badgers scored two third-quarter touchdowns — one on a punt return — and was able to stave off (see what I did there?) the Aggies the rest of the way for a 16-14 win.

While the coaching staff has yet to publicly name a starter for this weekend’s game against UTEP, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes that offensive coordinator Matt Canada‘s “desire to ensure the players aren’t wary of losing their position too quickly suggests Danny O’Brien will retain the No. 1 job for at least another week.”  Canada intimated that he doesn’t want his players in general and O’ Brien specifically to be looking over their shoulders.

“I don’t think that is anything I’ve ever been a part of, and I don’t think that is anything coach (Bielema) has been a part of, having a quick trigger and have guys worry,” Canada said. “If that was the case, it would have happened [in the game against Oregon State]. That’s not how I want a guy to play.”

When an official decision on the starter will be made is unclear.

The drama surrounding the quarterback situation is the latest in what’s been a rough start to the 2012 season for the Badgers.

Following a narrow five-point win over FBS program Northern Iowa in the opener, UW “parted ways” with its offensive line coach.  The following week, the Badgers went out and lost to unranked Oregon State.  The next week saw the Badgers struggle with a member of the WAC.

Montee Ball, a Heisman finalist in 2011 and a preseason favorite for the award entering this year, is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry and scored just two touchdowns.  The past two seasons, the running back averaged more than 6.2 ypc and scored 51 touchdowns on the ground.

Aside from all that, all is well in Madison.

Big changes in AP poll, but Ohio State still comfortable on top

Ezekiel Elliott, Cardale Jones

The Ohio State Buckeyes remain atop the AP Top 25 this week, but the Big 12’s top contenders have bumped Michigan State down two spots. No. 2 TCU picked up five first-place votes and managed to stay ahead of No. 3 Baylor despite the Bears getting 10 first-place votes.

No. 5 Utah picked up seven first-place votes and No. 9 Texas A&M received the last first-place vote available. The big mover in this week’s AP poll was No. 11 Florida, with the Gators jumping 14 spots in the poll after dismantling Ole Miss Saturday night. The Rebels dropped from No. 3 down to No. 14. No. 15 Notre Dame fell nine spots after losing at No. 6 Clemson. No. 19 Georgia also tumbled this week, down 11 spots after being blown out at home by Alabama. It was also a rough week for No. 20 UCLA, falling 13 spots after losing to Arizona State at home.

New teams in the AP poll this week include No. 22 Iowa, No. 24 Toledo and No. 25 Boise State. Iowa and Boise State also made appearances in the coaches poll earlier today, but Toledo did not. Memphis appears in the coach spill but is the third team in its own conference in the others receiving votes category, behind Houston and Temple. Memphis tied with division foe Navy in that category as well.

  1. Ohio State (38 first-place votes)
  2. TCU (5)
  3. Baylor (10)
  4. Michigan State
  5. Utah (7)
  6. Clemson
  7. LSU
  8. Alabama
  9. Texas A&M (1)
  10. Oklahoma
  11. Florida
  12. Florida State
  13. Northwestern
  14. Ole Miss
  15. Notre Dame
  16. Stanford
  17. USC
  18. Michigan
  19. Georgia
  20. UCLA
  21. Oklahoma State
  22. Iowa
  23. Cal
  24. Toledo
  25. Boise State

Group of Five update: Boise State still going strong, Navy creating a stir

Keenan Reynolds
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With conference play starting to pick up around the country, we should start to see some separation from some of these Group of Five contenders. The three-headed race in the American Athletic Conference’s West Division should be especially fascinating to watch unfold as Memphis, Houston and Navy are all off to undefeated starts and are a combined 13-0. Over the weekend Navy picked up a nice nonconference win against Air Force, which served multiple purposes of coming one step closer to winning the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy, scored a nice win for the AAC and also knocked the struggling Mountain West Conference down another peg.

Of course, the Mountain West Conference still has Boise State, and the Broncos have been on fire lately. After the setback against BYU in Provo, Boise State has traveled to Virginia to put up 56 points in a 42-point victory and just blanked Hawaii in conference play, 55-0. Boise State is now locked and loaded for a run through the MWC as some of the perceived threats to the Broncos continue to scuffle. A road game to Colorado State is not as imposing as it may have been last fall, and the same can be said for a road trip to Utah State the following week. Air Force might be the biggest challenge left for Boise State in conference play, but that will be played on the blue turf. And let’s be honest for a moment. In the eyes of the selection committee, a 12-1 Boise State team at the end of the season might be difficult to pass on when it comes time to make a call on the New Years Six bowl spot.

That said, Boise State still has some serious competition completely out of their hands. Toledo continues to put together a solid season and has a pair of victoroes over FBS schools just like Boise State (and a road win at Arkansas likely is better than Boise State’s wins against Washington or at Virginia to some). If the Rockets can run the table in the MAC or even suffer one close loss along the way to a MAC title, Toledo may actually be the frontrunner. That, of course, could also change depending on what happens in that AAC West.

Memphis had a close call at USF this weekend but managed to escape with a win. The offense Memphis has rolling will still be a serious challenge in conference play, but pay attention to what Houston and Navy are also doing. Only one of those three will even be eligible to play for the AAC championship, which makes this the best division race to following the Group of Five. In the AAC East, Temple appears to be in good shape after a blowout win in rainy Charlotte this week. The Owls still have a leg up on Cincinnati, and look to have the best defense in the division. Every other team in Temple’s division has already lost at least one game.

Now with one week of October football under our belts, here is how I would rank the current Group of Five contenders at this moment if I had a seat on the College Football Playoff selection committee.

  1. Toledo: Still owns the best victory over a P5 school in Arkansas
  2. Memphis: Offense still scary despite tight one at USF, gets Ole Miss next after a bye.
  3. Temple: Wins against Penn State and Cincinnati look a little better now, could be undefeated when Notre Dame comes to Philly
  4. Boise State: The best one-loss team in the Group of Five field and surging, but how much will MWC hold Broncos back?
  5. Navy: Midshipmen letting Keenan  Reynolds do his thing, just beat Air Force by 22. Big win for AAC, tough loss for MWC

On the radar: Houston just misses my cut for now, but could easily work into the mix any given week. Keeping an eye on Western Kentucky, who plays LSU later this month. I’ll keep taking a flyer on Bowling Green but with two losses that leaves the Falcons with plenty of ground to make up. Not impossible, but certainly in need of some help in other places. Falcons also need to get by Ohio, who just barely puts a blip on the radar as well. Sorry Sun Belt. I just don’t see it happening yet.