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Four Downs – September 11th: Time to fire up the ASU & UofA Coaching Hot Boards + Cards in trouble?

What a brutal sports weekend for me, not to mention most sports fans in Arizona. In addition to the football debacles discussed below, the Diamondbacks lost 2 of 3 to a pathetic Padres team, including a spectacular six run meltdown in the 9th inning on Saturday night. And my Cubbies, well, got swept at home by the Brewers…and their NL Central lead went from five games to two. But the real story of the weekend was the absolute ineptitude of Arizona’s college and pro football teams…

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FIRST DOWN: The end is near for the Rich Rodriguez & Todd Graham eras in AZ.

I’ll be honest – I didn’t see even one play of the ASU-San Diego State game from Saturday night. Instead I was watching the utterly pathetic offensive display at Arizona Stadium. The 19-16 Houston win over Arizona was a close game, yes, but it was also VERY poorly played. The Cougars did next to nothing on offense against a Wildcats team that surrendered nearly 600 yards to Northern Arizona last week. Don’t get me wrong, I thought Arizona’s defense was much improved…but Houston’s gameplan was as vanilla as it gets.

Unfortunately the problem that plagued the Wildcats and led to their demise was despicable execution of what is known as the forward pass. Starting QB Brandon Dawkins was wildly inaccurate. And backup Khalil Tate, when he finally got in the game, was too busy trying to play hero ball and threw a bad interception late in the fourth quarter. Despite the fact that Dawkins was awful, as soon as Tate threw the 4th quarter interception, coach Rich Rodriguez pulled him and went back to Dawkins on the final, unsuccessful series. Stupid and foolish to say the least.

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ASU’s problem appears to be on both the offensive and defensive lines. On Saturday, they didn’t average even 1.5 yards per carry while SDSU, in their 30-20 win, averaged 6.5 yards per carry. That’s a staggering deficit, especially considering ASU, as a Pac-12 school (vs. a Mountain West program) should have the better players than their opponent.

The last two Saturdays, the Wildcats have seen their attendance plummet to lows not seen in consecutive weeks since the disastrous John Mackovic era in 2003. ASU, despite honoring late great head coach Frank Kush against SDSU, only managed 54,000 in a stadium that seats considerably more.

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Look at all of the empty seats in Tucson!

So what happens now? Both schools are as football depressed as can be at the moment. And it’s evident to this writer that coaching changes MUST be made at the end of the season barring staggering turnarounds. It’s probable that the Territorial Cup game at Sun Devil Stadium on Thanksgiving weekend will be played for pride only as neither team will likely have postseason chances.

I hate advocating for the removal of coaches; many families’ lives would be thrown into flux. But enough is enough, especially when the money and stakes are so big. It’s time for a change…in both Tucson and Tempe. Our schools’ alumni and fans deserve better.


SECOND DOWN: Ohio State / Oklahoma, USC / Stanford, and more…

-I knew the Sooners were good…but to blow out Ohio State, in Columbus, on Saturday night? I never saw that coming. And the Buckeyes…I thought they were a bit overrated, but not two TDs worse than Oklahoma. As it stands right now, I have no doubt that OU is one of the top four teams in America, nor do I believe many teams will have a road win more impressive this season.

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-Sam Darnold and USC are just fine. They are also one of the top four teams in CFB along with Alabama and Penn State as I see it. Their dismantling of Stanford was visually impressive and I don’t see a letdown against Texas this week.

-As much as I want to tout my Saquon Barkley (Penn State RB) for Heisman prediction, it’s reining winner Lamar Jackson’s to lose until proven otherwise. The Louisville QB has picked up right where he left off last year…and if he shines against Clemson this Saturday, he has to be among the frontrunners to repeat.

-Though he won’t win the Heisman, Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver might be the best player in the nation. He completely affected the game in Tucson on Saturday night and will continue to torment opponents all season. Don’t be surprised if Oliver is the #1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

NCAA Football: Houston at Arizona

-Brian Kelly’s leash at Notre Dame continues to shorten. Losing at home to a Georgia team with a true freshman backup QB at the helm isn’t a good thing for job security.

-I don’t know what to make of this game long term, but Washington State’s triple overtime victory over Boise State, after staging a three touchdown comeback in the 4th quarter, was clearly the best game of Week 2.


THIRD DOWN: Carson Palmer was bad, the Cardinals’ offense was out of sync, and now David Johnson is hurt!?

If you found any positives during the 2017 Arizona Cardinals’ 35-23 loss in Detroit, please raise your hand. And if so, put down the kool-aid. I wouldn’t be terribly excited about the state of this team. Carson Palmer wasn’t accurate and his receivers did him no favors. At times it looked as if the team hadn’t practiced with each other whatsoever. Star running back David Johnson gained only 23 yards on the ground before leaving with a wrist injury.

As of the time this column is published, no further news is available as to Johnson’s upcoming status other than the tweet above. If he’s out for a significant amount of time, you’re looking at a team who will struggle to win 7 games. Johnson arguably is the most valuable running back to his team in the NFL.

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While the defense was very poor in the 2nd half against Matthew Stafford and Detroit, I’m still confident in saying they are the strength of this team. That unit will rebound effectively.

But as I’ve said before, and I’m sorry to be right, the 2017 Arizona Cardinals will not win anything of note with Carson Palmer as their quarterback nor without a healthy David Johnson.

My recommendation to Cardinals fans: keep an eye on the 2018 NFL Draft QB class. It’s going to be the deepest we’ve seen in some time.


FOURTH DOWN: Other NFL thoughts from Sunday of Week 1

-The worst team I saw in Week 1, without a doubt, was the Indianapolis Colts. Losing 46-9 to a Rams team that I don’t believe is that good is not a good start to 2017. A healthy Andrew Luck or not, I’d put a friendly wager that coach Chuck Pagano will be the first NFL HC to be replaced in-season. Honorable mentions: Houston Texans, Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants (wow they stunk on Sunday night against Dallas).

-There is some good news for the Cardinals, at least. They play the Colts in Week 2.

-The best team I saw in Week 1, without a doubt, was the Jacksonville Jaguars. Offseason addition (from the Cardinals) Calais Campbell had 4 sacks by himself and the defense as a whole produced 10 sacks, 4 turnovers, and a touchdown. Maybe I wasn’t wrong with my initial preseason projection of 10 wins and an AFC South title? That defense is the REAL DEAL!

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-Bengals coach Marvin Lewis’ act is wearing thin in Cincinnati after years of good, not great success. After watching his team be shut out by the Ravens at home, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bengals have a new leader come January, if not sooner.

-It’s always tough to win on the road in the NFL…but much credit to the Raiders (at Titans) and Eagles (at Redskins) who did so in tough spots on opening Sunday. Both teams definitely looked like strong playoff contenders, although it’s early, as I predicted last week.

-My NFC Championship preview, Seahawks and Packers was U-G-L-Y in the first half. I mean really bad. Seattle’s offensive line looked like the NFL’s version of ASU’s. Aaron Rodgers wasn’t sharp but finally made some plays in the 2nd half. After Week 1, I’m still staying with a GB-New England Super Bowl.

-As I like to say…once a fluke, twice a trend, Remember that when you watch the games of Week 2.

To read previous entries of my blog, click here. Also make sure to follow me on Twitter @eacohen83.