Preseason Week 2 Roundup - College Coaches Hot Seat (August 23, 2010)

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THE NFL PRESEASON WEEK #2 ROUNDUP INCLUDES A "BRETT'S BACK" UPDATE FROM SAN FRANCISCO PLUS A PREVIEW OF TONIGHT'S CARDINALS-TITANS CLASH IN TENNESSEE ...

COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT: WE CHECK OUT FOUR HEAD COACHES ON THE "HOT SEAT"

By Jim Hurley:

The NBC television audience may have wanted to see more than four plays - but that's all everyone got in last night's 15-10 win by the San Francisco 49ers over Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings in an NFL Preseason Week #2 tilt at Candlestick Park. The Vikings starting quarterback didn't play much in this prime-time affair on the left coast and so this Saturday's game against Seattle will serve as a better barometer for where Minny is as they close in on its regular-season opener on Thursday, Sept. 9th at New Orleans.

Okay, so Favre did complete his only pass attempt for a 13-yard swing pass to RB Adrian Peterson but otherwise it was a non-descript first night back for Favre who was sacked hard for a 10-yard loss as the underdog Vikings looked a touch out of whack in Favre's brief appearance in this TV tilt that didn't exactly stir the masses.

After the game, Favre claimed it was a "win" for him because he didn't fumble a snap and he did complete a forward pass but even on a handoff play it was quite evident that the 40-year-old slinger wasn't totally sharp - that was a herky-jerky handoff to be sure.

The Vikings may be a 7-to-1 (or so) favorite to get to Super Bowl 45 in Arlington next February but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell you Minnesota's gonna go as far as Favre takes 'em this year and so we'll expect to see the 20-year NFL veteran play at least a half this coming weekend - there's no more time to fool around anymore as we're deep into summer and this is a truly now-or-never season for these Vikings.

P.S., backup quarterbacks Tarvaris Jackson, Sage Rosenfels and rookie Joe Webb (UAB) completed a total of 16 passes in 32 attempts for 101 yards with zero TDs and zero INTs while playing in the shadow of Favre and none of these guys were gonna scare NFL defenses this year and so the "desperation" move to bring back Favre was a true no-brainer.

Right?

And now hear this:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NFL Preseason Winners plus all the Major-League Baseball Winners too when you either call the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or else when you log online at www.JimHurley.com. Important Note: The check-in times are after 11 a.m. ET for the weekday afternoon Baseball Games; after 1 p.m. ET for all the NFL and MLB weeknight games; and anytime after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays for all your sports action

Note that this week's NFL Preseason card includes tonight's Preseason Week #2 wrap-up game between the Arizona Cardinals at the Tennessee Titans plus the always-important Preseason Week #3 card swings into action on Thursday night with St. Louis at New England and Indianapolis at Green Bay and there's Four (4) more games set for Friday night including Washington at the New York Jets and San Diego at New Orleans plus all the Saturday/Sunday action.

Here is tonight's Preseason Week #2 clash ...

ARIZONA (1-0) at TENNESSEE (0-1) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Is it us ... or does it seem that every year now Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher is answering questions regarding the behavior of his players?

One year it's Fisher - now entering his 16th season as the franchise's sideline boss - answering as to why then-DT Albert Haynesworth stepped on a player's face during a game, then last year it all the bizzaro stuff that swirled around QB Vince Young (remember all the alleged "suicide talk") and now it's rookie RB LeGarrette Blount (Oregon) who took up plenty of Fisher's time this past week after the college football bad boy punched a teammate in the facemask during practice.

What's going on here guys?

Fisher defended Blount regarding that practice time punch - interestingly enough most of the national media came down hard on Blount who infamously hit a Boise State player following a game early last season - and now a somewhat distracted Titans team takes the field here for their first Preseason home game following last Saturday's 20-18 loss-but-cover tilt at four-point favorite Seattle.

One thing to watch here is Tennessee's battle for the two starting cornerback spots as the triumvirate of rookies Jason McCourty (Rutgers) and Alterraun Verner (UCLA) and incumbent Ryan Mouton are in a real cage-match with the "loser" likely to be the team's nickel back. Too bad Arizona WR Larry Fiztgerald (knee) won't be playing here or else he'd give all of the above a major run for their money.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, are looking to perk up a first-string offense that last week was ultra-sloppy in that eventual 19-16 triumph over Houston. Quarterback Matt Leinart never did quite get into the swing of things in that Preseason opener and it's not helping matters that 'Zona has some new faces along the offensive line including RT Brandon Keith who will start here after surrendering an early-game sack to Texans' pass-rushing star DE Mario Williams last weekend.

P.S., don't be surprised if the ESPN cameras spot a couple of Kurt Warner signs/posters in the crowd - odds are the Redbirds' faithful might be begging for a comeback by mid-season (but don't count on it!)

Off to an 8-4 start in the Pre-Season, the Hurley Network is locked in to the Arizona-Tennessee winner! Click here to win tonight!

Now, let's check out some of this past weekend's action with pertinent NFL News & Notes ...

Pittsburgh 24, New York Giants 17 - There was certainly mucho hype regarding the fact that Steelers' QB Ben Roethlisberger started this game and produced a 6-of-8, 76-yard stat line but it wasn't a pass thrown by "Big Ben" that really opened our eyes here but rather that majestic 68-yard scoring strike tossed by Steelers' backup QB Byron Leftwich to WR Mike Wallace.

Obviously, there's been plenty of hub-bub regarding who will fill Roethlisberger's shoes while he sits out his six-game suspension (that still could be trimmed back to four games by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell) with many Pittsburgh fans clamoring for the more athletic Dennis Dixon but that 95-yard passing performance by Leftwich figures to carry a lot of weight.

Oakland 32, Chicago 17 - It wasn't a real fun weekend for Chitown sports fans as Cubs manager Lou Piniella quit and Bears LB Brian Urlacher injured a calf muscle on the Raiders' first possession of the game ... and there's even more stuff to fret about if you happen to root for the Windy City gang.

Quarterback Jay Cutler (7-of-15 passing for 99 yards) was sacked five times - four times by Raiders' LB Kamerion Wembley - as the Bears' wobbly offensive line continued to spring plenty of leaks this summer. Afterwards, Cutler actually told reporters that "the offensive line is probably a little bit disappointed in themselves" and no doubt that won't endear the hard-throwing slinger to his mates ... again.

One final issue with the Bears: Long snapper Patrick Mannelly is out right now with a shoulder injury and backup snapper TE Desmond Clark was errant with a second-quarter snap on a Chicago failed field goal attempt.
    
Green Bay 27, Seattle 24 - From the what-a-difference-a-week-makes category comes this little ditty regarding Seahawks backup QB Charlie Whitehurst who may or may not be engaged in a real competition for the starter's spot with past Pro Bowler Matt Hasselbeck.

In the Preseason opener for Seattle last week - the aforementioned two-point win over the Titans - Whitehurst looked super-sharp while completing 14-of-222 aerial attempts for 214 yards with two TDs and one INT but in this next Preseason game the former San Diego Chargers third-stringer completed just 9-of-20 passes for 73 yards with one TD and two INTs and even Seahawks commentator Warren Moon claimed Whitehurst was "out of synch" more than once on the telecast.

The conventional wisdom in/around the Emerald City was that Hasselbeck was not a lock to win back his #1 starting spot at quarterback in Year One of the Pete Carroll Era but Whitehurst's shaky showing last Saturday night at Quest Field probably secured the #1 spot for Hassebeck who completed 11-of-15 passes for 127 yards with one TD and no picks in the loss to the Packers.
       

THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT: SITTING ON THE "HOT SEAT" IN 2010

Perhaps you've heard it said that College Football is a "win-now" world - and nobody knows that more than the following Four (4) head coaches who better produce this year or else they are likely goners:

DENNIS ERICKSON, Arizona State - No question that this former two-time national champion head coach at Miami has moved around quite a bit in his coaching career but that's usually been his call in the end . Now, if the 2010 Sun Devils don't go bowling at year's end, Erickson figures to get the proverbial axe from the folks up above - keep in mind this Pac-10 team brings back seven offensive and seven defensive starters and so there's plenty if experience on hand.

Arizona State come off back-to-back losing seasons - 5-7 in 2008 and then 4-8 last year - and the reality of this year's team is consecutive mid-season road games at Oregon State, Washington and California could be Erickson's Waterloo

DAN HAWKINS, Colorado - Must admit that we thought this one-time Boise State boss-man was finished following last year's shabby 3-9 season that included a 23-17 season-opening setback to 12-point underdog Colorado State and a 19-point home loss versus Missouri but Hawkins somehow held onto his job (he's now just a rotten 16-33 lifetime at Colorado) but now Year Five becomes a true make-or-break time for Hawkins.

Note that the CU Buffaloes have a tough road to hoe this year with away affairs against California, Missouri, Oklahoma and Nebraska but it says here that if Colorado finishes at or below the .500 mark in 2010, than Hawkins will be shown the door faster than you can say Ralphie the Buffalo.

RON ZOOK, Illinois - Gotta believe that this Big 10 coach is on "borrowed time" these days following on the heels of 5-7 and 3-9 campaigns the past two seasons and just one bowl game (albeit the Rose Bowl in the 2007 season) won't be enough to save Zook at the end of this season should the Fighting Illini not be part of the bowl mix. Keep in mind that Illinois will be starting a new quarterback this year but there are more than enough "winnable" home games (see Southern Illinois, Northern Illinois, Indiana, Purdue and Minnesota) that should get the Illini to seven victories ... or else Zook will be walking the plank.

RICH RODRIGUEZ, Michigan - Let's put it this way: If you have a "hot list" of college football head coaches for 2010 and this Wolverines' boss is not on it then you simply have not been paying attention!

The first two years of the Rodriguez Era in Ann Arbor went worst than anyone could have imagined - the 3-9 and 5-7 seasons were bad enough but all the off-the-field nonsense that includes player complaints regarding practice, etc. just riled up all the natives - and anything less than the return to the bowl wars surely would get this Big 10 team searching for a new guy in 2011.

One thing to watch about 2010:

The Wolves will play road games at Notre Dame, Penn State and Ohio State and they probably need to win at least one of 'em to snag a plus-.500 mark.

NOTE: Get our Mid-Week Report on all NFL Preseason and College Football goodies in the next edition of Jim Sez.
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