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Monday Morning Mash-up: Week 10

Presenting the second take of our new weekly column, disclosing ten thoughts on UConn football and the current national scene.

Streeter Lecka

1.) Coming into this season, the biggest selling point UConn pushed to drive ticket sales was the fact that the Huskies faced their toughest schedule ever.

Those marketing folks weren’t kidding.

Through nine weeks, the first seven UConn opponents have compiled a combined record of 38-15. That’s good for a winning percentage of nearly .720.

Towson owns the best individual mark at 8-1, as all eight of their victories have come by two-score margins or better. Meanwhile, USF resides at the bottom of the barrel at 2-5, with one of those wins courtesy of the Huskies. Sandwiched the two are both Michigan and UCF, who have propelled themselves into the top-25 with impressive 6-1 records.

2.) UConn’s struggles on offense and defense have repeatedly been well documented in this space. Both units register at different levels of "stink". Yet, we’ve failed to mention that their poor performance has been contagious.

The Husky special teams have been greatly underwhelming through seven games. Presently, the Huskies average 19 yards per kickoff return and a paltry 3.4 on punts. On the other sideline, opponents have brought back kicks for roughly 25 yards and raced punts back for double the UConn average.


3.) Thanks to Gameday’s set up out in Eugene last Saturday, everyone knew about the big Pac-12 showdown featuring (then) no. 12 UCLA at (then) no. 3 Oregon. However, the best game of the day both in the Pac-12 and state of Oregon took place up the road in Corvallis. No. 6 Stanford survived its trip to no. 25 Oregon State after a 4th down pass break-up that inside the end zone with mere seconds remaining.

The Cardinal won, 20-12.

Now if you missed it, I can’t blame you. The clock only struck 0:00 once 2:00 a.m. hit out here on the east coast, and leading up, this game didn’t appear to be anything special.

However had Stanford failed to pull out a victory, it likely would’ve tumbled from the top-10 and thus lessened the eventual hype surrounding the most critical regular season contest left this year: no. 2 Oregon at no. 5 Stanford on November 7th.

For, should Oregon lose that game, the runway to the national title will be cleared for fellow undefeateds Alabama and Florida State. Each faces a relative cakewalk to get to Pasadena from here on out. On the other hand, Stanford would all but secure a BCS bid with a win. If Oregon claims victory, its championship resume would continue to strengthen in comparison to the Seminoles.

By the way, no. 10 Oklahoma travels to no. 6 Baylor on that same night. So cancel date night, call in sick and do whatever’s necessary to clear your schedule. Failure to enjoy that wondrous night of college football is not an option.

4.) For what it’s worth, this upcoming Saturday is looking like a snoozer. The best game of the week boasts a three-touchdown underdog in no. 7 Miami (how are they this high in the polls, again?). The ‘Canes travel to take on Jameis Winston and his rolling Florida State bunch, which currently sits at no. 3 in the BCS standings. The ‘Noles know they need a huge win against the lone ranked foe left on their schedule, while Miami could make a huge statement.

Or, you know, get massacred.

The only other top-25 matchup next weekend consists of no. 21 Michigan paying a visit to no. 22 Michigan State. The game will begin at 3:30 and probably only end after a combined seven defensive touchdowns have been posted.

5.) Speaking of the Spartans, defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, once thought as a likely candidate to be the next leader of UConn football, is now off my list. Not because he’s not a capable coach, but because he’ll likely receive much better offers in the off off-season.

He has done an unbelievable job out in East Lansing, and current MSU headman Mark D’Antonio wants to have Narduzzi as his successor. This isn’t to say Narduzzi will always be sporting Sparty, if you will, but he will be in high-demand when opportunities arise come this December and next.

You can read more on the fiery defensive coordinator here.

6.) There are roughly 1,800 tickets left for UConn’s next game at home against Louisville. The most expensive ticket (located in the "Executive Snoots" section) is going for $437. The cheapest seat comes in at a ripe $10. Here’s the kicker though—shipping for that ticket will cost you $16.95.

7.) Heisman race, you ask? Right now, I’m going with Winston. The kid has been unbelievable (meant to be read in the most emphasized-Dicky V voice possible). Oregon’s Marcus Mariota has also been sensational (Dicky V one more time), but my gut says to go with the young kid.

My brain would also like to make a public service announcement now that the Heisman is one of the most overrated awards in sports (sorry, Archie Griffin, Eric Crouch, Jason White and everyone else who’s life has been made solely from winning this award). All you need to know is not a single defender has been handed the trophy since 1997. You really think 16 years have passed where a quarterback or running back has been the best player every year?

The voting is terribly biased towards those who constantly touch the football.

Oh, and last year doesn’t count. Johnny Manziel, however you may feel about the master of swag, was far and away better than Manti T’eo. It truly wasn’t even close.

Terrell Suggs, Larry Fitzgerald and Champ Bailey, however, all had legitimate gripes in their years of outstanding college football.

8.) Recently, I’ve heard many people clamor that the next UConn coach must be a good recruiter. To this I say, no kidding. The no. 1 job of any college coach, no matter the sport, is to bring the best talent possible through their door. Coaches have to be able to convince these kids first to walk in, and then they have to mold them.

What most people fail to understand is that this process does not include receiving high marks on recruiting classes immediately from ESPN or Rivals. Not a single soul will know for sure if the next coach is indeed doing a good job recruiting until two, three or four seasons into his kids’ college careers. The only way to assess if they’re good college football players is by waiting until they’ve, you know, played college football. It’s going to take time and giving immediate grades is very premature, not to mention highly subjective.

I’ll cite two very different examples—Manziel was just a three-star quarterback before he stepped on any college campus. Closer to home, the only other school besides UConn to offer Yawin Smallwood out of high school was UMass. UMASS!!!

Now in hindsight, we can see both are clearly high-quality players. Sure, some of their success has been due to coaching. But the more likely scenario here is that they would’ve succeeded in most players. Coaches and recruiting sites alike just whiffed. It happens. You just never know until you’re already down the road.

Take all of Randy Edsall’s recruiting classes over his years here. Poorly rated, yet almost always productive. 22 former Huskies suited up in NFL training camps this summer. That’s astounding, and more pertinently, that’s a lot of natural talent.

9.) On that note, I’d like to give a big time congratulations to former UConn fullback Anthony Sherman for catching his first NFL touchdown pass yesterday. Sherman has 13 catches and 83 yards this season for the 8-0 Kansas City Chiefs.

10.) Should quarterback Blake Bortles choose to return for one more season at UCF, those Knights are going to be extremely dangerous in 2014. They’ll lose just eight seniors in the spring and could boast one of the best one-two punches in the country with Bortles and running back Storm Johnson. My. Goodness. Watch out, AAC.

For all things UConn Football, follow Andrew on Twitter: @UConnFB_Andrew.