Cokin’s Corner, Sunday 9/25/16
I’ll do the usual Monday recap of numerous college games, but a brief word about the local entry seems necessary today. UNLV lost in overtime to Idaho on Saturday and while a 33-30 defeat doesn’t appear to be the worst thing in the world for a program used to mostly losing, this one was pretty depressing.
Bluntly stated, Idaho is a bad program. The Vandals are leaving the FBS after next season because they admittedly don’t have the resources to compete in what amounts to the major leagues, even at the mid-major conference level. Idaho was the visitor for a third straight week and had gotten obliterated in the prior two games.
Admittedly, no one was about to confuse the Rebels with either Washington or Washington State. But UNLV was a two-TD favorite to put this one in the win column, and failed to do so.
UNLV also did something that’s not easy to do in this loss. They rushed the football for nearly 400 yards, owning nearly a 3:1 advantage in that category over Idaho. That’s close to a 90% win situation, yet the Rebels couldn’t even win the game.
I’m not writing off the season for this team, but at 1-3 after completing the non-league portion of the schedule, the conference opener with Fresno State is now a virtual must-win if the Rebels are to entertain serious thoughts of getting to six wins and a minor bowl. What seemed like a real possibility off the first couple of games is suddenly looking more like a pipe dream. It’s time for UNLV to show something positive and that clearly means getting a win vs. Fresno State.
Free plays in college did well, Central Florida, Utah and Southern Mississippi getting home while UNLV did not. The two prior NFL free plays are both on the service slate, but this one will fall into the added opinion category.
VIKINGS at PANTHERS
Take: VIKINGS +7
This Sunday’s NFL slate is a little on the short side in terms of featuring true heavyweight battles, but the Vikings-Panthers battle certainly qualifies on that count. Minnesota hits the road 2-0, while the defending NFL champs got back in the win column in a big way last Sunday after dropping their opener at Denver in very tough fashion.
The big story here is that Minnesota will have to get things done for the next several weeks without the services of running back Adrian Peterson. With QB Teddy Bridgewater already lost for the season, the Vikings have clearly absorbed a couple of major hits.
Fact is, this Minnesota offense is not in very good shape right now. In addition to Bridgwater and Peterson, they are also now minus left tackle Matt Kalil and the offensive line has been pretty shaky in the first two games. The Vikes are averaging less than two yards per carry and QB Sam Bradford was introduced to Green Bay defenders on a far too frequent up close and personal basis last week.
But the Minnesota defense is another story entirely. The Vikings are going to be a defense-first squad this season, and they look terrific on that side of the ball. There’s no question the stop unit will have to be sharp for the Vikes to have a chance at the upset today, but I think they’re up to the task.
Is Carolina back on track after smashing the 49ers? This team was a monster at home last season, and there put 46 on the scoreboard last Sunday in thumping San Francisco. But the Panthers were also very sloppy with four turnovers, and they were facing one of the weaker teams in the league in what I thought was a very favorable scheduling scenario. In other words, I’m not convinced this team is back to being a wrecking machine just yet.
I’m a Mike Zimmer believer, and while it’s not a great scheduling situation for the Vikings, I’m also not about to simply write this team off. I see the Vikes approaching this as a huge proving ground game as they’re a team with some very lofty goals this season. I don’t think Minnesota has enough to score the outright upset at Carolina. But I can certainly see them hanging tough with that dominating defense. If the offense avoids costly turnovers, we could end up with this being a fierce battle that gets decided late. I’ll take the touchdown with the Vikings for today’s free NFL play.