October 1, 2008

Notes: Missouri's Daniel strives for perfection

Practice doesn't always make perfect. But it has enabled Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel to get close.

Going through progressions and hitting targets are important elements of quarterback success, and few are better at those than Daniel. He always seems to find the open receiver, then delivers the ball with uncommon accuracy.

Through four games, Daniel has completed 75.9 percent of his passes, which is the second-highest completion percentage in the nation among quarterbacks on the NCAA's list of leading passers.

His accuracy is no accident.

"We don't let the ball touch the ground much in practice," Daniel said. "All the quarterbacks are accurate, not just me, and it carries over to games.

"I'm usually the one checking. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, you can usually count on one hand how many balls hit the ground. It's usually just one, two or three per week. Only one time we had four balls hit the ground in practice."

That was before the season-opener against Illinois. Coincidentally, Daniel completed "just" 57.8 percent of his attempts in a 52-42 victory over the Illini. In every other game, he has completed 82.1 percent or better.

There is no word on how many passes have fallen in practice this week, but Daniel needs to continue to remain unusually accurate Saturday when the fourth-ranked Tigers travel to Nebraska. Mizzou hasn't won in Lincoln since 1978.

When asked if the losing streak in Lincoln adds spice for Missouri, Daniel opted to pass. "I just think it's a big game because it's the next game," he said. "We know we haven't won there in 30 years, but we want to focus on the 2008 Tigers and the 2008 Nebraska team. We can't do anything about the past. We need to do everything we can to get ourselves in shape for this game."

Daniel did point out Missouri had not won at Kansas State since 1989 before prevailing in Manhattan last season.

Besides, Daniel passed for 401 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-6 drubbing of the Huskers last season, so the Tigers would figure to roll again. Except

Defense-minded Bo Pelini now is Huskers coach, and his presence provides an X-factor of sorts.

"They're doing a great job of trying to confuse offenses," Daniel said. "They're blitzing a lot more. They're playing a lot of man-to-man to see if your can beat their man, and they have good cover guys, so we'll have our work cut out for us."

The Tigers might be working toward an unbeaten season and a possible shot at the national championship. This trip to Nebraska is expected to be one of the biggest obstacles in their way to a perfect season.

"I'd love to be undefeated," Daniel said. "But we also know there are steps in that process. The first step in that process is winning in Nebraska."

He's just following the progression and taking aim. That practice has worked so far.

VOLUNTEER AN OPINION

Mediocre quarterback play is sparking debate in Tennessee. Through four games, starter Jonathan Crompton has completed a bit over 50 percent of his attempts, with two touchdowns and four interceptions. He also involved in a fumbled handoff that provided Auburn a touchdown in the Vols' 14-12 loss last week.

Coach Phillip Fulmer declared this week that there was an open competition for the starting job.

Meanwhile, the Knoxville News-Sentinel posted a survey on its Web site asking fans to vote on the starter. The choices were Crompton, redshirt freshman third-stringer B.J. Coleman, receiver Gerald Jones, backup quarterback Nick Stephens and "other."

Almost 10,000 votes were cast. Stephens was the fans' choice with 58 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Crompton received only 2 percent of votes, while "Other" received 3 percent.

ELECTORAL COLLEGE FOOTBALL

The Texas Tech sports information department was torn on whether to hype receiver Michael Crabtree or quarterback Graham Harrell for the Heisman Trophy. So, it was decided to promote both.

This week, Tech launched passorcatch2008, a Web site that closely resembles a political campaign and features a banner reading, "You Choose, 2008." Campaign buttons will be circulating soon.

Crabtree has 29 catches for 457 yards and six touchdowns. Harrell has thrown for 1,573 yards, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

Fulmer's contract calls for an extension if the Volunteers get to eight victories. Don't count on it. The 1-3 Vols would have to win at Georgia and/or defeat Alabama to reach eight wins. Of course, that's assuming they win the other games remaining on the schedule. That's obviously not guaranteed. Late November games at Vanderbilt and against Kentucky may determine whether this is simply a bad season or a total disaster.

All teams strive for consistency, but Texas seems to have attained it. The Longhorns have won three of their four games by the same 52-10 score.

Is there any chance Alabama has an emotional letdown after a big victory at Georgia and becomes vulnerable this week against unbeaten (but largely unchallenged) Kentucky? Probably not with the game in Tuscaloosa. But perhaps coach Nick Saban was just trying to be proactive on that issue with his post-game grumbling last week.

At this point in the season, no game is more anticipated than Alabama's trip to LSU on Nov. 8. It already was going to be big with Saban making his first college appearance in Baton Rouge since leaving the Tigers four years ago. But with the possibility of both teams being undefeated and the SEC West on the line, the environment would be deliciously nasty.

The Big East hasn't been impressive overall, and now Cincinnati and Connecticut have lost starting quarterbacks. That enhances the possibility that South Florida could go unbeaten.

Oklahoma State has exceeded 50 points in each of its past three games. So, can the Cowboys make it four in a row when they open Big 12 play against Texas A&M? Probably.

The top priority for Nebraska coach Bo Pelini was improving the Huskers' defense. Allowing 35 points to Virginia Tech last week raises questions about how much improvement they've made. The next two games will be even more telling with Missouri and Texas Tech on the schedule.

All credit goes to coach Ralph Friedgen and Maryland. The Terps stumbled out of the gate with an unimpressive win over Delaware and a loss to Middle Tennessee, but have bounced back with a three-game winning streak. Two of those wins were over California and Clemson. The Terps now appear to be strong contenders in the ACC Atlantic Division.

Has Vanderbilt become the dominant program in the state of Tennessee? The rankings say yes, but they can be deceiving. A victory over Auburn would make it a hard point to argue.

If not for a blocked punt in the season-opening loss to East Carolina, Virginia Tech would be unbeaten and probably ranked sixth or seventh. But three victories have been by five or fewer points.

Olin Buchanan is a Heisman voter and a senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.




 

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