In the desert, some good stuff and a lot of bad facing Bears

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In the desert, some good stuff and a lot of bad facing Bears

First the bad news (and theres a lot of it):

A team that spiraled down a nine-game losing streak is usually a doormat. If the Bears regard the Arizona Cardinals as such, they will spend Sunday night explaining a sixth loss in the last seven games.

Arizona bumbled away a 4-0 start because of problems on offense, not defense. Kind of like the Bears. The Cardinals are not in the Bears class at stopping points but they are 11th in scoring defense (21.6 per game). And the Bears have only managed to score that number in one of the past six games, which goes a very long way toward explaining why they lost the other five.

Of some significance possibly is that the Cardinals play a 3-4 defense, and the Bears have scored six (Houston), seven (San Francisco) and 13 (Green Bay) points in their last three games against that scheme.

They show a lot of different looks, theyre not afraid to blitz you and have talented guys in the secondary and linebackers, quarterback Jay Cutler said. They create turnovers, theyre really good on third down so weve got our hands full.

More bad stuff

Some specifics bode ill, or at least challenging, for the Bears.

The offense, what there has been of it, has run through Brandon Marshall. The Packers (twice) and 49ers in particular gave him problems and the Bears lost all three games in dismal offensive performances.

Arizona has an elite cornerback in Patrick Peterson, whose matchup with Marshall rates on the interest scale with Charles Tillman vs. Calvin Johnson.

I got a text message from my college coach that also coached at LSU when he was there and he said, This is the best athlete youre going to go against this year, Marshall said. Ive got my hands full this week. I know hell follow me around a little bit.

I heard some comments he made a week or two ago about how hes playing the best at the position. I agree with him. Watching film now, he really is backing it up. Unfortunately their record doesnt show that. That kind of put a damper on his play right now but hes playing at a high level. This guy is going to be another Pro Bowler.

A little more bad stuff

Defensive end Calais Campbell is 6-8, 300 pounds and has 4.5 sacks, and he likely will be facing off against struggling Gabe Carimi. The second-year right tackle lost his job over failures to block a speed rusher (San Franciscos Aldon Smith); the hope is that other end of the size spectrum is a better matchup.

JMarcus Webb has the task of staving off three-time Pro Bowl selection Darnell Dockett on the other side. Not a good matchup for the Bears.

But the rush nightmare for the Bears is inside linebacker Daryl Washington, who leads the Cardinals with both 120 tackles and 9.5 sacks. Bears' guard play has been spotty at best and rookie James Brown played so badly against Green Bay that he was benched in-game.

We have some guys in place that we think were going to go with, said offensive coordinator Mike Tice. Theyre from the group of guys that played in the game the other days. So well have five guys out there.

The Cardinals, fourth in takeaways with 32 (vs. the Bears 37) have intercepted 13 passes in the last five games, including the three that doomed Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions. They rank No. 1 in the NFL in interception percentage and fourth in sacks per pass play, meaning they are precisely what a shaky Bears offensive line and quarterback need with playoff hopes hanging by a thread of a thread.

The last two Bears losses and the one to Houston arguably turned on Cutler interceptions, which has helped quell any ripple of Cutler-for-MVP sentiment that appeared briefly when the Bears were 7-1.

For purposes of comparison, the Bears defense has held opposing quarterbacks to a combined passer rating of 71.4. That is very good.

The Cardinals have held quarterbacks to a combined 68.0. That is even better.

Now, a little good stuff

But for all that the Cardinals have done against the pass, they rank 28th in rushing yards allowed per game and 19th in yards per carry. In six of the losses in the nine-game swoon, opponents rushed for 165 or more yards.

The problem is that the Bears have been as inept running the ball as they have throwing it. They have scored a rushing touchdown (two) in only one of the last six games and the guy who scored those two Michael Bush went on injured reserve this week with a rib injury.

The Detroit Lions lost to the Cardinals last week when they rushed for only 84 yards. The Bears lost to Green Bay and San Francisco with sub-85 rushing totals and the tipping point clearly will be the run game.

Were all searching right now, Tice acknowledged. Theres a lot of what-ifs, is-it-him? but thats the way it is when youve lost a number of games in the last six.

High School Lites preview: Week 1

High School Lites preview: Week 1

CSN Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest high school football games across Chicagoland on the season premiere of High School Lites, Friday at 11 p.m. Can the defending 7A state champion Glenbard West Hilltoppers take care of business on the road in Bolingbrook? Can defending 4A champs Phillips begin its road back to the state title game with a win against an experienced Fenwick squad? Who wins the heavyweight ground battle between Prairie Ridge and Cary-Grove? And who comes away with a win when Palatine travels to Lincolnshire to take on Stevenson?

Check out the Facebook Live video of CSN Preps contributors Joe Collins and "Edgy" Tim O'Hallaran and be sure to check Facebook at noon every Wednesday for a live preview.

Von Steuben vs. Amundsen at Winnemac Stadium, 4:15 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Von Steuben, led by head coach Alan Rood, will play its first varsity season in school history. The Panthers are looking to build off the foundation set last year, where they played a full JV schedule. Can the Panthers bring winning football to Chicago’s northwest side? As for Amundsen and head coach Nick Olsen, they will look to improve on a 1-7 record from last fall. 

EDGY's Pick: Von Steuben 20, Amundsen 18

(5) Lincoln-Way East at (South Bend) Adams, Ind., 6 p.m. CT

EDGY's Take: Lincoln-Way East will open the season against an opponent who already has a game under their belt. South Bend Adams (1-0) defeated Northridge 46-29 last Friday. Lincoln-Way East will look towards a steady running game diet via senior RB Nigel Muhammad and a strong offensive line anchored by senior Sam Diehl (Colgate). The Griffins defense features junior DE Devin O'Rourke (6-foot-6, 240 pounds) who already has a handful of BCS level offers. Can the Griffins shake off the rust against an opponent who already has game experience?

EDGY's Pick: Lincoln-Way East 27, Adams 12

(2) Glenbard West at (15) Bolingbrook, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Glenbard West and head coach Chad Hetlet's defense has always been the Hilltoppers calling card, and expect that to be an early strength. Seven starters are back from last year’s 7A state champion squad. Keep an eye out for senior LB Jackson Goleach, senior DB Justice Bradley and senior FB/DE Dionte Moorehead. As for Bolingbrook, they have a ton of talent on the defensive side as well with senior DE Izayah Green-May (Wisconsin), senior DB/WR Kendall Smith (Illinois), senior S Zyon Bell and junior DT Deshaun Mallory. Watch out for the new-look Raiders offense, spearheaded by Bolingbrook’s new offensive coordinator Doug DiFusco. The Raiders offense remains a huge key to success this season.

EDGY's Pick: Glenbard West 24, Bolingbrook  20

 (11) Montini at (22) Maine South, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: The biggest question for both Maine South and Montini in this game could be the overall quarterback play. The visiting Broncos will rely on junior Brad Norgle while Maine South will counter with senior Nick Leongas. Both starting quarterbacks are being given the keys to two of the state's top offenses. Will the team who avoids the most turnovers/penalties/early season rust win it?  

EDGY's Pick: Montini Catholic 35, Maine South 24

 

(14) Prairie Ridge at (18) Cary-Grove, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: This opening night game in the Fox Valley will feel like a state playoff game atmosphere. Both Prairie Ridge and Cary-Grove want to run the football early and often. Both teams also feature great defenses. Prairie Ridge will let junior QB Samson Evans run the Wolves option game while Cary-Grove will give the football to three-time All-State FB/LB Ty Pennington early and often. Look for, possibly, a late turnover or penalty to potentially be a factor here, and I also wouldn't be shocked to see an overtime or two.

EDGY's Pick: Prairie Ridge 22, Cary-Grove 21 (OT)

Kaneland at Brooks (at Gately Stadium), 7:15 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Kaneland made it to the state playoffs a season ago, however the Knights graduated several starters from that squad. However, Knights head coach Tom Fedderly has a very strong underclassmen group led by second-year starting sophomore RB Jonathan Alstott, who is a cousin to former JCA/Purdue and NFL fullback Mike Alstott. Brooks and head coach Benjamin McCall is looking to bounce back after a 3-6 record in 2015. 

EDGY's Pick: Kaneland 34, Brooks 14

Simeon at (20) Oak Park-River Forest, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Simeon and head coach Dante Culbreath might have one of Chicagoland's most dangerous offensive weapons this season in junior QB Jayshon Jackson (5-foot-11, 170 pounds). Jackson, who already is drawing major D1 recruiting looks and offers, moved from receiver to quarterback this fall, giving Simeon a dangerous run/pass option threat. OPRF and head coach John Horerster also welcomes back some key playmakers, including senior QB Jeremy Hunt plus three starters on the offensive line. Can Simeon's inexperienced offensive line come ready to play? Can the Huskies hang with the Wolverines overall team speed?

EDGY's Pick: OPRF 26, Simeon 20

(9) Phillips at Fenwick (at Triton College), 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Phillips and head coach Troy McAllister will look to defend its 4A state title. The Wildcats defense is an early strength, led by senior DT/FB Chris Elmore (Western Michigan) along with OLB Malcolm Fox and senior S Dexter Warren (NIU). The Friars, coached by Gene Nudo, welcome back 19 starters including the entire starting offense from a year ago, including QB Jacob Keller. Can the Phillips offense get going early here? Can Fenwick withstand Phillips quick-strike potential? 

EDGY's Pick: Phillips 27, Fenwick 14

Glenbrook South at (24) Barrington, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Glenbrook South will take the field under first-year head coach David Schoenwetter, who takes over the Titans program from retired head coach Mike Noll. South will be inexperienced with just five returning starters, including WB Noah Acocella and senior WB Jake Smiley. Barrington and head coach Joe Sanchez seems to find a way to reload every year. Keep an eye out for senior WR Josh Babicz (North Dakota State) plus senior DE Jackson Perkins (Navy) and senior LB Blake Holley (Navy).

EDGY's Pick: Barrington 28, Glenbrook South 14

(7) Palatine at (12) Stevenson, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Great season-opening non-conference game between two 8A powers. Palatine made a terrific run last season. Expect the Pirates to rely heavily on returning All-State QB Zach Oles and a strong core of offensive skills players back from a season ago. Stevenson and head coach Bill McNamara will bring back nine starters (four offense, five defense). The Patriots' key could be the development of first-year starting QB Aidan O'Connell (6-foot-4, 190 pounds). Can the Stevenson defense contain Zach Oles?

EDGY's Pick: Palatine 28, Stevenson 17

**VIEWERS’ CHOICE GAME OF THE WEEK**

Gary West Side at Valparaiso, 7 p.m.

This will be the first-ever High School Lites game featuring Northwest Indiana foes. The host Vikings, who lost 27-7 in their opener against last year’s Indiana 6A runner-up Penn, features eight returning starters on defense. QB Jake Leffew went 19-of-27 and a touchdown against Penn. They face a Gary West Side team looking for revenge after last year’s 56-0 loss against Valpo. One of the strengths of the Cougars is their secondary, featuring senior Mario Newell and juniors Darius Benton and Markell Outlaw.

"5 Minutes with Edgy Tim" is LIVE! Have a question about your favorite High School Football program? Ask now and Edgy will answer. Don't miss the High School Lites debut this Friday at 11 PM!

Posted by CSN Chicago on Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Tim Beckman steps down from volunteer assistant role at North Carolina

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Tim Beckman steps down from volunteer assistant role at North Carolina

Well that was fast.

About as quickly as the world found out Tim Beckman was working as a volunteer assistant at North Carolina, the former Illinois head coach stepped down from his post.

In a Thursday release, Beckman said he doesn't want to be a distraction to the team.

"I do not wish to be a further distraction to the team or university, and I will no longer serve as a volunteer at UNC," Beckman said in the announcement, published by the News & Observer.

North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora defended Beckman's presence Wednesday, showing a surprising lack of concern over the fact that Beckman was fired from his position as the head football coach at Illinois a year ago when an investigation found evidence supporting accusations of player mistreatment, with former players alleging on social media that Beckman forced players to play injured, demeaned injured players and threatened to take their scholarships away.

Beckman was said to only be working on scouting and film study, but pictures taken at North Carolina practice showed him working with players on the field.

"I don't believe everything I read, all right," Fedora told reporters Wednesday, his quotes tweeted by Andrew Carter of the News & Observer. "I know Tim. I know his side of the story, also. So I was comfortable with it. If I wouldn't have been, obviously I wouldn't have brought him. I wouldn't have allowed him to be in our program. But I was very comfortable with it. I don't have any issues with it at all."

Fedora acknowledged the controversy, saying, "I know it's going to happen, and then a couple of days from now it won't be news. I mean, I promise you, I didn't see anywhere where the NCAA said that he should be banished from the game of football. You know? I mean, the guy didn't win enough games. That's all it was."

North Carolina brass clearly wasn't as comfortably with Beckman's presence as Fedora was, with some strong words coming from the university chancellor.

"When I first learned yesterday that coach Larry Fedora had invited former Illinois head coach Tim Beckman to serve as a volunteer with the football program, I was surprised and disappointed," chancellor Carol Folt said in a statement, published by the News & Observer. "The decision for Mr. Beckman to withdraw from his volunteer position was the right thing to do, and moving forward I don’t expect this situation to recur."

The possibility existed for Beckman to show up in Champaign, as Illinois plays host to North Carolina in the second game of the season. But with Beckman no longer a part of the Tar Heels' staff, that possibility no longer exists.

Badgers name Bart Houston starting quarterback

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Badgers name Bart Houston starting quarterback

Wisconsin has a starting quarterback for its big season-opening game against LSU.

Head coach Paul Chryst named Bart Houston the team's starting quarterback Thursday, picking the senior over freshman Alex Hornibrook.

"One thing I was impressed with was the way Alex and Bart approached camp," Chryst said in a video interview posted by the team. "I thought they both got better, and one of our keys was to make sure that both were ready to play this season and not just play but be able to win with them playing. And I felt both did that. As a team, they're no different than the group, we've still got a ways to go.

"Coming out of it, felt like Bart did everything that he needed to do and earned the right to get the start and was also energized by what Alex did. Love the way that he grew during fall camp, and both need to continue to keep growing. Wanted to get it done as we begin our preparation for LSU and make sure that everyone knew where we were at with it internally, and I'm excited to go forward now."

Houston has appeared in 15 games in his career but got the majority of his playing time in Wisconsin's win over Illinois last season. In that game, he completed 22 of his 33 passing attempts for 232 yards and a pair of touchdowns, also throwing a pair of interceptions.

Houston has a tough test in his first game of the season, going up against the No. 5-ranked Tigers at Lambeau Field. And things don't get much easier from there, the Badgers' schedule an absolute gauntlet to begin Big Ten play a few weeks later with six consecutive games against Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Nebraska and Northwestern, with four of those games coming on the road.