Every week brings new promise or new reality to several teams playing college football and this 6th week of action was no exception.
Last week we said only 4 teams knew who they are and where they were going—Alabama, Oregon, Clemson and Stanford. Stanford is now suspect on the list. Here’s why:
#1 Alabama hosted and beat unranked Georgia State by 42 points, 45-3. #2 Oregon traveled to unranked Colorado and whipped the Buffaloes by 41 points, 57-16. #3 Clemson traveled to unranked Syracuse and won by 35 points, 49-14. That’s called kicking butt and taking names.
#5 Stanford hosted #15 Washington and could only win by a field goal, 31-28, in a game where the Huskies matched Stanford’s physical play and raw talent, only to have their special teams play falter.
Stanford’s Ty Montgomery returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown before Washington could snap the ball on offense. Montgomery later returned another kickoff 72 yards to set up a touchdown. Not finished, Montgomery also gathered in a 39-yard touchdown catch. It did not help that Washington also was flagged for 10 penalties for 89 yards, killing their momentum.
Missed in all of the commotion and excitement was a salient fact: Stanford was favored by 7 at home, and Washington covered the spread, losing by only a field goal.
So the Stanford-Washington clash raised an interesting question: Was Stanford as good as advertised, or was Washington better than advertised? The answer was both. Stanford is a big, tough, physical team with some talent and speed. And Washington is not as big, but as tough, with some talent and speed. It appears that neither team is going to get run over on the freeway.
But the reality is simply this: Stanford had to beat Washington by at least 2 touchdowns to be currently considered in the same class as Alabama, Oregon or Clemson.
We will continue to find out just how far Washington has improved in national recognition when they host #2 Oregon this Saturday. The Huskies dropped from #15 to #16 in the AP Top 25 Poll after losing to Stanford, showing how much respect they have already gained.
Through 6 weeks of the season, this fact cannot be denied: Washington is rated #11 nationally by Sagarin while playing the 14th toughest schedule among 124 Division 1-A schools. Stanford is rated 8th by Sagarin while playing the 13th toughest schedule.
Now let’s look at some ranked teams that are not doing so hot.
#22 Arizona State traveled to unranked Notre Dame and got upset, 37-34. It’s not my take that the Fighting Irish are that good, and apparently the Sun Devils aren’t that hot either, giving up 37 points in a loss. Could it be that both of these teams give up too many points?
#24 Ole Miss traveled to unranked Auburn and lost, 30-22. That’s two straight losses for Mississippi after winning their first 3 games. Both Arizona State and Ole Miss were kicked out of the Top 25 this week, and should have been.
Another team that took a hike was #25 Maryland. The Terrapins took their unbeaten 4-0 record to #8 Florida State and were obliterated by the Seminoles, 63 to nothing. That’s right, 63 to zip, proving once again that turtles are no match for teams with speed.
Some ranked teams came away with really lame victories, proving once again that some contenders have a better ranking than a team. They include:
#21 Oklahoma State at home could only beat an unranked 2-3 Kansas State team by 4 points, 33-29. #13 South Carolina at home could only beat an unranked 1-4 Kentucky team by 7, 35-28. #12 UCLA on-the-road could only beat an unranked 3-2 Utah team by 7, 34-27. #11 Oklahoma at home could only beat an unranked 2-3 TCU team by a field goal, 20-17. #6 Georgia on-the-road could only beat a 3-3 Tennessee team by a field goal, 34-31, in overtime.
And, no, it doesn’t matter if these teams had a lot of injured players or players missing because of thugging and mugging. All teams have injuries and discipline problems. Good to great teams have enough depth to win with injuries and discipline problems.
All 5 of these ranked teams—Oklahoma State, South Carolina, UCLA, Oklahoma and Georgia will lose again this year, and probably more than once. When you give up points like cops that eat donuts, you’ve got a problem.
Talk about being a sieve in a fat boy’s kitchen, Texas and Rutgers qualify big time. Unranked Texas barely beat a 1-3 Iowa State team, 31-30. Really, Texas, you gave up 30 points to a 1-3 Iowa State team?
There is absolutely no excuse for Rutgers. The 4-1 Scarlet Knights basket-weaving defense gave up 52 points to a 1-4 Southern Methodist team, and still managed to just eke by, 55-52 in 3 overtimes. This may be exciting (107 total points), entertaining (loads of missed tackles and players running into teammates), and on edge (3 overtimes), but becomes a joke by raising a lack of defense to an art form.
Rutgers (4-1) has given up 138 points to 4 Division 1-A teams, an average of 34+ points per game. We’ll see how the Scarlet Knights and their basket-weaving defense does when they travel to #8 Louisville on Thursday. Louisville (5-0) is averaging 44+ points per victory (#11 nationally) while giving up 6+ points (#1 nationally) against Division 1-A competition.
Both Texas and Rutgers are going to get hammered when they play a team with defense, like Louisville.
Let’s end on three positives, Northern Illinois, Missouri and Washington State.
The Northern Illinois Huskies have quietly gone 5-0 and are now ranked #23 (replacing Arizona State) after beating Kent State, 38-24, a 14-point margin.
The Missouri Tigers have quietly gone 5-0 and are now ranked #25 (replacing Maryland) after beating Vanderbilt, 51-28, a 23-point margin.
Mike Leach and his Washington State Cougars (now 4-2) traveled to California and beat the Bears, 44-22, a 3-touchdown-plus margin on-the-road, marking Washington State’s first win against California in 9 years.
You remember Mike Leach. He was in the Top 25 for 5 of his last 6 years at Texas Tech, took the Red Raiders to 9 straight bowl games, and had an air attack that was second to none. Leach has gone from the plains of Texas to the arid Palouse of Eastern Washington, where rattlesnakes lay in wait for unwary visitors.
You read it here first: The air attack of Washington State is coming. You better be ready, because Mike Leach is one pirate who does not take prisoners. And if you play for his team, you will mean business, or you will be gone. You gotta love that about Mike Leach, he will not tolerate losers. It would not be unreasonable for Washington State fans to get really excited about what’s ahead.