College Football’s 4th Week Starts the Process of Separating the Pretenders from the Contenders

Every college football season gives us pretenders and contenders, and with the 4th week over, we begin to see the separation happen.

Among the contenders who knew how to take care of business (T-COB), I coin acronyms in my spare time, were Ohio State, Louisville and Washington—all getting nasty good in winning.

#4 Ohio State leveled Florida A&M 76-0. The Buckeyes needed only 4 offensive plays and 46 seconds to go up 21-0 in the opening 6 minutes of the game. On the bright side for the loser, AA Florida A&M got a guaranteed $900,000 to show up and get their butt kicked from one side on the field to the other.

#7 Louisville was oppressive and relentless over Florida International, winning 72-0, as the Cardinal defense allowed only 30 yards (a school record) against the hapless Panthers. Talk about a bad day for the Florida International Panthers.

#17 Washington stomped a mud hole in AA Idaho State, 56-0, but was kinder than either Ohio State or Louisville. The Huskies lifted all of their starters before halftime and still led 42-zip at the half. The Huskies are an emerging force to be reckoned with, they are young and loaded with talented players.

All three of these teams—Ohio State, Louisville and Washington—bear watching. They are clearly serious and focused on winning every game this year.

Beyond the rankings, there are always schools that have a better record than they do a team. Consequently, despite winning, they are working too hard for victories. Count at least 8 teams currently in this category, including:

The Southern California Trojans (3-1) could only beat a 2-2 Utah State team by a 4th-quarter field goal, 17-14. Suffice to say, things are not looking good for Lane Kiffin and his USC Trojans. USC is limping at the moment, fans are unhappy with the job Kiffin is doing, and even more unhappy are big-time financial boosters.

Not to be outdone in the working too hard department, Virginia Tech (3-1) needed a 4th-quarter touchdown to tie the game and THREE overtimes to outlast a 2-2 Marshall team, 29-21. Hokie Coach Frank Beamer had 8 years with double-digit wins before a 7-6 slip last year. This kind of win does not bode well for Virginia Tech’s comeback year.

Mighty (well, not really) Michigan, the 15th-ranked team in the country at 4-0, won the 4th quarter 10-0 against an unranked and winless Connecticut eleven (0-3), and won the game, 24-21. Winning by a field goal against a Connecticut team is ridiculous, and just one reason why ranking Michigan as the 15th best team in the country is unthinkable. If the Wolverines get many more cheap wins like this, they might as well outfit their team at a discount store.

Oregon State (3-1) needed a comeback of 20 points in the last quarter to hold off the winless and inept San Diego State Aztecs (0-3), 34-30.

Middle Tennessee (3-1) needed overtime to turn back Florida Atlantic (1-3), 42-35.

Northern Illinois (3-0) barely held off a rally by AA Eastern Illinois (3-1), 43-39.

Cincinnati (3-1) and the winless Miami of Ohio RedHawks (0-3) played 3 scoreless quarters before the Bearcats put up 14 points in the final quarter to win, 14-zip.

Houston (3-0) worked far too hard to beat a 1-2 Rice team, 31-26.
 
There are also teams that look better than their record. Here’s a Double-A team working hard and winning against a bigger A team:

AA Jacksonville State (unbeaten at 4-0) got by Georgia State (winless at 0-4), 32-26.

Then there are the M&M Kids—Minnesota in the Big Ten and Maryland in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Both are 4-0 and both are unranked. Can they continue to win once they get into conference play? There is certainly doubt, given their normal ability to win.

Let’s see if the Golden Gophers from Minnesota can stay golden, and the Terrapins from Maryland can speed it up. History says that a gopher or a turtle has no place on a championship field.

The absolutely no defense teams (AND-T) of the week are Pittsburgh, Duke, Old Dominion and The Citadel. All were involved in track meets or basketball games—you choose. Pittsburgh nipped Duke 58-55, and Old Dominion nipped The Citadel 59-58. All 4 of these teams are going nowhere 1,000 miles an hour. Get a defense and get a life.

And it looks like the blossom that was Boise State has begun to wither. The Broncos (2-2) scored 40 points against Fresno State (now 3-0), but those pesky Fresno State Bulldogs scored 41. Clearly, Boise State is not the same team that it was. The Broncos need a better defense, they are giving up too many yards and too many points.

Up until this year, Coach Chris Petersen had put together 7 consecutive double-digit winning seasons and 7 consecutive bowl appearances. Petersen is helped by competing in the less-than-good Mountain West Conference. Maybe it will happen again, but it would be best to underline that maybe.

We end the week with an example of a bunch of players and coaches that couldn’t take advantage of an opportunity if their life depended upon it. That would be Michigan State. The Spartans took a 3-0 record to Notre Dame and ended up losing, 17-13.

The Fighting Irish went into the game with a 2-1 record but ranked 22nd in the AP Top 25 Poll. Michigan State was ranked 26th, a notch out of the Poll. All the Spartans had to do was beat Notre Dame and the Irish would have gone out of the Poll with a 2-2 mark and Michigan State would have been in the Poll at 4-0.

The Spartans have raised blowing opportunities to an art form. Maybe, just maybe, Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio is a better Defensive Coordinator than a Head Coach—that would be my take. The Spartans lost 6 games last year by a total of 17 points—an average of less than 3 points a game. Talk about no offense. (Disclaimer: I am a disappointed Spartan fan, and a 1966 graduate of Michigan State.)

If Notre Dame was a really good team I could almost, but not quite, excuse the loss. The Fighting Irish, however, are not THAT good, and that means that Michigan State’s team is EVEN worse. I’m out of here for a shot of Jameson, chased by original Bailey’s Irish Cream.

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