College Football Wrap-Up – Week 4
A tip of the hat to Notre Dame, Kansas State, Oregon, Florida State and Oregon State. All 5 teams made big news in major college football’s 4th week of play and, trust me, the rankings they are a-changin’.
The #11-ranked Irish from Notre Dame beat #18 Michigan for the first time in 4 years, 13-6.
Bill Snyder’s #15-ranked Kansas State Wildcats upset #6 Oklahoma, 24-19.
#3 Oregon shutout #22 Arizona’s high scoring offense, 49-zip.
#4 Florida State puttered around and then exploded on #10 Clemson, 49-37.
Unranked but ornery Oregon State traveled to UCLA and upset #19-ranked Bruins, 27-20.
Here’s how all the of the AP Top 25 teams fared in the 4th week of action:
#1 Alabama (4-0) at home gave a normal Crimson Tide performance, leading 33-0 in the 3rd quarter over Florida Atlantic, and winning 40-7. The Tide can run, can pass, can defend, can take care of the ball, and score. After shutting out Western Kentucky 35-0 and Arkansas on-the-road 52-0, the only question in this game was: Could Florida Atlantic even put points on the board? The Owls did with 2:49 left to play, after Alabama had rolled up 134 consecutive points, won two shutouts, and gave up zero points for 11 quarters.
The Tide held Florida Atlantic to a total of 41 yards and one first down through 3 quarters. Had Alabama logged its 3rd straight shutout, it would have been the first time since Bear Bryant’s unbeaten 1966 team 46 years ago. Graham Wilbert, the Owl quarterback, said after the game, “They played really well, we just started slow.” Good grief, what planet is Wilbert from?
Florida Atlantic is no big deal. That said, if there is a better team in American today than Alabama, who exactly is it?
#2 Louisiana State (LSU) on-the-road needed the only score of the 2nd half—a field goal—to escape from Auburn (now 1-3) with a 12-10 victory and remain undefeated at 4-0. The #2 team in the country was NOT impressive in winning. If the LSU defense had not delivered a safety and held Auburn scoreless in the 2nd half, the Tigers would have lost. The LSU defense was not absent; it’s just that neither LSU nor Auburn could mount an offense in this game.
The win marked LSU’s 17th straight regular-season win, the longest in the nation, but begs a question that needs an answer: Just how good IS the Tiger offense? LSU scored 41 points on a weak 1-3 North Texas team, scored another 41 on an average-but-getting-better 2-1 Washington team, and scored 63 on a winless, hapless 0-4 Idaho team. The first time they play a “supposed” much better team, a 1-3 Auburn that has turned into a “paper Tiger”, the LSU Tigers can’t do diddly-squat against the Auburn Tigers.
Is Louisiana State REALLY the #2 team in the country? That would be doubtful, as in very doubtful.
#3 Oregon (4-0) hosted unbeaten and #22 Arizona and capitalized on the Wildcats inability to score, polishing off a ranked rival in a resounding 49-0 shutout that caused AP pollsters to wonder, should Oregon be ranked #2? The short answer is not only yes, but hell yes. The shutout was Oregon’s first in conference play since a 35-zip win over Stanford 9 years ago.
Both teams came into the showdown as unbeaten, offensive juggernauts, with Oregon averaging 54 points a game and Arizona 46, but only one team—Oregon—proved that it had a defense to back up its offense.
Oregon only led 13-zip at the half because Arizona could not execute when it had the opportunity. The Wildcats were in Oregon’s Red Zone (20 yards from scoring) 6 times during the game and came away without a single point. Arizona’s Wildcats raised Red Zone Ineptitude to an art form.
First they turned the ball over on downs because Arizona Coach Rich Rodriguez wanted a touchdown rather than settling for a field goal and an early lead in the game. Then they recovered a fumble on Oregon’s 11-yard line and QB Matt Scott was intercepted and the miscue led to Oregon’s first touchdown. Then they had 4 chances to score from 2 yards out, and again turned the ball over on downs. Now it was going from stubborn to stupid.
Arizona recovered another fumble at the Oregon 34-yard line and then missed a 31-yard field goal attempt that was blocked. On their 5th attempt inside the 20, Matt Scott was intercepted again, which led to another Oregon touchdown. On their 6th attempt on the Oregon 14, Arizona again turned the ball over.
In the meantime, Matt Scott was intercepted again, and it was returned 54 yards for a pick-six by Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (you read it right, we are well past the time in college football when players are named Bill Smith), and then Arizona’s B.J. Denker was intercepted and Troy Hill returned it for another 29-yard pick-six.
Remember, despite the ineptitude of Arizona’s offense, the score was 13-0 at the half, and then Oregon ripped off 5 touchdowns in a hurry—a 1-yard run, a 55-yard pass, a 54-yard interception TD, an 8-yard run, and another 29-yard interception TD.
So, is Arizona a world-beater with a great defense? Are you serious, mate?
#4 Florida State (4-0) at home was behind #10 Clemson 21-14 at the half, but managed to score 5 touchdowns in the 2nd half to win 49-37. Both teams proved they have an offense, but neither appears to have a defense when it counts—Florida won by outscoring Clemson. At least Clemson (now 3-1) lost to a highly-ranked team.
#5 Georgia (4-0) at home easily handled a 1-3 Vanderbilt team, 48-3.
#6 Oklahoma managed to get upset by #15 Kansas State, 24-19, leaving K-State unbeaten at 4-0 and Oklahoma at 2-1. You can just forget all the Sooner hype about QB Landry Jones. It turns out that Landry Jones does not have this great supporting cast around him, even though he passed up the NFL draft last year for a final year shot at a national title.
That said, when it counted Saturday, Jones was a pretty average Jones, fumbling and throwing an interception that put Kansas State in a position to win, and the Wildcats took Jones up on his generosity. Southern California’s Matt Barkley, who also turned down the NFL draft to return his last year, was just like Landry Jones Saturday. Barkley could not keep USC from losing to Stanford 21-14 last week.
Both Landry Jones and Matt Barkley can forget about winning a national title and getting the Heisman Trophy, there are too many better players in front of them.
Now, let’s talk about K-State Coach Bill Snyder, who is older than dirt. Synder, who will celebrate his 73rd birthday on October 7, took K-State to 11 straight bowl games and compiled up a 44-7 record in one 4-year period before retiring after 17 years in 2005. The program went into the dumper, so he returned in 2009, and now you know why he is one of the best college football coaches in the country.
K-State is back and apparently ready to get noticed again.
#7 South Carolina (4-0) at home beat down a pretty good Missouri team, 31-10. If star running back Marcus Lattimore can stay healthy, and QB Connor Shaw can keep throwing like he did Saturday (he missed his first pass and then completed 20 straight to go 20-of-21 for 249 yards and 2 touchdowns), the Gamecocks could challenge in the SEC. The fact that they are not in the same division as Alabama, LSU, Arkansas and Auburn helps just a wee bit.
#8 West Virginia (3-0) at home was not very impressive in getting past a mediocre 2-2 Maryland team, 31-21. The Mountaineers opened their season against a couple of stiffs, Marshall and AA James Madison, but did not look like a #8 team against the Maryland Terrapins. Receiver Tavon Austin caught 13 passes for 179 yards and 3 touchdowns, and it’s a good thing he was playing for West Virginia, otherwise, the Mountaineers may not have won. West Virginia’s offense was still flat; they punted on 4 of their first 5 possessions to start the 2nd half.
#9 Stanford was idle this week.
#10 Clemson lost to #4 Florida State 49-37.
#11 Notre Dame (4-0) at home decided enough was enough against the #18 invading Michigan Wolverines, who had beaten the Irish for 3 consecutive years. This year was different. Star QB Denard Robinson did not have the game of his life—he got a rude awakening from the Irish defense, which made him look pretty plebeian.
The Irish defense picked off 5 Michigan passes and forced a fumble to win 13-6. Whatever Denard Robinson did that was good, he also did 5 things that were bad—he threw 4 interceptions and fumbled away another opportunity at the Notre Dame 8-yard line.
#12 Texas was idle this week.
#13 Southern California (3-1) at home bounced back against the California Golden Bears, 27-9, in an in-state rivalry. The Trojan defense had 7 sacks and the offense rushed for 296 yards at 7.4 yards per carry. The Cal Bears are now 1-3, nothing to email home to mom about.
#14 Florida (4-0) at home blew by a 1-3 Kentucky team, 38-zip. Coach Will Muschamp’s Gators are stepping in high cotton at the moment. Get this: The win was the 26th straight year that Florida has beaten Kentucky, extending the nation’s longest win steak in a current series between two 1-A teams.
Kentucky has not beaten Florida since 1986. It also marked Florida’s first shutout win since a 52-0 win against Mississippi State 11 years ago. Will Florida be an SEC contender? Maybe. They took down Texas A&M and Tennessee. We’ll see how the Gators fare against tougher prey.
#15 Kansas State upset #6 Oklahoma 24-19.
#16 Ohio State (4-0) at home beat a winless Alabama–Birmingham squad 29-15 in another not very impressive effort for a 4-0 team hoping to move up in the Top 25 Poll. Everything looks OK on paper. The Buckeyes are 4-0 at home and have beaten their last 3 non-so-good teams by an average of 12 points, or less than 2 touchdowns with extra points. Next Saturday they travel to Michigan State, which may have a little bit better team. So, will Ohio State dominate, or barely get by?
#17 Texas Christian (they prefer TCU to apparently dump the Christian affiliation) at home improved its record to 3-0 by whipping a very average 2-2 Virginia team, 27-7. The Horned Frogs have wins over AA Grambling State and Kansas. In other words, they have 3 wins against nobody. There is a real question of whether they should even be in the Top 25.
#18 Michigan lost to #11 Notre Dame 13-6.
#19 UCLA was pretty uppity before they hosted their first real competition—unranked Oregon State. The Beavers were UCLA’s first Pac-12 conference game, and the team from Corvallis showed the Burins why it’s cool to be a Beaver by upsetting new Coach Jim Mora’s team, 27-20. The Beaver win was hardly an accident. They led 3-0 after the 1st quarter, 17-10 after the 2nd quarter, 24-10 after the 3rd quarter, and then spotted UCLA 10 points in the 4th quarter before winning by 7.
Oregon State’s Sean Mannion passed for a career-high 379 yards and 2 touchdowns, Storm Woods rushed for 96 yards and another score, and Markus Wheaton caught 9 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown. UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin, the country’s leading rusher with a 180+ yard average, was held to 45 yards on 12 carries—that’s called a tough day at the office.
So, some of the bloom has come off of UCLA.
#20 Louisville (4-0) on-the-road was not impressive in beating a 1-3 Florida International team, 28-21. The Cardinals have not played a team worth talking about yet, and may not until they face Pittsburgh or Cincinnati. Like a lot of Top 25 teams so far, they have built winning records on the backs of losers.
#21 Michigan State (3-1) at home beat winless, 0-4 in-state rival Eastern Michigan 23-7. The Spartans should have wiped the field with Eastern Michigan, like 50+ to zip, but they have a first-year QB that is mediocre, an offensive line that is huge but slower than molasses on a stick, and a defense that allowed Notre Dame to beat them at home. Just two weeks ago, Michigan State was ranked #10. All they had to do was beat Notre Dame, even by a point, and they would have risen higher in the rankings. Now the Spartans look like dog meat and will do well to get into a decent bowl game.
Disclosure: Did I mention that I am a Michigan State graduate and former Spartan athlete?
#22 Arizona lost to Oregon 49-0.
#23 Mississippi State (4-0) at home beat a lame 1-3 South Alabama team 30-10. Like so many teams in the current AP Top 25 Poll, Mississippi has built its 4-0 record on the backs of teams with a combined 5-11 record, as in 1-3, 1-3, 2-2 and 1-3. So how good are they? Eventually they will play an actual team that is not lousy and we will find out in short order.
#24 Boise State (2-1) at home had all it could do to best a 2-2 Brigham Young eleven, 7-6. So, really, how bad was it? This bad: The Bronco defense won the game on a pick-six interception return, the Bronco offense did not score a touchdown or a field goal. This year’s Boise State team is not that good. The only real question is: Are they good enough to even be ranked even #24?
#25 Nebraska (3-1) at home beat silly a double A (as in AA), terrible 1-2 Idaho State team, 73-7, in a win that was so like Nebraska. The Cornhuskers, who are new to the Big Ten this year, were always competing with Oklahoma in the Big 12 to see who could run up the biggest score against a totally hapless team. Neither Nebraska nor Oklahoma would be happy unless the score was at least 84 to nothing, scoring 3 touchdowns in each quarter, and carting some opposing players off the field on stretchers. That was then, and this is now, and nothing has changed.
When you see the Nebraska coaching staff on the sideline, you would think that Bo Pelini and his brain trust should be in anger management classes during the week. I am amazed at how tolerant, polite and courteous the Nebraska fans tend to be, and how out-of-control the coaching staff is, especially Bo Pelini. Bo not only acts angry, he even looks angry, and he is angry, apparently he gets excited seeing a bug crawl across the floor.
All of the Top 25 wins against inferior competition will hopefully come to an end in the next couple of weeks as league play progresses. Then maybe we can see more clearly who are the contenders and who are the pretenders.
Here are the rest of the 11 “cupcake” games with the margin of victory or defeat for the 1-A teams:
+56 – Arkansas State meant to make a statement by shutting out AA Alcorn State 56-zip.
+56 – Texas A&M simply tried to run up the score on hapless AA South Carolina State, and did it by scoring 10 touchdowns, 70-14. This was totally unnecessary unless Texas A&M needed a self-image boost, which apparently the Aggies did.
+53 – New 1-A entry Texas San-Antonio won its 4th straight game of the season over Northwestern Oklahoma State 56-3. It really looks impressive for Texas San-Antonio until you learn that Northwestern Oklahoma State is not a 1-AA team, not a NCAA Division 2 team, but an NAIA team.
+45 – Pittsburgh evened its record at 2-2 at the expense of winless AA Gardner-Webb 55-10.
+38 – Navy won its first game by beating AA VMI 41-3.
+38 – North Carolina State took AA The Citadel to school 52-14.
+34 – Ohio went 4-0 by taking care of AA Norfolk State 44-10.
+31 – Northwestern went 4-0 by beating AA South Dakota 38-7.
+10 – Toledo allowed AA Coastal Carolina to score a touchdown in every quarter but did win 38-28.
+4 – Texas State needed every trick in the book to edge by AA Stephen F. Austin 41-37. This was the hat trick game of the week as it involved a new 1-A school (Texas State), a AA school (Stephen F. Austin), and was an in-state rivalry. Hats off to Stephen F. Austin for making the Texas State Bobcats play their butt off to win.
Just for the record, all of these 1-A winners played at home.
In the first 4 weeks of the season, there were 86 cupcake contests among the 276 games played (31%), and 1-A teams won 78 of the 86 cupcake games (90%).
Other unranked schools involved in-state rivalries this week included:
+21 – North Carolina at home over East Carolina 27-6.
+13 – New Mexico on-the-road over New Mexico State 27-14
+11 – Penn State at home over Temple from Philadelphia, 24-13. (Did you know that at the time of Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia was the largest city in the United States with a population of 23,000. London, at the same time in the 1750s, was the largest city in Europe with a rapidly growing population of 750,000+.)
+4 – San Diego State on-the-road over San Jose State 38-34.
In other unranked games worthy of mention:
Rutgers (from the Jersey Shore state featuring Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino and his abs) pushed its record to 4-0 on-the-road by upending Arkansas, 35-26.
Colorado, which was winless at 0-3 on its way to Washington State, managed to score 3 touchdowns in the last quarter and upset new Coach Mike Leach and his Cougars, 35-34.
Minnesota at home pushed its season to 4-0 by getting past Syracuse, 17-10. Who would have thought that both Minnesota and Northwestern would start their season at 4-0?
Baylor on-the-road went to 3-0 by outlasting Louisiana-Monroe, 47-42. It was a usual Baylor performance, all offense and little defense. LA-Monroe is no pushover this year, the Warhawks beat Arkansas 34-31 in overtime and lost to Auburn 31-28 in overtime. The Warhawks have scored 104 points in their first 3 games. Like it or not, the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks have become one of this year’s surprise teams.
Central Michigan, on-the-road from the Mid-American Conference, upended the Big Ten’s Iowa, 32-31. Iowa, a powerhouse for years at home and a sometimes Big Ten contender, is not the same Iowa this year. With the loss, the Hawkeyes are now 2-2; they lost 9-6 at home to Iowa State two weeks ago.
The crazy-scoring game of the week turned out to be, not Oregon-Arizona, but Marshall (2-2) and Rice (1-3), both hungry for a victory. This one lasted until the 2nd overtime period, with Marshall finally besting Rice, 54-51. That’s 105 points scored in a football game. Each team scored in all 4 quarters and both overtimes. The defense? Well, the defense was not involved in this game—it was an afternoon for run and fun.