College Football Wrap-Up – Week 9
Forget the closing Presidential race, the politicians and the spin doctors. Here is what is really going on: There are 4 kinds of contenders in the AP Top 25 Poll after major college football’s 9th week of play.
1) Teams who have it going on.
2) Teams who wish they had it going on.
3) Teams who are going nowhere.
4) Teams who are stuck in traffic.
There are only 4 teams that have it going on: Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame. Here’s why:
#1 Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron welcomed #13 Mississippi State to Tuscaloosa by passing for 208 yards, throwing 2 touchdowns and guiding the Crimson Tide to the end zone on their first 3 possessions to easily and decisively beat Mississippi State 38-7, handing the Bulldogs their first loss of the season.
Alabama remains unbeaten at 8-0 and Mississippi State is now 7-1. The Bulldogs led the nation in turnover margin coming into the game, but gave up an interception and fumbled twice. So who’s the runner-up in turnover margin now? If you guessed the Crimson Tide, you are right—they are #2 with +17 (forcing 17 more fumbles and interceptions than giving them up).
Alabama knows how to become the lead dog in the Iditarod Sled Dog Race—Alabama’s players are #1 nationally in total defense and #1 in scoring defense. When you look at the Crimson Tide, you are looking at their backside.
#2 Oregon (still unbeaten at 8-0) scored 8 straight touchdowns to lead an anemic, 1-7 Colorado team 56-0 at the half. The Ducks could have won this game 112-0 but sat everybody but the water boy, allowing Colorado to score twice en route to a 70-14 loss. Oregon now leads the nation in scoring offense (53+ points per game).
#4 Kansas State (still unbeaten at 8-0) welcomed #15 Texas Tech (now 6-2) to Manhattan in Kansas, and then sent the Red Raiders back to Lubbock with a 56-24 loss. When a ranked team beats another ranked team by 21+ points, they have got it going on. The Wildcats continue to roll by crushing Texas Tech by 31 points. K-State Coach Bill Snyder is not only one of the elite coaches in college football, he remains one of the best coaches in college football history. He has already outlived his legacy.
#5 Notre Dame (still unbeaten at 8-0) traveled to #8 Oklahoma and exploded for 20 points in the last quarter to rip the Sooners, 30-13. Irish quarterback Everett Golson threw for 177 yards and scored the decisive 1-yard touchdown in the 4th quarter, and superstar linebacker Manti Te’o had a late interception to shut down QB Landry Jones and his Sooners. Stick a fork in the 5-2 Sooners, they are done.
There are 4 teams who wish they had it going on: Florida State, Clemson, Boise State and Texas A&M all won over the weekend by big margins, but fail to impress.
#11 Florida State (8-1) hosted Duke (now 6-3) and easily beat up on the Blue Devils, 48-7. Duke came into the game leading its Atlantic Coast Conference division, was bowl eligible for the first time in a generation, and had its best offense since forever, but it was not enough. You must remember that this is the ACC and Duke, as in basketball, and Duke was not a ranked team. If Jimbo Fisher and his Seminoles beat the Florida Gators by 41 points, then we would be impressed.
#14 Clemson (7-1) traveled to Wake Forest and beat the hardly scary 4-4 Demon Deacons, 42-13, in another “battle” of ACC teams. Clemson led 35-7, so much for middle-of-the-road ACC teams. They are not that good, and even Clemson is not that good, which is why the Tigers wish they had it going on.
#21 Boise State (7-1) hit the road to Wyoming and put the rip on an inept, 1-7 Cowboy team that couldn’t beat its way out of a corral. Boise State won by 31, 45-14. All you need to know about the Boise State Broncos is that their only loss came from a 5-4 Michigan State team in their opener.
#22 Texas A&M (6-2) traveled to Auburn and beat the once mighty Tigers, 63-21. It sounds like a great win unless you know that Auburn is 1-7 this year, has lost its last 5 games, and is off to its worst start since going 1-7 in 1952, 60 years ago. Texas A&M led 42-7 at the half while the Auburn 11 was trying to put on their uniforms while reading press clippings from their national championship team two years ago. That was then and this is now, and Auburn has become terrible, arcane, stupid and bovine. So a win over Auburn has become a loadstone around the neck of the winner.
There are 5 teams who are going nowhere: Ohio State, Louisville, South Carolina, Stanford and Louisiana Tech.
#9 Ohio State (still unbeaten at 9-0) traveled to once Happy Valley (also known as Penn State) and managed to come away a 35-23 winner against the Nittany Lions. Buckeye QB Braxton Miller (without whom Ohio State would not be undefeated) ran for 134 yards and accounted for 3 touchdowns a week after getting knocked out of a game. Good for Braxton. A pick-six interception by Ryan Shazier helped the Ohio State outcome look better; the score could just as easily have been 28-23. Ohio State remains 9-0, but is not impressive. Penn State is now 5-3.
#16 Louisville (still unbeaten at 8-0) hosted and beat an unranked, 5-2 Cincinnati team by a field goal in overtime, 34-31. Cincy had a chance to win it in overtime, but an intercepted pass set up the Cardinals 30-yard field goal that won the game. It was a win for an unbeaten team, but hardly an impressive one.
#17 South Carolina (7-2) hosted a 3-5 Tennessee and won by a field goal, 38-35. The Gamecocks opened the season with 6 straight wins, then got nipped at LSU, 23-21, and got hammered at Florida, 44-11. Beating a 3-win Tennessee team at home by a field goal is not impressive.
South Carolina’s fortunes took another hit when Marcus Lattimore, arguably the SEC’s best runner, suffered a horrific knee injury that will likely end his season prematurely for the 2nd straight season. Lattimore, a junior, was wrapped up by a linebacker while a defensive back came in at his knees. Lattimore’s two injuries are so serious he may never play football the same again. The Gamecocks have a good defense (#13) and a mediocre offense (#86).
#19 Stanford (6-2) absolutely needed a 4th quarter touchdown to win against a 2-6 Washington State team, 24-17. Stanford’s defense sacked Cougar QB Jeff Tuel 10 times, and Ed Reynolds early 4th quarter pick-six interception for 25 yards sealed the deal for Stanford. Tuel went 43-for-60 (71%) for 401 yards and 2 touchdowns, but it was not enough. Stanford, like its compatriots in the teams that are going nowhere section, lacked an offense and impressed no one.
#24 Louisiana Tech (7-1) traveled to New Mexico State and beat a woefully inept, 1-7 Aggie team, 28-14. Louisiana Tech led 7-0 at the half, and missed 3 field goals. Wow, what a nonperformance. The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs must have thought the New Mexico State Aggies were going to refuse to take the field.
There are 6 teams who are stuck in traffic: Florida, Oregon State, Southern Cal, Rutgers, Michigan and Miami of Ohio. Get this: All 6 were upset victims, 4 of the 6 were unbeaten and suffered their first loss, and all of them will drop in the AP Top 25 Poll.
Losing is not cool when you are unbeaten, and losing to an unranked team is less cool—all 4 unbeatens lost to unranked teams. Such is life in major college football, which is why it is so much more unpredictable than watching pro football.
#3 Florida (now 7-1) traveled to Jacksonville and was upset by #12 Georgia 17-9. No loss was bigger than the Gators, who were (emphasize were) on track to meet Alabama for the SEC title as two unbeaten teams—the winner would have vaulted into the national championship game. Not now. By winning, the Georgia Bulldogs (now 7-1 and tied with Florida at 6-1 for the SEC’s East Division) have the inside track on facing Alabama for the SEC title.
While Florida’s offense and offensive line was watching rather than playing, Georgia’s Jarvis Jones had a monster day on defense, recording 13 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and knocking the ball out of Jordan Reed’s hands near the goal line as teammate Sanders Commings recovered in the end zone with 2:05 left in the game.
Florida QB Jeff Driskel was running for his life, fumbling twice, throwing 2 interceptions and getting sacked 5 times. This game was not clean, and there was a lot of smack talk as 24 penalties for 227 yards were assessed (that’s 9+ yards per penalty). Florida was a train wreck happening.
#7 Oregon State (now 6-1) traveled to unranked, 4-4 Washington and was upset 20-17 by the Huskies, proving that a Husky can beat a Beaver. How could this happen? Well, through the first 9 weeks of the season, Washington has played the TOUGHEST schedule among all 124 major teams. Let’s be honest, if your team (try Rutgers or Ohio, for example) had already played 6 Top 25 teams, including LSU, Stanford, Oregon, Southern Cal, Arizona and Oregon State, they would have had 6 losses and not be unbeaten. Oregon State has NEVER been 7-0 as a team, and still isn’t, thanks to Washington.
If you want some real scary, try this on for size: The Washington Huskies have only 12 seniors on their roster to go with 46 freshmen and 25 sophomores. In other words, seniors are 11% of the team, freshmen and sophomores are 68% of the team. And you wonder why they lost 4 games to Top 25 teams?
#10 Southern Cal (now 6-2) traveled to unranked Arizona (5-2) and was upset by the Wildcats, 39-36, in a game featuring no defense. USC continues to disappoint and is clearly not the #10 best team.
#18 Rutgers (now 7-1) at home was upset by unranked Kent State (now 7-1, same as Rutgers), 35-23. Forget how good Rutgers was, they are not good because they played some actual competition and lost. Rutgers won its first 7 games against a bunch of nobodies, including Tulane, South Florida, Arkansas, Connecticut, Syracuse, Temple and AA Howard. Talk about being stuck in traffic. Rutgers still has to face Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Louisville, which might just be a little better than AA Howard.
So Kent State should be asking, “Who should be #18 now?” If it’s not Kent State, then Rutgers sure as hell is not the 18th best team in any country. Louisville and Rutgers will meet in their last game of the season.
#20 Michigan (now 5-2 and really looking like it) traveled to unranked Nebraska (now 6-2) and was upset 23-9. Wolverine QB Denard Robinson left the game late in the first half with a right elbow injury, and watched from the sideline in the 2nd half as freshman backup QB Russell Bellomy threw 3 interceptions. Without Robinson, Michigan isn’t anything, period.
#23 Ohio (now 7-1) traveled to 4-4 Miami of Ohio and was promptly upset by a last quarter field goal, 23-20. The Bobcats, who could have tied the game and gone into overtime, elected to try for the win and their QB was sacked as time ran out. Ohio, like Rutgers, played a bunch of nobodies and Penn State (in its opener) to get to 7-0. Some teams play on the freeways, and some teams play on the back roads.
Two teams were idle this week–#6 LSU (7-1) and #25 West Virginia (5-2).
In other games of note among unranked teams:
Michigan State (5-4) traveled to Wisconsin (6-3) and ended the Badgers 21-game home winning streak in overtime, 16-13, in a defensive battle worthy of note. Andrew Maxwell (the Spartans not-good quarterback) threw a 12-yard TD pass to Bennie Fowler to seal the win. The victory was Michigan State’s first at Camp Randall since 2001 (11 years ago), and Wisconsin’s first loss at home since 2009. Michigan State held Wisconsin to 19 yards rushing (its fewest in 5 years) after the Badgers had gained 804 yards rushing in its last 2 games.
Northern Illinois pushed its record to 8-1 with a 48-34 win over 3-6 Western Michigan.
Toledo pushed its record to 8-1 with a 25-20 win over 1-7 Buffalo.
Massachusetts, winless and a newcomer to the 1-A Division this year, lost its 8th straight game to Vanderbilt, 49-7. The Minutemen of Massachusetts have clearly been an hour late and 8 muskets short this season. Hopefully, they will improve to 1-11 next year. In the meantime, it is not good to be in the Massachusetts regiment of the not-ready-for-prime-time Minutemen.