Ten Things from Week Five
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Our friend, Wes, had a crazy past weekend, so I thought I was filling in for him in our "Ten Things" weekly article. Turns out he wrote one himself after all, so fans, this week you get a double version! The college football world can bring bliss and heartbreak, and with that, here are ten observations from this past weekend of play...
First ten things by: Brett Haynes
1. Tennessee loses gut-wrencher at LSU. On a goal-line, 4th-down play with just seconds to go, LSU and Tennessee were both substituting players all over the place. After it appeared the Tigers had botched the snap and UT had won, the refs got together. Caught in the mix was not only a twelfth guy for UT, but a 13th! I watched the play about ten times to make sure I wasn't seeing it wrong. What happened was that three guys ran off of the field for the Vols, while five guys ran on. LSU noticed this, and challenged - which is allowed. I'm shocked people have only been talking about the twelve guys. I noticed myself it was 13 when I saw the replay...Regardless, it was a good full minute of celebration for the Vols, followed by a clean, centered kick to the stomach.
2. State of Florida cycle to go on? No state in America is as rich with national title programs as this state. Since the 1980's, Florida, Florida State and Miami have taken turns being the best team in America. Miami leads the way with five titles ('83, '87, '89, '91, '01), while FSU has two ('93, '99) and Florida has three ('96, '06, '08). The reason I bring this up is that this year there does not appear to be a challenger among the three for the first time in a long time. Florida has certainly carried the torch for the state since 2006, and although good, they are not going to be a national title contender in 2010. Miami looks strong, as well, but are a player or two away from that kind of hardware. FSU is still a major question mark to me as far as competing nationally. All we can do is wait and see. But if history repeats itself like they say it does, expect the wait to be a short one.
3. BCS busters are all Back. As we close the first half of the season, all three of the best-known BCS busters are back for more. TCU, Boise State and Utah are a combined 13-0 this fall, and 5-0 combined against AQ teams. TCU and Utah meet November 6th, so one of them will be out of the national title discussion following that game. Utah also plays Notre Dame the following week. Last week, Boise and TCU won by a combined 86-0. Not sure what that means really, but I always like to pay tribute to shutouts. Regardless of your opinion of these programs, they are all three going to play a factor in the college football world again this year.
4. Mark Richt and UGA. Every time I try to discuss this, it comes across like I'm leading a pack of folks with lanterns and pitch-forks. That is hardly the case. Saying a coach is on the hot seat is not neccesarily saying to fire him. I mean, I have access to records myself, and I know what he has done. But to deny the fact that Georgia is awful is turning a cheek, and this will be the fourth straight year the win total in Athens has declined. I hate even bringing up this topic because I honestly am just not that worried about it and I always end up having to defend my point until its painful. But all I will say is that if I were a Georgia fan I would be worried that the spark just isn't there anymore. A loss to Colorado - when really in need of a win - is not a good sign.
5. Importance of QBs at Ohio State and Michigan. Of course the play of the quarterback is a major deal at any school, but I'm not sure if there are any two teams in America that depend on their quarterbacks for success like these two rivals. Michigan, especially, seems to be the most reliant. Under Rich Rod, I have been less than impressed to say the least. But all of a sudden this lighting-bolt named Denard Robinson comes in and not only lights up scoreboards, but he lights up the crowd. He is the kind of player your whole program can rally behind, and I actually see Michigan being a factor in the Big Ten this year. If he were hurt, Tate Forcier has seen the field aplenty, but there is a reason Forcier isn't the starter right now. Ohio State, meanwhile, is super-dependent on their Heisman candidate signal caller, Terrell Pryor. Like Robinson, he has accounted for 15 touchdowns in a mix of run and pass. Pryor's backup, Joe Bauserman, has thrown just 41 passes in his three year career.
6. Heisman hopefuls. This trophy has kind of become uninteresting to me because it almost automatically goes to an offensive skill player on a top-ranked team. Do you really think the truly best player always is fortunate enough to come from that ideal situation? Neither do I. But here are the names you can expect to hear, regardless. LaMichael James and Darron Thomas from Oregon, Terrell Pryor of Ohio State, Denard Robinson of Michigan, Andrew Luck of Stanford, Mark Ingram and Julio Jones of Alabama, and Kellen Moore of Boise State are all names that have not hurt themselves in the season's first half. Two other names to keep your eye on are Cam Newton of Auburn and Landry Jones of Oklahoma. This list will slim down as teams lose and/or guys get injured. But for now, I'd be surprised if the winner didn't come from the names mentioned above.
7. Notre Dame finally wins again. As you all know, I had ND in my preseason poll. After a 1-3 start, it is no wonder they aren't even receiving votes as of now. But don't rule out my preciction just yet. The Irish won on the road at Boston College last weekend to get to 2-3, and I see eight wins as still possible. And if they get to eight wins, you can bet the ranch that they will end the season in the top 25, and my prediction would be correct. Yes, they lost three games early, but it was to teams that are all in the top 20. I am hardly a ND fan, but I'm sticking to my prediction that the Irish are going to be good in the years to come under Brian Kelly.
8. Texas unranked. For the first time in nine years and 50 weeks, the Longhorns of Texas are not to be found in the AP top 25 poll. The 'Horns suffered back to back losses to UCLA and Oklahoma and thus see this remarkable run come to an end. They won the national title during this streak in 2005, and are just nine months removed from playing for another. Now, they must get things together or they may lose a few more. The UT schedule features a game in ten days in Lincoln against a Nebraska team still fuming from the shenanigans of the Big Twelve title game. When they fall, they fall hard. But Texas won't be down for long.
9. National leaders on offense. Leading the nation in total offense at this time is Oregon at 569.2 yards per game. The Ducks have eight more touchdowns than the next closest team. In yards per game, they are followed by Michigan, Oklahoma State, Boise State and Nevada. The nation's rushing leader is Michigan's Denard Robinson at 181 yards per game. The nation's leading passer is Terrence Cain of Utah with a rating of 192.5. The nation's leading all purpose player is Ray Graham of Pitt at 233.6 yards per game. The nation's leading receiver is Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State at 139.5 yards per game and nine touchdowns. The nation's leading field goal man is Michael Taylor of Troy, who is 10 of 12 on the year.
10. National leaders on defense. Leading the nation in total defense right now is Boise State, giving up 223.5 yards per game. Alabama is 20th in this category, but leads the nation with just three touchdowns surrendered on the year (New Mexico State has given up 25!). The Tide are subsequently the national leader in scoring defense as they are giving up just nine ppg. The interception lead is shared by five players who each have four picks. Pittsburgh edged out Clemson by one yard in the national punting lead. The Panthers kickers have averaged 44.75 yards per punt.
Second ten things by: Wes Mewbourne
Another week, another dominant performance for Alabama and Oregon And Boise, but not as many people are paying attention anymore. As we get into the thick of conference races, and in the Big East's case, the beginning of them, we are seeing the separation factor kick in. Many teams have given themselves a leg up on the competition, while a few others are hoping for the ball to bounce the other way in the coming weeks. Here's the best, the worst, and a few more observations. Ten in all as we look at the week that was in this crazy world we call college football...
1. Oregon Jumps Boise St
With a very impressive 52-31 comeback win against Stanford, the Ducks showed they aren't the same team that lost on the blue turf last year. That's probably why they replaced Boise in the latest poll at number 3, while the Broncos drop a spot after shutting out New Mexico State 59-0. It's what the Bronco fans feared most coming into the season. They are undefeated, but because of their schedule they will be held out of any serious talk of the national title. Now, instead of needing a loss by Alabama or Ohio State, it will realistically need both to lose. Oregon, meanwhile, looks like one of the better teams in the country, and much more dominant than SEC counterpart Alabama. Perhaps these two teams will get a chance to settle it in Glendale early next year.
2. Heisman Talk
Denard Robinson continues to dominate the conversation, but he still needs to show more against better competition. A game winning score in the fourth quarter is great, but do it in Happy Valley or Columbus instead of at home against Indiana. Terelle Pryor went out during the Illinois game, and his stock is likely to fall. The Big 12 preseason favorite, Jerrod Johnson of Texas A&M, has eight interceptions in four games - including four INT's and a fumble returned for a touchdown in last week's loss at Oklahoma State. Last year's winner, Mark Ingram, was held to 47 yards against Florida - a career low since he's been the starter. Another SEC candidate, first year starter Cam Newton of Auburn, is slowly creeping up the list. Newton currently ranks second in the nation in pass efficiency and first in yards per attempt. It doesn't hurt that he pilots a top 10 program and has led his team to back to back come from behind victories in the fourth quarter - but he, too, must prove something on the road. The race is still fairly wide open, as long as Robinson continues to play half a game before getting injured. My top three right now are Robertson, Kellen More (Boise St) and Newton.
3. No Love for non-AQ teams? Please!
Looking at the latest AP poll, 5 non-AQ teams have a spot. That's Boise St (4), TCU (5), Utah (10), Nevada (21), and Air Force (25). That's three teams in the top ten alone, two from the Mountain West. That's as many as the SEC, PAC-10, and Big 12, and more than the Big Ten and the ACC. The Mountain West championship could feature two top ten teams, and if Nevada keeps winning, the WAC could be settled by a top 15 match-up. The polls are showing a lot of love to the party crashers, despite Boise's drop. Besides, I'm surprised Oregon just jumped the Broncos. I would have expected a jump to number two, and wouldn't have batted an eye. Right now, the only thing that can (and will) hold back teams like TCU and Boise State are their schedule. Like it or not, the computers are part of the system, and will certainly grade wins over Hawaii and BYU differently from Arkansas, Nebraska, and Arizona.
4. Bye Weeks Aplenty
Alabama begins an unprecedented stretch this week. Their final six conference games will come against teams who are all coming off a bye week. From South Carolina to Auburn, everyone gets a break before playing the defending champs. While that may seem like an unfair disadvantage, consider this. Over the last five years, SEC teams coming off a bye week are an even 29-29. That's right, in the last five years (some of the most dominant years for the league), teams have a 50/50 chance of the bye week actually helping them win...or lose. Sometimes that bye week helps rest your starters, while other times it can interrupt momentum. Either way, don't feel too bad for the Tide. They get a bye week before LSU, and get to play Georgia State on Thursday on the week before the Auburn game, giving them an extra couple days of preparation.
5. Surprising Undefeated Teams
Who would have thought that Michigan and Michigan State would be playing to see who loses their first game of the season? Did anyone see Northwestern sitting at 5-0? This Big Ten has four undefeated teams right now, and not one of them is named Wisconsin, Iowa, or Penn State. Auburn is off to another fast start, which surprises the heck out of anyone outside the state of Alabama (and maybe South Carolina). LSU has somehow survived to remain in the hunt, but you got to think their clock is about to run out sooner rather than later. Way out west, we see Arizona is finally living up to expectations and could very well get four more wins before playing Stanford on Nov 6th. In the non-AQ department, Utah has quietly nudged into the top ten with an unblemished season, and Nevada is ranked for the first time since 1951 - and climbing. The Big 12 has five undefeated teams (tops in the country) and Texas isn't one of them. Its three surprises are Kansas State, Missouri and an Oklahoma State team that has found a way to win. Speaking of surprises in the Big 12...
6. Smaller Story: Iowa State Going Bowling?
After winning nine games in three years (2006-08), the Cyclones are coming off a bowl win against Minnesota, and looking to go back to back under second year coach Paul Rhodes. Now, of their seven remaining games, three are against top ten programs (Utah, Oklahoma, and Nebraska) and a fourth is ranked (Mizzou). If they can at least pull their weight against the three unranked teams, and maybe pull an upset, they may be the favorite in the North once Nebraska bolts for the Big Ten.
7. What Were You Thinking!?
For those who were unfortunate enough to witness the debacle that was Tennessee at LSU, you know exactly what I'm referring to. Never mind that LSU got the ball for the last time with a four point deficit at their own 31 with 5:41 to go. Never mind the fact that they used all of that time plus two timeouts (one wasted after a delay of game penalty) to go 68 of those 69 yards. With 1st and goal at the one yard line and more than 40 seconds on the the clock, their play calls were pass (incomplete) by Jarret Lee, then a run by qb sub Jordan Jefferson that failed to get them in the endzone. With the clock at 30 seconds and ticking, you would think maybe run a quick pass play and throw it away if necessary or spike, right? Not with Les "I'd rather be lucky than good" Miles calling the shots. He says, let's switch personnel out and get one last play with the clock still ticking. The shotgun snap was to soon, and sailed twenty yards in the backfield, ending the game. Or so you would think. With all the confusion, and coaching blunders, the biggest one had yet to be seen - except by one official. You see, the Volunteers saw the Tigers changing their package, so they decided to follow suit. AFter bumbling the subs, the Volunteers went from eleven men on the field to 13. That's right, 13. Instead of sitting back and watching Les Mile and Co self destruct like everyone at home, he tried to outmaneuver him and failed. Miserably. Derek Dooley, what were you thinking?
8. Is It Basketball Season Yet?
It's not even halfway through the season, and the ACC and Big East conferences have virtually eliminated themselves from the national discussion. Miami is carrying the banner for the ACC, and JaCory Harris is still a Heisman hopeful. The Hurricanes, though, play the only other ranked team form the two conferences (Florida State) this weekend. The result could mean both out of the top 15, or only one left ranked. As for the Big East, half the league is below .500, everyone has lost at least one game - and they haven't even began conference play yet. It's a sad state of affairs for both conferences. By season's end, you'd think a ouple teams would sneak back into the top 25 (West Virginia, Virginia Tech, etc). Still, though, it's very disheartening for fans of the schools to already be loking forward to the first week of November.
9. Game of the Week Review: Florida at Alabama
It's no secret that the Gators failed to show up in Tuscaloosa, as they lost 31-6 in the worst loss under Urban Meyer. Look at the stat line for the Crimson Tide, though. Greg McElroy had 84 yards passing. Reigning Heisman winner Mark Ingram had just 47 yards on 12 carries. Trent Richardson managed 63 yards. Julio Jones caught four passes for just 19 yards. The four of them combined for two touchdowns. Not a single one broke 100 yards statistically, and yet the Tide still put up 31 points. The Gators held the ball for 5 minutes longer and out-gained the Tide, but could only manage two field goals on five trips to the red zone. The key to the game was turnovers. Alabama intercepted three passes (including a pick six), recovered a fumble, and caused two turnovers on downs. That's how you dominate a game when your offense doesn't produce. With the number one team in the country proving they belong there, the Florida Gators still control their own destiny. If they can win out, and take the SEC, they will still punch their ticket to their third championship game in five years. Bama, meanwhile, must regroup and get ready to travel to yet another ranked team in South Carolina. A surprising game, no doubt, but don't count the Gators out, and don't just assume Bama is here to stay, either. Both have on roads to travel.
10. Game of the Week Preview: Michigan State at Michigan
Once again, I will disagree with Gameday as to which game is the best in the country. I think the focus should be squarely on Ann Arbor as the Fightin' Dantonios (aka the Spartans) look to move to 6-0, secure a strong road win in the Big Ten, and shut down phenom Denard Robinson all at once. Michigan looks to stay unbeaten as well, give their fans another exhibition of their future Heisman winner and make sure to end practice on time all week long. I see Robinson continuing his ridiculous statistical performances here, but not quite his average. He'll total about 375 yards, 3 touchdowns, and Sparty reaches deep down and finds a way to win regardless. MSU wins 34-27
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