Ten Things - Week Four
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In the blink of an eye, we are now done with September – and good riddance. Suffice to say, it’s been a rather tumultuous month in college football with realignment rumors, officiating gaffes and coaches yelling so much they literally turn read (Brian Kelly). In the spirit of looking on the bright side, this week’s Ten Things looks for the best of the month that was. Here are the best things that happened in September, with a hint of what’s in store for the coming month…
1. Best Team, Overall – LSU. No question. The Tigers started the season with more questions than they’d ever had in the tenure of Les Miles. They lost their starting quarterback (Jordan Jefferson), best receiver (Russell Sheppard) and play caller (Steve Kragthorp, who is still with the team but not in the capacity they expected) before the most anticipated game of the first weekend. And they didn’t miss a beat. After beating Oregon, Mississippi State, and West Virginia by at least 13 points each, LSU is at the top of the rankings, and looks like the strongest team in the country.
2. Best Team, Offense – Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are averaging 630 yards and 53 points a game, a national best. While it’s true that they really haven’t been tested, it’s hard to argue with their production thus far. If Georgia Tech is serious about reclaiming the ACC title, a good way to do it is beating cupcakes by large margins (average margin of victory in the first three games is 37 points) and win conference games (their conference record is 1-0). Paul Johnson looks to have his guys ready for conference play
3. Best Team, Defense – Alabama. Again, the pool of information from which to judge is limited, but consider this. Alabama has held each of its opponents to an average of 135 yards less than their season average to date, including holding Arkansas to 218 yards under their 444 ypg average. Also, Bama ranks second in the nation allowing a mere 8 points a game. That’s why the Tide is considered by many to be the biggest competitor to LSU for a birth in the national title game.
4. Best Band of Thieves – Cincinnati. With a record of 3-1, it’s no secret why the Bearcats have been able to have success (though, having Akron and Austin Peay on the schedule doesn’t hurt) is because they have amassed 16 takeaways, tied for tops in the country. Pair that with only two turnovers and a +14 turnover margin is better than anyone else. Cincy takes the ball away, then puts points on the board. That will come in handy as they try to reclaim their place at the top of the Big East.
5. Breakout Team of the Month – Clemson. With many teams at the top munching on cupcakes (with apologies to LSU…they’ve been mentioned already), the orange and purple Tigers have played the “Schedule of Champions”, as coach Dabo Swinney calls it. Taking out Troy, Wofford and Auburn, which were the Sun Belt, Southern, and SEC/National champions, respectively, Clemson hosted and beat a Florida State team with visions of the ACC crown in their eyes. Next up, reigning ACC champ Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
6. Best Heisman Darkhorse - Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina. The workhorse running back of the Gamecocks hasn’t lost a step from last year, when he was ranked second in the nation among freshman backs. Currently, he ranks second in the nation overall. And with the quarterback situation in turmoil, the Gamecocks will continue to rely on the young back. With the added pressure comes added focus from opposing defenses. If his numbers continue to be high, voters will take notice of his ability and value to the team – two very important attributes in a Heisman candidate.
7. Best Game – Notre Dame at Michigan. Before I go any further, honorable mentions to Baylor-TCU, FSU-Oklahoma, and Ok St-Texas A&M. Having said that, the first night game at the Big House was one for the ages. Notre Dame, coming off the disappointing loss at home to South Florida on opening weekend looked poised to win it going away. The Irish were up 24-7, after all. Then Shoelace got going. Accounting for all four of the Wolverines’ touchdowns, Michigan stormed back to win 35-31. It was a great night for Michigan fans, and football fans all over.
8. Best Conference – Big Twelve. With all the drama surrounding conference shuffling, the Big Twelve sits currently with a national best seven undefeated teams. As a conference, they are a collective 26-2 out of conference, including wins over Arizona, Florida State, Iowa, and TCU. Also, not a single team right now has a losing record (caveat – Mizzou is 2-2, but they are the only .500 team). As of now, two fifths of the AP Top 5 are in the Sooner State. Everything looks pretty good right now on the field for the once beleaguered league.
9. Best Game to Watch Next Month – Nebraska at Wisconsin. The Cornhuskers open their new conference schedule in quite possibly the toughest stadium to win in. Camp Randall will be jumping as the Badgers intend to maintain the Big Ten crown, while the new kids on the block are hoping to take the neighborhood by storm. Potential Heisman finalists Russell Wilson of Wisconsin and Taylor Martinez of Nebraska are polar opposites in style, but the combination will bring forth what is sure to be the best game of the month.
10. Must See Games This Weekend:
1. Nebraska at Wisconsin. Not enough can be said about this game, and its importance on the conference race. With the Big Ten now in a divisional setup, this could be the first conference championship preview. Speaking of potential rematches…
2. Alabama at Florida. The Tide are just as good as advertized. The Gators appear to be better than the experts predicted. With the East in turmoil, and the fact that these two teams have met seven times, including two of the last three years. Florida’s young, but talented secondary looks to contain a still improving Bama passing game, while the Tide defense are one of the only ones who can match Gator running backs Demps and Rainey in speed. It’s sure to be an epic clash in the Swamp.
3. Clemson at Virginia Tech. The battle tested Tigers travel to Lane Stadium to be the first meaningful test for Beamer’s bunch in Blacksburg. Was that enough alliteration for you? Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins look to continue their aerial acrobatics while the Hokies press on in their quest for their fourth ACC title in five years.
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