Ten Things, Week Nine
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Ten Things, Week Nine
Another month is in the books, and what a wild October it was. Some undefeated teams fell by the wayside (Kansas State, Clemson), some stood strong in the face of adversity (Stanford), and some continued to mow over opposition (Oklahoma State, Alabama, LSU). The Heisman picture is starting to come into focus, as well, as a few names have solidified their position at the top of the ranks. As we begin the home stretch in this year’s season, let’s look back on the best of the week (and month) that was…
1. The Cardinal Stands Strong – Stanford was one of those undefeated teams that hadn’t been truly tested (smallest margin of victory this season was 27 at Arizona). That ended Saturday night, as Andrew Luck and Co traveled south to the Coliseum against the lame duck USC Trojans. USC has nothing to play for except the spoiler role, and nearly played that role to perfection, putting Stanford behind for the first time all season on a pick-six with less than four minutes in the game. Rather than falter, though, Heisman front-runner Andrew Luck led his team to a game-tying drive and Stanford lasted three overtimes before finally toppling the home team. This is a perfect example of what championship-caliber teams do.
2. Undefeateds Fall – Early October seemed to be a harbinger of disaster for the BCS, but as we enter November, there will be a maximum of five undefeated teams, and only three from major conferences. This past weekend, Clemson and Kansas State lost in embarrassing fashion. Clemson, who seemed poised to take the ACC and possibly sneak into the BCS championship game, fell behind 24-3 by halftime and never seemed to find a way to regain their footing as they fell to Georgia Tech on the road. Kansas State, meanwhile, was the most surprising team without blemish, but they had the unfortunate circumstance of hosting one of the most talented teams in the country (Oklahoma) a week after suffering their first defeat of the season. The Wildcats were reminded of just how far they have to go to regain the greatness first acquired under coach Bill Snyder’s first term as they lost 58-17.
3. Kiffin Cries Foul (Again) – Following the Stanford-USC game, Kiffin used his face time with the cameras berating the officiating crew for bumbling the final seconds, when Trojan receiver Robert Woods appeared to be down with a single second left and when Kiffin claimed he called a timeout. Even though a kick from the 33-yard line isn’t a gimme by any stretch, one could see why Kiffin would be upset. I would argue, though, that rather than trying to get out of bounds, when a team has not one, but TWO timeouts left, it should be instilled in the receivers’ minds to get down as soon as possible and call one of them. Perhaps Kiffin needs to look at a mirror next time he wants to find fault.
4. The Rise Of…Ohio State? – That’s right, the Buckeyes seemed left for dead this past offseason as they lost their head coach and starting quarterback in shame, and began the first third of the season missing 4 other key starters. After dropping consecutive games by a total of ten points to Michigan State and Nebraska, Luke Fickell’s team has taken down Illinois on the road and, most recently, Wisconsin. Right now, the Buckeyes sit tied with the Badgers two games behind Penn State in their division, though the Nittany Lions loom on the horizon. If they can get past Purdue and Indiana in the next couple weeks (combined record: 5-12), then season closers against Penn State and rival Michigan could propel the Buckeyes into the first ever Big Ten championship game
5. Feel Good Story – Many of you remember the former Rutgers player, Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed in the game against Army last season. In the offseason, he vowed to return to lead his team out of the tunnel. Last Saturday, that mission was accomplished. In the middle of a heavy snowstorm, the Scarlet Knights were led out onto the field among chants of “Fifty-Two” (Legrand’s jersey number) in a moment that sent chills up the spine of everyone who had one. After the game, he tweeted out “So I left tire marks in the snow yesterday as I led my team out next time will be footprints”. Goosebumps again.
6. Georgia Tech Finds Their Swagger Again – The Yellow Jackets at one point seemed poised to play Clemson as a top ten team. After back-to-back losses at Virginia and Miami, this game lost much of its luster. No matter, though, as Paul Johnson’s crew bounced back to host undefeated dark horse Clemson, and kicked them right in the teeth. In a game that wasn’t close after halftime, the Jackets held the ball for 39 minutes and ran for 383 yards, including a career high 176 for QB Tevin Washington. This week’s home game with Va Tech is the key to propel the Jackets to their second ACC Championship game in three years.
7. Heisman Update – By all accounts, the Heisman this year is, and has always been, Andrew Luck’s to lose. Certainly, after this past weekend, that sentiment is still true. Trent Richardson has jumped in a solid #2 slot, after a dominating performance a couple weeks ago against Ole Miss. Of course, losses by the teams with Landry Jones, Sammy Watkins, and Russell Wilson have all but eliminated them. As long as Stanford and Alabama continue to win, those guys will be battling for the top spot. If one or both of them should falter, though, look out for Kellen Moore, who has continued his surgeon-like dissection of opposing defenses and Case Keenum, as he continues his quest for every meaningful statistical record for a quarterback.
8. SEC Corner – Poor Vanderbilt just can’t catch a break. At 4-4, they could easily be 6-2 and bowl eligible for just the second time in my life. Georgia coach Mark Richt seems to have resurrected his career with a win over Florida (for just the third time in his tenure between the hedges). The Bulldogs are now 6-2 after dropping games to Boise State and South Carolina to start the season. Speaking of the Gamecocks, they are gearing up for Arkansas in Fayetteville in a game that could decide whether or not they stay in the discussion for a BCS bowl birth and a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. Florida is looking to rebound from their first four game losing streak against Vandy. And rumor has it there’s a game in Tuscaloosa this weekend…
9. A Look To The Future – November sets up for some epic match-ups, starting with LSU at Alabama this weekend. The following week gives Oregon a chance to knock Stanford out of the national title chase. Closer to Thanksgiving weekend, Arkansas and LSU clash for what could result in a three-way tie for the West. And always in the back of the Cowboy nation, the Bedlam game will be looming. Oklahoma State looks to be favored in all of its games this month, but must remain focused and avoid a slip up like the Sooners.
10. Must See TV – The SEC takes center stage this week as they have not one, but two games involving top ten teams. There are some good match-ups early in the day, but make sure the DVR is going or that picture-in-picture is up, because all three games this week kickoff within 45 minutes of each other.
- LSU @ Alabama – It doesn’t get any bigger than this. After two solid weeks (and, some would argue, nearly a full season) of hype, the game will finally be played. The first regular season game featuring two SEC teams #1 and #2 looks to be one for the ages. These two teams are mirror images of each other, touting spectacular defenses, playmakers all over the field, and a knack for pulling out wins against tough teams. Look for this one to be back and forth, but like the SEC Championship Games in ’08 and ’09, the lower ranked team will pull it out. Bama edges the Tigers at home, 23-17
- South Carolina @ Arkansas – Because CBS just had to have the Tide and Tigers during prime time, this game will not get the publicity, or attention, it truly deserves. While both teams have been disappointing at times this season, both are entertaining a realistic shot at the SEC crown and an outside shot at a trip to New Orleans. The match-up of the game will be the SC defense versus the versatile Arkansas passing attack. Without a true running threat, Arkansas will have to avoid a fierce pass rush in order to put points on the board. Cocky gets it biggest win of the season, 31-17.
- Kansas State @ Oklahoma State – Some luster has been lost, since the Wildcats were obliterated at home by Oklahoma, but they look to rebound much like the Sooners did after their first loss of the season and on the road. The Cowboys, meanwhile, have a blueprint for how to score on Snyder’s defense thanks to their Bedlam rivals, and look to move up to second in the nation with a win – a spot they have never occupied in the BCS era. The Cowboys will be just enough to get by the Wildcats, but not by much, and win 40-38.
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