Sep 16

Ten Things - Week Three

Posted By:Wes Mewbourne - Birmingham, AL  Tags:

Click to share this post on Twitter Share on Twitter

For years, the knock on the playoff system replacing the BCS was the
importance of the regular season.  “Every game count in the BCS”, was
the refrain.  Well, after three weeks worth of games, it seems that
some games may have taken on even MORE meaning.  The upset bug has
visited earlier than expected, and fairly frequently over the first
quarter of the season.  Let’s see who will become the cream that
rises, and who will be the ones left to pick up the pieces of broken
dreams in this week’s Ten Things…

1.      Upset Central – It’s too soon to brand this the official “Upset
Saturday”, but there were enough shakeups to take notice of.  And
since we look at the top four projected teams, it’s a good chance to
take a glance of four teams that may have watched their playoff hopes
die with the game clock.

•       USC – A week after upsetting Stanford 13-10, the Trojans looked
absolutely lost in playing catch-up with previously hapless Boston
College.  After taking a 17-6 lead early in the second quarter, USC
sputtered and allowed the Eagles to score 24 straight points to take a
lead they would not relinquish.  There’s still a chance to win out and
be undefeated in conference play, but how much would this loss hurt
them in the selection process?

•       Virginia Tech – In the biggest upset last week, the Hokies knocked
off Ohio State in a fairly dominant fashion.  That’s why it was
puzzling how they found themselves in a 21-0 hole against unranked
East Carolina.  Even after coming back to tie the game in the fourth
quarter, Bud Foster’s defense didn’t have an answer as the Priates –
led by veteran quarterback Shane Carden – mounted the game winning
drive.  Again, a nonconference loss isn’t the end of the road.  But
one has to wonder if the Hokies can show the consistency needed to win
the ACC and a spot in the four seeds.

•       Georgia – What looked like the best team in the country in their
previous game (are you seeing the pattern here, too?) against Clemson
played a nightmare follow-up game in Columbia, SC.  The Gamecocks
looked like they learned their lesson from a week 1 drubbing against
Texas A&M and took out some frustration on the rival Bulldogs.  Mark
Richt has a well-known history of underachieving, and this looks like
more of the same.  Now, the best chance they have is to win out in
conference to make the SEC Championship – a tall task with improved
Auburn, Missouri, and improved Tennessee Florida, Kentucky teams still
to come.

•       Louisville – Head Coach and prodigal son Bobby Petrino seemed to
have the Cardinals looking like they did before he left, and well
prepared to make noise in their first year as an ACC school.  Then
Virginia happened.  The same Cavaliers that pushed UCLA to the brink
in the first week held off a furious fourth quarter rally to win 23-21
against the newcomers.  There looks to be some parity in the ACC
(outside of maybe Florida State…maybe), but this is a game Louisville
needed to not lose when it comes selection time in December.


2.      The Final Four – As always, here are the playoff teams that should
be in if the selection were to happen today:

•       Florida State – Taking a week off to prepare for a big showdown
against Clemson means the remaining champs escaped a weird weekend
with their loss total at zero.  Until that changes, they remain.

•       Oregon – The Michigan State win is still the best win of any team
with legitimate playoff hopes.  The Ducks are flying high after a
glorified practice against Wyoming and look to knock around Washington
State before a tricky pair of games against Arizona and at UCLA the
following weeks.

•       Oklahoma – Bob Stoops ended last year’s regular season by taking
some shots at the SEC schedule.  Congrats to “Big Game” Bob for
kicking a mid-tier Tennessee team while they’re still down.  Still,
the Sooners have one of the most complete teams in the country, and
don’t look to be tested until the Red River Rivalry on Oct. 11th.

•       Texas A&M – How much better does that season opening shellacking of
South Carolina look now?  While the defense hasn’t developed like some
would like, the offense has continued to move full speed ahead.  A
scrimmage against a SMU team mired in a coaching change (already!)
will lead into an interesting showdown against Arkansas.  But the
final half of the season, which includes four teams currently ranked
in the AP Top 10, will determine whether or not the Aggies have what
it takes.

3.      UCLA Struggles – They came close to showing up in the top item this
week, but the difference between the Bruins and the other is the win.
But two close wins against unexpectedly difficult teams in Virginia
and Texas have begun to plant seeds of doubt in what looked like a
promising year – a single digit win over Memphis doesn’t help much,
either.  Hopefully focusing on the conference slate will yield more
positive results.  This week is a bye, followed by a Thursday night
game at Arizona State, then hosting a tricky Utah Utes program, and
then Oregon.  If quarterback Brett Hundley starts showing up on some
Heisman short lists, then you’ll know they did well over that stretch.


4.      Notre Dame’s Playoff Hopes? – That’s right.  Scoff all you want,
but what looked to be a schedule of doom has softened up over the past
couple weeks.  Aside from handling an early slate of games as a great
team should, Stanford, USC, and Louisville all took losses while
Florida State and Arizona State look beatable.  So long as the
currently ranked teams don’t screw the pooch, the Irish should finish
the season with anywhere from 3-5 ranked teams played and another
couple bowl eligible teams.  Not too shabby a resume looking back, but
the echoes of 2012 might be too loud to ignore.


5.      East Carolina Bounces Back – And in a big way.  Just a week after
falling to a rebounding South Carolina team, the Pirates come out
swinging at Virginia Tech – throwing the haymaker in their last drive,
a game winning QB Waltz Left.  Opponents of the playoff system who
thought it would devalue regular season games will want to circle this
box score and return to it in December.  At the end of the season, the
Pirates could very well be looking at 11-1 with their only loss to the
SEC East champion.  Think that wouldn’t be good enough to solidify a
New Year’s Day bowl bid for the best of the “Group-of-5” conferences?
If we get more upsets like this and the ball bounces the right ways,
it may be enough to crack the VIP list.


6.      Call of the Day – When Texas and UCLA lined up for the coin toss,
UCLA won.  They elected to defer, so of course Texas would elect to
receive right?  Wrong.  Defensive lineman Desmond Jackson insisted his
defensive unit take the field and kick.  The refs apparently explained
the ramification of the decision, and Jackson didn’t waver.  So the
Bruins became one of the rare teams to receive at the beginning of
both halves.  I’m beginning to wonder if coach Charlie Strong really
did know what he was talking about when he declared that his Longhorn
team would not reach the playoffs this year.


7.      B1G Joined By ACC – To be clear, no conference is exactly setting
the world on fire with a dominant team.  All of them have their fair
share of parity.  But after the Big Ten’s dreadful performance the
first couple weeks, the ACC seems to have followed along.  As a
result, each conference has only one team ranked #18 or higher in the
most recent AP poll – Florida State and Michigan State.  That could
very well be a product of preseason influence from the SEC and PAC-12
(having eight and six teams ranked, respectively).  Even the Big
Twelve is starting to come up with the 1-2 punch of Oklahoma and
Baylor in the top-10.


8.      Preseason Means Nothing – Seems like a fitting place for this item,
given the apparent influence favoring the two conferences most
elevated for the past seven months.  But really, it’s a well-known
fact by even the most casual fans of the sport – the preseason
prognostication is guesswork.  After just three weeks, eight of the
preseason AP Top-15 teams have lost a game.  Sure, some will bounce
back and may even finish where they were pegged from the start.  Just
don’t bet on it.


9.      SEC Rundown – America’s favorite conference to hate has somehow
managed to have half of the conference in the AP poll ranked #14 and
up.  That’s not counting #18 Missouri, which might be the class of the
East by season’s end.  Alabama has finally decided on Blake Sims, so
here’s hoping he blazes a new trail for quarterbacks of color on the
Capstone; the Tide haven’t had meaningful contribution from a nonwhite
QB since Andrew Zow in the late 1990’s, and none have even come close
to tasting a national title.  It won’t be easy, in a West division
that looks to be one of, if not the, most difficult groups to play in.
The five SEC teams in the AP top-10 are all in the West.  Meanwhile,
the East looks to fight itself to mediocrity as Florida needed three
overtimes to outlast Kentucky and Vanderbilt needed UMass to miss a
field goal to avoid overtime.


10.     Three To See

•       Auburn at Kansas State – This is the biggest game Kansas State has
played at home in most of our lifetimes.  “War Snyd” is the rallying
cry of the Wildcats in a nudge to Auburns in-state rivals.  Given that
both teams have had an extra week of preparation, expect tricks and
excitement…mostly from the guys in the orange and blue.  Auburn runs
away with it 38-17.

•       Florida at Alabama – While the Gators struggled to hold off
Kentucky, it must be noted that the Wildcats have improved greatly.
Also, that’s a game Florida loses last year so they’ve improved as
well.  Alabama is just now finding out its offensive leader, so now
must find an identity before the meat of the SEC schedule begins  With
no opponent to be caught looking ahead to, expect Bama to be focused.
But Saban’s defense is minus-2 in turnover margin, its worst since
2011. Incidentally, that’s also the last time they were mired in a
quarterback battle this long.  Bama hits their stride, 34-23

•       Clemson at Florida State – The Tigers hope to reverse their season’s
trajectory much like their rivals in Columbia.  To do that, though,
they will have to knock off a team that hasn’t lost in 18 tries with a
depleted roster.  Oh, and they’ll have to do it in Tallahassee.  Don’t
get your hopes up, Tigers.  The ‘Noles take it close, 45-40.

Click to share this post on Twitter Share on Twitter