Ten Things - Week Four
Posted By:Wes Mewbourne - Birmingham, AL Tags:
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The cupcakes are just about gone, and the meat of the schedule looms. Week Four brought plenty of action, both on and off the field. Top teams faltered, giving us a glimpse into just how difficult a time the College Football Playoff selection committee will have in a few months. Entire conferences are shifting trajectories (with one division making history). The inaugural year for the playoff has not lacked for drama. Let’s take a look back at the week that was in this week’s Ten Things…
Shaky At The Top – It seems that once the year gets going in earnest, there is sure to be a program or two that has difficulty adjusting. This week, every top ten team that took the field seemed a bit lackluster (okay, not Texas A&M). The current number one team, Florida State, needed the game gift-wrapped to them via Clemson. Oregon needed the help of officials in the most egregious no-call of the weekend to fend off PAC-12 bottom feeder Washington State. Alabama did it’s best to dig its own grave, giving the ball over to Florida four times at home. LSU pulled an LSU, now a Les Miles tradition. Even Oklahoma waited until the fourth quarter to wake up against West Virginia. It doesn’t seem like anyone wants to be up there right now. And this is when the wheat is separated from the chaff, and playoff cases are made (or dismissed).
Playoff Teams – If the teams were picked today…
Oklahoma – At this point in the season, the Sooners look like the best team in the country. They have beaten two Power 5 conference teams (at West Virginia, Tennessee), have been one of the most balanced teams (891 rushing yards, 1,089 passing), and have a stout defense that’s tied nationally at eight interceptions so far. They aren’t perfect, but they are certainly closer than anyone else right now.
Texas A&M – The Aggies are still living off their week one demolition of South Carolina – a victory that looks better with every Gamecock win. Since then, they’ve played lowly Lamar, Rice, and SMU though they have beaten all of them by an average 33 points each. This week, they get a test against Arkansas in a tougher-than-expected divisional game to see if they are for real.
Florida State – Like the rest of the country outside of Tallahassee, I really don’t want to see the Seminoles here right now. But as of now, character and integrity are not standards the playoff committee will use in evaluating programs and they are still the undefeated reigning champs. They will be here until they lose.
Oregon – The Ducks nearly fell out completely, but despite their issues on the O-line a hard fought win on the road shouldn’t drop them all the way out. This is still the team with arguably the best single win (Michigan State, 46-27). Every team will have matchup issues, and Washington State capitalized with seven sacks. If it’s a speed bump, then Mariotta and Co. will keep things rolling. If not, there are plenty of chances for opposing teams to know the Ducks out of contention.
Florida State Quagmire – Rarely does space in Ten Things get used to criticize teams for off-field issues, but one has to wonder what in the world is going on down there. Just this week, a certain quarterback was seen being quite obscene – startling in its own right, but downright baffling in the wake of the rape allegations at the center of a renewed Title IX investigation. Then there was a suspension for the first half. Then Friday, the suspension was extended to the full game for undisclosed reasons. And to top it off, said quarterback shows up to the pre-game warm up in full pads. Here’s hoping whatever the issue is gets resolved, and soon. When Deion Sanders tells you you’ve crossed a line, it’s time to change.
LSU Needs Les Cowbell – For all the quirks of the Mad Hatter, no stat was more impressive than his home winning percentage. The only two times they had lost previously included #1 teams. Dan Mullen hadn’t beaten the Tigers in five tries. That changed Saturday as Mississippi State ran up a 34-10 lead. For a team that’s been as opportunistic as LSU has with Les Miles at the helm, to see them lose with half as many turnovers and penalties as their opponent is just a fluke of, well…Les Miles proportions.
Beginning Of The End For Brady Hoke – Perhaps it should come as no surprise, but Michigan’s loss to Utah – even on the road – was backbreaking. Against Utah and Notre Dame the Wolverines turned the ball over eight times and averaged less than 300 yards a game, all while scoring a combined ten points. It’s sad to think such a storied program finds itself in such hard times, going back now almost a decade. Hoke just hasn’t been able to get any consistency from his players, and at this point there’s no point changing coordinators. In a watered-down Big Ten, Hoke’s only chance for another year is a division title – and maybe even that wouldn’t be enough.
Conner Halliday for Heisman? – Don’t laugh. Mike Leach is known for prolific quarterbacks, and has gone on record to say that Halliday is the best he’s ever coached. Currently leading the nation with a ridiculous 1,901 yards and 16 touchdowns through the air, Halliday hit his stride against Oregon with 436 yards, four touchdowns, and zero picks. In a conference that tends to lean more toward offense, this could be a record year for him – with a trip to New York at the end of it.
Trending Up: Big Ten – Trying out a few new (potentially) regular topics this week with Trending Up and Trending Down. First up, Trending Up with the Big Ten. In the first three weeks, they were an atrocious 23-13 overall and 1-10 against Power Five schools. This past week, fortune smiled upon the conference as they went 12-1 overall and 4-1 against Power Five competition, highlighted by Indiana’s surprising upset at defending SEC East champ Missouri. Also of note, Bo Pelini and Nebraska scored a major win (relatively speaking) over Miami 41-31 and newcomer Maryland downed previous ACC rival Syracuse 34-20.
Trending Down: ACC – As bad as the Big Ten looked the first few weeks, the ACC managed to cram all of that into one weekend. Besides losing to the Big Ten in three head-to-head games (there was also Iowa over Pitt), darkhorse hopeful Virginia lost to BYU, and East Carolina would lead the Coastal right now after trouncing North Carolina. With Florida State rapidly becoming America’s most hated team, Clemson choked away numerous chances to supplant the Seminoles at the top of the division. Thank goodness for Maine and Florida-International, who gave the conference some 30-point wins for a silver lining.
SEC Rundown – The polarization between divisions continues, with the West placing an astonishing SIX teams in the top 17 of this week’s AP poll. Call it favoritism, but West teams are 22-0 against teams not in their division and winning those games by an average 34 points. But the attrition will come, and fans will be all the better for it because there will be some gigantic games. Don’t be surprised if two playoff teams ultimately come from this division.
Three To See
#11 UCLA at #15 Arizona State – The fun gets started on Thursday for the second week in a row, but it’s lost a bit of luster. The Sun Devils will be without starting quarterback Taylor Kelly, and Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley is up in the air at the moment. Either way, it’s a must win for both teams if they want to keep division title and playoff hopes alive. The home crowd is too much for the visitors, ASU wins in the upset 31-27
#1 Florida State at NC State – Sure, the Seminoles steamrolled the Wolfpack last year 49-17. Sure NC State hasn’t played anyone of note. But the Seminoles are putting out fires off the field, and each of the last two times Florida State traveled up to Raleigh they returned home with a loss (17-16 in ’12 and 28-24 in ’10). They’ll need the same tenacity on defense to pull it off a third straight time. The Pack falls 38-20
Arkansas at #6 Texas A&M – This looked like a gimme before the season started. Then the Razorbacks gave Auburn all they could handle and followed that up with three wins by an average 41 points. All the Aggies have done is light up the scoreboard and win. Get ready for some high intensity, high scoring, basketball on grass. Smart money is on the over, whatever it is. Texas A&M wins it close, 52-48
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