Sep 22

Ten Things - Week Three

Posted By:Wes Mewbourne - Birmingham, AL  Tags:

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One would think that as more football is played, the endgame picture
becomes clearer.  For the 2015 season, however, it seems that it’s
been more akin to walking through a creek – the more you stomp around,
the cloudier the water gets.  The teams at the top look less than
dominant.  Snap judgments are made that could be rendered moot as
early as Week 4. Forget who’s going to make it to the playoff – who’s
going to win each conference?  While we jump to conclusions, let’s
remember that anointing championships and waving white flags at this
stage is less accurate than naming the winner of a game after the coin
flip.  And with that in mind we look back at the week that was to see
what sense we can make of all this in this week’s Ten Things.

1. Goliath Stumbles… - ….but he doesn’t fall.  Ohio State looked to
cruise from the second half of Virginia Tech on Labor Day up until
their November 21st showdown with Michigan State.  But after a
lackluster performance against Hawaii last week, The Buckeyes needed a
pick six to secure the win against Northern Illinois.  What seemed
like an embarrassment of riches at quarterback two weeks ago turned in
a 136 yard, 3 interception performance.  While Western Michigan will
give them a chance to work some kinks out, the following week is a
road trip against suddenly dangerous Indiana.


2.  Top Ten Upsets – The shuffluing of top teams continued, but the
difference this week was the losses to teams outside the top ten
(Auburn dropped after the close win against JSU, and Oregon dropped
after losing to Michigan State).  Plenty of people saw Ole Miss
topping Alabama, but not as many saw Stanford handling USC so easily
(especially after the Cardinal’s opening week loss at Northwestern).
Who’s next?  Will Ole Miss have a letdown against Vanderbilt?  Will
Notre Dame run out of gas against UMass?  Or perhaps UCLA falls in
their trip to Tuscon.


3. Irish Fight Hard – Brian Kelly’s team has had to deal with more
injuries than most, yet was still able to hold Georgia Tech’s option
attack to just seven points in the first three quarters.  Meanwhile
their offense, led by backup quarterback DeShone Kizer, piled up 30
points en route to a much needed and confidence building win.  The
only ranked opponents left between now and Thanksgiving are Clemson,
which looked less than impressive Thursday against Louisville, and
USC, which lost as a near double digit favorite this past week.  This
Notre Dame team could be a legitimate playoff contender if it can stay
healthy.


4. UAB’s Feel Good Stories – While the Blazers may have shut down the
football team this year, it’s not like they dropped off the map.  Jake
Ganus, the Chelsea, AL quarterback-turned-safety-turned-linebacker has
found his way to Georgia where he is tied for third on the team with
16 tackles.  (Side note: after the Bulldogs routed South Carolina over
the weekend, he pulled the ol’ propose at midfield ploy and got
himself a fiancée. In Big Ten country, you’ll find the nation’s
leading rusher – UAB transfer Jordan Howard.  The junior from
Gardendale, AL is the first RB of the season to top 500 yards (507 on
the season).  It’s no surprise that Indiana finds themselves in the
position to be 4-0 when #1 Ohio State rolls into town in a couple
weeks.


5. Pat Fitzgerald’s Got Jokes – After a 19-10 win over Duke (and the
home win over Stanford to open the season), Northwestern has run their
record against their academic peers (specifically, Stanford, Duke,
Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, and Boston College) to 8-0 since ’08.  This
was a stat that coach Fitzgerald decided to share on Twitter in a
nifty little graphic declaring themselves to be the “#1 Academic
Football School in the nation”.  Good form, coach; just don’t forget
about the other football schools in your own conference.


6. Trending up: Big Twelve Chaos – The conference boasts four teams in
the top 25, and another three undefeated, but none of them are
garnering much confidence.  TCU is the only team to rival Notre Dame
in the injury department, though they’ve handled it well thus far.
Oklahoma followed up a close win at Tennessee with allowing 38 points
to Tulsa, which runs basically the same offense as Baylor.  Speaking
of the Bears, allowing a combined 52 points to SMU and Lamar won’t get
them any defensive accolades.  Oklahoma State simply hasn’t had much
of a schedule yet, but will prove themselves this week at Texas.  The
others – Kansas State, Texas Tech and West Virginia – have plenty of
opportunities to assert themselves.  Conference championship game or
no, this will be one of the more entertaining conferences to watch.


7. Trending Down: Alabama Football Teams – Before the season began,
Alabama and Auburn were ranked third and sixth in the country.  It
seemed there would be another Iron Bowl to determine the SEC West and
the conference representative in the top slate of postseason games.
After LSU raced to a 24-0 lead over the Tigers and Ole Miss held off
not one but two late game rallies in Tuscaloosa, both teams find
themselves in the role of afterthought.  Auburn has dropped from the
rankings completely while Alabama is 12th and still struggling to find
an identity.  It’s not too late to turn things around, but it’s
looking more likely that the road to Atlanta will not go through the
state of Alabama.


8. ACC Makes Some Noise – Five games matched ACC teams with the Big
Ten counterparts.  On this occasion, the ACC snagged three wins (Va
Tech over Purdue, Miami over Nebraska, and North Carolina over
Illinois).  Add to that the conference flag bearers Florida State and
Clemson winning, and the conference that was largely overshadowed by
bigger stories is quietly amassing a nice rebuttal to future arguments
about conference strength.


9. SEC Rundown – Could it be that we’ve been so used to Alabama and
Auburn being at the top (they’ve won five of the last six titles), it
seems there is a shift occurring that has taken most everyone by
surprise.  LSU, long known for their quarterback struggles and near
misses, looked close to their 2011 dominance in a 45-21 win over
Auburn.  Ole Miss has shown that they are more than just a flash in
the pan, putting up 433 yards on a Saban/Smart defense and forcing
five turnovers in a dominating performance in Tuscaloosa.  Georgia
looks to be the class of the East after a 52-20 wallop given to South
Carolina.  Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Mississippi State all bounced
back after losses to dine on cupcake opponents.  Florida grabbed its
first conference win under first year coach Jim McElwain, 14-9 over
Kentucky.


10. Three to See – The best viewing options will be out west this week.


A. #3 TCU at Texas Tech – The Red Raiders are fresh off of whipping
Arkansas’s tail (in a manner of speaking), and looking to legitimize
themselves in a crowded conference by notching their first win over a
top 5 program since 2012.  TCU is looking to survive another week
after losing yet another defensive starter for the season.  After
surrendering over 500 yards and 37 points to SMU, the Horned Frogs
look to have a long day trying to stop the Air Raid offense of Texas
Tech.  Tech pulls the upset, 48-44.


B. #18 Utah at #13 Oregon – The Ducks are looking to rebound with the
return of QB Vernon Adams Jr from injury with a signature
inter-conference win.  The Utes are looking for their first win over a
ranked team in their last four tries.  This is the type of game that
the Ducks lose once in four of the last five seasons, but not this
time.  Oregon stands firm and Adams shines in his return, 48-30.


C. #9 UCLA at #16 Arizona – The Bruins are fresh off their comeback
win against BYU this week and looking to solidify its grasp on the
PAC-12 South.  Arizona, meanwhile, is ready to defend their division
title and earn a place in the playoff discussion with their first win
against UCLA since 2011.  The Bruins prove too much and pull away
late, 38-24.



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