Sep 30

Ten Things - Week Four

Posted By:Wes Mewbourne - Birmingham, AL  Tags:

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With one quarter of the season behind us, it may seem like we can
start getting a clear picture of how 2015 will shake out.  Don’t be
too sure, though.  With plenty of surprise undefeated teams, there’s
plenty of upsets still in store and it’s only a matter of time before
our preseason predictions are tomorrow’s punchline (you know, like
Arkansas challenging for the SEC West).  Week four gave us shootouts
and fourth quarter collapses.  But with every epic comeback there’s a
team reeling, and for every basketball score there are two defensive
coordinators shaking their heads in frustration.  All this and a
little more as we examine the week that was…



1. Undefeated and Unexpected – Let’s start on a high note.  Raise your
hand if you expected Indiana, Florida, Northwestern, Cal, Utah, or
even Memphis to be undefeated right now.  With the exception of
Indiana, each of these teams has two wins over teams in the power five
conferences.  And Indiana gets a chance to prove its worth when they
host the #1 team in the country.

2. From Top Ten To Unranked – Five years ago, Auburn and Oregon played
for the national title.  Since then, each team has replaced its head
coach and that new coach has played for (and lost) another national
championship.  Before the season began, both teams were sixth (Auburn)
and seventh (Oregon) according to the AP poll. Now, after two
disheartening losses, both teams find themselves on the outside of
national relevance and searching for an identity.  For the Ducks, it
may be as simple as getting quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. healthy.
Since only one of their losses was in conference, they can possibly
rebound.  The Tigers, meanwhile, have two division losses and no firm
answer to who is the answer at quarterback.

3. Basketball Season Starts Early – Be honest.  If you were told that
both Duke and Kentucky had solid wins over in-conference top-25
opponents, football does not come to mind.  But that’s exactly what
happened.  Kentucky not only knocked off a ranked opponent, but the
two-time defending SEC East champion Missouri.  That has to be a ray
of light for a team that hasn’t made a bowl game since 2010.  Duke,
meanwhile, knocked off the defending Coastal division champ and 20th
ranked Georgia Tech in a game where the Blue Devils took a 19-3 lead
in the first quarter and never looked back.

4. Playoff Four – If the field was set today, here are the four best
teams to include.

Ohio State – The defending national champs are still undefeated, so
they’re in until they drop one (or maybe two).  It’s still way too
early to start panicking about the quarterback “controversy”.

LSU – The most dominant-looking team in what is still considered by
many to be the strongest conference top to bottom.  The Tigers are
developing a serviceable game manager at quarterback (Brandon Harris)
and boast the country’s most prolific rusher, and Heisman front-runner
in Leonard Fournette.  Let’s be honest here.  Would you want to play
LSU right now?

Notre Dame – With the defense suffering some tough losses, the Irish
continue to build their win total.  A road trip to Clemson will be
their strongest test to date, and with a win the Irish might well end
up with a better ACC record than the eventual conference champion.

Utah – I wanted to go UCLA here, after the Bruins dismantled Arizona
on the road, but the loss of Miles Jack will be a heavy blow.  Enter
the Utes, who similarly dismantled an Oregon team that has spent a
fair amount of time as king of the hill.  Travis Wilson is turning
into a real weapon, and the only real threat to a conference title
appears to be hosting the Bruins on November 21st.

5. Who Gets Left Out? – It may be too early to start asking this
question, but with Notre Dame doing so well and the possibility for
one conference to have two teams in the playoff (I mean, it’s going to
happen eventually), it’s a worthwhile enterprise to consider who gets
left out and why.  The easy black sheep is the Big Twelve who just
last season boasted “One True Champion” before crowning TCU and Baylor
co-champions and watching both of them miss the playoffs.  The PAC-12
is just strong enough to cannibalize itself out of contention; truly,
the SEC could too, but until they ACTUALLY get left out there’s no
reason to see that happening.  Besides, the PAC-12 or the SEC could
just as easily wind up with two teams in.  Then there’s the ACC, which
is just one loss apiece for Clemson and Florida State from missing the
cut.

6. Ahead Of Schedule – When Jim Harbaugh was lured away from the NFL
to Michigan earlier this year, the clock was running as to when the
Wolverines would rise to challenge for the conference crown again.
After a loss at Utah to open the season, it looked as though there
might be some growing pains in year one.  Since that opening loss,
though, they’ve won their last three games by an average score of 31-5
– including the shutout of BYU last week.  A road trip to Maryland
this week should allow for additional stat padding, then both
Northwestern and Michigan State come to the Big House.  A ten win
season doesn’t seem so farfetched at this point.

7. Trending Up: Fournette’s Heisman Hopes – By now, you’ve no doubt
seen the footage from Hurricane Katrina where Fournette and his family
were stranded in the wake of the storm.  You’ve no doubt seen the Tom
Rinaldi-esque pieces all over the web about his rise to prominence and
return to Louisiana to play for LSU.  What you should see is his
bruising running style, which has helped him get the third best total
rushing yards (631) in 22 fewer carries than #2 Tyler Ervin and with
double the touchdowns (8) of #1 Jordan Howard.  If this keeps up, he
could very well be the first running back to win the Heisman since
Mark Ingram in 2009.

8. Trending Down: School initials “UT” – Two weeks ago, Texas lost on
a game-tying extra point to Cal.  As if that special teams gaffe
wasn’t bad enough, they followed it up with a fumbled snap on a punt
attempt that resulted in giving Oklahoma State the field position
necessary to kick the game winning field goal.  You gotta wonder
what’s happening in those special teams meetings this week.  Meanwhile
the other UT, Tennessee, lost their second game in three weeks after
leading by double digits in the fourth quarter as the let a 27-14 lead
over rival Florida turn into a 28-27 loss.  In fact, teams leading by
13 points or more in the fourth quarter are 188-3 this season – and
two of those losses (Oklahoma and at Florida) belong to the Vols.  Not
exactly the way fans expected season three of the Butch Jones era to
go.

9. SEC Rundown – Just a couple weeks ago, the conference was the butt
of many a national joke.  Now, though, a few surprises have emerged
that could make conference play much more interesting.  Florida and
Georgia look as though the Cocktail Party might once again provide the
East representative.  Also Kentucky, whose lone loss was a close one
to the Gators, already has two division wins.  With Auburn and
Arkansas relegated to playing the role of spoiler, Ole Miss and Texas
A&M look to be the primary contenders to LSU for the West.  For both
the Rebels and the Aggies, it would be their first division title for
either team since the Aggies won the Big Twelve in 1998 (the Rebels
have never won the SEC West).  Mississippi State, fresh off its win in
Auburn, looks to throw another hat in the ring as they travel to
College Station to face Texas A&M.

10. Three To See – If your football watching is limited, make sure to
catch these

#1 Ohio State at Indiana – The best game featuring a ranked team and
an unranked team.  The Buckeyes are 43rd nationally in rush defense,
while the Hoosiers have the nation’s leading rusher in Jordan Howard
(675 yards).  Indiana is horrible in pass defense, so this would be a
good time for Cardale Jones or JT Barrett to step up for the defending
national champs.  Watch the Buckeyes on upset alert in the second
half, but pull out the 40-31 win.

#13 Alabama at #8 Georgia – This is the game that Bulldogs coach Mark
Richt has a reputation for losing.  The last time these two teams
played was a close Bama win in the 2012 SEC Championship in Atlanta.
The last time the Tide rolled in between the hedges was 2008, where a
Georgia “black out” turned into a 31-0 Bama lead at the half.  Clearly
Georgia is hungry for the big win.  But Bama has something to prove of
their own.  After getting owned at home two weeks ago, and getting the
benefit of the doubt by Vegas spread makers for the past 72 games,
Bama finds itself once again in the position of underdog.  While it
won’t be as ugly as 2008, Bama puts together enough to roll home with
the victory.  The Tide wins a close one 27-24.

#6 Notre Dame at #12 Clemson – The Irish are looking to get their
fourth win over a power five conference foe, while the Tigers are
looking for their first signature win of the season (Louisville, while
a fellow ACC member, doesn’t count).  While the Irish have done a
masterful job plugging in new pieces to a patchwork defense, Clemson
boasts the ninth ranked D in the country – though, admittedly against
a weak schedule.  Brian Kelly will show off his best coaching
performance to date and legitimize the talk of Notre Dame making its
debut in the college football playoff, and Clemson will wonder what
went wrong in a 45-28 loss.



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