Ten Things - Week Two
Posted By:Wes Mewbourne - Birmingham, AL Tags:
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Ten Things, Week Two
It’s a fairly well-known saying that the biggest improvements come between weeks one and two. You’ve had a chance to see your team play against guys in different colored jerseys and a full week to adjust and progress your game plan. If this is true, then there’s cause for concern in some places (we’re looking at you, Clemson) and reason for hope in others (such as Tennessee). And while the second week of the season has been a day of cupcakes (18 ranked teams played teams outside the Power Five conferences), we were treated to a rare week two of drama (two of them lost in heartbreaking fashion). Throw in the revival of an old rivalry and we might as well say that the best opening week of football was followed by the best second week in recent memory.
- Rivalries Renewed (part 1) – If you were to ask for my favorite part of college football, I would tell you it’s the rivalry games by a mile. The passion of in-state rivals makes the sport a joy to watch. The annual match between Penn State and Pitt hasn’t been an annual event since 2000, when the series was halted over a disagreement over the location of future games. It was a sight to see, with Pitt driving 99 yards on their opening drive and holding fast down the stretch to secure a 42-39 win. Penn State must rebound as Temple, who beat them last year 27-10, comes to town. Pitt, meanwhile, travels to an Oklahoma State team that is looking to bounce back from a gut-wrenching loss (more on that later).
- Rivalries Renewed (part 2) –Another wonderful rivalry that was brought back this year is the Holy War (or as I call it, Church vs State) between BYU and Utah. Unlike Pitt and Penn State, this was a casualty of conference realignment, with Utah moving from the Mountain West to the PAC-12 and BYU going from the Mountain West to be an Independent (think Notre Dame of the farther west). The last four meetings, including this one, have been decided by a touchdown or less. This most recent game was probably the most crushing way to lose. With less than a minute remaining, BYU scored a touchdown to make the score 20-19 and elected to go for two. The play called? A quarterback draw. Utah’s blitz ate up quarterback Taysom Hill and the play never had a chance. Final score, Utah 20 BYU 19. Ouch.
- James Conner Is A Beast – Two years ago, Pitt running back James Conner was on his way to becoming the first underclassman to earn ACC Player of the Year honors. Last year, he was battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer. Last May, he was declared to be cancer-free. Saturday, he gashed the Penn State defense for 117 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. This coming one week after a two touchdown debut against Villanova. He’s a shining example of determination and perseverance. He knows that regardless of how many times he crosses the goal line or how many games Pitt puts in the W-column, he’s already won.
- Officials Suspended – First, it bears mentioning that no game is solely decided by any single play. There are typically 80-100 plays, counting both offense and defense, which can sway the outcome. That said, it’s likely a difficult truth for many Oklahoma State fans this week. After committing an intentional grounding on 4th down as the game clock expired Saturday, by official rules the game should have been over. The refs gave the visiting Central Michigan an untimed down. The resulting play was a feature on highlight shows across the country. Cooper Rush’s pass was fielded by receiver Jesse Kroll just inside the ten, and as he was tackled he lateraled to Corey Willis who just made it into the end zone as he was tackled. It was Central Michigan’s first win against a ranked team since 1991. It’s not quite the same level of a gaffe as the fifth down Colorado got in 1990, but don’t tell Cowboy fans that.
- Clemson Continues to Struggle –The opening week, Clemson played a close game on the road against a scrappy Auburn team and won by 6 points. Last weekend, they played a Troy team that shouldn’t have been within three touchdowns and won by the same margin. While their offense looked a little better (30 points is certainly better than 19), it’s concerning when the Tigers commit three turnovers and have mental errors like Ray-Ray McCloud letting the ball go before he crossed the goal line on a sure touchdown at the end of the first half. This isn’t the same team that went to the national championship game last year, and they’ll have to pick it up if they hope to return to that same form this year.
- Briles is On the Market? – For the first time since being removed as the coach at Baylor, Art Briles sat down for a one-on-one interview. While the circumstances are still suspect (we won’t rehash the situation in this space), it seems that there’s still enough of a cloud that larger programs will be scared off from him. If he really wants to get back to coaching, he may have to rebuild another program just like he did with the Bears.
- A Record Broken – Way out west, there’s a relative unknown running back that may well wind up in the Heisman race and leading his team to a New Year’s Six bowl. San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey had 281 rushing yards (including three touchdowns) that broke the school record for career rushing yards – previously held by NFL Hal of Famer Marshall Faulk. In just two games, he’s already got nearly four hundred yards and four touchdowns.
- Little 10 and 12 – Combined, the “Big” Ten and Big Twelve conferences have a 5-7 record against the other Power Five conferences. If not for Texas’ win over Notre Dame and Wisconsin’s win over LSU, neither conference would have what would be considered a marquee win. The Big Ten boasts the most ranked teams with five, but none of them have really played anyone of note yet, but they will (see below). The Big Twelve, meanwhile, is becoming known for falling apart down the stretch – Oklahoma scored just six points in the second half against Houston, TCU couldn’t seal the comeback against Arkansas, and the aforementioned Oklahoma State debacle. There’s plenty of time and opportunity for these conferences to improve their image, but for now it’s just not pretty.
- SEC Rundown – After a sorely disappointing first week, the SEC kind of bounced back. Arkansas stood tall in finishing off TCU after almost blowing another double digit lead in the fourth quarter, and Tennessee had an impressive showing against Virginia Tech in the first ever game at a NASCAR track. Auburn found its offense in drubbing Arkansas State. Florida looked as dominant as a defending division champ should against Kentucky. Just don’t mention Georgia nearly laying an egg against Nicholl’s State. Or Vandy. Or South Carolina. Or Kentucky.
ThreeFour to See – Typically, this spot is reserved for the three games most worthy of your attention. “Three to See” just rolls off the tongue. But this week, there is just no way to choose just three from the four games involving ranked teams. There’s just too much awesome here, and that’s not taking into account the under the radar gems like Michigan-Colorado, North Dakota St at Iowa, Miami at Appalachian St, or Texas A&M-Auburn. Hope your couch is comfy.
- #2 Florida State at #10 Louisville – This is the first big test for up and comer Louisville and their all-everything quarterback Lamar Jackson. Will the Seminoles take this step toward reclaiming the ACC title? Will clips from this game be on Jackson’s Heisman highlight reel? And when’s the last time you saw two top ten teams square off in the first wave of games on a Saturday morning? The Cardinals ride the home field advantage to get their first signature win, 36-31.
- #1 Alabama at #19 Ole Miss – A little shine fell off this matchup when the Rebels choked away a 22 point lead against Florida State in the first week. But if the Crimson Tide have an Achilles’ heel, it’s been Ole Miss. Last year was their worst performance under Saban since his first season in Tuscaloosa, as Bama gave up multiple huge plays on defense and surrendered FIVE turnovers. If the Tide hopes to repeat, it starts with getting the Rebel Black Bear off their back. The Tide rolls, but barely, 29-24.
- #12 Michigan State at #18 Notre Dame – The Fighting Irish are fighting for their playoff lives. After getting edged out at Texas a couple weeks ago, a signature win over a strong Big Ten team would go a long way to rebuilding their playoff resume. The Spartans, meanwhile, are just looking for another win and are happily flying relatively under the radar in Ohio State’s shadow. Notre Dame shines in the win, 45-30.
- #3 Ohio State at #14 Oklahoma – Another Big Ten team playing an opponent that is desperate for a win. Oklahoma was a popular pick for the Big Twelve conference crown and the playoff. Two losses in three games will most certainly render the latter option moot. The Buckeyes are looking to justify their lofty ranking after beating up on cupcakes for two weeks. Oklahoma scraps and gets a lucky break to win 31-30.
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