Late Night Drive: Oregon Establishing Themselves As Elite, Gators Keep Impressing, Seminoles, Irish and Wildcats With BIG Statements & More

1. Alabama W 40-7 vs Florida Atlantic: At this point, the Alabama season is about two football games. The trip to LSU, and then the SEC Championship game against South Carolina, Florida, or Georgia, all of whom the Tide avoid in the regular season. With Ole Miss at home next week, it will be more of the same for the Tide. Convincing routes in which the other team wonders why they even had to show up.

2.  LSU W 12-10 at Auburn: It certainly wasn’t pretty, but it was a road win in the SEC, so there’s that. Quarterback problems of 2011 were supposed to be remedied by Zach Mettenberger, but it didn’t seem so against a shaky Auburn defense. LSU became the first team to not score at least 26 points on Auburn, but ultimately it didn’t matter as the LSU defense did what is expected of it, and that’s dominate. Kiehl Frazier’s terrible play at the quarterback position for Auburn though certainly helped. Auburns loss was the third of the season, the first time they’ve ever had three losses before October, and they’ve failed to score at least 20 points in all three losses..

3.  Oregon- W 49-0 vs Arizona: So Arizona thought they were ready to be a contender in the Pac 12? Yeah, about that. I don’t think it’s too big a stretch right now to say that Oregon is the second best team in the country. Nobody in America can do what they do on offense, and have been doing, for years. Another day of nearly 500 yards of offense is just another typical Oregon game. And the only reason they didn’t reach 500 was good field position gained from five turnovers, that included two interceptions brought back for touchdowns. The Ducks get Washington State and Washington in back to back weeks, and the damage they may inflict on scoreboards the next two weeks is frightening.

4.  Florida State-  W 49-37 vs Clemson: Guess who’s back, back again….. It may start feeling like the 90s around here with Florida State playing the way they are. Against Wake Forest they answered the bell against a team that had previously given them fits and dominated the way a national title contender should. Saturday night, despite falling behind by 14 early in the second half, they spent the rest of the night imposing their will on the hapless Tigers defense as a 35-3 run was shades of 1990s dominance all over again. Offensively and defensively, the second half was a thing of beauty for the Seminoles, who likely won’t be tested again until they travel to Virginia Tech in November.

5.  West Virginia- W 31-21 vs Maryland: It wasn’t quite the performance expected, as the offense could only gain 25 yards rushing, but Geno Smith’s 338 yards and three touchdowns thru the air were enough for West Virginia to eventually put away a rather pesky Maryland team. The Mountaineers next week make their Big 12 debut against Baylor, and have to be licking their chops at the thoughts of going up against that defense.

6.  Georgia- W 48-3 vs Vanderbilt- Georgia throughly dominated the Commodores, having now outscored Vanderbilt 91-3 in their last two meetings in Athens. Aaron Murray is playing as well as any quarterback in the country, and the three headed monster at tailback of Keith Marshall, Todd Gurley and Ken Malcome may be as good as any backfield in college football. And just think, two of the three best players on the defense have yet to see the field. The sky may be the limit for this team.

7.  Oklahoma- L 24-19 vs Kansas State: A lackluster opening performance against UTEP, followed by a game against Florida A&M that answered little, Oklahoma was still a bit of an enigma coming into this battle with Kansas State. An enigma they are no longer. Twenty-seven rushing attempts yielded only 88 yards and Oklahoma lost the battle of the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. They have another week off before they play 9 straight games, eight in conference with the only one out of it being a visit from Notre Dame. The Sooners desperately need to get the offensive woes worked out if they’re going to have any chance to overcome the hole they’ve dug themselves early in the season.

8.  Ohio State- W 29-15 vs UAB: Despite being outgained 403-347, and yielding more first downs than they obtained, Ohio State was able to ice away a 14 point victory over a feisty UAB team that led 9-0 at one point, despite failing to score an offensive touchdown.

9.  Texas- Bye

10.Clemson- L 49-37 at Florida State: For about 33 minutes it really looked like this wasn’t the same old Clemson. They’d gone on the road and jumped on top of Florida State 28-14. I guess that’s when they looked at the tiger paw on their helmets and remembered who they were, and that defense is optional, and so is blocking when it matters. Florida State blitzed Clemson 35-3 after that to run away and hide. That Florida State didn’t score more on the Tigers was only because of a pair of turnovers and 11 penalties. In Clemson’s last two games against ranked opponents, they’ve allowed 1,256 yards. Yes, you read that right.

11.Stanford– Bye

12.Notre Dame-W 13-6 vs Michigan: The Irish only had 239 yards of offense, and they turned the ball over twice. And yet, they still came away victorious over an overrated Michigan team who helped the cause by committing six turnovers. While the Notre Dame offense still needs to find a way to get into another gear for this team to be truly dangerous, there is no denying how well they play defense. Michigan State and Michigan combined to score just nine points in the last two weeks. The Irish will get a week off before likely being in the top ten for the Catholics vs Cons battle with Miami in Chicago.

13.USC W 27-9 vs California: Matt Barkley played poorly again, throwing for under 200 yards and also throwing two interceptions, but it didn’t matter. The Trojan defense was more than enough to win against California, and if that wasn’t enough, Silas Redd added 158 yards and a touchdown just to further cement the point. The Trojans will get a week off before taking on arguably, three of the worst BCS conference teams in the country with Utah, Washington and Colorado. That should get them back in position to be close to the top five by the time they welcome Oregon on November, 3rd. Jeff Tedford’s tenure at California definitely seems to be in great question now. The loss was their third in four games, and they’re now 0-3 against FBS teams.

14.South Carolina- W 31-10 vs Missouri: I keep trying to convince you that South Carolina is overrated. I think I’m going to have to back off that stand now. The performance by Connor Shaw was phenomenal on Saturday, and again, the defense was completely suffocating. Missouri was just 2-12 on third downs, and that won’t win many SEC games. South Carolina has allowed in four games just 39 points. Yes, that’s less than 10 per game.

15.Kansas State- W 24-19 at Oklahoma: The Wildcats had this one circled, and using a formula similar to what Stanford used to beat USC, went on the road and knocked off a top ten Sooner squad that was expected to be a national title threat. The passing game never got going, but a steady, persistent, and tough running game eventually enabled the Wildacts to add on a late touchdown, and then run out the clock to ice the victory. John Hubert and Collin Klein combined for 209 yards and one score a piece in the victory. The Wildcats get a much needed bye before drawing Kansas and Iowa State. It’s now very possible that by the time they go to Morgantown they will be ranked in the top five.

16.Florida– W 38-0 vs Kentucky: It wasn’t an overly sexy victory, but it was thorough and complete and leaves the Gators feeling as about themselves as they arguably could heading into the bye week that will precede the LSU game in The Swamp in two weeks. The defense continues to be stifling, and the offense has now scored 37 and 38 points in their last two games, both SEC battles. Joker Phillips could be on his last legs at Kentucky, as at 1-3, there don’t appear too many more winnable games, and a third consecutive losing season seems inevitable.

17.Louisville- W 28-21 at Florida International: Teddy Bridgewater didn’t play nearly as well as he had been this season, and the Panthers proved to be a stiffer test than expected, but the Cardinals pushed through for a hard fought victory over a pesky foe from a surprisingly competitive Sun Belt conference. A very disappointing Southern Miss team awaits Louisville next week before they prep for their conference slate, at which point they should be 5-0.

18.Boise State- W 7-6 vs BYU: In what was truly one of the worst football games to witness in recent memory, Boise improved to 65-2 at home since the beginning of 2002. But they sure didn’t do it in the way we are accustomed to seeing. Offensively the transition form Kellen Moore has not gone well, as against Michigan State and BYU, they’ve scored just 20 points, and zero offensive touchdowns. They’re going to need to score if they’re going to beat Fresno State or Nevada to win the conference.

19.Mississippi State- W 30-10 vs South Alabama: On a day when the Bulldog offense struggled, the defense and special teams picked up the slack. Nickoe Whitley and Johnathan Banks combined for 113 interception return yards, and Jameon Lewis averaged 45 yards on two kick returns to give more than enough cushion for the Mississippi State defense to protect. And protect it did, again. Saturday night marked the third time in four weeks the Bulldogs held their opponents to 10 points or fewer.

20.TCU- W 27-7 vs Virginia: Three games, thirteen points allowed. That’s it. Casey Pachal threw for over 300 yards with three touchdowns for the Horned Frogs who won their 11th straight game, the longest current winning streak in the country. The Frogs will play SMU for the Iron Skillet next week, so that mark should run to at least 12.

21.UCLA- L 27-20 vs Oregon State: Just as we were ready to pronounce UCLA legitimate contenders in the Pac 12, the running game that had carried them a 3-0 start abandoned them thanks in no small part to the stout Oregon State defense. The loss essentially negated anything UCLA gained from the USC loss to Stanford. On the other side though Oregon State moved to 3-0 as Sean Mannion threw for 379 yards in a game the Beavers were in control of throughout.

22.Michigan State- W 23-7 vs Eastern Michigan: It’s a really good thing the Spartans have a dominant defense, otherwise, they might lose ten games this year. As is, due mostly to the inadequacies of the Big Ten, Sparty is still a factor in the conference championship picture, but the offense has to get going. Eastern Michigan had allowed 37, 31, and 54 points in their first three games, all losses, but the Spartans could only muster 23. Not a good sign with Ohio State next on the schedule.

23.Georgia Tech- L 42-36 vs Miami: This was one of those losses that can reshape an entire program. Having stormed back from 19 down in the first half to lead by 17 with 36 unanswered points, things looked great on the flats. Then for the second time in four games, the defense choked away a lead in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Suddenly the seat Paul Johnson is on is getting very hot, going 16-16 in your last 32 games will do that.

24.Arizona- L 49-0 at Oregon: Arizona’s stay in the top 25 will be short lived, and for them to make a return, they’re going to have to impress a lot of people in a big way. Their performance on national television against Oregon is the kind of thing people will hold against you for a good long while. The fortunate thing for Rich Rodriguez’s team is that with Oregon State and Stanford next, the Wildcats could help burry the memory of the flop in Eugene with a couple of victories. But for that to happen, scoring when they’re in the redzone, and not throwing the ball to the other team would help.

25.Rutgers- W 35-26 at Arkansas: The mess of a season continues for Arkansas as they join Auburn in the ranks of 1-3 SEC teams. The Razorbacks have back to back road games coming up before coming home for perhaps the only three really winnable games they have left on the schedule. For Rutgers, despite the fact that Cobi Hamilton obliterated their secondary to the tune of over 300 yards receiving, they enter their bye week 4-0, with four of their next five games coming at home. Gary Nova has played better and better each and every week, so the Scarlet Knights have to feel pretty good forward

Others

Tennessee- W 47-26 vs Akron: Has there ever been a less impressive 21 point victory? I’m not sure I’ve seen one. The leash on Derek Dooley just got pulled a little bit tighter. The Georgia game in Athens next week may not be a must win, per say, but the Volunteers absolutely cannot afford to go to Athens and get blown out, not if they don’t want to be making a coaching change after the year.

Virginia Tech W 37-0 vs Bowling Green: After laying an egg in a shocking loss (though not to this guy here) to Pittsburgh last week Virginia Tech needed to come out and get a solid, complete win. Mission accomplished. The loss to Pittsburgh eliminated the Hokies from all national title talk, but a loss to Cincinnati would be a huge blow to the teams confidence, which might undermine their quest to win the ACC championship.

Northwestern- W 38-7 vs South Dakota: Venric Mark ran for 117 yards and three touchdowns as the Wildcats improved to 4-0. After allowing 41 points to Syracuse in the season opener, the Wildcats have yielded just 33 in their subsequent three games. With Indiana coming up at home, Northwestern should be 5-0 this time next week.

Nebraska- W 73-7 vs Idaho State: There really isn’t too much you can tell from a 66 point beating of the Bengals, and really, there’s not been much you can tell from any of the Nebraska victories thus far in 2012. That all should change in the next two weeks when Wisconsin comes to Lincoln, and then the Cornhuskers travel to Columbus.

Baylor– W 47-42 at Louisiana Monroe: Questions about whether or not Baylor could survive post RGIII may not be answered yet due to the lack of major competition, but the early returns are definitely promising. The Bears have averaged over 50 points per game to start the season, but the level of competition will get really amped up next week when they are West Virginia’s homecoming date. The Mountaineers will be eager to get off on the right foot in their new conference, so after next week, we’ll know much more whether or not Baylor can still compete without the Heisman winning quarterback.

Missouri- L 31-10 at South Carolina: Missouri’s first road SEC game didn’t go any better than their first home conference game, as the Tigers were simply outclassed by South Carolina. At this point they’ve got to start wondering if their run of seven consecutive bowl appearances is in jeopardy. Suddenly the Central Florida game in Orlando next week becomes very, very important.

Ohio- W 44-10 vs Norfolk State: The Bobcats keep things rolling after their scare against Marshall the previous week. With Massachusetts, Buffalo, and Akron the next three games on the schedule, Ohio should be 7-0 at the bye week and having established a presence in the top 25.

Cincinnati- Bye

Since the season opening loss to Florida, Texas A&M has bounced back nicely, scoring 70 points in a win over South Carolina State, marking a combined score of 118-16 by which they’ve won the past two weeks.  Also in the SEC West, Ole Miss continues to show they can score points, and lots of them, as ten Rebels combined to rush for 303 yards in the 39-0 win over an atrocious Tulane team.

There may no less an impressive 3-1 team in all of college football than Wisconsin. Freshmen quarterback Joel Stave went 12/17 for 210 yards in his first career start in the 37-26 win over UTEP, but the loss of Montee Ball to injury might be the more lasting result from the win.  The change at quarterback seemed to help an offense that only scored 49 points in its first three games, including just 23 in two games against FBS teams. In two wins, Illinois has allowed seven points, total. In two losses, they’ve allowed 97, including 52 in their 52-24 loss to Louisiana Tech on Saturday. After losing their first two games of the season, Penn State has ridden a familiar formula, stout defense, to two consecutive victories after their 24-13 defeat of Temple in what was perhaps Temple’s best chance to beat Penn State for the first time since 1941. Michigan now stands at 2-2, and if anyone still thinks Denard Robinson is a legitimate Heisman candidate, or that this team remotely resembles a top 25 football team, you can probably quit reading now. On the opposite end of that spectrum is a 4-0 Minnesota team who beat Syracuse 17-10. Three of the Gophers victories have been by seven points oor les, but after successive 3-9 seasons, starting 4-0 is a refreshing change in Minneapolis. They get their first conference game next week with an extremely disappointing Iowa team who was defeated 32-31 by a Central Michigan team that was 2-31 all time on the road against BCS schools.

North Carolina State has quietly shaken off an ugly showing in the Georgia Dome against Tennessee to start the season and won three straight games, based mostly off the strength of its defense. Their trip to south Florida next week to play Miami suddenly has some more intrigue, as both have shown signs of life that they might can be a spoiler in the expected Hokie/Seminole ACC party. The Hurricanes played two phenomenal quarters against Georgia Tech, that sandwiched two terrible ones. It will be interesting to see which team shows up next week. Maryland was much more competitive than expected against Virginia Tech, and the Terrapins schedule sets up in a way that they could potentially win their first 5 conference games, especially if the defense continues to play solid. Next week Duke and Wake Forest will square off in a game more important than you might think. On the strength of their 49-37 win over Army, Wake Forest will be seeking a 4-1 start against a Duke team looking to do the same after breezing past Memphis 38-14. Virginia continues to disappoint, mustering only 7 points in a 27-7 loss to TCU. After giving up 56 points to Georgia Tech the week before, they can’t be looking forward to playing Louisiana Tech next week, a Bulldog team that has scored over 50 points in all three games this year.

Arizona State has to be kicking themselves for the loss to Missouri last week in a game that they easily should have come away victoriously from. After completely destroying Utah 37-7, the Sun Devils moved to 3-1, having outscored their opponents 145-27 in their three victories. And Colorado did the impossible, they won a football game, a 35-34 squeaker over a Washington State team that was seeking its first three game win streak since 2003.

What began as a promising season for South Florida has taken a complete turn for the worse. After losing at home to Rutgers, they dropped a road game to Ball State and now have to host Florida State next week. The Skip Holtz experiment does not seem to be working in Tampa.

The Nevada running attack continues to be among the country’s best, and it was paced by Stefphon Johnson and his 170 yards and 6 touchdowns as Nevada steam rolled through Hawaii, 69-24. The one point loss to South Florida may come back to seriously haunt the Wolfpack, much the way a loss to Hawaii did in 2010. Fresno State was unable to beat Tulsa despite returning two interceptions for touchdowns. Tulsa meanwhile won their third straight game with the 27-26 victory. UNLV and Wyoming each notched their first wins of the season. The Rebels downed Air Force who fell to 1-2 in their quest for a fifth straight winning season. Wyoming’s victim was Idaho, and its becoming apparent Rob Akkey is not going to last in Moscow. San Jose State is off to a strong 3-1 start thanks to David Fales to Chandler Jones 14 yard touchdown pass with under a minute left to defeat San Diego State 38-34. Utah State has continued their impressive start to the season as well  with a 31-19 victory over Colorado State. After having won just one game in each of the past three years, under former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie, New Mexico has already doubled their win total from last year with a 27-14 victory over New Mexico State, snapping a three game losing streak to the Aggies. Illinois turned the ball over six times, and Colby Cameron threw four touchdowns in a 52-24 laugher for Louisiana Tech, who has topped 50 points in each of their first three games, all wins.

Southern Miss may have begun the year expecting to contend for a second straight conference championship, but that may be nothing but a pipe dream. Replacing Larry Fedora has not been easy for Ellis Johnson as the Golden Eagles allowed over 40 points for the second time in three games while getting run over by Western Kentucky 42-17. The Hilltoppers are now 3-1 and positioned to make the first bowl in school history. The game of the day however may have been the overtime victory by Marshall over Rice 54-51.

The MAC conference has been most impressive this year, and that continued in week four. Western Michigan improved to 2-2, the only losses having been road games against Big Ten teams, after beating Connecticut 30-24, serving notice that the Broncos will indeed be a factor in the MAC. Northern Illinois joined in the fun of beating BCS conference teams, topping Kansas 30-23, and being a one point loss to Iowa away from being 4-0. Toledo also moved to 3-1 after beating Coastal Carolina, while Central Michigan did what Northern Illinois could not, and beat Iowa 32-31. The surprise team at 3-1 though has to Ball State who after an upset over South Florida only has a loss to Clemson blemishing their record, despite having played a team from the Big East, Big Ten, and the ACC.

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