Tag Archives: Big East

Noles Ready to Make a Statement; Can Arizona and Kansas State be for Real?; All About Tigers in the SEC & More in Week 4

Must See:

Michigan at #11 Notre Dame- It doesn’t matter how bad Michigan may look against a quality opponent, at the slightest hint of success, here they come like a bad case of herpes right back again in the national spotlight. I’m not buying just yet.

Now, I’m not saying Michigan is a bad football team, or even that they won’t win this football game. What I am saying is that I don’t think they’ve done anything to prove they’re a top 25 team just yet. That Air Force team they let hang around, at home, in a game where they should have been making a statement, it’s the most inexperienced team in the nation.

While the Fighting Irish aren’t exactly coming in with senior starters at every position, they are far more equipped, from a talent and experience perspective, than Air Force to win in Ann Arbor.

One probably can’t expect Notre Dame’s defense to play as well against Michigan as it has to start the season, because let’s face it, Michigan State and Purdue are anything but offensive jugernauts, and the difference between Denard Robinson at Michigan and Andrew Maxwell at Michigan State is night and day.

However, the Irish are still more than plenty good enough to limit Robinson’s impact, and hold Michigan enough to allow their own offense to score enough points to win the football game. The Irish are yong in the secondary, but are experienced and talented up front. They lost just two starters from 2011, and replace one of them with Stephon Tuitt, who as a freshment last year was 3rd team freshmen All-America as a reserve.

Of course the key is Manti Te’O at inside linebacker. He’s a two time All-American and was outstanding last season, and is playing at a similar pace this season. He was key last week in slowing down Le’Veon Bell from Michigan State, and will likely be personally responsible to containing Denard Robinson.

The trick for Notre Dame will be to find some points. They’ve scored 20 in each of their last two games, and while that was more acceptable on the road against an elite defense such as Michigan State, doing so the prior week against Purdue is a reason for concern.

Whoever is at quarterback, whether its Tommy Rees, or Evertt Golson, they must improve their play. Denard Robinson’s big play ability makes it impossible to expect Notre Dame to completely stifle Michigan like they did Michigan State, so the Irish offense is going to need to come up with a play or two at some point.

#15 Kansas State at #7 Oklahoma- 58-17. 690. 240. That was the score, the yardage produced by the Oklahoma offense, and the yards gained by Kansas State last year when the Wildacts, then 7-0 and ranked in the top ten, got brought back down earth really quickly, at home. They remember. If you don’t think this game was circled on the, just remember how much Kansas State struggled with North Texas last week, just a week after drilling Miami 52-13. It’s safe to say their minds were already on the Sooners.

After last year’s debacle in Manhattan, it appeared to take Kansas State’s defense some time to recover. After having allowed more than 24 points just twice in their first seven games, the Oklahoma game was the first of three in a row where over 50 were hung on the Wildcats.

They settled back down over their final three, and allowed no more than 368 yards in any of the three games to close the season. That momentum, despite three of their top four tacklers being gone, has carried over into this season.

Oklahoma meanwhile looked extremely sluggish and out of sync on offense in their opening win against UTEP, which followed a trend of their offense struggling to close the sesaon out against Oklahoma State and Iowa. After scoring 38 or more points in eight straight games, the UTEP game marked the third in a row where they failed to top even 26.

Against Florida A&M the offense clearly looked better, but that was, again, Florida A&M.

Oklahoma entered the season as a serious national title contender, but the offensive issues that hurt them down the stretch last year don’t seem to be resolved. With a schedule that includes visits from defensive stalwards Texas and Notre Dame, with TCU on the road, as well offensive juggernaut West Virginia in Morgantown, the Sooners need to be able to get some points on the board.

Kansas State will go a long way towards giving us a better read on Landry Jones and company. Nobody questions the skill players at Oklahoma, they’re as good as any set in college football, maybe better. But the offensive line has taken some hits. Starting center Ben Habern and starting guard Tyler Evans are both lost for the year due to injury, and attrition has also claimed three reserves.

Oklahoma fans may have waived this off earlier in the year and said they weren’t concerned, but with the way TCU, Texas, West Virginia and Kansas State have looked, they realize now, their first priority needs to be winning the conference.

Defensively Oklahoma is about as talented as anyone, but if there is a weak link in might be the secondary. Last season it was prone to being torched by elite passing attacks.

While few will argue that Kansas State has a passing game that is on par with the likes of a Baylor, Texas Tech, or Texas A&M from a year ago, it’s still got some playmakers. More importantly, it is led by a senior quarterback who is playing some of the best football in the nation. Collin Klein’s downfall a year ago was his accuracy. If he could just manage to be more accurate throwing the football, the combination of his deadly running (1,141 yards, 27 touchdowns) and an improved aerial assault could make him one of the best quarterbacks in the country.

So far, consider it done. He’s completing over 72% of his passes, while still providing a reliable, tough, threat as a runner. With Matt Barkley and Tyler Wilson already essentially out of the Heisman picture, if Klein can lead the Wildcats into Norman and knock off another Heisman candidate at quarterback in Landry Jones, Wildcat fans may be reminded of another dual threat quarterback who wore purple and silver and had a number seven adorn his jersey too.

#10 Clemson at #4 Florida State- The last time Florida State played a home game ranked this high in the polls was October 8, 2005, against Wake Forest. Which also coincides with the last time they won an ACC championship.

While last year’s game against then number one Oklahoma was big, it didn’t have quite the feel of this year’s battle with Clemson. A lot of people may have felt at the time the ranking was still a bit too premature, and the subsequent two losses in a row after the Oklahoma loss seemed to prove that.

This year though, something is definitely different about this Florida State team. The killer instinct and swagger that made them the premier program of the 90s seems back, as evidenced by a 52-0 throttling of Wake Forest last week, a game more recent versions of the Seminoles would have likely struggled to win, much less put away so convincingly.

The Seminole defense, hyped before the year as among the nations best, some even comparing it to the SEC monsters of LSU and Alabama, has allowed just three points all season. I’m aware that Murray State, Savannah State and Wake Forest don’t possess basically anything closely resembling a dangerous attack, but still, no touchdowns allowed in three games is still no touchdowns allowed in three games.

But Saturday, this will be a test. A big one. Last season Clemson scored nearly 34 points a game, and that was with a sophomore quarterback and true freshmen wide receiever running the show. Their slew of skill players, including the afore referred to Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, all return, except only for tight end Dwayne Allen. If anyone is going to test the speed and athleticism of Florida State’s defense this year, its going to be Clemson.

But the real strength of the Seminoles defense lies up front. Even without Brandon Jenkins, the defensive line might still be the best and deepest in the nation. There are at least five players, not including the All-American Jenkins, who potentially could be first team All-ACC players. Tank Carradine, the number one junior college transfer a year ago, and Mario Edwards, the highest rated defensive lineman recruit this past off-season, add some of the depth. Anthony McCloud started twelve games last season, and had five tackles for a loss as a defensive tackle, and he won’t even be starting. Taking his place is Timmy Jernigan, the ACC Defensive Freshmen Player of the Year. Yeah, the ‘Noles are loaded up front.

And that’s bad news for Dabo Swinney’s Tiger team. While the offense returns a plethora of skill players, anyone who watched the Packers/Bears Thursday night game a week ago knows how little value they have when you don’t block.

Clemson has to replace three members from their offensive line. So while they return 94% of the yards gained a year ago, losing three fifths of the offensive line is a definite cause for concern. Center Dalton Freeman has 39 starts under his belt, and will be called upon to try and help steady a young offensive line in its first true road test. It’s not that it will be a lack of talent that Freeman will be leading, sophomores Kalon Davis and Gifford Timothy are both highly regarded, and both had very impressive springs. But doing it on the practice field in the spring, and doing it while 78,000 people are doing the tomahawk chop at full throttle are two different things.

On the other side, Clemson only recorded 24 sacks as a defense a year ago, and of those 24 sacks, those responsible for 19 of them are no longer with the Tigers.

Florida State’s biggest offensive weakness last year was easily the play of the offensive line. They struggled to establish a running game, and let their quarterbacks get absolutely mauled. It will be critical for Clemson to try and exploit this weakness.

So far this season, Clemson has only been able to get three sacks, while allowing over 180 yards per game on the ground. While DeShawn Williams has played very well at defensive tackle, they need some of the other youngsters, such as Grady Jarrett, Corey Crawford, and Vic Beasley to step up and make some plays.

While Clemson’s secondary as performed well to date, they have yet to face a quality quarterback or passing attack. Florida State brings in a group of receivers that takes Seminoles fans back to the E.G. Green, Peter Warrick, Laverneus Coles days, while quarterback E.J. Manuel is playing the best football of his life.

Clemson is a talented team, no question about it. But on the road, against this Seminoles team, they aren’t talented enough. I think Saturday evening the Seminoles officialy welcome themselves to the national championship race.

Upset Watch:

Missouri at #14 South Carolina- So, finally, we really get a chance to see what South Carolina is made of. Or do we?

Injuries have plagued Connor Shaw all season, and while backup Dylan Thompson has served more than capable as a backup, Vanderbilt, East Carolina and UAB don’t exactly elicit fear in the hearts of SEC fans. So while Thompson has played well, if Shaw is healthy and capable of playing, he’s the starter. But if we know anything about the ole ball coach Steve Spurrier, he’s going to have a short leash.

The problem though isn’t likely to be at the quarterback position. The defense, the heart and soul of this team, may be at a significant disadvantage Saturday.

Missouri’s offense looked really good for a half against Georgia two weeks ago, and last week against Arizona State did enough to win behind Corbin Berkstresser who was filling in for James Franklin.

The Tigers pose a different type of threat than most SEC teams with their exceptionally athletic quarterback, and extremely quick hitting passing game. While the Gamecocks have recorded 72 sacks the past two seasons and return 14 in the duo of ends Devin Taylor and Jadevon Clowney, Missouri’s quick hitting attack may help negate the edge South Carolina’s pass rush would have.

For a team that attempted 383 passes, allowing only 18 sacks is a pretty remarkable feat, and not once did they allow more than two a game a season ago. In contrast, South Carolina only attempted  317, but their quarterbacks were sacked 30 times, and five times allowed three or more in a game.

But that won’t be the biggest problem the South Carolina defense will face, it will be the lack of experienced playmakers in the secondary. Senior corner Akeem Agueste will miss the game with injury, and All-SEC safety senior D.J. Swearinger is serving a suspension for the brutal hit he bestowed on UAB.

Their asbence not only takes away two of the better players on their defense in general, but leaves them dangerously young and inexperienced in the secondary against a team with a plethora of receivers and an ability to really spread the field. That’s not a good thing if you’re South Carolina.

Working against Missouri though will be the same thing that’s plagued them during the last two weeks, in particular against Georgia. The Tigers have serious depth problems on the offensive line, something South Carolina, with their extremely deep and extremely talented defensive line, can take full advantage of. Generally you think of offensive lines wearing down a defensive line, but the inverse could be the case this Saturday in Columbia.

Missouri, in general in recent years, hasn’t been overly phased by playing away from home. While they did go 1-4 on the road last year, there was an overtime loss to Arizona State, a ten point loss to then #1 Oklahoma, a seven point loss to #20 Kansas State, and a three point defeat to Robert Griffin’s Baylor squad. So don’t expect the environment to be overly intimidating for Gary Pinkel’s team.

Missouri desperately wanted to make an early statement against Georgia, and for a half appeared on their way. Surely some things were learned that night, and while some of those deficiencies that popped up aren’t correctable in the immediate future, others are.

Don’t be surprised if Saturday Missouri doesn’t come away with a victory over South Carolina. While presumably that would put them right back in the SEC East race, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It still would be called an upset for a reason.

#25 Rutgers at Arkansas- To suggest Arkansas is in trouble is to make an early season attempt at understatement of the year. Things were bad when they lost to Louisiana Monroe (who has since proven to be better than people thought), but they hit a new low with a 52-0 shut-out loss at the hands of Alabama in a game in which it was suggested Razorback players quit on their own field.

But the lows may not be done coming. With Rutgers at home, then two road games against Texas A&M and Auburn, it’s not far fetched to think Arkansas could be 1-5. For a team that entered the year with SEC, and even national, title aspirations, that’s about as precipitous a drop as one can have.

Worse yet, are the things Arkansas could become notorious for this season. For starters, they did lose to a team from the Sun Belt. They did get suffer the worst defeat to Alabama in the past 10 years (Georgia State not withstanding) and they were accused of quitting.

Now imagine if they lose at home to a Big East team, Rutgers no less. Rutgers isn’t supposed to beat SEC teams, ever. Let alone on the road. After that? Imagine they become the first SEC victory for Texas A&M, which would be a huge win for the Razorbacks former SWC rivals. And the week after that? They could become just the second win of the year for Auburn. No, things do not look good in Fayetteville.

On the other side Rutgers comes in full of confidence at 3-0, and with a leg up on the Big East race. The Scarlet Knights defense has been particularly stout, allowing only 25 points thru three games. In particular the secondary has been outstanding. In order to slow down the Arkansas offense, good secondary play is paramount.

Arkansas could potentially have quarterback Tyler Wilson, an early season Heisman hopeful before an injury and his teams plunge into irrlevance, back on the field for the first time since leaving the ULM game with an injury. Some have argued that Arkansas shouldn’t risk putting him on the field in a non SEC game, and ensure he’s fully healthy for the rest of the slate so the Razorbacks can attempt to save their season.

I’m sorry, losing at home to Rutgers and falling to 1-3 would pretty much be the ruin of the 2012 campaign. In other words, if Tyler Wilson can play, he needs to.

In past years under Greg Schiano, Rutgers has not handled success very well. Will they do so differently with Kyle Flood? That remains to be seen. Throw in that, as well as the fact that Rutgers is only 2-7 the past two years in road games, and this has all the makings of an Arkansas victory.

This of course will depend on whether or not the Arkansas team has already checked out on the 2012 season, if Tyler Wilson plays. If the answers are no, and yes, respectively, Arkansas has a great opportunity to start turning the ship back around.

East Carolina at North Carolina- Nobody pegged North Carolina to be 1-2 at this juncture, and certainly not look as poor as they have in doing so. While they lost by just 5 to Louisville, the fact they trailed by over 20 points spoke volumes. At 1-2, and with no postseason to play for, you have to wonder if the Heels are just going to mail in the season. It certainly appeared so in the first half in Louisville last week, but the second half comeback may give the Heels reason to have some hope for the remaining nine games.

After an uninspiring blowout loss in Columbia to South Carolina, East Carolina bounced back with a surprising 24-14 victory over North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora’s old team, Southern Miss.

After taking over a program that went 26-15 over Skip Holtz’s final three years, Ruffin McNeill had gotten off to a sluggish 12-14 start. Perhaps that is changing a bit, as with 15 starters back from last year’s team, improvement seems to be the order of the day in Greenville.

The cause for concern with East Carolina is the pass defense, notably the back seven in general. Whereas Southern Miss lacks the passing game to expose that, as South Carolina did, the Tar Heels should have no such problems. But on that same note, East Carolina with Andrew Bodenheimer and Justin Hardy also will be able to get after North Carolina’s secondary too.

Whichever team runs the ball more effectively, likely wins the game. Giovani Bernard certainly gives North Carolina the better running back, along with the better offensive line. Counteracting that will be a solid group of linebackers that East Carolina has, led by Jeremy Grove, who as a freshman had 122 tackles a year ago.

These are the type of games Skip Holtz’s Pirates would sometimes find ways to win. For Ruffin McNeill to satisfy East Carolina fans, he needs to start.

Baylor at Lousiana Monroe (Fri)- By now the Lousisiana Monroe story is pretty well known. They beat Arkansas in Little Rock, and lost in overtime thanks to a missed field goal at Auburn. So their next task? Baylor. But at least it’s at home.

Final scores of 59-34 and 48-23 in their first two games would indicate that Baylor is doing just fine without Robert Griffin III. A closer look says that may not be the case. The defense allowed SMU 34 points, an SMU team that five times last year scored 17 points or fewer, and was forced to replace eight starters on offense, including the entire offensive line.

Then the following week against Sam Houston State, it was a tightly contested football game at halftime. While in years past, just being 2-0 would be cause for celebration in Waco, times, and expectations, have changed.

With an ominous slate of games looming that includes West Virginia, TCU and Texas, the Bears can ill afford to lose to the Warhawks and slip to 2-1 before beginning that stretch if they hope to reach the postseason for a third straight season.

On the other side, ULM has to be feeling quite good about themselves right now, and with talent all around at the skill positions, they enter tonight’s game with Baylor thinking they should win the game. And you know what? They’re probably right.

Don’t Forget About:

#2 LSU at Auburn- A 1-2 Auburn team that barely defeated Louisiana Monroe seems in no place to offer a stiff challenge to the “real” team from Louisiana who is 3-0 and has only allowed 31 points thru their first three games. But, that my friends is why they play the game.

No, I’m not sitting here saying Auburn will win this game, or that Auburn even has a very good shot to come away victorious. What I am saying though is this is a road game in the SEC, where even for a powerhouse like LSU, anything can happen.

Aside from last year, LSU has struggled away from Tiger Stadium. Not to the tune of a losing conference road record or anything, but some narrow victories over opponents initially thought to be competely overmatched. And even just last season, when away from Baton Rouge, the Tigers gained 100 yards less per game, and allowed nearly 100 more.

LSU only allowed more than 198 yards through the air six times in their fourteen games a year ago. Of those six, five came away from home. Granted, the caliber of opponent (Having Northwestern State, Kentucky and Western Kentucky on your schedule helps the home stats) factored greatly in the Tigers struggles.

Offensively, in games away from Tiger Stadium, LSU threw for for 98, 146, 91, 30, and 53 yards, respectively against Oregon, West Virginia, Tennesssee, Alabama, Georgia and Alabama again. On that note, I think everyone and their mother also knew quarterback was the biggest weakness on the team last season.

That’s where Zach Mettenberger comes in. Having averaged over 200 yards per game, against albeit less than stellar competition, Mettenberger has given Tiger fans renewed confidence in the position. But this offense doesn’t go as he does, it goes as their dominating offensive line paves the way for Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue, who already have rushed for 573 yards in just two games.

And in all reality, there is no reason the offense should have to put up many points against Auburn to come away with a victory. The ineptitude of the Auburn offense may stagger some people on Saturday.

Kiehl Frazier has barely completed over half of his passes while engineering the nations 113th ranked passing attack, and the Tigers have struggled to score against the likes of Clemson and Mississippi State. Now that offense gets to take on a defense as dominant as LSUs?

Auburn survived a must-win against ULM last week, but barely, to avoid the season going into a complete tailspin. However, should they go get blown out at home by LSU, they could find their year teetering on the edge of disaster. Against the three best teams in the SEC last year, Auburn was defeated 45-10, 45-7 and 42-14. That’s not how you show you belong in the upper echelon of the SEC.

For Auburn, Saturday is about competing. For LSU, it’s about making a big statement on the road. Considering that the home team has won 11 of the last 12 in this series, one might think history favors Auburns chances to do just that. Then again, the skill of football player on the football field will suggest they have no chance.

Miami at #23 Georgia Tech- For whatever reason, presumably the speed and athleticism of the defensive line, Miami has given the Georgia Tech offense fits in the past four years. Under Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech has lost 11 ACC games in four years, and three of them have to Miami. Tech’s only victory under Paul Johnson against Miami came in 2008.

Last year Miami limited Tech to a season low 211 yards, and only had two drives all game that were more than five plays. That said, Tech’s second worst offensive performance of the season came against Virginia, who the Jackets just posted 56 points against, so take it for what its worth.

Special teams ultimately were a major deciding fact in last years 24-7 Miami victory, as the Tech defense itself had its best day of the season, allowing Miami only 262 yards themselves.

While Georgia Tech’s offense looks better than it did a year ago, the same can’t be said for Miami. Duke Johnson may be the best freshmen running back in the country, but he’s essentially the extent of their offense.

Defensively, Miami doesn’t appear much better. They were down early to Boston College, but rallied to win, still allowing 32 points to a team that hasn’t scored that many points in a conference game on anyone besides North Carolina State in four years.

They followed that up by getting demolished 52-13 by Kansas State, and even just last week did not look impressive against Bethune Cookman.

Miami cannot be considered a contender in the ACC, and at 34-31 in the conference since they joined it, it’s becoming the norm.

Georgia Tech meanwhile is still, despite the loss to Virginia Tech, very much alive. However, they know they can’t afford to lose another division game. Taking care of Virginia was an excellent start, but beating Miami will be just as important. If they do, it sets up a big one in Clemson in two weeks.

Arizona at #3 Oregon- Since the 2007 upset when Dennis Dixon was lost for the year, and so were Oregon’s national title hopes, Oregon has beaten Arizona four straight times, averaging 51 points and over 500 yards of offense in each game. However, what seems to be forgotten is that Arizona has averaged over 36 points per game in that same stretch. It’s not like Oregon has completely wiped the floor with Arizona, and this may be the best Arizona team since Ortege Jenkins was flipping his way into endzones back in 1998.

At first glance, one has to wonder how Arizona can be so improved. Last year saw the Wildcats go 4-8, and proceed to lose a 4,000 yard passer, their leding rusher, and four of their top five receivers, including Juron Criner and his near 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. Oh, they also lost four of their top five tacklers. In other words, they returned less than a quarter of their total yards from a year ago, and barely half of all their tackles. Yet they’ve improved?

Blame it on Rich Rodriguez. He’s come in, and the players, unlike at Michigan, immediately have bought into the system. The result is a team that lost seven games by double digits a year ago is now 3-0, including a 58-39 beat down of Oklahoma State, who, only finished last season as the number three team in the nation, and who many felt deserved a shot at the national championship.

But at some point, the lack of talent that’s readily available right now has to catch up to them, right? Probably so. And this week is probably that point.

The Oregon Ducks are not Toldeo, they’re not even Oklahoma State. They’re a different breed of football team, one who some don’t think is on the level of Alabama or LSU, but whose performance in 2010 against Auburn indicates they are very capable of that. Offensively, what Oregon is doing is probably as good, if not better, than what Steve Spurrier’s Gators teams of the 90s did.

Consider this, over the past five years, and on their way to a 53-13 record, Oregon has scored over 40 points 41 times in 66 football games. They’ve been held under 30 points all of 9 times. But while they’ve been doing all this scoring, they’ve yet to have a season in that stretch where they allowed 400 yards per game on defense.

The bottom line is that the Ducks are here, and here to stay. They’re a better version of what Rich Rodriguez had been building at West Virginia. Come Saturday, it’s very likely Rodriguez gets a real taste of his own medicine when the Ducks come screaming at him from all over the place.

For Arizona, their goal needs to be to stay competitive. Don’t lose the momentum from their 3-0 start, and learn what they can. It can only serve to make them better in the long run. But for right now, they just aren’t there yet. Then again, few teams can say they’re “there” when talking about Oregon.

Best of the Rest:

Temple at Penn State- Is this the year Temple finally beats Penn State? It hasn’t happened since before December 7, 1941 became date that will live in infamy. Last year the Owls fell just 14-10, and this may be their best shot to snap a 29 game losing streak to their fellow Keystoners. The loss to Maryland two weeks ago puts extra impotus on this game for Temple, as a loss would almost surely derail hopes of making a second straight bowl game for the first time in school history.

Fresno State at Tulsa- Fresno made some waves last week with their 500 plus yard performance against Colorado…in the first half. That helped atone for a first half against Oregon that saw them trail 35-6 at the half. Tulsa may be one of the more underrated mid majors in the country. They’ve won 56 games over the past seven seasons, and this year’s only loss was on the road to an Iowa State team that is better than people realized. Since both teams already have a loss, it’s highly unlikely that either makes a play for a BCS bowl. However, both will be in contention for their conference championship, and both have the ability to work their way into the top 25. Tulsa has two running backs that both neared 900 yards a season ago, while Fresno possesses the younger brother of David Carr, and the 3,500 yards and 26 touchdowns he threw a season ago. If you want to see some points put up, find this game on your television.

Akron at Tennessee- Terry Bowden will coach his first SEC game since 1997 for the Akron Zips . Unfortunately it’s going to be in Knoxville against an angry Tennessee team who squandered a second half lead last week against Florida in a game the Vols desperately needed to interject themselves back into the discussion with the SEC elite. Bowden may wish he was back on ABC by the second quarter.

UTEP at Wisconsin- Brett Bielema has seen more than enough of Danny O’Brien at quarterback, and has decided to bench the former Maryland Terrapin in favor of redshirt freshman Joel Stave. Stave is a big kid, with a good arm, and Bielema hopes he can provide some life for an offense that in the past two weeks against Oregon State and Utah State has only managed 23 points. And this after scoring just 26 in a narrow victory over Northern Iowa. Wisconsin is still the default favorite to win the Big Ten Leaders Division title, but with Nebraska on the road next week, the Badgers better get something going on offense, and now.

Louisiana Tech at Illinois- The Bulldogs of Lousiana Tech post one of the more explosive offenses in the country, having scored 56 points in each of their first two games. Getting an Illinois team that allowed 45 to Arizona State a couple weeks ago has to have quarterback Colby Cameron itching to go. Louisiana Tech’s receiving trio of D.J. Banks, Myles White, and Quinton Patton though to face up against an Illinois secondary that was very good a year ago. Although they struggled mightily against Arizona State, the defense is easily the strength of this team, and it needs to be good against Lousiana Tech. If this game gets into shootout territory, Illinois just doesn’t have the players to keep up with the Bulldogs.

Syracuse at Minnesota- Syracuse has played two FBS schools this season (Northwestern, USC) and has allowed 42 points to each of them, both in losses. That trend will have to change for Syracuse to get back to .500 before beginning Big East play. The Orange have lost 10 of their last 12 true road openers, so it doesn’t bode well for them. Meanwhile, Minnesota could potentially be 4-0 before playing an Iowa team in their conference opener that they’ve beaten the past two years. Minnesota hasn’t won more than seven games in a season since 2003, but off to a 3-0 start for the first time 2008 (7-6), the Gophers can start thinking about the possibilities of it happening this season.

Maryland at #5 West Virginia- West Virginia gets one final tune-up before debuting in the Big 12 against Baylor in a week, and this should be nothing but just that, a tune up. Going back to the Orange Bowl, the Mountaineers have scored 181 points in their last three games, and even though Maryland might offer a far tougher defensive test than they have faced this year, they should have no trouble rolling to a win. The Terrapins remember only could score seven against William & Mary, and lost this past week at home to Connecticut. There will be no way they can keep up with the West Virginia offense and the Mountaineers should make it seven straight over the Terps.

Virginia at #20 TCU- TCU simply continues to be TCU, and for Virginia, that’s not a good thing, at all. Virginia is fresh off a complete drubbing at the hands of Georgia Tech, in which the Yellow Jackets led 49-7 in the third quarter. That’s not exactly a good eway to go into a road game against a perennial top 20 team that rarely loses at home; 54-6 in the past ten years. Four turnovers and third down deficiencies against Kansas limited TCU to just 20 points, but don’t be fooled, it’s still an offense capable of putting up big points, which can’t make Virginia fans feel good. But beyond that, TCU is again playing its typical great defense, and for a Virginia team who is having serious problems running the football, it looks like an 0-2 week for the ACC against the Big 12.

California at #13 USC- While the Trojans hopes for a national championship appear to be shot, along with Matt Barkley’s quest to win the Heisman, after their loss to Stanford, USC is still very much in control of their destiny in terms of going back to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2008. After making the Rose Bowl their home away from home, have gone just 17-11 in conference play dating back to the beginning of 2009. In the seven years prior, they were 52-7. While Cal arguably has more explosive players on offense, they aren’t nearly as physical as Stanford was, and physicality is the key to beating USC. It’s a matchup that plays into the hands of the Trojans. These are still anxious times though in southern California, as evidenced by Lane Kiffin walking out of a press conference less than half a minute in. They know they can’t afford another conference loss, as suddenly, division road games against Arizona and UCLA don’t seem the easy wins they once appeared to be. And with Utah still left on the road, and a game against Oregon, one more loss could effectively end their conference title hopes. Just don’t expect it to happen this week though.

Oregon State at # 21 UCLA- The Bruins offense has looked outstanding during the first three weeks of the season, and the defense has looked much improved over last year’s unit as the Bruins have served notice that while they backed into the division title last year, they have every intention of taking it on their own merits this year. Conference openers are always huge, and this is no different for UCLA. With no Oregon on the schedule, Stanford and USC at home, and road games consisting of Colorado, California, Arizona State, and Washington State, there’s no reason UCLA can’t be thinking about a double digit win season. But lose to an Oregon State team that did defeat Wisconsin, and it’s all a moot point. The Beavers were probably feeling pretty good about that victory, but Wisconsin’s performance the next week, coupled with the Beavers having a bye, and we really don’t know what to make of Mike Riley’s team.

Utah at Arizona State- Utah got a huge win, and much needed confidence boost with their win against BYU last week, coming without Jordan Wynn at quarterback. Wynn won’t be back, so the Utes have what they have. And that’s still a solid defense. Utah knows they should have played for the conference title a year ago, before a ghastly home loss to Colorado to end the season. With USC eligible this year, and Arizona and UCLA vastly improved, Utah can’t afford slip-ups in division play. Arizona State on the other hand, might be playing with house money. After their first two games, people started paying attention to what the offense under Todd Graham was doing. Following a loss at Missouri last week, a game they arguably should have won, people were kicking dirt back on them again. Opening conference play with a division win might get the eyes peeled their way again.

Nevada at Hawaii-  Nevada has lost their last seven trips to Hawaii, including a 2010 loss that may have denied the Wolfpack a chance to play in a BCS game, as the 31-21 defeat was the only loss they suffered during the year they beat Boise State and won the conference championship. Once again, Nevada appears to be the biggest threat to Boise State for the conference title, but a narrow loss to South Florida probably means there will be no BCS bid for Nevada. In any event, watching the Wolfpack offense is something else. Quarterback Cody Fajardo, just a sophomore, pilots an offense that runs the ball as well as just about anybody, compiling over 300 yards a game on the ground thus far this season.

San Jose State at San Diego State- San Jose State has mde but one bowl appearance since 1990, but after going 1-12 in Mike MacIntyre’s first season, and then improving to 5-7 a year ago, they might be headed to another one. Heads turned when the Spartans fell by just three points to Stanford in Palo Alto when the season started. They turned because the assumption was Stanford was nothing without Andrew Luck. The Cardinal in the subsequent two weeks absolutely squelched any of that talk, which begged the question, then how good might San Jose State be? Good enough to win the WAC? Yes. Top 25 caliber? Perhaps. Going on the road in a non conference game against San Diego State will be a good litmus test for the Spartans. San Diego State has never made three straight postseason appearances before, but could do so this year. However, with Boise State, Nevada, and Fresno State all on the road, the Aztecs could really use a boost by getting a home win over a good San Jose State team. San Diego State has perhaps the best receiving corps in the conference, and among the better ones in the entire country. Brice Butler, Colin Lockett and Dylan Denso last year combined for 158 catches, almost 2,400 yards and 18 touchdowns. Granted, that was with Ryan Lindley throwing them the ball. It will be the best offense San Jose State has faced. The outcome of Saturday’s game will tell a lot about both teams.

Utah State at Colorado State- Utah State’s dream off a miracle unbeaten season died with a missed field goal in Madison against Big Ten favorite Wisconsin, but the energy around the program did not. After beating Utah the week prior, giving Wisconsin all they could handle on the road further solidified the thinking that Utah State simply has a good football team. Unfotunately for them, they still have remaining road games with BYU, San Jose State and league favorite Louisiana Tech. So, while they were dreaming big, reality said it wasn’t going to happen. However, that is not to say an 8 or 9 win season is out of the question, but to do that, the Aggies must avoid let downs against teams they clearly outclass, like Colorado State. 

Memphis at Duke- No, seriously, this game might actually be of some importance by the time the year is over. Duke is still trying to reach the postseason for the first time since 1994, and wile a couple of Dvid Cutcliffe’s teams have shown promise, none have done it. This year’s Duke team is arguably his best overall, but a challenging schedule will make a postseason trip difficult. A loss to one of the worst teams in the country, in Memphis, would make it impossible, and likely spell the end of Cutcliffe’s time in Durham.

Colorado at Washington State- Because whichever team gets the win, it will likely be their last (or in Colorado’s case, only) win of the season.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under College Football, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Sports

College Football Weekend Review, New Top 25

1.  Alabama W 52-0 at Arkansas: This is actually getting a little bit old right now. This defense is ridiculously good, to the point it’s unfair. They’re the team that in pop warner all the other moms are afraid of their boys playing against because nothing will happen but hurt feelings and broken bodies. The fact that Arkansas pretty much quit helped their cause, but Alabama didn’t need much. They get Florida Atlantic and Ole Miss at home in the next two weeks. By the time the calendar turns to October, Alabama may not have even allowed 21 points on the season, total.

2.  LSU– W 63-14 vs Idaho: LSUs litany of early season tests continued with a cakewalk over the Vandals of Idaho. Three games in, the Tigers have outscored opponents 145-31. That’s pretty much 50-10 every week. The schedule gets a bit tougher next week, as finally LSU leaves the confines of Tiger Stadium and heads to Auburn. But let’s be real here, Auburn doesn’t exactly promise to offer much of a challenge either. The October 6th date in Gainesville is the one the Tigers really have circled.

3.  USC– L 21-14 at Stanford: Some would say the phrase, all style, no substance, accurately defines the USC football team, and Saturday nights loss at Stanford would seem to back that up. The Trojans were punched in the mouth, repeatedly, and could do absolutely nothing to punch back. After allowing just eight sacks all season in 2011, Matt Barkley went down five times at the hands of the Stanford defense while the Trojans only mustered 280 yards of offense. The absence of All-American center Khaled Holmes was perhaps a bit underrated, as the Stanford defense completely baffled Barkley, and in doing so pretty much derailed his Heisman campaign.

4.  Oregon– W 63-14 vs Tennessee Tech: The Ducks continue to walk over inferior competition like they’re the only team on the field, and Saturday was no different. Things will get a bit more interesting next week though when a surprising Arizona team comes to Eugene. The Ducks however have won four straight over Arizona, averaging over 500 yards and 50 points a game in doing so.

5.  Florida State– @ vs Wake Forest 52-0: I keep hearing that Florida State hasn’t played anybody and this makes them overhyped. I’m sorry, I’m not buying that, not one bit of it. You look around the country and you see mid major teams, even FCS teams, taking on BCS conference teams and giving them fits, if not beating them. Florida State has opened the season by outscoring opponents 176-3. I really don’t care who you’ve played, when you do that, you’re doing something. The Seminoles had struggled recently with Wake Forest, losing four of their last six meetings their former whipping boy. Order appeared to be restored with their shellacking issued Saturday afternoon.  With Army and Duke at home in the next two weeks, Wake Forest should get their season back on track and put them in a position to return to a bowl game. For Florida State the biggest game of the year in the ACC will be next Saturday when defending conference champion Clemson pays a visit to Doak Campbell Stadium in Florida State’s biggest home game in almost ten years.

6.  West Virginia– W 42-12 vs James Madison: With the struggles of Matt Barkley and Denard Robinson, Geno Smith suddenly finds himself a very strong candidate to be invited to New York at seasons end, and potentially hold up the Heisman trophy. The Mountaineers are serving notice to the Big 12 that they’re going to have a say in who wins the conference, and they might be having a say in who wins the national championship. Two home games against Maryland and Baylor await before they truly make their arrival in the Big 12 with a vist to Austin to play Texas.

7.   Michigan State– L 20-3 vs #16 Notre Dame: Perhaps no team was more disappointing than the Spartans this weekend. The offense was absolutely anemic, and what was left as the last hope in the Big 10 was completely dominated at home by Notre Dame. The overall weakness of the Big Ten still means a Rose Bowl bid is still an attainable goal for Mark Dantonio’s squad, but dreams of anything bigger have been squashed. Andrew Maxwell has struggled mightily at quarterback, and you have to wonder if at some point the team gets handed over to redshirt freshmen Connor Cook, or highly touted true freshmen Tyler O’Connor. Michigan State’s defense is good enough alone to carry this team to a conference championship, but a little offense wouldn’t hurt. This will be particularly vital when Ohio State comes to visit in two weeks.

8.  Georgia– W vs Florida Atlantic 56-20: The defense had its share of issues in the first half, much like it did in Georgia’s first two games against Buffalo and Missouri. However, it eventually settled down and began to play to the level Georgia fans expect. The offense was never a problem, and Georgia rolls into its second SEC game against Vanderbilt full of confidence. The Vanderbilt game marks the last that Georgia will be without Alex Ogletree and Baccari Rambo. Georgia should get through the suspension marred first quarter of the season without a blemish, and be ready to go for the seasons final eight games. By the way, for Florida Atlantic,  they play at Alabama next week. Ouch.

9.  Oklahoma– Bye

10. Ohio State– W 35-28 vs California: The Buckeyes squandered a double digit lead, but still managed to rally late and overcome a stubborn California team Saturday. Braxton Miller is the real deal, and the Buckeyes are quickly erasing the stench from last years 6-7 season. If not for the NCAA troubles, this would be a team peeking into the national championship picture. California played gamely, but lost for the second time in three games, both by just seven points. With a trip to USC next week, Jeff Tedford’s team may be in serious trouble. With a 12-13 record the last two years, there may be some whispers that Tedford’s time in Berkley has run its course.

11. Clemson– W 41-7 vs Furman: The Tigers managed to accomplish their first goal of the season, get to the Florida State game without a loss. Next up for Clemson will be eight straight ACC games, beginning with the huge showdown against Florida State. The offensive firepower from Clemson is unquestioned, but Florida State’s defense is a different animal. Andre Ellington has been averaging six yards per carry, but don’t expect that to continue next week.

12. Texas– W at Ole Miss 66-31: Texas entered the year expecting to ride their defense to a return to prominence, but Saturday night it was the offense that took control. The Longhorns racked up 676 yards while David Ash threw four touchdown passes, as many as he threw all of last season. While the defense allowed Ole Miss almost 400 yards, most were rather empty yards as the game itself was decided early in the first half. Texas gets a week off, then in succession will take on the three biggest threats to their Big 12 title hopes with Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Texas looming. Ole Miss suffered their first loss of the season, and the defense is the culprit. Offensively the Rebels are solid, but the defense may in fact be even worse than it was a year ago when it allowed over 400 yards of total offense per game, including 225 a game on the ground. They allowed 350 to Texas Saturday night, which remarkably, would have only been the third highest total put out against them a year ago.

13. Kansas State– W 35-21 vs North Texas: Perhaps Kansas State was looking ahead to next week, and who can blame them. After having outscored Missouri State and Miami 103-22 in their first two games, one can understand why Kansas State may have been peeking around the corner to their trip to Norman, Oklahoma next week. Collin Klein completed 15 of his 20 passes against North Texas, and he’s completed 72% of his passes on the year while also rushing for 210 yards and four scores this season. Geno Smith and Landry Jones may grab the headlines in the Big 12, but Klein is serving notice he belongs in that group. He gets a chance to really prove it next week.

14. South Carolina– W vs UAB 49-6: Can you really lose six starters on defense and come back even better? South Carolina seems to think so.  They’ve allowed just two offensive touchdowns in three games, and just 29 points total. That said, they haven’t been tested by a decent offense yet, but that is about to change. Missouri will be in Columbia, South Carolina’s Columbia, next week and they’ll bring the best offense that South Carolina will have seen thus far. Connor Shaw re-injured his shoulder, and obviously concerns are rising about his availability. Dylan Thompson though has given Gamecock fans reason to not worry too much about Shaw’s absence. On just five completions Thompson threw for 177 yards and two touchdowns against UAB.

15. Virginia Tech– L 35-17 at Pittsburgh: I had no real reason to pick against the Hokies last Saturday, just a gut feeling based on historically lethargic performances against weaker opponents on the road. The Hokies didn’t disappoint. Can we please stop with the Cam Newton comparisons for Logan Thomas? In two games against FBS teams, the Hokies have scored 37 points, total, and Thomas played poorly in both games. He went just 14/31 against Pittsburgh with three interceptions. Granted, the running game didn’t help him any, only able to get 59 yards on 26 carries, but if Thomas were as good as some delusional people make him out to be, he’d find a way to make something out of it. For Pittsburgh, freshmen Rushel Shell proved the perfect compliment to Ray Graham, and proved to be as good as advertised, piling up 157 yards against the vaunted Hokies defense. Pittsburgh needs to look no further than the 2010 Hokies for inspiration on how to overcome an 0-2 start with a loss to an FCS school and still salvage your season.

16. Notre Dame– W 20-3 at #7 Michigan State: While Stanfords win over USC was extremely impressive, the most impressive of the day may very well belong to the Fighting Irish. The Irish still have offensive problems, though Michigan State’s defense will make most anyone look offensively challenged, but their defense was outstanding. They limited the Spartans to only 237 yards of offense, and just 50 on the ground. It’s doubtful they will be able to shut down Michigan in the same fashion next week, so they’re going to need the offense to stop up, especially quarterback Everett Golson.

17. Louisville– W 39-34 vs North Carolina: For the third straight game the Cardinals scored at least 32 points, but this time the defense showed some holes previously unseen. Despite holding a 32-7 halftime lead, Louisville was forced to hang on for dear life as Bryn Renner threw five touchdowns to go with his 363 yards as North Carolina’s furious second half comeback nearly was completed. Even still, one bad defensive half out of the seasons first three games is about all Louisville fans can complain about right now. If you don’t know who Teddy Bridgewater is, make yourself aware.

18. Tennessee– L 37-20 vs #22 Florida: So all the talk about all the experience returning for Tennessee and how this year was the team that was going to mark the return of Tennessee football looks a bit premature. The simple fact of the matter is Tennessee just isn’t as good as they used to be, and whether that’s coaching or the players remains to be seen. We’ll likely find out soon though. This was a must win game for Tennessee, and this was Tennessee’s best chance to get back into contention for an SEC East title. Unless they find a way to win games in Athens and Columbia, those dreams appear to be dashed. I don’t think Dooley can survive another five loss season, and with those two aforementioned games, as well as a trip to Mississippi State and a visit from Alabama, five losses could be a very real possibility.

19. Boise State– W 39-12 vs Miami Ohio: Boise bounced back from the season opening loss two weeks ago against Michigan State, but it’s clear that with Kellen Moore no longer at the helm, it’s not the same Broncos offense. Defensively, they’re still extremely stout, despite only having two starters back from the 2011 team. Boise has lost more than once in a season just two times in the past ten years, but next Thursday night’s visit from BYU could mark the first time that’s happened since 2007.

20. TCU– W 20-6 at Kansas- The Horned Frogs didn’t light up the scoreboards and blow Kansas completely out of the water, but they were convincing enough. Four turnovers were costly for TCU, as the 20 points weren’t very indicative of the nearly 500 yards of offense they racked up. The schedule sets itself up for TCU so that they face the Big 12s chief contenders in their final five games of the season, meaning a run to 7-0 and potential top ten ranking seems very reasonable. After allowing 43.8 points per game a year ago, and few than 24 only once, Kansas has allowed just 20 per game in their first three games this season. This marked improvement might every well leave them flirting with bowl eligibility before the season is over.

21. Mississippi State– W 30-24 at Troy: Mississippi State didn’t play their best game of the year, but it was good enough to beat a team from what has become the pesky Sunbelt Conference. Tyler Russell was off most of the night, and the defense was nothing short of atrocious for the Bulldogs, but four Troy turnovers enabled the Bulldogs to get out of Troy with a 3-0 record. With South Alabama and Kentucky their next two games, Mississippi State should be 5-0 before Tennessee visits, and well on their way to a third straight bowl game.

22. Florida– W 37-20 at #18 Tennessee: The defense came to play, and the running game came alive for the Gators, who once again reminded Tennessee that they’re still a second rate program in the SEC East. The 20 points scored by Tennessee were the most scored against Florida on the young season, but the Gators defense dominated the second half. Offensively, there 37 points were more than they’ve scored in any SEC game against a team not named Kentucky or Vanderbilt since putting 41 on Georgia in 2009. Speaking of Kentucky, they get the Wildcats at home next weekend, so Florida should be at 4-0 when they host LSU and find out just how good they really are.

23. Georgia Tech– W 56-20 vs Virginia: If there were questions about the offense after the Virginia Tech game, they seem to have been answered in the past two weeks. Tech has scored 115 points in the last two games as they’ve bounced back quite nicely from the season opening loss to the Hokies. Defensively the Jackets have been solid as well, allowing less than 15 points per game through their first three games. Miami comes to Bobby Dodd stadium next week, and while the Hurricanes are struggling this year, they’ve had Tech’s number the past three seasons, holding Georgia Tech to just 34 points in the three games combined. Mike London’s Virginia squad looked completely overmatched by Georgia Tech, and its becoming more and more apparent that they were fortunate to be 8-5 a year ago. Going to TCU next week doesn’t inspire much hope either.

24. UCLA– W 37-6 vs Houston: There’s a team in Los Angeles that is 3-0, and hasn’t scored less than 36 points in a game this season. And they don’t wear maroon and gold. UCLA is off to a quick start under Jim Mora, and by avoiding Oregon from the north division this year, is in a position to repeat as the representative of the Pac 12 South in the Pac 12 championship game. The Bruins are playing well in all phases of the game, and should be 5-0 before traveling to California on the first weekend of October.

25. South Florida– L 23-13 vs Rutgers: The troubles with home conference games continued for Skip Holtz and South Florida as the Bulls offense couldn’t get anything going against Rutgers and saw their Big East title hopes take a huge early hit. The Bulls had no answer for the ball hawking Rutgers secondary, or running back Jawan Jamison. They should get back on track with a win against Ball State this week, but what could have been a huge showdown with Florida State in two weeks suddenly goes from a must see game, to a feared blowout.

Others

Stanford– W 21-14 vs USC: What do good fundamentals, toughness, and a great defense get you? A fourth consecutive victory over USC and a message to the rest of the conference that you were more than just Heisman runner-up Andrew Luck. Stanford gets a week off before a Thursday trip to Seattle to play Washington, a team they’ve outscored 106-21 in the last two meetings.

Arizona State– L 24-20 at Missouri: The Sun Devils nearly overcame a slow start and almost erased a fourth quarter deficit on the road against Missouri in what could have been a very early defning win for Todd Graham. Instead, the Sun Devils dropped to 2-1. After converting just 2/13 third down conversions and turning the ball over four times, the offense that looked so explsoive against Illinois the week prior seemed much more grounded. While expectations weren’t overly high in Tempe, the 2-0 start elevated them perhaps a bit much. Now more tempered, the Sun Devils will being their conference slate with a big home game against Utah. Arizona State hasn’t won a bowl game since 2005, and if that trend is to change, they’re going to need to win a couple games they probably shouldn’t. They blew that opportunity against Missouri, but get another one Satuday night. Missouri on the other hand absolutely had to come away with a victory after getting beat by 21 points at home the week prior. Two tough road games now await the Tigers with South Carolina and Central Florida on the horizon. A loss to Arizona State could have potentially been crippling to Missouri’s quest for an 8th straight winning season. While it’s still not going to be easy, a 1-2 start would have certainly spelled the end of that. With South Carolina on the road this week, Missouri gets another chance to make a good impression on the SEC. But don’t bet on it.

Nebraska– W 42-13 vs Arkansas State: Nebraska recovered nicely against Arkansas State in the first of three consecutive home games the Huskers will play. The big story of course is the health of Bo Pelini who was taken in an ambulance from the stadium. While his presence, or lack of it, may not make a difference against Idaho State this week, in two weeks when Wisconsin visits Lincoln in a game Nebraska circled from day one this year, it’s going to take on much, much more importance.

Baylor– W 48-23 vs Sam Houston State: Despite trailing at the half, Baylor cruised in the second half for their second win in as many games. Despite no Kenall Wright or Robert Griffin III, the Bears have still scored 107 points in their first two games. Friday night’s trip to Monroe to take Louisiana Monroe may actually be their stiffest test to date.

Arizona– W 56-0 vs South Carolina State: Rich Rodriguez has gotten Arizona off to a 3-0 start that is among the more surprising in the country. After winning with defense over Toledo, the Wildcats have put 114 points on the board in their last two games. The Wildcats though may be brought back to earth this week as they travel to Eugene, where they’ve lost 8 of 9 to Oregon.

Rutgers– W 23-13 at #25 South Florida: The offense has’t exactly been pretty for  Kyle Flood’s team, but Jawan Jamison is doing just enough carrying the football to enable a nasty defense to lead Rutgers to a 3-0 start. The Scarlet Knights have allowed just 25 points in three games. Linebacker Khaseem Greene, as well as corner backs Logan Ryan and Brandon Jones helped completely baffle potential Big East Player of the Year B.J. Daniels in last Thursday nights victory. Next up is a trip to SEC country where they’re getting an Arkansas squad that nobody has a clue what to make of at the moment. If Rutgers can get a victory there, there’s no reason they aren’t 9-0 before making a trip to Cincinnati to begin a three game stretch with Big East favorites to end the season.

Northwestern– W 22-13 vs Boston College: Quick, how many bowl eligible teams in the Big Ten are currently unbeaten. If you said two, you’re correct. But if you know which two, points for you. Northwestern joins Minnesota in the ranks of the 3-0 crowd, but their three wins have been a bit more impressive. They’ve beaten a Big East, SEC, and ACC team along the way, and while none of the three have been pretty, anyone in Evanston will tell you they’re thrilled to be 3-0. The schedule doesn’t get any tougher over the next month either, so there is a very good chance Northwestern sneaks up to 7-0 before the schedule picks back up.

Arkansas– L 52-0 vs #1 Alabama: Does it get any worse than this? Losing at home to Louisiana Monroe, then getting beat 52-0, also at home? I guess it does when accusations start flying around that the team essentially quit. If so, that bodes terribly for the Razorbacks, as they welcome in Rutgers next week before embarking on back to back road games against Texas A&M and Auburn. The possibility that Arkansas starts off 1-5 has suddenly become very real, and I don’t think there’s a Falcon fan alive bothered by this.

Speaking of the next few Razorback opponents, Auburn needed a missed field goal to survive the same Lousiana Monroe squad in overtime, and cannot be feeling good about themselves as they get ready to take on LSU. Texas A&M on the other hand got an easy 48-3 win over SMU after the disapponting blown lead the week prior against Florida. But while Auburn was struggling with a Sun Belt opponent, Kentucky was just simply losing to one, falling 32-31 to Western Kentucky at home.

The lack of offense nearly caught up with Wisconsin again, needing to survive a missed Utah State field goal in the closing seconds to avoid falling to 1-2. For the Aggies, it was nearly a second straight win over a high profile opponent. Penn State finally got of schnide with an easy victory over a very disappointing Navy team, while Indiana had a chance to join the unlikely due of Northwestern and Minnesota at 3-0, but allowed Ball State to gain 44 yards in the games final 49 seconds to kick a 42 yard field goal to win 41-39.

We know Oklahoma State can score, they’ve scored 188 points in three games, but can they stop anyone? They better hope they figure something out during their off week before hosting Texas. In Lubbock, it’s the same old story at Texas Tech, play a weak non conference schedule, pad the offensive stats, and sit at 3-0, having outscored foes by an average of 50-10. They too get a week off before taking on a suprising 3-0 Iowa State team. The Cyclones are only giving up 10 points per game, and have victories over Tulsa and Iowa to their credit.

Disappointment continues to abound in the ACC, as Boston College, North Carolina, and Maryland all lost to out of conference teams over the weekend. Two such losses came to Big East teams, including Maryland’s 24-21 defeat at the hands of Connecticut. The good news though is that Duke and Miami both won, over North Carolina Central and Bethune Cookman.

No Jordan Wynn, no problem for Utah who bounced back very well from their shocking defeat at Utah State by upending BYU on homecoming. It’s not going to be much easier for BYU either as they travel to take on Boise State on the road, and the Broncos are 64-2 at home since 2001. In terms of though the division one program that has most embarrassed itself, that honory easily goes to Colorado who allowed over 500 yards of offense to Fresno State, in the FIRST HALF. The Buffaloes fell to 0-3 after the 69-14 flop, and have allowed 34 or more points in 11 of their last 13 road games. The Colorado game with Washington State this weekend might officially be the worst ever football game between two teams in a BCS conference. Just be lucky neither of these teams plays New Mexico this year. The Lobos lost 49-0 to Texas Tech, and in their two games against FBS teams have been outscored 94-0. It was the fifth time in nine games they’ve been shut out AND allowed at least 42 points.

Southern Miss was expected to be the strongest competition for Central Florida (2-1) in the eastern division of Conference USA, but a second straight poor offensive showing by the Golden Eagles leaves them at 0-2 following a 24-14 lost at home to East Carolina. The joke that has become the Memphis Tigers continues to just get more humorous. A home loss to Middle Tennessee State dropped them to 0-3, and a fourth straight double digit loss season seems a foregone conclusion. Remember when Houston was 12-0 last season? Neither do we. They lost their third straight to open the season when UCLA pummelled them 37-6.

Toledo may only have returned eight starters, but at 2-1 following their 27-15 win over Bowling Green, folks in the MAC might start taking them pretty seriously. That overtime loss to Arizona to start the year looks better and better by the week. Ohio keeps their BCS dreams afloat after beating Marshall 27-24. No, it wasn’t super impressive, but it was a win, and that’s what they need to keep doing. Congratulations are also in order to Terry Bowden, who’s Akron team gave him his first win at the FBS level in 15 years. He gets his first SEC game in that same time frame next week in Knoxville, and that one could get ugly.

It’s probably not easy to find them on television, but if you can, you need to watch Louisiana Tech. Back to back 56 point showings by the offense and the Bulldogs are 2-0. If they can somehow get a couple wins on the road against Illinois and Virginia in the coming two weeks, they could make a run for an unbeaten season. In addition to Utah State and Lousiana Tech impressing, the WAC, which is on its last legs as a fledgling conference has a third team who has shown up and some damage. Remember when Stanford “only” beat San Jose State 20-17? Well, that Stanford team is better than we thought, and so too is perhaps the San Jose State squad. A 40-20 victory over Colorado State has the Spartans at 2-1 with a critical non conference game against San Diego State looming.

And one last shout out to the Sun Belt. Troy gave Mississippi State everything they wanted, ULM clearly did the same with Auburn, Western Kentucky upset Kentucky, and Florida Atlantic made the Georgia defense sweat in the first half in solid showings against the SEC. But it didn’t stop there. Florida International was not a pushover in their loss to Central Florida, and North Texas had Kansas State fans pacing back and forth until well into the 4th quarter. Not a bad day at all.

New Top 25

1.  Alabama

2.  LSU

3.  Oregon

4.  Florida State

5.  West Virginia

6.  Georgia

7.  Oklahoma

8.  Ohio State

9.  Texas

10.Clemson

11.Stanford

12.Notre Dame

13.USC

14.South Carolina

15.Kansas State

16.Florida

17.Louisville

18.Boise State

19.Mississippi State

20.TCU

21.UCLA

22.Michigan State

23.Georgia Tech

24.Arizona

25.Rutgers

Others

Tennessee

Virginia Tech

Northwestern

Nebraska

Baylor

Missouri

Ohio

Cincinnati

Leave a comment

Filed under College Football, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Sports

Why Tennessee Must Win, Michigan State is Dreaming Big & More In Week Three

As is the case with every college football weekend, there’s a handful of games you can’t miss, as well as the few that you should keep an eye on for potential upsets. But what about the others on the docket? Which of those are worth paying attention to? Glad you asked, I’ll let you know.

Must See Games:

#1 Alabama at Arkansas- Is it possible that year’s Alabama defense is even better than last years historically dominant unit? Why, yes, yes it is. This game could go a long way into giving us an idea if it actually is or not. If Tyler Wilson plays that is.

That’s the million dollar question. If Wilson plays at quarterback for Arkansas this becomes perhaps the biggest test the Tide defense will face all season. If he doesn’t, the things Alabama may do to backup quarterback Brandon Allen may be worthy of criminal charges.

While Arkansas’ defense leaves a bit to be desired, even with numerous suspensions to the receiving unit, Arkansas boasts perhaps the most talented offense in the SEC. No team in the conference has the plethora of weapons that Arkansas does, and no team will be capable of stretching out the Alabama defense like the Razorbacks. Again, if Tyler Wilson plays.

Sure, Michigan had Denard Robinson…..and…..They didn’t have the offensive line with the ability to even remotely match up with Alabama’s defensive front, and without Fitzgerald Toussaint didn’t have the home run threat in the backfield that Arkansas does. In fact, Arkansas has three of them in potential All American Knile Davis, last years leading rusher Dennis Johnson, and Ronnie Wingo.

Tight end Chris Gragg and receiever Cobi Hamilton give the Razorbacks both big play ability on the outside, and reliability.

We can only hope Wilson is able to go. If so, this could be a riveting battle. Arkansas is ticked off, and with a huge chip on their shoulder, and at home. Those are the makings of an upset. But only if their All-American quarterback takes the field.

#18 Florida at #23 Tennessee- Without a doubt, THE game to watch this week is going to be out of the SEC, actually, the vast majority of the big time games will be played with an SEC member. When Florida travels to take on Tennessee in Knoxville on Saturday night it will seem like a rewind to 10-15 years ago, back when this battle almost annualy decided the SEC East champion.

An impressive season opening win in the Georgia Dome over North Carolina State, along with the return of 19 starters has Tenneesee fans convinced Derek Dooley has this Volunteer squad ready to make the jump back into the elite of the SEC in year three.

Nothing would do more to indicate a reversal of the slide the Vols have endured the last few years than beating Florida for the first time since 2004.

Tennessee in fact hasn’t been ranked since week one of the 2008 season when they lost in overtime at UCLA. They had played 46 straight games as an unranked team, something completely unheard of in Knoxville. Now that they’re back among the top 25, and back among the topic of conversation, can they prove they belong?

Since that fateful loss in the Rose Bowl in 2008, Tennessee is just 1-16 against ranked opponents. Saturday night, they’ll strive to reverse that trend too.

It will not be easy however, as the losses in recent years to Florida have all been by double digits, and there’s been a reason for that. The Gators have consistently had better players. Do they this year? That remains to be seen.

One thing is for certain, the recieving duo of Justin Hunter and junior college transfer Cordarelle Patterson has the ability to be the best tandem in the SEC. If the growing pains on the offensive line continue to pay off, the Vols should be able to do something they’ve struggled to do in recent years against quality SEC teams, and that is score points.

Of course, the Gators defense is no slouch. Their offense has struggled mightily, but the defense has given up just 31 points in their first two games, including just 17 at a Texas A&M team that returned seven starters from an offense that put up 40 a game last year, and averaged almost 500 yards per game at home.

Florida though will be without the services of linebacker Jelani Jenkins, which could be a big blow. Jenkins may very well be the most versatile defensive player on the Gators.

Another detriment to the Gators defense will be the size disadvantage at cornerback. Marcus Roberson and Jaylen Watkins each go 6’0. Hunter and Patterson, the Tennessee receivers, go 6’4 and 6’3, respectively.

Florida isn’t immune to offensive issues either. They’ve managed only 23.5 points per game in their first two outings, against Bowling Green and Texas A&M, neither of whom is exactly known for great defense. Florida’s offense has disappeared lately against any sort of quality opponent. Last season against Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida State and Ohio State, their largest offensive output was a paltry 263 yards against Ohio State.

Further compounding the matter is this that sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel is anything but long on experience, and in front of what will be the most raucous crowd Neyland Stadium has hosted in a while, that only stands to benefit the home team.

No team in the country is more experienced than Tennessee, and the 105 returning starts by their offensive line was tied for third in the entire nation. So, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say this is a make or break year for Derek Dooley, which means it’s not a stretch to say this is a must win game for Tennessee.

#2 USC at #21 Stanford- Against San Jose State Stanford looked the post Andrew Luck era was going to be dreadful. Fortunately the next week against Duke made Cardinal fans feel a little bit better. However, these USC Trojans are not San Jose State or Duke.

USC is a legit national title contender, who’s biggest weakness is probably its coach. And thats critical in this early season road test. Not only does Kiffin have a penchant for opening his mouth and sounding dumb, he also has a tendency to get outcoached by better coaches.

Getting outcoached seems the only way Stanford has a chance. These two played an epic three overtime game a year ago. The big difference, USC brings back its Heisman caliber quarterback, Matt Barkley, and Stanford does not.

What Stanford does bring back is a very good defense led by the linebacking duo of Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas, which is among the finest pairs of linebackers in all of college football. Last year Stanford didn’t do a terrible job defensively against USC, but that was with Michael Thomas, Delano Hall and Johnson Bademosi in their secondary. Three new starters replace them season, not a good recipe for playing USC. The Trojans have a receiving corps that would give even the nations best secondary absolute fits. One that’s among the weakest in the Pac 12? Yikes.

With no Andrew Luck, Stanford won’t be able to hang with the Trojans in a shootout. The only hope is to control the game with the ground game and Stephan Taylor while keeping USCs offense off the field. Even then, it’s doubtful that will be enough.

Stanford is still a good team, but they aren’t the level they were with Andrew Luck, and the secondary losses make USC a particularly tough matchup. So while it’s a crucial game in the Pac 12, and involves two ranked teams and is worth checking out, don’t expect the final score to be close.

#20 Notre Dame at #10 Michigan State- It’s two top twenty teams, so it has to be a big game, right? Well, if you say so. And because it’s still Notre Dame.

That said, I’m still not a believer in the Irish, and why should anyone be. They haven’t had a double digit win season since 2006, and they’ve lost to South Florida, Tulsa, Connecticut, and Navy (twice) in the past three seasons. Yet, at the slightest hint of success, they climb the polls faster than kudzu climbs tree trunks in Georgia. I don’t get it.

So, I really hope Michigan State goes out and lays the wood to the Irish on Saturday night.

Last season, despite winning 31-13, the Irish only gained 275 yards. Winning the turnover battle helped the Irish to what seemed a convincing win over then 15th ranked Michigan State. The Spartans clearly learned something that day though, they went 9-2 the rest of the way, losing by just three points in the Big Ten title game.

Michigan State returns eight starters from a defensive unit that was among the nations best last year, and figures to be even better this season. So far, so good. In their opening two games against Boise State and Central Michigan, they’ve allowed 20 points, total.

The only potential question on the defensive side of the ball is the interior where they had to replace two starters, but they have plenty of experienced size that’s been able to step right in.

The back seven is both experienced, and extremely talented. Their trio of linebackers posses SEC type speed, while still mantaining good size. Ask Georgia how easy it is to run on this bunch.

They defend the run and the pass, as they allowed just 2.8 yards per carry last sesaon, and only 177 yards a game through the air. And they’re better this year.

To go along with their suffocating defense the Spartans also posses a very experienced offensive line that’s also blessed with talent. Behind that line is Le’Veon Bell, a junior running back who will likely be a household name by the time the year is over.

As I go on about the Spartans, I realize THEY play the “old man football” that Missouri player Sheldon Richardson was referencing. In any event, this style of football is working for the Spartans, enough so that there is legitimate talk not only of their first Rose Bowl since 1987, but their first national championship since 1952. Remember, this team is 22-5 the past two seasons. And just as importantly when it comes to their battle with Notre Dame, 14-0 at home.

Upset Watch:

#13 Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh- Before you go thinking I’m entirely off my rocker, just remember how the Hokies offense looked against Georgia Tech during their season opener before the undermanned Yellow Jacket defense finally tired late in the game.

I know, you can counter with how bad Pittsburgh has pretty much looked all season, but this is the first road game for Virginia Tech this season. And while the Hokies have still compiled a nice road record in recent years, it hasn’t come without a few struggles, especially against inferior opponents.

Obviously, the antidote for a struggling offense doesn’t seem to be a date with the Hokies outstanding defense. But Pittsburgh is hoping with each carry, running back Ray Graham becomes a little more confident, and a little closer to 100% in his return from a torn ACL.

Graham is going to have to play huge for the Panthers, and they’re going to need a few breaks along the way. This is one of those games, that on paper, no, there’s really nothing to truly make one think Pittsburgh will actually win this game. It’s just something I feel like going with.

Louisiana Monroe at Auburn- I warned earlier this week that Gene Chizik’s seat at Auburn might be getting warm after getting dominated by Mississippi State. If the Tigers do the unthinkable and become the second SEC team in a row downed by the Warhawks, Chizik might want to invest in a realtor.

Simply put, Auburn, two years removed from a national championship, is just not that talented, at least not by SEC standards. So I guess it’s a good thing they get to play a Sun Belt squad. Then again, Arkansas is pretty talented by SEC standards and they were upended by this same squad.

Louisiana Monroe is playing a very ambitious schedule, as next Friday they will welcome Baylor into Malone Stadium, and many would have predicted an 0-3 start. Suddenly, having beaten then 8th ranked Arkansas, there’s talk of an 8 or 9 win season. For a school that’s never even made a bowl game, seven sounds pretty nice.

Louisiana Monroe doesn’t necessarily need to win this game, but they do need to play well to keep the confidence and momentum riding from their victory over Arkansas.

Quarterback Kolton Browning appears to have take a good step forward after a solid sophomore year and he’s got some options to throw to in Brent Leonard and Tavarese Maye.

Auburn, despite nine starters back on defense, has been nothing close to a dominant unit, which Tiger fans with blue and orange glasses assumed would be the case with the number of returning players.

But alas, the problem for Auburn ultimately rests on the offense, as the Tigers have scored just 29 points in two games, though neither one was played at home.

The defensive line for ULM is young, and undersized, yet Arkansas’ offensive line could do nothing to protect Tyler Wilson last week. If Auburn can’t get Kiehl Frazier some protection, it could be Chizik who needs it by the end of the day.

Utah State at Wisconsin- If it wasn’t for Arkansas, Wisconsin’s loss at Oregon State last week would have been the biggest shocker in the country, and resulted in the largest drop in the polls. As it was it was somewhat overshadowed.

What was not overshadowed was the dreadful performance of Wisconsin during the first two games this season. Running back Montee Ball entered the year among the favorites to win the Heisman. Beating Northern Iowa by five at home, then losing to Oregon State when you only muster seven points isn’t the way to begin a Heisman campaign.

So what did the Badgers do? Fired the offensive line coach of course. I suppose it wsa his fault that he had to replace three starters on the unit, and its also his fault that superstar quarterback Russell Wilson is no longer under center.

In other words, even if you go 11-3 and make a second straight Rose Bowl apperance, when you lose three offensive linemen and a Heisman trophy contender at quarterback, there will be a drop-off.

The Badgers now just hope the drop off isn’t severe enough to drop them to 1-2. The good news of course is that Ohio State isn’t eligible to win the Big 10 title, Penn State is in trouble, and Iowa is vastly overrated. So the division championship still appears to be gift wrapped for the Badgers. But do they really want to be playing in the Big 10 title game with losses to Oregon State and Utah State on their resume?

It’s a possibility. You might remember last week I thought Utah State could beat Utah, and they did. The Aggies, unlike Wisconsin, have the key pieces back on their offense. If Chuckie Keeton plays like he has to start the season, there’s no reason to think that in the 4th quarter in Madison on Saturday night, Utah State will be on the verge of potentially going 3-0.

Granted, playing on the road at Camp Randall is a far cry from playing at home, but this isn’t the typical Utah State football team. A win here could really shoot this team towards something special.

Don’t Forget About:

North Carolina at #19 Louisville- The Tar Heels have one of the most talented teams in the ACC, unfortunately indiscretions by the Butch Davis regime has left them without a bowl, or conference championship to play for. That has to be the explanation for how they somehow managed to lose to Wake Forest. That or they’re taking one for the ACC and throwing conference games to keep the leagues bowl teams looking better.

If its the latter, then expect the Heels to come out firing on all cylinders as they take on the Cardinals.

North Carolina possesses a potential All-American in running back Govani Bernard and provides him a very good offensive line to run behind that returns four starters from a year ago. The Heels have also brought back quarterback Bryn Renner who, as a sophomore, threw for over 3,000 yards. Over 700 of them went to senior wideout Erik Highsmith, as the number two receiver. So offensively, North Carolina has the ability to put the points on the board.

Defensively though, Louisville has the ability to keep them off of it. In two games against Kentucky and Missouri State (offensive juggernauts, I know) the Cardinals have allowed just 21 points.

Noth Carolina represents their third straight home game, and serves as a vital game as from here they play three straight on the road, with trips to Southern Miss and Pittsburgh on the horizon. The Tar Heels are likely the most talented team on Louisville’s schedule, so a win over them would do wonders for the confidence of a team that’s quietly thinking about a perfect season.

If they’re to do it, sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who has played superbly in the opening two games, must navigate a North Carolina defense that often lines up in a unique and unusual alignment. That’s something that could be tricky for a young quarterback.

The Tar Heels have little to really play for this year, but if conference pride is among those things left, going to Louisville and beating one of the favorites in the Big East has to be one of the major goals of the season.

Arizona State at Missouri- Missouri got indoctirined to “old man football” last week against Georgia, so perhaps they’ll welcome the challenge of a wide open attack such as the one Todd Graham brings with him as he brings the Sun Devils into Columbia.

In Graham’s first two games as head coach at Arizona State his team has put up 108 points in two victories, including a resounding 45-14 route of an Illinois that some had tagged as a Big Ten sleeper.

Missouri’s confidence might have been shaken last week with the way they were welcomed to the SEC, but there’s no time for that. They better understand that in the SEC, you don’t let Pac 12 teams just come into your stadium and roll up big points (unless they’re USC).

If Missouri goes out and gets beaten by Arizona State, or lets the Sun Devils rack up a lot of yards and points, they’re going to hear it from the SEC faithful. All in all, that might not be a bad thing. They might need to learn a little more just what type of athlete it takes to really be considered SEC.

#14 Texas at Ole Miss- Texas is just about back folks, and there’s nothing they’d like more than to hammer that point home with a win on the road against an SEC team. No, Ole Miss is not anywhere near the elite of the SEC, but, even the non-elite in the SEC are a step above most teams non conference opponents. Also, Ole Miss took care of UTEP perhaps more convincingly than Big 12 favorite Oklahoma did.

Texas’ defense, in particular the front four, is going to be as good as most anybodys outside Tuscaloosa.

Offensively the Longhorns still have a lot of youth at key positions, and will be prone to struggle against better defenses, but their defense should be able to keep them in most any game they play. And the Ole Miss defense isn’t quite to a point where it’s considered one of the better defenses in the nation.

The Rebels do however return eight starters on both offense and defense, and they’ve already matched last year’s disastrous two win total. Despite that though, Ole Miss is still a ways away from seriously competing at anything resembling an elite level. For now, they’ll settle for being competitive against the nations better teams. Last season Ole Miss was outscored in league play by an average of 37-12. While Texas isn’t an SEC team, they’re the type of competition Ole Miss can gauge their progress against.

If this game is still within 14 points going into the fourth quarter, it will be considered a success for the Rebels. It will also tell the Longhorns they may not yet be completely ready to return to the nations elite.

Best of the Rest:

Wake Forest at #5 Florida State- I understand that somehow, against all the natural forces in the world, Wake Forest has won four of the last six meetings in this series. I also understand that Wake Forest somehow beat a talented North Carolina team a weak ago. However, I also understand that in their last two trips to Doak Campbell Stadium, Wake Forest has scored a total of 12 points, and those were against defensive units without the prowess of this year’s Seminoles team.

Even without Brandon Jenkins, the Seminoles put out a championship caliber defense, the only question has been if their offense can keep up. So far, so good, as quarterback E.J. Manuel has looked as good as ever.

The only way this game is close is the look-ahead factor that may plague Florida State. They host Clemson next week in perhaps the biggest regular season game in the ACC this season. So perhaps Wake Forest hangs around for a half. But by games end, this won’t be close.

#16 TCU at Kansas- So, about that 2-0 start for the Kansas Jayhawks in which they’ve already equalled last year’s win total….. They won’t be surpassing it this week. TCU will play its first ever Big 12 game, and they draw an opponent that is 2-23 in conference play the previous three seasons. If only because it’s the first game for TCU in a big boy conference since its days in the Southwest Conference, keep an eye on how bad the Horned Frogs take care of the Jayhawks.

UConn at Maryland- The Terrapins may be 2-0, but its not been pretty. The season started with a 7-6 win over William & Mary. Yes, that’s right, Maryland scored but one touchdown against William & Mary. That doesn’t bode well considering they’re taking on a Connecticut team with a stout defense that limited North Carolina State to just ten.

You throw in the fact that the Huskies have circled this one on their calendar due to it being a chance to visit former head coach Randy Edsall, who left on less than amicable terms, and this spells disaster for Maryland. Like Kansas, Maryland has already matched last years win total. Don’t expect them to surpass it Saturday.

Virginia at Georgia Tech- Last season the Cavaliers spoiled the then 12th ranked Yellow Jackets perfect season and sent the 6-0 Jackets into a tail spin where they would lose four of their final six games. Don’t think Georgia Tech has forgotten about this, especially Paul Johnson. It’s not often a Paul Johnson offense is held under 300 yards, but it happened in Charlottesville last year. Don’t expect it to happen in Atlanta on Saturday.

For Virginia, thanks to Penn State’s troubles, they’re 2-0. Otherwise, one would assume there’s no way the Cavaliers come away with that 17-16 win, earmarked by four missed Penn State field goals. With TCU on the road next week, Virginia, which has won 10 of their last 15 games, may be sent crashing back to earth.

Northwestern at Boston College- The Wildcats have already beaten a Big East and an SEC team, so now they take aim at one from the ACC. No, Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Boston College do not represent the upper echelon of their conference, but they also aren’t Savannah State.

A victory Saturday over Boston College sets Northwestern up to potentially, potentially I said, be 8-0 when Nebraska comes to Evanston on October, 20. They follow up the Boston College game with South Dakota and Indiana at home. Then they do indeed go on the road for two games, but it’s a severely crippled Penn State team, and a void of talent Minnesota squad. So Michael Wilbon, be ready, you might lose your mind as the school could play host to one of the biggest games ever at Ryan Field Stadium.

Of course, first things first, they must take care of business against Boston College, which is no gimme. The Eagles blew a double digit lead against Miami at home in the opener, but this is still a team that has some players on it. 17 starters return from last year’s disappointing team, and coach Frank Spaziani knows that the team has declined in each of his three years.

Boston College needs a win in the worst way, while Northwestern has some might big dreams tucked away in the back of their minds.

Ohio at Marshall- Frank Solich is steadily building a very stout program in Athens, and he might be at a point in his career where the grass won’t be greener somewhere else. He’s won 27 games in the past three seasons, going 19-7 in conference, and winning the schools first ever bowl game.

The Bobcats have already won at Penn State this season, and look every bit as good as last years 10-4 team. While it may be a stretch, the Bobcats are good enough, and their schedule more than favorable enough, that they could potentially make a run at a perfect regular season. Doing so would likely put the Bobcats in the top 25 for the first time since 1968.

For Marshall, the days of Randy Moss, and Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich are over. 2002 seems like such a long time ago now as they haven’t topped 8 wins in a sesaon since. They’ve actually in fact, lost eight or more games in each of the past eight years.

Offensively though they’ve shown some life this season, and they might be the stiffest test the Bobcats face all year. For their shortcomings, Marshall has gone 12-5 at home the past three seasons.

#25 BYU at Utah– The loss to Utah State by Utah lost week took some of the luster off this game, as does the fact it no longer concludes the regular season, and the two no longer share a conference. But that doesn’t mean the Holy War is any less unholy between the combatants.

Utah’s disappointing loss stung even more when quarterback Jordan Wynn announced he was no longer playing football due to recurring injuries to his shoulder. So that leaves the quarterback position in disaray, and when that happened last year, the Utah offense fell apart.

With UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State all being impressive in the opening two weeks of the season, Utah suddenly seems destined for the bottom of the barrel in the Pac 12 South. An upset victory on homecoming over the visiting Cougars could do wonders to turning the season back in the right direction. The Utes have been to a bowl for nine straight seasons, though that looks like it could be in jeopardy this season.

BYU quietly went 10-3 last season, but in their first year as an independent a less than daunting schedule kept BYU out of the top 25 at seasons end for the second straight year. Nevertheless, BYU has reached double digit victories in five of the past six seasons, and this team seems destined to do the same.

The Cougars face four tough road challenges, and Utah is one of them. Securing a victory over the Utes would certainly leave BYU on the fast track towards another 10 win season.

The weapons on offense are certainly in lace. Receivers Ross Apo and Cody Hoffman return, having combined for 95 catches and 19 touchdowns a year ago.

Defensively, the top five tacklers from a stingy defense in 2011 are all also back, and they allowed just six points in a 30-6 victory over Washington State in the season opener. They allowed only 13 in the subsequent 45-13 route of Weber State.

Last year Utah embarrassed BYU 54-10, and you better believe Cougar players and coaches haven’t forgotten a moment of it. BYU was -5 in the turnover battle that day, and it lead to their 7th loss in the last 10 games with Utah. That’s a trend the folks in Provo aren’t happy about, and expect to be turned around, starting Saturday.

Houston at #22 UCLA– How do you go from 12-0 and your schools first ever BCS berth to losing 30-13 to a team playing its first ever game at the FBS level? Ask Houston head coach Tony Levine. He managed to do just that in his first game as Cougar coach.

Last season the Cougars were a Conference USA championship game win over Southern Miss away from a potential Sugar Bowl invite. Then came a 49-28 loss, and the loss of three record setting recievers, and the loss of record setting quarterback Case Keenum. The result? Yeah, that embarrassing 17 point loss at home to Texas State.

At lesat in the second game of the year against Louisiana Tech the offense showed back up, scoring 49 points as the two schools set a records for most first downs in a game. Unfortunately the defense allowed 56.

UCLA meanwhile, which hasn’t lost fewer than six games in a season since the 10-2 year of 2005, is 2-0 under first year coach Jim Mora. The upset of Nebraska also propelled the Bruins into the top 25 for the first time since 2007, when they lost 44-6 to Utah in the third game of the season.

The Bruins aren’t an overly talented lot on offense, but the defense, despite the loss of linebacker and returning leading tackler Patrick Larimore, is. A young unit was often abused las tyear, allowing over 31 points and nearly 420 yards per game. But they took their lumps, and even without Larimore, return eight of their top ten tacklers from a year ago.

One area of concern, that could bite them against Houston, is the lack of a pass rush. UCLA only had 14 sacks last season, but the hope is the return of all three defensive line starters, and both outside linebackers, that will change in 2012. Last week they managed to harrass Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez into a bad game.

With Oregon State at home and Colorado in Boulder their next two games on the schedule, there is little reason to think UCLA can’t be 5-0 before playing California on the road. It’s been a while since UCLA made a meaningful October game, and they should this season.

However, Houston still has talented players, Jim Mora is still the UCLA coach, and this program in recent years has had a tendency to completely forget to show up at times. So this game isn’t exactly written in ink as W just yet.   

Bowling Green at Toledo- You may be wondering what on earth I’m thinking here, but remember, Bowling Green played Florida awfully tough at the swamp, and this is a team with 17 starters back, including 10 on defense. If someone is going to dethrone Ohio in MAC West, it might be the Falcons.

On the other side, Toledo must replace seven starters on each side of the ball, and break in a new head coach. Yet despite that, Toledo only lost by seven to now ranked Arizona, and beat Wyoming, both on the road. The Rockets are 14-2 the past two years in conference play for a reason, though this year they hope to finally make it into the MAC title game.

With Western Michigan and Northern Illinois both on the road within the division, Toledo has to take care of business in their home games, especially against the other side.  It’s a big early season game for both teams.

3 Comments

Filed under College Football, Sports

South Florida and Rutgers, Bigger Than You Think

Upon first look, there would seem to be zero reason to tune into the college football on ESPN tonight as opposed to a critical early season game between the Bears and the Packers. But that’s just upon first look.

Yes, the Big East still gets an automatic birth to the BCS party, and South Florida and Rutgers, along with Louisville, are the heavy favorites to snag such a birth.

Both Rutgers and South Florida have had opportunities to lay claim to a Big East title in recent years, but both have come up short.

South Florida, in particular, had strong teams in both 2006 and 2007. Unfortunately, they saw a three game conference losing streak late  in the season follow an ascension to number the number two ranking in college football in 2007 and wound up not in Miami for the Orange bowl, but in El Paso for the Sun Bowl to be terrorized by the Oregon Ducks offense.

In fact, from 2006-2009 Rutgers was a major thorn in the side of South Florida, winning all four battles, most coming during their annual late season slide.

Last season Rutgers defeated South Florida in overtime, 20-17, giving the Bulls their fourth straight loss after a 4-0 start that propelled them to #16 in the national polls.

In 2012 the Bulls enter the season as the favorite to take home the Big East championship, but in order to do so, finding a way to upend a Scarlet Knights team that has their number must happen.

Rutgers went 11-2 in 2006, but an overtime loss to West Virginia at season’s end handed the conference title to Louisville and sent them to the Orange Bowl while Rutgers was relegated to the Texas Bowl against Kansas State.

Neither team has any intention of playing their bowl games in the state of Texas this season.

For Rutgers, the quest begins with a major challenge, going down to Tampa to play the conference favorites.

Last year Rutgers went 9-4, but lost by two points on the road against both North Carolina and Louisville. With 15 starters back, including both quarterbacks, the top three leading rushers, and seven of their nine leading tacklers, Rutgers entered this year feeling pretty confident. This of course despite the one major loss, coach Greg Schiano, ironically enough to Tampa, to coach the NFL team down there.

It’s Kyle Flood’s first head coaching job and both the offensive coordinator (Dave Brock) and defensive coordinator (Robb Smith) are new. Generally speaking, coaching overhauls take some time for players to get acclimated to.

Perhaps that’s been the reason for the slow start for the Knights. Neither win thus far to open the season has been overly impressive. They beat Tulane on the road 24-12 to start the season in a game that was only 10-6 early in the 4th quarter before a pick six from corner Brandon Jones to basically put the game out of reach. They followed that up with an uninspiring 26-0 victory over Howard the following week.

While the defense has been stout, a sputtering offense is leaving cause for concern as they prepare to take on a good offensive football team in South Florida.

Sophomore Gary Nova was given the keys to the offense this season, but has struggled in his first two starts, against sub standard defenses. He’s only averaged 144 yards per game (115th in the nation), this after the team averaged over 241 a game during the 2011 season. In fact, the lowest total they put up in 2011 was 174 against Pittsburgh.

The running game though has started off strong. Jawan Jamison started nine games last season as a true freshmen and ran for almost 900 yards. He’s picked right up where he left off, averaging 7.9 yards per carry on his way to 222 yards in the first two games.

If Rutgers is to have any shot against South Florida they’re going to need him to carry the load.

This of course will be much easier said than done against a defense that last season allowed a mere 107 yards per game on the ground, and returned six starters on the front seven, including all three starting linebackers.

Granted, South Florida did allow 30 first downs and 549 yards to Nevada last week, including 278 on the ground. Though it should be noted that Nevada has averaged 278, 345, 292, and 248 yards per game on the ground in each of the last four seasons. So it’s not exactly like they were facing a stagnant running game.

While the defense did have its problems with the Nevada attack, offensively South Florida showed why many think this team is the team to beat in the conference. Despite falling behind early, the Bulls rallied behind B.J. Daniels and his 363 yards passing with three touchdowns, with over 50 yards on the ground just as icing on the cake.

Daniels, with Geno Smith no longer in the league, will be a heavy favorite to win player of the year honors in the Big East, and his performance last week demonstrated why.

It will be an interesting matchup between Daniels and the Rutgers secondary. The aforementioned Jones is part of a secondary that returns three starters from a unit that helped the Scarlet Knights limit teams to just 172 yards a game through the air last season and barely complete over half of their passes. Between the three returning starters, corners Jones and Logan Ryan, as well as safety Duron Harmon, the Scarlet Knights bring back 10 interceptions and 19 passes defended.

That the game is played in Tampa would seemingly give the Bulls a slight edge. But keep in mind, they lost their final four home games of 2011, and have lost five consecutive home conference games, so Raymond James Stadium hasn’t exactly been the most difficult stadium for a Big East team to go steal a conference road victory in.

That said, Rutgers is 2-7 on the road during the past two seasons. Last season Rutgers averaged 127 yards a game rushing at home, but just 63 on the road. Again, they’re going to need Jawan Jamison to reverse that trend if they’re to have a chance.

Rutgers defense should keep them in this game, but ultimately, South Florida has too much playmaking ability to keep them in check all game. Rutgers doesn’t seem to have the offensive firepower to keep up for 60 minutes against South Florida and their defense.

Should the Bulls win, they only have a trip to Ball State the following week before coming home for what very well could be the biggest home game in the history of the program. Florida State makes a visit on September 29, and they haven’t forgoten that South Florida went to Tallahassee and beat them 17-7 in 2009.

More importantly though, a win for South Florida gives them the upperhand in what is expected to be a three team race for an Orange Bowl trip.

Leave a comment

Filed under College Football, Sports

Owls Try To Keep Resurgence Going in 2012

Villanova at Temple

The Temple Owls have won 43 games in the past ten seasons, and over half of them, 25, came in the past three years. To say that the program has achieved new heights is a massive understatment. However, with such rapid ascensions in the lower levels of college footballs highest classification comes the inevitable moving on of a coach to greener pastures. The program was supposed to take a hit last year when Al Golden left for Miami. However, under Steve Addazio the Owls enjoyed their second nine win season in three years, and won their first bowl game since 1978. So what’s next?

Well, Owls fans might want to live a little bit longer in last year’s successes, because 2012 doesn’t promise to be kind, at all. For starters, Temple is no longer competing in the MAC, moving back to the Big East, where they go from the baddest kid on the block, to the weakest.

Compounding matters is the fact that only eight starters return. Of the four new offensive linemen, they’ve combined for three starts. In total, only 29 starts return on the offensive line for a team that ran the ball nearly 50 times a game last season. Not only missing is the majority of the offensive line, but so is the schools second all time leading rusher, Bernard Pierce, he of the 27 touchdowns in 2011.

Defensively, the Owls lose their top four tacklers from a year ago from a unit that was stifling, holding opponents to just 14 points a game. Despite the losses however, the defense still should be pretty solid, they are expected to have ten upperclassmen as starters, so there’s some experience to replace the six startrs who did leave.

All the news isn’t bad though, while Pierce is now suiting up south of Philadelphia in Baltimore for the Ravens, Matt Brown isn’t exactly an unworthy replacement. Brown himself rushed for over 900 yards last season while averaging 25 yards per kick return.

The Owls should also be in better hands at quarterback. Chris Coyer took over in the last four games last year and completed 60% of his passes for six scores and no interceptions. So don’t be surprised if the Owls trust him a little more to throw the football as opposed to the run heavy attack the employed a year ago.

Last year Temple embarrased cross town rival Villanova and should figure to do the same this season. Villanova had a miserable 2011 campaign, and despite the losses Temple has suffered, there’s still drastically more talent on hand for the Owls than there is for the Wildcats.

While rumors still exist that Villanova may soon be moving out of the FCS level and into the FBS, whether or not they would join the Big East is unknown, though it certainly makes sense, as they are Big East members in every other sport. If they don’t join the Big East, this could be the last installment of the cross town rivalry as there are no scheduled meetings scheduled beyond tonight, and neither school seems too concerned about it.

Temple desperately needs a win to start the season, becaue their next three games are brutal, with Maryland and Big East favorite South Florida coming to town sandwiching a trip to Penn State.

Leave a comment

Filed under College Football, Sports

NCAA Tournament Quick Thoughts

  • Yes,  I know the Big East only saw two of eleven teams advance into the Sweet Sixteen, however seven did advance to the round of 32, which is over 1/5 of the field.
  • Arguments are made that the only reason two Big East teams made the Sweet 16 is because they were able to beat other Big East teams. On the other side of that coin, it also means that perhaps two of the five teams to lose in the round of 32 lost simply because they played Big East teams.
  • Watching Butler run their offense is a treat. The difference in the movement off the ball for the Bulldogs compared to Pittsburgh was night and day. Bradley Stevens is absolutely one of the elite coaches in America.
  • Jimmer is the truth. Period. I didn’t see BYU surviving the opening weekend without Davies. Not only did they, they did so rather impressively.
  • Michigan basketball is on the way back.
  • Which team benefited most from the pod system, and from the court they got to play on during the opening weekend? I think it’s safe to say Duke and North Carolina share that, as both squeaked out of the round of 32 with close victories in Charlotte. It makes you wonder what would have happened had they been on a truly neutral court.
  • The fact that Xavier and Michigan State both have made the Sweet 16 for the straight years prior to this tournament was, and still is, irrelevant to this years tournament. The squad that started that run for each bears very little resemblance to the ones that were ousted in the opening round.
  • For the first time since Los Angeles did it in 2007, a city has two teams in the Sweet 16. The city? Richmond.
  • Seth Greenberg, please shut-up now. You aren’t even the second best team in your state, you absolutely have done nothing to show why your Virginia Tech Hokies belonged in the tournament more than the VCU Rams. All the Rams have done is shown they belong with the big boys, while your Hokies can’t get out of round two in the Not Important Tournament.
  • Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, please return to Athens. If you do, the 2012 NCAA Tournament run could be special for the folks in Athens.
  • Have you ever seen a dumber foul than the one Sheldon Mack committed at the end of the Pittsburgh/Butler game? The answer is no. Well, except for the fact that Pittsburgh committed an even more egregious foul on the other end.
  • Picking upsets isn’t the way to win a bracket pool, but it’s a way to make watching the opening round much more fun, and feel some vindication when you nail one.
  • I did pretty well with the upset picks. Richmond, George Mason, and Gonzaga delivered. Utah State, Old Dominion and Georgia took their opponent down to the bitter end while Clemson just tired down the stretch in a game they were in throughout. Belmont was the only one who kinda make me look silly.
  • Speaking of Clemson, the scheduling of this tournament screwed them pretty royally. No way they should have been playing in the first game of the tournament after playing in the First Four, especially considering they didn’t even get in ’till about 5 a.m. on Wednesday morning. Pretty inexcusable if you ask me.
  • Was there any game more exciting to watch throughout its entirety than Arizona against Memphis. Neither possession seemed to last more than 12 seconds, and the game was played at break-neck pace. It also had plenty of drama down the stretch. Two very, very athletic teams. Memphis could be very good next year.
  • Florida State just plays ridiculous defense, period. They are an extremely tough out, reminds me of some of those old Wisconsin teams that seemed to regularly crash the party.
  • On the note of the Badgers, things have shaped up rather nicely for them. Butler’s offense won’t catch them as off guard and out of position as it did Pittsburgh. Watching Taylor go head to head with Mack is going to be a real treat.
  • Missed free throws make the end of college basketball games in March the most exciting thing in sports.
  • At this point, I don’t see how anyone can pick against Ohio State. Everyone else has looked extremely vulnerable, with Kansas perhaps being the second strongest. Right now, Ohio State though is playing head and shoulders better than anyone else.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Basketball, College Basketball