Tag Archives: South Carolina Gamecocks

Desperation Time for Big Name Programs

Nicely done Paul, looks like last year's charade means we're just going to let the programs slide into mediocrity and worse just...slide.

Nicely done Paul, looks like last year’s charade means we’re just going to let the programs slide into mediocrity and worse just…slide.

Here we are, only a few days into October, and already, several big name schools have their fingers hovering perilously close to the panic button, and with good reason. The upside to having fifty gazillion bowls is that pretty much anybody with a pulse will make one. The downside of this though? If you don’t, then you’re in trouble. Real trouble. Obviously different schools view different levels of success for job security, but there’s one basic rule of thumb across the board just about everywhere; If you don’t make a bowl game, you’re going to be fired.

Obviously this is not taken literally, every single season, at every single school, but making a bowl game is I guess somewhat equivalent to the Mendoza Line. If you aren’t playing in a bowl, then you’re not just merely mediocre, or slightly below average, you’re just plain awful.

In the lower tier of programs in the country, consistent trips to the postseason aren’t necessary to remain employed, but consistently ending seasons without a trip to such a wonderful winter vacation spot such as Mobile will have you looking for a job.

But at other schools, you get one pass, if that, and if you start making a habit of not playing in a bowl game (a habit meaning it happens more than once during your tenure) you will be run out of town faster than Matt Williams after a year of unmet expectations. And this is where things get tricky with these teams. When they have this blip, is it really just a mirage, a series of unfortunate events that so imperfectly aligned that the postseason was beyond their grasp? Or is it the signs of deeper problems, and much more the beginning of the end, if not THE end already?

This is why it’s best for coaches to simply avoid this predicament altogether. Don’t miss a bowl and don’t let the questions begin to amass. But some big time coaches and some big time schools are dangerously close to opening Pandora’s Box of questions about the future of the program.

Georgia Tech has the third longest active bowl streak in the country, at 18. But barring a complete miracle, it won’t extend to 19. High school recruits of today have never seen Georgia Tech not play in a bowl game. It’s something Tech can sell to kids, but not much longer.

Everyone knew the schedule was going to be tough, but after their flukish run last season, and early season domination of patsies, it was thought they would not only be able to successfully navigate the rough waters to another winning season, but that they would be in the thick of the conference race, and possibly the national title picture. Week by week they’ve taken themselves out of consideration for all three. The Notre Dame loss squelched all talk of the playoffs. The loss at Duke the following week put the brakes on talks of an ACC championship, and then this past weekend’s loss at home to North Carolina, in which a 21-0 lead was choked away, pretty much put the kibosh on bowl possibilities.

Tech sits at 2-3, which, at first glance doesn’t appear to be a death sentence. But then you have to remember this team hasn’t beaten an opponent better than Tulane to this point. You consider that if you look at their schedule, there is only one game left on it right now where they can feel like they’d be the favorites. And that is for a trip to Charlottesville, where despite recent success, it’s been a house of horrors. They have to host Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech. They must still travel to play to Miami. They have to go play at Clemson this week. And oh yeah, Florida State and Georgia come calling. Do you see four wins on that schedule? Didn’t think so. Four losses? That’s easy to come up with. What’s frightening for Tech is that 2-10 is as likely at this point as a trip to a bowl game.

The irony in all of this is that the streak should have ended in 2012, but an NCAA waiver allowed a sub .500 Yellow Jacket team that truly didn’t win the division but played in the ACC title game due to the off field transgressions of conference bad boys Miami and North Carolina to play in a bowl anyway. Tech played well against Florida State in the conference title game, and then went and beat USC in the Sun Bowl, finishing 7-7 and keeping some heat off of Johnson. 2013 wasn’t much better, another 7-6 year, another loss in a bowl game. It was obvious at this point that Johnson needed to go. The sooner the better, because the rebuilding process following Johnson will be a long and painful one.

Then, much like this year, in 2014, came back to back losses to those basketball schools in Duke and North Carolina. The ax was ready to drop on Johnson. And then something miraculous (or not, depending on how you want to look at it) and Tech caught fire, won the division, beat Georgia, nearly upset Florida State in the ACC title game and ran all over Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl.

Well done Paul Johnson, you pulled the veil back over our eyes for a moment and kept attention away from the real ugly truth at Georgia Tech. The program was ultimately, at its core, in real trouble. Many, myself included, praised Johnson after last year. I even apologized for being “wrong” about him. No, I was right. I let him convince me I was wrong.

And it looks like this year on the flats, we’re going to finally see how right I originally was. Clemson is the toughest game left on the schedule, so it’s unfair to say it’s a must win, that a loss to the Tigers completely buries the Jackets. But, they’ve used their mulligans, and they could really use some breathing room, not mention some confidence. Going up to Clemson and getting a win, which Tech has had a knack for back when Clemson was mastering the art of Clemsoning, would help. But, these aren’t those same Tigers, and these aren’t the Jackets you can believe in to go win a game like this.

Georgia Tech isn’t the only Tech however in the ACC coastal in deep trouble. Virginia Tech and Frank Beamer, another program on a precipitous decline, is staring at a similar fate. From 2004 thru 2011 the Hokies won double-digit games every single year. That’s eight consecutive 10 win seasons. That’s quality work. But over the last three years they’ve only won 22 games. They’ve lost in each of the last two years to Boston College, they’ve been beaten by Cincinnati, and with their loss two weeks ago, they’ve lost in successive seasons to East Carolina. They’ve only even played six games over the past three plus seasons as a ranked team. Again, after eight consecutive seasons of 10 plus wins.

The Hokies, like Georgia Tech, cannot lose more than three more games the rest of the way. And they have to play aforementioned Boston College on the road, just like they have to travel to play Miami and Georgia Tech. They also still have N.C. State and Duke to play at home. Just like with Georgia Tech, the only game left on the schedule that you can say with confidence they could be favored in is against Virginia.

The sharp decline of the program already had many wondering how much longer Beamer would last, especially since special teams, long the calling card of this regime, had become an all out weakness of the Hokies. This year, with it looking more and more likely that a bowl isn’t going to happen, it’s looking more and more likely that this could be Beamer’s swan song.

While Georgia Tech has a game that they can lose and still back their way into a bowl game, a home loss to N.C. State to drop to 2-4 might get the vultures circling in Blacksburg.

Michael Vick, Marcus Vick, DeAngelo Hall, now Bill Cosby? Might be getting what's coming to ya, Hokies.

Michael Vick, Marcus Vick, DeAngelo Hall, and….. Bill Cosby? Might be getting what’s coming to ya, Hokies. I shudder to think what happened in this room after Beamer left it. 

Speaking of Beamer and the Hokies, wouldn’t The Battle at Bristol lose some of its luster if Virginia Tech were to find themselves coming off a season without a bowl game? Yeah? Well, what if both Virginia Tech AND Tennessee were coming off seasons without making a bowl? Don’t look now organizers, but that very well could be what takes place.

While the final five games on Tennessee‘s schedule look very, very winnable, and thus, completely missing out on a bowl game doesn’t look as likely with the Vols as it does with the two Techs, it can’t be ruled out. Kentucky is better. Maty Mauck could be back for Missouri by the time they meet, South Carolina could be fighting for their post-season lives in their own right, and Kentucky could be actually playing for something at the end of November. So if you’re Tennessee, you would like a little wiggle room.

The problem is, as they too sit at 2-3, they’ve got a very angry Georgia team coming to Knoxville this week, and then after that they have to travel to take on the Alabama team who has made this Georgia team so angry. 2-5 looks very, very possible. As mentioned, the schedule eases up enough to think that at 2-5, Tennessee could still finish 7-5. However, you have to look deeper than just the ease of the schedule. You have to look at the psyche of this program. Tennessee has lost six or more games in seven consecutive years. Yes, you read that correct, Tennessee hasn’t won more than seven games in a season since 2007.
So how much life do you think will be left in this team if it starts 2-5? Lane Kiffin bolted after a year. Derek Dooley didn’t finish his third season. Butch Jones is in his third season. Rocky Top could be about to explode….. again.

Mentioned in looking at the schedule Tennessee closes with was of course the old ball coach and South Carolina. There are two programs Spurrier likes to beat more than anyone; Georgia and Tennessee. When looking at what South Carolina has left, there is virtually no way they can survive losing to Tennessee and still make a bowl game. As bad as the remaining schedule looks for Georgia Tech, it’s even worse for South Carolina.

The Gamecocks can only afford three more losses to still make a bowl game. The problem? There are currently four teams ranked in the top 11 left on their schedule. Sure, I suppose it’s good news that three of them are at home, but home is where this team lost to Kentucky.

A bit of irony? The last time South Carolina didn’t make a bowl was 2007, as mentioned earlier, the last time Tennessee didn’t lose at least six games.

Shifting to the SEC West, Auburn isn’t in full-fledged panic mode yet, but they are one road loss in the next two weeks away from going to defcon one. With Ole Miss, Georgia, Texas A&M and Alabama as four of their final five games, Auburn does not want to enter the final five games of the season anything less than 5-2. Knowing they must win one of those four to reach a bowl game, after pre-season expectations (wildly placed, and not by yours truly) of contending for a national title would be a lot of pressure on a fragile team. Which is why Auburn is getting a bye at the right time.

Because these next two games, at Kentucky, and at Arkansas, are absolutely must win games. And neither looks like a gimme. Conference road games are always tough. But when you need overtime to beat Jacksonville State at home, and only led San Jose State by 7 at home late in the fourth quarter, is there any reason to believe you have any kind of chance on the road against SEC opponents?

Auburn is talented. More talented than their next two opponents. But, they’re also far more talented than both Jacksonville State and San Jose State, and it didn’t mean that much. The problem for Auburn, much like at Georgia Tech, is the very real possibility of finishing the season with 8 or 9 losses. If Auburn stumbles against Kentucky in two weeks, the question becomes, aside from Idaho, will they win another game this year?

I only mention Texas because, well, I have to. They are still one of the biggest brands in the country, even if the on field product has deteriorated to the point it’s unrecognizable. Texas can only afford to lose two more games and still squeak into a bowl game. And both Baylor and Oklahoma still loom on the schedule.

Granted, Texas showed some life against Cal and Oklahoma State, two top 25 teams, but all that progress seemed to get erased with the shellacking at the hands of TCU on Saturday. The schedule outside of national title contenders Oklahoma and Baylor isn’t all that daunting, though no trip to Morgantown is fun, and Kansas State is a very underrated team. The problem is the losses to Cal and Oklahoma State due to shoddy special teams play that pretty much make all of these games must win games for the Horns to make a bowl game. Because, let’s face it, there’s absolutely zero reason on this planet to think they’re beating Oklahoma or Baylor at this point.

Making matters worse seems to be the discord in the locker room that spilled out on to social media this week. The situation in Austin, Texas is messy. There’s a new AD in charge, and Charlie Strong looks more and more like a dead man walking. And if he is, Texas could be staring down the barrel of a season spent threatening to lose double-digit games. Thank God for Kansas, right?

Speaking of former Big 12 powers, someone should tell Mike Riley he’s not in Corvallis anymore. Nebraska finds themselves in as precarious a situation as just about anyone on this list. They sit at 2-3, and with their two most winnable games both being on the road, the margin for error is slim, at most. Missing bowl games doesn’t sit well with the folks in Lincoln. At all. Winning 9 games a year didn’t sit well with them, so imagine bordering on losing that many in a season.

The schedule is also much tougher than it looked a few weeks ago. Northwestern is good. Really good. Iowa is a lot better than expected. Granted, they must come to Lincoln, but that’s where BYU has already won, after losing their starting quarterback, and Southern Miss made a game of it. This is a team that was curb stomped for three quarters by Miami, today’s Miami, not the Miami you grew up hearing about, and who lost to a team who fired their coach in August before the first game was even played.

Yes, there are serious concerns in Lincoln right now. But, on the bright side, as alluded to, they get their toughest opponents all at home. Iowa and Northwestern might have established themselves as the favorites in the division, though neither possesses an offense that looks like it could bury Nebraska and leave them with no chance. Wisconsin has shown they don’t have a pulse offensively against a semi competent defense, and the Spartans of Michigan State seem to be missing that special something at this point of the season. So, with the glass half full, there’s reason to think Nebraska has a shot to win all four of these games, and, ultimately, win out and play for the division title.

But they lost to Illinois.

And there is the glass half empty. It’s also conceivable they lose all four and miss the post-season. It’s conceivable that they not only lose all four, but that they get stymied by the Minnesota defense on the road as well, and the Huskers finish 4-8, at best.

Just a a few short years ago it would have been preposterous to suggest that as we approached the middle of the college football season that programs like Auburn, Texas and Nebraska would be facing such daunting tasks just to make it into a bowl game. Such is the nature of college football though. Two of the most respected coaches in the game, Spurrier and Beamer need to pull rabbits out of a hat to try to salvage their seasons. It’s just the cyclical nature of the game. Not every program, or every coach can stay on top forever. If you’re a Tennessee fan though, you’re starting to wonder if you’ll ever get on top again, or if the karma from firing Phil Fulmer and hiring Lane Kiffin is seeing to it that you never regain your place among the SEC elite. And if you’re a Georgia Tech, you’re kicking yourself for becoming a prisoner of the moment and being blinded to the reality that you knew existed.

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Must Win Games in Week Three? You Betcha

South Carolina finds themselves in a must win situation, and would Steve Spurrier rather be playing anyone than Georgia?

South Carolina finds themselves in a must win situation, and would Steve Spurrier rather be playing anyone than Georgia?

There is still yet another weekend of September games on the schedule, but already in week three, some teams and coaches are feeling the heat. For some coaches, they’re fighting for their job. For some teams, their chance to spoil the college football playoff party as a dark horse may be dependent on a key early season victory, and for some, they’re neither here nor there, but need a win in the worst way to keep a season from spiraling out of control before it ever really gets started.

For starters, there are a few teams with a chance to make big time statements and propel themselves into the playoff discussion, while a loss this week would probably drop them too far behind the pack to be able to recover, either due to the depth of their fall, or the arduous task that would lie in front of them asking them to not lose another game all season.

#14 Georgia Tech at #8 Notre Dame– This one I went back and forth on as to just how important it is to each team, and finally decided, that if either one wants to make the playoff, they can’t lose this game. And that has more to do with their schedules the rest of the way than it does how far a loss on Saturday might drop them. The odds of either team running the table from Saturday going forward aren’t good, which is what it would require for either to get back into the playoff race. Georgia Tech faces what could amount to be one of the most daunting schedules in all of college football, and while the Irish slate isn’t as difficult, the presence of Clemson, USC and Stanford means Notre Dame would really like to have some margin for error as they head into the cooler months of the season. So while both teams potentially could recover from this loss, both teams know that their best shot at being in the college playoff conversation in November is probably dependent on getting out of September without a loss. With the ACC and the Independent Irish on the outside looking in when it comes to playoff prognostications, every win over a highly ranked foe is critical to obtain, and they can’t afford to let those opportunities slip away.

Stanford at #6 USC- Last year Stanford saw their streak of double digit win seasons snapped at four, all the more impressive considering they’d never posted back to back double digit win seasons in their school’s history. Many felt that was an aberration for David Shaw and the Cardinal however and several pundits predicted the Cardinal would be right back in the playoff mix, and even potentially dethrone Oregon in the Pac 12 North. Then the season began and the Cardinal were physically dominated by Northwestern in one of the more stunning outcomes to date during the 2015 season. While Stanford can afford to lose to USC and still win the Pac 12, they absolutely cannot afford to lose this game and still have any shot at making the college football playoff. It says a lot about where Stanford has come as a program that that is the level of expectation no only in Palo Alto, but nationwide. But a second loss in three games to start the year will have them re-evaluating those expectations very quickly.

Temple at UMass- No, I’m not crazy. And no, I’m not implying Temple is a threat for the college football playoff. However, with their dominant victory over Penn State, and then subsequent win on the road at American Athletic Conference favorite Cincinnati, along with a loss by Boise State to BYU, Temple suddenly has a very legit opportunity to be competing for one of the New Year’s Six bowl games. Yes, Temple, they of 4 bowl games in 67 years of existence. That Temple. But to do so, aside from the Notre Dame game, Temple simply can’t slip up. At all. Every game becomes a must win game for the Owls. But what a story that would be. And they’ve already navigated what most would have considered two of their three toughest tests. Until Temple loses, expect to see them on this page every week from here until the end of the season.

On the opposite end of the spectrum of teams fighting to stay in the race for a national title, you have the coaches fighting to keep their seat from scalding their rear ends as they put for sale signs in their yard. Often times, once the whispers start getting louder, the writing is on the wall. And early season struggles for a coach who came in with the seat anywhere from lukewarm to blistering more often than not lead to a change at the top for the program.

South Florida at Maryland– Randy Edsal was not brought to College Park to go 7-6. Considering that the man he replaced at Maryland won more than 7 games in 6 of his 10 seasons as the head coach, Edsal can’t afford to begin his tenure with five consecutive seasons of failing to top the 7 win mark. After losing in embarrassing fashion to Bowling Green (who, as I’ve championed all along, as a very underrated and explosive offense) Edsal could find himself in real trouble if they slip up again to a weak Bulls program. The Big Ten schedule did Maryland no favors, so if the Terps fail to make a bowl this year and have losses to Bowling Green and South Florida on the resume, Edsal might need to start preparing his.

Illinois at North Carolina– Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels have seen a decrease in their number of wins in both his second and third year on the job, not exactly the direction you want your program to go. 2014 was supposed to be the big turnaround, and it became the biggest disappointment. But with so many starters back on both sides of the ball, and what promised to be a highly explosive, borderline unstoppable offense in Chapel Hill, many, including myself, tabbed Carolina as a sleeper this year. Then the offense slept the entire way through the South Carolina game and had us wondering why we put any faith in the Tar Heels. Illinois may be 2-0, but after the firing of Tim Beckham in August and the uncertainty with that program, along with a lack of talent, losing at home to them is unacceptable for any coach of any program that thinks of themselves as being relevant in college football. The Heels still have a favorable ACC schedule, and have yet to begin conference play, so those goals will still be out there. But it’s going to be awfully difficult to focus on those tasks with what promises to be a whirlwind of rumors and whispers surrounding the future of the program. Couple that with the seemingly never ending cloud of NCAA investigations, and a loss to Illinois could be the straw that breaks the camels back in Chapel Hill.

Virginia Tech at Purdue– This game is far more important than I think many casual observers probably think. Whispers about the future of Frank Beamer and whether or not it was time to hang it up at Virginia Tech have begun to get louder and louder in recent years. Especially as the hallmarks of “Beamer Ball”, his special teams units, have fallen drastically to the point they are no longer a strength, they’re a legit weakness. With a mere 23 wins and no top 25 rankings over the past three years have the program at a potential crossroads. Beamer and the Hokies suffered a bad break when quarterback Michael Brewer went down, but that injury may not be enough to save Beamer if the Hokies suffer to another 5 or 6 loss season. Much like the situation at North Carolina, the schedule is still favorable for conference play, and the Hokies will still control that aspect of their destiny, but losing to a Purdue team that entered the year considered among the worst among all power five conference teams would turn the whispers into full fledged open conversation, and the 2015 Virginia Tech season will be more about what the future of the program holds and less about what they can accomplish this year.

Speaking of Purdue, the Boilermakers went 13-13 in what amounted to the final two seasons Danny Hope was on the job. In the two ensuing seasons they went 4-20 while being rendered for the most part completely uncompetitive. How patient will Purdue remain? The Big Ten schedule for Purdue is disastrous, with only the home games against Indiana and Illinois really seeming to be winnable at this point, so the thoughts of sneaking into a bowl game seem slim, at best. That said, if the team can be competitive in the Big Ten, even if they go 2-6, but can come away with a victory over a team like Virginia Tech, it might be enough to give Darrell Hazell a fourth year on the job. With the Hokies still having all sorts of concerns at quarterback after the Brewer injury, this is one Purdue can get, and at home, needs to get, if Hazell is going to stick around.

Western Kentucky at Indiana– There are many, yours truly included, who just don’t understand how Kevin Wilson still has a job at Indiana. I think we’ve had him on the hot seat for successive years now, and yet, here he is, despite never finishing .500 or qualifying for a bowl in four years on the job. With games against Wake Forest, Rutgers, Maryland, and Purdue still on the schedule, Hoosier fans have a glimmer of hope that this will be the year they return to a bowl game, for what would be just their second postseason appearance over 22 seasons. But after narrowly escaping against Southern Illinois, no game can be chalked up as a W. But if Indiana is going to make a bowl, which this time HAS to be the only way Kevin Wilson gets to back for another year, they absolutely must win a home game against Western Kentucky.

Rutgers at Penn State– With the Kyle Flood allegations and suspensions, Rutgers has officially become the biggest dumpster fire in college football. Just don’t tell that to Penn State fans. Getting blown out by Temple and then struggling to beat Buffalo isn’t what Penn State does. Ever. But it’s what this Penn State does. The Nittany Lions are 4-7 in their last 11 games, including losses at home to Illinois, Maryland and Northwestern, and then the opening week embarrassment at the hands of Temple. Even more disconcerting is the development, or the lack thereof, of Christian Hackenberg. While scouts drool over his physical attributes, his play has worsened since his freshmen year. Many fans wonder aloud how he fared so much better as a freshman under Bill O’Brien than as a junior under James Franklin. These fans will not settle for this. If they cannot take advantage of the mess that is the Rutgers football program and they fall to 1-2 to start the year, the heat on James Franklin, even in just his second year, will ramp up exponentially. One could look to a rather soft conference schedule as a beacon of hope, but, Rutgers is supposed to be the soft part of that schedule. If they can’t take care of business this week, the ball might begin to get rolling on James Franklin.

When a quarterback regresses to this level from his freshman year, confidence in the head coach begins to wane.

When a quarterback regresses to this level from his freshman year, confidence in the head coach begins to wane.

And finally, there are those who are fighting to salvage a season. No, there is no real job security issue with the head coach, and they were never a threat for the playoffs, but their 2015 seasons have not gotten off to the start they expected, and a loss this week could have them well behind the eight ball as we ramp up conference play.

#11 Clemson at Louisville– Personally I take great joy in seeing the Cardinals 0-2. It’s nothing against Louisville, well, it is now, but I love seeing Bobby Petrino fail. I especially love to see how he’s failed. The Cardinals are still talented enough on defense, and Petrino is still smart enough of an offensive mind that this team can still play spoiler in the ACC Atlantic Division. However, an 0-3 start could prove disastrous, because after Samford, Louisville has to play N.C. State and Florida State on the road. 1-5 is a problem anywhere, for any coach, of any program.

South Carolina at #7 Georgia- After the unimpressive win over North Carolina, and the twice as unimpressive loss to Kentucky, South Carolina looks in real trouble. The fact that Connor Mitch is out, potentially for the season, puts an even bigger damper on the inauspicious 1-1 start. The loss to Kentucky by South Carolina takes a bit of the pressure off of Georgia. In years past, an early season loss to the Gamecocks would leave the Bulldog Nation scoreboard watching the rest of the year in hopes of still recovering to play in the Georgia Dame for the SEC championship. With Kentucky already having handed South Carolina a division less, it takes some of the impetus off this game for Georgia. But staring an 0-2 start in the division in the face, it magnifies it ten fold for the Gamecocks. With a road schedule that includes Missouri, Texas A&M and Tennessee, a loss to Georgia suddenly makes the thought of South Carolina missing out on a bowl game for the first time since 2007 a real possibility.

Furman at Central Florida– Over the last five seasons, Central Florida has reached unprecedented and unexpected heights. They’ve christened their new on campus stadium by winning 47 games over that stretch, three times amassing double digit figures in wins as well as winning a Fiesta Bowl and finishing the year in the top 10. 2015 has been much different. It started with a shocking loss to Florida International. That was followed by a dreadful performance against Stanford where the Knights weren’t even remotely competitive. Hopes of returning to the postseason are already on life support, but a loss to Furman would pretty much end them all together. Additionally, rumors continue to swirl about the future of George O’Leary and how much longer he plans to remain the head coach and whether or not he moves on to an administrative role. An 0-3 start, including losses to FIU and Furman might be the most persuasive voice in his ear. Any hopes of salvaging the 2015 campaign rest on righting the ship this Saturday.

Texas Tech at Arkansas– This may not be as much about Arkansas as it is the SEC. The Hogs suffered some off-season attrition, and some of the pre-season prognostications were probably a bit over zealous. However, they still shouldn’t lose at home to Toledo. Now they get to welcome Texas Tech into town, and while the Red Raiders aren’t receiving a lot of love nationally, they have scored 128 points in two games. Of course, they always score points. But the Red Raiders would love nothing more than to earn some national respect while also pouring some salt in the wounds of the SEC from last week. And that’s why this is so dangerous for Arkansas. Texas Tech is coming in with no pressure looking to prove a point. Arkansas takes a gander at their upcoming schedule and one could reasonably ask, if they lose this game, where does their next win against an FBS opponent come from? That’s a scary proposition, and when you’re 1-2 having lost at home to Toledo and Texas Tech, you’re not exactly brimming with the confidence necessary to take on the SEC schedule that awaits. A loss this weekend to the Hogs could be disastrous.

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New Top 25; Big East Is Underrated, Props To Indiana, Arkansas Could Be SEC Spoiler

The LSU victory over South Carolina probably did the most to really shake up the top ten. It certainly didn’t do Georgia any favors. Fear not Bulldog faithful, they win their next two, they will get their due. Just like every team in the SEC, next week is a chance to prove yourselves. Unfortunately for them, the flop they had against South Carolina was just too disastrous to overlook and give them the benefit of the doubt simply because they’re in the SEC. South Carolina knows if they don’t win next week, they won’t win the SEC. Georgia knows if South Carolina doesn’t win next week, they control their destiny in the league. So, to say it’s a big game is a mild understatement.

Speaking of the multiple title scenarios in the SEC, there’s a huge spoiler lying in the weeds, and it’s Arkansas. They’ve played much better the last two weeks and have too much talent to overlooked. Remember, they get LSU at home to close the season.

Notre Dame is sitting rather pretty right now, and with two games left on the road against highly ranked Oklahoma and USC, the Irish pretty much control their own fate into the national title game. If it’s an SEC champion and then an unbeaten Oregon, Kansas State, or Notre Dame, seriously, c’mon now….

It’s a real shame that in both the Big Ten and the ACC, the best team in one of the two divisions of each conference isn’t eligible to even play for the conference title. In the Big Ten, it’s arguably the two best teams in one of their divisions. It’s unfortunate that these conferences will have to scramble to find bowl eligible teams (hello Wake Forest, hello Purdue) that aren’t worthy to cover their slots. It’s going to definitely skewer post-season conference vs conference records.

Congratulations to Kevin Wilson, in his second year as head coach at Indiana, for seeming to have them on the right track. Last year was a disastrous 1-11 season. This season they’ve started off the year just 2-4, with four straight losses, but keep in mind they include the two point loss to Ball State, the four point loss to Michigan State, and a three point loss to Ohio State. They lost all but one of their last seven a year about by 14 points or more. They’d lost their last four games against ranked opponents by at least 21 points. Here’s to hoping it continues.

The most underrated conference in the country has to be the Big East. Rutgers, Cincinnati and Louisville are all undefeated. Among the non-conference opponents they’ve defeated are Kentucky, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Virginia Tech. That’s 4-0 against the SEC and the ACC. Not bad. Remember also, Pittsburgh also took down the Hokies, and Connecticut beat Maryland, who is the only unbeaten team in ACC play right now.

1.  Alabama

2.  Oregon

3. Florida

4.  Ohio State

5.  Kansas State

6.  Notre Dame

7.  LSU 

8.  Oklahoma

9.  USC

10.South Carolina

11.Mississippi State

12.West Virginia

13.Florida State

14.Louisville

15.Oregon State

16.Clemson

17.Georgia

18.Rutgers

19.Texas A&M

20.Cincinnati

21.Texas Tech

22.Ohio

23.TCU

24.Northwestern

25.Boise State

 

Others

Penn State

Texas

Louisiana Tech

Nebraska

Iowa State

Arizona State

UCLA

Stanford

North Carolina

 

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New Top 25, Dawgs & Noles Crash, South Carolina and Ohio State surge, Welcome Louisiana Tech and Ohio

I think right now it’s Alabama and Oregon at the top, and that, I think is pretty concrete and universally agreed upon. The question is, who is that third team that could potentially spoil that party. After Saturday night, one has to think it’s South Carolina. But are the Gamecocks really on that level?

Georgia takes a huge hit for completely not showing up at all. The Seminoles also drop a good bit after losing at North Carolina State. The SEC should fear not though, LSU stays in the top 10, and Mississippi State replaces Georgia among the top 12, so the conference still has five teams in the top 12. Georgia and Texas A&M also ensure that half the teams in the conference are ranked after this week.

I didn’t want to drop TCU all the way out, I’m interested to see what becomes of their quarterback situation. With Paschal, I think the Frogs win that game against Iowa State and remain unbeaten, so I didn’t penalize them too much.

With Nebraska, Northwestern and UCLA all playing poorly in games with a real chance to prove something, someone had to replace them in the top 25. Welcome teams like Louisiana Tech and Ohio. Both could potentially run the table this season.

It’s a real shame Ohio State isn’t eligible for the conference title, or a bowl game. These Buckeyes are good, and wouldn’t Urban Meyer against any SEC school in a potential national title game be extra compelling. Unfortunately it won’t happen……this year.

And Notre Dame? They’re for real people. They are for real.

1.  Alabama

2.  Oregon

3.  South Carolina

4.  Ohio State

5.  West Virginia

6.  Florida

7.  Kansas State

8.  Notre Dame

9. LSU

10.Oklahoma

11.USC

12.Mississippi State

13.Florida State

14.Louisville

15.Clemson

16.Georgia

17.Rutgers

18.Oregon State

19.Texas

20.Texas A&M

21.Stanford

22.Cincinnati

23.Ohio

24.Louisiana Tech

25.TCU

 

Others

Northwestern

Tennessee

Michigan State

San Jose State

Boise State

Iowa State

UCLA

Nebraska

Penn State

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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.

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Tide Top the Nation, West Virginia and Michigan State Impress Too

I don’t really know how one can argue Alabama at number one, and realistically, I think the top four are probably the same for just about everyone. After that though, there may be some discrepancies and some disagreements.

I love the West Virginia offense and the Michigan State defense, both may be strong enough to carry each team a long way.

I do not like the banged up Oklahoma offensive line that was a part of a sluggish offense.

Ohio State has a ridiculous amount of talent, Big Ten teams better be happy they can’t win the conference.

Texas is going to be better than you think. Their defense struggled the first three drives, then settled in, it’s going to be a very fierce unit.

Going into the year, I felt South Carolina as very overrated. What I saw against Vanderbilt did nothing to tell me otherwise.

Losing in a well, well played football game against a better opponent, especially on the road, does more for me than wiping the floor with some cupcake. Hence Georgia Tech is in the top 25 along with Boise State. To me, they looked like they could be one of the 25 best teams in the country

Just outside the top 25, South Florida will probably bust their way into it at some point, while Auburn plays Mississippi State this weekend, I wouldn’t be surprised if the winner jumps in by next season.

1.  Alabama

2. USC

3.  LSU

4.  Oregon

5.  Florida State

6.  West Virginia

7.  Michigan State

8.  Georgia

9.  Oklahoma

10. Ohio State

11. Clemson

12. Arkansas

13. Nebraska

14. Texas

15. South Carolina

16. Kansas State

17. Notre Dame

18. Virginia Tech

19. Louisville

20. Oklahoma State

21. North Carolina

22. Boise State

23. Tennessee

24. TCU

25. Georgia Tech

Others:

Florida, Baylor, Michigan, Utah, Auburn, South Florida & Mississippi State

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Your College Football Viewing Guide

Early Games

1. Auburn at Clemson 12:00 ABC

Auburn’s march to the national championship never should have even begun last year, as Clemson first threw, then kicked away, what should have been a sure win for the Tigers from South Carolina.

Clemson looked horrible against Wofford last Saturday, eeking out an eight point victory. The Terriers only completed two passes against Clemson, but they went for 127 yards and almost were enough as the Clemson defense surrendered 272 rushing yards at almost five yards per attempt.

You have to know that Michael Dyer is eagerly awaiting his shot at the Clemson run defense.

But it’s doubtful his mouth his watering any more than that of Clemson’s Andre Ellington . Remember that Mississippi State that team couldn’t move the ball to save their life against LSU? Ask Auburn what THEY think of the Bulldogs offense. Mississippi State rolled up over 300 yards on the ground.

Expect plenty of points in this one, so for entertainment purposes, it’s worth watching. And while not of the profile of the two Florida schools taking on big time opponents, it’s another game the ACC really needs to win to stop the rampant jokes about the ineptitude of the conference.

It could be easily argued that were Auburn on the road in their first two games, they’d be 0-2. They weren’t, and they aren’t. However, they are on the road this week, don’t expect the good fortune to continue.

If this particular game doesn’t grab your attention, perhaps it’s too much orange, too much Tiger, or not enough defense, there are still some appealing options to tune your television to.

2. West Virginia at Maryland 12:00 ESPNU

Much like the Clemson/Auburn tilt, this is another game the ACC really needs to win to try and starting earning some respect back. Did Maryland roll up 500 yards of offense on Miami because their offense is that good? Or was it because the Hurricanes were missing a pretty heavy portion of their front seven?

It’s hard to really get a read on West Virginia after two games with weaker opponents. However, when you look around the country and see the number of AQ schools struggling with lesser opponents, even FCS foes, there is something to be said for taking your weaker foes and handling them in the manner that is expected of you.

The key of course will be how well Maryland can contain Geno Smith.

For West Virginia, they know they have LSU visiting Morgantown next week, and you can’t help but think the look ahead factor will come into play this week for the Mountaineers. If they realize too late that they are indeed facing a pretty good Maryland team, a lot of luster from that LSU game will be gone.

3. Penn State at Temple 12:00 ESPN

Temple may in fact be 0-35-1 against Penn State since 1943, and they may have indeed been outgained by 237 yards in last year’s battle in Happy Valley, despite only losing by 9. However, if you’re looking for a game that might surprise you, look no further.

If you haven’t heard of Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown, take a gander at this one. The pair combined for over 1500 yards and 17 touchdowns a year ago for the Owls, and are both back in the backfield in 2011. They’ve already combined for over 400 yards and six scores in just two games this year.

Akron isn’t exactly Alabama, yes, I’m aware, but sleeping too hard on the Owls is a dangerous proposition for Penn State. For the second year in a row Penn State took on Alabama, hoping to prove they have the talent and size and speed to hang with the nation’s big boys. For the second year in a row Penn State was reminded they still have a long ways to go.

The let down of this, couple with Temple’s desire to end the losing streak may mean you just wanna keep this game as part of your early afternoon rotation.

Pittsburgh at Iowa 12:00 ESPN2-

Two years ago, this game would have been a huge matchup. In 2011? Well, how excited do you get about a team who just lost to Iowa State going up against a squad who struggled to beat both Maine and Buffalo? Well, you don’t. It’s the match-up of two sexy names that just don’t bring the sexiness.

Kansas at Georgia Tech 12:30 FSN

That Georgia Tech is playing Kansas in a “revenge” game, speaks volumes. However, the Jayhawks, for all their weaknesses, figure to offer a slightly stiffer test than the first two the Yellow Jackets have faced, don’t they? It will be interesting to see if the Tech offense continues to roll the way they have in the first two weeks.

Afternoon Games

1. Tennessee at Florida 3:30 CBS

Tennessee hasn’t even played Florida to within single digits since 2006, as part of a six game losing streak for the Vols to the hated Gators. If the trend is to start reversing, this Saturday afternoon better be the day it happens, otherwise……

Tyler Bray is an impressive young quarterback for Tennessee who is just itching to bust out in a big way on a national stage. It doesn’t get a lot more national than this.

With the SEC East very winnable for all of the usual suspects, much like the Georgia/South Carolina game, the loser faces an uphill battle coming out of the losers bracket. For once though, Florida might be the team who can least afford this loss.

The Vols only play three more road games the rest of the season, and neither Georgia or South Carolina comprise any of those road trips.

For Florida, they play Kentucky next week before an absolutely brutal stretch that consists of LSU in The Swamp, then a road trip into Alabama to take on both the Crimson Tide and the Tigers, and then lastly their clash with Georgia, followed two weeks later by playing South Carolina on the road. Florida can absolutely not afford to enter that stretch with a loss in SEC play, division play no less.

This is going to be SEC football at it’s best. The intensity will be huge, and the defenses will probably be the story of the day. It will come down to which quarterback can make a few more plays.

Florida, with Chris Rainey and Will Demps, surrounds Jeff Brantley with more elite playmakers than Tennessee is able to field around Bray. However, Brantley’s confidence is shaky, and a sluggish start against the Vols could lead to a quick unraveling.

Tennessee’s defense still has SEC caliber athletes on it, if Brantley can’t do the job, the pure athleticism of the likes of Demps and Rainey won’t be enough.

Look for Tennessee to suddenly make the SEC East race very, very interesting.

2. Michigan State at Notre Dame 3:30 NBC

In case you’ve forgotten, last Saturday night the Notre Dame defense forgot to play the fourth quarter against the “other” team from Michigan and promptly collapsed their way to an 0-2 start.

If it’s not their own offense self destructing in the red zone, as was the case against South Florida, it’s their defense completely forgetting what the job of a defense in football actually is.

It doesn’t get easier with Michigan State marching into South Bend. The Spartans are still likely smarting from the whipping they received at the hands of Alabama in the Capital One Bowl in their last appearance in front of the nation. They’d love nothing more than to send Notre Dame to an 0-3 start while affirming that perhaps last year’s 11-2 season was no fluke.

Yes, they’ve been cupcakes, but there is still no way to argue with the results from the Spartans defense. They’ve allowed a mere six points over their first two games, including a stifling performance against Florida Atlantic. The Spartans yielded just ONE first down, and less than 50 yards of offense.

The Spartans offense probably will be the toughest Notre Dame has faced yet. For all of Denard Robinson’s explosiveness, Michigan State may have the more balanced, complete offensive unit. The backfield is deep, and Cousins is considered one of the Big Ten’s elite quarterbacks.

Clearly, on paper, Notre Dame should start this season 0-3, and wouldn’t that be a story. This was the year the Irish were supposed to return to a BCS bowl, and restore the luster to the Golden Dome, and well, all the other garbage we’ve been hearing out of South Bend. In this particular contest we’ll find out if it’s just more smoke being blown up our asses, or if Notre Dame is serious about contending.

Something tells me that this team with shaky confidence is going to be on life support after the Spartans roll through.

3. Texas at UCLA 3:30 ABC

If you listen to coaches and fans of both programs, both would have you believe they’re on the way “back”. Though when it comes to that, Texas clearly has less a distance to travel to get “back”. For many, they have no memory of UCLA being consistently relevant on the national stage.

Losing to Houston in the first week of the season certainly didn’t do anything to help UCLA’s cause. Neither did needing ten fourth quarter points to survive mighty San Jose State last Saturday.

Texas may have beaten BYU on Saturday, but it was anything but pretty, and BYU has looked anything but an elite team. For UCLA, it’s pretty obvious they’re nowhere close to being an elite program.  However, for Texas, a loss to these Bruins would cause those tremors of doubt following last year to start turning into full blown concern.

At the end of the day though, Texas just has more talent and is still the better football team. They better hope it shows up on the scoreboard though.

Washington at Nebraska 3:30 ABC

The only things you need to know for this rematch of last year’s bowl game rematch, is this: Jake Locker will not play, Christian Martinez will.

Virginia at North Carolina 3:30 ESPNU

Two programs headed in opposite directions? Very possible. The stunning aftermath of last year’s disappointment in Chapel Hill probably still hasn’t completely settled over the football program. Last year’s run at the ACC title of course never materialized with the amount of key players suspended, and now the coach responsible for the influx of talent at North Carolina is no longer in charge.

The Tar Heels rolled over James Madison before barely escaping Rutgers in week two, as the Heels prepare for two critical games on their schedule. Virginia visiting Chapel Hill will be followed by a trip to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech. That’s two division games right off the bat for North Carolina. Drop one at home to Virginia, a predicted conference bottom feeder, and suddenly the thought that this program is going to suffer a sharp nose dive without Butch Davis becomes very real.

For Virginia, Mike London is still in rebuilding mode, but there are reasons to think progress is happening. For starters, the Cavaliers did return 18 starters, including 10 on defense. Unfortunately it’s a defense that was gashed for 204 rushing yards per game at over 5 yards a carry a year ago.

While the defense showed improvement against Indiana last week, it must be remembered that it was Indiana. What also must be remembered is that Virginia was down with 6:30 to go in the football game.

This game is more about the fact that North Carolina, simply put, cannot afford to lose. If they do, it speaks volumes as to how far the Tar Heels have tumbled.

Night Cap

1. Oklahoma at Florida State 8:00 ABC

I can’t think of too much more that should be said about this game. This is THE game of the day, and we’ve all had this told to us several times over the course of the week by ESPN.

I know Florida State was embarrassed in Norman last year, we all know that. The question is, is this the same Florida State squad that got slaughtered last year, or is this a team improved enough to actually pose a threat to the Sooners?

Florida State fans will point to the fact that to close the 2010 season the ‘Noles took on SEC teams, defeating them both. True, fair enough. However, it wasn’t like Florida State went out and just whipped on SEC teams and beat them physically.

Florida State was +4 in the turnover battle against both South Carolina and Florida. South Carolina in fact had a 106 yard edge in total yards, playing without Stephen Garcia.

Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game also boasted a yardage advantage of over 100 yards. On four other occasions last year (Oklahoma 142, North Carolina 99, Clemson 84, Maryland 78) Florida State was outgained by more than 75 yards.

Yes, the Seminoles boast 16 returning starters, yes E.J. Manuel could be a special talent, and yes they’ve rolled through their first two opponents setting up this battle. But are they good enough to beat Oklahoma?

They’ve got 16 starters back too, ya know, including their own special talent at quarterback. The Sooners also don’t turn the ball over, which is what Florida State will need to force them to do to have a chance.

Granted, the two games Oklahoma lost last season were both on the road, to teams you might say this Florida State squad is better than. So no, it wouldn’t be fair to say Florida State doesn’t have a chance. But it’s fair to say it’s not a good one.

The key may be Greg Reid. Be it via special teams, or perhaps an early interception of Landry Jones, big plays from Reid getting the crowd and momentum on Florida State’s side could go a long way to helping the Seminoles stay in the game. And you know what they say about letting an opponent hang around too long, especially when on the road.

2. Ohio State at Miami 7:30 ESPN

From the standpoint of big time programs, big names, and all the marketing aspects, this game easily becomes must see television.

From the standpoint of what it really matters though, maybe not so much.

For all we know, in a couple of years the NCAA is very likely to tell us that this game never actually happened, so it might just be a foolish waste of time to watch a game that ultimately we’ll be told never took place.

In any event, one storyline that no suspensions, no future vacating of games, no off field troubles can eliminate, is that of the ACC desperately seeking approval from the nation.

To avoid further embarrassment, one can only hope Jacory Harris spent his time while suspended familiarizing himself with the Hurricanes orange jerseys and white helmets, and understanding he’s not supposed to throw the ball to the guys in silver helmets.

If Harris can do that, the Hurricanes might have a chance. And while, beating up on Ohio State is a favorite past-time of the SEC, it’s something the ACC would love to say it did too.

Whatever happens with Oklahoma and Florida State, it’s this game, coupled with Maryland and Clemson that might actually do more to help prove the ACC has a little bit of football depth, and it’s the joke it’s thought by even it’s most ardent defenders to be.

3. Navy at South Carolina 6:00 ESPN2

South Carolina could be on of the most overrated teams in college football right now. Having seen them play twice, I don’t see how someone sees this team as one of the ten best in college football.

Is it because they won a weak SEC East last year? Do people remember how they closed the year? a 56-17 blowout loss to Auburn, followed up by a loss in the bowl game to Florida State.

The early returns this year don’t much to convince you that this team is elite either.

The vaunted Gamecock defense of a year ago has allowed 39.5 points and over 400 yards per game over their first two contests. They just watched Georgia freshmen Isaiah Crowell pace the Bulldogs to 188 yards on the ground.

Consider this as well, which is more frightening if you are a Gamecock fan, South Carolina has forced 8 turnovers in two games, and STILL allowed 40 points per game.

So you have a defense that’s got some issues that need to be worked out, so how do you work on them? You get to defend the triple option from Navy.

Navy has averaged almost nine wins a year the last eight seasons for a reason, because they can run the football. Clearly, Delaware and Western Kentucky are not South Carolina, this much is known.

But this is a dangerous game for the Gamecocks. They need to work on fundamentals on defense and getting back to what they do best, and they get the wrench of defending this offense this week.

Fortunately for South Carolina, beginning this week with Navy they play four straight home games, with the toughest opponent, per the national rankings, being a weakened Auburn team.

Unfortuantely for South Carolina, Auburn is next on the schedule, and Auburn’s offense has shown plenty of scoring ability. So does South Carolina spend time this week putting in extra preparation for the Navy offense, or do they try and patch up their own holes with an eye towards Auburn next week.

There’s also the little matter of coming off a huge SEC road win giving themselves the upper hand in the East, while preparing for a revenge game against a foe they desperately want a crack at.

I’m not saying Navy will win, but this is a trap game if there ever was one.

Syracuse at USC 8:00 FX

USC has been anything BUT impressive in their early season home victories over Minnesota and Utah, and Lane Kiffin has made it clear that he doesn’t have very many good players on his team. But, he has more good players than a Syracuse team who had to hang on to beat Rhode Island at home last week.

However, one would also think Syracuse is a better team than Minnesota, and the Gophers arguably could have beaten the Trojans in week one. With Toledo, Rutgers, and Tulane in the following weeks, a Syracuse shocker tonight could leave the Orange sitting pretty looking at potentially a second straight eight win season.

It also makes them even more attractive to the ACC.

Utah at BYU 9:15 ESPN2

It’s not the season’s final game. It’s not even a conference game. It’s no longer two non-AQ heavyweights doing battle trying to crash the BCS party. So, in many ways, nationally, it’s no longer that revelant.

What it is though, is a nasty rivalry. And a really competitive one at that. Amazingly, 12 of the last 14 games have been settled by a touchdown or less. That probably doesn’t change this year.

Oklahoma State at Tulsa 10:00 FSN

The suspension of Tulsa’s Damaris Johnson takes away the bulk of the luster from this game. Instead, of watching two elite receivers and playmakers get their hands on the ball all night, we should just be watching Justin Blackmon help Oklahoma State roll to a lopsided victory.

LATE LATE Night

Stanford at Arizona 10:45 ESPN

If for no other reason than it’s a chance to watch Andrew Luck, eyes should be peeled to this football game. Considering Landry Jones will have just finished going up against Florida State, take the time to check out to other prime Heisman candidate.

As for the results of the game itself, whether or not there is a chance for it to be competitive will be determined by the status of Arizona wide receiver Juron Criner. As of now Criner is listed as questionable, sans one of the nations elite receivers, as good as Nick Foles is at quarterback, the chances of Arizona keeping pace with Stanford become slim to none. This is a Wildcat offense that is averaging less than 60 yards per game on the ground, so taking away their biggest threat on offense in the passing game would be too much to overcome.

Furthermore, the Wildcats just haven’t been the same since their 42-17 blowout loss to Stanford last season. Arizona was ranked 13th in the country with a 7-1 record. They are 1-6 since that loss. Make it 1-7, and with Oregon and USC looming on the schedule, it may make it to 1-9 and head coach Mike Stoops may not make it to the second week of October.

So there you go, keep your remote clicking, the drinks cold, and the wife off your case. Enjoy your Saturday.

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