Three top ten teams and potential BCS title contenders entered this weekend needing to prove themselves. Two of them did. The other forked itself.
Oregon throttled a no longer to be ranked Arizona at home 49-0. That look on Rich Rodriguez’ face was enough to awaken repressed memories for Michigan fans. Encouragingly, the Ducks did this with defense. They created five turnovers, thwarted four fourth-down conversions and held Arizona below five yards per pass and three yards per carry. Nick Alilotti’s underrated unit lifted the Ducks on a day Marcus Mariota was merely okay and De’Anthony Thomas (14 touches, 59 yards, zero touchdowns) was a non-factor. Maybe the road game against Arizona State at night on a short week gets dicey, but Oregon should cruise to Nov. 3.
The Seminoles displayed their prowess as well. Clemson’s skill players gave FSU their best shots, but the beast awoke within Florida State in the second half, resulting in an absolute steam-rolling. Jimbo’s team has kinks to work out. They committed 11 penalties and lost two fumbles. If E.J. Manuel is going to throw for 380 yards on 35 attempts and average 8.5 yards per carry on the ground, though, that will gloss over many mistakes. FSU’s schedule is soft – the next six weeks: at USF, at N.C. State, Boston College, at Miami, Duke, Bye – which is a mixed blessing. They are a home win against Florida away from undefeated, which is attainable. Going undefeated with that schedule, however, may keep them the odd team out should a Big 12 team or Oregon do the same.
Complacency could be this team’s undoing. It took Florida State too long to focus against an opponent that forced them to fight. They are through facing glorified high school teams, but no one on their ACC schedule will harden them. They may be the best college football team not coached by Nick Saban, but being under such little pressure to show it could trip them up against someone who comes to play.
Unlike the former teams, Oklahoma failed their litmus test, being upset 24-19 at home. Bob Stoops did not even bother to tease his fan base this season. Landry Jones is still Landry Jones. More specifically, he is Landry Jones who trusts neither his receivers nor his offensive line and gets the jitters because of it. Bill Snyder may be college football’s crafty wizard, but there was no sorcery here. Kansas State limited mistakes and outplayed Oklahoma on both lines. The Sooners could not run, could not stop KSU from running and committed three turnovers. Days are early, but Texas may be the Big 12 juggernaut.
Just Ugly: Had we known Michigan would out-gain Notre Dame, convert more than 50 percent of third-downs, hold the Irish to three yards per carry, punt once and force Tommy Rees to take over in the first half we would have been jubilant. Six turnovers and six points from five trips to the red zone alters the complexion of a performance. It was an offensive coordinator performance worthy of seppuku.
Notre Dame was not spectacular, but they were effective. There are holes in the secondary. The offense is missing a dimension without Michael Floyd. Those are concerns moving forward, but not today. This team shows up every week and does not beat themselves. Quarterback remains a question – after the Michigan games it almost has to be Tommy Rees – but the Irish head into their bye week on terra firma. Some games left could prove unexpected dog fights, in addition to the anticipated ones against Stanford, Oklahoma and USC, but the BCS is within reach.
Michigan…ugh. The defense should reassure them. The offense must be rethought. Stop being cute. Stop obsessing about opponent vulnerabilities. Play a simplified system tailored to your personnel. For Michigan in 2012, that offense must build around designed quarterback runs and read option plays. This was an inflamed, smellier version of the 2011 Iowa game. That should have been a win. Learn the lesson.
A Scare: LSU evaded much-maligned Auburn in a narrow 12-10 road win. The close margin should not have been so shocking, given their recent history on The Plains. It was also an easier task for virile defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, as LSU’s offense offers nothing he has not seen since the last time he coordinated in the SEC. Zach Mettenberger has a big arm, but he will not win games where pounding is not enough, especially with red zone turnovers. Still living on last year’s reputation, this LSU team looks much closer to 2010, capable but vulnerable. Don’t write them through the Florida and South Carolina games just yet.
Another Sad Saturday: Michigan playing Notre Dame was high on the marquee. The ancillary performers weren’t much better. Iowa was upset 32-31 by Central Michigan. Michigan State had to run Le’Veon Bell 36 times and score a late touchdown to keep up appearances against Eastern Michigan. Illinois lost 52-24 at home to Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs may be a better team. The loss should surprise no one, but allowing 12.9 yards per pass and losing five fumbles is just pathetic. Big Ten teams will start playing each other. One team will regroup and win the damn thing, though expect the embarrassment to return around the New Year’s Day. The Big Ten champ will face USC/Oregon in the Rose Bowl. The next three teams will have dates with the SEC.
One Miserable Week: John L. Smith lost 34-26 at home to Rutgers, following a 52-0 loss to Alabama at home and a 34-31 upset by Louisiana-Monroe at home. That was only football. Smith also filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, owing $25 million and having just $500 in his checking account. He also attended the funeral of his 53-year-old brother Bart who died Monday.
Just Reward: Oregon State pulled off a second-consecutive Top 20 win, picking off UCLA 27-20 in the Rose Bowl. Mike Riley took the entire team to In-N-Out Burger to celebrate. The Beavers look primed for a strong bounce back season with one of the nation’s best underclassman quarterbacks, Sean Mannion.
Near Perfection: Wasn’t Connor Shaw supposed to be injured? The South Carolina completed 20/21 for 249 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-10 win over Missouri. He also had an 80-yard touchdown run called back for a clipping penalty, which resulted in an epic Spurrier face. This was against a big boy team. If Shaw and Lattimore can stay healthy…
CAAction: Offense anyone? Old Dominion overcame a 23-point third quarter deficit, beating New Hampshire 64-61 on a final minute field goal. The teams combined for 1,549 yards of total offense. Old Dominion Taylor Heinicke threw 79 times for a Division-I record 730 yards. Each quarterback had five touchdown passes. Eleven different players scored touchdowns. Three skill players had more than 200 total yards. Someone had to balance Michigan vs. Notre Dame. Unfortunately, the latter was televised.
Stephen Orr Spurrier Quote of the Week: Denard Robinson on his atrocious performance against Notre Dame: “I want to say sorry to everybody who watches football, watches Michigan football and whoever follows Michigan football.”
Picks: We had a rough week, falling back to 2-4 and 13-11 on the season. We got FIU and Akron covering. Cal missed a field goal and let USC escape late. Florida State was who we thought they were but not quite often enough. Michigan would have covered had Denard Robinson only been reasonably bad. Oklahoma…Yeah.
[Photos via Presswire]