If this weekend set a precedent, this will be an absorbing Big 12 season. West Virginia vs. Baylor was everything we anticipated. The point production reached MAC proportions. The yardage totals were absurd. Geno Smith – completing 45/51 for 656 yards and eight touchdowns – had what must be considered one of college football’s finest single-game performances. He is the clear pace-setter in the Heisman race.
Texas vs. Oklahoma State was only a slight downgrade, with the schools combining for a yawn-inducing 1,116 total yards. The Longhorns team passed their first test, though not with stellar grades. Quarterback David Ash is not an area for concern. The Texas offense places him in positions to be successful and he is succeeding. The sophomore threw his first interception of the season, but he also completed 30/38 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns. Their anxieties look to be unanticipated ones, rushing and defending.
The Longhorns power-running attack averaged just 3.2 yards per carry on 42 attempts against a decent, but by no means Alabama-level defensive front. Oklahoma State lacerated their defense without mercy. The Cowboys averaged 11.1 yards per pass and 6.9 yards per carry. They converted 9/17 third-down conversions and went 3/3 on fourth downs. This was with Oklahoma State’s backup quarterback at the helm, although with the numbers J.W. Walsh is posting in Wes Lunt’s absence that status may change. Texas has a short turnaround before facing an even better West Virginia offense at home next Saturday.
“Relevance” may become a problem for the Big 12. The conference also includes Oklahoma, Kansas State, TCU, a still undefeated Texas Tech and a plucky Iowa State team. Producing a BCS contender from that thicket may prove troublesome, but with a season of awesome football on display few will care. The tackling could improve a bit, but with the spectacle provided, why quibble?
The SEC Semifinals were not this weekend. Leading SEC teams played with this firmly in mind. In the East, South Carolina labored to beat Kentucky. The final 21-point victory flattered the Gamecocks, as the Wildcats led the game in the third quarter and were within one score well into the fourth. Georgia had a tougher opponent, Tennessee, though their effort was similar. The Bulldogs hung on 51-44, with only a diaphanous margin separating the two teams.
Georgia’s talented defense continued its erratic play, despite returns from Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo. Tennessee ran up 478 total yards and 29 first downs on them and converted more than 50 percent of third-downs. Credit Georgia’s pressure, but had Tyler Bray’s cap been screwed tighter, Tennessee wins that game. Bray missed open receivers persistently. On two fourth-quarter chances to even the game, he found defenders.
This lassitude proved contagious, with its penumbra encompassing the West as well. Alabama fought off some unexpected fire from Ole Miss. The Rebels held the Tide Offense under five yards per play and were in the game in the third quarter. They even led the game at one point – the first time a team has done that to Alabama all year – but only for a few seconds. It was still a 21-point conference win though. Far more worrisome, despite their stunning transitive property performance, were LSU.
The Tigers struggled against FCS Towson. They lost three fumbles. Their defense could not ice the game, allowing two fourth quarter touchdowns. Towson out-gained LSU on the ground, edging them in total yardage and yards per carry. Coupled with last week’s narrow win over Auburn, the presumed BCS title favorites do not appear to be on an optimistic trajectory. Talented personnel comes into LSU’s offense, yet it produces the same pedestrian output. The Tigers’ issue is not finding quarterbacks. It is developing them.
We should discuss the Big Ten. Four top-end teams played each other, meaning two teams lost and went plummeting down the polls. The Big Ten is terrible! Rather than “relevance,” we’ll focus on how this weekend affects the competition these teams are playing to win. Ohio State looks like the Big Ten’s best team. The Buckeyes visited the infamous woodshed and left with a 17-16 win. They can’t play for a Big Ten title, but this win as well as their upcoming performances against Nebraska and Michigan may decide who receives the opportunity.
Nebraska came from behind to beat Wisconsin 30-27 in the manufactured rivalry. You have a lot in common! You guys should be rivals! That escape should be critical in multiple ways. It takes pressure off Pelini and the team. It could provide a leg up in the division, should Wisky beat Michigan State. It avoids what, after last year’s Wisconsin debacle, would have been a devastating loss at home.
The Cornhuskers are still quarterbacked by javelin-tossing Taylor Martinez. Had they lost more than two of their six fumbles, this game could have looked different. For now, though, Nebraska is as strong a contender as any.
Michigan State won’t be pleased. Their touted defense did not bottle up Braxton Miller – 16/23 for 179 yards and a TD passing and 23 carries for 136 yards on the ground – and their offense still resembles an indelicate word for fecal matter. Andrew Maxwell is still all power, no touch. Le’Veon Bell could not break through the Buckeye front. Thirty-four total rushing yards is not getting it done. Sparty’s season will be defined in a three-week stretch beginning Oct. 20, at Michigan, at Wisconsin and back at home to Nebraska. They have two games to tune up before then.
Wisconsin won’t be pleased either. The Badgers blew a large lead. Fifty-six rushing yards on 41 carries is not a Wisconsin offense. That said, they competed against a top-tier conference team on the road, when there were questions whether that was feasible. Their current goal is to sweep the non Ohio State legends opponents, get to the Big Ten title game and hope they’ve figured things out. That goal is within reach.
Monsoon: In weather that made passing almost impossible – the teams amassed 110 yards combined – Louisville survived, coming from behind to beat a pumped up Southern Miss 21-17. The Cardinals are now 5-0 and will be a factor in a buoyant Big East. The question, as always when the Big East rises, is how long before coaching talents such as Charlie Strong and Butch Davis get plucked?
Poor Service: Army and Navy have seen better days. The two scored three points combined as the Black Knights got beat down 23-3 by FCS Stony Brook and the Midshipmen fell 12-0 to San Jose State. Army lost four fumbles. Navy averaged just 2.8 yards per play on offense. Neither has an FBS win this season.
Sour Grapes? Michigan State’s defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi claims Ohio State edited the game film it was required to send, removing all shifts and motions from the offensive film. MSU purportedly had to contact other programs to get the correct film. Urban Meyer expressed (or feigned) ignorance “I don’t know anything about that,” he said. “I don’t handle the video. What are they saying?” The devious photographer was skeptical.
Fight On: USC has not beaten a team with an FBS win this season. Hawaii’s 47-0 loss to BYU and Cal’s 27-17 loss to Arizona State dropped the Trojans’ defeated opponents combined record to 0-10 vs. FBS.
Pointsplosion: The 52 games featuring FBS teams averaged 60.8 points per game, the second highest average since 1937.
Stephen Orr Spurrier Quotation of the Week: WVU safety Darwin Cook described defending Baylor in the 70-63 shootout: “I felt like Clemson’s defense or something,”
Highlight you might have missed… Middle Tennessee’s Anthony Amos reeled in this one-handed touchdown grab, as the Blue Raiders upset Georgia Tech 49-28.
Picks: We went 4-1-1 this weekend against the spread. We hit on Baylor, Iowa, Wisconsin and Cincinnati. South Carolina equaled the spread exactly against Kentucky. Boston College could not get the late cover against Clemson. Our picks are 17-12-1 ATS this season.
[Photos via Presswire]