Memories of flaccid September slates fade as three top five teams go down in one evening. While Alabama vs. Oregon appears the most probable title matchup, teams remain that can overturn that.
The Statement Win. This West Virginia team is real and they are relevant. Whether one terms it an upset based on odds or expected based on collective opinion, the Mountaineers pulled off a major coup beating Texas in Austin. We can discuss Geno Smith, who brought his TD/INT ratio to 24/0 and has thrown 30 touchdowns since his last interception, but West Virginia’s control of the running game proved decisive. Few saw sophomore Andrew Buie posting 207 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries – he had 127 last season – and even fewer saw WVU’s defense holding the Longhorns to 3.5 yards per carry. Going undefeated will be difficult in a deep Big 12, especially for a new arrival, but Dana Holgorsen’s team kowtows to no one. This offense at full bore has not been stopped, and the Mountaineers face Kansas State and Oklahoma in Morgantown.
The Pièce de Résistance. It was over within 10 minutes. Connor Shaw threw two touchdown passes. Ace Sanders returned a punt 70 yards to the house. South Carolina’s defense turned out the lights, popping Aaron Murray’s Heisman balloon (11/31 for 109 yards and an INT) and diffusing any Herschel Walker talk for Gurley and Marshall (25 for 76 yards combined). Spurrier’s team was masterful on both sides of the ball. Only an irrelevant late touchdown kept Georgia from being shut out for the first time since 1995. The apropos hash tag for the evening was #BEATEMDOWN. Mark Richt seems nice and may exert an adequate measure of control. He also has not won a big game against a good team since beating Florida in 2007.
Should we pencil an unblemished South Carolina to the SEC Title Game? Well, not so fast. The Gamecocks have struggled away from home this season, limping to wins against both Vanderbilt and Kentucky. They travel to LSU and Florida the next two weeks.
The Gators are back. It’s hard to find older man football than a slugfest with LSU. Florida’s 14-6 win showed just how much this team has aged. The Gators held LSU to just 42 yards on 25 carries. Mike Gillislee ran for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Florida fans will appreciate winning, even if it is missing the Spurrier/Meyer pizzazz. LSU team that has not lost a regular season game by more than one score since Oct. 2009. They coaching staff is doing many things right, but this offense, which converted 1/13 third downs, is terrible. The Tigers have talent. They are not putting that talent in position to succeed. Losing left tackle Chris Faulk is massive, but when a team recruits like LSU does that’s not an excuse.
Two SEC road wins? Picking off what most believed was the second best team in the conference? Florida is back and is a legitimate BCS Title contender. Playing Georgia at a neutral site and South Carolina in the Swamp, they might be the favorites in the East.
Same Old Seminoles: Florida State should try beating the ACC before planning its exit route. The Seminoles came out spiritless against a prosaic N.C. State team. They took a 16-0 lead into halftime. They then punted five times in six possessions in the second half. The sixth was an interception. Their fearsome defensive line managed just one sack against a Wolfpack offensive line missing three starters. That’s unsatisfactory. Jimbo Fisher pointed out they still “control their own destiny in the ACC.” Unless they win against Florida, a trip to the Orange Bowl will be dumping potpourri on a pile of shit. It’s not easy to go undefeated, but Florida State’s schedule was as facile as one could ask.
Catholics Rout Convicts: Notre Dame played like champions, despite looking like jackasses. The Irish steamrolled over a porous Miami defense, with both Cierre Wood and George Atkinson eclipsing 100 yards on the ground. Everett Golson, despite the start taken away, completed 17/22 and looked efficient. They punted once. Though the title touting will begin in earnest, the schedule does not relent. Notre Dame must pass two physical tests at home the next two weeks against Stanford and BYU before a date with Oklahoma in Norman.
The Big Ten Disaster Scenario: Ohio State shellacked Nebraska in the Horseshoe 63-38. After six total yards in the first quarter, the Buckeyes scored touchdowns on seven of nine drives. They fumbled deep in Nebraska territory on an eighth. Braxton Miller channeled good Denard Robinson with 186 yards on the ground. Taylor Martinez returned to Taylor Martinez form with three interceptions. OSU has been the best team in the Big Ten. They will be favorites from here to the end. Only Wisconsin on the road and (the) game with Michigan seem plausible impediments. Since their inter-division draw was “Michigan State, Nebraska, Michigan,” an undefeated and ineligible OSU could cast a pall over the Big Ten Title Game, having beaten both teams. Glass half-full: if Michigan emerges from the Legends, their Nov. 24 matchup would be the de facto title game.
Are we sure Gene Chizik will get another year? Gene Chizik’s Auburn Tigers were crushed by a flamed out Arkansas team 24-7 at home. They ran for just 40 yards on the 9th best run defense in the SEC. They committed five turnovers and allowed eight sacks. This was after a bye week.
Auburn is now 1-4 on the season, with the one win in overtime against ULM. Overall, the Tigers are 28-14 vs. FBS and 15-12 vs. the SEC under Chizik. Subtracting Cam Newton he is 15-14 and 7-12 in the conference. Getting fired two years after a BCS title would be harsh, but if Auburn goes 2-9 vs. FBS and 0-8 in the SEC in year four? With Bobby Petrino desperate and available?
Sparty Problems: Michigan State dropped yet another stinker, barely escaping 31-27 on the road against Indiana. The Hoosiers exposed MSU’s aggressive defense with screen passes. The first quarter was Pat Narduzzi’s Battle of Cannae as lowly Indiana took a 17-0 first quarter lead and scored on four of their first six possessions. Even MSU fans saw the light about impressive physical specimen William Gholston: he’s the master of overpursuit and only makes plays when unblocked. MSU had eight penalties for 115 yards, many of them personal fouls. Le’Veon Bell’s 40 total touches bring him to 194 on the season on Oct. 6. The Spartans can still win the Big Ten, but, with one tune up game before the Michigan/Wisconsin/Nebraska stretch, improvement must be hasty.
Duke is 5-1, You Guys. David Cutcliffe finally has players befitting his coaching ability. Duke destroyed Virginia 42-17 at home, outscoring them 28-0 in the second half. This is their best start since 1994. Their position is excellent, but can they reach a bowl game? Stanford aside, the Blue Devils have a backloaded schedule. There are no guaranteed wins remaining. Their best bets may be North Carolina or Miami at home.
The Unknown Soldier: Air Force is 2-3 in 2012, which obscures the feats of running back Cody Getz. Though he had more on his mind than football, the senior ran for his third 200-yard rushing game of the season in the Falcons’ overtime loss to Navy. He has 887 yards through five games, averaging 7.92 yards per carry. He’s a system running back. He’s not NFL bound. Nonetheless, he may put up 2,000 yards.
Highlight You Might Have Missed: Temple blocked South Florida’s game-winning field goal attempt to hang on for a 30-28 win. It is the Owls’ first Big East win since they beat Syracuse in 2004.
Stephen Orr Spurrier Quotation of the Week: ESPN’s Rece Davis on South Carolina’s 35-7 destruction of Georgia. “I believe everybody in Georgia should pay rent to Steve Spurrier, because he owns them.”
Picks: We went 3-3. We hit on Utah, Army and Ole Miss. We missed on Texas Tech, Texas and Illinois. We are 20-15-1 ATS on the season.
GIF of the Weekend: Fat N.C. State Pole Guy.