Conference Change is Hard. Two weeks ago, West Virginia was ranked in the top five and Geno Smith was a 1-2 lock to win the Heisman. The Mountaineers have had a long fortnight. A week after being shocked 49-14 in Lubbock, the Mountaineers were similarly dispatched 55-14 in Morgantown by Kansas State. Dana Holgorsen’s offense dropped its second consecutive stinker, gaining just 243 total yards. Geno Smith throwing his first and second interceptions of the season. Coupled with the Oklahoma win, this effort should alleviate lingering doubts about KSU’s viability as a Big 12 and BCS Title candidate.
Besides the Big 12 race, this win also rocked the Heisman balloting. Presuming a sensible end to the season, Saturday’s performance will win Collin Klein the Heisman. With the spotlight shining, the Kansas State quarterback had his best ever passing game, completing 19/21 for a career high of 323 yards and three touchdowns. He also added another four touchdowns on the ground. He’s racking up the numbers and the wins to support the narrative. Barring a WVU-like fall for Kansas State, it’s hard to see anyone catching Optimus. Someone will have to give Dr. Lou a polite tip that his name is not pronounced “Colon.”
Would Kansas State get in ahead of an undefeated Oregon? With five games left, it’s a question to start asking. Texas Tech at home next week is a biggie. Beyond that, the toughest game is TCU away. The Wildcats will have a stronger resume, though part of that is because Kansas State cancelled a home and home with the Ducks.
Purple-clad fans will rip on the “haters” who should have seen this coming, but the fact is there wasn’t the precedent to see this coming. Bill Synder’s team is 17-3 the past two seasons, but this was their first multiple score win over an out of state conference opponent since beating Texas in Nov. 2010.
Gator Bait. Connor Shaw’s opening play fumble cast an immutable pall. South Carolina never recovered in a 44-11 defeat. Florida’s 183 yards of total offense were more than adequate, with the field position they received following Gamecock turnovers. Five touchdown drives started in South Carolina territory. Three started within 11 yards of the end zone. Field position, execution and a dominant defensive effort earned Florida an emphatic victory.
The Gators can now clinch the SEC East by beating Georgia next week. Wins over Missouri and Florida State could send them to that title game undefeated. Credit Will Muschamp whose team has improved within games and between games with stellar halftime adjustments. Texas fans are so happy Mack Brown opted not to retire.
One has to wonder, after the past two weeks, whether Steve Spurrier has hit his ceiling at South Carolina. He has recruited tremendously and brought a back water school to the upper echelons of the SEC, but the talented Gamecocks can’t seem to find that next gear. A 10-11 win season marred by disappointing losses. Another potential quarterback controversy. We’re starting to see a pattern. Moral conference victories are fine, though Steve Spurrier wants a tangible one before he retires.
Johnny Football. Texas A&M lost 24-19 to LSU. Freshman sensation Johnny Manziel returned to orbit, completing just 52 percent of passes, getting held to 27 yards on the ground and throwing three picks. This will be a tough loss for Texas A&M to swallow, mostly because it is a game they should have won, turning the ball over five times and missing two field goals in a game decided by five points. The schedule gets tougher, with three-straight SEC road trips coming up, but a 5-3 opening season in the SEC with narrow losses to the three best teams in the conference, would be one hell of an opening salvo from Kevin Sumlin.
Still Relevant. Notre Dame out-defensed BYU, beating the Cougars 17-14 in South Bend. The Irish are now 7-0, heading into a regular season BCS playoff game against Oklahoma in Norman. It’s their first 7-0 start since 2002 under Ty Willingham. They did beat FSU in the eighth game that year, but later lost to BC at home, got rolled by USC and lost the Gator Bowl to N.C. State by three touchdowns. BYU’s run defense has collapsed the past two weeks, allowing 5.46 yards per carry to Oregon State and Notre Dame. That’s worrisome, since that was the only thing BYU had going for them.
Legitimizing Win? The phrase has been used too liberally this season, but we may be able to confirm the Red Raiders are for real, at least for this week. Texas Tech pulled off a major 53-50 overtime win on the road against TCU. It was not a trademark defensive masterpiece, but Tommy Tuberville’s team capitalized on three turnovers, with a systematic Seth Doege completing 30/42 for 318 yards and seven touchdowns.
Brunette Girls on a Beach. Brendan Gibbons is money…within 40 yards in vital situations. The hirsute Michigan kicker drilled a 38-yard field goal, giving Michigan a 12-10 win over Michigan State, its first since 2007. His methodology is ice-proof. Denard Robinson managed the game, in his own way, avoiding the catastrophic mistake. Mark Dantonio executed, perhaps, the ballsiest call of his career, calling the fake punt on 4th and 9 from MSU’s own 23 in the fourth quarter of a two-point game. LeVeon Bell was hesitant hitting holes and lacks breakaway speed, but he hurdled a dude lying on the ground. So there’s that. It was a homely win, but the Wolverines, now 3-0 in Big Ten play, will take it. If you enjoy round numbers, Michigan became the first FBS school to win 900 games.
Bowl Eligible. Duke fought off a 21-point fourth quarter to dispatch rival North Carolina 33-30 on late touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder. The Blue Devils, 6-2, are bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. Playing with house money the rest of the way, they lead the ACC Coastal (that quivering from Orange Bowl officials is anticipation about the prospect of hosting such an exciting team, surely). Ole Miss’ moronic firing of David Cutcliffe was Duke’s gain.
Defensive Apocalypse. Texas beat Baylor, but 56-50 was not quite the eff you effort Texas needed after the Oklahoma drubbing. That Manny Diaz defense has allowed 228 points in its last five games. The problem remains breakdowns leading to long scrimmage plays. The Longhorns have allowed 44 plays of 20 yards or longer through seven games. One has to feel for Baylor, who scored 113 points combined in two Big 12 road games and lost both of them.
Improvement? Auburn did not win against Vanderbilt, but they covered in a 17-13 loss, with the help of some timely Commodore fumbles. Gene Chizik’s Tigers are 0-6-1 in regulation and 0-5 in the SEC. This is the worst start in history two years off from a national title. Theoretically, there’s still a bowl game to play for, though that would require upsets of Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama. This team is not a certainty against New Mexico State.
Highlight You Might Have Missed… Pittsburgh’s alliterative running back Rushel Shell reversed coursed for a touchdown after getting stuffed.
Stephen Orr Spurrier Quote of the Week South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward on the number of short drives Florida had against him: “Life is not fair.”
Picks: If we’re losing, we like to lose on the side of Vegas. Some public bets scored big this week. A 1-5 mark (we got Florida), drops us to 24-23-1 ATS on the season.
[Photos via Presswire]