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Down and Out in College Football: Texas and USC Post-Mortems

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Last Saturday proved more notable than anticipated. Florida, Notre Dame, Texas and USC lost on the same day for the first time since 1976. The former two were reasonable. The latter two were future-defining fiascos. 

The Golden Calf Tipping… The thing about Texas’ defensive meltdown in 2012? They never faced a truly mobile quarterback. Collin Klein went over 100 yards against them. Nick Florence averaged more than six yards per carry. But neither was the type to really explode in the open field. They met one in BYU’s Taysom Hill at a high tempo and it didn’t go well. Hill ran for 259 yards and three touchdowns, on 17 carries. Texas also gave up to 269 yards on 45 carries to BYU’s two running backs acting in a supporting role. The Longhorns dispensed with Manny Diaz, but this team’s problems extend well beyond the coordinator.

Texas is not “turning the corner.” Mack Brown is trying to go left through a series of right turns. We’d say this team had entered “the Bowden zone.” But Bowden didn’t fall as hard and, with a run of 14-straight top five finishes in his book, had accomplished far more. Texas is, by its own admission, not getting optimal production from its talent. That has now been true through multiple coordinator changes on both sides of the ball and a four-year cycle of players. It’s not fortuitous when your coach handles a post-apocalyptic press conference with seasoned impassivity.

The Kiffining… The USC Trojans returned 85 starts on the offensive line, perhaps the best WR tandem in the nation and multiple viable college tailbacks. Their reconstructed defense has put up top 10 type production over two weeks. USC just needs one of the two third-year quarterbacks to be competent, the area where Lane Kiffin is supposed to excel. Neither is even close. A team with Marqise Lee, playing against college players, averaged 2.6 yards per pass. Washington State has improved. Their drop eight coverage scheme caused USC fits. That’s still pathetic.

Barring a random, rapid turnaround, USC fans getting their wish this winter seems all but inescable.

clowney-hamstringThe backlash… Jadeveon Clowney, after prodigious preseason hype, has been quiet. We might point out his present tally, one sack and two tackles for loss, is the same he had through two games last year. But the broader issue is the rest of South Carolina’s defensive front. Devin Smith is gone. The linebacking corps is inexperienced. Teams can double-team Clowney and obviously run plays away from him without paying for it. It’s the other guys who need to make plays. Against Georgia, they didn’t, causing plenty of frustration.

Quibbles with Spurrier’s play-calling are reasonable, most notably the option out of the gun on 4th and goal from the one foot line against Georgia’s run defense. The realty, though, is South Carolina must win when they get nine yards per pass from Connor Show and nine yards per carry from Mike Davis. The good thing for the Gamecocks? The schedule. South Carolina plays seven games in nine weeks against unranked teams before Florida, and the Gators don’t have a perceptible offense.

No. 98… Michigan’s season depended on Devin Gardner’s progression. It seems, after two weeks and prime performance #UndertheLights, that may be a good thing. The Wolverine’s now abnormally numbered QB had one notable hiccup. Gardner completed 64 percent of his passes, amassing 376 total yards and five total touchdowns. He can convert third downs with his feet. He has formed a lethal partnership with Jeremy Gallon, a strong candidate to become the first black “Wes Welker type.”

Gardner may yet struggle against heavy pressur – Michigan State will give him the toughest multiple choice exam they can muster – but it may be time to readjust the sights for this Michigan team. The Wolverines handled Notre Dame comprehensively. They won’t face a team that talented, arguably, until the end of the year vs. Ohio State. There are pitfalls to avoid, but the back to back Armageddon for the B1G title is in play.

Image (1) Al-Golden-Sweat.jpg for post 205441Back Among the Living… Miami upset Florida 21-6. That’s Miami’s first in-state rival win since 2009. One could argue it’s the school’s best overall since beating Virginia Tech in 2005. This is crucial, with the program fighting uphill to attract front-running fans that look like this. But claiming “the U” has returned may be premature. Miami benefitted from five Florida turnovers. Their vaunted offense converted just 1 of 11 third downs and, but for one drive, hardly gained positive yardage after the first quarter. This victory is swell for perception. We’ll sing paeans when they roll through an accommodating ACC schedule unscathed.

On Aesthetics… Michigan State’s offense, 118th in yards per play, epitomizes the “dumpster fire.” But, their defense may be among the nation’s best. The Spartans have allowed only 2.64 yards per play through two games. They have produced four defensive touchdowns, outscoring their offense. We’re interested to see what happens when MSU plays a viable opponent, Notre Dame in two weeks. But it’s not clear why a team with the opposite circumstances, say Texas A&M with the 11th ranked total offense and the 98th ranked total defense (against Rice and Sam Houston State), should receive more benefit of the doubt.

Beckhamania… LSU’s Odell Beckham could be mounting a back door Heisman campaign. He had five catches for 136 yards and three touchdowns against UAB, his second 100-yard game. He also put on a special teams display, catching a kickoff with one hand and returning a missed field goal about 109 yards for a touchdown. The NCAA had to invent a new stat – miscellaneous yards – to quantify him.

teddy bridgewater louisville QBBridgewater Watch…Since you weren’t watching…Teddy led the Cardinals to a 44-7 win over the mighty Eastern Kentucky Colonels. He was left in long enough to compile Heisman stats, completing 23 of 32 for 397 yards and four touchdowns.

Baylor Box Score Watch… The Bears dropped 70 points and 781 total yards on Buffalo, despite shutting things down at half-time. Bryce Petty threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns, on 16 pass attempts. Lache Seastrunk ran for 150 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries. Baylor had five receivers average more than 20 yards per reception.

Uncle Brent… Brent Musburger had a strong, notable weekend. He navigated his way through this awkward Eminem interview. He also dropped some NFL picks during a Monday night football promo.

[Photos via USA Today Sports]

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