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Down and Out in College Football: Washington is Ready, Maryland Not So Much

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Three undefeated teams entered the weekend, hoping to prove themselves among the nation’s elite (top 10 to 15 teams). All three lost. Two left us something to work with.

Washington outplayed Stanford on the road. On defense, they contained the run, shut down the pass and made crucial stops on third downs. On offense, they absorbed relentless body blows from a bearish Stanford front seven and and made plays. Stars Keith Price and Bishop Sankey were absolute standouts. The Huskies did everything needed to win, except make catches on the final drive and cover kick returns. Washington did not win. They probably won’t win against Oregon next week. But they proved they can compete at that level. Even if, in 2013, they are just a team no one wants to face in the Alamo Bowl.

Pat Fitzgerald celebrationNorthwestern is very good, but alas still Northwestern. The Wildcats play hard. They are well coached. They execute. That only gets you so far against Ohio State. Those type of games, come down to elite play-makers and depth on defense. Northwestern is behind in both areas. When the Wildcats had the initiative in the second quarter, they were scoring field goals instead of touchdowns. They did not leave enough of a cushion for their defense, which tired and softened as the game progressed.

The Wildcats lost late here, in the same way they lost to Penn State, to Nebraska and to Michigan in 2012. They are a threat in the Big Ten. Moving beyond that requires recruiting.

Maryland is not even close. There’s losing. There’s losing badly. Then there’s not coming within 40 of the point spread as a ranked team. Having quarterback C.J. Brown knocked out of the game was harsh. But Maryland was not playing well with him. Jameis Winston made plays and proved himself worth of having a gold chain attendant, completing 23/32 for 393 yards and five touchdowns against what was a Top 10 pass defense. The Terps converted just two of 15 third down attempts. Final score: 63-0. Florida State had the Maxim Gun. Maryland had not.

USATSI_7475407_153192880_lowresBoxscore Pornography… College football is a rousing game of Civilization. Baylor was the first to develop tanks. The Bears set a Big 12 record with 864 total yards on 95 plays in a 73-42 win over West Virginia. They scored touchdowns on 10 of their first 11 drives. Through four quarters, the Mountaineers did not force a punt. Those gaudy numbers do not even tell the full story, as Baylor pulled its starters mid-way through the third quarter, with a 63-21 lead.

The Bears are averaging 9.62 yards/play this season. Only two other schools, FSU and Oregon, are averaging more than eight. Again, that’s with the starters playing 35 minute games. Art Briles will face Charlie Weis and Mack Brown/Greg Robinson before this season’s end. Texas boosters will see what he did there.

It was a banner day for Briles. It was just as much of a disaster for his erstwhile colleague Dana Holgorsen. This was West Virginia’s third loss (and second utter embarrassment) in four games against live opposition. Whatever capital he accumulated since the Oklahoma State win was squandered. Dissent has gone public, with former star Pat White questioning his leadership, comparing him to Lane Kiffin and calling for his ouster on Twitter.

About Commitment… Jadeveon Clowney sat out South Carolina’s win over Kentucky with a strained rib muscle. It appears to have been through his own decision. Steve Spurrier left a question about Clowney’s commitment open-ended. Predictably, this spawned the first in what we presume will be a parade of folks chiming in that Clowney is shirking college duty to preserve himself for the NFL. A fact that should be mentioned when debate on this is embraced this week: Clowney is already playing through bone spurs in his foot, delaying surgery until after the season. An 8-10 week recovery period may prevent him prepping for the combine and may cost him money.

Football players willingly endure tremendous pain and all manner of inhumane treatments to play every week. That’s not to mention the undetected brain damage research is only starting to discover. Football players in college are not getting paid for their trouble and not having their health covered long term. We presume Jadeveon Clowney has a far better handle on how painful his “minor” injury is than those whose gravest occupational hazard is a sore neck from typing. Don’t be that guy.

Oh Hai, Gary Pinkel… Missouri’s leader has not forgotten how to coach the football. The now healthy Tigers are 5-0 after obliterating their first SEC opponent Vanderbilt 51-28 in Nashville. Missouri’s offense, through five games, ranks in the Top 10 in yards/play and scoring. James Franklin (the quarterback) is one of the six SEC players in the Top 20 in passer rating. Penciling Missouri into Atlanta would be foolish and premature. But Missouri’s games against Georgia, Florida and South Carolina the next three weeks feel a lot more interesting. Eight or nine wins and a second-tier bowl may now be reasonable. Not bad for a team many presumed to be an afflicted doormat in August.

USATSI_7475457_153192880_lowresInjury Bug: Georgia escaped 34-31 at Tennessee, but it came with high casualty numbers. The Dawgs lost running back Keith Marshall and wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley for the season. Michael Bennett needs arthroscopic surgery on his knee and is out indefinitely. Even the freaking punter suffered a concussion. Georgia’s best running back Todd Gurley was too banged up to play in the game. Their best receiver Malcolm Mitchell was already out for the season with a knee injury. Georgia remains in a solid position to win the SEC East. Freshmen and upperclassmen have stepped in admirably. But the Dawgs look much more vulnerable than they would be functioning at full tilt.

Blessed Stability…Michigan beat Minnesota 42-13. The scoreline was flattering. The important numbers for Michigan will be turnovers (zero) and sacks allowed (one). Devin Gardner settled down and completed 13/17 for 235 yards and a touchdown. The offensive line remains a work in progress. What little traction Michigan gained on the ground was thanks to fervent Fitz Toussaint leg pumping. This wasn’t a spectacular performance, but the Wolverines are taking baby steps.

A Defeated Man… Kansas took a 10-0 lead over Texas Tech in the 1st quarter. Then things went all Kansas. The Red Raiders outscored the Jayhawks 54-6 over the final three quarters. Charlie Weis, who once wanted to fist fight fans leaving early, was a bit more subdued after this one. When asked about fans leaving during the game, Weis responded “If I were at the game, I probably would have left too.” To be fair, Kansas did come from behind to beat Louisiana Tech 13-10. That’s one more FBS win than last year. So…progress.

Trending… Spectacular one-handed catches were a thing this week. DeAndrew White caught one for Alabama against mighty Georgia State. This drew a vigorous round of applause from the tens of Alabama students in attendance. Noted Nebraska coif Kenny Bell had one against Illinois. Georgia receiver Chris Conley displayed some SEC athleticism on a touchdown grab against Tennessee.

USATSI_7473079_153192880_lowresPACtion… Master met protege, when Mike Leach’s Washington State traveled to Berkley to face Sonny Dykes’ Cal. It went about as expected. 179 plays. 1,155 total yards, with only 118 coming on the ground. When both teams are at full capacity, it will be something.

Fired… Miami of Ohio fired head coach Don Treadwell, after an 0-5 start to the season and an 8-21 cumulative record. That was not unexpected. In his pivotal third year, the Redhawks ranked 124th in yards/play offense and 109th in yards/play defense. Not a recipe for winning a large number of games. Michigan State ranked 21st in yards/play offense his last year there in 2010. Since, they have fallen to 43rd (2011), 111th (2012) and 112th (2013). Treadwell is Kirk Cousins approved. Perhaps he relocates to East Lansing after this season?

A Reprieve…Willie Taggart got his first win as South Florida football coach, against a real team. The Bulls upset Cincinnati 26-20 at home. They were one of the seven Florida FBS teams that won on Saturday. Don’t get back on the bus quite yet, though. South Florida’s scoring outburst included touchdowns on a blocked field goal and a fumble recovery.

[Photos via USA Today Sports]

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