In week six, the challengers fell hard. In week seven, it was those challenged. Six top 20 teams were defeated. A couple more had closer calls than they would have wished.
Mack is back, sort of… Mack Brown’s low points in 2011 and 2012 were the Oklahoma blowouts. The haters expected a similar result in 2013 and were silenced. Texas played with a fire most thought extinguished and upset the Sooners 36-20. It was a great moment. But for Mack to have autonomy to make his own decision after 2013, this win must be the cornerstone to the season, not the climax. With Texas brass having itchy trigger fingers, he probably needs to win the Big 12.
Whether that’s possible depends on how much of Texas’ performance will be sustainable. Sadly, it’s not as much as fans would hope. Their scoring tally included a defensive touchdown and a special teams touchdown. The Longhorns’ running game averaged around four yards/carry, against a team that conceded seven to West Virginia and Notre Dame. Case McCoy will not thread the needle on third down and make huge plays down field every week. It’s hard to trust a Greg Robinson defense to stop 11/13 third-down attempts and restrict opponents to 4.5 yards/play every week. The Longhorns have heart. They also have a lot of work to do.
This loss may prove just as significant for Bob Stoops. Mack’s decline has masked some less spectacular Oklahoma efforts of late. Letdowns on the road. Important performances in big games. The Sooners have often been merely just good enough, 11-3 record in one-score games since 2010. The last Oklahoma team to live up to its hype was 2008. That team still lost its two biggest games of the season.
Down goes Stanford… The Cardinal did little wrong. Though, like most of this season, they were not quite as great as anticipated. Stanford’s defense has been good but not dominant (4th in Pac 12). Their offense is steady, but not very explosive. Concede a big play here. Fumble a ball there. Get on the other end of a goal line stand. Boom. Upset in a sandwich road game to a plucky Utah team that finally has a quarterback. Stanford still controls its own route in the Pac 12, but that means beating UCLA and Oregon in two of the next three weeks.
Missouri is now an official SEC member… Missouri beat Georgia 41-26 between the hedges, moved to 6-0 on the season and forced many to acknowledge them as a veritable part of the conference. It’s a major win for Gary Pinkel, mired in a media narrative fostered by an ill-timed 2012 injury crisis. The loss, more or less, confirms what we knew about Georgia. Their poor defense limits their offense’s margin for error. Losing your top five skill players for the same game tends to facilitate errors.
Missouri may not be a contender in the SEC East. They still must rebound to play Florida and South Carolina the next two weeks. Not to mention Texas A&M and Ole Miss to close the season. They will have to do most of it without starting QB James Franklin, out with a separated shoulder. But the Tigers can now claim to be a factor, which is more than people thought of them even a few weeks ago.
This Just In… Johnny Manziel is still quite excellent at playing college football. He carried the Aggies to a road win at Ole Miss, completing 31/39 for 346 yards, rushing for another 113 yards and scoring four total touchdowns. Manziel’s fourth 300/100 game is the most in FBS history. He also popped back up after what appeared to be a bad knee injury and made impish faces on the sideline. Because…Johnny Football.
On Conservatism and Execution… Michigan blew a late lead at Penn State, succumbing 43-40 in overtime. It was the best train wreck of the Big Ten season. It was noted by a national audience. The Wolverines played not to lose and, thus, deserved not to win. But it’s worth remembering it was a comedy of errors, not conservatism that cost them a crucial away win. Your offense can’t get delay of game penalties that knock you out of field goal range. Your defense can’t let a freshman quarterback drive down the field with no timeouts in the final minute. You have to kick a game winning field goal, when you have three shots at it.
Conventional wisdom says set up the field goal. Football nouveau says don’t trust your college kicker. Michigan’s offensive line stinks and was missing Taylor Lewan. Running backs had combined for 28 yards on 30 carries. Devin Gardner’s hands had already created three turnovers. Any pass attempt, frankly, was risking a catastrophic sack. Brendan Gibbons, entering the game, had been reliable. Interpretations often stem from the result. Kevin Sumlin, Mr. Sexy Coach of the moment, took the ball away from Johnny Manziel in the final minute, and won.
Preseason Inertia… Washington has two losses, to Oregon and Stanford. Wisconsin obliterated No. 19 Northwestern 35-6 on Saturday. Their two defeats came at Ohio State and on a botched ball reset at Arizona State. Both are ranked behind No. 24 Michigan in the Coaches’ Poll.
Classic HBC… South Carolina dismantled Arkansas 52-7, dropping Bert to 0-4 since Jen Bielema wrote the infamous #karma tweet. Arkansas had just 30 passing yards and ran only 37 plays the entire game on offense. Steve Spurrier was…sympathetic.
Spurrier: “I do feel badly for Arkansas. That’s no fun getting your butt beat at home, homecoming and all that.”
— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) October 12, 2013
Also worth noting: Jadeveon Clowney took the team bus to the game and played through injury. It’s long past time to stop being unfair to a junior in college in the name of nontroversy.
Run Off the Field… Ron English should be graded on a curve, as Eastern Michigan is among the worst FBS jobs, but Saturday’s performance following an 0-4 vs. FBS start did not help him. Eastern Michigan gave up 514 yards on 53 carries to Army. Only one of Army’s eight drives did not end in a rushing touchdown. Terry Baggett alone ran for 304 yards and four touchdowns on just 18 carries. If there’s one thing a former Michigan DC should be able to do in his fifth year, it should be stopping the run. His record is 11-42. The MAC is only getting more competitive around him. It may be time for a change.
Odds and Sods: This dancing LSU fan brought his A-game. Penn State fans set up a vigil for Joe Paterno’s missing wins. Hugh Freeze yelled at a fan after the Texas A&M game. Mark Teixeira is not much of a football fan. Les Miles dropped some NSFW language in the post-game press conference.
[Photos via Getty, USA Today Sports]