This weekend was a bit threadbare, with six of the top 12 taking a siesta. Even the games were not really games. Thankfully, the football scheduling gods will make up for it Thursday night, with four of those teams squaring off.
A Class Above… Florida State and Miami met as top 10 teams for the first time since 2004. It was clear only the Seminoles belonged there after their 41-14 win. Jameis Winston proved himself human, throwing two interceptions. But he remained quite a talented human, completing 72 percent of passes and averaging more than 11 yards per attempt. Miami stopped just four of 15 Florida State third down attempts. The Hurricanes should get another shot at the Noles in the ACC title game. It’s hard to see them improving on that result with a second opportunity. But, hey, ACC Coastal Championship rings are a thing now. So, there’s that to look forward to.
The Seminoles received a slight boost from this win, but it needed a sea change. FSU’s computer poll lead, with Oregon playing Stanford and four additional bowl teams in the final games, will fade. They need to win the public opinion campaign. A best case scenario for the Noles sees them beat a seven-win Florida team and Miami again. Not sure how many humans that will impress. Tallahassee will have more Stanford fans Thursday night than Palo Alto, not that that’s saying much.
Little Sisters… Michigan headed north to East Lansing. The trip went about as we anticipated. The Spartans stormed past a feeble offensive line and ransacked the Wolverine offense. They held Fitz Toussaint to 20 yards rushing and sacked Devin Gardner seven times. Michigan State has now won five of six since Mike Hart’s “little brother” comment.
Yes, “It’s Michigan fergodsakes.” But this win will have ramifications for Michigan State beyond the rivalry. If the Spartans win their three remaining games – at Nebraska, at Northwestern, Minnesota – that would put them at 11-1 and (we presume) in the Top 10 entering the Big Ten title game. MSU would have the chance to beat Ohio State and go to its first Rose Bowl since 1987. Even with a loss, they would be on track for a BCS at large.
For the Wolverines, the problem is clear: the offensive line. It’s the cause and the solution that have been nebulous. Coaching, play-calling and inexperience (no junior or seniors on the interior line) are all issues. Even recruiting evaluations have been called into question. A “winning mentality” gets instilled by winning. Michigan having its offensive line blown up on (seemingly) every play reduces the probability of that happening. The Wolverines have been putrid on the road this year. They will need wins at Northwestern and at Iowa to salvage something from this season.
Not Much of a Party… Georgia and Florida met in Jacksonville. Neither contingent left this game gratified. Georgia brought a 23-3 lead into halftime, then nearly blew it. The Bulldogs gained 14 yards on their first four drives in the second half, while conceding 20 points. Florida came back, but fell short in their third-straight cocktail party. Big, dumb Will Mushcamp ball produced fewer than five yards per play for the third-consecutive game.
The Gators have been ravaged by injuries. With South Carolina and Florida State still to play, they may finish with the nation’s toughest schedule (currently third). But a second 6-6 season in three years could make things dicey for Muschamp heading into 2014. He’s making forays into Zook territory. Muschamp could be on the hot seat next year. He could also be in a quite cozy one in Austin.
Cowboy Up… The Air Raid has been reduced to ground sorties in Stillwater. But Oklahoma State’s makeshift attack is still working, despite the mediocre passing. The Cowboys gained consistent yardage on the ground, converted turnovers into points and left Lubbock with a 52-34 win. Losing two-straight has reduced Kliff Kingsbury to swag alert level orange (despite this adorable photo op). The Big 12 is down to a four-team race between Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor. The Cowboys play those three opponents the final three weeks of the season.
Prayer Answered… Yes, Virginia, Good things can still happen to Bo Pelini. Nebraska beat Northwestern 27-24 on third-string quarterback Ron Kellogg’s Hail Mary to Jordan Westerkamp with time expiring. The Nebraska coach, already on the hot seat, was coming off a loss at Minnesota. Not to mention the whole reefer fiasco with his brother at FAU. A loss might have sunk Nebraska and ended Pelini’s time there. Instead, the Cornhuskers are still in with a shout for the Legends Division title. Though that road does go through Michigan State.
Winning Streak… Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys has taken over at Minnesota during Jerry Kill’s leave of absence. It has, surprisingly, worked out well for them. The Gophers have won three-straight in conference after fending off Indiana. Beating Penn State at home would secure Minnesota eight wins and a .500 conference record. That would be testament, even in his absence, to the excellent rebuilding job Jerry Kill has done.
Futility… Purdue lost three-straight Big Ten games to Nebraska, Michigan State and Ohio State by a combined score of 114-7. The Boilermakers have not taken a snap in the red zone since Sept. 28.
Scary… Todd Graham and his son Bo, on a recruiting trip to Texas, lost cabin pressure in their small plane at 35,000 feet. The plane dove down to 10,000 feet and made an emergency landing. “I’m not lying. I thought this might have been it,” Graham told AZ Central.
Odds and Sods… Johnny Manziel was doing filthy Johnny Manziel things. A UCLA cheerleader accepted a proposal. Mike Mayock dropped a Freak Nasty reference. A Michigan State fan celebrated a touchdown by smacking his friend in the face. A Marshall kid was trampled by the Thundering Herd.
[Photos via USA Today Sports]