Alabama Is Not Even Going To Make It Interesting This Year
We talk ourselves into SEC contenders. Tennessee, Texas A&M, LSU, Auburn, whoever. It’s more fun to write about it. It staves off, for a month or two, a dispiriting reality. Alabama has won four of the past seven national titles. They came darn close the other years. All rational indicators suggest the Tide will be right there again come season’s end. And, when they are there, it may mean talking yourself into rooting for Urban Meyer or Jim Harbaugh.
Last weekend, Alabama ended any lingering delusions about Tennessee, winning by 39 in Knoxville. This weekend, The Tide dispatched an undefeated Texas A&M 33-14. This was Alabama’s fifth Top 20 (at the time) win in 2016, first at home. With LSU, Auburn, and an SEC title game left, the Crimson Tide may need three more, before the playoff. Yet, few will doubt them.
We could praise the merits of having a Top 10 S&P+ offense and defense at the same time. But, the scary part about this Alabama iteration is they are an inveterate Beamer-ball team along with it. The Tide have 12 defensive or special teams touchdowns in 2016. That will be a greater total than Stanford’s offense through eight games, if the Cardinal fail to score four standard touchdowns against Arizona.
Oh, and that frightening dual threat freshman quarterback is only going to get better, this season and in years to come. College football is a lot of circuitous discussion to reach an inevitable conclusion. The only sound point for criticizing Alabama is the sheer volume of Nick Saban’s relaxed fit khakis.
Ohio State Can Be Beaten
Ohio State hit the road again after a tough Wisconsin game. Penn State flipped the result with a kick six. Huge win for James Franklin. The Nittany Lions are better than the team Michigan embarrassed a few weeks ago. The loss does not greatly alter Ohio State’s playoff likelihood. But, it should be a concern.
There are positives to take away. Ohio State stopped 11 of 13 Penn State third down attempts. The Buckeyes held Trace McSorely under 35 percent completion percentage. The offense did not turn the ball over. Given those three variables, one would expect Ohio State to win almost every time.
However, this was the second game in a row where Ohio State struggled in the running game on both sides. Corey Clement and Saquon Barkley both averaged 7-plus yards/carry against the Buckeyes. Barring a big gain or two, Ohio State struggled to get the non-Barrett ground game going in both games.
The loss does not change the situation much. The season still comes down to Michigan on Nov. 26. That game is in Columbus. But, Ohio State needs to control that game on the ground to win. That will require more effort, competence, and ingenuity than we’ve seen the past two weeks.
This Kirk Ferentz Decision Was So Dumb We Must Revisit It
Iowa had the ball 4th and 5 from the Wisconsin 20 with 5:25 remaining. They trailed by eight points. The Hawkeyes attempted a field goal. It wasn’t conservative. It was nonsensical. It was conceding the chance to score the game-tying touchdown. It was trusting your defense to get a three-and-out and your offense to drive down the field to score a touchdown over trusting your offense to gain five yards.
Kirk Ferentz’s explanation? He thought Iowa had to score twice. We can interpret that two ways. Iowa’s multimillionaire coach extended through 2026 either forgot two-point conversions exist or he can’t subtract 14-6. After 36 hours or so to digest, that’s still incredible.
Gus Malzahn Should Never Wear a Visor Again
Gus Malzahn ditched his trademark visor for an adjustable hat. Auburn has gone 4-0 since. The Tigers massacred a ranked Arkansas team 56-3. They outrushed a Bret Bielema team 543-35, at a rate of 9.5 yards/carry. That’s not the team a reeling Ole Miss with a suspect run defense wants to play next week. We suspect Nick Saban is happy things won’t be getting weird at Jordan Hare this year.
Bret Bielema should also keep those super cool Nike shades, just because.
Leonard Fournette Remains a Bad Hombre
Leonard Fournette is healthy. We noted it last week. We forgot what that means. The junior had a modest 19 touches, for 309 total yards and three touchdowns. The shortest of Fournette’s touchdown runs was 59 yards. He ran by defenders. He ran through them. Four games left. All against marquee SEC teams. Enough to vault him back into the Heisman discussion?
Houston Had a Problem, Offensive Line Injuries
SMU cruised to a 38-16 win over Houston, after the Cougars lost to Navy and barely beat Tulsa. It’s not hard to figure out the root cause for the Cougars’ demise. It’s offensive line injuries. Houston managed just 62 yards on 35 carries against SMU, in large part because Greg Ward was sacked seven times. Brace for the incoming columns about how Tom Herman not being able to heal the blind and the sick should be a major concern for Texas.
West Virginia’s Defense Is a Thing
That team that thumped Texas Tech by 31 on the road last week? That may just be West Virginia. The Mountaineers followed that up with a 34-10 win over TCU. The week after holding the Red Raiders to just 17 points, West Virginia stopped 9/11 third downs, allowed just 4.8 yards/attempt to one of the nation’s best passing offenses, and forced three turnovers. The Mountaineers still must play Oklahoma and Baylor, but they get both in Morgantown.
Charlie Strong Is On His Way Out
Texas lost 24-21 to Kansas State. Three Wildcats turnovers in the second half made the game look closer than it was. The more talented Longhorns were well handled along both lines. Charlie Strong is at the “unsolicited post-loss pep talk from Bill Snyder” stage of his tenure. Texas has an 8-4 ceiling now. They aren’t going to hit it. The Longhorns have a new AD and an obvious, exciting alternative waiting down the road. While most agree he’s a good coach, Strong is all but out after that loss.
This May Be The Worst Play Call Of The Season
Michigan State is a strong program. Mark Dantonio is a proven coach. But, what the heck happened here? The Spartans were tied 14-14 with Maryland at the end of the first half. They lined up for a 45-yard field goal with one second remaining. Michigan State ran one of its patented fake field goal plays…to run for the first down? That wasn’t a miscommunication. There were players blocking down field. There’s much football left to play. But, we posit that we won’t see a worse individual play call the rest of this season.
A Field Goal May Save Mark Stoops
The SEC East is having a rough 2016. But, the drought is over. A team finally won a cross-division matchup with the SEC West. Kentucky beat Mississippi State 40-38 on a last-second field goal, after a 34-point second half barrage. That field goal may prove vital for Mark Stoops’ tenure. The Wildcats are 4-3, 3-2 in the SEC. Beat Missouri next week or Georgia at home and Kentucky will reach bowl play for the first time since 2010. That progress and a hefty buyout should keep him around for another year.