By John Harris
October 11, 2011
All of you know that I love this game with a passion of rabbits in heat, but it’s getting a little boring, to be honest. There is such a separation of the top three teams in the nation and every other team it’s not even funny.
Alabama, LSU and Oklahoma continue to prove that it’s a three team race in college football, with Wisconsin, Stanford and Oklahoma State looking to break into that discussion. Now, I think Boise State is worthy of being in that discussion, but the BCS and I don’t see things the same way. That all said, let’s look back at the weekend that was, week 6 version.
1. Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas – In this same space last week, I didn’t have a lot of great things to say about Thomas and his inability to move the ball effectively against Clemson’s defense. But on Saturday, Thomas was ridiculously good. He completed 23 of 25 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns and then ran for the game winning touchdown on 4th down with under a minute left in the game to salt away a huge win for the Hokies over Miami 38-35.
2. Nebraska’s stars Lavonte David, Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead – Through 90+ minutes of Big Ten game action, the Huskers’ looked more like Minnesota than it looked like a Big Ten contender. One play may have swung the Huskers’ momentum and the fortunes of this season: With about eight minutes left in the third quarter and the Huskers down 27-6 at home, David stripped the ball away from Ohio State QB Braxton Miller to start a 28 unanswered point rally for an emotional, heart-pounding and, perhaps, season changing 34-27 win over Ohio State.
The Buckeyes aren’t the Buckeyes of the past 10 years or so, but the way the Big Ten season was heading for the Huskers, any win was going to be a much needed one. After the David strip, Martinez and Burkhead took over. Martinez accounted for three touchdowns, running for one and throwing for two, while Burkhead was on the receiving end of one of the scores and ran for another. The Huskers needed their stars to “show up” and they did… just in the nick of time.
3. Notre Dame’s offense – Fifty-nine points? I said it a few weeks ago and I’ll reiterate: If this offense can just keep from turning the ball over, it’s got scary talent, led by WR Michael Floyd. Maintain this pace and the last game of the year at Stanford could be one of the best of the year.
4. Wake Forest – Head coach Jim Grobe just finds a way. After a rough 2010 season, Grobe’s Demon Deacons were an afterthought going into the 2011 season, but Grobe knew what he had in QB Tanner Price and, well, we didn’t. What he has in Price is the secret sauce.
Price has led the Deacons passing game, a unit that is 18th in the nation in passing offense, and got plenty of contributions from junior wide receiver Chris Givens, who leads the ACC in receiving yards per game. If Price hadn’t gotten banged up in the second half of the Syracuse opener, the Deacs would most likely be 5-0. A trip to Virginia Tech is up next, but don’t expect Wake to roll over and die for the Hokies.
5. Alabama’s defense – Held Vanderbilt’s offense to 190 yards total offense. Scary.
6. Alabama QB AJ McCarron – The Tide signal caller threw for four touchdowns against Vanderbilt and was sensational on third down passing attempts.
7. South Carolina QB Connor Shaw – Did y’all know that the Gamecocks have a stud receiver named Alshon Jeffery? He re-appeared on Saturday with the emergence of Shaw. Shaw took over for former starter Stephen Garcia, who had struggled leading the Gamecock offense, and “found” Jeffery six times, including two times for a touchdown. Shaw completed 26 of his 39 throws for 311 yards and four touchdowns. Gamecock fans can hope that Shaw is the guy that Spurrier has been seeking for years in Columbia.
8. Oklahoma’s defense – The stat lines on this one are just ridiculous. Frank Alexander had three sacks. Tony Jefferson had a sack and an interception. Jamell Fleming had 13 tackles and a fumble return for a touchdown. David King had a fumble return for a touchdown. Demontre Hurst had a pick six for a touchdown. The defense outscored Texas 18 to 17. Two interceptions, one fumble forced, 15 tackles for a loss and eight sacks on the day. Dadgum.
9. Oregon RB LaMichael James – For the third straight game, James ran for over 200 yards, registering 239 yards in about three quarters, only to leave the game with a dislocated elbow. X-rays proved negative for broken bones, but his return is undetermined at this point.
10. Illinois – Is anyone paying attention to what the Zooker is doing with Illinois this season? After hammering Baylor in the Texas Bowl last year, the Illini have followed that up with a 6-0 start after beating hapless Indiana 41-20.
The schedule gets a little bit more difficult with Ohio State coming to Champaign, but the Bucks aren’t the test they used to be. That being said, Illinois’ toughest games are at home, with Michigan and Wisconsin in back to back weeks in November.
11. UCLA QB Kevin Prince – Prince led the Bruins back from an eight point deficit in the fourth quarter after Richard Brehaut broke his leg. The Bruins are offensively challenged and have needed a quarterback to make plays. Saturday night, Prince did that for the first time in 2011.
1. LSU P Brad Wing – Dude, you’re a punter, score first, then celebrate. You have the audacity to taunt an opposing team’s position players as you score a touchdown, only to have it called back because of your idiot taunt? Yep, you’re a punter.
2. Texas – This isn’t quite fair, but there were a lot of Horns fans thinking that this Texas team wasn’t nearly as far away from being upper echelon than the 2005-2009 teams. The team is not, and it ran into the wrong buzzsaw at the wrong time in Dallas on Saturday losing to Oklahoma 55-17. The two QB tilt-a-whirl spun out of control as Case McCoy and David Ash played more like Santa Claus and a bunch of elves at Christmas time.
The good news is that it’ll get better, but Oklahoma State is coming to Austin next week. The onslaught may not stop for a little while. Just hang on for the ride – it’ll get bumpy, but the Horns will get there... in 2012.
And by the way, that Twitter follower who had such a hard time with my lack of love for Texas players in my preview (and thought that there were a minimum of eight Longhorns who were the best at their respective positions in the Big 12) - uh, time to think again.
3. Florida head coach Will Muschamp – I love Muschamp’s intensity, always have and always will; however, I’m losing a ton of respect for the way he embarrasses players and coaches on the sideline during a game. It’s fairly reprehensible, to be honest. I’m sure he’s done that before as an assistant coach, but in the last two weeks, I’ve seen him dress down a player (v. Alabama) and a coach (v. LSU), both instances caught on camera.
Intensity is warranted in this game, but not thoroughly embarrassing a guy for making a mistake. A stupid mistake warrants a discussion, but the man has to know that cameras are watching his every move now as the head coach. I know if I’d have been the special teams coach that was on the receiving end of his “rant” after Wing’s fake punt and run, I’d be polishing up my resume this morning because I would’ve said/done something he wouldn’t have liked.
4. The state of Florida – This is a pretty impressive nugget: This is the first Sunday in which one of Florida’s Big 3 isn’t ranked in the top 25. For nearly the past 30 years, at least one Florida team was somewhere in the top 25. But after another weekend of losses for all three, the top 25 thought it was better off without some sunshine in its life. It’s hard to disagree with the way these three have played this season.
5. Auburn’s QBs – Barrett Trotter and Kiehl Frazier were in the giving business on Saturday night. As in giving the ball to the Razorbacks. The two combined for three interceptions and the two only completed nine of 25 passes. Ouch.
1. Michigan at Michigan State – The Wolverines beat Notre Dame. Notre Dame beat Michigan State. It should be easy, according to the transitive property. Michigan will hammer Michigan State, right? The Spartans will be breaking out the new Nike Combat unis (check out the bronze) after a bye week, while Michigan is out on the road for the second straight week. Can State stop Denard Robinson by making him have to throw to beat them? Can Kirk Cousins make enough plays to keep the secondary from living in the box to stop the run? This one ought to be fun.
2. Baylor at Texas A&M – Neither team can stop anyone, so expect a lot of plays, a lot of points and a lot of heartache - especially so if the Bears knock off the Aggies the last time these two meet before A&M’s departure to the SEC. Robert Griffin III should light up the Aggie secondary like a Christmas tree, but the Bears won’t be able to stop the two-headed monster at running back – Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray.
3. Oklahoma State at Texas – The young Longhorns got exposed last week as being, well, young... and inexperienced. This program is a year or two away, but at home with a chance to redeem itself, expect the Horns to play their butts off. Texas has nothing to lose and the Cowboys have to prove they can win on the road as they did in College Station earlier in the season.
4. Arizona State at Oregon – Last year, the only Pac-10 conference team to really make Oregon sweat (other than Cal in Berkeley) was Arizona State on the road. Turnovers killed the Sun Devils in Tempe or it would’ve been a nail-biting finish. The Sun Devils are a different lot this year, though. QB Brock Osweiler has been superb under center for the Sun Devils, but taking the act on the road to Eugene is a different animal altogether, whether LaMichael James is in the Oregon lineup or not.