Another great weekend of football is behind us and we’re starting to get a slightly clearer picture of what’s going on around the nation. Once again this week, there were some surprises and some confirmations.
I’ve got a few thoughts about what transpired over the weekend.
The Big 12 should be on notice. Bill Snyder has Kansas State firing on all cylinders very quickly this season. The Wildcats had no trouble dismantling Miami (FL) 52-13. If you thought they were really fourth-fiddle to Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State, I’d think again. K-State may just have something to say about all of that.
For those who thought Texas A&M was going to have a rude awakening, playing in the SEC, I say “not so fast”. Yes, the Aggies lost to Florida 17-20, but they blew a 10-point first half lead. Sound familiar?
It should – A&M blew big first-half leads against Oklahoma State and Arkansas (among others) last year too. You know…Big 12 opponents. If the Aggies ever figure out how to put together a full game, I think they’ll be just fine in their new SEC home.
Missouri may not fare so well. I will admit that I jumped off the crazy bridge and thought there was a chance the Tigers could upset Georgia at home this weekend, but I am man enough to admit that I drastically over-estimated Mizzou’s offensive prowess. The Bulldogs gave up a couple of passing touchdowns but held the Tiger ground game to 102 yards (2.68 per carry) and kept them out of the end zone.
Georgia wore Missouri down in the second half en route to a 41-20 win. While the Bulldogs are legitimately the best team in the SEC East, it doesn’t bode all that well for Missouri being truly competitive right away in their new conference.
The ACC race is already shaping up to be a doosy. Virginia Tech easily manhandled Austin Peay 42-7; Clemson took care of Ball State 52-27; and Florida State blanked Savannah State 55-0. We may not have learned an awful lot about these teams’ ability to handle one another, but they’re all perfect on the season so far and all look to have a legitimate claim to the conference title.
Things will get really interesting in just a couple of weeks when Clemson travels south to take on Florida State in Tallahassee.
We often fall into a trap of predicting a team’s successes based on their past. For instance, so many of us said Wisconsin was going to have a beefy, powerful offensive line because – well – they’re Wisconsin and they always have a powerful offensive line.
They’re not looking so powerful this year. In two games RB Montee Ball is averaging less than four yards per carry. Worse, he had just 61 yards against Oregon State this past weekend as his Badgers fell 7-10 to the Beavers. That’s not to take away from Oregon State’s defense, but this is Wisconsin – who has made consecutive trips to the Rose Bowl behind the domination of their O-Line – and we’re used to seeing them put up big yards and big scores.
Right now, they’re looking like the third best team in the Big Ten at very best.
Speaking of the B1G – so much for stepping up to challenge the SEC. Ohio State is looking pretty good so far (defeated UCF 31-16), but they’re still serving a post-season ban and haven’t played anyone that makes you sit up and take notice.
Michigan’s defense isn’t nearly as good in the early going as we expected them to be and it showed as they were hammered by Alabama in the opening week 14-41 and struggled to put away Air Force this past weekend 31-25.
Nebraska has taken some positive steps with the growth of QB Taylor Martinez, but having RB Rex Burkhead gimpy won’t be good if he can’t get back to 100 percent quickly. What’s more, the heralded “Black Shirt” defense wasn’t so heralded against UCLA as the Cornhuskers fell to the Bruins 30-36 in Pasadena.
Iowa looks absolutely horrid offensively. They struggled to put away Northern Illinois on a late play last week and were inept at putting together drives in their 9-6 loss to Iowa State this past weekend.
Michigan State is carrying the conference banner now, having beaten Boise State 17-13 in the opening week and following it up with a nice win over Central Michigan 41-7 this past weekend.
However, don’t sleep on Purdue, who gave Notre Dame all they could handle in a 20-17 loss.
Speaking of teams not to sleep on, Arizona cruised to 59 points in a 59-38 home win over Oklahoma State Saturday. Count me among the people who didn’t think ‘Zona had the horses to hang with the Cowboys for four full quarters. Count me among the people who were horribly wrong about that.
RB Ka’Deem Carey blasted for 126 yards and three touchdowns while QB Matt Scott threw for 320 yards and two more scores. The Wildcat offense looks nicely balanced and this team could give more than a few of their Pac-12 brethren trouble.
They may not be in league with Oregon – or even USC yet – but they could be in line for a nice bowl game this year, which would be a marked improvement over last year’s miserable 4-8 record.
As for USC, I’m not convinced this is a Top 3 team yet. On paper, I was ready to anoint them as BCS Title contenders before the season started.
QB Matt Barkley’s six-touchdown performance against Syracuse was impressive in a 42-39 win, but the fact that they needed 21 fourth-quarter points to grab a 13-point win over ‘Cuse leaves me wondering if this team is really good enough to hang with the likes of Alabama or LSU.
I’d say “not yet”.
The latest AP Poll doesn’t agree with me on that as they keep the Trojans at No.2 behind Alabama.
As a final thought, there’s a lot to look forward to this coming weekend. Here are a few big games to keep an eye on:
No1. Alabama at Arkansas 3:30 PM ET (CBS) – Though the Razorbacks fell out of the rankings (from No.8!), this is still a good match to watch. Will they rebound and look respectable against the best team in the nation or are they in full-on collapse mode now?
No.2 USC at No.21 Stanford 7:30 PM ET (FOX) – The Pac-12 title race gets real and – perhaps more importantly – USC can make a strong statement toward their own hopes of being the top team in the land. If they roll and the Tide balks at all against Arkansas, USC could be sitting atop the polls next week at this time.
No.20 Notre Dame at No.10 Michigan State 8:00 PM ET (ABC) – The Irish have had early success against Navy and Purdue. Now however, they have to go into East Lansing where they will not receive a very warm welcome.
No.18 Florida at No.23 Tennessee 6:00 PM ET (ESPN) – The Gators go on the road to take on a Volunteer team that has looked pretty decent in their 2-0 start.
No.14 Texas at Ole Miss 9:15 PM ET (ESPN) – Ole Miss tries to notch another big score for the SEC by knocking off the 14th ranked team in the country. Texas has to travel into Oxford, so don’t chalk this up as an instant win.
Hope everyone has a great week and Happy Bowl Hunting!