College Football: Saturday Touchdowns
This Saturday didn't have the level of drama that fans were treated to last weekend, but it did give some insight into a couple of conference races. Texas is clearly the class of the Big 12 right now, proven in their blowout home win over #11 Missouri. If the Longhorns aren't on top of the first BCS rankings tomorrow then something's terribly wrong with the system. And the Big Ten is essentially a two-team race at this point, with Penn State visiting Ohio State next week in a game that most likely will decide which team is the league's automatic BCS entry.
But while those two conferences have a bit of clarity at the top, the ACC doesn't fail to disappoint in regards to total chaos. North Carolina lost in overtime at Virginia, dropping a game that they seemed to be in control of despite the small lead throughout. Now the Cavaliers, given up for dead a month ago, have thrown their hats into the ring in the Coastal Division with their 14th consecutive home win over the Tar Heels.
As for the Atlantic, Maryland shut out Wake Forest and Boston College won a key crossover game in knocking off Virginia Tech. Who's in the driver's seat? Who knows, but the final weeks leading up to the conference championship game should be entertaining to watch. Here are seven happenings this Saturday.
1) Texas is clearly the best team in America.
To make sure his Longhorns didn't dwell on their win over Oklahoma last week, head coach Mack Brown buried a game ball along with some other keepsakes from the Red River Rivalry triumph. It looked like the team got his message, jumping out to a 28-0 lead on their way to a 56-31 win that wasn't even that close. Colt McCoy went 29-32 for the game with 337 yards and two touchdown passes. The early frontrunner in the Heisman race also ran for two more touchdowns, leading the Texas attack to 591 yards of total offense.
Add to this a defense that made Chase Daniel and the Missouri offense woefully one-dimensional (thrity yards rushing for the Tigers) and you have all the makings for a beating. There have been other teams with impressive single-game performances, but to follow up an emotional win with another big win over a ranked opponent shows just how powerful the Horns are. With Oklahoma State visiting next week they can't read the praise too much, but watching them tonight leads me to believe that won't be an issue.
2) Can Georgia Tech get some love?
All of the talk surrounding the Yellow Jackets' 21-17 win at Clemson today surrounded the fight that the Tigers displayed in defeat. But give credit to Paul Johnson and his staff for not allowing the players to fold once the Tigers took the lead at 17-14. With all the emotion surrounding interim head coach Dabo Swinney's debut, it would have been easy for Georgia Tech to fall by the wayside as the Tigers came from behind. But they didn't, with Josh Nesbitt hitting Demaryius Thomas for the gamewinning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Yes, the Tigers were without C.J. Spiller and Willy Korn went down with an injury, but for the Jackets to hold Clemson to fifty-one yards rushing and force six turnovers has to say something about that defense. They've still got the loss at Virginia Tech to overcome, but given the craziness of the ACC they could very well receive the help they need to get to Tampa for the ACC Championship Game on December 6th.
3) No Dan LeFevour? No problem for Central Michigan.
It wasn't a game that many were paying attention to, but Central Michigan's 38-28 win over Western Michigan was key for two reasons. One, the Chippewas remain undefeated in MAC play (4-0) and have a good shot at defending their conference crown despite the outstanding play of Ball State this season. Secondly, they got the job done without QB Dan LeFevour, who was out due to an ankle injury suffered in their win over Temple last week. In came Brian Brunner, who threw for 346 yards in the win. Add to this 106 yards and two touchdowns on the ground from Bryan Schneider and you've got a team that should be seen as more than just the "Dan LeFevour Show". And given the play in the East Division, the game between CMU and Ball State on November 19th could decide the entire conference.
4) Ohio State and Penn State win to set up next week's showdown in Columbus.
The Nittany Lions kept viewers on edge for almost three quarters, but they were finally able to knock off Michigan by a 46-17 final that was closer than the score would indicate. Daryll Clark continued his development as a quarterback, and RB Evan Royster ran for 174 yards and a touchdown on the afternoon. The defense came through, limiting the Wolverines to 4-15 on third down, but they'll be facing an entirely different offense in the Horseshoe next week.
Ohio State went out and took care of any threat from the host Spartans in the first half, heading to the locker room with a 28-0 lead after the first half. Terrelle Pryor was effective in moving the Buckeye offense even though he only attempted eleven passes (completed seven). Beanie Wells was back to his old tricks as well, rushing for 140 yards and two touchdowns in the 45-7 win. Also on display was a hard-nosed defense that held RB Javon Ringer to 67 yards rushing and also scored two touchdowns themselves.
Just like their recent history with Michigan, Penn State has struggled mightily in Columbus. Is this the year that someone dethrones the Buckeyes? Or will Ohio State show the nation that they still run things in the Big Ten?
5) Washington State could very well be the worst BCS conference team of the BCS era.
The Cougars hit a new low in losing 69-0 at home to USC. Injuries, youth and an overall lack of depth and experience have plagued first-year head coach Paul Wulff's team this season. The beating in The Paloose marked the worst shutout in school history, and it also ended a streak of 280 games without being shut out. Despite their proud history, USC hadn't beaten anyone this bad since 1931. Washington State has allowed sixty-plus points four times this season, a dubious feat that no BCS conference member had ever "accomplished" in the BCS era. But Rome, like the Martin Stadium renovation project going on in Pullman, wasn't built in a day. The losses this season will hurt, but Coach Wulff will have a far more competitive team in the years to follow. And at least they blocked an estra point.
6) Misery loves company at the bottom of the Big Ten standings.
Tied for last in the Big Ten are Wisconsin and Indiana, two teams that some thought could make a move in the standings when the season began. Now you have to wonder if either team can reach a bowl game this year, and judging by the whippings both took on the road today that's not a sure bet. Wisconsin went to Iowa City and took one on the chin from and Iowa team that's struggled to hit its stride before the Badgers showed up. Shonn Greene ran for 217 yards and four touchdowns in the win for the Hawkeyes, who also forced three Badger turnovers. Wisconsin ran for 158 yards, but when your quarterbacks toss three picks you're not going to win.
As for the Hoosiers, their defense has been virtually nonexistent in their four league losses. Illinois rang up fifty five points in Champaign, and their offense was the picture of balance in the win. The 271 yards through the air was adequate enough, but when you run for an astonishing 292 yards as well you're going to win the game with ease. The only thing that went wrong for the Illini was a missed extra point. But on the other side Bill Lynch has some serious issues regarding his defense if the Hoosiers are to get back to a bowl game this season. The offense, led by QB Kellen Lewis, was expected to mask some of those deficiencies but they were 3-16 on third downs tonight. Not going to get it done.
7) One "hot seat" that people haven't been paying much attention to: Chuck Long at San Diego State.
There's a lot of talent to be found in Southern California, and while a school like San Diego State won't compete with Pac-10 schools for the best talent you'd think that Coach Long and his staff would have success getting some good players on campus. That's what makes their 70-7 loss at New Mexico all the more perplexing. To refer to the Aztec defense as a "speed bump" would be a compliment to them, as they offered little resistance while the Lobos ran for 419 yards. The service academies don't even run for that many yards.
SDSU quarterback Ryan Lindley threw for 156 yards on the night, which was ten more yards then three Lobo quarterbacks combined for yet they still won by nine touchdowns. I understand that New Mexico likes to run the ball with Rodney Ferguson, but he only accounted for 149 yards and four of the eight rushing touchdowns. Maybe this one should fall on the lap of the defensive staff, and rightfully so. But the Aztec program has done virtually nothing in recent years, meaning that the end of 2008 may also bring a total cleaning of house.
Offensive Performance of the Day (non-Colt McCoy Division...the man is unreal): Tulsa QB David Johnson. In the Golden Hurricane's 77-35 win over UTEP, Johnson was 21-27 for 434 yards, 5 TDs and 1 INT. Johnson also ran for twenty-one yards on seven carries as Tulsa moved to 7-0 on the year.