5 Things I Think: After Week 6!

FootballWow what a week we had this time! Ohio State and Stanford were both legitimately challenged by teams ranked in the mid-teens in Northwestern and Washington respectively (both of which, I think will end the season closer to the top of the teens than the bottom). The Buckeyes became the first team in the nation to become bowl eligible. In fairness though, they are one of the few top teams that haven’t yet taken a bye week (heck, Baylor has already had two of them). By my count, there are just seventeen undefeated teams left out of 124 in the FBS. If I told you before the season that after Week 6 that the SEC would have only two undefeated teams, would you have guessed Alabama and Missouri as being those two? I wouldn’t have, despite the fact that I thought the Tigers would be better now that quarterback James Franklin is healthy this season. We saw several controversial calls this weekend (see the Texas “fumble” and the Washington “catch”) and I actually understood the referees’ thinking on most of the decisions after review. As far as the rest of the Top 10, there weren’t very many headlines. Alabama beat a winless team transitioning to the FBS, Oregon beat a Colorado team that Oregon State beat by 27 last week, Clemson beat a Syracuse team whose biggest win thus far is against Tulane, Louisville beat a winless Temple team, Texas A&M had a bye, and LSU beat a Mississippi State team whose biggest win was against Troy. Therefore, we didn’t really learn anything about six of the Top 10. That’s okay though, we’re midway through the regular season and it’s about to get very exciting because it’s about this time when the upsets start happening and the giants start falling.

1. What a catch! After recovering a fumble on an attempted Georgia State kickoff return, Alabama is set up on the ten-yard line. The Tide are up 14-0 and McCarron drops back looking for a quick score. DeAndrew White is lined up at the top of the screen and the Panthers’ defense is playing him man-to-man. If you watch number 8 for GSU, you’ll see he plays solidly on this play. He’s careful not to interfere and he lifts his arms as soon as he sees White’s arms go up, just as he’s been taught to do. White elevates and reaches around the defender’s body and snags the ball with one-handed, left-handed. You’ll notice as he lands, he’s careful to ensure he has it tucked against his body so he won’t lose it. I’m not going to say it was the catch of the year, because I try not to overreact the way everyone seems to do now days. What I will say is that it will almost certainly be nominated for an ESPY unless there are some outrageously great plays that I’m either forgetting about from this year or that are still to come. Not bad for a guy whose name rarely comes up when naming receivers on Alabama’s roster, I’d say. If you haven’t seen it, watch it here! What do you think?

2. The conspiracy theorists everywhere! The Buckeyes score to take the lead 34-30 with 5:22 left in the game. The spread had TOSU favored by 7 points so all those picking TOSU not to cover are hoping the Buckeyes can hold on for the next few minutes. Their defense does a good job on Northwestern’s subsequent drive, stopping a fourth-and-one rush attempt by Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter and now the Buckeyes have the ball back with just 2:43 remaining. Buckeye Nation is just hoping that Braxton Miller can avoid another fumble and that he can get a couple of first downs to kill the clock. They actually grab three first downs, but Northwestern spent all three of their timeouts on this drive. After their third, and final, timeout, the Buckeyes have a third and five and it feels like if this third down is converted the game will be over. Instead, Miller loses three yards, and the Buckeyes punt the ball away. The Wildcats have the ball with a mere 21 seconds remaining on their own 16-yard line and the crowd in Evanston is getting anxious. On first down, Wildcats quarterback Trevor Siemian is sacked for 9 yards by Joey Bosa and with no timeouts, Northwestern rushes to get lined up. On the next play, Northwestern stops the clock with a spike. Now it’s 3rd and 19 at the Northwestern 7-yard line. It’s much too far for a Hail Mary, so they decided to try the hook-and-ladder play. It doesn’t work as planned as the ball is fumbled and eventually recovered by Joey Bosa in the end zone. Ohio State wins by 10 (they didn’t get the option to kick the extra point) and thereby covers the 7-point spread. Bookmakers across the world were angry and Twitter exploded with conspiracy theories. My favorite one was that the Wildcats called a hook-and-ladder knowing it couldn’t work and thus allowing a fumble to happen due to the riskiness of the play. What play were they supposed to run needing a touchdown and being on their own 7-yard line? Additionally, ask Oklahoma how well a hook-and-ladder can work at the end of a game (care of Boise State). I knew this would be a close game and I don’t care about the fluke touchdown at the end that made it a double-digit win. I’d have taken the four-point win or a one-point win. Go Buckeyes!

3. A couple of SEC games that were far too close for comfort. #6 Georgia and #13 South Carolina (AP rankings) had what should have been easy conference games this weekend, but that turned out not to be the case. The Bulldogs faced 3-2 Tennessee in Knoxville and needed overtime (and a Volunteers fumble in overtime) to hold off the Volunteers. Granted, the Bulldogs were without their top running back (Todd Gurley), and ended up losing their backup running back, Keith Marshall, in the first quarter. Marshall, by the way, has been deemed out for the year with a knee injury. However, it wasn’t the offense that held the Bulldogs back. They still ran for over 230 yards and Aaron Murray still threw three touchdown passes. The Bulldogs committed no turnovers and only had 41 yards worth of penalties. Their biggest problem was on defense. They could not stop Volunteers running back Rajion Neal, who rushed for nearly 150 yards and two touchdowns. In overtime, Tennessee had no trouble getting a first down and had a 2nd and Goal from the seven and it looked inevitable they’d go up 7 points and put the onus on the Bulldogs to get into the end zone. On third down, Alton Howard runs for 6 yards and fumbles as he is stretching for the end zone and the balls rolls through the end zone for a touchback. The Bulldogs just needed a field goal during their half of overtime, which is exactly what they did, winning with a 42-yard field goal. South Carolina, playing without JaDaveon Clowney who was nursing a rib injury, hosted the lowly Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday evening. The Gamecocks led 27-7 after three quarters and it appeared that the rout that was expected would come to fruition. Then Kentucky quarterback Jalen Whitlow exploded for 83 yards with two touchdowns passing, and 13 yards with a touchdown rushing in the fourth quarter! Keep in mind that Kentucky only has one win on the season, which came against Miami (OH). The RedHawks are 0-5 and fired their head coach, Don Treadwell, and offensive coordinator, John Klacik, on Sunday. A team ranked in the top 15 really struggled (merely winning by seven points) against a one-win team which especially troubling when one considers that the week before the Gamecocks beat a team from the “weak” American Athletic Conference by a mere three points (UCF)! I’m a big Spurrier fan, but he needs to right the ship, and quickly, because if they don’t, it’s possible they could go down next week when they face Arkansas.

4. What’s your big problem with the Rice choice? On Friday, some of the names that will make up the selection committee that will choose the teams to play in the playoff (that will start in the 2014 season) were leaked. Names like Archie Manning, Oliver Luck, Barry Alvarez, Jeff Long, Tom Osborne, and Pat Haden were generally accepted. However, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, sparked some controversy. Twitter exploded upon her name being reported and a lot of it wasn’t tweets of endorsement. David Pollack, during the College GameDay telecast clearly isn’t a fan of her selection. He originally wanted to refrain from commenting, which was an instinct he should have followed. After the rest of the panel voiced a surprise that the normally opinionated Pollack was going to remain quiet on the topic he proceeded to “put his foot in my mouth”. He started by simply saying that members of the selection committee need to be able to look at tape of a game and be able to break it down and “really know the game”. Kris Fowler responded, “It sounds like you’re saying no women should be on the committee.” Pollack nodded and said, “You said it, not me, but …” and followed it up by another nod. Rice being a woman is irrelevant to me. Furthermore, I don’t even have a big problem with the fact that she isn’t a former coach or an athletic director because I know she knows football. I also know that it is unlikely she’ll be biased towards one school or conference as she was born in Birmingham, AL (grew up an Alabama fan), she earned a Master’s Degree from Notre Dame, and has served as the Provost at Stanford. One has to remember that Rice once voiced a sincere desire to be the NFL Commissioner saying it was her “dream job” and I really believe she would have pursued the job when it was open in 2006 had she not been Secretary of State at the time (2005-2009). Calm down everyone. On a committee of what looks like it will have 12-16 people, I doubt Ms. Rice will have the negative impact on the committee selections as you obviously think she will have. I also suspect that she will be transparent with her selections and/or rankings.

5. What did we learn from the Florida State 63-0 win? Well, let’s take a quick look at the game. “Famous” Jameis Winston threw for 393 yards and 5 touchdowns against a defense that just held West Virginia two weeks prior to a mere 62 yards passing. One can’t blame the loss on traditional “mental” mistakes like penalties and turnovers as the Terrapins only committed one turnover (a fumble) and four penalties (for a mere 40 yards). The Seminoles also didn’t score on special teams. The longest return they had was a punt return for 28 yards. It was just pure domination on both sides of the ball. Defensively, the Seminoles only allowed Maryland to convert two out of fifteen third downs and held them to 33 total rushing yards (on 25 carries!). Offensively, Winston averaged 12.3 yards per attempt (9 incompletions) and three-headed running back monster Wilder, Green, and Williams averaged 4.4 yards per carry. Even backup quarterback Jacob Coker ran for a 24-yard touchdown. I can’t wait until Week 8 when the Seminoles travel to Memorial Stadium to face the Clemson Tigers, but what did we learn about this game against Maryland? We learned that Maryland shouldn’t have been ranked in the Top 25. I think pollsters saw their undefeated record and that coach Randy Edsell finally had a healthy quarterback and thought they were one of the 25 best teams in the nation. If they really are, then Florida State is severely under-ranked. We’ll see next week.

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