5 Things I Think: After Week 7!

FootballWhat a Saturday that was! Seven ranked teams lost which included three teams losing to unranked foes. I had a top ten team falling this weekend (Georgia), but I sure didn’t have three teams in the top twelve being upset. I couldn’t have been more wrong on the Red River Rivalry, but that’s how rivalry games go sometimes. Rankings are thrown out of the window and sometimes crazy things happen. Do I think this win saved Mack Brown’s job? No. However, keep in mind that the Longhorns are undefeated in the conference right now, so Brown’s amended goal of winning a conference title is still alive. He’s only won the Big 12 twice and the third time sure would be the charm as it would lead to a BCS bowl game appearance, but games against Texas Tech and Baylor still remain. History was made when the AP Poll released after this week’s games as the SEC became the first conference ever to have eight teams ranked in the AP top 25 as Auburn landed the #24 spot. Auburn’s ascension seemed more a product of so many ranked teams losing than of what they did this weekend, as a 62-3 win over Western Carolina probably wasn’t something that changed the minds of the voters. However, being one win away from bowl eligibility after Week 7 after going winless in conference play all of last season, probably impressed some people.

1. I was a bit surprised by Gus Malzahn’s decision. JUCO transfer quarterback Nick Marshall, who attempted all but two of Auburn’s pass attempts this season, was injured late in the game against Ole Miss in Week 6. Malzahn waited until Friday to decide whether Marshall would play this week against Western Carolina. The Catamounts, an FCS team, only had one win on the season thus far which was a mere seven-point win against a one-win, Division II school (Mars Hill, whose nickname, the Mountain Lions, is another name for catamount) , so it’s hard to imagine Malzahn would consider them much of a threat. I thought he’d start Jonathon Wallace, who earned two of the Tigers’ three wins last season, or perhaps move Kiehl Frazier back to quarterback, as he’s very familiar with Malzahn’s system. Instead, Malzahn surprised me by starting freshman Jeremy Johnson. I think Johnson might be the Tigers’ most talented quarterback, so my surprise wasn’t based on Johnson’s abilities. It was wondering why Malzahn would throw away the opportunity to let Johnson redshirt the season, especially on a game they could have won with one of the other guys running the show. Additionally, I see no value in putting the team in a situation that could, and will likely, lead to a “quarterback controversy” once Marshall is healthy enough to play. Johnson is easily the better passer of the bunch and I think he can hang with Marshall athletically in the run game. If Marshall can go this week, does he automatically get his starting job back and get the nod against Johnny Football at Kyle Field next week? There’s a popular philosophy in sports that a player shouldn’t lose his job due to injury, but it happens all the time. Wally Pipp of the New York Yankees is the probably the most famous example after getting the day off due to a headache and his replacement, Lou Gehrig, went on to play in over 2100 consecutive games. However, let’s think about more recently, and at the same position, at last year with the San Francisco 49ers. Alex Smith was playing phenomenally until he suffered a concussion and Colin Kaepernick played in his relief. Despite being cleared to play after Kaepernick’s first start, Smith didn’t see the field again for the 49ers as they rode Kaepernick to a Super Bowl appearance. I don’t know if Malzahn will stick with Johnson or not once Marshall is cleared, but I don’t think pulling the opportunity to redshirt Johnson was worth it if he’s only going to play this one game — a game that was no threat to their loss column. Sure, he can redshirt Johnson next year if Marshall returns, but he’d still have potentially wasted this year of eligibility to beat the Catamounts of Western Carolina. The only way I think this decision works is if Marshall is done for the year (or will miss significant time) because then getting Johnson playing time against a powder-puff makes sense.

2. My Buckeyes could be in trouble! We’ve seen several times over the last few years when an undefeated team didn’t get the opportunity to play for a BCS Championship while a one-loss team did. However, has it ever been a team from one of the “major” conferences? We’ve seen Boise State, Utah (pre-Pac 12), and most recently TCU (pre-Big 12) be overlooked because they were seen as inferior teams because of the conference in which they played. In 2004, there were four undefeated teams going into the bowl season, so while a team from a “major” conference was unbeaten and didn’t get a chance to play for a title (Auburn), they weren’t pushed aside for a one-loss team. I think it’s possible that two teams from “major” conferences could very well be on the outside looking in when it comes time to choose the teams playing for the title this season. We still have a lot of football to go this season, so I’m by no means counting any pre-hatched chickens, but it’s conceivable that both my Buckeyes and the Louisville Cardinals go unbeaten entering the bowl season and get bypassed by a one-loss team. My Buckeyes could very well lose a game in the regular season as Indiana’s high-powered offense could pose a problem just as much as the two rivalry games against Penn State and Michigan could. Louisville could well be tested next week as they face a UCF team that led South Carolina for most of their matchup. The problem is neither team really has the opportunity to impress voters anymore this season. The Big Ten is having a down year and unless Wisconsin runs the table or Michigan looks like they did at the beginning of the year, the Buckeyes won’t have another opportunity for a spot-jumping kind of win. Louisville plays in the AAC in its last season as a “major” conference (starting next season it will be part of the “Group of Five”) and they won’t have a conference championship game, so that’s one less week to stay relevant in voters’ minds. Next week, when the first BCS Rankings are released, don’t be surprised if both of these teams are ranked fairly low by the computers as I don’t think that both will be in the top ten without the human voters’ impact.

3. Who is this Maty Mauk kid? Missouri pulled the upset of Georgia this weekend, which wasn’t surprising given the number of major players the Bulldogs had injured, combined with Missouri finally being healthy and therefore being able to put up lots of points. Unfortunately, the Tigers’ quarterback, James Franklin, was hurt in the fourth quarter and will reportedly miss at least 3-5 weeks with a separated throwing shoulder. Then enters redshirt freshman Maty Mauk. Another redshirt freshman quarterback playing for a team that jumped from the Big 12? Oh yes. He’s no Manziel (did you see him this weekend against Ole Miss, by the way?), but he’s no slouch either. You may look at the last name and find it familiar and that’s because it is. His older brother Ben played for Cincinnati under Brian Kelly and led the Bearcats to its first 10-win season (2007) in over 55 years. Maty was highly recruited out of high school, was a 4-star recruit, and had offers from the likes of Michigan and Notre Dame. I remember last year, when James Franklin was struggling with injuries all season, I was afraid coach Gary Pinkel might ruin Mauk’s redshirt because the two quarterbacks play similar styles. They both have strong arms and are good in the run game. I hear Mauk spends a lot of time in the film room too, which is always good. Mauk won’t have any time to get warmed up against weaker competition, however. He came in against Georgia and he has to host Florida and South Carolina each of the next two weeks. The bright side is that both games are at home (as is their regular season finale against Manziel and Co.). I am by no means saying that you should automatically put this guy up with other redshirt freshmen like Johnny Manziel or Jameis Winston, but I am saying that you should watch out for this kid. I wanted Urban Meyer to go after him actually, especially since the kid was right there in Ohio (Kenton High School, Kenton, OH), but I have no complaints with JT Barrett and Cardale Jones who he signed out of that class instead.

4. Speaking of the initials M.M.… Why aren’t more people talking about Marcus Mariota at Oregon? He’s 17th in the nation in passing yards and 60th in attempts. He’s averaging 10.4 yards per attempt, has thrown 17 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. The only other quarterback in the nation with double digit touchdown passes and zero interceptions is South Carolina’s Conner Shaw (10,0). I know that the tendency is to forget about teams, and especially players, on the west coast, but Mariota might the best quarterback that has ever played at Oregon. In fact, former Ducks great, Joey Harrington (25-3 as a starter at UO), actually said the other day, “I think that he’s the greatest quarterback to ever suit up for the Oregon Ducks.” Mariota threw for 366 yards with three touchdowns and ran for 88 and a score in their first real test this weekend at Husky Stadium. They still have Stanford, UCLA, Utah (who just upset Stanford), and rival Oregon State (who has quietly recovered from that opening loss to Eastern Washington) on their schedule, but the Ducks look good. It’s too early to get all crazy and talk about how far the team will go, but I think at the very least Mariota deserves to be the topic of a few more discussions. It’s still crazy to think that Mariota and Johnny Manziel were nearly teammates, but I’m glad Manziel ended up not going to Oregon because this way we get to see them both play. Right now Manziel is fourth in the nation in total offense (2262), but Mariota is only 112 yards behind him (2150)! What does Mariota have to do get some attention? Maybe if he survives the remaining gauntlet of a conference schedule he’ll get some respect … or at least acknowledgement. Say what you want about Chip Kelly, but the guy could assess talent. At Oregon, he was never known to have a recruiting class filled with four and five star players, but he had his eye on Manziel and Mariota who were both three stars (Scout.com) coming out of high school and I think it’s clear he wouldn’t have missed either way. Keep in mind also that both of these guys are eligible to enter the NFL Draft after this season so Kelly may well end up with one of them next season in Philadelphia.

5. R.I.P. Adrian Peterson’s son (not Adrian Peterson, Jr.). I realize this doesn’t really apply to college football, but I think this had to be mentioned. On Friday, Adrian Peterson’s two-year-old son died after what is initially being described as an assault. The boyfriend of the boy’s mother allegedly was home alone with him on Wednesday night and called 911 to report that the child was choking. Sioux Falls (ND) Police indicated that once at the hospital it became evident that the injuries were not accidental. It turns out the boyfriend, Joseph Patterson, had a history of domestic abuse as well. From what I understand, Patterson has been initially charged with aggravated assault and aggravated assault of an infant. It’s always a shame when someone dies and when it’s someone who is defenseless it’s even worse. Some people have a problem with Peterson playing against the Panthers on Sunday, but I don’t. A few hours of normalcy may be what he needed to get a temporary escape from the pain. His son’s death likely brought back memories of when he was seven years old and witnessed his nine-year-old brother killed on his bicycle by a drunk driver. He turned to football then (Pop Warner) and I am not surprised he turned to football here — and I don’t blame him. Peterson will always be a great college football player in my view and the only player whom I genuinely believe deserved to win the Heisman as a true freshman at Oklahoma. He ended up coming in second in the voting to Matt Leinart (whom he also eventually lost to in the national championship game that same year — a USC win that was later vacated). So while I realize this wasn’t relative to college football this past week, it kind of was to me.

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