A half-played game of Risk sits on my dining room table. So does my laptop, since a host of teenagers settling for any sleeping space available have asserted squatter’s rights over my office. I’m surrounded by carnage, the green team making a strong push to control Asia using Indonesia as a staging area—classic Risk strategy, complete with a 12-pack of empty Dr. Peppers. I’m glad kids still play Risk in the era of endless on-line entertainment and helpful public service announcements that teach kids how to "play" and encourage adults to actually ask their doctors questions. God bless the Nanny State. Risk teaches two politically incorrect concepts: world domination and gambling. The only better way for a bunch of teenage boys to learn about such things on a Saturday night after they have been ordered inside is, of course, to watch SEC football.
The bludgeonings continue…nothing was pretty down south for the two marquee squads. Of course, beauty being in the eye of the Harris Poll voter, no one kicks an SEC road win out of bed for crackers. Tim Tebow (does anyone just call him Tim Tebow anymore?) played for the Gators, not exceptionally, but far from poorly. Let’s just call him efficient, especially at picking up all those third and shorts. LSU kept the Gator offense mostly in check. Unfortunately, Florida kept LSU’s offense completely in check. Smothering, dominating…pick whatever adjective you want. LSU gained only 162 yards and mounted a single sustained drive.
Alabama’s defense may have been even better, totally dominating Mississippi, ostensibly a better offensive team than LSU. In the first half, Ole Miss gained only 19 yards. Jevan Snead threw four picks for the game (although two of them were simply ‘Bama defensive backs taking away well-thrown balls from weaker Rebel receivers). The season stats suggest that Snead is not a particularly good quarterback. History suggests Houston Nutt is not a very good coach when expectations are the highest. Back to the game, the Tide’s Mark Ingram played battering ram for over 170 yards on the ground; just like Nick Saban likes it.
The third head of the 2009 college football monster slept, again, through a first half that saw a mediocre Colorado take a 14-10 lead. Texas overwhelmed the Buffs after intermission, mostly because Texas has a passel of difference-making athletes that Colorado (and most other teams) does not. Blocked punt, interception return, punt return…defense and special teams win the day in a 38-14 Longhorn win that showed how good the Texas defense is and how close to the margin the Texas offense plays. An atrocious running game means Colt McCoy needs to be perfect every Saturday. Luckily, just like last year, McCoy mostly is. But this is a recipe for burnt orange disaster the first time a truly game-changing defense lines up across from him. Like, oh, I don’t know, Oklahoma, for example.
Sam Bradford returned for the Sooners and played very well against Baylor, far better than his receivers did anyway. OU nearly wracked up 600 yards—and would have had more were a generous coating of stick-um spread on the skill position guys—and eventually pulled away from the Robert Griffin-less Bears for a 33-7 win.
Auburn came very close to cracking the JTT after going to 5-0 last week. Not anymore. Arkansas buried them with a near perfect 34-3 opening that showed off their precision passing game for all to see. Auburn’s comeback fell way short. Hogs 44, Plainsmen 23.
In another surprise, Tennessee routed Georgia 44-19. The Bulldogs appear headed for a Michigan State-like swoon after a promising pre-season. (Speaking of Michigan State, the Spartans did beat Illinois 24-14. I am convinced pretty much anybody this side of Vassar and Mount Holyoke could beat Illinois).
South Carolina and Kentucky played a great SEC grudge match; the Gamecocks, as they are wont to do, did just enough to win, 28-26. The key play was a stop of Kentucky’s potentially tying two-point conversion down the stretch. South Carolina is good; I didn’t expect them to be.
Mountain West games were played in Colorado Springs, Fort Collins and Laramie. The conditions got more brutal the farther north the venue. The most nationally important result was TCU’s escape act against Air Force in the freezing rain, 20-17 Frogs. Utah remained relevant in the conference race with a 24-14 win over Colorado State and Wyoming, a surprising 4-2, plowed off seven inches of snow from their home field and then plowed under a bad New Mexico team, 37-13.
Remember Jacquizz Rodgers? The diminutive Oregon State tailback has garnered no headlines thus far in the season; until yesterday when he almost single-handedly upset Stanford, 38-28, with 189 yards rushing and four scores. His brother James also got into the act with a TD reception.
If you are wondering whether or not Wisconsin will threaten for the Big Ten title, the answer is they won’t. Ohio State 31, Wisky 13. To be fair, the Buckeyes needed two interception returns and a kick-off return to account for three of their touchdowns. Of course, they all count for six points, don’t they?
Iowa, however, might threaten for the Big Ten title. The Hawkeyes found some offense against Michigan (a pretty good place for an opponent to find offense, even Indiana scored on Michigan) and held on 30-28 to remain undefeated. Waiting for Tate Forcier to have his freshman game? This was it: 8 for 19 for under 100 yards and a pick for good measure.
In the Big 12, Oklahoma State, minus Dez Bryant and Kendall Hunter, still had enough remaining to beat Texas A&M on the road, 36-31, in one of the better early games of the day.
Kansas, owing a big thank you to Todd Reesing, held off Iowa State, who came into the game actually believing they could win. Silly Cyclones, KU 41, ISU 36. I will say that Cyclone QB Austen Arnaud would be a candidate for the "best quarterback on an absolutely wretched football team" award. We could call it the Antwaan Randle-El Trophy.
Texas Tech’s fresh quarterback, Steven Sheffield, went a ridiculous 33-41 and seven freaking touchdowns in a rout of Kansas State, making everyone quickly forget Taylor Pipp, er, Potts.
Sheffield was one-upped by Duke (yes, Duke) quarterback Thaddeus Lewis: 40-50, 460 yards, five TDs (with one more on the ground). Duke (yes, Duke) beat an NC State team that should right now be contending for the ACC title, but is instead playing with the competence of Wazzu and the passion of Illinois. Duke (yes, Duke) 49, State 28.
Virginia Tech made a mess of Boston College, 48-14, dominating in all phases. In the ever amusing story of the Florida State season, the Seminoles dropped a very winnable game to Georgia Tech, 49-44. FSU seems to alternate great effort and execution on either offense or defense, but never both.
Oregon continues the tale of two teams saga with a solid 24-10 decision over UCLA. Is this really the same team?
Penn State and Miami played Eastern Illinois and Florida A&M with predictable results.
In the late late game, BYU bombed the godless heathens of UNLV, 59-21.
On Thursday, Nebraska showed zero gumption through three quarters and trailed Mizzou 12-0 on a miserable night at Faurot Field. The game turned with a 27-point fourth quarter explosion and the Huskers coasted home. Nebraska’s defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh dominated the evening, arguably turning in the best single defensive performance of the season.
Neither USC nor Notre Dame played this week, yet the world continues to spin on its axis. They meet on Saturday in South Bend.
Impressive Showing of the Week: Arkansas
1. The Eventual SEC Champ: Either one of the big two would be favored over Texas at this point.
3. Texas: Who thought offense would be the problem? (several people, actually…)
4. Empty Set
5. Virginia Tech: Tyrod Taylor throwing the ball…effectively. Huh.
7. Ohio State
8. LSU: Although I am more impressed with them after the loss to Florida, especially if the defensive line improves.
10. Iowa, TCU or Cincinnati: But I can’t decide which one. Ask me Thursday night after Cincy plays South Florida. I think all three would beat Boise State, which may not be fair to Boise State.
Assuming Oklahoma’s receivers start catching the ball, the Sooners might be in the top ten. They are doing Sam Bradford no favors thus far.
Nebraska is one late busted coverage from being in the top ten. Oregon is, somehow, 5-1 and a first week do-over from being in the mix. How did the Duck defense get this good this fast?