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jones Top Ten - Week Four - 2011

The storefront reads "In God We Trust." It’s written in biblical/motivational font on a functional building in a dilapidated strip center. I assume it is either a Charismatic church of some sort, or else it is a very clever front for a counterfeiting operation. Or was I should say. There is a FOR LEASE plastered over the "We." Let’s save the metaphors of a failing American economy for Thomas Friedman. The back story is probably not social justice, but indifference. Guy starts a congregation, rents some cheap space, expects people to show, or maybe God to provide. No one buys what he is selling, God doesn’t provide (or at least the bank doesn’t consult God) and someone selling used office furniture picks up his sanctuary on the cheap.

This is hardly a failure of capitalism, simply another dream deferred.

Alabama 38
Arkansas 14

Oklahoma State 30
Texas A&M 29

Two schools trying to build something, both with rabid fans, both with old tradition, both with coaches given the time to put all of their pieces on the field and both, on Sunday morning, are deeply disappointed. For Arkansas, it is simple. The Razorbacks are not as good as Alabama, not in Tuscaloosa, not in Fayetteville, not in week four or in week twelve. No shame in that. The Tide defense withstood an early touchdown. Trent Richardson did his Michael Irvin "big players make big plays in big games" act. Marquis Maze did an incredible job of setting up blockers on a back-breaking punt return where Maze changed speeds like it was the Tour de France. Alabama football.

Texas A&M is just depressed. The Aggies led a showcase game in front of their home crowd 20-3 at halftime. It disappeared in a flood of turnovers and miserable pass defense. Oklahoma State’s three best receivers caught 31 passes for over 330 yards. You cannot simply cover Justin Blackmon (and the Aggies didn’t in the second half), you also must also account for the underrated Josh Cooper and Hubert Anyiam.

A bitter pill for Arkansas and A&M, but with an immediate chance for redemption. They play each other next week. But next Sunday, one of these top ten hopefuls will be on a two game losing streak.

West Virginia did not play poorly in a 47-21 loss to LSU. The Mountaineers even cut an early deficit down to a manageable 27-21 late in the third, then promptly gave up a 99-yard kickoff return to Morris Claiborne and that was that. For the third time, the Tigers beat a ranked team. In all of them, the losers played decent football and flat got swamped at a crucial point in the game. Ironic that LSU’s first victim this year was Oregon because that’s exactly the script the Ducks followed last year. I think LSU is the best team in the country. Their resume is unmatched at this point.

Oklahoma held serve with a 38-28 win over Missouri. Are the Sooners vulnerable because of a ten-point win and yielding 532 yards to the Tigers? I doubt it. The Sooners were pretty dominant through three, leading 31-14 well into the fourth. They resemble the old "defense when it matters" crew of 2008.

Alabama, LSU and Oklahoma are the best teams in the country. My hunch is that Wisconsin could play with them, but the Badgers have yet to prove it. Running South Dakota through a 59-10 cheese grating does not count. But Nebraska awaits. The Cornhuskers beat Wyoming 38-14.

Arizona fascinates me. Last week, I wrote this:

Stanford’s allegedly dangerous road test at Arizona ended 37-10…almost an exact replay of last year’s game (Stanford 42, Arizona 17). Arizona played an exact replay of their Alamo Bowl loss to Oklahoma State last week. So next week I am going to go out on a limb and predict a 19-point loss hosting Oregon.

This week Oregon beat Arizona, 56-31. LaMichael James ran for 288 yards and the Ducks had an incredible 415 total. Last season, Oregon won 48-29 and rushed for 389 total yards.

There can only be one conclusion: Arizona is trapped in some alternate reality where they are forced to replay their entire 2010 season. Next week, I predict a tough, three-point loss to USC.

Boise State beat Tulsa 41-21, taking the fourth quarter off. Kellen Moore was highly efficient. He threw four touchdowns, no interceptions, barely any incompletions, ate a balanced dinner where all the food groups were represented, read to a group of kindergarten children, aced his organic chemistry exam on Thursday and made it to church on Sunday.

This was the first full weekend with a minimum of pay-to-play exhibitions. The bottom half of the top 25 was great. Clemson posted a very un-Clemsonlike 35-30 win over FSU. Across the state, South Carolina showed well in every aspect of the game other than Stephen Garcia (four picks, but that’s who he is, man, no reason to get all up in his grill about it) in a 21-3 win over Vanderbilt. Freshman Jadeveon Clowney again made an unwelcome appearance in the opposing backfield at a key point in the game. He is the most unblockable 18-year-old I have seen in a long time.

There were two incredible quarterback performances that went somewhat under-the-radar. Denard Robinson cracked 200 yards rushing in a 28-7 Michigan win over San Diego State. Robert Griffin was 29 of 33 with five touchdowns in a 56-31 Baylor win over Rice. That means RGIII now has a 13/12 TD/incompletion ratio. Try that on for size.

ESPN helpfully noted that Florida started off slow before "walloping" Kentucky. OK, but the game was 21-3 after the first quarter. I would hate to see Florida start off fast. So far, the Gators look like a well-oiled machine on offense. Not what I expected, but I dine on crow regularly regarding such matters. Tastes like chicken (cooked after the sell by date). Florida 48, Kentucky 10.

Arizona State steamrolled USC over the last 20 minutes to run away with a 43-22 decision. Perhaps ASU doesn’t have Michigan State disease.

Illinois is ranked. This week anyway, it may have gone to their collective head having to hang on to a 23-20 win over Western Michigan.

Georgia Tech and North Carolina played a great 11:00 game. Tech won it late, 35-38. This was about the same time Notre Dame was holding off Pitt, 15-12 in a game only the players’ mothers and NBC executives could love.

South Florida beat UTEP, 52-24 and TCU crushed Portland State.

In the "huh?" category, put Temple’s 38-7 thrashing of Maryland.

Putting aside the numerous domestic disturbance calls, most of the Big 12 is undefeated. Kansas State, ostensibly not a good football team, shocked Miami for 28-24 road win on the strength of an amazing goal line stand at the end. Texas Tech survived Nevada late.

Impressive Showing of the Week: Alabama

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma

4. Vacant, but reserved for Wisconsin

5. Oklahoma State

6. Boise State

7. Oregon

8. South Carolina, yes I know Stephen Garcia is a head case, stop with the e-mails already

9. Arkansas, who will be punished very harshly for losing a game almost every other team in the top 25 would have lost

10. Stanford