Another week and another top ten team falls hard to an unranked opponent. This week brought Vanderbilt winning at South Carolina, 17-6. Both Gamecock quarterbacks, Chris Smelley and Blake Mitchell, performed poorly in this one, and the Commodores move to 4-3. Vandy is no longer a pushover in the SEC, and as Steve Spurrier pointed out in his post game comments, he knew that. It’s just a shame that his players didn’t seem to get the message. With one weekend left before the season’s final month, top teams should be alert each weekend and not just for the “big” games. At this point, every game is big. Here are some other observations from this past weekend.
1. Texas and Oklahoma got away with “throwing their jerseys onto the field”.
You see it happen a lot in college football. Powerful team with a history of success sleepwalks on the road against an overmatched opponent. But they survive. Oklahoma, a 17-7 winner at Iowa State, trailed at the half before waking from their nap and picking off a Bret Meyer pass in the end zone to preserve the win. Texas was locked in a struggle with perennial doormat Baylor before pulling away for the 31-10 win. Maybe the early kickoff had something to do with it (both games kicked off at 11:30 AM local time), but when both are in a tight race to keep their conference title hopes alive, you can’t afford lackluster efforts.
2. Virginia just keeps finding ways to win.
The more people expect the Cavaliers to “come back to Earth”, the more likely they are to pull off a last-second win. This weekend brought their second straight one-point win, 18-17 over rival Maryland. Mikell Simpson, a rarely used freshman running back, racked up more than 250 all-purpose yards in the win. Now 7-1, the poor effort in the opener at Wyoming is nothing more than a speck in their rear view mirror. Their last four games: @ NC State, Wake Forest, @ Miami, Virginia Tech. While Virginia Tech is still the favorite to win the Coastal Division, don’t sell this team short. Somehow, they just find ways to win.
3. Bill Callahan is in serious trouble.
The excitement was back in Lincoln…until they started playing the game. Tom Osborne was back, this time as the interim athletic director, bringing a major piece of the Huskers’ glorious past back to help rescue a struggling program. Having an equally reeling Texas A&M coming to town was the perfect opportunity for Coach Callahan’s team to make something happen…and they lose 36-14. Down 16-14 at the half, Nebraska was outscored 20-0 in the second stanza. While Osborne says that Callahan isn’t automatically gone at the end of the year, it’s hard to believe that at this point, especially with the 4-4 Huskers having three road games (Texas, Kansas and Colorado) still left on the schedule. At this point, simply being bowl eligible is a reach.
4. Despite the overall poor play of three quarterbacks, the Miami-Florida State game was one of the day’s most exciting.
So, once again poor quarterback play reared its ugly head for both teams, but the Hurricanes got the one play they needed from the position when Kirby Freeman hit Dedrick Epps for the game-winning score. Freeman, who was in for an injured Wright in the second half, was sandwiched by two Seminole defenders while delivering the strike. On the ensuing possession, Xavier Lee fumbled, and Colin McCarthy scooped it up for the insurance touchdown. Miami had a 37-29 win despite the position combining for 10-21, 147 yards one touchdown and three picks. A poorly played game in terms of execution (they combined for nine turnovers and 15 penalties) was actually quite exciting.
5. When they’re rolling, Florida’s offense is nearly unstoppable.
Give a banged-up team with a wealth of talent a week off, and put them up against a team coming off its biggest win in years, and they could put up some points. More than anything, the Gators needed a week off following hard-fought losses to Auburn and LSU. Tim Tebow and the Gator offense did practically whatever it wanted in their 45-37 win over Kentucky. While Andre Woodson and the Wildcat offense also put up some numbers, Florida’s firepower was simply too much. Next week is the “Cocktail Party”, and given Georgia’s offensive struggles of late, it could get ugly if the Dawgs aren’t careful.
6. Mark this game on your calendar: November 3rd, Navy @ Notre Dame.
The Irish have defeated the Middies 43 straight years, but that may come to an end this year. While Navy isn’t USC, who throttled Notre Dame 38-0 on Saturday, they can put some points on the scoreboard. As for Notre Dame, they’re going to need more than the lucky green jerseys to crack 20 points it seems. But hey, it’s all Tyrone Willingham’s fault (I kid.).
7. One offense showed up in Columbia. And Texas Tech’s offense stayed in Lubbock.
Missouri 41, Texas Tech 10. Few people saw this one coming, as two of the nation’s most prolific offenses were to be on display. Only the Tigers picked off four Graham Harrell passes, and while he threw for 397 yards he needed 69 attempts to do so. Chase Daniel and the Tigers did the majority of their damage on the ground, but it was more than enough. The good news for the Red Raiders is that they won’t see an offense that powerful the rest of the season. The bad news is that they close out the season with Texas and Oklahoma, two teams who may not have a problem putting up some point on the Tech defense.
8. The big winners in the new BCS standings: Arizona State and Oregon.
While Boston College and LSU moved up a spot after South Florida fell to Rutgers on Thursday night, the Sun Devils and Ducks may have gained the most, moving to four and five, respectively. Both jump an unimpressive Oklahoma, which may be more surprising for ASU when you consider that they didn’t even play. The Devils moved up four spots and the Ducks five. Good news for the Pac-10, especially when you consider that USC is still at 12, and Cal dropped all the way down to 21.
9. If you’re in need of some good lottery numbers, you may want to ask Les Miles.
Does the man break a nervous sweat? I seriously doubt it after the game-winning touchdown pass from Matt Flynn to Demetrius Byrd with one second remaining. The Tigers were well within range for a Colt David kick to win the game, but Miles went ahead with a play that may have been the end of the game had it fallen incomplete. But Flynn made a perfect throw, giving LSU the 30-24 victory over Auburn. Now they get a much needed off-week with a trip to Alabama to follow, and given the flow of this season they could find themselves right back in the top two by game time.
My top 5 for the Heisman:
1. Matt Ryan (Boston College): we're going to find out some things on Thursday night in Blacksburg.
2. Andre Woodson (Kentucky): five touchdowns and no interceptions against Florida in a losing effort.
3. Mike Hart (Michigan): didn't play in their 27-17 win over Illinois, but since he said that they wouldn't lose...they haven't.
4. DeSean Jackson (California): another tough loss for the Golden Bears,but it wasn't his fault (9 catches for 136 and two scores).
5. Darren McFadden (Arkansas): ho-hum day for McFadden (22 carries for 110), but the Hogs got a much-needed win.