Week 5 in college football brought increasing clarity to the college landscape as it moved into its second month. Wisconsin showed that it will take Russell Wilson having a leg amputated for them to lose in the Big 10 this year (and even that might not do the trick). Alabama made mince meat out of yet another conference opponent and exposed Florida for exactly what it is; a potential runner up in a very watered down SEC East. Pittsburgh clarified how overrated South Florida is while muddling up the Big East picture completely. Stanford made crystal clear that Andrew Luck can indeed do it all (although they probably won’t be asking him to take that risk again for the rest of the season). And Boise State clarified nothing, because anyone paying attention was already very clear about how good they are (even when Kellen Moore has the occasional off day).
It also brought a huge helping of humble pie to yours truly. In last week’s column I continued to doubt Clemson’s ability after they beat two straight ranked opponents, mostly because their history is largely filled with massive let downs. I completely ignored how pedestrian Virginia Tech had looked in a few of its games against terrible competition and simply assumed that the bullies of the ACC would continue their dominance. So shame on me for thinking that one season’s performance has anything to do with the next. I also owe an apology to Aggie fans. Sure your team managed to lose a big time match up yet again, but you dominated the first half of the contest and only lost by 4. While I still believe you’ll do no better in the SEC than you did in the Big XII, at least your team put up a tough fight. I owe an apology to Michigan, solely because there is no way you’ll lose more than two games from here on out (although it’s solely because you don’t get the one Big Ten team worthy of the top five, let alone the top ten). I also owe an apology to Kansas State. Last week I inferred that Miami’s loss to you guys proved how bad both they and Ohio State are. After the Baylor win though I’m convinced. Robert Griffin is definitely a Heisman contender, and your team managed to finally squeak by another one of his epic performances. Congrats.
Still, I will not apologize to the ACC. You might have two undefeated teams now, but you’ll figure out a way to screw this up. There’s something in your conference’s DNA that continuously forces its football teams to blow it. You guys once let Wake Forest win the conference. Wake Forest! Plus that whole pillaging the Big East twice in one decade thing will karmically come back to bite you in the ass. I’m envisioning either a tie in the match up of your last two unbeatens (Georgia Tech and Clemson) or a trip to the national championship game where your representative team will literally lose to WisconsiOklaLSBamaFord by 100 points. It will happen.
Without further ado, here are some other things I took away from week 5:
- Two teams in the Southwest emerged from week 5 with big wins. One was Kansas State, and if you don’t think the Baylor win is an important one you haven’t been watching. Baylor emerged from its first bowl game in eons a year ago to kick off this season with a huge victory over an admittedly down (relative to past years) TCU team. Even with the loss Robert Griffin and Baylor are still very much in the running for Big XII third fiddle with Texas (a team they beat last year) and A&M. Now, because of this win over the Bears, Kansas State can be added to the mix as well. And when every team in a conference have to play each other, any head to head win against the top five or so teams can be huge.
- The other team that got a season defining win in week 5 was SMU, a team that beat (you guessed it) 20th ranked TCU. Most people know the story of SMU’s death penalty in the 1980s by now. Many don’t know how drastic the team’s turnaround has been since bringing in June Jones in 2008. Their rise has been very similar to another much maligned program talked about on this blog; Temple. The difference is that, as a big university situated in the middle of top notch metropolitan Texas recruiting territory with new facilities and a growing fan base, SMU has all the advantages to sustain itself that Temple does not. Add in a great coach that I thought was suicidal for going there initially and you have a recipe for success. With a season defining win in 2011, it will be interesting to see how the rest of its season plays out in a worse than usual Conference USA. Watch for the November 19th match up with undefeated Houston.
- I won’t spend long on this but good job by Boise avenging their one loss from last season. That they owned Nevada with Kellen Moore having the worst games of his career just speaks to the talent and versatility of the Broncos. While their perpetually underrated defense shot down Nevada’s Pistol Offense (they put up 516 yards on Oregon…and less than 200 on Boise) Doug Martin and the offense went to work making up for a relatively inefficient day by Moore (lowest single game passer rating of his career). Moore, by the way, still has 14 touchdowns on the season to just 4 interceptions, is throwing at a 74% clip and has an overall quarterback rating of 170.8. We’ll forgive his occasional mediocre performance.
The big match ups in week 6 are Florida-LSU and Oklahoma-Texas. Florida showed last week that it still has another year to go before its back in the upper tier of the SEC again, but it’s these SEC West games that will prepare its young offensive backfield to rise under Will Muschamp. I’m interested to see whether Florida’s defense can learn how to recover from its first loss under their first year coach, who was the most highly touted defensive coordinator in the nation before landing his dream gig with the Gators. I don’t need to tell any casual college football fan how monumental Texas-Oklahoma is. One of these two teams has won the conference every year since 2004 and six times since 2000 one of them has gone on to the national title game (only once was it the loser; ’08 Oklahoma). Think about those statistics for a second. No single match up in college football has had the same impact on the national championship scene as this one over the past 11 years. Forget Alabama-Florida. Forget Ohio State-Michigan. Forget Notre Dame-USC, Navy-Army or Western Michigan-Central Michigan (kidding). The Red River Rivalry is the best one in college football right now.
Lastly, there are 15 undefeated teams left and at least one will have fallen by 3 PM Eastern Standard Time (OU-UT) this Saturday. Here are the remaining undefeateds and a brief outlook on what their remaining schedules look like. Five undefeated teams reside in the Big XII, all of which are 4-0. Outside of the obvious, Kansas State (against Missouri) and Texas Tech (against Texas A&M) will have very tough tests this week. I think they both lose, while Oklahoma State goes to 5-0 ahead of its match up with Texas in two Saturdays. The conference with the 2nd most undefeateds is the surprising Big Ten. While I can’t imagine Wisconsin losing the rest of the way (their only remaining ranked opponent is number 19 Illinois), the other two (that same Illini team and Michigan) have a lot more convincing to do. Michigan has the easier road, missing Wisconsin completely while getting ranked Nebraska and OSU at home. I doubt they’ll stay undefeated but this is looking more and more like a successful debut for Brady Hoke. As for Illinois, they could actually last into November as an unbeaten, saving Ron Zook’s job yet again in the process (seriously, will he just go away?). Unfortunately, they immediately get the pleasure of facing both the Wolverines and the Badgers at home. I have a feeling both will find Champagne to be very hospitable.
Clemson and Georgia Tech should be good until their November match up, although they each have trap games the week before in North Carolina and Miami respectively. Outside of Virginia Tech those might be the two next best teams in the conference…yeesh. Stanford is another team I can’t picture losing this season. The only other ranked teams in the Pac 12 right now are Oregon (who the Cardinal get at home) and Arizona State (who they don’t even play). Andrew Luck over-hype should be at ulcer inducing levels by early December. The last two unbeatens (and the only teams with BCS busting potential) are Houston and Boise State. Houston is led by Case Keenum, a 6th year senior with a realistic shot at breaking Timmy Chang’s career passing yards mark. While I could see him doing just that, I can’t see Houston staying undefeated. They get that tough SMU team in November and haven’t looked particularly dominant this season.
As for Kellen Moore and crew, they went out and did what everyone asked. They beat Georgia, in Georgia, by an even 2 touchdowns and have built up a nice resume over the past 10 seasons. This year San Diego State could be a trap game, as could Air Force and TCU, but Boise came into a weakened Mountain West Conference that doesn’t have BYU or Utah anymore. Subsequently, Boise will have little to point towards outside of its Georgia win when trying to vault past a Stanford or Wisconsin (or Oklahoma or, dare I say, Clemson!). If they can go 12-0 and see Georgia make it to the SEC Championship at 10-2 they might have an argument if the Bulldogs knock off whoever’s on the other side in Atlanta. Otherwise, it’s another consolation prize for Boise…that could very well be a Sugar Bowl match up with another SEC team. Ho fucking hum.
That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for: “AJ Burnett is 1-0 in the 2011 playoffs, has allowed 1 run and went 1/3 of an inning longer than CC Sabathia who is 0-1 and allowed 4 earned runs. The Phillies are tied in the NLDS with St. Louis, a team that got into the playoffs on the last day of the season, and the Phillies have allowed 6, 5, 2, and 5 runs in four games. The Texas Rangers are in the ALCS for the second year in a row. Boys and Girls; your 2011 MLB playoffs.”