It took exactly one week for the ACC to stop taking football seriously. The conference entered the weekend with one semi-unstoppable rushing team in Georgia Tech and a 5-1 Wake Forest team looking to make national noise. What they got was another disappointing close Georgia Tech loss at Virginia (where they were on a 1-8 streak coming in…), and Frank Beamer waking his team up just in time to ruin a promising start by the Demon Deacons. Clemson pulled it out against Maryland (an admirable comeback), but also managed to impregnate a seed of doubt in people’s minds. When you consider how bad the Terp’s defense is, you realize that putting up 56 points (and allowing 45) isn’t that impressive at all. Through 7 weeks, the ACC is now officially hanging this resurgent season on a team in territory it’s never even heard of. Still, Clemson has also found its way out of games it would have blown in past seasons. They won’t get any breaks with UNC this week before having to prepare for Tech’s triple option in Atlanta, and I have a hard time believing they’ll be able to stop the Yellow Jacket’s attack (Clemson is allowing 4.66 yards/rush through seven games). With that, the conference will have completely turned its attention to basketball by November.
Let’s stop and appreciate what Chip Kelly’s done at Oregon…again. In his first season he had to replace Pac-10 1st team QB Jeremiah Masoli on a few months notice, and LaGarette Blount one week after the infamous punching incident (albeit the replacement was LaMichael James). They wound up winning 10 games and the conference. In year 2 he inserted a sophomore with no experience (Darron Thomas) to run his precise Blur offense and went to Oregon’s first national championship game where the Ducks lost on a last second field goal. This season? Not only is he in solid position for a 3rd consecutive BCS bowl in his first 3 seasons as head coach, but he just won his second toughest in-conference game without his most dynamic offensive player (James) and without Thomas for the second half. All the while he’s battled off field incidents and handled them in relatively admirable fashion with suspensions or outright dismissals (see: Masoli, Jeremiah). The Ducks’ only loss was to LSU in week 1, and they played them closer than anyone. With the season headed towards probably 3 or 4 undefeated teams they won’t make it back to the national championship game, but 12-1 and a BCS bowl or 11-2 with losses to LSU and
Andrew Luck Stanford, certainly isn’t shabby either. That an 11-2 record would be a semi disappointment is a testament to how far this program has come.
The end of week 7 brought the first release of the BCS rankings. The end of week 7 also began the kind of whining rarely seen outside of kindergarten classrooms and congressional oversight committees. While everyone bitches about where they should or should not be in the rankings I’ll go ahead and find a flaw (ok, and a strength) for each of our (legitimate) whiners:
1. Alabama/LSU: These two are really 1a and 1b, because whoever wins their match up is guaranteed a spot in the national title. What’s interesting is that both have identical flaws; their passing games. Alabama is a mediocre 72nd in passing yards per game in the FBS, while LSU is an abysmal 97th. While LSU’s 13:1 TD to interception ratio (and 157.9 rating) is solid, they have a budding quarterback controversy at exactly the wrong time and haven’t had to throw the ball. ‘Bama comes in at 9:4 with a 142.2 rating, and a sophomore at the helm of the offense. This is all well in good when both are winning by 20 points, but if either falls behind late in a game they’ll struggle to come back. Strenths: Really everything else. LSU is 35th in rushing yards, 20th in points for and 7th in points against. Alabama is 12th in rushing yards, 14th in points for and 1st in points against. So…yeah.
3. Oklahoma: Flaw: 5th, 6th, and 11th. Those are Oklahoma’s rankings in passing yards per game, points per game, and points against. 48th. That’s Oklahoma’s ranking in rushing yards per game. This is fine against shoot out prone Big XII opponents, but it’ll be a problem against LSU or Alabama. Strengths: Compared with Bama and LSU one thing stands out for the Sooners; quarterback Landry Jones. He’s a three year starter and in the thick of the Heisman race. Jarrett Lee, Jordan Jefferson and AJ McCarron? Not so much.
4. Oklahoma State: Flaw: That defense is pretty glaring. They’ve allowed 27.3 points per game, and 34, 33 and 26 points to Louisiana-Lafayette, Tulsa and Texas respectively. While those scores are average for each team, you don’t see Alabama, LSU or Oklahoma simply holding teams to their averages. Strength: So that offense is pretty ridiculous. They’re second in the nation in passing yards per game at 395.7 (395.7!). The only reason they aren’t putting up more rushing yards (they average 155.5 per game) is because it would take away from the air attack. Indeed, their top two rushers are averaging 5.2 and 6.9 yards per carry and have gone for 16 touchdowns on the ground. That, my friends, is an offense.
5. Boise State: Flaw: Uh, schedule…I guess? They only beat Georgia by 14 in Atlanta? Kellen Moore only has 21 touchdowns passing? In all seriousness, their opponents so far are a combined 21-18, which isn’t terrible but also isn’t at the level of the four mentioned above. Strengths: They’re outscoring their opponents by 30 per game. They are 7th in points scored, 8th in points allowed. They average over 300 yards passing and nearly 200 yards rushing. So…there’s a lot to work with here.
6. Wisconsin: Flaw: Honestly? There’s really nothing to work with here. They have the best, most balanced offense in the country averaging 265.7 yards passing (with a leading Heisman contender at quarterback) and 257.5 yards on the ground (good for 7th nationally). They’re ranked 3rd in points allowed and 1st in points scored. Did you like Boise’s point differential of 30? Wisconsin’s point differential is 40.5 per game. You could nit pick at the schedule, but they beat a 5-1 Nebraska team by 31 and will play most of the solid Big Ten teams this year. Strengths: (above, see).
7. Clemson: Flaw: Finally, someone we can work with! Actually, this is really more of the OK State thing. They have a meh defense (23 points allowed per game) and a lot of tight wins that includes giving up 45 points to Maryland last weekend. Strengths: Part of the reason they’re giving up so many points is because of the competition. Out of all the teams on here, their opponents stack up against pretty much anyone’s so far, save for LSU. Oh, and they’re still averaging nearly 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing.
8. Stanford: Flaw: This team has started off a few games slowly, which in the world of ridiculous expectations translates to: “They’re on the west coast. It’s tough to see them regularly. We looked at the box scores and we’re surprised Andrew Luck wasn’t 20-21 with 400 passing yards and 5 touchdowns in the first half…Really, they’re not making our job easy enough.” Truth be told, they haven’t played much of anyone, but it is Stanford. Until 3 years ago, making a bowl game there was a big deal, and the mind set scheduling wise was to diminish the damage. Strengths: 304 yards passing per game, 182 yards rushing per game, 5th in points for, 5th in points against. Blahdy f***ing blah.
While the weekend slate is somewhat thin, there are two big night games and a few nice under the radar contests. Cincinnati at South Florida, West Virginia at Syracuse: I know I know, they’re Big East games. They also involve two of the leagues 3 (3!) 5-1 teams, and both of its 4-2 teams. That’s four Big East teams with winning records playing each other…and possibly the pinnacle of in-conference Big East play this season…in mid-October. Western Michigan at Eastern Michigan: This is the first time both teams have entered this game with winning records in ages…mainly because this is the first time Eastern Michigan has had a winning record in October since 1995. Trust me, this is big news. Auburn at LSU: The tigers lost to Cam Newton by a touchdown a year ago. Auburn may be ranked 20th, but I’d bet that same thing won’t happen this year (and not just because they don’t have Cam Newton). Still, it might be a closer game that LSU’s others. Louisiana-Lafayette at Western Kentucky: ULL is 6-1. Seriously, that’s the first time a team in the Sun Belt Conference, let alone the Ragin’ Cajuns, has been 6-1 ever. Ever! Let’s see if they can keep it up. Wisconsin at Michigan State: Here’s the heavy hitter. The Spartans thrust themselves upon America after knocking Michigan from the unbeaten ranks last week. They’re allowing 10.8 points per game. They’re at home, where they haven’t lost since 2009. Aaaaand, I’m still going with the Badgers. Washington at Stanford: For all you Bill Simmons fans out there, we’re getting into Ewing theory territory here. UW is 5-1 and ranked after the 4th game of the year for the first time since 2003, and it’s all come without Jake Locker at quarterback. The supposed savior helped get them back to relevancy and a bowl game last year but he never came close to 5-1. What a shame that top 25 run has to end at Stanford Stadium this weekend.
That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for: “The World Series just started with two one run games, both pitcher’s duels with one that was decided in the ninth inning, yet game 1 was the lowest rated in history. If that’s not a reason to change baseball (like shortening games somehow) then I don’t know what is.”