California, Texas, Louisiana, Ohio and Florida are known for churning out elite college football prospects annually. But quiet as kept, New Jersey, which is smaller than the largest county in Cali, has a legacy that can stand toe-to-toe with anyone.
Pine Hill's Ron Dayne, Elizabeth-born Rocket Ismail, Camden's Mike Rozier, Woodbury's Bryant McKinnie, Bergen Catholic alum Brian Cushing, Wayne's Greg Olsen, Trenton's Troy Vincent, Mount Holley's Irving Fryar, Newark's Andre Tippett, South Rivers' Joe Theisman and Fort Dix native Franco Harris are just a small sample of players from the Garden State who made a lasting imprint on the NCAA landscape.
And the tradition continues with two of the best players in the country this year in Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, an Old Bridge native, and Michigan's all-purpose wunderkind Jabrill Peppers, who hails from East Orange. They're the latest in a long assembly line of talent that continues to prove, on an annual basis, that the best players from New Jersey can Milly Rock on any College Football block.
This leads one to some head-scratching analysis about the putrid state of the Rutgers football program, but that's an entirely different discussion that's better left for another day.
Peppers and Jim Harbaugh's Wolverines disemboweled the Scarlet Knights this weekend, 78-0. The last time I saw such a lopsided beating was when Sugar Shane Mosely absolutely destroyed Antonio Margarito, aka the Tijuana Tornado.
How epic was this beat-down?
Michigan amassed 600 yards, while holding Rutgers, who didn't get a first down until the fourth quarter, to 39!
On the positive side, Rutgers, who has lost over the past two weeks to the Wolverines and Ohio State by a combined score of 136-0, can hold their heads high knowing that Cumberland once lost to Georgia Tech 222-0.
Peppers provided perhaps the play of the weekend. And I don't care that a penalty was called and the result was nullified. When you do what he did on that punt return, it counts as far as I'm concerned.
Fitzpatrick had three interceptions, all in the second half, in the Crimson Tide's 49-30 win over #16 Arkansas, including a 100-yarder that was returned for a touchdown. He was named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week after his brilliant performance. The sophomore now owns the record for the longest interception return in the illustrious history of Alabama football.
"I was excited about the three picks," Fitzpatrick told the media after the game. "But I think we could have played better as a defense overall. We let up way too many big plays and we're going to play whole lot better teams down the stretch. They're going to beat us if we let up that many big plays."
Alabama's overall defense can definitely play better, but if the same holds true for Fitzpatrick, now that would be something to see.
Well, who's laughing now after the Midshipmen pulled off the stunning 46-40 upset?
The Cougars' phenomenal quarterback Greg Ward, Jr. completed 32 of his 50 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns, along with running for 94 more yards and another score, but Houston was playing catch-up for the entire second half.
Navy took it to the nation's top ranked rushing defense all game long with the precision of an Anthony Mason haircut.
It's about time that people start mentioning their coach, Ken Niumatalolo, as among the country's best. Folks thought the program would fall off like J-Kwon after their amazing quarterback Keenan Reynolds graduated last year, but Niumatalolo just engineered, as a 17-point underdog, the school's first defeat of a Top Ten team since 1984.
Some other quick observations over the weekend are that Notre Dame stinks, defenses have figured out how to neutralize Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, and the best thing about Oregon football is their uniforms. Miami hasn't turned the corner quite yet, Florida State has a pulse, Ohio State looked human and Kevin Sumlin has Texas A&M in the College Football Playoff conversation.
The Washington Huskies dart-throwing sophomore quarterback Jake Browning has officially entered the Heisman race. In the supreme 70-21 beating they administered to Oregon, he tossed six touchdown passes and ran for two more while completing 22 of his 28 passes. He's among the best in the land, with 23 touchdown passes in the first six games.
Browning, Michigan's Jabrill Peppers, Texas A&M's Trevor Knight, Clemson's Deshaun Watson and Ohio State's J.T. Barrett will make things interesting down the stretch. As of right now, I've got the Heisman race looking like this:
1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: 2,313 total yards and 28 touchdowns.
2. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: 2,313 total yards and 28 touchdowns. IN FIVE GAMES!!!
3. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: And did you see the 457 yards this Son-um-a-Gun put up on Clemson??? Good-gawd-a'mighty!