Heading into last weekend, you had that feeling that it was basically a bye week, right? Few marquee matchups, nothing divinely sexy on the schedule and a couple of games that looked good on paper, but not really must-see TV. At least that's what we thought.
Goodness gracious, that turned out to be farther from the truth than the absurdities espoused in the recent GOP debates.
The first stunning development was Oregon getting Oregon’d by Utah, a 62-20 thrashing that was uglier, at least if you’re a Ducks fan, and more ridiculous than the implausible ending of Now You See Me, when Mark Ruffalo’s character is revealed to be the criminal architect of the entire enterprise.
Oregon came out with plenty of swagger in front of its home crowd, and was still seen as a playoff contender based on a three-point loss on the road to a Michigan State squad that’s considered by some to be the best in all of college football. It was almost as if, with their slick apple-green Nike uniforms, they cockily bopped over to the Utes saying, “Make my day!”
But like legendary movie critics Speed and Tyrone would say, Utah’s response was simply, “Do fifty bullets in yo’ [butt] make yo’ day?!”
It was Oregon’s worst home loss since Tony Manero was the king of the Brooklyn disco scene back in 1977. As much as the loss told us about the reversal of Oregon’s fortunes, Utah’s staggering 56-7 run over a 30-minute span sent shockwaves through the PAC-12, serving notice that they’re a serious contender for the conference championship.
The PAC-12 was ripe for blowouts, as UCLA dusted off Arizona 56-30, in Tucson. This one was supposed to a toss up, but the only thing that got tossed was the Wildcats.
USC rebounded from their loss to Stanford with 42-14 destruction of Arizona State as their defense kept the Sun Devils scoreless for the majority of the game. With Stanford, Utah, UCLA, Cal and USC ranked in the top 25, the PAC-12 is off to a great start early in the season.
Conference play is about to get into full swing, and we’ll know more in a few weeks, but can we really say there’s a true #1 team right now? That was a rhetorical question by the way.
Here are some quick thoughts as we head into this weekend:
We learned nothing new about Ohio State in their 38-12 win over Western Michigan, other than the fact that they realized that they had some guy named Ezekiel Elliot that they need to hand the ball off to with more frequency.
Central Michigan outgained Michigan State in total yards, 340-324. That should concern Spartans fans because it’s the third game in a row that they’ve given up more yardage then they’ve gained.
The Rosen One, UCLA’s true freshman quarterback marvel Josh Rosen, was at it again, throwing for 284 yards on 19-of-28 passing. He’s the truth, and already the best Bruins signal caller since Troy Aikman, Cade McNown and Drew Olson.
Utah’s obliteration of Oregon on the road was much more impressive than the other big victory for a visiting team this year, Ole Miss’ win at Alabama. The Rebels did not look like a national title contender at all in their win over Vanderbilt. They looked very suspect, especially with converting on only three of their 13 third down opportunities.
Ole Miss has a bunch of talent all over the field, so hopefully for them, it was simply a case of taking Vandy too lightly. This weekend’s game against undefeated Florida should tell us if the Gators are ready to be taken seriously. If Rebels’ quarterback Chad Kelly thought he had problems with Vandy’s secondary last week, wait until he gets a load of Florida’s DB’s, who are thought to be the best secondary group in the country.
Baylor takes their first step towards proving if they’re ready to move forward from last year’s crushing loss, after leading by 20 points, against Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl. This weekend’s matchup against Texas Tech will be the first time they’re playing a team that is not a cadaver this year. Keep an eye on the Red Raiders’ diminutive senior running back DeAndre Washington, who’s averaging over eight yards per carry.
Tech gave #4 TCU everything they could handle last weekend. The Horned Frogs’ 55-52 win, secured by Aaron Green’s catch of an overthrown pass by Heisman candidate Trevone Boykin in the back of the end zone with 23 seconds left, could possibly be the most exciting game we’ll see this year. Boykin singlehandedly accounted for over 500 yards, 485 through the air and 42 yards on the ground. The benefactor of his aerial largesse, receiver Josh Doctson, had a monster day with 18 catches for 267 yards.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn might want to start brushing up his resume. With people starting to compare him to his predecessor Gene Chizik, that’s not a good look. Folks on the plains have a shorter hook than Sandman at the Apollo.
Oregon misses Marcus Mariota more than Lil' Kim and Junior M.A.F.I.A. miss Biggie.
Cal’s Jared Goff is the best quarterback in the nation. The Bears’ upcoming showdown with Utah’s vicious defense on October 10th should be fun.
Offensive line play is not very exciting, but if you tune in to the Clemson/Notre Dame game, pay attention to the Fighting Irish’s 6-foot-6, 325-pound tackle Ronnie Staley, who could be the first offensive lineman picked in the next NFL Draft.
And I’m not quite buying Notre Dame’s lofty ranking right now, considering they’ve beaten teams with a combined 4-11 record. But I am always buying the Clemson cheerleaders’ ability to inspire any man with a heartbeat.
The West Coast and the TCU/Texas Tech game pretty much owned last weekend, but that Texas A&M/Arkansas game was off the hook as well.
And if you missed the Cincinnati/Memphis game, you missed a doozy. Cincy's offense will put up points against anybody, I don't care how stingy the other team's defense might be.
People getting excited about NC State being 4-0 need to pump the brakes. They’ve played Troy, Old Dominion, South Alabama and Eastern Kentucky.
Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett is a beast. And I’ve mentioned his name in every column thus far, but freshman Christian Kirk is the reason why I will not miss a single Aggies game this year. Can’t wait to see Kevin Sumlin’s squad, which the “experts” picked to finish sixth in the SEC West, play Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU this year.
They begin a treacherous stretch of schedule this weekend with Dak Prescott and Mississipi State, which should be a very fun tussle. I think A&M has a legit chance at winning the SEC championship and getting a coveted playoff spot this year.
The best running back matchup this weekend will be in the Alabama/Georgia game, with Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb chasing to catch up with Leonard Fournette in the Heisman race. Henry is a 6-foot-3, 242-pound Mack truck who has eight touchdowns thus far while averaging 106 yards per game and over six yards per carry.
Chubb has rushed for 100-plus yards in an incredible 12 consecutive games. A sophomore like Fournette, Chubb’s vision is exceptional. He finds holes that most running backs can’t even see, has bulldozer power when he chooses to showcase it and has breakaway speed. He’s having an incredible year, but has basically been Ralph Tresvant to Fournette’s Bobby Brown .
If Alabama loses, they’re not out of the playoff hunt, because in a league as powerful as the SEC, a two-loss team has a very strong chance of winning the conference title.
The game I’m looking most forward to this weekend is #23 West Virginia against #15 Oklahoma. I’ll be in Norman to see if the Mountaineers, who lead the nation in scoring defense while only giving up 7.7 points per game, can slow down the Sooners’ prolific offense. In their 2012 shootout, Landry Jones set an OU record with six touchdown passes while West Virginia accumulated an insane 778 yards. Last year’s game, a 45-33 OU victory, featured plenty of fireworks as well.
West Virginia’s rugged defense is accentuated by an explosive offense of its own that is averaging over 540 yards and 41 points per game. Keep an eye on their under-the-radar QB Skyler Howard.
Another shootout seems to be on tap, as Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield is completing close to 70% of his passes and has 10 touchdown throws in three games.
West Virginia got its mouth bloodied by sophomore running back Samaje Perine last year, who ran over and around the Mountaineers for 242 yards and four TD’s in only his third college football game.
Keep your eyes on one of the most electrifying wide receivers in all of college football, the Sooners' Sterling Shepard.
Should be a great college football weekend that offers more clarity as we begin to separate the contenders and pretenders.