Last weekend we were treated to a day-long orgy of fantastic college football. Things kicked off with the Red River Showdown, which is annually as unpredictable as Benny Blanco from the Bronx resurfacing to ask Carlito Brigante, “Remember Me?” at the ending of Carlito’s Way.
The beautiful thing about rivalries is that you can never pay attention to the win-loss records that either teams bring into the game. The previous weekend, I was at the Oklahoma/West Virginia game out in Norman, and the Sooner fans were happier than Nanja Ebakor as update after update on the big video screen in the south end zone showed TCU obliterating Texas 50-7. The Horned Frogs lumped them up worse than Evander Holyfield did Hasim Rahman.
My goodness were those Sooner fans giddy, back-slapping each other and bellowing more uproarious laughter with each TCU touchdown. I heard one Oklahoma fan, who said he’d been going to Dallas for the annual showdown for over 20 consecutive years, boasting that OU would trash the Longhorns by at least five touchdowns. They were just a’hootin’ and a’hollerin’ while dancing hysterically in their seats.
Well, Charlie Strong and his beleaguered Texas squad seemed to respond to that like Dexter Saint Jock counseling a beautiful, heartbroken woman on a Bahamas beach by rhetorically asking, “Is that right?”
The Longhorns were 1-4. The undefeated Sooners were 17-point favorites. But OU’s standout defensive back Zack Sanchez warned anyone who would listen, telling the Fort Worth Star-Telegram a few days prior to the game, “We will get their best. We always get a different Texas team than everyone else gets.”
The Longhorns defense controlled the line of scrimmage and harassed OU’s Air Raid offense while bludgeoning OU’s talented QB Baker Mayfield like the LAPD did Rodney King.
Texas’ passing game was anemic, but sophomore back D’Onta Foreman, who had 117 yards on nine rushes and freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard, who had 115 yards on the ground, got their running- man on like Scoob and Scrap Lover.
Michigan’s 38-0 shutout of previously undefeated Northwestern was beyond impressive. Considering that he once turned a 1-11 Stanford squad into a national power, no one doubted that Jim Harbaugh would have Michigan back in the mix within a few years. But to do so this early in his first year on the sidelines in Ann Arbor already has him as the leading candidate for National Coach of the Year honors.
For all of the pyrotechnics of the modern game’s explosive offenses, I still enjoy old school football. The Wolverines’ power running attack and stingy defense provide a great juxtaposition to teams with video-game like offenses and defenses that couldn’t stop a downward spiral like Gator in Jungle Fever.
With their third shutout in a row, Michigan looks like the Big Ten’s best defense right now. They are the first Big Ten team in 20 years with back-to-back-to-back shutouts. This weekend’s game against unbeaten and highly ranked Michigan State, who is looking more suspect after their narrow escape against Rutgers, is a can’t miss.
Michigan vs Michigan State has more significance than this rivalry has had in quite some time. If Michigan wins, the hype leading to THE GAME this year, as it’s known in Ann Arbor and Columbus, will be bigger than the Joe Louis/Max Schmeling rematch in 1938.
All of those folks talking about Florida State RB Dalvin Cook being a legitimate candidate to snatch away Leonard Fournette’s Heisman Trophy this year need to stop. Just stop it. Not now, but right now!
Don’t get me wrong, Cook’s 222 yards and two touchdowns in FSU’s 29-24 win against Miami, on a injured hamstring no less, were awesome. But this year’s Heisman race is between two players right now: Fournette and TCU QB Trevone Boykin.
Boykin, in addition to his bizzaro stats, has put together a number of memorable Heisman moments. The game-winning pass against Texas Tech on September 26th might be the most exciting ending to a game this year. And on Saturday, his fourth quarter work against Kansas State was easily among the weekend’s best performances.
TCU trailed at the half, 35-17. Boykin followed up his 69-yard touchdown scamper with a beautiful 55-yard scoring strike to Josh Doctson, who has to be the front runner for the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver, securing the thrilling 52-45 come-from-behind victory.
At this point, I can’t support the argument that Ohio State is the country’s #1 team. The best team in the land would not be tied 21-21 midway through the third quarter against Maryland, nor would they squeak out wins against the likes of Northern Illinois or Indiana.
Early in the year, I could see the Buckeyes and the Spartans as the class of the Big Ten. But right now, it seems like the Michigan Wolverines might have something to say about that.
If you’re now claiming that you knew that Utah would be this good this year, you’re more full of it than Bernie Madoff and Cliff Clavin .
The only remaining undefeated team in the Pac 12, the Utes' opening game victory against Michigan looks more impressive with each passing week. Their bone-crushing defense will keep them in any game remaining on their schedule.
And how much fun was that finish in the Tennessee/Georgia game? The Volunteers stormed back from a 21-point deficit behind a brilliant performance from their electrifying QB Joshua Dobbs to beat the Bulldogs 38-31. In the final minute of the first half, he threw two TD passes. In the third quarter, he passed and ran for another two.
With 5:48 remaining in the game, he capped off his amazing 430-yard performance, (passing for 312 and running for 118) before scampering to pay-dirt from five yards out to cap the miraculous comeback.
This weekend’s much-anticipated matchup between LSU and Florida lost some of its luster when the Gators QB, Will Grier, was suspended for a year due to PED use.
Between Grier’s suspension, Georgia RB Nick Chubb’s injury on the first play from scrimmage last week against Tennessee, Steve Sarkisian’s termination at USC and Steve Spurrier’s resignation at South Carolina, this has definitely been a week of unexpected change.
Expect the landscape to be further altered this weekend.
LSU vs Florida should be dynamite, as the supernatural Leonard Fournette and the Tigers’ outstanding offensive line knuckles up against a ferocious Gator defense that allows less than three yards per carry. We haven’t seen Fournette against a top defense yet this year. We’ll see it on Saturday.
We'll also find out how Florida responds to playing without Grier, who was having a phenomenal season, as backup QB Treon Harris steps to the forefront.
Since Arizona State put a monkey wrench in UCLA’s playoff hopes two weeks ago on the road, I’ll be checking to see if they can do the same to Utah this weekend. If you haven’t paid attention to him yet, you’ll enjoy the Sun Devils QB Mike Bercovici, who has already thrown for over 1,600 yards this year. Utah’s secondary is greedier than Gordon Gekko, though, so this matchup should be fun.
Oklahoma’s inability to stop Texas on the ground last weekend does not bode well for this Saturday’s matchup against Kansas State, who gave TCU and Oklahoma State all that they could handle. The Wildcats’ running game, led by QB Joe Hubener, ran through TCU’s defense last week like a severe case of Montezuma’s revenge.
But the Sooners’ Bob Stoops simply does not lose back-to-back games. His track record in that regard is bizarrely efficient.
Speaking of Stoops, who was a four-year starter and an All Big Ten defensive back at Iowa back in the day, the Hawkeyes are surprisingly undefeated.
Iowa might be underappreciated, but the best and most underrated team you haven’t paid any attention to this year is Memphis. Their game against Ole Miss this weekend is the biggest in program history.
The Tigers' head coach Justin Fuente will be among the sexiest names on the radar for big time schools looking to inject some new energy into fading programs after this season.
Tonight’s Stanford/UCLA game, especially watching freshman sensation Josh Rosen against the exceptional Cardinal pass defense, will be fun to watch.
But the hottest game of the weekend will be Alabama vs Texas A&M.
Don’t believe for one minute that the Aggies have gotten over last year’s 59-0 beat-down that the Crimson Tide gave them. Both of these squads feature an embarrassment of riches when it comes to elite talent. A&M, with all of their weapons in the passing game, will need to run the ball to be successful against Bama.
The fascinating game-within-the-game will be Bama’s offensive line, which has only given up seven sacks all year, against Myles Garrett and the Aggies’ stupendous pass rush. We'll also see two of the most exciting freshman pass catchers in the country in A&M’s Christian Kirk and the Crimson Tide’s Calvin Ridley.
And speaking of freshman sensations, goodness gracious gawd a’mighty!!!, if you haven’t seen KaVontae Turpin, the diminutive wonder at TCU, like the Korean grocer said in Menace II Society, “I feel sorry for your mother.”
He’s the Horned Frogs’ second-leading receiver who also has six touchdowns as a slot receiver, running back and kick returner. He’s averaging close to 18 yards per reception as well. His four touchdowns and 168 yards against Texas two weeks ago made me wanna holler and throw up both my hands! He is, hands down, the most electrifying little guy in major college football.