>Wednesday Lunch: Wake Me Up When September Ends

Posted: September 29, 2010 in ncaafb
Tags: ,

>By Dylan Davis
 
Don’t get me wrong; this was a great month for college football. There were some incredible games (Michigan State/Notre Dame, Boise State/Virginia Tech, Michigan/Notre Dame to name a few), some breakout performers (Denard Robinson, Kenjon Barner, Justin Blackmon, etc…) and some shakeups in the polls. With that being said, not much was done to clarify the race for…pretty much anything. The national title race hasn’t gotten much clearer as the weeks have progressed and new teams have been added while some beginning of the year favorites have fallen to the wayside. The Heisman race lost its leader in Mark Ingram before the season started and only Denard Robinson has impressed enough so far this year. Robinson has gotten injured this year and staying healthy may be a struggle, so even he may drop out some point. Ingram has crept back into the discussion with two stellar performances, but he may have missed too much time to win the award.
 
Even within the conferences, there are no clear favorites except for Boise in the WAC. Parity is great for sports, but having favorites and upsets are even better in the long run, and that’s why I’m ready for October. October looks to clarify a number of conference races and should shake out the contenders from the pretenders before the stretch run begins in November. There are a number of marquee matchups this month, and this upcoming week may be the most loaded. Let’s jump in.


 
Most Impressive Teams:

  • Miami Hurricanes – The Hurricanes were one of the favorites for the national title at the start of the year before getting humiliated at Ohio State in the second week of the season. It seemed as if much of the country forgot about the ‘Canes, but they kept winning and slinking around the top 20. They inserted themselves back into the national picture in a big way in their blowout of Pitt on national TV in primetime on Thursday night. Their defense put on a clinic as they held Dion Lewis to 41 rushing yards and the entire Pitt offense to 232 total yards. The offense did their fair share as they compiled 350 yards and 31 points. 31-3 is an impressive score against most teams, but at the home stadium of a preseason contender, that’s just downright shocking.

  • Alabama Crimson Tide – I did pick the Tide to roll (I had to put bad jokes somewhere, since I had no puns in my title) by 20 points last week, so in that regard they were actually a disappointment. Anyone who watched this game, however, knows that Alabama showed a lot more in this victory than they could have with a blowout. Ryan Mallett shellacked their defense in the first half and Greg McElroy couldn’t get the passing game going. They fell behind by a score of 20-7 with 5 minutes left in third and all looked lost. The Arkansas crowd was raucous as usual and the Razorbacks defense was playing out of their minds. Then Nick Saban seemed to remember that he had Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. The two backs simply dominated down the stretch and the defense showed it could play at a championship level. The Tide scored 17 straight points to close the game and escaped Fayetteville with the big W. The entire team showed heart and determination on the road against a confident and talented conference rival. I look forward to see how they handle the dominant defense of Florida this coming week.

  • Stanford Cardinal – This is the type of game Stanford is supposed to lose. They were coming off a dominating win at home against Wake Forest and they were going to a desperate rival’s home stadium. Notre Dame needed a win to stay at .500 for the year. Usually the Cardinal would get cocky and lose or freeze up and get blown out of the stadium. Instead, they flashed brilliance on both sides of the ball in cruising to a surprisingly easy 37-14 rout. Andrew Luck had a decent day passing the ball (238 yards and a touchdown) but the running game showed it could carry the day (pun intended) by grinding out 166 yards. Stanford will show us what they really have this week against a red-hot Oregon team Saturday night in Eugene, but for now they can bask in the glow of a domination of their hated rival.


Most Disappointing Teams:

  • Tennessee Volunteers – The Vols didn’t show too much last week in a loss to Florida at home, but they weren’t supposed to. The Gators have far more talent and have the dominated the series as of late. When UAB comes to town, that’s when you’re supposed to take care of business. Sure, the Vols pulled out the victory in double-OT, and usually that shows a team has what it takes to win. But most of the time when that happens, the opposing kicker doesn’t miss five field goals in regulation. That’s not a typo; UAB kicker Josh Zaun missed five field goals without a make in regulation. This is an embarrassing way to win for the Volunteers and they should take nothing positive from this game.

  • Texas Longhorns – The Longhorns not only disappointed their fan-base with a stunning home loss to UCLA, the disappointed everyone hoping for future big games against Oklahoma and Nebraska. The Horns hadn’t looked great on offense the first three weeks of the season, but they were supposed to have a stifling defense that kept them in ball games. To give up 34 points to a team that amassed 27 yards passing on 9 attempts is simply horrible. The previously awful Bruins offense amassed 264 rushing yards with almost no balance. The Texas offense did score one touchdown, but that was with 2 minutes left in the game when it made absolutely no difference. The entire country has been deprived of two potentially great games as the Horns have shown they will put up no fight in either of those games on the offensive end.

  • Pittsburgh Panthers – I went over the Miami/Pitt game above, so I won’t go too in depth, but the Panthers fall from grace has been stunning. They’ve played a fairly difficult opening stretch to start the season, but they’ve looked awful nonetheless. The running game was supposed to be a strength of this team, but it’s been anemic and the passing game has been totally invisible with a new quarterback at the helm. The good news for the Panthers is that the rest of the Big East has looked equally terrible, so they still have a shot at the conference crown.



Best Finish:

  • Arizona vs. Cal – This was a defensive struggle from the start, which was a surprise because Arizona put up points on a great Iowa defense last week and the Bears haven’t stopped anyone good this year. So when the Bears were holding the Wildcats to a mere 3 points with a few minutes left in the game, thy had to feel good. The problem was that they had only mustered three field goals, and a touchdown by the home-standing Cats would lose them the game. Nick Foles took control of the offense with 2:37 left at his own 27-yard line and proceeded to march his team down to the 3-yard line with a little over a minute to play. From there, he hooked up with 6’4” receiver Juron Criner for the winning touchdown to propel the Wildcats to victory.


Best Games:

  • Alabama vs. Arkansas – I went over this game in the section above, so I won’t go too in depth. This game showed why the Tide is the favorite to repeat for the national title. Going into an SEC rival’s stadium is never an easy task, and when that rival is ranked 10th with Ryan Mallett at the helm that margin for error becomes razor thin. The SEC should be a wide-open, exciting race this year, and I expect both of these teams to feature prominently. With that being said, the Razorbacks now have to hope for two Alabama loses in SEC play if they want a shot to play for thee championship in Atlanta.

  • Auburn vs. South Carolina – This game was going on at the same time as Boise State/Oregon State, so many people probably missed it, but it was every bit as compelling as advertised. Cameron Newton was absolutely phenomenal in leading the Tigers to victory. He amassed over 150 yards passing and rushing despite being the target of the Gamecocks defense. Auburn’s offense ground out almost 500 total yards, but two lost fumbles kept South Carolina in the game. Steve Spurrier made a controversial decision to bench Stephen Garcia, his starting QB, in favor of Connor Shaw, an inexperienced backup. The move backfired when Shaw threw an interception on SC’s final drive of the night, killing any chance of a comeback the Gamecocks had.


Best Players:

  • Trey Burton (QB Florida) – A physical, dual-threat, freshman quarterback spells a pass first, pocket passer for Florida and proceeds to score multiple touchdowns against an SEC rival. Stop me if this sounds familiar. No, Tim Tebow is not back in college, but what freshman Trey Burton did against Kentucky was astounding. He ran the ball 5 times for 40 yards, threw for 42 yards, and had 5 receptions for 37 yards. Those stats are decent enough, but what makes it amazing was that Burton scored 6 touchdowns. He scored on all five of his runs and even caught a touchdown from starter John Brantley. This week against Alabama should pose a tougher test, but this was impressive nonetheless from Burton.

  • Mark Ingram (HB Alabama) – The reigning Heisman winner was an absolute beast against Arkansas as he racked up 184 total yards on 26 touches and bulldozed for 2 touchdowns on the ground. The stat-line is impressive, but anyone who watched this game knows that Ingram consistently got good yardage on every rush and almost single-handedly kept the Tide offense afloat.

  • Russell Wilson (QB NC State) – Wilson has been known as a dual threat quarterback for his entire career at NC State, but most of that was because of his dazzling running ability. This past week against Georgia Tech, Wilson showed off his arm to the tune of 368 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also punched in a score on the ground to show he still has the wheels. The upcoming game against a stouter Virginia Tech defense should give a better barometer of his prowess as a passer.


Heisman Watch:

  1. Denard Robinson (QB Michigan) – 731 yards passing and 4 TDs, 688 yards rushing and 6 TDs: Robinson only played about 9 minutes in the Wolverines trouncing of Bowling Green before he injured his knee, but he flashed his wheels to the tune of 129 and 2 touchdowns. If Robinson can stay healthy, and that’s a big if, he should continue to put up huge numbers and lead the Heisman race.

  1. LaMichael James (HB Oregon) – 475 yards rushing and 4 TDs: He ripped off 100 yards against a stout Arizona State defense and his numbers should start to mirror the other top backs as he plays more games (remember he has played one fewer game than most). If he has another big game this week against Stanford in prime time, he could be here to stay.

  1. Landry Jones (QB Oklahoma) – 1,221 yards passing and 9 TDs: The Sooners quarterback posted his second 370-yard performance of the year on the road against Cincinnati. If he can come anywhere close to matching that against Texas this weekend on national TV, he would force himself into the national spotlight.

  1. Kendall Hunter (HB Oklahoma State) – Both Hunter and Blackmon had bye’s this week, look for them to light it up against a bad Texas A&M defense.
  2. Justin Blackmon (WR Oklahoma State)


Last Weeks Predictions:
Of all the games that I said would be good last week, only Stanford vs. Notre Dame was a blowout. All of the other showed us interesting things about contending teams and exposed a few flaws (like LSU’s atrocious offense). In addition, I picked all of the correct victors except for the Stanford Cardinal.
 
Both Andrew Luck and Ryan Broyles put up good numbers in leading their teams to tight victories. While Nick Foles didn’t have the greatest stats, he did lead his team to a late game-winning score and showed moxie and poise in doing so.
 
Alabama did not win by 20 points like I predicted, but they did show a ton of heart and Mark Ingram reminded everyone that he’s good (I was shooting for the understatement of the year, think I got it?).
 


Week 5 Preview
This is when conference play really kicks into full gear and we start to see more ranked teams battle go to battle. There are a number of great games this weekend and as usual, there will be a few under-the-radar games that could be classics.
 

Games to Watch:

  • Texas vs. Oklahoma – This game lost a little of its luster with Texas’ blowout loss to UCLA, but this rivalry always produces great games and the Texas offense may finally get into gear against a poor Oklahoma defense. The other side of the ball pits Landry Jones against a Texas defense that has smothered spread offenses so far this season. Pick: Oklahoma-24 Texas-20

  • Wisconsin vs. Michigan State – This game is in East Lansing, so I expect the Badgers to have some troubles on the offensive side of the ball. They are getting back a few of their playmaking receivers to complement a John Clay led rushing attack which put up 70 points this past week (against a 1AA team, but still). It will be interesting to see if Mark Dantonio will coach this game, two weeks after his heart attack and what impact that could have on the Spartans as a team. I have almost no feel for this game, as both teams have been a little up and down all season. Pick: Wisconsin-27 Michigan State-17

  • Florida vs. Alabama – This could get ugly. It could also be a great game. That’s just the magic of college football. Alabama looked great on the road against Arkansas, but how much mental energy did they expend? Florida hasn’t had the greatest offense so far this year (another contender for understatement of the year), but their defense has been phenomenal and they’ve made enough plays to win. I expect a defensive battle and a lot of people switching to the Oregon vs. Stanford game at halftime. Pick: Alabama-17 Florida-10

  • Stanford vs. Oregon – Both of these teams have put up mind-boggling offensive stats and have been backed by quietly impressive defenses. I expect this to be the most entertaining game of the weekend and we finally get to see if the Ducks are for real. They’ve had trouble with physical teams in the past, and Stanford fits that mold. I’m gonna go with the upset. Pick: Stanford-35 Oregon-30

  • Penn State vs. Iowa – This is a match up of ranked teams in the Big 10, so it has a chance to be good. If you don’t like defensive battles, you might want to turn away. Both of these teams play smothering defense, but have been spotty (at best) on offense. First to 20 wins. Pick: Iowa-20 Penn State-14

  • UC Davis vs. San Jose State – You think I’m kidding, but I’m dead serious. These two teams met last year and the Spartans needed a late touchdown to pull out the victory. Last week they barely beat 1AA foe Southern Utah and UCD always plays tough with one higher division opponent per year. Look in my wild prediction section for the pick.


Game-breakers:

  • Austin Pettis – Pettis is the favorite target for Kellen Moore in the Boise State offense and he has had big games all year. Look for him to run free for over 100 yards and a few scores against an overmatched New Mexico State defense at home.

  • Garrett Gilbert – Gilbert has struggled a bit this year, but the perfect remedy is the Oklahoma defense. The Sooners rate in the bottom 25 in total defense and have looked uneven at best throughout the course of the year. Gilbert had developed a better rapport throughout the year with his receivers and I think this is the week it pays off.

  • Kendall Hunter/Justin Blackmon- Texas A&M is terrible on defense and both of these players are amazing. ‘Nuff said.


Wild Prediction:
UC Davis goes to San Jose and wins by a score of 21-17. Trick plays and smash mouth defense will be heavily involved.
 
That’s all the time we have for this week, tune in next week for a recap of all the exhilarating college football action and a look ahead to week 6. Have a great weekend.

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