Week 8 College Football Thoughts
- The Noles went into Death Valley and delivered a beat em down style victory over Clemson on Saturday night that neither team won't soon forget. Famous Jameis Winston was spectacular with four touchdowns, leading his team with swagger few, if any, possess. He is clearly in the Heisman race, if not the front-runner at this time. He is second in the nation in passer rating, second in yards per attempt, and sixth in completion percentage. It wasn't just him in this game though, as his wide receivers made great plays after the catch and the FSU defense held Clemson to just 3.79 yards per play and turned them over four times. The next big game for the Noles is a matchup with Miami on Nov. 2, where each team will likely be undefeated. In past seasons, many bought into the Noles, only to see them disappoint against lesser opponents (see NC State in 2012 & 2010), but this feels like a different team with Winston at the helm.
- Texas A&M's run defense has been among the worst in the nation all season long and this past Saturday was no different, as Auburn ran for 379 yards against them, on their way to 45-41 upset in on the road. Credit needs to be given to new/old offensive guru Gus Malzahn and his coaching staff for the work they have done with this group of players. Their turn around is nothing short of amazing and make this season's Iron Bowl that much more intriguing. But there also needs to be some questioning as to just who A&M coach Kevin Sumlin is allowing to coach his defenses. This season the Aggies rank 117th in terms of yards allowed per play, which is just between Troy and Kent State near the bottom of the barrel. Moreover, defense was a problem for Sumlin while he was at Houston as well. Johnny Manziel's case for the Heisman took some shots this weekend because some want to penalize him for the poor play of the Aggies' defense, which is unfair to him as he has no control over their play. One should realize that part of the reason he's on the field for so much, making incredible play with his arm and legs is because he has to, as his defense is terrible and has left him no choice to but bail them out with his heroics. If he had an even average defense behind him, there is little doubtful he would have to produce games of 500 total yards, as he did this season against Alabama and Auburn, which, by the way, is insane. But not even he can bail out a defense this bad every week. If anything, his critics should realize he's the only reason Texas A&M is even in these games to begin with. To me at least, he's still the most outstanding player in college football and worthy of winning another Heisman trophy. It's just tough to separate his individual success and talent from that of his team's success and talent, which is tied so heavily to the anchor that is the Aggies defense.
- Missouri is for real. They took Florida to the woodshed for 500 total yards of offense and destroyed what was once, and I guess still technically, considered at Top 10 defense. The Gators were without DT Dominique Easley, who is lost for the season due to a torn ACL & MCL in his right knee, but that's still no excuse for getting rolled by frosh QB Maty Mauk, who was starting his first ever college football game. Maybe the Gators should look to travel more, as this was the farthest north the team has traveled for a road game since 1991, when they went up to Syracuse. Up next for the Tigers is a home game against South Carolina, who is likely to be without QB Connor Shaw, who is out with a sprained left knee. As recently as this past week, I thought the Gamecocks were the favorites to win the SEC East, but not after they lost to Tennessee in Knoxville this weekend. Now it appears Missouri is all but a lock to win the East, which is crazy considering the verbal abuse and public doubting their program experienced, when they came over to from the Big 12 to the SEC last season.
- Ohio State and Miami (FL) narrowly escaped defeat against conference foes. For the Buckeyes, once again, just too much Carlos Hyde. Their pass defense has become a real problem though, as they've allowed 7.4 yards per attempt to FBS teams this season, which ranks 67th in the nation and 8th in the Big Ten. For the Canes, it's not often that your QB throws 4 interceptions and you lose one of your best WRs to injury and you still go on to win the game. They were very lucky to get past North Carolina. It's doubtful they'll be as lucky when they face Florida State and Virginia Tech in back-to-back weeks next month.
- What happened to LSU's defense this week against Ole Miss? Usually the Tigers are one of the best teams and shutting down opposing offenses with their fantastic secondary, but that was not the case as they gave up over 500 total yards to the Rebels. QB Zach Mettenberger looked like the old Mettenberger, as he threw 3 interceptions and severely hurt his team's chances to win. And it's not like these were tipped or deflected passes either, each of them he threw into double coverage, two of which were in the end-zone. He'll need to make better decisions against Alabama.
- I'm not sure I can recall a team with such high expectations beaten down by injuries so badly the way Georgia has been this season. At Vanderbilt this weekend it caught up with them, as they just didn't have the skill players needed to help QB Aaron Murray make one final drive to win the game. With the World's Biggest Outdoor Cocktail Party on the horizon, the Bulldogs will need to get as many healthy bodies back on the field as they can, if they're going to beat Florida. For Vandy, it's a win they badly needed, before they face Texas A&M, Florida, and Tennessee on the road, in three of their next four games. One last thing from this game, the targeting rule has drawn criticism this season for being improperly called and no play may personify this more than the penalty Georgia drew in this game. Take a look for yourself, does this sort of play warrant a player being ejected? The play was reviewed and the ejection was upheld. A roughing the passer call would have been more appropriate in this instance. This happened again in the Ohio State game, with maybe an even worse call, as unnecessary roughness would have sufficed. On the flip side, this call, in the South Carolina game, for targeting seems appropriate and rightly called. It might seem like I'm splitting hairs here, but you're ejecting a player, which is a sever penalty that affects the outcome of the game.
- Stanford rebounded nicely from their loss to Utah with a defensive smothering of UCLA. They held the Bruins to just 266 yards of offense. The play of the game has to go to Kodi Whitfield, who made an amazing one handed catch in the endzone to give the Cardinal a lead they would never relinquish. Up next for Stanford is a meeting with Oregon State in Corvallis against QB Sean Mannion, who is starting to garner Heisman steam, what with his 29 passing touchdowns and 427.4 passing yards per game, both of which lead the nation. Just how good the Beavers are though is still suspect, considering they lost to Eastern Washington, a 5-2 FCS team, earlier this season, at home.
- And finally this week, we shed ourselves of Louisville and their false dreams of going undefeated, as UCF overcame a 21 point deficit to beat them on the road. QB Teddy Bridgewater did what he could, and played a pretty good game going 29-of-38 for 341 yards, but it wasn't enough. Their loss now opens up the BCS door to Fresno State and Northern Illinois, who if they continue to remain undefeated, will have a shot at a major bowl game come January. For UCF, they now have a very real shot at winning the conference, if they can beat Houston at home on Nov 9. They're also left to wonder what might have been, as their lone loss of the season was by 3 points to South Carolina at home. And if it wasn't already obvious, Teddy Bridgewater will not be winning the Heisman and will be lucky to even make it to New York as a finalist. Don't feel bad for him though, as he's likely to be the top pick in the upcoming NFL draft.
- This week we get Florida State at home, looking for serious payback for what NC State has done to them recently to derail their seasons and yet another test for Missouri at home against South Carolina. And perhaps this is the week that someone finally tests Oregon, who is at home against UCLA. The game I'm most intrigued by though is Texas Tech, who remains unbeaten, on the road at Oklahoma. It's time to see what the Red Raiders are all about and if they're someone we need to take seriously. Vegas has them as a touchdown underdogs in Norman.
7:00 PM ESPN2: Louisiana-Lafayette @ Arkansas State - Both teams are undefeated in the Sun Belt.
6:30 PM ESPN: Kentucky @ Mississippi State - You're better off watching the World Series.
6:30 PM FS1: Marshall @ Middle Tennessee - I know I'll be watching baseball.
7:00 PM ESPN: Boise State @ BYU - I see few reasons to watch this game.
11:00 AM ESPN/2: #25 Nebraska @ Minnesota - After knocking off Northwestern, maybe we should take this Gophers team more seriously.
11:00 AM ESPNU: Wake Forest @ #7 Miami - If the Canes can win this one, they'll be undefeated entering their Nov. 2 meeting with the Noles at Doak.