College Football: Week 8 Recap
The chaos continues. This has been one wild season and it shows just how tough it is to keep winning or keep that #1 ranking beside your name.
Since I completely missed a preview for last week’s slate of games, I have made sure that I talk about what went down last week in the college football universe.
Oregon kicked things off with a blowout of a hapless UCLA team last week. I know a lot of folks are on the Oregon train, but we need to put things into perspective with this team. They are putting up monstrous numbers against bad defenses. Arizona State is ranked 48th in total defense and they held Oregon to their lowest point total of 42 for the season.
Here’s the ranks for the other defenses they have faced (total yardage allowed):
New Mexico #102
Washington State #120
Portland State #120+
Yikes. So, let’s not go crazy on Oregon just yet. Arizona and California are currently two Top 20 defenses that Oregon will face down the stretch, but California’s defense has been mauled twice this year. Arizona is the legit Top 20 defense out of those two.
It was yet another week where the #1 team went down. Missouri knocked off Oklahoma at home and they needed 16 points in the 4th quarter to do it. I’m still not sold on Missouri. The upset was slightly surprising to me, but I also felt like Oklahoma was overrated. Missouri plays solid, but not great defense and before the victory over the Sooners their biggest win was against … Texas A&M? No. Missouri is not for real. They are a fraud and even if they do manage to “upset” Nebraska on the road, they will have to beat Oklahoma again. That’s not an easy thing to do. That’s assuming the mounting pressure doesn’t cause a collapse as well. I fully expect Missouri to lose at least two more games.
Michigan State survived a close call in Northwestern. The Spartans were down 17-0 at one point, but rallied behind a 28 point second half to edge out the Wildcats, 35-27. Northwestern was given one more chance on a puzzling late score by Michigan State. Running back Edwin Baker broke a 25 yard touchdown run that left Northwestern with 1:07 left on the clock. Baker was just a Sophomore, so you can’t really blame him for scoring instead of taking a dive to run more clock. Michigan State continues to survive and that’s now two weeks in a row where they have needed a big second half to win the game. It will catch up to them. Ask Alabama.
Navy beat Notre Dame for the second year in a row and it was the third time in four years. I can’t say I was too surprised by the outcome of this one. Navy is a better team. Did I really just say that? My, how far Notre Dame has fallen. Will they ever get back to the level of dominance they once had? It takes the right coach for something like this to happen and there aren’t many of those coaches out there.
Nebraska’s victory over Oklahoma State can’t be all that surprising. The Cowboys defense is atrocious and all you have to do is look at the box score of this game to see that. Two teams that were overrated squared off and the better of the overrated teams one. The signs were there for Nebraska whether they should have lost to Texas or not and there was no way Oklahoma State could keep winning with that defense. I still like Nebraska to win the Big 12 North, but that isn’t saying a whole lot. We’ll find out this weekend.
In one of the craziest games of the week, Wisconsin edged Iowa 31-30. Questionable clock management and a bad decision on the part of Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi ended any hope of a last second score by the Hawkeyes. Iowa hosts Michigan State this weekend and it’s a big one. Iowa is more than likely the best option remaining to upset the Spartans.
A Look at the “Mid Majors”
Utah obliterated Colorado State 52-9. Yawn. TCU outscored a pretty solid Air Force team 38-7. That gets the job done in most cases. Boise State had the week off to prepare for Louisiana Tech. These guys don’t get a lot of respect, but they’re good football teams. I’m not terribly high on Utah to be honest, but then again I can’t watch them every week. They have a quality win over Pittsburgh, but frankly they were overrated from the start. I’m not trying to take away from the Utes here. I felt like Pitt was ranked way too high at #15 coming into the season, but that’s preseason ranks for ya. Pitt got trounced by a decent Miami team 31-3 and also lost to an average Notre Dame team.
For Utah, we will find out what they are made of pretty soon. They play at Air Force this weekend, followed by TCU, Notre Dame and San Diego State. The Notre Dame game is at South Bend as well. I’ll have a better gauge of the Utes soon, but it is important to note that they beat Iowa State 63-28, yet Texas lost at home to the Cyclones. It’s no secret that Texas hasn’t exactly been *Texas* this year, but it’s interesting either way.
I mainly feature the SEC in this blog because I’m from the southeast. It’s what I know best and I’m familiar with it. I see these teams play each week and that’s the way it has been for a long time. So, that’s why they are featured here. It’s not a bias or any homerism of sorts. I do my best to include what’s happening elsewhere in college football. I just don’t go into the sort of detail with those games as I do with the SEC.
With that out of the way, let’s see what happened last weekend even though you really don’t need me to tell you that.
It took two weather delays, but Arkansas finally knocked off Ole Miss. If you were looking for offense, you came to the right place. The two teams totaled 976 yards of offense in this game with Ole Miss gaining the most at 512 yards. Ole Miss dug an early hole and it proved to be too much to overcome as Arkansas won 38-24. Ole Miss trailed 24-3 early in the 3rd quarter before scoring their first touchdown. The Rebels would come back and get within 7 points twice, but they were unable to get over the hump.
One thing is certain: Arkansas can’t stop anyone right now. They did manage to win despite being outgained and losing Ryan Mallett once again due to a bruised throwing shoulder this time.
Next Up: Ole Miss vs. Auburn, Arkansas vs. Vanderbilt
Auburn survives again with a tight win over LSU, 24-17. Auburn piled up 440 yards rushing on the top defense in the SEC statistically Saturday. Cam Newton led the way with 217 yards rushing followed by Michael Dyer who had 100 yards on the ground.
LSU made Auburn’s defense look real good. Auburn’s defense allowed a season low 243 yards (LSU’s season average is 317.9), but Auburn’s defense is not turning the corner. LSU’s offense is just that bad. LSU’s defense is good, or so I thought. They were helpless. They could not stop Auburn from running the football.
Auburn has a great offense, but it’s not unstoppable. They have a tough stretch of games left to play (excluding Chattanooga of course) and could very easily finish the season 9-3. I do not think they will, but they will get a battle from Ole Miss this weekend (only Auburn’s third road game) and Georgia is starting to heat up as well. Georgia is currently the #1 rush defense in the SEC. Despite allowing 189 yards on the ground to South Carolina earlier in the year, the Gamecocks still only rushed for 3.6 yards per carry. The average was solid, but the yardage (and the tackling) made it look much worse.
I just don’t think Auburn is National Championship material. The offense is, but the defense most certainly is not.
As for LSU, I had them ranked at #10 before their loss to Auburn and I dropped them about 9 spots after the loss. They aren’t a good football team. They have lived off of a good defense and great special teams to this point. That offense is abysmal.
Next Up: Auburn @ Ole Miss, BYE for LSU
South Carolina bounces back after a loss to Kentucky. The Gamecocks defeated Vanderbilt 21-7 last Saturday. Things were dicey at halftime as the score was tied at 7, but Vanderbilt simply could not move the ball on offense. South Carolina dominated this game everywhere except the scoreboard. They moved the ball on offense pretty well (484 yards total offense), but had trouble scoring. This offense does tend to sputter when Marcus Lattimore isn’t on the field, but it’s hard to say that he was the cause of any problems this time. Backup running back, Brian Maddox, rushed for 146 yards and 1 score. It was Vanderbilt’s second loss in a row, but at least they didn’t suffer another blowout.
South Carolina is currently leading the SEC East with a 3-2 conference record. Georgia is right behind them at 3-3 and they have been on fire lately. Still, South Carolina is in the drivers seat. They will need to lose twice for Georgia to have a chance at going to Atlanta in December. The Gamecocks will play Tennessee and Arkansas at home before traveling to Florida for their final SEC game of the year. Georgia plays Florida at a neutral site this weekend and they will travel to Auburn in a few weeks. I’m afraid Georgia is going to fall short of reaching the SEC Championship, but they aren’t out of it yet.
Next Up: South Carolina vs. Tennessee, Vanderbilt @ Arkansas
Mississippi State gets more than they asked for against UAB. The Bulldogs edged out UAB 29-24 with two late field goals in the 4th quarter last Saturday night in Starkville. It was MSU’s first game as a member of the Top 25 as well. The defense played well for the Bulldogs and that continues to be their strong suit. They can run the ball a little bit, but this is an otherwise weak offense. Mississippi State is still a mediocre team to me. It’s hard to say how they managed to beat Florida in The Swamp, but this has been a strange year. They also beat Georgia when they were without A.J. Green. So, you have to be careful with this team. They certainly are no pushover, but they really are not a good team either. They’ve got another tough stretch of the schedule coming up and I’ve got them losing to Alabama and Arkansas. There’s a strong possibility that Kentucky and Ole Miss could beat them as well.
I’m aware of how close Mississippi State came to beating Auburn and they’re getting a lot of credit for that (as they should), but Auburn was still getting in the flow of things at the time and it was their first road game. They did an excellent job of containing Cam Newton, though. More teams need to force Newton to make 19-25 throws in a game. Of course, to do that you’re going to have to stop them on the ground and that’s not an easy thing to do. Consider me skeptical on the Bulldogs.
Next Up: Miss St. vs. Kentucky
Georgia takes out Kentucky on the road, 44-31. Washaun Ealey ran for 157 yards and 5 TDs in the Bulldogs rout of Kentucky last Saturday. The score indicates a closer game than it actually was. Georgia led 41-17 early in the fourth quarter before the Kentucky offense finally woke up. Georgia managed to score 44 points in this game despite only gaining 290 yards of total offense. You can credit that to four Kentucky turnovers.
Kentucky’s Mike Hartline had a nice game throwing for 353 yards and 4 TDs, but the Wildcats couldn’t run against Georgia. The Georgia defense is playing miles better than they have in recent years. They lead the conference in run defense (99.3 ypg) and rank 19th in total defense in the NCAA. While they’ve done a good job against the pass, they really haven’t faced many teams that test their secondary. Georgia has an important game this Saturday against Florida and they will travel to Auburn in two weeks. The Bulldogs possess the capability of upsetting Auburn and we will find out how much this team has improved against the run in that game as well.
Kentucky is now 4-4 overall. They need two more wins to become bowl eligible and lucky for them, the worst of their schedule is over. Their remaining for games are against Mississippi State, Charleston Southern, Vanderbilt and Tennessee. Those are four winnable games. I’d say their chances of making a bowl are pretty good.
Next Up: Georgia vs. Florida, Kentucky @ Miss. St.
Alabama gets the victory cigars against Tennessee. It was a tight game at halftime, but Alabama scored 28 unanswered points in the second half to give Tennessee its worst beating of the series since 1963. Despite leading 13-10 at halftime, Alabama had racked up 250 yards of offense. They were having trouble executing on offense. Alabama must get better on offense. They had the chance to have the game out of reach going into halftime, but that was not the case. You knew Tennessee would wear down eventually. The Vols just aren’t deep enough. We saw the same thing against Oregon. They were tied at 13 going into the half, only to lose the game 48-13.
Julio Jones had a career night with 12 catches for 221 yards, but no touchdowns. Overall, it was a very good night for the offense. The Vols defense is nothing special (#88 in total defense), but it’s still a positive night with the way the offense for Alabama had been playing. For some reason, Tennessee didn’t throw much double coverage Julio’s way and they manned up on him all night. You can bet that led to a career night, but Alabama needs to continue to get Jones the ball like this. It opens the running lanes for Ingram and Richardson. This is the kind of balance Alabama’s offense needs going forward. They don’t need 500 yards on offense to be successful, but they will come close to the 500 mark if they stay balanced.
It has been a rough year for Tennessee, but they have played a fierce schedule. Things are going to get slightly easier as far as the schedule goes, but they’re going to need to win four of their last five games to make it to a bowl. I’m not sure if I’d want to see this team in a bowl game unless they make a miraculous turnaround down the stretch. I’ve got the Vols finishing 4-8.
Next Up: Tennessee @ South Carolina, BYE for Alabama
I’ll have a preview for tomorrow’s slate of games up sometime tonight. Enjoy the weekend!
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment box below. You can e-mail me suggestions or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @JoeSportswriter.