Monday, September 24, 2012

Week 4: Winning is good and stuff

LSU survival: So ... that was a lot closer than it shoulda been. Auburn was typical Auburn on offense -- 2.9 yards a carry from the running game and under 100 yards and two picks from Kiehl Frazier -- but got enough stops on defense and enough help from LSU (via untimely penalties, similarly untimely turnovers and a stupidly untimely missed field goal) to turn what probably should have been a standard 22-3 LSU win into a necktie-loosening 12-10 one. There wasn't anything in particular LSU did poorly other than turn the ball over at the worst possible times, with one fumble ending a drive at the Auburn 2-yard line and another leading directly to Auburn's only touchdown. I don't know if there's much to take away from that other than the revelation that LSU's offense, despite having a pretty good quarterback and being really good at just trucking people en route to 200-ish rushing yards (188 against Auburn), is still prone to some meh performances and thus reliance on the defense, which would be problematic if the defense weren't one of the best in the country. Translation: LSU isn't quite as good as Bama. Nobody's quite as good as Bama.

Really? Kansas State? Really. Mind-blowing stat: Oklahoma had been 14-0 against ranked teams (ranked teams!) at home under Bob Stoops until Saturday night. Whether the end of that says more about Oklahoma's mediocrity or Kansas State's goodness remains to be seen; there's probably some of both. Oklahoma finished with a very meh (for Oklahoma) 396 total yards and three turnovers, all of which were devastating: one was a fumble returned for a touchdown, one was a pick that produced a K-State touchdown on the ensuing drive and one was a fumbled snap (by Blake Bell) at the K-State 2-yard line that ended a probable touchdown drive. Does that make Oklahoma the better team since K-State needed three turnovers to win by five? Maybe. It's close, though, which is saying something since Oklahoma is Oklahoma and Kansas State is Kansas State. It should be noted that K-State racked up 213 rushing yards at almost five yards a carry, and between that and the strip-sack fumble that went for a touchdown, K-State was overall just better on the lines. In closing, Bill Snyder is a wizard. As for Oklahoma, the defense is better but not good enough to take a team built around a dominant passing game to the Big 12 title. NEED MOAR OFFENSE.

Florida State point asplosion: Clemson scoring 39 points wasn't enirely surprising since (a) Clemson's passing game is really good, (b) last year's game was a 35-30 thing in which Clemson put up almost 450 total yards and (c) Florida State's secondary isn't that good, especially with Greg Reid gone due to legal shenanigans. What was surprising: Great googly moogly 667 yards! And 287 rushing yards! For reference, Florida State had 29 rushing yards against Clemson last year and finished the season 104th in rushing yards per game. The Chris Thompson/James Wilder Jr. combo is just destroying people right now; throw in E.J. Manuel getting about 50 yards and a bunch of first downs a game (and therefore eliminating a lot of the variability in his accuracy) and there's a legit offense to behold. BTW, Manuel was pretty good in the passing game, too: He ended up 27 for 35 for 380 yards with two touchdowns and no picks, albeit against a Clemson secondary that's been in the fetal position ever since the Orange Bowl. So Florida State's good. How good? I dunno yet. The secondary is a concern but might not be relevant since the front seven is just utterly dominant and there's probably not a team on the schedule that's comparable to Clemson in terms of passing-game ability. It's pretty hard to envision FSU losing before November, when there's a trip to Va. Tech and a home game against Florida in the span of three weeks.

Oregon defense go boom: There are basically two extant interpretations of the Oregon-Arizona game, one from people who didn't watch the game and one from people who did. The first: Oregon won 49-0 lol Arizona blows. The second: Arizona hung with Oregon for three quarters, blew three red-zone chances (including a fourth-and-goal from the 3) in the first half that could have made things really interesting and then got Oregon'd in the fourth quarter. The latter one is the accurate one, obviously. UA really should have been in that game til the end but just couldn't finish drives; Matt Scott went from uber accurate through three games to crappy against Oregon, albeit partially due to some really good coverage from the Oregon secondary and a lot of long(-ish)-yardage situations generated by UA getting 3.1 yards a carry. Cumulatively, those two things say a lot about Oregon's defense, which is better than probably anybody would've given it credit for before Saturday night. Marcus Mariota's not Darron Thomas yet but might not have to be if (a) the defense is really that good and (b) USC is really only gonna score 27-ish points per game against legit defenses.

Hilarious Play of the Week: Bryan Bennett gets a C- for execution and an A+ for productivity:

Wha??? Colt Lyerla got credit for that touchdown, BTW.

Random Oregon State reappearance: Oregon State is 2-0 -- with legitimate wins over Wisconsin and UCLA -- despite being 114th in the country in rushing yards and obviously not being the Fightin' Rodgerses anymore. There are two reasons for that. The first: Sean Mannion has turned into (or has been turned into) Brandon Weeden; the guy's averaging almost 330 yards right now after two games against actual teams with actual defenses. The second: Oregon State is second in the country in rushing yards allowed after going against Montee Ball and Johnathan Franklin, the latter of whom came into the game leading the country in rushing at about 240 yards a game. I don't know that Oregon State's really that good; I do know Oregon State is a lot better than last year's version of Oregon State, which went 3-9. The schedule lines up favorably enough that 5-1 looks possible/probable, and at that point a bowl game is almost guaranteed since the regular-season finale is the rescheduled game against Nicholls State. The question is whether "bowl game" means "Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl" or "Alamo Bowl." I'm skeptical that the latter is realistic but reserve the right to reconsider if Oregon State beats Arizona next week.

South Carolina's pretty good: I've been trying to decide whether I was more impressed with South Carolina's passing game or defense; I'm leaning toward the latter. Mizzou (with James Franklin) finished with 255 total yards and 12 first downs while punting seven times. South Carolina could've stopped playing offense with 10 minutes left in the second quarter and had no chance of losing. They didn't stop; they barely even let Mizzou have the ball since Marcus Lattimore was doing his usual Marcus Lattimore thing and Connor Shaw was going 20 for 21 (!!!) for 249 yards with two touchdowns and no picks to go along with 41 rushing yards. To be fair, Mizzou made things really easy for him (at least early in the game) by dropping a safety in the middle, bringing everybody else up to try to stop Lattimore and leaving the middle of the field hilariously wide open for the tight ends. This was the sequence immediately leading up to Lattimore's first touchdown:
Missouri 42: Connor Shaw pass complete to Justice Cunningham for 7 yards
Missouri 35: Connor Shaw pass complete to Justice Cunningham for 10 yards
Missouri 25: Connor Shaw pass complete to Justice Cunningham for 15 yards
Missouri 10: Marcus Lattimore rush for no gain
Missouri 10: Connor Shaw pass complete to Justice Cunningham for 9 yards
Wwwhheeeee! That ended shortly thereafter but resulted in South Carolina receivers running free in the secondary, which didn't go any better. BTW, Mizzou's a pretty decent team but is probably headed for 6-6. South Carolina's pretty good but has an absurd three-week stretch coming up against Georgia, LSU (in Baton Rouge) and Florida (in Gainesville), which is basically what's gonna determine whether South Carolina's a legit title contender or this year's version of 2011 Arkansas, by which I mean a pretty good SEC team that'll end up somewhere in the vicinity of 9-3 and playing in the Cotton Bowl.

Non-Touchdown Punt Return of the Week: This is South Carolina's Ace Sanders breaking about eleventeen tackles and then getting screwed out of a touchdown because the field is 53 yards wide instead of 54 yards wide.

Lame, guys who designed the first football field. Lame.

Boise State isn't Boise State: Remember Kellen Moore? Yeah ... man. Boise State's offense is not good at all. The Thursday night game against BYU would have been a shutout loss if not for D-lineman Michael Atkinson picking off a pass and running it back for Boise's only points of the game, a game BYU probably still would've won if not for the inexplicable decision to go for two when down by one with three minutes left, no timeouts left and Boise being incapable of kicking a field goal. The Michigan State game can be written off (to some extent) to Michigan State just having a really good defense; the stats as a whole can't be written off, and the stats say ... ummm ... yikes. Boise is 93rd in pass efficiency, 77th in rushing yards, 94th in total yards and 107th (!!!) in scoring. Not good. Obligatory gif:

LSUFreek wins the internets. LSUFreek always wins the internets.

The end of BuffQuest: That post about Colorado maybe being the worst Pac-12 team in the history of ever had a shelf life of about three days since Colorado somehow came back from 17 points down with eight minutes left to beat Washington State on the road. Upshot: Washington State is now officially the worst team in the Pac-12 despite having a couple wins against that's-not-a-real-team teams; Colorado is just really bad (like 1-11 bad). I was kinda looking forward to seeing just how bad but will have to wait for the end of the season now since I can't justify keeping track of the awfulness of a team that's actually won a conference game.

UL-Monroe craziness: It's becoming more and more evident that UL-Monroe is actually, like, good (relatively good). Beating Arkansas + taking Auburn to overtime + leading Baylor in the fourth quarter = good. I mean, those teams are all pretty meh from a BCS-conference standpoint but are all decent (I think), and after those three games, UL-Monroe is 15th in the country in total yards and 39th in scoring offense despite starting a redshirt freshman quarterback. It should be noted that the aforementioned redshirt freshman quarterback has done the following: 307 passing yards a game, eight touchdowns, two picks, 59 rushing yards a game and three rushing touchdowns. Wow. BTW, UL-Monroe went 3-5 in Sun Belt play last year and lost its three games against real teams by a cumulative score of 117-34. In other words, Todd Berry is gonna end up winning one of those Some Famous Guy Coach of the Year awards.

Game of the Week? I gotta go with Miami-Georgia Tech. Miami led 19-0 (for some reason), gave up 36 straight points (!), scored 17 straight points in the final 19 minutes to force overtime, then won by stopping Georgia Tech on a fourth-and-inches option keeper in OT and busting a touchdown run on the ensuing series. To the video:

Clutch. Also, the ACC is the ACC and makes no sense because everybody (except Florida State) is capable of both murdering and getting blown out by everybody else.

Derpity Derp of the Week: This is Orwin Smith returning/not returning a kickoff for a safety:

Derpity derp indeed.

Player of the Week: Nevada running back Stepfon Jefferson had 170 rushing yards, 76 receiving yards and seven touchdowns (SEVEN TOUCHDOWNS AAAHHHHH) against Hawaii. Seven touchdowns equals awards and stuff. Cobi Hamilton probably deserves something for catching 10 passes for an SEC-record 303 yards (lol) and three touchdowns for Arkansas in Saturday's loss to Rutgers. Receiver of the Week? Sure.

Alas: Michigan State was about nine minutes away from doing the most Michigan State thing ever; Eastern Michigan led 7-6 near the end of the third quarter (LOLWUT) before State got a field goal, a touchdown, a fourth-down stop and a let's-make-this-score-look-slightly-less-pathetic touchdown to survive against one of the five worst teams in the country. That thing I said about Michigan and the Big Ten? Yeah. Oh, and Sparty moved up a combined three spots in the two polls, which represents verification (not that it was needed) that nobody actually pays attention to anything that happens.

The Big East is so awful: The Big Ten's got nothin' on the Big East. The best team in the conference: Louisville, which beat Florida International by a touchdown Saturday. The second-best team in the conference: probably Rutgers but possibly South Florida, which lost to Ball State by four. And then there's UConn, which just lost to Western Michigan for the second straight year. I know.

Appropriately Assembled Highlight Video of the Week: Sigh.

I repeat: Sigh.

Post-Week 4 top 10: There's a pretty significant gap between Bama and the next three/four (all of which are comparable at this point) and a similarly significant gap between those three/four and everybody else. That said, I feel a little better about the teams at the bottom this week; most of them have wins of some credibility and enough of a body of work at this point that they can reasonably be called "good" or "very good" or "worthy of consideration for the top 10," at least, which is all that really matters. And yeah, I'm copping out at the bottom. As always, this is an expectation-of-performance-based top 10 and makes no effort to be transitive or predictive of final rankings etcetera etcetera.

1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Oregon
4. Florida State
5. USC
6. West Virginia
7. Georgia
 8. South Carolina
 9. Clemson
T10. Oklahoma
T10. Notre Dame


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