For most teams, the time at the pastry wagon needs to come to an end soon.
Non-conference play is wrapping up in earnest for most teams, and while a directional school here or there will dot the weekly composite schedule, it is time to start setting sights on those traditional rivals and begin working on winning the conference title and securing bowl bids.
Speaking of rivals, I can think of no better way to begin Four Downs than by looking at a rivalry game from last week:
1) Lane Kiffin vs. Urban Meyer: The Saga Continues
Do you think that SEC Commissioner Mike Slive has these guys on speed dial yet?
Maybe it’s more like the Bat Phone; a dedicated phone line to get in touch with these guys so that he can tell them to knock it off.
In case you missed it, in this week’s round of “Gossip Coaches,” Urban Meyer opined that Tennessee did not seem to be playing with a sense of urgency in the fourth quarter of Florida’s 23-13 victory in the Swamp last Saturday.
Meyer also added that some of his players had to fight through the flu during the game and that they did not perform as well as usual, which prompted Kiffin to fire back, saying, “I don't know. I guess we'll wait and see, and if we're not excited about our performance, we'll tell you that everybody was sick.”
And somewhere on a golf course around Columbia, SC, don’t you think Steve Spurrier is both chuckling and asking himself, “how can I get in the middle of this?”
Okay, probably not.
But while this seems immature and childish on many levels, if Kiffin can get Tennessee turned around quickly, this rivalry could once again become marquee.
2) USC Stubs Toe Against Unranked Conference Foe—Again!
So, who actually had Washington winning last week, besides Stewart Mandel of SI.com?
Did I think it was possible? Sure. Much in the same way that it’s possible that Scarlett Johansson could knock on my door tomorrow evening—actually forcing me to use my Scarlett Johansson bag.
In other words, not bloody likely at all.
Give Steve Sarkisian and company a lot of credit; they pulled off what many thought was not feasible.
Now, it is worth mentioning that USC was without all-world safety Taylor Mays.
But last time I checked, Mays doesn’t play quarterback, either.
Maybe this idea of USC simply reloading needs to be examined again. Because while Aaron Corp did not play well at all in this game, I wonder if the result really would have been any different if Matt Barkley had been able to go.
In the future, when we look back at college football in this decade, I believe we will look at USC and wonder, “what if?”
What if USC doesn’t lose to Oregon State and UCLA in 2006?
Or Stanford in 2007?
Or Oregon State in 2008?
Or Washington in 2009?
I’m not saying that the sky is falling in Troy. But it does seem as if there is something that runs deep with this program and not necessarily always playing up to their talent level.
3) BSC Busters—Busted!
It was not a good week for the Mountain West big boys.
TCU whipped up on Texas State, as I think most people expected them to do. Having played Virginia as well, though, does very little to tell us who TCU is. They have a big opportunity this week, as the Horned Frogs travel to Clemson.
But Utah got beaten by Oregon in Autzen Stadium, 31-24, despite forcing four turnovers and holding the Ducks to 95 passing yards for the game.
BYU, meanwhile, got obliterated by FSU 54-28. The Seminoles, with a full week of rest after the Jacksonville State debacle in Week Two, came out firing, scoring 30 first-half points and holding the ball for almost 40 minutes in the game. The ‘Noles also forced five turnovers without committing one themselves.
So Utah drops out of the polls, and BYU falls out of the top 10 and remains barely alive in the top 20.
Boise State currently sits at number eight in both polls, with TCU and Houston as the next contenders left.
Another team to keep an eye on from the coalition conferences, if you’re looking for a BCS buster dark horse, might be Southern Mississippi. The Golden Eagles have a difficult task ahead of them as they travel to Lawrence this week to face the Kansas Jayhawks.
4) Slow Down the Hype Machine
Last night, in Columbia, SC, the hype machine was definitely slowed down for the Ole Miss Rebels as they got beaten by South Carolina 16-10. Jevan Snead, the Ole Miss quarterback, was pressured and hit—a lot. He finished the game 7-of-21 for 107 yards and was sacked four times, including once on the final, stalled drive.
South Carolina still looks inconsistent on offense, with Stephen Garcia going 16-of-34 for 220 yards, and the Gamecocks running game produced only 65 yards.
But that defense was stifling. If they had played that way in the Georgia game, this team might be 4-0. If the offense can become consistent, the Gamecocks might be a threat in the SEC East race—although they are a game behind because of the divisional loss to Georgia.
As for the Rebels? Well, they have some time off before they play at Vanderbilt, but then they have to host Alabama. The Rebels have to get their offensive line protection shored up, get Snead refocused, and figure out a way to get Dexter McCluster the ball more than one time in the first half.
If they can do that, then maybe they have a chance at upsetting Alabama.
On to Pick Six, where last week I went 5-1, bringing my season record to 13-5. I only missed on the Notre Dame-Michigan State game (thanks, Kirk Cousins).
This week’s array has the potential for a lot of drama as well.
Missouri 41, Nevada 21: A Friday night at altitude in Reno, Nevada. A young quarterback making his first true road start (although it’s his second start away from home). A team on the rise that is in reloading/rebuilding mode versus a veteran team that came in with high expectations and has struggled mightily under the weight of those expectations.
Missouri has to weather what could be a riled up, yet tense crowed at Mackay Stadium. If the Tigers can jump out to a quick lead, that could be all it takes to get an already on edge and frustrated fan base to turn on the Wolf Pack’s coaching staff.
Nevada’s defense has struggled against the pass. Missouri has a quarterback that throws a good deep ball. Look for Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert to have yet another solid performance as his team cruises.
Houston 38, Texas Tech 35: Houston upset Oklahoma State in Stillwater two weeks ago. Texas Tech is coming off of a tough loss in Austin this past weekend. Houston is looking for yet another major conference pelt, and Tech might be ripe for the picking this weekend. I think that in the battle of gunslingers, Case Keenum of Houston and Taylor Potts of Texas Tech, Houston will barely nip the Red Raiders.
Boise State 45, Bowling Green 17: Boise State brings their hopes for an undefeated season to northwestern Ohio for a game against the Bowling Green Falcons. The Falcons put a good scare into Missouri before collapsing at the end, and then gave up 246 yards rushing to Marshall last week in a 17-10 loss.
Boise State lost a weapon when running back D.J. Harper tore his ACL. But a balanced Boise offense will be able to handle the Falcons easily.
Miami (FL) 27, Virginia Tech 20: The gauntlet continues for the University of Miami as they face the third of four consecutive top 25 opponents to open the season. Miami is averaging 465 yards per game and 35.5 points per game so far this season against Florida State and Georgia Tech.
Virginia Tech’s offense is still inconsistent, due in part to quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s inconsistent play. I think that Jacory Harris, the confident sophomore quarterback for Miami, and the receiving corps from the “U” will make one key play that Taylor won’t.
California 31, Oregon 24: Speaking of inconsistent quarterback play, meet Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who went 4-of-16 for 95 yards against Utah last week. While Masoli is a tough, bruising runner, he has got to become a better passer if the Ducks are going to live up to the expectations set before them. His footwork is sloppy and he needs to not lock onto his primary receiver, or else he will start throwing a lot of picks.
Cal quarterback Kevin Riley has been solid but not spectacular, but he doesn’t have to be more than solid with Jahvid Best as his running back. Best scored five touchdowns in the Bears' nice 35-21 win last week at Minnesota.
Oregon’s defense has been solid, so look for Cal to try and run the ball with Best and set up the play action pass. Cal will force Masoli to make a mistake in the passing game, and that turnover will be the game-changing moment that leads to a Cal victory.
Penn State 24, Iowa 21: Penn State has demolished the opposition to this point in their schedule.
Of course, that opposition has been Akron, Syracuse, and Temple.
Iowa hasn’t necessarily faced a murderers' row, either, although they have rebounded nicely from the scare that Northern Iowa put into them early in the season.
Both teams are nicked up a little bit. Iowa is missing left tackle Bryan Bulaga, tight end Tony Moeaki, and wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, which makes Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi even more important. His decision-making will be important in this game.
Penn State linebackers Sean Lee, Nathan Stupar, and Navarro Bowman are all battling injuries, as well.
Both of these teams are not really going to use gimmicks. Penn State is still breaking in a brand new receiving corps, and finally managed to get their running game going a bit against Temple. Iowa has also managed to rediscover how to run the ball the last two weeks against Iowa State and Arizona.
Penn State will need to give Daryll Clark time to throw the ball if they want the victory. The inconsistent pass protection this season cannot continue if the Nittany Lions want to continue on the road to the BCS championship. Getting past Iowa will be the first step. Look for Evan Royster to break a big run late in the fourth quarter to set up the game winning score.