College Football Talking Points: Spartan's Little Giants, SEC and Pac-10's Place

Gary BrownCorrespondent IISeptember 20, 2010

DURHAM, NC - SEPTEMBER 18: Mark Ingram #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide runs through a huge hole during second quarter action against the Duke Blue Devils at Wallace Wade Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Durham, North Carolina.  The Crimson Tide defeated the Blue Devils 62-13.  (Photo by Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images)
Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images

As week four of college football rolls around our job at College Sports Matchups is to make sure you are the best informed fan around so you can keep the college football conversation going. Here is what you need to know this week.

Michigan State drops Notre Dame in overtime with “little giants”

Hopefully you have seen the replay by now. With Notre Dame holding a 31-28 lead in overtime Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio made a brilliant call on 4th down and his team lining up for a 46 yard field goal attempt by Dan Conroy. If the kick was good the Spartans and Irish would play a second overtime period. If not, the Spartans would suffer another tough loss to Notre Dame.

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If you were watching the game on television the first thought you probably had when you saw holder Aaron Bates roll out was the snap had been botched. Then you got it. There was no mistake. This was a fake. Looking down-field Bates saw Charlie Gantt all by himself. Bates tossed a great pass to the tight end who made the catch and had an easy path to the end zone for a 29 yard touchdown reception and a 34-31 win over Notre Dame.

Here is what you need to know:

  • Michigan State calls the play “little giants” and practiced it the week of the game. They ran the same fake in the Alamo Bowl last year against Texas Tech to pick up a first down.
  • Notre Dame can complain all they want, but the Big East says there should not have been a delay of game penalty on the play. It is accepted practice in college football that from the time the clock reads zero there is lag time that occurs while the back judge moves his eyes from the clock to the football. If the ball is snapped when he sees it there is no penalty.
  • Analysts are calling the play call by Dantonio gutsy, but confident and smart would be more appropriate. This was no fluke moment. The Spartans had practiced the play on Wednesday and planned to run it if there was a right time.
  • Dan Conroy had the leg to make the kick. The week prior against Florida Atlantic the sophomore made field goals of 50, 44 and 41 yards. All during fall camp he has shown a strong leg.
  • Charlie Gantt is a third year starter at tight end, but is thought of more as a crushing blocker than a game breaking tight end.
  • Holder Aaron Bates is also a Ray Guy candidate as the punter for Michigan State. Bates is no stranger to throwing the football. He was a high school quarterback and completed 50 of his 110 passes. He is also a 4.0 student.

Alabama and Arkansas is the game of the week

It will not only be SEC fans that turn their attention to Fayetteville, Arkansas where number one Alabama will play tenth ranked Arkansas. This pairing of undefeated teams is the game of the week in college football. Here are some items for you to kick the conversation off with your buddies.

Alabama key to the game: Controlling the outstanding Arkansas receivers. Alabama’s young secondary has shown they can be beat on inside moves. Alabama only allows 4.3 yards per pass attempt. Arkansas averages 10.4 yards when the ball goes in the air.  

Arkansas key to the game: Stopping the powerful Alabama rushing attack. Arkansas only gives up 2.8 yards per carry. Alabama picks up 6.8 yards on average with every rush. Something has to give.

Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram returned for the Tide against Duke last weekend. He rushed for 101 yards on his first three carries. This was Ingram’s first action since a knee injury in August.

Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett is the national player of the week after he led the Hogs to a last second win over Georgia with a forty yard touchdown pass to Greg Childs.

Some numbers to consider.

  • Alabama and Arkansas are ninth and tenth nationally in total defense. In scoring defense the Tide is second nationally, while the Razorbacks are fifth.
  • The surprising defensive stat is tackles for a loss. Arkansas ranks as the number four team in the nation, while Alabama is not even in the top one hundred (115th).
  • A surprise on the other side of the ball is that Alabama is the SEC leader in both total offense (542 yards per game) and scoring offense (44.7 points per game). Arkansas’s high powered offense is ranked third in each category generating 35.3 points per game off of 483.7 yards per game.

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Where does the Pac-10 rank in college football’s hierarchy?

Nationally eyes turned west this past weekend to measure how much of a player the Pac-10 will be on the national stage. Looking back now it looks as if the question has not been completely answered yet, but fans of teams out west should be encouraged a bit. Here are some observations for your consideration and conversation.

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  • The league won four games against teams from BCS conferences. They lost two.
  • Against teams from conferences that don’t automatically qualify for BCS bowls the results were two wins against two losses.
  • The biggest win against an automatic qualifier was Arizona’s upset of number nine Iowa (34-27). Arizona’s defense was a concern coming into the season, but they have been solid all season. As in earlier games the Wildcat’s defense stepped up to shut down the Iowa offense at key moments. When the Hawkeyes tied the game with 8:57 minutes left in the game Arizona responded with a 73 yard touchdown drive to take the lead back.
  • Washington provided the biggest loss of the weekend at the hands of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Nebraska’s defense embarrassed Husky QB Jake Locker. The former Heisman trophy candidate was a dismal 4-20 passing on the day with two interceptions. This loss can’t be blamed on Locker alone though. It was a total team effort. Anytime a defense gives up 56 points there is work to be done.
  • Against non-automatic BCS bowl qualifying conferences the results were very mixed. On the extreme end of bad losses was the one Cal suffered on the road at Nevada. Cal was thumped 52-31 on their trip to Reno. They may have found better odds at the city’s slot machines.
  • UCLA completed one leg of their Texas matchups by defeating highly touted Houston. While a win is a win it occurred with Case Keenum out for much of the game. The prolific Houston QB was knocked out of the game (and season) in the second quarter with a knee injury following an interception.

So, where does the Pac-10 rank among college football’s conferences? Visit to vote in our poll and to get the most Pac-10 football news on the web.

We will get the rest of the question answered this weekend with three high profile road games:

Stanford at Notre Dame; UCLA at Texas; Oregon State vs. Boise State

Quick Kicks

  • Without the fake field goal by Michigan State the play of the week would have been the touchdown pass Arkansas QB Ryan Mallet threw to Greg Childs to give the Hogs a win at Georgia. Overlooked in the conversation is the 68 yard touchdown Missouri’s T.J. Moe scored against San Diego State. With just :51 seconds left QB Blaine Gabbert made the toss to thrill the Tiger faithful.
  • Houston we have a problem. Prior to Saturday’s game with Ole Miss, Vanderbilt had only scored five touchdowns in the previous forty quarters of SEC play. They scored four Saturday as they beat Ole Miss 28-14.
  • An article in the Wall Street Journal looks at the results of games played between schools that play in conferences that automatically qualify for a BCS bowl berth and those that don’t. In 2010 the big guys have won 63 times and lost 6. While the “feel” may be that the little guys are coming out on the better end of the score more frequently than in the past the facts show things are really just about the same. It is a good read.

We have done our job to help you be informed. It is now up to you to keep the college football conversation going. Why not help your friends out by forwarding this along to them.


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