College Football Week Five: What We've Learned
"Always remember..... Goliath was a 40 point favorite over David." - Shug Jordan, former head football coach at Auburn.
Perhaps one of the best and most frustrating things about college football is the upsets that can happen at any time without any warning. Upsets invigorate the underdogs' fan base but can also infuriate the victims. For neutral fans, an upset is one of the most exciting things you can witness.
The theme of this weeks column is of course, upsets. Week five was full of several huge upsets, so without any further ado...
Down but not out: Florida, USC, Georgia, Wisconsin, et al.
It's always better to suffer a loss early in the season. It gives you enough time to regain your footing and work your way back into the National Title picture.
As last season taught us, anything is possible. Even though these teams all ended up on the wrong end of upsets, you can't count them out of the title race. The road just got tougher for them, but not impossible. If Ohio State can leap into the title game without playing on the last weekend of the season, these teams can certainly get back into the BCS discussion by putting together an impressive resume for the rest of the season.
USC was a pretty bad loss any way you look at it. They were heavily favored against a team that had lost to Stanford and gotten blown out by Penn State. The Trojans just dug themselves too deep of a hole in the first half.
As bad as USC's loss was, Florida's has to be worse because it happened at home. The Swamp has a reputation as one of the most difficult places in America to play, but Ole Miss didn't pay any attention to that.
Wisconsin lost to a bad Michigan team thanks to an offense as impotent as, well, Michigan's, four turnovers and a boneheaded penalty with :13 left on the clock that nullified a succesful two-point conversion. Without the penalty, Wisconsin is able to force overtime. Instead, they lay yet another egg in Ann Arbor.
I'm reluctant to call Alabama's beating of Georgia an upset. Both teams were ranked in the top ten nationally. It's never a huge surprise when no. 8 beats no. 3, even though it happened between the hedges.
The surprising part is how 'Bama dispatched the Dawgs. Nick Saban took his team into the locker room at halftime with a 31-0 lead, on the road, against the preseason no. 1 team. Never mind the fact that Georgia started looking like a contender in the second half, Alabama was the best team by a wide margin. They should be getting some love from the pollsters this week.
Michigan is still bad
Just to prove I'm not some Michigan-hating homer, I am going to start off by giving the Wolverines some credit.
They won this game on the backs of their defense, which is one of the best in the Big Ten. Many people, from B/R all the way up to the fellas on TV, have observed that Michigan's defense will need to carry them through a few games if they hope to make a bowl. This was the first of those games. By holding Wisconsin to several field goals and scoring a touchdown, the 'D' kept Michigan in the game.
Now onto the ugly...
Really, neither team played well enough to win. One just played less poorly than the other. Wisconsin finished the game with four turnovers, which was one less than Michigan's five. Ordinarily a team as good as Wisconsin would be able to take advantage of those five mistakes, but that's not the case when they are making four huge ones of their own.
Michigan's leading rusher was QB Steven Threet, with 89 yards. Nobody else ran for more than 36. Those numbers are still prettier than the passing game, which was good for an incredibly underwhelming 96 yards. I know the quarterbacks that Rich Rod has in place aren't optimal for the spread offense, but 12/31 is inexcusible no matter what.
The honeymoon is officially over for ECU
After beating Virginia Tech to open the season and then dominating West Virginia to climb up the rankings, ECU has looked shaky in beating Tulane and downright bad in losing to NC State and getting blown out by Houston.
Forget their early-season dreams of crashing the BCS party, ECU needs to pull things together if it wants a Conference USA title. Today's blowout could end up being very costly for them. One is left wondering what happened to the defense that kept West Virginia out of the end zone...they're definitely not the same unit that gave up 41 points to an unheralded Houston team.
Michigan State has a passing game
MSU quarterback Brian Hoyer looked very confident against Indiana in today's 42-29 victory. He was 14 of 26 on the day, which is not very impressive on the surface but his receivers did drop some easy catches.
Hoyer's 14 completions were good for 261 yards on the day, which helped keep the Indiana defense from stacking the box to contain Javon Ringer. Hoyer was confident and accurate with short out routes, and even stretched the field for a couple of long plays.
And once again, no sacks and no interceptions. This is key because it keeps Ringer in the game to do damage.
Hoyer's play was key to the State victory today because Indiana actually did a very good job of containing Ringer. Without Hoyer making plays, the MSU offense grinds to a halt and the Spartans leave Bloomington with a big ugly 'L' on their record.
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