And So It Is Written ...
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The ten most important things to happen in the history of our great planet – at least this weekend. How will Week 3 of your college football season be remembered in the history books? And so it is written …
1. The Big 12 stepped up to the plate
It’s not really fair to judge a conference on games against Florida State and Alabama, and Oklahoma State and West Virginia, respectively, held their own against the two possible College Football Playoff title combatants, but Texas getting blasted at home by BYU set the tone for a weekend that could’ve dragged the Big 12 down into Big Ten punchline territory. Instead, now the Big 12 is allowed to be in the Second Best Conference discussion.
Texas Tech got flattened by the Arkansas steamroller – more on that in a moment – and Kansas was Kansas in a 41-3 loss to Duke, but in the one game the conference had to have, Oklahoma looked brilliant in the 34-10 win over Tennessee. Baylor kicked off the weekend by being all Baylor on Buffalo on the road in front of dozens. West Virginia-Maryland could’ve gone either way, and a road loss wouldn’t have been a knock on the conference, but the Mountaineers and Clint Trickett came through with a 40-37 thriller in one of the best games of the day. TCU destroyed Minnesota and Iowa State screwed up Iowa – oh, Big Ten, will there ever be a rainbow? – to help the league’s cause, and Oklahoma State destroyed a UTSA team that pushed Arizona to the limit the week before. Texas might have lost at home to a UCLA team without Brett Hundley, but it was a good battle for a team trying to find a live O lineman who can walk.
But as good as the Big 12 looked overall …
2. The Pac-12 … not so much. Sort of.
Here’s the problem. It’s not like the Pac-12 is having a Big Ten-like hot mess of a 2014 season, but it’s not winning any style points. That’s not going to ultimately matter, but there are just enough signs of potential problems to file away come bowl season if the level of play doesn’t improve.
Oregon was terrific against Wyoming, and Washington got in a light scrimmage against yet some immaterial team with Big Ten branding – Illinois was the punching bag in a 44-19 loss – but UCLA is about as soft a 3-0 as it gets, and now its superstar quarterback, Brett Hundley, has an elbow problem. Arizona State has quietly been good, but now its top-shelf quarterback – Taylor Kelly – has a leg injury suffered late in the win over Colorado. Arizona did nearly everything right and still just squeaked by Nevada, and, of course, USC decided that tackling was optional in the Eastern Time Zone in a puzzling loss to Boston College.
It’s hard to complain too much – the Pac-12 is 25-4 outside of the conference and with Washington State and Colorado to blame for three of the losses. It’s just that a lot of the league’s teams just don’t quite feel right – especially in the South – for whatever that means. Okay, whatever – 25-4 is 25-4. The Big Ten would gladly expand with a minor TV market right now if it meant a decent non-conference win.
3. Oklahoma and Oregon are O-kay
Florida State might not be the dominant force it was last season, and Alabama will someday have to play a team that can throw a forward pass – and bad things will happen – but Oklahoma and Oregon are doing their part to look like real, live College Football Playoff contenders. With a boatload of young talent, speed and next-level athleticism, Tennessee was and is a more dangerous opponent than it might get credit for, and Oklahoma took care of business with a professional-quality win at home. Oregon only got Wyoming, but it’s not slipping at all with Marcus Mariota doing his best impression of a Heisman front-runner. Remember, appearances really do matter now more than ever. If the Pac-12 doesn’t quite feel right – again, not quite sure what that means, even though I’m the dope who’s writing it – right now, Oregon and Oklahoma do.
4. The Big Ten is still bad at playing college football
Seriously, Big Ten? Nothing? When Rutgers slipping by Washington State qualifies as your league’s signature victory, there’s a problem. There’s no blaming Maryland for its loss to West Virginia – even though its secondary was a mere rumor – in a game that could’ve gone either way. Had Maryland still been in the ACC, it probably would’ve come away with the win, but because it’s now in the Big Ten, of course – only half-joking here considering how bad things have been - that meant a heartbreaking last-second loss. The MAC continued to make its bid to be the Big Ten’s third division with Bowling Green beating Indiana. Illinois and Minnesota did their Savannah State paycheck game impersonations in brutal beatdowns from Washington and TCU teams, respectively, Purdue predictably lost to Notre Dame, and in the clunker of all clunkers, Iowa – with a schedule that screamed 10-0 start – lost to a Iowa State team that lost to North Dakota State (and no, I don’t care – FCS is FCS is FCS).
The Big Ten is currently 23-15 in non-conference play and 1-10 against Power 5 teams including Notre Dame – a balloon bouquet and basket of mini-muffins to Rutgers for that Wazzu win. However …
5. Ohio State might be fine, Michigan might be … Ohio State might be fine
Michigan State is the absolute real deal, and Wisconsin and Nebraska should be solid as the year goes on. In terms of big losses, the Spartans losing at Oregon and the Badgers losing to LSU were totally acceptable. However, Ohio State losing at home to a Virginia Tech team that couldn’t get by East Carolina, and Michigan’s loss to Notre Dame, weren’t.
It was only a win over lowly Kent State, but Ohio State at least made the appearance to be Ohio State in a 66-0 win. That’s hardly an indicator of big things ahead, but the team might have just needed that one big blasting to cleanse the palate and show that J.T. Barrett really can play. On the other side, Michigan was just okay against Miami University, but not great until the second half. Even so, remember, a 12-1 Big Ten champion is probably a mortal lock to go to the playoff. There’s still time for these two to start playing up to their talent level.
6. The Florida play clock, the Texas coin, and pulling a Ferentz
There’s a solid chance you weren’t alive the last time Kentucky beat Florida, and if you were, you were probably a lot thinner had feathered hair. So when the Wildcats were a wee bit ticked that they almost had their first win in the series since 1986 and saw it slip away. They had the Gators down seven and facing a 4th-and-7 on the nine in the first overtime, and then the play-clock hit 0 and … nothing. The play went on, Jeff Driskel found Demarcus Robinson for a score – to be fair, on an absolutely brilliant throw – UK head man Mark Stoops went understandably batspit insane, and Florida ended up winning in three overtimes.
Texas royally screwed up the coin toss, deferring its choice to the second half and also saying it wanted to go on defense first. UCLA didn’t score on its first drive, but came up with a touchdown pass on the opening drive of the second and won by three.
And then there was the finish in the battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy. With the score tied at 17 and Iowa State’s Cole Netten lining up for a possible game-winner from 42 yards out, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz called a timeout at the last possible second. Netten missed, but got his second chance, hit it, Iowa State won, Iowa was sad.
7. The Arkansas bully kicked sand in the pretty boy’s face
Grand Marshal of the I Hate The Spread Parade, Bret Bielema, showed that there’s still a place for power football in a world full of tippy-tappy finesse attacks. His Arkansas Razorbacks ran for 438 yards and seven touchdowns in a convincing 49-28 win over Texas Tech for the best win by far in his young tenure with the program. At the very least, this showed just how dangerous Arkansas might eventually become with this type of attack, but for now, chalk one up for ugly, brutish football lovers.
8. Is there an SEC East problem?
The SEC West is living up to its preseason billing as the best division in college football by far, going unbeaten in non-conference and interdivisional play so far. The East, though, is starting to look wobbly. Georgia’s win over Clemson was terrific, but South Carolina’s loss to Texas A&M, Tennessee’s loss to Oklahoma, Vanderbilt’s horrific start to the Derek Mason era, and concerns about Florida all cement the division as the far weaker of the two. It’s still really, really early, but defense appears to be optional and there’s still some reloading to be done. At the very least, it doesn’t seem like anyone in the East is going to finish unbeaten or with just one loss, meaning a spot in the playoff for the division could be tough without an SEC championship.
9. The ACC just became more interesting
Did Boston College’s win over USC change the program and jack up the ACC? Probably not, and a little, but this is further proof that the league might not be the Florida State Invitational. Wake Forest stinks, but the other 13 teams in the conference are all playing like potential bowl teams. Can any of them knock off the mighty Seminoles? Boston College now appears to be a tough out, while NC State, Virginia and Miami – all on Florida State’s schedule – all played well this weekend and appear to be quickly improving.
10. The introduction of Gunner Kiel to an anxiously waiting nation
The 2012 superstar quarterback prospect – considered to be the top passing recruit in the nation – had an interesting road to Cincinnati, starting out committing to Indiana, and then picking LSU, and then Notre Dame, and then the Bearcats. It was only one game, and Toledo doesn’t have a brick wall of a defense, but Kiel was outstanding in his debut, completing 25-of-37 passes for 418 yards and six touchdowns in the blowout win. He gets another tune-up against Miami University next, and then comes a date at Ohio State. Very quickly, if this is just the beginning, Kiel could go from being a recruiting tale to the leader of a dangerous sleeper.