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 Four of your 2014 college football season be remembered in the history books? And so it is written …
1. All roads lead to Jameis
Leave it to Mr. Winston for finding a way to do everything possible last week to get college football sucked into the chaos created by the pros. Jameis Winston’s “offensive and vulgar” remarks originally cost him half a game against Clemson, but as the week wore on, the pressure turned up, it turned into a full game hit – a cynical worst, to make it look like the school was on top of the controversy at a time when the NFL climate was thick with massive problems, and at best, to try to make more of a statement to the team and its quarterback - but he still showed up on the field in full pads to take warm up snaps as if he was getting ready to see time. Head coach Jimbo Fisher – as always, in full and total control of the situation and his superstar – politely told the reigning Heisman winner that his services wouldn’t be needed that evening and reminded him where the locker room was. Winston later returned in street clothes while wearing his jersey. In a moment when the Seminoles needed to be at their most focused, their leader created the ultimate distraction, and it didn’t stop.
Florida State’s 23-17 win over Clemson was arguably the best game of the year so far for a variety of reasons – No. 1 team in trouble, late heroics, overtime stop – but it was all overshadowed by Jameis and his presence. On the one hand, issues and all, he’s still the unquestioned alpha dog on the team and a leader who showed support for his teammates. However, this was Sean Maguire’s game, and while he was a bit rocky under the pressure of the Clemson pass rush, and he threw a key pick late, it was up to him to figure it all out. He might not have been pretty, but he kept his head and came away with the win.
Winston will be starting on Saturday against NC State.
In full pads.
However, the close call showed that …
2. There is no real No. 1 – and it doesn’t matter
Remember, there are points for second place in this race – and third and fourth, too. Being No. 1 in the polls is utterly meaningless at this point in a long season, but there still isn’t a sure-thing, be-all-end-all dominator out there who appears to be a mortal lock for the College Football Playoff.
With Auburn, Oregon and Florida State all looking very, very beatable – with all three needing help to get by inferior opponents – this weekend made things more confusing than ever for anyone trying to figure out who the team is. Florida State hasn’t looked that sharp, and came within a key fumble of probably losing to Clemson, yet it holds the honor of being ranked No. 1 by both human polls. Meanwhile, even with Alabama’s offense going gator on Florida’s D, and despite the explosion of Oklahoma at West Virginia, there are still question marks with both
teams. What’s going to happen when Alabama has to face a team that can throw? Were Tennessee and West Virginia real tests for Oklahoma? Give it a month, and then things will be forcibly shaken out by the playoff committee. Until then, the goal of simply surviving and advancing never mattered more. Stay unbeaten, you Power Fivers, and you’ll be fine. However, this all might be nitpicking considering Alabama made life miserable for …
3. At least Bill from Gainesville didn’t lose to Kentucky
It’s one thing to lose to Alabama – no shame there. It’s another thing to lose at Alabama by 21 – again, not really anything to get too into a twist over. But when you’re head coach Will Muschamp and your team is built on defense, a power running game, turnover margin and ball control, there’s a problem when that team doesn’t do any of those things correctly.
The Gator D allowed the most yards ever in school history – it gave up 629 yards in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl loss to Nebraska and 645 to Alabama on Saturday - but the Fighting Muschamps still hung around late into the third quarter tied at 21. And then the floodgates opened as Alabama scored 21 unanswered points just as Amari Cooper officially submitted the paperwork to announce he’ll be running for the office of Heisman winner after catching ten passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
Most galling for Muschamp and a coaching staff on the hottest of hot seats were the gifts Alabama provided with four turnovers, 11 penalties, and chance after chance, and it was still a blowout. Unfortunately for Muschamp, the schedule doesn’t exactly ease up over the next few weeks with at Tennessee, LSU, Missouri and Georgia up next, and with South Carolina and Florida State still looming. The words you’re looking for are uh-oh.
4. Michigan, some Harbaugh guy wearing khaki pants wants to FaceTime
God first showed the University of Michigan that Brady Hoke probably isn’t the right man to be the head coach of the storied football program by making Notre Dame a lot better than it probably is in a 31-0 blasting a few weeks ago. This weekend, He made his feelings felt again with a biblical-proportion rainstorm hitting Michigan Stadium during Utah’s 26-10 win that might have dramatically signaled a possible end to the regime.
Utah was outgained 308 yards to 286, but four takeaways and a punt return for a score were enough to get by a Michigan team with an offense that failed to get into the end zone. However, and Hoke made this point, it was a non-conference game and many of the goals are still out there. The schedule is manageable with Minnesota up next and Rutgers and Penn State to follow, but if Hoke loses the Little Brown Jug to the Gophers – and if Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers continue in search of the mythical one play without a flag - he’s probably not going to be around for a shot at redemption against Michigan State in late October.
5. The best college football game no one saw
15 years from now, a million people will claim they were at the California-Arizona game, even if the stadium was left with just the die-hards late. Just as America was winding down from the big night games, well past midnight on the East Coast, the Golden Bears held a commanding 31-13 lead in Tucson going into the fourth in what appeared to be a big statement for head coach Sonny Dykes and his Golden Bears. Little could anyone know that a 31-yard Casey Skowron field goal would end up being the first shot fired in one of the greatest quarters in the history of college football.
What would ensue was part collapse, part perfect execution. Arizona came up with 36 points in the final frame, but it took a miracle to pull it off. Down 15, Arizona got into the end-zone on a six yard touchdown run from Terris Jones-Grigsby to pull within eight with just over three minutes left. The Wildcats recovered the onside kick, quickly drove down, and scored on Anu Solomon’s fourth touchdown pass of the game, finding Cayleb Jones from 15 yards out. The two-point conversion failed, and this time, Cal recovered the onside kick and appeared to have everything set after an Arizona pass interference call. The drive stalled, and with Arizona down two, Solomon would get one last shot, starting on his own 15 after a penalty threatened to doom the final drive from the start. Three completions later, Solomon got across midfield and had won last chance. He heaved it up, and down it fell right into the unmolested arms of Austin Hill for a 47-yard touchdown – it really wasn’t a Hail Mary upon execution – and the Wildcats had done it. Solomon threw the ball 73 times for 520 yards in the 49-45 win, and now, Rich Rodriguez is 4-0. Michigan isn’t.
6. More cowbell
Mississippi State gave Cal the blueprint on how not to close out games, but the Bulldogs at least stopped the Hail Mary they had to deal with. Down 34-10 in the fourth, LSU rallied back with 19 unanswered points, but it was too much to overcome – Dak Prescott was too much too overcome. The veteran, linebacker-sized quarterback threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 105 and score in a breakout game for head coach Dan Mullen and his Bulldog program. It wasn’t quite a Heisman-time performance, from Prescott, but it wasn’t far off. Now, after a win that would’ve been considered dominant had the game ended after 46 minutes, MSU is on the map with Texas A&M up next in a few weeks.
7. Less Tar Heel
No North Carolina team had ever allowed more than 70 points, but that’s what East Carolina did a week after beating Virginia Tech and two weeks after losing at South Carolina.
The Pirates got town 13-7, and then … boom.
The offense was unstoppable as everyone and Jeff Blake had fun torching the Tar Heels. Shane Carden threw for four scores and ran for two touchdowns, and Breon Allen ran for two touchdowns as the ECU offense was never stopped on the way to 789 yards and 39 first downs. In a year when the American Athletic Conference needed a boost. East Carolina just provided it.
8. The most interesting game that everyone saw after the Tampa Bay-Atlanta game started to suck
All of a sudden, the machine slowed to a crawl, and SEC defensive coordinators are ready to figure it out, too. Auburn had to travel to Kansas State for a deathtrap of a road game, but it survived thanks to three missed field goals from Kansas State kicker Jack Cantele and a sure-thing flubbed touchdown catch attempt from All-America receiver Tyler Lockett. Auburn didn’t whither and pulled off the win with sheer, brutish power down the stretch, partly because nothing else was really working. The Tigers finished with just 128 rushing yards – averaging 2.8 yards per carry – with defense that coming through biggest, allowing a mere 40 Kansas State yards on the ground on 30 carries. The Wildcats lost it as much as Auburn won, but Auburn got through and can now lightly scrimmage against Louisiana Tech before dealing with LSU.
9. The Big Ten finally decided to start being better at playing college football
A punching bag throughout the first part of the season, the Big Ten needed a big weekend, and it got one going 12-1 – Brady Hoke’s team didn’t get the memo – with some real, live wins over teams with scholarship players, assistant coaches and pregame and post-game meals. Nebraska beating Miami was big, but Indiana’s wonderful and controversial victory over Missouri will really help the Big Ten’s case. Maryland made it a 3-0 weekend against Power 5 teams, and there weren’t any losses to teams from the MAC or any Group of Fivers. The Big Ten center stage belonged to …
10. Now it’s pronounced Gordon again, no more Gore-Don
After being kept in check over the first two games, Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon ran wild through the Bowling Green secondary, finishing with 253 yards and five touchdowns scoring from two, 50, three, 21 and 69 yards away. The burst was back, and he had the right moves and lateral quickness to make himself free for home run after home run. On the day, Wisconsin ran for a record-setting 644 yards and eight scores, averaging close to 11 yards per pop. South Florida is up next for Bucky.