Rich Rants: Week 5 - USC, Baylor & Fear Ameer

Week 5 thoughts, musings and ramblings about the weekend.

Early-mail Rich Cirminiello
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If you want to solve USC this season, you better be prepared to run the ball effectively. Beating the Trojans over the top won’t happen with any regularity. Boston College knew the blueprint, and executed it to perfection in Week 3. Oregon State, though, not so much. The Beavers put their hopes on the shoulder of Sean Mannion, which makes sense since he’s the program’s best player. But the senior suffered a similar fate as other quarterbacks who’ve faced Troy in 2014—no touchdown passes and a completion rate less than 50%. In fact, no one has thrown a scoring strike on USC, despite the loss of its top cover corner, Josh Shaw, to an August suspension.

Ameer Abdullah—one of the best reasons to be excited about the Big Ten over the final two-thirds of the regular season. Yeah, it’s been a harrowing start to the season for a conference whose approval rating is right around that of Congress. However, there is hope. Michigan State might still make a playoff run. J.T. Barrett has the Buckeye offense humming. And the West Division looks like a potential jump ball … unless Abdullah continues to run like the second-coming of Mike Rozier at Nebraska. Abdullah is the kind of kid for which it’s easy to root—dominant on the field, and worthy of emulation off it. He’ll be one of the faces of the Big Ten in October, November and maybe early December.

When touting a school, date it. Wine and dine it. But do not profess your love or get married to it. That program is going to break your heart at some point. Utah, for instance. The Utes were all the rage after handling Michigan in Ann Arbor to run their record to 3-0 last week. Pac-12 South sleeper, some were even foolish enough to suggest. So what does Utah do in its return to Salt Lake City? Squander a 21-0 lead to middling Washington State, which began the weekend 1-3. There are no absolutes in college football. And often times, what made perfect sense last week no longer applies this week. Once you accept those realities, you’ll have a much more enjoyable fall.

Baylor rolled through Oklahoma last Nov. 7. Convince me that this November’s game in Norman will be dramatically different. The Bears are every bit as explosive and diverse as they were in 2013. Sure, the Sooners are better defensively, but how you slow down Art Briles’ attack, provided Bryce Petty’s health isn’t a factor? The team tuned-up on sparring partners in September, with injuries forcing it to build depth on the outside. And now that Corey Coleman and Antwan Goodley, who combined for 18 catches in Ames, are healthy, Petty once again has access to an embarrassment of speed and game-breaking athleticism at his disposal.

Everett Golson is the poster child for correcting mistakes, staying the course and turning a challenging situation into a positive. Notre Dame’s quarterback was forced to sit out last season because of academic impropriety. He didn’t sulk, complain or point fingers. He got better as a passer, especially on intermediate and deep routes. Much better. Golson continues to be the reason the Irish are unbeaten and ascending up the rankings. And the way he tackled his personal setback in 2013 ought to become an imitable blueprint for those student-athletes who bolt and blame at the first whiff of adversity.

I’m shocked by Miami’s defensive performance on Saturday. I didn’t think the ‘Canes had it in them, especially since the game essentially boiled down to a chess match between Duke head coach David Cutcliffe and beleaguered Miami defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio. D’Onofrio’s kids, though, were just better, holding the Blue Devils to one offensive touchdown and just 2-of-19 on third and fourth downs conversions. If Saturday night was a harbinger of things to come, and it’s a big ‘if’, the Hurricanes might be the team to beat in the ACC Coastal after all.

Hopefully, there are no longer any athletic directors at the FBS level capable of going under Charlie Weis’ Svengali-like spell. Notre Dame should have been Weis’ final gig as a head coach. But Kansas AD Sheahon Zenger, for reasons that didn’t make sense from the very beginning, gave Weis another shot and another big contract in 2011 that’ll continue to pay him handsomely now that he’s gone. For the coach, the con game is over, or at least that’s the hope. If someone wants him to coordinate an offense, fine. But Weis has proven one time too many that as a head coach he’s been a successful coordinator fortunate to have had Tom Brady as his Patriot quarterback from 2000-04.

I like what I’ve seen so far from TCU, but I just don’t know what to make of the Horned Frogs. Are they ready to sneak up on the Big 12 powerbrokers, or are they no more than the product of schedule that’s so far featured Samford, Minnesota and SMU? A manageable September slate can create many illusions. See: Arizona State. TCU is doing a lot of things well right now, from the multi-dimensional play of QB Trevone Boykin to a defense hoping to become vintage Gary Patterson in 2014. I’m not buying any Horned Frog shares at this time, but I am kicking the tires, as Oklahoma readies to visit Fort Worth this Saturday.

UCLA did some explosive things in Tempe on Thursday, a much-needed breakout performance from a team that had sauntered through the first three games with mixed results. Now, the college football world needs to know if the deconstruction of Arizona State was simply the good china, only to be brought out on special occasions. The Bruins, even with their defensive cracks, proved they can be dominant in all three phases. But can they sustain that dominance, or even something close to it? More important, do they revert back to the team that had problems with Memphis, when Utah, Cal or Colorado is on the other side of the field?


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