Rich Rants: Week 9 - Michigan State's Big TD

Week 9 thoughts, musings and ramblings about the weekend.

Early-mail Rich Cirminiello
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What in the name of Rick Mirer was Bo Wallace possibly thinking in the waning seconds of the LSU game? It was just a matter of time before the ever-erratic Wallace cost Ole Miss a shot at a perfect season. And that time arrived this weekend. The Rebs were at the Tiger 30, trailing by three with nine seconds left. At that point, you either keep PK Gary Wunderlich on the field to attempt the game-tying field goal or throw a quick out to the sideline to stop the clock. Wallace, instead, inexplicably threw downfield into double-coverage. Again, what was he thinking? For that matter, what was Hugh Freeze thinking when he entrusted the fate of his season on a quarterback with a history of awful decisions at inopportune times?

I’ve always liked Mark Dantonio. Today, I love you, coach. In a refreshingly human reaction, Dantonio admitted he tacked on a late touchdown against rival Michigan in response to a Wolverine player antagonistically burying a dagger in the East Lansing turf prior to kickoff. Dantonio could have taken the high road, but he instead further buried Michigan in the grass. I liked it. A lot. So, too, will those Spartan players who know now more than ever that their coach has an edge and a killer instinct.

Yeah, yeah, Mississippi State looked more vulnerable than ever in Lexington on Saturday afternoon. But name the team that hasn’t been ripe for the picking at least once or twice this season. The Bulldogs got a four-quarter test from Kentucky, so big-whoop. If you’re going jump ship from every team that’s been on the ropes, then you’re going to be, well, without a ship. Mississippi State is the same team it was 48 hours ago: Very good, deservedly top-ranked and like the other 127 FBS teams, far from invincible.

Charlie Strong ought to scour the junior-college ranks for a hotshot transfer quarterback who can compete for the starting job in 2015. There also ought to be a welcome sign out for disgruntled, degreed quarterbacks on other FBS rosters. Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard might still be the long-waited answer behind center in Austin. But just to be safe, the coach needs to sign a veteran who’s played at a level above high school for a couple of seasons. Save for last week’s blip on the radar versus 2-5 Iowa State, the Longhorn attack has been necrotic throughout the 2014 season.

Too bad Michigan State and Ohio State couldn’t face one another in the Big Ten Championship Game. The West Division, with the possible exceptions of Nebraska and Wisconsin, is just awful this season. Actually, the East is pretty sorry as well, but at least that half of the bracket has a couple of teams with top 10 talking points. The West really needs the Huskers to remain hot and the Badgers to build off Saturday’s impressive 52-7 demolition of Maryland.

UCLA has been an unequivocal disappointment this season, but give credit where it’s due. These Bruins, especially QB Brett Hundley, know how to pull out close games on the road. UCLA has played in six games decided by eight or fewer points, and has won five of them, including Saturday in Boulder. It’s also won all five of its games outside of Pasadena. Again it certainly hasn’t always been pretty in 2014, but you’ve got to tip your hat to the team that backs itself into a self-imposed corner, and then consistently finds a way to battle its way out.

If an offensive lineman had to appear on Heisman ballots, Oregon LT Jake Fisher would be the only logical choice. Or at the very least, the agile senior deserves a piece of the hardware if his quarterback, Marcus Mariota, goes on to win the award. Fisher has been the unsung key that’s helped unlock the Duck offense since he returned from an injury on Oct. 11. With No. 75 protecting Mariota’s backside, Oregon has jetted past UCLA, Washington and Cal, and back into the playoff hunt.

The best days are behind Frank Beamer. Now, it’s just a matter of how many more years of coaching are ahead of him. The Hokies’ 30-6 loss to an average Miami team was just another stark reminder of how far the team has plummeted from its days as the ACC’s best all-around program. The offense is typically horrendous, and now the defense has lost the ability to be the glue in Blacksburg. The current steady three-year decline has got to be killing the locals who adore their coach, yet also are becoming frustrated with a nagging trend that’ll only be reversed when staff changes are made.

Gary Patterson’s luring of Sonny Cumbie to TCU to coordinate his offense has turned out to be one of the two or three best offseason hires of 2014. Cumbie, with a ton of help from QB Trevone Boykin, has completely transformed an offense that had long been mired in the 20th century. The coach has not only turbo-boosted his new employer, but he’s helping out his own career. Who wouldn’t be a little intrigued by the 33-year-old visionary who has the usually-conservative Horned Frogs leading the country in scoring?

Colorado State has joined East Carolina and Marshall in the discussion to land a New Year’s bowl bid as the top Group of Five program. And it’s not going away in November. After handling Wyoming in Week 9, the Rams are 7-1, their best start since 2000. Yeah, they’ll need to scoreboard watch in November, thanks to a Sept. 6 loss to Boise State. But Colorado State appears as if it’s going to take care of what it can control, riding the arm of Garrett Grayson and the dynamic playmaking of WR Rashard Higgins to a possible breakthrough 10-win season.


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