10. Here come the Hawkeyes
Don’t look now but Iowa is 6-0 after the Hawkeyes beat a surprising Illinois team. The Hawkeyes could have suffered a letdown after an emotional win against Wisconsin, but Iowa got a monster game from Jordan Canzeri to the tune of 246 yards and a touchdown on 43 carries to grind out the win. All was not rosy for the Hawkeyes as they lost senior defensive end Drew Ott to an ACL injury. Iowa gets a reeling Northwestern team next week, and the remainder of the schedule is missing Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State, and Michigan who have a combined 22-2 record. Right now, Iowa looks like the favorite to represent the Big Ten West in the Big Ten Championship Game.
9. Is Michigan State a Top 5 Team?
Michigan State has looked mediocre this season. The signature win on the season came at home against an Oregon team that got boat raced in Eugene by Utah and looks a far cry from the Ducks we’ve known the last decade. The Spartans struggled with Rutgers and Purdue, and they looked less than impressive against Air Force. We’ll get the answer to our question next week when the Spartans travel to Ann Arbor to take on the Wolverines who absolutely look like a Top 5 team right now. Keep winning and style points won’t matter, the Spartans will make the playoff. But right now Michigan State doesn’t look like a real contender.
8. Are They Top 5 Part II?
TCU is good, real good. They can score on anyone, but can they stop anyone when it matters. It’s hard to take a team seriously as a contender when they routinely give up 40+ points per game. Trevone Boykin is sublime and a legitimate Heisman contender, but the Horned Frogs can’t fall behind by three scores to a team that has defense and a running game and expect to win. TCU will continue to be challenged this year with West Virginia, unbeaten Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Baylor on the schedule. There are teams that can lose one game and still advance to the playoffs, TCU is not one of those teams. Heck, they can go unbeaten and not be one of those teams. That won’t happen this year, but when you play a brand of football like TCU is playing right now, there’s no margin for error.
7. Hold that Tiger
Any worry that Clemson might suffer a let down against Georgia Tech’s option offense after a big win over Notre Dame was quickly alleviated. Clemson ran up a 26-3 lead in just over 16 minutes. Two Georgia high school prep stars in quarterback Deshaun Watson (Gainesville, Ga.) and running back Wayne Gallman (Loganville, Ga.) tore the Jackets apart. Watson was a cool 21/30 for 265 yards and two touchdowns, and Gallman ran for 115 yards and two touchdowns on only 13 carries. Remember Notre Dame’s big win over No. 14 Georgia Tech? That seems like years ago to the Jackets who have now dropped four straight. Clemson has one ranked team left on the schedule, and they get the Seminoles at home on November 7th. South Carolina is in shambles, and the schedule is stacked nicely. Now is the time for the Tigers to pounce.
6. Gators on Top?
The Florida Gators are undefeated. They dominated Ole Miss who beat Alabama. They just dominated two time defending SEC East Champion Missouri in their own house. They have arguably the best defense in the SEC, a quarterback who gets better every week, and a running game that gets it done. There’s a good argument for LSU to be there, but in any ranking, Florida should be no worse than No. 2 in the SEC when the polls come out.
5. Two Teams, Two Directions
This one had to be particularly sweet for the Washington Huskies as they got a big win on the road against the coach who left them in Steve Sarkisian and USC. At the time Washington fans and many neutral observers believed that Washington actually upgraded with Chris Petersen after Sarkisian had left them. I’m not sure many USC fans would argue with them right now. While it’s early in Sarkisian’s USC career, his antics off the field (link), coupled with the fact that he wasn’t an entirely popular choice among Trojan fans, means the scrutiny on Sarkisian will only get more intense. Things could turn around in a hurry or sink fast with the next three games coming against Notre Dame, Utah, and Cal. The Huskies can use this game as a springboard or come back down to earth quickly. With games coming up against Stanford and Oregon, the Huskies are all of a sudden in the thick of the Pac-12 North race.
4. Two Teams, Two Directions Part II
Almost immediately the game itself became the secondary story as Georgia’s Nick Chubb went down with a gruesome knee injury on the first play from scrimmage against Tennessee. CBS showed one replay then thankfully didn’t show it again during the broadcast. Former Bulldog Todd Gurley tweeted his prayers to Chubb during the game while Georgia was building a 24-7 lead over the Vols. Tennessee looked to be left for dead after Reggie Davis returned a punt to give the Bulldogs the 24-7 lead, but the Vols had 24 unanswered points including 14 points in roughly 30 seconds to close out the first half. That propelled the Vols to a 38-31 win. While no one wants to minimize the importance of Nick Chubb’s injury, the narrative of the game finished with the Vols finally getting over the hump, and how hot is the seat under Mark Richt right now? Is it possible that both Georgia and Georgia Tech could be looking for new head coaches at the end of the season?
3. Boy did they need that…
The Texas Longhorns were in big trouble. They weren’t just playing bad football and getting blown out by teams they used to beat handily (see 24 game winning streak over TCU from 1968-1991), they had players retweeting transfer requests while the Longhorns were getting thumped. Nothing cures ills like beating your biggest rival, and Texas jumped out to an early 14-0 lead and made it stand as the Horns had a total team effort to hold off Oklahoma. Quarterback Jerrod Heard ran for over 100 yards and threw a touchdown. Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes ran for a score and threw for another, and running back D'Onta Foreman added another 100 yards. The Horns defense which looked awful against TCU never let the Oklahoma ground game get going as the Sooners ran for only 67 yards. Despite being 2-4, Texas is only a play or two away from being 4-2. With several winnable games coming up in the Big 12 including Kansas State, Iowa State, and Kansas, the Longhorns have a chance to build up some momentum after the huge win over the Sooners.
2. Should Utah be No. 1?
Cal and Utah opened the game as if they both were intimidated by the big stage. They had three turnovers each in a little over 20 minutes into the game. If either team played with poise they could have run away with it in the first half. Utah jumped to a 24-10 lead in the second quarter after the turnover-fest, and then made it stand through the second half while relying on two trusty weapons: defense and running game. The Utes pressured Cal quarterback Jared Goff into five interceptions on the night while Devontae Booker rushed for 222 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries. Utah came into the game ranked No. 5 in the AP poll including seven first place votes. While it’s hard to say a Top 5 team is being disrespected, if we throw out all of our pre-conceptions about what teams could and should be based on the 2014 season and only focus on what has happened this year, no one has had a more impressive body of work than the Utah Utes. Which game looks like the real early season match up of the year, No. 7 Oregon at Michigan State, or a little talked about battle between unranked teams in Utah and Michigan? A 42 point win over Oregon on the road and wins over Cal and Michigan should put Utah in the Top 2. Playing in the Pac-12 Utah controls its own playoff destiny, so it’s really a moot point, but polls are the kinds of things we talk about right now, and Utah is under-ranked at 5.
1. That Blue Defense
This was supposed to be the marquee game of the weekend. It was a showcase alright. It was a showcase of the Michigan Wolverine defense. The Wolverines have pitched three straight shutouts. Two of the opponents were ranked at the time (BYU/Northwestern) and two of the opponents were conference games (Maryland/Northwestern). I’ve been watching college football for a long, long time, and I can’t remember three straight performances that dominant. The 1992 Alabama defense didn’t have three straight games like this. The 1997 Michigan defense didn’t have three straight like this. This is the top scoring defense through six games in 30 years, and the average is going down every week… drastically. After those two dominant performances with the only loss coming to No. 5 Utah, the Wolverines still found themselves ranked in the bottom half of the Top 20. It’s time to change that.