While the slate of games in the SEC looked like a bad one in the paper on Saturday Morning, there is a reason they still suit them up and play them. One game that typically produces an exciting finish is the Alabama/Arkansas game, but the USC Trojans took what was left of the steam out of this game with its 70-13 shellacking of the Razorbacks last week. The only questions that remained for an 11:30 AM kickoff were would Arkansas show up and might they be able to catch Alabama looking ahead to this week's Florida game?
The answer to the first question was without a doubt a "yes". The answer to the second question was a "not quite." Arkansas gave the Tide fits on Saturday, but didn't have enough in the tank to pull off the upset. A healthy Brodie Croyle has the weapons on the outside that he is not accustomed to having, and he hooked up with D.J. Hall twice for scores, one of which being a pretty crossing pattern that let Hall show off his speed.
Arkansas isn't going to beat many people with their starting quarterback going 11/26 for 81 yards and a touchdown, but they did get to show off Scout.com Class of 2005 1st Team All-South member Darren McFadden. The running back ripped off a 70 yard touchdown run, and the Hawgs were able to roll up 237 yards rushing to Alabama's 128.
There are two lines of thought to that stat. The optimistic one says that Alabama no longer has to run the football exclusively to win games. They are a more balanced team with Croyle and his receivers stepping up. The pessimistic one says that Alabama is going to have to run the ball better when they hit the meat of their SEC Schedule. They cannot afford to get into an aerial battle with Florida.
Time will tell which line of though is correct, and what better time than this weekend?
Florida wasted little time dispatching with Kentucky in the afternoon game. After falling behind 7-0, the Gators ripped off 49 straight points to take a 49-7 lead into the locker room at half time. I wonder how many AP Voters just noticed the final score of 49-28? Doesn't appear to be too many, since the Gators are ranked the #5 team in the country this morning.
Chris Leak and Chad Jackson were ranked the #1 Prospects at their positions in the South by what was then Border Wars of Scout.com, and it was days like this that Gator fans envisioned when both players were signed. Jackson finished with 9 catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Leak was had another stellar day completing 25/32 for 319 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions.
The line that jumps out about Florida's game was how efficient the team was in the redzone. It was not the Gator offense of the Fun 'n Gun days when there were quick strikes from all over the field. This was more like precision surgery. All seven of the Gator touchdowns came inside the Wildcats' 20 yardline. When CBS flashes a stat on Saturday in the Alabama game about Florida's redzone efficiency, think of this game.
Florida running back DeShawn Wynn vaults over Kentucky defensive back Shomari Moore (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)
The schedule eases up a bit for Kentucky the next three weeks going to South Carolina and Ole Miss before hosting Mississippi State, but after getting blown out by Indiana the week prior to the beating the Gators laid on them, the schedule may not be a factor.
The Bulldogs of the SEC matched up against one another on a windy night in Starkville, Miss. Georgia and Mississippi State played a game that Georgia seemingly had control of for much of the game, but they kept letting Mississippi State hang around.
One thing that was evident when watching Mississippi State's defense was that Sylvestor Croom needs about three more signing classes like they had last year. The three names I heard the most were three freshman South Hot 100 members in Derek Pegues, Jamar Chaney, and Keith Fitzhugh. Get nine more guys like that one one side of the ball with sufficient back ups, and this becomes a scary team.
For the two of you out there that didn't know that D.J. Shockley almost transferred and what a great story his staying was, ESPN did it's 40th side bar on the subject with four minutes left in the first quarter. Let's instead focus on the player, because the national media has worn out the "human interest" side of things.
D.J. Shockley the player set up Georgia's first score with a scramble and throw to Danny Ware that shows what a mobile quarterback brings to the table. The play came right after a beautifully executed screen pass to Thomas Brown that got a big chunk of yardage.
Jerious Norwood may be the best back that Georgia faces this season.
Speaking of Jamar Chaney, do you think there was a player more jacked up for the game than Chaney who was told by Georgia admissions that he couldn't enroll in school? It was mentioned in the broadcast that Mark Richt helped get Chaney to Mississippi State, but it deserves mention again.
Georgia running back Kregg Lumpkin is starting to show flashes that he is fully recovered from his ACL injury. He brings a straight ahead power to the Georgia I-Formation.
Mississippi State got out of the gate well with a field goal, but then it was Georgia's defense that dictated the game. After the opening drive, Mississippi State's next four drives resulted in 12 plays for a net of two yards.
Leonard Pope fights off Mississippi State defensive back Demario Bobo for a 10-yard TD (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)
Spreading the Love: Shockley hit 12 different receivers for competitions including big Leonard Pope who dragged an out manned Mario Bobo into the endzone for Shockley's second touchdown pass.
Cinderella Vanderbilt fell behind to the Richmond Spiders 3-0 going into the second quarter before rallying in a big way for a 37-13 win. Vanderbilt had a balanced attack that rolled up 513 total yards, breaking 200 in both rushing and passing.
The Commodores are 4-0, but they cannot afford to look past instate MTSU to their next game. MTSU has struggled to an 0-3 start including losses to North Texas and Akron, but this is a season saving type of game for the Blue-Raiders.
Auburn seems to have found its running backs. In week one of the Monday Morning Ramblings, I mentioned that Tre Smith wasn't going to scare anyone, and it looks like Kenny Irons and Brad Lester have passed him by. Irons rushed for 111 yards on 18 carries, and Lester added 64 yards on 10 carries to pace the Tigers past Western Kentucky.
Backup quarterback Blake Field was efficient in the Tigers' win going 13/22 for 100 yards and three touchdowns including a 38 yard pass to Lester.
Auburn moved to 3-1 and will host South Carolina this weekend before back to back games with West foes Arkansas and LSU.
For the third straight game, Ole Miss got off to a good start in the 1st quarter before shutting it down offensively. Mico McSwain accounted for nearly a quarter of the day's yardage with a 60 yard burst to put Ole Miss up on Wyoming in the first, but it was all down hill from there as the Cowboys posted 24 straight points.
Ole Miss isn't going to beat many people with a non-existent running game (minus the big plays by McSwain) and quarterbacks that combine to go 12/29 with three interceptions. The road doesn't get a lot easier for the Rebels; they must travel to Tennessee this weekend before hosting the Citadel and Alabama on back to back weeks. Looks like at least one sure win right? The Citadel had Florida State down 10-3 with two minutes left in the first half two weeks ago.
The spotlight game in the SEC is tonight with Tennessee and LSU hooking up. Despite the lofty rankings (Tennessee #10, LSU #4), this is a pair of teams with big questions to be answered. It's a case of the moveable object meeting the resistible force.
Tennessee fans have been clamoring for more offense. Tennessee players have been clamoring for more offense. Lost in the LSU's dramatic comeback victory in the desert against Arizona State was that LSU gave up 560 yards of total offense.
If there were a team for Tennessee to get healthy against, it would be the LSU Tigers. If there were a team for LSU to make the defensive adjustments against, it would be the Vols.
I think they'll meet somewhere in the middle in a tight game, but we'll know for sure tonight.
The spotlight game in the ACC on Saturday was going to be two Tech's going at it. Undefeated Virginia Tech taking on an undefeated Georgia Tech. This one finished with a score that was eerily familiar to Jacket fans with the Hokies coming out on Top 51-7, the identical score that Georgia Tech was on the short end of in Athens two years ago.
This game wasn't like the game against Georgia when it appeared the Jackets quit on Gailey that day. This was a day when whatever could go wrong, did go wrong. NFL Coaches say that Special Teams will win you three games a year. It's a shorter season in college, and the talent level is not as close week to week, but special teams and defense alone were enough for the Hokies to wallop Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech had three defensive scores including a blocked field goal for a touchdown in the first quarter.
With Reggie Ball gutting it out after a bout with Viral Meningitis, seeing a 10 point swing on the field like that just saps the energy out of a team trying to pull off a big upset on the road. While the Georgia Tech offense struggled mightily against a terrific Virginia Tech defense, the Jacket defense held its own despite the lopsided score.
Virginia Tech's Jeff King blocks a field goal attempt by Georgia Tech (AP Photo/Sam Dean)
Virginia Tech only managed 320 yards on the game and a putrid 2/13 on third downs (15%), but the Hokies defense dictated this game holding the Jackets to only 217 yards and an even worse 2/15 on third down (13%). One quick look at those defensive stats and one might predict a close, low scoring game. Until one factors in "Beamer Ball".
After dropping their first two games to Georgia Tech and Wisconsin in tight games, North Carolina may have been the most dangerous 0-2 team in the country. NC State found that out on Saturday.
NC State seemed to take control of this game with two quick strikes in the third quarter to take a 24-14 lead, but the Pack's complete lack of a running game is going to let a lot of teams get off the deck. With maybe the most talented stable of running backs in the conference, it's hard to fathom a Wolfpack team netting just 13 yards of rushing the entire game while throwing the ball 35 times.
Barrington Edwards, the Region's #3 Running Back in the Class of 2003 has found a home with North Carolina and Bunting's crew road the shoulders of the workhorse back to the tune of 129 yards rushing on 25 carries.
After starting 0-2 and looking at North Carolina's schedule, there aren't many breaks in it. The Heels play an out of conference schedule that includes Wisconsin, Utah, and Louisville. Maybe someone should mention to the Athletic Director that Virginia Tech, Boston College, and Miami are now conference games. I'm kidding of course, those schedules are set years in advance typically, but I don't expect ACC teams that expect to contend for any kind of titles to schedule out of conference slates like that any more.
The hard luck award goes to a team that I still believe is one of the tops in the country. Clemson found out what the new ACC is all about the past two weeks. After dropping an overtime loss to Miami, here comes a ranked Boston College team.
Getting up on Back to Back weekends after such a tough defeat is not an easy task for any team, but the Tigers found a way to stay in the game until the very end... literally. Clemson dropped another heartbreaker in overtime after the defenses had stood fast the entire second half, both pitching shutouts.
The loss drops Clemson to 1-2 in the conference, but the schedule eases up with a trip to Wake Forest and then a much needed bye week.
Clemson is not out of this race by a long shot.
Before we go, how about the South Florida Bulls?
USF is 3-1 on the season and they had their signature win this weekend over Top 10 Louisville. This wasn't just a win though, this was a statement. The Bulls ripped the Cards 45-14 and left no doubt.
The psychology of a game is so important. We constantly see teams struggle with inferior opponents. We see underdogs blow the game at the last minute to the team that is "supposed to win". The term "has their number" refers to these mental edges.
That's why the kick off return to open the third quarter was so important. I wasn't there, but I have a feeling that Louisville was looking at the third quarter as a fresh start. They still believed they were the better team. They still believed they could make up a 24-7 deficit. Shoot, 17 points for a Louisville team is about a quarter's worth of work.
"All right guys, stop 'em here, get the ball back, and we're right back in business."
Only USF's Chad Simpson took that opening kickoff of the third quarter 94 yards for a touchdown to make it 31-7. Game, set, match.
Any confidence picked back up in the locker room at half time was quickly blown away, and that game was over.
Bobby Petrino and Louisville have earned a reputation among college coaches for running up the score. When I saw the 31-7 score in the third quarter, my thought process went from disbelief to "hmm, what did Louisville do to USF last year? Will they call off the Bulls or is it payback time?"
A quick look at last year's game showed that Petrino and Louisville did not run it up. After building a 27-3 half time lead, Louisville only scored 14 points, both touchdowns coming in the third quarter, and both touchdowns coming on the ground.
As unfathomable as it might seem, USF did not run the score up on Louisville either. After building a 38-7 lead early in the third quarter, the Bulls added only one more score, and it too was on the ground.
OK, let's get carried away with this win and have some fun.
USF just beat the only ranked team in the Big East. OK, Louisville is still ranked in the AP and Coaches poll while USF is not (someone explain that one to me like I'm a six year old). USF sits atop the Big East standings with West Virginia. West Virginia is 4-0 with wins against Syracuse (1-2), Wofford (does it matter?), Maryland (2-2), and East Carolina (1-2).
Jim Leavitt gets doused with water after upsetting Louisville (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Would it be crazy to say that USF just took the driver's seat for the Big East Championship? The Mountaineers travel to Tampa on October 22nd for a game that could decide the Big East Championship and a BCS Bowl. So, USF could be playing in a BCS Bowl game in about its ninth year in existence? The USF Bulls whose claim to fame is a 12th ranking in Div IAA in 1998.
It's very possible.
But first, the Miami Hurricanes have a wakeup call this weekend as the Bulls make the short trip down to Miami. Any chance that the Bulls had of sneaking up on the 'Canes just went out the window.
Now that we're done projecting the rest of the season for the Bulls, let's take a more realistic view. What does this do for USF recruiting?
Louisville makes a living going into other people's states, taking the players that the major local schools didn't want, and beating them with them. Meaning, they're not typically going head to head with Florida, Florida State, and Miami for players, but they do recruit the types of players that USF will be hard after.
I count 18 players on Louisville's numerical roster from the state of Florida including Sack Man Elvis Dumervil of Miami. This win was huge for the USF Bulls and their instate credibility. There are over 300 Division One Signees in the state of Florida. Let's say the Big 3 sing 50 of those, if USF gets its pick of the next 250, they'll have the talent to compete with anyone in the country.
Yeah, this was a big win for USF, but it's a win that must be built on.
Until Next Time...