College Football Wild Weekends: The Plot Begins to Thicken
As September turns into October, the motor really begins to rev up on every college football season. This past weekend may have signaled such a revving of this season’s engine. There were a lot of shootouts, plenty of close games when it was ranked versus unranked, some controversy, a few collapses, and one specific game that had everyone talking.
The game that was mentioned at least once on every channel and probably at every game that was broadcast somewhere in this country on Saturday was the West Virginia Mountaineers‘ 70-63 win against the Baylor Bears in the Mountaineers’ Big 12 debut. No, the score is not a typo, yes I’m still writing about college football, and that score is actually quite apropos considering what the Big 12 has been slowly turning into.
Geno Smith is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. And this past Saturday’s performance did prove it. Now don’t think I’m getting swept up in a fever where people like to overblow how great a player is early in the season. I am fully aware that there is still a lot of football left to be played this season. And that is part of the reason why Smith is for real in the Heisman debate: he has only Big 12 opponents left to play, and if we know anything about the Big 12 recently it is that pass defense is no longer a priority. He threw for over 600 yards and had more touchdowns (8) than incompletions (6), and while he probably won’t match those exact numbers again this season, he is likely going to come pretty close in at least a couple of times.
Lost among the attention given to Smith’s performance was the attention that should have been given to the performance of Bears’ quarterback Nick Florence. Florence is the main reason that the game remained a back-and-forth contest virtually the entire way. His numbers fell short of Smith’s, but throwing for nearly 600 yards and five touchdowns is still an awesome day; it was in a losing effort, but the performance was awesome.
The SEC also got a major shootout this past weekend with the Georgia Bulldogs‘ 51-44 win over the Tennessee Volunteers. This was a game of waves with the first being the Bulldogs’ running game building a 17-point lead in the second quarter. The second wave was the Volunteers taking advantage of multiple turnovers by the Bulldogs to actually take the lead before halftime. The Bulldogs tied the game at half and the third wave came with the Bulldogs dominating the third quarter and putting the game out of reach. Of course the Bulldogs’ defense had to make a couple of turnovers late in the fourth quarter to preserve the win. Think of that as an averted fourth wave.
While I’m on the SEC, I’d like to point out that the LSU Tigers had another weird game this past weekend. They were victorious against the Towson Tigers, but not after the third-ranked team in the country had a very slow first half. This comes a week after being taken to the brink by the Auburn Tigers and having a fairly rough first half against the Idaho Vandals the week before that.
The Big Ten‘s two big games this past weekend ended with victories from the Ohio St. Buckeyes and Nebraska Cornhuskers by one and three points respectively. With the Buckeyes, it was the usual defensive war of attrition that takes place when they play the Michigan St. Spartans and the game is close. With the Cornhuskers, they were aided by some great play by Taylor Martinez in the second half and a collapse on offense by the Wisconsin Badgers. Kind of funny how the Buckeyes and Cornhuskers play this week after surviving such close games this past week.
Plenty of ranked teams nearly tasted defeat this weekend against unranked opponents in cases that can only be a matter of looking ahead or simply not taking the opponent seriously. The Boise St. Broncos nearly blew a 25-point halftime lead in their win against the New Mexico Lobos while the Clemson Tigers and South Carolina Gamecocks both survived major issues early (Tigers: defense, Gamecocks: offense) to gain wins over the Boston College Eagles and Kentucky Wildcats respectively. The closest, and most controversial close call of the weekend was the Texas Longhorns‘ late win over the Oklahoma St. Cowboys. It was a shootout in Stillwater the entire way with a total of seven lead changes in the game, and the final one was the one everyone is still talking about.
Longhorns running back Joe Bergeron scored what became the game-winning touchdown on a two-yard run with 29 seconds left in the game. The only problem is that it really didn’t look like Bergeron made it into the end-zone. Only the ball has to break the plain of the end-zone, so the player doesn’t even technically have to get into the end-zone for the play to be a touchdown. Even still, I don’t believe that Bergeron got into the end-zone before he fumbled the ball; the refs called it a touchdown, but Bergeron did appear to fumble the ball as he was trying to dive into the end-zone. Replays did show that there was a fumble, but there was no clear indication as to who recovered it. Longhorns win.
But not all ranked teams were able to dodge defeat. Ranked inside the top-ten at the time of their loss, the Stanford Cardinal went into Seattle for a road game against the Washington Huskies and were just smothered by the Huskies’ defense. To their credit, the Cardinal’s defense played just as well as they did in their upset of the USC Trojans. The problem was the offense had their own problems putting points on the board and a touchdown by the Huskies with under five minutes to play spelled the end to the Cardinal’s undefeated season and gave this week its top-ten upset.
Every week until the end of the season we have to be on the lookout for a major upset because they can happen at any time, and usually do these days.