Cincinnati: Budding Big East Bantam Bumps Beavers Brutally! The Bearcats benefitted immensely from OSU ineptitude at quarterback on and special teams, blocking punts and intercepting the two-headed mufflebuzz that is their quarterback. Brian Kelly may have installed the spread at Cincy, but that's not what should attract the eye from their defeat of Oregon State--what should is the line for OSU's beastly running back Yvenson Bernard, a measly 16 carries for 30 yards. Cincinnati in two games has displayed something the glamboy frontrunners in the Big East haven't: a defense. Show a knife in act one, someone's getting stabbed in act three--just like Rutgers did last year against the Bearcats.
They're entering a three game span featuring Miami of Ohio, Marshall, and San Diego State. They should be 5-0 going into their game with Rutgers, and should make the Scarlet Knights do something they won't have to do until that game: do something other than bludgeon people to bits with Ray Rice.
LSU The horrifying thing about their mangling of Virginia Tech was their offensive performance: balanced to the point of obscenity (301/297 passing/rushing,) productive, consistent, and so multiform it could have been designed by an IKEA engineer.
(Look! It's a table! It's a desk! It's a hedge trimmer! It fits in 435 square feet!)
The only guy who'll have actual game knowledge of Crowton's offense, Urban Meyer, has bupkis in the way of personnel to carry off the trick of stopping it this year from all current indications. Werewolf with a chainsaw for a dick--that's our summation until proven wrong.
USC Buy now--when they beat Nebraska at home (embedded predictions! Free with werewolf with dick references!) their stock will bounce back to the top of the blue chip honor roll following a week of luster loss due to LSU's high-profile devouring of the Hokies. (We mean on NU's homefield. In Lincoln. In Nebraska.)
South Carolina An ugly, ugly win by South Carolina; like Brian Billick in the NFL, Spurrier seems to have jettisoned any pretense of bringing back the Fun 'N Gun for a 21st century renaissance in favor of bloody, minimalist defensive ball backed by an offense reliant on keeping the ball out of Blake Mitchell's hands and the gameplan out of his brain. The shocking and comforting thing for Cocks fans coming out of the game on Saturday was the performance of the offensive line, who pushed Georgia around like sleds during the fourth quarter and allowed the real backbone of the attack, running backs Davis and Boyd, to bow up and secure the win. One point, thirty points--it's a win, and it's the kind of win fate bent the other way for the Gamecocks in 2006.
Oklahoma: Obviously. Miami's offense had to pull out every stop to score seven Saturday (the field goals were gifts off turnovers), which was predictable, but I had counted on Miami's defense giving hell to a redshirt freshman quarterback. Sam Bradford could have been about half as effective as he was – say, 125 yards, two touchdowns – and it still would have been considered a nice, mistake-free start for him under the circumstances. He completely shredded the 'Canes instead, and I can't really think of anything bad to say about this team. Other than peaking too early, I can only think of one possible caveat: Bradford's fed on a lot of short, really easy stuff the first couple weeks, and Miami's secondary really didn't play much better than North Texas' a lot of the time as far as being in position or taking the right angles to the ball. I would expect defenses at some point to start walking up on the receivers and challenging Bradford to beat them downfield.
Texas: UT was a firm 'sell' at halftime, but with their backs getting dangerously close to the wall, the Longhorns might have turned their season around with a dominant second half. They outscored a legitimately tough TCU team 34-3 in two quarters, and the momentum might be all downhill from there.
Arizona State: Any pick from the Pac Ten is inherently volatile because there is no mercy or consistency in that conference, but ASU responded from a 14-0 hole Saturday by obliterating Colorado with 33 unanswered points and has a well-suited schedule for a little run through October: the next five games are San Diego State, Oregon State, at Stanford, at Washington State and Washington. It's four straight ranked teams (Cal, Oregon, UCLA and USC) after that, but the Devils are dangerous on offense and could be 8-0 going into that stretch.
He's back, baby! Flyin' right intoooo the DAIN-JAH ZOOOONE!
Rutgers: I was pretty high on Rutgers coming into the season - the Kinghts can run the ball, they can stop the run, they can rush the passer - so they had very few questions to answer from where I'm sitting. The big one was quarterback, because they can't keep grinding through close games just hoping Mike Teel doesn't screw something up. So against Buffalo and Navy, it could have been two weeks of a low-risk Ray Rice Show. But even as Rice has earned his yards, Teel's been almost perfect: 30-42 for 594 yards, 5 touchdowns, no picks - almost 20 yards per completion and 14 per attempt, if you're doing the math. Tiquan Underwood and Kenny Britt look like legit receivers, which Teel did not have last year until Britt came on at the very end. This is a much more balanced offense and very much a Big East contender.
Auburn: Brandon Cox could practically be heard screaming "RETREEEEAAAT" and "NOT IN THE FACE" during several throws against USF's defense Saturday night. We'd kill to have the video of this, but Cox actually made several throws with this head and eyes looking at his cleats--not checkdowns, mind you, but full blown throws into coverage. The possibly-game-killing pick, though? Never fear, Auburn fans. He made that one with his eyes open and his head held high, doing just what he did when he wasn't looking at his shoes: allowing the defense to see precisely who he was going to throw at that play.
(Cuddles Swindle theorizes he is Daniel Cobb with a forged birth certificate. Anything is possible through Bobby Lowder.)
Auburn, for the moment, is Virginia Tech with a running game. Arkansas and their blitz-freaky defense, coming up this weekend, surely took notes. Or perhaps more to Houston Nutt's liking, they texted back and forth about it frequently.
Ed. Incorrect! A pair of patsies (Miss. State, New Mexico State) sit between them and Florida before Arkansas. But they're all taking notes, we're sure. Hopefully, Florida's and Arkansas' will actually matter.--ed.)
Ohio State: Five turnovers against Akron, dull play from Todd Boeckman, and a blown assignment allowing a safety...this year screams of interregnum in the Big Ten, liberating the rest from Michigan/OSU domination. Though Tressel plays just well enough without a quarterback, or even an entire offense, really, Ohio State's neck hairs should be at full attention with fear thanks to a cross-continental trip to Washington, where they'll play the scariest thing a Big Ten defense can face, evidently: a budding spread offense with a mobile quarterback on their home field.
Nebraska: Much as with Auburn, the erratic play of the qb puts the 'Huskers on the sell block for the week, with Sam Keller throwing for only 2 tds to 3 ints on the year thus far. The learning curve with the West Coast offense remains notoriously steep, something Callahan's cagily hidden by running the hide off the ball, but Keller's third start in the system ideally would have come against someone a bit easier than the USC Trojans. Like the Atlanta Falcons, for example? Yes, that would have been pleasant.
Oregon State: A dark horse goes pale in the light of a foul loss to Cincy and a dismal struggle to the bottom for their qbs. Even the certified run game of Yvenson Bernard is stuttering at this point, and Sammie Stroughter, though back, fumbled a kick return and looked completely out of sync. A disjointed team at this point who needs to sit on the shelf until they figure out their supply chain for yardage and touchdowns.
Hawaii: I don't know if Hawaii gains some kind of strength from the gods in Aloha Stadium or what, but they're not the same team on the mainland. Louisiana Tech was the worst defense in the country last year, without qualification, exception or debate, and needing overtime to win there is a decidedly mediocre, un-ranked sort of thing to do. Colt Brennan had 548 yards, but he threw it 61 times to get there. The defense is going to get this team beat.
Orson notes: If you didn't see the mediocrity in person, check out the summary below. We'd also like to note that Louisiana Tech under Derek Dooley is rapidly improving.
Texas A&M: I held back unloading on A&M after it gave up 400-plus to Montana State in the opener, but letting Fresno State up off the ground to come back from 19 points down in the second half is Strike Two, and I'm not waiting around for the kibosh. Fresno should have won this game in the first overtime: after holding the Aggies to a field goal, FSU completed a pass inside the five that could have been the winning touchdown, or set up the winning touchdown at the one or two, but the receiver fumbled trying to stretch the ball over the goalline. Pure luck for A&M, which still kept the game alive by roughing the passer, anyway. The offense remains very one-dimensional, and I have no confidence in the D.
Miami: If neither Freeman nor Wright is going to deliver at quarterback, I expected at minimum the defense would be strong with all the athletes and continuity back on that side. There's no excuse for some of the throws UM's secondary allowed to torch it against Oklahoma, especially against a redshirt freshman quarterback, no matter how sharp. Make the tackle at six or eight yards, at least. The defense would have to be almost perfect to keep a game like that in reach, though, so until there is some semblance of danger on the offense, Miami is out of the picture.
Virginia Tech: Again, we knew about the offense already. So if the Hokies can't play defense, either, there is no hope. Six-hundred yards? The level of the competition doesn't excuse that.
Florida: The 28 point second half and offensive lapses make parts of our brain go EEK! in most unpleasant ways. Andre Caldwell's out with an MCL, punt return phantom Brandon James is hurting, and as has been the case all year, the defense is a young, dazzlingly talented collection of individuals who together make a spotty, average whole. We had a nightmare last night that the Tennessee game ended with Tebow backed into our own endzone and throwing a pick under pressure from mean men in orange. Seriously, we did. This week and good health do not go hand in hand.
Louisville: Mmmm. Cotton candy defense meets hungry hyperactive kid this week as they take on Kentucky and Andre Woodson. If you had concerns about the defense after watching MTSU last week, just wait until the surgical Woodson and the Wildcats go fishing against the Cardinals. The over may be closed at the betting window before the week is over, if Gamblor has any sanity at all.
Michigan: They should smack the freckles off the Leprechaun this week out of anger and sheer physical superiority. Yet a team so thoroughly defeated cannot be overestimated--for an investor, this is the equivalent of buying stock in the American auto industry right now. Hey, it couldn't get any worse than horrible, right? Unless it gets fucking horrible, that is. Flee!
Washington I said last week I'd bit if the Huskies came out of the for-game stretch starting with Boise State at 2-3. So I lied: I like Jake Locker and I like this team just fine, but not enough to jump on the bandwagon with Ohio State, UCLA and Southern Cal immediately in front of it.
Nebraska Significant regression at Wake Forest. Part of my distaste for the Huskers' game Saturday may reflect my very low opinion of Wake, but the Deacons' running game covers the entire field and in some cases Nebraska was just outrun; it probably doesn't win if the freshman quarterback on the other side doesn't trump Sam Keller's bonehead interception with a bonehead pick of his own into double coverage with a chance to tie. That is a problem with USC coming in, though I do expect being at home for a big game will be worth an adrenaline point or two. Are they awarding points for adrenaline yet?
Michigan State Held off Bowling Green. Simmering until the inevitable collapse at some point over the next month. At the point the Spartans really start to look like a 'buy,' unload them. Fast.
Louisville Thursday night was the Cardinals' worst defensive game in years, and I'm willing to count it as a mulligan because a) it was such an extreme aberration (550 yards, 42 points and no sacks against Middle Tennessee State?) and b) the UL defense significantly improved at halftime, giving up just one touchdown in the second half. Still, the Cards suddenly look they could fall any time, even if I probably have less faith in Kentucky's defense this Saturday. Brian Brohm is a reliable trump.