This past Saturday was one of those wonderful, wacky, wild Saturdays that make you love college football and makes you wanting more. One of the biggest stories is the rise of the Mid-Majors (not a widely used nomenclature, but it is what I use to describe teams outside the Power 5 of SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12). In this case, three are from the AAC (fka the Big East), Memphis, Temple, and Houston, plus Toledo from the MAC. Just for kicks, let's rank 'em:
For weeks, I have been telling you about the Tigers head coach Justin Fuente and how he will be a hot commodity after the season. Recently, he appeared to be the most likely candidate to replace Steve Spurrier at South Carolina. However, the Gamecocks may not be able to afford him now. Another name to know out of Memphis is quarterback Paxton Lynch. As an unremarkable 2-star out of central Florida, he had two offers: Memphis and Florida A&M. After a redshirt year, he has started 30 games over two and a half seasons. Last year was a break-out year as he compiled 3,031 yards, 22 TDs and 9 INT. This season, he has 13 TDs to only one interception with a 71.4% completion rate. At 6-7/245, he is unusually tall for a quarterback but it has not scared off NFL scouts.
GOOD: The Tigers 37-24 upset of Ole Miss has put them on the front page of every sports page across the nation. Also, the aforementioned Paxton Lynch.
BAD: They have had some tight games including a 3-point win over Bowling Green and touchdown wins over Cincinnati and USF. Twice they have given up 41 or more.
CLINCHER: A three game November stretch hosting Navy and visiting Houston and Temple.
GOOD: The Owls kicked off the season with a 27-10 throttling of Penn State. It is a good high-profile win but the Nittany Lions are not a good team despite the cupcakes they have beaten up on to get to 5-2. Temple is ranked for first time in 36 years. Jahad Thomas is 13th in the nation in rushing.
BAD: Having to kick a 25-yard field goal with seven seconds left to beat UMass 25-23 does not help their cause.
CLINCHER: A win over visiting Notre Dame on Halloween would scare up some believers. A face-off with Memphis on Nov 21 will further clear up the situation.
GOOD: Wins at Arkansas and at home against Iowa State are nice but it's not like those opponents are among the elite.
BAD: God bless former Bama QB Phillip Ely. We are really rooting for the kid but he is very mediocre. He is 49th in the nation in QB rating at 43.9.
CLINCHER: Unfortunately for the Rockets, the rest of the MAC is not so great. Even if they run the table, it's not likely they get into the six big New Year's bowl games (NY6), unless there is a whole lost of losing up top of P5. Hawaii ruined that for every other Mid-Major.
GOOD: The Cougars have not really played anyone other than the reeling Louisville Cardinals who they beat by three.
BAD: The rest of the schedule would make Urban Meyer blush.
CLINCHER: Hosting Vandy Oct 31, followed by a home date with Memphis Nov 14. Winner gets Temple.
* The firstCommittee rankings will be released on November 3, 2015.
Memphis 37 Ole Miss 24
Up 14-7 early in the second quarter at the Memphis 10 yard line, Hugh Freeze, maybe feeling a little cocky, thought it wise to put his best defender in at running back. Robert Nkemdiche was dropped like a 300-pound bag of wet cement and left the game with a concussion. Rather than kick a field goal, the ball would go over to Memphis on downs on the next play and momentum swung to the Tigers' side. Without Nkemdiche's defensive rush, Paxton Lynch was free to stand in the pocket and pick the Rebels defense apart, scoring 24 unanswered. A real #WAOM moment. It will be interesting to see how this effects recruiting in the Memphis area.
Playoffs? This is a dagger to the heart of Ole Miss' chances. Bama needs the Rebs to lose one more SEC game.
Michigan State 27 Michigan 23
The Spartans did not lead this game for 59 minutes and 59.9 seconds but managed to pull out a miracle. By all rights, the Wolverines had this game won. All they had to do was get a punt off with ten seconds to play. MSU put eleven men on the line so any sort of kick would've rolled until the whistle blew. UM's Blake O'Neill bobbled a low snap and instead of falling at the 40, he tried to do some kind of backwards acrobatic boot that landed in the arms of a Spartan defender who raced to the end zone as the clock hit zeroes. Connor Cook had 328 yards for Sparty but only completed 18 of 39. UM had 62 yards rushing, MSU had 58. Big Ten Football, y'all.
Playoffs? For most of this game, Michigan looked like the playoff team. There would have to be all kinds of chaos for them to get in now. MSU probably has to run the table to get in. The way they won on Saturday may bug the committee a little. It is doubtful a one-loss Spartans team gets in ahead of, say, a one-loss Alabama team.
Alabama 41 Texas A&M 23
"Old man football" is back! The Crimson Tide defense harassed Kyle Allen into six sacks and four interceptions - three of which were returned for scores. Derrick Henry was a workhorse carving up the Aggies defense for 236 yards on 32 carries, scoring twice - his 12th straight game with a touchdown. TAMU was held to 32 rushing yards.
Playoffs? For Bama, it's just keep winning, baby!
SIDE BAR: Bama was flagged seven times to the Aggies one (false start). One Bama flag was unsportsmanlike conduct for what is assumed was excessive celebration on Eddie Jackson's pick-6. If you can spot the foul, I'd love to hear what it was. Whatever it was, I have seen MUCH worse this season including a little rehearsed jazz hands thing UGA players were doing for awhile. In addition, the refs picked up a flag on a phantom pass interference penalty on Geno Matias-Smith that they correctly deemed uncatchable. They also inexplicably picked up a flag on an Aggie penalty that was CLEARLY a Bama punt coverage player blocked in the back.
SIDE BAR II: Despite losing, TAMU must have LOVED this broadcast because it seemed every single time CBS went to a crowd shot they sought out attractive coeds.
Stanford 56 UCLA 35
Christian McCaffrey ran wild racking up 243 yards and four TDs on UCLA. The Cardinal (5-1) have now beaten the Bruins eight straight times and making Jim Mora Jr. winless in five tries against Stanford.
LOOKING A BIT SCARY
LSU 35 Florida 28
The big question was how would the Gators do without Will Grier? Treon Harris answered with pretty good but not good enough. A fake field goal by LSU was the difference. Leonard Fournette was "held" to 180 yards, but the real miracle was that a Tigers receiver went over the 100-yard mark. Malachi Dupre caught four balls for 115 and two TDs. Travin Dural added 65 receiving yards to eke Brandon Harris over 200 yards passing (202) for the second straight game (228 vs. South Carolina). He has yet to throw and INT.
Auburn 30 Kentucky 27 - A hard fought neck-in-neck battle that could've gone either way. Yes, this is your life now, Aubie. UK's Patrick Towles passed for 359. AU's Sean White goes the distance. Jeremy Johnson looks into transfer options.
Mississippi State 45 Louisiana Tech 20 - Dak Prescott throws for 347 and three scores. He also adss a TD on the ground.
Georgia 9 Missouri 6 - You might look at this score and think "defensive battle". Well... kinda, sorta, not really. Actually it was more a game of two dreadful offenses that could only manage field goals. Greyson Lambert and Drew Lock duked it out to see who was more lethargic. Sony Michel (26 carries, 87 yards, 0 scores) is a fine athlete but is no feature back.
South Carolina 19 Vanderbilt 10 - Interim SC coach Shawn Elliott was doused with Gatorade as he celebrated with players and fans alike. It was quite a scene of jubilation and enthusiasm. I hope he enjoyed it because he has four more losses coming his way: @ Texas A&M , @ Tennessee , vs Florida , vs Citadel , vs Clemson.
Ohio State 38 Penn State 10 - Even this late in the season, Urban Meyer is rotating QBs. If the fans had their way, J.T. Barrett would get the nod over erratic Cardale Jones. Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott both rush for over 100 yards. PSU's Christian Hackenberg is the game's leading passer with 120 yards. Big Ten Football, y'all.
Utah 34 Arizona State 18 - Stock up on Dramadine. Utah is now everyone's darling. Only Southern Cal (10/24), Arizona (11/14) and UCLA (11/21) stand in their way.
Utah State 52 Boise State 26 - It's amazing how Boise keeps getting the benefit of doubt every year. They were ranked #21 coming into this game. (See "Stat of the Day" below)
Florida State 41 Louisville 21 Everett Golson passed for 372 and three touchdowns but it is Dalvin Cook (22-163, 2 TD; 60 yds rec) who is carrying this team.
Notre Dame 41 Southern Cal 31 - The Irish build a 24-10 lead only to allow the Trojans to take a touchdown lead. 17 unanswered in the fourth seals the win.
Iowa 40 Northwestern 10 - We resisted talking about Northwestern but now we are stuck with Iowa. They have a weak schedule that likely gets them to 12-0 with the honor of getting crushed by Ohio State in the B1G Champ Game.
Oklahoma 55 Kansas State 0 - Bob Stoops is still working out the details to the newest insertion into the lexicon of CFB. "Soonering" is replacing "Clemsoning" (for now). The first part of the definition is "to lose a game to a bad team once you really get some national attention." The newest addendum is "following up that loss with a big show-off win against a mediocre team like that makes everything better or something".
Baylor 62 West Virginia 38 and TCU 45 Iowa State 21 – The class of the Big 12 continue to put up points and Ws but also gives up a lot scoring to their opponents. Baylor is allowing 24.8 per game (58th) and TCU yields 26.6 (69th) and neither has yet to play either Oklahoma school or each other.
BYU 38 Cincinnati 24 - This one is included because it is always fun to report a Tommy Tuberville loss.
Rutgers 55 Indiana 52 - Stop me if you heard this one before: A Big Ten team sporting scarlet and silver travels to Bloomington and has a mighty fight against the Hoosiers eventually eking it out in the end. Sound familiar, top ranked team in the country?
Nomnomnom (Photo by CB969 - RBR Sports)
Clemson 34 Boston College 17 - Deshaun Watson passed for three touchdowns and a season-best 420 yards but also had two picks. Come on! Play FSU already!
BAMA STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
Wisconsin (5-2) smacked Purdue around 24-7.
Middle Tennessee (3-4) beat FIU 42-34.
Louisiana Monroe (1-5) lost to Appy State 59-14.
Charleston Southern (5-1) won at Presbyterian 10-7.
Georgia (5-2) snapped a two-game losing streak.
All non-Power 5 teams (Notre Dame is still alive, but just barely).
MICHIGAN - not completely eliminated but an extreme longshot.
The more it clears up, the cloudier it gets. Ole Miss, Michigan and UCLA bite the dust.
Below is a theorized breakdown of teams that could make it into the playoff:
- ACC (0 or 1) - Clemson or FSU or none. Weak conference, no superpower.
- Big Ten (1 or 2) - We are back to the Nov. 21 Ohio State-Michigan State showdown deciding the B1G East. Iowa (7-0) has a big lead in the West but do not face either Michigan school or anOSU.
- Big 12 (0 or 1) - TCU, Baylor, Okie State. Oklahoma is treading water. November will be Big 12 Chaos Month.
- PAC-12 (1 or 2) - Utah, Stanford (5-1). So Cal and UCLA are done. What if Stanford loses to Notre Dame but beats Utah in the Pac 12 Champ Game?
- SEC (1 or 2) - LSU is in the driver's seat. Alabama, Texas A&M, and Florida probably cannot afford another loss. Ole Miss is finished.
- Notre Dame (6-1) - The Irish must run the table to get back in the discussion. The next two games, @Temple and @Pitt, are no gimmes.
Krazy Kristi's "SHUT UP!" of the Week goes to Hugh Freeze and all his dirty dealings. Also, KK is happy to not have to hear about Jim Harbaugh any more ... for the next couple of weeks anyway.
- After Saturday's game, Nick Saban reported that center Ryan Kelly was "a little woozy" but should be fine. Kenyan Drake sustained a thigh bruise but should be good to go. No other Alabama injuries to report! Roll Tide!
- Notre Dame has lost yet another starter for the season as left guard Alex Bars suffered a broken ankle against So Cal on Saturday night.
- Michigan State hero Jalen Watts-Jackson, who scored what is already the most famous touchdown in Spartans history, underwent surgery Sunday morning after suffering a fractured hip upon landing in the end zone. It didn't help that celebrating teammates piled on him in celebration as he riled in pain.
- So Cal AD Pat Haden felt light-headed and dropped to a knee on the sideline during the Notre Dame game. He was checked out at a local hospital and flew home early on a private plane.
- South Alabama (3-3) lost to Arkansas State 49-31 on a rare Tuesday night game. The Jags are getting dangerously close to missing out on a bowl game. But it gets better. The next several games are very winnable: @ Texas St (1-4), Idaho (2-4), ULL (2-3), @ Ga State (2-4).
- Toledo (6-0) took care of E Michigan 63-20. QB Phillip Ely had a good outing completing 18 of 27 for 327 yards and four touchdowns passes and 0 picks.
- If you are a regular reader of RBR, Memphis' win over Ole Miss should not have been that much of a surprise. We knew about these guys long before anyone else did! But November brings the Tigers (6-0) three straight challenges: vs Navy, @ Houston, @ Temple.
STAT OF THE DAY
8-1: Boise committed EIGHT turnovers. Utah State had one fumble. The Smurfs had two fumbles and an interception in the final 85 seconds of the first half that the Aggies converted into 21 points. Five fumbles lost and three interceptions thrown doomed the Blue Man Group.
LET'S GO BOWLING!
19 Teams are bowl eligible including Alabama, Florida, and LSU. UCF (0-7) is the sole eliminated.
With the exception of one year, the Heisman Trophy voting is basically a hype award. That being the case, we'll bring you "Who Will Win" and "Who Should Win".
- Who Will Win - Leonard Fournette is still the leader. As expected, the Trevone Boykin hype machine is running wide open. I just wish he'd play a team that can play a little D.
- Who Should Win - Fournette and FSU's Dalvin Cook are carrying their teams.
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Temple at East Carolina 6pm/7pm, ESPN2 - If you haven't seen the Owls this year, here is a chance to check them out.
Friday, October 23, 2015
Memphis at Tulsa 6pm/7pm, ESPN - Potential trap? Probably not. But maybe?
Saturday, October 24, 2015
Auburn at Arkansas 11am/12pm, SECN - The Disappointment Bowl!
Missouri at Vanderbilt 3pm/4pm, SECN- Vandy improving, Mizzou imploding.
Texas A&M at Ole Miss 6pm/7pm, ESPN - Two desperate teams. [Root for TAMU]
WKU at LSU 6pm/7pm, ESPNU - More easy street for LSU.
Kentucky at Mississippi State 6:30pm/7:30pm, SECN- Bullies are starting to play better.
* Georgia and Florida have an open date before the Cocktail Party in Jacksonville. South Carolina is also off before they begin their slow death march.
NATIONAL GAMES OF INTEREST (slim pickings):
Iowa State at Baylor 11am/12pm, ESPN – This is gonna be a blood bath.
Clemson at Miami (FL) 11am/12pm, ABC– Can the 'Canes show some fight?
Indiana at Michigan State 2:30pm/3:30pm, ESPN2 or ABC – Letdown for Sparty?
Texas Tech at Oklahoma 2:30pm/3:30pm, , ESPN2 or ABC – Tech is a surprising 5-2.
Kansas at Oklahoma State 2:30pm/3:30pm, FOXS1– If there are commercials every where else...
Florida State at Georgia Tech 6pm/7pm, ESPN2 – FSU should roll.
Utah at Southern Cal 6:30pm/7:30pm, FOX – Can So Cal play spoiler?
Ohio State at Rutgers 7pm/8pm, ABC – Yeah, you don't want to watch this mess.
Washington at Stanford 9:30pm/10:30pm, ESPN
Tennessee at ALABAMA at 2:30pm/3:30pm, CBS - Oh goodie. Unka Verne and Gary D again with Allie LaForceFeed.