(1) With respect to the Georgia-South Carolina game, there is more on the line Saturday in the nation’s other huge game – West Virginia-Texas.
This contest isn’t about a division race. It’s not about the right to face Alabama in a conference championship game.
The battle in Austin is about taking the top spot in the Big 12 – and becoming the conference’s team to knock out of the BCS Championship race. Saturday night in Austin is about Heisman Trophy-winning moments.
It’s about an underachieving Longhorns defense trying to stop West Virginia QB Geno Smith. It’s about an embarrassed WVU defense looking for respect against Texas QB David Ash – the biggest rising star in the league, if not the nation.
Win and step directly into the national spotlight – whether in New York City or in Tempe or Miami.
(2) What looked like a four-team race to start the Big 12 season has since probably broken down into a three-team race with Oklahoma “pulling an Oklahoma.” For those who are unaware, we took this from collegefootballdictionary.com:
Oklahoma (noun): To start the season ranked too high for no apparent reason and stay there despite early-season warning signs (see: UTEP) before losing a game it has no business losing and slumping on its way to another 9-3 season. “Man, USC really pulled an Oklahoma this year by losing to Stanford.”
Alright, there’s no collegefootballdictionary.com. (Dibs.) But the Sooners have an uphill battle to fight after dropping a home game to No. 7 Kansas State in the Big 12 opener. Oklahoma’s game in Lubbock against the Red Raiders is no gimme either.
The conference’s attention is focused on Austin this weekend, though, for the battle between No. 11 Texas and No. 8 West Virginia. Both teams enter battle-tested.
The Longhorns survived a scare – with a little help from QB David Ash and a little more help from a horrendous officiating call at the goal-line – from Oklahoma State.
West Virginia, meanwhile, had to rely on quick-draw Smith to survive its shootout against then-No. 25 Baylor last weekend in Morgantown. Smith’s spectacular effort – more TD passes (eight) than incompletions (six) in a 656-yard performance – leaves him in prime position as the Heisman Trophy frontrunner.
(3) Ask Michigan QB Denard Robinson, though: College football’s most prestigious award isn’t handed out in September. Otherwise Robinson would be a three-time winner. More on him if Michigan becomes relevant at some point this season – which it can assure it won’t be if it loses at Purdue this week. (FEDC Upset Special.)
Back to this week’s Texas-WVU game. ESPN’s College GameDay might be headed to Columbia, S.C. for a battle of top-6 teams in Georgia-South Carolina, but the game in Austin might have more long-term meaning. Forget a division. A conference title and the Heisman Trophy might be on the line right in front of Bevo and 111,000 fans.
QB David Ash has overcome last year’s growing pains. He has also been promoted out of his initial “game-manager” role and moved into the category of “lead.” Texas wants to pound the ball with RBs Joe Bergeron and Jonathan Gray, but it isn’t afraid to throw the ball and win the game that way. Brown is out this week, but Texas is in a class with Alabama, LSU and Oregon in terms of RB depth. With the performance of the Longhorns defense this year, scoring a lot of points would not be a bad idea.
Speaking of no defense: West Virginia scored 70 points this week and had to hold on for a win over Baylor. This team has little interest in playing defense – simply getting Smith and the offense back on the field. Smith does have a pair of outstanding weapons in WRs Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. He just doesn’t expect much out of his defense.
(4) That isn’t the case in Columbia, S.C., where the SEC’s two most dynamic defensive players will face off.
South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney is a 6-foot-7 athletic freak show. He terrorizes quarterbacks in their nightmares and finishes them on Saturdays. He is agile, versatile and physically imposing enough to be a tight end – or a one-man secret service. Clowney must be one of the most impossible players to gameplan against, leaving Georgia OC Mike Bobo with plenty to think about in the hours leading up to kickoff.
On the other side, Georgia LB Jarvis Jones already showed against Missouri that he can dominate a game. He didn’t have an especially impressive performance against Tennessee, but his ability makes him a real threat to the opposing offense – especially the tackles.
Most of the attention will go to QBs Connor Shaw and Aaron Murray or RB Marcus Lattimore and Georgia’s excellent duo of RBs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. The defensive players, though, could dictate the winner.
(5) Staying in the SEC, the LSU-Florida game seems a real test to the Tigers’ apparent disinterest in the 2012 football season. LSU has played with its last two opponents – Auburn and Towson – like a cat pawing at a mouse. You know. If the mouse had no legs.
The truth might be, though, that LSU’s offensive line (without T Chris Faulk) can’t protect QB Zach Mettenberger. Florida can certainly exploit that or any other weakness from an offense.
If the Tigers can’t establish the run game – likely without RB Alfred Blue – it could be a tough order to take down the Gators in the Swamp.
Gators QB Jeff Driskel has grown up since the Bowling Green debacle to open the season. A win here means he has arrived.
(6) Nobody is “arriving” at the Auburn-Arkansas game.
The Razorbacks do have a chance to make a program as miserable as them, and maybe that’s finally something to play for.
An Auburn loss would make it very improbable for the Tigers to make a bowl game. John L. Smith continuing to coach Arkansas makes it very improbable for the Razorbacks to win a game.
The SEC’s two biggest dumpster fires meet in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.
(7) In another top-25 battle, look for Oregon to run all over Washington on Saturday night.
The Ducks are No. 2 in the nation, but there are probably not enough people taking them seriously – and won’t until/unless they beat an SEC team.
Of course, Alabama coach Nick Saban weighed in this week about offenses like the one Oregon runs. Saban thinks it presents a player safety issue to run a high-speed offense because coaches can’t substitute defensive players.
As is usually the case with Saban, he probably is ahead of the curve on something football personnel will examine at a later date. That’s one part. The other part is Saban sees the high-speed offense as what it is – a competitive advantage for the team dictating the tempo. Saban doesn’t like to be at a competitive disadvantage at any time. It’s easy to see why this offense doesn’t sit well with him.
(8) It’s hard to imagine a “marquee” Big 10 game getting as little attention as the Nebraska-Ohio State contest has drawn. Of course, part of the problem is that Urban Meyer’s team is ineligible for postseason play. Nebraska is one of the few tough games remaining on the Buckeyes’ schedule.
We’ve already discussed Purdue, which has the defense to give Robinson issues and has looked like it is among the best teams in the league. Look for the Boilermakers to give Michigan fits on Saturday.
(9) Start keeping an eye out for Northwestern and do-everything offensive star Kain Colter, who led the team in rushing and receiving last year. Colter was supposed to be QB1 to start the year, but lost the job during the Syracuse game. Now Pat Fitzgerald moved him back to his more natural RB/WR/Wildcat/anything else role. Colter and the Wildcats take on Penn State in Happy Valley on Saturday.
(10) If you’re excited about this weekend, then start rooting for programs to do what Ohio State has promised. The Buckeyes have decided they will beef up their future schedules in hopes of impressing whatever selection committee determines who makes the four-team playoff.
Ohio State backed up its talk by scheduling a home-and-home with TCU.
Imagine a day – the glorious day – when the best teams in the nation play at least two-three high-caliber non-conference games.
As long as a committee rewards teams for taking risks – instead of penalizing them – that is the future you are watching unfold.
– Luke Alexander
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