College Football Weekly Update


This week, I’ll discuss all of the close games that the top teams played in and try to figure out what these games mean for the teams involved. I’ll also take a look at the unbeaten Iowa Hawkeyes. There’s a new Heisman front-runner here at HTD and he plays for the new #1 team. I’ll also examine the biggest games and potential upsets of the upcoming weekend.

The Gators Are Vulnerable

The top ranked Florida Gators got all they could handle from the Arkansas Razorrbacks and benefitted from some more than questionable calls to win 23-20.

The Florida offense and defense looked very vulnerable. Florida may not have needed any favorable calls or last-second kicks had they not fumbled the ball four times, but Arkansas played well. They put a lot of pressure on Tebow and managed to make some big plays on offense even though Ryan Mallett was having an awful game and missed at least two wide open receivers on plays that would have resulted in touchdowns. Arkansas Kicker Alex Tejada also missed two field goals in the Hogs’ three-point loss.

In other words, the Gators were incredibly lucky to get out of the game with a win on Saturday.

This is the third game in which Florida struggled on offense. They had trouble putting points on the board against both Tennessee and LSU. I guess Percy Harvin (and to a lesser extent Louis Murphy) were more important to the Gators than anyone imagined.

Luckily for the Gators, outside of a road trip to Columbia to face the Ole Ball Coach’s Gamecocks, the schedule seems pretty easy so the SEC Championship showdown with the 2nd ranked Crimson Tide should still be on. Florida has a lot to work on between now and then and if they don’t, we won’t see the same result that we saw in that game last season.

Notre Dame Saves Themselves From Another Embarrassment, But USC Still Wins

Southern Cal built a 34-14 lead on Notre Dame and it looked like the game would have the same result, a USC blowout win, as it has had in each of the last four seasons.

Not this time.

Jimmy Clausen led his team on two fourth quarter touchdown drives, capping the first with a 2 yard TD run and the second with a 15 yard pass to Golden Tate, to cut the Trojan lead to seven with 7:28 to go.
Clausen, aided by several dumb USC penalties, guided his team back down the field for one last shot to tie the game.

The Irish could have made themselves legitimate once again in the college football world and Clausen could have become one of the Heisman front-runners, but he threw three straight incompletions to end the game and give Southern Cal their eighth straight win over the arch rival.

"“If you would have told me before the game, hey you can have the ball on the 5-yard line with a chance to tie it or win; I probably would have taken that. I’m really disappointed for those guys in there because they’re fighters,” he said."

They had their chance to tie the game, but they couldn’t do it. And even though they played the Trojans tough, the Irish lost. To their arch rival. Again. Notre Dame has had a very easy schedule and yet they have lost two games and have had every other game come down to the wire. This team is better this season and Jimmy Clausen is a very good Quarterback, but the Irish still are nowhere near where they want to be.

USC, on the other hand, can get right back into the national title picture with losses by Iowa and Texas.

Iowa Just Keeps Winning

I keep doubting the Hawkeyes and they keep proving me wrong. The Hawkeyes need two blocked field goals to defeat Northern Iowa 17-16 and besides a blowout win over rival Iowa State, every game has been close and the largest margin of victory is their 11-point over Penn State.

I picked Wisconsin over Iowa as my upset special last week. And the Badgers almost made me look good. They took a 10-0 lead and led 10-3 at halftime.

The game was tied going into the fourth quarter but the Hawkeyes dominated the entire second half, shutting out the Badgers and winning 20-10.

The Hawkeyes are starting to remind me of the 2002 Buckeyes. Every week, Ohio State played up and down to their opponents and usually needed a big second half able in order to win. Iowa is doing the exact same thing. They are trying to run the football, play good defense and have their Quarterback do just enough to win. Well, it’s working.

Only the Florida Gators have a long winning streak then Iowa’s 11 straight wins.

It seems like Iowa overcomes a different problem every week. This week, the Hawkeyes couldn’t run, but they picked off three passes from Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien. Rick Stanzi was extremely efficient, going 17-of-23 or 218 yards and a touchdown with zero turnovers.

Iowa is the only team without a loss in the Big-10. They have just two more road games – they’re at Michigan State this week and they still have a huge battle with the Buckeyes in the Horsehoe on November 14. Provided, the Hawkeyes can avoid an upset before that, Kirk Ferentz and Iowa will play in the biggest game of Ferentz’ career.

Another Disappointment For Ohio State

Although many of the top teams survived their scares, several didn’t. The Ohio State Buckeyes had reeled off four consecutive victories since their heartbreaking loss in the Shoe against and seemed to be flying under the radar, which is obviously a much better place for the Buckeyes to be (see the 2006 and 2008 BCS National Championship games).

After taking 7-3 lead early in the first quarter, it all went downhill for the Bucks. Purdue scored the next 20 points and took a 23-7 lead into the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes attempted a comeback but were stopped on fourth down trailing 26-18 with under two minutes to play.

Ohio State struggled to get anything going on offense Saturday. They had just 287 total yards and only 64 yards rushing. Purdue had 361 yards.

Once again, Terrelle Pryor’s struggles were the story. His passing numbers seem okay. He was 17-of-31 of 221 yards and one TD, but then when you factor in Pryor’s four turnovers, you can see that he another awful game. Pryor also ran for just 34 yards on 21 carries. He was sacked five times. The second leading rusher was Brandon Saine with 32 yards on just seven carries.

"“Yeah, it hurts,” said Pryor, who threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles. “Right now, we’ve just got to be worried about the Big Ten because the national championship is gone.”"

Purdue entered the game with 1-5 record with their only win coming at home against Toledo.
This was just another in a long line of disappointing losses for the Buckeyes. They haven’t won a big game since the 2006 finale against Michigan and it turned out that neither one of those teams were as good as we thought they were when they played the game.

Where do the Buckeyes go from here?

What does Jim Tressel do to get a big win?

Talent doesn’t seem to be the issue – the Buckeyes have had more players drafted over the last 10 years than any other team in college football (70).

Ohio State needs a consistent Quarterback and I’m not sure Terrelle Pryor is the answer. Most critics were a little too quick to jump on the kid because he’s just a true sophomore, but he’s played a lot of football now and hasn’t shown very much improvement. You can argue that he is playing worse. He is completing 55.7% of his passes (he completed 60.2% last season) and is rushing and throwing for less yards per play then he did as freshman.

Is this Pryor’s fault? Or is it a result of poor coaching? Todd McShay said that he is considering Pryor as a Wildcat Quarterback and Wide Receiver rather than as a traditional Quarterback.

What is the answer to Ohio State’s problem? No one seems to agree, but one thing’s for sure – Jim Tressel better figure it out – and fast.

Performance of the Week

Mark Ingram, Running Back, Alabama

The sophomore running back had 24 carries for 246 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught two passes for 23 yards in Alabama’s 20-6 win over South Carolina. Ingram now has 905 yards on 135 carries with 8 TDs for the season. He also has 19 receptions for 186 yards and 3 TDs.

The Heisman Race

1.Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Last week: 24 carries, 246 yards, 1 TDs, 2 receptions, 23 yards in a 20-6 win over South Carolina
Season: 135 carries, 905 yards, 8 TDs, 19 receptions, 186 yards, 3 TDs

2.Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
Last week: 17-of-26 for 255 yards and a TD, 27 carries for 69 yards, 1 fumble in a 23-20 win over Arkansas
Season: 72-of-110 for 1032 yards, 8 TDs, 2 INTs, 99 carries for 378 yards, 5 TDs

3.Colt McCoy, QB, Texas
Last week: 21-of-39 for 127 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 14 carries for 33 yards in a 16-13 win over Oklahoma
Season: 156-of-223 for 1537 yards, 11 TDs, 7 INTs, 48 carries for 91 yards and 1 TD

4.Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
Last week: 24-of-43 for 260 yards, 2 TDs, 1 TD rushing in a 34-27 loss to USC
Season: 124-of-191 for 1804 yards, 14 TDs, 2 INTs, 1 TD rushing

5.Tony Pike, QB, Cincinnati
Last week: 12-of-25 for 140 yards and 2 TDs in a 34-17 win over USF.
Season: 128-of-199 for 1633 yards, 15 TDs, 3 INTs, 2 TDs rushing

Ingram is the first contender to really have a huge game so he moves into from 5th to first. Tony Pike may be dropped from contention if his wrist injury is severe.

My Top 25

5.Boise State
10.Georgia Tech
13.Oklahoma State
14.Penn State
15.Virginia Tech
16.Brigham Young
20.Ohio State
21.West Virginia
22.South Carolina
23.Texas Tech

Game of The Week

#8 TCU at #16 BYU
Saturday, October 24, 7:30 PM EST, Versus
The Line: TCU – 2.5

This is the game of the week by default. It is the only matchup involving two ranked teams and it is the best chance any team has at knocking off TCU.

Lavell Edwards Stadium is usually one of the toughest stadiums in the country to play in, but BYU has already lost a game there. After starting the season with a win over Oklahoma, BYU was blown out by 2-4 Florida State 54-28. Florida State does have a good offense, but no team should ever score 54 points in your stadium.

BYU has won four straight games since then and their offense seems to be clicking just as well as ever.

A healthy Harvey Unga has helped the Cougars become a much more balanced squad.

TCU has already gone on the road and defeated two ACC teams – Virginia (30-14) and Clemson (14-10). The Horned Frogs, as usual, are doing it with defense. Gary Patterson’s squad is giving up just 13.7 points per game.

BYU will score more than 14 points and I don’t think TCU will be able to gash the BYU offense like FSU did.

I’m taking BYU in a mild upset.

Other Big Games and Potential Upsets:

Florida State @ North Carolina – 3
Thursday, October 22, 8:00 PM EST, ESPN

This is a battle of complete opposites. Florida State has arguably the best offense in the ACC and the conference’s worst defense. North Carolina has the conference’s best defense while they have quite possibly its worst offense.

Both teams have been pretty disappointing. UNC got a couple of close wins against UConn and East Carolina and blew out cupcakes The Citadel and Georgia Southern, but they have lost both of their ACC games (24-7 @ Georgia Tech and 16-3 at Virginia). The Heels are averaging just 5 points per game and are giving up 20 ppg in the ACC. Florida State is just 2-4 and also is winless in the ACC, but they are averaging 33 ppg in the ACC. Unfortunately, the FSU defense has given up an astounding 38 ppg in ACC play.

Something’s got to give. FSU has made every QB they’ve faced look like an All-American and that includes BC QB Dave Shinske (who had one completion against Virginia Tech), but I think Yates will make some mistakes and FSU will actually be able to get a couple of stops. Yates has more interceptions (7) than touchdowns (6) this season. FSU is not going to score as easily as they did against Miami and Georgia Tech, but I’m going to say that Christian Ponder has another huge game and the Seminoles win the turnover battle to pull off the upset.

South Florida @ #17 Pittsburgh – 7
Noon EST, ESPN 360

South Florida suffered its first loss of the season Thursday night against Cincinnati while Pittsburgh got a huge Big East win over Rutgers. I think USF will have do a much better job against the run then Rutgers did, but BJ Daniels will have to limit his mistakes to win this game.

#11 Oregon @ Washington +7.5
3:30 PM EST, ESPN 360

This game seemed a lot more intriguing before Oregon started playing well and Washington was fresh off of a win over USC.

Clemson @ #9 Miami – 6.5
3:30 PM EST, ABC

This is a very interesting game. Clemson did not look at all over their first five games starting the season 2-3, including embarrassing losses to TCU and Wake Forest, but then Clemson put on their best performance of the season, beating Wake Forest 38-3. Miami QB Jacory Harris was sacked six times against UCF so Clemson’s uber-talented Defensive Ends need to be able to generate a consistent pass rush. Harris has not played that well under pressure, so if the Tigers can rush him, they can stay in the game. Clemson QB Kyle Parker has struggled so Clemson will need several big plays from burners CJ Spiller and Jacoby Ford is they hope to win.

#14 Penn State @ Michigan +4.5
3:30 PM EST

If Penn State still has any hopes of winning the Big 10, they have to win this game, beat Ohio State and hope the Buckeyes and another team knock off Iowa. Michigan, on the other hand is 0-2 in the Big 10 after two heartbreaking losses (26-20 in OT against Michigan State, 30-28 @ Iowa). Michigan is all but out of the Big 10 race. The Penn State offense has been rather pedestrian as of late but I’m not sure Michigan has enough on defense to contain them.

Boston College @ Notre Dame -8.5
3:30 PM EST, NBC

The Eagles are coming off of their best performance of the year. Running Back Montel Harris broke the school rushing record en route to a 52-20 victory over NC State while Notre Dame lost a heart-breaker to USC. An ND hangover could lead to BC’s seventh straight win in the “Holy War.”

Auburn @ #12 LSU – 7.5
7:45 PM EST, ESPN2

Auburn got off to a fantastic start but has looked awful in losses to Arkansas and Kentucky. LSU’s offense has been nearly non-existent. If Auburn can stop the run, they should be able to score enough points to pull the upset, but I’m not going to count on Auburn to do that. It’s hard to imagine LSU losing a second straight night home game.

Other Games to watch:

Minnesota @ #20 Ohio State

Can the Buckeyes bounce back?

#10 Georgia Tech @ Virginia
Noon EST, Ray Com Sports

Virginia has played well after a disatourous start but it’s hard to imagine them shutting down the spread option.

Tennessee @ #1 Alabama
3:30 PM EST, CBS

Jonathan Crompton finally played well in Tennessee’s blowout win over Georgia. That won’t happen against the Tide.

Oklahoma @ #25 Kansas
3:30 PM EST, ABC

Sam Bradford isn’t playing but Landry Jones and Todd Reesing should make this an entertaining game. In the end, OU’s defense should be too much.

#2 Florida @ Mississippi State

Former Florida Offensive Coordinator Dan Mullen now coaches the Bulldogs. He may know enough about the Gator offense to cover the spread (22), but that’s about it.

#3 Texas at Missouri
8:00 PM EST, ABC Regional

After a close, emotional win over Oklahoma, this is the type of game Texas could lose. I don’t think Colt McCoy and Mack Brown will let that happen.

Oregon State @ #7 USC
8:00 PM EST, ABC Regional

Oregon State kept USC out of the title game last year. USC wants revenge.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger. Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily.)