We start with the obvious. If Charlie Strong doesn’t get things turned around quickly, this will be the last fall he will be head coach at Texas.
Things are never as black and white as we pretend they are in today’s media – social media included. There has been a lot of good work done by Strong as the Longhorns head coach. That said, a 13-16 record is tough to take. It becomes even harder to justify when ten of the 16 losses have been by 18-points or more. The “cons” side of a “pro-con” ledger grows unbalanced when the defense is worse in year three than it was in year two, when it was the worst in the program’s history. Add to that, Saturday’s unbearable performance at Oklahoma State.
To allow the Pokes to score 37 in the first half is sickening. Even worse, three, three, yes three blocked extra points – two returned by OSU. If Strong has changed the culture, and improved recruiting in the manner most supporters claim, then it’s time those achievements result in a better performance on Saturdays.
For 30-minutes it looked like Texas A&M would struggle to get to 5-0 on the season for a third consecutive season. This despite playing a horrible South Carolina team. Credit again goes to the defense as the Aggie D allowed just 142 yards following a 75 yard run by the Gamecocks A.J. Turner on the game’s first snap from scrimmage. It wasn’t a great look, but all will be forgotten if A&M can beat Tennessee next Saturday in College Station.
Speaking of the Vols, as the old saying goes, “It’s better to be lucky than good.” After overcoming a 21 point deficit against Florida last week, Tennessee erased a 17 point first-half deficit at Georgia. Josh Dobbs 43 yard “Hail Mary” to Jauan Jennings provided the weekend’s biggest play. It was preceded by what appeared to be a game-winning Hail Mary by the Bulldogs. True Freshman Jacob Eason found Riley Ridley for a 47 yard score with just 10-seconds left. But a celebration penalty and poor execution/design on the ensuing kickoff set-up the Vols for the game-winning play.
The weekend was highlighted by three games involving teams ranked in the Top 10. The marquee match-up between Clemson and Louisville definitely lived up to the billing. Clemson built a 28-10 halftime lead at Death Valley only to watch the Cards score the game’s next 26 points to take a 36-28 lead. Left for dead the Tigers Blanton Creque returned a kickoff 77 yards and two plays later Deshaun Watson hit Mike Williams for a 20 yard touchdown to pull Clemson within two.
Following a three-and-out – which was Louisville’s first drive that didn’t result in points in the second half, Clemson responded with a eight-play, 85 yard touchdown drive capped by a 31 yard pass from Deshaun Watson to Jordan Leggett. The two hooked up for a two-point conversion that gave Clemson the 42-36 lead. Louisville had 2:57 to generate a game-winning drive. It seemed like a perfect opportunity for Lamar Jackson to cement his Heisman candidacy. He finished with 295 yards passing, 162 rushing and three touchdowns, but on a fourth and 12 (after the Cards seventh procedure penalty moved them back five yards) at the Clemson 14, James Quick was knocked out of bounds at the Tiger three and Clemson held on for the win.
Also on Saturday, Michigan beat Wisconsin 14-7 in a game as uneventful as the Clemson-Louisville game was exciting. Michigan won, but looked nothing like a playoff team.
The weekend’s other Top 10 game featured a return to prominence by Washington. The Huskies hadn’t beaten a Top 10 team in Seattle since 1992. They exorcised a lot of ghosts on Friday night. U-Dub scored on five of its first six possessions in route to a 44-6 rout of Stanford.
Also out West, Oregon lost its third consecutive game – at Washington State 51-33 – for the first time since ’07. Southern Cal beat Arizona State 41-20 to quiet the “fire Clay Helton” crowd for at least a week. UCLA thumped Arizona 45-24, and Colorado broke into the polls for the first time since 2005 after pounding Oregon State 47-6.
It was yet another week that brought disappointing news to the Big XII. Baylor remains the only undefeated team in the conference but the Bears needed a 17 point fourth quarter – capped by a Chris Callahan 19 yard field goal as time expired to escape from Ames, IA with 45-42 win over a 1-4 Iowa State.
Oklahoma returned to the polls by knocking TCU out with a 52-46 win over the Horned Frogs. If only Gary Patterson had offered Baker Mayfield a scholarship perhaps TCU would’ve have won the game, and Patterson could have avoided a post game press conference meltdown.
In the SEC, Alabama stayed unbeaten but didn’t look good in a home win over Kentucky – which will also be head coach shopping after the season. Ole Miss avenged a loss to Memphis last year by dispatching the Tigers 48-28 in Oxford, MS. If the Rebels continue to play their best, they will really regret losing to both Florida State and Alabama by blowing 21 point leads. Just saying…
One of the most impressive wins of the weekend belonged to LSU interim head coach Ed Orgeron. He promised passion and “tweaks” to the offense, and he provided. The Tigers rolled up 634 yards of total offense – 418 rushing – and dump-trucked Missouri 42-7. If Coach O can get similar performances out of the Tigers, including a November 5 match-up with Alabama, LSU may not come after UH coach Tom Herman after all.
As discussed earlier Clemson gained a foothold over Louisville for the ACC Atlantic division title, while Florida State lost again, this time courtesy a buzzer-beating Nick Weiler 54 yard field as North Carolina beat the ‘Noles 37-35 in Tallahassee. The Tar Heels now have a half-game lead over Miami in the Coastal division. The Hurricanes moved into the AP Top 10 after bouncing Georgia Tech 35-21 in Atlanta.