In week three of this 2015 college football season, things finally started to get interesting.
Unranked Stanford delivered a crippling blow to USC's title dreams by taking down the Trojans on their home field.
Ole Miss went into Tuscaloosa and beat the Crimson Tide. Coupled with their victory over the Tide in Oxford last season, Ole Miss is just the second team to beat Bama in consecutive seasons since Saban took over as Tide coach in 2007. AP voters saw fit to slingshot the Rebels from #15 all the way up to #3. It was a big win, but I find that jump in rankings somewhat obscene. How does beating a transitional Bama team in a game that Ole Miss kept trying to give away suddenly make them 12 rankings better? Such is life in the college football popularity contest.
On the Heisman front, LSU's Leonard Fournette has almost single handedly put the Tigers on a path to a College Football Playoff appearance. After a 159 yard, three TD performance against Mississippi State in game one, Fournette was absolutely sick against Auburn. Kid went for 228 on just 19 carries and found the endzone three more times.
In spanking Auburn, the Tigers already have a 2-0 lead in the vaunted SEC West with five straight weeks of pud competition before having to face Alabama on November 7th. Winning the SEC West gets college football voters all hot bothered. I'm not sure how Fournette's legs are gonna hold up once defenses start stacking the line with no respect at all for Tigers' QB Brandon Harris ripping up the field for all of 70 yards a game.
Meanwhile, up at Ohio State, Urban Meyer and Ed Warinner were dicking around with Andy Reid level clock incompetence at home against Northern Illinois. The Huskies defense was all sorts of scrappy. Offensively though, they were very high school-esque. And yet, the Buckeyes would not let that game end. The Buckeyes have an easy schedule in the relatively weak Big 10 this season. They don't have to play Michigan State until November 21st. As of right now, the Spartans are the first comparatively strong opponent on Ohio State's schedule. In my opinion, Meyer made a mistake in starting Cardale over J.T. and it's starting to show. It was a real sweet story and all, but Jones won the job off of three games last season. Three HUGE games, yes, but Barrett's season worth of Heisman play before he was lost to injury was the reason the Buckeyes were even in a position to reach the College Football Playoffs. Jones has played mediocre so far this season, and played straight up terrible against Northern Illinois. It was Barrett's play against the Huskies that helped the Bucks take control of that game and secure the victory.
With all the above being said, college football has the feel of being wide open this season. Now here we are at week four already.
Saturday, September 26th
Kansas Jayhawks (0-2) at Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-2, 0-1 Big 10)
11:00 a.m. (CT) on the Big Ten Network
I'm not sure who all gets the Big Ten Network. I, for one, do not get this station. So this is actually a game to listen to, I guess. That means I have to hear Bob Davis' screaming like a mad man about three yard gains while David Lawrence - my old 9th grade football coach - clumsily trips over the ends of Davis' sentences with meaningless and generic color commentary.
As for the game itself, it's a real turdfest. Rutgers looked like garbage in a loss to the Sandusky State Nittany Lions last week in the wake of a combination of violent home invasions by players and academic shenanigans by the coach, Kyle Flood. As a Jayhawks fan it pisses me off that both Penn State and Rutgers are in better shape than Kansas even after those programs were proven guilty of criminal activities. Lew Perkins, Turner Gill and Charlie Weis can all crap a football sideways for what they did to Kansas.
#22 BYU Cougars (2-1) at Michigan Wolverines (2-1)
11:00 a.m. (CT) on ABC
BYU was living a Moroni blessed life through their first two games, stealing victories on late and miraculous TDs. Their luck ran out in ironic fashion this past Saturday when it was UCLA who scored a late TD to survive with a one point win. Following that heartbreaker, the Cougars now head to the Big House up in Ann Arbor to experience Jim Harbaugh and his rage fits.
Harbaugh's Wolverines, after losing an opening weekend game by a TD on the road to a solid Utah team, has looked very good themselves in consecutive home routs of Oregon State and UNLV. BYU is a considerable upgrade in opponent though. If the Wolverines can secure a win this weekend, Michigan fans may start to believe the program is truly on its way back from its post traumatic Hoke disorder.
#24 Oklahoma State Cowboys (3-0) at Texas Longhorns (1-2)
2:30 p.m. (CT) on ESPN
You think Longhorn fans miss Mack yet?
The Longhorn offense showed a lot of life in keeping pace with an offensively explosive Cal squad. Still, it was a loss in Austin. No time to lick Longhorn wounds and their fans' salty tears though. Oklahoma State coming to town for the Big 12 Conference opener for both teams marks the start of a brutal stretch of ranked opponents for Texas with TCU and Oklahoma up next. Upon first glimpse of that slate, this would appear Texas' best chance to steal a win. Texas has reason for at least a little excitement. Against Cal, Longhorns' freshman QB Jerrod Heard lit it up for 364 yards. Oklahoma State, however, has played outstanding so far this season, and the Cowboys also have a much better defense than Cal. A loss here could spell the beginning of the end for Charlie Strong at Texas. A win could prove a possible turning point.
Tennessee Volunteers (2-1) at Florida Gators (3-0)
2:30 p.m. (CT) on CBS
This was once the crown jewel match up of the SEC East division back when the likes of Peyton Manning and Danny Wuerffel were slinging the ball around in the mid 1990s. Both programs have been wallowing in mediocrity as of late. This was supposed to be the season Tennessee returned to national respectability. The Vols have looked very good and would probably be inching their way toward the top 10 had they not choked away a victory against Oklahoma in game two.
Down in Gainesville, first year Gators' coach Jim McElwain has Florida off to a 3-0 start, which is already half as many as the Gators won last season. However, they haven't played a strong opponent yet. Aside from this game being played at home in the swamp, another thing the Gators may have going for them is the fact they are riding a 10 straight victory streak over Tennessee. Which smacks of the old Peyton Manning days nostalgia. His Vols teams could never beat Florida either.
#3 TCU Horned Frogs (3-0) at Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-0)
3:45 p.m. (CT) on Fox
Voters look for every reason to push teams in front of TCU in the rankings. The Horned Frogs are given the smallest margin for error of any team with legitimate title hopes. Following up on last year's brilliant 12-1 campaign, TCU's Trevone Boykin hasn't disappointed - coming off a 454 yard and 5 TD performance - but as a team this 2015 TCU squad has shown trouble putting teams away. In the battle of the Dallas-Fort Worth area against SMU, the Mustangs got within five points in the fourth quarter. In the season opener, Minnesota couldn't stop tripping over their own feet and yet they were a score away from winning that game. Sandwiched between those contests was an ego boosting practice scrimmage against Stephen F. Austin.
In Texas Tech, TCU will face its first offensively comparable opponent. And the Raiders are raging red with revenge due to TCU mud stomping them to the tune of 82-27 in Fort Worth last season. That was the game that Red Raider coach Kliff Kingsbury gave his freshman Patrick Mahomes his first snaps at QB. Two weeks later Mahomes took the starting QB job for good after posting 393 yards against Oklahoma. It was the first of three 300 plus yard performances to end 2014, which culminated in Mahomes throwing for 598 yards and six TDs in helping the Raiders damn near take down #5 ranked Baylor. This kid's arm is kinda sick. In the video below, some of those throws look like he's barely flicking his wrist and the ball's still soaring forty yards through the air.
Now as a sophomore Mahomes has carried that strong play into this season. As a result Texas Tech sits at 3-0 with TCU and Baylor in successive weeks. A win here by Tech will make considerable waves, not just in the Big 12, but the College Football Playoff picture.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-1, 0-1 SEC) at Auburn Tigers (2-1, 0-1 SEC)
6:30 p.m. (CT) on ESPN 2
Dak Prescott and Mississippi State lost a close one to LSU a couple weeks ago, but they are still a very strong player in the SEC West. Auburn, on the other hand, is teetering on the brink of a disastrous 2015 campaign. After nearly losing to FCS Jacksonville State on their home field, the Tigers were beaten senseless by LSU. Auburn went from #6 in the nation to unranked after just three weeks of play. The Tigers are desperately trying to regroup in this tough home tilt versus a very game Bulldogs squad with a stud QB.
#9 UCLA Bruins (3-0) at #16 Arizona Wildcats (3-0)
7:00 p.m. (CT) on ABC
SEC fanboys may not want to hear it, but the Pac-12 Conference is every bit as loaded as the SEC is this season. The Pac-12 season opens for both Arizona and UCLA with this monumental throwdown.
Once upon a time Rich Rodriguez turned West Virginia into a national title contender. Then his name became a bad word in Ann Arbor. Rodriguez has found redemption in the Arizona desert. Last season, with freshman star QB Anu Solomon, Rodriguez' Wildcats were the surprise winners of the Pac-12 South division.
Last November the UCLA Bruins took Zona down in a hard fought 17-7 victory. With that win, UCLA seemed poised to reach the Pac-12 title game until losing their season finale to Stanford.
#18 Utah Utes (3-0) at #13 Oregon Ducks (2-1)
7:30 p.m. (CT) on Fox
The last of the four heavyweights of the Pac-12 South takes on one of the dual kings of the Pac-12 North. Since becoming a two division conference in 2011, the four Pac-12 championship games have gone to either Oregon or Stanford. If there was ever a year to swing the power of the conference to the south, it's this year. But with Stanford already taking down USC, it would appear that time has not yet come. Utah now gets its shot at Oregon in Eugene. The Pac-12 belongs to its north division until proven otherwise.