No surprises, but some drama, on this weekend in college football

Yesterday was generally viewed as a less than exciting weekend for college football matchups. A few teams flirted with upsets, but the only top 25 team to lose was Arizona State, who played #5 Stanford. The Ags, Cardinal, and Badgers all won convincingly. A&M and Stanford were on at the same time, so I mostly watched the Aggies and Johnny Football while switching to the Stanford game during commercial breaks. It turned out to be well-timed. There were at least two Stanford TDs that happened moments after clicking over.

Earlier, the Badgers looked strong in demolishing Purdue. Wisconsin shook off their perplexing loss last week to Arizona State and showed off yet another set of exceptional running backs, now that Monte Ball is gone. James White and Melvin Gordon each had 16 carries for 145 and 147 yards respectively.  Gordon scored 3 TDs to White’s one.  Despite the dominating performance on Saturday, Wisconsin’s passing game may not be strong enough to prevent better opponents from packing the box and daring the Badgers to beat them through the air. Next week in Columbus will be a test for new coach Gary Anderson.

Johnny Manziel was pulled from the game after only a half+1 series of the Aggies win over SMU.  That was long enough to get 244 yards passing and 102 yards rushing, with 1 passing TD and 2 running TDs.  Manziel also threw another pick that went off a receiver’s hands. Several of Johnny Football’s runs were of the “how did he do that?” variety.  More than once he just changed directions in ways that made SMU defenders look foolish.  Causes of concern: Center Mike Matthews had several penalties and one bizarre bad snap. Kicker Taylor Bertolet was replaced by walk-on Josh Lambo after a return of Bertolet’s extra point woes from last season. The Ags wound up missing 3 XPs in a row, as Lambo’s first attempt was spoiled by a bad hold.

The struggling defense had a much better game. SMU is no Alabama, but the Aggie D also looked better than it had against Rice and SHSU.  A combination of personnel moves (e.g. a new Middle Linebacker and DeShazor Everett moving from CB to S) and experience seems to be helping. The Ags batted down several Garrett Gilbert passes, and forced 2 fumbles and an INT. One fumble was returned for a score.  Still, the Ags gave up a lot of yards and as DC Snyder said in the post-game presser

We get the quarterback and bounced off… was watching the end of the LSU game. When they hit a quarterback, they don’t go anywhere; they go down.

It will be interesting to see if progress continues as the Ags hit the road for the first time this season at Arkansas.

Former Badgers coach Bret Bielema can’t be happy with what happened in the Pigs game at Rutgers.  The Razorbacks were up 24-7 in the third quarter… and ended up losing 28-24. After going up 24-7, Arkansas possessions reconstructed from the play by play record:

  • 3 plays 9 yards, punt
  • 3 plays 8 yards, punt returned for a TD (24-14)
  • 5 plays, 22 yards, punt from their own 47

4th quarter

  • 3 plays 8 yards, punt (Rutgers scores on their possession 24-21)
  • 5 plays 14 yards, punt (Rutgers scores on their possession 24-28)
  • Now trailing, Arkansas starts at their own 18. They get to their own 45. Sack, loss, incomplete, punt on 4th and 24 (Rutgers runs out the final 2:48)

Coach Bielema may need to get his wife off of Twitter.

Ranked teams that had moments of dread:

  • Georgia was tied with N. Texas after the Mean Green blocked a punt for a TD in the third quarter.  The Dawgs put their fans at ease by scoring 24 unanswered points.
  • Michigan trailed winless UConn going into the final quarter before rallying to win by a FG.  This was the second week in a row where Michigan dropped in the polls after a win.  The Wolverines were #17 in the preseason AP, rose to #11 by virtue of beating Notre Dame, fell to #15 last week, and are now down to #18.

Virginia Tech is unranked, but played well enough against Alabama to be thought of as a pretty good team.  Marshall had several chances to pull the upset in Blacksburg but couldn’t close the deal.  Marshall led most of the game after taking the lead in the second quarter. On VT’s 4th quarter drive to tie the score, the Hokies had to convert two 4th downs. The touchdown came on a 4th down pass that was deflected by a Marshall defender.  On the next drive, Marshall got to the VT 34 but lost 5 yards before taking a shot at the end zone that was intercepted.  On that play a) they only needed to get in FG range and b) the receiver was open but the pass was late.  Having failed to pull off the upset in regulation, the two teams played 3 OTs, with VT ultimately benefiting from a very dubious non-call of pass interference where the defender seemed to commit two fouls on the same play from the replay.  Even then, Marshall had a chance to win on a FG in the first OT. The kick was blocked.