SEC rebounds, Big Ten drowns in sea of New Year’s losses


OK, who was the dolt chirping last night about the SEC tossing up a big doughnut thus far this bowl season?

Well, whoever it was should’ve remembered that the conference had three very winnable games New Year’s Day. Against the Big Ten, no less.

Less than 24 hours after putting the finishing touches on a less-than-tidy 0-3 start, the SEC roared back to an even .500 with a trio of impressive wins. OK, at least two of them were impressive but, as a whole, the SEC made the Big Ten look like, well, the Little Sisters of the Poor.

By far the most spectacular of the three wins was Alabama’s complete and utter evisceration of Michigan State.  The Tide, which finished fourth in the SEC West, took the Big Ten co-champions to the woodshed, dragged the battered body out and beat it with various heavy objects, then took it back into the woodshed in a resounding 49-7 butt thumpin’ for the ages.  Alabama outgained MSU 546-271, including a staggering 323 yard edge in rushing — 275 to -48.

Additionally, Mississippi State effectively ended Rich Rodriguez‘s longer-than-it-should’ve-been tenure at Michigan with a 52-14 pantsing in the Gator Bowl, while Florida handed Urban Meyer a retirement present in the form of a 37-24 win over Penn State in the Outback Bowl in the coach’s final game at the school.

Speaking of the latter game, what a great, great scene at the end, with Meyer surrounded by his family on the sidelines as time counted down on Meyer’s time at Florida.  Very powerful, very emotional stuff, and a fitting end to a phenomenal six-year run in Gainesville for Meyer.

On the flip side of the joy being felt in the Southeast, of course, was the Big Ten.  Wow.  The woeful, woeful land of Leaders and Legends not only suffered a trio of losses at the hands of the SEC, but Northwestern also fell to Texas Tech 45-38 in the TicketCity Bowl.

Add it all up, and the Big Ten has started the new year with an embarrassing 0-4 mark in bowls — combined scores of the losses to the SEC?  138-45 — and put the 2-0 start to the bowl season in the rear view mirror.

There is a shot at some face-saving later on today, though, as Wisconsin takes on TCU in the Rose Bowl.  Of course, the Badgers could also lose to the non-automatic qualifier and have another chunk of the conference’s manhood lopped off.

No pressure at all, Badgers.  None.

No. 1 Ohio State puts sleeper hold on Maryland’s upset bid

Ezekiel Elliott, Kelon Adams
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Doesn’t it feel like we have seen this all before? No. 1 Ohio State, just as defending national champion Florida State did a year ago, has continued to skate by with some closer-than-expected results without falling victim to a loss. That trend continued Saturday afternoon in Columbus, with the Buckeyes improving to 6-0 and 2-0 in the Big Ten after pulling away from Maryland (2-4, 0-2 Big Ten), 49-28. The Terrapins tied Ohio State at 21-21 in the third quarter, but Cardale Jones completed a 48-yard touchdown pass to Jalin Marshall and J.T. Barrett and Ezekiel Elliot each scored on the ground as the Buckeyes finished on a strong note.

This season may not have gone quite to plan for Ohio State, but the Buckeyes continue to win games and shove aside any concerns along the way. Jones completed 20 passes for 279 yards and a pair of touchdowns without an interception. Elliott went over 100 yards and scored twice. Joey Bosa got a chance to do his usual shrug after a big play (Bosa also avoided getting an ejection for targeting after a mandatory instant replay review). Did Ohio State give up some big plays? Yes, they did. The good news is Ohio State makes plays when they need them the most, and ultimately that is what matters most. Ohio State does not need to blow out its opponents by 20 points on a weekly basis as long as it continues to win games. With four playoff spots up for grabs, Ohio State will secure one if it does not lose a game. The margin for error with a loss is an unknown variable, even as the season reaches its midway point.

Halfway through the season, Urban Meyer seems to have enough reason to stick with Jones and bring an end to that question some still have about the offense. Jones is going to be the quarterback, but Barrett will still get some play as well. Ohio State’s success will be determined by Elliott’s abilty to dominate a game.

Next up for Ohio State will be a home game against Penn State. The Nittany Lions took on a banged-up Indiana team in State College this afternoon. The Hoosiers may have taken Ohio State to the limit last week, but Penn State took advantage of a worn out Indiana team in  26-7 victory. Ohio State demolished Ohio State the last time Penn State visited, 63-14 in 2013, but it was the Nittany Lions that gave Ohio State its biggest scare of the season aside from Virginia Tech last year, with the Buckeyes escaping with an overtime victory on the road.

Maryland will head into a bye week, and it remains unconfirmed whether Edsall will be back to coach Maryland’s next game in two weeks. Reports late this week suggested the school will be moving on from Edsall as head coach, which means Maryland could be going with an interim head coach when Maryland takes on Penn State on October 24 in Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium.

Not dead yet! Longhorns make statement in upset over No. 10 Oklahoma

Jerrod Heard
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The demise of the Texas Longhorns has, somewhat, been exaggerated. A college football blueblood largely left for dead put the Big 12 on notice Saturday afternoon in Dallas by upsetting No. 10 Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry, 24-17. After the game the players hoisted head coach Charlie Strong up as if the team had just won a national championship. You know what? Texas deserved that moment to release some tension with a unified show of joy.

After being flattened last week by TCU, Texas was a program in a big mess with players tweeting at halftime and upperclassmen and underclassmen not seeing eye-to-eye. This was also a good Oklahoma team Texas just defeated. The Sooners climbed to a top 10 ranking after flexing some muscle against West Virginia and showing some good things on offense. None of those good things showed up early enough against the Longhorns though.

Texas held Oklahoma to fewer than 100 yards of total offense in the first half. The Sooners converted just three of their 12 third-down plays, while Texas managed to go 9-of-15 on third downs. For Texas, it was all about getting the running game going to take Oklahoma out of it from the start. D’Onta Foreman led all players with 117 yards and quarterback Jerrod Heard added 115 rushing yards to go with his selectively efficient passing performance (8-of-10 for 53 yards and a touchdown). Johnathan Gray also chipped in with 76 rushing yards. Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine carried the football 10 times for just 36 yards and a touchdown. Considering the production Perine showed last season, this was another disappointing result for the Sooners. Perine has rushed for more than 78 yards in a game just once this season (152 yards vs. Tulsa).

This was the first victory in the rivalry game for Strong, and the second win in three years against the rival Sooners for the Longhorns. This season may still be a huge rebuilding year for Texas, but a win against Oklahoma can help the rebuilding process pick up the pace after starting the season with a 1-4 record. There will still be some difficult games ahead for Strong’s Longhorns (Baylor, Oklahoma State, West Virginia), but everybody in Austin deserves at least one day just to celebrate this win few people saw coming.

Texas looks to make it two wins in a row in two weeks when the Longhorns come off a bye week against Kansas State. Oklahoma will take on Kansas State next week in Manhattan.