The Fifth Quarter: Week 3 Rewind

9 Comments

As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

WINNERS

Manti Te’o
The All-American linebacker lost both his grandmother and longtime girlfriend in less than 24 hours earlier this week, and yet still played in No. 20 Notre Dame’s game against No. 10 Michigan State.  Te’o’s teammates rose to the emotional occasion, stifling the Spartans’ offensively in the 20-3 loss.  “I miss them, I miss them,” Te’o said after the win, adding, “but I know I’ll see them again one day.”  If you’re like me you likely can’t even begin to wrap your head around the gut-wrenching pain Te’o took to the field, and how heartbreaking the young man’s week has been, but there was some solace for the player in being surrounded by his football family in a time of unimaginable grief.

No Luck, no problem pwning Trojans
Dang, what’s your deal Stanford?  The past three seasons, Stanford has had USC’s number, although that was with Andrew Luck under center for the Cardinal.  In the first Cardinal-Trojans matchup of the post-Luck era, it was the same old, same old for Stanford.  And a crushing blow for ‘SC on a couple of levels.  Not only did Stanford improve to 3-0 on the season to likely take a huge leap from No. 21 when the polls are released Sunday afternoon, it sent the Trojans to its first loss and what will likely be a hefty tumble from its lofty pre-game perch as the No. 2 team in the country.  Additionally, the loss dealt a crippling — but not entirely fatal — blow to Matt Barkley‘s Heisman chances.  But back to Stanford.  With this huge win, the Cardinal has shown that they may not need much if any Luck to maintain its presence as a viable contender in the Pac-12 — and perhaps on a bigger stage as well.

The best defense is a really great defense
There was some concern, given the attrition the unit suffered after winning its second BcS title in three years, that No. 1 Alabama’s defense could be very un-Saban-like in 2012.  Yeah, like Coach Woodcock would ever allow something like that to happen on his watch.  In three games this season, the Tide defense has given up a total of two touchdowns — and both of those came in the season opener against Michigan after the No. 1 Tide had built up a 31-0 lead.  Last season. the Tide led the nation in scoring defense (8.1 ppg), rushing defense (72.1 yards per game) and average yards per carry (2.4); this season, the numbers in those categories are at 4.7 ppg, 58 ypg and 2.1 ypc.  Add in a quarterback who’s quietly putting up Heisman-like numbers to go along with a punishing rushing attack, and you have the Tide taking on the look of a team that could very well become the first team since Nebraska in the mid-90’s to win three titles in a span of four years.

They’re, ummm, back?
OK, this time we really mean it.  We think.  No. 5 Florida State is back.  Maybe.  Preseason after preseason for the past several years, prognosticators would predict this would be the year the Seminoles returned to national prominence, only to see FSU trip and stumble all over themselves on its way to a fair-to-middlin season.  Based on the annihilation of vexing nemesis Wake Forest, that may very well be the case.  The 52-0 woodshedding of the Demon Deacons — attempting to drop FSU for the fifth time in seven years — wasn’t even remotely as close as the final score would indicate as the ‘Noles were in control in every aspect of the game.  Standing at 3-0 on the young season, the Seminoles have reached that rarefied air for the first time since 2005 — the last time, ironically enough, FSU captured an ACC crown.  While there is still a ways to go, and knowing full well how the last several seasons have played out, there’s still time for the ‘Noles to poop itself.  For the time being, though, if it walks like a national title contender, talks like a national title contender…

Gators chomping at the SEC East bit
Three games into the 2012 season, and it appears No. 18 Florida is going to make the SEC East a three-horse race.  After opening the season with a MAC pastry, the Gators went on the road for SEC play in back-to-back weeks — and came out with a pair of impressive wins.  First, UF ruined Texas A&M’s conference coming out party in College Station, then ruined the Knoxville GameDay party with a decisive 37-24 thumping of No. 23 Tennessee.  That means the Gators have six SEC games the remainder of the season: five at home or at a neutral site (Kentucky, LSU, Missouri and preseason East favorites South Carolina and Georgia) and just one true road game (at Vanderbilt).  The road to the SEC championship game in the East may still run through Athens and/or Columbia, but the school in Gainesville will very likely have something to say about which school gets the right to face the West champ in Atlanta in early December.

Karma
Randy Edsall left UConn following the 2011 season to take his “dream job” at Maryland, and did so without telling his players face-to-face.  Saturday, the Huskies, Edsall’s former team, dropped the Terps, Edsall’s current team, 24-21.  Karma, she’s a nasty, vindictive wench.  In 15 career games at his new job, Edsall’s Terps are 4-11.  Yep, karma.

Duke promoted to King
Miami running back Duke Johnson has scored six touchdowns in three games this season, including four in the win over Bethune-Cookman.  To say that Johnson is a home-run hitter barely scratches the surface as Johnson has scored on runs of 56, 54 and 28 yards; a pass that covered 50 yards; and a kickoff return of 95 yards.  His lone single of the young season was a one-yard TD run in Saturday’s win.  In his four-touchdown performance today, Johnson became the first FBS player since East Carolina’s Chris Johnson in 2007 with at least two rushing, one receiving and one return touchdown in the same game.  Too bad, though, Miami “fans” could care less about seeing one of the most exciting true freshman in the country live and in person (see below).

An uplifting Holliday at Duke
A little over two months after he suffered serious and life-threatening injuries in a jet ski accident, wide receiver Blair Holliday served as Duke’s honorary captain and led his teammates out onto the field for Saturday’s game against North Carolina Central.  In a statement released through the university, the Holliday family expressed thanks for the support they’ve received since the receiver’s accident during the Fourth of July holiday:

This journey has taken our family down paths we never would have imagined, and without the love and sustenance from so many individuals and groups, we would not have survived.  Without question, we have learned the magnitude and power of invocation!

Today is a special day for Blair.  Returning to Duke to share cherished moments with his teammates and friends has been a goal of his for several weeks.  While Blair has made significant progress with his rehabilitation, we have many challenges ahead.  Thank you for your continued support.

Willie Taggart’s agent
Western Kentucky downed in-state “rival” Kentucky 32-31 in overtime.  Taggart is now 9-6 over the past one-plus seasons at a school that’s been a full FBS member for just four years, and the third-year coach will be one of the hottest commodities on the next spinning of the coaching carousel.  Hence, Taggart’s agent is one lucky man, especially with a handful of jobs in the SEC and Pac-12 expected to open up between now and the end of the regular season.

A million rea$on$ to enjoy a good drubbing
FAU and Arkansas State received $1 million each from No. 7 Georgia and Nebraska, respectively, for their troubles Saturday.  While the athletic department coffers were stuffed off the field, their teams were crushed on it by a combined 65 points — 42-13 loss for ASU, 56-20 loss for FAU — and were outgained by a combined 646 yards.  So, uh, congrats on the paycheck games fellas?

LOSERS

Big Ten football
An embarrassing season-opening loss to Alabama by Michigan left Wisconsin. Nebraska and Michigan State as the national standard bearers  for the Big Ten.  Inexplicable losses by the Badgers and Cornhuskers in Week 2 to middle-of-the-pack Pac-12 schools left just the Spartans.  After Week 3?  2013 can’t get here fast enough for the conference.  MSU, the lone B1G school free of NCAA sanctions left with the talent  to maintain a presence at the BcS title table, was dropped in a 17-point loss to No. 20 Notre Dame.  So, after three weeks of the season, the only unbeaten teams left in the Big Ten that are eligible for the postseason — Ohio State is 3-0 but are banned from the conference championship game/bowl game — are Minnesota (chuckle) and Northwestern (giggle).  Regardless of how it’s spun, that’s a sad state of affairs for a conference that’s neither a leader nor a legend in 2012.

The state of Colorado
Colorado and Colorado State have combined to go 1-5 this season, with the lone win coming courtesy of the Rams season-opening trumping of… the Buffaloes.  Both teams lost to FCS schools in Week 2… and that wasn’t even the low point, at least for the Buffs.  Saturday, though, was.  The Buffs were eviscerated 69-14 by Fresno State in a game in which the Bulldogs actually stepped off CU’s throat in the second half.  At halftime, the Bulldogs led the Buffs 55-7 and had rolled up 516 yards of offense.  In the first quarter, Fresno scored 35 points and had 322 yards of offense.  Midway through the second quarter, the deficit was 48-0 before Fresno called off the dogs, so to speak.  It’s an abysmal and embarrassing situation for a Colorado football program that had moved into the Pac-12 last season — buyer’s remorse, anyone? — and could very well lead to second-year head coach Jon Embree‘s time at the school being very quick and extremely painful.

Holy crap, the Mayans were right
Bud Foster‘s Virginia Tech defense gave up 536 yards of total offense and 35 points to Pittsburgh — a team that came into this game ranked 66th and 108th , respectively, in those categories nationally — in a stunning 18-point loss for the No. 13 Hokies.  Plus, the Panthers’ first-year head coach is named Chryst, as an “anti.”  If that doesn’t prove the end of days is nigh, and the Mayans were indeed correct about the end of the world this December, I don’t know what does.

It’s been real, John L.
Entering 2012 with faint visions of BcS title contention, Arkansas watched as its season went up in flames in the loss to Louisiana-Monroe last weekend.  This weekend, Alabama took a leak all over the remaining embers.  It was highly doubtful that, barring at least an SEC West title, John L. Smith would remain on as the Razorbacks’ head coach past the the expiration of a contract that’s less than a year in length.  Based on the past two weeks, any and all doubt has all but been erased.  The only certainty in this situation?  The search for a new coach won’t be even remotely as entertaining as Smith’s brief stint as the Hogs’ head man.

“Let me get that chair for you, Mr. Chizik… oh my, it’s very warm”
You could hear the grumblings rumbling off The Plains after an 0-2 start: “That Gene Chizik, he’s in over his head without Cam Newton.”  Despite the first win of the season, the wolves that are howling about the Auburn head coach likely won’t lessen in volume at any point in the near future.  Yes, Auburn defeated Louisiana-Monroe.  Yes, a win is a win is a win.  No, though, it shouldn’t give any comfort to anyone with a vested interest in the football program that the Tigers were taken to overtime at home by a Sun Belt Conference school after watching ULM do the same thing to Arkansas seven days ago.  Despite that example, Chizik was flat out-coached by his counterpart on the opposing sidelines, Todd Berry.  With the likes of Nick Saban, Les Miles, Mark Richt, Steve Spurrier among others littering the conference, being outcoached by an SBC head coach is the most sobering thought of the day.

If the ‘Canes snack on a cupcake, and nobody witnesses it…

Apathy, thy name is Miami of Florida football:

That photo was snapped by Associated Press writer Tim Reynolds in the second quarter of Miami’s game Saturday vs. Bethune-Cookman. And that’s an embarrassment even by the previously low attendance standards set by Miami “fans,” and regardless of the level of competition. The U “faithful” should be ashamed of that pitiful display, perhaps even as much as the university was; reportedly, the attendance figures for the game were not announced in the press box as is customary.

The Joker’s mild… and just about cooked
In two-plus seasons at Kentucky, Joker Phillips has compiled a 12-16 record, including Saturday’s overtime loss to Western Kentucky of all teams.  While Phillips is widely described as one of the nicest coaches in the business, whether he makes it a fourth season — or even gets to finish his third — is very much up in the air and in doubt.  UK will always, always be a basketball school trying to find its football self in the hyper-competitive world of the SEC.  The Wildcats simply don’t have the talent pool from which to draw to overcome being outcoached, and that’s something that seems to happen on a weekly basis.  The high point of Phillip’s tenure at UK was the win over Tennessee last season which ended a 26-game losing streak against the Vols that dated back to 1984.  The low points, however, have been plentiful, including the loss to WKU.  Too many, in fact, for Phillips to survive beyond 2012.

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-FOR-COMFORT
How ranked teams endured close shaves vs. unranked opponents

— No. 12 Ohio State 35, Cal 28: The only thing standing between a Buckeyes’ win and yet another embarrassment for the Big Ten was a 72-yard touchdown pass with 3:26 to play.  Well, that and yet another game of superb play from sophomore Braxton Miller.

— No. 16 TCU 20, Kansas 6: Simply put, the Horned Frogs should’ve beat a really bad Jayhawks team by at least double the final score, even being on the road.  There’s little doubt that the fiery Gary Patterson will use this game as a “teachable moment” for his young squad.

— No. 19 Louisville 39, North Carolina 34: It was literally a tale of two halves for the Cardinals, who started a season 3-0 for the first time since 2006.  After jumping out to a 36-7 lead at the half, the ‘Ville was outscored 27-3 the rest of the way as the Tar Heels nearly pulled off the upset.  As will likely be the case with Patterson. Charlie Strong will no doubt hammer home the concept of putting away an inferior opponent when you have the opportunity.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Monday if I, ya know, had a real vote instead of a measly and meaningless preseason poll.

1. Alabama — This early in the season, there’s the Tide and then a huge gap to anyone else.  In the first three games, ‘Bama has outscored its opponents 128-14, including two straight shutouts. (Last week: No. 1)
Up next: vs. FAU

2. LSU — This spuds for you, LSU, as the Tigers had zero issues in dispatching Idaho 63-14.  Of course, LSU’s three wins have come against teams that are a combined 3-6, so the true tests for Tigers won’t come until they begin conference play in general and play Alabama specifically. (Last week: No. 3)
Up next: at Auburn

3. Oregon — Like LSU, the Ducks won’t be tested until conference play begins this coming weekend. (Last week: No. 4)
Up next: vs. No. 24 Arizona

4. Florida State: With the Demon that’s been Wake Forest exorcised, the Seminoles have the look of, yes, a team that’s back and ready to hop back onto the national stage. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: No. 11 Clemson

5. Stanford: You beat the No. 2 team in the country, you’re undefeated and ranked No. 21 heading into the game?  You get props in this meaningless exercise. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: at Washington

HE SAID IT
“Do I feel that we, at times, gave up out there? Absolutely.  As a leader it sucks to see people not do their jobs and to see things go wrong, there has been a lot of things go that way.” — injured Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, lashing out at his teammates following the Razorbacks’ 52-0 drubbing at the hands of Alabama.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“The only problem I have with it is I’d love for everybody here to not be surprised by this.” — Stanford head coach David Shaw, when asked about fans storming the field after the Cardinal’s fourth straight win over USC.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

— Just 20 minutes into Florida State’s win over Wake, Chris Thompson had eight carries… and 197 yards.  Included in that total were touchdown runs of 74 and 80 yards.  Thompson had just one carry the rest of the game, and finished with a career-high of that same 197 yards.

— Brendan Bigelow, football gigolo: the Cal running back had four carries… and 156 yards, including touchdown runs of 81 and 59 yards, in Cal’s bid to upset No. 12 Ohio State on the road.  His 81-yard run was the longest by an opponent in Ohio Stadium history.

— Speaking of that game, OSU quarterback Braxton Miller accounted for five touchdowns — four passing, one rushing — in the Buckeyes’ 35-28 win.  For the season, Miller has had a hand in 12 of the Buckeyes’ 16 offensive touchdowns.

— West Virginia’s Geno Smith — in three quarters of work no less — completed 34-of-39 passes for 411 yards and five touchdowns in the rout of James Madison and now has as many touchdowns as he does incompletions (nine).  In the process, the Heisman contender broke Marc Bulger’s school record of 8,153 career yards.

Johnny Manziel accounted for 418 yards of total offense and six touchdowns — four passing, two rushing — as Texas A&M rebounded from a season-opening loss to Florida to pound SMU 48-3.  His 294 yards passing set a school record for a freshman.

— In place of the injured Wes Lunt, J.W. Walsh completed 20-of-29 passes for 341 yards, four TDs and zero interceptions before giving way to No. 3 quarterback Clint Chelf in Oklahoma State’s win over Louisiana-Lafayette.

— In that win over ULL, the Cowboys set school records for total offense (742 yards) and first downs (39).

— Rutgers running back Jawan Jamison set a single-game school record with 41 carries in the 23-13 conference win over USF Thursday night.

Connor Halliday passed for 378 yards and four touchdowns in Washington State’s 28-21 win over UNLV Friday night, pushing the Cougars to 2-1 in its first season under Mike Leach.

— Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah rushed 30 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns, all career highs for the sophomore.

— No. 8 South Carolina’s 49-6 romp over UAB was the 200th of Steve Spurrier‘s career.  Spurrier, Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer, Texas’ Mack Brown and Nevada’s Chris Ault are the only active FBS coaches to have reached that plateau.

— TCU defeated Kansas 20-6 in its first conference game as a member of the Big 12, improving the Horned Frogs to 4-1-1 when playing its first game in a new conference.  If I’m not mistaken, all of those games happened in the past six years.

— In the 56-20 win over FAU, No. 7 Georgia set a school record with 713 yards of total offense and became the first team in UGA history to score at least 40 points in each of the first three games of a season.

— No. 14 Texas’ 676 yards of total offense in the 66-31 shellacking of Ole Miss was the second-most in school history.

— Mississippi State was able to hang on to beat Troy 30-24 despite giving up 572 yards of total offense.

— SID stat of the day: Ohio State has won 60 consecutive regular-season non-conference home games against teams not ranked in the AP Top 25. The last loss? 34-17 to Florida State, Oct. 2, 1982.

— SID stat of the day, runner-up: Alabama’s 52-0 win marked the first time Arkansas has failed to score in Fayetteville since 1966.  On a completely unrelated note, Bobby Petrino can’t imagine being in Fayetteville that long without scoring.

— 2013 Oregon verbal commit Thomas Tyner rushed for 643 yards and 10 touchdowns in a single game Friday night, which also happened to be the talented back’s 18th birthday.  The Beaverton, Ore., high schooler, rated as the No. 6 running back in the country and the top player in the state of Oregon by Rivals.com, made an official visit to the Ducks last night.

Five-star 2017 Auburn signee undergoes ‘minor procedure,’ should be a go for start of summer camp

Getty Images
1 Comment

It appears Auburn has dodged what could’ve been a significant injury bullet.

Citing a person familiar with the situation, Brandon Marcello of the Auburn arm of 247Sports.com is reporting that Calvin Ashley underwent a procedure on one of his eyes recently.  SECCountry.com described it as “a minor procedure”; both websites stated that the touted offensive tackle will be ready for the start of summer camp on July 31, this coming Monday.

The reports come a few days after Ashley posted a picture on social media of what appeared to be him in a hospital room.

The football program has not yet, at least publicly, addressed what if any type of health issue with which Ashley is dealing.

A five-star member of the Tigers’ 2017 recruiting class, Ashley was rated as the No. 6 tackle in the country; the No. 1 player at any position in Washington D.C.; and the No. 27 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  Ashley was the highest-rated player in AU’s class this year, the only five-star recruit pulled in by Gus Malzahn and company this cycle.

The 6-6, 310-pound Ashley is expected to compete immediately for the starting job at left tackle.

USC the media’s choice to win 2017 Pac-12 title

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Thanks to how they finished the 2016 season, USC is getting substantial preseason love heading into the 2017 season.  Not surprisingly, that affection continued Wednesday.

At the Pac-12 Media Days Wednesday, 28 of the 52 media members covering the conference picked USC to win the league’s title this season.  Another 22 picked reigning champion Washington to defend its title, while there was one vote each for Oregon and Utah.

Both USC and UW received 49 first-place votes when it comes to winning the South and North divisions, respectively.  Oregon, Stanford and Washington State received one first-place vote each to win the North Division, while Colorado, UCLA and Utah received the same for the South crown.

Also of note from the opening of media days:

  • The Pac-12 Championship Game will remain at Levi’s Stadium through the 2019 season, with an option for 2020 as well.  The home of the San Francisco 49ers has been the venue for the conference’s last two title games.  New NFL stadiums in Inglewood and Las Vegas will be options beyond that.
  • Halftime of games broadcasted on Pac-12 Networks will be reduced from 20 minutes to 15.  In an attempt to further shorten the length of games, commercial breaks during those games will be reduced as well. “We are trying to be progressive and experiment with ways to manage the game presentation through a reduction of TV timeouts and some of the 30-second commercial spots,” commissioner Larry Scott said as the league targets three hours as the ideal game time.
  • The conference has centralized its replay reviews for all 12 teams this season after experimenting with centralization for two teams in 2016.

USC confirms K Matt Boermeester won’t return to Trojans

Getty Images
1 Comment

What was rumored a few months ago has been confirmed.

In early February, USC announced that an unspecified code of conduct issue had led the football program to indefinitely suspend Matt Boermeester.  At the time, reports had an incident involving the placekicker’s ex-girlfriend as the trigger for the suspension, although no details surrounding that situation were released.

Fast-forward to late July, and the school officially confirmed that Boermeester is no longer a Trojan.

“Boermeester… won’t return because of a student code of conduct issue,” the football program wrote in its preseason notes package.

In his first season as USC’s starting kicker last year, Boermeester connected on 75 percent of his 25 field goal attempts and all but one of his 54 point afters.  His 46-yard field goal with no time left on the clock pushed USC past Penn State in an epic comeback win in the Rose Bowl.

The 18 field goals on which Boermeester connected in 2016 were one shy of tying the school’s single-season record.

Michael Brown is the only other kicker currently listed on USC’s online roster.  Brown has yet to attempt a kick at the collegiate level.

Report: Ole Miss wants NCAA to require two Miss. St. players to attend hearing

2 Comments

Thanks to off-field events, the Egg Bowl rivalry has ratcheted up a notch or 12 in the last week or so — after ratcheting up several levels the previous months.

Monday, ESPN.com‘s Mark Schlabach reported that it was a lifelong Mississippi State fan who discovered the infamous call to a number connected to an escort service and led to Hugh Freeze being forcefully ousted at Ole Miss.  Two days later, Schlabach is reporting that attorneys representing the university and former coaches accused of wrongdoing are asking the NCAA that it require two Mississippi State football players, Leo Lewis and Kobe Jones, to appear at their hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions later this year.

At this point in time, it’s unclear whether either player has received a notice to appear.

Jones, a four-star 2016 signee, has alleged that an Ole Miss booster paid him upwards of $15,000 as an inducement to go to the Rebels before he signed with the rival Bulldogs. “Lewis also accused Rebels boosters and former coaches of arranging for him to receive free transportation, lodging, food and meals and memorabilia and clothing from Rebel Rags, a retail store in Oxford,” Schlabach wrote Wednesday.

The Oxford retailer filed a lawsuit last month against, among others, Jones and Lewis alleging “defamation, slander, conspiracy and commercial disparagement stemming from false statements made to the NCAA.” On at least three occasions, the Bulldog duo spoke to the NCAA and its investigators regarding their allegations made against the rival program.

From Schlabach’s latest report:

The NCAA previously denied Ole Miss lawyers’ requests to interview Jones and Lewis about allegations they made during the NCAA’s investigation of the Rebels. In fact, Lewis’ attorneys stopped the second of three interviews with NCAA investigators after Ole Miss’ lawyers attempted to cross-examine him. Ole Miss wasn’t allowed to have an attorney at his third interview.

Jones and Lewis were provided partial immunity by NCAA investigators before they were interviewed.

The NCAA has accused the Ole Miss football program of 21 violations, 15 of which are the most serious under The Association’s penalty structure.  Ole Miss self-imposed a bowl ban for the 2017 season as well as stripped itself of seven scholarships.  Additionally, they will forfeit all postseason revenues for the upcoming season, a number in excess of $7 million.  It’s expected the NCAA will add to those self-imposed sanctions.

The university received its Notice of Allegations from the NCAA back in February, releasing its response to the NOA early last month.

Former Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt and his attorney filed a lawsuit earlier this month as well, alleging that Freeze and other Ole Miss officials engaged in a clandestine smear campaign to pin the NCAA investigation into the Rebels’ football program in large part on Nutt. The lawsuit levied some rather serious allegations, including Freeze allegedly conducting off-the-record conversations with prominent journalists and recruits to falsely spread the narrative that the lion’s share of NCAA recruiting violations occurred under Nutt’s watch.