The Fifth Quarter: Week 3 Rewind

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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.

Texas A&M AD Ross Bjork puts Arkansas series at AT&T Stadium on the chopping block

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Week 5 means it’s time for Arkansas and Texas A&M’s trek to the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex for their annual conference game at AT&T Stadium but the days of the old SWC-turned-SEC West rivals meeting in the area might be on the way out.

While a number of fans on both sides have clamored for a return to campus sites for the yearly division meeting, it seems they have picked up a key ally in new athletic director Ross Bjork, who gave some pretty strong indications to the Dallas Morning News that the series is unlikely to continue after the contract runs out after 2024.

“Here’s how I should view it: we should have every SEC home game on our campus from here on out,” Bjork said. “How we do that after the contract is over is still yet to be determined. I think we should have four SEC home games every single year on our campus.”

Bjork said he has spoken about the series with his counterpart at Arkansas, who has even more of a juggling act to do given that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (a former player and prominent booster) enjoys hosting his old team at his palace of a stadium. Still, the Razorbacks have to be interested in a return to campus in at least some form given that they also play a number of games in Little Rock and have just two SEC games in Fayetteville some years — including in 2019.

We’ll see what ultimately becomes of the Arkansas-Texas A&M dance in Dallas but the comments out of College Station right now certainly put it on a path to ending in the near future.

Former Syracuse football player gives program $25 million donation

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There’s giving back as a former player and then there’s giving back to your old program.

The latter was certainly the case for Syracuse this weekend as the school announced a record $25 million gift from former offensive guard John Lally during their game against Western Michigan at the Carrier Dome.

“For Syracuse University Athletics to become even more competitive in both the ACC and on the national stage, the program needs to have first-class facilities, operations and support,” Lally said in a statement. “Laura and I are committed to Syracuse University Athletics, and in particular positioning the university to attract, recruit and retain high-performing student-athletes who succeed on and off the field, inside and outside the classroom and in their communities.”

Lally made his money as the owner and president of PCB Piezotronics Inc., a company he founded after playing offensive guard for the Orange from 1977 to 1981.

While the extra large gift didn’t have any specifics attached to it, the size certainly points to at least some minor facilities upgrades. According to Syracuse.com, Lally already donated nearly $1 million for renovations to the Carrier Dome prior to writing an even bigger check on Saturday in the middle of the Orange’s victory over the Broncos.

It’s not uncommon but for players, especially those in the NFL, to pony up for a new locker room or weight room at their old program but the size of Lally’s generosity is certainly notable in a very welcome gift for Syracuse.

Ole Miss officials not happy with Pac-12 refs after ending against Cal

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There were some absolute bonkers endings in the Pac-12 this weekend, from the #Pac12AfterDark special that was UCLA’s comeback against Washington State, to Colorado stunning Arizona State to California remaining the league’s only undefeated team thanks to a goal line stand against Ole Miss.

While the Golden Bears escaped Oxford with a 28-20 win, the victory was not without controversy — something Rebels officials want answers on.

For those who didn’t catch the action, Ole Miss was down eight in the final minute. After a big pass play got the team into the red zone, the Rebels faced 3rd-and-goal from the three yard line with just 17 seconds left. QB John Rhys Plumlee rolled out and quickly threw it to Elijah Moore right at the goal line.

Officials, who were from the Pac-12, ruled Moore short of the end zone however and marked him down inside the one yard line. The home team had no timeouts left and scrambled to get a QB sneak in, which was stuffed by Bears linebacker Evan Weaver.

Ole Miss interim athletic director Keith Carter took to Twitter to express his frustration over Moore’s catch not being reviewed (which would have stopped the clock) as to whether he broke the plane or not, not holding back at all at the Pac-12 officials involved.

The conference has already acknowledged an error their crew made in Arizona State’s victory over Michigan State last week, where Pac-12 refs missed a call that would have allowed the Spartans to get a first down on a missed field goal. Something could be released on Sunday afternoon but that’s unlikely to appease the Rebels, who now sit at 2-2 on the year and face the always brutal SEC slate over the coming months.

All of which Pac-12 fans probably shrug their shoulders over and say get in line Ole Miss given the mistakes the league’s officials make on a weekly basis out West.

Cal shoots up to No. 15 in latest AP Poll, UCF sinks to No. 22 after loss to Pitt

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AP Poll voters shook up their ballots quite a bit after a fairly wild Week 4 of action in college football.

Among the biggest risers are No. 15 Cal, which celebrated a controversial victory at Ole Miss on Saturday to become the Pac-12’s only unbeaten and now the conference’s second-highest ranked squad after No. 13 Oregon. The folks out West had a number of movers and shakers when all was said and done, with previously ranked Arizona State and Washington State dropping out after losses and No. 21 USC returning to the top 25 after beating a Utah squad now ranked No. 19 on Friday night.

One of the big drops came at the hands of new No. 22 UCF, which had been sitting in the top 15 prior to losing at Pitt on Saturday in a wild one from Heinz Field. That left new No. 16 Boise State as the highest ranked Group of Five team. Michigan State also returned to the rankings at No. 25 while Kansas State is now ranked in both the AP and Coaches Polls after an idle week. No. 23 Texas A&M hung on to a number in front of their name after a second loss to a top 10 team while Michigan dropped nine spot and sat at No. 20 after being destroyed by Wisconsin.

In the top 10, Notre Dame stuck around after their close loss to Georgia, the Badgers moved to No. 8 and Oklahoma and Ohio State flipped spots in the 5/6 range after the Sooners were off and the Buckeyes scored 76 unanswered against Miami (OH).

Here’s the full AP Poll heading into Week 5:

  1. Clemson
  2. Alabama
  3. Georgia
  4. LSU
  5. Ohio State
  6. Oklahoma
  7. Auburn
  8. Wisconsin
  9. Florida
  10. Notre Dame
  11. Texas
  12. Penn State
  13. Oregon
  14. Iowa
  15. California
  16. Boise State
  17. Washington
  18. Virginia
  19. Utah
  20. Michigan
  21. USC
  22. UCF
  23. Texas A&M
  24. Kansas State
  25. Michigan State