There are 119 Division I-A football teams out there. No one man can follow them all this season. Lee Corso may be the lone exception. But since none of us are him, Blogcritics has appointed a crew to clean up the mess left each week on the co-ed stadiums across the country and summarize (for you, the infallible reader!) the top games, conference by conference.
After some big losses within the conference in week three of the season, there were definitely some teams needing to make a big statement moving into week four. The team needing redemption the most may have been Oklahoma, whose controversy-filled game against Oregon was talked about throughout the week. The Sooners were able to put it aside on Saturday and put big numbers on the board, blanking Middle Tennessee State, 59-0. Adrian Peterson ran for 129 yards and three touchdowns, possibly taking the lead in what is a wide open Heisman race.
A week ago, Texas Tech was only able to get 3 points against TCU but the high-powered air attack came back this week. The Red Raiders went for 62 points against Southeastern Louisiana on the back of 509 yards of total offense. Texas Tech opens their conference season next week against undefeated Texas A&M. The Aggies won their final non-conference game against Louisiana Tech, 45-14.
If you had to guess the only other undefeated team in the conference, Missouri probably wouldn’t be the first name on your list. However, the Tigers are 4-0, and are holding their opponents to under 175 yards of offense per game. They stayed perfect with a 31-6 win over Ohio this week. Sophomore quarterback Chase Daniel threw for 258 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
Texas opened the defense of their conference title with a win in the rain against Iowa State, 37-14. Limas Sweed continued his hot season with seven receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown. The conference season kicks off in earnest next week.
In other action, Nebraska beat Troy, 56-0, and Kansas beat South Florida 13-7. Kansas State, Colorado, Oklahoma State, and Baylor were all losers in their games.
Week 4 in the ACC just re-confirmed the notion that the conference is experiencing a down year.
The weekend started off Thursday night on ESPN with the Calvin Johnson-led Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets dominating the hapless Virginia Cavaliers 24-7. The game was not as close as the score indicates as Virginia only managed 166 total yards, and the score could have been much worse if GT threw to Johnson a few more times.
In other action the Clemson Tigers trashed the Tar Heels from North Carolina 55-7; Virginia Tech trailed early and struggled to beat a below-average Cincinnati Bearcats squad 29-13; Florida State finally scored some points and romped Rice 55-7.
As an illustration of how down the ACC is this year, the 4-0 Wake Forrest Demon Deacons are making noise despite the fact that they haven’t beat a decent team along the way, and almost lost to Duke a few weeks ago. Wake beat a putrid Ole Miss team 27-3 to keep their record perfect.
In another sign that the ACC is struggling, Maryland barely beat lowly Florida International 14-10, as FIU was driving at the end of the game before an end zone interception ended their upset bid.
And in one of the most exciting games of the day North Carolina State staged a furious last minute drive and beat Boston College 17-15. The Wolfpack drove 72-yards in 38 seconds as freshman quarterback Daniel Evans hit John Dunlap in the back of the end zone for the game-winning 34-yard touchdown.
The only game of consequence in the ACC this weekend is the match up between Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech in Blacksburg, VA.
While West Virginia is ranked No. 4 in the nation, many college football observers believe that they may be merely pretenders to the throne. And with that in mind, the Mountaineers go into each week playing with more than a small chip on their shoulder.
Yesterday, WVU moved to 4-0 beating East Carolina 27-10 in a hard-fought victory. Mountaineer quarterback Patrick White threw for 216 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for one. However, he also threw three interceptions. Steve Slaton was held to 80 yards nearly half of his 168 yard average.
The other top ten Big East program, No. 8 Louisville, defeated Kansas State 24-6. Hunter Cantwell continued to develop as a starter and the high-octane Louisville offense was still trying to forge a new identity with its new leader. Cantwell completed 18-of-26 and threw for 173 yards. However, KSU forced three turnovers.
In other Big East action, Connecticut beat Indiana 14-7, Syracuse beat Miami (Ohio) 34-14, Pittsburgh beat The Citadel 51-6, and Rutgers begin conference play next week as a 4-0 team after beating Howard. 56-7.
Michigan State played a game for the ages Saturday night against Notre Dame. Unfortunately for the Spartans, they surrendered 21 fourth quarter points, losing 40-37. Turnovers (3) and Penalties (8-for-65 yards) doomed the Spartans.
#1 Ohio State hosted Penn State in the rain drenched Horseshoe. PSU’s defense was up to the task against the high powered OSU offense, allowing only 14 points; however, PSU’s offense sputtered under first-year starting quarterback Anthony Morelli (16-for-25, 106 yards, 3 INT’s). Morelli threw two “picks for six” on the day. Going into the season, OSU’s defense, with only two returning starters, looked to be the team’s weakness, if not the Achilles heel. The D kept the Buckeyes title hopes alive by forcing three interceptions along with a huge second half goal line stand.
While Troy Smith did not play to his typical standards (115 yards passing, 1 TD, 2 INT’s), but he still had some great plays, most notably an acrobatic 37-yard touchdown pass to Brian Robiskie.
#6 Michigan overcame three Chad Henne interceptions to defeat the Wisconsin Badgers 27-13 in Ann Arbor. Offensively, Mike Hart (91 yards rushing and 1 TD) and Mario Manningham (113 yards receiving and 2 TD’s) had big days, but the game ball has to be given to the Wolverines’ stingy, tenacious defense. The Badgers were forced to punt six times in the second half, scoring only once on a field goal.
Purdue beat visiting Minnesota thanks to the rushing and receiving prowess of sophomore tailback Jaycen Taylor (one quick side note: I just picked up Taylor this week in my Big Ten Fantasy League. I wanted to watch him for one more week before starting him, and Taylor goes off for 22 fantasy points. I know, I’m both dumb for not starting Taylor and pathetic for being so addicted to fantasy sports that I created a Big Ten league). Taylor produced 106 total yards and two TDs.
Iowa went on the road and pounded Illinois 24-7. The Hawkeye’s quarterback Drew Tate had pedestrian stats — 187 yards passing, 1 TD, 1 INT, However, running backs Damien Sims, Albert Young, and Shonn Greene combined for over 150 yards rushing and two touchdowns, propelling the Hawkeyes to a win.
Indiana’s head coach ailing Terry Hoeppner was back, albeit in the coaching booth, as the Hoosiers fell to Connecticut 14-7 at home. IU was outrushed 257 yards to 0.
Northwestern’s struggles continue, as the Wildcats lost Friday night on the road to Nevada 31-21.
Of all the 4-0 teams in the land, how many people are talking about Houston? The Cougars topped Oklahoma State 34-25 thanks to quarterback Kevin Kolb, who threw 22-for-29 yards (75 percent completion) and four touchdowns. Kolb and the passing attack is averaging over 300 yards a game, but next week's game will be the true challenge. They travel to the University of Miami, a proud team in disarray and coming off a bye-week. The curiously unranked Hurricanes should be ready for this one, but don't be surprised if Houston can pull off the upset.
But the Hurricanes in the CUSA are of the golden variety. Tulsa traveled to our Naval Academy and took the Midshipmen to overtime, winning 24-23 thanks to the Canes' Nick Graham blocking Navy's extra point to seal the win.
You hate to be the team to give a bad team their first win. Unfortunately, UAB gave that very favor to Mississippi State. After UAB quarterback Chris Williams threw an interception on the second play of overtime, MSU quarterback Omarr Conner ran in for the winning touchdown, putting away the Blazers 16-10.
Notre Dame was the beneficiary of the ineptitude-based largesse of the Michigan State Spartans Saturday night, as the Irish overcame a 17-point deficit to win a wild 40-37 game in East Lansing. The Irish saved their skin and were able to capitalize on late-game Spartan turnovers as they scored 19 fourth quarter points.
The Notre Dame mafia, in their willingness to overlook the glaring shortcomings of this team, will no doubt look at this comeback as evidence of their team's greatness. In reality, Michigan State is nothing more than an average team that gave away the game and perhaps their season.
For the Irish the patsy parade continues next week as they play host to in-state rival Purdue. Purdue is 4-0, but has beaten two awful MAC teams, a D-1AA team and Minnesota. On the plus side the Irish didn’t gain any ground in the polls this week.
In other Independent action, Army and Navy both lost overtime games while Temple kept it close in their 41-7 loss to Western Michigan.
The only thing that has remained consistent in the Mid-American Conference is the play of Western Michigan. No one will argue Temple (0-4) is a powerhouse, but the Broncos did what they were supposed to do, hammering the Owls 41-7. Mark Bonds rushed for two touchdowns and 87 yards. Not overwhelming numbers, but when your team forces four turnovers, you don't have to be.
And anyone hoping for the usual drama when it comes to MAC football this week would be sorely disappointed. MAC teams participated in 10 games, but only two of them were decided by a touchdown or less.
If you were a MAC team, you either romped or were romped this week.
There were exceptions:
• Central Michigan's Bryan Anderson's fourth-quarter touchdown reception capped a 24-17 win over Eastern Michigan. Anderson had 125 receiving yards in the win.
• If Ball State fans were made sick by the Cardinals' 29-24 loss to North Dakota State, they shouldn't be. NDSU is 4-0. Still, Ball State was outscored 13-0 in the fourth quarter. Ouch.
Garrett Wolfe once again was the league's top player, rushing for 198 yards and four touchdowns as Northern Illinois scored 28 points in the first quarter to beat Indiana State 48-14.
Bowling Green lost to Kent State, 38-3. Sorry, I am still not over BGSU's loss.
The non-conference games were not kind to Ohio, Buffalo and Miami. Toledo and Akron picked up rather lopsided wins.
New Mexico no longer looks like the team that lost badly to I-AA Portland State in the first week. They took care of UTEP 26-13, scoring early and often. UNM tailback Rodney Ferguson rushed for 162 yards and caught a touchdown in the first frame.
BYU had little trouble disposing of in-state opponent Utah State. The Cougars' running back Fui Vakapuna (you better know how to pronounce that one, chief) ran for 73 yards and three touchdowns
We finally saw some Mountain West conference games this week. Shaun Carney led the option-run-powered Air Force team past Wyoming 31-24. Quarterback Shaun Carney ran for 131 yards and two scores, and he also threw a 20-yard strike to Beau Sider, which accounted for half of AFA's passing attack. Then again, you can throw for 40 and win when the team rushes for over 300 yards.
San Diego State made the game close in the first quarter with an 18-yard touchdown catch by Brett Swain. That was the only good news for the Aztecs. Utah went on to rattle off 31 straight points for a 38-7 victory. The game ball goes to senior defensive back Eric Weddle, who ran two interceptions back for touchdowns and scored another one rushing. Both interception TDs went for 30 yards. Both felt great.
While conferences like the ACC, Big 10, and SEC were treated to exciting finishes and defining performances this weekend, the Pac-10 served up a rather mundane Saturday of football. It was probably fitting that Oregon — the ringleader of a memorable Separation Saturday — was the lone conference team with a bye, as "Instant Classics" were traded in for yawners.
When you talk about the Pac-10, you should probably always start with USC. The Trojans traveled to Tucson for a game with Mike Stoops' Arizona Wildcats. Given 'Zona's preseason "sleeper" status, this was one of the games that pundits circled on USC's schedule as a potential trap game way back in August. By the time the game actually started, the spread was 22 points, which tells you all you need to know about both USC and Arizona and how their respective seasons are going. Surprisingly, it wound up being a grueling test for the young SC offense, as the Wildcats' D flew all over the field, trying to hold down the fort long enough for the offense to get some traction. As evidenced by the 20-3 final score, that never happened. Freshman stud Emmanuel Moody led the Trojans with 130 yards and a score on the ground, and star wideout Dwayne Jarrett tied the Pac-10 conference record for receiving touchdowns when he snagged his 32nd career TD. Of course, there is always an injury downside with a USC victory this year and Saturday was no different as Jarrett left the game with a shoulder injury (no specifics given) and freshman Stanley Havili broke his leg, costing the Trojans their starting fullback for the second straight week.
In the "biggest" game of the week, Cal crushed Arizona State, proving that the Sun Devils' defense is going to be just as problematic as pundits predicted before a string of weak non-conference opponents started to suggest otherwise. The Golden Bears are probably kicking themselves for scheduling a road contest at Tennessee right out of the gate, because starting quarterback Nate Longshore is looking terrific now that he's settled in. Considering they were breaking in a guy that had started only one game in his career and was coming back from a major injury, Cal really could have used a patsy to boost his confidence before facing the Vols. Since that debacle, he and the Bears have looked very good. The lesson: only schedule tough road games to open the season when you anticipate having a veteran quarterback under center. That is, if you can forecast such a thing.
In other action, the Washington Huskies went to 3-1 (they played Oklahoma tough into the third quarter in their lone loss) with a 29-19 victory over UCLA and stand out as the surprise team in the conference thus far. Good for Ty Willingham. Additionally, Oregon State crushed Idaho of the WAC, and Washington State crushed Stanford, who might as well be in the WAC. (Actually strike that, as it is probably an insult to the Western Athletic Conference.)
Next week features a lot of games that will probably have big point spreads, but both Cal (at Oregon State) and Oregon (at Arizona State) are looking at dangerous road games that could trip them up if they aren't careful.
There was a time when a regular season matchup between Colorado and Georgia would have gotten a lot of headlines. Colorado is no longer the football team they once were thanks in no small part to a series of ethical lapses during the tenures Rick Neuheisel and Gary Barnett. Georgia did their best to help Colorado go back to the future. The Bulldogs should have lost that game and needed every bit of 60 minutes to get the 14-13 win. Georgia is the best team in the SEC East and should win the division — but they are going to have to figure something out at quarterback.
It would be easy to write about the woes of Alabama's freshman kicker Leigh Tiffin and their significant role in Alabama's double-overtime loss in Fayetteville against the Arkansas Razorbacks. It is wrong to pin a loss on one guy, but kickers have but one job. Tiffin left 10 points on the board and the Tide lost by one in double OT. Beyond that, Alabama lost because the running game is sputtering and they could not stop Darren McFadden. McFadden gets the Jerious Norwood Award (best back in the SEC, but plays for a bad team and it will cost him in the NFL draft).
Two other first half miscues by the Tide could have made this a different game. Quarterback John Parker Wilson looked sharp for most of the game but missed on a deep pass that would have gone for a touchdown on their first drive. Ken Darby could not keep his balance and stumbled out of bounds on a potential touchdown-scoring run.
Second-ranked Auburn easily dispatched Buffalo
High School and now has a short week to prepare for a Thursday night date at South Carolina. LSU also whipped up on easy competition. Ole Miss, doing their best to wrestle away the title of Most Moribund Program from rival Mississippi State, was destroyed by Wake Forest.
The "Diet SEC" continued its dutiful task of being tune-ups for the Big XII and SEC. Middle Tennessee, Florida Atlantic, and Troy all lost to Oklahoma, South Carolina and Nebraska respectively by a combined score of 160-6.
The real shock was Arkansas State — only a seven-point underdog — losing 55-9 to SMU. The ASU Indians allowed the 'Stangs throw four touchdowns in the first half, and as a parting gift they lost four fumbles. The last time SMU scored 55 points against a I-A team was back in their pre-death penalty Southwest Conference days, when they trashed TCU 56-21 on September 28, 1985.
The team of the week, however, was Florida International, who was in a prime position to steal a game in Maryland. With 1:20 left in the game and down by four, quarterback Josh Padrick drive 71 yards to Maryland's 9 yard line, thanks to a 45-yard connection with Chandler Williams. But with seconds left on the clock, Padrick was picked off in the end zone by Terrapins safety Christian Varner. The winless, hapless FIU Panthers left College Park with a 14-10 defeat.