Another week is in the books, so let’s take a look at some of the coaches, players and teams that had a good weekend … or a very bad one.
Kicking Off …
1. Georgia’s defense was already legit; we saw that when the Dawgs prevented Notre Dame from running the ball in a 20-19 victory at South Bend in Week 2. But what about the Dawgs’ offensive performance in Saturday’s 31-3 pummeling of No. 17 Mississippi State?
There was an opening-play flea flicker that went for 59 yards. Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and a formidable ground game. An early 14-0 lead. True freshman quarterback Jake Fromm completing all eight of his passing attempts in the first half for 160 yards.
“Jake Fromm looks really good, doesn’t he?” ESPN analyst Jesse Palmer said at halftime. “And a true freshman. It’s remarkable. He gets better every game we see him play. He’s accurate and I love the fact that he’s aggressive. He takes shots down the field, and if it’s not there, he throws it away.”
Georgia has a complete team — and more on the defense later. After the 28-point rout of an ascending MSU team that had just ripped LSU apart in a 30-point win, the Dawgs were elevated to No. 7 in the AP Poll. I can’t imagine how any team in the SEC East will prevent Georgia from taking over the division this season.
Alabama is the No. 1 team in the SEC … and then there was everybody else.
At least until Georgia stood up — and stood out — to rise up as the SEC’s clear No. 2 team.
2. Oklahoma State, you done messed up by losing to TCU at home. While I am reluctant to overreact to one loss and scratch any good team from playoff contention this early, the Cowboys put themselves in a tough spot. Unlike Big 12 and state rival Oklahoma, which blasted Ohio State in Columbus, OSU doesn’t have a shiny non-conference win. The Cowboys may not have much of a defense either. There isn’t a clear and unobstructed path to place in the Big 12 championship game. And the OSU can’t afford another setback.
3. Count me among the idiots who thought Vanderbilt MIGHT give No. 1 Alabama a tough game. After all, Vandy’s respected defense had allowed only 13 total points during a 3-0 start. And coming in, coach Derek Mason’s defense led the nation in fewest yards allowed from scrimmage.
After defeating Kansas State in Week 3, the Vanderbilt football delegation did a little too much yapping about wanting to play Alabama, being ready for Alabama.
One problem with that: The Crimson Tide actually came to town.
Hello Nick Saban!
In a 59-0 destruction of the Commodores in Nashville, Alabama outgained Vandy 677-78 and galloped through Vanderbilt’s defense for an astonishing 496 yards rushing.
Stat of the day: In the first half the ‘Bama’s offense had more plays, 49, than Vanderbilt’s offense had yards, 48.
Alabama has won 19 consecutive games over SEC East opponents.
Let’s take a look at the Winners and Losers for Week 4:
FIVE WINNERS …
–– It was easy to sort of forget about TCU coach Gary Patterson last season, when the Frogs had a down year. But by ambushing Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Patterson reminded everybody why he’s such an excellent coach. In TCU’s 44-31 upset win over the No. 6 ‘Pokes, Patterson slowed the Cowboys’ high-speed offense. TCU used a physical rushing game to hog the ball for 39+ minutes of possession and limit OSU’s time on offense. The Frogs got good pressure on OSU quarterback Mason Randolph to disrupt his rhythm. TCU made three defensive stops early to set the tone, and pounced on Oklahoma State mistakes to score 14 points off takeaways. How good is Patterson? TCU is 3-1 in its last four road games against opponents ranked in the top six.
— Georgia’s defense: attack dawgs. We knew that coach Kirby Smart had developed one of the nation’s strongest defenses, loaded with talent and experience. The Dawgs reaffirmed it all with their 31-3 win over visiting Mississippi State. MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who may be the best quarterback in the SEC, scrounged for only 83 yards passing on 29 pass attempts and threw two interceptions that set up 10 points for Georgia. Fitzgerald can wreck defenses with his running ability but the Dawgs would have none of that, all but chasing Fitzgerald back to Starkville.
— Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is the most exciting player in college football, so it’s never surprising to see him do amazing and wonderful things with the rock in his hands. Barkley was at his playmaking, havoc-wreaking finest in Penn State’s last-second 21-19 win at Iowa, amassing a career-best 358 all-purpose yards And while Trace McSorley hit the jackpot throw to Juwan Johnson for the game-winning touchdown on the final play, Barkley got the Nittany Lions close with a key 14-yard reception. Here’s the accounting for Barkley’s evening in Iowa City: Barkley 211 rushing yards, 12 catches for 94 yards, and 53 kick-return yards.
Barkley, a junior, is arguably the most uncontainable collegiate player in these United States. Barkley already has two 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Last year, he melded 1,496 rushing yards with 402 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns. Barkley already has 518 yards rushing this season; he’s averaging just under 8 yards per carry. He’s accumulated 335 receiving yards — only just 67 fewer than his 2016 total. Through four weeks, Barkley tops the Big Ten in rushing yards, receiving yards and receptions. But forget the stats; you just have to watch him go … and go … and go.
— Michigan backup quarterback John O’Korn. He was a double winner in the 28-10 victory at Purdue in a game that was much closer than you’d know by looking at the final score. After a hit knocked Michigan starting QB Wilton Speight out of action in the first quarter, O’Korn took over and passed for 270 yards and a touchdown O’Korn also got some payback on Purdue assistant Tony Levine, who benched the quarterback three years ago when both were at Houston. Levine as the head coach, O’Korn as the starting quarterback.
— N.C. State. The Wolfpack played a smart, disciplined game for a 27-21 upset at Florida State. The visitors committed no turnovers, had six penalties compared to FSU’s 11, swooped in for four sacks while giving up only one. Ryan Finley personified N.C. State’s cool efficiency by completing 69 percent of his passes for 230 yards, two touchdowns and no pickoffs. N.C. State got plenty of preseason buzz as a potential troublemaker in the ACC Atlantic division, which contains Clemson, Florida State and Louisville. The N.C. State hype wagon busted a wheel in a season-opening loss to South Carolina, but this win in Tallahassee makes N.C. State a dangerous ACC underdog.
FIVE LOSERS …
— Kentucky and coach Mark Stoops. After having lost to Florida 30 consecutive times, Kentucky was about to put an end to one of college football’s most humiliating losing streaks. Kentucky was at home, playing before a sellout crowd of 63,000 crazed fans. Florida’s typically phlegmatic offense wasn’t getting much done. Gators coach Jim McElwain benched starting quarterback Feleipe Franks for relief pitcher Luke Del Rio … who was promptly intercepted on his first drive.
Kentucky led by 13 points in the fourth quarter. Well … you knew how this would end, right? The Gators rallied for two touchdowns in the final eight minutes, including the winning 5-yard touchdown pass from Del Rio to Freddie Swain. This 28-27 stun gun of a defeat made it 31 in a row for Florida over Kentucky. That’s just ridiculous.
— Mason Rudolph’s Heisman Trophy campaign. Mason passed for another gaudy total, 398 yards. He threw for two touchdowns. He rushed for a touchdown. But Rudolph’s shaky accuracy was a prominent reason why the Cowboys got upended at home by TCU. Rudolph completed only 22 of 41, struggled through much of the first three quarters, and was intercepted twice.
— Arkansas coach Bret Bielema. I like the big man, but … after losing to Texas A&M and Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin for the fifth consecutive season — this time 50-43 in overtime — Bielema got emotional and teary-eyed in the postgame news conference. Arkansas fans were probably crying for other reasons; Bielema’s $15.4 million buyout all but guarantees he’ll be back for a sixth season in 2018. With the latest what-the-hell-happened defeat, Bielema is 26-28 in SEC games. The Razorbacks are only 23-19 overall in Bielema’s last 42 games.
— Florida State’s chances of winning the ACC. The loss to N.C. State made the Seminoles 0-2 to start the season for the first time since 1989. That ‘89 team clicked off 10 straight wins after the slow start, but that scenario is highly unlikely for this year’s group. Overall the program is in great shape under coach Jimbo Fisher, but the 2017 season was altered in a terrible way when the Seminoles lost quarterback Deondre Francois (knee surgery) in the opening-game walloping from Alabama. FSU still has Miami, Louisville and Clemson remaining on the schedule.
— Tennessee coach Butch Jones. Yeah, the Vols survived a scare from college football non-entity UMass, winning 17-13 in Knoxville. But the Vols’ performance was so dull and uninspired, even Jones called it “flat-out unacceptable” after the game. Winless UMass, a 27.5-point underdog, competed without their best player, injured tight end Adam Breneman. And the Minutemen went most of the second half without starting quarterback Andrew Ford who left with an injury. Tennessee went scoreless for the game’s first 25 minutes and didn’t score during the final 22 minutes. And UMass actually had a chance to win the game on the final possession, but the Tennessee defense quickly clamped it down.
Major problem: Tennessee doesn’t appear to have a quarterback. Jones benched starter Quinten Dormady late in the third quarter, but backup Jarrett Guarantano couldn’t move the offense in his three drives. Coming a week after handing away the game in a 26-20 loss at Florida, the Vols’ latest stinker raised more questions about Jones’ coaching future. And now comes a killer stretch of schedule: Georgia (H), South Carolina (H), at Alabama, at Kentucky. The Vols are 4-5 in their last nine games vs. Power Five opponents.
Thanks for reading …