Ten Things - Week Four
Posted By:Wes Mewbourne - Birmingham, AL Tags:
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Just like that, the first month of the season is just about in the books. September has been far from a disappointment, though, as upsets and dramatic finishes were found in abundance. We even got the coaching carousel started a bit early, which may have ripples that reach beyond bowl season. As exciting as September was, it was merely an appetizer for the main course that October will provide. But lest we get ahead of ourselves, Let’s take a look back at the week that was in this week’s Ten Things.
1. Coaching Carousel Kicks Off – Surely by now, assuming you don’t reside under a rock, you’ve heard that Les Miles, the most entertaining coach that football has seen since 90’s era Spurrier, was fired at LSU after starting 2-2 with losses to Wisconsin and Auburn. It’s one thing to lose to Auburn, but it’s another to lose when your opponent doesn’t score a single touchdown, your offense is the same vanilla flavor it’s been for the past decade, and clock management is a recurring problem. This time, the clock just ran out in more ways than one. In other, not so noteworthy news, Florida International (an airport has a football team??) fired head coach Ron Turner after starting 0-4 and accumulating a 10-30 record since 2013. Surely the former firing will have more of an impact, but rest assured this is just the first two of many to come in the coming months.
2. Public Service Announcement – Don’t do stupid stuff with the tradition of other teams. I mean, don’t do stupid stuff in general, but especially with tradition. The traditions of sports teams is part of the pageantry that makes the whole of the sport better. After the aforementioned Auburn win over LSU, the home Tigers took to their postgame tradition of rolling the oaks at Toomer’s Corner. Some dummy, we’ll not give them name recognition in this space, lit the toilet paper on one of the trees resulting in a rather large (and dangerous) fire in the middle of many celebrating fans. Perhaps the perpetrator will be sentenced to being counseled by a certain Bama fan that learned what not to do with those trees…
3. PAC-12 Dark Horses Emerge – It’s no secret that the PAC-12 was going to be fairly wide open. Stanford was, and is, the obvious favorite in the North but there’s plenty of parity in the South. Well Utah, a team that hasn’t had fewer than three conferences losses in a season since joining three years ago, is 4-0 with already a win over reigning division champs USC. Meanwhile, a challenger has emerged in the North division. Washington, a team that has had decreasing win totals each of the last three years, is also 4-0 and looking to take a BIG step forward this week against the Cardinal (more on that in #10).
4. Badgers Bring The Pain – In the Big Ten, all the talk has been about Ohio State and Michigan. There was some talk that Michigan State was enjoying the backseat role, just waiting for their chance to emerge as once again the surprise that surprises no one and everyone. Now, that role is being played by Wisconsin, who bludgeoned the Spartans 30-6 last week. Even though their week 1 win over LSU doesn’t look nearly as good now, they still boast two quality wins going into a stretch that started with last year’s Big 10 champs, ends with last year’s conference runner-up (Iowa), and in between a trip to Michigan and a home game against Ohio State. Finish that stretch without a loss, and the Badgers will be the next Louisville. Speaking of…
5. Cardinals Rise Continues – Quite possibly the biggest surprise of the season thus far is the emergence of Lamar Jackson, Louisville’s all-everything quarterback, and the re-emergence of coach Bobby Petrino. Ten Things loves a good redemption story, and it’s a truly great story that the school that gave Petrino his first shot (and his second chance after near career suicide) is now on the rise. This, of course, is due in no small part to Jackson, wo leads the nation in total individual yards (1,856 combined passing and rushing), rushing touchdowns (12), and total touchdowns (25). And Jackson’s success is owed to the coaching acumen of Petrino. It’s a perfect storm that could take the ACC by, well…storm.
6. Playoff Four – Now that just about every team has had a high profile game or two, it’s a good time to take a peek into who the top four teams are. For now, in no particular order…
Alabama – The defending national champs are currently undefeated. That in itself is enough to keep them in contention. Even though their season opening throttling of USC doesn’t look as good, the win at Ole Miss and the Rebels’ demolition of Georgia last week, there’s still a quality win even this early in the season.
Clemson – The Tigers have looked lethargic to start the season, but a solid win at Georgia Tech gives the defending ACC champs and title game runner-ups a decent resume thus far. They still have several big games left to play, but they’re considered tops in the ACC until they get beat.
Stanford – The Cardinal are one of the only teams with three wins over Power 5 conference teams (Kansas St, USC, and UCLA). Couple that with the most electric player in the country (Christian McCaffrey) running, catching, and returning kicks and you’ve got the makings of a championship contender.
Wisconsin – It was a tough decision for a Big Ten representative here, but Wisconsin began the month with an upset win over LSU and ended it with an upset blowout of the Spartans. Neither Ohio State nor Michigan can say the same….yet.
7. Next Four – Here are the four teams in the best position to replace one of the above teams
Louisville – No team has looked as dominant as the Cardinals. With Jackson at the helm, they are in the best position to unseat Clemson for the ACC crown. They get their shot this week.
Ohio State – The team with the best shot to derail the Badgers is the team that’s beaten them the past four times in a row.
Michigan – The Wolverines get first crack at Wisconsin and get to host them in Ann Arbor. This will probably be Jim Harbaugh’s biggest game since coming back to wear maize and blue.
Washington – I can’t believe they’re in this position so quickly, but I shouldn’t be surprised. After what Chris Petersen was able to do with Boise St, it was only a matter of time before he had the Huskies in this position.
8. The Service Academies Play Football, Too – It may come as some surprise, but Army, Navy, and Air Force have football teams, and pretty darn good ones at that. Those three are a combined 9-1, with the lone loss coming on Buffalo’s field goal in overtime to beat Army. As unlikely as it may sound, the three of them are halfway to bowl eligibility. If they all get to 6 wins, it could be the first time since before the BCS era that all three play in the postseason.
9. SEC Rundown – While clearly the story of the conference is the early season firing of a national championship coach. But aside from that, Tennessee took a giant step forward by beating Florida for the first time since before the iPhone became a thing. After Georgia’s collapse against Ole Miss, the Volunteers may be the class of the East this year. Auburn gave coach Gus Malzahn a reprieve by kicking a ton of field goals, and Texas A&M may wind up being the biggest challenge to Alabama for the West. The conference continues to be fairly top-heavy, though, unless Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina can beat a Power 5 team besides each other.
10. Three To See – While it’s not quite as stacked this week, it’s a rare treat to have two games involving top ten teams.
#7 Stanford at #10 Washington – Saturday starts on Friday night this week. The Cardinal prepare for their biggest test of the season, and maybe their only ranked team to play until the PAC-12 title game. Meanwhile the Huskies and quarterback Jake Browning are looking to justify lofty expectations and a top ten ranking by showing the home crowd they can beat the big boys. Just don’t kick to Christian McCaffrey, guys. Stanford wins 37-20
#11 Tennessee at #25 Georgia – The Volunteers finally played up to their ability, though it only took three and a half games. Coach Butch Jones may have his best team yet, and after beating defending East division champ Florida a win between the hedges may secure a division title. Georgia, meanwhile, is still licking the wounds inflicted by a revitalized Rebels team. Perhaps the Bulldogs can channel the ability to turn a disappointing loss into a huge win. Bulldogs rebound and sneak by with a 26-20 win.
#3 Louisville at #5 Clemson – The main event is sure to be one of the most exciting games of the season. The most electric quarterback of last year, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, and the most exciting quarterback this year, Louisville’s Jackson, will go toe-to-toe with defenses who’s primary goal is to not look completely silly. This will be coach Swinney’s definitive win to assert Clemson’s dominance will continue, or Petrino’s way of thanking Louisville for another chance by cementing their place in the pilot’s seat. Jackson runs (and throws) wild and Louisville cruises, 48-27.
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