UCLA's Brett Hundley has completed 72.1 percent of his passes this season and is on pace for 3,300 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, five interceptions, and more than 700 rushing yards. UCLA has faded into the background and has disappointed compared to national preseason expectations, but Hundley has played his part, and the Bruins are still 8-2 and 20th in the F/+ rankings. For a disappointing season, that's pretty damn good.
In his first start as Washington State's new No. 1 quarterback following Connor Halliday's injury, redshirt freshman Luke Falk attempted 61 passes against Oregon State. There are no training wheels, no "maybe we'll run a lot more" protections in a Mike Leach offense.
Oh yeah, and Falk won, too. He completed 44 passes for 471 yards and five touchdowns, and while he was sacked four times, he threw no interceptions, and Washington State beat Oregon State, 39-32, on the road. Falk threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns to ice the game. Not bad for a walk-on.
Using equivalent points as our guide, Notre Dame's five turnovers against Arizona State were worth about 34.3 points of field position. The Irish outgained the Sun Devils by a 487-412 margin (yards per play: ND 6.2, ASU 5.6), but Everett Golson couldn't get out of his own way. His first-quarter fumble set ASU up at Notre Dame's 13, then an interception set ASU up at the 23. Then he threw a pick six.
In the second half, Golson threw an interception from ASU's 7, then capped the performance with another pick six. The turnovers both helped ASU burst out to a huge lead, then prevented an increasingly hot Notre Dame offense from catching all the way up, and the Sun Devils ended up pulling away for a 55-31 win. Golson has been an incredible asset for Notre Dame's offense this year and is the primary reason the Irish are 7-2 despite turnover in personnel (both expected and unexpected). But Saturday was not his brightest day.
Boise State and New Mexico combined for 109 points, Georgia and Kentucky combined for 94, Ohio State and Michigan State went for 86, Texas A&M and Auburn for 79, Georgia Tech and N.C. State for 79, Oregon and Utah for 78, UCLA and Washington for 74, et cetera.
But there were some defensive slogs. Alabama and LSU, for instance, combined for 18 punts, but you can forgive that one a bit, because both teams have top-10 defenses.
Penn State does, too, but it's harder to look past the puntfest that was PSU-Indiana. The Nittany Lions beat the Hoosiers, 13-7, in a game that featured 20 punts (and not particularly good punts either; net punting: PSU 36.8, Indiana 32.7), a 7-for-34 third-down conversion rate, and a combined 45 percent completion rate. Penn State's Christian Hackenberg and Indiana's Zander Diamont combined to go 25-for-56 for 236 yards, four interceptions, six sacks, and no touchdowns.
This Penn State defense is so good, and this Penn State offense is so bad.
Duke and Syracuse combined for 16 punts of their own, but Duke at least offered some excitement by returning a punt for a game-turning touchdown in the fourth quarter. It broke a 10-10 tie and prompted a turnover-on-downs and an interception that Duke turned into a 27-10 cruise. Penn State and Indiana just kept punting.
Texas allowed 45 points to Iowa State a few weeks ago, then held West Virginia to 16 on Saturday in a strangely easy 33-16 win. The Longhorns have allowed 16 or fewer points four times and have allowed 31 or more three times. In their last six games, they have produced the following point totals: 7, 26, 48, 0, 34, 33.
This is a hilariously volatile team in Charlie Strong's first year in charge. Considering the change in style, that was perhaps to be expected. But even if you see it coming, witnessing it is rather jarring. The Longhorns have produced every combination of bad/good offense and good/bad defense this year, though the D has been far more consistent than the O.
And like Arizona State for Oregon in the potential Pac-12 title game, that general volatility represents a sizable land mine for TCU's national title hopes in a couple of weeks. Maybe TCU heads down to Austin and wins easily; that's what tends to happen when the No. 7 team in the country (per F/+) plays the No. 53 team. But Good Texas is pretty close to a top-25 team and could scare the daylights out of the Horned Frogs. And we won't really know which Texas team will show up.
Florida State's Jameis Winston had 10 interceptions in 384 passes last fall as he was winning the Heisman Trophy and leading the Seminoles to the national title.
In 294 passes this fall, he has already thrown 11. Winston threw two against Virginia as Florida State did what Florida State does almost every week -- win comfortably in the least impressive possible manner.
When the Seminoles absolutely need to score, Winston makes sure they do just that. For one to two quarters per game, he is the best quarterback in the country. But for the game's other two or three quarters, he is erratic and mistake-prone. And I'm pretty sure that, even without the character questions and off-the-field silliness that have from the start of the season doomed his bid at a second Heisman, his on-field mistakes would make a second victory pretty difficult. But as long as FSU remains undefeated, that won't bother him too much.
Jameis Winston, Photo credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
New Mexico averaged 9.6 yards per play against Boise State, 627 yards in 65 plays. And the Lobos lost.
UNM went up 42-28 late in the first half, the Lobos missed a field goal and turned the ball over on downs twice, and Boise State, which averaged 8.2 yards per play in its own right, scored on eight of its final nine possessions to win, 60-49.
Bob Davie's Lobos are up to 50th in Off. F/+ and have been pretty solid offensively for most of what is now a three-year run. And to be sure, his 10-24 record (3-6 in 2014) far surpasses that of his predecessor. In Mike Locksley's three-year tenure, UNM went just 3-33.
But while the offense has gained traction, the Lobos are now up to 116th in Def. F/+. That's both awful and their best ranking since 2010. Davie has not been able to build up the talent and depth on that side of the ball, and it was never more evident or costly than on Saturday night. And for a guy who was the hottest defensive assistant in the country 20 years ago, that has to be more than a little bit frustrating.
How good was Ohio State on Saturday? They moved up to 3rd, they knocked Mich St down to 25th, and they dragged Va Tech up to 28th.— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) November 10, 2014
JT Barrett looking good is setting up the inevitable Braxton Miller graduation and transfer to Oregon for immediate eligibility.— Dan Rubenstein (@DanRubenstein) November 9, 2014
Ohio State averaged 8.5 yards per play on Saturday, and that was noteworthy for a much different reason than New Mexico's accomplishment above. It was the largest per-play average allowed by Michigan State in the Mark Dantonio era; the Spartans have allowed greater than six yards per play just five times in four seasons, and even in their 49-7 destruction at the hands of Alabama in the 2011 Capital One Bowl, they allowed 8.2.
This was about as good an offensive performance as you'll ever see. Ohio State spotted Michigan State a 21-14 lead, thanks in part to two lost fumbles, then went on a 28-3 run to seize the game. J.T. Barrett was ... damn. The redshirt freshman (remember that he's just a RSFR??) completed 16 of 26 passes for 300 yards (six for 129 to Devin Smith) and three touchdowns, and not including two sacks, he rushed 12 times for 108 yards and two more scores.
JUST TOUCHDOWNS, FOLKS http://t.co/enw3pwbpt6— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) November 9, 2014
Barrett's late-Q2 touchdown passes to Michael Thomas (79 yards) and Smith (44) gave the Buckeyes an out-of-nowhere halftime lead, and with Michigan State clinging to hope, down 42-31 in the fourth quarter, his 55-yard run set up the Ezekiel Elliott run that iced the game.
Barrett went 9-for-29 with three interceptions and seven sacks against Virginia Tech in Ohio State's Week 2 loss. Since then, he has almost done a better Braxton Miller impersonation than Miller himself is capable of. That Ohio State was beating up on the dregs of the Big Ten (and Cincinnati) allowed people to continue ignoring the Buckeyes. It's a lot more difficult to do that now.
Miller is out for the season with injury, and the thought of an incumbent-vs.-incumbent QB race next year is leading us into one of the Sports Internet's more fun creations: the jokes-turn-into-rumors life cycle. For every school that might need a QB next year, there is (completely unfounded) buzz, and it's not going to end anytime soon.
Bob Stoops has a nearly unimpeachable record in his 16 seasons at Oklahoma. Big 12 titles, a national title, etc. But Saturday's 48-14 home loss to Baylor accomplished two things:
- It all but confirmed for a fourth straight year that Oklahoma will not win the Big 12.
- The 34-point margin almost matched the margin of Stoops' first six home losses combined.
That Stoops has lost only seven times at home since 1999 is quite impressive. But in his first six losses -- Oklahoma State in 2001, TCU in 2005, Texas Tech in 2011, Notre Dame and Kansas State in 2012, Kansas State in 2014 -- the Sooners were outscored by a combined 36 points, 159-123.
Baylor's win was Oklahoma's worst since the John Blake era. Texas A&M came to town on November 15, 1997, and left with a 51-7 win that dropped the Sooners to 3-8 on the season. If "worst since John Blake" weren't specific and sad enough, when A&M came to town that Saturday, The Jackal was the No. 1 movie in the country (it surpassed Starship Troopers), and Titanic was about a month away from its release. Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997 / Something About the Way You Look Tonight" was in week 6 of a long reign as the No. 1 song. Kirstie Alley's Veronica's Closet was a popular show.
On paper, Oklahoma can still be quite good in 2014. The Sooners suffered pick sixes in each of their earlier losses (which came by a combined five points) and were poster boys for the "If the season were 82 games, they'd be just fine" sample-size problem college football will always have. But Saturday's loss was epic. Yes, star receiver Sterling Shepard was out. But ... 34 points! Oklahoma went up 14-3, then gave up 45 straight points.
The "Stoops' tenure has grown stale" talk is just something that happens when you've been in the same job for 16 years. There are ups, downs, good luck, bad luck, et cetera. But while there may be no long-term consequences of which to speak, Saturday's loss was unprecedented for the Stoops era, and it was the third loss of the year for a team that was entertaining national title ambitions. Hell, I thought Oklahoma was in no way a top-five team heading into the season and was receiving an incredible bowl bump for last year's Sugar Bowl, but I still thought the schedule set up for only one or two losses.
Oregon has started five different combinations on the offensive line this year, only two of which have stayed the same in back-to-back games.
Starting left tackle Tyler Johnstone was lost for the season with a fall-camp ACL injury. Redshirt freshman Jake Pisarcik was the starting guard for the season opener but was quickly replaced by Cameron Hunt in Game 2. Right tackle Andre Yruretagoyena was lost for the season in Game 2. Freshman Tyrell Crosby started in Yruretagoyena's place in Game 3, then moved to left tackle for Game 4 (when Jake Fisher was hurt) while Matt Pierson manned the RT. That combination lasted two games, then Fisher returned, and the Fisher-Hamani Stevens-Hroniss Grasu-Hunt-Pierson combination lasted for four games. Pierson missed the Utah game, so Crosby started there again. Then Grasu, one of the best centers in the country, left the game with injury.
Oregon has a very well-timed bye week in Week 12, but if Grasu cannot go against Colorado, that would mean the Ducks' sixth starting combination in 11 games. That probably won't matter against Colorado, but when combined with other key injuries -- leading receiver Bralon Addison in the spring, leading tight end Pharaoh Brown against Utah, etc. -- it's a bit of a miracle that Oregon has not only survived with just one loss, but has managed to play at an elite level.
Oregon currently ranks fourth in the F/+ rankings, ahead of teams like undefeated Mississippi State and Florida State, and if the line holds up (and star corner Ifo Ekpre-Olomu returns as planned from his Utah injury), the Ducks should be able to take advantage of their control-your-destiny situation and reach the College Football Playoff.
Following a 34-14 pasting of Iowa State, Kansas has now won four Big 12 conference games since the start of the 2009 season*. The Jayhawks beat Iowa State (41-36) in October 2009, beat Colorado (52-45) in November 2010, and beat West Virginia (31-19) last fall. This really isn't much of a sign of growth overall -- KU did, after all, thump West Virginia in 2013 and finished one spot higher in the F/+ rankings (101st) than they currently reside -- but when something happens only four times in six years, it's a special occasion.
Tearing down the goalposts: completely warranted.
* That includes Mark Mangino's last season in charge. The "things fell apart after Mangino left" narrative doesn't completely ring true; the collapse had already begun when he left.
(How's KU's head coaching search going, by the way? Well, athletic director Sheahon Zenger has hired former Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas to help out, so ... it's going great. For $100, I've got the only name Zenger needs.