And here we all thought this week was going to be a big, fat letdown after last week's marquee openers. Here's a 10-pack of nuggets (which is really like a 37-pack squeezed into 10 points) to wrap up a fantastic Saturday:
1. Michigan State holds off Oregon. And, boy, do I mean holds off. After throwing incomplete twice inside of two minutes to go, Michigan State gave the ball back to Oregon with a slight 31-28 and plenty of time for the Combat Ducks to erase it. But Vernon Adams missed a wide open Royce Freeman for what would have been a walk-in, go-ahead touchdown. The Spartans sacked Adams on the next play, then forced him to throw incomplete on 4th-and-16 to hold on for the win.
Sparty's schedule gets pretty breezy from here: three straight at home against Air Force, Central Michigan and Purdue, trips to Rutgers and Michigan, home against Indiana, at Nebraska, then back home for Maryland before that clear-your-schedule Nov. 21 trip to Ohio State. Michigan State - probably - will be undefeated for that one. And while we're out on this limb, will a one-loss Michigan State with a win over Pac-12 North favorite Oregon and only a loss at Ohio State be enough to get in the Playoff? I'd like my chances if I was Mark Dantonio.
Oh, and there's this: Michigan State is now 5-1 in its last six games against the AP top 10.
2. Coaches, us keyboard jockeys readily admit you know more football than we do. No argument there. But it's time we had a conversation with some of you.
Just before halftime at the Big House, Oregon State faced a 4th-and-3 from Michigan's 39 trailing 10-7. Instead of going for it, Gary Andersen took a penalty to give its punter more room to work, then couldn't line up properly and was hit with another penalty.
As if karma was determined to teach an immediate lesson, the snap soared over Beavers punter Nick Porbeski's head, and which he recovered at his own three-yard line. Michigan scored three plays later to take a 17-7 lead into the break. The Wolverines would go on to win 35-7.
Andersen, clearly, was looking to make a conservative play and nurse a three-point deficit into halftime. But the numbers universally say the smart, safe, dare I say conservative play there was to go for it.
From the New York Times: Not everyone needs to be Pulaski Academy's Kevin Kelley (though us scribes would love it if a few of you tried) but it's time to either listen to the numbers or listen to us keyboard jockeys shout you into oblivion.
3. Execution, execution, execution. With just over three minutes remaining at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Jacksonville State defender Randy Robinson hopped on an Auburn fumble at the Gamecocks' 13-yard line. Jacksonville State led 20-13. Here's what happened from there:
a. The Gamecocks immediately committed a personal foul, pushing the ball back to their own seven.
b. Instead of throwing beyond the sticks on 3rd-and-4 from the 13, Jacksonville State called a run for the third consecutive play on that possession and eighth straight snap overall. It was stuffed for a one-yard gain.
c. Punter Harnish MacInnes shanked a 17-yard boot, giving Auburn the ball at the Jacksonville State 31.
d. Auburn scored in five plays, tying the game.
e. After Daniel Carlson's kickoff spun out of bounds, Jacksonville State accepted the ball at its own 35 with 39 seconds remaining and one timeout. Instead of targeting receivers Josh Barge or Ruben Gonzalez (a combined 22 grabs for 233 yards on the day), head coach John Grass took a knee.
f. In the top of the first overtime, Jacksonville State allowed an Auburn first down in two plays, then forced a 3rd-and-9 at the 13. Tigers quarterback Jeremy Johnson swung the ball to running back Peyton Barber near the line of scrimmage. Barber broke multiple tackles to push the ball to the four yard-line, giving Auburn a drive-extending first down. Barber gave Auburn the lead one play later with a four-yard plunge.
g. After inducing a pass interference penalty on Auburn, Jacksonville State achieved a first-and-goal from the Tigers' eight. A touchdown would extend the game to a second overtime. A touchdown and a two-point conversion would win it for the Gamecocks. Two plays later, on a third-and-goal from the five, Gamecocks quarterback Eli Jenkins took a 16-yard sack, setting up a fourth-and-game from the 21. Jenkins' heave to Barge was incomplete. Ballgame.
Jacksonville State was the better team for much of Saturday afternoon. The Gamecocks outgained Auburn 438-401, held a 28-23 first downs advantage and forced three turnovers. But critical mistakes at unforgiving times (Jenkins also threw an interception in Auburn territory, and kicker Connor Rouleau missed two field goals) sent a deserving Jacksonville State team home empty handed.
4. Uh, Auburn? I'm a big fan of Gus Malzahn and Will Muschamp. Seeing as the Tigers were consensus favorites to win the SEC and reach the College Football Playoff, clearly this is not a one-person fan club. But since beating Ole Miss in Oxford last Nov. 1, the Tigers have lost to Texas A&M at home, been blown out at Georgia, beat Samford, lost a shootout at Alabama, dropped the Outback Bowl to Wisconsin, sneaked by a Louisville team that lost to Houston at home Saturday (more on that later) and then won that game. A trip to Baton Rouge awaits.
5. "If a dog's gonna bite you, he'll do it as a pup." That quote, one of a hundred such gems of backporch wisdom to spill out of the late Darrell Royal's mouth, was in reference to playing young football players, but it applies equally well to coaches. After watching Michigan hold Oregon State to 9-of-20 passing for 79 yards and outrushing the Beavers 225-59, is there anyone that has a shred of doubt that Jim Harbaugh will turn Michigan around? And of Tom Herman, a winner at come-from-behind winner at Louisville in his second game as head coach? Didn't think so.
6. And now for a section we'll call, "Yeah it's not against the best competition, but...." a. Illinois drubbed Western Illinois 44-0 a week after blowing out Kent State 52-3.
b. West Virginia held Georgia Southern and Liberty scoreless through its first six quarters of the season.
c. Ole Miss has averaged nearly 75 points and 635 yards of total offense in drubbings of UT-Martin and Fresno State.
d. Georgia Tech has averaged 67 points and 457 rushing yards (on 8.47 a carry) in blowouts of Alcorn State and Tulane.
e. Texas Tech has averaged 64 points and 8.03 yards per play in wins over Sam Houston State and UTEP.
f. Baylor has been very Baylor so far this year, totaling 1,508 yards on 163 plays (9.25 a snap) and 122 total points in wins over SMU and Lamar.
g. Boston College has outscored Maine and Howard 100-3. One hundred to three.
7. This week's happiest locker room in college football belongs to... Oklahoma. The Sooners trailed 17-3 through three at a raucous Neyland Stadium and looked very mediocre in doing so. But the Sooners owned the fourth quarter, using 11 minutes and 19 seconds to move 140 yards on 27 plays to tie the game with 40 seconds remaining. Tennessee opened the scoring in overtime with a crisp six-play drive, and Oklahoma responded with a 4th-and-1 zone-read keeper from the Tennessee 1 by Baker "So Much Freaking Fun To Watch" Mayfield to push to a second overtime. Mayfield hit Sterling Shepard for an 18-yard score to give Oklahoma its first lead of the day, and Zack Sanchez sealed the comeback win with an interception of Josh Dobbs. The following tweets will tell the rest of the story:
8. #karma. Bret Bielema on Wednesday:
“It’s wonderful. I love it. I say that with a smile, as it’s a major statement to the nation. Ohio State has one game on the schedule against a ranked team, we have eight left on the schedule. To get through this conference, it’s unprecedented. Any argument (against the strength of the SEC) is complete nonsense.”
Bielema on Saturday:
"I'm embarrassed for our fans and the people that traveled today -- all the people here in Little Rock that this game means a lot to. It means a lot to us, and to not play well here for the second year in a row is very frustrating and something that I know that we are going to have to correct."
Arkansas rushed for only 103 yards on the day, managing to lose a game in which it posted a 197 yardage edge and doubled Toledo's first downs.
9. Keeping track so you don't have to: Power Five standings
ACC: 0-4 (0-2 vs. SEC, 0-1 vs. Pac-12, 0-1 vs. Notre Dame)
Big Ten: 4-4 (3-2 vs. Pac-12, 1-1 vs. Big 12, 0-1 vs. SEC)
Big 12: 2-2 (1-1 vs. Big Ten, 1-0 vs. SEC, 0-1 vs. Notre Dame)
Pac-12: 3-4 (2-3 vs. Big Ten, 1-0 vs. ACC, 0-1 vs. SEC)
SEC: 4-1 (2-0 vs. ACC, 1-0 vs. Big Ten, 0-1 vs. Big 12, 1-0 vs. Pac-12)
10. Odds and Ends:
a. Georgia State earned its first win ever over an FBS opponent, holding on for a 34-32 win at New Mexico State. A hearty congratulations to Trent Miles and the rest of his program.
b. In light of Jay Norvell using Jerrod Heard to spark Texas to a much-needed 42-28 win over Rice, this quote from Malik Jefferson raises an eyebrow: "All the guys wanted to see him play. He'd been held back, like in a prison cell."
c. The biggest win of Florida State's season came in a Tallahassee courtroom. Dalvin Cook, acquitted of battery charges in August, rushed 30 times for 266 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-14 win over South Florida. It was the second-most rushing yards ever by a Seminole.
d. Eastern Michigan earned its first road non-conference win since 1988 with a 48-29 triumph at Wyoming.
e. Temple! A week after stuffing Penn State 27-10, Matt Rhule and the Owls won at AAC favorite Cincinnati, 34-26. The Owls should be ranked on Sunday. Their next five games: at Massachusetts, at Charlotte, Tulane, Central Florida, at East Carolina.
f. In "The Game Someone Had To Win," Washington State rebounded from one of the worst FCS losses of the decade to travel cross country to beat Rutgers, 37-34. Washington State blew a third quarter 20-6 lead, only to see Rutgers turn around a blow a 34-30 lead with 1:31 to play.
g. You had to leave that Notre Dame-Virginia game feeling awful for both teams. A week after losing starting running back Tarean Folston for the year, the Irish lost quarterback Malik Zaire for the season. Notre Dame outscored two Power Five teams 64-17 over the first seven quarters of its season and is now faced with its umpteenth "rally the troops" moment over the past 25 years. Virginia, meanwhile, led until the final 12 seconds of the game and now sits at 0-2 with Boise State coming to town later this month.
h. Steve Spurrier spent his month of July saying, essentially, "If you can talk up Tennessee and Arkansas after 7-6 seasons, then you've got to give us some love, too." Turns out he was right, in exactly the wrong way he intended. After the Vols, Hogs and Cocks went a combined 18-18 in the 2014 regular season, the three are a combined 3-3 with equally bitter defeats on Saturday. We've covered Tennessee and Arkansas, but South Carolina's loss was just as bad. After trailing Kentucky 24-7 at the half, South Carolina fought back to run a game-tying two-point conversion, which was promptly fumbled and returned for two points for the Wildcats. South Carolina's next drive ended in an interception at the Kentucky 23-yard line. It was Kentucky's first road win in 23 tries.
i. This is why you never go to bed on Saturday nights. Just stay up all weekend.
k. We're only two weeks in, but it feels like we've got a somewhat clear pecking order in the SEC. It's Georgia and Missouri and everybody else in the East. The West is a little murkier. There's Alabama on top, then Texas A&M, Ole Miss and LSU (21-19 winners at Mississippi State Saturday night) next, then Arkansas, Auburn and Mississippi State, still capable of beating anyone on any given Saturday but clearly not capable of beating everyone on every given Saturday.
And with that in mind, this feels like a good nugget to end on: Ole Miss at Alabama next week. College football, everyone. Even on weeks that are supposed to be light and boring, this sport never lets up.