Posted: 1:20 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013
Several times a year ESPN crafts cheesy alliterative sound bites to describe what they believe the week's games will mean. Yesterday, for one of the few times, it was apt as "Shakeout Saturday" went a great way in making sense of conference and national landscapes.
We know that OSU is the best team in the Big Ten, although they may not even survive that slate unscathed. We learned that, yes -again, the PAC 12 is a two-team conference, with a mere handful of middle class foes capable of rising up. While knowing that Alabama, LSU, Florida State, Texas A&M; and UGA were decimated from graduation and the draft, four of those five teams have not yet rebounded defensively. We also learned that the Big Twelve (as I told you last week), is probably just uniformly mediocre-to-bad: In a pig-kissing contest, the Sooners and Bears are the sexiest swine. In the ACC, you have the middle of the conference that has taken some serious body blows, leaving Clemson and FSU with little margin for error in the national picture.
And, yes, the bottom of the power conferences are as bad as they've ever been, save the PAC 12, where the bottom are still competitive (see, e.g., Wazzu, Oregon State, etc). On to the show.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Oregon Ducks (Clemson)
Ohio State Buckeyes
Florida State Seminoles
Texas A&M; Aggies
South Carolina Gamecocks
Fresno State Bulldogs
Virginia Tech Hokies
Arizona State Sun Devils
Ole Miss Rebels
Northern Illinois Huskies
Oklahoma State Cowboys
O, Hai!Northern Illinois - 2-0 in Big Ten play. Hell, that's more than the Buckeyes have done. Dominant in every game except a road win against a physical Hawkeyes team. Virginia Tech - First half offense was glorious, then LOLfler caught up with them. I'm just not sure how anyone can score on this team. With Easley's injury, this has supplanted Florida as America's best defense. Arizona State - Not a fluke: that was a dominating second half, and the offense had its way with the nation's #4 defense (although an illusory #4). Grice just scores and scores and scores.
Be Gone! UCF - This team is hell on wheels: physical and fast defense, strong running game, QB that is built to succeed. Only SEC depth and power running bailed out the ‘Cocks. Borderline Top 25. Georgia Tech - The most annoying team to play in America, ever. Tubs' penchant for playing close to vest, and a defense that is better than you would think is only undone by constant presnap miscues and turnovers. Wisconsin - Best 3-2 team in America. Questionable coaching (again), and a porous secondary (again), undid great efforts by Borland and Stave
Social Promotion:Maryland - The more you look at the shellacking they put on people, and the offense that is finally clicking, the more you think this team will be the first true test for Florida State. Washington - Finally have a decent win against a team that is within their weight class (and, hell no, I'm not counting Boise or Illinois). With UCLA and ASU, they are the representatives of the PAC12's Upper-Middle Class. Oklahoma - Defensive line had a few lapses, but this was a physical game, with an overpowering running game and great downfield blocking. The creme of a down B12. Miami - What to say about the Canes? They are a threshing maw in a substandard wheat field where only 2-3 teams have a realistic shot at unseating them. Speed and nastiness everywhere, and Al Golden has the heart of an assassin. Injuries may catch up though as conference play wears on. Alabama - Finally got to see a solid, almost complete game against a talented opponent. The DL was dominating, QB was efficient moving the chains, running backs and OL came salty against a nasty Ole Miss front four, STs were excellent, and the secondary has sorted itself out: Jackson and Belue are your corners.
Held Back: LSU - As noted last week, the secondary and LBs are the weaknesses of this team -Richt and Bobo noticed. With Aggie and Bama still looming, LSU's toughest days are ahead. That said, they can score on anyone, and the STs are excellent. Sakerlina - Davis is the real deal at running back. Connor Shaw's injury -and complete lack of outside talent, will make many games closer than they ought to be. And, in a recurring national theme, the secondary is just plain bad. Oklahoma State - Absolutely no answers against a WVU team that hit reset and wants to win with defense. If the ‘Eers had a functional offense of any sort, this would have been a complete beat-down. Ole Miss - Hugh Freeze may be the worst in-game coach in the SEC. Against the wall, he committed tactical suicide all night. This chippy, talented team thinks star ratings and jawing win games. But, at the end of the day, without the ability to run the ball the offense is reduced to chuck-and-duck and Bo Wallace running for his life. DL is very good, as is the secondary, and that's enough for a 4th place SEC-W finish. Again. Aggies -The defense is just abominable. Manziel may win a second Heisman, but he should think about giving it to Mike Evans.
Last Out:Rutgers - Bye week for the Scarlet Knights. Along with their martial comrades, the UCF Knights, this is a borderline Top-25 program. Georgia Tech - Top 1/3d kind of team that can make a reappearance (or disappear into oblivion) depending on its ball control. Iowa - One loss to a very good NIU team. Strong running game, strong against the run. Against a B1G slate, this will be enough to win 8-9 games. Northwestern -We finally get to see Northwestern play a team. Hoorah! That team, however, is the Buckeyes, and as the Wildcats are obliterated we can cease to pretend to care about them. Michigan State - Awful loss to Notre Dame. Woeful offense all season. Transcendent defense. Beat Iowa Saturday and this is a Top 25ish kind of team overall.