I.) Penn State needs a large umbrella.
Yes, when it rains it pours in Nittany Lion country, and the rain has been hurricane-like in its assault. When the NCAA handed down its punishment, many thought it would be junior RB Silas Reed, who transferred to USC, or senior WR Justin Bannan (Oklahoma) that would be the biggest loss to the Penn State program this year. Yet after last week it is the preseason loss of kicker Anthony Fera that has inflicted the most pain. Fera’s replacement, Sam Ficken, had a horrible day against Virginia, missing four field goals and an extra point in PSU’s 17-16 loss. Fera missed only 3 kicks all last year in going 14-of-17. I, for one, am hoping Sam Ficken puts last week behind him and goes on to have a great year, silencing those sub-humans who disgracefully attacked him on Twitter over the weekend.
II.) Texas A&M and Missouri showing they belong in the SEC.
Like many fans across the country, I was expecting both Texas A&M and Missouri to struggle mightily in their inaugural year in the “Hey, these guys are both big AND fast” Conference – also known as the SEC. But both teams took their opponents into the fourth quarter, with A&M slugging it out but eventually falling 20-17 to Florida and Missouri matching up statistically with Georgia before letting the game get away into the fourth quarter. The most important takeaway from these two games to me is that both A&M and Missouri showed they can compete. And if they can continue to do so in this league for the next year or so, eventually they will land those four- and five-star recruits that will put them in position to take an SEC title.
III.) QB controversy in South Carolina?
OK, not yet, but I’m sure the Gamecocks opening day starter Connor Shaw is reeeaally amping up the rehab on that shoulder injury he suffered in week one at Vanderbilt. In his absence last week, sophomore QB Dylan Thompson looked strong in South Carolina’s 48-10 shellacking of East Carolina. The best thing Thompson did was put the game away early, going 14-of-23 for 216 yards and two TDs in the first half to lead the Gamecocks to a 21-0 halftime advantage. Shaw will start next week versus UAB, but if he struggles in the next few games, fans may be calling for the Ol’ Ball Coach to turn the reigns back over to Thompson.
IV.) Michigan State is the only hope for the Big Ten this year.
I have to admit, I was really hoping that this year the Big Ten would reclaim its rightful place among the best conferences in college football. Well, Alabama pounded Michigan in the opener, Big Ten favorites Wisconsin and Nebraska both lost this past week out West, Purdue fell to Notre Dame, and Penn State… yeah, the less said the better. With Ohio State serving a bowl ban this year, Michigan State is the last hope for a real contender. The Spartans have looked great, they are 2-0 and that defense is stingy, allowing only 255 yards per game and ZERO offensive touchdowns this year. Running back Le’Veon Bell can tote the rock, rushing for 280 yards and 4 touchdowns in two weeks. If MSU can limit turnovers over the course of the year, they can be the saviors of the beloved Big Ten.
V.) Arkansas has 4 days to figure it out.
This Saturday was supposed to be the showdown of the season so far with Alabama traveling to Arkansas for what should have been a match-up between two Top-10 teams. Instead, after Arkansas got stunned by Louisiana-Monroe last week, only #1 Alabama will be highly ranked. I was on the Arkansas bandwagon in the preseason, so I was especially struck by their lack of emotion last Saturday. They need to find some swagger between now and Saturday and more importantly someone on that team needs to step up and be a playmaker instead of looking around hoping for someone else to make a play. Arkansas still has the athletes to challenge ‘Bama this week, they just have to let it loose!
– Rocky Boiman
Rocky Boiman is an analyst for Westwood One’s coverage of NCAA Football. Each week in “Rocky’s V,” the former Notre Dame captain and Super Bowl champion writes about five topics that have captured his interest from around college football. You can also follow Rocky on Twitter. This weekend, Rocky will be alongside John Sadak as #1 Alabama visits Fayetteville to take on Arkansas. Coverage begins at 3:00 PM Eastern on Westwood One Sports.