I. Big Ten football: Where’s the Defense?
The once-dominant Big Ten has been dethroned in recent years and the common sentiment among many is that it is because the conference can’t get the explosive offensive skill players out of high school who can put up the points needed to compete with the SEC and ACC. But this past weekend I saw the Big Ten take an even further plunge away from relevancy, this time because of a lack of defense around the league. Akron (1-11 each of the past two years) put up 24 points on Michigan and almost squeaked out a victory. UCF beat Penn State 34-31 and put up a ghastly (for Nittany Lions fans) 507 yards of offense. Even Ohio State, which won handily, gave up 503 yards of offense and 34 points to a very average group of offensive playmakers from Cal.
But the most stomach-churning defensive performance of the weekend was courtesy of Nebraska, which allowed 38 unanswered points to UCLA to lose a game they were controlling well into the second quarter. The best Big Ten defensive performance from the weekend, you ask? How about Indiana, which didn’t give up an offensive touchdown versus a talented Bowling Green offense in a 42-10 win. When IU is playing some of the best defense in the Big Ten, it is time to panic if you live in the Midwest… like I do.
II. Teddy Bridgewater is eliminated from Heisman talk
Louisville’s highly touted QB wasn’t terrible in the Cardinals’ 27-13 victory over Kentucky, but this was a nationally televised game he needed to explode in. The problem is we saw other Heisman contenders put up big numbers with every set of eyeballs in the country watching. Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M dazzled with an unreal combined 562 yards of offense himself, while his counterpart, Alabama QB AJ McCarron, threw for 334 yards and looked impressive too. My Heisman pick Taj Boyd showed up big in the season opening win over Georgia in primetime. History has shown that voters like Heisman candidates to not only put up big numbers, but to do it on the national stage. For that reason, Louisville’s schedule will further crush Bridgewater’s chances as it is widely regarded as one of the weakest in the nation with the only “tough” remaining games coming from Rutgers, UCF and the finale versus Cincinnati
III. Belldozer gets his chance to shine
Oklahoma’s presumptive starting quarterback heading into this season was Blake Bell, who at 6’6″ and 252 pounds earns his nickname, “Belldozer.” But after waiting three years behind Landry Jones, he was then ousted by freshman Trevor Knight for the first two games of the year. This past weekend, however, the “Dozer” was inserted into the starting lineup and exploded. Previously known only for his bone-crushing power running, Bell lit up the air for 413 passing yards and 4 TD passes. It was a great moment for Bell, who now must put up a big performance when the Sooners visit Notre Dame a week from Saturday.
IV. Can we get an Oregon vs. SEC matchup already?
I have to admit, the intrigue of Oregon has grown on me in the last year and after watching them utterly destroy a pretty good Tennessee team this past week, I wish we could just fast-forward to bowl season and get an Oregon-Alabama or Oregon-LSU game for all the marbles. With Texas A&M putting up a fight but still losing to Alabama, I feel the Pac-12’s Stanford and Oregon have the only chance for a non-SEC team to beat a dominant SEC team. Oregon’s tempo and speed at the skill positions match up well versus the powerful front sevens of an Alabama, LSU or Georgia. Texas A&M showed what it takes to beat Alabama – tempo and a creative quarterback on offense – they just didn’t have the collection of players to get it done. Oregon does and I can’t wait to see it in January.
V. This weekend’s Texas vs. Kansas State matchup
In August, K-State at Texas looked to be a big-time game, but the Wildcats lost their opener to FCS school North Dakota State. NDSU is coming off back-to-back FCS championships, but still shouldn’t win in Manhattan. Then, in one of the biggest letdowns we’ve seen from a program this year, Texas has been a complete disaster. The Longhorns got tore up the last two weeks by powerhouses BYU (sarcasm) and Ole Miss (they’re actually pretty good). So who will win this battle of disappointing starts? Looking at the rosters in terms of talent level, you have to give the edge to Texas. But Texas coach Mac Brown is 0-5 versus Kansas State in the last five meetings and has completely lost that Longhorn program. I don’t think it’s a question of “if” Mack Brown will be fired, it is a question of “when.” I think Kansas State beats the Longhorns this weekend and in doing so seals Brown’s fate that he won’t even make it to the end of the year.
– Rocky Boiman
Rocky Boiman is an analyst for WestwoodOne’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.