I. Michigan State: the “other” good Big Ten team
I have spent a few blog postings bashing the Big Ten and its lack of legitimate football programs outside of Ohio State. However, Michigan State is breathing hope back into the conference, putting together some impressive wins this season by doing it the old fashioned way: a punishing ground game, not turning the ball over and playing great defense. The defense last week held in-state rival Michigan to minus-48 yards rushing and has allowed nine total points in the last three games. It is a shame that the Spartans and Buckeyes will not face each other in the regular season, but there is hope they could meet in the Big Ten Championship Game. This is the game the Big Ten NEEDS and the conference needs it to not be an OSU blowout. For the Big Ten to get back to national relevance, there cannot be just one excellent team and a bunch of mediocre ones. A tightly contested championship game, hopefully between OSU and MSU, helps recruiting for the future and more importantly injects some much-needed excitement into this recently bland and archaic conference.
II. Geaux Tigers
So pretty much everyone on planet Earth outside of Tuscaloosa has to be rooting for LSU this weekend over Alabama. Much like with the Big Ten, it’s not good for the SEC or even college football in general to have one team, Alabama, be so dominant annually to the point of boredom. I think the Tigers match up as well as anyone in the country to the Crimson Tide. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger is very efficient is getting the ball into the hands of his weapons, much the same as Johnny Manziel did when Texas A&M gave Alabama its biggest scare of the season. While Mettenberger doesn’t scramble and create like Manziel, LSU has a great rushing attack that, if effective, can make them balanced. The other thing LSU and Mettenberger must do is take the underneath routes and not just try for the home-run ball. Alabama defenses characteristically err on the side of not letting receivers get behind them. If LSU can be patient the entire game, they have a shot. The X-factor is that while LSU is hardly ever the underdog in any game, they are in this one, meaning the pressure is alleviated from them. They can now just let it loose and pull out all the stops.
III. No respect for Oklahoma State
Everyone loves to bash the BCS rankings and in this case I will oblige as well. If there has ever been a team that has been utterly disrespected by America’s favorite poll it is Oklahoma State. Last week the Cowboys beat then 15th-ranked Texas Tech 52-34. So how does this week’s BCS poll have 7-1 Oklahoma State ranked at #14 behind LSU and South Carolina, which both have two losses? I realize last week was the Cowboys’ first win over a ranked team, but a top Big 12 team should be cracking the top 12. Fear not, future games and future wins versus Oklahoma and Baylor will solve their problems.
IV. Oregon shocked
Another year, yet it’s the same story as Oregon again sees their BCS title dreams demolished by Stanford. The Ducks made a late comeback attempt, but the Cardinal physically imposed their will upon Oregon throughout the ballgame. Stanford effectively used their “200” personnel (2 RB, 0 TE, 0 WR… aka 8 offensive linemen) and steamrolled the Ducks time and time again, especially on third down. They controlled the clock and kept now-former Heisman frontrunner Marcus Mariota on the sideline. To me this game epitomized my philosophy on all these spread, high-tempo offenses that have sprung up across college football: great at the start of a drive, great on the stat sheet, but awful in the red zone. The difference between a great spread offense and an average one is great spread teams can run the ball when they have to, specifically in the red zone when the vertical field is shrunken. Oregon couldn’t do it and another victory for smash-mouth, hard-running football was won over the glamorous, stat-driven spread offensive scheme.
V. Baylor still shock-ing
All season Baylor has been putting up video game-type numbers, but the country hadn’t considered them legitimate BCS contenders because the level of competition so far had been average at best. Well, last night the Bears accomplished more in one game than the previous seven combined with a huge victory over Oklahoma by a final score of 41-12. The Bears started things off ugly but then fell into a comfort zone. You know your offense is dynamic when you consider 41 points, 459 yards and 28 first downs sub-par, but it just shows how real this offense is. Maybe even bigger to the story was Baylor’s defense holding Oklahoma and QB Blake Bell to just 239 yards of total offense. With Oregon now out of the BCS title game mix, it is the high-powered, scoreboard-shattering offense of Baylor that has become the offensive juggernaut to strike fear in the hearts of opposing defenses as this season works its way towards Pasadena.
– 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.