The BCS elites did nothing to tarnish their sparkling starts after the second week of the campaign’s March to Pasadena, but this weekend had exuberance nonetheless. The nation’s top five teams saw only minor change, but upsets and rebounding teams have once again changed the look of the bigger BCS picture.
Alabama and Oregon at No. 2 lead the way in the AP Poll, with Clemson and Ohio State swapping positions at three and four and Stanford following at number five.
Despite the bye week, the Tide remain the team to beat after a comfortable win over Virginia Tech in Week 1. But they have a long week ahead of them as they prepare for their highly anticipated visit to College Station, to take on Texas A&M. The Aggies manhandled Sam Houston State Saturday, as Johnny Manziel once again took over the game. Johnny Football effortlessly threw for 403 yards and three touchdowns while adding 36 yards and another score on the ground. Manziel is up to his old tricks, increasing his overall quarterback rating to a astonishing 190.9.
Alabama will have had an extra week to fine-tune the chemistry issues on the offensive line following their bye week. Exceptional cohesion will be needed against the much tougher defense of the Aggies. But mirroring ‘Bama, the boys from TAMU seem to have some weaknesses of their own on the defensive side of the ball. They allowed Rice 306 yards rushing and 31 points in the season opener and they gave up another 240 yards this past weekend to Sam Houston State.
The Crimson Tide bring a heap of skilled players on offense to accompany a Heisman candidate of their own in AJ McCarron. I expect this game to be an offensive explosion, and the game will come down to the team with the most resilient defense.
Oregon flew past Virginia Saturday, 59-10, but they too, illuminated some flaws in their efficiency. On paper, the offense is the same as in years past, and Marcus Mariota looked explosive and poised as usual. But he seems to be lacking some accuracy, completing only 50% of his passes against the Cavaliers. The running game up the middle was also mostly ineffective, but with so many weapons on offense, even on a bad day in one part of their game, the Ducks can replace the lost production from elsewhere in their arsenal.
De’Anthony Thomas and Marcus Mariota each soared over the 100-yard rushing mark and added three touchdowns apiece. Thomas had his three TDs rushing TDs, and Mariota had one on the ground and two through the air.
Next week the Ducks will host one of the last remaining undefeated teams in the SEC East, the Tennessee Volunteers. Oregon traveled to Knoxville in 2010 and dismantled the Vol’s 48-13. The Ducks have a more balanced team than Tennessee, as well as the most heralded offense in all of college football, but the game this weekend will not necessarily be a breeze.
The Volunteers’ defense looked fantastic Saturday against Western Kentucky, forcing seven turnovers and two sacks. However, Western Kentucky has nowhere near the caliber of offense that the Ducks will unleash next weekend. Tennessee will bring a their new found tough defense to Autzen Stadium, brimming with the confidence gained from last week’s performance. Even if it’s close at halftime, I expect Oregon will pull away and win this one.
No. 3 Clemson rolled over South Carolina State and continued to solidify their spot in discussions of the national scope. Tajh Boyd only had one score on the day, but the Tigers played four different quarterbacks against the FCS opponent, so no harm done.
Sitting behind Clemson is No. 4 Ohio State. The Buckeyes had a scare with Braxton Miller enduring an early injury, but backup Kenny Guiton led the team to an easy 42-9 victory over San Diego State. Miller expects to return next week against California out in Berkeley.
The defending Pac-12 champion, No. 5 Stanford got off to a slow start in their season opener against San Jose State but played under control nonetheless. Offensively they were efficient and balanced as usual, converting on 12-of-15 third down attempts. The Cardinal played as everyone expected and look ready to go for their matchup against Oregon on November 7th.
Elsewhere around the Pac-12, USC suffered an ugly upset to the Washington State Cougars, 10-7 on Saturday in the Coliseum. The Trojan offense isn’t effective at all, and the team just seems lost. The talent is there to turn things around, but they must do so soon with a hot Arizona State team looming in the desert in a few weeks.
No. 9 Georgia redeemed its loss to Clemson in a big way with a victory over South Carolina. The Gamecocks once again looked ineffective on defense. Aaron Murray threw for 309 yards and four touchdowns, with no interceptions. Running back Todd Gurley added 134 yards and one score on the ground. The Bulldogs got off to a good start in conference play, but the idle No. 8 LSU Tigers show up on their schedule in just two weeks. If they suffer another loss, their title hopes will likely be out the window.
LSU has also been very impressive. Thus far they have won their first two games, including a victory over No. 24 TCU. Zack Mettenberger proved the legitimacy of the Tigers, passing 16-19 good for 282 yards and five touchdowns in their win over UAB. Look for the Tigers to be in the hunt not only for the SEC title but as a national title contender.
The B1G-10 had a good week, with No. 11 Michigan and No. 17 Northwestern posting impressive victories. The Northwestern offense was balanced, and their defense dominated with four takeaways in a 48-27 win over Syracuse, while the Wolverines showed up to defeat Notre Dame and start their own argument for a spot in BCS contention.
As the tougher games approach, teams are starting to show their true colors. Oregon has a chance to get some momentum going against Tennessee this weekend. If they prove their ability to run inside and overpower the SEC’s 6th-ranked defense, it accentuates their stature as an elite team vying for the Crystal Football.
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