What happened to the notion of defense in college football (or the NFL for that matter)?
The Alabama-Texas A&M game was memorable, with Johnny Manziel working his magic and Nick Saban’s crew putting on a clinic on the offensive side of the ball. Yet meanwhile neither side could play a lick of defense. This is what we’re seeing everywhere in college football, as the new spread offenses have completely changed the game.
We have a number of teams that have not been stopped on offense, with Oregon leading the way. Other offensive juggernauts include Clemson, Louisville, Florida State, LSU and Ohio State tearing up defenses.
We’ll see as the year goes on if any of these teams or the other contenders can put together a defense that can slow down these high octane offenses. That team will have an excellent shot at playing for and winning a national championship.
Here’s a great clip of Texas A&M’s Deshazor Everett’s game clinching interception vs No. 1 Alabama last Saturday. The Aggies beat a solid but over-rated Alabama team to shake up the BCS standings. Now the SEC is looking at the possibility of not being included in the National Championship game, and the whining has already begun.
Before fans of the three undefeated teams call their congressmen, let’s be clear that we’re not suggesting that a one-loss Tide or Bulldogs squad jump over any of them, provided they finish unbeaten. Even though Alabama would likely be favored on a neutral field over all three teams, going undefeated in a major conference—or in the Irish’s case against a major-conference schedule—must be rewarded. (Sorry Louisville, but running the table in the Big East wasn’t going to cut it this year even before Saturday’s loss to Syracuse.)
But if two among the trio of the Ducks, Wildcats and Irish lose in the season’s final weeks, a one-loss Alabama or Georgia team needs to be next in line. Frankly, any title game that doesn’t include the SEC’s best wouldn’t feel as legitimate.
To be the “real” champ, you need to beat the champ. Until some other conference hoists the crystal trophy, that metaphorical championship belt resides in the SEC. Winning a BCS title without beating an SEC team would be like winning an NBA title while an in-his-prime Michael Jordan was off shagging fly balls. (Deep down, Houston Rockets fans know this is true.)
That’s a load of bull. The SEC has benefited from the idiotic BCS system that only let two teams play for the National Championship. Many excellent teams were denied the opportunity to play in the final game, most notably last year when Oklahoma State had to sit by and watch two SEC teams play for the title. The system is so flawed it’s ridiculous, and that’s even before we get into the oversignings and other shenanigans that make the SEC look like a semi-pro league.
So get over yourself. In a couple of years, we’ll at least have a four-team playoff so the whole system will be a little more fair, but let’s not pretend that a final game without the SEC somehow cheapens a system that already sucks.
Either way, this James Franklin run was ridiculous, and it was the first score of the day in Missouri’s 38-31 win against Texas A&M. It was a huge win for Missouri, which has four losses to four teams who were unbeaten at the time.
As for A&M, this is another disappointing loss in a disappointing season. The Aggies have a penchant for giving up big leads, and this one was no different. They led by 11 after three quarters, but still managed to lose. This no doubt gave their fans flashbacks to losses against Oklahoma State and Arkansas.
In the next two weeks, A&M travels to Oklahoma and Kansas State, meaning five losses is a distinct possibility. Not a good look for a team that started the season ranked No. 8 in the AP poll.
Univesity of Alabama running back Trent Richardson (3) tries to break away from the South Carolina defensive including Stephon Gilmore (5), Antonio Allen (26) and Chaun Gresham (29) during their NCAA college football game in Columbia,South Carolina October 9, 2010. REUTERS/Tami Chappell (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Go ahead, tell me a team that wants to play Alabama right now.
The Crimson Tide destroyed Arkansas 38-14 at Bryant-Denny Stadium, announcing to the nation — if it didn’t know already — that they were once again a serious national title contender.
But it wasn’t just the score, it was the way the Tide dominated every facet of the game to pick up the blowout victory. Trent Richardson ran wild, accumulating 126 yards on 17 carries, and 85 yards and a touchdown on three receptions. A.J. McCarron was pretty near perfect, going 15-of-20 for 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
And the defense. Oh, the defense.
Arkansas finished with 226 total yards, almost all of which came through the air. The Razorbacks run game managed just 17 (!) yards on 19 carries. Yes, math majors, that’s less than one yard per carry. The ‘Bama defense/special teams also chipped in offensively with an interception return for a touchdown and a beautiful punt return for a score by Marquis Maze. On the return, Maze cut back across about half of the Arkansas coverage team (that might be a slight exaggeration), and then cut back on the final guy just for the heck of it. It was as if he wanted the Arkansas trainers to have one more set of ankles to tape this week.
Alabama has another test next week against Florida. The Gators have the type of speed on offense that can score on anyone if given room, but something tells me Nick Saban will outwit Charlie Weis and figure out how to not give those guys room. The big matchup, of course, is Nov. 5 at home against LSU. That will very likely be for the SEC West title, which essentially means a trip to the national title game. Both defenses are outstanding, but at this point you’d have to give a major edge to the Tide offensively.
Some other thoughts from today’s daytime games:
- Ohio State has found its quarterback, and I think a lot of people knew it was going to happen. Braxton Miller didn’t have eye-popping passing numbers by any stretch (5-of-13, 83 yards and a pair of touchdowns), but he used his feet to gain 83 more yards. With either quarterback, Ohio State is going to have to go through some growing pains in the passing game, so it makes the most sense to stick with the youngster who adds an extra dimension to the game.
- Oklahoma State did its part to make sure Texas A&M doesn’t leave the Big 12 with a conference title. The Cowboys rallied to beat A&M 30-29 at Kyle Field, in what is likely the last conference meeting between the two schools. The Aggies, who look to be headed to the SEC next season, jumped out to a 20-3 lead before surrendering 27 straight points to the Cowboys. A&M can still win the Big 12, but it will need some help, and a win against No. 1 Oklahoma. Good luck with that.
- Tommy Rees was horrible for most of Notre Dame’s game against Pitt, but the sophomore found a way to come up bit when it mattered, going 8-of-8 on the Irish’s final touchdown drive to give his team a 15-12 win. On the touchdown, Rees fit a pass through a tiny hole to tight end Tyler Eifert. It was the kind of crisp, decisive pass he hadn’t made all game. His ability to bounce back must be what keeps him in games, because Brian Kelly has certainly had a lot longer leash with Rees than he did with Dayne Crist.
All the talk in the Big XII this season has justifiably been about Nebraska and Oklahoma. But is it time that we start looking at Missouri as a legitimate contender in the conference?
The Tigers are unbeaten, and putting a beating on Texas A&M in College Station. I know the Aggies are not the greatest team in the conference, but they’re still a tough team to play against, and they’ve always been tough at home. So for Missouri to be blowing them out is quite an accomplishment.
But maybe we shouldn’t be that surprised. Missouri has highly-touted quarterback Blaine Gabbert under center (or in the shotgun), some very good receivers in T.J. Moe and Michael Egnew, as well as solid backs in Henry Josey and De’Vion Moore.
This was a team that a year ago had a little bit of hype around it. That balloon was deflated, of course, when Ndamukong Suh had his coming out party at the expense of Gabbert and the Tiger offense on a Thursday night. But the talent is still there, and the Big XII is wide open outside of its top two teams.
Of course, we’ll have a much better read on the Tigers after the next two weeks, as they play host to Oklahoma, and then travel to Nebraska. I wouldn’t expect them to even split those games, but the thought of it doesn’t seem as ludicrous today as it did a week ago.