If not Texas A&M, could Marcus Mariota and Oregon be best-suited to challenge Alabama? Photo: USA Today Sports
1. Alabama and Oregon have to play each other
While you were busy watching the most entertaining three hours college football has had to offer so far this season, Oregon was busy doing unspeakable things to Tennessee. The Volunteers are very obviously in a rebuilding mode, and Oregon has a history of inflating the margin of victory against weaker opponents. Just this once, can the Ducks not screw it up and lose a game they shouldn’t this season?
There’s a lot of football left to be played this season, and while Alabama has only one game (two, if you count the SEC Championship) left on its schedule that it has even a remote chance of losing, the Crimson Tide are a lock for a third straight appearance in the national title game. Meanwhile, Oregon has a few more hurdles along the way.
The Ducks’ schedule includes road trips to Washington, Stanford and Arizona, as well as a home date with UCLA. If history is any indication, in one of those games the offense will lay an egg #NailedIt, effectively costing them a shot at the national title. But just this once, can we please see Marcus Mariota and DeAnthony Thomas go up against AJ McCarron, TJ Yeldon and company?
Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans were essentially playing 2-on-11 in College Station on Saturday, and they still nearly knocked off the Tide. Oregon has a much more sophisticated, fundamentally sound attack with even more speed and athleticism across the board than the Aggies. If there’s anything that can give Nick Saban and Alabama’s defense fits, it’s an elite-level spread offense.
Time will tell if this Oregon team is up to the task of dodging the upset bug and getting a crack at the two-time defending champions. If there is a Football God, he should grant us this one wish. Please.
2. Kliff Kingsbury is a miracle worker
Tommy Tuberville’s indignant departure from Texas Tech last January could turn out to be the best thing that’s ever happened to the Red Raiders’ program. Through just three games at the helm, Kingsbury has proven he is the absolute perfect fit as the head coach. Not only has he won all three games with a true freshman walk-on as his starting quarterback, he sealed the Red Raiders’ 20-10 win over TCU on Thursday night with the offense in the hands of Davis Webb, another freshman.
All Webb did was coolly complete 3-of-4 passes for 77 yards, including the game-winning touchdown against Gary Patterson’s stingy defense. Major programs will probably want to see more than one year’s worth of work before they start ringing Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt’s phone off the hook asking for an interview, but it’s going to happen. It’s just hard to imagine what it’s going to take to pry Kingsbury away from his alma mater. Whether it’s after this year or next, the day where he’s faced with that decision is coming fast.
3. Brett Hundley is a Heisman contender
Keep an eye on this guy. UCLA shook off a sluggish start at Nebraska in a game that started at 9 a.m. pacific time and eventually rolled the Huskers 41-21 thanks in large part to Hundley. His 355 yards of total offense left 80-plus thousand Husker fans silenced. While Manziel has grabbed the spotlight for the past two seasons, Hundley isn’t a bad counterpart to the Aggies’ dual-threat sophomore quarterback.
Barring disaster, the Bruins will be 5-0 when they head to Palo Alto on October 19. That’s the same day that Clemson and Florida State will meet up with national title implications on the line. It won’t be the only game of its kind that day, though. As long as Hundley is calling the shots for the Bruins, they should not be counted out as a threat to reach Pasadena either.
The week after traveling to Stanford, the Bruins will pay a visit to Oregon. If the Bruins can somehow knock off both of those teams, or at least lose in a valiant effort, Hundley should book a flight to New York for early December.
4. There’s more to the Belldozer than just Belldozing
Bob Stoops knew he needed to solve Oklahoma’s quarterback controversy before the Sooners head to South Bend at the end of the month to take on Notre Dame. Thanks to Blake Bell’s 413 yards (a school record for a quarterback in his first start) and four touchdowns against Tulsa, the controversy is officially over.
Bell became a cult hero in college football circles for his bruising goal line carries over the past few years. There were serious questions facing Bell this season about whether or not he could be a threat with his arm as well. While Tulsa didn’t exactly trot out the Steel Curtain on Saturday, the Sooners offense was locked in a rhythm it did not have against either Louisiana-Monroe or West Virginia.
In a conference that is completely up for grabs, Bell’s emergence as a dynamic playmaker in all areas of the field could become the X-factor in the Big 12 championship race this year.
5. Logan Thomas is not a quarterback
I’ve wanted to give Thomas the benefit of the doubt for two years now. It’s over now. Thomas looked his typical erratic self against an East Carolina defense that gave up 370 yards and three touchdowns to Old Dominion. Thomas has absolutely every physical tool you could ever ask for in a quarterback in today’s game, but if he hasn’t corrected even the smallest of flaws in his mechanics by now, he never will.
The Hokies brought in Scot Loeffler this off-season in an attempt to correct Thomas’ mechanical defects and give the Hokies’ offense a much-needed shot in the arm. In fairness to Loeffler (and Thomas), he’s dealing with a very young and unproven group of receivers.
That said; it’s Loeffler’s job to put those players in the best position to consistently move the football. That’s a reasonable request against a team like East Carolina. Furthermore, when the players are in a good position to make big plays, it’s Thomas’ job to get them the ball. Right now, he’s only doing that 47 percent of the time. That’s a recipe for another seven-win season in Blacksburg.