After a week of games that featured so many blowouts it should have been sponsored by Firestone, college football enjoyed its most exciting week to date this season.
Here’s what I took away from the action.
1. Offense rules in the SEC
For years, the SEC has been dominated by some of the best defenses the sport has seen in a long time. The script has finally flipped this year. Too many great players have made their way to the NFL from schools like LSU, Georgia, Texas A&M and even Alabama. It’s just too hard to reload every single year and remain at such an elite level.
The Crimson Tide showed they were vulnerable when they gave up 42 points to Johnny Manziel and the Aggies. However, they brought a new level of focus to the fieldand shut out an explosive, confident Ole Miss offense.
Having said that, the best players in this conference right now are on offense. LSU’s Zach Mettenberger looked like a pro, even in defeat, against Georgia. Aaron Murray continued to buck the trend of struggling on the big stage and the Bulldogs held on to beat Mettenberger’s Tigers. We already know what Manziel and AJ McCarron are capable of.
This shift towards 40-plus point shootouts doesn’t mean the SEC will suddenly become Big 12 or Pac-12. This is simply a direct result of massive turnover on defense at the top programs in the league, and the strongest group of quarterback play the league has maybe ever had.
2. South Carolina is overrated
It was amazing to see how one play in a meaningless game changed the perception of a player, and even a program, so dramatically. That’s exactly what happened when Jadeveon Clowney decapitated Vincent Smith in last year’s Capital One Bowl, though.
Suddenly, people expected Clowney to have four sacks a game, single-handedly beating teams as a defensive end. News flash: THAT HAS NEVER HAPPENED. The best defensive ends to ever play the game never won anything by themselves, especially in college where it’s too easy to scheme away from one player on defense.
The Gamecocks have a good running back in Mike Davis, but neither Dylan Thompson nor Connor Shaw is a world-beater under center. They need a lot of help on defense to win games.
Teams like Central Florida are avoiding Clowney at all costs, and we’re learning that outside of him, the Gamecocks’ defense is average at best. Blake Bortles threw for 358 yards, and if not for a couple easily avoidable turnovers in the second half, the Golden Knights would have pulled off the upset.
3. There is no QB controversy in Columbus
Kenny Guiton, we love you. But Braxton Miller has proven to us over the last season and a half that he’s a Heisman-caliber player. Guiton, for all we know, could have just been a flash in the pan. Urban Meyer made the right call giving Miller the start against Wisconsin, and it paid off with Miller’s four-touchdown, zero-interception performance.
4. USC made the right move
This season is toast for USC. After Saturday’s loss to Arizona State, the Trojans are staring another seven-win season at best square in the face. Why not get ahead of Texas and start putting together a thorough coaching search now? Lane Kiffin was fighting an uphill battle in his time at USC, given all of the scholarship reductions, but even if you had tempered the expectations, he still failed to live up to them. There have been a handful of major names thrown around to succeed Kiffin. If I’m Pat Haden, my three top choices, in order, are Kevin Sumlin, James Franklin and Chip Kelly. Yes, Chip Kelly. Why not at least give him a phone call? Worst that can happen is he says no.
With the right hire, USC will be a top 10 team again within three years. There should be plenty of interest in the job. It’s up to Haden to make the right move.
5. Let’s start taking Oklahoma seriously
I talked a few weeks ago about how Blake Bell gave Oklahoma’s offense the spark it needed to be a complete football team. He proved thatwith 232 yards and two touchdowns against Notre Dame.
The Sooners are getting better every week, and if they can get past TCU, their next test will come against Texas Tech at home. The Sooners’ defense is among the best in the country, but you have to be able to light up the scoreboard to win in the Big 12. With Bell running the show now, the Sooners have enough balance to be considered the favorites in the league, and they just might be worth keeping an eye on in the national title hunt.