Snap Judgments (cont.)
Bear in mind that this is the same Iowa State team that lost by a combined score of 120-27 to Utah and Oklahoma in the past two weeks. The Longhorns should have blown the Cyclones off the field, but they couldn't score.
The problems at Texas seem awfully similar to the issues at Florida -- another marquee program that suffered its third loss of 2010 at home against a perennial conference bottom-feeder (last week against Mississippi State). Making the comparison more interesting is the fact that some of the major problems of one -- or both -- might have been solved had one player made a different decision during his recruitment.
Current Gators quarterback John Brantley originally committed to Texas, but he changed his mind after a few months and chose Florida, where his father and uncle had played. Had Brantley gone to Texas in 2007, he probably would have redshirted. Longhorns offensive coordinator Greg Davis would have been much better at harnessing Brantley's drop-back skills than the tandem of Urban Meyer and Steve Addazio at Florida. Last year, Brantley and Garrett Gilbert -- who would have signed with Texas had Joe Montana been ahead of him on the depth chart -- might have competed for the backup job behind Colt McCoy, or maybe Brantley would have been the established backup going into the season. Any competition would have made both quarterbacks better and would have put the guy who won the starting job this season in a much better position.
Meanwhile, in Gainesville, Florida might have had a better shot at recruiting Floridian Denard Robinson. More importantly, with Brantley not in the picture, it's doubtful Cam Newton would have left Gainesville. Remember, Newton wasn't kicked off Florida's team for the fenced laptop incident in December 2008. (If texting a death threat to an ex-girlfriend only garners a five-game absence, tossing a fenced laptop out a dorm window after the cops show up probably only merits a couple of quarters in Florida's disciplinary handbook.) Newton left because Tim Tebow elected to come back for 2009, and Brantley had been anointed Tebow's heir apparent.
If Newton is playing for Florida instead of Auburn this season, the Gators haven't lost three games. If Gilbert had faced any legitimate competition for the starting job -- or gotten beaten out by someone who performed better -- the Longhorns haven't lost three games, either.
Saturday began with three undefeated AQ-conference teams (Michigan State, Missouri, Oklahoma State) seemingly getting short shrift compared to their fellow undefeateds. Of those three, Michigan State was the only team no one expected to lose.
If not for a fumble on the goal line in the second quarter, that's exactly what would have happened. Michigan State escaped Northwestern with a 35-27 win (RECAP | BOX), but the Spartans did little to earn the respect they'll need to rise in the polls.
Nearly every team that goes undefeated has to survive a game like this. Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins was fantastic in the clutch. The fake field goal Michigan State used to beat Notre Dame was called Little Giants. The fake punt that allowed Michigan State to score its third touchdown and get back into the game in Saturday's fourth quarter was called Mouse Trap. (I would have preferred an equally cinematic moniker like Necessary Roughness.)
Next week's game against Iowa should determine once and for all whether the Spartans deserve a place in the BCS title picture. No one will argue the quality of Michigan State's win against Wisconsin, but Michigan could turn out to be quite mediocre, and Notre Dame's third loss in four years to Navy suggests the Fighting Irish aren't very good at all. But a win against the Hawkeyes in Iowa City could earn the Spartans the respect they desire.
Hopefully, they've got another fake kick in the playbook.
Earlier today, I joked on Twitter that Missouri, Northwestern and Syracuse --which feature three of the nation's top journalism schools -- should play a round-robin every year for the Editor-in-Chief's Trophy.
That could be a pretty interesting set of games. Northwestern looked quite good against Michigan State on Saturday. Meanwhile, Syracuse stunned West Virginia, 19-14, in Morgantown to turn the Big East race on its ear (RECAP | BOX). The Orange win tells us two things.
1. Syracuse coach Doug Marrone is a miracle worker who has the Orange two wins away from bowl eligibility.
2. The Big East really, really stinks and has no business owning an automatic qualifying spot in the BCS.
That leaves Missouri, which will carry the banner for ink-stained wretches everywhere -- not this one; I went to a football factory instead of a journalism factory -- against the No. 1 team in the BCS standings later tonight.
A few guys screamed at the top of their lungs when the remote came out Saturday at Shakespeare's Pizza in Columbia, Mo. Northwestern theoretically still had a chance to tie the score against Michigan State, but someone wanted the channel changed. This did not make the assembled Missouri and Oklahoma fans happy.
When the channel was flipped, the protests turned to cheers. Texas trailed Iowa State by two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter. When the Cyclones finally finished off the Longhorns, the place exploded.
I imagine that's exactly how every bar in Boston sounded Friday night when the Yankees fell to the Rangers.