College Football Overtime (cont.)
Paul Johnson has spent most of his coaching career laughing off skeptics who swear his triple-option offense can't work at the highest level. Even after Tech won the 2009 ACC title, some wondered whether defenses were "catching up" to the Yellow Jackets after they slipped back to 6-7 last year.
Ask Kansas about that.
On Saturday, Tech avenged a 28-25 loss in Lawrence last season by blistering the Jayhawks for school records of 786 total yards and 604 rushing yards -- at an FBS-record clip of 12.1 yards per carry -- in a 66-24 rout. Orwin Smith broke a school-record 95-yard touchdown on the Jackets' first offensive play, marking the third straight week they've done that.
"When we're making our blocks," said A-back Embry Peeples, "it's like a video game."
Reached Sunday, Johnson was characteristically nonchalant about the eye-popping numbers, pointing out he's notched 600 rushing yards before -- including 639 in his 1999 Georgia Southern team's Division I-AA national championship win over Jim Tressel's Youngstown State squad.
"We've been doing this for a long time," Johnson said. "There isn't anything magical about what we do. If you execute, you'll be successful. If you don't, you won't."
Tech is averaging a nation's best 59.3 points and 675.3 yards per game, but the pass has arguably been a bigger factor than the run in its first three games. Johnson's teams don't pass often, but when they do, it's generally for big gains. Junior quarterback Tevin Washington, who took over as starter late last season for the injured Joshua Nesbitt, has gone 17-of-28 (60.7 percent) and is averaging a staggering 37.5 yards per completion. He has more 70-plus yard completions (four) than any other conference.
That's a sharp improvement from last season, when Nesbitt and Washington combined to complete just 38.1 percent of their throws. Again, Johnson said there's a simple explanation.
"When guys are open, we're hitting them," he said, "rather than overthrowing them or dropping them."
This week brings a steep rise in competition when Tech hosts 3-0 North Carolina. Led by future pro defensive end Quinton Coples, the Tar Heels' defense is fast and athletic. But as Johnson points out, they were pretty fast and athletic the past two years, too, when the Jackets won 24-7 and 30-24, respectively.
"We've just got to do what we do and take care of the ball," said Johnson. "Hopefully hit a big pass play or two during the game."
Simple as that.
My reaction to the latest AP and Coaches' polls:
Overrated: Michigan (Coaches': No. 21; AP: No. 22)
Congrats, Wolverines, on returning to the polls -- and on the same week Ohio State fell out for the first time since 2004, no less. But sorry, I'm not buying yet. We've been down this road before.
Underrated: Florida State (AP: No. 11; Coaches': No. 14)
If Oklahoma is the No. 1 team in the country, there's no earthly reason FSU should have plummeted nine spots in the Coaches' poll for losing to OU in the fourth quarter. This is yet another example of why there's so little incentive for teams to schedule tough opponents.
Each week, I'll update my projected BCS lineup (as necessary) based on the latest week's games. Here's this week's edition:
Title game: Alabama vs. Oklahoma
Rose: Stanford vs. Wisconsin
Fiesta: Nebraska vs. Boise State
Sugar: LSU vs. Florida State
Orange: Virginia Tech vs. USF
There's no resisting the LSU bandwagon anymore. After this weekend's Arkansas-Alabama and LSU-West Virginia games, I'll reconsider whether to elevate the Tigers to the title game and/or substitute the Mountaineers for USF. West Virginia nearly blew a 34-10 lead at Maryland, prevailing 37-31 thanks to three interceptions, while USF pounded Florida A&M, 70-14.
Clemson has found the explosive playmaker it's been missing since C.J. Spiller. Freshman receiver Sammy Watkins caught 10 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 44 more as the Tigers ended Auburn's 17-game winning streak, 38-24. Quarterback Tajh Boyd had a huge day as well (30-of-42, 386 yards, four TDs) as Clemson racked up 624 total yards. Granted, everyone's putting up 600 yards on Auburn's defense this year, but this was undoubtedly still "a big, big win," as Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
Somehow, despite losing stalwart receivers Austin Pettis and Titus Young, Boise State's Kellen Moore has become an even more lethal passer. Through two games Moore's completion percentage is up from 71.3 percent to 78.9, and he hooked up with nine different receivers in last Friday's 40-15 win at Toledo. "If he was playing someone else," said Rockets running back Adonis Thomas, "I would say I'm a fan of Kellen Moore."
No. 5 Stanford broke open what was a close game at halftime to win 37-10 at Arizona, and did so without the services of three key players for much of the night. Receiver Chris Owusu (shoulder), tight end Coby Fleener (concussion-like symptoms) and linebacker Shayne Skov (knee) all suffered injures. Owusu (who returned) and Fleener should be fine, but Skov's injury appears serious. A diagnosis is expected Monday. Losing the heart of the defense would be devastating for the Cardinal.
Florida running back/receiver Chris Rainey wasn't kidding when he said Charlie Weis' pro-style offense was "the best thing that ever happened to me." The speedster racked up 233 all-purpose yards against Tennessee (and also notched his fifth career blocked punt). He's accounted for at least 162 yards in all three of Florida's games thus far. "For me it was an emotional game," said Rainey, who was suspended five games last year following his aggravated stalking arrest.
With the caveat that UCLA is apparently very, very bad (again): Texas has itself a quarterback. Case McCoy was a Colt McCoy-like 12-of-15 for 168 yards and two touchdowns in the Longhorns' 49-20 rout at the Rose Bowl. I watched Texas' spring game and it was clear to me McCoy was the best Texas quarterback. But I'm not being paid $5 million to make decisions like who to start at quarterback, so surely Mack Brown had a good reason to stick with Garrett Gilbert for so long.
College Football Championship Week roundup: Michigan State spoils Ohio State's BCS hopes
Spartans spoil Ohio State's BCS title hopes