Reality Check Weekend offers rude awakenings for Texas, others
Texas, Florida, Florida State and Utah found out where they stand in Week 6
A historic comeback against Ohio State may have saved Nebraska's season
Plus: Logan Thomas arrives, Wake Forest impresses, UGA finds life, more
You know how ESPN loves to coin nicknames to promote certain college football Saturdays? "Judgment Day," "Shakedown Saturday," "Road Test Weekend," etc.?
Well, I get to wait until after the games to come up with an appropriate theme for what we saw. Let's call Week 6 "Reality Check Weekend," since several high-profile programs found out they're not yet where they thought they were.
Texas (4-1): In hindsight, it seems a little fishy that Mack Brown's team went from 5-7 a year ago to No. 10 in the Coaches' Poll last week based on wins over BYU, UCLA and Iowa State. Despite that limited competition, the sentiment remained that "Texas is Texas," and that the 'Horns would soon be back among the national elite thanks to better coaching and a load of talent.
No. 3 Oklahoma debunked that myth in humiliating fashion Saturday, beating Texas 55-17 in Dallas. And as Andy Staples noted, Bob Stoops seemed to take particular glee in his staff outsmarting Texas' glitzy new coordinators, Bryan Harsin and Manny Diaz. "[OU defensive coordinator Brent] Venables, it's fair to say he's pretty bright, too," said Stoops.
But schemes and film study only go so far. The Sooners rolled because they have better, more experienced players. While it's not surprising that Travis Lewis and Co. would overwhelm Texas' freshman-heavy offense (Oklahoma scored three defensive touchdowns), Diaz's defense put up almost no resistance against Landry Jones (31-of-50 for 367 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions) and Oklahoma's talented receivers. "We went in with a pretty good game plan that we felt confident in," said Texas safety Blake Gideon. "They've got all the athletes and stats for a reason."
With so many young players at key positions, Texas' long-term future remains bright. But the Red River Blowout showed that one group of freshmen can't instantly plug the void that seemingly infiltrated Brown's program post-Colt McCoy. Things won't get any easier for the Texas defense in Week 7, as Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon come to town.
Florida (4-2): Admittedly, Will Muschamp's first reality check came in Week 5 against Alabama, and what slim chances Florida had against LSU went out the window when third-string true freshman quarterback Jacoby Brissett was pressed into the starting job.
But much like with Texas, many figured Florida could at least count on its talented young defense to remain competitive -- yet LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee lofted a 46-yard touchdown pass to Reuben Randle on the Tigers' second play from scrimmage. Following in Trent Richardson's footsteps, Spencer Ware and the Tigers ground out 238 rushing yards in a 41-11 rout.
"We've got to get better on the line of scrimmage," said Muschamp. "We wore out as the game went on."
The ultimate insult came early in the fourth quarter, when Jordan Jefferson hit the very same jump pass for a touchdown that Tim Tebow first broke out in this same game five years earlier. It felt symbolic. As recently as two years ago, Urban Meyer's Gators seemed to tower over the rest of the SEC. In consecutive weeks, we've seen just how far they've fallen behind Alabama and LSU.
Florida State (2-3): Was it really just three weeks ago that the 'Noles took Oklahoma to the wire in Tallahassee? It's hardly surprising that FSU has failed to live up to its absurdly premature top five preseason ranking; it's a near-annual tradition. But the extent of the implosion, which reached new depths with Saturday's 35-30 loss at Wake Forest, is unquestionably stunning.
While it was easy to blame FSU's 35-30 loss at Clemson two weeks ago on injuries suffered in the Oklahoma game (most notably quarterback E.J. Manuel's), that excuse no longer held water Saturday. For one thing, Manuel returned (albeit not until the second quarter) and proved healthy enough to throw a 46-yard touchdown on his first possession. Mind you, he also threw two interceptions. Turnovers (five), penalties (10) and a surprisingly average defense (391 yards allowed) have all but eliminated FSU from returning to the ACC title game, much less fulfilling predictions by some that FSU was a national title contender.
"We're not playing intelligent," said Jimbo Fisher, who is only in his second season and still has ample time to return FSU to glory. In the meantime, Wake Forest (more on the Demon Deacons in a bit) served a sobering reminder of the stalled state of the FSU program by winning its fourth meeting in six years.
Utah (2-3): The Utes finally got their coveted invite to a BCS conference, but they've yet to procure a Pac-12 victory, falling to 0-3 with Saturday's 35-14 home loss to Arizona State on the heels of a 31-14 loss to Washington a week earlier. They committed five turnovers in both losses.
"We'll start winning games when we stop turning the ball over," said coach Kyle Whittingham. "That is the bottom line."
Actually, the Utes' troubles date to last season. Since starting 8-0 last year, Whittingham's team has lost six of their last 10. Part of the problem: Quarterback Jordan Wynn, so promising as a freshman two years ago, continues to struggle with injuries. He missed Saturday's game and will be out at least another two weeks with a shoulder injury. Backup Jon Hays threw three interceptions.
More than in any other league, a team can't win in the Pac-12 without a solid quarterback.