More Overtime (cont.)
Saturday was not as kind to two other veteran quarterbacks, Michigan's Denard Robinson and Oklahoma's Landry Jones. Both have been in the spotlight seemingly forever. Both have shattered records and appeared on various Heisman lists. But both have also had their share of detractors, and lately, the quarterbacks have been providing no shortage of fodder.
Painful is the only word to describe Robinson's nightmarish performance Saturday night at Notre Dame. The same player who shredded the Irish in each of the previous two seasons threw interceptions on four straight second-quarter series (in fact, on four straight pass attempts) and later lost a fumble. "In the 22 years I've been living, this is the most disappointed I've ever been in myself," he said.
Robinson has never been an elite passer, but he seems to be regressing. In his past three games against ranked foes (Virginia Tech in last year's Sugar Bowl, Alabama in this year's opener and Notre Dame Saturday) he's completed just 46.5 percent of his passes for an average 151.7 yards with three touchdowns and seven interceptions. He's also rushed for a modest 43.3 yards in those games.
When I visited Ann Arbor in August for a Robinson feature, offensive coordinator Al Borges talked of working with his quarterback to stay in the pocket longer and trust his progressions. But in doing so, he's seemingly neutered Robinson's greatest talent (running). Robinson also keeps forcing throws into coverage.
Oklahoma's Jones also began trending down late last season, as he threw one touchdown and six interceptions in his final four games after All-America receiver Ryan Broyles went down with a season-ending ACL injury. Against Kansas State Saturday, Jones looked uncomfortable throughout. He suffered from an injury-depleted offensive line and an inexperienced receiving corps, but he had plenty of time to throw on both a sack and forced fumble that produced K-State's first touchdown and an interception that set up the Wildcats' go-ahead drive in the second half.
"I played pretty terrible," said Jones. "We played really dumb football, especially me."
Both Robinson and Jones have been around long enough to know that one bad night shouldn't derail their entire seasons. And both can still win their respective conferences. In the words of Mark May, however, Michigan's coaches need to "let Denard be Denard." Meanwhile, Jones needs more help from his running game, but mostly he needs to play with more confidence. At this point, it's too late for either team to completely negate their quarterback's shortcomings.
My reaction to the latest AP and Coaches' polls:
Overrated: Wisconsin (AP: NR, Coaches: 23)
In their latest masterpiece, the Badgers led UTEP 23-19 with four minutes to go before escaping with a win, 37-26. Yet, after another underwhelming performance, Wisconsin didn't drop out of the Coaches' Poll. In fact, it moved up one spot this week. This poll helps determine the BCS Championship Game for another two years.
Underrated: Clemson (AP: No. 17, Coaches: No. 16)
Due to the unforgivable sin of losing to the nation's No. 4 team on the road -- and putting up 426 yards on the nation's second-ranked total defense -- the Tigers fell seven spots in both polls. Is Clemson really that different than we thought it was last week?
Each week, I'll update my projected BCS lineup (as necessary) based on the latest week's games. Here's my current edition:
Title game: Alabama vs. Oregon
Rose: USC vs. Nebraska
Fiesta: Kansas State vs. Notre Dame
Sugar: Georgia vs. Texas
Orange: Florida State vs. Louisville
Brace yourselves, America: Notre Dame to the BCS is suddenly a very real scenario. Spare me the e-mails. Before the season, I saw five near-certain losses on its schedule: Michigan State, Michigan, Stanford, Oklahoma and USC. The Irish have already conquered the first two foes, and now the Sooners and Trojans look significantly more vulnerable. If Notre Dame can win just one of the other three and take care of business against the rest of its slate, Brian Kelly could be looking at a 10-2 record (and probably a 10-year contract extension).
With Saturday's 13-6 win over the Wolverines, Manti Te'o (eight tackles, two interceptions) and the Irish defense made it two straight weeks without allowing a touchdown. In fact, it's the first time since 1909 that Notre Dame accomplished that feat against both Michigan and Michigan State in the same season. The odd juxtaposition, of course, is that Kelly's offense continues to struggle, and he once again pulled quarterback Everett Golson for former starter Tommy Rees. But there's no controversy. Really. Nothing to see here.