SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
10/20/2007 04:21:00 PM
Saturday Observations, Part I
Vanderbilt's defense stuffed Steve Spurrier's offense all day long.
It’s official. I’ve quite obviously become desensitized to college football upsets, because the No. 6 team in the country, South Carolina, just lost to 17-6 Vanderbilt, yet I can’t seem to elicit even the slightest sense of surprise.
Think about that for a second. In nearly any other season prior to this one, a top-10 team losing to the Commodores might have generated the same, breathless reaction as Douglas beating Tyson or U.S. hockey beating Russia. In this, the eighth week of the 2007 college football season, however, Vandy beating South Carolina seems almost par for the course, no matter the ramifications. In my new-fangled upset classification system, this one falls squarely into the “weird” tier.
Mind you, the Gamecocks hadn’t risen to No. 6 by accident. Sitting at 6-1, South Carolina had won at Georgia and manhandled Kentucky just a week before the Wildcats knocked off No. 1 LSU.
But Steve Spurrier’s team had been winning with defense. From yo-yoing quarterbacks to lamenting his line’s blocking woes, the Head Ball Coach has been frustrated with his offense all season. Saturday, Vandy’s long-underrated defense took advantage, notching five sacks and three interceptions against South Carolina QBs Chris Smelley and Blake Mitchell. Meanwhile, recently elevated Commodores QB Mackenzi Adams -- who came in last week and nearly pulled off an upset of Georgia -- made just enough plays in the first half to stake his team to an insurmountable lead.
Congrats to Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson, who earned the most significant victory of his six-year tenure. More importantly, his 4-3 team -- which, despite showing marked improvement the past two seasons has yet to get over the hump necessary to reach a bowl game -- has now put itself in position to do just that if it can beat Miami of Ohio next week and pull off one more “upset” (the ‘Dores close with Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee and Wake Forest).
Meanwhile, South Carolina’s loss coupled with Alabama’s rout of the Vols means Kentucky can take over sole possession of first in the SEC East if it beats Florida today. A Gators win would give the nation’s toughest division five teams each with two conferences losses. All five, mind you, were ranked in the Top 25 as of last week. (Tennessee will presumably fall out.)
The real surprise of the day so far took place in Ames, Iowa, where No. 5 Oklahoma had to fight tooth and nail to survive 1-6 Iowa State. There’s truly no logical explanation for this one. Just a week earlier, Texas beat the Cyclones 56-3. Saturday, Iowa State led the Sooners 7-0 at halftime, and trailed 14-7 late when QB Bret Meyer’s pass into the end zone got picked off by Oklahoma’s D.J. Wolfe.
Oklahoma has become a trendy pick lately to work its way back into the national-title picture, but Saturday’s game, coupled with the Sooners' puzzling loss at Colorado, don’t exactly inspire confidence. QB Sam Bradford, so efficient most of the season, has been rendered a non-factor in both of the Sooners’ Big 12 road games. RB Chris Brown, the star of last week’s Missouri loss, ultimately bailed out sloppy Oklahoma (three turnovers), which was extremely fortunate Iowa State failed to score on three drives inside the Sooners’ 20 (missing a field goal, failing to convert a fourth-and-one and that final interception).
Then again, this season, it’s hard to complain about any victory. After all, you be Minnesota, which lost 27-21 to Division II North Dakota State. And even this wasn’t surprising, considering the Gophers are 1-7, while the Bison are 7-0, ranked No. 1 in the Division Formerly Known as I-AA and came within a point of Minnesota a year ago.
That’s right folks, we’ve reached the point where a team that's only in I-AA, but not even a full-fledged member yet (the Bison are in the last year of their transition from Division II and therefore not yet eligible for the playoffs) is better than the worst team in the Big Ten.
After Tennessee throttled Georgia two weeks ago, I warned against putting too much stock in the Vols’ purported resurgence. After all, no team that loses a game 59-20 (as Tennessee did against Florida earlier in the season) is going to win any championships. Sure enough, Alabama spanked the Vols in similar fashion, Saturday, with QB John Parker Wilson shredding Tennessee’s defense to the tune of 346 yards and three touchdowns.
Whatever you do, don’t go trying to connect the dots when it comes to the SEC this season. Alabama routed Tennessee, which routed Georgia -- but the Dawgs beat the Crimson Tide. Georgia also beat Vanderbilt, which itself just beat South Carolina -- which itself beat the Dawgs. Dizzy yet?
Finally, Cincinnati’s 6-0 start suddenly seems like a distant memory. The Bearcats have now lost in consecutive weeks to 4-4 Louisville (which you might have seen losing at Connecticut on Friday night) and 3-4 Pittsburgh, which gave coach Dave Wannstedt a much-needed, stop-the-bleeding victory Saturday. And they even did it the Wannstedt way, gashing the Bearcats for 265 rushing yards.
Congrats to Tulsa boy Mackenzi Adams and the rest of the Commodores for a huge upset! As for Oklahoma, maybe they are overrated like every other Top 25 team, lol. Gotta love the parity if your team isn't one of those Top 25 squads...
Before all the Ohio State haters show up, please review more stats than the final score.
Offensively, Ohio State scored 24 and Michigan State scored 3. The other 14 Sparty got came on uncharacteristic Buckeye turnovers. Ohio State still has the best defense in the nation, and an efficient offense.
with USF's lost to Rutgers on Thurday night and Ohio State barely getting by unranked Michigan State today, what are the odds that #3 BC will take over #1 in the BCS if they beat #11 Virginia Tech later tonight?
Brad - If you understood anything about football you would know it is difficult to get up for a big game, then play someone with no reputation the next week. Vandy beating SC proves little except what the contests between the big teams take out of you. Florida plays Vandy close every year. But it always follows a marathon of Florida vs Alabama, Georgia, Auburn & LSU.
For Netizen - Mich St is not one of the better Big Ten schools. How is it that when they force OSU turnovers and play a close game that it doesn't count? OSU should have put them away, but lacks the talent to do it.
Stewart, I picked up your book BOWLS, POLLS, AND TATTERED SOULS last week-end and was just finishing reading it as the clock wound down in the Rutgers-USF game. Thanks for putting NCAA-sanctioned athletics on equal footing [almost] with professional wrestling as sport[-like] spectacle. It was good to see that the sun actually still came up the morning after the USF loss. No love lost here in Tampa -- This town bleeds green and gold and they love their Bulls. Thanks also for your nod to parity in the Big East. Three intraconference games this week were decided by 14 points TOTAL, with two ranked teams going down in defeat. At this point, Tranghese has as much claim as the SEC that his league is "competitive from top to bottom." (Well, maybe the bottom of the Big East is not as bad as the bottom of the SEC -- We'd have to see Pitt or Syracuse play Mississippi State to figure that one out.) Anyway, the book's a good read and I laud you for having had the courage to give credit where it was due and vote the USF Bulls #1 last week. I still think that, were Rutgers and USF to line up and play 10 times, USF would win 7 or 8 of them. But Rutgers played their best game of the season on Thursday night and USF did not. That was the best we'll of Rutgers. It was not the best we've seen of USF which, ironically, has seemed to go a little flat after each of their big wins. Although it ranks about 9th in the nation in total enrollment, the University of South Florida is younger than I am (but not by much), and one of the things I liked most about the undefeated USF Bulls was that they represented such a thorn in the sides of those good ol' boys and girls at (and from) all the old, perennial football powerhouses. It was great to see some new faces, with a younger coach (and some wizened assistants) enjoying some newfound and much deserved success. I don't think we've heard the last wimper from USF or the Big East this season. Check out this week-end's upsets and near-upsets -- The Big East might still be in the BCS hunt!
Charles, you are an idiot. I'm a vandy alumnus so trust me, us winning wasn't very shocking simply because USC is not that great of a team. They still have the toughest part of their schedule. Thus far they have won the games they should have, vandy being the exception. The SEC has too many ranked teams and not a great BCS OOC record to demand it. So save me the song and dance, its getting old.
What's funnier about Charles' post is the idea that the Vandy loss was the result of USC getting up for the big game at powerhouse UNC last week and then suffering a letdown after squeaking by the Tarheels.
... and, wait one second ... ah, there we go: Kentucky just lost, too.
So that's two losses in two games today for the trendy, already-with-one-loss SEC teams that all the Southern fans (and, sadly, most of the national media) fell all over themselves to worship. Seriously, are you guys over it now? Does TWO losses before November finally do it?
Oh, and way to go, Tennessee. That's a THIRD loss for the alleged No. 20 team in the country. And congratulations to both Ole Miss and Miss. State for yet another set of pratfalls. And then there's always the 50/50 chance that the Auburn offense will actually get into field-goal range in any given game.
Yeah, the SEC is so clearly the best conference in the nation. Not.
(Stay tuned below for numerous SEC fans spouting their usual "it's just that the teams beat each other up every week" rhetoric. As if the exact same thing doesn't happen in every OTHER conference, too).
So I suppose that South Carolina will stay at No. 6 and Vanderbilt will move into the Top 25, right? I mean it's not like SC lost to a (hack, gag) Big East school or anything so low. The SEC: God's conference, where football rules and everybody's great.
I'm a Big Ten fan (Go Buckeyes!), but I will admit that top-to-bottom the SEC is better than the Big Ten this year. I mean, come on: Northwestern lost to Duke. And yes, the media loves the SEC; but frankly, who cares? The AP Poll is meaningless.
Before all the Ohio State lovers show up, enjoy the win while you can. Penn State won't be so easy, especially in Happy Valley. And I think our defense will put up a little more of a challenge than MSU. Sparty left your average receivers get by them all game and Beanie (a freakin dumb nickname) won't get easy, long runs like that.
So, does UF beating Kentucky and Vandy beating USC just another example of why the SEC is so tough. I take nothing away from them, but when other conferences do the same thing they're called weak. Conference games are always on another level, no matter what conference.
It gets old with the SEC fans using that excuse all the time. Didn't Miss St get crushed by WVU today? What happens next week when they beat Kentucky? Will that be another example of the strength of the SEC?
Mizzou absolutely killed Texas Tech. Did you see? The Tigers' sole loss was at Oklahoma -- where NO VISITOR wins. No mid-season swoon this year. MU should be ranked much higher than teams that lost games AT HOME (SoCal, So.Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Rutgers (TWICE!), Cal). Stewart, it's time to give the Tigers' -- both the offense AND the defense -- their due.
For Brad - I don't think name calling strengthens your argument, but if it makes you feel better go ahead. South Carolina has had three big games, won two of them, and Tennessee on deck. Vandy hardly qualifies as worrisome competition in that context. But being overlooked Vandy does have the kind of talent to make one regret the omission. Now, got any new names to call me?
Nah, idiot still fits you charles. You were apologizing for usc cause they have a hard time getting up for a week team after playing a big game. Well the played unc last week, hardly a big game. They lost cause they aren't that great and no, kentucky isn't a "big" game, they are yet another over-ranked team. Just like when LSU loses tonight. Stop apologizing you're still an idiot. I'm not trying to strengthen any argument, i already know i'm right.
Like I said once before... No respect, no respect at all. ASU and UCLA are tied atop the Pac-10 at 4-0, Stew. I know it doesn't sound as impressive in your observations while you are building up UCLA as the new IT-team in the Pac-10-- but facts trump fiction still, don't they?
And for the record, ASU is now 1 of 5 undefeated teams in the country at 7-0. If they had a Great Lake instead of a Grand Canyon, they'd be the #1 game in town. (That's a slam on Ohio St., for the double-digit IQ crowd).
mikegoble (speaking of double-digit IQs): You honestly think ASU deserves to be #1? Who have they beaten? The only they've beaten with a winning record is Oregon State at 4-3. Granted, OSU's schedule hasn't been that tough, but at least MSU and Purdue have winning records.
Now, should ASU be 7th? No, they should be top 5. But they got a meaty schedule coming up, and if they deserve to be in the discussion, well, we'll find out won't we?
P.S. Columbus isn't on a Great Lake. That's Cleveland.
Look, it's become pretty apparent that the SEC's skirts have been lifted; it's one dogsh-t team beating another dogsh-t team, while telling everyone that they're really all thoroughbreds. Kick 'em all out of the top 25 until they can beat a non-conference opponent better than Toothless State.
"Funny how when that happens with Wisconsin or PSU that the Big Ten is overrated, but when it happens to SC that the SEC is just that deep."
I'm sorry... what is the SEC's record this season against I-AA teams? And the Big Ten's? Has anyone in the SEC lost to Duke? What happened when Virginia Tech (arguably the best ACC team) went up against the SEC?
Yeah, I guess the Big Ten is pretty dominant and the SEC is completely overrated.
Speaking of overrated, why is Michigan in the Top 25. Is the media completely blind to their embarassing loss to a 1-AA opponent? What of the drubbing by Oregon? If any one program is loved by the media and completely overrated, it must be UM.
The Big 10 (11?) University of Minnesota Golden Gophers were lucky. They might have lost to the University of North Dakota (mascot name deleted in fear of NCAA sanction . . . ah . . "Golden Gophers" . . inspires subterranean bliss only Fielding Yost could appreciate!).
Hmm, I guess you missed bowl season last year (and I'm not talking about the many decent but great SEC teams that made some sort of bowl:
UF: Blowout National Championship victory.
LSU: Blowout BCS bowl win.
Arkansas: Close loss to a very good Wisc. team (arguably the best team in the Big 10.)
Auburn: Got the Cotton Bowl W.
USC beat a hot C-USA champ (UH.)
UK: got the W.
UGA: Had perhaps the most dominating second half comeback I've ever seen against VT.
A struggling 'Bama that didn't even deserve to play in a bowl lost by 3.
The worst loss was Penn State over UT by 10. Hardly a blowout. Hardly to a chump or poorly coached team.
Not that last year bears on this year, but I'd say the SEC had a strong showing at bowl time last year and I'd expect more of the same this year. In fact, I'd expect even better showings this year given the fact that USC, UK, and 'Bama are much better than last year