SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
10/06/2007 07:16:00 PM
Saturday Observations Part II
Electric RB DeMarco Murray could help Oklahoma fans get over the loss of Adrian Peterson pretty quickly.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- In Chapter 2 of Bowls, Polls and Tattered Souls, I explain the many reasons why sportswriters often find themselves in the worst possible position to be ranking football teams. Today is a perfect example for me.
While millions of you were sitting in the comfort of your homes watching Oklahoma-Texas and Georgia-Tennessee, I was sitting in an all-time traffic logjam (90 minutes to drive two miles) getting to Tiger Stadium. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about getting to see one of the most anticipated games of the season live and in person. I’m just confessing that there any number of people this week more qualified to evaluate the Sooners’ and Longhorns’ performances and fill out a Top 25 ballot accordingly.
Here’s what I did see upon arriving at the press box: Oklahoma RB DeMarco Murray (16 carries, 127 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown) showing what all the hype’s been about. I’m sure Bob Stoops and his staff have had legitimate reasons for keeping the redshirt freshman behind Allen Patrick on the Sooners’ depth chart (a running back’s job consists of far more than just running), but it’s going to be tough to keep that guy off the field much longer. His explosiveness jumped off the screen and ultimately proved the difference in a shootout between two rivals, both apparently with savvy quarterbacks (how pretty is Sam Bradford’s touch, by the way?) and average defenses. Oklahoma has a solid running game, though; Texas does not.
• In last week’s Mailbag, I wrote about the varying degrees of upsets (stunners, surprises and just plan weird ones). Tennessee’s demolition of Georgia probably falls under the “surprise” category -- but I can’t say it actually surprised me. For one thing, the Bulldogs have been all over the map the past two years (yet again, we see that Matthew Stafford is not necessarily the Messiah after all). But more importantly, the past two weeks have been full of rumblings and speculative columns in Tennessee about Phillip Fulmer’s job security.
If anyone in college football has more than nine lives, it’s that guy. Time and time again over the past five years, it’s looked like the Vols were down for the count, and every time, they come exploding back, from their out-of-nowhere win at Miami in 2003 to last year’s season-opening blowout of Cal. It only makes sense Fulmer’s team -- fresh off a bye week -- would come out playing with their pants on fire against the Bulldogs.
I wouldn’t view Tennessee’s 35-14 win as any sort of seismic breakthrough, or a sign of the Vols’ impending SEC title run. No team that loses 59-20 to anyone is going to string together seven or eight straight SEC victories. But there’s no denying the Vols have talent, and I’m sure they’ll do just enough the rest of the way to continue to keep their coach out of hot water.
• South Florida has been held out lately as the poster program for college football’s new era of parity, and deservedly so. But what about Florida Atlantic? Howard Schnellenberger’s squad, which is even newer than Jim Leavitt’s (FAU’s program began play in 2001, USF’s in 1997) and which beat Minnesota earlier this season, gave the sixth-ranked Bulls everything they could handle Saturday and might have won if not for three missed field-goal attempts.
USF prevailed 35-23 in what had to be a classic “letdown” performance following its huge West Virginia win. My new favorite defensive Heisman candidate, Bulls sophomore George Selvie, notched another sack, raising his season total to 10.5.
• Finally, I'd just like to make the observation that every college football writer now has a blog. As I type this, on either side of me are the New York Times' Pete Thamel writing an entry for The Quad and my former colleague John Walters entering his latest musings for NBCSports.com. By all means, peruse them both. (And then, of course, come back here.)
Colt McCoy finally looks like the same quarterback from last year but alas, the Longhorns' running game and defense would not support him. How about JerMichael Finley, though? That guy is one to watch.
Although a fan of neither Texas nor Oklahoma, I have to admit I have had a lot of respect for Oklahoma's powerhouse showing this year (Colorado excepted). That said, I am pretty surprised they did not demolish Texas to a greater degree today. I really expected them to win very big. It will be interesting how the AP interprets the closer than expected score.
Halftime at USC-Stanford, and my Trojans are killing me. I just don't see any intensity from USC at all. Although I expect they will win this game in the end, at this point I'm afraid they will wind up losing 1-3 games this year. They just cannot hope to beat Cal, Oregon and maybe even Ariz State and UCLA playing like this. I would also not rule out the admittedly remote possibility of a horrendous result against Notre Dame either. That game is always more about emotion than anything else. I had thought the performance against Washington last week was a fluke, but it's just not looking good.
well, we may have gotten beaten pretty bad by florida (tennessee that is), but I would say we have a pretty good chance of winning out. I love to hear you "pros" give your analysis and then end up dead wrong, it happens every year, and you're no exception. Say what you will, but teams do tend to turn it around after the 3rd or 4th game. Do you ever watch college football?
i expected OU to win by a larger margin, but i was really impressed by the quality of the game. i can't stand texas (as all OU fans do) but i was really impressed by how well they played considering how bad they had been playing. and except for some blown coverage of the tight end, i think OU's defense played really well. Sam Bradford proved again that we'll be seeing him in a championship sometime in the near future.