ALDLAND’s weekly football roundup is back following week three of college football and week two of the NFL.
- I caught snippets of ESPN College Gameday and Fox Sports 1’s college football pregame shows. Gameday remains the leader of the pack, but I’d like more time to see how FS1’s show develops. In the meantime, I’ll join FS1’s Joel Klatt in sending good wishes to the folks in Colorado dealing with major flooding right now.
- There’s still time to vote in ALDLAND’s week two college football poll. The week three poll will open soon.
The games — excitement building:
- With a couple East Carolina fans in town, we watched the Pirates hang with Virginia Tech for about three quarters. The Hokies did all they could, including badly missing a bunch of close kicks, to hand ECU the game. Frank Beamer looked like he wanted to puke, but his team managed to hold it together in the end. Virginia Tech 15, East Carolina 10.
- We were flipping between that game and UCLA-Nebraska. When I first checked in on this one, Nebraska had a 21-3 lead, and it looked like the best early game of the day would not materialize into a competitive affair. That turned out to be sort of true, but not in the way I expected. UCLA scored thirty-eight unanswered points to beat the now-mythological blackshirt defense in Lincoln 41-21.
- The game of the day belonged to Alabama and Texas A&M, and it lived up to the hype. Johnny Manziel and the Aggies started very hot, jumping out to a 14-0 lead and choking the Tide’s early drives. A&M scored touchdowns on its first two drives, which averaged 71.5 yards and 2:06 off the clock. Alabama responded, though, methodically amassing thirty-five temporarily unanswered points and carried a 42-21 lead into the fourth quarter. The Aggie defense had yielded to The System, but Manziel wasn’t through, although twenty-one fourth-quarter points wouldn’t be enough to top Alabama. The Crimson Tide remain undefeated, winning 49-42, but Manziel unequivocally proved that he is must-see football every time he plays, and his cohort, receiver Mike Evans, deserves some credit too.
- After a defensive lineman was the team’s leading scorer through the first two weeks, during which he outscored the entire offense, Michigan State found some non-offensive offense (mostly) behind the arm of Connor Cook at home against cradle of coaching Youngstown State to push their record to 3-0. 55-17 Spartans.
- On the other hand, Vanderbilt fell to 1-2 after a fourth-quarter comeback proved insufficient to avenge last year’s unjust loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks. Vandy put up fifteen points in the final frame, but they couldn’t quite catch the home team. Jordan Matthews posted his third consecutive 100-yard receiving game, but the resurgent Gamecock defense kept enough of a lid on the Commodore offense to win. Vanderbilt 25, South Carolina 35.
- It’s starting to feel like the weekly bit of schadenfreude portion of this recap should be sponsored by the Longhorn Network. Texas followed up last week’s mess by allowing even more points in a loss to Ole Miss. Texas held a six-point lead at the half but was limited to just 100 yards in the second half, as Ole Miss pitched a 27-0 shutout. Last year, Texas posted sixty-six points on the Rebels in a win. It’s a new year for both teams, and Ole Miss showed it with a 44-23 victory in Austin.
- ALDLAND still is without a sponsor, and we need to boost the reach of our podcast. Budweiser Black still is a great choice during NFL season, and August A. Busch VIII needs to contact us.
- I’ve only caught a few minutes of ESPN’s NFL pregame coverage, and my limited assessment of the network’s newest analyst is that Ray Lewis likes to talk a lot (no surprise) but seems to be doing a good job in his new role (possible surprise).
The games — establishing a pattern:
- The Falcons rebounded from their week-one loss by jumping out to a 24-3 lead in the first half of their home opener against the Rams. Defense remains a problem, though, as they gave up touchdowns on three consecutive second-half drives. Thanks to injuries, offense is starting to look like a problem for the Falcons, too. Roddy White continues to play the role of WR decoy thanks to a high-ankle sprain, they lost fullback Bradie Ewing for the season to a shoulder injury, and running back Steven Jackson sat out all but the opening drive with a deep thigh bruise suffered on a touchdown run. Three Atlanta defenders– Sean Witherspoon, Kroy Biermann, and Asante Samuel– also went out with injuries. Biermann’s torn Achilles means he joins Ewing on the out-for-the-season list. Rams 24, Falcons 31.
- Due to a distortion in local television coverage, I was unable to watch the Lions be themselves against Arizona, but running back injuries are an issue for Detroit, too, as semi-revelatory RB Reggie Bush was limited by a knee injury he suffered in the first half. The Lions have said it’s not a long-term injury, but they haven’t said much else, which is a little worrisome. Also worrisome is their inability to hold a lead over an inferior team. Cardinals win, 25-21.
- Also in the realm of unhappy endings, the Titans led often in Houston before falling in overtime to the Texans. Former Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins is beginning to steal some of the spotlight from Houston teammate Andre Johnson. The rookie had seven receptions to Johnson’s eight, but Hopkins had 117 yards to Johnson’s 76, and he had the game-winning touchdown. 30-24 Texans.
- The Chargers got their first win of the season thanks to the continued success of Philip Rivers and some poor clock management by new Eagles coach Chip Kelly. LeSean McCoy again put up excellent numbers for Philadelphia, but the Eagles defense couldn’t hold the Chargers at bay. San Diego 33, Philadelphia 30.
- Last week, I picked San Francisco-Seattle as the game to watch in the NFL. Presumptively a showdown between two of the league’s top young quarterbacks, it was the defenses that were the early stars before the game was postponed due to a nearby lightning strike, the second or third such postponement so far this season. It makes sense to postpone games for this reason, and it makes sense for the players to spend the delay period in the locker rooms, but it’s not clear to me what the delay does for the fans, the vast majority of which remain in the stands the entire period. For me, however, the effect of the delay was clear: I went to bed. San Francisco did too in what turned out to be a non-event on the scoreboard. The Seahawks won 29-3, and the crowd set a new record for the loudest stadium in the world, something made more impressive to me by the fact that theirs is open-air.
- Monday night’s game was just how you would expect a game between the Steelers and Bengals to go if the Steelers had a subpar offensive line and no running game and the Bengals sort of had James Harrison now and a cast-off New England Patriot as their ballcarrier. Both squads are almost fully functioning teams, but the Steelers are on their way down and the Bengals look to be on their way up. Pittsburgh 10, Cincinnati 20.
Next Week’s Best Games: Arizona State vs. Stanford, 7:00 on Fox; Kansas City vs. Philadelphia, 8:25 pm (Thursday) on NFL Network. Honorable mention to Notre Dame’s real northern rivalry: Michigan State vs. Notre Dame, 3:30 pm on NBC.
Final Note: Of the sixteen NFL games this week, home teams went 12-4. Is that extreme? I’m not sure. In week one, home teams were just 9-7.