ALDLAND’s weekly football roundup is back, taking a look at all the highs and lows of the latest round of football action.
- Last week, I highlighted LSU-UGA as the game of the week, and ESPN agreed with me, siting College Gameday in Athens. I wasn’t able to watch, but their prediction segment featured two special guests, UGA graduate Bubba Watson and Louisiana native Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame. (The Robertsons have legitimate football qualifications: Willie’s father, Phil, started at quarterback ahead of Terry Bradshaw at Louisiana Tech.)
- In anticipation of the LSU-UGA game, a secret-recipe cheesy bean dip was made. So much was made, in fact, that it lasted much longer than the game, although not quite as long as Georgia coach Mark Richt spent kissing his wife following a win over Kentucky.
- LSU-Georgia was a thriller. Georgia continues to lose important players to injury, but it doesn’t seem to slow them down. This week, star running back Todd Gurley sprained his ankle in the second quarter, but backup Keith Marshall filled in and had a career day. In the end, the Dwags outgunned the Tigers 44-41 and are in the driver’s seat on the road to the SEC championship game in Atlanta.
- I also thought Ole Miss-Alabama would be a good game, but it was not. The Rebels limited Alabama’s scoring early, but they were unable to do any scoring of their own, which is an easy-bake recipe for a loss. Ole Miss 0, Alabama 25.
- Boston College hung with Florida State for much of their game, but they couldn’t stop FSU enough to keep pace in the end. FSU 48, BC 34.
- South Carolina nearly did lose to Central Florida, eking out a three-point win after quarterback Connor Shaw went down with an injury that will keep him out for a few weeks. South Carolina 28, UCF 25.
- The Oklahoma Sooners took care of Notre Dame in South Bend, and the Irish loss should ensure that the Domers stay out of the rankings for the rest of the season. Oklahoma 35, Notre Dame 21.
- Vanderbilt easily handled Conference USA’s UAB Blazers in Nashville, which should help the Commodores get back on track for an important conference matchup against undefeated Missouri coming up.
- The college coaching carousel opened early this year: In news covered more than adequately elsewhere, USC unceremoniously fired head coach Lane Kiffin, and UCONN showed head coach Paul Pasqualoni the door. While the rumor mill is churning up the usual suspects– Jack Del Rio and Jeff Fisher– as candidates for the Southern Cal job, James Franklin’s name is very much in the mix as well, at least from a speculation standpoint. If Franklin leaves Nashville for L.A., it won’t be because Vandy didn’t pay him enough.
- Seriously, so much secret cheese bean dip.
The games — is this what we expected?:
- The day started off with an NFC North tilt in Motown, where the Lions put a hurting on the Bears. After sitting out a week with a knee injury, Reggie Bush was back in action, and he looked great. Jay Cutler threw three interceptions and lost a fumble, and the Lions, who led 40-16 in the fourth quarter, stemmed the tide of their own ineptitude to win 40-32.
- The Steelers continue to be winless, while the Vikings claimed their first victory of the season when these teams met in the first London game of the year. Pittsburgh 27, Minnesota 34.
- The Giants continue to be winless as well, falling to the rejuvenated, undefeated Chiefs, 31-7.
- Tennessee is off to a good start, pushing its record to 3-1 with a win over Geno Smith and the Jets. New York 13, Tennessee 38.
- Houston scored 20 points in the second quarter and nothing in any of the other quarters. They found themselves in overtime for the second time this year, and they were unable to stop Seattle’s comeback bid in a game that was looking like a classic Seattle road loss. Seahawks 23, Texans 20.
- The Falcons hosted Patriots in the Sunday night game, and they stunk. Atlanta’s defense continues to be a major liability, especially against the pass, but really just against any low-grade offense. With Steven Jackson still out, the Falcons were forced to rely even more heavily on the pass. Roddy White‘s still hurt, though, and his decoy act wasn’t fooling New England, meaning that Julio Jones spent the night in double and triple coverage. Those two still were managing to get open, but Matt Ryan’s accuracy was badly off, and he sailed numerous touchdown passes out of bounds. Atlanta wasn’t unlucky: they recovered an onside kick and a fumbled Patriot snap, offering them multiple opportunities to tie the game or take the lead in the fourth quarter, but they did neither. The Falcon offense gets to the red zone more than other teams, but far more often than not, they come away empty-handed. Without a major change, it is difficult to see this Atlanta team being able to challenge the Saints in the NFC South.
Next Week’s Best Games: Washington vs. Stanford, 10:30 on ESPN; Kansas City vs. Tennessee, 1:00 on CBS.
NFL Trend Watch: Home team records: Week 1 (9-7); Week 2 (12-4); Week 3 (11-5); Week 4 (9-6).
Final Note: Early national championship chatter always is fun, and we could be on course for a crowded top of the board. Looking at the AP Poll, the top five teams– Alabama, Oregon, Clemson, Ohio State, and Stanford– all have a shot. Of those five, Clemson seems most likely to win out, as Florida State and South Carolina are looking weaker than expected. Next most certain, either Oregon or Stanford (or Washington?) will come out of the Pacific Twelve undefeated. Next most certain, either Alabama or Georgia will win the SEC championship game, but with UGA’s loss to Clemson, only Bama would be undefeated, and Georgia won’t be able to overcome that loss unless more of these top five teams lose. Finally, either Ohio State or Michigan is likely to emerge undefeated from the Big Ten championship game. Michigan’s too weak, and while Ohio State probably is too, an undefeated OSU would further complicate the final picture, which could include Clemson, Alabama, Oregon/Stanford, and Ohio State, all with perfect records and major conference championships. From there, I think we would end up with Alabama against Oregon/Stanford on the basis of the strengths of the SEC and Pacific Twelve conferences. Washington is another complicating factor, as is Miami. Plenty of football left to play.