By Phil Rodriguez
Badgers Fall Short as Buckeyes Buck Back
‘Bama Rolls Again Over Rival ‘Vols
Hurricanes Funnel Out Against Tarheels, Lose Second in a Row
Tigers Survive Home Scare from Big Bad Wolfpack
Well here we go again. It’s the middle of the college football season and Alabama looks like the (almost) uncontested number one, although I’m sure there’s a couple of Big 10 schools that’d have something to say about that. The Tide’s 10th ranked rushing offense paves the way for their perennially talented defensive unit, and they’re clearly at the top of the pack of both the SEC and the remaining unbeaten teams. Tough tests against Texas A&M and at LSU await, but if the Tide can cruise past those two, virtually only rival Auburn stands in their way of another SEC Championship and CFP appearance.
The Broncos are 7-0 after running back Jarvion Franklin’s 281 yards led them past Akron in a 41-0 blowout. They seem to be the team to beat from the “Group of Five” segment of conferences (Houston and Boise State notwithstanding), with an explosive offense led by Franklin as well as quarterback Zach Terrell and NFL prospective wide receiver Corey Davis.
The ‘Canes lost their second straight game at home to an ACC opponent, going down 20-13 against North Carolina. Miami’s offense, which was firing on all cylinders and led the nation in rushing touchdowns, has averaged only slightly above 300 total yards in their two losses. After what seemed like briefly recapturing the spirit of “The U,” the ‘Canes have entered massive letdown territory for what seems like the 12th season in a row.
The Tigers barely survived against a pedestrian North Carolina State team in Death Valley, and their offense was the main reason. DeShaun Watson was forced to throw 52 passes, as Clemson’s offensive line simply couldn’t get any kind of push going against NC State. The Tigers are lucky that they have a week off for Wayne Gallman to recover from a concussion he sustained in the first quarter, as losing him for any length of time would only further expose the Tigers’ weaknesses up front. Clemson faces a big test in Week 9 at Florida State, a must-win game for a team hoping to the make the CFP for the second straight year.
Jalen Hurts QB Alabama
The true freshman is playing at a super high level, although it must be kept in perspective that he’s got some phenomenal athletes playing support roles around him. Arguably the first scrambling quarterback of the Saban era, Hurts has compiled 1385 passing yards and nine touchdowns, while contributing 428 yards and 8 touchdowns to the Tide’s dominant rushing attack. Despite passing for only 143 yards in Bama’s 49-10 win over Tennessee, he led the team in rushing with 132 yards and 3 touchdowns. He can only continue to flourish with the massively talented personnel he’s surrounded himself with.
Mitch Trubisky QB North Carolina
The first ever two-time Overachiever was back to his super-accurate ways in Miami, hitting 71.7% of his passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He faced a solid Canes secondary that had only allowed four touchdowns in their previous five games. His 2068 passing yards rank him at ninth in the nation.
Jazz Peavy WR Wisconsin
Peavy was all over the place in the best kind of way against Ohio State, catching 4 passes for 76 yards and a touchdown and running for 70 yards. He was the brightest spot in Wisconsin’s offense besides Corey Clement, and helped spark Wisconsin’s early 16-6 lead.
Purdue Defense and (former) Coach Darell Hazell
The Boilermakers gave up 49 points and 520 total yards to the Iowa Hawkeyes, looking limp both in rushing the passer and in defending against the run. Despite quarterback David Blough’s 458 yard and five touchdown performance (I mean, it is Purdue), the Boilermakers lost their second Big Ten game of the year and their third overall. Purdue athletic director Mike Bobinski opted to fire Hazell the day after the Iowa game after he had posted a 9-33 overall record and 3-24 in the Big Ten over the last four seasons. An article I read noted that Hazell, formerly a member of famed Ohio State coach Jim Tressel’s staff, had never really managed to “find an identity” during his tenure at Purdue, and I’d have to agree. It’d be highly entertaining to see if they would return to the spread passing attack they had success with during the Drew Brees era. Wide receiver’s coach Gerad Parker will take over as the interim coach until they announce a new hire.
Picks of the Week
The “Who Watches These?” Game of the Week: BYU at 14 Boise State
The Cougars head to Boise to take on the undefeated Broncos on their (hideous) blue turf. Boise quarterback Brett Rypien has been ripping apart defenses to the tune of 1622 yards and 12 touchdowns, while BYU running back Jamaal Williams is second in the nation with 942 rushing yards. Many points should be scored, and what else are you going to do at 9pm on a Thursday night? You know the Packers are just going to hammer the Bears. It’s destiny at this point. They’re playing like garbage, but not like Jay Cutler-led Chicago Bears garbage.
16 Oklahoma at Texas Tech
The Sooners offense has been riding high in their last few games, but the Red Raiders have been putting up passing numbers themselves. Tech leads the nation in passing offense, with quarterback Patrick Mahomes having thrown for 2579 yards and 21 touchdowns and only five interceptions. The Raiders average 510.8 passing yards per game, while the Sooners are still allowing an average of 277.3 yards per game, good for 107th in the nation. Luckily for Oklahoma though, Texas Tech rank only a few spots ahead on pass defense at 104th. Sounds like we’re in for another shootout in Lubbock.
2 Ohio State at Penn State
The Buckeyes are coming off an emotional win and will have to step lightly to not trip up in Happy Valley. Interestingly named quarterback Trace McSorley has looked mobile and accurate as of late, and with decent protection he and shifty running back Saquon Barkley could find some holes in the Buckeye’s solid defense.
Phil’s “No Frills” Lock of the Week
1 Alabama vs 6 Texas A&M
Former Sooner Trevor Knight guides the high-octane Aggie rushing attack into Tuscaloosa to face a fearsome Tide team allowing only 64 rushing yards per game, the lowest in the country. Something’s got to give and, though the answer may seem obvious, this is midseason SEC football and just about anything could happen. That being said, I’m an upset and underdog kind of guy. And despite my massive praise for them in this week’s column, I’m quite the opposite of a Bama fan (fond memories of the 2014 Sugar Bowl here). Trevor Knight did it once, and I think he’s got the chops to keep his cool in Bryant-Denny and outlast Jalen Hurts and the “Rolling” Tide. Kevin Sumlin’s always got a few tricks up his sleeve for his old buddy Nick.
Texas A&M 20 Alabama 19
Phil’s “No Frills” Record: 2-1
Photos courtesy of USA Today and Johnny Football