Sunday, November 17, 2013

Top 10 for 11/17

1) Florida State Seminoles (beat Syracuse Orangemen 59-3 at home)
If Ohio State can drop for giving up 35 points on the road to Illinois (while still scoring 60), then Alabama can drop for only scoring 20 on the road against Mississippi State. Florida State is the most dominant team in the country by a fairly wide margin at this point. They had the ball for just over eighteen minutes yesterday and destroyed Syracuse. Jameis Winston continues to make this year's Heisman race a sprint to the finish between himself and Manziel, completing 19-21 passes for 277 yards and 2 touchdowns. No team has been able to slow this kid down so far, and it doesn't seem like anyone will be able to until Florida State inevitably plays Alabama. He has easily the best trio of receivers in the country and has a safety valve tight end in Nick O'Leary who is a great mismatch across the middle or in the flat. Defensively, I have yet to find a true weakness in this squad. They are holding opposing passers to 50% completion and are holding all runners to only 3.3 yards per carry. They do a great job of generating pressure with only four rushers which has allowed the back seven to make easy plays and generate turnovers. With the way the Seminoles are handling all competition, even against the lower dregs of the ACC, they have made a case as the most complete team in college football.

2) Alabama Crimson Tide (beat Mississippi State Bulldogs 20-7 in Starkville)
And here is why Alabama is NOT the most complete team in the country. Nick Saban said before this game that Mississippi State was "the best 4-5 team in the country." What does that even mean? That they suck, but not as badly as other 4-5 teams? Anyway, Alabama committed a season high four turnovers in this game and still managed to win. Against a team that isn't 4-5, Alabama most likely loses this game on the road. I simply think that Alabama can not rely on AJ McCarron to come through in the clutch against a team that fields a competent defense. He barely completed 50% of his passes and threw a pair of picks to go along with his two interceptions. The offense is too reliant on TJ Yeldon to get the defense to stack the box so that McCarron has windows of five yards to squeeze the ball into when he needs to pass. Don't get me wrong, Yeldon is one hell of a running back who can put the team on his shoulders. But looking ahead, it seems like its almost guaranteed that Alabama and Florida State are going to meet in the Championship Game. Florida State has the talent and athleticism along the front four to contain Yeldon which is going to cause all kinds of problems for the Tide offense. Factor in that this is the worst secondary that Saban has coached at Alabama, and this is a team that could be exposed very shortly.

3) Ohio State Buckeyes (beat Illinois Fighting Illini 60-35 in Champaign)
For the Buckeyes, this was an ugly game that caused them to drop from 3 to 4 in the AP Polls in favor of Baylor. The score shows that it was a 25 point differential, but the fact that Illinois scored five touchdowns on Ohio State and didn't have a terrible amount of trouble moving the ball against them speaks volumes. Illinois was able to total 420 yards against Ohio State at 4.8 yards per play. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that Ohio State was scoring so quickly with their offense that their defense was on the field very often, but it is still concerning to give up so many big plays considering the talent and depth Ohio State has on defense. Offensively, Braxton struggled passing all day as he only managed to complete 13 out of his 29 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns. However, most of the damage was done by him on the ground as Braxton amassed 184 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries with one coming on a 70 yard touchdown run right out of the gate. Miller was explosive off the run all day but wasn't even the leading rusher. That would be Carlos Hyde, who was well on his way to a fantastic day before two touchdown rushes of over fifty yards in the last five minutes of play gave him 246 rushing yards on the day. Hyde was crucial to the Ohio State's victory, moving the ball at a rate of 6.4 yards per carry and had two touchdown runs before those final two. It wasn't a pretty victory, but at this point there doesn't seem to be any way Ohio State can sneak into the national title game.

4) Baylor Bears (beat Texas Tech Red Raiders 63-34 in Arlington, TX)
I'm pretty bummed out that Stanford lost simply because they were most likely going to go to the Rose Bowl while the Fiesta Bowl would be obligated to take Baylor, and then would probably take at-large Oregon. As it stands, Baylor is still set to get into the Fiesta Bowl and lay out 40 points on whomever they play. Despite going down by a couple of touchdowns early, Art Briles never let his team flinch as they rallied back to dismantle Texas Tech. Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty has gotten some Heisman consideration, and while his numbers are a bit misleading, there is no denying that he leads the nation's most explosive offense. This offense simply has too many playmakers to name them all here, but rest assured that no matter who is playing, this team will score. More importantly, the defense is stepping up and making plays to get off the field and allow them to continue to put up video game numbers. After being down by two touchdowns early, the defense was able to get settled and make a few key stops after which the offense never looked back. With the way that Oklahoma State handled Texas on Saturday, the path to the Fiesta Bowl will go through Waco, Texas if they can walk out of Stillwater next week with a victory.

5) Oregon Ducks (beat Utah Utes 44-21 at home)
This game was close for a while (17-14 right after the half) but Oregon was able to establish their dominance in the second half and is now in the driver's seat for a Rose Bowl berth. Mariota had a bounce back performance, throwing for 288 yards and three touchdowns on 68% completion. It was a bit perplexing that as a team, Oregon only managed to run for 145 yards on a total of 35 carries. Unfortunately, this game will probably go unnoticed as Oregon has already really blown its chance at making it to the national championship game. Although they will probably win the Pac 12 and play Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, it will be considered a disappointment as this team was all but penciled in to be playing for it all in Pasadena.

6) Auburn Tigers (beat No. 25 Georgia Bulldogs 43-38 at home)
I honestly feel bad for you if you missed this game. After losing a twenty point lead at home and trailing by one point with less than two minutes remaining, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall launched a desperation Hail Mary to Ricardo Louis that, after bouncing off two defenders, fell right into Louis's arms. It was an incredible finish to one of the best games played all year and showed the grit that Auburn has. Marshall, who had only thrown the ball 15 times in his previous two games, aired it out 26 times for 15 completions, including the biggest one probably of his career. His passing statistics weren't that impressive, but he was able to move the ball through the air and pick up crucial first downs when Georgia was playing the run. Marshall was great on the ground however, averaging almost five yards a carry on his way to 90 yards and a touchdown. The threat he possesses to run the ball at any time combined with the ability Tre Mason has at running back makes Auburn a very dangerous team to defend on the ground. The big knock against Auburn has been their defense, and giving up 21 points in less than 10 minutes is an awful looking stat. But considering Alabama's passing offense hasn't looked that great this year, Auburn have something to say about Bama playing for a third straight title.

7) Clemson Tigers (beat Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 55-31 at home)
Georgia Tech came into this game with a 6-3 record, so this is more impressive than the final score would lead you to believe. Tajh Boyd took absolute command of this game, completing 20-26 passes for 340 yards, four touchdowns and a pick. He has really bounced back and shown a lot of poise and leadership since getting annihilated at home by Florida State. Boyd showed some great touch on his passes, especially on the sideline routes to Martavis Bryant that he was able to land right in the outstretched arms. The most impressive on the night, though, was Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins who is going round for round with Mike Evans as the best receiver in the country. Watkins caught five passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns. The second that he caught came off of a screen play where he worked back towards Boyd for the pass, read the blocks, and exploded down the seam for a 44 yards catch and run. Watkins is playing well above his freshman and sophomore years and has truly become a human highlight reel. Lookout for this team should they make the Orange Bowl as an at large bid.

8) Missouri Tigers (idle this week; next game 11/23 at No. 24 Ole Miss Runnin' Rebels)

9) Texas A&M (idle this week; next game 11/23 at No. 22 LSU)

10) Michigan State Spartans (beat Nebraska Cornhuskers 41-28 in Lincoln) 
Most of the polls have the Spartans sitting at around 12-14, but I really think that it is time to move this squad into the top ten. Michigan State sports an absurd defense that ranks in the top seven in all major defensive statistics, including allowing only 13 points per game, best for fourth in the country. I wish I could find the official number now, but I believe something like five or six different Spartans had won defensive player of the week. This week was a bit of an aberration, especially considering the fact that Nebraska was using a back up quarterback, but it was really only 21 points given up by the defense until a garbage time touchdown with ten seconds left. The biggest problem facing Michigan State the rest of the year is the lack of offense. Despite putting up 41 points this game, the Spartans average about 30 points per and a lot of that has to do with their defense giving them great field position. Quarterback Connor Cook is only a sophomore in his first full season as a starter, and while he has taken care of the ball, is pretty much what you would expect from a young, inexperienced starter. The offensive line is brutal and Jeremy Langford has become a solid replacement for Le'veon Bell who will lead this team to a B1G Championship game berth. If the defense continues to play at the level it has been, Sparty might have a pretty decent shot at upsetting Ohio State.

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