2017 Week 7 CFB Recap

2017 Week 7 CFB Recap Comment Count

Alex Cook October 18th, 2017 at 10:13 AM


The only Week 6 game I was able to watch was the rain-soaked disaster that was Michigan vs. MSU – so there was no recap. The most notable result from that week was Oklahoma’s utterly stunning home loss to Iowa State. Somehow that’s already old news. Week 7 was insane.

I suppose I should stop being so certain with these recaps. The conclusions we take from these games are always tenuous at best, and relatively well-established expectations can be blown to smithereens at any moment. This past weekend didn’t feature any matchups between ranked teams; three undefeated Power Five teams still fell to substantial underdogs. The playoff race was thrown into chaos. The Pac-12 no longer has any undefeated teams after Washington and Washington State suffered their first losses, and Clemson’s defeat against Syracuse was a significant setback for the reigning national champions and erstwhile playoff frontrunners.

The Tigers had survived a rock fight at home against Auburn and had handled Louisville and Auburn on the road with ease – their trip to the Carrier Dome definitely wasn’t expected to be the source of their first loss. Quarterback Kelly Bryant, who’d been nursing an ankle injury from the week before, was concussed late in the first half (he did not return). Zerrick Cooper actually played pretty well in relief of Bryant, but ultimately the 27-24 defeat was mostly due to Clemson’s inability to contain Syracuse’s Eric Dungey, who had a career night against one of college football’s most imposing defenses – he threw for 278 yards and three touchdowns (and added an impressive 91 sack-adjusted rushing yards on 15 carries).

It was clear from the beginning that Syracuse would be a challenge, as they opened the game with an impressive touchdown drive that ended with a touchdown pass from Dungey to Dontae Strickland on 3rd-and-15 from just outside the red zone. Clemson responded with a quick touchdown, but a bomb from Dungey to Ervin Phillips later in the first quarter gave Syracuse the lead and was the first of two quick touchdown drives that covered most of the field. Even though he took six sacks on the game, Dungey was able to exploit the Tiger secondary for some big plays in the passing game and wound up singlehandedly outgaining Clemson.

The game followed a pattern until the fourth quarter – Syracuse would pull out to a one-score lead, and then Clemson would tie it up shortly thereafter. The final stanza was bizarre: there were just three total drives, as Syracuse’s pass-happy Dino Babers offense was able to milk the clock – first on a 16-play march for a go-ahead field goal, and then on a clock-killing drive that started with six minutes left (the final third down was converted as Dungey lunged over the line to gain as he was being dragged down by two Tigers). In the middle was a Clemson possession that concluded with the punter dropping the ball and deciding to throw an inexplicable Hail Mary pass towards the end zone.

Clemson had the misfortune of missing two field goals from inside of forty yards, but benefitted from a fumble return touchdown in the second quarter. Regardless, Syracuse played them evenly and made enough plays down the stretch; a team that had lost to Middle Tennessee State in September pulled the huge upset. A well-timed bye week gives the Tigers a chance to regroup, but they face three tricky teams in a row after – Georgia Tech’s triple option, NC State’s stingy run defense, and a talented-but-underachieving Florida State. While they could still play their way into the playoff, their margin for error the rest of the way got much smaller.

[More on the week that was after the JUMP]


2017 Week One and Two CFB Recap

2017 Week One and Two CFB Recap Comment Count

Alex Cook September 12th, 2017 at 1:59 PM


Since I missed Week One due to my trip to Dallas, here’s a combined Week One / Two recap.

Early season matchups really only tell us about teams in relation to one another, so some of the conclusions drawn from these games could be disproven as the season progresses. Still, with a 12-game schedule and precious few matchups between top teams, there have been some valuable data points thus far. Here they are:

Oklahoma 31, Ohio State 16

A year after a very inexperienced Buckeyes team went into Norman and handled Oklahoma with ease, Lincoln Riley – a rookie head coach in his first marquee game – led OU to what wound up being a comfortable win after the Sooners pulled away in the second half. The game, which was tied 3-3 heading into halftime, was defined early on by Oklahoma’s inability to convert solid drives into points: they fumbled twice in Ohio State territory, were stopped on downs, and missed a field goal. Oklahoma’s offensive line had managed to corral Ohio State’s fearsome defensive line and OU quarterback Baker Mayfield was able to take advantage of a young OSU secondary to move the ball.

A Parris Campbell kick return in the second half gave the Ohio State offense the ball in Oklahoma territory to start the second half, and they took a 10-3 lead shortly thereafter. Mayfield and the OU offense caught fire after that, scoring touchdowns on four of their next five drives (including a series that saw the Sooners go 92 yards in just four plays), and they effectively ended the game early in the fourth quarter. Mayfield had the benefit of a veteran offensive line, but was working with newcomers in the receiving corps; OU’s top three targets in terms of receptions and yardage were a FB/H-Back, a Kentucky grad transfer, and a freshman. His most proven target – tight end Mark Andrews – left the game in the first half with an injury.

In the end, Mayfield posted an insane stat line against what was assumed to be one of the best defenses in college football: 27-of-35 passing for 386 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Nine different Sooners had at least one catch. Ohio State’s secondary had looked vulnerable in the opener against Indiana, but the Hoosiers did most of their damage by picking on young corners on throws up the sideline to taller wide receivers; Oklahoma didn’t run the ball efficiently (2.8 yards per carry), but they were able to set up the play-action and run-pass options that had OU receivers running wide open across the field against the Buckeye linebackers and safeties. Ohio State won’t see a playmaker of Mayfield’s caliber again in the regular season, but their pass defense is definitely a concern moving forward despite their terrific pass rush.

Oklahoma’s defense was lit up by JT Barrett and company in 2016, but they turned in an impressive effort on Saturday and held the Buckeye offense in check. OSU was able to run the ball decently enough – though OU didn’t concede a carry of longer than 16 yards – but their passing game was anemic: Barrett had just 5.2 yards per attempt and threw a pick. After the game, he received plenty of criticism for his inaccuracy downfield, but the Ohio State receivers weren’t able to create much separation and blame probably should be spread around – between Barrett, his targets, his line (which struggled against the Oklahoma front), and the coaches. The early returns on the Kevin Wilson hire have not been promising, as the former Indiana head coach (and Oklahoma offensive coordinator) hasn’t been able to rectify the issues that limited the OSU offense in 2016.

In the end, Oklahoma was clearly the better team. Mayfield is sensational and may be the best quarterback in the country (even next to Louisville’s Lamar Jackson), and the Sooner offense turned in an excellent effort against the Buckeyes. They likely won’t be challenged until late October at least, and while a trip to Stillwater to face an explosive Oklahoma State squad looms late in the season, they’re the clear favorites to win the Big 12 and will be in the playoff race until the end unless something catastrophic happens. As for Ohio State, it was pretty much a nightmare: their potential weaknesses entering the season have been confirmed as serious liabilities (against great teams, at least), and while they still have more talent than any team they’ll face in the regular season, Barrett’s arm and the secondary’s inexperience could cost them again. They might not need to run the table from here to make the playoff, but the margin of error is now very slim.

[Much more on the season’s big games after the JUMP]


2016 Week Four CFB Bullets

2016 Week Four CFB Bullets Comment Count

Alex Cook September 27th, 2016 at 11:12 AM


[Gina Ferazzi – LA Times]

It seems like the season just started, but we’re already in thick of conference play – the SEC had three ranked-vs-ranked matchups (and two wound up being blowouts), the Big Ten had an important cross-divisional game between Michigan State and Wisconsin – a rousing Badger win – and there were some interesting results in the Pac-12. In the end, there weren’t any major upsets near the top, leaving the playoff picture much the same as it was before the weekend. Despite the uncompetitive nature of some of Week Four’s best fixtures, college football still managed to produce its share of exciting games, as always.


--- Perhaps we should expect STANFORD to be capable of some brutish, low-scoring slobberknockers, but it was still disorienting to see a Pac-12 game with such little offense; the Cardinal defeated UCLA 22-13 after a late touchdown drive to notch their first trip to the end zone of the day (a scoop-and-score on the game’s last play took the score from 16-13 to the final margin). David Shaw’s game management was again questionable: Stanford got the ball with about six and a half minutes left and took almost two minutes to go three-and-out and punt on 4th-and-1, even though they have one of the best backs in the country in Christian McCaffery (and they even somehow wasted a timeout in that sequence).The conservative strategy wound up working out – UCLA wasn’t able to salt the game away with first downs, Stanford got the ball back, and, looking like a completely new offense, marched down the field for the game-winning touchdown with 24 seconds left. McCaffery was largely held in check by the Bruin defense, turning in 138 yards on 26 carries. UCLA has now lost eight in a row to Stanford.

[more on the week that was after the JUMP]


2016 Week One CFB Bullets

2016 Week One CFB Bullets Comment Count

Alex Cook September 7th, 2016 at 10:00 AM


[Tom Pennington – WAPT News]

In the end, the first weekend of college football was much like it always is – despite being branded as the [GOAT emoji] opening stanza of the season by ESPN. Teams shook off the rust-induced brain-farts; coaches rotated quarterbacks without rhyme or reason, both established (Brian Kelly) and not (Kirby Smart); Alabama destroyed some poor saps; there were a number of nail-biters, blowouts, near-upsets, and, as Michigan fans can attest, some perfunctory cupcake gorging. It was an ordinary week one, but after several months without football, it was a very welcome sight.


Some people will try to tell you that the SEC looked poor in Week One. However, as we all know, a conference is defined entirely by the performance of its best team; based on ALABAMA pummeling USC, the conference looks tremendous. The only scoring in the first quarter was a Trojan field goal, but the Tide eventually got in gear and won 52-6. They looked every bit the top-ranked team they are, and the biggest question entering the season (quarterback) might have been solved by precocious freshman Jalen Hurts. The defense overwhelmed USC as easily as if they’d been a mid-November FCS cupcake. We don’t know how good USC will be and they were dealing with injuries on the offensive line (which is pretty much the worst-case scenario vs. Bama) but the Tide definitely looked the part of a national title frontrunner. By extension, the SEC looked great.
[after the JUMP, other conferences]