OK, a few things came into better focus during the weekend in college football:
– Though Geno Smith remains prime time, West Virginia University certainly isn’t ready for it.
– Oregon State is.
– So is South Carolina … even though it lost at LSU. (Pssst, beware, Florida.)
– Notre Dame, with some serious dusting off of cobwebs, apparently still has some luck on its side, or officials with some shady eyesight to benefit the Irish.
– Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel is the latest to throw his name into the Heisman fray with an insane game of eye-popping and touchdown-producing numbers.
– Perhaps Texas Tech senior signal-caller Seth Doege did the same with the same.
– Alabama, clearly, is the nation’s top team.
– Oh, and here’s a little beauty that seems to be escaping most of the nation’s pundits – the Big East ain’t bad, ain’t bad at all.
In fact, it’s pretty good. Rutgers, Louisville and Cincinnati all remain unbeaten after Week 7 of the season and are ranked 15th, 16th and 21st, respectively, in the latest poll. Don’t look now, but newcomer Temple is second in the conference, too, at 2-0 (3-2 overall), after posting a remarkable 17-14 victory at Connecticut.
The Owls trail only Rutgers (3-0 Big East, 6-0 overall) in the standings, and play host to the Scarlet Knights this Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
That’s actually one of the really cool things about this eight-team circuit that was ruled dead before 2012 started – all the members, and contenders, get a crack at one another during the regular season. Indeed, all of the aforementioned square off against one another at some point between now and the end of November.
The Knights have mastered the art of grinding out, gut-check victories, it appears, under first-year head coach Kurt Flood. That makes their next matchup all the more interesting since Temple pulled one of the ultimate snatchings of victory from the jaws of defeat almost solely on the strength of toughness and mental fortitude.
The Owls even overcame their own stubbornness, rebounding from back-to-back, fourth-down, up-the-gut implosions in UConn territory late in the fourth quarter, to tie the score with a touchdown and point-after kick with 19 seconds remaining and then win it in OT.
This not your dad’s Temple, or even his dad’s Temple. No, the Owls have some talent, some serious talent, which includes all-time ACC rusher leader Montel Harris, a transfer from Boston College, and they have athletes across the board on defense – headed by DE John Youboty, DB Vaughn Carraway and LBs Tyler Matakevich and Nate D. Smith, whose brother, L.J., actually starred at Rutgers before heading to the NFL. It’s hard to figure if lefty QB Chris Coyer is an untapped resource or an enigma. No doubt he has skill and speed, but he was brutal most of the day against UConn before turning positively brilliant when he absolutely had to be down the stretch.
Of course, the O-line has a lot to do with that, and it will be tested by Rutgers – which has built a program on physicality and never backing down, originally courtesy of Greg Schiano and now continued with Flood.
As for Big East turncoat WVU … ouch – that 49-14 pounding at the hands of Doege and Texas Tech may have been the fastest fall from grace since Rich Rodriguez tried to blame Mountaineers officials for his opting to bolt for Michigan. Smith put up decent numbers (29-for-55, 275 yards, TD) and should stay atop the Heisman watch lists, but WVU plummeted 10 spots in the poll after the loss in a move that could just mark the beginning of a freefall.
The Mounties get No. 4 Kansas State this week, then No. 23 Texas Christian. Later in November, they host No. 9 Oklahoma before visiting No. 24 Iowa State. In between, they visit Oklahoma State.
Manziel accounted for six TDs while throwing for 395 yards and running for another 181. Who does he think he is, Florida State’s EJ Manuel or Ohio State’s Braxton Miller. Actually, his performance topped any individual effort by either of those two this season. But was it better than Smith’s 656-yard, eight-TD day against Baylor? No … Rutgers LB Khaseem Greene not only earned Big East honors, but was awarded Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week for his work in Saturday’s 23-15 win against Syracuse. He had 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception … Temple’s Matakevich had 19 tackles against UConn, a week after posting 14 against South Florida.