By Phil Rodriguez
Louisville Trips Up in Houston
Ohio State Survives Upset Attempt from Michigan State
Hot Seat Turns to Scalding for Unlucky Few Coaches
Rivalry Weekend Looms, Ripe with Top 10 Matchups
There’s been a lot of discussion about Alabama’s defense this season, but not a lot of folks are talking about how good the number one defense in the country is: Michigan. The Wolverines average only 245.6 yards allowed per game, which is good for first in the country. Their defense is exactly what got them the win this week against Indiana, as the offense couldn’t get much going without the injured Wilton Speight. Running back De’Veon Smith was again solid, but Houston transfer John O’Korn was dismal against an average-at-best Indiana pass defense ranked 57th in the nation. Michigan allowed only 255 total yards and 64 rushing yards against Indiana, holding quarterback Richard Lagow to less than 200 yards with a 48% completion rate. Speight’s status is still uncertain for the Wolverines’ big Saturday date with arch rival Ohio State, but regardless of the quarterback, the Wolverines will be armed with a brutal run-sniffing defense when they face off against the 8th ranked rushing offense in the country this Saturday.
Boomer Sooner! Oklahoma have now won eight in a row and will play for a Big 12 Championship December 3rd against Oklahoma State after spanking West Virginia 56-28 in Morgantown. Bakery Mayfield had a relatively quiet game, throwing for only 169 yards with two touchdowns and a pick while rushing for another touchdown. Meanwhile, Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon ran wild on the Mountaineers, combining for 307 yards and three touchdowns. The Sooner’s pass defense was much improved from previous outings, limiting the high-flying Skyler Howard to less than 200 yards and a 44% completion rate. They were atrocious against the run however, giving up a ridiculous 331 yards to running back Justin Crawford, including one run of 61 yards, two of 45 yards and two of 36 yards. The Sooners can’t fail to stop the run like that against Oklahoma State, or they’ll lose out on the Big 12 trophy to their in-state rivals.
The Cardinals were riding high after a comeback win over Wake Forest and multiple losses from the top 4 propelled them back to 4th in the nation. Clearly, the ranking got to their heads, as Louisville got thumped in Houston by Tom Herman’s Cougars. Inspired perhaps by their coach’s butterfly kisses, Houston held the dominant Cardinals’ offense to only 211 yards passing and 109 yards rushing. These numbers would look subpar as Lamar Jackson’s individual stat line considering Louisville’s season so far, but Jackson was even more disappointing. Harassed continuously by the Cards’ front seven due to blitz packages from Cougs’ defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, Jackson was sacked an astounding 11 times. He gathered only 33 yards on 25 carries, completing 20 of 43 passes for 211 yards and only one touchdown. Houston ace Greg Ward, Jr. fared similarly on the ground, with only 24 yards on 15 carries, but his 233 yards passing and two touchdowns helped propel the Cougars to the win. The game was billed as duel between two shifty quarterbacks, but instead turned to four quarters of a brutal cat and mouse game for both sides, with the “cats” triumphing more often than not. The Cougars will surely find themselves sitting somewhere in the top 25 when the CFB Playoff Committee’s rankings are released this week, whereas the Cardinals should expect a steep drop and will be considered eliminated at this point from the playoff.
Charlie Strong and Texas
Surely Strong’s tenure will be up, as the Longhorns’ faithful won’t tolerate a loss to Kansas and missing out on a bowl game in the same season. Texas will be playing for bowl eligibility this week against TCU, who themselves will become bowl eligible with a win either this week or next week against Kansas State. If the Longhorns lose to the Horned Frogs, they could be staying home during bowl season for the third year in a row under Strong, their longest bowl-less streak since 1991-1993.
Wayne Gallman RB Clemson
After a terrible performance last week in Clemson’s surprise loss to Pittsburgh, Gallman came back huge and shut up his doubters, including me. Gallman rushed for 161 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns against Wake Forest, finishing behind only DeShaun Watson in total yards and touchdowns. Gallman will get another shot to put up or shut up in the Battle for the Palmetto State against South Carolina during the big upcoming rivalry weekend.
Sefo Liufau QB Colorado
The Colorado signal caller passed for 345 yards and ran for 108 more, scoring three times on the ground in a big 38-24 win over Washington State. Liufau and the Buffs have quietly hummed to a 9-2 record, and look set to make their first ever appearance in the Pac 12 Championship game. They’ve already clinched a bowl game, meaning this will be the first postseason appearance for the Buffaloes since 2007.
The LSU Offense
The Tigers showed again this season that they can’t hang against top defenses, as they fell 16-10 to Florida, allowing the Gators to clinch the SEC East title and an appearance in Atlanta in the SEC Championship. The Tigers managed to gain a decent enough 405 yards, solid considering the Gators average only 282 yards allowed per game, good for 5th in the nation. They failed to establish any consistency in their run game though, scoring only one touchdown in the process. Leonard Fournette again struggled against a solid defensive front, gaining only 40 yards on 12 carries, while Derrius Guice gained only 83 on 19 carries while scoring the lone touchdown of the game for LSU. Purdue transfer Danny Etling completed slightly over 50% of his passes for LSU but failed to throw a touchdown, while fellow Purdue transfer Austin Appleby threw for less than 200 yards but hit the only touchdown for the Gators.