1. Clemson welcomed itself to the college football season by rolling the Canes next opponent
He and his Tigers didn’t dawdle. They didn’t muff the ball, throw silly picks, or give up big chunk plays on defense. They didn’t kick field goals and inch their way into the lead.
No sir, no “Clemsoning” today (is that even still a thing? Can we find a new team to stick that to?). By the time the first quarter was over, Clemson had extended its quick touchdown advantage to a 14-0 lead. And with less than 10 seconds left, Dabo rolled the dice, foregoing the field goal and giving Deshaun Watson a chance to make a play.
Play made. After Watson hit Jordan Leggett for a 9-yard touchdown, Clemson jogged to the locker room with a 23-0 lead, 347-22 advantage in yards, 19-3 edge in first downs, and 56 offensive plays to 21.
But I was curious to see how they would respond. Given that the Jackets’ offense moves as quickly as an old, broken-down dump truck stuck in second gear trying to climb a hill, I wanted to see how they would play from behind, after time to regroup and adjust.
And boy, respond they didn’t. Granted, Georgia Tech’s strength is known by anyone who even casually watches college football. It’s like a giant game of whack-a-mole, except your defensive front is the collective mole, and you’re stuck in the hole, getting bludgeoned over and over again by an actual sledgehammer.
But the Clemson interior held up nicely, allowing only 95 total rushing yards on 38 carries.
So, now I’m looking at a mortal interior of the Tech offensive line. I’m thinking about the push we’ve seen so far from the Miami defensive front. The mad-rush gang tackling that I’ve seen from Manny Diaz’s rabid defense so far. And, I can’t help but smile. Saturday can’t get here fast enough.
2. But, if there’s one coach who knows how to beat Georgia Tech, it’s Mark Richt
And if there’s an opponent that our head coach came into this program knowing how to beat, it’s the Yellow Jackets. Richt coached against the Yellow Jackets 15 times at Georgia. He won 13 of them. Against Paul Johnson, Richt has gone 7-1, with the lone loss coming in 2014 in Athens. Thus, he’s very, very, very familiar with Georgia Tech’s offense, and how to prepare and gameplan for it. Manny Diaz has the ultimate cheat sheet in getting ready for the Justin Thomas and the Jackets’ triple option. No excuses this week.
3. LSU and Les Miles are a grass smoothie blended with a dash of delusion
For the LSU administration, boosters, and fans, 2015 was surreal. The secret wooing of Jimbo Fisher, allegedly. Leonard Fournette on track to win the Heisman, until he didn’t. An undefeated season turning into three straight losses and unconfirmed “reports” about Miles being on his way out of Baton Rouge.
Then, LSU announced Miles was staying, the Tigers rolled Texas Tech in the bowl game, and LSU entered this season with a lot of hype. Losses at Wisconsin and Auburn ended that hype quickly. And it ended the Les Miles era on Sunday, just four weeks into the season.
But what I want to know is: why now? If LSU was this quick to pull the trigger, why in the world was he even brought back at the end of 2015? To save face for the Auburn-flying-to-interview-Bobby-Petrino-level of egg on their collective faces? It was just a strange ending for a man who did so much for the LSU program.
I’m not saying it wasn’t time to move on. His offenses were as uninspiring and incompetent as a Top 10 program could have. And he could never, ever bring in a competent recruit or transfer and develop him into a halfway-decent SEC quarterback. And, like Richt in Georgia, sometimes a change of scenery can be a good thing for both sides (at least it has been so far for Miami).
So now LSU will undoubtedly turn its sights to Jimbo Fisher (again) and Tom Herman. But…..is LSU still everything their fans, boosters, and administration claim they are?
Five years ago, it was effectively at or near the pinnacle of college football. Now, it’s still a good, but not great program. But it’s a good program in a great division.
Since that 2012 Sugar Bowl, Nick Saban has put his stamp on the division, separating himself and the Crimson Tide from the rest of the SEC West while winning three national titles. Meanwhile, somehow (gee, I wonder how….*snickers…..bites tongue*) Ole Miss has gone from ne’er-do-anything to a thorn in the side of the Crimson Tide. Suddenly Texas A&M seems to have quit freaking out/running off quarterbacks and is making Trevor Knight and company look championship-caliber. Arkansas – one of LSU’s recent bugaboos – continues to improve under Bret Bielema. And LSU just lost to Auburn. Suddenly, an already damned difficult division seems maybe even tougher than it was the last few years.
So, it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. Fisher is in a perfect spot in Tallahassee, and it’s arguably a more attractive job right now. Fisher continues to crank out Top 3 recruiting classes from the best hotbed of talent in the country, while playing in a tough, but certainly winnable division for the Seminoles. The fan base would also likely be somewhat more patient than their counterpart to the west. Herman will have a strong list of suitors, including possibly Texas if Charlie Strong can’t push Texas in the right direction, and quickly. Additionally, looking at Houston’s schedule, he’ll be coaching what will likely be an undefeated, Top 5 Houston Cougar team going late into the season. There’s no reason for him to rush anything.
So, if LSU wants their man, they might have to wait. Even though they maybe should have tried to find him last year.
4. Maybe Butch Jones isn’t Al Golden + steroids + buzz cut
Yeah, it was a movie I’d seen too many times before. The team in orange playing sluggish and uninspired. Committing penalties and dropping more passes than you can count on one hand. The team jogged into the locker room, with the fans having little faith they would return from the locker room with answers and adjustments.
Yeah, yeah, I’m talking about what the majority of road games under Al Golden felt like. In fact, that was the situation in Knoxville Saturday. Having dropped a first down conversion, a touchdown, and two chunk plays in Florida territory, the Vols had shot themselves in their own foot enough times to qualify for the local one-legged ass-kicking contest they deserved to be competing in at that moment. And as it would be, that’s how Tennessee’s defense performed against backup quarterback Allen Appleby, spotting him and the Gator offense a 21-3 lead going into the locker room.
And it seemed like the worst was yet to come. This was Florida, who always made plays against Tennessee.
And then a funny thing happened. The Tennessee defense came out and stuffed a run by Jordan Scarlett on the Gators’ first drive of the third quarter, forcing a three-and-out. Then Dobbs drove the Vols 64 yards in 9 plays with tempo, finding a wide open Jalen Hurd in busted coverage to draw to 21-10.
The Cliffs’ Notes version? Florida went punt, punt, punt, pick, punt. The result was Tennessee 38, Florida 21 on the scoreboard, and Neyland Stadium sounding louder than a colicky baby squealing into the world’s largest megaphone.
Butch Jones and offensive coordinator Mike DeBord had flipped the script on Jim McIlwain and the Gators, causing confusion as to assignments and communication problems with the Florida defense. The result were 40+ yard touchdowns by Josh Malone and Jauan Jennings.
And it wasn’t just that they executed; the effort had clearly up-ticked a couple of notches, as the Vols were a step quicker off the line and more physical at the point of attack.
Bottom line: Jones did something I didn’t think he could – infuse confidence into what seemed to be a woe-as-me group of players, and make halftime adjustments. Thus, my referring to him as Al Golden + steroids + a buzz cut this week was totally unfair, at least for one week, anyways. Jones still has a lot to prove going forward, if Tennessee is going take that seemingly-never-arriving, proverbial “next step” towards being a championship contender.
But, I think I can say that, as nice a guy as he is, there’s probably little chance Al Golden would’ve stopped that bleeding on Saturday. Sorry, Butch.
5. Pick of the week
After FSU steamrolled South Florida 55-35, I moved to 3-1-1 ATS this year. This week, in what otherwise would be a gameday extravaganza if not for Louisville-Clemson, a downright nasty (when they wanna be) Wisconsin team heads to the Big House to take on a Michigan team that hasn’t really been tested yet. Wisky has. And Vegas is giving that Wisky bunch 10.5 points? Yes please. Wisconsin (+10.5) 27, Michigan 30.
Bonus pick: Miami (-6.5) 27, Georgia Tech 17.