Geno Smith, Michigan State, and Heisman Houdinis

If you love college football, as I do, you take it in all its forms. You enjoy the 9-6 defensive slugfest as well as the high-flying, up-and-down, touchdown-a-minute, video game-style shootout. If you watched football last Saturday, you saw a lot more of the latter. 51-44. 41-36. 45-31. There were more 40s put up than in an Ice Cube music video.

The biggest offensive outburst of all occurred in Morgantown, where Baylor graciously welcomed West Virginia to the Big 12 by not tackling any of its receivers. The result was 1,500 yards of offense and a 70-63 West Virginia victory. Mountaineers’ quarterback Geno Smith threw more touchdowns (8) than incompletions (6).

If it looked like there was no defense being played, that’s because it looked like there was no defense being played. Smith completed 45 of 51 passes; on his Pro Day in March, Andrew Luck completed 46 of 50 passes, literally against no defense. And yet neither team attempted an onside kick. When Baylor scored to pull within seven with 3:08 left, it willingly gave the ball back to West Virginia, perhaps thinking its defense “was due.” Two plays later WVU had a first down; three plays after that it had another and the game was over.

The most eye-popping number from the game was 385. That’s the total number of push-ups each West Virginia cheerleader did that afternoon; after every Mountaineer score, they do a push-up for every point WVU has on the board (7 after the first touchdown; 14 after the second; etc.). With a game against Texas next week, those cheerleaders are either going to have bigger biceps than the football players or not be able to lift their forks in the dining hall; possibly both.

Green and white and blue

Saturday was a sad day for Michigan State. First, ESPN’s College GameDay, set up in East Lansing, couldn’t get a celebrity guest to join its set to pick winners with Lee and Kirk. Instead of some singer or actor affiliated with the school or state, viewers had to watch another college football expert make his picks! Then, the Spartans were upset by Ohio State 17-16. It didn’t end there. Michigan State accused the Buckeyes of sending them doctored game tape, claiming the tape cut off at key moments and thus prevented the Spartans from properly scouting Ohio State. I know how angry I get when my DVR messes up, so I can relate, but you don’t need to watch film to know that Braxton Miller is going to run the ball.

Heisman Houdinis

This week, I’m ranking the players who appeared on most preseason Heisman watch lists and have since disappeared from the discussion.

1. Denard Robinson, Michigan quarterback. Shoelace’s lackluster season-opening performance against Alabama wasn’t unexpected. He bounced back with two huge games against weaker opponents, and had a shot to get right back into the Heisman mix with a big game against Notre Dame. Instead, he threw four interceptions. Given his numbers the last two seasons, I wonder where Robinson ranks among players who have never even been invited to the Heisman ceremony, but that is a topic for a different week.

2. Montee Ball, Wisconsin running back. Before the season even started, Ball’s troubles began: in early August he was attacked on campus and sustained a concussion. He played in the opener, though, and rushed for 120 yards. And while he has six touchdowns through five games, he is averaging a mere 3.6 yards per carry. He suffered a concussion two weeks ago but suited up against Nebraska on Saturday. Despite his 32 carries, he picked up just 90 yards.

3. Landry Jones, Oklahoma quarterback. Jones’ numbers aren’t terrible, but 59 quarterbacks have a higher passer rating than he does, including eight in the Big 12. With so much awesome quarterback play around the country, Jones doesn’t stand out. He hasn’t cracked 300 yards in any of his three games, and the Sooners have already lost a high-profile game in which they only scored 19 points. Unlike the two players ranked above him on this list, Jones could conceivably play himself back into the Heisman discussion, but does he have the skills to do so?

4. Matt Barkley, Southern Cal quarterback.

USC’s Matt Barkley (Credit: Neon Tommy)

Barkley has only had one dud—a no-touchdown, two-interception performance in a loss to Stanford—and his excessive preseason hype gives him some extra wiggle room. USC has enough marquee match-ups—Oregon (twice?), Notre Dame, UCLA—that Barkley can still get an invite to New York. But he’s got work to do to pass the eight or so players in front of him right now.

And here are some awards and notes from this past week.

Clown of the Week: Steve Spurrier. The South Carolina head coach took issue with a couple of stories written by a local columnist, Ron Morris, and wouldn’t speak to the media as long as Morris was in the room. Spurrier used his power and influence to get Morris dumped from his regular gig on a local TV station. Morris is still employed by The State newspaper, though some have suggested he was pressured into writing an apology column. I know this much: the Newsies didn’t strike in 1899 so Spurrier could try to get a reporter fired. The “papes” are important for keeping powerful figures—including head football coaches at major programs—from getting too powerful. Spurrier’s tactics were out of line.

Fun Factoid: Alabama trailed Ole Miss on Saturday, 7-6, after the Rebels scored a touchdown early in the second quarter. It was the first time Alabama had trailed in a game since last year’s regular season meeting with LSU on November 5th. It lasted all of 15 seconds. After Mississippi’s touchdown, Alabama returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown to reclaim the lead. The Tide scored the next 14 points and won 33-14.

Photo of the Week:

This photo, from Saturday’s Louisville-Southern Miss game in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, comes courtesy of the Louisville athletic department. Before the first quarter ended, according to the Associated Press recap, “The light showers turned into a full-blown downpour, making it all but impossible to effectively pass. The field turf turned into a gigantic lake, with an inch of water covering nearly the entire playing surface.” This photo gives you an idea of the conditions, which led to just nine pass attempts after the first quarter and a punt that went all of six yards. Louisville won 21-17 on a fourth quarter touchdown by the player pictured above, Senorise Perry.

Quote of the Week: “I felt like Clemson’s defense or something.”
—West Virginia safety Darwin Cook, after his defense gave up 63 points to Baylor, as told to Sports Illustrated’s Holly Anderson. Cook was referencing last year’s Orange Bowl, in which West Virginia torched Clemson for 70 points.

Upset Pick: Not one, not two, but three top-10 teams are underdogs this week, as is undefeated Texas Tech at home. Who cares? I’m taking Nebraska over Ohio State (season record: 2-3)

5 thoughts on “Geno Smith, Michigan State, and Heisman Houdinis”

  1. Regarding WVU vs. Baylor, your point about onside kicks is a good one. Upon further thought, maybe Baylor should have onside kicked after every touchdown or at least attempted a surprise one. In addition to possibly recovering an onside kick, it would given WVU a shorter field, reduced their time of possession advantage that was 10 minutes and, thus, would have reduced the fatigue of Baylor’s defensive players. Further, WVU scored a TD on 77% of its drives (10 of 13) so recovering an onside kick, especially a surprise one, would have to be considered statistically comparable to playing defense. Lastly, kick offs have been moved up to the 35 yard line and touchbacks to the 25 yard line so the risk vs. reward difference for onside kicks has been reduced a little since last year (although fair catching an onside kick may offset this).

  2. Regarding your “Fun Factoid” about Alabama, you failed to mention that there is still one team that has not ben behind even for 15 seconds this season – The Fightening Irish of Notre Dame. Sometimes I think Mark May is ghostwriting some of this stuff.

    1. Ah, my favorite commenter is back. I didn’t realize ND hadn’t trailed yet this year. I’ll tell you what, if they go wire to wire against Miami tonight I’ll be sure to mention the “Fightening” Irish in next week’s column.

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