Funny as it might sound, but the ACC may have been the weekend’s biggest winner. (Settle down SEC’ers, that’s not to say the SEC isn’t the most impressive.) Flirting with the mediocrity in which the Big East now seems to be swimming, the ACC needed a good weekend and a good weekend they received.
Sure, Miami struggled early against Bethune-Cookman, Duke narrowly defeated FIU (although the Panthers are a better team than people give them credit), and Virginia squeaked out an overtime win against Idaho. Nonetheless, the conference was undefeated in non-conference play this weekend, and Georgia Tech and Clemson sit undefeated at 5-0 with the Tigers moving into the top 10. North Carolina is a very good team at 4-1, and Virginia Tech is another very good 4-1 football team. Meanwhile, future member Pittsburgh stomped South Florida on Thursday night. Keeping the momentum going is one thing, but this weekend was a good one for the ACC.
Recapping the week in 500 words or less, this is what we learned about the season:
- A second consecutive blown lead in a high profile game to a very good team is unsettling for the Aggies, who many considered a preseason dark horse national title contender. Saturday’s loss didn’t hurt their Big 12 chances, but it wasn’t exactly inspiring. Cue the ‘welcome to the SEC’ chants.
- Can we include Tyrann Mathieu in the Heisman discussion? More on him later, but the guy just makes plays. Meanwhile, LSU does what a number one is supposed to do: win big against a team they should beat.
- Co-Big Ten Leaders leaders (damn it, seriously?) Illinois could have a big impact on the conference this year. Nothing’s a given, but Indiana, Ohio State, Purdue and Penn State are winnable games for the Illini. A 9-0 Illinois team would be hungry facing Michigan and Wisconsin at home in November.
- Pleased to see Dan Persa return with a strong performance, even in the loss.
- Penn State and Ohio State are in serious trouble offensively. The Buckeyes face Nebraska, Illinois and Wisconsin in the next three matchups, and could very well lose all three. Penn State has now narrowly defeated Temple and Indiana to pull to 4-1. They won’t keep it up if they can’t figure it out on offense.
- Miami’s disappointing early losses don’t put them out of the running in the ACC, but their rush defense woes and failure to start strong might.
- Melvin Ingram is another defensive player who deserves his name mentioned in the Heisman discussion. He now has two interceptions and has come away with 5.5 sacks in the last two games after failing to record a sack in the first three games. He even added a rushing touchdown on a fake punt, and scored two touchdowns on fumble recoveries. Like Mathieu, he makes plays to help his team win, even if his team didn’t win Saturday afternoon.
- TCU is struggling with teams like Baylor and SMU who are capable of putting points on the board. A far cry from the Horned Frogs defense to which we’ve grown accustomed. SMU, meanwhile, is in fantastic shape despite the opening week loss to Texas A&M.
- Clemson played like a top ten team in their defeat of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. They’ve proven themselves the class of the ACC, but they have to be careful to avoid a letdown against Boston College or Maryland before North Carolina and Georgia Tech later this month.
- If Notre Dame can continue to avoid turnovers like they did Saturday night, they’re talented enough to be an excellent football team.
- The line between the good and the great was clearly evident in Gainesville Saturday night as Alabama handled Florida.
- Wisconsin can play with anybody in the country. Only one ranked opponent remains on the schedule, so cracking the BCS top two might be difficult if there are more than two undefeated teams. Non-AQ’s aren’t the only ones who would benefit from a playoff.
Russell Wilson is the man. He Proved He’s Worth the Hype on Saturday night against the Huskers. The guy just makes plays. He passed for 255 yards on 14-of-20 passing with two touchdowns. He even rushed for a score to help the Badgers defeat the Huskers 48-17. Wilson has thrown only one pick so far this year, and he has the Badgers poised for a run at the national title.
This week’s New Household Name is Pittsburgh running back Ray Graham. If you missed the Panthers’ Thursday night stomping of USF, you missed a helluva performance from Graham, who rushed 26 times for 223 yards and two touchdowns. He added four receptions for 42 yards. Graham played behind Dion Lewis the last two years, but was nipping at his heels last year for the team lead in rushing yards with 958 to Lewis’ 1,061. His 6.2 yards per carry in 2010 beat Lewis’ 4.8, though. This year he’s averaging 5.8 yards per carry and has already equaled last year’s total of eight rushing touchdowns.
This week’s slate of games gets started with a couple interesting weeknight matchups.
Thursday, October 6
- California @ Oregon, 9:00 PM ET, ESPN
Friday, October 7
- Boise State @ Fresno State, 9:00 PM ET, ESPN
Saturday, October 8
- Oklahoma vs. Texas, neutral site, 12:00 PM ET, ABC
- Maryland @ Georgia Tech, 12:00 PM ET, ESPNU
- Florida State @ Wake Forest, 12:30 PM ET
- Boston College @ Clemson, 3:00 PM ET
- Florida @ LSU, 3:30 PM ET, CBS
- Miami @ Virginia Tech, 3:30 PM ET, ABC/ESPN
- Iowa @ Penn State, 3:30 PM ET, ABC/ESPN
- Missouri @ Kansas State, 3:30 PM ET, ABC/ESPN
- Arizona State @ Utah, 3:30 PM ET
- Air Force @ Notre Dame, 3:30 PM ET, NBC
- Texas A&M @ Texas Tech, 7:00 PM ET
- Iowa State @ Baylor, 7:00 PM ET
- Auburn @ Arkansas, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN
- Michigan @ Northwestern, 7:00 PM ET, Big Ten Network
- Georgia @ Tennessee, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN2
- Ohio State @ Nebraska, 8:00 PM ET, ABC
- TCU @ San Diego State, 10:30 PM ET