With half the season gone, we are starting to get a sense of which teams have the chops to make a run to the BCS and which have problems that may be too big to overcome. Any squad can have a bad week or two, but in the FBS world, one mistake can sometimes be too many.
To win any BCS conference takes balance, and some of the teams whose early-season success has helped him them rise in the polls are clearly lacking it.
Best Win of The Week: Michigan State 28, Michigan 14 in East Lansing
Brady Hoke has done a nice job of revitalizing the Michigan program during his first year in Ann Arbor. After struggling with Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense, the Wolverines look more like themselves in Hoke’s scheme, and coming into Week 7 the results had been excellent. At 6-0, Michigan was feeling strong. Wins over Notre Dame, San Diego State, and Northwestern had the program believing it could end its three-game losing streak against rival Michigan State.
However, UM had yet to see a defense like the Spartans. And it showed.
Over the first six weeks of the season, the Woverines’ poorest offensive output was 413 total yards against SDSU. Against the Spartans, the team managed a meager 250. Michigan State showed just how one-dimensional their rivals were, focusing on taking quarterback Denard Robinson out of the game and forcing his supporting cast to step up.
The speedy Robinson had a rough day against one of the best stop units in the country. His weaknesses as a passer were evident as he completed only 9 of 24 attempts for 123 yards. Of those, 95 came on just three plays. But perhaps more importantly, MSU proved that Robinson’s feet can be held in check as well. The Spartans limited D-Rob to just 42 yards on 18 carries.
Without Robinson’s explosive play, the Michigan offense had no Plan B. Michigan State, on the other hand, presented a far more balanced attack. QB Kirk Cousins connected on 13 of 24 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns, both to Keyshawn Martin. Tailback Edwin Baker erupted for 167 yards on 26 carries, scoring MSU’s first offensive TD on a one-yard plunge in the first quarter.
The Spartans tacked on a defensive score when Isaiah Lewis returned a Robinson interception 39 yards late in the game. That play afforded plenty of insurance as Sparty won it’s fourth straight over Big Brother.
The disparity between the two teams might have been great if not for a pair of MSU fumbles. the most telling number of the days was the difference in yards per carry on the ground. Michigan, which had been living on Robinson’s scrambling skills, managed 2.3 yards per tocuh versus MSU’s 5.5.
In a wide open Big Ten, this win was huge for Michigan State. The Spartans now sit atop the Legends division at 2-0 in conference play.
Honorable Mention: Texas A&M 55, Baylor 28 in College Station
Worst Win of the Week: Clemson 56, Maryland 45 in College Park
Looking at some of Clemson’s numbers, it’s hard to be anything but impressed. A total of 576 yards on offense. Another 248 in the return game. Spectacular play from quarterback Tajh Boyd and running back Andre Ellington. A record-breaking performance by freshman wideout Sammy Watkins.
And yet for all their production, all there big plays, the Tigers very nearly allowed an overmatched Maryland team to hand them their first loss of the year.
Terps QB C.J. Brown, in his first collegiate start, made Clemson’s defense look downright stupid as he racked up 339 total yards. As a rusher, the sophomore tore off one long run after another, finishing with 162 yards on 22 carries. As a passer, he shook off some accuracy issues to throw for 177 and three touchdowns.
Again, this was a debut. A debut against the #8 team in the nation. And Brown wasn’t the least bit intimidated. Had his own defense not folded late in the game, he would have had a legendary win to start his career.
Maryland led by as many as 18 points and dominated Clemson for roughly two and half quarters. Midway through the third, the Tigers realized that they needed to wake up and start playing football, as the Terps were clearly not going down without a fight. It took 39 second half points for Clemson to ice the win, and nothing was secure until the game’s final minutes.
Maryland finished with 695 all-purpose yards, an outstanding total that didn’t hold up in this shootout. But for Clemson to allow 291 rushing yards and 468 total shows that this team has some serious defensive issues. Offensive firepower aside, Clemson can’t be taken seriously as a Top 10 team unless it finds some balance. had a couple of plays broken differently, the Tigers would have stumbled to 6-1 instead of staying unbeaten.
Honorable Mention: Georgia 33, Vanderbilt 28 in Nashville
Upset of the Week: Virginia 24, Georgia Tech 21 in Charlottesville
At one point this season, Georgia Tech had the nation’s most prolific offense. At one point, the Yellow Jackets had a ground game that was seemingly unstoppable. Then came a shoddy performance against Maryland, a 21-16 win that offered few positives and plenty of negatives. Still, GT came into Week 7 with an unblemished record and an inside track on winning the ACC. And with lowly Virginia on the schedule, 7-0 was well within reach.
Not so fast.
The Jackets might have done well to give themselves a brief history lesson prior to the game. These two teams meet in Charlottesville every other year, and three of the previous four meetings had sent GT home with a loss. Tech broke that streak with a win in 2009. Unfortunately, the Jackets weren’t able to make it consecutive road wins.
Virginia beat GT at its own game, matching the Jackets rush yard for rush yard. Both teams finished with 272 on the ground; the difference was that UVA also had a passing game.
While Tech QB Tevin Washington was a paltry 2 of 8 for 24 yards through the air, Cavs QB Michael Rocco presented a complimentary threat to the rush that ended up being more than just effective. Rocco complete 8 of 14 throws, compiling 118 yards and a touchdown while tailbacks Kevin Parks and Perry Jones combined for 235 yards and another score.
Jones and Parks were about even on carries (18 to 17) but Jones racked up an impressive 149 yards against a Georgia Tech defense that looked ill-prepared to receive some of the team’s own own medicine.
GT’s by-committee backfield spread the ball around and none of the running backs had more than 37 yards. Washington was the team’s leader with 115 yards and two scores out of Paul Johnson’s option attack.
Tech’s third touchdown came courtesy of a pick-six when Rod Sweeting nabbed a Rocco throw and brought it back 32 yards to paydirt. But even that defensive score wasn’t enough to rescue the 12th ranked Jackets. After back-to-back duds, and with Miami, Clemson, and Virginia Tech looming over the next four weeks, Georgia Tech is in deep trouble. Meanwhile, things are looking up for a scrappy 4-2 Virginia team.
Honorable Mention: Ohio State 17, Illinois 7 in Champaign
AND THE GAME BALLS GO TO…
Ryan Swope, WR- Texas A&M: Baylor’s defense is probably having nightmares about covering and trying to tackle Ryan Swope. Texas A&M wide receiver Jeff Fuller gets most of the praise, but the afternoon belonged to Swope. He caught 11 passes for 206 yards and scored 4 touchdowns to help the Aggies blow out the Bears to the tune of a 55-28 victory. He had two short touchdown receptions, but he also had two 68-yard touchdown receptions from Ryan Tannehill.Sammy Watkins, WR- Clemson: Clemson’s victory over the Terps may have suffered a total lack of defense, but nothing can diminish the ridiculous day that Watkins enjoyed. With a school record 345 all-purpose yards, the freshman knocked C.J. Spiller from the record books en route to propelling his Tigers to a 7-0 start. His day included a fantastic 33-yard rush, eight receptions for 108 yards, and a whopping 207 return yards on six touches. He found the endzone three times; twice on passes from Tajh Boyd and once with a 89-yard kickoff return.Doug Martin, RB- Boise State: Most of the focus for the 6-0 Broncos has come down to their Heisman contender, QB Kellen Moore. And Moore had another otherworldly day, completing 26-of-30 passes for over 338 yards and 4 touchdowns. But Martin is the heart and soul of a balanced offense. The senior tailback sliced through Colorado State’s defense all game long, finishing with 200 yards on 20 carries for the first double-century of his collegiate career. He also posted three touchdown runs (of 26, 65 and 14 yards) and provided the ground game that keeps defenses off balance and allows Moore more time in the pocket to do what he does best.