Now three weeks old, the 2011 NCAA season is beginning to answer some of our most pressing questions. Yes, Oklahoma is deserving of the pre-season hype. Yes, the Pac 12 South seems to be as weak as we feared. And no, there is still no dominant power in the SEC East.
Mario Cristobal and the Florida International Golden Panthers continued their dream season but upsetting in-state rival UCF despite an injury to superstar wideout T.Y. Hilton.
LSU handled Mississippi State in Thursday night’s Top 25 tilt, proving that balance of power has not yet shifted in the SEC West.
And the Buckeyes flopped hard in yet another ugly prime time performance as the Hurricanes won the battle of the ineligibles.
So while there is still a long way to go, and while we all know that anything can and will happen in the FBS, we’re beginning to get a clearer picture of exactly who will be making a push for the BCS in 2011.
Best Win of The Week: Oklahoma 23, Florida State 13 in Tallahassee
LSU has a pair of quality wins in its first three games, but the week 3 stage belonged to Oklahoma. Big Game Bob took his Sooners to Tallahassee for the back end of the home-and-home with Florida State, and though it wasn’t reminiscent of last year’s 47-17 blowout, OU’s 23-12 win spoke volumes about quality of this year’s squad.
We learned that the Oklahoma defense is a force to be reckoned with as the Seminoles were held to a mere 246 total yards. The front seven was nearly immovable when it came to FSU’s rushing attack, allowing only 27 yards on 26 carries. In case you need help with that math, that’s just a hair better than one yard per touch.
And when FSU turned to the air, the OU secondary responded, snatching three interceptions and playing well against both E.J. Manuel and backup Cint Trickett, who came in when Manuel left with a shoulder problem in the third quarter.
We got confirmation that the OU passing game is its primary weapon. After years of talented running backs stealing the spotlight, Oklahoma is sporting an air attack that should have FBS rivals on high alert. Even though he was far from his best, QB Landry Jones was good enough on Saturday, connecting on 67% of his attempts.
His 199 yards and two interceptions weren’t so impressive, but Kenny Stills and Ryan Broyles give Jones two highly effective targets. Stills, who finished with seven catches for 125 yards, took control against Florida State as the Seminoles focused on the Biletnikoff favorite Broyles.
For its part, Florida State played tough despite key injuries to Manuel and receiver Kenny Shaw. Shaw was sandwiched y a pair of defenders on a scary play that left him immobilized on the field for several minutes. He did have movement in all extremities and ultimately returned to the sidelines, but not the game.
Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles will have to regroup and shake off this tough non-conference loss as they head into ACC play against a surging Clemson team in week 4.
Honorable Mention: Vanderbilt 30, Ole Miss 7 in Nashville (Yes…Vandy)
Worst Win of the Week: South Carolina 24, Navy 21 in Columbia
After starting out the season with a pair of offensive explosions, the Gamecocks very nearly suffered a huge letdown in week 3. Whether South Carolina was looking past Navy or was simply unprepared for the Midshipmen’s ground game, needing a fourth -quarter comeback to eke out the four-point home win was not the way this matchup was supposed to go.
South Carolina was rescued by Marcus Lattimore’s outrageous performance; his 246 yards on a ridiculous 37 carries provided SC with all three of its touchdowns and saved the SEC power from an ugly defeat. Some backs could go an entire month without racking up 40+ touches, but between his ground game and a handful of receptions, it seemed that Lattimore was involved in nearly every offensive play.
To its credit, Navy was up to the rushing challenge, and the option attack matched Lattimore’s output. Navy finished with 274 yards rushing, pounding South Carolina’s suspect defense all game long. The difference was that the Midshipmen were unable to find success through the air, while SC’s Stephen Garcia did just enough to force the Navy D to respect the pass.
The team traded interceptions and kept penalties to a minimum as they let their rushing attacks determine the outcome, but South Carolina has little to be proud of. Now three weeks into the season, the Gamecocks have allowed 100 points; that has to change if this team expects to win the tough SEC East.
Honorable Mention: Penn State 14, Temple 10 in Philadelphia
Upset of the Week: Illinois 17, Arizona State 14 in Champaign
The Pac 12 South was on thin ice to start the season as the college football world waited to see if any program other than USC could step up and take command of what appeared to be a mediocre division, top to bottom. That ice cracked badly in week 3 when Arizona State went to Champaign and came away with an ugly loss.
The Sundevils were the assumed heir apparent to the Trojans’ reign, and while ASU might still win the division, its chances of being perceived as a quality team took a major hit with the upset loss. Illinois isn’t even among the Big Ten’s best teams, yet handled its business against #22 ASU by racking up six sacks and forcing three turnovers.
The Illini were outgained 362 yards to 240; offensively, the hosts were unable to make much headway and posted only one drive longer than 50 yards. The rest of Illinois’ possessions were short yardage or aided by takeaways.
Arizona State killed itself with 91 penalty yards in addition to the three turnovers, and though they forced a pair of fumbles and intercepted Nathan Scheelhaase for an even net turnover margin, the Sundevils failed to capitalize on their opportunities.
ASU quarterback Brock Osweiler averaged just 5.7 yards per attempt through the air and was unable to develop a vertical game against the Illini defense. The 6’8″ QB was under near-constant pressure from a swarming Illini defense, and the lack of protection proved to be ASU’s undoing.