Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.
10 Oct 2011
by Robert Weintraub
Close your eyes, gents. Sooner State football is defined these days by chucking it, early and often. Texas and Kansas found that out the hard way on Saturday. The Oklahoma schools combined for 125-45 routs over the Horns and Hawks. They also combined for 101 passing attempts, 861 yards in the air, and eight touchdowns. The Sooners passed at will against their inexperienced competition, with Landry Jones making UT’s secondary look hapless. Between Ryan Broyles, Kenny Stills, and Texas product Jaz Reynolds, Jones has plenty of options to throw to.
As does Brandon Weeden, who is somehow two months older then Aaron Rodgers. Of course, playing against Turner Gill’s beleaguered defense helps pad the numbers. The Jayhawks were giving up 44 points per game before kickoff. OSU passed that in the second quarter. An interesting compare-and-contrast will come next weekend when the Cowboys take their turn to play Texas in Austin. There are several tests to come for both schools, but a Bedlam matchup on the first Saturday in December between a pair of 11-0 teams is a delicious proposition.
Speaking of unbeatens on a collision course, LSU and Alabama ran rampant once more. It was the Tigers turn to devour the Gators of Florida, who were down to their third-string quarterback, Jacoby Brissett. Needless to say, he didn’t lead the visitors to victory in Baton Rouge. LSU pummeled Florida 41-11. Tyrann Mathieu had a pick, of course, but it should barely count. The Lester rubbed it in with style, having scofflaw quarterback Jordan Jefferson throw a mop-up jump pass touchdown to remind Florida fans that Tim Tebow doesn’t live here anymore. That wasn’t even the worst Jefferson-inspired moment: That came when JJ hard-counted the Gators offsides on back-to-back snaps in the fourth quarter, forcing a purple-with-rage Will Muschamp to pull a couple of guys out of the game.
Meanwhile, 'Bama played Vanderbilt at home. ‘Nuff said. (OK, fine -- Alabama won 34-0)
Will we see a clash of unbeatens on November 12 in Champaign? Michigan looked feeble in falling ten points down at halftime to Northwestern, then roared back with 28 unanswered points to overwhelm a Wildcats team thinned by injury, 42-24. Illinois is 6-0 to the Wolverines’ 5-0, whipping Indiana 41-20. Ron Zook’s under-the-radar hiring of Paul Petrino (Bobby’s little brother) to run the offense is paying major dividends, as the Illini are now pumping out 35 points per game. Nathan Scheelhaase to A.J. Jenkins turning into a combo to be reckoned alongside Jones-Broyles and Weeden-Blackmon. The excellent Illini defensive effort back on September 17, in a gutty win over Arizona State, is looking better and better with every Sun Devils victory (they took out Utah 35-14 on Saturday to go to 5-1).
Of course, even should Illinois remain undefeated until the Michigan game, and beat the Wolverines, Wisconsin is next on the sked. Nothing wrong with the Capital One Bowl, fellas.
Next week, Illinois will have to get by Ohio State, who looked like Hawaii under June Jones against the disappointing Nebraska defense. Wasn’t Bo Pelini hired to restore the snarl to the Blackshirts? The Buckeyes’ offensive line were a million miles from where the unit was a week ago, when Michigan State blitzed them into a confused rabble. But when Braxton Miller went out with an ankle injury, and Joe "Sha-Na-Na" Bauserman came in with his tragicomic attempt at passing, that was it for Ohio State. They blew a 21-point lead and Nebraska won 34-27, im a victory that could easily have been by double-digits (had I not made them my lock, they surely would have).
Remember up top, when we talked about great backs from Oklahoma? Well, next door in Nebraska, the fullback tradition continues with Rex Burkhead. Tom Rathman, Cory Schlesinger, Joel and Jeff Mackovicka -- your legacy is being carried on.
Logan Thomas of Virginia Tech has been almost as bad as Bauserman, but he broke out in his sixth start, completing 23-of-25 passes for 310 yards, three touchdowns, and the game-winning 19-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1, as Tech edged Miami 38-35. Five touchdowns were scored in the fourth quarter in this thriller. Thomas has a long way to go to catch up to, say, Clemson’s Tahj Boyd -- but, alas, the Tigers superb signal-caller injured his hip in their 36-14 win over Boston College. Boyd's availability is the crux of the ACC race, with Georgia Tech now 6-0 and Wake Forest (yes, Wake Forest!) 4-1 and feeling frisky after taking down Florida State 35-30.
By the way, Clemson and Georgia Tech meet October 29 in could well be ... wait for it ... a meeting of unbeaten teams.
As the chairman once sang, the best is yet to come...
3. Boise State
6. Oklahoma State
11. Georgia Tech
13. West Virginia
15. South Carolina
16. Kansas State
17. Virginia Tech
20. Arizona State
23. Wake Forest
25. Texas A&M
1. Everybody, Defense, Oklahoma. Dominant afternoon at the Fair for the Sooners defense -- three defensive scores, five turnovers, eight sacks, and preventing Texas from gaining yards on 35-of-81 plays, an amazing 43.2 percent. I wouldn’t want to single anyone out: that is how great the whole unit was.
2. Chandler Catanzaro, K, Clemson. We name-checked CC for his failure from last year’s Auburn game a couple weeks back, so it is only fair that we point out his career day against BC. Catanzaro hit all five of his field goal attempts, as the Tigers needed special teams help with Tahj Boyd injured.
3. Justin Chandler, DT, Rutgers. Big day for the Scarlet Knights as they hammered Pittsburgh, 34-10. Chandler led a ferocious pass rush that had six sacks and six hurries -- he had two and three, respectively -- along with eight total tackles and four tackles for loss.
4. Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois. We talked about the Illini offense, but the defense also helped whack Indiana behind the Big Ten’s sack leader, who notched three more to his total and added two forced fumbles for good measure.
5. Tramain Thomas, S, and Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas. The All-SEC end returned from missing three games to injury to provide inspiration and force off the edge, while Thomas had two picks and helped shut down Auburn’s passing game.
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