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South Carolina, Florida State and LSU scored huge wins this weekend.
South Carolina, Florida State and LSU scored huge wins this weekend.
Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the five most important things to take away from this weekend.
1. South Carolina stuns Alabama – After watching Alabama stomp Florida last weekend, the Crimson Tide was hailed as the nation’s best team and most thought it wasn’t even close. How one week changes everything. The Crimson Tide suffered their first loss in 19 games, falling to South Carolina 35-21. South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia has been criticized often throughout his career, but played a terrific game, completing 17 of 20 passes for 201 yards and three scores. Two of Garcia’s touchdowns went to Alshon Jeffery, who ended up with seven receptions for 127 yards and a highlight reel catch to setup a rushing touchdown by freshman Marcus Lattimore. Although the South Carolina offense made plays to win the game, the defense deserves a lot of credit. The Gamecocks held Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson in check, holding the duo to 64 yards and no touchdowns.
What went wrong for Alabama? Virtually everything. Although Greg McElroy had a huge statistical game, the senior held onto the ball too long on some plays, the rushing attack was stuck in neutral and the defense gave up too many plays to South Carolina. A young Crimson Tide defense is still a work in progress, but should get better as the season progresses. With dates at LSU and Auburn on the schedule, Alabama still has a chance to make another appearance in the SEC title game.
The victory over Alabama was easily the biggest in Steve Spurrier’s tenure, but a lot of work remains if South Carolina wants to win the SEC East. Games at Kentucky and Vanderbilt are tricky and dates against Arkansas and Florida remain in November. Even though the Gators are struggling, winning in the Swamp won’t be easy. With Florida and the rest of the SEC East struggling, the Gamecocks have to capitalize on this opportunity.
2. Shoelace tied by Spartans – Saturday’s game between Michigan and Michigan State was arguably one of the biggest in the Rich Rodriguez era. After losing back-to-back games to the Spartans and staring at bowl eligibility with a win, this was a chance for Rodriguez to earn a marquee win. However, a balanced Spartan offense and a defense that held Denard Robinson in check was more than enough for Michigan State to earn its third win in a row over the Wolverines. Michigan State also got a boost with the return of head coach Mark Dantonio. Although he coached from the press box, Dantonio’s return certainly provided a lift. The Spartans face a pesky Illinois team next week and then hit the road for dates against Northwestern and Iowa. The Spartans miss Ohio State in conference play this year, and the schedule is favorable enough for Michigan State to earn its first 10 win season since 1999.
The Michigan defense has been an issue all year and ranks 119th in the nation against the pass and 112th in total defense. Unless the Wolverines find immediate answers on defense, this is a solid 8-4 team that will have to win shootouts all year. Although Robinson is the perfect fit for this offense, he could use some help from the running backs and has to eliminate the mistakes. Robinson’s three interceptions were costly against the Spartans and will be something to watch as Michigan takes on a stingy Iowa defense this Saturday.
3. Florida State makes a statement – Florida State winning against Miami wasn’t a surprise. It’s the 45-17 result and the complete domination of the Hurricanes that opened some eyes. The Seminoles gashed Miami for 298 yards on the ground, and quarterback Christian Ponder was an efficient 12 of 21 for 173 yards and two scores. The Florida State defense was awful last season, but coordinator Mark Stoops has made a big difference. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris passed for 386 yards and two scores last season against the Seminoles, but was limited to 225 yards on 19 completions this year. After watching Florida State handle Miami, one has to wonder about the 47-17 defeat in Norman. The Seminoles are clearly a better team than they showed that day against Oklahoma and should be the favorites to win the ACC Atlantic.
4. Lucky Les pulls out another one – Les Miles certainly knows how to make the end of a game interesting and whether or not you believe in them, LSU is 6-0 and just finds a way to win. The Tigers executed a fake field goal with less than a minute to go, then scored the winning score on a touchdown pass from Jarrett Lee to Terrance Toliver. The offense has struggled all season, but the quarterback rotation of Lee and Jordan Jefferson performed adequately against Florida, and the defense is among the best in the nation. With McNeese State up next, the Tigers should be 7-0 before a tough back-to-back stretch of Auburn and Alabama. Although this team is far from perfect, don’t count them out in either game.
5. Utah, Boise State, TCU and Nevada roll on – Just another week for Utah, Boise State, TCU and Nevada. All four teams earned blowout wins on Saturday, with Utah deserving more national credit than it’s getting for it’s 68-27 pasting of Iowa State. Barring a major upset, all four teams should remain unbeaten in Week 7. Nevada has an interesting game at Hawaii, but should emerge with a victory. With the first release of the BCS standings next week, it will be interesting to see where all four teams rank, in what should be an intriguing battle the rest of the season. One team that is quietly flying under the radar is Air Force. The Falcons have only one loss on the year (Oklahoma) and face TCU and Utah in back-to-back games to close out October. Although the Falcons will be underdogs in both games, if they win both contests, don’t be surprised if they finish 11-1.
Other thoughts from Week 6
Nebraska was my pick to win the Big 12 in the preseason and after five games, I still believe the Huskers are the team to beat in that conference. The next three games are huge for Nebraska, starting with a home date against Texas, a road contest against Oklahoma State and then a Big 12 North showdown against Missouri. If Nebraska survives that stretch, an undefeated regular season is within reach.
Is a freshman quarterback the answer for Rutgers? Chas Dodd got the start against Connecticut and completed 18 of 29 passes for 322 yards and two scores. The 27 points scored against Connecticut were the highest this season against a FBS opponent for the Scarlet Knights. Sophomore Tom Savage was expected to have a breakout year, but Dodd looks like the better option for this offense.
Ron Zook has endured a lot of heat during his tenure at Illinois, but he deserves credit for getting this team off to a 3-2 start. The Illini’s losses over Missouri and Ohio State are nothing to be ashamed about and the schedule is favorable enough to think about a bowl appearance. The offseason hires of Paul Petrino as offensive coordinator and Vic Koenning as defensive coordinator have paid big dividends for this team.
One of this week’s underrated wins was scored by Hawaii, beating Fresno State 49-27. Coach Greg McMackin was another name on the hot seat going into this year, but the Warriors should easily reach seven wins and a berth in the Hawaii Bowl.
New Mexico State and Florida International earned victories on Saturday, leaving Akron, Eastern Michigan, New Mexico and Western Kentucky as the nation’s winless teams. However, Western Kentucky will have a good chance at snapping a 25-game losing streak with UL Monroe up next.
Michigan’s Denard Robinson deserves all of the credit he is getting in the Heisman race, but Auburn quarterback Cam Newton needs to be brought up more in the conversation. If Newton shines against Arkansas and LSU, and Auburn is undefeated going into the Alabama game, he should be one of the leading candidates to win the Heisman.
One of the most puzzling victories of Week 6 was Purdue’s win over Northwestern. Rob Henry made his first start at quarterback for the Boilermakers, throwing for 47 yards on six completions. However, Henry rushed for 132 yards and one score. With a quarterback making his first start and the so-so output on offense, this was a game Northwestern should not have lost.
A 13-9 win didn’t earn any style points, but it was a huge victory for Syracuse beating South Florida. Second-year coach Doug Marrone clearly has the Orange going in the right direction and with an unsettled Big East, don’t rule out Syracuse from reaching six or seven wins.
Looking ahead to Week 7
A small sample of what’s ahead
South Florida vs. West Virginia (Thursday)
Are the Mountaineers the team to beat in the Big East?
Boston College vs. Florida State
Seminoles need to avoid Miami hangover against the offensively challenged Eagles.
Oklahoma State vs. Texas Tech
Get ready for an old-fashioned Big 12 shootout.
Arkansas vs. Auburn
Ryan Mallett vs. Cameron Newton will be one of this week’s top quarterback battles.
Missouri vs. Texas A&M
Missouri has won three out of its last four matchups against Texas A&M.
South Carolina vs. Kentucky
Can the Gamecocks avoid a letdown against the upset-minded Wildcats?
Texas vs. Nebraska
Did the Longhorns find an answer for slowing Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez during the bye week?
Oregon State vs. Washington
Washington’s suspect defense will have its hands full trying to slow down Jacquizz Rodgers.
California vs. USC
After back-to-back losses, a lot of people will be interested to see how Trojans respond.
Iowa vs. Michigan
Denard Robinson could find running room limited against Hawkeye defense.
Ohio State vs. Wisconsin
Alabama lost on the road as No. 1, is Ohio State next?
Taking a look at some of the key players suffering injuries this weekend.
Iowa State RB Alexander Robinson (foot)
Kentucky RB Derrick Locke (shoulder)
Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert (hip pointer)
Navy FB Vince Murray (sprained knee)
Oregon QB Darron Thomas (shoulder)
Oregon RB Kenjon Barner (undisclosed)
Oregon State WR James Rodgers (knee)
Penn State DE Eric Lattimore (hand)
Penn State S Nick Sukay (pectoral)
Toledo QB Austin Dantin (concussion)
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