Arkansas edges Georgia, sets up Alabama Showdown
Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the five most important things to take away from this weekend.
1. Arkansas knocks off Georgia – It’s just one win, but Saturday’s victory over Georgia was a big one for the Razorbacks. Arkansas failed to record a win on the road in conference play last season and if the Razorbacks wanted to contend for the SEC West title, winning on the road in 2010 is a must. Quarterback Ryan Mallett was brilliant, completing 21 of 33 passes for 380 yards and three scores, while leading a last-minute drive to score the game-winning touchdown. With Arkansas’ win over Georgia, Mallett’s name should get a little more buzz in discussion for Heisman candidates. The junior has over 300 passing yards and three scores in every game this season, but his biggest test will come this Saturday against Alabama. The Crimson Tide easily handled the Razorbacks last season, winning 35-7 and limiting Mallett to 160 yards and one score. Last season’s dismal performance should provide plenty of motivation for the Razorbacks and the pieces are in place to challenge Alabama on Saturday. The Crimson Tide’s young secondary hasn’t been tested, which Mallett should do if he can get time to throw.
2. Nebraska crushes Washington – Washington has been sending out postcards to media members over the last two weeks tracking the progress of quarterback Jake Locker. Following Saturday’s performance against Nebraska, Washington may want to wait a week before mailing out any cards on Locker’s progress. The senior quarterback had an awful performance, completing 4 of 20 passes for 71 yards and two interceptions. As a Heisman Trophy candidate and one of the potential top quarterbacks in the 2011 NFL Draft, Locker gathered all of the attention going into this contest. However, it was Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez that stole the show. The redshirt freshman completed 7 of 11 passes for 150 yards and one score, while rushing for 137 yards and three scores. Martinez now has at least 127 rushing yards in every game this season and has only one interception on 43 attempts. If the Nebraska defense continues to shut down opponents and Martinez plays well, the Cornhuskers could emerge as a national title contender.
3. Arizona scores huge win over Iowa – Mike Stoops simply isn’t getting enough credit for the job he has done at Arizona. Stoops started his tenure at Arizona with a 17-29 record, but doubts about his future were erased with consecutive seasons of eight wins. Following Saturday’s victory over Iowa, Stoops looks to be well on his way to another season of at least eight wins. The Wildcats jumped out to a 27-7 lead before halftime, led by a Travis Cobb’s 100-yard return for a touchdown and Trevin Wade’s interception return for a score. The Hawkeyes fought back to tie the game at 27, but the Wildcats clinched the victory with a four-yard touchdown toss from Nick Foles to William Wright. The Arizona defense registered six sacks against Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi and limited the Hawkeyes to 29 rushing yards. Now the big question – how will the Wildcats handle the success? With California up next, the Wildcats can’t afford any letdown in their Pac-10 opener. Arizona isn’t without flaws, but this team should make plenty of noise in the conference race this season.
4. Is West Virginia the team to beat in the Big East? – Figuring out the frontrunner to win the conference crown in the preseason wasn’t easy and after three weeks, a cloudy picture remains. Rutgers raised some eyebrows struggling to beat Florida International and Norfolk State, while Cincinnati is off to a disappointing 1-2 start and looks nothing like the team that won the conference last season. South Florida is probably a year away, leaving Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Connecticut as the league’s three best teams. However, the Huskies are coming off a disappointing loss to Temple, the Mountaineers needed a late rally to beat Marshall and not much is known about the Panthers after a loss to Utah and a win over New Hampshire. Although the Mountaineers needed a comeback to beat Marshall, they have to be considered the early frontrunner. Sophomore quarterback Geno Smith is playing well and the defense is allowing 12.7 points per game. The Mountaineers have a tough non-conference matchup against LSU this Saturday, which is not only a good chance for the conference to gain some respect, but for West Virginia to help stake its claim among the pecking order in the Big East.
5. Texas builds momentum with win over Texas Tech – The Longhorns likely didn’t earn any style points with their 24-14 win over Texas Tech, but it’s a victory and Mack Brown will take it. The Longhorns were upset 39-33 the last time these two teams met in Lubbock, but the Texas defense made sure the Red Raiders couldn’t pull out the victory this time. The Longhorns held the Texas Tech offense to 144 total yards and one touchdown, along with registering four sacks and three turnovers. The Texas offense is still a work in progress, as quarterback Garrett Gilbert threw three interceptions and the offense averaged only 2.2 yards per rush. Although the Longhorns are still trying to find the right mix on offense, going into Lubbock and securing a win in Gilbert’s first road start was huge. With UCLA up next, the Longhorns have one more tuneup before facing Oklahoma and Nebraska in two games that will have a major impact on their season.
Other thoughts from Week 3
The road to win Conference USA’s West Division expected to run through Houston, but a season-ending injury to quarterback Case Keenum has opened the door for UTEP, SMU and Tulsa. Keenum was on pace to set the record for most passing yards in a career and may have the opportunity to return next season if a redshirt is granted. The Cougars will likely start true freshman Terrance Broadway in Saturday’s game against Tulane.
After going 23-4 during the 2008-2009 seasons, Cincinnati now has two losses this year under Butch Jones and the schedule won’t get any easier with Oklahoma up next. The Bearcats could have a difficult time reaching six victories this year – but Jones started slow at Central Michigan before the Chippewas found the right mix. Jones should be a good hire for Cincinnati, but the slow start this year clearly shows how good of a coach Brian Kelly was for this school.
It’s always tough to gather much from non-conference matchups, but Texas A&M’s performance against Florida International has to be concerning for head coach Mike Sherman. The Aggies trailed 20-6 going into the fourth quarter and the Golden Panthers forced four interceptions and sacked quarterback Jerrod Johnson six times. Texas A&M’s offensive line was a major concern going into this season and continues to be a glaring weakness going into its Big 12 opener on September 30 against Oklahoma State.
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio suffered a heart attack following Saturday’s win over Notre Dame and won’t be on the sidelines for the Spartans’ upcoming game against Northern Colorado. Offensive coordinator Don Treadwell will serve as interim head coach until Dantonio is ready to return.
Behind sophomore quarterback Andrew Luck, Stanford has been one of the most impressive offenses this season. The Cardinal has yet to face a great defense, but with Notre Dame, Oregon and USC upcoming, this team will have a chance to make some noise in the top 25.
Florida’s offense isn’t hitting on all cylinders and plenty of concerns remain, but John Brantley is off to a solid start, completing 62 percent of his passes and zero interceptions in 79 attempts.
Although Boise State cleared a major hurdle with its victory over Virginia Tech in the season opener, don’t forget about the November 26 date against Nevada. The Wolf Pack blasted California 52-31 on Friday night and lost by seven points the last time Boise State visited Reno.
Looking ahead to Week 4
A small sample of what’s ahead
Miami vs. Pittsburgh (Thursday)
A key battle of conference respect between ACC and Big East.
Oklahoma vs. Cincinnati
Struggling Cincinnati defense in for long day against explosive Oklahoma offense.
NC State vs. Georgia Tech
Should be entertaining affair between two of the ACC’s best quarterbacks: Georgia Tech’s Josh Nesbitt and NC State’s Russell Wilson.
North Carolina vs. Rutgers
Scarlet Knights have been unimpressive in first two games this season.
Virginia Tech vs. Boston College
Hokies still have ACC title hopes, but winning in Chestnut Hill will be tricky.
South Carolina vs. Auburn
Gamecocks looking for first win over Auburn since 1933.
Alabama vs. Arkansas
Nick Saban’s defense against Ryan Mallett and his receiving corps will be one of the weekend’s best matchups.
Oregon State vs. Boise State
Beavers are Boise State’s toughest opponent until November stretch of Fresno State and Nevada.
California vs. Arizona
How will the Wildcats respond after victory over Iowa?
Stanford vs. Notre Dame
Stanford won 45-38 shootout last year and with two high-powered offenses, expect plenty of points once again.
West Virginia vs. LSU
Big East needs a marquee win and West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith will give LSU secondary all they can handle.
Oregon vs. Arizona State
Will Sun Devils improved offense be enough to hold off Ducks?
Nevada vs. BYU
Wolf Pack riding high after Friday night’s blowout victory over California.
Taking a look at some of the key players suffering injuries this weekend.
Arizona WR Juron Criner (foot)
Cincinnati TE Ben Guidugli (ankle)
Houston QB Case Keenum (ACL)
Houston QB Cotton Turner (collarbone)
Iowa RB Jewel Hampton (knee)
North Texas QB Derek Thompson (broken leg)
Oregon RB Kenjon Barner (groin strain)
Purdue QB Robert Marve (ankle)
Stanford WR Ryan Whalen (elbow)
Texas Tech QB Taylor Potts (hand)
Virginia Tech RB Ryan Williams (hamstring)
Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt (bruised thigh)
Wisconsin LB Chris Borland (separated shoulder)