Every Monday at noon, Luke Carlton will post an easily digestible recap of the weekend’s top news and what it means moving forward.
1. The best thing for USC Football and Steve Sarkisian is a leave of absence
Let’s just leave football aside for one second and focus on the more important things in life. If all reports are indeed true and Steve Sarkisian did indeed show up to the team facility intoxicated on Sunday, he needs more help.
Sarkisian has a direct influence on the whole team and right now, his head clearly isn’t in the right place to coach.
However, we accomplish nothing by taunting and teasing someone with a problem who needs help. Sarkisian is not healthy and this needs to be addressed first and foremost.
Now onto football.
It’s important to remember that the Trojans of USC are just coming out of the darkest of times. They have yet to recover from the NCAA sanctions that took away scholarships.
Now, the team is incredibly unbalanced, with freshmen making up the biggest majority of the roster. Of the 85 scholarships USC is allowed to give out, 29 of those are freshmen.
While SC was receiving preseason hype, you can’t run away from the fact that this team is still rebuilding. Until they are completely removed from NCAA sanctions, that will be always be the case.
However, this is USC. Mediocrity will not be accepted. Losing at home to Washington will not be accepted. Therefore, maybe coming back down to earth and having a taste of reality might be the best thing for USC.
Temporarily moving away from a troubled Sarkisian and putting a focus on rebuilding, rather than challenging, set them up better in the future. They get back an established head coach with a track record of recruiting well clear of issues and a team stacked at the bottom.
Give it a few years, and USC will be back up where we are used to them being.
But sometimes, you have to take a step backwards to take two steps forward.
2. It’s too late to jump on the Michigan bandwagon.
Michigan just put 38 points on statistically the best defense in the country.
Michigan shut out their opponents for nine consecutive quarters.
Michigan is rolling. And they will have College GameDay there for their encounter against Michigan State.
And honestly, it’s perfect timing for both teams.
Michigan comes in as one of the most in form teams in the nation: shutting out opponents, not turning the ball over and putting up points offensively. The ground game keeps churning and isn’t being stopped.
Michigan State desperately needs a kick in the behind to get their team in gear. Their close win over Oregon looks less and less impressive each week, they are battling key injuries to key players like Jack Conklin and Madre London and though undefeated, they are winless against the spread.
Close wins over Rutgers (in part thanks to a fourth down spike called by an interim head coach) and Purdue saw the Spartans drop from #2 to #7. They have the least momentum of any undefeated team in the country, but they are still undefeated.
The first of what we all hope to be many encounters between Harbaugh and Dantonio rightfully takes center stage in a star-studded week 7. GameDay could be in Baton Rouge for LSU-Florida, or in College Station for Texas A&M-Alabama. A trip to Columbus would have been accepted, with Ohio State welcoming Penn State.
But it is the battle for the Paul Bunyan trophy that takes center stage.
Should the Wolverines knock off the Spartans, it’s going to be pandemonium in Ann Arbor and in the AP Poll.
But it’s worth noting, since losing in his first year; Mark Dantonio has won six out of the last seven games against Michigan. The Spartans should see the 6.5-point underdog tag as a slap in the face, especially while undefeated and ranked higher than their cross state opponents.
3. Utah stopped Jared Goff, but Jared Goff also stopped Jared Goff.
The Utes defense played great football, intercepting Goff five times, but it was by far the worst game we’ve seen from him this year.
There seemed to be some indecision, some trying to make plays that weren’t there from the Cal QB.
The first interception is entirely on the receiver and more proof that football is a cruel game. Good read, good throw and the interception is all on the receiver.
Second interception was a solid play by Dominique Hatfield to get a jump on the slant, something Cal had been showing over and over again. Receiver failed to fight for the ball, but it was placed too far in front of him regardless.
Goff overthrew the receiver on the third play, while the fourth was a bit of both. Jared Goff can’t try to throw that screen of his back foot into a hot mess of traffic. As for Utah, it was just outstanding reactions and athleticism to haul the ball in.
Finally, the fifth interception was all on Goff. It’s the mentality of wanting to have the ball in your hands to make the play. The defensive end stays in on contain, which should be an immediate key to hand the ball off. The play looks packaged, meaning there is both a run and pass option to the play. Line zone blocks downfield and the run play is on all day.
Obviously, we don’t know the play call, so we can’t tell you exactly why Goff did what he did or how it is supposed to be ran.
All we can take away from this is Utah will continue to play good defense and continue to feed Devontae Booker until somebody can stop them.
4. Tennessee found out how to win in the fourth quarter.
And it only took them a month to figure it out.
Tennessee was a good three quarter football team. In fact, if football was a three quarter game, they’d have been 5-0 coming into this game.
But football has four quarters.
And Tennessee was 2-3 coming into the game.
Blowing leads against Arkansas, Oklahoma and Florida is heartbreaking, so you can’t imagine that Vols fans were all too optimistic taking a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter against Georgia.
True enough, Georgia tied it up after just seven seconds.
Here we go again.
Even after going up 24-3 in the second quarter, the Vols find themselves in a familiar predicament.
That is until Joshua Dobbs buckled up his chinstrap and put the team on his back to take the Volunteers to victory.
Dobbs’ 312 yards passing and 118 rushing put him in the elite category of Johnny Manziel and Tim Tebow as the only SEC quarterbacks in the last 20 years to throw for over 300 yards and rush for over 100 yards in the same game.
This was the second time Josh Dobbs has done this. For perspective, Tebow managed it just once. Manziel managed it four times.
Unfortunately for the Vols, they found out just a little too late. Their three early season losses, two of which were conference losses, have left them with no shot at the SEC title or the playoffs.
5. Texas wins one for Bevo
Sad news out of the Lone Star State that Texas mascot Bevo XIV wasn’t able to travel to the Red River Rivalry game against Oklahoma due to life threatening conditions.
It’s hard to think of a live mascot so closely tied to a program like Bevo and Texas. Chief Osceola and Renegade at FSU maybe, Georgia’s UGA and Ralphie over in Colorado too. Mike the Tiger at LSU is intimidating, but as Mike’s Veterinarian once said:
"He doesn't read his Facebook Page, and this might come as a surprise to some people. Or, 'Oh man I've gotta go to the Alabama game.' He doesn't know these things. He's just a tiger."
Bevo is loved by all of Longhorn Nation and his absence was truly felt by players and fans alike. Get well soon Bevo, we can’t wait for you to sit around like you’re in a field without a care in the world, while 100,000 people scream and shout around you.
Now, the game itself.
Texas came into the game as 16-point underdogs, bickering on twitter and still picking up the pieces from their blowout loss to TCU.
Oklahoma came in undefeated, #10 in the country and with an offense powering on all cylinders off the back off a good win over West Virginia.
So it only made sense that Texas won this one.
Relying heavily on the ground game, the Longhorns passed the ball just 12 times, compared to their 58 carries. They stuck to their game plan and played to their strengths.
They stifled the OU passing attack by pressuring Baker Mayfield and they get up early thanks to a special teams turnover. They did exactly what you need to do in as an underdog in these games.
Will this be the turning point for Coach Strong and the Longhorns? Who knows.
Assuming they beat both Iowa State and Kansas, the Longhorns need to find a win at home to Kansas State or Texas Tech, or go on the road and beat West Virginia or #2 Baylor to just reach a bowl game.
Nobody said it was easy, Charlie Strong.
6. North Texas got beat so badly by FCS Portland State that they fired their head coach.
No, seriously. It was the biggest win for an FCS team over an FBS team ever.
UNT Homecoming and they were losing 45-0 against Portland State, a very good team, albeit an FCS one.
The Mean Green only scored with 1:02 left on the clock to leave the final score at 66-7. Head Coach Dan McCarney, formerly at Iowa State and Florida, was relieved of his duties shortly after. And by shortly after, we mean 30 minutes.
North Texas welcomes Brandon Doughty and Western Kentucky next in the “Stop! Stop! He’s already dead!” game of the week.
Coach Dan McCarney’s reign at UNT included a Heart of Dallas Bowl title in 2012, but has gone downhill ever since.
Whereas North Texas is placed just north of the recruiting hotbed of Dallas-Fort Worth, they can only compete for scraps. Once Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M come knocking, its game over for UNT.
The added competition from SMU means despite their positioning, North Texas might be one of the hardest places to recruit in the country. And unlike Rice, UNT only has a great music program to fall back on.
Regardless, credit given where credit it is due, Portland State beat both Washington State and North Texas and was paid $950,000 to do so.
7. Columbia snaps a 24-game losing streak.
Last week, we highlighted some MEAC action, which saw Savannah State snap a losing streak.
If you think we’re going to miss out on another losing streak being snapped, think again!
We head to Columbia and the Ivy League, where the Lions hadn’t won since November 10th 2012.
Led by former Florida quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg, the Lions of Columbia were too much to handle for the Seahawks of Wagner. The Lions rushed out to a 17-0 first quarter lead and didn’t look back, with a final score of 26-3.
8. Nebraska keeps finding new ways to lose
BYU scored on a Hail Mary as time expired. Miami scored in overtime after an interception. Illinois scored a touchdown with 10 seconds left.
And now, Wisconsin wins on a field goal with four seconds left.
Football is a harsh sport, and that’s the case for Nebraska right now. Nebraska found a different way to lose four different games they easily could have won. And then Nebraska would be 6-0.
But hypotheticals get us nowhere. And hypothetical wins don’t save jobs or get bowl bids.
Bluntly, Nebraska needs to find a way to get the job done when the game is on the line. Call it clutch. Call it seizing the opportunity.
A trip up through Iowa to TCF Bank Stadium awaits the Cornhuskers, where they Mike Riley will look to get his first Big 10 win of his Nebraska career.
9. The Florida State Dalvin Cooks stay undefeated.
It was a game that had the intensity of many previous Canes-Cooks matches of the past; Rowdy fans, incredible pressure and ultimate bragging rights to the winners.
We even got to see Kickers talking trash to each other, the true litmus test as to whether a rivalry is actually a rivalry or not.
Florida State running back Dalvin Cook rushed for over 200 yards again. Boston College was the only team to contain him, and we’re including Wake Forest in this, despite the fact he only carried the ball twice.
His average of nine yards per carry ranks him third in the nation in players over 50 carries, behind Shock Linwood of Baylor and Matt Breida of Georgia Southern.
He makes up 77.8 percent of Florida State’s rushing totals and 36.6 percent of the entire offense on just 29.4 percent of offensive touches. Remember, he had three touches in the Wake Forest game before leaving due to injury.
Louisville will look to slow him down next week, but it’s looking increasingly likely that the Florida State Dalvin Cooks will come down to their trips to Clemson and Florida.
While Leonard Fournette has been gaining national attention in Baton Rouge, Nick Chubb was quietly churning away an equally impressive season.
Chubb was averaging more yards per carry than last year and was the true vocal point of the Bulldogs offense. His 13th consecutive 100+ yard game rushing tied Herschel Walker for a school record. He was aiming to break it against Tennessee, before the injury.
Georgia’s offense may need to reshuffle, but Sony Michel is the best backup running back in the nation. Georgia will still get production from their rushing game; it just won’t as productive as they were with Chubb.
If this injury does anything, it gives food for thought to people like Leonard Fournette.
If you ask any draft expert or analysis how high Leonard Fournette could go in the 2016 NFL Draft, you’d be hearing top 10, maybe even top five.
He currently isn’t getting paid to play at such a high level; he has his cost of education covered.
He can’t take sponsorship deals; he can’t accept a congratulatory drink from happy alum.
He is seeing players like Nick Chubb and James Conner go down with season-ending knee injuries and seeing how susceptible top running back talent can be to a potential career altering injury.
He’s already in competition with an incredibly deep 2017 RB draft class.
He has seen in the past how players like Marcus Lattimore can go from being the next big thing to being retired and out the league without playing a regular season game.
There comes a point where Leonard Fournette will have to sit down and think about what positives he can gain out of playing for LSU next year.
Heisman? He’s on track to win it this year.
National Championship? Tough, but possible with how well LSU are recruiting.
For the love of the game?
Increase draft stock? Fournette’s draft stock is as high as it’ll be. He can do everything and is being compared to the best of the best already.
His options are limited. If he sits the year out, does LSU renew his scholarship? Does the NFL view this as a player who has had a year of rust? What if he sits out and Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams lead LSU to a national title?
Do you continue your education? Do you put all your eggs in one basket and work out for the entire year to prepare for the NFL? Do you study abroad at the University of Central Lancashire and lead them to a BUAFL Title?
These questions (well, probably not the last one) are all things Fournette needs to consider. He knows he has a career in football, but Marcus Lattimore will be the first to tell you that can be taken away at the drop of a hat.
Todd Gurley will be the poster child for playing through it all. A torn ACL didn’t damage his draft stock as much as many would think, and now he’s starting for the Rams and pancaking Clay Matthews.
Buts it’s a small doubt that is big enough to creep into your head and make you think. It’s about thinking ahead about your future.