College football: 50 observations at midseason
BY STEVE GREENBERG Staff Reporter October 23, 2013 9:52PM
- Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees expects to play Saturday
- Illini improving but still seeking first Big Ten win
- Coach Fitzgerald takes blame for Northwestern offense’s ineptitude
- Northern Illinois looking good for another BCS bowl
- Notre Dame football nothing special, but they’re still solid
- Northern Illinois stirs BCS chatter
- Missouri’s 7-0 start silences SEC skeptics
Updated: October 24, 2013 2:36PM
All 126 Football Bowl Subdivision teams have played at least six games, which makes this as good a time as any for a Midseason Report. Of course, many squads have laced ’em up seven times, and there are others with eight games under their belts. No one has ever accused college football of being perfect.
Let’s go ahead and dot the map anyway. Fifty dots, matter of fact, one for each state*. (*Not really.)
1. Team of the first half:
It can only be Alabama. The Tide was expected to dominate with an offense led by AJ McCarron, T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper, but it has been a defense that has allowed 16 points over the last five games that has Nick Saban’s program geared up for a fourth national title in five years.
2-4. Teams of the second half: Florida State, Oregon and Ohio State are fighting one another for the right to play for it all in Pasadena. A loss will crush any of their dreams.
5-8. High-wire acts: Missouri, Baylor, Miami and Texas Tech likewise are unbeaten. Will any of them make it through to the end of November unscathed? Highly unlikely, though Baylor, the best team in a weaker-than-usual Big 12, has by far the best shot of the four.
9-10. BCS busters: The list of possibilities is down to Fresno State and Northern Illinois. And MWC > MAC.
11-20. Ranking the FCS conferences: In order, it’s SEC, Pac-12, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, AAC, MWC, MAC, C-USA, Sun Belt. Did we mention the Big Ten is fourth? That might be a generous assessment, too.
21. Blackjack! But enough about Johnny Manziel’s casino habits.
22. Johnny Football: It isn’t what it used to be now that Texas A&M is losing games. It’s still pretty awesome, though.
23-25. Three quarterbacks who have better chances than Manziel to win the Heisman Trophy: Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Baylor’s Bryce Petty. All three are ideal Heisman combinations of great stats, major team successes and interesting personal stories.
26-30. The five others with Heisman prayers: McCarron, Oregon State QB Sean Mannion, Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon and Fresno State QB Derek Carr. Oh, yeah, and that Manziel fella. NIU fans won’t appreciate the exclusion of Jordan Lynch from the list, but his seventh-place finish after a magical 2012 regular season pretty well demonstrated voters’ opinions of the MAC.
31. Best stat line: It probably belongs to Mannion. The junior has thrown for 2,992 yards and 29 touchdowns in only seven games and is on pace to challenge the all-time season records for yards (5,833, Texas Tech’s B.J. Symons in 2003) and TDs (58, Hawaii’s Colt Brennan in 2006).
32-35. Four more promising record chases: Wideout Brandin Cooks, Mannion’s teammate, has 1,176 receiving yards and is on pace to top the 2,060 Nevada’s Trevor Insley had in 1999. San Jose State linebacker Keith Smith is averaging 14.8 tackles per game, same as Texas Tech’s Lawrence Flugence did when he made 193 stops in 2002. And Baylor’s Petty (221.8) and FSU’s Winston (210.4) are far ahead of the pass-efficiency standard (191.8) set by Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson in 2011.
36. Most head-turning score: Florida State 51, Clemson 14.
37-38. Most unfair scores: It’s gotta be a tie between Ohio State 76, Florida A&M 0 and Oregon 66, Nicholls State 3.
39-41. Games of the first half: Alabama 49, Texas A&M 42; Penn State 43, Michigan 40 (four OTs); UCF 38, Louisville 35.
42-45. Games of the second half: Oregon at Stanford (Nov. 7), LSU at Alabama (Nov. 9), Miami at Florida State (Nov. 2), Ohio State at Michigan (Nov. 30).
46-50. Projected BCS matchups: Ohio State vs. Stanford (Rose), Baylor vs. UCF (Fiesta), Auburn vs. Clemson (Sugar), Florida State vs. Wisconsin (Orange), Alabama vs. Oregon (title game).