1. Notre Dame - I don't even have to really explain this one, do I? 30-13. On the road. In Norman, where the Sooners hardly ever lose (except for earlier in the season vs. Kansas State). Dominant in the fourth quarter. Any further questions?
Now, the Irish have three highly winnable games on the docket and then the final game of the season at USC for a chance to play for all the Oranges down in Miami. But, before I get ahead of myself, huge props to ND DC Bob Diaco and how his defensive squad is controlling the game. I thought early in the game, the corners were playing too loose and giving TOO much respect to the OU wide receivers.
But, they adjusted and the front seven took over rushing QB Landry Jones and held the Sooners to 13 points. Also, consider how well Notre Dame ran the football against OU, especially in the fourth quarter. QB Everett Golson ran the offense to a T and the results were impressive. ND head coach Brian Kelly even noted that in his press conference on Sunday
"I just think he's (Golson) beginning to realize those detail things we've been banging him on the head with will actually make him a better quarterback. I think by getting a chance to step back and see it, and watching it, I think he realized more and more how important it is to be disciplined in those areas.
"Then I think he just flat out made a decision that 'I know this coaching is going to help me and I'm going to take it to heart.'"
It's a pretty magical day when a young player DECIDES that he'll allow himself to be coached and then put forth the fruits of that decision with his on-field play. It happened on Saturday night for Everett Golson and it paid off for ND in a big way.
2. Kansas State - I'll be honest, I missed the boat completely on Kansas State going into 2012. Outside of QB Collin Klein, I thought the offense was truly devoid of stars and the defense only had two solid players with LB Arthur Brown and CB Nigel Malone.
But, what I've realized with this team is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. C BJ Finney is playing exceptionally well. RB John Hubert and Angelo Pease are the perfect duo to complement Klein. The defense tackles as well as any defense in the nation and is fifth in the nation with a +1.88 turnover margin.
Oh yeah, that Klein kid is pretty damn good as well. The Cats scored nearly every time it had the ball in the second half and ran right over a decent Texas Tech defense to the tune of 55-24.
3. Alabama - I just want to make sure that no one takes this team for granted. After losing Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and Mark Barron, all drafted in the top 35 of last year's 2012 NFL Draft, the Tide defense, believe it or not, has gotten BETTER.
The defense is ranked #1 in every team defensive category currently. Every single one. And, talk about whole greater than the sum of its parts, there probably won't be one player on that side of the ball up for a major defensive award, maybe Demarcus Milliner, maybe Robert Lester. And, unfortunately, DT Jesse Williams is sadly underrated.
The depth is off the charts. QB AJ McCarron hasn't thrown an interception since November 12, 2011 and has thrown only three in his last 20 games. It's hard to imagine a team knocking them off, but LSU will give it the old college try this weekend.
4. USC WR Marquise Lee - Three hundred and fourty-five yards is a sick day. Trust me. Princeton's Michael Lerch rolled up 390 yards, which was a D1AA record at the time, against Brown (my alma mater) in 1991. It felt like he just kept going and going and running and running and it didn't stop all day long. That was Lee on Saturday, unfortunately, he couldn't come up with the miracle hail mary catch that the Trojans needed in a 39-36 loss to…
5. Arizona and Rich Rodriguez - Sure, the Wildcats play no defense and that's what got former head coach Mike Stoops, a defensive guru, fired. It helped force Rich Rod out the door at Michigan too, but the offense can light up anyone, anywhere.
How else do you explain QB Matt Scott's 369 yard passing, 100 yard rushing, four touchdown day? How do you explain 259 yards receiving for Austin Hill? Or 119 yards rushing for Ka'Deem Carey (more on him later)? Against USC no less.
Rich Rodriguez was handed a raw deal at Michigan, pure and simple (although there were times that he didn't help himself in that situation), but he's getting it done in Tucson. His defense doesn't always get it done, but there's time to recruit on that side of the ball and get it right down the road.
6. Georgia OLB Jarvis Jones - Unfortunately, all of our Rotary Lombardi Award votes were due on Thursday prior to Jones' game against Florida. Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o has been consistently brilliant this season, but Jones has had two marquee games this year - his performance vs. Missouri and Saturday against Florida.
He finished with 13 tackles, four tackles for a loss, three sacks and two forced fumbles, including the one he forced with about two minutes remaining on Florida TE Jordan Reed. Georgia recovered said fumble in the end zone and essentially ran out the clock. Georgia responded to S Shawn Williams "challenge", in particular its defense, with a physical performance in a sloppy as heck win over Florida. Jones was a huge reason why it happened.
1. Oklahoma and Bob Stoops - If the moniker "Big Game Bob" isn't dead after another loss at home to a top 5 team, then it's going on life support awaiting the plug being pulled. The Sooners can knock off Texas in Dallas nearly every year, but that's not winning a big game any more.
Who can say why this team has taken this turn against good football teams? I can't. There was a time when Dr. Tom Osborne would get crucified for his inability to win a national championship. Then, Dr. Tom revamped his defensive ideals, he went and found speed and nasty and the rest is history.
Stoops will have to do that at Oklahoma to get people to forget about the big game disasters over the past seven or eight years, including Saturday night's 30-13 loss to Notre Dame in Norman.
2. USC head coach Lane Kiffin - He's slimy. He's sneaky. He's just not a guy that I'd want coaching my son or my relatives. You can have him, USC, but he's the ultimate front-runner. He'll change jersey numbers on a fake extra point against hapless Colorado then get his you know what ripped on the road at Arizona. There are plenty in Knoxville (and those non-USC fans in Oakland, CA) that at least smiled when they saw USC and Kiffin give up a 28-13 lead in the second half in a 39-36 loss to Arizona.
3. Ohio, Rutgers and Oregon State - These three had surprised all season long and were undefeated going into the weekend. These three all left the weekend with a loss. Sure, all three lost to underrated teams - Miami (OH), Kent State and Washington, but a loss is a loss is a gut-punch, low blow loss.
4. Injuries - Dadgum, this weekend was horrid. South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore suffered one of the most gruesome injuries I've ever seen. All-Big 12 Iowa State LB Jake Knott is more than likely out for the season. Michigan QB Denard Robinson suffered an elbow injury and missed most of the Wolverines loss to Nebraska. Three of the most valuable players on any campus in the nation all went down on Saturday. Tough weekend, to say the least.
1. Coach of the Year - Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss - The Rebels are 5-3 in the tough SEC West and one win away from being bowl eligible. He'll get overshadowed by other first year coaches and even first year coaches in the SEC. But, Freeze is getting it done and setting Ole Miss up to be a consistent bowl team in the future.
2. The Heisman - Pick an Alabama offensive lineman - Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack or DJ Fluker - quite simply, the best offensive line in the nation. Notre Dame's is good. Texas A&M's is solid. These three make Bama's the best there is. AJ McCarron has a shot to win the Heisman, but these three are more valuable to this team, trust me.
3. The Outland, The Lombardi - NT Louis Nix, Notre Dame - Nix has been a stud in the middle of Notre Dame's defense and when you wonder why LB Manti Te'o is having as good a year as he's having, well, take a look at #9.
4. The Outland, The Lombardi - DT Jesse Williams, Alabama - See Nix above. The Australian is the reason Alabama's defense can dominate the line of scrimmage the way it does. He's strong as an ox, can split a double team and eliminate any interior running game against the Tide.
5. Doak Walker Award - Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona - He's 12th in the nation in rushing with 961 yards and has 12 rushing touchdowns. He's flourishing alongside QB Matt Scott and WR Austin Hill in Rich Rodriguez's offense. He lit USC up with 119 yards on the ground and a touchdown. He's not a huge back, but he's got great feet and tremendous vision, which, seemingly, are prerequisites for a running back in this offense.
6. Jim Thorpe Award - S Zeke Motta, Notre Dame - He's the only experienced player in the back four for the Irish and he sets a tone with his physical play. But, he made a couple of smart plays in coverage against Oklahoma to show how much he's progressed in his time in South Bend.
7. Any Award - Dri Archer, Kent State - This guy is ELECTRIC. Trust me on that. It was late one morning on my show and I was just bouncing around YouTube during a break when I saw him return a kick on a highlight video. It woke me up and it hasn't stopped. He has nine rushing touchdowns. He has three receiving touchdowns. He's thrown a touchdown. He has returned three kickoffs for touchdowns. He's averaging 203.4 yards total offense a game. He had a rushing touchdown and led the team in receiving yards in a 35-23 win over Rutgers. He's pocket dynamite and I love seeing what he can do.
1. Will Cam Newton get not one but two coaches fired this year? Ron Rivera AND Gene Chizik?
2. Is it time to rethink Lane Kiffin as The Man at USC?
3. Why does everyone claim, "Well, (insert name of team here) hasn't beaten anyone this season!" when there are only about eight teams worth a flip in college football this season and hardly any of them play one another?
4. Are Notre Dame and Kansas State that good or is the Big Game Bob magic well past its expiration date?
5. Is it possible that Alabama could have as many as three OL All-American by season's end (Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and DJ Fluker)?
6. When you see an Ohio State player with a tattoo/"arm sleeve" do you wonder how many pairs of "Gold Pants" he sold to procure that tat?
7. Do you think Georgia fans still want to move the World's Largest Cocktail Party out of Jacksonville?
8. Is it just me or do players that "celebrate" an average play when his team is losing 37-28 anger the hell out of you?
9. Can you win the Heisman trophy when you're not even the best or even the most important player on your team?
10. 1998 Kansas State with Michael Bishop at the helm or 2012 Kansas State with Optimus Klein under center…go ahead, decide?
11. Has a Tennessee team ever played worse defense…ever?
12. I don't wish ill will on anyone, but what exactly did Maryland head coach Randy Edsall do to lose four quarterbacks to injury this season?
13. Why do I get a 2003 Oklahoma Sooner vibe with this 2012 Alabama team? And remind me who beat that 2003 Sooner team? Hint: Kansas State.
14. Can Georgia QB Aaron Murray's one great pass make you forget the horrid day that he had against Florida?
15. What is going to be Denard Robinson's legacy at Michigan?
16. Can you imagine how good Notre Dame's front seven would be had star DE Aaron Lynch stayed in South Bend?
17. And one final question that I'll attempt to answer this week sometime… Is it possible that if LSU beats Alabama this Saturday in Baton Rouge, that we could have another LSU-Alabama national championship game in Miami? It's not as crazy as you think, going by the current BCS rankings.