5 Thoughts - The Big Game You Must See
Missouri's Jeremy Maclin and OSU's Dez Bryant
While this week will be all about Oklahoma vs. Texas and LSU vs. Florida, there's a big-time game that you might not know about that could be the best showdown of the weekend. That and the new Penn State star, the shift of power at Tennessee, and more in this week's 5 Thoughts.
5 Thoughts ... Oct. 5
| Week 4
One Bathroom Break And
You'll Miss Two Touchdowns
Joe Six Pack College Football Fan might only care about
the wink and the wiggle of Oklahoma vs. Texas or LSU at
Florida or Penn State at Wisconsin, but you want more
than the obvious showdowns. As good as those should be,
as Saturday shakes out, they might take a back seat to
the under-the-radar matchup that'll have a huge impact
on the BCS race.
Oh sure, those spotlight games will be wars that'll be
overanalyzed by every talk show host and every pregame
show; we've all been fired up about these games for
months. However, if you've been paying attention to
what's been happening so far this season, there's a
hidden gem that didn't seem like much before the season
started, but now should be every bit as worthy as the
Red River Rivalry when it comes to finding out who
really gets a seat at the big boy table.
8:00 p.m. EST in Columbia, Missouri ... Oklahoma State
is visiting Missouri. Don't let it get pushed aside by
the Tigers - Gators and Nittany Lions - Badgers, who are
playing at the same time.
Now that Mizzou is No. 2 in the only poll that matters,
the Coaches' Poll, it's time to find out just how real
this team is. Beating Illinois was strong, and the
blowout over Nebraska wasn't without its charm, but this
Oklahoma State team is a whole other animal.
It might seem like overhype to call OSU another Alabama,
but that's what it'll be if it pulls off a win in
Columbia. If nothing else, this will be the rare
firefight between two high-octane offenses playing at
the highest level.
All Missouri has done is hang 52 on Illinois, 52 on SE
Missouri State, 69 on Nevada, 42 against Buffalo and 52
against Nebraska. The attack has been flawless,
currently ranking second in the nation in scoring
(behind Tulsa) and third in total offense (behind Tulsa
and Texas Tech). Meanwhile, Oklahoma State scores 39 in
Seattle against Washington State to open the year, 56
against Houston, 57 against Missouri State, 55 on Troy
and 56 against Texas A&M. OSU is sixth in the nation in
total offense, third in scoring, and second in rushing.
No, the Cowboys haven't exactly beaten LSU and USC, and
that's why this game is so intriguing. If the T. Boone
Pickens Cowboys are ready for prime time, we'll know it
after this weekend.
And there's so much more to this showdown.
With all due respect to Florida's Percy Harvin and North
Carolina's Brandon Tate, this will be a showcase for the
nation's two best all-around playmaking wide receivers.
Everyone knows about Missouri's Jeremy Maclin, the
highlight reel superstar who has caught 31 passes for
480 yards and five touchdowns, rushed for two scores,
and is averaging just over 10 yards per punt return and
over 30 yards per kickoff return. As good as Maclin is,
he could take a backseat if this is the coming out party
for the leader in the race for the Biletnikoff Award.
Oklahoma State sophomore Dez Bryant has gone ballistic.
He wasn't really involved in the offense against
Missouri State, he wasn't needed, but in the last three
games that have mattered he caught nine passes for 236
yards and three touchdowns against Houston, six passes
for 118 yards and three touchdowns against Troy, and
five passes for 106 yards and three touchdowns against
Texas A&M. He's averaging 20.3 yards per grab even
though every secondary has focused solely on stopping
him. Oh yeah, and he's also fourth in the nation in punt
returns averaging 23.5 yards per try with two
touchdowns. Bryant is sixth in the nation in average
all-purpose running yards per game while Maclin is
fifth. Bryant is second in the nation in scoring behind
Tiger RB Derrick Washington, who has 12 touchdowns with
two rushing scores in each of the first five games
OSU QB Zac Robinson is third in the nation in passing
efficiency. Missouri's Chase Daniel is fifth, and is
fourth in the nation in total offense. Oklahoma State's
Perrish Cox is second in the nation in kickoff returns
averaging 35.78 yards per try. OSU RB Kendall Hunter is
fifth in the nation in rushing.
In other words, as the man says, get your popcorn ready.
You're Wondering Why Terrelle Pryor Didn't Sign
After watching Darryl Clark guide Penn State to a 6-0
start, I’m wondering if Penn State should be applauded
or criticized for the quarterback’s play. For the second
time this decade, the Nittany Lions have buried a
talented quarterback until the latter stages of his
college career. Where was Clark when Anthony Morelli was
throwing bullets into the other team’s chest in
back-to-back seasons? That sounds eerily similar to the
situation involving Michael Robinson, who was forced to
play wide receiver as an ineffective Zack Mills got the
nod under center. After Mills graduated, Robinson
flourished as a senior at quarterback, earning Big Ten
Offensive Player of the Year honors. Even RB Larry
Johnson had trouble getting reps in his first three
years, languishing behind such luminaries as Eric McCoo
and Omar Easy, before exploding for 2,000 yards as a
senior in 2002. Is the Lion staff painfully loyal or
doing a poor job of evaluating players early in their
While it would have been nice if Clark had attempted
more than nine passes last season, the good news is that
he doesn’t appear to be hurting from a lack of
experience. Through six games, he’s accounted for 13
touchdowns, while throwing just a single interception.
He’s a dual-threat who’ll zip passes into tight places
and bury a defensive back when he leaves the pocket. And
he brings a swagger and confidence into the huddle
that’s reminiscent of Robinson when he finally got his
chance in 2005. No one has been more instrumental to
Penn State’s unexpected rise in the polls than No. 17.
Don’t get a false of security, Big Ten fans, that this
is the only year you’ll have to deal with the senior. A
former Prop 48 student, Clark is well on his way to
completing the required number of credits needed to earn
an extra year of eligibility for 2009.
The Tennessee Ying And The Yang
Could life get any worse for Tennessee head coach Phil Fulmer? Not
only are the Volunteers buried in the SEC East basement, needing to
escape Northern Illinois Saturday, but the program has lost the back
page in the state to Vanderbilt. Vandy is bigger than Rocky Top,
just another sign of how much things have changed in college
What’s not to like about the Dores’ first 5-0 start since 1943,
which was capped by a win over Auburn and has captured the attention
of the entire football nation? The program does things the
old-fashioned way. In a league of football factories, the athletes
are truly student-athletes, pulling double-duty at one of the most
prestigious academic institutions in the country. The even-keeled
coach, Bobby Johnson, doesn’t permit swearing on the field. The
team, still at or near the bottom of the SEC in total offense and
total defense, trades flash for fundamentals. From tackling and
turnover margin to sacks and special teams, Vanderbilt does all of
the little things needed to overcome an obvious talent gap compared
to the rest of the league. The only thing that could have made this
story more enjoyable is if I had predicted it back in August.
So where does this leave Fulmer? Technically, whatever Vanderbilt
does has no bearing on the coach’s future in Knoxville. However,
losing the spotlight to a perennial doormat sure isn’t helping.
Whatever support he had entering the season is gone, meaning change
could be in the air at the end of the season. The Vols get a
first-hand look at the Commodores on Nov. 22 in a game that’ll have
profound implications to the future of both programs.
Somewhere This Weekend, FIU And Army Fans
Got To Rejoice, Too
4. One of the great treasures of college football is found in the
fact that every Saturday (except for week two of this season, one of the
biggest duds in the sport's long history) offers numerous success
stories that hit the heartstrings in different places and from various
angles. It's not just the multiplicity of magical moments that inspires
those of us who watch this sport for a living (and believe me, watching
Iowa-Michigan State or Hawaii-Fresno State or Missouri-Nebraska for a
living is not fun; when the quality of play is poor or the matchup
doesn't sizzle, this generally wonderful job can be a downright chore).
College ball, unlike the NFL brand, sings and soars because of the
different identities, the unique regional portraits of passion and
pride, that emerge around the country every Autumn.
This past weekend offered many glimpses of gridiron glory, but the
flavor of each victory was definitely not the same at each program.
Ohio State proudly defended its Big Ten title at Wisconsin, setting up a
15-round heavyweight title bout vs. Penn State on Oct. 25. In Columbus,
conference crowns are expected, but after sweating out a close one in
Madison, perhaps Buckeye fans will appreciate how admirably consistent
their team has been over the past several seasons. (And perhaps OSU's
most ferocious critics will man up and give Mister Sweater Vest a little
For Vanderbilt, success is always expected in the classroom and in the
world's most noble professions... but not on the gridiron. The sweet
nectar of victory that's being imbibed by a parched Commodore Nation
carries a taste quite different from the brew being downed by Buckeye
The state of Ohio would have a collective coronary if forced to endure
anything close to what Vandy football fans have experienced for the past
26 years. Commodores of all ages would give their right arm and their
left leg--but not a decline in test scores or academic credentials--to
win 10 games and play a January bowl game in just one season. Even 7-5
with a bowl victory would do wonders for Nashville's Little Engine That
Illinois also registered a special victory on Saturday. No, the Illini
won't make a BCS bowl, but a decisive triumph at Michigan--a stadium
Wisconsin couldn't conquer the week before--showed that Ron Zook's
program has attained a measure of staying power in the Big Ten. For a
program that had been at the very bottom a few short seasons ago, an
upper-division conference finish, with a solid 8-4 record and a chance
at the Outback Bowl, is something to be cherished, not panned.
Victory and success, as you can plainly see, acquire different tones and
textures for various teams. It's why no two programs--or wins--are
created equal in this sport. Fans on opposite sides of various divides
would do well to walk in another program's shoes every now and then.
Don't Call It A Rebuilding Year.
O.K., Call It A Rebuilding Year.
Illinois 45, at Michigan 20
52, at Nebraska 17
nothing like the have-nots beating up the haves. I’m not
talking about a perennial down-and-outer coming through with
a miracle and squeaking by a good team as they play in front
of their rabid fans at home. No, this has nothing to do with
a last-minute field goal or a miracle goal line stand.
goes on the road to Michigan and overwhelms the Wolverines
with a huge second-half performance. Missouri goes into
Lincoln and smacks the Cornhuskers around for 60 minutes.
Neither one of these wins were flukes. Illinois has an
accomplished offense with Juice Williams at the controls and
some issues on defense but those issues were invisible
against Steven Threet and his crew of Maize and Blue
are an unstoppable force on offense with future NFL star
Chase Daniel and WR Jeremy Maclin leading the way and the
Tigers handed Nebraska its worst home defeat in 53 years.
trends continue? Possibly. But whether they do or not,
there’s something reassuring about a major turnaround. Maybe
life is fair after all and those that work hard will finally
get their rewards. You think that for about five seconds and
then realize that the Chicago Cubs are now working on their
second century of futility. Life will always hit back in one
way or another.