MJ’s minute: Sept. 2, 2014
Videographer: The News-Gazette
Marcus Jackson looks back at Jalen Brunson’s visit – and ahead to Jawun Evans’ weekend trip to C-U
Other Related Content
Team of the Week
North Dakota State
New coach. New players. Same old Bison. The FCS power spotted Iowa State a 14-0 lead, then outscored the Cyclones 34-0 the rest of the way. We should no longer be surprised when North Dakota State beats up on an FBS school. Saturday’s romp makes it five in a row for the Bison against the FBS, including last year’s shocker against Kansas State. They also beat Colorado State, Minnesota and Kansas. Wow. At some point, the FBS schools are going to stop scheduling the Bison. First-year coach Chris Klieman is trying to lead North Dakota State to its fourth consecutive FCS title. Do not bet against him. You will likely be wrong. Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads has had his name come up for other openings in the past. He might be regretting he didn’t move.
Team of the Weak
The crowd was revved up. But not for long. Playing in front of a throng almost three times as large as the one at Illinois’ Memorial Stadium, the Gamecocks appeared lifeless in a blowout loss to Texas A&M. Give a bunch of credit to the Aggies, who are just fine without Johnny Manziel at quarterback. But without Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina appears to be in trouble. Legendary coach Steve Spurrier was beside himself during a halftime interview with the SEC Network, basically saying “We stink.” At least he stuck around for the second half. He’s got more problems coming, playing this week without star running back Mike Davis. The schedule is nasty, with games against Georgia, Missouri and Auburn. Getting to a bowl game might be a challenge. A steep drop for a team some thought would contend in the SEC.
1. Florida State
Nobody believed Jimbo Fisher when he tried to warn them that Oklahoma State would give his Seminoles a game. We believe him now. Mike Gundy’s Cowboys almost ended Florida State’s national-title defense in the opener. Florida State won’t be able to play less than its best in every game and get away with it. Jameis Winston didn’t look like a Heisman Trophy winner until he really needed to late in the game. The Seminoles can relax Saturday, when The Citadel visits Doak Campbell Stadium for a blowout loss. The next major challenge for the Seminoles won’t come until Notre Dame visits in mid-October. Until then, count on Florida State romps and Fisher cries of concern.
The Ducks warmed up for their biggest game of the year by putting 62 points on South Dakota. They should be concerned that the Coyotes were able to score 13. Marcus Mariota didn’t need to do much in the opener, hitting 14 of 20 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns. Oregon welcomes Michigan State early Saturday evening for a game on Fox. Winner moves to the top of the playoff list. Loser wonders what it was thinking when it scheduled such an important game so early in the season. Of course, the folks in charge of the playoffs swear that schools will be rewarded for playing aggressive nonconference schedules. It doesn’t get any more aggressive than playing the defending Rose Bowl champions. Folks in the know think Michigan State was the best team in the country at the end of last season. Folks in the know know what they are talking about. Important to remind you that as good as the Ducks are at home, they are beatable. But it will take a near-perfect game.
3. Michigan State
Why is everyone so high on the Spartans this season? Mostly because of quarterback Connor Cook. The junior slinger showed off in the opener against Jacksonville State, completing 12 of 13 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns. What happened on the miss? Cook might need to repeat his opening effort for the Spartans to win at Autzen Stadium. Michigan State needs to get more yards out of its running game, too. Hold the ball and keep Mariota off the field is the best way to beat the Webfoots. The Spartans don’t have the same pieces that dominated on defense last season, but Pat Narduzzi is still in charge. And that’s a good thing. Someday very soon he will run his own program and make the big bucks like Mark Dantonio. If the Spartans stop Oregon, Narduzzi should go into the AD’s office on Sunday and ask for a big raise. Good chance he will get it. By the way, the dude already is making $904,583. They need to have a bake sale at the Michigan State athletic offices.
Fifth-year senior quarterback Blake Sims played well in his debut, throwing for 250 yards and running for another 44. But the Crimson Tide was pushed more than expected by West Virginia in a 33-23 win. Florida State transfer Jake Coker was supposed to play in the game. But he never got off the bench other than to congratulate his teammates. Look for both players to get some time Saturday when Alabama hosts Florida Atlantic. Nick Saban can experiment the next couple of weeks before needing to go with his best option in a Sept. 20 game against Florida. Doesn’t really matter as long T.J. Yeldon keeps running like a Heisman candidate on his way to an early entry into the NFL.
Bob Stoops and the Sooners didn’t let the Sugar Bowl win against Alabama go to their heads, pounding Louisiana Tech in the opener. Oklahoma took a 31-0 lead in the second quarter and was never threatened. Quarterback Trevor Knight, who gained a lot of attention in the win against Alabama, threw for 253 yards and a touchdown. This week, the Sooners are doing their part for the state economy, playing at Tulsa in a game that is sure to be filled with Oklahoma fans. The Golden Hurricane is coming off a close win against Tulane. Oklahoma’s eclectic schedule continues the following week with a visit from Tennessee.
It turns out that the Tigers can survive with Nick Marshall on the bench … for a half. That’s how long the star quarterback had to sit against Arkansas for getting ticketed for marijuana possession in July. Smart-guy coach Gus Malzahn simply handed the starting job to Jeremy Johnson, who threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns in a convincing win against Arkansas. Bret Bielema must want his old job back. Auburn welcomes better-than-you-think San Jose State to Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday before a nonconference challenge Sept. 18 at Kansas State.
7. Ohio State
No question, the Buckeyes can win without Braxton Miller at quarterback. But can they dominate? After one game, the answer is “No.” Ohio State struggled against Navy at Baltimore, trailing at halftime before winning 34-17. Coach Urban Meyer turned conservative, not wanting to place too much of a burden on new quarterback J.T. Barrett. The redshirt freshman threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns. Barrett threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to put the Buckeyes up in the third quarter. Meyer needs to put more faith in his quarterback during a Saturday night game against Virginia Tech. The Hokies smell an upset.
Todd Gurley put himself at the top of the Heisman watch list (more on that later), running for 198 yards and three touchdowns and returning a kickoff 100 yards for another score in a 45-21 win against rival Clemson. He gained 17 yards on every touch and broke Rodney Hampson’s school record for all-purpose yards in a game. Gurley won’t get to rest long. Not with a trip to South Carolina on Saturday. Coming off the devastating loss to Texas A&M, the Gamecocks figure to be angry. Really angry. Gurley should wear a few extra pads. Just in case.
9. Texas A&M
Want to find your school a top quarterback? Check out the sons of former major league pitchers. The Aggies have landed a humdinger in Kenny Hill, the offspring of former Cardinals pitcher Ken Hill. The proud father was in the stands at South Carolina, watching his kid throw for 511 yards against the Gamecocks. He even mentioned the idea of his son doubling in baseball. No wonder the SEC is so good. Hill and friends will be able to name the score when the Aggies host Lamar at Kyle Field. Texas A&M should be 5-0 going into an Oct. 4 game at Mississippi State. By then, Hill could be a major player in the Heisman race.
Give the Bears credit for opening their new place, McLane Stadium, in style. First, they welcomed back former Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. The school put up a statue to honor the former star, then went out and pounded SMU 45-0. It wasn’t all fun. Quarterback and Heisman candidate Bryce Petty got hit hard early in the game and appeared to be in pain the rest of the first half. The Baylor defense was a pain for SMU, sacking the Mustangs quarterbacks eight times. Just another sign that Baylor can do more than fire the ball down the field. There should be no struggles for the Bears on Saturday against Northwestern State.
128. Iowa State
Shouldn’t the Cyclones have known? Don’t they have YouTube in Ames? Hadn’t they seen past North Dakota State upsets? At least new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino got his guys going with 14 quick points. Then, nothing. Except the sound of the crowd filing out the exits into the happiness of central Iowa. When does wrestling season start? The Cyclones don’t figure to get a win any time soon. Next up, ranked Kansas State visits Jack Trice Stadium. Then, the Cyclones face bitter rival Iowa. It is going to be a long year in Ames.
127. Florida International
Ron Turner’s second season with the Golden Panthers is not off to a good start. His team lost a home game to Bethune-Cookman. Florida International had a chance to win on the final play but fumbled a field goal attempt. Turner’s team should score its first win Saturday against Wagner. But that will be followed by difficult games against Pitt and Louisville.
Clearly, James Franklin knew what he was doing when he fled the Commodores for Penn State. Vanderbilt got smacked in its opener, losing 37-7 to Temple. It won’t get any better this week when Vanderbilt plays Mississippi at LP Field. Do any of the Titans have college eligibility?
Think Kevin Sumlin ever misses his time with the Cougars? Doubt it. The slide at Houston continued with a lopsided loss to UTSA. No offense to the Roadrunners. The Cougars drop down a division Saturday, looking for a win against Grambling. The good news for Houston is that it plays in the American, which has a less-than-imposing football lineup.
124. Southern Miss
Todd Monken is trying to return the Golden Eagles to their glory days. But it isn’t going to be easy. Mississippi State shut out Monken’s team 49-0 in the opener and outgained Southern Miss 550-283. The Golden Eagles should be able to dent the win column Saturday against Alcorn State. After that comes trouble, a game at Alabama. Good luck with that.
Ranking the leagues from first to worst:
3. Big Ten
4. Big 12
8. Mountain West
9. Conference USA
10. Sun Belt
1. Todd Gurley, Georgia. Endless chances to prove himself against the powerful SEC. The big question is can he stay healthy? If he keeps running like he did in the opener, he will shake hands with Herschel Walker at the awards ceremony in New York.
2. Kenny Hill, Texas A&M. Huddle Up has a vote and was ready to send him the bronze statue after the first half of the South Carolina game. He showed great poise, an accurate arm and a flair for the dramatic. Kind of like Johnny Football without all of the attitude. The SEC exposure helps his chances. The lack of past experience hurts. But he is already on the radar of every voter. Big openers will do that for you.
3. Jameis Winston, Florida State. He is the defending champion. And his team did win its opener, though not as convincingly as most expected. Because his team was so dominant and he was so dominant in 2013, Winston is going to have to do a little bit more to repeat as winner. Fair? Of course not. But this is college football.
Labor to watch
You used to be able to count on an interesting Labor Day college football game to keep you busy after the cookout. Not this year. The best we could do was Miami-Louisville, which was won by the Cardinals. AP voters were allowed to hold onto their ballots until after the game. But it wasn’t really necessary. H.U. kept the Cardinals off his ballot this week. Here’s hoping that more teams take advantage of the holiday in future years.
Eight SEC teams remain ranked in this week’s AP Top 25. Not even a blowout loss was enough to knock South Carolina out. And there are other teams in the league ready to join the rankings, with Florida, Mississippi State and Tennessee among others receiving votes. If the league gets to 11 ranked teams, everybody else should think about quitting or forming a new division: The NSECA. That’s No SEC Allowed.
Tim Beckman’s old league got off to a solid start, going 8-5 in its openers. One of the losses came in a conference game as Ohio beat Kent State. The other four losses came against the Big Ten (Purdue over Western Michigan), the ACC (Boston College over UMass), a dark horse for a big bowl (Marshall over Miami) and a sizzling quarterback (Western Kentucky over Bowling Green). Northern Illinois has a chance to knock off Northwestern this week. The Huskies have been a pain for the Power Five for years. Expect a handful of wins by the MAC in the postseason.
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.