Fox's Top Ten: It's Hard to Win Without an Offense
As you may or may not know, it’s extremely difficult to consistently win football games at the college level without having an offense. And yet (maybe as an homage to the recently jettisoned Les Miles) some top programs are trying to do just that. Stanford places the entire offensive burden on the shoulders of Christian McCaffrey, so Washington just stacked the box, shut him down, and blew out the Cardinal 44-6. Wisconsin doesn’t have its usual star running back and it has no quarterback, so Michigan was easily able to stifle the Badgers in a 14-7 win. Both of those teams are out of these rankings this week, replaced by newcomers Tennessee and Baylor.
In other news, Indiana got its first win over a ranked Big Ten team since 2006 by knocking off #17 Michigan State 24-21 in OT. The Hoosiers won the game on the strength of its defense (seriously), causing this intrepid sports blogger to fire off some postgame analysis.
Let’s check out this week’s top ten.
10. Baylor (Last Week: Not Ranked)
The Bears’ strong start to the season is making a lot of people uncomfortable. After an off-season in which Baylor’s football team and administration made headlines for all the wrong reasons, it now has the Big 12’s best (and perhaps last) chance at making it to the College Football Playoff. Even after nearly losing to future Auburn head coach Matt Campbell and Iowa State, the Bears crack these rankings on the strength of their quick-strike offense. It’ll probably be a while before they go anywhere, as Baylor now has an incredible three straight bye weeks.
9. Tennessee (Last Week: Not Ranked)
Imagine how dangerous Tennessee would be if the Vols ever started a game off strong. But more than that, teams keep letting Tennessee off the hook time and time again by not Double Tapping (super timely pop culture reference, I know).
Tennessee has trailed by double digits in four of its first five games, teams haven’t hit Tennessee with that figurative second bullet, and the Vols have come back to win every time.
- Down 13-3 to Appalachian State (won 20-13 in OT)
- Down 14-0 to Virginia Tech (won 45-24)
- Down 21-0 to Florida (won 38-28)
- Down 17-0 to Georgia (won 34-31)
Joshua Dobbs has started to live up to the hype a bit, posting 655 total yards of offense and nine touchdowns in the Vols first two SEC games. That being said, the debate on whether Dobbs is better than college Vince Young is one of the dumbest in television history. Not as dumb as this:
…but it’s pretty close. Dobbs and Tennessee face Texas A&M this week, a team that will likely blow out the Vols if Tennessee starts slowly again.
8. Texas A&M (Last Week: 10)
A&M won an extremely ugly game over South Carolina in which zero touchdown passes were thrown and Trevor Knight’s 206 passing yards were a game-high. The teams combined for five fumbles and two interceptions, meaning this game was about as watchable as Purdue/Nevada. I’m convinced Will Muschamp won’t be satisfied until all football games end 10-7. The Aggies play Tennessee on CBS, marking the third straight week the Vols will be on CBS. If Verne Lunquist was having second thoughts about calling it quits, having to endure staring at Tennessee orange for three straight games will definitely dissuade him from coming back.
7. Louisville (Last Week: 3)
If you, like me, were shocked that James Quick went out of bounds instead of cutting towards the middle of the field on Louisville’s final play, this helps explain what contributed to that happening.
If you watched Louisville’s heartbreaking 42-36 loss in Death Valley, you should have had one major takeaway about the Cardinals: Lamar Jackson is legit. For him to take the abuse he did in the first half, then finish with 457 total yards and three touchdowns against one of the best defenses in the country, is nothing short of incredible. If Louisville wins out, I see no reason for it to be left out of the playoff.
6. Houston (Last Week: 6)
Can we just sim Houston’s schedule until the Louisville game? It doesn’t look like anyone in the AAC can even play with, let alone beat, the Cougars. Last time out Houston walloped Connecticut 42-14. The Notre Dame fan in me was hoping for an even bigger blowout so Bob Diaco would get fired on the spot and be able to retake his defensive coordinator position under Brian Kelly. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen–although Greg Ward had a stellar “don’t forget about me, Heisman voters” performance, throwing for 389 yards and accounting for five touchdowns. Houston takes on what could be its most challenging conference opponent in Navy this week.
5. Michigan (Last Week: 5)
It turns out Michigan’s offense is decidedly less dominant when it plays a capable defense. The Wolverines’ struggles to pull away from a team that doesn’t play offense emphasized just how wide a gap there currently is between Ohio State and the rest of the conference. Expect Michigan to take out its frustration on a wildly over-matched Buttgers team.
4. Washington (Last Week: 9)
Here’s the worst gambling take of last week:
Washington emphatically announced the end of Stanford and Oregon’s reign atop the Pac-12 with an absolute demolition of the Cardinal. Stanford got pushed around in the trenches all night, Christian McCaffrey totaled just 79 yards from scrimmage, and then Stanford realized it had no other offensive weapons.
While that win officially put the college football nation on notice, Washington doesn’t have much time to celebrate. Next up is a trip to rival Oregon, who will be donning these sick uniforms for the occasion.
3. Clemson (Last Week: 4)
Deshaun Watson finally had the huge game everyone has been waiting for. His five touchdowns, including two in the final seven minutes, spearheaded Clemson’s rally to knock off Louisville (we’re going to ignore the three interceptions at the moment). With a very favorable schedule the rest of the way, Clemson has the inside track to claim a playoff spot. Watson and the Tigers have a Friday night match-up against Boston College next.
2. Ohio State (Last Week: 2)
The Buckeyes wrapped up their non-conference slate by blanking rutger 58-0 (if you are thinking about correcting me, read some of that good anti-rutger content at crimson quarry dot com). Next up for Ohio State is #CHAOSTEAM, also known as Indiana. Although the Hoosiers nearly beat Ohio State last year with its B Team offense and without its best defender (sadly, that’s not even me being bitter–it’s factual), I do not have high hopes for this game. Urban Meyer hurt his team last year by trying so hard to make Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller a thing. Now he’s just letting JT Barrett sling the ball around and the Buckeyes are dominating everyone. Even though this is the best Indiana team in quite some time, Ohio State looks as good as it’s ever been, too.
1. Alabama (Last Week: 1)
After beating what was allegedly a football team from Kentucky, Alabama’s schedule now gets very interesting. The Tide travel to face BERT and 16th ranked Arkansas in what could be their biggest test to date. As if beating the #1 team in the country wasn’t incentive enough for Arkansas, a Fayetteville pizzeria has promised to give away 1,000 free pizzas if the Hogs pulls off the upset. This is just brilliant marketing, nothing motivates a noted fat guy like Bielema more than the promise of free food. We’ll see if it pays off.