We’re only two weeks into the season–and Cincinnati still has yet to play a game for some reason–but there have already been some developments that could have major playoff implications. The Pac-12 has served notice that it’s going to be a major player in the playoff race while another major conference has sent the opposite message. A tradition-rich yet seemingly-forgotten program has staked its claim to the Group of Five’s New Year’s Day slot.
Oregon cleared a major hurdle by racing past Michigan State in the weekend’s marquee game. In a matchup of top-ten teams, the Ducks rallied from a nine-point deficit in the third quarter and won easily, 46-27. A week after exploding on offense to demolish Fresno State, the USC Trojans showed they can also with defense by defeating Stanford 13-10 on the road. Given UCLA’s lackluster start to the season, it’s beginning to look like the Ducks and Trojans are headed for a showdown in the Pac-12 title game.
BYU hasn’t been getting much attention, but that should change after the Cougars ran roughshod over Texas for the second year in a row. A 28-point third quarter allowed BYU to pull away en route to a 41-7 victory over the Longhorns. The Cougars play Central Florida, Boise State, Utah State, and California, so if they keep this up, they’ll make things difficult for the playoff committee.
Looking ahead, there isn’t a whole lot going on in Week 3. However, the one good game is a doozy. SEC East rivals Georgia and South Carolina square off in a battle that could go a long way towards determining who wins the division and gets a chance to play in the SEC championship game.
Recapping Week 2: B1G Faceplant
For a conference that has been rather defensive about its perceived reputation of late, last weekend could not have come at a worse time for the Big Ten. The league has taken plenty of heat for not being able to win marquee non-conference games, and this past weekend did little to convince people otherwise.
Michigan State gave Oregon all it could handle for awhile, but then the Ducks exploded for 28 unanswered points in the second half against the Spartans’ vaunted defense to win going away.
Preseason-favorite Ohio State lost at home to unranked Virginia Tech, 35-21, the Buckeyes’ first loss in a home opener in 36 years. To make matters worse, it was the largest crowd in school history. The Buckeyes have now lost three-of-their-last-four games.
It could be worse, though. At least the Buckeyes aren’t Michigan. The Wolverines lost to despised rival Notre Dame, 31-0. It was the most lopsided Irish win the series–which goes on hiatus indefinitely–and the first time Michigan has been shut out in 365 games.
Northwestern continued its awesome start to the season, going 0-2 after losing to MAC foe Northern Illinois. The dumpster fire that is Purdue football showed little sign of abating as the Boilermakers were soundly defeated by Central Michigan.
Even the league’s wins were unimpressive. Iowa needed a late rally to get past Ball State 17-13 while Nebraska narrowly escaped McNeese State 31-24 with less than a minute to go after Ameer Abdullah scored a 58-yard touchdown after breaking a tackle by seemingly every defender on McNeese’s roster.
Wisconsin was sluggish against Western Illinois, leading only 9-3 at the half, and Maryland had to rally to beat South Florida 24-17.
There has been some talk that the Big Ten may not qualify a team for the playoff, which seems premature considering the season is just two weeks old, but the conference’s resume is looking awfully thin at this point. If the decision comes down to say, an Oklahoma State team that ran the gauntlet of the Big 12 and gave Florida State all it could handle versus an Ohio State squad that lost to Virginia Tech and nearly lost to Navy, the playoff committee will choose the former.
Future Jeopardy Answer of the Week
You’re probably heard of the South Carolina Gamecocks. After all, it’s a pretty unique name.
But what is a gamecock, and why is it the mascot for the University of South Carolina?
Well, have you ever heard of cockfighting? A gamecock is a rooster used for fighting, and they are fierce, aggressive birds.
According to the University of South Carolina’s athletics website, the school’s teams have been known as the Gamecocks for over 100 years. Cockfighting was quite popular in the 1800s, and South Carolina was a major producer of combat-ready roosters. As if that weren’t enough, General Thomas Sumter–famed Revolutionary War hero and the man for whom Fort Sumter in Charleston is named–was known as “The Fighting Gamecock” by the British for his ferocity in battle, so the term has a rich association with the Palmetto State.
Tailgate Adventure of the Week
Speaking of the Gamecocks, they have one of the coolest and most unique tailgating venues in the nation: the Cockaboose Railroad. Just outside the south side of Williams-Brice Stadium is a set of railroad tracks holding 22 stationary cabooses. Each car is unique, but all have amenities such as flat-screen TVs, heating/air conditioning, electricity, running water, and rooftop party decks. They are often used to watch away games, too.
The cabooses were installed in March 1990 by a couple of local residents and put on sale for $45,000 apiece. Twenty were sold within two days, and of the original 22 owners, 12 still own their cars to this day.
So if you’re ever in Columbia on game days, be sure to swing by and check out the Cockaboose Railroad.
Week 3 Game of the Week
Georgia at South Carolina
The sixth-ranked Bulldogs travel to Columbia to take on #24 South Carolina in an early SEC East showdown.
The Gamecocks entered the year with a top-ten ranking and plenty of hype, but a blowout loss to Texas A&M followed with a less-than-impressive showing against East Carolina have cooled people’s attitudes towards South Carolina.
Georgia opened the year with an impressive beatdown of Clemson, vaulting the Bulldogs into the top ten and running back Todd Gurley to the top of many Heisman frontrunner lists. Georgia had a bye week last week, so the Bulldogs should be healthy and well-rested for their division foe.
The games between these two teams are always entertaining and never lacking in drama. The winner gets an early leg up in race for the SEC East crown as well as a boost to their playoff hopes. The loser will have quite the hole to climb out of. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier takes immense glee in tweaking the noses of the Bulldogs (although, to be fair, he does that with pretty much any SEC team), but the Gamecocks lack the star power to keep up with Gurley and the Bulldogs.