Tag: AAC

Taking Stock: Surprises and Misses for College Football’s First Quarter

 

Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel Eludes an Alabama Defender (David J. Phillips/Associated Press)

Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel Eludes an Alabama Defender (David J. Phillips/Associated Press)

 

Week 3 is in the books, meaning we have unofficially completed the first quarter of the 2013 college football season. Let’s take a look back and see what transpired over the first three weeks.

Watch Out for the Little Guy

It happens every year: teams load up their non-conference schedule with cream-puff teams in order to get a few easy wins and get a step closer to bowl eligibility. These teams are just supposed to take their check, suffer a humiliating defeat, and then go on their way.

This year, somebody forgot to mention the “loss” part to the FCS.

The little guys have had enough, and they have sure showed it. In the first week of the season, eight FCS teams pulled off upsets. Some weren’t surprising–Georgia State and South Alabama are both transitioning to the FBS and are basically still at the level of FCS teams–but most were downright shocking.

Sure, North Dakota State is the defending FCS champion and a powerhouse at that level, but Kansas State is the defending Big 12 champion and was a game away from playing for a national title last year. Oregon State had a tremendous year last year and started the year ranked in the top 25, yet the Beavers fell to Eastern Washington and became just the fourth ranked team to lose to a lower-level opponent. San Diego State was a dark horse Mountain West contender but fell handily to Eastern Illinois.

The most surprising results were definitely UConn and South Florida. It wasn’t just that both teams lost at home, it’s that they got blown out.  Towson ran all over UConn in an easy 33-18 victory while McNeese State was up 33-7 over South Florida at halftime en route to a 53-21 win.

The upsets have continued as Maine knocked off UMass while Fordham took down Temple on a last-second Hail Mary this past weekend.

Game of the Millennium

Rarely has the most-anticipated game of the year been played so early in the season, but that was indeed the case as #1 Alabama and #6 Texas A&M squared off Saturday afternoon in College Station. Led by Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, the Aggies handed Alabama its only loss last year.

Both teams came into the year harboring SEC and national championship aspirations, and the winner of Saturday’s colossal showdown figured to have the inside track in the SEC West. Manziel and the Aggies raced out to a 14-0 lead, but AJ McCarron brought the Tide back and shredded A&M’s defense as the Crimson Tide scored 35 unanswered points. Alabama’s Heisman contender was a sterling 20-of-29 for 334 yards and 4 touchdowns with no interceptions.

The game figured to be over at that point, but Manziel reminded everyone why he’s the reigning Heisman winner. He went 28-of-39 for 464 yards and 5 touchdowns with 2 interceptions–including a costly pick-six–and tacked on 98 rushing yards. His favorite target was Mike Evans, who finished with an absurd stat line: 279 yards and a touchdown on only 7 receptions for an otherworldly 39.9 yards per catch. Manziel twice got A&M within a touchdown at 35-28 and 49-42, but the Aggies ran out of time.

There is no truth to the rumor that missing persons reports were filed with College Station PD for both defenses after nobody saw them at all on Saturday. The Crimson Tide ran all over the Aggies, racking up 568 yards of total offense, including 234 on the ground. Alabama’s vaunted defense was torched, giving up a school-record 628 yards of offense to Texas A&M. Those questions about whether A&M’s spread attack would work in the SEC?

Yeah, they’ve been answered.

Rise of the Pac-12

The first three weeks have made one thing abundantly clear: the Pac-12 is good and deep this year. The league is clearly the strongest league outside of the SEC and the one most likely to de-throne the champs. Oregon has boat-raced everyone it’s faced thus far, including a 59-14 shellacking of Tennessee last weekend.

ACC Flexing Its Muscles

For the past few years, the former Big East and the ACC have been derided as the weakest of the BCS conferences. The leagues continuously failed to produce legitimate national title contenders and generally performed poorly in marquee contests against other conferences.

The ACC is keen to change that perception and is doing well thus far this year. The league’s top two teams, Clemson and Florida State, are both undefeated and ranked in the top ten. Clemson is currently ranked third and opened the season with a win over SEC power Georgia while Florida State is rolling behind quarterback Jameis Winston.

Miami appears to be back on the right track after a downturn in recent seasons as the Hurricanes defeated another SEC titan in in-state rival Florida.

AAC Stumbling

Unlike the ACC, the AAC has not done much to improve its perception. Louisville has lived up to its billing, but a weak schedule stands to keep Louisville from climbing much higher.

Aside from the Cardinals, the rest of the conference hasn’t done its part. Cincinnati, generally considered the league’s second-best program, got crushed by woeful Illinois 45-17 in week 2. Rutgers lost to Fresno State of the Mountain West on opening night. South Florida and UConn suffered the aforementioned horrible losses to FCS opponents, and the Bulls followed that up with a loss to Florida Atlantic. Temple also lost to an FCS foe.

With most conferences having adopted a nine-game schedule, that means that conference play begins in earnest this week. The matchups will get better, and we’ll start to get a better idea of who the contenders are and who is just pretending.

 

 

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Can Louisville go all the way, or will someone ground the Cards?

Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater (Chris Gaythern/Getty Images)

Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater (Chris Gaythern/Getty Images)

No conference epitomizes conference realignment and its effects on the collegiate landscape more than the American Athletic Conference, formerly known as the Big East.

Off the field, it has been a bit of a nightmare for the former Big East. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are now in the ACC, and Louisville will be joining them next year. Rutgers bolted to the Big 10, and Notre Dame–a non-football member–is taking its other sports to the ACC as well. Boise State and San Diego State had second thoughts and opted to stay in the Mountain West.

Another blow came when the non-football members of the league were fed up with football taking such a priority and split off to form their own conference, taking the Big East name with them.

Luckily, the conference managed to find some success on the field. Half the teams in the conference posted at least eight wins, including two teams with double-digit wins. Cincinnati went 10-3 with a victory over Virginia Tech, but the real highlight of the season came from Louisville. The Cardinals went 11-2 behind quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, a 2013 Heisman favorite, and pummeled mighty Florida 33-23 in the Sugar Bowl.

With the return of Bridgewater and a favorable schedule, Louisville is setting its sights high. Cardinal fans aren’t just hoping for another BCS berth, they want the football team to follow in the steps of the men’s basketball team and bring home a national championship. Papa John’s for everyone!

(more…)

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