Getting to know the 2013 season
Here's hoping the BMOC doesn't get whacked while standing outside the team bus at an airport …
Five weeks into the season and here's what we know:
We know that Alabama can still resemble Alabama when properly motivated (thank you, Ole Miss' Bo Wallace).
We know that Oregon has outscored its first four opponents 239-43. And that the Ducks like playing in the rain.
We know that USC athletic director Pat Haden isn't going to be doing any Human Resources seminars on firing protocol. We also know that USC only had 55 recruited scholarship players for its game at Arizona State. Penn State, which is under far worse NCAA sanctions than USC, has managed to cobble together 71 active players on scholarship.
We know that Saturday's ACC matchup between Syracuse and Clemson still feels weird. It will be the first-ever regular-season meeting between the two programs and only the second overall.
We know that Stanford is for real. And that the Washington team it is playing Saturday at The Farm is also for real.
We know LSU's secondary curls into the fetal position whenever you say the words "Aaron Murray."
We know Louisville plays Temple on Saturday, which means we still have to wait until Oct. 10 for the Cardinals to play anybody (Rutgers).
We know that Florida State's defense has some issues to address and that the next four games (Maryland, at Clemson, NC State and Miami) will make or break the Seminoles' season.
We know Georgia might get a rematch with Bama in the SEC championship.
We know Texas A&M can win a tough game on the road -- and the victory at Arkansas was a tough game.
We know South Carolina is lucky to have quarterback Dylan Thompson.
We know we wouldn't want to play UCLA after a bye week and a chance for the Bruins to collect themselves after dealing with the death of walk-on wide receiver Nick Pasquale.
We know that Northwestern has a chance to establish itself as a real player this season with a win at home against Ohio State this week.
We know Michigan ought to hand the ball more often to Fitzgerald Toussaint.
We know Baylor has a weird schedule (off two out of the last three weeks).
We know that Wisconsin is the best 3-2 team in the country.
We know the Big Ten doesn't want to see Northern Illinois anymore.
We know people don't know much about Texas Tech and Fresno State -- but will.
Do you hear that?
A preponderance of bass, perhaps?
Thanks to the overwhelming response to last week's "Risky Business" schtick, BMOC is going to make "Yes, No, Maybe" a weekly thing.
My column, my rules.
Has the Pac-12 surpassed the SEC in football quality?
Of course, some Pac-12 enthusiasts will argue otherwise. These are the same people who will argue that "The Newsroom" is better than "Breaking Bad."
The Pac-12 is good. Very good. Maybe national title good. But until the Pac-12 actually wins more than one BCS Championship (its one and only BCS title game victory came in the 2005 FedEx Orange Bowl -- and USC later had to vacate the win), I'm sticking with the SEC.
The last seven national championships have been won by SEC teams. The last two have been won by the same SEC team, Alabama. The defending Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Manziel, plays for an SEC team, Texas A&M. The best running back (and possibly best player) in the country, Todd Gurley, plays for an SEC team, Georgia. Seven SEC teams are in this week's AP poll, compared to five for the Pac-12. The No. 1 team is Alabama. Five of the last eight No. 1 recruiting classes belonged to SEC programs. And in the always fluid 2014 rankings, five of the top 10 and nine of the top 16 programs are from the SEC.
The Pac-12 is closing the gap. The conference is deeper and more talented than when Pete Carroll led USC to that championship back in the day. And nobody is in a hurry to play Oregon or Stanford these days.
But the league hasn't passed the SEC. It hasn't even caught up to it. But for a healthy change of pace, the SEC sees the Pac-12 in its rearview mirror.
Oklahoma State was overrated.
Just because the Cowboys lost at Couchtown, doesn't mean they were a fraud. It does mean that OSU quarterback J.W. Walsh picked a bad day to throw two interceptions; Ben Grogan picked a bad day to miss two field goals; and Kip Smith picked a bad day to mix in punts of 16 yards and 13 yards, both of which eventually led to West Virginia touchdowns.
The Mountaineers were due. Their two losses had come on the road and against teams (Oklahoma and Maryland) that are a combined 8-0. And maybe, just maybe, Oklahoma State underestimated how difficult it can be to win in Morgantown.
Florida is a better team with Tyler Murphy at quarterback.
Murphy and the Gators are 2-0 since Jeff Driskel was lost for the season with a broken leg. They beat Tennessee and Kentucky, two programs in rebuild mode. In fact, it doesn't matter if UK is rebuilding or not: Florida has beaten the Wildcats 27 consecutive times.
The next six games will be a better indicator of the Murphy Effect: Arkansas, at LSU, at Mizzou, the annual Georgia game, Vandy and at South Carolina.
Nothing against Driskel, but the Gators do seem to function better with Murphy so far. Murphy completed 15 of 18 passes for 156 yards and one touchdown with one interception against Kentucky. And he's a threat as a runner.
But it's not as if Murphy is slinging it around. Of those 15 completions, only one went for 20 yards or more. Nine were for 9 yards or fewer.
Florida coach Will Muschamp understands the limitations of this team. It is built around the running game, clock control and a defense that must make do without star defensive tackle Dominique Easley, who, like Driskel, is lost for the season because of injury.
I suffered a brain freeze last week by placing Florida ahead of Miami in the ESPN power rankings.
One Hurricane fan reminded me in an email that Miami actually beat Florida on Sept. 7 and asked how I could justify ranking the Gators ahead of UM. Then the fan politely suggested I place my hand in a garbage disposal -- while it was running.
This week I corrected the error.
Notre Dame is cooked after the loss to Oklahoma at home.
Someone kidnapped the Tommy Rees I watched earlier in the season. This other Tommy Rees is 23 of his last 58 for 246 yards, 3 TDs and 3 interceptions during the last two games.
The loss against OU isn't a stunner. The Sooners were motivated and underrated.
Notre Dame has some soft spots. But it can still win its next six games and squirm its way into a BCS bowl.
I DVR'd the LSU-Georgia game, watched it once and might watch it again. When it comes to subplots, entertainment value and big-boy football, it's going to be hard to hit the delete button on this one.
Zach Mettenberger had his issues at UGA before being drop-kicked out of the program, but even Bulldog fans had to admire the way he played for LSU in the 44-41 loss. And anybody who has ripped Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray in the past needs to send him an apology note.
Now that October has arrived -- and with it, more than a month's worth of work to judge players -- the BMOC presents its first Heisman rankings.
1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon.
2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M.
3. Tajh Boyd, Clemson.
4. Aaron Murray, Georgia.
5. Todd Gurley, Georgia.
6. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville.
7. AJ McCarron, Alabama.
8. Brett Hundley, UCLA.
9. Jameis Winston, Florida State.
10. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor.
Just in case you were wondering why Ohio State's Urban Meyer makes the big money, it's because he isn't afraid to make a difficult decision.
He started Braxton Miller against Wisconsin and kept him in the entire game. There were no mixed messages. No second thoughts. No guilt about keeping Kenny Guiton, who had done a wonderful job for Ohio State in Miller's absence, on the bench.
Miller rewarded him with a solid, near-error-free game (17 of 25 for 198 yards, 4 TDs, 0 interceptions, 83 rushing yards) in the win against Wisconsin.
The Man of Troy -- USC athletic director Pat Haden -- didn't distinguish himself in the clumsy firing of Lane Kiffin.
The video link: click here.
I have a long history of ripping the NCAA for almost always doing the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong people.
But when it came time to consider providing scholarship relief to Penn State, the NCAA did the absolute right thing at the right time to the right people -- the handful of additional players who now will benefit from receiving a full ride at State College.
To those morally outraged by the NCAA's decision, please go drink an Orange Crush and relax. It's not like the NCAA gave Penn State a full pardon. Far from it. The Nittany Lions are still weighed down by the harshest collection of penalties ever levied against a program.
Penn State will get five additional scholarships next year, with the number gradually increasing -- if it continues to satisfy the many demands of the NCAA relative to the Freeh Report and the Athletics Integrity Agreement.
No amount of sanctions will ever repair the damage done to the victims of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Certainly scholarship reductions aren't going to make the victims' lives whole again.
Penn State is trying to right a massive wrong. This is the conclusion of former Sen. George Mitchell, whose recent annual report (followed by discussions with NCAA decision-makers) on Penn State's progress had much to do with the modest scholarship relief.
There is more work to be done and many more penalties to be served. But under these particular circumstances and with the benefit of time and perspective, the NCAA made the rare right call.
According to ESPN RecruitingNation's most recent 2014 class rankings, Alabama is No. 1, followed by FSU, Tennessee, Miami and Georgia.
Ole Miss is No. 14. Last year, in Hugh Freeze's first season, it was No. 5, thanks to a class that included two of the top five overall prospects in the country and three players ranked at the top of their positions.
So I asked Freeze about the reaction to his recruiting success during last week's visit to Oxford. The conversation:
GW: "So when you recruit as well as you recruit, do you hear the whispers?"
FREEZE: "Oh gosh, well, it's been more than whispers. It's been a constant barrage of accusations and, you know, everything you can imagine. And boy, you stay up at night thinking about those things. I know in my heart of hearts that we are doing things the right way with our staff and the way we go about things. Do you make mistakes that are the NCAA secondary violations? Of course.
"In my tweet that I sent out -- it's famous now -- I said, 'Man, if anybody has something, [tell us].' You know, and boy, did we hear from 'em, you know? I feel like we've been through a full-body search.
"And we'll continue to evaluate everything we do. And I hope and pray that anyone involved in our program … I want everything to be above reproach. And I'm doing everything within my power to make sure it's that way. And again, I have great confidence in the way we do things … and hopefully that message is loud and clear to -- to everyone involved."
GW: "Do the rumors, the accusations of wrongdoing offend you?"
FREEZE: "Yes … I want to defend our kids, our coaches. I want to defend our program. But that doesn't really work.
"It's very, very difficult -- the society we live in with the social media that is so involved in the recruiting now. [P]eople can say whatever they want and it grows and it catches [on]. And you find yourself wanting to defend. But you know, the other side of it, in the back of your mind you're saying, 'Well, do they know something that I don't?' So you go through all those emotions. But yeah, it's offensive at times."
From the home office in Wheaton, Ill., comes this week's version of a four-team BCS playoff format.
• No. 1 seed Oregon vs. No. 4 seed Ohio State. Hey, a Big Ten team in the mix!
• No. 2 seed Alabama vs. No. 3 seed Clemson. Did Saban really say he'd consider running an up-tempo offense at Bama? It won't happen this year, and it wouldn't happen in that game. Or would it?
On the bubble:
5. Georgia: Keith Marshall isn't Gurley, but he's close.
6. Stanford: The Cardinal's next five games: Washington, at Utah, UCLA, at Oregon State, Oregon.
7. Texas A&M: A bye week before traveling to Ole Miss.
8. LSU: I was sweet on the Tigers until I saw that secondary.
9. Florida State: The Seminoles showed me something after trailing Boston College on the road by 14.
10. UCLA: Pacing itself until October back-to-back games at Stanford and at Oregon.
Close, but not quite there: Louisville, Oklahoma, Washington, Miami, Baylor.
MORE COLLEGE FOOTBALL HEADLINES
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- Sources: Alabama offers Saban new extension
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