Defenses are key, but teams need offenses, too
It had to be kryptonite or something supernatural, right?
No way a team could contain Heisman certainty Geno Smith and high-flying, fifth-ranked West Virginia, as Texas Tech did on Saturday in a 49-14 bludgeoning.
But it did. Yes, it was shocking to see if you'd watched Smith carve apart all comers previous to his Lubbock Waterloo. But if we've learned anything about college football, it is to expect the unexpected. And once again, you can hear that annoying, but frustratingly true college football truism being squawked at you: Defense wins championships.
(Imagine a parrot saying it to you. Over and over. And he's wearing an SEC sweatshirt. That makes it even more fun.)
ESPN.com's Brad Edwards projects the BCS standings, which will be released tonight, to go like this: 1. Alabama; 2. Oregon; 3. Florida; 4. Notre Dame; 5. Kansas State; 6. LSU.
Those teams rank Nos. 1, 31, 6, 2, 19 and 8, respectively, in scoring defense. And West Virginia ranks 109th.
Squawk defense wins championships sqawk.
Yet, humor us for a moment in the belief that being good wins championships. Yes, that includes being competent on offense, which some of Edwards' top six don't appear to be, most notably Notre Dame and LSU.
Further, Florida ranks 114th in the nation in passing. The Gators impressively won a battle of attrition with LSU, but can they win their way into the national title game passing for 145 yards per game? Or 61, as they did versus the Tigers? That said, none of Edward's top six is a passing juggernaut. Oregon is 56th in the nation in passing with 239.3 yards per game, but the Ducks are a run-first operation. Alabama is No. 87. Kansas State is 108th.
Part of that is not needing to throw the ball. Alabama and Oregon have been so dominant over the first half of the schedule that there's been no reason to pass much after the half.
There seems little doubt that if Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron needed to throw, he certainly could. We've seen him do it before, and he's fifth in the nation in passing efficiency. Same could be said of Kansas State's Collin Klein, who is 17th in the nation in passing efficiency, and Oregon's Marcus Mariota, who is 21st.
There is a wrinkle here that we've held back, though there was some concern your eyes might glaze over with a recitation of statistics. Apologies for that.
No doubt defense wins championships. But you've got to score to win a BCS national title game.
Average points for the winning team in a BCS title game? 32.1. Just once has the winning team scored fewer than 21 points, and that was a Big 12 team, if you can believe it: Oklahoma in a 13-2 win over Florida State in 2000. Eight times the winning team scored more than 30.
You've got to score to win. Probably at least three or four touchdowns, too.
Of course, a team's profile can change over the season. Florida, Notre Dame or LSU could get much better on offense as the season goes on.
But as the screws tighten while the weather chills, it's likely that the most complete teams will be standing at the end.
Defense, yes, wins championships. But offense needs to win Best Supporting Actor.
Irish defense answers call again
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The gap between Notre Dame and the BCS regulars was closed with a defiant stand for all to see, Stepfan Taylor being denied entry to the end zone four straight times from inside the 5-yard line, two of his runs coming from the 1.
Irish players rushed the field not once but twice, as a tension-filled replay review lasting a few minutes determined that, yes, Notre Dame had stopped Taylor, had beaten the Cardinal for the first time in four years, 20-13, and had reached the halfway point of this campaign unscathed, at 6-0.
This was three seasons' worth of work coming together, as Brian Kelly and his staff pieced together the Irish's defense one by one, bridging the gap with a win over a team that out-physicaled Notre Dame to the tune of 642 rushing yards to 208 in their previous three meetings.
On Saturday, the Irish won that battle, albeit narrowly, 150-147. They beat the Cardinal at the Cardinal's game, and they answered yet another question after a sixth straight win.
Could Notre Dame finally stop Denard Robinson after three straight losses to Michigan? Forcing six turnovers -- and five from Shoelace himself on his 22nd birthday -- put to rest that question.
What would the Irish do against a Miami offense coming off more than 1,200 total yards in its two previous games? They survived a pair of early dropped touchdown passes and held the Hurricanes to three points the rest of the way.
So the Irish entered Saturday allowing just 7.8 points per game, second in the country. The defense had not given up a touchdown since Week 2 against Purdue, and it had not allowed a rushing touchdown all year.
Status quo against the Cardinal, whose only trip to the end zone came on a defensive score of their own.
The Irish trailed for the first time all season Saturday, and the offense came through when it was needed. Then, like every other time this season, the defense closed the door, almost ensuring the program of a top-5 BCS ranking when they are first unveiled Sunday night.
"When you're talking to your team all week about a heavyweight match, and you can't keep taking body blows, you have to stand in there, and sooner or later, you've got to be the one that delivers," Kelly said after Saturday's win. "It comes to fruition in the way the game ended and our team coming up with a great goal-line stand. Classic."
Tuberville pulls off another top-five shocker
LUBBOCK, Texas -- We ought to be used to this by now.
Top-five teams, beware of Tommy Tuberville. Be very, very ware.
Last season, the Texas Tech Riverboat Gambler blitzed undefeated Oklahoma, breaking the Sooners' 39-game winning streak at Owen Field.
Saturday, No. 5 West Virginia finally cracked for the first time this season.
Texas Tech cut the Mountaineers' legs right out from under them with a dominant 49-14 win to move to 6-2 all time against top-five teams. Where did it rank among Tuberville's all-time wins?
"No. 1, No. 1," Tuberville said, before going back on his statement seconds later.
A 24-13 win over Iowa State two weeks ago didn't have the style points of Saturday's shellacking, but Tuberville said it ranked right up there, too.
"We've been struggling for an identity," he said. "This is good for the morale of the players and also the fans to kind of say, 'Hey, this group's pretty good. We've got to get behind them.' This truly is a team, a city, a university win today because not a lot of people gave us a chance."
The same was true last year against Oklahoma, but after that win, Tuberville's Red Raiders lost the final five games of the season, falling to 5-7 and finishing below .500 for the first time since 1993. Tech has six games left on its schedule this time around, and it's moving on from another big win under Tuberville.
The task ahead of the Red Raiders (5-1) is clear, and the memory of last week's 41-20 loss to Oklahoma seems pretty fuzzy.
"I can't be any prouder for all of them. Last week was very disappointing. We knew it was a great football team we were playing," Tuberville said. "We've got a good team. We knew that going into the season. We're halfway through. We've had one blip on the screen. We're not going to celebrate this one past tomorrow. We're going to go back to work and make sure to understand that if you win, you come back and work hard."
Tech learned that the hard way a year ago, but the future looks bright for the Red Raiders.
Happy returns: LSU back in BCS race
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Late Saturday night, LSU coach Les Miles was virtually inaudible when meeting with the assembled media. The Man under The Hat was gassed in the wake of a 23-21 victory against third-ranked South Carolina. He was exhausted, but relieved.
It had been a long week here, answering questions about a beleaguered offensive line and how the Tigers were going to move the ball. And now? Nov. 3, when Alabama comes here, remains a relevant date on the national level, and LSU remains in the BCS discussion.
In fact, the list of viable one-loss teams is growing. In addition to the two here Saturday, Oklahoma and USC belong in that conversation (maybe West Virginia, too, although that's debatable after the nature of its loss Saturday). And another thought: Where does Notre Dame fit in if it should lose at OU or USC and win out otherwise?
If there's another shakeup similar to the Oct. 6 quake, those teams will again ascend. It's still early enough. Remember that it was a team that lost in early November that wound up winning the crystal football last season.
LSU's hopes of hanging around in the title discussion were flickering after a miserable day at Florida, but the patchwork offensive line destroyed a talented South Carolina front to restore hope for those on the bayou.
"We're not used to losing around here," linebacker Lamin Barrow said. "This game wouldn't have broken our season, but we couldn't take another loss. It was beautiful to see us come together as a team."
To read the rest of Travis Haney's story, click here .
Sooners show what they're made of
DALLAS -- Senior defensive lineman Jamarkus McFarland took a victory lap around the Sooners' side of the Cotton Bowl, waving an oversized Oklahoma flag. Kenny Stills put the Golden Hat Trophy on his head and galloped in circles in the end zone.
The celebrating, however, started long before that.
OU put the Longhorns away in the first half, then bloodied them in the second on the way to a dominating 63-21 victory.
"We're capable of doing a lot," said Landry Jones, who became the winningest quarterback in OU history with Saturday's victory. "We're capable of doing this all the time."
This is how dominant the Sooners were: Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro said the OU receivers began telling him what plays were coming.
To read the rest of Jake Trotter's story, click here.
Three weekend observations
1. This is how much the Oklahoma defense dominated Texas. In the first three quarters, before the Sooners' starting D got the rest of the day off, the Longhorns had nine three-and-outs. Of the three possessions on which Texas actually moved the chains, two of them ended in a turnover. So 63-21 may not sound like it, but include this one on Bob Stoops' long list of defensive beatdowns.
2. Stanford fans will be convinced forever that Stepfan Taylor scored on the final play against Notre Dame. It reminded me of Alabama coach Bear Bryant's comment after the 1965 Orange Bowl, when Texas linebacker Tommy Nobis stopped Tide quarterback Joe Namath on fourth-and-goal inside the 1. From that close, Bryant said, you shouldn't leave it to an official's judgment. In the fourth quarter and overtime, Stanford had five snaps inside the Irish 5. The Cardinal ran between the tackles every time, and didn't score.
3. Texas A&M beat Louisiana Tech 59-57 in a game that was close but showcased everything that's wrong with spread offenses and football as TV fodder. Football shouldn't need 4:28 to complete a game in regulation. Football shouldn't end at 12:45 a.m., local time. Style of play (187 snaps, 1,293 yards combined) is to blame. So are 27 assessed penalties and several replays. Bulldogs coach Sonny Dykes lamented that many of the 40,453 in the stands had left when his team needed them late in the game. I'm with the fans. The game was close, but it wasn't appealing.
Highlights: La. Tech-Texas A&M
GameDay crew final thoughts
The past two weeks, I finally saw the Oklahoma I anticipated seeing in the preseason when I picked the Sooners to play in the national championship game. Those were two dominant performances. While Texas certainly aided them with some very poor play, I thought Oklahoma took the fight to the Longhorns and really looked like a dominant, championship-contending football team.
I think one-loss teams are still in the mix, LSU and South Carolina particularly. As disappointing as that loss might have been to South Carolina, I don't think that it hurt the Gamecocks' national championship hopes that much. Really, all they need is a couple of more undefeated teams to lose, and they'll have the chance to knock off anybody else that's in front of them. Oklahoma might need a little more help. It might need more impressive victories like the one it had on Saturday. And if that happens, the Sooners can work their way back into the discussion assuming that we do get to that level where we're talking about a one-loss team playing for the national championship.
It was a pretty amazing performance solely relying on the offense from Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel. To have already set the SEC single-game record for total offense twice in his first season as a starter is a remarkable feat. He's fun to watch. Mayday calls him a new version of Fran Tarkenton, and I think that's an apt comparison.
Helmet stickers go to:
• QB Bo Wallace, Ole Miss
226 passing yards, one passing TD, two rushing TDs, one TD reception in win versus Auburn
• DT Caraun Reid, Princeton
6 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks, safety in win versus Brown
You can't rely on offense every week. The teams with great defenses are the ones that are consistent week in and week out, like Alabama's. Even though you may not win, you're going to be in that ballgame and have a chance.
What you hope is that you peak for the key games. South Carolina did for Georgia, but it was not the same against LSU. LSU was ready Saturday night; let's see how the Tigers are next week at Texas A&M. They do not play particularly well on the road, either, having scored just 18 points total on offense away from home in two games. So we'll see.
What impressed me about Notre Dame was the way the Irish were able to come back and fight through adversity. This is a team that has done terrific things defensively. Offensively, the Irish had to move the ball, and they did it with a two-quarterback system again as Everett Golson got hurt and Tommy Rees had to come in and save the day.
I was also very impressed with LSU, rebounding from the loss to Florida. For 55 minutes, the Tigers only gave up 134 total yards to South Carolina, and they found their running back in freshman Jeremy Hill. That's going to be key to them in the future. I also think they got their swagger back.
Alabama played through the rain, came back off the bye week and looked solid. Hopefully AJ McCarron's knee is fine. If he's healthy, the Tide are going to be just fine. But if not, they don't have a lot of quality depth behind him, so that's a concern.
Oklahoma definitely has its swagger back. The way the Sooners pounded Texas proved they've got the Horns' number. Forget about "Big Game Bob" being back, he has just owned Mack Brown the past couple of years, and it hasn't even been close.
And for West Virginia, to win championships, you've got to play defense. The Mountaineers were playing with fire at the beginning of the season by giving up so many points. We saw how vulnerable they were. and it caught up to them this time when their offense couldn't roll and their defense got scored on.
And the Big East has three undefeated teams in Louisville, Cincinnati and Rutgers. They're still getting it done every week, and they'll all have to play each other within the next few weeks.
Highlights: Tennessee-Miss. State
Blog Network: What we learned
The Hokies had a horrendous start, but the Coastal Division favorites have developed a reputation for their comebacks.
West Virginia's offensive consistency? Still waiting. We know WVU can do special things, but can it do them every single week?
Louisville and Rutgers improved their records to 6-0 and are among the first teams in the nation to become bowl eligible.
It's a close call between Purdue and Michigan State for the Big Ten's biggest disappointment of the first half of the season.
Arizona State will be Oregon's toughest test. Its defense is aggressive and gets good penetration, while the high-tempo offense has nice balance.
LSU isn't going away: The Tigers aren't out of the SEC or national race and the Alabama game just got a little more exciting.
The gap has been bridged. Notre Dame didn't just beat Stanford -- it beat Stanford at Stanford's game.
Highlights: Indiana-Ohio State
Weekly Leaders: Week 7
Blog Network: Helmet stickers
Every week our bloggers will hand out helmet stickers to the week's top players, coaches, teams or anything else worth this honor.
• ACC: Giovani Bernard; J.C. Coleman; Stefon Diggs
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• Big 12: Trey Millard; Collin Klein; Quinn Sharp
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• Big East: Khaseem Greene; Montel Harris; Senorise Perry
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• Big Ten: Montee Ball; Iowa's defense; Venric Mark
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• Pac-12: Cody Vaz; Brandin Cooks; Taylor Kelly
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• SEC: Jeff Driskel; Hugh Freeze; Johnny Manziel
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• Notre Dame: Manti Te'o; Bennett Jackson; Matthias Farley
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