Welcome to the Week 3 edition of The Professor, a weekly wrap-up of everything you need to know about the weekend in the world of college football.
Chaos in the Desert
The purpose of this column is to explain -- but sometimes that isn't always easy. Seven hours after the end of Texas A&M-Alabama, with most of the East Coast asleep, one of the biggest games of the day closed out the football Saturday in the most unorthodox way imaginable. Arizona State beat Wisconsin, and we may never see a repeat of what happened in the final moments at Sun Devil Stadium.
Let's attempt to break it down:
1) Trailing by two, Wisconsin QB Joel Stave hits Jeff Duckworth near the sideline, and he somehow manages to stay in bounds and run for a 51-yard gain down to the Arizona State 26-yard line. Instant replay appears to indicate that one or both of his feet stepped out of bounds after he caught the ball, which would have placed it around midfield, but the review proves inconclusive. Wisconsin has the ball in field-goal range with 1:01 left. This is not the weird part, although it's been forgotten already.
2) With no timeouts left, Wisconsin throws three passes, completing two for a total of 13 yards down to the Arizona State 13, where the Badgers have it first-and-10 with 18 seconds and the clock stopped after Jared Abbrederis got out of bounds.
3) Wisconsin snaps the ball from the right hash, and Stave immediately runs to his left in an attempt to center the ball for a spike and then a game-winning field goal attempt. Logical move.
4) With 16 seconds left, Stave attempts to kneel, only he runs into the back of his offensive lineman's leg, and it's unclear if his knee actually hits the ground. Thinking the play is over, he then places the ball on the ground, giving it up as if he were down. The whistle blows.
5) After a moment of confusion, Arizona State players dive on the ball, justifiably thinking it's live, and they linger for a few seconds covering it. As this is happening, Wisconsin players stand around, doing nothing. Stave turns to the referee, arguing that he had intended to go down, and thus the play was over. The referee agrees.
6) But the clock is still running, and nobody realizes it.
7) With seven seconds left, Stave turns and meanders back to the line, as another referee slowly places the ball ready for play with the least amount of urgency in the history of officiating.
8) With three seconds left -- you can hear the crowd counting down -- Stave finally realizes what's happening and rushes to get the Badgers set and snap it. It's too late. Game over. No chance for a field goal. Wisconsin's players incredulously turn to the refs as Arizona State celebrates, and that's it. Twitter, and presumably all of Madison, Wisc., breaks into chaotic confusion, because it seems that Wisconsin maybe got screwed, but nobody actually knows because it's one of the most bizarre endings to a sporting event ever. See for yourself:
For one, it appears that Stave's knee actually was down, but even if it wasn't, kneeling only needs to be "simulated," according to the rulebook. Then again, it's Stave's fault for not making it clear: The game's on the line, and your job is to emphatically rule yourself down, then get back under center to snap the ball again. In the confusion, nobody on Wisconsin realized that the clock was running, and instead they focused on explaining themselves to the referee.
Speaking of which, why didn't the refs blow their whistles amidst all the confusion to sort it out; and why was Arizona State not flagged for delay of game for sitting on the ball? Why did the official spotting the ball display no urgency at all in putting the ball in play; why did nobody on Wisconsin realize the ball needed to be snapped until it was too late anyway?
If you're Bret Bielema's wife, Jen, apparently the answer is "#karma," so, you know, there's that.
What we do know, for sure, is that regardless of wins/losses, Wisconsin and Arizona State played about an even football game. Arizona State wore out Wisconsin by running 93 plays to the Badgers' 63, and while the Badgers were much more efficient overall (7.0 yards per play) than the Sun Devils (5.0 yards per play) and turned the ball over one less time, the two teams traded scores all game and both got impressive performances from their running backs, in different ways. Wisconsin speedster Melvin Gordon ran 15 times for 193 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yarder, and while Arizona State's Marion Grice was held to 84 yards on 22 carries, he ran for four touchdowns and caught five passes for 50 yards, as is typical for him.
Ultimately, this game might not even mean a whole lot in the long run. It was a nonconference test for two top-20/25 caliber teams, two second-tier teams in their conferences, and for Arizona State it's just an important win over a good team for a program that hasn't had many of those recently. But that's it: The perception of both teams should stay about the same, and they have more important conference battles soon, including Arizona State's visit to Stanford next Saturday and Wisconsin's visit to Ohio State the following weekend.
But in the moment? Pure chaos, and what was surely a long plane ride back home for the Badgers to Madison. Most of the blame, it seems, should go to the officials for failing to control the situation. There's no reason play shouldn't have been blown dead to sort out the mess. But partial blame also goes to Wisconsin, as Stave should have never allowed to situation to devolve into fluid, uncertain chaos. 1) Emphatic kneel; 2) Hurry to the line 3) Spike; 4) Field Goal. The confusion on the first step prevented the rest from happening, and thus nobody was aware of what was actually happening. Lesson: Don't put the game in the refs' hands.
But, yeah, Wisconsin still kind of got hosed.
Five Thoughts on Alabama-Texas A&M
In the short-term, that chaotic finish at Arizona State was somehow able to drown out an offense-first classic in the much-hyped Alabama vs. Johnny Football rematch at Kyle Field. Sports on Earth's Michael Weinreb was in College Station and has the story here, but we can still dive into some brief analysis of the Crimson Tide's memorable 49-42 victory:
1. As previously discussed, Alabama's offensive line will not be an issue. The Crimson Tide's three new starters, plus star left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, all struggled in the opener against Virginia Tech, but it was a perfect storm of inexperience, a lack of chemistry and a great defensive front creating confusion. There was little reason to expect anything but improvement from game one to game two, especially against a thin Texas A&M front seven. Once Alabama passed its way back into the game, the Crimson Tide's methodical offense took over midway through the second quarter and controlled the game most of the rest of the way. Alabama averaged 6.3 yards per carry, led by T.J. Yeldon's 25 carries for 149 yards, and AJ McCarron wasn't sacked once.
2. McCarron played a brilliant game, and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier called a brilliant game. McCarron finished a hyper-efficient 20 of 29 for 334 yards (11.5 yards per attempt) with four touchdowns and no picks, expertly executing the Crimson Tide's offense. Thanks in part to Texas A&M's quick lead, Alabama passed on 14 of its first 18 plays. But then Alabama shifted its pace, going on a six-and-a-half-minute drive to go up two touchdowns heading into halftime, and all but putting the game away late with a five-and-a-half-minute drive capped by a touchdown to go up 49-35 with 2:28 left.
3. McCarron more than lived up to his reputation for playing mistake-free football. Johnny Manziel more than lived up to his own reputation too, somehow. It's important to note that, yes, Manziel's two interceptions proved incredibly costly. His first, after a half-luck, half-Heisman moment Manning-to-Tyree throw, came in the corner of the end zone in the second quarter, and instead of going up 21-14, the Aggies fell behind four plays later on a 51-yard touchdown to Kenny Bell. The second, early in the third quarter, was deflected into the hands of Vinnie Sunseri, who juked Manziel and took it to the house to give Bama a deflating 35-14 lead. Other than those? Manziel played out of his mind. He completed 28 of 39 passes for 464 yards and five touchdowns, and he ran 14 times for 98 yards. That's 562 yards against Alabama's defense, which allowed 250 per game last season. He was a Heisman candidate going into the game, and he's certainly a Heisman candidate leaving it. This was an all-time great performance, one bolstered by the presence of uncoverable 6-foot-5 wideout Mike Evans; it just happened to be in a loss to the two-time defending national champs.
4. The Aggies' big advantage, the reigning Heisman winner, wasn't a big enough advantage because Alabama's offense dismantled the A&M defense. Only linebacker Steven Jenkins finished with a tackle for loss, they forced no turnovers and Alabama had four straight drives of at least 75 yards in the first half, each resulting in touchdowns. This is a great Alabama team that is going to have one of the most efficient offenses in the country, again, but the Aggies were out-classed up front and had no real answer for Alabama.
5. Texas A&M isn't out of the national title picture, but it's a long shot. The road would be easier in the East, where the Aggies might be the best team and would have a clearer path to the SEC title game. It's tougher in the West, where they have a loss and could be the third best team. But the dream isn't totally dead yet, with a cakewalk schedule, by SEC standards, that includes two games of note: at Ole Miss on Oct. 12 and at LSU on Nov. 23. Unfortunately, Alabama's schedule is just as easy, only both the Rebels and Tigers go to Tuscaloosa. A home loss for Alabama certainly isn't unheard of, but it's hard not to like a Nick Saban team that controls its own SEC fate. It's probably more realistic to hope for a Sugar Bowl bid when Alabama goes back to the BCS title game.
Maybe We Should Just Give a Rose Bowl Win to the Pac-12 Now
Assuming none of you reading this are Bob Stoops, I can hopefully assume any reasonable reader will agree that the SEC is the best conference in America. The rest of the pecking order is up for debate, with the Big 12 appearing to languish in mediocrity, the Big Ten continuing to be the Big Ten (outside of Ohio State … Michigan came within a yard of losing to Akron. Akron!) and the ACC appearing to possess two great teams, one good one and 11 forgettable ones.
The Pac-12 more than staked its claim on Saturday. How?
• Oregon allowed Tennessee to think it had a chance for a few minutes at Autzen stadium, even giving up a touchdown and missing a field goal. The Ducks then proceeded to unleash hell, scoring 59 straight points and racking up 687 yards of offense against what is assumed to be a middle-of-the-road SEC team. Oregon averaged 13.5 yards per pass attempt, while Tennessee averaged 4.8. It's as if the Ducks' offense is permanently stuck playing against the "JV" setting of the "NCAA Football" video games. It's that easy.
• Arizona State's aforementioned debacle of a win against Wisconsin.
• Washington went to Soldier Field and earned a rather convincing 34-24 win against a better-than-expected Illinois team. The Huskies gained 615 yards on 85 plays, with Bishop Sankey averaging 5.9 yards per rush and Keith Price averaging 9.8 yards per pass. Washington is an experienced, talented team that appears to be rising above the mediocrity that has plagued Steve Sarkisian tenure as head coach.
• UCLA got off to a slow start in what was a 9 a.m. PT kickoff at Nebraska, then did what good offenses do to the Nebraska defense and scored 38 straight points to end the game. Brett Hundley threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns, and Jordan James ran for 105 yards and a touchdown. Hundley still gets sacked too often, but he's one of the most talented quarterbacks in America. UCLA's second half made it look like the clear favorite in the Pac-12 South.
• Even USC scored points! After a week of Fire Kiffin talk, the Trojans easily dispatched visiting Boston College 35-7. In his first week as the clear starter, Cody Kessler embraced the role by completing 15 of 17 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns. Sure, Boston College won only two games last year, but USC was last seen losing 10-7 to Washington State at home. A 28-point win is a 28-point win, especially for a team swimming in more turmoil than anybody outside Austin.
• Stanford's 34-20 win at Army wasn't particularly impressive, but it was another 9 a.m. PT start against at triple option team. We know how good Stanford is.
• The only nonconference loss for the Pac-12? Cal's expected beat down at the hands of Ohio State. The Golden Bears lost 52-34, but they put up 503 yards of offense, and QB Jared Goff, a freshman, threw for 371 yards and three touchdowns. The Bear Raid offense is unpredictable in its early stages, as, of course, is the defense. Cal will score on everyone and at least makes things interesting in any given week.
Grading the Weekend
A+: Oklahoma. A passing game? Yes. After unexpectedly naming redshirt freshman Trevor Knight the starting QB, the Sooners ranked 112th in passing offense in two weeks. With Knight injured, Blake Bell, known for his goal-line running, finally got a start and proceeded to torch Tulsa, with the help of receivers Sterling Shepard, Jaz Reynolds and Jalen Saunders. Bell finished with 413 passing yards; combine that with a third straight strong effort by the defense, and, mediocre Tulsa team or not, Oklahoma could walk away feeling positive about everything heading into its bye week, and then Notre Dame.
A: Michigan State. OK, so it was only Youngstown State, an FCS team. But Youngstown State's apparently may be better than last week's opponent, South Florida, and the Spartans finally had a pulse on offense. Defensive lineman Shilique Calhoun out-scored the offense over the first two weeks, but against Youngstown State, quarterback Connor Cook took hold of the starting job by completing 15 of 22 passes for 202 yards and four touchdowns in Michigan State's 55-17 rout of the Penguins. The Spartans scored seven offensive touchdowns and had six drives of longer than 50 yards after scoring only two touchdowns with one drive longer than 50 yards total in the first two games.
A-: Florida State. Out of the Labor Day night spotlight and playing opposite the Alabama-Texas A&M game at 3:30 on Saturday afternoon, Jameis Winston's second game was a much more low-key affair than the first. But, again, he didn't disappoint. He certainly wasn't perfect, and came nowhere close to matching his transcendent debut at Pitt, but he shook off a rough start that included an interception to complete 15 of 18 passes for 214 yards and three total touchdowns. The Seminoles started slowly as a team, trailing 7-3 deep into the second quarter against a Nevada team missing starting QB Cody Fajardo, but they snapped out of it in the second half and won going away, 62-7. It's tough to complain about a slow first quarter when the Seminoles still averaged 10.9 yards per pass attempt and 9.2 yards per rush. In two games, Winston now has eight total touchdowns and only five incompletions.
B+: Boise State. Aside from turning the ball over twice, Boise State was nothing but efficient in Friday night's 42-20 win over Air Force. Two weeks after a dismal, vanilla offensive performance at Washington, Boise State got 125 yards and four touchdowns from RB Jay Ajayi, and QB Joe Southwick completed an absurd 27 of 29 passes for 287 yards and a touchdown while running for 53 yards and a touchdown. The night was a much-needed confidence booster for a more vulnerable Boise State team than we've grown accustomed to watching before its crucial Mountain West showdown next Friday at Fresno State.
B: South Carolina. After a dominant start at home against Vandy, scoring four touchdowns in the game's first 20 minutes, the Gamecocks got a little too comfortable and were outscored 25-7 the rest of the way before shutting the door late. After a disappointing loss at Georgia, most of the news was good: Vandy is a solid opponent, Connor Shaw completed 21 of 29 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 84 yards and Jadeveon Clowney had a sack and a forced fumble. However, the Gamecocks turned the ball over three times, and Clowney said he's been bothered by bone spurs, an issue he'll have to get corrected after the season.
B-: Iowa. Well, good enough. Iowa isn't going to blow out anyone, let alone a rival from the Big 12, no matter how bad Iowa State is. Jake Rudock's arm is still promising, even if he finished with only 14 completions for 160 yards, and Mark Weisman needed 35 carries to pick up 145 yards, but the Hawkeyes shut down Iowa State's running game and actually held a 27-7 lead before coming close to throwing it all away as Iowa State's Quenton Bundrage took over late (he finished with seven catches for 146 yards and three touchdowns).
C+: Louisville. Perhaps Louisville will have trouble getting up for every game with no ranked teams on the schedule, but the Cardinals still looked sluggish against in-state rival Kentucky on Saturday. However, Teddy Bridgewater and DeVante Parker broke a 3-3 tie late in the second quarter with a circus catch by Parker, and from then on Louisville shook off its offensive line problems and won somewhat comfortably, 27-13.
C: Virginia Tech. It was ugly, but apparently that's what we should expect this season from the Hokies. In a 15-10 win at East Carolina, the Hokies' defense held a solid ECU team to only 204 total yards, including 28 rushing yards for Vintavious Cooper, but their own rushing game did nothing, with 53 yards on 34 attempts. A lack of playmakers certainly doesn't help the inconsistent Logan Thomas, and making things worse, kicker Cody Journell missed two field goals and an extra point. The team that used to be known for special teams now can barely do anything right.
C-: Kansas. Rice at least looked good against Texas A&M, so there's that, but the Jayhawks looked dreadful again in a 23-14 loss to the Owls. BYU transfer QB Jake Heaps completed only 13 of 28 passes with two picks and three sacks, and in total Kansas managed only 270 yards. Charlie Weis still hasn't won against an FBS team at Kansas.
D+: Bobby Petrino. So much for the goodwill built by Western Kentucky's dominant win over Kentucky in Week 1. A week after a seven-turnover effort at Tennessee, the Hilltoppers sputtered at South Alabama, losing 31-24 with another three turnovers.
D: South Florida. Skip Holtz has not looked good in three games at Louisiana Tech, including Friday's ugly 24-15 loss to Tulane. But it still could be worse, given the tire fire he left behind him at South Florida. Willie Taggart inherited a disjointed Bulls team, one that's now 0-3 with a justifiable loss to Michigan State and inexcusable losses to McNeese State and Florida Atlantic. In Saturday's ugly 28-10 loss to FAU, Penn State transfer Steven Bench completed only 8 of 23 passes for 128 yards, and as a team the Bulls have now completed just 34 of 91 pass attempts (37.4 percent) this season.
D-: Temple. All that work turning Temple into a semi-respectable program seems to have been thrown out the window. The Owls are now 0-3, having lost 30-29 to Fordham on a 29-yard "Hail Mary." This is after Temple worked to erase a 20-7 third-quarter deficit.
F: Florida International. Further confirmation that firing Mario Cristobal was one of the dumbest coaching moves in recent college football history: Ron Turner's Golden Panthers lost to Bethune-Cookman 34-13. It's bad enough to be a three-point Vegas underdog to an FCS team; to actually lose by three touchdowns is unfathomable. Enjoy Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville next week.
More Lessons Learned
The clock keeps ticking in Austin. I didn't actually see it, again, because nobody gets the Longhorn Network, but Greg Robinson's defense picked up right where Manny Diaz's defense left off, perhaps because it was the same players running the same game plan against another team that can run. In its 44-23 dismantling at the hands of Ole Miss, Texas allowed 164 rushing yards and a punt return touchdown to Jeff Scott, with a 23-14 lead late in the second quarter turning into an Ole Miss blowout. Of course, the offense didn't help matters. With QB David Ash and RB Daje Johnson out, Texas averaged only 4.4 yards per play, none of its second-half drives lasting more than seven plays, four ending in punts (three three-and-outs), one in a fumble and two on downs. Four weeks until Oklahoma, which could be the final nail in the Mack Brown era at Texas.
UCF is the best bet to take down Louisville. Everyone knew Louisville's schedule would be terrible, but the first three weeks of the season have somehow mostly made it look even worse. In Week 1, UConn lost to Towson and South Florida lost to McNeese State (plus Rutgers' lost a shootout against a good Fresno State team). In Week 2, Cincinnati got blown out by Illinois. And this weekend, FIU lost to Bethune-Cookman and Temple lost to Fordham. But there's one point of hope: UCF. The Golden Knights went to Beaver Stadium and simply looked like the better team against Penn State in a 34-31 win, with the offensive line giving QB Blake Bortles and RB Storm Johnson plenty of time and room to pick apart the Nittany Lions. UCF now has an interesting home date with South Carolina next week, one it could at least keep close, and visits Louisville on Friday, Oct. 18. Cincinnati and Rutgers could still test Louisville, but UCF has the most weapons to ruin the Cardinals' pursuit of perfection.
Maybe that Michigan-Notre Dame game didn't mean much. Most likely, Saturday was a bad hangover for both the Wolverines and Fighting Irish after Michigan's thrilling win last Saturday night. Michigan came within one yard of losing to Akron, a team that has three wins in three seasons and no win over an FBS team since 2010. Making matters worse for Michigan was the fact that Akron didn't come close to playing the kind of perfect game that a terrible MAC team -- one certainly worse than Appalachian State in 2007 -- usually needs to beat someone like Michigan. Akron threw two interceptions, including an awful pick at the goal line, missed two field goals and made bad decisions like running a hopeless toss on third and one at the two-yard line on the second-to-last play of the game. Somehow, the result of this win is an 8 p.m. kickoff at lowly Connecticut on ABC next Saturday.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, sleepwalked through three quarters at Purdue before snapping out of it and taking advantage of Purdue being Purdue with three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win 31-24. Not that we haven't seen Notre Dame sleepwalk against bad Purdue teams before, but the Irish averaged 2.6 yards per play on their first four possessions before finally starting to snap out of it. A loss here would have all but ended their BCS at-large chances with a tough schedule ahead.
LSU quietly looks great on offense. While Alabama and Texas A&M owned all the headlines, LSU took care of business, again, improving to 3-0 with a 45-13 win over Kent State. QB Zach Mettenberger continues to stretch the field, as his 13 completions went for 264 yards and three touchdowns, and he now averaged 11.6 yards per attempt for the season. Big plays in the passing game are exactly what LSU needs: The overarching philosophy of the offense isn't going to change much under Cam Cameron, meaning the Tigers will continue to pound the ball on the ground, as they did with 307 rushing yards on 37 attempts against the Golden Flashes. If Mettenberger continues to connect with a talented receiving corps led by Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, this is a deep, balanced team that once again is playing fantastic defense. Of course, the Tigers play a much tougher schedule than the Crimson Tide and Aggies, traveling to Georgia and hosting Florida in two of the next three games, but if the passing game continues to develop, they'll certainly be a threat to win at Alabama and win the SEC West.
Best wishes to Jerry Kill. Once again, perhaps the scariest moment of the day occurred on the Minnesota sideline, where coach Jerry Kill suffered a seizure heading into halftime -- his fourth game-day seizure since becoming coach of the Golden Gophers. While he was taken off the field in a stretcher, Kill was comfortably at home after the game.
Honor Roll: Week 3's Best Players
Reserved for performances against FBS teams.
1. AJ McCarron and the Alabama offense. Johnny Manziel was better statistically, but McCarron avoided mistakes and still put together big numbers, with the help of the line in front of him that steamrolled Texas A&M's defensive front. McCarron completed 20 of 29 passes to 10 different receives for 334 yards and four touchdowns, and in a massive change from the opener against Virginia Tech, was relatively untouched with zero sacks.
2. Johnny Manziel, QB, and Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M. Manziel threw for 464 yards and five touchdowns and ran 14 times for 98 yards, an unheard of mass of production against the notoriously stingy Alabama defense. He somehow did this. He frequently lobbed the ball up to 6-foot-5 sophomore receiver, a first-round NFL caliber talent who towered over Alabama's defense and caught seven passes for an equally unheard of 279 yards, including a 95-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Texas A&M's defense may be lousy, but the talent advantage between these two and the rest of the offense is certainly enough to beat anyone … except Alabama on this day.
3. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon. As if it weren't scary enough when Oregon was simply running all over everyone out of its up-tempo spread offense, here comes the Ducks' wide-open aerial attack behind Mariota, who may be the way-too-early Heisman favorite at the moment. We knew Mariota was one of the nation's most complete quarterbacks, and new coach Mark Helfrich is letting him air it out, as he completed 23 of 33 passes for 456 yards and four touchdowns with a rushing touchdown in Oregon's 59-14 win over Tennessee. It helps that his supporting cast is deep and talented. With star tight end Colt Lyerla out, true freshman John Mundt stepped in and caught five passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns.
4. Jeff Scott, RB, Ole Miss. Perhaps we should stop acknowledging great rushing performances against the Texas defense, but for good measure Scott added a backbreaking 73-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the third quarter to make it a two-score game. On top of that, Scott ran 19 times for 164 yards and a touchdown, setting a career high in rushing yards - making him the eight player to do so in the last 13 games, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
5. Blake Bell, QB, Oklahoma. Tulsa hasn't exactly looked good early in this season, but after Saturday's game it's hard to understand how Trevor Knight beat out Bell for the starting QB job in the preseason. But with Knight sidelined, Bell took advantage of his chance, completing 27 of 37 passes for 413 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. A lot of that production came from receivers after the catch, sure, but Bell looked comfortable and was accurate, much more so than Knight the first two weeks, making Bell the obvious choice to start when the Sooners visit Notre Dame in two weeks.
6. Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington. Undoubtedly one of the most underrated backs in America, Sankey shined at Soldier Field in Washington's 34-24 win over Illinois. He was the team's workhorse, rushing 35 times for 208 yards and a touchdown, and he also caught three passes for 63 yards and a touchdown, giving him 271 total yards for the day. QB Keith Price also turned in a notable performance, completing 28 of 35 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns.
7. Kenny Guiton, QB, Ohio State. Filling in for the injured Braxton Miller (knee) in his first start, Guiton kept the Buckeyes' offense moving, as expected, against a terrible Cal defense. He completed 21 of 32 passes for 276 yards with four touchdowns, including a 90-yarder to Devin Smith less than two minutes into the game, and he ran 14 times for 92 yards. Obviously, there's no controversy here, and hopefully nobody has suggested the possibility. But it's quite nice for a running QB like Miller to be backed up by someone who doesn't really let the offense skip a beat. It was hardly Alabama's defense, but nevertheless it was a fantastic showing for Guiton on the road against a Pac-12 team.
8. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin. Game-ending chaos aside, Gordon was brilliant, again, against a talented Arizona State defensive front. He needed only 15 carries to pick up 193 yards and two touchdowns, highlighted by an 80-yarder. Gordon now has 99 carries since the start of last season, going for 1,098 yards, meaning he averages 11.1 yards per rush.
9. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State. A wild late-night conference game between Utah and Oregon State ended up overshadowed by Wisconsin-Arizona State. But the Beavers won 51-48 on a six-yard TD pass to Cooks in overtime, giving him nine catches for 210 yards and three touchdowns for the game. Oregon State QB Sean Mannion ended up throwing for 443 yard and five touchdowns, while Utah QB Travis Wilson threw for 279 yards and ran for 142 yards with five total TDs but threw three picks.
10. Paul Senn, LB, Bowling Green. Behold, the stolen punt for a touchdown:
So what if Indiana racked up 601 yards of offense and won 42-10; Senn did that, on top of making three tackles for loss. There's always room on this list for a player doing something we haven't really seen before, whether it's a stolen punt or an offensive tackle hook-and-ladder.
Week 4 Syllabus
1. Arizona State at Stanford. Two teams that look like the second-best in their respective divisions meet in a crucial cross-division game to open their Pac-12 schedules.
2. Auburn at LSU. Auburn is actually undefeated right now at 3-0 after a close win over Mississippi State, and in a horrible season last year it gave LSU all it could handle.
3. Clemson at N.C. State. The Wolfpack have played spoilers before, and the pressure is now on Clemson every week as it tries to stay in the national title picture. This one gets the Thursday night spotlight.
4. Boise State at Fresno State. Boise State's opening loss to Washington knocked this down a peg, but it's still the two best teams in the Mountain West, with early BCS at-large hopes on the line.
5. Michigan State at Notre Dame. I can't figure out if Notre Dame's actually good; I don't know if Michigan State's offensive success against Youngstown State meant anything. Maybe we'll learn something on Saturday in South Bend.