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October 16, 2011
Each Sunday, our staff of college football experts will offer thoughts on things they learned over the weekend.
Is LSU coach Les Miles tempting fate? Miles isn't content to go with Jarrett Lee at quarterback. Although LSU is unbeaten and Lee has 10 touchdown passes and just one interception, Miles still feels the need to play Jordan Jefferson. Jefferson played early in the first half, then almost the entire second half of a 38-7 victory over Tennessee. Jefferson completed just 1 of 3 passes, but he rushed for more than 70 yards and a touchdown.
[TigerBait.com: LSU's October stampede continues]
"RGIII" needs more help. Baylor QB Robert Griffin isn't good enough to compensate for Baylor's porous defense. Any team would be thrilled if its quarterback passed for 430 yards and three touchdowns, but that's just not enough for Baylor to beat good teams. The Bears' defense surrendered 681 yards and six touchdown passes in a 55-28 loss to Texas A&M. Griffin can't just be good; he has to be nearly perfect for Baylor to compete with upper-echelon teams. The defense prevents Baylor from being a contender in the Big 12. In fact, the best thing Baylor's defense has going for it is not having to face Griffin.
It's all about Wisconsin in the Big Ten. Wisconsin continues to show that, without a doubt, it's the top team in the Big Ten. The Badgers are rolling, off to a 6-0 for the first time since 2004 following a 59-7 demolition of Indiana. But is Wisconsin capable of playing for the national title? And could the Badgers stand toe to toe with the likes of LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma? Wisconsin may find out, as it has a great chance to go unbeaten. It will face its biggest test yet on Saturday at Michigan State.
[Yahoo! Sports Radio: Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins]
Ohio State has a pulse. Those reports of Ohio State's death are premature. Many were writing off the Buckeyes after they lost consecutive Big Ten games, including a colossal collapse at Nebraska in Week 6. But Ohio State showed resiliency in a workmanlike 17-7 victory at Illinois. It was the Fighting Illini's first loss, and the win means the Buckeyes still have life in the Big Ten's Leaders Division. The key for more success for Ohio State will be continued strong play by the defense, which limited Illinois to 272 yards and forced three turnovers. Offensively, the Buckeyes have to continue limiting mistakes while leaning on a strong ground game now that TB Dan "Boom" Herron is back. Against Illinois, the Buckeyes ran 50 times for 207 yards and won despite going just 1-of-4 for 17 yards through the air.
Oregon's backfield depth is not limited to tailback. How many rungs down the backfield depth chart would Oregon need to go before it can't run its offense effectively? Oregon entered Saturday's game against Arizona State without star TB LaMichael James, but relied on Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas, who combined to rush for 244 yards and three touchdowns. We also saw Oregon's depth at quarterback. Oregon trailed 24-21 when starter Darron Thomas went out with an injury. Backup Bryan Bennett, a better runner than Thomas, came on to rush for 65 yards and pass for 22. Oregon's defense also clamped down and the Ducks won 41-27. It seems there's no end to the waves of speed in Oregon's backfield.
[Megargee: Week 7 winners and losers]
USF is repeating history. Being a USF fan must be frustrating: The Bulls tantalize with non-conferences wins, only to flop once Big East play begins. Last season, USF was good enough to beat Miami on the road and Clemson in a bowl game, but the Bulls went 3-4 in the Big East. In 2009, USF beat Florida State on the road but went just 3-4 in the Big East. In 2008, USF beat a ranked Kansas team and N.C. State on the road, then went 2-5 in the conference. The Bulls are following that trend again. They shocked Notre Dame in the opener, but they're 0-2 in the Big East. Connecticut hasn't scored an offensive touchdown against USF in two years, but the Huskies still have won twice. USF once was the highest-ranked team in the Big East, but the Bulls' chances of winning the league look slim at this point.
Georgia is in excellent shape in the SEC East. Before the season, everyone focused on Georgia's weaknesses -- and there are many -- and had Mark Richt being shown the door after the season. Now? It's hard to get rid of a coach whose team wins an SEC division title. Georgia is the only SEC East contender that doesn't have to play Alabama, Arkansas or LSU. Tennessee has to play all three. Florida already has lost to Alabama and LSU. South Carolina plays at Arkansas on Nov. 5, and the Gamecocks could be without star TB Marcus Lattimore, who hurt his knee in Saturday's win at Mississippi State. Georgia's SEC West foes: Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Auburn, with only Ole Miss on the road. Georgia's remaining SEC games: Florida in Jacksonville and Auburn and Kentucky at home. Florida's offense is a mess and will stay that way until (unless?) QB John Brantley returns from an ankle injury. Kentucky is awful. And Auburn's offense is a shell of its shelf. Hmmm -- Georgia started the regular season in Atlanta and could end it there, too, in the SEC championship game.
[Y! Sports Shop: Show your school colors with college football team gear]
June Jones is the man. The Mustangs played host to UCF on Saturday in a possible preview of the Conference USA title game, and the Mustangs cruised to a win. SMU is 5-1, with the only loss to Texas A&M. Jones has the Mustangs playing extremely well, and as of right now, they look to be the best team in the league because they're balanced on both sides of the ball. In addition, reports have SMU on the verge of being invited to the Big East -- and that's a direct reflection of the work that Jones has done in Dallas.
This isn't the same old Clemson. All season long, the college football world has waited for Clemson to, well, become Clemson again. Now that the Tigers had excited their fans and impressed observers with a fast start, when were they going to disappoint everyone by losing a game they had no business losing? Sure enough, on Saturday, Clemson committed a couple of early turnovers and fell behind 28-10 to longtime nemesis Maryland. Same old Clemson? Nope. This Clemson team knows how to respond to adversity. And, of course, it helps to have the most talented team in the ACC. Tajh Boyd bounced back from a slow start and freshman sensation Sammy Watkins set a school record with 345 all-purpose yards as Clemson won 56-45 to remain unbeaten. Although Clemson clearly must improve its defense, it's time to start considering this team a potential national title candidate. This squad has a mental toughness that previous Clemson teams sometimes lacked.
[Game tickets: Watch your favorite team in action]
Washington could be a legitimate Pac-12 contender. Maybe we should stop thinking of the Pac-12 as a two-team race between Oregon and Stanford. Washington seems intent on giving the North Division a three-team race. Washington somehow has managed to get even better without QB Jake Locker, now with the NFL's Tennessee Titans. Keith Price succeeded Locker and already has thrown 21 touchdown passes this season, including four Saturday in a 52-24 rout of Colorado. Washington (5-1) has scored at least 30 points in each of its first six games. The Huskies travel to Stanford next week and play host to Oregon on Nov. 5. The Huskies won't be favored in either game, but Stanford hasn't been tested all year and Oregon is facing injury problems. Who's to say Washington can't steal the division title away from the two presumed favorites?
Tom Dienhart's Week 6 awards
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