Point After Touchdown: Murray Shuts Up Critics, Texas Embarrassed

The Point After Touchdown for this week breaks down Georgia and Miami (FL)’s big win and looks at whether it’s time for Texas head coach Mack Brown to step aside.

WHO’S HATING NOW: Georgia’s Aaron Murray has heard it all in his career. He’s been unable to consistently win against top 10 teams and going into Saturday he still had not won against South Carolina in his career. Plus, the Bulldogs were coming off of an opening loss to Clemson and hoping to avoid an 0-2 start that would end their national championship hopes before they could even get started.

Following Georgia 41-30 victory over South Carolina Saturday, Murray’s critics will probably be hard to find. Not only has he played extremely well through two weeks, but he’s also shown Georgia’s SEC East rivals that they are the class of the division.

HURRICANE REVIVAL: Speaking of those rivals, Florida dominated Miami (FL) in every aspect of the game on Saturday but on the scoreboard. The Gators got into the redzone seven times, but only scored two touchdowns. Jeff Driskel made two of the most bonehead throws you will ever see a junior make, considering Driskel has played in nearly every game since his freshman year.

The ‘Canes deserve a lot of credit for coming up big in the redzone and Miami’s crowd was as loud as I’ve ever it. Good for them. Those fans haven’t had anything major to cheer about in quite a while, so they should celebrate.

Head coach Al Golden has clearly turned the program around and Miami will jump into the top 25 this weekend.

UNDER THE LIGHTS: Michigan pulled away from Notre Dame 41-30 to win the rivalry’s last scheduled game in the Big House. Devin Gardner threw four touchdown passes and ran for a fifth score as the Wolverines showed they warrant a top 10 ranking.

Michigan’s schedule looks very underwhelming at this point too. The Wolverines play Akron, at Connecticut, Minnesota, at Penn State, Indiana, at Michigan, vs. Nebraska, at Northwestern, and at Iowa. In other words, they’ll be favored to win every game down the stretch before they meet Braxton Miller and Ohio State.

BYU ran through, around, and over Texas in a 40-21 romp on Saturday night. (Picture: VictoriaAdvocate.com)

BYU ran through, around, and over Texas in a 40-21 romp on Saturday night. (Picture: VictoriaAdvocate.com)

SHOULD BROWN GO?: I’ve been one Texas head coach Mack Brown’s biggest supporters the last few seasons as the Longhorns attempt to rebuild themselves into a national championship contender, but Saturday night reached my breaking point. I think it’s time for him to step down and let someone else attempt to revive the program.

I say that because I have no explanation for Texas’ 40-21 loss to a BYU team that lost to Virginia last week. The Cougars ran for 550 yards. That’s not a typo. 550 yards. How does that happen when Texas has better and bigger athletes? That should never happen. Hell, Wisconsin shouldn’t even be able to run for 550 yards on Tennessee Tech. And they didn’t. The Badgers went for 387 yards. Even Baylor in a 70-13 romp over Buffalo only ran for 329 yards, despite 55 attempts. Texas should be ashamed of its loss – not because they lost, but because they showed a lack of effort.

I NEVER THOUGHT I’D SEE THE DAY: Mike Leach’s Washington State Cougars pulled one of the nation’s biggest upsets Saturday, beating offensively challenged USC 10-7. Here’s the kicker: The Cougars did it without scoring an offensive touchdown. There was a time when even Leach’s biggest fans would tell you that his defense would stop him from getting a team to the national title game, but now that side of the ball is clearly carrying a team that cannot score points. Good for the Cougars.

On the other side, Lane Kiffin’s seat is so hot that he might as well just get out of the car. Kiffin has proven that he can’t field a consistently great team at USC, which is what fans demand. He can point to the NCAA probation and restriction of scholarships if he wants, but Leach had a tougher rebuilding job at Washington State than Kiffin had at USC. Although it isn’t by much, it’s already clear that the Cougars are better than the Trojans. How can that be possible? It’s time for Kiffin to go.

IT’S TIME TO WORRY: Oklahoma’s offense is among the national relevant teams struggling to score points. The Sooners won 16-7 over West Virginia,  although the Sooners failed to put points on the board most of the night. Quarterback Trevor Knight was awful, going 10 of 20 for 119 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Michigan State is in the same boat. The Spartans could only score 21 points against a South Florida team that gave up 53 points to McNeese State last weekend. Out of Michigan State’s six touchdowns this season, the defense has scored four of them. At Notre Dame in two weeks, the Spartans will likely need to put points on the board with their offense to win.

Weekend Picks: Michigan Will Defeat Notre Dame

Saturday’s Picks:

Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner gets sacked by a Notre Dame defender during last season's Notre Dame-Michigan game. (Picture: Zimbio.com)

Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner gets sacked by a Notre Dame defender during last season’s Notre Dame-Michigan game. (Picture: Zimbio.com)

No. 14 Notre Dame at No. 17 Michigan
Anyone that doesn’t believe this is a rivalry should be forced to sit in a chair and watch how the last few matchups have gone. Games between the Irish and Wolverines always seem to come down to the final play. This year’s game will likely be no different. Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees was impressive against Temple and the Irish defense was able to keep the Owls from doing a lot of damage on the scoreboard. Meanwhile, Devin Gardner at Michigan didn’t have to do much in the Wolverines big win over Central Michigan.

I’m going to be honest — Devin Gardner scares the heck out of me in this game. He is an improved passer over Denard Robinson, but so are 99.9% of college quarterbacks. Gardner seems to have a tendency to turn the football over, but in all honesty he’s only thrown interceptions on 6% of his attempts in his career. A closer look at the numbers also reveals that on third and long (3 & 6 or longer) he was 10 of 17 last season for 187 yards, six touchdowns and one interception.

So what scares me?

He doesn’t play as well in the fourth quarter as he does in other parts of the game. Last season, Gardner threw nine touchdowns and two interceptions in quarters 1-3, but int he fourth quarter he turned it over more than he threw touchdowns (2 TDs, 3 INTs). He also saw his running averages drop off significantly, although his sacks didn’t go up in the final quarter.

Even despite all that, I’m taking the Wolverines to win. Not only is Michigan at home, but they also are more talented than Notre Dame. Gardner is the one player on the field that can change the game at any point. Rees is capable of making big throws and senior receiver T. J. Jones and junior DaVaris Daniels can make plays in the passing game, but it won’t be enough Saturday night.

The pick: Michigan 31, Notre Dame 27

 

No. 12 Florida at Miami (FL)
The Hurricanes have had the Gators number for years, although Florida won the last matchup over an overmatched Miami team coached by Randy Shannon. This is Al Golden’s shot to prove Miami is back on the national stage and it wouldn’t surprise me if Duke Johnson finds open running lanes to give the ‘Canes an early lead. However, Florida is the type of team that gives Miami fits. They have a veteran running back in Matt Jones, who finally sounds healthy after missing the Gators opener, a smart quarterback in Jeff Driskel who typically doesn’t turn the ball over and an offensive line that should win the battle against Miami’s defensive line.

The pick: Florida 27, Miami 23

 

No. 2 Oregon at Virginia
As impressive as Virginia’s opening win against BYU was, the truth is that the Cougars probably outplayed the Cavaliers in that game. BYU outgained Virginia 362 yards to 223.  Unfortunately for BYU, they don’t have DeAnthony Thomas and Marcus Mariota. Fortunately for Oregon, they do. If the Cavaliers gave up 175 passing yards to Cougars sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill, imagine what they might allow to Mariota. Ouch.

The pick: Oregon 58, Virginia 12

 

No. 6 South Carolina at No. 11 Georgia
Anyone bashing Georgia for losing to Clemson last week should check their team’s schedule to see who they played. Nobody played a tougher first week opponent than Georgia, considering they had to travel to Death Valley and take on a Tigers team itching for its second straight win over a SEC team. Bulldogs fans should cheer up. We’ve seen Georgia lose games early in seasons before, only to be discounted and find its way back into the national title discussion. I’ve gone back and forth a thousand times on this game, but eventually good sense hit me. South Carolina is talented and Jadeveon Clowney is scary, but Georgia is more talented and at home. I’ll even forgive Aaron Murray for the goose eggs he lays against top 10 teams if the Bulldogs find a way to make this prediction right.

Georgia 27, South Carolina 21

 

Other Predictions for Saturday:
Cincinnati 52, Illinois 31
No. 19 Northwestern 31, Syracuse 28
No. 16 Oklahoma 45, West Virginia 10
No. 3 Ohio State 48, San Diego State 7
Oregon State 31, Hawaii 10

Winston shines in debut; could be Heisman darkhorse

jameiswinston

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston had a fantastic debut against Pittsburgh, totaling five touchdowns in a 41-13 Seminoles victory. (Photo: CBSSports.com)

I may have written my Heisman Watch for week one a day too early. Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, a redshirt freshman with high expectations before even taking his first collegiate snap, made Pittsburgh’s defense look powerless to stop him Monday night.

Some may say it is premature to call a quarterback a real Heisman Trophy contender after just one start and it probably is, but it isn’t every day that a freshman quarterback only throws two incompletions and totals five touchdowns in his first start.

Many people are too stuck in their preseason predictions when it comes to football. For instance, most Heisman discussions will only include Johnny Manziel and Jadaveon Clowney for the next few weeks as writers try to stay true to their preseason predictions. The only problem with that is, only what happens on the field matters.

Here’s an example: Ohio State’s Braxton Miller is a great quarterback, but he didn’t have an incredible game Saturday against Buffalo. He scored two touchdowns. Yawn. Why talk about him, when more than likely he will get back into the race with a big game later on? Let’s credit someone, like Winston, who had a big game, on a big stage, in his team’s opener. Why can’t he win the Heisman?

Winston shredded a Panthers defense that is expected to improve this season, starting 11 of 11 and finishing 25 of 27. He totaled five touchdowns on the night. Clemson’s Tajh Boyd was the only player I can think of who had an equal performance this weekend, albeit on a bigger stage.

The most impressive thing about the freshman was his decision making. Aside from a fumble that quickly skipped out of bounds on a quarterback keeper, Winston never put the ball in danger.

He was able to find open receivers, like Rashad Greene and Nick O’ Leary, all night for four touchdown passes. Although he showed that he may not be the fastest or most efficient runner — totaling just 25 yards on eight carries –he managed to score on the ground as well.

All night long he seemed to keep his poise. Only once did he seem to get frustrated and that was after a penalty caused the Seminoles to get the play in too late, which turned into a delay of game penalty on Winston. Head coach Jimbo Fisher quickly apologized to his young quarterback. The coach’s lips seemed to say “That’s on me” and Winston immediately refocused. The Seminoles not only got the first down (on 1s & 30), but they also scored on the drive to put the game away before halftime.

Looking ahead, the Seminoles shouldn’t be in serious danger of dropping a game until they go to Clemson Oct. 19, which would help his Heisman campaign.

Can Nevada, Bethune-Cookman, Boston College, or Maryland really beat the ‘Noles? Probably not. Winston should have good numbers going into that game, which could be a showdown of top 10 teams with Heisman contenders squaring off at quarterback.

It isn’t uncommon for a young player to garner Heisman attention anymore. Remember when people said Tim Tebow couldn’t win the Heisman Trophy because he was a sophomore? Well, he did. Last season, Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the award. Heisman voters aren’t as stuck in their old ways as they once were, so it is possible for Winston to be a contender this year.

Will he be as poised and patient on the road at Clemson or at Florida as he was at Pittsburgh Monday night? The answer to that question will affect Florida State’s national title hopes and ACC title hopes, along with any hopes Winston has of shocking the nation to win the Heisman Trophy.

Heisman Watch: Week 1 Edition; Boyd takes Early Lead

tajhboyd1. Tajh Boyd, Clemson QB

Boyd, who already had Heisman aspirations moving into his senior season, became the early frontrunner after his performance against No. 5 Georgia in Saturday’s opener. He was 18 of 30, for 270 and three touchdowns through the air. Plus, he added 42 yards and two scores on the ground. Considering the Tigers don’t play another ranked team until Oct. 19 when they host No. 11 Florida State, it’s fair to think Boyd will be in the race for the long haul. Unless, of course, teammate Sammy Watkins steals votes from him.

johnnymanziel2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M QB

The Aggies quarterback has probably turned off a few Heisman voters with his off field antics and considering he only played one half and couldn’t resist getting an unsportsmanlike penalty likely didn’t help his cause. He’s probably still the most electrifying player in college football, but Heisman winners typically excel on the field and at least act their age off of it. No matter what you think of Johnny Football, I don’t think anyone can make a good argument that his antics are helping his Heisman case. Of course, if A&M knocks off Alabama in two weeks, Manziel could probably sign a million autographs and still be the Heisman frontrunner.

sammywatkins3. Sammy Watkins, Clemson WR

If Manziel isn’t the most exciting player in college football, Watkins probably is. The Tigers’ wide receiver had an electrifying 77-yard touchdown in Saturday’s victory against Georgia. He finished the game with six catches for 127 yards and a touchdown. The problem is, he’s up against some bad history for non quarterbacks and running backs. In order to keep his high spot, he is going to have to really light it up over the next few months and hope he outshines teammate Boyd.

braxtonmiller4. Braxton Miller, Ohio State QB

Miller had pedestrian numbers Saturday against Buffalo, although he did account for two touchdowns. The Ohio State quarterback will not play a ranked opponent until they take on Wisconsin Sept. 28, so Miller will likely put up big numbers in the next month.

bretthundley5. Brett Hundley, UCLA QB

I’ve felt like Hundley has been the darkhorse Heisman candidate that nobody is talking about. After an explosive performance against Nevada Saturday – four total touchdowns – he is clearly in the race. The Bruins won’t play again until Sept. 14, when they travel to Lincoln to take on Nebraska. If Hundley has a big game then and outshines another dual threat quarterback in the Cornhuskers Taylor Martinez, Heisman voters will notice.

marcusmariota6. Marcus Mariota, Oregon QB

The Ducks signal caller did what you’d expect him to do against Nicholls State, running for 113 yards and two scores and adding an efficient passing day. Next up, the Ducks play at Virginia. Mariota’s biggest problem might be teammate DeAnthony Thomas, who is likely to grab a lot of attention this year as well. There’s probably only enough room for one of them in the Heisman race.

lacheseastrunk

7. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor RB

Using his tremendous speed, Seastrunk rushed for a quick 111 yards and two scores before exiting Saturday’s game against Wofford. It’s not really fair to discredit him for this, but what are the odds Baylor would have two Heisman Trophy winners in three years?

denathonythomas150x1008. DeAnthony Thomas, Oregon RB

Thomas, who seems to be getting forgotten a little bit in preseason projections, had 19 touches in Saturday’s opener against Nicholls State.Next up for Oregon are two big name, out of conference opponents, although neither Virginia or Tennessee are likely to provide much resistance to Oregon’s offense.

teddybridgewater9. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville QB

The one problem with Bridgewater is going to be the schedule he faces. Who’s the toughest team left for him to play? Kentucky, Florida International, Temple, Rutgers, South Florida, and Connecticut all lost this weekend. He did all he could do Sunday against Ohio, going 9 for 9 for 122 yards and two touchdowns.

jordanlynch150x10010. Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois QB

The Huskies quarterback threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns in Northern Illinois’ victory against Iowa. The only major game left on the Huskies’ schedule is at Purdue, Sept. 28. If he wins out and other contenders fail to have huge years, could he win it? I still say it’s a longshot.

 

 

 

Stock Falling

A.J. McCarron, Alabama QB
Saturday was one of his least efficient games ever. I’m sure he will bounce back, but T. J. Yeldon will probably outshine him. If McCarron wins, it’ll be a career achievement award.

Kain Colter, Northwestern, QB

Colter, one of the best multi-faceted players in college football, was injured early in Northwestern’s win over California. The Wildcats won without him, which may actually hurt him because it lowers his perceived value to Northwestern.

Jadavion Clowney, South Carolina DE

He may still be the most talented player in college football, but one hit this offseason helped his fame reach a ridiculous height. He takes plays off, gets winded too often (although he says a stomach virus contributed to that Thursday) and he isn’t likely to score any touchdowns. He started the season way too early on Heisman Watch lists. He may go to New York but his chances of winning are slim. He’d have to record 20 sacks.

Marqise Lee, USC WR

Lee had a decent day in USC’s win against Hawaii, although he didn’t score. Here’s the problem: USC’s offense looked awful. Really bad.

Aaron Murray, Georgia QB

Although he didn’t play awful in the Bulldogs’ opening loss against Clemson, the fact still remains that he was on the losing end. Plus, he failed to throw a touchdown pass, although he did rush for one.

Four different ways to look at Alabama’s ugly win over Virginia Tech

Alabama's A. J. McCarron scambles against Virginia Tech in the Crimson Tide's 35-10 win Saturday.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Alabama’s A. J. McCarron scambles against Virginia Tech in the Crimson Tide’s 35-10 win Saturday. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

It really doesn’t matter how you look at Alabama’s win over Virginia Tech, it was ugly.  Even the most cynical Crimson Tide fans probably would agree with that conclusion, considering Alabama was held to 206 total yards in its 35-10 victory over Virginia Tech. There have been a lot of ugly games in my lifetime. I watch football unlike many others and I usually remember 95 percent of the games I do watch, but when I think of the ugliest college football games I’ve ever watched, I think of the 2008 Auburn-Mississippi State game. The Tigers won 3-2.

Saturday’s game between the Tide and Hokies was nearly as ugly, although Christion Jones and a 77-yard run by Trey Edmunds stopped the score from being that low (thank goodness). Take away the Edmunds run and Virginia Tech had 125 yards. Take away a punt return, kickoff return, and an interception return and Alabama had 14 points.

In that infamous 2009 game, Auburn had 315 offensive yards. There were 20 first downs in that game, compared to 18 in Saturday’s game. Between Virginia’s Logan Thomas  and Alabama’s A. J. McCarron, the quarterbacks combined to go 15 of 49, for 169 yards.

15 of 49. Let that sink in.

Credit the defenses, but man Saturday’s game was ugly. There’s talk of Alabama’s demise around the country and I even had one Alabama fan, who I only recently met and barely know, say Saturday’s game was one of the ugliest games he’d ever seen. He’s been watching Alabama games for 60 years.

Saturday was ugly, but maybe talk of Alabama’s demise is going too far. Maybe it’s not. It’s too early to know what Saturday’s game means for Alabama’s season and Virginia Tech’s, but it isn’t too early to speculate. Based on Alabama’s play, I came away with four different ways of looking at the Crimson Tide:

  1. If Alabama can beat a former national power like Virginia Tech – who didn’t look bad itself on Saturday defensively – without any real production from its offense, it’s really scary what the Crimson Tide might be able to do once the offense gets its timing down. Christion Jones really saved the day with his three touchdown effort, especially with two special teams scores, but isn’t that why Alabama is as good as it is? Even when the Crimson Tide have had marginal days from their offense, they’ve been able to get a great effort from an unexpected player in order to pick up wins. That has happened over and over in the Nick Saban era.
  2. Maybe Alabama’s offense is overrated. A. J. McCarron looked like he was seeing stars the whole game, missing open receivers who were unable to beat press coverage. Think about it. Amari Cooper, who I believe is the most talented player on Alabama’s 2013 roster (and that’s really saying something) was unable to break out. He had four catches for 38 yards. It’s understandable that super-talented sophomore T. J. Yeldon could only muster 75 yards on the ground, considering the Hokies were throwing nine people at him on every down, but the passing game was a huge disappointment. McCarron’s passing effort (10 of 23) almost made Tim Tebow’s completion percentage (37.5%) NFL numbers look acceptable.
  3. With Alabama’s defense, who cares how good their offense is, because nobody can score on them anyways. Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas would probably be the first to admit that Alabama’s defense is better on the field than it even looks on film. Thomas, once projected as a first round pick by NFL scouts, went 5 of 26 passing Saturday. 5 of 26. Some of that is because his receivers couldn’t catch a Nerf football gently lofted in their direction on a nice fall day, let alone a football against the nation’s most feared defense. But despite that, Thomas has to be better than 5 of 26 passing. Of course, Edmunds, a freshman still rushed for 132 yards against the vaunted defense. Although the majority of that came in one large chunk, it might still show a chink in Alabama’s armor. Everyone is looking for any chink at this point, considering Alabama has lost two games in about 2.5 years.
  4. Could defenses finally be figuring Alabama out? Let’s be honest folks, the offense the Crimson Tide runs isn’t exactly known for tomfoolery. Alabama is going to trot onto the field with lineman bigger than the opponent, use muscle to open up running lanes, allow their quick, powerful running backs to make plays, and play action off of the run. Occasionally, Alabama goes five wide receivers and many times it is effective, but opposing defenses would rather see the Crimson Tide in five-wide sets than doing what they do best – making defensive lineman cry and linebackers miss for big runs.

 

Obviously, we won’t know which of these ways of looking at the game are right until a few more weeks of football have been played. We’ll get to see Alabama’s defense go against the only team to figure it out last year, Texas A&M, in two weeks at College Station. We’ll also get to see whether McCarron and the passing game can get going against an Aggies defense that made Rice’s offense look like a national power in the first half Saturday.

My guess is that the offense will be fine. There’s too much firepower for Alabama not to put up points, although the offensive line was awful Saturday. Saban will likely make that a focus for the next two weeks. Plus, it’s two weeks. Nobody is better with a bye week than Saban, who will surely have his team ready to go for the Aggies.