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Monday, September 16, 2013

What We Learned from NCAA Week 3

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What We Learned from NCAA Week 3
By Wild on Sports Analyst Bryan Ridall

This week was the most anticipated week of college football in recent memory because of the hype and intrigue surrounding this year’s “Game of the Century” between Alabama and Texas A&M. However, there were plenty of other games that allowed college’s best players to dazzle us once again, and also allowed the officials to cost Wisconsin their game against Arizona State.

Johnny Manziel Might Be The Greatest College Football Player Ever


If you did watch the Alabama and A&M game, you got to witness one of the greatest single-game performances ever, and it was in a losing effort. Johnny Football put up as much offense as the entire Alabama team, dropping 562 yards on Nick Saban and his vaunted defense, with 464 passing yards and 98 rushing yards. Unfortunately for Manziel, two crucial interceptions were the difference in this game, one of which was in the red zone, taking points away from the Aggies, and the other went for six the other way. The real issue for Manziel was his own defense, which couldn’t stop the Alabama running game, and were only able to cause one turnover in its support of Manziel. The A&M defense was dominated upfront, giving up over 225 yards rushing, and had problems getting to A.J. McCarron, who threw for 334 yards and four touchdowns. The problem for A&M, both going into the game and during it, is that Alabama is just a better team than the Aggies, no matter how amazing Manziel plays. In this particular game, Manziel put on the best single performance college football has ever seen, especially from an undersized “punk” quarterback with tons of outside distractions. Manziel shredded the Alabama defense in a way that hasn’t happened since 2003, before Saban arrived. He even looked like Eli Manning at one point, getting out of the hold of a defender and chucking the ball down the field only to have his receiver make a great catch between multiple defenders. Manziel was better than Vince Young against USC, better than Cam Newton at any point in his career, and even better than Tebow against South Carolina. Any other quarterback would have given up once Alabama went on a 35-0 run to take the lead, but Manziel refused to quit and brought A&M within one touchdown with 15 seconds left. If A&M had recovered the onside kick, Manziel probably would have found a way to score in the remaining time because he was just that good on Saturday. The real question is, if Manziel can do that against a defense as good as Alabama’s, what is he going to do to the rest of his schedule, none of which will field a defense even close to the Tide’s until he faces LSU in the second last game of the season. Manziel is also saying all the right things, saying that the Aggies aren’t dead and the season isn’t over, both of which are true. The only questionable game that the Aggies have left on the schedule is LSU and if Manziel can perform like he did on Saturday against the Tigers, A&M will win. Alabama is the only team in college football who could have withstood the onslaught from Johnny Manziel, and they barely hung on. Manziel will surely go pro after this year, so we need to enjoy the last few months that he will dazzle us in the college ranks.

The Heisman Race Has Come Down to Three Players

I know it is early, but it seems that three quarterbacks have separated themselves from the rest of the pack, and it will be fun to watch them battle each other for the trophy. Right now, your Heisman Top 3 has to be Manziel, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, and Louisville signal-caller Teddy Bridgewater. To go on about Manziel would be redundant, but in 2.5 games, Manziel has put up almost 1,000 passing yards and 11 touchdowns, along with 150 yards rushing and a rushing touchdown. Manziel has a much tougher upcoming schedule than the other two quarterbacks, and will be facing SEC defenses, so if Manziel can continue where he left off against Alabama, he may just win back-to-back Heisman’s. Marcus Mariota has been the perfect quarterback for Oregon in the last two years, combining a strong arm, and unbelievable speed to pick apart defenses. Mariota has put up 889 passing yards and 260 rushing yards, accounting for 11 total touchdowns with no turnovers. He just turned in his finest outing of this young season, throwing for a career-high 456 yards and 4 touchdowns against Tennessee. In reality, there is only one game that will test Mariota and the Ducks, the November 7th showdown with Stanford that will be played away from Eugene. Last year, Stanford kept Oregon from making it to the National Championship game, beating the Ducks 17-14 in overtime due to multiple missed field goals by Oregon. Other than Stanford, the PAC 12 plays minimal defense, so Mariota will be able to continue to add to his gaudy stats, but if Stanford shuts down Mariota again, he will fall out of the race. Bridgewater is the most intriguing player in the Heisman race, and it will be interesting to see how the voters handle the much weaker competition that Bridgewater faces as opposed to the other quarterbacks on the list. Bridgewater is a more polished passer than Manziel and Mariota, and has thrown for over 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns already this season. He doesn’t rely on his legs to make plays like the other two quarterbacks, but is still mobile enough to make something happen if he needs to with his feet. Bridgewater, however, is going against the new American Athletic Conference, and won’t play a team ranked in the Top 25 all season, and it looks like Cincinnati will be the best team that he faces. While Bridgewater should continue to put up ridiculous numbers, and will most likely be the #1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Heisman committee may choose to pass on Bridgewater because of the level of competition he will be facing.

Wisconsin Got The Shaft Against Arizona State


Lost in all of Saturday was the ridiculous ending to the Wisconsin and Arizona State game, which was an embarrassment for college football. Wisconsin trailed Arizona State 32-30 with less than two minutes to go, when Badgers quarterback Joel Stave completed six straight passes for 70 yards, putting Wisconsin in field goal range. On the seventh play of the drive, with 18 seconds left, Stave took the snap, moved to the middle of the field, took a quick knee and put the ball on the ground. The officials didn’t blow the play down for whatever reason and several Arizona State players fell and laid on the ball, as the clock continued to run and celebrated their “fumble recovery.” The officials seemed to look lost with no idea what to do next and the clock ran down before Wisconsin was able to snap the ball and kick the game winning 30-yard field goal. Then when Wisconsin head coach Gary Anderson came out to get an explanation as to why the clock didn’t stop and his team didn’t get another play, the referees left the field without a word. In reality, the officials should have stopped the clock once Arizona State jumped on the ball, because they weren’t allowing the referees or the Badgers to get set for the next play. The Sun Devils could have also been called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for intentionally delaying the set up of the play. However, neither of those happened and Arizona State stole the win from Wisconsin, using the lack of attention from the officials to their advantage.

Texas Tech Will Make the Big 12 Interesting

Two weeks ago, freshman walk-on quarterback Baker Mayfield opened everyone’s eyes by throwing for over 400 yards in his first game against SMU. While he wasn’t as impressive this week, and left the game due to an injury, requiring backup quarterback Davis Webb to lead the comeback, Texas Tech is a team that will give their conference opponents a problem this year, and could very well compete for a Big 12 title in the next few years. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury, a former Red Raider quarterback himself, has implemented an effective passing game with his young quarterbacks, but needs to find consistency in the running game. Mayfield is the team’s top rusher, with only 97 yards on the season, and as a team, the Red Raiders are only averaging 3.6 yards a carry. Mayfield finally looked human against TCU, throwing only one touchdown and his first three interceptions of the year, but started the game off with a 50-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Williams. He also left the game in the third quarter, but Kingsbury has said that Mayfield should be back for Tech’s next game against Texas State. The Texas Tech defense is very good at causing turnovers, and has played reasonably well against the pass, but has been getting shredded on the ground, allowing TCU over 200 rushing yards. We won’t really know how good Texas Tech is until they start their “gauntlet” which starts October 19th against West Virginia and ends November 16th against Baylor, with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State between them. While Texas Tech seems a bit too young to compete this year, they will be a tough test for teams looking to win the Big 12, and will likely be competing for the Big 12 Title in the next few years.

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