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College Football Midseason Breakdown

October 15, 2012

Most teams have played six of their 12 regular-season games after the second weekend in October. As always there have been, team-wise, several pleasant surprises and abrupt disappointments, as well as exciting player performances and games. The race to play in the fraud that is the BCS championship game has already been narrowed down to only a handful of teams, even fewer than what it was at the beginning of the season. (The New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals are thankful that their respective sports leagues aren’t as stupid as the people who run college football and the BCS.)

But here’s an as-thorough-as-possible recap of the first seven games of the 2012 college football season, complete with best games, top players, top surprises and disappointments and my first Heisman ballot.

Geno Smith, with 25 touchdown passes and zero interceptions, should be the Heisman front-runner. (Brad Davis Icon/SMI)

Top teams

  • Alabama – The Tide has rolled over every opponent it’s faced so far. Alabama leads the country in the four main defensive categories (Total D, rush D, pass D and scoring D), while also performing well on offense (17th in scoring, 26th in rushing). The Tide, No. 1 in the BCS rankings, has the inside track to the national title game. But let’s stop acting like the SEC is the best conference in college football. Yes, it’s got three or four of the best teams, but outside of that it’s not any better than the Big East (maybe a slight exaggeration). Alabama only has one win over a ranked team, Michigan, which doesn’t have any quality wins. Its only two other wins that could’ve been considered quality coming into the season – on the road at Arkansas and Missouri – have been rendered moot by both those teams’ ineffectiveness this year. Alabama has three games against ranked teams left, home dates with Mississippi St. and Texas A&M and a trip to Baton Rouge. While Mississippi St. hasn’t beaten anyone yet, its defense is in the top half of the SEC in most categories and LSU has about 12 future NFL players on its defense. What those teams lack in offense, Texas A&M will present a stiff test to the Alabama D. Yes, the Tide has looked good, but, once again, it hasn’t beaten anyone yet. But I guess that doesn’t matter when you’re in the Ess E See.
  • Oregon – You can say the same thing about Oregon as I did about Alabama – Yes the Ducks have been impressive, but their lack of high-quality wins is hysterical. They beat Arizona and Washington, both of whom were ranked at the time but aren’t now. They’ve also only played one game away from Eugene, against Washington St. in Seattle at the Seahawks’ stadium. Oregon ranks second in points and fourth in rushing yards. Redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota has been as good as any of the three QBs that came before him, which is saying something. Oregon faces its toughest test of the season this Thursday as it visits 5-1 Arizona St. Then the Ducks play at USC Nov. 3 and finish the season with games against Stanford and Oregon St. I know I’m jinxing them right now, but with how pedestrian USC and Stanford have looked lately the Ducks should be able to win both those games. And their Civil War game against OSU will actually be entertaining for the first time in a couple years.
  • Kansas St. – The Wildcats, currently fourth in the BCS, present an interesting case. What if Oregon loses only once and Florida loses only once, in the SEC Championship Game, while K-State goes undefeated? The Wildcats would have more quality wins than either of those two teams, but they play in what’s regarded as a lesser conference. (Can we please do away with preconceived notions about conferences in a particular season?) We all know what would happen if the Wildcats were in the SEC, don’t we? But we should root for this situation just for the chaos it would create. And it’d be another reminder of how stupid the BCS is.

Surprise teams

  • Florida – The Gators came into the season ranked 23rd, even though they didn’t deserve to be ranked. Their entire offense was a question mark, especially at quarterback. But after squeaking by Bowling Green in the opener they won twice on the road, at Texas A&M and Tennessee, and held LSU to six points in a 14-6 win. They currently sit at No. 2 in the BCS rankings, but will have to most likely win out to play in the championship game. Jeff Driskel’s rise to somewhat-good quarterback has been a pleasant surprise for Florida. Driskel doesn’t do too much through the air (fewer than 100 yards passing each of the last two games), but he limits the mistakes (only one interception) and has been a threat on the ground (326 yards and four TDs).
  • Notre Dame – The annual Notre Dame hype machine actually delivered this season. The Golden Domers are fifth in the BCS and have wins over Michigan, Stanford, Miami and Michigan St. The key to the Irish’s 6-0 start is its monstrous defense. Notre Dame ranks second in scoring defense and first in touchdowns allowed. The defense also hasn’t given up a touchdown in four games and hasn’t allowed a single rushing touchdown on the season. The offense needs to grow up, as it’s only 69th in scoring and 65th in yards per play. But with the defense Notre Dame has, the offense only needs to be mediocre like LSU’s last year, to give the Irish a shot at a championship.
  • Oregon St. – The Beavers have probably been the biggest surprise of the year. The Beavers didn’t receive even a single vote in either poll in the preseason, which was deserved because they only had eight wins the last two seasons, including only three last year. But now they’re 5-0 and eighth in the BCS after beating Wisconsin and holding Montee Ball to only 61 rush yards and winning at UCLA, Arizona and BYU. The BYU win was led by backup quarterback Cody Vaz, who was filling in for injured starter Sean Mannion. All Vaz did was throw for three touchdowns, 332 yards and 10.3 yards per attempt in a 42-24 win against the No. 7 defense in the country.

Disappointments

  • Arkansas – Easily the top fraudulent team of the season, the Hogs started out ranked 10th in the preseason. But they’ve been messier than a piglet in a barnyard during a rainstorm. They lost three straight at home, then lost their fourth in a row to Texas A&M, 58-10. They were outscored 110-10 in their first two conference games and are 90th in scoring D.
  • Auburn – Is there any question who’s to credit for Auburn’s 2010 title? I’ll give you a hint: It’s not Gene Chizik. The Tigers only have one win on the season, an overtime win at home against Louisiana-Monroe, which missed a field goal in overtime. The Tigers are 120th in total offense. There are only 124 teams in the FBS. They’re also 80th in total defense. But Ess E See!
  • Wisconsin – I debated putting USC here, but while it’s certainly been disappointing, at least the Trojans haven’t been completely awful despite a misleading record. The Badgers, on the other hand, have been absolutely terrible. Oh yeah they’re 25th in scoring defense, but they’ve only played one team in the top 40 scoring offenses, Nebraska, whose number is bloated due to playing three terrible teams. The Badgers rank 77th and 87th, respectively, in scoring offense and total offense, and Montee Ball has seen his yards per carry drop from 6.3 to 4.7.

Most exciting offensive players

  • Johnny Manziel – No list including the words “exciting” and “offense” can begin with someone other than Johnny Football, Texas A&M’s quarterback. Manziel set an SEC record for total offense with 577 yards against Louisiana Tech last Saturday night. He’s second in the country in total yards, with 2,356. He’s accounted for over 500 yards of offense in two games, an SEC record. Oh yeah, he’s just a redshirt freshman.
  • Geno Smith – Even a steaming dump of a game against Texas Tech can’t take Geno off this list. The senior has thrown 25 touchdowns and zero interceptions. His game against Baylor in which he threw eight touchdowns and 656 yards is the definition of exciting.
  • Collin Klein – The Kansas St. quarterback is a favorite of mine. He’s leading the unheralded Wildcats to what should be a BCS game through the air and on the ground. He doesn’t throw that much, but he’s completing almost 67 percent of his passes at 9.1 yards per attempt. And he’s rushed for at least 54 yards in every game this year, including back-to-back 100-yard games the last two weeks. His 10 rushing touchdowns rank him seventh in the nation.

Best games

  • Texas A&M 59 Louisiana Tech 57 – A&M blew 27-0 and 39-16 leads only to hold off two Tech two-point conversion attempts in the fourth quarter, both of which would’ve tied the game. We’ve already covered Manziel’s performance, but Tech’s Colby Cameron was just as impressive – 450 yards, five TDs, no INTs. Tech’s Quinton Patton caught 21 passes for 233 yards and four touchdowns.
  • Louisiana-Monroe 34 Arkansas 31 (OT) – The beginning of the end for Arkansas was an epic meltdown, where the Razorbacks, ranked eighth at the time, blew a 28-7 third-quarter lead, allowing multiple fourth quarter and overtime fourth-down conversions, including the game-winning 16-yard touchdown run by ULM QB Barrett Browning.
  • North Carolina St. 17 Florida St. 16 – N.C. State held the Seminoles scoreless in the second half and overcame a 16-point halftime deficit to basically all but eliminate the Noles from the national title conversation. Mike Glennon’s 4th-and-goal touchdown pass from the 2 was the dagger.

Heisman ballot

  1. Geno Smith
  2. Johnny Manziel
  3. Braxton Miller
  4. Manti Te’o
  5. Stefphon Jefferson
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