NCAA Football Report (Week 4)

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The NCAA would see possibly one of the worst weeks of football in recent memory as it seemed that the entire league had taken a week off. The top teams in the league would take on some much lesser talent and smaller schools. It is something that happens often as head coaches are allowed to schedule their own games and pick a few weak teams to go against. They do this to make sure that they do not have to go through the gauntlet in a league that rewards those that are as close to perfect as you can be. One loss can mean the difference between the National Championship and a BCS Bowl. So top programs who have to play a tough conference schedule try to use their open dates to schedule teams that they know they can beat. Usually these games are spread out throughout the start of the season but this year they all seemed to be in week 4 of the season. The top teams would see opponents that were not up to the top standards and really never could compete. It would seem like a perfect opportunity for an upset but none would come as all of the top teams would get through and take the win. As the top teams went through the paces this Saturday there was a different debate that was going on. The BCS Rankings system is a complicated equation that takes a lot of different aspects to a season into account when producing the top 25 rankings every year. One of the factors that enters into the equation is the infamous Strength of Schedule. It is a source of constant debate among fans and analysts alike. The Strength of Schedule seems to be important as soon as a team from a conference like the former WAC or Mountain West enters into the top 5 of the rankings. When one of these teams looks to be challenging for a spot in the National Championship the arguments immediately arise about how strong their schedule is. Teams in these conferences rarely face another team ranked in the top 10 and when compared to teams in the SEC, who face teams in the top 20 regularly, they seem to lose the Strength of Schedule debate. This is what kept teams like Boise State and TCU out of the national Championships for the years they ranked near the top of the rankings. There is something to this argument as a team that does not face the best of the best does not deserve to be considered the best of the best. Then you look at the full schedules of the bigger programs and although they face teams in the top 20 they face teams that have no business stepping onto the field with them. No disrespect to smaller D-I schools but when one school has millions of dollars to work with and others have a few hundred thousand it is hard to compete. Another debate begins when looking at the full schedule with these teams as arguments arise with two sides. Is it better to face a number of middle of the road, possibly not Top 25, teams with little breaks in between or is it better to face a few top 10 teams and load up with weaker teams the rest of the way. It is a debate that not many are talking about but one that looks to increase as the years move on. With top teams like Alabama facing teams like Colorado State, Georgia State, and Chattanooga for three of their games this year something needs to be talked about. Teams are taking the example of Alabama and scheduling weak teams in order to get wins rather than trying to take on the best teams in the country every year for fear that they may just fall short. If Strength of Schedule is as important as it seems these top programs need to be looked at a lot closer as their schedules are getting weaker which should only translate into less top rankings. It is something to watch as the NCAA moves on to a new playoff format next year as the top four teams will still be ranked by the BCS and teams with major holes in their schedule should be debated alongside those who play a weaker conference schedule.

 

Heisman Watch:

1. Tajh Boyd, QB (Clemson)
Boyd would take a bit of a hit this week if you were only watching the first half of the game against NC State. Boyd did not look like himself as Clemson seemed on the verge of yet another letdown in a season where they are right on the edge. The Tigers have a habit of falling short just when they begin to pick up steam and now that they are ranked #3 everyone seems to be waiting for that failure. The NC State game was almost that if it wasn’t for Boyd’s performance in the second half as he would come alive to throw two TDs and add to his 244 yard total. Boyd impressed in the second half and held off the Wolfpack but one more performance like this and he could begin to slip. Boyd and the Tigers take on Wake Forest next week and Boyd needs to be dominant once again if he hopes to stay at the top of the Heisman race.
Stats (3 Games):
62.2% (32 rsh)
683 yds (90 rsh yds)
6 TD (3 rsh TD)
0 INT

2. Marcus Mariota, QB (Oregon)
The Oregon Ducks would see a bye week this week as they took a rest from putting up massive points against teams. The bye week would not keep Mariota away from the top of the Heisman fight though as the impressive performances from recent weeks have kept him among the top players in the league. The Ducks have an offence that has punished defences and put up a total of 116 points in the last two games. At the head of this attack is Mariota who has done it through the air and on the ground as a dual threat QB. With the #2 ranking the Ducks seem to be on their way to the National Championship as long as they can continue their dominance. Mariota will lead the #2 Ducks in their first major Pac-12 game against the Cal as they hope to continue their winning streak. If Mariota can take over the game he may very well take over the Heisman race.
Stats (3 Games):
59.8% (15 rsh)
889 yds (262 rsh yds)
7 TD (4 rsh TD)
0 INT

3. Johnny Manziel, QB (Texas A&M)
Johnny Football continues to impress but he has done himself a disservice with his great games. Every game that he plays he seems to do extremely well but the standard is so high that the needs to be that much better. In his game against SMU Manziel would have another good game but by his standards it was not the best. With close to 350 all-purpose yards and three total TDs Manziel would help the Aggies to another win over the Mustangs. It was not his best performance and so he does not move up in the rankings as he will need to put on his best performance every week if he hopes to win another Heisman. Manziel is looking to be a repeat winner of the Heisman and that is a tough thing to do as he has set a standard of play that he needs to exceed if he hopes to win. He will get another shot when he leads the Aggies against Arkansas and will need to be on his A game to try to move up.
Stats (4 Games):
70.0% (39 rsh)
1,228 yds (255 rsh yds)
12 TD (3 rsh TD)
4 INT

4. Teddy Bridgewater, QB (Louisville)
Stats (4 Games):
71.8%
1,214 yds
14 TD
1 INT

5. AJ McCarron, QB (Alabama)
Stats (3 Games):
64.1%
702 yds
6 TD
2 INT

 

AP Top 25:
1. Alabama Crimson Tide (1)
2. Oregon Ducks (2)
3. Clemson Tigers (3)
4. Ohio State Buckeyes (4)
5. Stanford Cardinal (5)
6. LSU Tigers (6)
7. Louisville Cardinals (7)
8. Florida State Seminoles (8)
9. Georgia Bulldogs (9)
10. Texas A&M Aggies (10)
11. Oklahoma State Cowboys (11)
12. South Carolina Gamecocks (12)
13. UCLA Bruins (13)
14. Oklahoma Sooners (14)
15. Miami Hurricanes (16)
16. Washington Huskies (17)
17. Northwestern Wildcats (18)
18. Michigan Wolverines (15)
19. Baylor Bears (20)
20. Florida Gators (19)
21. Ole Miss Rebels (21)
22. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (22)
23. Wisconsin Badgers (24)
24. Texas Tech Red Raiders (25)
25. Fresno State Bulldogs (–)

 

Key Scores:
Fresno State Bulldogs 41 – 40 Boise State Broncos
– The Bulldogs would take the win in this very close battle in one of the best games of the week and for the win against the formerly ranked Broncos Fresno State would make their way to the Top 25

#22 Notre Dame 17 – 13 Michigan State Spartans
– It was not the most exciting game of the weekend but it would be one of the closer ones as Michigan State and Notre Dame would fight a defensive battle where the Irish would come out on top but just barely

#5 Stanford Cardinal 42 – 28 Arizona State Sun Devils #23
– It was one of the few games of the week with two ranked opponents and it would finish the same way as many expected with the Cardinal coming out on top and knocking the Sun Devils out of the rankings

#15 Michigan Wolverines 24 – 21 UConn Huskies
– The Wolverines have not been very impressive since beating Notre Dame as they continue to rack up wins but do so in very scary ways for their fans as they would barely get by the unranked Huskies to remain undefeated

 

Next Week:
#6 LSU Tigers vs. #9 Georgia Bulldogs (Saturday September 28th; 3:30 pm ET)
– This will be the most important game of the weekend with both teams looking to stay among the top 10 while getting a very important win against their SEC opponents as the winner may very well find themselves in the SEC Championship this year

#14 Oklahoma Sooners vs. #22 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Saturday September 28th; 3:30 pm ET)
– The Irish will get their toughest test of the year as they will take on the Oklahoma Sooners in a game that could bring them back to the top 20 but if they lose they will likely see themselves out of the top 25 with no hopes of a big bowl

#23 Wisconsin Badgers vs. #4 Ohio State Buckeyes (Saturday September 28th; 8:00 pm ET)
– The Badgers are just hanging on to a top 25 spot in the rankings while the Buckeyes are trying to get to the top two in the rankings and trying to regain the spot that they held at the start of the year

California Golden Bears vs. #2 Oregon Ducks (Saturday September 28th; 10:30 pm ET)
– The Ducks have put up plenty of points for more than just three games and they will try to continue putting up the points against their Pac-12 rivals in the Cal Bears who will try to put an end to the Ducks winning streak

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