It doesn’t matter that Michigan beat Rutgers 48-42. It matters that the Wolverines took a come-from-behind effort and three hours of overtime to do it.
Jim Harbaugh’s Lament is a renewed story, so we’ll save it for another time. The thing that keeps standing out is that there is one skilled Rutgers team that cannot be ignored. While every year is a fresh chance to start over, it’s shocking how improved the Scarlet Knights look under coach Greg Schiano.
I was skeptical that Schiano 2.0 would work. It’s not that I don’t think Schiano isn’t a good college coach, it’s that he previously led the program at a time when there was more room for success in the skeleton Big East. And if Rutgers wanted to continue as something other than a doormat, the best option was to use the The next Schiano, don’t literally take it back. It’s early, but I might have been wrong. The Scarlet Knights are 1-4, but they were tricky if not downright competitive.
The situation reminds us of how things would have turned out if, in late 2017, Schiano had indeed been hired to coach Tennessee instead of Jeremy Pruitt. The state eventually worked, but it’s not like Pruitt delivered the goods. The Vols were one of the SEC teams to come in du jour for the year, but they’ve lost five in a row with double digits. That is the the first time such a streak has ever occurred in Tennessee.
Schiano once raised Rutgers from the dead. Looks like he could do it again. Each job has its own unique challenges, and Tennessee is a very different job from Rutgers. Still, it would have been interesting to see what he could have done with the volunteers.
The Northwestern defense can win the Big Ten West
An undefeated Northwest is something that must be planted in our collective psyche. After a 17-7 victory over Wisconsin, the No. 19 Wildcats go to 5-0 and the remaining schedule of Michigan State, Minnesota and Illinois is very easy to win. What will bring Pat Fitzgerald’s team to the Big Ten Championship Game is the same defense that has already taken them this far. The Wildcats have already ruled out four opponents in the second half, including the Badgers on Saturday. I doubt Northwestern is good enough to beat Ohio State, but it’s defensively good enough to share the field with them.
Even after Daniels made his debut for No. 13 Georgia in a 31-24 victory over Mississippi, Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart kept lips closed about why it took the USC transfer so long to see the field this season. You can only suspect that Daniels just wasn’t healthy enough after his knee injury that ends the season in 2019. Otherwise it would be a coaching crime. Daniels was excellent, threw for 401 yards and four touchdowns – and looked like the clear answer to Stetson Bennett and D’Wan Mathis. A little ironic is that Georgia has been able to win most of its games this year without needing a great quarterback game as it could lean on its defensive and running play. The opposite was true against a very small-scale Mississippi State team. Georgia needed Daniels to win, while the rest of the team fell short.
UCLA is the gift that keeps on giving
The Bruins would make a great secret Santa because they give a ton of gifts and fly under the radar in total anonymity. A wild, but very real stat courtesy of Bryan Fischer tells the story. In three games this season, the Bruins flipped the ball nine times, allowing opposing teams to score touchdowns on said turnover. Four of them lost 38-35 to No. 11Oregon on Saturday, resulting in 28 points for the Ducks. In fact, to look at UCLA, you’d think this is an improved team under Coach Chip Kelly – if they can hold the ball. But therein lies the problem.
I find myself at a crossroads with the College Football Playoff and teams from outside the Power Five conferences. I like the four-team format and I have no doubts about expansion. But I also recognize the inequality in which the world’s BYUs, Cincinnatis and Coastal Carolinas find themselves. These teams can play outright. Cincy and Coastal had two big wins against UCF and Appalachian State, respectively. They’re getting a bigger spotlight than usual this year, and that’s okay. But the reality of their playoff path remains the same – that is, it’s not great. Due to the largely conference-only slates this year, we haven’t seen Cincinnati v Nebraska or BYU against the normally tough schedule, rich in Power Five teams. It seems like it would be a good compromise to have them play against the Power Five competition in New Year’s Six bowls – but again, space is limited. This is the best crop of high-end teams outside of the power leagues in a while and it feels like they are falling short again.
The title race of the Big 12 is taking shape
… kind of. There are still a lot of tiebreaker scenarios that can complicate things. In practice, we don’t know what the Arlington match-up will likely be for another week or two. But after Oklahoma’s 41-13 win over Oklahoma State and Iowa State wrecked K-State 45-0, those would be your two favorites. Texas and Oklahoma State remain in the race and the Longhorns’ home game against the Cyclones in week 13 will be huge. Despite all the chunks this conference yielded at the beginning of the season, the ending will be a fun one.
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