Clear Your Schedule 2016 | Week 3

By Brian Wilmer -

Okay, I screwed up.

A reader (astutely, I might add) called me out in the comments last week for including Middle Tennessee/Vanderbilt in last week’s piece, at the expense of Pitt/Penn State. Part of it was an honest oversight, and another part was the number of storylines involved in Middle/Vandy. That said, Pitt/Penn State turned out to be a classic, and Middle/Vandy…did not. The Blue Raiders beat the Commodores in just about every category, except for turnovers (Middle threw a pick and lost a fumble), and the scoreboard. That last one is somewhat important.

Lesson learned.

Since I’ve already mentioned my own goof, let’s see how the rest of last week’s games turned out:

Alabama 38, Western Kentucky 10
Hurts (ALA): 23-36, 287 yards, 2 TD; White (WKU): 10-24, 135 yards, INT (was NCAA’s passing leader entering game)

Vanderbilt 47, Middle Tennessee 24
Stockstill (MT): 38-65, 399 yards, 3 TD, INT; Webb (VU): 29 carries, 211 yards, 2 TD

Arkansas 41, TCU 38 (2OT)
Allen (ARK): 17-29, 223 yards, 3 TD; Turpin (TCU): 7 rec, 126 yards; 4 KR, 136 yards (64 long)

Utah 20, BYU 19
Williams (UTAH): 14-23, 194 yards, TD, 3 INT; Hill (BYU): 21-39, 176 yards, 3 INT; 13 carries, 87 yards, 2 TD

Tennessee 45, Virginia Tech 24
McMillian (VT): 14 carries, 127 yards, TD; rec, 9 yards; Dobbs (TEN): 10-19, 91 yards, 3 TD, INT; 14 carries, 106 yards, 2 TD

Arizona State 68, Texas Tech 55
Mahomes II (TTU): 38-53, 540 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT; 11 carries, 44 yards TD; Wilkins (ASU): 28-37, 351 yards, 2 TD; 10 carries, 55 yards; Ballage (ASU): 13 carries, 137 yards, 7 TD; 2 receptions, 48 yards, TD (8 TD – T-all-time single-game record)

We have a very interesting slate of games this week — if you haven’t made your picks, come join us and do so here — but before we get to them, it’s trivia time!

Trivia, Week 3 (answer at the end of the column): Which current NFL referee scored two touchdowns the last time the teams in one of this week’s matchups played each other? For whom did he play?

#2 Florida State (2-0) at #10 Louisville (2-0, 1-0 ACC)
Noon | ABC

  • Nearly half a mile: The ACC points out an interesting tidbit following Louisville’s video game-like 845 yards of total offense in last week’s victory over Syracuse. That yardage total is good for second-best in conference history, behind — you guessed it, this week’s opponent, Florida State. The Seminoles hung 858 yards on Maryland in an epic 69-21 beating on the Terps on November 7, 1992, with Charlie Ward completing 26-of-37 throws for 395 yards and four scores, along with 83 rushing yards and another touchdown.
  • Chasing Jameis: Everyone remembers Jameis Winston’s 2013 redshirt freshman season, in which he won the Heisman and nearly every other award imaginable. In the interest of using incredibly small sample sizes — which is, admittedly, all we have — current freshman Seminole quarterback Deondre Francois compares somewhat favorably through his first two games. Winston completed 40 of his first 45 passes through two games (at Pitt, Nevada) as a Seminole, throwing for 570 yards and six scores against just one pick. Francois, after a sizzling second half against Ole Miss and a solid performance against Charleston Southern, has completed 58-of-84 tosses for 681 yards and five touchdowns, also getting picked just once.
  • Speaking of quarterbacks: Lamar Jackson has gotten off to an incredible start for the Cardinals. The sophomore is 37-for-62 through the air in two efforts, tallying 697 yards, seven TDs and a rip. Jackson also ranks third in the nation in rushing, having run for 318 yards and six additional scores. Louisville’s sports information department notes that Jackson became the first-ever FBS player to throw for greater than 400 yards and rush for greater than 175 in the same contest in last week’s shellacking of Syracuse.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Bobby Petrino has one win (in three tries) against top-five competition (44-34 over #3 West Virginia, 2006). Can he make it two?

#22 Oregon (2-0) at Nebraska (2-0)
3:30pm | ABC

  • Three decades: It’s been 30 years since these two teams faced off, which seems a bit odd for two prominent programs. Nebraska hosted the 1986 Oregon club on September 27th of that year, handing the Ducks a 48-14 defeat. The Huskers carried the ball 63 times on that day, running for 301 yards. This is the front side of a home-and-home that Kevin reported here in 2013.
  • All they’re “quacked” up to be: Nebraska’s sports information department points out an interesting number about the Ducks. Alabama’s domination since 2010 is clear to any college football fan; however, Oregon finds themselves in second place behind the Tide in terms of victories since 2010. The Ducks have 71 victories since the start of the ’10 campaign.
  • Nearing milestones: Nebraska announces that this game will be the 350th sellout in a row at Lincoln’s Memorial Stadium, despite some controversy around the total. The streak began November 3, 1962. A win Saturday would represent win number 299 in that run, with the next chance for number 300 — again, assuming the Huskers win — coming in their Homecoming contest against Illinois on October 1.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Oregon looked a bit shaky in Week 1, but dismantled Virginia in Eugene. Nebraska will need that home-field advantage Saturday.

#1 Alabama (2-0) at #19 Ole Miss (1-1)
3:30pm | CBS

  • Righting the ship: Alabama is seeking to avoid a third straight loss to Ole Miss, with the Rebels being the only team to defeat the Tide during the last two regular seasons. One of the first questions to Nick Saban — predictably — at SEC Media Days centered around the team’s being tripped up by the Rebels the last two seasons, as SBNation’s Roll Bama Roll notes:

Coach Saban first stated the obvious — that OIe Miss has had a talented ball club the past few years. Second, and one that was glaringly obvious last year, Alabama has to play field position and ball control football. Turnovers and short fields have doomed the Tide the past two seasons (Ed. Note: The Tide have turned the ball over 8 times versus Ole Miss the past two seasons.) Another problem he identified home the defensive lapses, particularly “lapses in the secondary,” which yielded too many points and explosive plays to the Rebels’ passing game.

  • Young leadership: Ole Miss will face their second freshman quarterback in three weeks when Alabama’s Jalen Hurts takes the field (Wofford’s Brad Butler, whom the Rebels faced last week, is a junior). We’ve already mentioned FSU’s Deondre Francois’ success against the Rebs earlier in this piece, but Ole Miss’ Rommel Mageo told the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger of his team’s plan to neutralize Hurts.

“You just (have) to take their confidence away,” the middle linebacker said. “If you take their confidence away and scare them a little bit and hit them, then you’ll get to them.”

  • Crowded airspace: The Tide face a third powerful passing offense in a row this week, lining up opposite the Rebels, who sport a completion percentage of greater than 62 percent. Alabama has passed two early tests against USC and Western Kentucky, though, allowing just 49.3 percent of opponents’ passes to be completed. We mentioned here that Western Kentucky’s Mike White came into last week’s game as the NCAA’s leading passer, and the Hilltoppers completed just 19-of-38 passes for 216 yards, a touchdown and two picks.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: Alabama looks to have much fewer reasons for Nick Saban to have conversations “a– chewings” this week. The losing streak is in jeopardy.

#3 Ohio State (2-0) at #14 Oklahoma (1-1)
7:30pm | FOX

  • This looks familiar: Much like the Oregon-Nebraska game above, these teams last met in the 1980s. It’s been 33 years for these two, though, as their last contest came in 1983. The Buckeyes knocked off the Sooners, 24-14, on that September day in Norman. The field there was still turf at the time, and, according to reports, was over 130 degrees prior to the game. Former Chicago Bears quarterback Mike Tomczak guided Ohio State to the victory on that day.
  • Three in the top three: Ohio State is just the third top-three opponent to play in Norman during Bob Stoops’ tenure leading the Sooners. Oklahoma is 2-0 against the two prior opponents, clubbing then-second-ranked Texas Tech 65-21 in 2008 and beating top-ranked Nebraska 31-14 16 years ago.
  • Success in the polls: Urban Meyer’s four-plus seasons at Ohio State have led to a tremendous amount of success against teams ranked in the AP Top 25, as 12 of the 15 such games have resulted in Buckeye victories. Meyer holds just one loss against a ranked non-Big Ten club — 12th-ranked Clemson defeated Ohio State 40-35 in the 2014 Orange Bowl.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: A win for Oklahoma keeps their CFP hopes alive — until they play Texas, at least. A loss, and they’re essentially done after just three games.

#12 Michigan State (1-0) at #18 Notre Dame (1-1)
7:30pm | NBC

  • Stand up and shout: This long-standing rivalry has one of the more interesting trophies presented each time the game is played. The prize for the winner is the Megaphone Trophy, which displays the scores of each game played between the two. The trophy currently in use is the third Megaphone Trophy, because of space concerns with listing all the previous scores. Notre Dame leads the all-time series, having won 48 of the 77 games between the schools and 29 of the 42 played in South Bend.
  • Vacation’s over: Saturday’s contest will mark the first in 15 days for the Spartans, as they received a bye in the week following their season-opening, 28-13 victory over Furman on the first Friday of the month. There will be no further breaks for Michigan State, however, as they will play for the next 11 weeks. The only remaining non-league game on MSU’s schedule will be played October 8, as BYU visits East Lansing. The time and television plan for that game will be announced at a later date.
  • We’re going streaking: We mentioned sellout streaks earlier in this piece, in reference to Nebraska’s impressive sellout string. Notre Dame is working on its own, having sold out 251 in a row (including this game). The Notre Dame sports information department notes that just one game since the beginning of the 1965 season has failed to sell out in South Bend. That game saw the then-fifth-ranked Irish take down Air Force, 48-15, following a 28-point first quarter. The game was played on Thanksgiving Day in 1973, however, which likely affected the turnout.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: With a halftime commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Game of the Century, one can only hope this one is equally great.

#11 Texas (2-0) at Cal (1-1)
10:30pm | ESPN

  • How the mighty have (briefly) fallen: A lot was understandably made of Texas’ victory over Notre Dame earlier this year, but perhaps lost in the shuffle is the fact that the Longhorns would move to 3-0 with a win — their first 3-0 start in five seasons. Texas won their first four contests of the 2012 campaign, followed by back-to-back losses to West Virginia and Oklahoma. Charlie Strong’s “rebranding” job in Austin appears to be gaining traction.
  • Call your travel agent: This is the second game of a home-and-home Kevin reported here in 2009 (!), and will be the first time Texas has played at Cal in nearly 50 years. The Golden Bears’ lone win in six tries in the series came last year in Austin, as a wild, 45-44 decision went the way of Cal.
  • Making an early statement: Texas quarterback Shane Buechele has made quite the impact on the club in his first two games as the Longhorns’ leader. He is already nearly halfway to the single-season Texas record for passing yards by a true freshman, having thrown for 524 yards in two contests. He has also tied Longhorn legend Bobby Layne — already — for most touchdown passes in a season by a first-year quarterback. Layne threw for six scores in 1944. His 280 yards and four touchdowns against UTEP last week are also brand-new school freshman records.

Print that, tweet that, whatever: SDSU’s Donnel Pumphrey gashed the Bears’ defense on the ground last week. Look for Texas to do much of the same in this one.

Just missed the list this week: #6 Houston at Cincinnati (not a Saturday game – these will never make the list), Colorado at #4 Michigan, #17 Texas A&M at Auburn, USC at #7 Stanford.

Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Which current NFL referee scored two touchdowns the last time the teams in one of this week’s matchups played each other? For whom did he play?

Clete Blakeman had a one-yard touchdown carry for Nebraska against Oregon in 1986. Blakeman also completed 3-of-5 passes for 55 yards, including a 29-yard scoring throw.