Week 7 was quite possibly the most uneventful week of college football thus far. That doesn’t, however, take away from the amount of overreactions that week 7 generated: New Heisman Trophy front runners, another top 2 team going down to an unranked team, Rocky Top welcoming Lane Kiffin back in the most obnoxious of ways, and more.
Heisman Trophy Race
As of now, the Heisman odds are overwhelmingly in favor of Bryce Young and Matt Corral, the respective quarterbacks of Alabama and Ole Miss. Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III has had a solid season thus far, but three mediocre performances against Youngstown State, Nebraska, and most recently Indiana has his stock tumbling. With Michigan State’s toughest part of their schedule in front of them, Walker III could easily vault himself back to the top of the discussion. None of these top three candidates so far are my current favorite. Last week I talked about how Oklahoma could make a title run if they rode with Caleb Williams. Well, Lincoln Riley rolled the dice this past week starting the true freshman and he didn’t disappoint. Williams went 18 of 23 for 295 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air while going to the ground 9 times for 66 yards and a touchdown. The former five star and number one rated dual threat quarterback dazzled under the lights in Norman and in doing so has many wondering if he can win the Heisman with just half a season under his belt. Learn his name now because he will be on the stage in New York come December.
Iowa City Implosion
Two weeks and two top two upsets. The second of the two was surprisingly not as shocking as the first. Not many expected a Nick Saban coached Alabama team to lose to an unranked Jimbo Fisher coached Texas A&M team, especially considering Saban had never lost to a former assistant. Now clearly nobody expected Iowa to unravel against the Purdue Boilermakers either, but digging deeper the loss looked inevitable. Iowa’s defense has been overwhelming this season and many considered it to be the second best defense in the nation to Georgia. However, the Hawkeyes hadn’t been in a situation where their defense couldn’t get off the field forcing their offense to make plays. It was only a matter of time before an offense ranked 114th in EPA/play, 112th in EPA/rush, and 99th in EPA/pass was going to have to bail out a defense ranking top 20 in the same categories. The problem for the Hawkeyes was that the Boilers have a modest defense as well ranking top 20 in EPA/play, EPA/rush, and EPA/pass. The best defense Iowa had faced all season was Penn State and in the first half they had little success moving the ball against them as well. As soon as Penn State QB Sean Clifford was injured, the Nittany Lion defense was on the field seemingly the whole second half. The longer a defense remains on the field, the more tired they get, which was the case that allowed Iowa to survive. Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes, this was not the case against Purdue. With Iowa’s only reliable down the field threat continuing to be their tight end (also their leading receiver), the Boiler defense turned the Hawkeye offense one dimensional, which ended up being their downfall. Iowa has tests coming up including two road trips to Madison, Wisconsin and Lincoln, Nebraska. Wisconsin is having a down year, but their defense ranks top 5 nationally in all EPA categories and Nebraska’s defense isn’t great, but the team is improving and their offense can keep their defense off the field to keep the pace. The Hawkeyes in one week went from surefire College Football Playoff candidate to a team unsure of whether it can make the Big Ten Championship. How’s the saying go? “Oh how the turntables…”
Rocky Top Escape
As items from mustard to driving range golf balls rained down on the field in Knoxville, Ole Miss, coach Lane Kiffin had to be impressed with his team’s composure. The Running Rebels escaped Rocky Top with a 31-26 victory, dodging shots of mustard on their way out. This game could have turned out very differently had Michigan Wolverine turned Tennessee Volunteer quarterback Joe Milton taken the end zone shot he was inserted into the game for. That would have been an odd look, to win that game after your fans had just trashed your field. Nonetheless, Ole Miss is now 5-1 and squarely in second place in the SEC West race. The only loss the Rebels have is to the Crimson Tide and considering the Tide’s loss to A&M, it isn’t TOO far fetched to see another loss somewhere (Maybe to rival Auburn???) on Alabama’s schedule. If Ole Miss can run the table regardless, Kiffin will have his team squarely in the conversation for the playoff come December 5th. A very good look for Coach Kiffin in just year two and really the first regular season for him there. Kiffin has his team rolling again after the trouncing to Bama largely in part because of their offense. The Running Rebels have been doing just that ranking 8th nationally in EPA/rush. They also rank 4th in EPA/play and 14th in EPA/pass. Quarterback Matt Corral has been leading the charge offensively for Ole Miss and as a result is squarely in the conversation for Heisman and top 5 NFL Draft pick come April 2022. If they can shore up what has been a poor defensive showing up to the halfway point of this season (117th in EPA/play, 113th in EPA/rush, and 102nd in EPA/pass) things will definitely be looking up in Oxford, Mississippi while Volunteer fans will have to dream of what could have been if Kiffin wouldn’t have left back in 2009.
Flipped Script In Columbus
When Ohio State lost to Oregon and then followed it up with a shocking struggle against Tulsa, many, including myself were wondering, “What happened to the Buckeyes who made the National Championship just a year ago?” While the Buckeyes were inactive in week seven, they have certainly flipped the script this season. Ohio State rested CJ Stroud for a week and since he was inserted back into the starting lineup, the Buckeyes have rolled against lesser Big Ten opponents. Their defense though provides the biggest turnaround. After week 2, their defense ranked 112th in the nation in total defense and now just five weeks later the defense is up to 76th. While 76th isn’t great by any means it is a marked improvement from where they sat after a brutal showing against Oregon. The Buckeye D now also ranks 29th in EPA/play, 24th in EPA/rush, and 55th in EPA/pass, proving that they once again are looking to take command of the Big Ten East. Standing in their way could quite possibly be the two most complete teams in the Big Ten West and the top three teams in the Big Ten East apart from the Buckeyes. 4 of their 6 remaining games are against ranked opponents, but 3 of the 4 ranked opponents will be traveling to the Horseshoe. The improved Buckeye defense can’t overlook a road trip to Lincoln, Nebraska and will have their hands full when Purdue led by David Bell (just went for 11 catches, 240 yards, and a score @ Iowa) comes to town. It will be interesting to see if the Buckeyes’ improved defense is a sign of things to come or if it’s just reflective of their recent weaker opponents. Is it a true turnaround in Columbus, or does it just appear that way?