The Wrapup - Week 4

By Adam Caparell - September 23, 2007


Four ranked teams went on the road in the SEC Saturday and, much to my surprise, three out of the four emerged victorious.

No. 22 Georgia knocked off No. 16 Alabama in overtime, No. 21 Kentucky comfortably beat Arkansas and No. 3 Florida hung on against Ole Miss while Steve Spurrier and the No. 12 Gamecocks fell to No. 2 LSU.

So what did we learn from the these games?

For one, Georgia avoided a dreaded 0-2 start in the conference and showed it's going to be a player in the SEC East race. They looked impressive in Tuscaloosa as their defense made some stands and Matthew Stafford made the big plays when his team needed him to - none more so than his 25-yard TD pass to Mikey Henderson - Henderson's first career TD catch - on their first offensive play in overtime. It was a beautiful pass that only Henderson could catch in the end zone.

Georgia's rushing attack, led by Knowshon Moreno, really ground down the Crimson Tide. Moreno is yet another good SEC freshman running back (and he's going to be fun to watch these next three years) and after watching the Bulldogs withstand another Alabama fourth quarter comeback how can you not come away impressed with them? Stafford looked so poised throughout and very nearly won the game in regulation only to watch Brandon Coutu shank his kick wide left. It's in stark contrast to what we saw out of Stafford against South Carolina in Week 2 - and the Bulldogs in general. The young offense is looking better every week. This team could be very dangerous late in the season.

Kentucky, meanwhile showed us all something beating Arkansas in Fayetteville. Andre' Woodson was once again the reason why the Wildcats won. The defense let up yards - like we all thought they would - but not enough to doom them. Woodson orchestrated a fourth quarter comeback and now they get Florida Atlantic next week before a trip to South Carolina. The Wildcats inability to stop anyone is going to hurt them once they play LSU and Florida back-to-back starting the second week in October, but they can put up points with the best of them and that always makes Kentucky a dangerous team. Are they a sleeper in the SEC? I don't think so because of their defense. They got away with it for another week, but they're not going to get away with it in Oct. 13. The Woodson Heisman campaign should ratchet up a few levels this week.

I thought South Carolina put up a good effort against LSU, but the Gamecocks, who beat Georgia thanks to their running game and defense, really didn't have either going today as they were out-rushed 290-17 and Blake Mitchell was yanked by Steve Spurrier. The Gamecocks put up a nice opening drive together and scored more points than any other opponent the Tigers have faced - even made it kind of interesting in the end - but weren't deep enough, strong enough or fast enough to give the Tigers a 60 minute challenge.

And how could we forget about Florida. They dodged a bullet against Ole Miss in what was shaping up to be a trap game. But Tim Tebow led the Gators to another win. He's doing it all and deserves to be right up there with all the Heisman candidates - if not at the top right now. He's been so good, so early. Here's a guy who is actually living up to the hype.

So with all that in mind, let's remember one thing: all four of these games were inter-division matchups meaning they're not going to matter that much in the grand scheme of things. Spurrier admitted as much earlier in the week. Entering as 16 point underdogs and the Ol' Ball Coach wasn't too concerned about his team in the supposed "barometer game." LSU showed it's still a beast, South Carolina showed its still not in the Tigers class. But they still have that early win over SEC East foe Georgia - and that's what really matters.

Biggest lesson of the day? Anyone can beat anyone. That phrase got uttered about 15,000 times Saturday, but Ole Miss proved along with some other surprising performances around the country as well.

Quick Hits

-- Michigan won because it forced Penn State to play the kind of game it wanted to play - a low scoring affair where ball control determined the winner. Plus, it was blatantly obvious heading into this one that Penn State's offense - a much more conventional, drop back, run it right at you kind of offense - was a much better fit defensively for the Wolverines - than the spread that burned them against Appalachian State and Oregon.

So Michigan handed Joe Paterno his ninth straight loss to the Wolverines thanks mostly to Mike Hart who was just a workhorse Saturday. Ryan Mallett sealed the deal when he converted on a 3rd and long to Greg Mathews with 4 minutes remaining. Just when it looked like Penn State was closing in on a sack, with the pocket collapsing around him, Mallett avoided the rush and found Matthews and kept the drive going. It was an impressive play for the freshman, one you would expect a veteran QB to make, but not necessarily someone of Mallett's stature.

So all that talk about Penn State looking like a national title contender can be put to rest. It's amazing how quickly people seemed to forget who the Nittany Lions beat on their way to their 3-0 record - FIU, Notre Dame and Buffalo. They stepped up in class Saturday and failed their biggest test of the young season.

And as an aside, how about Mike Hart? He wouldn't stop pushing for those extra yards all day long, even after it seemed like he was wrapped up and tackled. The guy has some ticker.

-- If you're a bad defensive team, its a stain you can get rid of and it showed today for Louisville and Nebraska. Two teams that just happened to be coming off losses last weekend who both gave sorry performances with only the Cornhuskers surviving.

Ball State took No. 24 Nebraska to the brink of dropping out of the polls while Louisville will be dumped after its absolutely horendous performance against one of the worst teams in Division I-A: Syracuse.

There are no excuses - none - for losing at home to a team like Syracuse.

But the problems that cropped up against Middle Tennessee State and Kentucky the last few weeks reared its ugly head. Louisville couldn't tackle, couldn't make a big defensive play and couldn't take care of the ball against the Orange - a team they should have creamed. But because they're so defensively inept the Cardinals were the sorriest losers of the day. Brian Brohm threw for 555 yards, but no matter the stats he put up they weren't enough to lead a miraculous fourth quarter comeback.

Louisville obviously entered the season with high expectations, national championship expectations to be precise. But just four weeks into the season the Cardinals are 2-2 and those national title dreams - the main reason Brohm came back for his senior season - have been stomped out emphatically. And Louisville's Big East Championship hopes aren't exactly looking particularly good right now with games remaining against the conference's best teams - West Virginia, Rutgers and South Florida. How are they going to stop Pat White, Steve Slaton and Noel Devine, or Ray Rice and Rutgers, or that USF defense?

Back to Nebraska. Ball State had its chances, but missed a 55-yard field goal after they dropped a TD pass with under 22 seconds remaining. Trev Alberts said it earlier this week, but it still hits home: What was Nebraska thinking announcing those extensions to Bill Callahan and Scott Pederson before the USC game? All the Cornhuskers proceeded to do is play terribly in front of the nation last Saturday, getting througholy dominated at the line of scrimmage and then nearly get upset by a MAC school Saturday. Nebraska is light years away from returing to glory and Callahan's extension seems to be more than a little premature. They're just another average - at best - Big 12 team who can't stop anyone.

-- Another team who has had issues defensively so far this season is Wisconsin and it dodged a big one Saturday. Jake Christensen had Paul Chaney open for a touchdown on 4th and 8 only to overthrow Chaney, who also lookd to trip over his own feet. Wisconsin and Iowa historically have played some tough games, but the Badgers should have beaten a bad Hawkeyes offense much more handedly. I'd love to see Wisconsin play a Georgia or Cal right now. I think they'd get beat pretty badly.

Biggest Winners: Kentucky, Greg Robinson, Illinois

Biggest Losers: Louisville, Penn State, Georgia Tech

Player of the Day: Mike Hart. Not exactly eye-opening stats out of the Michigan RB Saturday (44 carries, 15. yards, 1 TD), but watching him carry the Wolverines on his back in the fourth quarter, he turned it up a notch. He also did it against one of the best run defenses in the nation.

Play of the Day: How cool was that fake field goal LSU ran? Colt David scored his first career touchdown and Matt Flynn non-chalantly tossed the ball over his shoulder - blindly - as David strutted his way to an easy score, totally outwitting South Carolina. Flynn made the play, doing a great job selling it by tapping the ball on the ground before tossing it.

Stat of the Day: 610. The number of yards allowed by the Nebraska defense to Ball State. The most the Blackshirts have allowed in 17 years.

Quote of the Day: "Two losses is not the end of the season, but at the same time, I can't be sitting up here every week talking about how many mistakes we made. There is no way we should be sitting here at 2-2. Absolutely no way." -- Louisville center Eric Wood

The Top 10 Teams In The Nation
1. USC
2. LSU
3. Florida
4. Oklahoma
5. West Virginia
6. Cal
7. Boston College
8. Ohio State
9. Texas
10. Oregon

Posted by Adam Caparell at 12:58 AM on September 23, 2007
Comments (1)

Comments

The fake field goal for LSU was indeed very cool. Flynn looked cool as a cucumber when he made that play. Wonder how long they had to practice that to execute it to such perfection and make it look like nothing!

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