Now that Week Four and Week 3 of the college and NFL season are in the rearview mirror, let’s chat about some weekly observations shall we?
Week Four college football…
Are the Irish for real?: Hey, you can’t take anything away from Notre Dame for being 4-0, but you have to wonder how good this Irish team really is. One week they dominate Michigan State defensively, the next week it’s Michigan. But how good are the Spartans and Wolverines? Only time will tell, but Brian Kelly’s Irish are doing what they have to do to be mentioned among the nation’s elite: winning by running the ball and playing sound defense and special teams. With games versus Miami (in Chicago), Stanford (home), BYU (home) and at Oklahoma looming, we will find out if this Notre Dame truly is for real come early November.
Is anyone better right now than Geno?: Geno who? Geno Smith, that’s who. The rangy, West Virginia quarterback is the leading Heisman contender at the moment and it isn’t even close. Through three games, he has completed 96 of 118 passes for 1,072 yards and 12 touchdowns with no interceptions in leading his team to a 3-0 record. The road for Smith becomes more difficult, however, with consecutive games against Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech, Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma looming, but Smith and the No. 9 Mountaineers appear to be a hungry team wanting to prove they belong among the Big 12’s elite. If they’re still unbeaten after that schedule, then Smith will be right in the thick of the Heisman race.
Which teams are legit national title contenders?: Alabama is definitely in the mix, as is Oregon, LSU and Georgia, but Florida, FSU, Texas, West Virginia and Notre Dame could be players in the BCS title game race if they continue to win. Before the season started, LSU and Alabama figured to be the two best teams in the SEC. But after all of the personnel setbacks, and after watching Zach Mettenberger play, I’m not as sold on the Bayou Bengals as I once was. Out of all the aforementioned teams, Alabama and Georgia look like the two most complete (offensively, defensively, special teams) teams that I’ve seen so far, although it’s still early. If the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs eventually hook up in Atlanta for the SEC title game, and both are unbeaten, I wonder if there would be a rematch a few weeks later if it’s a tight game? Ah, other parts of the country would be up in arms wouldn’t they?
Oregon State can play some defense: The Beavers turned in another sound defensive effort in their 27-20 upset win over then No. 19 UCLA. Oregon State held the country’s leading rusher, Johnathan Franklin to just 45 yards on 12 carries, and limited a Bruins offense that ranked No. 2 nationally in total yards per game (622.0) entering the contest to 444 total yards. The Beavers currently rank second in the country in run defense, limiting the opposition to 53.5 yards per game, and are 18th in scoring defense (13.5 points per game). That’s a major improvement for a team that couldn’t stop anyone last season.
Georgia’s three-headed tailback monster: Georgia has had a lot of great tailbacks over the years, but the threesome of true freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall and sophomore Ken Malcome could be on the best collective groups that have ever played in Athens. All three tailbacks are big and strong, and all can take it the distance at any time. Combine that kind of ground attack with Aaron Murray and the Bulldogs’ down-field passing game, and Georgia has an offense that is capable of scoring on anybody. Yes, even Alabama. And yes, I did say that.
EJ Manuel and FSU can play too: Manuel and the Seminoles were flying under the radar due to their early season schedule, but they have officially arrived on the scene due to their impressive 49-37 win over Clemson. In that game, Manuel completed 27 of 35 passes for 380 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed 12 times for 102 yards. Although it is still too early to hand the ACC to the Seminoles, it’s safe to say that they are the most talented team in that league and they should be among the nation’s elite teams by season’s end.
Lowe’s Top 5 college teams:
- Alabama (4-0)
- Georgia (4-0)
- Oregon (4-0)
- LSU (4-0)
- Florida State (4-0)
Week 3 NFL …
Atlanta is for real: I said it last week and I’ll say it again: The Atlanta Falcons are for real folks. This is a team that’s been playing together for a few years now, and it’s a team that’s hungry for success. The two new coordinators seem to be making a huge difference for this club, and quarterback Matt Ryan has been playing at an elite level. Remember, the Falcons were beat out of the playoffs the last two seasons by the eventual Super Bowl champion, so they’ve got the goods to be a serious title contender.
The Replacement refs have got to go: If Green Bay’s stunning loss to Seattle on Monday night was not evidence enough that the NFL should get the real officials back on the field, then I’m the most interesting man in the world. For the most part, the replacements have been doing a good job, but then an incident like last night happens and it costs a team a football game. I am a firm believer that an official or referee shouldn’t cost a team a game, but obviously it doesn’t matter to the NFL league office. After the lockout a year ago, the Saints ‘Bountygate’ this year and now just the total lack of respect for the game shown by the league’s decision-makers with this horrible officiating, it is clear that the only thing the NFL cares about is its pockets. Not the players, officials or fans. But the owners and powers that be. And that greedy, selfish attitude is grotesque.
Desert Heat: Don’t look now, but the Arizona Cardinals are 3-0. Yes, 3-0. The Cardinals are getting it done by running the ball effectively and playing sound defense and special teams. Despite losing starting quarterback John Skelton in the season opener, backup Kevin Kolb has taken over and guided the team to three straight wins. In last week’s game against his former team, Kolb completed 17 of 24 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns in Arizona’s 27-6 victory.
Lowe’s Top 5 NFL teams:
- Houston (3-0)
- Atlanta (3-0)
- San Francisco (2-1)
- Baltimore (2-1)
- Dallas (2-1)