(Updated with audio from TSL Sports Talk's AGS segment built by The Home Depot)
Before Wednesday afternoon, Florida State was hogging all of the good football vibes in Florida this season. FAU gave Carl Pelini an early exit because he came to work smelling like Wiz Khalifa. Miami considers itself lucky to have been spared of paralyzing sanctions by the NCAA, but is still sporting a shiner on both eyes. It’s hard not to wonder whether they’d be the undefeated ACC team if Teddy Bridgewater had remained in-state.
No program in the nation has seen its fortunes change quicker than the Florida Gators. Last season, they were favorites in the Sugar Bowl. This season has been like skydiving without a parachute. It’s the type of quicksand trap that has Will Muschamp having to defend his employment.
Pro football hasn’t been much of an escape either. It’s arguably been worse. The Tampa Bay Bucs are the Patient Zero Brad Pitt was searching for in World War Z. The previously anonymous Miami Dolphins offensive line has become unintentional celebrity rag fodder and the starting running back they traded is having a career year in Detroit. On Monday night, Lamar Miller led the Dolphins with two yards. The only positives for Jacksonville is that they’re in prime position to bring the aforementioned Bridgwater back to Florida.
Florida State’s season is the one beacon of hope in a state stuffed with football despair, however, an investigation into sexual assault allegations identifying Jameis Winston has even put a damper on the Seminoles coronation.
Meanwhile, at the same time Florida’s program is getting acquainted with the SEC East’s swamp floor, they’re watching Urban Meyer taking the school he once thrashed in his first national title game to the brink of another one.
He’s also being a bit of a hypocrite. On Tuesday, he forced wide receiver Evan Spencer to apologize for suggesting they could wipe the field with Alabama or Florida State. Meanwhile, Meyer has been voting Ohio State No.2 in the Coaches Poll ahead of Florida State.
So what makes Ohio State inferior to Florida State and Alabama in the eyes of voters? Little of it is Meyer’s fault.
These Buckeyes are paying for the shortcomings of Buckeyes past. Specifically, the 2006 and 2007 Buckeyes who were slapped silly by the LSU Tigers and Florida Gators in consecutive national championship games.
The Big Ten is also criticized, and rightfully so, for featuring mundane, archaic offenses and for its lack of offensive playmakers. Barely beating Northwestern on primetime last month didn’t help Ohio State’s rep, but those Big Ten generalizations fit Ohio State as closely as the initial police report of a 5-11 attacker fits Jameis Winston’s.
Football in the Sunshine State is in the midst of a brain drain, which has led to a poaching of its rabbit-chasing speedsters by programs like Ohio State and Lousiville. Doom and gloom, hopefully not riots, are abound if Florida State trips up in the final month of the season because of off-field distractions. If so, Meyer, the ex-Florida turncoat could reap the benefits.
HEISMAN JURY – These candidates are making their case for why they should be awarded the sport’s most prestigious trophy. Each week, TSL will deliberate over each player’s weekly exploits.
1. James Squintin’ Winston (Florida State, QB) – The last thing Winston wants to hear about right now is a jury. Winston’s flawless season on the field is being tarred by off-the-field noise, but barring any surprising developments, which don’t seem likely, he should remain the Heisman Trophy favorite.
2. Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M, QB)– After another three-interception night last week against Mississippi State, it’s getting more and more difficult to make a case for his repeat bid.
3. C.J. Mosely (Alabama, MLB) – Oh, you thought we’d place Bryce Petty, another quarterback, in this slot? Everyone wants to toss the best quarterback from each of the best teams into the fold, but Alabama’s offense isn’t the knife that butters their bread. Why not send the quarterback of their defense to New York for the Heisman ceremony?
NO ALIBIS: Whereabouts unaccounted for at the time of kickoff.
Marcus Mariota – We understand that Mariota was handicapped because of an MCL sprain in his left knee, but the bar is set high for Olympic pole-vaulters for a reason. Only the best in the world can clear it. Though Manziel has barely skipped a beat despite running less often to protect his injured non-throwing shoulder, Mariota was completely swallowed up by Stanford.
RING OF FIRE:
No. 25 Georgia at No. 7 Auburn
Georgia is officially in spoiler mode at this point. Auburn is poised for a surprise SEC title bid and UGA would like nothing more than to take a giant chunk out of those dreams. However, Nick Marshall is going to be up for this one. For the second time this season, Richt is going to face another quarterback that he dismissed from his program. Auburn’s offense might be too much of a locomotive for UGA’s spongy defense to halt.
No. 12 Oklahoma State at No. 24 Texas
Good news for Mack Brown: Art Briles signed a 10-year deal with Baylor on Wednesday. The timing of the deal would seem to indicate that he’s not going to be taking any meetings in Austin or elsewhere. This is the week, Brown can justify keeping his job with a win over Oklahoma State. There is no room for moral victories anymore.
Texas Tech vs. No. 5 Baylor
Texas is full of entrepreneurial start-up juggernauts. Since 2011, the Red Raiders have lost 10 of 12 after the eighth game. Through Kliff Kingsbury’s sophomore to senior seasons, at the beginning of the Mike Leach Air Raid offensive era, Briles was Texas Tech’s running backs coach. This isn’t the same Texas Tech squad that was undefeated through seven games. His responsibility likely wasn’t to teach running backs how to run through the B gap, because Mike Leach never ran the ball. Now, Kingsbury is back in Lubbock trying to build his own offensive juggernaut.
The spread is 27 points, so apparently Vegas agrees with Baylor’s superiority. Let's be honest, though. We’re all watching waiting for Baylor to slip up.
Upset alert: No. 23 Miami (FL) at Duke
Miami’s 7-0 start seems like a faint glimmer in the past after two losses in the last two weeks. However, for the first time since Steve Spurrier was stalking the Blue Devils sideline in Durham, Duke is an ACC threat. Unlike the Dolphins, the Hurricanes' offensive line is one of the nation's best, but Stephen Morris is struggling like a theatre major grad. Duke’s defense has been straight-up disrespectful lately. David Cutliffe may be Peyton Manning’s quarterback guru, but it’s the defense that sets these blue Devils apart. The livest Duke football crowd in two decades may be waiting for them. They've allowed 14.75 points per game over the last four weeks and forced eight turnovers in their two most recent matchups.
JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS
Looking at the majority of unofficial online Heisman rankings, AGS, along with Kevin Sumlin, feel like the admiration power conference quarterbacks receive has reached its oversaturation point. For example, Bryce Petty is a fine quarterback for an undefeated Baylor team, but is he one of the best players in the nation? No way. Baylor’s success is predicated on the run. So why is he and every member of ESPN.com’s Top 5 Heisman candidates a power conference quarterback?
Quarterbacks are being asked to do more and more in today’s college football ranks. At the turn of the century, hearing about a quarterback rushing for 2,000 yards and rushing for another 1,000 was on a rare tip. These days, they’ve replaced the role running backs used to play. Now, we’re just waiting for a 4,000/2,000 quarterback to come along.
They have to read the defensive end or safety in zone-option offenses, read the coverages in pro-style schemes, read Oregon’s play cards, decide whether to handoff or throw in an instant based on safety movement, etc.
It’s not just the BCS title contenders that are relying on quarterbacks more often. Outside the BCS, there are a plethora of unheralded quarterbacks.
For a non-BCS quarterback to earn a trip to the Heisman ceremony, he has to run, throw, design the plays, block on inside dives and play defensive end for the scout team. At Princeton, they outsource even more of their responsibilities to quarterbacks.
Back in Week 4, AGS suggested a solution to Urban Meyer’s dual quarterback conundrum in the form of Louisiana Monroe’s double-barrelled shotgun offense. However, Princeton’s Bob Surace has upped the ante and replaced Pete Carril’s backdoor cut motion offense as the Princeton offense du jour.
Clearly Surace has been paying attention to the correlation between the Heisman race and BCS championship contenders because they implemented a package against Cornell that includes three quarterbacks on the field at once.
If the quarterback hands off or throws a screen behind the LOS, it allows the receiving quarterback who took the snap to dart out of the pocket as a receiver and completely confound the defense.
Fresno State’s Derek Carr has thrown for 32 touchdowns, four interceptions the pro future ahead of him, and Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo in the FCS subdivision is the next “Project Romo” for an NFL franchise, but Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch is currently the most underappreciated starting quarterback in college football. Most importantly, he’s the nexus of undefeated Northern Illinois’ offense. With a month to go in his collegiate career, Lynch has already thrown for 5,400 yards, 75 touchdowns and rushed for another 3,000 — in the past two seasons alone.
Last month, Lynch rushed for an FBS-quarterback record 316 yards on the ground against Central Michigan. Last night, he was the difference against Ball State. He runs over tacklers, escapes sack sandwiches and his only loss in the last two seasons was to Florida State.
The point is, let’s not get so wrapped up in our BCS quarterback obsession that we lose focus of the breadth of college football’s landscape.