Any Given Saturday: Week 4 Recap


Watching Their Throne

SEC supporters now have even more ammunition.

When the latest edition of the AP poll was released, four of the conference's top teams (Alabama, LSU, Georgia and South Carolina) ranked among the six best in the country. It is the first time in the poll's history that one conference placed four teams so high. 

Conference detractors loudly point out that the league's elite programs shoulder the burden for the likes of Kentucky and Ole Miss, which brings us, in timely fashion, to Sunday night's Emmy Awards. The SEC is 'Homeland' this season. Showtime's exquisite political thriller took home Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Drama.

That sounds about right for college football's punishing big brother. Sure, the league may not sweep every minute Supporting Actor or Actress honor, but when it comes to the top spots, it’s close to a clean sweep.

Only question: Does this make Alabama Nick Brody or Carrie Mathison?



While the national media was busy welcoming two former powers back to the top-10, a powerhouse that never left disemboweled an up-and-coming Pac-12 challenger.

Oregon was too fast, too fluid, too merciless and too complete for Arizona. No offense to the Wildcats and their first-year coach Rich Rodriguez, but a 49-0 Oregon shutout, accompanied by the developments in Los Angeles (i.e. overvalued Southern Cal), is all the proof needed that the Ducks still rule the roost out west.

The most encouraging development for SEC detractors is the improvement of Oregon's defense. Shutting out a Rodriguez-coached team that averaged 46.3 points per game in its first three games is nothing to scoff at. Of course, anything above average will suffice for the Quack Attack.


Stiff Arm Sayonara

This isn't supposed to happen to preseason Heisman favorites. Though they rarely win, college football's top offensive playmakers normally find a way to stay in the hunt at least midway through conference play.

Not this year.

Denard Robinson, Matt Barkley and Montee Ball were the preeminent names on every Heisman watch list entering 2012. Each player posted huge statistical seasons for top-10 teams last season. Voting is simple, right?

Well, all three players' teams have already lost at least one game, and, as a byproduct of team success and performances ranging from decent (Barkley) to paltry (Ball and Robinson), it would be a miracle if any were nominated to attend the ceremony in New York at season's end.


Welcome Back

The weekend is behind us, but E.J. Manuel has arrived.

The Florida State quarterback's resurgence mirrors his team's prominence on college football's landscape, a once-dominant gridiron presence finding a part of its former self. The Seminoles stirred far-reaching predictions in recent seasons, but it appears that, for the first time under Jimbo Fisher, they just might meet expectations. In an ACC showdown with offensive juggernaut Clemson, Manuel led his team to a 49-37 comeback win with career highs in passing (380) and rushing (103) yards.

The performance catapults Manuel to the front of an underwhelming Heisman race, but, more importantly, thrusts his program back in national relevance. It's been a while — a 10-3 record in 2003 was the last time time the program even sniffed a BCS title game.

And Tallahassee isn't the only college town feeling the rumblings of long-awaited championship dreams.

Notre Dame also remained undefeated by way of a gut-wrenching defensive effort against rival Michigan, forcing the Wolverines into six turnovers in a 13-6 win. If the No. 10 Golden Domers had started the season anywhere near the AP top-25, they would be even higher on the poll. As it stands, though, this is the best Notre Dame defense and most talented Florida State quarterback we've seen in over a decade.

Until next week, welcome back.