Dropped Out: California (#16), Wake Forest (#18), Virginia Tech (#20), North Carolina (#22).
Random Thoughts on the Weekend
The only legitimate criticism I've heard of the spread option offense is that it both depends heavily on the quarterback and it exposes the quarterback to an elevated risk of injury. For another illustration of that fact, Michigan was even with Penn State midway through the third quarter when Steven Threet got knocked out of the game. Penn State then teed off on hapless Nick Sheridan and ran away with the game in the second half. Michigan is a particular case because of its total lack of depth at the quarterback position, but the game did re-raise the concern that spread option teams are constantly at risk of coming apart from quarterback injuries. I'm hoping to have the time to devote a full-length post to the subject at some point this week. Brian at MGoBlog took a run at this question last week and ultimately threw up his hands.
The other question that seems ripe for a deeper look is whether the Big XII's offenses are that good or if its defenses are that bad. Conversely, are the defenses in the SEC that good or are the offenses that bad? I think we need to go into the non-conference results to come up with an answer.
There is no more overrated story in college football than Joe Paterno. My brother and I kept careful track of the number of times that ESPN showed Paterno in the booth on Saturday afternoon actually communicating. By the fourth quarter when we stopped watching for obvious reasons, ESPN had showed Paterno seven times and his lips were moving exactly once. (The instance in which Paterno was obscured by a beam was scored a draw.) Paterno literally does nothing as the head coach. Penn State's staff has evidently come up with a functional sharing of power arrangement that lets them run a major program effectively with zero guidance from the man at the top of the org chart. Penn State's decision in keeping Paterno or making Tom Bradley the head coach might affect Paterno's lifespan, but it will not matter on the field because Bradley is already the head coach.
Stats that interest only me: Saturday night's game was the fifth South Carolina game that finished 24-17 in the past two-and-a-half seasons. Also, South Carolina has played five SEC games this year and every single one has been decided by exactly seven points.
An illustration of why it's not especially useful to spend too much time fretting about schediling before the season: we all worried ad nauseam about Georgia's schedule before the season started, but the Dawgs have now played seven games and exactly one of those games was against a team in the Sagarin top 30.
Let's just preempt this argument now: Penn State has an excellent record in bowl games generally and against the SEC in particular. They should not be punished for Ohio State's poor performance in the last two national title games. That said, I'd have to think long and hard about whether an unbeaten Penn State team would deserve a spot in the national title game over a one-loss Florida, Georgia, or Alabama team.
I'm guessing I'm the only one who was thinking this, but there was an odd parallel on Saturday afternoon between North Carolina finding a way to lose in Charlottesville at the end yet again (the Heels have not won there since 1981) and Atletico Madrid finding a way to lose at home at the end yet again against cross-town rivals Real Madrid. In both instances, you could see teams realize that they weren't supposed to win and then playing accordingly.