College Football 2013: 5 Things We Learned in Week 3
There was only one really marquee game this week, but it definitely lived up to the hype. Here is a quick rundown on what we learned in Week 3.
SEC Speed Tops SEC Defense
For all the talk about defense winning championships, offense was the story of the day in the biggest game thus far as No. 1 Alabama held on to knock off Johnny Manziel and No. 6 Texas A&M. While the Crimson Tide got their last two national titles largely on the strength of a stingy defense, it was the offense that stepped up big in this one. Quarterback A.J. McCarron threw for 334 yards and four touchdowns in the win, both career highs. Sophomore running back T.J. Yeldon added another 149 yards and a score on the ground to help the Crimson Tide avenge last season’s upset loss. On the other side, Texas A&M shredded the Alabama defense in a losing effort, racking up 628 total yards, the most ever given up by an Alabama defense. But don’t think the Crimson Tide has forgotten about defense just yet. Despite giving up a ton of yards, they did record two very important interceptions —one in the Aggies’ end zone and another that was returned 73 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter—that amounted to a 14-point swing in Alabama’s favor.
Johnny Football Is Still the Man
Despite the loss on the scoreboard, Johnny Manziel still showed the kind of leadership and athletic ability that made him the first-ever freshman Heisman winner. Manziel threw for 464 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for another 98 yards. His scrambling, escape-artist, off-balance throw in the second quarter only went for a 12-yard gain, but it was the kind of highlight-reel material that Heisman voters love. His 562 yards of total offense was the second-most in Texas A&M history and the most ever given up by Alabama under Nick Saban. Yes, his two interceptions proved costly, but Manziel showed that, without him on the field, this game would have been over much earlier.
Oklahoma Has Found Its Quarterback
Prior to the start of the season, Bob Stoops made a somewhat surprising announcement that redshirt freshman Trevor Knight would be the Sooners’ starting quarterback ahead of longtime backup and crowd favorite Blake Bell. Knight played reasonably well in his first game, but struggled in a Week 2 16-7 win over West Virginia before being pulled late in the game. This week, Stoops announced that Bell would get the start and he made the most of it, throwing for 413 yards (breaking Sam Bradford’s record for most yards in a debut) and four touchdowns as Oklahoma routed Tulsa. Previously known for his short-yardage running skills, the Belldozer (6-foot-6, 252 lbs.) showed he could also air it out, averaging over 11 yards per pass attempt and completing six passes for 20-plus yards. The Sooners have a bye next week, but Stoops has already announced Bell will start in the Week 5 matchup at No. 21 Notre Dame.
The Big Ten Has Ohio State and a Bunch of Big Question Marks
The Big Ten/Pac-12 challenge might have seemed like a good idea to help Big Ten teams bolster their strength of schedule. But it backfired on a brutal Saturday for the Big Ten. No. 23 Nebraska gave up 38 unanswered points to fall 41-21 to No. 16 UCLA. No. 20 Wisconsin (or the officials, depending on your point of view) botched a final play, handing a 32-30 win to Arizona State. And Illinois fell at home, 34-24, to No. 19 Washington. Only No. 4 Ohio State managed to come out with a victory, 52-34 over California behind four touchdown passes from fifth-year senior quarterback Kenny Guiton, playing for the injured Braxton Miller. But even that win did little to bolster the conference, as Purdue gave up 21 fourth-quarter points in a loss to No. 21 Notre Dame, No. 11 Michigan nearly fell victim to the biggest home upset in school history and Penn State suffered a home loss to Central Florida. Most Big Ten schools are entering conference play next week with more questions than answers.
Texas’s Struggles on the Ground Continue
Texas made a change at defensive coordinator earlier in the week, but Saturday’s 44-23 home loss to Mississippi showed that the Longhorns have much bigger problems than a simple coaching change can fix. Much like last week’s loss to BYU, Texas was unable to stop the Ole Miss running game, even when the Rebels kept running the same basic play time and again. Ole Miss running back Jeff Scott rushed for a career-high 164 yards and a touchdown while also scoring on a 73-yard punt return touchdown. To highlight just how bad Texas’ rush defense has been, Scott was the eighth running back in the Longhorns’ last 13 games to record a career high in rushing. To be fair, the Longhorns were playing without their two biggest playmakers (QB David Ash and WR/RB Daje Johnson were both out with injuries). But Texas’ continued to struggle on both sides of the ball, managing just 100 total yards in the second half. In the last three seasons, Texas is now just 11-10 at home.