West Virginia vs Texas Tech
Geno Smith has enjoyed such a fantastic start to the season, but he’s had games in his career that have just got away from him. When he struggles for rhythm and little things go against the WVU offense, he can get a bit flustered. We saw it against Syracuse last year and we saw it against Texas Tech.
It’s worth saying that he’ll suffer minimal long-term damage to his stock as long as this is a one-off. He’s not suddenly a bad quarterback because of a mediocre day. He still hasn’t turned the ball over via interception (although he could’ve easily been picked off three times this weekend). If he can bounce back against other strong opponents like Kansas State and Oklahoma, this game will become a distant memory.
Even so there’s no getting away from the fact Smith was completely outplayed by Seth Doege. The conditions were poor for throwing – strong winds swirled around the stadium changing direction and lurching around the field. Doege – perhaps used to dealing with the conditions as the home QB – didn’t miss a beat. Smith on the other hand looked nothing like the composed, accurate passer we’d seen in previous weeks. He struggled to set against pressure, he looked unsure of himself and started to force passes. It began badly and got progressively worse. While Smith struggled to complete 29/55 passing for 275 yards (5.0 average) and just a single touchdown, Doege went 32/42 for 499 yards and six touchdowns and made a mockery of the windy conditions. Texas Tech won 49-14.
Today will take some of the shine off Smith’s Heisman campaign but Robert Griffin III showed you can win the award despite suffering a heavy defeat in the Big-12. He’s just got to get back on the saddle. Here’s the thing though – it’s probably time to limit the hype. I’ve liked Smith for a while and it’s hard to avoid getting carried away when a quarterback throws 24 touchdowns and zero interceptions in five games. It’s also worth noting that the Mountaineers defense is truly horrendous and while TTU were stocking up on points, the pressure cranked up on the offense to keep up. Eventually that was going to cost WVU a game. Smith is a very accomplished passer and could end up having a good NFL career. Is he better than Matt Barkley? Not for me. He deserves a first round grade at this point, but I’m not convinced he’s quite as good as some people have projected recently. He may be behind Tyler Wilson the Arkansas quarterback too. This was a perspective game more than anything, but he still carries a first round grade.
Alabama vs Missouri
Alabama scored a 73-yard touchdown on their first drive against Missouri and quickly built a comfortable 28-0 lead. Credit has to go to Eddie Lacy for a run that showed patience, speed and raw athleticism. For a guy playing at 220lbs he moves well for his size. He’s not going to be a first round pick like Trent Richardson or Mark Ingram, but he has a future in the NFL. It wasn’t the only run where he jinked past a couple of tackles and showed real shiftiness to break into space. Lacy also flashed a few ‘Marshawn Lynch’ type runs, dragging tacklers along for extra yardage. This was a thoroughly impressive performance apart from a sloppy fumble shortly after a lengthy rain delay. If I was trying to build a strong, power running offense I’d want Lacy in my stable of backs. He ended with 176 yards from 18 carries and three touchdowns. Talented freshman T.J. Yeldon also had 144 yards from 18 carries for a couple of scores. That’s what a good offensive line can provide in the SEC.
It’s hard to ignore the line play at Alabama, perhaps the single greatest unit we’ll see in college football. It’ll take some beating, that’s for sure. Chance Warmack blew up two interior lineman on the 73-yard dash by Lacy and continues to be equally effective pulling wide or dominating up the middle. It’s hard to find any fault with Warmack and if he isn’t a top-15 pick next April something is seriously, seriously wrong. Barrett Jones doesn’t have quite as much pure power at center but he’s flexible and can play any position on the line. He’s smart and technically sound and should be a second day pick. D.J. Fluker is a decent college right tackle but might struggle to translate those skills to the next level. Blind-side blocker Cyrus Kouandijo looks like a future top pick.
Quarterback A.J. McCarron is playing the role that Pete Carroll demands of his quarterbacks – using his brain, making good decisions, remaining efficient and not turning the ball over. When he was required to make a play, McCarron made a play. He’s underrated and above the level of previous Alabama quarterbacks. He’s never going to be a top-pick but if he’s lingering around the mid-rounds either next April or in 2014, I’d take him. He deserves more attention.
One guy who gets plenty of (deserved) attention is Dee Milliner. The guy is a complete cornerback. Draft him in the top-five. His best play today was an athletic, tipped pass in single coverage that was picked off by a team mate. Seattle’s greatest strength may be its secondary, but I would happily draft Milliner in round one. Any day, any time. Incredible player. Linebacker C.J. Mosley also had a big day with multiple sacks and several other key plays behind the LOS.
As for Missouri, Sheldon Richardson was the main focus and he did enough on the day to come out of this having boosted his stock. He made double-digit tackles from what I saw and sacked McCarron with a clip of the ankle leading to a bothersome knee problem for the quarterback. He also has top-15 potential at defensive tackle. Perhaps the most promising aspect from today was the clear leadership role he’s taken this season. He’s become the heart of the team.
Cordarrelle Patterson reminds everyone why he’s special
Against Akron he was partly responsible for an avoidable pick-six. Against Georgia he dropped a sure-fire touchdown on an easy deep ball. Cordarrelle Patterson’s stock was falling a little, despite his ability to make plays no other receiver can in the SEC. Patterson’s numbers against Mississippi State weren’t incredible in terms of receiving. He had just two catches for 25 yards, but added 57 rushing yards from three carries. Here’s what else he had:
– A 98-yard kick-off return for a touchdown (see it here).
– An incredible rush for 34 yards on a reverse. The play was blown up early and appeared destined for a big loss, until Patterson somehow escaped multiple tacklers and broke off a huge gain (see it here).
– And 11 yard touchdown pass over the shoulder to get his team back in the game (see it here).
Patterson will probably declare for the 2013 draft and he’s not anywhere close to a polished receiver. In fact, he’ll probably have a pretty slow start in the NFL and it’s going to take a lot of patience to make him consistent. In fact it may never happen – which makes him a serious boom or bust type. Yet he is without doubt the biggest X-factor playmaker at any skill position eligible for next years draft. Any time he’s on the field, he could score. Rushing, receiving, returning. He even has the option to throw in some of Tennessee’s reverse calls. We’re talking about a rare talent with the size to be a #1 receiver at the next level, but the kind of athleticism saved for shorter receivers like Percy Harvin.
He could be seen as a bit of a luxury pick and he will carry huge risks. But if you have an offense lacking an incredible playmaker, it’s hard to ignore this guy.
Another note from the Tennessee vs Mississippi State game (I caught the end) – Jonathan Banks made an absolute carbon copy play of Brandon Browner’s strip sack vs Carolina. An identical play. He’s the spirit of the Miss. State defense and appeared to have a terrific game against Patterson and Justin Hunter (who managed just two catches for 41 yards). Banks is one to watch as he fits the size requirement for Seahawks cornerbacks.