I like to start off with something a bit silly or nonsensical here, but I’ll simply say this: It is my sincere hope that all of you are well, if you went through Hurricane Irma last week. Many of us have been affected by storms the last couple of weeks, and I pray that all is as well as possible.
Now, on to the football chat…
Before we get started, let’s look at last week’s games featured here:
Oregon 42, Nebraska 35
Clemson 14, Auburn 6
Oklahoma 31, Ohio State 16
Georgia 20, Notre Dame 19
USC 42, Stanford 24
Washington State 47, Boise State 44 (3OT)
We’ll get to the written games in a second, but before we do, click the handy little play button! You’ll hear audio on four more games, as well as this week’s trivia question!
Keyword Search (all times Eastern and rankings AP)
#25 UCLA at Memphis
Noon | ABC
- Give me Liberty Bowl or give me death: This game is the flip side of a home-and-home with UCLA, with the Bruins pulling out a 42-35 victory in the Rose Bowl in 2014. The Tigers have won six of eight home games under Mike Norvell, and last lost a non-conference game on their home turf in 2013. That season opened with a 28-14 loss to Duke, as part of a 3-9 finish under now-Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente.
- Dr. Rosenrosen: UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen is off to quite the hot start. The junior ranks third in the nation (behind Ole Miss’ Shea Patterson and Arkansas State’s Justice Hansen) in yards per game, averaging 410 yards per tilt early on. Rosen will try to become just the second Bruin passer in history to crack the 300-yard passing mark in three straight games in the same year (Brett Hundley in 2012 being the other). Rosen has thrown for fewer than 300 yards just twice in his last eight games, beating UNLV and falling to Stanford while doing so. Only four teams have thrown for greater than 300 yards in Norvell’s time at Memphis. Ole Miss, Temple, Houston and Western Kentucky all did so last season.
- Protecting pay dirt: UCLA led the Pac-12 in passing touchdowns allowed in 2016, and is on its way to doing the same this year. Only Utah has a lower opposing passer rating among Pac-12 teams — in a small sample size, of course — and the Bruins have surrendered just two passing touchdowns through two games. The Tigers did not pass for a score in their first outing, as the team played in a Hurricane Harvey-induced downpour. Memphis’ 34 passing scores in 2016 was good for 11th-best in the land, however, and Norvell’s charges had thrown for multiple TDs in seven straight games prior to the August 31 deluge.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Both teams can score, and occasionally struggle keeping others from doing so. This should be a high-octane afternoon tilt.
Middle Tennessee (1-1) at Minnesota (2-0)
3:30pm | BTN
- Race the boat: After Minnesota started the year with a somewhat lackluster, ten-point victory over Buffalo, the Gophers opened fire on Oregon State last weekend in a 48-14 victory in a deluge in Corvallis. Minnesota’s sports information department notes that 48 points was the highest road total for a Gopher team in 37 years. They did this despite throwing just eight passes (seven completed) against the Beavers for 158 yards. The running game filled in nicely, though, carrying 58 times for 253 yards and five scores. Redshirt senior Conor Rhoda, who threw those eight passes, will draw the start for the Gophers, supplanting redshirt sophomore Demry Croft (7-for-12, 63 yards).
- Keeping contain: Middle held the Orange to just north of three yards per play in last week’s victory, and that unit will need to be even more on-point against the aforementioned potent Minnesota ground attack. The Gophers split time between two productive and powerful backs, in juniors Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks. The two have rushed for 168 and 160 yards, respectively, though Brooks has scored more (four touchdowns) and compiled fewer carries. Smith is a native of fertile MTSU recruiting ground (Jonesboro, Georgia), and he received a scholarship offer from the Blue Raiders as a preps star.
- No standing still for Stockstill: Middle redshirt junior quarterback Brent Stockstill bounced back nicely from a tough opening week in his club’s 30-23 victory at Syracuse. The lefty signal-caller made good on 22-of-36 tries for 269 yards, adding three scores and a rip. Stockstill found two of his most reliable — and quickest — targets in Richie James and Ty Lee a combined 15 times for 172 yards and two scores. Last week was only the second time James failed to eclipse the 100-yard mark (he finished with 96) in his last 11 outings, and the redshirt junior standout is nearing the top ten among all-time C-USA pass catchers.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Middle’s lost to the Gophers twice since 2010. They’ll need a huge defensive effort to break that string.
Texas at #4 USC
8:30pm | FOX
- Hooked ’em: Though his name is still listed with an “or” on the two-deep, Texas may have found itself Tom Herman’s new gunslinger in true freshman Sam Ehlinger. Ehlinger relieved Shane Buechele last week against San Jose State, completing 15-of-27 passes for 222 yards and a score. The first-year passer also showed some interesting mobility in the pocket, carrying seven times for 48 yards. Buechele suffered a bruised shoulder in the season-opening loss to Maryland, but even if he does play, the added dimension of Ehlinger in relief gives Herman a lot of offensive options.
- Like it never even happened: Texas has beaten USC just once in five tries on the gridiron, with that one victory looming quite large. The Longhorns clipped the Trojans, 41-38, to win the 2006 Rose Bowl and 2005 national championship. The Trojans’ sports information department, however, indicates that it never actually happened, saying, “USC is 4-0 in its series with Texas (not including 1 loss vacated due to NCAA penalty; original record, 4-1).” The school also adds, “USC’s vacated loss came in the most recent meeting, in the BCS Championship Game in the 2006 Rose Bowl.” Of course, the same notes include a full-page recap of that game, which brings a series of existential questions to the fore. However one looks at it, this is the first regular-season meeting between the schools in 50 years.
- One of the hottest models in LA: Herman is a strong offensive mind, and is looking to make over the Longhorns’ offense in his vision. If he wants to get an example, he should look no further than the side across the field. USC will be shooting for its 13th straight contest in which they eclipse 400 offensive yards. The Trojans are 11th in the land in total offense, averaging 572 yards per tilt (Texas is 15th, at 548). The balance is there, too, as USC snapped the 300-yard mark both on the ground and through the air in its victory against Stanford. That outburst atoned for last season’s loss to the Cardinal, the last game in which the Trojans fell short of the 400-yard mark (353).
Print that, tweet that, whatever: This starts a string of four ranked foes in five weeks for Texas. A win could go a long way in returning swagger to Austin.
Bonus: It also occurs to me that I forgot last week’s music video from 25 years ago, when we had the first SEC championship game. Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” was still number one this week a quarter-century ago, and would continue to be for another couple of months. However, I want to continue to make you feel old, so I give to you number two.
Well, it’s not number two…oh, the heck with it, you know what I’m saying. It’s TLC, y’all!
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