On the Heisman front:
—Ryan Mallett’s 380-yard, 3-TD performance against Georgia, which included a clutch game-winning drive in the last minute, has vaulted him into the upper echelon of Heisman contenders. What we are seeing happen at Arkansas is what you get when you couple a high-powered, proven collegiate offensive scheme (Petrino’s) with a top-level NFL talent (Mallett). Next week vs. Alabama is another major test and if Mallett can pass it–and depending on how he plays–he could very well be the Heisman front runner this time next week.
—How remarkable is it that Denard Robinson can have what feels like an ‘off’ game and his stats still reveal 241 passing yards and 104 rushing yards (345 in all)? It struck me while watching Michigan’s woeful defense that the Robinson of 2010 is not unlike the Tim Tebow of 2007–both were forced to be productive up until the final snap in most games due to defenses that couldn’t seal the deal. The result: More yards and touchdowns for the guy touching the ball on every down.
—What a shame to see Case Keenum out for the season due to a fluke knee injury. So his assault on the NCAA record books, much less the Heisman, is over.
—The deconstruction of Jake Locker by Steve Sarkisian appears to be near completion. While a stellar Nebraska defense gets much of the credit for shutting down the Husky quarterback, it’s pretty clear that Locker’s quarterback skills are hampered by the offense in which he is featured. Locker looks overcoached and constrained in Sarkisian’s pro system, which will no doubt please NFL personnel directors, but does little to win games now. What good is it to have a jumbo athlete who can run 4.3 if you don’t set him free? To see what Locker could be doing, look no further than Washington’s opponent on Saturday. Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez–just a redshirt freshman–was utilizing his wheels to the tune of 137 yards and three touchdowns (including an 80-yarder) while throwing for 150 yards and a score on an efficient 7 for 11 passing.
–By the way, Sarkisian called Reggie Bush an ‘idiot’ for not apologizing for taking money while at USC. Let’s be clear: Sarkisian would not have his current job were it not for the reputation he garnered from being one of Bush’s coaches, so I think he has little leeway to be so brash. I wonder how many recruits Sarkisian has enticed to go to Washington by bragging about how he once coached this ‘idiot’?
—Some guys who should see their Heisman buzz increase after week three: Nick Foles, Arizona; Taylor Martinez, Nebraska; Andrew Luck, Stanford; LaMichael James, Oregon.
On the general college football front:
—Amazingly, I went 6-4 against the spread again this past week. I’m 12-8 (.600) the last two weeks, 15-14-1 (.517) overall on the year.
—I’m also feeling pretty good about my preseason top 10 teams list, which included Arkansas and Stanford in the top 10. Putting those teams there doesn’t seem to be a reach at this point.
—Can anyone stop Oregon? I know it’s just three games into the season, but have you ever seen a team top the nation in scoring offense, scoring defense, total offense and total defense, all at the same time? Oregon is currently doing it.
—We might have a new star on our hands. San Diego State running back Ronnie Hillman, a 5-10, 175-pound redshirt freshman from La Habra, Calif., just ripped Missouri for 228 yards on 23 carries. Through three games, Hillman is averaging 148 yards per game (sixth nationally), 7.4 yards per rush and has scored seven touchdowns. I guess my tab earlier this week was spot on.
—The word coming out of Athens before Saturday was that Mark Richt was going to take the reins off of Aaron Murray and let him air it out. Well, Murray did quite well and nearly pulled off the win, but with 10 minutes left in the game, he had only 18 pass attempts to his credit. Murray is well on his way to becoming a really good quarterback. One way to get there quicker, I think, is to let him throw more.
—What’s wrong with Noel Devine? He used to be a wunderkind in the open field. But on Saturday, I saw him find a way to get tackled with nothing but one man and a bunch of air between him and the end zone.
—It’s so hard to know exactly what to make of Notre Dame right now, but I think that, despite opening 1-2, the Irish are going to end up doing quite well under Brian Kelly. Quarterback Dayne Crist looks to be coming along nicely and there are plenty of offensive weapons on hand. It’s just that the Irish defense still has a ways to go.
—There was a lot of talk early on Saturday about what Virginia Tech’s pending loss to East Carolina was going to do to Boise’s credibility. Such talk vanished after the Hokies ended up beating ECU, 49-27. Here’s some helpful advice to all the pundits out there when it comes to rankings: Why not let the season play out some? Instead of assuming that a no-loss team from one conference is going to beat out a no-loss team from another based on current standings (which are sure to change), why not defer such a conclusion until we know more?
—More and more teams are featuring the Pistol formation in their offensive packages. It’s the new Wildcat. I’m not sure why still more teams aren’t making it the cornerstone of their attacks. Nevada’s version is the gold standard of that offense and it absolutely pummeled Cal, 52-24, on Friday night. How many other teams this year are going to put that many points up on Cal? Not many, I wager.
—Former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer can’t believe how Lane Kiffin could land such plum jobs at places like Tennessee and USC. I agree with Phil, though it also begs the question of how he ever got the job at Tennessee and, if he was so good, why isn’t he coaching now?
—Ranking the Conferences: One-quarter of the way through, here’s how I’d do it:
3. Big Ten
4. Big 12
8. Big East
9. Conf. USA