** An e-mail conversation between two members of the SB Nation Dallas editorial staff about the weekend that was.
Jonathan Tjarks: The slate of games on Saturday was a refreshing change after a ridiculously garbage non-conference season this year. At the very least, now that conference play is getting going, there's always at least one good SEC and Big 12 game a week. Interesting contrast between the two best conferences in college ball: bunch of Nick Saban clones who want 13-10 games verse a bunch of Mike Leach clones who prefer 48-45 video game shootouts. Texas-West VA was a great example of that: asides from their laughably poor tackling, I feel like the Longhorns defense did a really good job this week to give up 48 points. That's like 4 or 5 games for most of these SEC teams. I've talked about this before, but I'm not sure how Gene Chizik and Will Muschamp could look at offenses that won 3 national titles in the last 6 years and be like I'd rather run a pro-style offense designed for Tom Brady with Kiehl Frazier.
Willie Funk: It's especially painful to watch LSU. The self-imposed limitations on their offense lost them the title game last year and lost their game against Florida yesterday. Zach Mettenberger is not Jordan Jefferson. He can throw the ball. And when you're putting up 6 points in your biggest games, how do you not question what you're doing? And Les Miles used to throw it around relentlessly! At the other end of the spectrum, Geno Smith and West Virginia continue to be the talk of college football. What confuses me about both teams is why it's imperative that your defense be garbage if you can score points and vice versa. It's not like you only try to recruit well on one side of the ball. The added stress on the defense of a high powered scoring machine doesn't account for all of it either -- it's not like West Virginia's defense got worse during the course of the game. Fatigue didn't account for their inability to stop the Great David Ash from the first quarter on.
Tjarks: I'm glad to see you giving David Ash his due. Check these statistics as a true sophomore: 77.5% completion percentage, 1,276 yards, 11 TD's and 1 INT. Even for a Big 12 offense, that's quite silly. I'm not going to even pretend to be objective here, but Ash has a chance to break a lot of Colt McCoy's records in Austin. For one thing, he's going to get plenty of opportunities to play against Big 12 defense. Part of the problem for the spread on steroids offenses these teams run is their drives are so short, so their defenses are constantly on the field. If your offense scores a TD every 2-3 minutes, that gives the other offense a lot of chances to score as opposed to a ball control SEC offense which is trying to shrink the game. It's also just the general pace of the game: West VA went 5-5 on fourth downs; they were essentially running a four-down offense and it's pretty hard to stop a good team from getting 10 yards in 4 tries.
Funk: Allow me to help you with your Ash objectivity. Dude hasn't played anyone. Those were glorified I-AA defenses he put those number up against. The most impressive part of Texas' attack on Saturday was the running game. Johnathan Gray in the wildcat was a nice wrinkle, and that's a kid who could really break some records. Really impressive and explosive specimen. They're loaded at tailback. West Virginia's fourth down offense was downright preposterous. Each time they lined up to go for it there was just no doubt what was going to happen. Geno Smith completion. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Smith really impressed me with how he stood in the pocket and remained patient under pressure and on fourth down. He went through his progressions like a pro. Combined with the accuracy of his huge arm, it's becoming pretty clear who's taking over the race for the No. 1 overall pick. From a league standpoint, it will be interesting how things shake out the rest of the way. I'm still not on board the Kansas State train and West Virginia has serious problems on the defensive side of the ball. OU rolled this weekend, but Landry Jones seems to have cemented his legacy as a maddeningly inconsistent decision maker. It'll be an interesting match-up between he and Ash next weekend.
Tjarks: I like Malcolm Brown, but he may have been Wally Pipped. Gray is just too nice; it's going to be hard not giving him as many touches as possible going forward. Combine that with Joe Bergeron, a monster in short-yardage situations, and Daje Johnson, damn near impossible to tackle in open space, and it looks like Brown is the odd man out. I'm fairly confident about the OU game; the Sooners have the feel of the Longhorns two years ago -- a lethargic program that's been successful for so long that they've grown complacent and need some new blood.
I'm more curious to watch the other big game next weekend -- South Carolina on the road at LSU. The Gamecocks look mad legit but winning a night game in Baton Rouge is no joke, even if Les Miles refuses to install a passing offense. Here's the real question: if Head Ball Coach can win an SEC title at Columbia, is he the best college football coach of all-time? He's won at Duke (the only ACC title there in over 60 years), Florida (who had never won an SEC title before he got there) and South Carolina (never even won an SEC division title before Spurrier). "You can't spell Citrus without UT" -- he pretty much single-handedly started the Peyton Manning is a choke artist meme. A tip of the visor to him.
Funk: Brown never blew me away. He's like the BenJarvus Green-Ellis of that backfield; he runs behind his blockers and gets the yards the play allows for, but not much more. Gray is that and much much more. He can change the complexion of the game with one touch and grind out the tough yards. He's really a complete back and renders the others somewhat extraneous. They've done a pretty good job spreading the ball around though, so I don't think there will be a sudden shift to the freshman.
That Battle in the Bayou should be a good one. South Carolina got the big return against Georgia that really put the game away. At home in the SEC, a punt return for touchdown that makes it a 3 possession game is a game-ender. I would worry about them having to sustain drives with Spurrier's' inexplicable fondness of zone reads with Connor Shaw and Marcus Lattimore's questionable health. LSU's defense will cause serious problems for them, but the Tiger offense is total joker status. As far as Head Ball Coach historically , I think he'd have to win a national title in South Carolina to make a claim as the greatest ever. And with Nick Saban set to compete for the next 15 national titles, he may have to win more than one.
Tjarks: I think degree of difficulty has to be in play when comparing coaching performances. Nick Saban is a monster but a lot of people can win at Alabama. Is Mack Brown a better coach than Bill Snyder because he won a title at UT? It's always going to be easier to take a hand-off than build a program and tradition from scratch. Although, at the same time, Saban didn't have a lot to work with at Michigan State and LSU. That would be a fascinating SEC title game, but South Carolina has got an insane schedule -- at LSU, at Florida and at Clemson coming up -- they'll have to get through. But with FSU's loss at NC State (lol), it looks like even a one-loss SEC champion will get to the national title game. Oregon is in the driver's spot after that, but if they lose, it's going to be really wide open. I can't see a Big 12 team going through the round robin undefeated.
Funk: Alabama wasn't exactly a power during the DuBose, Franchione and Mike Shula eras, so let's not make it out to be something it's not. And as far as greatest all time, Bear Bryant, JoePa, Bobby Bowden all have to be up there. The latter two made institutions out of a football team. I'm not a believer in Florida, so look for a nice betting line when South Carolina goes down to Gainesville. I couldn't respect the caliber of Pac-whatever play any less. Stanford got up to #8 in the country. That's just dumb. They almost lost at home to the fighting Rich-Rods. SC always has to be considered, and so does Oregon, but I actually like them to stumble against Oregon State's run defense in the Civil War later in the season. Get ready for another BCS controversy.
Tjarks: Interesting. The Oregon schools do have a really under-the-radar intense rivalry. Mike Riley is another guy who doesn't get enough credit nationally for the job he does at Corvallis. It's hard to get a real feel for the Ducks when their non-conference schedule was home games against Arkansas State, Fresno State and Tennessee Tech. I guess Chip Kelly learned his lesson after he got rolled by LSU at Cowboys Stadium last year.
On the local level, two other pretty interesting games this weekend -- TCU at Baylor and A&M traveling to play an undefeated Louisiana Tech team. I think the Frogs would have won in Waco if Casey Pachall had a designated driver, but redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin really struggled against Iowa State (3 INT's) and for the second straight year, it doesn't look like their defense is going to be winning many games for them after they let Jared Barnett light them up on Saturday. I love me some Johnny Football (to the point where I may have SBN Dallas start covering A&M next year), but he's had his struggles away from College Station. Why the Aggies agreed to a road game at a Sun Belt school I have no idea.
Funk: It's safe to put the amphibians season in the garbage. Pachall wasn't having the same kind of season he had last year, but he's one of the best quarterbacks in college football. You have to wonder what kind of suspension Patterson is going to hand down when it's all said and done. Hopefully Gary lets the kid stick around for next year, but if he doesn't, it's hard for Frog fans to say they didn't see this coming. His roommates were pushing weight, he failed a drug test, and he went on record with the police about his enthusiasm for recreational drugs. The state's other part-time delinquent quarterback, Drop Top Johnny football, has had as good a freshman season as any big-conference quarterback in recent memory. Tech has a nice thing going down there in lovely Shreveport, but it's hard for me to see them derailing the Manziel Express. But just like Baylor with Louisiana-Monroe, you have to wonder how they let something like this happen.