BLITZING SEVEN: The Run for The Heisman, Strange Happenings in Iowa after Dark and Is Sparty Back?
1. Is Sparty back? Michigan State hosts Notre Dame as the Spartans continue to rebound from a disappointing 2016 season. What happened? In keeping with the Spartans/Ancient Greek lore theme there is a lesson. As often happens when a program’s recruiting rankings soar a team's character changes, The Icarus moment arrived as they flew too close to the sun. This team looks like the recent hard-nosed tough Big Ten Title Spartan teams. Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelley made that point this week. MSU is running for over 250 yards per game while allowing just 203 yards total defense. One glaring un-Spartan problem is fumbling. That will have to change Saturday night. They may not be a Big Ten contender this year but given the attention to detail that this program has thrived on it won’t be long.
2. Hey Big 12—Be Careful What You Wish For: Saturday #16 TCU travels to #6 Oklahoma State for a Big 12 Showdown that will determine the leading contender to challenge Oklahoma for the Big 12 title. Beating TCU requires a team to be successful through the air and the Cowboys certainly have that covered. After recent near-misses for the College Football playoffs the conference added a Championship game this year. The full round-robin format AND the Championship game means that every year someone may have to beat someone else twice to get through to a playoff. That is not easy to do. In 2017 with Oklahoma having a win at Ohio State, they don't need a Championship game...oh well always be careful what you wish for.
3. More Big 12: Last weekend was a big one for the Big 12 with 5 non-conference games against Power-5 teams. The league went 2-3 in those games with wins by Oklahoma State at Pitt and Texas Tech over Arizona State. Texas played well at #4 USC nearly pulling the upset which bodes well for the Longhorns’ future. But the K-State loss to Vanderbilt and the Kansas loss to Ohio U were bad losses. This week the lone non-conference game is Texas Tech at Houston. In conference play there could be some lopsided scores with #3 Oklahoma playing at win-less Baylor and West Virginia at Kansas.
4. Iowa after Dark: Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium is home to a loyal and loud fan base with seats that are exceptionally close to the sidelines. It makes for a loud day at the office for the visiting team. Some strange things have happened there. In 1995 Penn State won but in pre-game someone threw a pig’s head onto the field (leftover from a tailgate pig roast). Not sure if a pig’s head would get past security in 2017. A few years later an Iowa fan reached over and took off with a Penn State player's helmet. Stranger things have happened at night with Iowa upsets over top 5 teams Penn State in 2008 and Michigan in 2016. Given Iowa’s ball control offense and their 3rd down success on both sides of the ball this could be one of those Iowa nights. Penn State's offense may have to improve on 3rd downs (91st in the country) or rely on their defense to get turnovers to create extra possessions.
5. Handicapping the Heisman: Anyone trying to predict the winner this early is engaging in pure folly. But scheduling matters and it helps to look at the marquee games left against ranked teams. These games draw big audiences of Heisman voters. But keep in mind those games also provide a chance for someone not among the favorites to jump in (i.e. Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph vs OU or UCLA QB Josh Rosen vs USC).
6. Whose got next? These are the big games these contenders have left. The list does not include conference championship games.
Penn State RB Saquon Barkley:
Surprise Fact: He's been more productive the last 2 weeks as a receiver than rushing.
Ranked Team wins in the Bank: None
Ranked Teams Left: 10/21 #8 Michigan, 10/28 #10 Ohio State
Other Notable Games: Iowa, Michigan State
Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield
Surprising Fact: It seems he’s been around so long there are no surprises.
Ranked Team wins in the Bank: at #2 Ohio State
Ranked Teams Left: 11/4 at #6 Oklahoma State, 11/11 #16 TCU
Other Notable Games Left: Texas
USC QB Sam Darnold
Surprising Fact: Saturday marks the 1-year anniversary of his first start & only loss.
Ranked Team wins in the Bank: #14 Stanford
Ranked Teams Left: 9/29 at #18 Washington State, 10/14 #23 Utah
Other Notable Games Left: Notre Dame, Colorado, UCLA
Alabama QB Jalen Hurts
Surprising Stat: He has more rushing yards and a better average than Saquon Barkley.
Ranked Team wins in the Bank: #3 Florida State
Ranked Teams Left: 11/4 #25 LSU, 11/11 at Mississippi State, 11/25 #15 Auburn
Other Notable Games Left: at Vanderbilt, Tennessee
7. Screen Shot of The Week: Featuring a crowd a moment form the previous week that caught our eye. Enjoy this gem from the Michigan-Air Force game.