When evaluating the current state of Alabama football, I can’t help but think of Kanye’s 2005 single, “Diamonds of Sierra Leone.”
The above may be the quintessential introduction to Four Downs.
First Down: Alabama Football Through Kanye
Let’s run a particularly germane portion through the CFB Huddle Genius for translation:
People askin’ me if I’m gonna give my chain back/
That’ll be the same day I give the game back
The defiance Nick Saban showed this past week in response to suggestions Alabama ceded its place atop the SEC.
You know the next question dog: “Yo, where Dame at?”
Any number of questions about Alabama’s make-up: What’s with Jake Coker at quarterback? Is the secondary going to get it together? Why won’t Lane Kiffin just run the dang ball?!
This track the Indian dance to bring our reign back
Back-to-back SEC wins, first a wire-to-wire blowout of Georgia, then a physical, hard-fought war of attrition with Arkansas.
“What’s up with you and Jay, man, are y’all ok man?”
The perplexing dynamic between Saban and Kiffin, that tenuous relationship on which the success of Alabama football now hinges.
They pray for the death of our dynasty like “Amen”
Self-explanatory. The quick trigger columnists and bloggers pull to declare Alabama’s dynasty endangered might be more wishful thinking than anything else.
R-r-r-r-right here stands a man/
With the power to make a diamond with his bare hands
That could refer to either Derrick Henry, the Heisman Trophy-contending running back, or wide receiver Calvin Ridley. Ridley has nicely filled the void left by 2014 Heisman finalist Amari Cooper, and scratched an itch Kiffin has in his play-calling: The offensive coordinator insists on conducting the passing game almost exclusively through a single receiver.
The long-term sustainability of such a strategy is debatable, but on Saturday against Arkansas, it was the difference-maker.
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) October 11, 2015
A potential Top 10 date looms for Alabama next week against Texas A&M, precisely the style of opponent that has left skeptics questioning the veracity of the Crimson Tide dynasty. Georgia and Arkansas running power from pro-sets played directly into Alabama’s hands.
Be that as it may, the death of dynasty is on hold for another week.
Second Down: Time to Notice Oklahoma State
Big 12 favorites Baylor and TCU remained undefeated in Week 6 — though TCU only did so by the hair of its chin for a second time in three weeks. The rival Bears and Horned Frogs may be hurdling toward that Thanksgiving weekend showdown we all anticipate for the Big 12 Conference championship, and ostensibly, the College Football Playoff.
With its overtime win Saturday at West Virginia, Oklahoma State is still perfect. The Cowboys haven’t been the sexiest of undefeated teams through the first six weeks, and the win in Morgantown is a prime example.
Quarterback Mason Rudolph went 20-of-40 and threw three interceptions without a touchdown. J.W. Walsh came on to score once on the pass and once via the run, the latter of which was the game-winner.
— Kyle Fredrickson (@kylefredrickson) October 11, 2015
Oklahoma State had prime opportunities to put the Mountaineers away before Walsh’s overtime score and failed to do so.
Mike Gundy has handled the two-quarterback deal pretty well. It’s a different situation than Texas with Jerrod Heard and Tyrone Swoopes, but the Cowboys are making it work. Rudolph is the starter, but Walsh has a touchdown every game this season.
Moreover, survive and advance is the name of the game. To endure in one of the conference’s most hostile environments keeps the Cowboys on pace with TCU and Baylor, neither of which has done anything to suggest they are all that far ahead.
TCU needed a comeback Saturday to escape with a win against Kansas State — much like Oklahoma State against the Wildcats a week ago. The Cowboys may have also struggled with Texas — right around the same time TCU struggled with Texas Tech — but Oklahoma State’s win in Austin looks much more impressive after the Longhorns tripped up Oklahoma.
The 6-0 Cowboys don’t face either TCU or Baylor until November, but with a bye week next Saturday, another bye week in Week 8 — or a game against Kansas, whichever — only a Halloween road trip to Texas Tech stands between Oklahoma State and an unblemished record when it hosts TCU.
Third Down: Portland State Vikings Pillage North Texas
An October matchup between a struggling Conference USA team, such as North Texas, and an FCS opponent like Portland State typically won’t garner attention from the college football media at-large; particularly not when the score is 66-7.
But the FCS team, Portland State, putting such a lopsided beat-down on its FBS counterpart? That’s man-bites-dog stuff right there. It’s the most lopsided FCS or Div. I-AA defeat of an FBS/I-A opponent ever by almost double the previous mark.
The thrashing was embarrassing enough that UNT athletic brass fired head coach Dan McCarney almost immediately afterward.
North Texas is just two seasons removed from arguably the best season in program history: a 9-4 finish that culminated in a bowl victory. Things got sideways on the Mean Green since then in a hurry, as they sit winless thus far this season, with perhaps the best hope for a win (on paper) gone in q\a 59-point blowout.
If it’s any solace to North Texas, Portland State opened the season with a win at Washington State. Those same Cougars marched into Oregon Saturday night and rallied from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to force and win in overtime over the Ducks.
By the transitive property, Portland State is now the best college football team in the state of Oregon.
OK, so maybe that’s not the case, But Bruce Barnum has had 4-1 Portland State better prepared at times this season than Mark Helfrich has Oregon. Saturday’s a prime example, as Helfrich tinkered with the lineup in the fourth quarter Saturday — an odd decision, give how close the contest was.
Oregon’s quarterback situation remains utterly befuddling. How were the Ducks left so far in the dark aw to what do post Marcus Mariota?
Fourth Down: Columbia Ends Its Losing Streak
Last week, it was Savannah State. This time, Columbia gets off the schneid for its first victory in 24 games.
The Lions easily handled Wagner Saturday, 26-3, behind 74 rushing yards, 143 passing yards and a touchdown from Skyler Mornhinweg.
Mornhinweg is the Florida Gators transfer. With him now sporting a W as quarterback of Columbia, and his former Gator teammates off to a surprising, undefeated start, Mornhinweg has every reason to hit the bars in New York City and get kicked out for being an obnoxious, SEC homer.
Unless, of course, someone already cornered the market on such behavior in Week 6.
Staten Island-based Wagner later this month faces BYU and that won’t be a completely meaningless rout. Why Tom Holmoe didn’t get College of Faith to fill that always-tricky late-season date in BYU’s docket, I don’t know.
— HBU Athletics (@HBUHuskies) October 4, 2015