AROUND THE NATION
PALE RUNNER: The great white hope at RB has proven more elusive than the great white hope in boxing’s heavyweight division the last few decades. Perhaps Stanford sophomore Christian McCaffrey, the spawn of former NFL wideout Ed McCaffrey and ex-Cardinal soccer player Lisa McCaffrey, may be the real deal at the college level.
With Thursday night’s breakout game, a 243-yard effort that set a school record in a 56-35 Stanford runaway over UCLA, McCaffrey thrust himself into the national spotlight – OK, maybe not Leonard Fournette-style, but still …
Within the last decade, Stanford produced a very good white RB in Toby Gearhart, who still plays in spurts in the NFL. But McCaffrey is a different kind of ballcarrier. Unlike like the dancing-bear style favored by Gearhart, McCaffrey is a burner, often blowing by defenders after he’s beaten the front line to the edge, proving the eye-raising comment by his mom in a Sports Illustrated article in 1998, “That’s why Ed and I got together – to breed fast white guys,” to be quite prophetic.
Now with 844 rushing yards, he ranks fourth in the nation.
UNI WATCH: Must be a sucker for all-black unis. Maybe it’s just a hatred for the all-white trend that has permeated the college football landscape the past few years. Whatever. No matter the reason, this week’s new look for Ohio State gets the “winner” thumbs up here.
Oh, they’re not the best out there, and they’re probably an eyesore to more traditional of Buckeyes fans, but they’re clean and eye-catching.
BIG BUCKS: The in-state rivalry game between Michigan State and Michigan at the latter’s Ann Arbor, Mich., campus, is where the priciest seats are this weekend, according to StubHub, which has tickets starting at $209. Not sure if that’s more impressive than Southern Cal at Notre Dame going for $191 a pop. The mind boggles at how much those would be if either team were undefeated.
Other pricey spots include Baton Rouge, La., where Florida-LSU costs $176, and College Station, Texas, where Alabama-Texas A&M starts at $157.
It’s shaping up to be a bubble-burst weekend in college football.
Save for the West Coast, Hawaii and Alaska, locales all over the U.S. map will host Week 7 matchups that should go a long way to determining whether certain teams are deserving so much hullabaloo or not.
Nowhere, though, is there more of those proving grounds than in Big Ten country. With unbeatens Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa all facing quality, once-beaten squads, except some change in next week’s polls because any one of them could lose. If none of them do, each would strengthen their standing among the elite.
The vibe here is that two will go down while the third will survive.
The 17th-ranked Hawkeyes and seventh-ranked Spartans, you will be welcome in the world of non-Final 4 qualifiers. Though Iowa’s opponent, Northwestern, was exposed last week in Ann Arbor, Mich., the Wildcats do have a great defense and a coach in Pat Fitzgerald all too familiar with collapses following a quick start, courtesy of his 2013 team limping home 1-7 after beginning 4-0.
The plunge certainly was fueled by Northwestern dropping a gut-wrenching, 40-30 decision to an Ohio State team ranked fourth in the country. The ’Cats actually led in the fourth quarter. But once they lost that lead, and couldn’t get it back, the game and their season went off the rails.
By getting blown out at Michigan, 38-0, just five days ago, the reality is a perfect season wasn’t to be, and now they can get back to business. They’re good enough to beat Iowa, and, frankly, already have handled two teams arguably better than the Hawkeyes, Stanford and Duke, currently ranked 15th and 25th, respectively.
Michigan State? Forget it. In-state rival is on a ridiculous roll under the guidance of favorite son Jim Harbaugh. You knew the former Wolverines QB would turn things around, just going by his track record at previous college stops and with the San Francisco 49ers. But this fast? Holy cow … which is a phrase many Spartans may be sharing once Michigan cranks up its defense Saturday.
Ohio State figures to have the “easiest” time, hosting Penn State. But the Buckeyes have hardly been a smooth-running machine in defense of their national title last season, and, not for nothing, they needed double overtime to outlast the Nittany Lions 12 months ago anyway. If Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg, indeed, has shaken off the early-season cobwebs as last week’s solid performance against Indiana would suggest, this one could get very interesting.
AAC UPHEAVAL, TOO?
American Athletic Conference unbeatens Temple, Memphis and Houston are all in action this weekend, with the 24th-ranked Cougars getting things going tonight at Tulane. Memphis entertains No. 13 Mississippi Saturday afternoon in a regional rivalry and Temple hosts winless Central Florida Saturday night.
The Tigers, the most potent of the three, have the toughest challenge, obviously, facing one of the SEC’s best. But there are no givens in AAC action, either. Just two seasons ago, a one-win Temple team almost nixed UCF’s BCS bowl-capped campaign in a wild-mid-November clash at Lincoln Financial Field.
Houston? Hmmm, still trying to figure out why it is the one AAC team ranked in the AP at this point, considering both Memphis and Temple have had tougher schedules and been more impressive. So, who knows …
Well, aside from Ole Miss possibly getting upended by Paxton Lynch and Memphis, No. 10 Alabama visits No. 9 Texas A&M and No. 8 Florida travels to No. 6 Louisiana State. All four, including the one-loss Tide, currently remain alive in the national-title picture, but two will be gone from that after Saturday.
Considering ’Bama blew out the Aggies, 59-0, last season in a game not as close as the score would make it sound, not seeing much alteration to that this season. The Gators’ tale is a sad one. A former national power, even recently, just totally forgotten heading into the season, Florida has carved out a nifty 6-0 start to coach Jim McElwain’s tenure, but recently has been ravaged by its own stupidity, with suspensions set to hurt them on both sides of the ball.
- Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org