College football week 4: not the best bunch of games we’ve been privileged to watch. It was a fairly bland selection with a Top 25 matchup that didn’t offer much entertainment, unless you’re a fan of the Stanford Cardinal or one-sided fistfights. Arizona State acquitted itself poorly in Palo Alto, reinforcing the Pac 12 power structure and serving as a rather disappointing end to a fairly unremarkable day. On the plus side, we did see a slew of 70-point performances. So that’s something.
Best Win of The Week: Stanford 42, Arizona State 28 in Palo Alto
If you came in expecting this to be a hard-fought, back-and-forth affair that would reflect the depth of the Pac 12, you were almost certainly disappointed. This lopsided victory for the Cardinal indicated that once again, there are Stanford and Oregon…and then (with the possible exception of UCLA) everyone else. The Bruins will get a crack at shaking things up later in October.
Stanford took control from the opening whistle on Saturday night, dominating the first half and shutting out the Sundevils 29-0 at the break. It wasn’t even that close. Aside from a 12-play, 43-yard drive that ended with a missed field goal, ASU ran 24 plays for a grand total of 40 yards. Four punts, an interception, and a blocked punt attempt that resulted in a safety were all the visitors could muster. At the end of the night, the stat sheet would look a little more balanced, but don’t be fooled into thinking that the ‘Devils were competitive.
Tailback Marion Grice finally ended the shutout with a third quarter touchdown, but Stanford kept pouring it on, leading 39-7 after three. The fourth quarter was quintessential garbage time.
Thanks to their commanding leads, the Cardinal were able to focus on the ground game, amassing 49 team carries and 240 yards. Quarterback Kevin Hogan didn’t, but didn’t have to, do much to help run up the point total.
It’s now back to the drawing board for the Sundevils and Todd Graham, who clearly have some work to do if they want to compete against quality opponents.
Honorable Mention: Fresno State 41, Boise State 40 in Fresno
The Bulldogs very nearly found a way to screw this up, but in the end, Derek Carr found a way to top Boise State and help Fresno crack the Top 25. It was a big win for the program.
Worst Win of the Week: Michigan 24, Connecticut 21 in Hartford
A week after Akron snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and allowed Michigan to escape the Big House unscathed, the Wolverines were back at it. Once again an inferior foe gave the Victors all they could handle; the Huskies had a 21-7 lead in the third, a 21-14 lead in the fourth, and fell only after Michigan managed a late field goal.
The Wolverines hampered themselves with four turnovers that led directly to 21 UConn points; this game was plagued by sloppiness to the tune of six total fumbles (two lost) and three picks.
Aided by the takeaways, UConn was able to stay close despite a lousy statistical performance. Quarterback Chandler Whitmer completed exactly half of his 32 pass attempts, gaining only 159 yards. On the ground, the Huskies were downright anemic, tallying only 47 yards on 25 carries. Michigan’s rushing attack was a difference-maker as Fitz Toussaint accounted for 120 of the team’s 173 while finding the endzone twice. Devin Gardner was awful for the second straight week, finishing with 111 yards through the air on 52 percent passing. Since beating Notre Dame, Gardner has looked lost and the offense has sputtered.
One might be able to forgive Michigan for these ugly victories if looking ahead to Big Ten play was a legitimate excuse. But considering that the squad opens against Minnesota, at Penn State, and against Indiana, that explanation has no merit. Whatever the reason for their struggles, the Wolverines had better get things figured out before heading to East Lansing on November 2nd.
(Dis)Honorable Mention: USC 17, Utah State 14 in Los Angeles
There’s no shame in winning a tight one against a talented Aggies team if you look good while doing it. The Trojans, however, were a train wreck. USC’s offense is in shambles, and the quarterback play horrendous. Lane Kiffin will be ridden out on a rail unless he manages to work a miracle.
Upset of the Week: Utah 20, BYU 13 in Provo
This Vegas Special lived up to its mysterious point spread. On the heels of annihilating Texas, BYU opened as seven point favorites. But despite being the majority selection among bettors, the Cougars saw the line drop to 6.5 prior to gametime. It was a small but clear signal that BYU supporters needed to be wary. In retrospect, rightfully so.
The Utes had just endured an overtime shootout loss to Oregon State but showed no signs of being demoralized in this year’s edition of The Holy War. Utah QB Travis Wilson put together a solid, mistake-free night: 24 of 35 through the air with 273 yards and a pair of TD. In contrast, BYU’s dual-threat stud Taysom Hill was confounded by the Utah D, tossing a fourth-quarter pick and managing to complete only 18 of 48 attempts. If you’re scoring at home, that’s a success rate of 37.5 percent. Yikes.
Hill did rack up 99 of the Cougars’ 183 rushing yards, but it simply wasn’t enough.
Utah has now won four straight matchups in this rivalry, and BYU has to be at a loss as far as its own identity. How does a team score a combined 29 points in losses to Utah and Virginia, yet sandwich those around a 40-point thumping of the Longhorns?