By Bud Withers, The Seattle Times –
SEATTLE — Every week can’t be Alabama-LSU. Every Saturday can’t be Stanford-USC. It can’t always be Oklahoma-Texas. This is by way of preparing you for the best game in college football this week: Baylor at West Virginia.
Indeed, there are only two matchups pitting ranked teams Saturday, and because one of them is Ohio State (14) and Michigan State (20), and the Big Ten is pretty much on sabbatical this year, it’s left to 25th-ranked Baylor and ninth-rated West Virginia to carry the flag.
What’s to recommend this (9 a.m. PDT, FX) matchup? Well, there’s Geno Smith, who is leading most early Heisman polls with 12 touchdown passes and no interceptions for West Virginia.
“He’s phenomenal; he’s why they’re where they’re at,” says Baylor coach Art Briles, who knows Heisman stock when he sees it, having just produced Robert Griffin III. If you’re into genealogy, there’s this: Briles and Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen spent three years together on Mike Leach’s first staff at Texas Tech. Then Briles went to be head coach at Houston, and when he left, Holgorsen was offensive coordinator there.
Of course, it’s West Virginia’s first foray into Big 12 play after it bolted the drooping Big East. The new league is featuring all sorts of histrionic offense this year, as there are six Big 12 teams scoring 40 or more points a game, including these two.
“We’re not bad on offense, but there’s plenty of teams doing a whole lot better than we are on the offensive side of the ball,” says Holgorsen.
Fact is, nobody really knows how good these teams are. None of the five FBS teams they’ve combined to beat has a winning record.
“It’s finally here,” says Holgorsen. “There’s a lot of anticipation, not only in the state of West Virginia, but across the country.”
If he says so.
Best of the rest Saturday, chronologically:
Tennessee at Georgia (5), 12:30 p.m., CBS — They’re 1-2 in the SEC in offense, and Georgia has scored 40-plus points four straight games for the first time in its history. Its quarterback, Aaron Murray, has been treating his offensive line to ice cream at the local Ben and Jerry’s when it keeps him clean.
Ohio State (14) at Michigan State (20), 12:30 p.m., ABC — Even its intrepid commissioner, Jim Delany, isn’t trying to mask the Big Ten’s crash this year. “The narrative is, we’ve underperformed, and I can’t argue with that,” he told Adam Rittenburg of ESPN.com. “We haven’t won big games. I can’t discount the facts and I can’t discount the critics.”
Leaguewide, there have been coaching changes, the quarterback cast is down, and the Buckeyes aren’t bowl-eligible in 2012. So, as Delany says, the league isn’t winning big games — and it’s also not winning little ones. It has lost three times to Mid-American teams, and it’s 6-9 against other BCS leagues (that includes 0-3 against Notre Dame).
Arizona State at California, 1 p.m., FX — What do we think of Arizona State? Well, that depends on what you think of the backup quarterbacks it has faced. Opponents have taken 277 offensive snaps, and 14 of them were received by the starting quarterback. That was Northern Arizona’s Cary Grossart, and after the Sun Devils knocked him from the game early in the second quarter of the first game, they’ve faced nothing but reserve QBs due to injuries. If I were Cal’s Zach Maynard, I’d be avoiding people with sniffles and watching for banana peels on sidewalks.
Florida State (4) at South Florida, 3 p.m., ESPN — The game illustrates a potential problem for the Seminoles regarding their upward mobility in the BCS. They don’t play another ranked team until Nov. 24 (Florida), and who knows what sort of shape the Gators might be in by then? The ‘Noles are 2-0 in the ACC for only the third time in the last nine years, which reflects their struggles in the latter stages of the Bobby Bowden era.
Oregon State (18) at Arizona, 7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks — The Beavers are 2-0 and with a win here, would have cleared half their Pac-12 road games without a blemish. Both quarterback Sean Mannion (shoulder) and his ‘Zona counterpart, Matt Scott (hip) are banged up.
Oregon (2) vs. Washington State, in Seattle, 7:30 p.m., ESPN — By now, it’s apparent that with the arrival of Mike Leach comes a rebuilding process, not miracles, at WSU. The only obvious flaw surrounding the Ducks is their total of 14 fumbles in 2012, six lost.