Despite the Changing College Football Landscape, the Really Good Teams Win When They Have To, Even on the Road

Seems like more and more college football teams are changing to the no-huddle, hurry-up offense pioneered by former Coach Chip Kelly that put Oregon into the national title picture every year.

The landscape keeps changing but college football’s 3rd week of play made a statement that hasn’t changed: really good teams win when they have to, and they even win on the road. Alabama proved the maxim.

All Nick Saban’s #1 Crimson Tide did was pay a visit to Johnny Football’s #6 Texas A&M Aggies and win, 49-42, after falling behind 14-0 at the outset of their showdown. Alabama responded with 35 unanswered points to go up 35-14 before letting the Aggies back into the game in the 4th quarter.

Texas A&M’s offense scored enough points to win, but its defense gave up even more. Johnny Football (QB Johnny Manziel) threw 5 touchdown passes, but Alabama gained 568 yards of offense and used a couple of long drives to keep Manziel an observer on the sidelines, proving once again that one Heisman-winning player does not a team make.

Another example, less obvious, found the #16 UCLA Bruins traveling to #23 Nebraska and winning OTR, 41-21.

Now let’s talk about 3 duds.

#24 TCU (not a really good team) traveled to unranked Texas Tech and promptly lost to the Red Raiders, 20-10. TCU took a hike from the AP Top 25 Poll to be replaced by Texas Tech at #25.

#11 Michigan, the heartthrob of the Midwest if you choose to ignore Ohio State, hosted the Akron Zips, a MAC Conference team that plays like a AA team, and managed to win by 4, 28-24. The Wolverine victory looked like the kind of stunt Michigan State would do, barely beat a mediocre team.

So how good is Akron? Well, last year the Zips went 0-8 in conference play and 1-11 overall. Michigan, not nearly good enough to be #11 nationally, proved it.

The Wolverines prior opponent was Notre Dame, a game Michigan won 41-30 at the Big House in Ann Arbor. So how good are the Fighting Irish? Well, they traveled to Purdue and won 31-24 this week. No big deal. Despite these subpar performances, Michigan (not a really good team) only dropped 4 places in the Top 25 Poll (to #15), and Notre Dame dropped one notch to #22.

The #20 Wisconsin Badgers traveled to unranked Arizona State and lost a squeaker, 32-30. Good grief, what next? Forget the histrionics in this one, Wisconsin lost, period.

If you want histrionics, watch Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini during a Cornhusker game. The Badgers (not really a good team) were rewarded for their effort by dropping 4 spots in the Poll (to #24).

So there you have it, 3 duds–TCU, Michigan and Wisconsin—and a thud as Utah State led AA Weber State 70 to 0 after 3 quarters and went on to win 70-6 as the reserves mopped up.

So where’s the positive strawberry in the future? Well, maybe the University of Washington. The #19 Huskies, after upsetting #19 Boise State 38-6 in the opening game at Washington’s newly remodeled stadium, traveled to Soldier Field in Chicago (a neutral site) and beat the Big Ten’s Illinois, 34-24.

The win itself was not the big deal. The win on-the-road was as it marked the first regular-season non-conference road win for Coach Steve Sarkisian since he took over in 2009. In 4 years, 72% of Sarkisian’s losses have come OTR. The win jumped Washington from #19 to #17 in the AP Poll, Washington’s highest ranking since Sark first became head coach.

The Huskies have an improved defense since Coordinator Justin Wilcox took over a year ago. Junior Tailback Bishop Sankey rushed for a career-best 208 yards against Illinois after gaining 161 yards against Boise State. Senior Quarterback Keith Price has completed 77% of his passes. Washington gained 592 yards against Boise State and added another 615 yards against Illinois, good for 6th most in school history.

Washington had 10 offensive plays against Illinois with more than 20 yards gained:
Keith Price passed to Kevin Smith for 20 yards.
Keith  Price passed to Bishop Sankey for 31 yards and a touchdown.
Keith Price passed to Kevin Smith for 25 yards.
Keith Price passed to Kevin Smith for 39 yards.
Bishop Sankey rushed for 25 yards.
Bishop Sankey rushed for 22 yards.
Jesse Callier rushed for 39 yards and a touchdown.
Keith Price passed to Kasen Williams for 43 yards.
Keith Price passed to Jesse Callier for 27 yards.
Bishop Sankey rushed for 24 yards.

Could Washington be emerging as a title contender in the Pac-12? Maybe. The Huskies are in the same North Division as Oregon (currently #2 nationally) and Stanford (currently #5 nationally), which does not help, but they have some talent and are finally beginning to become two-deep across the board.

Should the Washington Huskies next crush AA Idaho State (they can’t just win, they have to stomp a mud hole in Pocatello Bengals) and then whip Rich Rod’s visiting Arizona Wildcats, they will be impossible to ignore since they would head to Stanford with a 4-0 record.

Can you believe that Arizona Coach Rich Rodriguez, who with his spread option offense was run out of the University of Michigan and its three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust mentality, has a 28-member coaching staff?

Coach Steve Sarkisian has a 15-member staff at Washington, but does he have more talent and will the talent show up against Arizona? We will soon find out.

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