Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was asked if rotating his quarterbacks was ultimately hurting his offense. To be exact, the question pondered if it isn't time to give one guy all the reps, because currently, it's all diluted.
Meyer seemed amused by the phrase and nodded, repeated it out loud dubiously, "it's all diluted?" Then he answered honestly, as if it was something he couldn't get off his mind himself.
"There might be some truth to that," Meyer said. "Not that I'm going to call some armchair (analysts) and ask them what they think, but I do believe in game reps. That's how players get better, and that's something that I'm going to spend a lot of time thinking about."
Buckeyes face critical week
A change is coming. After a productive debut on the opening Monday night against Virginia Tech, Cardale Jones has been brutal in disappointing wins over Hawai'i and Northern Illinois. Unlike the game against the Warriors where Barrett replaced him, there was no way Meyer could afford to ride with his wild inconsistency and risk losing to NIU. Jones finished 4-for-9 for 36 yards and two picks and sat on the bench by himself with a towel over his head. Ironically, J.T. Barrett wasn't much better, but Meyer stuck with him and trusts him more.
It would surprise me if Barrett didn't start this weekend's game against Western Michigan, another of the MAC's better teams. The Broncos, who opened as 28.5-point underdogs, have already played Michigan State, covering at home in Kalamazoo. The reason the week is so critical for the defending champs has less to do with who opens up under center than how it is received. This is a team that has been unified. Last year's run came in spite of superstar Braxton Miller being injured because the team galvanized and collectively dominated as an underdog. This year's team has a completely different dynamic, one that's clearly not an underdog by any definition of the word.
Meyer likes to ask his players whether they're a "problem or a solution." Wish I could bet on whether Jones is going to hear that nugget this week. If he can't handle a demotion as classily as Barrett managed the decision to have Jones start at Virginia Tech, there's a good chance the Buckeyes splinter. Nobody on that offense is playing well, but for Ohio State, it's all about staying afloat against inferior competition until November. Games against Michigan State and at Michigan close out the regular-season schedule and will define whether the Buckeyes will be playing for another title. Until then, it's all about sticking together. This week will test that.
A mishandling of their QB situation cost Alabama dearly in their loss to Ole Miss. Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin gave Cooper Bateman his first start and watched him sputter, allowing the Rebels to gain their footing on the road in a game where they never trailed. 'Bama committed five turnovers and senior Jacob Coker actually committed more than Bateman, but indecision displayed by the Crimson Tide coaching staff cost this team in what became their second loss in a four-game span and a second straight loss to Ole Miss for the first time in program history. It appeared obvious last week that Bateman is the preferred choice, but throwing him into a massive game instead of waiting until this week against UL-Monroe to get him his first start proved to be a massive error.
Credit the Rebels for making the most of their opportunities, but I don't see how they're ranked ahead of LSU by five spots in the latest AP poll. Even Georgia is ahead of the Tigers, who held off Mississippi State and obliterated Auburn at home for a pair of impressive wins Ole Miss was out-gained 503-433 and capitalized on miscues and a fluke play to pull off a great upset, so catapulting them to No. 3 when the same voters had them at No. 15 last week was a massive overreaction.
Georgia has beaten Vanderbilt and South Carolina, the two weakest teams in the SEC, so to rank the Dawgs ahead of LSU is also puzzling. Les Miles' team moved up to No. 4 in the VI Power Rankings. They have the current Heisman frontrunner in Leonard Fournette and will be favored against everyone on their schedule until a trip to Tuscaloosa on Nov. 7. Count on LSU being a consensus top-four by then, not that they shouldn't be already.
Know what else LSU did that nobody but Georgia managed to among the nation's elite? They covered. Ohio State, TCU, Michigan State and idle Baylor, the consensus top four non-SEC schools, fell well short of expectations, spread-wise. The Buckeyes were 34.5-point favorites who won by 7. Sparty, favored by 24.5, won by 14. TCU closed as 38-point chalk and won by half that. Meanwhile, LSU (-6.5) blasted Auburn. Beat them by 24 in a game that wasn't even that close. This is the same Auburn team that was ranked No. 6 in the preseason, getting listed as high as No. 2 on some ballots. No, the AP poll makes absolutely no sense.
USC disappointed again when running up against Stanford, especially when you consider how poorly Steve Sarkisian and the Trojans managed the game when they went up double-digits. There didn't seem to be any adjustment to contain a Cardinal passing game that had managed little in underwhelming performances against Northwestern and UCF. Athough the Trojans have a lot of youth, they're by far more talented than the Cardinal, which is why they were favored by 10 at home. It will be very interesting to see how Southern Cal handles adversity as they hit the road for a challenging game at Arizona State where they've been installed as a road favorite (-6).
Due to UCLA surviving BYU, this week's showdown at Arizona now becomes the marquee game on the Pac-12 schedule, since both teams have an opportunity to close out September at 4-0 and position itself alongside Utah as the Pac-12 favorite in a season where it's starting to look like these teams are going to knock one another off and prevent a second consecutive league entry in the college football playoff.
Other tidbits that stood out on Saturday include Temple and Memphis surviving on the road against MAC schools in two of the best finishes the day produced. Cincinnati, which has already lost to the Owls, also found a way to hold off Miami (Ohio), but it's not a good look for the American Athletic Conference that its best teams had such issues with teams from a conference that's considered an upstart at best and an afterthought at worse in the national title picture. It's ugly that the UConn Huskies dragging Missouri down to their level in a 9-6 loss is considered a bright spot for the league. Meanwhile, the only team that's ever won a New Year's Day bowl as a member of the AAC lost to FCS lightweight Furman. UCF has a very young team and playing backups at quarterback, but that 16-15 loss was indefensible. It was not only a black eye for the American, but also for the Knights' aspirations of gaining a Big 12 invite. That league already has a Kansas.
NCAA Football Week 3 recap snapshot
1. Ole Miss 43, Alabama 37, 2. Memphis 45 Bowling Green 42, 3.Kansas State 39 Louisiana Tech 33 (3OT)
1. Fournette, LSU: 19-228 yds 3 TD, 2. Greyson Lambert, Georgia: 24-25 330 yds 3 TDs, 3. Trevone Boykin, TCU: 21-30 454 yds 5 TD, 1 TD rush
1. That Ole Miss TD needs a name. The "Blessing at Bama" is my submission. QB Chad Kelly did a great job fielding the bad snap, made an awful decision in heaving up a pass and got lucky LaQuon Treadwell was able to tip it forward for Quincy Adeboyejo, the most fortunate receiver in college football. The play was historic. 2. TCU's Boykin had a video game-like run vs. SMU. Words don't do it justice, but it featured a pump fake and spin move where he ducked out of a sack and him barreling into the end zone. 3. Notre Dame's CJ Prosise blew up Georgia Tech with numerous huge runs, but his 91-yard TD run to put the Yellow Jackets away qualifies as brilliant.
Best coaching jobs:
1. Sure, there was a fluke involved, but Hugh Freeze but snapping the Tide's 19-game home winning streak earns the top spot easily. 2. The Irish won impressively in spite of a backup QB at the controls and even more carnage as they suffered yet another season-ending injury. Brian Kelly has really kept his strong-minded team together and despite the cosmetic 30-22 final, teamed with DC Brian Van Gorder to lead Notre Dame to a dominant performance against Georgia Tech. 3. Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald took his Wildcats on the road for the first time, overcame a halftime deficit and won at well-coached at Duke.
Worst coaching jobs:
1. We're piling on Bret Bielema like we're Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury. The Texas Tech coach minced no words in crushing the Arkansas' coach, who boasted in the offseason that his Hogs would crush any gimmicky team that wanted to throw the ball 50 times a game. How'd that work out? 2. George O'Leary's UCF Knights lost to Furman at home in falling to 0-3. Yes, starting QB Justin Holman is out with a hand injury, but the loss glaringly displayed a lack of depth at the position, not to mention numerous other spots. He's had his moments and will likely retire to serve as AD, but O'Leary knows his program should be above losing to FCS schools regardless of the circumstances. 3. South Alabama went all the way out to San Diego and defeated Rocky Long's Aztecs, overcoming a 17-10 halftime deficit and winning in OT. The Sun Belt-member Jaguars haven't had a winning season since moving up to the FCS level.
Sharps were all over 'Bama, so they didn't enjoy the proceedings in Tuscaloosa at all. It was a poor week, especially since they faded Utah at Fresno State, rode UCF and had Michigan and Washington State covering. They were fortunate that the Huskers rallied late to force their loss at Miami to go over the posted total, as predicted. They also won taking points with Georgia State and New Mexico against Pac-12 powers.
Close calls and bad beats:
Kansas State and Louisiana Tech had combined for just 19 points late in the third quarter, but wound up getting to OT at 23-all on a 45-yard field goal at the gun, crushing the souls of UNDER 52 players that looked golden for the better part of the afternoon. As if to pile on, the teams went three overtimes and combined for 26 points as the OVER reigned.
Air Force utilized a penalty-aided drive late to break the hearts of UNDER 54 players in their game, producing a 35-21 final. All the big plays that WR Aaron Burbridge made didn't help matters considering he kept the Spartans from having to settle for field goals with TD receptions of 28, 32 and 21 yards. Air Force's DJ Johnson scored from two yards out, completing an 87-yard drive with just 2:11 left.
Wisconsin (-24.5) sputtered for most of its contest against Troy in a game that featured two ejections and a delay caused by an errant fire alarm. The Badgers led just 14-3 at the half but wound up scoring with just 5:07 remaining on a two-play, 39-yard drive to cover the spread.
Miami (-3.5) took a 33-10 lead with 11:14 remaining and was caught from behind by Nebraska at home in the final eight minutes, stunning and upsetting anyone who didn't back the 'Canes.on the money line. It was a brutally agonizing bad beat that even offered one last reprieve. After Tommy Armstrong opened OT by getting picked off, Miami drove to the 'Huskers 10-yard-line, but took a knee to set up Michael Badgley's game-winning field goal. Sorry if they toyed with your emotions. Nebraska-backers picked up a cover they had no business earning and are the only people in the country not mad at Al Golden.
Alabama WR Robert Foster (Torn rotator cuff, OFY), Ole Miss S Tony Conner (Torn MCL, Out at least 4 weeks), Texas LB Edwin Freeman (Ankle, Out 6-8 weeks), Boston College QB Darius Wade (Fractured ankle, OFY), Wake Forest QB John Wolford (Ankle, Out indefinitely), Syracuse QB Eric Dungey (Concussion, Out indefinitely), UCF WR Jordan Akins (Knee, out indefinitely), Notre Dame S Drew Tranquill (ACL, OFY), Michigan State DB Vayante Copeland (Neck, OFY), Boise State QB Ryan Finley (Broken ankle, out 8 weeks), Georgia FB Christian Payne (Leg, out indefinitely), Georgia DB Rico McGraw (Knee, out 2-4 weeks).
Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA