Philadelphia, PA – Two weeks ago featured more than a few powerhouses taking on FCS foes and the results were less than thrilling in terms of entertainment value.
That certainly changed this past weekend, as lines were drawn in the sand in conference play. One high profile coach lost his job and the BCS picture became a little more focused, as the elite started to separate themselves from the field.
BEGINNING TO TAKE SHAPE: The marquee matchups in week four lived up to all the hype and began to paint the BCS picture, albeit with large strokes. Alabama was supposed to have a tough matchup with Top 25 foe Ole Miss, but all that happened was the Crimson Tide showed their dominance once again in a shutout victory at home (25-0).
The Oklahoma Sooners finally got over the proverbial hump with a rare decisive victory over Notre Dame. Coupled with a stunning upset loss by Oklahoma State to West Virginia, Oklahoma looks to be the cream of the crop in the Big 12 heading into the second half of the season.
Other games of note included Ohio State's 31-24 victory over Wisconsin and Georgia's 44-41 shootout against LSU.
The Buckeyes and Badgers went toe-to-toe at Ohio Stadium and when the dust settled, Urban Meyer was still undefeated with his team, as Ohio State is a perfect 17-0 under his watchful eye. There is little doubt now, if there was any coming into the weekend, that the Big Ten title goes through Columbus.
The SEC matchup in Athens has to be the game of the week though, as LSU and Georgia exchanged blows to the bitter end, with the Bulldogs edging out the Tigers, 44-41. The loss was the first on the season for LSU, which must bounce back in a hurry with a gauntlet of SEC powers remaining on the schedule. Georgia's schedule isn't void of pitfalls, but it is a much more manageable run to the SEC East title, than LSU's obstacle course in the SEC West.
ONLY A MATTER OF TIME: Coming into 2013, it seemed as though it was more "when" than "if" Lane Kiffin would be shown the door. Well, the "when" came this past weekend, as USC had finally had enough following a 62-41 loss to Arizona State, firing Kiffin shortly after the game.
Wether you like him or not, the polarizing Kiffin was dealt a bit of a raw deal, as he was left to clean up the mess that Pete Carroll left behind. Despite dealing with NCAA restrictions, including a postseason ban, there is no doubt that Kiffin faltered and did much less than expected of him.
USC is a football power, plain and simple, and mediocrity isn't accepted. Therein lies the problem with Kiffin, whose overall record at the school was 28-15. A downward spiral that saw the team lose seven of its last 11 games and start 2013 at a mere 3-2 overall and 0-2 in Pac-12 play, was too much to take, as USC Athletic Director Pat Haden informed Kiffin of his termination early Sunday morning following the loss in Tempe, which was the last straw according to Haden.
"Yes but this has been brewing for a while," said Haden. "I have been thinking about it since the Hawaii game. We didn't feel consistency there. We realize that our history has been great and we need it to be great again."
Assistant Ed Orgeron will take over as interim head coach, but has his hands full going forward, with opponents like Arizona, Notre Dame, Oregon State, Stanford and UCLA still left on the schedule.
PITCH AND CATCH: This is another year in which the FBS is deluged with quality quarterbacks, who enjoy slinging the ball around the field. The household names of Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Oregon's Marcus Mariota, Clemson's Tahj Boyd, Alabama's AJ McCarron, UCLA's Brett Hundley and Ohio State's Braxton Miller are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of quality play under center. Lesser known talents like veterans David Fales (San Jose State), Derek Carr (Fresno State) and Cody Fajardo (Nevada) and youngsters like Jameis Winston (Florida State) and Bryce Petty (Baylor) have made their case for being among the top of the QB class as well.
However, it is Oregon State's Sean Mannion who has really opened eyes with his play in the Pacific Northwest. Mannion lost his job in 2012, but regained it and doesn't look like he will relinquish it anytime soon. Five games into the season and it is the 6-foot-5 Mannion that leads the nation in passing, throwing for an impressive 2,018 yards thus far. The junior has also thrown for 21 touchdowns with just two interceptions. The Beavers dropped their season opener to FCS power Eastern Washington, but have won all four games since and look to be a real threat in the Pac-12.
The biggest beneficiary of Mannion's poise in the pocket has been 5-10 junior wideout Brandin Cooks, who has already caught a whopping 52 balls this season, turning them into 807 yards and nine touchdowns.
They aren't the most glamorous duo in the nation, but stopping them from putting up numbers at a record pace has been next to impossible.
The second half of the season will tell the tale for this pair, as ranked conference foes Stanford, Arizona State, Washington and Oregon are all on the docket. Still, early returns suggest that both Mannion and Cooks will get theirs win, lose or draw.
COMING OF AGE: Staying with the quarterback chatter, LSU's Zach Mettenberger made it known against Georgia that he isn't just a caretaker in Baton Rouge, but rather, a quarterback on the rise. Despite losing a classic shootout with the Bulldogs (44-41) this past weekend on the road, Mettenberger more than held his own, completing 23-of-37 passes, for a career-high 372 yards and three TDs in a mano-a-mano showdown with Georgia's Aaron Murray.
The two teams combined for 943 yards and 85 points in one of the best games this season and the play of Mettenberger was certainly front and center. The 6-5 senior made big play after big play, although coming up just short in the end.
On the season, Mettenberger has completed a healthy 64.1 percent of his passes, for 1,398 yards, with 13 touchdown passes against just one interception. That kind of poise under center will surely be needed in the second half of the season against teams like Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama and Texas A&M.
Mettenberger's performance against the Bulldogs though, may just be the momentum he needs to catapult himself to the next level.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK:
It was East Carolina's Shane Carden and Oregon State's Sean Mannion that set the bar for quarterback play this week. Carden was too much for North Carolina, throwing for 376 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for three more scores in a rout of the Tar Heels. Meanwhile, Mannion continued his strong play by throwing for 414 yards and six touchdowns in a lopsided win over Colorado.
Other quarterbacks with big weeks included Nevada's Cody Fajardo (389 yards, passing 3 TDs, 81 yards rushing 2 TDs), LSU's Zach Mettenberger (372 yards, 3 TDs), North Carolina's Bryn Renner (366 yards, 3 TDs), Texas-El Paso's Jameill Showers (365 yards, 5 TDs), UCF's Blake Bortles (358 yards, 2 TDs), Arizona State's Taylor Kelly (351 yards, 3 TDs), Florida State's Jameis Winston (335 yards passing, 4 TDs, 77 yards rushing), Vanderbilt's Austyn Carta-Samuels (334 yards, 3 TDs), Duke's Brandon Connette (324 yards passing, 3 TDs, 55 yards rushing and 2 TDs), Fresno State's Derek Carr (324 yards, 3 TDs), Houston's John O'Korn (312 yards, 4 TDs), Hawaii's Sean Schroeder (321 yards, 3 TDs), Colorado State's (307 yards, 3 TDs), Georgia's Aaron Murray (298 yards, 5 TDs), Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase (278 yards, 5 TDs), BYU's Taysom Hill (177 yards passing, 165 yards rushing and 2 TDs) and Air Force's Karson Roberts (55 yards passing, 1 TD, 161 yards rushing, 2 TDs).
He is the most under-publicized running back in the country, but Western Kentucky's Antonio Andrews filled the stat sheet once again this week, rumbling for 182 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Navy.
Other running backs of note this week include New Mexico's Kasey Carrier (192 yards, 1 TD), East Carolina's Vintavious Cooper (186 yards), UNLV's Tim Cornett (179 yards, 3 TDs), Tennessee's Rajion Neal (169 yards, 1 TD), South Carolina's Mike Davis (167 yards, 3 TDs), San Diego State's Donnel Pumphrey (167 yards, 3 TDs), Washington's Bishop Sankey (161 yards, 1 TD), Boston College's Andre Williams (159 yards), Kent State's Trayion Durham (154 yards, 2 TDs), Colorado State's Kapri Bibbs (147 yards, 3 TDs), Iowa's Mark Weisman (147 yards), Bowling Green's Travis Greene (142 yards, 1 TD) and Texas State's Robert Lowe (138 yards, 3 TDs).
Oregon State's Brandin Cooks was once again the top receiver in the country, hauling in nine balls, for 168 yards and two touchdowns against Colorado.
Other pass catchers that gave Cooks a run for his money included UNLV's Devante Davis (10 catches, 164 yards, 3 TDs), SMU's Jeremy Johnson (11 catches, 159 yards, 1 TD), Colorado State's Rashard Higgins (6 catches, 156 yards, 2 TDs), Houston's Deontay Greenberry (9 catches, 149 yards, 1 TD), Duke's Jamison Crowder (7 catches, 149 yards, 1 TD), NC State's Bryan Underwood (5 catches, 148 yards, 1 TD), Toledo's Alonzo Russell (9 catches, 147 yards, 1 TD), Nevada's Aaron Bradley (11 catches, 135 yards, 1 TD) and Nevada's Brandon Wimberly (15 catches, 134 yards, one TD).
SNEAK PEEK: Three Top 25 matchups kickoff play in the month of October, highlighted by the Pac-12 showdown between 15th-ranked Washington and fifth- ranked Stanford. No rest for the weary in the Big Ten, as No. 4 Ohio State faces its second straight ranked opponent with a road trip to No. 16 Northwestern. Finally, newcomer to the poll, 25th-ranked Maryland will see if it deserves its spot in the poll with a tough matchup with eighth-ranked Florida State in Tallahassee.
Other games of interest include No. 12 UCLA at Utah (Thursday night), Georgia Tech at No. 14 Miami-Florida, No. 6 Georgia at Tennessee and No. 22 Arizona State at Notre Dame.