Oklahoma plants its flag in payback win at Ohio State

Sep 9, 2017

Let’s consider this « Show-Me-Something » Saturday. This was a chance for a few of the top teams in the country to give us a little more clarity on who they truly are.

Well, it’s pretty clear that Oklahoma isn’t going to let Bob Stoops’ retirement spoil its chance to make a run to the College Football Playoff. The fifth-ranked Sooners absolutely manhandled No. 2 Ohio State 31-16 in Columbus.

A year after hearing chants of « O-H, I-O » inside their own stadium, the Sooners brought the boom to The Shoe, thanks to a runaway fourth quarter and another stellar performance by Heisman Trophy hopeful Baker Mayfield, who threw for 386 yards and three touchdowns (all three coming in the second half).

Sans Stoops, the Sooners are dispelling the preseason narrative that they’ll be too shorthanded to make a run with newer, younger coach Lincoln Riley. Mayfield, who proudly planted a giant OU flag in the center of Ohio State’s midfield scarlet « O » after winning his 10th straight road game, is a special player, and this team played special football against a Buckeyes team many picked to make the playoff and win it all.

On Saturday, Oklahoma looked like a playoff contender — maybe even the favorite — while Ohio State was a total pretender, completely out of sorts against a much better Sooners team.

While two of the three national champions in the playoff era have suffered home losses in September (Ohio State in 2014, Alabama in 2015), the Buckeyes still have a lot of defensive issues, and their offense continues to be an inconsistent mess against good defenses.

Clemson’s defensive front is absolutely the real deal, turning in a magnificent performance against one of the SEC’s best offensive lines in a 14-6 win over No. 13 Auburn. Clemson sacked Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham — supposedly a savior at quarterback — 11 times and held Auburn to 117 total yards (15 in the second half), including only 38 rushing yards — both are the lowest for Auburn during Gus Malzahn’s head coaching tenure.

Clemson only needed two rushing touchdowns from quarterback Kelly Bryant, but as long as that defense is as dominant as it was Saturday, the offense won’t have to carry much water post-Deshaun Watson.

Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois’ season-ending injury helped thrust Clemson into the ACC driver’s seat, but it’s the defense that is going to put the Tigers’ paws on that gas pedal.

The gap between USC and Stanford probably isn’t as wide as the score indicated, and few would be shocked to see them meet each other again in the Pac-12 championship game.

Looking for a possible sleeper? Maybe 15th-ranked Georgia is a team to keep an eye on. Even without starting quarterback Jacob Eason, the Dawgs escaped South Bend with a 20-19 win over No. 24 Notre Dame because of that ravenous defense.

Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm wasn’t perfect, but he didn’t let the moment get too big on the road. This offense currently lacks an identity and much explosion, but the defense more than made up for it. The SEC East might not be overflowing with offensive fire, so keeping things simple on offense and keeping that defense hungry might be all the Dawgs need for a big 2017 run.

It’s hard to declare a season-defining win in September, but several playoff contenders cleared difficult hurdles on their schedules and separated themselves from the pack in the process.

Remember me?

College football has a short attention span, and we are quick to anoint the next big thing. Still, how did we get to the point where we ignore the reigning Heisman Trophy winner even when he returns a season later with the same insanely offensive-minded coach who helped him earn that bronze beauty?

With Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson struggling at the end of last season and the Cardinals losing their last three games, much of the Heisman focus heading into this season became fixated on USC QB Sam Darnold. Jackson felt like an afterthought.

We can just stop that nonsense. Jackson shouldn’t have been knocked off his pedestal before the season, and he better be atop everyone’s list now. He looked like his old self in an opening win over Purdue, throwing for 378 yards and two touchdowns and running for another 107 yards, but Saturday brought another reminder of why Jackson ran away with the trophy last season. In the 17th-ranked Cardinals’ 47-35 win over North Carolina, Jackson threw for 393 yards and rushed for 132 more with six total touchdowns (three pass, three rush) to become the second quarterback in FBS history — and the first from a Power 5 school — to throw for 300 and run for 100 in back-to-back games.

He bounced off defenders like a pinball, and he’s learning how to stand in the pocket like a true dropback passer. He’s crazy slippery and smooth with everything he does, and it’s time we start realizing it … again.

This guy again.

A post shared by ESPN College Football (@espncfb) on Sep 9, 2017 at 3:25pm PDT

North Carolina linebacker Andre Smith said this week the Tar Heels did not want Saturday’s matchup to become « a Lamar Jackson show » before adding: « So if he’s able to beat us with his arm, then, well, he’s not going to beat us at all. I take that back. He’s not going to beat us. We’re just going to stop anything he tries to do. »

So much for that game plan. Jackson seems to be playing with a chip on his shoulder this season. He told ESPN’s Andrea Adelson this spring that he’s using the disappointing finish to 2016 as motivation.

« We didn’t finish last year, » Jackson said. « A lot of people have seen that and feel like we quit. It wasn’t right. I’m still hot about that. I don’t like that. I’m just teed off about it. I can’t wait to play. »

Against UNC, Jackson became the third player in the past 14 seasons to record 500 yards of offense, six touchdowns and no turnovers on the road. He has started the season with 1,010 total yards and eight touchdowns with just one turnover.

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