AP Top 25 Takeaways: Already looking ahead to Georgia-’Bama
Two weeks into the season and it is already tempting to ponder another Georgia-Alabama game in Atlanta with big stakes.
The loudest statements are made on the road and No. 3 Georgia made quite a racket on Saturday. The Bulldogs coasted past No. 24 South Carolina in a game that was supposed to represent the toughest test among East Division competition for the Bulldogs.
If that is the case, just pencil in Georgia for the SEC championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Dec. 1. The Bulldogs have their annual rivalry game against No. 7 Auburn in November and that trip to Death Valley to face No. 11 LSU in mid-October could prove tricky. But if Saturday was any indication, Georgia has a gear that few will be able to match.
The Bulldogs come with waves of talent and speed everywhere. Receiver Mecole Hardman here. Running back D’Andre Swift there. Cornerback Deandre Baker returning a pick for six. Safety Richard LeCounte hitting everything.
Georgia’s performance seemed even more impressive compared with how No. 2 Clemson had to fight and claw to win at Texas A&M . That’s not a knock at the Tigers. They showed their championship mettle against a team that was making one remarkable play after another. Clemson has now won 23 of its last 28 one-possession games since 2011.
But when you make it look easy in hostile territory the way Georgia did, it is notable.
Any thought Georgia might take a step back — even just a small one — after its breakout 2017 should be dismissed. The Bulldogs, who lost the national championship game to the Tide last season, are looking more and more like what they strive to be: Alabama East.
While Georgia should cruise to an SEC East title, Alabama could have some work to do.
The SEC West has posted five nonconference victories against Power Five teams (two from the ACC, two from the Big 12 and one from the Pac-12) by a combined score of 178-84, including No. 18 Mississippi State running all over Kansas State . Add to that A&M giving Clemson all it could handle and the SEC West has been the best. Though Arkansas might get relegated .
Kansas had not won a road games since 2009, losing 46 straight. Kentucky had not beaten Florida since 1986, losing 31 straight to its SEC East rival.
On the same day, those two basketball blue bloods got off the schneid.
Kansas thumped Central Michigan , giving some sign that things are getting better for the Jayhawks under fourth-year coach David Beaty. Don’t expect many more Ws for Kansas this season, but Rutgers comes to Lawrence next weekend. Two in a row?
Kentucky’s accomplishment was even more stunning because it came in Gainesville, where the Wildcats had not won since 1979. First-year coach Dan Mullen is not likely to lose the Gator faithful so quickly, but this one has to sting. Even Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain were able to keep the streak going against Kentucky.
The best two college football teams in Florida might be playing in the American Athletic Conference: UCF and USF.
We are all familiar with Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, national championship game hero and winner of the most interesting quarterback competition in the country.
Through two games Tagovailoa has thrown for 555 yards and six touchdowns in just 35 attempts (25 completions). That’s 15.9 yard per attempt and a TD every six passes.
Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins has been equally ridiculous: 546 yards and nine touchdowns in 53 attempts (44 completions). That’s 10.3 per attempt to go with a touchdown pass every six throws.
Alabama coach Nick Saban has never had a quarterback like Tagovailoa. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has not had a quarterback like Haskins since he coached Alex Smith at Utah. It will be interesting to so how much the coaches allow for the quarterbacks to compile gaudy stats.
MISSING THE BIG EIGHT
The first game of the Scott Frost era at Nebraska was a loss, but, boy, was the Cornhuskers’ game against former Big 12 (and Big Eight) rival Colorado fun .
Huskers freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez was dynamic and turnover-prone before he was injured. Colorado receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. was spectacular, running for a touchdown and catching another.
Through almost two decades of mostly mediocre football, Nebraska fans have probably never left Memorial Stadium after a loss feeling so hopeful. The atmosphere seemed electric in a way it has not been in years. The day mixed both the promise of a better tomorrow and a cool sense of nostalgia. In the 1990s, Colorado and Nebraska games helped determine national championships.
It has been eight years since Nebraska left the Big 12 for the Big Ten, a move that has made all the sense in the world financially for the school. Colorado left the Big 12 for the Pac-12 right after Nebraska bolted.
Complaining about the rivalries destroyed by conference realignment is not a productive way to spend time. There is no turning back the clock. But it was difficult to watch the Buffs and Huskers play for the first time since 2010 and not think that while everybody is making more money now, college football is less fun.
AROUND THE COUNTRY
UCLA’s Chip Kelly, Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin and Florida State’s Willie Taggart are 1-5, the only victory coming from the Seminoles, who needed a fourth-quarter rally to beat FCS Samford ... Good day for the American Athletic Conference with Houston throttling Arizona , USF outlasting Georgia Tech and East Carolina trouncing North Carolina . No, there is no Power Six, but the American again looks to be the best of the non-Power Five conferences and victories like that can help when it comes time for the selection committee to pick the best Group of Five league champion. ... Kyler Murray accounted for five touchdowns for No. 6 Oklahoma against UCLA , but there was also bad news for the Sooners. Star RB Rodney Anderson, one of the more underrated players in the country, left with a knee injury. Anderson’ versatility and power is huge for Lincoln Riley’s offense ... Shea Patterson connected with two wide receivers for touchdowns in No. 21 Michigan’s easy win against Western Michigan . So? Well, Michigan wide receivers had not caught a touchdown pass since last September.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at https://www.podcastone.com/AP-Top-25-College-Football-Podcast