College football fans still waiting for USC to play a real team will have to wait at least two more weeks, and after the way Notre Dame looked against Duke, I’m not sure if that’s accurate either. Caleb Williams got his first real closeup of the season, lighting up Deion Sanders and the Colorado defense for 403 yards, and six touchdowns.
Williams’ performance was one of the best offensive outings of the season for any quarterback, but might not have been the most impressive of the day as LSU’s Jayden Daniels threw for 414 yards against Ole Miss, added 99 more on the ground, and accounted for five total scores — in a 55-49 loss. The reason I mention that? It’s proof that no quarterback can do it alone, because Daniels’ performance should accompany a W 100 times out of 100.
Though the Buffaloes never had the ball with a chance to tie in the second half, Shedeur Sanders brought them within 8 after trailing 48-21, and the Trojans needed to secure an onside kick to avoid an improbable choke job. Analysts can, and probably will, talk up Coach Prime’s incredible second half, yet there’s a chance this year’s USC defense might be worse than the unit a season ago.
Through five games, USC is giving up 24.2 points per outing compared with 19.6 at this time in 2022. Considering their opposition thus far, 24 is bad — and with the Irish, Utah, Oregon, Washington, and UCLA left on the Trojans’ schedule, the average is likely to increase even further.
We know how Lincoln Riley’s group can be got, and it looks a lot like what happened to the Bayou Bengals at Ole Miss in the best fireworks show of this college football season Saturday. Lane Kiffin’s team jumped on the Tigers early, and Brian Kelly had no choice but to turn the SEC matchup into something out of the Big 12.
The cliche that announcers love to repeat when a game appears to be headed for a 55-49 final is: “The team that has the ball last wins.” Well, that wasn’t the case as Daniels led LSU as far as the Rebel 21-yard line with timeouts and enough ticks left on the clock to steal a win, but it’s hard to score at will, especially when you have to, and his final pass glanced off the fingers of receiver Chris Hilton Jr. and fell incomplete.
While it sounds laughable — on a day when the starting QB had six TDs — to say the Trojan offense bogged down a little during the final half in Boulder, it happened, and it happened for the second week in a row. A bad Arizona State squad was within a score of SC in the final period last Saturday, and I have serious doubts whether Williams can be flawless for as many games as his coach will need.
The sneaky thing about Riley teams is that none have ever been great on defense. The assumption at Southern Cal is the other side of the ball will figure itself out once they get real talent, and a lot of it. Alright, now ask Kelly how that strategy is going for him.
Even in year two of a new regime, LSU has good enough players to be stingy, and should never, ever give up 700 yards in 60 minutes of football. The last time a defense in Baton Rouge was this porous, former defensive coordinator Bo Pelini got canned midseason. A cursory search of Matt House, LSU’s current coach of that same title, indicates fans would love to see him dumped in the swamp next to Pelini.
You can probably guess how USC supporters feel about their DC Alex Grinch. Williams is the best player in college football, and it’s not even close. He’s accounted for 24 touchdowns in the first five games and is completing 74 percent of his throws. The Trojans would be rolling everybody by 50 with a semi-capable defense.
As it stands, there’s a pretty good chance of seeing the reigning Heisman winner, and future No. 1 pick, pushed to the brink of his abilities, and that’s not a bad consolation prize if college football fans don’t get to watch Caleb Williams in the playoff.
MLB playoff teams, but not matchups, set
The Miami Marlins, Houston Astros, Toronto Blue Jays, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Texas Rangers all officially clinched playoff spots Saturday. They join the Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers, and Minnesota Twins to complete the field for the 2023 MLB postseason.
Three of the four first-round byes are locked in place, with the Braves, Dodgers, and Orioles slated to get a series off. Texas is a game ahead of Houston for the division and thus the last bye in the AL. The Rangers need a win, or an Astros loss, in Game 162, because Houston holds the tiebreaker in event of a tie, and the loser not only has to play in the opening round but will be on the road to start the series.
While there’s still some potential shuffling of matchups, Tampa, Minnesota, Milwaukee, and Philly have home-field advantage in the first round.
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