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College Football Mondays – Tide Continues to Roll

College Football Mondays – Week 3
Team of the Week: Alabama

Photo - QB A.J. McCarron - Alabama

Players of the Week
Offense: QB A.J. McCarron - Alabama
Defense: DE Shilique Calhoun - Michigan St.

After three weeks of the 2013 college football season, Alabama maintains their #1 ranking in all polls. The Tide looks to three-peat for the national championship behind a revamped club that has struggled defensively in the early action. They did avenge their only loss to Texas A&M from last season, though the recent Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel toasted them again for 464 yards passing and 5 TDs, in addition to 98 yards rushing. It was a great effort in a losing cause in a wild Texas shootout with Alabama prevailing 49-42. The Tides vaulted defense was humbled once again by Manziel with another big turnover of personnel. HC Nick Saban may be the best in the game but his dominant defense has lost impact defenders annually the past three years and retooling to past standards may take most of the 2013 season. The Bama offense carried the day with QB A.J. McCarron throwing for 334 yards and 4 TDs with no turnovers. It was another strong low key performance by the Bama passer who continues to look like a first round selection in April. He earned the Offensive Player of the week honors off a huge performance on the road.

Early 2013 Season Observations:
Ohio St. can run the table despite several suspensions and the key short term injury to QB Braxton Miller. There biggest test may come at Northwestern on October 5th. HC Pat Fitzgerald has the Wildcats playing well again at 3-0 currently. They have pointed to the Ohio St game this preseason, looking for a victory to push them into the top ten in the polls. The Buckeyes’ young defense will benefit most from a soft schedule that provides only a few challenges after Northwestern in Penn St and Michigan, both marginal top 25 teams. The sleeper in the Big Ten may be Michigan St. who is off to a 3-0 start after a mediocre 7-6 record last season. They face a key matuhup vs Notre Dame this week that could push them into the top 15 with a win. Their defense ranks with any Big Ten, spearheaded by DE Shilique Calhoun, LB Max Bullough and corner Darqeze Dennard.

UCLA is a hot club who face key midseason road games at Utah, Stanford and Oregon that will determine if they can push themselves into the top ten rankings. They are a young club who has made fast development under HC Jim Mora especially star QB Brett Hundley. They will have to impress on the road if they want to rank with the elite teams in the Pac 12.

Notre Dame will struggle to win more than 7 games. Losing starting QB Everett Golson for the full season costs them 2-3 games at least. Their ordinary offense will probably come up short in several key games. The only thing that can save Nebraska’s season is a soft schedule through the rest of the season. They do not face Ohio St. and the Big Ten may be only the third or fourth best conference in the nation this year.
Clemson returns to the action this Thursday night vs N.C. St. after a bye week. They have a favorable schedule with only Florida St. and South Carolina ranked among top 25 teams remaining. They lost to both of those clubs last season by ten points each. They may be the best club in the nation from a talent perspective, though they find ways to underachieve and lose to marginal teams.

Florida St will probably cruise into the Oct 19th Clemson game undefeated in a matchup that will probably determine the ACC Atlantic Division. Young Seminole QB Jameis Winston has been impressive in the early action replacing NFL rookie top pick starter E.J. Manuel. Winston has shown strong decision making and mobility in the early games. He benefits from a strong ground game and a tough fast defense that probably keeps them in the top ten into midseason when they face key ACC matchups vs Clemson and Miami.

Frank Coyle is a long time member of the FWAA and voter in College player awards - Heisman, Outland, Nagurski, Lombardi, Thorpe etc for the past 18 years. He writes College Football Mondays weekly during the season. He is a longtime scouting consultant for the Senior Bowl, the nation’s premier postseason All-star game. He does sports radio shows for ESPN, Fox Sports and Sporting News on a year round basis related to College Football especially during the postseason team and All-star Bowl time. He has worked for CBS Sports, NBC Sports, Yahoo and Rivals sports publications and web sites.