Just because the ‘Top Four’ is the in vogue thing to do these days every Tuesday during the season (obviously today is Wednesday, but it’s after the long weekend) the Southern Football Report will release our Top Four based on this week’s performances. Here they are:
1. Ohio State Buckeyes – Not many teams waltz into Lane Stadium and get a win. Even fewer do so with four key players including the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year suspended. The Buckeyes trailed at halftime but strangled the Hokies in the second half on their way to a 42-24 season opening victory in one of the rowdiest places to play in all of college football. Junior behemoth quarterback Cardale Jones was tapped as the starting quarterback just before kickoff and the offense never missed a beat. Jones completed 50% of his passes and tossed a touchdown while running for one as well. The defense, without Bosa, left a little bit to be desired but was put in some tough spots by the offense due to turnovers in the first half but will be one of the best in the country by season’s end. Former quarterback now wide receiver Braxton Miller turned out to be the star of the show with a couple of nice catches including a 54-yard touchdown catch and a jaw-dropping 53-yard touchdown run which included the spin move to end all spin moves. The Buckeyes will be in good shape if Miller plays all season like he did Monday night in Blacksburg.
2. USC Trojans – I’ve said it a hundred times already but the starting 22 players on offense and defense for USC are as good as any starting 22 on any team in the country but where USC will need to improve is depth and experienced backups. Saturday night in Los Angeles, the Trojans stepped on the gas pedal and never let off against Arkansas State on their way to a 55-6 victory over the Red Wolves. Heisman hopeful quarterback Cody Kessler looked sharp throwing for 4 touchdowns and no interceptions and senior running back Tre Madden rushed for over 100 yards on only 12 carries. One of the best receivers in the country that no one talks about, Juju Smith-Schuster had four catches for 89 yards and a touchdown. Smith-Schuster looked explosive and sharp in his routes and will be the prime target for Kessler throughout the season. Defensively, they did allow 401 yards of offense which isn’t ideal given that they will be playing in a league that has some high octane offenses, so they will need to get that part sewn up but USC has a chance to be one of the top teams in college football this season and they sure looked like in Saturday night in the Coliseum.
3. Georgia Bulldogs – It should be illegal to have Nick Chubb, Keith Marshall and Sony Michel on the same team but somehow Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs have all three and are willing to use them. Those three accounted for five touchdowns on Saturday in a game shortened due to weather. Chubb rushed for two, Marshall rushed for two and Michel caught on in the 51-14 rout of the UL-Monroe Warhawks. But we all knew how those three would perform so all eyes were on transfer quarterback Greyson Lambert who looked very good in what time he got to play going 8-for-12 for 142 yards and 2 touchdowns in his debut ‘Between the Hedges’ and backup Bryce Ramsey went 2-for-2 with a touchdown pass of his own. The defense looked very good against a pretty decent offense from UL-Monroe by not allowing them really any space to do anything. The defensive front was smothering and the linebackers on the edge really got after the ball carriers and the quarterback. The Dawg defense only allowed 45 yards rushing on the day on 26 carries and the secondary didn’t allow many plays at all, much less any big plays.
4. Baylor Bears – Most people have drunk the TCU Horned Frog purple Kool-aid but I’m sticking with the Green & Gold of the Baylor Bears who beat SMU 56-21 on Friday and never missed a beat with new quarterback Seth Russell. The Bears scored four times in the opening quarter and the defense gave up 14 of the 21 points they allowed in the opening quarter as well before they settled in and held the Mustangs in check. Russell finished the game with five touchdown passes and one touchdown run and he had an embarrassment of riches to throw to in KD Cannon & Corey Coleman who both went over the 100 mark in the game on only a combined 8 receptions. Junior running back and member of the All-Name Team Shock Linwood carried the ball 8 times for 75 yards and looked good until coaches pulled him to give the backups some snaps. SMU is going to be a lot better in 2015 under new head coach Chad Morris and I thought the Bears defense was very good against them holding the Mustangs to just 369 yards of offense. The Bears won’t be tested for about a month but so far they look exactly like who we thought they’d be; the same ole Baylor Bears.