The football week started Thursday night with the 2-7 Titans @ the 3-6 Jaguars in an exciting battle for last place in the pitiful AFC South. This is one of the few times either team has the national NFL spotlight. I don't get to see many Jacksonville games and when I do, I never know if it is treat or torture. This one was a little bit of both. First let me say that the all gold uniforms were pretty ugly. I was not a fan of the shade of "gold" which looked more like mustard to me. Do you have any Grey Poupon? Then there was the game. These are two teams that have potentially good young quarterbacks and little else. They both have better defenses than offenses. That is not a prescription for an exciting high-scoring game. There were no first half TDs which ended tied at six. The Jags pulled ahead 9-6 midway through the third period and then Tennessee scored one of those touchdown things to take a 13-9 lead. The Jaguars absolutely dominated the fourth quarter with 10 points and the 19-13 victory. OK, they didn't score the go-ahead TD until there were less than four minutes remaining in the game. The add-on FG came with a little over two minutes to go. Both young QBs had fair nights. Mariota for the Titans was 22/35 for 231 yards with no TDs or INTs. The Jags Bortles went 21/30 for 242 yards with a TD and an INT. Overall statistics were very even. This was an important win for Jacksonville. They could find themselves tied for first place in the very weak AFC South by the end of the weekend. They improve to 4-6 and the next game is at home again against the Luck-less Colts in another AFC South match.
Even though my high schools are done for the season, there were still Friday night lights. The Cincinnati Bearcats were in Tampa for an AAC game. This game was as big a surprise as the next one I'll talk about. The Bulls scored 65 points. That is not a typo, the final score was 65-27 and USF had the 65. They have been mostly inept on offense this season although there have been signs recently that they are improving. South Florida had 34 points before Cincinnati got a FG and it was 51-3 at halftime. USF took their foot off the gas pedal in the second half. The stats were closer than you would think. Cincy was all passing with 333 yards and USF was all rushing with 361 ground yards. Of course the Bearcats won the turnover race, they had six. USF moves to 7-4, 5-2 and still have a chance to win the AAC East. Next up is the I-4 battle in Orlando against the 0-11, 0-7 Central Florida Knights.
On to Gainesville and what was thought to be a partial week off against the always mighty Florida Atlantic Owls. It turned out to almost be a nightmare. Florida Atlantic is a low rung member of C-USA and came into the game with a 2-8 record to play SEC East champ 9-1 #8 Florida. The Gators have been flirting with disaster all season and have pretty much played up or down to their competition. This should have been a blowout with the fourth string walk-ons playing the last quarter. Instead it was tied at 0 at the half. The Florida defense finally forced a fumble deep in the Owls territory for an easy TD more than midway through the third quarter. About four minutes later they had a 91 yard drive capped by a 53 yard pass play for a 14-0 lead. That seemed like an insurmountable lead based on the Gators staunch defense. Not quite, Florida Atlantic put together a drive late in the third quarter. In the fourth period the Owls recovered a fumble for another score. All tied up in regulation.The Gators had missed two FGs during the game. It looked good in overtime as Florida scored a TD on three plays. Of course they then missed the extra point, leaving the door wide open for FAU. They got to the nine yard line for first and goal. A loss of two on a run and three incomplete passes ended the game. Florida had their easy 20-14 victory. Besides the ugly score, it was statistically an ugly game. FAU actually outgained Florida. This is a game all Florida fans want to forget. The Gators are now 10-1 and host their big in-state rival the #14 FSU Seminoles.
After a great start this year, #18 TCU is suffering the double whammy of devastating injuries and ranked opponents.They had to go to Norman to play #7 Oklahoma in a Big 12 game, always a tough task. The Frogs are playing without their Heisman candidate QB and their top receiver plus numerous other injuries. It turned out to be a close game. It was tied 7-7 after one quarter. The Sooners went on a run in the second quarter to take a 23-7 lead. The third quarter was mostly a push and OU led 30-13. The Frogs missed a two-point conversion try in that quarter. The fourth quarter was TCU comeback time. They scored two TDs and a FG. After the second TD with less than a minute remaining and the score 30-29, They again went for two and failed. If they had made either two-point try or had just kicked the extra points it would have been a Frogs win. One of TCU's backup QBs threw three interceptions. They also lost a fumble. Oklahoma won the statistical battle with 150 more yards and a 13 minute possession advantage. The Frogs fall to 9-2, 6-2 and are out of the running for the Big 12 title. Their final regular season game is at home against #10 Baylor. Frogs QB Trevone Boykin may be back for that game. Let's hope so.
There was good news when #9 Michigan State upset #3 Ohio State in the Big Ten. #10 Baylor beat #6 Oklahoma State which muddied up the Big 12 standings. The only other real upset was unranked UCLA's win over #13 Utah. There was movement in the latest AP Top 25 poll. Their top four are now Clemson, Alabama, Iowa and Notre Dame. Oklahoma and Michigan State are in line to step in if any of the top four falter. The Gators dropped two spots to #10 after their poor performance. TCU falls to #15 after their loss. There are still four SEC teams in the top 25.
In the remaining pro games, it was a split. The winner was Tampa Bay with a 45-17 victory over the Eagles in Philly. The outstanding Jameis Winston showed up for the Bucs. He tied an NFL rookie record with five TD passes. The game was close for 15 minutes before TB pulled away. The Eagles were limited to one FG in the second half. Winston was 19/29 for 246 yards with the five TDs and no interceptions. Jameis continues to be a Jekyll & Hyde. This week he was the Doctor. The Buccaneers running back Doug Martin also rushed for 235 yards on 27 carries. TB dominated the stats plus Philadelphia had four turnovers. Amazingly, the Bucs are at 5-5, a .500 record is rarified air for them. Next game is against the also 5-5 Colts in Indianapolis.
What is the deal with the Falcons? Remember they started the season 5-0. This week they lost at home to the Colts who are playing without their starting QB, Andrew Luck. Atlanta held a 14 point lead twice but still managed to lose 24-21. The Colts winning FG was kicked with less than a minute remaining in the game. Falcons QB Matt Ryan used to be good but certainly not lately. He threw three interceptions. Atlanta also lost a fumble.The Colts weren't much better with three turnovers. Not a pretty game. The Falcons are now 6-4 and look clueless. Next up is another home game against the 7-3 Vikings.