Clemson 59, North Carolina 38 • Oklahoma State 45, Missouri 24.
There's a standard shorthand for talking and writing about up-tempo, pass-happy attacks like the ones at Clemson and Oklahoma State, which tends to boil down to "Prolific Quarterback + Prolific Receiver = Prolific Offense." It's not hard to see why, when each of those individual elements is true: By any measure, Tajh Boyd and Brandon Weeden rank easily among the most productive passers in the country, and their top targets, Sammy Watkins and Justin Blackmon, come as close as anyone in college football to being legitimately "uncoverable." Accordingly, the Tigers and Cowboys rank easily among the top offenses in the country.
But what stood out today, on an afternoon when both teams' perfect records were supposed to be at risk against competent underdogs, is the alarming extent to which these offense have playmakers everywhere.Even the stars of today's shootouts shone as part of an ensemble. A dozen different players touched the ball on offense for both teams. Eight touchdown passes from Weeden and Boyd went to eight different receivers. Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith combined for 209 yards rushing for Oklahoma State, on nearly eight per carry; Randle personally went for three touchdowns on the ground and brought in a fourth as a receiver.
Besides Watkins, Clemson's other young, blue-chip receivers, Hopkins and freshman Martavis Bryant, combined for more than half of the Tigers' passing/receiving yards with a pair of long touchdowns. The defenses got into the act, too, forcing a combined ten turnovers that led to six touchdowns — two of them directly courtesy of Clemson defensive end Kourtnei Brown — and a field goal.
Meanwhile, the resident headliners were faces in the crowd. Blackmon caught a short touchdown pass in the first quarter, but spent the second half on the sideline with a possible concussion. (Coach Mike Gundy said after the game Blackmon will practice next week and play against Baylor, but has "too much of a future" to risk playing immediately following a head injury, even a mild one.) Watkins got behind the UNC secondary for a 42-yard touchdown pass, with the Tigers already leading 38-24 in the third quarter. Otherwise, both defenses could walk out feeling confident they'd held two of the most dynamic players in the country in check. North Carolina also managed to bottle up a Clemson running game that ripped Maryland last week for 306 yards. On the scoreboard, it made no difference whatsoever.
There's a whole other post to be written about the Clemson and Oklahoma State defenses, which come away looking fairly toasty themselves — Clemson yielded upwards of 24 points for the fifth time this year, Oklahoma State for the sixth — even with the takeaways. It's tough to maintain an empty loss column when you have to put that many points on the board week after week. But neither offense is showing the slightest sign of fatigue; exactly the opposite, in fact. And as far as strategies for stopping them go, ganging up on any single weapon in the hope that the rest aren't good enough to beat you on their own should be officially off the table.
- Sammy Watkins