Hunk of the Week (Defensive Edition)
Johnthan Banks — Senior Cornerback, Mississippi State
Weight: 185 pounds
Hair: No. 1 guard with the clippers
Eyes: Stuck on you
Hometown: Maben, Mississippi
Style of Defense: 1-on-1 quality time
Personal Style: Summertime dressy
Next Passing Game Voided: South Alabama
Enough of this Sadie Hawkins mess. It's high time for some old-fashioned press courtship. It's time for a man who would rather chase than be chased, and that means it's time for Johnthan Banks. This preseason Athlon All-American wants to focus on you, and once he does, there's nothing to do but blush and surrender. Johnthan started playing varsity football in the eighth grade, but that doesn't mean he wants to play the field. On the gridiron, this Bulldog only has eyes for the unlucky receiver across from him, and once the pads come off he'll only have eyes for you. Kick off a romance with this lockdown corner, and you'll find yourself on an island of love. Make no mistake, Johnthan is a red-blooded Mississippi male and he likes to score — I watched in person as he reached pay dirt twice in one game against my Gators when he was only a freshman. But this is no bump-and-run, sweetie. This is a season-long engagement. Once you're under the covers with this cover corner, he'll be turning down that maid service the way he turns down safety help. Johnthan's goal is to break Walt Harris's Mississippi State interception record, and your goal is to catch up with this tall, handsome ball hawk before some other gal does.
And Despair Fell Upon the Assembly
- Spartan Stadium was subject last weekend to the slow-burning frustration that accompanies 4.2 yards per pass. The faithful will nurse their wounds until Saturday, when they get well against another directional Michigan. Notre Dame, the team that stifled the Spartans, will learn a lot more about its injured, overachieving defense Saturday when the Michigan Wolverines come to South Bend. Before the season, it looked as though Notre Dame's schedule was too much for them, but if they can hamstring Shoelace, they'll find themselves a top-10 team.
- As with so many other Florida Gator visits, Tennessee's Neyland Stadium began to empty before the final whistle. The Gator secondary bent but didn't break against a company of receivers that made NC State's all-everything corner David Amerson look like a backup safety. As soon as the Vols got behind, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney abandoned the run, allowing Florida's frustrated defensive line to finally get fresh with Vols quarterback Tyler Bray. Tennessee gets Akron next, and then it's down to Athens and no. 5 Georgia, where Tennessee coach Derek Dooley's fortunes will begin to be told.
- An honorary "Despair" for Louisiana-Monroe. First they collected about a million bucks from Arkansas and, with despicable ingratitude, beat them. Then they hopped over to another SEC West power, Auburn, got about a million from them, and took the Tigers to overtime. If not for a completed Hail Mary at the end of the first half, the Warhawks would be 2-0 against the SEC this season. As for Auburn, Kiehl Frazier continues to look like he'd be a really good quarterback in a different system. The passing game is not coming around. I fear for the chap on Saturday, when LSU comes to town. Believe it or not, there are a couple SEC West teams who are better than Louisiana-Monroe, and LSU is one of them.
Clemson at Florida State — Ah, yes. A riot of athletic talent. An NFL scout's moist slumber, my friends. The Atlantic Division is up for grabs. Sammy Watkins is back and looking as good as ever. Two experienced quarterbacks in Tajh Boyd and EJ Manuel. Receivers everywhere. Florida State's Chris Thompson ran for 197 yards on nine carries last week against Wake Forest. We all know Clemson's Andre Ellington. Florida State's defense is filthy-nasty, even with the offseason loss of star corner and return man Greg Reid and the season-ending injury to stud defensive lineman Brandon Jenkins. Pay special attention to Bjoern Werner, this big defensive end they have from Germany.
More pressure falls on the Seminoles to win this game. For one, they're at home. For two, Clemson won the conference last year, while Florida State hasn't won it since 2005. Three, FSU has the superior overall talent, and if coach Jimbo Fisher can't find a way to win, then he's going to start taking on the look of old General McClellan, who could assemble and train a fine-looking Army but wasn't up for leading them into a hot battle. If the Seminoles do win, they are an immediate national title contender, as they don't play another team that ought to be capable of beating them until November 8, when they visit Blacksburg and Virginia Tech. (And maybe even that's a stretch, considering how the Hokies looked last weekend.)
Missouri at South Carolina — Two banged-up starting quarterbacks here — Connor Shaw for the Gamecocks and James Franklin for Missouri, both with shoulder trouble, and both with able-looking backups. A loss in Columbia certainly means the end of Mizzou in the SEC East race. The Gamecocks, with a loss, would fall behind soft-scheduled Georgia and can probably begin planning for next year. (And it's only September.) Perhaps I'm being alarmist, but I don't think so. The Tigers are going to see, like they did against Georgia, how these SEC games work: It's fun to make a few plays in the first half, but the tougher fourth-quarter team wins. If the Tigers can deal with a heavy dose of Marcus Lattimore, who looks good but still not quite like he did as a freshman, they should be able to survive this one. South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger is suspended after a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit last week on a UAB receiver.
Arizona at Oregon — Is it proof of a Grand Design that the latest games in the day are the ones with all the scoring? When East Coast fans are groggy and in danger of nodding off, here comes Oregon and its garishly uniformed track meet. RichRod has it going in the desert, and he won't have to deal with Oregon's star safety, John Boyett, who's sadly out for the season and possibly done as a Duck.
Kansas State at Oklahoma — The Sooners took an early off-week. If it wasn't an intentional move to prepare for the Wildcats, then surely it was a happy accident. Gut feelings collide here. One is the feeling that Kansas State is a plucky, easy-to-root-for squad that when faced with a Rolls-Royce opponent like Oklahoma will inevitably be outclassed. The other is that there's something shaky in the soul of this talented Sooner team and the steady, tough Kansas State gang will test them in a serious way. There are a couple of fine quarterbacks in this one — the golden-armed Landry Jones for Oklahoma and the tough-as-nails and ever-improving-as-a-passer Collin Klein. We'll find out plenty about these two teams Saturday. So far we know nothing about Oklahoma, and what we know about K-State is that they made a real mess of the Miami Hurricanes a couple weeks ago. Especially the Hurricanes running attack. A real mess.
Simple Math (or if you went to LSU, Advanced Math — or if you went to Mississippi State, Figurin' You'd Just Assume Not Fool With)
It's not often I get to be a raving, no-stops homer, but count on the ridiculousness of the polls to afford me the chance. OK, I'll lay this out for you. USC, who has a loss and whose only halfway decent win (and that's generous) is on the road against Syracuse, is ranked higher than Florida, who is undefeated, with wins at Texas A&M and at Tennessee. In both polls. This is incorrect voting. To further confound things, the voters of both polls did put Texas above USC. That makes sense, Texas being undefeated and USC having a loss. It's correct that they fall ahead of USC, but is a road win at lowly Ole Miss worth more than Florida's wins at College Station and Knoxville? I'm asking. I have nothing against Texas being correctly ranked above USC, but it makes Florida's incorrect ranking more confusing. What chafes me isn't so much that my team is ranked too poorly; it's that USC is ranked too well. The only way USC's accomplishments this season could be more impressive than Florida's would be if USC had beaten the New York Giants instead of Syracuse. If they had gone to the Meadowlands and gone head-to-head with Eli Manning and Justin Tuck and Victor Cruz and come out with a win, maybe that win would overshadow the loss to Stanford.
I realize it's not that big a deal, teams being mis-ranked three games into the season. I understand things will shake out. USC will get rolling against the Pac-12 and Florida has a rough road to come. But why can't it be correct right now? What's so goddamn tough about it? I would give all my disposable income, which is about $1,000 right now, to hear an explanation from each and every voter who put USC higher than Florida. It wouldn't be a good explanation, but as long as it was honest it'd be fine. Like: "Well, I didn't put much thought into it." Or: "Well, everybody said before the season that Southern Cal was going to be in the national championship game and that Florida was having problems, and rumors are more important to me than results." Or: "You know, we had USC so high to begin with before any games were played, and it's just hard to adjust on the fly."
I'll say it again. Voters, you evaluate the accomplishments and failures of each team. That's all. It doesn't matter what you think will happen going forward or what was said in the offseason. Accomplishments and failures. For USC right now, only the failures column has a check. I understand that Matt Barkley had his picture taken a lot more than Jeff Driskel did in the offseason. Don't worry about that. Accomplishments and failures. Accomplishments and failures.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
At publication, this article incorrectly implied that the September 8, 2012, USC-Syracuse game took place at the Carrier Dome; it was played at the MetLife Stadium of the Meadowlands Sports Complex.