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What We Learned Week 2: The Big XII is not Good, Neither was Clemson

Central Michigan v Oklahoma State Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images

The slate was fairly bare this weekend, but as new data points continue adding to the season, we always learn more.

This week we confirmed our suspicions that the Big XII is bad. That’s not to say the conference is doomed. Texas is on the way back and Cincinnati/Houston will be strong additions if the Big XII pulls the trigger. This weekend though...not good!

Oklahoma State let Central Michigan stick around late in the game and gave the Chippewas a chance at a Hail Mary to win the game in the closing seconds. Watch what happened:

To make it even more painful for Oklahoma State, this came on an untimed down which was deemed to have been incorrectly awarded after the fact.

This could have been us at Auburn. Be thankful it wasn’t!

In addition to Oklahoma State losing to CMU, Kansas lost to Ohio, another MAC team. TCU lost at home to Arkansas in 2OT. Iowa State was pounded by in-state rival Iowa and Texas Tech surrendered 68 points in a loss to Arizona State.

With Oklahoma’s loss to Houston and upcoming game against Ohio State, the Big XII can thank their lucky cowboy boots that Texas beat Notre Dame. The Longhorns and the Baylor Bears are the conference’s best hope for an unlikely playoff bid.

In the ACC, Pittsburgh did their part and beat Penn State. Nobody lost any ridiculous games, but NC State lost to ECU, which is rather unimpressive. In the prime time spot, Virginia Tech wasted a strong 14-0 start against Tennessee by committing turnover after turnover as the Vols seized control and pulled away. Tennessee righted the ship after a near loss to Sun Belt Appalachian State in week 1. The Clemson Tigers will hope to follow suit next week after really struggling with Sun Belt Troy on Saturday.

In my favorite article from former STS writer “The Kraken,” he explains that the “stat of elite-ness” is yards per carry. National Championship teams are consistently among the top teams in yards per carry. Clemson running backs averaged just 3.6 YPC against Troy. This is a legitimate concern.

In week 1, it was easy to credit Auburn’s strong D-line play. It’s not as easy to credit Troy’s D-line play. Why can’t we run the ball anymore? I don’t know how much of this can be blamed on the offensive line versus the running backs, but there didn’t seem to be the kind of wide running lanes I’d expect when a top 5 FBS team plays a Sun Belt opponent (particularly one that isn’t App State or Georgia Southern)! On top of that, Watson had two INTs and receivers seemed to drop it whenever it was on target.

In the Depth Chart Blue Chip analysis we published to preview the game against Troy, we said we hoped to see the following:

Dominance from the offensive line and Wayne Gallman.

Improved performance from Jordan Leggett.

Watson connects on the deep ball.

Better distribution in the passing game.

Another bust-free game from the Clemson secondary.

The offensive line couldn’t generate a great push for the running backs and let Watson get hit a few times. Leggett registered another drop. Watson almost connected on a great deep ball, but Cain dropped it. Renfrow had a great 35 yard catch, so there was that. The pass catchers were much more diversified, not leaning so heavily on Mike Williams, but there were too many drops to have any appreciation for it. Lastly, we asked for a bust free game from the secondary. The cornerbacks held up fairly well, but there was a 66-yard run, so I’m not sure how much credit to give there either.

Even with all that harsh realism, I’m still hopeful for what Clemson can accomplish. After playing South Carolina, UNC, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Auburn in their previous five games it’s quite possible they were flat and unenthused about playing Troy. Coach Swinney made a big point about wanting to get more back-ups in the game and he started that early.

Combine those two and you can see how they didn’t take this opponent seriously. That doesn’t account for missed blocking assignments and dropped catches, but it could explain a lack of focus.

We’ll learn a lot next week as Clemson gets a chance to correct these problems against SC State before playing GT in Atlanta. Meanwhile, Louisville will host FSU in a huge battle in the conference.