Iowa State stuns No. 1 Texas in a five set thriller
🏐 Nebraska sweeps Purdue on the road
🏀 11 impact freshmen in men's hoops
The weekly Moments of Truth list positively lives for showdowns between unbeaten teams with long and hallowed traditions, so let’s talk about Duke at Kansas. Perhaps we should start by discussing the match-up at point guard…
Wait a second, hold the iPhone. This is about football? The last time anyone checked on these two in shoulder pads, they were a combined 5-19 last season.
But the basketball bluebloods are on the march this autumn. Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, UCLA, Syracuse and Indiana. A veritable who’s-who of hoops who have combined to win 40 basketball national championships since 1940 — but, alas, only two when the ball is prolate spheroid. This magnificent seven are a combined 21-0 at the moment. Eat your heart out, Notre Dame and Nebraska.
So this week’s MOT slate begins with a touch of orange ball to it.
Duke at Kansas
The winner won’t be cutting down any nets in Lawrence, but 4-0 will feel mighty good for someone. The Jayhawks haven’t been 3-0 in 12 years but are lighting up scoreboards with an offense that is fifth in the nation in scoring and second in third down conversion. That’s how Kansas could spot West Virginia and Houston two-touchdown head starts and then storm back to win 55-42 in overtime and 48-30. That makes them 2-0 on the road. Before this season, going back to 2009, they were 3-65. The Jayhawks have scored 159 points in their three games. Just two years ago they scored 142 — for the whole season when they went 0-9. Toto, we don’t think this is Kansas anymore. It’s been different for the Blue Devils, who have been on the attack right from the opening tip — er, kickoff. They’ve outscored three opponents 45-0 in the first quarter. Mike Elko is the first coach in 28 years to start his Duke career 3-0. The Blue Devils can only hope that sort of thing translates to Cameron Indoor Stadium and Jon Scheyer. The last time Duke had both a new football and basketball coach for an academic year was 1942-43.
P.S. Fifty-two days after this showdown, Duke plays Kansas in basketball on Nov. 15.
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Indiana at Cincinnati
The Hoosiers have been outgained for the season and are next to last in the nation in time of possession at 24:23 a game. But they keep finding a way, beating Illinois in the last 30 seconds, rallying from 10-0 down at halftime against Idaho and outlasting Western Kentucky in overtime. They had three wins by Sept. 17. They had two all last season. The 3-0 start has been entirely in the friendly confines of Bloomington, but does the escape act travel? Cincinnati has won 28 home games in a row at Nippert Stadium.
Notre Dame at North Carolina
The Irish have taken the down escalator from No. 5 in the rankings to just hoping to get back to .500. Until further notice, every week is a prove-it game. The unbeaten Tar Heels are probably glad to not only be home but finished with the Sun Belt portion of their schedule after close calls at App State and Georgia State. North Carolina scored 98 points in those two games and they nearly weren’t enough. A win would make the Tar Heels 4-0 for the first time in a quarter-century but they’ll have to overcome the past. They’re 2-20 against Notre Dame, with the two victories 14 and 62 years ago.
RANKINGS: Check out the latest top 25 polls
No. 5 Clemson at No. 21 Wake Forest
They’re anxious to add another tombstone to the graveyard by the Clemson practice field. Whenever the Tigers beat a ranked opponent on the road, up goes another slab. Rest in peace (insert victim here). This would be the 25th tombstone for Dabo Swinney. Clemson’s nine-game winning streak is currently the longest in the nation and the Tigers will try to keep it going against one of their favorite ACC targets, having beaten Wake Forest 13 meetings in a row for a rather gaping 69-17-1 lead in the series. A a victory is essential to keep Clemson playoff plans going the right direction. It’s been ages since the Tigers joined that foursome. Two whole years.
But the Demon Deacons have grown difficult, charging into the ACC title game last season, and starting this one 3-0. Saturday is a significant measuring stick moment for them. True, they were whacked by Clemson last season 48-27 and had their quarterbacked sacked four times in the first quarter. So pass protection will be rather important, giving Sam Hartman enough time to get his 109 yards and become the ninth quarterback in ACC history to reach 10,000 passing yards. This will be only the third time in 88 meetings that both teams are ranked, and first since 1950. Wake’s ACC colleagues at North Carolina, Duke and North Carolina State can certainly understand what the Deacons are up against. Swinney is 32-3 against the state of North Carolina.
No. 20 Florida at No. 11 Tennessee
As any Tennessee fan knows by the sixth grade, Florida has been a real pain in their rocky top. The Gators have won 16 of their past 17 meetings, outscoring the Vols 523-294 in those 17 games. Then there was last century when Peyton Manning went 39-6 as a Tennessee starting quarterback — but 0-3 against the Gators. In other words, Florida has killed the mood many times in Tennessee. But several numbers suggest it might be the Vols’ time Saturday in Knoxville. They’re third in the nation in scoring offense, Florida is tied for 96th. Tennessee’s pass efficiency is fifth in the country, the Gators 126th. But Florida is a hardened bunch, now playing its third top-20 opponent in four weeks after beating Utah and losing to Kentucky. The Vols are 2-0 at home by a combined score of 122-16, but in the interest of full disclosure, that was against Ball State and Akron. ESPN GameDay will be in Knoxville, where the Tennessee faithful no doubt believe it’s time to do something about Florida. But they’ve thought that before.
GAMEDAY: Locations, all-time appearances, most times hosting and more for College GameDay
No. 7 USC at Oregon State
The deluge of early touchdowns have the USC masses believing happy days are here again with all the trimmings — a high ranking, contention for the league title, maybe a playoff spot for one of the highest profile programs never to see one. This is no time to trip over a road game against a 3-0 Pac-12 opponent. Oregon State has not had much fun against USC through the years, with a series record of 12-63-4, including being shut out 17 times. But the Beavers mashed the Trojans last season 45-27, their first win in the Los Angeles Coliseum since 1960. Speaking of shutouts, this likely won’t be one. USC averages 50.7 points a game, Oregon State 45.7. In three games, the Trojans have forced 10 turnovers, and committed none.
Maryland at No. 4 Michigan
Hail to The Victors, and haven’t the Wolverines heard that song a lot after their blizzard of touchdowns in the nonconference? They’re 3-0 by a combined score of 166-17, including 99-0 in the first half. That’s the nation’s highest-scoring offense at work. But then, beating Colorado State, Hawai’i and Connecticut — combined record of 2-9 — is not exactly running the gauntlet. Video game numbers or not, the Wolverines are still something of an unknown commodity. There are bigger tests ahead, but Maryland is 3-0 and should get Michigan’s attention.
No. 10 Arkansas vs. No. 23 Texas A&M in Arlington
Now that the Aggies have washed away that bad App State taste by beating Miami, they can get down to the serious business of the SEC. The Texas A&M defense has allowed only two touchdowns so far. Devon Achane has scored four TDs by himself, and is the nation’s only player with a rushing, passing and kickoff return touchdown.
Arkansas has had a fine time at home so far with three wins, but the road in the SEC can be mean. And there’s the curious matter of the Razorbacks’ pass defense. It’s last in the nation, shredded for 353 passing yards a game. But Arkansas leads the country with 17 quarterback sacks, so for opposing passers, it’s been either feast or flattened. If the Razorbacks can pull this off, they’ll have consecutive 4-0 starts for the first time in 33 years.
Wisconsin at No. 3 Ohio State
Georgia’s defense was the prince of darkness last season, but know the only team to allow fewer yards a game? Wisconsin. The Badgers lost eight starters from that unit, but the goal is to reload and win the Big Ten West. A home loss to Washington State was an early speed bump, but Wisconsin has given up only three touchdowns in three games, so it appears to be standard operating procedure for the Badgers on defense. But history is depressing for them. Wisconsin is 50-17 in Big Ten play the past eight seasons, but 0-8 against Ohio State since 2010, three of the losses in the league championship game. This will be a revealing test for the high-octane Buckeyes offense, with C.J. Stroud and his nifty touchdown-interception ratio. As in 11-0.
Florida Atlantic at Purdue
The Boilermakers might have suffered the most egregious blown game last weekend this side of the Cleveland Browns, when they scored to get the late lead at Syracuse, then proceeded to commit seven penalties in the last 51 seconds — four for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Orange yellow-flagged their way to a winning touchdown. Only seven of the other 130 FBS school have more penalty yardage this season than Purdue, and coach Jeff Brohm — who accounted for one of the unsportsmanlike calls himself — vowed this week that things must change. “The chatter has to stop,” he said. The Boilermakers will likely win this game, but woe be the player who draws a silly flag.
James Madison at Appalachian State
When you’ve been a hit television series like App State, the burden is always what you can come up with next to grab the viewers and enliven the highlight shows. The Mountaineers have been more entertaining than Game of Thrones, having lost to North Carolina 63-61, stunned Texas A&M and beaten Troy on a last-second Hail Mary that Doug Flutie would have been proud to throw. This week’s co-star is new conference member James Madison, playing its first-ever Sun Belt game. The 2-0 Dukes are averaging 53.5 points and have given up 21 yards rushing, with no run allowed longer than nine yards. So App State might be passing a lot. It likely won’t be boring. So far this season, its games never are.
Here’s the schedule for all of the top 25 games:
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Mike Lopresti is a member of the US Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, Ball State journalism Hall of Fame and Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame. He has covered college basketball for 43 years, including 39 Final Fours. He is so old he covered Bob Knight when he had dark hair and basketball shorts were actually short.
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