|Mike Evans had a spectacular day in defeat, while Devin Gardner won but struggled with turnovers on Saturday.|
Each Monday during the college football season, NFL.com draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah identifies five things that are chugging along smoothly and right on track and five things that are off the rails.
1. AJ McCarron and Johnny Manziel live up to the hype: Both quarterbacks more than lived up to the hype in the latest "Game of the Century." Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron maintained his poise following an early 14-0 deficit and calmly led the Crimson Tide to a 49-42 win over Texas A&M. McCarron completed 22 of 29 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns. He missed a couple of easy throws early in the game, but he was on target for the rest of the afternoon. He drove the ball on intermediate routes and showed a deft touch on vertical throws.
Texas A&M may have failed in its attempt to knock off Alabama in back-to-back seasons, but it wasn't because of the quarterback play. Johnny Manziel torched the Tide defense for 464 passing yards and five touchdown tosses. He also racked up 98 yards on the ground on 14 carries. He proved once again that his arm strength is underrated by launching several beautiful deep balls. On a field full of future NFL defenders, he looked like the fastest player on the Kyle Field grass.
2. Mike Evans puts on a show: As good as the two quarterbacks played in this game, Evans can make a strong case that he was the most dominant participant in the Bama-A&M battle. The 6-foot-5 sophomore put up some ridiculous stats against the vaunted Alabama defense. He hauled in seven passes for 279 yards, including a 95-yard touchdown reception midway through the fourth quarter. He repeatedly won 50-50 balls against tight coverage, and he racked up a ton of yardage after the catch because of his physicality and deceptive speed.
3. Big day for Arizona State RB Marion Grice: The ending to the Wisconsin-Arizona State game was about as bizarre as it gets. (You can read more about it here). Lost in the controversy of the game's ending was the outstanding performance of Marion Grice, the Sun Devils' talented senior running back. Grice lacks ideal size (5-11, 205), but he has excellent lateral quickness, natural instincts and sneaky power. He finished the game with four rushing touchdowns, and he also caught five passes for 50 yards. He is one of the top senior backs in the country and many NFL scouts are excited about his pro potential.
4. Washington RB Bishop Sankey continues torrid pace: Sankey opened up the season with a very strong performance against Boise State, rushing for 161 yards and two scores. He was even better in the Huskies' second game of the season. He piled up 208 rushing yards, 63 receiving yards and two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) to help lead Washington to a 34-24 win at Illinois. The stocky junior quietly rushed for 1,439 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, and he's on target to eclipse those numbers this fall.
5. Oklahoma QB Blake Bell seizes the position: Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell made the most of his first opportunity to start at the position. The massive (6-6 252) junior signal-caller calmly produced 413 passing yards and tossed four touchdowns to lead the Sooners to a 51-20 victory over Tulsa. The play-calling didn't require many difficult throws, but he executed the bevy of short passes and screens beautifully. This position is now his to keep and Oklahoma will need a similar performance in two weeks, when the Sooners take on Notre Dame.
1. Tennessee still has a long way to go: Butch Jones created some excitement in Knoxville with two lopsided wins to open the season, but reality came calling in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday afternoon. The Vols are still a few years away from returning to top-tier status in the SEC. Oregon throttled Tennessee 59-14, and the score could've easily been much worse. Tennessee struggled to move the ball, and they had no answer for the speed of Oregon's offense. I'm a big believer in Jones, and he'll eventually get things turned around in Knoxville, but they need an influx of speed and playmakers on both sides of the ball.
2. Michigan dodges a bullet: Fresh off an emotional win over Notre Dame, the Michigan Wolverines were flat as can be against a feisty Akron squad. The Zips held a lead with under five minutes to play and they had ample opportunities to win the game after surrendering that lead. Michigan successfully defended three plays inside their own 5-yard line with under a minute to play to squeak out a 28-24 win. Michigan's junior quarterback, Devin Gardner, is an outstanding runner, and he's shown positive flashes in the passing game. However, he has had issues with turnovers. He tossed three interceptions against Akron, bringing his three-game total to six.
3. Disappointing start for Kent State speedster: Kent State all-purpose athlete Dri Archer was one of my favorite players to study on 2012 tape. He lined up at running back, receiver and returned kicks. He produced explosive plays in every game I viewed. He finished the season with 1,429 rushing yards and 561 receiving yards. The only two concerns I had with Archer involved his lack of size and level of competition. I was eager to see him play against LSU on Saturday, but he was only able to participate in a handful of plays before he was removed. Archer suffered an ankle injury on the first series of the season, forcing him to miss the remainder of that game, all of the second game and most of the LSU contest. Hopefully, we'll get a chance to see him play when Kent State vists Penn State this weekend.
4. Another bad day for the Texas defense: Apparently firing the defensive coordinator wasn't the solution to the problem with the Texas defense. One week after getting torched by BYU, Ole Miss took a turn racking up yards and points against Mack Brown's defense. The Rebels put up 43 points and accumulated 449 yards, including 272 on the ground. It wasn't just the defense that struggled. The Longhorns' special teams allowed a 73-yard punt return score and the offense failed to score a point in the second half.
5. Clowney won't be fully healthy this season: Following South Carolina's 35-25 win against Vanderbilt, All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney informed the media that he's been battling painful bone spurs in his right foot. Clowney said that he would play the rest of the season, putting off surgery until the end of his junior campaign. Hopefully this injury doesn't get worse, forcing the talented pass rusher to miss time. I'm already looking ahead to a late-season showdown with in-state rival Clemson. It would lose some of its luster if Clowney's physically limited or unable to play.
Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.