Oh, how the mighty have fallen
By Raphielle Johnson
Well, another weekend of college football has passed, and there were some interesting developments. First off, unless Hawaii goes on some kind of run worthy of the record books, no team will be “crashing” the BCS party set up to reward the nouveau riche of the game. BYU, TCU, and Boise State all went down on the road this Saturday, killing their chances at making a run. Michigan and Notre Dame, who meet next weekend in Ann Arbor, were overmatched in losses to Oregon and Penn State respectively. And while Miami was blasted in Norman by an Oklahoma team that could be shaping into a national title threat and Florida State struggled with UAB, South Florida got a huge win for its young program at Auburn. People have talked about the “Big Three” in the Sunshine State for years; it may be time to make some room for the Bulls. Here are ten observations from this weekend.
1. It’s time to revamp how we evaluate teams in the preseason.
Of course this is a convenient thing to write in the aftermath of Michigan’s 39-7 home loss to Oregon, but this one deserves some serious consideration. The Wolverines came into this season picked as an almost consensus top five team, and the maize and blue have played some horrid football thus far. With eight starters gone from the defense, how was this possible? Besides the return of Henne, Hart and Long, I’m thinking that the fact that they’re “Michigan” got them placed that high. Should the pollsters have to wait until the first weekend is complete before ranking the teams? This would make sense in terms of evaluating the teams, but what would we have to talk about all off-season? An interesting dilemma we have here.
2. You can’t drop USC on an off week, but LSU is probably the nation’s best team right now.
It wouldn’t be fair to drop the Trojans on a week in which they didn’t play, but how good were the Tigers in their 48-7 win over Virginia Tech? The defense was as advertised, and Keiland Williams’ 67-yard touchdown run is right up their with DeSean Jackson’s punt return against Tennessee for early “play of the year” consideration. Matt Flynn is more than capable of managing the game, which is all this talented team will need, save the October 6th home meeting with Florida. And in Ryan Perrilloux, the Tigers have a backup who can change the flow of the game when inserted, a la Tim Tebow for the Gators last year.
3. Oklahoma’s offense will be one of the best in the country when it’s all said and done.
Before the season began, all the talk was about redshirt freshman Sam Bradford’s lack of experience. People are beginning to revise those questions. With the number of playmakers around him, Bradford has the luxury of allowing them to do the work while he works into a groove. Consider the young man comfortable, as he threw five touchdown passes in the Sooners’ 51-13 woodshed beating of Miami. Against North Texas it was running back DeMarco Murray. This week’s heroes were Bradford and wide receiver Malcolm Kelly. Who steals the show next week is anyone’s guess, and that’s a beautiful “issue” to have.
4. I, for one, and ready for my first helping of crow in light of Oregon QB Dennis Dixon’s performance on Saturday.
It may be premature for this, as the Ducks plummeted like one of their wounded “Duck Hunt” cohorts in last season’s second half, but Dixon has put to rest all the concerns surrounding him playing minor league baseball this summer. The senior did practically whatever he wanted in the Big House, throwing for 292 yards and three scores to go with 76 yards and a touchdown on the ground. How good is this Oregon team? It’ll be wise to wait until their September 29th game with #10 California to answer that one, but the Ducks could make some noise in the Pac-10 this season.
5. Tyrone Willingham has the Huskies on the right track in Seattle.
“Who’s House? DOG HOUSE!” is the cry in Seattle as the Huskies got off to their first 2-0 start in six years with a 24-10 win over #22 Boise State. QB Jake Locker has thus far lived up to the hype surrounding his arrival on campus, but the Huskies will need more consistent contributions from their running backs (most notably Louis Rankin) in their next three: #12 Ohio State, at #13 UCLA, #1 USC. A tremendous challenge, yes, but it also presents a tremendous opportunity for U-Dub.
6. Iowa State and Syracuse are in for long seasons.
Neither the Cyclones of Orange looked good in their games on Saturday, with the ‘Cuse getting shut out at Iowa 35-0, and Iowa State falling at home to Northern Iowa 24-13. At least the Cyclones have a new head coach in Gene Chizik, but you still shouldn’t turn the ball over four times and lose a winnable game at home. As for Syracuse, you could have pointed to the Buffalo game as an opportunity to get off the hook, but even the Bulls have won a game thus far, blowing out Temple this past weekend.
7. Beating Auburn was great, but it’ll mean nothing if South Florida can’t beat North Carolina this coming weekend.
The USF program has only been in existence for eleven years, which makes their overtime win on The Plains all the more impressive. Kicker Delbert Alvarado had a tough night, but he and his Bulls live to tell the tale undefeated. Alvarado’s only a sophomore, which gave me flashbacks to the nightmarish evening in Baton Rouge for Oregon State’s Alexis Serna his freshman year. All he did as “recovery” was win the Groza Award last year as a junior. Don’t be surprised if this same sort of turnaround occurs with Alvarado as well. But back to the Bulls, who have a “trap game” with UNC coming up. Right after a huge win, right before #3 West Virginia comes to town. Let’s see how the Bulls handle this dose of success. That’s where you see the true growth of a program.
8. UAB and Louisiana Tech have some good things to look forward to with their new head coaches.
Not much is expected of either program this season, especially with Neil Callaway (UAB) and Derek Dooley (Louisiana Tech) taking over the reigns at each school. But you can’t help but be encouraged if you’re a fan of either program. The Blazers went into Tallahassee and had Florida State on tilt for a while before falling to the Seminoles 34-24. Dooley’s Bulldogs (his father, Vince, famously coached another set of “Bulldogs” for years in Athens) took Hawaii and their vaunted offense to the wire before failing to convert a two-point conversion in overtime. There may still be some growing pains, but look for these two programs to take someone out this year. A few years down the line, they could be competing for conference titles.
9. Steve Spurrier wins a game with…defense.
Well, some thought that the “Head Ball Coach” had gone mad when he made the statement that his Gamecocks could win the SEC East. Well, a 16-12 win at Georgia has made believers of some, especially when you consider the fact that the offense wasn’t anywhere near what many expect of a Spurrier-coached unit. But that’s OK, with the Brinkley Twins on defense and one of the nation’s best kickers in Ryan Succop, South Carolina could be better served giving the ball to backs Corey Boyd and Mike Davis instead of looking to put it in the air almost every down. The next major test: they have to visit LSU on the 22nd.
10. If you like points do not miss out on #8 Louisville at Kentucky next weekend.
Not too sure about either team’s defensive capabilities to this point, but this in-state rivalry will be an interesting Litmus test for both units. Louisville hung 58 on Middle Tennessee State…but gave up 42. Kentucky blew out Kent State 56-20, but the Wildcats surrendered 453 yards, 324 of which came on the ground. At least UK forced four turnovers, which is a good sign. So make sure the scoreboard is in working order, because this one is going to be a high-scoring barnburner.