Week 2 Recap

September 14th, 2009

Are teams and players being anointed too early?


Week 2 of the college football season was action-packed, providing fans with moments that they won’t soon forget. Matt Barkley leading USC down the field for the game-winning touchdown with help from Joe McKnight got the majority of the press due to the pregame hype. But has he officially “arrived”? Has McKnight “turned the corner”? Make no mistake about it, these were great moments in the development of these young players, but the second game of the season seems a bit early to judge their work completed. Not to mention the many who questioned Ohio State’s ability in “big” games are also those making these judgments.


Not to take anything away from the Trojans; that was one impressive finish considering how little they’d done in the third quarter. But did the overly conservative play-calling by Ohio State give them some help? More could have been done on offense to go for the Trojans’ jugular vein; they’ve got too much talent to be allowed to hang around. Pete Carroll’s defense had something to do with that as well, but where was the imagination? Why not get Terrelle Pryor out in space more often, allowing him to be a true run/pass threat? Too early to heap great praise on the Trojans? Maybe, maybe not. But they’ve got some examples of what can happen when you listen to the praise a little too much.


Michigan State and Oklahoma State became prime examples of strolling out onto the field carrying past accomplishments and what it can do to you. The Spartans ended up in a slugfest with Central Michigan, who didn’t look very good at Arizona last weekend, and eventually lost on a field goal as time expired. The Cowboys, with their highest ranking in years, should have known what to expect from Houston. The Cougars led in the second quarter of last year’s meeting 16-7 before falling to a furious Cowboy onslaught.


No such luck for Coach Gundy’s team this time, with the Cougars leaving Stillwater with the 45-35 win. Florida State, who some thought to be on their way back in a close loss to Miami, nearly lost to Jacksonville State before a pair of late touchdowns provided the deceiving final score of 20-9. So USC, Michigan, and anyone else going into next week on the heels of a big win consider yourselves forewarned. We could be in store for wilder fall than anticipated if you aren’t careful.


ACC: Conference avoids disaster in Week 2.


As bad as the first weekend was for the conference, things could have gotten a lot worse in Week 2. Early Saturday afternoon things didn’t look good, with North Carolina (Connecticut), Wake Forest (Stanford) and Duke (Army) all losing games they’d be expected to win. While the losses wouldn’t have been killers they certainly wouldn’t help the reputation of the ACC, so it’s a good thing that they were able to rally for victories. But that wasn’t the end of it, with Florida State and Maryland (James Madison) needing late rallies to survive FCS opponents.


The Terrapins, who beat the Dukes in overtime 38-35, suffered a big loss in CB Nolan Carroll (fractured tibia) and it remains to be seen how they go about replacing the senior. And of course there’s Virginia, who needed a pair of window-dressing touchdowns to avoid a shutout at the hands of TCU. Who wins this league is a crapshoot at this point as the Clemson/Georgia Tech game showed, but the members would do well to avoid embarrassing non-conference losses at this point in the season. 


Big 12: Some conference teams come back to reality while there may be serious issues in Boulder.


The Big 12 received a good amount of praise following the first weekend due to impressive wins by Missouri and Oklahoma State. Both were shocked back into reality, with the Tigers being lucky enough to escape their test with a win. Bowling Green gave Gary Pinkel’s team all it wanted and then some, making the Tigers pay for two turnovers in jumping out to a 20-6 lead in the third quarter. Missouri scored twenty-one unanswered to save the 27-20 win, while the Cowboys weren’t as lucky as previously mentioned. But by no means were those the only results to take note of.


Colorado put up an embarrassing effort at Toledo on Friday night, never being a factor in a 54-38 beating that was worse than that score indicated. QB Cody Hawkins took a beating, suffering a concussion on a touchdown run, but he had to take his licks because there’s no other option. Were things bad when Dan Hawkins took over? Yes, but is it too much to ask for results like this to not happen? Given how good this league is, CU could end the season fighting with the likes of Kansas State and Iowa State instead of Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri. And there’s the celebration of Bill Snyder’s five-year contract with a 17-15 loss at UL Lafayette. The top of the Big 12 will be very good, likely hiding a soft underbelly.


Big East: West Virginia shows off a new dimension in their win over East Carolina, and Connecticut’s season is at a critical point.  


Many knew that Bill Stewart’s team wouldn’t be able to run as often as in years past with Pat White gone. But instead of giving this program enough credit to acknowledge that they’d be able to adjust, many predicted their demise. As the Pirates found out Saturday, that may not be the smartest idea. In the 35-20 win Jarrett Brown threw for 334 yards and four touchdowns (running for another 73 yards), and six players had at least two receptions on the day. And that was with four turnovers and eleven penalties. They’ll have to touch up those areas in advance of their trip to Auburn next week, but the predictions of their demise…a bit premature.


As for the Huskies it’s rare that a 1-1 record signals a fork in the road, but that’s exactly what they’ll have before them at Baylor next weekend. The 12-10 loss to North Carolina was heartbreaking because of the way in which it happened. A defense that bailed out an anemic offense for three quarters got tired, there was a holding call in the end zone for the final margin, and no adjustment on 4th-and-4 when the Tar Heels were bringing everything but the kitchen sink. QB Zach Frazer (knee) will miss the next two games, putting the pressure on Cody Endres to bring a mostly dormant offense back to life. It may not be a conference game but their meeting with Baylor will play a major role in which way the season heads.


Big Ten: Mixed signals from the Big Ten.


Most of the attention was given to Michigan and Ohio State since they were playing in arguably the two biggest games of the day. But those were just two paragraphs in the Big Ten story Saturday. Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern and Wisconsin all found themselves in dogfights with MAC opponents and not all three survived. Indiana managed a thirteen penalty effort against Western Michigan by forcing three turnovers in the 23-19 win, while Northwestern needed a field goal as time expired to beat Eastern Michigan. Wisconsin needed overtime to knock off a game Fresno State squad. The Spartans, on the other hand, fell to Central Michigan on a field goal by Andrew Aguila with three seconds left.


Iowa had no such difficulties with Iowa State, whipping their in-state rivals 35-3 in Ames and the same can be said for Illinois, who took care of Illinois State. Penn State harassed Greg Paulus and company in a decisive victory over Syracuse at Beaver Stadium. Originally thought by many to be a two-team race the Big Ten may prove to be more wide-open than originally anticipated.


Conference USA: For all the focus on the Mountain West and Boise State, don’t forget the West.


Houston’s win over Oklahoma State has already been mentioned, but people haven’t paid much attention to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. They will next weekend when G.J. Kinne and company visit Norman to take on the Sooners. Oklahoma QB Landry Jones looked very good on Saturday but Tulsa is no Idaho State. And as fate would have it, Tulsa will host Boise State in October, which could likely be the Broncos’ toughest game left on the schedule.


Another team in the conference to keep an eye on: Southern Miss, who hosts a bad Virginia team next week and will also have a shot at both Houston and Tulsa in November. Larry Fedora’s team didn’t look great in their win over UCF, but they’ve finally got WR DeAndre Brown (broken leg in the New Orleans Bowl) back on the field. As he shakes off the rust he’ll return to being the weapon that he was before the injury. Many ignore Conference USA, lamenting the fact that the defense isn’t the strongest, but there are some dangerous teams lurking in the shadows.


Independents: Army drops a heartbreaker at home, while Notre Dame does the same on the road.


The Black Knights looked pretty good in the first half of their game against Duke, and the solid play continued even after reserve QB Sean Renfree entered the game and moved the Blue Devils down the field. But his play (7-of-8, 106 yards 2 TD) was enough to put Duke in the driver’s seat and two interceptions of the pick-six variety from Leon Wright sealed the 35-19 win for Duke. Head coach Rich Ellerson’s double-eagle flex defense confused starter Thaddeus Lewis and limited the Duke offense to 236 yards of offense, but the turnovers (four overall) made all the difference.


Notre Dame, on the other hand, simply got caught in a game of “who has the ball last” in Ann Arbor. But you have to wonder if the Irish would have been better off running the football late instead of throwing on second down of their last drive with the lead. Coach Weis made it a matter of “making them use their timeouts or winning the game” but why would holding onto the ball as long as possible be a bad thing? And even if Notre Dame were to not get a first down wouldn’t it be better to give Michigan the ball back with no timeouts? Oh well, he’s the coach and I’m not.


MAC: Some missed opportunities, but all in all a decent weekend for the conference.


The weekend began with Toledo’s beating of Colorado at the Glass Bowl and ended with Boise State shutting out Miami (Ohio). In between were close calls, one upset and a couple of blowouts. Essentially what’s been going on in the Mid-American Conference for quite some time, showing both the depth of this conference and why the MAC hasn’t had a member make a run at a BCS bid. Not only do they beat up on each other within conference play but there are many instances of “close but no cigar” results. So who are the favorites to get to Detroit after two weeks? Buffalo looks to be a solid bet in the East, but there will be challenges from Akron, Bowling Green and Ohio. In the West, Central Michigan and Western Michigan look to be the class of the division but Toledo will also have something to say about what should be a fun race.


Mountain West: Utah survives San Jose State, pushing their win streak to sixteen straight, while UNLV misses a golden opportunity.


The Utes ended up in more of a fight than many anticipated going into their game at San Jose State. But they pulled away in the fourth quarter thanks to a pair of touchdowns in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, providing a margin that proved to be too much for the Spartans to overcome. Two turnovers and eleven penalties kept SJSU in the game despite being outgained by a margin of 499-264. Figuring who exactly Oregon is has been tough given the circumstances of their opener, but they can make Utah pay next week if Kyle Whittingham’s team doesn’t pay better attention to the little things.


As for the Rebels, they hung with Oregon State until the bitter end, even taking a 21-20 lead with just over four minutes remaining after trailing 20-7 at the start of the fourth quarter. But they couldn’t keep the Beavers out of field goal range on the game’s final drive, and the end result was a Justin Kahut field goal with seven seconds remaining. UNLV was a minus-2 in turnover margin and they also saw QB Omar Clayton leave the game with a knee injury. Mike Clausen entered the game and threw a pair of touchdown passes, which is a good sign should he have to take over the reins for an extended period of time.

Pac-10: UCLA picks up a big win on the road while Stanford lets one slip away.


The Cardinal looked to be in good shape at halftime; up 17-3 and redshirt freshman Andrew Luck was having a good game at Wake Forest. Then the Demon Deacons went on a run, scoring the last twenty-one points of the game to win 24-17. Riley Skinner’s quarterback sneak with two seconds remaining provided the final margin, leaving Stanford to make the cross-country flight thinking about what could have been. The primary issue for Stanford: stopping the run. Wake Forest finished the day with 251 yards on the ground, averaging 5.6 yards per carry.


As for the Bruins, losing QB Kevin Prince (broken jaw) for an extended period may temper the enthusiasm following their 19-15 win at Tennessee. Yes the Volunteers are looking to rebuild under new head coach Lane Kiffin but that doesn’t excuse the fact that the UCLA defense forced four turnovers and limited the Volunteers to fewer than three yards per rush. Kai Forbath was the star for UCLA, making four of five field goal attempts in the win. The question now is how the Bruins make up for the loss of Prince with either Richard Brehaut or Kevin Craft. Craft, as you will likely remember, was the starter last season and had a tough go of it.


SEC: What’s gotten into the Auburn offense? Try new offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.


You couldn’t blame some folks if they were skeptical about the promises of exciting offense from the Auburn Tigers given what happened under Tony Franklin in 2008. The pledge was to go to the spread offense, and to say the least things didn’t go as planned. The most incriminating piece of evidence that the installation wasn’t working: a brutal 3-2 loss at Mississippi State. In the rematch, there were no such doldrums for the Tigers, who sprinted out to a 14-0 first quarter.


Winning by a final score of 49-24 Auburn racked up nearly 600 yards of offense, and QB Kodi Burns was a game-changer with his three scores on the ground. As a team Auburn ran for 390 yards with three players rushing for at least 75 yards on the evening. If they can get the same effort against West Virginia next weekend they’ll have a shot.


Sun Belt: The “Dwight Dasher Show” leads Middle Tennessee to a blowout win over Memphis.


This had all the makings of a close game on paper, and it began as such with the Blue Raiders and Tigers ending the first quarter tied at seven. Then Middle Tennessee’s offense got going and the defense shut down Memphis, leading to a run of twenty-four unanswered points to put the game away. Dasher accounted for 320 yards of total offense along with two touchdown passes in the 31-14 victory, and the Blue Raider defense held Memphis to ninety-three yards rushing on thirty-seven attempts. Given what happened at Clemson last week this was a good win for Middle Tennessee. UL Lafayette shouldn’t be forgotten either, with kicker Tyler Albrecht beating Kansas State with thirty-two seconds left in the game. While neither or those teams would be considered major scalps on the national scene, they are decent wins for a conference that more times than not plays the role of whipping boy to the other leagues.


WAC: Fresno State misses out on a golden opportunity; where do they go from here?


This was by no means a crossroads game for the Bulldogs, since the loss to Wisconsin has no bearing on the conference standings. But they’ve yet to win a conference title under Pat Hill, so the question could be asked in some circles whether or not non-conference games are emphasized at the expense of league showdowns. Fresno State had a very good day offensively, putting up nearly 500 yards of offense in the overtime loss but they could have won had there not been three turnovers. Junior QB Ryan Colburn threw four touchdown passes by three picks? That can’t happen if you want to beat Wisconsin or some of the contenders within the WAC. Given what Nevada and Louisiana Tech have done so far, Fresno State may prove to be the biggest challenger to Boise State within the conference.