Run and Shoot: September 2008 Archives

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September 30, 2008

11 Lessons Learned from Week 5

http://www.sportsline.com/collegefootball/story/10999966

Uh-oh, here we go again. Nine. Nine ranked teams took it on the chin in college football this weekend. Six of those losses were levied by unranked opponents too. If today was any indication, that pesky, seemingly over-used phrase - parity - may just be rearing its ugly head again this year. Hell, it may be rearing its ugly shoulders, torso, arms and legs as well.

*Saban.jpg
(See, he can smile. Well, sort of. This is actually as close as it gets for a grin from Alabama coach Nick Saban after his team pasted the Dogs between the hedges in Athens.)

Here are the 11 things we learned from another sanitarium-like weekend of college football.

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Lesson 1-
Nobody's national championship hopes have gone down the drain.

It's September people. It doesn't matter if it's an ambush in Corvallis, a Rebel Yell in the Swamp, a Big House collapse or a black celebration in Athens. Unimpressive? Sure. Dead in the water for a title run? It's September people.


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Lesson 2-
Looks like 2008 is quickly beginning to resemble 2007 on the madness scale.

For just the fifth time since the BCS was instituted in 1998, six ranked teams lost to unranked opponents in a single weekend. Last year, it happened three times in all.

This weekend, these were the ranked victims to unranked winners:

1. USC - 21
Oregon State - 27
For the second time in three years, the Trojans lose to inspired Beavers in Corvallis. More on this below.

Ole Miss - 31
4. Florida - 30
Tebow finally puts up Heisman-like numbers. But UofF committed three TOs. First win over a top five team for the Johnny Rebs since 1977 when they bum-rushed eventual national champ Notre Dame.

*UMblockFG.jpg
(Kentrell Lockett and the boys crash the party on Florida's extra point try. Hard to believe the difference came down to a special teams play. That's when the Swamp went quiet for the first time in a long time.)

9. Wisconsin - 25
Michigan - 27
The Wolverines had 21 yards, five TOs and hearty round of resounding boos from their fans in the first half but rallies for the biggest comeback in Michigan Stadium history. A UW penalty led to a missed two-pointer with 13 seconds left. Ouchie!

*Wisc2Ptr.jpg
(If you notice in this Goodyear Blimp-o-cam view, the Badgers illegally lined up for their first two-point conversion that would've tied the game with only three players in the UW backfield, causing the flag. Their second try was unsuccessful.)

Navy - 24
16. Wake Forest - 17
First win over a ranked opponent for the Midshipmen since 1985. Really now, how did Wake lose this game? Another ACC black eye.

Maryland - 20
20. Clemson - 17
Coach Tommy Bowden just signed a contract extension, but I'm not sure why. This was UMd's fifth straight win over a ranked opponent. Nice turnaround Coach Fridge.

Houston - 41
23. East Carolina - 24
Well ECU, your short ride is officially over. Didn't see THIS happening either way.

And one more thing before we move on. All those teams that are out there snickering at these teams getting toppled, like Oklahoma, Alabama, LSU, Texas and Missouri, we hear you cheering the upsets and filling up the chat rooms with choke-pokes at them. Enjoy it while you can because your upset-where-you-least-expect it is coming too. And that right soon.


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Lesson 3-
As I stated well before this week, USC did NOT have an easy road to the BCS title game and we should not be so shocked at any loss along the way.

The reasons for another flameout were painfully obvious in Thursday night's loss to Oregon State.

• USC always wins in non-conference (except when Vince Young decides to play the game of his life), but struggles in the Pac 10.
• Nobody overlooks a weak opponent like the Trojans do, even with 10 days to prepare.
• USC tends to forget that Pac 10 teams aren't in awe of them.
• USC's wins over Virginia and Ohio State weren't all that impressive after all. For chrissakes, UConn beat UVa 45-10 and we all see how the Buckeyes have struggled vs. Ohio and Troy.
• USC remains one of the most undisciplined teams in the country. Dumb penalties, poor decisions and inability to make the simple plays doomed them again in Corvallis.

*USCpick?.jpg
(Hard to believe Trojan CB Kevin Thomas had this ball bounce off his hands...)

*OSUtd.jpg
(... and end up landing softly into the hands of OSU WR James Rodgers, giving the Beavers a 21-0 lead four seconds before the end of the first half.)


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Lesson 4-
Alabama is young, inexperienced and as scary as Stephen King's evil clown to the rest of the SEC.

Do you remember the 1992 Dallas Cowboys? That's what this team is like. Way, way ahead of schedule. Everyone knew Nick Saban would lead this program back to respectability, but THIS far, THIS soon? That landslide of the Junkyard dogs was unbelievable.

Talk about "buying in" to what a coach does, this team is chock full of new players at key positions, but they played with the cool of seasoned vets. Of course, it also helped that the Dogs, who came in as the most penalized team in the country, had six flags and three turnovers in the first half alone to help John Parker Wilson and Co. pad their score.

That first half was almost enough to make St. Nick smile... and the rest of the SEC run for the cover of their mama's apron.

Lesson 4a-
Georgia doesn't like Top 10 matchups between the hedges.

With tonight's loss, UGa is now 0-3 in home field top 10 showdowns. In a battle of six vs. seven, Auburn beat Georgia 35-20 in November of 1971. Then, ten years ago Tennessee came in No. 4 to take on the No. 7 Bulldogs and won 22-3.


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Lesson 5-
Penn State deserves much more of a sniff at the No. 1 spot.

Didn't you guys notice the Nittany Lions completely dismantled that same Oregon State team to the tune of 45-14? Yep, not a misprint.

Unlike the over-hyped Trojans, the Lions proved they could tackle players small in stature. The rugged Paternos held Jacquizz Rodgers to 99 yards rushing in 22 carries in their avalanche win over the Beavers.

And in today's 38-24 win over No. 22 Illinois, you might've noticed they allowed nearly 150 yards less offense than did the Missouri Tigers in their game with the Illini. On the other side of the ball, with tonight's 38 points, the Lions have also scored more points in their first five games than any other squad in the 122-year history of the program.


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Lesson 6-
The two biggest benefactors of this weekend's upheaval may just be BYU and Utah.

We knew going into this season that these two Beehive Staters with BCS busting mindsets would need a fair amount of chaos to reach the big gala ball on January 8th. Well, step one in the process happened this weekend with all the upsets. But think about this as well, these two meet in November in Salt Lake City. If both are unbeaten (which is plausible) then that means Utah will have beaten that same Oregon State team and BYU will also have beaten UCLA by 59 points, a team that beat Tennessee.

So these two have their positive points. And this season is already beginning to resemble 1984's chaos. And just look how that benefitted the Cougars.


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Lesson 7-
It's painfully obvious, the Big 12 and SEC need to play each other more often.

(And I don't mean in bowl games, which are mostly freakish displays played 40 days after the end of the regular season.)

If these two conferences are going to claim to be the best in the country, they've got to play each other more than just today's Texas-Arkansas matchup. And yes guys, that means somebody has to play a road game.

By the way, in that Horns-Hogs game, UT won 52-10. Now, does that mean the Big 12 is better?


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Lesson 8-
The ACC is better than the Big 12.

Okay, okay, hold off on the angry Emails. What I mean is they are better than the Big 12 North.

Virginia Tech - 35
Nebraska - 30

Colorado - 21
Florida State - 39

Two impressive wins for one unimpressive conference. Love how Tech went into a hostile night crowd that was the biggest in Big Red history and played with aplomb. Tyrod Taylor was one cool customer, though Husker penalties helped salt the game away. Four straight wins for Tech? Hot diggity, there's hope for Beamer's boys after all. And when was the last time Florida State looked this impressive? They played like they really DO want coach Bowden to overtake JoePa after all.

Couple these two losses with the Big East battles where Kansas lost at South Florida and K-State lost at Louisville and you see why the Big 12 South is still many lengths ahead of the Northern boys. Help us Obi Wan Missouri, you're our only hope.


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Lesson 9-
We found out who plays the best football in the states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Nevada, New Mexico and Indiana.

Here are some of the big in-state rivalries that crowned state titles in college football today:

Marshall - 3
West Virginia - 27
It's been a tough season for the Mountaineers already, so winning SOME kind of title is a much-needed positive. Although Pat White injured his thumb in the 3rd quarter and didn't return, the 'Herd was held to 158 total yards.

Western Kentucky - 3
Kentucky - 41
The Cats had already beaten Louisville back in week one so this was all that stood between the Big Blue and the Bluegrass title. The 'Toppers were held to 157 total yards. UK enters SEC play at 4-0.

Nevada - 49
UNLV - 27
Wolf Pack QB Colin Kaepernick put on a Vince Young-type clinic, going 11-for-16, 176 yards and two TDs in the air and an amazing 19 carries, 240 yards and three TDs on the ground.

*UNRKaepernick.jpg
(To the victors go the hugs from pretty blondes. Colin Kaepernick celebrates his incredible performance in the win over rival UNLV.)

New Mexico - 35
New Mexico State - 24
The Lobos gave up an 84-yard TD pass on the first play of the game, but it was all UNM from there, as they pull out their sixth straight win in the series.

Notre Dame - 38
Purdue - 21
Wow. The Irish DO have a football team worth mentioning, now at 3-1. It must've been the newly shorn locks of Jimmy Clausen, or his career-high 275 yards passing. This win helps UND match its win total from 2007. Irish eyes are finally smiling.


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Lesson 10-
We discovered again why Beano Cook is still the greatest personality in college football.

Here's five of his top quotes from his stint on Sirius satellite radio today...
1- On Tommy Bowden's new contract he signed.
"Two things mean nothing today: A coach's contract and the word of a politician."

2- On Lee Corso picking Bama to win in front of an angry Georgia crowd.
"Lee Corso picked Alabama and then needed a police escort to get past all those Georgia fans because down there, they don't hang you in effigy, they hang you in person."

3- On Nick Saban's re-working of Alabama
"They're the Columbo team. Because if you remember the TV show, he'd show up at a crime scene and the bad guys would think, 'Aw look at this small guy with the trench coat, I'm gonna get away with this.' Then, about halfway through the show, Columbo had figured everything out and the bad guy knew he was in trouble. That's what the SEC is thinking right now. They know they're in trouble with Alabama."

4- On the Mississippi win at Florida.
"I don't understand why Arkansas pushed Houston Nutt out. You can see how they're losing now. And you knew Ole Miss would be good again with Nutt, but this is their biggest win in 30 years."

5- On USC's loss at Oregon State in prime time.
"The Thursday night jinx against highly ranked teams has hit again. To be honest, it's getting too big. In a couple of years, you'll be hard pressed to find a top-ranked team that will agree to go on the road on a Thursday night anymore."


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Lesson 11-
Most of the college football world doesn't care about the Big 10, but guess who does? McCain and Obama.

Don't mean to bring politics into this, since Beano knows you can't trust a word out of their mouths, but while watching the Ohio State-Minnesota game on the Big 10 Network today I saw endless amounts of presidential ads for both candidates. Shows how important swing states like Ohio and Michigan are.


*McCainBaby.jpg
(Ooh, an ominous shadow overtakes the body of a sleeping infant in this political TV ad. Very good imagery there people. Ya' gotta LOVE the lies and scare tactics used in political ads - and I mean from both parties, this is just one example. Too bad truth doesn't work.)

September 23, 2008

The Most Memorable College Football Moments At Yankee Stadium

http://www.sportsline.com/collegefootball/story/10990403

Unless you've been living under a rock you know that Sunday's Orioles-Yankees game is the last baseball game that will be played in Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. The old lady on 161st Street and River Avenue has a date with the wrecking ball, making way for a new Yankee Stadium that'll bring the the pinstripes into a new home and a new era.

But what you may not know is that this place used to live under a Rockne. Well, under a Knute Rockne that is.

KnuteRockne.jpg
(The great actor Pat O'Brien as Knute Rockne, giving his "Win one for the Gipper" speech to the Notre Dame team in the movie "Knute Rockne All American")

Yes, this old stadium used to be a staple for college football as well. In fact, the annual Army-Notre Dame tussle was held there between 1925 and 1947. Also, nearby schools Fordham and New York University, long time powers prior to WWII, used the stadium as a regular venue as well.

With the passing of the graceful old lady, here's a look at some of the top moments in college football that took place in Yankee Stadium.

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1- The (Scoreless) Game of the Century.
November 9, 1946
No. 2 Notre Dame - 0
No. 1 Army - 0

Yes, it's the best scoreless game in the history of sports. Despite what you see today, believe it or not these were two of the biggest behemoths in college football in this era. Both teams came in unbeaten and averaging more than 30 points a game, but found brick wall defenses awaiting them. In fact, the famous Heisman duo of Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis combined for only 79 yards in the game.

The closest thing to a score occurred in the second quarter after the Irish moved down inside the Cadet four yard line. But on fourth down, ND coach Frank Leahy decided to go for six instead of settle for three. Johnny Lujack's pass went incomplete. Later in the game, Davis took a sweep at midfield and appeared to have an open lane to the end zone. But at the last minute Lujack came roaring out of nowhere stopping him in his tracks and preserving the tie.

There was an incredible amount of talent on the field that day. Blanchard had already won the 1945 Heisman as a junior and Davis would go on to win the '46 award. Also that year, UND Tackle George Connor would win the Outland Award for the best interior lineman. And then in 1947, Lujack would take home the stiff-arm award and Army Guard Joe Steffy would win the Outland.

After the game, Army would maintain the No. 1 position in the polls and even beat No. 5 Penn the next week by a resounding 34-7 count. And both teams went on to unbeaten seasons, UND going 8-0-1 and the Cadets finishing 9-0-1. But sadly, the national media's Notre Dame bias would be evident as the Irish got voted in as national champions after the end of the regular season.


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2- The Gipper didn't really say it but they won it for him anyway.
November 10, 1928
Notre Dame - 12
Army - 6

Knute Rockne's legendary "Win one for the Gipper" speech is engrained in the annals of college football lore forever - especially thanks to Pat O'Brien's portrayal of the man in "Knute Rockne, All American." That speech happened on this day in 1928 in the locker room of Yankee Stadium. Of course, there has long been speculation as to whether the famous Irish hero of a decade before ever really had this conversation with Rockne on his deathbed.

Either way, the ploy work for Rockne. Army was 5-0, while the Irish were in the midst of his worst season in South Bend, at 4-2 (only in 1928 did Rockne's Irish have more than two losses in any single season). With the score tied 0-0 at the half, Rockne gave his best performance, inspiring his worst team to its best half of football.


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3- Finally, the TV goes black
1968
Morgan State - 9
Grambling - 7

Nevermind the outcome. This game went well beyond the scoreboard. Longtime Grambling S.I.D. Collie Nicholson convinced Eddie Robinson to begin "barnstorming" his team more in the late 60s, including this matchup with Morgan State. His main goal was to showcase black colleges, their exciting style of play and their incomparable marching bands. But the idea worked much better than he imagined, as witnessed by the crowd of 64,204. It also marked the first time that black colleges were featured in an ABC telecast.

Additionally, this game would generate more than $200,000 to be gathered for the Ghetto Education Program.


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4- The blocks of granite come crumbling down
November 29, 1936
No. 8 Fordham - 6
New York Univ. - 7

The Rams entered the game with a 5-0-2 season mark, but in the final game NYU ended their hopes of an unbeaten season in front of 50,000+ fans of the two local teams. It also was the end of era as this was the last game Vince Lombardi played as part of the storied Seven Blocks of Granite interior line. The remaining Rams would go on to an unbeaten 1937 season (7-0-1) and finish No. 3 in the polls.

Just for comparison purposes, the two Blocks of Granite that bookended Lombardi were All American Center Alex Wojciechowicz and Tackle Ed Franco. Those two linemen both checked in at a wispy 195 pounds. You can assure no steroids there.


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5- THIS is a reward for a good season?
December 15, 1962, The Gotham Bowl
Nebraska - 36
Miami (Fl) - 34

Keep in mind this was back in the days when bowl games were played by teams that genuinely deserved it. Yes, winning records and everything. But this was no reward. With bone-chilling, no, marrow-chilling 14 degree temps and an untimely New York newspaper strike, this game got zero publicity. And that wasn't hard to tell by the 6,166 hearty fans that actually showed up. After this one appearance in Yankee Stadium, the Gotham Bowl folded.

GothamBowlpic.jpg
(George Mira attempts a pass for Miami on the frozen sod of Yankee Stadium in the 1962 Gotham Bowl. You gotta love the white cleats on NU.)

In the back-and-forth game, Miami had 34 first downs to NU's 12 and out-yarded the Huskers 502-296. But a Bob Brown interception of a George Mira pass in the final minute sealed the win in Bob Devaney's first season as Husker coach.


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Other great college football moments in Yankee Stadium:

- 1963. Syracuse 14 - Notre Dame 7.
This game saw revenge for the Cuse. Two years before, during Ernie Davis' Heisman campaign, the Irish stunned the 10th ranked Orangemen 17-15 in their last game of the season.

- 1961. Oklahoma 14 - Army 8.
Neither team was really much to write home about. In fact, Bud Wilkinson's team started off the year 0-5. Army hadn't been much of a national player since the unbeaten 1958 team. But this game did see the first use of the "swinging gate" as Coach Wilkinson noticed Army's defenders were slow out of the huddle. On the gadget play Mike McClelland went 75 yards accounting for the winning margin.

- 1987. Central State 37 - Grambling 21.
This would be the last football game played at Yankee Stadium. It was part of the annual Whitney Young Urban League Classic. The game, usually featuring Coach Robinson's team, would be moved to the Meadowlands the following season.

11 Lessons Learned from Week 4

http://www.sportsline.com/collegefootball/story/10989206

The SEC had five teams in the Top 10 going into the weekend, and we found out it's well-deserved. As Les Miles said, "It's another weekend in the SEC... come from behind and fight like hell."

We could spend all 11 lessons on the SEC. But in the name of fairness, we'll touch on other insignificant conferences as well.

RodGilmoreOxy.jpg
(When he's not doing color commentary for Thursday or Friday night ESPN games, Rod Gilmore is attending his son's games at Occidental College, which is right near Dodger Stadium. I was at the Saturday night game on the same campus where they filmed the original "90210" to see Oxy host my good friends' Menlo College team in a battle of Division III teams when I saw Mr. Gilmore in the crowd texting friends from his concrete seat.)

Now, back to the Division I games, here are the 11 lessons we learned from college football this weekend.

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Lesson 1-
Once again we find out why LSU-Auburn is the best non-rivalry rivalry in college football.

Beyond Army-Navy and Auburn-Alabama, the third best rivalry in college football may not even be a true "rivalry" at all. These two teams NEVER, ever, disappoint man. Tonight's 26-21 nail-biter proves that point once again.

LaFellcatchAub.jpg
(Brandon LaFell's catch with just over a minute left put LSU over the top at Auburn in another nip-and-tuck game between these two teams.)

Tell me, when was the last time this game wasn't close? The late 60s or so? Probably. Tonight was no different, with the only surprise being that it wasn't quite as much of a defensive struggle as we thought it would be.

The other surprising thing is that there was no bizarre, unnatural act like a burning building, an earthquake or four interceptions returned for touchdowns. This WAS, however, the fifth straight game in this series that had the outcome decided by less than a touchdown. Once again, it was a clutch play in the waning minutes that decided things. I mean to tell ya' Jarrett Lee, that was one perfectly placed winning touchdown pass.

Too bad these two teams can't face off each weekend.


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Lesson 2-
Boos from 106,000+ tend to be really loud.

Tennessee was outclassed in every phase of the game in its 30-6 loss Florida: effort, execution, game management and certainly coaching. And losing to UCLA - who has since looked like a JV team - pretty much affirmed that this was no world-beaters from Knoxville in 2008. But a home loss like this was pretty awful. And it's not just the score, it's the story behind it. Phil Fulmer's team looked junior high-ish at best. Dumb penalties, poor decisions and of course, the turnovers inside the Gators' five yard line soiled the day in Neyland. It's not often you hear boos raining down on the checkerboard end zones and see legions of orange-clad fans heading out of the exits en masse early in the second half.

TennShock.jpg
(Mirroring what their fan base is thinking, these two Tennessee players are in shock and awe of how bad their team has been playing so far this season. It will take Phillip Fulmer's best coaching job ever to get the ship righted after all the bad things that have happened so far in September.)

Lesson 2A-
I know this sounds crazy, but at the same time we've learned before that you shouldn't count Tennessee out.

Last year, the Vols lost to Florida by 39 points as part of a 1-2 start, but still made it back to win the SEC East. In this conference, nothing's ever over.


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Lesson 3-
The words "Alabama" and "legit" do belong in the same sentence.

Winning by five touchdowns at Arkansas is pretty freakin' scary. Is this team finally for real? With a score like 49-14, the answer has to be yes. But file this away under your houndstooth hat, the Tide fans have to be wondering which team is going to show up . Talk about an emotional roller coaster. Dominant vs. Clemson. Sick kitten-like vs. Tulane. And now this.

Today was an extreme high. Two pick-sixes for the Elephants helping to make this one a crimson track meet from whistle to whistle. And you know how Nick Saban loves that kind of defense. In the battle of NFL coaches, Saban vs. Bobby Petrino, paint this one deep blood red.


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Lesson 4-
It's time to tell those SEC powers there's no reason to be afraid to play road games.

Did you realize how many long faces there were in home stadiums this weekend? Look at the road warriors of the SEC today:

- LSU won at Auburn for the first time since the Grey Ghost, 26-21.
- Florida caused Tennessee fans to file out early, 30-6.
- Georgia banished Arizona State to the desert, 27-10.
- Alabama ignored he hog calls and obliterated Arkansas 49-14.
- Vanderbilt went to the Grove and beat Ole Miss 23-17.

South Carolina was the only SEC team to win at home, beating Wofford 23-13... then again, is that REALLY a "win"?

Now, with all this road success, let's hope the SEC plays more non-conference road games like they are this year in the future years to come.


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Lesson 5-
Tim Tebow is still probably the best player in college football, but he won't win the Heisman trophy again.

Once again the Gator Superman didn't run for a touchdown and didn't throw for over 100 yards, but - and this is a big but - he led them to another win. That's not a bad trade off Gator fans, look where your team is right now.

Lesson 5A-
Sorry to get off the subject of SEC football here (and all apologies to Knowshon) but if you need a new Heisman running back, look no further than Javon Ringer.

JevonRingerPress.jpg
(You know when a running back has a high level of cool. He brings his entire offensive line into the post-game press conference like michigan State's Jevon Ringer did after the win over Notre Dame.)

The Michigan State running back ran for his second straight 200+ yard game in a row against Notre Dame today and has accounted for almost half of the Spartans offense on the season with his 538 yards in three games.

As Charlie Weis said in the post-game, "I learned a long time ago that one attribute that the great players have is stamina. And after 39 carries, he obviously has great stamina."


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Lesson 6-
If you're looking for a "Hooray for our conference" story outside of the SEC, look at the Mountain West.

Last week, the non-BCS conference went 4-0 vs. the Pac 10 (is that still impressive?). This week, it appears, the MWC will have three teams in the national rankings for the first time in conference history as BYU and Utah look to be joined by TCU in the top 25.

But the MWC came THISCLOSE to that not happening as the Utes had a white-knuckle escape from Colorado Springs, beating pesky/determined/well-coached (pick two) Air Force 30-23.

QB Brian Johnson said "I couldn't have played a worse first half."

But in the end, Johnson put together some good numbers, going 16-of-23 for 243 yards. But the real grinding hero of the game was the hammer running of Darrell Mack, who ran for 101 yards on the day with three touchdowns and most importantly, he accounted for 50 yards on the game's winning drive.

The trio of ranked MWC teams may not last as TCU has a date with No. 2 Oklahoma in Norman this Saturday.


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Lesson 7-
Saturday showed us that the list of BCS Busters officially lost one name and added another.

Ditch: East Carolina
Add: Boise State

ECUmockNCSU.jpg
(Okay Mr. Pirate. You shouldn't mock the N.C. State fans with those fake "Wolf Pack" hand signs. See? Sometimes karma can work against you. ECU saw its BCS chances go up in smoke after the loss to NCSU this weekend.)

East Carolina got busted at North Carolina State, 30-24 in OT. You have to say goodbye to the Pirate chances at one of those get-rich bowls now. And it's especially painful considering they had what was supposed to be their toughest opponents behind them in Virginia Tech and West Virginia. But, just as most 18-23 year olds will do, they suffered from the emotional peaks and valleys of a long 13 game season.

On the good side, Boise State did what so few people get to do, enjoy a win at Autzen Stadium over Oregon. With today's 37-32 victory, BSU captures its first road win against a BSC team. Welcome back to the adult table boys.


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Lesson 8-
This weekend more than the others so far, we said hello to some great freshmen.

Yes, Tom Lemming is waaaaaaay ahead of the rest of us in knowing about these guys here. But national TV appearances by Colorado's Rodney Stewart, Baylor's Robert Griffin, Georgia's A.J. Green and then the successful first start by Ohio State's Tyrelle Pryor, showed us all that there are great things ahead...

Stewart:
Though he still has yet to score a touchdown, the frosh mighty-mite running back went for 166 yards in 28 carries in the 17-14 OT win over West Virginia.

Griffin:
Okay, so the Bears lost a whisker-tight 31-28 game at UConn. Still, what stuck out to me was the moxie and raw talent of the lanky frosh, who was 14-of-25 for 208 and now has a QB rating of 176.3, which should be enough to become mayor of Waco.

Green:
Eight catches for 159 yards and a TD. If not for the flying Wolenda that is Knowshon Moreno, this guy might be getting even more highlights. He'll be valuable vs. the Tide this Saturday.

Pryor:
His first start was smooth and calm, going 10-for-16 for 139 yards while running for 66 yards as well. His performance was so good, Todd Boeckman took only two snaps from center in the game. We may be seeing a new era in Columbus.


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Lesson 9-
You could've won a lot of money if you had bet that these teams would still be unbeaten after four weekends of play:

- Minnesota, 4-0
Won vs. Florida Atlantic 38-3.
Man, this is a far cry from last year's 1-11/0-8 mark.
Market crash potential: This Saturday at Ohio State.

- N'western, 4-0
Won vs. Ohio 16-8.
Okay, so they've only played Syracuse, Duke, Southern Illinois and the Bobcats, but this IS the first 4-0 start since 1962.
Market crash potential: This Saturday at Iowa.

- Vanderbilt, 4-0
Won at Ole Miss 20-17.
The best team in the state of Tennessee is just two more wins away from ending a 25-year bowl drought.
Market crash potential: In two weeks at Auburn.

- Colorado, 3-0
Won vs. West Virginia 17-14 in OT
Well, it seems everyone is beating the Mountaineers now, but this was still a big win that may re-awaken the sleeping giant of the Flat Irons.
Market crash potential: This Saturday at Florida State.

CUfansRushField.jpg
(Really Buff fans... did you really feel the need to rush the field after an ordinary win over 1-2 West Virginia? C'mon people. Just more proof that students are looking for any reason whatsoever to run the field.)

- Tulsa, 3-0
Won vs. New Mexico 56-14
Okay it's not shocking, having beaten UAB, North Texas and now the Lobos. But keep in mind this is the same UNM team that beat Arizona last week.
Market crash potential: At Arkansas November 1st. Yes, the Hurricane could easily start 8-0.


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Lesson 10-
Sometimes, thankfully, karma works on bad cupcake scheduling.

Florida State finally played somebody with a pulse, and lost. After beating a pair of lower division schools that aren't even worth mentioning by a combined 117-7, FSU welcomed No. 18 Wake Forest to Doak Campbell Stadium. And for the second straight season the Deacs rubbed FSU's nose in the dirt, tonight by a 12-3 clampdown.

The last two trips to Tallahassee has seen once-lowly Wake pull off a pair of wins (30-0 in '06) while FSU committed 21 penalties, had 11 turnovers and scored three points in those two games.

Now don't you think a game against a decent team from the FBS would've helped Bobby Bo and Co. prepare for this game a lot more than Western Carolina and somebody named Chattanooga? Karma is a bitch man.


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Lesson 11-
Despite the appearance of Muhammad Ali at the Louisville game on Wednesday night, I found that there IS still sportsmanship in college football.

South Florida and Florida International got together at midfield during their game today to go down on bended knee in prayer for Bulls linebacker Brouce Mompremier, who was taken off the field in the 3rd quarter by an ambulance after running head-first into a teammate. After the quick kneel session, many of the FIU and USF players shook hands in thanks. It was a good scene that seems to be more and more rare in these "I am the greatest watch me taunt" times.

USF-FIUprayer.jpg
(The Bulls and Panthers show their class for Brouce Mompremier, the fallen USF linebacker. Since then, thankfully, he's been released from the hospital after all the tests turned up negative, but will still sit out a week or two.)

September 15, 2008

11 Lessons Learned from Week 3

http://www.sportsline.com/collegefootball/story/10977182

It's official, USC is the best of the least in the West. Now you see why there will be no reason for the ESPN GameDay crew to go past the great plains again this season, because other than the Trojans, football in the West is awful so far.

*USCsongGirls.jpg
(Sadly, the only thing that hasn't been up to par so far for the Trojans has been this year's crop of USC Song Girls. I've seen better.)

Read all about it in tonight's 11 Lessons Learned from this college football weekend.

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Lesson 1-
Well, OSU's Roy Small was right, USC is all about football.

Forget Virginia, there's obviously nothing wrong with the Trojans. 35-3... Yikes. But I will add a "but" to this. The Bucks did soooooo many things that hurt their own cause. It's obvious that you can't score a touchdown and have a holding penalty on the same play, you can't lay out a welcome mat and give the Men of Troy a defensive touchdown and you can't give the Trojans a short field.

Also, another aside, you can't have Todd Boeckman trying to run plays that are designed for Tyrelle Pryor to run and, as you'll hear 50 times in various reporter's stories, having Beanie Wells wouldn't have made THAT much difference. That's just my two cents.

But it appears that Pete Carroll knew things might turn out the way they did. "We've been preparing the last two weeks so well, we knew we would play well. We just weren't sure how good they (the Buckeyes) were going to play. And we found out they didn't play too well. But we played great in all areas of the game."

The other big key? The one area of concern coming into the season, the offensive line. But even with four new starters, the line may just be one of the Trojans strengths. "We had a pro scout come in last week and he said he's never seen that athletic of an offensive line." ole Pete said with a wry grin. "And the way they played tonight, we think we've got something really special in the trenches."

Lone returnee Jeff Byers said it had to do with a new downsizing philosophy. "You have to look at what we've got. Only one of our guys, Thomas Herring, is over 300 pounds. We aren't like most lines that are just so big, we have a lot of lighter, more athletic guys and it makes a big difference in the things we want to do on the field."


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Lesson 2-
All those college football fans worried about the way things will work out in January, don't worry, OSU just played itself out of a third straight national title game.

Yep, every Sunday morning quarterback with a computer or a microphone will say that about the Bucks. Truth be told, if they had lost 17-14 instead of 35-3, they would've won enough legitimacy points to stay in the poll voters minds for the rest of the season. Now? Barring some incredible chaos, maybe even more than last season, I don't see it happening because the pollsters won't let them get that high again. I know, call it a bias. But that's the nature of college football.


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Lesson 3-
The football "Monopoly" in L.A. is officially back on.

Who should feel worse, UCLA fans for realizing their team is really bad again? Or Tennessee fans for realizing their team lost a game to a rally bad team two weeks ago?

Oh yeah, in case you didn't know, the Bruins lost to BYU today by 59 points. Good thing the smog in L.A. hides the shame on the faces of Bruin fans everywhere. This was nasty.


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Lesson 4-
Speaking of BYU, we found out that Max Hall deserves all the Heisman hype of the other big BSC players.

BYU's lead flinger was 23-of-29 for 232 yards and six (6) touchdowns. And that was in the first half alone. With today's statement win, Hall and Co. are back on track and eyeing the BCS once again.


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Lesson 5-
We found out that college football fans everywhere could've watched that Kansas-South Florida game on a loop for three or four days.

What a great game that was, with the Bulls winning the thrill-a-minute-fest on a last play field goal from true frosh Maikon Bonani.

*USFkicker.jpg
(South Florida kicker Maikon Bonani gets a victory ride while head coach Jim Leavitt chuckles with glee behind him.)

Jim Leavitt gets the coaching award fro the week with the recovery his team made from an early 20-3 deficit. He had his team go back to basics and went to a bash-and-pop running game, softening up the KU defense up for Matt Grothe and his passing game. Textbook football.

Give the Jayhawks credit for overcoming a two-touchdown deficit in the 4th quarter to make it a white-knuckle finish. Great game. Great atmosphere. Great finish.


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Lesson 6-
On the other hand, we also learned that the 4th quarter of the Auburn-Mississippi State game was nearly unwatchable.

Chock full of fumbles, interceptions, penalties, poor play calling and the dreaded sitting-on-your-hands waiting for another video review. Auburn won by a baseball-like 3-2 score, but this was ugly football. Auburn's defense may be worthy of a Top 25 ranking, but everything else is pretty awful.

Lesson 6a- That mistake-filled Georgia-South Carolina game was almost nearly as bad.

I thought the SEC was supposed to be the most exciting football? Wake me.


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Lesson 7-
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano's stock value has plummeted like the consumer confidence index.

*RutgersFinger.jpg
(This Rutgers fan shows his feelings after yet another blunder vs. UNC. Maybe shots like this will keep TV cameras from bombarding us with fan images of despair when their team does bad. Parents, hide the kids eyes.)

The Scarlet Knights got bombed by North Carolina 44-12 on Thursday. They got clamped down 24-3 vs. Fresno State on Labor Day. Trevor Matich said on the Thursday's telecast, in essence, they're not good on offense, not good on defense and not good on special teams.

In the last calendar year, the Knights have now gone 5-7. Coach Schiano has indicated many times that he's staying at Rutgers and wants to build this program and make it his own, but his national profile has taken a huge hit as his team suffers through home fans booing and missing Ray Rice more than anyone imagined. Good thing he's not looking for a new job after all.

Lesson 7a-
On the other hand, Buffalo's Turner Gill's future is looking brighter and brighter.

Especially when you win at a school in Buffalo, New York and especially when you win games on a last play Hail Mary:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiNDG4KQNnc

*UBturnerGill.jpg
(Buffalo Head Coach Turner Gill - in white with headset - is surrounded by legions of Bulls fans while he is being interviewed on ESPN after the overtime win vs. Temple.)


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Lesson 8-
The Pac 10 is now officially USC and the Little 9.

The conference that always wants to say it's the best in the country went 3-7 in non-conference games.
- Stanford lost in a torrent at TCU, 31-14.
- UCLA suffered its worst loss in 75 years at BYU, 59-0.
- Washington State was embarrassed at Baylor, 45-17.
- Arizona lost at previously winless New Mexico, 36-28.
- Cal lost at what was thought to be a weakened Maryland team, 35-27, despite out-yarding the Terps 461-314.

*CalBestBarf.jpg
(Cal running back Jahvid Best shows what most fans thought of the Pac 10 this past weekend.)

- Washington never recovered from the celebration rule last week and lost to Oklahoma, 55-14.
- Worst of all had to be Arizona State's 23-20 OT loss at home to UNLV.

Question: Does Oregon's overtime win at Purdue save face? Nope.

*UNLVcatch.jpg
(If you didn't see the incredible game-tying catch by UNLV's Phillip Payne, here's a screen grab of the one-hand grab.)


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Lesson 9-
Vanderbilt is the best academic-based football team in the country.

What in the name of Whit Taylor is going on here? Do any of you remember 1982? That's the last time the black and old gold went to a bowl. That's before any of the current Commodore players were even born. But look out now, with today's 38-21 win over Rice, the 'Dores are now 3-0 and with having games with Duke and the Mississippi schools and also having already beaten No. 24 South Carolina, the confidence to take on the rest of the SEC is there.

On Saturday the Vandy defense relented 413 yards to the Owls, but never broke in the second half, holding the potent Rice offense scoreless in the second half.


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Lesson 10-
There's a time to give a coach a raise and a time NOT to give a coach a raise.

West Virginia's Bill Stewart got a six-year contract extension with $50,000 yearly increases to an $800,000/year base. This coming on the heels of an ugly 24-3 loss at East Carolina.

Also, Jim Tressel, mere days before getting beaten badly in another high-profile game at USC, signed a new deal that will pay him $1 million more per year.

Surely these administrations have a better sense of timing, right? I haven't seen timing this poor since last fall when Nebraska Athletic Director Steve Pederson gave Bill Callahan a million-dollar raise right before USC came to town and spanked the Blackshirts for 49 points and soon before Pederson was run out of town on a rail.


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Lesson 11-
Now we see why Charlie Weis didn't ever play football. Can't take a hit.

I know, that's a low blow. My bad. But you DO know that the John Candy look-a-like never played the game. He even said in the post-game that he finally felt like an athlete.

But at least his team looked a whole lot better in game number two - a 35-17 win over Michigan - and may just have his team in line to have a winning season. Yes, I said it, Notre Dame will be happy with that.

*WeissSmiling.jpg
(Yes, this is actually a picture of Charlie Weiss smiling in his post-game news conference. Where he also admitted for the first time in his life that he "felt like an athlete." Sure coach, whatever you say.)

September 08, 2008

11 Lessons Learned from Week 2

http://www.sportsline.com/collegefootball/story/10966179

Here are the 11 things we learned from the second Saturday of the college football season.


ECUpregame.jpg
(We found out why Pirate eyes are smiling, following their second straight win over a nationally-ranked opponent.)

Lesson No. 1-
The non-BCS teams are still highly discriminated against.

Exhibit A: East Carolina.

After today's win over West Virginia, the Pirates are 2-0 with wins over a pair of ranked opponents and their defense is on lock-down mode, holding Pat White to just three points. But guess how close they'll get to a No. 1 ranking when the polls come out? Not a snowball's chance in Hades, people.

Despite last week's win over No. 17 Virginia Tech and today's incredibly impressive 24-3 beatdown of the No. 8 Mountaineers, do you think if USC, Georgia, Ohio State or LSU had done the same thing, would they be anywhere BUT at the top of the polls? Yet ECU, won't be anywhere near the Top Five, though they should. Georgia fans, you've got nothing to complain about.


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Lesson No. 2-
We all jumped the gun in our mad love for...

- South Carolina.
Losing at Vanderbilt? For the second straight year? Aye-yaye-yaye. That's not so superior Steve.

VandyCoach.jpg
(Vandy coach Bobby Johnson is screaming for vengeance after getting his second straight win over Steve Spurrier on Thursday night.)

- Stanford.
They beat Oregon State in exciting fashion last week, suggesting the Jim Harbaugh Era had something special going. Then the Cardinal lost big at Arizona State (41-17) and OSU got run-ruled at Penn State (45-14), showing that SU still has a long way to go.

- Bowling Green.
As often happens of upset perpetrators, the Falcons faceplanted after their big win over then-No. 24 Pitt, losing 42-17 at home to Minnesota today.

- Alabama.
Sure, the Tide beat Tulane, but only 20-6 and they were also out-yarded by a 314-to-173 count, had only 11 first downs and surrendered four sacks. All this to a team that hadn't played a game yet and dealt with a hurricane all week.


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Lessson No. 3-
Senior quarterbacks aren't what they used to be.

Coaches normally love a well-versed, four-year man at the controls. But in 2008, it has suddenly become more problematic. For every John Parker Wilson, Graham Harrell and Brian Johnson, there have also been...

- Sean Glennon, Virginia Tech
Was so ineffective in the loss to East Carolina, Coach Beamer made the biggest no-brainer in football and decided to pull the redshirt off of Tyrod Taylor. Today, Glennon went just 3-for-8 for 40 yards in the 24-7 win over somebody named Furman. Oh, and Taylor went 4-for-5 for 26 yards, but also led the Hokies with 109 yards rushing.

- Drew Weatherford, Florida State
How do you like that? You start the season openers for three straight years and then a Sophomore comes along (Christian Ponder) and upends you. Not only that, but in today's 69-0 win over Western Carolina, Weatherford was the third QB used, going just 1-for-2. Ouch.

- Stephen McGee, Texas A&M
Mike Sherman's new offense had McGee looking uncomfortable in last weeks loss to Arkansas State. Including rushing for -29 yards, taking him way out of his element as well. Today, McGee was injured on the opening drive against New Mexico and replaced by Jerrod Johnson, who rallied the Aggies to a 28-22 win.

- Cullen Harper, Clemson
Not only did the Tigers get pummeled by Bama, and yes, CU could only muster 30 rushing yards. But Harper had only one pass over over 20 yards, while throwing for just 188 yards in all. Today, he did much better, going 14-for-18 for 190 yards, albeit it came against The Citadel.

- Mike Teel, Rutgers
Without Ray Rice, the onus falls on Teel to spearhead the offense. Well if the Fresno wipeout on Monday was any indication, he's not able to shoulder the load, after going 20-for-39 with two picks.


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Lesson No. 4-
Ohio State can say what it wants about "Beanie" Wells' injury and how it effects the team, but it's the offensive line that is to blame for the weak performance vs. Ohio.

For three quarters, the Bucks line played, as Chris Spielman put it, like they were in a pillow fight instead of a firecracker fight today. OSU had 111 total yards on its first eight possessions. And before the Bobcats took their first lead, OSU's line couldn't block its way to a first down on a 4th-and-a-foot. Then, a bad shotgun snap helped OU go up 14-6. In short, another performance like this next week and USC's defense will make minced-meat of the Buckeyes.

OSU-badsnap.jpg
(Todd Boeckman took his eyes off this shotgun snap deep in his own territory leading to Ohio recovering the gaffe for a Bobcat touchdown.)


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Lesson No. 5-
We found out once again why the Pac 10 has the worst referees in the country.

It's called using discretion people. Using discretion!

I'm sure you saw Jake Locker getting flagged for "excessive celebration" on that last second touchdown that pulled Washington within a point of BYU, right? (If not, turn in your college football fan card.)

The resulting 35-yard extra point got blocked. BYU wins 28-27. I could understand a taunting, in-your-face WWE-style yell, but Locker's celebrations was a spontaneous reaction that was not a derogatory act. C'mon guys, how about doing something constructive, like calling a penalty when a player stands over an opponent he just tackled. Don't make a call that plays a big hand in deciding the outcome of the game.

TDcelebrationRule.jpg
(Yes, yes. We see the rule in the rule book about not throwing the ball after a touchdown. But better judgment on WHEN to enforce this would've helped. After all, aren't pro baseball umpires supposed to call the high strike too?)


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Lesson No.6-
The ACC's profile is only getting worse.

When the ACC's biggest win of the season so far is a two-point scrape over a team that will probably finish fifth or sixth in the SEC West (Wake's 30-28 escape of Ole Miss), then you know things aren't going well. Props to Wake though, they appear to be the best team in the conference at this early point in the season.

Miami didn't look too bad for three quarters in the swamp, but the Gators showed the Canes that they've still got some work to do to get back to their former self, losing 26-3 in the end.

This biggest disgrace may be the fact that, of the six non-conference wins today, five came against teams from a lower division of football. And in the showdown of high-SATs, Northwestern put away Duke, 24-20.


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Lesson No. 7-
It turns out that the biggest paper tiger in college football is Arkansas.

Two big comebacks. Two wins. Two evenly-played games against evenly-matched opponents. The problem is, these last-second Ws have come against FCS Western Illinois (28-24) and today against Louisiana-Monroe (28-27). I know it's just two games into his regime, but we'd expect better from Coach Petrino and Company. Wins over directional and hyphenated teams should come easier for an SEC monster.

Lesson No. 7a- We've discovered that the best team in the state of Arkansas looks like it's Arkansas State.

The Red Wolves (is that really their new nickname?) already won at Texas A&M last week and now, became the first team in major college football to score 80+ points in three years, crushing Texas Southern 83-10 tonight.


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Lesson No. 8-
We may have seen the most unlikely way to win a game this season in college football.

Nation, keep an eye on Rice this year. Yes, I said it. Rice. The Owls improve to 2-0 with a 42-35 win at Memphis. But it's how they did it that leaves the college football world slapping its forehead.

Chris Jammer, a spindly true frosh DB, stepped in front of an Arkelon Hall pass and returned it 69-yards for the game-winning touchdown... with 11 seconds left in the game. That was part of a you-gotta-be-kiddin-me 29-point 4th quarter for the Owls completing an unlikely comeback. Coupled with its rout of SMU last week, Rice is now 2-0.

RiceGmWinInt.jpg
(Steaming the Tigers! Jammer is off to the races with his game-winning interception return vs. Memphis.)


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Lesson No. 9-
Sometimes the pre-season rags are right about that "Coaches on the Hot Seat" feature.

- Washington's Tyrone Willingham.
Fair or not after today's freakish loss, he's now 0-2 with Oklahoma, USC, Oregon, Cal and UCLA still to go.

- Wyoming's Joe Glenn.
In hindsight, last week's win over Ohio doesn't look so bad. But a poor performance against Air Force (a 23-3 loss) pretty much reaffirms the Pokes will finish at or near the bottom of the Mountain West again.

- Syracuse's Greg Robinson.
Yep, a 42-28 loss to Akron is uglier than those orange unis man.

- San Diego State's Chuck Long.
When was the last time a one-touchdown loss at Notre Dame meant your future as a coach is uncertain?

- Maryland's Ralph Friedgen.
It's been five years since the Turtles have won 10 games. Seems like a few light years ago now, especially after today's 24-14 loss at Middle Tennessee State.


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Lesson No. 10-
Since we didn't get to cover it in last Saturday night's column, I have to bring it up now, nobody has had a longer week than Phil Fulmer and Tennessee.

Can you imagine how long that flight back to Knoxville was from the UCLA loss? UT fans have filled message boards over the years about the questionable coaching of Fulmer and Co. from time-to-time, but on Monday, it hit a new low. Rick Neuheisel and coordinators Dwayne Walker and Norm Chow totally out-coached the Vols, taking a much less-talented team to victory over UT, 27-24 in OT.

And now, the Vols have had this week off to let that loss ferment even longer in their kitchen. I feel pity for UAB. That's who will feel the wrath in Tennessee's next game.


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Lesson No. 11-
The best part about this weekend is that it's over.

As opposed to last weekend's handful of intriguing games, this weekend was bereft of high-profile matchups. If I'm not mistaken, only two Top 25 games even had less than a double-digit pointspread. (Not that I advocate betting or anything). Hell, even Chris Fowler pointed out on GameDay, "College football fans deserve better than today's selection of games."

Next week, we've got Ohio State at USC, Georgia at South Carolina, Wisconsin at Fresno State, UCLA at BYU, Arkansas at Texas and Kansas at South Florida, amongst others.

ASUfansBringOnGa.jpg
(A shot of the Arizona State fans with their "Bring on Georgia" signs. Well at least the guy on the left is smart enough to know that the Devils better not overlook UNLV next week. And by the way, see how the signs are sponsored by Chick-Fil-a? Did you know that Chick-Fil-a is an Atlanta-based restaurant chain? And here they are giving Arizona State fans signs at their games. Tsk. Tsk.)

September 02, 2008

11 Lessons Learned from Week 1

http://www.sportsline.com/collegefootball/story/10955245

Tressel.jpg
(Jim Tressel is one of many coaches with key injuries on his mind)

Here are the 11 things that were discovered on this opening Saturday of the college football season.

Lesson #1:
Five straight days of college football is just so cool.

From Thursday night to tonight and on to Monday night, we are in the middle of college football nirvana without any break at all. Nice. Wish all weekends could be like this. Oh and the bonus to it all? There is no NFL stuff in there to mess up all of our scholastic fun. Can't wait to see what Sunday (Louisville-Kentucky) and Monday (Fresno State-Rutgers and Tennessee-UCLA) have in store for us.

Lesson #2:
The team of the day was, without doubt, Alabama.

The No. 24 ranked Crimson Tide plastered No. 9 Clemson 34-10. Put it this way, even with talents like James Davis and C.J. Spiller, the Tigers rushed for an aggregate of zero freakin' yards against the Bama defense. And freshman phenom Julio Jones caught a couple of passes, including a touchdown. But best of all, QB John Parker Wilson was a very efficient 22-for-30 with two TDs and not a single pick on the night. This was a Crimson colored beatdown. Nice work Mr. Multi-millionaire Coach.


Lesson #3:
The SEC is good. Like, really damn good. (At least so far)

Ya' don't say? Really now. Of course. You gotta hand it to the southern monster conference in week one. Only Mississippi State laid an egg with its inexcusable loss at Louisiana Tech. Elsewhere, No. 24 Alabama "upset" No. 9 Clemson, South Carolina abused North Carolina State on Thursday, Ole Miss blitzed Memphis 41-24 to signal that they are back and Florida and Georgia bombed Hawaii and Georgia Southern, taking away any drama early on. The SEC has gone 9-1 so far this weekend. Strong work.


Lesson #3A:
The ACC?... Notsomuch.

As mentioned above, NC State and Clemson were bombed in embarrassing fashion. But also, Virginia Tech got beat by East Carolina, Virginia didn't show up against USC and North Carolina nearly got beat by li'l ole McNeese State, escaping 35-28. Take heart ACC, at least your field hockey teams pulled off a pair of upsets as North Carolina beat No. 9 Michigan and Wake Forest beat No. 5 Iowa. Yay!

Miami? Florida State? This conference needs you back in a vintage form like nobody's business.


Lesson #4:
Special teams makes the most impact in the first game of the year.

We saw a lot of miscues help teams pull off Ws. Jeremy Maclin of Missouri retuned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown and a punt 45 yards. He set the tone and changed the game for Mizzou. (Now, about that injury?).

Also, we saw the biggest upset of the day had the tone set by special teams plays. What's the old saying, "Live by the sword, die by the sword"? That's what happened to Virginia Tech. Notoriously well known for its own unmatched special teams play, "Beamer Ball" went South in Virginia Tech's 27-22 loss to East Carolina, missing a field goal, an extra point and giving up the game-winning points on a blocked punt return by T.J. Lee. Ouch.


Lesson #5:
The smartest teams in the country this weekend were Missouri, Illinois, Alabama and Clemson.

Look, it's a no-brainer. These teams agreed to play their games this weekend in the cool comfort of air conditioned indoor stadiums. Elsewhere, there didn't seem to be a game in the country that wasn't played in 90+ temps with triple digit heat indexes. Did you notice how many cramped-leg injuries you saw on TV this weekend throughout college football? In Friday night's SMU-Rice game, the Mustangs had a stretch where they lost three interior defensive linemen on three straight plays. Maybe football wasn't meant to be played in August? Either way, November can't get here soon enough. (At least not for my Scandanavian blood.)


Lesson #6:
The pre-season rags gave Pitt way too much credit for that upset of West Virginia last December.

This was a swift kick in the aspirations for the Panthers. Bowling Green strode into town and pulled off a 27-17 win at Heinz Field over the No. 25 Panthers, setting off the boo birds early on in the game. BG came back from a 14-0 first half deficit to dominate the rest of the game, including holding Heisman candidate LeSean McCoy to just 71 yards on the ground. Those high expectations have suddenly taken a nasty nosedive for Wannstedt's regime.


Lesson #7:
The next great Bo-Knows two-sport star will be Stanford's Toby Gerhart.

Not only did the Cardinal rough-neck running back lead the baseball team to the College World Series two months ago (starting 29 games in the outfield and hitting seven home runs in the process), but under the bright lights of Thursday night, he ran for 147 yards in 19 carries and two TDs to help SU beat Oregon State 36-28 in one of the weekend's most exciting games. Despite his Csonka-like performance on the gridiron, the talented stitched-baller is expected to be a top 10 round draftee next June on the diamond.


Lesson #8:
Michigan may have lost, but it doesn't appear the Wolverines know the word quit.

Rich Rodriguez may have owed his old West Virginia home a lot of money, but one thing's for certain, his team showed that there's no game that is out of reach. Despite being dominated 3-to-1 in total yards at halftime, his Maize and Blue nearly pulled off the win against a really good Utah team, before falling 25-23. Although I still can't figure out how UMich was favored in this game, the Wolverines held a potent Brian Johnson-led offense to just three yards of offense in the second half. Yes, three.

If the don't quit attitude of all their wet-behind-the-ears players carries over throughout the season, this should be an exciting team to watch in the future. Sure, they need more players to adapt to the Rodriguez system, but you know that will come with time.


Lesson #9:
This ain't 2007, the FCSers can't play with FBSers this time around.

This definitely wasn't an Appy State over Michigan-type of weekend. The former Division 1-AA teams went just 1-22 against the former D-1A big boys on Saturday. The only win for the runts was Cal Poly's 29-27 win over San Diego State. But then again, we're still not sure SDSU is worthy of D-1 status anyway. Because of this, it's no wonder this was more of a "yawn" Saturday in college football.


Lesson #10:
Hesiman campaigns have already been exposed to be a fickle thing.

We're not even into the month of September yet and already we've seen the Heisman Trophy campaigns of Ohio State's Beanie Wells and Mizzou's Jeremy Maclin get off-track because of injuries. We've also seen Pitt's LeSean McCoy and even Florida's Tim Tebow (to a degree) hit huge speed bumps because of less-than-expected performances. Oh and add Clemson's Spiller and Davis, with the Bama defense putting the clamps on them, to the list of Heisman campaigns gone South.

The Player of the Year award is now officially wide-freakin-open. And it's a good thing for college football.


Lesson #11
The best new part of ESPN's coverage of college football is the bumper music they use to go to commercials.

I've got four letters for you... AC/DC. The ESPNers have decided to integrate songs like "Thunderstruck," "Back in Black" and "Shook Me All Night Long" from the Australia rockers into their telecasts. It doesn't get any better than that.

 

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