CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Spiced-up showdowns with meaningful Michigan-Notre Dame

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A knee-jerk reaction to the first three days of the season ...

Now that Michigan has a quarterback and Notre Dame has hope, it's going to be an even bigger Showdown Saturday.

Ohio State-Miami and Alabama-Penn State on Sept. 11 already were seared into our brains from the time the schedules were released. Joe Paterno pays perhaps his final visit to Tuscaloosa. The Hurricanes and Buckeyes stage an off-High Street revival of the 2003 Fiesta Bowl national championship game.

Brian Kelly is 1-0 and the Irish might finally have a D that can stop other teams. (AP)  
Brian Kelly is 1-0 and the Irish might finally have a D that can stop other teams. (AP)  
But thanks to the schools that are 1-2 in all-time winning percentage, Saturday gets more intriguing. Rich Rodriguez's job security is not the No. 1 topic in Ann Arbor. The Irish have a defense and some humility, courtesy of a coach without three Super Bowl rings.

The overarching lesson? Beware of Rodriguez with a triggerman at quarterback. There was a three-man race for quarterback at Michigan when the weekend began. When it ended, Rich Rod had the difference maker he has lacked since he had Pat White at West Virginia. Denard Robinson accounted for 383 total yards (197 rushing) in a 30-10 win over Connecticut.

They call him "Shoelace" because Robinson likes to roll with untied shoes. The kid's ascension from depth chart to star was one of the more revelatory moments of opening weekend. Tate Forcier was more experienced. Freshman Devin Gardner had more promise. But Robinson just had to figure out how to run the offense, which UConn coach Randy Edsall had seen before. He was 0-4 against Rodriguez's Mountaineers.

"He's got the guy in place now he is looking for, to do the things he wants to do," Edsall said. "It's a totally different team because of the quarterback."

When Rodriguez has that quarterback, his teams are very, very dangerous. White guided the Mountaineers to within a game (that humiliating 2007 loss to Pittsburgh) of a national championship berth. Robinson, for whatever reason, has chosen this moment to start channeling White.

Maybe we were all too impatient. Maybe the NCAA investigation sped the skepticism. Yeah, maybe, but going 8-16 in his first two seasons had a lot to do with Rodriguez's job security being the No. 1 story.

It's enough that Michigan-Notre Dame matters more than it did before Saturday. One of the teams is going to emerge next week with bigger goals than anyone would have predicted. The Irish apparently have a running game and a defense. Dayne Crist, making his first career start, was effective (19 of 26, 205 yards) but it was the old-fashioned stuff that gave Domers hope. Sophomore Cierre Wood (8.3 yards per carry) could be the next big thing. Armando Allen ran for 93 yards.

Dodd's Power Poll
1. Alabama
2. Boise State
3. Ohio State
4. TCU
5. Florida
6. Texas
7. Wisconsin
8. Oklahoma
9. Iowa
10. Oregon
11. Nebraska
12. Virginia Tech
13. Florida State
14. Miami
15. USC
16. Georgia Tech
17. Pittsburgh
18. Auburn
19. Arkansas
20. Penn State
21. LSU
22. Michigan
23. West Virginia
24. Georgia
25. Utah

But it's the defense that gives hope to a long-term, realistic Notre Dame comeback. Brian Kelly's offense ran only 27 plays and held the ball for only 11:47 in the second half (only 24:55 for the game). The defense chipped in with four sacks and two interceptions.

"We're going to take the next step," Notre Dame nose guard Ian Williams said, "against Michigan next weekend."

A three-day old Heisman race:

1. Denard Robinson, Michigan: (See above).

2. Daniel Thomas, Kansas State: Arguably the Big 12's best offensive player ran for 234 yards and two touchdowns vs. UCLA.

3. Patrick Peterson, LSU: In his first game as a returner, Peterson posted a school-record 257 return yards and a touchdown against depleted North Carolina.

4. Kenyon Barner, Oregon: Who needs LaMichael James? Barner had 225 total yards and five total touchdowns (four rushing) against New Mexico.

5. Ryan Mallett, Arkansas: Missed only 2 of 23 throws, throwing for three touchdowns against Tennessee Tech. You paying attention, 'Bama?

The other BCS buster: Don't sleep on TCU. With all the attention focused on Boise State, the sixth-ranked Horned Frogs won a gutty 30-21 grinder from Oregon State. If the Broncos lose Monday, consider that TCU's schedule is at least slightly stronger than Boise State's.

As for Heisman campaigns, quarterback Andy Dalton got the win and not much else. He threw five interceptions in all of the 2009 regular season. In his past two games -- January's Fiesta Bowl and Saturday -- he has matched that number, two coming against Oregon State.

Is the SEC East suddenly wide open? Five teams not named Florida hope it is. Michael Pouncey had trouble snapping the ball, which is kind of important when you're the center. There were eight fumbles, four of them on bobbled snaps in an unimpressive 34-12 victory over Miami. Yeah, the one with parentheses around Ohio.

"I take full credit for messing up the whole offense," Pouncey said. "It was all on me."

Meanwhile, the East got slightly more interesting. Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee each posted impressive wins.

Bold Bolden: Yes, it was only a win over Youngstown State but Penn State true freshman quarterback Robert Bolden had only been named the starter four days before. With Nit Nation looking on and 'Bama up next, Bolden threw for 239 yards and two touchdowns.

College Football -- Week 1
Related links

Glad the Jeremiah Masoli battle was worth it: You might have heard Ole Miss blew a 21-point lead at home to I-AA Jacksonville State in one of the program's worst losses. Yeah, it really happened. Masoli is in his third program since high school. His current team was beaten by a freshman, Jacksonville State's Coty Blanchard.

Curiously, there were no updates on Jeremiah Masoli.net as of Sunday morning.

Take heart, Ole Miss. It could be worse: Thank goodness Kansas isn't wearing its names on its jerseys under new coach Turner Gill. The Jayhawks want to be anonymous after a 6-3 loss to I-AA North Dakota State. They're calling it the worst loss in Kansas history, which is saying something.

The Jayhawks have been to two major bowls in the past 42 years. Apparently, there won't be a third this season.

Who didn't figure this? Oklahoma needed a late interception from Jamell Fleming to beat Utah State 31-24.

"No disrespect to Utah State," tailback DeMarco Murray said, "but they should have never been that close to us."

Tell it to North Dakota State and Jacksonville State.

Dead duck: Oregon's Duck mascot traditionally does pushups after every Oregon score, matching the number of points on the board. After the Ducks' 72-0 win over New Mexico, the Duck checked in with a reported 506 pushups. Is it possible to stick an IV in a mascot?

Instead of being a distraction in the student section, Taylor Swift gets a closer look from the sideline. (AP)  
Instead of being a distraction in the student section, Taylor Swift gets a closer look from the sideline. (AP)  
Celebrity watch: Notre Dame is affiliated with a rather famous deity. Now it has its first official star of the Brian Kelly era. The Chicago Tribune reported that country artist Taylor Swift wanted to sit in the student section Saturday against Purdue. Her brother Austin is a freshman at ND.

The school said that wasn't a good idea -- crowd surfing with Taylor? -- and gave her a sideline pass. At a place that oozes celebrity on a game-to-game basis, Swift is now the country star idol for the rock star coach (Kelly).

As the clock wound down in Notre Dame's 23-12 victory over Purdue, a car pulled into the tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium and whisked Swift away before she could even think about that crowd surfing.


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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