Posted on: September 25, 2011 3:34 am
Edited on: September 25, 2011 3:36 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
1. Oregon is still really, really good. The Ducks will take some heat from other parts of the country but there's no denying that they're still a great team and one that admirably lost to an LSU squad that could be the best in the country. The defense isn't quite there yet but the offense is starting to hit its groove as both Darron Thomas and LaMichael James are looking better than they did last year at times. This isn't a team that has put everything together - yet - but it's getting there. A notice to the rest of the Pac-12: the Ducks are running right at you.
2. So long USC, hello Arizona State. Just when it looked like the Trojans might be able to win the South division (without really winning the South division thanks to sanctions), Matt Barkley turned the ball over three times himself and USC collapsed under the weight of the Sun Devils' defense. Everybody thought this would be Dennis Erickson's year and it looked like the team was easily a top 25 team after beating Missouri. But they regressed when they went on the road for the first time and lost to Illinois. Now though, despite all the injuries, it looks like things are clicking on both sides of the ball. They may not be as flashy as Oregon nor can they execute as well as Stanford, but ASU looks like they're definitely the best team in the South.
3. Oregon State is really, really bad. Sure, the Beavers lost to lowly Sacramento State to open the season and got rolled by Wisconsin. But that was without their do everything-threat James Rodgers and tight end Joe Halahuni. Even against a team like UCLA, with plenty of issues themselves, adding both players wasn't close to enough as the Beavers fell to 0-3 for the first time since 1996. It's still unclear if they have a quarterback after redshirt freshman Sean Mannion went 24-40 passes for 287 yards but was intercepted and had a costly fumble returned for a score. There's little to no consistency and execution one would expect from a Mike Riley coached team is just not there.
4. Cal and Washington will be two tough outs, especially the Huskies. The non-conference slate for both teams didn't really give us a chance to figure out how each would be this season but after the two squared off in Seattle, it's clear neither will be a push over in league play. That's not to say they won't be blown out a few times but both are good on offense and ok enough on defense to get into some shootouts. Keith Price has had no problem running things, nearly hitting the 300 yard passing mark while tossing three touchdowns on Saturday to lead the Huskies to their best start since 2006. Cal still has to work on late game execution but the Zach Maynard to Keenan Allen connection will be something every defensive coordinator will have to game plan for.
5. Still a long way to go for Colorado. Head coach Jon Embree earned his first win last week but getting his second will be a much more difficult task. The Buffaloes had not won a road game since Oct. 27, 2007 and while it was unlikely they were going to break the streak at the Horseshoe, they hardly looked competitive. Tyler Hansen was solid and didn't throw any picks but the offense still lost two fumbles in the first half and had nine penalties to go on top of a host of other gaffes. If they can't improve on their execution, it will be a long, long season in Boulder.
Tags: Arizona State, Bryan Fischer, Bryan Fischer, Cal, Colorado, Darron Thomas, Dennis Erickson, Illinois, James Rodgers, Joe Halahuni, Jon Embree, Keenan Allen, Keith Price, LaMichael James, LSU, Matt Barkley, Mike Riley, Missouri, Oregon, Oregon State, Pac-12, Sacramento State, Sean Mannion, Stanford, Tyler Hansen, UCLA, USC, USC, Washington, What I learned, Wisconsin, Zach Maynard
Posted on: September 25, 2011 2:34 am
Edited on: September 25, 2011 2:34 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
OREGON WON. No surprise but Chip Kelly's squad came into Tuscon and pushed around an Arizona team that was in the middle of a brutal stretch of games. Six of the Ducks' seven touchdown drives lasted less than three minutes as they were in control of the game from start to finish. Quarterback Darron Thomas passed for two scores and ran for two more as he directed the offense to perfection.
HOW OREGON WON: In their previous three games, Oregon got the bulk of their scoring and offense through the air. Against Arizona, they gashed Mike Stoops' defense for 516 yards, 415 of which were on the ground. LaMichael James put up the video game numbers we're used to seeing from him, rushing for 290 yards and 2 touchdowns.
WHEN OREGON WON: The Ducks had 212 yards rushing at halftime and were in control throughout most of the first half. The Wildcats put together a good drive near the end of the 2nd quarter and scored a touchdown, followed by a successful onside kick. Arizona kept sticking around during the second half until Thomas led an eight play, 75 yard drive late in the third that pretty much put the game away.
WHAT OREGON WON: Yet another Pac-12 conference game, their 13th in a row to be precise. While they may take heat for struggling against SEC competition, Oregon is the new USC in terms of being the team everybody is not looking forward to playing. The North title still looks like it will come down to a road trip to Stanford and the Ducks did nothing to suggest otherwise.
WHAT ARIZONA LOST: Just another game as part of a brutal four game stretch against Oklahoma State (loss), Stanford (loss), Oregon (loss) and USC (in Los Angeles next week). There's some talent on this team, especially on offense, but it hasn't been consistent and put everything together. With the 1-3 start, the hot seat for Stoops will continue to get warmer.
THAT WAS CRAZY: James set a school record for career touchdowns scored after running up the middle for 12 yards on the Ducks' opening drive. He also set school records for rushing (288 yards) and all-purpose yards (363) on the night. For someone who was a Heisman finalist a year ago, James continues to add his name to the record books more than a few times as he cements himself in Ducks lore.
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Posted on: September 19, 2011 11:18 am
Edited on: September 19, 2011 12:47 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
A longtime Floridian told me Friday he couldn't remember the last time the state was the center of college football like it was this past weekend. Sure there have been big games and plenty of teams in championship contention, but it's hard to think of a time when each corner of the state had a big primetime match up. Equally surprising, he said, was that traditional rivalry Florida-Tennessee was only the third most interesting game on the docket.
The spotlight was indeed on the Sunshine State and things couldn't have gone better for the most part. At the northern end, number one Oklahoma rolled into Tallahassee to play Florida State and there were moments when you genuinely stopped and said, "FSU's back." A loss is a loss but the way the Noles played was encouraging.
The storyline coming out the game seems to be all about Big Game Bob Stoops' team getting their first non-conference road victory over a top-five team in over three decades. The Sooners were gritty, responding to scores like a top-ranked and championship team should. Quarterback Landry Jones had several clutch throws and it seemed like linebacker Tom Wort was making every other play on defense. Oklahoma looked the part and survived with a victory.
The key word being survived. Yes their road woes are well documented but the reason the game was close - closer than most thought - was that Florida State looked the part of a top five team as well. For three quarters at least, it was a knockdown, drag out fight between two high profile head coaches. After FSU freshman Rashad Greene caught a beautiful 56 yard touchdown pass to tie the game, Doak Campbell was rocking. As more than one writer said on Twitter, it was partying like it was 1999.
One wonders what might have been had quarterback E.J. Manuel not gotten hurt. Could he have pulled off the upset? Who knows? But the biggest take away was the defense held an explosive, veteran-laden OU offense to just 23 points and showed they are close to having the athletes at every position like they used too when things were rolling. They were kids last year in Norman and it took less than a year for them to grow up into men. The offense still needs some work - especially along the line - but the defense should help carry the Seminoles through ACC play.
Jimbo Fisher has Florida State making waves on the recruiting trail and there are plenty of signs that the on the field product is coming along as well. The next step is winning games like the one on Saturday but, by all indications, that's coming. Party like it's 1999 indeed.
A couple hours down the road in Gainesville, two teams showed they still need work if they're to take the next step. It looked like Florida was going to run away with the game up 30-7 late in the third but the defense seemed to take the foot off the accelerator. For the most part though, the defensive line was active and did a great job of shutting down the Vols' running game. Completely. Florida's defense held Tennessee to just -9 yards on the ground, the third best mark in the country so far. The offense took a hit once receiver Justin Hunter went down but it was the young offensive line that just couldn't handle the pressure Florida was generating.
All-purpose threat Chris Rainey was everywhere Saturday for the Gators' offense. He had 233 all-purpose yards and recorded his fifth career blocked punt. The Gators are still adjusting to Charlie Weis' offense and Will Muschamp's defense but Rainey is a constant playmaker that the team will have to lean on as they get into the thick of the SEC schedule. Is this team in the same class as Alabama or LSU? Not even close. But there's enough there on both sides of the ball to put up a fight with Georgia and South Carolina for the East title.
Further South, some observers would have had no issue with vacating the Ineligibowl. It just wasn't a pretty game. Ohio State was a step slow all night and Miami struggled on offense outside of their scoring drives to open and close the game. Both teams got back several players from NCAA suspension and Miami's certainly made the difference in the game: Jacory Harris was efficient outside of two boneheaded interceptions and linebacker Sean Spence truly transformed the defense into a much stouter unit that was able to apply pressure on nearly every snap.
Sophomore running back Lamar Miller set the tone early with a big run on the first play of the game en his way to a career night that made him the fourth leading rusher in the country at 151.5 yards per game. There's plenty of talent on this team to get nine or so wins but there's still moments when the Hurricanes revert to last year's form and make a boneheaded mistake. It will be curious to see how they use this game as a momentum builder going forward. At full strength and with some confidence, the Hurricanes have a little bit of swagger back.
On the other side, Ohio State is lacking an identity and has to figure out their quarterback position and do so soon. The Buckeyes have no clue about what kind of team they want to be and there could be some doubt amongst the players about head coach Luke Fickell if post game comments are to be believed.
"I felt like me and Jordan (Hall) were doing a great job in the run game, so I felt we should have just come out and ran at them," tailback Carlos Hyde told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "We should have manned up and ran straight at them, see if they could stop us."
Also, don't overlook the other game in Miami on Saturday: FIU following up it's big win over Louisville with a solid victory over in-state foe UCF to start 3-0 on the season. Many had pegged the Knights as a possible BCS buster at the beginning of the season so for FIU to knock them off does wonders for a program that was the definition of a rebuilding job just a few years ago. Yes it's a Sun Belt team but with the schedule like it is, don't be surprised if FIU keeps things rolling. The defense recorded six sacks against UCF and did a great job the week before against the Cardinals. Plus they did everything without all-everything star T.Y. Hilton, who missed most of the game with a hamstring injury. Take note, the program in the state with the most upside is the one that's not in a BCS conference.
The state of Florida won't be the center of the college football universe like it was this past weekend for some time. But while it was, it delivered.
Stat of the week
Auburn's win streak was snapped at 17 games by Clemson on Saturday, which was the longest in the nation. It was the 10th longest streak in the past decade and amazingly, 10 of the 17 games were decided by eight points or less. Stanford now has the longest win streak in the country with 11, just two seasons removed from a losing record and five seasons away from the school's 1-11 mark.
Biggest reason why the Tigers' streak ended? They're 117th in total defense, 100th in pass defense, 116th in rush defense, 107th in scoring defense and dead last in the country in third down stops. Yikes.
Other stats of note
- Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege broke the NCAA record for highest completion percentage for 40 or more completions in a game. He completed 40 of 44 against New Mexico for a healthy 90.1 percent clip. He also hit 15 passes in a row at one point, tying a school record on his way to a 401 yard and five touchdown day.
- Kellen Moore's 457 yards of offense against Toledo was third most in the country this year and he averaged nearly 10.39 yards a play. His completion percentage on the season is at a remarkable 78.9 percent.
- With the loss to LSU on Thursday, Dan Mullen fell to 2-10 versus the SEC West as head coach at Mississippi State. Both wins are over rival Ole Miss. While the Bulldogs have been much more competitive under Mullen, they still haven't quite gotten over the hump just yet. He was 8-6 against the West while an assistant at Florida.
- There are beat downs and there's what Missouri did against Western Illinois. The Tigers defense allowed just one first down and 44 total yards on the day while the offense rolled up 744 total yards to set a school record that had been set just after World War II. Tailback Henry Josey ran for 263 yards and three touchdowns, the most in a game this season. The mark was also good enough to move him into sixth place on the national rushing list.
- Of the five players to top 200 yards rushing in a game so far this year, three did so on Saturday (Josey, Marcus Lattimore and LaMichael James).
- Georgia Tech's game against Kansas was pretty amazing to take a look at after the fact. The game delivered the longest run from scrimmage of the season (Orwin Smith went 95 yards for a touchdown), featured two 100 yard rushers and had five players with over 70 yards on the ground. The Yellow Jackets also piled up a school-record 768 total yards, 604 of them via the running game. The 12.1 yards per rush also set an NCAA record for highest in a game.
- Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly has games with 18, 17 and 23 tackles to lead the nation in that category. His 58 total tackles are 19 more than the next player.
- Jeff Fuller became Texas A&M's all-time receptions leader against Idaho while Cyrus Gray topped the 100 yard mark rushing for the ninth time in a row.
- Via senior writer Bruce Feldman, Baylor's Robert Griffin III has eight touchdowns and just eight incompletions.
- Impressive, impressive comeback by Iowa from down 24-3 in the 3rd quarter to Pitt. James Vanderberg has been a little underrated early in the season in the face of replacing a longtime starter and doing so with plenty of fresh faces around him. The junior quarterback is 31st in the country in passing efficiency and 25th in total offense after Saturday's game in which he had several impressive throws in the second half in route to a 399 yard and three touchdown day. The lack of a running game has to be concerning if you're Kirk Ferentz, especially as the begin Big Ten play in two weeks with a trip to Penn State. A heck of a comeback but it's apparent there's plenty of flaws in the Hawkeyes.
- Why hello there Sammy Watkins. While it has taken some time for the Clemson offense to adjust to Chad Morris' new system, Watkins has been an explosive playmaker for the Tigers they really haven't had since C.J. Spiller left for the NFL. Yes it was against a porous Auburn defense, but this week was Watkins' coming out party to the nation with 10 catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns. He shows an explosiveness you just can't teach whenever he gets the ball in his hands and was the spark that allowed Clemson to turn things around. A former five-star recruit, he was ranked behind fellow Tiger frosh Charone Peake coming out of high school by Maxpreps which should give you some indication what kind of young nucleus Dabo Swinney has assembled when you add in running back Mike Bellamy and quarterback Tajh Boyd. Speaking of Swinney, he channeled his inner-Howard Dean in his post game remarks on television.
- Al Golden didn't leave the cupboard bare at Temple as the Owls almost beat Penn State for the first time since Joe Paterno started coaching in Happy Valley. Despite giving up the lead late, Steve Addazio's club showed they can play with bigger and stronger team and should have no problem contending for a MAC championship this year.
- Kudos to James Franklin and what he's been able to do with Vanderbilt. After a close, 4th quarter win against defending Big East champ UConn, the Commodores embarrassed Ole Miss on Saturday 30-7. Franklin has really gotten the team and the rest of the community to buy into what he's building there and it's starting to pay off with the team's 3-0 start. Quarterback Larry Smith isn't sharp enough in the passing game yet but the offense is moving the chains on the ground and playing good defense - they're currently 10th in the country in total D. Things will get much tougher as they head on the road to face South Carolina and Alabama but with home games against Army and Kentucky and a date with Wake Forest, bowl eligibility is possible in Franklin's first year.
- It looked like West Virginia finally started to get their rushing attack going against Maryland this weekend. Geno Smith is putting up great numbers from the quarterback position but head coach Dana Holgorsen knows that if the team wants to win the Big East - or beat LSU this week - they're going to have to be able to run the ball. Whether the answer at tailback is Vernard Roberts or Andrew Buie still remains to be seen but it can't just be all Smith, all the time. Tavon Austin is a dynamic threat who adds a few wrinkles but there still needs to be a consistent rushing attack so the defense can't play nickel the entire game. The Mountaineers did have an impressive three players top the 100 yard receiving mark last Saturday though.
- It was not pretty at the Rose Bowl as critics briefly turned their attention from overrating Texas to remarking on how hot UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel's seat is. He's an alum who probably cares more about the program winning than anyone there yet there's been hardly any progress to show for it. The defense was supposed to be much better this year and strength of the team but it was anything but in the blowout loss to the Longhorns. Case McCoy (with a little David Ash mixed in) appears to be the answer for UT at quarterback and freshman tailback Malcolm Brown showed flashes on his way to a 110 yard day.
- I am not a believer in Nebraska's defense after playing Washington last week but they'll still do just enough to make it to the title game in their first year in the Big Ten. Still, the effort against the Huskies had a lot to be desired of a top 10 team.
- After returning from Sun Life Stadium late in the Miami night, I was surprised to find out there was not one, but two football games on and I managed to stay up for Oklahoma State-Tulsa late, late, late into the night. I couldn't believe they kicked off after midnight local time, much less that Brandon Weeden was still throwing to Justin Blackmon late in the fourth quarter - and well past 3 AM Central - with the game well in hand. Mike Gundy is not only a man, he's all in on this Cowboys team it appears. All or nothing, this is the most talented squad since Barry Sanders was in Stillwater and everybody is onboard. Why Gundy still had his stars on the field that late in the game for a blowout continues to baffle me however.
- I thought Navy's offense in the middle of the season always spelled trouble for teams that weren't ready for it - especially those coming off an emotional victory like South Carolina. The Midshipmen had a chance late but ultimately the Gamecocks ended up winning 24-21 thanks to a last minute interception. As one head coach told me, you schedule option offenses early or play them in a bowl game or else you'll end up upset. South Carolina wasn't upset but they nearly were with the way they played.
- I couldn't believe the score when I first saw it but here it was, Utah 54, BYU 10. A week ago in the Coliseum, I saw the dejected faces on the Utes sideline as their rally came up short against USC. I thought it would be another tough battle in the Holy War but the Utes smacked everybody around Saturday. Don't count out Utah as representing the Pac-12 South with USC ineligible for the title game and Arizona State still Arizona State.
- Kudos also go out to Wyoming, who blocked Bowling Green's extra point to win 28-27. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat…
Quote of the week
Craig James during LSU-Mississippi State: "You play four quarters in the SEC."
Tweet of the week
Myself following the second ESPN account to feature the word Genocide in place of West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. Not a bad nickname if he keeps putting up passing numbers in Dana Holgorsen's offense however.
"Company-wide memo about Geno & autocorrect on Monday. RT @McShay13: WVU QB Genocide Smith off to a fast start."
My top 10 after week 2:
4. Boise State
7. Texas A&M
8. Oklahoma State
9. Florida State
Where we'll be this week
Tony Barnhart will be at the big Arkansas-Alabama game, Dennis Dodd will be in College Station for the top 10 matchup between Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. Brett McMurphy gets another great game this weekend, showing up at LSU-West Virginia Saturday night.
Leaning this way
Arkansas-Alabama: The secondary for Alabama will be flying around and turnovers will doom an explosive Arkansas offense.
Oklahoma State-Texas A&M: The Aggies defense is underrated but this game will still be a shootout. The home crowd will give them the edge in a close one.
LSU vs. West Virginia: LSU's defense is just too much late in the game for Dana Holgorsen's offense to break through.
Across the goal line
I was going to write about conference expansion in this space but figured things would change by the time I finished writing the final paragraph.
Tags: ACC, Al Golden, Alabama, Andrew Buie, Arizona State, Arkansas, Army, Auburn, Barry Sanders, Baylor, BCS, Big 12, Big East, Big East, Big Ten, Big Ten, Bob Stoops, Boise State, Boston College, Bowling Green, Brandon Weeden, Brett McMurphy, Bruce Feldman, Bryan Fischer, BYU, C.J. Spiller, Carlos Hyde, Case McCoy, Chad Morris, Charlie Weis, Charone Peake, Chris Rainey, Clemson, Craig James, Cyrus Gray, Dabo Swinney, Dan Mullen, Dana Holgorsen, David Ash, Dennis Dodd, Doak Campbell, EJ Manuel, FIU, Florida, Florida State, Geno Smith, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Henry Josey, Idaho, Iowa, Jacory Harris, James Franklin, James Vanderberg, Jeff Fuller, Jimbo Fisher, Joe Paterno, Justin Blackmon, Kansas, Kellen Moore, Kentucky, Kirk Ferentz, Lamar Miller, LaMichael James, Landry Jones, Larry Smith, Louisville, LSU, Luke Fickell, Luke Kuechly, MAC, Malcolm Brown, Marcus Lattimore, Maryland, Miami, Mike Bellamy, Mike Gundy, Mississippi State, Missorui, Navy, NCAA, Nebraksa, New Mexico, NFL, Non-BCS, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Orwin Smith, Pac-12, Penn State, Pitt, Rashad Greene, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Griffin III, Rose Bowl, Sammy Watkins, Sean Spence, SEC, Seth Doege, South Carolina, Stanford, Steve Addazio, Sun Belt, Sun Life Stadium, Surveying the Field, T.Y. Hilton, Tajh Boyd, Temple, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Toldeo, Tom Wort, Tony Barnhart, Travon Austin, Tulsa, UCF, UCLA, UConn, USC, Utah, Vanderbilt, Vernard Roberts, Wake Forest, Washington, West Virginia, Will Muschamp, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Posted on: September 17, 2011 1:09 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2011 1:09 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
So much for just being able to enjoy a Saturday of college football. Along with the latest in conference expansion from CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy, Oregon also released a statement on Saturday morning saying that it has received a Notice of Inquiry from the NCAA.
“This notice has been anticipated and is simply the next stage of the process,” said Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens in the statement. “The University of Oregon football program, from Head Coach Chip Kelly through the entire organization, has tremendous respect for the NCAA’s important role in monitoring collegiate athletics and, to this end, continues to fully cooperate with the NCAA ‘s ongoing examination.
“The Athletic Department, Coach Kelly and the entire staff remain committed to operating the athletics program consistent with the highest standards and ensuring our program follows best practices.”
While Oregon wouldn't get into details in the release, this is related to the school's connection to Willie Lyles and his scouting service. Oregon originally paid Lyles $25,000 for scouting reports on high school recruits that was reportedly two years old at the time. Some have speculated that rather than pay for Lyles' scouting reports, Oregon was paying Lyles for his influence with recruits like LaMichael James and Lache Seastrunk.
In fact, Lyles himself has said that was the case.
As for what this Letter of Inquiry means for Oregon at the moment, the truth is not much. At least, not yet. It's merely the NCAA's way of letting a school know that it has begun investigating the school.
Posted on: September 10, 2011 7:18 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
OREGON WON. It appears that if you don't have more than a month or an offseason to prepare for the Oregon attack on offense then you don't have much of a chance to stop it. Oregon returned home after having its wings clipped by LSU last week and took out all its frustration on Nevada. And I mean all of it's frustration. The Ducks were up 34-0 in the blink of an eye, and Darron Thomas threw 5 touchdowns in the first half. The Oregon offense would finish with 603 yards, and Thomas would finish the game with 6 touchdowns and 295 yards. This is also where I point out that Thomas only completed 13 passes and 6 of them were for scores.
WHY OREGON WON. Too much speed and too much talent for Nevada to contend with. Darron Thomas wasn't the only Duck to finish with a ridiculous statline, as De'Anthony Thomas -- he of the fumble-itis last week -- finished the game with 204 all-purpose yards and 2 touchdowns. LaMichael James pitched in another 181 all-purpose yards and 3 touchdowns of his own. In fact, all three of them may have just scored again even though the game is over.
WHEN OREGON WON. When Colin Kaepernick graduated last season and went on to the NFL. Make no mistake about it, this is not the same Nevada team that beat Boise State last season, as a lot of the team's best players from that team were not on the field today. Though, to be honest, I'm not sure how much of an impact they'd have had in this game if they were.
WHAT OREGON WON. The Ducks got their groove back. The team had lost its last two games dating back to January's title game against Auburn, and the offense did not look incredibly strong in either game. Well, after Saturday's win the Ducks are flying high once again and ready to hang 60 on their next opponent.
WHAT NEVADA LOST. I'm not sure what you'd call it, but I'm pretty sure there isn't a member of this Nevada squad that will ever be able to take a peaceful stroll through a park with ducks swimming on a pond again.
THAT WAS CRAZY. Nothing too insane took place in this one, though being able to remember what it looks like when the Oregon offense is at 100% is enough to make you not believe what you're seeing.
Posted on: September 9, 2011 3:02 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet. Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.
Admittedly the menu this week is not as artery-clogging as last week's, but that's probably a good thing. After the five-day all-you-can-eat buffet that was the first week of the season, we should all eat a bit lighter this week. Of course, just because we won't be feasting on meals guaranteed to shorten our life spans, that doesn't mean there aren't some tasty entrees at our disposal.
Let's take a look at what we have to dine on this Saturday.
#8 Wisconsin vs. Oregon State - ESPN 12pm ET
It's hard to imagine two seasons starting in such opposite directions. Oregon State dropped an overtime thriller to Sacramento State, while Wisconsin breezed to victory over UNLV. If these teams play at the same level tomorrow, this could be a historic blowout. And we all like watching touchdowns by the bucket, don't we? - Adam Jacobi
#17 Michigan State vs. FAU - ESPN2 12pm ET
Howard Schnellenberger's five-game road trip to kick off his farewell season rolls into Detroit to face a Spartan team looking to rebound from a sluggish start. This was supposed to be a home game for FAU, but with the $70-million stadium in Boca Raton still under construction the contest was moved to Ford Field. After coaching from the press box last week due to complications from hip surgery, Schnellenberger will return to the sideline and try to inspire more than 137 yards of offense for the Owls. Michigan State fans will also want to see more cohesion out of the Spartans, who committed eight penalties and never really hit their stride against an inferior Youngstown State squad. - Chip Patterson
Auburn vs. #16 Mississippi State - SEC Network 12:21pm ET
It won't have the divisional title implications of the Georgia-South Carolina matchup, but both the Tigers and Bulldogs will be fighting every bit as tooth-and-nail for a victory here as their Eastern counterparts will later in the day. Dan Mullen's State team wants to cement its status as a legitimate West division factor but simply can't without a win over the brutally inexperienced Tigers; Auburn, meanwhile, is in desperate danger of being branded a one-year wonder if they follow up their escape from Utah State with a loss in one of the most winnable games on their SEC slate. - Jerry Hinnen
#23 Penn State vs. #3 Alabama - ABC 3:30pm ET
If Penn State fans want some respect from the national media for this team, the Nittany Lions are going to have to earn it on the national stage, hosting No. 2 Alabama. The Tide is loaded again this year, but like PSU, there's some QB drama at Bama. Watch to see if McCarron or whoever else the Tide throws out there on Saturday can handle what promises to be a maniacally loud Beaver Stadium. - AJ
#13 Oregon vs. Nevada - FX 3:30pm ET
After getting embarrassed by LSU's defense in the opener, I expect Mark Helfrich to have the attack meter all the way turned up against the Wolf Pack. Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, and Co. have not derailed from their 2010 form, it just seems these massive SEC defenses are the Ducks' kryptonite. After a frustrating loss, coaches will want to take advantage of every single snap against their next opponent. You will want to watch this game because Oregon will put the foot on the gas pedal (Cliff Harris!) and never let up for four quarters. - CP
Air Force vs. #25 TCU - Versus 3:30pm ET
You can be sure that TCU didn't exactly enjoy having the entire country see Baylor tear its defense apart last Friday, and the unit is going to look to save some face against Air Force on Saturday afternoon. This game will also mark the beginning of the final year of Mountain West conference play for the Horned Frogs, and I'm sure they'd like to go out with quite a bang. - Tom Fornelli
Georgia vs. #12 South Carolina - ESPN 4:30pm ET
Well, this is it: the defining game of Mark Richt's Georgia tenure. Lose it, and any shred of momentum from the "Dream Team" offseason or hope of a divisional title (most likely) is gone. Win it, and the Dawgs suddenly sit in the East catbird seat with the SEC's easiest schedule on tap. It's either the miserable end for one of the sport's most visible coaches, or the giddy start to a stunning reclamation project, with no in-between ... and Stephen Garcia's involved, too. A must-watch. - JH
#24 Texas vs. BYU - ESPN2 7pm ET
The Big 12 of the future! Does BYU win the game in hopes of gaining a Big 12 invite, or does it show its true Big 12 street cred by allowing Texas to walk all over it? Tune in to find out! Seriously, though, this will be a much better indication of how improved Texas is this year than last week's game against Rice. BYU is fresh off a nice road win against Ole Miss and should provide a much tougher test for the Longhorns. - TF
USC vs. Utah - Versus 7:30pm ET
The Pac-12 officially kicks off conference play and it should be a good one as former BCS busters Utah will try and prove they can play with the conference's most storied program from the get-go. USC's record-setting pair of quarterback Matt Barkley and wide receiver Robert Woods won't have much time to throw the ball around as the Utes have a very good front seven this year. Old friend Norm Chow also returns to the Coliseum, this time with a solid quarterback in Jordan Wynn, so it should be a fun league opener. - Bryan Fischer
Michigan vs. Notre Dame - ESPN 8pm ET
The first night game in the history of the Big House has plenty to offer everyone. How will Michigan's defense perform this week now that it might have to play an entire 60 minutes, and do so against a Notre Dame offense that features a lot more weapons than Western Michigan's did. Also, will Denard Robinson have an encore performance of his game against the Irish last year? That's the one that made him a household name last September when he accounted for 502 yards of total offense and 3 touchdowns. - TF
LATE NIGHT SNACK
UCLA vs. San Jose State - 10pm ET
Rick Neuheisel cares. He might be the only one at UCLA who cares, but he really does care passionately about his alma matter. The Bruins hope to turn things around after their disappointing loss to Houston in which the defense looked like a mess. San Jose State isn't the most appealing opponent but it's the only late night game on Saturday and the Bruins should get the offense going no matter who's in the backfield. - BF
Tags: Adam Jacobi, Air Force, Alabama, Auburn, Baylor, Big 12, Big Ten, Bryan Fischer, BYU, Chip Patterson, Cliff Harris, Dan Mullen, Darron Thomas, Denard Robinson, FAU, Georgia, Howard Schnellenberger, Jerry Hinnen, Jordan Wynn, LaMichael James, LSU, Mark Helfrich, Mark Richt, Matt Barkley, Michigan, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Mountain West, MWC, Nevada, Norm Chow, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Oregon, Oregon, Pac-12, Penn State, Rice, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Woods, Sacramento State, San Jose State, Saturday Meal Plan, SEC, South Carolina, Stephen Garcia, TCU, Texas, Tom Fornelli, UCLA, UNLV, USC, Utah, Utah State, WAC, Western Michigan, Wisconsin, Youngstown State
Posted on: September 6, 2011 8:29 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2011 8:31 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
It was a rough week for the Pac-12, certainly not what Larry Scott had hoped for in the first (and perhaps only) year of the new twelve team league. Oregon was embarrassed in the featured game of the week, UCLA had issues with Houston in the afternoon, USC didn't impress against Minnesota and, oh yeah, Oregon State lost to an FCS foe. This week could be a make or break week for some in the conference and also could give everybody some clarity in how the South division will sort out with Utah traveling to Los Angeles to play USC in the first ever conference game.
But at least we actually got to see everybody play someone other than themselves so it's a bit easier to figure out how they fall in the Top 25. A look at the conference of champions in the latest AP and Coaches polls:
The Cardinal are the top team in the polls for the Pac-12 and it might be awhile before they face a stiff enough test to knock them from off their perch. They easily won their game against San Jose State, 57-3, and Andrew Luck did a good job of getting his new receivers the ball early. Running back Stepfan Taylor rushed for two touchdowns and most of the first team players on both sides of the ball played sparingly. Up next is a trip to Duke.
Quite the drop for the Ducks after the loss to LSU in Dallas. No, they didn't play very well and yes, it's a little concerning that they couldn't get the ground game going against another big SEC team but the drop should be temporary for Oregon. This is still a good football team who has a chance to run their way to the Rose Bowl and, keep in mind, it was a three point game against the Tigers at halftime. Running back LaMichael James needs to get going after posting just 54 yards against a stout defense. Nevada is up next in the Ducks' home opener.
NR/23. Arizona State
The Sun Devils are a borderline top 25 team according to the pollsters but certainly impressed last week against an overmatched UC Davis, winning 48-14. Running back Cameron Marshall looked good for the offense, catching the ball out of the back field four times for 86 yards and rushing for two touchdowns. The defense was as advertised, as linebacker Vontaze Burfict racked up thee sacks and - shockingly - didn't commit a single penalty. The real test comes this week as they'll host Missouri in a big Friday night matchup in the desert.
Others receiving votes:
Arizona State (119 points in the AP poll), USC (69 in the AP), Utah (24 in the AP/42 in the coaches), Arizona (5 in the AP, 28 in the coaches), Washington (3 in the coaches), Cal (1 in the coaches).
Tags: Andrew Luck, Arizona, Arizona State, Bryan Fischer, Cal, Cameron Marshall, Duke, FCS, Houston, LaMichael James, Larry Scott, LSU, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, Oregon State, Pac-12, Rose Bowl, San Jose State, Stanford, Stepfan Taylor, UC Davis, UCLA, USC, Utah, Vontaze Burfict, Washington
Posted on: September 4, 2011 2:00 am
Edited on: September 4, 2011 2:00 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
1. It was a rough week for the Pac-12.
The non-conference slate is usually something the Pac-12 takes pride in but Larry Scott would certainly like to forget week one of the season on the field and concentrate on expansion off of it. Record-wise, the conference did ok at 8-4. Look deeper however, and you'll see some serious flaws. Washington allowed their first ever FCS opponent to throw for 473 yards and three touchdowns on them before Desmond Trufant made a last minute interception. USC, too, held on thanks to a last minute pick and Oregon State lost to an average FCS team in Sacramento State. Rick Neuheisel's seat got warmer with a loss to Houston and, in the week's flagship game, Oregon got pushed around by an LSU team dealing multiple off the field issues. Yes other conferences struggled this weekend, and yes the Pac-12 can rebuild their reputation, but it was just not a great start to the 2011 season out West.
2. Stanford is the conference torch-bearer for now.
There's no question it will be extremely tough for Oregon to get back into the national title race given the back-to-back losses to SEC teams and the way they were manhandled in the opener. Is it impossible for them to end up in New Orleans? No, but it will be a long climb back to the top five to be in that position again. That leaves Stanford as the most likely Pac-12 representative that can make a run. They certainly have the quarterback as Andrew Luck spread the ball around to several new targets as the Cardinal rolled San Jose State 57-3. Their schedule looks even easier now too as they host Oregon and wrap up with an even more suspect Notre Dame team. They have the best player in the country and now it's their turn to lead the charge until the Ducks roll into Palo Alto for the head-to-head showdown to take it back from them.
3. Robert Woods is a special player.
After being limited throughout parts of spring practice and fall camp, it's clear that the Freshman All-American is a key cog in the USC offense. Woods caught a school-record 17 passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns and simply was the Trojans' offense against Minnesota. His quarterback was pretty sharp too, as Matt Barkley completed a school-record 34 passes despite an average-at-best offensive line in front of him. There were plenty of quick passes to Woods Saturday afternoon, but his burst and ability to break tackles are a good reason why he's wearing former great Steve Smith's number. The offense trailed off in the second half but if there's one bright spot for Lane Kiffin watching the film, it's that Woods is a star.
4. Where does Oregon State go from here?
Mike Riley didn't really know what kind of team he had this year and after week one, he really might not know. The Beavers played more freshmen in a game than they have in the last 16 years and even then, it's hard to figure out how they dropped their home opener to an FCS school that was 6-5 last season. It does appear that the team has found a replacement for Jacquizz Rodgers after true freshman Malcolm Agnew rushed for 223 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Ryan Katz was not sharp at all, completing 50 percent of his passes with an interception before being replaced at halftime. With so many question marks, Riley and company better figure some things out quickly as they'll travel to a very impressive Wisconsin team next week.
5. Why is Oregon throwing the ball so much?
Yes LSU's defense was good and yes, it was certainly swarming anytime an Oregon player touched the ball. That still doesn't explain why the Ducks couldn't run the ball Saturday night and Chip Kelly had Darron Thomas throw it an eye-popping 54 times. That was the most attempts by a quarterback on the team in over seven years. Seven. It's just not like Kelly's team to purposefully try to establish the run early and often either. Once they got behind you can understand them going to the air but rarely has the run-pass split been like it has been against LSU (and feel free to go back to last year against Auburn too). LaMichael James was held under 60 yards on the ground for his second straight game and it appeared he never could find daylight. Whether that's because he's a half-step slower or because the rebuilt offensive line couldn't create a hole is something the coaching staff will have to figure out. Bottom line, it has to be concerning to see Thomas drop back to throw as much as he did.
Tags: Andrew Luck, Bryan Fischer, Chip Kelly, Darron Thomas, Desmond Trufant, Houston, Jacquizz Rodgers, LaMichael James, Lane Kiffin, Larry Scott, LSU, Malcolm Agnew, Matt Barkley, Mike Riley, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Oregon, Oregon State, Pac-12, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Woods, Ryan Katz, Sacramento State, San Jose State, Stanford, Steve Smith, UCLA, USC, Washington, Wisconsin