Archive for September 2007

College Football Recap- Week 5

September 30, 2007

Late last night, I sat down in an attempt to formulate some version of my new Top 25 after what was probably the wackiest weekend of college football that I can ever remember. It just goes to show you why college football is so great, as a seemingly meaningless weekend of games almost completely devoid of matchups involving two ranked teams ended up giving us shocker after shocker after shocker. By the time it was all over, it was a virtual bloodbath, and five of my undefeated top ten were undefeated no longer. Four of them lost to teams that were completely off my radar and outside of my Top 50, which borders on unimaginable.

It began Friday night as South Florida football officially arrived. The Bulls knocked off West Virginia, a team with high hopes for a championship, for the second straight year. This one actually didn’t surprise me nearly as much as anything that happened Saturday, but looking back it certainly provided some nice foreshadowing. The craziness began early Saturday afternoon during the Oklahoma-Colorado game. I had my eye on it but wasn’t concentrating on it as it appeared Oklahoma was having a bit more of a challenge than in previous games, but it seemed fairly certain that the Sooners were still in control of the game. I started paying more attention when Colorado pulled within a touchdown and then was shocked to learn that the Buffs had tied the game at 24 late in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma failed to score on their next possession, and Colorado won the game with a clutch 44 yard field goal as time expired. If you had told me at that point that there would be three more upsets coming that would surprise me even more, I probably would have fallen off of my barstool. Amazingly, this was the only upset of the day in which the winner was the home team.

Meanwhile, Rutgers struggled in the first half against what is admittedly an underrated Maryland squad. They led narrowly at the half but I figured they were back on track. That obviously was not the case, as the Terrapins outscored them 20-7 in the second half to win in stunning fashion. But really, the two games that surprised me most were the home losses by Texas and Florida. I can’t decide which one was the most surprising, as you can make strong cases for either. I suppose what makes the Texas loss so hard to grasp is the manner in which they lost. The Longhorns haven’t exactly been playing good football all year, so I could have fathomed a narrow home loss. But to lose by 20 points? To Kansas State? At home? No way. The fact that Texas gave up 41 points to a seemingly mediocre Wildcat offense is not a good sign. Isn’t this supposed to be one of the nation’s strongest defenses? I guess not. Next week’s Red River battle went from being a virtual national semifinal to a game in which everyone will be intrigued only to determine who is more overrated.

Overall, I suppose I am most confused by Florida’s home loss to a struggling Auburn team who suffered early losses to the likes of Mississippi State and South Florida, although the latter is actually starting to appear to strengthen the Tigers’ credentials. This was the most exciting of the upsets, as Florida battled back from a 17-3 deficit (again, how did they only score three points in the first half?) to tie the game at 17 late in the fourth quarter. Then Auburn kicker Wes Byrum kicked the game-winning field goal not once, but twice, as officials determined that a timeout had been called just before the first kick went through the uprights. Byrum wasn’t phased, and knocked through another 43 yard kick to give Auburn a big win over Florida for the second straight year, this time in the Swamp. How can Florida possibly let this happen at home? I’m without words.

Lost in the shuffle was the chaotic mess that is the Big Ten. Penn State went from being everyone’s trendy pick to win the conference to looking decidely middle of the pack after a turnover-laced defeat at the hands of Illinois. Wisconsin continued its enigmatic run in a hilarious 37-34 victory over Michigan State in a game that everyone expected to be a 9-7 sleeper. Ohio State kept rolling and appears to be the team to beat, although the Buckeyes’ four I-A wins have come against opponents with a combined record of  7-13. Michigan seemed to be back on track last week after beating Penn State, but struggled mightily with Northwestern before pulling away in the fourth quarter. Purdue is still undefeated as well, although their defense, or lack thereof, poses concerns. And I have to mention my Hoosiers, who got a big win on the road against Iowa.

Looking at my new poll is a somewhat shocking exercise. While trying to realign the powers of the college football world, I paused for awhile after numbers one and two in disbelief. Then I realized that numbers one and two, while undeniably the cream of the crop right now, didn’t look very good yesterday either. The big games of next week lost a little luster, but still carry huge championship implications. This season is certainly shaping up into one where losing one game doesn’t eliminate a team from a shot at the title game. First, a look at next week’s action:

GAMES TO WATCH NEXT WEEK:

#11 Kentucky at #15 South Carolina, 6:30 PM CST, Thursday, ESPN: This game might have been meaningless last season, but right now has serious importance in the SEC East race. With Florida’s loss, Kentucky looks to advance its BCS hopes behind Heisman Candidate Andre Woodson’s leadership. Kentucky, BCS, Heisman… all sounds pretty strange doesn’t it? They’ll have a big test going into Gamecock country at night.

 #9 Oklahoma at #25 Texas, 2:30 PM CST, ABC: This doesn’t exactly hold all of the title implications that we all expected it to hold, although a BCS berth is still likely. And besides, it’s still one of the best rivalries in college sports. Both teams seem too unpredictable to even make this game predictable, and I’m curious to see who is going to step it up and prevail after both teams suffered crushing losses last week.

#17 Georgia at Tennessee, 2:30 PM CST, CBS: The Vols are a team that have kind of fallen off of everyone’s radars, but I haven’t given up on them quite yet, as the offense is loaded with talent. They’ll have a big chance to get back into the SEC race as the Bulldogs come to town.

#7 Virginia Tech at Clemson, 5:00 PM CST, ESPN: I believe Clemson showed its true colors last week losing at Georgia Tech, but they’ll have a chance to prove me wrong against Virginia Tech, a team that hasn’t yet lived up to the talent level that I think they possess.

#21 Cincinnati at #19 Rutgers, 6:00 PM CST, ESPN 2: I spent so much time talking about the three headed Big East monster of Rutgers, West Virginia and Louisville that I forgot to give any credit to Cincinnati and South Florida, and they’re the ones that are now battling for the conference crown. Rutgers doesn’t have any conference losses yet, and gets this big game at home.

#4 Ohio State at #21 Purdue, 7:00 PM CST, ESPN: The Buckeyes get their first big test as they enter Boiler country at night. This game should finally give us some idea as to what is what in the Big Ten. The most intriguing aspect of this one will be the strength of the Purdue offense going up against the stout Buckeye defense.

#5 Florida at #1 LSU, 7:00 PM CST, CBS: This is another one that was expected to be a battle of undefeated top three teams, but make mistake, this is still the marquee game of the day. LSU is well-positioned for a championship run, while the Gators will have to win this one to have any hope for defending their title. And again, there is nothing better than big-time SEC Football at night.

#14 Nebraska at #18 Missouri, 8:15 PM CST, ESPN 2: After Texas and Oklahoma battle it out to get back into the Big 12 South race, these two rebuilding programs will have it out to move into position for the Big 12 North championship and a shot at a BCS bowl game.

THE TOP 50 OF THE MATTY

  1. LSU (5-0)
  2. USC (4-0)
  3. California (5-0)
  4. Ohio State (5-0)
  5. Florida (4-1)
  6. Wisconsin (5-0)
  7. Virginia Tech (4-1)
  8. Boston College (5-0)
  9. Oklahoma (4-1)
  10. Hawaii (5-0)
  11. Kentucky (5-0)
  12. South Florida (4-0)
  13. West Virginia (4-1)
  14. Nebraska (4-1)
  15. South Carolina (4-1)
  16. Oregon (4-1)
  17. Georgia (4-1)
  18. Missouri (4-0)
  19. Rutgers (3-1)
  20. Arizona State (5-0)
  21. Purdue (5-0)
  22. Cincinnati (5-0)
  23. Auburn (3-2)
  24. Kansas State (3-1)
  25. Texas (4-1)
  26. Tennessee (2-2)
  27. Florida State (3-1)
  28. Georgia Tech (3-2)
  29. Michigan (3-2)
  30. Alabama (3-2)
  31. UCLA (4-1)
  32. Miami (4-1)
  33. Texas A & M (4-1)
  34. Kansas (4-0)
  35. Arkansas (2-2)
  36. Virginia (4-1)
  37. Clemson (4-1)
  38. Illinois (4-1)
  39. Penn State (3-2)
  40. Connecticut (5-0)
  41. Maryland (3-2)
  42. Colorado (3-2)
  43. Mississippi State (3-2)
  44. Central Florida (3-1)
  45. Oklahoma State (3-2)
  46. Texas Tech (3-2)
  47. Louisville (3-2)
  48. Tulsa (3-1)
  49. BYU (3-2)
  50. Washington (2-3)

HEISMAN RACE

  1. Andre Woodson, Kentucky
  2. Darren McFadden, Arkansas
  3. Mike Hart, Michigan
  4. DeSean Jackson, California
  5. Tim Tebow, Florida

WINE OF THE MONTH- September

September 27, 2007

While trying to decide on a wine to feature as this month comes to a close and the autumn nears its height, I was reminded of a fantastic wine I tasted earlier this year. This is a wine of the much heralded 2004 line of Spanish wines, and is also a wine that has been featured as a Wine Spectator Top 100 wine in previous vintages. In my book, this vintage offers a little bit of extra complexity, and still makes itself widely available at a very reasonable price. It is a wine that screams for food, specifically meat, and could be a nice supplement to anything coming off the grill during this football season!

EMILIO MORO RIBERA DEL DUERO TINTO 2004, 91 POINTS, $25
A complex array of flavors and aromas begins with blackberry, black cherry, red currant, earth and meat on the nose. Full-bodied flavors emerge with dry, fleshy notes of perfumey cherry and dark berries which evolve into notes of oak, mineral, graphite, smoked meats and peppery spice. Hints of purple fruit and mocha lie underneath as the wine finishes with a dry, firm, acidic backbone as mineral, black fruit and meat linger. Lots going on here, and all in great balance.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL RECAP- Week 4

September 25, 2007

 All of the big boys stayed afloat in their title quests over the weekend against their much weaker opponents, while middle tier teams tried to separate themselves in early conference play, especially in the Big Ten and the SEC. At this point, I don’t really know what to make of the Big Ten. I still have Wisconsin ranked the highest, although they’ve managed to fall one slot each week as a result of  their generally uninspiring play. A win’s a win I suppose, but we’ll be watching more closely when the competition gets tougher, and if the Badgers don’t step it up a notch, they’re going to have a lot of trouble with the likes of Ohio State, Penn State and even Michigan and Purdue.

Speaking of the Wolverines, Lloyd Carr may have saved his job Saturday by rallying his troops on the defensive side of the ball and knocking off Penn State in a low-scoring struggle, a team many had put on a pedestal as the new favorite to win the conference. What are we to make of Michigan? Where was this defense when Oregon came to town? I’m not ready to say that Michigan is “back”, but we can certainly agree that if the defense is able to pull together that they’re talented enough on offense to knock off anybody on their best day. Time will tell, so I’m waiting another week or two before throwing them back into my Top 25. On the flip side, Ohio State is quietly playing some astonishingly good football and should be right in the mix again this year. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I have to admit I didn’t expect to see this kind of offensive production out of a brand new Buckeye offense. And don’t forget about Purdue either. They’re capable of throwing 40-plus points on anybody, although giving up 31 at Minnesota doesn’t bode well for future defensive endeavors.

In the SEC, we got to see three top 25 matchups. First, LSU got a stiffer test than they’ve been accustomed to against a pesky South Carolina squad who got on the board first. In the end, LSU’s offense was still too much, complete with about the sickest fake field goal I have ever seen. Kentucky continued its offensive barrage against a struggling Arkansas defense. Darren McFadden continues to put up big numbers, but he’s gonna have to get his team to win some games if he wants to win the Heisman. That’s not the way it should be, but that’s the way it is, just ask Anthony Thompson and Antwaan Randle El (shameless Hoosier plug, forgive me). Speaking of the Heisman, Wildcat quarterback Andre Woodson can do no wrong, and broke the NCAA record for consecutive passes without an interception Saturday. Meanwhile, in the most exciting game of the day, Georgia went into Alabama and earned a hard fought victory in overtime. This game could have gone either way, but you have to give a ton of credit to the Bulldogs, who needed this victory badly.

The shock of the week award went to Louisville. The Cardinals haven’t looked stellar defensively at any point this season, but I don’t think anyone saw this one coming, especially at home. Syracuse didn’t have any business even being in that game, let alone winning it. With the likes of South Florida and Cincinnati strengthening an already tough Big East, Louisville needs to get its act together on defense in a hurry or it’s gonna be a long season. Less shockingly but probably more importantly, Notre Dame is 0-4 for the first time in 119 years. None of the next four look winnable either. Yikes!

Lastly, I need to comment on Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy’s postgame press conference. I tend to enjoy any type of press conference rant (see Jim Mora, Dennis Green, countless Bobby Knight classics). However, this one was unique in that the Cowboys had just battled to a huge 49-45 victory over undefeated Texas Tech, an outcome that on any normal occasion would have had the head coach all smiles. This time, Gundy didn’t even address the game, and decided instead to attack a female reporter who had run an article that seemed to cast quarterback Bobby Reid in a negative, almost personal manner. I give Gundy credit for coming to the defense of his player, but can’t agree that college athletes should be immune to criticism. I haven’t read the article so I can’t weigh in as far as that matter is concerned. I suppose one could draw the line if a player’s character is attacked without reason, but it sounds to me as though the reporter had her facts straight and was mostly commenting on Reid’s play, which, certainly in games against Georgia and lowly Troy, was lacking to some extent.

GAMES TO WATCH THIS WEEK

#5 West Virginia at #24 South Florida, 7:00 PM CST, Friday, ESPN: A rare Friday night Big East battle should be a nice way to kick off the weekend. South Florida has looked very strong early while West Virginia has struggled defensively. After losing this one at home last year, you can bet that the Mountaineers won’t be looking past South Florida again, and will be prepared for a battle.

Michigan State at #9 Wisconsin, 2:30 PM CST, ABC: I’m still shocked that Michigan State has started so strongly. Wisconsin will have another chance to prove that they’re among the contenders for the Big Ten title. In a matchup of two teams that appear to be vastly overrated, at least something’s gotta give.

#20 Clemson at Georgia Tech, 2:30 PM CST, ESPN: Clemson has been among one of the biggest surprises early this season, while Georgia Tech has been a disappointment. The Yellow Jackets get a chance for redemption at home, but will have to stop the two-headed monster of James Davis and C.J. Spiller in the Clemson backfield.

#8 California at #14 Oregon, 2:30 PM CST, ABC: This appears to be the marquee game of the day, with the winner poised to become the main challenger to the mighty USC Trojans. Oregon’s high-powered offense is still riding the claim to fame it earned in the Big House, while Cal hasn’t been any slouch scoring points either. Who will step up and make some plays on defense? I’ll be playing the Bears on the road and getting some points to do so, but the over might be a better bet.

#22 Alabama vs. Florida State in Jacksonville, 4:00 PM CST, CBS: This neutral field matchup of traditional powerhouses is especially intriguing since both are rebuilding. With one loss each, the winner will take a huge step forward and the other will have a bit of a hole to dig itself out of. Alabama has scored impressively this season while Florida State has had its struggles, although the Seminoles have played much better defense. Props to both schools for scheduling this game.

Auburn at #3 Florida, 7:00 PM CST, ESPN: I actually don’t see this as much of a game as Auburn appears to be in for a rough season. Nevertheless, it’s SEC nighttime college football, and therefore should be plenty entertaining. Think the Gators are still upset that last year’s controversial loss nearly cost them the national title game berth that they clearly deserved? This time, in the Swamp, Auburn could feel punishing blows from the Gator offense.

TOP 25 OF THE MATTY

  1. LSU (4-0)
  2. USC (3-0)
  3. Florida (4-0)
  4. Texas (4-0)
  5. West Virginia (4-0)
  6. Oklahoma (4-0)
  7. Rutgers (3-0)
  8. California (4-0)
  9. Wisconsin (4-0)
  10. Ohio State (4-0)
  11. Virginia Tech (3-1)
  12. Boston College (4-0)
  13. Hawaii (4-0)
  14. Oregon (4-0)
  15. Nebraska (3-1)
  16. Penn State (3-1)
  17. Kentucky (4-0)
  18. South Carolina (3-1)
  19. Georgia (3-1)
  20. Clemson (4-0)
  21. Missouri (4-0)
  22. Alabama (3-1)
  23. Tennessee (2-2)
  24. South Florida (3-0)
  25. Arizona State (4-0)

HEISMAN WATCH

This race has become way too close to call as a lot of players are carrying their teams to victory while others are putting up huge numbers in defeat, and all in all no one is separating themselves as an early Heisman favorite. Narrowing it down to twelve wasn’t even an easy task, but here are my frontrunners…we’ll call it a 12-way dead heat for now.

  • Darren McFadden, Arkansas
  • Ray Rice, Rutgers
  • Mike Hart, Michigan
  • Steve Slaton, West Virginia
  • Percy Harvin, Florida
  • Andre Woodson, Kentucky
  • Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
  • Tim Tebow, Florida
  • John David Booty, USC
  • Matt Ryan, Boston College
  • Colt Brennan, Hawaii
  • Brian Brohm, Louisville

COLLEGE FOOTBALL RECAP- Week 3

September 19, 2007

Three glorious weekends of college football are in the books, and for me, three teams have completely separated themselves from the rest of the field and appear to be in a different league. Those teams are, of course, LSU, USC and Florida. Oklahoma has looked impressive as well, but hasn’t really had a marquee opponent yet as the other three have (no, Miami doesn’t count anymore).

Of the three, Florida was most impressive Saturday afternoon. Tim Tebow threw some Peyton Manning-eqsue lazer beam passes that couldn’t have been more perfect as the Gators threw 59 points on the struggling Vols, 24 of them in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the electric Percy Harvin threw himself into the forefront of the Heisman picture. I was surprised by the announcers and their seeming disapproval of Tebow staying in and running up the score. We’re talking about a team that is going to be ranked behind a duo of undefeated Trojans and Tigers unless they start beating everyone they play by 40 points every time out. Of course, they do get their own shot at LSU in what looks now to be the best game of the regular season, but you get my point. Sadly, this is what the BCS has forced coaches to do. Florida needed to make a statement, and that’s exactly what they did.

Bob Stoops and Oklahoma were no strangers to this strategy as they rolled up Utah State 54-3, and quarterback Sam Bradford looked incredibly efficient once again. Conference arch rival Texas, who I still believe to be the more talented team of the two, narrowly escaped another unthinkable upset as they prevailed 35-32 over Central Florida. I’ve still managed to justify ranking the Longhorns two spots ahead of the Sooners somehow, but that will change in a hurry with another rough outing, or after Oklahoma beats a team with any talent whatsoever. I suppose the road trip to Tulsa this weekend will suffice.
As for LSU, they’ve still only given up 7 points all season, and they beat an underrated Middle Tennessee State team that almost beat Louisville last week by 44 points and with a backup quarterback no less. Again, the Tigers are simply terrifying. USC stepped up to a big challenge and ran all over an outmatched Nebraska squad that despite a riveting college football atmosphere in Lincoln still couldn’t equal the talent of the Trojans. The Huskers kept it close early, and even led 10-7 in the second quarter, but in the end the Trojans were just far too physical and too athletic. There were times in the this game that it literally looked like men against boys, especially when USC was running the football.

In the battle of the former heavyweights, Michigan got a big win and a morale boost as they decimated Notre Dame 38-0. Really, how bad is Notre Dame? Could they be 2-10 this season? I still think they can win three or four as Duke, Army, Navy (who lost to Ball State over the weekend somehow) and Michigan State all still remain on the schedule. But wow, how does a program really fall this hard, this fast? They’re calling it a rebuilding year, but I’m not so sure. Three games without an offensive touchdown is absolutely brutal.

Finally, in two of the least publicized games this weekend, Boston College got a huge win as they went into Georgia Tech and pretty much dominated, while Arkansas and Alabama engaged in a wild shootout of a game that ending up going to the Crimson Tide on a last second touchdown. Obviously, both of these wins were huge for each program. And how could I forget what was a real shocker for me, as Louisville lost to in-state rival Kentucky. I guess losing an offensive mastermind makes some difference for the Cardinals, but what they should be really worried about now is their defense.

GAMES TO WATCH THIS WEEK:

#17 South Carolina at #1 LSU, 2:30 CST, CBS: Are the Gamecocks for real? Well, this would certainly be one way to prove it, as Spurrier takes his troops into extremely hostile territory to challenge what has looked like a world-beating LSU squad. We will see, but my guess is that they’re going to have their work cut out for them.

#10 Penn State at Michigan, 2:30 CST, ABC: This game has certainly lost some luster, although in the process has probably gained intrigue. Has Michigan bounced back after the ND win? Are they ready to play like the team we all expected to see? This will be a big test, as Penn State is playing the best (and maybe the only respectable) football in the Big Ten right now. This will be the biggest game from a momentum standpoint of the season for both teams.

#22 Kentucky at #19 Arkansas, 5:00 CST, ESPN 2: Arkansas took a hard loss last week, but they had it coming after stealing one from Alabama last season. They’ll be at home this time and I still have faith in the Hogs, but they’ll need to stiffen their defense if they hope to contain star Wildcat quarterback Andre Woodson. Expect some points.

#24 Georgia at #18 Alabama, 6:45 CST, ESPN: I’m always down for some SEC football at night. Georgia is badly in need of a victory after being shocked by South Carolina, but this isn’t going to be easy. The Alabama passing game looks to be really clicking, although they’ll likely see a tougher defense this week than they did during last week’s shootout with the Razorbacks.

Iowa at #8 Wisconsin, 7:00 CST, ABC: Bleh…this game actually looks like a pretty rough watch, but since it’s the nationally televised ABC night game I suppose I’ll tune in, if only to see if the Big Ten is really as bad as it looks like it is. Seeing the Badgers win a game handily would be a better sign, but that won’t be an easy task with the Hawkeyes still reeling from that mind-blowing loss Division III quality Iowa State last weekend. Although Wisconsin almost lost to The Citadel. Sigh…

TOP 40 OF THE MATTY

  1. LSU (3-0)
  2. USC (3-0)
  3. Florida (3-0)
  4. Texas (3-0)
  5. West Virginia (3-0)
  6. Oklahoma (3-0)
  7. Rutgers (3-0)
  8. Wisconsin (3-0)
  9. California (3-0)
  10. Penn State (3-0)
  11. Virginia Tech (2-1)
  12. Boston College (3-0)
  13. Ohio State (3-0)
  14. Hawaii (3-0)
  15. Oregon (3-0)
  16. Texas A & M (3-0)
  17. South Carolina (3-0)
  18. Alabama (3-0)
  19. Arkansas (1-1)
  20. Nebraska (2-1)
  21. Georgia Tech (2-1)
  22. Kentucky (3-0)
  23. Louisville (2-1)
  24. Georgia (2-1)
  25. Clemson (3-0)
  26. Tennessee (1-2)
  27. Missouri (3-0)
  28. Texas Tech (3-0)
  29. South Florida (3-0)
  30. Arizona State(3-0)
  31. Purdue (3-0)
  32. Cincinnati (3-0)
  33. Florida State (2-1)
  34. UCLA (2-1)
  35. Washington (2-1)
  36. Kansas (3-0)
  37. Air Force (3-0)
  38. Oregon State (2-1)
  39. Miami (2-1)
  40. Michigan (1-2)

HEISMAN WATCH

  1. Darren McFadden, Arkansas
  2. Percy Harvin, Florida
  3. Ray Rice, Rutgers
  4. Colt Brennan, Hawaii
  5. DeSean Jackson, California
  6. John David Booty, USC
  7. Steve Slaton, West Virginia
  8. Tim Tebow, Florida
  9. Matt Ryan, Boston College
  10. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

COLLEGE FOOTBALL RECAP- Week 2 Recap

September 9, 2007

A seemingly tame second week lineup of games turned out to be quite telling, culminating in one of the stranger starts to a college football season that I can remember. There weren’t a ton of upsets. Instead, it was the margins of victory (and lack thereof) that created the real shockwaves. I’ll start by conveying two fairly obvious observations:

  • Michigan is not very good at all. I, among many others, really thought that after the hellish week that followed the Appalachian State loss, the team would be motivated and on a mission to prove a point. That couldn’t have been any further from the truth, and after a 39-7 home crushing at the hands of Oregon, Wolverine fans may be forced to accept the possibility that this year’s team is potentially terrible. The defense gave up 620 yards of total offense, an all-time record for Michigan, and at times looked to be functioning on a high school level at best. It was almost too ridiculous to be true, and after Chad Henne went out before the half, the team basically gave up on all fronts. It’s starting to look like Michigan may have trouble salvaging a winning season, because they’ve got a lot tougher teams to play than Oregon and Appalachian State.
  • LSU is very, very good. The dominating 48-7 thrashing of Virginia Tech in the Bayou last night was truly amazing considering the strength of that Virginia Tech defense. Sure, LSU’s defense played a great game as well, holding the Hokies to only a single touchdown,  but what was more impressive was the Tiger offense, which marched down the field and scored at will throughout the night. USC had the week off, but I doubt anything they’ll be able to do next weekend will be even in the same universe of impressiveness. As for Virginia Tech, I still think they’ve got a really good football team, I just think it’s possible that they ran into a rough opponent that may very well be on a completely different level than everyone else. LSU is my new #1.

Other moments of note from week two’s action included:

  • No top ten teams lost to lesser ranked opponents this week, but West Virginia, Louisville and Wisconsin struggled mightily against opponents that shouldn’t have given them any trouble at all. The same can be said for Texas A &M and Hawaii, who held out through multiple overtime games against opponents that they should have beaten by 20. My revised rankings reflect these performances.
  • All of a sudden Penn State looks like they may be the team to beat in the Big Ten. With Michigan falling completely off the radar and the Wisconsin and Ohio State offenses looking anemic, Penn State’s Happy Valley domination of Notre Dame was about the only thing that made the Big Ten look good at all.
  • The Big East is probably the second best conference in football right now. How did that happen? Aside from three teams that all have Top 10 talent, now South Florida and Cincinnati add their names to the discussion after upsetting Auburn and Oregon State respectively.
  • Steve Spurrier finally got a program building win as the Gamecocks went into Athens and beat Georgia with strong defense. After the Bulldogs rolled to an easy victory over a fairly tough Oklahoma State team on opening weekend, I didn’t see this one coming at all, and with really only two elite teams in the SEC, there’s lots of room for South Carolina to move themselves up.
  • Don’t look now, but Oklahoma is playing some very good football. Miami didn’t really have a good time in Norman and took a 51-13 beating home with them to prove it. The X factor for the Sooners was finding a quarterback, and right now, Sam Bradford looks like the real deal. The Red River Valley is shaping up into quite a game.

WHAT TO WATCH NEXT WEEK:

  • Notre Dame at Michigan, 3:30 EST, ABC: Well, the good news is that no matter what happens, one of these two teams will get a much-needed victory in what is shaping up to be a classic pillow fight between these shaken rivals. Of course these teams have never faced each other winless. It almost makes you wish they hadn’t changed the rules to allow overtime in college football–wouldn’t it be hilarious to see this one end in a tie? Anyway, I’m not real sure what to make of this game, you’ve basically got a horrible defense against a horrible offense and then a fairly strong offense against a fairly strong defense. I’m gonna go with Michigan I guess but not by a lot.
  • #21 Tennessee at #4 Florida, 3:30 EST, CBS: The defending champs get their first real test as the Vols roll into the Swamp and look to move back up into the SEC’s elite. It won’t be easy, as Florida’s explosive passing game could burn Tennessee in similar fashion to Cal.
  • #16 Ohio State at Washington, 3:30 EST, ESPN: This game all of a sudden looks much more intriguing after the Huskies knocked off Boise State to end the nation’s longest winning streak and now sit at a surprising 2-0 going into the third week of the season. Has Ty Willingham turned this program around? This homefield battle against a somewhat vulnerable Ohio State team will be telling.
  • #12 Arkansas at #24 Alabama, 6:45 EST, ESPN: Any SEC game is exciting to me, and for those that don’t remember this game from last year, let’s just say that the Tide still isn’t happy about how that one turned out. This time they’ll have the homefield advantage and a chance to knock off a highly respected opponent, but they’ll have to really lock down defensively.
  • #14 Boston College at #15 Georgia Tech, 8:00 EST, ESPN 2: This is a huge early season ACC matchup between two teams that have both played well enough to be thinking about a BCS bowl game, especially with conference favorite Virginia Tech not exactly clicking. The winner controls its own destiny, although both will have to get past the Hokies later in the season.
  • #1 USC at #17 Nebraska, 8:00 EST, ABC: The Trojans aren’t likely to have it as easy this time around in this battle of storied programs. They’ll have to travel into enemy territory and the Huskers will be jazzed and thinking upset. Nebraska didn’t exactly look great against Wake Forest last week, so they’ll have to make some improvements if they want to be competitive here, but you can’t ever underestimate the energy of a home crowd at night. Just ask Virginia Tech.

  TOP 40 OF THE MATTY:

  1. LSU (2-0)
  2. USC (1-0)
  3. Texas (2-0)
  4. Florida (2-0)
  5. West Virginia (2-0)
  6. Wisconsin (2-0)
  7. Rutgers (2-0)
  8. Oklahoma (2-0)
  9. California (2-0)
  10. Penn State (2-0)
  11. Louisville (2-0)
  12. Arkansas (1-0)
  13. Virginia Tech (1-1)
  14. Boston College (2-0)
  15. Georgia Tech (2-0)
  16. Ohio State (2-0)
  17. Nebraska (2-0)
  18. Hawaii (2-0)
  19. Texas A & M (2-0)
  20. UCLA (2-0)
  21. Tennessee (1-1)
  22. Oregon (2-0)
  23. South Carolina (2-0)
  24. Alabama (2-0)
  25. Georgia (1-1)
  26. Clemson (2-0)
  27. Missouri (2-0)
  28. Texas Tech (2-0)
  29. TCU (1-1)
  30. South Florida (2-0)
  31. Kentucky (2-0)
  32. Washington (2-0)
  33. Iowa (2-0)
  34. Arizona State (2-0)
  35. Cincinnati (2-0)
  36. Purdue (2-0)
  37. Auburn (1-1)
  38. Florida State (1-1)
  39. BYU (1-1)
  40. Maryland (2-0)

HEISMAN RACE:

  1. Darren McFadden, Arkansas
  2. John David Booty, USC
  3. Ray Rice, Rutgers
  4. DeSean Jackson, California
  5. Colt Brennan, Hawaii

COLLEGE FOOTBALL- WEEK 1 RECAP

September 3, 2007

Well, what looked on the surface to be an unexciting opening weekend of college football providing only one exciting game ended up producing an unimaginable shocker. Here are my thoughts on the opening weekend, and might I point out how great it is to have college football back in full swing again!

  • I was reminded when I woke up Sunday morning that yes, Appalachian State had still defeated Michigan. The college football gods hadn’t gone back and changed the score while I was asleep; indeed, the scoreboard still said 34-32. Final. Make no mistake, this was without question the biggest upset in the history of college football and probably in the history of college sports. In the twelve game virtual single elimination tournament that is the college football season, this loss is season-ending for Michigan. Sure, they could still win the Big Ten and earn a trip to Pasadena, but the Ann Arbor faithful had much bigger plans for the Wolverines this season. This loss was on par with the shock waves that would resonate after a #16 seed beat a #1 seed in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. That of course has never happened. You have to wonder why teams like Michigan even choose to schedule games like this that seem to create a lose-lose situation. In the best (and seemingly 99% probable) case scenario, Michigan wins the game but doesn’t benefit from a strength of schedule perspective. In the worst case scenario, the unthinkable happens, and the “easy” home opener turns in to a devastating and embarrassing mark in the “L” column. It just doesn’t seem to create a situation that has very good risk for reward characteristics. I’m not sure what will happen to Michigan as far as the polls are concerned, and I doubt they care too much at this juncture. I dropped them from 4th to 25th. Having said that, you still have to give Appalachian State a lot of credit. They made big plays on offense and blocked two field goals, either one of which would have won the game for Michigan. In the end, it looks like Michigan’s biggest weakness turned out to be a lot weaker than anyone guessed, as its defense gave up a nearly insurmountable 28 points in the first half. This was truly a game that the outcome of which was beyond words.
  • Cal got its revenge Saturday night and launched an offensive attack that was far too powerful for Tennessee to match. The Golden Bears look to have an even better offense than last season, and a serious Heisman contender in DeSean Jackson. The Vols actually seemed to move the ball fairly impressively, but if they don’t get a few questions answered on defense, they are going to be in for a long season. For Cal, probably the best news was the impressive rushing production by Justin Forsett, who ran for 155 yards and one touchdown.
  • Could you imagine what the reaction would have been from the nation at large if not one, but two top five teams lost to Division 1-AA opponents? Thanks to a lethargic effort by Texas at home against Arkansas State, this almost played out. The Longhorns were able to hold on for an uninspiring 21-13 victory, but that performance has got to be a red flag. Of course, maybe what we are seeing is similar to the phenomenon of mid-major success in college basketball, and these 1-AA teams really are closing the gap. Where exactly does a team like Appalachian State, two-time defending 1-AA champ, rank against 1-A teams? Is it possible that the best 1-AA teams have Top 50, or even Top 25 potential at the 1-A level? Based on the results of the opening weekend, it certainly looks like one could make that argument.

WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEKEND:

Wake Forest at #15 Nebraska, 11:00 CST, ESPN: Wake Forest got a tough break after starting quarterback Riley Skinner went out last week. He’ll have to miss this game, which hurts the Deacons chances a lot. It’s still a decent early season matchup between the rising Huskers and the Orange Bowl contestants from last season. Nebraska ought not look ahead to next weekend’s showdown with USC.

Miami, Fla at #11 Oklahoma, 11:00 CST, ABC : Two storied programs collide to start the day. The Canes are looking to start clean this season after last year’s disaster. This offers a big challenge, but a big opportunity to put the program back on the right track. The Sooners could be vulnerable without a proven quarterback, although they didn’t seem to struggle against their Division 1-AA team.

Oregon at #25 Michigan, 2:30, ABC: The pressure will be heavy and the tension will be decimating. If Michigan can’t find a way to beat the Ducks, you can bet they’ll be calling for Llyod Carr’s head in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines shouldn’t have much trouble scoring points, but could struggle against Oregon’s productive spread offense. It will certainly be worth keeping an eye on.

Notre Dame at #13 Penn State, 5:00, ESPN: Oh dear. Has a game ever lost more luster in one weekend than the September 15th matchup between Notre Dame and Michigan? If the Wolverine’s hadn’t blown their season against Appalachian State Saturday, the score that would have jumped off the screen would have been Notre Dame’s hapless effort in a 33-3 loss at home to Georgia Tech. They won’t have it any easier heading into Happy Valley against a tough Penn State team that has revenge on its mind.

TCU at #4 Texas, 5:00 CST: Texas had better improve upon last weekend’s effort or they’ll have their hands full with a tough Horned Frog defense.

#7 Virginia Tech at #2 LSU, 8:15 CST, ESPN: Arguably the two best defenses in America will meet in the Bayou for a great nighttime battle that holds national championship implications. Don’t expect a lot of scoring, but the hard-nosed defensive play should make for an interesting game, the winner of which may control its own destiny.

Top 25:

  1. USC (1-0)
  2. LSU (1-0)
  3. West Virginia (1-0)
  4. Texas (1-0)
  5. Wisconsin (1-0)
  6. Florida (1-0)
  7. Virginia Tech (1-0)
  8. Rutgers (1-0)
  9. California (1-0)
  10. Louisville (1-0)
  11. Oklahoma (1-0)
  12. Arkansas (1-0)
  13. Penn State (1-0)
  14. Hawaii (1-0)
  15. Nebraska (1-0)
  16. Texas A & M (1-0)
  17. Boston College (1-0)
  18. Georgia (1-0)
  19. Georgia Tech (1-0)
  20. Ohio State (1-0)
  21. Tennessee (0-1)
  22. UCLA (1-0)
  23. Oregon State (1-0)
  24. TCU (1-0)
  25. Michigan (0-1)

HEISMAN HOPEFULS:

  1. Darren McFadden, Arkansas
  2. John David Booty, USC
  3. Brian Brohm, Louisville
  4. DeSean Jackson, California
  5. Colt Brennan, Hawaii
  6. Ray Rice, Rutgers
  7. Mike Hart, Michigan
  8. Steve Slaton, West Virginia
  9. Pat White, West Virginia
  10. Jamaal Charles, Texas