Ten Things from Week Two
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Last Saturday was a great day if you are a fan of Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, or just college football in general. My condolences if you’re favorite school is, well, anywhere in the ACC. Super Saturday certainly lived up to its billing, with the top two teams in the country distancing themselves, and the huddled masses under them vying for one of the top spots, as the top four teams stayed constant, but 5-10 were the same teams in a different order. Here are the 10 Things that are, were and will be in the realm of college football...
1. 2004 Part II?
The preseason polls showed Alabama and Ohio State 1-2, respectively. After defeating ranked nonconference opponents (albeit at home), they are poised to meet in the title game if they can go undefeated. Just like 2004, there’s a third team on the outside looking in, Boise State, and their chances to crash the party took a hit as soon as James Madison beat the Hokies by 5 points (remember, the Broncos only won by 3). Ohio State and Alabama still have obstacles to hurdle, but this can be a wire-to-wire 1-2 matchup for only the second time in the last 20+ years.
2. Conference Trends
Flying High – Big Twelve. All Twelve teams were in action yesterday, and only two lost (Colorado and Iowa State). Even though there were some less than desirable matchups (Wyoming, Missouri State, and McNeese State? Really?), the weekend was highlighted by Oklahoma’s smackdown of Florida State and Kansas rebounding from a disastrous loss to FCS North Dakota State a week ago to edge out reigning ACC Champs Georgia Tech. Speaking of the ACC…
Laying Low – ACC. The ACC, for the first time in its history, had five teams ranked in the Top 20 of the preseason AP poll. Two weeks into the season, one program was cut almost in half due to suspensions (North Carolina), one lost to and FCS team (Virginia Tech), and all five have at least one loss. This isn’t good for a conference who is trying to show it can compete on a national level.
3.Stat of the Week – Turnover Margin
It’s no secret that keeping the ball is the key, since all of the past three national champions have finished in the top four in turnover margin. Turnovers were the key in several games including Alabama’s win over Penn State, where the Tide caused three of its four turnovers inside the Red Zone, Ohio State’s win over Miami came with four turnovers, and a pick-six was the turning point of the momentum in Oregon’s trouncing of Tennessee. As of now, the only one of those teams in the top four is Ohio State – which is first with plus 7.
4. Heisman Watch:
I don’t think it’s possible at this point to not have Denard Robinson at the top of a Heisman ballot. In two games, he leads the nation in rushing yards with 455 yards, is almost 70% passing, and has accounted for 5 touchdowns. After that, the quarterback list includes Kellen Moore, Terrelle Pryor, and Ryan Mallet. No running backs have made themselves too terribly visible on decent teams with the exceptions of Trent Richardson and Lamichael James, but they share the backfield with other talented backs, and might not get the touches necessary to get the hardware. At this point, the Heisman race is as wide open as it could be.
5. Rule I wish could change
Facemasking should not be an automatic 15 yard penalty. I always thought it was a mistake to take away the five yard penalty, and for the past few years, it’s one of the bigger momentum-changing penalties, just shy of pass interference and holding. Personally, I would like to see the five yard facemask rule return, or at the very least see “illegal hands to the face” or “incidental contact” be used in its place.
6. Disappointing Encore
Last week, we saw four games where ranked teams squared off, and a few more intriguing, inter-conference match ups. This week, one game has two ranked teams (Iowa-Arizona). Several potential good games loom, like Florida-Tennessee and Texas-Texas Tech, but those are going to be difficult to really get into. It won't last long, though, as the following week will see four, and potentially five, games between ranked teams.
7. Diamond in the Rough
With that said, there's one game you should tune into - Houston at UCLA. If Case Keenum wants to be taken seriously, and the Cougars want to be potential BCS busters, a road win against an AQ team is a must win. With Keenum known for putting up video game-like stats, and the Bruins coming off a 35-0 beat down by Stanford, this one could get ugly. Of course, Neuheisel has been known to win a game or two that he shouldn't and a win against a ranked opponent is a great way to turn a season around. If you happen to have this game available, I think it will be a better game than Iowa and Arizona.
8. How the BCS is working this week
When Boise State pulled out the win against Virginia Tech a week ago, the nation was split between those who think Boise should play for the national title, and those that felt they were playing a one or two game schedule and deserved to be left out. Well fast forward a week later, and it seems like the system is working. At least, it's working the same for them as it would for any AQ team. When Bama and Ohio State opened up with cupcakes and Boise had a big, prime time win, they picked up seven first-place votes. The next week, the top teams won big against ranked opponents while the Hokies lost to FCS James Madison and Boise lost those seven votes - and the credibility that goes with them. But just like the fans and administrators that want to maintain the status quo, one game does not a season make. The Broncos still play host to Oregon State ( a team that could challenge for the PAC-10 this season), and its two biggest conference games are in the last three weeks of the season (Fresno State and Nevada). As any fan of the SEC will tell you, a big showing down the stretch is a great way to earn favor in the polls. This year, Boise is no different.
9. Game of the Week Review, Ohio State-Miami:
Despite allowing a quarterback to throw for 232 yards and complete 56% of his passes, while their own quarterback threw for the same yardage, but completed less than half his passes, the Buckeyes were able to hold off the Hurricanes 36-24. The real difference? Every incomplete pass that Pryor threw hit the turf. More than one out of every five incomplete passes that Harris threw found their way into Buckeye hands, including one on the Hurricanes' first drive of the second half that taken from one red zone to the other, allowing Ohio State to turn a 9-point lead into a 16-point lead and effectively seal the game even that early. It was that kind of day for former Heisman hopeful Jacory Harris, who wound up throwing four INT's on the day - all of them in crucial situations. If Harris can protect the ball better, and Ohio State falters along the way, there may be a chance for redemption in a BCS Bowl down the road. If not, expect the seat to start warming up under Miami coach Randy Shannon.
10. Game of the Week Preview, Iowa at Arizona:
Arizona's Nick Foles has done well in the first two games of the season, but the Citadel and Toledo are hardly competition. The close of non-conference play ends with a very difficult visit from the Iowa Hawkeyes. If Arizona is ready to play with the big boys, they will have to bring their A-game this weekend. Iowa is bringing a top 10 defense and top 25 offense against the 12th ranked D and 3rd offense in the nation. It is a much better match-up on paper than it will be on the field. Those stats are based on cupcake schedules, but the Hawkeyes have the better team. Look for them to win a fairly close game, 24-17.
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