Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Sizing Up College Football, Week 1

Ahhhh, I love the smell of football in the fall. Hell, it smells good even in late Summer. I have long averred that I am a bigger fan of the College Football game than I am of the NFL. The color, the pageantry, the marching bands, the enthusiasm of men playing for love of the game as opposed to a paycheck.

Last year’s BCS Championship was one for the ages as Vince Young rolled right to give Texas their first National Championship in thirty-six years. College Football News considers that game to be the third-best college football game ever played. Four players from that game were drafted in the top 10 in this year’s NFL Draft.

Hmmmm, what to do for an encore? If this week was any indication, we’re in for a treat this year as well. I sized up the five most interesting stories from this past weekend and have them ranked below from Small to XXL.


Colorado.
OK talk about embarrassing ways to begin your season. I’m sure this isn’t what new coach Dan Hawkins had in mind when he took the job. It's bad enough to schedule a Division 1-AA school on your schedule (Montana State) but dagnabit, ya better beat them when you face them. Unfortunately, Colorado Buffaloes did not. To make matters worse, the Montana State Bobcats came into Boulder, CO and beat the Buffs on their own turf: Folsom Field.

I can understand why a team rebuilding might be tempted to schedule a Division 1-AA team. Recent changes in NCAA rules allow Division 1-A teams to count wins against 1-AA teams towards the minimum 6 game win requirement for bowl eligibility. But come on...fer cryin' out loud, if you going to schedule a game against the "School of the Blind" or "Our Sisters of Mercy" please, please, please spare yourself further embarrassment by at LEAST beating them.

Next up for the Buffs? In-state rivals Colorado State on the road in Fort Collins. Watch out Colorado, the Rams BEAT their first week Division 1-AA opponent (Weber State 30-6).

UCLA
The Rodney Dangefield award has to go to the UCLA Bruins. Karl Dorrell has turned that program around in three years and UCLA still gets no respect. All they did last year was win 10 games (for only the third time in school history) and yet they were not ranked among the top 25 teams in the country by either the AP or the USA Today!

In fact, UCLA was picked to finish in the middle of the pack within their own Conference! Sure they lost their top three offensive weapons last year (Drew Olson, Marcedes Lewis and Maurice Drew), but the new QB is a mature 23-year old red-shirt Sophomore named Ben Olson (for the last time...NO RELATION to Drew). When Ben was a HS Senior, he was the most highly recruited QB in the land. A year on the bench at BYU followed by two as a Mormon Missionary led him to UCLA last year (where he red-shirted due to a broken left hand).

This guy has been called the "left-handed John Elway" folks. He's a stud that is about to make the college football world sit up and take notice. All he did on Saturday night in his 2006 debut was complete his first eight passes to eight different receivers. He went on to throw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns (he had another TD dropped) with NO interceptions. All week I kept hearing Lee "Hacksaw" (emphasis on the HACK) Hamilton talk about how unproven the UCLA receiving corp was. Hey Lee, did you happen to notice that every single wide receiver from last year RETURNED this year? Granted Tight End Marcedes Lewis was lost to the NFL, but the receiving corp from last years 10-2 season remains in tact.

After their 21 point trouncing of Utah (who was only a 3 point underdog), the Bruins still have not cracked the top 25. Although UCLA is ranked 17th according to the Harris Poll (which is included in the BCS formula). This week the Bruins should steam Rice (sorry I couldn't help it) and if there is any justice in the world, the Bruins should crack the Top 25 next week. No respect, no respect indeed.

USC
OK I'm going to say it, because it needs to be said. The eyes of TEXAS are upon you! Man that felt good. Is is just me, or has anyone else realized that with the Rose Bowl loss to the Longhorns, the 'SC dynasty just doesn't seem that overwhelming? Since when does one BCS Championship make a dynasty? LSU won the BCS Championship (which is the ONLY real National Championship) in 2003, USC won it in 2004, and Texas won it last year. Dynasty? Not so much.

OK that having been said, there were a lot of questions about USC going into last week's opener against Arkansas. How do you replace Reggie Bush AND Matt Leinart AND Lendale White? That's just not possible is it? Well I guess Kirk Herbstreit said it best when he said that they still have one guy left with plenty of eligibility: Pete Carroll.

There was a local buzz in L.A. last week that USC was going to have a game on their hands with Arkansas. WHAT? HUH? This is the same Arkansas team that lost to 70-17 last year to 'SC right? Yeah I wasn't buying it. Imagine my surprise when Arkansas scored in the second quarter Saturday night to cut the Trojan lead to 13-7 with just 2:13 left before halftime. Lo and behold, the Trojans march down field to get a Field Goal before the halftime whistle blows. USC went on to score 24 unanswered points before the Hogs scored a meaningless touchdown midway thru the fourth quarter.

Apparently John David Booty will do just fine thank you. I can already hear the Bubba Sparxx song "Booty, Booty, Booty, Booty rockin everywhere" ringing in my ears as his highlights are shown throughout this year. USC's three-headed running monster this year of Emmanuel Moody, Chauncey Washington and CJ Gable seems to be on track as well. These may not be last year's Trojans, but with the kind of defense that USC has, they may not need to be. Next up for the Trojans? September 16th (Happy Mexican Independence Day) at home against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.


Tennessee
OK I admit it, I had a problem with Tennessee being ranked in the Preseason Top 25. They were 5-6 last year for Pete's sake! I saw them in Knoxville last year at Neyland Stadium. They lost to the Cocks of South Carolina? OK there are all sorts of off-color jokes that come to mind, but alas I digress.

This years Vols kicked off their season against the 9th rated Cal Bears last Saturday. The Bears were picked by some TV analysts to WIN the BCS Championship this year. That's some pretty heady stuff. The Vols must be regretting scheduling this game to erase the bad memories of 2005 season right?

YEAH RIGHT!

Erik Ainge (yes Danny's son) suddenly looks like a big-time College QB as he completes 11 of 18 for 295 yards and FOUR touchdowns! Robert Meacham caught 5 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns. The Vols shut down the vaunted Cal running game holding them to JUST 67 rushing yards. Apparently the Bears were taught a lesson at the school of Hard Knox.

It's good to see Tennessee back on track again this year. Phil Fulmer deserves better than the squad out out last year. It really chaps my hyde to hear that Fulmer was on the hot seat after just one 5-6 season. The guy has the highest winning percentage (.799) among active coaches. He won the first BCS National Championship in 1998. That was the year AFTER he lost Peyton Manning to the NFL! Cut the guy some slack.

The Volunteers have something to shout about from atop Rocky Top. They enter their week 2 contest against Air Force as the 11th rated team (up from 23rd). Break out the orange, it's not just for hunting or picking up roadside trash anymore!


Texas-Ohio State
Both teams answered last weeks opening bell in impressive fashion. Number One Ohio State disposed of Northern Illinois 35-12. Troy Smith is firmly entrenched as the Buckeye signal caller and connected with fellow Heisman hopeful Ted Ginn Jr for TDs on each of their first two possessions. YAWN.

Texas had major shoes to fill when Vince Young declared for the NFL draft. If VY had come back for his Senior season, they would be the unanimous #1 team in America and would probably win back-to-back BCS Championships (did I hear someone with a drawl say "dynasty?"). No team has done so since the inception of the BCS in 1998. But Vince is holding a clipboard in Nashville now and the Horns are relying on a young Colt to lead them. Didn't take Colt McCoy long to hook up with Limas Sweed on a 60-yard touchdown. McCoy ended up passing for 178 yards and 3 passing touchdowns, while rushing for a fourth.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame struggled against Georgia Tech and now we have a One versus Two match-up this week when Ohio State travels to Austin to take on Texas. The last three times that the top two teams in the country met in the regular season, number Two won (advantage Texas). Ohio State however is 2-0 all-time in #1 vs. #2 games (advantage Ohio State).

Is College Football great or WHAT?

Sorry Buckeyes, the eyes of Texas are now firmly fixed upon YOU! Texas wins this week, 42-32.

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