Monday, September 29, 2008

Best/Worst Week Ever: Week V

After a week off, we return to our regularly scheduled programming.

1. BYU
The Cougars were big winners this week by not playing. As the upsets started rolling in, BYU was able to sit back enjoy their foray into the top-10. BYU is currently ranked ahead of both Southern Cal and Georgia. Are they better than both those teams? You'd be hard-pressed to convince me as such. But, polls are polls, and if the Cougars are able to win out, they will assure themselves of a BCS bid. In fact, if they finish with an undefeated record, you may hear some clamoring for them to play for the MNC in Miami. One other note about the Cougars, that shutout win over Wyoming may not be as impressive as it seemed before last week's results. As you probably guessed, we'll hear from the Cowboys in our next section.

2. Donald Brown
The nation's leading rusher continued his stellar play, totalling 190 yards against Louisville as the Huskies stayed unbeaten.

3. Javon Ringer
The nation's second leading rusher continued his stellar play, toting the rock 44 times for 198 yards in the Spartans win against Indiana. In the past 3 games, Ringer has carried the ball 126 times. For the season, he's averaging more than 37 carries per game. For comparison's sake, last season's leader in carried (and yards), Kevin Smith of Central Florida, averaged just over 32 carries per game. If Mark Dantonio wants his stud running back around and in fine form at the end of the season, he may want to ease up a little.

4. Mike Riley
Who else could have had the best week ever? Mike Riley is one of the most underrated coaches in the NCAA. Before he arrived on the Oregon State campus prior to the 1997 season, the Beavers had not won 5 games in a season since 1971. He won 5 games in his second season (1998) before heading to the NFL. The foundation he set allowed Dennis Erickson to take the Beavers to their first bowl game since 1964 in his first season (1999) and to the Fiesta Bowl the following season. When Erickson headed to the NFL following the 2002 season, Riley was the logical choice to replace him. Since returning to Corvallis, Riley has won 41 games and lost 26 while guiding the Beavers to 4 bowl games in 5 seasons. In addition, the Beavers have the second most Pac-10 wins over the past 2+ seasons. Here here Mr. Riley.

Those are your winners, now here are your losers.

1. Wake Forest
My Deacons totalled 313 yards and turned the ball over 6 times against Navy. The Midshipmen are certainly a solid team, but they rank 81st in the nation in total defense, having allowed an average of 379 yards per game.

2. Tommy Bowden
In the preseason, Clemson was the only logical pick to take the ACC's Atlantic Division. They opened the season laying an egg against a seemingly very good Alabama team. But alas, they blew another home conference game against what appears to be an average at best Maryland team. Through 5 games, Clemson has beaten only a single IA team (NC State).

3. The Orange Bowl
Who's ready for a Maryland/Connecticut matchup on January 1st? Or maybe North Carolina/Pitt? What about Wake/Cincinnati? Those matchups belong on ESPN2. At 3:30. On December 26th. Good luck selling that one Fox.

4. Joe Glenn
Better start updating thr ol' resume Joe. Getting shut out by a very good BYU team (on the road) is one thing. Losing at home to Bowling Green 45-16 is another. The Cowboys opened the season with 4 home games in their first 5 contests. They won 2 of those, by a single point against Ohio and by 3 against IAA North Dakota State. The 'Pokes are currently averaging a robust 268 yards per game (115th in the nation). After winning 7 games and the Las Vegas Bowl in his second season in 2004, Glenn's Cowboys have gone just 17-23 (9-17 in Mountain West play). Dead man walking ladies and gentlemen.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fab Five: Week V

Last week was another solid week for me as I went 5-3-2, raising my collective record to 22-16-2. Another week, another set of picks designed to make you money (home teams in Bold).

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 2-2-1
Overall: 13-6-1

Mississippi +22.5 Florida
For those who didn't watch the game, or bother to read the box score (and that includes most pollsters apparently), the Rebels home loss to Vanderbilt makes it appear as though things have not changed too much in Oxford. Look a little deeper though, and you will see an improving team. Last season, Ole Miss opened the season with a 1-2 record against IA foes. In those 3 games, they averaged 357 yards per game and allowed 466 yards per game. This season, the Rebs have opened 1-2 against IA foes (we'll ignore their win over Samford for comparison's sake). In those 3 games, they have averaged 394 yards per game and allowed 334 per game. That looks like improvement to me. Ole Miss stumbled last week against Vanderbilt because they turned the ball over 6 times. The Commodores gained only 202 yards against the Ole Miss defense. Barring a turnover barrage, the Rebs should stay within 3 touchdowns in Gainesville.

Houston +11 East Carolina
Thankfully with their loss to NC State, we can dispense with all the talk about the Pirates being an elite team. East Carolina is a team with limited offensive capabilities. They have yet to gain more than 386 yards against any opponent. The Pirates are very strong defensively, permitting an average of only 298 yards per game (32nd in the nation). However, they have yet to face an offense as prolific as Houston's. The Cougars open conference play after a 1-3 start in non-conference action. The Cougars are still a dangerous team, and should make some noise in Conference USA. They have yet to gain fewer than 473 yards in any game, and could very well be 3-1 as their losses to Air Force and Colorado State came by 3 points apiece. In addition, the Cougars outgained both those teams by a combined 205 yards. This one should be close.

Michigan +6.5 Wisconsin
Will this be a bowl-less season in Ann Arbor? The Wolverines currently have an active 33-game bowl streak, and the nation will have a much better idea of whether or not that streak will continue after this game. Despite the fact that they stand 1-2, there is some evidence that the Wolverines are picking up Rich Rod's offense. In the opener, Michigan generated a paltry 203 yards against Utah. They upped that tally to 281 in game number two against Miami (Ohio). And in game three, they put up 388 yards on Notre Dame. The running game has substantially improved with the emergence of freshman running back Sam McGuffie. After carrying 8 times for 8 yards against the Utes, McGuffie has gained 205 yards on 42 carries (4.9 yards per rush) against the Redhawks and Irish. On the other sideline, Wisconsin has looked robust opening the season 3-0, with a quality road win at Fresno State included in the bunch. However, Wisconsin could struggle against the Michigan defense as they were only able to put up 304 yards against Fresno State. Consider the Bulldogs responded by promptly giving up 598 yards to Toledo the next week. At worst, Michigan keeps this one close, and if things break right, they walk away with an outright victory.

Minnesota +19 Ohio State
In their games against IA foes, the Buckeyes have looked listless at best and atrocious at worst on offense. Excluding the opener against Youngstown State, the Buckeyes have failed to gain more than 309 yards in any game. To be fair, one of those games was against what may be the best team in the nation, Southern Cal, but the other two were against Ohio and Troy. Not that those schools are bad, in fact Ohio is by the far the best winless team in the nation, having also given Wyoming, Central Michigan, and Northwestern fits in close losses, and Troy is sure to be a contender in the Sun Belt, but they aren't in the class of elite teams. The Buckeyes are still strong on defense, even in the Southern Cal debacle, the Trojans only amassed 348 yards, but the offense seems lost without Beanie Wells. Meanwhile Minnesota has quadrupled last season's win total, albeit against less than stellar competition (Minnesota's opponents have two IA wins between them), but it beats losing to them, which the Gophers did last season. Minnesota will have trouble moving the ball against the Buckeye defense, but I expect them to be within shouting distance without posing much of a real threat to actually win.

Northwestern +8.5 Iowa
The Wildcats rolled through the non-conference portion of their schedule with a 4-0 record, positioning themselves for their first bowl bid since 2005. Despite their 4-0 record, the Wildcats have to be a little concerned about their passing game. Quarterback CJ Bacher has thrown just 3 touchdowns and 5 interceptions against inferior competition (Syracuse, Duke, Southern Illinois, and Ohio). While the senior quarterback has been disappointing, the senior running back has exceeded expectations. Tyrell Sutton has totalled 387 yards and 5 touchdowns in the 4 games, and is averaging 6.1 yards per rush. Northwestern's offense should keep them in the game against an Iowa team with a sound defense and sputtering offense.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 3-1-1
Overall: 9-10-1

Cincinnati -10.5 Akron
One thing Cincinnati has done extremely well under second-year head coach Brian Kelly is beat the snot out of non-BCS conference foes. Excluding their non-conference games against IAA teams, Kelly's Bearcats have played 6 games against teams from non-BCS leagues. They have won those 6 games by a combined 130 points. Only the 2 bowl wins, over Western Michigan (in Kelly's first game after he came over from Central Michigan) and Southern Miss were close. The Bearcats edged Western Michigan by 3 and beat Southern Miss by 10. Last week, Cincinnati beat one of the favorites in the MAC (Miami of Ohio) by 25. The trend of beating hapless foes should continue with a comfortable win over the Zips.

Louisville -3.5 Connecticut
Louisville's loss against Kentucky may end up being one of the most head-scratching results of the season. They looked totally lost against the Wildcats, gaining only 205 yards and committing 5 turnovers in a 27-2 loss. The offense played much better (as was expected) in their next game against IAA Tennessee Tech. Then against Kansas State, the offense continued to roll, piling up 577 yards (303 of it on the ground) against the second set of Wildcats. Freshman running back Victor Anderson has been the story thus far. After rushing 12 times for 31 yards against Kentucky, he piled up 290 yards while averaging 9.7 yards per carry in the next two games. The Huskies come into the Big East opener 4-0, but with nary a win against a squad likely bound for postseason play. Conneticut dispatched Temple and Baylor by 3 points apiece and blew out Hofstra and Virginia. The Huskies BMOC is running back Donald Brown who leads the nation in rushing yards (716) and rushing yards per game (179). Unfortunately, the Huskies biggest strength does not match up well with Louisville. The Cardinals have allowed only 126 yards on the ground in 3 games. The Cardinals should be able to contain Donald Brown and put the onus on quarterback Tyler Lorenzen, who has struggled thus far, throwing only a single touchdown against 6 interceptions.

Toledo -19.5 Florida International
Toledo has one of the biggest home field advantages in all of college football. They lost at home last week to Fresno State, but were able to put up nearly 600 yards of offense on the Bulldogs. This one could get ugly quickly as Florida International is one of the worst teams in IA. The only explanation for their performance last week, a 17-9 loss to South Florida, is somnambulism on the part of the Bulls.

Nebraska -7 Virginia Tech
Another week, another ugly win in the ACC for the Hokies. The Hokies have been outgained by each IA foe they have played (East Carolina, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina) by an average of over 100 yards per game, and yet they were able to win 2 of 3 thanks to defense, special teams, and some good old fashioned luck. Virginia Tech is not a good team. They may be good enough to win the Coastal Division, and maybe even the whole shebang in the ACC, but a night road game against an improving Nebraska squad screams blowout.

Kansas State -20 Louisiana-Lafayette
Fresh off a loss to Louisville that was not nearly as competitive as the 38-29 final score would indicate, the Wildcats return home to console themselves with the best remedy possible--a Sun Belt team. Keep in mind, this pick is by no means an endorsement of Kansas State, as they are likely to miss out on a bowl and may end up firing Ron Prince at season's end. However, the Ragin' Cajuns gave up 633 yards to Southern Miss! Kansas State should win this one rather easily.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sensational Six: Mid-Majors Hoping to Break on Through

No Best/Worst Week Ever this week. Instead, I want to take a look at the 6 remaining unbeaten teams who ply their trade outside the BCS conferences. We'll examine several stats to see if we can derive which team is most likely to land a spot in one of the coveted BCS bowl games.

Ball State
Record: 4-0
AP Rank: 38
Coaches Rank: 34
Yards per Game Differential: +89.8
Points per Game Differential: +21.3
Best Win: either @Indiana (2-1) or Navy (2-2)
2nd Order IA Wins: Rutgers (0-3), Syracuse (1-3), Army (0-3), Western Kentucky (2-2)
Possible Stumbling Blocks: @Toledo 10/04/08, @Central Michigan 11/19/08

For the uninitiated, 2nd order wins are teams that were beaten by teams beaten by Ball State. Ball State has a 2nd order win over Rutgers because they beat Navy, who then beat Rutgers. You dig? Ball State's appearance on this list is likely merely a formality. They seem destined to lose either to Toledo or Central Michigan if not both. The Rockets are notoriously tough at home and the Chippewas are the 2-time defending MAC champions. Even if Ball State does manage to get through their schedule unscathed, will the win over Indiana hold much weight at season's end? I doubt it. The Hoosiers could well be headed for a last place finish in the Big 10. Plus the Cardinals, despite their hot start, are in the nether regions of the 'also receiving votes' portion of the polls.

Record: 3-0
AP Rank: 32
Coaches Rank: 33
Yards per Game Differential: +194
Points per Game Differential: +31.7
Best Win: New Mexico (1-3)
2nd Order IA Wins: Arizona (3-1)
Possible Stumbling Blocks: @Arkansas 11/01/08, @Houston 11/15/08, Conference USA Championship Game 12/06/08 (East Carolina?)

Tulsa has had a pretty easy schedule thus far, as evidenced by their lone 2nd order win, but to be fair, they have lambasted each team they've faced. Senior quarterback David Johnson, in his first season as a starter, leads the nation in pass efficiency with a rating of 225.93. Unfortunately for Tulsa, the one marquee name on their schedule is Arkansas, a team that will be lucky to qualify for a bowl game. Arkansas has already scraped by Western Illinois (IAA) and Lousiana-Monroe by a combined 5 points. If Tulsa beats them, have they really proven anything? Tulsa's best bet is to not only win out, but dominate each team they face. East Carolina could do them some favors by winning their division andfinishing with a final record of 10-2 or 9-3. That could set up a potential top-25 battle in the Conference USA Championship Game. Otherwise, an undefeated season likely means a Liberty Bowl trip and a shot at taking down an SEC school.

Boise State
Record: 3-0
AP Rank: 19
Coaches Rank: 20
Yards per Game Differential: +122.7
Points per Game Differential: +20
Best Win: @Oregon (3-1)
2nd Order IA Wins: Pittsburgh (2-1), Washington (0-3), Utah State (1-3), Purdue (2-1)
Possible Stumbling Blocks: @Southern Miss 10/11/08, @Nevada 11/22/08

For some unknown reason, Fresno State was getting all the preseason love to break into the BCS. I have no problem with Fresno State, but really, their rep as giant killers is based off something that happened 7 years ago. Sure they gave the Trojans a good game in 2005, but what BCS teams have they beaten recently? Since you asked. Georgia Tech (7-6) in 2002. Oregon State (8-5) and UCLA (6-7) in 2003. Washington (1-10), Kansas State (4-7), and Virginia (8-4) in 2004. Kansas State (5-7) and Georgia Tech (7-6) in 2007. The best of the lot is the 2004 victory in the MPC Computers Bowl over Virginia. Where's the beef? If you'll notice, I didn't even list Fresno as one of the possible stumbling blocks as Boise has yet to lose to a WAC foe at home since joining the league in 2001. In fact, their average margin of victory over Fresno in Boise has been 29 points. If the Broncos stumble, it won't be at home. The game in Hattiesburg will be a big one for the Golden Eagles and the game in Reno may well decide the WAC title.

Record: 4-0
AP Rank: 24
Coaches Rank: 23
Yards per Game Differential: +240
Points per Game Differential: +35.3
Best Win: either @New Mexico (1-3) or Stanford (2-2)
2nd Order IA Wins: Arizona (3-1), Oregon State (1-2), San Jose State (2-2)
Possible Stumbling Blocks: @Oklahoma 9/27/08, BYU 10/16/08, @Utah 11/06/08

For all the love their Mountain West brethren Utah and BYU are getting, TCU may well be the best team in the league. But alas, the Horned Frogs run at perfection is likely to end on Saturday as they must travel to Norman to take on the #2 Oklahoma Sooners. This game will present an interesting quandry if the Horned Frogs are competitive (10-14 points) in defeat. If they win out afterward, and own wins over Utah and BYU, who for the sake of argument finish 10-2 and 11-1 with 2 of their 3 combined losses coming to TCU and the other amongst themselves, would TCU be deserving of a BCS bid over an undefeated Boise State squad? Food for thought.

Record: 4-0
AP Rank: 17
Coaches Rank: 17
Yards per Game Differential: +217.3
Points per Game Differential: +19.5
Best Win: either @Michigan (1-2) or UNLV (3-1) or Air Force (3-1)
2nd Order IA Wins: Miami (Ohio) (1-3), Utah State (1-3), Arizona State (2-2), Iowa State (2-2), Idaho (1-3), Wyoming (2-2), Houston (1-3)
Possible Stumbling Blocks: @New Mexico 11/01/08, TCU 11/06/08, BYU 11/22/08

Utah has by far the most 2nd order wins of any undefeated mid-major. That is thanks mostly to UNLV and Air Force performing well outside the league. The Rebels upset Arizona State in OT on the road and followed that up with a home OT win over Iowa State. The Utes are fortunate in that they get their 2 biggest conference contenders at home. If Utah wins out, they will be BCS bound without question. Look out for the Michigan win, as it may look much better at the end of the year.

Record: 4-0
AP Rank: 11
Coaches Rank: 11
Yards per Game Differential: +178
Points per Game Differential: +32
Best Win: either @Washington (0-3) or UCLA (1-2)
2nd Order IA Wins: Tennessee (1-2), Ohio (0-4)
Possible Stumbling Blocks: @TCU 10/16/08, @Air Force 11/15/08, @Utah 11/22/08

BYU is the highest ranked mid-major team and with a bye and Utah State on tap, should be in the top-10 when they host New Mexico on October 11th. If the Cougars win out, they should be golden as their high ranking this early (its not even October yet) should get them in even if their computer numbers are pulled down by Washington and UCLA.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fab Five: Week IV

Last week was a banner week for me as I went 8-2 ATS, including a perfect sweep of the underdogs. Have I pulled a Marvin Lewis and set the bar too high? Time to find out (home teams in Bold).

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 5-0
Overall: 11-4

Boise State +10.5 Oregon
One of the best mid-major programs of the past decade visits an aspiring usurper to the Trojan's Pac-10 throne. An upset by the Broncos could position them for their 2nd BCS bid in 3 seasons. The Broncos have flown under the radar while beating Idaho State (IAA) and Bowling Green by a combined 69-14 in their first 2 games. Redshirt freshman quarterback Kellen Moore has filled in admirably for the departed Taylor Tharp, completing over 75% of his passes, while averaging nearly 11 yards per pass, and abstaining from throwing an interception. Speaking of quarterbacks, Oregon will be without he services of quarterback Justin Roper as he recovers from a knee injury. Fortunately, the Ducks are more of a running team anyway, having rushed for nearly 1000 yards in 3 games (970). The Ducks have torched their first 3 opponents, gaining 1687 yards. However, their first opponent, Washington, allowed 475 and 591 yards respectively to BYU and Oklahoma after the Ducks rolled up 496 yards against them. Their second opponent, Utah State, is one of the worst teams in IA and their most recent foe, Purdue, has never been down for their defensive prowess. Boise State will provide a stiff test for the Ducks, in a game Oregon should win by a slim margin.

New Mexico +10.5 Tulsa
The Lobos began the season with consecutive home losses to TCU and Texas A&M, and appeared to be in for an 0-3 start when undefeated Arizona came to town. But the Lobos were able to parlay 5 Arizona turnovers into a 36-28 upset win. Of course, that's not to say turnovers were the sole reason for the win, as the Lobos were only outgained by a little over 50 yards (388-335). Running back Rodney Ferguson topped 100 yards for the second straight game, gaining 158 on the ground in 26 carries. That performance came after he gashed Texas A&M for 135 yards on just 19 carries. For those scoring at home, thats an average of over 6 and a half yards per rush against BCS-conference defenses. Ferguson has to be licking his chops as the Lobos get set to face Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane have not changed much from last year's incarnation. They still move the ball well and score a lot (3rd in yards per game and 7th in points per game thus far) and struggle to stop others from doing the same (98th in yards allowed per game and 71st in scoring defense). Quarterback David Johnson is currently the nation's top-rated passer with an efficiency rating of 241.58. However, Tulsa's first 2 opponents have been UAB and North Texas. UAB gave up 601 yards to Tulsa, but proved that was not an aberration when they gave up 554 to Florida Atlantic and 548 to Tennessee in the following 2 games. North Texas has also proven to be defensively challenged as they allowed 471 yards to Kansas State and 425 to LSU in between the 555 they permitted Tulsa to gain. New Mexico is in another class defensively, having allowed only 915 yards in 3 games. But what should concern Tulsa even more is the fact that their defense gave up 450 yards to North Texas. In their other 2 games, against Kansas State and LSU, the Mean Green have accumulated 404 combined yards. The step up in competition will be too much and the Lobos will cover the double digit spread with ease.

Toledo +7 Fresno State
The Toledo Rockets have been a pretty good team under head coach Tom Amstutz, posting a 56-33 record in just over 7 seasons. However, at home, they have been a great team. Toledo is 35-6 under Amstutz at home in the Glass Bowl. Fresh off a tough home loss to Wisconsin that likely shattered their BCS dreams, Fresno State is walking into a huge trap.

Iowa St +3 UNLV
Iowa State lost last week, while UNLV pulled off a huge upset. However, a look at the box score shows something else. Iowa State outgained their opponent, Iowa, by 85 yards, yet lost thanks to 3 missed field goals, costly turnovers, and a Hawkeye punt return for a score. The Rebels were able to upset Arizona State despite allowing them to average 6.3 yards per play (compared to 4.7 for UNLV) by winning the tunrover battle (1-0), stopping the Sun Devils on a crucial 4th down, and blocking a field goal in overtime. This game should be close, but the wrong team is favored.

Arizona State +7 Georgia
Their loss to UNLV has taken some of the luster off of this matchup, but it is still one of the best of the week. Last week, Georgia was a 7.5 point road favorite against a team with a great defense and a sketchy offense. The touted Bulldog offense was actually outgained by that sketchy offense (thanks to the great defense of course). Now the Bulldogs are 7 point road favorites against a team with a very good offense and a defense that is of unknown prowess. The defense has looked good thus far against the likes of Northern Arizona, Stanford, and UNLV, but the Bulldogs feature a much higher class of athlete. However, the Sun Devil offense will certainly rank among the best Georgia has seen this season. Senior quarterback Rudy Carpenter currently ranks 9th in the nation in pass efficiency and I expect him to keep the Sun Devils in the game. Last time a top-5 SEC school game to Tempe, they escaped with a 35-31 win (LSU in 2005). If Georgia does win, it will be by the thinnest of margins.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 3-2
Overall: 6-9

Pittsburgh -1 Iowa
After their early season scrimmages against Maine (IAA) and Florida International where they looked like worldbeaters, piling up 969 yards of total offense, reality set in for the Hawkeyes against Iowa State. While they did manage to beat the Cyclones 17-5, they gained only 240 yards and scored only a single offensive touchdown. The defense still played well, holding the Cyclones to just 325 yards and picking off 3 passes. Now the Hawkeyes leave home for the first time this season to take on the Panthers. Pittsburgh is coming off a bye week after opening the season with a disappointing 1-1 record against 2 MAC schools (Bowling Green and Buffalo). The defense has been pretty good, limiting the Falcons and Bulls to just 602 combined yards, but the offense has not improved from last season. Super sophomore running back LeSean McCoy is only averaging 3.81 yards per rush and quarterback Bill Stull has just a solitary touchdown pass in 2 games. Still, the homefield advantage should be enough for the Panthers to get by against an equally offensively challenged opponent.

Michigan State -8.5 Notre Dame
Don't read too much into Notre Dame's seemingly easy 35-17 win over Michigan. The Irish benefitted from 6 Wolverine turnovers, including 4 fumble recoveries. Of their 5 touchdown drives, one went 11 yards, another went 14, and one came on a fumble return by linebacker Brian Smith. The Irish gained only 260 yards against the Wolverines and Jimmy Clausen completed less than half of his passes (10 for 21). Also, don't read too much into Michigan State's lackluster 17-0 win over Florida Atlantic. The weather was less than ideal and the Spartans decided to get back to the old school era of Big 10 football by pounding the rock. They threw only 15 passes all day while running the ball 58 times. The defense held a solid Florida Atlantic offense to only 225 yards and pretty good quarterback in Rusty Smith to 8 completions in 34 attempts. The Spartans should handle the Irish with relative ease.

Arkansas State -5.5 Middle Tennessee State
Arkansas State has been very impressive in the early going. They defeated Texas A&M in College Station in their first game, dropped 83 points on Texas Southern (IAA) in game 2, and nearly knocked off Southern Miss last week. The most encouraging sign for the Red Wolves is that they have outgained all 3 foes. They put up 415 yards against Texas A&M and allowed only 303. They lambasted Texas Southern with 670 yards of total offense and racked up 437 against Southern Miss while allowing the Golden Eagles only 348 yards. Meanwhile, Middle Tennessee State has rebounded from their opening loss to Troy by knocking off Maryland and coming within a single yard of upsetting Kentucky. The Blue Raiders have shown that they can throw the ball, as quarterback Joe Craddock has completed over 63% of his passes with 5 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions thus far. However, their running game has been virtually nonexistent. For the season, they are averaging just a shade over 2 yards per rush, and as a team have not topped 3 yards per carry in any game this season. The running game will prove to be the difference in this one as Arkansas State has yet to average under 5 yards per carry in any game, and are currently averaging over 7 yards per rush on the season.

Minnesota -6.5 Florida Atlantic
This is a revenge game of sorts for the Gophers who were upset by the Owls 42-39 in Boca Raton last season. Of course, the Owls were very fortunate to win that game as Minnesota nearly survived despite turning the ball over 7 times (to zero Owl turnovers). Minnesota is far from a Big 10 title contender this season, but they are improved over last year's team. Quarterback Adam Weber, the lone bright spot in last season's 1-win debacle, has continued his stellar play, ranking 18th in the nation in pass efficiency. He should be able to throw at will against an Owl secondary that gave up 326 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air to UAB.

North Carolina -2.5 Virginia Tech
Can Virginia Tech continue to be opportunistic and do enough to win the Coastal Division of the ACC? In their 2 games against IA foes (East Carolina and Georgia Tech), the Hokies have yet to gain more than 247 yards. The defense, usually the team's calling card has even been somewhat pourous. The Pirates racked up 369 yards and the Jackets gained 387. 3 Georgia Tech turnovers are the reason the Hokies are not staring up at the rest of the ACC from an 0-1 hole. That style of waiting for the opponent to screw up will get Virginia Tech to a bowl game, but it won't be enough to beat an improving Tar Heel team in Chapel Hill.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Best/Worst Week Ever: Week III

While the 3rd week of the college football season was supposed to be about 'The Collision at the Coliseum', you will read not a single sentence about that drubbing on this blog (OK maybe one), as there were plenty of other things to get excited about. First, the best of the week.

1. Old School, Power Football
Woody Hayes would have been particularly proud of several players on Saturday. In East Lansing, darkhorse Heismann candidate Javon Ringer toted the rock an amazing 43 times and cranked out 282 yards and 2 touchdowns against Florida Atlantic. Meanwhile, in Storrs, Donald Brown rushed for 206 yards and 3 touchdowns on only 20 carries as the Huskies obliterated the Cavaliers 45-10.

2. Maikon Bonani
The South Florida kicker booted a 43-yard field goal on the game's final play to knock off Kansas on Friday night. Bonani had never kicked in a college game before, but he made 3 of his 4 field goal attempts replacing the ineffective Delbert Alvarado who was only 1 of 4 kicking field goals thus far this season and had made only 63% of his kicks in 2006 and 2007.

3. Revenge of the Nerds
3 weekends of college football are in the books, and Vanderbilt, Duke, Northwestern, and Wake Forest have a combined 10-1 record, with the lone loss coming by Duke to Northwestern. The schedule toughens up from here on out, but don't be surprised if at least 2 and possibly 3 of these schools are playing in the postseason.

4. The Mountain West
Through 3 weekends of play, the Mountain West has 4 undefeated teams--BYU, Utah, TCU, and Air Force. That's more than the ACC (3), Big East (2), and Pac-10 (2). Over this past weekend, Mountain West schools went 7-1 outside the league, including a perfect 4-0 record against the Pac-10. BYU drubbed UCLA 59-0, TCU beat Stanford 31-14, New Mexico upset Arizona 36-28, and UNLV pulled the biggest shocker, beating Arizona State 23-20 in OT.

5. Bettors who took Iowa State +13.5
Many degenerates were likely cursing the screen in dismay as they watched Iowa State outgain Iowa by 85 yards (325-240) and spend nearly the entire 2nd half in Iowa territory, only to find themselves down 17-3 late in the 4th thanks to 3 missed field goals (including 1 from 21 yards) and a punt return for a touchdown by Iowa receiver Andy Brodell. Ah, but then Kirk Ferentz bailed them out by taking a safety with under 30 seconds to play to make it 17-5. The Cyclones covered and half the gambling nation cursed Mr. Ferentz, while the other half rejoiced gleefully. Those gents who had the Cyclones and the points clearly enjoyed the best week ever.

Of course, one man's smile is another's frown, so who didn't come correct over the weekend?

1. Offensive Football
The Auburn spread didn't exactly matriculate the ball down the field against Mississippi State. Of course, the Tigers 315 yards of offense was a Herculean effort compared to the 116 yards the Bulldogs put up. The teams combined to punt 18 times and had only 20 total first downs between them in a 3-2 Auburn win.

2. Rutgers
A 32-point home loss was probably not what Greg Schiano expected when the Tar Heels came to town on Thursday night. Quarterback Mike Teel has thrown 5 interceptions in just 2 games, and the Knights have scored just 2 touchdowns in this season.

3. Virginia
Getting trounced by Southern Cal is one thing, but getting beat by 5 touchdowns by Connecticut is quite another. The Cavs 'held' the Huskies to 506 yards. In their 2 previous games against Hofstra (IAA) and Temple, the Huskies gained 451 and 379 respectively.

4. The Pac-10
The Pac-10 is not doing a great job of shaking its rep as Southern Cal and the 9 dwarves. We already touchded on the 4 game sweep at the hands of the Mountain West, but Pac-10 teams also lost 3 other games over the weekend to finish only 3-7 against non-conference foes. In the biggest shocker, California fell to Maryland 35-27. I don't have any doubt that the Bears are better than the Terps (they outgained Maryland by over 150 yards), but a loss to a team that lost to Middle Tennessee State is not something you want on your resume. The Washington schools lost the other games. The Huskies were blown out at home by Oklahoma (55-14), but the Cougars, staking their claim as the worst BCS-conference team this side of Syracuse, lost 45-17 at Baylor. Besides Southern Cal, even the wins were very bland. Oregon State won their first game of the season 45-7 against a rebuilding Hawaii team and Oregon needed OT to survive Purdue. I've given the ACC and Big East a hard time this season in this spot, and I don't want to be accused of having an East Coast bias, so the worst week ever has to go to the Pac-10.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fab Five: Week III

Last week was a mediocre 5-5 finish. I know you, faithful readers, expect much more of me, and I do as well. Time to post the first winning week (home teams in Bold).

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 4-1
Overall: 6-4

Iowa State +13.5 Iowa
There are few certainties in life. Death, taxes, and a close game or upset by Iowa State in this rivalry. 5 of the past 10 meetings have been decided by 7 points or less, and Iowa State has won 3 of the 5 meetings decided by more than one-score. Iowa has laid the lumber to its first 2 foes, winning by a combined score of 88-3. However, those victims were Maine (IAA) and Florida International (one of the worst IA teams). Meanwhile, Iowa State has seen a much slimmer margin in its 2 victories, beating North Dakota State (IAA) and Kent State by a 92-45 score. The yardage total is even tighter, as Iowa State has only outgained their opponents by 2 total yards. Still, recent history says the Cylones will at least keep this one close.

Tulane +13 East Carolina
I got burned last week by the Pirates when they upet West Virginia. While Tulane has nowhere near the history or talent of Virginia Tech or West Virginia, they do have some familiarity with East Carolina. Plus the Green Wave payed very well last week against Alabama, limiting the Tide to 172 total yards. And last but not least, this game is in the Superdome, representing the first true road game of the season for East Carolina. I don't expect Tulane to pull off the upset, but this game should be close.

Toledo +2 Eastern Michigan
Both these teams were overmatched in losses to BCS-conference schools last week. Toledo was blown out by Arizona, and Eastern Michigan fell at Michigan State. Toledo has beaten Eastern Michigan 7 times in their last 8 encounters. Expect it to be 8 of 9 after Saturday.

South Carolina +7.5 Georgia
5 of of the past 7 games in this series have been decided by 6 points or less. South Carolina is catching a lot of flack after their second consecutive loss to Vanderbilt, but if you look at the stats, the defense still played well. Vandy gained only 225 yards, after NC State managed only 138 in the opener. Meanwhile, Georgia has dominated its first 2 opponents, scoring 101 combined points on Georgia Southern (IAA) and Central Michigan. However, the Dogs have allowed nearly 600 yards in those 2 games, meaning the Gamecock offense could put some points on the board. This one will be very close, and South Carolina has a real chance to pull off the upset.

SMU +36.5 Texas Tech
I don't think this game will be very close, but Texas Tech has been very average on offense thus far against Eastern Washington and Nevada, especially considering the preseason expectations. SMU will have enough offense to stay within 5 touchdowns.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 1-4
Overall: 3-7

Duke -1.5 Navy
Anyone know the last time the Blue Devils were favored? Take a nostalgic trip with me to Labor Day Weekend 2005. Tim Tebow was a high school senior, no doubt getting constant text messages and IMs from UrbanGainesville62, and the Duke Blue Devils were a 3-point road favorite at East Carolina. As Duke is want to do, they lost that game 24-21, and have won only thrice since that fateful day. However, David Cutcliffe has made Duke football relevant again. Witness last weeks game, when the Blue Devils outplayed Northwestern in the box score (gaining 144 more yards), but fell on the field 24-20. The Duke defense held quarterback CJ Bacher under 50% in completion percentage and running back Tyrell Sutton gained only 66 yards. Navy will probably top 300 yards on the gound, but for a team that has yet to stop anyone (Ball State averaged over 8 and a half yards per play against them last week), those yards won't come with enough points to win or cover.

Houston -2 Air Force
Despite the absence of Art Briles, the Houston offense has been just as prolific as ever, piling up nearly 1100 yards in 2 games. Unfortunately, the defense was not able to do much of anything against Oklahoma State, allowing nearly 700 yards (699) and letting the Cowboys average a stellar 9.7 yards per play. Air Force does not quite pack the offensive firepower Oklahoma State does, and since this game is in Houston, lay points with the Cougs.

Michigan -2 Notre Dame
Last year these storied programs were both 0-2 when they met in the Big House. What a difference a year makes! Now neither team has a losing record. Of course, thats not to say either sqaud is a national title contender. Quite the contrary. Notre Dame very nearly lost at home to a team (San Diego State) that lost to Cal Poly (IAA school) a week before. Meanwhile, Michigan had trouble putting away a team that got waxed by Vanderbilt (Miami of Ohio). The good news is that both teams found a little offensive punch in their wins. Michigan rushed for 178 yards (74 of it from freshman Sam McGuffie) after netting only 36 yards on the ground in the opener. In South Bend, Jimmy Clausen showed some of the skills that made him a ballyhooed recruit, matching a career high with 3 touchdown passes. While the Domers are playing at home, that didn't stop them from almost losing to an Aztec team playing for a lame duck coach. With each game, expect improvement from the Michigan offense. They won't be West Virginia (circa 2007) by the end of the season, but they will be a competent BCS-conference unit, and they'll do enough Saturday to beat the Irish by at least a field goal.

Western Michigan -8 Idaho
Who is the worst Division IA football team? I'd say the candidates thus far are Florida International, North Texas, Utah State, and drum roll...Idaho. The Vandals were crushed 70-0 by Arizona in their opener, but rebounded to beat Idaho State (IAA) this past weekend. Of course, even in the win, Idaho gave up 383 yards and 27 points to the Bengals. Meanwhile, Western Michigan rebounded from a decent showing in a loss at Nebraska to upend Northern Illinois 29-26. Quarterback Tim Hiller has completed nearly 65% of his passes and thrown 5 touchdowns to just 1 interception in 2 games against much tougher competition that what he will face in the Kibbie Dome on Saturday. The Broncos, one of the best teams in the MAC, should win this one going away.

Wisconsin -2 Fresno State
The Bulldogs win over Rutgers was much closer than the 24-7 margin would lead you to believe. The Knights had more first downs (22) than the Bulldogs (16) and were only outgained by 53 yards. The Bulldogs were also +2 in turnovers and were the beneficiaries of 2 missed field goals and a failed 4th down attempt in the red zone. Not that the win is meaningless, but it helps to put it in perspective. Fresno State won, but the game was quite contentious, and they should not count on getting the same breaks against the Badgers. Wisconsin has roughed up 2 non-BCS teams (Akron and Marshall), and while this game should be much more competitive, expect the Badgers to pull out the road win.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Best/Worst Week Ever: Week II

Another week, another set of performances all across the spectrum. We'll begin once again with the superlatives.

1. The Ole Miss Passing Attack
In the 4 seasons after Eli Manning's graduation following the 2003 campaign, Ole Miss quarterbacks threw 42 touchdowns passes and 61 interceptions. Following Jevan Snead's 4 touchdown performance in a last-second loss to Wake Forest, Ole Miss passers have thrown 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions through 2 games (one pick was thrown by wide receiver Dexter McCluster). The Rebs are also averaging a robust 34.5 points per game, after topping out at 20.1 per game in 2007.

2. BYU
Whether or not you agree with the penalty on Jake Locker (I do), the Cougars still had to block the kick. The Cougars survived their first of 4 stiff tests on their quest to qualify for a BCS bowl. Test 2 comes this week, at home against UCLA. Should the Cougars knock off the Bruins, the next big game comes at TCU on October 16th.

3. Arkansas State
The Red Wolves avoided a let down following their upset of Texas A&M as they obliterated Texas Southern (IAA). The Red Wolves put up 83 points and 670 yards against the overmatched Tigers and averaged an amazing 12.4 yards per play. The win sets up an intriguing home game this weekend against Southern Miss. The Eagles destroyed fellow Sun Belt member Louisiana-Lafayette to open the year, but were brought back to Earth by Auburn this past weekend. Last season, Southern Miss only won 16-10 in Hattiesburg, so a 3-0 start is not out of the question for the Red Wolves.

4. California
The school, not the state. The Golden Bears strolled into Pullman, Washington and laid a beating of biblical proportions on the Cougars. The Battle of Jericho was more competitive than this 66-3 game. That was the worst loss for the Cougars since UCLA celebrated the bicentenial by smoking them 62-3 in 1976. In their first 2 games, Cal has gone a long way toward convincing the public that their swoon to end the 2007 season was a big time fluke. Now they must travel cross country in a definite 'trap' game to face a Maryland squad beaten by Middle Tennessee State this past weekend. If the Bears keep their focus and walk out of College Park with a comfortable win, consider them Pac-10 title contenders.

5. The Miami Defense
While the offense once again did nothing against a competent team, the Miami defense held the mighty Florida Gators to a single touchdown through 3 quarters (in Gainesville no less) before wilting and allowing 17 points in the 4th quarter. Still, the Hurricanes held the explosive Gator attack to 345 yards and limited Tim Tebow to only 55 yards on 13 rushes. If the Miami defense is really this good, they are a legitimate contender in the offensively challenged ACC.

6. East Carolina
Of course, the big winner for the weekend is East Carolina. Holding a healthy Pat White-led offense to 251 yards and 3 points is certainly a remarkable feat, particularly for a Conference USA school. However, if the Pirates slip up at Tulane this weekend, all that hard work will go down the drain. A BCS bowl could await the Pirates and a new job likely awaits Skip Holtz at the conclusion of this season.

Football is a zero sum game, and for every good performance, there is a pathetic one to balance it out.

1. Oregon State Rush Defense
Last season the Beavers led the entire nation in rush defense, permitting only a little over 70 yards per game. This season, with the loss of their entire starting front 7, they have allowed 449 yards on the ground in 2 games. Ouch.

2. Notre Dame
The Irish were in serious trouble against San Diego State, down 13-7 before the Aztecs fumbled in the endzone on their way to a touchdown. The Irish rebounded to win, but struggling to put away a team that lost to Cal Poly should not inspire a lot of confidence for the Irish faithful.

3. Texas Tech Offense
The Red Raiders scored 35 points and Michael Crabtree had 158 yards receiving, but the offense did not have one of its better days. Quarterback Graham Harrell completed only 19 of 46 passes and threw for just a single score. In fact, Harrell's TD:Int ratio is only 1:1 and his completion percentage is 59.6%. Last season, Harrell threw 48 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions while completing 71.8% of his passes. Plus, the teams Texas Tech has played tus far, Eastern Washington and Nevada, are not exactly Big 12 squads.

4. The Big East
While the ACC had another embarrassing loss, (Maryland went down to Middle Tennessee State), thanks to West Virginia's defeat, the Big East has but 2 undefeated teams. South Florida, who won in OT against Central Florida (albeit in a game they dominated), and Connecticut, who also needed OT to dispatch Temple. The league's marquee team, West Virginia, still has a road game at Colorado and a home game against Auburn, so its possible the conference champion will have 3 or 4 losses. Congrats Big East on enjoying the worst week ever.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Fab Five: Week II

Last week could not exactly be classified as successful. I went a disappointing 4-6, but managed to avoid total disaster after an 0-3 start on Thursday and Friday. Time to get back in the swing of things (home teams in Bold).

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 2-3

Georgia Tech +7 Boston College
Paul Johnson's Ramblin' Wreck get their first test of the season at Chestnut Hill. The Jackets won't be as proficient running the ball against the Eagles as they were last week against Jacksonville State (averaged 7.59 yards per rush), but the team should do enough to keep a low-scoring affair close, if not pull out the outright victory.

Washington +9.5 BYU
Washington looked hopeless on Saturday, giving up 44 points and nearly 500 yards to Oregon. However, that game was at Eugene and this one is in Seattle. The Huskies beat another touted mid-major (Boise State) at home last season, and BYU, despite their 22-4 record the past 2 seasons, has actually lost all 3 road games at BCS-conference foes.

Ole Miss +7.5 Wake Forest
Ole Miss looked sharp last week in their win over Memphis, scoring 41 points. The Rebs never topped 38 points in the Ed Orgeron era. However, the defense has some issues, especially considering the opponent was a rebuilding Conference USA squad. The Rebs gave up 453 yards and the Tigers averagd 4.70 yards per rush. Wake Forest meanwhile, was never really challenged in a lopsided road win at Baylor. While Baylor and Ole Miss may have been comparable last season, the arrival of a proven coach (Houston Nutt) and a solid quarterback (Jevan Snead) make the Rebs a much better squad. This should be a great game, and I wll be fortunate enough to be in attendance.

Houston +15.5 Oklahoma State
Houston did not miss a beat in their first game under Kevin Sumlin, totalling 615 yards and 55 points in a throttling of Southern (IAA). Oklahoma State also enjoyed a strong performance, particularly from their defense, holding Washington State to 13 points and 196 yards in what amounted to a road win. The Cowboys will be up for this one, considering the Cougars beat them 34-25 in 2006, but Houston has a strong track record against BCS-conference foes. In their last 5 games against such opponents, they are only 1-4, but the defeats have come by 1, 8, 21, and 6 points.

Minnesota +5.5 Bowling Green
Last season the Falcons spoiled Minnesota's home opener with a 32-31 OT victory. Bowling Green again opened the season with an upset of a BCS-conference foe (Pitt), but are probably a little overvalued at this point. The Panthers outgained the Falcons by nearly 150 yards, but lost thanks to a -3 turnover margin. Of the 5 fumbles in the opener, Bowling Green fell on all 5 (2 of their own and 3 courtesy of the Panthers). A different bouce here or there and the outcome could have been drastically different. Bowling Green may well beat Minnesota, but 5 and a half points is too much to lay.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 2-3

Nebraska -26.5 San Jose State
Nebraska opened the Bo Pelini era with a very quiet 47-24 win over Western Michigan. The Broncos put up 350 yards, but an encouraging sign for the maligned Nebraska defense was that only 8 of those yards came on the ground. Even when sacks are removed from the equation, the Broncos only amassed 37 yards on 17 carries. San Jose State meanwhile, needed a last second score to knock off UC Davis (IAA) 13-10 at home. Memorial Stadium will not be a fond sight for the Spartans who have lost their last 3 games to BCS-conference foes by a combined score of 116-17.

Wyoming -3 Air Force
Joe Glenn narrowly avoided another crushing loss that could have sealed his fate as Cowboy head coach when his team eked out a 21-20 home win over Ohio. Now conference play begins with a home game against Air Force. The Falcons dominated Southern Utah 41-7, but are facing a large step up in competition this weekend. In what should be a low-scoring affair, expect the Cowboys to pull out the home win by at least a field goal.

West Virginia -8 East Carolina
After stunning Virginia Tech with a little taste of Beamer Ball, the Pirates return home to what should be a raucous crowd to face number 8 West Virginia. While a lot has been made of the fact that Villanova actually outgained the Mountaineers last week, it should be noted that the Wildcats ran 31 more plays to get the extra 45 yards. The Mountaineers were as efficient as ever, averaging over 6 yards per play on the ground and through the air. The Pirates are a nice story, but the dream of a BCS bowl bid will end on Saturday night.

Kansas -20.5 Louisiana Tech
The Kansas offense struggled in the opener against Florida International, averaging only 4.4 yards per play. Quarterback Todd Reesing was still uber-efficient, completing over 70% of his passes, but he also averaged only 4.9 yards per attempt. Their longest play from scrimmage was a 24-yard pass to Jonathan Wilson. Still, the defense was stout, permitting only 139 yards to the Panthers. Louisiana Tech did pull off a solid home upset in their opener over Mississippi State, but their offense was far from dangerous. The Bulldogs gained only 269 yards and quarterback Taylor Bennett (Georgia Tech transfer) completed only 35% of his passes. Kansas may struggle to put a big number on the board, but 4 touchdowns should be enough to cover the number.

South Florida -14 Central Florida
These rivals have played for the past 3 seasons with the Bulls prevailing in each one. The 2 in Tampa were romps by South Florida and the single game in Orlando was a tight 7-point win for the Bulls. This one may be in Orlando, but the Knights will have all kinds of trouble moving the ball against South Florida's defense.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Best/Worst Week Ever: Week I

In this new weekly column, I'll highlight the best and worst performances of the week from players, teams, coaches, conferences, etc., leaving no stone unturned in my quest to provide you with spot on college football commentary. We'll start with the superlatives.

1. Juice Williams
While his team may have fallen to the Missouri Tigers 52-42, Juice enjoyed easily his best game as a passer. He threw for 451 yards and 5 touchdowns. If you combine his 2 most prolific passing yardage games in his career, it totals 472 yards. And if you combine his 2 most prolific passing touchdown games in his career, it totals 6. Has Williams finally become a complete quarterback? That remains to be seen, but this has to be a troubling development for a Missouri defense that ranked 59th in total defense and 45th in opposing passer rating last season.

2. The MAC
While the league only managed a 6-6 record over opening weekend (with 3 wins coming over IAA foes), there were several impressive performances. Bowling Green upset Pitt on the road, Buffalo trounced what was thought to be a solid Conference USA team at home (UTEP), Temple crushed Army on the road, Ohio lost a 1-point heartbreaker at Wyoming, and Northern Illinois lost by 4 at Minnesota. 5 of the 6 losses came to BCS foes and 4 of those were road games. After going 0-3 in bowl games last season, this looks to be a conference on the rise in 2008.

3. Bulldogs--Western Breeds
Both Bulldogs from the WAC opened the season with wins over bowl squads from a season ago. Louisiana Tech got the canine party started by knocking off Mississippi State on Saturday night, and Fresno State one-upped them by winning a 3000-mile road game against Rutgers on Labor Day. For that reason, the Bulldogs had the best week ever.

Now who had the worst week ever? There are a host of candidates.

1. Hot Seat Coaches
A few gentlemen who could ill-afford to lose their opener, went out and did just that. Dave Wannstedt of Pitt, who has yet to post a winning record in 3 full seasons lost at home to Bowling Green. Mike Price, who has gone 9-19 in his last 28 games at UTEP, took a trip to upstate New York and got blasted by a Buffalo program that was 2-10 in 2006. Steve Kragthorpe, who has run the Louisville program into the ground in just 13 games, lost to archrival Kentucky for the second straight season. The formerly explosive Cardinal attack gained just 205 yards. To be fair, they lost a ton of talent, but 205 yards against a team that was 67th in total defense in 2007 has to be cause for concern. At least the defense did their job. While Kentucky scored 27 points, 14 came on defensive touchdowns, and the lone offensive score came on a drive that started on the Louisville 7. And finally we have Chuck Long. The San Diego State coach was 7-17 after 2 years at the helm, before losing to IAA Cal Poly. Long is now 0-2 against Cal Poly, having lost to them in his first season (2006) as well.

2. Inauspicious Debuts
Bobby Petrino pulled out a 28-24 squeaker over IAA Western Illinois in his debut as Arkansas head coach. Mike Sherman was not so lucky at Texas A&M as his Aggies fell at home to Arkansas State. No one expected greatness out of those 2 programs in 2008, but their respective starts could have been a lot better.

3. The Auburn Spread Offense
85 yards passing on 27 attempts is probably not what the Tiger faithful had in mind when Tony Franklin was hired as the offensive coordinator. The Tigers did crank out 321 yards on the ground, but consider the competition (Louisiana-Monroe).

4. The Kansas Offense
One season after taking the college football world by storm, Kansas has some kinks to iron out before their schedule toughens. Last season against Florida International, Kansas put up 615 yards and averaged 8.2 yards per play. This season they put up only 384 yards on the Panthers and averaged 4.4 yards per play. The offensive struggles maifested themselves in the running and passing game. The team averaged only 3.56 yards per rush (averaged more than that in all but 2 games last season--Missouri and Virginia Tech) and a woeful 4.9 yards per pass (averaged 5.3 in their worst outing last season). The Jayhawks did lose their best offensive linemen (tackle Anthony Collins), top rusher (Brandon McAnderson), and top receiver (Marcus Henry), so perhaps the early struggles are not that surprising.

5. The ACC/Big East
Both conferences took a tremendous hit over the opening weekend. The preseason ACC favorite, Clemson, was humiliated on a neutral field by possibly the 3rd best team in the SEC West (Alabama). Last year's champion, Virginia Tech, lost on a neutral field to a Conference USA school (East Carolina). NC State was whitewashed by a middle of the pack SEC school (South Carolina). Virginia was crushed by perhaps the best team in the country (Southern Cal) at home. Maryland and North Carolina barely beat IAA foes (Delaware and McNeese State). Duke, Miami, and Georgia Tech all stomped IAA teams, but the conference's lone victory over a fellow BCS-league foe belongs to Wake Forest. It truly is a sad state of affairs when the Demon Deacons are the sole ACC member in the top 25. Of course, it could be argued the Big East had an even worse week. 4 schools opened against IAA cupcakes (West Virginia, Cincinnati, Connecticut, and South Florida). Those 4 schools won handily. The other 4 opened against IA teams. All 4 lost. 3 of them were at home. Pitt lost at home to Bowling Green. Louisville lost at home to Kentucky. Rutgers lost at home to Fresno State. And Syracuse lost at Northwestern. Maybe the Orange Bowl should change course this season and invite a Mountain West and WAC school to Dolphins Stadium instead of the champion from either of these conferences. Thus, the ACC and Big East combined to have the worst week ever.