College Football Mailbag (cont.)
What was more of a shock to you -- Clemson's collapse or UCLA's improbable victory?
Hands down, UCLA. At this point, Clemson's choke-jobs have become so predictable that even a particularly lopsided one doesn't entirely surprise me. While I was among the many that had the Tigers ranked higher than the Tide coming into the season, I had a hunch all summer long that a coach with a history of choke jobs (Tommy Bowden) going against a coach with a national title ring (Nick Saban) might not bode well for Clemson. I just wish I'd had the guts to go with that hunch.
But UCLA over Tennessee? I don't even know where to begin. The Bruins entered that game with a third-string quarterback, Kevin Craft, who immediately went out and confirmed every UCLA fan's worst nightmare. They had two offensive linemen with any playing experience. And then, in the same first half in which Craft threw four picks, the Bruins watched their top tailback (Kahlil Bell), top tight end (Logan Paulsen) and top receiver (Marcus Everett) go down with injuries. Never in a million years would I have foreseen Craft coming out in the second half and slicing apart the Vols' defense.
At this point, I'm starting to wonder whether Norm Chow is capable of leading a D-III team to the Rose Bowl. While Craft deserves no shortage of credit for settling down and making all the right throws, Chow's imprint on the comeback was unmistakable. Once it became apparent that UCLA's blockers could provide the necessary protection, Craft went from aimlessly slinging the ball downfield to what appeared to be very precise, targeted throws into specific holes in the Vols' defense. And who could have foreseen DTs Brian Price and Brigham Harwell so thoroughly dominating a Tennessee offensive line that allowed just four sacks all of last season? You can see why Rick Neuheisel made sure to retain defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker.
While I'm sure they're still partying in Westwood, I wouldn't get too ahead of myself if I'm a UCLA fan. Monday night's win seemed like one of those perfect storms, with the Bruins feeding off the energy and excitement surrounding Neuheisel's debut and where every conceivable break (except maybe Tennessee's field goal to force overtime) went in UCLA's favor. The Bruins are still going to take their share of licks this season, but their future hasn't looked this bright in a long, long time.
I may have missed something, but it appears you're not blogging this year. Have you given that up? I really enjoyed your game day comments last year.
Where are your Saturday Observations? I need those to get through my Saturday. Please tell me they haven't been discontinued.
Sorry guys -- I probably should have given you a heads-up in last week's Mailbag.
While I appreciate the kind words from all of you who enjoyed my College Football Blog the past two seasons, the reality is -- I was a crappy blogger. A good blog, as I've since learned, gets updated every day, multiple times a day, and mine mostly sat vacant from Monday through Friday due to my other obligations. While people seemed to enjoy the all-day Saturday posts, the truth is, half the time I was writing about games I hadn't even seen (even more so on Saturdays when I was out covering a game.)
However, the spirit of those posts remains very much at the core of SI.com's new college football blog, The Sweep. I'm still providing my own contributions, but so, too, are Andy Staples, Gennaro Filice, Cory McCartney, Bill Trocchi, Arash Markazi, Luke Winn and others. By taking a team approach to the blog, we're able to cover far more ground and offer you guys more constantly updated content not only on Saturdays, but throughout the week. I'll still be doing plenty of "instant analysis" on the Saturdays I'm at home (like this coming one), but I'm also looking forward to getting out and covering some of the scene surrounding the games, like I did this past weekend at Missouri-Illinois. (Though I must admit Cory's pictures from Clemson-Alabama were far more appealing.)
So if you haven't already, be sure to bookmark and/or add to your RSS feeds, The Sweep. We quietly launched it last week, but if you go back through the archives (there were more than 40 posts in the first five days!), you'll get a good taste of what weekends will be like this season.
After a big week for some non-BCS teams, which potential BCS busters did the most to prove they belong in a top-tier bowl?
It's hard to say at this point because we won't know for some time the strength of the teams they beat. For instance, I was already high on Utah going into the season, but I did not move the Utes into my Top 25 this week because, quite frankly, they didn't play very well against Michigan. They accrued 137 yards in penalties and nearly coughed away the game at the end. East Carolina, on the other hand, confirmed my suspicion that the Pirates are a team to be reckoned with. If they're able to knock off West Virginia at home this week ... watch out.
The other team that really caught my eye was Fresno State with its 24-7 win at Rutgers. I'm not yet ready to move the Bulldogs into the poll because the Scarlet Knights still have much to prove themselves, but it's hard not to be impressed with RB Ryan Matthews' 163-yard, three-touchdown performance. Fresno State, like East Carolina, will have more opportunities to showcase itself on the big stage, starting Sept. 13 against Wisconsin.