College Football Overtime (cont.)
What about Boise State?
Besides Oklahoma, Boise State has to be the team most dismayed by BYU's upset. After handling Oregon last Thursday (yes, a game took place before all the punching), the Broncos seemed to have paved a near-unobstructed road to their first BCS berth since 2006, but now the Cougars figure to jump them. Not only did BYU notch a more resounding win, but there's a vast disparity between the teams' remaining schedules. Consider: Two of Boise's purportedly toughest competitors in the WAC are Nevada and San Jose State. Notre Dame blanked the Wolf Pack 35-0 on Saturday; USC stomped the Spartans 56-3.
However, should the Mountain West heavyweights knock off each other, the Broncos showed signs against Oregon that they may be fielding their most complete team since the '06 Fiesta Bowl champs. After basically ditching their running game last year due to a young offensive line, the Broncos pounded the ball against the Ducks with tailback tandem Jeremy Avery and D.J. Harper. "Up front, we're better, bigger," said offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. "And the combination of utilizing Avery and Harper [on entire drives] lets them get into a rhythm."
Throw in gunslinger Kellen Moore and a defense that held Oregon without a first down for two-and-a-half quarters, and Boise figures to be a tough matchup come bowl time. Hopefully for the Broncos, bowl time doesn't take place at the Poinsettia Bowl.
Current BCS forecast
Each week, I'll update my projected BCS lineup (as necessary) based on the latest week's games. My current predictions:
Title game: Florida vs. Texas
Would a BCS bowl (in this case, the Fiesta) voluntarily select a second non-BCS team? Probably not, but right now I'd take both BYU and Boise over a second team from the ACC, Big Ten or Pac-10. Following its uninspiring opener against Navy, I've taken Ohio State off my BCS board. The Buckeyes need to show me something next week against USC to regain their spot. And while Oklahoma may well rebound and produce another 10-win regular season, as of now I'm picking Oklahoma State to supplant the Sooners and take the Big 12 South's second berth.
Spreading the field
While attending a USC practice last week, I noticed junior tailback Joe McKnight looked bigger, sharper and generally more comfortable than he did during his relatively disappointing first two seasons. Coach Pete Carroll named McKnight the starter that day, and McKnight delivered against San Jose State, running 14 times for 154 yards and two TDs. Throw in Stafon Johnson, Allen Bradford, et. al., and a veteran line, and my guess is the Trojans are going to run the ball down a lot of peoples' throats this fall.
No major conference endured a more humiliating opening weekend than the ACC, which went 4-6 in non-conference play despite the fact six of those games came against I-AA opponents. The league lost all four of its BCS-conference matchups (NC State fell to South Carolina, Virginia Tech to Alabama, Wake Forest to Baylor and Maryland to Cal), while Virginia (to William and Mary) and Duke (to Richmond) fell to I-AA foes. Mind you, many of the victims were picked near the bottom of the conference anyway, but it doesn't make the idiot who said the league could be "poised for prominence" look very smart.
With Steve Sarkisian on the sideline and star QB Jake Locker back on the field, Washington looked like a different team, even in a 31-23 loss to LSU, than the squad that went winless a year ago. The Huskies gained more yards in the first half (296) on Saturday than in seven full games last year and wound up with 478, led by Locker's 372 total yards. Tigers fans, meanwhile, should be concerned their defense possibly hasn't improved as anticipated under new coordinator John Chavis, but can take heart in the solid performance sophomore QB Jordan Jefferson (11-of-19, 172 yards, three TDs) put together.
As if Oklahoma State didn't have enough star power with Zac Robinson, Kendall Hunter and Dez Bryant, it's probably time folks started giving cornerback Perrish Cox his due. The noted return specialist struck again Saturday against Georgia with a momentum-changing 74-yard kick return to start the third quarter. Just as impressive: his sticky coverage against the Dawgs' star receiver, A.J. Green, who finished with a modest 52 yards on four catches.
Virginia Tech has now dropped four straight games against SEC foes, but the two most recent -- Saturday's 34-24 defeat to Alabama and a 48-7 loss to LSU in 2007 -- have been particularly disturbing. The Hokies' normally stingy defense allowed a combined 1,106 yards to the Tigers and Tide. It's one thing to stifle the primarily mediocre offenses that have littered the ACC in recent years, but the Hokies have been outclassed when facing more physical, dynamic attacks. And that's on their strong side of the ball.
Speaking of which, if Alabama's capable of winning a game like that even after allowing a 98-yard kickoff return, throwing a pick at its own 14, having one of its players commit multiple unsportsmanlike penalties on the same play and generally stinking it up for three quarters, it bodes pretty well for the Tide. Still, I wouldn't want to be in a meeting room with Nick Saban this week.
He runs like a track star. He's lethal on the deep ball. Now, add a new feat to Robert Griffin's resume: he can punt. On a quick-kick in the second quarter against Wake Forest, the Baylor quarterback drilled a 59-yard punt that pinned the Deacons at their five-yard-line. Meanwhile the Bears' defense picked off Wake QB Riley Skinner three times in a 24-21 victory, Baylor's first nonconference road win over a BCS foe since 1995.
Arizona coach Mike Stoops has spent six years trying to mold the Wildcats' defense into the type of fast, aggressive outfit he engineered at Oklahoma. How's this for a statement: The Wildcats held prolific Central Michigan QB Dan LeFevour -- he of 9,214 passing yards and 2,235 rushing yards over three seasons -- to just 182 total yards in a 19-6 win. "We're trying to be a greedy defense and bring back the old days," said safety Cam Nelson, presumably referring to Arizona's "Desert Swarm" D from the '90s. Continued efforts like that will take a lot of pressure off sophomore QB and first-time starter Matt Scott.
New Purdue coach Danny Hope certainly doesn't lack swagger. Following Saturday's 52-31 rout of Toledo, in which the Boilermakers showed off a more balanced, multiple-look offense, Hope said: "I'm not surprised to see us hang 50 on them. I think we have a very good offense." After 12 years of Joe Tiller's famed spread, coordinator Gary Nord showed a little bit of everything -- five-receiver sets, more traditional sets, some no-huddle -- and sophomore RB Ralph Bolden exploded for 234 yards, third-most in school history.
That thing I said last week about Penn State being overrated? Forget it. Never happened. The Nittany Lions outgained Akron 344 to 8 in the first half of a 31-7 win (all 31 points came in that half), and it seems Daryll Clark and his new receivers are getting along just fine.
Oh, and what I said about Cal? About how I wouldn't jump on the Bears' bandwagon until QB Kevin Riley showed me something? Riley was 17-of-26 for 298 yards and four touchdowns against Maryland. Choo choo!
While we're at it, to anyone in St. Louis who listened to a radio interview I did there last week in which I proclaimed Illinois a potential national sleeper ... I misplaced my phone that day. Really. Wasn't me who answered.
Only one weekend in, and I already want to pound my head into a wall every time I hear that Kenny Chesney snippet. Why, ESPN? Why?
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