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SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
9/01/2007 11:50:00 PM

Saturday Observations Part III

Justin Forsett
Justin Forsett ran for 160 yards and a touchdowns Golden Bears avenged last season's humiliating loss to the Volunteers.
I’d say Cal got its redemption all right. As expected, we saw plenty of Nate Longshore’s arm and DeSean Jackson’s explosiveness (that punt return was plain silly), but what impressed me most about the Bears’ 45-31 win over Tennessee -- something they’d been largely missing the past couple of years -- was their toughness. Whenever they needed some short yards between the tackles, RB Justin Forsett delivered, while Zack Follet and the defense did an impressive job up front.

Meanwhile, hats off to Vols QB Erik Ainge for a phenomenal performance considering the circumstances. Playing with a broken pinkie and a brand new set of receivers, Ainge was a solid 32-of-47 for 271 yards and three touchdowns. You could tell, however, that offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe doesn’t have too much confidence yet in the new receivers because he rarely called a downfield passing play. He’s going to need to add that component sometime in the next two weeks if the Vols hope to have a chance of winning in Gainesville on Sept. 15.

If you didn’t see it, a disturbing development took place in the final minutes, when LB Xavier Mitchell appeared to suffer a potentially serious injury following an awkward hit. He lay motionless on the turf for more than 10 minutes before being carted off the field (at least his arms were moving at that point). Here’s hoping the prognosis is positive.

· How can anyone not love Brent Musburger talking about "hippies in the oak trees?" Honestly, that drinking game that’s been floating around the Internet doesn’t even begin to do the man justice.

· Georgia could not have asked for a better start to the season than Saturday’s 35-14 win over Oklahoma State. Sophomore QB Matthew Stafford picked up where left off at the end of last season, looking like a much more confident, crisp passer (18-of-24, 234 yards, two TDs, no INTs) and the Bulldogs’ defense -- which sports a bunch of new faces – looked much like it always does, notching five sacks and holding the Cowboys’ normally explosive offense to 266 total yards.

· I had a feeling going in that Auburn was going to have its hands full with Kansas State, and that’s exactly what happened. Without a reliable offensive line or receivers, QB Brandon Cox looked like a man stranded on a lonely island most of the night as the Tigers managed just nine points in the game’s first 57 minutes. Quentin Groves and the defense eventually bailed them out, but if Auburn (which, in its defense, was playing without top RB Brad Lester) can’t move the ball on Kansas State (it finished with 295 yards), just wait ‘til those SEC defenses come calling.

· The unsung star of the day: UCLA running back Kahlil Bell. After missing nearly half the 2006 season to injuries and a suspension, the junior racked up 195 yards on 19 carries – part of a 624-yard day for the Bruins -- in a 45-17 win over Stanford. Maybe new Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh just changed his opinion about which L.A. team is the greatest of all time.

· This week, ESPN the Magazine ran an interesting feature entitled Dream of the Doomed about North Texas’ seemingly futile quest to knock off Oklahoma in its opener. It included a description of defensive end and Norman native Blake Burruss pumping his fists in the air and screaming "Stoops got outcoached! Stoops got outcoached!" after the Sooners’ Fiesta Bowl loss to Boise State.

Do you think it’s at all possible that clip made it to Bob Stoops’ hands prior to kickoff Saturday night? Final score: Oklahoma 79, North Texas 10. Nice debuts for a couple of key Sooners redshirt freshmen (albeit against one of the worst teams in I-A): QB Sam Bradford went 21-of-23 for 363 yards and three TDs, and RB DeMarco Murray scored five touchdowns on 17 carries.

· We’ve been hearing for two years how UCF’s Kevin Smith may well be the best running back in the state of Florida. Saturday night, he ran for a career-high 217 yards on 35 carries in a 25-23 upset of N.C. State. Big win for George O’Leary; rough debut for Tom O’Brien.

· So much for that talk about Arizona suddenly morphing into Texas Tech under new offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. BYU held the Wildcats scoreless for 59 minutes in a 20-7 victory that included an impressive debut by new Cougars QB Max Hall (26-of-39, 288 yards, two TDs no INTs).
posted by Stewart Mandel | View comments |


Posted: 12:28 AM   by TheDukester
Hey, did you have a fun year, Tennessee fans? Guess what? Time to shut up now.

Your team just got smacked in the mouth by one of those "soft" Pac-10 teams. But don't worry, you've still got Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette coming up on the schedule. You should be able to win one of those.

Once again, the myth of the SEC's supposed dominance is exposed. And I won't even bring up USC's combined four straight wins over Auburn and Arkansas by 24-17, 23-0, 70-17, and 50-14 scores. Whoops, I guess I just DID bring it up. Sorry about that. (BTW, since you seem unsure on these things, SEC fans, USC plays in the "soft" Pac-10)

Well, anyway, enjoy your annual wins over Vandy, both of the useless Mississippi schools, Kentucky, etc., etc. Yeah, what a deep conference. The SEC being the best conference in college football is the second-biggest myth in American sports, but it's continually reinforced by the media, alleged college football "experts," and legions of drunken message-board trolls. Time to get over yourselves.

Oh, and the biggest myth in American sports: NASCAR is a major sport.
Posted: 12:52 AM   by Tom
All the Pac 10 has is USC and Cal...the SEC goes 8 deep. Have the Pac 10's 8th team play the SEC's 8th team, and we'll see who gets the W...and I wouldn't call Cal winning by 14 "smacking in the mouth"...35-0 in the third quarter last year- now that's a smackdown. Cal was the better team, but not by as much as you seem to think.

Also, can Brent Musberger be any more obvious in his love for the Pac 10? He got almost orgasmic several times in the second half. What a homer!!
Posted: 1:01 AM   by matthewlysne
"Have the Pac 10's 8th team play the SEC's 8th team, and we'll see who gets the W..."

Great, 1st week and the SEC fans have resorted to the famous "our 8th best player is better than your 8th best player" argument. This is going to be a fun season!
Posted: 2:38 AM   by rube1859
Musberger going off on the "treehuggers" who should be happy with three trees (two sapplings and one mature stree) replacing each tree to be cut down made my weekend.
Posted: 3:22 AM   by jay
Tom, while it's nice to see that you have the SEC winning several games against the Pac-10 in la-la-land, those of us who don't live in fictional hypothetical worlds will note that one of the better SEC teams got spanked by a Pac-10 softie. Just the facts, Jack (and Tom, and Les).

It's not the loss itself that should sting (although that should, too - the Pac-10 is now guaranteed a 100% win rate against the SEC in the regular season). It's the fact that SEC homers stupidly state that a softie like Cal could NEVER match up with an SEC contender like the Vols. Like Fatboy Weis learned today, sometimes all arrogance buys you is some "shut-the-f-up".
Posted: 3:47 AM   by Grant
Two items that you mention - Der Weiss am grossten and his inability to name a quarterback, and O'Brien's tough day. Obviously, Weiss did not name a quarterback because he did not have one, and made this even more obvious to his opponent by his incredibly stupid tactic of keeping it a secret until game day. Guess what, now nobody cares who the starter at ND is , other than maybe the player's mom and dad.

For O'Brien - no offensive line. Still, he changed quarterbacks, and moved the ball, but this team needs to establish ownership of the trenches to have a good year. I still think that this is the obvious right coach for NCSU, and I think they have a chance at exceeding your expectations.
Posted: 9:07 AM   by Purple Haze
All I can say is TCU again has defeated another big 12 team, you know the one that stuck their nose up at them when they were creating a conference that was going to be "superior." What is even greater is that TCU is going into play Texas next weekend in Austin as Mack Brown and company appeared weaker than in years pasts. Is this the year the Frogs take off and actually maintain the respect that they have lost in the later half of the previous two seasons. I am watching and dying to know. You just have to love a school that wins and gets minimal if no respect from the press. I dont even remember you posting anything about TCU this Saturday. You will see too my friend, its not about the deaths of the supposed favorites like "Michigan and Notre Dame." Today its about Teams like "TCU and Boise State" overcoming.

Purple Haze
Posted: 11:07 AM   by Stew....
Cal v. Tenn was a great game. Wish there were more games like it.

The SEC may be this year's superconference, what with so many teams near the top, but anyone who thinks the PAC-10 is soft is a fool.

Year in and year out, the PAC-10 has the toughest non-conference schedule, and the conference schedule is no cakewalk. Look at the current Sagrin ratings by conference (which is the best predictor of a team or conference's true standing). The Sagrin rating, because it is currently at the beginning of the season, is an average of the past couple of years. Guess what, the Pac-10 and the SEC are in a virtual tie at the top. This means that the Pac-10 conference schedule is about as tough as the lauded SEC -- and it may be tougher given that the Pac-10 plays one more conference game.

Here's to a great football season.
Posted: 11:21 AM   by Knox
Brent Musburger's a decent fellow a bit past his prime as a sportscaster. His bias for the PAC-10 likely reveals a desire to retire to a California zip code. He can afford it. To a legion of college football fans now bereft of Keith Jackson, Brent's cool in the same way that Gerald Ford is now cool. Musburger will never be more than a wet leaf glistening palely in KJ's shadow. When it's overcast, even a weak gleam can catch one's eye for a moment.
Posted: 11:34 AM   by Knox
Stew, I've got to laud the balanced perspective on the PAC-10 & SEC. It's too bad that the Sagrin rating argument won't penetrate the fog of passions fueling so much of this conference smack talk.

The Cal/UT game was great college football. The Volunteer fans always travel in numbers, spend money freely, and are by and large well-mannered, good-natured, and generous. Only fools would not welcome them warmly. Smart communities want them to come back often and in greater numbers.
Posted: 2:02 PM   by brice
Oh my god! Mandel doesn't hate the uga bulldawgs!

Just kidding man; I knew you didn't. You just had an opinion about them.
Posted: 2:03 PM   by Chad
Nice game by Cal...obviously they were motivated for redemption, but the Pac-10 is still one great team (USC) and one good team (Cal) followed by...nothing worth mentioning. But if Oregon beats Michigan next weekend...huh, what? Oh, nevermind.

The SEC is, by far, the best conference...and it's not even close. I will say that the Pac-10 is ahead of the big 10...but then again, who isn't?
Posted: 2:12 PM   by Chad
auburn got some major league homecooking to beat Kansas St. They were whipped all over the field all night long...but in the 4th quarter KSU couldn't overcome auburn AND the zebras. Face it, if you play auburn at home, you'd better be ahead of them by more than a TD in the 4th quarter because they WILL find a way to score a TD...one way or the other...no matter how pitiful they've looked the first 3 quarters. That Cox kid will be killed this season though.
Posted: 2:20 PM   by LSUtigersFTW
It's funny that all you Pac-10 fans think that you can compete with the SEC because one of the best Cal teams in recent years beat one of the worst Tennessee teams in that same time period. Now I'm not saying the Pac-10 isn't good. In fact, in my opinion, the Pac-10 is the second best conference. But the level of conference play that the Pac sees is not as demanding week-in and week-out as the SEC. I've heard the shots over and over again at the weakness of some of the non-conference games we play...sorry we can't get more powerhouse teams like Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, Standford, Arizona, and Arizona State to play us more often. Try playing, in any given season, Florida, Georgia, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, and LSU...not to mention the teams on the rise like S.Carolina and Kentucky (each will win 7 or 8 games this year). By the end of the season, we'll see if the Pac-10 can still claim they're better than the SEC...it all comes down to New Orleans on Jan. 7! Geaux Tigers!!
Posted: 3:51 PM   by ml_8000
Well now, the tables have turned and yet Tenn and the SEC is still talking smack. Don't you guys know when to quit or are you "internet" brave? Perhaps y'all can learn a thing or two from the "soft" left coast...like when you lose just shut up, suck it up and be men about it. That's what Cal did last year.

Conversely the Tenn fans at the game (non internet types) were gracious and well mannered except for a few. I give them credit.

Any way, hate to rub it in but since the question about the SEC and Tenn has been raised - Tenn is something like 2-9-1 when playing in California. What's up with that?
Posted: 6:28 PM   by Joe
I was at the Cal Tenn game yesterday. I never felt threatened by Tennessee- ever. Cal obviously had way more speed. After the first drive of the third quarter, Tennessee fans were basically silent. There was one point in the third when Cal was only up by 7 and Tenn had the ball- you could feel it get a little anxious in there- but never felt Cal would lose. But really... the game may have ended with only a 14 point swing, but Tennessee never really stopped Cal's offense. Cal had first and goal from the 8 on their second to last possession before the center funbled it in the end zone on a rush play. On the final drive (after a Tennessee punt), cal was reeling off 10+ yard gains before downing it to end the game. I didnt see any problems with the Tennessee offense, really. It was their defense- couldnt really stop anything.
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