Saturday brought about a number of surprises, beginning with
the sprained shoulder suffered by Oklahoma
quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford. Redshirt freshman
Landry Jones had to take over, and while he wasn’t bad the Sooners couldn’t do
enough to hold off BYU (14-13). Other surprises include Michigan’s
response to a week of criticism and Illinois
practically lying down against Missouri.
But the Tigers deserve credit as well; many expected this to be the beginning
of a downward cycle for Gary Pinkel’s team and they made a rather loud
statement to the rest of the Big 12 North.
And how about FCS schools and other underdogs on the first
Saturday of the season? Appalachian State made a late run at ECU, and that was
without star QB Armanti Edwards. Northern Iowa had Iowa
on the ropes in Iowa City
before the Hawkeyes blocked a pair of kicks to survive 17-16. OhioState
struggled with Navy until the bitter end, needing an interception return on a
Midshipmen two-point conversion attempt to hang on. But for all the good that
Virginia Tech’s competitive effort could have done for the ACC despite losing
Duke and Virginia managed to send it all up in flames.
Duke lost to defending national champion Richmond
24-16, but the Blue Devils needed a late touchdown to get the game to within
one score. Virginia
seemed to fall asleep at the wheel following an impressive opening drive,
turning the ball over in a sound 26-14 home loss to William & Mary. Add to
this a loss by Wake Forest to a decent Baylor team due in large part to a
turnover margin of minus-3 and Maryland getting embarrassed on the West Coast
and you’ve got the makings of a pretty bad weekend for the ACC.
But there’s also more football to be played, with two games
apiece on Sunday and Monday.
(8) Ole Miss @ Memphis (Sunday, 3:30 PM on ESPN)
This is actually a decent rivalry game, and the Tigers could
hang around despite the fact that Houston Nutt’s Rebels come in as a trendy
pick to make noise in the ACC. QB Jevan Snead is thought by many to be the
second-best draft prospect at his position in the country. With players such as
Dexter McCluster, Shay Hodge and Cordera Eason at his disposal the junior is in
line for an even better 2009. Tommy West’s team has some talented skill
position players as well, but do they have enough defense to keep up with the
Rebels? The answer here is no, but Memphis
will hang around.
ColoradoState @ Colorado (Sunday,
7 PM on FSN)
I’m with the ColoradoState supporters on this game: the
Rocky Mountain Showdown belongs in Denver.
If this were a case of both teams getting an equal number of home games in the
series then it would be tolerable. But I doubt that’s the case, with the BCS
resident Buffaloes getting the better end of the deal most likely. That could
serve as a motivating factor for Steve Fairchild’s Rams, who have lost four of
the last five meetings in the series. Before last season they’d been close games,
but CSU has lost some key players from last year’s New Mexico Bowl champion
There’s a lot more pressure upon the shoulders of the
Buffaloes, who really need to challenge for the Big 12 North crown this season.
QB Cody Hawkins may not have the services of WR Josh Smith (transfer), but the
Buffs have some solid running backs in Demetrius Sumler, Rodney Stewart and
Darrell Scott. The defense has some holes to fill but there’s enough talent on
offense to make up for that. A loss here could derail Colorado’s season before it even begins;
look for CU to win a close one.
Cincinnati @ Rutgers
(Monday, 4 PM on ESPN)
The season opener for both is also the Big East opener, with
the winner enjoying the satisfaction of leading the conference for the remainder
of the month (no other conference games will be played in September). A lot has
been made about the fact that the Bearcats have to replace ten starters on
defense, but how much of an issue is that? It’s a new scheme (switching from
the 4-3 to the 3-4) with a new coordinator (Bob Diaco), so it might be a
positive to essentially start fresh with a number of new faces. The offense
will remain explosive behind QB Tony Pike and an explosive receiving corps,
meaning that Brian Kelly’s team will put points on the board.
Rutgers wishes that they
were as established at quarterback and receiver, having to replace QB Mike Teel
and receivers Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood. Either Domenic Natale or
freshman Tom Savage will take the first snap of the season, but both will
likely play as will Jabu Lovelace (Wildcat formation). The Scarlet Knights have
one of the better offensive lines in the Big East and a few different options
at running back. The defense is also solid, and the combination has made Greg
Schiano’s team a trendy pick in national media circles to win the conference.
But why would the media that cover the league on a daily basis pick Rutgers to finish fifth? The nation seems to be selling Cincinnati short; you
won’t see that here. Bearcats win.
Miami @ (18) Florida State (Monday, 8 PM on ESPN)
The rivalry that helped shape college football in the 90s is
back on Labor Day night, with both teams hoping to use the game as a
springboard to bigger things. Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews has gone on
record with the statement that his Seminole defense is the fastest that he’s
had at the school despite the heavy personnel losses from 2008. The defense
hasn’t been the issue for FloridaState in recent years;
the rather pedestrian offense has been the problem. Christian Ponder is a year
older and should be more mature under center, and there are some good skill
position players as well. But can line coach Rick Trickett get that group
going? They’ve struggled with consistency, and the running game is still a sore
spot for FSU.
As for the Hurricanes, is this the year in which Randy
Shannon’s team makes the transition from “Baby Canes” to ACC title contender?
Jacory Harris will be the unquestioned starter but if he happens to go down
they’re in serious trouble with the lone backup being true freshman A.J.
Highsmith. But Miami
is in very good shape at the skill position, and backs Graig Cooper and
Javarris James will give teams fits all year long. The defense is a year older
and most likely a year better. FloridaState will also have to
replace the indispensable Graham Gano on special teams, and if you know
anything about this rivalry then you know how important the kicking game can
be. In recent years this has been an ugly football game, but also an
entertaining one. The Hurricanes have lost three of the last five, including
the last two, but they settle a score in Tallahassee.
College sports has always been a source of excitement for Raphielle Johnson, be it through watching, writing, or taking a shot in the dark and walking onto a college football team just to live the life (Arizona Football, 2001). Raphielle is the assistant editor, providing his own work in addition to helping out with the site operations. When not writing for CHN, you can usually find him in front of a television set watching one of many pay-per-view sports packages that he owns. He can be followed at twitter.com/raphiellej.