Sports, Thrill of Victory

Recapping college football’s Week 2

While the second weekend of the college football season was certainly from the strongest schedule-wise, there were plenty of things to note as most teams played their second games. Here’s what caught my eye this weekend.

Winners:

  • Oregon: That game with Michigan State was expected to perhaps have a say in who makes the College Football Playoff, and with a great second-half comeback, the Ducks may have established themselves as the team to beat not only in the Pac-12, but maybe nationally as well. After accounting for 360 yards on 37 plays, OU quarterback Marcus Mariota is now the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, too.
  • Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish are still missing several starters, but after back-t0-back 31-point wins over Rice and Michigan to start the season, Notre Dame may indeed be a dark horse contender for the playoff. The schedule ahead is daunting, but if the Irish get those guys back, the defense may be good enough to carry them there.
  • Virginia Tech: The Hokies, once a fixture among college football’s elite teams, took a couple of big steps back with 7- and 8-win seasons in 2012 and ’13.  It’s too early to say Tech is “back”–without quarterback Braxton Miller, beating Ohio State doesn’t make quite the statement that it might have–but not a whole lot of teams win in Columbus, so the Hokies have that going for them. The Hokies have the benefit of playing in a very pedestrian Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division and other than an Oct. 4 trip to North Carolina, may be favored in all their remaining regular-season games.
  • BYU: Speaking of under-the-radar teams with favorable schedules coming up, the Cougars have to feel quite confident about things after going into Austin and smacking Texas by a 41-7 count. Without a ranked team on the schedule, BYU’s toughest trips now come at UCF and Boise State in October.
  • Southern Cal: For the second-straight year, the Trojans beat Pac-12 South rival Stanford, this one coming in Palo Alto. Through two games, USC has given up just 23 total points, though Stanford did gain 413 yards on Saturday.

Losers:

  • Vanderbilt: It is hard to believe how much of a disaster the Commodores are coming off back-to-back seasons where they finished in the Top 25. After two weeks, the ‘Dores have now been out-scored by a combined 78-10. How bad is it? Vandy’s only points have come on a fumbled snap in the end zone by Temple’s punter, and a field goal to cap a minus-4 yard scoring drive.
  • Texas: Playing with an inexperienced quarterback and without three key offensive lineman, losing to BYU was probably inevitable. But Charlie Strong defenses aren’t supposed to give up 41 points and the folks in Austin are far from happy right now.
  • Washington State: There was a lot of optimism in Pullman when former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach took the job, and this time a year ago, the Cougars had just beaten Southern Cal on the road after narrowly losing at Auburn. But WSU ended the year at 6-7 after a disastrous bowl loss to Colorado State and now, the Cougars are 0-2 after a home loss to Rutgers, followed by a road loss at Nevada. Hey Mike, watch where you swing that sword!
  • The Big Ten: Here’s the best way to sum up the Big Ten’s weekend: probably the most impressive thing the league did all Saturday came when Penn State beat Akron by 18…unless it was that Illinois’ 42-34 win over Western Kentucky? Or, perhaps it was Minnesota’s 35-24 triumph over Middle Tennessee State, or Iowa’s 4-point squeaker over Ball State? Ohio State went down in flames at home to Tech, and Michigan State couldn’t hold a second-half lead before Oregon erupted, Michigan got killed at Notre Dame and Purdue lost by 21 to a bad Central Michigan team, Northwestern fell to Northern Illinois at home by eight and Nebraska needed a phenomenal play by Ameer Abdullah in the final minute to avoid going to overtime against the FCS’s McNeese State. I don’t ever remember the league being this bad.

What’s up with:

  • UCLA? The Bruins, with an outstanding coach in Jim Mora and a Heisman contender in Brett Hundley, have combined to win their first two games over Virginia and Memphis by a combined 15 points. Those two teams, while they certainly seem to be better than a year ago, combined to win five games between them in 2013.
  • Texas Tech? A year ago, coach Kliff Kingsbury started 7-0 before losing his last five regular-season games. Now, the Red Raiders have started this season with close wins over a pair of wins over bad teams in Central Arkansas (seven points) and UTEP (four).
  • The NCAA’s decision to rescind the remaining penalties on Penn State? Two years after the NCAA handed down harsh sanctions against Penn State for knowing about Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children and doing nothing about it, the Nittany Lions, though they did suffer scholarship reductions and weren’t allowed to participate in a pair of bowl games, managed to win 15 games those two seasons. That was exactly one win more than PSU had those previous two seasons combined, and of course, the Lions had two extra bowl games in which to amass those victories. Meanwhile, former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin found the situation attractive enough to jump ship for State College last winter. It’s fair to note that PSU paid a $60 million fine, but when dozens of innocent kids have their lives wrecked forever… well, does it seem to you that PSU paid enough of a price with its football program in return?

Worth noting:

  • Cincinnati is the only FBS team yet to play a game; the Bearcats were originally supposed to play against Stony Brook on Saturday, but canceled that in favor of a road trip to Miami.
  • SMU coach June Jones resigned today, citing the fact that he’s dealing with some personal issues, after the Mustangs were humiliated by both Baylor and North Texas, losing by a combined 82 points. Jones seemed to have it going after taking SMU from 1-11 in his first season there in 2008, as the Mustangs won either seven or eight games in each of their next four years before falling off to 5-7 last season. Before that, Jones had gone 11-3 and 12-1 in his last two seasons at Hawaii. Now 61 years old, Jones figures to be a nice hire for someone this off-season if he still wants to coach.