The weekend after “MONSTER SATURDAY!!!!!!” was almost certain to be a letdown, and the early portion of the slate did little to disappoint those with lowered expectations.
However, just when you thought they couldn’t possibly get any duller, they went and did something like this… and totally redeemed themselves.
Here are just a few snapshots of the highlights — and lowlights — from the third weekend of the 2010 season.
What the fake?!?Three weeks into the season, and it’s going to take something unworldly to top the play call at the end of the Notre Dame-Michigan State game. Tied at 31-all, Notre Dame kicked a field goal on their first possession of overtime to take the lead. Faced with their own FG attempt on their first possession, the Spartans unbelievably ran a fake to end all fakes, converting it into a stunning game-winning touchdown. When it comes to head coach Mark Dantonio, I don’t think I want to know how big those brass things are he drags around.
They’re real, and they’re spectacularFolks, as a certain broadcaster is wont to say, the Arizona Wildcats are for real. I was not a believer coming into the ‘Zona-Iowa game late Saturday night; I am now. The Wildcats wobbled a bit in the fourth — kudos to to the Hawkeyes for not mailing it in during the final period — but that made the win even more impressive as they refused to fully succumb to one of the top ten teams in the country. Mike Stoops has his team in position talent-wise and performance-wise to make the Pac-10 a very interesting four-school race, with the Wildcats jostling with Oregon, USC and Stanford for Left Coast football supremacy for the remainder of the season.
Modern medicineMark Ingram, less than three weeks removed from arthroscopic surgery on his knee, rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns. In the first quarter. Ingram finished with 151 yards on just nine carries as Alabama rolled over Duke 62-13. In the broader picture, is it possible that the Tide is a better football team after losing several starters on the defensive side of the ball from their national title team? It sure the hell seems like that very well may be the case.
Nebraska’s shuck & grindThree hundred-yard rushers. 383 yards total on the ground. Scoring 56 points in an overwhelming rout of Washington on the road. The same stifling defense and a real, live offense? If there’s a better team in the Big 12 right now, we’ve yet to see them.
Tar Heel fortitudeNorth Carolina has played the first two games of the year down at least 12 players who would normally be on their two-deep depth chart, including seven defensive starters and nine total. While they have lost both of them, they’ve lost them by a combined total of 12 points. Butch Davis, his coaching staff and, especially, his players should be applauded for playing through this adversity.
MichiganNot for their win over UMass; the way the defense played in the 42-37 victory over the Div. 1-AA school, this one, by all rights, deserves a prominent spot in the opposite category. However, the moment of silence before the game for the UMass band director who passed away suddenly on the trip to Ann Arbor merits mention and deserves to be recognized for the class move it was.
Untied cleats… againWhile he had his first turnover of the season, Denard Robinson was again the major focus of Michigan’s offense, accounting for 241 yards passing and 104 yards rushing as well as three touchdowns. Unlike the first two games, though, the quarterback received a little offensive help from his friends; running back Michael Shaw ran for 126 yards — on 12 carries — and two touchdowns in the win. If you’re keeping a running Heisman watch list at home, the sophomore will still have to be at or near the top. Speaking of the stiff-arm hardware…
Mallett hammering home a Heisman momentIf it’s possible after putting up 700-plus yards passing in the first two games, Ryan Mallett‘s seemingly flown under the radar thus far, in part because his performances came against Tennessee Tech and Louisiana-Monroe. Today, consider the Arkansas quarterback much larger blip on the radar. After completing 21-of-33 passes for 380 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions — including the game-winning pass from 40 yards out with just 15 seconds left — Mallett’s performance in the road win over Georgia puts the junior right back on the tip of the tongue of Heisman forecasters.
He’s accurate and hornedIsn’t it about time to toss Andy Dalton deep into the Heisman mix? All the TCU quarterback did was complete a school-record 91.3 percent of his 23 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns in the Horned Frogs’ easy 45-10 romp over Baylor. Oh, and his team keeps rolling along at 3-0 and should at least maintain their No. 4 ranking in the Associated Press poll.
Boise StateAfter a week off, the No. 3 Broncos returned to the playing field and handled Wyoming with ease. After two weeks off, Virginia Tech finally returned to their winning ways and, in the process, may have somewhat stemmed the burgeoning tide of anti-Boise State sentiment. Nah, who am I kidding; that sentiment will continue as long as the non-AQ team remains in the top three in the country.
Boston College & North Carolina StateThe Eagles and Wolfpack are the only two undefeated teams in the ACC. Just let that sink in for a minute, then move on. If you can get past the temporary paralysis.
Home is wherever Mount Union wants it to beThe Div. III Purple Raiders easily dropped rival John Carroll 51-7 Saturday to move to 2-0 on the season. It was the Ohio school’s 96th consecutive regular-season road win, as well as their 45th in a row during the regular season.
Desmond HowardAt one point during ESPN’s GameDay telecast, the former Wolverine-turned-college football analyst said he was one of the people who drank the Jake Locker Kool-Aid, but then threw it back up after the BYU game opening weekend. That right there’s why he makes the big bucks, folks.
Florida, Oklahoma and TexasTo be honest with you, I don’t have a clue what to make of these three schools. They certainly don’t belong in the category below, but they didn’t do much today to deserve any mention above, either. A confusing lot, these three, all of ’em undefeated. Certainly breaking in new starting quarterbacks in Gainesville and Austin is contributing to a steeper-than-expected learning curve for 2010. Those boys from Norman? Certainly a talented group, but have played up to their on-paper potential in one of three games. Ultimately they’ll be fine. They’d just better watch tripping over something on the way to getting fine.
Oregon’s statisticianThe Ducks’ offense is officially ridiculous and bordering on statistical improbability. In three games this season — and, yes, I’m well aware that they’ve faced “just” New Mexico, Tennessee and Portland State — Oregon has scored 189 points while giving up just 13; they have 1,835 yards of total offense, with 1,132 yards of that coming on the ground; they average 6.9 yards per carry and have a total
of 85 first downs. In
Saturday’s win alone, they rushed for a staggering 528 yards. Again, I understand the level of competition, but still…
Clemson Nation’s groinFirst of all, have to agree with Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit: that Clemson-Auburn cage match was one of the hardest-hitting games you’ll ever see at this level. I’m fairly certain that, if the game had gone a second overtime, we would’ve literally seen a human head or two rolling across the turf. Secondly, what a kick in the giblets for both Clemson and the ACC. Not only did they blow a 17-3 halftime lead, but the way the game ended in the first overtime — a made field goal to tie it wiped off the board because of an illegal snap, then missing the retry — was a certifiable, steel-toed boot landing somewhere south of the border.
Mark Richt’s backsideFollowing a tremendous fourth-quarter comeback that gave way to a heartbreaking 31-24 loss to Arkansas at home , Georgia now stands at 1-2 three games into the 2010 season. Even worse than the overall record is the fact that both of those losses have come in SEC play; it’s the first time in Richt’s ten seasons in Athens that he’s started 0-2 in conference play. With eight players arrests this offseason alone combined with the horrific start, it’s no longer a question of when or if Richt will be on the hot seat. The only question is how warm the seat is right now, at this moment. And, more to the point, how hot will it be by the end of the season if the year continues on its current straight-into-the-ground trajectory.
Jake the FakeThere were some in the media who sounded the death knell for Jake Locker‘s Heisman hopes following a subpar performance in Week One against BYU. Just in case there were any lingering doubts about the mortality of his Heisman candidacy, Nebraska took it out behind Husky Stadium Saturday and gave it a shotgun blast to the head. The Washington quarterback completed just 4-of-20 passes for 70 yards and two interceptions in the loss, a display that had anti-Heisman written all over it. Hopefully, while they were at it, the Blackshirts shot to hell the notion that Locker will be the No. 1 overall pick in next April’s NFL draft as well.
Houston, you have a… holy hell, you have two problemsOne, you lost to UCLA. 0-2, offensively-inept UCLA. Additionally, and most importantly, your all-everything quarterback Case Keenum was knocked out with a head injury for the second straight trying to make a tackle after throwing an interception. All things considered, including your No. 23 ranking, you may have had the worst Saturday of any school at this level.
Ole Miss rebels against winningI don’t care who ya are, that 28-14 home loss to Vanderbilt is funny. And karmic. Not nearly as funny or karmically nuanced as the Rebels’ season opener, but raucously humorous nonetheless.
MACrifice my…Up 16-14 after three quarters of play, UConn allowed Temple to score 16 unanswered fourth-quarter points as the MAC school won going away over a member of a supposed BcS conference. The Huskies’ loss was merely symbolic of yet another ho-hum week of football for the Big East as the conference went 2-3, with the biggest win coming courtesy of West Virginia over a member of yet another beleaguered BcS conference — Maryland of the ACC.
Thomas WeberThat’s the Arizona State kicker. His extra point that would’ve tied Wisconsin at 20-all with just over four minutes left in the game was blocked. Hence, he’s a (forms the letter “L” with right thumb and index finger, slaps it against forehead) and exactly why real football players don’t really like kickers even if it’s not their fault that a kick was blocked.
The Blighting IrishAs the old saying goes, you can take the Charlie out of Notre Dame, but you can’t wipe the Weis out of the Irish. At least in one season you can’t. The Brian Kelly era in South Bend has gotten off to a 1-2 start, with the losses coming by a combined seven points. Not that near-misses will assuage the Irish angst, of course. Oh, and not to pile on, but the Domers will host 3-0 Stanford next Saturday.