Four Down Territory: Ed's Weekly Musings on College Football
I'm going to try to make this a recurring feature for my columns, because there is more to the college football world than the California Golden Bears (as hard as it may be for me to admit that).
Basically it will be a countdown of my random thoughts on collegiate pigskin; what can be better?
So here we go with the inaugural...
Four Games That Week One Made A lot More Interesting
1. Michigan vs. Notre Dame
Both the Irish and the Wolverines have taken their lumps recently, but the two schools' rivalry has perhaps taken the biggest beating, with the last thee scores reading 47-21, 38-0, and 35-17.
This year's edition looks to be more interesting. While Notre Dame certainly displayed its star power on opening weekend (with the Jimmy Clausen-Golden Tate-Michael Floyd troika), Michigan showcased some talent their own against Western Michigan.
Big debuts by dual-threat quarterbacks Denard Robinson and Tate Forcier, and a stellar start from junior wideout Junior Hemingway definitely add intrigue to a contest that figured to be one sided.
With so much offensive firepower, perhaps there can be big points from both sides this Saturday at the Big House.
2. Future Miami-Florida State Contests
This rivalry, with its history of Wide Rights and Wide Lefts, has been diminished as both programs have experienced recent slumps.
Heck, even when the Canes and Seminoles were highly ranked, in 2006 (10th an 11th, respectively), they produced a 13-10 stinker.
I don't care if it was the highest rated college game in ESPN history; all I remember was three net rushing yards and two largely undistinguished quarterbacks (Kyle Wright and Drew Weatherford, who ended up leading their respective teams to 7-6 records).
However, Monday night's 38-34 thriller may just revitalize this rivalry, not only because the game had all the makings of a classic (a high scoring affair, momentum and lead swings, a fourth quarter comeback, a goal line stand, and a game coming down to the very last play).
More importantly, the young talent displayed (Christian Ponder, Jacory Harris, Travis Benjamin) on teams that figure to be in the Top 20 this year and play in an unpredictable conference should make this matchup more intriguing in the feature.
3. Utah versus Oregon (Week Three)
Before last Thursday, most college football fans would have pointed to this game as a marquee matchup of potential top 15 teams.
But even after Oregon's opening debacle (on and off the field) against Boise State, this game still poses intriguing questions:
What is the state of the Ducks team? Have they rebounded to beat Purdue the week before? If not (and even if so), can Oregon pull out an emotional victory and turn around their season? Should the Ducks start out with a losing record, how will that reflect on Boise State's strength of schedule?
And can Utah win in Autzen to set up a possible matchup of undefeated teams against TCU—or maybe at BYU?
This last one may be getting a little carried away, but one can imagine the possibilities.
4. USC versus Ohio State
As if this high-profile clash needed any more build up. The story line was clear: Ohio State, lead by Heisman darkhorse Terrelle Pryor, takes on the USC Trojans at the 'Shoe in a battle for revenge (and respectability for the Big 10).
But now, eyes and cameras will be fixated on wunderkind Matt Barkley, who (by now you've all heard it) was the first ever true freshman to start an opener for the Trojans, and the first to do so for a top five team in over 30 years.
It will be interesting to see how much Pete Carroll protects his signal caller, who is, after all, surrounded by a deep stable of running backs that ran up 342 yards on San Jose State last week.
But if Barkley has a strong game and leads USC past the Buckeyes in a hostile environment, then college football's new golden boy will have officially arrived.
Three More Thoughts On Cal-Maryland
1. Lost among the Bears' smothering of the Terrapins offense, including the six sacks of Chris Turner, were flashes by Syd'Quan Thompson that reinforced his position as one of the better corners in the nation.
On two occasions, he came seemingly out of nowhere to break on the ball at exactly the right time to bat away passes that were about to be completions (the plays themselves are at around 6:00 and 7:45).
Now, if he can only get a chance to actually return some punts...
2. I liked what I saw from fullback Brian Holley, the Bears' successor to the departed Will Ta'ufo'ou. In addition to blocking for Vereen and Best, Holley gained Cal a first down in the second quarter, keeping his feet moving after appearing to be stopped behind the line of scrimmage. He also caught an 11 yard pass.
3. One thing Cal hopes to improve on is kickoffs. Giorgio Tavecchio, who won the kicking job in camp, averaged under 60 yards per kickoff against Maryland, including one fielded at the 17-yard line.
A much bigger issue: coming up with a nickname for him and fellow Italian place kicker Vince D'Amato. Azurri e Oro? Currently taking suggestions...
Two Fun Stats From This Weekend
1. 156, 2: The amount of passing yards and touchdowns thrown for by Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs against Ohio State.
2. 305, 3: The amount of passing yards and touchdowns thrown for by last year's leading passer, Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku Enhada, in the entire 2008 season.
One Amusing GameDay Story
My roommate was unable to attend the Maryland game, so he gave the ticket (in the form of his student ID) to a friend. He later found out that the friend got booted from the game and the ID confiscated due to disorderly (read: intoxicated) behavior.
Apparently, he was quite easy to spot because he was wearing a bright yellow shirt in the stadium at a game that was supposed to be Blued Out.
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