College Football: First Quarter Review and Analysis
With the 12-game schedule played in college football, it is reasonable to recognize the performances of teams during the first quarter of the season.
The following is a listing of the teams who have made the most impact, some good and some bad.
However, all fans of the schools listed should realize there are nine games left to play in the regular season, and circumstances can change considerably.
Most Surprising Team
The most surprising team is Auburn.
Left for dead by others in the SEC and ignored by the so-called experts in the remainder of the country, the Tigers of Gene Chizik have performed well beyond the expectations of even their most ardent supporters.
Runnerup: The UCLA Bruins are unbeaten at 3-0 with a road win over Tennessee sandwiched around victories over Kansas State and San Diego State.
Honorable Mention: Houston Cougars
Most Disappointing Team
With a strong cast returning for 2009, Michigan State was projected to play the role of brawler in the rough and tumble Big 10. Losses to Notre Dame and Central Michigan have left the Spartans with a record of 1-2, and a future of many difficult games.
To the credit of fine coach Mark Dantonio, the Spartans will play the role of spoiler before this season ends.
Runner Up: Virginia Cavaliers
The Virginians of Coach Al Groh were not supposed to play the role of favorite this season but neither were they perceived as a whipping post for every team they have faced. Paralyzed by a loss to William and Mary in the opener, Virginia finds itself on the wrong side of an 0-3 start.
Honorable Mention: Illinois Fighting Illini
Most Improved Team
The Michigan Wolverines are clearly the most improved team and that has resulted in a return to normalcy in the college football world.
Runner Up: Indiana Hoosiers
Unbeaten and headed for a showdown with the Wolverines on Saturday, there just may be a reversal of these rankings if the Hoosiers continue to play inspired ball.
Honorable Mention: Stanford Cardinal
Steady Is As Steady Does
The Missouri Tigers were considered yesterday's news following the graduation of several key players from the great run during the past two seasons.
Coach Gary Pinkel has done a superb job in keeping the Tigers among the remaining undefeated teams in America,
Runner Up: Cincinnati Bearcats
Last year's Big East Champions have leveraged their Orange Bowl appearance into a springboard for a 3-0 start this season. Coach Brian Kelly is an effective leader and underrated coach.
Honorable Mention: Texas Christian
Work In Progress
This category is for teams and fan bases that are not satisfied with the status quo.
An example would be the Miami Hurricanes, who are working toward a return to the ways and days of old when they ruled college football year after year. They are to be congratulated for the performance so far this season.
Runner Up: Kansas Jayhawks
Mark Mangino's men in blue have turned in several impressive performances and are attempting to recapture the glory of the 2007 season, when they won the Orange Bowl while going 12-1.
Honorable Mention: Colorado State Rams
Most Exciting Game
Washington's shocking upset of mighty Southern California was achieved in the final moments. For pulse-pounding thrills and the excitement of a David slaying a Goliath, this 16-13 classic stands alone so far in the season.
Runner Up: Southern Mississippi trailed Virginia 34-17 late in the third quarter but rode the excitement of a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to overhaul the Cavaliers, 37-34. The win by the Eagles kept the nation's second longest winning streak alive.
Honorable Mention: Virginia Tech 16, Nebraska 15
Best Coaching Performance
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina. Left as a has-been following the blowout loss to Iowa in the Outback Bowl, Spurrier has regained the old fire and is within one play at Georgia of being undefeated this season.
No one can do more with less than the man who once answered to the moniker "The Brain."
Runner Up: Mike Sherman, Texas A&M
Coach Sherman has used 15 true freshmen and 30 first year players to help power the Aggies to a surprising 3-0 start. "Take what you've got and do the best with it" the great Dan Devine used to say. Sherman is doing just that.
Honorable Mention: Dave Wannstedt, Pittsburgh
Feel Good Story
The sudden and rapid improvement in the Washington Huskies program can be attributed to the positive influence of new coach Steve Sarkisian and his fine coaching staff. Another five minutes in the LSU game and we could be talking about the unbeaten Huskies.
Runner Up: Oklahoma Sooners
After the stunning loss of Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford due to an injury in a first game loss to Brigham Young, the team gathered around back up quarterback Landry Jones and destroyed the next two opponents 109-0. That is sharing the responsibility and reflects the die-hard spirit of the Boomer Sooner community.
Honorable Mention: The successful return to football after a four-year hiatus of Greg Paulus, quarterback of Syracuse.