The games in Beijing have ended with the United States basketball team regaining the gold medal and Michael Phelps proving he should enter the Olympics next year as his own country. The United Nation of Phelps would have finished the games as the eighth greatest country in the world counting just gold medals.
It’s been a long six months, but college football has officially arrived—and so has this year’s first edition of Wordplay.
Let’s do it.
Backing It Up
Texas answered Florida Atlantic head coach Howard Schnellenberger calling Mack Brown’s team soft and saying he wanted to put “three hats” on the Longhorns at all times. Sixty minutes and four Colt McCoy touchdowns later, the Horns reminded FAU who's boss, sending the Owls out of Texas Memorial with their heads turned and wide-eyed.
Cream of the Crop
Wake Forest QB Riley Skinner played a nearly perfect game against Baylor on Thursday. The junior went 27 of 36 for 220 yards and three touchdowns, finishing the game with a QB rating of 153.83. Skinner is now the all-time leader in career wins as a starter in Wake Forest history with 19.
At the beginning of the year, all the talk in the conference was focused around Cullen Harper and Clemson (oops). After the Week One struggles from teams in the ACC, Jim Grobe’s Deacons look to be in the driver’s seat.
Speaking of teams in the driver’s seat—don’t look now, but Stanford is on top of the Pac-10 after a 36-28 win over Oregon State. The Cardinal will look to start 2-0 in conference play when they travel to Arizona State on Saturday night. Rose Bowl anyone?
Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin lit up the scoreboard in St. Louis for the second straight year against interstate rival Illinois, but Missouri needs to get better on defense if they want to compete for a national title. I thought the referee might issue a red card because it looked like the Tigers were playing with 10 guys on defense in the second half.
Oh, and will teams please stop kicking the ball to Maclin? It’s special teams suicide.
Fun in the Sun
Hawaii's woes against teams from the Southeastern Conference continued on Saturday. In the Warriors' last two games versus SEC opponents (Georgia and Florida), they have been outscored 97-20. That’s worse than the beating the United States Women’s basketball team put on other countries in the Olympics.
Florida got out to a slow start, but by game's end the Gators looked like the fastest team in the country.
The hurricane forced LSU to open the season six hours sooner than expected, and it took the Tigers about six minutes to blow out three-time defending FCS champions Appalachian State. Charles Scott rushed for 160 yards and two touchdowns, taking the pressure off Harvard transfer quarterback Andrew Hatch. Les Miles' squad had “Not in OUR House” shirts made in the offseason to avoid having Michigan-type letdown.
"Clemson." I want everyone to say it one more time, and then move on. The Tigers' running back duo showed no thunder, and other than a spark of lightning from C.J. Spiller’s kickoff return, were shut down by the Alabama defense. The Tide held Clemson to zero yards rushing.
Surprisingly, it was John Parker Wilson and the ‘Bama offense that had all the answers in the Georgia Dome on Saturday night. Coaches in the SEC have an eye on Nick Saban’s squad once again.
Freshmen making an impact this week.
1. WR Julio Jones, Alabama: Four receptions, 28 yards, one TD
2. QB Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State: Four of six, 35 yards; six rushes, 52 yards, one TD
3. WR A.J. Green, Georgia: Two receptions, 40 yards, one TD
4. QB Robert Griffen III, Baylor: 11 of 19, 125 yards; 11 rushes, 29 yards, one TD
5. RB Jeffrey Demps, Florida: Two rushes, 76 yards, one TD; one reception, 10 yards
Let’s be honest—Virginia didn’t have a scratching chance against Southern Cal in the season opener. The Trojans manhandled the Cavaliers from the get-go. USC should have more people jumping on the bandwagon than the Obama campaign. As of now, they’re the nation’s number one team.
UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft had a nightmare first half, throwing four picks, but he managed to save the Bruins in OT with a near-flawless fourth quarter. Rick Neuheisel, and especially Norm Chow, found a way to steal the season opener—or should I say, Phil Fulmer found another way to lose one.
Tennessee reminds me a lot of the Texas A&M program (see letter “N”): Both set out with high hopes come August, and they usually finish the season with angry boosters.
La Casa Pequena
It’s now official: With the arrival of Rich Rodriguez, the Big House has changed names. Michigan did not lose to a non-BCS school in 21 years, from 1985 to 2006, but has now lost two straight in home openers.
BYU QB Max Hall went off in the Cougars' season opener, throwing for 486 yards and two touchdowns. Texas Tech gunslinger Graham Harrell chucked the ball 55 times for 536 yards and two touchdowns. Calling long distance? Combined, the duo could finish the season chucking the ball more yards than a 5K relay.
I guess Texas A&M forgot that Arkansas State gave the University of Texas a scare in their season opener last year. ASU changed names from the Indians to the Red Wolves this season. Another coach and another disappointment for the Aggies, who continue to take steps in the wrong direction.
Truth is, no team is afraid to play at Kyle Field these days. Mike Sherman has his work cut out for him this season in College Station.
Clemson/ACC, Michigan/Big Ten, West Virginia/Big East, Auburn, Pittsburgh, Texas Tech.
Perhaps the biggest story of the opening weekend of football is the injury to Ohio State All-American running back Beanie Wells. Look for Jim Tressel to rely even more heavily on freshman QB Terrelle Pryor to gain yards on the ground if Wells can’t come back.
The only upside to Saturday’s victory over Tressel’s former school, Youngstown State, is that the Buckeye defense looked even better than last year. YSU finished the game with only 74 total yards on offense.
Question of the Week
How bad is the ACC?
Southern Cal 52, Virginia 10
South Carolina 34, NC State 0
McNeese St. 27, UNC 34
Alabama 34, Clemson 10
East Carolina 27, Va Tech 22
Delaware 7, Maryland 14
"ACC." I want everyone to say it one more time and then move on.
For 58 minutes it looked as if Virginia Tech was going to win another game off defense and special teams—until East Carolina gave Beamer Ball a taste of its own medicine. The Pirates' T.J. Lee blocked a punt and returned it for the game-winning touchdown.
Sean Glennon continues to struggle at the helm for the Hokies, who are probably second-guessing the decision to redshirt sophomore quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Star Performance of the Week
Navy RB Shun White rushed for 348 yards and three touchdowns on only 19 carries, proving that midshipmen can get it done on the ground as well.
1. Southern California: Seven different Trojans found the end zone in a 52-7 drubbing of Virginia.
3. Louisiana State: The Tigers came out poised to defend their national title. LSU dominated Appalachian State from the get-go.
4. Oklahoma: Sam Bradford and boys got 30 minutes of action and jumped out to a 50-0 halftime lead against FCS opponent Chattanooga.
5. Missouri: The offense looked impressive against Illinois, but the secondary has room for improvement.
Upcoming: Five Things to Watch for Next Week
1. Cincinnati vs. Oklahoma: The Sooners face a very athletic Cincy bunch in primetime.
2. Notre Dame and Florida State season openers: Two programs looking for redemption in 2008
3. East Carolina vs. West Virginia: A tough East Carolina team tries to prove it's for real.
4. Florida vs. Miami: Miami looks to make a statement in the Sunshine State.
5. Ole Miss vs. Wake Forest: How will an elite ACC team fare against an average SEC squad?
Georgia looked sloppy in the season opener and continued to be plagued by injuries. The Bulldogs lost starting defensive tackle Jeff Owens to an ACL injury, and running back Knowshon Moreno left Saturday’s game with a hamstring problem. The hopes of a national title coming back to Athens are becoming endangered by this nagging issue.
P.J. Hill reminded the country he’s the next physical back to come out of the Big Ten. The junior rushed for 210 yards and two touchdowns in the Badgers' 38-17 win over Akron. With the injury to Beanie Wells, if Wisconsin can get some solid play from Kansas State transfer quarterback Allan Evridge, the Badgers might have an opportunity to win the conference.
Guys that probably aren’t a household name, but will be come December.
WR Mark Dell (Michigan State)
RB Ryan Matthews (Fresno State)
WR Jahvid Best (Cal)
QB Kellen Lewis (Indiana)
WR Will Judson (Illinois)
Your BCS Bowl Matchups Right Now
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Oregon
Orange Bowl: West Virginia vs. Wake Forest
Sugar Bowl: Louisiana State vs. Missouri
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Fresno State
National Championship Game: USC vs. Florida
Zzzzzzz (Sleeping Giants)
Programs on the rise: Miami, Nebraska, Alabama, UCLA, Oregon, Wisconsin, Oklahoma State