College Football Week Two: What We've Learned

Joe GSenior Writer ISeptember 6, 2008

Another Saturday filled with games, another Saturday full of lessons for teams and fans alike. What did we learn this week?

Notre Dame is average at best

I think the echoes will be sleeping for another season.

I know Notre Dame managed a win against San Diego State, but nobody should be impressed by this. Anybody that tells you that this proved that the Irish are a good team (*cough* Jimmy Clausen *cough*) is lying to you.

As I write this, Mark May is tearing Notre Dame (and Lou Holtz) a new one on ESPN's College Football Scoreboard, and he makes legitimate points. Too many mistakes and a sputtering offense. And Lou had the audacity to say that Notre Dame was "saving it for Michigan."

What happened to the predictions of a Notre Dame blowout?

For most of the game, San Diego State was in control. They forced Notre Dame into punts, turnovers and a missed field goal. Notre Dame didn't lead until there was less than 10 minutes showing on the clock.

How bad was it? Jimmy Clausen threw two picks, Notre Dame lost two fumbles, had a punt blocked and went 3-for-12 on third downs. Oh yeah, they also ran for a paltry 3.1 yards per carry against a team that lost to Cal Poly last week.

Suddenly, a schedule filled with alleged "cupcakes" looks like it will be very difficult to navigate for the Irish. They meet Michigan next week, then travel to East Lansing to take on the Michigan State Spartans. Mix in Pitt, Purdue, Boston College, an improved Stanford team and the juggernaut that is USC, and the Irish could once again fall way short of expectations.

Based on this week's comedy of errors, the Irish can't realistically expect to win more than two or three of those games.

We also learned that we as fans should avoid the ND-Michigan matchup at all costs. Instead of the decent game that we can normally expect, you can look forward to two teams repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot and the eventual winner emerging because hey, somebody has to.

Speaking of Michigan...

Michigan still has a lot of work to do

We knew that Michigan was in for a rough year because Rich Rodriguez doesn't have the athletes in place that he needs to be successful.

What we didn't know is that UM would be so woefully inept on offense.

103 yards passing? 178 yards rushing? 2-for-11 on third downs? Post those numbers against a decent BCS school and you'll be in trouble.

Miami actually had a great shot at winning this game. The score was 10-6 going into the final quarter, and Miami was more successful on third downs all day (8-for-19) and owned the clock with 35:13 of possession.

Michigan had better hope that their defense stays intact, because their offense seems to be incapable of winning a game.

Speaking of great defense...

East Carolina is for real

I write this just as ECU finished demolishing West Virginia, and boy am I impressed.

I'm not so much impressed because they won. It's because of how they won.

If your name wasn't Pat White or Noel Devine, you collectively rushed for negative twelve yards. If your name was Pat White or Noel Devine, you didn't crack the 100-yard mark or score a touchdown.

In fact, this was the first time that West Virginia had been held without a touchdown since 2001, when Miami beat them 45-3.

Whenever you beat Virginia Tech at their own game in week one and then turn around and hold West Virginia's powerful offense in check, you get some serious respect. ECU is poised to become Conference USA's first team with a decent BCS shot since Louisville under John L. Smith and Bobby Petrino.

I can't believe I just used John L. Smith's name in a positive light. Speaking of teams John L. used to coach...

Michigan State's running game will lead them to another good bowl

After a shaky but very respectable outing against Cal last week, Michigan State came back with a vengeance against Eastern.

Javon Ringer ran for 135 yards on 34 carries, and a very impressive five touchdowns. Backup Andre Anderson had eight carries for 75 yards.

Granted, Ringer's yards per carry are still not what you'd hope for out of a preseason Heisman candidate, but he's being asked to carry the ball in situations that Jehuu Caulcrick handled last season.

He scored in goalline situations behind a motivated offensive line, he picked up key gains to keep drives alive, and he did it all between the tackles, which was not his strong suit in the past.

Having a big running game to rely on meant that Brian Hoyer and backup QB Kirk Cousins (who hails from my hometown) could relax a little bit. They combined to go 11-for-16 for 180 yards.

Nothing outstanding, but several passes to Mark Dell and BJ Cunningham set up scoring chances for the Spartans, which were converted by Ringer.

The key for the rest of the season will be to continue this dominance on the ground. The Spartans ran the ball 52 times and were able to control every aspect of the game because of it.

Speaking of running games that need to be dominant...

If Beanie Wells isn't 100 percent, OSU is in trouble

The University of Ohio led Big Ten powerhouse Ohio State going into the fourth quarter. Ohio State hasn't lost to another team from Ohio in many years, and the Bobcats had a chance at breaking that streak.


No running game.

The box score will show you that Ohio State ran for 162 yards, but that number is deceptive.

First, it took 40 carries to get there. Second and even more telling, no player ran for more than 50 yards individually.

This was against a defense from the MAC.

If Beanie Wells isn't healthy, the USC defense will eat the OSU running attack for dinner, and probably have enough room left over to nibble on Todd Boeckman for dessert.

Without Wells, Boeckman looked below average against Ohio. Without a legitimate running attack, there was no play action or deep receiving threat.

The longest reception all day for the Buckeyes went for a mere 25 yards. Boeckman averaged only 4.2 yards per pass attempt!

If the Wells injury is serious enough to keep him below 100 percent for more than the first few games, than you can look for a team not wearing scarlet and grey to represent the Big Ten in Pasadena this season.

To look at week one's lessons, click here.


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