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Grading College Football's Biggest Games: Week Two

Kristofer GreenSenior Writer ISeptember 8, 2008

Week Two of the college football season has come to a close.  This week we learned some things we thought we knew, but weren't sure about before.

East Carolina is for real!  The Pirates shocked the Mountaineers, but this time they didn't need any last minute heriocs to get it done.
Ohio State needs Chris "Beanie" Wells to be successful.  The junior tailback is the emotional leader of the team and his physical play is what makes the offense go.
Randy Shannon is doing an outstanding job at Miami.  The head coach, in his sophomore season, hung tight with Florida for three quarters.  Then his lack of quality depth started to hurt.
And finally, though the call may have been correct, it just may be the dumbest rule in all of sports.  Hold your head high Jake Locker, the game wasn't lost because you threw the ball in the air and celebrated with your teammates.
In week two of my Picking College Football’s Biggest Games article, I went 13-5 (against the spread I went 9-9).  For the season I'm 26-10, and 9-9 against the spread.  Next week, the picks get more difficult.
Now it’s time to assign grades to the teams who played in those games.

September 4

No. 24 South Carolina at Vanderbilt    Prediction: SC, 38-24    Final: Vandy, 24-17

Vanderbilt quarterback Chris Nickson threw for a touchdown and ran for another as the Commodores beat a ranked opponent at home for the first time in 16 years. The Commodores defense picked off two of Chris Smelley’s passes and sacked him four times, recovered a muffed punt, and blocked a field goal on their way to Vandy’s second consecutive win over the Gamecocks.

Grade: B

South Carolina survived four interceptions in shutting out NC State last weekend, but the Gamecocks couldn’t escape their mistakes against Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks did outgain the Commodores 133-50 in the first half, but had meltdown after meltdown in the second half. South Carolina pulled within one score with 7:39 left in the fourth and had a chance tie the game late, but Smelley overthrew a receiver and was sacked on consecutive plays and they were forced to punt with 2:39 left. 

Grade: C-


September 6

Ohio at No. 3 Ohio State   Prediction: Ohio State, 52-6    Final: Ohio State, 26-14

Did Ohio State have a case of the look-aheads? The Buckeyes, in the first half, lacked fire and intensity and allowed the Bobcats of Ohio University to lead at the half 7-6. Despite two first half interceptions by the Buckeye defense, the Buckeyes were unable to move the ball on offense in the first half.

After a high snap on the Buckeyes first possession lead to another Ohio touchdown, the Buckeyes turned it on.  Daniel “Boom” Herron and Brandon Saine both ran for a touchdown and Ray Small had a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown. The Buckeye defense had another impressive outing, picking off the Bobcats four times and holding the Bobcats offense to only one touchdown.

Grade: C-

Credit must go to Frank Solich and the Ohio Bobcats for playing an inspired game. Ohio State has not lost to an in-state opponent in 88 years, but that didn’t intimidate the Bobcats who wore O-S-Who? T-shirts during their walk-through at Ohio Stadium. The Bobcats play was even more impressive considering starting quarterback Theo Scott was knocked out in the first quarter. 

Grade: B+


Georgia Tech at Boston College   Prediction: BC, 28-24    Final: Georgia Tech, 19-16

After surviving three fumbles in the first half, Tech’s Jonathon Dwyer finally had a big play when he broke a 43-yard, fourth quarter run for the go-ahead touchdown. Dwyer finished with 108-yards on 18 carries. Quarterback Josh Nesbitt played well for the Yellow Jackets finishing 6-of-13 passing for 73-yards, while running for 50-yards and a score.

Grade: B-

Boston College did hold a 9-7 lead at halftime, but could have lead by more. The Eagles missed a field goal and had three turnovers forced by the defense (which lead to three field goals). The second half the Eagles were awful. Chris Crane threw two interceptions, had a fumble, and was tackled in the endzone for a safety all in the second half.

Grade: D


Miami (OH) at Michigan   Prediction: Michigan, 27-20    Final: Michigan 16-6

The good news is that the Wolverines scored on their first two possessions giving them a 10-0 lead to finish the first quarter and the defense played a much better game this week holding the RedHawks to 47-yards rushing.

The bad news is that the Wolverines wouldn’t score again until the middle of the fourth quarter and the defense did allow 205 passing yards.

Grade: C-

The Miami offense showed some improvement. Quarterback Daniel Raudabaugh had a great game going 20-of-33 for 191 yards and controlled the clock with close to 11 minutes more offensive possession. The RedHawk defense did hold the Wolverines to 2-of-11 on third down conversions but allowed 178 rushing yards including Brandon Minor’s 15-yard run to seal the victory.

Grade: C+


Utah State at No. 18 Oregon   

Prediction: Oregon, 51-13    Final: Oregon, 66-24

Oregon starting quarterback Justin Roper returned from a concussion in last week’s game to help lead the Ducks to a school record 688 yards in total offense. Back-ups Jeremiah Masoli and Chris Harper also got in on the action. Running back LeGarrette Blount got the bulk of the carries after starter Jeremiah Johnson left with a shoulder injury on the first series of the game. Blount finished with 132 yards and two touchdowns and Andre Crenshaw had 72 yards. As a team the Ducks had a whopping 408 yards rushing.

Grade: A

Utah State has one win against a ranked opponent in 46 tries and really had no chance in this game as Oregon lead 35-7 midway through the second quarter. Aggie quarterback Diondre Borel did have 157 yards passing and two touchdowns, but the Aggies could never get anything going in the running game and as a team they only mustered 88 yards rushing.

Grade: D


Oregon State at No.19 Penn State   

Prediction: PSU, 34-27    Final: PSU, 45-14

The Nittany Lions used a balanced attack to rout Oregon State, gaining 215 yards through the air and 239 yards on the ground. Tailback Evan Royster accounted for 141 yards and three touchdowns and quarterback Daryll Clark went 12-of-23 for 215 yards and two touchdowns. The Penn State defense did allow 342 total yards, but didn’t miss a beat when it counted most.

Grade: A

Oregon State had very few highlights in what was mostly an ugly performance by the Beavers and total domination by the Nittany Lions. Freshman tailback Jacquizz Rodgers had a nice 12-yard touchdown run in the second quarter where he broke three tackles up the middle and tumbled into the end zone and a fourth quarter touchdown run. Rodgers would finish with 99 yards on 22 carries. Quarterback Lyle Moevao had a nice day yardage wise finishing with 250 yards, but two costly interceptions put a damper on his performance.

Grade: D


Ole Miss at No. 20 Wake Forest    Prediction: Wake, 31-28    Final: Wake, 30-28

When Ole Miss scored with one minute remaining in the game, a calm Riley Skinner came on the field and led the Demon Deacon offense into field goal range (a questionable pass interference call helped). Sam Swank then kicked a 41-yard field goal with three seconds left in the game to give Wake Forest the victory. Skinner was outstanding as he went 32-of-43 for 267 yards and two touchdowns.

Grade: B+

Jevan Snead will become a superstar at Ole Miss. The quarterback was almost flawless passing for 253 yards and four touchdowns. The Rebs need to develop a more consistent running game, because if they had one this game may not have been close.

Grade: B-


San Diego State at Notre Dame    Prediction: ND, 48-10    Final: ND, 21-13

This was not the Notre Dame I expected to see. Déjà vu, anyone? San Diego State coach Chuck Long was asked after the game which team was better, the Fighting Irish or Cal Poly, who beat the Aztecs last week.

"That's a tough question," Long said, chuckling a bit at the question. "It's hard to say who's better. They both beat us." That pretty much sums up Notre Dame’s come from behind victory.

The Irish had four turnovers including two interceptions by Jimmy Clausen. Clausen and the Irish did have a few bright moments, most of them coming on their go-ahead drive in which Clausen went 5-of-5 passing for 76 yards and threw a 38 yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate.

Grade: C

San Diego State was inches away from putting this game away, but Brandon Sullivan fumbled the ball into the end zone instead scoring the touchdown. The Irish recovered and scored to take the lead for good.

Grade: C+


No. 8 West Virginia at East Carolina    Prediction: WVU, 28-24    Final: ECU, 24-3

The Pirates controlled this game from start to finish and Pat Pinkney outscored and outshined his Heisman Trophy counterpart, Pat White. The East Carolina defense held White to only 72 yards passing and West Virginia’s high powered offense was held to 251 total yards. Pinkney went 22-of-28 for 236 yards and a touchdown.

Grade: A

West Virginia looked thoroughly beaten. Noel Devine did rush for 94 yards and Pat White added another 97 on the ground, but the Mountaineers couldn’t do much against the Pirates suffocating defense. The last time the Mountaineers were held without a touchdown was in 2001.

Grade: D


No. 17 South Florida at Central Florida    Prediction: USF, 51-28    Final: USF, 31-24

Matt Grothe threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns, including a 25-yarder to Taurus Johnson in overtime, to pace the victory in the final scheduled meeting between USF and UCF. Johnson had an outstanding day, catching six passes for 143 yards and the winning touchdown. The Bulls offense racked up 504 total yards in offense and the defense held the Knights to 226 total yards offensively.

Grade: C-

Central Florida played with heart and emotion on a night where they honored a fallen teammate. Ereck Plancher, a UCF freshman receiver who died during off-season conditioning drills, was remembered with a moment of silence before the game. His teammates are honoring him by wearing decals on their helmets, and the initials "EP" are painted on the Knights' field behind the end zone. Moise Plancher, Ereck’s cousin, in his first start, scored a first quarter touchdown in front of his cousin’s initials.

Grade: B+


Northwestern at Duke    Prediction: Northwestern, 34-24   Final: Northwestern, 24-20

Duke played better football than Northwestern, but Tyrell Sutton rushed for two touchdowns and the Wildcat defense made two critical fourth-down stops down the stretch to seal the victory for Northwestern. C.J. Bacher passed 226 yards and Omar Conteh scored the go-ahead touchdown.

Grade: C-

The Blue Devils had a 472-328 advantage in total offense and nearly doubled up the Wildcats in time of possession, but key mistakes kept Duke from giving David Cutcliffe his second win as head coach. The final mistake came on fourth-and-five from the Northwestern 24 with about 90 seconds left in the game. Thaddeus Lewis scrambled around before finding Clifford Harris for the apparent game winning touchdown. But, Cameron Goldberg was flagged for holding and Lewis’ desperation pass on the next play fell incomplete.

Grade:  C+


Minnesota at Bowling Green   Prediction: Bowling Green, 35-24    Final: Minnesota, 42-17

And just like that, Minnesota has doubled its win total from a year ago when they went 1-11 in Tim Brewster’s first season as head coach. Adam Weber was outstanding going 21-of-25 for 233 yards and three touchdowns passing and the Minnesota defense forced five turnovers on their way to the rout.

Grade: B+

One week removed from knocking off then ranked Pitt, Bowling Green look outmatched against last season’s last place Big Ten team. Tyler Sheehan did throw for 261 yards, but five turnovers by the Falcon’s offense left them little room for victory.

Grade: D-


Miami (FL) at No. 5 Florida    Prediction: Florida, 37-27    Final: Florida, 26-3

Florida got its first win against instate rival Miami since 1985 and they have a stout defense and Tim Tebow to thank for it. Tebow threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns and was the Gators leading rusher with 55 yards on 13 carries. But it was the Gator defense that wins the game ball, as they held the Hurricanes to 140 total yards. The biggest question is what happened to the Florida running game that looked so formidable last week? It didn’t show up in this game as the Gators were held to 89 rushing yards.

Grade: B-

The rebuilding Hurricanes hung close for three quarters only trailing 9-3 to start the fourth quarter. The game changed on two favorable calls that went against the Hurricanes, but Miami could never get anything going offensively and that is what eventually lost the game.

Grade: C+


UNLV at No. 22 Utah   Prediction: Utah, 38-21    Final: Utah, 42-21

Utah didn’t look all that impressive in the first half, but after halftime the Utes looked like a team that wants to bust into the BCS. The Utes scored 35 straight points and held the Rebels to 83 yards total offense in the second half to avenge a 27-0 loss to Rebs lest season.

Grade: B-

UNLV’s Frank Summers had a tremendous first half rushing for 82 yards and two touchdowns, but the Utah defense held him to only five yards in the second. By the time the Rebels scored again, with 6:13 left in the game, it was too late.

Grade: D+


No. 12 Texas Tech at Nevada   Prediction: Tech, 38-27    Final: Tech, 35-19

The Texas Tech defense and special teams stepped up with big plays to pull away from Nevada. Shannon Woods ran for two touchdowns, but Graham Harrell had an off-night going 19-of-46 for 297 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. 82 of those yards came on a touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree and Eric Morris returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown.

Grade: B-

Nevada had 488 yards of total offense to Tech’s 421, but a fourth quarter meltdown lead to Nevada’s demise. Nevada did a good job of pressuring Graham Harrell and played well for three quarters, but couldn’t finish the job against the stronger opponent. Nevada lost leading rusher Luke Lippencott with a torn knee ligament in the second quarter.

Grade: C-


Stanford at No. 15 Arizona State    Prediction: ASU, 38-26    Final: ASU, 41-17

Rudy Carpenter threw for 345 yards and three touchdowns to bring his two game total to a school record 733 yards. The Sun Devil defense had a great game limiting Stanford to 233 total yards and forcing three turnovers. Kerry Taylor was the leading receiver with five catches for 92 yards, but nine Sun Devil receivers caught passes.

Grade: B+

The game was still in reach for Stanford at the end of the third quarter, but ultimately two Tavita Pritchard interceptions that led to touchdowns were too costly to overcome. The Cardinal defense did a good job of pressuring Rudy Carpenter but the senior quarterback responded with poise, often releasing the ball just as he was being hit.

Grade: C-


Game of the Week

Cincinnati at No. 4 Oklahoma    Prediction: Oklahoma, 31-27    Final: Oklahoma, 52-26

Sam Bradford threw for 395 yards and five touchdowns as Oklahoma extended the nation’s longest home winning streak to 20 games. The Sooners had 592 yards of total offense and freshman Ryan Broyles had seven catches for 141 yards in the rout. The only sour note came after a sack of Cincinnati quarterback Dustin Grutza. Grutza, in obvious pain, had to have help getting Oklahoma players Travis Lewis, Corey Bennett, and Jeremy Beal off of him.

Grade: A

Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelley may wish he had Ben Mauk now more than ever. Bearcat starting quarterback Dustin Grutza will miss most of the season with a broken right leg. Before his injury Grutza was actually playing well, going 19-of-29 for 218 yards and a touchdown, and a 1-yard run for another score.

Grade: C-


Upset Special

No. 15 BYU at Washington    Prediction: Washington, 31-28    Final: BYU, 28-27

Max Hall led the Cougars, throwing for 338 yards and three touchdowns, his last going to favorite target Dennis Pitta for a 15-yard touchdown that gave the Cougars a 28-21 lead. Pitta finished with 10 catches for 148 yards. Jan Jorgensen had the block on the long extra point that gave the Cougars the win.

Grade: B

Jake Locker did everything in his power to give Washington a chance at an upset, but still had to feel like he lost the game for the Huskies. Locker, after leading the Husky offense to what would have been the game tying touchdown was flagged for excessive celebration with two seconds left on the clock. The penalty moved the Huskies back 15-yards and the 35-yard extra point attempt was blocked giving BYU the win. Locker did his job, and although the penalty hurt (whether or not it was warranted) it didn’t lose the game for the Huskies.

Grade: B

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