NCF Nation: what we learned 2
Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
ECU is good: I've been talking up East Carolina for a month and now the rest of the country has seen how good this team really is and it earned a No. 14 ranking in the latest AP poll. The strength is in the defense. It limited a potent West Virginia offense, led by Heisman candidate Pat White, to just three points and 251 total yards. Even thought West Virginia rushed for 179 yards, it was limited to just five yards per carry and the Mountaineers got into the red zone just once.
East Carolina is the only non-BCS team to knock off two ranked teams to start the season and the only non-BCS team that is currently worthy to be called a potential BCS buster.
BYU a question mark: If you're like me, you thought BYU would waltz into Washington this week and hand the Huskies a pretty substantial loss. Not so. The Cougars had to fight their way back into this game and won on a blocked kick.
For the rest of the season, critics are going to look at this game and say that the officials handed it to BYU. That's ridiculous. It's a rule. The real thing people need to look at is the BYU defense. The offense clearly outplayed Washington, but when the game was on the line and BYU needed a stop, the defense didn't get it done. Washington is the bottom of the Pac-10. UCLA will tell the tale of whether BYU is deserved the hype it's been getting.
Same old Notre Dame: For nine months, Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis and his players have talked about moving forward and being a changed team, but anyone who watched Saturday's 21-13 win over San Diego State had to feel like they were watching a tape of last year.
The Irish not only had turnovers and missed kicks, but they couldn't sustain drives and had a costly penalty that allowed San Diego State to continue a drive and ultimately score its second touchdown. There are several problems on offense and defense to fix this week because playing the way the Irish played on Saturday won't get them by Michigan or Michigan State.
Rice leads C-USA: While much has been made about East Carolina, Rice has surged to the top of Conference USA after starting its season 2-0 for the first time since the 2004 season. But more importantly, those two wins were conference games.
The Owls got a pick six in the final seconds of the game to secure a win over Memphis Saturday night and obliterated a young SMU team in the opening game of the season.
Offense has not been a problem for Rice. The Owls are averaging 448 yards of total offense per game and they already have 13 touchdowns. The Owls are the second-highest scoring team in Conference USA behind Tulsa.
Arkansas State makes history: One week after pulling a major upset over Texas A&M, Arkansas State pummeled Texas Southern, 83-10, to become the first major collegiate team in three seasons to score 80 points in a game. The total was the second-highest in school history.
While Texas Southern isn't a powerhouse, it does command some attention for making some waves in the Sun Belt. In a conference where Florida Atlantic has been touted as the clear favorite, it's refreshing to see another team come from nowhere and assert itself. Saturday's game against Southern Miss will be a good test to see whether the Red Wolves could be a contender on the national stage.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The ACC didn't do too much to hurt itself this week (7-2 against nonconference opponents), but then again, it's not like Saturday was filled with highlight-worthy performances, either (See: Virginia, Maryland, NC State -- they booed Daniel Evans for crying out loud and third-stringer Harrison Beck had to beat William & Mary).
Here's a look at what Week 2 revealed:
1. Miami is close but not quite: Randy Shannon has a talented, young team that's headed in the right direction, as evidenced by the first half against Florida. Youth and inexperience were factors in this game, but it was closer than the score indicated. If it weren't for two errors on special teams, Florida might not have scored in the first half. Miami's 16-play drive that took 8:42 off the clock and ended in a field goal is evidence this team can move the ball on anyone. This could be a foreshadowing of a surprise team in the Coastal Division, but the Canes will obviously have to earn more than 1.6 yards per carry and do a better job of protecting Marve. Otherwise, look out for No. 2.
2. Once modest expectations are growing for Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets got their first ACC road win and helped Wake Forest and Clemson in the process by knocking off Atlantic Division foe Boston College. With its 2-0 start, Georgia Tech is in the lead and should only get better. It will have to, because the Eagles won't always be able to get away with three fumbles. These were two similar teams, both in transitions on offense and depending on defense. The difference was Georgia Tech's front four, and the grit and determination the offense showed. As long as those factors don't disappear, the coaching should take care of the rest.
3. Florida State has two quarterbacks: And neither of them are named Drew Weatherford. The veteran threw the ball just twice while the future of the program stole the show. Christian Ponder and D'Vontrey Richardson accounted for six total touchdowns and no interceptions. Offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher made the right call with Ponder, who played nearly flawless in his debut. But Richardson will make it difficult to keep him off the field. His 68 yards rushing on four carries added another dimension to the game. (The quarterbacks probably got a little help, though, from their offensive line, which didn't allow a sack all night). Yes, it was against Western Carolina, but how many ACC teams have we seen handle a weak nonconference opponent the way they're supposed to -- with ease?
4. Virginia Tech might just have one quarterback: Sean Glennon said "a red flag went off" in his mind as he watched Tyrod Taylor play drive after drive from the sideline in the second half against Furman. We already knew Taylor could help this team out with his mobility, but weren't quite sure how well it would sit with Glennon or how they two would be used. Turns out they used Taylor more. He got 39 snaps to Glennon's 22. Better late than never, right? Unfortunately for Glennon, it might be too late. Coach Frank Beamer said he's not ready to talk about how he might use both of them against Georgia Tech, but the fact Glennon was used less against a Division I-AA opponent should give him every reason to be "a little concerned."
5. Maryland's not a sleeper: It's asleep: The Terps were the ACC's lone embarrassment on Saturday, as they fell to Middle Tennessee State. (Hey, at least UVA won). There were missed assignments, the quarterbacks couldn't hit open receivers, and the defense was on the field for too long because it couldn't stop the 5-yard short patterns. (Maryland's time of possession was 20:11, its lowest since 2002 against Notre Dame). Maryland has something to fix in every phase of the game. Kicker Obi Egekeze is now 0-for-4 on his field goals this season and has missed five straight dating back to the 2007 Emerald Bowl. The Terps finally have a 100-yard rusher and a backup and only carried the ball 19 times.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
A look back at what we learned in Week 2 in the SEC. Ten of the 12 teams were in action, with Vanderbilt pocketing the first conference win thanks to its 24-17 victory over South Carolina on Thursday night. Otherwise, the SEC was 7-1. Ole Miss suffered the only loss, falling in the final seconds on the road at Wake Forest:
Moreno for Heisman: The hottest Heisman Trophy candidate right now in the SEC isn't Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. Nope, it's Knowshon Moreno, who ripped off a couple of runs for the ages Saturday in Georgia's 56-17 drubbing of Central Michigan. His 52-yard touchdown run (one of three scoring runs) was pretty sweet. But he had a non-scoring, 29-yard run in the third quarter that will be one of those plays you see over and over again all season long. It was that good. Moreno hurdled Central Michigan safety Vince Agnew in the open field and sailed right over Agnew's helmet with his legs stretched out as far as they could go. Afterward, his teammates were simply in awe and couldn't believe what they'd just seen.
Auburn finds a quarterback: The drama is over as to whom the starting quarterback will be for Auburn heading into the SEC part of its schedule. Chris Todd took his opportunity Saturday and ran with it, and both Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin said that Todd was their guy. He was efficient in the 27-13 win over Southern Miss with 248 passing yards and no interceptions and did a nice job of throwing short and letting his playmakers go to work. There's still a question, though, as to how healthy Todd's throwing shoulder is and whether he can consistently throw the ball down the field. He'll need to if Auburn is going to beat LSU in two weeks.
Tim Tebow is still Tebow: No matter how much we hear differently, Tebow simply isn't going to shy away from any hits. If there's room to run and his team needs it, Tebow isn't going to hesitate. He's going to lower his shoulder and take on the defender. That's his game, and it's not going to change. He carried the ball 13 times in Florida's 26-3 win over Miami on Saturday and took some big hits. Meanwhile, no true Florida running back had more than three carries. Can he keep it up, and can the Gators navigate their way through the SEC schedule without a running back taking on more of the load in the running game? We're going to find out. But this we know: Tebow's going to be Tebow.
Special teams make a difference: Tennessee found out the hard way the first week, but special teams are more important than ever in college football. Alabama scored its first two touchdowns on special teams in an otherwise so-so win over Tulane. Auburn's Robert Dunn had 103 yards in punt returns and set up 10 crucial points for the Tigers in their win over Southern Miss. South Carolina had two special teams gaffes that cost the Gamecocks in their loss to Vanderbilt, and Florida blocked a punt for a safety to set the tone early in its win over Miami. The Gators are 11-0 under Urban Meyer when they block a punt.
Ole Miss will be a factor: The Rebels aren't going to win the Western Division this season, but they're going to be a factor in the race. Count on it. They played gallantly in their 30-28 loss at No. 20-ranked Wake Forest on Saturday. The good news for Ole Miss is that help is on the way defensively when tackle Peria Jerry gets healthier and when All-SEC end Greg Hardy returns to the lineup after undergoing surgery in the preseason for a stress fracture in his foot. Here's the other thing: Quarterback Jevan Snead can play. He threw four touchdown passes against Wake Forest and was brilliant in the fourth quarter with his ability to evade pressure and find open receivers. This is a team that has a real chance to be bowl eligible after going winless in the SEC a year ago.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
1. The Big 12 had its most productive nonconference week in history with a 12-0 record. The sweep was a first in the conference's 12-plus season existence. Conference teams really only had only three games that were tight in the fourth quarter -- those involving Colorado, Nebraska and Texas A&M. Credit the power of positive scheduling -- or a run to the pastry wagon with a load of gooey FCS treats. But it won't be nearly this easy next week as Kansas (at South Florida), Iowa State (at Iowa), Baylor (Washington State), Texas (Arkansas) and Oklahoma (at Washington) all will step up in class while playing FBS schools.
2. Where have you gone Ricky Williams? The Big 12 is again going to be dominated by prolific passing games at the expense of developing the running game. Not too long ago, this conference was known for its bruising, brutish rushing attacks. In Saturday's games, only one back rushed for more than 100 yards -- Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter with 210 yards -- and only one other back made it to 90 yards. The conference had seven 100-yard receivers in the same games. A slew of Big 12 teams operating spread offenses and no-huddle attacks have turned the conference into a throw first, run second mindset more so than any other point in the conference's history.
3. The Big 12's most underrated team after two weeks is Kansas State. Sure, the Wildcats haven't been challenged by their first two opponents in North Texas and Montana State. But KSU still has outscored that rogue's gallery by a combined margin of 114-16. The biggest reason has been QB Josh Freeman, who picked up Saturday where he left off last week by accounting for four more touchdowns, giving him nine after two weeks. Freeman has completed 75.6 percent of his passes so far, averaging 11.56 yards per attempt. And he's currently the conference's highest ranking quarterback nationally in pass efficiency compared to all of the other supposed Heisman candidates. Maybe he does deserve mention among them.
4. The high altitude in Reno can't be blamed for Tech fans chanting for their defense as they left the field Saturday night. The Red Raiders' bend-but-don't-break unit might have had the most solid performance I can remember for a unit that was gashed for 488 yards and allowed 6.0 yards per play in its 35-19 victory over Nevada. Tech's defense allowed the Wolf Pack to advance inside the Tech 26 eight times in the first three quarters, but only had only four field goals to show for it. It was a big improvement from last week, when Ruffin McNeill's troops were torched for 341 yards by Eastern Washington's passing game. But we likely won't really know much about the Red Raiders until they start conference play Oct. 4 at Kansas State.
5. Oklahoma is playing like a legitimate threat for the national championship. The biggest eye-opener in Saturday's game was the emergence of Ryan Broyles, a freshman receiver who sat out the first game because of a team-mandated suspension. Broyles wasted little time, grabbing a 27-yard TD pass to cap OU's first possession and finishing with seven receptions for an OU freshman-record 141 yards. The Sooners' no-huddle offense is humming along after hanging 109 points on opponents in their first two games. They appear to likely head into the Red River Shootout against Texas undefeated. The last two times they did that, OU played in the national championship game.
On the plus side, the Big East doesn't have to worry about getting called for too many celebration penalties. Here's what else we learned in Week 2.
1. West Virginia is not championship caliber. Yet.
The Mountaineers never really put up a fight in a 24-3 loss at East Carolina. Their defense, which showed signs of weakness against Villanova, couldn't tackle or stop the run. The offense failed to score a touchdown for the first time in seven years. Bill Stewart has a lot of things to fix before taking his team to Colorado on Sept. 18.
2. Syracuse coach Greg Robinson's days look numbered.
It doesn't get much worse than losing 42-28 at home to Akron, which was picked to finish last in the MAC East. The Orange gave up 428 yards and have now allowed 82 points in two games. "It comes right down to coaching," said Robinson, who took over co-defensive coordinator duties this offseason. "And it comes right to me." Syracuse fans would agree.
3. Connecticut just wins, baby.
The Huskies are rarely pretty, and sometimes you wonder how the heck they do it. But UConn somehow manages to make enough plays to get the job done. Saturday provided a perfect example, as Temple came in motivated by revenge and took a 6-0 lead at halftime in rainy, windy conditions. Connecticut missed three field goals and had a pair of crucial turnovers. Yet, the Huskies still pulled out the 12-9 overtime win. With Virginia and Baylor up next at home, a 4-0 start is quite possible.
4. Shady's back.
After a listless opening week in which he was held to 3.1 yards per carry, Pittsburgh running back LeSean "Shady" McCoy rebounded with 93 yards and three touchdowns on 20 attempts against Buffalo. The Panthers' offense showed a little more life, too, scoring 27 points and getting an efficient effort from quarterback Bill Stull. Beating Buffalo doesn't prove much, but Pitt needs only minor improvement to contend in this conference because ...
5. The Big East is the worst BCS league.
Even the ACC is snickering this morning. At least Virginia Tech took East Carolina to the wire, which is more than preseason Big East favorite West Virginia can say. The league is now 3-7 against FBS opponents, with two of those victories coming in overtime (over Temple and Central Florida). All seven losses have been by double-digits. This week, the ACC and Big East can battle it out for who's truly the worst, with UConn playing Virginia and Rutgers taking on North Carolina.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
1. If Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter gets time to throw, you're in trouble: Carpenter completed 27 of 36 passes for 345 yards and three TDs against a Stanford defense that blitzed -- and hit -- him relentlessly. The Sun Devils' offensive line isn't going to suddenly become dominant, but if it can sustain adequacy, Carpenter and his WRs are dangerous.
2. California is back: A solid win over Michigan State, plus a 66-3 stomping of Washington State on the road, suggests that the Bears are right there with Oregon and Arizona State as teams jostling behind USC. They were outstanding on both sides of the ball against the Cougars, piling up 505 total yards while holding Washington State to just 167. And after posting a pair of 80-plus TD runs, does RB Jahvid Best officially earn a spot on the Heisman Trophy watch list?
3. For golly-gosh sakes, don't show how much fun it is to score a clutch touchdown: The celebration flag against Washington's Jake Locker was a dumb call. Some folks -- the sorts who probably love bureaucracy and filling out lengthy forms and applications -- have pointed out that Locker did release the ball into the air after he scored the potentially game-tying TD in the waning moments against BYU. So what! Don't "rule's a rule me." The spirit of that rule was completely betrayed by the call. And, oh by the way, smart officials have been ignoring it these first two weekends (see ASU's Keegan Herring launching the ball skyward without sanction after he scored a TD vs. Stanford).
4. Arizona is one win away from an officially raised eyebrow: Whipping Idaho 70-zip didn't mean a whole lot. Throttling Toledo, 41-16, means a little more. But it's going to take a win Saturday at a solid New Mexico team, which beat the Wildcats last year, for them to obtain official legitimacy. And, perhaps, national poll votes. Outgaining the Rockets 452 yards to 244 with QB Willie Tuitama completing 76 percent of his passes without an interception, however, probably merits acknowledgement.
5. It's going to be a long, ugly year for college football in the state of Washington: Washington State gets blown out by 63 points at home to fall to 0-2. Washington gets drubbed on the road by its arch-rival and then falls an extra point short against 15th-ranked BYU in front of frustrated Huskies fans. Cougars coach Paul Wulff obviously inherited a mess, and Tyrone Willingham has yet to clean one up at Washington, bringing his future into serious doubt.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The Big Ten achieved perfection in Week 2, winning all 11 games, all but one by 10 points or more. But there were some interesting moments along the way, particularly in Columbus, where Ohio State nearly squandered its national title hopes the week before the big one at the L.A. Coliseum.
Penn State has joined the mix of Big Ten power players after blocking out distractions to rout Oregon State in Happy Valley. Wisconsin continues to raise some concerns, both on the injury front and on the field, but the Badgers flexed their muscles with 51 unanswered points against Marshall. Michigan still has some issues on offense, while Minnesota has closed the book on 2007 with a 2-0 start and an impressive road win against Bowling Green.
We'll know much more about this league in Week 3, as Ohio State (USC), Wisconsin (Fresno State), Purdue (Oregon) and Michigan (Notre Dame) play showcase games. But first, here are five revelations from Saturday's games.
1. Spread HD stands for Huge Difference -- Penn State's new offense has racked up 111 points in the first two games, and quarterback Daryll Clark looks more than capable of leading the explosive unit. Clark's versatility showed against Oregon State, as he accounted for 276 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns (2 pass, 1 rush) in Saturday's 45-14 win. Redshirt freshman speedster Stephfon Green got all the preseason buzz, but sophomore Evan Royster is proving to be the team's top running threat. Royster had 141 rushing yards and three touchdowns against the Beavers, becoming the first Penn State player to score six touchdowns in the first two games of the season since Lydell Mitchell in 1971.
2. Minnesota is turning the corner: Last year, the Gophers were the ones throwing away games. Against Bowling Green on Saturday night, they were the ones capitalizing on mistakes. Minnesota's much-maligned defense forced four second-half turnovers, and the offense converted all four into touchdowns. Quarterback Adam Weber (233 pass yards, 3 TDs, rush TD) continued to show he's the perfect fit for Mike Dunbar's Spread Coast offense, and both running back Duane Bennett and wideout Eric Decker showed their versatility in the 42-17 win.
3. Pryor not ready for clutch situations: Ohio State trailed or barely led for 54 minutes of Saturday's game against Ohio, but heralded freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor got on the field for just three plays during that span. The coaches are still hesitant about putting the amazingly talented Pryor in pressure situations, which likely will limit his availability next week against USC. He could play a role as a running quarterback in special packages, but if the game is close, which it should be, Ohio State will go with Todd Boeckman.
4. Iowa offense is much better: The competition has been weak and much like Indiana, a wait-and-see approach seems appropriate, but the Hawkeyes' offense no longer appears to be a major liability. Coach Kirk Ferentz received good performances from both of his quarterbacks Saturday, though Ricky Stanzi's poise in his first career start could be the difference for Week 3. Whoever takes the snaps has plenty of help from running backs Shonn Greene and Jewel Hampton, who combined for 184 rushing yards in the 42-0 win against Florida International.
5. Wolverines D must shoulder the load: Rich Rodriguez received better play from freshman running back Sam McGuffie against Miami (Ohio), but the quarterback position remained an adventure. Backup Nick Sheridan out-performed Steven Threet on Saturday after Threet graded higher in the opener. The bottom line is an improved Wolverines defense will have to keep games close until the offense finds some sort of rhythm. Linebacker Obi Ezeh continues to make plays and the defensive line picked up three more sacks in Saturday's 16-6 victory.