Monday, September 2, 2002 Updated: September 23, 7:13 PM ET
This is what it's all about!
By Trev Alberts Special to ESPN.com
Last weekend was what college football was all about for me.
Colorado State was the biggest upset of the week simply because of the way it unfolded. I just thought that Colorado, with what they had dome last year at the end of the season, with the three running backs and Craig Ochs coming back, the way they played last year against Colorado State, i just thought this was going to be the year that Colorado was going to come out and say "Okay, here we go!".
My comments aren't meant to belittle Colorado but just to tip my cap to Coach Lubick because of the way he had his players ready to play. I still say that Colorado has more talent than Colorado State, but that's the exact reason I don't like computers and other people telling me who the best team is. That's why they play the games!
To watch Cecil Sapp run is a joy because of the passion he plays with. And Bradlee Van Pelt, I love that kid. I'm not saying he's going to be a first-round draft pick or anything, but his toughness and his attitude (and that of Cecil Sapp) permeate that team. I know you can say Chris Brown fumbled three times but I take the side that says "You know what? Somebody forced those fumbles. somebody was flying around and made it happen."
I love the way Colorado State played. Most importantly for them, they gave up over 200 rushing yards against Virginia, and Virginia isn't the same team Colorado is, and for CSU to come back and limit Colorado like they did is a fabulous effort. And half of those guys were probably told by Colorado "You're not good enough to play here."
Dave Ragone did everything he could against Kentucky's improved defense.
But let me tell you something: Dave Ragone is a warrior. Don't look at his stats. I don't know that I've seen a more courageous performance on a lot of levels than he had against Kentucky. I played with Jim Harbaugh and saw him give performances where he gave everything he had and was scrambling everywhere, and watching that game I thought of Jim and thought that Ragone was laying everything he had inside out on the field. I gained even more respect for him after that game.
If you look at the numbers and didn't see the game you're going to make a terrible judgement about Dave Ragone. I'm not saying he should be first in line for the Heisman but I am saying don't cross him off your list. The ironic thing about that award is that you're so dependent on team success to get the individual honors, and I don't know how much better Ragone could have played. What bothers me is that Heisman voters will look at his numbers and scratch him off the list at the end of August.
That being said, what a fantastic defensive effort by Kentucky. Jeremy Caudill and the rest of the defense came up big, and that is why we can end up looking like a dummy when we do these preseason rankings and lists. Kentucky allowed almost 500 yards a game and was near the bottom nationally in defense last year, and a week ago I would have said they're terrible. I'm not ready to say they're now a top-10 defense, but they looked pretty good.
They've got some speed, their defensive linemen played their tails off, and I know the Louisville offensive line was hurting but I was impressed with Kentucky's defense. With everything that Guy Morriss and that program have been through I think they can use this win as a platform to catapult them to bigger and better things.
Louisville doesn't have much time to regroup. They have Duke next week, but then they've got Colorado and Florida State before the end of September. That offensive line is going to have to be able to run the ball some and keep them honest, because you're not going to be able to throw every play or else you're going to see people teeing off on them. There's no way they can go the whole season without making adjustments because people are going to be coming after Ragone. That was Kentucky's plan, to get to him before he had a chance to do some things, and I think the athletic ability on their defense was shocking.
I also think you're going to continue to see the smaller conferences give the big guys trouble. When I was doing my preparation for the season it was amazing for me to see the quality of the quarterback play all the way down to the Sun Belt conference. You're seeing very good football players going places where they can play right away. These guys aren't messing around any more, and if they can't play right away they'll transfer somewhere they can.
I remember when I was a freshman at Nebraska and was about eighth-string at right outside linebacker, I went and had a talk with my coach and said "Tell me if I'm good enough to play here, because if I'm not I've got four years of eligibility and I'm not gonna mess around here." He convinced me that I was good enough and I was starting the next year, but it entered my mind, too. And the way the schedules are set up you can go to a smaller school and still get to play against the big guys.
Luke McCown of Louisiana Tech threw for 448 yards and three touchdowns last week and is a perfect example. They beat Oklahoma State last week and Clemson better watch out this week. I understand that in some conferences the weakness on every team is defense, giving up 400 or 500 yards a game, but you still can't take away from the offensive production of guys like McCown and you just can't sign up teams and get three automatic wins anymore. Penn State had trouble with Central Florida. Nebraska struggled with Troy State. Alabama barely beat Middle Tennessee State
But I catapulted Virginia Tech into my Power 16 because they're a lot better than people thought. I mean, I had LSU winning the SEC West. I don't know how to explain Virginia Tech other than to say they're physical and fundamentally sound. You will have to beat Virginia Tech on your own. I know that sounds silly, but in college football a lot of times you can kind of depend on the other team to help you out but you cannot count on Virginia Tech to help you at all. They're not going to have 12 men on the field or get kick blocked or fumble the ball.
They only complete nine passes against LSU. They just lined up and gave the ball to two great running backs, played great defense and fantastic special teams and won the game. LSU had a bad pass defense last year but had a solid defensive front, and if you had told Nick Saban before the game that Tech was going to run every play I think he would have taken that.
The Tigers are still a good team, but Tech made them have to throw the ball to win and that was the question mark for them with Matt Mauck at quarterback. And as a former outside guy, I love the quickness of No. 95 Jim Davis. The Hokies have defensive ends who are in a sprinters stance and are off at the snap of the ball. I felt bad for LSU's right tackle because he just got run over all day.
And I know they played Mississippi State, but I think Jason Fife is going to fit in very well in Oregon's offense. He's still growing and learning, but the thing that I saw was that they don't have to shorten the playbook for him. It looked to me like they're doing everything they've always done, rolling the pocket and using multiple formations. I think Oregon is a pretty solid football team.
With Oklahoma you'll learn a lot more about them this week against Alabama. Quentin Griffin is a fine back but sooner or later you're going to run into a good team and you're not going to run for 200 yards on everybody. Jason White threw a couple of picks and they had some dropped balls, so their offense is going to have to get better, but I'm still standing by them as my pick to win the national championship.
And what did we learn from Miami's win over Florida A&M? That Ken Dorsey is sharp, hitting receivers in stride and looking like he hasn't missed a beat in that timing offense. And their front seven looked awesome, barely giving up any yards.
The Packers failed to land Rex Grossman.
Real concerned about that Florida offense, huh? I know it was against UAB, but they were in multiple formations all over the field and Ernest Graham ran for 182 yards. If I'm a defensive coordinator I have even more headaches now than when Steve Spurrier was the coach. I'm not saying he wasn't a good coach, but I am saying that this offense is more multiple. They give you more looks and if I'm a defensive coordinator I have more things to prepare for now than a year ago.
Not exactly the start Mark Mangino envisioned at Kansas, though, being held to 122 total yards against Iowa State. I say that because it's time to realize that Iowa State is a darn good football team. Looking at the Florida State game it was easy to say that Florida State wasn't very good, but maybe I should have said Iowa Sate is pretty good. I know it was only Kansas, but I liked how the team responded.
You just lost to Florida State, you felt like you should have tied it and you got hosed by the officials, but in the end Dan McCarney had this team ready to play. They tried to fire McCarney a couple times there and he begged and pleaded for them to give him one more shot, and I think it's a great statement to the athletic directors out there who hire a guy and say "Turn my program around," then fire him after three years.
Dan's been around for seven years, they've been to a couple bowl games and they're a legit team now. Everyone knows about Seneca Wallace and Hiawatha Rutland, but the Cyclones are a good defensive team, too.
Missouri's Brad Smith is also ready to burst onto the scene. He is such a good athlete and he allows Coach Pinkel to do some different things on offense. When I played they were always a good defensive team, but offensively they weren't that good and the defense would wear down and you'd blow them out. But to me they're definitely a bowl team this year. They're still young and their running game needs some work, but Smith allows them to do more and he completes Coach Pinkel's offense with some more of the things he'd like to do. I'm not saying their going to win the Big 12 North, but they have a shot to win some games.
ISU and Missouri are going to beat some teams that they're not supposed to, and the point is that they now think they should win some of those games.
Revisiting a point from last week, Florida State still has some issues on defense. Billy McMullen had more than 100 yards receiving on five caches and Matt Schaub had almost 250 yards passing with no interceptions. There are still problems at corner in terms of coverage and they're not there yet defensively.
But offensively you better start thinking about Greg Jones as a guy who's going to pop up and get some attention in the Heisman debate. This offense is completely different than any Florida State offense I've ever seen. They always had little scat backs, but now they're in the I-formation pounding Jones, who is 240 and runs a 4.3 in the 40. Chris Rix threw a couple interceptions, though, and he just can't do that. They have all the pieces offensively, but the little things have to be fixed.
Defensively, though, I'm convinced that a great passing offense is going to have a nice day against them right now. Right now I don't care where the Miami-Florida State game is played, I'm taking Miami. The Florida-Florida State game? I don't care where it's played I'm taking Florida. Teams can beat them until the pass rush get so good that they don't have to cover anyone.
Now I know some people are saying things like "This is week 1! How can you say that?". Well, that's my job and I'm excited. College football is here and I'm seeing trends and I'm seeing things happen that shouldn't, and that's what this game is all about. Whether it happens in August or November I'll never, ever try to hide my enthusiasm for this game.
Trev Alberts is a college football analyst for ESPN. He will contribute a weekly column to ESPN.com.