And So It Is Written ...
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The ten most important things to happen in the history of our great planet – at least this weekend. How will Week 2 of your college football season be remembered in the history books? And so it is written …
1. The Big Ten is having a problem playing college football
That it took a miraculous play from Ameer Abdullah to get Nebraska past McNeese State only makes it worse. The Big Ten came into the weekend with a chance to finally repair its image. Unfairly dumped on after Braxton Miller went down for the year against Ohio State, the Big Ten needed something splashy after Wisconsin wet itself in the second half against LSU, and instead, the conference came up with one of the most disastrous Saturdays any major conference has ever faced.
Northwestern lost at home to a MAC team. Northern Illinois is a good MAC team, but it’s a MAC team. Purdue lost at home to a MAC team. Central Michigan is a mediocre MAC team. Iowa needed everything in the bag to get by an okay Ball State, but again, another MAC team. Yeah, Illinois beat Western Kentucky, but it was a struggle, and Rutgers needed a little work to put away Howard. And, of course, there were the big stage games that will make September 6th, 2014 the day that will live in Big Ten infamy.
Taken by itself, Michigan State losing at Oregon isn’t that bad – the Spartans actually played well and were leading deep into the second half. Oregon is one of the nation’s best teams and Autzen Stadium is one of the toughest places to play in America. However, Ohio State went from looking average against Navy to being awful against Virginia Tech – the Buckeye offensive line forgot how to block. Michigan’s loss to Notre Dame was an epic disaster that made a bad day far worse. At least Michigan State and Ohio State were alive late – the Wolverine team bus never showed up to South Bend.
But it’s early, and it’s a long, long season. From here on, though, it’s damage control time.
Everything about the weekend revolved in some way around the Big Ten’s nightmare, except for ...
2. Pat Haden’s afternoon jog
USC beat Stanford 13-10 in one of the strangest and most bizarre big games the Pac-12 has ever seen. Stanford controlled the game and had chance after chance after chance after chance, but couldn’t seem able to score. USC got its opportunity late, and it made the most of it for the huge win in only the second game of the Steve Sarkisian era, but no one seems interested in that. As long as there’s college football, this will be the weekend that the Big Ten stunk, and Pat Haden came down from the sideline to protect his head coach from those mean, bad old officials.
There were arguments over a few calls that didn’t go USC’s way, Sarkisian got tagged with a penalty for arguing a little bit too much, and after being texted, down came Daddy, looking the part in his khakis and white zipped up fleece to see what he could do to make everything okay. No one had ever seen anything like it, and even with all the craziness surrounding the Josh Shaw fiasco, and the accusations from former running back Anthony Brown that Sarkisian is a racist, Haden’s run to the rescue only added to the absurdity of USC’s 2014 season so far.
3. Notre Dame closed out Michigan with a bang
After a day full of awful matchups – USC vs. Stanford aside – the night was loaded up with all the big games, taking a little bit of the luster off the final game – for now – in the great Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry. The Irish were still shorthanded without a few key players suspended academically, and even with them, the team was rebuilding. For Michigan, it was a chance to take a step forward into superpower territory again. After destroying Appalachian State, the running game worked, the defense was humming, and the offense even had, according to quarterback Devin Gardner, “probably the best receiver to ever play (in Michigan).” The defense wasn’t that bad, holding the Irish to just 280 yards of total offense, but the Wolverine O couldn’t stop giving the ball away, turning it over four times in the 31-0 debacle. Meanwhile, Rich Rodriguez is 2-0 at Arizona.
4. J.T. Barrett will have better days
Because it fit the narrative of the day, the end of 35-21 Virginia Tech win over Ohio State in Columbus became, “what’s wrong with the Buckeyes?” Urban Meyer doesn’t lose games like that at home to teams like Virginia Tech – Ohio State never loses games like that at home to anyone. But there’s a chance Virginia Tech just might be that good this year and it’s possible that the swarming defense and effective offense were signs that the ACC could be more than just Florida State. Or it could mean that Ohio State really is just another team without Braxton Miller and was getting by on smoke and mirrors last year before being exposed by Ohio State and Clemson. Urban Meyer started out his tenure at Ohio State 24-0, and now is 1-3 in his last four. Meanwhile, Will Muschamp is 1-0 at Florida.
5. Washington is weird
Suspended quarterback Cyler Miles returned just in time to get in on the fun. A week after Washington had to pull teeth to beat a bad Hawaii team 17-16, into town came Eastern Washington, getting away from its red turf and hanging up 475 passing yards and seven touchdowns in a 59-52 Husky win. While Steve Sarkesian might be in the middle of a wild and wacky fun show at USC to start out his tenure, Chris Petersen is still trying to figure out what he has with his 2-0 team. It’s only been two weeks, but the team is quickly growing into the Pac-12’s X factor. With Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State coming up before October is out, there could be a lot more fun ahead. Meanwhile, Steve Sarkisian is 2-0 at USC.
6. UCLA is weirder
Ranked 12th in both the AP and Coaches polls, UCLA is being given a free pass because it’s supposed to be good. Brett Hundley is supposed to be an NFL quarterback, and there are loads of pro talents across the board, but strip away expectations and go just off of what happened in the first two weeks against Virginia and Memphis, and the team that was considered to be deep in the hunt for a College Football Playoff is looking like a team about to get its doors blown off. It took a late rally to get by the Tigers in the Bruin home opener 42-35. But now the team has to wake up with road games against Texas and Arizona State up next, and with Oregon coming up soon. And no, no one’s texting Pat Haden to come across town to try to fix the problem.
7. BYU did it again
This was supposed to be a new year and a new era, and after last season’s blowout loss to BYU all but ended the Mack Brown era, beating BYU at home was a must to usher in the Charlie Strong regime and prove that things have changed. The Cougars didn’t run for 550 yards like they did in last year’s win over the Longhorns, but they ran for five touchdowns this time around – they ran for four last year – and they came up with a bigger blowout, winning 41-7 after coming up with a 40-21 shocker in Provo. So either Texas has a long, long way to go before it’s anywhere near being Texas again, or there’s a chance BYU could have just announced it’s going to be a player in the run for a College Football Playoff spot. Meanwhile, Bobby Petrino is 2-0 at Louisville.
8. Where were all the SEC games?
At least the league didn’t have any problems with its MAC foes – Missouri waxed Toledo, Florida destroyed Eastern Michigan and Kentucky crushed Ohio. It’s the weakest of all defenses this week for the Big Ten, but at least the league stepped up and played a few good non-conference games. SEC’s schedule was a complete and utter wasteland with East Carolina at South Carolina passing as the marquee event, considering Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt didn’t really pass as anything to pay attention to. None of the 12 SEC games were decided by single-digits, and none of the non-conference games were played against another Power 5 schools. No big SEC games equals a bit of a light weekend overall, but next week Tennessee goes to Oklahoma, Georgia plays at South Carolina, and Arkansas goes to Texas Tech. That means you don’t really have to watch Big Ten football – Minnesota vs. TCU is the headliner – if you don’t want to.
9. The MAC’s rise up
One conference’s suckfest of a Saturday is another league’s Christmas. If it’s possible for a conference to go 3-9 and have a great weekend, the MAC did it. While the Big Ten was getting destroyed for its problems, give the MAC some credit for rising up and producing against the teams with rosters full of guys who got the scholarships all the MAC players were hoping for. It wasn’t just NIU beating Northwestern and Central Michigan taking care of Purdue. UMass almost pulled off a big win over Colorado, Ball State balled with Iowa in Iowa City, and Toledo hung with Missouri for a bit. In terms of PR, the MAC came away looking terrific. Going 2-2 against the Big Ten will do that.
10. Florida State still doesn’t really seem like Florida State - yet
The Seminoles are still No. 1 in both polls in sort of a They’re Champs Until They Get Knocked Off sort of way, but this isn’t the humming, well-oiled machine of last year. After struggling to put away Oklahoma State in the opener, there wasn’t any problem against The Citadel, getting out to a 34-0 lead after three quarters, but the team simply didn’t look the same. Jameis Winston was terrific – as always – and there wasn’t any need to go full-throttle, but last year’s team couldn’t score fewer than 41 points during the regular season even when it was pulling things back. The Noles didn’t dip below the 41 mark until the BCS championship, and already this year they scored 37 points in each of the first two games. Meanwhile, Kelvin Benjamin caught six passes for 92 yards and a score in Carolina’s win over Tampa Bay.