Nine turnovers by the home team have been analyzed, scrutinized and criticized every imaginable way by fans coaches and the media, but I'm not convinced that Carolina's frequent misplacement of the pigskin constituted the most bizarre turn of events in the Triangle last Saturday.
I am, of course, referring to the strange feeling which must have settled in Durham when the Blue Devils jumped out to a 20-0 lead over East Carolina – not only for the visitors but for the home team as well. I can only imagine that the cheer in Raleigh when the Wolfpack faithful learned that the Devils had hung on to beat the hated Pirates might have been heard all the way back at Wallace Wade.
This makes two years in a row that the Pirates have been shocked in their opening game by smaller programs over whom they were double-digit favorites. No truth to the rumor that Prairie View A&M has offered to travel to Greenville to open the 2003 season.
Speaking of sickening feelings, it's doubtful that anyone felt worse at the end of Saturday than the Washington Huskies. After going into the Big House and playing a fine game en route to what appeared to be their second consecutive win over the Maize and Blue, the Huskies fielded one extra puppy on Michigan's last possession. Since they were in a "12 man set" and nobody was attempting to get off the field, Washington was penalized fifteen yards for illegal participation and Michigan was suddenly in field goal range. The Wolverines closed the deal with a 44 yarder and escaped with a victory.
The Weekend that will be…
Game of the Week: Miami vs. Florida
Not hard to pick this one out as the prime choice on Saturday's menu. The Hurricanes and Gators are reviving their series and the first game of the renewal will be in the Swamp in Gainesville. The influence of rainfall from either of two tropical storms in the area could loom large in this one. This is definitely a statement game for new Gators coach Ron Zook, who will be looking to show that he can fill the large shoes left by Steve Spurrier. Florida's passing game gets the press, but if the Gators can establish any consistency on the ground, they will edge the ‘Canes in Gainesville. I'm guessing they will, and that this will be the most hostile territory that Miami has seen in a long time – including Doak Campbell. Gators 28 - ‘Canes 24
"Name" Game of the Week: Alabama vs. Oklahoma
I know that Miami and Florida could make a case for this also, but there's a lot of tradition taking the field in Norman. The Sooners have seen a nice renaissance of their winning ways over the last few years, and think that Bob Stoops may be ready to make a run for his second National Championship. Tide fans want to see how much progress Dennis Franchione and his staff have made in bringing Alabama back to the top. Despite the troubles of the last few years, Alabama does seem to be back on track, and it still feels strange to see the Tide as a two-touchdown underdog. They're not back yet, though. Look for this game to be competitive well into the second half and possibly the fourth quarter. Then look for the Sooners to pull away. Oklahoma 31 - Alabama 17
"We're Going to Hate Writing this Check" Game: Boise State vs. Arkansas
The Broncos will visit Hogland and be well compensated for the game. Problem is, they just might win it. Quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie is one of the best players nobody has ever heard of and he leads a number of veteran players from a Boise State team that won 8 games last year but was not invited to a bowl. Chips on shoulders abound, and the Broncos would like nothing better to gain some respect against an SEC opponent – and get paid for doing it. (Insert SEC payment joke here) Boise State 35 - Sooeee Pigs 31
"Is That Your Final Answer?" Game: Carolina vs. Syracuse
Last weekend left both teams scratching their heads and looking for answers. This weekend will move one team to .500 and the other to 0-2, but each will probably have even more questions than before. However, this could definitely be one of the more entertaining games of the day. Carolina 48 - Syracuse 45 (OT)