Monday Morning Quarterback

The 2006 college football season got underway over the weekend, and takes you around the Big Ten, the Penn State schedule and other items of interest from around the nation.

It's that time of year again; that magical season when yard work is neglected, beverage cans pile up and the local pizza shops are forced to hire extra drivers; football season is upon us, and what would the opening weekend be without some big wins, some upsets and enough controversy to keep fans talking all week? Week one is traditionally that special time when the big boys of the college football world fatten up for the season by devouring an extra large serving of cupcakes.

We'll begin our segment for this week by taking our customary look around the Big Ten, which opened the season with a perfect 11-0 mark after running up 405 points while giving up 148.

Northwestern at Miami (Ohio) (Aug. 31)

The Wildcats paid tribute to their late head coach Randy Walker, who died unexpectedly two months ago, by bashing Miami of Ohio 21-3 in Pat Fitzgerald's debut as the youngest head coach in the NCAA. Walker, who coached at Miami until 1999, was memorialized in a pregame ceremony, and his widow, Tammy, was invited onto the field for the coin toss and presented with the game ball.

Next Up: The Wildcats play host to New Hampshire at Ryan Field Sept. 9.

Minnesota at Kent State (Aug. 31)

In another road game against an inferior opponent, Minnesota coach Glen Mason returned to the school where he got his start as a head coach and demolished his former team 44-0. Sophomore running back Alex Daniels delivered most of the blows, running for 155 yards and three touchdowns, and the Gopher defense slammed the door on Kent, forcing six turnovers.

Next Up: Minnesota stays on the road for a matchup with California Sept. 9. The Golden Bears, ESPN analyst Lee Corso's pick for a BCS championship contender, will certainly plummet from their pre-season No. 9 ranking following a loss to Tennessee.

Vanderbilt at Michigan

The Commodores carried the banner of the SEC into Michigan Stadium and managed to keep the first half competitive, as the Wolverines managed just 13 first half points to Vandy's seven. Michigan's defense was dominant in the second half, shutting out Vanderbilt, while Mike Hart piled up 146 yards for Michigan and Chad Henne tossed second-half scoring strikes to Tyler Ecker and Mario Manningham on the way to a 27-7 win.

Next Up: Central Michigan visits Michigan Stadium Sept. 9.

Idaho at Michigan State

Idaho is known for potatoes, not football, and that made the Vandals a perfect opening opponent for one of the Big Ten's most notoriously inconsistent teams. Former San Francisco 49er head coach Dennis Erickson returned to the sideline for Idaho, and MSU coach John L. Smith once served as his defensive coordinator. Spartan quarterback Drew Stanton was the difference-maker with 225 yards and a touchdown, as MSU rolled to a 17-3 halftime lead and a 27-7 victory.

Next Up: The Spartans also take on a "directional Michigan" foe as Eastern Michigan rolls into Spartan Stadium Sept. 9.

Montana at Iowa

Picked by some as a contender for Big Ten supremecy, the Hawkeyes did nothing to diminish those expectations, rolling up the largest margin of victory of any conference team in a 41-7 shellacking of the Grizzlies.

Next Up: Iowa takes to the road for a matchup with Syracuse at the Carrier Dome Sept. 9.

Indiana State at Purdue

The Division I-AA Sycamores made a game of it for 30 minutes, trailing Purdue 26-21 at the half, but the Boilermakers took to the ground game and rolled up 156 rusning yards and 34 points in the second half to win 60-35.

Next Up: Miami (Ohio) visits West Lafayette Sept. 9.

Northern Illinois at Ohio State

Troy Smith hooked up with Ted Ginn for touchdowns on the Buckeyes' first two posessions, and Anthony Gonzalez on the next, and No. 1 Ohio State never looked back in a 35-12 win.

Next Up: Ohio State travels to Texas to take on the defending national champion Longhorns Sept. 9.

Western Michigan at Indiana

Indiana shrugged off a six-game losing streak and made the home crowd happy as the Hoosiers beat Western Michigan 39-20. Indiana scored on interception and punt return, as well as on the ground and through the air, but struggled at times. Special teams also showed weakness, with the Hoosiers suffering two blocked PAT attempts and a 12-yard punt.

Next Up: Indiana travels to Ball State for a Sept. 9 matchup.

Eastern Illinois at Illinois

Coach Ron Zook found a remedy for Illinois' nine-game losing streak: Division I-AA opponent Eastern Illinois. The Panthers played without head coach Bob Spoo, who underwent surgery earlier in the week, and the Fighting Illini feasted on a rare lesser opponent, amassing 519 yards of offense.

Next Up: Illinois heads east for a Sept. 9 matchup with Rutgers.

Wisconsin at Bowling Green

In a rare opening weekend that featured three Big Ten teams traveling to play lower-conference foes, it seems most unusual that one of them was the Badgers. It made little difference. Bret Bielema picked up the reigns at Wisconsin and revealed few departures from Barry Alvarez' style as UW grounded the Falcons 35-14.

Next Up: Western Illinois invades Camp Randall Stadium Sept. 9.

Other Penn State Opponents

Notre Dame at Georgia Tech

Both teams struggled to move the ball in a game that was dominated early by relentless Yellow Jacket pressure on Irish quarterback Brady Quinn. Georgia Tech rolled to a surprising 10-0 lead in the second quarter before Quinn dived to give Notre Dame a touchdown just before the half. The Irish managed just one more score in the second half, but that proved to be the difference in an uncharacteristic defensive struggle that resulted in a 14-10 Notre Dame win.

Plays Penn State: This week, Sept. 9 at Notre Dame Stadium.

Youngstown State at Slippery Rock

The Division I-AA powerhouse which produced Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel had little trouble with Slippery Rock in the season opener for both teams. The Penguins cruised to a 51-21 win.

Plays Penn State: Sept. 16 at Beaver Stadium.

Temple at Buffalo

Temple's opening game showed anyone who took the time to watch just how much work first-year head coach Al Golden has in front of him. The Owls, led by former Penn State recruit Adam DiMichele at quarterback, struggled to a 3-3 tie with Buffalo through regulation, fell in overtime 9-3 for their 13th straight loss.

Plays Penn State: Nov.11 at Beaver Stadium

Other Notes of Interest

It's tradition this time of year. Big schools invite small schools to come and play in their big stadiums in order to get an extra home game. Small schools oblige, show up, take their whipping, and go home to enjoy their big check. It happens all the time. Somebody forgot to tell Montana State the script though, as the I-AA Bobcats defeated Colorado 19-10. Instead, it was a shaky beginning for new Buffalos coach Dan Hawkins, who was hired to clean up the Colorado program and restore the pride for a team rocked with scandal under former coach Gary Barnett. The loss really should come as no surprise — no Colorado head coach has won his debut with the Buffalos since Rick Neuheisel — has anyone seen him lately?

Some schools have reloading down to a science. Case in point, USC. Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush are gone, but it mattered little as John David Booty got the call to lead the Trojans, who more than covered the spread with a 50-14 victory over Arkansas in Fayetteville. The lone bright spot in this demolition for the Hogs might have been a glimpse of the future, freshman quarterback Mitch Mustain, who took the helm late in the fourth quarter to drive Arkansas to a meaningless score. Three freshman tailbacks, C.J. Gable, Emmanuel Moody and Allen Bradford all scored for USC, and Booty finished 24 of 35 for 261 yards. Overall, it appears that even a rebuilding Trojan team can't be overlooked for a big piece of the BCS pie.

It's rare when a player gets an immediate opportunity to atone for a mistake. Georgia's Mikey Henderson decided to showboat just a little too soon after his 64-yard first quarter punt return for an apparent touchdown. Not so fast; after a Western Kentucky challenge, the touchdown was erased and Western Kentucky was given a touchback as video replay showed the ball leaving Henderson's hand before he crossed the goal line. Henderson had decided to hold the ball high in one hand out in front of him for all to see as he crossed the goal line. Whoops. Fortunately for Henderson he got another chance. Georgia's defense held Western to a three and out, and Henderson returned the ensuing punt 67 yards for a touchdown. This one with the ball firmly tucked under his arm.

The Governor of West Virginia got involved to encourage the Mountaineers to play Marshall, but it didn't matter. WVU thundered past the Herd 42-10. With a schedule that features just one ranked team (Louisville) there is no major power that has a bigger cakewalk to the BCS than the Mountaineers.

It must be my imagination. I could have sworn that Notre Dame lost its bowl game last year. When has a bowl loser ever picked up so many spots in the rankings that they would start a season ranked No. 2. Apologists think there is no bias. Well, after watching the Irish take on Georgia Tech, they may well again be the most overrated team in the preseason poll, though I'd have to give honorable mention to...

Oklahoma, which struggled to a 24-17 win over UAB.

In watching the TIVO replay of the Penn State game, ESPN analyst Mike Gottfried brought up an interesting point. The Division I-A head coach with the best record since 2000 is..

Miami, Larry Coker — one game better than Pete Carroll.

Finally, there's this. The Disney reorganization of its television properties is complete. Once "The Worldwide Leader in Sports," ABC has been reduced to just another shill for ESPN. ABC Sports is no more. The network that taught the world how to cover the Olympic games and produced such notables as Curt Gowdy, Jim Lampley and Keith Jackson was laid to rest as the Saturday football telecast of Notre Dame vs Georgia Tech was branded as "ESPN on ABC." Monday Night Football as well is now an ESPN property. The late Roone Arlidge, who engineered ABC's climb to the top of the sports world by bringing human interest to sports TV along with the "thrill of victory and the agony of defeat," must be rolling over in his grave.


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