On College Football

by John Furgele

The best thing about college football is that you learn a lot in one week, and as ESPN says, “One week can change the season.”  That statement couldn’t be more accurate.  The first month is in the books, and we know that the SEC is dominant, the Big East is bad and soon, we will find out if all those rated Big 12 teams are legitimate as they will finally start playing each other.  Let’s recap the week that was.

1)  The Big East Woes Continue:  The worst thing that could have happened to West Virginia was their demolition over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.  The Mountaineers won the game under interim coach Bill Stewart, and because of it, had to give him the job full-time.  Stewart is a character—his halftime chat last Thursday with ESPN’s Erin Andrews was classic—but there’s a reason why he has been an assistant coach his whole life.  There’s no shame in losing at Colorado, but the Mountaineers don’t look the same, in fact, they look slow and unimaginative.  Maybe because everybody runs the spread, it doesn’t scare opponents anymore.

Somebody please tell Rutgers to put the stadium expansion plans on hold.  The Scarlet Knights scrapped many sports to further emphasize football, thinking they could market themselves as New York City’s college football team.  The Knights lost to Navy, who last week lost at Duke.   This Rutgers team is looking like the ghosts of Rutgers past, which is not a good thing as Terry Shea is smiling somewhere.   Like beleaguered Syracuse, they host a 1-AA team in Morgan State, but you wonder how many empty seats will be at Rutgers Stadium for that game?  Probably plenty.

Syracuse “saved” Greg Robinson’s job if only on paper.  Syracuse beat 1-AA Northeastern 30-21 before about 15,000 at the Carrier Dome.  A win is a win, but they struggled against a 1-AA team that came in 0-2.  And, the Huskies totaled nearly 400 yards in total offense.  Even Rutgers is licking its chops.

2)   The Tale of the Floridas.  For those who thought Florida State was back after two wins against mediocre opponents, think again.  The Seminoles looked awful against Wake Forest, losing to the Demon Deacons for the third consecutive year.  Two years ago, Wake Forest blanked them in Tallahassee 30-0 and Saturday, again held them without a touchdown in a 12-3 victory.  What has happened to the once vaunted FSU offense remains puzzling, and future head coach Jimbo Fisher is the offensive coordinator. 

It also looks like Randy Shannon may know what he is doing at Miami.  Granted, the U beat an awful Texas A&M squad, but they beat them bad on the road, so that has to count for something.  Their offense did nothing at Florida, but the defense kept the Canes in the game through three quarters.  Patience is no longer practiced in sports anymore, but it might be worth waiting a bit longer for Shannon as he attempts to rebuild the once proud Hurricanes.

3)  Times Are Rocky in Tennessee:  Philip Fulmer has a national championship on his resume, but for the most part, he comes up small in big games, and did so again on Saturday at home versus Florida, losing 30-6.  Over the years, Fulmer has done many things to save his job.  He changes offensive coordinators annually to take the heat off of himself, but if the Vols keep playing like they have, the pressure on him will begin to build.  He brought in Dave Clawson, who had success as a head coach with 1-AA schools such as Fordham and Richmond, but thus far, the offense looks pedestrian.  They lost to what appears to be a bad UCLA team and were outclassed at home by Florida.  That can’t be good.

4)  The SEC Simply Has Athletes.  Some may say that the SEC gets too much credit, but all you had to do was watch the Disney family of networks from 7:45 to Midnight to see why.  LSU is so deep that late in the game they were rotating defensive lineman with the game on the line at Auburn.  In college football, that’s unheard of, but it worked as LSU forced Auburn to turn it over on downs to preserve a 26-21 victory.  Over on ABC, Georgia simply toyed with Arizona State, beating them like a drum, 27-10. 

It gets better this week as Georgia hosts Alabama, and Tennessee goes to Auburn.  Even Vanderbilt is 4-0 and ranked, but you can’t hide once the SEC schedule gets in gear.  The Commodores have a week off than play Auburn on October 4.  Vandy needs two more wins to become bowl eligible and probably three more to guarantee itself a bowl, and they do play Duke later in the season.  The SEC is a tough league for Vandy, but like Northwestern in the Big Ten, they’ll never leave because for them, it is the golden goose.  And, by the way, Northwestern is also 4-0 this year.

5)  The Mountain West Continues to Roll.  The MWC has three teams ranked in the top 25 in BYU, TCU and Utah, compared to one from the Big East, one from the PAC 10 and two from the ACC.  And, unranked Air Force is a team nobody wants to play and UNLV followed up their overtime win at Arizona State by beating another BCS school in Iowa State.  The big MWC games are 10/16 when BYU plays at TCU; 11/6 when TCU travels to Utah; and 11/22 when BYU goes to Utah.  With the Big East and ACC down so much, hopefully the BCS folks will take a good look at the MWC provided its teams have great overall records.  But, in order for the MWC to get a strong look, this week, TCU will have to do the conference proud.  The Horned Frogs are at Oklahoma and this is a game that they have to play well in.  You can’t go 11-1 or 10-2 and lose 48-20 at Oklahoma and cry about being overlooked.  For the non-BCS leagues, these nonconference games are crucial. 

6)  Army Continues to Depress.  When you look at Army’s schedule, you see opponents that are from scary; opponents that say “this game should be competitive,” but thus far, Army has played three games, all at home, and have been outscored by an 85-20 margin.  On Saturday, they were drubbed by Akron, 22-3.  Akron!  Nothing against the Zips, they won at Syracuse this year, but for the Zips to batter the Knights as they did, makes me think that Army is more like a Division II school than the 1-AA division that they should play in.  Furthermore, Army didn’t know what it is doing.  They used one QB for running/option plays, then used another one for passing plays.  Do you think that fooled the defense?  Besides being outclassed, Army coach Stan Brock appears to be in over his head.  The sevice academies need everything to go right to win games, but if you have a great coach, it can be done.  Sadly, Army has nothing going right and throw in bad coaching, and it is recipe for disaster.

Until next week.

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