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October 11, 2009
Each Sunday, our staff of college football experts will offer thoughts on things they learned over the weekend.
Here are our observations after Week 2:
Colt McCoy no longer is among the Heisman leaders. Texas QB Colt McCoy had a solid but unspectacular performance with 265 passing yards, a touchdown and one interception in a 38-14 win over Colorado. That pretty much defines his season thus far, too. McCoy - last season's Heisman runner-up - is having a good year, but it hardly qualifies as outstanding. McCoy still has a high completion percentage and he has passed for at least 200 yards in every game. But he has 10 touchdown passes and six interceptions and his running ability largely has been a non-factor. McCoy could get back into the discussion with a strong showing against Oklahoma, but the most outstanding player for Texas is WR Jordan Shipley, who has 47 catches and has returned two punts for TDs.
Tennessee QB Jonathan Crompton can play a little bit after all. Nobody has caught as much criticism in Tennessee as Crompton. It had gotten so bad that T-shirts mockingly supporting Crompton for the Heisman were being sold in Knoxville. Frankly, Crompton had lived down to the hype through the Vols' first five games. But he answered his critics by going 20-of-27 for 310 yards and four touchdowns in a 49-19 rout of Georgia. Is he a one-game wonder, or was it a sign of dramatic progress? That may be revealed in two weeks against Alabama.
Alabama will cruise to the SEC West title. The only drama in the division is who will finish second: LSU, Auburn or Ole Miss. It almost seems comical to think that at the start of the season, many felt this division was a toss-up between Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss. The Crimson Tide dispatched the Rebels on Saturday with their trademark suffocating defense, officially stamping Ole Miss as an overrated team. Alabama will get its chance to drub LSU when the Tigers visit Tuscaloosa on Nov. 7. As for upstart Auburn, it would seem to have little chance in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 27.
Kansas must shore up its defense. Yes, KU remains unbeaten and still may be the favorite to win the Big 12 North thanks largely to the fact that it plays host to Nebraska on Nov. 14. But the Jayhawks' hope of playing in their first Big 12 title game may be trashed unless the defense improves. KU's defense ranks seventh in the Big 12 (351.0 ypg). The passing defense has been atrocious, ranking last in the conference (259.8 ypg), which may be a byproduct of foes struggling to run the ball on the Jayhawks (Kansas ranks third in the Big 12 vs. the run at 91.2 yards per game). Still, the toughest games are to come, with Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas and Missouri still on the to-do list - along with the Huskers.
Georgia is going to make some coaching staff changes at the end of the season. One question going into the season was who would challenge Florida in the SEC East. Well, it's not Georgia, who was embarrassed by Tennessee in Knoxville. Inconsistency on offense was expected after Georgia replaced Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, but the collapse of the defense is a major surprise. Stephen Garcia and Ryan Mallett established themselves as legitimate SEC quarterbacks against the Georgia defense earlier this season, but Jonathan Crompton? Crompton may be turning a corner, but Georgia fans won't see it that way. Mark Richt should be safe unless Georgia's decision-makers behave like Auburn's did a year ago. But based on the first half of this season, it's tough to imagine Georgia standing pat with Willie Martinez and/or Mike Bobo as coordinators next season.
Pittsburgh is a new team. Pitt has had a knack for losing games it probably should have won (see N.C. State earlier this season, Bowling Green last season), but the Panthers finally displayed a new side - winning a game they should have lost. Pitt trailed 21-6 in the third quarter against Connecticut, but scored the final 18 points for the biggest comeback of the Dave Wannstedt era. The defense clamped down in the second half while RB Dion Lewis and QB Bill Stull led the way for the offense. Stull threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown early in the second half, but responded with two touchdown passes against what had been a steady UConn defense. All the praises in the Big East are going Cincinnati's way, but Pitt isn't going to go away quietly.
Ole Miss was a fraud. All the folks who picked Ole Miss to win the SEC West should hang their heads in shame. Come on - a team that had lost 21 games in the preceding three seasons was going to rise up and win the division? Actually, the Rebels have the necessary defense. But the offense is a big-time worry, and QB Jevan Snead has proved to be vastly overrated. Vastly. The Ole Miss defense hung tough Saturday against Alabama, but eventually crumbled because the offense was so inept. In the two games against opponents with a pulse (South Carolina and Alabama), Ole Miss has been outscored 38-13 and Snead is a combined 18-of-55 (32.7 percent) for 247 yards, with one TD and four picks. There are two sure wins left on the schedule, games against UAB and Northern Arizona. But unless the offense picks up the pace, Ole Miss will be in dogfights in each of the other five games.
Florida's defense is the team's focal point. Forget Tim Tebow and the rest of Florida's offense. The defense is the main reason the Gators could win their third national title in four seasons. Florida's passing attack is limited, Tebow is the only "big back" the coaches seem to trust and the Gators have been spotty on offense against Tennessee and LSU, the two toughest opponents they've faced. Yet at no time during those games were the Gators truly in danger of losing. Florida can afford to be conservative on offense because the defense is loaded. There isn't a team in the nation with as much defensive speed as Florida, which also is incredibly deep. The Gators have given up two touchdowns in five games, and for all the acclaim the Alabama defense is given - and it's deserved - Kentucky gained 301 yards and scored 20 points on the Tide a week after it gained 179 yards and scored seven points against Florida. Florida's defense is the best in the SEC - and the best in the nation.
Michigan QB Tate Forcier may be a phenom, but he's also a freshman. Forcier could do little wrong the first four weeks of the season. He sparked the Wolverines to four consecutive victories - all at home - to open the season. But the Wolverines have had to go on the road the past two weeks, and Forcier hasn't been the same. After tossing two touchdown passes late in the fourth quarter against Michigan State, he threw an interception in overtime as the Wolverines fell 26-20. He followed that up by going 8-for-19 for just 94 yards with an interception in a 30-28 loss to Iowa. Forcier even was benched in favor of Denard Robinson in the fourth quarter. Forcier should overcome this temporary adversity and go on to have a brilliant career at Michigan, but the past couple of weeks have shown that no freshman quarterback is immune to growing pains.
Oregon State is up to its old tricks. Every season, Oregon State struggles in September, then plays great the rest of the way. Three years ago, the Beavers started 2-3 and finished 10-4. In 2007, Oregon State started 2-3 and finished 9-4. Last season, the Beavers dropped their first two games and finished 9-4. Here they go again. After losing to Cincinnati and Arizona in consecutive weeks, Oregon State has bounced back with back-to-back victories over Arizona State and Stanford. Last season, Oregon State rebounded from its slow start and ended up just one win shy of reaching the Rose Bowl. The Beavers will have a tough time making a run at the Pac-10 title this season, as they still must travel to USC, California and Oregon. Then again, the Beavers' history over the past couple of seasons suggests we shouldn't count them out just yet.
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