Friday, September 9, 2011

The Irish Look To Bounce Back, Boise Rolls And The Pac-10 Get's Embarrassed- It's Your Week 2 College Football Talk With Chooch

A strange offseason was followed by a similarly strange week 1. Upsets, near upsets, and weather delays dotted the college football landscape. Let's take a look back at a few key week 1 stories before we jump ahead to a week 2 preview.

Looking back at Week 1:

The Choking Irish: Sigh. My trip back to South Bend was spoiled by a hideous performance by the Irish. A season that began with so much promise disintegrated in 30 minutes of putrid first half football marred by turnovers and generally tight play from the quarterback Dayne Crist. Much more went wrong besides Dayne's play, but Brian Kelly saw enough to insert Tommy Rees as quarterback for the second half. Rees moved the ball well, but ND was already in too big a hole to come all the way back. The whole team looked tight, perhaps burdened by the massive expectations placed on them, but that's still no excuse. Credit South Florida and coach Skip Holtz as well for being ready for this game and playing loose.

What keeps me cautiously optimistic about the rest of the season is that ND outgained South Florida by over 250 yards. Now, I know that all that matters is winning, but that at least shows that the Irish weren't too slow or unathletic to compete with the Floridians. They just need to execute. They'll have to this week under the lights in the Big House to have any chance.

That Jerryworld Grass Must Taste Good: At least ONE of my game predictions from last week was correct. LSU's defense was indeed too big, fast, and athletic for Oregon, and Les Miles tasted enough of the turf in Dallas to coach his team to victory. I have strong reservations about that Oregon offense in non-conference play. I can think of 4 instances off the top of my head where the Ducks' fast paced attack has been shut down by a non Pac-12 team: last week against LSU, last year's BCS title game against Auburn, the 2009 Rose Bowl against Ohio State, and the 2009 season opener at Boise State. They'll obviously have success against the Pac-12 this year, but until they can figure out how to make the offense go in a big non-conference game, they won't win any bowl game of significance.

As for LSU, this was a big first step for a team many think can contend for a national title. Les Miles has talent galore every year in Baton Rouge, but hasn't been able to put it together fully since 2007, and even in that national championship season the Tigers lost twice. I'm intrigued to see how LSU plays the rest of the season. They will take on another big out of conference foe again in a few weeks when they play at West Virginia.

Boise Keeps on Trucking: What else do the Broncos have to do? The SEC was no problem for the Broncos as they cruised to a comfortable two touchdown victory over Georgia in Atlanta. I honestly can't think of much else to say. Boise has become boring. No longer must they rely on trick plays like we saw in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl. Boise can come in and beat the big boys at their own game. Unfortunately, we won't see Boise in another big matchup until they face TCU later in the season.

The Pac-12 Struggles: Besides Oregon's loss, the conference that fancies itself a competitor with the SEC had a weekend Larry Scott would like to forget. Three Pac-12 teams lost to non-BCS schools; UCLA fell to Houston, Colorado got beaten handily by Hawaii and, worst of all, Oregon State was upset at home by FCS school Sacramento State. Additionally, other Pac-12 teams struggled to get close victories, as USC looked thoroughly uninspiring in a 19-17 win over Minnesota (making my pick of USC as an underrated team coming into the year look iffy) and Washington won 30-27 over Eastern Washington. Arizona also just got killed by Oklahoma State last night, getting the conference's week 2 off to another bad start.

Looking ahead to week 2:

Michigan-Notre Dame under the lights: The first night game in Michigan Stadium history has become a must-win for the Irish. A 0-2 start would be devastating for the program (and recruiting). Can the Irish avoid getting Denarded for a second straight year? Michigan's new pro-style offense should at least limit what Denard will do on the ground, but when he starts scrambling he's a threat to take it to the house every time. ND must be disciplined and tackle well. I'll be on the edge of my seat the whole game, in a bad way.

On offense, the Irish need to run the fucking football. Michigan can be run on. Western Michigan's O-line was getting a solid push last week. If ND's O-line can't this week, I give up. Cierre Wood is a potential star at running back. Give him rock and let him make something happen.

For my pick, I unfortunately have to pick Michigan to win a close game. Until the Irish prove they're ready to play some god damn football, I can't pick them again.

South Carolina at Georgia: This is a much bigger game in the national picture than is the Michigan-Notre Dame game, but I feel that it's being overlooked for some reason. Georgia's loss to Boise last week means nothing in the SEC race. South Carolina has the potential to have a special season, but it could all blow up in Week 2 with a loss at Georgia. Look for a heavy dose of Heisman contender Marcus Lattimore. Can Garcia limit his mistakes? If he avoids having a drunken orgy the night before the game, he should play well. I like South Carolina to win a close game.

Alabama at Penn State (boring): Alabama will crush Penn State. This is only a big game because of the programs involved and because Joe Pa is still around, but Alabama is ten times the team Penn State is this year, as they were last year. I tried to tell people last year that the game would stink (which it did), and I'm telling people this year. Don't waste your time watching. I'll be back here next week to eat crow if I'm wrong on this.

Utah at USC: Welcome to the Pac-12, Utah. The first real test for the Utes in their new conference will come in LA this weekend. USC looked lackluster last week (see above), but still has a lot of talent, and should be motivated for its first conference game. I like USC at home in this one. In a subplot, Norm Chow, now Utah's offensive coordinator, returns to LA where he led the prolific Carson Palmer/Matt Leinart offenses of the early 2000s.

Mississippi State at Auburn: Can the Bulldogs snag a really big SEC west win over one of the big boys? They were close last year but couldn't get over the hump. Auburn, meanwhile, stinks as expected after one of the luckiest and miraculous runs a coach could ever have (ie, renting Cam Newton and Nick Fairley for one year). They almost lost to Utah State at home last week. I expect MSU to come up with a big game and win a close one on the Plains.

Heisman Favorites after week 1:

1. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
2. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
3. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina

See you next week.


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