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September 7, 2008
Each Sunday, our staff of college football experts will offer thoughts on things they learned over the weekend.
SAM BRADFORD IS A BONA-FIDE HEISMAN CANDIDATE. Bradford, a sophomore quarterback at Oklahoma, passed for a career-high 395 yards and equaled a career-high with five touchdown passes in a 52-26 victory over Big East contender Cincinnati. Last season, Bradford led the nation in passing efficiency. He appears better this season. Bradford completed 76 percent of his attempts against Cincinnati, which has a good secondary. After two games, Bradford has completed 77 percent of his attempts for 578 yards and seven touchdowns.
MISSISSIPPI QUARTERBACK JEVAN SNEAD IS AS GOOD AS HE WAS EXPECTED TO BE. Ole Miss quarterbacks threw 17 touchdown passes last season. Snead already has six. He bought time and threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to bring the Rebels back from deficits against a solid Wake Forest defense. Snead threw four touchdown passes against the Deacons. No Ole Miss quarterback had that many in any game last season. The Rebels' defense couldn't hold on for the victory, but Snead did everything he could. Ole Miss struggled offensively all last season, never exceeded 40 points and reached 28 just once. They've already scored 69 points this season.
THE BIG EAST IS HEADED FOR A FALL. I love this league and enjoyed watching it skyrocket to prominence the past two years. But, alas, all good things must come to an end. Already this season, we've seen Louisville lose to Kentucky, Rutgers get dumped by Fresno State, Pitt be humiliated by Bowling Green, and Syracuse, well, still losing to everybody. But Saturday, the Big East suffered its most damaging blow yet: West Virginia got whipped by East Carolina. Is the Big East in peril of undoing - in one fell swoop - all the pomp and prestige it developed? Hey, UConn and USF are still perfect, so the Big East has that going for it.
BYU IS LEGIT. The Cougars have as balanced and deadly an offense as almost any club in the nation. Max Hall is a savvy passer who avoids the bad play and makes the big play. The ground game is paced by a big line that leads the way for big back Harvey Unga. Austin Collie is a field-stretching wide receiver, and Dennis Pitta might be the best tight end in the nation. The Cougars' defense may be better than advertised. Keep your eye on BYU's home game next week vs. UCLA. If the Cougars win, they may cruise all the way to a season-ending showdown at Utah that could decide the Mountain West championship - and who gets a BCS bid. Take a bow, Bronco Mendenhall.
THIS FLORIDA TEAM LOOKS FAMILIAR. Stop me if you've heard this before: Florida's top two running backs are Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin. That definitely was the case for the Gators against Miami. Jeffrey Demps, Chris Rainey and Kestahn Moore were non-existent, and touted transfer Emmanuel Moody didn't play. Florida's offense looks a lot like it did at the end of last season ? a ton of big-play potential but not many options in the ground game. Coach Urban Meyer keeps saying it, but at some point it needs to happen: Someone else needs to step up. Making matters worse, a veteran offensive line wasn't particularly impressive. If you're still suspicious of the Florida defense, I don't blame you. True, it carried the day for the Gators, but Miami is not an offensive juggernaut. Not even close. If Florida scores one offensive touchdown through the first three quarters against Georgia, LSU and even Tennessee, this team is out of national-title contention. Those teams won't allow the Gators to make such slow adjustments.
MIAMI WON'T BE DOWN FOR MUCH LONGER. Florida fans shouldn't gloat too much about Saturday's 26-3 win in The Swamp. Miami will be back. Making his first start, redshirt freshman quarterback Robert Marve showed some encouraging signs. It's clear he's a leader at quarterback and doesn't mind mixing it up in the run game and taking a hit. Still, it was surprising to see Miami finish with merely 61 rushing yards. On defense, a young front seven kept the pressure on Tebow. Linebacker Sean Spence will be a star by the end of the season. Even with the game decided, he put a thundering hit on Brandon James that resulted in a 5-yard loss. The Hurricanes need more consistency on defense and need to find playmakers on offense, but once they do, they will be dangerous again.
STEVE SPURRIER DOESN'T HAVE A QUARTERBACK. South Carolina pulled away late to beat NC State in Week 1, but the Gamecocks couldn't do the same and fell at Vanderbilt in Week 2. The problem for South Carolina: NC State's offense was so bad that South Carolina's offense merely had to get on the field in the second half and a tired NCSU defense couldn't do anything. Against a rebuilt Vandy defense, South Carolina's offense couldn't find any consistency. The irony in all this is the one position that Spurrier covets above all else is quarterback. Too bad he doesn't have one.
OFFICIALS NEED TO LET PLAYERS HAVE SOME FUN. In other words, players who score touchdowns should be allowed to feel some joy. I know "excessive celebration" is a point of emphasis for refs this season, yet another example of the powers-that-be sucking the life out of college football. Throwing the ball into the stands, taunting the opponent, taking your helmet off, doing a TD or sack dance ? those are examples of excessive celebration. Throwing the ball into the air and jumping into your teammates' arms? That isn't. And it's a shame an important game was decided by a pitiful call in Seattle.
OREGON STATE HAS A LONG WAY TO GO. Perhaps no team has improved during the course of a season as much as Oregon State the past two years. The Beavers can only hope that trend continues this fall. Oregon State has won 19 games the past two seasons despite starting each year 2-3, but this team might not be capable of such a late surge. After replacing its entire front seven on defense, Oregon State has allowed 224.5 rushing yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry in back-to-back losses to Stanford and Penn State. Oregon State found a tailback Saturday in true freshman Jacquizz Rodgers, but it won't matter if the Beavers can't stop other teams from running.
EAST CAROLINA IS FOR REAL. BYU, Utah and Fresno State received the most attention this summer as potential BCS party-crashers, but perhaps we should have been talking about East Carolina. After opening the season with back-to-back victories over Virginia Tech and West Virginia, East Carolina faces a less-challenging schedule the rest of the way. The Pirates' remaining regular-season foes have a combined record of 6-13, with only one win over a Division I-A opponent thus far (Southern Miss' 51-21 triumph over Louisiana-Lafayette). These two upsets assure that Skip Holtz will be the hottest head-coaching prospect this winter, though he has agreed to a six-year contract extension.