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September 12, 2010
Tom Dienhart's Week 2 awards
Wish I were him: Jim Harbaugh, Stanford
Glad I'm not him: Dan Hawkins, Colorado
Lucky guy: Bill Stewart, West Virginia
Poor guy: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
Desperately seeking a clue: Tim Brewster, Minnesota
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
Desperately seeking ... anything: Rick Neuheisel, UCLA
What we learned in Week 2
Each Sunday, our staff of college football experts will offer thoughts on things they learned over the weekend.
South Carolina is a legitimate contender in the SEC East. Freshman running back Marcus Lattimore is a big reason. The Gamecocks have shown signs of challenging under Steve Spurrier, but typically have collapsed. But in a 17-6 victory over Georgia, the team showed that it appears to have a physical and tough quality that previous teams seemed to lack. Lattimore provides an element of power to a running game that was lackluster, quarterback Stephen Garcia keeps demonstrating that he's improved, the Gamecocks have big, strong receivers and Ellis Johnson has another strong defense. This looks like the season the Gamecocks finally have a realistic chance to reach Atlanta for the SEC championship game.
The explosiveness Oregon showed in a 72-0 victory last week wasn't just a by-product of playing lowly New Mexico. The Ducks weren't expected to match last week's scoring outburst against Tennessee, but they showed their quick-strike capability to turn a close game into a romp. After forging a 13-13 halftime tie with 10 second-quarter points, Oregon scored touchdowns on plays that covered 72, 76 and 80 yards to leave the Volunteers way behind. LaMichael James scored on a 72-yard run, Cliff Harris returned an interception 76 yards and Kenjon Barner returned a punt 80 yards. The Ducks originally trailed 13-3, but they scored 45 consecutive points in a 48-13 win.
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez may save his job. He entered the season on the hottest seat in America after posting a two-year record of 8-16 with no bowls. But he has the Wolverines off to a 2-0 start that few predicted. Saturday's 28-24 victory at Notre Dame was Rodriguez's biggest yet as Michigan coach and gives his program confidence and momentum entering a stretch of games that should result in a 5-0 start. By then, the Wolverines will be a confident team that may be able to win eight or nine games and keep Rodriguez in Ann Arbor.
Oklahoma is OK. The Sooners were one of the biggest disappointments of the first week, posting an unimpressive 31-24 home win over Utah State in a game in which OU yielded 341 passing yards and Sooners quarterback Landry Jones completed less than half of his passes (17-of-36). Was this really a national title contender? Oklahoma answered with a 47-17 thumping of Florida State. Jones looked like a Heisman contender in going 30-of-40 for 380 yards with four touchdowns, and OU's defense dominated until allowing 10 fourth-quarter points.
Boise State's road to the BCS championship game just got tougher. The Broncos wisely left a bye week on their schedule after the opener against Virginia Tech on Labor Day. I'm sure Boise State wishes the Hokies had done the same. Despite not playing last week, Boise State left Week 2 with a loss thanks to Virginia Tech's shocking setback against James Madison. Going into the week, the Broncos' best-case scenario for the BCS title game was to go undefeated, have the Hokies win the ACC and have future opponent Oregon State make a strong showing in the Pac-10. Sure, Virginia Tech still can win the ACC, but the league isn't being held in high esteem after Miami, Florida State and Georgia Tech all lost in major non-conference games this week. Boise State shouldn't drop from the No. 3 spot in the polls, but the BCS computers, when they're released, will hammer Boise State's strength of schedule and Virginia Tech's ranking as a result of this week. Meanwhile, the human voters will have a tough time elevating a Boise State team whose marquee win of the season is shared by James Madison.
Turner Gill can adjust. Kansas' 6-3 loss to North Dakota State was perhaps the low point of the first week of the season -- at least for anyone other than North Dakota State and Missouri fans. The loss must have been the hardest on Gill, the new Jayhawks coach. But thanks to adjustments by Gill, Kansas made the starkest transformation of any team from Week 1 to Week 2. The Jayhawks won their first game since Oct. 10 of last season with a 28-25 upset of Georgia Tech. The offense that was so inept against North Dakota State blossomed under new starting quarterback Jordan Webb, a redshirt freshman. Rookie running back James Sims, who didn't have a carry in the opener, rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown against the Yellow Jackets. Kansas will have rough spots during the season with that kind of youth, and opponents might be more prepared than Georgia Tech. But Gill didn't win at Buffalo by chance. Kansas is in good hands.
UCLA is running in place under Rick Neuheisel. UCLA has not gotten appreciably better in Neuheisel's tenure, and Saturday night's 35-0 beatdown by Stanford -- at home -- might be the low point. The Bruins actually have had an OK defense under Neuheisel, but the offense -- coordinated by Norm Chow -- has been a disaster. It all starts with the quarterback, and given the track records of Chow and Neuheisel, better quarterback play should be expected. UCLA went to the EagleBank Bowl last season, but the Bruins won't be going bowling this season, which makes the 2011 recruiting class a vital one for Neuheisel's long-term hopes.
Virginia might actually play a role in who wins the ACC. The Cavaliers trounced a solid Richmond program in Week 1, but everyone pooh-poohed the result because the Spiders are a FCS program. But the Week 2 results -- a three-point loss at USC in which the Cavaliers showed a lot of fight -- should actually get some notice. UVa outgained the Trojans and had a good night on the ground (150 yards) against what was supposed to be a stout USC front four. Virginia plays a patsy this week in VMI, then plays three consecutive ACC contenders -- Florida State, Georgia Tech and North Carolina. If the Cavs play like they did against USC and Florida State and Georgia Tech play like they did against Oklahoma and Kansas, respectively, on Saturday, Virginia could actually win both. At the least, the bet here is they upset one ACC contender this season. Because the Cavs are playing two FCS opponents, they need to win seven games to get to a bowl under new coach Mike London, who has the Cavs playing tough, aggressive football. Before the season, only the most passionate UVa fan would've said the Cavs had a shot at a bowl. Now that idea doesn't seem so far-fetched.
Florida State's defense has a long way to go. This season's Florida State defense will be better than last season's version. After all, it couldn't get much worse. That said, the Seminoles' 47-17 loss to Oklahoma showed this is going to be a long rebuilding process. Florida State's 59-6 victory over Samford last week created some false hope that new coordinator Mark Stoops could turn things around in a hurry, but the struggles against Oklahoma painted a much bleaker position. Florida State gave up 34 points in the first half alone and allowed Landry Jones to throw for four touchdowns and 380 yards. It could be quite a while before Florida State is merely adequate on defense, though Stoops' track record at Arizona suggests he eventually will get the job done.
The MWC isn't just a three-team league. The Mountain West Conference's detractors like to point out that the conference only has three quality teams: TCU, Utah and BYU. And then there's everybody else. Air Force's recent emergence shows that's no longer the case. Air Force quietly has earned bowl bids in each of the past three seasons, but the Falcons should start gaining more national attention in the wake of Saturday's 35-14 rout of BYU. This team might be ready to make a legitimate run at the MWC title. Air Force rushed for 409 yards, limited BYU to 88 passing yards and held the Cougars scoreless over the final three quarters. Air Force has a chance to make a huge statement next week when it travels to Oklahoma.