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The Best Was Saved For Last

by Mike Mitchell
September 2, 2008

A relatively subdued opening weekend of college football finished with a bang Monday night when UCLA upset Tennessee 27-24 in the weekend's only overtime game. It was a storybook "welcome home" win for new head coach Rick Neuheisel, the MVP of the Bruins' 1983 Rose Bowl win over Illinois.

After suffering a miserable first half in which he threw 4 interceptions, redshirt junior QB Kevin Craft rebounded with an impeccable second half. His personal turnaround included marching UCLA 70 yards in 1:23 late in the fourth quarter to take a 24-21 lead with 27 seconds remaining to be played. That drive came on the heels of Tennessee recapturing the lead at 21-17 with 1:54 left in the game. Not to be outdone, the Vols were able to move into field goal range and tied the contest on Daniel Lincoln's 47-yard field goal as regulation time expired.

But in the extra period, Lincoln missed wide left from 34 yards out after UCLA's Kai Forbath had drilled a 42-yarder and the celebration was on.

The loss was one of just two suffered by the SEC on opening weekend.

What Did We Learn?
College football's first week of play has taught us that Dave Wannstedt's days at Pittsburgh are still numbered after the Panthers fell 27-17 at home to Bowling Green. In fact, the Big East didn't look very good when you throw in Louisville's 27-2 home loss to state rival Kentucky, the 30-10 battering that Syracuse took at Northwestern, and the 24-7 beating take at home by Rutgers. All four wins by Big East schools - UConn, Cincinnati, USF and West Virginia - came against FCS members.

We learned that the ACC is still having trouble winning games against non-conference opponents. Wake Forest won at Baylor (big deal), but Virginia Tech, Virginia and Clemson all went down in flames. Additionally, North Carolina struggled to beat FCS member McNeese State 35-27, and Maryland merely survived FCS member Delaware 14-7.

Sean Glennon may be getting worse, not better, as the QB of Virginia Tech. Given the starting job while Tyrod Taylor was redshirted, Glennon threw two costly picks and never looked the part of a senior signal-caller on a nationally ranked team as the Hokies were upset 27-22 by a good East Carolina team in Charlotte. This was hardly a major upset (the computer only picked Tech by a little more than 3 points), but it wasn't a good start for a team projected to go 12-1 while winning another ACC title. By the way, the winning points came on the return of a blocked punt with under two minutes left in the game. Eight true freshmen played for a Virginia Tech team that lost 11 players to the NFL in April with 8 taken in the draft and 3 more signed as rookie free agents.

USC manhandled Virginia in a 52-7 rout at Charlottesville in a game that matched former NFL head coaches. As expected, Al Groh (New York Jets) and the Cavaliers were no match for Pete Carroll (New England) and the Trojans.

Clemson was dropped 34-10 by Alabama in Atlanta. The Tigers were ranked in everybody's preseason top ten, except the computer which had them at No. 22. Clemson's only touchdown came on a kick-off return to open the second half.

Meanwhile, Duke opened with a 31-7 whipping of FCS member James Madison in David Cutcliffe's debut as head coach. The last time the Blue Devils began a season against a FCS team they lost 13-0 to Richmond in 2006. Duke is 1-0 for the first time since 2002.

We learned that teams in Texas may want to stop scheduling Arkansas State for an opener. The Red Wolves spoiled Mike Sherman's debut as head coach at Texas A&M with an 18-14 win at College Station. Last year, Texas escaped with a 21-13 win in its season opener against the same school.

The jury is out on Michigan. Even though the Wolverines lost a season opener at home for the second straight year, they almost managed to come back and defeat a talented Utah team. The 25-23 loss to the Utes was forecasted by the computer and isn't nearly as bad as last year's 34-32 loss to FCS member Appalachian State.

We learned Louisiana Tech may be a team to reckon with in the WAC as it upset Mississippi State 22-14.

Oregon taught us that it still has a very good football team and may, indeed, challenge USC for the PAC-10 crown as the computer predicted. Even without QB Dennis Dixon and RB Jonathan Stewart, the Ducks rolled over Washington 44-10. The Huskies started 10 underclassmen.

Meanwhile, New Mexico may not come close to the computer's projected 10-2 record in the Mountain West. TCU, picked to go 8-4, rolled over the Lobos 26-3 in Albuquerque.

On Friday, we learned that June Jones will need awhile to make SMU look anything like his days in Hawaii. The Mustangs were smacked 56-27 at mighty Rice.

On Thursday, the first night of the 2008 college football season, we learned that N.C. State may be as bad as the computer predicted (1-11 season). The Wolfpack were blanked 34-0 by South Carolina.

We learned that Miami (Ohio) may not be as good as the computer expected (7-5 season). The favored RedHawks lost 34-13 to Vanderbilt.

The easiest conclusion to draw from Oregon State's 36-28 loss at Stanford game is that the Beavers blew it with five turnovers, including a disastrous one in the final minute. Trailing 36-28 with 47 seconds left, Darrell Catchings attempted to stretch the ball across the goal line after catching a pass for what would have been a 1st-and-goal at the 1-yard line. Instead, he fumbled it through the end zone to seal the loss. The Beavers had 190 more yards and 11 more 1st downs than Stanford. The Cardinal passing game produced just 91 yards. Oregon State may now have to defeat either USC or Oregon at home to meet the computer's (Congrove Computer Rankings) expectation of a 3rd-place PAC-10 finish.

CANCELED:
Hurricane Gustav forced Nicholls State to cancel this Thursday night's game at New Mexico State as most of southern Louisiana evacuated the area before the storm made landfall on Labor Day. A makeup date was not announced.

It was three years ago on Labor Day weekend that Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the gulf coast and thousands suffered needlessly by not evacuating. Katrina caused numerous changes in game schedules, including the cancellation of Nicholls State's opener at Utah State which was never rescheduled. Tulane never played a true home game that year, and LSU's "home" game against Arizona State was moved to their opponents' stadium.

Two more storms, Hurricane Hanna and Tropical Storm Ike, are moving toward the southeastern United States as I write this. On Labor Day weekend in 2004, we had to evacuate our home area for Hurricane Francis which severely damaged the CFP headquarters while the staff hunkered down in South Carolina. Three weeks later, we dodged Hurricane Jeanne by heading to south Florida. Everyone here is praying and crossing their fingers that we won't experience that again.

Our thoughts and prayers are also with those affected by Gustav.

SEE YOU NEXT WEEK:
These six teams won't open until next week: Florida State, New Mexico State, Notre Dame, Purdue, Tulane and Toledo.

UNBEATEN TEAMS:
Only Hawaii made it through the 2007 regular season unbeaten, and the Warriors were blown out 41-10 by Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. It was the first season since 2002 that no team recorded a perfect record. Hawaii was blown out 56-10 at Florida to open the 2008 season on Saturday.

Boise State was the only team to finish the entire 2006 season unscathed, while Texas did it in 2005. Auburn, USC and Utah all went undefeated in 2004.

WINLESS TEAMS:
FIU defeated North Texas 38-19 in its final 2007 game to avoid ending the season as the only winless team. The Golden Panthers had lost 23 straight games and were one of two schools to go winless in 2006 (Duke was the other). FIU opened the 2008 season with a 40-10 loss at Kansas.

Idaho failed to beat a team from the bowl subdivision in 2007. The Vandals opened the 2008 campaign by getting drubbed 70-0 at Arizona.

FBS vs. FCS
The divisions were re-named late in 2006. 1-A was given the new moniker of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) while 1-AA was labeled the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).

Thirty-two such games took place this weekend and FBS teams won all but one. Cal-Poly tripped San Diego State 29-27.

Some of the other games weren't easy, either. McNeese State was beating North Carolina in the third quarter before the Tar Heels came back to win; Arkansas needed two 4th-quarter TD's to rally past Western Illinois; and Maryland squeaked by Delaware 14-7.

That makes the FBS 31-1 vs. the FCS this season, and 321-36 (.899) since 2003.

This year, 82 different FBS teams will participate in a total of 87 games that will pit the FCS against the FBS. Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Texas Tech and Western Kentucky each play two such games.

ACC teams have more games versus FCS schools than any other conference. Here is the number of FCS games for each conference:

Conference Teams In Conf. Games vs. FCS Avg. Per Team
ACC 12 14 1.167
Big East 8 7 0.875
Big 12 12 10 0.833
Big 10 11 9 0.818
MWC 9 7 0.778
WAC 9 7 0.778
SEC 12 9 0.750
Independents 3 2 0.667
MAC 13 8 0.615
CUSA 12 7 0.583
Sun Belt 9 5 0.555
PAC-10 10 2 0.200
Totals 120 87 0.725

STREAKS:
Hawaii had its 13-game winning streak stopped by Georgia in a 41-10 Sugar Bowl loss. And despite being stomped 56-10 at Florida on Saturday, the Warriors still own a 15-game winning streak against WAC teams.

BYU has won 11 straight games, and 16 consecutive MWC games. The Cougars defeated FCS member Northern Iowa 41-17.

Boise State won its 44th consecutive regular season home game on Saturday with a 49-7 demolition of FCS member Idaho State. The Broncos have a perfect home record against their fellow WAC conference members (28-0).

Minnesota's 10-game losing streak came to an end with a 31-27 victory over Northern Illinois on Saturday. The winning score came on a 1-yard run with 22 seconds left in the contest.

Idaho and SMU have each lost 11 straight games. The Vandals were routed 70-0 at Arizona, and SMU was crushed 56-27 at Rice.

NEW COACHES: The 2007 season featured 24 new head coaches. Nine led their team to a bowl game. This year, there are 18 coaching changes

TEAM W-L COACH LAST GAME
Arkansas 1-0 Bobby Petrino Defeated Western Illinois (FCS) 28-24
Baylor 0-1 Art Briles Lost to Wake Forest 41-13
Colorado State 0-1 Steve Fairchild Lost to Colorado 38-17 (at Denver)
Duke 1-0 David Cutcliffe Defeated James Madison (FCS) 31-7
Georgia Tech 1-0 Paul Johnson Defeated Jacksonville St. (FCS) 41-14
Hawaii 0-1 Greg McMackin Lost at Florida 56-10
Houston 1-0 Kevin Sumlin Defeated Southern (FCS) 52-3
Michigan 0-1 Rich Rodriguez Lost to Utah 25-23
Mississippi 1-0 Houston Nutt Defeated Memphis 41-24
Navy 1-0 Ken Nuimatalolo Defeated Towson (FCS) 41-13
Nebraska 1-0 Bo Pelini Defeated Western Michigan 47-24
Northern Illinois 0-1 Jerry Kill Lost at Minnesota 31-27
SMU 0-1 June Jones Lost at Rice 56-27
Southern Miss 1-0 Larry Fedora Defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 51-21
Texas A&M 0-1 Mike Sherman Lost to Arkansas State 18-14
UCLA 1-0 Rick Neuheisel Defeated Tennessee 27-24 in OT
Washington State 0-1 Paul Wulff Lost to Oklahoma St. 39-13 (at Seattle)
West Virginia 1-0 Bill Stewart Defeated Villanova (FCS) 48-21


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