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September 13, 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:
California is a real threat to win the Pac-10. No, not because the Bears trounced Eastern Washington, 59-7. That was expected. But in that rout, QB Kevin Riley, who was terribly inconsistent last season, played well for the second consecutive week and Jahvid Best had another strong rushing performance. Cal has exceeded 50 points in both games it has played. Meanwhile, defending Pac-10 champion USC posted an impressive win over Ohio State, but showed some vulnerability. Cal fans are convinced this is the Golden Bears' year to usurp the Trojans for the Pac-10 title. It looks as if they have a bona-fide shot.
Tennessee needs a quarterback. Stop me if you've heard this before: Vols QB Jonathan Crompton is victimized by interceptions in another loss. Sure enough, it happened again, as Crompton was intercepted three times in a 19-15 home loss to UCLA. It seems everyone was hyperventilating too much over Tennessee's 63-7 season-opening win over Western Kentucky. Since when was ripping the Hilltoppers a reason to sing "Rocky Top"? The Vols' humbling loss to a rebuilding UCLA program is indicative of the rehab project Lane Kiffin is undertaking. The sledding won't get any easier for the Vols. Six of their next eight games are against conference foes: at Florida, vs. Auburn, vs. Georgia, at Alabama, at South Carolina, at Ole Miss. The only gimmes in that stretch are visits from Ohio and Memphis. Tennessee may be 3-7 when Vandy heads to Knoxville on Nov. 21.
The Colonial Athletic Association should be an honorary FBS member this season. The FCS conference that brought us George Mason's run to the Final Four is holding its own with the big boys this season. After two weeks, CAA teams are 4-4 against FBS teams, with wins by New Hampshire (over Ball State), Richmond (over Duke), William & Mary (over Virginia) and Villanova (over Temple). That doesn't include James Madison leading Maryland for most of Saturday's game before falling in overtime 38-35. UMass lost 21-17 to Kansas State last week. The CAA is dominating the FCS in ways the SEC would envy. Richmond won the national title last year and remains No. 1. The Spiders were one of five CAA teams in the top 10 and seven teams in the top 25 in the FCS coaches' poll going into last week. I propose the CAA champion takes one of the ACC's lower-tier bowl bids this season - the EagleBank Bowl, since it's in the league's backyard. Alas, CAA teams' schedules will be filled in December by a playoff.
Two of the best teams in the ACC can't throw. If you watched Georgia Tech QB Josh Nesbitt on Thursday or Virginia Tech QB Tyrod Taylor on Saturday, you saw quarterbacks with ample running ability but little passing ability. Through two games, Taylor is 18-of-36, with two TDs and one interception. But his stats are great compared to Nesbitt's - 9-for-25, with one TD and two picks. The Hokies won the ACC last season with a solid running game and a stout defense. That will have to be the recipe for the Hokies again this season; it also will have to be the same plan of action for the Yellow Jackets, who play at Miami on Thursday night.
Wherever he goes, Gus Malzahn makes a difference. Malzahn helped Arkansas win the SEC West title in his lone season as the Razorbacks' offensive coordinator. He went from there to Tulsa, where he helped the Golden Hurricane lead the nation in total offense in 2007 and place second in that category last season. Now he is back in the SEC resuscitating an Auburn offense that tied for 110th in the nation in scoring last season. How much have things changed? Auburn struggled to beat Mississippi State 3-2 last season. In Saturday's rematch, Ben Tate and true freshman Onterio McCalebb each rushed for more than 100 yards as Auburn trounced the Bulldogs 49-24. Auburn still needs more accuracy from QB Chris Todd, and the Tigers probably aren't quite ready to challenge Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss for Western Division supremacy, but Malzahn at least has made Auburn fun to watch again.