After a great opening week of college football, some true tests of college football power will come this week. With Illinois's great comeback over Rutgers and eight relatively easy wins over MAC teams, the Big Ten started the season 10-0 as a whole. I was happy to see the MAC and the Big Ten agree to play each other more in the next few years when schedules move toward twelve games instead of eleven, as the regional rivalries are very fun to watch as season openers. The tests become a lot harder this week, as the Big Ten has the best three games to watch for next weekend as well. The mettle of the Big Ten title contenders as well as three national title contenders will be tested in the following games:
Iowa at Iowa State - This game is the first of two tricky road tests for the Hawkeyes in September (the other being a trip to Columbus in 2 weeks). Iowa State has won 4 of the last 6 meetings, but Iowa looked far better in the first week of action. Kirk Ferentz has the Hawks nearly unbeatable at Kinnick Stadium, but all bets are off when they travel to Ames, Columbus, or Ann Arbor. I think Drew Tate has enough talent around him to have a big day against the suspect Cyclone defense. I'll take Iowa by 21 in this showdown.
Notre Dame at Michigan - The Wolverines probably have not forgotten Notre Dame was one of the 3 teams to beat them last season, but giving Charlie Weis his first defeat must have some motivation as well. Notre Dame looked amazing in the first half against Pittsburgh, but the talent is not there to run with Michigan. Weis is a great coach and will have the Irish prepared to have a chance at victory, but I don't expect it will be enough. Watch for Hart and Henne to put up big numbers again against the Irish. I'll take Michigan by 10.
Texas at Ohio State - The game of the season has been hyped up in Columbus for months. The winner of this game should be a clear number 2 behind USC unless they lose later in the season, and both have very tough games left. Ohio State has killed the Heisman hopes of many in the last 4 years in the Horseshoe, and Vince Young will try his hardest to not fall into this mold. Texas will not be intimidated by the Horseshoe at night, but the Buckeyes play tons better in these circumstances (6-0 in night home games). I expect Zwick to start and Troy Smith to see some playing time as well, but anybody (even third stringer Todd Boeckman) could run the OSU offensive plan as shown against Miami last week. Can Texas contain Ted Ginn Jr. with zone defense? Can Ohio State dominate Vince Young and the Texas running game? Many questions linger and the answers to everything from Heisman to national title hopes will be answered in front of the country Saturday night. Based on last week's results and my in-depth study of this game as an OSU student, I have to say I think the Bucks will win by 3. This game could easily go to the Horns though, and expect an exciting game. We don't ask for OSU-Miami or Texas-Michigan greatness from years past, but it would be nice for this game to be as close as the prognosticators predict. I'll be the one in red if you want to look for me Saturday night on TV!
Well as great as the Big Ten looks (best conference in football this year for now, but this week will determine a lot), I also have to cover many other conferences. Let's hit some of the highlights of the week past and ahead.
Don't be fooled by the poor 0-8 performance this week against the Big Ten, as this conference will be very competitive the rest of the season. Ohio's Frank Solich debut did not go well against Northwestern, but nobody is really expecting much out of Frank until he gets a couple recruiting classes to shore up the lack of talent in Athens right now. Bowling Green will be a power to be reckoned with, and Wisconsin not being able to stop their passing game does not bode well for the weaker MAC defenses. Miami and Northern Illinois will also rebound and be contenders after tough road trips to Michigan and OSU last weekend. Games to watch this week include another tough test for the Bobcats against an angry Pittsburgh team, Northern Illinois getting another Big Ten test against Northwestern, and Akron traveling to Purdue for the Boilers' season opener. Expect an upset or two from this conference this week.
Who would've thought Baylor would have a better record than Oklahoma and Texas A&M at any point this season? Well A&M and Oklahoma looked absolutely disappointing this past week, and Overrated University (OU) will need to do some damage control to regain the prestige they held before their past two games, but I think they will pull it together in time for the Texas showdown later this season. The only game other than ISU-Iowa and Texas-OSU which bears interest this week is Kansas State getting a tough road trip to Huntington, WV to play Marshall Saturday. Look for a big week for the Big XII if they can manage to win 1 or 2 of the big games against the Big Ten this week.
Connecticut was the only impressive team last week, dispatching hapless Buffalo 38-0. If the defense holds up against real competition, UConn could be a challenge for the three favorites in the league. Speaking of the favorites, all three looked bad in their own ways last week. Louisville only managed a 7 point win over a poor Kentucky team, West Virginia turned the ball over 6 times against Syracuse but won because Syracuse is terrible this year, and Pittsburgh got smashed by Notre Dame. Had Louisville and WVU played better week one competition, all three could be looking at 0-1 records now. Each of them has easy games this week as well, so hopefully they will get back on track and look like favorites in the Big East. Cincinnati at Penn State is an opportunity for Cincinnati to make a name for themselves in a hurry, but look for home field advantage to lead JoePa to a 14 point victory.
Tennessee looked about as good as Oklahoma did this week, but they won the 17-10 decision at home against UAB unlike OU. Auburn's loss was also disappointing, but they will not lose again for over a month in all likelihood. Florida and Georgia looked good last week, and the interplay between those two with Spurrier's Gamecocks and Tennessee should make for an interesting division this year. South Carolina gets a big test between the hedges at Georgia this week, and you have to think Georgia will be looking for their second huge win at home after beating Boise State silly. LSU's trip to Arizona State is no picnic given the conditions in Louisiana and the poor Tigers losing all sense of home for the beginning of the season. Expect USC and LSU to be hurting after this weekend's action.
The final conference I will discuss this week is the newly renovated ACC. Watching Miami and Florida State Monday night was torture in every sense of the word. Florida State trying to run the ball, missed filed goals, and a botched snap on an almost sure-bet tying field goal by Miami in the last 2 minutes is enough to make anyone sick. It was nice to see Florida State finally end 6 years of Miami dominance, but the offense looks worse than it did under Chris Rix if that's believable. Miami actually looks more promising despite the loss, and I expect their defense to win most of their games outside of Virginia Tech. Speaking of VT, it appears Marcus Vick is ready to lead the conference favorite this year. For the upcoming week, two games will begin to sort out the middle of the conference in its early stages as Clemson goes to Maryland and UNC travels to Georgia Tech. If Clemson and GT continue their winning ways, they could both be dark horse contenders to run with VT, Miami, and FSU this year.
Well it appears to be a great weekend for college football, and I cannot wait to take in the Texas-OSU showdown from my seat on the 45-yard line. I hope everyone has a great week following their beloved teams, and we'll talk to you next week after the title picture begins to get clearer.
My Top 10 for Week 2
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