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THE ONLY REAL MONSTER IS IN THE FCS
September 16, 2010

SCS.com Well there's always some quirky name we must come up with for a big college football weekend, and this past weekend was dubbed "Monster Saturday." Well the only thing that stands out as Monster after a week of mostly lackluster games is the FCS in general. Only one week from North Dakota State knocking off Kansas in coach Tunrer Gill's first game, the FCS stood tall against two more BCS conference foes as Minnesota got rolled by South Dakora at home, and then there's James Madison. Virginia Tech came home deflated after giving up a late game-winning drive to Boise State, but nobody even began to think that the short turnaround would be a problem with a creampuff FCS school on the agenda. Apparently not. Virginia Tech now stands at 0-2 and this may be a more embarassing loss than the infamous other ranked school to fall to an FCS school in history, that being Michigan in 2007 to Appalachian State. The Hokies have a ton of problems to solve and very quickly before the season slips away from them.

However, when looking back on Monster Saturday, the biggest loser was undoubtedly Boise State. The Broncos are moving up to the Mountain West next season in what will be a conference very comparable in strength to the Big East, but this year they are still stuck in the WAC. So other than Fresno State and Nevada, everything impressive will need to come in point spreads and the two big non-conference games against Virginia Tech and Oregon State. However, the Hokies losing to James Madison really calls into question how good that win was, if a team like James Madison can also beat Tech. Oregon State has to come through Boise which will minimize the effect of any win, and the Beavers also did not help by losing their other big nonconference game against TCU in the opening weekend. Thus, Boise State already has serious strength of schedule issues and may need Virginia Tech and Oregon State to both roll to conference championships this year to have any argument remaining for a national championship game appearance, even compared to a one-loss team from the SEC.

The other reason Boise was such a loser this weekend was that the big three BCS conference schools with serious aspirations for the title game all rolled to relatively easy victories on their home field. The most surprising was the bounceback of Oklahoma, who throttled Florida State by 30 points despite having what looked to be a serious mismatch against Christian Ponder and the FSU receivers. Oklahoma is definitely for real on offense and may be coming together on defense well in advance of the biggest test of the season against Texas. In Columbus the Miami Hurricanes were rocked all game long and only stayed close thanks to Ohio State's inability to score touchdowns instead of field goals, and special teams mistakes (2 of 3 touchdowns on kick returns for Miami). However, Jacory Harris is still the wildly inconsistent quarterback who cannot begin to challenge a good defense like the Silver Bullets. OSU has some growing to do, but this was way mroe dominant than expected. In the nightcap, Alabama rolled right along against Penn State and never let the game be in question in a 21 point win. The Alabama defense might have 9 new starters but that did not matter against the Nittany Lions, who became one-dimensional in this one. Penn State might actually be middle of the road in the Big Ten this year, but that's still a dominant effort by the defending champions. Combined with Virginia Tech losing again, Boise will drop behind all three of these teams in my power poll this week. And they now need a lot of things to go right for a national championship opportunity to come back.

One interesting question heard this week in college football circles is whether the rise of the Virginia football program (who almost beat USC in the Coliseum) and Virginia Tech's struggles signal the end of the Beamer dominanace in the ACC and in the state of Virginia. It's still too early for that analysis, but it is intriguing when you consider how far Michigan fell since the Appalachian State shocker. Speaking of the Wolverines, SCS drew a fantastic game to cover this past weekend and if you have not seen the two articles on that game against Notre Dame, check them out. Brian Kelly suffers his first loss since 2008 as Michigan may actually not be a fraudulent 2-0 this year, all because some guy named Denard Robinson took over. Robinson may not tie his shoes on the football field, but he leaves defensive coordinators in knots with the question of how to contain him. Rich Rodriguez does not want to run him nearly 30 times per game, but when Robinson can rack up over 400 yards of total offense followed by over 500 yards of total offense, you may just have to let him go. Michigan has two high quality wins and at this point in the season, they are one of the top 10 teams in the country. That can change in a mighty hurry, but the Wolverines are entitled to more respect than anybody in the ACC.

Turning to the ACC, all five teams that looked like they were going to carry the conference to long-needed national glory are now a combined 4-6. Virginia Tech may take the cake of disappointment, but the fall-flat performances of Miami, Florida State, and Georgia Tech this week crushed any dreams of a BCS Champion coming from this conference. Only Boston College has had a successful first two weeks of the season, and nobody is ready to take the Eagles on as a national power. This season may be disappointing for the ACC overall, but the North Carolina Tar Heels must be absolutely crushed by the circumstances. This is a league ripe for the taking and if UNC did not have all the disciplinary problems and suspensions, one would figure the game against LSU goes differently and UNC would be in the mix for a national title (not in basketball!). The conference may indeed still be right there for the Tar Heels even with their problems off the field, and that would make a great story in a bad situation along the eastern seaboard.

On the opposite side of the country, the Ducks continue to make a statement while Stanford perhaps moves up into serious contender status after blowing away UCLA 35-0. Oregon has outscored two opponents 120-7, and Tennessee was steamrolled as if they were not a SEC team. While Oregon State will still have a say in the conference race, the weakness of USC and UCLA means that Oregon may only need to really worry about two teams (Stanford and OSU) instead of the plethora of teams that looked to bein the mix at the beginning of the season. This week we will find out if Arizona will join the elite teams in the Pac-10 as they take on Iowa in a huge inter-sectional game. Oregon has to be happy to be back on the top of the heap, and until they prove otherwise, this is a top 5 team.

The first game of the week is Baylor at TCU. This might not look like a real battle on paper, but Baylor is a longtime rival of TCU and the Bears are off to a successful start despite some weaker competition. However, the road gets tougher in Fort Worth as TCU has designs on a national championship appearance, especially after seeing Boise State's stature fall last week. TCU handled the heat of Oregon State in their opener, but Baylor QB Robert Griffin brings a whole new attack that TCU has not faced yet this year. Baylor has racked up 300 yards per game through the air, and Griffin is only overshadowed by Denard Robinson as a dual-threat quarterback. The Horned Frogs have a strong defensive front, but they will need to always have a bead on what Griffin is doing or else Baylor will continue to put up some major points. On the other side of the ball, Andy Dalton has managed the first two games but has not broken out in the passing game for the Horned Frogs. A pair of sophomore running backs Matt Tucker and Ed Wesley have been the primary workhorses thus far, and TCU will look to wear down the Baylor defense over the course of the game. Look for this tried-and-true strategy to work with the solid TCU defense forcing Griffin into a mistake or two during the course of the game. TCU wins by 10.

The second game of the week is Air Force at Oklahoma. While Oklahoma struggled against Utah State's triple option attack, the passing attack of Florida State was no challenge. The problem is that the defense must prepare for a third radically different gameplan in three weeks as Air Force brings a power running attack to town, averaging nearly 425 yards per game. Air Force knocked off BYU in perhaps their last chance as conference rivals, and the Falcons run continuously with Asher clark and Jared Tew. Coming into the season with a questionable secondary, one would have expected FSU and Cincinnati to be the troubling out of conference games for the Sooner defense, but it actually looks like the defensive front has trouble against rush-happy offenses. These weaknesses need to be shored up immediately or else Air Force will hold onto the ball for the vast majority of the game and limit the impact of Oklahoma's better talent on offense. Landry Jones has started the season well, but he will need Demarco Murray to rack up a bit more offense on the ground if Oklahoma wants to stay in the national title hunt. Last week proved how tough Oklahoma can be when they are motivated and at home, but the guard may be down with everyone toasting the team for the mauling of Florida State. However, I've learned my lesson about picking against Oklahoma and will take the Sooners by 14.

The top game of the week is Iowa at Arizona. The Hawkeyes drove their way to the BCS a year ago with the defense, and while that unit is solid again, the difference-maker may be the offense. The Hawkeyes have found nice balance thus far in 2010, with Ricky Stanzi limiting his mistakes while Adam Robinson has run roughshod over the first two opponents. Look for Jewel Hampton to also get some carries in the heat of Tucson, but Hampton is just as talented as Robinson. Arizona's defense has yet to give up a touchdown this season, but one cannot help but remember how badly the Wildcats were beaten when faced with a similar strong defense and running team in Nebraska last December. The Hawkeyes will score some points, but Arizona will also be one of the more potent offenses the Hawkeye defense has to face this year. QB Nick Foles has thrown a couple of interceptions but is the primary reason Arizona has rolled to more than 500 yards per game. Foles may find the going a lot tougher against Adrian Clayborn and a great pass rushing defense. At this time of year, Iowa is still not far removed from the hot and humid days of summer, so as long as Iowa has conditioned properly, they will not be worn out by the Wildcats in the desert. Iowa will completely shut down the Wildcat running game and have just enough offense to steal a huge road win by 4.

The Remainder of the Weekend - Week 3

(1) Alabama defeats Duke
(2) Ohio State defeats Ohio
(3) Boise State defeats Wyoming
(5) Oregon defeats Portland State
(6) Texas defeats Texas Tech
(8) Nebraska defeats Washington
(10) Florida defeats Tennessee
(11) Wisconsin defeats Arizona State
Georgia defeats (12) Arkansas
(13) South Carolina defeats Furman
(14) Utah defeats New Mexico
(15) LSU defeats Mississippi State
(16) Auburn defeats Clemson
(18) USC defeats Minnesota
(19) Stanford defeats Wake Forest
(20) Michigan defeats UMASS
(21) West Virginia defeats Maryland
(22) Penn State defeats Kent State
(23) Houston defeats UCLA
(25) Oregon State defeats Louisville

2010 GOTW Record: 5-1
Last Week: 2-1
2010 Overall Top 25 Record: 39-4
Last Week: 17-3

Fitz Top 10 - Week 2

1. Ohio State (2-0)
2. Alabama (2-0)
3. Boise State (1-0)
4. Oregon (2-0)
5. Oklahoma (2-0)
6. TCU (2-0)
7. Iowa (2-0)
8. Nebraska (2-0)
9. Texas (2-0)
10. Michigan (2-0)

Just Missed: South Carolina, Florida, Utah, Auburn, Wisconsin

After a weekend with so much promise and so little delivery outside of South Bend, this weekend may look like a good weekend to go do something else. However, these are usually the weeks that come up and bite you with some very good games and upsets aplenty. Remember that Ohio University held the lead against OSU the last time they played into the fourth quarter, so there's no freebies except for maybe Oregon with the way the Ducks have been playing. While five of the top 6 teams has found a real test against tough competition already, this could be the week Iowa joins the national title discussion. Roadtrips to the Pac-10 are always tough for Big Ten teams though, so make sure you tune in to that late gem. A little off the rader is Notre Dame at Michigan State, but do not discount Brian Kelly trying to come back from a loss, possibly with Nate Montana in a hostile road environment against a team just as good as the Michigan team that just beat them. If you happen to be in Columbus this weekend, I'm not working the game but I will be there for some college football. Have a great week!

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