The second weekend of the season was as crazy—of not crazier—than the first. So what did we learn?
1. Joe Cox is your quarterback. Deal with it. Based on the rumor mill last week, some of which got published as fact, Joe Cox was not going to start last Saturday night’s game with South Carolina. The story was never true but apparently a lot of people wanted it to be. There were people who were absolutely giddy about it. Except for one bad throw, which Eric Norwood picked off and ran for a touchdown, Cox played very well in the 41-37 victory over the Gamecocks. Understand this and I’ll lump myself in here. Last week I said that Georgia would have to get better play from the quarterback position, from either Cox or somebody else, to get where they needed to go. Others had made up their mind after one game that it was time to move on and try another player at the position. Trust me when I tell you that for this season, it is in Georgia’s best interest that Cox is the guy. Because at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what the media says or what the fans say. The PLAYERS on this team have made up their minds. Joe Cox is their quarterback.
2. If I’m an Auburn fan, I’m (cautiously) optimistic: Here are the totals after the first two games under new Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn: 1,145 total yards (572.5 average) and 86 points (43 average). A year ago it would have taken Auburn about four games to get to that total. Now I understand that the first two opponents have been Louisiana Tech and Mississippi State. But last season Auburn could not have run up those numbers against tall grass. There is a good plan at work and you have to admire what they’ve done with Kodi Burns, the former starting quarterback. They are moving him all over the field and Burns already has four touchdowns. Now Auburn has a chance to start 4-0 with West Virginia at home this week and Ball State next week. Then they go to Tennessee, who looks suddenly vulnerable.
3. Jonathan Crompton now looks a little shaky: What a difference a week makes. In the first game against Western Kentucky the Tennessee coaches protected their quarterback, giving him safe throws and building his confidence. As a result he completed 21 of 28 passes for five touchdowns, one more than he had thrown all season. But then Tennessee played a real defense in UCLA that knew Crompton’s weaknesses because they had faced him the year before. Crompton had a stretch where he went fumble, interception, interception. Now Crompton’s confidence has to be low heading into Saturday’s game at No. 1 Florida. I wish the young man good luck because Florida’s defense is a lot better than UCLA’s. They are going to bring the heat.
4. Josh Nesbitt is going to have to complete some passes: I went back and watched my recording of the Georgia Tech-Clemson game over the weekend. What Clemson did, particularly after the early stages of the game, is what the better defenses in the ACC are going to do. This is an oversimplification but in general: If they have athletic defensive ends, the opponent will rush them forward and basically take away Nesbitt’s pitch option. So if Nesbitt doesn’t give the ball to the dive man (Jonathan Dwyer), he either has to run or throw. Nesbitt came up with the big completion with the game on the line Thursday night. More and more defenses are going to force Nesbitt to throw. He doesn’t need to make a high percentage, just enough to keep the defenses honest.
5. I’m changing my mind about freshman quarterbacks: Over my career I’ve only seen a few true freshman quarterbacks I would trust in a big game. (Peyton Manning and Eric Zeier are on that very short list). But after watching USC’s Matt Barkley and Michigan’s Tate Forcier lead their respective teams to victory on Saturday, I may need to rethink that. The 86-yard drive that Barkley led to beat Ohio State (18-15) was Elway-esque. And it came in front of a very hostile crowd of over 100,000. Forcier was at home and had a touchdown pass dropped on the winning drive. Most young players would have been devastated by that. Then Forcier came back and threw for the score and a stunning win over favored Notre Dame, 38-34. Those were two very well-coached quarterbacks.
Just an aside on Michigan: Do you think the chirping about Rich Rodriguez is going to stop now?
Please follow me on Twitter: