Five things we learned over the weekend:
1. Who’s No. 1? I have no idea: Every preseason poll I saw had the same four teams in some kind of order: Florida, Texas, USC, and Oklahoma. Just three weeks into the season two of the four (USC, Oklahoma) have lost and neither Florida nor Texas has been impressive. BYU, which was going to be the designated non-BCS fly in the ointment (as my friend Tim Brando likes to call it) just got trounced by a Florida State team that lost its home opener to Miami (FYI…you have to look at that FSU loss in a totally different light because Miami may be pretty darn good). To tell you the truth, the only three teams who have been impressive the first three weeks are Alabama, Miami, and California. Alabama opened the season with a really good win over Virginia Tech and has gotten better every week, albeit against inferior competition the past two weeks. Miami is not the Miami of old just yet. We’ll find out a lot more about the Hurricanes on Saturday when they go to Virginia Tech. Based on what I saw Saturday, California and Jahvid Best can beat USC. Bottom line, we don’t know who the best teams in the country are. And that’s kind of fun.
2. Joe Cox’s arm is just fine, thank you: Even if you had doubts about the kid after the Oklahoma State game (and I did), you have to admit he showed a helluva lot of moxie in the win at Arkansas Saturday night. The guy knew he was in a shootout and was going to have to make a lot of big throws. He did with five touchdown passes, which tied a Georgia record. And the guy was cool under fire when Georgia got behind 21-10. I don’t know how many games Georgia will win this season, but quarterback will not be the Bulldogs’ problem. Now the defense? That’s another topic for another day. But if you can’t rush the passer and you can’t cover the receivers, it doesn’t take John Heisman to figure out that Georgia is going to have problems with any team that that pitch it and catch it a little.
3. Opposing defenses have zigged. Now Paul Johnson has to zag: Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson has been running some form of this offense for well over 20 years. This is not the first time that opponents have used the defensive game plan to slow down the option employed by Clemson and Miami. If a team has athletic defensive ends, which Clemson and Miami both had, they can take away the pitch man and basically force Josh Nesbitt to make a decision. Johnson will have to make some adjustments, starting with Saturday’s game with North Carolina who, by the way, has a big athletic defensive line. It should be an interesting chess match.
4. You gotta give Lane Kiffin some credit: Tennessee went into The Swamp and had a great game plan. They stuck with running the ball in order to shorten the game and limit Florida’s possessions. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin used formations that literally forced quarterback Tebow to run. So Tebow ran the ball 24 times. Tennessee played hard and physical and never backed down from the No. 1 team in the nation. If I’m a Tennessee fan I’m optimistic about what this team will do in the long term. But I am also pessimistic in the short term because Jonathan Crompton is simply not the answer at quarterback, especially in big games. The senior had a couple of really bad throws that turned into interceptions at crunch time. If Crompton just makes a play or two, the Gators might have been sweating at the end.
5. You have to admire Chris Todd: The Auburn quarterback became the whipping boy for just about everything that went wrong in that program last season. His offensive coordinator (Tony Franklin) was fired at midseason and Todd was sent straight to the bench. As it turned out, Todd was trying to play last season with an arm that was all but dead. But Todd stayed in the program and had surgery on the arm last December. He couldn’t throw in the spring but was named starting quarterback after just nine days of practice in the summer. It was a tremendous risk by new coach Gene Chizik that paid off Saturday night when Todd threw four touchdown passes in a 41-30 win over West Virginia. With a win over Ball State on Saturday, Auburn will start 4-0. Who would have predicted that?
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