Eased our way into the season last week. Week two is a prime cut compared to last week's cubed steak.
All times Eastern
West Virginia at Marshall is the 1st half of a Friday night C-USA home game doubleheader on ESPN at 7pm. The Mountaineers go with sophomore Geno Smith leading the attack, but the question is whether Noel Devine will have a jaw-dropping run that gets his Heisman candidacy going.
Second game is a revenge game of sorts. Last year Houston was flying along in the top 20 when they went to El Paso and were exposed for the 1st time that season by the Miners as a team with an extremely suspect defense to the tune of 58-41. The offense for the Cougs should remain its high flying self, but the defense is starting over replacing 1/2 of the starters from last season. No idea here if the incoming starts will be able to help the defense step up (ESPN, 10:15pm).
USF at Florida (12pm, SEC Network syndication) is the appetizer. The word around Tampa is that Skip Holtz has brought a calmness to the team, compared to the high strung nature that former coach Jim Leavitt brought to the table. Florida had many problems last week offensively with shotgun snaps during John Brantley's 1st start at QB. Better to work out those kinks vs. Miami (OH) than USF. The Bulls have a chance if they can disrupt the Gators offensive tempo and if BJ Daniels limits his mistakes.
Michigan at Notre Dame starts the main course (3:30pm, NBC). The Irish, working in Brian Kelly's faster paced offensive philosophy, maintained a run-pass balance that was more rooted in the running game, something that Kelly didn't always adhere to at Cincinnati. Michigan looked very machine-like in their win over UConn and Denard Robinson may have made his case that Michigan doesn't need anyone else lining up at the QB position. Robinson's game was very Heisman worthy (19-22, 186 yds, 1 TD; 29 carries, 197 yds rushing, 1 TD). Another game like that, versus an Irish team that the media tends to value when it comes to Heisman performances, can get his name out there early in the race.
Florida St. at Oklahoma (3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2) and Miami (FL) at Ohio St. (3:30pm, ESPN/ESPN 3D) are the other big ones. Oklahoma playing Utah St. closer than they should have was surprising. On the flipside, we need to see more from Florida St. now that Jimbo Fisher is the sole head coach. The media seems to be touting the Hurricanes loss vs. Ohio St. in the national title game a few years ago, but no players are left and only Jim Tressel remains as a head coach, though Randy Shannon was on staff at UM. We're still waiting for the big Miami re-awakening and last year was a start, but they need that signature OOC win. Beating USF is nice, but a win in convincing fashion at the 'shoe makes a big statement.
Penn St. at Alabama (7pm, ESPN) and Oregon at Tennessee (7pm, ESPN2) share the spotlight at 7pm, though the lights will shine brighter in Tuscaloosa. Mark Ingram may not see the field again due to knee issues, but Alabama went RB by committee vs. San Jose St. and did just fine. The place where Alabama could excel in this game is through the air. Youngstown St. didn't throw for over 200 yards, but they were able to go 21-for-25 and a controlled passing game by the Tide could be the equalizer.
As for the Vols, they eased themselves into the Derek Dooley era, but get a Oregon team that blitzed New Mexico and barely allowed the Lobos over 100 yards in total offense. Special teams keyed a 2nd quarter tidal wave with two punts returned for TDs by the Ducks. If Tennessee is not careful, the Ducks could have that all-important 3rd phase to the game that can get them good field position and change the game.
A pair of PAC-10 late games will be worth watching too as a midnight snack. Stanford travels to UCLA to start PAC-10 play (10:30pm, ESPN) and Virginia travels cross-country to visit USC (10:30pm, FSN). The Cardinal managed 213 yards on the ground vs. Sacramento St. without any back gaining more than 57 yards or over eight carries, a true ground game by committee as Andrew Luck is the man that makes that offense go. UCLA's Kevin Prince was tuned up by a suspect Kansas St. team and the Bruins may end up taking a step backwards this season if Prince remains the starter.
Rumblings from several around the coaching fraternity believes there are serious cracks in the USC foundation and the Trojans could be ripe for the picking, but I don't think that Virginia is the team to get the job done. Traveling to the west coast in Mike London's second game, couple with how well London's former team (Richmond) hung with the Cavaliers tells me this could again be high scoring, but in USC's favor.