Week One Thoughts
Figuring out who's really number one
Ohio State, Notre Dame, Texas and USC are the only four teams
that truly control their own destinies. If Texas beats Ohio State, it'll
be ranked in the top two as long as it stays unbeaten, and if USC and
Notre Dame go unbeaten before meeting late in the year, the winner will
play for the national title. Everyone else has to worry about being 2004
Auburn and on the outside looking in no matter how good they might be.
Forgetting about the actual race for number one, has there ever been a
year when so many teams could be considered the best in the
country? Besides the big four, Tennessee sure as shoot played like a
number one team in the blowout over a good Cal team (really, it's good).
Auburn sure looked top-spot worthy against a good Washington State team
(really, it's good). Bush or no Bush, hang close to 60 on an SEC team
like Louisville did to Kentucky and you have to be taken seriously as a
national title contender,. West Virginia played like a contender in the
rivalry game against Marshall. Florida, LSU, Michigan, Georgia, Miami,
Florida State, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Penn State and Nebraska all
should be players in the race for the BCS Championship game. Fine, so it
was just one week and most of the big boys played cupcakes, but they all
have to be considered in the mix.
Now it's up to the pollsters to actually watch all these teams play. As
mentioned before, four teams control their own fates because they
started out the season ranked in the right positions. Preseason
projections tend to cloud what actually happens on the field in the
minds of some. So here's my first plea of the year to the voters: don't
be afraid to change your rankings wildly throughout the year based on
how good the teams actually play, not how they're supposed to play or
where you think they'll end up. If Nebraska is the best team in the
country, rank it number one. If you have Ohio State number one and it
doesn't play like it, but keeps winning, don't be afraid to put someone
else up top.
Kill the clock (rule)
What the heck is the business with the
clock and the starting of the clock on change of possession? This is
just insane. Stop the clock in the final four minutes of the half after
a first down; other times, let it run, similar to the NFL. Take for
instance, in the Ole Miss game Monday. Memphis cuts the score down to
three in the final three minutes, then kicks off to Ole Miss. With the
clock moving after the kickoff, Ole Miss let the clock run down before
even running a play – killing 40 seconds in the process. Memphis had
time outs to use, but didn’t right after the kickoff. Do coaches now
have to call time-out after a kickoff to save time or after a punt?
Seriously? That’s nuts. Essentially, if your team has a lead with two
minutes left after kickoff, and the opponent has all three timeouts
left, your team can still run off nearly 40 to 45 seconds off the clock,
not to mention the time it takes to run a play. What kind of reward is
that for a team that manages the clock well and doesn’t call a time-out
throughout a half? If your opponent has two timeouts or less, it now
becomes 90 to 100 seconds of time they can kill. This ruins the end
game, completely. Give teams the final four minutes of each half to be
competitive, especially at the end of the game. Run the clock
throughout the first 26 minutes of each half, but give team and coaches
the end of the half to try to win the game. Each team has a “get back”
coach on the sideline, now they need a “how much time is left” coach.
The real challenger to the USC throne
Forget Cal and Arizona State. Oregon has already emerged as the best
bet to challenge USC in a deep Pac-10. The Ducks had a picture perfect
opener Saturday, blowing out Stanford 48-10 in a game that had the
potential to be very tricky. QB Dennis Dixon and RB Jonathan Stewart
were sensational and the young corners held up against Stanford’s
veteran passing game, allowing just a pair of plays for more than 20
yards. If Oregon can get past Fresno State this weekend, a Sept. 16
visit from a vulnerable Oklahoma team looms as an enormous opportunity
to catapult into the top 10.
Rock bottom to Rocky Top
4. For a few years now, the University of Tennessee has taken my
‘heat’ for more reasons than I care to admit. Last year at the end of
the season, I said the following
Sometimes before you
rise up (back up), you’ve got to hit rock bottom. This program now has
the time to be flushed. It’s a bit more difficult with college teams
than cleaning house for a pro organization, but there needs to be a
retooling in this program because it’s become more about questionable
characters and ‘I’ guys than about the team. Where are the Al Wilsons
who led the 1998 team wins with more heart than any Tennessee team has
shown since? If you’re a distraction, you need to be gone. Find
another program. That includes coaches, players, managers, film guys
and anyone else wearing a football ‘hat’. There needs to be a pride in
putting on the orange and white jersey, not a ‘pitstop-on-the-way-to-the-NFL-feeling’,
which is the sense that I get as an interested bystander.
This is too proud a
program, with passionate fans and alums that deserve better. Phil
Fulmer has his hands full, but he’ll have a lot of time to make
changes. If he thinks that no changes have to be made, then he should
go as well. A new attitude is needed, no question. Where that attitude
emanates from is the question. But, an answer is needed soon.
One game doesn’t
provide the full answer, but it does provide a glimpse into what we’re
going to see the rest of the season. What we saw was a more disciplined
QB, a nasty defense and a team on a mission. Finally, this is the
Tennessee team that we should’ve seen for a while. But, kudos to Phil
Fulmer, his staff and his kids for answering the call.
The surprise, disappointment, and best
Surprise ... Colorado's loss to Montana State. Despite all the
problems, this is still mostly the same Buff team that played in the Big
12 title game last year. Montana is a D-IAA player, Montana State isn't.
Colorado didn't just get upset, it got embarrassed with no offense and
all-around ineffective play. Would Boise State have lost to MSU? Not
with Dan Hawkins at the helm it wouldn't. So what's wrong? We'll know
more next week against Colorado State, which leads to ...
Disappointment ... Two star running backs out for the year before it
really begins. Colorado State star Kyle Bell tore up his knee before
even stepping on the field. Louisville's Michael Bush broke his leg
against Kentucky. It's college football, so new marquee names will pop
up as the season goes on, but it's a shame these two All-America
candidates are gone.
Best Moment ... The flat-out fun of the Saturday night game between
Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. How great is it to see a big game that
really matters? The intensity from both sides, the coaching moves, the
magnitude of the pressure Notre Dame is under, and the prime time slot
made for a great way to get the college football season rolling again.