Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
As the season heats up, things are beginning to take shape, even at this early stage. The cream is rising to the top and the list of real contenders for the national title is dwindling. This week provided the usual blowouts and mild surprises, with plenty of drama sprinkled in.
LOCKING IN ON THE POLE POSITION
The Ohio State Buckeyes had a bit of revenge on their minds as they made the trip to Austin this past week. The game marked the first time the top two teams in the poll had met in the regular season since 1996. Unfortunately, the hype far outweighed the game. The revenge factor definitely provided the proper motivation, as the top team in the country put on a clinic, disposing of the second-ranked Longhorns on the road and exorcising last season's demons. The team earned 56 of the 65 first-place votes in the AP Poll, showing the country that they are clearly the top team in the land. Troy Smith was outstanding in the win (269 yards passing and two TDs). Ted Ginn Jr (five receptions, 97 yards, one TD) was great, but Anthony Gonzalez (eight receptions, 142 yards, one TD) was exceptional. The Buckeyes will take on Cincinnati this week, with back-to-back games against Penn State (home) and Iowa (on the road) looming large to close out the month of September.
Troy Smith was outstanding in the win against Texas by throwing for 269 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
THAT'S MORE LIKE IT
The South Bend faithful were treated to a blowout of highly regarded Penn State this past weekend, assuaging any notion that the Notre Dame offense lacked the teeth it was supposed to have entering the season. In the opener at Georgia Tech, ND's offense looked out of sync, but against what was supposed to be a top-notch PSU defense, the Irish rolled up nearly 400 yards of offense, moving the ball at will sometimes and putting the game out of reach early in the second half. Michigan is on the docket this week for the Irish, who moved back to number two in the polls with the lopsided win over the Nittany Lions. Notre Dame wasn't the only team that rebounded in week two. California, following a devastating loss at Tennessee, turned things around with a rout of Minnesota (42-17). Struggling both on the ground and through the air in Knoxville, the Golden Bears got great production from both QB Nate Longshore (300 yards and four TDs) and tailback Marshawn Lynch (139 yards and two TDs). The Bears will feast on Portland State this week, before opening Pac-10 play against nationally-ranked Arizona State on September 23rd.
WHAT ABOUT US
The most surprising team in the country after two weeks has to be the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. After an eternity of being one of the worst teams in the country, the squad from Piscataway is finally heading in the right direction. Coach Greg Schiano has breathed life in a dead program, leading the Knights to a 7-5 record a year ago, their first bowl game in 27 seasons and the first winning campaign in 13 years. Well, the momentum gained in 2005 has carried over to 2006, as the Knights have already posted wins over the ACC and Big Ten. The team outlasted North Carolina (21-16) in Chapel Hill to start the season and blanked Illinois (33-0) this past weekend. With Ohio University and Howard left on the non-league docket, the Knights should enter Big East play at 4-0. Kudos to Schiano and his staff, as Rutgers is no longer the Big East's doormat, but perhaps the third-best team in the league.
Iowa's seven-play goal line stand against Syracuse was one of the greatest in recent memory. Not sure if it was more of an indictment of Syracuse's pathetic offense or an affirmation of the Hawkeyes' staunch defense. Truth be told, Iowa struggled big time in the game. The Hawkeyes were without their superb signal-caller in Drew Tate and Jason Manson struggled big time (one TD and four interceptions) under center. Regardless, the extended defensive effort inside the two-yard line was one for the ages and should fill the Iowa defense with plenty of confidence heading into Big Ten play.
60 MINUTES IS NOT ENOUGH
Iowa and Syracuse weren't the only teams that couldn't settle things in regulation this past week. In all, seven Division I- A games went into overtime, with two reaching double-overtime and one going to triple-overtime (Bowling Green 48, Buffalo 40). The one game that meant the most in terms of the polls, was the overtime thriller in Chestnut Hill, where Boston College outlasted a tough Clemson squad (34-33). The win propelled the Eagles into the Top-25 and dropped the Tigers out of the poll.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
Joe Paterno has his work cut out for him. He said all the right things heading into the Notre Dame game, but he always praises his upcoming opponents, while downgrading what he has in Happy Valley. Still, Penn State failed to show up in South Bend and must regroup in a hurry for a run at the Big Ten title. There is plenty of talent on both sides of the football, but this team, with its new signal-caller (Anthony Morelli), must be able to perform better on the road, especially with a trip to Columbus coming up after this week's sacrificial lamb, Youngstown State, comes to town.
NO LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
Two of the worst teams in Division I-A football reached new lows this week. Already mentioned was Syracuse's futility in overtime against Iowa. The Orange played admirably against a ranked program that was without its quarterback, but Greg Robinson's team has now gone a whole year without getting in the win column and is inventing ways to lose at this point. Syracuse has no chance of being the worst team in Division I-A, thanks to the Temple Owls. Head coach Al Golden took over the reins of the team this season and things have certainly not changed. Temple has won just three games in the last three+ seasons and went winless a year ago. Already in 2006, Temple has "amassed" just three points in two losses and gave up 62 points in a shutout loss to Louisville this past week. The sad part is that the 62-0 decision may not have been as close as the score would suggest.
A SNEAK PEEK AT THE UPCOMING WEEK
Last week featured some marquee games, but this week will probably be the biggest of the season. There are several top-25 matchups that will surely shake things up in the polls. First, 11th-ranked Michigan heads to South Bend to take on second-ranked Notre Dame. Huge SEC battles take place in both divisions, as the Western battle features sixth- ranked LSU at third-ranked Auburn and the Eastern battle pits seventh-ranked Florida at 13th-ranked Tennessee. The 17th-ranked Miami-Hurricanes go on the road to take on the 12th-ranked Louisville Cardinals, while a pair of Big 12 foes take on Pac-10 opponents on the road, with 15th-ranked Oklahoma at 18th- ranked Oregon and 19th-ranked Nebraska at fourth-ranked USC. Six of these prominent programs will be saddled with a loss after this week and their quest for a national championship will be all but over.