Eric Folk's FG lifted Washington to a shocking 16-13 win over #3 USC.

Eric Folk's FG lifted Washington to a shocking 16-13 win over #3 USC.

Today we got a good look at why Pete Carroll is using Matt Barkley as his starting QB as the Aaron Corp-led USC Trojans were wiped out in Seattle by an overachieving Washington Huskies team, coached by none other than former Carroll assistant Steve Sarkisian, who engineered the right defense to stop USC’s offensive juggernaut.

UW is a year removed from one of the ugliest seasons in school history, a 1-11 campaign that they needed an ugly win in the Apple Cup against winless Washington State to avoid the big 0 in the wins column.  Now all of that has become nothing more than a painful memory as they join the list of unlikely Pac-10 schools to trip up USC, joining Oregon State from last year, and Stanford from two years ago.

For USC, this might not necessarily mean the end of their national title hopes, but it’s certainly an unexpected and devastating blow for a team that was coming off yet another big victory in Columbus over Ohio State.  Now they are almost forced to bring Barkley back as soon as possible and bring some confidence to an offense that was simply outplayed by the Washington defense, making 3 bad turnovers that allowed the Huskies to hang around and pull the upset.

Looking back eastward, it may not have been the predicted beatdown that was expected, but it can’t be argued the the top-ranked Florida Gators handled Tennessee with relative ease.  In a game that was a lot more a case of grit than glits and glamour, It was the Florida defense that played the biggest role, showing the limited ability of the Tennessee receivers to get open downfield and making very difficult on Vols QB Johnathan Crompton all day, who finished an almost unnoticable 11/19 for 93 yards and 2 INTs. 

The big story that came out of this one though might be Tim Tebow’s final numbers, or rather the lack thereof.  The Heisman hopeful looked rather pedestrian and even a little confused by the defensive schemes shown by Tennessee.  Add in the two turnovers that he had, which led to 10 of Tennessee’s 13 points and Tebow’s Heisman chances just declined a little bit.

Speaking of Heisman, Jahvid Best is giving his best effort to get himself into

Jahvid Best was at his Best against Minnesota (Sorry for the pun.)

Jahvid Best was at his Best against Minnesota (Sorry for the pun.)

 the conversation with an unbelievable 5 TD performance at Minnesota to stop the Golden Gohpers 35-21.  From what I saw from Cal and USC today, I would be circling October 3rd on the calendar as their head-to-head matchup might determine the Pac-10 champion this year.

Also of note would have to be the death of several non-BCS conference teams’ hopes of an undefeated season this year, with Utah suffering a 31-24 loss in The Autzen Zoo to the Oregon Ducks, who look like they’ve finally gotten it back together after the Boise State debacle, and BYU currently getting waxed by the Florida State Seminoles 44-21 in Provo, it looks like it’s going to be up to Boise State once again to carry the torch for the unlikelies to reach a BCS bowl this year.  Considering the Broncos remaining schedule, though, it really wouldn’t surprise me to see them undefeated and going into another big bowl game, and this time you’ll be certain not to underestimate them.

In another thrilling finish, the Virginia Tech Hokies escaped losing twice at home in a ranked foe, scraping past Nebraska 16-15, in a game that will be mostly remembered for its offensive ineptitude than anything else.  Nebraska once again failed to get into the end zone in a big game, limited to five field goals despite controlling most of possession throughout this battle.  On the other side, Va. Tech took an eternity to get their offense going yet again, with Tyrod Taylor looking both uncomfortable in the pocket as well as afraid to throw a bad pass, at times.  This led to the Hokies having a laughable offensive output of 278 yards, 91 of which came on the game-winning drive and 80 of which came on one play in the final drive.  Yet, as they’ve been asked to do time and again, the Tech defense went above and beyond expectations in keeping the Nebraska offense at bay, although they did get a good bit of help in the 4th quarter, when a Nebraska drive got down to the Va. Tech 6-yard line, only to have the Cornhuskers commit 30 yards worth of penalties to force an unlikely punt.  At the end of the day though, it sets up another battle for the Hokies, who now prepare to take on a resurgent Miami team next Saturday in a battle for ACC supremacy.

Cupcakes of the Week: Once again, the Capital region gets the dubious honor of having two of the biggest underachieving programs in the nation, in

Wazzus best player ever was this guy. It explains a LOT about why they stink.

Wazzu's best player ever was this guy. It explains a LOT about why they stink.

 Maryland and Virginia, both of which ended up on the wrong side of games put on the schedule that were supposed to be easy wins.  The Terps proved to be as soft as the Pillsbury doughboy as they folded 32-31 at home against Middle Tennessee State, while the Cavaliers lost 37-34 at home to Southern Miss.  The Golden Eagles are usually one of Conference USA’s better teams, but that’s just it, they’re in Conference USA, which might be the second weakest conference ahead of the Sun Belt.  I give out one more dubious honor to the Washington State Cougars, who yet again found a way to lose, this time in overtime to SMU, who hasn’t been good since the late ’80s when they were the top of the Southwest Conference, only to have the program receive the death penalty from the NCAA due to serious violations.  Somewhere out there tonight, Drew Bledsoe is watching the highlights of his alma mater and thinking “Man, I played better than this when I was with the Bills!”

Game of the Week: West Virginia @ East Carolina

By: Brennan Marks, SZ Contributing Writer

 

TV: ESPN, 4:30 PM ET

 

      vs.        

 

Last Week: West Virginia defeated Villanova, East Carolina defeated Virginia Tech

            College football began not with a bang but a whimper, especially compared to last year.  There were very few exciting games, no once in a lifetime upsets, and the marquee matchup turned out to be a 34-10 blowout. However, there was at least one upset, and that upset has set the stage for this week’s game of the week.

            East Carolina coached by Lou Holtz’s son Skip, out-“Beamered” the Hokies of Virginia Tech.  By out-“Beamered,” I mean that Virginia Tech, a team renowned for its special teams prowess under coach Frank Beamer, gave up the game winning touchdown on a blocked punt. Perhaps, this is just one aspect of the poetic justice currently being served to the ACC.  In case you don’t know, several years ago, the ACC greedily invited several teams from the Big East (namely Miami) to a) make more money and b) to become a deeper and more talented football conference to compete with the likes of the SEC and Big 12, instead of crowning Florida State as conference champions, perennially.  Although they have earned more money, their football part of the plan has backfired.  Miami and other former Big East “football powers” have struggled, and Florida State has been mediocre at best. Arguably, their two most formidable teams, Clemson and Virginia Tech, both lost to underdogs causing pundits to condemn their conference altogether, and for me personally, to question their right to have a BCS bowl birth for the conference champion over the champion of the WAC, MWC or Conference USA, especially if the champion of Conference USA beats one of their “elite” programs. Luckily, the ACC is one of the premiere basketball conferences in the nation, and programs such as Florida State and Miami have the ability to rise from the ashes and become prominent national football programs once again.

            The Big East is another solid basketball conference, which has had a rough start to the football season. Rutgers lost to a WAC team. Kentucky humiliated Louisville.  Northwestern dominated Syracuse.  Pittsburgh was embarrassed by Bowling Green.  In contrast to the ACC, however, the Big East’s one national championship contender is still alive, and that team is West Virginia.

            Led by Heisman candidate dual-threat quarterback Pat White, West Virginia enters its first full season under new coach Bill Stewart.  If you recall correctly, after Rich Rodriguez bolted to Michigan, Bill Stewart became interim head coach and led West Virginia to a Fiesta Bowl win over a heavily favored Oklahoma team.  If the first game is any indication, West Virginia will run a more pass-oriented offense than they were previously, as Pat White threw for five touchdown passes.  Personally, I don’t think that the first game was any indication of how their offense will look, especially considering the playmaking abilities of Pat White and running back Noel Devine on the ground.  Still, West Virginia looks to have a more balanced attack, and with a more balanced attack, perhaps a more potent and dangerous offense.

            On the other side of the spectrum, East Carolina wants to win three consecutive games against ranked opponents for the first time in school history (# 22 Boise State in Hawaii Bowl, # 17 Virginia Tech last week, and # 8 West Virginia).  Quarterback Patrick Pinkney, who went 19-23 for 211 yards with a passing and a rushing touchdown, leads the Pirates. They also appear to be strong on special teams, as they scored the game-winning touchdown vs. Virginia Tech on a blocked punt.

            This game means a lot for both teams.  For West Virginia, it is another stepping stone for their national championship hunt, and a loss here would not only hurt their team’s reputation as well as the Big East’s reputation, but also it would essentially eliminate their quest for a national championship. On the other hand, East Carolina has nothing to lose (except their coach) and everything to gain. By everything, I mean respect (moreso than their win vs. Virginia Tech, possibly a top 10 ranking and most certainly a top 15 ranking) and a distinct possibility of a playing in a BCS Bowl.

            On a side note, weather could interfere with the game as tropical storm Hanna is expected to hit the southeast this weekend.  However, it is unlikely, as East Carolina’s athletic director Terry Holland called rescheduling the game a “last resort.” Now on to the prediction…

            Prediction:  I’ve spent some time referring to each team’s offense, because neither team has much excitement of the defensive side of the ball. Defensively, both teams are prone to give up some big plays and touchdowns, but Pat White and company might be too hard for East Carolina to handle.  East Carolina does have home field advantage, but West Virginia has too much firepower.  I think it will be a fairly high scoring game with West Virginia winning 35-21. 

Look Back:  Last week, I wrote my first blog entry for the website: a preview of the Alabama – Clemson game. Unfortunately, the column was not posted due to technical difficulties. I’m not sure if it will be published “posthumously” so to speak (by this I mean after the game has “died,” not me), but in that article, I predicted Alabama to win 21-17.  Well, I was right about the team, but way off on the score.  However, I don’t think anyone expected Alabama to win in the manner in which they did. Time will tell on how each team’s season to progress, but Alabama certainly has a bright future ahead.


-Brennan Marks

SZ Contributing Writer

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