An interesting first weekend of the college football season. We'll focus on Friday and Saturday in this post.
LSU, Boise State take big steps forward: No. 4 LSU's 40-27 win over No. 3 Oregon in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday night definitely puts the Tigers among the serious national title contenders. Without starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson, LSU played together against the Ducks and got key contributions from several players. Jarrett Lee filled in admirably for Jefferson and while his numbers weren't great (10 of 22 for 98 yards and a touchdown) he didn't make any mistakes. After the game LSU head coach Les Miles called Lee's effort "gutty." He guided the Tigers and the offense put up points. Michael Ford rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns and Spencer Ware rushed for 99 yards and a touchdown. Oregon freshman De'Anthony Thomas fumbled on consecutive plays (one on a run and another on the ensuing kickoff) in the third quarter. LSU converted those turnovers into touchdown runs by Ford and Ware to turn a 16-13 lead into a commanding 30-13 advantage. In the fourth quarter, LSU's offensive line and rushing attack simply wore down the Oregon defense. Two points: LSU' s defense is loaded with talent and is going to be among the best in the country this season. The Ducks had only 95 yards on the ground (54 by LaMichael James). LSU is a very deep team and was focused against Oregon, despite the off the field problems. Give credit to Miles. No. 5 Boise State couldn't afford a loss to No. 19 Georgia in the Georgia Dome on Saturday night if it hoped to stay in the national championship chase. The Broncos delivered with a 35-21 win and will remain in the BCS national title hunt all season because there isn't a game remaining on their schedule that they won't be the favorite. The Broncos' only test should come against TCU on Nov. 12. That game, however, will be played on the home blue turf. And judging by the opening loss to Baylor, TCU's defense is not what it was last season.
Game of the weekend: I definitely blew this one. I really thought TCU's defense would hold Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III in check. The Bears, however, pulled off a wild 50-48 win over the No. 14 Horned Frogs on Friday night. Baylor almost blew a 47-23 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Let's keep an eye on Baylor. The Bears could be a factor in the Big 12. But the defense needs to clamp down moving forward. TCU will definitely miss Andy Dalton this season, but new quarterback Casey Pachall completed 25 of 39 passes for 251 yards and four touchdowns, including three during the fourth quarter comeback. The defense, however, is not the same after losing some key players from last season.
Player of the weekend: Griffin III is my winner. He completed 21 of 27 passes for 359 yards and five touchdowns. He could play himself into the Heisman conversation if he continues to play at a high level. Honorable mention: USC's Robert Woods caught a school-record 17 passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns in a 19-17 win over Minnesota on Saturday. Virginia Tech running back David Wilson, who I listed on my preseason Heisman contenders list, rushed for 162 and three touchdowns on 16 carries as the Hokies rolled in their opener.
Wild weather: No. 16 Notre Dame has its game against South Florida in South Bend on Saturday delayed twice due to heavy rain and lightning. Fans evacuated the stadium during both delays. The game eventually resumed and South Florida hung on for a big 23-20 win. Some experts like the Bulls to win the Big East and gain a BCS bid this season. Good win for Skip Holtz. Michigan had two weather delays against Western Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday (also heavy rain and dangerous lightning). Finally after the second delay, which evacuated Michigan Stadium, the game was cancelled with 1:27 to go in the third quarter.
Coming up this week: Two good SEC games on Saturday: No. 20 Mississippi State plays at No. 23 Auburn at 12:21 p.m. Later in the day, No. 12 South Carolina plays at No. 19 Georgia at 4:30 p.m. The Bulldogs can't afford another loss. No. 2 Alabama travels to Happy Valley to play Penn State at 3:30 p.m. A.J. McCarron and/or Phillip Sims will be playing the first road games of their respective careers in front of what should be a very hostile crowd. Notre Dame travels to Michigan on Saturday night at 8 p.m. It's the first night game in Michigan Stadium history. Notre Dame cannot afford another loss.