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September 21, 2008
Each Sunday, our staff of college football experts will offer thoughts on things they learned over the weekend.
GEORGIA'S OFFENSE HAS ANOTHER BIG-PLAY THREAT. Freshman wide receiver A.J. Green made that clear by catching eight passes for 159 yards and a touchdown in a 27-10 victory at Arizona State. The Bulldogs already have stars on offense with Knowshon Moreno and Matt Stafford. Green's emergence opens up more opportunities and makes the Bulldogs more explosive.
QUARTERBACK WASN'T THE PROBLEM FOR TEXAS A&M. Injured starter Stephen McGee had been a scapegoat of sorts for the Aggies' problems. Some down in College Station felt backup Jerrod Johnson would make a big difference, but that wasn't the case. A&M continued to struggle on defense and in the offensive line in a 41-23 loss to Miami. Johnson did pass for 275 yards and three touchdowns, but two scores came after the Hurricanes had taken a 41-10 lead.
ARKANSAS MAY NOT WIN ANOTHER GAME. As it is, the Hogs are lucky to have two wins, barely beating Western Illinois (28-24) and Louisiana-Monroe (28-27). The Razorbacks' 49-14 humiliation at the hands of Alabama is proof positive the Hogs are the ultimate work-in-progress under first-year coach Bobby Petrino. Next up: a trip to Texas. Then it's Florida. Then it's at Auburn. Even games at Kentucky, at Ole Miss, at home against Tulsa and at South Carolina look out of reach for Arkansas. Maybe the Hogs can win at Mississippi State on Nov. 22. The season-ending game vs. LSU in Little Rock could be an ugly punctuation mark on a dreadful season.
LSU HAS FOUND A QUARTERBACK IN JARRETT LEE. The redshirt freshman had come off the bench in the Tigers' first three games, splitting time with Andrew Hatch. But the job likely is all Lee's after his performance in a 26-21 win at Auburn. Lee took over full-time in the second half after Hatch went out with a strained neck early in the third quarter. Lee threw for 182 yards and two touchdowns in the half after going 0-for-5 with a pick ? returned for a touchdown ? in the first half. LSU looks as if it has discovered the biggest missing piece to its puzzle and now looks primed to defend its national championship.
OHIO STATE WILL HAVE A QUARTERBACK PROBLEM ON ITS HANDS. The Terrelle Pryor era has begun in Columbus. Rejoice Buckeyes fans, if you want. I won't. Pryor's debut as a starter spells trouble down the line. It's not because of Pryor. He performed adequately against Troy, passing for 139 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 66. But it was hardly a great endorsement of things to come. The Buckeyes led only 14-10 going into the fourth quarter against what looks to be a mid-level Sun Belt team. Pryor will get better and he is the answer long term. However, when the Buckeyes go to Madison, Wis., on Oct. 4, will Pryor be the right choice for the conservative Jim Tressel? Pryor is the new shiny object. Senior Todd Boeckman has a Big Ten title. When it comes down to it, I don't know if Tressel will feel comfortable with a true freshman under center with a Rose Bowl trip on the line.
MIAMI WILL CONTEND IN THE ACC, FLORIDA STATE WILL NOT. Sunshine State football fans, raise your hand if you have a shot at a conference title this year. Not so fast, Florida State fans. Take a seat next to Florida International fans. The weekend brought the ACC race into focus for Florida. Miami is up. Florida State is down. The Hurricanes thrashed a struggling Texas A&M team 41-23 in College Station while Florida State failed for the second consecutive time to score a touchdown at home against Wake Forest. In their past two games, the Hurricanes gave Florida three quarters of a game in Gainesville, then demolished the Aggies at Kyle Field. Redshirt freshman quarterback Robert Marve and the young Hurricanes won't face a tougher road trip all year. It's a clear signal Miami will return to a bowl and will make the ACC race interesting again. On the other hand, Florida State's toughest crowds for the rest of the season might be at Doak Campbell after the Seminoles lost a game in which they didn't allow a touchdown.
BOISE STATE LOOKS GOOD FOR ANOTHER BCS BID. The Broncos came into the season with a redshirt freshman quarterback and generally were considered the second-best team in the WAC. After Saturday's victory at Oregon, the Broncos look like the best team in the WAC ? and seem like a good bet to finish the regular season unbeaten for the second time in three seasons. Boise State couldn't run on the Ducks (38 yards). No matter ? Kellen Moore strafed the Ducks' vaunted secondary for 386 yards and three TDs. Boise scored all its points in the second and third quarters, then held on. The rest of the schedule is the usual WAC flotsam and jetsam ? except for the regular-season finale against preseason league favorite Fresno State. But that game is in Boise, where the Broncos have won 34 consecutive conference matchups.
VIRGINIA TECH WILL GO AS FAR AS ITS DEFENSE CAN CARRY IT. Tyrod Taylor is an athletic quarterback, no question. But while he's a dangerous runner, he heads a passing attack that scares absolutely no one. The Hokies edged North Carolina 20-17 Saturday despite managing just 268 yards of offense. Tech was 3-for-16 on third downs ? but still won because its defense held UNC to 3-for-12 on third downs. The ACC isn't that strong and the Hokies don't play Clemson or Wake Forest, but it's still extremely difficult to see them winning the league unless coach Frank Beamer and his staff do a better job of integrating Sean Glennon back into the offense to give the Hokies at least the threat of a passing attack. As good as that defense is, the offense eventually is going to have to help out.
TENNESSEE WON'T WIN THE SEC EAST. Phillip Fulmer's Volunteers rebounded from a one-sided loss to Florida and went on to win the Eastern Division title last season, but it's hard to imagine history repeating itself. The Volunteers don't have the senior leadership at quarterback that Erik Ainge provided last year. Last season's team also benefited from plenty of good luck and rarely made mistakes at critical times, at least until Ainge threw that interception that resulted in LSU's go-ahead touchdown in the SEC Championship Game. This season's team continually makes huge errors in the red zone. There's plenty of blame to go around here. The players self-destruct in critical situations. The coaching staff failed to respond to UCLA's second-half adjustments in the season opener and didn't have the Volunteers ready to play Saturday.
THE LSU-AUBURN WINNER WON'T NECESSARILY WIN THE SEC WEST. Conventional wisdom before the season indicated the winner of the LSU-Auburn game would go on to win the West. Now that LSU has won 26-21 at Auburn, doesn't it have to be the favorite to go back to Atlanta? Not necessarily. LSU certainly has reason to feel good about itself, but the Tigers can't take anything for granted now that Alabama seemingly has returned to prominence. Perhaps no team in the SEC has looked as good as the Tide, who already have delivered one-sided victories over Clemson and Arkansas away from Tuscaloosa. A victory at Georgia next week would solidify Alabama as a factor in the SEC race ? and a sleeper contender for the national title.