Some notes from a weekend of games watched, either partially or entirely, and not watched, denoted with asterisks:
Clemson vs. Boston College - I mean, really, Clemson? Again? Always with the disappointing, would-seem-improbable-were-they-not-involving-a-team-named-"Clemson" losses. Why is this team the same every year? What's next, Tommy Bowden will be on the hot seat and then miraculously beat his father? Seriously, Groundhog Day.
Gotta give credit to B.C. for taking advantage of good fortune (that interception-catch -controversy overturn, for instance) while acknowledging that Clemson, as is its wont, was sloppy (kick coverage anyone?).
Penn State vs. Notre Dame - I was already skeptical about Penn State back in early July, so count me among the seemingly few who didn't think that this was going to be a good game or a "big" game. Big games, of course, require two teams of distinction.
This game was 41-3 through 48 minutes, and only after that did Penn State pick up 172 of its 383 yards of total offense on the way to two touchdowns that meant nothing. Notre Dame's offense looked like the unit that all of the pundits were expecting as they spent the offseason all but inventing words of praise to shower on the Irish. Brady Quinn was poised and efficient, and the Irish had four touchdown drives of 45 yards or more. The Notre Dame defense also appeared to be a truly formidable unit, not just the beneficiaries of Chan Gailey's ineptitude and Reggie Ball's maddening inconsistency.
Most discouraging for Michigan fans and the scores of Notre Dame haters, the Irish appeared to be precise and disciplined in their execution, training and thinking that inherently bestow confidence upon teams in possession of the two. Michigan rarely appears to play with this air of emotional superiority, instead regularly teetering on top of some fulcrum that allows one to see both the pit of despair and the valley of the sublime. While some would argue that amorphous commodities like "swagger" are imagined or inconsequential, at best, college football is undeniably a sport with a component of emotion, one that seems to regularly manifest itself in outcomes. Notre Dame, as it was last year, appears to again be positioned to wield this advantage in a tangible way, whether it be a daring play call or something like, oh, passing over the middle or down the field.
Ohio State Joke of a University vs. Texas - The following inmates will receive extra special treatment (i.e., a carton of cigs) this week: Troy Smith, the offensive line, whichever C.O. convinced Texas OC Greg Robinson to stop running the ball. Those were the keys to the game, no? It seemed like the Buckeyes, despite a defense that forced two key turnovers and defended the passing game well, were having a difficult time stopping the run, as Selvin Young and Jamaal Charles were carving up the field. Yet, Colt McCoy threw 32 passes and Texas seemed to move away from a discernable rhythm every time it almost happened upon one.
Smith and the Buckeye offensive line were also impressive, playing with composure and routinely making the Ohio State passing game a true weapon, not just a function of desperation.
Suddenly, I have a few questions about Texas, notably if it can consistently move the ball through the air, if it can reliably defend the pass while generating a pass rush with its front four, and whether Mack Brown is going to start being Mack Brown again. Of course, against most of its schedule, none of this will matter.
Oregon vs. Fresno State - First of all, I like the Oregon uniforms. That shade of green and the white are a sharp combination. Second, I really like Dennis Dixon, who doesn't make too many mistakes and really can whip the ball around. If Jaison Williams didn't drop some key passes, Oregon might not have been in such a tough fourth-quarter circumstance, relying on a trick-play field goal for a touchdown with the score tied at 24 with just 5 minutes left.
An area of concern for the Ducks was the rush defense, which surrendered 206 yards and has to deal with Adrian Peterson next weekend. But for now, consider me on the Ducks bandwagon given a better-than expected pass defense and an offense that looks balanced and well led by Dixon.
Auburn vs. Mississippi State - I didn't watch all of this game, but every time I turned it on, Mississippi State was getting its ass kicked by the Auburn defense. Auburn doesn't pwn the world in recruiting like USC, and it isn't a staple of the top five, but it just consistently develops guys who are fundamentally sound. An increasingly impressive program.
Arizona vs. LSU - Am I the only person who thinks that while it may not be a seductive display of aesthetic elegance, the Auburn-LSU game might be the best matchup of the season? I cannot wait for this game.
I also thought that with Tutumama and the Mind of Stoops defense, Arizona would be able to stay within two touchdowns. Maybe not so much...
Virginia Tech vs. North Carolina - North Carolina QB Joe Dailey was the most valuable Hokie.
Akron vs. NC State* - Chuck Amato, update your resume.
New Hampshire vs. Northwestern* - What happened? I hold my sister, a Wildcat, responsible.
Troy vs. Florida State* - This is an appeal to my BlogPoll brethren: Please do not vote Florida State into the top ten this week. While there are a paucity of teams with what appear to be so few questions that they should confine the Seminoles--owners of a strong defense and what might eventually seem like an impressive road win--to a poll position that begins with the number "2," Florida State has done little to distinguish itself as an elite team so far. The running game is pathetic, the offensive scheme appears to be clueless, and the 'Noles were two late interceptions away from being upset by Troy.