An old coaching axiom holds that “the best thing about a freshman is when he becomes a sophomore.”
Such conventional wisdom seems as outdated as drop kicking a field goal or wearing a one-bar facemask.
Welcome back to The Campus Game … where everyday is Saturday and youth will be served (at least until a freshman fumbles or throws a pick at crunch time).
Two rookie quarterbacks stole the spotlight, and victories, from older, more established counterparts Saturday.
Tate Forcier gained Big Ten Player of the Week honors (and some national hardware too) for leading the 2-0 Michigan Wolverines past Jimmy Clausen and Notre Dame.
Trailing 34-31, Forcier led Michigan on a game-winning drive capped off by a 5-yard touchdown pass to Greg Mathews with eleven seconds on the clock. Forcier went 23-33 with 240 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 interception. He also scrambled through and around the Irish defense for another 70 yards and a touchdown.
The late touchdown overshadowed another fine game for Clausen, who finished 25-42 for 336 and 3 TDs. The ND signal-caller now has 651 yards passing with 7 touchdowns and no interceptions in two games, but his team is only 1-1 with pressure sure to mount on head coach Charlie Weis.
No such pressure exists for USC’s Pete Carroll.
The top Trojan unveiled his own freshman phenom, Matt Barkley, and the result was a hard-fought win at Ohio State. Barkley only passed for 195 yards on 14 of 31 (with no TDs and 1 INT), but showed plenty of grit by leading SC 95 yards for the winning touchdown with 1:05 left (officially an 86 yard drive, but a penalty moved the Trojans back to their own five). Barkley also made big plays under pressure, which Buckeye QB Terrell Pryor could not do. The victory was the 10th straight for USC over Big Ten opponents.
Around the Nation Week 3
South … The best games of the week are down in Dixie. Channel your inner Chris Farley for just a minute. Remember when Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin (upon his hiring at UT) bragged of singing Rocky Top all night long after the Vols “beat Florida next year?” Remember when Kiffin (wrongly) accused Gator coach Urban Meyer of cheating after the Vols stole a recruit from the Sunshine State? Remember how a mediocre UCLA team whipped Tennessee in Knoxville last week when Kiffin didn’t know what to call with his team on the goal line? I bet Urban Meyer does.
Elsewhere in the SEC, Georgia visits Arkansas where the Hogs had a week off to get ready. West Virginia travels to the Plains to face surprisingly impressive Auburn.
In the ACC, Georgia Tech travels to Miami for a game against a suddenly dangerous Hurricane team. The winner holds inside track to the Coastal title. Nebraska visits Blacksburg to play Virginia Tech.
Southwest … Texas Tech and Texas provided the most memorable regular season game of 2008 when a last second Graham Harrell to Michael Crabtree touchdown helped the Red Raiders hook the Horns in Lubbock and denied Texas a shot at a national title. This year the game is in Austin, and while Harrell and Crabtree may be there, they will not be suited up. Payback time in Texas?
West … USC plays at Washington. Pete Carroll takes on three of his former aides, including head Husky Steve Sarkisian. Might be fun because the Trojans have a habit of blowing a PAC-10 game most years.
Florida State, after narrowly escaping what would have been a disastrous loss to Jacksonville State, visits BYU where the Cougars continue their quest for a BCS bid. Cincinnati at Oregon State is worth watching too.
Midwest … A lackluster slate of games in Big Ten country with Ohio State at Toledo and highly rated Cal at Minnesota the top games.
East … Ivy League members open the 2009 season this week; if you are a football history buff that might be of interest. Otherwise, Navy at Pitt is the only game worth the web space.
Tuesday’s Top Ten Lists
Campus Game Tuesday’s Top Ten Rankings (Week 3)
10. Cincinnati: Brian Kelly does as good a job as anybody right now in my opinion.
9. LSU: Waiting for Bengal Tigers to play complete game. May not matter against LA-Lafayette.
8. Cal: Can boys from NoCal win in the Twin Cities?
7. Ole Miss: Rebs recovered from flu and face SE Louisiana.
6. Georgia Tech: Jackets almost wrecked against Clemson, can they sting Miami?
5. Penn State: Joe Pa and Lions face not-so-tough Temple.
4. Alabama: Tide sloshed around for a half last week now get another scrimmage against North Texas.
3. USC: Trojans move up a slot in TCG rankings and travel to Seattle.
2. Texas: Do Longhorns have long memories? Probably.
1. Florida: Gators have been waiting for Tennessee.
Campus Game Tuesday’s Top Ten Games (Week 3)
10. East Carolina at North Carolina: A tough tilt in the Tar Heel State.
9. Georgia at Arkansas: Are Petrino’s Pigs ready for SEC prime time?
8. USC at Washington: Can Sarkisian slip past his old Trojan mentor?
7. Cincinnati at Oregon State: Are Bearcats for real? A trip to Corvallis may tell us.
6. Utah at Oregon: Another test for potential BCS Busting Utes.
5. Texas Tech at Texas: Not likely to live up to last year’s classic, but what does?
4. Michigan State at Notre Dame: Both teams try to rebound from difficult losses. Should ND lose, the Charlie Weis watch begins in earnest.
3. Nebraska at Virginia Tech: Two proud, hard-nosed programs clash.
2. Georgia Tech at Miami (Thursday): ACC Coastal crown gets early season leader.
1. Tennessee at Florida: The drama surrounding Lane Kiffin and Urban Meyer, including Meyer’s well-known penchant for payback, make this a must see game.
Remember to visit back for Professor’s Picks and Around the SEC later in the week.
See you at kickoff!