Commentary

Get on the bus and get ready for Week 2

Originally Published: September 7, 2010
By Pat Forde | ESPN.com

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (shotgun snapping lessons sold separately at Florida [1]):

Get on the Boise bus

The Dash picked Boise State (2) No. 1 all the way back in January and kept the Broncos there heading into this season. The reaction from a nation that ostensibly loves the underdog?

Upper-crust backlash.

[+] EnlargeBoise State
AP Photo/Evan VucciThe Dash thinks it's time for more people to jump on the Boise bus.

Snobs snarled. Change is clearly uncomfortable for the Old Boy Network, and for fans who don't want to even consider interlopers from outside their precious power conferences.

No way Boise could handle being in a big-boy league, they declared. No way they'd even finish in the top half of the SEC or Big 12 or Big Ten, they sniffed. And no way they can beat Virginia Tech (3), they insisted.

Now?

Now it's time for The Establishment to acknowledge the Broncos, after their steely rally for the winning score in a thrilling 33-30 victory over the Hokies on Monday night. Time for The Establishment to realize that Chris Petersen (4) is one of the five best coaches in America -- and spell the last name right, please. Time for The Establishment to slow down the puzzling fixation with cannon-armed Jake Locker (5) -- last seen leading Washington to 17 points in a loss at BYU -- and embrace the coolness, brains and accuracy of the physically unimpressive Kellen Moore (6) -- last seen playing Joe Montana in the two-minute drill on the road against a top-10 opponent.

Boise will remain No. 1 in The Dash's Top 25 until there is compelling reason to make a change. Moore will remain No. 1 on The Dash's Heisman ballot. And Boise is poised to remain in the national title mix all year long, snobs.

Deal with it. Get on the Boise bus.

Or, if boarding the bus is just too difficult for an Establishmentarian to do, get your snob school to schedule the Broncos home-and-home. Any takers?

Second impressions

Thrilling as it was to have Youngstown State, Tennessee-Martin, Florida A&M, Samford, Eastern Illinois and many other overmatched programs cluttering up the first weekend of games, it's time now to move on. If the hors d'oeuvres were Spam, the main course is sirloin. And it's being served Saturday.

Week 2 of the college football season offers a dandy dozen games to watch -- five A-listers and seven on the B-list. All could affect either the national championship chase or a significant conference race.

Time for a Dash breakdown:

A List

[+] EnlargeBrutus
AP Photo/Terry GilliamBrutus and the Buckeyes will make it tough on the Canes in the Shoe.

Miami at Ohio State (7).

The hype: Both historically powerful programs flexed on Thursday in tune-up openers and enter the game ranked in the top 15.

The history: With the aid of a late and lousy penalty flag (8), the Buckeyes terminated the third phase of the Miami dynasty by shocking the Hurricanes in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl and winning the national championship. Miami hasn't been the same since, while Ohio State has been consistently very good.

The heckling: Miami fans can laugh at all the adults wearing Buckeyes jerseys in the Horseshoe. Ohio State fans can laugh at the fact that Miami has no fans.

The hard part: The Hurricanes have to prove they can leave the state of Florida without returning in a body bag. They're 1-5 in their past five games outside the Sunshine State -- and the victory was by a single point at Wake Forest last year.

The handwriting on the wall: Ohio State 21, Miami 14.

Penn State at Alabama (9).

The hype: Two programs with top-20 rankings and more than 1,600 combined victories are coming off authoritative opening wins.

The history: Alabama's goal-line stand against Penn State in the 1979 Sugar Bowl remains one of the legendary defensive moments in college football history. And no, they haven't forgotten it in Happy Valley, either; one fan e-mailed The Dash last week to say Nittany Lions fullback Matt Suhey scored on third down but the officials marked the ball wrong. After 31 years it's time to move on, sir. (Side note: No wonder we ranked that game No. 2 in the most painful outcomes of all-time last month.)

The heckling: Alabama fans can point out that fossilized Penn State coach Joe Paterno is still on the sideline some 27 years after fellow icon Bear Bryant died. Penn State fans can respond that Bama still behaves as if Bear is alive today.

The hard part: Penn State's defense didn't force a turnover against Youngstown State last week and allowed freshman Penguins quarterback Kurt Hess to complete 84 percent of his passes. Repeat: That was against Youngstown State. What's going to happen when that defense gets a look at Bama QB Greg McElroy (10) and his two NFL wide receivers?

The handwriting on the wall: Alabama 30, Penn State 14.

[+] EnlargeBrian Kelly
AP Photo/Darron CummingsBrian Kelly's teams have won 13 straight home games.

Michigan at Notre Dame (11).

The hype: The two winningest programs in college football history (by percentage) stopped last year's negative momentum by posting impressive opening victories against respectable opponents.

The history: The two schools have played regularly since 1978, when it was Bo Schembechler versus Dan Devine. Series record in that time: Notre Dame 13, Michigan 12, with one tie. Sixteen of those 26 games have been decided by eight points or less.

The heckling: Notre Dame fans can ask how Michigan's adherence to the 20-hour rule is going. Michigan fans can ask how Notre Dame's 22-year title drought is going.

The hard part: Rich Rodriguez (12) is 1-8 on the road as coach of the Wolverines, while Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly (13) has won 13 straight home games dating back to his tenure at Cincinnati. Though it must be pointed out that Kelly's last home loss was at the hands of a RichRod-coached West Virginia team in 2007.

The handwriting on the wall: Notre Dame 31, Michigan 28.

Florida State at Oklahoma (14).

The hype: Seminoles believe they're back under new coach Jimbo Fisher (15), whose team was dominant against Samford on Saturday. Sooners know they've never left in 12 years under Bob Stoops, despite a narrow opening escape against Utah State.

The history: Last time they met, the Sooners won 13-2 to win their last national title 10 years ago. Florida State's only win in the five-game series came in 1965.

The heckling: Florida State fans can ask how it feels to be owned by rival Texas. Oklahoma fans can ask how it feels to be owned by rival Florida.

The hard part: Can the Seminoles handle Sooners running back DeMarco Murray (16)? He ran for 218 yards last week, and Florida State's run defense was horrid last year against ranked opponents. It surrendered 6 yards per carry against West Virginia, 8 against Florida, 7 against Georgia Tech and 5.7 against BYU.

The handwriting on the wall: Oklahoma 37, Florida State 31.

[+] EnlargeKenjon Barner
Icon SMIKenjon Barner ran for four TDs in Oregon's opener.

Oregon at Tennessee (17). The hype: The Ducks napalmed New Mexico in the opener, winning 72-0 and leading 59-0 at halftime and not exactly missing Jeremiah Masoli and LaMichael James. The Volunteers are supposed to tank this year, but opened strong at home in the debut of coach Derek Dooley (18).

The history: None. Fresh canvas.

The heckling: Tennessee to Oregon: "Sorry about your former star quarterback's criminal behavior." Oregon to Tennessee: "Sorry about being dumped by Lane Friggin' Kiffin."

The hard part: Traveling across multiple time zones proved treacherous for a number of teams in the first week, something The Dash will address further down in this column. The trip might be a tougher opponent for Oregon than the thin, young Volunteers are.

The handwriting on the wall: Oregon 31, Tennessee 24.

And the B List

Georgia at South Carolina (19). The Gamecocks are just 1-7 in their past eight meetings with the Bulldogs, but most of the losses have been by the width of a chicken's lips -- five of them by a touchdown or less. Both teams looked good in their openers -- and if Florida persists in playing the way it did in its opener, the winner of this game will have a chance to win the SEC East.

Dash pick: Georgia 25, South Carolina 21.

South Florida at Florida (20). Beating Stony Brook proves absolutely nothing, but South Florida did at least produce some explosive plays from a skill-position group that looked low on playmakers coming into the year. The Bulls had a 63-yard run and receptions of 47 and 59 yards. And it will be a better-coached team with Skip Holtz. Is all that enough to beat the Gators? Not likely, but worth watching just in case.

Dash pick: Florida 27, South Florida 17.

Auburn at Mississippi State (21). The Bulldogs beat down Memphis -- an alleged FBS team -- by 42 points Saturday. It was Mississippi State's biggest margin of victory in 12 years, dating back to the 1998 SEC West championship team coached by the charming Jackie Sherrill. That elevates the stature of this Thursday night game that hopefully will not be a replay of the last game between the two in Starkville: a 3-2 Auburn win in 2008.

Dash pick: Mississippi State 29, Auburn 28.

BYU at Air Force (22). The top half of the Mountain West is pretty salty. The bottom half is horrible. But these two teams are in the top half, which means this game could have some bearing on the conference title race. The Falcons haven't beaten the Cougars since 2003, and haven't come closer than two touchdowns in any of their six straight losses. But they could catch BYU a little flat after the victory over Washington.

Dash pick: BYU 31, Air Force 21.

[+] EnlargeSofia Vergara
Michael Buckner/Getty ImagesThe Week 2 schedule has Dashette Sofia Vergara smiling.

Colorado at California (23). The two teams gave up a combined six points in winning their openers. A Buffaloes victory here would dramatically improve Dan Hawkins' chances of survival. A Bears victory would position them for a 3-0 start heading into a big Pac-10 opener at Arizona -- if they can beat Nevada next week. Nevada, as you know, plays in that inexcusable abomination of a football league known as the Western Athletic Conference. (Same as Boise State. Get on the bus.)

Dash pick: California 28, Colorado 19.

Stanford at UCLA (24). The Bruins took some luster off this game by losing at Kansas State on Saturday, where they gave up 234 yards to superb running back Daniel Thomas. At least they don't have Toby Gerhart to deal with this week -- but they do have Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who threw for 316 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in the Cardinal's opener.

Dash pick: Stanford 35, UCLA 21.

UTEP at Houston (25). Don't scoff. There will be points (99 of them last year between these two, and 79 the year before). And there could be a C-USA West champion coming out of this, as well. Hey, it beats Mississippi at Tulane.

Dash pick: Houston 49, UTEP 31.

The Dash does have one other important pick for the week. The Dashette: Sofia Vergara (26). Get her to your tailgate and you absolutely will have outkicked your coverage.

Long distance, large problems

Hawaii (27) makes the longest trip of 2010 -- and one of the longest in college football history -- when it travels 5,000 miles to visit Army (28). If last week was any indication, that's advantage Cadets.

One lesson that emerged from Week 1: If you play more than one time zone away from home, expect trouble.

There were 12 such games in the first weekend of play, and seven of the visitors played beneath expectations. Those jolted by jet lag:

[+] EnlargeDave Wannstedt
Paul Jasienski/US PresswireA long Week 1 trip didn't turn out well for Dave Wannstedt and the Panthers.

Pittsburgh (29). The Big East favorite lost by three at Utah in overtime, but the Panthers were fortunate to get that far after being outplayed all night.

USC (30). The Trojans were favored by three touchdowns over Hawaii but won by 13 and surrendered 588 yards of offense to a team expected to finish mid-pack in the unspeakably weak WAC. (Same conference as Boise. Get on the bus.)

UCLA (31). The Bruins were slight favorites at Kansas State but led only briefly and lost by nine.

Washington State (32). The Dash is noticing a Pac-10 trend here -- another reason for the Ducks to be nervous about that sojourn to Knoxville. But at least Oregon isn't The Dash's pick (again) for worst program in a big-six league. That's the Cougars, who were steamrolled 65-17 by an Oklahoma State team many believe will finish last in the Big 12 South. (Coach Paul Wulff is now 3-23 in Pullman, with blowouts a regular occurrence.)

San Jose State (33). The Spartans were massive underdogs to Alabama, but it was even worse than expected. They lost by 45 points, perhaps owing to their membership in the irredeemable WAC. (Same as Boise. Get on the bus.)

Nicholls State (34). Nobody knows anything about Nicholls, up to and including what its nickname is or where it's located. But that doesn't mean it should lose by 47 to San Diego State. Nobody loses by 47 to the Aztecs. The proof: It was SDSU's biggest margin of victory since 1996.

Cincinnati (35). The Bearcats stayed up past their bedtime in Fresno. They jumped to a 14-0 lead in a game that kicked off at 10 p.m. ET, then got sleepy and lost 28-14. That loss was doubly harmful when you consider Fresno's membership in the revolting WAC. (Same as Boise. Get on the bus.)

The five teams that met or exceeded expectations in long-travel games: Arizona (at Toledo); Weber State (at Boston College); Oregon State (at TCU); Wisconsin (at UNLV); and, um, Boise State. (Get on the bus.)

One play can make all the difference

Consider the divergent fates of two tight ends from the state of North Carolina this weekend.

One is Zack Pianalto (36), a trusted senior tight end for the North Carolina Tar Heels. He made a career-high eight catches for the scandal-depleted Heels, helping lead them to the brink of a stunning comeback upset of LSU in Atlanta. But when quarterback T.J. Yates tried to connect with Pianalto in the end zone on the final two plays of the game, he couldn't come up with either catch.

Contrast him with Justin Jones (37), a redshirt freshman at East Carolina. Jones had a pedestrian three catches for 22 yards in his first college game until four seconds remained. That's when the Pirates sent the 6-foot-8 Jones into the end zone as the target for quarterback Dominique Davis' Hail Mary bomb. Jones came down with the ball for a victory on the final play over Tulsa.

One prayer answered on the final play. One denied. Sometimes it's not how many passes you catch, but when you catch them.

Literary corner

The Dash continues its roll-out of football books you must read or your life is a hollow charade. This week: "From Bags To Riches: How a Struggling Franchise and Storm-Battered City Became Champions." It's about the New Orleans Saints' Super Bowl run and it's written by Dash friend Jeff Duncan (38).

The Dash got an advance copy and loved it. Duncan, who covers the team for the New Orleans Times-Picayune and also reported extensively on Hurricane Katrina in 2005, skillfully weaves together compelling football and civic storylines to produce a great read.

Putting out an APB for ...

... Former Florida State kicker Scott Bentley (39). He was recruited to become Bobby Bowden's savior after years of place-kicking agony -- and although he failed to become a great kicker, he did nail the winning field goal against Nebraska in the Orange Bowl to give Bowden his first national championship, in 1993. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Bentley, please apprise The Dash.

Meanwhile, The Dash is pleased to report that last week's APB subject, former Notre Dame tight end/Alabama killer Robin Weber, is alive and well and living in Texas, where he is president of Weber Commercial Real Estate Services. Weber did not return an e-mail from The Dash soliciting more information on his life after hanging up his gold helmet.

Point after

When hungry in the fabulous restaurant town of Austin, Texas, The Dash recommends a visit to El Arroyo (40) for righteous Tex-Mex. And by all means, start your meal with a Shrimp Diablo appetizer -- shrimp and a jalapeno pepper wrapped in man's best friend, bacon.

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Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.