HIGHS AND LOWS from September 3rd weekend
By Dave Hershorin
NationalChamps.net Managing Editor

September 7, 2005

What a week…and I am not even talking about the great college football we all saw. Being from New Orleans, the situations of friends and family have superceded any efforts to cover football, but there were some things we will talk about in the latter sections. But I just want to thank all of the well wishers and concerned NationalChamps.net patrons who have reached out with care about what may be happening still within the Gulf Coast region and its citizens. Most all of our family and friends have been accounted for and are safe. As you read this, though, there are still people suffering, people that are still stranded in the Crescent City and are being forsaken within the national media campaigns. I am here to tell you - it is appalling to think that dollar amounts of damage and political platforms are more important than trapped survivors, but here we are with thousands still trapped (needing rescue, not those who have fared well and still remain, which at this point is most left), and news that only reflects what is most-watchable is more important than what is most vital.

Please, place any efforts into pressuring your politicians into making the trapped survivors the main focus, and don’t allow them to gush over monetary ends that are still many months away from being realized. Money and troops do not save people unless properly deployed, which still hasn’t happened. People making the trek down there with scant supplies are having more impact than federal relief agencies, which just goes to prove an old adage: it is always individuals who care that have the most impact in the world, not huge corporations or government branches. Though a beautiful energy is reflected, it should worry us all when a family in Peoria can watch the news, see the devastation and lack of response, and then they themselves buy food/water and go 1000 miles into the relief area a week later only to be the first help some have seen. If you want to see the real deal - what is being said/done there in Louisiana – tune into http://www.wwltv.com/perl/common/video/yahooPlayer.pl. This will provide award-winning coverage with caring New Orleanians telling you what is happening from the local people running the show, not from out-of-towners in a helicopter.

With the little time I did have to view the pigskin proceedings, a few important developments seem to stand out and need comment…

Let’s start at the top with Southern Cal. Anyone thinking that a new offensive sheriff might make the happenings in Los Angeles change was premature. The Trojan engine ran well with their same ‘old’ dimensions, but Pete Carroll had a new mechanic in charge. Coordinator Lane Kiffen stepped in to power Leinart, Bush & Co. into another gear they weren’t sure existed without ex-coordinator Norm Chow. Balance, teamwork and effectiveness are still the best words to describe how USC can still rule you when they have the ball. With work to still do in the secondary, Oregon, Arizona State and Notre Dame had best take advantage of any weakness while there still are any. When will Bushes’ overall multi-dimensional impact finally be seen as the best in all of college ball?

From sure things to surprises, we jump to the home debacle there in Norman. Imagining that TCU could/would/should beat Oklahoma at home was absurd, at best, and ill-conceived to even say if anywhere near Big XII territory. But the conference’s top dog was beat by a sound defense and a better passing game, two dimensions that seemed vacant in last year’s disappointing Horned Frog efforts. Before this fall, it didn’t take a genius to know that Adrian Peterson was going to have a different ‘go of it’ since his Heisman-winning QB was gone. Able to focus on the sophomore phenom, the Horned Frogs’ DL held the entire Sooner running effort under 100 yards (and Peterson to a mere 63). Evidence points to more OU struggles before any genuine offensive command is seen, so watch how the QBs progress to keep a gauge on how far the entire team can rise. Kudos go to TCU for winning against a top 10 team for the first time in over 40 years, and we hope they can challenge for their new conference’s title (Mountain West).

In the Big XII, Mizzu seems to be off to a good start in QB Brad Smith’s final campaign. But they also started last season with a big win over Arkansas State, only to then falter once the conference buzz saw began. Smith’s talents are well-lent to the Tiger’s new spread option offense, and hopefully coach Pinkel can save his job by making Smith into the talent his potential has always promised.

Wisconsin seems to have been overlooked in many preseason polls. NationalChamps.net put them at #37, but the running groove they got into with Colorado-transfer Brian Calhoun should make all Big Ten foes wiggle in their collective seats. First-week foe Bowling Green came out and socked the Badgers right in the mouth 20-7. But character and focus have always been part of the Alvarez era, so his team’s response wasn’t a surprise to many. Calhoun’s record-setting debut is only out-shone by the Badger defense and its efforts in stopping Omar Jacobs. Wisconsin’s defensive coaches made the necessary changes that ultimately capacitated the defense to cause three-straight three-and-out possessions after initially allowing three straight opening TDs, therefore allowing the offense to reel off 35 second quarter points and knot the score by the half. Now, if Falcon senior WR Charles Sharon makes those two catches he dropped late in the fourth and the defense can make its tackles once it had a hand on Wisconsin’s runners… The bottom line - underestimating the Badgers this season would be a serious mistake.

In the early season game of smaller, non-BCS-aligned schools aiming at recognition via beating a major, BCS-aligned squad, we turn to the much-anticipated matchup of Boise State and Georgia. Recognition came, but only through the Bulldog’s total dismantling of the Broncos. Not even their blue home turf could have stopped Georgia’s eager senior starting QB. D.J. Shockley’s six TD effort(s) (five passes and one run) and the Bulldog’s secondary kept Boise State’s offense imbalanced and struggling, making it a much easier tilt than the fan-base in Athens thought they would see. With the promise of Florida’s developments and a nasty Tennessee team on the horizon, the SEC East is looking like the juggernaut that will ultimately provide the conference champ.

Clemson and Georgia Tech have helped to make the ACC look like the powerful conference its member hoped it could be when they went after those three recent Big East defectors. Boston College’s upending of BYU also adds to the surge, making the ACC’s seven total squads in the AP Top 25 the most of any conference.

For someone like me who lived in Pittsburgh, it is just too painful to think of the implications that disseminate from the Panther’s 42-21 home loss to the Irish. Give it to Charlie Weis over Dave Wannstedt, for given basically the same talent levels from the prior year, Weis aligned his assets into a tough-and-ready group that looked to be in mid-season form. Wannstedt, Cavanaugh & Co. have their work cut out after an almost identical performance from the Walt Harris days – poor line play and play-calling that kept the Panthers from ever genuinely challenging Notre Dame’s rule. The Irish become a top 25 team while Pitt struggles with an uncertain identity still lingering from its lopsided “no show” Fiesta Bowl loss to Utah. How long of a leash will Tony Dorsett give to this new coaching crew?

Louisville’s Elvis Dumervil gave us one of the greatest one-game defensive performances of all time in the Redbird’s 31-24 win over Kentucky. Overlooked in his 12 tackle, six-sack effort is Dumervil’s two forced fumbles and his recovery of one. Walter Camp named him the national Defensive Player of the Week, appropriately so for the main reason Louisville was able to stop it’s main in-state rival.

Now, to wrap up with the dirty, unattractive quality of the usually-sharp FSU-Miami game. With each sporting a new starter, both sides struggled with offensive production while the defenses made the field position battle(s) Monday night’s focus. The Noles won in the way they usually lose, with luck, so discount the teams’ performances and chalk up their ugliest game ever to youth and nerves. The Noles won in spite of the Bowden braintrust, not due to it. How long do you stay with a QB who is ostensibly rattled and has been given multiple shots at overcoming his mistakes? Bobby stayed with freshman starter Drew Weatherford even though he went 7-of-24 (with one INT) and made many passes directly toward Hurricane DBs. By the time dual-threat Xavier Lee was tapped, it was the fourth quarter and too late to see what his prowess could have done. Lee looked sharp, though, he struggled, too. He looked sharp enough to make all wonder how badly they could have beat Miami if he was given more time. Miami should have won the game, but how often have we heard those words pertain to FSU instead? Though the Noles now rank higher, just see if this prediction ultimately comes true – Miami finishes higher in the final AP poll than our Noles. Regardless, it looks like neither of these teams will be anywhere near a national championship run, making it now three years that this game hasn’t produced one of the two teams playing for the BCS crown. Prior to this span, either Miami or Florida State was in the title hunt for four straight years. Talent levels are high on both teams, so it is just a matter of time before we see which makes it back into the title chase first.