Sports

College Football Analysis: Best and Worst of Week 2

| by Sports Nickel

Though week 2 lacked marquee Top 10 matchups, it offered plenty of drama.  Traditional power programs like Ohio State, Virginia Tech, and Texas got all they wanted from lesser foes before escaping with narrow victories.  South Carolina established itself as an early favorite in the SEC East by knocking off Georgia in a shootout while Auburn dealt a blow to Mississippi State’s slim hopes in the West.

In the first ever night game at the Big House, Michigan roared back on Notre Dame, icing the victory with a late score that sent the Irish tumbling to 0-2.  Arizona State stepped up in overtime to knock off Missouri, and TCU and Oregon bounced back from week 1 losses with convincing week 2 performances.

What was the best and worst of this past weekend?

Best Win of The Week: Florida International 24, Louisville 17

Granted, this was not a glamorous matchup.  In fact, it probably failed to even register in the minds of many fans.  But any time a team from the Sun Belt marches into a BCS conference program’s house and takes care of business, that’s news.  Moreover, what Mario Cristobal is doing with the Golden Panthers is worthy of attention.

FIU football was created in 2002 and joined the FBS (Division 1) in 2005.  The school rose to the FBS faster than any in history despite three losing seasons in 1-AA.  Joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2005, the team suffered through five more losing campaigns.  Until last season.

After several years of building his system, Cristobal finally saw results in 2010, finishing with a 7-6 record and going 6-2 in conference play.  The Panthers won the Sun Belt before knocking off Toledo in the Little Caesar’s Bowl.

Now in 2011, FIU is off to an excellent start, blasting Sun Belt rival North Texas 41-16 in week 1 and upsetting Louisville in week 2.

Louisville came into the game as the favorite, with its Big East BCS affiliation and a former Florida coordinator as its head coach.  Though the Cardinals can’t be counted among college football’s big boys, they certainly look good compared to the Sun Belt.  Or at least, they did.

FIU, or more accurately the combo of QB Wesley Carroll and receiver T.Y. Hilton, torched the Louisville defense through the air in the first half.  On just two plays, Hilton collected a pair of touchdowns and 157 of his 201 receiving yards.  The Panthers then held on as Louisville rallied in the second half, and though they were ultimately outgained 446-293, they made the most of their road opener.

This was arguably the biggest win in the program’s FBS history.

Honorable Mention: Alabama 27, Penn State 11 in Happy Valley

*****

Worst Win of the Week: Ohio State 27, Toledo 22

The Buckeyes are required to play other in-state public universities each season, regardless of the disparity in competition.  They are not, however, required to play so poorly.  This game was one or two plays away from being one of the biggest upsets in Ohio State history, and while the Bucks escaped with a win, it’s hardly one to be proud of.

The 22 points allowed were the most against an Ohio opponent since 1909.

The worst defensive performance against a state rival in more than a century would have been bad enough on its own, but the OSU offense was just as lousy.  A meager 27 points, seven of which came off of a kick return by Chris Fields.  Though the team looked solid enough beating Akron 42-0 in week 1, this pathetic win erased any optimism that might have been building during the early stages of Luke Fickell’s tenure.

Now the team must travel to Miami to face a solid squad on a big stage with precious little experience to draw on.  Perhaps the worst part of week 2 was watching freshman quarterback Braxton Miller sit on the bench for the entire game, despite Joe Bauserman’s inability to move the ball.  Fickell’s excuse?  A “gut decision“.  Has there ever been a weaker explanation?

If you missed the recap of this game, know that the Buckeyes needed to stop a fourth-quarter Toledo drive to preserve the five-point win.  And that that drive featured multiple conversions, including a fourth and 14.

Ohio State had better get itself in order quickly.

Honorable Mention: Pitt 35, Maine 29 in Pittsburgh

*****

Upset of the Week: Iowa State 44, Iowa 41 in Ames

Iowa State and Iowa have been playing one another since 1894.  In all that time, the Cyclones have never had an offensive explosion like they enjoyed last weekend.  ISU’s 44-point outburst represented the most the team had ever scored against the Hawkeyes, topping the previous high of 36 points in 2002.

It seems like Iowa and Kirk Ferentz always find a way to disappoint, but losing to Iowa State is disappointment on another level.  It’s one thing to stumble within Big Ten play, but losing to the weaker in-state rival is bitter indeed.

The Hawkeyes lost a number of talented players at the end of 2010, and this season wasn’t expected to be a banner year.  But allowing 473 yards to ISU wasn’t part of the plan under any circumstances.  The Cyclones posted 194 yards on the ground, winning in triple overtime despite spotting the Hawkeyes three lost fumbles.

This was an excellent victory for Paul Rhoads and company.

Honorable Mention: Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31 in Ann Arbor