Each week in college football brings something unexpected. That’s part of the beauty of the game. Sure, there will always be plenty of lopsided blowouts as Behemoth State takes on the Little Sisters of the Poor (no offense, real Little Sisters of the Poor…I’m not pulling a Gordon Gee here). But interspersed among those easy wins are the games that we fans simply can’t live without.
Week 1 of the 2011 season began with a bang, offering us several top-tier matchups right away. There’s no point in waiting for elite football.
In Arlington, Texas, the Cowboys Classic kicked off with LSU mauling Oregon to the tune of 40-27. In Atlanta, Georgia, Boise State resumed its role as BCS-slayer but thumping Georgia 35-21.
But there was more on the menu than this pair of football feasts. It’s time to get to the weekly awards.
Best Win of The Week: LSU 40, Oregon 27
The Tigers had a lot of questions to answer prior to this matchup. Would the loss of QB Jordan Jefferson ruin their chances of beating a high-octane offense like Oregon’s? Would the Tiger defense be as good as advertised? Would all of the off-the-field distractions come back to haunt Les Miles and company?
These and any other lingering doubts were emphatically put to rest by an outstanding performance.
Okay, so perhaps outstanding a bit strong. After all, the LSU offense mustered a total of only 273 yards and failed to crack the 100-yard mark through the air. Not exactly an impressive night. And yes, the defense did allow 335 yards by the Ducks, including 240 through the air. Moving forward, those number will need to improve; the SEC West will demand excellence.
Nevertheless, LSU made a strong statement by playing mostly mistake-free football while capitalizing on Oregon’s gaffes. The Ducks turned the ball over a total of four times, including three costly fumbles. LSU took full advantage of the gifts, stretching a 16-13 halftime lead to 30-13 by the end of the third quarter.
With that comfortable edge, the LSU took to the ground. Tailbacks Spencer Ware (99 yards) and Michael Ford (96 yards) brutalized the Oregon defense and helped keep the game out of reach. Quarterback Jarrett Lee was typically lousy, but avoided bad mistakes down the stretch. And the defense corralled the talented LaMichael James for most of the night.
All in all, it could hardly have gone better for the short-handed Tigers. And now the team has a heck of a non-conference win in its pocket as the race toward the BCS begins.
Honorable Mention: Baylor 50, TCU 48 in Waco
Worst Win of the Week: Auburn 42, Utah State 38
Put this game in perspective. While it’s true that Auburn lost a lot of talent after last year’s fabulously lucky title run, this is still a program coming off of a 14-win season. Those are more wins than Utah State has earned in the last four seasons combined. In fact, the Aggies have won a grand total of 27 games since the beginning of 2002.
In other words, this isn’t a power program. No disrespect to USU, but on paper this week 1 tilt looked like a typical tune-up.
In reality, it was anything but.
By all rights, Auburn should have lost this game. The Tigers came in looking sleepy and unprepared while the Aggies were more than ready for whatever Gene Chizik could throw at them. Utah State led for most of the game; 14-7 after one, 21-14 at the half, and 24-21 midway through three. It wasn’t until late in the third quarter that Auburn took over, and even then the Tigers needed to mount a comeback after USU retook the lead, 31-28.
Down ten 38-28 with under four minutes remaining, Auburn proved that 2010′s lucky streak is still alive and kicking as it engineered a pair of touchdown drives to eke out the four-point win.
The Tigers were outgained 448 yards to 364. They were out-rushed 227-78. Utah State possessed the ball for more than 37 minutes. Celebrated sophomore tailback Michael Dyer was limited to 57 yards on 14 carries. In all, it was a sad state of affairs on the Plains. If Auburn plays like this against its SEC rivals, the result will be a bloodbath.
And to all the fans who toilet papered Toomers Corner, get a grip. You should be ashamed of yourselves; this win was nothing to celebrate.
Honorable Mention: USC 19, Minnesota 17 in Pasadena
Upset of the Week: Sacramento State 29, Oregon State 28
So Jacquizz Rodgers is off to the NFL. Is that really an excuse to allow and FCS opponent to march into Corvallis and emerge victorious? The Sacramento State Hornets became the latest 1-AA school to knock off a major FBS program, taking the Beavers to overtime and ultimately coming away with the huge 1-point win.
Unlike Utah State, SSU didn’t allow the upset to escape, building a 21-6 halftime lead and hanging on as the Oregon State stormed back to tie at the end of regulation. The Beavers needed 15 fourth-quarter points to extend the contest, but failed to complete the comeback.
How did the Hornets manage it? A gutsy 2-point conversion in the first overtime.
It’s worth noting that Oregon State was missing James Rodgers (knee) and several other key players, but the remaining talent differential should have been more than enough to handle the Hornets. Instead, starting QB Ryan Katz looked lost, completing only 11 of his 22 first half passes for a mere 87 yards. he was also picked off.
Oregon State switched quarterbacks at the half, finding more success with redshirt freshman Sean Mannion. Mannion finished 8 of 12 for 143 yards. Even so, the Beavers were out-passed 296 yards to 230 by Sac State’s Jeff Fleming and Morris Norrise. Not even 266 rushing yards and 3 scores on the ground could save OSU.
Congratulations to the Hornets on securing what will undoubtedly be the victory of the year in Sacramento.
Honorable Mention: South Florida 23, Notre Dame 20 in South Bend