Sport Imitates Life

September 8, 2009 1:54 AM

College Football State of the Union

So what did we learn from the first week of college football action in 2009?

BYU proved that Hawaiians and 26-year old white men can still comprise a quality college athletic program, and Boise State now has company at the front of the line to crash the B(C)S party. Casual observers will cite the injury to Oklahoma's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Sam Bradford as the reason for BYU's 14-13 upset Saturday, but the Mormons were already giving the defending national runner-up plenty of trouble before Bradford went down in the second quarter. BYU turnovers were all that kept the Sooners in the game in the first half, with a fumbled punt inside the Cougar 10 setting up Oklahoma's first TD and a fumble inside the Sooner 10 sabotaging a certain BYU scoring drive.

The Sooners are clearly not the team they were a year ago, especially on offense, and they're likely to have another nightmare when they return to Dallas Oct. 19 for the Red River Shootout wtih Texas. First things first for OU, though: With or without Bradford, OU has two more troubling non-conference matchups (Sept. 19 vs. Tulsa and Oct. 3 at Miami).

Speaking of Miami, we learned on Labor Day night the Hurricanes are on their way back to college football's center stage. The Canes survived yet another classic clash with Florida State Monday evening in Tallahassee, escaping on the final play of the game when Seminole receiver Jarmon Fortson dropped a sinking Christian Ponder pass in the end zone. It wasn't Wide Right V or Wide Left II, but Miami's upset was as big a win as the program has had in the last half-decade. Facing the nation's toughest four-game stretch to open the season (Georia Tech, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma still to come, in that order), the Canes needed this victory more than Florida State did. Miami also wanted it more. The Seminoles could've managed the clock better in the final minute of the game, and Fortson could've made the game-winning catch as time expired, but the Hurricanes could not have played any better.

This was the best rivalry in college football -- and one of the best rivalries in all of sports -- from 1985 to 2003, and it may soon resume that premier status. As for this season, FSU will be fine, and the U will be back. Whether you love either of these teams or hate them both, college football is a better place when Miami and Florida State are heavyweight contenders, and god knows the ACC needs its two top dogs guarding the house.

Out on the other coast, rookie head coach Steve Sarkasian and the Washington Huskies played LSU every bit as tough as BYU played Oklahoma, but Washington paid a steeper price for its turnovers. An interception inside the red zone and another fumble inside the Tiger 10 undermined a pair of Husky scoring drives, but Washington came that close to stunning the Bayou Bengals in a 31-23 loss.

The Pac-10 needs Washington back at full strength, because the rest of the league has been stuck in second place behind USC for almost 10 years. Sarkasian was USC's offensive coordinator before taking the head job in Seattle, and not only could his Huskies be getting in USC's way again very soon, one of the Pac-10's proudest programs might be ready to Bark for Sark on the national scene sooner rather than later. First things first for U-Dubb, though: The Huskies need to break their 15-game losing streak.

The Pac-10 also needs some positive publicity after Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount promised an ass-whipping for Boise State Thursday, then rushed for -5 yards and a safety on eight carries, and finally punched a Bronco defender in the face before attempting to charge the BSU student section after the game. Blount learned the hard way that bullshit will not be tolerated in the NCAA (unless it makes money for more people than it embarrasses), and the punishment (suspension for the rest of his senior season and thus the end of his college career) actually fit the crime this time.

There were some conferences that took a couple right-crosses to chin this weekend as well, with week 1 further exposing the ACC and Big 10 for the junior varsity conferences they are. The Atlantic Coast's opening statement speaks for itself: Virgina and Duke lost to I-AA Richmond and William & Mary, respectively, while Virginia Tech's 34-24 loss to Alabama was worse than the final score. Wake Forest lost at home to Big 12 doormat Baylor, Maryland was buried alive at California, and North Carolina State scored three points in a home loss to South Carolina. If the ACC gets and automatic BCS bid, can someone please explain to me why the Mountain West(BYU, Utah, TCU) and WAC (Boise State, Fresno State) do not? Tune in next week when Virginia tries playing William and Mary one at a time and Duke tries to bounce back against the Appalachian Pop Warner All-Stars.

Meanwile, half of the Big 10 is stuck in 1955 while the other half stopped in 1985. Iowa had to block not one, but two field goals in the closing seconds to survive I-AA Northern Iowa, while Minnesota needed a gift of an overtime interception from a Duke point guard to beat Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. And let's not forget perennially overrated Ohio State coming within a two-point conversion of overtime with Navy in their home opener. Look for THE Ohio State University to suffer another demoralizing loss in a big game this Saturday when USC comes to Columbus in prime time.

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