Michigan's rapid improvement calls Pryor's college choice into question
Two years ago this winter, archrivals Ohio State and Michigan waged an offseason battle as intense as any of their annual late-November showdowns. Fans from both sides sweated the decision of a gifted high school quarterback who, if he chose the Wolverines, figured to give newly hired coach
Rodriguez wound up landing his dream quarterback all right -- but it wasn't
Later that night, Ohio State's Pryor slogged his way to an erratic 11-of-25, 177-yard performance in a heartbreaking last-second loss to USC. In just his second start, Forcier did what the Buckeyes' mega-recruit has yet to do through 12: deliver a breakthrough performance.
Granted, it's far too early to render any definitive judgments on Pryor (
Against the Irish, the 6-foot, 180-ish-pound Forcier looked like he'd been running Rodriguez's offense for years, often hitting receivers at the exact moment they broke open (
"He's kind of a unique individual," Rodriguez said of Forcier. "Everything around him may be going crazy, and yet he's still calm in the middle of the storm. Some guys have that quality and he's one of them."
Afterward, a disappointed Pryor unnecessarily took blame for the loss before adding: "We should have beat [the Trojans] by two or three touchdowns, easy."
Comments like those -- not to mention his
Youth, however, did not hinder Forcier from delivering one of the most clutch performances we've seen so far this season. Perhaps the Michigan quarterback is simply preternaturally developed.
Or, perhaps Pryor simply chose the wrong school.
On the surface, it seems like Tressel and his staff have properly adjusted their offense to fit Pryor's talents. They line him up in the shotgun. They call a fair share of options, quarterback draws and rollouts. In execution, however, it's still very much a work in progress. Mind you, that's not all on Pryor -- the offensive line and receivers weren't always in sync against USC, either.
But then look at Michigan and just how radically its offense has improved in such a short time. Seeing how smoothly the Wolverines operate under Forcier, and knowing what Rodriguez did with
Of course, all that's moot now. Both teams have their quarterbacks of the present and future. What's scary is that Michigan's offense is only beginning to scratch the surface. Imagine the possibilities should Rodriguez bring in an explosive tailback to complement Forcier or find more ways to utilize speedster
Ohio State still has a superior defense to the Wolverines'. The Buckeyes did still come within 1:05 of beating the No. 3 team in the country thanks almost entirely to a reloaded D led by budding star linebacker
But Rodriguez was hired to bring balance back to a rivalry that Tressel has thus far owned, winning seven of eight meetings. Two weeks ago, when Michigan was still an unknown commodity coming off a 3-9 debacle, the possibility remained unimaginable. But with Forcier on the fast track and Pryor seemingly stuck in neutral, the Wolverines' day may come sooner than anticipated.
Despite my past (and well-documented) skepticism regarding second-year West Virginia coach/uber-nice guy
So I put in a call Sunday to "Coach Stew," who, as always, sounded like there was nothing in the world he'd rather be doing at that moment than talking on the phone.
"This one Saturday was big [for Brown]," Stewart said of the fifth-year senior. "Our team saw it throughout spring camp and fall camp, and in the past, but he never had a chance to showcase it because of Patrick [White]. He threw two touchdowns Saturday where he had defenders right in his mouth."
The seeds for West Virginia's performance Saturday were planted a year ago. From Day 1, Stewart adamantly stated his goal to turn the previously run-heavy Mountaineers into a more balanced team. That wasn't the case most of last year as White and the offense struggled to adjust.
However, if you remember back to West Virginia's Meineke Car Care Bowl win over North Carolina, White threw for a career-high 322 yards. When I suggested to Stewart his offense's current incarnation actually began taking form late last season, a truly unusual thing happened: He complimented me.
"You are absolutely, positively accurate with that [observation]," said Stewart. "It's been a thing of beauty, but it's been a struggle. The receivers had to learn [new routes], we never really pass-blocked that much, we'd always been more of a zone team. We struggled a little bit, but now we're spreading the wealth."
Indeed, four different players -- receivers
"I'll tell you what," promised Stewart. "You will enjoy watching the West Virginia Mountaineers."
My reaction to the latest polls and standings:
Overrated: LSU (AP: No. 9; coaches: No. 7)
Two games in, the Tigers have provided little indication of their anticipated return to heavyweight status. Last week the defense raised suspicion after allowing 478 yards to Washington. This week the offense was highly unimpressive against Vanderbilt, which trailed just 16-9 midway through the fourth quarter. LSU may be 2-0, but it has yet to look like a top 10 team.
Underrated: Houston (AP: No. 21; coaches: unranked)
You would think going on the road and knocking off a top five team (Oklahoma State) would have earned a bigger bump for
Each week, I'll update my projected BCS lineup (as necessary) based on the latest week's games:
Cincinnati supplanted Rutgers as my Big East representative after the Bearcats ... you know, crushed the Scarlet Knights. Quarterback
• Five days after its shootout with Miami, Florida State came within 35 seconds of losing to Jacksonville State. The Seminoles trailed 9-7 nearly the entire second half before putting together a 57-yard scoring drive to avoid defeat. Perhaps FSU officials ought to stop fighting so hard to save
• Georgia's dramatic 41-37 win over South Carolina could do wonders for its psyche. Coming off an opening-week loss at Oklahoma State and with continued questions about quarterback
• There were a lot of crazy endings Saturday, but the North Carolina-UConn game may take the cake. First, after catching a game-tying touchdown with 2:36 remaining, Tar Heels tight end
• If you're a Georgia Tech fan, you shouldn't be concerned about quarterback
• Pittsburgh wasted little time finding its next great running back now that
• Virginia Tech rookie running back
• It felt a whole lot like 2003 in the MAC this weekend, with Toledo knocking off Colorado, Central Michigan toppling Michigan State and Bowling Green nearly taking down Missouri. Such upsets used to be customary in the storied league of Midwestern overachievers, but the MAC saw its profile plummet over the last five years. Perhaps a resurgence is in the works.
• Obligatory congrats to Washington for ending its painful 15-game losing streak with a 42-23 win over Idaho. Now, the Huskies try to make it two in a row when they face ... um, USC.
• It's great to see Southern Miss wideout
• Check out this stat line for Iowa safety
• My new favorite name in college football: Central Michigan cornerback
You may have seen that Louisiana-Lafayette knocked off
Albrecht, a fourth-year junior, spent his first year in the program redshirting, his second year handling kickoffs and his third sidelined by injuries. In ULL's opener last week against Southern, Albrecht made six extra points but did not attempt a field goal. His first career attempt finally arrived with 32 seconds left and his team down one.
"Of course I was nervous," he said, "but I hit it real solid."
Some kickers go their whole careers without getting a shot at a game-winner. Some get it their first time out.
From my perch high in the press box at Ohio State on Saturday night, I was looking around the interior of the always-wondrous Horseshoe when I noticed something peculiar. On the facade beneath the upper deck of the north end zone, the school lists seven national championship seasons. One of them is 1970.
Some quick research reveals that in 1970, the Buckeyes finished second behind Texas in the coaches poll ... and
Hey, as long as you're at it, Buckeyes, why not tack on 1969? No love for
When South Carolina quarterback
The Big Ten recently produced a series of lighthearted PSAs entitled "Big Ten Fan Camp." Watch closely, and you'll see a familiar face playing the role of a camp counselor yelling words of encouragement at a group of kids playing tug-of-war.
I must say, the commissioner is quite convincing -- presumably from years of practice bossing around the little guys of his sport.
Late Friday night, I and three other writers sat in a near-empty Columbus sports bar, morbidly fixated on Toledo's beatdown of Colorado. The game was over early in the third quarter (when the Rockets went up 30-3), yet for whatever reason we stayed and watched until nearly the bitter end as Toledo quarterback
Meanwhile, I didn't know whether to feel sorry for overmatched Colorado quarterback
In last week's Mailbag, I wrote it was too soon to pass judgment on fourth-year coach
But that didn't stop Colorado AD
Yes, the school endured a recruiting nightmare following the sexual-assault scandal during Barnett's tenure -- but that was
Mini-previews for three of this week's big games:
• Georgia Tech at Miami, Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET): Last year, the Jackets racked up 472 rushing yards against the 'Canes in a Thursday night rout in Atlanta. This year could be a different story. Miami gets 10 days to prepare for Tech's triple-option attack this time, and whereas last year the 'Canes were playing their second straight Thursday night game, this time the Jackets face that scenario.
• Tennessee at Florida, Saturday (3:30 p.m.): Fans around the country have been waiting since February to see what kind of on-field punishment Florida coach
• Texas Tech at Texas, Saturday (8 p.m.): Speaking of revenge ... the 'Horns get an early shot at payback for last year's heartbreaker in Lubbock.