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McCartney: Issue with FCS games, Irish woes

Terrance Taylor; Will Johnsond
AP 
Some Not-So-Grand Openings
As Michigan so infamously found out: sometimes soft targets aren't so soft. But sometimes, they're simply target practice, to which Brian Brohm and Louisville can attest. This year, more teams are scheduling I-AA (or Football Championship Subdivision as they're now called) opponents than ever before, with 73 I-A teams taking on the little guys. The results, as the Wolverines' stunning loss to Appalachian State and Louisville's 73-10 ripping of Murray State show, can be season-wrecking, or as too often is the case, laughable. Have no doubt, what the Mountaineers did Saturday in the Big House was a watershed moment for FCS teams and one of the biggest upsets in the game's history. Maybe it serves the college football establishment right to have a power have its season turned upside down in the kind of game that shouldn't even be on the schedule. Could you imagine the Yankees opening with the Nashville Sounds? Ultimately, these matchups only strengthen the fact that what we're in need of here is a true preseason, even if it's only a one-game deal, to stop teams from lining up so-called patsies. But don't expect it to come to fruition. As WAC commissioner Karl Benson attests, "In my opinion, as long as the 12th regular season game remains, the chances of any type of preseason game is nil." But if it happened, would it be the best thing for the entire game? You have to believe coaches, especially now Lloyd Carr, would love the chance to know what they're working with before the season even starts (or prematurely ends in Michigan's case) and, most importantly, from an integrity standpoint, we'd be able to stop the X-Box-like statistical bombs that teams typically drop on FCS teams. Saturday, the "cupcake" bit back in a way that no one could have imagined. Let's hope teams will learn their lessons about going back for another bite.
Did Anyone Hear An Echo?
Notre Dame has been playing football since 1887, winning 11 national titles, seven Heisman trophies and immortalized in film by the likes of Hobbit Sam Gamgee. But never, I repeat, never has the Irish had a season opener like what went down Saturday in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus. Georgia Tech whipped Notre Dame 33-3, the worst season-opening loss in the program's history. And the worst part of it for Irish faithful? There's no one problem area. The three QBs were a combined 15-of-22 for 122 yards with Sacrifcial Lamb No. 1 Demetrius Jones fumbling twice, Sacrificial Lamb No. 2 Evan Sharpley getting sacked seven times and wunderkind Jimmy Clausen finishing with minus 14 yards on the ground and 34 passing in a lackluster debut. For some reason Charlie Weis dispatched the aerial attack that has been ND's calling card since his arrival. Instead, he went with a run game that was unable to do anything. The much-maligned defense somehow looked worse in giving up 265 yards on the ground after switching to a 3-4. It's enough to make one wonder about that 10-year extension. What we're seeing now is truly Weis' team. He's done the recruiting, with the remaining members of Tyrone Willingham's regime few and far between, and there's no one else to blame for the talent on the field. So what should ND do now? Give Clausen the ball and be thankful the service academies are on the schedule.
Oklahoma Booming Sooner Than Later
USC looked bored, LSU's defense was as advertised and West Virginia racked up 62 points, 542 yards (316 on the ground) and 25 first downs in its biggest offensive day in six years. The top three teams in the country didn't exactly open eyes against lackluster competition but the team that was the most impressive in its debut had to be Oklahoma. Yes, the Blitz knows the Sooners opened with a North Texas team that had the 117th-ranked offense in '06, a slightly-better-than-mediocre defense and a coach, Todd Dodge, who was coaching in high school last season. The Oklahoma offense was absurd, racking up 79 points and 668 yards, as were two redshirt freshmen making their debuts. Quarterback Sam Bradford threw for 363 yards, three TDS and completed 18 straight passes in his collegiate debut, while DeMarco Murray became the first Sooner to score five TDs in his first game (the first of which came on a sick 44-yard end around). The road gets tougher for the Sooners with the 'U' up next -- but this Oklahoma squad looks as if its going to be one tough out.
Bittersweet Day In Bloomington
While the eyes of the nation were rightfully on Virginia Tech as the Hokies took the field for the first time since April's unthinkable tragedy, nearly 500 miles away, Indiana was dealing with its own emotional opener after the death of Terry Hoeppner, who died of brain cancer in June. The Hoosiers'uniforms were adorned with white patches that said "HEP" -- a logo that also appears on a banner in Memorial Stadium. Their helmets bore two new decals, one which said "Play 13", in honor of Hoeppner's goal of them making a bowl game for the first time since 1993, and another with "Don't Quit" on it, a tribute to a poem the coach would use to inspire them. "We really loved him and wanted to come out and play as hard as we could for him and make everybody around the state proud of us and proud of what he's done for us," said redshirt senior defensive tackle Joe Kremer. There's no sense in pitting grief against each other, but the Hoeppner story seemed sorely missing on the national scene this weekend. But it was not lost on his Hoosiers, who are a step closer to "Play 13," a goal they're taking to heart.
LSU Tigers
The nation's second-ranked team backed it up -- even if it was against a Mississippi State team that hasn't been relevant since TLC's No Scrubs was ruling the charts -- picking off the Bulldogs' Michael Henig six times (including three by Craig Steltz) and allowing 146 total yards.
Texas Longhorns
The Longhorns almost pulled a Michigan against Arkansas State. After winning its last six season openers by an average of 46 points, Texas squeaked by the Indians 21-3. But what was so alarming was Texas' D, which let ASU dictate the pace and saw it outgain the 'Horns 397-340.
Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia didn't just avoid an upset that seemed to be the weekend's chic pick, it dominated Oklahoma State. Matthew Stafford showed poise and maturity in throwing for 234 yards and two TDs -- and no picks after having more interceptions (13) than scores (seven) as a freshman.
North Carolina State Wolfpack
Maybe Tom O'Brien should have stayed at Chestnut Hill. In his debut, the ex-Boston College coach saw his team give UCF just its second win over a BCS team since moving to I-A. O'Brien was supposed to instill discipline in Raleigh but the 'Pack still drew 67 yards worth of penalties.
Colorado Buffaloes
Who says nepotism doesn't work? Cody Hawkins, son of coach Dan, hasn't lost in 60 starts, dating to youth leagues. Last week he helped dad top Colorado State 31-28 in overtime with 210 yards passing and two TDs. They are the 20th father-son/coach-quarterback duo in I-A history.
Tennessee Volunteers
Happy birthday, Phillip Fulmer, your season is basically over and September has barely begun. Cal scored the most points on Tennessee (45) in 12 years and gave UT its first season-opening loss since 1994.
"I felt good about my ability. I got tired ... but I'll get stronger as I go along."
--No, it wasn't a player, that was 80-year-old Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who jogged out of the tunnel in his first appearance on the sideline since breaking his leg in November.
"The first time I got out there, getting ready to take the snap, the crowd kind of kicked in and I was like, 'Wow, I cannot hear myself think."
--Western Kentucky backup QB K.J. Black on playing in the Swamp, where his Hilltoppers were defeated by defending national champion Florida 49-3 before a crowd of 90,086.
"I kind of just chucked it and got hit and got the wind knocked out of me. But it doesn't hurt as much when you look up and see your guy running into the end zone."
--Boise State QB Taylor Tharp, who was slow getting up after he was hit while throwing a 53-yard touchdown pass to Titus Young in the Broncos' 56-7 victory over Weber State.
Tiquan UnderwoodWR - Rutgers
Underwood had 23 receptions for 290 yards in 12 games last season. He has nearly as many yards after one game in '07, catching 10 balls for a school-record 248 yards and scoring two touchdowns in the Scarlet Knights' 38-3 win.
Matt RyanQB - Boston College
It's safe to say that Ryan has a firm grasp on new coach Jeff Jagodzinski's offense, throwing for a career-high 408 yards and five touchdowns, and passing the 5,000-yard mark for his career in the Eagles' 38-28 win over Wake Forest.
Marlon LuckyRB - Nebraska
Feeling Lucky? Sorry, I couldn't resist. Apparently, neither could coach Bill Callahan, who saw his back carry the ball 30 times for 232 yards and three TDs and also catch a TD as Nebraska beat Nevada 52-10 in The Land Of Corn.
5
Records Colt Brennan set in Hawaii's win over I-AA Northern Colorado (they tried to schedule a ranked team, which passed). He set marks for completions in a quarter (19) and a half (34), touchdown passes in a quarter (four) and a half (six), and yards in a half (416).
41
Points Vanderbilt scored in its win over Richmond. It was the most points Vandy scored in a season opener since 1950, when it finished with 47 against Middle Tennessee State.
52
Division III defending champion Mount Union scored 52 points in the first quarter in a 75-5 rout of Averett, breaking the previous mark of 50 points set by Prairie View on Oct. 26, '91.

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South Florida at AuburnSEPTEMBER 8
Someone order an upset? The Bulls have an exciting dual-threat quarterback in Matt Grothe and an underrated defense that doesn't make many mistakes. Jim Leavitt and USF will take another step forward by beating a tough SEC team on the road.South Florida 21, Auburn 17
Oregon at MichiganSEPTEMBER 8
What's next for Michigan besides mobs with pitchforks and torches at Carr's door? Another team that spreads it around, just like Appalachian State. Is UM headed for an 0-2 start? Oregon has weapons, but the offensive line is a weak link that UM can exploit.Michigan 30, Oregon 24
Notre Dame at Penn StateSEPTEMBER 8
The last two years Notre Dame didn't have much of a defense, but this year it doesn't look like it has much of anything. Improved quarterback Anthony Morelli and a vicious Nittany Lions defense will pay back Notre Dame for last season's 41-17 beatdown.
Penn State 24, Notre Dame 14
TCU at TexasSEPTEMBER 8
Was Texas looking ahead to TCU or is the defense really that bad? It may be that bad. The secondary gave up too many big plays vs. Arkansas St., and the normally stalwart run D is missing its edge. Aaron Brown and TCU will be thinking BCS bowl after this one.
TCU 24, Texas 20
Virginia Tech at LSUSEPTEMBER 8
Like D? Points will be at a premium when two of last season's top-three D's square off and that means sound decision making at QB is going to be crucial. I'm going with LSU's Matt Flynn over Sean Glennon, who had 11 TDs and picks in '06 and still looks shaky.
LSU 17, Virginia Tech 10
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