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Archive for September, 2007

BYU Gains Revenge – Smashes Arizona

The BYU Cougars waited twelve long months to settle a score with the Arizona Wildcats but the wait is finally over. Taking a 20-0 lead into the final minute of the game, the Cougars christened the 2007 season with a convincing 20-7 smack-down of Arizona today.

The surprise story of the game was running back Harvey Unga. The redshirt freshman scored two touchdowns and totaled 196 yards (68 rushing, 128 receiving)—nearly as much real estate as Arizona’s team net total 255 yards.

It’s difficult to fathom the backfield weapons the Cougars will have at their disposal when you consider that Fui Vakapuna is not yet 100 percent healthy and Manase Tonga will be rejoining the squad for next week’s game against UCLA.

Just as important, though, for Cougar fans was the question answered about their untested quarterback Max Hall and whether or not he can play at real game speed.  He can. In his first game college game against one of the better defenses in the country, Hall’s line was 26-39, 288 yards, and 2 TD passes with no interceptions.

As a matter of comparison, Miami Dolphins rookie QB John Beck was 28-37, 289 yards, and 1 TD pass for the Cougars last year against Arizona.

Hall, a redshirt sophomore, was cool under pressure, showed excellent pocket presence, a quick release, and a live arm.  He was only sacked once, by a blind side corner blitz, and displayed good field vision with capable foot speed the few times he was forced to scramble.  His upside is enormous this season if the hogs protecting him continue to dominate the line of scrimmage like they did today.

The “Granite Wall” offensive line was as good as advertised. They didn’t give up a sack today (the one sack on Hall was not the O-line’s responsibility). Particularly impressive was BYU’s new offensive line coach Mark Weber yanking Ray Feinga out of the game for a talk after Feinga was flagged for holding on a critical play in the third quarter.

That type of accountability is sure to raise the bar in Cougar land.  More proof of raising the bar?  In last season’s home opener against Arizona, the Cougars gave up 3 sacks compared to one by cornerback Antoine Cason in the first quarter today. They also lost 76 yards in penalties last year compared to 27 yards this time around.

Additional proof that BYU football is rapidly reconnecting with its tradition in the Mendenhall era occurred with 5:58 left in the game and the score 13-0.  BYU had stopped Arizona on a fourth down attempt at the Wildcat 43-yard line and the chains reversed direction.

Instead of running the ball and trying to drain the clock, as offensive coordinator Robert Anae would have done in his past two years helming the Cougar offense, he went to the air. Hall zipped a strike to TE Vic So’oto for an 18-yard gain and a first down at the Arizona 25. It was a dagger to Arizona’s heart, and three plays later Unga carried the rock in from 11 yards out to ice the game.

Nice surprise:  The defense looks even faster this year.  Solid play from backup safety turned starter Corby Hodgkiss and the trio of nose tackles taking over for the injured Russell Tialavea.

Not so nice surprise:  BYU’s kicking and punting units are a glaring weakness that must be addressed.

Post game reflection: Mike Stoops can thank his lucky stars that Appalachian State pulled off a miraculous upset in Ann Arbor about six hours earlier in the day. Michigan’s collapse at home to a D-1AA program will help deflect attention national sportswriters might have given the whipping the Wildcats received in Provo. Stoops was facing the likelihood of that oft-mentioned hot seat getting quite a bit hotter if Arizona suffered a shut out at the hands of a non-BCS foe.

Next up: UCLA at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, CA on September 8. Former Cougar star recruit Ben Olson is now the starting QB for the Bruins. Cougar fans have largely forgotten the hurt caused when Olson transferred after completing a church mission to Canada back in 2005.  Still, nothing would feel better than to have Hall outshine Olson in next week’s clash.

AP Top 25 Weekly Recap

NO. 1 USC TROJANS (1-0). USC opened up the 2007 season with a stodgy 38-10 thumping of WAC bottom dweller Idaho Vandals … yes, the same Vandals whom Dennis Erickson misled and left hanging when he bolted for Arizona State last winter. To be sure, Erickson’s presence on the Vandals sideline wouldn’t have helped a bit. It was the Trojans’ 34th straight victory at home–the longest such streak in the nation. “There’s a lot of areas we can do better on,” Pete Carroll said, acknowledging a much stiffer test in two weeks on Sept. 15 when they visit No. 16 Nebraska and a rematch with Sam Keller, the former ASU QB who had them on the ropes in Tempe two years ago.

NO. 2 LSU TIGERS. (1-0). The Tigers’ opening 45-0 rout of Mississippi State didn’t necessarily prove a lot, considering it was played in a steady rain. Matt Flynn replaced JaMarcus Russell at quarterback and completed 12 of 19 passes for 128 yards. He also ran for 42 yards, which was a little surprising. With the poor footing, breakaway back Keiland Williams became a short-yardage plugger, scoring twice. The Tigers intercepted MSU QB Michael Henig six times (three picks from Craig Steltz), prompting Henig to remark: “I know people will say bad things this week.” This might also be remembered as the game in which backup QB Ryan Perrilloux emerged from the shadows – the former high-profile recruit ran for one score and threw for another in garbage time. We’ll see how good Les Miles’ team really is this week, when No. 9 Virginia Tech comes to town.

NO. 3 WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS (1-0). Last year, Western Michigan’s defense was sixth nationally against the run – but it never had to face Steve Slaton and Patrick White. Slaton rushed for 109 yards, White for 97, and the Mountaineers frolicked, 62-24. Even better, from the point of view of WVU coach Rich Rodriguez, White showed a stronger arm and finer marksmanship, chucking for 192 yards and two touchdowns. The game marked the debut of superfrosh Noel Devine, who rushed for 44 yards and a TD and caught a 19-yard pass. The Mountaineers play in-state rival (“We Are!”) Marshall on Saturday.

NO. 4 FLORIDA GATORS. (1-0). We all knew Tim Tebow could run, but can he throw? Well, against Western Kentucky, he could. The sophomore southpaw dissected the WKU secondary for 300 yards and three touchdowns in a 49-3 Gator victory, including 103 yards in receptions by Andre Caldwell. “I think (coach) Urban (Meyer) wanted to showcase his (Tebow’s) arm,” Caldwell said. Mission accomplished. As for the defense, the Gators knocked the Hilltoppers’ top two quarterbacks out of the game. It was a night fit for Gators, as well – an hour rain delay in a contest that was finally called by lightning midway through the fourth quarter. Next up: Troy State, which was feasted upon by Arkansas last week.

NO. 5 OKLAHOMA SOONERS. (1-0). The Sooners’ 79-10 blowout of North Texas was the most lopsided season opener since 1989 when they beat New Mexico State 73-3. Freshman DeMarco Murray became the first Oklahoma player to score five touchdowns in his debut, and new redshirt freshman QB Sam Bradford broke Josh Heupel’s record for passing yardage in a half, going 20 of 22 for 350 yards in the first half. He also tied Jason White’s school record of 18 straight completions before his backup came on to mop up the carnage. The Sooners will host the Miami Hurricanes (1-0) this week in one of the best matchups of the early season.

NO. 6 WISCONSIN BADGERS (1-0). The Badgers logged one of the most impressive season openers among ranked teams with a thorough 42-21 spanking of dangerous Washington State. Tyler Donovan looked impressive against the Cougars with a performance that won over the crowd (19 of 29, 284 yards, three passing TDs, one rushing TD). His favorite receiver was Luke Swan, who grabbed eight passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns. The Badgers took a commanding 28-14 lead in the first half after ripping off three unanswered TDs and never looked back. They’ll travel to Las Vegas to take on MWC cellar dweller UNLV this Saturday.

NO. 7 TEXAS LONGHORNS (1-0). It’s a bit hard to believe the pollsters were so kind to leave Texas ranked this high (dropping only three spots) after the Longhorns struggled mightily at home against Arkansas State, finally prevailing 21-13. Coach Mack Brown said, “I told them not to let it scare them. Everybody’s pretty good if you let them stay in the game.” QB Colt McCoy went 22 of 33 for 223 yards, two scores and two picks. No. 19 TCU heads into Austin this Saturday for one of the weekend’s best clashes. TCU is looking to be a BCS buster this year and the Longhorns are one of the biggest obstacles in its way. If Texas plays like it did against Arkansas State, the Longhorns won’t beat the Frogs.

NO. 8 LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (1-0). Brian Brohm started out 8 for 8 – eight possessions, eight scoring drives – as the Cardinals ate Murray State, 73-10. Except for the presence of new coach Steve Kragthorpe on the sidelines, this was déjà vu – Brohm throwing for 375 yards and four touchdowns to veteran receivers Harry Douglas, Mario Urrutia and Gary Barnidge, with holdover RBs George Stripling, Sergio Spencer and Anthony Allen chewing up yardage. “Brian was a surgeon out there,” Kragthorpe said. More like Dr. Kervorkian. The Cardinals go slumming again this week, facing Middle Tennessee in a Thursday night game.

NO. 9 VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES (1-0). Are the Hokies ready to be America’s Team? Their erratic performance in a 17-7 season-opening victory over East Carolina makes one wonder. Of course, with all the emotion revolving around a pre-game dedication of the season to last April’s 32 Tech shooting victims, it’s understandable that Frank Beamer’s squad was a little distracted. Problem is, QB Sean Glennon’s poor showing was a reminder that this week he has to operate against a fierce LSU defense. It’s the 2005 Poster Team (Katrina) against this year’s version; Glennon — and Tech — had better put all distractions aside.

NO. 10 CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS (1-0). Get revenge for last year’s humiliation to the Vols on national TV. Check. Christen DeSean Jackson’s Heisman Trophy campaign. Check. Check out new freshman running back Jhavid Best. Check. The Bears look to be every bit the BCS contender with an impressive 45-31 smack-down of Tennessee in Berkeley on Saturday. Jackson ripped off one of his signature TD punt returns (a jaw-dropping 77-yarder) that instantly catapulted him to top-three status on the Heisman watch list. Cal freshman Best carried the brick four times for 46 yards in his college debut. The Bears have so many speedy offensive weapons, Colorado State head coach Sonny Lubick’s head must be spinning in preparation for this weekend’s game in Fort Collins.

NO. 11 GEORGIA BULLDOGS (1-0). The Bulldogs’ opener with Oklahoma State was supposed to be one of the top games on the opening-day menu – a potent offense (OSU was No. 7 nationally in scoring last season) playing on the road versus a traditional power with 12 first-time starters. The problem, from the Cowboys’ point of view, is that QB Bobby Reid and RB Dantrell Savage were let down by their offensive line, which allowed game-long penetration by the Dawgs. Meanwhile, sophomore QB Matthew Stafford hit 18 of 24 passes for 234 yards in a 35-14 rout. And now, we all know Knowshon – Georgia’s heralded freshman back, Knowshon Moreno, gained 70 yards. This week gets tougher when South Carolina visits.

NO. 12 OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (1-0). The Bucks rolled over early season tune-up Youngstown State 38-6 behind new QB Todd Boeckman’s 225-yard, two-TD performance. Ohio State coach Jim Tressel coached at Youngstown St. for 15 years and racked up four I-AA championships before arriving in Columbus in 2001. “It’s tough when you play against your old folks,” he said. Buckeye fans erupted in cheers and jeers when they learned that archrival Michigan had been upset by I-AA (now FCS) Appalachian State. Tressel, however, said he was rooting for the Wolverines. He knows the importance of playing Michigan as a ranked team at the end of the year. Next up: Akron in Columbus.

NO. 13 UCLA BRUINS (1-0). The Bruins showed Stanford’s new head coach, Jim Harbaugh, just how much work his team needs to compete in the Pac-10 again. Lots. UCLA toyed with the Cardinal in the first half, heading into halftime with a 14-7 lead. The second half was a one-way slugfest with the Bruins dominating 45-17. One sore spot that coach Karl Dorrell knows he needs to shore up is the pass defense. UCLA gave up 331 yards passing to Stanford, and that’s a huge concern with BYU’s precision aerial attack coming to Pasadena this weekend. Intrigue in the game abounds, as Bruin QB Ben Olson was once BYU’s most prized recruit, but he opted to transfer after his church mission to Canada two years ago.

NO. 14 PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (1-0). Joe Paterno’s troops registered a workmanlike 59-0 dismantling of Florida International in front of a home crowd in Happy Valley that exceeded 107,000. The Nittany Lions outgained the Golden Panthers 549 yards to 114. Penn State receiver Derrick Williams said not having Paterno on the sidelines last year was like their dad was gone. “It showed today how important it is he’s on the sidelines.” The Lions host Notre Dame this week in what might very well be the last time the two teams meet at Beaver Stadium with JoePa at the helm of the PSU program.

NO. 15. RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS (1-0). Cinderella? Not anymore. This was Cinderella on steroids (just a figure of speech, honest), and the Knights planted their size-18 glass slipper squarely on the back of hapless Buffalo, 38-3. This was one of your classic “not as close as the score would indicate” games, with Rutgers up 35-3 at halftime. Heisman candidate Ray Rice rushed for 184 yards and three touchdowns while QB Mike Teel threw for over 300 yards, but the real star turned out to be wide receiver Tiquan Underwood, who caught 10 passes for 248 yards and a pair of scores. The visitors were, well, Buffaloed. This week, it’s Navy’s Midshipmen for Greg Schiano’s scarlet legions.

NO. 16. NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS (1-0). The Cornhuskers smashed the Nevada Wolfpack 52-10 in the debut of heralded transfer QB Sam Keller, who only managed a 193-yard effort with one TD and one interception. Nebraska’s offense looked more like the smash-mouth Big Red ground machine of old with Marlon Lucky rushing 30 times for 233 yards and three scores. The Huskers cannot afford to look past their road game this week at Wake Forest as a showdown with No. 1 USC looms on the horizon. The Demon Deacons fought mightily in a 38-28 loss on the road to Boston College last weekend, and they won’t need any motivation to get up for only their third meeting ever with Nebraska.

NO. 17 AUBURN TIGERS (1-0). The Tigers played like old nags most of the way against a fired-up Kansas State team, then finished like Secretariat. Trailing 13-9 going into the fourth quarter, with a reworked offensive line looking outmatched, Tommy Tuberville’s team finally moved ahead on a TD pass from Brandon Cox to Gabe McKenzie with 2:01 left, then iced the game less than a minute later when DE Quinton Groves showed why he’s on everyone’s All-America team list by separating K-State QB Josh Freeman from the football, which Antonio Coleman carried into the end zone. This Saturday could be one of those “trap” games for the Tigers, though, as South Florida of the Big East visits. The Bulls were underwhelming in a 28-13 victory over Elon, but Alabama transfer Mike Ford looked good at running back and QB Matt Grothe was sharp. Memo to Auburn O-line: SFU’s George Selvie had four sacks last week.

NO. 18 ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS (1-0). Any hopes that Casey Dick would morph into Peyton Manning during the offseason were dashed during the Razorbacks’ 46-26 demolition of the Troy Trojans. Casey didn’t exactly strike out, but he was his old self, a barely adequate 11 of 20 for 108 yards. Still, do the Razorbacks really need a quarterback? Heisman hopeful twins Darren McFadden and Felix Jones rushed for a combined 280 yards (Jones also scored on a kickoff return) and McFadden threw a 42-yard touchdown pass. The Hogs now get a week off before traveling to Alabama.

NO. 19 TCU HORNED FROGS (1-0). Playing without preseason All-America defensive end Tommy Blake, the Horned Frogs stifled instate Big 12 rival Baylor 27-0. The Purple Menace thwarted the Bears’ offensive attack at every turn in preparation for the biggest game on their schedule against Texas in Austin. The Frogs and Horns last tangled in 1995 when they were both members of the old Southwest Conference; Texas leads the longtime series with a record of 60-20-1. If TCU can prevail in Austin, it might very well go on a roll until it plays at BYU in early November.

NO. 20 HAWAII WARRIORS (1-0). Hawaii defeated Division I-AA Northern Colorado 63-6 at home in its season opener. QB Colt Brennan tossed six touchdowns in the first half alone. Extrapolating that over the entire season, Brennan would end up with 150 TD passes on the season–22 more than the category career leader Ty Detmer (128 career TD passes). “We took care of business. That’s what we wanted to do,” said Brennan. Next up for the Warriors is a road game at WAC foe Louisiana Tech. Hawaii faces one of the weakest schedules in Division I-A this year and shouldn’t be severely tested until Nov. 23 in its highly anticipated conference clash with Boise State.

NO. 21 GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS (1-0). So … is Georgia Tech that good? Or is Notre Dame that bad? The consensus after Tech pounded the Irish 33-3 in South Bend – the worst opening-game loss ever for a Notre Dame team – seemed to be: A little of both. Irish coach Charlie Weis said later that his team came out “determined to run the ball.” That’s not good, because ND finished with minus-8 ground yards. The Yellow Jackets were dominant on defense, blitzing relentlessly, and rode RB Tashard Choice (196 yards, two TDs) on offense. This game may be remembered as the debut for freshman Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen, who hit 4 of 6 passes in mop-up duty. Or, it could be remembered as the opening statement in a landmark Georgia Tech season. A letdown shouldn’t be a problem for Chan Gailey’s squad with Samford next on the schedule.

NO. 22 BOISE STATE BRONCOS (1-0). BSU took care of business with a 56-7 thrashing of Division I-AA Weber State on the Smurf Turf field. It was BSU’s 14th victory in a row dating back to last year’s season opener, and the longest winning streak in the nation in major college football. The Broncos led 49-0 at halftime. Ian Johnson had 129 yards rushing and three TDs on the day. BSU coach Chris Petersen said he was surprised how well his team executed on both sides of the ball. This week the Broncos head west to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies for the first time ever in their brief history as a Division I-A program.

NO. 23 TEXAS A&M AGGIES (1-0). The Aggies took care of Division I-AA Montana State 36-7 in their season opener at home. Coach Dennis Franchione said he was happy with the win and glad that “we’re not Michigan tonight.” QB Stephen McGee accounted for well over 200 offensive yards with 112 yards passing and 121 yards rushing on the night. He also scored two touchdowns. They will face a much stronger opponent when Fresno State (1-0) visits College Station this weekend.

NO. 24 TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (0-1). Did you really think Tennessee was going to go on the road and beat Cal? After last year’s Golden Bear humiliation in Knoxville? The final score was 45-21, DeSean Jackson used the Volunteers as visual aids for his Heisman campaign, and the young Vol defense obviously leaked. Still, Erik Ainge threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns despite an injured pinky on his throwing hand; WR Lucas Taylor looked like a reasonable replacement for Robert Meacham at wideout; and LB Xavier Mitchell turned out to have “only a concussion” instead of a possibly career-ending spinal injury. As Jimmy Buffett advises in one of his latest tunes: “Breathe in, breathe out, move on.”

NO. 25 CLEMSON TIGERS (1-0). Tiger fans ripped down the collapsible goalposts at the end of their team’s 24-18 victory over Florida State at Death Valley on Monday night – problem was, the game wasn’t quite over, as the officials wanted to review Drew Weatherford’s final incomplete pass. It really didn’t matter, of course, and that’s what Tiger LB Nick Watkins pointed out, as well. “We beat Florida State last year.” Nevertheless, Clemson’s Arkansas-style backfield of James Davis and C.J. Spiller ripped through the Seminoles’ collapsible defense, new QB Cullen Harper tossed a couple of touchdown passes, and the Tiger ‘D’ was solid in the first half. After that, though, Clemson seemed to lack the killer instinct to put the game away – the killer instinct exhibited by the Tiger fans. This week, Clemson hosts Louisiana-Monroe, a 35-17 loser to Tulsa in its opener. The goal posts are probably safe.

ON THE BUBBLE: Boston College, Missouri, Miami, Oregon, Alabama, Oregon State, Michigan, South Carolina, BYU, South Florida.

Fourth and inches …

Talk about shocking the college football world … No disrespect to Appalachian State. They are a fine football team, and by the way, the only team from North Carolina to win any sort of NCAA football title. But, c’mon. When you have the tradition, a national recruiting base, outstanding facilities, a Numero Cinco Ranking with a legit shot at the national title game this year, AND the ghost of Bo watching over you, how can you permit a D-IAA team to come into your crib (The Big Crib, er, House, no less) and make you look silly? The Wolverines tumbled 27 spots in this week’s AP poll–the biggest freefall in the history of the polls. Will anyone be surprised if Lloyd Carr is respectfully asked to step down at the end of the season regardless of whether Michigan goes 11-0 the rest of the way?

►Lucky Choice: The shifting sands of Heisman hype… Like a couple of tigers Siegfried & Roy used to pull out of thin air in Las Vegas, Georgia Tech’s Tashard Choice (196 yards, two TDs versus Notre Dame) and Nebraska’s Marlon Lucky (233 yards rushing, three TDs rushing, one TD receiving) have magically appeared on everyone’s Heisman radar. If Marlon and his teammates gets really Lucky on Sept. 15 against the USC defense and he happens to shred them as easily as he did the Nevada Wolfpack, then he’ll clearly become a leading candidate. No such luck for Tashard, who doesn’t have a Choice regarding who, where, or when the Ramblin’ Wreck play this week. A huge game against Samford just won’t cut it, TC, but don’t worry. G-Tech has plenty of big games coming up on the schedule for you to strut your stuff.

►More Heisman talk at the water cooler … the usual suspects all turned in eye-popping stats … Hawaii’s Colt Brennan tossed six TDs against D-IAA Northern Colorado, and Brian Brohm (Louisville), Darren McFadden (Arkansas), Steve Slaton and Pat White (West Virginia) all posted the numbers necessary to maintain traction on the watch list. John David Booty (USC), and Colt McCoy (Texas) did not. Some folks are ready to throw Ben Olson (UCLA) on the list after connecting for five TD passes over Stanford last week. Hmmm … let’s wait and see how he fares this Saturday when his former buddies from BYU visit Pasadena.

►Speaking of BYU … Cougar fans gotta be happy with newbie QB Max Hall and his performance against Arizona last Saturday. He went 26 of 39 for 288 yards and two TDs, which bettered his predecessor’s showing last year ever so slightly. (John Beck was 28 of 37 for 289 yards and one TD last year against the Wildcats). Just as impressive was redshirt freshman Harvey Unga. Making his first start ever, Unga racked up 196 total yards (68 on the ground, 128 receiving, two TDs) and was honored with the MWC Offensive Player of the Week award. Also noteworthy was BYU’s stingy defense which held Arizona pointless for 59 minutes of the game, finally allowing a score in the final seconds of mop-up time.


► Worst name change… I’m holding this over from last week. D-IA is now supposed to be called the “FBS” and the D-IAA is now supposed to be the “FCS.” Everywhere you read about college football, everyone is using both categorizations. Is that the politically correct thing to do? If you don’t like it, say something. Start a fan revolt and petition the NCAA. I’m not using ’em, so there.

►Let’s get this straight … For you UCLA and BYU fans needling each other back and forth on your smack boards, “The Granddaddy of Them All” is a trademarked name referring to the Rose Bowl Game because it is the oldest and most prestigious bowl game in college football … It is not another name for Rose Bowl Stadium. The 94th Rose Bowl Game will be played on Jan. 1, 2008, just a few hours after the 119th Rose Parade.

►Coaches on the hottest seats … Yep, I checked and they’re still there … Arizona’s Mike Stoops, Virginia’s Al Groh, and Mississippi State’s Sylvester Croom.

►Potential BCS Busters … Everyone here holding strong through Week 1 … Hawaii, TCU, BYU, and Boise State.

►Look out, coach! … Tom O’Brien, former head coach at Boston College, leads the North Carolina State Wolfpack into dangerous territory this weekend …

►Potentially looking at the longest season of despair? … Notre Dame fans.

►Best Electronic College Football Database? … Collegio Football (www.sophosoft.com). You will be amazed by the amount of information and ease of navigating the program. It’s like having a mini-media guide for all 119 D-1A teams at your fingertips.

►Tressel says he was rooting for Michigan last week? … Some Buckeye Nuts might find that difficult to swallow, but I’ll buy it. It is only to Ohio State’s advantage to play the highest-ranked Michigan team it possibly can in late November.

►You’re either suspended or you’re not, right? … What’s with Wisconsin running back Lance Smith being suspended from road games but being cleared to play at home? Smith was arrested on battery charges in July and originally suspended from the team. AD Barry Alvarez reinstated Smith’s home game privileges. He’ll miss the UNLV game this week, as well as road games at Illinois, Penn State, Ohio State and Minnesota.

►Big ouch … Tulsa has lost prized Oklahoma transfer RB Courtney Tennial to a season-ending knee injury. Tennial was the Golden Hurricanes’ leading ground gainer last season with 862 yards and 14 TDs. Get well soon, Courtney.

►Quick Snap Question … presented by the 83rd East-West Shrine Game, Jan. 19, 2008 in Houston on ESPN:

When was the last time that Ohio State played an unranked Michigan team in The Rivalry Game?

Be quick and be correct. The first email received with the correct answer wins you a limited edition two-card set of 2007 Rose Bowl Game trading cards. The winner will be announced in next week’s Fourth and inches…

►Best Games of the Week … TCU Horned Frogs at Texas Longhorns … BYU Cougars at UCLA Bruins … Miami Hurricanes at Oklahoma Sooners … North Carolina State Wolfpack at Boston College Eagles … Oregon Ducks at Michigan Wolverines … Fresno State Bulldogs at Texas A&M Aggies … Boise State Broncos at Washington Huskies … South Carolina Gamecocks at Georgia Bulldogs … Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Penn State Nittany Lions … South Florida Bulls at Auburn Tigers … Virginia Tech Hokies at LSU Tigers …

►Upset Specials of the Week … Last week (1-3) … Washington Huskies over Boise State Broncos … TCU Horned Frogs over Texas Longhorns … BYU Cougars over UCLA Bruins … South Florida Bulls over Auburn Tigers …

A Different Type of Star QB

In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Daily News, UCLA quarterback hopeful Ben Olson responded to a remark made by the reporter who was perpetuating the mythical notion that no quarterback who served a two-year Latter-day Saint mission had ever returned to become a star quarterback.

Olson, who served his mission to Canada from 2003-2005, offered a response oozing with confidence, one that ought to have UCLA fans drooling at the thought of having him at the helm of the Bruins’ offense for the next three years:

“It’s important to me, plus I’m blessed with a lot of talent,” Olson said. “I’m better than any other guy that’s gone on a mission.”

You have to love that sort of self-assurance from this redshirt sophomore, even if it’s not exactly wrapped up in fact. You see, there happens to be a respectable group of returned missionaries preceding Olson who have already delivered Big Ten, Pac-10, and Mountain West Conference championships, not to mention bowl game victories, including two in “The Granddaddy of Them All” during the past twelve years.

So, the question that begs to be asked is “what does it take to be a star quarterback?” John Elway gained star status as a quarterback in college, even though he never led Stanford to a Pac-10 title or even a bowl game appearance. Who determines star worthiness—the critics or the fans?

The following five returned missionary quarterbacks accomplished star-quality achievements on the gridiron after volunteering two years of their lives to religious pursuits. Did their success translate into stardom?

Darrell Bevell, Wisconsin Badgers

Bevell served his mission in the Cleveland, Ohio region. He was a four-year starter (1992-95) in Madison and finished his career as Wisconsin’s all-time leading passer with 19 school records and two Big Ten marks.  He is best known to Badger fans as the quarterback who led Wisconsin to a victory over highly favored UCLA in the 1994 Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl championship was the first ever for Wisconsin, and it capped a 1993 regular season which saw the Badgers go 10-1-1 and claim a share of the Big Ten Conference championship, the program’s first conference title since 1962.

Brad Otton, USC Trojans

Otton served the beginning of his 2-year mission in Italy and completed it in Brooklyn, New York. A transfer from Weber State, the lanky 6’5” field general led USC to the Pac-10 title in his senior year (1995 stats: 196-of-370, 2,649 yards, 20 TDs and 10 interceptions). His remarkable performance in the 1996 Rose Bowl Game victory over Northwestern was a fitting exclamation mark to his college career (29-44, 391 yards, 2 TDs).

Brandon Doman, BYU Cougars

Doman served his mission in Argentina.  He didn’t win the starting quarterback job at BYU until the next to last game of his junior year. He engineered back-to-back wins in those two starts with the final victory of the season coming on the road over instate rival Utah in the last game of LaVell Edwards’ sterling career. As a senior in 2001, Doman was a unanimous All-Mountain West Conference first team selection and Heisman Trophy candidate, leading the Cougars to an undefeated conference championship season, a Liberty Bowl appearance and 12-2 overall record. He was the second ranked passer in the nation and second in total offense (2001 stats: 261-408, 3,542 yards, 33 TDs, and 503 yards rushing and 8 TDs).

Paul Peterson, Boston College Eagles

Peterson served his mission in Nicaragua.  After earning 2002 J.C. Grid-Wire All-America honors as a quarterback at Snow College (leading the NJCAA in passing yards and TDs) he transferred to B.C. and immediately challenged for the starting QB job. He took over starting duties with three games left in the season and promptly led the Eagles to victories over Virginia, Rutgers and 12th ranked Virginia Tech. He went 16-25, 244 yards, and 2 TDs in a 35-21 win over Colorado State in San Francisco Bowl. The next season B.C. won their first two games, making Peterson the only Eagle QB to ever go undefeated in his first six starts.  He finished 12-2 as a starting quarterback at Boston College, capping it off with an MVP-winning performance (24-33, 236 yards, 2 TDs) over North Carolina in the Continental Tire Bowl—even though he broke his leg and missed the bulk of the second half action.

John Beck, BYU Cougars

Beck served his mission in Portugal.  He is the quarterback that Ben Olson would be competing against for the starting role at BYU had Olson remained in the Cougar program.  He is one of only two quarterbacks to start all four years in the BYU program, with Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer being the other.  As a freshman, Beck earned Academic All-Mountain West honors and second-team All-Mountain West honors as a sophomore.  Last year was his breakout season, being named team offensive MVP, Academic All-MWC, and All-MWC first-team. He threw for 3,709 yards, and ranked fifth nationally with 309.1 yards-per-game average.  Beck currently ranks second all-time in Mountain West Conference history with 7,136 career passing yards and this year he has already been named the MWC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year by The Sporting News and Blue Ribbon and projected as a Top 10 NFL QB prospect by nearly every draft analyst.

So what is it that makes a college quarterback a star?  What will be the measuring stick for Ben Olson when compared to other returned missionary QBs? Is it conference championships, bowl game victories, eye-popping statistics, gutsy performances in the clutch, or a combination of these achievements?

All five quarterbacks, with the exception of John Beck, have led their teams to league titles or bowl game victories, and he has one year left to do it.  If you ask Beck, he’ll tell you that glossy stats and postseason awards mean nothing without achieving team goals. For his part, he won’t consider himself a star quarterback until he has helped BYU win a conference championship and a bowl game. His only comparison for greatness is found in the accomplishments of the legendary signal callers who came before him.

Ben Olson doesn’t need to measure himself against other returned missionary quarterbacks to be considered a star quarterback.  He need not look any further than Westwood for inspiration and a more meaningful measuring stick. Former Bruin QBs like Gary Beban, John Sciarra, Tom Ramsey, Rick Neuheisel, Wayne Cook, and Cade McNown all delivered Pac-10 titles and four Rose Bowl victories in six appearances to their alma mater.  And, Ben, be happy in knowing that most UCLA fans also consider Troy Aikman a star—and he accomplished neither.

AP Top 25 Weekly Recap

LSU made up a lot of ground on the inactive USC Trojans in this week’s poll. Other major movers include South Carolina (plus-16), Oregon (plus-10) and Georgia Tech (plus-6). Dropping out: Auburn, Boise State, and TCU.

NO. 1 USC TROJANS (1-0). The Trojans had the week off, and they needed it. Several injured players were able to rehab and look to be ready for this week’s road game in Lincoln, Neb., against the 14th-ranked Cornhuskers. WR Patrick Turner looks like a “go” for this week as well as LB Brian Cushing. RBs Joe McKnight and Chauncey Washington are hopefuls. The biggest disappointment to Pete Carroll’s defense is the loss of DB Josh Pinkard, who will need surgery and won’t be back this season. You won’t be able to spot LB Rey Maualuga on the field by his long hair anymore–he’s sporting a cooler look these days. Note: Pete Carroll hates playing on artificial surfaces.

NO. 2 LSU TIGERS (2-0). The game with then-No. 9 Virginia Tech in Baton Rouge last Saturday was supposed to be a defensive struggle. In a way, that was true — LSU’s defense dominated and Tech struggled. In the process of rolling to a 48-7 victory, the Tigers rolled out not one but two heirs to JaMarcus Russell, as both Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux played well at quarterback. Keiland Williams made the highlight reels by leaping over a tackler at the beginning of a 67-yard scoring run, and the LSU defensive line ate Tech’s O-line for dinner. This week, Les Miles’ team hosts Middle Tennessee, which scored 42 points as Louisville last week. Don’t expect that to happen in Tiger country.

NO. 3 OKLAHOMA SOONERS (2-0). My, how times have changed. Five, 10 or 15 years ago, the Miami Hurricanes would have taken the Sooners to the limit and, quite likely, would have won on the road in Norman. In fact, the last three times these two teams met, which was back in the 1980s, Miami took all three contests. Not this year. The Okies toyed around with Miami for a couple quarters, taking a 21-10 lead into the locker room at the half. Final scoreboard: OU 51, Miami 13. Ouch. Sooner redshirt freshman QB Sam Bradford was 19 for 25 for 205 yards and five TDs. The Hurricanes had to put ousted senior QB Kyle Wright back into the lineup, but it didn’t help. Next up: another breather at home, versus Utah State (0-2).

NO. 4 WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS (2-0). Intrastate rival Marshall played Wiley Coyote to WVU’s Roadrunner last Saturday, taking a 16-13 lead with 9:30 left in the third quarter before … Beep! Beep! QB Pat White broke a 20-yard touchdown run and Steve Slaton sliced into the end zone from 2 yards out, followed by Noel Devine, Slaton and Devine again on scoring bursts. Maryland might be more of a test this weekend, and the Mountaineers’ defense appears to be lagging behind the offense. Of course, so is everybody else.

NO. 5 FLORIDA GATORS (2-0). Tim Tebow has gone from sideshow to the main act at Florida without breaking stride, throwing for 236 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 93 more in a 50-31 rout of Troy State. What was that guy’s name who played quarterback last year, again? The defending national champions have Tennessee — one of their archrivals — this weekend, and Tebow says he’s excited about it. After last week, he probably is.

NO. 6 TEXAS LONGHORNS (2-0). The Longhorns continued their struggles at home against the formerly ranked TCU Horned Frogs, losing at halftime 10-0. The second half was all burnt orange as Mack Brown’s troops totally shut down TCU’s offense, giving up only 32 yards in the third quarter. In fact, the Frogs didn’t get a first down in the second half until midway through the fourth quarter, and the offense only scored two field goals in the game. TCU’s touchdown came on an interception return. Longhorn RB Jamaal Charles rushed for 134 yards and a TD on 22 carries. Next up: a very dangerous road game against Central Florida (1-0), which had a bye last week.

NO. 7 WISCONSIN BADGERS (2-0). As they say, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” The Badgers are sure hoping that slogan is true because they really didn’t look like a top-10 team against the Rebels on Saturday. They were tied 13-13 with lowly UNLV with less than two minutes remaining in the game when QB Tyler Donovan scored on a 29-yard bootleg. “I’m happy to get out of here winning by one or seven, 18 or whatever it is,” Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. P.J. Hill paced the Badgers’ ground attack with 147 yards rushing on 20 carries. Wisconsin hosts D-IAA The Citadel this week in Madison.

NO. 8 CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS (2-0). Cal jumped two spots in this week’s poll, which is a compliment to the winless Colorado State Rams. The Bears struggled the entire game against the Rams but finally prevailed 34-28. Heisman hopeful DeSean Jackson had seven touches for 117 yards in the game (five receptions, 39 yards and two carries, 78 yards), including a 73-yard touchdown scamper on a reverse. A home game this week with Louisiana Tech should be the perfect tune-up for the Bears because their Pac-10 schedule commences the following week on Sept. 22.

NO. 9 LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (2-0). OK, Brian Brohm is an air ace (25 of 31 for 401 yards and four touchdowns), Anthony Allen staked a most emphatic claim to Louisville’s starting running back spot with 275 rushing yards, and Steve Kragthorpe’s team scored 58 points. But, uh, Steve, how about the defense? Middle Tennessee scored 42, and things have to get better on the other side of the ball this Saturday or Kentucky QB Andre Woodson is going to making his own statement. The Wildcats outscored their first two opponents 106-30, and the game is at Lexington.

NO. 10 OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (2-0). Head coach Jim Tressel knows this week’s road game in Seattle against the undefeated Washington Huskies is going to be a heck of a lot tougher than it looked like on paper a year or two ago. The Huskies mauled Syracuse two weeks ago and flattened formerly ranked Boise State last week. Conversely, the Buckeyes feasted on smaller instate programs Youngstown State and Akron. “Everyone in our building knows that it’s time to turn it up a notch,” Tressel said. Will Ohio State prove it is a top-10 team this week and expose Washington as an impostor? Or will Washington prove it belongs among the ranked once again? Stay tuned.

NO. 11 UCLA BRUINS (2-0). The Bruins jumped two spots on the strength of holding off defending Mountain West Conference champs BYU last week, 27-17. BYU out-gained UCLA in total yards by a huge margin, 435-236, and with the score 20-17 and 10 minutes remaining, the Cougars had a first down on the Bruins’ 13-yard line. Preseason All-America defensive lineman Bruce Davis managed to force a fumble on the next play to stifle the upset. Either the Cougars are pretty good, or the Bruins are not so hot, but this week’s road game at Utah won’t prove anything on that note. The Utes, who will be playing without their starting QB, RB, and leading WR, lost at home to Air Force last week. This should be a yawner for UCLA, and they’ll need it, because Washington is coming to town next week.

NO. 12 PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (2-0). Once again, the Nittany Lions are on the prowl toward top-10 status … Running back Austin Scott had a private talk with the offensive line at halftime after picking up only 39 yards on 11 carries against Notre Dame. It seemed to work because Scott registered 77 yards and two scores on the ground in the second half. The Lions didn’t look great in their 31-10 victory over the Irish, but it was decisive nonetheless. Still, it didn’t seem as if they were really tested. And with Buffalo coming to Happy Valley this week, Penn State has to wonder if it is really going to be ready for Big Ten play the following week. Fortunately, they’ll knock helmets with a deflated Michigan team on Sept. 22.

NO. 13. RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS (2-0). Up top, the Big East is looking like a megaconference. Last week, Ray Rice became the career rushing leader at Rutgers (come to think of it, how many other Rutgers running backs can you name?) and QB Mike Teel played just well enough to sink Navy, 41-24. This week it’s Norfolk State, which is probably wondering whose idea this game was, especially after news from last week’s game about Rutgers students disrespecting and mocking the Naval Academy. Nice going, boys. Maybe the Pentagon will reinstall the draft just for you.

NO. 14 NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS (1-0). Nebraska knew that Wake Forest would be a tough game last week, and sure enough, the Demon Deacons almost pulled off the upset — with a backup QB! Heisman candidate Marlon Lucky was held to 90 yards rushing on the day, and the Deacons had a chance to take the lead with under two minutes to go, but backup QB Brett Hodges’ pass was intercepted. The Huskers will do battle with the USC Trojans this week for only the fourth time in the program’s history. USC owns the series, going 2-0 with a 21-21 tie back in 1970. Last year, the men of Troy dominated Nebraska in the Coliseum, 28-10. Coach Bill Callahan says he’s treating this game just like any other. Yeah, right.

NO. 15 GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS (2-0). Let’s see — Virginia Tech got whacked by LSU last Saturday and Miami was destroyed by Oklahoma. Neither Clemson nor Florida State looked all that impressive on defense when they played each other, and Wake Forest lost big to Boston College. So who’s going to be the top dog in the ACC this season? Just ask Samford, which gave up nine rushing touchdowns in losing 69-14 to Georgia Tech. Of course, the Yellow Jackets haven’t played anybody, winning their opener against some team from the Midwest (oh, yeah — Notre Dame). This week will help define the Jackets, as they host BC.

NO. 16 ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS (1-0). To paraphrase the band Dire Straits, Arkansas got its ranking for nothing last week — always a nice bonus. The Hogs took a week off after trampling Troy, 41-26, in their opener, but still moved up two spots in both major polls. Now, they have to travel to Alabama; coach Houston Nutt has been tinkering with a sputtering passing game to take some of the pressure off 1,000-yard rushers Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. This is not a good time to play the Crimson Tide (now 2-0) because of the orgy of enthusiasm over new coach Nick Saban, who hasn’t yet been proven mortal.

NO. 17 SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (2-0). The Fun and Gun at Florida has become the Kick and Pray at South Carolina, but Steve Spurrier will take a victory over Georgia any time. Ryan Succop booted three field goals and Cory Boyd scored the game’s only touchdown as Spurrier’s Gamecocks won their SEC opener on Saturday, 16-12. Best of all, it came Between the Hedges in Athens, where Spurrier was soundly booed for his past sins. Now, the Ol’ Ball Coach gets an in-state sparring partner, South Carolina State, to help him work the kinks out of his offense.

NO 18 VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES (1-1). The only good thing that came out of a 48-7 debacle at LSU was a new quarterback, with nimble freshman Tyrod Taylor replacing battered pocket passer Sean Glennon via a battlefield promotion. Given the way Tech’s offensive line has played, Frank Beamer really needed a quarterback with some escape moves. Another problem was that the Tigers’ O-line manhandled Tech’s defensive front. The ugliest stat from last Saturday? Try a 2 of 14 success rate on third down. Over the next two weeks, though, the Hokies have Ohio University and William & Mary in Lane Stadium, and Baton Rouge might begin to seem like a bad dream.

NO. 19 OREGON DUCKS (2-0). So, is Oregon pretty good, or is Michigan just really bad this year? We probably won’t know the answer for a few more weeks when current No. 8 ranked California comes to town. In the meantime, the Ducks can have the glory of handing the Wolverines their worst home loss since 1968, 39-7. Other than that, Appalachian State stole most of the thunder out of Oregon’s victory with its landmark win the week previous. Fresno State comes to town this week and it is not the Bulldogs of old. It might be a bit of a match for a half, but the Ducks should breeze easily in this one and can then start licking their chops — er, beaks — with the thought of playing Stanford next week.

NO. 20 CLEMSON TIGERS (2-0). Where have you been all this time, Cullen Harper? In two games this season, the new Clemson quarterback — who warmed the bench behind Charlie Whitehurst and Will Proctor for three years — has completed 34 of 50 passes for 430 yards and seven touchdowns, including a school-record five TD passes last Saturday in a 46-26 rout of Louisiana-Monroe. Coupled with the ACC version of Thunder (James Davis) and Lightning (C.J. Spiller) on the ground, the Tigers’ defense is beginning to look like a runaway force. That probably won’t change this Saturday against visiting Furman.

NO. 21 BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES (2-0). The ACC will begin to sort itself out Saturday night when 2-0 BC travels to Georgia Tech. Both teams have been impressive so far, but the Eagles are now 2-0 in league play, having disposed of Wake Forest and N.C. State (honchoed by former BC coach Tom O’Brien). The Eagles may just be the most underrated team in the country, featuring an experienced quarterback (Matt Ryan), their two top rushers from 2006 and a veteran defense that intercepted State’s Harrison Beck five times last week.

NO. 22 TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (1-1). Southern Mississippi was supposed to be a trap game for the Volunteers last week, and the Golden Eagles did lead UT 13-10 after a quarter. But then the Erik Ainge-led offense heated up, and Philip Fulmer’s team put USM in the rearview mirror, 39-19. RB Arian Foster had one of his best outings as a Vol; new receivers Austin Rogers, Lucas Taylor and Josh Briscoe combined for 241 receiving yards while the defense stifled USM in the second half. Of course, that was Southern Mississippi — this week it’s Florida, in Gainesville.

NO. 23. GEORGIA BULLDOGS (1-1). What a difference a week makes. Mark Richt’s Georgia Bulldogs started off their season with a convincing smackdown of well-regarded Oklahoma State, then turned around and produced precious little offense at home while losing to South Carolina, 16-12. Winless Western Carolina is no Appalachian State, and the Catamounts’ visit to Athens on Saturday may be just what the Dawgs need to get better in a hurry.

NO. 24 HAWAII WARRIORS (2-0). Hawaii tumbled four spots in this week’s poll after struggling through a 45-44 overtime shootout with lowly WAC opponent Louisiana Tech. Can they blame their poor defensive performance on the 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty they got for performing the “haka” dance before the game? June Jones doesn’t think so, and he vows that his Warriors will continue the emotional chant before every game in front of their fans. This week’s road contest at UNLV looked to be another pushover game until the Rebels played tough against Wisconsin last week. However, the Badgers are a run-first team and that’s a far cry from Hawaii’s air-it-out-at-any-cost philosophy.

NO. 25 TEXAS A&M AGGIES (1-0). The Aggies dropped two slots this week after their triple-overtime, 47-45 win over Fresno State on Saturday. Jorvorskie Lane, the 6-foot, 268-pound bruiserback, lugged the rock 23 times for 121 yards and four scores to lead the Aggies. We’ll find out this week if the Bulldogs really provided a valid test for A&M when it plays at Oregon. In the meantime, the Aggies get a breather with Louisiana-Monroe at home this Saturday.

ON THE BUBBLE: South Florida, Missouri, Alabama, Washington, TCU, Arizona State, Auburn, Appalachian State, Cincinnati, Florida State

Fourth and inches …

Early season surprises … If anyone predicted in the preseason that both Michigan and Notre Dame would be winless heading into this weekend’s game in Ann Arbor, he or she would have to be clairvoyant. Oddly enough, there’s just as much intrigue in this game to see who will be 0-3 in the aftermath as there would be if both teams were 2-0 and ranked. Adding more fuel to the fire, Michigan running back Mike Hart has boldly guaranteed a Wolverine victory. I can’t remember when both teams have looked so vulnerable in the same season … Reliable sources are reporting that this truly will be Lloyd Carr’s last year. Duh, ya think so? Hey, maybe Jim Harbaugh will apply for the job.

►Heisman hype… Give credit to Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey for taking it easy on Samford last week. Sensational running back Tashard Choice got 110 yards and two TDs on 11 carries against Samford and then took a seat in the 69-14 massacre. Choice will have his chance to shine this week when the Ramblin’ Wreck host No. 21 Boston College. Nebraska’s Marlon Lucky faced much stiffer competition on the road against Wake Forest and came away with 90 yards and a score on 24 carries. If Marlon has a big game against USC this weekend, he’ll remain in the race. If not, you can count him out. Cal’s DeSean Jackson had five receptions for 39 yards and two carries for 78 yards against Colorado State last week. Seventy-three of those rushing yards came off a reverse play that Jackson took the distance. Arkansas had the week off, so nothing new to add about RB Darren McFadden. He’ll have a prime opportunity to shine on the road this week at Alabama.

►More Heisman talk at the water cooler … You can drop UCLA’s Ben Olson from the list of hopefuls … despite eeking out a win against his former teammates, BYU held Olson to a dismal statistical performance (13 of 28 for 126 yards and one INT). Two of the big-name QB candidates put up some eye-popping numbers against weak opponents … Louisville’s Brian Brohm was 25 of 39 for 401 yards and 5 TDs against Middle Tennessee State … Hawaii’s Colt Brennan went 43 of 61 for 548 yards and four TDs and a pick against Louisiana Tech … Facing stiffer competition, dual threat Pat White of West Virginia was 13 of 18 for 149 yards and two TDs through the air – as well as 125 yards and a TD on 18 carries against Marshall. Teammate Steve Slaton added 146 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns on 24 carries … Texas gunslinger Colt McCoy finished 25 of 38 for 239 yards, one TD, and two picks in the Longhorns’ comeback win over TCU.

►One sure Heisman candidate for next year? … BYU’s QB Max Hall. The redshirt sophomore transfer from ASU has put up some strong numbers and outperformed both of his Pac-10 counterparts — Willie Tuitama (Arizona) and UCLA’s Ben Olson — in the first two weeks of this young season. Last week, Hall went 30 of 52 for 391 yards, two TDs and one INT against the Bruins. In the first two games of his collegiate career, Hall’s line is 56 of 91 (61.5 percent) for 679 yards, four TDs and one pick.


► Worst fans?… Hands down, it has to be Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights’ fans hurled volley after volley of derisive and profanity-laced taunts at the Naval Academy team and fans in last week’s 41-24 home victory. None of the taunts could be repeated in this column, but let’s just say if the Defense Department wanted to set up a draft for only Rutgers students, I’d be all for it. Rutgers school officials, including AD Robert Mulcahy, issued a letter of apology to the Naval Academy this week. They’ve also sent an open letter to students requesting better behavior at future games.

►Is ACC the weakest BCS conference? … Food for thought … Three of the ACC’s top teams lost their non-conference games last week … Miami was crushed 51-13 by Oklahoma, Virginia Tech rolled by LSU, 48-7, and Wake Forest lost at home to Nebraska, 20-17. Two weeks ago, Virginia lost to Wyoming, 23-3, and North Carolina State lost to Central Florida. Last year, the ACC was 6-16 in non-conference games against BCS schools. So far, Georgia Tech, Clemson, and Boston College are the only bright spots for the conference.

►Potential BCS Busters … Central Florida, if it pulls off the upset over Texas this week … of the four hopefuls from last week, Hawaii is hanging by a thread … TCU and BYU lost to top-12 teams but could still have a chance if they don’t lose again … Boise State got walloped by unranked Washington and doesn’t look to have a chance.

►You never wish this on a player … USC junior defensive back Josh Pinkard tore an ACL in his left knee and will miss the rest of this season. Last year, Pinkard tore up his right knee and had to sit out nearly the entire season. Louisville safety Latarrius Thomas and Tennessee defensive back Antonio Gaines are also out for the year with knee injuries. Here’s wishing you guys all a speedy recovery and return to the gridiron next season.

►Whatever happened to … Miami senior QB Kyle Wright? After losing the starting role to Kirby Freeman in the Hurricanes’ first two games this season, Wright is back on the first team for the Florida International game this week. The Class of 2003’s most highly prized national QB recruit, the Danville, Calif., native has gone 14-7 as a starter in his college career at Miami with 4,058 yards passing.

►Speaking of Miami and Florida International … Do you remember the huge mid-game brawl that occurred between these two teams last year with helmets and cleats being used as weapons? Thirty-one players were sanctioned — 18 from FIU, 13 from Miami. They promise it won’t happen again this year. Honest.

►Quick Snap Question … presented by the 83rd East-West Shrine Game, Jan. 19, 2008 in Houston on ESPN:

When was the last time that a winless Notre Dame team played a winless Michigan team?

Be quick and be correct. The first email received with the correct answer wins you a limited edition two-card set of 2007 Rose Bowl Game trading cards. The winner will be announced in next week’s Fourth and inches…

Last week’s winner, Sam Grayson of Miami, Florida, correctly answered that the last time Ohio State played an unranked Michigan team in The Rivalry Game was 1993. No. 5 Ohio State (9-0-1) took it on the chin 28-0 from the unranked Wolverines (6-4) in Ann Arbor that year. Congratulations, Sam!

►Best Games of the Week … Texas Longhorns at Central Florida Golden Knights … Ohio State Buckeyes at Washington Huskies … Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Michigan Wolverines … Tennessee Volunteers at Florida Gators … Arkansas Razorbacks at Alabama Crimson Tide … BYU Cougars at Tulsa Golden Hurricane … Louisville Cardinals at Kentucky Wildcats … Fresno State Bulldogs at Oregon Ducks … Boston College Eagles at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets … Wyoming Cowboys at Boise State Broncos … USC Trojans at Nebraska Cornhuskers …

►Upset Specials of the Week … Last week (2-2, season 3-5) … Wyoming Cowboys over Boise State Broncos … Fresno State Bulldogs over Oregon Ducks … Central Florida Golden Knights over Texas Longhorns … Kentucky Wildcats over Louisville Cardinals