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Sports Then and Now

College Football Week In Review: Are They Really Back?

Posted on September 13, 2009 by Dean Hybl
Michigan Freshman Tate Forcier led the Wolverines to a late victory over Notre Dame.

Michigan Freshman Tate Forcier led the Wolverines to a late victory over Notre Dame.

Each Sunday during college football season we look at some of the big games, stories, and events from the action of the week.

Are They Really Back?
I noticed a lot of similarities between the outstanding game Saturday afternoon between Michigan and Notre Dame and the equally entertaining contest last Monday night between Florida State and the University of Miami.

Both games featured two teams with proud football traditions that have been struggling in recent years, but appear to be turning the corner back toward respectability.

After Miami turned back Florida State’s final charge in the closing seconds of the game, all post game talk was about whether this signaled the return of Miami as a football power and if FSU was also now poised to return to national relevance.

While we will learn more about Miami in their next three games against Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma, we may have learned all we needed to know about Florida State on Saturday.

Playing at home against Division I-AA Jacksonville State, the Seminoles trailed 9-7 in the final minute of the game before scoring two quick touchdowns to post a 19-9 victory.

Had they lost to Jacksonville State, it would have undoubtedly been the most embarrassing loss of Bobby Bowden’s long and storied career. Even in victory, it really isn’t exactly a glorious moment for a program that is used to fighting for wins against teams such as Florida, Nebraska and USC.

After the dramatic last second victory by Michigan over Notre Dame it is easy to draw the conclusion that Michigan is back after struggling through the last two seasons.

And even Notre Dame in defeat could easily be considered as a team on the rise as quarterback Jimmy Clausen looked excellent despite playing in a hostile environment.

Before I’m prepared to anoint either program as being “back” among the national elite, I want to see how they fare over the next few weeks.

With their next two games against Eastern Michigan and Indiana, it is very likely that Michigan will be 4-0 when they travel to East Lansing to face Michigan State. Considering that the Spartans lost Saturday to Central Michigan, it could be a very winnable game for the Wolverines.

Michigan could very easily finish the season with eight or nine victories and a quality bowl appearance just a season after going 3-9.

Except for a mid-season matchup with USC, Notre Dame doesn’t have a game remaining where they will be an obvious underdog. Now they also do not have a game remaining that could be considered a “give me” win, but if they want to save the job of head coach Charlie Weis and regain some of the luster they have lost in recent years, they must win most of those games.

Sports Illustrated Jinx
You and I may know that there really isn’t any such thing as the Sports Illustrated Jinx, but try telling that to fans of Oklahoma State this weekend.

Try telling Oklahoma State fans that there is no such thing as a Sports Illustrated Jinx.

Try telling Oklahoma State fans that there is no such thing as a Sports Illustrated Jinx.

Just days after having receiver Dez Bryant grace the cover of the most prestigious sports magazine in the country following a huge victory over the University of Georgia, Oklahoma State was upset in Stillwater by a team from a non-BCS conference.

It has been a long time since the University of Houston has been in the national picture, but quarterback Case Keenum has the Cougars poised for a big season. Keenum rushed for a touchdown and passed for two in the first half as Houston raced to a stunning 24-7 halftime advantage.

The Cowboys appeared to have things back under control after out-scoring their opponents 21-0 in the third quarter. However, Keenum and the Cougars responded in the fourth quarter with three touchdowns to post a stunning 45-35 victory.

Coupled with the loss last week by Oklahoma, two of the three Big 12 teams picked in the pre-season national Top 10 have already been defeated.

Considering that Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State all still have to play each other, it could make it much tougher for the Big 12 to get two teams into a BCS bowl than in recent years.

Freshman Leads Trojans To Late Victory
Just when it looked like the Ohio State Buckeyes might finally pull out a victory over a highly rated team from another BCS conference, the University of Southern California’s freshman quarterback snatched the victory away with a drive that could propel him to greatness.

Matt Barkley led USC to a late victory over Ohio State.

Matt Barkley led USC to a late victory over Ohio State.

Trailing 15-10 with just over seven minutes remaining in his second collegiate start, Matt Barkley led the Trojans on a 14-play, 86-yard drive that took more than six minutes and culminated in a two-yard touchdown run by Stafon Johnson.

Barkley’s numbers for the game were not spectacular (15 for 31 for 195 yards and an interception), but on the final series he completed three of five passes for 55 yards. He also connected with Joe McKnight on a two-point conversion that gave the Trojans the 18-15 lead.

While the Pac-10 is not the best conference in college football, it does have some very solid teams and USC will have to show a bit more offense during road games at California, Notre Dame and Oregon if they want to play for a national championship this season.

Ohio State faithful are certainly disappointed as I’m sure they feel they let one get away. But in a conference with few potentially dominant teams, the Buckeyes still are the favorite to win the conference and earn a trip to the Rose Bowl.

I have a very hard time believing that they will lose again before they play at Penn State on November 7 in what surely will be the biggest game between two Big Ten teams this season.

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