Week 2: We want more Lattimore
The lasting impressions of this significant Saturday have to do with guys who are not only scary good, but they're obviously going to get even better.
The sky is the limit for Denard Robinson and Marcus Lattimore ... and, of course, for all the Crimson Tide of Alabama.
Robinson showed himself as the most exciting player in college football right now. Michigan's sophomore quarterback can't expect every week to be as crazy fun as his mind-boggling 502-yard performance in a dramatic victory over Notre Dame. But we can't be sure it won't be, considering the way he runs. And throws.
Lattimore is in the process of tilting the SEC East in the direction of South Carolina. A true freshman running back who accounted for 198 yards in a victory over Georgia, this kid had both Uga and Gamecock fans recalling 1980 – the year when Herschel Walker arrived for the Dawgs, and George Rogers won the Heisman for the Cocks.
In the meantime, what the Tide did was make Joe Paterno's team look like Penn or Alabama State, rather than Penn State. In destroying the Nittany Lions, 24-3, top-ranked Alabama left nothing to the imagination, except prompting folks to wonder just how good they can become when they get two of college football's best players back in the lineup, as soon as next week.
Then there's Boise State, which didn't even play, but ended the day as Saturday's biggest loser.
HERE'S TO YOU MR. ROBINSON: There's a long way to go, but Michigan's young Mr. Robinson offers more than a breath of fresh air for Rich Rodriguez. He reminds us of a young Michael Vick at Virginia Tech – so fast, so smooth, and so quick with his release.
Last year, we saw that his feet moved like a cartoon character, but as a true freshman he did not have the grasp of the offense that Rodriguez required. Remember, he played behind Tate Forcier, who made a name for himself with a big performance against Notre Dame and some late-game heroics of his own – just not enough of them to lead Michigan to a winning season or to hold off Robinson's spring and 2010 preseason performance.
And now, with the next three games against Massachusetts, Bowling Green, and Indiana, Robinson is certain to get the Wolverines to a winning season. He, too, has shown an ability to come through in the clutch. Against the Irish, Michigan needed a late 72-yard drive and Robinson produced every one of those yards: 17 with his feet and 55 on 5-for-6 passing, scoring the game-winner on a 2-yard run with 27 seconds remaining.
The question will be how he'll hold up over the long haul. In the opener, he accounted for a 383 yards of total offense — including 197 on the ground, at the time the most rushing yards by a Michigan QB in a single game — in leading a 30-10 win over Connecticut. That was nothing compared to Saturday's performance, when he carried 28 times for 258 yards, and completed 24 of 40 for 244 passing yards. He had the longest run — 87 yards — in the history of Notre Dame Stadium. He's now accounted for five touchdowns and has yet to turn the ball over.
Is it too soon to consider him a Heisman Trophy favorite? Nope. Alabama's Mark Ingram has missed two games. Boise State's Kellen Moore doesn't get many high-profile games against quality opponents. A number of other preseason candidates failed to get off to a fast start. And another primary candidate is his counterpart at Ohio State, Terrelle Pryor, which could set up a juicy season-ending duel.
That's a long ways off, but it's fun to think that the Ohio State-Michigan game will actually mean something again.
BREAK ON THROUGH: When he was at Florida, Steve Spurrier became known for the "Fun 'n' Gun" offense, but now in his sixth season at South Carolina, he unveiled the "Fun 'n' Run," with Lattimore doing most of the running. The 6-foot, 218-pound freshman from Duncan, S.C., carried the ball 37 times in his second college game, gashing Georgia for 182 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a pass for 16 yards in the 17-6 victory.
Widely considered the top running back prospect in the country a year ago, Lattimore is the workhorse back Spurrier wants to balance his offense around, after two years of a non-existent rushing attack. But the arrival of the 6-foot, 218-pound Lattimore allows junior Stephen Garcia to play quarterback without having to try to play hero all the time. Lattimore seemed content taking that role, leaving SC fans chanting "Latti-more, Latti-more" late in the game.
The Gamecocks will move to 3-0 next week against Furman, and then hit the road for the first time – a key matchup at Auburn, which was the other school Lattimore had narrowed his choice to before choosing South Carolina last fall. Lattimore looks like the breakthrough player who will enable Spurrier and the Gamecocks to finally break through in the SEC East, leading all the way to Nov. 13 at Florida.
ONLY GETTING BETTER: Alabama easily handled the first of its major challenges this season when it dispatched Penn State, and now the Tide get a week to recharge and face Duke, while figuring out what it's going to do with its two super all-purpose backs. Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram is expected to be ready to go, and share time with wildly effective Trent Richardson (144 yards against Penn State). Having Ingram back in the lineup, and keeping these two runners fresh, should make the Tide even tougher to stop.
What's more, 'Bama is also expecting to get back defensive end Marcell Dareus, who was suspended by the NCAA for two games. His return will solidify an already stout Tide defensive front. Although Alabama has made it look easy in its first two games, remember, after they take apart Duke, they have three games in a row against ranked teams (Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina). That's when the added depth and talent will be needed.
BOISE STATE LOSES ... WITHOUT PLAYING: Boise State might as well have lost a game Saturday, because when Virginia Tech was shocked by James Madison University, it knocked all the glitter off of BSU's season-opening, impressive-at-the-time victory over Tech. The Broncos have no other nationally impressive games on their schedule, and so they'll have a hard time impressing voters (not to mention, the schedule-strength conscious computers) enough to get all the way to the BCS championship game ... even if they're the only undefeated team remaining at the end of the season.
Let's face it, they were facing an uphill argument against the powers that be, and Virginia Tech agreeing to face JMU with a ridiculously short week (remember, they played Boise on Monday night out of town) not only undermined the Hokies' season, but Boise's chances at the title game.
FAST AS LIGHTNING: Oregon looked a bit suspect in the early going at Tennessee, but after the game was delayed for 70 minutes in the first quarter because of lightning, the Ducks repeatedly struck like lightning in the second half. It's not just that they scored 45 unanswered points en route to a 48-13 victory, it's how they did it that was eye-opening.
Four consecutive touchdowns came by a different manner, by different people, and from a long way away. Midway through the third quarter, LaMichael James bolted 72 yards for a rushing touchdown. Soon thereafter, Cliff Harris snagged an interception and returned it 76 yards for a touchdown. Then there was a 29-yard pass for a score from Darron Thomas to Lavasier Tuinia, followed by an 80-yard punt return by Kenjon Barner. Four unanswered TDs in a 13-minute span, averaging 64 yards a play.
WHO'S NO. 3? Pick whomever you like at this point – Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, TCU, Oregon, or (yes) Boise State, but all of them will be watching and waiting, hoping that No. 1 Alabama or No. 2 Ohio State falter. Because both of those two teams have shown that they richly deserve their top-two ranking.
THE PAC-11 CAN WAIT: Colorado apparently won't be joining the Pac-10 with Utah in 2011, waiting instead until 2012. That ought to be fine with just about everybody involved, since the last thing the league needs right now is a creampuff, which is what the Buffs were Saturday against California, 52-7. For what it's worth, the best of the division alignments being discussed would divide USC and UCLA, allowing every team in the league to cycle through Los Angeles every two years.
BOUNCEBACK: Give Kansas the "bounce back" award for the week, following the embarrassing 6-3 loss to North Dakota State with Saturday's exciting 28-25 decision over 15th-ranked Georgia Tech. Perhaps most impressive was the way Turner Gill's Jayhawks hung in there after it looked like it would all come unraveled in the final minutes.
MWC IS A-OK: Don't tell folks in the Mountain West that they aren't as deserving of a BCS bid as the ACC or Big East. This week, on the same day, all four of the ACC's ranked teams lost (including Virginia Tech's loss to JMU and Georgia Tech's loss to Kansas). In the meantime, TCU, Utah, BYU, and Air Force, are all quality teams that might very well beat up on each other this season. For one to emerge unbeaten would be remarkable.
A GLANCE AHEAD
Saturday, Sept. 18
Baylor at TCU -- The second of two games for TCU against BCS conferences.
Nebraska at Washington -- Huskers hit the road for the first time, Huskies seek a turning-point performance.
Alabama at Duke -- Juggernaut vs. a team that (for what it's worth) is averaging 44 points a game.
Texas at Texas Tech -- Early test for Longhorns, particularly the defense against Tayler Potts & Co.
Florida at Tennessee -- Vols looked great in 1st half vs. Oregon; Gators looked great in 2nd half vs. USF.
Iowa at Arizona -- Iowa won at home last year, now they visit the desert.
Air Force at Oklahoma -- After throttling BYU, Falcons present Sooners defense with a different challenge.
Arizona State at Wisconsin -- This looks like another ill-advised Pac-10 non-conference schedule addition.
Clemson at Auburn -- A big chance for ACC pride, but it's on the road.
Wake Forest at Stanford -- High-scoring institutions of higher learning ... but only Stanford plays defense.