WEST VIRGINIA 62, WESTERN MICHIGAN 24
Outside of a Division 1-AA team from Boone, North Carolina, no one made a statement on week one that was impossible to ignore. That said, if forced to name one team outside of Appalachian State that thoroughly impressed me over the weekend, I'd have no choice but to say West Virginia.
Western Michigan's defense was sixth best in the nation against the run in 2006, and after watching them play Saturday I'm not convinced they couldn't have ranked in the top ten again this season had the Mountaineers not been on the schedule. The Broncos are a good team with a defense that may very well lead them to the MAC title, but Pat White and Steve Slaton absolutely toyed with them for four quarters.
White accounted for four total touchdowns and threw for 192 yards and ran for 98 more while Slaton kicked off his more likely to succeed Heisman campaign by rushing for 112 yards and three scores, and racking up 61 receiving yards and hauling in another touchdown through the air. Freshman Noel Devine also made an impact, receiving a standing ovation for his first carry, which turned out to be a gain of no yards. Devine finished the respectable debut with 44 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
In his first start in more than a year, WMU quarterback Tim Hiller performed well enough to help confirm my suspicion that the Mountaineer secondary isn't going to be that much, if any, better than it was a year ago (I don't care if Andrews was suspended). It doesn't matter. I don't think there's a team out there that can hold these guys under 30 points, and the ones that can hold them under 40 are numbered.
Just like it has the last two seasons, the game on Nov. 8 is going to come down to who gets the breaks because West Virginia can't stop Louisville through the air, and nobody can stop the Mountaineers on the ground.
CC Prediction: West Virginia 41, Western Michigan 14
SOUTH FLORIDA 28, ELON 13
A week away from the biggest game in school history, fans in Tampa have to be feeling more than a little uneasy as even the Bulls' fireworks technicians are getting hurt.
South Florida, which had nine offensive lineman and reigning Big East freshman of the year Matt Grothe - among others - go down with injuries this offseason, limped (literally) to a 28-13 win over lowly Elon.
USF suffered a huge blow when starting senior center Nick Capogna sprained his left knee on the second offensive series of the game and did not play in the second half. His status for this weekend is unknown. To make matters worse, right tackle Walt Walker, who was still recovering from a calf injury, and left tackle Marc Dile both had to sit out much of the game because of cramps.
Things weren't any better on the other side of the ball where leading tackler Ben Moffitt left the game early in the fourth quarter with cramps and did not return, and All-Conference cornerback Trae Williams suffered an unspecified injury to his right leg with less than 3:30 to play.
The Bulls were bailed out by highly-touted freshman running back Mike Ford, who rushed for 83 yards and three touchdowns in his collegiate debut. Grothe completed 23 of his 29 attempts, but in that offense throwing the ball more than 30 times should be a rarity.
Perhaps almost as concerning as the injuries was the fact that USF coughed the ball up three times on special teams alone, and committed nine penalties for 89 yards, two aspects that played a huge role in keeping Elon in the game.
If South Florida hopes to be competitive on Saturday then they have got to be healthy, they can't have the drops or the fumbles they had two days ago, and they can't continue to make silly penalties. Of course if Capogna doesn't play then nothing else matters because they'll have no shot.
CC Prediction: South Florida 44, Elon 0
PITTSBURGH 27, EASTERN MICHIGAN 3
The Panthers grinded out a 24-point victory over the overmatched Eagles, but the big news here was that quarterback Bill Stull tore a ligament in his right thumb, and is out indefinitely. The injury is reportedly very comparable to the one Brian Brohm suffered against Miami last season.
Stull was 14 of 20 for 177 yards and a touchdown before the injury, and he was replaced by Kevan Smith who was 2 of 4 for 18 yards. Dave Wannstedt initially said that Smith would start if Stull couldn't go, but has backtracked a bit since the news broke that Stull would likely be out for around a month.
"We feel very disappointed for Billy," the 'Stache said. "He worked incredibly hard during the off-season to earn the starting job and those efforts showed in his strong play last night. Knowing Billy, he will be very diligent in his rehabilitation and be back as soon as possible. We will work this week to get [redshirt freshman] Kevan Smith and [freshman] Pat Bostick ready to play against Grambling."
Obviously Wannstedt and all the other Pitt offensive coaches want Bostick to be the starter because, well, he's leaps and bounds ahead of Smith in the talent department. The only reason not to go with the freshman is concern over whether or not he's mentally ready to play the position. Bostick left fall camp for nine days to deal with personal issues, and by the time he returned Stull had - for all intents and purposes - already secured the starting job.
My guess is that Smith will start against Grambling, but that the job for the Michigan State gameis probably Bostick's to lose. If he performs well on Saturday then I think he's the guy, if he doesn't then they say the job is still Smith's because he's proven himself to the team and that they need experience on the road against a tough Big Ten squad.
As for the rest of the team, the defense held the hapless Eastern Michigan offense to just 145 total yards, and freshman LaSean McCoy rushed for a dazzling 68 yards while splitting time with junior LaRod Stephens-Howling. Playing without All-American candidate Derrick Kinder who is out for the season with an ACL tear, none of the Pitt receivers significantly stepped up to fill the void. Last year's second-leading receiver Oderick Turner did catch a touchdown pass, but it was his only reception of the game.
They can deny it for another 12 days, but the Panthers are in serious trouble.
CC Prediction: Pittsburgh 34, Eastern Michigan 7
CONNECTICUT 45, DUKE 14
Tyler Lorenzen made an impressive debut as the new Uconn quarterback by throwing 298 yards and two scored as the Huskies extended Duke's losing streak to 21.
Connecticut had virtually zero passing game in 2006, but that figures to change as the left-handed (no relation to Jared) Junior College All-American completed 22 of 30 passes, a showing that will force future opponents to lay off of sophomore running back Donald Brown.
Despite playing without injured linebacker Ryan Henegan, the Husky defense managed to hold Duke to only 15 yards rushing and just 54 total yards in the second half.
Randy Edsall will shoot for 2-0 next week as his team hosts Maine.
CC Prediction: Connecticut 24, Duke 13
Week One Record: 8-0
Season Record: 8-0
Sure the "experts" laughed at me when I picked Rutgers to take out Buffalo, but that's the sort fly by the seat of your pants prediction you can expect all year long here, and it's what's going to ultimately lead me to my dream of a perfect season.
Quick Non-Conference Wrap
I'm not as worried about national perception as I am about the team being largely untested, with the exception of Kentucky, before November. In case you're wondering what all the fuss is about, here's what the other teams we'll be playing this season did over the weekend.
--Kentucky, for its part, looked, or at least sounded (I was pretty sure my TV package carried every game known to man, but apparently not) impressive in its 50-10 dismantling of EKU. I will never be able to bring myself to cheer for these guys, but if they do manage to have a successful season it could help us tremendously. I'm very interested to see how they look against a Kent State team that just went on the road and knocked off Iowa State.
--The Mike Archer era at North Carolina State began predictably, a 25-23 loss to Central Florida. But it gets worse. The team's unquestionable star, running back Toney Baker, sustained a knee injury in the fourth quarter and is out for the season. The Pack will be lucky to win two games in the ACC.
--Middle Tennessee State proved that they're even worse than we all thought by falling 27-14 to Howard Schnellenberger and Florida Atlantic.
--And as I told you on Friday, Utah lost its quarterback for a few weeks and its running back for the season in the midst of a 24-7 loss to Oregon State.
This isn't that big a deal now, but expect some of these scores to be hurled at you from all angles if the Cards still have a zero in the loss column come November.