It was an interesting week in college football to say the least. Two top-ten teams fell by the wayside on the road. A couple more barely escaped with wins. Two Hesiman Trophy candidates were lost to injury.
Upset losses have come to be expected, but hardly ever anticipated. As the following weeks begin to pass by, there will be more shock and more chaos.
Chaos is defined as “complete disorder or utter confusion.”
Sooner or later, that definition may read “See: College Football.”
Okay, time for some awards!
The Climb Award, brought to you by Miley Cyrus – Notre Dame
For Charlie Weis and the Fighting Irish, it’s been one hell of a climb back to the top of college football, and after Saturday, they aren’t back yet. The Irish fell at home to the USC Trojans 34-27 in thrilling fashion. Jimmy Clausen put together another sensational fourth-quarter comeback, only to fall three yards short of overtime.
What did we learn from the close loss? Weis has the program headed in the right direction, but it might not be at a satisfactory pace. After losing 38-3 in Los Angeles last season, Notre Dame came closer to beating their cross-country rivals than they had in four years.
USC is not the same USC that has dominated this decade, so it’s not like Notre Dame nearly beat the greatest show on turf or anything close. But it was still USC, and had the Irish completed the comeback and won the game, it would have marked a huge step forward for coach Weis.
It’s a long journey from mediocrity to glory in college football. Much of the Irish roster is full of players with at least one more year of eligibility. The promise they are showing this season should warrant at least one more year for Weis to make a run at a national title.
The Wizard of Oz Award (There’s no place like home) – Virginia Tech and Boston College
What a difference a venue makes. Both the Hokies and Eagles have looked lights-out for the most part in home battles; yet look like an entirely different team away from home.
The Hokies entered Atlanta Saturday night with the number four ranking in the country, thanks largely in part to huge home wins over Nebraska, Miami, and Boston College. In its only trips away from Blacksburg, Tech has struggled.
On the first night of the season, also in Atlanta, the Hokies fought hard but a few costly mistakes lost them the game against Alabama. Two weeks ago, the Hokies struggled through an afternoon in Durham, escaping Duke with a 34-26 win. The defense lacks the same energy away from Lane Stadium, and the offense can’t seem to break as many big plays on the road.
There is something to be said for drawing energy from the crowd to carry you through a lot of games. This Tech team needs to learn to create its own energy when need be.
As for the Eagles, it is hard to look as polar opposite as they have looked depending on where they play. At home, they have beaten Wake Forest, Florida State, and now North Carolina State, and looked pretty darn good doing it. On the road, Frank Spaziani’s crew has looked pitiful in losses to Clemson and the Hokies.
Much of the struggles away from home can be attributed to the inexperience at quarterback. David Shinskie played minor league baseball for five years before coming to play quarterback at Boston College. It is not very easy to adjust to playing football at this level, let alone doing it in two of the most intimidating stadiums in America.
The Eagles’ final three road tests come against Notre Dame, Virginia, and Maryland. Expect the Irish to have their way this Saturday, but the Cavaliers and Terrapins are hardly the Hokies or Tigers. Also, by that point in the season, Shinskie will have much more experience under his belt, and should be able to handle those trips.
As crazy as the Atlantic Division is, don’t count the Eagles out for a spot in the ACC Championship Game.
The Always Be Prepared Award – Zach Collaros, QB Cincinnati
As the first half of the Bearcats’ Thursday night bout with South Florida drew to an end, so did the Heisman dreams of their quarterback Tony Pike. With an undisclosed injury to his left forearm, Pike was unable to return to the field after halftime, leaving a 17-10 lead in untested backup Collaros’ hands.
No pressure, right?
Not for Collaros. The sophomore scampered 75 yards midway through the third quarter to extend the Bearcats’ lead to 14, then led a pair of well-sustained scoring drives that held off any chance of a Bulls’ rally.
The extent of Pike’s injury is still uncertain, but it is not looking good at this point. The good news for fifth-ranked Cincinnati is they can feel comfortable with Collaros in his stead.
Even though the Bulls may have been the toughest opponents Cincinnati sees this season, the spotlight will only brow brighter as an undefeated season draws closer.
Now that’s pressure.
The Most Awkward Thanksgiving Dinner Award – The Hawkins Family, Colorado
After a 1-4 start to the Buffaloes’ season, coach Dan Hawkins ran into the worst problem a coach can ever face: being forced to bench his son at quarterback.
Colorado fell apart in the second half last week, losing to Texas 38-14 after once leading 14-3. Dan’s son Cody was largely responsible for the offense’s ineffectiveness, throwing a couple untimely interceptions that led to the Longhorns’ rout.
Following the game, that’s when the elder Hawkins made the fateful decision. He opted to start Tyler Hansen under center for the upcoming game against #17 Kansas. Initially he declared the decision a “permanent” one, and then later in the week said his son might still see the field in the coming weeks.
That looks highly unlikely now. Hansen completed 14 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown in the Buffaloes’ 34-30 upset of the Jayhawks. Suddenly, an offense that sputtered in its first five games was taking control against a ranked foe.
The only major difference between this past week and the early part of the season was the personnel at quarterback. It appears obvious that Hansen is firmly cemented as the starter from here on out, and the younger Hawkins will have to learn what life is like holding the clipboard for his father. Awk-ward…