A taste of normality

For the first time in half a score of weeks, the teams we regard as the finest in the land played like it.

The first two months of the 2009 season have been marked with lackluster showings from the top ranked teams, the failure of anyone to make a case for the Heisman Trophy, and star players being carried off the field in desolation with injuries.

Maybe it’s because Saturday was Halloween, but it seemed that everyone turned into something else this week. Every top-ten team that played Saturday won by at least 18 points. Are they tricking the experts, or are they treating the country to a sneak preview of what’s to come in the final month of the season?

In 2008, the Florida Gators scored at least 38 points in every game in October and November. Until Saturday, it had been five weeks since they had last reached that mark. Tim Tebow had simply looked uncomfortable for the first time in his career, and missing more open receivers than Jason Campbell.

Everything finally came together Saturday, however, as Tebow returned to his native Jacksonvile for the final time as a Gator, and drubbed Georgia 41-17. He found Riley Cooper twice in the first quarter to set the tone, and ran for two touchdowns, passing Herschel Walker for the most all-time in the SEC.

For the first time since Troy on Sept. 12, Tebow threw more than one touchdown in a game. Brandon Spikes, who has also been a disappointment this season, iced this win with an interception returned for a score midway through the fourth quarter.

This was the Florida we were used to; the Florida we expected to see all season. They knocked Georgia down early in the game, and then proceeded to stomp on them until the final whistle blew.

Urban Meyer and Mark Richt hardly have any love lost, so you can see why Florida never let up. That being said, Meyer needs to keep his players in that dominant mode for the rest of November, as in all likelihood, Alabama awaits in December.

Colt McCoy isn’t wasting any more time either enduring a subpar season. Over the last two weeks, the Texas gunslinger has thrown for 450 yards and four touchdowns, and the Longhorns have outscored their opponents 82-21.

Texas knows that if they win the remainder of their games, they are virtually a lock for the BCS championship game. A 1-loss SEC team would not jump them in the final rankings, because the SEC isn’t its normal self this year.

The only thing that would keep Texas out of the title picture is unconvincing wins. For the longest time, McCoy’s offense was not very sharp, and Texas was simply getting by on pure talent rather than strong play.

Now it looks like the mighty ‘Horns have awoken from their slumber (does cattle even hibernate?) and are on a mission to make it to Pasadena.

McCoy is also ready to re-enter the Heisman Favorites Club, which he had been kicked out of after the pathetic effort against Oklahoma on Oct. 17.

Holy LeGarrette Blount, the Oregon Ducks are a top-five team. After the fiasco that was the Boise State loss in the season’s first night, Chip Kelly has taken Oregon farther than anyone could have imagined.

In a battle of once-beaten Pac-10 teams, the Ducks stomped the USC Trojans 47-20, and all but ended the Trojans seven-year reign as conference champions. While we will probably now see our first year of BCS bowls without the Trojans since 2001, the Ducks are right in the mix as the best one-loss team.

As Tebow and McCoy staked their claim for an invitation to New York, Jeremiah Masoli is making it too hard to keep him from being a Heisman finalist also. He lit up Pete Carroll’s defense for 222 yards passing, 164 rushing and two touchdowns.

It was the second time this season a top-six team came into Autzen Stadium. It was also the second time the Ducks sent them home with an embarrassing loss. In its last five games, Oregon has outscored its opponents 208-58.

The final four games are all against respectable opponents for Chip Kelly’s team. Road trips to Stanford and Arizona, along with home dates with Arizona State and Oregon State should make for a strong final strength of schedule, and as good a resume for an 11-1 team as anyone else.

The toughest decision voters would have to make as early as this week is whether or not to put Oregon ahead of the Boise State Broncos. Even though they beat Oregon at home in week one, the Ducks have looked so unstoppable against multiple highly-regarded opponents its hard to say at this point the Broncos are the better team.

Nevertheless, Oregon played like a dominant team, which is more than anyone can say for most of the country up until Saturday.

So, we have three teams we can honestly say look the part of a national champion, and three players who can make it to the Heisman presentation with nary a critic.

Looks like November might be quite compelling after all.


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