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9/9/05 12:05 AM
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Edited: 09-Sep-05
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Football 101: College football cram session   

So much can change in a week. Just one measly game into the season and suddenly Oklahoma is a vulnerable target, Notre Dame is a contender and Georgia has silenced almost all of its doubters. What will Week 2 bring? Well… more questions. This week's column tries to settle your confounded conscience with some of the most significant news out of college campuses.

Not Fade Away:

The Sooners say it will be different this week. They say they won't be the same sorry Sooners that lost straight up as 25-point favorites to TCU in the upset of the season.

A new quarterback might help. Redshirt freshman Rhett Bomar will take over for Paul Thomson after an ugly 11-for-26 performance which produced 109 yards and one pick. But Bomar originally lost the battle for the starting job in camp because of inconsistency, so will this change help or hinder the Sooners this week?
A lot of bettors have their finger on the fade button, but coach Bob Stoops says more practice will help Bomar get better.

"He's had the fewest number of snaps overall when you look at his amount of time here," Stoops said. "He`s been that close all along, that we feel maybe giving him more opportunities, more snaps, maybe he`ll do more with it. We`ll see."

More Controversy:

The Sooner Schooner isn't the only ship without a captain in this country. It seems like the quarterback job is up for grabs at a pile of schools and you should expect changes this weekend at:

How did the Tigers go 12-0 last season without an NFL-caliber quarterback? Ball protection. Jason Campbell simply didn't throw the ball away and Auburn's real talent was allowed to get the job done. There are four reasons why Auburn lost as home favorites to Georgia Tech last weekend and quarterback Brandon Cox was responsible for all of them. He threw four interceptions that probably cost his team the game and it's yet to be seen if it will cost him his position when Auburn goes for its first win when they host Mississippi State on Saturday as 15-point favorites.

Florida State:
The Seminoles pulled out an ugly win over Miami on Monday night, no thanks to new quarterback Drew Weatherford. The redshirt freshman completed 29 percent of his passes for 67 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. That could open the door for another freshman, Xavier Lee, who was edged out by Weatherford in a tight competition in training camp. Lee got in for one series against Miami and if Weatherford struggles again, Bowden could give the No. 2 a better look.

"I don`t think anybody proved anything," Bowden said.

Ohio State:
Troy Smith helped the Buckeyes pull a respectable season out of what looked like an early disaster last year. Now he's back from a one-game suspension, but will he get the nod in the monumental matchup with Texas?

"For this football game, as it stands right now, we've got two starting quarterbacks," OSU Jim Tressel said on Tuesday. "We're planning to play both guys."

Unlike some other situations, the Buckeyes aren't in a position where they can't find a guy who's good enough to start – they have two guys who can play. After his early struggles last year, Justin Zwick played well in Smith's absence. This isn't a controversy that will hurt the team.

Grounded Gators:
The Florida Gators are one team with a solid starter under center, but even after Chris Leak's near-perfect performance in Week 1 versus Wyoming, new coach Urban Meyer wasn't happy. The reason was the running game, which produced only 91 yards.

Meyer called the ground game and run-blocking "pathetic", and said if it doesn`t improve, "I don`t think we can beat an evenly matched team."

You can't really call Louisiana Tech an evenly-matched team, but with Florida laying 30 points, it could make it tough for Gators supporters to even up their betting accounts.

Welcome back, Zac:

Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor will get reacquainted with his former teammates this weekend when Wake Forest travels to Lincoln. Taylor transferred from Wake after his sophomore year and spent a season in junior college before coming to Nebraska.

As a natural pocket passer, Taylor didn't fit into the Deacons' offense, but he's found a home as the lynchpin of the Huskers' new West Coast attack. However, the junior's debut against Maine last week wasn't very impressive. He completed 15-of-36 passes for 192 yards in a 25-7 victory that didn't make it onto the board at sportsbooks.

Taylor will have to be better against his old buddies if Big Red is going to cover as 6-point faves.

9/9/05 12:06 AM
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Cock up:

Everybody in the country is talking about Steve Spurrier's transplanted offense in South Carolina and Georgia`s suddenly star quarterback, D.J. Shockley. But nobody is thinking about the Gamecocks` unorthodox defense – except Georgia offensive coordinator Mark Richt.

"With this defense, you spend an awful lot of time just trying to figure it out, figuring out who`s lining up where and why," Richt said. "You`re like, `Is this guy a linebacker or is he really a `d`-end?` Because they`re all milling around."

One thing South Carolina does to confuse offenses is dress players with unusual numbers. Like Defensive end De`Adrian Coley who wears No. 45. They also mix up personnel and packages to keep the offense guessing.

"South Carolina, they don`t seem to care what personnel group you`re in, they`re going to make sure there`s as much organized chaos as they can give you," Richt said.

Big total at the Big House

It's all about over this weekend when Notre Dame makes its annual visit to the Big House. This has turned into the game of the week after new Irish coach Charlie Weis' offense tore up the field in its first test run and woke up the echoes of Notre Dame supporters. They hung 42 points on Pittsburgh and it could have been even worse if the game wasn't in the bag at halftime.

Michigan's offense didn't look too bad either, last week against Northern Illinois, but the same can`t be said for the Wolverine defense. Quarterback Chad Henne put on a passing clinic and tailback Mike Hart kept the defense honest with 117 yards on the ground. But the Wolverine defense was exposed by a pedestrian Northern Illinois offense, allowing 411 yards of total offense, including 211 on the ground. That stat must be music to the ears of Irish running back Darius Walker who gained five yards per carry in the Pitt win.

And the combination of potent offense and suspect defense could mean that even though the 59-point total is about 10 points fatter than bettors have seen in any Notre Dame-Michigan matchup in the last decade, the over could still be worth a look.

-Julian Dickinson

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