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College Football : Chris Dufresne / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Rodriguez's Big House of pain

August 31, 2008|Chris Dufresne

Labor Day weekend produces another stunner in Ann Arbor as Wasatch State (Utah) upsets Michigan!

OK, maybe it was stunning only in Detroit, and Flint and Grand Rapids.

Maybe Michigan was favored by only three points this year at home, and maybe Utah was actually the higher-ranked team in the preseason Associated Press poll, No. 29 to No. 32.

But Utah's 25-23 win at the Big House was certainly a Big Deal.

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You know someone burned a couch in Morgantown, W.Va., where Rodriguez has been vilified for leaving his alma mater, West Virginia, for the ka-ching chance to lead the nation's winningest college football program.

For what it's worth, West Virginia's offense looked terrific in a 48-21 win over Villanova.

So how, Rich, is it going so far?

"Not all is lost," Rodriguez said afterward.

Patient fans are willing to give the new coach 15 to 20 more minutes to get the program turned around.

Utah clearly played like the better team and looks to be a serious Bowl Championship Series at-large threat.

It took a furious fourth-quarter rally just for Michigan to make a game of it.

This is no time to panic in Ann Arbor, but, of course, people might.

Last year, Michigan rallied from the Appalachian State debacle to finish 9-4 with a Capital One Bowl win over Florida.

Michigan is going to win with Rodriguez, but not until he gets the right players to implement his spread offense. Rodriguez started quarterback Nick Sheridan against Utah, and then went to Steven Threet.

The player Rodriguez really needed was Terrelle Pryor, the phenom freshman from Pennsylvania, who spurned Rodriguez's recruiting overtures and ended up scoring a touchdown Saturday for . . . Ohio State.

More Saturday headlines

* USC beats Virginia, 52-7.

We can't reiterate any more how good USC is relative to how good the Atlantic Coast Conference isn't.

* Don't be fooled by "fake" upsets.

East Carolina's triumphing over No. 17 Virginia Tech and Bowling Green's beating No. 25 Pittsburgh were, at most, mild surprises.

Neither Virginia Tech nor Pittsburgh cracked Rankman's preseason top 25 . . . now you know why.

Virginia Tech is the defending ACC champion but lost a ton of players and represents a conference that has gone 1-9 in BCS bowl games.

The irony was Virginia Tech, which had blocked 117 kicks in the 254 games of the Frank Beamer era, losing on a blocked punt returned for touchdown.

Bowling Green finished 8-5 last year.

Pittsburgh finished 5-7.

So why was Saturday an upset?

Because Pitt was artificially hyped after having won an emotional, 2007 season-ending game against rival West Virginia.

* Appalachian State outscores Louisiana State, 7-3 . . . in the third quarter.

LSU, the defending national champion, dominated all the other quarters and won easily, 41-13, in Baton Rouge. There would be no repeat of Appalachian State's 2007 tone-setting upset of a traditional BCS power.

We told you 2008 could never measure up.

Both Appalachian State openers did end up on ESPN Classic.

Last year's game made it on merit. Saturday's game made it because of a channel switch that became necessary when kickoff was moved up to allow Louisianians to prepare for the advance of Hurricane Gustav.

* Don't worry, Ohio State has another tailback named Wells.

His name isn't Beanie, though. And he isn't as good.

The Buckeyes' 43-0 victory over Youngstown State was marred by a third-quarter foot injury to star tailback Chris "Beanie" Wells, immediately casting mystery on the Buckeyes' showdown game against USC at the Coliseum in two weeks.

The reaction to seeing Wells go down?

"Absolutely, it makes your heart jump," Buckeyes Coach Jim Tressel said.

Wells is a Heisman Trophy candidate whose running style has been compared to Jim Brown's.

If Wells can't go, he probably would be replaced by senior Maurice Wells.

USC could even things up by lending Ohio State one of its extra star tailbacks, but we don't see that happening.

* The Pineapple Express is derailed.

Hawaii has already been outscored, 97-20, this year by Southeastern Conference schools. The Warriors lost the Sugar Bowl to Georgia, 41-10, on Jan. 1 and handed over their opener on Saturday to Florida, 56-10.

Hawaii, as it turned out, did cross more time zones than end zones.

Good news: no more SEC teams on Hawaii's future schedules.

It wasn't a good weekend for June Jones, Hawaii's former coach, who lost his debut at Southern Methodist, 56-27, to Rice.

* When will it ever end?

That's what Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden gets for taking the weekend off.

Joe Paterno, that sneaky little Penn State coach, scheduled a game Saturday against something called Coastal Carolina and pulled out a 66-10 victory that actually will be credited to his record.

Paterno now has 373 wins, which ties Bowden on the all-time major-college victories list.

"I can only say it so many times," Paterno said afterward. "It's not a big deal to me."

So how come neither coach seems willing to retire and cede the lead to the other?

The victory march continues next week when Penn State hosts Oregon State. Florida State has a home win scheduled against Western Carolina.


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