- The Washington Times - Monday, September 14, 2009

College football has no No. 2.

A large percentage of preseason chatter was centered on which promising squad would challenge overwhelming No. 1 Florida (2-0). Just two weeks into the season there are almost no possible answers.

Oklahoma’s hopes cracked in Week 1 in a virtual home loss to BYU that sent Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford to the showers indefinitely with a bum shoulder. Bedlam neighbor Oklahoma State vanished Saturday night in Stillwater, tumbling permanently out of the conversation with a 45-35 loss to Houston.

So much for the notion of Bill Young adding some starch to the Cowboys’ soft defense. Oklahoma State’s opening-game performance against Georgia was less about its defensive renaissance and more about Georgia’s offensive incompetence.

Anybody hoping for a redux of the Big 12’s 2008 power surge can forget it. Texas and Missouri completed an ugly overrated picture for the league on Saturday; the Longhorns struggled for more than a half against lowly Wyoming, and the Tigers barely survived a visit from Bowling Green.

Perhaps Southern Cal’s 18-15 victory over Ohio State at the Horseshoe could be seen as impressive. Sure, the Trojans’ final drive had its heroic moments as true freshman quarterback Matt Barkley and junior playmaker Joe McKnight turned second-and-19 at their own 5-yard line into a 13-play, 95-yard touchdown march.

But for 54 minutes, both teams looked offensively impotent. Last week’s escape vs. Navy was a tip-off, but perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that Ohio State simply isn’t the powerhouse program it was in the first half of the decade under Jim Tressel. The Buckeyes have lost six straight games to top-five teams, and the Terrelle Pryor project is starting to look like a bust. The Buckeyes managed just 10 first downs and 265 yards of total offense against a completely overhauled Southern Cal defense featuring eight new starters.

And yet they still led the Trojans 15-10 until Stafon Johnson’s 2-yard touchdown jaunt with 1:05 remaining. Barkley and the Trojans have some serious growing up to do offensively if they hope to win road games against high-octane teams at Cal (Oct. 3) and Notre Dame (Oct. 17).

So who’s left other than one-dimensional squads like Alabama (can’t pass), BYU (can’t defend) or Penn State (can’t score)?

It’s time to admit that Florida (2-0) boasts easily the best offensive and defensive units in the college game. While virtually everyone else has been floundering about, the Gators have beaten Charleston Southern and Troy by a combined score of 118-9. Garbage in, garbage out. The Gators lead the nation in total offense (643.5 yards a game) and stand fifth in scoring defense (4.5 points). And next week they get their first “test” from a Tennessee team that was emotionally broken for the second straight season by a 19-15 loss to UCLA in which Volunteers quarterback Jonathan Crompton was effectively UCLA’s 12th man.

Given Crompton’s lack of confidence and Lane Kiffin’s verbal indiscretions, don’t be surprised if the Gators hang 70 on the Vols next week at the Swamp.

Game balls and gassers

Kudos to Houston, which went into Stillwater on Saturday night and stunned Oklahoma State. The entire team deserves a nod for the upset effort, but junior quarterback Case Keenum shouldered the load, completing 32 of 46 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns.

Michigan freshman quarterback Tate Forcier deserves a little love after the Wolverines’ 38-34 victory over No. 18 Notre Dame. Forcier hit on 23 of 33 tosses for 240 yards, two touchdowns and one interception and rushed for 70 yards and another score as the linchpin of Rich Rodriguez’s spread attack. With last year’s 3-9 season and possible NCAA violations hanging over the program’s head, Forcier’s arrival could not have come at a better time.

This week’s gasser goes to the quarterbacking corpse formerly known as Jonathan Crompton. The hapless senior single-handedly ended coach Lane Kiffin’s Tennessee honeymoon Saturday, throwing three interceptions and fumbling a center exchange to gift UCLA 16 points in the Bruins’ victory.

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