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NCAA Roundup: A-Maize-ing Grace

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How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like Michigan.

Seriously, thank God they got the ship steered back away from the rocks this week with a 38-0 victory over Notre Dame, otherwise I would've had to strongly consider renaming the roundup something clever involving the words "clever" and "suck."

This game was never really a game, with Michigan tailback Mike Hart running pretty much wherever he damn well pleased to the tune of 187 yards (127 in the 1st half), while backup Brandon Minor tallied another 85 yards for good measure. First time starter Ryan Mallett looked like exactly that, though he did still manage three touchdown passes, which was more than the Wolverines needed to take down the Irish.

What a mess Notre Dame is becoming. Jimmy Clausen continues to get pummeled, going down to the turk eight times yesterday and bringing Notre Dame's total sacks allowed up to a stunning 23 after only three games (compared to the 49 D-I teams that didn't reach that total all of 2006). Only Syracuse (18) is nearly as bad.

To top it all off, Notre Dame's original starting QB this season Demetrius Jones didn't make the trip for this game. Prior to the game, coach Charlie Weis said that he had no idea what was going on other than the knowledge that Jones had not made the trip, and Weis also mentioned he has considered using Jones during the Michigan game (this after getting benched one quarter into the season.

Well, it turns out the reason Jones didn't make the trip is because he's no longer with the team. He decided this weekend to head back closer to home and applied for a transfer to the University of Northern Illinois.

It's going to be a long fall for Notre Dame.

What about the rest of the top 25, you say? Well, it was a weekend marred by sluggish performances, that's for sure. Of the 19 ranked teams playing unranked opponents, five of them trailed after the first quarter, four were tied, and five were ahead by a field goal or less. Some teams recovered better than others:

  • 4th ranked West Virginia took some time to get rolling, but once they did there was no looking back, as they took care of sometime-rival Maryland by a final of 31-14.
  • 6th ranked Texas just had a bad weekend during their trip to play a game in Florida for the first time since 1973. Their flight was delayed, then one of the team buses broke down on the way from landing to hotel, and to top it all off Central Florida was introducing the general public to their new home, and then the game endured a 15 minute lightning delay. Whew. No wonder the Longhorns took forever to get going (again) and then almost let Central Florida come back before recovering an onside kick to stop the bleeding with a 35-32 final score.
  • 7th ranked Wisconsin struggled mightily against a surprisingly potent Citadel passing game – QB Durant Lawson put up an impressive line of 23-35, 254yd, 4 TD – before finally finding their focus and pulling away for a 45-31 victory.
  • I already explained the demise of Louisville. Suffice it to say, they did not really recover from their slow start.
  • 10th ranked Ohio State was incredibly sluggish, dragging a 7-3 deficit into the locker room at halftime. Then in the span of six plays, Washington went from having a first down at the Ohio State 20 yard line to letting QB Todd Boeckman fire a 68 yard bomb to Brian Robiskie for a 10-7 lead that OSU would never look back on with a 33-14 final.
  • 16th ranked Arkansas will be no more. It looked doomed from the get go as the Razorbacks dug themselves a 21-0 hole before the first quarter had ended. They dutifully battled back, bringing the score to a 31-31 tie with 12 minutes left in the game, only to see Alabama notch a touchdown with eight seconds left for a 41-38 win.
  • Virginia Tech's offense is still wretched, trudging all the way until 12 minutes into the second half before finally taking the lead for the first time, but they slowly chugged their way to a 28-7 victory over Ohio University.
  • Even the games involving two ranked teams weren't pretty. Florida absolutely embarrassed Tennessee. The Vols scored just before halftime to cut the deficit from 28-6 to 28-13, and then snagged a 95-yard interception on Florida's opening drive of the second half to cut it to 28-20. Unfortunately, that was that, and Florida went on to a 59-20 win.
  • Sure, Nebraska sure looks like they managed a moderately respectable 49-31 loss against USC, but when you factor in Nebraska scoring their last two touchdowns in the final six and a half minutes (when the game was basically over) you have a much more accurate picture of just where USC and Nebraska are at right now. 

We always save the best for last, right? Well, maybe not best, but 11th ranked UCLA… well, they may not be ranked at all next week. They started slow against Utah, heading in at the half trailing 14-6. It only got worse, as the wheels came flying off after halftime. Trailing 17-6 early in the third quarter, QB Ben Olson hit his favorite wide receiver, Marcus Everett, and Everett was gone down the sidelines… until he was hit at the last minute and fumbled it through the back of the end zone. One solid drive later, and Utah had turned a seemingly imminent 17-13 lead into 24-6, and it was just bleeding the clock after that.

Even when UCLA was succeeding, they were failing. They were held out of the end zone for the entire game for the first time in four years. The Bruins managed this impressive list: two drives where Olson was intercepted on the first play, one drive where he was sacked and fumbled on the second play, a field goal on a drive where they reached the Utah 15-yard line, and a drive that started at the Utah 35 yard line and gained zero yards before a their other field goal.

Looks like it's back to the drawing board, boys! Utah will try to ride this wave into conference play against UNLV, while UCLA tries to clean its wounds and fix the holes before taking on Washington next weekend.

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