Devin Gardner has opened eyes as Michigan's quartreback after beating Notre Dame. Photo: USA Today Sports
It was a bit of a wild week two in the college football season, with upsets and statements taking place from coast to coast. To summarize some of the more important lessons, our Josh Parcell is back to recap what we should have learned this weekend.
1. Michigan upgraded at quarterback
Denard Robinson dazzled the Wolverine faithful for the past four seasons, and no one ever questioned whether or not he belonged under center throughout his career. Devin Gardner patiently waited his turn to call the shots in Ann Arbor, and after a brief audition last fall that whet the appetite of Michigan’s fan base, his potential was on full display Saturday night against Notre Dame.
Gardner’s 294-yard, four-touchdown performance set the stage for what could be a memorable season for Brady Hokes’ club. Gardner may not have erased the memory of Robinson’s dreadful zero-touchdown, four-interception effort in last year’s outing with the Fighting Irish, but he certainly made it a little foggier.
With Gardner’s ability to make accurate throws at all levels of the secondary – from the pocket or on the run – Hoke finally has a quarterback that fits his pro-style offensive scheme to a T. Robinson was a square peg in a round hole after Rich Rodriguez was canned in 2010. Even then, his unreal athleticism helped guide Michigan to a 19-7 record in two seasons under Hoke. The Wolverines were never a national title contender with Robinson running the show, though. With Gardner at the reins, they just might be one now.
2. Miami is not “back”
Look, I’ll be the first to admit that Miami’s 21-16 win over Florida was a landmark victory for a program that desperately needed something to pound its chest about. However, Miami’s offense sputtered after a fast start, and it needed an inexplicably vintage Jeff Driskel performance to fend off the Gators.
Miami has a weapon at running back in Duke Johnson that it hasn’t enjoyed since Willis McGahee left the U more than a decade ago. The Hurricanes only ran for 50 yards as a team against Florida, though. Thankfully for Miami, it won’t see a defense as tough as the Gators’ until early November, when the Hurricanes travel to Florida State before hosting Virginia Tech in consecutive weeks.
What Saturday proved was that Miami – and the ACC, for that matter – has a pulse again. This is important. Just last year, the ‘Canes dropped all three games they played against ranked opponents by a combined score of 126-36. Saturday marked a dramatic improvement and served as a substantial leap forward for Al Golden’s program.
Ugly wins over Florida in September aren’t what made Miami a feared program for the better part of two decades, though; national championships are. So let’s pump the brakes on crowning Miami as a powerhouse again just yet.
3. Never give up on Aaron Murray
Aaron Murray is one tough son of a gun. That kid has been through every possible emotional high and low during his time at Georgia. That’s why no one should be surprised at Murray’s outstanding performance against the suddenly mortal Jadeveon Clowney and South Carolina on Saturday, just one week after a gut-wrenching loss on the road to Clemson.
In the days after Georgia’s 35-7 loss to the Gamecocks last season, Murray came home to find his house had been egged and strung with toilet paper. In the hours afterwards, he also learned his father, Denny Murray, had been diagnosed with cancer.
It’s really hard to describe Murray’s career in just a few sentences. Until Saturday, he was mostly known as a quarterback who couldn’t win a big game away from home. There was a negative stigma around him, even though he was somehow named first-team All-SEC in the preseason despite a fraction of the fanfare that his counterparts Johnny Manziel and AJ McCarron received.
So what will Murray’s legacy be? Just when you think you’ve knocked him down for good, he responds with the heart of a champion. After Saturday’s victory, though, he still has a fighter’s chance to finish his career as one.
4. Mack Brown is running out of excuses
Is Mack Brown finally feeling the heat on his coaching seat in Austin? Photo: USA Today Sports
I had a feeling that a coach was on his way out the door at Texas after the Longhorns’ embarrassing 40-21 loss to BYU, I just wasn’t sure who it would be. Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz turned out to be the victim after his unit surrendered a whopping 550 rushing yards to the Cougars – the most in school history. They’ve played a lot of football in Texas, and Longhorns’ fans don’t take too kindly to a shellacking of that nature.
So what does Brown do? He replaces Diaz with Greg Robinson, who to his credit, orchestrated some nationally-renowned defenses for Brown at a time when guys like Roy Williams and Derrick Johnson were donning the burnt orange and white. It’s hard to imagine Robinson making an easy transition into the role mid-season, but for his sake and the program’s sake, he doesn’t have a choice.
Brown can only point back to the 2005 national title so many times. The Longhorns are a ship without a compass right now. A Big 12 championship is still not out of the question for this team, even though it may seem like a long shot today. It’s the only thing that will save Brown from being handed his pink slips this winter, though.
There are a lot of young coaches who would be in Austin at the drop of a headset if their phone rang (*Cough* Charlie Strong *Cough* Chris Petersen). With the right man at the helm, restoring the glory at Texas would be the easiest rebuilding project on earth. Despite what they showed on Saturday night, the Longhorns aren’t far from being a national powerhouse again. The decision to let Brown go should not be a difficult one.
5. Oregon upgraded at head coach
Okay, just kidding, but I really think we may actually say this at season’s end. If nothing else, Chip Kelly may have built a machine that is one hundred percent self-sufficient. There’s no other way to describe the Ducks’ offense. It is an absolute machine. Oregon pasted Virginia like it was Nicholls State. It doesn’t matter who you line up across from the Ducks, they are going to exploit each and every weakness in the defense while hanging half a hundred on you.
Mark Helfrich inherited a gold mine of talent from Kelly, and clearly the decision to hire from within was a brilliant one on Oregon’s part. There’s no need to fix what’s not broken. It remains to be seen if the Ducks have the size up front on either side of the ball to hold their own against the likes of Stanford (or whomever the SEC spits out this season), but for the time being, this looks like the same old Ducks we’ve come to know and love over the past four years.
I think I speak on behalf of college football fans everywhere when I say that is a good thing.