The Sweep

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Mandel_stewart
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Sweep
Just how far can McKenzie Adams and Vanderbilt take this historical start? 
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1. That Vandy could win the SEC East. I know, I know. You're going to say I'm getting "caught up in the hype," perhaps hypnotized by what had to be the headiest set of signs in GameDay history ("What's worse: Auburn's offense or the economy?"). Yes, the Commodores barely squeaked by an Auburn squad with that aforementioned anemic offense. Yes, they only gained 263 yards of their own (albeit with their backup quarterback leading the way.) But have you seen the rest of Vandy's schedule?

The 'Dores are 3-0 in the SEC and play at least two more teams -- Mississippi State and Tennessee -- they should beat (when's the last time you could say that?) The other three are Georgia, Florida and Kentucky. Vandy's probably not going to win in Athens -- but Georgia's probably going to lose another conference game. The Kentucky game is a toss-up. That leaves Florida in Nashville. The 'Dores nearly beat the Gators in both 2005 and '06, and this team, unlike those Vandy squads, doesn't fold, outscoring foes 58-10 in the second half. Anything's possible.

2. That the Big 12 is the new Pac-10. After shredding a host of overmatched early opponents, the Big 12's gaggle of star quarterbacks played their first conference foes Saturday -- and did more of the same. Texas Tech's Graham Harrell against Texas A&M: 38-of-51 for 454 yards and six TDs. Oklahoma's Sam Bradford against Baylor: 23-of-31 for 372 yards. Missouri's Chase Daniel against Nebraska: 18-of-23 for 253 yards and three TDs. Texas' Colt McCoy against Colorado: 23-of-30 for 262 yards. And so on and so on.

Once these guys start playing each other, beginning with next week's Texas-OU showdown, we're likely to see a whole lot of aerial shootouts a la the Pac-10 of the late '90s, when, on any given week, Ryan Leaf would face Brock Huard or Cade McNown would face Akili Smith. Things may get a little tougher for the Big 12's passers, but Texas isn't going to suddenly shut down Bradford or Daniel, nor is Mizzou likely to shut down McCoy the following week. Get ready for a whole bunch of big games getting decided by scores like 44-41.   

3. That Georgia Tech can, and will, pass. When Paul Johnson was named the Jackets' new head coach last winter, bringing his vaunted flexbone offense with him, several returning or incoming wide receivers bolted. Demaryius Thomas was not one of them, and Saturday against Duke, his patience paid off. QB Jaybow Shaw completed nine passes on the day, all of them to Thomas, who turned those catches into 230 yards and a touchdown in the Jackets' 27-0 win. Thomas caught seven balls in the previous four games.

Tech (4-1) is exceeding all expectations in Johnson's first season, and we're seeing his offense evolve in front of our eyes. In their last game, the Jackets gashed Mississippi State to the tune of 438 rushing yards in a 38-7 win. With the Blue Devils stuffing as many as nine in the box to counter the run, Shaw went to the air and exploited Thomas' one-on-one matchups. And the defense bottled up Duke's previously productive offense. An early loss to Virginia Tech puts the Jackets in a hole in the ACC's Coastal Division, but they'll likely be in the race until the end.

4. That Oregon State is the best 2-3 team in America. A week after knocking off top-ranked USC, the Beavers went to Salt Lake City last Thursday and nearly did the same to 15th-ranked Utah before falling on Louie Sakoda's 37-yard field goal as time expired. Unlike the USC game, where Oregon State stormed out of the gate, then weathered a Trojans comeback attempt, the Beavers fell behind 20-9 then rallied to go ahead 28-20 in the final two minutes before succumbing to the Utes' remarkable last-second surge (11 points in 1:29).

I don't know what happened against Stanford and Penn State, but these past two games we've seen an entirely different Oregon State offense. Freshman RB Jacquizz Rodgers had another big night, netting 101 yards rushing and 82 yards receiving, while QB Lyle Moevao was 21-of-31 for 313 yards and two TDs. Beavers fans can take heart in one thing: Their team started 2-3 the past two seasons as well and went on to a combined 15-2 mark after that.

5. That the Big East may have an unranked champion. The conference's last two unbeatens met humbling demises this weekend: USF lost at home to a Pittsburgh team that five days earlier trailed Syracuse into the fourth quarter while UConn got housed 38-12 at North Carolina. Meanwhile, Cincinnati is down to it third-string quarterback, and West Virginia needed a last-minute defensive stand to survive 1-4 Rutgers.

In the latest coaches poll released Sunday, USF was the lone remaining Big East entrant at 20th, but I can't imagine the Bulls, nor any other conference team, is going to make it through the rest of their schedule unscathed. It's anyone's best guess who will earn the league's automatic BCS berth (could be West Virginia, could be Cincy, could be Pitt, could be USF, could be UConn), but unless that team goes at least 10-2, there's a very good chance it will finish the regular season unranked. Who's ready for a Virginia Tech-UConn Orange Bowl?

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