1. That Ohio State's Big Ten schedule will be no cakewalk. The widely-held assumption for some time was that, regardless of Saturday's USC outcome, Ohio State will turn around and steamroll its way through the "weak" Big Ten en route to another BCS title game appearance/controversy. Outside of Ann Arbor, however, there have been noticeable signs of improvement throughout the conference these past two weeks, with Penn State and Wisconsin emerging as viable threats.
The Nittany Lions' 45-14 rout of Oregon State was eye-opening to say the least. I would not have guessed that their "Spread HD" would click so thoroughly, so quickly. The Badgers, meanwhile, have shaken off slow starts the past two weeks to bulldoze overmatched foes Akron and Marshall due in large part to the type of relentless power-running game that's become increasingly rare these days. Sept. 13 has been marked on the Buckeyes' calendar for some time, but go ahead and add Oct. 4 (at Wisconsin) and Oct. 25 (vs. Penn State). Keep an eye on Michigan State (Oct. 18) while you're at it.
2. West Virginia hired the wrong coach. I've always been a proponent of patience when it comes to evaluating coaches, so no, I'm not going to slam the door on Bill Stewart three games into his head-coaching career. But events of the past week indicate that WVU had the opportunity to hire one of the hottest head coaches in the country -- and blew it.
Three weeks into a frenetic and disorganized search to find Rich Rodriguez's replacement, WVU retained the services of noted consultant Chuck Neinas. As described last week by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, members of the school's search committee spent the morning of the Mountaineers' Fiesta Bowl game making initial contact with one of the interested candidates identified by Neinas -- only to hand the job to Stewart after the Mountaineers upset Oklahoma.
The spurned candidate who never got that call: East Carolina's Skip Holtz, the same man whose team unleashed a 24-3 upset of the Mountaineers on Saturday and who will most likely be standing on the sideline of some lucky BCS-conference school this time next year.
3. That the Big East is even worse than the ACC. ACC-bashing was all the rage following last week's Clemson/Virginia Tech/Virginia embarrassments. Even though the league provided even more fodder for ridicule Saturday with Wake Forest's near-miss against Ole Miss, Maryland's loss to Middle Tennessee and the Hokies' and Cavaliers' 3-0 halftime leads over Furman and Richmond, you'd be hard-pressed to say it's in worse shape than the Big East.
The conference already holds an inherent disadvantage due to its small size (eight schools), but it's managed to produce two or three nationally prominent teams these past few years. There might not be any this year. West Virginia, Cincinnati, Rutgers and Louisville have already endured lopsided losses, while Pitt lost to Bowling Green and Syracuse lost to Akron. The only remaining undefeated teams are USF and Connecticut -- and both needed overtime Saturday to dispatch UCF and Temple, respectively. Yeesh.
4. That Jahvid Best will run away in the West. Despite never garnering more than four handoffs in a game last season, Cal fans had been breathlessly awaiting the sophomore's turn as the Bears' primary tailback this season -- and now we know why. Saturday night against hapless Washington State, the 5-foot-10 burner broke off touchdown runs of 86 and 80 yards en route to 200 yards (including another TD) on 14 carries. This came after racking up 277 all-purpose yards last week against Michigan State.
Not surprisingly, Best's performances are conjuring Heisman talk in Berkeley. We'll have to wait and see on that one, but more importantly, in light of both a solid non-conference win and a 66-3 conference victory -- has Cal has returned from its one-year dip into obscurity? The Bears have finally settled on a quarterback, Kevin Riley, and Best is the explosive threat that DeSean Jackson was supposed to be last year. The only question will be how its defense fares when it goes up against offenses like USC's, Oregon's and Arizona State's.
5. That it truly does stink to be a ref. Poor Larry Farina. The flag-waving official who rained on Jake Locker's parade Saturday has been thoroughly castigated from coast to coast for his decision to call a costly excessive celebration foul on the Washington QB. Like the rest of you, I found the flag entirely unwarranted, especially considering the crucial stage of the game. But after reviewing the evidence, it seems our collective angst is being directed at the wrong party.
Despite repeatedly showing a graphic of the rule that quantifies "throwing the ball high into the air" as an unsportsmanlike act, ESPN's talking heads were adamant that the call was wrong. Mark May even tried to say that Locker "flipped the ball over his shoulder." Really? Then how come every time they showed the replay, the ball shot straight into the air and off camera for several seconds? Most estimates placed its trajectory at about 25 feet. That's some flip.
It seems to me that Farina, just as he stated, was following the rule he was told to call. The more appropriate reaction would be to find whoever devised this asinine rule and put him on national television.