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1. That Mark Sanchez and Joe McKnight are worthy heirs. It felt a whole lot like 2004 at the L.A. Coliseum Saturday night. This year's Trojans carry so many parallels to that undefeated team, with sophomore tailback Joe McKnight playing the role of sophomore tailback Reggie Bush; receivers Damian Williams (transfer) and Patrick Turner (preseason question mark) playing the roles of then-freshman Dwayne Jarrett and untested sophomore Steve Smith; and a similarly inexperienced offensive line charged with protecting QB Mark Sanchez. Linebackers Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing are much the same senior defensive stalwarts as Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson were then.
But this team is already far ahead of where that team was at the beginning of its season. We knew USC's defense would be dominant, but against Ohio State, the Trojans' offense looked like a finely tuned machine. Give a lot of credit to the O-line, which routinely beat the Buckeyes' touted defenders off the ball, but it's pretty clear that Sanchez (68.2 percent, 510 yards through two games) and McKnight (9.2 yards per carry) sure looked a whole lot like Leinart and Bush.
2. That Chase Daniel is your new Heisman front-runner. Saturday against Nevada -- the same team that a week earlier held Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell to his lowest yardage total (297) in two years -- the Tigers' senior QB was a near-perfect 23-of-28 for 405 yards, four touchdowns and no picks. He played for eight possessions against the Wolf Pack before exiting in the third quarter -- and led Mizzou to seven touchdowns and a field goal.
Daniel's mastery of Gary Pinkel's spread offense is reminiscent of Alex Smith during Utah's undefeated 2004 season. While Missouri's version doesn't necessarily include as much of a QB-run component, the important thing is that Daniel, like Smith, makes the right decision on almost every single snap. It certainly helps to have the a luxury of weapons like WR Jeremy Maclin (six catches, 172 yards against Nevada), TE Chase Coffman (six for 127) and RB Derrick Washington (eight carries, 75 yards), but Daniel is still the trigger-man that makes the whole thing work. And right now it's working about as well as imaginable.
3. That the Mountain West owns the Pac-10. It certainly did Saturday. There were four head-to-head matchups between the two leagues and the MWC swept them all. TCU's home victory over Stanford wasn't a surprise, but UNLV over Arizona State? New Mexico over Arizona? And BYU putting up a 59-0 pasting on UCLA? It was a remarkable day for the wannabe BCS conference and a nightmarish weekend for the actual BCS conference. Even with USC's banner performance and Oregon's victory at Purdue, the Pac-10 went an astounding 3-7. Maryland knocked of Cal. Oklahoma trounced Washington. Baylor even clobbered Washington State.
MWC fans who have e-mailed me so far aren't trying to claim their league is superior to the Pac-10 -- not as long as USC is in it -- but they believe their top teams to be on the same level as the Pac-10's next-in-line. And they would sure love a shot at the Big East's automatic BCS berth, which, this year at least, they probably deserve. Personally, I don't like to read too much into single-game results until we have more distance to determine whether or not they were flukes (like UCLA's win over Tennessee), but I will say this much: BYU is going to face a whole lot more hurdles in its pursuit of an undefeated MWC season than USC will in its run through the Pac-10.
4. That the Maryland Terrapins and women have something in common. Which is -- I'll never figure out either of them. Year after year, Ralph Friedgen's team lures you into thinking they're going to be awful, than burst out with some entirely unexpected masterpiece. Last season, Maryland lost to North Carolina one week, then turned around and knocked off BC the next. There was one stretch in 2004 when the Terps lost five of six games, failing to score double-digit points in any of them -- but in the one exception, upset top-10 Florida State 20-17.
Which brings us to this season. In its first two games, Maryland edged Delaware 14-7 and lost 24-14 to Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders put up 400-plus yards on the Terps defense, and QB Chris Turner tossed three interceptions. So, naturally, the Terps went out Saturday and held Cal RB Jahvid Best to 25 yards on 10 carries while Turner was an impeccable 15-of-19 for 156 yards and two TDs. The Bears, down 28-6 at one point, did mount a comeback and put up 461 yards before falling 35-27, but the Terps still came away with a season-changing victory. And I came away from it with no better idea whether Maryland will now win the ACC or finish 5-7.
5. That the Temple Owls are cursed. Will somebody let this long-suffering program catch a bloody break already? Temple has finally found itself a legit coach, Al Golden. It's a found a conference in which it can be competitive (the MAC). All it wants is to go to a bowl game for the first time since 1979, an entirely realistic goal now that we're handing out 66 berths a year, but it's never going to happen with the kind of hard luck currently hammering the Owls.
Last week, Temple held defending Big East co-champ Connecticut without a touchdown for 60 minutes -- only to lose 12-9 in overtime on a Donald Brown TD run. Then, on Saturday, the Owls lost to Buffalo on a Hail Mary. That dagger dropped Golden's team to 1-2, which will become 1-3 once they visit their coach's alma mater, Penn State, next weekend. On paper, it looks like just another dismal year for Temple football when, in reality, they could easily be 3-0 right now.