Is Michigan back?

Michigan, Ole Miss, Kansas and Boise State highlight our Week 2 debate.

Michigan, Ole Miss, Kansas and Boise State highlight our Week 2 debate.

Athlon editors Steven Lassan, Mitch Light and Braden Gall debate five burning questions about Week 2 in college football:

1. Is Michigan back?

Steven: I still think Michigan is a year away from contending for a Big Ten title, but Saturday’s performance against Connecticut was something Rich Rodriguez and this program needed. There’s no doubt Rodriguez is a great coach, and he needed time to change the entire culture in Ann Arbor. Not to mention finding a quarterback who can successfully execute his spread attack. Now that Denard Robinson looks like the perfect fit for this offense, the Wolverines have an opportunity to finish higher in the Big Ten than most expected. Michigan started 4-0 last year, before slipping to a disappointing 1-7 finish. Don’t expect the Wolverines to have a similar collapse, as this program is headed in the right direction, but I think we’ll see the true return of Michigan as a conference title contender next year.

Mitch: My first inclination is to say, ‘Yes, Michigan is back,’ but then I think back to last year when the Wolverines opened the season 2-0 with wins over Western Michigan and Notre Dame. At this point last year, we were saying, ‘RichRod finally has the right quarterback to run his offense.’ Now that quarterback, Tate Forcier, is a third-teamer. That being said, Denard Robinson looked fantastic in his first career start, and the defense looks to be improved. We will find out a lot more about this team this week in South Bend, but I sure do like what I see out of the Wolverines.
Braden: Not yet, but the win over UConn might have been the best performance by any team all weekend. Shoelace Robinson was electric and unstoppable — against some really good linebackers at that. Michigan still needs to put together an entire season and prove it can hang with the Ohio States of the world before they are "back," and 29 carries in Big Ten play every week will be tough for Robinson to sustain. However, watching the smallish, speedy, blue and yellow-clad quarterback run that zone read option all over the field certainly brought to mind an image of Morgantown circa 2005.

2. Who has the best shot of pulling the big road upset this weekend: Miami, Florida State or Penn State?

Steven: Florida State. Although Bob Stoops hinted Oklahoma was holding something back against Utah State, last week’s performance was certainly troubling. The Sooners struggled to contain athletic Utah State passer Diondre Borel, and while Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder may not be as mobile, he can certainly make plays with his legs and is a better passer. The Noles also have one of the top offensive lines in the country, which should give Ponder plenty of time to throw against a suspect secondary. The only concern for Florida State is the defense. Are the holes from last season patched up? If they are, I think the Noles can pull the upset on Saturday.

Mitch: I’d say Florida State. Oklahoma might not have played with a ton of focus, but it has to be a bit alarming that Diondre Borel of Utah State passed for almost 350 yards and that the Aggies had the ball late in the game with an opportunity to tie it up. Florida State can be explosive in the passing game, and this has to concern the Sooners’ defensive staff. Now, can Florida State slow down the OU offense, most notably the running game? That is the huge question for this game. Mark Stoops was hired to restore order to the Seminoles’ defense, and he gets his first big test this week against his brother and former boss.

Braden: Penn State and their 18-year old freshman quarterback will be hard-pressed to win in Tuscaloosa. Miami has the firepower to hang with Ohio State, but do they have the manpower in the trenches to compete with the much stronger and more physical Buckeye lines of scrimmage? Honestly, I think they are all unlikely, but the Noles have the best chance to win. The Sooners just allowed Diondre Borel to throw for 341 yards and two scores and gave him a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter. You can bet Christian Ponder, Bert Reed and Jimbo Fisher have the tape of last week's game and are smiling. The issue will be if the depleted FSU defense can hold up against the likes of DeMarco Murray, Ryan Broyles and Co.

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3. Who has bigger issues moving forward, Kansas' Turner Gill or Ole MIss' Houston Nutt?

Steven: For this season, I think Gill has the bigger uphill battle. The Kansas offense looked horrendous against North Dakota State and may not get much better this year if a running game isn’t found (Toben Opurum back to running back?) Although the Rebels lost, they could sneak their way into six wins and a bowl game. Houston Nutt’s job status in Oxford has been an intriguing topic of discussion, and while I can’t see him getting the boot, losses like this hurt even worse after last season’s disappointment. Gill will be given a couple of years to rebuild the roster, but Nutt’s seat is arguably warmer going into Week 2.

Mitch: Two entirely different situations. Turner Gill is in his first season and he has a ton of new starters on both sides of the ball. KU was expected to struggle. Sure, losing to North Dakota State was not in the plan, but Gill is building for the long term. This was a speed bump. Nutt, on the other hand, is in Year 3 in Oxford. He overachieved in Year 1 and underachieved in Year 2. Expectations aren’t great externally, but there was a quiet confidence around the Ole Miss program that this team, with Jeremiah Masoli at quarterback, could be pretty good. One game doesn’t make a season, but losing to an OVC school is not the best way to kick things off.

Braden: Each experienced one of the worst losses in school history this weekend, so neither is having a fun week. However, Gill has only coached in one game (at KU), so he has plenty of time to right the ship — especially considering what they lost from that roster last season. Nutt, on the other hand, was already feeling his rear end warm up a bit. They brought in the troubled Jeremiah Masoli and even he couldn't beat Jacksonville State. Nutt cannot afford any more bad losses or he could be in trouble.

4. After watching the opening weekend, has the gap between Florida and the rest of the SEC East narrowed?

Steven: It’s easy to overreact after Week 1, so I’m hesitant to call Florida overrated or even slipping back to the pack, but if there was ever a year to catch them, this is the one. Georgia and South Carolina looked great and based upon what I saw, both teams have to be considered an even bigger threat to win the East. After one week and watching Florida struggle, I have to say the Bulldogs and Gamecocks definitely look a little closer to the Gators than we thought before the season started.

Mitch: Based on what we saw on the field, yes, you can say that Georgia and South Carolina might challenge the Gators in the SEC East. But I have confidence that Urban Meyer will get the kinks out. I still expect the Gators to represent the East in Atlanta.

Braden: South Carolina and Georgia looked excellent against inferior competition. With help from some seriously talented skill players, Aaron Murray and Stephen Garcia (finally) looked the part in leading their teams to blowout wins. Both defenses were impressive as well. Florida, on the other hand, did not look like an Urban Meyer-coached football team. The Gators are still the champs of the East until proven otherwise, but the other teams in the East fired a shot across the Florida bow this weekend.

5. Has your opinion changed about Boise State after their come-from-behind win over Virginia Tech?

Steven: Boise State’s win over Virginia Tech only confirmed what we already knew – this is a good team that is deserving of its preseason top-five ranking. I doubt the Broncos would go undefeated in a BCS conference with the current roster, but in any one-game scenario, you can’t count them out. Although a lot of people are ready to write them into the national title game, remember that this is a long season and anything can happen with 11 games remaining for most teams.

Mitch: Yes. Boise State clearly has the talent, toughness and physicality to compete with any team in the nation. The question I still have is the following: Would they be able to do it five or six times a year, like you have to do in a BCS conference, rather than one or two times per season?

Braden: Not at all. This was/is/will be a really good football team. Team being the operative word. Do they have as many first round picks as USC, Ohio State or Alabama? Of course not. But are they a smart, experienced, tough-nosed group of individuals working together for a common goal? Yes sir. The win over Tech was huge — probably the biggest regular season win in school history — but it only matters if they go on to beat Oregon State and everyone else on the schedule this year. Only time will tell how good they really are.

Campus Challenge

Year Three of the Campus Challenge returns as Mitch returns to defend his championship. The rules: Each person picks a quarterback, running back and wide receiver to make up his "team" for the week in an effort to amass as many passing yards, rushing yards, receiving yards and total touchdowns as possible. Whoever has the best stats as the end of the year wins. All players selected must be from a BCS conference team playing an FBS opponent, and each editor can only use a player once during the season.

Week 2 SelectionsStevenMitchBraden
QuarterbackJerrod Johnson, TAMUTaylor Potts, T. TechRyan Mallett, Ark.
Running back Noel Devine, W. Va.Montel Harris, B.C.Shane Vereen, Cal
ReceiverLyle Leong, T. TechDetron Lewis, T. TechJeff Fuller, TAMU

Week 1 Results
Passing Yards113218217
Rushing Yards234146257
Receiving Yards746682

Cumulative Results
Passing Yards113 (3)218 (1)217 (2)
Rushing Yards234 (2)146 (3)257 (1)
Receiving Yards74 (2)66 (3)82 (1)
Touchdowns8 (1)6 (2)6 (2)

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