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Saturday Lessons: September 12

Florida should stop playing noon games.

The Gators lost to Ole Miss last year at noon. They only led Arkansas 17-7 after three quarters in a 12:30 ET game in Fayetteville last year. Today, they fumbled six times, losing three, against Troy. Sure it rained a bit, but they only lost one fumble against FSU last year in a monsoon. Oh yeah, they also won by 50 and looked great once they stopped trying to run Percy Harvin plays without Percy Harvin.

Texas should stop playing at non-Big Six stadiums.

The Longhorns were only up 13-10 at halftime before getting in gear and blowing out Wyoming. Though they blew out UTEP in El Paso last year, they came within a field goal of losing to UCF in Orlando in 2007. The charity visits to the small schools is charming and gentlemanly and all, but it might be time to revisit the policy.

USC is not USC.

Don't let the ending fool you. Ohio State was the better team for most of its game against USC, and the Buckeyes switched to an indefensibly soft defense with five minutes to go to let the Trojans steal it. Jim Tressel still doesn't understand when to break his conservative nature, as a poorly timed instance of that before the half gave USC a field goal which came up big in this three point loss. Neither of these two teams looked particularly elite, and there's at least one or two Pac-10 losses waiting out there for USC.

Notre Dame still can't play defense.

I was more impressed among freshman quarterbacks by Tate Forcier than by Matt Barkley. Barkley was in a tougher spot, but he wasn't asked to win the game (and he didn't; Ohio State's collapse gave them the game). Forcier meanwhile put his team on his back, overcame a late pick, and beat the newly-competent Notre Dame offense. Anyone know if Notre Dame's defense made the trip to Ann Arbor? Not sure if I saw them there.

Sometimes the stats do tell the story.

I tried to warn everyone yesterday when I said that there was no evidence in the Western Kentucky game to suggest that Tennessee's passing game had actually improved. Jonathan Crompton's 93 yard, 0 TD, 3 INT performance was a throwback to 2008 in its ineffectiveness and ugliness. The surprise of the game was the 123 yards/3.32 YPC combined for Montario Hardesty and Bryce Brown. If the rushing game isn't there, Tennessee will not win many games.

Sometimes they don't.

So apparently Georgia and South Carolina were just saving up their playbooks for each other, right? Nothing in either's first week performance foreshadowed the shootout we saw last night. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State's newly revamped defense wet the bed against Houston. At least the Cowboys went down to a ranked opponent. What's that? Well, it's not my fault Houston was unranked. Really.

Auburn is still a work in progress, but it's the good kind.

Auburn struggled some in the first half against Mississippi State, even falling behind 17-14 after a blocked Tiger punt was returned for a touchdown. Auburn responded by scoring two touchdowns in the final three minutes of the half, and when was the last time we could say Auburn did that? Kudos to Dan Mullen for guiding his Bulldogs to 24 points, a plateau last year's MSU team reached all of twice in SEC play, but the Auburn running game was still the story. It doesn't matter a whole lot how much Chris Todd is struggling (and he wasn't sterling in the game) when you're getting almost seven yards a pop on the ground.

Even LSU is capable of a Vandy game.

LSU and Vanderbilt don't play each other much, but LSU is still capable of having a Vandy game. What is a Vandy game? It's when a conference favorite plays Vanderbilt, doesn't look sharp but statistically dominates, and finds itself up by a score or less late in the third quarter before getting in the end zone late to make the final margin look better. If you're worried about the Bayou Bengals, don't let it be because of this game. Vanderbilt does this to everyone at some point (including to other conferences; see the '06 Michigan game), and they're even a pretty good team now as opposed to when they used to do it as a basement dweller.

When ACC meets I-AA, pick the underdog to cover.

NC State notwithstanding, the ACC just can't seem to deal with I-AA teams all that well. A week after going 0-2 against the Colonial Athletic Association, FSU needed final minute heroics and Maryland needed overtime to beat their I-AA adversaries. Losses are always more embarrassing, but with wins like that, who needs losses?