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What We Learned: September 5

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Because it's never too early for snap decisions.

Alabama is probably just fine.

Statistically, Alabama was just about flawless. The Tide rolled up 500 yards of offense on one of the best defenses annually, gave up just 155 yards themselves, and held Virginia Tech to just two conversions on 12 third downs. Here's the rub though: they only won by 10 with all that in their favor.

Even so, that's just how VT rolls. Even when getting dominated statistically, they still find a way to stay in games. McElroy was great once he found his groove, the rushing attack looks superb between Mark Ingram and Roy Upchurch, and they won time of possession by 15 minutes. Don't worry so much about that final score. Bama is for real again.

Ohio State is still in good shape for USC.

I watched the majority of the Ohio State-Navy game and the first half of the USC-San Jose State game. Ohio State looked dominant in the first half, and then sleepwalked through the second half while thinking the game was in hand. After two quarters, OSU was on pace for a 40-14 win and it absolutely looked like that was where it was going. If the first half Ohio State team shows up next week, they're in great shape.

USC meanwhile, wasn't quite as impressive as the score indicated. The offensive line got pushed around by San Jose State's defense on inside runs sometimes, and roughly 75% of Matt Barkley's passing yards were yards after the catch. In fact, every throw I saw him make was on play action or a play action bootleg. Apparently the USC coaches didn't think he was ready to throw straight up against a WAC defense.

USC blew out SJSU because it had superior personnel. The got their playmakers in space and let them out-talent the Spartans. That won't be enough to win in Columbus though.

Georgia should be in wait and see mode.

The answer is a resounding yes, Georgia is missing Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno. But unless you were trying to be needlessly contrarian this off season, you knew that was going to be the case. The offense has some issues, and the Bulldogs better hope that getting Joe Cox healed up from the flu solves most of them.

The defense appears to be back though. Three of Oklahoma State's four scoring drives were of 32 yards or less, including a -5 yard "drive" that ended up a field goal. That goes back to the offense not turning it over and setting the defense up for failure, but there is definite hope on that side of the ball. Oklahoma State was way, way below its standard offensive output from a year ago.

LSU should be as well.

LSU really won this game 31-16, despite what a window dressing TD by Washington would have you believe. This sort of reminds me of when LSU's 2005 squad, which eventually went 11-2 by the way, went on the road and beat an eventual 7-5 Arizona State team by just four. Granted that was in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but still, the gap between those teams was much wider than the score made it out to be.

I think this game is probably similar. The longest road trip in school history isn't the best way to break in a new quarterback and new coordinator, after all. Jake Locker is a great player, and UW would not have gone winless last season with him healthy. Steve Sarkisian for now appears to be a humungous upgrade from Ty Willingham too. Before we go making big assumptions over one game (remember, Washington only lost to 10-3 BYU by one point with Locker last year), let's give LSU some more time and let's see how good the Huskies end up being.

That said, the 478 yards, 25 first downs, and 36:52 time of possession for Washington is troubling, as is the 11-19 third down conversion rate.

Boise State needs to step up its non-conference scheduling.

Remember when the Broncos were first in line at the BCS busters' buffet? Yeah, that lasted all of about 48 hours. With BYU's win over Oklahoma, and schedule home game against Florida State in a couple weeks, the Cougars not only have a chance to break into the BCS but play for it all if fewer than two Big Six conference teams go undefeated. It's too bad for the Broncos that their games against Oregon State and Virginia Tech are next year and not this year too.

Florida's defense hasn't changed.

Maybe it was because Janoris Jenkins and Jermaine Cunningham didn't play. Maybe it's because they weren't taking things seriously. Either way, Florida's defense hasn't changed a bit from last year. In 2008, they got a lot of stops but relatively few three-and-outs. They focused this off season on getting more three-and-outs, but instead Charleston Southern was generally able to move the ball for a set of downs or two before punting. They also still did not get a shutout, despite playing Charleston Southern, because on that inability to get offenses off the field immediately.

The offense, by the way, will be just fine if Riley Cooper stays healthy. That's a big if, but he and Aaron Hernandez have Tim Tebow's full trust. Also, expect a more run-oriented attack because Jeffrey Demps and Chris Rainey are noticeably better than last year. Yeah it was just CSU, but you could tell if you watched the game. Tebow's new throwing motion was also evident, with him throwing some NFL-like deep balls instead of his rainbows of previous years.

Auburn is probably on the right track.

LA Tech was a trendy upset pick in this game, but Auburn didn't give them a shot. The offense had roughly a 2:1 ratio of runs to passes (much to the relief of Tiger fans, I'm sure), and freshman Onterio McCalebb was a revelation. This game has been overlooked by many for juicier storylines and bigger blowouts, but it was an important win to kick off Gene Chizik's tenure.

While it's never a good idea to get too worked up over beating a mid range WAC team, Auburn fans should be satisfied by this one. There was no placing the game on the arm of Chris Todd again, and 556 yards of offense is an impressive number.

Lane Kiffin made an immediate impact.

I watched most of the first half of Tennessee's game against Western Kentucky, and let me tell you, it was ugly. If it wasn't for WKU being completely inept offensively (how exactly does a quarterback miss a bubble screen target by 10 yards?), the Vols would have been in a big hole in a hurry. Instead of letting negativity set in like what might have happened a year ago, the snapped out of it and rolled up their first 60 point output since putting 70 on UL-M in 2000. In 2008, it took three games for Tennessee to get more than 63 total points.

I cannot emphasize just how bad Western Kentucky was, so let's not get too ahead of ourselves here. Ron Zook once beat San Jose State 65-3 while at Florida. However, Jonathan Crompton had a smile on his face for most of a game for once. It's early, but projections that have UT headed back to a bowl look secure for now.

So did Dan Mullen.

It also took Mississippi State three games last year to surpass the total of its first game in 2008. In fact, the Bulldogs didn't once hit 40 points against anyone (I-AA opponents included) during the Sly Croom era. No one is ready to rank MSU yet or anything, but this does immediately validate the idea that Dan Mullen will be different from the previous administration for reasons beyond personality.

Kentucky has some pop. Probably.

Kentucky made a statement by scoring 42 points in three quarters while pitching a shutout. They don't like being picked in the bottom two of the SEC East every year. Then again, the quarter they didn't scoring in was the first, showing that it took time to get going. Plus, Miami (OH) was a miserable 2-10 last year in the miserable MAC, and they allowed 40+ points to bad teams like Kent State and Toledo. We knew the defense was going to be good. Telling whether or not the offense will be enough to go bowling for a fourth straight year is going to require a few more weeks and some stiffer competition. They don't have the historical talent accumulating ability or recent high recruiting rankings like Tennessee does to say they're in for big things just yet.

I get to laugh at everyone who believed in Illinois again.

Trust me. The 2007 Rose Bowl trip was a fluke at the end of the flukiest season in memory.