We had another fantastic weekend of college football in Week 2. Some big surprises and fantastic rivalry battles.Florida vs. Miami-FL There were two things Miami-FL didn’t – and couldn’t – do well a season ago: beat ranked teams and stop the run. On Saturday at Sun Life Stadium, managed to take care of beating a ranked opponent and they provided Al Golden a signature coaching victory – and perhaps themselves possibly a season-defining 21-16 victory against in-state SEC rivals, Florida. In many ways, this game was won in the first quarter. That was where Hurricanes QB Stephen Morris threw two touchdown passes, and then let his defense go to work, because the offense seemed to lurch from one ugly series to another after that. Thank goodness, then, for the ‘Canes on the other side of the football. A pretty good Miami-FL defense managed to cause four – yeah, four – red-zone turnovers, an out-and-out disaster for the Gators, whose inability to hold onto the football, especially in the shadows of the goal line, reminded me (and, doubtless, frustrated Gator fans) of their efforts against Georgia last year, where there was turnover after turnover. It must be infuriating for Gator Nation, for this team, at least on paper, is far better than that. The tale of the tape on Saturday: a turnover on downs, two interceptions and a forced fumble. Missed opportunities: that was the overriding theme of this game for Florida, who clearly out-gained the Hurricanes, 424-411 (and Miami were an ugly 1-11 on third down), but no amount of yardage domination or domination in any other statistical category is going to make up for couching up the football four times in the red-zone. They need to improve ball security heading into SEC play. Georgia vs. South Carolina Well, Georgia are back. Nothing like a little home cookin’ to make your problems go away. A week after being well beaten by Clemson, the Bulldogs offense roared back to life in a huge way, rolling up more than 500 yards en route to a much-needed 41-30 victory over South Carolina. It’s a rough place, the SEC, and the victory has lowered the collective blood pressure of Dawgs fans, and staved off the vultures – for this week, at least – that would certainly have begun to circle around coach Mark Richt, a man who has seen his fair share of pressure in his tenure at Athens, with a 0-2 start. Now it’s the Gamecocks who have some serious thinking to do. A week after being outplayed by Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Georgia QB Aaron Murray lit up Sanford Stadium. His four-touchdown day (17-23, 309 yards, with a completion percentage of nearly 74 percent) was the difference between the two teams. Everyone one of the detractors who said during the week that Murray simply isn’t a proven Big Game performer might want to take a look at the numbers above, because this was a bonafide Big Game and Murray played lights-out all the way. He was the key to Georgia’s win, and will be the key to their season. Surely his work today, zinging the football around between the hedges, ranks in the top five of his oft-maligned career in Athens. The newspaper narrative and sports-talk radio chat in Athens this week will be interesting. Georgia’s defense pulled off an impressive stand in the fourth quarter – a fourth-and-goal from basically right on the goal line – moments after Murray ripped an 85-yard scoring pass to impressive WR Justin Scott-Wesley and it was bedlam and beyond inside Sanford Stadium. For an early season game, this had the feel of a late-November SEC winner-take-all contest. The fans were up and about from the very beginning. You could sense how important it was for Georgia to win this game – and win they did, snapping a three-game losing streak to South Carolina, and, in the process, giving them a nice leg up in the SEC East. That said, there’s still plenty of time for South Carolina to rebound. The Gamecocks weren’t all that far off the mark. QB Connor Shaw had 228 yards and two scores through the air and added 75 yards on the ground, but he was overshadowed by Murray and saddled with a defense who couldn’t quite make enough stops. Even Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier admitted that Georgia were the better of the two teams, saying that they “kicked our tails up and down the field.” If it wasn’t bad enough that Murray torched his defense, Spurrier would have been incredibly infuriated by the disturbing footage of two members of the Gamecock coaching staff scuffling with each other on the sideline, which was brought to the world by the ever present ESPN cameras. When players have to stop following the game to pull two coaches apart, it gets into the realm of being unforgivable. It looked like South Carolina was destructing there. I wouldn’t want to be either of the involved parties when Spurrier gets them alone this week! Michigan vs. Notre Dame What is it about this rivalry that produces such memorable games? In front of 115,109 people (a new single game NCAA record), the Wolverines and Fighting Irish managed to put on one of the more entertaining games in their long and storied history – a history that will, unfortunately, be ending (at least for the foreseeable future; the rest of this decade) after next year’s meeting in South Bend. They certainly went out with a bang for the last Michigan Stadium game with momentum switching sidelines multiple times throughout. It was a joy to watch. The Wolverines jumped out to 10-0 lead early, with QB Devin Gardner seemingly finding WR Jeremy Gallon at will with well-thrown deep balls, and there was little the Irish could do to put a stop to it. That combination gave Michigan three touchdowns and Gallon had a career night, snagging eight footballs for 184 yards. It was quite a performance, and well received by the obviously pro-Michigan crowd. Shortly before the half, Irish QB Tommy Rees through a costly interception that led to Gardner finding Gallon for a 27-13 Michigan lead. Then came the second half, which had a little of everything: big offensive plays, defensive stands, an interview with an out-of-sorts Eminem and one of the weirdest plays I’ve ever seen: under pressure in his own end-zone, Gardner chose an ill-advised throw instead of taking the safety…except that the throw ended up in the hands of Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt. As it turned out, the mistake didn’t cost Michigan a thing. After two key plays by Fitzgerald Toussaint – and two flags for pass interference against the Irish, one of which was well deserved and the other somewhat controversial – Gardner, who recovered nicely from his howler in the Wolverine end-zone, found WR Drew Dileo for a 4-yard TD with less than five minutes to play, sealing a 41-30 win and sending the Big House into raptures. So much so that someone managed to get the Chicken Dance played. For the Irish, there were a few missed opportunities. The turnover on downs and Rees throwing two really crucial interceptions cost them any hope of a win. I was a little surprised that that their defense gave up so many yards. I expected that their front seven would be a little more stout than that – and so did Brian Kelly, based on some of his sideline yelling (and there was plenty saved for Rees, too). Maybe it was more a product of Michigan’s impressive offense than anything else. We’ll see as they head to West Lafayette, Indiana to play Purdue next Saturday night. The most pleasant surprise tonight was Gardner, wearing the number 98 jersey to honour Michigan legend Tom Harmon, who thoroughly out-duelled Rees. Aside from that end-zone INT, the Michigan signal-caller was fantastic (21-33 for 294 yards, 4 TDs and 1 INT as well as 82 yards and a score on the ground) in leading the Michigan offense, which many people figured would struggle against what we all expected to be nearly an impassable Notre Dame front seven – which was a lot of people’s reason for picking the Irish. But Al Borges has opened the playbook all the way, showing looks that we never even got a half-glimpse of with Denard Robinson under centre. Gardner showed some Denard-like moments along the way, but pass was always his first option and he played brilliantly, leading the way as the Irish finished the night giving up 460 yards of offense, an object lesson to their future Big Ten opponents about just how hard it is to stop the pro-style offense that’s now fully installed in Ann Arbor. If tonight’s anything to go by, Michigan are going to be serious players in the Big Ten this year because Gardner’s only going to get better as the season rolls along. Quick Screens It was a tough year for Boston College in 2012, winning only twice, and Head Coach Steve Addazio should probably be still thanking his lucky stars that he still has a job at Chestnut Hill. It seems fortuitous that the Eagles kept him around, too, because BC recorded their second straight win from two starts, beating Wake Forest 24-10 in ACC play on Friday night, and, in the process, equalling their victory total from last year. They did it thanks to an impressive defensive unit (three turnovers and two goal-line stands) and RB Andre Williams, who ran for 204 yards and one score. So, Oklahoma State put 56 points on the board against Texas-San Antonio, but what will almost certainly concern Mike Gundy’s staff is their defense letting the Roadrunners score 35 of their own. It’ll be a massive year of shootouts in Big 12 play, and maybe this was just an off day – everyone has them, after all – but you’d want to hope that your defense could be a little more effective against a middling C-USA school, because, otherwise, what sort of points are they going to bleed against the really potent offenses they’ll soon face. Baylor, anyone? Scary scenes at Ohio State today, with star QB Braxton Miller leaving the field on the first offensive series of the game for the Buckeyes. He returned to the sideline soon after with a knee brace, and the injury was later revealed to be a sprained MCL. It appears that Miller will be okay for next week’s game against Cal. In the meantime, backup QB Kenny Guiton came on in relief and the Buckeyes rolled, 42-7 over San Diego State. Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase had a career day against Cincinnati (who lost their starting QB Munchie Legaux to a bad leg injury in the fourth quarter – he was taken from the field on a cart), going 26-37 for 310 yards and 4 touchdowns in the Fighting Illini’s surprising 45-17 victory in Champaign. Boy, has it been a bad day for quarterback injuries in the state of Ohio! For the first time since 1958, Wisconsin have opened their season with two straight shutout victories, getting by Massachusetts last week and FCS opponent Tennessee State this week, 48-0. A nice start for new coach, Gary Andersen, and it’s no surprise that most of Wisconsin’s offense came on the ground, having three backs go over the century mark, and their defense was impressive, holding Tech to a measly 112 yards. On the flip side, Wisconsin rolled up more than 600 yards. Speaking of rolling up more than 600 yards, BYU did that along the way to beating Texas 40-21 in Provo. No, that’s not a typo. The Cougars overcame two turnovers and ended up putting a serious beating on a Longhorns team that everyone expected would do big things this year. QB Taysom Hill did his best work on the ground, carrying the football eighteen times for 258 yards and three touchdowns. His scoring runs were of 68, 20 and 26 yards. So, where to now for Texas? Mike Leach’s Washington State beat USC 10-7 in the Coliseum on Saturday night. The “Fire Kiffin” chants were up and about before the end of the game. It’s the first career win for Leach when his team has scored ten points or less. Imagine that: a Mike Leach team wins playing defense. A late Max Wittek interception seal USC’s fate, and this Trojan fan is hanging his head in shame. It’s exactly the sort of signature win that the Cougars needed. Phew! Keep an eye out for more discussion on this fantastic weekend of college football soon. You can check out my blog here, and contact me via Twitter @AKitchener.