Photograph by John Biever
Text by Michael Rosenberg
AMERICAN IDYLL Earth seems pretty small these days. You can sit in a coffee shop and watch soccer being played halfway around the world on your iPad while texting your friend in France and calling your cousin in Tokyo. But just when you think regional differences have disappeared, college football lands on your front porch. Wisconsin plays the way we think Wisconsin is supposed to play, with extremely large men opening holes for their running-back friends after snacking on cheese curds in the huddle. The Badgers beat Northern Iowa 26--21 in their opener at Camp Randall Stadium last Saturday. The telling stat was this: The Badgers threw 23 passes and ran 47 times, including 32 by Heisman candidate Montee Ball. In Madison they call that pretty.
Photograph by Jamie Sabau
HORSESHOE GRAB There are 60 or so Football Bowl Subdivision games on a typical fall weekend, compared with just 14 in the NFL. The sheer volume of the college game, combined with the variety of offenses, means it offers more made-for-YouTube plays in a single week than the NFL does in a month. And you never know which game will provide the highlight. If you tubed in for Urban Meyer's Ohio State debut at the Horseshoe last Saturday, Buckeyes receiver Devin Smith (15) rewarded you with the play of the week, perhaps even the play of the year: a preposterous, leaping, twisting one-handed TD catch in the Buckeyes' 56--10 rout of Miami of Ohio. If leaping, twisting one-handed TD catches don't impress you, maybe the fact that Smith appears to be looking at the camera will.
Photograph by Greg McWilliams/Icon SMI
HAPPY UPENDING The last time Clemson played, in January's Orange Bowl, West Virginia held the Tigers upside down by their ankles, shook them until all the change spilled from their pockets, dropped them on their heads and hung 70 points on them. Clemson had eight months to think about that humiliation, and needed but one night to show it was an aberration. On Saturday, Clemson beat its fellow Tigers, Auburn of the SEC, 26--19, to regain some respect, and perhaps some self-respect. Most significant, it wasn't Andre Ellington (23) and the Clemson offense that led the way but rather the maligned defense. The Tigers may yet end up back in the Orange Bowl as the ACC champions.
Photograph by John W. McDonough
ALOHA MEANS GOODBYE USC may have set a record in the last decade for most appearances as both AP and Public Enemy Nos. 1. This is part of the allure of college football, isn't it? Everybody gets a helmet and either a white hat or a black one. The Trojans are back from their bowl ban for NCAA violations, and we do mean back: loaded and ready to make a run at another national title. Lane Kiffin's crew dished out the punishment at the Coliseum last Saturday, taking a 35--0 halftime lead over Hawaii in a 49--10 victory. The most eye-popping performance was that of wideout Marqise Lee (9), who pulled in 197 of Matt Barkley's 372 passing yards. Throw his name in the Heisman discussion (page 32).