Each Monday, our staff of college football experts will offer thoughts on things they learned while on the road - or things to keep an eye on in the coming weeks. Here is our inaugural edition after taking in the sights and sounds at California, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Appalachian State this weekend.
Olin Buchanan, Rivals.com Senior National Writer
Les Miles was wrong: Recall a couple months ago that Miles, LSU's head football coach, caused a minor stir when he sneered at what he perceived to be top-ranked Southern California's red carpet ride to the BCS national championship game.
"There's some real juggernauts there," Miles said sarcastically in comparing the tough road LSU must endure in the powerful Southeastern Conference to that of USC.
Turns out the Pac-10 might have a few juggernauts after all, particularly California. The Bears gave the Pac-10 validation and the SEC a dose of humility by knocking off Tennessee 45-31.
Overall, it was a strong week for the Pac-10 with seven teams posting season-opening victories. In addition to Cal's win, the conference boasted these victories: Arizona State over San Jose State, 45-3; Oregon over Houston, 48-27 and Oregon State over Utah, 24-7.
Notre Dame has more issues than quarterback: All last week Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis refused to reveal the identity of his starting quarterback, saying that secrecy worked to his advantage. Well, it's no secret that Notre Dame's offense struggled mightily. Weis used three quarterbacks – one for each point the Irish managed in a 33-3 loss to Georgia Tech.
Michigan's Mike Hart might be out of the Heisman race: Though no fault of his own, Hart's Heisman candidacy likely came to a premature end. Some voters likely won't be able to get past the fact that Michigan lost to Appalachian State. Skeptics will ask whether the nation's best player could really be on a team that lost to a Division I-AA opponent.
The answer is a definite maybe. Hart rushed for 188 yards and scored three touchdowns – one on a 54-yard run – so he can't be blamed for the loss.
The old adage teaches that defense wins championship. We'd already learned that one, but Michigan's turnstile defense provided a shocking reminder.
Steve Megargee, Rivals.com National Writer
Hokies face tough task: Virginia Tech better hope its offensive struggles this week resulted from a surplus of emotion rather than a lack of talent. The Hokies didn't score an offensive touchdown until the fourth quarter of a 17-7 victory over East Carolina. Virginia Tech mustered only 33 rushing yards on 31 carries behind an offensive line that badly missed injured right tackle Ed Wang. As much as the Hokies praised the Pirates' defense afterward, it's tough to imagine Branden Ore gaining much yardage against LSU if he couldn't find running room against East Carolina.
Groves comes through again: There may not be a better clutch performer on defense than Auburn's Quentin Groves. The guy who recorded three second-half sacks against Florida and dominated the Alabama game last year was at it again Saturday. Groves' second sack of the night forced a fumble that Antonio Coleman returned 34 yards for the game-clinching touchdown in a 23-13 victory over Kansas State. Auburn traditionally struggles early in odd-numbered seasons (the Tigers lost their first two games in 2003 and fell to Georgia Tech in their 2005 opener) and might have continued the trend Saturday if Groves hadn't come up huge.
Tribble is terrific: We may have made a mistake by leaving Boston College cornerback DeJuan Tribble off our preseason All-America team. Tribble earned third-team All-America honors from Rivals.com after returning three interceptions for touchdowns last year, but he just missed the cut when we put together our preseason All-America squads. Tribble responded by picking off three passes in a season-opening 38-28 victory over defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion Wake Forest. This ball-hawking senior now has six interceptions in his last three games.
Gerry Ahern, Yahoo! Sports Senior Editor
Georgia Tech served notice Saturday that it just might be capable of contending with Virginia Tech and Miami for the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal division title. The Yellow Jackets' expected strengths were evident in a 33-3 pasting of Notre Dame in South Bend, the worst opening loss in the illustrious history under the Golden Dome. Here are three things we learned from the Tech victory.
Georgia Tech's defense can be dominating. The Yellow Jackets' blitz-happy unit, masterminded by Jon Tenuta, overwhelmed and embarrassed the Fighting Irish. Georgia Tech collected nine sacks and limited Notre Dame, which planned to run the ball, to -8 yards rushing.
The offense still has a shining star. Receiver Calvin Johnson is gone, but Georgia Tech running back Tashard Choice is the class of the conference. He shredded Notre Dame's new 3-4 scheme for 196 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
His name is Bond, John Bond. The clever play-calling of new Georgia Tech offensive coordinator John Bond will give future opponents reason to pause. Bond's repertoire featured direct snaps to Choice and netted the Jackets 386 yards, 265 on the ground. "John Bond did a great job of innovating and putting in things like the direct snap to Choice," Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey said. "It worked out well for us." If quarterback Taylor Bennett (11-for-23 passing, 121 yards, no TDs at Notre Dame) and a receiving corps with the unenviable task of trying to replace Johnson can improve, watch out Hokies and Hurricanes.