Mon Oct 10 02:39pm EDT
Adjusting to the weekend's new realities.
• The burden is yours now. You'll come to love it, before it consumes you. OK, raise your hand if you thought Steve Spurrier's latest plan to "shake up the offense" by benching senior starter Stephen Garcia would last through the weekend. Don't be embarrassed: I didn't think so, either. The Ball Coach has spent the better part of the last three years threatening, demoting and suspending his McConaugheyian wild child on a regular basis, to no avail. Garcia could spend the rest of his final season on the bench and still finish with more starts and more wins than any other active SEC quarterback.
Which may be exactly how it ends for him after sophomore Connor Shaw lit up Kentucky Saturday with a 311-yard, four-touchdown barrage in his first SEC start, instantly reviving an offense that had scored more touchdowns on defense and special teams (six) over the first five games than it had off Garcia's right arm (four).
Against Georgia, it took two defensive touchdowns, an interception that set the offense up at the UGA one-yard line and a fake punt for yet another score to overcome a pair of Garcia interceptions. Against Navy, it took 246 yards rushing and three touchdowns from Marcus Lattimore. Against Vanderbilt, both Lattimore and the defense picked up the slack when Garcia was picked off four times. Against Auburn, Garcia was 9-of-23 passing with two more interceptions in a delating, 16-13 loss at the hands of the worst defense in the league, and it was officially Shaw's turn to bring the passing game back from the brink.
Not that hanging a big number on the hapless Wildcats will count for anything on the Gamecocks' upcoming, season-defining road stand at Mississippi State, Tennessee and Arkansas. But it certainly beats a four-interception night at Vanderbilt. As long as Shaw is still clearing that bar, it looks like the job is his for better or for worse — until next spring, anyway, when he's the veteran incumbent and Spurrier starts feeling a little antsy again.
• Gary Crowton, hello. Maryland found itself roasting in the same pot Saturday at Georgia Tech, with vastly different results: After yanking starter Danny O'Brien in the midst of an inept, 1-of-6 performance in the first half, the Terps were forced to go with scrambly sophomore C.J. Brown, who promptly completed 4 of 17 with an interception in an eventual 21-16 loss. Their combined pass efficiency rating for the game: 23.7.
Yes, that is the same Danny O'Brien who began the season entrenched as arguably the best quarterback in the conference after winning ACC Freshman of the Year in 2010, who christened his sophomore campaign by dropping 348 yards on Miami in a dramatic, 32-24 win on opening night. Barely a month later, he's on the verge of losing his job to Brown, who was completely inexperienced before Saturday but at least had enough athleticism to break a 77-yard touchdown run for Maryland's only big play of the game. The Terps wanted LSU's old offensive coordinator? They got him, only without LSU's talent.
• Pitt, you are so Pitt. In its first Big East game, Pittsburgh lit up ostensible conference frontrunner South Florida for 523 yards in an impressive 44-7 rout on national television. In its second Big East game, Pitt turned the ball over four times in a 34-10 flop against ostensible conference bottom dweller Rutgers. Just like that, the Scarlet Knights are 4-1 on the year and at least temporarily alone atop the Big East standings at 2-0.
• It's not the schedule. It's just you. Last week, I promised Arizona fans things were about to get better on the heels of back-to-back-to-back-to-back losses against Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon and USC, easily the most brutal opening stretch in the country. Instead, it just got much, much worse in a 37-27 flop at Oregon State, the Beavers' first win of the season in five tries. (They'd blown their previous home games against Portland State and UCLA.) Maybe it's time to change the slogan from "Bear Down" to "Dig In": With the loss, the Wildcats have now dropped nine straight against I-A/FBS opponents dating back to last year, and at 1-5, can all but kiss a postseason-salvaging turnaround goodbye.