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The Leap List: Teams looking to make big improvements from Week 1 to Week 2

Like a parent putting their child on a bicycle and watching them pedal away, college football coaches never have any idea how their teams will fare once a live opponent lines up across from them and they have to pedal all by themselves.

While a few teams acquitted themselves marvelously right out the gate (Clemson, UCLA and South Carolina are a few that come to mind), not everyone did. The old cliche is that teams make their largest improvements from Week 1 to Week 2, and the reason that became a cliche is because it's true. 

Here are a few teams and/or units I think could look entirely different from Week 1 to Week 2:

The Oklahoma passing game - A team that has thrown for 25,989 yards over the past six seasons, 321 yards per game over 89 games, threw for just 124 yards on 33 attempts (3.76 yards per attempt) in a 34-0 win over ULM. Trevor Knight's legs came as advertised, rushing for 103 yards on 13 carries, and I think his arms begin to catch up with his lower extremities against West Virginia. Oklahoma's offense is designed for Knight to succeed, and there's too much talent surrounding him for Knight to do anything but improve.

The Alabama running game - Okay, this one is technically a stretch since the Tide is off until September 14, but I imagine this week's practices have been more than a tad bit spirited in Tuscaloosa. In retrospect, it's unfair to expect the Alabama offensive line, a unit that needs game experience more than anything else to gel, to pick up exactly where it left off against Notre Dame considering three starters turned into to high draft picks, and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland is now in Philadelphia. A unit that has produced 13,993 yards on 2,714 rushes over the last six seasons (5.16 yards per carry) won't stay at a 2.5 clip (96 yards on 38 carries against Virginia Tech) for long.

Oregon State's defense - Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams' 411 passing yards and four touchdowns were more than Oregon State allowed in all 13 games of 2012. I'll side with the Beavers playing closer to the unit that ranked in the top quarter nationally and in the Pac-12 in rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense. Now, that offense that produced 527 yards, 30 first downs and 46 points? Mike Riley will absolutely sign up for a dozen more games of that.

South Florida, San Diego State and West Virginia - The first two were beaten by FCS foes by a combined 53 points, and the latter trailed another FCS opponent by 10 at the half and didn't take the lead for good until the 3:22 mark of the fourth quarter. The schedule makers do this trio no favors here - not with road trips to Michigan State (USF), Ohio State (San Diego State) and Oklahoma (West Virginia) on the docket - but I'd wager each team offers a much stronger effort this Saturday. 

 

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