3-point stance: Rookie backs' solid debuts

1. I don’t remember a first weekend when the leaders for the Freshman All-America backfield became so evident. It is clear that tailbacks T.J. Yeldon of Alabama (11 carries, 111 yards, 1 touchdown), Duke Johnson of Miami (7-135-2) and Todd Gurley of Georgia (227 total yards, 3 touchdowns) could line up behind Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota (18-of-22, 200 yards, three touchdowns) and make any coach happy. And when Oklahoma State upgrades its schedule, I’ll consider quarterback Wes Lunt.

2. The Big Ten is a powerful academic, political and media/marketing machine in intercollegiate athletics. What it isn’t is a challenger to the SEC on the field. It’s not just that Michigan threw up on itself against Alabama, or that Iowa and Penn State gave the MAC a stage to prove its best teams are good. Take the long view. In 43 years, the Big Ten has won 1.5 national titles -- Michigan shared with Nebraska (of the Big 12) in 1997 and Ohio State in 2001 (don’t get Miami started about that one).

3. If you like football history, get ready to read "When Saturday Mattered Most," by Mark Beech (Thomas Dunne Books, $25.99). Beech, a West Point grad and a Sports Illustrated writer, tells the story of the 1958 Army team, including Heisman Trophy winner Pete Dawkins. Best of all, he describes how Red Blaik, the longest-tenured coach in the game, tweaked his old-fashioned T offense to take the Black Knights to their last unbeaten season and then retired on top. Beech tells a good story with style and efficiency.