Sep 2

Ten Things - Week One

Posted By:Wes Mewbourne - Birmingham, AL  Tags: college football, Top 25

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The inaugural season of the College Football Playoff has begun and, as
usual, the last eight months or so of research and prognostication
turned out to result in not much more than guess work.  Sure, some may
have correctly predicted that Jameis Winston would look
un-Heisman-like and throw a couple picks.  Maybe someone else pointed
out that Texas A&M fans would forget about Johnny Manziel by halftime.
But nobody called it all.  And the bottom line is we are all glad to
see the players take the field again.  So now, let’s prepare for the
most monumental change in college football of the past 16 years as we
look back at the week that was…

1.      The Playoff, The Playoff, The Playoff – It’s a tune that has filled
the air since the winds of conference change began (so, perhaps we
have Nebraska and the Big Ten to thank).  College football now has a
four team playoff.  While the number of teams or the make-up of the
selection committee may yet draw continuing message board fodder and
fill television airtime, this has been a monumental step in the right
direction. This year, none of the polls matter in the selection
process; there are no computers or secret formulas.  It’s 13 people
who hold the power in their hands.  And if you thought the BCS created
controversy, just wait until a team in the AP or Coaches’ top five (or
top ten??) gets left off the short list.

2.      Playoff Prognostication – All that being said, where would all the
fun be if we just waited for the committee to make up their minds?  A
new regular segment on Ten Things will include selecting the best four
teams based on current performance.  The list at the end of week one
is Florida State, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M.  Struggle or no,
the Seminoles are the returning champs and they remain undefeated.
Georgia had a great game against a solid team, shutting Clemson out in
the second half of a 45-21 romp. The Sooners picked up where they left
off last season in manhandling a team like La Tech like they should
have. And Texas A&M had probably the best performance of the weekend.
Against a top ten team.  On the road. Plenty of time for any of these
teams to be replaced, but this is the cream of the crop as it stands

3.      There Is No 2013 Florida State – Last year, the Seminoles waltzed
through the season with hardly any sweat on their brow.  No such team
exists this year.  Aside from Florida State’s near miss against
Oklahoma State, plenty of other highly ranked teams have just as many
question marks today as this time last week.  Second ranked Alabama
looked lost at times on offense and defense.  Auburn looked like they
were going to have to play an extra defensive lineman the way Arkansas
ran over them, going into the half tied.  Ohio State started the
fourth quarter with just a three point lead over Navy.  On the other
side of the country, UCLA had all it could handle and then some
against a tougher-than-expected Virginia team.  And while all the
aforementioned teams may have won uglier than anticipated, that’s more
than can be said for ninth ranked South Carolina.  The Gamecocks
started the year off with the first of what could be several top ten
upsets, losing at home to Texas A&M in a game that wasn’t close after
the coin toss.

4.      Week One Heisman – As usual, the first week of action sets the
stage for some over-the-top rhetoric for unexpected stars.  First was
Kenny Hill, the sequel to Johnny Football at Texas A&M who gashed
South Carolina for 511 yards and three touchdowns.  Christian
Hackenberg showed the grit a team needs, fighting off two
interceptions to lead Penn State to several key drives including
completing 68% of his passes for 454 yards and a score.  Away from
Power Five schools, Brandon Doughty completed an astonishing 82% of
his throws for 569 yards and six touchdowns (albeit against Bowling
Green).  But as stat-tastic as the quarterbacks were, no one
out-shined Todd Gurley.  The Georgia running back breezed by Clemson
for almost 200 yards and a score, adding a fourth touchdown on a
kickoff return.  And as we all know, the best way to get Heisman
attention is to show up big in the big games.

5.       New Coach On The Sidelines – In an unusually active offseason,
twenty schools found a new coach to usher in this new era of football.
As expected, some were very successful, while others…not so much.  In
the latter category, things started off rough for new coaches on the
first night of the season.   Dave Clawson (Wake Forest), Bryan Harsin
(Boise St.), and Derek Mason (Vanderbilt) all started 0-1. Likewise
for UConn coach Dave Clawson and Dino Babers (Bowling Green) on
Friday, though the Falcons lost to first year coach Jeff Brohm and
Western Kentucky.  Notable wins from Saturday include Steve Sarkisian
and USC putting the distractions of the past week behind them, James
Franklin and Penn State taking a big comeback victory, Charlie Strong
and Texas, and Bill Clark at UAB with a big win over rival Troy 48-10.
And yes, that will likely be the last time UAB gets a mention in this
space (unless they become bowl eligible).

6.      Big Start for Big Ten – The much maligned conference has taken its
fair share of shots in recent years, but aside from Wisconsin and
Northwestern everyone in the conference won (and you can hardly look
down upon Wisconsin for losing to LSU).  Ohio State struggled without
star quarterback Braxton Miller, but found a cruising speed in the
fourth quarter to pull away.  Penn State won against last year’s
Fiesta Bowl champion UCF.  Rutgers had a huge win over Washington
State that might well be a swing game to get them to the postseason.
With Michigan State traveling to Eugene, OR to take on the Ducks,
Michigan visiting Notre Dame, and Ohio State hosting Virginia Tech the
conference has a chance to make a big statement early.

7.      The Florida-Idaho Conundrum – Lightning flashed across the sky so
often Saturday night that, not only was the kickoff postponed, but the
kickoff was the only play of the night. After hours of waiting,
officials finally decided to cancel the game.  Now, the question is
whether or not to reschedule and play the game on October 25th.  Both
teams have that spot open, though Florida would likely want to keep
the extra week of rest with Georgia looming the following week.  But
at the same time, Florida (read: Muschamp) may need as many wins as
possible with Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Florida State, and a better than
expected Tennessee on the schedule.  Without a win against Idaho,
Florida may need to beat Missouri and South Carolina just to get to a
bowl game.

8.      USC Overcomes Unique Week – Consider the week the Trojans had.  It
started like everyone else, getting ready for the week’s opponent – in
this case Fresno State.  Early on, cornerback Josh Shaw made headlines
for jumping off a second floor balcony to rescue his drowning nephew,
sacrificing his senior year in the process.  A few days later not only
was the discovered to be a complete fabrication, but running back
Anthony Brown publicly accused head coach Sarkisian of being racist
shortly after being dismissed from the team.  It seemed like a great
time for Fresno St to steal one.  But instead, eleven freshmen played
in a game that saw the Trojans rack up 105 plays (a PAC-12 record),
over 700 yards of offense and even snag four interceptions on defense
in a 52-13 rout.  Not a bad way to head into Stanford this week.

9.      SEC Rundown – Most of the teams in the Southeastern Conference
looked remarkably mediocre in the first week.  Of the favorites, only
Georgia looked the part (though Auburn looked up to speed once
suspended Nick Marshall returned to the field).  Texas A&M shows a lot
of potential and should be a competitor in every game it plays.
Arkansas played its heart out in a losing effort to Auburn, though
they were tied at the half.  The lower half of the conference was the
big surprise.  Raise your hand if you saw Ole Miss and Tennessee both
winning by 20-plus points.  What about Kentucky putting up 59 points
or Mississippi State securing a shutout?  Sure Boise St and Utah State
may not be as good as they have previously, and UT Martin and Southern
Miss are cupcakes.  But for these four programs on the rise, these
were huge confidence boosts.

10.     Three To See:

1.      No. 15 USC at No. 11 Stanford – This game zoomed to the top of the
list after the Trojans’ explosive win this week.  Stanford has a
tendency to shut down these high-octane offenses, though (just ask
Oregon). The Trojans won last year, despite being in the chaos of
mid-season transition.  This year’s version seems to have proven no
distraction will get them off focus.  USC wins 31-20

2.      No. 8 Michigan State at No. 3 Oregon – Another big game between a
fancy spread versus old school.  The Spartans are riding high
expectations, coming off their first Rose Bowl win of the modern era
and looking to parlay that success into a birth in the first playoff.
Oregon, meanwhile, is trying to stay focused.  The wheels came off
last year after losing to Stanford, and they can’t have that happen
this early in the year.  Sparty takes it 24-16

3.      Michigan at No. 17 Notre Dame – These two have one of the best
early season rivalries in recent memory.  Whether a shootout from 2011
or the defensive struggle in 2012, this is sure to be a momentum
builder for the winner and a heart-breaker (though not a season
breaker) for the losing team.  Everett Golston will remind everyone
why he was chosen to start in the national championship game a couple
years ago and the grumbles for a replacement to Brady Hoke start to
get louder. The Golden Dome wins 38-31

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