Ten Things - Week One
Posted By:Wes Mewbourne - Birmingham, AL Tags:
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Finally. After another offseason of anticipation, conjecture, prognostication, and Finebaum callers, we can finally WATCH football rather than just listen to the know-it-alls and wannabes (though we can still do those now). The playoff has led to an increase of high profile nonconference games, and 2015’s opening weekend is no exception. Here’s a look at the week that was with Ten Things…
- Buckeyes and Hokies – With as much fun as Week 1 has been, all eyes and minds are still on the reigning champs. Ohio State has made quite the splash since Urban Meyer took the helm. With a national championship a national championship and the most high profile quarterback competition in recent memory, the intrigue is only higher. Oh, and let’s not forget that last year it was the Hokies that handed the Buckeyes their only defeat of the season – at home. This year, revenge will be served up on the road. Or will it? Last season, the Hokies allowed just 343 yards and 20 points per game (21st and 14th nationally); the Buckeyes were 9th in total offense and 5th in scoring (512 yards and 45 points per game). Only Penn State held Ohio State to fewer yards, and no one else held them under 31 points last year. Is Beamer Ball back? Is Bud Foster still one of the great defensive minds today? Are the Buckeyes ready to repeat? Join the masses as we all wait and see.
- Nonconference Games Improve – As mentioned in the teaser, the out of conference slate has seen a considerable improvement. Yes schedules are typically solidified years in advance, so perhaps it’s the added attention they’re getting. But the season kicked off Thursday with a battle of the North and South Carolina, Michigan-Utah, and TCU-Minnesota. All three winners won by a touchdown or less. Saturday gave us Northwestern over Stanford, BYU’s Hail Mary win over Nebraska, Louisville’s near upset of Auburn, and unranked Texas A&M’s 21-point win over #15 Arizona State. And all of those were the warm-up acts to the main even this evening. Even if the playoff didn’t bring these matchups together, it has definitely given these games an elevated status. And for that, we all win.
- SEC Resurgence? – It’s too soon to tell, really, whether the SEC will once again have the national champ. For those who forgot, the Southeastern Conference was home to an unprecedented seven national championship teams in a row, before losing the big game in 2013 and capping last year’s dismal 2-5 bowl record with all of its members being merely spectators for the final game. But the first week of 2015 saw the conference win 10 games against FBS competition, with the SEC West going an impressive 6-0 (and 3-0 against Wisconsin, Louisville, and Arizona State). All that, of course, is in comparison to fairly meager (though albeit incomplete) body of work thus far among the other Power 5 conferences. Ultimately, at this point it’s nothing more than fodder for talk radio programs and the talking heads on television. But don’t be surprised to see this week’s results coming into play once the committee starts putting out its weekly rankings for the postseason.
- Wazzu’s Woes – While I usually try to balance my bias, there’s no denying that I’m a huge fan of Mike Leach. I loved him at Texas Tech (even when they almost beat my Crimson Tide in the Cotton Bowl after the 2005 season). I hated the way he was dismissed from the Red Raiders. And I immediately became a fan of Washington State when they brought Leach in as head coach. After just 12 wins in three seasons and Saturday’s loss to Portland State, it looks like this might be the beginning of the end for him. Although, a similar loss happened in 2013 to Kansas State when they lost to North Dakota State to open the season. The Wildcats bounced back to go 8-5 with a bowl win over Michigan and the Bison wound up undefeated en route to an FCS championship. Here’s hoping that history repeats itself in Pullman this season.
- Weather Is Always A Factor – Last season, it was Florida who wound up cancelling their season opener against Idaho. This year, it was LSU and McNeese State that endured lightning delays of more than three hours before finally calling the game off. It was announced later that the game would not be rescheduled due to conflicting off weeks later on. While McNeese State will be fine without the inevitable beat down, LSU would’ve liked the tune up. The Tigers will effectively open their season at Mississippi State this week and host Auburn the following week.
- Trending Up: Home Field Advantage – In the top 25, 20 of them have played true road games. Only three times did the home team lose (and to be fair, all three were unranked and defeated by the second, fourth, and fifth ranked teams in the country). And that’s not including “neutral” site games Alabama-Wisconsin and Auburn-Louisville, where the winners were effectively the home team. This is not a good omen for Buckeye fans tonight….
- Trending Down: Sophomore Coaches – For so long, year two under a new coach had great promise. Bob Stoops (Oklahoma), Urban Meyer (Florida), and Gene Chizik (Auburn) won national championships in their second year. Charlie Strong, who took over the Texas head coach position last year, and James Franklin, in his second year at Penn State, have shown pretty much the opposite trend. Texas traveled to South Bend and were demolished 38-3 in a game that was never close. At least they lost to a team with legitimate playoff hopes. Penn State, on the other hand, took a 10-0 lead before allowing Temple to rattle off 27 unanswered points. Yes they were playing on the road and yes Penn State fans should expect things to get worse before they get better in the continuing wake of sanctions. But after going 6-6 last season, both fan bases were expecting to be a little more competitive this year.
- The PAC-12 = Better Than They Look – Over the weekend, the conference suffered some embarrassing losses (Colorado, anyone? Stanford?), but some quietly solid wins. Utah soured Jim Harbaugh’s debut with Michigan, UCLA beat a Virginia team just the way it should have, and four of their ranked teams won. And don’t be surprised when Utah sneaks in there in a few weeks before traveling to Eugene, OR. The conference remains strong at the top, and on the way down have some tough outs. Arizona State and Stanford will bounce back from upsets on the road. There’s a lot of football left to play, so don’t count anyone out just yet.
- SEC Rundown – While the high profile wins of Alabama, Auburn, and Texas A&M are well documented elsewhere, how about Kentucky putting 40 points on Louisiana-Lafayette and Florida notching 61 points on New Mexico State (or anyone, really)? Ole Miss put up 76 points, with defensive end Robert Nkemdiche even getting the first receiving touchdown of his career and Georgia looked impressive in its 51-14 thumping of Louisiana Monroe because of course they should; not particularly impressive given their opponents, but still. This is how teams with high aspirations play. Really, aside from Vanderbilt dropping a close game to Western Kentucky and LSU being held off the field by lightning, SEC teams across the board all have reason for optimism.
- Three To See: Looking beyond tonight, because the #1 team playing on the road is a given.
- #14 LSU at Mississippi State – Aside from Tigers fans actually being able to finally see their team play, this one has some juicy storylines. The last quarterback competition will hopefully have been settled. The Bulldogs will see how their offense plays against an SEC caliber defense after racking up 442 against Southern Miss this past week. And if LSU is able to pull out the road win, they may very well cement their role as spoiler for some upcoming teams. Tigers will rally to a 24-20 win.
- #19 Oklahoma at #25 Tennessee – The Sooners took a step backward last season after a promising start. The Volunteers, however, took a step forward with their first bowl win since Fulmer was in charge (remember when they couldn’t wait to get rid of him? But I digress). Both teams look to use a strong nonconference win to springboard their way to conference play two weeks later. Both teams could really use the momentum. But after Saturday, just one team will be standing tall. Tennessee rides the home field advantage to a 31-30 victory.
- #7 Oregon at #5 Michigan State – The second of the two games to match ranked opponents is sure to satisfy. Last year, Oregon showed its muscle in an impressive 46-27 win. This year it’s in East Lansing, where the Spartan D looks to wreak havoc on first year Ducks quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. In a collision of contrasting styles, there should be just enough points and big plays to keep the pressure on both teams until Michigan State pulls away late. Sparty wins it 45-34.
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