Ten Things - Week One
Posted By:Wes Mewbourne - Birmingham, AL Tags:
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Another offseason has come and gone. Thanks to a holiday weekend, we have five straight days of football to (officially) open the season and so far it has been phenomenal. From comeback wins to heartbreaking losses, let’s take a look at the week that was.
1. First Week Keeps Getting Better – Is it just me, or is the first full weekend of football really getting better? Sure, we’ve gone months with nothing but educated guesses. Maybe it’s just a deluge after a drought, but maybe there was just some good football. Thursday saw Ohio State tested on the road at Indiana. Friday saw Washington and Wisconsin struggle for a bit. Saturday had two big games involving ranked teams (somebody should’ve told Florida’s offense there was a game, by the way). The third game of ranked teams had Sunday all to its own with the Black Diamond Trophy going to Virginia Tech. Then the weekend finished with two epic collapses. It was drama ALL WEEKEND LONG.
2. Rare Black Diamond – One of my favorite things about college football is the trophies and the rivalry games. Sundaynight saw a revival of sorts of a once regular rivalry. West Virginia and Virginia Tech were regular Big East foes, butSunday was the first meeting between the two since 2005. The Hokies were plucked out to join the expanded ACC the following year, and conference expansion claimed yet another rivalry. Unfortunately, they aren’t scheduled again until 2021. Sure it wasn’t a marquee rivalry, but it’s one of the many that make college football so unique. Perhaps in four years, the Mountaineers can reclaim the trophy for their own.
3. Another Season, Another Lopsided Win – Has it dawned on anyone yet that scheduling Alabama to open the season probably isn’t the best idea? Just ask Clemson, Virginia Tech, Michigan, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and USC. All started a season with Alabama and all lost by double digits – most by more. Yes this year looked to be the most difficult, given that Florida State was the favorite of many to win the national title. Still it’s apparent that when Saban has an offseason to prepare, it won’t be pretty.
4. Playoff Four – If the committee were to meet today, here are four teams that should merit consideration:
Alabama – It’s clear that the defense is just as strong as ever, limiting Florida State to just seven points (none in the last 43:41 of the game) and 250 yards. Without Lane Kiffin, the offense looked much like it did before Kiffin with a bruising running game and a quarterback tasked with just not making mistakes. Both worked like a charm. If there is a weakness right now, it’s field goal kicking. Every other team in America would swap their problems for that.
Clemson – The reigning champs have done nothing to show they’ve dropped off, but they did open up with dessert before the main course. Replacing DeShaun Watson was never going to be easy, but junior Kelly Bryant throwing for 236, running for another 77, and adding two touchdowns is a great start.
Wisconsin – After spotting Utah State 10 points, the Badgers went on a tear of 59 unanswered points. After the slow start, quarterback Alex Hornibrook effectively put the game away with three touchdown passes in the third quarter. The rest was window dressing.
Washington – Another team that started slow, the Huskies didn’t have a lead until 3:50 left in the first half (10-7). Once the rust was knocked off, though, it was pretty much over. Jake Browning threw two touchdowns and the defense didn’t allow another score until almost ten minutes left in the game. And by then it was all but over.
5. Way Too Early Heisman – It’s just been one game, but if the Heisman were handed out it would almost certainly go to a quarterback (just look at the last 15 years’ worth of winners). I think it’s hard to argue against Josh Rosen. After all the hype, the ill-advised offseason comments, and a defense that allowed 44 points in two and a half quarters, the junior threw four (FOUR!) touchdowns in the fourth quarter to cap off a comeback for the ages. For a guy with as much preseason hype for the award, a performance like this gives him more than a Heisman moment – it’s a Heisman highlight reel.
6. One Over-the-Top Overreaction: FSU Is Done – With the fickle nature of college football, it’s easy to write off the Noles as third place at best in the Atlantic division. Don’t. The offensive line will not face a defense like Alabama’s the rest of the season (unless Clemson rebuilt just as effectively) and the defense was as good if not better than the Tide. After the blocked punt recovered at the 6-yard line, the D held and forced a field goal. Nine times the Tide finished a drive with zero points. That’s no small feat. From a Bama fan that has seen a team win national titles with a great defense, explosive skill players on offense, and a game manager at quarterback, take heart Seminole Nation. There is much football to be played.
7. One Not-So-Over-the-Top Reaction: Sumlin Is Done – From one team who lost their starting quarterback to another (in eerily similar fashion). The tenure of Kevin Sumlin in College Station has been tenuous in recent years. It seems like Johnny Football running wild in Tuscaloosa was ages ago. Indeed it was. The goodwill that he has brought in the transition to the SEC has run out, culminating with one regent making his displeasure known via Facebook (what a dummy). The Aggies would have to likely win the West to save his job after that nightmare of losing a 34 point lead.
8. The Blazers Are Back! – I would be remiss if I did not give some attention to my local FBS school, UAB, bringing back its football team after a two year hiatus. In 2014, first year head coach Bill Clark led the Blazers to a 6-6 record (their best since 2004). Not only were they passed over for a bowl game, but on December 2 that year the school announced they were closing down football – a decision which was overturned less than six months later. Kudos to Coach Clark, who stayed in Birmingham, rebuilt the team, drew a record attendance for UAB football, and led the Blazers to a 38-7 win. Sure they probably won’t win the conference or challenge for a spot in the playoff, but football is back here in Birmingham.
9. SEC Rundown – The weekend can be summed up in the two extremes of Sunday and Monday night. The former, a hot seat coach watched his team squander a five touchdown lead on the road for a heartbreaking loss. The latter, another hot seat coach (Butch Jones) watched his Tennessee Volunteers claw and scrape after being bludgeoned literally all night for a double overtime win against Georgia Tech. Everyone else was somewhere in between, but none were as impactful both for the team and the coach as those two.
10. Three To See – As usual, Ten Things ends with a peek to the weekend ahead and a few games that are must see.
#12 Auburn @ #5 Clemson – It’s the Tigers vs. the Tigers, and the first big test for each. Auburn, after holding Georgia Southern and their ridiculous triple option offense to just 78 yards, gets to see how far they’ve progressed as a rebuilt Clemson offense welcomes them to Death Valley. Clemson will be looking to see how Kelly Bryant handles the pressure. For both teams, they were picked in the preseason by most to be really good but not good enough. After this game, one will have a pretty good argument for being good enough. The Auburn D shines as the visiting Tigers edge out a 24-20 win.
#7 Oklahoma @ #2 Ohio State – Last year the Buckeyes went into Norman and just bludgeoned the home team. The Sooners look to return the favor. If J.T. Barrett takes another half to warm up like he did at Indiana, they might not be able to catch up. Oklahoma put up 56 points on UTEP last week and will be no doubt be watching film on how the Hoosiers were able to give the Buckeye secondary fits. Head coach Lincoln Riley gets his first signature win in his first big game. Sooners win 34-28.
#14 Stanford @ #4 USC – The third game of two ranked teams features Stanford, who we last saw demolishing Rice in the seemingly annual Australian preseason game, and a USC team that needed every bit of 60 minutes to secure a win against Western Michigan. Are the Trojans overrated? Maybe. But with quarterback Sam Darnold firmly at the helm and the home team a solid touchdown favorite, don’t look for this one to be easy. Here’s looking at the Cardinal wearing down the Trojans and not letting them catch up, 41-30.
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