Friday, August 31, 2012

College Football is back

My favorite time of year is here!!!

College Football has started, and here are my thoughts for week 1.

August 30th

#9 South Carolina 17
    Vanderbilt 13

Vanderbilt is still a little undermanned for the SEC, but they are getting there.  Jordan Rodgers has some of his big brother's talent and Jordan Matthews can seriously do the damn thing.  You won't see a Wide Receiver run away from a South Carolina defense very often, and he sure as did in the second quarter.

As for South Carolina, are at least some of what we expected them to be.  Marcus Lattimore looked like himself.  He is fast and physical, and can carry this team through most of their schedule.  South Carolina has to be thanking their lucky stars that Connor Shaw's injury wasn't serious enough to keep him out.

Brigham Young 30
Washington State 6

Mike Leach already has Wazzu putting better talent on the field, and his offense is going to be exciting to watch.  But, you don't want to hear "freshman starter" that many times in the first quarter of your first game.  Yes, it says you have better talent coming in, but freshman starters should be an exception, and they should be special.  They have some very nice young players, but I don't think I would define them all as special.

That said, they looked polished early on offense, which is a scary thought because they will only get better at running Leach's version of the Air Raid.

But, it wasn't very scary tonight.  BYU was more talented, more experienced, and flat out walloped the visiting Cougars.  I don't know how good Bronco Mendenhall's team will be in the grand scheme of things, but after last night and looking at their schedule,  this could be a 10 win season.

Central Florida 56
     Akron 14

I don't know about you, but I am always happy tosee a Bowden walking the sideline in college football.  Terry is trying to work his way back to the big time, but his first game at Akron showed just how much work is left to do.

Central Florida is a decent team, but they dominated the Zips who did far too an impersonation of their namesake.  Of course, after winning 2 games in the past 2 seasons combined, it was not surprising to see that the Zips are a little short on talent against an expected bowl team.

There were some encouraging items for the Zips.  Their offensive scheme had some success.  They want to run up tempo, and they did that getting 81 offensive snaps.  However, they turned the ball over 4 times.  That is something that a team that is physically overmatched just cannot afford to do.

    UCLA 49
     Rice 24

A good football team should beat the Rice Owls by a good number.

The question is, does this mean that UCLA is a good football team?  They have made some strides back towards respectability the past few seasons, but they haven't been able to crest that hump.  Many of their hopes lie on the shoulders of Brett Hundley, their redshirt-freshman Quarterback.  They should be encouraged after his efficient performance.  75% completed with 2 TD's plus a 72 yard TD run.  He could be the kind of difference maker that they have been long in search of.

Arizona State 63
 N. Arizona 6

This just in, Todd Graham can still coach an offense. 

Arizona State should dominate Northern Arizona, and they did just that.  His quick paced spread attack, and a new found discipline, was far more than Northern Arizona could deal with.  But, like I said, they should dominate the smaller school from Flagstaff.

The tuneups are over though.  Next 3 up are Illinois, Missouri, and Utah.  For those who aren't paying attention, that's Big 10, SEC, and Pac-12 south rival.  We'll see how far Graham has brougth these boys real quick here.

 Minnesota 30
   UNLV 27

A triple overtime game to start the season, and a big non-conference win for the Golden Gophers.  Yes, I recognize that beating UNLV is not that big a win, but that is the state of the Minnesota program. 

That said, the Gophers had an athletic advantage of the Rebels.  They just didn't play well enough to take advantage of that.  But, they were mentally tough enough to put their mistakes behind them and pull out a win after repeatedly giving away the momentum.  If they can clean up the mistakes and, especially if they can settle down MarQueis Gray at Quarterback.  He is regarded as a big-time talent, but that doesn't matter if he can't throw the ball where he intends for it to go.

Kent State 41
 Towson 21

This is a largely un-remarkable game with a couple exceptions.

First, Kent State scored 41 points with 152 total yard of offense while giving up over 5 yards per play on defense.  I wish I had seen this game so that I could understand how this happened.

Second, this play is just funny.

August 31st

#13 Michigan State 17

#24 Boise State 13

Boise State's defense held up very well considering the basically lost their entire starting front 7 and best pass rush specialist to last year's draft.  Michigan State's defense and running attack, behind Le'Veon Bell, was physical and effective.  Neither quarterback was ready for primetime.  Oddly, it looked to me like both of them are better athletes than the veterans they are replacing, but neither of them quite has it down.

If you aren't sure about Michigan State's D, I have a tidbit for you.  Boise State did not score an offensive touchdown.  Let that marinade.

Tennessee 35
NC State 21

Mike Glennon was game, throwing for just shy of 300 yards for the Wolfpack, but could protect the ball as 4 of his completions were to the Volunteers who were just better across the board.  The Vols got a breakout game from JC Transfer Cordarrelle Patterson who scored twice in his first game, in the first quarter no less.  

I don't know if Tennessee if all the way back, but they beat a team that is expected to be a bowl team very soundly to start the season.

#21 Stanford 20
San Jose State 17

If there was anyone out there who wondered how valuable Andrew Luck and the rest of the outbound class were to Stanford, let them review this game film closely.  They are going to have to lean hard on Stepfan Taylor this year, because Josh Nunes looks to be a big step down from Andrew Luck, and the defense looked tremendously average against a San Jose State that does not come into this season with high expectations.

September 1st

Notre Dame 50
     Navy 10

This was the first time in years that I have seen the Irish look like the Irish.  Golson was not great, but he was athletic and made pretty good decisions in his first start.  They, frankly, just outclassed the midshipmen athletically and schematically.  Brian Kelly's offense was more run-heavy that I remember it at Cincinnati, but it was effective, and that's what matters.  His defense was not stellar, but it was opportunistic, causing 4 turnovers including a 77 yard fumble return for a TD by 300 lb Stephon Tuitt.

Northwestern 42
Syracuse 41

I know a lot of people are going to look at the rousing comeback that Syracuse had being Ryan Nassib's 4 second half TD passes, but IMHO the Orange gave this game to Northwestern.  Their comeback was made necessary because they allowed an 82 yard punt return and had a fumble returned for a TD as well.  They out gained Northwestern by 259 yards!!!  Nassib can play though, in a down Big East, if they can clean up the details they may steal a bowl bid.

#11 West Virginia 69
Marshall 34

Marshall is not a great team, but they are not as bad as the Mountaineers made them look either.  Dana Holgerson's offense is like a tidal wave.  Once it has momentum, it destroys everything in sight.  Geno Smith is in his second year running the system, and he looks to have it down.  Check this line out: 32 or 36 for 323 and 4 TD's.  That's just disgusting.   If the running attack, behind Shawne Alson, is for real we might have a true contender for the Big 12 title.

As for Marshall, keep on eye on their young QB Rakeem Cato.  This true sophomore can flat-out play. 

Illinois 24
Western Michigan 7

This Illini team is Nathan Scheelhaase's.  It is likely a second tier team in the Big 10, but has some legit athletes, but the offense just don't go without him on the field.  Their defense looks to be much better than last year.  Last year, they gave up 300+ yards passing to Alex Carder and Western Michigan....This year they game up 265 and had 3 picks.  They have to hope the Scheelhaase doens't miss any time with his ankle injury with Arizona State up next. 

Ohio 24
Penn State 14

The Nittany Lions came out firing, full of emotion, and roared to a double-digit lead at halftime.  The better team won the game.  For those of us who lived in the midwest, we knew what a raw deal Frank Solich had gotten at Nebraska.  He was fired for being the guy who followed Tom Osborne.  He led the Huskers to 6 consecutive bowl games and won 9 games in 5 of those 6 years.  His teams were in the top 10 3 times and he won over 75% of his games.  Oh, and he was teh Big 12 coach of the year twice and coach Eric Crouch to a Heisman trophy.  He was thought to be stuck in the past and inflexible, so he was let go.

He landed at Ohio, was 9-5 in his second year, and has been winning since.  They are coming off a 10 win season, and are expected to be one of the better mid-majors in the country.  Penn State can attest to that being the case.

The coach who was stuck in the past just brought an offense into Happy Valley that torched the Nittany Lion defense for 324 yards passing.  Tyler Tettleton just put himself on the map in a big way. 

#18 Ohio State 56
Miami (OH) 10

It took the Buckeyes a little bit to get going, but once Devin Smith pulled down his one-handed grab in the end zone, they took off.  It capped off a 4 play, 83 yard drive and they never looked back.  Braxton Miller showed why there is so much optimism in Columbus for and his fit in Urban Meyer's spread attack.  He ran for 161, including a 65 run for a TD to open the second half, and threw for 207.  I am sure Meyer would like to see him complete over 60%, but for his first game in a new offense, I don't think there will be many complaints. 

On the other side, the Redhawks should feel good about what they have at Quarterback as Zach Dysert threw for 303 against a very solid Buckeye defense.  However, his receivers have to hold onto the ball.  There were numerous drops, which could have made this a much closer game.

At this point, after the eggs laid by Michigan and Wisconsin, Ohio State has to the be the favorite in the Big 10.  That is a very bad situation for the Big 10 since Ohio State is not allowed to play in any post-season games this year.

#6 Georgia 45
Buffalo 23

Georgia is talented enough to be #6 in the country, but they need to iron out some wrinkles.  Of course, getting their suspended starters back may be enough to do that, but their schedule may not be forgiving enough to wait.  They are going to miss Bacarri Rambo next week they travel to Missouri.  That said, they look to have found their tailback in Todd Gurley and have great depth behind him.  Aaron Murray still has one of the strongest arms in College football, and Tavarres King looks to be their lead receiver.  They need to hope the Murray will calm down and be a bit more accurate like he was in the second half of this game.

I am not too worried about their offense though.  They have talent all over and they will run the ball and hit deep off play-action, at worst.  Their defense giving up 199 yards rushing to Buffalo is a concern.  They made Branden Oliver look like Ray Rice.  He is a nice back, but he was gashing them, especially in the first half. 

Nevada 31
California 24

Nevada brought their run-heavy pistol attack into Berkley and ruined the opening day for the Cal's new stadium.  The Bears are just a pretty average team.  They have some offensive firepower with Zach Maynard and Keenan Allen, but they have to find a way to stop the run or they are toast.  After all, if Nevada can run on  you, what is Oregon going to do to you?

Miami (FL) 41
Boston College 32

I don't know if BC is actually a decent team this year after last year's debacle, or if the Canes are in this much trouble.  I expect it is some combination of the two.  Miami let BC hang around a long time in this game.  The Hurricane secondary is young and it showed as BC threw for 441 yards.  This is not a terribly high-powered passing attack either. 

On the bright side for the Canes, Duke Johnson and the interior O-Line were dominant. 

Bowling Green 14
#27 Florida 27

Apparently Will Muschamp envisions his Florida Gators as a power rushing team.  They ran for 200 yards and only threw for 145.  Let's be honest, that is not going to get it done.

A team with the talent the Gators trot out there should blow Bowling Green out of the water.  Jeff Driskel better get it figured out quick, or they are in big trouble.
#12 Wisconsin 26
Northern Iowa 21

The Badgers thought they had it sewn up when they went up 26-7 after Danny O'Brien hit Jared Abbrederis for a 53 yard TD early in the 4th Quarter.  They were wrong.  Northern Iowa is a perennial FCS contender and they are are a proud and talented team.  They scored twice in the 4th to make this game closer than the Wisconsin fans, or anyone else, was expecting.

On the bright side, O'Brien had as good a first game as anyone could have expected (19 of 23 for 219 and 2 TD's) and Montee Ball looked like Montee Ball (120 yards and 1 TD).  Look for them to come out motivated

Oregon State is in trouble next week.

Iowa 18
Northern Illinois 17

The only bright sides for Hawkeye fans is that they found a tailback in Damon Bullock and they won.  At the end of the season, a win over Northern Illinois is going to be a solid win, but they had better find a way to protect James Vandenberg.  He was touted in the off-season as the leader of this team and a great pocket passer.  Norther Illinois beat the crap out of him.
Iowa State 38
Tulsa 23

Iowa State held the Golden Hurricane to less than 200 yards passing.  That is a tremendous accomplishment, and bodes well for the Cyclones defense going into the Big 12 season.  Steele Jantz was efficient and effective while Shontrelle Johnson chipped in 120 yards rushing at 6.7 a carry. 

They have a tough schedule, but they have to be favored against the Hawkeyes next week.  They need to win every game against a non-ranked opponent that they can this year if they want to even think about a bowl game with TCU, K-State, Oklahoma State, OU, West Virginia, and Texas on the schedule.  The problem is the that of the 4 remaining unranked teams, 3 are Iowa, Texas Tech, and Baylor.  Those are no slouches themselves. 

If you were looking for an underdog to root for, here you go.

#17 Nebraska
Southern Mississippi 20

There had been talk in the off-season that Taylor Martinez was working at becoming a better passer.  This was usually met with chuckles and "no way he could get worse" type of comments from non-husker fans.  I have to admit, I was among them.  Well, his throwing motion still looks a bit stiff, but there is no arguing with 26 of 34 for 354 and 5 TD's.  Oh, and the Huskers still ran for 278 yards.

This was the best offensive day, against a solid team, that I have seen Nebraska have in years.  It's going to be interesting to see what they can do in what could be a down year for the Big 10.  That November 3rd game against Sparty might be a big one, nationally.
Colorado State 22
Colorado 17

I keep waiting for the Buffaloes to be good again.  It looks like I am going to get to wait a bit longer.

This is not a surprise though, after all, when your QB transferred FROM KANSAS for more playing time, you know you are in trouble.

#7 Florida State 69
Murray State 3

FSU beat Murray State like they should beat Murray State, which after the last few years is news.  They were efficient, and dominant.  they had 600 yards of offense, with 285 rushing, and that is largely with backups playing in the second half.

The downside is that they lost Brandon Jenkins for the year with a foot injury.  This could be huge as he and Bjoern Werner were projected to lead one of the better defenses in the country.

Youngstown State 31
Pittsburgh 17

Wow, just wow.  I know the Panthers have dealt with some drama in the last year or so, but this is still Pittsburgh.  They were not just beat, they were dominated by an FCS team that never trailed in this game.

Duke 46
Florida International 26

David Cutcliffe has been telling us that this is his best Duke squad all summer, but that wasn't really saying much.  Well, a 30 point second quarter says something, even if it was against FIU. 

The Blue Devils were a more athletic, and better coached team than the team from Florida.  That is a sentence that I never thought I would type during football season, but there is no arguing with scores coming in 4 different ways.  They passed for 2, including one of 60 yards, ran for 2, returned a block kick 75 yards, and returned an interception 98 yards.  It's true enough the FIU is likely not a bowl team, but a good team should beat a bad team by a few scores.  Duke did that, but are they are good team?

 #3 Louisiana State 41
North Texas 14

This game was never close, and it shouldn't be.  LSU showed that with Kenny Hilliard at the forefront, their power rushing attack was going to be just fine.  They are going to need more from Zach Mettenberger than they got this first week, but he wasn't terrible.  He is going to have to play better with a solid Washington Husky team coming to town next week.
#14 Clemson 26
Auburn 19

Andre Ellington was an afterthought when people talked about last year's surprising Clemson Tiger team.  With Sammy Watkins out to serve a suspension, he remedied that for this year.  Ellington's 231 yards against an SEC team in their house was a statement for this Clemson team.  Toss in DeAndre Hopkins' school record 13 receptions and you see just how loaded this offense is. 

This was a big start for the Clemson squad after giving up 70 points to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl.  Say what you want about the Auburn Tigers, it's never easy to win in their place.  Oh, and Sammy is back, which makes this Clemson offense just plain scary.

#1 USC 49
Hawaii 10

Speaking of talented offenses, the Trojans are probably at the top of that heap, and showed the country why.  Their first play was a 75 yard catch and run which illustrated why Marquise Lee is never forgotten about for all the talk about the Matt Barkley to Robert Woods connection.  Lee is just as good and gives Barkley are pair of receivers who will both be paid to play football soon.....yeah, that Reggie Bush joke you are thinking is just too easy.

Houston 13
Texas State 30

This was Texas State's first game in the FBS.  Their FIRST GAME. 

Houston is in big trouble this year.
Rutgers 24
Tulane 12

The first game post-Schiano looked much like the games he coached.  The Rutgers defense was stifling, the running game was effective, and Gary Nova did enough. 

#2 Alabama 41
#8 Michigan 14

At this point in the season, Michigan is not a top 15 team, let alone a top 10.  Alabama is possibly the best team in the country.  The former surprised some people, the latter did not. 

Don't let the big numbers fool you though, the Alabama offense is not what I would call a dynamic one.  Or if it is, they haven't shown it to us yet.  AJ McCarron is still just staying out of the defense's way, but there is nothing wrong with that hen you are winning by 27. 

It will be interesting to see what happens when they face a team with a more accurate QB.  They are very young on defense this year, though immensely talented, and Denard Robinson is a QB who takes advantage of mistakes.  He is not a QB who reads and makes decisions.  Bama didn't make many mistakes, which forced Denard to try to do what he cannot.
#15 Texas 37
Wyoming 17

Two years ago, Texas let the world know they were in trouble when they struggled early before pulling away to beat Wyoming.  This year, there were no such problems.  Their O-Line opened gaping holes for the running backs, which led to 280 yards on the ground as Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown both went over 100 yards and averaged better than 7 ypc. 

David Ash was careful with the ball, which is all they needed, and the defense was very good.

#4 Oklahoma 24

The Sooners were not ready to play when this game started and were very lucky that UTEP didn't bury them.  But, the defense held, and Landry Jones and company did enough.

Still, this kind of performance to start the year has to drop them out of the top 5 and Jones out of the Heisman race.  Actually, the latter may be the best thing that could happen for OU.  Landry Jones is not mentally tough, so let's keep him focused on winning.

Arizona 24
Toledo 17

Well, RichRod won his opener in the desert, but needing OT to beat a MAC team is not encouraging, regardless of how good a team Toledo is expected to be. 

On the bright side, 624 total yards with a balanced offense is something we haven't seen out of the Wildcats...well in as long as I can remember.  They better find a way to finish drives though, or they are going to be in big trouble and avoid the kind of stupid penalties that cost them 2 TD's.

This game should have never been in OT...actually that's true in a several ways with the Wildcats missing 2 field goals as well.

Washington 21
San Diego State 12

The big question for the Huskies was if their new defense would be able to perform better.  Their offense has been solid for a few years, but their defense had not been at the same level.  So far so good as they forced 3 turnovers, had 4 sacks, and scored a defensive TD.  Mind you San Diego State is not the RGIII led Baylor Bears, but it is a start.  After all, a good defense should perform well against lesser opponents, which they did.

That said, both units are going to need to step up if they want to avoid being blown out by the Bayou Bengals next week.
#5 Oregon 57
Arkansas State 34

All you people out there who think Chip Kelly is just a cut-throat, cheating, typical football coach who spits in the face of convention and the unwritten rules of football are only half right.

His team won this game 57 to 34, but they had 50 at half time.  He took his foot off of the gas to avoid further embarrassing an opponent. 

Of course, what is the point to piling on more points, when you could get valuable experience for your second team and keep your starters healthy?  None, especially after his young QB Marcus Mariota showed that he has the potential to be the best QB to come through Oregon in Kelly's tenure.  The first time starter had 200 yards passing and 3 TD's by half time.

Oh, and just for fun, Kelly recruited a power back.

September 2nd

#25 Louisville 32
Kentucky 14

Charlie Strong's team is starting to inch towards what the Cardinal faithful had in mind when he was hired.  Teddy Bridgewater is the leader and can do a bit of everything, and this team is a tough-minded and physical team. 

They had 2 backs run for 100+ against an SEC defense and gained a total 466 yards on offense.  Bridgewater had 2 incompletions in the entire game and led 3 scoring drives of at least 85 yards.

For perspective of how utterly dominant Louisville was, both of those 100 yard backs outrushed the Kentucky team.

Baylor 59
Southern Methodist 24

Nick Florence is not RGIII, but he can play a little bit himself.  While he does not have Robert Griffin III's footspeed or agility, and who else does, Florence is an excellent pocket passer.  He has good size and plenty of arm, but most importantly he knows this offense and got some experience starting while Griffing was injured in 2009.

He came out of the gate gunning on his way to 341 yards and 4 TD's to 4 different receivers. 

Garrett Gilbert and Zach Line did what they could, but their defense could slow down the Bears enough to give them a chance.
September 3rd
#16 Virginia Tech 20   
    vs.Georgia Tech 17

All this morning I have heard people talk about how mentally tough the Hokies were to win this game late, but let's be honest here.  Georgia Tech snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Both of these teams defense played great in this game.  That is not great cudos however since this is a rivalry game that both teams had been spending the summer getting ready for. 

I did have a few thoughts though.

1. Virginia Tech needs to figure out who their lead receiver is going to be because if they don't have a go-to guy, they are in trouble.  Logan Thomas is an excellent QB and athlete, but teams will load up and kill him if there is not a threat on the outside.  Corey Fuller could be that guy.

2. I hope for the Yellow Jacket's sake that they keep the passing wrinkles in their attack that they showed late.  Take away the poorly thrown and horrible decision that was the interception in overtime, and Tevin Washington was 10 of 14 for 96 yards and a TD.  Most of that came in crunchtime, and Washington looked more comfortable than any Paul Johnson QB I can remember throwing the ball.  Their offense is so hard to prepare for on the ground, that being able to throw the ball could be devestating.

That said, if Va Tech is #16, the Jackets better be in the top 25.
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