College Football’s first weekend was not so eventful. But it almost was. Games that seemed like a fait accompli, after eight months of talking, proved not to be. World outlooks weren’t nuked. But, had a few plays gone differently, they could have been. It was a week of impressive showings and moral victories.
Oklahoma State crawled out of the shell craters and kept it within a touchdown against Florida State. The Cowboys picked off a Jameis Winston who looked mortal (when passing the ball) twice. Though unspectacular, OSU got enough going on offense and were efficient on third downs. This was not a timeless Seminole performance, but perhaps the game was more about Oklahoma State proving a point. Mike Gundy’s team lost a lot from 2013’s squad. But, after producing Top 15 teams on the regular for some time now, this staff should have received more benefit of the doubt. We had them just outside the Top 20 preseason. Had we trusted the numbers, we would have been more bullish.
Alabama labored against West Virginia. The natural inclination is to blame Lane Kiffin. He’s a natural heel and an inviting, poorly tailored target. However, getting 538 balanced total yards, 9/16 third down conversions and just one turnover with a new QB was not terrible at all. Alabama’s vaunted defense just got Holgorsen’d. The Tide struggled with tempo. A confused secondary got shredded. Had West Virginia executed the play calls better, the carnage could have been worse. It’s not clear whether the Mountaineers can recruit enough talent to compete weekly in the Big 12. But Dana Holgorsen can still orchestrate an offense with a healthy quarterback. Red Bull, demonstrably, gives you wings.
Pre-season hype kings UCLA escaped by their chinny-chin-chins against lowly Virginia, winning 28-20 on three defensive touchdowns. We predicted the Cavaliers would cover, with an unappreciated defense and the Bruins facing a noon ET kickoff after a cross-country flight. With any luck or some better offensive talent, UVA would have pulled off the outright upset. It’s not time to pump the breaks on UCLA. Some fine tuning and not fumbling the ball four times will ameliorate many issues. But those slotting the Bruins ahead of Oregon, Stanford and USC may want to apply some mild, steady pressure.
Wisconsin almost picked off LSU, but didn’t, conceding 21 unanswered points to lose 28-24. Considering the teams individually, that wouldn’t have been an “upset.” Though, it would have made a rare, strong opening statement for the oft-maligned Big Ten (Your move, Sparty). This was the Badgers’ 15th one-score loss since going down 21-19 to TCU in the Rose Bowl at the end of the 2010 season. Brutal. LSU, after a brief interlude, appears to be back to running the dang ball and bombing it down field with an erratic quarterback. Viva Les Miles!
That Aggie Swag: A Texas A&M transition year seemed rational. Kevin Sumlin’s team appeared to have no such plans at the end of “talking season.” The A&M offense was not intimidated by Darude, racking up 52 points and 680 total yards and converting 14/19 third and fourth down conversions. Novice QB Kenny Football put up 44/60 for 511 yards and three touchdowns. This could just have been South Carolina stinking up the place. A&M still has a young team, a tough schedule and some serious defensive concerns. But, everyone in the SEC saw what they did there.
Those Georgia Running Backs: Todd Gurley and freshmen Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combined for 301 yards and four touchdowns (three in the 4th quarter) on 25 carries, against what should have been a solid Clemson defense. Gurley, among the Heisman favorites, threw in this for good measure. The Dawgs have some serious talent, not that we trust them to deploy it effectively week to week.
The Nussmeier Effect: It was only Appalachian State. But, Devin Gardner had one incompletion, two running backs went over 100 yards and Devin Funchess was not coverable. The Wolverines averaged 10.2 yards per play, which is what a competent offense should do against an FCS team. Strong debut from the guy who is not Al Borges.
A Win, Finally: The Bears won their first FBS game since beating Washington State in Oct. 2012, holding on 31-24 against Northwestern. Sonny Dykes’ Bear Raid has more than a few kinks to work out, but the revolution must start somewhere.
The Not So Good…
Anchored Down: One SEC team lost outside the conference last weekend: Vanderbilt. The Commodores were crushed 37-7 at home, by Temple. Temple. The delayed start was weird. Not sure there is that much to read into this besides “yeah, committing seven turnovers won’t work out well for you.” Still, not an auspicious start for the Derek Mason era.
Not So Proud: Iowa State took a 14-0 lead on FCS giants North Dakota State. The Cyclones then conceded 34 unanswered points to lose by 20. Early days, to be sure. Though Kansas may face a battle for the Big 12 cellar. Will the Big 12 consider the Bison when it inevitably expands back to 12 or beyond?
Hammering Away: Eastern Michigan escaped 31-28 against FCS Morgan State, who out played them. It was an impressive display of resilience to overcome their poorly thought out tunnel intro.
In a Losing Effort…
We’re admittedly borrowing this prize the fine gents at the Solid Verbal podcast. Washington State QB Conor Halliday completed 40/56 for 532 yards and five touchdowns, as the Cougars lost 41-38 to Rutgers.
GIF That Captured the Zeitgeist…
Wisconsin has a tubby Brazilian kicker, who gets a little funky after making field goals.
Sartorial Statement of the Week…
Alabama’s coaching staff went with the matching relaxed fit, cuffed and pleated khakis: a look that screams “I spend way too much time in a film room to be concerned about trivial shit.”
[Photos via Getty, USAT Sports]