College Football Week 1 Recap — “Exciting, even if it was mostly chalk”
All off-season, college football readers of various sites have been reading and watching articles and videos reminding them of a season a decade since past. 2007 — “The Greatest Season in College Football History” (SB Nation with the exhaustive guide to that season) or “The Year of the Upset”, which featured multiple upsets in the top 5 including multiple 1st and 2nd ranked teams dropping in different weeks. (Fun Fact — I was at one of those games. October 18th, 2007, it almost compelled my family to buy Rutgers season tickets. Dodged one there).
Needless to say, that season is pretty high up there in the most exciting seasons of recent memory. Week 1 of 2007 opened with Appalacian State beating №5 Michigan in Ann Arbor. 10 years later, it seems as though the CFB gods want to push back that 2007 was a singular season of excitement and that 2017 could be just as ridiculous without Kansas being involved.
So much content this past weekend that many felt alright putting out recaps and reactions Sunday morning or Monday morning, despite ranked match ups left on the schedule. That can all be excused, because after just Thursday and Friday, College Football fans got a whole weekend’s worth of drama and stories. №2 Ohio State down at the half against Indiana? The headlines, written at half time evidently, talk about the Buckeyes “surviving”, but Ohio State easily covered the 20.5 and won 49–21. Mason Rudolph, Lee Corso’s pick to the win the Heisman if the first Gameday of the season is to be believed, lit Tulsa up for 303 yds on 20/24 passing, throwing for 3 TDs and adding another rushing. Vaunted Holy Cross went to UConn and led 20–7 at the half before putting up zeroes in the 2nd against a middle of the pack Huskies defense. And that was only Thursday.
Friday night brought the #WarBeforeTheShore down at Rutgers, home of student hot tub section against №8 Washington. Evidently, this is something every team should consider, as the Scarlet Knights defense held the Huskies to 84 yards rushing, a 27% 3rd down conversion and held the Washington offense out of the end zone until the 3rd quarter. The 30–14 final led to UW being one of two in the top 10 to not cover against an unranked opponent. Navy (my vote for team most slighted by not being in the top 25, but that’s a different topic for a different time….tomorrow) went to Lane Kiffin’s new home and smoked the Owls through multiple rain delays. Wisconsin ended the 1st quarter down 10 and made my Utah State +27.5 pick look inspired. the Badgers answered with 59 unanswered with 4 different rushers scoring.
Saturday was a day filled with blowouts, punctuated by scares for ranked teams that turned into simply tricky wins and near covers. Only one ranked team was felled and it was in truly spectacular fashion, as Tom Herman began his Texas career with a cupboard stocked with apparently 4 and 5 star recruits who forgot how to tackle. Maryland has some very talented players, including Ty Johnson (132 yds rushing, 1 td) and Tyrell Pigrome (9/12, 175 yds passing, 64 yds rushing, 3 tds combined). But the Texas hype train came to a crashing halt on Saturday, with less than 100 yards rushing against a defense that gave up over 200 yards on average last year. Not surprisingly, they dropped from the AP Top 25 earlier today and did not receive a single vote.
Notre Dame hype train continued on, Georgia avoided an anniversary upset by App State, and USC survived at home against a boatless Western Michigan on a channel people couldn’t find. The daytime marquee match up was Michigan-Florida in Dallas and it did not go according to script for those in love with the SEC. Florida was supposed to return a top 10 defense and Michigan lost too many players on defense to be able to stop any offense, even one without a true starting quarterback. It could not have been more opposite, with Michigan rushing for more than 200 yards while holding Florida to 11 yards rushing. Harbaugh had his defense on point, rushing the passer well (6 sacks) and going after the football (3 fumbles recovered). While Florida led at halftime, it became very clear that Michigan was going to hand Florida its first season opening loss since 1989. Michigan is loaded with young, talented players (Quinn Nordin, I’m looking at you!) and if their passing game can get stable at some point soon, they look every bit as dangerous as they were last year.
The Main Event from this weekend, №1 Alabama vs. №3 Florida State did not disappoint. Florida State obviously was going to miss Dalvin Cook running, but most were not expecting such a deflating performance (40 yards on 27 carries). Much of the disappointment from Florida State’s rushing was caused by a truly stifling defense by Alabama. The Crimson Tide looked every bit as dominating on defense as in years past and gave the Seminoles’ offensive line trouble from the jump. Credit to Florida State’s defense however; Alabama’s offense certainly to lack the big play ability that last year’s team certainly possessed, with lackluster play calling being noticeable throughout and a significant presence of Derwin James consistently making plays. If not for some impressive special teams play and favorable field positions, this game easily could have ended up being closer on the scoreboard than 24–7. Important to note about Alabama; Nick Saban has an incredible luxury in his recruiting ability that he can have Damien Harris on the punt team, NOT AS THE RETURNER. He has 4 and 5 star guys doing special teams work and it pays off with forcing fumbles and excellent coverage downfield on punts.
This historic week 1 match up cannot be talked about without talking about Deondre Francois and his season-ending knee injury. A terrible loss and certainly takes some of the air out of the sails of a potential playoff run in Tallahassee. With Hurricane Irma bearing down on Florida, this weekend’s match up at home against Louisiana-Monroe may moved or rescheduled which could give the back up, Freshman James Blackman a chance to get more acquainted with the first team offense. September 16th brings a match up against a ranked Miami team that looked good in its opener, so we’ll soon see if the offense can make the proper adjustments to get itself right. I don’t believe it ends Florida State’s title quest, but it makes it much less likely.
The weekend was capped off by the three craziest finishes of the 5 day college football marathon that was Labor Day Weekend. One of them Texas A&M at UCLA, I’ll write about tomorrow as part of my mid-week columns that will involve re-watching a game and dissecting what happened (and why Kevin Sumlin may not need to get fired).
The other games were equally exciting. West Virginia came one play away from tying it against the Hokies in a back and forth battle. One has to wonder about why WVU threw 53 times when Justin Crawford ran for over 100 yards on only 13 carries. Monday night featured a Georgia Tech team rushing for over 500! yards and still not being able to pull out the victory against 25th ranked Tennessee. If Tennessee is truly number 25 in the country, as today’s AP poll indicates, the ACC has to be wary playing Georgia Tech, since the ground game of the Yellow Jackets seems to be almost unstoppable. An overtime thriller, I applaud Paul Johnson for going for 2 and the win. But the defense needs to hold up when they have a 14 point lead.
Quite the first week of games, wouldn’t you say? Tomorrow will have my breakdown of the UCLA-TAMU game, my issues with the AP top 25/my own rankings and look for my picks this Thursday evening before kick-off of the first game, Idaho State at Utah State.
My picks were mixed this first week. Yes, I know picking against Alabama was a mistake. However, that was the only one of the highlighted games I missed as I went 4–1. As for the rest, missing on BC by half a point, Illinois by 3 points and really missing on NC State -5 and UMass -2. However, I hit on my fair share of games including Georgia Southern by half a point at Auburn and LSU shutting out BYU. My record overall stands at 19–18–2 (4–1) through all of Week 1.