And So It Is Written ...
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The ten most important things to happen in the history of our great planet – at least this weekend. How will Week 1 of your college football season be remembered in the history books? And so it is written …
1. Florida State, Alabama, Ohio State and UCLA were all painfully underwhelming
The defending national champions saw Jameis Winston turn into a fullback on one big play, and needed a next-level dart thrown between three defenders to Rashad Greene for a long scoring pass on another, for Florida State to beat a rebuilding Oklahoma State team that didn’t receive the memo about being a speed bump. Alabama did nothing to slow down fears that its secondary is going to keep being at defending the forward pass – giving up 365 yards to Clint Trickett. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer once again forgot that his running backs are pretty good in a too-tough win over Navy that made our troops sad, and UCLA’s offensive line was way too sleepy having to play on the other side of the country in a sluggish win over Virginia. With South Carolina getting pantsed by Texas A&M, that means five of the top nine teams in both major polls are going to be yelled at by grouchy coaches this week.
2. The SEC Network introduced itself as a necessary and unavoidable part of our lives
Sorry, rest of the college football world, but the SEC really does matter, and that means you’re going to be forced to deal with the weekly ESPN infomercial promoting its shiny new product. The self-aggrandizing will eventually slow down – it just has to – and soon the sales staff will get a real sponsor to bump out the Snackeez spots, but this isn’t like blowing off the Big Ten Network for Western Michigan vs. Purdue, or still not knowing if the Longhorn Network really does exist. We’re all going to have to watch. Forever. There’s no avoiding the physicality.
3. Texas A&M got better
South Carolina ran out onto the field to its oonce-oonce-oonce of Sandstorm, everyone was jumping around waving things, and it seemed like the entire planet revolved around Columbia, South Carolina for one Thursday night. One nine play, 67-yard touchdown drive by Texas A&M later, and all of a sudden, in a way, it was Game Over. You’re not supposed to be improved after losing three first round draft picks including a franchise left tackle in Jake Matthews, an elite deep threat in Mike Evans, and a transcendent superstar of a Heisman-winner, but that’s apparently what’s happening after a performance that looked eerily reminiscent of Florida State’s 2013 opener against Pitt and/or it’s utter destruction of Clemson. Kenny Hill made a 44-of-60, 511-yard passing day look effortless, the Aggie defense appeared far stronger than last season, and without Mr. Topsyzn, this was a more ruthlessly efficient and consistent team – at least for one week. Whether it’s the car or the guy who’s driving it, A&M is better this season, or else South Carolina got hit with a case of the Week Ones. It’s probably a little of both.
4. Controversy, schmontroversy, Part 1: Everett Golson is going to be a much watch
As always at Notre Dame, wins forgive sins. With several naughty players sitting out suspended, it was up to Everett Golson to carry the unremarkable Irish and take away all the pain and suffering. He showed just how much he means to the offense by throttling the defending Conference USA champion Rice Owls for 295 passing yards and two scores to go along with 41 rushing yards and three touchdowns. In 2012 he was an important part of the Fighting Kekuas, but that team was all about the defense. This year, this is his season and his team.
5. Controversy, schmontroversy, Part 2: USC jumps in feet first
All the distractions and all of the craziness surrounding the start of the Seven-Win Sark era melted away with a fantastic 17-play, 90-yard scoring drive with QB Cody Kessler playing like the real deal right out of the box. The not-too-distracted Trojans destroyed defending Mountain West champion Fresno State squad with an early 24-0 lead on the way to 701 yards of total offense. The Josh Shaw-less defense came up with four picks, and the running game somehow didn’t have problems without Anthony Brown – and managed to find a way to play for Steve Sarkisian - running for 277 yards and three touchdowns. After the game, Sarkisian was allowed to ride on the team bus the entire way.
6. Playtime is over at Texas
The days of nice, soft, talented Texas appear to be over and done with. North Texas has a great running game that should be among the best in Conference USA this season, and it went absolutely nowhere getting stuffed for 1.84 yards per carry and just 79 yards on 43 tries in the 38-7 Longhorn win. Mack Brown’s polite requests for his defenses to stop learning how to tackle from a pinball machine turned into a monster– at least for this week – allowing a likely bowl-bound football program that wanted to throw the ball to complete 3-of-17 passes for 15 yards and four interceptions. The longest play from scrimmage for the Mean Green? Eight yards.
7. The Big Ten East is going to be far, far, far better than the West
There’s no shame in Wisconsin losing to LSU – outside of forgetting to recruit an FBS-level wide receiver and gagging away a 17-point second half lead – and Northwestern came back to give Cal a fight once it finally realized the season had started, but overall, the West was relatively rocky. One Pelini brother wielded his brand of street justice on the program that booted the other brother with Nebraska obliterating Florida Atlantic, but Minnesota (an okay 42-20 performance over Eastern Illinois), Iowa (a scary 31-23 win over Northern Iowa), Illinois (a sleepy 28-17 win over Youngstown State) and Purdue (Western Michigan might not score 34 points the rest of the year) all had moments that made it seem like a loss to a vastly inferior team was possible. Meanwhile, Rutgers’ win over Washington State and Penn State’s win over UCF were great moments for the division, and for a league that helped itself overall by going 12-2.
8. Colorado State saved the Mountain West’s disastrous weekend
And it all started out so well with Dee Hart and Colorado State running amok on a Colorado defense that played like a team that couldn’t handle the altitude. The 6-6 conference record this week might not be that bad on the surface, except that five of the wins came against FCS teams and the league’s three signature stars – Fresno State, Boise State and Utah State – lost by a combined score of 125 to 33, or an average of 41 to 11. UNLV getting RichRoded 58-13 and New Mexico’s home loss to UTEP didn’t help, but the dream of the weekend was to come up with good showings on the big stages. It didn’t happen.
9. Georgia is a legitimate threat to do really, really big things
It’s amazing what can happen when a team is healthy and has an NFL running back fresh and at 100%. Clemson might not be the powerhouse it was last season, but it’s still a team full of great talent and athleticism, shown off with a strong first half – and then Mr. Gurley decided he’d like Georgia to win the football game. The Bulldogs have the best linebacking corps in America, Hutson Mason is as veteran a fill-in quarterback as could be reasonably asked for, and everyone appears to be in once piece, at least for now. It’ll be easy to go overboard and assume Georgia isn’t going to pull a Georgia and lose half its defense to suspension, but this year, if all the parts are on the field, this might be a team that really and truly will be in the mix for the SEC title and a College Football Playoff spot. Of course, if South Carolina doesn’t get beaten twice by Texas A&M and has its head on straight in two weeks, that could all change.
10. The little guy is dead
Marshall couldn’t slow down a Miami University offense with a line that pass protected well on a mere two plays since Ben Roethlisberger graduated. Fresno State, Utah State and Boise State are out of any discussion of fun things, Houston was destroyed by UTSA, and UCF lost to Penn State. Unless East Carolina runs the table in breathtaking fashion, or if Cincinnati can rise up and be terrific, any romantic notion of a Group of 5 team breaking into the CFP party was gone before September even started. The Power 5 was last seen cackling in the middle of its treasure bath.