Record Beaters, Season Enders, & Playoff Statements
And It’s Just Week 1
What a Week 1 of College Football. In Big Brother (reality show on CBS) there is a saying amongst the house guests, “Expect the unexpected”. That is certainly what College Football fans from around the nation should have done yesterday.
Don’t Underestimate the Bison
First things first. When a team breaks a ten-year-old record, you have go to start with that. Howard, a Football Championship Series member, was a 45-point underdog going into their game against UNLV. If you don’t know much about the Bison, I don’t blame you. I had to do a bit of research myself. The Bison won just two games last season and in both those contests, they won by exactly five points. What makes the 5 points so meaningful, they did that against fellow FCS competition that managed just 4 combined wins last season. Howard QB, Caylin Newton, did his best Cam Newton impression last night throwing 140 yards and rushing for 190 yards. Newton had one TD through the air and 2 rushing touchdowns to boot. The kid’s a beast! Get him a Panther’s jersey now. Howard didn’t just do this on offense. The Bison forced three UNLV turnovers and controlled the clock with a 5-minute threshold. Heck, UNLV didn’t hold a lead in this game until the third quarter. UNLV turned the game around quickly and grabbed a 12-point lead midway through the third. The Bison could have given up but Newton and Company weren’t done and refused to go quietly into the night. Newton scored what would be the game winning touchdown with 7 minutes to go in the fourth quarter and the Bison Defense held strong and denied the Rebels a come from behind victory! The record was previously held by Stanford (40-point underdog to USC in 2007). If you haven’t made the connection yet, Caylin is Cam Newton’s younger brother. Go Bison.
Significant Injury Crushes Title Hope
As of 11:45 this morning, there is still no word on the injury to Florida State QB, Deondre Francois. FSU is keeping this internal now and I have a tough time believing that 12 hours later, you don’t know the fate of your QB. This spells trouble for the Seminoles who could have still been in the playoff conversation despite the loss to Alabama. Both teams played a great game but the play in the trenches ultimately decided this one. Backup QB, James Blackmon, is talented but very raw. I would believe that the AP voters on Monday will see this as a giant step backwards for the team from Tallahassee. We all wish Francois the best. He’s a tough kid and will hopefully recover soon. UPDATE: FSU releases news on Francois, the QB suffered an injury to the patellar tendon and he will miss the rest of the season.
Best Top 10 Performances
Considering that no one from outside the Preseason Top 10 has made it into the College Football Playoffs, we must decide now, who had the best performance in week 1.
#1 – Alabama
Undoubtedly, Alabama had a great game plan and executed it with near perfection. However, the Tide didn’t look world beaters last night. At halftime, the score was 10-7 and everyone was wondering when this one would break open. The Alabama offense looked maligned against a solid defensive performance from the Seminoles. Considering the Alabama offense only outgained FSU by 19 total yards, I would say that Mr. Saban has some work to do with his new OC. Speaking of the OC, we should all wish congratulations to Brian Daboll and his wife. They are expecting their 6th child on September 10th. Why is this date so important? Mrs. Daboll has never missed a single one of her husband’s football games.
Defensively, the Tide were spectacular again. There are very few instances where a Nick Saban defense doesn’t dominate. The Tide forced the Noles into three turnovers last night. The defensive line mauled FSU finishing with 9 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. That defensive front held Cam Akers and the Seminole rushing attack to an average of 1.5 yards per carry.
This team looks every bit the part of a Playoff Contender. All three phases need to be honed but at this moment, is there really anyone who can challenge the Tide?
#2 – Ohio State
I’d say that I don’t enjoy poking fun the Buckeyes but it is becoming just too easy. Before we get into the Buckeyes performance, I would like to take a minute here and give the Clemson Tiger Marching Band a round of applause in their efforts.
So, what went right for the Buckeyes in their season opener? Well for starters they beat perennial powerhouse Indiana. Offensively, the Buckeyes really weren’t that bad. After a shaky first quarter, Offensive Coordinator Kevin Wilson, settled into a good scheme. The Buckeyes weren’t very effective on third-down, only converting on 8 out of their 19 attempts. That’s good enough to beat the Hoosiers but it won’t be enough for Penn St. Quarterback J.T. Barrett quietly had a decent game. While he didn’t light up the stat sheets, he was efficient (76.7 QBR) and didn’t make costly errors.
Defensively, the Buckeyes must have just needed a half to adjust. With the score 14-13 at halftime (in favor of the Hoosiers), the defense came out with a bit more zip. On 8 possessions during the second half, the defense allowed only 153 total yards and one score. That is an amazing 18.9 yards per possession. I think the even bigger stats here are two that most don’t consider relevant, Ohio State allowed 1 point per possession and .05 points per yard in the second half compared to 39.5 yards per possession, 1.75 points per possession and .04 points per yard.
It is still too early to tell if the Buckeyes are for real but for now, I will place the firmly on the playoff bubble and back off on the criticism a bit (but not too much because it’s just too easy).
#3 – Florida State
This was the year Jimbo. This was your chance to put the rest of the ACC on notice. This was your chance to make the College Football World “Fear the Spear”. What were you doing during training camp?
Before I get carried away, FSU played one heck of a game defensively. The Seminoles came into this game knowing what the Crimson Tide would do offensively and FSU was ready. The Seminole Defense made Jaylen Hurts one dimensional for most of the night. The defensive line, while only sacking Hurts twice, put pressure on him throughout the night and made several plays in the backfield. Tackling seemed to be the biggest issue on defense for the Noles throughout the contest. The defense would force their way into the Crimson Tide backfield and either lose containment or forget to wrap-up the ball carrier. Not to take anything away from the Tide’s Offense but FSU could have slowed them considerably. I am sure Jimbo will address that this week and unfortunately for ULM, he will use this opportunity as a clinic.
Still no word on Francois’ injury but you can’t be too optimistic at this point. The kid was a beast last season getting knocked around constantly. He always got back up. Unfortunately, after that hit, he couldn’t. The Noles will turn to James Blackmon. Blackmon is a true freshman who has never thrown a pass in a college game. During camp, Blackmon got to work with the ones and the twos but the majority went to Francois. Now the Seminoles have a week to prepare for ULM. Look for FSU to put Blackmon into easy situations early against ULM. Blackmon will probably not attempt a throw beyond 10 yards in his first series but gauging the opponent, if he is comfortable, the Noles will turn him loose after that. Cam Akers must have a bigger role now and the offensive line better start showing up. I understand it was against Alabama but this was the same theme a year ago. If you want to lose another QB, take the week off.
Losing Francois was a huge blow to Jimbo and the Seminoles. However, this team could compete on a high level with Blackmon under center but not this offensive line. I have moved FSU out of the Playoff Race for now and outside the bubble. UPDATE: With the loss of Francois for the season, FSU will remain outside playoff contention.
#4 – Southern Cal
If you were looking to impress anyone during the first week of the season, you failed miserably. Some articles blame the 99-degree heat but if that offers a weakness for any team, don’t you think it would be a bigger opposition for the team from freaking Michigan? Stop making excuses, you are starting to sound like Kirk Herbstreit.
Heisman favorite Sam Darnold looked mediocre at best. You can’t win the Heisman in week 1 (unless you’re Lamar Jackson) but you sure can lose it. While his QBR (71) wasn’t the worst of the weekend, the QB went 23/33 for 289 yards without a touchdown. The biggest number to standout was that 2 of his passes were intercepted. Darnold was not the best decision maker either. USC did average 6.8 yards per rush. There aren’t many positives for the offense even though WMU was undefeated in the regular season a year ago.
Defensively, the Trojans were about what we expected. WMU averaged 44.75 points per game last year in the regular season. While the Broncos only played 2 teams from a Power Conference (1-1) they still averaged 19 points in those contests. Both opponents had better defensive number than the Trojans last season (Wisconsin and Northwestern). In the second half, the Trojans only allowed 26.2 yards per possession compared to 32.9 in the first half. Points allowed per possession between the first and second half were cut in half (one touchdown was on kick return in the second half).
The best thing to come out of this game was the story of Jake Olson. Olson was born with a disease that would ultimately cause blindness. When Jake was 12 years old, he had the surgery his family had feared and was rendered blind. Olson never gave up his dream of playing football. He played for his Highschool team as the long-snapper and inspired to play College Football. After an interception return for a touchdown that put USC up 17 points, Olson entered his first collegiate game and successfully snapped the extra point attempt for the Trojans leading them to a 49-31 score which would end as the final. For more on Jake Olson’s story, visit here.
The Trojans didn’t do anything to hold onto their playoff spot as Stanford looms this weekend. They join OSU on the bubble as of now and make room for other contenders.
#5 – Clemson
Replacing Deshaun Watson and 78% of the offensive production from 2016 will be a tough task, right? Not so fast as Lee Corso would say. The Tigers were dominant in every phase of the game (except on pass defense).
Offensively, the Tigers looked in sync. They were playing a much-maligned Kent State team (who sent out a letter asking the opposition not to call them Kent) that also faced former National Champion Alabama last season. Both offenses did exactly what they intended to the Golden Flashes, so what stands out for the Tigers? Clemson was very efficient. On the 8 drives orchestrated by Bryant, Clemson averaged 2.7 points per possession, 52.6 yards and .08 points per yard. Now, this was against the weakest opponent anyone inside the Top 10 faced during week 1. Although signs point to offensive success, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Defensively, the Tigers did what they should have done. Only a few of the Top 10 teams can say that. The Tigers held Kent State to an average of 2.7 yards per rush. The most notable stat was that the Tigers’ Defense did not give up a play of 20 yards or more (however they did give up 19 yards on a scramble by QB Nick Holley. The Tigers only had four opportunities for a sack on the afternoon. Kent State completed just one of those passes for a whopping 1 yard. This game may have prepared the Tigers for the rushing attack of GT but next week’s matchup against Auburn will be quite different.
The Tigers benefit from the injury to Francois and after Louisville’s lackluster performance against the Boilermakers, the biggest obstacles on the Tigers’ schedule look to be Auburn, Virginia Tech and South Carolina. Clemson should be favored in every game this season and should have an easy path to the ACCCG where they will almost assuredly play Miami.
#6 Penn State
My favorite win the B1G East, probably made the best opening statement aside from Alabama. Penn State dismantled the Zips from Akron and managed the ONLY shutout from the Top 10 and was one of only three defenses in the Top 25 that had a shutout (LSU and Wash St were the other two).
McSorley managed the PSU offense well during their season opener. The QB went 18/25 for 280 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. But this team is not going to be dependent on McSorley, the Nittany Lions will go as far as the offensive line and Saquon Barkley will take them. Barkley and the offensive line dominated on every possession. With the first team offense on the field, the Nittany Lions averaged 5 points per possession, 55.9 yards per possession and .09 points per possession. When it comes down to the overall efficiency, the opponent doesn’t matter as much as the operation. Akron is a better team than Kent State in every phase of the game and PSU still outperformed the Tigers from Clemson on offense.
Defensively, PSU was dominate as well indicated by their shout performance. When you look closer though, it becomes even more impressive. The Nittany Lions did not allow a play over 15 yards and the Zips’ offense only had two plays of 10 yards or more. PSU limited Akron to a 24% Conversion Rate on third down and held the Zips to just 12 first downs. PSU had 14 tackles for loss and 3 sacks as well.
With Ohio State struggling early against Indiana (probably not much better than Akron) and Penn State dominating, I think as of this week, the Lions should be the top choice in the B1G. I have them firmly seated in the Playoff Picture.
#7 – Oklahoma
I warned of Oklahoma taking offense to words of Kirk Herbstreit during the OSU game against Indiana. Kirk, I think Baker Mayfield and his band of misfit WRs heard you loud and clear. Watch out for the Sooners!
Could Mayfield had started the season any better? Yes, absolutely. He could have completed 100% of his passes instead of 95%. He could have lead OU to scores on all 6 of his drives instead of 5. The Sooners put up an average of 5.8 points and 72.3 yards per possession and averaged .08 points per yard against UTEP while Mayfield was under center. The Sooners had 8 players with an explosive play (more than 15 yards) and every time Mayfield threw the ball, he averaged an explosive play (16.5 yards per attempt). Yes, it is UTEP but again, efficiency is hard to argue against.
Defensively (not a common term used around the Big12 Conference), the Sooners did what they needed to but still left room for improvement. The Sooners’ defense gave up 3.5 yards per rush. UTEP was greatly undersized on both sides of the line and shouldn’t have had the opportunity to push OU’s defense. OU gave up only three plays of 15 yards or more but allowed a 29-yard rush and a 17-yard rush that led to the only score for UTEP. The Sooners must shore up the front seven as well as the secondary if they want to dominate more talented opponents.
As of now, the Sooners sit on the bubble with Ohio State and USC. The matchup between the Sooners and Buckeyes will ultimately decide who has a shot in the playoffs and who still has work to do. My money is on the Sooners for this matchup but since I’m broke, you may not want to follow my lead.
#8 – Washington
Did anyone tell the Huskies that they were playing the Scarlet Knights this weekend? Rutgers (who plays in the B1G but don’t tell anyone that) won just 2 games a season ago. Not trying to steal the thunder from Howard (see the top story) but that was one of their 2 victories last season. Washington made it to the playoffs (fair or not, some idiots put the Huskies there).
Browning’s performance shouldn’t really surprise anyone. Heck, Jake outperformed his career averages against the Scarlet Knights except in completion percentage. What was puzzling though, was Washington’s inability to sustain drives and turn them into points. In the first half, Washington managed only 3 points on 6 drives (they scored on a return). Two of the six drives resulted in negative yardage, one went for 0 yards, and two others totaled only 12 yards. In the first half, the Huskies accumulated a Top10 worst 76 offensive yards. In 2016, Rutgers ranked 96th in total defense. Washington pushed across 292 yards in the second half but this should not have been such a nightmare for the Huskies.
Defensively, Washington looked similar to last season’s team which gave Alabama some trouble in the playoffs but this was also against competition far inferior on that side of the ball. Rutgers ranked 128th in the FBS last season in Total Offense. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the number of teams in the FBS, there were only 129. The Huskies better regain its composure or there will be a lot teams nipping at their heels.
As of right now, the Huskies have fallen off the bubble for me and will remain there until they can prove they deserve the attention.
#9 – Wisconsin
If it were possible to erase bad memories from our minds, I wouldn’t remember my previous marriage or the myriad of bad relationships I have had (maybe I’m the problem???). Just like my issue though, Wisconsin would like to forget the first 15 minutes of their opener against Utah State.
Wisconsin totaled just 22 yards of offense in the first quarter against the Aggies. Hornibrook looked like a deer lost in the headlights. I’m not sure if the Alumni need to raise money or not but if they did, betting that USU would have more yards at the end of the first would have been a good way to go (no, I don’t think there was collusion). Whatever the hangover (that would explain it as well) was, the Badgers quickly remedied their situation and started moving the ball. Hornibrook went on to throw for three touchdowns without an interception. His only true DOH! moment was the fumble in the first. He averaged over 10 yards per attempt and the offensive line opened holes that Air Force One could easily land inside. The rushing attack was by committee and averaged 5.2 yards per carry which includes Hornibrook’s -20 yards rushing.
You can’t really blame the defense here. The first team defense gave up the touchdown after Hornibrook had fumbled the ball on the 16-yard line. The field goal did come on one of two drives that totaled more than 20 yards (allowed by the first team defense). Yes, the Aggies were able to move the ball on the second and third team. I’m okay with that, as I am sure the coaching staff is as well. It’s hard to coach a team or an individual player that doesn’t face adversity.
While Penn State did prove they are the team to beat in the B1G, Wisconsin is hanging around in good company. They are also on the bubble awaiting the result of next week’s Ohio St and Oklahoma game.
#10 – Oklahoma State
Who doesn’t love a Cowboy or a good shootout? Who doesn’t love a 50-year-old man that sports a mullet? And who doesn’t love a player with the last name of Ammendola. This puzzled me when I saw it. You see, Matt Ammendola is the kicker for the Cowboys. Danny Amendola (Patriots’ WR) had a brother named Matt who played for Baylor. Something about those Italians in the Big 12 (TTU, Baylor, OKST) is just too much of a coincidence but honest to God, that is exactly what it is.
For the Cowboys offensively, you got exactly what you wanted to see. Mason Rudolph was phenomenal and as much as I hate to admit I may have been wrong, I believe he is the most dangerous QB in college football. Rudolph was more than efficient going 20/24 for 303 yards and three touchdowns. He avoided pressure all night and was never sacked. The offensive line didn’t exactly dominate (allowing 9 TFL) the Golden Hurricanes but for their season opener, I’d say they delivered a respectable performance. The fighting Gundy’s success will depend on the deep ball from Rudolph this season. As Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield delivered an equally impressive performance, their regular season matchup will be a lot of fun to watch.
In the Big12, if you can score 50 points a game, you don’t need to play great defense. As the Golden Hurricanes had 9 TFLs, the Cowboys decided they would have nine tackles for loss as well. It was not a performance that a National Championship team would find acceptable but Gundy will address that on Monday. If the game wasn’t already out of hand though, the defense decided it need one last hoorah before handing over the reins to the second team. Tulsa was driving and about to score again when LB Edison-McGruder recovered a fumble and took it to the house.
OKST might be able to challenge the Sooners but it will take a much better effort defensively and a near perfect performance from Rudolph. Both of those conditions are possible. I have the Cowboys on the bubble.
Boy Was I Wrong
- South Carolina may not be ready for the SEC Championship or even the East Title yet, but they proved me wrong in Week 1 vs NCST. They looked much improved on defense and their offense could move the ball. Will Muschamp in his second season has his team trending in the right direction.
- I had NCST in my Top 25 and believed that Ryan Finley was going to have the Wolfpack in contention as a Dark Horse for the College Football Playoffs. With their performance, the Holiday Bowl might be a better post-season selection.
- Louisville and Lamar Jackson should be embarrassed of themselves. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice and I will never believe in you again. Purdue should have won the game and if it wasn’t for terrible officiating during the late third quarter that bled into the fourth, the Boilermakers would have had a tremendous upset.
- I tried. I really did. The B1G had me believing that those teams near the middle of the pack had progressed. Northwestern struggled to beat Nevada. Michigan beat Florida but looked awful doing so. Minnesota barely beat Buffalo and Ball St should have beaten Illinois. Penn State needs Ohio State to beat Oklahoma or the Nittany Lions could find themselves left out of the playoff discussion.
My Top 25 After Week 1
(Includes adjustments for Injuries)
#2. Penn State
#5. Ohio State
#6. Oklahoma State
#8. Florida State
#17. Virginia Tech
#20. Washington State
#21. Kansas State
#22. Tennessee (ranking adjustment made before game vs GT)
#25. Notre Dame
Playoffs, First Four In
#1 Alabama, #2 Oklahoma, #3 Clemson, #4 Penn St
Playoffs, First Four Out
Stanford, OKST, USC, Miami
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