College football is back: leave no gun unjumped
Week One is always hard. Generally, you’ve got a lot of out of conference matchups that appear to be one-sided. However, this can be a trap because your in-game scouting could be outdated while you’ve yet to work out the kinks on your roster. College football’s first week was full of excitement and while we didn’t have many upsets, we had quite a few hiccups. The overreactions have already begun, let’s take a look at the teams who should be worrying — and those who we’ve jumped the gun on.
Alabama vs. Florida State was the premiere match-up of the weekend. Unsurprisingly, Alabama showed resilience and versatility, leading to their strong victory over the Seminoles. But the Tide left six points on the field by way of missed field goals. We all know the Tide have had their fair share of kicking woes over the years. Andy Pappanastos has been on this team for four years and is only now getting the start. Being unable to earn a job starting for the Tide’s weakest position over the last couple years does not bode well for this season. The Tide may have an issue on their hands but how often has a Bama game come down to a field goal anyway?
The loser of that matchup has far more to worry about. While Francois struggled for most of the game, he was still carrying this offense on his shoulders. With Francois out for the year, Jimbo Fisher turns to true freshman James Blackman. The three-star recruit has been praised over the off-season but was never intended to contend for the starting job. Blackman is thrust into the spotlight now. He has a good opening game — ULM at home — and a great coach to guide him. There is a lot of reason to worry about the Seminoles moving forward and teams and spectators alike will be looking at this team differently. You know who won’t be? Cardale Jones and Urban Meyer.
In our SEC Preview, we talked about Florida needing to find something on offense, be it a rushing identity or a competent quarterback. Evidently, Jim McElwain is not a reader of ours. To take on Michigan, the Gators kept at their approach of “who needs offense when you have ???” This resulted in zero offensive points. Their 17 points came by the way of a field goal and two pick sixes. Is it time for the Gators to worry? That would imply it hasn’t been time for the last several years.
Part of the reason college football is so exciting is because of how non-traditional it is. It’s not like the NFL where you can have all of these random things happen all the time. It lacks the structure and discipline of the NFL. Thus, it allows for a certain type of player to take advantage of that. Lamar Jackson and Quinton Flowers probably won’t be successful NFL quarterbacks, but they are damn sure exciting to watch right now.
After his terrific Heisman campaign, Jackson looks to become the first repeat winner since Archie Griffin. The problem that stands in his way? The rest of the league enters the season knowing that Lamar Jackson is the vast majority of the team. Louisville’s struggles were partly due to the expertise of new Purdue coach Jeff Brohm. If Purdue can expose Louisville and play Jackson that tough, then practically anyone can.
Which brings me to Flowers, who was a dark horse Heisman candidate entering the year and is now forgotten after just two weeks. What happened, man? Flowers was dynamic last season and has been on a cold streak to start the year. He is less accurate, more sporadic, and isn’t nearly as effective of a runner. This could simply be adjusting to Strong’s scheme. They have UConn and Illinois to face before Temple, which could be their first real test of the season. Flowers needs to bounce back and look like his old self if this South Florida team is going to live up to their high expectations. Odds are, these are just hiccups from a regime change and Flowers is back on track soon enough.
The first two weeks of the season always have rough patches. Some of that is fair, though a lot of it isn’t. It’s strange that we can refer to Texas as a joke last season, yet earnestly expect Tom Herman to make this team a contender again. The Longhorns were coming off of three straight losing seasons and lost their top runner to the NFL Draft. The Cougars, when Herman took over, were coming off two 8–5 seasons and still not fully out of the Kevin Sumlin era. Herman will turn this team around if you give him time.
On the matter of time, it’s one thing for boosters to be this impatient but everyone else needs to settle down with Nebraska. Mike Riley’s first season was working with Pelini’s players and this season will be the first with Riley’s staff. I don’t want to hear the words “hot seat” at least until his third season. Right now you have a team decimated by the draft, starting a quarterback from Tulane, and undergoing drastic scheme changes. Are we supposed to be surprised that they didn’t blow Arkansas State out of the water?
The top two schools in the PAC-12 both got off to rough starts. Sam Darnold looked a little wonky during the first half but came out strong in the second, leading his team to victory. He scored no touchdowns, sure, but he made all the right moves as the game went on and was far from a liability. You can say the same about Washington. The Huskies started very slow against Rutgers and eventually earned a decisive victory. This was due to Jake Browning bouncing back and leading his team. I don’t believe in penalizing them too severely for their slow starts. Any drop in the rankings should simply be accounting for Clemson, Penn State, and Oklahoma not having slow starts.
Finally, we talked about it, everyone talked about it, and yet we were all wrong. Indiana’s former coach Kevin Wilson went on to be the offensive coordinator for Ohio State. He knows this team and the coach that replaced him. This is a gimme, right? Tom Allen made a bold statement by coming out guns blazing. It took the halftime break to slow the Hoosiers down. Allen, known for his defense, wasn’t expected to come out and throw the ball 68 times. Ohio State put them away in the second half and that’s that.
This is the world of sports, overreacting is its bread and butter. Now that the dust has settled down though, we need to settle ourselves down with it. Remember that scarlet and gray team who looked horrible against an unranked opponent to start the 2014 season? They even lost the second game of the season to an unranked opponent. They also lost their starting quarterback near the end of the season too, right? Didn’t they win the championship that year?
I believe they did.