Monday, September 05, 2011

Week 1: The games that wouldn't end

So ... that was interesting. If I liked my football games with three halftimes (I don't), it would have been the best weekend ever. As it is, I got robbed of some football and watched three games -- among many others, obviously -- that had a combined nine hours worth of weather delays. This would've been annoying if not for the fact that I was actually, you know, watching college football again, which made everything else irrelevant.

Let's get to the recap:

Michigan wins shortest game ever:
Srsly. For the first time in modern history, a Michigan game ended early, meaning Brady Hoke got to celebrate his first win while toweling off in the locker room rather than singing "The Victors" in front of the student section. A few bizarre stats: Michigan scored two touchdowns on defense, had just five complete offensive series (not including the kneeldown at the end of the half and the drive that was stopped by the final weather delay) and averaged almost 8 yards per play yet finished with 288 total yards. The defense looked terrible on the opening drive before starting to get through on blitzes and murdering Alex Carder on a regular basis ... ... and that was the end of the competitive part of the game. I felt a little deprived when I realized I was gonna miss out on a full quarter of football, but given the weather/field conditions and the potentially devastating impact of an injury to somebody like Denard Robinson, I'll take the win and move on.

LSU puts up 273 yards and beats Oregon by two touchdowns:
I'm not quite sure what to say about this one. LSU's running game and defense both looked pretty good, but getting outgained by 60 yards and winning because you got 21 points gift-wrapped via four turnovers isn't necessarily a sustainable formula. At some point, the quarterback play will have to be better -- even '09 Alabama needed some occasional good performances from Greg McElroy. On the flipside, Oregon looked pretty sloppy but won't lose many games like that one. There were three devastating fumbles -- two by freshman uber-recruit DeAnthony Thomas and one by fill-in punt returner Kenjon Barner (way to drive, Cliff Harris) -- all by guys in new roles and all leading directly to LSU touchdowns. If Oregon jumps on Thomas' first fumble (which came early in the fourth quarter and led to a string of 14 LSU points in about 3 minutes), it's a totally different game down the stretch. Oh, and stop saying "Oregon's out of the BCS title picture." If it comes down to a bunch of one-loss equals (as it often does), a team that started in the top five and suffered its only loss in a neutral-site game in Week 1 against another top-five team stands as good a chance as anybody.

Notre Dame plays for six hours and commits a billion turnovers:
If you watched Notre Dame's first drive of the game or first drive of the second half (or both), you watched the game in a nutshell: ND strolled down the field, got inside the 10 and then turned it over in disastrous fashion. There was also a muffed punt, an end-zone interception by Dayne Crist and a missed 30-yard field goal that turned out to be pretty important in a 23-20 loss. In the midst of all that was a three-hour weather delay that served as Tommy Rees' warmup time after Crist was pulled for probably the last time in his career. Rees was far more effective in the second half -- he threw two interceptions, but one was on a desperation bomb in the final minutes and one was a throw to a crossing T.J. Jones at the South Florida 5-yard line that hit Jones right in the helmet and bounced conveniently to a USF defender, causing Brian Kelly's head to explode. See? It was an ugly game, so the easy thing would be to write off Notre Dame and laugh at Lou Holtz. But here's the thing: Total yards were 508-254 (!) in favor of Notre Dame. If the two aforementioned possessions end in touchdowns (instead of a 96-yard fumble return for a TD and an interception), Notre Dame wins in relatively comfortable fashion. I'm totally regretting that 10-2 prediction, but I'm not convinced this team is a disaster just yet. Maybe after next week.

Gene Chizik is still livin' right: The knockdown count was at about 9 1/2 seconds Saturday before Auburn got off the floor against ... umm ... Utah State, scoring 14 points in the span of three minutes (with the help of the best onside kick in history) to pull out a ridiculous 42-38 victory. The offense was all over the place but had the effective moments you'd expect from a Gus Malzahn offense. The defense was a disaster; giving up 448 yards to freakin' Utah State -- a bad WAC team playing on the road with a true freshman quarterback (!) -- could mean horrific things for SEC play. Gene Chizik's quote pretty much tells the story: "Offensively and defensively, we're a long way off of being able to win very many games right now." That 7-5 prediction is looking pretty optimistic right now.

Boise State cruises past Georgia (in Atlanta) as everybody yawns:
OK, let's face the facts: Boise State is one of the 10 best programs in college football right now. A good chunk of last year's senior-laden team is now in the NFL or farming potatoes or whatever, yet Boise went on the road (basically) for its opener and beat a ranked team from a major conference for the third straight season. People always say, "Well, it's easy to get up for one game." If it's so easy, why can't anybody ever get up for Boise? Answer: It doesn't matter, because Boise is a legitimately elite team. Watch the games and then tell me otherwise. Unfortunately, there won't be another real test this season -- the TCU game looked interesting before Friday night, but I have a hard time envisioning Boise being seriously challenged by anybody the rest of the way, which means we're looking at another undefeated season, another BCS bowl and another stupid debate about whether Boise should get a title shot (should but won't).

Oregon State might be really bad:
Sacramento State 29, Oregon State 28. The score says it all. And in case losing to an FCS team at home doesn't seem embarrassing enough, here's a fun fact: Sacramento State went 6-5 last year. We're not talking about an Appalachian State-esque, FCS-title-caliber program here. Washington only managed to avoid a similarly humiliating fate against Eastern Washington with an endzone interception of Bo Levi Mitchell -- the former SMU quarterback who threw for 473 yards Saturday -- with 52 seconds left. Meanwhile, Indiana and Purdue established themselves as equally pathetic Big Ten bottom-dwellers: Indiana lost 27-20 at home to a Ball State team that went 4-8 last year (Brady Hoke and Nate Davis aren't there anymore), while Purdue needed a 10-point rally in the final minutes to beat Middle Tennessee State 27-24.

Game of the Week:
Easy call: Baylor 50, TCU 48. Unbelievable game. Robert Griffin was flat-out unstoppable as a passer, which was shocking to both me and TCU's defense (by the way, picking that D for my fantasy team is looking like an awesome decision right now). His stats: 21 of 27 for 359 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. In case you're wondering, his efficiency rating right now is a ridiculous 250.58 (lol), which leads the country by about 25 points. And that wasn't even the craziest part of an all-around crazy game: TCU came back from a 47-23 deficit to take the lead (!) at 48-47 with 4 minutes left before Baylor drove for the game-winning field goal. Let's say it one more time: Baylor is actually good!Player of the Week: Griffin. No contest. Honorable mention: USC sophomore wideout Robert Woods and Oregon State freshman running back Malcolm Agnew. Minnesota literally could not cover Woods in the first half -- he had three touchdowns in the first 29 minutes and finished with a school-record 17 catches for 177 yards. He's good. And Agnew was the only non-disastrous takeaway from the Sacramento State debacle, racking up 223 rushing yards and three touchdowns in his first career game. He should fit nicely into the Jacquizz Rodgers/Yvenson Bernard role of "5-foot-7 Oregon State running back who's irritatingly difficult to find and tackle."

Play of the Week:
This punt return (courtesy of Arkansas receiver Joe Adams) is ridiculous in and of itself, but the undaunted pursuit of a helmetless defender is what puts it over the top. Just watch:

Obligatory Maryland uniform reaction: I might be in the minority here, but I didn't hate the jerseys. The shoulder design was a little crazy but was essentially just flag-pattern trim on a white jersey -- it didn't make me wanna stab my eyes out like some of Oregon's wing-related abominations. Ridiculous level: 7 out of 10. The helmets, on the other hand, were atrocious. There's a limit to how many colors/designs you can cram onto a helmet, and UnderArmour vastly exceeded whatever that number is. Ridiculous level: 10 out of 10.

Post-Week 1 top 10:
For reasons mentioned earlier in this post, I'm not quite ready to jump on the LSU bandwagon. I'll stick with Oklahoma and Alabama at the top for now. The rest is kind of a crapshoot; the last two spots could go to any combination of Nebraska, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State ... you get the idea. It's still early.
  1. Oklahoma
  2. Alabama
  3. LSU
  4. Oregon
  5. Boise State
  6. Wisconsin
  7. Florida State
  8. Stanford
  9. Nebraska
  10. South Carolina


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