1. What team best met your overall expectations of them in their opener?
Some may say it's a lazy answer, but truthfully, Alabama. Many people were saying that Alabama was going to slaughter Hawai'i, but I didn't understand such boasts. A much more experienced Alabama team was very sluggish against Middle Tennessee State in the season opener last year and Bama was only up 9-7 at the half of that game. Hawai'i is a much better team than MTSU and we lost a lot of experience on defense. In the seconed half Colt Brennan threw for over 200 yards on our defense and really tested their mettle. Bama was a 17 point favorite and won by 8. They thwarted a late drive from the Warriors and came out on top, but it was a struggle as I predicted (despite Alabama being up by 19 at one point.)
2. What team jumped off the map and surprised you the most? (Bonus points to anyone who can make an argument for someone besides Tennessee.)
Perhaps it is an odd choice, but I'm going to say Ole Miss. While the Tennessee romp of Cal was surprising, Tennessee has talent and last year looks to be an inexplicable snafu. Ole Miss, however, was a 3-8 disaster last year with very few close games. There were signs of life in this Orgeron squad though. In the first place, new QB Brent Schaeffer looked like he was really running the show out there. His numbers weren't really impressive (7 of 16 for 97 yards and 48 yards rushing), but he managed the game very well and his teammates seemed to respond to his leadership (which is impressive considering how new he is to the program.) He made plays when they had to be made though. Other new blood in Oxford provided some offensive spark as well. Indiana transfer BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 127 yards and two TDs. Freshman Dexter McCluster had 268 all purpose yards and a TD in his first outing. Ole Miss scored more in this game than in any game from last year...and that includes playing I-AA The Citadel. It'll be interesting to see if they can build on this good first showing. Sure, they only won 28-25 over Memphis, but they look vastly improved from last year.
3. What team best moved themselves into a position to surprisingly contend for a national title?
It's kind of ridiculous that the media will hype a Week 1 win so much, but I'd have to say Tennessee. The buzz about Knoxville is huge right now and if they can keep it going, that week 1 win may be what did the trick to get them into position.