Entering the season, I was somewhat concerned about the state of the defense for two Big 10 contenders. It seems the minor panic button was warranted for Penn State and Ohio State. Who knew that Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin would all flub their way around to differential degrees of collapse at various times too? Northwestern — that Northwestern — wound up putting together the most solid game in the Rust belt.
The SEC thoroughly dominated its out of conference play, going 13-1, and took down some big boys from the PAC 12 and ACC in the process. There were fairly uncompetitive games in the East to be sure. But, the Dawgs, Gators, (UM) Tigers, and Gamecocks looked good doing it. The three games of note in the Eastern division were all positive: Kentucky knocked off the pesky Chippewas; lowly Vanderbilt thoroughly dominated a quality MTSU team; and the Vols got their butts kicked from one end of Charlotte to another.
As usual, lots of movement in the early weeks is to be expected. But, not as much as you’d expect. Here’s week one:
|1||Alabama Crimson Tide||1|
|2||Notre Dame Fighting Irish||5|
|6||Mississippi State Bulldogs||9|
|10||Ohio State Buckeyes||10|
|12||West Virginia Mountaineers||16|
|15||Boise State Broncos||23|
|17||South Carolina Gamecocks||18|
|18||Virginia Tech Hokies||--|
|21||Penn State Nittany Lions||17|
|23||Michigan State Spartans||15|
|You're outta' here, Buddy|
|On the outside, but looking good|
|Fresno State Bulldogs|
Rumors of a revamped passing game for Clemson and Michigan were vastly overrated. So were whispers of a decent offensive line for Auburn, Michigan, and LSU. LSU destroyed Miami, but orange and green jerseys camped out in the backfield all night. This team is going to have problems in conference play. The same may go true for Auburn, which plainly missed three starters and Kerryon Johnson. All of those defensive losses meant Alabama was supposed to give up a ton of points, right? RIGHT? That NC State’s defense was going to struggle with a rebuilt front four? Oklahoma was going to miss Baker Mayfield as Kyler Murray got settled in, right? Josh Heupel’s maiden journey as a head coach at UCF was going to take some time to get rolling, right?
Notre Dame was supposed to struggle with the entire dominating left side of the offensive line off to the NFL, RIGHT?! The real games of merit left for the Irish come against the Pac 12, which may not be a foregone conclusion for the Huskies like we thought. Bryce Love was supposed to take over games, wasn’t he? (SPOILER: He did not.) Stanford didn’t look great at times, and neither did Washington, but they’re plainly the class of the North — though maybe by a narrower margin as CW predicted: Washington State, Utah and Oregon both looked very crisp, especially the Cougars who traveled 1000 miles to Laramie to pick up a quality W. Even Cal knocked off the UNC Tarheels. And the Mater Dei youth movement was quite exciting for the Trojans, but don’t read too much into a win over UNLV. Still, USC does appear to be the cream of a foul crop in the South. The Sumlin Era got off to a flat start. The weird experiment in Tempe looked good for the Sun Devils, but still...Herm Edwards. Chip Kelly’s Bruins got stuffed sideways by the lowly Cincinnati Bearcats. Gross, gross year shaping up in the PAC 12.
Don’t be distracted by the 77 points Ohio State put up — they were minus two in TOs, gave up 31 points, and surrendered close to 400 yards of offense to one of the 10 worst teams in major college football, including allowing a yucky 5.0 YPC and several huge gainers to the Beavers’ ground-and-pound. The Buckeyes were keeping it classy this week: still had the starters in up 63-31. And none of that should distract you from Urban Meyer being a POS.
Don’t sleep on the Rebels. They do still have quite a bit of talent back there — but the probation showed: the next 11 on the field were in no way going to be competitive with SEC teams. The Rebels are thin, but they’re also an injury or two away from calamity. For now, they look like a marginal Top 25 team. And Kliff Kingsbury should be drawing a Pink Slip any day now.
Don’t sleep on the ‘Noles. Francois looked really good last night when the Hokies sold out to stop Cam Akers. They outgained Virginia Tech and were generally the more efficient team for three quarters. The problem, as it has been for several years in Tallahassee, is an offensive line that is high on star-ranking and low on stars.
Don’t read too much into LSU or Virginia Tech’s wins: they’re ranked for now, but of all the teams in this week’s WNABP, they’re also the ones most likely to have five losses.
Don’t sleep on the secondary issues at Penn State and an in Lansing and at Clemson: To varying degrees they got lit up or showed that they’re built to lose a shootout down the road to some quality teams that can seal the deal.
Don’t sleep on the Bulldogs, period. Any of them. Austin Peay was a despicable opener, and SFA aren’t world beaters. But, both sets of SEC dogs quietly, efficiently dominated and set aside an offseason of changes and distractions. And in the Valley, Fresno State-Boise State is setting up to be one helluva G5 matchup (ditto Memphis-UCF).
Don’t read too much into the Huskies’ loss on the road either: This team may become playoff eligible if the ACC and Big 10 are as wide open as they appears.
Don’t sleep on WVU, especially the the West Virginia defensive transfers. This team looks capable of finall stopping the running game, and has so many ways to hurt you offensively. With OU, they have to be the favorites in the Big 12.
Don’t buy the Wolverines at all. Period. Ever. Or at least as long as Dad Pleats is there. The secondary lost a lot of contested balls; the defensive line misses Maurice Hurst so much that the rest of the unit was a pedestrian mess; the linebackers weren’t anything special; the coaches called a miserable game in every aspect; the offensive line was dominated in a big game — again. The offensive bright spots were the ever-steady Higdon and Shea Patteron. The latter can run for his life most efficiently and has big play potential — coupled with crippling stupid plays; the same things he demonstrated at Ole Miss. One upside in the loss is that UM may not play a better all-around team this year; the bad news is that after losing its 17th straight road game to a ranked opponent, Michigan has shown that even in Year Four, Jim Harbaugh is just incapable of getting it done. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me elebenty times, shame on you. I’m not getting fooled by this scoundrel again.