Tuesday, September 8, 2015

College Football: And we're off.

By all accounts, last week's opening slate of college football games were pretty good.  This is unusual for the opening week because the big names are typically ordering cupcakes to start the year.  This has changed somewhat with the advent of the "neutral site" kick-off classic series that you're starting to see from time to time.

Looking over the first weekend of football I'm fairly pleased with my start.  I went 4-1 Straight up and 3-2 versus the spread.  While that's certainly not setting the world on fire 80% straight up and 60% against the spread are numbers I'd take all year long.

So, without further ado, here are my thoughts, takeaways and free, meaningless opinion on the opening weekend that was.  Starting with the five games I really liked.....

1. North Carolina vs. South Carolina (-2) I will admit to a large amount of trepidation over this game but, in the end, North Carolina decided they really didn't want to be in the end zone all that much and gave the game away.  Still, I'll take the Gamecock cover and smile.

2. Oklahoma State (-23.5) vs. Central Michigan - At 24-13 this game was lower scoring than I thought it would be, but the spread was just about right.  By this time I was starting to feel pretty good about myself. And then the Texas teams started playing.....

3. [2]TCU (-17) vs Minnesota - My mantra for the rest of this season is that "I will not bet on TCU". Every time I do I read them wrong.  This is a pass team for me now.  Still, 2-1 ain't half bad.  Of course, the Horned Frogs didn't look half good either.

4. Washington vs Boise State (-12) - I still think Boise State is overrated this year and Washington, who didn't look near as good as I thought they might, exposed that. Of course, the team that I picked to beat Boise State in the Mountain West looked even worse so......

5. Arizona State vs Texas aTm (-3.5)  - This is going to be a problem going forward because I'm not sure if aTm is that good or if Arizona State is that bad.  I thought the Sun Devils would be a strong team this year. Possibly even a contender in the PAC 12. Unless they fix their offense quickly I don't see that happening now.

Other games.....

In retrospect, my first thought on Louisville vs. Auburn was right but for different reasons than I had first predicted. Auburn's offense was better than I thought, but their defense was not as stout as I had predicted. They still couldn't cover against Bobby Petrino's Louisville team, and I still think they are overrated.

For all of the praise heaped on UCLA, they still couldn't cover a 20 point spread against a pretty pedestrian Virginia team.  Before we start placing them in the top 10 (as I've heard some analysts try to do already) let's give them a couple of weeks to figure out what they have.

Arkansas covered.  That's all I can really say about that.  Again, once they face stronger competition we'll know more.

Ah Nebraska. If you had the under in this game I apologize to you for one of the worst beats of the week.  Don't they teach the Blackshirts how to defense the Hail Joseph in Lincoln?

I was wrong about one thing, there WAS a line for Tech vs. Sam Houston.  And the Red Raiders didn't cover. Here's the scary thing if you're a Tech fan. Your offense looked pretty good (as did QB Mahomes) against an FCS defense. On the flipside your defense looked overmatched against an FCS offense.  Additionally, Tech fans (and Baylor fans for that matter) need to understand the difference between a victory (big) and a win (not so big).  Beating either SMU or an FCS opponent should not be something you gloat about. You're expected to win these games. Act like it.

Here I was thinking that Oklahoma was going to struggle against the Zips and all they did was win and cover.  Granted, in the 1st half that appeared to be in doubt. Once the second half started OU remembered they were in a game and ran away with it.  I think Akron is not a horrible opponent so this might bode well for the Sooners.

For all of the Hosannas being thrown toward Notre Dame it's important to remember that they basically faced a UT-Austin team that's playing without either a quarterback, or an offensive plan. I expected QB Swoopes to show SOME improvement, he didn't. In fact, he looked worse.  And while I still think Charlie Strong is a good football coach he might not be the right guy to lead a program like Texas. He's starting to look overmatched and lost. This is another game where I walked away with no insight as to the true level of either team. (Well, except that Texas is bad. I'm just not sure how bad yet)

You probably didn't pay much attention to the game but the most impressive thing (other than Ohio State) that we saw all weekend MIGHT have been West Virginia trouncing Georgia Southern 44-0.  This is a Georgia Southern team that went undefeated in the Sun Belt last year, finished 9-3 and was hosed out of a bowl. Either they've really regressed, or the Mountaineers are going to be tough this year.

Alabama can run the ball. This we know. And while they didn't exactly struggle with Wisconsin, their defense did give up some plays.  The Badgers are not chopped liver, but the fact remains that they haven't had a good performance since before the B1G championship game clobbering at the hands of Ohio State.

One thing I am pretty sure of right now. Ohio State is the number 1 team in the country.  I'm still not sure about 2-10 but numero uno is looking pretty solid. Kudos to Braxton Miller. It's almost unfair that this team is this talented at so many positions.  One final thought: we were seeing a depleted Ohio State team last night with their best defender, and 3 of their best receivers on suspension. Look out Hawaii.

No Top 10 rankings this week. I'm not going to rank the teams until I see more from them. Typically I don't even worry about that until after week 5. I might have to wait longer this year to see some games play out.  I can however tell you who the teams at the bottom are.....

If the FBS played under promotion/relegation rules these teams would be relegated:

5. UT-Austin - Just awful football played by a school that has so many resources they should never get to this point.

4. University of Central Florida - They lost to Sun Belt bottom feeder Florida International....at home.

3. Tulane - This is partially due to their new, God awful turf although losing to Duke, by 30 at home, doesn't help.

2. Kansas - When your team can't even get spiking the ball to stop the clock so you can kick a FG to possibly tie South Dakota State at HOME play right......Is it basketball season yet?

1. Washington State. - Mike Leach's team lost to Portland State (3-9 last year in the FCS) at home. The sad thing is it doesn't appear that the school can afford to fire Leach and pay his buyout clause.

All the overrated things:

1. Teams that ran up the score against FCS opponents. - Georgia Tech scored 69, Oregon scored 61 (and gave up 42), Rutgers scored 63 and Ole Miss scored 76 points.  All of them played against FCS teams, none of which (excepting Eastern Washington, maybe) are expected to do much this year.

2. Utah State, by me.  They needed a 4th quarter 88-yard touchdown return to beat Southern Utah of the FCS 12-9.  Clearly part of the problem with OU's offense last year was USU's new Offensive Coordinator Josh Heupel.  Yuck.

3. College Kickers. - There were more missed field-goals, kick-offs out of bounds and horrible punts in one weekend than you'll see in an entire year of the NFL.  That said, this is also part of the reason college football is so fun.  The kicking game is an adventure.

4. Penn State's Offensive Line - The Nittany Lions gave up 10 (ten) sacks in Temple's first victory over them since 1941, before the US formally entered WWII. 

5. Pre-season top 25 lists. - Just stop it National Media, please just stop it.  Release your first rankings the same time the College Football Playoff committee does, or at least wait until we get a couple of weeks into conference play.

Hard Luck award:

Co winners:  BYU and Kansas State who both lost their starting QB's for the season due to injury.

Runner-up: Virginia Tech, who's starting QB will be out 4-8 weeks with a broken collarbone.

One week down, can't wait for Thursday.

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