Well Bill, that first week of college football was pretty fun and definitely interesting. We got several big time games and a couple of teams that we expected to win blowouts were forced to scrap.
What was the most surprising outcome of week one to you?
Most surprisingly good performance against a good team: I was a pretty big Oklahoma State proponent compared to most, but I still assumed the 'Pokes would get thumped by Florida State on Saturday night. J.W. Walsh is all sorts of unstable -- no above or below average, only good/great and bad/awful -- but OSU looked feisty and athletic. I caught some flack for putting them in my "Tier 1" of the Big 12 (with OU, Baylor, and KSU), but I definitely feel better about that now. They're going to be young and dumb at times this year, but Saturday proved that the upside is there.
Most surprisingly good performance against a bad team: I thought FAU might be decent this year, and we might soon find out that that's not at all true ... but even if FAU is FIU-bad, Nebraska outgained the Owls by a 784-200 margin on Saturday. At plus-584 yards, the biggest surprise is that NU only won by 48! FAU completed 11 of 30 passes for 95 yards, NU's top two RBs gained 339 yards, and NU's top two wideouts gained 241. That's ridiculous.
(If I were to create a "most surprisingly good performance against a mediocre team" category ... congrats, USC. And I see you there, Colorado State.)
Most surprisingly bad performance against a good team: South Carolina, but only because I had pretty high expectations of the Gamecocks. I had two questions about them coming into this season: can the corners hold up, and can Dylan Thompson avoid that deer-in-headlights look? Needless to say, I was queasy about both answers halfway through the first quarter. I assume they'll be fine for the most part, and A&M really might be that good, but that was disappointing.
Most surprisingly bad performance against a bad team: Duh, Vandy.
I was pretty down on Oklahoma State until I was researching how they matched up against Texas. They simply lost so much of what made their defense special last year and it wasn't clear that JW Walsh would be able to control the reigns of the wagon on offense.
But, they did return some solid corners, and experienced middle linebacker, and a potentially very strong DL and DC Glenn Spencer has apparently leveraged that into a strong defense much sooner than most coaches would. It's possible the Big 12 will be the toughest conference in 2014 from top to bottom.
I'm still curious to see how much A&M's defense has really improved and how much of their success against the Gamecocks came from the fact that Kenny Hill came out with both guns drawn blasting away and South Carolina was unable to get a run game going. There's no doubt that the Aggie defense is loaded with young athletes and that Kenny Hill is a capable operator of that doomsday device they call an offense.
South Carolina's performance was indeed pretty shockingly awful. Where was the running game that was so strong last year and was desperately needed to feature Mike Davis in 2014? How can SEC defenses still be this woefully unprepared for A&M's offense in year three of the Kevin Sumlin era? Did they think that WR screens wouldn't work anymore if it wasn't Johnny throwing them?
What from this week, other than Oklahoma State's moral victory, reassured you that college football can sometimes be understood and its results foreseen?
There were plenty of things to put in the "We saw this coming (or should have)" category. Dylan Thompson's deer-in-headlights look aside, we also had Bo Wallace alternating between great and terrible from quarter to quarter, Rutgers scoring a lot of points out West, Michigan State hitting hard, NDSU starting the season with a win over a Big 12 team, Purdue and WMU playing a tight one, Alabama struggling with tempo/spread*, Oregon State struggling in an FCS opener, FIU losing to an awful team, Savannah State looking horrific, Southern Miss looking bad, and Oregon and Baylor combining for 1,250 yards. The more things change...
By the way, in his last four games of 2013, WVU's Kevin White caught 11 passes for 130 yards. Against Alabama on Saturday, he caught nine for 143. Even with Alabama's still-sketchy CB play, I didn't see that coming. WVU's performance against Alabama was every bit the moral victory that OSU's was.
On my end, I was surprised by how well Iowa State was rolling on offense early against North Dakota St but then the Bison tightened the screws and shut them down.
Iowa State has a reputation in the Big 12 for playing tough, physical, and sound defense. They were able to do that for about three quarters against the Bison and then they had to tap out and ended up getting rolled. I saw some indicators that the Cyclones might even be solid this year, I think North Dakota St is just a really good team. Their victory wasn't surprising but it was interesting to note that they seem to be continuing to improve as a team.
Kevin White is the real deal, and maybe what West Virginia revealed isn't just that Alabama is no less vulnerable to the spread offense than anyone else, but that they still haven't shored up their corner positions. This should be obvious given their lack of undefeated championship seasons but I can't say I'm shocked to see that Alabama isn't an irresistible force of nature.
What were some of the more underrated story lines that you saw developing in week 1?
I don't think people are reacting enough to how good Nebraska looked. That was as dominant a box score as you'll ever see, and again, FAU wasn't awful last year. And while it was against Jacksonville State, Michigan State's Connor Cook did just go 12-for-13 for 285 yards, and three touchdowns, and that was with two defensive pass interference penalties in there as well. That's ... not bad.
We just talked about this in the Selection Committee, but who are your four Playoff teams this week, based solely on how well they played this week? I had USC, Georgia, Texas A&M, and Michigan State, but I think I've already bumped Nebraska ahead of Michigan State. You know, because this matters, and I should really be over thinking this.
I didn't watch Nebraska or note their box score so their performance was definitely under the radar for me. I'll tell you two things that caught my eye.
One is that Wisconsin had LSU beat and outsmarted themselves by having Tanner McEvoy throw so many early down passes in the 2nd half rather than feeding Gordon and Clement. You are tempting fate when you throw regularly on LSU's secondary but that defensive front seemed vulnerable to the run. Even if that had resulted in some short drives and punts that would have been preferable for Wisconsin then what actually happened.
Also, McEvoy played terribly. The Badgers averaged 6.9 yards per carry to LSU's 2.8, totally had the game going the way they wanted and strangely gave McEvoy the chance to blow it. This may not be an unnoticed story line but it's a big one in my estimation. The Badgers look really strong everywhere but QB.
Second is Baylor's defense, particularly a scheme they unleashed against SMU. We've talked a lot about how spread offenses look to create run/pass conflict for underneath defenders. Well, Baylor played a 3-4 package where they regularly dropped eight defenders into coverage and then they didn't have to deal with those conflicts. What's more, they were able to get a pass rush with only three guys!
If they can do that and still get a pass rush, and not get their DL run over, when they play better teams than SMU that could be a major storyline this season. It all hinges on their freakish, 6'8", 280 pound DE Shawn Oakman.
My final four will have to be a major overreaction because I don't feel like I know enough about these teams yet, but that's the whole point anyways right? I'll take Alabama, FSU, the winner of MSU/Oregon, and Oklahoma.
The Tide are clearly vulnerable to Air Raid teams but not much more so than anyone else, also you still have to outscore them. In the midst of amusing Kiffin screen shots on the sideline, Alabama quietly dominated that game with an exceptionally efficient ball-control approach on offense. Florida State seems vulnerable but they're also in good shape to have a good season.
Oklahoma is a few big Trevor Knight games and the emergence of another receiver away from becoming my frontrunner.
What do the readers think?