Monday, September 03, 2007

Thoughts on College Football: Week One

Inspired by SMQB and my own thoughts, thoughts from a long weekend consumed in part by watching lots of college football with varying degrees of concentration and attentiveness:

LSU 45 Mississippi State 0
LSU is much better than Mississippi State. This is not a surprise. Mississippi State's offensive is absolutely DREADFUL. This is not a surprise. One of the biggest question marks about LSU is quarterback Matt Flynn, who looked very good in a Peach Bowl rout of Miami back in December 2005, but has to replace #1 overall NFL pick JaMarcus Russell. What I saw of Flynn reminded me of former Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel. Not a great QB, more than willing to just tuck the ball down and run, but pretty effective overall. Still, I can't see LSU matching Ohio State's unbeaten season or national championship. First, Krenzel and Ohio State had some serious mojo going on, riding a hugely charmed season, with close wins over San Diego State, Cincinnati, Purdue, Michigan, and Miami, to name just a few. Yes, mojo is not distinguishable from luck. Second, Maurice Clarett that year was a pretty special running back. Third, I don't think LSU's defense is as good as Ohio State's was. I still believe this is a 2-loss team, minimum.

Appalachian State 34 Michigan 32
I picked up this game in the middle of the 3rd quarter, when the Mountaineers kicked a FG to go up 31-20. Mike Hart is Michigan's best player. Chad Henne is a good to very good quarterback, not a great one. Michigan's secondary is still a tremendous question mark. The season isn't over for the Wolverines; after all, they still have to play Ohio State, but the dreams have been crushed. Lots of commentary out there on this game; see Yost's post from before the game: "Lose and the world ends." See also MGoBlog, and part two. I also suspected Brian had this side, and sometimes I hate to be proved right. And if you haven't seen the Appalachian State video, you really need to.

Missouri 40 Illinois 34
Lots of scoring, attributable relatively more to defensive ineptness than offensive excellence. Neither team looked particularly good. Illinois QB Juice Williams was shaken up, but did not look significantly improved w/r/t pass accuracy from last season. Missouri's offense isn't terrible, but I can't say the same about its defenses. Illinois isn't nearly as inept overall as the squad that was beaten so badly against Penn State two years ago, and bowl predictions shouldn't be dashed entirely. Role formerly occupied by Glen Mason's Minnesota (wins v. non-conference patsies, losses v. good teams, 4-4-ish B10 record) may be forthcoming as soon as this season.

Georgia Tech 33 Notre Dame 3
Notre Dame sucks. 0-8 is not unrealistic. Ha ha.

Georgia 35 Oklahoma State 14
Georgia's inexperience on the offensive line and inexperience and possible lack of quality in the secondary, among other reasons, made this a popular upset pick. Such was not to be. Knowshown Parker looked good as TB for the Dawgs. Matthew Stafford was efficient (18-24) and good. Oklahoma State had problems protecting the quarterback. I still think the Bulldogs are a year away, but they're the team that impressed me the most this weekend. Ask me again when Mark Richt has to make a good decision on an in-game situation, perhaps the single biggest factor that may prevent a national championship team playing home games between the hedges.

Auburn 23 Kansas State 13
Ignore the final score, which, like the Tigers' 27-17 win over Florida last season, was created by a defensive touchdown after the game was decided. The Tigers looked bad for the most part. Brandon Cox did just enough to win, and made several terrible throws and bad decisions. K-State is in the Big 12 North and therefore mediocre at best by default, but they had a serious chance to win this game, and quite possibly would have had QB Josh Freeman not injured his ankle in the third quarter and seriously reduced his mobility, rending K-State's porous offensive line a fatal flaw rather than merely a consequential one.

Cal 45 Tennessee 31
Erik Ainge was relatively accurate, and I was higher on him than most people before this game, but he actually didn't impress me that much. He's good, but not quite that good. The Vols might have a half-decent rushing attack, which they didn't have last year, but don't appear to have anybody who's a threat to catch the ball more than 15 yards downfield. Or a defense. Nate Longshore sliced up the Vol defense with ease, and the Bears had no trouble running the ball. DeSean Jackson wowed the fans with a highlight reel-quality punt return. They'll have no problem scoring against lousy defenses, which probably means another trip to the Holiday Bowl and a loss to whichever Big 12 North team loses the Big 12 championship game (maybe Nebraska).

Bowling Green State 32 Minnesota 31
I didn't see much of this game, but Bowling Green looked absolutely dominant early, taking a quick 14-0 lead and was up 21-0 at the half. The Gophers came back and went up, but gave up yards in the 2-minute drill and the Falcons tied it to force overtime. Then, each team scored a TD in the first OT and BGSU went for the 2-point conversion at the end of the first overtime. An interesting, and potentially risky, decision, but one I judged not unreasonable and possibly quite sound (limited confidence in the defense to stop the Gopher run game, and no guaranteed points on the offenses) and was ultimately successful. It'll be a long year for Minnesota; Bryan Cupito represented a standard of excellence not seen lately on the home bench at the Metrodome (college edition) and that much be replicated before a non-rush offense of the kind installed by new head coach Brewster could be nationally successful.

USC 38 Idaho 10
USC is MUCH better than Idaho. The Vandals are, in fact, pretty terrible. There's not really any way to tell from this game whether USC is a top 5-caliber team or a top-35 caliber team. John David Booty wasn't asked to do much, and didn't do much. I agree with the great Phil Steele that he's the early favorite for the Heisman, but after Saturday night's performance it looks like it would be more of a Gino Torretta-style Heisman, given to the moderately successful QB of a highly ranked team.

Clemson 24 Florida State 3 (in progress, 3Q 8:30)
Remember my preseason totally insane national championship game prediction of Florida State-Ohio State? Uh, forget about the first half of that team. Drew Weatherford has been running for his life behind center for most of the game, and not even the profusion of bootlegs and rollouts have been successful in protecting him from the defenses. Nor has FSU had any success running the ball. Meanwhile, FSU's tackling has been, to put it mildly, atrocious.

For more thoughts on college football, see Seventh Day Adventure over at Football Outsider's, where you may read the comments I made on games largely as they were in progress, many of which thoughts were replicated above.

Alas, various obligations will prevent me from viewing and commenting on next weekend's college games in such detail, but I do hope to see and comment upon at least some of the ere-Saturday action here and a I may DVR a choice matchup or two, such as LSU-Virginia Tech and Ohio State v. patsy (to see how the Buckeyes do, since I saw very little of this week's victory over Youngstown State).

NFL-related comment (viz., at least some of UFR for Thursday's Titans-Packers game) coming later this evening, I hope.

UPDATE (9/3 2151 CT): Corrected the Georgia Tech-ND score, which I did from memory and saw hardly any of.

No comments: