Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Thoughts on College Football: Week One, 2009

As I did last year, I'll do brief recaps and observations of what I saw from what college football I saw in 2009. This is for Week 1.

South Carolina 7 - NC State 3
The state of quarterbacking in college football is often parlous, and rarely were there more reminders of that than in this "kickoff" game. That's actually what's most surprising to me about Spurrier's return to the college ranks, the inability to develop another decent signal caller. Yes, his UF guys were mostly "system" guys, but "system" guys like Chase Daniel and Graham Harrell were still good college quarterbacks.

Utah 35 - Utah State 17
The Utes are much better than the Aggies, this much I could see. Little more than that did I really see.

Boise State 19 - Oregon 8
Most famous, of course, for the brawl at the end, but by far the most impressive aspect of this game was the way the Bronco defensive line tore apart the Ducks' rebuilt front five. If you can't keep the defense out of the backfield, it doesn't matter if you're a creative offensive guy like Chip Kelly or a dullard. This game wasn't nearly as close as the score indicated-the Broncos had 4 FGAs that resulted in a total of 3 points. Not too, too shocking in college, but something that may cost them down the line.

Tulsa 37 - Tulane 13
I half-paid attention to most of the second half of this game, which is well ahead my threshold level of game inclusion here. I note the Yahoo box score and recap fail to list the game's attendance-probably a wise move, as the Superdome appeared empty enough for it to be an MLS game.

Ohio State 29 - Navy 27
Here's what I don't get about Ohio State-their offensive line has trouble run blocking. It's not like this is new-they've had trouble at this for the entire Tressel era, and have been dependent on good running backs like Clarett in 2002 and Beanie Wells of late to turn smaller spaces into larger gains. My feeling the Buckeyes are overrated by at least 10 spots at 6th was confirmed by this game. The Middies do present somewhat of an interesting challenge for a first game, though, as younger players seem to do the worst job of playing the kind of disciplined assignment football you need against an option attack.

Minnesota 23 - Syracuse 20 (OT)
Any game Greg Paulus loses is a good one. Any game Greg Paulus loses where he makes a costly mistake, like throwing a bad interception in OT, is even better.

Iowa 17 - Northern Iowa 16
This wouldn't have been that big an upset-with 9/9/9 approaching, it seems almost fitting that the Panthers last defeated the Hawkeyes 111 years ago. I will say this may be the first game I've ever seen where the losing team had two FGAs blocked in the last :07. The Panthers cost themselves a shot at a closer FGA by clock mismanagement.

USC 56 - San Jose State 3
Early on, I said this looked like a 17-0 Trojan win. Barkley was spraying his passes early, and the Spartan defense was doing enough to contain, as best it could, the USC rushing attack. That didn't last too long, as Barkley got over what were apparently jitters and played more effectively, and USC got its expected romp.

Michigan 31 - Western Michigan 7
I wish I'd listened to the MGoPodcast before watching this game-the MAC fans were pretty accurate with their prediction as to WMU's fate, though they like me probably would be surprised with Hiller's lack of productivity during the interesting portion of this game. Denard Robinson looks like he can run, and Tate Forcier for UM has some mobility and can throw. To the extent RichRod's offense depends on a QB, the Wolverines should be 1000% better this season.

Oklahoma State 24 - Georgia 10
A less prolific offensive output than I expected out of the Cowboys, though I guess this is the same team that put up "only" 39 points against Washington State in the early part of last season. The defensive performance, while not hugely surprising considering the Dawgs were replacing their top QB, RB, and WR, was still a very pleasant surprise.

Missouri 37 - Illinois 9
Did Juice Williams forget how to play QB in the offseason? Was Arrelious Benn really that important? Does Illinois know how to play defense? The answers to those questions right now seem to be "Maybe," "Apparently," and "No." Mizzou sophomore QB Blaine Gabbert was impressive, but seemed to have a pretty easy day.

Stanford 39 - Washington State 13
Yes, another 39-13 game involving the Cougars. I think the Cardinal would take a repeat of the Cowboys' season. I check in on this game mainly because it was in HD and the UGA-OkSU game wasn't (at least for me), and I was curious to see how Oliver Luck was and if Wazzu was nearly as awful as they were last year. To answer the last first, they're still not very good, but probably won't be as comically awful as they were last year. Luck Spawn, from what I saw (I bailed fairly early for BYU-OU), looked reasonable for a RS freshman in his first start.

BYU 14 - Oklahoma 13
Why oh why can't Oklahoma have a decent backup quarterback? Jason White got hurt, and they were ass. And again. Rhett Bomar transferred on the verge of the season, and they were ass. Sam Bradford got hurt against Texas Tech two years ago, and they were ass. Sam Bradford got hurt again tonight, and they were again ass. The offensive line really struggled again, showing the same weaknesses against zone blitzing their veteran counterparts displayed last year in the game against TCU. BYU, OTOH, while not as talented as the Sooners, was much better coached, and that's what made the difference in the game.

Alabama 34 - Virginia Tech 24
It was about the start of this game that I mostly bailed on football for two hours for soccer, namely the US's World Cup qualifier against El Salvador (another one 9/9 at 7 PM ET against Trinidad & Tobago, ESPN Classic), so I didn't see as much of this game as I otherwise would have. What I did see, though, was Alabama imposing its will against VaTech both offensively and defensively, which didn't really come as that much of a surprise.

Cal 52 - Maryland 13
Well, I admit the scoreline is a little flattering. To the Terps, who were never in this game at all. The Golden Bears started their season exactly the way they should have, comfortably destroying a team that was expected to be inferior.

LSU 31 - Washington 23
A game simultaneously both closer and not as close as it appears from the scoreline. Not as close, because the Huskies scored a TD as time expired. Closer, because, as inspiration for this Dr. Saturday wrote in Life on the Margins, UW "wasted" a lot of yards. The big question about this game is whether LSU is LSU, or whether they're just another team. If the Tigers are the vintage Tigers, than Jake Locker and the Lockerettes look to be among the most improved teams in college football this year, and should be a fine option for late night viewing.

Ole Miss 45 - Memphis 14
Pay no attention to that final scoreline, as the Rebels put up four fourth quarter scores to make this one seem much less competitive than it was. Wes Bunting is right-Jevan Snead looked no better than Jevan Snead at the beginning of 2008, and maybe not even that good. A very disappointing opening performance by someone who could be vying for the #1 overall pick in the 2010 draft.

Cincinnati 47 - Rutgers 15
Much like Illinois, Rutgers looked like a team unready for its preseason hype from certain quarters. Like Mizzou, the Bearcats looked like a team ready to pick up where they left off last season and not where they were expected to be this season. RU's sign of success came early, when they scored on a 20 play, 83 yard drive that included multiple 4th down conversions. When that's what you need to put 7 on the board, it's probably going to be a long day, and indeed it was.

Miami (FL) 38 - Florida State 34
While watching this game, I was chatting with somebody who's more of a fan of the NFL game, and it was clear watching this game (as it really is during most every college game) that the pro game is played on a vastly different, and superior, level. Still, after a somewhat craptastic first half, this turned out to be a very entertaining game. The Hurricanes were very impressive-not on defense, mind you, but offensively. Jacory Harris looks like a real player, and Cooper and James are the best tandem they've had in the backfield in probably a good 8-10 years. I wasn't much of a fan back in the day, especially the Erickson era, but something just feels right about seeing Miami with serious talent carrying the ball.

And such is the week that was in college football in my view.

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