The opening week of the college football season has come and gone. This first set of games sets up what should be a fantastic year.
We had upsets, we had epic top-25 battles, and we had injuries to marquee players. Now to give some teams the recognition they deserve (or maybe they don’t?).
Best Game: Ohio State-Navy.
The Buckeyes battled a spirited rally by the Middies, who were within a two-point conversion from tying the game with two minutes to go. Brian Rolle did his best to crush Navy’s hopes, picking off that two-point attempt and returning it for a deuce of the Buckeye’s own.
After Matt Barkley tore apart Dick Tomey’s ultra-confusing defense on Saturday, next week’s showdown in the Horseshoe looks like it might be a little closer than experts thought.
Biggest Statement: The Football Championship Subdivision (former 1-AA)
William and Mary beat Virginia. Richmond beat Duke. Villanova beat an upstart Temple program. Northern Iowa came within two consecutive blocked field goals of taking down Iowa. Southern Illinois blew a late lead, but still only lost to Marshall by three points. Northern Illinois came within eight points of Wisconsin. Massachussets came back and nearly spoiled coach Bill Snyder’s return to the Kansas State sidelines. East Carolina narrowly escaped against Appalchian State. Liberty did more than just scare West Virginia.
The little brother to the FBS stepped up to the challenge last week. Ten years ago, no matter how good the FCS school, or how bad the FBS team, there was still a giant gap between the two divisions.
This exhibit of close losses and even a few upset wins shows the gap has closed tremendously. App. State is no longer the only flag-bearer of the FCS. There are quite a few other teams that can play, too. It will be intriguing to see how the FCS fares against the upper division the rest of this season, and in the future.
Biggest scare: Sam Bradford’s injury
This is slap-me-in-the-face obvious, but hey, they guy is the defending Heisman winner; this is big news. I said before the season that Oklahoma was overrated, and Bradford would not turn defenses to shreds like he did in 2008. However, I was shocked that even without Bradford, Oklahoma could only score 13 points on BYU.
This should scare the Sooner faithful to death. Coach Bob Stoops says Bradford should return in two to four weeks, and he better pray for the quickest of recoveries. If Bradford’s replacement Landry Jones thought BYU’s defense was fast, wait until he sees the Miami Hurricanes in a few weeks. Also, if Jones is still in the lineup when the Sooners meet Texas next month…ugh. The Longhorns will be partying all night long in Dallas if that’s the case.
Biggest Surprise: Greg Paulus’ performance.
Yes, Syracuse lost. But they lost in overtime. This is the same Syracuse program that according to a sarcastic Kirk Herbstreit, “hasn’t won a game in five years.” Paulus played great in his return to the gridiron, throwing for 167 yards and a touchdown.
Yes, his interception in overtime cost the Orange the game. But he proved that he will be good enough to make Syracuse much more relevant this year than in recent memory.
Doug Marrone has to feel pretty good about his football team after game one, and it looks like the ‘Cuse can play some competitive games this season.
Player of the Week: Mark Ingram, Running back for Alabama
Ingram broke just enough big runs in the Tide’s win over Virginia Tech to earn his team the huge opening-week victory. Ingram lined up in the wildcat formation several times throughout the game with mild success.
His two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, one on the ground and one through the air, made the difference in the game.
His showing in the Georgia Dome set the stage for him to have a breakout season as the feature back in Nick Saban’s offense; with him the Crimson Tide look as dangerous as anyone in the country.
Team that looked great, but nobody wants to hear it: Notre Dame
They are the team everyone loves to hate. They are college football’s version of the Yankees or Cowboys. Hate them or love them, Notre Dame looks pretty darn good.
Jimmy Clausen looks like he is finally going to live up to the enormous hype surrounding him. The junior third-year starting quarterback for the Irish completed 15 of his 18 passes for 315 yards and four touchdowns en route to a 35-0 romp of Nevada.
When the Irish were ranked 23rd in the preseason polls, fans across the nation were outraged. How could a team that went 7-6 a year ago, including a late-season to Syracuse, be regarded as one of the better teams in the country?
Well, they are pretty darn talented. Last year, they did not live up to expectations while struggling mightily on the defensive side. Now they have brought in highly regarded coordinator Jon Tenuta, and it looks like he is already making his presence felt in South Bend.
With an extremely talented offense that is also experienced this season, and Tenuta’s improved defense, Notre Dame looks every bit worthy of their preseason ranking, and maybe more.
New coach making the best first impression: Steve Sarkisian, Washington
I almost wanted to give this one to Marrone, but it could not be more obvious how huge the difference Sarkisian has made in Seattle already.
The Huskies, led by Jake Locker, gave perennial SEC contender a run for their money Saturday night, but came up just short. That is probably just fine with Sarkisian, whose troops looked nothing like the team that went winless under lame-duck coach Tyrone Willingham last season.
Washington is on the rise…even if there technically is nowhere to go but up. Sarkisian brings a new attitude with him from USC, where he was the offensive coordinator the last few years. He will recruit well, and he will direct a great offense while he is in town. Husky fans can expect a return to competitiveness sooner rather than later.
(Honorable mention for this award goes to Lane Kiffin. Even if the Volunteers did beat Western Kentucky, the sheer fact that the offense produced 63 points is noteworthy. Maybe Florida won’t be able to beat Kiffin’s bunch by 70 after all).
Note: the FSU-Miami game has not ended as of yet…and right now in the fourth quarter it looks like this might be the game of the week instead. Great game, making up for the terrible weekend the ACC endured.