What were some of the positive takeaways from Week 1 of college football? Here’s a few:
Sunday Night College Football
Roughly this time last year, a double-overtime thriller saw the Texas Longhorns, led by then-freshman quarterback Shane Buechele, win a back-and-forth classic over Notre Dame by 50-47. While preseason ranking are of course of little true meaning, the fact that the Irish were considered #10 in the country added some shock factor to a game that had so much regardless. That matchup came to us on a Sunday evening to close out the first full weekend of the 2016 season.
Fast-forward a year or so, and we are again treated on the day that is primarily known in the football world for NFL action. West Virginia and Virginia Tech renewed a rivalry that had been absent from the schedule for too long, giving us an enthralling defensive and field position battle for the first half, then an explosion of big plays and points for the second half, as the Hokies left Fed-Ex Field with the 31-24 victory. That was a superb game of football, and yet, even more drama was occurring on the west coast, as UCLA made a remarkable 34-point comeback over Texas A&M for a 45-44 win, with a fake spike touchdown in the last minute giving Rosen and the Bruins the win. Sunday night college football keeps delivering.
Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown
He’s hugely respected in the world of football, but the more praise sent Brown’s way, the better, as he deserves it. After turning Boston College’s defense (ranked 100th in the nation in total yardage allowed when he arrived) into the number one ranked in total defense in 2015, he was hired to Michigan, where he only went and did it again for the Wolverines in 2016 as the number one team in total defense. Last year he had a highly experienced group to work with, but that group lost practically every starter from the previous season, eight of whom were drafted to the NFL.
A slight drop in effectiveness would be understandable, but despite so many new starters, the Michigan defense again looked superb in their opening win over Florida. Let’s be fair here, the Gators’ offense was ugly, and it’s not like those Wolverines facing them weren’t packed full of high recruits and talented athletes, but to limit Florida to just 192 total yards, just 11 rush yards, and turned the ball over three times on fumbles, one for a defensive touchdown, was pretty impressive.
USC long snapper Jake Olson
There were a few shocks in Week 1, and USC were threatened to be the losers in another, before eventually overcoming Western Michigan 49-31. No matter, the win was secured, and the result has been somewhat overshadowed by a fantastic story involving the final extra point conversion of the game. Long snapper Jake Olson has been blind since he was 12, and while he’s had his story told previously, he took to the field for the first time for live action on Saturday. Executing cleanly, the extra point was good, and the celebrations after were fantastically heart-warming.
Welcome back, UAB! In their first game since 2014, the Blazers put in a strong second half performance to secure victory over FCS side Alabama A&M for a 38-7 victory. In addition, they set a new record for the largest crowd in their history, officially watched in person by 45,212 in the stands. This may not have been the most challenging opposition that the Blazers will see this year, but no-one is caring about that right now, and their fans will gladly enjoy this return to football and an opening win to begin the season.
The opening weekend wasn’t quite so memorable for some:
Big 12 Conference
Last year, the Big 12 became the first of the major Power Five conferences to fail to have a playoff representative for a second time, and received criticism from many over the course of the 2016 season. Optimism is high that they have two strong contenders this year in Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, along with one of their most historic participants in the Texas Longhorns expecting a revival under new head coach Tom Herman. Kansas State and West Virginia were ranked preseason and popular “sleeper” teams to have good years. TCU and Baylor, also under new leadership with Matt Rhule, have hopes for much better seasons than the last.
There’s plenty chance for many of them to have good years still, and both the Sooners and Cowboys won comfortably as expected in their openers. It wasn’t the best start for many others in the conference though. Texas were outfought by Maryland in a 51-41 loss. Baylor suffered a bigger shock by losing 48-45 at home to FCS school Liberty. While West Virginia faced a significant challenge against their rivals from Virginia Tech, the Mountaineers still find themselves suffering a losing start to 2017. Not a stellar week for the Big 12, it has to be said.
Florida State & Deondre Francois
Defeat to Alabama, in itself, is not disastrous. Indeed, the Seminoles fought well for the first half in particular, and their highly-regarded defense looked impressive for the most part. The offense fell apart a bit in the second half however, including back-to-back interceptions that turned the game in the Tide’s favor, but that pales in comparison to the unfortunate moment in the fourth quarter, when star redshirt sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois went down awkwardly while being sacked. He stayed down, before eventually being carted off the sidelines.
Hopes were not high of good news, and reports have since emerged that it’s a patella tendon injury and that the dynamic quarterback will require season-ending knee surgery. True freshman James Blackman, a 6’5”, 3-star rated recruit, could be the man to take over, as suggested post-game by head coach Jimbo Fisher. This is still a talented roster, and that defense can keep them in any game, so FSU can continue to aim high in the ACC and for the playoffs. It’s tricky to imagine them being crowned national champions though without their offensive star, and have a big challenge simply in their own conference division, with Clemson and Louisville to contend with.
Who are your winners and losers from Week 1? Discuss in the comments below!
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