|(AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff)(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)|
|Brett Hundley and J.T. Barrett led their teams to wins, but neither UCLA nor Ohio State was overly impressive.|
The first week of college football is, almost, in the books.
One of the things that is tough to do in today's world of 140 characters is trying to not overreact to the here and now too much. We all do it, but it's important to keep in mind this is, after all, just the beginning of a very long season. While we learned plenty of things about a lot of teams in Week 1, there's still time to make corrections on the practice field and figure out what went wrong in the opener. Heck, Cincinnati won't even play a football game until September 12, so we don't even have tape on some programs thus far.
With that in mind, here are a few snap judgements from Week 1, with reasons why things might not be all that bad as the season progresses.
The myth: UCLA's offensive line can't block anybody. What happened on Saturday against Virginia was nothing new for the Bruins. They've had offensive line woes the past several seasons, and Brett Hundley has been sacked more than just about any quarterback in the nation. John Tenuta's game plan for the Cavaliers was excellent, often bringing a linebacker to blitz when UCLA didn't release the running back. The concerning thing was the number of times players got beat in one-on-one matchups. "Anyone that watched that game will go, 'My goodness, what are we going to do about the offensive line?'" Jim Mora said. "For those of us that know, we know that we've got a good group. We've got to play better, and I know that we will."
The fix: First off, help is on the way. Two-year starting tackle Simon Goines is on the way back and should start practicing with the team this week, aiming to play against Texas. Center Jake Brendel, who would have helped make a lot of protection calls up front, is also close to returning. The young players who got some seasoning in the opener know what they have to improve on and should develop as the season goes on. That should elevate a mediocre unit into one that can give Hundley some time to throw. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone will likely implement more of a quick passing game as part of the game plan going forward to further take the stress off the line. Things don't get any easier the next two games, though, as Memphis has talented pass rusher Martin Ifedi and Texas' duo of Malcom Brown and Cedric Reed are both on NFL radars.
The myth: It's doom and gloom in Columbus. Power programs like Ohio State have a different set of expectations than the rest, and that was readily apparent on Saturday afternoon for most of the Buckeyes' victory over Navy. The Midshipmen led at halftime 7-6 and were within a field goal for a good chunk of the fourth quarter. Navy also ended up rushing for 370 yards on OSU's defense, which was an area of concern heading into 2014. The offensive line looked like it had been rebuilt this season, failing to get a ton of push at times and suffering from protection issues when overloaded.
The fix: First off, Navy is a good football team (9-4 in 2013) and the triple-option is hard to stop no matter what kind of defense you throw out on the field. Even if it's the opener, with more time than usual to prepare, that offense combined with a new defensive coordinator, Chris Ash, and a still-young group is a recipe for giving up some yards on the ground. They pretty much contained QB Keenan Reynolds, one of the best in the country, for most of the game, and that's an accomplishment. The Buckeyes' defense will get better, especially factoring in some of the more traditional offenses they'll be seeing in the coming weeks. J.T. Barrett had his moments and showed his potential with 5.6 yards per carry and a 12-of-15 passing day. He looked more than capable of getting the ball in the hands of the Buckeyes' playmakers and should only continue to get better with more snaps. The offense made several adjustments at halftime and started to take off from there, a good sign for a fairly young team. At the end of the day, even if Ohio State is missing Braxton Miller, this is still a team dealing with the same issues it was before he got hurt. They'll still have a chance to win every game on the schedule and make it to the College Football Playoff, and might be closer to Michigan State than Week 1 indicated.
The myth: The SEC and Pac-12 are the two best conferences. The conventional wisdom in 2014 is that those two conferences will be battling all season long for bragging rights. The SEC helped its cause by winning some big non-conference games (Georgia, Alabama and LSU in particular), while the Pac-12's six ranked teams outscored their opponents 249-76. Furthermore, each conference's worst team last season -- Arkansas and Cal -- each looked much better than their 2013 versions out on the field.
The fix: Here's the thing though -- the Big 12 needs to be in the conversation. Yes, Texas Tech struggled with Central Arkansas, and Iowa State lost to FCS powerhouse North Dakota State, but the conference might be even tougher at the top than anybody first imagined. Elite powers Baylor and Oklahoma breezed by their opponents, with the former's defense looking top-notch and the latter winning in a runaway. Texas looked like a completely different team under Charlie Strong, holding a nine-win team from a year ago to under 100 yards of offense. Lots of folks think the league got moral victories in losses by West Virginia and Oklahoma State, but more than anything it proved that the conference has a case against the other two thanks to a very competitive middle of the pack. Remember, the preseason fifth- and eighth-best Big 12 teams just gave the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country everything they could handle. They probably have a better argument against the Pac-12 than the SEC, but either way we shouldn't dismiss the league in the middle of the country.
The myth: The ACC and Big Ten playoff hopes are down to one team. With the new College Football Playoff in place, it seems like more folks than ever are looking at teams' ability to go undefeated. As such, Clemson's blowout loss to Georgia (45-21) and Wisconsin falling to LSU seemed to make the ACC (Florida State) and Big Ten (Michigan State, ahead of their game against Oregon) one-team leagues when it comes to the sport's final four.
The fix: It could take until December, but eventually folks will come to realize that one loss does not necessarily kill a season. At least, that's the assumption. We've seen time and again in the BCS era a team finish strong to secure either an at-large berth or a conference crown. The ACC naturally has Florida State to hang its hat on, but we all shouldn't be quick to start dismissing Clemson. It's tough to replace your quarterback, top wideout(s) and leading returning rusher from a year ago and go into Athens and grab a win. Remember, it was a three-point game going into the fourth quarter, and there's several reasons to think the Tigers might just give the Seminoles a game later this year. The team can still find itself playing on New Year's Eve in Miami.
Likewise, Wisconsin's collapse seemed to put even more pressure on Michigan State to carry the league banner when it heads west to Oregon. Did the Badgers' loss hurt the perception of the Big Ten this season? Of course. But it didn't wreck it completely. The team has a legitimate Heisman candidate in Melvin Gordon and did OK defensively despite missing a few pieces up front. Given Wisconsin's schedule, it's easy to see the Badgers figuring things out at quarterback and going on a run to take the title in Indianapolis in December. Wisconsin's playoff chances were hurt, no doubt, but they were not extinguished given how much football there is left to play.
Stat of the week
How did Wisconsin collapse against LSU? Well, after taking a 24-7 lead to open the second half, the Badgers had just nine plays that gained yardage on offense the rest of the game. Nine. Not giving the ball to Melvin Gordon (who on Monday disclosed he had a minor hip injury) is a big reason for that.
Stats to chew on
» Eight schools had three plays of 50-plus yards in Week 1, yet two of them managed to lose (Georgia Southern, Tulane).
» How impressive was Texas A&M's win against South Carolina? In addition to setting a number of school records, the Aggies had 29 of their 99 plays go for 10-plus yards. Amazingly, it was the first season-opening road win against a power-conference opponent in 20 years for Texas A&M. Kenny Hill also became just the sixth 500-yard passer in SEC history and finished just 53 yards shy of Tajh Boyd's career passing yardage total against the Gamecocks.
» Oregon went 7-of-9 on third down in Week 1, perhaps a good omen for its next contest. The Ducks put up 62 points in just 21 minutes of possession, or nearly a field goal every minute their offense was on the field.
» Oregon also won its 60th straight game while leading at halftime. That's tops in the nation, ahead of Oklahoma (42) and Kansas State (40).
» USC had the ball for 38:54 against Fresno State and ran a Pac-12 record 105 plays. Alabama had the ball for 37:47 and ran just 82. Little different pace with Lane Kiffin in Tuscaloosa. The Trojans also racked up more offense than any Kiffin-coached team put up in Los Angeles.
» Art Briles talked up Baylor's defensive line quite a bit in the offseason, and it lived up to the hype in Week 1. Led by massive end Shawn Oakman, the Bears had more sacks (an FBS-leading eight) than SMU had first downs.
» Not much went right for Northwestern against Cal, but the Wildcats did commit just a single penalty ... for zero yards. On the other end of the spectrum was BYU with 15 flags for 150 yards lost.
» Speaking of Cal, it won its first game over an FBS opponent in 686 days.
» There were only eight quarterbacks who threw for 500 yards in a game last season. We're already up to three after the first week this year.
» It might not have been a pretty win for USF, but the emergence of freshman running back Marlon Mack was. He set a conference record by rushing for 275 yards, including three touchdown runs of over 50 yards. He broke the record set just two days before by fellow freshman Sherman Badis of Tulane (215 yards).
» Per ESPN's Brett Edgerton, Todd Gurley was the first FBS player with three rushing touchdowns and one via a return against a ranked opponent since UCLA's Maurice Jones-Drew in 2005. Gurley is averaging 43 yards per return in his career, by the way.
» Three offenses failed to gain 100 yards of total offense (SMU, North Texas, Wake Forest). Four schools managed to top the 700-yard mark (Arizona, Nebraska, Western Kentucky, USC). The Mustangs' June Jones, more apt to be in the latter category, was shut out for the first time ever on Sunday night.
Quote of the week
"We were very average the other night. In fact, we weren't even average, we were pretty sorry." -- South Carolina's Steve Spurrier.
Sound from Saturday
Courtesy of IMG Radio, here's Scott Howard's call of Todd Gurley's 100-yard kick return against Clemson.
Tweet of the week:
KENNY FOOTBALL!!! #GigEmâ Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) August 29, 2014
Gold medal: UTSA's Larry Coker, who pounced on one of the favorites in the AAC with a dominating performance against Houston. In just the program's third season, that might have been the statement win for the Roadrunners.
Silver medal: Texas A&M offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital for preparing Kenny Hill behind center and calling a phenomenal game.
Bronze medal: Western Kentucky's Jeff Brohm, who beat MAC favorite Bowling Green 59-31 in his coaching debut, rolling up 700 yards of offense in the process.
Michigan State at Oregon: I watched most of each team's opener against overmatched FCS opponents and came away impressed at just how sharp both quarterbacks were. Neither of their offensive coordinators asked them to do too much, but Connor Cook was nearly flawless, and Marcus Mariota looked as though he was holding back because it was so easy to rack up yards. I was a little concerned by the Spartans' inability to run the ball, however, something that could be an issue against an underrated Oregon front. The Ducks also appear to be boosting their receiving corps by moving Byron Marshall to the slot in a role similar to De'Anthony Thomas' the past few years. It worked well, as the Pac-12's leading returning rusher topped the 100 yards receiving mark. It should be a great one in Eugene, but it's hard to pick against the home team in this one going in.
Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.