Saturday in Review (9/4/10)

A glorious (and surprisingly competitive) first Saturday of the year. Let’s hit the highlights and gloss conveniently over some of the more slaughter-oriented games of the day (Side note: numbers represent position in the USA Today/Coaches’ Poll, since that’s the one that factors into the BCS)…

San Jose State-3, #1 Alabama-48

On a day where many SEC teams did not look up to snuff, the Crimson Tide certainly showed up to play. Even minus Mark Ingram, Alabama had very little trouble with the Spartans of San Jose State, which means that my hat is safe. As the defending champs, Alabama was sort of obliged to win this game against inferior competition. Plus, ‘Bama at least had the decency to play another 1-A team, something that many many other squads didn’t have the gumption to do on this particular day. Let’s move on…

Miami (the bad one) (I mean, Ohio)-12, #3 Florida-34

Considering their ranking, this had to be pretty embarrassing for Florida. The defense showed up to play, something for which Urban Meyer should be eternally grateful, since the Gators’ offense apparently all followed St. Timmy to the NFL. Miami was leading this game after the 1st quarter, and Florida’s defense provided the first touchdown of 2010. If this were a report on another school named Miami, that wouldn’t be a big deal. But considering that Florida was playing the 2nd worst team on its schedule, this really isn’t a good sign if you’re a Gator fan. If you’re sick of Florida being shoved down your throat as an ideal team that others should strive to be like, however, this was kinda fun to watch. Florida’s offense never got going at any point in the game, and they looked very frustrated at times with the MAC defense of Miami. The game against South Florida figures to be tougher than this one, so Urban had best get things in Gainesville turned around fast, otherwise he may be taking another leave of absence.

#4 Texas-34, Rice-17

Rice played surprisingly well in this game. The Owls are known for being something of a traditional cupcake for the Longhorns, and it was good to see them fight back. Texas, though, joins a surprisingly large club of teams that didn’t hammer their cupcakes into the ground. Statisticians will tell you that 1 game is the worst possible sample size you can use to draw conclusions, so when the spate of “what week one taught us” articles come out, don’t pay too much attention. Texas plays mediocre nonconference competition, and its quite possible that they weren’t taking this game too seriously. It’s also possible that this game is a troubling barometer that all is not well in Austin, and that Texas is poised for a precipitous fall. The only certainty is that it’s too dang early to tell anything, and that goes for the two games I wrote about above this one, and however many games I’ll write about below this one.

As to the game itself: Texas’ running game saved the day, since Garrett Gilbert looked about as inconsistent today as he did during the National Championship game back in January. Rice didn’t allow any ridiculously huge plays, but they seemed to run out of steam in the 2nd quarter, allowing Texas to wake up out of their funk and take a 24-3 lead before the Owls could score again. Allowing your superior competition a double digit lead is generally how cupcakes allow themselves to get eaten. There are exceptions to this rule (see Bottom 95 section on Ole Miss), but this game wasn’t one of them. Onward, to an actual ranked matchup!

#22 Oregon State-21, #7 TCU-30

It’s been a good week thus far for the BCS busters, though this game was pretty close for much of its early portions. We really can’t read too much into this one, but it was interesting to note that the commentators for this game said that the difference was “the experience” of TCU quarterback Andy Dalton was what made the difference in this game. Simply put, that’s just wrong. Dalton did have 30 more starts than Oregon State’s quarterback, and he ran for 2 scores and threw for another, but he also threw 2 more interceptions. Call it a wash, but don’t call it a difference. Besides which, anyone who was watching the game knows that the difference maker was TCU’s defense…or possibly their hideous new unis.

Utah State-24, #8 Oklahoma-31

Coming off of a bowl season where the Big 12 looked outright mediocre (4-4) the conference had a lot to prove coming into this season. In week 1, they failed to prove much of anything, with both Texas and Oklahoma struggling mightily against lesser foes. At least Texas had the excuse of being on the road. Oklahoma had to nip a team that went 4-8 last season, and they had to do so in Norman. It stands to reason that the biggest problem present in the Big 12 is that the conference doesn’t know how to play defense. Yes, there is an exception to this rule: Nebraska. And of the Big 12 teams in action on Saturday, guess which one looked the best? That’s right…

Western Kentucky-10, #9 Nebraska-49

Nebraska was quite dominant all day, something that is very telling about the status of some very highly ranked teams. You see, having to say “(insert ranked team name here) was dominant all day” in the first week of the season is normally like saying “The sun rose today” or “A Florida player got arrested today.” It should be unremarkable, commonplace, etc. Instead, many teams looked like that number in front of their name was the number of points they were going to score. Nebraksa is leaving their current conference in the lurch after this season, and they have a very real shot at winning the Big 12 in their last year in the conference. Still, let’s not read too much into the first week of the year, nor should we make this post too long. After all, there’s many more Saturdays, all of which will be more interesting than this one.

Eastern Illinois-7, #10 Iowa-37

The SEC and Big 12 looked so crummy today that they grabbed the headlines. That’s somewhat unfair, because the Big 10 played reasonably well. I’m putting this here because the Wisconsin/UNLV game was actually fairly close, the Penn State game is further down, and all the other Big 10 teams will be lost in the shuffle of the Bottom 95.

Plus, this could be a sign that  Iowa is going to be the National Champion this year! Sounds ridiculous, yes? Well, last year they made the BCS after needing a blocked field goal to beat Northern Iowa. So, logic says, this team might be even better! But, as we all know, in college football, logic has no place.

New Mexico-0, #11 Oregon-72

Look at the score. No analysis necessary. Heck, Oregon even played a 1-A team in this slaughter, too.

#12 Wisconsin-41, UNLV-21

Wisconsin actually struggled in this game, though they pulled away during the 3rd quarter. I’ll be honest, it was late, and I was about 90% asleep during this game, so analysis here is going to be spotty. How about a random thought: how hard must it be to keep football players (especially the juniors and seniors who are 21+) focused in Vegas? Just throwing it out there.

Youngstown State-14, #14 Penn State-44

1-AA cupcake game, with a predictable result, though the Penguins did have a lead at the end of the 1st. I guess the coaches were out at the nursing home picking up “head coach” Paterno during the first quarter. JoePa’s a great guy, don’t get me wrong, but he’s not the actual coach at Penn State. He doesn’t even wear a headset for crying out loud! There really ought to be a law against this sort of thing, because so long as Joe has a pulse he’ll be the coach at Penn State, which will make his records completely untouchable.

Any hoo, after the 1st, this game was all Penn State, with Youngstown trailing 44-7 before they finally added their last, meaningless, TD with 40 seconds left in the game. Come to think of it, there ought to be a law against that, too.

#16 LSU-30, #18 North Carolina-24

LSU came into this game with a distinct advantage, what with Carolina missing starters on both sides of the ball. And for the first half, everything played out as it was supposed to. Then, after halftime, the narrative took a sudden, dramatic turn at Crazyville. Maybe Butch Davis is a brilliant on-field coach, maybe Les Miles is as dumb as everyone seems to think he is, or maybe the Carolina trainers know Brian McNamee. No matter how you slice it, though, the second half was a thriller, with Carolina’s offense playing very well and with LSU’s whole team looking nothing short of lost.

Don’t get me wrong, though, LSU did do pretty well in the first half, and some exceptional play by TJ Yates in the second half was the entire reason that Carolina stayed in the game at all. As a fan of a team in the ACC, I must say that it’s a good thing they lost those starters, because if those were the backups, then this team would dominate the conference with its starters. LSU, meanwhile, shouldn’t give up hope. After all, they at least beat a team from a major conference, which is more than most SEC teams could say on this day.

South Carolina State-10, #17 Georgia Tech-41

All this game teaches us is that Georgia Tech still can’t throw the ball. They threw for 12 yards against a 1-AA team, which means that if they find themselves down late in a game again, they’d best hope they’re playing a team with a horrible run defense. Not much else can be said about this one, especially when one considers the level of competition that the Jackets were facing.

Tennessee Tech-3, #19 Arkansas-44

Bobby Petrino is right down there with Nick Saban in terms of likability. And Ryan Mallett, according to the ESPN writeup, got his Heisman campaign started by pantsing a 1-AA team. I know I harped on this during the review of Ingram’s injury, but no one commented on that post so I’ll do it again: How does one start a Heisman campaign by slaughtering a vastly inferior foe? Does anyone really think that the voters of the Downtown Athletic Club are going to look at this game in December and go, “Gee, Mallett beat up his 1-AA opponent by 41, instead of just 40. He’s outstanding!” No, they’ll probably look at Arkansas’s conference games and do with this one what I should have done: ignore it.

Samford-6, #20 Florida State-59

Another 1-AA game that went as planned. Was it just me, or did the ACC look better than the SEC today? I’m not saying that the ACC is the better of the two southern major conferences, just that they didn’t need to pull ahead of their cupcakes in the 4th quarter. Sure, the ACC lost its only major matchup of the day, and there’s a very real chance that Boise State could kill Virginia Tech, but on the aggregate, the ACC looked good against its more pathetic competition. Moving right along…

Louisiana-Lafayette-7, #21 Georgia-55

Like Arkansas, Georgia beat their cupcake the way they were supposed to. Nothing to see here, move along.

Arkansas State-26, #23 Auburn-52

Well, Auburn might have some trouble in the SEC, considering that their defense was quite porous on this particular Saturday, but it could be that Arkansas State’s offense is just that good. In retrospect, ignore everything after the comma in that last sentence, because I really shouldn’t have typed it. Auburn proved they can score on a Sun Belt team, and they’d best hope that they still can score on SEC teams, because their defense looks like it’s going to have trouble stopping anything. And let’s move to the last of the 25…

Coastal Carolina-0, #25 West Virginia-31

Well, WVU looks like they might be back. They’re also going to be one of the few Big East teams that might be “good” instead of “mediocre.” But it’s too early to tell. Now, let’s go waaaaay down to:

Tales from the Bottom 95

Let’s lead off with the best upset of week 1: Ole Miss defeated by Jacksonville State. Guess it’s a long way down from this…Tennessee defeated their cupcake in Coach Dooley’s debut, for whatever that’s worth…Kentucky beat Louisville, allowing the SEC to win at least one game against major conference competition…Kansas State beat UCLA, which isn’t a good sign for the Bruins, since they have to go to Texas later this month…Speaking of the Big 12, holy crap, what happened to Kansas?! Turner Gill’s intro to big time football did not go well…Missouri and Illinois was a thriller, pity it’s between such mediocre teams…Lastly, Jake Locker began proving me right by helping Washington lose its first game to BYU. Yeah, Jake played pretty well, but like it or not, the Heisman doesn’t go to guys on teams that lose their first game to BYU, even though BYU’s pretty good…

That’s all for this week, not least because most of the other games were simple slaughters of 1-AA teams. And Virginia Tech’s game just came on. Gotta go!

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