Monday, September 3

Week 1: My impressions of some teams...

Week 1: My impressions of some teams...

(number in parenthesis is my pre-season ranking)

Appalachian State
Is there any question that the Mountaineers are the best team in division I-AA? Their victory over Michigan was probably the greatest upset in the history of NCAA football. Armanti Edwards looked like a slightly slower but better throwing Pat White. The receivers got open and, with one dropped TD aside, appeared to have good hands. The defense gave up a lot of points, but this is against one of the best offenses in div I-A we're talking about. I have to mention that it was really baffling to see the Mounties kick a FG on first and goal from the 5 with 26 seconds left, and as I expected it gave Michigan more than enough time to try a winning FG of their own. Fortunately ASU blocked the attempt to preserve this amazing upset. This team has great talent and determination; I think they would be among the top 25 teams in the country and I will be shocked if they don't win their division's championship.

Arkansas (12)
Against overmatched Troy, McFadden and Jones each topped 100 yards rushing, Jones topped 100 yards returning and scored a 90 yard TD, and McFadden threw a 42 yard TD pass. I don't like the fact that the game was close at halftime, but Troy has played big teams tough last season as well and the game was won decisively in the second half.

The Wildcats' offense is in trouble. Against Brigham Young, they couldn't even score until the game was already over at 20-0 with just a minute to go in the 4th quarter. Tuitama completed 70% of his passes but at just 6 yards a toss and couldn't convert third downs. The rushing game was nowhere to be found. Defense kept them in it through three quarters, but they're going to have to be able to put up points to be successful in the Pac 10.

Auburn (21)
Cox looked terrible and the ground game had no traction -- against Kansas State! Yes KSU was a playoff team and beat Texas last year, but not with outstanding defense. Now the fact that Auburn held the Wildcats to 13 points despite not being able to keep their own offense on the field is impressive, but this merely confirms my suspicion that the Tigers are very sound defensively but lack the offensive punch to put teams away.

Boise State
The post-Zebransky era began this weekend and the offense has hardly lost a step. Replacement QB Tharp completed almost 75% of his passes at nearly 10 yards per attempt, Ian Johnson dominated the ground game and Avery stepped up to rush for 100 as well. Weber State was simply overmatched in every facet of the game.

Boston College
It all came down to Matt Ryan. The Eagles' QB opened Saturday's scoring with an interception returned for a 7-0 Demon Deacons' lead. He went on to throw another pick, but oh yeah 400 yards and 5 TDs to go with that. If he can avoid the mistakes, the Eagles can contend for the ACC. Neither team found much success rushing the ball, but Wake Forest's 2 net yards rushing stands out a little bit more. BC won the turnover battle 4-3, but I wouldn't be happy with giving up the ball three times for two defensive TDs to keep an opponent in the game. Sid Vicious continues to enjoy the success he had as a former walkon with a perfect game kicking.

The Cougars looked good in every part of the game against a middle-of-the-pack Pac 10 foe. Hall gave a promising first performance at QB and the rushing game topped 100 against one of the better defenses in the westernmost BCS conference. The BYU defense also held Arizona in check both on the ground and in the air. Overall, a strong opening performance that says they are ready to repeat last season's double digit win total.

California (16)
I think we learned more about Cal than anybody else in week 1. This offense is the real deal and deserves to be mentioned among the best scoring units in the country. Longshore's play was fantastic, they've got two legit RBs, and the receiving corps has great hands and athleticism. They'll be scoring 30+ points against just about everyone they face, and most teams just can't keep up with that. Again, though, defense is going to be a problem. Tennessee's receiving corps rose to the occasion, but I guarantee that they are not actually as good as last year's unit - which means, the Bears are again going to be giving up a lot of points. I also don't like them giving up a TD immediately after scoring a defensive TD, giving up a long KO return after their first offensive TD which set up another Tennessee score, and then giving up the tying TD shortly after DeSean Jackson's brilliant PR TD. You don't let a good opponent take the momentum back three times and have a BCS season. To be honest, I think if the game had been played in Knoxville they might have lost in the second half.

(plays 9/3)

Yeah they struggled to beat a midmajor, but at the same time it is a rivalry game and all bets are off in those. Hawkins looked good at QB and the offense actually moved the ball! Recall that last season these guys lost game after game in September by struggling to put 10 points on the board, seeing them score 31 against anybody is a welcome sign for Buffs supporters.

Florida (8)
It's hard to judge a team playing against Western Kentucky, but Florida looked good. Tebow looks like he can be more than just a change-up runner at quarterback, and the offense is loaded with speed and talent. I couldn't get a read on the defense as the opposition was just too inferior.

Florida State (13)
(plays 9/3)

This will be the first team I'll say I may have been wrong about. The defense was good as expected, and holding Oklahoma State to 14 is an accomplishment. Offensively, Stafford was a very different QB from last season, completing a high percent of his passes and more importantly not making dumb turnovers trying to force things. The receivers only dropped two or three passes which is incredible by Georgia standards.

Georgia Tech
In completing less than half of his passes but still leading a Calvin Johnson-less Georgia Tech offense to 33 points, Taylor Bennett further demonstrated that losing Reggie Ball was the best thing that has happened to the GT offense in years. Choice had a monster game on the ground and the Jackets threw eleven more completions than interceptions... I'm not sure that ever happened last season. These completions were coming without a receiver who could dive fifteen yards while doing a double backflip and catching it with two fingers, so it's safe to say that the QB situation is a big plus in the sense that it's no longer a huge minus. And while it may not vault them into the top 25 just yet, beating Notre Dame by 30 will make just about any fan of college football smile.

Hawaii (15)
Against clearly inferior opposition, Colt Brennan passed for 400 yards and six TDs in under two quarters. Not much in the way of rushing yards, but they didn't exactly try there either. Five receivers had at least 4 catches and five receivers scored a TD.

The traditional Big Ten bottom-feeder fought ferociously against a team expected to finish second in the Big XII North. The Illini came back from 24 down to close within 6 and had the ball with a chance to win, which shows great heart and determination. Unfortunately, they had 5 TOs for a -3 net turnover margin. This has been the downfall of Illinois for the past few seasons and it looks like it'll be an issue in 2007.

Iowa State
Gene Chizik is a masterful DC who typically gets the best out of his defensive players, particularly cornerbacks. However, Iowa State was hammered by Kent State for 202 yards rushing so this will clearly be an area of concern. Bret Meyer looked horrible passing, but he is a proven QB so I think that will improve. Still, anybody who thought that having a coach whose teams went unbeaten in 2004 and 2005 was going to suddenly turn this program around... got a wake-up call on Saturday.

Kansas State
Despite losing, the Wildcats played a good game on the road against a ranked SEC foe. Two interceptions by Freeman nullified an otherwise good performance by him, but the rushing game was nowhere to be found with a mere 27 yards total. Granted, Auburn is very tough defensively against everything except for the extremely physical rushing attack of a team like Arkansas, and KSU simply doesn't have that kind of an offense. The KSU defense looked solid, although I think Auburn's anemic offense had something to do with that.

Louisville (5)
The Cardinals look poised to win another Big East title. Brian Brohm was outstanding and the committee of running backs will be strong as well. How will they fare against West Virginia and Rutgers - I have no idea. But I wouldn't be surprised to see Brohm lead this team to an undefeated season.

LSU (1)
The Tigers answered any questions about their secondary with a 6-int performance. The offensive line is a question mark, as is who will be the second go-to receiver after Doucet. But this is championship caliber defense and a quality QB.

Miami (24)
An expected victory, but for Miami the important thing is that the swagger is back. Freeman really needs to improve his passing, but this rushing attack and defense make the Hurricanes worthy of their top 25 ranking.

Michigan (4)
It would be easy to proclaim Michigan overrated and not top 25-worthy after losing to Appalachian State. (and sure, they were overrated to be in the top 5) But in reality, a lot of defenses would have trouble containing their QB Edwards, and I expected Michigan's defense to struggle at the start of this season. The offense looked good, and after this wake-up call they should win at least three of their remaining games in September.

Michigan State
The post-Drew Stanton era begins with an offensive outburst against a team who finished 2006 with a losing record in a midmajor conference. While the offense has lost its dual-threat QB style, MSU has two good RBS, a solid receiving corps, and what looks like an adequate new starter at QB.

Pinnix showed that he can be the workhorse for the Gopher offense as usual. But the passing defense was aboslutely shredded by a foe from the bottom half of the MAC. Fortunately for them, you can still be successful in the Big Ten by stopping the run and rushing well yourself, but I expect a losing season for the Gophers. They were fools to get rid of the coach who turned their program from 90s Big Ten bottom-feeder into a team who could expect 7-8 wins a season.

Missouri (20)
Chase Daniel had a commanding performance with over 350 yards passing and three TDs thrown. Five receivers/TEs gave significant contribution, but Tony Temple was held in check for a mere 33 yards rushing. Of concern is a defensive unit that gave up 435 yards to Illinois' offense. However, this already marks one more close win than the Tigers had all of last season, so give them credit for pulling one out at the end.

NC State
A year ago, NC State was embarassed in a stunning last drive victory by the Akron Zips. This year, UCF held on to an early 25-3 advantage to win 25-23 on a failed 2-point conversion. The former ACC middleweight continues to be a disappointment to the conference.

Nebraska (14)
Sam Keller had a decent first start in almost two years, and the Nebraska rushing attack dominated a Nevada team who, although a midmajor, has been to bowl games the past two seasons. The Air Wolf/Pistol offense was held in check. Next week will tell if the Huskers belong amongst conference title contenders and the following week will reveal their outside hopes of national title contention.

Notre Dame
The Jimmy Claussen era has officially begun, and I fully expect that things will still be this good four years from now!

Ohio State (10)
The Ohio State offense appears to be in capable hands with Todd Boeckman at the helm. Unfortunately, Chris Wells struggled heavily running the ball against a Championship Division foe. Maurice Wells had more success, so we'll have to see if this becomes a trend and eventual change in starting position. The defense refused to yield 100 yards against the run of the pass.

Oklahoma (11)
Damn. I know the opponent was North Texas, but 79-10 is 79-10. Sam Bradford looks like the QB OU has needed for the past two seasons to break back into the elite of college football.

This victory had its share of upsides and downsides. Dennis Dixon had a strong performance, gaining 100 yards both on the ground and in the air, and did so with no turnovers. However, Houston gained 545 yards and was mostly stopped by their own mistakes. I question a team who is tied with such a lowly foe in the third quarter, but Oregon did close out the scoring 28-7 to show late game strangth.

Oregon State
Sure, a victory over Utah was to be expected, but when you lose your star player and the heart & soul of your team just a week earlier, the win alone is important. Canfield was shaky at QB, but Bernard and the defense did their part.

Penn State (19)
The shutout was expected, but Penn State's offense never looked this good last season. Morelli lived up to his preseason expectations for at least one week, and the Lions may have two good runningbacks to fill Tony Hunt's shoes.

Rutgers (17)
The annihilation of Buffalo was to be expected. Seeing Teel complete 70% of his passes and throw for two TDs has to give Scarlet Knights fans some hope that their offense can improve upon last season.

South Carolina (25)
The other USC didn't exactly look like a team who is supposed to be a sleeper in the SEC. Two QBs played and neither topped 150 yards passing. The rush defense gave up 252 yards to Louisiana Lafayette.

South Florida
Who is Elon? I've never even heard of them. This game was a lot closer than it should have been for a team who wants to win the Big East. Matt Grothe and Mike Ford had good games but the offense repeatedly stalled out against an overmatched defense, confirming that while they may spoil somebody else's season, the BUlls are not likely to wear the conference crown in 2007.

Tennessee (18)
Losing to Cal isn't horrible - it merely confirms that Tennessee will not be contending for a national title in 2007. If I'm a Vols fan, I'm excited to see that the offense hasn't gone into a shell despite losing pretty much the entire receiving corps, but I'm worried about a defense that showed absolutely no ability to stop a good offense when it needed to. In other words, I'm excited about the Vols 2007 defense.

Texas (3)
A win's a win, but this win gives me lots to worry about. The only real positive was the play of the receiving corps, especially Jones who really stepped it up in Pittman's absence. Other than that, McCoy looked like a wide-eyed freshman all over again and the defense gave up nearly 400 yards against a Sun Belt foe. Luckily for Texas, Arkansas State missed two FGs or it could have come down to the wire.

Texas A&M (22)
The wrecking crew defense yielded massive amounts of yardage but just seven points against Championship subdivision Montana State. Sam McGee led the offense rushing the ball but the RBs contributed very little. It's hard to know what to make of the Aggies yet but Fresno State will be a slightly better indicator.

Texas Tech
This blowout was what you'd expect from a good system team. Harrell completed close to 75% of his passes despite throwing the ball 58 times, and the occasional run averaged better than four yards which is good enough for the Red Raiders' offense. Texas Tech starts out most seasons by blowing out a clearly overmatched foe, so there's little predictive value in this weekend's performance.

UCLA (23)
Stanford kept the game close for a half at home, but in the end UCLA's 624 yards total offense, including 338 on the ground and 5 TDs through the air, was just too much. Bell dominated the ground and, while their secondary was torched, the UCLA defense refused to yield ground yardage to the Cardinal.

USC (2)
To be honest I would expect better than this against Idaho from a national title contender - no RB topped 70 yards and no WR topped 50 - but USC dealt with several key (and fortunately, not expected to be lengthy) injuries in Saturday's game. The Trojans did have three turnovers, but they also gave up only 3 points up until garbage time. With LSU blowing out and shutting out Mississippi State, Texas struggling against Arkansas State, and Michigan losing to Appalachian State, the Trojans have nowhere to go but to stay in second place in my rankings. When Patrick Turner returns, the offense should be able to keep up these numbers when playing conference foes.

Virginia Tech (6)
Rumors of Sean Glennon's improvement and a resurgent Va Tech offense were greatly, greatly exaggerated. What wasn't exaggerated was the Hokie defense, which scored as many points as it allowed and provided the go-ahead TD. Ore was held to 70 yards rushing and everyone else was held to 0 or less. The offense turned the ball over three times. It'll be hard to keep this team in the top ten, as I can't help but wonder if they too would have fallen victim to Appalachian State.

Wake Forest
At this point, it's safe to call Wake Forest's 2006 ACC crown a stroke of fortune. With luck on the other side of the field, a four turnover performance of their own negated 14 defensive points in a 38-28 conference setback. The secondary was torched for 408 yards, and while the Deacons passed for 266 of their own that came with four interceptions! The special tems had a 31 yard punting average - not net punt, just the kick. The lone star in this game does to WR Moore, whose 15 catch 126 yard performance topped all receivers. They'll make a bowl game but I don't think we'll be seeing WF ranked in 2007.

Jake Locker ushered in a powerful new Husky offense that scored six rushing TDs against an overmatched Syracuse team. Washington rushed for 302 yards and passed infrequently but efficiently. The defense scarcely allowed a yard on the ground, allowing Washington to dominate throughout the contest. Locker's dual-threat ability combined with Rankin's skills at RB make the Huskies a threat to climb up the Pac 10 rankings.

Washington State
After getting off to a promising 14-7 lead, Washington State was defeated soundly by Wisconsin. There's not much to say about this because that was the expected outcome. I thought Brink could have had a more productive game, starting out well but cooling off for the final three quarters. The defense seemed to do alright against Pat Hill, but allowed Tyler Donovan to destroy them in the air. Overall neither impressive nor disappointing given the expectations on this team.

West Virginia (7)
Pat White looked good in both aspects of his game, Steve Slaton topped 100 yards and had 3 TDs, and Noel Devine scored in his first collegiate game. But I really-really-really-really-really-he-he-he-heally don't like a defense giving up 24 points to Western Michigan. Nobody has won a BCS championship without a strong defense, and if the Mountaineers have that as a goal then they need to figure out how to become an elite defensive team.

Wisconsin (9)
Fears that the offense would crumble and become one-dimensional without Stocco were dispelled as the Badgers passed for 300 yards and 3 TDs against Washington State. The rush defense could have used a little work, but the secondary did good to hold a Pac 10 foe to 170 yards passing. With Michigan's loss to Appalachian State, the Badgers will become the favorite to win the Big Ten, so they need to step up this season to take their program back to the level they were at in 1998-99.