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College Football Week One: Sound and Fury That Signifies Nothing?

September 5, 2014

The beginning of the first season of the rest of our lives where we have an actual playoff to settle everything "on the field" leaves me slightly confused. What I mean is, how much weight does what happens in week one carry? I guess it's the same as every year, with wins by Texas A&M and Georgia looking pretty swell right now. But what happens if South Carolina and Clemson just simply aren't that good? It seems as though entrance into the college football version of the "Final Four" is mostly going to be determined by the conference championship games (or whoever emerges as the Big 12 regular season champs). Even so, right now is all about winning games and trying to jostle for position to be in the running at the end. As a former cross-country runner, I can appreciate that. On to the first week superlatives, with some observations from a game I covered for Stats Inc.                                        

Years ago I stumbled upon maybe the greatest side income job imaginable. I lucked into something where you get paid to watch football, simply imputing the action from the game into a database. StatsInc provides stats to outlets like ESPN and CBS. So anytime you can't watch a game, but you're checking stats and scores from your phone, that data is coming from someone like me making 50 bucks a game to do so. You're welcome, America. I had the Arkansas-Auburn game on Saturday, and this is some of what I saw:

Arkansas is starting to morph into Wisconsin: The Hogs regularly featured the running game, and it kept them in the game in the first half, where it was 21-21. They literally have a LT that is 6'10, 315 pounds. They kept Auburn off balance with a controlled passing game set up by bursts off tackle by running backs Alex Collins, Jonathan Williams, and Korliss Marshall. All of this means absolutely nothing, however, because they play in the SEC West. The Hogs are better than last year, but good luck playing half of your games against five teams currently in the top 20, and one (Mississippi St) just outside the top 25. Throw in Georgia, Missouri, and non-conference games against Northern Illinois and Texas Tech, and this smells like 2-10 from a mile away.

D'Haquille Williams is the real deal: Despite losing Tre Mason and Greg Robinson a year early, Auburn could have a better offense this season than the one they had last year. Cameron Artis-Payne showed he's more than capable as a replacement (26 carries, 177 yards). They have two more than capable QB's, and now they have an absolute stud in Williams. The number one rated JC prospect according to Phil Steele completely owned the middle of the field, essentially just getting to his spot, and then taking off up field with little Arkansas resistance. He ended up with 9 catches out of 16 completed passes for 154 yards and a TD. Last year, it almost seemed like smoke and mirrors when Auburn completed a long pass to Sammie Coates or Ricardo Louis, but now Auburn has someone who could go in the top 15 of the draft to go along with one of the best running attacks in football.

Auburn still has a long way to go: As much as I liked what the offense was able to do, the defense just got gashed in the first half. There was no pass rush to speak of, which was surprising given that there seemed to be a lot of depth coming back, even with the loss of Dee Ford. They did hold Arkansas to 61 total yards and 0 points in the second half, but much of that could have been chalked up to an almost two hour rain delay in the fourth quarter. They have to also deal with all the same teams I mentioned above from the SEC West, so the schedule and the defense could be their undoing in trying to make it back to the Championship Game.

                                                      Week 1 Superlatives

Best QB: Kenny Hill, Texas A&M: I've decided to cheat on Notre Dame with the Aggies from College Station. I almost went there with the Johnny Football Experience the last two seasons, but now with the Aggies cranking out an assembly line of quarterbacks and receivers like they have during the Sumlin era, it's official. Hill, or Kenny Trill as he now wants to be known, completed 73 percent of his passes, threw for 511 yards and put himself right in the middle of Heisman contention. He has a lot of help with the receivers and his offensive line, but he looked like a ten year NFL vet helping A&M put up 52 on the road against a top 10 team. I know have an SEC team to cheer for.

Best RB: Todd Gurley, Georgia: Spencer Hall is one trillion times better than me, so just read what he wrote and that will pretty much some things up. A opener of 15 carries for 196 and three TD's, plus a kickoff return for a touchdown.Gurley will test the NFL's propensity lately to not pick running backs in the first round, because-should he come out after his junior year-he could get picked really high. Georgia has four running backs with Keith Marshall, Nick Chubb, and Sony Michel that all could contribute if Gurley gets dinged up again this season.

Best WR: Rashad Greene, Florida St: Greene's 11-203 stat line was good for 44% of all completed passes on the day, and 55% of their total receiving yard haul for the day against a better than expected Oklahoma St. squad. The senior had that" seems like he's been in college for eight years" thing going on, sort of like Aaron Craft had last college basketball season. Winston obviously trusts him more than some of the younger receivers stepping in for Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin, so look for these numbers to continue. 

Best DL: Danny Shelton, Washingon: Washington looked horrible in the opening game of the Chris Peterson era, but Shelton racked up 12 tackles, 2 sacks, and 3 TFL's. Shaq Thompson gets most of the defensive publicity, but Shelton leads a D-Line with all four starters back. Most of the offensive talent from last year is in the NFL, so Shelton and the defense might have to lead the way if the Huskies consider themselves contenders in the Pac 12.

Best LB: Amarlo Herrera, Georgia: Georgia was impressive on both sides of the ball, and Herrera and fellow linebacker Leonard Floyd each had two sacks. Herrera added 12 tackles and 3.5 TFL's in a bigger than expected rout against Clemson. Georgia looks to be the best team in the SEC East, but we'll find out in Week 3 when they travel to Columbia to take on a wounded South Carolina team.

Best DB: Jalen Mills, LSU: Tanner McEvoy is not going to make anyone in Madtown forget Russell Wilson anytime soon, but Mills gets the nod here because they held the Badgers to under 100 yards passing. The junior had 4 tackles and a pick, acting as the leader for a young and extremely talented secondary.

Week 2 Picks

I'll go with Ohio State barely getting by VT, Michigan State upsetting Oregon, Stanford beating the USC Pathological Liars, and Notre Dame beating Michigan by double digits.


Michael Langston said...

Introduce yourself to AJ Johnson. The Vols defense may not be up to SEC standard but he is the best LB in the SEC. Against Utah State, he did it all. Forced a fumble on kickoff coverage, caught an interception and added 10 tackles. The man was a Freshman All-American, All-SEC last season and Pre-Season All-SEC and All-American for this season. He has led the Vols in tackles over the last two seasons and (barring injury) will become the first Vol to lead the team in tackles in three seasons. He is a beast who will certainly be added to the ring of honor in Knoxville.

September 7, 2014 at 10:36 AM
Bryan Harvey said...

I have no problem with the conference championships playing a huge factor in deciding who gets into the Playoff. In many ways, that makes college football more like high school. Win your division (akin to the district) and you get into the conference title game. The conference title game then acts as a regional final. And, in that line, the national semi-finals are the equivalent of making the state playoff. In many ways, this could make each conference title game matter more because not only do teams need to win now but they also need to impress.

For much of the last decade, a lot of the conference titles had little impact on anything. Personally, I would pretty much only watch the SEC game and maybe a Big 12 game in which an exciting matchup was presented (usually involving Texas/Oklahoma and then another team that upon winning would send the BCS into a chaotic tailspin). Unless you just love every minute of every college football game, you had no incentive to watch any other conference's title games. Now these conference championship games carry the potential for the kind of excitement that existed with your major bowl games prior to the BCS, where you had to watch multiple games in order to have an opinion of who should be the national champ (because most likely the contenders weren't playing each other). The playoff, I think, has a real chance to give us the craziness that existed prior to the BCS and to possibly do what the BCS couldn't always, which is offer up a more legit. title game. Fingers crossed, this could be the best of both worlds.

September 7, 2014 at 1:30 PM

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