Monday, 3 September 2012

College Football Week 1 review

Week 1 in College football seems odd.  You had a game taking place in Dublin for the Fighting Irish, you had games on Thursday night for South Carolina, with the superstitious Steve Spurrier (say that fast 5 times) enjoying a tough road trip to Vanderbilt, but winning nonetheless.

The other mystifying occurence is the use of pre-season rankings before anyone has played a down.  So you had USC ranked #1 when they have not played yet, and having to back up all this potential.  The ranking works in two ways, they stay atop of them until they lose or play an absolute stinker in victory.  USC made short work of Hawaii, with Heisman trophy favourite and senior Matt Barkley throwing for 372 yards and four TDs; helped by wide receiver Marqise Lee who caught 10 passes for 197 yards and returned a punt 100 yards for a TD.  USC had so much on offence but the defence will face sterner tests throughout the year, most notably from Oregon, #5, who scored heavily as always 57-34 at home to Arkansas State.

The most impressive performance however was Alabama, the National Champions, who having lost a lot of defensive starters did maintain the offensive line and have a good QB in AJ McCarron.  In a tough opener at Cowboys Stadium against the respected Michigan Wolverines of the Big Ten, led by senior Denard Robinson, the Crimson Tide were never threatened scoring three 1st quarter TDs in a 41-14 victory.

The team they beat in New Orleans in January, LSU also won 41-14 but against lesser opposition in North Texas; at the moment though for LSU following the Tyrann Mathieu suspension, they need to go about their business and yet the Tide and Trojans enjoy the spotlight.

What did come to the fore however, is the gulf between the SEC and other conferences.  The depth of talent in the SEC is significant with victories for Georgia (#6, 45-23 v Buffalo), Arkansas (#10, 49-24 v Jacksonville St), Clemson (#14, 26-19 v Auburn; a real barn-burner to start the season) and Florida (#23, 27-14 v Bowling Green).

The best individual performance that put down a marker for the season was by Geno Smith, quarterback for the West Virginia Mountaineers, who in their first game in a new conference having moved from the Big East to the Big 12 defeated Marshall 69-34. Smith completed 32 of 36 attempted passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns, one rushing TD with no interceptions.

The Big 12 have some ground to make up on the dominant SEC but with the WVU high powered offence joining the powerhouses of Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State expect West Virginia and Smith to be making some notable headlines this season.

What to look forward to?
In Week 2, a lot of programs have picked winnable games for home openers (South Carolina play East Carolina); but you still have some interesting contests.  The LSU Tigers host Washington, Missouri new to the SEC from the Big 12 host #6 Georgia.  However, the game of the weekend could be Nebraska visiting UCLA; as below the Bruins have a high powered offence led by QB Brett Hundley and RB Johnathan Franklin, they can score heavily unlike some of the Big 10 teams did over the weekend.

Notable performances
UCLA's Johnathan Franklin rushed for 214yds on 15 carries and 3 TDs against Rice in their season opener with a long of 78 and a 74 yarder. Not to be out done his QB Brett Hundley ran for a 72yd TD.  This was not a career night for Franklin, who ran for 216 in 2010 v Washington State.

Utah may be a sleeper in the Pac12 and opened with a 41-0 shutout over Northern Colorado; Jordan Wynn threw for 2 TDs (19-27, 200) and John White ran for 119yds in a one-sided contest.

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