So Week 1 of the 2016 NCAA Football season was hyped by many as the greatest college week 1 in history. Well, whether or not that is true, it will go down as a great week as we saw upsets and expected amazing performances, but some other crazy things happened.
You had the SEC’s Tennessee and Arkansas both nearly lost to far weaker teams. You had Dabo Swinney nearly coach Clemson out of a win against Auburn. You had Mississippi State implode in a horrific display at home to South Alabama.
You had some issues for teams who could surprise like Kentucky and Washington State. And how can you not talk about how Ole Miss let a 28-6 lead over Florida State turn into a 45-34 loss.
And of course, you had the Blue Bloods like Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, and more do what needed to be done. So here we go with my top five stories from Week 1.
1. My apologies to all West Coast fans, but after this weekend, it is pretty much is clear (at least for now) that the PAC-12 is clearly WAY behind the other conferences. You had USC’s embarrassing loss to top-ranked Alabama. You had Stanford struggle with Kansas State, Arizona losing to BYU, Washington State losing to FCS Eastern Washington, and Oregon State losing to Minnesota. Even Utah wasn’t overly impressive Week 1. The lone saving grace was Washington waxing Big 10 minnows Rutgers. Even as bad of a day as the SEC had, it wasn’t anywhere close.
2. When you go against a program like USC, who is accustomed to having athletes and such and can score with the best, and you hold them to only 190 yards total offense, that is a feat in its own right. The one thing I did notice was Alabama was playing way more man and really attacking against the pass, which is something that was actually lacking in Tuscaloosa in the last few seasons. The tackling was spot on also. Even on the first drive where USC drove well, they earned every yard. They lose what many say as the best defensive coordinator in Kirby Smart to coach Georgia while I think they gained the best defensive coordinator of Jeremy Pruitt FROM Georgia. And really, Pruitt’s specialty is secondary so it isn’t surprising. If this team keeps the defense like it is and keeps injuries at a minimum, the 2011 Alabama squad with that defense has nothing on this group.
3. Don’t get me wrong. I respect Dabo Swinney (even after making fun of him all these years), but how he escaped Auburn was a miracle. Oh wait, Gus Malzahn is the reason for that miracle. Yes, I get pretty much the entire night Clemson pretty much outplayed Auburn and Malzhan’s idiocy of rotating quarterbacks even during drives, especially ones that generated some rhythm and momentum, killed Auburn’s chances. Of course, Dabo nearly put Malzahn off the hook with his “let’s go for it on 4th down when we have a 6 point lead and are in the red zone instead of clinching the game with a FG to win by 9” strategy. Obviously, Dabo didn’t feel like his kicker was worth a flip and calling a sweep right with Auburn having no timeouts was also a head-scratcher. Maybe he recovers, but if he calls those plays against Florida State or Louisville, Clemson will be going to the Gator Bowl instead of any national championship game. As for Malzahn, it seems like Auburn fans are starting to turn on him and more open to the idea of putting the Gus Bus into the pound.
4. Same old, same old for the Fighting Irish defense, or lack thereof. Let’s face it, Notre Dame’s last three big games—Stanford, Ohio State and now Texas—are a stark reminder that the Irish defense isn’t fit for primetime. Not when a group of intelligent student-athletes seem to always find the banana peel to slip on in the game’s critical moments. Everyone in the stadium knew what was coming, and yet, the Irish could not figure it out. People said to not sleep on Texas, and Notre Dame went into “eternal slumber” mode. Brian Van Gorder must figure something out, or this season gets away quick, and after 3 years, it may be time to say good bye.
5. The Houston Cougars are for real. And the Big-12 hieracrchy should have signed them to the conference on the spot. The Cougars showed how good they were last year by beating Florida State in the Peach Bowl, and with almost all of their key players returning – and a stellar incoming recruiting glass – this game was supposed to be the measuring stick as to if Houston was one of the best teams in the country again. Well, they proved it in beating the No. 3 ranked Oklahoma Sooners. The only competitive game Houston has left on the schedule is Louisville, and they get the Cardinals at home. If they’re sitting with a 13-0 record at the end of the season, with wins over two quality teams in Oklahoma and Louisville, they may get in the final four over some one-loss Power 5 conference champions who have fewer quality wins.