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Thanks to a win over Georgia, Boise State is back in the national title mix.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
The Most Important Things to Take Away From Week 1
Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the five most important things to take away from this weekend.
South Florida upsets Notre Dame – After closing 2010 with a four-game winning streak, the Irish entered 2011 with high expectations. Put those high hopes on hold for now. The Irish drastically outgained South Florida (508 to 254), yet lost five turnovers and dropped their first opener since 2007. The Bulls jumped out to a 16-0 lead at halftime, but had to hold off a furious Irish rally in the second half. Tommy Rees replaced Dayne Crist at quarterback and ended with solid numbers – 24 of 34 for 296 yards and two touchdowns. The Irish defense did a good job of keeping South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels in check and allowed only 254 total yards.
Considering the preseason hype for Notre Dame, it’s certainly a setback for coach Brian Kelly. However, all is not lost. The Irish still have a favorable schedule and a 10-2 record at the end of the year would likely mean a spot in one of the BCS bowls. Although the Irish lost, they outgained the Bulls considerably and who knows what would have happened without the five turnovers.
For South Florida, this was a great way to start off the 2011 season. The Bulls seemed to settle in under Skip Holtz during the second half of last year and carried that momentum into the opener. South Florida will need more from its offense if they want to win the Big East. However, after Week 1, the Bulls look like the top challenger to West Virginia.
Boise State knocks off Georgia – The Broncos have quieted the doubters once again. Boise State defeated Georgia 35-21 on Saturday night, earning its first win over a SEC opponent. Quarterback Kellen Moore turned in another efficient performance, completing 28 of 34 passes for 261 yards and three scores. The Boise State offensive line kept the heat off of Moore all night and not allow a sack. The Broncos methodically picked apart Georgia’s defense, while keeping the Bulldogs’ offense in check. Quarterback Aaron Murray was sacked six times and outside of an 80-yard run by Brandon Boykin, the rushing attack was held to 90 yards.
With the win over Georgia, Boise State is in good position to make another run at the national title. The Broncos could get additional help in the coming weeks, if receiver Geraldo Boldewijn is reinstated back to the team. For Georgia, the thermometer on Mark Richt’s seat continues to get even hotter. The offensive line was a major concern going into the season and continued to be an issue in this game. With a huge matchup against South Carolina this Saturday, Georgia has to quickly put this loss out of its mind and focus on the Gamecocks. Lose to South Carolina and Georgia’s season is officially in trouble.
Oregon falls short against the SEC again – When you want to beat top 10 teams, you can’t afford to have four turnovers. That’s exactly the problem Oregon faced against LSU. The Ducks were down three at halftime to LSU, but a second half marred by turnovers ended any hopes of an Oregon victory. The Ducks ended up with 335 total yards, but a revamped offensive line struggled to hold its own against a very good LSU defensive front. Running back LaMichael James added pounds in the offseason to help with the wear and tear of the schedule, which did not look like a good idea on Saturday night. James struggled much of the game and finished with 54 yards and a score.
A rebuilt Oregon defense struggled to stop LSU’s rushing attack, which allowed the Tigers to control the time of possession. LSU’s Spencer Ware finished with 97 yards on 26 attempts, while Michael Ford collected 94 yards on 14 carries. With Jordan Jefferson suspended, Jarrett Lee took over the No. 1 quarterback duties and completed 10 of 22 passes for 98 yards and a score. With the way the offensive line and defense was playing, Lee wasn’t called upon to make many plays.
Oregon was hardly embarrassed in this game, but still has a ways to go if it wants to contend with the SEC. Although the Ducks will likely win the Pac-12, a matchup against the SEC could await them if they make it back to the national title game. Oregon has the horses to compete at the skill positions, but has to get better in the trenches, particularly against teams with a solid defensive front.
On the other sideline, LSU confirmed its place as a national title contender. The Tigers own one of college football’s top defenses and can squeeze just enough production out of their offense to win games. Lee was solid in place of Jefferson, but what happens if he returns? Will the coaching staff go back to Jefferson or stick with Lee? After an easy matchup against Northwestern State this Saturday, the Tigers have two huge road tests upcoming – Mississippi State and West Virginia.
Russell Wilson shines at Wisconsin – UNLV wasn’t the toughest of openers, but Thursday night was a perfect start for Russell Wilson at Wisconsin. The NC State transfer showed why he was one of the top quarterbacks in the ACC over the last three years, completing 10 of 13 passes for 255 yards and two scores. The senior also added 62 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Wilson didn’t have a whole lot of time to learn the offense since arriving in Madison, but as Thursday night’s performance showed, he is more than ready to lead Wisconsin to a Big Ten title.
Defending champs struggle – With a handful of new faces taking over, Auburn was expected to be a work in progress all year. However, no one expected what took place on Saturday. Utah State gave Auburn all it could handle, nearly pulling off the weekend’s biggest upset. The Tigers were overpowered by Utah State’s rushing attack, while struggling to establish Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb on offense. Lots of new faces will take time to jell, but most expected a better effort from Auburn in the opener. Things won’t get any easier for the Tigers in Week 2, as Mississippi State comes to town.
Friday night thriller – There’s a long ways to go in the college football season, but Baylor-TCU will probably end up on many top lists at the end of the year. Baylor was embarrassed in last year’s matchup and came out for revenge on Friday. The Bears were led by a stellar performance from Robert Griffin, who tossed five touchdown passes and caught a key third-down pass from Kendall Wright. Baylor’s defense came up big in the final moments, picking off a pass from TCU quarterback Casey Pachall to secure the victory.
The win over TCU was huge for Baylor. The Bears continue to improve under Art Briles and will be a difficult out for everyone in Big 12 play. Griffin has a chance to be a Heisman candidate this year, especially after his performance to a national stage on Friday night. Sure, there were some new faces stepping in on the TCU defense, but coach Gary Patterson is one of the top defensive coaches in college football.
The loss to Baylor shows the Horned Frogs have a lot of work to do on both sides of the ball if they want to contend with Boise State for the Mountain West title. Replacing quarterback Andy Dalton was a huge task, but Casey Pachall performed well in the opener and will get better with more snaps.
Quick hits from Week 1
Former Florida coach Urban Meyer made his debut in the booth with ESPN…at Ohio State. Perhaps, some advance scouting for next year?
I understand Lane Kiffin’s philosophy of going for two – if he sees a favorable matchup. However, it nearly cost USC the game on Saturday. I think it’s time to rethink that strategy and take the extra point.
Mother Nature wrecked havoc on the gridiron this weekend. Michigan-Western Michigan and West Virginia-Marshall were each called early due to the weather. Some games were played in less than ideal conditions, including Iowa-Tennessee Tech and Southern Miss-Louisiana Tech. Considering hurricane season lasts until Nov. 30, this may not be the only weekend with a few weather delays.
Unfortunately, it sounds like conference realignment could overshadow the play on the field for the first month of the season. The Big 12 is on the verge of crumbling, while the Pac-12 is in position to score a major coup if Oklahoma decides to go west.
With all of the rumors surrounding the future of the Big 12, a perfect weekend on the field could’ve dimmed the light on the realignment subject. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Kansas State and Iowa State struggled to beat FCS foes, while Missouri was shaky in its opener against Miami, Ohio. At least Kansas took care of business against its FCS opener this year, beating McNeese State 42-24.
It’s not much of a sample size against North Carolina Central, but Rutgers’ freshman running back Savon Huggins passed his first test. Huggins rushed for 31 yards and two scores on 10 carries. If the offensive line and quarterback play continue to show improvement, Rutgers should easily exceed preseason expectations.
Northwestern’s win over Boston College was impressive. The Wildcats were without Dan Persa, but found a way to win. Backup Kain Colter was solid and the defense stepped up in the end. Northwestern hosts Eastern Illinois this Saturday.
The first game for UTSA and former Miami coach Larry Coker was a success. The Roadrunners beat Northeastern State 31-3 and drew 56,743 people to the Alamodome. UTSA will move to FBS play and the WAC next year.
Mike Locksley is fighting for his job at New Mexico and Saturday’s loss to Colorado State won’t help. Even worse was the play of his offensive line, which allowed 10 sacks to a rebuilding Colorado State defensive line.
One of the biggest disappointments from Week 1 was Oregon State’s loss to Sacramento State. Dating back to last season, the Beavers have lost five out of their last six games. One bright spot was the play of true freshman running back Malcolm Agnew, who rushed for 223 yards and three touchdowns.
After suffering a torn ACL against UCLA last year, Houston’s Case Keenum had a solid return to the lineup. The senior completed 30 of 40 passes for 310 yards and two scores, while leading the Cougars to the 38-34 victory.
On the opening week of college football, it’s always interesting to take a look at the new quarterbacks. It looks like AJ McCarron is ahead of Phillip Sims at Alabama. Rob Bolden started for Penn State, but Matt McGloin also received significant action. Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas had a solid debut, while North Carolina’s Bryn Renner completed 22 of 23 throws.
Speaking of debuts...how about new coaches? Ball State’s hire of Pete Lembo already looks like a winner, as the Cardinals knocked off Indiana on Saturday. Michigan’s Brady Hoke is off to a 1-0 start, but will get a bigger test in Week 2 with Notre Dame visiting Ann Arbor. Also, Florida looked great in its debut under Will Muschamp. Keep an eye on the Gators, as they could sneak up on Georgia and South Carolina in the SEC East race.
Looking Ahead to Week 2
A small sample of what’s ahead
Arizona at Oklahoma State (Thursday)
Expect to see a lot of points between these high-powered offenses.
Missouri at Arizona State (Friday)
Can the Tigers shake off a disappointing opener in the desert?
Toledo at Ohio State
Can the preseason MAC favorites pull out an upset in Columbus?
Iowa at Iowa State
Battle for bragging rights in Hawkeye State.
Oregon State at Wisconsin
After losing to Sacramento State, Beavers will have their hands full with Wisconsin.
Mississippi State at Auburn
Tigers defense will have trouble slowing down Mississippi State rushing offense.
Rutgers at North Carolina
After winning easy openers, this matchup will give the nation a better idea about both teams.
Hawaii at Washington
After the Huskies struggled to stop Eastern Washington’s passing attack – here comes Hawaii.
TCU at Air Force
TCU’s defense will have its hands full once again, as they try to stop Air Force’s option offense.
Cincinnati at Tennessee
Would be a solid win for the Big East if the Bearcats can pull off the upset in Knoxville.
Alabama at Penn State
Nittany Lions need better quarterback play to pull the upset.
South Carolina at Georgia
It’s only Week 2, but this game could go a long ways towards deciding the SEC East title.
BYU at Texas
Future Big 12 matchup?
Utah at USC
Neither team overly impressive in Week 1. First Pac-12 game for Utah.
Notre Dame at Michigan
Michigan defense will have a tough time slowing Notre Dame offense.
Taking a look at some of the key players suffering injuries this weekend.
Baylor CB Tyler Stephenson – leg – out indefinitely
Boise State OG Joe Kellogg – knee – could miss a couple of weeks
Boston College DT Kaleb Ramsey – foot – questionable for Week 2
Clemson S Rashard Hall – sprained knee – questionable for Week 2
Georgia OG Kenarious Gates – leg – expected to play in Week 2
Georgia LB Alec Ogletree – foot – expected to miss a couple of weeks
Iowa RB Mika’il McCall – ankle – out for remainder of 2011
Iowa State DE Roosevelt Maggitt – knee – out indefinitely
Memphis RB Jerrell Rhodes – knee – questionable for Week 2
Michigan CB Troy Woolfolk – ankle – questionable for Week 2
Missouri LB Will Ebner – high ankle sprain – out for Week 2
Missouri DE Jacquies Smith – dislocated elbow – out for Week 2
North Carolina FB Devon Ramsay – knee – out for remainder of 2011
Ole Miss RB Brandon Bolden – ankle – doubtful for Week 2
Oregon RB Kenjon Barner – sprained ankle – questionable for Week 2
Oregon RB LaMichael James – ankle – likely to play in Week 2
TCU RB Ed Wesley – shoulder – questionable for Week 2
UCLA QB Kevin Prince – concussion/shoulder – questionable for Week 2
Wake Forest QB Tanner Price – knee – questionable for Week 2
Washington QB Keith Price sprained knee – should play in Week 2
Washington State QB Jeff Tuel – fractured clavicle – out indefinitely
Wisconsin LG Travis Frederick – knee – questionable for Week 2