Well, the first week of NCAA football is in the books, and it was one of the wildest in history. Two top five teams lost: #3 Oklahoma to # 15 Houston, and #5 LSU to an unranked Wisconsin. #4 Florida State overcame the largest deficit in its storied history to stick it to Ole Miss in the second half.
Texas coach Charlie Strong demonstrated the only proper use of a two-quarterback system, putting the ball into true freshman Shane Buechele’s hands on the field and trusting Tyrone Swoopes in a lethal “18-wheeler package” to upend #10 Notre Dame in the double overtime game of the weekend.
Clemson, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Florida struggled with inferior opponents. USC got stomped by #1 Alabama; #16 Texas A&M held off UCLA in overtime; and the B1G continued its conference policy of pounding hapless FCS programs into the ground (with the notable and successful exception of Wisconsin). And of course, the resultant upheaval has turned the AP Poll upside down.
But through it all, Fact or Fanatic went 5-0 on Week One picks. Thus encouraged, we’ll try again this week with a relatively light slate of major games and see how we fare. But first, let’s take a look at some of the latest truisms revolving around college football fandom.
The SEC Is Overrated
Every year at some point, this refrain gets high play on fan message boards – a puzzling development considering that the conference sent 10 teams to bowl games including eventual champion Alabama. In those 11 games, the SEC went 9-2. So yes – baffling. And also fanatic, fueled by a lot of wishful thinking. There were inexplicable losses and stumbles, but the SEC still has six ranked teams in the top 25 and a couple more who can legitimately be ranked in the next few weeks.
The AP Poll voters are all members of the media who, let us be frank, proved they didn’t have much of a clue about how good some teams were. Knee-jerk reactions rarely end with credible results. So if you’re crowing over the fall of the SEC, don’t. Crow is only tasty with salt and pepper.
The Big Ten Always Plays Cupcakes Early
This season has already proven this to be fact save for two teams, which we’ll get to in a minute. Let’s take a look at some of their opponents in week one: Furman, Florida International, Howard, Western Michigan (who beat Northwestern 22-21), Bowling Green, Miami of Ohio, Eastern Kentucky, and Hawaii (who came back from Australia to play Michigan, Kent State and Murray State). Two teams I exclude: first, obviously, Wisconsin playing LSU in Lambeau Field, where a speedy SEC team learned the hard way about Wisconsin-coached lines.
Other than Nebraska, which we’ll get to in a minute, the entirety of the B1G conference beat the crap out of their opponents and are now bragging about conference dominance. Good luck with that. Unless the B1G schedules better opponents across the board, they will always be scrambling at the end of the season wondering if their one-loss conference champion will make the playoff, and that, friends, is fact.
Class Act of the Week: Nebraska is the other exception to the previous fact. Fresno State is a legit Mountain West opponent. But Nebraska deserves a special shout-out and Fresno State does as well. The Cornhuskers’ 10-man formation on a punting down to honor Sam Foltz, who recently was killed in a car accident after leaving a kicking camp, brought grown men to tears.
Fresno State turned down the resultant penalty, in a gesture that was as classy as it was sympathetic. Nebraska has a history of these generous gestures, as with this moment in 2013 when they vainly tried to keep seven year-old Jack Hoffman out of the end zone in their spring game. A team has never celebrated such a colossal breakdown of defenses with such joy and excitement, all to make a young pediatric cancer patient’s dreams come true:
Bravo, Nebraska. You set an example for all NCAA sports on a regular basis with these displays of human emotion and respect. Bravo.
Trash Moment of the Week
This moment didn’t come when LSU’s O-lineman Josh Boute blasted Wisconsin’s D’kota Dixon in the waning minutes of the LSU-Wisconsin game. No, it came when LSU suspended Boute for only one meaningless game.
But there was another moment, one lost in the shuffle that is Week One of college football, and that came when USC DE Jabari Ruffin stomped Alabama’s Minkin Fitzpatrick in the groin. The mainstream media ignored that blatant foul in their rush to judgment on Boute.
So while Boute was classless and his punishment was ridiculous, the mainstream media gets the trash moment of the week for hyping one moment while ignoring the other.
This Week’s Picks
We didn’t expect to start out 5-0, but we’ll take what we can get. This week’s lineup of games isn’t stacked with marquee matches, so that makes picking more challenging. So let’s see how we do.
Arkansas versus TCU: Conventional wisdom says to go with the #15 Horned Frogs in this one. Arkansas looked, frankly, bad last week against Louisiana Tech. But TCU struggled to put South Dakota State, and let them score 41 points and gain 467 yards total offense. Arkansas’s measly 297 yards on offense should be able to score against the Horned Frogs’ porous defense, and if the Razorbacks find a running game this week TCU might be in trouble. In the end, that’s what the game hangs on, and new QB Kenny Hill might not be as prolific against Bielema’s stout defense. So while wisdom and the ESPN FPI say to go with the Frogs, I’m thinking WooPigSuey is going to be howled over a frog-legs feast. Arkansas 38 TCU 35
Penn State versus Pitt: It’s great to see this long-missed rivalry back on the schedule. Last played in 2000, the 2016 matchup looks like a running back feast. Both teams feature outstanding RBs, Penn State’s Saquon Barley and Pitt’s James Connor. Again, conventional wisdom makes us want to lean toward Penn State, where James Franklin has been building a great roster. But we’re more inclined to go with Pitt, whose defense looks fierce. With veteran Nathan Peterson under center we’re looking for the Panthers to pounce. Pitt 28 Penn State 24
Baylor versus SMU: Yeah, we know. Not much of a matchup, but we have our reasons. We’ve picked the game with SMU, who suffered under a lethal NCAA death penalty for years, and Baylor, who looks to be edging closer to that path itself. Add to that the appearance of disgraced coach Art Briles on ESPN’s College GameDay (more on that later) and the glare will cause sunburns in Waco’s brand new and expensive stadium. SMU’s coach is trying to build a roster, while Baylor interim coach Jim Grobe inherited an amazing roster of players who’ve been beaten up thanks to the scandal. This game isn’t really that much of a tossup because the talent disparity is so huge. But we’re picking it anyway, for the sheer irony of it. Baylor 58 SMU 10
LSU versus Jacksonsville State: What? You’re probably looking at this game and thinking we’ve lost our minds. We haven’t. The loss to Wisconsin last week took LSU from Final Four contender to dumpster fire, and coach Les Miles isn’t on the hot seat but the scorching couch. LSU fans have raised an uproar that is resonating through the bayous. But Jacksonville State is sneaky good – the FCS national champions, in fact, who took Auburn to the wire last year. Now they’re eying the Tigers behind the strong arm of senior quarterback Eli Jenkins. The spread offense has alway given a Les Miles team fits, and with the offense in shambles LSU had better shape up fast. With a limping Leonard Fournette and a shell-shocked roster, it’s a harder challenge that LSU fans want to see. But we think LSU pulls it out – barely. LSU 28 Jacksonville State 27
Tennessee versus Virginia Tech: Both these teams had puzzling first weeks. The Volunteers came out flat and barely scraped by a scrappy and well-coached Appalachian State, while the Hokies struggled against a surprisingly fast Liberty team and pulled away late. The Hokies’ new quarterback, junior college transfer Jerod Evans, struggled early before settling down after halftime. Joshua Dobbs is the brain of the three-headed monster that is Tennessee’s backfield, with dark horse Heisman candidate Jalen Hurd and all-around back Alvin Kamara giving the Tennessee offense a constant run threat. The Virginia Tech defense is fast and well-coached, but if the Tennessee passing game gets going, the three-headed monster may very well turn into Cerberus, who welcomed ancient Greeks into the Underworld. Might just be just that kind of night at Bristol Motor Speedway in front of the largest crowd to ever attend a college football game. Get ready: Rocky Top will be played a lot. Tennessee 35 Virginia Tech 10.
Trash Moment of Week Two: Yes, it’s already happened. Art Briles’s “apology” in an interview with ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi was as sincere as campaign promises. Add that to ESPN College GameDay bringing him onto the set of the Battle at Bristol, and there’s a double whammy. We’ll more than likely award this officially next week, but for now we’ve got nothing but a big thumbs-down for Briles’s blatant weaseling back into the coaching hire game and ESPN’s willingness to let him grandstand on Saturday. And even a fanatic will agree that such a ploy is classless, and that’s a fact.