College Football Opening Weekend — 4 Winners, 4 Losers
What a glorious weekend, the first of fourteen consecutive Saturdays that will be spent tracking, monitoring, and God willing, watching intently (with a remote in my hand) the 2015 College Football season. It's strange, despite having the first ever preseason unanimous AP number one team in Ohio State, a potentially historical team, it's never felt more wide open. Maybe it's an effect of the College Football Playoff allowing four teams hope at the end of the year, I'm not sure.
But after the first weekend, it would seem that the pundits were pretty accurate thus far with the top dozen or so teams, at least the ones who were supposed to have marquee match ups (Alabama, Notre Dame, Auburn). Also, it looks like they may need to add a few teams to the mix, most notably Texas A&M, who trounced Arizona State (and poor Todd Graham, snicker) 38-17 right her win Houston, Texas!
In fact, let's start there in the first "4 Winners, 4 Losers" of the college football season….
4. John Chavis
After a 2014 regular season that ended in a 2-5 finish, and included a 59-0 thumping by Alabama, Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin had to do something about the defense. Enter former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis, whose defenses in Baton Rouge were among the top ten in the country perennially and sent gaggles of players on to the NFL. There's plenty of material in College Station, but they needed a maestro to conduct the orchestra. Chavis is that maestro. On Saturday, the effects of one offseason under his tutelage were on full display — eight sacks, 314 total yards, 2.5 yards allowed per rush attempt — against one of last season's most prolific offenses. A&M and Kevin Sumlin with an actual defense is pretty frightening to think about.
3. Malik Zaire
The Zaire Era really started in last season's bowl game when he led the Irish to a win over LSU in the Music City Bowl. It continued during the offseason when he held off Everett Golson for the starter's role in 2015 (which, for all intents and purposes, chased Golson off campus), and continued resoundingly Saturday night in a 38-3 trouncing of Texas. Questions for Zaire centered around his accuracy, we all knew he found run. However, if Week 1 is any indicator, the Irish have a true dual threat QB — 19-22, 313 yards, and three touchdowns. And Texas' head coach Charlie Strong all of a sudden is watching his career dissipation light flashing.
2. Derrick Henry
Derrick Henry is the closest thing that I've ever seen to a video game character on a football field. At 6-3, 242 pounds, he shouldn't be able to do the things he does. On Saturday night, those things included 13 carries for 147 yards and three touchdowns against a pretty good Big Ten team (Big Ten, all relative, I know). I have no idea how Henry translates to the next level, since Trent Richardson has officially made me question my evaluation of every Alabama running back now, but I know we need to see Henry touch the ball more than 13 times a game. There was an old saying about Michael Jordan in college — the only person who could hold him under 20 points was Dean Smith, his coach, who liked to share the ball. The same might end up being said about Henry and Bama OC Lane Kiffin.
1. Josh Rosen
Virginia is nothing great, but they're not an FCS team either. Rosen, UCLA's true freshman QB, who is like ten months removed from going to his homecoming dance, shredded the Cavaliers defense to the tune of 28-35 for 351 yards and three touchdowns. That's a pretty damn impressive debut. We'll see how it goes for him once opposing defensive coordinators get a book on him, As for Virginia, next week they go from facing Rosen to facing Zaire. Rough, unexpected early patch of schedule.
4. Mike Riley
The folks at Nebraska have been craving a winner for some time. Bo Pelini's winning nine games every season wasn't enough, so he was canned. They brought in Mike Riley, who averaged less than seven wins a season for over a decade at Oregon State. Seems like they traded down, and after this little sequence to close out the season opener against BYU, how much they feel in Lincoln?
Keep in that's the backup QB for BYU, Tanner Mangum, as their regular QB Taysom Hill left the game with an injury. I've rooted for teams that have lost season openers to BYU before (Notre Dame 2004). It doesn't end well. Ask Ty Willingham.
3. Parents at the Kansas State game
So the theme at Kansas State's halftime show yesterday had something to do with Star Trek. (Why? I have no idea.) Well, apparently, the Wildcat marching band lined up in a formation with the Kansas Jayhawk (arch rivals!) mascot on the left and the "Starship Enterprise" on the right. The only problem was the Starship Enterprise looked a lot like a penis and balls. And when the Starship began marching toward the Jayhawk, it magically took dead aim at flying into the Jayhawk's mouth. Observe, the magic of Big XII rivalries played out via marching band…..
The people I feel really sorry for are the parents bringing their kids to their first college football game, and having to explain fellatio at halftime. You should at the very least have to wait until the first time you've walked in on your kids viewing porn to have to have that conversation. And what exactly is a proportional response to this for Kansas? Depicting the Wildcat in a bondage rack? Maybe a Pulp Fiction Gimp suit? Have the Wildcat make out with the Oklahoma State cowboy, and kill two bird with one stone? I'm actually excited for a Kansas game for the first time since Mark Mangino looked like he might explode every Saturday.
2. Christian Hackenburg
Hackenburg, Penn State's cement footed junior QB, was sacked ten times — TEN TIMES! — while going 11-25 for 103 yards and an interception in a season opening loss to Temple…..and I swear I hear that Bill O'Brien is going to someday draft him for the Texans.
1. David Shaw
You all remember Butch Davis, right? Restored the luster to Miami after NCAA sanctions, restocked the talent cupboard, and after several 3 and 4 loss seasons, finally went 11-1 in 2000, and took off to the NFL (or to the Cleveland Browns, which is technically the NFL, but barely)? You remember him. Here were his yearly records at Miami:
Butch Davis left behind a wealth of talent that allowed his on-staff replacement Larry Coker to win a national championship in 2001 and almost win another in 2002. But alas, Coker was fool's gold, and eventually he was unable to ride the backdraft of Davis any longer, and after 2006 and a steady downward trend, Coker was fired:
Now, you remember Jim Harbaugh when he was at Stanford, right? Took over a team that was 1-11 the year before, but within four years, he'd made it an NFL factory, and had them 12-1 and winning the Orange Bowl before he then left for the 49ers head coaching job? Here were his yearly records at Stanford:
Well, after Harbaugh left, the on-staff replacement in waiting was David Shaw, who rode the momentum of Andrew Luck and Harbaugh's recruiting classes to success for a few years. However, last season they were 8-5, and Saturday they scored 6 points in a loss to Northwestern. Here's Shaw's record:
Coker and Shaw have eerily similar in career arcs. The only difference is that two seasons ago, Shaw was a hot NFL name (Coker never got NFL love.), but he chose to stay at Stanford. He may wind up regretting that choice, although he'd really have to bottom out to get fired from Stanford, which is probably not going to be quick to cut loose a coach that can win 8 games each season, assuming Shaw can.
It does seem that the halcyon days of Stanford mattering on the national landscape may soon be over. And I'm kind of glad. That always felt weird seeing them good at football.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.
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