Thursday night college football is fun. The Friday night ESPN game, at least under the magical watch of Joe Tessitore, has become somewhat sneaky over the years. But the college football season truly begins on that first Saturday.
So when I fired up the television Saturday morning, then and only then did it truly feel like "football Christmas" morning. And this year there was the added bonus of an 8 a.m. kickoff over in Dublin, Ireland! Involving my alma mater no less! Could it get any more awesome?!? Seriously, there's something about live sports on television outside of normal "sports watching" hours that amplifies the excitement level. I'm not sure what it is, but I think it's the same hormonal reaction that one gets from a "nooner." An endocrinologist needs to run tests on this.
At any rate, with no Texans game to discuss until next week, let's allow college football to borrow "4 Winners, 4 Losers" this week, shall we?
Let's go with a winner and a loser in four highly critical categories. Here we go...
COACHING DEBUTS Winner: URBAN MEYER, Ohio State. I think we all think it's just a matter of time before Urban Meyer does what he did at Florida, right? Restore a "should be" power to national title-worthy status within two years, put them on the playoff landscape every season starting in 2014, grow exhausted by about 2017, and then leave the program with a cruise-ship-sized wake of discipline issues and overhyped five-star players. With a 56-10 trouncing of Miami (OH), he's off to a good start.
Loser: TONY LEVINE, Houston. Levine was the lock cinch to garner this paragraph, and that was before offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt "chose to resign" Monday morning. The Cougars were 35-point favorites to beat Dennis Franchione's Texas State whatever-they're-calleds, and lost to them by 17, which is the biggest upset in college football since Jim Harbaugh's Stanford Cardinal beat USC as a 40-point underdog in 2007. And, make no mistake, Franchione is no Harbaugh.
This could not have been a bigger disaster for Levine and the Coogs -- at home in Levine's first game. That result alone puts Levine in a spot where he's figuratively hitting like his seventh shot off the tee now with the alumni base. Depending on how the season goes from here, the upheaval in the staff (and I'm guessing Nesbitt's "resigning" is just a euphemism for how the whole process went down) will be viewed either as a first-time head coach panicking or as a bold stroke to get the season back on track. The real shock is not so much that Nesbitt resigned but that he ever got the job to begin with, given his choice of haircut and all.
QUARTERBACK DEBUTS Winner: EVERETT GOLSON, Notre Dame. After last season's Notre Dame opener against South Florida, which featured multiple red zone turnovers and Dayne Crist getting yanked for the season after two quarters in a 23-20 home loss to what ended up being a five-win USF squad, a 50-10 laugher against Navy was just what the doctor ordered for Irish fans.
Everett Golson was solid in his first start (12-18, 144 yards, 1 TD), with the only blemish a second quarter red zone pick as the Irish were trying to go up 27-0. The real story in this game was Notre Dame, without starting tailback Cierre Wood (suspended two games under the new iron-fisted version of Brian Kelly), getting two tailbacks near or above the 100 yard mark, Theo Riddick (107 yards) and George Atkinson III (99 yards).
(By the way, if we can overreact to Week One a little bit, does Notre Dame's schedule, considered before the season to be the hardest in the country, feel a little bit easier given Oklahoma's [24-7 over UTEP] and Standford's [20-17 over San Jose State] struggles against crap teams and Michigan's ass-kicking at the hands of Alabama? Can you give this to me for one week? Please?) Loser: JOE SOUTHWICK, Boise State. Kellen Moore finished his Boise career with a record of 50-3. Within his school's own circle of fandom, there might not be anybody with bigger shoes to fill than Southwick. The bigger story with Boise will be how they adapt to irrelevance for an entire season because the combination of a season-opening loss and starting the year in the polls down in the low 20's means that their annual goal of a BCS bowl bid is off the table completely. How motivated is a team that's been to the big dance going to be now knowing before Labor Day that it's probably going to play in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl?
HEISMAN CANDIDATES Winner: MATT BARKLEY, USC. When you're the clear leader in the clubhouse before you even take a snap -- quarterback for the #1 ranked team in the country -- then all you have to do is establish a sound pace and you're the big winner for the opener weekend. Barkley threw for 372 yards and four touchdowns in a laugher against Hawaii. However, if you're looking for the annual "Week One name that burst onto the scene with a big nationally televised game," then I'll give you Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State tailback, who had 210 yards against Boise State that were equal parts bruising and spectacular. He was all sorts of Herschel Walker-type awesome.
Loser: DENARD ROBINSON, Michigan. 11 of 24 with three interceptions. Denard Robinson's numbers versus Alabama on Saturday? Nope. Those were Denard Robinson's numbers in the Notre Dame game last season, when the Irish inexplicably shit all over themselves with thirty seconds to go in the game, giving up an 80-yard touchdown drive that seriously looked like a scene out of an episode of Friday Night Lights. I bring this up because Robinson's accuracy numbers were strikingly similar (11 of 26, two picks) in the 41-14 thrashing by the Crimson Tide.
People forget that Robinson was horrible for most of that Notre Dame game last season. People forget that about 90 percent of his 338 yards in that game came from his throwing the ball as high as he could and letting Michigan's wide receivers go make a play against Notre Dame's coverage-challenged cornerbacks (miss you, Gary Gray). People forget that if you bottle up Denard Robinson from scrambling and improvising, he is a treat to defend. People forget that Denard Robinson is maybe the most overrated player in college football. Thankfully, Alabama gave us the most emphatic reminder yet. See you in the Alamo Bowl, Denard.
CONFERENCES Winner: BIG 12. Everybody in the league scheduled calisthenics for Week One, glorified football stretching exercises, but unlike some of their BCS conference brethren, there were no near misses or last-minute struggles for the Big 12. The only real sliver of bad news coming out of the weekend was Oklahoma's tussle with UTEP, which was close for way too long. For a conference (and a team, in OU) already struggling to shed the "no real title contender but deep from top to bottom" label, a 24-7 yawner against the Miners didn't really help.
Loser: BIG TEN. From a national perception standpoint, the only really good news for the Big Ten coming out of the weekend was that there were no hiccups in Ohio State's return to national prominence. Outside of that, it was largely a combination of nearly catastrophic close shaves (Iowa by 1 over Northern Illinois, Minnesota in OT over UNLV, Northwestern nearly coughing up a three-touchdown lead to Syracuse, and Wisconsin struggling to put away Northern Iowa) and bad losses (Penn State's official goodbye to relevance in a 10 point home loss to Ohio and, of course, the aforementioned Alabama drubbing of Michigan). Good thing those Big Ten Network checks are still clearing, I guess.
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Honorable mention for Conference Loser: The 2013 Big East. Boise State lost its opener for the first time ever under Chris Petersen. Houston lost at home to Texas State, 30-13. SMU got drubbed in Garrett Gilbert's debut by Baylor. Navy lost by 40 to Notre Dame. Memphis lost at home to Tennessee-Martin (WHO?!? Exactly.) And finally, San Diego State lost at Washington. All six of these teams join the Big East in 2013 in an effort to "rebuild" the conference. All righty, then....
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.