Week 1 Wonder
Takeaways from College Football's Glorious Return
Week 1 Wonder – Takeaways from College Football’s Glorious Return
After a weekend of glorious college football action – with full stands of jubilant (or sometimes despondent) fans – it’s hard to just move to the next week without some analysis. I may not do this after every week of the season but there were such monumental shifts and swerves to conventional wisdom that it merits discussion.
First, let’s look at the Three Top Coaching Performances of Week 1:
Virginia Tech - Justin Fuente: Left for dead all offseason by most pundits (and leading yours truly’s ACC coaching hot seat list), the Hokies rode a fantastic defensive game plan, an effervescent crowd and solid-if-not-spectacular QB play to upset pre-season darling North Carolina. We’ll see if this is a blip or if Virginia Tech can swing back up to their old standard. But I can’t stress enough that Fuente was, in the minds of many, as good as fired before this game and his team came out and really held down UNC.
Chip Kelly – UCLA: We’ve been waiting to see “Oregon Chip” and – while it looks a little different in the sense of how spread UCLA is, we are finally getting that physical running game with multiple looks. LSU had no answers in the second half – including failing over and over again to cover simple mesh and drag route concepts. What was even more surprising was how tough and physical the Bruin defense was. LSU made a few plays but largely was under control in the 4th quarter.
Steve Sarkisian – Texas: Many people thought this opener against Louisiana was an upset-watch candidate. I felt the game would be close. Sark got the team pulling in the same direction quickly with a convincing win over one of the best G5 teams on paper in the country. Now they go on the road to Arkansas which will be a modest test – but credit to the Horns, Sark and their coaching staff.
Honorable mention: Nick Saban - Alabama, Willie Fritz, Tulane
Second, the Three Worst:
Randy Edsall – Uconn: Lost by two scores to FCS Holy Cross. Edsall already out as of yesterday as UConn coach – the Huskies may not have much FBS future but at least they are rid of this guy and his awful contract.
Jimmy Lake – Washington: Losing to an FCS program (even a good one like Montana) is bad enough for any Power 5 team but especially one with the proud tradition of Washington and the expectations going into the season. Also – the way they lost (13-7 – only 7 points against the Grizz) calls into question whether Jimmy Lake can put together a complete program. Lots of questions on offense and they get to travel to Michigan next.
Geoff Collins - Georgia Tech: Losing to a pretty down Northern Illinois program at home is bad. Mismanaging game situations, timeouts and other basic moves is even worse. This was supposed to be at least somewhat of a proof of concept year for Collins coming off of two years flipping from the triple option. Not looking great so far, we’ll see if it improves.
Dishonorable Mention: Dana Holgorsen, Houston, Mack Brown, North Carolina
Finally – main storylines from Week 1:
What the F…CS?
Six (6!) FCS teams prevailed over FBS opponents, including 3 Big Sky teams prevailing over Mountain West, American and PAC 12 competition respectively. The biggest shocker was Washington (a preseason PAC 12 North trendy pick) losing to Montana. Also, the specter of an SEC team (even Vanderbilt) losing by 20 points to East Tennessee State was absolutely bizarre. It seems that the competitive balance is getting closer – the fact that many FCS teams have almost their entire teams back due to COVID eligibility requirements may be a big factor – but a lot of G5 teams do as well.
ACC & PAC 12 in Trouble
Neither conference did well on the opening weekend in cross-conference competition. The ACC had Clemson losing, Miami getting thumped, Coastal favorite Carolina going down to Virginia Tech (at least that was a net net thing for ACC) and Louisville getting curb-stomped. The PAC 12 had a huge bright spot with UCLA beating LSU impressively (although I’m worried the Tigers may not be very good) but having one of their flagship programs Washington lose to an FCS opponent and upset losses for Cal/Washington State plus near-disaster for Oregon and for Oregon State was a bad look. The only bright spot is that most of them happened on PAC 12 Network which basically no one can see (unless you are on West Coast or have Sling Sports Extra).
What Happened at the Top?
Alabama looks dominant on both sides of ball, Georgia manhandles Clemson’s offense, everyone else in top 6-7…meh…? I’d give a lot of credit to Ohio State – they had some shaky moments but generally performed well in a very tough Thursday night road game against Minnesota – who looks like a pretty good team in the B1G West. Other than that, there was a lot of underperformance from the top 10 in general.
Stay tuned for Week 2’s “Most Meaningful Matchups” coming later this week. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @ReadyCFB to argue or agree and see my takes throughout the week – but especially on Saturday as the Smorgasbord that is College Football rolls on!