Monday, August 28, 2017

First (and 10) Thoughts

By Jean Neuberger

The college football season kicked off this weekend ... and really kicks into gear this Saturday.

As we head into the first big weekend of the year, here's some thoughts about the small slate of games already played and what lies ahead of us in just a few short days.

1) Oregon State is not the highest pressure job in the game. It ranks among the very lowest in terms of pressure and expectations from their fan base. However, Beaver fans have to be cranking the heat a little under Gary Andersen's seat after Colorado State hung 58 points on them this weekend. The Rams, coming off a 7-6 season last year and unranked to start the season, completely outclassed and embarrassed Oregon State on a national stage and if the Rams can score 58 on the Beavers, how much can Washington and Southern Cal hang on them? If Colorado, who beat the Rams 44-7 last year, delivers a repeat performance against Colorado State next week, that rarely-ever hot seat in Corvallis becomes scorching.

2) Speaking of Colorado State, their new stadium is gorgeous. Add to the fact that New Belgium Brewing has a porch in the stadium, serving a beer inspired by their hometown school and you are starting to deliver an on-campus experience that's at the top of the Group of Five schools. If it expands, it's worthy enough to make the Big 12 take a long look should it ever want to expand (hint: it should) and it's got the ability to bring a few Power Five teams into Fort Collins besides Oregon State. Arkansas will be visiting Fort Collins in 2018 and they likely won't be the last big school to do so.

3) It seems as though Sam Darnold is the clubhouse favorite to capture the Heisman Trophy this year. Given that preseason favorites haven't had much luck lately, my early nod will go to Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph. He's got a loaded receiving corps in a conference that's not exactly known for defensive prowess. Conclusion? He'll put up ridiculous numbers and should be in New York come December. If the Cowboys win the Big 12, he'd have to be one of the favorites to win it.

4) The most underrated game of the weekend will take place on Sunday. West Virginia and Virginia Tech has the makings of a wild, fun, high octane shootout. Justin Fuente didn't have too bad of a debut in Blacksburg; he'll have a chance to build on it right away if he can take down the Mountaineers. If anything, it'll be great preparation for both teams for their respective conference slates.

5) If college football wants to gain viewership in Australia, Stanford/Rice was not the answer. The Cardinal's 62-7 thrashing of Rice was a snoozer of a game and provided the good folks in Sydney with no drama whatsoever. Rather, it demonstrated that David Shaw is still a fantastic coach and has yet another loaded team. Bryce Love is certainly a name to watch this season as he had little to no trouble carving up a porous Owls defense.

6) Michigan State had a 2016 that's best to be forgotten from the annuls of Spartan football. Their offseason wasn't especially smooth, as well, with the dismissal of four players and a football staffer. Mark Dantonio had them at the top of the Big Ten just two short years ago. Is last season merely just a bump in the road (which seems most likely) or is it the beginning of a Sparty slide? I have a feeling we'll find out by the third game of the season (Notre Dame) but MSU better not overlook Bowling Green. A loss to the Falcons and there will certainly be angst in East Lansing.

7) Rising from the ashes, UAB returns to the football stage, hosting Alabama A&M this Saturday. This is a triumph for the Blazer football program, which was slashed by President Ray Watts, only to be reinstated after overwhelming disapproval with the decision and inspired efforts from the city of Birmingham. Regardless of the outcome, this is a win for the players whose lives were altered seconds after Watts strolled into their meeting room. Their efforts in trying to build the UAB program were certainly not in vain and they, along with coach Bill Clark, should bask in the glory of the gold helmets running back onto Legion Field.

8) LSU/BYU is currently still slated for a Saturday showdown at NRG Stadium in Houston. Given the catastrophic events happening in Houston, along with the fact that neither Bush nor Hobby airports are able to operate, this game will almost certainly need to be moved. LSU fans would likely strongly favor moving the game to New Orleans, while Cougar fans would be more keen not to move the game to Louisiana, opting more for a Dallas alternative like the Cotton Bowl if it was available. Regardless of the location, I hope that crowds pack the game and donations for those along the Texas Gulf Coast are plentiful (To make a $10 donation from anywhere in the U.S., you can visit http://www.redcross.org, or call 1-800-RED CROSS or text HARVEY to 90999.)

9) Safest team to lose? The loser of the Alabama/Florida State game, as neither team would be out of the national title picture at all with a loss. Alabama would still have to manage their way through the SEC West (though they are heavy favorites to do just that) and Florida State would have to survive a road trip at Clemson, a showdown with Louisville and a finale in Gainesville. However, the result is still the same: there is margin for error with these two teams, so they can both afford to be a little daring in Atlanta.

10) Playoff predictions? I'll go with the following...

Alabama — Until they're not in a playoff, I'll keep picking them.

Washington — Everyone's talking USC. Chris Peterson's team avoids them in the regular season and meets them in the title game. With the pressure on the Trojans, slight edge to the Huskies.

Ohio State — They get in even when they don't win the Big Ten. Penn State could once again spoil their season, but I doubt the Big Ten gets left out of the picture.

Oklahoma State — The Cowboys will slide in just ahead of Florida State, who will win the ACC, but with two losses.

Contents copyright © Sports Central 1998-2017