It’s a natural human reaction. See something, deduce results. After one week of college football, though, those reactions are more accurately categorized as overreactions.
Here are a few things you might believe after Week 1. Are you off base or on the right track? I’m grading each overreaction on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being least legit to 10 being stone cold truth.
Texas’ season is hopeless.
Believability scale: 8
Longhorns coach Charlie Strong warned on Monday that David Ash’s injury and absence against BYU isn’t "the end of the world." And technically, he’s right. The Longhorns will play on Saturday and Strong has to get his team ready.
However, this is Texas’ doomsday scenario. Ash’s injury is likely the death blow to any real hopes Texas had of being a factor in the Big 12 title race. With Ash healthy, Texas had a chance to win 9-10 games. When I picked Texas to go 6-6 this season I did so believing Ash wouldn’t be on the field for Texas all season. Still, with my analyst hat off and my human being hat on, it’s gut-wrenching to see him fight through the head and foot injuries he’s dealt with over the past year and not be able to stay on the field. It’s even more alarming that a) the head injury supposedly re-occurred on the first hit he took all year and b) symptoms didn’t re-appear until well after the game was done. That’s got to be scary for Ash, who now has to make some real decisions about how much he wants to risk in order to play football.
Getting back on the field would be a reckless decision for Ash right now, and Texas’ medical staff may have some responsibility to prevent it from happening.
Losing starting center Dom Espinosa was a big enough blow that made beating BYU or UCLA a very, very difficult task, but the degree of difficulty just went through the roof.
Maybe Ash returns at some point this year, but considering how quickly his head injury issues returned, the far more likely scenario is Texas plays the majority of the 2014 season without Ash on the field. No player in the conference–save perhaps Bryce Petty–more dramatically alters his team’s record with his absence.
The only thing that can save Texas’ season is if Tyrone Swoopes looks like a markedly improved player from a year ago, but in his time on the field his accuracy has looked shaky. With no experience, Texas is most likely left to spend 2014 laying a foundation for future successes.
Iowa State won’t win a Big 12 game this year.
Believability scale: 2
Iowa State is more talented than many realize, even without Quenton Bundrage, who will miss the season with a torn ACL. Still, you can’t discount how good Iowa State looked when it racked up a 14-0 lead against North Dakota State. The Bison are a good team (they’d be a MAC title contender), and ISU looked borderline dominant.
The defensive success was probably not what you can expect for most of the season (as evidenced by the game’s final three quarters), but the loss of center Tom Farniok had a much more dramatic impact on the offense. An O-line that mauled NDSU’s front seven for the first few drives looked lost and unmotivated for the rest of the game, and ISU looked like it gave up in the fourth quarter.
"When you lose a player of his experience and talent, you can’t counteract that. You can’t create a guy that’s just as good," Rhoads said Monday. "It certainly hurt our offense, but is that the reason we got shutout the rest of the way? No."
NDSU began tightening up its man coverage in the passing game and taking away Iowa State’s run game. The Cyclones’ inability to override those adjustments with a talent edge is a concern, but Sam Richardson looked much improved and has talented guys around him in TE E.J. Bibbs, running backs Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy as well as five-star recruit/true freshman Allen Lazard, who caught a 48-yard pass on Saturday and will step into Bundrage’s starting spot.
The loss does make reaching a bowl game seem close to impossible, but Iowa State has talented pieces, and the Cyclones will win at least two Big 12 games this year.
Baylor’s defense will be dominant.
Believability scale: 3
When I was talking to Baylor’s players after Sunday’s game, even the receivers couldn’t stop raving about the defensive line. Unprompted, Jay Lee spent two minutes praising Baylor’s freakishly talented, deep defensive line that helped Baylor rack up a school-record nine sacks on Sunday night.
It’s all warranted, and shutting out an opponent is impressive. However, it doesn’t really tell us much about Baylor’s defense as a whole. The defense won’t be bad, but it’s not going to be to the level of Oklahoma’s, Texas’ or maybe even TCU’s. SMU had no answer for Baylor’s defensive line. Neither quarterback SMU trotted out had the talent to complete passes down the field and the Mustangs didn’t have any athletes capable of turning quick hitches into real gains.
It was alarming to see just how out-manned SMU was, and the Ponies will have a tough time reaching the postseason as an AAC member.
Better, more athletic, experienced offenses will expose some of Baylor’s inexperience in the back seven, but SMU had no chance when the Bears were able to constantly apply pressure with three and four-man rushes.
Tyreek Hill is the Big 12’s best offensive skill player.
Believability scale: 5
Bryce Petty was in pain and missed on deep balls he usually hits, logging a pedestrian stat line of 160 yards on 13-of-23 passing. Tyler Lockett caught just one pass for nine yards.
Hill, meanwhile, was the best player on the field for much of Oklahoma State’s loss to Florida State, racking up 278 all-purpose yards.
He’s going to be a star, but in some ways, Florida State looked unprepared for what Hill could do. Often, the Seminoles defense took bad angles and underestimated his speed. Big 12 teams may be able to adjust in some ways as Hill puts more on tape and teams learn a little more about his tendencies and how Oklahoma State uses him. He’s already one of the best players in the league, and OSU is wisely going to load him up with touches, but quiet first weeks from stars like Lockett and Petty don’t remove them from the top of the pecking order.
You’ll here a lot more from me on Hill in the days to come, by the way, so keep an eye out for that.
Paul Rhoads is on the hot seat.
Believability scale: 6
It is very, very hard to win in Ames. It is the second-best program in a state without much Division I talent and doesn’t have a lot of history to sell when you are inevitably forced to leave state lines.
Still, when you cease to show progress in the right direction, fans will get antsy at any program, no matter how difficult it is to win. That’s where Paul Rhoads is right now. He may not officially be on the hot seat yet, but a Twitter follower of mine pointed out on Sunday that Rhoads is now 4-14 in his last 18 games, including two losses to FCS teams since Jake Knott’s career ended with a shoulder injury.
That’s concerning. Rhoads signed a 10-year contract back in Dec. 2011 and nearly doubled his salary to $2 million His buyout is $750,000 for each year remaining on that contract, which equals out to about $5.25 million as it stands now. Rhoads has that working for in his favor. The program isn’t moving in the right direction right now, but ISU should learn its lesson from the last time it sent away a coach. The program got worse under Gene Chizik after firing Dan McCarney in 2006.
If you ask me, Iowa State ought to ride out a tough couple years for Rhoads and give him more time to right the ship. The list of coaches who could a) do a better job than Rhoads and b) would be willing to take the job isn’t very long.
For those who already want to see Rhoads go: Careful what you wish for.
Dana Holgorsen is off the hot seat.
Believability scale: 2
Has a loss ever done more for a coach’s perception within his fan base? Dana Holgorsen needs to at least reach a bowl game to stay at West Virginia, considering the team’s record has gotten progressively worse since winning the Orange Bowl in Holgorsen’s first season in Morgantown.
"As a team, we did well. All three sides of the ball had good things that happened to them and some negative things that happened," Holgorsen said. "As a team, I thought we played well together."
I expect West Virginia to get those six wins, but it won’t be easy, and a couple bad breaks (or injuries) could make it a lot harder in a hurry.
West Virginia’s better this year, but the Big 12 is still very deep and the Mountaineers are still 0-1. Holgorsen needs an impressive win, not a quality loss, before his seat truly cools down.
TCU’s quarterback race is over.
Believability scale: 2
Trevone Boykin looked really, really good against Samford. He made a few throws down the field and in tight spaces in the red zone we haven’t seen from him very often.
However, it was Samford. Those windows are pretty big and getting open isn’t super difficult for his receivers. Nobody foresaw any serious bumps in the road, and there weren’t any. Coach Gary Patterson said Monday that Boykin will start again in two weeks against Minnesota, which will be a tougher challenge, but still a game TCU should win and could win easily. When the schedule toughens up and Boykin inevitably reaches a point when his throwing windows get smaller and his incompletions get a little more frequent, we’ll see how long his leash really is and if/when Joeckel gets a chance.
Patterson said Joeckel could "possibly" play against the Golden Gophers, but what he does when his opportunity inevitably arrives will be the moment when this quarterback situation gets some real clarity. Patterson reiterated on Monday that to be a good quarterback, you’ve got to be one 365 days a year. Boykin’s grown a lot this offseason, but I remain unconvinced that the season will end with anybody but Joeckel at quarterback for the Frogs.
Tyler Lockett is due for a dropoff.
Believability scale: 1
Please, people. Lockett played a limited amount of snaps against Stephen F. Austin and didn’t return a kick. Bill Snyder knew he didn’t need Lockett to win the game and also knows how valuable his star receiver is.
Saturday was a chance for younger guys like DeMarcus Robinson and Kody Cook to get some reps at game speed. Behind Lockett, K-State’s receivers are really thin without Tramaine Thompson, who caught five scores a year ago.
Lockett didn’t get many targets, but he’ll get plenty as the schedule toughens up. Jake Waters looked improved against the Lumberjacks, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes. Lockett will be just fine. He’s still the best receiver in the Big 12.
Texas Tech is one of the Big 12’s worst teams.
It’s hard to say it without sounding like you’re making excuses, but I buy Kliff Kingsbury’s explanation for the "embarrassing" performance against Central Arkansas.
"We did a poor job as a coaching staff of letting them know, hey, this is a real opponent and you better bring it," Kingsbury said. "They weren’t locked in, they weren’t focused and that’s on me as a head coach."
In some ways, yes, but Kingsbury always goes out of his way to assume responsibility and not blame his players publicly. At some point, the responsibility falls on your team leadership to make sure the guys who’ll be playing are focused.
Tech’s defense won’t be great this year (losing juco nose tackle Rika Levi early on to a minor injury didn’t help), but it won’t be as bad as it looked on Saturday, and Davis Webb’s decision-making didn’t look improved at all. He seemed all too confident in his team’s talent overcoming Central Arkansas and not on making prudent, accurate throws.
Even Kansas coach Charlie Weis noticed something was off.
"I think in the first game, you can’t get overly excited or overly disappointed with how things go. Texas Tech, everybody’s been saying how great they’re going to be this year and they struggled some," he said. "You’ve got to take that as possibly overlooking an opponent. You can’t really worry about it too much in the first week. It takesa couple weeks for the dust to start settle and you can kind of figure out team’s identities."