Week 1 notes and observations
College football got off to a rousing start in its first weekend. We saw upsets, an almost-divine intervention, elite-conference reality checks, Heisman front-runners, a feel-good story out of Norman, Okla., and a coach turn a most unnatural color on live television.
Oh, it's early, but we have a feeling college football fans are going to be very entertained with the offerings likely to be served up the next three months. Are we having fun yet?
The Southeastern Conference had a very bad day, and it all started with Kentucky's truly offensive showing against Western Kentucky on Thursday. For the record, Kentucky won . . . sort of. Facing a Hilltoppers team that went 2-10 last year, the Wildcats produced just 190 net yards and converted a dismal 23 percent of their third-down conversions. Yeah, we know Kentucky is a basketball school, but this game was awful to watch and just a hint as to what was looming for the SEC on Saturday.
South Carolina managed to come from behind after facing a 17-point deficit and beat East Carolina, but perennially overrated Georgia did not fare so well. Like a cat toying with a mouse before deciding to finish its catch, Boise State overwhelmed the Bulldogs, and in the process, proved what most fans west of the Mississippi already know — the Broncos don't need a blue turf to confuse their opponents. We also know that, because Georgia has lost to Boise State, the Bulldogs will be slapped with a "mediocre team" label — unless they eventually beat a ranked team, of course.
Kellen Moore drilled Georgia with his laser-like accuracy, going 28 of 34 for 261 yards and three touchdowns. The mostly partisan crowd started booing the Bulldogs, and head coach Mark Richt's hot seat was dialed to boil. Perhaps the fans were booing the Bulldogs' clownish uniforms — candy-apple red is usually a color feared only when it's on a 1968 Corvette.
Brigham Young also beat an SEC team (Ole Miss), but that wasn't much of an upset, was it? Auburn made a miraculous comeback after converting an onside kick late in the game, but this was against a Utah State team picked by many to finish near the bottom of the Western Athletic Conference. War Eagle lives to see another day, but from the looks of things, a winning record could be out of reach for Auburn.
The Pac-12 also had a miserable day. Oregon State historically has had rough season openers the past three years, but taking Sacramento State to overtime and losing on a Hornets' two-point conversion is just, well, really, Beavers? Washington had to stave off an Eastern Washington team, but Washington State cruised to a 64-21 victory over Idaho State.
Utah and Colorado split their Pac-12 debuts with the Utes unimpressive in their 27-10 victory over Montana State and the Buffaloes continuing to experience their road woes, losing 34-17 to Hawaii. Oregon lost to LSU 40-27 and, once again, the Ducks seem to be unprepared for prime time. But they looked fabulous, didn't they?
Southern Cal and UCLA both played, and although one came away with a victory and record-setting performance (Robert Woods, USC-record 17 catches), both teams looked tentative. USC's defense came out hot in the first half and timid in the second, but the Trojans hung on to beat Minnesota 19-17. UCLA wasn't as fortunate.
Bruins quarterback Kevin Prince had to leave the game after suffering concussion-like symptoms, and once again head coach Rick Neuheisel was down a quarterback. It's a recurring theme at UCLA and painful to watch. UCLA lost on the road to Houston 38-34.
Finally, props to Indiana for scheduling a late-afternoon game against Ball State. The Hoosiers lost, and nobody noticed.
There were some outstanding performances on Saturday, but a few really stood out. First and foremost was Oklahoma running back Dominique Whaley, who rushed for 131 yards and four touchdowns. Granted, Sooners fans are used to those kind of numbers from their running backs, but did they really expect it from a kid who joined the team as a walk-on? Whaley is the feel-good story of this weekend.
Houston's Case Keenum had a terrific showing, going 30 of 40 for 310 yards and two touchdowns. Baylor's Robert Griffin III had a Heisman-worthy day, throwing for 359 yards and five touchdowns. Finally, USC wide receiver Robert Woods posted 17 receptions for 177 yards and three touchdowns.
HOT SEAT STATUSES
Both Richt and Neuheisel are likable guys and media-savvy. They also have another thing in common — their skivvies need some fire-retardant spray to douse the flames coming from their hot seats. But they're not alone.
New Mexico head coach Mike Locksley is also feeling the heat after giving up a 10-7 halftime lead en route to a mistake-filled, 14-10 loss to Colorado State. And, finally, Purdue's Danny Hope escaped with a win, but his Boilermakers had to post 17 points in the fourth quarter to put away pesky Middle Tennessee State. It's a win, but against a mediocre Sun Belt team, is that anything to celebrate when you're playing in the Big Ten's Leaders Division? Or is it the Legends?
PRETENDERS AND CONTENDERS
This isn't a big surprise, but Alabama, LSU, Boise State, Oklahoma and Wisconsin look like turnkey BCS teams. These are your teams to beat. Things can change if Florida State upsets the Sooners or Penn State upsets the Crimson Tide, but for now we'll say these teams don't look they need to make any major adjustments.
Conversely, South Carolina, Oregon, USC, Auburn, Michigan State, Georgia and Texas all look a little bloated after eating all their preseason hype. But, again, we must point out how completely sick Oregon's matte black helmets and all-black unis looked.
ODD NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS
Brian Kelly turned a shade of purple we haven't seen since we last eyed an eggplant at the farmers market. Incensed over his team's performance on the field, Kelly's face turned purple, a large vein popped out from his forehead and the verbal barrage began — Lou Holtz would've appreciated the spit flying from his mouth.
The winner of the most ingenious play-calling goes to Auburn. The Tigers used picture cards that were flashed to the players on the field — one of the cards had a picture of President Barack Obama on one side and former President George Bush on the other. Apparently, the cards didn't have the desired effect on the players, so next week we expect to see Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton instead.
Finally, Utah State's Kerwynn Williams gets the Hair of the Week award. It was depressing enough when Troy Polamalu left us for better hair greatness on Sundays, but Williams' orange chrysanthemum 'do is oh-so-glorious. We thank him.