The first Saturday of college football is in the books, all 47 games involving FBS teams a thing of of the past, and each one bore a few important lessons.
Marquee matchups like Clemson-Georgia and LSU-TCU were just as good as advertised, but the takeaways weren't momentous. Each game went (more or less) according to plan, and all four teams are (more or less) what we thought they were.
Elsewhere in the country, though, some teams and players (and subdivisions) flashed something new that could affect how we watch the coming season.
Those are the moments that can't be ignored.
Alabama Is Not Invincible
Only Alabama—the two-time reigning national champs—can play a powerhouse program, score on its first touch, effectively end the game by halftime, cover a 21-point spread, and still be considered a disappointment.
But news of the Tide's mediocrity, relative to expectation, is not overblown. Yes, they beat a good Virginia Tech team defense 35-10, but the means to that end weren't pretty. Forty percent of those points came on special teams, and another 20 percent came on defense.
The offensive line, Alabama's biggest (and borderline only) unknown entering the season, looked even worse than cynical minds expected.
Cyrus Kouandjio was supposed to look like a top-10 pick, but instead he was exposed on a national stage, getting beaten routinely and incurring two holding penalties. The newcomers in the middle weren't much better, struggling to get a push off the line and helping Virginia Tech keep the running game in check.
Christion Jones played the role of savior on Saturday, scoring two special teams touchdowns and hauling in a 38-yard touchdown catch. Without his contributions, not only would Alabama not have covered, they would have had to sweat out a four-quarter win.
Saturday's performance wasn't enough to excite panic in Tuscaloosa. The Tide did, again, beat a traditional powerhouse by 25 points. But those eager to hand them another crystal trophy should think twice.
As should those polishing AJ McCarron's Heisman Trophy.
Johnny Manziel? More Like Johnny Manz-Heel
Johnny Football/Halftime/Visor continued his summer-long heel turn on Saturday, helping lead A&M to a (relatively) easy win after entering at halftime. But even though 50 percent of his six completions went for touchdowns—an astonishing number—his football acumen became a buried lede.
Because of Johnny's post-play antics, most viewers missed the highlights for the celebrations. First it was the "show me the money" dance, a blithe remark on the allegations surrounding him, followed by a pantomimed autograph motion toward one of the Rice defenders.
Finally, after his last play of the game, he got in an opponent's face and unleashed a double-barrel scoreboard point—a move taken right from the schoolyard. That one drew the unsportsmanlike penalty.
Much like he was at SEC media days—back when the Manning Academy incident was "all" Manziel was dealing with—Johnny Football isn't apologetic, the way stodgy media critics (see: Finebaum, Paul) desire him to be. He's a 20-year-old quarterback in college, and this is how he plays.
His game isn't all pomp and circumstance, but he relies on those things to aid him. He's fiery and rambunctious and unafraid to chatter. Now that a Tebow-sized target is on his back, every defender in college football wants a piece of him.
And he'll never be shy about returning that piece to sender.
Thomas Kevin Rees...Heisman Candidate?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. You can only glean so much from playing Temple. But the fact of the matter remains: Tommy Rees straight up balled on Saturday.
In the three-plus months since Everett Golson's academic suspension, South Bend has readied itself for a trip down bad memory lane. Rees has seen some good times during his three years with the program, but far too often he has disappointed.
With expectations low and murmurs of freshman Malik Zaire climbing the depth chart, Rees gave a more than encouraging performance. He finished the afternoon 16-of-23 for 346 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions, including two 32-yard touchdown strikes to Davaris Daniels.
His 15 yards per attempt were (and are) the best of any FBS quarterback this season, and according to ESPN, his QBR of 239 is second in the country. Only Indiana's Nate Sudfeld, who threw 17 passes in relief of starter Tre Roberson, scored higher in that metric.
QBR is also opponent-adjusted, so it's not like those numbers are (too) inflated by playing Temple. Rees might actually, despite popular belief, be able to quarterback this offense.
A lot will be learned at Michigan this Saturday.
FCS Wants Your Respect
In the final season before FBS adopts a playoff system, a league that's been using one for years took to the road and made a statement. Then it made another one. And then a few more after that.
By the time the weekend was through, FCS teams had notched not five, not six, not seven, but eight victories over teams on the senior circuit.
And they weren't all minor upsets, either. Two came against barely FBS Sun Belt teams (South Alabama and Georgia State), but the other six all came over quality—or at least thought to be quality—sides.
Those wins included:
- Towson over Connecticut (which beat Louisville in 2012)
- North Dakota State over Kansas State (which made the Fiesta Bowl in 2012)
- Eastern Washington over Oregon State (which was ranked No. 25 in the AP Poll)
- McNeese State over South Florida (by an unprecedented 32 points)
- Eastern Illinois over San Diego State (which went 9-3 in the 2012 regular season)
- Northern Iowa over Iowa State (which beat Baylor in 2012)
For those who are wondering, Sam Houston State—which beat Eastern Washington in the FCS semis last year and lost to North Dakota State in the finals—won its first game 74-0 over Houston Baptist.
It plays Texas A&M in Week 2.
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