Grading the Top 5 College Football Offenses Heading into Week 2

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2013

It's foolish to overreact, in either direction, regarding how an offense performed in Week 1. 

The first weekend of college football is often reserved for stat-padding and cream puff-destroying. Indiana and Georgia Tech lead the nation with 70-plus points this season, but is that where they'll end up? Of course not! How will they perform against teams that aren't Indiana State and Elon? 

Still, it's important, at the very least, to look at America's top projected offenses and gain a first impression of new schematics or personnel. Whether good or bad, there's still time to ruin or fix that output.

But it never hurts to get a good start.

Note: The five offenses graded are the top five projected BCS offenses courtesy of "Phil Steele's College Football Preview."

No. 2 Oregon

Opponent: Nicholls State

Week 1 Points: 66 (fourth)

Week 1 Yards: 772 (first)

Yards per Play: 10.87 (first)

It's hard to glean much from Mark Helfrich's debut, one which saw the Ducks trample FCS Nicholls State by 63 points. Against an inferior opponent, they led the nation with 772 yards and an astounding 10.87 yards per play.

The most important takeaway was Helfrich's use of De'Anthony Thomas, oft reserved as a change-of-pace home run threat under former boss Chip Kelly. Thomas carried the ball 18 times, a career high, and looked as good as expected with 128 yards on the ground.

More will be learned about Thomas (specifically his ability to hold up through a bigger workload) and Oregon in the coming weeks when the Ducks take on Virginia and Tennessee. But for now, even against a torpid defense, it's hard not to sit an awe of those numbers.

Grade: A+

No. 7 Texas A&M

Opponent: Rice

Week 1 Points: 52 (T-11th)

Week 1 Yards: 486 (37th)

Yards per Play: 7.36 (21st)

This one, obviously, was a tale of two halves, even though the Aggies offense looked fine both before and after Johnny Manziel's suspension was lifted.

Backup Matt Joeckel actually averaged more yards per play than Manziel, but it's not like the latter was bad. His average of 8.07 YPP—granted it came against Rice—was nearly identical to the 8.06 he posted in last year's Heisman campaign.

The offensive line, much like Alabama's, showed signs of its early personnel transition, getting pushed off the ball by Rice linemen frequently. But the talent is there for that group to coalesce, and the running game still averaged 5.2 yards per carry.

Between Manziel's improved pocket presence and the addition of Ricky Seals-Jones—who, combined with Mike Evans, gives A&M a scary duo of big, athletic targets—this offense might be better than last year's record-breaking unit.

Grade: A-

No. 13 Oklahoma State

Opponent: Mississippi State

Week 1 Points: 21 (T-80th)

Week 1 Yards: 432 (55th)

Yards per Play: 5.92 (55th)

It wasn't one of the weekend's more shocking outcomes, but Oklahoma State's win over Mississippi State was fairly confusing to watch.

The Cowboys, who have built themselves into a Big 12 power with offense, looked inept at times on that side of the ball but dominated on the other. In the first half, Oklahoma State struggled (to put it lightly) gaining yards and didn't score its first points until 2:16 in the second quarter.

Things looked slightly better in the second half and, in general, once J.W. Walsh relieved Clint Chelf. Chelf's older brother might not agree with coach Mike Gundy's quick hook, but after posting 1.83 yards per play on two series, even Clint would admit he deserved to hold the clipboard.

This unit still has a ways to go.

Grade: C 

No. 10 Florida State

Opponent: Pittsburgh

Week 1 Points: 41 (T-28th)

Week 1 Yards: 533 (23rd)

Yards per Play: 8.46 (ninth)

Was anyone more impressive than Jameis Winston this week?

Manziel set the bar high for redshirt freshman quarterbacks last season, but Winston might be able to reach it. Just like Johnny Football in 2012, Winston is surrounded by a good offensive line, a deep core of playmakers and is possessed of elite football acumen.

The Seminoles' 8.46 yards per play was ninth in the nation despite the fact that they were a) on the road and b) playing a half-decent defensive team. The eight teams ahead of them played Nicholls State, New Mexico State, UMass, Wofford, Arkansas Pine-Bluff, Elon, Temple and Ohio. 

FSU's efficiency—at least when adjusted for opponent—was second to none.

Grade: A+

No. 11 Georgia

Opponent: Clemson

Week 1 Points: 35 (T-41st)

Week 1 Yards: 545 (18th)

Yards per Play: 7.79 (16th)

The buck has been thoroughly passed in Athens, where everyone from Aaron Murray to Mark Richt to Mike Bobo has been blamed for the Bulldogs' 0-1 start. But most of those charges are foolish, and even if you're inclined to blame one of those individuals, it's hard to blame the offense as a whole.

Georgia gained 7.79 yards per play against Clemson, good for 16th in the country and trailing just Florida State and Wyoming among teams who played BCS opponents. Murray didn't throw any touchdowns, but he did complete 69 percent of his passes for 323 yards despite losing top receiver Malcolm Mitchell to a torn ACL in the first quarter.

That last part, though, could be a problem going forward. Georgia has enough alternative options—Michael Bennett, Arthur Lynch, Justin Scott-Wesley and Jonathon Rumph (once healthy)—to survive, but Mitchell would have helped them thrive.

One member of that quartet will eventually need to step up and take Mitchell's place. Until then, at least Georgia still has Todd Gurley.

Grade: B+


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