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College Football's Confounding Week 1 Gives Fans More Questions Than Answers

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College Football's Confounding Week 1 Gives Fans More Questions Than Answers
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We know nothing.

When you sign up for college football and are granted access to this peculiar, passionate club, you have to come to terms with this before you’re allowed access. You agree, reluctantly, because you have no other choice. 

It won’t prevent you from loading up on knowledge to feel like you know something, although resistance is futile. As much as you obsess over depth charts, “bold predictions” and conference previews, the games and moments will take the knowledge you acquired, jumble it up and tell you politely to start over.

So you do. And you did again in Week 1.

Overall, the Jenga topple never came. The teams you expected to hold serve—excluding South Carolina, and we’ll get to that—did what we thought they would. Upsets happened here and there, although they didn’t come in bunches.

And yet, despite the expected notches in the win and loss columns, Week 1 provided some valuable hints at what could be coming. More specifically, it answered our questions with more questions, opening the door to plenty of scenarios that were not thought possible just a few days prior. 

Not all of these questions trended toward the negative, either. Some did, while others opened up the door for big seasons that could be brewing before our eyes.

 

Stumbling out of the Starting Gate

Florida State

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Was Oklahoma State a better opponent than we initially thought? Was FSU feeling the impact of a title hangover? Or is the nation’s preseason No. 1 simply vulnerable?

Perhaps it’s a solid serving of all three.

There were plenty of positives to take away from the Seminoles’ 37-31 win over Oklahoma State. For starters, and most importantly, it was a win. That’s all that matters at this time. But the invincibility surrounding the program is wobbly, at least for the moment.

Quarterback Jameis Winston looked human for the second game in a row, tossing two interceptions and nearly a third. He also finished with 370 yards passing and sprinkled in some gorgeous throws, but there were lapses in his game.

The Seminoles can get right against The Citadel Bulldogs next week and then use the bye to their advantage. They are still the team to beat until proven otherwise, although that daunting task seems slightly more manageable for opponents after seeing only four quarters.

Reminder: There are many more quarters to be played.

Thankfully.

 

Alabama

Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

Take the invincibility paragraph from above and copy and paste it here. Obviously Alabama’s invincibility comes with success over the past five years rather than the past nine months, although the program still carries a giant-like feel each time it steps on a field.

Although a double-digit win over a Power Five conference team should by no means be considered a failure, Alabama’s expectations are far different than those pinned to any other team. 

After the Crimson Tide’s 33-23 win over West Virginia, there are still questions. Quarterback Blake Sims looked very capable through much of the game, which could be an answer to one problem. We need to see it over the course of a few games (and against improved competition), but it's certainly a start. Perhaps more concerning, the secondary still has obvious holes and was picked to pieces at times.

There is an abundance of talent in place to fix almost any issue Alabama may have, although assuming a quick fix is just a week away can be dangerous as well. There’s no reason to panic after one week—especially when Alabama averaged nearly six yards per carry—but the offseason did not provide an all-encompassing cure.

Stay tuned.

 

Other Slow Starts...

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Ohio State

Without Braxton Miller, you knew there might be some growing pains for Ohio State as it adjusted to J.T. Barrett under center. That was certainly the case, although no one expected one of the nation’s most gifted defensive lines to be gashed the way it was.

A 34-17 victory over Navy—arguably a top-50 team—isn’t exactly disappointing. The way the game played out, however, didn’t exactly tip the hand of one of the nation’s most intriguing favorites.

There is so much more to learn about the Buckeyes. The good news is that there are incredible areas for growth.

 

UCLA

If the Bruins are going to compete for a Pac-12 championship or claim a spot in the College Football Playoff, the offensive line has to improve. It’s that simple. This group struggled mightily in UCLA’s 28-20 victory in Virginia, which featured three defensive touchdowns for the Bruins. Offensively, outside of a few positive moments for quarterback Brett Hundley, UCLA had issues moving the ball.

The good news? The defense scored three touchdowns and is clearly one of the nation’s best. That’s not going to change anytime soon. Whether the offensive line can solve its issues will likely dictate the Bruins’ season.

 

And Away We Go...

Georgia

David Goldman/Associated Press

Not all questions are necessarily negative. In fact, Georgia delivered the most intriguing performance of anyone in Week 1, leaving us with more to think about than with any other team.

Mark Richt’s opening statement said it all.

The Bulldogs suffocated Clemson after a slow start, thanks in large part to an active front seven and running back Todd Gurley. Gurley showcased his wealth of abilities, running for 198 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries. He also returned a kickoff for six points.

The result was a 45-21 victory and pure domination of almost every statistic imaginable. For the game, Georgia averaged eight yards per carry. Meanwhile, Clemson ran the ball 45 times for 102 yards.

Of all the teams in Week 1, no one left an impression quite like Georgia. It looked dominant in all facets, and it has a chance to add to these positive first impressions with a game against South Carolina on deck.

 

Texas A&M

Rainier Ehrhardt/Associated Press

In time, we’ll figure out this team. For now, we’re still processing how Texas A&M replaced quarterback Johnny Manziel and wideout Mike Evans without an ounce of struggle.

Forget about simply replacing one of the most exciting players of our lifetime; quarterback Kenny Hill grabbed the baton and ran with it. More specifically, he threw it—and a plethora of gifted wideouts caught it and kept running.

In the end, Texas A&M went on the road and torched South Carolina 52-28. Does this tell us more about A&M’s offense or South Carolina’s growing pains of switching schemes on defense?

The answer to both, quite frankly, is probably yes. Texas A&M is clearly much more equipped to handle these changes than many realized, and South Carolina might have a longer road to the SEC championship than many believed.

This was a fascinating result that should look even more interesting as the sample size increases for both teams.

 

USC

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Steve Sarkisian’s first game as USC head coach ended with a record thanks to his team's extreme offensive output. In a conference known for pace, plays and offense, the Trojans set the Pac-12 record for total plays in one game in their 52-13 blowout win against Fresno State.

Quarterback Cody Kessler threw for 394 yards and four touchdowns. Wideout Nelson Agholor hauled in two of these scores, while freshman JuJu Smith caught four passes for 123 yards. Freshman tight end Bryce Dixon also caught a touchdown. 

Given the negativity and turmoil that have engulfed the program over the past week, you couldn't have asked for a better start. Now it’s a matter of figuring out what it means in the bigger picture. The Trojans are immensely gifted, particularly when it comes to their starters. It would also appear that the youth is ready now.

Thankfully, we’ll learn a lot more about this team when it heads to Stanford next weekend. This will be a fitting (and telling) Week 2 obstacle indeed.

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