Before Michigan State became a violent, dominating football machine last year, it struggled to do much of anything against Western Michigan in Week 1. I know that seems like a strange place to begin, but hang with me.
The box score—which included only 26 points and 297 total yards in favor of Sparty—seemingly foretold a story about a Big Ten team that would be lucky to win eight games. The Spartans won the game 26-13, although the doom and gloom of the future set in. Over time, however, Mark Dantonio's team took shape. There were bumps along the way—including a loss to Notre Dame with Tommy Rees steering the ship—but Michigan State inched closer to the finished product.
Against Stanford in the Rose Bowl, we witnessed the complete transformation. The same team that struggled against an inferior opponent in its opener became a power with time. This isn't necessarily unusual, although it should serve as a valuable reminder following a tempestuous, reaction-generating Week 1.
What you see is not always what you'll end up getting. Florida State, Alabama, UCLA and Ohio State could still very easily win the national championship despite looking quite vulnerable.
On the other end of the reaction spectrum, Georgia, which passed all eyesight tests with flying colors, might not be as good and dominant as it looked in the opener. Or maybe this was just a taste of things to come and the Bulldogs will continue to run over and past everyone they play.
The sample size for one full season is incredibly limited. The sample size for one week really isn't a sample size at all. But for the time being, it's all we have to go on.
It's important that we use that information wisely and avoid etching our conclusions in stone right out of the gate. We know this routine, but we just can't help ourselves. Let's try harder or, better yet, try a little less hard. Now that's sound parenting.
As for other observations, awards and Instagrams of Stone Cold Steve Austin sharing cocktails with Lee Corso, let's get to it.
Outstanding Offensive Player: Kenny Hill, Texas A&M
Week 1 is a stat junkie's visit to the chocolate factory. But given the circumstances, no player was more impressive on offense than Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill.
On that note, can we refrain from calling him "Kenny Football" for now? I understand the immediate desire to name everything, especially in this particular situation, but can't we just enjoy this 511-yard, three-touchdown performance for exactly what it was?
(The answer is no. No, we cannot.)
Hill was brilliant, and he was brilliant on the road in one of the nation's most chaotic football environments. In beating South Carolina 52-28, Hill also set a single-game passing record for the program. And if you're wondering whether Hill will keep up this production, here’s A&M’s schedule over the next month: Lamar, Rice, SMU and Arkansas.
That's horrible news if you were just mentioned.
Dominant Defender: Eric Kendricks, UCLA
It feels wrong not just handing this award over to the entire UCLA defense, although we'll keep it to one of the three defenders to find the end zone against Virginia.
Although Eric Kendricks doesn't get nearly the love fellow linebacker Myles Jack does, the senior is a fixture of what will end up being one of the nation's premier defenses. His game-high 16 tackles (11 solo) along with an interception returned for a touchdown were crucial in the Bruins' 28-20 win over Virginia.
Now, can he play offensive line?
Video Game Box Scores of Note
— Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty delivered this stat line against Bowling Green: 46-of-56, 569 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. It's time to up the difficulty, Brandon. Please go to the options menu immediately.
— Nebraska's entire box score against Florida Atlantic was a work of art. Some of the highlights include 784 total yards and 498 (!!!) yards rushing on 8.7 yards per carry. The team also went 8-of-12 on third downs.
Anti-Video Game Box Scores of Note
— Oh, Wake Forest. We're going to be saying that a lot this season. The Demon Deacons finished with 94 yards of offense in their 17-10 loss to UL Monroe. And thanks to sacks, Wake finished with…drum roll please… 27 rushes for minus-three yards total.
— This is the Holy Grail of "oh no" box scores, and it belongs to the team Kevin Sumlin coached not long ago. Houston had three players finish with negative rushing yards, highlighted by a 42-yard loss on a bad snap. This led to 23 rushes for minus-26 yards. No, the Cougars did not beat Texas-San Antonio (in case you were actually still wondering this).
It's Texas A&M; there isn't much debate here. Although we were close to a handful of upsets that would have warranted immediate entry, the Aggies demolished a preseason Top 10 team that many were excited about heading into the season.
Is Texas A&M this good? Is South Carolina this bad? The answer is probably somewhere smack dab in the middle. But this kind of performance on the road in Week 1 is an eye-opener. It doesn't mean Kevin Sumlin's roster is suddenly perfect, but it might be closer to it than most (including myself) imagined.
If A&M can play any defense—and goodness, it looks like freshman defensive end Myles Garrett will do his part—then it can compete in just about every game.
Jameis Winston's 28-yard touchdown run earns this honor for two reasons. For starters, it came at a critical point in the game when his team was on the ropes against Oklahoma State.
Also, this looked like a scripted run straight out of Varsity Blues. It had the cartoon juke, a picture-perfect hurdle and, of course, a suspense-packed dive for the end zone. The only thing missing was a Billy Bob cameo at the end and a frigid Bud Kilmer.
Chances are we'll see Winston in this category again before the season's up.
For the Highlight Reel
Jordan Westerkamp is a wizard. There can be no other explanation. You hate to be the one to toss around "Catch of the Year" in the first 48 hours of the season, so we'll leave it at this.
Good to luck to those looking to dethrone him.
Sure, you tried this trick at baseball practice: Toss the ball up, catch it behind you, laugh when you miss it a few dozen times and then finally stop once you catch it or just lie and say you caught it while your friends weren't looking. But you never did this with a football in a live game following a tipped ball on the sideline. You never did this because it is impossible.
Or so we thought.
If the College Football Playoff Started Today...
It doesn't, thankfully. But let's make a few fanbases angry anyway.
Keep in mind, this is not a projection. This is, given what we've watched, a look at how the selection committee might react to a limited portion of the sample size. With that out of the way, feel free to rage.
2. Florida State
3. Texas A&M
Five Leftovers to Chew On
1. Find time to watch Rutgers running back Paul James. There might not be a more underrated back in the country. His 173-yard, three-touchdown performance in the Scarlet Knights' upset win over Washington State should help drive interest, but his play deserves even more eyeballs.
2. How about Texas-San Antonio and Larry Coker? Remember him? A few years ago, Texas-San Antonio didn't have a football program. Literally. Thanks to Coker, however, this team was seemingly constructed overnight. After beating up on Houston, the Roadrunners get Arizona on Thursday. They're only a touchdown underdog. Heads up.
3. Is there anything more spectacular in college football than Todd Gurley in the open field? It's spectacular from our perspective—as far away from tackling range as possible—and it's rare to see such a large back move at such speeds. Speaking of which, his kick return against Clemson was art.
4. When it all clicks for Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg, he's going to be terrifying. He's utterly deadly as is, but there's obviously room to grow. His offensive line will also have to do a better job protecting. But the ball just comes out of his hand differently than any other quarterback in college football. What an arm.
5. Speaking of Hackenberg, there should be a morning college football game each and every Saturday. They can play it on the moon for all I care, but waking up to football was a wonderful perk that should not be limited to opening weekends. Thank you, Penn State and Central Florida, for getting us started in style.
Most Creative Use of an Email (To Avoid a Timeout Penalty Thanks to a Weird Uniform Rule)
Vanderbilt won. That's not a sentence that applies whatsoever to the Commodores' dumpster-fiery loss against Temple, but they did win back a few penalized timeouts because they had an email handy.
This all makes sense, I promise. Well, not the part where teams are penalized timeouts because of uniform infractions, but the fact that Vanderbilt had documentation to show to the officials that caused them to reserve the ruling.
There are some valuable life lessons to be taken from this: Always bring a doctor's note, no matter where you go. And save your receipts, no matter how satisfying it is to toss them away with reckless abandon.
This Week in Genetically Engineered Ball Boys
Yes, Auburn wideout Melvin Ray scored a touchdown. But the Tigers' ball boy—who may or may not be returning kickoffs next week—was the highlight. The way Gus Malzahn produces 1,000-yard backs with relative ease, I have zero doubts this gentleman would carry that torch.
How to Not Enter a Stadium: Part 1
In production meetings, it was probably a brilliant idea: have representatives holding Penn State and UCF flags skydive into the stadium before the game Saturday. The only issue was that the skydiver holding the UCF flag, well, missed the stadium entirely.
(Everyone was fine! This means you’re allowed to laugh.)
How to Not Enter a Stadium: Part 2
Eastern Michigan was so excited about its opener that it ran through a wall. No, really. There were sledgehammers, large bricks, an awkward pause before the team could enter and everything.
I'll give them an "A" for creativity and a "Please Don't Do This Ever Again" for execution.
That One Time Stone Cold Steve Austin and Lee Corso Shared Beverages on Live Television
There's nothing else to add, really.
Wait, there is one thing to add. If you did not see College GameDay's "College Coaches Read Mean Tweets" segment, please watch it. It's one of the best segments the show has ever delivered. Hopefully there's more.
That One Time a Punter Hit His Own Lineman in the Back with a Punt
If you tuned in for the entire Illinois-Youngstown State game, you saw something you probably haven't seen before. Also, you should talk to someone about this. It's not healthy.
Youngstown State punter Joey Cejudo was in the middle of your run-of-the-mill rugby punt. He held the ball, held the ball, held the ball a little longer and then kicked it.
It landed right on a teammate's back roughly a foot in front of him.
You may now cross this off your bingo card.
Hey, Quick! Let's Grade Steve Spurrier's Headset Throw
Keep in mind, all headset-throwing grading scales are unique to the individual heaving the technology. Because Steve Spurrier has given us gems such as this in the past, he is judged differently—and tougher—than any other coach in the country.
Best Impersonation of a Head Coach Goes to…
Elliott Mealer, a former Michigan offensive lineman, delivered this masterpiece. Close your eyes and tell me this isn't Brady Hoke.
From the Peanut Gallery (Best Tweets of the Weekend)
On the flight with Bobby Bowden. Asked me if I had any scores. Told him A&M has 50. "Boy...I don't believe you."— Russillo (@ryenarussillo) August 29, 2014
KENNY FOOTBALL!!! #GigEm— Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) August 29, 2014
Arkansas' assistant coaches were stuck in the elevator and couldn't visit the team during halftime.— THV Hog Zone (@HOGZONE) August 31, 2014
And Finally, Reason 10,458 College Football Is the Best Sport on Earth
Rain played a role this weekend. Florida and Idaho couldn't play because the rain came, it stayed and The Swamp took the appearance of an actual swamp. Auburn and Arkansas also had to stop play due to weather, which prompted a stadium of football fans to celebrate the delay in song.
Even the rain delays in college football are beautiful.