The opening weekend of the 2014 season lived up to the hype with entertaining matchups that saw No. 1 and No. 2 almost go down, as well as a surprising blowout and an impressive comeback.
Reining national champion Florida State got all it could handle against an aggressive Oklahoma State squad, which continued to battle back until it couldn’t anymore, in a close 37-31 contest. Despite Jameis Winston throwing two interceptions, his 28-yard touchdown run at the end of the third quarter and a 50-yard strike to Rashad Greene with 3:58 left in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference in the ‘Noles pulling off a big non-conference win.
While Florida State had to hold on for dear life in Arlington, the No. 2-ranked team in the country found itself in a tussle as well. Alabama, who decided to go with senior Blake Sims under center, got more than expected against a Dana Holgorsen team that won only four games last season. West Virginia starting quarterback Clint Trickett passed for 365 yards and one touchdown, but there was an unexpected hero in Crimson Tide sophomore placekicker Adam Griffith, who accounted for 15 points and kicked three of four field goals from 40-plus yards. Alabama managed to escape the Georgia Dome with a 33-23 victory.
The biggest surprise of Week 1, occurred Thursday evening when Texas A&M traveled to South Carolina, in what was supposed to be an uphill battle for a Johnny Manziel-less Aggie team. Not only did Kevin Sumlin’s squad come in ready to play, it put on a dominating performance that will be remembered in years to come. Sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill broke Manziel’s single-game passing record with 511 yards. He also threw three touchdowns in Texas A&M’s 52-28 route over South Carolina.
Down in Houston Saturday night, Wisconsin appeared to be in full control of the game with a 24-7 lead early in the third quarter. Two field goals by LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye in the third quarter chipped into the the Badger lead. Once the fourth quarter started, it was all Tigers.
An Anthony Jennings 36-yard touchdown pass to John Diarse, followed by a two-point conversion put the game at 24-21 with 12:08 left. Almost three minutes later, Kenny Hilliard’s 28-yard rushing touchdown put LSU up for good. With an impressive 28-24 win, where Les Miles’ group scored 17 unanswered points, they now put themselves in the College Football Playoff race.
Speaking of the College Football Playoff race, Georgia may have already put itself in the discussion as a top-four team. Toddy Gurley’s dominating career-high performance of 198 yards and four touchdowns, including a 100-yard kickoff return, helped the Dawgs knock off Clemson 45-21.
Other games to mention include three-time FCS Champion North Dakota State defeating a fifth straight FBS opponent in Iowa State 34-14 with a solid performance from running back John Crockett (17 carries, 139 yards, three TDs), along with No. 5 Ohio State getting by Navy 34-17 without Braxton Miller and No. 7 UCLA sneaking by Virginia 28-20 on the road.
Overall Record: 4-1
Note: Team in bold indicates author’s pick
Prediction: Alabama 38, West Virginia 17
Result: Alabama 33, West Virginia 23
Prediction: Georgia 35, Clemson 24
Result: Georgia 45, Clemson 21
Prediction: Florida State 38, Oklahoma State 16
Result: Florida State 37, Oklahoma State 31
Prediction: LSU 37, Wisconsin 30
Result: LSU 28, Wisconsin 24
Prediction: Miami (Fla) 26, Louisville 24
Result: Louisville 31, Miami (Fla) 13
The nation knew heading into the 2014 season that junior Georgia running back Todd Gurley was good. On Saturday night though, he hit a whole new level with 198 yards and four touchdowns. His 100-yard kickoff return in the second quarter was impressive, but his performance in the fourth quarter to put Clemson away made Fantasy Football managers wish they could draft him already. If Gurley continues to rack up yards and touchdowns like he is capable of this season, there is no doubt he will be in New York City at the Heisman Trophy Presentation on December 13.
Not only is Gurley likely the best back in the country, his team has the potential to be an SEC and national title contender.
A road trip to division rival South Carolina on Sept. 13 could be the difference in advancing to the SEC title game or not.