Week one is in the books. There were some great games, some near surprises, and some intriguing storylines. In Auburn, there is now renewed hope and optimism. Hope that last year was truly a one season problem. It's great to have college football back. Here's my thoughts on Auburn's opening win against Louisiana Tech:
1. The defense can be good. Very good. Louisiana Tech had an explosive running game last year. They struggled to establish any sort of a running game outside of a couple quarterback scrambles. After a terrible pass interference call kept La Tech's opening drive alive, two facemask penalties aided their only touchdown. All they got after that were two field goals - one of which was from distance.
The defense looked solid. They worked together. They gang tackled extremely well. There was a decent pass rush, and the secondary played very well. Barring injuries, the defense should be just as good as last year's, which ranked in the top 20 in the nation.
2. Gus Malzahn knows what he's doing. As a football fan, it was fun to watch Gus Malzahn set up the opposing defense repeatedly. In this offense, there's always a big play being set up by the smaller plays. He backed up his claim that his first goal is to run the football.
Anytime you can rush for around 300 yards and pass for over 250 yards, you've had a good day. He used Ben Tate's power and Onterio McCalebb's speed to set up great opportunities for Chris Todd down the field.
And how about Chris Todd. He didn't make the big mistakes, and made two big time throws for touchdowns. He ran the offense with pace. He ran it making the correct reads most of the time. The offensive line looks big and physical. The receivers showed signs of having some confidence. It will be fun to watch how this offense does as the defenses improve.
3. Wes Byrum is back. He went 3 for 3, and made a HUGE 50-yarder going into halftime to steal some momentum back after Louisiana Tech had tied it up. In the SEC, you have to take advantage of your scoring opportunities. Wes looks like he is back to the form of his freshman year, a welcome sight to an offense that moved the ball consistently in the opener.
4. There are some talented freshmen. It was exciting to see so many new players play and have success last night. On offense, Onterio McCalebb stole the show, gaining more yards than any freshman in Auburn history has in his first game. Newcomers DeAngelo Benton, Emory Blake, and Anthony Gulley found their way on the field either as recievers or in special teams.
Dee Ford, Nick Fairley, and Daren Bates made their presence felt. Bates started at safety, came away with an interception, and looked totally comfortable against the run and pass. Eltoro Freeman didn't play, but will bolster the linebacking core when he returns in the next couple weeks from injury.
All of these new players will be counted on to provide depth and quality play as the season rolls on. Most of them had a great start to their careers on Saturday night.
5. Confidence. Even when the score didn't show how well they were playing, Auburn didn't look nervous or tentative. The offense moved the ball on nearly every drive. The defense settled down incredibly well after three penalties on the first drive. They played loose, pumping up the crowd and each other with each good play.
It's crucial that they believe not only in themselves, but in the systems they are running. And it's important that they truly believe that this program is still talented and has great potential. They took a big step towards that end on Saturday.
Thoughts from Around the Country:
1. BYU beats OU - I had a feeling about this game, but obviously wasn't expecting Bradford to go down so early in the season. But give BYU credit, they were still down until late in the fourth quarter. They had to go take the game and win it. Oklahoma obviously still has a chance to have a big season.
They can win the Big 12, and in all likelihood a one-loss team will make it to the title game. But it's a crushing blow to take so early. Sam Bradford needs to be ready by the time they meet Texas; if not, their season will end in a disappointing fashion.
2. Surprisingly close games - Northern Iowa had a field goal attempt to beat Iowa, Navy had a two point attempt to tie Ohio State, and Washington hung with LSU for quite a while. Those games are what makes college football fun. There's so much parity around the country; every game has the potential to be like that.
3. Shaking hands before football games is a bad idea. I'm all for sportsmanship. I appreciate the programs that emphasize character and run a tight ship. But shaking hands before a big college football game is dumb.
The players have had all week to get pumped up about being physical with the other team...is it really a good idea to put them together right before kickoff? We've seen issues throughout the years with pregame altercations when they're not brought together, so why is this idea on the table? I totally disagree with it.
4. Outside of Georgia, the SEC looked good. Alabama played well late to beat Virginia Tech. The lower teams of the SEC looked impressive, including Tennessee, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Auburn, and Mississippi State scoring big wins. Georgia went up against a very good Oklahoma State team and was a bit outmatched by Dez Bryant. But then again who can guard him? Looks like it will be another wild ride in the SEC.
5. Notre Dame impresses. I wasn't on the Notre Dame bandwagon, but a 35-0 showing against the potent offense of Nevada is impressive. The schedule leaves nothing to fear outside of USC. As much as it pains me to say it, they might end up in the BCS. All they have to do is probably win 10 games, which means they can even lose a game they're not supposed to and still get in.
Comment if you want! I'll have a week two preview up sometime on Thursday. Thanks for reading. War Eagle!
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