We've made it though the first week of college football. There were a few surprises and a few results that were pretty much as expected.
It also became much clearer who was well prepared for the opening of the 2011 season and who still needs work heading into weeks two and three.
So which coaches excelled at fall preparations? Who had their team fired up and ready to play their opponent in Week 1?
Here are the 25 coaches who had their teams best prepared for the games this past weekend.
We're going to start with Mark Richt and his Georgia Bulldogs.
But didn't Georgia lose?
Well, yes, the Bulldogs did come up short against the No. 5 Broncos. But it's the way Georgia lost and the competitiveness of the game that leads to Richt's inclusion on this list.
After Week 1, Georgia may be the best 0-1 team in the nation.
Consider the fact that Georgia had its opportunities in this game and held Boise State's offense in check for much of the first half. Additionally, Boise State is a team ranked much higher than Georgia, is coming off a 12-1 season (versus Georgia's 6-7 2010 season) and has a senior quarterback that's a Heisman favorite in 2011.
The fact that Georgia lost by just two scores is actually a pretty decent result for the Bulldogs. It could have been much, much worse.
The No. 11 Badgers opened the season against UNLV, and the game wasn't expected to be close.
But rather than waltzing through the first week against an inferior opponent, Bielema used the first week's game against the Rebels as a warm-up for the offensive prowess the Badgers will need if they hope to capture a Big Ten title this season against some of the nation's more stout defenses.
Like Wisconsin, Mississippi State was facing an opponent that is nowhere near the same level as the ranked home team.
Memphis finished 2010 with an embarrassing 1-11 record, only topping Middle Tennessee State. The Tigers start 2011 with an 0-1 mark after falling to Dan Mullen's Mississippi State Bulldogs by a score of 59-14.
The Bulldogs are hoping to take the next step in their quest to be mentioned in the same SEC breath as LSU, Florida and Alabama. While a blowout against a bad team like Memphis won't impress many people, the precision shown by the Mississippi State's offense against Memphis is a very good sign for the Bulldogs' 2011 prospects.
The No. 17 Spartans enter the 2011 season with the highest expectations of any Michigan State team in the last two decades.
The defending Big Ten co-champions began 2011 with a win against FCS Youngstown State. The Spartans took a while to get going (the score was tied at zero after the first quarter), but they weren't the only team this weekend to sputter right out of the gate.
In the end, the offense found its rhythm, and MSU cruised to a 28-6 victory.
There are definitely things to work on this season for Dantonio and the Spartans if there's any hope at another conference title, but there was plenty of good things off of which to build.
Okay, so taking on Tulsa probably wasn't the best test for the top team in the nation, but Bob Stoops and his Oklahoma Sooners didn't give anyone any reason to doubt Oklahoma this season.
Additionally, OU has had the nagging habit of starting seasons in lackluster fashion. While it's too soon to tell if the Sooners have what it takes to win it all this year, whipping a team like Memphis (which has most of its starters returning from 2010) by a score of 59-14 is a very, very good start.
If you're going to play Louisiana-Monroe, it would take quite a lot to not look well-prepared. The Warhawks aren't exactly the highest caliber of opponents the FBS has to offer, but Florida State acquitted itself nicely.
While everyone expects the Seminoles to be able to put up points in healthy amounts this season, it was the defense that shined on this opening weekend, blanking ULM's offense.
With a final score of 34-0, it's way too early to call Florida State a BCS lock. But if the defensive ball hawks continue to swarm, the Seminoles chances in the ACC have to look very good.
When you're Nick Saban, and you're coaching the Alabama Crimson Tide, it's probably fairly easy to look at a game against lowly Kent State and think it will be a cakewalk.
At the end of the day, it was. Alabama led 21-0 at the end of the first quarter and breezed to a 48-7 victory over the Golden Flashes. But no one on the Crimson Tide played as if their opponent was Kent State.
The offense was efficient, with the only rough spots being those anyone expects in Week 1. The defense was proficient in their coverages, and Kent State was virtually ineffective against the Tide's starters.
Were it not of an underperforming second quarter, this game's final could have been even more lopsided.
The Cornhuskers took full advantage of their first-ever game as a member of the Big Ten and absolutely destroyed FCS Chattanooga.
This game, televised on the Big Ten Network, had an outcome that surprised no one, and Nebraska pundits should probably cool it when it comes to how “dominant” the Huskers were in the opener.
Of course they were dominant! Was there any reason a team from the Big Ten ranked nationally in the Top 10 shouldn't dominate a team from the FCS that was 6-5 in 2010?
The big upside to Nebraska's win is that Taylor Martinez looked fabulous on Saturday. Of course, Chattanooga's defense could probably make most FBS quarterbacks look like Heisman winners.
Still, the confidence boost to Martinez shouldn't be underestimated.
Mike “I'm a Man!” Gundy enters his seventh season as head coach of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, and they begin the latest season with a preseason top ten ranking.
We all expected big numbers from the Oklahoma State defense, and that's exactly what we got in their opener against Louisiana, with the Cowboys winning 61-34.
It's clear that the offense won't be a big problem for the Cowboys against this season. What should be of greater concern is the fact that the Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns put up 34 points on the Oklahoma State defense. Lafayette doesn't have the greatest offense in the world, and they were still able to put up almost five touchdowns worth of points on a Top 10 team.
It looks as if Gundy will need to have his team prepared to “outdistance” their opponents on the scoreboard once again this season. Rather than attempting to stop the other team's offense, the Cowboys will simply need to score so many points, the opponent of the weak can't hope to catch up.
Ryan who? Knile what?
It seems as if the Razorbacks didn't have any problems on offense in Week 1 after saying goodbye to Ryan Mallett after last season and losing Knile Davis to a preseason injury.
The No. 15 Razorbacks opened the 2011 season against the FCS Missouri State Bears, and the game was clearly the intended mismatch.
By halftime, the score was already 30-0, and the starters made their exit from the field for the day. If Bobby Petrino intended to show everyone that the Hogs' offense would be fine this season without Mallett and Davis, mission accomplished.
Granted, no FCS team can replicate an SEC defense, but there were a lot of SEC teams that didn't win their games by 44 points, either.
There were so many distractions this offseason for Ohio State, there were some legit questions about the Buckeyes and how prepared they could possibly be for the season.
Those questions are, for the most part, now answered.
While Luke Fickell doesn't have the coaching pedigree of previous head coaches in Columbus, he showed that he's a capable leader for the program, and his athletes were well prepared to take on a severely over-matched Akron team from the MAC.
After a tentative start to the game, the Buckeyes began to click offensively en route to 42 points on the day.
The defense was a high point for Ohio State fans. While not much was expected from Akron, keeping the Zips off the scoreboard for the entire afternoon was a nice bonus.
In the end, we learned that Ohio State is still Ohio State, and the Buckeyes still have a wealth of athletic ability on the roster.
This former Texas coach-in-waiting is no longer waiting, and he now has his first victory as a head coach of the Florida Gators.
The Gators didn't take long to utilize the Charlie Weis-designed offense and quickly jumped out to a 10-0 first quarter lead on Florida Atlantic. By halftime, that lead had ballooned to 24-3. The three points allowed in the second quarter would be all the Owls could muster, as the Gators cruised to a 41-3 victory.
Even the second and third teams seemed to have control of the game plan, and FAU was completely unable to produce against any group of players dressed in blue and orange.
While it's a little early to determine if Florida will be able to improve its record over last season, it's clear that the Muschamp years will be fruitful in Gainesville.
In two seasons, Gary Anderson led the Utah State Aggies to a combined record of 8-16. Anderson's third season at the helm began with his 17th loss as USU head coach, but the loss was about as close to a epic win as a team like Utah State can come.
The Aggies weren't intimidated by the fact that they were walking into one of the more hostile environments in the nation, taking on the defending BCS champions, and were doing all of that as massive underdogs.
The Aggies jumped out to a first quarter lead and led the Auburn Tigers by seven at the half. Auburn came out inspired in the third quarter and caught enough lucky breaks in the fourth quarter to narrowly edge out the Aggies by four points, securing the game-winning touchdown in the final minute of the game.
Even though Utah State lost the game, it's clear that Gary Anderson had his team ready to play, and the Aggies were an onside kick recovery away from dealing a mighty blow to the Auburn psyche and the notion of SEC supremacy. For that, Gary Anderson is one of just three coaches who led losing teams in Week 1 to appear on our list.
The only other losing coach to appear on our list is first-year head coach Jerry Kill from Minnesota.
The Golden Gophers went searching for a new coach after years of underachievement. Jerry Kill left Northern Illinois for the Big Ten team, and his first game, although a loss, showed that Minnesota is serious about regaining their form.
The Golden Gophers traveled west to face Southern California on the road, and the No. 25 Trojans had everything they could handle in the team from the twin cities.
The Gophers fell behind 19-3 at the half, and rather than packing it in (as so many Minnesota teams from the past years would have), Kill led his team back onto the field in the second half and put up 14 more points while holding the Trojans scoreless.
While Minnesota fell just short, 19-17, Kill's Gophers were well prepared to take on a Trojans squad that should have won by many more than two points.
If you're Pat Fitzgerald, it's easy to figure out that a quarterback like Dan Persa is going to figure heavily into your game plan.
But what happens when Persa is out due to injury? Northwestern isn't exactly a team loaded with top-tier talent. What now?
Apparently, Fitzgerald and the Wildcats were prepared for just such an eventuality, and backup quarterback Kain Colter stepped into the role as starter and stepped up as the field general for Northwestern and executed Fitzgerald's game plan to perfection.
Northwestern left Boston with a 24-17 victory over Boston College and will return to Evanston an improbable 1-0.
What a way to start a head coaching career.
Wayne Lineburg was named as the new head coach for the Richmond Spiders of the FCS less than two weeks before the start of the 2011 season after former head coach Latrell Scott resigned.
It would be easy to dismiss the Spiders' first game in 2011 with the turmoil the resignation of a coach can cause barely a week before the season. It would be even easier considering that Richmond was beginning the year against a team from the FBS and was expected by many, if not most, to lose.
But Lineburg and the Spiders had no intention of rolling over and playing dead for the Duke Blue Devils.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Spiders opened the second quarter with a touchdown on the first play. After Duke evened the score, Richmond tacked on a field goal to lead 10-7 at halftime.
Duke took the lead from Richmond in the third quarter, twice, before Richmond scored the final points of the game early in the fourth quarter, taking a 23-21 lead, and never surrendering another point to the Blue Devils.
Richmond was outpaced in virtually every statistical category, and Duke was much more efficient in most meaningful areas. But as we have so often come to see in these FBS-FCS games, the stats are usually misleading.
Lineburg had his players not only prepared to face Duke, which was sporting a new all-black uniform, but he had them believing they could win.
And win they did.
In the short, short history of the South Alabama football program, there have been just 18 football games played. All 18 of them have been victories.
South Alabama is noteworthy because not only are they a program that has never lost a game, they are a program that is currently making the transition from to the FBS and will be a full member of the FBS in 2013, with 2012 serving as the transitional season. The 2011 season will be South Alabama's only FCS season (the Jaguars were considered “unclassified” by the NCAA prior to 2011).
While the program began as a non-NCAA program in 2009 (in which South Alabama won all seven games played), it's first official NCAA season in 2010 finished 10-0. While winning 10 games against a collection of mediocre FCS and Division II schools probably isn't much to hang one's hat upon, the win-streak remains intact after yet another win, this time over West Alabama.
The fact that the program is in Alabama, is undefeated, and is run by Joey Jones, a man who clearly knows how to get the most out of his limited resources, is sure to start attracting top talent from the south.
The 2011 season isn't a foregone conclusion, though. South Alabama takes on their first-ever FBS opponent in the third game of the year—a September 17 trip to NC State. But Wolfpack fans shouldn't assume that South Alabama will be an easy team to roll over. Joey Jones clearly knows a few things about winning football games, and the Jaguars aren't accustomed to losing.
The wait is finally over for Michigan fans, and the Hoke era has officially begun in Ann Arbor.
So far, so good.
One of the biggest tests for Michigan in their opening game was the passing attack of Western Michigan. The Broncos, while not anywhere near a complete team, do have a passing game that is capable of wracking up yards and putting up points.
The Michigan defense played well in the little more than two quarters before the game was postponed for lightening. The game was never finished, and Michigan left with a 34-10 victory, even if they finish left a bitter taste in the mouths of many.
WMU's defense was completely hapless against the Wolverines' attack. The defense was so bad, in fact, it reminded many of Michigan's 2010 defense.
Still, Hoke had a plan in place, and both the offense and defense executed that plan, and it's likely that if the game had continued a full 60 minutes, Michigan would have won by at least three more touchdowns.
Bronco Mendenhall and the BYU Cougars began their first year of conference independence by heading straight into SEC country to take on Mississippi.
BYU is looking to prove that the move out of the Mountain West Conference wasn't a mistake, and a win against an SEC team—any SEC team—would be a good first step.
Even after falling behind against a feisty Ole Miss team eager to prove to the world that 2010 was a fluke, Mendenhall and the Cougars showed no signs of panic. In anything, BYU stepped up its play, facing a fumble that was recovered in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
Mendenhall's unassuming appearance on the sideline—usually while wearing just a BYU t-shirt—is matched only by his prowess as a head coach, as his 57-21 record at BYU proves.
When Boise State left the WAC, many people thought that the WAC was out of good teams. Those folks apparently forgot about Hawai'i—another WAC BCS-buster.
While the Warriors haven't been crashing the BCS party lately, the Warriors faithful still fondly remember their invitation to the 2008 Sugar Bowl.
Hawai'i had an opportunity to take a win from a BCS AQ program to start 2011, as the Pac-12's newest team, Colorado, headed out into the Pacific for a visit.
What the Buffaloes found in paradise was a Hawai'i team fired up for a shot at a victory over an AQ program.
The defending WAC co-champions welcomed the Buffaloes with an unrelenting attack, and head coach Greg McMackin, now in his fourth season as Warriors head coach, engineered a passing attack that provided the Hawai'ians with a 17-0 halftime lead.
It was the third quarter before Colorado could mount a charge, but McMackin's team wasn't finished scoring, either.
Hawai'i now heads into a second game against a Pac-12 opponent (this time, at Washington) with a 1-0 record against the conference this season.
It seems as if every Notre Dame season begins with lofty goals and expectations of BCS glory.
The 2011 season is no different. More than a handful of fans and even sports writers predicted that Notre Dame would make a bona fide run at the BCS this season. Nobody told that to Skip Holtz and the South Florida Bulls.
Notre Dame was the No. 16 team in the nation, and the game against South Florida was supposed to be just the first win in a long series of impressive victories for the Fighting Irish. But the Irish sputtered right from the start, and the Bulls were fully prepared to take advantage of numerous Notre Dame miscues. The Bulls rattled starting Irish signal-caller Dayne Crist, and Crist was replaced at quarterback for the second half.
While the Irish made an impressive charge, the Bulls hunkered down and weathered the storm—figuratively and literally, as the stadium was evacuated and the game suspended due to lightening—and Skip Holtz left his alma mater, and stadium at which his father is a living legend, with a three-point victory.
Now, the media pundits are talking less about Notre Dame and the BCS and more about South Florida and a Big East title.
Boise State is beginning the season with their highest preseason ranking ever, coming in at No. 5.
Whether or not one can admit it, Boise State does have one of the best programs in the nation. Kellen Moore is obviously a big part of that, but so is Chris Petersen. It takes a coach to not only recruit a player like Moore, but to continue to design offenses that play to his strengths and mitigates his weaknesses.
This wasn't Boise State's first meeting with a team from the SEC, but the Broncos were still searching for the first win against the conference.
Georgia, also no stranger to Boise State, was the designated opponent, and for the big kickoff weekend, the game was played at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Though technically a neutral field, it was clearly a de facto home game for the Bulldogs, and the crowd was expected to play a big role.
When Georgia jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, the Broncos didn't panic, and Petersen stuck to his methodical offensive game plan. Before long, Moore and the rest of the Broncos were hitting on all cylinders, and the No. 19 Bulldogs soon found themselves trailing. Every time the Bulldogs made a move, Petersen, like a football chess grandmaster, was already six moves ahead.
Georgia spent the entire second half chasing the Broncos in vein.
Boise State now has the perfect opportunity to run the table in 2011, and with their lofty preseason ranking, it's possible if not likely that Boise State will soon be headed for colossal showdown in New Orleans in the second week of January.
Isn't Virginia Tech ranked No. 13 in the nation, and didn't they beat an FCS team?
Yes, that's very true. But considering what happened last season, you have to imagine that there were a couple of doubts finding their way into the heads of the Hokies.
After a ranked Virginia Tech lost to FCS James Madison last season, the 2011 opening game against FCS Appalachian State seemed to loom just a little larger than it otherwise would have. Add to the fact that the Mountaineers have a big win over a ranked FBS program under their belts (at then-No. 5 Michigan in 2007), and this game was clearly a landmine for the Hokies.
Frank Beamer needed to ensure his players didn't step on that mine of their own accord.
It was evident from the opening kickoff that this game would be no repeat of the fiasco against James Madison in 2010. By halftime, the Hokies had executed Beamerball to perfection, building up a 38-0 lead.
When the starters made their exit, the Hokies' twos and threes made the most of their opportunities. In the end, Virginia Tech walked off the field at Lane Stadium with a 60-13 victory.
Not only did Beamer have his team mentally prepared, it seemed as if the whole program had something to prove against Appalachian State.
And it was proven.
You usually don't see games between two top five teams until late in the season. You almost never see them in week one, and it's unheard of for an SEC team to put their season at risk in a week one non-conference game.
Far from the typical SEC modus operandi, the Tigers found themselves facing the No. 3 Oregon Ducks on a neutral field to start 2011.
So much press ink was dedicated to the buildup to this game. There was the seemingly invincibility of Oregon, the LSU suspensions, the SEC vs. Pac-12 argument, the BCS implications...
In the end, it came down to game plans, preparation and execution. Les Miles made sure that in all three categories, LSU was the undeniable winner.
LSU also won on the scoreboard, 40-27.
LSU has propelled itself from the team needing to chase Alabama in the SEC to at least being viewed on the same level as the Tide. While Alabama convincingly won their opening game, Kent State and Oregon aren't even in the same universe when it comes to football talent.
Alabama was expected to win by a huge margin. As many, if not more people picked Oregon to win as picked LSU—and in the end, it wasn't even close.
LSU is now the team to beat in the SEC in 2011.
Last season, Baylor took a trip to Texas Christian and returned home humbled and a bit embarrassed.
This year, the Bears had a chance to seek revenge on the touted and ranked Horned Frogs, and this time, it was the Frogs that walked off the field feeling a bit embarrassed.
Art Briles, head coach at Baylor, undoubtedly reminded his players of the thrashing at the hands of TCU in 2010.
The game began with Baylor, almost surprisingly, hanging tough with the Horned Frogs. In the second quarter, Briles really stepped on the accelerator and allowed quarterback Robert Griffin, III to sling it around the field, putting up 20 second-quarter points to take a 34-23 halftime lead into the locker room.
Everyone figured that a 11-point lead against TCU wasn't nearly enough, and Briles and the Bears went in for the kill in the third, blanking TCU while putting up 13 more points.
When TCU poured it on in the fourth quarter, and eventually took the lead with less than five minutes to go, Briles reminded his team of their successes against TCU earlier in the evening, and made sure no one panicked.
Under Briles's direction and the sure play of the quarterback now simply known as “RG3,” the Bears drove down the field where Aaron Jones booted a 37-yard field goal with a minute remaining to put the Bears up for good, 50-48.
Improbable at best, the Bears' victory over TCU may set the tone for the entire 2011 season—a season which follows a 2010 success that saw Baylor heading to their first bowl game since 1994. Could 2010 and 2011 be the first back-to-back bowl game seasons for the Bears since 1991-1992?
With the skilled planning of Briles and continued amazing, calm play from “RG3,” it looks pretty good.