College Football: Jumping to Conclusions Through the Season's Second Week
“Relax, it’s Week 2,” a smart person will say, “you can’t jump to any conclusions just yet.” And they’ll be right. Kind of.
Last year, after college football’s second weekend, it would’ve been easy to accept the following things as fact:
- Auburn and Cam Newton barely beat Mississippi State -- they’re not quite there.
- Here come Turner Gill and Kansas!
- Virginia Tech is done atop the ACC, THEY LOST TO JAMES MADISON.
But guess what else happened in Week 2?
- Florida struggled (again) to figure out an offensive identity.
- Miami and Jacory Harris were, uh, careless in the passing game.
- UCLA scored zero points.
Because I’d like to pat myself on the back in early January, the following questions and resulting conclusions will be jumped to with almost no regard for common sense. It’s never too early!
Can Texas move the ball forward against a decent (or any) defensive front?
The BYU front seven that the Longhorns will see may quietly be one of the best in the country and second only to Oklahoma’s on the Texas schedule. If Texas is able to get any sort of push in the run game Saturday (an “if” the size of the school’s ego), a balanced Texas offense could be in the offering this season, no matter who’s under center.
Conclusion Jump: Texas beats BYU in one of the weekend’s uglier games, but looks like last year’s ‘Horns on the ground (not a good thing, mind you). Ground relief will come in the form of Texas’s forthcoming Big 12 schedule.
Is Mississippi State ready to make a move in a crowded SEC West?
The powers of Bulldog QB Chris Relf and RB Vick Ballard combine to form the most under-appreciated, if not most athletic backfield in America. The Auburn game isn’t specifically a test of whether Starkville’s Captain Planet backfield can succeed against an SEC defense (they can), but whether the Bulldogs are now in a position to make necessary mid-game adjustments or finish shootouts, like they couldn’t last year (see LSU, see Arkansas).
Auburn is the perfect opponent for Mississippi State to gauge themselves against because the Tigers, if nothing else this season, will:
a) Score points in bunches
b) Outmaneuver a better team with sound coaching
Conclusion Jump: Mississippi State beats Auburn in a road squeaker, and with the ability to close tight SEC road games in their holster, the Bulldogs finish… fourth in the SEC West, which is still good enough for a top 12 year-end ranking.
Do Alabama or Penn State have a full-time starting QB on their rosters?
Penn State not yet having a singular solution at quarterback means less in the grand college football scheme than Alabama lacking the same, but the appealing thing is they get to play each other tomorrow, so at one point, we can all say, “Hey at least (team) isn’t nearly as bad off at quarterback as (other team). Hopefully.
Neither team, no matter whom they eventually appoint, will ask that much of the position anyway, but in the Tide’s case, it will 100 percent be the difference between 12-0 and 11-1 or 10-2.
Conclusion Jump: The Tide's A.J. McCarron has a year on Philip Sims and seems, at this point, to be slightly more capable of screwing up less (if that makes sense). Alabama still loses a conference game in an impossible SEC West.
Penn State is anybody’s guess. Mine is that whoever gets the call is the one who’s slightly more emotionally stable after tomorrow’s game. Count on whoever that is to throw predictable seven-yard outs and win eight unspectacular games.
Russell Wilson, immortal Badger?
Yes, Russell Wilson only needed 13 pass attempts to suitably bury UNLV last Thursday, but Oregon State is a considerable step up from the Rebels, no matter last week’s FCS ugliness. The Beaver secondary is better, the front seven will get a better push, and Oregon State’s offense (even minus RB Malcolm Agnew) should theoretically be able to keep the Badgers on their toes for a bit.
This, if you believe the Beavers will correct certain mistakes, could lead to more of Wilson, which should give everyone a better sense of the transfer’s comfort level within the Badger offense.
After not being asked to do too much in the early going against the Beavers, Wilson will have a huge second half. By running the offense that Wisconsin does, the numbers won’t be there for a Heisman run, but Wilson’s campaign as the best player on a Big Ten contender begins in earnest tomorrow.
Will USC get and stay better?
This week, USC welcomes Utah, one of the two new permanent names on USC’s schedule to the forever-existing LA Coliseum. What the Utes lack in offensive firepower, they more than make up for in simply being good enough to take advantage of general USC malaise. The Trojans are hoping the return of starting RB Marc Tyler will help to bring together an offensive unit with only TWO GOOD PLAYERS (not my words).
It’s pretty simple...if USC averages five yards on the ground tomorrow, they’re winning (minimum) nine games. If you see more than six sideline shots of Lane Kiffin looking like he wants to wring the necks of nine offensive players in any one quarter, the cardinal and gold win seven (maximum).
Conclusion Jump: This is a big leap week for USC, as they finally find an offensive rhythm on the ground and keep Dillon Baxter from transferring for at least one more week. USC bookends the game with good first and fourth quarters and, if he hasn’t already, Trojan WR Robert Woods will put the fear of 2003 Mike Williams into every Pac-12 heart.
Is it the end of the beginning or beginning of the end for Notre Dame?
This much we know about Notre Dame going into Week 2’s game UNDER THE LIGHTS at Michigan...0. Brian Kelly sure is entertaining as he huffs and puffs and tries to disembowel Dayne Crist, but there’s still far more to like about Notre Dame than not, even after the South Florida fiasco.
The Michigan defense, though improved, should be just average enough to gauge whether Notre Dame is capable of moving past foot-shooting circumstances or is just plain average themselves in the spotlight (UNDER THE LIGHTS).
Conclusion Jump: With a clear non-Dayne Crist leader, Notre Dame’s offense becomes the balanced unit we expected in the offseason. More importantly, the defense gets the attention it deserved last week as it swallows up Denard Robinson and Michigan on the road. This newfound confidence gets Notre Dame back on track to win the nine games they’re good enough to win.
Also, if they lose, the above paragraph gets automatically deleted and you’ll never have proof I ever said anything good about the Irish in 2011.
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