La Crema Chardonnay, possibly the gayest three words I have ever started a college football column with, but here we are. A quarter-bottle of it remains on the top right shelf of my Sunday morning fridge. La Crema Chardonnay is the preferred opiate of the Junior League of Women Voters (assuming, of course, that no one’s made margaritas). But no one drinks it poorly corked and aged overnight. That’s just sad unfulfilled promise. The three women drinking from this bottle yesterday didn’t finish the fourth quarter because they moved on to other things. Women are smart like that. All of these women are great football fans, including Mrs. Jones Top Ten, who earned my undying love partially due to her inspired tirade on the Longhorn offensive coaching staff as we left the 2002 Texas/OU game. Anyway, they know good football when they see it. They didn’t see much of it this weekend.
Thank God for Monday.
Boise State 33
Virginia Tech 30
Boise State won a great game on Monday night. Might have stole it, actually, but that’s the way Boise rolls. They won’t apologize and shouldn’t. The Broncos jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first helped by two huge Virginia Tech mistakes, including a blocked punt. Virginia Tech woke up in the second quarter and dominated. Down 20-14 at the half, Va Tech stopped Boise, got the ball back and finally took the lead, 21-20. Then the Hokies promptly gave up a 71-yard touchdown run (but blocked the extra point). Virginia Tech went back up 27-26, then 30-26. VT stymied Boise again; got the ball back, but didn’t quite run the clock out. And when you don’t quite run the clock out on Kellen Moore…like I said, 33-30, Boise State.
I thought it was a great game played by two very good teams. I think parts of each team are great—Moore, the Bronco wide receivers, Tyrod Taylor (who I thought was the best player on either team most of the night), the Tech secondary—but among the best five in the country? I dunno. Comparing Boise State’s performance against Oregon State with TCU’s will be very interesting.
But these two teams did make week one interesting, just as the audience was going to sleep.
ESPN’s lead story after Saturday’s full slate was Jacksonville State’s overtime upset of Ole Miss. I must ask: Is that all you’ve got? Ole Miss is not a Program. This year’s Rebels are not even very good, even with Jeremiah Masoli. Their skill position players couldn’t frighten a second-grader; they have serious tackling problems on their allegedly strong defense and, wait for it…Houston Nutt is still the coach. This was not Appalachian State over Michigan.
Of course, compelling storylines didn’t just jump out of the woodwork. We can dispense with most of the weekend by noting that if you constructed a team made up of the best players on the combined rosters of San Jose State, New Mexico, Florida A&M, Marshall, Eastern Illinois, Louisiana-Lafayette, South Carolina State or Tennessee Tech, they still couldn’t beat Alabama, or any reasonable facsimile like Oregon, Miami, Ohio State, Iowa, Georgia, Georgia Tech or Arkansas. Their component parts certainly don’t have a chance. Big 387, Little 37.
The boring pay-to-play update should make up well more than half of a season-opening summary. But this season, the patsies didn’t carefully read the contractual terms.
Nebraska routed terrible Western Kentucky, 49-10, but gave up 155 yards to Hilltopper tailback Bobby Rainey, who ain’t exactly Walter Payton. Bo Pelini, who’s about as nurturing as Joan Crawford after cocktail hour, wasn’t amused.
Interesting fact of the day: Phil Steele ranks Western Kentucky’s starting cornerbacks as the 817th and 818th best prospects in the country coming out of high school. Have we really devolved as a culture to the point that someone has a database that can tell me who the best 818 high school defensive backs are? Further, if there are 120 Division I football teams and 240 starting cornerbacks, divided by four or five full classes of high school players, then a serviceable starting cornerback should come out of high school ranked no lower than about 100 maybe? How bad does a team have to be to start the 800th best anything?
Texas beat Rice 34-17. Even if the final score doesn’t tell the complete story, that’s pretty embarrassing to have on the ESPN news crawl. Texas could perhaps have won by more (they have better athletes and all), but they looked bored, dispassionate and lacked attention to details like blocking, catching and fielding punts.
If it is any consolation to Longhorn Nation, Oklahoma fans are madder than Texas fans. If I told you that Oklahoma’s DeMarco Murray gained 218 yards rushing and Ryan Broyles put up another 142 receiving playing at home against Utah State, what would you guess the final score was? I might go with 54-3, which was the score of the 2007 OU/Utah State game. I would only be off by 44 points. OU 31, Utah State 24.
It gets worse.
Florida beat Miami-Ohio, 34-12. Comfortable, if not spectacular, although the game was only 21-12 early in the fourth. But the stat of the day has to be the 13 bad center exchanges, eight of which resulted in fumbles, three of which the Gators lost. Florida phenom-quarterback-designate John Brantley helpfully explained that perhaps the high humidity was the problem. Gee, who would have thought that playing in a venue nicknamed the Swamp could result in such conditions? My God, how will Florida ever adapt????
USC dropped 49 points on Hawaii. Hawaii dropped a cool 36 on USC, courtesy of 588 total yards gained. Oregon (and Stanford and Washington and Arizona, and Oregon State…) must be licking their chops.
So who played well?
Let’s start with Michigan. Quarterback Denard Robinson threw for 186 (on 19 of 22, nice) and ran for 197 in a surprisingly easy 30-10 win over a legitimately good UConn. Has Rich Rodriguez found his new Pat White? Robinson does all this without even tying his shoes. He’s so cool that if this were the 1980s, he would smell like Drakkar Noir.
TCU rocked Oregon State 30-21. The Frogs looked like the stronger team most of the night, but the Beavers hung around because, well, Jacquizz and James Rodgers play for them. The viewing audience was robbed of a great finish when OSU, down 28-21, had the ball with four minutes to go. Instead of a game-tying drive, a center exchange worthy of John Brantley resulted in a safety and accounted for the final margin.
Utah beat Pittsburgh on Thursday night in a sloppily played, but entertaining, 27-24 contest decided in overtime. The press lazily labeled this an upset. Why? Because Pitt is ranked in the top 15? Pitt going across country to play a very well-coached Utah that has won 40 games in the last four years is a 50/50 proposition, at best.
Florida State won Jimbo Fisher’s debut over Bobby Bowden’s alma mater, 59-6. Of course, Bobby Bowden didn’t exactly graduate from Alabama.
BYU ruined Washington’s coming out party. Jake Locker did his best, but couldn’t close the deal in a 23-17 loss in Provo.
South Carolina looked great in a 41-13 beat down of Southern Miss. Whatever emotional abuse Steve Spurrier has heaped on Stephen Garcia seems to be working. The Gamecocks are now one game over .500 for their history. They also may have shed the label of "worst team to watch on opening night," although last year’s 7-3 abomination at NC State is still seared upon my memory like a bout of vacation food poisoning.
Penn State unveiled a frosh quarterback about as shiny as a brand new penny. Rob Bolden, all 18 years of him, led the Nitts to a 44-14 win over Youngstown State. I am sure he will have the same success playing at Alabama next Saturday.
North Carolina did all they could to ruin perhaps the worst ESPN Game Day location decision ever. UNC/LSU in Atlanta looked pretty good before the Tar Heels suspended 13 players for agent tomfoolery, academic malfeasance and generally bad behavior embarrassing to the university. Six of the suspended players started on defense and all six may well play in the NFL some day. No surprise that LSU raced to a 30-10 lead and also no surprise that Les Miles nearly found a way to lose anyway. LSU 30, Half Carolina 24.
Kansas State’s Daniel Thomas rushed for over 230 yards in a 31-22 win over UCLA. Mizzou beat Illinois, again.
Wisconsin beat UNLV, 41-21. Auburn beat Arkansas State, West Virginia beat Coastal Carolina…zzzzzzzzz
On Sunday, Texas Tech beat Southern Money, 35-27. Tommy Tuberville’s a good football coach, but not nearly as fun as Mike Leach.
The Wake Forest/Presbyterian, Duke/Elon Thursday/Saturday doubleheader battle royale would have made for an interesting debate tournament. Wake destroyed their Calvinist brothers in Christ, a predestined outcome if there ever was one. Duke won, as well, but gave up 27 points to Elon, one of the better I-AA teams in the nation, which, I guess, is about what Duke probably is.
Notre Dame, God love them, won their opener against Purdue by playing defense, of all things. Irish 23, Boilermakers 12. The Irish may be the best team in Indiana. Wait, Butler doesn’t play football do they?
Impressive Showing of the Week: Michigan
1. Alabama: Boring? Yes. True? Yes.
2. Ohio State: Terrelle Pryor looked relax and confident. Maybe anyone would routing Marshall. Of course, this time last year, Ohio State had just barely survived Navy in the opener.
3. Oregon Without Jeremiah Masoli: Not sure what 72-0 over New Mexico proves. But it might suggest that Oregon is better than Florida or Texas, at the moment.
4. TCU: The Frogs would be the most physical team in the Pac Ten.
5. Miami: I know nothing about Florida A&M, other than the reputation of their marching band.
6. Georgia: Aaron Murray handled his business just fine without A.J. Green in the line-up. The Bulldogs only surrendered 128 total yards to ULL and 60 of them came on one play.
7. Boise State: From my view, Boise State didn’t match up all that well physically against Virginia Tech, as opposed to TCU, which looked stronger at the point of attack than Oregon State. On the other hand, the Broncos went cross-country and played completely out of their element, fighting both the humidity and the pro-Hokie crowd.
8. Michigan: Next week’s game at Notre Dame just got a lot more interesting. Rich Rod with a quarterback who can actually run his offense is dangerous.
9. Nebraska: No need to share the spot with Carolina any more. The new Husker QB, Taylor Martinez, would be the best offensive player on North Carolina’s roster.
10. Vacant: Florida, Texas and Oklahoma are all in the penalty box this week. None of them played top ten football.