NCAA

NCAA Football Opening Weekend Observations

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This past weekend is more or less college football’s version of the Super Bowl.  Although national championship’s aren’t technically on the line, the football watching country tunes in and focuses on the “amateur’s” solely for one weekend.

College football is like a puzzle, where each weekend provides more pieces until we’re able to see the final picture.  Here is some of what we learned during opening weekend:

Alabama is great; the rest of the SEC isn’t

With the SEC losing five or six (Ole Miss vs. FSU game pending) on the opening weekend, does it signal a shift in power to the other conferences?  Not necessarily.  The Southeastern Conference has been overrated for the last few years as they get too much credit for beating each other.

It starts with the rankings and when eight or nine SEC teams are ranked in the Top 25, they’re always going to get credit for those wins against each other and not drop too far for losing to one another.  What we saw this weekend with top teams losing at neutral sites and some others struggling with FCS opponents, the SEC isn’t the steamroller everyone thinks.

With that said, it doesn’t mean that they’re bad.  They had one tough weekend, but if you take the top one or two teams away from any Power 5 conference then the rest of that conference will look mediocre.

The SEC is probably still the best conference from top to bottom, but they’re not infallible and they can be beat on any given Saturday by any given opponent; just like everyone else.

So how about Nick Saban’s group?

The Crimson Tide whipped the USC Trojans 52-6, and the game probably wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate.  Does this mean that the Tide are unbeatable?  Not exactly.  They’ll probably drop a game that they’re expected to win and it shouldn’t matter all that much as they should still win the SEC and be part of the final four.

What does this say about USC?

This is what the program is.  Slightly above average in the Pac 12 and not ready for prime time against the big boys.  They’re poorly coached and believe it or not they’re still feeling the effects of the punitive NCAA sanctions which has ultimately set the program back a decade.

Houston is the best team in the Big 12

We know Houston isn’t in the Big 12 (yet), but the way they rolled formerly No. 3 ranked Oklahoma speaks volumes about the job head coach Tom Herman has done.  The Coogs are fun to watch and can compete with anyone on a week to week basis.

Think of them as the new Boise State.

The fact that they’re in the AAC actually helps Houston as they can get by against weaker opponents on a weekly basis while they gear up for the big games and if they win just enough of them, they will be thought of as an elite team, even if that might not truly be the case.

Should they be a member of the Big 12?

The team is good enough right now, but what if (when) Herman leaves?  They really don’t add much in terms of recruiting and the conference would be better off (long term) selecting one of the two Florida programs, either UCF or USF.

Besides, who wants the “little brother” Houston Cougars beating up on Texas and Oklahoma every year?

Texas might just be back

Most everyone you talk to that doesn’t have some sort of hidden agenda wishes University of Texas head coach Charlie Strong the best possible luck in turning the Longhorns program around. Through the first two years it hasn’t happened and they need to take a step forward to give Strong a chance to coach them in 2017.

Coming off a 5-7 season, the Horns gained some confidence and self respect as they took down 10th ranked Notre Dame on Sunday night, 50-47 in double overtime.

“We’ve been down for so long and people have been talking about us,” Strong said. “It was a night for us to just make it right. At least for one game, for one game. I’m just so proud of our football team.”

This doesn’t mean that UT is a favorite once again in the Big 12, but if you can beat a Top 10 team, you have to feel confident about your chances against anyone you play.

Freshman quarterback Shane Buechele wasn’t flawless, but he was more than good enough completing 16 of 26 throws, for 280 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception.  He also added a rushing touchdown.  Buechele completed some deep passes and Texas finally has the vertical passing game they’ve been missing for quite some time.

UCF and Kansas get off the schneid

Neither the University of Central Florida nor Kansas should be considered contenders.  They are a long way and probably underdogs from being bowl eligible.  With that said, a win is better than the alternative, and both the Knights and Jayhawks notched wins this weekend.

In the first game of the Scott Frost era, UCF blanked FCS South Carolina State, 38-0, which marked their first win since December of 2014.

Meanwhile in Lawrence, KS, the Jayhawks trounced visiting Rhode Island, 55-6.

“I’ve never been through what we went through last year,” Kansas head coach David Beaty said shortly after a 55-6 victory over Rhode Island on Saturday night. “Personally it was very difficult. I got emotional with those guys. It’s just so hard, so obviously I’m overjoyed for them.”

We’re not going to take the time to evaluate the rosters of South Carolina State and Rhode Island to try and figure out exactly how impressive these respective UCF and Kansas victories are, but a win is a win, and neither program had a single one last year.

Wouldn’t it be fun if both teams somehow scrapped their way to bowl eligibility and they met up in some mid-December bowl game?

 


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.