It may not feel like autumn in New England yet (90 degrees and humid, seriously?) but the college football season is indeed underway, with some competitive games on opening weekend for a change. Let’s review.
-South Carolina beat North Carolina Thursday night, but the Gamecocks’ defense looked shaky- at times, very shaky. It’s early in the season, but if they want to be competitive in SEC play, they’ve got to tighten up.
-UNC’s first touchdown was caught by wideout Bug Howard. I wonder if he’s related to former Tennessee receiver Pig Howard?
-Tar Heel kicker Nick Weiler made two field goals Thursday night, with a long of 47 yards. UNC was 0-of-7 on field attempts from over 30 yards last season.
-The Jim Harbaugh era at Michigan started with a whimper rather than a bang. Most of the stats aren’t terrible- time of possession, first downs, and total yardage were all very similar. HOWEVER, the Wolverines have now lost the turnover battle in 11 of their last 14 games, with Iowa transfer Jake Rudock, a fifth-year senior, completing 27 of 43 pass attempts and tossing three picks to the Utes. I watched several passes sail on Rudock, either just too high or just too far out in front of the receiver. The running game was even less productive, gaining just 76 yards. Fixing the Maize and Blue is clearly going to take longer than the summer.
-Minnesota struggled a bit on offense, but their defense has the potential to be very good. Remember the name Julian Huff. He’s a true freshman who played admirably going up against a TCU senior who had a nine-inch, 100-plus pound size advantage.
-Saturday afternoon featured the first upset of the season as Northwestern beat a ranked Stanford team. The Cardinal looked sluggish (probably due in part to what was a 9 am Pacific Time start), but give credit where its due- Northwestern looked much better than I had been expecting. They’ve got a quite a few new starters on offense, including all three interior linemen and a freshman quarterback, so I expect growing pains over the course of the season, but overall I was very impressed. Both teams’ offensive lines looked strong.
-An offensive line that didn’t look so strong? That would be Penn State’s. (Anyone else experiencing deja vu here?) Quarterback Christian Hackenberg was sacked 10 times, including at least one time when Temple- yes, Temple- was only rushing two guys. On the occasions Hackenberg remained upright, he completed 11 of 25 passes for 103 yards, no touchdowns, and one pick. He also carried the ball 11 times for minus 59 yards.
-Nebraska fans, I’d suggest skipping this next paragraph or so. The end of the Nebraska-BYU game was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen, and I mean that in a good way. I jumped up and yelled something not very family-friendly when the Hail Mary was caught, and I couldn’t have cared less who won the game. That may be one of the most exciting plays of the season even when all is said and done.
-Two other things from that game: number one, Nebraska needs to find a kicker who can make field goals, and number two, BYU is in decent hands with freshman Tanner Mangum at quarterback the rest of the way.
-I don’t know what the experts were saying before as far as BYU quarterback Taysom Hill and his potential draft position, but after a season-ending injury for the third time in four years, there have to be concerns now about his durability.
-Might the hype over Auburn QB Jeremy Johnson have been a bit premature? 11/21, 137 yards, one TD, three picks. Don’t get me wrong, they’ll still be a good team and I don’t doubt that Johnson will improve as the season goes on, but I think whichever ESPN pundit was talking about him as a Heisman dark horse may have jumped the gun a wee bit. (Unfortunately, I can’t for the life of me remember who it was).
-As if Pitt didn’t have enough questions on offense, bruising junior running back James Conner was lost for the season with a torn MCL.
-Sophomore defensive end Myles Garrett from Texas A&M is probably one of the best edge rushers in the SEC. His speed is insane.
-A dangerous moment in the Alabama-Wisconsin game was handled correctly by all involved. Senior Badger safety Michael Caputo was hit, got up wobbly, and somehow wandered into the Tide backfield. A referee approached him, and it was clear on camera that he was dazed and disoriented. The trainers were waved onto the field, and according to the sideline reporter, took his helmet away as soon as they got to the sideline, despite Caputo’s protests; within minutes, it was announced that he was done for the game. This is how concussions need to be handled.
-As someone who’s… well, let’s just say no longer in college, I hit record on the DVR and went to bed at halftime of the Ohio State-Virginia Tech game last night. I got up this morning, checked the score, and found that despite the first half, the game ended the way I think most people (including me) would have predicted. Ho-hum, Ohio State is going to be good again. But are they invincible? Something to keep an eye on.
Remember that this column will normally appear on Sunday mornings. You can follow me on Twitter @LastWordLindsay.