CT’s Take: ND Threat, Gators, Ohio State, Penn State, Texas, and more from across CFB

Across CFB week one set the stage for 2015 playoff drama.


The Jim McElwain era couldn’t have gotten off to a better start Saturday night as the Gators thumped New Mexico 61-13. McElwain had announced a couple days prior to the game that sophomore Treon Harris would start while redshirt freshmen Will Greir would also see time. Both quarterbacks have been battling it out all spring and came out and showcased their development in the very quarterback friendly McElwain system.

Harris and Greir played out of their minds. They combined for 382 yards passing and four touchdowns. Harris was 14-for-19 for 215 yards and two scores while Grier was an astonishingly efficient 15-for-17 for 164 yards, two touchdowns through the air and another one the ground to go with his 43 yards on four carries. Harris had 23 yards in five carries on the ground for those keeping score at home.

This game did very little to provide clarity to the quarterback competition. Both were very efficient. They looked like they knew where they wanted to go with the ball, but were able to go through their progressions when needed. Most importantly they PROTECTED THE BALL. Turnovers have plagued the Gator offense for the past few seasons; and McElwain’s offenses have built their reputations on turning the ball over very little.

I will get behind either quarterback McElwain decides to go with. I think if he had his ideal situation around him, McElwain would start Grier and roll with the more conventional pocket passer who can replicate stuff he’s done with McCarron and McElroy. However, he also knows that his offensive line is going to be a major uphill battle and could be a huge problem. He knows if they can’t protect the quarterback Harris will be able to escape the pocket and make plays out of bad situations better than Grier. I believe that is why he is starting Harris, while also playing Grier to keep him sharp and mentally focused in case he needs to play. If he gets adequate or surprisingly good line play, he may choose to go to Grier partially into the season.

The offense looked like it is still looking to discover who their playmakers are, but it certainly has a ton of options. Kelvin Taylor showcased himself and appears to be growing into his body, and is looking the part of an every down back in the SEC. The dueling Jordan’s (Cronkite & Scarlet) also looked impressive in the backfield as each freshman had a touchdown. The ground game will be capable of moving the chains with regularity and providing McElwain with a balanced offense if the line isn’t a mess in front of them. It was one of the strong points of Muschamp’s time in Gainesville, and it should carry over nicely.

The wide receivers figured to be the DeMarcus Robinson and everyone else show this year, but that didn’t appear to be the case this weekend. DeMarcus still had a team high five catches, but the tight ends proved to be a huge part of this offense. Brandon Powell successfully made his transition from running back to slot receiver with his highlight play being a nifty 37 yard touchdown grab. This should be a versatile group for either Harris or Grier that won’t have to lean on Robinson as much as anticipated. The rest of the receiving corps should allow Robinson to make the big plays when they come.

It was tough to get a read on the defense against New Mexico State. The secondary played as well as expected led by Vernon Hargreaves III, who had an interception, and Jalon Tabor. The linebackers got good penetration and the front seven, as a whole, only gave up 72 yards on the ground. East Carolina will be a much tougher test this week even though they too will only tell so much. They were already replacing a veteran quarterback coming into the season and their new starter was injured. They are going to be playing their backup this weekend in the swamp.

There was plenty of reason to be optimistic for the McElwain era on a great night in Gainesville. The Gators came out and played with a swagger, an intensity, and a sense of INTELLIGENCE that they haven’t shown in a very, very long time. It’s the dawning of a completely new era and persona for the Gators, and it couldn’t have arrived soon enough.




Notre Dame put together a very impressive thumping of the Texas Longhorns this past weekend; and, while it remains to be seen just how bad Texas will be, Zaire looks like the real deal at quarterback. The Irish could be a legitimate contender.

Notre Dame notoriously gets over ranked the moment they start rolling, so getting into the top four won’t be a problem. They also have a very tough schedule which may even allow them to survive one or TWO losses. They look like they could be in every game this year, and if they are able to finish 10-2 or 11-1, it could be bad news for the entire power five landscape.

An Irish appearance in the playoffs would knock two conference champions out of the picture. It was a hot debate last year when two quality teams from one conference were left out. Now picture two very good teams, and two power five conferences as a whole, not making the field. This would speed up the talks for playoff expansion, and get us one step closer to an 8 or 12 team playoff after just two years in the current system. I guess I can use that as my silver lining in the likelihood that a highly overrated Irish team makes the field.


The Ohio State Buckeyes made their way to Blacksburg with plenty of motivation for revenge as they outclassed the Hokies. The Buckeyes dismantled them in the third quarter to pull away and show they are clearly the best offense, and team, in the country.

Urb went with twelve gauge Cardale Jones at quarterback, and he picked up where he left off, making the Hokies pay through the air and putting the hurt on them every time they tried to bring him down. Jones gives the offense a chance to have a successful down every time he touches the ball. If a play breaks down or just isn’t there, he can make something happen or turn nothing into at least a little something simply on his raw size and power alone. The defense gets hit trying to hit him and eventually that wears them down just as much as the offense. His versatility is the key factor why I suggested I would start him over JT Barett – no matter how much better JT is as a pure passer. I am a really big fan of JT Barrett. He’s a really good quarterback. Cardale just seemed like the guy that I would start against Virginia Tech.

However, in the famous words of Lee Corso “NOT SO FAST MY FRIENDS!” I don’t think this was Urban making the choice of Jones for the entire season. I feel like this was the choice he felt gave him the best chance to win on the road in the first game of the season. I think he will start JT Barrett in many games this year, possibly as soon as this week against Hawaii. Both men will see significant playing time, but Jones will likely start more often simply because he is more likely to be headed to the NFL at seasons end. JT could then stick around and start for his final two seasons in Columbus, a win/win for just about everyone except for, you know, the rest of the B1G.




The big story of the college football off-season was transfer quarterbacks. We had talk about the big three at Ohio State and which of those players may potentially move on. There was drama with Everett Golston, and his flirtation with multiple SEC schools before deciding on Florida State. Vernon Adams Jr. took the step up from FCS’ Eastern Washington and took over the reigns from Marcus Mariota as he leads the high powered Oregon Duck offense. Michigan declared Iowa transfer Jake Rudock their starter in week one against Utah. There are guys all over the country who made their re-debuts as the signal caller of another university.

Many of them played well. Golston looked comfortable as the lead man at Florida State; and is probably even happier with his decision after the way he saw Notre Dame play this weekend. Adams Jr. had the remarkable and emotional opportunity of playing his former team in his very first game with his new school. He played great and Oregon will need to spend the next few weeks evolving into a slightly different offense with him at the helm. Jake Coker finally started at Alabama a year later than expected, and after sitting behind Jameis Winston at Florida State. I wasn’t as impressed with him as I was the others. He plays as if he is anchored in concrete and just seems to attack the game slowly. He is likely the perfect guy for a Saban offense, but I have to believe Lane Kiffin wishes he had more of a playmaker than Coker. I just think Coker is average and it will cost them down the road in SEC action.

It was also just as interesting to watch the guys who DIDN’T transfer. Braxton Miller was electric in Ohio State’s season opening win against Virginia Tech with a 50+ yard touchdown through both the air and on the ground. Many people questioned his decision not to transfer and play his final year as a quarterback somewhere else. Pro scouts applauded the early decision to make a switch that is necessary for his future professional prospects anyway. Miller is Urban’s best offensive weapon since Percy Harvin; and he will continue to find fun and unique ways to get him explosive plays making him a lock to be a Heisman finalist.



Charlie Strong got off to a rough start last year after he kicked off a number of high-profile players in an effort to change the culture of the locker room. He wanted to tear down the team in order to build it back up in the image he wanted. It appeared as if that may have started paying its dividends near the end of the season when Texas got on a bit of a roll. However, the team completely tanked on their trip to South Bend this weekend, and was embarrassed by Notre Dame 38-3. Yes, you read that right, the Longhorns only scored three points and produced only 163 total yards.

Strong had a good thing going in Louisville before he left to take the reins in Austin; and you have to wonder if he is regretting his move. He was forced to watch his team have eight three and outs as they lost their third in a row dating back to last season. It remains to be seen if he will be given the proper time frame to completely change the culture in the program, and bring in the players that he thinks are the best fit to be Longhorns. The fans aren’t going to be too keen on the losses continuing to pile up while they watch Baylor and TCU have success nearby in their own conference. Not to mention Texas A&M proving itself as a contending program playing exciting and meaningful games in the SEC. If the Aggies win an SEC Championship the pressure will only intensify.

Strong will need to turn it around in a hurry, as in, this season. It’s still early and it could have just been a bad performance on the road in week one but it certainly didn’t look good. Texas will get Rice at home before being able to measure themselves against another disappointing team from a power five conference. They get Cal in two weeks. The Longhorns will need to win both of those games, and build some momentum before they begin Big 12 play or else Charlie Strong could find himself on the unemployment line.

Both teams kicked off their seasons with the high expectations of trying to compete for a conference title game appearance and a quality bowl game bid. Both saw those hopes crushed within sixty minutes. They weren’t just beaten. They were embarrassed. People can say that the B1G and Pac-12 are making claims at being the best conference in the country, and I will admit that their upper echelon teams can beat anyone in the country. But no conference can match the SEC’s quality from top to bottom, and this is another example. Penn State was demolished 27-10 by Temple as their offensive line was shredded. Washington State was a 31 point favorite and their high octane offense only scored 24 points against Portland State of the FCS. The middle to bottom of both the B1G and Pac 12 have a lot of work to do in recruiting to get better and deeper in order to truly make claims at being the best conference in the country.

10 SEC teams are ranked this week in the AP poll, a new record. By this measure South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt are the four “worst teams” in the conference at this very moment. Pair them against any bottom four from the other power five conferences and it’s not even close (with the exception of Vanderbilt). That is why the SEC is still the most impressive conference. Ohio State, Oregon, Florida State, Michigan State, TCU, and Baylor are all awesome; but the bottoms of the rest of the power five conferences are very weak.

Want proof? Here you go:

Pac-12: Colorado, Cal, Washington State, Oregon State

B1G: Purdue, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa

Big 12: Kansas, Iowa State, Texas Tech, West Virginia

ACC: Wake Forest, Syracuse, Virginia, NC State

I can make a strong argument that South Carolina, Florida, and even Kentucky beat all 16 of those teams on a neutral field. Kentucky vs. Iowa, West Virginia, NC State, and Oregon State might be tough games. The SEC sent 12 of their 14 teams to a bowl game last year, and Kentucky had 5 chances in a row to make it 13. The Wildcats couldn’t get over the hump. They may accomplish the feat this season.


I know this isn’t college football related, but those two cowards in the Texas high school that blatantly blindsided and landed cheap shots on the football referee should be kicked off the team, barred from playing any organized high school sports, and looked at for possible charges. What they did was clearly retaliation for something they feel the referee had done to them and was premeditated and disgusting. There have been two soccer referees that have been killed by cheap shots this year alone, and this could have caused a very serious or life threatening injury to someone who is giving his time to help these kids have a league to play in. It appeared as if the second guy was just a second early and had to hesitate and change his trajectory, which may have saved the official from further injury. Regardless, these two players should be held accountable and a statement should be made that this type of thing will not be tolerated at any level anywhere in this country.


*Alabama got a big resume building win in Jerry’s World against Wisconsin, who is likely to be a top B1G team and ranked throughout the season. They got back to the basics of a Nick Saban team, and pounded the ball on the ground while limiting the turnovers and playing tough defense. However, this offense is going to struggle and it will cost them big.

*Braxton Miller is a baller.

*BYU’s successful Hail Mary, game winning touchdown pass to give them the win in the final seconds of the game against Nebraska was the early play of the year. It’s just the latest reason why college football is the greatest thing in the history of the world.

*The B1G took a couple of disappointing losses by Michigan, Minnesota, and Nebraska; but none were bigger and more disappointing than Penn State’s beating at the hands of the mighty Temple University. James Franklin was off to a decent start as the head coach of State, but just hit a major setback.

*I already knew Vernon Adams Jr. was a stud quarterback, so it was no big surprise to see him carve up Eastern Washington’s secondary; but what was up with Oregon’s defense? They got shredded in their own right; and they gave it up to an offense being led by a new quarterback due to Adams jumping from EWU to Oregon. It was a total head-scratcher and reason for concern in Eugene. They will need to play better in East Lansing this weekend against Michigan State.

*North Carolina continues to showcase themselves as having top level athletic talent. The Tar Heels are possibly on the cusp of taking a step up. They consistently play at the top of the ACC for short periods of time only to completely fall on their face and fall back on missed opportunities. They had several chances to put away South Carolina in what would have been a huge momentum swinging, program changing win for the Tar Heels. Instead it became just another out of conference win for the Ol’ Ball Coach and his ‘cocks.

*Did I mention Braxton Miller is lethal? I mean did you see both of those 50+ yard touchdowns? If not, go You Tube them right now. I’ll wait… seriously, that spin move? He must be using unlimited turbo.

*The media hype train is all over UCLA freshman quarterback Josh Rosen already after he put up big numbers in a lopsided win at home against Virginia. Sure, UVA is a decent power five opponent; but they had to travel across country. UCLA was playing at home, and UVA isn’t a top tier opponent by any means. It was a nice performance, but let’s pump the breaks. Let’s wait until he does it against a better team.

*My how the landscape in Texas has changed in the past decade. Ten years ago we were fresh off Vince Young leading the Longhorns to a National title and now the University of Texas is at its lowest point of my lifetime and has fallen way behind in the arms race. Texas A&M is the premier school in the state while Baylor and TCU have become top notch programs that are at the top of many recruits lists. The Longhorns give off the aura of having become dated, stuck in the past and blinded by their own tradition. I am a huge Charlie Strong fan, but how long will he get to turn the program around before he is given the ax by an impatient, entitled fan base?

* The CFB Playoff committee should set up scheduling parameters with the power five conferences that make sure that they play at least two games (I would like to see four, one game against a team from each other power five conference) against other power five conferences each season. I understand the argument the need to have a tune-up game early in the season. However, the new process is somewhat subjective. Taking into account things like strength of schedule, performance against quality opponents, and the eye test are all factors. Having more huge non-conference games early in the season like we saw this past weekend would be a great thing.

*Imagine Florida traveling to Oregon to play the Ducks. Oklahoma choosing to go into the big house to face Michigan. Florida State playing the Trojans in USC. It would also allow for more inter-state or “cross town” rivalries such as the UNC/USC game we saw in week one. West Virginia vs Virginia or Virginia Tech. Miami vs Florida. Texas vs. Texas A&M. A&M vs TCU or Baylor. Old conference rivals like Arkansas vs Texas or potential new ones such as Auburn vs. Clemson. I would even be excited about the possibilities of a Utah heading into Northwestern in a new Pac-12/B1G clash. The possibilities would be endless; and it would fill the first few weeks of the season with tremendous matchups and give us nail-biting do or die action every week of the season.

*You’ve had those highlights of Braxton Miller’s touchdowns on loop in a separate window next to this article ever since haven’t you? It’s ok. I am doing the same thing with the BYU Hail Mary right now and I’m not afraid to admit it. At least you’re multi-tasking and still reading. Braxton is a baller.

* Utah may have had the biggest win of the entire weekend. They put together a program defining, stepping stone moment. They have come a long way since joining the Pac 12, and I have to wonder why Boise State hasn’t made a similar move. They would seem like a logical candidate for expansion of the Pac-12, and could have similar success and growth in the conference. Utah now has a unique and intimidating place to play, a strong appeal to a certain percentage of recruits, and has shown they are looking to contend in the conference.

*Oregon vs Michigan State is a true gift this early in the season. There are reasons to get jacked up for Oklahoma vs Tennessee, BYU vs Boise State, and LSU vs. Mississippi State. But Oregon vs. Michigan State will be the game of the week and likely eliminate one of these two programs from early contention for the playoffs in week two. That is what makes college football so special. There is already a playoff atmosphere in week two. We are coming off a terrific slate of action in week one and week two should be even better. Bring it on.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for taking the time to read, and I hope to get feedback from all of you. You can tweet me @CTaylorLWOS or e-mail me [email protected]. This column will evolve as the season goes on and I hope you will continue on reading as well as checking out the rest of the terrific college football coverage by the Last Word on Sports team.
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