Tide Rolls — sort of — ‘Dogs Take a Hit — BCS Redux, Week 1

Bryan Holt FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

Kevin Cline

The first week of college football has concluded, and I think it’s safe to say, we were well reminded of why fall is the best of the four seasons.  Though it is tough to measure the ability of many teams this early in the season, people around the nation experienced a full dose of excitement in this season’s premiere: FCS upsets, a top-10 thriller, and most important, fans got a little taste of what to expect on this year’s journey to Pasadena.

Tajh Boyd, Clemson

Tajh Boyd, Clemson

Clemson and Georgia started the season with a 38-35 thriller in the only top-10 match up of the week.  Both teams excelled on offense but the Tigers emerged victorious, led by the man player’s call “Superman,” veteran quarterback Tajh Boyd.

Boyd reminds me quite a bit of former Texas Longhorn, Vince Young.  With his great size and speed, Young was an absolute terror for college defenses.  The Tigers’ QB brings a similar set of skills to the field: impeccable leadership and dazzling ability as a playmaker.

The Clemson star amassed 312 yards of total offense and five touchdowns in the battle.  Boyd’s offensive weapons also proved themselves; Sammy Watkins led all receivers, catching six passes for 127 yards and a touchdown, while running back Roderick McDowell eased an immense amount of pressure on the passing game, gaining 132 yards on the ground.

Despite being so early in the season, Georgia’s title hopes have drastically declined.  With the increase in competition around the nation, a loss at any point in the season can severely cripple your title hopes — especially in a conference as tough as the SEC, where every win counts.  To make matters worse, the Dawgs must get right back to work if they want to have a shot at Pasadena, as No. 6 South Carolina visits Sanford Stadium this weekend.

Alabama, the returning champs, had a new face rise to stardom this past weekend.  Junior return man, Christion Jones was electric on special teams, taking a punt and a kick off return to the house.  This is the first time since 1944 that Alabama has returned two kicks for touchdowns in the same game.

‘Bama remains the team to beat, but their performance this weekend was far below expectations.  AJ McCarron and his new offensive line had some trouble getting things going for the Tide against a sub-par Virginia Tech defense.

The Crimson Tide defense also showed signs of vulnerability, as Virginia Tech freshman running back Trey Edmunds put on a show, with 132 yards on the ground, on 20 carries.  Edmunds is only the eighth player to rush for over 100 yards against ‘Bama in the Nick Saban era.

With the lack of continuity being an evident issue, the reigning champs are lucky to have a bye week before what could be the Tide’s most important matchup of the season.  They will play against Johnny Football and the Texas A&M Aggies, who looked dominant in their win over Rice, once Manziel entered the game in the second half.

Coach Mark Helfrich looked calm and composed in his debut for the Ducks.

Coach Mark Helfrich looked calm and composed in his debut for the Ducks.

Our beloved Oregon Ducks shone under the hot sun in their season opener on Saturday, with a 66-3 route of the visiting Nicholls Colonels.  Oregon set a new school  record for total offense in a game with 772 yards.

The Ducks didn’t miss a step in their first game with new coach Mark Helfrich at the helm, as Oregon dominated in every aspect of the game.  The plethora of offensive weapons came to life in front of another sold-out crowd at Autzen Stadium.  In 45 attempts, the Ducks rushed for 500 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging an astonishing 11.1 yards per carry.

And for the first time in school history, three players exceeded the 100-yard mark on the ground.  De’Anthony Thomas led the way in the backfield, accumulating 128 yards and two touchdowns, and Byron Marshall added a touchdown on 124 yards rushing on just 8 carries.  Marcus Mariota also contributed on the ground, adding 113 yards in only 5 carries.  He also threw for a touchdown and was 12-of-21 for 234 yards passing.

Mariota’s accuracy and command weren’t as sharp as we are used to seeing from him.  But the Ducks quarterback efficiently managed the high-powered offense, with no turnovers, leading the team to victory and leaving fans nonetheless satisfied with his performance.

Josh Huff showed why he is one of the best receivers in the nation on Saturday. Huff reeled in 5 catches for 118 yards.

On Saturday, Josh Huff showed why he is one of the best receivers in the nation. Huff reeled in 5 catches for 118 yards.

The Pac-12 was full of diverse outcomes this weekend; with some teams finally meeting their potential, while others faced absolute embarrassment.

After a close first half, UCLA torched Nevada in a second-half blowout, thanks to monster games by both quarterback Brett Hundley and running back Jordon James.  Hundley threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions, while James added 155 yards on the ground, and a touchdown.

Washington came into this year with a chip on their shoulder after a disappointing 2012 campaign, which concluded with a loss to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl last January.  The Huskies and Keith Price returned to their form of two years ago to avenge the bowl loss against No. 19 Boise State, 38-6.  This Washington team may be a dark horse in the Pac-12, if they can be consistent throughout the season.

Price looked poised and in control against the Broncos, throwing for 324 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Bishop Sankey also provided support on the ground, rushing for 161 yards and two touchdowns.

If the offense keeps rolling and their defense can tame the other high-powered schemes in the Pac, Washington may be a threat to both Oregon and Stanford in the North.

“Little brother” Oregon State was one of eight FBS teams to fall to FCS opponents in a historic week of college football.  The Beavers fell victim to a phenomenal performance by Eastern Washington quarterback, Vernon Adams.  He wowed the crowd in Corvallis, leading the Eagles to the 49-46 upset.  Adams’ ridiculous stat line: 23-30 and 411 yards passing, with four touchdowns.  He added another 107 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

The Beavers offense looked good, as Sean Mannion was able to move the ball efficiently down the field.   They were able to score, but it is obvious the Oregon State defense, so strong in past years, is struggling.

Oregon continues on their road to destiny this Saturday, as they travel to Charlottesville, Virginia, to take on the Virginia Cavaliers.  The Cavs hosted BYU last weekend and emerged victorious, 19-16 – but the Ducks offense is far superior to that of the Cougars.  We should expect nothing short of a victory this upcoming weekend.


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