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The Ryan King: Analyzing Week One

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This is the first installment of this column, so I would be remiss to begin without saying a few words about myself. There are few things in life I enjoy more than college football and ranting (and Disney movies and bad puns, as evidenced by the title, but that’s a story for another day), so it should come as little surprise that my first column, strategically published after opening weekend, will include quite a bit of both. There will be times where I wax poetic, or write poignant updates on the state of Harriton athletics. This is not one of those times. This is a straight-up. cut-and-dry analysis of the biggest college football games played on opening weekend and how I see the rest of the year playing out.

On that note, college sports have always had some intangible appeal to me that professional sports can’t match. Perhaps it’s the rituals and traditions surrounding each school that go back much farther than professional franchises. Perhaps it’s the fact that college athletics still puts the emphasis on the team rather than the business. Maybe I just like seeing more teams, and consequently, more matchups. But in all likelihood, it’s the relatable aspect that we, as high school athletes, can connect to. We know what it’s like to represent our school in our respective sports. We can relate to these college athletes who are plagued by not only opponents and injuries, but also the looming threat of next week’s history final. A good number of us will become these athletes within the next few years. Adults who make millions of dollars playing sports as an occupation? Not nearly as relatable, as human.

But I digress. Let the opening week rants begin.

The two biggest games of the weekend were undoubtedly 5th ranked Boise State visiting 19th ranked Georgia and Oregon and LSU, ranked third and fourth respectively, facing off in Arlington. Surprisingly, both games ended in blowouts. Here’s what we can gather from these two opening-week marquee matchups.

– Oregon will not get the chance to avenge their loss in the title game last year. Sure, if they ran the table they could theoretically wind up in the #2 slot at the season’s end, but the Ducks looked sloppy and very un-Oregon against LSU. Chip Kelly’s trademark is a smooth, high-scoring offense, and that offense has sputtered in its last two games (both, coincidentally, against SEC opponents). There’s no reason to think the Ducks won’t win the Pac-12, but it’s an extremely disappointing performance from a team so highly regarded in the preseason. Alternately, LSU fans have to be on cloud nine right now as the Tigers vanquished the third-ranked Ducks despite losing starting QB Jordan Jefferson to a suspension. Problem is, the team’s toughest matchups are still to come on their SEC slate. It’s time to admit (however hard it is for me) that Les Miles constantly has the Tigers overachieving and winning games they have no business winning in wacky ways. That didn’t happen Saturday night– LSU just outmanned the Ducks– but it’s also reason to expect that even with the tough schedule, LSU is a national title contender. Does that man I think they will emerge from the season BCS, or even SEC champions? Not at all.

– Boise State is here to stay. That is, they’re here to stay as long as star quarterback Kellen Moore is around. No one really knows how good Georgia is at this point, but the Broncos made short work of the Bulldogs in a manner that few expected. There’s no team on their cushy MWC schedule that is good enough to come within a touchdown of them at the moment (unless TCU improves rapidly). That sets them up for a potential undefeated season and shot at the National Championship. I don’t think the Broncos are national title-type good, but unless they slip somewhere along the line they may be given a chance to prove themselves as just that. Georgia, on the other hand, has to be in somewhat disarray after the disaster that was last year’s 6-7 campaign followed by this loss. They could very well make a run at the SEC elite this season, but they’ve shown no reason as of yet to think they’ll improve more than one or two wins. Coach Mark Richt has to be feeling the heat.

– Baylor’s 50-48 win over TCU was easily the best game of the weekend. How much can you take away from it? Well first, Baylor QB Robert Griffin is a Heisman contender. Second, TCU is in serious trouble, or at least as much trouble as the Frogs have been in for a few years. Casey Pachall didn’t look bad in replacing star QB Andy Dalton, but the defense (normally TCU’s staple) was horrific. Unless they improve quickly, the Frogs have no shot at toppling Boise State later in the season. With the schedule they play, however, a 10-2 season is very possible and probably even likely. Baylor, on the other hand, is stuck in the Big XII where offenses like theirs are a dime a dozen. They will struggle to outgun teams like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M and will finish somewhere around eight wins.

– Huge win for South Florida in beating Notre Dame on the road, obviously, but the Irish’s five turnovers gave this one away. If Notre Dame gets their act together they are still very much in the hunt for a BCS bowl. USF, on the other hand, is not quite strong enough to take home the Big East title. Could the Bulls hit that point later in the season as the offense progresses? Yes, and they probably will.

– What a heartbreaker for Utah State. Beating Auburn on the road probably spurs them to a solid season in WAC play and their first bowl in ages. Coming out on the wrong end of a heartbreaking 42-38 decision will probably doom them to yet another losing year. The Tigers, on the other hand, are about to be exposed when they hit SEC play. Gene Chizik, quite frankly, is not a good coach, and the fact that Cam Newton single-handedly brought about this team’s national title last year will in all likelihood be revealed unless they can somehow shore up their defense.

– Wisconsin’s offense is terrifying. The addition of Russell Wilson means the Badgers won’t just be putting up 50+ points on UNLV, but against a few Big Ten teams as well. The defense is still a question mark, but this team is a legitimate national title contender. I can’t see them sweeping their Big Ten slate, but I’d be surprised if they aren’t conference champions at the end of the season.

– Northwestern flew under the radar Saturday, but the fact that they beat Boston College on the road without star QB Dan Persa is a huge, huge statement. If Persa comes back at full health, the Wildcats should be able to challenge for a berth in the Big Ten title game. BC, meanwhile, seems to be stuck in a seven-win rut.

– There is nothing to take away from Ohio State’s beatdown of Akron except the fact that new coach Luke Fickell does not wear sweater vests. Nothing about how the Buckeye’s offense or defense will fare in conference play was revealed, despite ESPN analysts’ best attempts to extrapolate a blowout of perhaps the worst FBS team.

– Missouri’s 17-6 win against Miami (OH) was uninspiring, but it would be unwise to think that the Tigers won’t click under new QB James Franklin at some point this season. Great effort by the Redhawks, for what it’s worth. No reason not to label them as the favorite to defend their MAC title.

– Penn State needs to choose a quarterback soon or they will get whipped by Alabama.

– I’m more impressed than I should be by Virginia Tech’s 66-13 dismantling of Appalachian State. Give me the Hokies over the Seminoles in the ACC until proven otherwise.

– To put it bluntly, you should be very upset if you are a USC fan after the Trojans’ two-point victory over Minnesota. If you are a Gopher fan, you should be encouraged that the team is already showing progress under new coach Jerry Kill.

– I was a bit surprised that UCLA couldn’t upend Houston, even without starting QB Kevin Prince. The Rick Neuheisel era is starting to look as if it might never take off. I still don’t buy into Houston as any sort of BCS contender.

– I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if I’m an Oregon State fan I would really start watching coach Mike Reilly’s seat. Reilly has worked wonders in Corvallis, but the team seems to have peaked a few years ago and losing to FCS Sacramento State is beyond unacceptable.

– Big win for BYU over Ole Miss, if only to make them more attractive to their numerous conference suitors. Tough break for the Rebels, who really needed a win to help them become bowl eligible in the loaded SEC West.

– It’s a bit of an odd concept, but the fact that Fresno State is no longer pulling off road upsets like they used to means Pat Hill’s seat has to be getting toasty. What have the Bulldogs accomplished the last few years besides a few upsets over BCS teams? Saturday’s loss at Cal did not help matters.

– Oklahoma’s 47-14 drubbing of Tulsa deserves more credit than it’s getting, but I’m still note sure I buy the Sooners as the #1 team in the nation.

– Godawful uniforms aside, Maryland showed the nation a couple things Monday night against Miami: The Terps, as per usual, are not a very good team, and the fact that the Hurricanes lost to them means that yes, the suspensions are going to take a toll on their season (surprise!). Miami will struggle to become bowl eligible, but should be playing much better toward the end of the year.

– I have zero idea what to make of Syracuse’s thrilling overtime comeback against Wake Forest. It’s a devastating loss for Wake, but the Orange looked awful for the majority of the game. I think you can chalk this up as two teams who haven’t really changed much from last year–Wake will win 4-5 games and the Orange will win 6-7.

– West Virginia didn’t look spectacular in their win over in-state rival Marshall, but I’d really hate to gameplan against Dana Holgersen’s offense once it’s clicking at the end of the season.

– I’m a big Paul Johnson fan. I know that Georgia Tech rolling up 662 yards of offense isn’t that impressive because they did it against FCS squad Western Carolina, but if Johnson has things clicking again this year in Atlanta, the Jackets will be much improved. ACC be warned.

– Hawaii’s fairly comfortable win over Colorado bodes very well for the Warriors and very poorly for the Buffaloes. Hawaii should be able to make a serious run at the WAC title, while the Buffs will struggle to escape the Pac-12 basement.

– I know Villanova is rebuilding this year, but Temple’s 42-7 blowout shouldn’t be dismissed. This could very well be the year the Owls break through and win the MAC if they stay healthy.

– No one cares much about the Sun Belt, but FIU all-out dominating North Texas was eye-opening. Color me surprised if the Golden Panthers don’t win their second straight conference title.

Here’s hoping the following weekends provide us with just as much to say– we’ll be in for heck of a season.

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The Ryan King: Analyzing Week One