It might still feel like summer below the Mason-Dixon line, but the calendar says it is September, so that means autumn, and that means COLLEGE FOOTBALL! This is such a great time to be here at the asylum. The patients get a bit less restless come Saturdays now that a bit of a nip is in the nighttime air and the leaves outside our barred windows change into those beautiful golds, oranges, and reds. On these Saturdays, the TV is a revolving door between ESPN, CBS, ABC, Fox Sports, and the newest and greatest TV channel, the SEC Network. The nurses and orderlies even calm down a bit when it comes to the power over the remote. As long as a pigskin is on the boob tube, all is right with the world.
We got a special early treat here in South Cack this college football season, as the official kickoff was two days early on this past Thursday, and involved one of our two interstate, major college football teams, the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. Now many here at the hospital weren’t happy with the outcome of this contest (the Texas A&M Aggies thumped the Gamecocks, 52-28), but we were all excited because college football was here. So the TV vacillated between games all the way thru Monday, and I have drawn some early thoughts on this 2014 college football season that will FINALLY end with a multi-team playoff. So here they are:
- The early season hype is still the same. Just like happens every season the 1st week of games shows us that pre-season polls are going to change. Teams thought to be strong falter, teams we expected nothing from surprise, and by the end of the season the talking heads will start anew for the next season.
- James Franklin IS an awesome coach. Not only did he take an extremely down Penn State program on the almost impossible Trans-Atlantic trip to play Central Florida in Dublin, Ireland, but they pulled out one of the best late game comeback victories you will ever see. Couple that with his old team, the Vanderbilt Commodores, getting trounced 37-7 by a crappy Temple Owls team, it seems this head coach is a winner, but all the SEC schools who played his back-to-back 9 win Vandy teams could already tell you that.
- Texas A&M found a replacement for Johnny Football. And the replacement is Kenny Hill. This sophomore looked like a 5th year senior tossing the ball all over Williams-Brice Stadium on an overmatched Gamecock secondary. Before anyone rushes to crown him a Heisman contender, let’s wait to see how the Aggies do the rest of the year. Still, beating a Steve Spurrier coached team, and on the road (and the Cocks are a different team in Columbia) is an impressive thing.
- Kevin Sumlin can coach up college QBs. The game I just talked about told us this. So did his work with Johnny Manziel. Remember before his days in College Station, Sumlin coached down the road at the University of Houston and had a QB named Chase Keenum in the run for a Heisman. His record, past and present, speak for themselves.
- It is tough to replace departures to the NFL. Also from the 1st game of the season, we saw that South Carolina has lost a lot to a usually shut down defense. Not only did the Gamecocks’ DB’s get beaten time and time again, they had ZERO pressure on the QB. It is tough to replace the #1 overall pick in the NFL draft (Jadeveon Clowney), another All-American (Kelsey Quarles), and an all-conference performer (Allan Surrat) on the defensive line all in one season.
- Alabama is a victim to its own greatness. Everyone is wanting to bury the Tide and wish them away. It is just that, a wish. Nick Saban’s boys aren’t going anywhere. These boys are just too athletic and too disciplined to not be contenders all season long. I think everyone has seen them so dominant with only a few hiccups for the last few years that anything less is seemingly a weakness. Don’t buy that hype. You don’t want to piss off and motivate a team that talented unless you want to see them beat your team.
- Repeat thoughts from above for Florida State. Come on folks. They won. Yes it was a tougher fought victory than many thought it might be, but what has Mike Gundy and the Oklahoma State Cowboys done in the last 7 or so seasons that made you think they wouldn’t put up a fight or field a competitive team? As a side note, when you throw for 370 yards and have a lifetime highlight reel 28 yard scamper for a TD, all in the same game, yet the pundits say you have “lost a step”, obviously people are overreacting. Anything to stir up controversy to garner ratings right?
- Going from the West coast to the East coast for a game is tough. I am not ready to quit on UCLA after a lackluster showing against UVA. The offense was not good, but that is very common for early games. I can tell you from personal experience, an offense takes longer to gel than a defense. Throw in the jet lag of a cross country trip, and you get the Bruins’ offense this past Saturday. Jim Mora’s defense looked very good. They scored 3 TDs. I think they will remain a player all season long.
- Clemson is in the same boat as their interstate rivals. The Tigers have to replace as many big time players on offense (Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, James McDowell) as the Gamecocks are having to replace on defense. Dabo Sweeney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris are stellar coaches, but they have to replace some key parts. As dominating as my UGA Bulldogs’ running game and defense looked in the second half against the Tigers, the slower paced/less tempo offense from Clemson showed throughout the game.
- Todd Gurley is a man playing amongst boys. Not to be a homer, but a HEALTHY Todd Gurley is the best RB in college today. Even hobbled by ankle and quad injuries most of last season, Gurley had an all-star season by any standards. Now after 3 years in Mike Bobo’s system and even more importantly, 3 years in UGA’s strength and conditioning program, this kid is a true beast. At 6’1″ and 225 lbs. and sub 4.5 40 yard dash speed, Gurley is a game changer. The victory over Clemson shows how he can take over a game when he is on.
- Jeremy Pruett is as good as advertised. The new defensive coordinator from my Dawgs made great halftime adjustments and his squad responded by completely shutting down Clemson’s offense. 0 points, 1 first down, and 15 total yards is about a complete a defense performance anyone can ask for. Pruett left National Champion FSU to come to Athens for more money. Many of my friend who pull for the Seminoles were worried and upset to lose him. Now we all know why.
- A few teams we wanted to write off might be better than we thought. West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, and UVA all lost, but other than Arkansas, all played closer games than were expected. I have already covered some of the strengths of some of their opponents, but do not discount all 4 of these teams. They all played well at times in defeat. Tennessee and Texas A&M both won in convincing fashion which was shocking to some. Getting deeper into their respective schedules will show if they truly have improved.
- Steve Sarkisian is a good fit at Southern Cal. The Trojans kept pouring it on Fresno State much the same way they did to the same team in a bowl game to end the season last year. Sark had bunches of off field problems leading into the game this past Saturday, but he seemed to weather all these storms to lead his team to an impressive victory.
- Everett Golson is a difference maker for Notre Dame. The South Carolina native returned to under center for the Fighting Irish after a season long suspension last year for academic reasons. He responded with a 5 total TD performance. That is impressive. It would have been a bit more impressive if it had come against someone other than the Rice Owls. Due to that fact, I am not quite ready to crown the Golden Domers as contenders. No college program gets a bigger pass than Notre Dame. I think they will either be a let down or a paper contender in the end.
- Les Miles is called the Mad Hatter for a reason. Every game that the LSU Tigers have played under Miles has had a crazy coaching call or trick play. The Bayou Bengals came back against the Wisconsin Badgers in no small part to a trick play. A fake punt on 4th and 2 that gained 5 yards and a 1st down led to a FG and eventual comeback. Who knew a diet of grass made you smart or lucky or both. Still an insane 22-21 record when trailing entering the 4th quarter is enough to make a few people wish their team’s coach might need to munch on a salad of Kentucky Bluegrass, fescue, and Summer Bermuda.
Well there is long season ahead of us, and I for one cannot wait. Not too many great games on tap for this weekend, but the Michigan State vs. Oregon and Southern Cal vs. Stanford will tell us more about a few early season ranked teams. I will keep the TV in the day room here at the asylum on Raw, Smackdown, and Impact! during the week, but come weekends, it’s time for football. So expect the old Crazy Train to blog on wrestling still, but when I get my computer time, I will talk football too.
Teddy is calling me to bed, so I am out of here. Remember to leave comments below or on the A1 forums. You can also find me on Twitter @CrazyTrain_jb. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. So until next time folks, ALL ABOARD!!!