By its very nature, the sport of college football is one day of action and then a whole week of talk. Everyone loves to talk about what they just saw on the field. For some of us it’s actually a job. Of course where there are reactions, there are also overreactions. Equal and opposite overreactions? Maybe that should have been Newton’s fourth law – but we digress.
Obviously, the wild results from Week 2 lend themselves to plenty of discussion.
Here’s a quick look at five possible conclusions that might be just a tad premature, with arguments and counterpoints thereupon.
It’s panic time in Tuscaloosa
We’ve grown so accustomed to seeing Alabama dominate week in and week out during the Nick Saban era that it causes a stir when the Crimson Tide doesn’t roll like it should. While the team managed to get out with the win Saturday at Texas, a number of troubling issues were on display. The receivers couldn’t get open, the offensive line struggled in pass protection, the ground game aside from one big run by Jase McClellan lacked pop, and the penalties – oh goodness the penalties. The Tide were flagged 15 times and, as Longhorns’ fans will no doubt point out for the foreseeable future, could have been called for more.
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It wasn’t all bad for the Tide, of course, the defense stiffened when it had to – especially in the red zone. Kicker Will Reichard delivered in the clutch. And Bryce Young’s improvisational ability came to the rescue when the rest of the offense wasn’t working.
Some of the Tide’s problems from a first road game in a raucous environment should be fixable, and Saban and his staff have certainly earned the benefit of more than a few doubts when it comes to making adjustments over the course of a season. But there’s no denying that Alabama looked beatable. Suffice it to say it’s going to be an interesting week of practice.
Texas is maybe kinda back
They aren’t big on moral victories in Austin, but the Longhorns’ ability to hang with the No. 1 team with their backup quarterback having to go most of the way was encouraging at the very least.
Of course at a blue-blood program like Texas, being “back” means being back to competing for championships. So before anointing Texas as the Big 12 favorite based on Saturday’s effort, a couple of points should be borne in mind. For one thing, early season curious results at home do not necessarily translate into future success for this program. The 2016 version of the Longhorns took down No. 9 Notre Dame on opening day but only went 5-7, ending the year on a three-game skid. The 2019 squad went toe-to-toe with that all-timer of an LSU squad in Week 2, coming up just a TD short, but finished 8-5.
It should also be noted that several other Big 12 squads – Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State – have already posted wins against Power Five competition. Texas will be in the mix, but the conference is still wide open.
The SEC East has overtaken the West
These divisional distinctions will be a thing of the past before long, of course, but in recent years the West has been perceived as the deeper of the two with the East annually coming down to just Florida and Georgia. So far this year, however, we’ve already seen Texas A&M and LSU lose in addition to Alabama’s close shave. Meanwhile in the East, Georgia has looked the part of the defending national champion, Kentucky and Tennessee are on the rise, and Florida picked up a solid non-conference win in Week 1 against Utah.
The West might still be stronger top-to-bottom; the Mississippi schools have played well early and Auburn, while clearly having issues, is 2-0 heading into next weekend’s date with Penn State. The teams in the lower tier of the East have shown improvement but continue to lag a bit behind the others. South Carolina lost a cross-divisional game with Arkansas in its conference opener, while Vanderbilt and Missouri were overmatched by Power Five opponents.
Southern California is a playoff team
We like to watch flashy offenses, and the Trojans have certainly shown one early in the Lincoln Riley tenure. Even the defense has gotten in on the act with six interceptions through two games.
But don’t be distracted by the shiny objects. The USC defense isn’t exactly airtight, surrendering 360.5 yards a game with 183.5 of those on the ground. They’ve done well to capitalize on mistakes, but a team that minimizes passing errors while pounding the ball between the tackles will give USC problems. Can you think of any such teams in the Pac-12? We can, and the Trojans will have to go to Salt Lake City to face them in a month.
Michigan should be the favorite in the Big Ten
Part of this assessment stems from a reevaluation of Ohio State’s Week 1 victory against Notre Dame, which looks far less impressive given the Fighting Irish’s follow-up performance. The Buckeyes handled their own business in Week 2, of course, but the Wolverines – the defending conference champions remember – appear to have taken their own offense to another level with JJ McCarthy set to take the quarterback reins.
Don’t get too carried away with Michigan, though. The Wolverines have piled up their lofty numbers against Colorado State and Hawaii, neither of whom has won a game. Next week’s meeting with Connecticut figures to be more of the same. There’s a long way to go before the Wolverines and Buckeyes settle matters on the field in Columbus.