Week 1 of the college football season is (almost) in the books, other than a couple of exceptions in Oklahoma-Houston being scheduled for Sunday and Notre Dame-Louisville on Monday. To no one’s fault other than the date on the calendar reading August 31, we only have a one-game sample size to go off of when discussing any player, team or conference so far in the college football season.
So let’s embrace Week 1, perhaps too much, and overreact to what we just witnessed.
It just means
more the exact same amount as any conference
College football Twitter had fun at the Pac-12’s expense in the last two weeks when Arizona lost as a double-digit favorite at Hawaii, then when UCLA lost at Cincinnati Thursday.
It was far from a great start for a conference that’s been left out of the College Football Playoff the last two years.
But the spotlight soon shifted to the SEC, ironically, of all conferences – more specifically to the SEC East.
Is the SEC in trouble? Or not worthy of potentially putting two teams in the playoff?
Of course not.
But is it heads and shoulders above the rest of its Power Five brethren?
Tennessee paid Georgia State nearly $1 million to come to Knoxville and hand the Vols a 38-30 loss that didn’t feel like a fluke. Tennessee Coach Jeremy Pruitt told reporters that “the best team out there won the game today,” which is never something you want to hear an SEC coach saying about an opposing team that went 2-10 in the Sun Belt last season and has gone 20-54 since transition to the FBS in 2013.
North Carolina erased an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter against South Carolina to start the (second) Mack Brown era in Chapel Hill with a win.
The Gamecocks were nearly out-gained two yards to one on offense and they averaged just 4.7 yards per attempt through the air.
Missouri, which started Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant at quarterback, lost 37-31 at Wyoming after taking a 14-0 lead into the second quarter and despite out-gaining the Cowboys 537 yards to 389.
After Week 1, the SEC East power rankings look something like this:
- Georgia State
- North Carolina
Ole Miss made sure the SEC West wasn’t left out of the conversation with a 15-10 loss to Memphis in which the Rebels were shut out for the first 41-plus minutes of the game.
Is the SEC’s upper crust, whether you want to define that as its top three, five, etc. teams, stronger than that of any other conference? The preseason AP Top 25 poll says so and so would conventional wisdom based on Alabama and Georgia alone but we’ll have to wait for the season to play out to know for sure.
However, there’s no reason that every team in the conference deserves to benefit from Alabama’s excellence, Georgia, LSU or Texas A&M’s rise, or Auburn’s win over No. 11 Oregon.
Auburn is poised for a bounce-back season
If you follow college football discourse, especially in the offseason, then you likely heard some version of the refrain that “Auburn is at its best/most dangerous when no one sees it coming/when it’s being counted out.”
The Tigers went 8-5 last season and their fans (and coaching staff) likely would’ve been in a much worse place entering 2019 were it not for a 63-14 win over Purdue in the Music City Bowl.
Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn went back to calling plays for the team’s bowl game and he’s continuing to do so this season with true freshman Bo Nix, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback prospect in the 2019 recruiting class, running the offense.
At risk of overstating the impact of a Week 1, neutral-site win like they had last season – when Auburn beat No. 6 Washington in a top-10 matchup, only to lose to three of the four ranked opponents it faced the rest of the year en route to 7-5 regular season record – the Tigers could be on the doorstep of the top 10 after beating the Ducks and a road win at No. 12 Texas A&M in Week 4 would surely vault them up the polls.
Auburn ran the ball well against Oregon – 43 times for 206 yards (4.8 yards per carry) – and Nix showed a lot of moxie as the Tigers scored 21 unanswered points in the final 20 minutes, commanding the huddle and finding Seth Williams for the game-winning score despite two previous interceptions.
If Nix can continue to mature as a passer and decision-maker at the rate he showed Saturday, if Auburn’s ferocious defensive line can live in opposing teams’ backfields and if the Tigers can navigate a pretty challenging schedule that’s capped off with home games against Georgia and Alabama in November, maybe Auburn wins at least two more games in the regular season than it did last year.
Everyone is better off after the Georgia QB carousel
It would be wild if Georgia, Ohio State and Washington made the College Football Playoff this season, which would mean that three of the four starting quarterbacks in the playoff would have been on Georgia’s roster in 2017 or 2018.
Jacob Eason got hurt two seasons ago, then lost his job to Jake Fromm. Justin Fields, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback prospect in the 2018 recruiting class, enrolled with the Bulldogs, saw limited playing time as a true freshman backing up Fromm and then he left for greener pastures at Ohio State after last fall.
Easton transferred to Washington, sat out last season and completed 27-of-36 passes for 349 yards and four touchdowns in his debut with the Huskies in a 47-14 win over Eastern Washington.
Fields was 18-of-25 for 234 yards and four touchdowns, along with 61 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown, in his first game starting for Ohio State.
Fromm led No. 3 Georgia to a 30-6 win at Vanderbilt Saturday, when he had a fairly quiet night of 15-of-23 passing for 156 yards and one touchdown.
Each player could have starred for Georgia, although all three couldn’t have co-existed on the Bulldogs’ roster simultaneously, but they’re each starting for a preseason top-15 team that has made the College Football Playoff in the last three seasons.
It’s not crazy to think that we could see multiple of them among the top 10 vote-getters for the Heisman Trophy, if not in New York among the finalists.
Speaking of the Heisman Trophy and overreactions…
The odds that Vegas sports books gave Nebraska sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez to win the 2019 Heisman Trophy were among the three to five best odds in the country, depending on which book and when you checked the odds in the last month or two.
His team received a similar bump in the offseason in public perception, debuting at No. 24 in the Coaches Poll after a 4-8 season in 2018.
Nebraska got its first win in 2019 much faster than it got its first win of last season, beating South Alabama 35-21 Saturday but the Huskers only led 28-21 entering the fourth quarter and three of their five touchdowns were scored by their defense or special teams.
Martinez finished 13-of-22 passing for 178 yards and one interception. He had 13 carries for six yards.
The Heisman Trophy isn’t won or lost in Week 1 and neither are division or conference titles, but it may not hurt to short any widespread public belief that Martinez is among the Heisman frontrunners or that Nebraska will win the Big Ten Championship.