What We Learned In Week One In College Football
Georgia Running Back Todd Gurley (3) returns a 100 yard kickoff in hopes of being in Heisman contention. Photo credit: Dale Zanine, USA Today Sports

While week one of the college football season is generally viewed as a week of blowouts and a chance for coaches to get a look at several players competing for starting positions, it can also be telling for how the remainder of the season will go. Tones can be set, and seasons can be changed. You can’t win the National Championship in week one, but you sure can lose it. Just ask the 2007 Michigan Wolverines.

Several statements were made during 2014’s opening week. There is a lot to be learned from the happenings of the first week.

Life after Johnny Manziel should be just fine. Not only did Texas A&M’s new QB Kenny Hill have an extremely impressive debut, he also did it at South Carolina. Hill lead the Aggies to a surprising 52-28 win in one of the loudest and toughest places to play in Williams-Brice Stadium. He prefers “Kenny Trill” over “Kenny Football.” If he keeps playing like he did last week, Aggie fans will be pleased to call him whatever he’d like. 44-60 with an A&M record breaking 511 yards passing makes for a great game for anyone, but in a tough environment in a debut, this could be a positive outlook for the Aggie fans.

Ole Miss is almost ready to hang with the big time. Boise State isn’t the same team that was lead by Kellen Moore and Chris Petersen, but still remains one of the top Group of Five teams in the country. Although the two teams combined for 3 interceptions a piece in the first half, Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace threw for four TD passes and 387 yards. The defense forced four turnovers and only allowed 13 points despite giving up 399 yards of offense. The team should improve as a top ten recruiting class lead by Robert Nkemdiche continues to mature. If Wallace can cut down on the turnovers, Ole Miss will be a serious threat to at least ruin some seasons in the SEC West.

Mike Leach’s offense may have found its perfect quarterback. Connor Halliday threw all over the Rutgers defense for 532 yards and five touchdowns as compared to just one interception. The problem came on defense, as Washington State gave up 41 points including being outscored 17-7 in the fourth quarter. Rutgers got the 41-38 win but there’s a lot to like about the improvements the offense appears to have made. The problem could be if the high powered Washington State offense can keep up with the higher powered offenses of the PAC-12, especially if the defense doesn’t show improvement.

Vanderbilt looked like the worst team in the SEC, and it wasn’t close. Vandy ushered in a new era with a brand new coach in Derek Mason. The entire team looked sloppy and at times didn’t even look like they cared. A 37-7 loss is one thing, but looking at the whole picture makes it unacceptable. Vanderbilt played at home against Temple. The key words are, “home against Temple.” Vandy had 7 penalties for 66 yards. Compare that to just 54 yards rushing, and it’s a disaster waiting to happen. The seven, yes, seven, turnovers didn’t help much either. No disrespect to Temple, but they’re definitely not at the level of an SEC team, and handled Vanderbilt like they were an FCS team.

Western Kentucky is on the rise. It’s safe to say that Marshall will win Conference-USA, but Western Kentucky could give them some problems. WKU beat a ten win team from last season that won the MAC Championship, Bowling Green, and looked good doing it. 569 yards and six touchdown passes behind Brandon Doughty lead the Hilltoppers to a 59-31 win. It was a turnover costless game, but WKU dominated time of possession by over ten full minutes.

UTSA is also on the rise. Texas-San Antonio, the most experienced team in the country with 20 returning starters, dominated Houston on the road. Houston was a trendy pick to go undefeated, but the Roadrunners put that to a screeching halt. A 27-7 win that was a shutout until there was 1:03 left in the game, UTSA held Houston’s offense to 208 total yards and an astonishing -26 yards rushing, and forced six turnovers. UTSA is yet another team that could challenge for the CUSA Championship.

LSU’s Never Say Die attitude is more apparent than ever. Wisconsin carried a 24-7 lead half way through the third quarter, but LSU shut the Badgers down for the rest of the game by scoring 21 unanswered points for a 28-14 come from behind victory. Wisconsin had just 50 yards passing for the game, but made up for it with 268 yards on the ground. LSU’s rush offense was led by Kenny Hilliard, not Leonard Fournette, as Hilliard ran for 110 yards and the game winning touchdown. The Tigers look primed for a run at the Playoffs this season.

UCLA got lucky against Virginia. Virginia had more total yards, plays, first downs, a longer time of possession and less penalties. The difference was the UCLA defense, who scored three defensive touchdowns in the second quarter to save the game. Without those turnovers, the game would have been a disaster and would have most likely ruined UCLA’s season before it even got started. QB Brett Hundley was sacked five times and Virginia’s defense was putting on the pressure all game. This was the first time since 1986 that UCLA’s defense got three touchdowns in a game, so Bruins fans shouldn’t get used to the defense bailing out the team to that degree.

North Dakota State could be successful in the FBS. Probably not the SEC, but the success speaks for itself. NDSU has beaten an FBS team each of the last 5 seasons, and they’re not bad teams. Kansas, Minnesota, Colorado State, Kansas State, and the latest victim, Iowa State, have all fallen to the three time reigning FCS Champions. Here’s another interesting stat: with NDSU’s 34-14 win over Iowa State, the Bison have more Big 12 wins over the last four seasons than full time Big 12 member Kansas.

Michigan finally avenged its worst loss in school history. The sting of the loss to Appalachian State will never go away, but Michigan finally has some closure after dominating the Mountaineers 52-14. Michigan QB Devin Gardner was 13 of 14 for 173 yards and three touchdowns. The Wolverines better be prepared for week two, however as a trip to Notre Dame is next.

Ohio State can win without Braxton Miller. Navy isn’t exactly Alabama, but they’re a tough team that gave Ohio State a tough test, even leading at halftime. The Buckeyes pulled away in the 4th, with 14 points to win 34-17. JT Barrett, Miller’s replacement, was 12-15 for 226 yards. Things won’t get any easier for OSU, so they better be prepared for a much tougher road ahead.

Auburn is still a team to look out for. A 45-21 win at home vs. Arkansas is a nice way to start a season. Auburn scored 24 unanswered second half points to pull away, lead by just under 600 yards of offense. The Tigers had almost as many rushing yards (302) as Arkansas had total yards (328.) QB Nick Marshall of Auburn only threw 6 passes, completing four for 50 yards. He did add 19 yards rushing and a touchdown on the ground. With Marshall expected to be back full time this week, Auburn is only getting better.

Florida State’s struggles aren’t as bad as they seem. Oklahoma State was underestimated by a lot of people coming into the season, but Mike Gundy can coach and he coaches offense very well. Florida State, on the other hand, is still breaking in new receivers for Heisman winner Jameis Winston. There are problems that will be worked out but it’s no need for a panic. The Seminoles still won the total yards battle by over 100, but have to cut down on penalties. JW Walsh of Oklahoma State is a good quarterback that showed what he can do, but simply didn’t have enough to beat the Noles.

Todd Gurley kick started his Heisman campaign in style. Clemson lost a good amount of talent, but is still a top 25 team. Gurley made everything he did look easy, as he lead Georgia to a 45-21 win over Clemson. All of his touchdowns were 18 yards or longer, having a game total of 198 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Gurley also had a 100 yard kickoff return for a touchdown, totaling 298 yards, by himself he more than Clemson’s 291 yards of offense. If this is a sign of things to come, which it looks like it could (and should) be, Georgia will be a force not just in the SEC, but also in the College Football Playoff.

Alabama has serious trouble. A win’s a win, but for a team the caliber of Alabama to play the way it did against West Virginia isn’t good. The difference was Alabama’s third quarter touchdown. Other than that, West Virginia kept it closer that people expected, and way closer than it should have been. An 11 point win was nice, but the play calling of Lane Kiffin was the surprise of the day. Kiffin’s offense had 538 yards, but on the flip side, West Virginia’s defense isn’t a top 25 unit. Alabama looks like it could be ready for a season of change, and it’s guaranteed to be filled with ups and plenty of downs.