College Football

Playoff Picture: An Uninformative Opening Week

With week one in the books, let’s go ahead and take a look at the team’s that impressed the most on this weekend, but first a few reminders. These bowl games are not set based on how I think the season will go. This is based on how I would set the bowl games if the season ended with the conclusion of last week’s games. This week obviously a lot of stock was placed on teams that actually beat someone decent, which unfortunately doesn’t apply to very many teams. With the preponderance of teams scheduling an easy win to open up the season, we unfortunately still don’t have much idea of who’s who in college football this season even after a full week of games.

Orange Bowl (#1 vs. #4) Auburn vs. Virginia Tech

Photo Courtesy of Joe Rondone/Tallahassee Democrat

Auburn earns the top spot in this week’s ranking after winning last weekend’s marquis game against Pac-12 favorite Washington. The Tigers dominated the line of scrimmage for a large portion of the game, and Jarrett Stidham showed why he has been a preseason All-SEC QB pick by many. If there is a cause for concern for Auburn going forward, there was a lull in the second and third quarters where they struggled to move the ball, especially on the ground. Potent rushing attacks have been a hallmark of Gus Malzahn’s offense so don’t put it past him to get this figured out before long, but it is something to monitor.

Virginia Tech got off to a great start in both ACC play and in the playoff race on Labor Day night by thrashing Florida State and ruining Willie Taggart’s debut. The Hokies looked like a legitimate contender on Monday night in all phases of the game. Josh Jackson looked like he has made significant strides as he kicks off his sophomore campaign, the defense stifled the Noles’ offense most of the night and forced a number of turnovers, and the special teams unit made Frank Beamer, well, beam as they pulled off a blocked punt touchdown that looked like a vintage Beamer era play.

Cotton Bowl (#2 vs. #3) Notre Dame vs. LSU

Photo Courtesy of Michael DeMocker/NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune

LSU made my preseason predictions about them look ridiculously stupid on Sunday night as the Tigers thrashed Miami. They dominated the line of the scrimmage on both sides of the ball for all four quarters, and the offense managed to play a largely mistake-free game. I still don’t believe this team is a legitimate contender, but based on the Week 1 results (and preseason rankings/expectations) LSU deserves this spot for now. Future opponents will likely require Joe Burrow to do more with the ball, and when that happens we will get the opportunity to see if LSU really has the meddle to hang with the country’s elite teams.

The Golden Domers got up early on Michigan and never looked back on Saturday. Michigan’s “Sheavior” didn’t have an awful game, but was largely neutralized by a Fighting Irish defense that at least early on looks like a force. Offensively, Brandon Wimbush and company didn’t put up monster numbers but they got the job done against what many expect to be the best defense in the country. Wimbush didn’t have a fantastic day throwing the ball, but his 59 yards on the grounds led the team and he did have one touchdown strike that was money.

Sugar Bowl- Alabama vs. Oklahoma

Photo Courtesy of Mickey Welch/Montgomery Advertiser

Tua Tagavailoa proved on Saturday night that he wasn’t just a one-half wonder and seized the starting job in the process. Other than an early fumble, Alabama’s offense was clicking on all cylinder’s on Saturday night. If that’s what we can look forward to all season then Alabama will not only be a title favorite, but also should field one of the best Alabama offenses ever.

Oklahoma didn’t just dash Florida Atlantic’s hopes of being this year’s UCF on Saturday, they ground them up so fine that Joey Freshwater is probably lining them up on a mirror with a credit card as we speak. Kyler Murray looked fantastic on Saturday and effectively answered the Sooners’ biggest question coming into the season: How do you replace a Baker Mayfield? After Saturday, the only question concerning Oklahoma quarterbacks should be: is Lincoln Riley the quarterback whisperer it seems like he might be or is he just striking gold? My suspicion is that the former is true.

Rose Bowl- Stanford vs. Maryland

PALO ALTO, CA – AUGUST 31: Bryce Love #20 of the Stanford Cardinal runs the ball against the San Diego State Aztecs at Stanford Stadium on August 31, 2018 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Stanford backdoors their way into the obligatory Pac-12 Rose Bowl spot after the conference piggybacked on last year’s lackluster bowl season with an uninspiring week one. The best win in the entire conference was a three touchdown win over a pretty good Mountain West team who just lost its best offensive weapon maybe ever. The conference had a number of uninspiring wins on Saturday, but two losses really stood out as a black mark on the conference with UCLA getting the Chip Kelly tenure off to a rough start by losing by 12 to a Cincinnati team that was a mediocre-at-best AAC team a year ago. Kevin Sumlin also started his new gig on the wrong foot last week by losing to a BYU team coming off of a massively disappointing 2017.

Maryland has had its fair share of off the field issues over the last few months, but the Terps started the season on the field in the same impressive fashion they did last year. Maryland beat Texas on opening day for the second straight year and showed some promise on both sides of the ball. Early on, the Terrapin offense looked like they would be able to score at will, but after some adjustments by the Texas defense stumped Maryland on that side of the ball the defense picked up the slack by putting the clamps on Texas’s offense and forcing some key turnovers down the stretch. Maryland’s big issue the last few seasons was keeping a quarterback on the field and off the sidelines, but if they can avoid the injury bug this year and not let the off-field distractions impact their on-field performance this might be a dangerous team for the Big Ten favorites.

Fiesta Bowl- Northwestern vs. Boise State

Photo Courtesy of Butch Dill/AP

Ole Miss was in-line to get Northwestern’s spot, but due to the bowl ban that, at this point, is still in place they obviously are not eligible. Northwestern managed to go ahead and notch a conference win on opening weekend with a win over Purdue that wasn’t particularly well-played, but was one of the few opening week matchups between two teams that both figure to be decent at-worst in 2018. While we are on the topic, last weekend was the most lackluster opening weekend of college football in terms of marquis games that we’ve had, which is at least partially due to the predominance of teams scheduling FCS opponents to give themselves a “tune-up” game before really diving into the 2018 season. This is a practice that hopefully will be addressed and abolished in the near future, but until then we will just have to deal with one or two weekends per year with three or four good games surrounded by trash matchups (kind of like the ranch dressing at the center of a vegetable tray).

Welcome back to the Group of Five catbird seat Boise State! Brett Rypien had the Broncos rolling on Saturday with 305 yards and four touchdowns against Troy in the best Group of Five vs. Group of Five matchup of the weekend, or what should have been at least. Boise State showed exactly why some people (ummm like me for instance, just saying) picked them to nab the Group of Five New Year’s Six bid coming into the season.

Peach Bowl- West Virginia vs. Ohio State

Photo Courtesy of Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America

I’m still waiting for @Parkabba to Venmo me my $1 after his guarantee that Tennessee would be West Virginia on Saturday looked just as bad in hindsight as it did before the game started. The Mountaineers abused Tennessee for pretty much the whole game, and it’s hard to tell just how good this West Virginia team is going to be, but it seems like Will Grier should be good enough to at least give them a shot in every game on their schedule, with the exception of maybe Oklahoma if the Sooners are just going to lambast everyone on their schedule. And yeah, I know I probably shouldn’t give @Parkabba the publicity for such an inane tweet, but hey I’m a poor medical student. I’ll do pretty much anything for a free buck #cheapandeasy.

Ohio State is another one who pretty much slides into this slot by default. The positive takeaway from the Buckeyes’ opener is that they scored 77 points, which is a monster number against anybody. The negative takeaway is that they gave up 31 points to an Oregon State team that has no business scoring 31 points against anybody.

Photo Courtesy of Jake Crandall/Montgomery Advertiser

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