By Jimmy Burch
College football’s extended opening weekend concluded with Monday night’s overtime victory by Virginia Tech over Georgia Tech, 20-17, in a battle of ACC contenders.
That triggered Tuesday’s updated polls, where Alabama took over the top spot from Southern California in The Associated Press rankings on the strength of Saturday’s 41-14 rout of then-No. 8 Michigan at Cowboys Stadium. The Crimson Tide received 45 of 60 first-place votes, with No. 2 USC receiving 11 and the other four going to No. 3 LSU.
So what conclusions can we draw from the opening weekend of the college football season? Here’s a 10-item checklist:
- Any neutral observer who isn’t already intrigued by the possibility of an Alabama-USC matchup in the BCS National Championship Game needs to turn in his or her fan card. Both teams were dominant Saturday and the potential matchup of USC quarterback Matt Barkley vs. the Crimson Tide’s rugged defense in a winner-take-all setting is too delicious for words.
- If the Heisman Trophy race was a sprint, rather than a marathon, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith would be hoisting the hardware today. Smith completed 32 of 36 passes for 323 yards and four TDs while rushing for 65 yards and another score in a 69-34 victory over Marshall.
- Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner, who had four sacks and forced a fumble in the team’s 69-3 rout of Murray State, will need more eye-popping performances to compensate for the season-ending foot injury of Brandon Jenkins, the All-America defensive end on the other side of the Seminoles’ line. Either that, or DE Mario Edwards _ a freshman from Denton Ryan _ must become an impact newcomer in Jenkins’ absence.
- Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones must develop more comfort with his receivers than he showed in a 24-7 victory over UTEP for the Sooners to win the Big 12. Too much indecision led to too many sacks and near-sacks in that contest.
- Texas A&M suffered the biggest setback of any team that did not play on opening weekend. Having the Aggies’ opener against Louisiana Tech postponed until Oct. 13 because of Hurricane Isaac means the Aggies will now play games in 12 consecutive weeks, with no bye, in their first SEC season. That’s a demanding physical task, made tougher with a freshman QB at the helm.
- Private lessons work. Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez, who spent his own money to have a passing guru tutor him this summer, threw for a career-high 354 yards and five TDs in a 49-20 victory over Southern Mississippi. He’s never looked better.
- Texas tailback Johnathan Gray, the former Aledo standout, will have plenty of company this season in discussions about the nation’s top freshman rusher. Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon (111 yards, TD) and Georgia’s Todd Gurley (100 yards, 2 TDs) hit triple digits in their debuts. Gray (5 carries, 9 yards) did not.
- Mike Leach is not a miracle worker. The former Texas Tech coach took over a downtrodden program at Washington State and that showed in Leach’s debut, a 30-6 loss to Brigham Young in which Leach’s offense failed to score a touchdown.
- If the Big Ten has a worthy Top 10 team, it is No. 11 Michigan State. Not No. 19 Michigan.
- Lack of depth will be a season-long issue at roster-depleted Penn State, where the team was outscored 21-0 in the second half of a 24-14 home loss to Ohio, a MAC school.