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College Football's Opening Weekend
by Al McMordie - 09/06/2005
The anticipation was worth the wait. College football kicked off this weekend and, as always, there were surprises, upsets, blowouts and thrillers. In the way of statistical trends, there really weren't a whole lot of surprises. That is, there were 21 underdogs covering and 17 favorites, which is the norm, as oddsmakers aren't quite up to speed on favorites as it's so early in the season. Dogs often bark a bit louder in September. Give them a few weeks and more balance is likely.
With respect to totals, one poll found that there were 8 'overs' and 7 'unders'. Normally, defenses are a bit ahead of offenses early in the season, which means a slight inclination toward 'unders,' though that didn't hold true. The world of football is as rough and violent as a Clint Eastward western. With that in mind, here's a quick look at some of the good, the bad and the ugly from college football's first weekend.
The Good: Notre Dame, Wisconsin and D.J. Shockley. Notre Dame has a new head coach in Charlie Weis, and he got things started with a BANG. Perhaps "bust" might be a better term, as that's what Weis' spread offense did to the Pitt defense in an impressive performance. No doubt a strong campaign and a lot of scoring will help in recruiting, too. Let's face it: Notre Dame's offense has been boring for a long time now. The only concern is the schedule, and -- as usual -- the Irish have a brutal one, but that's in the near future. For the present, Notre Dame's AD Kevin White seems to have hired the right man. And after the Bob Davie and George O'Leary fiascos, and the quick-hook with Ty Willingham, it's about time.
Wisconsin has a new offensive coordinator and the Badgers went wild this week, putting up 56 points on Bowling Green. That's why it's important to look at assistant coaches each season, as some teams have a different look from year to year. And Georgia QB D.J. Shockley was the MAN on Saturday, with 374 total yards and 6 TDs as the Bulldogs covered with ease over shell-shocked Boise. Hats off to all three!
The Bad: The Pitt defense, Nebraska, and both Oklahoma schools. Dave Wannstedt wasn't away from football long, coming back as Pitt's new coach. If anyone forgot how underachieving the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins were under his guidance, it didn't take long to jog memories. Pitt looked like a disorganized group as Notre Dame smashed and trashed them, losing at home as a 4-point favorite! Nebraska is still experiencing growing pains under second-year head coach Bill Callahan. Their 25-7 win at home over division 1-AA Maine certainly won't remind anyone of the 1972 Huskers. Oklahoma State had an explosive offense last season, but they squeezed out a 15-10 win over Montana State Saturday (yikes). And the dishonorable mention award goes to the Oklahoma Sooners, who went belly-up at home in a 17-10 loss to TCU as a 4-TD favorite. Money-line, anyone?
The Ugly: South Carolina running game. Perhaps we can forgive Steve Spurrier, as he is the master of the passing game, not a ground attack. Still, it shows you how much work he has to do with the Gamecocks gaining 1.1 yards per rushing attempt in the opener -- and against a Central Florida squad that was 0-13 last year! Dishonorable mention: Auburn QB Brandon Cox. The sophomore was thrust into the role to guide a young Auburn team off a 13-0 season-for-the-ages. But the only thing aging now is Tommy Tuberville's hair, which looked even whiter after everything went "poof" Saturday. Cox's decision making was dreadful (4 interceptions) in that home loss to Georgia Tech, so Auburn fans are already shouting, "Wait till next year!" Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.