What a wild weekend it was to kickoff the 2011 college football season. Some questions were answered, but many head coaches lost sleep wondering how to fix problems that plagued their teams. Here are some things that emerged from the opening week, good, bad and indifferent, to keep in mind as we march into another week.
Clemson: New starting QBs were a theme throughout the conference last weekend. We’ll place the spotlight on a couple of them, including the Tigers’ Tajh Davis. The sophomore was exceptional in throwing for 264 yards and 3 TDs (1 INT) in a 43-19 win over Troy. Clemson trailed at the half, so Davis could not relax and responded with a big second half. He needs another good showing against FCS foe Wofford on Saturday because home dates with Auburn, Florida State and a trip to Virginia Tech will be a three-week grind.
Florida State: E.J. Manuel’s debut as a starter resulted in 252 yards and 2 TD through the air in a 34-0 manhandling of Louisiana-Monroe. While this was a very nice start, it will be a couple of weeks before we get a true indication of what kind of season he can have. That’s when Emanuel and the Seminoles host Oklahoma. This week is another tune-up against Charleston Southern of the FCS.
Kansas State: If the Wildcats are to get back to a bowl game, they may want to put points on the board before the fourth quarter. Five turnovers in a 10-7 win over FCS opponent Eastern Kentucky of the Ohio Valley Conference does not exactly inspire confidence. A week off Saturday could be the best thing for QB Collin Klein and the rest of the offense.
Texas Tech: After throwing only four passes last year, junior Seth Doege gave every indication he may be on his way to being the next great gun slinger in Lubbock. He threw for 326 yards and 3 TDs in a 50-10 pasting of Texas State of the FCS. Keep an eye on Doege’s numbers because the next three opponents, following a week off, are New Mexico, Nevada and Kansas – three pass defenses that are not going to scare anybody.
Louisville: Will Stein’s numbers looked solid in his first start in two years: 226 yards and 2 TDs. But, my goodness, no points in the second half of a 21-9 win against Murray State? The Cardinals get pesky FIU at home Friday night.
Rutgers: Sure the Scarlet Knights trounced FCS opponent North Carolina Central, 48-0. Don’t be fooled. The running backs did not even average four yards per rush and the QBs were a combined 15-for-34. That won’t cut it at North Carolina on Saturday.
South Florida: In a best case scenario, Darrell Scott and Demetris Murray both shine and split time in the backfield this season. Neither averaged as much three yards per carry in the win at Notre Dame, but should get the production rolling with consecutive home dates against Ball State, Florida A&M and UTEP.
Minnesota: The Golden Gophers showed a lot in Jerry Kill’s coaching debut. Trailing 19-3 at the half, they came back and fell just short of host USC, 19-17. With New Mexico State, Miami (OH) and North Dakota State of the FCS coming to Minneapolis the next three weeks, could this be a little something more than a transition season?
Northwestern: If quarterback Dan Persa is still not 100 percent for Saturday, then why push it against Eastern Illinois of the FCS? Get Kain Colter another start. You never know, he may have to be called upon when the going in the Big Ten gets rough.
Penn State: Rob Bolden or Matt McGloin? Matt McGloin or Rob Bolden? I’m sure we will see both against the Crimson Tide. It is also a chance for one to nail down the No. 1 job – at least for another week.
Tulsa: With all-world receiver/return specialist Damaris Johnson suspended indefinitely, the Golden Hurricane will be hurting in those areas. But maybe GJ Kinne has a play-breaker in Willie Carter. The junior, with only 22-career receptions prior to the Oklahoma drubbing, was a bright spot with five receptions for 135 yards.
Temple: Bernard Pierce proved he is healthy and ready to post some big numbers after rushing for 147 yards and 3 TDs in three quarters of action during a rout of Villanova. Plagued by injuries last season, the junior goes up against Akron on Saturday prior to a possible showcase game against Penn State on Sept. 17. The scouts will be watching.
San Diego State: The big guys on offense delivered big numbers in the season-opening win against Cal Poly of the FCS. Ryan Lindley threw 4 TD passes and Ronnie Hillman ran for 189 yards and a pair of scores. Expect more of the same at West Point this weeks and at home against Washington State in two weeks.
TCU: Casey Pachall showed a lot of guts and gumption in a nationally televised game as he led TCU back from 24-point deficit to take a fourth-quarter lead at Baylor. While the Horned Frogs ultimately lost, Pachall answered a lot of questions with his 4-TD effort. He gets a shot at Air Force next.
Cal: Quarterback Zach Maynard’s Golden Bears debut was a rousing success. The Buffalo transfer, who had to sit out year per NCAA transfer guidelines, and receiver Marvin Jones hooked up five times for 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win over Fresno State. Maynard accounted for well over 300 yards against a tough opponent. It’s off to Boulder on Saturday.
Oregon: Many things need to be fixed, not the least of which is a hideous 12 penalties against LSU. Depth at running back certainly does not appear to be a concern, however. With Kenjon Balmer’s status up in the air, freshman De’Anthony Thomas delivered 122 all-purpose yards. The down side was he fumbled twice, but Ducks fans will see much more of Thomas.
Oregon State: Many felt this would be another bowl-less season in Corvallis given a number of new and young faces lining up on either side of scrimmage. But losing to FCS foe Sacramento State? There was one big bright spot for the Beavers. With Jacquizz Rodgers off to the NFL, freshman Malcolm Agnew had the biggest rushing day in the FBS last weekend with 223 yards. Not bad for his first game. Wisconsin in Madison on Saturday is likely to be a different story, however.
Washington: Life without Jake Locker got underway at home against Eastern Washington. In 30-27 win over the defending FCS champs, Keith Price threw three TD passes in a turnover-free effort. One main concern, though: he had only 102 yards on 17 completions. That’s something that will have to change against Hawaii on Saturday.
Auburn: Much of the attention going in was how new starting QB Barrett Trotter would perform. He threw for 261 yards and three TDs while guiding an offense that did not turn the ball over. What could not have been expected is that Trotter needed to rally the defending national champs late against Utah State to avoid a monumental upset. The Auburn defense was scorched for 448 yards and the team’s youth better grow up fast with Mississippi State coming to town.
Georgia: The Bulldogs need a victory over South Carolina or coach Mark Richt best freshen his resume. A loss would mark a 0-2 start after last season’s 6-7 showing. A defeat would also drop UGA to 14-14 over the last 28 games. Patience might be the key, though, as the schedule is pretty kind with no Alabama or LSU and a week off before Florida.
Kentucky: What’s that we said in the lead about not getting any sleep? Randy Sanders, in his first game as OC, saw his unit total 190 yards – 190 yards! – with three turnovers against Western Kentucky. While there is time to straighten it out, a three-game conference stretch starting Sept. 24 features Florida, and trips to LSU and South Carolina.
LSU: Jarrett Lee was nowhere near impressive in the win over Oregon, throwing for all of 98 yards. But that’s kind of the point. You see, he did not commit a turnover and with Spencer Ware (99 yards) and Michael Ford (96) running well combined with the Tigers defense, Lee may not have to bring much more than his maturity to the huddle.
Middle Tennessee: Coming into the season, some conference followers felt the Blue Raiders might contend for the top spot, but probably closer to middle of the pack. After losing at Purdue in the final minute, perhaps contention will prove to be a reality. Logan Kilgore took the field for the first time in nearly a year and threw for 330 yards and 2 touchdowns (1 pick) against the Boilermakers.
Hawaii: Bryan Moniz was in mid-season form totaling 299 yards (121 on the ground) and four TDS (3 rushing) in the Rainbow Warriors win over visiting Colorado. Can he and Hawaii make it 2-for-2 against the Pac-12 with a trip to Washington on Saturday?
Utah State: You want a big-time performer from the opening week? Chuckie Keeton is a true freshman quarterback whose first game was at Auburn. He darn near engineered a major upset while throwing for 213 yards and running for 2 touchdowns while not committing a turnover in the 42-38 setback.
Army: Falling behind Northern Illinois 49-6 after three quarters was an embarrassing way for the Black Knights to begin a season that follows their first winning one since 1996. It likely won’t be any better this week with San Diego State coming to West Point.
Notre Dame: Tommy Rees gets the call as the Irish starting QB for the first-ever night game at the Big House. The sophomore threw for nearly 300 yards in one half in the loss to South Florida after Dayne Crist failed to put ND on the board in the opening 30 minutes.