College Football Predictions: Teams That Are Better Than Week 1 Effort
by Trevor Whenham - 9/8/2010
We’re only one week into the college football season, but already we have been reminded why this is such a brilliant sport. I mean, did you see that freaking Boise State game? We’ve also been reminded of just how hard it is to get a real sense of how good teams are going to be before they hit the field. Some teams - Michigan chief among them - were surprisingly good. Others were far worse than they were supposed to be. Here are five teams that didn’t look great in their opener - in some cases they looked absolutely terrible. What they have in common, though, is that all of them are much better than they looked in that first game, and all of them will show it in the coming weeks:
Kansas - The team ditched Mark Mangino in controversial fashion and hitched their wagon to the ultra clean-cut Turner Gill. It was clear that Gill was in for some growing pains this year - he is a very different coach than Mangino, so there was an inevitable adjustment period. That adjustment period was never supposed to involve losing to North Dakota State, though.
As bad as a loss to a team like this is there are a few things to keep in mind. First, while the Bisons aren’t a truly elite division 1-A team, they have the experience of playing a FBS team every year, and they did kick the crap out of Dan LeFevour and Central Michigan in 2007.
More significantly than that, there were some positives to take from the loss. They allowed only two field goals, so the defense isn’t a total disaster. The offense wasn’t helped by two missed field goals. QB Kale Pick was starting his first game. Though he wasn’t particularly productive he only threw one interception, and his completion percentage was acceptable – 13-of-22. The biggest thing that cost the Jayhawks was two bad fumbles - both by the same player. That’s a problem that can be overcome, and it certainly won’t happen every game.
There is a lot that happened in the game that won’t be as bad next time - Gill is a good enough coach to address the fundamentals effectively. I’m not suggesting that these guys will win the Big 12 or anything, but they aren’t the terrible team that everyone thinks they are, either. They’ll lose a lot of games, but they aren’t totally hopeless.
Florida - The Gators won, but it was ugly. The offense - operating without Tim Tebow for the first time in four years - was a total disaster. Or at least that’s how it seems.
The truth is that while QB John Brantley wasn’t perfect the biggest problems weren’t his. The snaps he got when he was in the shotgun were impossibly bad. Several ended up in the dirt at his feet. Others went over his head. It was terrible, and was enough to kill any momentum the team had.
The reason to not panic, though, is that it’s absolutely and definitely is going to get better. Center Mike Pouncey was playing his first game after center after taking over for his brother, who is now in the NFL. Pouncey is an extremely good lineman who started at guard for two years. He has the support of the team - he’s the only senior captain on offense on the team - and he’s going to work hard to figure it out. The entire offensive line faced massive challenges in that game - four of them were playing their first game ever in their position. The line is going to be much better next week, and better still with each game they play, and the team is going to win their share of games. Florida fans can quit panicking.
Pitt - I’ve read apocalyptic claims about the Panthers after their opener. They were viewed as the favorite in the Big East by many heading into the season, but after just one loss people are saying that the sky is falling. That’s ridiculous. The Panthers went into a tough stadium to play a very good team with an outstanding quarterback, and they took them into overtime. It wasn’t ideal, but it was definitely an acceptable loss. They’re still the class of the conference.
Oklahoma - The Sooners have been dropped in the polls after not beating Utah State particularly convincingly. If you thought that Oklahoma was going to blow out Utah State, though, you just weren’t paying attention. Coach Gary Andersen came to the Aggies after running the defense at Utah - the one that went undefeated and won the Sugar Bowl - so he knows his stuff. He is in his second year, so he has had a chance to establish himself and get things working his way. He has a talented and explosive QB in Diondre Borel - the real deal. The Sooners beat a pretty good, dangerous team that is going to surprise people this year. Again, no need to panic.
UConn - The Huskies were picked by some to win the Big East. They got crushed by a team that hasn’t played in a bowl for two years. While it wasn’t pretty there were a few reasons to relax a bit. First, while Michigan has struggled recently they are still an elite program that recruits like one, so they have a big talent edge over the Huskies. The Wolverines are the hardest nonconference team the Huskies play all year, and perhaps the hardest team overall, so things are only going to get easier. Most significantly, they ran into a quarterback in Denard Robinson who had an all-world day. Robinson had the best rushing day of any QB in Michigan history - he was totally unstoppable, and impossible to defend. They won’t face another player like that all year, so they aren’t going to look as bad against a QB again.
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