It's only one week. That's what you need to remind yourself. One week in the college football season is nothing. Some teams that look great now will be nowhere to be seen by December. You can also bet that a team that looked less than average right now will be in the playoff. So, while we don't really know anything yet, we do know more than we did a week ago when all we could do is guess about where teams were going to be at. Our sample size of new information to draw on is small, but at least we have one. Here, then, are four lessons that stood out from the first week of action:
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Rosen is real: There is always uncertainty about how even the most highly-touted quarterback will handle starting as a true freshman. For every Johnny Manziel who looks immortal right out of the gate there are dozens who struggle and take time to reach their potential- if they ever do. The transition between high school and college ball is almost impossibly big. In five-star super prospect Josh Rosen, though, UCLA seems to have struck paydirt early. He was only against Virginia- a good test, but not a great one - but he looked fantastic. His stats were more than solid, but his composure stood out above that. He has remarkable patience and very impressive touch on the ball. He also has a cannon mounted on his shoulder- but one with laser accuracy. He'll hit some rougher spots along the way, but if he can be even a shadow of the player he was in his debut then UCLA is a major Pac-12 threat and a legitimate playoff contender. Of course, they are the Bruins, so you have to anticipate that they'll find some way to blow it. Nothing can go right for the Bruins for too long- as the season-ending ACL injury to stud DT Eddie Vanderdoes, reportedly suffered while celebrating a touchdown no less, proves.
Pac-12 has real issues: Rosen aside, the Pac-12 did not have the dream opening weekend. Not by any means. Utah took care of business against Michigan, but Michigan did a lot to beat themselves, too. Cal crushed Grambling State in a game that proved nothing, and USC's win over Arkansas State was similarly impressive in a meaningless way. Beyond that, the concerns start. Arizona looked very solid offensively, but allowing 32 points to Texas San Antonio is hardly ideal. Oregon also eased concerns on offense- Vernon Adams looked very good. But allowing Eastern Washington to score 42 points- especially when their former star QB was stolen by the Ducks- is a major defensive concern. And then there are all the losses. Arizona State was humiliated by the Aggies. They played tight in the first half but got overwhelmed after Texas A&M made halftime adjustments. It's hard to believe that that offense can make any real noise. Washington lost at Boise State in a result that isn't as surprising as it should be. Stanford losing soundly at Northwestern, though, is both surprising and a real problem. And then there is the bottom of the conference. Colorado's loss at Hawaii is just awful, but it looks fine next to Washington State somehow losing at home to Portland State. Many bettors didn't even know that Portland State played football before this weekend.
Add it all up and you have a conference that doesn't have a truly great team at this point. With so many decent teams, they are in position to beat each other up and render the whole conference irrelevant. It was not an inspiring beginning. The conference isn't the only one that wasn't sharp- the Big Ten was a dismal 3-6 through their first nine games against FBS foes, for example. The difference, though, is that most of the Big Ten struggles were expected, while the Pac-12 was consistent in finding ways to underwhelm expectations.
Texas is in trouble: Charlie Strong was the right hire in Texas, and I want him to succeed. Starting in South Bend is a very tough way to kick off this season, but it is still harder every day to imagine Strong overcoming the administrative mess he is burdened with and turning this team around before his time runs out. They looked just completely outclassed by Notre Dame- not even in the same stratosphere. Given that it wasn't long ago that Texas was one of the very best out there, this fall from grace, and the fogginess surrounding their path back, is just remarkable. Last year this team wasn't good. Chances are solid that this year they are just plain bad.
Biggest coaching hires showed good signs: Michigan and Florida are two of the highest-profile programs out there. Both have hit hard times, and both made coaching hires this offseason that they are trusting to save them from the horrors they have endured. Jim Harbaugh didn't get the win he wanted, and there were still some bad errors- two interceptions that were totally unacceptable, for instance. What stood out, though, is that they didn't make dumb mistakes- they put 11 players on the field for every play, which Brady Hoke often couldn't do- and they played with intensity every down. It will take a while for the team to be a top contender, but the difference between this administration and the last two is already so obvious it's incredible. Florida had similarly looked like they were a ship without a captain for too long. Last year chaos was too often their chief attribute. It was only New Mexico State, so it doesn't mean much, but this game sure felt different for them than the past, too. They were relentless and hungry. They had an offense. They played smart and avoided stupid penalties. They took care of an outmatched opponent like good teams are supposed to. For both teams it is just one game, but it is already much more comfortable cheering for either team now than it has been for a long while.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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