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USC, Texas A&M shine in week one

Tue, Sep 02, 2014

Week one is in the books. Let's talk coaching debuts, a new top 10 and each and every week I'll give you my picks for the upcoming week (and look back at how I did the previous week). We start with the coaches, where some had a great start to the season and some did not.

So here's the good, the bad and the ugly.


Charlie Strong, Texas

The offensive was conservative, relying on the ground game, but did what it needed to do. What looked great was Strong’s defense, which held North Texas to 94 total yards and forced more interceptions (four) than allowed completions (three). The 38-7 win was described nicely by senior Quandre Diggs, who said, “That’s what Texas should do to North Texas.” Students chanted “Charlie” as Strong exited the field, but it wasn’t a flawless debut as Nick Rose missed a field goal while center Dom Espinosa and Texas quarterback David Ash are now out with injuries. 

James Franklin, Penn State

The Franklin era got off to a good start in Dublin, Ireland, with a huge Penn State contingent making the trip over the Atlantic. The defense held UCF to less than 250 total yards and quarterback Christian Hackenberg became the school’s first ever 400-yard passer in a single game in the 1,149 game history of the Nittany Lions. Hackenberg finished with 454 yards and found a new favorite target in redshirt freshman DaeSean Hamilton (11 catches for 165 yards). Franklin’s first win came down to a game-winning 36-yard field goal by Sam Ficken as time expired to give the Nittany Lions the 26-24 win. Looks like Franklin blowing that air horn in Ficken’s ears while kicking field goals in practice paid off.

Steve Sarkisian, USC

The Trojans didn’t need Ed Orgeron around to have a lot of fun. Steve Sarkisian’s team was amped up. It ran 105 plays and gained 701 total yards of offense -- 424 through the air and 277 on the ground. The defense dominated Fresno State, especially up front. It couldn’t have been a better debut for Sark in the 52-13 win over the Bulldogs, but now comes the tough task of facing Stanford in week two.


Derek Mason, Vanderbilt

The clock hit midnight on Vanderbilt as Mason’s debut was delayed by lightning and ended at 1:14 a.m. central time. The 37-7 loss to Temple gave the Owls their first win over an SEC opponent since 1938. It was not a good look for the proud Vanderbilt program that Franklin created. Temple had three interceptions all of last season and three Thursday night against Vandy. Twenty seven of the Owls’ 37 points came off of turnovers and Mason played all three quarterbacks -- Patton Robinette, Stephen Rivers and Johnny McCrary -- looking for a spark.  They scored no offensive points. As in zero. Not to mention, the Commodores were also wearing illegal jerseys.

Dave Clawson, Wake Forest

Clawson’s debut at Louisiana-Monroe is one he’d like to forget. Even being up 10-0 at halftime didn’t feel good. With a true freshman quarterback, the Demon Deacons didn’t score an offensive touchdown and got sacked seven times. Louisiana-Monroe won the game 17-10 and held Wake Forest to 94 total yards. It’s going to be a long year for Clawson as he rebuilds Wake Forest.

Bob Diaco, Connecticut

Diaco has a long road ahead of him at UConn. The first offensive play for the Huskies was a fumble by Max DeLorenzo and before the Huskies knew it, they were down 28-7 at halftime. This was against a BYU that was without its leading rusher, its nose tackle and its two starting cornerbacks. The Huskies failed to generate much offense and allowed 513 yards, 329 in the first half. Diaco was at least hoping for a better performance on defense, but there was no answer for BYU quarterback Taysom Hill.


Chris Petersen, Washington

The final game of Saturday night almost yielded a huge upset as Petersen’s Huskies were in a dogfight on the islands. Washington survived Hawaii to win 17-16, but it wasn’t pretty. The offense was dreadful and shut out in the second half, punting on all eight second half possessions. Luckily for Petersen, the defense played well and held down Hawaii, but if not for a missed field goal in the second half, Hawaii could’ve had the win. Petersen won his debut, but the quarterback position is a major issue. Petersen has already announced that Cyler Miles (coming back from suspension) will start versus Eastern Washington.

Bryan Harsin, Boise State

In an ugly first half that featured six interceptions, Harsin’s team found itself down just 7-3 to Ole Miss. Going into the fourth quarter the Broncos were down, 7-6. Then it got ugly as Ole Miss scored a touchdown on all three fourth quarter possessions and Boise State quarterback Grant Hedrick threw his fourth interception of the game. Hedrick completed 36-of-44 passes, but had just one touchdown and four turnovers. Hedrick had nine turnovers in seven starts last year and that continues to be a problem. Boise State also didn’t have an answer for Ole Miss’ defensive line. This isn’t the Boise State team that became a national power anymore, at least not right now, but the pieces are still there for Harsin to win the Mountain West.

Craig Bohl, Wyoming

Bohl’s Cowboys won 17-12 over FCS-foe Montana, but it was a drastically different looking Wyoming football team. The adjustment is going to take some time as Bohl changes the Cowboys to a pro-style offense focused on ball control rather than the spread offense that former coach Dave Christensen employed. The Cowboys were down 6-3 at halftime before Wyoming amped up the run game in the second game. Shaun Wick scored the go-ahead touchdown and rushed for 134 yards on 22 carries, however, questions still remain at quarterback where Colby Kirkegaard threw for just 92 yards and an interception.


What a debut by Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill. Hill shredded South Carolina’s young secondary on the road and set a new school record with 511 passing yards, breaking Johnny Manziel’s previous record of 464. Hill completed a pass to 12 different receivers and Texas A&M showed it’s still going to be a force in the SEC as it begins life after Johnny Football.

BYU quarterback Taysom Hill picked up where he left off last season in the 35-10 win at Connecticut. Hill completed 28-of-36 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns and ran for two more scores. Now, Hill gets to face Texas again, whom he rushed for 259 yards against last year. However, now he’s an even better passer and has a lot more weapons around him.

Two other quarterbacks (along with Texas A&M’s Hill) threw for 500 yards this weekend. Connor Halliday of Washington State tossed for 532 yards and five touchdowns (with an interception) in a three-point loss to Rutgers while Brandon Doughty shattered records to become our Reese's Senior Bowl “Offensive Senior of the Week” as he threw for 569 yards and six touchdowns against a good Bowling Green defense.


Florida State and Alabama are the two best teams, according to the polls. But, if you were on the College Football Playoff Selection Committee and watched both of those games, did they look like the two best teams? Probably not.

In fact, both could have easily lost. West Virginia missed some golden opportunities, dropped some key passes and came up twice with field goals when inside Alabama’s 5-yard line -- and lost by ten. Capitalize on some of those opportunities and the outcome could have been different.

Florida State looked like it was feeling good with a 17-0 lead over Oklahoma State, but then it became 17-10 at the half. The Seminoles finally put the Pokes away with Jameis Winston’s 50-yard touchdown pass to Rashad Greene with 3:58 to go, but it was arguably Winston’s worst game as a collegiate and the Seminoles need to realize they’re going to get everyone’s A-game all year long. Winning every game won’t be easy and neither will looking like the No. 1 team every week.


We didn’t get to see Florida’s new look offense, but either way it looks like Georgia is the new favorite in the SEC East and maybe the SEC’s representative in the College Football Playoff. The Bulldogs looked that good in the 45-21 win over Clemson, shutting the Tigers out in the second half and holding a Chad Morris-offense to 15 total yards in the final two frames. Meanwhile, Todd Gurley ran wild, his backups look like future stars and Hutson Mason did his job of distributing and taking care of the football. The Georgia defense is much improved under Jeremy Pruitt, who let Leonard Floyd loose as a rusher. The secondary played very well and it was a complete team win. Now, I’d like to see more of that Georgia secondary playing well before we anoint them.

Texas A&M is a legitimate contender in the SEC. The Aggies were lights out offensively and Hill looks like the real deal. With all of the playmakers around him, it’s a sure thing A&M will score more than 40 points per game. The defense made huge plays and looks a lot better with seven new faces in the starting lineup. Freshmen Armani Watts and Myles Garrett are absolute studs. Now, I still have some concerns about the Aggies' secondary, especially at cornerback, and Hill had a lot of open lanes and not many of his throws were contested. I want to see a repeat performance, but it looks like the Aggies will be 5-0 heading into the October where they face Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama.

Push the brakes on UCLA being a national title contender (although I never bought into that anyway). The Bruins have major concerns on the offensive line. Just because this unit was returning a lot of youth from last year doesn’t mean it’ll automatically be better. The Bruins allowed five sacks to Virginia and Brett Hundley has now been sacked 92 times in his career. With what we saw from Stanford’s and USC’s defensive lines, specifically, the Bruins have a lot of work to do up front to be a contender.


1. Michigan State (at Oregon)
2. Georgia (OFF)
3. Auburn (vs. San Jose State)
4. Florida State (vs. Citadel)
5. Oregon (vs. Michigan State)
6.  Oklahoma (at Tulsa)
7. Alabama (vs. Florida Atlantic)
8.  Baylor (vs. Northwestern State)
9. Stanford (vs. USC)
10. Texas A&M (vs. Lamar)



     WEEK TWO 

     Arizona over UTSA, 34-24

     Western Kentucky over Illinois, 34-23

     Navy over Temple, 28-24

     South Alabama over Kent State, 31-24

     Utah over Fresno State, 31-24

     Stanford over USC, 21-17

     Ole Miss over Vanderbilt, 35-17

     Michigan State over Oregon, 24-21

     East Carolina over South Carolina, 38-35

     Notre Dame over Michigan, 34-28

     BYU over Texas, 31-17

     Virginia Tech over Ohio State, 27-21

     North Carolina over San Diego State, 34-24

     UCLA over Memphis, 28-14

     Boise State over Colorado State, 31-30


     LAST WEEK (10-5)


     South Carolina 38, Texas A&M 24 (Texas A&M 52, South Carolina 28) 

     Ole Miss 31, Boise State 21 (Ole Miss 35, Boise State 13)

     Washington State 45, Rutgers 30 (Rutgers 41, Washington State 38)

     Western Kentucky 38, Bowling Green 35 (Western Kentucky 59, Bowling Green 31)

     Penn State 27, UCF 24 (Result: Penn State 26, UCF 24)

     Alabama 34, West Virginia 21 (Alabama 33, West Virginia 23)

     Clemson 35, Georgia 31 (Georgia 45, Clemson 21)

     Florida State 45, Oklahoma State 17 (Florida State 37, Oklahoma State 31)

     Wisconsin 30, LSU 28 (LSU 28, Wisconsin 24)

     UCLA 38, Virginia 17 (UCLA 28, Virginia 20)

     California 38, Northwestern 31 (California 31, Northwestern 24)

     Auburn 45, Arkansas 24 (Auburn 45, Arkansas 21)

     USC 42, Fresno State 17 (USC 52, Fresno State 13)

     Utah State 38, Tennessee 33 (Tennessee 38, Utah State 7)     

     Louisville 34, Miami 24 (Louisville 31, Miami 13)