The Tailgater: Best and worst of college football week 1

After a grueling offseason (waiting really is the hardest part, people) we finally got back into gear with week 1 of college football.  As seems to be the norm these days there were plenty of surprises, a handful of marquee matchups, and some absolutely jaw-dropping individual performances.  As we pack up The Tailgater grill and roll into week 2, we take a look back at the weekend to recognize the best and worst of what the NCAA had to offer.

Best Win of The Week, Week 1: Washington 38, Boise State 6 in Seattle

Sankey's rushing attack helped the Huskies to a blowout win over Boise (AP/ Warren)

Sankey’s rushing attack helped the Huskies to a blowout win over Boise (AP/ Warren)

Since Boise burst onto the scene as a regular BCS-buster (and, in fact, contender) the team has built a reputation for being highly competitive with the AQ-conference schools.  The Broncos have won more than their share of high-profile games against established power programs, and even in losses have rarely looked outmatched.  That all changed in week 1; the Huskies took Boise behind the woodshed in a dominating victory.  QB Keith Price (23 of 31 passing for 324 yds and 2 TDs) and tailback Bishop Sankey (25 carries for 161 yards and 2 TDs) were on point, and the Huskies defense did a nice job of shutting down BSU’s attack.  It may only be one game, but the proverbial poster boy for “mid-majors” looked very much like a lesser program in week 1.

Honorable Mention: LSU 37, TCU 27 in Arlington

It’s hard to doubt the SEC when games like this one keep happening.  The Tigers handled the Frogs with relative ease in this “neutral site” matchup; the ten-point margin makes the outcome appear tighter than it actually was.

*****

Worst Win of the Week: West Virginia 24, William and Mary 17 in Morgantown

WVU struggled to get any traction against FCS foe William and Mary (Times Union/ Jackson, timesunion.com)

WVU struggled to get any traction against FCS foe William and Mary (Times Union/ Jackson, timesunion.com)

Apparently, it will take the Mountaineers some time to adjust to the post-Geno Smith era.  WVU did little to distinguish itself against the Colonial Athletic Association’s Tribe, outgaining William and Mary by a scant 100 total yards and actually losing the time of possession battle.  The juggernaut offenses we’ve seen in Morgantown in recent seasons was notably, painfully absent, and Dana Holgorsen has some real work to do.  But for a fourth-quarter touchdown drive, the FCS might have added a ninth win to its weekend resume.

(Dis)Honorable Mention: Nebraska 37, Wyoming 34 in Lincoln

Nothing against Wyoming here– the Mountain West is full of quality opponents– but the ‘Huskers were sweating this game for the full 60 minutes.  The 30-point spread looked pretty stupid given Nebraska’s total inability to separate itself from the Cowboys.

*****

Upset of the Week: The FCS

Vernon Adams, Jr. led his EWU Eagles to a huge upset of #25 Oregon State (AP/ Cripe)

Vernon Adams, Jr. led his EWU Eagles to a huge upset of #25 Oregon State (AP/ Cripe)

It would hardly be fair to pick a single upset on a weekend that saw a record eight FCS team best their respective FBS foes.  Instead, here’s a rundown of the David-vs-Goliath shockers, starting with two of the most impressive FCS wins in memory:

Eastern Washington 49, Oregon State 46 in Corvallis. For only the third time in history, an FCS team bested a ranked FBS opponent.  Led by QB Vernon Adams’ superlative performance (518 total yards, 6 total TDs), the Eagles torched OSU’s defense and won virtually every statistical category.

McNeese State 53, South Florida 21 in Tampa. Yikes.  The Cowboys rode into Raymond James Stadium and dropped a record 53 points on the Bulls; no FCS team has ever posted that high a total.  South Florida has fallen on some mighty hard times of late– some might say deservedly so, after the school’s treatment of Jim Leavitt– and this wasn’t a good start to the 2013 campaign.

North Dakota State 24, Kansas State 21 in Manhattan. It’s hard to believe that an upset of this magnitude could get lost in the shuffle, but with the slew of FCS wins it barely registers among non-Wildcats fans.  K-State was on the fringes of the Top 25 in the preseason, but the Bison put a decisive end to such talk.

Northern Iowa 28, Iowa State 20 in Ames. Will the best team in Iowa please stand up?  It’s not the Hawkeyes (losers to NIU).  it’s obviously not the Cyclones either.  For the moment anyway, it’s the Panthers, who out-muscled their Big 12 foe to walk away with a monster week 1 victory.

Towson 33, Connecticut 18 in Hartford. Not only did the Huskies drop their opener, they looked downright outclassed by the Tigers.  This wasn’t close, and Paul Pasqualoni’s hot seat just had the temperature dialed up to scorching.

Eastern Illinois 40, San Diego State 19 in San Diego. Less than a year ago, the Aztecs made headlines by knocking off then-#19 Boise State.  In week 1, they made news of a different nature by getting throttled by the Panthers.

Samford 31, Georgia State 21 in Atlanta. Well, this was a rude welcome to the FBS for Georgia State.  The Sunbelt newbies were anything but impressive in their 2013 debut, and the Bulldogs certainly didn’t let GSU’s FBS jump intimidate them.

Southern Utah 22, South Alabama 21 in Mobile. Like GSU, South Alabama is a recent FBS addition.  Like GSU, South Alabama didn’t fare so well in its first appearance among the purported big boys.  The Thunderbirds’ Thursday night upset kicked off the weekend of surprises.

 

AND THE GAME BALLS GO TO…

Strobl: Jameis Winston, QB- Florida State

A redshirt freshman playing in his first collegiate game on the road, in primetime, and against a conference opponent.  Winston emphatically answered the question of whether or not he could live up to the hype by putting on a display that was as close to perfection as we’ve seen in some time.  His 25 or 27 passing night showed his incredible accuracy, decisiveness, and power; in fact, one of those two “misses” appeared to be a completion along the sideline when Kenny Shaw dragged his left toe before stepping out.  The officials didn’t review the play, but Winston bounced back and continued the drive.  By the end of the night he had 356 yards and four passing TDs to go with another on the ground and 25 yards rushing.  Say what you about Pittsburgh’s flaws.  I’ve watched an awful lot of college football in my time, and rarely have I seen a guy as young and inexperienced as Winston look so smooth and confident.   It’s only one game, and I’ll avoid drawing any lasting conclusions.  But for the time being, it’s okay to be wowed.

John Mitchell: Christion Jones, WR- Alabama

Jones became the first player since 2002 to score touchdowns on a kickoff return, a punt return, and offensively. Jones finished the game with 256 all-purpose yards, and put the Crimson Tide on his back on a night where the Alabama offense wasn’t clicking on all cylinders. He got the party started early as he took a punt 72 yards for a touchdown after a quick Virginia Tech three and out. In the second quarter, after the Hokies had cut the Tide’s lead to 21-10, Jones took the ensuing kickoff back 94 yards for a touchdown. He capped off his terrific night with a 38-yard touchdown reception from AJ McCarron on a beautiful over the shoulder grab that put the game on ice. He also became the first Alabama player since at least 1944 when the records first began being kept to have a punt and kick return touchdown.

Zach Bigalke: Brett Smith, QB- Wyoming

The junior quarterback couldn’t pull off the late drive to upset the Cornhuskers in Lincoln, but he did plenty to gash the Blackshirt defense and assert his presence to the nation. On Saturday night, Smith went 29-of-43 for 383 yards for four touchdowns, and he out-Martinezed Nebraska’s quarterback by adding 92 yards on eight carries. If Smith continues his growth on the field, the Cowboys could return to a bowl game in 2013 after going 4-8 last year.