It’s absolutely great to have the college football season back. Saturday nights really go up a gear when you have a few top-quality live televised games to choose from. We are blessed with the whole BT/ESPN TV package, which must have shown at least 10 live games over the course of the opening weekend. Their live NCAA schedule tends to tail off a little bit during the middle of the season – with the World Series taking precedent for a few weeks in October – but its output is generally fantastic and it spares us having to deal with the X Factor on Saturday evenings!
A good few takeaways from opening weekend. The one result that really caught my eye was Stanford’s loss to Northwestern. I half expected the Cardinal to go quite well this year. Defensively they are maybe not as sound as they were, but overall they’re a well-coached football team with plenty of offensive promise. But it all just seemed to fall flat on Saturday. There’s a thing in the NFL you hear mentioned from time to time about west coast teams having to play early on Sundays if they’re kicking off at 1pm ET (i.e. 10am PT). The same was true for Stanford on Saturday. The 12noon kick-off would have effectively meant a 9am start for the first game of the season (with no preseason games in College). No wonder they struggled. Two field goals the whole game.
I’m interested now in how they go the remainder of the year. We’ve seen teams get beaten early in the season, and more or less get written off, before roaring back into form late in November by which time a host of other top teams have lost games somewhere along the line. Think Ohio State and their loss to Virginia Tech in 2014. OK, so a similar fate may not be awaiting Stanford, but if they can fix some of the basic errors they’ll get wins on the board. Key game at USC in a fortnight.
The one game the college football media scene is inevitably banging on about is BYU’s comeback win at Nebraska sealed with a Hail Mary (not something you’d usually associate with the Cougars) touchdown on the last play of the game. Stunning as Hail Mary conversions generally are, I can never understand how three or four defenders can allow one receiver to jump up, catch the ball and land in the end zone. A pass interference is always the risk but surely defensive backs should be coached to get in front of the man and bat the bloody ball down. Don’t be a hero. The BYU coach proceeded to dance basically all over the Lincoln pitch which mus have been sickening for the home side, although at least it was a bit more lighthearted than the Cougars last game. Reminder of the 2014 Miami Beach Bowl right here: Beach Brawl.
I thought Auburn looked decent and they seem to be something of a trendy pick for the SEC (and hence a spot in the final four). Hard to argue on evidence during the Louisville game (although they took their foot off the gas somewhat), but there’s tougher tasks ahead. I’m also interested in seeing how the Heisman odds are shaken up after the opening games. I’ll make a play in the market at some point when I see a bit of value creeping in (Braxton Miller at 100/1 falls into that category). Probably too soon to jump on the Josh Rosen bandwagon, but he certainly has Heisman credentials.
So much going on and nearly too much for any sane individual to take it all in, but if you want a weekly recap in the form of highlights and analysis then watch College Football Final on BT/ESPN (usually aired at some stage on Sundays). A good way to lead in to your NFL viewing and is also an excuse to avoid any dud Premier League games on Sky.
PS. we didn’t have a game in Dublin this year to kick things off (thankfully, considering the Dublin/Mayo All-Ireland semi-final needed Croke Park on Saturday and we were therefore saved another one of those twitter storms – and it meant those poor Mayo fans weren’t put through another trip to Limerick!). Wasn’t overly missed I guess, but next year Croke Park welcomes Georgia Tech and Boston College. There’s been more interesting games played here, but might be worth a visit – depending on well the Yellow Jackets go this year. But it’s certainly not a lock.