What You Need To Know
What was important in Week 1?
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Just a guess, but you probably didn’t catch bits and pieces of all 75 college football games from Thursday night into early Sunday morning, and it’s possible you missed the entire weekend of fun. Maybe you were forced to go to a wedding with no cell phone reception or access to the outside world. Maybe you were had to take on the project you’ve been putting off all summer. Maybe you lead a productive and fulfilling existence that extends far beyond the athletic achievements of a few 18-to-22-year-old college kids. No problem. Here’s all you really need to know from the opening weekend of the 2012 college football season.
Alabama, LSU, USC and Oregon are really, really, really good.
That might not exactly be the shock of shocks, but considering some BCS championship contenders struggled in their openers -- more on that in a moment -- the biggest stars on the top of the polls might have created a little bit of separation. Depending on which ranking system you choose to pray to, Alabama, USC and LSU are in the top three in some way, shape or form, and all three were fantastic.
The Tide had the most impressive weekend, destroying Michigan in a performance that was even more dominant than the 41-14 final score. Under the brightest spotlight, the defending national champion showed that it reloaded on both sides of the ball on the way to a 31-0 second quarter lead before mailing it in the rest of the way. Meanwhile, LSU went through the motions and ran at will on North Texas in a mail-it-in 41-14 victory. New starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger got knocked out for a stretch and wasn’t sharp when he returned, but overall he showed a great arm and looked like he’s going add another dimension to the attack. The Tigers got bombed on for one 80-yard touchdown pass, but allowed just 139 yards the rest of the day.
In the Pac-12, USC got a 75-yard touchdown from Marqise Lee on the opening offensive play on the way to a 35-0 halftime lead and an easy 49-10 victory. The Trojans’ main conference rival, Oregon, hung 50 in the first half on an Arkansas State team that might be the Sun Belt’s best. New Duck starting quarterback Marcus Mariota didn’t exactly need any seasoning, completing 18-of-22 passes for 200 yards and three scores.
Oklahoma, Georgia, Wisconsin and South Carolina might be really, really mediocre.
Those four are considered by many to be BCS championship contenders, and while they still might be –- all four won their respective games -- they all appeared to have fatal flaws.
Oklahoma’s offensive line was ravaged by injuries this offseason, and it showed as quarterback Landry Jones was under pressure all night in a 24-7 struggle over UTEP. Georgia was fine in its 45-23 win over Buffalo, but the defense had surprising problems getting off the field and had to turn it on in the second half after a rocky start.
It was supposed to be an easy tune-up for Oklahoma, but it turned into a struggle to get by UTEP in the opener, Joey Helmer writes.
Wisconsin is supposed to flatten FCS teams like Northern Iowa, but the offense got worse as the game went on and the slow linebackers who got their doors blown off by Oregon in the 2012 Rose Bowl couldn’t handle the speedy Panthers in the second half. It took a late defensive stop to avoid the upset. South Carolina came up with a tough SEC win at Vanderbilt, but the offense didn’t show any pop, star running back Marcus Lattimore seemed a half-step slower trying to come back quickly from a knee injury, and the defense was saved late by a missed pass interference call.
The Big Ten’s big new stars.
Nebraska never had much of a passing game last year and the offensive options were limited, but quarterback Taylor Martinez spent the offseason changing up his passing mechanics and looking stronger in practices. All the work paid off, at least for one week, tearing up defending Conference USA champion Southern Miss for 354 passing yards and five touchdowns in the surprising blowout. Unfortunately, for the Husker attack, star running back Rex Burkhead suffered a knee injury in the win.
Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell was the hot underground Heisman candidate this offseason, and he showed why with a brilliant 44-carry, 210-yard, two touchdown rushing day in the win over Boise State. He also made six catches for 55 yards and came up with some key blocks, too.
How long was it going to take Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller to adapt to the Urban Meyer offense? About one quarter. The sophomore set a school record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 161 on and a touchdown on 17 carries to go along with 207 passing yards and two scores in the 56-10 squeaker over Miami University.
They Are ... Penn State.
Ohio might be the star of the MAC, but most of the players on the team didn’t even get a recruiting look from any of the top Big Ten programs. Even with several Penn State players transferring this offseason there was still a talent gap going into the game against the Bobcats, especially on defense. The Nittany Lions were supposed to sputter and struggle on offense, and they did, but the defense came into the season relatively intact with one of the nation’s best linebacking corps and a good front seven.
Led by a brilliant day from quarterback Tyler Tettleton, the Ohio offense rolled up 499 yards in the stunning 24-14 win. After all the emotion of the offseason at Penn State, and considering the importance of the first game since the death of Joe Paterno to so many, winning the opener was an absolute must, but now it looks like it could be a very, very long five years for Penn State under the imposed NCAA sanctions.
West Virginia might be appointment television.
After creating the biggest buzz of the bowl season by hanging 70 points on Clemson in the 2012 Orange Bowl, West Virginia picked up where it left off. Marshall isn’t exactly a BCS title contender, but it’s a decent Conference USA team that should be in the hunt for the league championship and it didn’t have a prayer of slowing down the Mountaineer offensive juggernaut. Quarterback Geno Smith pitched a near-perfect game completing 32-of-36 passes for 323 yards and four scores, and ran eight times for 65 yards and a touchdown, in just over three quarters of work. The offense eased up and still finished with 655 yards with a frighteningly efficient balance of 324 passing yards and 331 on the ground.