Well technically, last Saturday was the second week of the 2020 college football season, but it marked the first time some of the big boys hopped into the pool as the ACC and Big 12 conferences kicked off their schedules.
Here are some meandering thoughts and takeaways from what I hope is the first of many Saturdays situated in front of my television.
What’s easier than a waltz?
Because that’s what the Clemson Tigers are going to do right into the College Football Playoff yet again. Their biggest question mark is at wide receiver, and while the University of Georgia learned last year that’s not a position you want to be unsure of, it’s something that can be eased when you have what many consider to be the best player in the nation at quarterback. The Tigers have Miami in a few weeks and temporary ACC member Notre Dame in November, but dodged North Carolina, considered the third best team in the conference, with this year’s scheduling. The ACC has done away with divisions this year, so the top two teams once the regular season is over will face off in the conference championship. I fully expect to see a pre-Christmas Clemson-Notre Dame rematch for the ACC title with the Tigers winning by double digits to get back to the CFP for a sixth-straight year.
Turning a corner?
It was one of the sloppiest football games I have ever seen, but I must give props to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets for winning at Florida State. Freshman quarterback Jeff Sims got to show out in his home state by accounting for more than 340 yards of offense throwing and running. He did throw two interceptions, but he also helped his team come back from a 10-0 deficit. And the guys up front on the field goal team owe kicker Jude Kelley a nice dinner. The freshman had two kicks blocked before finally getting one past the FSU line with just under nine minutes to play. That kick wound up being the game winner in what was at times a tough ballgame to watch, but who am I to complain? College football is back.
Could we get a promotion?
The wins didn’t come against any perennial powerhouses, but three Sun Belt schools staked their claim for a little more respect Saturday by defeating their Big 12 opponents. Louisiana, Arkansas State and Coastal Carolina took down 23rd-ranked Iowa State, Kansas State and Kansas respectively on the Big 12 programs' own fields over the weekend. No one can say if the outcome would have been any different had the stadiums been full, so we have to proceed with the information we have and say the line between Group of 5 and the bottom Power 5 schools is thinning.
Is anyone surprised?
While Missouri State is not the most accurate measuring stick of an opponent, it appears not a lot has changed in Norman, Oklahoma. Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley can still optimize his team offensively even when fielding a first-timer at quarterback. Spencer Rattler took the reins Saturday and isn’t likely to give them up this year or next. His promotion marks a change in direction for the Oklahoma program as he’s the first non-transfer starting QB since the 2014 season. Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts enjoyed great success under Riley after having started their college careers elsewhere. Which begs the question, what’s the offensive genius going to be able to do with a guy he got straight out of high school?
What to watch this weekend?
The noon time slot is a little underwhelming, but I’ll likely watch Oklahoma State versus Tulsa until the game gets out of hand. Oklahoma State has one of the most electric players in the country in running back Chuba Hubbard. The junior surpassed 2,000 yards rushing last season and scored 21 touchdowns.
It feels strange to say, but Georgia Tech gets a tougher test this week against Central Florida than it had last week in FSU. The Knights of Orlando enter ranked No. 14 before making the trip up to Bobby Dodd Stadium this weekend. The Tech-UCF game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. barring any lightning delays like the Jackets experienced in Tallahassee last weekend.
Primetime Saturday gives us our first ranked-against-ranked matchup of the season as No. 17 Miami travels to 18th-ranked Louisville. Both teams had a pretty easy time of it in their openers, so Saturday should be a better barometer for both programs.