In the preseason edition of TiK's Ten, I predicted that it would be a September to Remember. That has already proven to be at least somewhat correct, given that I don't think anyone can point to a more entertaining FCS game we've ever had. I'm not sure that's a good thing, of course, given you never want to give up that many points to a team that's in the lower division, but nonetheless it made for an interesting week for our Tigers - and it makes it all the more difficult to forecast how they're going to do in the weeks ahead.
With that in mind, here's this week's ten thoughts...
1. On FCS Games in General. I know some people don't like them, but I've actually never had a problem with them, particularly if you work at scheduling a team in the better conferences within FCS versus say, a team like Delaware State which is truly a waste of a Saturday afternoon. The Missouri Valley is a great conference and good coaching can improve a team pretty quickly there, and I think we saw elements of that with Steckel and his Missouri State Bears. On the broader point of FCS games, if you look at the bigger picture of college football in general -- something I'm passionate about - the FCS games are to me, a healthy thing as they help fund the FCS programs which I want to succeed for the overall health of the game.
2. That Offense - Wow! I remember just a couple seasons ago where we'd cheer if the offense made it to midfield. Now they're scoring at will, though of course, we don't know if that's going to continue (not at 72 points, obviously, but it seems like we may have to score 40 consistently) but the signs certainly pointed in a positive direction. If college fantasy sports were a thing, you'd have killed to have Drew Lock on your team last week, and something tells me he's going to continue to put up huge numbers. I like our receiving corps and throw in Damarea Crockett you really have an offense that can move the ball. So there is every reason to be hopeful that we can be really dangerous to anyone on our schedule.
3. That Defense - Oh My. I'm not even quite sure how to explain what happened as it was just laughable at times. To hear the crowd boo like they did is not a good thing in this type of game, and from the post-game comments it seems like Odom is very aware that can't continue. It was just embarrassing...Missouri State may be improving but not to that extent against an FBS defense. That's the type of thing that gets you fired in a close call. Now, just like we can't expect the offense to put up 70 every week, I think there's certainly going to be an improvement on the defensive side. While I don't profess to have the detailed analysis others do regarding the "whys" of what happened, but going forward it seems like a reasonable goal for this defense would be to keep teams under 28 points. That seems high, but against most of the teams we face, it seems reasonable ,and I think our offense can score 30. So 35-28 type of games might be our path.
4. South Carolina and Purdue. These really are the games of the season, as I discussed last week. Any 6-6 / 7-5 scenario involves wins against both teams, and neither will be easy. Ironically, both teams were involved in 35-28 games last week - SC on the winning side, Purdue on the losing side - and I could easily envision similar results against Missouri - if not higher scoring. I caught glimpses of both of them - I actually chose to watch Louisville-Purdue over Alabama-FSU for a while - and Louisville had to rely on nearly 500 yards passing from Jackson to slip past Purdue who is clearly improving. For the Gamecocks, Deebo Samuel - including a kickoff return - was their difference maker. I think it's going to be a highly entertaining two weeks. So what happens? My gut tells me we win both games - see my prediction for South Carolina below.
5. A brief note on the South End Zone. I hadn't planned on delving into that topic here as I know I am in the minority in not being a fan of the project as it's been presented thus far. I am a proponent of doing renovations - new concourse, better outside facade, new facilities, etc. My concern is mostly in regards to the elimination of so many seats that are occupied by the very fans we need coming to games to build our fan base and program. This weekend, I took a photo of the south end zone and it was actually packed pretty full - of families, of casual fans, etc. Case in point - one family my wife and I know sits there because they have two kids they like to bring and they attend with another family of four. These folks donate just like we do, but not enough to have four tickets in decent TSF seats. They have sat in the SEZ forever and will most likely be booted unless they get one of the GA seats that will be part of the new SEZ. If they can't find good seats they like, they may not attend or drop season tickets. But regardless of what they decide, tons of casual fans and even passionate fans who just like the affordability of the SEZ will now be forced to either go up to the upper deck or to a seat that's frankly not as good as the SEZ - I'd take the SEZ today over say, the 15 yard line. It's a better view of the field. So, I really wish the powers-that-be would take another look at the "seats" design and find a way to include more GA seating in the new setup. I know that keeping 10,800 is not realistic, but what about 5,000 instead of the amount they're talking about now? My point in all this is to say that as much as we need the money through more revenues, we also need fans period - and fans are more likely to be loyal if they attend games, and the more good family seating we remove, the more likely it is those folks choose to watch at home. Just a thought.
Onto college football as a whole...
6. Baylor goes down in Flames. To the Liberty Flames, that is. Just fantastic given who the AD is there and all that happened there that's so indefensible. On that note, I hope Baylor goes 0-12. So, though he's a former Beaker coach, congrats to Turner Gill on a landmark win as his team makes the transition to FBS. Liberty has the potential, by the way, of growing into a "light" version of BYU - they have a good stadium, money, etc. and seem to be committed to sports. We'll see.
7. Another Long Season for the Longhorns? Texas being ranked in the first poll was a joke, and Week One showed it. Outside of the Baylor loss, this was also a satisfying result. Texas, whose arrogance ended the Big 12 we once knew and loved, has totally lost their luster and it's going to be a long time before they get it back. Herman is a decent coach but isn't Nick Saban, in my mind. He's in an impossible situation in terms of expectations. Good luck.
8. The Sunday and Monday games are why college football is so great. All three special games on Sunday and Monday were simply fantastic and produced results and drama that you rarely see in the NFL and reminded us all of why college football is such a great sport. Concerns about safety are very important, but we must not let this great game diminish. It truly is a great spectacle each and every week.
9. Alabama is in the Playoff. That may seem like a dramatic statement after Week 1, but I think we'd be hard pressed to find a pathway in which Alabama isn't in the four-team playoff. While LSU and Auburn are certainly significant barriers, I don't think either team - nor foes like Tennessee - can beat the Tide. While Tennessee and Texas A&M are also interesting opponents, I don't see Alabama losing to either unless they simply have an off week.
10. Overrated/Underrated. It's just one week, but each game gives you clues as to which teams are overhyped and which are flying under the radar. The most overrated team to me - and I look at the Top 10 first for this -- is Washington. They just did not look good vs. Rutgers. The most underrated team - someone outside the Top 10 -- is Stanford. They should be a Top 10 team to me and will be soon, I think.
That's it for this week -- here are some quick predictions for Week 2:
- Missouri beats South Carolina 45-28.
- Ohio State beats Oklahoma
- Clemson beats Auburn
- Stanford beats USC
See you next week!