What We Learned in Week 1

What we learned from Week 1 in some of the close and/or high quality match ups

#3 Oregon vs #4 LSU.  LSU wins  40-27.  If you’re a college football girl reader then you aren’t at all surprised that Oregon lost to LSU.  In fact, you expected it.  Why? 1) Their offensive line.  Last year they returned their entire 2-deep on the offensive line (starters and back-ups). This is what led to them having such a significant running game and finishing the year ranked 4th in the country in rushing offense. This year, they lost some significant players from the line and that contributed to their inability to run the ball against LSU.  2) When Oregon can’t run the ball, they can’t win.   We saw that in the national championship game against Auburn.  In that game, while they passed for 374 yards, they rushed for just 75 yards.  Fast-forward to this year and in the loss to LSU they rushed for just 95 yards.  3) The loss of key defensive players, including Casey Matthews.  4) They were playing without their interception leader Cliff Harris, who is out on suspension.  Last year Oregon gained 37 turnovers and was 2nd in the nation in that category.  But against LSU, with the loss of key defensive talent from 2010, they gained just one turnover (and the fact that they gave up four themselves didn’t help).

Eastern Washington vs WashingtonWashington wins by just 3 points 30-27.  This is a little surprising because they play in the Pac-12 (a BCS automatic-qualifying conference) and Eastern Washington plays in the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as I-AA).  Of course, the latter is coming off of a 13-2 season last year while Washington was just 7-6.   The story of this game was that Washington could not defend against the pass.  E.astern Washington’s quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell had 473 passing yards.  And it took a last minute interception by Desmond Trufant as Mitchell was going for the win in the end zone for Washington to win the game.  The good news for Washington:  their rushing offense looked good and new quarterback Keith Price had three touchdown passes.  But if Washington is going to improve upon last year’s 7-6 record, they will need to improve both their passing defense and their passing offense.  Last year’s QB Jake Locker was an inefficient and mistake-prone quarterback, but he was still a first round NFL draft pick and was able to move the ball.

Northwestern vs Boston College.  Northwestern wins 24-17.  According to insiders, Northwestern’s Dan Persa has been so concerned with his injury that he has even forgone going out so he can stay home and heal.  But the fact is that he still is out for now.  Back-up QB Kain Colter did a decent job.  But where they really shined was the running game.  They had 227 yards on the ground…and this was against last year’s #1 rushing defense in the country.  Of course, that was last year and BC lost significant players on the defensive line this year.   Northwestern showcased it’s experienced offensive line and running backs.  It’s hard to tell what the real story is in week one, but it looks like Northwestern is going to really need to work on their passing defense and Boston College is going to really need to work on their rushing defense.  Otherwise, teams will exploit those weaknesses

Minnesota vs USC.  USC wins 19-17. USC Quarterback Matt Barkley looked great and at the very least he may be making a good argument for a high NFL draft pick.  In the first half alone he completed 90% of his passes for 163 yards and 3 touchdowns.  As for Minnesota, Marquis Gray had waited three years to finally get the starting quarterback position and then had to sit out in the 4th quarter because of leg cramps.  Freshman back-up Max Shortell actually came in and had almost identical numbers as Gray, except Shortell had a touchdown and a last second interception while they were going for the win.  Minnesota had plays where they just missed their coverage completely so I wouldn’t always be expecting USC’s passing offense to look quite as brilliant going forward.  Last year Minnesota lost 32-21 to USC, so a two-point game that needed a last minute turnover for USC to win was a vast improvement for them.

ECU vs. South Carolina.   South Carolina wins 56-37. What really hurt South Carolina in their final game last year, a 26-17 loss to Florida State in the Chick-fil-A bowl was turnovers and it almost happened to them again.  Just like in that game, they had four turnovers in the first half against ECU.  Only one of them came at the hands of quarterback Connor Shaw, but Shaw was pulled after the first quarter.  The fact that Coach Spurrier started the sophomore over his senior quarterback Stephen Garcia seemed surprising to begin with, but perhaps it was his way of screwing with Garcia for being such a source of stress for him off the field (to say he has dealt with suspensions would be an understatement). Garcia came in, helped lead the comeback victory and sealed his role as starter next week against Georgia.  But still, the passing numbers were terrible by South Carolina.  Neither Shaw or Garcia completed even 50% of their passes.  So how did South Carolina overcome their first-half 10-point deficit?  Defense.  To be exact, their defense recovered three fumbles from ECU in 3 minutes and 34 seconds. Their offense had to go just 44 yards total to score three touchdowns.  And just like that, a 21-point reversal of fortune.  So next week South Carolina needs to watch the turnovers and improve the offense.

#5 Boise State vs #19 Georgia.  Boise State wins 35-12. So Georgia is basically starting from scratch with their running game this year and to make matters worse, they took a hit on the quality of their offensive line with the loss of several key starters.  That’s why, if you take out the one-time 80 yard rushing play by cornerback Brandon Boykin, Georgia only ran for 57 yards.   This is a concern for them going forward.  Otherwise, the loss wasn’t so shocking against a Boise State team that has 25 seniors with 18 who are fifth year seniors.  They are very experienced, calm and collected and the only thing they need to worry about is their secondary, where they lost some significant talent.

Western Michigan vs Michigan.  Michigan wins 34-10 and the 4th quarter was rained out. At first Michigan started looking like the Rich Rodriguez Michigan team that over the last three years with him as their leader became the worst defense in school history.  But then it became clear that this was a Brady Hoke coached team and Michigan’s defense looked the best we’ve seen it in years.  Brandon Heron scored two touchdowns off of turnovers.  Next week they face a Notre Dame team that killed itself with turnovers in an upset loss to South Florida so Michigan may be looking to take advantage of their new found skill.