Five Things I Learned On Opening Weekend

Unfortunately, the Gators could not play their game against Idaho on Saturday. However, there was plenty of action around college football to digest. After a long off-season, it’s finally to start digging into the things we saw this weekend. Without further ado…

5. South Carolina and Vanderbilt Looked Disappointing.

The season kicked off with a bang on Thursday night as Kenny Hill and Texas A&M put on a clinic for the Head Ball Coach in Columbia, South Carolina in the form of a 52-28 beat down. This result took most pundits by surprise. However, in looking at Sumlin’s offensive prowess when he was at Houston, the debut of Kenny Hill and the effectiveness of Texas A&M’s offense shouldn’t have been that big of a surprise.

The porous Gamecock defense had to be the second biggest surprise of the weekend to me. They looked like they had no answer at all most of the night. Right now with such a limited sample, it is hard to tell whether or not the Aggies are that good or whether South Carolina’s defense is that bad. I thought the Aggies would cover the 10.5 point spread, but their domination of the Gamecocks completely surprised me.

The loss also put South Carolina’s backs’ against the wall right off the bat because everyone in the SEC East now has a one game division lead on after the first game. All the sudden, South Carolina faces a must win game in the middle of September against Georgia, which was the biggest surprise to me over the weekend.

Vanderbilt also underwhelmed against Temple; to call this loss disappointing would be an understatement. Vandy was favored by 14.5 and lost by 30 points. They had 7 turnovers in the loss and looked impotent against a team that went 2-10 in 2013. I know Derek Mason was looking to make a statement in his opening game. I just don’t think this was statement he wanted to make. I thought Vandy would drop off a little bit when James Franklin left, but if Thursday is any indication they might have driven off a cliff.

4. Ohio State Will Probably Not Win the Big 10

There was a lot of buzz around Ohio State before the season being a trendy pick to win the Big 10 and make the four-team playoff at the end of the year. I really don’t think that will happen.

On Saturday the Buckeyes faced off in Baltimore against the Navy Midshipmen. They really struggled before covering the 16.5 point spread in the final three minutes of the 4th Quarter. They looked awful on offense for the first three quarters and only managed two field goals in the first half.

I am a big fan of the service academies and what they stand for, but they are not football factories. Navy is not as talented at every position on the field. Ohio State started a freshman quarterback, but their overall team performance in the game should be cause for concern.

Ohio State’s defense struggled to figure out the Navy rushing attack. They had trouble tackling in space and gave up 370 rushing yards to the Midshipmen. However, the most frustrating part of watching this game was that the Buckeyes seemed to stay away from their power running game for much of the game. Once they went to it in the fourth quarter, their size advantage became apparent and they finally took control of the game.

Whenever you struggle against a service academy, it’s a red flag in my book. I am just not convinced that this team will contend for the Big 10 Championship without Braxton Miller; however, even with Braxton Miller, I would have questions about the Buckeyes

They simply aren’t battle hardened. That lack of toughness haunted them last year in their losses to Michigan State and Clemson. This edition of the Buckeyes still has that question mark.

3. Florida State Looks Vulnerable.

I watched a great deal of the Florida State game and the biggest takeaway I had from the game was, meh. When I watched them play against Pitt in their season opening game last year, they looked fearsome and I kind of knew that they would have a pretty good year. Don’t get me wrong, Florida State is a very good football team; however, if I am Jimbo Fisher I am kind of wondering how Oklahoma State stayed in this game until deep into the fourth quarter.

Aside from Clemson and Auburn last year, Florida State has not played any really good football teams. Last year, Florida State didn’t falter against the teams they should have beat on paper. In fact, Florida State was 13-0 against the spread in 2013.

Oklahoma State didn’t really look like they were overachieving against Florida State, they just looked like they were playing very competitively. I am hard-pressed to say that this was the best game that Oklahoma State will play all year. Maybe that says something about where Oklahoma State will be at the end of year. However, I think it says something about Florida State as well, I do not think they are as good as they were in 2013.

It is very difficult to repeat as a champion in college football. I am just not sure that Jimbo Fisher has the right kind of locker room to pull off a repeat. The bottom line is struggling against a team that you are a heavy favorite against on a neutral site doesn’t really quell those concerns. I’m just not buying into the Seminoles hype.

2. Georgia Looks Like They Are Going to be a Tough Out.

The biggest surprise to me this past weekend was the Georgia Bulldogs. Tjhey looked very physical and tough. It looks that Mark Richt is going to rely heavily on the running game this year. It’s an age-old prescription for success in football. After watching Todd Gurley running on Saturday, I can’t blame him. By far, Todd Gurley was the best player I watched over the weekend. He should be playing on an NFL roster, but that’s an article for another time.

Gurley ended up with198 yards on 15 carries and scored 3 touchdowns rushing. He also threw in 100-yard touchdown on a kick return for the heck of it. As a result of donning his Superman outfit, he now owns the Georgia single game all-purpose yardage record.

However, its not just Gurley; freshmen Nick Chubb ran for 70 yards on 4 carries and Sony Michel had 33 yards on 6 carries. They have a stable of backs they are getting ready to unleash on the SEC. When it was all said and done, Georgia rolled up 328 yards rushing on the day.

Say what you want about ACC versus SEC, but Clemson is not a scrub program.
Georgia’s defense also looked much better in the second half against Clemson. The defense did seem to struggle a bit in the first half against Clemson’s offense. In the second half they looked aggressive, fast, and confident. If Georgia’s defense plays like they did in the second half, they will be a very tough team for anyone in the East to beat.

However, it is not all roses for the Dawgs. Their offense is in danger of being predictable and one-dimensional. If they have to throw the ball to win a ball game, I am not sure their quarterback play will win them that game.
Gurley’s health is also an issue as he had multiple injuries that kept him from a 1000-yard season last year. If Gurley goes down and they have to rely on quarterback Hutson Mason and their duo of freshmen at tailback, then this team could be good, but not nearly as impressive.

1. The SEC West is Wild and Wide Open.

All 7 teams in the West played this weekend. I already discussed Texas A&M and their overall offensive performance.

The first half of the Auburn/Arkansas game was a track meet which had Arkansas looked better than they did last year before Auburn’s superior scheme and depth wore them out. I think Auburn will be a solid team this year, but

Alabama looked solid, but like Florida State struggled against a team that, on paper, looked much weaker. Bama failed to cover their 26.5 point spread against WVU. They looked more physical on offense in the second half.

Blake Sims put in an efficient performance, but this is not the Bama teams of recent vintage. They are a good solid team with a strong running game, but their quarterback play remains a big question mark. Sims had a couple of really badly thrown balls and it really felt like his receivers, mostly Amari Cooper bailed him out of some suspect throws. I am not sold on Blake Sims as the long-term answer for Bama. Most people expected to see Jacob Coker take a couple snaps, but he did not take the field.

Their running game looked good, not great. If a team like Auburn or the Aggies can get them down a couple touchdowns, I see Bama having trouble transitioning to a passing offense to come from behind.

Their defense also struggled mightily against the up-tempo spread of West Virginia as they have against Auburn and the Aggies in the past couple seasons; this is old news, but the fact that it is continuing to plague Saban and his assistants should be a big warning sign to Bama fans.

Ole Miss looked solid and not overly impressive against Boise State. Bo Wallace has moments of excellence balances against moments of mediocrity. He threw 3 interceptions in the first half before the light went off and he buried Boise State under 3 second half touchdown passes.

As a result of Wallace’s uneven play, I am not sure that Ole Miss is a long-term pick to win in the West this year. However, I think Ole Miss is talented enough to knock off anyone in the West in a one game scenario.

Mississippi State looked very impressive against Southern Miss; however, it was against Southern Miss. I do think the Bulldogs might make some noise in the West this year. I do not think they are in the class of Bama, LSU, Auburn, or Texas A&M, but they are talented enough to beat any one or two of those teams.

I’m not sure that they win the West, but if someone told me they won as a result of attrition I wouldn’t be totally surprised. I like them a little bit more than Ole Miss because they return a little bit more and they beat them head-to-head in the Egg Bowl last November. It wouldn’t surprise me if they knocked off a couple of the Big Four, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they lost all for either.

LSU just simply reloads every year. Les Miles finds a way to make them competitive every year. This year is no different. They were resilient against Wisconsin even when they got down by 17 early in 3rd Quarter. They came back and capitalized on Badger mistakes and fought their way back into the game. In fact, I think Les Miles is probably sending Wisconsin quarterback Tanner McEvoy a care package this morning for his two interceptions.

Miles and his players find a way to manufacture wins every year. LSU is not overly impressive, but I simply can’t count them out. Even when they are really good, I can never say they look overly impressive; they just win games. Therefore, they are always a tough team to gauge because they always seem to play down to their competition.

However, they are young and their quarterback play is a huge question mark for me; my gut tells me that they are not going to win the West and their youth is going to cost them a couple games in SEC play.

I think the West is going to be the best race to watch in football this season. Aside from Arkansas, I can see scenarios where any one of the six remaining teams comes out of the West to play in the SECCG; its going to be a wild season out there.


  • Jacoby Brissett and NC State pulled out a last minute win against Georgia Southern at home, a lot of irony there.
  • Wasn’t high on UCLA before the season, their offensive struggles against Virginia did nothing to disarm my concerns about them.
  • Was it me or did Saban look like he was stalking Lane Kiffen the whole game against WVU?
  • Don’t know what to make of Mizzou, they looked good and bad against South Dakota State.
  • FCS power North Dakota State throttled Iowa State 34-14, that’s an ugly loss; I am sure that is going to come back to bite the Big 12 come playoff time.
  • I really like Stanford again to repeat n the PAC 12, but we will get some questions answered next week when USC comes to town next week.
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Christopher has followed Gator football since he stepped on campus in January 1994. After getting degrees from the University of Florida in 1997 he attended law school at the University of Florida Levin College of Law and graduated in 2000. He currently owns a construction business with his father and two brothers and practices law in Stuart, Florida. He brings plenty of experience to his writing as an arm chair quarterback and professional second-guesser with the extraordinary ability of hindsight. Christopher enjoys his free time reading, writing, and spending time with friends and family. Follow him on twitter @clscammell.


    • The five things I learned this weekend;

      (1) Never thought I’d live to see the day a FOOTBALL game was called due to weather conditions – there was LOTS of lightning in the days I was at UF (78-81).
      (2) So we’re the big unknown of the conference – are we going to be much improved based on a 62 yard kickoff return? I keep saying to myself – if we had just run ONE offensive play…
      (3) Eastern Michigan, Vandy, Eastern Kentucky and now maybe USC look like good bets for victories but the loss of the Idaho game puts our staff and team behind the 8-ball right away. Why?…
      (4) Bama, FSU, Georgia could be nightmares and…
      (5) LSU, Missouri, KENTUCKY and Tennessee wouldn’t exactly be push overs either based on the fact they they all played and won. Is Will Muschamp going to survive to 2015 going 6-5 or 7-4 this year?


    • LSU is always to be feared and respected with Miles at the helm. By the time they play us they won’t be so young. I think its going to be a good game.

      We didn’t play or I would have wrote a much different article. I am not sure where we are, but I am optimistic. Our answers will come next week. I am not pushing any panic buttons because we didn’t play Idaho. The SEC is tough and all our games are going to be tough. I think we will be better on offense, but we have to wait to see it.

  1. One thing I’ve learned from years of experience is that you should never come to any conclusions about any football team based on their performance in their first game of the season. The reason you rarely see any competitive games scheduled on the opening weekend is because no one has any idea about how their team will perform in a real game, hence the overwhelming tendency to schedule vastly inferior teams to start the season. You can begin to gather the real data on a team’s true capabilities after the second game. It’s true that you will see the greatest improvement of a team from the first game to the second. Do I would be wary of thinking that Texas A&M or Georgia are that good or South Carolina or Clemson are that feeble, for example. It’s pretty common to perform poorly in the first game, in fact, it’s far more likely to happen than to come out firing on all cylinders. That should be kept in mind when you come to the conclusion that FSU or Alabama look vulnerable. That may be true, but they also showed that they still have what it takes to find a way to win, even if they don’t play their best. That means more to me, since winning is ultimately all that matters, not how pretty you look in doing so.
    We did learn that Trip Thurman is not actually starting, which is a big relief. We also learned that Clay Burton is starting at tight end, which may mean that the hype over McGee is unwarranted. We also learned that Matt Jones, not Kelvin Taylor, is the starter at running back, which is what I expected. The hype over Taylor’s performance last year is not justified, and I think Jones catches the ball much better, hence him getting the nod over Taylor and Brown. As for not playing, it just means the Gators have only two “exhibition” games instead of three, so it really shouldn’t matter.

    • Vulnerability and being awful are two different things. Alabama did not look like the teams they were with McElroy or McCarron under center. Their running game is going to be tough, but I just don’t see Sims beating anyone with his arm. They can ride their running game to a lot of wins. However, if they continue to struggle against containing the up tempo spread offenses they face in Auburn and Texas A&M, they will need to score points. I just don’t see Sims chucking the ball around like Kenny Hill. They are not an awful team, but they looked like they are vulnerable to teams like Auburn and Texas A&M.

      Florida State is a different story. They were a beast last year and they looked like it every time they took the field with the exception of the BCSCG. They did not look like the team from last year. Their schedule does not prepare them to be in tough, close games every week. Their performance on Saturday may be a speed bump, but my gut tells me its not. Oklahoma State did not look like they were playing over their heads to stay in that game. It’s an opinion and I just didn’t like what I saw out of them on Saturday night. They are still a very good football team and will win a lot of games, but a good team could challenge them.

  2. I say again, it’s the first game. Don’t come to any conclusions based on it. You’ll get a much better read on a team after it plays it’s second game. It’s way too early to award the Heisman to Hill or Gurley or to think FSU is not as dominant a team as it was last year. There is a lot of evidence that first game data is skewed in both directions.

    • I’m just glad that there still appear to be four wins to be had. If Coach Will’s magic number is 8 wins to remain as head coach then I fear his work is really cut out for him since we are starting to get at lot more information about how Georgia, Alabama, FSU, LSU, Tennessee, Missouri and Kentucky are playing and we’re going into our 2nd game knowing virtually nothing about how this new offense will work and whether our Defense will remain as strong as it has been.


    • More information is always better. However, its a long season and every game counts and is a part of the story.