Championships And Other Musings

Sometimes, it’s foolish to make a bold statement after week one of the college football season; other times, it’s not. Making bold and cautionary statements after the Labor Day weekend is therefore a primary assignment for any college football observer. Here’s one columnist’s take on the proceedings.

Hold the phone on Tennessee: No week-one championship for the Vols. Yes, they sure seem to be restored and improved in many ways, but we still need to see Erik Ainge hold up in a real battle against a real defense. California provided only a hologram, a misty visual resemblance of a team that wasn’t really there in flesh and bone. Tennessee is a confident team, and that alone will make the Vols better; but let’s not even begin to call the Vols an elite team that is fully “back.”

Hand USC the Pac-10: This seems to be one of those “week one championships” you can indeed bestow upon a ball club after one — and only one — weekend of games. Only Oregon shows any indication of competing for 60 minutes against Troy, but like exposed pretenders Arizona State and Cal, the Ducks must go to LA to face Pete Carroll’s team. There were some worries in the offseason about USC’s ability to sustain conference supremacy, but such fears have seemingly been dismissed.

Nebraska will win the Big XII North: Montana State 19, at Colorado 10. Nuff said.

Houston Nutt is losing control of his team and program: Robert Johnson was hardly the reason the Hogs lost to USC. Then again, Casey Dick was the young (non-Mitch Mustain) quarterback who showed promise late last season. Then again, Mustain was the big-time recruit who committed to Arkansas in conjunction with the naming of his high school coach as the Razorbacks’ new offensive coordinator. It has seemed clear from the beginning that Nutt hasn’t known exactly what to do with his QB situation. Then, after a night in which: A) Hog fans cruelly booed Johnson in the fourth quarter of an emerging rout; B) Mustain was treated like a deity upon entering the game and scoring a meaningless mop-up-time touchdown; and C) neither Johnson nor Dick made any word or gesture of encouragement to Mustain when the freshman sensation returned to the sideline after the touchdown drive, Nutt has now chosen to start Mustain for Arkansas’ next game.

It sure seems as though Nutt is reacting politically to everything that’s happening around him, since he’s on the hot seat in Fayetteville. He acts as though satisfying the fan base (and perhaps Frank Broyles as well) is his biggest priority. All the while, though, his players are clearly NOT unified. Houston, we have a problem. Try focusing on your players, not your job. After all, your job is about caring for players in the first place.

Oklahoma will get crushed by Texas… again: Lemme see here — the Sooners massively struggle at home in week one against a tam that should be greatly inferior. Who was the starting quarterback last year against TCU and this year against UAB? Paul Thompson. What do OU’s chances look like against the Longhorns later this season? If you’re doing the math, TCU plus UAB equals B-A-D.

As a preseason doubter of Clemson, I can’t write off the Tigers just yet (wait til they lose at BC and Florida State). But there’s good reason to worry already: First, the Tigers lost stellar linebacker Anthony Waters — that was bad enough. But for me, what was even more alarming was how Tommy Bowden flat lost it on the Clemson sidelines. Yo, Tommy, feeling the pressure just a bit? This was a cupcake game. No outrageous call could have been bad enough to make you flip out in such an ugly way. Seems to me you’re not ready to lead your team and program to the next level. You can prove me wrong, but you’re not exactly sending out the positive energy or good karmic flow.

C’mon Mitch Barnhart. Why wait?: You saw Kentucky and Rich Brooks get dragged through the mud by Louisville. End the retread madness and give a fresh face a shot at turning that program around.

And finally … Gator fans love Labor Day weekend: It always makes FSU and Miami look bad. Unfortunately for followers of the University of Florida, the Noles and Canes will play somewhere in the middle of the season in future years. But after seeing their two rivals slop it up on yet another occasion, it’s hard to think Urban Meyer won’t gain more and more recruiting leverage in the Sunshine State as his career progresses.