By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor
A very newsworthy first week of the college football season is now in the books, and before our eyes can look ahead to the second week, we have to look back at what we’ve learned from the first set of games that took place across the country. From the players to the teams, and everything in between, here are the biggest takeaways after college football’s first week, in no particular order.
1. A few early contenders for the National Championship struggled in their first games. Even in victory. TCU, Baylor, Michigan State, Auburn and Oregon were all ranked in the top 10 to start the season, and even though they all came out victorious, none of them had an easy road to get there, and questions popped up left and right.
Baylor can almost be given a “pass.” Yes, their defense started out slowly, giving up 21 points to SMU in the first half, but then they didn’t give up another point after that. The Bears’ offense, on the other hand? Oh, they merely racked up 723 yards, being equally potent through the air and on the ground. Of the teams listed, they have the least to worry about right now.
Oregon had themselves an interesting first game in the post-Marcus Mariota years. Their offense continued to be on fire, racking up 732 yards and 61 points, but their defense struggled against an FCS team, albeit a dangerous one. Eastern Washington had 549 yards of offense and 42 points, which is almost unheard of in Oregon’s Autzen Stadium, which provides one of the best home advantages in all of sports due to its loud, rocking nature. That was the most points Oregon has given up at home since Nov. 15, 2008, when they gave up 45 to Arizona. They’ll need a much better defensive performance in week two, when they travel to East Lansing, Michigan to square off against Michigan State, in a game that will essentially eliminate the loser from title contention for all intents and purposes.
2. Arkansas may have the passing game to properly complement their top notch running game. Even with Jonathan Williams out for the season, you knew Alex Collins would put up stats for the Razorbacks in 2015. He did that against UTEP, rushing for 127 yards and a touchdown. The main question for their offense was senior QB Brandon Allen, who has had some spotty performances in the past. He threw for a career-high 308 yards and tied his career-high with four touchdown passes, giving Arkansas fans a lot of hope. Their defense and running game carried them last season, but if they can have at least a consistent passing game in 2015, look out.
3. Maybe Everett Golson just needed to be surrounded by better offensive talent. Blessed with insane attributes, Golson was never truly able to put it all together in his time at Notre Dame, showing occasional flashes of brilliance that would only be overshadowed by spotty play in the team’s bigger games. In his first game as Florida State’s starting QB, all he did was have his best game to date, throwing for 302 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. Critics will say it came against Texas State and not a top-ranked opponent, but it was a great sign nonetheless for those who have been waiting for him to turn his natural skills and abilities into being a top-tier QB at the collegiate level.
4. Braxton Miller might be the ultimate “X-Factor” for the 2015 season. Many wondered how Miller would do in his transition from QB to WR this season. Two long touchdowns, 140 yards from scrimmage, and one highlight reel spin move later show that his transition might be a lot easier than people thought.
With Cardale Jones looking to have locked down the starting QB spot, at least for the time being, and with Ezekiel Elliott having another impressive game despite only carrying the ball 11 times, it was still Miller that came out of Ohio State’s victory over Virginia Tech with his star shining the brightest. As a “Slash” option, Miller is able to use his tremendous athletic ability and 4.3 40 speed to wreak havoc, no matter where he’s lining up. He’s a matchup nightmare, and as he continues to grow in confidence as he gets more experience away from the QB position, he could end up being the most dangerous player in the entire country.
Just what the top-ranked team in the country needed, right?
5. Christian Hackenberg has already really hurt his NFL Draft stock. Coming into the season, Hackenberg was viewed as a possible No. 1 overall selection in 2016. However, after an absolute stinker of a game against Temple, where he went 11-25 for 103 yards, with no touchdowns and an interception, to go with being sacked a whopping ten times, it looks like this could be a long year for the Penn State junior QB. If he is going to continue receiving the type of blocking that he got in the Temple game, it’s tough to even see him making it to the end of the season without suffering some sort of injury. Big changes need to be made, yet again, in Happy Valley.
With the first week behind us, it’s time to look at week two, and I’ll be back very soon with a preview of the week’s biggest matchups, breaking them down from top to bottom, just as I did last week. Until then, thank you for reading.