by Matthew Thompson
Hey everyone. Takeaways is hopefully going to be a regular feature I do throughout football season. Maybe not weekly but just to check in with either college or pro football every now and then. I’ll just talk about a few things that struck me about the sport that week and what I was taking away from the weekend that was in football. Today I will start with a few things that caught my eye in the opening weekend of college football.
I can’t say I was surprised to see Texas A&M beat South Carolina this past Thursday. Nor was I surprised to see Kenny Hill playing well despite having big shoes to fill in former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. After all Kevin Sumlin can coach ‘em up. Manziel wasn’t the first QB under Sumlin to reach great heights and Hill won’t be the last. But I was surprised at just how badly the Aggies rolled over the Gamecocks (a 24-point drubbing) and just how good Hill was. All the great coaching in the world couldn’t have gotten me to predict Hill smashing all kinds of school records in his debut. He was also incredibly efficient with a 73.3 completion percentage as he racked up his record-breaking 511 passing yards.
I had planned to do a CFB Prediction blog to start the season and I was going to mention how there was no doubt that some player who made little to no impact before this year would find himself in New York as a finalist for college football’s most coveted award. It is too soon to say if that person will be Kenny Hill, but this kind of out of nowhere performance is exactly why I thought that’d be such a sure thing.
I do hope Hill’s performance does not diminish what Manziel did at A&M too much though. Sure Sumlin’s system allows QBs to shine, but there was more to Manziel than the gaudy numbers he put up in the SEC week in and week out. And I’m not talking about his flashy off-the-field demeanor. I’m referring to the moments that no mere look at the box score can tell you. Few players I have seen in my years watching college football could scramble like Johnny Football could. He was like a magician back there and doing it against some of the nation’s best athletes. And it is those crazy moments of improvisation I will remember most from Manziel’s days in an Aggie uniform.
But that is a little off-topic. In dismantling a talented South Carolina team and snapping their 18-game home winning streak, Texas A&M has proved they are poised to make some noise in the loaded SEC West.
If the Aggies weren’t the most impressive team in week one, it was certainly the Georgia Bulldogs. They ran away from the Clemson Tigers in the second half spurred by what I thought was the top performance of the week from running back Todd Gurley. Another of my preseason Heisman predictions was going to be that while a running back (Gurley being the most likely candidate) would squeak in as a finalist, they wouldn’t be able to walk home with the trophy. I figured the quarterback position had that on lockdown. Maybe I’m still right, but Gurley’s performance certainly gives me pause. Not just because he ran rough shot over the Tiger defense to the tune of 198 yards and 3 TDs, but because he added a TD on a 100-yard kickoff return. In a world where quarterbacks have taken the spotlight and in some cases find themselves rushing for as many yards as their backfield teammates, making an impact on special teams might be just the push a RB needs to get him back on top of the list, much like how WRs found their ways to the Heisman back in the ’80s and ’90s.
I am a huge Seminole fan, so their game was what I was most excited to see this past weekend. The opener against Oklahoma State didn’t go exactly how I’d hope. Having watched every play of FSU’s 2013 championship run last year, it was odd to see them struggle as much as they did, Jameis included. Other than the first half against Auburn, they looked worse here than any game last season. And while I give kudos to Oklahoma State’s performance, their young team isn’t as good as that Auburn team. But a win is a win. This won’t cut it if they want to repeat this season though.
The last thing I want to chime in on is the new playoff system. I’ve never hated the BCS quite as much as most. I love how important it made the regular season, but it still couldn’t do everything it needed to. A four-team playoff is my ideal post-season format, so I’m pretty happy with this year’s new setup. While someone will still be upset at being left out, I don’t see it being as egregious as the undefeated Auburn team being left out in 2004 or even USC in 2003. But losing one game could still mean the end of your championship hopes which keeps the regular season as exciting as ever.
I am a little unsure of the committee, but we will have to see how they do. I think if I were to change one thing, I’d probably move the semifinals up into December sometime. I really hate the layoff between the end of the season and the big bowl games. It almost feels like different teams playing by then. If they could put the first round about two weeks after the conference championships (so around Dec. 20), and then the National Championship a couple of weeks later (in the first week of January somewhere) that would be perfect. The teams would get a little extra time to prepare for each game, but the layoff wouldn’t feel so long that it might as well be a new season. I know there are bowls to tie into, awards season, the holidays and exams plus some more excuses to make this not happen, but I do think CFB would be better for this setup.
That will do it for my Takeaways from Week 1 of the 2014 college football season. What caught your eye during college football’s opening weekend? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!